Bethel Heights ÆOLIAN Pinot – Truly Profound

2014 Bethel Heights ÆOLIAN Pinot – 95 points Wine Spectator & Truly Profound

In 1977, bound by a love for fine wine, the Casteel, Dudley and Webb families acquired 75 acres northwest of Salem, Oregon. Their acquisition included 14 acres of un-rooted, freshly planted cuttings. These were promising times for the group, and they looked forward to their new life away from academia.

The next few years saw the clearing of acreage, additional plantings, inaugural bottlings – they bottled their first homemade basement batch in 1981 – and the first commercial offer, in 1984. The Eola Hills gave these families their independence, and some mighty fine wines, as well. It’s a true family affair, with the third generation of cousins now lending their hands in the winery.

Those early years were amazing according to the families:

“What we found here was a living landscape – a geological mosaic of benches and slopes covered with healthy living soils, a crystal clear stream running down the middle through a deep, wooded ravine, and a rich diversity of wildlife to share it all. Sheer magic.”

The ÆOLIAN wind blows up from the Van Duzer Corridor, west of Bethel Heights. It has been the singular, most defining aspect of this place since the 1800s. The ÆOLIAN wind has carved mountain, land and vineyard over the decades.

This is the moniker for Bethel Heights’ great Pinot Noirs. Nearly 30 vintages ago I tasted here, on my first visit to these windswept, hilltop sites. I recall that visit each time I taste their 2014s, especially the ÆOLIAN bottling. I love it, and consider it among the most profound wines I’ve yet tasted from this inimitable family of the vine.

 

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2012 Rippon “Rippon Mature Vines” Pinot Noir – Phenomenal Old-Vine Beauty

 

Where The Rippon Magic Happens

 

I first began drinking these phenomenal Pinots with the early 2000s, earning the chance to work directly with the estate a couple years ago with a small release of their 2010s and sensational 2003s. My adoration is well known to friends, family and colleagues alike, with the Wine Advocate on record as well, referring to Nick’s wines as “Pinot Noirs that rekindled memories of those glorious Burgundy 2005’s”. You’ll be as thrilled as I am to hear that Nick’s most well-priced treasure – the 2012 Rippon “Rippon Mature Vines” – has finally landed in the States – ready for your immediate, hedonistic enjoyment!

The site which would eventually become known as Rippon was first planted to 25 various varietals during the 1970s by its founder, Rolfe Mills. Rolfe had spent time in the Douro Valley during the 1940s and the site of schist, rich in foliated mica and quartzite, on his land in Central Otago sparked a great curiosity. Rolfe began experimenting with his soils, isolating a parcel on the western board of Roy’s Bay, Lake Wanaka.

This ancient parcel is Rippon’s north-facing escarpment, and it forms the meeting point of terminal moraines and coarse gravels, all based in schist, where Central Otago’s earliest vines were planted. Rippon’s Mature Vines cuvee is issued from all of the fully developed Pinot vines growing in this expansive parcel. This is where it all began for Rippon, and the fruit of the vine from this parcel bears witness to the perfectionist style Nick (and his father Rolfe before him) is renowned for.

2012 “Rippon Mature Vines”

For those new to these pages, I’d like to take the time to remind folks how vital Nick’s training has been to the continuity of these world class Pinot Noirs. Not only are these the oldest plantings in the region, but they are tended by a man who spent his formative years working the soil and terroirs of Burgundy; he knew how vital his understanding of such things would be. To that end, Nick tenured with de Villaine (Domaine de la Romanée Conti) , and spent time with Jean-Jacques Confuron, Lucien Jacob, Alain Meunier, Nicolas Potel and Domaine de la Vougeraie as well. His are truly the wines of a master craftsman.

 

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Domaine du Clos des Fees – Hervé Bizeul’s Ethereal Cuvee le Clos des Fees

View from one of many old vine sites sourced by Hervé Bizeul

View from one of many old vine sites sourced by Hervé Bizeul

Among my most lasting memories of the Roussillon (France’s deep south-west at the border with Spain) was a visit to the region in the early 1990s. My host – pedal to the metal in his classic Citroen – zigzagged us up a seemingly abandoned, steeply angled road as we headed to the summit of a vineyard-capped mountain off the coast, near Port-Vendres.

Suddenly, he slammed on his brakes, summoning me to exit the car. Not quite to the summit, he said we’d made about 2,000 feet elevation, bringing my attention to the crumbling limestone slopes adjacent.

Dangling from the crumbling rock were the roots of vines from several meters above. The scree-covered slopes, eroded from years of wind-swept conditions were now exposing the roots of numerous vines. Yet these ancient roots had somehow remained burrowed into the mountain, their eventual source of nourishment seemingly dozens of meters below. Over the decades – battling every scourge from Mother Nature – these roots of time survived; life support for the ancient bush vines of multiple varieties covering the mountain above us.

These are the types of ancient vines and soils which comprise one fraction of the many complex parts that come together, resulting in some of the greatest wines now being made in the Roussillon. I’ve made this trip many additional times, searching for greatness.

I’m here to say that I’ve found it; and it resides at Domaine du Clos des Fees. Hervé Bizeul works with the most important terroirs on earth, every one of them available to him in the Roussillon. Tasting the fruits of his labor will utterly impress even the most seasoned tasters.

This is the kind of wine you want – it deserves discovery – and you’re going to be talking about it for years.

2012 Domaine du Clos des Fees Cotes du Roussillon Villages le Clos des Fees

My favorite of the lineup, the 2012 Côtes du Roussillon Villages Le Clos des Fées is a sensational effort that’s most likely the wine of the vintage. Made from 50% Syrah, 20% Grenache, 20% Carignan and the rest Mourvèdre that was aged 16 months in roughly 60% new French oak, it’s a classic, structured, age-worthy Roussillon that exhibits lots of blackberry and cassis fruit, smoked herbs, licorice and scorched earth. Full-bodied and concentrated, yet light on its feel, with a firm, focused finish, give it 2-3 years and enjoy bottles through 2027. There are few wines from the Roussillon I’d rather have in my cellar.

97 points – Wine Advocate (JD)

Hunt this one down; tell me what you think…

2009 Les Maître Vignerons de la Presqu’ile de SAINT-TROPEZ Rose’ Cotes de Provence Cuvee Premier (50% Grenache/50%Cinsault) (via Cepage Noir)

And here’s another that I hope will become a regular stock item now that I’ve found a new professional home.

GREAT stuff!

2009 Les Maître Vignerons de la Presqu’ile de SAINT-TROPEZ Rose’ Cotes de Provence Cuvee Premier (50% Grenache/50%Cinsault) I suppose the one aspect of being a wine shop owner I miss most, aside from all the fabulous new wine discoveries, would have to be the trips I made to France so often. Being the die-hard French wine fan that I am, my first trip to France would not be to focus on the trappings of Paris but to trudge around the damp recesses of Burgundy and the Cote … Read More

via Cepage Noir

TODAY’S REBELS OFFERING A DIFFERENT APPROACH (via Cepage Noir)

Here’s hoping that my new-found digs (as a Central Market Wine Manager) will lead to an eventual placement of these “Natural” wines here in Texas!

TODAY’S REBELS OFFERING A DIFFERENT APPROACH Back in 1994, I joined a small, dedicated French-wine import company that would later change its name from International Gourmet Corp – as we moved away from including olive oils and vinegars in our offers – to European Wine Group. Our focus was bringing to America what we discovered in the artisanal, family-owned and operated estates of Fra … Read More

via Cepage Noir

2009 Les Maître Vignerons de la Presqu’ile de SAINT-TROPEZ Rose’ Cotes de Provence Cuvee Premier (50% Grenache/50%Cinsault)

Summer in Provence

I suppose the one aspect of being a wine shop owner I miss most, aside from all the fabulous new wine discoveries, would have to be the trips I made to France so often. Being the die-hard French wine fan that I am, my first trip to France would not be to focus on the trappings of Paris but to trudge around the damp recesses of Burgundy and the Cote D’Or. From that first trip, I would visit the countryside of France dozens of times – perhaps even up to as many as 25 more visits if I really started counting – all with the intention of discovering every vinous corner of the country I could handle.

As enthralled with the sloping hills of Burgundy as I am, one little sun-coated region of France’s Deep South may be even more a favorite of mine. Nestled in the southeastern corner of France, to include such world renowned cities as Cannes and Nice, France’s Provence region is home to some of the most succulent dry wines you’ll ever experience. White wines from the Clairette and Marsanne grapes will be found under the Cassis appellation (not to be confused with the liqueur of the same name), while the more famous and profoundly robust red wine of Mourvedre will be bottled carrying the Bandol appellation. And while the whites and reds of Provence are thrilling examples of France’s treasures, to be sure, for THIS wine drinker, few drinks can match the pure pleasure of a fine Rose’ from the Cotes de Provence appellation.

The area under production, spanning some 45,000 acres, by anyone’s standard, is huge; finding a Cotes de Provence Rose’ shouldn’t be difficult. Finding one that resembles what the local’s drink – now that’s the real trick. One of my trips to France would see me spending a long week-end in a quaint, very sleepy, one-horse town called Saint-Cyr-sur-Mer. Photos do the view zero justice. And the wines are as pure as everyone always brags: “You know, when we were over there, everything just tasted better.”  But in Saint-Cyr-sur-Mer, from the oysters, to the herbs, to the wine, to the fish, it DOES all taste better.

And the wine we’re now drinking by the case at home reminds me of the Rose’ I drank on that long week-end in Saint-Cyr-sur-Mer. The color is the palest salmon pink. The aromas are of fresh strawberry combined with that almost indescribable saline quality that comes from being so close to the ocean. And the flavors? Wow! Purity of red berry fruit, crisp acidity, strawberry, and a lusciousness that are all matched to a medium- bodied frame; so easily gulp-able pool-side with appetizers, grilled fish/seafood/chicken, or even raw oysters, like you won’t believe.

Les Maitre Vignerons Rose’ is one of those little treasures that I simply stumbled across one afternoon and have been lucky enough to find ample supply of locally. There seems to be no U.S. source on-line, so if you’re interested, drop me a note and I’ll divulge my source (no affiliation as always, I do this for sport).

Cheers!

chambertin@sbcglobal.net 

LOS COWBOYS Torrontés – Summertime, and the Sippin’ is Easy

Los Cowboys Torrontés

Back in the day, at the old wine shop, I championed this grape as an affordable, daily alternative to Viognier. Drinking Torrontés, a grape primarily found in Argentina, is like a breath of fresh air; the aromas and flavors are refreshing, with a floral sensation that is quite captivating when the wine is well-made. My favorites in this category will be quite dry, with no sweetness to them, yet the fruit will be unmistakable, with that tell-tale tropical quality of mango or papaya combined with a citrus quality that will have you thinking of oranges or nectarines. The perfect summer quencher, Torrontés wines should offer some crispness, as well, due to a natural acidity; we’re not talking French Chablis, though. So try these wines with lighter fare but I don’t particularly care to pair them with oysters – grilled, seasoned fish dishes, however, work quite well.

Important to note is that Torrontés wines drink best young, allowing the fruit to best express itself, so look for the recently released 2009.

The best of the current lot I’ve recently experienced comes from Los Cowboys. Being a Natural Wine fan, as I am, I like what these folks are up to, check out the link….

I’ve found it on-line, using wine-searcher.com, for about $7-$8 bucks, so do your research – Texas retailers are generally too high; you can thank our Texas wholesalers for that!

All the best!

Christopher