2009 Domaine Lavigne ~ Saumur Champigny

Contact:     Robert Hurley    617-965-4251   robert@cynthiahurley.com

This Week’s Feature

FOB  New Jersey

Dom. Lavigne
Saumur Champigny 2009


All prices are for 12-bottle cases.


2009 Saumur Champigny
from Domaine Lavigne
The Paris Bistro Favorite 

The new vintage of one of our favorite Loire reds  has just arrived! And, what a wine a n d a vintage it is.

There is something you should know about the 2009 vintage in the Loire. Some people are saying it’s historic, and everybody is saying it is exceptional.

 Here is how the growers are describing their harvest: “the freshness of 2005, combined with the richness of 2003”, “some truly great wines (no exaggeration)”, “lovely fruit, wonderful concentration and balance – on a par with 1989 and 1997”.

Wine Spectator chimes in with “…best and most consistent harvest since 2005.”

This is the moment to uncork some Loire wines.

One wine writer out there is calling 2009 the “Smiley Vintage” and others have picked up on it. Why? Because the growers just can’t keep the smiles off their faces when they think about the 2009 harvest.

And, more than one Loire expert is comparing the 2009s to the 1989s. You have to understand something about the 1989s – that was and still is a revered vintage in the Touraine (the region of Saumur Champigny) sort of like the 1945 or 1982 in Bordeaux. You don’t make frivolous comparisons unless you are absolutely gaga over the harvest. So, the 2009 is a truly remarkable vintage that you cannot miss.

This Saumur Champigny from Domaine Lavigne is laden with fruit and has beautiful concentration and balance and is exquisitely ripe and delicious.

It was love at first glass for me with Saumur Champigny. It’s got the fruit, but also the structure. It’s not heavy. It’s great with food, but it’s also great before dinner. Because it’s made from 100% Cabernet Franc, it is very aromatic. There is no wood in the elevage of this wine; it is raised in stainless steel tanks which give it its backbone of acidity and freshness. There are lovely layers of black and red fruits and it is a smooth wine.

Domaine Lavigne is located in the commune of Varrains. There are only eight other communes (because of their superior terroir) who can put Saumur Champigny on their labels. Varrains is about five minutes south of the town of Saumur, which is stretched alongside the Loire River.

Domaine Lavigne is a family operation and the Lavignes and Verrons are very serious about their winemaking.

They have a new chai replete with many gleaming stainless steel tanks. They have invested in all the high tech gadgetry that is necessary to stay on top of their game. They run a very pristine operation. I’ve tasted a lot of Saumur Champigny and I’ve never found a better one than this. Oh, and I think you’ll like the price, too.

-Cynthia Hurley

About Cynthia Hurley French Wines

For more than twenty years Cynthia Hurley has been importing exceptional wines from nearly every major wine region in France. Cynthia’s selections are terroir driven wines from independent growers who use minimal intervention to create wines that are outstanding representatives of their individual appellations.
Cynthia Hurley French Wines
25 Lockwood Rd · West Newton, Massachusetts 02465



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!





Yet another bottle that exemplifies one of my proverbial answers to that almost weekly question posed by friends and family, “Hey Christopher, what ‘cha drinkin’ these days?”

I once shared the tale of a full afternoon tasting event that involved several wines from this importer, an afternoon degustation that I can still taste on my palate and that continues to reverberate across my taste-buds. One such wine of that afternoon was the value jewel I routinely order in case lots for weekly quaffing; the wine I’d like to introduce to all of you, again, for the first time.

And while Dressner is one of the wackiest men I’ve ever Twittered or Facebooked with, thanks to his “one-of-a-kind” personalities (to put it as politically correctly as possible), don’t let that come between you and this fantastic value from the South of France.

And like I always advise, buy it through www.winesearcher.com … Texas retailers are far too pricey, thanks to our 3-tiered system and the ridiculous profits taken by useless Texas-based wholesalers.

Check it out in more detail here (BTW, THE CURRENT VINTAGE IS THE ’07):


ConoSur Pinot Noir “Bicycle” Label

Although my wine shop has been closed for more than 15 months, family and friends continue to inquire as to my drinking preferences.

Imported by one of the most respected French import houses, a company that brings many of my favorite Burgundies to America, this affordable Pinot has been poured at my house now for 3 vintages. Totally packed with flavor, including classic Pinot “correctness”, acidity and that “somewhere-ness” we call terroir, this sub-$10 jewel is a must have!

I buy it on-line from several sources, as Texas retailers are ALL overpriced (including the “Rabbit” in Houston), so be sure to do as I do and use www.winesearcher.com for the best price (generally $8-$9 on-line).

And follow me here a bit more; as I share more finds, a bit more often…

All the best in wine and life.


ConoSur Pinot Noir “Bicycle” Label  

(Sustainably/Organically Produced):

Pinot Noir.

Tomorrow’s 1st Tasting at the “New Winery”



Well it’s certainly been interesting out here for the past few weeks, that’s for sure!  I’ve witnessed countless hours of research, paperwork and travel, all aimed at the final goal of launching a new winery permit.  For the folks following the blog, you’ve come to understand the heartaches, the headaches and the occasional triumphs I’ve endured through this process.  I thank you all for following, and now I have an announcement – and an invitation.

Through my work to form this new winery, I have met a kindred soul.  You that have read the blog and bought some of the wines have undoubtedly recognized the similarities in taste between the offers emanating from Mr. Smith’s collection and the wines once so proudly displayed on the tables at my former establishment.  But what makes these offers from Mr. Smith even more appealing, and what has brought he and I together for our new found union, is the manner in which Mr. Smith brings these wonderful vinous specimens to the State.

I am pleased to announce that I have a limited number of seats to offer to the first 20 couples to respond to this letter – no later than tomorrow, the 22nd of April at 5PM.

Mr. Smith, owner of French Country Wines and I will be hosting our first private wine tasting together at his winery-licensed facility here in the heart of Houston TX.

This tasting of some of the finest, naturally-bottled, artisanal, (some 100% bio-dynamic) wines takes place tomorrow night, Wednesday the 22nd, from 6-7:30 PM at French Country Wines (2433 Bartlett, Houston 77098).

During this tasting, Mr. Smith and I will discuss the wines and the concept behind our mutual work together, explaining in greater detail the work being done to eliminate the antiquated 3-tier system that sets to punish the consumers of the State.

The wines will be offered for sale – AT DIRECT FROM THE WINERY PRICES – and you’d better be certain that these are wines that yours truly is already deeply in love with and currently stocking at home.

I have seating available on my ticket (read: free) for 20 couples – MAX.

To attend as my guest, respond via email, including your phone number so that I may call to confirm and establish your new account with the winery.

And do it now, seating at these events is always limited and the winery is always PACKED!

All the best in wine and life,

Christopher Massie
Diplome D’Honneur de Sommelier
Houston Wine Idealist

Houston Wine Idealist Introduces French Country Wines (The Shop)


One of the finest aspects of this country’s fourth largest city, this city known as Houston Texas, is its inhabitants’ eager ability to embrace new and exciting trends.  “Feast”, that funky, fantastic creation by the eclectic, tattooed English duo of Knight and Silk, where diners will be just as shocked as overjoyed by the culinary ingenuity, has become an almost instant hit for we adventurous types.  And then there is “Beaver’s”, a place that entered this world as a self-described “ice-house” that now turns out such culinary shockers as Spam-based dishes on a Sunday brunch menu.  You read that right: Spam (the other canned meat): smoked, served with fried eggs and available with a side of one of the most freakishly wonderful Bloody Mary’s you’ll EVER try to down.  And the response from those of us in the know: “Keep it comin’ Monica & Co., we’re all in!”.

So it should come as no surprise really that I fully anticipate, and rightly expect in fact, the good folks of this adventurous city to wrap their arms around this latest discovery of mine.  With more than 25 years experience in the fine wine business, I now find myself covering the wine world from a very different perspective.  Looking at the wine business as a consumer’s proponent, self-charged with the goal of ferreting out this City’s most unique and consumer oriented wine establishments, I take to the streets on a daily basis to visit the unheard-of and the multi-unit chains alike.  This recent discovery of mine, while established for a couple of years now, falls squarely in the consumer’s best friend camp.

The place is called French Country Wines (2433 Bartlett / 713-993-9500 http://www.frenchcountrywines.com/index.jsp) and if you blink as you drive down Bartlett, just a couple blocks off of Kirby drive, you’ll pass right by.  In fact, if you don’t know that Bartlett is the street between South and North Blvd, you’ll hit I-59 and never know you’ve missed it completely, just as I did on the first Saturday I stopped by.  “Look for the blooming bougainvilleas out front and that’s our building…”, was the best description of the front entrance I received over the phone the day I called for directions.

Now if you’re expecting a typical store front, or even an electric sign that might be visible at night, you need to prepare yourself.  First off, this is not a retail shop – this place, owned by a very sharp, very forward thinking, very savvy Investment Banker / Attorney / Retired Francophile by the name of Thomas Smith – is a winery.  To explain: Mr. Smith established himself as a winery to allow him to work directly with wine-makers in his favorite regions of France.  Through his work, he brings these gems – most of them organically produced and / or biodynamic that I’ve tasted – right to the consumer here in Houston, direct from the estates of the very people who bottle the wines in the first place.

The shop itself defies all previous descriptions you have in your mind as to a retail shop, too.  There are no wine racks, no visible inventory upon entering and no cash registers or employees.  Until Mr. Smith escorts you to the properly cooled warehouse, to the far end of the facility, you’d have no idea there was any wine here at all.  But once you enter this 55 degree room, now you know the story.

Here Mr. Smith stores up to hundreds of cases of wine on warehouse styled wire racks at cellar temperature until orders come in from local restaurants or private clients.  Mr. Smith also hosts in-shop tastings from time to time for his private list of clients, and these cases will serve to satisfy the orders he hopes to receive at the close of those events as well.

But what most excites me, as a man of wine from more than two decades past, is not only Mr. Smith’s fantastic selections, but his absolutely untouchable prices.  Many folks in the game of acquiring unique wines (not just expensive wines mind you, for Mr. Smith has a lot of great stuff under $20, too) spend their time with a free service called http://www.wine-searcher.com.  This free on-line service brings to light the misconception that places such as Spec’s, for example, offer the best prices for wine.  By using this same service, I was able to confirm that Mr. Smith not only offers the best prices on his wines for the Houston shoppers, but his prices are simply the very best in the entire country!

One of my very favorites, a wine Mr. Smith personally placed in my hand after getting to know me, was the 2007 Domaine Rouge-Bleu Cotes du Rhone Cuvee Mistral.  A fantastic, 400 year old, recently converted to organics farm, this Domaine boasts vines of more than 70 years in age.  The color and the aromatics of this wine more closely resemble the triple digit beauties from Chateauneuf superstars I’ve consumed over the years and the flavors on the palate truly justify the lofty praise from wine critics world-wide.  One taste and most any wine lover would part with a couple of twenty dollar bills.  But Mr. Smith sells this extravagant beauty for a mere $16! 

As Houston’s open-minded, adventurous inhabitants continue to soak up the hot trends in food that promise to keep this town talked about in the papers from coast to coast, I for one (as a serious wine lover) truly pray that these same folks embrace this cutting edge retailer I’ve discovered off of Kirby Drive.  His style, his wines and the shop itself are like none other this great city has ever encountered.  And that’s exactly the sort of place we so desperately need to keep the cool and hip focused on hanging in there with us all.

All the best in wine and life,

Christopher Massie
Diplome D’Honneur de Sommelier
Houston Wine Idealist

HWI’s Latest Favorite in More Ways Than One


Continuing now with the reviews of locally available GREAT wines at smokin’ prices, I stopped by what promises to become my personal wine shop yesterday.  Having not yet informed the proprietor of my intentions, thus thinking perhaps I should ask for his permission before blurting his name out in these pages, I rang his bell and entered his warehouse.  The lights were still off when I arrived at nearly noon yesterday, indicating a private sort of man and a shop very much to my liking, and after our friendly salutations, I asked him if he’d like to visit a certain web-site.

This was the proprietor’s first visit to my blog and upon first arrival he was obviously surprised.  “Well, there’s our wine”, he exclaimed, naming the Berthet-Rayne from Monday’s blog post by name, pronouncing the Domaine’s title with a nearly perfect French accent.  I took a seat and proceeded to tell him my story, the story of Houston Wine Idealist.

Explaining that I find myself now the Houston consumer’s proponent, a man self-charged with locating great wines, preferably naturally made, organic, at the very least bio-dynamic at prices unmatched anywhere in the country, I began to see this shop owner’s eyes light up.  I could sense that my new found role as Houston Wine Idealist was stirring something in his imagination, obvious even more as he began to describe in greater detail additional wines he wished for me to share with my readers.  We were on to something, I concluded, and the two of us continued to explore this man’s business.

Thomas Smith, owner of French Country Wines, the source of Monday’s Berthet-Rayne, today’s wine, and many more to come for these pages, comes from an Investment Banker’s background, having additionally spent many years as an attorney.  I suppose he’s one of the lucky many we read about these days: folks who enter the wine business with plenty of capital, a love for the juice of the vine and dreams of the wine business as a fun hobby; not so much a career but as something to do with all that retirement time on their hands.  I must admit how I envy the man, for his smile and upbeat attitude truly runs counter to every article published these days as to the state of the finer wines in the market; this guy seems genuinely positive about the future of “Fine Wine”

That’s not to say Mr. Smith is immune to the occasional scowl, by no means at all.  One mention of the word Spec’s turns his smile immediately to a pucker, as if lemon juice had hit an open cut on his hands.  “Folks constantly ask if my wines are available at Spec’s”, he gruffs, “as if all the work I do to discover and bring these wines to Texas could be replicated by those guys.”  Further discussions regarding the local three tier system winds him up even further.  “These big distributors will do anything for Spec’s, with no consideration for the independents, Spec’s is their sole concern.”  Seems Mr. Smith has fallen victim to the machine in his short time as a merchant as well.  Here’s hoping that the positive energy that dominated our time together, and the great wines I’ve enjoyed so far will win the day for Mr. Smith. 

I, for one, as a passionate consumer’s proponent, need a shop of this ilk!

Especially for wines like this:

2007 Domaine Rouge-Bleu Cotes Du Rhone Cuvee Mistral
SARL Rouge-Bleu
71% Grenache, 19% Syrah, 8% Mourvedre, 2% Roussanne Dry Red Table Wine
Cotes Du Rhone, Southern Rhone, Rhone France

Review by Christopher Massie
Wine Idealist #1, (March 2009)
Rating: 90
“An OUTSTANDING wine worth your serious attention that will impress and offer memorable drinking experiences.”
Drink: 2009 – 2015+

Best possible price located as of this review: $16*

    “Our first sign of greatness lies in the color of this beauty: a deep ruby hue, very, very purple right to the rim.  This color coats and stains the glass, indicating ripe and healthy old vine grapes.  A glance at the back label reveals chapters: 75 year old Mourvedre, 75 year old Grenache, indeed, we’re dealing with an estate holding seriously aged parcels.  

  Your nose will capture these aromatics from an arm’s length.  This is another organic farm, a pristine winery in that sense, that has immediately captivated this taster.  Viewing their blog, with pictures of gnarled old Carignan vines has captured my attention, very nearly as much as this aromatic profile.  The farm itself here is 400 years old, and these now 75 plus year old vines offer your sinuses a cornucopia of the most naturally produced, mind pleasing nuances one expects from single vineyard, triple digit CDPs.

    I find baking spices, cardamom, baker’s cocoa, pastille and a full bucket full of every black and blue fruit imaginable; blackberry, raspberry, plum and dates of every description.  But these fruits are pure, not cooked and no sign of heat nor candied / baked / late harvested nuances interfere.  This is one of the most sublime noses.  What did he say this sells for?!
    On the palate, we have that soft, caressing robe of fruit that wraps around every edge of your tongue and dares you not to compare this beauty to a triple digit, single vineyard CDP.  There is structure with power, yet there is harmony and no sign of oak nor overt alcohol.  This is indeed old vine Grenache, as it should be, yet the mineral, the pure terroir and the sensual, sexy, mouth teasing acidity is here in spades. A total wine and a real hoot of a price!”
       — Christopher Massie

*for information on acquiring this wine, at the price I’ve located it for, e*mail me: chambertin@sbcglobal.net





All the best in wine and life,

Christopher Massie
Diplome D’Honneur de Sommelier

HWI’s First “Official” Review



25 years in the wine business now find me authoring a blog about wine from a very different angle.  I’ve been writing for more than a decade, as authoring prose represented my most successful means of marketing to my customers.  Now, however, I’ve become a sort of consumer’s proponent; I’m now reviewing wine, local wine shops, wine-bars and the such, and reporting my findings here at my blog in my efforts to bring the good people of Houston Texas a taste of the finer things in life. 

Today marks the first day that a review has been offered in these pages exclusively from this “non retailer” perspective.  I am not selling the wines reviewed here.  I take no monies for any wine that you may wish to acquire as a result of reading these pages.  And, at least so far, I purchase every wine I review (if at any time I receive samples for review, I WILL disclose that fact). 

My reviews are based on knowledge gained over the course of more than 25 years in the fine wine business.  My scoring is conservative and based on the well-recognized 100 point system.  Following my score, I will translate for the reader what those points mean to me as the author. 

But it is the words in the review that express my truest feelings on each wine I review.

One more thing: life is too short to review bad wine.  If I feel a wine is not worth at least 85 points, I simply won’t publish a review.

2006 Domaine Berthet-Rayne Chateauneuf du Pape

Christian Berthet-Rayne
60 % Grenache, 20 % Mourvèdre, 10 % Cinsault, 10 % Syrah Dry Red Table Wine
Chateauneuf du Pape, Southern Rhone, Rhone, France

Review by Christopher Massie
Wine Idealist #1, (March 2009)
Rating: 89
“An EXCELLENT wine with all the qualities expected of a near-outstanding rated wine.”
Drink: 2009 – 2014+
Best possible price located as of this review: $22*


  “Beautiful ruby red, shimmering color that offers brilliance yet is in no way opaque; this signals a purity to the wine-making.  Produced from certified ecologically grown grapes, from this estate that is working towards their organic certification through the “NOP”, and also an estate that is certified “Agriculture Biologique”, I find an aromatic display here that is quite impressive.  This striking display of power allied to the classics speaks volumes to the ability to produce extremely hi-quality CDP while adhering to a totally organic way of life.

    Combining in its aromatic profile nuances of richly ripe fruit (plum, blackberry and mulberry), deep minerality and a sexy, alluring backdrop of garrigue, this nose just begs for minutes of consideration.  Once on the palate, the sweet fruit is joined by crisp acidity that enlivens the wine and awakens the tongue, leaving the palate freshened and ready for another go. 

     The body of the wine is medium full, and the texture is gripping, with outstanding balance of tannin to fruit.  This is not a wine for decades in the cellar, and this is also not a wine that requires loads of introspection.  This wine revealed itself and was totally engaging within less than a half hour, indicating an introductory style of wine from this appellation.  Yet its absolutely alluring flavors will make many, many friends.

    As I sip this wine, composing my notes, the slight warmth of alcohol experienced in the first glass dissipates, indicating a wine that could benefit from perhaps 1 year in the cellar, but I truly don’t find that necessary.  Simply open the wine, pour a glass, allow that glass to rest for a few minutes, and enjoy the wine – remembering to consume this delicious Grenache at about 55-60 degrees for the best results.”
— Christopher Massie

*for information on acquiring this wine, at the price I’ve located it for, e*mail me: chambertin@sbcglobal.net

All the best in wine and life,

Christopher Massie
Diplome D’Honneur de Sommelier

Louis Dressner Selections – When Traditional Vernacular Just Won’t Cut It

I arrived to work slightly ahead of schedule today, thanks mainly to my precious daughter’s insistence upon awaking long before dawn and alternating her loving parents through a bed-side ritual that had all three of us watching the sun come up.  I’ll admit I do find some odd comfort in these not-too regular routines of little M’s; these middle of the night calls for conversation and comfort.  Her brain is as active as Einstein right now, I know this to be certain, and listening to her now three-year-old mind as she shares her little middle-of-the-night fantasies is truly a wonderful part of being her Father.

I probably wouldn’t have slept much anyway last evening as I knew today was my scheduled appointment with Joe Dressner’s local representative.  I had initiated this meeting after several evenings of digesting the new work by Feiring, a book that reminded me of so many of the wine producers I have so enjoyed for many years.  Prompted by the passionate prose, though not needing much more than a nudge, I found myself one morning signing in at Joe’s website, reading up on current goings on and drafting a short letter that I hoped would not go unnoticed.

To my surprise and great elation, on the very next morning, Joe himself responded to that heartfelt note of mine, yet his tone was one of confusion.  He came across as perplexed in his writing, not remembering the initial contact he and I had some 7 or 8 years back, also not seeming to recognize the loving moniker Feiring had bestowed upon him.  I wrote back, this time with an even more personal tone, explaining my company a bit more and reminding him that Alice had nick-named after an initial meeting between they two many years earlier.

The final note between Joe and I was quite jovial, signed “Large Joe”, giving a slight nod to the pet name his “friend” Feiring places upon him, and he assured me that his local folks would be charged with taking great care of my needs.  Joe has waited many years for a champion in the Texas market, it appears, and now that I had made the connection, all roads would be smooth.  And while there had been a few of his wines in my shop up the street some years back, other than those few cases, shockingly, not one bottle of Joe’s stunningly pure and palate satiating wines had made their way to the Texas market.  As I’ve said for years, Texas remains in a vinous time warp…

Returning to the event of my week now, the representative handling Joe’s wines here in Texas rolled into the shop just before noon, wine tote on wheels, wines properly chilled, reds at cellar temperature, ready for action.  I asked her if she was familiar with my history with some of these labels and when she answered in the negative I guided her to a few pieces of recent and expired promotional material for the shop.  Eyeing the labels in print, she was immediately relieved, admitting that when her company first engaged in business with Dressner not a soul in the organization had one clue as to the wine’s backgrounds or details.  I explained that the juice in the bottles would be all that we would need and she happily grabbed a wine key – we were off!

The first wine my eager, excited palate was to engage this late morning was a Francois Pinon Vouvray from the 2006 vintage.  One whiff of the aromatics and all previously engaged vernacular, all once-held-common-place “wine speak” went out the door!  I’ve smelled a lot of Vouvray folks, and never has a Chenin Blanc once reminded me of that crystal clear stream that ran behind my Grandfather’s house.  I could smell the stones, clean as a whistle, that we would collect from that river bed.  There were aromas of pure minerals, a sense of yeast and of fresh bread.  This wine was as bright as the sunshine on a mountain top, just as pure as a Spring day in the country.  There were flowers and the fruit and acidity on the palate literally took my breathe away.  I described the wine as a demi-sec, neither totally dry nor sweet, and when I finished my note taking, I had devoured half a legal pad page.  Naturally, I bought quite a bit.

From that point, we moved further on into the Loire, this time to the village of Chavignol in the Sancerre region, to taste the wine of the Domaine Thomas-Labaille from the slopes of Les Monts Damnes, this, too, their 2006.  This slope, just to the east of the more commercially recognized Vacherons, is so steep that one could never use a machine for harvest as has become so prevalent throughout the rest of Sancerre.  The results of the tender loving care taken in the vineyard here shows up immediately on the nose; this again showed a brightness and purity rarely found in the region and the appley fruit on both the nose and palate made me want to set up a table outside and watch the day go by.  Again, I bought this wine too for the shop.

As we began to move into the reds, I found myself daydreaming of my many trips through the Languedoc and my copious contacts, not to mention all of my tasting sheets resting just feet away in filing cabinets.  Yes, we were about to experience one of the true masters of the Minervois universe, and I was bubbling over.  Chateau D’Oupia’s “Tradition” label, again tasting the 2006, is produced from a parcel of Carignane that was planted just after the turn of the previous century – in 1908 or so.  These 100 year old vines could never have continued offering their bounty in a world filled with pesticides or chemicals, never could these gnarled old beautiful vines survived today’s “modern” practices.  So lovingly organic has this farm been tended that these work-horse vines offer the wine drinker a window into the past; a wine full of the life of the vineyard.  There are pure and inescapable aromas of freshly turned soil, deeply pure and sun-kissed minerals, and the most succulent blue fruits that I’ve ever wanted to just pop in my mouth and allow to stain my teeth deep purple.  This is wine of the Earth, a wine of the Sky and a wine of Mother Nature; and the wine screams of beauty.  This is succulent, delicious, and both sublime and yet subtle.  There is complete balance here and I bought every bottle they had.  I’ll buy the next vintage and the next, as well…

Moving north now, I found myself this time taking over the conversation as we began to discuss the wines of an old friend of mine.  Perhaps Texier won’t recall our 1 and only encounter, for it took place a few years back and at a time when he was represented by another importer.  That first encounter, however, cemented in my palate a love for this negociant’s wines that lingers to this day, so tasting his wines again, for the first time in a couple of vintages, was thrilling.  As I sit here with a large glass of Texier’s wine next to me, revelling in its transformation, I continue to be amazed at the depth of complexity this man brings to the humble class of wine we know as Cotes Du Rhone.  Tasting his 2006 version, a wine adorned with a fanciful label, spoke volumes as to Eric’s talent.  First, consider the color.  I knew he was a naturalist when I first met him, and viewing his ruby / gem stone colored Grenache simply confirms his natural ways.  Then comes the nose; a virtual spice box combined with every fresh herb imaginable, all rolling around in a bowl of fresh strawberries.  We have a balancing act of power meeting grace and a complexity that this category has been sorely lacking forever. 

We moved into Texier’s Chateauneuf du Pape from the 2005 vintage next and I literally had to take a seat.  This is the wine resting in a very large-mouthed glass next to me as I compose my thoughts, some 8 hours later.  The wine continued to deepen in color throughout the day, beginning the day already an impressive deep ruby red.  These are extremely old vines Eric is working with, sourced from farms with vines as old as more than 85 years of age.  This is a wine for your personal time capsule; a wine that requires one to have some special event that took place in the year of 2005 that you will celebrate 15-20 years from that vintage.  The initial explosion of pure and unadulterated cardamom, all sexy and alluring, has now become brooding, darkly fruited and like a very, very fine and rare cigar.  There is pure and pristine underbrush as well, the kind you expect from a fine Burgundy, but the dark pitched fruit is pure Chateauneuf.  On the tongue this is as robust yet sneaky as an old wise man and only those with great patience will be rewarded when this toddler becomes legal.  I’ve waited 8 hours for the wine to unfold, and it has done precisely as I thought it would; it ran from the gate, flashed it’s bare bosom, got caught by its Father, and has now retreated to its room for many years.  Do not enter until 2020, you are not welcome.

As if my day had not already been fascinating enough, now we released, in perfect silence for my host is a true professional, the cork from a bottle of one of the most thrilling sparkling wines I have ever drank.  This rosey colored wine, the color of a pristine pink hibiscus, with as much mousse as any Champagne you’ll ever consume, comes to us from the 2007 vintage and from the house of Renardat-Fache in the region of Bugey, not that far from Geneve.  This is the land of Poulet de Bresse, a chicken so famous the French gave it its own appellation, and the culinary world finds this part of France a real turn-on.  Drinking this sparkling wine is an experience like none other, one that I continue to find difficult to characterize.  The flavors, perfectly demi-sec and mousse-packed, are the vinous equivalent of an exploding strawberry pie.  The aromas combine the pure and other-worldly characters of a fine Chambolle-Musigny with the “feel-good” nuances of ‘Nilla Wafers.  This wine grabbed my palate, daring me to move on, and I very nearly closed the doors for the day just to sit with this wine and contemplate the wine maker’s agenda.  Drink this wine, oh ye of the Champagne disapproving lot, your life will be changed forever. 

By the end of the tasting, I had purchased more wine than my paltry budget would ever allow. 

But my landlord is an approving sort, I’m certain he’ll allow a grace period…

All the best in wine and life,

Christopher Massie
Diplome D’Honneur de Sommelier
2439 Times BLVD
Houston, TX 77005

Windswept 90 Pointer Rounds out the Series

Hello again folks,

Part III of this series is actually a dual pronged effort; combining my efforts to hear the voice of “The People” with my desire to recapture for you our travels through the windswept back-roads of France’s deep South.  Our wine today combines the full, rich and exciting flavors so many of you required in your survey responses with not only the price point we all seek, but a real sense of adventure as well.  What’s more, it was a resounding success at last evening’s wine tasting, very nearly coming in first place just behind a wine costing nearly 3 times its price! 

The road we travel to discover this sun drenched region, known as Minervois, is well travelled in these pages.  Known as the Autoroute du Soleil, we travelled this road from Avignon through Ventoux and Montpellier, turning west as the Route now changes to the A9.  The massive Mount Ventoux, all 6,500 intimidating feet of it, has faded in the rear view mirror and the land, as we speed towards the walled city of Carcassonne, begins to resemble the winding, dusty roads outside Austin; a sort of Texas hill country if you will.

Minervois was recognized by the French appellation committee and singled out for elevation to its own designated region on February 15th 1985.  Prior to that time, this vast region of nearly 40,000 acres, a region that spans not 1, but two full departments, or “states” as we call them, the Aude and the Herault, had been known simply as another portion of the mammoth Coteaux du Languedoc.  The efforts of a handful of highly gifted and dedicated growers, however, catapulted this hot and aired region to its new-found “place in the sun”.

My first encounter with just such a forward thinking wine maker in this new Minervois came in the mid-1990’s as I travelled the South in search of treasures of the value nature.  I had heard tales of plantings of Syrah and Grenache in these hills and valleys and my interest was to taste as many of the reputed best as possible.  With road map, French translation dictionary and legal pad in my hand, I was headed into the 95 degree day.

Today’s offer, this fabulous unoaked blend from the young and strapping Laurent Coustal at Chateau Sainte Eulalie, represents the passion that not only he (Laurent) holds for the wines of Minervois, but the pride that these people of this young region carry with them as they show the world their wines.  This cuvee from Laurent comes from a single hill, a hill called La Liviniere; a hillside considered the heart of Minervois for its ability to craft grapes of truly superior quality.  A hillside vineyard often denoted on the more expensive offerings from this region, La Liviniere’s soil is rich with a deep layer of limestone; perfect for the maturing of complex Syrah and Grenache.

When you taste this seemingly humble wine from the proud Laurent, humble in that its cost is just so darn affordable, you should remember the rolling hills and perfect sunshine that combine to favor organic production for Sainte Eulalie’s wines.  The vineyard consists of absolutely zero top soil, is constantly blown dry by swirling winds and further benefits by Laurent’s firm dedication to ever-increasing work towards biodynamics.  This is pure, natural and “of the Earth” wine, and the purity one encounters in the flavors and depth of complexity – never mind the price – truly sets this estate apart from the crowd.

But you wouldn’t have it any other way from me, now would you?

2007 Chateau Sainte Eulalie Minervois
Chateau Sainte Eulalie
15% Syrah, 45% Grenache, 40% 85 year-old Carignan Dry Red table wine
Minervois, Languedoc Roussillon, France

Review by Cepage Noir
E*Newsletter Winter 2009
Rating: 90
“An Outstanding wine worth your serious attention that will impress and offer memorable drinking experiences.”
Drink: 2008 – 2013

        “Another exciting experience, and an appellation that this taster has considerable tasting prowess with, Eulalie exemplifies not only the cutting edge techniques of today’s young superstar wine-makers, but the perfection you’re reading about regarding this 2007 vintage for the regions from Avignon to Carcassonne.  Just a gorgeous aromatic display unfolds from the glass of this amazing over-achiever.  An alluring combination of blue and red fruits on the aromas and palate combine with an almost buttery texture to offer a lip-smacking, gulp-able, yet utterly serious drinking profile.  This is simply a total turn on and a joy a to drink!”
                — Cepage Noir 

just a few cases remain after the successful results from last night’s event…

do get your orders in soon!

offered for a mere $15 per bottle (I said it was underpriced!)

or a dandy $156 for a case of 12 (WOW!)