Maison Lucien le Moine – Bygone Methods yielding Perfection in Chardonnay

Lucien le Moine

 

The history of Burgundy includes the Citeaux of the Cistercian Monks – a beautiful, fine old Abbey south of Dijon – where wine was fermented on its fine lees in frigid cellars through summer months. The ancient fermentation practices recognized by the Monks of the Cistercian Order during the Middle Ages as well as the practice of selecting specific plots – or Crus – for the production of fine wines were the corner stone for today’s greatest wines of the Cote D’Or. Allowing wines to naturally ferment in barrel on their fine sediment – known as lees – produces beneficial levels of Carbon Dioxide (a natural preservative). This ancient practice allows modern proponents to avoid the overuse of Sulfur Dioxide in the winemaking practice.

 

Meet Mounir Saouma, a Lebanese monk who – along with his wife Rotem Brakir – established what has become the most talked about, Beaune-based micro-negociant in the Burgundy trade today. Mounir’s passion for great Burgundy was born from his work alongside Cistercian Monks not only in Burgundy at the Citeaux, but further blossomed during his time with the Monks while in Israel – where he met Rotem. Through the assistance of the Cistercians, the couple visited Citeaux many times together, and from there a mutual passion for the Cote’s great terroirs and the Cistercian’s vinification practices was ignited.

 

After leaving the order in 1999, Mounir established his micro-negoce with Rotem, naming it Lucien le Moine. Following the practices of old, their first guideline is to work exclusively with 1er and Grand Cru vineyard plots within the Cote D’Or – precisely as the Cistercians deemed appropriate. Taking this practice one step further, each vintage brings a new selection however as Mounir realizes that what makes Genevrieres perfect in 2004 might omit it from selection in 2007. And therein we find the magic that has made this micro-negoce the jewel of the Cote: a selection process to rival the greatest in the region.

 

Each harvest, Mounir visits his friends in Burgundy just after the harvest – when the first pressing has been completed. Once the selections have been made, the juice – jus-wine as it’s known – is placed in the Lucien le Moine barrels for aging. The le Moine barrels add yet another dimension, being from the Jupilles, which provide some of the most consistently tight-grained oak of any French forest. Toasted to the le Moine specifications, each barrel in the cellars is ordered precisely for Mounir, and Jupilles makes up 100% of the barrel selection Chez le Moine.

 

Once barreled, the juice rests on 100% of its fine lees without racking throughout its entire fermentation process. The wine is encouraged to feed upon these fine lees – through the ancient process of “battonages”, or stirring of the lees – which protects, balances and promotes complexity in the fermenting wine. During this process, the barrels are resting in the le Moine cellars, which are closed, cold, humid and very deep. And thanks to this, the malolactic fermentation process is able to last for many months – another aspect of the winemaking process that leads to exquisitely layered and profoundly flavored wines from Lucien le Moine.

 

Finally, when each barrel announces its readiness for bottling, the le Moine team bottles with respect for the ancient ways: never are their wines fined or filtered. This method allows for the naturally occurring Carbon Dioxide to be present in the finished wines, a natural element that ensures the ability for each of the Lucien le Moine wines to age gracefully for decades. And thanks to this element, Mounir recommends decantation for each of the wines when consuming them young. Each and every element of terroir – from the most sublime nuances of minerality to the brilliance of the Cote’s acidity – combine with the almost indescribable layers of extreme flavor alive in the very grapes themselves, and come together to build a taste sensation that one is not likely soon to ever forget. Tasting these wines is truly vinous perfection!

 

Just how good are they?

 

In the words of Antonio Galloni, when describing the 2010 le Moine White Burgundies, he would say:

 

“Dazzling pretty much sums it up…. This dazzling, drop-dead gorgeous wine is a pure pleasure to taste. Frankly, it is impossible to spit.”

 

And Steven Tanzer – after scoring the top wines here 99 points for 2010, succinctly summarized:

 

“The 2010s here should be extraordinary.”

 

For a complete list of currently available selections, please check out:

 

http://www.jjbuckley.com/search/c~0~st~lucien%20le%20moine%202010

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La Chablisienne – Meticulous Quality, Precise Quantity, Exciting Wines

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In the world of Burgundy – doubly so in terms of the whites – rarely do quantity and quality inhabit the same world. Enter the collection known as La Chablisienne; a selection of sublime Chardonnays so well-balanced and consistently well made as to render professional wine critics seemingly ecstatic year after year. Burghound – the most conservative writer I know – routinely refers to these offers as “strikingly long and harmonious”, while The Wine Spectator gushes with terms to include “intense”, “complex” and “terrific”.

Reading such grandiose reviews, one would surely think they were in the presence of one of the most limited production, impossible to acquire and therefore sky-high priced wines of the genre. After all, when mid to upper 90 point reviews start rolling around from Burghound (as in the case of the 2008 Les Preuses from La Chablisienne), we’re usually witnessing wines the likes of Leflaive Batard Montrachet or Niellon Chevalier Montrachet.

But Herve Tucki – Director of marketing for La Chablisienne – has a very different vision for the wine drinker. His firm, dedicated to “revealing the heart and soul of the wines of Chablis”, represents a collection of the finest small growers of the region. Founded in 1923, La Chablisienne has expanded to such a size that today it vinifies and markets nearly 35% of all of the wine bottled in the region. And it is precisely this element of scale that allows such quality from a firm that produces such quantity.

Further, since the 1950s, La Chablisienne now fully controls 100% of the vinification process to include vineyard work, bottling and aging. Whereas once they acted simply as a blender and wholesale merchant to the trade, today La Chablisienne acts more as a boutique wine-maker – albeit one of the largest “boutiques” one is likely to encounter. By incorporating the finest wine-makers with the greatest vineyard sites available in Chablis, La Chablisienne has truly accomplished what few (if any) other firms in Burgundy has been able to: combining high quality with terrific quantity to offer the discerning consumer outstanding prices on highly regarded, world-class wines.

For more information regarding currently available selections, please visit:

http://www.jjbuckley.com/search/c~0~st~chablisienne

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Oh, for a Glass of Wine

Another excruciating day comes to a close, witnessing me once again crunching the numbers on this business plan as we make ourselves ready for the first printing.  Thus far, only a handful of our closest allies are primed for the first draft of this 60+ page business plan.  And the pages are indeed impressive.  My mind has been on over drive these past few days and the early mornings and sleepless nights have been numerous.  This particular business plan has been born from a decade of blood, sweat and tears; there are no errors here – the holes have been filled with hindsight.

And as we’ve worked so diligently on this plan, my wife and I, we’ve set certain other parts of our lives on autopilot.  Flipping that switch has been fairly easy considering that we’re both among the ranks of the unemployed.  So we’ve set about feeding our updates to the outside world through the use of modern technology.  Google alerts, LinkedIn, TwitterFeed and a whole host of other modern gadgets assist us in our endeavors to appear “plugged in” while we bury ourselves with the task at hand.

But today, ’round late afternoon, we’d had enough.  We seriously needed a glass of wine.  And with all the work and all the research and with all the tales of righteous palate satiating we’d uncovered through all these efforts, we were not going to be satisfied with anything less than: yep you guessed it.  We wanted one of those ultimate glasses of biodynamic wines.

Ah, biodynamic wines – the allure is oh-so-strong, yet the offers in my current city of residence are so frightfully and tragically limited.

There once was a beauty of a collection in this town…. But we won’t traverse that field this evening….

Adding to our desire for a glass of the sublime was our wish for something home cooked – and not of the beef variety.  So we packed in, faced the late mid-day traffic and headed to Central Market.  The local version of this Texas dream store (for some) has taken to sending out “shopper’s cards” and coupons – good only locally (don’t dare try to use ’em in Austin, the clerks will immediately identify you as “one of the Houston shoppers”).  My wife has collected both “the card” and quite a few of the coupons, so we decided to cash them in.

It appears that the generosity emanating from the folks in charge behind the fish counter, not to mention the good will intentions motivating the “shopper’s card” rebates, have yet to topple the cash cow in the wine department.  The prices on the wines (including their discounts offered on 6 bottles or more) are pure highway robbery.  Wines once selling at a shop (that this city ran out of town on a rail) for $15 are proudly displayed for $21!  And my desired Joly?  Would we be celebrating our hard work with the beauty of Coulee?  At that price?  In that condition?  I think not.

We returned home with our fresh halibut, at a tremendous savings, and a couple blocks of cheese – proper dates, nice and fresh.  I cracked a nice bottle of white burgundy, grilled the fish and some fresh veggies and we called it a day.  Little M ate her proverbial pasta and corn on the cob and now all of us are dreaming of the day when we can direct import our dream wines right to a little corner store in Short Pump Virginia.

All the best in wine and life,

Christopher Massie
Diplome D’Honneur de Sommelier

Daniel Barraud – “The King of Maconnais”

For four vintages now, I’ve been singing the praises of not only the man himself, but of every single bottle of wine that emerges from the cellars of this incredible white wine producer in the southern reaches of Burgundy.  Located in the southern Burgundian region known as the Maconnais, just a short drive south of the Cote D’Or, Daniel Barraud’s cellars can be found in the stunning village of Vergisson.  Nestled in the valley between the most massive set of limestone cliffs you’ve ever encountered, the village of Vergisson is home to the most impressive, concentrated, ageworthy and, believe it or not, undervalued white Burgundies of our time.

Daniel Barruad has been quietly and humbly bottling the most magnificent and sublime creations from the Chardonnay grape for more than two decades.  The world began to take notice, however, just 10 years ago, when a now-famous wine writer began to expose these treasures to our eager taste-buds.  That wine writer was none other than our beloved BURGHOUND, and he single-handedly crowned this genius of Vergisson “the finest growers in all of the Maconnais”

The rest, as we say, has been history.

I first began to offer a very small portion of these awesome specimens to my white Burgundy fanatics back with the 2003 vintage.  Those who bought and have subsequently tasted those powerful yet harmoniously balanced beauties have never missed a single additional offer.  These are simply too good to pass up!  And with each passing vintage, as if to show us that perfection grows with time, Daniel just keeps getting better.

This vintage, with the 2006s, once again, BURGHOUND has paid a visit to the master of the Maconnais.  I do not need to tell you the results.  Once again, like a fine Swiss timepiece, Daniel Barraud has performed with perfection.  The allocations, as always, will be small, but the quality, without doubt, is something you’ll not want to miss.

It is with extreme pride, and with great joy, that I bring to all of you – and to little M’s cellar as well (for her birth year is this wonderful 2006) – these staggering 2006s from Daniel Barraud.  Remember the words from BURGHOUND, “his 2006s deserve to be in your cellars”.

from BURGHOUND, regarding Daniel Barraud, after the cellar visit to taste and report on the 2006s:

“I have said this many times but it’s worth repeating: Daniel Barraud is without question one of the finest growers in all of the Maconnais and there is a credible argument to be made that his remarkable consistency vaults him right to the very top of the list. Yes, there are other fine growers who sometimes make wines equal to those of Barraud but this man almost never misses. And as the scores and reviews suggest, both his 2005s and 2006s deserve to be in your cellars.”
                — BURGHOUND, Issue October 2007

for details regarding current availability, to include regions and pricing, please contact me at the shop…

All the best in wine and life,

Christopher Massie
Diplome D’Honneur de Sommelier
713-524-9144
2439 Times BLVD
Houston, TX 77005
chambertin@sbcglobal.net

Twenty Four and At the Door – My Afternoon at DRC

My wife and I tucked our daughter into bed last night, our evening’s ritual resulting in our collapsing on the couch as we gathered our reading materials and flipped a coin to select our delivery menu for dinner.  We wouldn’t change our routine for the world, for these are the times in our life that are most precious to us, these are the years we cling to as we watch our little M becoming her own self.  We elected Chinese take out on this Thursday night, my wife settled in to her chic-lit novel and I re-engaged my new, most favorite book – the book my wife bought me for Valentine’s Day – a book by Alice Feiring.

When I read the pages of Feiring’s book I experience something truly surreal.  I have traveled so many of the exact same roads, met so many of the exact same people, tasted so many of the exact same wines – and shouted from so many of the exact same mountain tops.  So many times my writings to the few who read my newsletters and blogs have contained the same passionate expletives concerning the direction of wine and the business that I elected as my career path more than 25 years ago.  When I read this woman’s words, I can very nearly literally imagine myself in a balloon, floating above her as she stands in these vineyards and as she tastes wines and as she shakes her head in front of the vultures of the commercial wine industry.

I read with great glee into the wee hours of the morning on this particular Thursday night, as the clock in the kitchen rang mid-night, as the next chapter beckoned me.  My vinous soul-mate had now captured me for at least another half hour as she ushered me into the story of her relationship with yet another of my heros: Becky Wasserman.  Any person who has ever known me is keenly aware of my affection for the Queen of Burgundy.  I’ve written of The Woman and her wines for many years, publicly offering my thoughts with the launching of my blogs at the start of this year.

It was Becky’s wines, and those of Kermit Lynch, that fostered in my palate, at the ripe old age of nearly 18, a never-to-die love of the juice of Burgundy.  It would be those precious wines that would find me saving every extra dime I could muster to sponsor my more than a dozen trips to the Cote D’Or over my career.  So passionate for the wines from Gevrey to Santenay had Becky unknowingly made me that I found myself spending 2 harvests in Pernand Vergelesses just to understand this land’s terroir even better.  For all my time here, the gracious Paul Cadieu presented me with a framed diploma, something I’m proud to hang on my wall, even if few understand its merit.  So one may understand that reading the pages, discovering that Wasserman and Feiring are friends, well, it gave me joy – and great hope for my future.

Reading those pages also brought back the glorious April of 1990.  I was working for one of the giants of the liquor industry, finding my footing, and the company paying my salary was a major client of Wilson Daniels.  Just prior to that April, over the Christmas holiday preceding, I had sold so much wine for the company – Burgundy to be precise, thank you – that I had found myself in the company of one Mr. Haas, the son of the owner of yet another powerful Burgundy import company, this one called Vineyard Brands.  I had familiarized myself with “lucky’s” brands – Gouges, Mongeard-Mugneret, and others – and had been selling them to my customers in a frenzy.

Young Haas and his side kick approached me in the wine section of this rather imposing liquor store where I was performing my magic and suggested I consider a trip to visit their producers.  The seed was planted, I would not be deterred, I was off to Burgundy; the Mother Land was beckoning.  I emptied my paltry savings account, with absolutely zero regard for how I would pay rent upon my return (WOULD I return?), accepted the bargain that came from my then-Mother-In-Law that allowed for us to use her frequent flier miles, and away I went.  Burgundy, here I come…

I spent a full week in Burgundy on that trip, only wasting enough time in Paris to land, find a bus to the rental car location and hit the Autoroute.  Contrary to what may seem obvious based on my town of current residence, I am not a big city fan, I prefer the country, so the quicker I could escape Paris, the better.  Besides, I had spent the time on the flight memorizing the map of the Cote D’Or so I wanted to test my skills.  Would I be able to recall, without looking, the Villages as we made our way down the R.N. 74?  My travel companions, all 3, were not nearly the Burg-heads as I, yet I remained steadfast in my resolve; this was MY trip.  Burgundy is our ONLY mission.

I visited as many of the Vineyard Brands’ estates as one could possibly fit into one week’s itinerary.  Literally a dozen rolls of film, perhaps more, were exhausted, and I remember to this day the nearly knock down fight I had with my now-ex when we split; the photos of that trip and the couch were mine!  We visited the 8 fingered Theirry Matrot, finger-less from rose trimming with his wife, if I translated him properly.  And there was the trip to the gorgeous Chateau in the Cote de Beaune with its ivy covered cellar walls and limestone entrance.  Probably the most memorable, though I couldn’t have known it at the time, was the meeting with the Father himself, Henri Gouges.  This meeting was only a few years before his death and the personal attention he gave me on that day, allowing me a tasting of his wines from my birth year – 1966 – is one etched into the deepest corners of my mind.  So many others were so very generous to me that week, exposing my mind and palate to the riches of this land I continue to adore.  But it would be a late arrival to one stop – and the subsequent cancelled meeting – that would change my life forever.

In Burgundy, particular to this region and more so than any other I’ve visited in France, punctuality is demanded; not required, demanded.  I arrived half an hour late for a particular appointment one afternoon that April to find my scheduled host departed.  Deflated but undeterred, I decided to head to Vosne Romanee to try my luck.  We had no appointment, but I knew some names.

In Vosne Romanee proper, the tiny little Village nestled at the base of some of the most sought after vineyard parcels in all of Burgundy – if not the world – there is an address of one Aubert de Villaine.  Many a story has been told of this man’s famous history, of his family’s estate known as Domaine de la Romanee Conti, most tales certainly more glowing and illuminating than one I could dare to offer.  Amazingly, however, as one reads tales of the history of this Domaine producing the much coveted $10,000 bottle of wine, there are precious few collections that include personal photographs of the cellar and chais.  As yours truly waited outside for de Villaine to authenticate my credentials, such a lack of photographic evidence would not be this visitor’s err.

I had knocked at the door on this glorious day in April of 1990 and de Villaine himself, quite unusually, had come to see who was calling.  In my broken French I explained that I worked for a client of Wilson Daniels, naming my employer of the time, and asked if per chance we could have a visit.  Explaining that the Domaine took no visitors without express pre-arranged itineraries, but with a gentlemanly offer to check his cellar master’s availability (in perfect, almost British-like English) de Villaine asked us to wait, leaving us momentarily.  My travel companion, the one burdened with photo-taking responsibilities, went to work. 

The front of the building was covered to the second floor window with the most pristine and well kept budding red roses that I had yet to experience.  Rounding the back side of the house, we gazed into the courtyard at what seemed so innocent.  This was the entrance to the chais itself; the entrance to the barrel room housing finished bottles and resting barrels of Romanee Conti in Francois Freres oak barrels at nearly $7,000 per bottle at that time.  It was all so quaint and unassuming; a yellow garden hose not quite rolled all the way in, little white flowers just in bloom at the entrance to the cellar itself.  Yet everything, including the pebbled drive was immaculate.  Is this really happening?  I am really here?

De Villaine came round to find us, smiling, almost jovial, thanking us for being at the property.  My initial reaction was one of grief.  I just knew we were going to be escorted out with only photos to show for our daring decent on this dynasty.  “Come with me”, he said instead, and we were escorted down the stairs into the cellars of the most remarkable Domaine in all of Burgundy.  The cellar master smiled, grabbed the wine thief and my mind floated away.

I was not even 25 years old in that moment in time yet my palate was as alive and precise as it has ever been.  I was tasting from barrel the 1988s and my amateur tasting notes from those memorable days, to this day kept in a file drawer with so many others I’ve collected over time, contain vernacular that include words we all come to recognize when in the presence of true greatness.  My photo-taking travel companion, Marcy, shot one last photo on that day, God bless her, one that remains today thumb-tacked above my computer.  As we finished our mind numbing affair on that glorious afternoon, just before exiting the chais I was photographed with my hand resting upon a perfect barrel of Romanee Conti.  My eyes are just slightly glazed over, my circa-1980’s horn-rimmed glasses riding high on my nose, my Elvis hair-do in perfect form.

I had done the DRC. 

I had done it; and the proof in pictures and on my palate was forever a part of my life.

All the best in wine and life,

Christopher Massie
Diplome D’Honneur de Sommelier
713-524-9144
2439 Times BLVD
Houston, TX 77005

Thinned-Skinned II – Chardonnay too has a Soul?

Continuing on now with this journey, this quest to expose the willing to these wines of ebullient character, character derived from decades making wine with nature as a wine-maker’s guide, I find myself ever eager to hold your interest.  Straying too far off course as I speak of the virtues of a wine that many folks may have little interest in often results in the shutting down of the initially opened minds.  In other words, let’s discuss something even dear old Mom likes to drink, shall we? 

As with many people in my life, this taste for the golden white wine came late in life for her, actually only recently, as I never recall a glass in her hand in my youth.  So as dear Mom acquired a taste for wine, naturally that taste was satiated by the most successful and popular grape type in America today.  Chardonnay, in all its many and varied styles had smitten dear old Mom, and it had been the Chardonnay of Burgundy that captured my tongue, many moons ago.

I recall the first time I sat through one of those ethereal White Burgundy events.  Ramonet was on full display that day, practically every Cru and with absolutely no regard for price.  This was one of those events hosted by the supplier and taking place at a grand location in the heart of Highland Park, THE zip code for the rich and elite in those days of the giddy and Rolls Royce as the family car days.  I was still in my vinous infancy and had yet to discover the “Thinned Skinned” style I would soon call my own. 

Until this tasting, my exposure to Chardonnay had been mostly at the hands of the West Coast offers so often requested at my place of employ.  Beringer was a big call, so too was the proverbial Mondavi Reserve.  I recall tasting the dregs from the ends of the bottles as these wines made their way back to my bar, thinking to myself how sweet they were; not sweet in the “Oh wow that was sweet man, let’s have more…” kind of way either.  No, my thoughts were more, “Is that sugar in the wine, it’s as sweet as the old man’s Galiano, strange…”, kind of way.

Back to the Rolls Royce and Ramonet event.  The wines in attendance, opened for all to taste, no matter the guest’s history nor experience, were the stuff of legends.  These were the Domaine Ramonet 1985s, a group of wines that encompassed every major Grand Cru I’d read about and was dying to taste, and just about every 1er Cru I had gathered a yearning for too.  I had started really reading by that point, sopping up knowledge like my life depended on it.  I knew how the classification system worked and I wanted to see if my feeble palate could render a judgement.  Is there really a difference between not only these Grand and 1er Crus, but also these French Chardonnays and the half dozen or so California versions I’d been exposed to? 

My palate was forever sealed.  I had discovered my soul-mate, speaking expressly in terms of white wines of the Chardonnay version that is.  Those White Burgundies, and so many others that I have experienced through my career – as well as an ever increasing number of “Thinned-Skinned” leaning producers out West – continue to set the bar for others to reach.  Allowing the minerality and soul-clutching depth of complexity to shine through, using Chardonnay as the vessel and absolutely no overt intervention, my self described “Thinned-Skinned” way of making wine – without trying to make the wine a block of muscle – produces in Burgundy the most exquisite example of that grape type one will encounter.

My hero, Kermit, has always strutted his stuff in this region too.  Kermit, like another of my heros, Allen Meadows, is a long-time friend to Aubert de Villaine, the man behind Domaine de la Romanee Conti.  I’ve visited DRC on far fewer occasions than my two aforementioned heros, a story for another day, so I can personally vouch for de Villaine’s perfectionist ways and absolute “Thinned-Skinned” approach and personality.  To see him produce White Burgundy is to know that MY kind of wine is going to be in the bottle.

De Villaine owns a Domaine just south of Chassagne Montrachet, south of the Cote D’Or proper, in the land known as the Cote Chalonnaise.  Specifically located in Bouzeron, just a few miles north of Rully, Domaine Villaine is run with the same zealous care as DRC, as one would expect with the name of the man himself so elegantly displayed right across every label.  The vineyards are planted exclusively on the slopes overlooking the valley in a nutrient poor soil rich with limestone; the perfect environment for producing “Thinned-Skinned”, terroir driven White Burgundy. 

Kermit solidified a friendship with de Villaine many years ago resulting in the importation of de Villaine’s Domaine wines to the States by Kermit and not the team behind the DRC label.  All the better for you and I, too, as the other team firmly controls allocations and would probably cause these fabulous White Burgundies to either end up tied up in allocation arguments or be priced out of reach.  And then how would we as “Thinned-Skinned” wine lovers ever see these amazing, mineral driven specimens on our dinner tables?

As a word of interest on the first wine I’m going to expose you to from this Domaine, made very much in the style I love, this is actually the ancient grape of the region called Aligote.  First critically acclaimed in this region as far back as 1730, in de Villaine’s hands it produces a wine so full of verve and minerality one has the sense they are drinking a wine from the “sea-shell-infused” land of Chablis…

2006 Domaine A. et P. De Villaine
Domaine de Villaine
Aligote Dry White Table Wine
Bouzeron, Cote Chalonnaise, Burgundy, France

Review by Cepage Noir
E*Newsletter Winter 2009
Rating: 89
“An
Excellent wine with all the qualities expected of a near-outstanding rated wine.”
Drink: 2009 – 2012

        “Medium straw gold color, with great clarity and clear rim, indicating that while we’re in the drinking window, we have some good drinking years ahead of us.  Aromas of sea shells, sea breezes and an almost Chablis like nuance are beguiling and stand head and shoulders above any I’ve engaged from this region or type.  While we have fruits of a semi-exotic nature, almost tropical and honeydew, there is no denying the purity of mineral and total terroir here; just a joy to smell.  The palate mirrors the nose, to include the stony minerality, yet there is more fruit than the nose lets on, with the semi-tropical nuances and a richness coming through on the palate that suggests an almost Cote D’Or complexity.  This is just delicious and the fruit, the minerality and the terroir notes are very alluring.  What a fantastic glass of wine.”
                — Cepage Noir

a wine of limited nature, as all Kermit’s private selections tend to be…

and one of the wine-makers who started it all for me…

if this or any of the Kermit selections are of interest, give me a call 713-524-9144…

or drop me a return email, I’ll be happy to share the details…

Encountering Becky Wasserman & The Story of H. Lamy

The year was one in the very early 1990’s, I believe 1991 or ’92, and it was a typical New Orleans’ day; cloud covered, so humid one could barely breathe, and with the sounds of “Uptown N’awlins” reverberating through my head.  I was living in New Orleans for a short period in my professional life, working my “internship” as Cadieu liked to call it at one of the most diverse and well stocked import stores in the United States, Martin Wine Cellar.  I had secured a position there after being in Burgundy and my relationship with the “wine-manager” at that time was, well, strained.  It had not been his decision to hire me, you see, and this was a man of pure ego.  I had been placed beside the Silver Fox at the decision of his superior, and my time at this bastion of Burgundy – and every other great wine of France – would be limited.

I was stationed in the customer service booth, a raised platform located in the rear of the wine department, that resembled a boxing ring complete with four corners housing independent computers for 4 salesmen to work.  Customers could walk up to this ominous “counter”, size up the 4 salesmen and decide with whom they would engage.  The counter was raised, mind you, about 3 feet off the ground, so anonymity was quite the norm for the seasoned salesman here at Martin’s; if you were not one of the “Old Boy’s” regulars, you would certainly find his face buried in a computer screen.

I recall a tale of just one instance of attempted anonymity.  The man’s name was Carl, and he became one of my greatest clients, remaining as a client over the course of nearly 2 decades; continuing as a client when I opened my own shop in Texas – his brother-in-law is my greatest client, and a true friend, to this very day.  Tragically, Carl is no longer with us, and I miss him as I think about our times together.

The Silver Fox was busily working on a Burgundy order one day as Carl approached the customer service booth.  Not one for niceties, the Silver Fox remained buried as Carl decided, unwavering, to request the availability of a certain wine.  “Have you any Martinelli”, Carl requested to the turned-down head covered with pre-matured grayness.  Without speaking a word, the Silver Fox rose, walked to the dried foods aisle (Martin’s also carries lots of food items) and returned with a jar of jelly.  Carl, needless to say, only dealt with me on subsequent visits.

Returning to that blistering, liquid-air filled day back in the early 1990’s, I recall another day in the booth at old man Martin’s place.  I was busy printing the month’s point of sale pieces, having been shouldered with that burden thanks to a discovery by the Silver Fox that I was quick with the written wit, when I heard this tiny voice, complete with an accent I believed to be of either Boston or New York decent.  I looked up, but at first glance, to my surprise, there was no one around.

Becky Wasserman, one of this country’s most prominent and singular people of wine was before me, all 5 feet of her.  I could not see her tightly curly black and barely graying hair – barely graying in those days – as she was literally hidden behind the customer service booth.  I glanced around a bit and there she was.  She had a smile that could make you grin, no matter your mood, and when she introduced herself I think I actually blushed; I know for certain I said something unintelligible, for she gave me that look that let me know I had.  The Silver Fox swooped in and my 1 chance to impress one of my great idols was gone.

Our tasting that night included an opportunity to literally rub shoulders with, and taste the wines of, THE greatest wine makers that Burgundy has to offer.  There was also in attendance the great Clive Coates, a man that can absolutely capture and dominate a room with his encyclopedic knowledge of Burgundy and her terroirs and wines.  I tasted the wines of Lafarge, his steel blue eyes watching my movements for signs of accurate evaluation of his work.  There was the young and attention gathering Pascal from Comte Armand with his massive, palate attacking wines, quite the opposite of Lafarge’s and I remember thinking I was in a place too good to be true.

Wasserman’s wines have a way of staying with a person, of remaining on one’s palate and in one’s vinous memory for as long as one consumes the wines of Burgundy.  These wines, these Wasserman selections, are wonderfully pure, with beautiful fruit and an underlying sense of place and time that absolutely belongs in the wines of Burgundy.  You taste these wines and immediately understand the pursuit of great Burgundy; you understand why so many who truly love the greatest wines of this 35 mile stretch of land will spend countless years and dollars in search of the few stars.

I come to you now with not only this history of mine but also with some of Becky’s latest new arrivals.  These are her 2006s, from a family called Lamy, a family based in the sleepy little town on the other side of the hill from Chassagne Montrachet.  These white Saint-Aubins will challenge many a top white Chassagne while their red Chassagne has never had a competitor for my long-trained palate.  Their red Saint-Aubin?  A 1er Cru tasted just weeks ago, the one I bring to you today, included tasting notes that more often find their way into Volnay reviews! 

For you interested in beginning this Wasserman discovery, or for those who have followed with me for many years these wonderful wines of hers, I invite you to expose your palate to these exciting wines from Lamy.

These 2006s are just fabulous!

Current releases from Hubert Lamy: 

2006 Saint Aubin 1er Cru En Remilly
2006 Saint Aubin 1er Cru Les Castets Rouge
2006 Chassagne Montrachet Vieilles Vignes La Goujonne Rouge

 

for pricing and availability, please contact the shop: 713-524-9144, or just email me back…