The Rhone in Real Time

Early morning in Tournon-sur-Rhone, live!

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Bordeaux Part II: Chateau Le Puy

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Bordeaux Part I: Chateau Falfas

Chateau Falfas and its chai were constructed in 1612.  The estate includes 20 hectares of vines divided between Merlot (55% of the total surface), Cabernet Sauvignon (30%), Cabernet Franc (10%) and Malbec (5%).  The average age of the vines is 35 years.  The Malbec vines are the oldest of the property at 60 years old.  Chateau Falfas was one of the first estates in Bordeaux to convert to Biodynamic viticulture (1988).
All the vinifications take place in cement tanks that are separated by parcel and grape variety.  The estate produces three wines: 1) Les Demoiselles – a blend of mostly young vines with an elevage in cuves and foudres whose total production is about 15,000 bottles each vintage, 2) Chateau Falfas – the main wine of the estate is raised in new and used barriques and foudres, with a total production of 60,000 bottles, and 3) Le Chevalier – the oldest vines with an elevage in new barriques whose production is quite limited at 5,000 bottles.
To our great sadness, John Cochran, the co-proprietaire of the Chateau, passed away during the 2009 harvest.  Williams Corner mourns the loss of this kind-hearted and widely-admired vigneron.  Veronique Cochran continues to maintain the estate and oversees the winemaking.
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Burgundy Part VI: The Maconnais

The last post on Burgundy, I promise!

Domaine Henry Perrusset: visited September 4, 2010

Henri Perrusset started his domaine from scratch back in 1987 when he quit his sales job in the agri-products business and rented a half hectare in the tiny town of Farges.  Nowadays, Henri Perrusset tends 8.5 hectares of vines and produces about 40,000 bottles each year.   There are three cuvées: Macon-Villages (75% of the total production), Macon-Farges, and Macon Farges Elevée en Barrique.

Henri does everything himself and almost all of it by hand.  He even does his own massale selection and raises his own greffes on a small plot of land in the village in order to avoid relying on a nursery.  In 2004 he decided to work his soils manually to avoid compaction from repeated passes with a tractor.

Henri is extremely meticulous and carefully tends his vines with the utmost respect to the terroir and the environment.  The wines possess a lovely minerality.  They are offered humbly by the expert gardener and viticulteur that is Henri Perrusset.  They sing of the Maconnais.

It is a lovely song.

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Burgundy Part V: The Beaujolais

My biggest complaint about Burgundy is that they grow Pinot Noir instead of Gamay. Sure, Philippe II decreed the planting of the infernal Gamay grape illegal in the late 1300s, but that’s only because he never tasted a Morgon from Jean Foillard or Marcel Lapierre or a Fleurie from Yvon Metras.  Had he done so the whole Cote d’Or might be planted with it.

Evidently, not even Philippe Pacalet’s delicious 2009s were enough to help me recover from the soul sapping environment that is the town of Beaune, so I headed to Morgon  for respite.

There, I meat Jean-Claude Chanudet (the gérant of Domaine Chamonard) who is part owner with Marcel & Marie Lapierre at Chateau Cambon.

Chateau Cambon is an estate of 14 hectares situated on the plain between Brouilly and Morgon.  Many of the parcels bump against these two crus, but none of them are inside the delimited AOCs, therefore only Beaujolais is produced at this estate.  Not that the word only should prejudice you against the wines.  They are delicious, despite the lowly place name.

The majority of the production is sold as nouveau, though a Beaujolais rosé saignée is made (to the chagrin of Jean-Claude, who says: I don’t like making rosé, but our customers asked for one, so we did it for them) in addition to the Beaujolais Rouge and the Cuvée Exceptionnel.  The cuvée exceptionnel is called Le Cambon and comes from a single parcel of old vines knowns as grille-midi, harvested surmaturité.

The elevage of these two reds takes place in 7,000L foudres (pictured below), everything else is done in cuve.

When we sat down to taste, I asked Jean-Claude if we could open a bottle of 2009 nouveau, just to get a sense of the wine.  He seemed pained by the request and warned me that nouveau is meant to be drunk early.

I know, I said, it’s just so I have an idea of what it is like.

Of course, it was juicy and delicious and Jean-Claude seemed incredulous that it should be so fresh and tasty still.

But you helped make the wine! I exclaimed.

Yes, but its…nouveau.

He seemed pleasantly surprised by it.  I wished they still had some cases lying around that we could buy – it is exactly the type of thirst quenching wine I like to imbibe in copious quantities.

I guess the 2009 Beaujolais will have to suffice…it’s arrival state side is not too far off and has similar drinking potential!

We still have a little bit of both cuvées from the 2008 vintage in stock, get them while you still can!

After quitting Chateau Cambon, Jean-Claude and I headed to his family estate  to taste the Chamonard estate wines.  His 2009 Morgon is “fruit punch” (Jean-Claude’s words, not mine).  I would label it as “extremely dangerous” because it is exactly like fruit punch except with 13.6 degrees of alcohol.  It would be easy to drink through half a case in an evening with a few friends.  Unfortunately, there are scant quantities, as Domaine Chamonard is comprised of just 4.5 hectares of vines.  On average, only 15,000 bottles are produced each vintage.

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Burgundy Part IV: Il Paradiso

Philippe Pacalet is a polarizing figure in the Burgundy establishment.  Or maybe outside of it.  I’ll admit I had my doubts, not because I don’t think the wines are delicious, but rather because they cost so much damn money.

It was worth a closer look:

The only mechanized apparatus in the chai is the old Vaslin press.

Vaslin press in the background

Every other aspect of the wine making process is manual – and is extremely labor intensive.

Johan demonstrates how the barrels are decanted during the process of debourbage.

The fermentation process for the reds is a semi-carbonic one with alternating layers of whole clusters of grapes and CO2 placed in the large oak foudres pictured below.


Foudres in the background, Pieces in the foreground.

This giant foudre holds 5,000 Liters and is used for the Gevrey-Chambertin Villages, which represents the largest portion of the Domaine’s production.

Giant Foudre

Philippe says that during the fermentation process, the stems absorb about a half a degree of alcohol, which seems beneficial given  the conditions of the 2009 harvest.

Philippe vinifies 24 different Burgundy AOCs and produces about 140 total pièces each year.

The elevage of the 2009 reds

Philippe, Johan, and I tasted 15 different 2009 AOCs from barrel.  Everything was so tasty that it is hard to pick the highlights, but here goes:

Chambolle Musigny 1er Cru (a blend of Chabiots, Feusselottes, and Gruenchers), Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Bel Air, Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Lavaux Saint-Jacques, Charmes-Chambertin, and an incredible Ruchottes-Chambertin.

We also tasted a recently bottled 2009 Meursault, which was delicious.

Philippe and the 2009 Meursault

Quite frankly, the wines are incredible and ultimately worth the expense, even if some of that expense pays for the personality of the man behind the wine.

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Burgundy Part III: Il Purgatorio


It would probably be a way better place to spend one’s time if it wasn’t so wrapped up in its own sense of self-importance.

But I digress.

I followed Dixon from Domaine Chevillon to the KLWM offices in the old town of Beaune where we were to taste a selection of wines in the company’s cellar.  The highlight was a 2009 Domaine de la Cadette Vezelay Blanc “La Chatelaine.” I’m usually a Chardonnay hater, so to wax effusive over white Burgundy isn’t easy for me.  Here goes:

Je l’adooooooore!

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Miscellaneous Photographs

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Burgundy Part II: Cote de Nuits (Continued)

A short drive south brought me to Nuits-Saint-Georges where I met the brothers Chevillon and Dixon Brooke of KLWM.  In the Chevillon cellars we tasted the 2009s from barrel.

The 2009 Bordeaux en Primeur campaign painted this vintage in excellent light, with some crying: vintage of the _______ (insert long period of time here).  Not to be overly contrarian but all this effusive talk of 2009 gave me cause for skepticism.  And there are good reasons to approach the vintage with caution.  The most obvious caveat is alcohol levels are very high (though this is itself a generalization that may not apply in some instances).

But to get back to Chevillon – and please note that these wines have a ways to go before bottling – I found that some of the wines were pushing their structural limits in relation to alcohol content.  Potentials at harvest were 14%.  Balance will be the key factor in this vintage.

But with a few exceptions, there is much to recommend here, including a delicious trio of 1er crus: Les Cailles, Les Saint Georges, and Vaucrains.  Let’s hope that the results in bottle are as good as from barrel!

I should take a moment to mention how absurdly underrated the 2008 vintage is.  Lots of tasty stuff – not just here but in Macon, in Bergerac, even in Bordeaux (from where I am currently writing).

Leave it to the Wine Establishment to ruin a perfectly good vintage.

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Burgundy Part I: Cote de Nuits

I’m dispassionate about Burgundy.  There, I said it.

So it was with a certain sense of regret that I departed the Jura for Morey-St.-Denis on the morning of Thursday 2 September.  I could have stayed in Arbois sipping vin jaune indefinitely…

But off to Morey-Saint-Denis I went to taste with Kellen Lignier at Domaine Lucie & Auguste Lignier.  Kellen’s wines are a very compelling reason to leave Poulsard and Trousseau behind in search of delicious Pinot Noir.  Her 2007s served as reminders to distrust generalizations regarding vintages.  Many of the wines were surprisingly open and possessed a very pure and attractive notion of fruit.  Long cellaring times may be required though.  Lots of structure.  The highlights for me here were Morey-St.-Denis Clos les Sionnieres, Morey-St.-Denis 1er Cru Cuvée Romain Lignier (a blend of three diferent 1er Crus: La Riotte, Les Falconnieres, and Les Charrieres, and named for Kellen’s late husband – and son of Hubert Lignier – Romain Lignier), and, of course, the Clos de la Roche.  There is also a tasty Fixin blanc that may make an appearance stateside before too long…

Kellen has inherited quite a mantle.  Most certainly not an easy one to carry forward given the reputation of the family and the climats (which, in addition to the ones mentioned above, include some noteworthy parcels in Charmes-Chambertin, Chambolle, and Gevrey).  But from what limited experience I have had with the wines,  I get the sense that she is succeeding.

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