Club Little House - January

 

Les Quartz – Domaine de Juchepie (2010)

Grape Variety(s): Chenin Blanc
Style: Noble Sweet
Region: Coteaux du Layon-Faye, Loire Valley

When the magnificently mustachioed hardware merchant, Eddy Oosterlinck-Bracke, and his wife, Mileine, moved from Belgium to buy a small farmhouse in the Coteaux du Layon of the Loire Valley in 1985, they had no intention of making wine anything more than a hobby. It didn’t take long before they caught the bug, and over the course of 15 years, they converted their vineyards to organic farming and expanded their holdings from a few vineyard rows to 6 hectares of land. In 2007, they started to work with biodynamics as well. But these late-in-life vignerons have also brought the wisdom of their years and a good spoonful of skepticism to their new-found path. Although they have adopted these strict farming practices after testing the results on their vines, they still treat the organic movement with some apprehension. For Eddy, it’s not about the hype—it’s about simply making the best of what his terroir has to give. 

Quite unique to their area is the annual occurrence of the botrytis fungus.  With grapes hanging on the vines late into the fall, the grey mold called botrytis infects the clusters, and over the course of several weeks and months leaves the berries shriveled with an extremely concentrated, sweet and complex juice.  When we visited Eddy in late September of 2015, the fungus was just beginning to appear on the fruit (see picture). A more well-known area where botrytis occurs is Sauternes.     

Juchepie’s “Les Quartz” is from botrytized Chenin Blanc from the 2010 vintage, then aged for two and a half years in barrel.  It is best served chilled and pairs extremely well with blue cheese, savory dishes, vanilla ice cream, and foie gras.  This is hands down one of our favorite wines and a real treat.  

Sur La Root – Lilian and Sophie Bauchet (2013)

Winemaker: Lilian & Sophie Bauchet

Soil: Sandy Granite

Age of Vines: 30-40 yrs

Grape Variety(s): Gamay

Style: Dry Red

Region: Fleurie, Beaujolais, France

This may sound like a similar story for those of you who recall Laureano Serres from the October Club Wine.  Alas, the dream of making natural wine consumed yet another big city IT worker.  After laboring for years in Paris, Lilian and Sophie Bauchet relocated to the Beaujolais region, where they found a lovely 8 acre vineyard plot in the hills of Fleurie.  They grow only the Gamay grape, which is farmed organically and then also vinified naturally.  

Sur La Root is Lilian and Sophie’s first cuvee with zero sulphur additions, which allows the wine an uncompromised freshness and lift.  The grapes are fermented whole cluster in concrete vats with native yeasts, gently pressed, and then aged for a year in barrel.  This wine is crying out for cured meats!

 

Club Big House - January

Bandol Rouge – Chateau Sainte Anne (2012)

Winemaker: Jean Baptiste Dutheil
Soil: Granite
Age of Vines: 25-75 rs
Grape Variety(s): Mourvedre, Cinsault, Grenache
Style: Dry Red
Region: Bandol, Provence, France


Spanning nearly two centuries, the Dutheil de la Rochere family’s stewardship of Chateau Sainte Anne traces the modern evolution of viticulture in Provence. In the 1940s, the family was active in efforts to establish the Bandol AOC, part of a broader political effort to convert the generally high-yielding and disorganized vineyards of the South into codified and protected terroirs.  But by the 1970s the growing popularity of agro-chemicals presented itself as a new problem for the family. Parting ways with the majority of other growers in the appellation and region, Francois Dutheil (father to current proprietor Jean-Baptiste) rejected the use of fertilizers and pesticides, just as his father had, believing that micro-biological diversity in the soils was a precursor for good wine. He joined other household names of the time such as Gramenon and Overnoy to champion the budding natural wine movement. From the 1990s onward, Jean-Baptiste has been tasked with steering the domaine through the vexing currents of an “americanized” international wine market while doing justice to his father’s legacy. In this respect, he has thrown in his lot decidedly with the traditionalists, continuing to turn out extraordinarily cellar-worthy mourvedre at 12.5% alcohol, fermented native, aged in very old foudres in the domaine’s 400 year-old cellar and cautiously sulfured only at bottling.

Terra Incognita – La Lunotte (2011)

Winemaker: Christophe Foucher
Soil: Clay/Limestone
Age of Vines: 40-50 yrs
Grape Variety(s): Sauvignon Blanc
Style: Dry White
Region: Touraine, Loire Valley, France

This past September, my wife and I would be over three hours late for our first meeting with Christophe Foucher at his home and winery in the tiny town of Couffy, just outside of Tours.  We arrived well after dark, immediately seeing the winemaker still working, pressing juice from the white grape harvest that week.  Without hesitating, Christophe invited us not only to hang around with him as he worked in the cellar, but take up a couch in his house for the night!  We watched as the former engineering professor and his assistant, Stéphane finished up their busy day by pumping freshly pressed juice into large oak barrels meant for extended élevage.  Despite it being one of the busiest weeks of the year, Christophe and his crew explored many of his wines and others with us late into the morning hours accompanied by the ever-present and eclectic mix of French pop music.  

I had tried Terra Incognita some months before and that wine was always a mystery to me.  Delicious Sauvignon Blanc aged for three long years in barrel from old vines yielding so little juice that almost every other vineyard in the area has long done away with; this just didn’t make much sense to me.  Wanting to know more about this mystery wine, I asked Christophe to tell me more about it, we he made a wine like that, etc..  The seemingly always carefree Foucher became instantly quiet and took on a stern tone in response to my question.  “It is a special wine,” was his complete answer.  Nothing else needed to be said.  

Club Little House - December

Lambrusco Frizzante “Salamino di S. Croce” – Vigneto Saetti (2014)


Grape Variety(s): Salamino di Santa Croce
Style: Sparkling
Region: DOC Lambrusco
Winemaker: Luciano Saetti
Soil: Limestone/Clay
Age of Vines: 40 yrs

Luciano bought his vineyards and house in 1988, after a successful first career as an egg distributor in the city of Modena. He made a good amount of money and originally planned on buying a nice apartment in the city, but the reality of spending the rest of his life there quickly lost its appeal.

Luciano organically farms about seven acres on clay/limestone soils in the sub region of Lambrusco Salamino di Santa Croce within Emilia-Romagna, located in alongside Tuscany in north-central Italy.  The grape variety used here is also called Salamino, which earns its name due to the grape clusters resemblance to a sausage of salami.  

After harvest, Luciano allows a natural yeast fermentation takes place in steel tanks at a uniform temperature of 21° degrees Celsius. Maceration (skin contact with the juice) lasts three days and Fermentation occurs in bottle by spring.  Luciano uses zero sulphur additions (or anything else) in his wines. 

We thought this would be the perfect time of year to introduce another sparkling wine.  We get notes of fresh black cherry fruit and bitter dark chocolate with this wine and would recommend it as an excellent compliment to any foods traditionally eaten in the Emilia-Romagna region (Prosciutto, Parmesan, Bread/Oil, Pizza, etc).  Cheers!

 

Les Grimaudes – Domaine Marc Kreydenweiss (2014) 

Grape Variety(s): Carignan, Syrah, Grenache
Style: Dry Red
Region: AOC Costieres du Nimes, Rhone, France
Winemaker: Marc and Emmanuelle Kreydenweiss
Soil: Clay/Limestone
Age of Vines: 50+ yrs
Marc and Emmanuelle Kreydenweiss had built a solid reputation making biodynamic white wines in the Alsace region of France before turning over that operation to their son and setting out on a new adventure in the Rhone Valley.  In 1999, they purchased a property in the region of Nimes, which with its climate, soil, and terrior, quickly emerged as the ideal place to satisfy their passion for red wines.
 
They take particular interest in the three grape varieties in this wine: Carignan, Syrah, and Grenache, especially given the fact that Carignan, a wonderful grape, has become on the verge of extinction. 
 
This wine is medium body with notes of cherry, barnyard, and fennel and a wonderful pairing with braised meats and other hearty dishes.  Certified biodynamic.  

Club Little House - November

Syrah – Roark Wine Company (2013)

Winemaker: Ryan Roark

  • Soil: Sand
  • Age of Vines: 15 yrs
  • Grape Variety(s): Syrah
  • Style: Dry Red
  • Region: Santa Ynez Valley, Ballard Canyon

How about some New World Syrah?! This wine comes from the only California producer we work withat the moment, Ryan Roark. We’d love to source more domestic wines, but to be honest, it’s EXTREMELY difficult to find wines that are both farmed organically and especially those that are made naturally. Ryan Roark is an exception and we are grateful! Ryan grew up in Texas. After attending Texas A&M, he apprenticed in several wineries in New Zealand before settling in Central California working with a vineyard management company. After a few years, Ryan started buying fruit from some of his favorite vineyards to make tiny batches of wine in what wouldbecome Roark Wine Company. Now six years in and full time with his winery, Ryan and his wife Jenn still only produce about 1,500 cases of wine per year from a combination of purchased fruit and from vineyards they organically farm themselves.

The 2013 Syrah starts with fruit that Ryan and Jenn farm themselves at a sandy site vineyard in Ballard Canyon, located in the Santa Ynez Valley of Santa Barbara County, CA. Given Ryan’s background, he places a special emphasis on particulars in the vineyard, especially when it comes time to harvest. Rather uniquely, they will harvest in 3-5 stages, cluster by cluster, in order to achieve the desired balance of ripeness and acidy NATURALLY, so that there is no need for manipulation in the cellar. This Syrah is aged for 16 months in neutral Oak and is absolutely delicious with just about anything.

Cuvée Domaine – Domaine Guion (2013)

Winemaker: Stephane Guion

  • Soil: Clay/Limestone
  • Age of Vines: 25-45 yrs
  • Grape Variety(s): Cabernet Franc
  • Style: Dry Red
  • Region: Bourgueil, Loire Valley

Stephane Guion again shares with us one of his masterful vintages from the heart of the Loire Valley in France. Earlier this summer, we featured his Cuvée Prestige…now we’ll learn (and taste!) about the Cuvée Domaine. One of the pioneers of organic viticulture in his region, Guion and his family have been organically farming just under 20 acres in Bourgueil since 1965 (wow!). Stephane’s craft is dedicated entirely to one grape: Cabernet Franc. Quiet and meticulous, he typically produces only two wines a year that make it to the US (Domaine and Prestige). Grapes for “Domaine” are crushed, largely destemmed (note the wonderful tannin in this wine) and fermented with native yeasts naturally present on the fruit. After fermentation, the grapes are pressed and transferred to steel tanks, where they will age for about a year. Wines are then bottled with a small amount of sulfur added just at the bottling stage.

We’ve held on to the 2013 Domaine since Spring and it is showing wonderfully at the moment. Almost straddling the line of Green Bell Pepper and Rose, “Domaine” pairs beautifully with raw vegetables like Brussels Sprouts and also is a nice compliment with pizzas.

Club Little House - October

Big Trouble in Little Chenás – Clos des Vignes du Maynes (2013)


Winemaker: Julien Guillot
Soil: Granite
Age of Vines: 30 yrs
Grape Variety(s): Gamay
Style: Dry Red
Region: Chenás, Beaujolais, France

Operating on a historic estate founded by Cluny Monks in existence since year 910 (yep, over 1,000 years!), Julien Guillot is producing some of the most beautiful and interesting wines in southern Burgundy. A former professional actor, Julien took over as winemaker for his father, Alain, about 10 years ago. During our visit two weeks ago, we caught Julien at the tail end of his harvest season, which meant the opportunity to taste through young juice finishing fermentation as well as some of his more aged cuveés, a wonderful education on how his wines evolve over time. The setup is an ideal stage for the curious, enigmatic Guillot, with beautiful limestone caves housing his barrels at ideal temperature and secret Roman-era passages leading to hidden tasting room.

Big Trouble in Little Chenás is 100% Gamay vinified in Julien’s cave in neutral oak barrels for 10
months. For the fruit, Julien works closely with an organic vineyard in the village of Chenás (one of the Cru Beaujolais villages), about 30 minutes from his estate. The 2013 vintage was a cooler year in the area, resulting in a wine driven by acidity and texture. The light-bodied Burgundian funk and juiciness of this wine make it one of our favorities. We prefer to enjoy “Big Trouble” with a pretty good chill on it…zero sulphur additions and quaffable! In case you were wondering, the name of the wine is an intentional play on the cult classic film “Big Trouble in Little China.”


Adele – Eric Texier (2014)


Winemaker: Eric Texier
Soil: Granite
Age of Vines: 40 yrs
Grape Variety(s): Clairette
Style: Dry White, Sur Lie
Region: Northern Rhone, France
Eric Texier became a winemaker after a prior career and without any background in vines or wines. As such, his methods developed not from years of schooling, but from his readings and visiting winemakers around the world. After giving up the idea of buying vineyards, which was too costly a proposition for a beginner with his ambitions, he started a small negoce where he selected interesting vineyard plots from hard-working farmers who grew the healthy grapes he wanted to buy and vinify. He re-discovered nearly forgotten areas of ancient fame, like the new St.-Julien en St.-Alban, a heretofore unknown plot of ancient Syrah vines on the west bank of the Rhone that had been tended by protestant monks and has never seen artificial fertilizers or pesticides. Eric’s goal is always to provide the grapes, musts and wines with the best environment and intervene as little as possible.

 

 

 

Club Little House Wines - September 2015

Espartal Cabernet Sauvignon – Mendall (2013) 

Grape Variety(s): Cabernet Sauvignon

Region: Terra Alta, Catalonia, Spain 

Winemaker: Laureano Serres 

Soil: Calcareous Clay

Age of Vines: 10-15 yrs

Laureano Serres is not your typical winemaker.  After a career in IT spent in Madrid, Laureano moved back to his native village, Pinell De Brai, in Catalonia, just about two hours South of Barcelona.  He initially served as President of the local grape COOP, but after a few years, began making his own wine from family owned vineyards.  Gradually, Laureano and his family rented other plots and currently organically farm about 15 acres of fruit.  The majority of the vines are quite old and offer extremely low juice yields.

Serres strictly adheres to natural winemaking principles and makes some of the most interesting and memorable wines we have tasted.  He uses zero additions in his winemaking…no sulfur, no acidity treatment, no commercial yeasts, NOTHING.  The wines are not filtered or fined and are bottled, corked, and labeled by hand.

Espartal CS comes from his “Espartal” property near his home village, which sits at a relatively low elevation about 20 miles inland from the Mediterranean Sea.  Espartal CS is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, aged in stainless steel tanks for about a year.  Big, juicy fruit is balanced with a surprisingly firm acidity.  Refreshing and clean, this is unlike any Cab Sauv you’ve had.  Serve slightly cooler than room temperature.  Only about 100 cases made.  

Cuvée Aurore – Château du Coing 

Grape Variety(s): Chardonnay

Region: Sèvre et Maine, Muscadet, Loire Valley 

Winemaker: Véronique Günther-Chéreau

Soil: Mica and Granite (Metamorphic)

Age of Vines: 20 yrs 

Owner and winemaker Véronique Günther-Chéreau brings us beautiful wines from her estate in the Muscadet region of the Loire Valley, France.   Set at the intersection of the Sèvre and Maine rivers, Véronique’s family has been making wine at Saint Fiacre since 1421! Château du Coing is family run and uses solely estate grown fruit.  The style used here, “Sur Lie” refers to the process of aging the wines on the dead yeast cells, or lees, for an extended period of time.  This not typical for most white wines, which are usually racked, or taken off, of the lees.  Sur lie aging creates for more body, structure, and arguably more complexity. The Cuvée Aurore is 100% Chardonnay which is aged on its lees for 6 months in steel.

 

Notes of locust tree flower and white flesh fruit, “Aurore” is an aromatic wine with a beautiful structure and mouthfeel.  It pairs excellently with fish and pork, but also works great as an aperitif!