and vintner Michel Duffour owns the Domaine de Saint Lannes.
We buy his Domaine Duffour wine of the Cotes de Gascogne appellation.
Duffour is truly a magician. I've visited in the winter several times,
tasted various tanks of wines and have tried to make a suitable blend of
these. But Michel's own blend is always the best.
The wine is predominantly Colombard, so it's different from the other couple
of Cotes de Gascogne whites we often have in the shop.
The 2013 has just arrived and it's Michel's usual fine work...great
aromatics, fruity and bone dry with intensity and refinement. Lots of
fresh, citrusy notes...this is a classy little wine and nobody tasting it
could imagine it carries such a nice little price tag.
Currently in stock:
DOMAINE DUFFOUR Côtes de Gascogne $8.99
The Labasse family owns the Bellgarde estate in the southwest
appellation of Jurançon.
This appellation is known primarily to supreme wine geeks as it's well
below the radar for even fairly knowledgeable French wine aficionados.
It's a white wine appellation and it's close to Spain as you're not far
from Pamplona or San Sebastian. It's inland from Bayonne, for
Vineyards tend to be on terraced hills and the grapes in this region are a
bit unusual for most wine drinkers: Gros Manseng for the dry wines
and Petit Manseng for sweet offerings.
But they also cultivate one hectare of an obscure, forgotten variety,
Camaralet. It's said to be tricky to grow and it doesn't always
produce a bountiful crop. But when it does come to fruition, it
contributes a peachy, white flower sort of fragrance to the wine.
We have their "La Pierre Blanche" bottling of Jurançon.
This is predominantly Gros Manseng with a bit of the first pickings of
Petit Manseng and a touch of the Camaralet. The grapes are all
hand-harvested and the fermentation is done using the indigenous yeasts on
the grapes and in the cellar.
The wine is matured in wood, but the oak is so far in the background, you
might not detect it. The aromas, according to the Labasse clan,
displays coriander and menthol with sweet spices and fruit. I didn't
interpret the fragrance as that of menthol, but there's an herbal/spice
quality here with perhaps a vague suggestion of tropical fruits.
It's dry, of course. Perfect for many seafood dishes especially
white fish, roasted chicken, goat cheese, etc.
Currently in stock: BELLEGARDE JURANÇON SEC SALE
our friend Charles Martin closing his winery (see below for the old
write-up on the Chateau La Colline), we are delighted to have some nice
wines from another good Bergerac estate.
The Domaine l'Ancienne Cure is a small family-operated property which,
years ago, also raised dairy cows and cultivated acres of various grains.
Today, it's all about the wine.
Winemaker Christian Roche is hell-bent on making great wines. He's
invested in soil studies and evaluations to be sure of planting each parcel with
the best variety for the particular terroir. He's replanted many
vineyards, taking cuttings from his best vines and propagating them.
Greater vine density in the new parcels, too. And he began cultivating biologique
a few years ago.
We have a 2009 Monbazillac which is very fine. Monbazillac used to be
touted as "poor man's Sauternes" ages ago. Why can't it stand on
its own? After all, this is a really good wine and it carries a reasonable
price tag! Roche makes several passes in the vineyard for the harvest,
each time looking for appropriately botrytized grapes.
The resulting wine is terrific, a nicely honeyed white wine perfect with a fresh
fruit dessert. And it gives far more costly Sauternes a serious run for
Roche's L'Abbaye red wine of the Bergerac appellation is a bit reminiscent of a
nice Bordeaux wine. The back label indicates it's a blend of Merlot and
Malbec. The winery web site says Merlot, for the most part, with Cabernet
Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. The back label is also incorrect, according
to Roche, who told us this bottling is 75% Merlot and 25% Malbec.
Whatever it is, the wine is quite good. There's a nice dark fruit aspect
to it and we like the cedary, woodsy tones from its aging in small oak.
You'll spend more for a similar quality wine of the St. Emilion appellation and
don't even consider Pomerol...the entry level wines of that appellation cost
double and they're, frankly, not as good as this.
Currently in stock: 2009 L'ANCIENNE CURE
MONBAZILLAC $22.99 (375ml)
2009 L'ANCIENNE CURE L'ABBAYE BERGERAC ROUGE Sold Out
lovely wine comes from a remote Catalan outpost in the area of Maury in
Maury is a place which has been in the shadows of nearby Banyuls, a town
near the French/Spanish border and famous for its sweet dessert wine which
every French citizen knows as the perfect partner with chocolate.
Maury is a somewhat similar wine, usually described as
"Port-like" and also worthy of service with
Grenache is the noble variety in this region, though there's a fair bit of
old Carignane in the region, too. When some Napa folks visit the
region and see its potential through rose-colored glasses (or
purple-colored, more likely), they have the idea that people will pay
California prices for wine produced for the American market.
Orin Swift winemaker David Phinney had heard about the region from a wine
importer and in 2008 went to check it out. And before returning home
to Napa, he'd signed up to make some table wine. And so there's a
big, "The Prisoner"-styled, over-the-top red wine called
D-66. It's a bit more than 15% alcohol and it was put in oak for a
year and a half. Yes, a wine aimed at those dropping some cash
on The Prisoner wine.
Phinney's right hand man in France is a fellow named Richard
Case. This is a British fellow, who along with his wife Sarah,
arrived in Maury around 2003 and began an affiliation with Marie Calvet
and her husband Jean-Roger...they'd been helped by Bordeaux "bad
boy" Jean-Luc Thunevin in starting to make wine...
The Cases purchased some hillside property as the locals were unable to
tend the steep vineyard sites when the grapes had been selling so
cheaply...of course, they were making "industrial" wine, not an
artisanal product. Case realized the 60 year old Carignane and
Grenache vines were special and had greater potential, despite the
labor-intensive nature of the sites.
Well, today Monsieur and Madame Case own their own little domaine,
Pertuisane. They'll tell you the terroir is more similar to Spain's
Priorat than it is to France's Rhone Valley.
We're fond of their attractively-priced red wine called "Le Nain
Violet," a wine called "The Purple Dwarf." It's not
"old vine" Grenache, but "mature vine" Grenache...the
plants are about 15 years old at this stage, but like old vineyards, the
sites produce small crops anyway, so there's a nice intensity in the
We have the 2009 in the shop...dark in color and with nice
intensity. It's potent, being around 15% alcohol, but we find it to
be a bit gentler and having a measure of elegance. It's also far
less costly than the D-66...the wine shows a bit of black cherry fruit
with a touch of pepper and spice. There's a woodsiness to the 2009,
It will pair handsomely with some well-seasoned grilled lamb...
Currently in stock: 2009 PERTUISANE "LE NAIN
VIOLET" Sold Out
Dordogne is a wonderful region in the vast region of Aquitaine of southwest
Eleanor of Aquitaine married an heir to the English throne in the 1100's and
the region remained under British rule until the 15th century.
Well, the Brits have returned, this time in the person of Sir Charles
Martin. Monsieur Martin has 18 hectares of vineyards on the 40
hectare property in the appellation of Bergerac.
Charles describes the winery as a "terroir-based vineyard."
When you ask him what the percentages of various grapes are in particular
bottlings, he makes his best guess. The idea is that a particular
vineyard produces various varieties according to Mother Nature's bounty and
so one year the blend of his Cote Sud is 70% Semillon and 30% Sauvignon
Blanc...but the percentages may vary a bit according to the vintage.
Martin cultivates six varieties. The white wine vineyards are planted
predominantly with Semillon, though there's a small amount of Sauvignon
Blanc and an even smaller planting of Muscadelle. The red wines are
based on Merlot, with supporting roles played by Cabernets Sauvignon and
Charles shows off some prized vines on a cool, sunny
morning in the middle of winter.
Amidst the La Colline vineyards is this curious
Meanwhile, down the road at the vinification facility, you'll find tanks
with curious stickers on them. Charles tastes each tank and ascribes
a pet name to each.
We're not sure what to make of this tank.
Frank & Forest Gump...Bombay Mix...Picasso...Chewing Gum...
Sounds like quite a wine.
I think he meant "Bob Dylan," unless the name of his car
mechanic is Monsieur Dillon?
I'm hoping this is a tank of white wine.
Spelling is not Charles' forte. Happily, winemaking is.
There is another cellar with barrels for maturing the various wood-aged
wines. After having a taste of various tanks of newly-fermented
wines, we visited the other cellar.
Charles Martin tasting with various American celebrities.
In the middle is Jeff Berlin, inventor of Rogaine. On the right is
Charles Neal, a contestant in Dancing with The Stars.
I found more curiously-named lots of wines in the barrel cellar.
Finally! A barrel with the name of a particular vineyard!!!
We enjoyed a wonderful dinner with Charles and
his lovely wife Gerrita.
The white wines produced at this estate are terrific. We sell a fair bit
of La Colline's white as it's a terrific expression of the Sémillon grape.
Gerrita planned an interesting main plate for us...ostrich!
How about this?
A molded serving of polenta with a small branch onto which the ostrich pieces
were skewered...then poked into the middle of the polenta and surrounded by
beans! This was delicious with the La Colline red wines.
We currently have three wines from this estate...
The 2006 Bergerac Blanc is about 90% Sémillon and 10% Sauvignon Blanc.
This is a mildly minerally white wine with a hint of smokiness. It
features the estate's best blocks of Sémillon. I gave a bottle to a local
winemaker who is located in California's Livermore Valley, an area once famed
for its Semillon. Perhaps it will, one day, again be famous for this
variety thanks to the wonderful work of Charles Martin in France's Bergerac
2006 Bergerac Rouge is a lovely expression of Merlot. It displays nice
red fruit notes and is a plump, round, well-balanced wine. Though it may
cellar nicely for a few years, we view this as an immediately drinkable
bottle. Pair it with white meats or red...What a delicious wine. And
it's a "best buy" in our book.
Since Charles has a rooster as his logo, we've
dubbed his delicious sweet dessert wine, "Confit de la Colline" as
"Coq-A-Doodle-Doux." It's predominantly Sémillon with about 15%
Muscadelle. The wine easily rivals most any of our Sauternes in the shop,
save for Château d'Yquem.
So, yes...we're big fans of these wines.
UPDATE: Charles and Gerrita
were divorced a few years ago...and he's routinely found selling the wines to be
more challenging than making them. As a result, he's closing the winery
and moving back to the UK. :(
Currently in stock: 2006 Bergerac Blanc
2006 Bergerac Rouge Sold Out
2003 Confit de la Colline $18.99 (375ml)