1178 Broadway -- Burlingame, California 94010
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DOMAINE DUFFOUR
Winegrower 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:  2013 DOMAINE DUFFOUR Côtes de Gascogne $8.99



DOMAINE BELLEGARDE


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 example.

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 $19.99





 
 
 

L'ANCIENNE CURE

With 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 the money.

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


 
 

DOMAINE DE LA PERTUISANE

This lovely wine comes from a remote Catalan outpost in the area of Maury in France's Languedoc.

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 chocolate.   

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 resulting wine.

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, as well...

It will pair handsomely with some well-seasoned grilled lamb...

Currently in stock:  2009 PERTUISANE "LE NAIN VIOLET"  Sold Out

 

 



CHÂTEAU LA COLLINE  (now no longer in operation)
The Dordogne is a wonderful region in the vast region of Aquitaine of southwest France.

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 Franc.  
 

Charles shows off some prized vines on a cool, sunny morning in the middle of winter.

Amidst the La Colline vineyards is this curious little residence.

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.
 

The 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.

Cheryl.



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 region!

The 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 Sold Out
2006 Bergerac Rouge Sold Out
2003 Confit de la Colline $18.99 (375ml)




 

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