In This Newsletter:
Just like Magic:
Merlin’s Exquisite Northern Rhône Reds
And new Grapelive review
New Arterberry Maresh Arriving soon!
St. Damien and the Glory of Grenache
Producer Spotlight: Crowley Wines
Bandol and Domaine de la Bastide Blanche
Huet’s Cornucopia of Chenin
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Just like Magic:
Merlin’s Exquisite Northern Rhône Reds
And new Grapelive review
Grapelive 92 points “The brilliant, complex and meaty 2018 Broceliande Syrah from François Merlin is an absolute steal with pure terror and varietal character on full display, it is a medium to full bodied effort with layers of earthy blue fruits, bacon, smoky meat drippings, pepper, subtle floral tones and lingering creme de cassis and tarry licorice. Coming from vines between 20 and 60 years old and aged in used French oak barriques, François Merlin’s latest Broceliande gets better and better as it opens with boysenberry, damson plum, black cherry and an echo of currant fruits coming into focus on the palate along with snappy herbs and crushed violets, this is an old world Syrah that offers a tremendous value with a flavor profile that is very much inline with a Crozes-Hermitage that would cost you twice or three times the price. There is a lovely play between the supple fruit core and the savory elements, this is full of personality with rustic charms that does everything to tell you this is a Northern Rhone wines with its hints of sanguine iron rich mineral, a touch of funk and camphor, it is best to enjoy this with hearty cuisine, which would help bring out its pleasing fruit density. François has gained an admirable reputation as a grower producer in the Northern Rhone with some vineyards that he planted himself using ancient massele (Syrah) selections, in Saint-Joseph and in Cote-Rotie, he has refined his winemaking style, preferring riper de-stemmed fruit and an opulent elegance in his top bottlings.
François Merlin is a new discovery for me, this last year, and I’ve been very impressed by what I’ve tasted so far, this small domaine, run by Francois is a rarity here, being a first-generation Northern Rhône winemaker. He is the son of a chemical engineer, and he moved to Saint-Michel-sur-Rhône, just south of Condrieu, in 1989 to pursue a self taught dream of making wines in this historic region. He, as the winery notes, has officially never studied wine in school, but was mentored by some impressive names, including stints at Domaine René Rostaing, making Cote-Rotie, as well as learning about Condrieu at Georges Vernay, all of which shows in his wines. Now, François’s son Laurent, who studied viticulture has joined the family domaine in 2013 and has put in a huge effort in the vines here and it looks to have raised the game at Merlin, who now have a coveted array of parcels in top sites, including both Cote-Rotie and Condrieu, as well as vines in Saint-Joseph and areas without AOC status, like in this one. The farming is leaning towards organic, all sustainable with the grapes getting picked by hand, and, from I understand, the Merlin’s use of new oak has gradually been reduced, and they use the Austrian oak Stockinger demi-muids (mainly in their Condrieu) alongside the mostly used French barriques. The Broceliande is sourced from some sandy areas, some red clay, along with a galet stone covered mix of granite and decomposed gneiss soils. This dark garnet Syrah is too good to pass up on, I highly recommend these François Merlin wines, especially their Saint-Joseph Rouge, the Cote-Rotie which reviewed already, and this Syrah “Broceliande” IGP Collines Rhodaniennes that is itself a very tasty little treat!”
After studying under Rene Rostaing, François Merlin planted his first vineyard in the late 1980s. Since then, he’s been meticulously caring for his tiny acreage and making exquisite, if under-the-radar, Rhône wines. Preferring to let the grapes speak for themselves, he ages the wines in mostly neutral oak and steel. These are fresh and vibrant wines that, coming from the warm 2018 vintage, are beautiful now with grippy tannins and balanced acids indicating a long life ahead of them, particularly the Côte Rôtie and the Saint Joseph. While the IGP Syrah is a winner and a staff pick for hearty meals.
Other François Merlin wines in stock now:
Domaine Francois Merlin Cote Rotie Rhone 2018 750ML ($79.95) $49 special, 26 bottles in stock now
Case-6 Domaine Francois Merlin Cote Rotie Rhone 2018 750ML ($479.95) $279 special, (That’s $46.50 per bottle!)
Decanter 93 points “A very soft style, very ripe and juicy. Fairly tannic, but they’re ripe and yielding with flavours of black fruit coulis and touch of liquorice. It has fairly high alcohol with a saline finish – there’s freshness despite the very ripe fruit. This is a palate-coating, fairly opulent style but will be good when it’s ready – has length.”
Grapelive 93 points “The Domaine Merlin Francois of Lauent and Francois Merlin is totally new to me. This beautifully made Cote-Rotie was an excellent discovery and was perfect for celebrating the occasion, which was my 84 year old mother getting her second dose of the Pfizer Covid vaccine and a moment of great relief, taking a huge weight of stress and concern lifted, so a special bottle was indeed required. This one delivered a welcome and rewarding performance with deep layers of opulent dark fruits and an elegant textural mouth feel. Made in a polished and supple style the Domaine Merlin Francois Cote-Rotie is more Guigal like than say Jamet or Levet in style without the savory edgy thrill of the stemmy whole cluster versions. This is a not criticism, as the world is always a better place with an array of diversity and this wine is well crafted and pleasingly rich in depth with a full bodied palate of blackberry, blueberry, plum and dense fig fruit along with a kiss of smoky sweet cedary wood, anise, violette, mocha and lingering creme de cassis, making it a wine of hedonistic comforts rather than one of peaked excitement and great with meaty/gamey dishes. There is a subtle sense of mineral, spice and earth tucked into the background that adds complexity and reveals the purity of this Syrah and the granite slopes from where it comes from. This family winery is committed to putting the work in, in particular in the vineyard where these wines are really made, with Francois’ wife and younger son Julien also playing roles here. This property has been getting a lot more attention these days, as witnessed by their prestigious scores in Decanter Magazine in recent years, with this 2018, a classic vintage for Cote-Rotie, being a big stand out, and from my own experience with this bottle I can see why easily, this is a well-rounded wine that looks set to get even better with age with potential to impress for another decade or more. A little research has found that Francois Merlin, a self-taught winemaker, who has been joined full-time by his son Laurent in 2013, is a serious vigneron that studied under the legendary Rene Rostaing and has gained an admirable reputation as a grower producer in the Northern Rhone with a tidy collection of high quality parcels, some that he planted himself from ancient massele (syrah) selections, in Crozes-Hermitage, Saint-Joseph and here in Cote-Rotie as well, to name a few. Merlin, based in St-Michel-sur-Rhône since 1989, a commune just south of Condrieu, uses mostly organic and sustainable methods to farm his challenging sites. [They] are set on the regions mostly decomposed granite soils with areas of gneiss, gravel and schist… In his small cellars, Francois uses, interestingly, Austrian Stockinger 500L demi-muids for the aging of some of his wines, in particular the whites, while employing some Burgundy small barriques as well, with barrels that range from toasty brand new to six year old casks in combination to achieve a studied balance in his Cote-Rotie, while still being seriously luxurious in the glass. For his Cote-Rotie 2018, which is 100% Syrah, Francois and Laurent used all de-stemmed and carefully sorted fruit that saw about 30 days of maceration and primary fermentation with daily punch downs and pumpovers after 10 days before being gently pressed to barrel for aging, which lasted over a year and a half before being bottled unfined and unfiltered. There’s a lot to like and admire here and I am ready to explore more of these Merlin wines, especially after enjoying this Cote-Rotie and its impeccable detailing and savvy pricing, with their Saint-Joseph and Crozes-Hermitage next on my wish list!”
Domaine Francois Merlin Saint-Joseph Rhone 2018 750ML ($39.95) $26 special, 36+ bottles in stock now
Grapelive 93 points “A stylish and pure example of Northern Rhone Syrah that delivers a fine performance in the glass and is a stellar value. The Saint-Joseph Rouge is made from various small plots with a mix of sandy soils and granite, with a bit of limestone and was all de-stemmed to promote elegance and opulence in the wine, which was easily achieved here in this 2018 version. The wine saw a short cold soak maceration and gentle hand punch downs while fermenting after which this dark purple/garnet Syrah is raised in a combination of wood casks with about 20% being new 228L barrels with the majority seeing neutral oak in various sizes to allow for freshness and balance to shine here. This is quite impactful Saint-Joesph in the glass with more than expected density and presence, in fact it is almost as impressive as the winery’s top Cote-Rotie with loads of blue and black fruits, delicate spices, perfume and textural pleasures. This is solid stuff with a classic medium to full bodied palate with lush layers of boysenberry, damson plum, kirsch and cedary wood notes, a touch of feral/earthy savoriness (the good kind of Syrah funk) and pretty violets, adding hints of anise, flinty mineral and a lingering sense of creme de cassis…. The Domaine gets exceptionally small yields from their vines and the concentration of fruit is utterly sensual and divine. Francois credits his son Laurent, for playing a big part in the vineyards, that has taken the quality to the next level, and this 2018 Saint-Joseph is proof.…With extended air, the 2018 Merlin Saint-Joseph gains depth and richness, but stays gracefully detailed and it is at its best with food, be sure to look for this bottling as it offers a ton of quality and personality for the price, this is a producer to add to your watch list, especially for Syrah lovers.”
Decanter 91 points “An approachable wine that has lifted cedar and incense on the nose. Very plush with soft fruits, slightly lacking in acidity perhaps, but it’s an authentic representation of the vintage, not overly corrected. Good natural sense to the fruit, it’s expressive, unrestrained. Not overly marked by oak spice. South-facing granite terroir, 70% of vines are 45-years-old, the rest are 15-years-old. All destemmed, 12 months in barriques and demi-muids, from 1 to 4 years-old.”
New Arterberry Maresh Arriving soon!
You know the Maresh family for their stunning examples of old-vine Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. As one of the “Founding Families of Oregon Wine” they were one of the first producers to bring the Dundee Hills to national and later international attention. Practicing organic in addition to dry farming these are among the most transparent expressions of Pinot Noir in the entire Willamette Valley with a plethora of character that only improves with age. Considering how the majority of critics have billed 2019 especially as “The last cool vintage in Oregon” these wines were collector’s items before they were even bottled.
Arterberry Maresh wines arriving Friday April 8th:
Arterberry Maresh Pinot Noir Dundee Hills 2019 750ML ($89.95) $79 pre-arrival special
Erin Brooks-Wine Advocate 98 points “The 2019 Pinot Noir Maresh Vineyard comes from Pommard and Wadenswil clone vines planted in 1974 and was matured for 23 months in oak. Proprietor Jim Maresh says that, “The 2019s needed that extra polish.” It’s extraordinarily expressive and complex this vintage, with detailed cranberry, raspberry and tangerine aromas and nuances of rose petals and aniseed. The palate has a weightless feel from its bright acidity, silky texture and surprising fruit concentration, finishing very long and pure.”
Josh Raynolds-Vinous 96 points “Shimmering magenta. Mineral-accented fresh red berries, sandalwood, exotic spices and rose oil on the expansive, seductively perfumed nose. Alluringly sweet and penetrating on the palate, offering vibrant cherry, raspberry, allspice and floral pastille flavors, along with a hint of blood orange. Fine-grained and seamless in texture, finishing with resonating spiciness, smooth tannins and superb, floral-driven persistence.”
Arterberry Maresh Weber Vineyard Pinot Noir Dundee Hills 2018 750ML ($79.95) $69 pre-arrival special
Erin Brooks-Wine Advocate 97 points “The 2018 Pinot Noir Weber Vineyard comes from Pommard clone vines planted in 1983. It features pure aromas of cranberry and black raspberry with botanical and floral layers. The palate is seamless and complex, with powerful flavors, a silty texture and bright acidity, finishing with layer after layer of sweet berry fruit.”
Josh Raynolds-Vinous 94 points “Deep crimson. Highly perfumed aromas of red and blue fruit preserves, cola, candied flowers and baking spices, along with a smoky mineral overtone. Concentrated yet lively on the palate, offering mineral-accented black raspberry, cherry liqueur, violet pastille and spicecake flavors that spread out slowly with air. Conveys a deft blend of power and finesse and finishes with steadily building tannins and strong, spicy persistence.”
Arterberry Maresh Winemaker’s Reserve Pinot Noir Willamette Valley 2018 750ML ($79.95) $69 pre-arrival special
Erin brooks-Wine Advocate 97 points “medium ruby, the 2018 pinot noir winemaker’s reserve is super perfumed! It has layered aromas that range from crushed red berries to aniseed to lilac and forest floor, continually offering up more aromatic nuances as it spends time in the glass. The medium-bodied palate is powerfully fruited, with sweeping floral perfume, silty tannins and bright acidity that calls you in again and again for another sip. Wow!”
Josh Raynolds-Vinous 94 points “Dark, glistening red. Deeply perfumed aromas of red fruit liqueur, cherry cola, candied flowers and allspice, along with a smoky mineral accent. Concentrated yet lively on the palate, offering appealingly sweet raspberry, cherry liqueur, floral pastille and spicecake flavors that spread out steadily with air. Conveys a deft blend of power and finesse and finishes with well-knit tannins and strong, floral-driven tenacity.”
Other bottlings by Jim Maresh in stock now:
Tan Fruit Dux Vineyard Chardonnay Dundee Hills 2019 750ML ($89.95) $69 special, 36+ bottles in stock now
Erin Brooks-Wine Advocate 98 points “The aromas of the 2019 Chardonnay Dux Vineyard are alluring and savory, with ripe peach layers, beeswax, roasted almonds and pastry. The palate has a singular satiny texture and impressive concentration, enlivened by tangy acidity and streaks of graphite and finishing with tremendous length and energy. Wow!”
Tan Fruit Maresh Vineyard Chardonnay Dundee Hills 2019 750ML ($89.95) $69 special, 36+ bottles in stock now
Erin Brooks-Wine Advocate 97 points “The 2019 Chardonnay Maresh Vineyard comes from Dijon clones planted in 1991, and it was matured in about 35% new oak. This vintage is pure and tensile, with scents of tarragon and fragrant herbs, beeswax and almonds, with plush white peach fruit. The palate combines intense ripe fruit with a spine of tangy, tense acidity, and it finishes with tremendous length. Allow it another 3-5 years in bottle.”
Tan Fruit Oak Grove Vineyard Chardonnay Eola-Amity Hills 2019 750ML ($89.95) $69 special, 16 bottles in stock now
Erin Brooks-Wine Advocate 98 points “The 2019 Chardonnay Oak Grove Vineyard has a unique personality that combines powerful exotic fruit with tangy energy and a shimmery saline quality, derived from a year’s maturation in barrel and then stainless steel. Guava, peaches, lilac and beeswax aromas burst from the glass, and the textural palate, which continues to change and evolve as it spends time in the glass, demands your attention with its rich but precise fruit. This unabashedly hedonistic Chardonnay has the intensity and energy to age well, but that youthful, gregarious fruit is hard to resist!”
Tan Fruit ‘Tank Fruit’ Chardonnay Eola-Amity Hills 2019 750ML ($119.95) $89 special, 36+ bottles in stock now
Erin Brooks-Wine Advocate 99 points “The Chardonnay Tank Fruit comes from the same Oak Grove fruit as that vineyard designate, but was aged a bit longer, with 12 months in oak and another 12 months in stainless steel. It is pure, ultra perfumed, intense and layered, with alluring white peaches and lilac interwoven with cashews and honeycomb on the nose. The palate derives incredible energy from the push-pull of those deeper tones with salty, energetic acidity, and it finishes with extraordinary length.”
Tan Fruit Vojtilla Vineyard Chardonnay Chehalem Mountains 2019 750ML ($79.95) $64.50 special, 36+ bottles in stock now
Erin Brooks-Wine Advocate 97 points “Vojtilla is a small, four-acre vineyard in the Chehalem Mountains that sits at around 500 to 600 feet in elevation and, says Jim Maresh, is influenced by the nearby Willamette River. Harvested in October this vintage, the 2019 Chardonnay Vojtilla Vineyard comes from Dijon clone vines planted in 1991, and it was matured in about 25% new Damy barrels. It has a stunning perfume of quince paste and mushrooms, pastry and flowers, and the palate is satiny, plush and pure, with a seamless tangy streak and long, powerful finish.”
St. Damien and the Glory of Grenache
The 2019 vintage in the Rhone is being lauded as one of the rare vintages that captured both phenolic ripeness and elegance thanks to cool evenings and perfectly timed rains during the season. The exceptionally old vines on the St. Damien estate were able to weather the heat spells and drought conditions well. The house style of utilizing whole clusters during fermentation paid off tremendously this vintage, with the stems being perfectly ripe and contributing further tannic structure. Beyond additional resilience to climactic curveballs, old vines provide a more nuanced expression of varietal character as well as a longer aging trajectory.
St. Damien wines in stock now:
Domaine Saint Damien Gigondas Vieilles Vignes Rhone 2018 750ML ($34.95) $29 special, 36+ bottles in stock now
Wine Advocate 92-94 points “The 2018 Gigondas Classique Vieilles Vignes shows impressive levels of black cherry fruit, joined by hints of garrigue and licorice. It’s full-bodied, silky and easy to drink, finishing long, briny and savory.”
Jeb Dunnuck 92-94 points “The base Gigondas, the 2018 Gigondas Vieilles Vignes is a blend from both the La Louisiane and Pigière lieux-dits near the estate (due to the dismal yields, there’s no Souteyrade cuvée in 2018) and is 80% Grenache and 20% Syrah brought up in foudre. It has a wonderful flowery incense and blue fruit quality as well as medium to full body, a ripe, rounded mid-palate, and a great texture. It’s a more forward, charming, sexy wine that’s going to drink nicely in its youth yet also evolve gracefully.”
Domaine Saint Damien Gigondas Vieilles Vignes Rhone 2019 750ML ($34.95) $31.90 special, 36+ bottles in stock now
Jeb Dunnuck 96 points “Moving to the 2019s, this is a great vintage for this estate, and all of the wines showed brilliantly. The 2019 Gigondas Vieilles Vignes is its usual 80/20 split of Grenache and Mourvèdre and has awesome dark fruits, ground pepper, licorice, truffle, and earthy mineral-like aromas and flavors. I love its mid-palate, it has elegance as well as power, ripe tannins, and a great finish. I finished my note with ‘Wow.'”
Domaine Saint Damien Gigondas La Louisiane Vieilles Vignes Rhone 2019 750ML ($39.95) $34.50 special, 36+ bottles in stock now
Jeb Dunnuck 97 points “I think the standout of the three Gigondas is the 2019 Gigondas La Louisiane. This ripe, exotic, yet incredibly pure Gigondas offers incredible character and depth with no sensation of weight or heaviness. Wild strawberries, blueberries, mint, peppery herbs, and garrigue are just some of the nuances, and it has silky tannins and a full-bodied, powerful style that will evolve for 10-15 years.”
Joe Czerwinski-Wine Advocate 94-96 points “The 2019 Gigondas La Louisiane hails from a south-facing slope of clay and sand and is a blend of 80% Grenache, 15% Mourvèdre and 5% Syrah and Cinsault, all aged in foudre. Loaded with black cherries and mixed berries, it’s a big, full-bodied effort that drinks surprisingly well already yet has the concentration, length and structure that should enable it to age another 15 years or more.”
Domaine Saint Damien Gigondas ‘Les Souteyrades Vieilles Vignes’ Rhone 2019 750ML ($39.95) $34.50 special, 33 bottles in stock now
Jeb Dunnuck 96 points “Lastly, the 2019 Gigondas Les Souteyrades is more classic, with pure dark, peppery fruits as well as garrigue, cedar, and leather notes. Medium to full-bodied, concentrated, and perfectly balanced, it has impressive tannins and will benefit from short-term bottle age. As with the other Gigondas here, you should expect 10-15 years of prime drinking. This cuvée is 80% Grenache and 20% Mourvèdre, aged all in foudre.”
Grapelive 96 points “The fabulous and sultry Grenache based 2019 Saint-Damien Les Souteyrades Gigondas has layers of black raspberry, boysenberry, plum and grenadine on the full bodied palate along with that anise, floral incense, baked cherry, chalky stones and peppery spices. This vintage is less gamy/earthy than the prior couple of years and there is a thrilling sense of energy and an exceptional sense of purity in this dark purple/garnet Rhone red. The good dose of Mourvedre does add a meaty and savory dimension to this outstanding version, making for wine that way over delivers for the price, competing with Chateauneufs that go for three times the cost of this Saint-Damien single Lieu-Dit bottling. This winery has become a must have to satisfy my personal Grenache and Rhone habit, along with Saint-Cosme’s legendary Gigondas. The aromatics and mouth feel are really seductive, and air only brings more excitement and complexity here with a heady mix of dark florals and grenadine going to the fore. The underpinning tannin is sweet, but there is some serious structure to this Les Souteyrades. This wine has tremendous potential for long term cellaring and is a savvy buy for bargain hunters…The Vieilles Vignes Gigondas lieu-dit “Les Souteyrades” sits on a small hill with the vineyard being a blend of 80% Grenache and 20% Mourvèdre (and the wine here is the same percentage) with the main plot consisting of old Grenache Noir vines that were planted back in 1948 and 38 year old Mourvèdre vines that are set on an outcropping of pure grey clay soils with a scattering of stones. This cru site makes for deep fruit intensity and rich concentration, which this gorgeous 2019 shows with flamboyant hedonism in the glass. The Saint-Damien “Les Souteyrades” Gigondas is fermented traditionally with old school techniques with a long maceration, lasting for between 6 to 8 weeks on the skins, in concrete vats before moving to large oak foudres for about a year. This unfined and unfiltered and native yeast fermented cuvée sees all from organic grapes that are carefully handpicked and sorted to best show off the terroir here. While hefty and close to 15% natural alcohol, this Les Souteyrades doesn’t feel hot or flabby, in fact the balance is fantastic. This entertaining and rewarding Southern Rhone wine deserves a big robust meal to allow all its pleasures to shine through, and this vintage never puts a foot wrong. It is close to perfection in every way. I highly recommend these Saint-Damien 2019s, especially this one, along with their “La Louisiane” that has become their signature wine.”
Joe Czerwinski-Wine Advocate 93-95 points “Not as effusive on the nose as the La Louisiane, the 2019 Gigondas les Souteyrades is drier, sterner stuff—not as immediately approachable, with more savory notes of black olives and earth. There are still notes of ripe plums and raspberries in this full-bodied effort but also a firm core of dusty tannins to ensure more than a decade of longevity. It’s a blend of Grenache and Mourvèdre from a clay-rich, north-facing slope.”
This is the lowest listed price in the USA today!
Beau Marchais wines in stock now:
Beau Marchais Clos Pepe Vineyard Est Pinot Noir Sta Rita Hills 2020 750ML ($99.95) $89 special, 12 bottles in stock now
Jeb Dunnuck 94-96 points “While there won’t be any releases from Santa Lucia due to smoke, they were able to release their Clos Pepe Pinot Noirs. The 2020 Pinot Noir Clos Pepe Est Vineyard saw 25% stems, 48 days on stems, and aging all in new barrels. Lots of mulberry, chocolate covered strawberries, and plum fruits as well as notes of orange blossom and spice emerge from the glass, and it’s a rich, full-bodied, textured beauty that packs one heck of a mid-palate. With ripe tannins and an expansive, supple texture, drink this hedonistic, sexy Pinot Noir on release and over the following 7-8 years.”
Beau Marchais Clos Pepe Vineyard Ouest Pinot Noir Sta Rita Hills 2020 750ML ($99.95) $89 special, 12 bottles in stock now
Jeb Dunnuck 95-97 points “The 2020 Pinot Noir Clos Pepe Ouest Vineyard comes from the western side of the vineyard, which sees slightly smaller berries and yields due to being hammered by the winds. It tends to be a riper Pinot Noir yet always seems more structured and focused than the Est Pinot Noir. Similarly deep purple-hued, with a beautiful bouquet of blue fruits, iron, candied orange zest, and spice, it’s another rich, full-bodied, concentrated Pinot Noir that stays beautifully balanced and has ripe, building tannins as well as a great finish. While it’s not for the Burgundy lovers out there (although you might be surprised), it has depth, structure, and is a brilliant Pinot Noir!”
Vinous-Antonio Galloni 94 points “The 2020 Pinot Noir Clos Pepe Vineyard Ouest is terrific. Powerful and ample in the glass, the 2020 possesses tremendous richness right out of the gate. Luscious red/purplish berry fruit, blood orange, spice and pomegranate are all dialed up. The super-sized Santa Barbara Pinot offers tons of immediacy and yet retains a good deal of energy as well. The Ouest is a noticeably bigger wine than the Est. “
Beau Marchais Soberanes Vineyard Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands 2019 750ML ($99.95) $89 special, 12 bottles in stock now
Jeb Dunnuck 96 points ” loved these wines from barrel last year, and they didn’t disappoint from bottle. Starting with the Santa Lucia Highlands release, the 2019 Pinot Noir Soberanes Vineyard has a deep, nuanced yet powerful style that offers impressive black raspberry and red currant fruits to go with lots of spice, loamy soil, spring flower, and earthy forest floor notes. Gorgeously textured on the palate, this medium to full-bodied Pinot has ripe, polished tannins, a great mid-palate, and the fruit and opulence to drink nicely today yet also evolve for a good 7-8 years, if you’re so inclined.”
Wine Enthusiast 96 points “This collaboration between California’s Adam Lee and the Rhône Valley’s Phillipe Cambie yields a rich, spicy wine. Heavy aromas of cola, root beer, baked cherry and boysenberry gummies lead into a multi-layered palate of cardamom, clove, nutmeg and baked fruit, framed by polished tannins.”
Wine Advocate-Erin Brooks 92-94 points “I tasted the 2019 Pinot Noir Soberanes Vineyard as a final blend while still in barrel, aging in about 90% new oak. Medium ruby-purple, it’s loaded with dark fruits and nuances of bitter chocolate, mint leaves, charcuterie and fragrant earth. In the mouth, it’s medium-bodied with a firm, grainy frame and good freshness, opening up to brighter fruits on the long finish. This is shaping up to be a concentrated, savory and structured Pinot Noir. This is due to be bottled sometime around August 2020.”
Producer Spotlight: Crowley Wines
Crowley is lucky enough to work with not only old vines but in a high elevation site no less, and delivers masterpieces with every vintage. Their house style is described as “A focus on transparent, terroir-driven winemaking to create the most direct evidence of both vintage and place” and can be seen throughout their portfolio. Natural fermentations are employed, and new oak is deliberately judicious as to not hide the varietal character of their Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. As President of the Deep Roots Coalition, Tyson Crowley eschews irrigation of any kind in order for the grapevines to fully express themselves.
In addition to the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay that they produce from the Coast Range vineyard: Four Winds there is also a Dundee Hills bottling sourced from La Colina Vineyard. If that wasn’t enough there’s even an entry level line that is perfectly representative of the house style, but created from a cuvee of different vineyards. You also can’t forget their rose as well, which is entirely composed from Four Winds and is a dream pairing with any kind of seafood you can think of.
Crowley Wines in stock now:
Crowley Chardonnay Willamette Valley 2019 750ML ($29.95) $24 special, 3 bottles in stock now
Winery note “Vineyard info: Four Winds was planted in 1993 to Wente clone Chardonnay (1.5 acres) and Dijon clone Chardonnay (.75 acres), and beginning in 2017 (2.5 acres) of Draper clone. Elevation is 825 feet and south facing. Own rooted and dry farmed. Tasting Note: 2019 was year 2 of absorbing the grafted Draper clone into the cellar and we’re beginning to see our Chardonnay’s take shape in the best way possible. More austerity, saltiness, minerality and piercing electricity. Un-fined and unfiltered, this 2019 Willamette Valley Chardonnay compromises nothing of mouthfeel to match the high acidity and 12.5% alcohol. Opening with spice, lemon zest and crème brulee on the nose you know you’re in for a taut and rich experience. Aged in oak and finished in steel the wine displays warmth and expanse of barrel aging with the linearity of steel. High energy in all aspects, the mouth begins with typical purity and sense of place, doubles down on the citrus elements, and gracefully expands into peach, orange, clove, and cinder and closes with delicate lees roundness.”
Crowley Entre Nous Pinot Noir Dundee Hills 2019 750ML ($49.95) $37 special, 12 bottles in stock now
Josh Raynolds 92 points “Vivid garnet. Raspberry, blueberry, candied flowers and a deeper suggestion of licorice on the perfumed, spice-accented nose. Juicy red and blue fruit, cola and spicecake flavors put on weight as the wine opens up. Nicely concentrated yet lively as well, finishing long and smooth, with harmonious tannins lending subtle grip.”
Winery note “The first wine Crowley ever created. Over time, Entre Nous has morphed into a blend of our favorite barrels in the cellar, and represents our La Colina and Four Winds Vineyards. This wine is consistently intriguing – notes of mushroom, cedar, citrus melt into bright cherry, strawberry and light chocolate.”
Crowley Four Winds Vineyard Chardonnay Willamette Valley 2019 750ML ($59.95) $49 special, 15 bottles in stock now
Winery note “Jasmine, lemongrass and salty mist jump out of the glass initially. Striking minerality melts into honeysuckle nectar on the palate. Earthen complexity is backed by apricot and white peach which lead into an incredibly long finish. A touch of wood frames this wine with firm structure. Wente, Dijon & Draper clones. Native fermentation. 200 cases.”
VinopolNote: A riotously fragrant release, this shows notes of dried lemon zest, sea salt, lime flower, and pear tart. Its creamy mouthfeel balances the bright, palate-cleansing acidity. One of the finest vintages to date.
Crowley Four Winds Vineyard Pinot Noir Willamette Valley 2019 750ML ($59.95) $49 special, 21 bottles in stock now
Josh Raynolds 94 points “Deep, shimmering garnet. Intensely perfumed red and blue fruits, potpourri, incense and exotic spice scents show excellent clarity and take on a suggestion of blood orange with air. Juicy and precise on the palate, offering concentrated raspberry, boysenberry, cherry cola and spicecake flavors and a suave rose pastille nuance. Plays power off delicacy with a sure hand and finishes very long and smooth, with polished tannins framing repeating red fruit and floral notes.”
Winery note “Cool aromas of tangerine tea mingled with spicy sativa weave into ripe cherry. This intriguing nose leads into an airy palate layered with pomegranate, mushroom and lean strawberry. Acidity is crisp and determined and framed by a complex and restrained fruit profile. 100% Pommard clone. Native fermentation. 200 cases.”
VinopolNote: A reserved nose hints at red forest berries, iodine, and loam. There’s layers of flavors on the palate, with tart red berries, rose petals, gentian, tea berries and soy. Its austerity hides a subtle, lingering richness that melts into fine, grippy tannins on the finish. Bravo!
Crowley La Colina Vineyard Pinot Noir Willamette Valley 2019 750ML ($59.95) $49 special, 17 bottles in stock now
Josh Raynolds 94 points “Limpid ruby. Highly expressive aromas of raspberry liqueur, cherry cola, baking spices and succulent herbs show fine definition and acquire a suave floral note as the wine opens up. Silky and expansive on the palate, offering appealingly sweet red and blue fruit, candied lavender and exotic spice flavors that tighten up on the back half. Finishes sappy and impressively long, with strong red fruit thrust, repeating florality and gently gripping tannins.”
Winery note “Our La Colina bottling is a pure expression of this corner of the Dundee Hills. We have been working with this site since our first vintage in 2005. A nose of tangerine, spicy sativa and ripe cherry weave into an airy palate layered with ripe pomegranate and wild mushrooms.”
Bandol and Domaine de la Bastide Blanche
To exemplify the richer style we can’t think of a better example than Domaine de la Bastide Blanche, who delivers a harvest basket full of blood orange, sorbet, mandarin orange, fresh raspberry, hibiscus, lavender and sage that’s all underscored by a chalky minerality. Made from a minimum of 75% Mourvèdre, Bastide Blanche is considered a benchmark producer of Bandol rosé, with the estate being originally founded to compete with the best of Châteauneuf-du-Pape to the north. Also known for being one of the few roses that benefits from bottle age, the texture of the wine becomes almost tea-like on the finish with the fruit also softening as well. Bastide Blanche is a “red wine drinker’s rosé.”
In Stock Now:
Domaine de la Bastide Blanche Bandol Rose Provence 2020 1.5L ($69.95) $59 special, 24 bottles in stock now
Josh Raynolds-Vinous 92 points “Limpid orange-pink. Expressive red berry, blood orange and pit fruit aromas are accompanied by building mineral and floral nuances. Taut and energetic in the mouth, offering sappy strawberry, orange zest and lavender flavors braced by a spine of chalky minerality. Finishes silky and impressively long, with repeating mineral and floral notes.”
Weygandt-Metzler Import note “Mourvedre, Grenache, Cinsault, Clairette. Organic. Clay, limestone & cailloux. Tasting note: Dense cherry and raspberry fruit with citrus and stone flavors. Full body with a perfectly balanced and long finish.”
Chateau Pradeaux Bandol Rose Provence 2020 750ML ($37.95) $31.90 special, 36+ bottles in stock now
Rosenthal Wine note “The Bandol Rosé from Pradeaux is perhaps the most serious wine in this category. Robust, rich, and complex with an ability to age gracefully, this wine is based on Cinsault (50%) and Mourvèdre (50%), taking its slight orange tint from the latter cépage. The younger vines of the domaine (average age: 25 years) are utilized to produce a rare rosé with staying power and exceptional complexity. The Rosé is vinified by a direct pressing for 24 hours followed by fermentation in cement tanks at a controlled temperature of 18 degrees Celsius for about 15 days; the malo-lactic fermentation is blocked and the wine is usually bottled in mid-April of the following year.
Chateau Pradeaux ‘Vespree’ Rose Vin de France 2019 750ML ($47.95) $39 special, 25 bottles in stock now
Rosenthal Wine note ““Vespree,” meaning evening in Provençal and Occitan, presents a full, swaggering nose of quince paste, white pepper, and coarse-ground Indian spices, and the big, richly textured palate possesses a structural tension that heavily underlines its potential for aging—though it is fresh, tense, and very delicious right in its youth. It is exceedingly difficult to find rosé of this caliber and character, even from Bandol—and, in a twist of irony, this wine which is so purely and deeply Bandol to its very core was denied appellation status on three separate occasions, and is thus labeled a “Vin de France.” But, in an appellation that has seen production shift from 70% red wine to 85% rosé over the years in response to market trends, this is perhaps more depressing than surprising. In any event, we are proud of the wine, and proud to work with such a courageous and iconoclastic family—and we know “Vespree” will delight those who appreciate Pradeaux’s ruggedly uncompromising sensibility.”
Chateau Pradeaux Cotes de Provence Rose France 2020 750ML ($31.95) $26 special, 33 bottles in stock now
Rosenthal Wine note “Côtes de Provence: Made from 45% Cinsault and 40% Mourvedre, with the balance split among Grenache and Carignan, a core of sappy, glycerol red-cherry fruit anchors a firm, punchy minerality, and the finish is remarkably persistent. The vineyards that comprise this wine were, in fact, classified as Bandol AOC as recently as 2012, and this 2017 clearly distinguishes itself from among the vast ocean of Côtes de Provence rose by virtue of its terroir’s unique pedigree.”
Don’t miss other Bandol rosés from Clos Cibonne, Chateau Peyrassol, and Le Galantin on our web store now!
Huet’s Cornucopia of Chenin
“Domaine Huet’ means ‘I make the best damn Chenin Blanc on the planet’…” – Mike Steinberger, Wine Diarist
Huet makes some of the most undervalued great wine in the world. Take any metric you’d use to adjudicate greatness (complexity, age-worthiness, terroir, aromatic intensity, world-wide praise, etc) and Huet’s Vouvray is on the list, at prices far below almost anything else in their class.
The estate has long been ahead of its time. This is one of France’s pioneers in biodynamic viticulture. Today, horses still plough between the rows, and in the winery the recipe remains relatively simple. Fermentation takes place half in stainless steel and half in old oak and without malolactic fermentation. After only six months, the wines are bottled and then laid to age in a cellar dug from tuffeau rock, no air conditioning required. From here the Huet work is done: the rest is up to nature and what eventually tastes like divine intervention.
Few producers anywhere in the world make better off-dry to sweet white wines than Domaine Huet. These are wines that offer near-unmatched flexibility at the table, and Domaine Huet’s reputation guarantees long ageing potential. Made according to tradition and terroir, with utmost respect for nature, Huet wines can keep for decades.
Huet wines in stock now:
Domaine Huet Vouvray ‘Clos du Bourg’ Demi-Sec Loire 2016 750ML ($59.95) $39 special, 36+ bottles in stock now
Wine Spectator 95 points “Gorgeous, with creamy-edged nectarine, yellow and green apple, pear and quince flavors that are brightly defined from start to finish, flecked with verbena and honeysuckle hints and backed by a off-dry edge on the finish. Stays fresh and pure throughout. Tempting now but there’s no rush. Drink now through 2032.”
Wine Advocate 93 points “From 30-year-old vines on calcareous loam soils, the 2016 Vouvray Clos du Bourg Demi-Sec offers a clear, pure, fine and intensely aromatic bouquet with tropical fruit and chalky aromas. Round, lush and exotic on the palate, with a silky texture and salty piquancy on the finish, the 2016 needs up to a decade to integrate the 19 grams of residual sugar. The finish is lovey, concentrated, juicy and well structured, with a lingering and stimulating salinity. Tasted February 2018.”
Domaine Huet Vouvray ‘Clos du Bourg’ Demi-Sec Loire 2020 750ML ($49.95) $44 special, 36+ bottles in stock now
Rebecca Gibbs Mw-Vinous 97 points “Drinking the 2020 Clos du Bourg Demi-Sec is like taking your shoes off at the end of a long day of walking and soaking them in warm water: there’s just satisfaction and relaxation. The 2020 has a sense of volume but not weight, filling the mouth with depths of pure fruit before the acid pours forth like a canal lock being opened. You can expect a hint of spice and crème caramel alongside apple and florals. I am utterly seduced.”
Stephan Reinhardt-Wine Advocate 95 points “The 2020 Vouvray Clos du Bourg Demi-Sec is concentrated, deep and still somewhat untamed on the clear, fresh and lemon-fruity yet darker-toned nose compared to the Haut-Lieu. Round and refined yet still with a pretty firm tannin structure, this is a rich and powerful yet elegant and persistently salty Chenin with tension, grip and a sustainable, highly promising finish. The 2020 Clos du Bourg pairs juiciness with finesse and purity with complexity. Tasted as a tank sample shortly before bottling in April 2021.”
Domaine Huet Vouvray ‘Le Haut Lieu’ Moelleux Loire 2016 750ML ($59.95) $39 special, 36+ bottles in stock now
Wine Spectator 95 points “Gorgeous crystallized ginger, dried quince, glazed pear and warm persimmon notes are seamlessly interwoven here, gliding through a lengthy finish that picks up a lilting green tea accent. Frankly off-dry but wonderfully pure. Drink now through 2035.”
Domaine Huet Vouvray ‘Le Mont’ Sec Loire 2020 750ML ($49.95) $41.90 special, 36+ bottles in stock now
Rebecca Gibbs Mw-Vinous 96 points “White flowers, pineapple and just-ripe pear combine in the 2020 Le Mont Sec from Huet, which offers just enough youthful puppy fat on the concentrated midpalate before finishing with mouthwatering acidity providing precision and line. It delivers intensity of fruit, yet it’s light on its feet. Fine phenolics offer a delicate but self-assured sense of structure and poise. Delightfully balanced, and better a day after opening.”
Stephan Reinhardt-Wine Advocate 95 points “The only dry wine from the vintage is the 2020 Vouvray Le Mont Sec, whose tank sample shows a classy, pure, precise and chalky/lemony bouquet with bright and perfectly healthy fruit and some herbal as well as yeasty aromas. On the palate, this is a dense, fabulously juicy, fruity and elegant Chenin whose immediate attraction and pure finesse initially reminds me of Riesling, whereas the texture is too rich and the salty and finely tannic finish too intense and powerful for Riesling. With more aeration, the Le Mont gets more and more intense and complex but also, tannic-wise, more wild. The 2020 has great tension, energy and grip and is highly promising. Tasted a few days before bottling in April 2021.”
Check out our full assortment of wines by Huet today!