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*Offsite events are contracted to and coordinated by a 3rd party, and are in no way affiliated with Chambers Street Wines.
Back when we first opened Chambers St. Wines in 2001, I didn't have any interest in wine. I had yet to meet Marc Olivier, Catherine Roussel, Didier Barrouilet, or Mathieu and Bernard Baudry. Contrary to some assumptions, I didn't grow up tasting any of the Muscadet or Chinon my parents were drinking at the dinner table (thanks Dad!). The first time I took a genuine interest in wine was when I spotted a bottle with an image of a group of musicians on a bright yellow label. I didn't know anything about Groslot (I don't think I even knew what Gamay was at the time), but I loved the whimsical label, so I got myself a bottle of the "Copains D'Abord" from Domaine des Sablonnettes. I still remember being blown away by this fresh, vibrant red wine. From there, the deal was sealed. My curiosity grew, and after travelling to France with my father many years later to visit the winemakers and their vineyards, I fell in love with the world of wine and proudly assumed my role as "Le Caviste!"
Last February, I finally got the chance to visit Domaine des Sablonnettes and thank the Ménard family for their decades of winemaking, and for opening my eyes (and my palate) to good wine. After saying hello to Joel, I was greeted by Jeremy (Christine and Joel's son), who has been in charge of winemaking for the last three years. We walked around the vineyards, which looked magical under the fresh snow, and talked about the history of the domaine, the farming, and their soil - admittedly boring stuff for some people, but educational and exciting for me! The Menards are particularly proud of the soils in their vineyards, which, after many years of organic farming, are rich and full of life. Even in the dead of winter under a blanket of snow, there was so much green!
Tasting in the cellar, it quickly became clear that Jeremy is committed to making serious, terroir driven wines without using any additives, just like his parents and grandparents before him. Although the word "natural" is sometimes abused, in the case of the Ménards, the word's most positive connotations apply. All of their decisions are made after careful contemplation and in the context of their countless years of experience with their parcels and different grape varieties. They are certified organic and biodynamic, and vinify without added yeasts, sugars or other "corrections," and their use of sulfur dioxide is minimal, if they use any at all. Long before the phrase "natural wine" existed, the Ménards were making pure and beautiful natural wines, and they have always seemed happy to quietly continue doing so, without fanfare or hashtags.
This is for sure the most dynamic and peculiar little white we have under the $15 price point here at Chambers Street. Chenin Blanc, with about a week of skin contact and no sulfur added. The maceration is purely to give the yeast food and keep it productive, and not for color or to say they are making an "orange wine." As Jeremy Menard explains, he did an experiment with two vats, with the exact same juice from the same day of harvest and the same press. One vat had the juice with no skins (in typical fashion), and in the other, he left some skins with the juice. About a week later, the vat with the skins had fermented completely dry, and was quite happily moving along with malolactic fermentation, whereas the one without skins hadn't even finished its sugars yet. It's never a race to have a finished wine at Domaine Sablonnettes, but it is a sign of how the Menard family is constantly developing their approach in the cellar, so they can successfully make honest, natural wines. Young at the moment (tasted just after arriving in New York in late July), there are pleasant aromas of orchard fruits (apples and pears) and orange zest. A great mineral finish, which is no surprise given Chenin's ability to transmit soil into the glass, and the impeccable and longtime organic farming at Sablonnettes. Ripe, dry Chenin that should be fantastic in a few months and even better in 2019 or beyond. EL
A lovely rather full-bodied rosé of Cabernet Sauvignon featuring pure deep raspberry and cherry fruit with nice balancing acidity. "This is not a Rosé" may be the name, and the color is a lovely pale red, but we still say it's a rosé! The Menard's wines are denied the appellation Anjou every year — they're not typical — but they're organic and delicious!
From the label: "Millefeuille de trois cepages rouges de chez nous 'Cab-Gro-Ga.' Auguste Ménard, premier vigneron de la famille était surnommé 'Ménard Le Rouge' pour son côté révolutionnaire et sa moustache rousse"Roughly translated: A millefeuille (layered pastry) of Cabernet Groslot (Grolleau) and Gamay. Auguste Ménard, the first winemaker of the family, was nicknamed "Ménard the Red" for his revolutionary side, and his red mustache. This is a delicious and unique red that started with whole cluster Gamay grapes that were laid in a vat, covered with Groslot grapes about a week later, and finally a hefty portion of Cabernet Franc grapes a week after that. It's juicy, with medium body and very subtle silky tanning. Serve with a light chill. EL
This lovely wine is all Groslot (aka Grolleau) and features complex, high-toned raspberry fruit aromas (with some cherry, strawberry and currant thrown in) which follow through on the medium-bodied palate. There's a bit of "barnyard" funk on the nose, though I think this is more a Grolleau thing than a natural wine thing. Balanced by lively acidity and pleasantly low in alcohol, this is a lush and delicious wine that will accompany grilled chicken or any lighter summer cuisine. Bravo to the Menards for making these delicious and affordable wines!
This is first and foremost a wine of terroir, and in a way epitomizes the Menards themselves. They are quiet, humble, and dedicated to producing fine wines that are expressions of their land. They don't go on about making wines without added sulfur, and though their reds all undergo some partial carbonic maceration, they prefer to only say "grappe entière" (whole cluster) when people ask them how they make their reds. This seems to be in an attempt to not bunch their wines into a category with all the pure carbonic maceration wines that are produced in the Loire Valley. Their wines are not just juice! Les Copines Aussi is a Gamay that is joyful and fresh, but serious as well, with tannic structure and an earthy side. EL