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In the midst of so much uncertainty in our daily lives - in our families, schools, jobs and communities, not to mention politics, it's comforting to note the regular arrival of some of our favorite wines... (Wines arrive Friday August 28, more inventory on Tuesday Sept 8th)
Every year since 1988 we have eagerly awaited the "Clos des Briords" from Marc Ollivier's Domaine de la Pépière. Probably now out fishing in Brittany, in his first year of much-deserved retirement, Marc started with a few parcels from his family and through his deep intelligence and hard work transformed them into one of the great domaines of the Loire Valley, now in the very capable hands of Rémi Branger and Gwénaëlle Croix. The estate produces this great wine from very old vines on a superb terroir of Château Thébaud granite with a thin layer of clay soil. When young, the wine is atomospheric, like sea air on a rocky coast. It ages for twenty to thirty years, always maintaining it's brisk acidity. Harvested early in this sunny, dry year (at 12.5% alc) to preserve the freshness, 2019 is an extraordinary vintage for "Briords," not like 1996 perhaps (I wish I stilll had some) but certainly like the excellent 2010 in it's combination of density and ripeness with firm acidity. Our tasting with Rémi and Gwénaëlle last winter showed a subtle, crystalline nose of white fruits, citrus, stone and iodine with a focused, dense palate with dried pear, citrus and mineral flavors and fantastic length. This will be exhillarating to drink now and will really sing after ten years in the cellar. We've added two of our current favorites from Pépière, all of which offer superb current drinking and long term cellaring, and of course they are sensational values as well...
We leave the Loire Valley briefly to celebrate the arrival of the 2019 Alain Coudert's "Clos de la Roilette" Fleurie and Fleurie "Cuvée Tardive," also great favorites of ours since the late 1980's when we purchased from Alain's jovial father Fernand. Since taking over the estate from his father in 1991, Alain Coudert has become one of the most consistent and respected producers in Beaujolais. Alain was a reluctant vigneron, returning to aid the family after his brother had a serious accident in 1979. During our early visits to the estate, the modest Alain would defer to his father who would hold court at the long bar as old bottles were brought up from the cellar. Located near the border with Moulin-a-Vent and having a large percentage of clay with manganese in the soil, the wines here are quite structured for a Fleurie and even poor vintages will show well with ten years of age. "Vinification is the traditional, semi-carbonic Beaujolais style," says Alain. "We do a submerged cap, we do temperature control and we use native yeasts. The idea is obviously to best express our terroir...the result is a more structured wine, somewhere between a "typical" Fleurie and a Moulin-a-Vent. Cuvée Tardive is made from 80 year-old vines and can seriously age - in a way it's to prove that Gamay is a grape that can achieve more than youthful drinkability." The 2019s are a bit more classic than the very ripe 2018s - the "Tardive" is a superb and very elegant example of this great wine which will drink beautifully over the next ten to fifteen years.
Bernard and Matthieu Baudry: Our relationship with the wines of Bernard Baudry also dates back to the late 1980s, when we purchased them from a 7-foot tall American ex-basketball player who had somehow become an agent for direct sales of French wines - go figure. It was a time when American wine writers all thought that Loire reds had no fruit and tasted like green peppers. Unfortunately in 1987 and 1988 they were largely correct, but then came the great 1989s followed by the almost as great 1990s. My customers who purchased the 89 Baudry "Les Grezeaux," for example, are still raving about it 30 years later.
After working with the great oenologist Jacques Puisais, Bernard Baudry gradually put together a domaine now holding 32 hectares of superb vineyards on the varied terroirs of Chinon. Bernard and his son Matthieu are intelligent perfectionists who do everything right. They make their own compost, practice organic farming, use no SO2 during vinification (and add only a tiny amount to the assembled wine) and age each wine in the vat or barrel that perfectly suits the terroir and wine - I could go on and on. And they also make one of the great Rosés of France which drinks beautifully for 3+ years and sells out immediately on release. We've just received a small shipment from the Baudrys which happily includes a few cases of their 2018 Rosé which is perhaps more delicious than it was last year - anyone who wants a special end of summer treat should grab a few bottles! The vintages from 2014 to 2019 mark a fabulous six-year string of great wines chez Baudry and one of our favorite wines of this period is the outstanding 2016 La Croix Boissée Rouge, particularly for those who like their Chinons to be well-structured for long term aging. A few more cases arrived with this shipment as well as 2 cs of the sensational 2018 Croix Boissée Blanc and of course we are happy to offer the wonderul 2018 Les Grézeaux and 2018 Cuvée Domaine as well...
Georges Descombes made sensational Beaujolais in 2018 and the last to arrive in NY is the scrumptious (sorry, ran out of superlatives) 2018 Fleurie Vieilles Vignes! . The 2018 Descombes wines are supple and sapid and blessed with good acidity. The fruit is complex and ripe, and while there are the black fruits that one associates with a warm vintage in Beaujolais, the brighter red fruits are there as well providing a complex and delightful cornucopia of aromas and flavors. The Vieilles Vignes cuvées are very limitied in availability this year, don't delay!
We've added a few of our other favorite 2018s from Georges which show the beautiful fruit and lovely balance of this great vintage in Beaujolais!
This lovely wine clearly illustrates the difference between the granite and gneiss terroirs in Muscadet. Gras Moutons is a great parcel on gneiss, in layers that permit a deep penetration by the vines, with sandy clay and amphibolite stones. The vines are at the top of a hill and on the south-facing slope overlooking the Maine. (The name, by the way, does not refer to fat sheep, but rather in local dialect, to the hilltop vineyard site.) This terroir produces lovely, classic Muscadet to drink over the next 5 to 8 years, it has a more herbal and floral bouquet than the granite-based wines and the palate, although refreshing and bright, is softer and more open. The 2018 Gras Moutons is a sensational Muscadet showing a pale bronze color and beautiful aromas of ripe pear and quince with hints of anise, stone and almond; The palate is very dense and mineral with ripe pear and white peach, quite supple and ripe but framed in firm acidity. The finish is long and dense with white fruits, citrus and an almost bitter mineral aspect - this will pair beautifully with a full-flavored fish or chicken dish. Five to eight years of aging will bring out the complexity of this lovely wine. Highly recommended and a great value! David Lillie
The Domaine de la Pépière Château Thébaud "Clos des Morines" comes from old vines on a beautiful vineyard with great terroir sloping down towards the river Maine. The granite here (Granit de Château Thébaud, oddly enough) is fissured and permeable by the vine roots which have access to water during dry spells and absorb micro-nutrients along the way. 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2015 here were among the best of the vintage in Muscadet and the 2014 will stand out as perhaps the finest yet due to the perfect combination of great density and minerality with the very firm acidity of this superb year for Muscadet - those of you lucky enough to have the 2014 Pépière Clisson in your cellar understand just what a special vintage this is. From Remi Branger at Pépière: "As the wine aged we performed three bâtonnages and after three and a half years sur lie, in April 2018, we decided to bottle it. We then decided to leave it another year in bottle before offering it for sale. For us, the 2014 Château Thébaud is a wine with a great potential for cellaring. In its youth, the wine was very austere but the prolonged élevage sur lie allowed it to develop well and it benefited further from the additional year in bottle. Recent tastings of the wine confirm to us that we made the right choice for the aging, because it has the balance we hoped for with a finish of power and tension."
Considered one of the finest producers in Beaujolais, Clos de la Roilette has 9 hectares in Fleurie, with an eastern exposure, bordering the Moulin-à-Vent appellation, and yields remarkably age-worthy Gamay. The Couderts feel that their particular terroir (mainly clay and manganese) and the age of their vines (30 to 80 years old) account for the richness and intensity of their wines. They are deeply colored, richly perfumed and seriously structured wines of relatively small production. The 2019 is a bit more "classic" than the very ripe 2018, and shows a deep red/garnet color with aromas of violet, ripe cherry, pomegranate and black raspberry, citrus zest and herbal notes; there is ample sweet cherry and raspberry fruit on the palate which is framed in firm acidity and prominent mineral and earth flavors, which continue in the long, sapid finish. Delicious now and over the next five to eight years... David Lillie
From eighty year-old vines on clay and granite soil in Alain Coudert's beautiful Clos de la Roilette, just over the border from Moulin-a-Vent. By "Tardive," Alain Coudert implies that one should wait for this wine to mature, in this case probably about 5 to 7 years, although those unable to wait will certainly enjoy drinking it now. The 2019 shows a deep garnet color and is cool-toned and finely structured, at 13%. it's showing less fat than the 2018 and calling to mind the balance and bright minerality of the 2014 vintage. The wine shows elegant, intense aromas of black cherry and raspberry, violets, stone, smoke, and black pepper. The palate is creamy, earthy and floral on the attack then develops vivid flavors of black raspberry and crushed strawberry layered over earthy spice and stone on the grippy mid-palate. The finish is long and mineral and ends on a slightly bitter citrus note under lingering black fruits. An elegant and age-worthy vintage from Alain. Drinking now, but should develop beautifully with a few years of bottle age, best perhaps 2024 - 2032.
The Baudry "Cuvee Domaine" is near and dear to my heart, and not just because of the modest price. 75% of the blend is from a parcel in Saint-Louans, a spot where the thin clay/limestone soils give earthy well-structured wines, and which has been the source of some of my favorite Chinons, such as the legendary Clos du Parc de Saint-Louans of Louis Farou. 25% of the blend is from gravel soils near Cravant, giving supple fruit and freshness. This is a great combination, making the wine enjoyable to drink young but with the structure and minerality of the more "serious" terroir. The 2017, for example is delicious to drink now, the 2010 is really singing and the 1989... if you can find one, let me know. The 2018 Domaine is a bit unusual in that the fermentation finished with 1.7 gr/liter of residual sugar, still a dry wine but forcing them to filter, which the Baudrys never do. At any rate, the wine is sensational - floral and elegant with aromas of black raspberry liqueur; the palate shows high-toned ripe black fruits, with violet and stone and a very long ripe finish. Enjoy in its exuberant youth or hold for ten years and more as the terroir shines through. David Lillie
Somewhat similar to 2009 - the last Beaujolais vintage that received huge point scores in the American wine press - the warm and dry 2018 vintage produced wines that are ripe and lush, but lower in alcohol and with brighter, fresher aromas and flavors than the 2009s. The 2019 Fleurie Vieilles Vignes shows a bright red/black color and aromas that are a beautiful blend of violet, black raspberry and blackberry with a bit of brown spice and citrus. The grainy textured palate really shows the granite terroir, with very earthy black fruit liqueur, licorice and stone flavors in the long finish. A very young wine, decant if drinking now, this serious Fleurie should really sing after a few years in the cellar, drink until 2030+ David Lillie
Georges Descombes is one of the premiere vignerons in Beaujolais. His farming is certified organic and his winemaking is very traditional; using native yeasts, semi-carbonic maceration, and very little sulfur added at bottling.The 2018 Morgon showed beautifully, tasted with Georges in early February, a bit fuller and deeper than the Regnié and Brouilly, showing ripe aromas of raspberry and strawberry with elegant strawbery liqueur, earth and minerals on the palate with terrific length. It's a gorgeous wine that should be served slightly chilled with just about anything - enjoy over the next three to five years. David Lillie
The 2018 Regnié from Geroges Descombes is a finely balanced wine, even in a warmer vintage, Ripe and generous fruit is offset with lively acidity and a vivid intensity on the palate that keeps this wine lifted and fresh. On the nose there are high-toned aromas of red and black currant, strawberry, raspberry, black cherry, rose, violets, and licorice. The palate has soft and finely integrated tannins and shows notes of strawberry and raspberry liqueur, blackberry, pomegranate, orange peel, baking spice and a granitic minerality, especially on the complex and satisfying finish. This is a very versatile wine, and I wouldn't hesitate to pair with a wide range of foods, from roast chicken, to burgers or even a pork chop. It was equally at home accompanying the watching of a movie on the couch with just a little, hastily composed cheese plate for backup. A joyful wine for all occasions. Oskar Kostecki
Harvested early in this sunny, dry year (at 12.5% alc) to preserve the freshness, 2019 is an extraordinary vintage for "Briords," not like 1996 perhaps (I wish I stilll had some) but certainly like the excellent 2010 in it's combination of density and ripeness with firm acidity. Our tasting with Rémi and Gwénaëlle last winter showed a subtle, crystalline nose of white fruits, citrus, stone and iodine with a focused, dense palate with dried pear, citrus and mineral flavors and fantastic length. This will be exhillarating to drink now and will really sing after ten years in the cellar.
Re-tasted in August 2020, the 2018 Baudry Rosé is singing it's beautiful song of great vintage, great terroir, great farming and perfect vinification with just a bit of more maturity in the complex aromas and a softer aspect to the ripe peach and berry fruits on the palate. The Baudry 2018 Chinon Rosé finished its fermentation much more quickly than last year, ending up quite dry at 2 grams RS/liter and 13.6% alcohol - a bit riper and more viscous than the 2017. This year's blend was 50% from clay/silex soils and 50% from gravel soils, as in "les Grézeaux." As always this is one of the most elegant and delicious of all French rosés, a reflection of the superb organic vineyard work and the great terroir possesed by the Baudrys as well as their great talent in vinifications with minimal added SO2. The 2018 Rosé is riper and fuller-bodied than the 2017, with gorgeous raspberry, strawberry and peach fruit backed by stone and mineral flavors and juicy acidity. Delicious now, this will drink beautifully over the next few years.
We've had the good fortune to taste the 2016 La Croix Boissée from vat or barrel three times - the first time showed vibrant lush deep black fruits and fabulous length which was confirmed in 2019 with the aromas a bit subdued by the élevage, showing floral black fruits and sensational length and elegance on the palate with cool red and black fruits, earth and mineral flavors. This will be a sensational mature Chinon, try to wait 8 years then drink until 2049 - yikes, I'll be 100 years old!
The 2018 Baudry "La Croix Boissée" Blanc is a superb glass of Chenin Banc! From 15 - 25 year-old vines at the top of the south-facing vineyard where the eroded limestone is barely covered with silica. The 2018 took one year to finsh fermentation in 500 liter barrels, the malo was done. The wine shows elegant, complex armas of chalk, citrus, quince, and stone; the palate is silky and cristalline with citrus, quince, pear, white peach and saline mineral flavors, finishing with terrific length and lingering hints of citrus, almond and stone. This belongs with the top dry Vouvrays and Anjou Secs - it's a unique and delicous expression of Chenin! David Lillie
The 2018 Regnié Vieilles Vignes was one of the stars in last winter's tasting showing gorgeous red and black raspberry aromas with earth, citrus and spice, really lovely. The palate is elegant and long with black cherry, prune and red fruit liqueur with earth and smoke, with underlying mineral, graphite flavors. The wine is beautifully balanced and fresh at 13 - 13.5% alcohol, powerful yet refined and delicate, and will improve with a few years cellaring - but in such a nice place right now. This is an outstanding Beaujolais, simply delicious - serve cool with pork and lamb dishes, coq au vin, charcuterie, over the next ten years. EL