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Small quantities of new arrivals and returning favorites from the Loire will hopefully cheer you up on this election day, featuring two of our absolute favorite reds, the great "La Croix Boissee" from Domaine Bernard Baudry and the extraordinary "Cot Vieilles Vignes" from la Grange Tiphaine!
Four great Chenin Blancs get our vote for profound quality and great value, including the elegant and crystalline 2019 Baudry "La Croix Boissee" Blanc and the magnificent 2018 Savennières "Clos du Papillon" from Domaine du Closel!
The Baudry Chinon "La Croix Boissé" is among the very finest and most elegant red wines in the Loire Valley - and of course I would include the whole country in that comparison! As with Burgundy and much of Bordeaux the key element here is limestone - in this case the tuffeau blanc micacé of the middle Turonian found in the "Croix Boissée" vineyand. The Loire Valley has had a string of good vintages, 2014 through 2019 - the Baudry's characterize 2017 as a generous vintage, with a good flowering despite ample rain in May, and a very warm summer through August, reminding them a bit of 2009. The 2017 "La Croix Boissée" is an absolutely sensational wine, showing the greatness of the limestone terroir - best to hold for five years then enjoy immensely until 2045 and beyond!
The white wines of Domaine Baudry seem to get better every year - more fine and chalky than the whites of Saumur, with "La Croix Boissee" in particular rivalling the finest Vouvrays in it's crystalline elegance. The "Domaine" comes from young vines in several parcels on the clay/limestone coteaux, while "La Croix Boissée" Blanc is from vines planted in 1994 and 2004 at the top of the vineyard in almost bare, eroded limestone - a great terroir for Chenin Blanc!
We should also mention the extraordinary 2018 Baudry "Cuvée Domaine" - 2018 is a superb year for this wine which shows the balance and ripeness of the vintage, immediately delicious but obviously age-worthy as well. A 2010 opened recently was beautiful, and had many years to go....
Coralie and Damien Delecheneau at La Grange Tiphaine produce one of the Loire Valley's most complete line-ups of great wines (including some rare and beautiful sweet wines that are seldom seen in the US). Today we're featuring the sensational 2018 "Cot Vieilles Vignes" and the vibrant value of the 2018 Montlouis "Clef de Sol" Blanc. While we enjoy these wines in every vintage, during our tasting with Damien last winter they stood out as being among the finest ever produced by this over-achieving estate. The 120 year-old Cot vines produced a profound and perfectly balanced wine in 2018, and the "Clef de Sol" Blanc impressed us with it's elegance, complexity and length, and at a very reasonable price. Please see Pascaline Lepeltier's notes on the wines and if you missed Pascaline's beautiful article on La Grange Tiphaine please click here.
It seems we have known Evelyne de Pontbriand since the day she took over the family estate in Savennières back in 2001. She has been a tireless promoter of the region and, along with Cellarmaster Bruno Perray, has transformed the domaine into one of the finest in the Loire, converting to organic farming in 2006 and to biodynamics in 2015. Her superb vineyard, the "Clos du Papillon" regularly produces one of the Loire Valley's finest Chenin Blancs and in the 2018 vintage it is particulary outstanding. The Clos du Papillon is one of the three most celebrated coulées or small ravine-like valleys in Savennières; it and La Roche Aux Moines and La Coulée de Serrant are in essence the grands crus of the appellation. There is very little of this extraordinary wine available - we encourage every lover of Chenin to put a few in their cellar!
No discussion of Savennières would be complete without mentioning the great work of Tessa Laroche at the Domaine aux Moines. As at Closel, Tessa and her mother Monique now farm organically, with biodynamic practices as well, farming under 10 hectares of Chenin Blanc. The vineyards stand next to the famed 'Coulée de Serrant' on south-west facing hillsides of predominantly schist soils. Since her arrival Tessa has been improving every detail to be able to make more precise, transparent, complex wines. The results are spectacular and her wine is now one of the best examples of Roche-aux-Moines, and of course also Savennières. We have tasted the 2017 Savennières - Roche aux Moines many times and it continues to impress us a truly great, intense and complex glass of Chenin! Please see Pascaline Lepeltier's note for the fulll story!
Wines arrive Nov 5th, quantities for Baudry and Closel are extremely limited.
The 2019 Baudry Blanc "Domaine" is from 5 to 15 year-old vines in several parcels on the clay/limestone slopes in and around Cravant. The grapes are hand-harvested of course and ferment with wild yeasts in 500 liter oak barrels. 2019 follows very closely the lovely 2018 "Domaine" blanc, showing a bright pale gold/bronze color, with ripe, floral, chalky aromas of almond and pear. The chalk returns on the palate with bright citrus and round white fruits, a supple, silky texture and good length. A perfect aperitif, this will pair with main courses of full-flavored fish and chicken in sauce. Lovely wine! David Lillie
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
From small parcels of shallow sandy clay soils over limestone (calcaire micacé) on a south-facing slope above Cravant. 20 to 45 year-old vines. 20-day fermentation in tronconic wooden, vats 24 months of aging in 1 to 4 year-old Burgundy barriques. Zero SO2 added until a small dosage at assembly, 10 to 20 mg/L, bottled unfiltered. (Over the years, the Baudrys have moved to a more gentle extraction on this wine and have lengthened the barrel aging, never in new oak.) This is one of the greatest reds of the Loire Valley - at it's best after ten to twenty years of aging, the wine is also quite delicious, though with firm chalky tannins, when young.Tasted in January 2020, the showed intense, bright black raspberry/cherry liqueur with violet and chalk. The palate is high-toned and elegant, dense and earthy with a silky, chalky texture under black raspberry and red currant, extremely mineral and long. Wait 5 years then drink this superb wine through 2045.(This shows a bit less forward fruit than the equally superb 2018, which some lovers of Chinon will appreciate.) David Lillie
The 2019 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 2019 has a pale yellow-green robe. The nose is a bit circumspect on opening. A couple of swirls reveal aromas of honeysuckle, soil notes, peach skin, green almond and beeswax. The palate is concentrated with savory, salty mineral sensations taking the lead, with flavors of white peach, underripe pear, and a hint of salted lemon following. This has a dry, mouthwatering finish inflected by flashes of orange oil, chamomile and sultana as after-aromas. The wine has a compelling stony core and should age nicely as the the structural elements knit with the ripe Chenin fruit over the next 10-12 years and beyond. If enjoying now, a 1-2 hour decant isn’t a bad idea. Quite tasty with a leftover chicken hash with plenty of chopped herbs, green onions, and a poached egg on top, but I’d love to try this with roasted cod fillet with a zippy salsa verde over braised greens. And to echo what David Lillie said about the 2018: "This belongs with the top dry Vouvrays and Anjou Secs - it's a unique and delicous expression of Chenin!" Highly recommended. John McIlwain
Clef de Sol means treble clef and is a tribute to music, Damien being an accomplished clarinetist and Coralie a choir singer. Clef de Sol is a blend of different southern exposed plots located in Montlouis on sandy perruches, i.e. clay and flint over tuffeau. The vines are mostly 80 years old, and farmed biodynamically. Hand-harvested mid-september, the grapes are sorted in the vineyard and the cellar, whole-cluster pressed, then fermented in barrels (225 and 400 l) in the underground cellar. Fermentations are spontaneous and malo occurs, without making the wine lose its tension. The wine is aged for a year on the fine lees, and lightly filtered with a sulfur dioxide adjustment. Clef de Sol is without a doubt a benchmark wine for Montlouis, in the line of François Chidaine’s Les Bournais but drier, with more density and less oak than Jacky Blot’s cuvées. 2018 is a superb, powerful expression of the wine, yet the weight is really well balanced by the chalky acidity. Think Savennières meets Brézé, with specific smoky notes coming from the Montlouis flint. Aromatically, this Chenin shows more its floral side, with a lot of lemon-verbena and linden, quinine, peach pit and salt. The oak is very well balanced, with just a hint of white tobacco. The finish is really impressive. I would recommend to cellar this bottle for a year or two before drinking (at least, it will also be great in 15 years). If you open it today, serve it a Burgundy glass not too cold. Pair it with grilled crayfish with tarragon butter, artichokes barigoule or mild blue cheese. 100% Chenin. Pascaline Lepeltier.
Coralie and Damien Delecheneau’s Côt Vieilles Vignes is for me one of the greatest Loire Valley red wines. As a Côt, I consider it in the league of Cosse-Maisonneuve’s Marguerite. Côt also known as Malbec is a misunderstood grape: far from being overly tannic, inky, rustic, this variety can reach a superb level of refinement, elegance and quality with the right vegetal material (century years old clones), low yield, limestone based soil and great farming. The Delecheneau have it all, as they are lucky to own probably one of the oldest examples of Côt in France, a 120+ year-old vineyard. The vines are located a 5 min walk from the winery, on the upper hill of Amboise. Damien does not really know when it was planted, but looking at the gnarly vines, the small and loose clusters with their red stems, you know they are from another time. Grown on red clay and flint over limestone, with a southeastern exposition, these couple of rows of vines produce a superb, unique wine. Hand-harvested, the grapes are hand-sorted twice and destemmed. They undergo a long, gentle maceration in a cement tank, then the wine is aged 50% in concrete egg and 50% in 225 l barrel, in order to preserve the fruit without bringing too much reduction, especially in dense vintage like 2018. The wine is bottled after 10 months with a light filtration and sulfur dioxide adjustment. 2018 is the best vintage to date of this wine (2019 will be also I think superb). It has an incredible balance with very low pH balancing the ripeness - you would never guess the alcohol content. 2018 is a very discriminatory vintage for red in the Loire, and you will see very easily who has done the job in the vineyard: if well done, you will have crazy acidity and alcohol; poorly done the wine will taste heavy and oxidized. Here, the job was superbly done! With notes of blue berry, citron peel, iris, truffle, the nose and the palate are so crunchy and fresh, while the tannins are velvety and lingering. This wine is still a baby, who needs a good decant to be enjoyed now, in a Bordeaux glass. Pair it with a beautiful wagyu beef tartare with confit shallot and black currant mustard, or a lamb shoulder served with herbs bulgur and a mint-yogurt seasoning. 100% Côt. Pascaline Lepeltier.
"The Clos du Papillon is a small valley at mid slope, beautifully exposed southwest to the light of the Loire. There are schist, rhyolite but also quartz. The topsoil layer is very shallow (60 cm) which provides excellent drainage for rainwater. The vine growing conditions are difficult, forcing it to develop its roots deep in the rock cracks to draw nutrients. The climate in that parcel allows for a level of highly advanced maturity, with grapes that concentrate aromas under the action of botrytis. The body and the very long finish make the Clos du Papillon a gastronomic wine to accompany lobster, scallops, smoked fish, Turbots, Saint Peter. It is also interesting with delicate white meats such as veal or capon, along with truffles or mushrooms. Classic mountain cheeses like old Salers, or 5 to 6 years old Comté are equally delicious with this great Savennières." - Domaine du Closel. 2018 is a great vintage for the Clos du Papillon, combining excellent ripeness with bright acidity and great balance - the wine shows beautiful aromas of ripe pear and quince with honeysuckle, lime-flower and dried herbs with hints of smoke and earth. The palate is superb, very ripe and dense with white fruits, citrus, almond and stone with very firm lemony acidity and mineral flavors. The finish is very long with bitter lemon and saline minerals. Drinking beautifully now, this should age perfectly, peak drinking perhaps to 2040 and beyond. David Lillie
Domaine aux Moines is operated by an incredible mother/daughter (Monique & Tessa Laroche) team organically, and now with biodynamic practices as well, farming under 10 hectares of Chenin Blanc. The vineyards stand next to the famed 'Coulée de Serrant' on South-West facing hillsides of predominately schist soils. Since her arrival Tessa has been improving every detail to be able to make more precise, transparent, complex wines. The results are spectacular and she is now one of the best examples of Roche-aux-Moines, and of course also Savennières. 2017 though was a tough vintage, as the Domaine aux Moines lost more than 70% of the crop to the April frost. After a warm, dry summer, allowing for disease-free season, harvest happened very quickly as sugars were rising really fast. Thankfully all the vineyards are surrounding the cellar, less than 10 min drive in tractor. In a couple of days everything was harvested, pressed more carefully with a pneumatic press and champagne cycle as the skins were thick and could bring unwanted phenolic. Due to the yield and for not losing some barrels, all the wine was aged in barrel (Tessa has been changing a lot her barrels to work with light toast or vapor centered Atelier Centre France). Despite its concentration and having done its malo, 2017 is a remarkably fresh, mouthwatering wine with incredible tension. Full of lemon-verbena, tangerine zest, white pepper and salted almond, its shows more savory elements on the palate. A great success for the vintage, very precise despite its low sulfites (inferior at 30 ppm total), it is a wine to age or to enjoy with a roasted lobster with caramalized baby carrot, or hazelnut crusted sweetbreads with confit parsnip. Pascaline Lepeltier