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New shipments have just arrived from four of our favorite estates - from the Languedoc, Bordeaux, the Roussillon and the northern Rhône, all of which produce outstanding wines from organic or biodynamic farming. These are delicious, true wines of terroir that will provide great everyday enjoyment throughout the fall and winter. (Wines arrive Thursday, Nov 12th)
We're proud to be working, for more than ten years, with the affable Thierry Navarre, one of the first producers of natural wines in the Languedoc. Based in the town of Roquebrun ("brown rock") in Saint-Chinian, Thierry became the third generation to take over the domaine's high-altitude vineyards in 1988 and continue his grandfather's legacy of preserving ancient varieties. Today, Thierry is one of the few winemakers in the region still making wine from the obscure Œillades (a cousin of Cinsault), Terret and the light and delightfully floral Ribeyrenc. The mountainside vineyards are on terroir of brown schiste covered with fragments of slate ("lauzes" or "laouzil" in Occitan) giving aromas of garigue and the singular spicy minerality of wines from schistes in the Languedoc. Happily included in this shipment are a few cases of Thierry's fabulously delicious "Vin de Grenache" - it's a demi-sec orange wine from late-harvested grapes, just as Thierry's grandfather made it long ago...
For many years we have been enjoying the Biodynamic wines of the Hubert family of Château Peybonhomme-les-Tours in Blaye and Château La Grôlet in Bourg. The family acquired Peybonhomme-les-Tours in 1895 (classified in 1868 as "Premier Cru Bourgeois") and Jean-Luc and Catherine Hubert purchased Château La Grôlet in 1997, immediately converting the estate to Biodynamic farming as at Peybonhomme. Their son Guillaume Hubert re-joined the estate in 2007 and his sister Rachel arrived in 2012, assuring a continuation of style at these great estates and bringing new ideas, including cuvées without sulfur and aging in anfora. The Peybonhomme-les-Tours "Cru Bourgeois" at $16.99, made from Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec grown on classic clay/limestone terroir is certainly one of the best values in Bordeaux today.
Certified organic since 1975, Marie-Agnès and Emmanuel Barou make beautiful Saint-Joseph, Condrieu and Vins de Pays on their ten hectares, mostly on the slopes above Charnay. Their farming is exemplary, using their own compost, keeping the soil covered, plowing as little as possible and avoiding even the organic treatments against mildew, as they can harm soil fauna. The Saint-Joseph parcels are in Limony, on de-composed granite, and Charnas, on stone covered firm granite. The three wines offered today are extraordinary values: The Saint-Joseph shows dense, elegant pure Syrah fruit over earthy notes from the granite terroir; the Syrah "Cuvee des Vernes" from 45 year-old vines is a bit softer, a beautiful, complex junior Saint-Joseph; the Marsanne "Rendez-Vous" is one of the greatest values in the store with distinctive, ripe Marsanne fruit in a balanced and refreshing frame. These wines will sell out quickly, don't delay!
Eric and Corinne Laguerre live in a house at the top of Saint-Martin-du-Fenouillet that seems to defy gravity. Each morning, Eric wakes up and climbs into his giant 1977 Cruiser, parked at an alarming angle, and blasts into his steep vineyards on the foothills of the Pyrénées. Between the rows of meticulously farmed parcels of gobelet-trained Grenache, young Mourvèdre, Syrah, old vine Carignan, Vermentino, Macabeau, Roussanne and Marsanne, the ground shimmers with bits of exposed granite glittering in the sun. At 1,700 feet, the mountain pass, with its views of the Mediterranean sea and flowering bushes for which his top wines "Le Ciste" are named, are unquestioningly beautiful, but what is most impressive is how precisely he reflects this place in each of his cuvées. Eric has worked his 40 hectares organically since the late 1990s and has never used chemicals or synthetic fertilizers on his vines. In the winter months he employs sheep to help manage grass and in the summer he cuts rather than plows in order to preserve biodiversity and the intricate root systems beneath the soils. He is passionate about terroir, and his natural vinification methods in the cellar are directed at achieving the purest expression of the granite and gneiss soils, as well as the cool mountain clime influences. He only ferments with native yeasts and uses minimal sulfur at bottling. We highly reccomend these wines to anyone curious about exploring the terroir of the Roussillon, and the "Le Ciste" Rouge and Blanc are perfect for mid-term aging and happily, they are affordable enough to drink some now and keep a few for later.
Wines arrive Nov 12th, and remember 10% off on a case or mixed-case!
"Le Ciste" is named after a flowering bush that grows around the Laguerre's steep, organic vineyards in Saint-Martin de Fenouillet. The 2017 is made from equal parts Marsanne, Roussanne, Rolle, Vermentino and Grenache Blanc and a small addition of Macabeu. Each parcel is hand-harvested, the grapes are fermented separately with native yeasts and raised in used demi-muid. This superlative cuvée is a fascinating showcase of the Roussillon's mighty terroir. The acidic soils of decomposed granite give this wine excellent mineral tension that deepens with time in bottle. Aromas are intricately woven with notes of bright lemon oil, verbena, sage, and salty seashells. The palate is supple and round with generous flavors of pear, white flowers, thyme, and almond framed by pure mineral acidity. This is a fantastic wine that is delicious now but will develop a beautiful honeyed texture and rich flavors after 5-10 years in bottle. Eric recommends pairing this with sardines on toast, goat cheeses, and roasted chicken. Amanda Bowman
Eric has once again made a small quantity of "Oxy" - his extraordinary Grenache Blanc that spends five years sous-voile. The current vintage is 2014 - for any lover of Vin Jaune, or anyone making chicken with vin jaune and morels, this is a must buy! The wine shows lovely herbal, stone, citrus peel and strong oxidative aromas. The oxidation is less apparent on the palate which is extremely elegant and of course shows an intense minerality, with flavors of lemon zest, stone and dried pear, finishing with terrific length. Only 36 bottles are available - don't delay!
An almost extinct grape grown in the Languedoc, in southern France, Ribeyrenc has been preserved mostly due to the work of Thierry Navarre and his father before him, planted on slopes of schist, exposure south-east. It’s thin-skinned and yields a fresh and vibrant red wine that could easily pass for a dark rosé. The aromas are complex with red fruits, spice, herbs, tobacco, rose petal and tea-leaf. Low-alcohol and light-bodied and a bit delicate with plum, red currant, spice and smoke on the palate, with a long finish - fresh, floral, and unlike anything else, really a lovely wine ! EL
Thierry Navarre's touchstone "Laouzil" is a blend of equal parts Grenache, Carignan, and Syrah from old vines planted on brown schist ("Laouzil" in the local dialect) soils in the rugged mountains of Roquebrun (Saint-Chinian). The grapes are de-stemmed and aged in neutral barrel before bottling with minimal sulfur. The 2018 has a beautiful robe of bright red/black. The nose shows decadent aromas of red currant, blackberry and black cherry, sage, and deeper notes of espresso. The palate is creamy, but not heavy with fine powdery tannins. Perhaps a bit brighter than the 2017, wonderfully balanced and accessible for drinking now. Flavors of black fruits, peppercorn, and savory herbs cling to a core of dense minerals on the long, persistent finish. Delicious now it will also benefit from 3 - 5 years in the cellar.
2019 is a great vintage for Thierry Navarre's Cuvée Olivier, from his oldest vines of Grenache, Syrah and Carignan grown in his mountainside vineyards in Saint-Chinian. Deep and very complex aromas of black raspberry and blueberry with hints of roast meats, espresso, violets, chocolate and citrus. Lovely palate of ripe red and black fruits, earth and citrus lifted by firm acidity. This is a beautiful Languedoc red — rich, ripe and complex and surprisingly "fresh" with good acidity and 13.5% alcohol. Organic farming, minimal sulfur. Highly recommended.
Every few years Thierry Navarre makes a new batch of his late-harvest "Vin de Grenache" - this version is outrageous - it's an oxidative orange wine (!) showing a dark orange color and aromas of dried fruits - apricot and prune - brown spice, walnut, honey and wildflowers with slightly sweet palate of ripe black cherry, dried apricot, brown spice and minerals. (It can be kept for weeks re-corked in the fridge) Serve with dried fruits and nuts, strong cheeses or just enjoy by itself - only 36 bottles for the US. David Lillie
Biodynamic farming, native yeast fermentations, superb value –all phrases not typically associated with Bordeaux. Yet, each year the Hubert family provides us with just that in their staple cuvee from the Côte de Blaye. The Cru Bourgeois is a blend of mostly Merlot with Cabernet Franc, and a bit of Malbec. Generously aromatic owing to the limestone/clay soils in which it is grown, the 2018 offers crushed violets, cassis, and rhubarb on the nose. The palate shows the warm vintage with finesse. Cascades of ripe red fruit, black currant, and spice, with supple tannins and an undercurrent of chalky minerality. This is a great addition to the dinner table alongside grilled meat, roast chicken and stews or sipped on its own, drink over the next 5 to 8 years.
The Hubert family are owners of Chateau Peybonhomme-les-Tours in Blaye and Chateau La Grolet in Bourg. The farming here is among the best in Bordeaux, certified organic and biodynamic. The vineyards are a fantastic oasis of greenery compared to the rest of Bordeaux, and are located on slopes of clay over limestone giving the wines good concentration and firm minerality. The Quintessence of Peybonhomme is a selection of the best juice from tastings each year and is primarily Merlot and Malbec from old vines, with Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, a portion of which is aged in new oak. The 2017 is a beautiful and lively Bordeaux showing deep aromas of ripe cassis, blackberry, black cherry, cocoa, spice and earth. The palate is supple and ripe, lifted by cool acidity, with complex black fruits, earth and mineral flavors with a long finish. The wine broadens and gains complexity with time open so decant if possible. A versatile food wine, this beautifully balanced Bordeaux will accompany anything from roast chicken to pork dishes to steak. Put a few in your cellar for a mature experience, best 2020 to 2030+. David Lillie
Our biodynamic friends, the Hubert family, make the lovely Chateau La Grolet "Origines" from old vines of 70% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc and 5% Malbec. The 2019 shows a deep red/black color with high-toned aromas of ripe cassis and black raspberry with cedar, brown spice and earth, really quite pretty. The palate is supple, elegant and well-structured with cassis and red fruits over firm acidity with earth and mineral flavors. This is a real Bordeaux of terroir that is delicious now especially if decanted many hours in advance or opened the night before. Cellaring for five to ten years will create a lovely mature wine. David Lillie
The Barou family family makes delicious wines, and grows cherries and apricots on their mixed-use organic estate in Charnas, in the northern section of the AOC Saint-Joseph. Their 2019 Vin de Pays Marsanne is a simply superb everyday wine! Wild yeast fermentation, aging in vat and in 5 - 6 year-old barriques. Light bronze/gold color. This needs a few minutes to open up, then showsbright aromas of pear and peach, almond, lime-flower, lemon peel, smoke and hay, really quite pretty. Ripe stone fruits on the palate, primarily peach and dried pear with lemon, spice and saline mineral flavors with good balancing acidity in the long, refreshing finish. Serve this lovely wine with chicken, full-flavored fish, mild cheeses and Asian foods. This is a unique and delicious wine and an extraordinary value - highly recommended!
From 40 - 50 year-old Syrah vines in Charnay, just outside the Saint-Joseph AOC, on living soils tended organically for forty years by Marie-Agnès and Emmanuel Barou. Plowing by tractor or weeding by hand on the steep slopes. Hand-harvested, wild-yeast fermentations, aging one year in 4 to 5 year-old barrels. The 2019 Cuvée des Vernes is simply sensational and one of the best values in the store! The wine shows deep black/red color with lush aromas of blackberry liqueur, licorice, blueberry and musk with cool minty notes - really lovely! The palate shows cool dense black fruits with dark chocolate, blueberry, earth, smoke and citrus with a beautiful, refreshing finish of minerals and fruit. This is an outstanding Syrah, equal to many many Saint-Josephs and simply delicious for current drinking. Serve a bit cool with almost anything from roast chicken to pork, rabbit, charcuterie and lamb, or just enjoy by itself. Case quantities are available. Highly recommended! DL
Domaine Barou has been organic since the 1970s and also produces cherries, apricots and peaches. The Saint-Joseph vines are in Limony, on thin granite soils in the northern part of Saint-Joseph. Shallow plowing ("griffage") is done in the summer, with rye and clover growing between the rows in winter. The grapes are 80% de-stemmed, fermentations are with wild yeasts, aging is primarily in old barrels.The 2019 Saint-Joseph shows gorgeous aromas of blackberry and blueberry liqueur with violet, spice, citrus and roast meat. Quite pure and lovely. Ripe black fruits, bitter chocolate, earth, licorice and citrus continue on the dense, lush palate which is framed in bright acidity. The finish is long with velvety fruit liqueur and mineral flavors. This is absolutely delicious now, and over the next 5 to 8 years . A sensational value and highly recommended!
Eric Laguerre's EOS Blanc is terrific in 2019! From high-altitude vineyards in the Roussillon, approximately 65% Grenache Blanc and 35% Macabeu, harvested by hand into small baskets, with low yields, certified organic by Ecocert. Subtle, floral, pear, stone, citrus and herbal aromas with an elegant, round and balanced palate of citrus, white fruits, hay and stone with crisp acidity. Really an elegant, refreshing and unique wine and a great price!
Eric Laguerre's "Eos Rouge" is an elegant blend of 90% Grenache from 40-year-old gobelet-trained vines, with 10% Syrah from soils of decomposed granite, gneiss, and some veins of quartz. Like "Le Passage," the grapes are fermented in fiber tanks with native yeasts for about two weeks, then aged in concrete. The 2019 is strikingly pure-fruited, with vibrant strawberry and red cherry aromas underpinned by earthy spice, red-currant, and bitter chocolate notes. Strawberry and cherry continue on the palate with peppery tannins and mineral acidity from the high mountain climat. (Eric says that after 2 years in bottle, you might think it's Pinot Noir). This is a balanced wine that should pair wonderfully with grilled sausages, lentils, or goat cheeses. Open an hour before serving if drinking now, or hold for 3 to 5 years.
"Le Passage" is a hardy blend of 65% Syrah (de-stemmed) and 35% Carignan from Eric Laguerre's highest parcel (1,700 feet), on soils of decomposed granite. The grapes are pressed into fiber tank for fermentation with native yeasts, then aged in concrete with minimal added SO2. This cuvee is fuller-bodied than his "EOS Rouge," with the high-quality of his low-yielding Carignan on full display. Robust and rustic, with notes of blackberry, brown spice, plum and black currant on the nose which carry over to the palate. The slight citrus tang from the acid is delightful along with some soft tannins. This pairs fantastically with roast lamb, ribeye, and sheep cheeses.
Eric Laguerre's parcels for this cuvée are planted on plateaus fringed with flowering "ciste" bushes and wind swept trees. The Pyrénées loom in the distance and the afternoon sun reflecting off the decomposed granite gives his vineyards a sort of shimmering quality. Eric's bottling of "Le Ciste" is a faithful interpretation of each of these elements plus Syrah, Grenache, Carignan, and Mourvèdre - some de-stemmed and some fermented on whole-clusters, separately, then aged for a year in barrel before being blended together in fiber tank. The 2017 has all of the bold flavor and texture of grapes that were allowed to fully ripen without any worry about lost acidity. At his altitude and with the help of granitic soils, Eric has little reason to pick early; his wines are vibrant and always have a marvelous backbone of mineral acidity. This is his fullest wine, with rich tannins and brooding flavors of fresh thyme, black pepper, bitter chocolate, and blood orange buoyed by ripe cherry. And while this is a handy and humble "grab n' go" for barbecues, Moroccan-themed dinners, etc., this wine has all of the potential to make us giddy and glad that we saved a few for 2030. Amanda Bowman