Private Collection: Rhone and Friends

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Balthazar, Franck 2013 Cornas Chaillot

From organically farmed vines in the granitc soils of Chaillot, fermented with native yeasts, whole cluster, and aged in 600 liter casks. The 2013 has a dark robe with aromas of blackberry, violets, tree bark, black tea and pepper. The mid-weight palate offers flavors of wild blackberry, Italian plum, game, and a nearly saline earthiness from the granite. Though by no means a bruiser, this shows good density on the palate with fine (though certainly present) tannins and fresh acidity.  Enjoyable now, with decanting, this is poised, layered, and harmonious. Better still with 3 to 8 years in the bottle. Somewhat feminine for a Cornas from Chaillot, but truly delicious. John McIlwain

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Balthazar, Franck 2015 Cornas Chaillot

This is a great Cornas and certainly one of the best wines of this very good vintage in the Northern Rhône. Franck Balthazar is one of the few truly organic and natural producers in the region and, like the Gonons, he practices whole-cluster fermentations with wild yeasts and ages in old (5 years and older) large barrels. The "Chaillot" cuvée is from vines planted in 1914, with a small percentage from "Mazards" planted in 1960. There is an approximately 18 month elevage and the wine is bottle unfined and unfiltered with a small dosage of SO2. The 2015 shows old-vine intensity and terroir expression along with the beautiful ripeness of the vintage. The wine is a very deep red/black color with elegant aromas of blackberry and red currant  liqueur with violet, pepper, roast meat and earth,  The palate is intense and densely structured with mineral and black fruit flavors, black olive, graphite and licorice. Very elegant with perfect acidity and firm tannins with slightly bitter black fruits and mineral flavors in the long finish. This is a classic, unforced, unspoofilated Cornas that will age beautifully, best perhaps 2025 to 2040. Highly recommended.  David Lillie  The 2015 Chaillot from Balthazar displays the ripeness of the vintage, with pure black fruit  and violet aromas, with hints of Malabar peppercorn, garrigue, and game. The densely-fruited palate offers flavors of blackberry, ripe plum, and cassis, with savory notes of meat and granitic spice enveloping a vibrant core of minerality. The interplay of pure fruit, bright acidity, and firm, ripe tannins bodes well for long aging. This should be magnificent with 7-10 years in the cellar. A truly beautiful Cornas! John McIlwain

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Balthazar 2016 Cornas Casimir

One of the few "natural" winemakers in the northern Rhône, Frank Balthazar is certified organic and vinifies with wild yeasts and minimal sulfur, even producing a cuvée of Cornas without SO2. The Cuvée Casimir Balthazar is from 25% old vines in "Les Mazards" and younger vines in "La Légre." Balthazar's Cornas are aromatically beautiful with silky, pure fruit and terrific length and are never heavy or over-extracted. The 2016 Casimir shows a dense red/black color, with very fragrant blackberry, cassis aromas with violet and stone and hints of spice, quite exuberant and open for a 2016. The palate is supple, ripe and ready, lush and medium-bodied, with soft tannins surrounding lovely pure black fruits with a core of minerals, earth and berry fruits. This is extremely delicious now - drink over the next eight to ten years. DL

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Balthazar, Franck 2016 Cornas "Chaillot"

We're very happy to once again have Cornas from Franck Balthazar in the store - organic farming, no nonsense vinifications with low or zero sulfur - some of the best work in the Northern Rhone.  As we haven't gotten to the note, here's it is from our friend JLL at Drinkrhone  "There is sultry promise on the nose, airs of crushed black fruits, roast beef depth, keen lines of cassis-blueberry, a wee note of smoked bacon. There are great shafts of fine sunlight in the bouquet. The palate is coolly fruited, has real wavy elegance, is sumptuous and sustained, This is very belle (rather than beau), super fine, well balanced, comes with some tannic cut and depth, delivered with a velvet glove. The attack is up and live, holds great fruit; it lengthens with brio, has a finely mineral tune in closing, violets on the aftertaste. The mineral comes along by stealth. There is great transparency of terroir in this STGT Cornas. From mid-2020. 2034-36" "...great shafts of sunlight in the bouquet" I'll drink to that! (STGT stands for Soil To Glass Transfer!)

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Balthazar, Franck 2018 Cornas Casimir

One of the few "natural" winemakers in the northern Rhône, Frank Balthazar is certified organic and vinifies with wild yeasts and minimal sulfur, even producing a cuvée of Cornas without SO2. The Cuvée Casimir Balthazar is from 25% old vines in "Les Mazards" and younger vines in "La Légre." Balthazar's Cornas are aromatically beautiful with silky, pure fruit and terrific length and are never heavy or over-extracted. The 2018 Casimir Balthazar shows a dense red/black color, with elegant pure blackberry, cassis aromas with black olive, violet, smoke and stone and hints of spice, a bit closed from the recent bottling. The palate is dense and elegant, but not heavy, with firm tannins surrounding lovely pure black fruits with a core of minerals, earth and berry fruits. Beautiful wine - hold 3 to 5 years and drink till 2035. DL

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Balthazar, Franck 2018 Cornas Chaillot

We're very happy to once again have Cornas from Franck Balthazar in the store - organic farming, no nonsense vinifications with low or zero sulfur - some of the best work in the Northern Rhone.  As we haven't gotten to the note, here's it is from our friend JLL at drinkrhone.com: "dark red; licorice features in an ebullient nose, with cassis, blue fruit present, smoky notes. The palate funnels dark, cool fruits, cassis to the fore, with roasting, toasting, firm tannins, a hint of violet. Near the finish it shows it is structured, firm Cornas, with good, clear fruit central to it. The fruit is notably active on the first half. It’s raw, promising, will fill out over time, has beaten the vintage heat. It needs leaving for three years. 13°. Drink until 2045."

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Gilles, Guillaume 2010 Cornas

From 35 to 40 year-old vines in the upper part of Chaillot ("Les Grands Murs" having clay/limestone soils above a granite base, and "les Terasses" with soils of decomposed granite) with some 60 year-old vines in Mazards and Saveaux. Yields of 27 hl/ha in 2010. Whole bunch fermentation in concrete vats with wild yeasts, minimal attempts to extract. Aged in 4 to 14 year-old 600 liter and 400 liter casks, with one new (10% of total) in 2010. High-toned, focused aromas of blackberry, cassis and violet. Well-structured palate - deep and dense with bright acidity under black fruits. Great purity and focus with firm acidity and terrific length, this is an elegant racehorse of a Cornas that will be superb when mature. Best perhaps 2020 to 2030. DL

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Gilles, Guillaume 2012 Cornas Chaillot

While working for Robert Michel, Guillaume Gilles began with one-half hectare inherited from his grandfather in 2002 and then took over the 1.5 hectares of Robert Michel on Chaillot in 2007. As at Lionnet, the soils are worked by tractor and by hand without herbicides. Fermentations are whole-cluster with wild yeasts and last three weeks or more, at relatively low temperature due to the cold cellar. Minimal pumping over, manual cap punching, aged in 4 to 14-year-old 400 and 600-liter casks.Guillaume is fortunate to have superb terroir in the heart of Chaillot, with soils both of decomposed granite and of clay/limestone, giving a unique purity and saline minerality to his wines. The 2012 Gilles Cornas shows bright aromas of red currant, blackberry and blueberry fruit, floral and elegant with stone and musk. The high-toned aromas contrast with dense black fruits on the palate, surprisingly deep and ripe with a bit more alcohol than normal for this wine. Firm acidity and elegant tannins frame the long finish with minerals and bright fruits lingering on the palate. This is an excellent Cornas combining brightness and power, and built to age, best perhaps 2023 to 2030.

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Pichon, Christophe 2015 Côte Rôtie Promesse

2015 is an excellent vintage for Pichon's "Promesse" showing a shiny, very dark robe. The nose is still showing some oak with deep cassis-blueberry fruit. The palate produces savoury, rich content and ripe tannins. The fruit is very well struck and clear. This has proper structure, authority, excellent width and is now ready to drink (2021)  though it will improve over the next 5 years, drink until 2035. (thanks to www.drinkrhone.com)

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Chidaine 2013 Montlouis-sur-Loire Les Choisilles

Francois Chidaine has been one of the leading proponents of biodynamic farming in the Loire valley and has had a profound influence on the resurgence of Montlouis. Les Choisilles is vinified dry, from parcels of 30 to 90 year-old vines on clay and silica soils over limestone "tuffeau." The soils are plowed, beneficial plants grow in the rows and only organic composts are used. Fermentation of Les Choisilles can last up to six months, with wild yeasts, no malo-lactic, aging on the lees in large barrels. 2013 brought frost, unstable weather and very low yields, giving a tiny quantity of elegant, racy wines.Aromas of citrus peel, dried yellow fruits, lime-flower and stone. The palate is very mineral, with saline and citrus flavors, pear, stone and almond. Long and very crisp finish. Serve with sauteed shrimp, lobster, striped bass, cod, roast chicken and goat cheeses.

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Coudert (Clos de la Roilette) 2014 Fleurie Cuvee Tardive

From eighty year-old vines on clay and granite soil in Alain Coudert's beautiful Clos de la Roliette, 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. In the cavalcade of great Cuvee Tardives, the 2014 weighs in at 13% and shows a more weight and flesh than the racy and wonderful 2012, and a bit less structure than the 2010 (our favorite of recent vintages) and is brighter and more balanced than the monumental 2009. In other words, it's a fabulous wine that should be in the cellar of any lover of Beaujolais! The wine is a deep red/black color and shows fresh, high-toned aromas of blackberry liqueur, strawberry, violets, brown spice, licorice and grilled meats - really quite lovely. The palate is framed in stone and mineral flavors with firm acidity, with earthy dark fruits and an almost bitter finish of saline minerals and black fruits. This is a superb Tardive, very expressive of the manganese-rich soils and a lovely combination of beautiful floral/fruit aromas and a dark mineral-laden palate. Wait five to seven years, drink until 2030?

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Lapierre 2014 Morgon

Another amazing Morgon from Mathieu and Camille Lapierre! There's an underlying minerality and complexity to this wine that is perhaps overshadowed by the joyful, smile-inducing fruit that jumps out of the glass. Though a candidate for aging 3 to 5 years, this bottle rarely lasts longer than a day in my possession! serve lightly chilled. eben lillie

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Terres Dorées (Jean-Paul Brun) 2009 Moulin-à-Vent

From four hectares in "Maison Neuve" with another hectare soon to be added. The vines are 30 to 45 years old, the soil is "roche pourri" with a high manganese content. There is little vegetation as the sandy topsoil is crammed with stones. Here's John Gilman on the wonderful 2009 Moulin-a-Vent "...may well be the finest wine in his utterly profound portfolio of magical wines from this vintage. The bouquet is deep, pure and classically reserved... the palate is full-bodied, very pure and rock-solid to the core... the finish is very, very long, with ripe, perfectly integrated tannins and stunning grip and balance. Just a glorious young bottle of Moulin-a-Vent!" There was more, but you get the idea....

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Laval, Georges 2008 Champagne Cumières Premier Cru Les Chênes

Some wines are simply expressions of great terroir. If there’s a case to be made for particular Champagne vineyards being counted world class then Laval’s Les Chênes will be a part of that conversation. 100% Chardonnay, the 2008 Brut Nature keeps airy lightness and mineral power with an understated and graceful tension that morphs with time in a glass.

 

Micro-bubbles star an opulent golden color and carry up aromas of spearmint, honeysuckle, lemon blossom, sage, vanilla bean, black tea, and molasses. The palate floats and shifts effortlessly to offer tart Macintosh apple, Seville orange marmalade, and Graham crackers towards a caraway seed, all spice, and lemon mint finish. A gift for the contemplative sipper. David Salinas

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López de Heredia 2004 Rioja Tondonia Reserva

This is serious Rioja: no new oak, extended pre-release bottle aging, and exquisite vineyard sites (for the Tondonia, vines dig deep through fine-grained alluvial soils overlooking the Ebro River that were first planted almost 140 years ago).  Don Rafael López de Heredia y Landeta founded Lopez de Heredia in 1877, and the wines continue to serve as a benchmark for the region (the familyy business is now led mainly by his grandson Pedro, and great-granddaughter Maria Jose). The bodega comprises four distinct vineyard areas and extends to a total of 170 hectares, with Tondonia being the largest and most famous of the holdings. Jancis Robinson considers 2004  "a very good year, with wines that should last well," and the Tondonia Reserva is certainly that: powerful, lean, and layered  with gorgeous, generous fruit and all the cigar box, cedar, and leather notes a lover of classic Rioja could wish for.

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