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As we see availabilities getting smaller and prices getting higher - rapidly - in many of the most popular wine regions of the world, we return to the enduring quality and value to be found in the Loire Valley. Of course there are some new superstars (?) commanding Burgundy-like prices, but the majority of the top estates in the Loire remain available and affordable. These domains do everything right - (certainly not always the case in Burgundy or Bordeaux!) starting with organic or Biodynamic farming, hand-harvesting, fermentations with wild yeasts and aging with minimal intervention in steel, cement, amphora or used barrels. Not to mention the superb terroir, be it based on limestone, granit, gravel, shist or gneiss...
So here is a short list of current favorites, with a few new arrivals (Tue-Boeuf, Villemade, Yannick Amirault, Roches Neuves, Gilbert, Pellé) all of which are drinking beautifully now and many of which will cellar magnificently for ten to twenty years or more. Time to stock-up, before the gotta-have-it group invades the Loire!
Wines are in-store or in warehouse, please allow until Tuesday May 9th for pick-up or shipping.10% case/mixed case discount applies.
2018 brings us another great Cuvée Prestige from Stéphane Guion in Bourgueil, whose domaine has been certified organic since the 1960s. From vines averaging 45 years old on thin topsoils of sandy clay over limestone (tuffau jaune) in Benais, a terroir that produces some of the most elegant and age-worthy Bourgueils. 2018 is a great vintage for Loire reds, despite the very warm and humid spring that brought attacks of mildew. The summer was perfect, warm and dry, without spikes of heat, and the soils retained enough moisture to bring freshness to the very ripe grapes. Tasted with Stéphane in February 2020, the 2018 Prestige showed elegant intensely perfumed aromas of red and black fruit liqueurs. The palate was complex and earthy, very calcaire, dense but not heavy with beautifully supple ripe red and black fruits, with a long finish of saline and mineral flavors quite present below the sappy fruit. We look forward to a more thorough tasting after the wine rests from its voyage, but it's quite clear that this will be delicious to drink as a young wine, and - although it may seem crazy to cellar a $17 wine for 20 to 30 years - those that do will be rewarded with a unique expression of this great terroir. I'm hoping to live to be 100 to have that experience myself! David Lillie
(Arrives 5/9) Peu Muleau is located on the upper part of the hill in Bourgueil, just below the forest, on Cenozoic eolian sands with iron, clay and altered limestone tuffeau. The vines are around 35 years old, and farmed biodynamically. The maceration lasts less than 20 days. Aging is done in a mix of tank and large used barrels with less and less oak. This is the earliest drinking single-vineyard cuvée, always on the raspberry and wild violet with very supple tannins, but you can keep it up to 10 years without a problem. Peu Muleau is always more linear than Les Galichets - it does not have the same clay-gravel flesh, dancing on its feet with great elegance. The 2015 shows a bright red color and aromas that are more earth than fruit with subtle raspberry, strawberry, citrus and spice. The palate is a lovely blend of earth and red fruits, fairly tight but quite elegant with firm acidity and mineral flavors blending with raspberry and violet in the finish. Warning - not a fruit bomb and best suited to those who like some rocks in their wine. Best to decant or cellar 3 - 5 years. David Lillie
The delicious Chinon Vieilles Vignes of Patrick Lambert is from 55 - 60 year-old vines on sandy clay soils over limestone. Hand harvested and fermented with wild yeasts, as are all of Lambert's wines, the Vieilles Vignes gets 12 months of aging in old barrels. The wine shows a deep red/black color and ripe blackberry and strawberry aromas with pepper, earth and citrus. The palate is deep and ripe in 2018, showing earthy blackberry and strawberry compote with prune and bitter chocolate and firm structure. This is a complex, old-fashioned Chinon that will accompany roast chicken and anything off the grill, served a bit cool. Age for five to ten years for a mature experience. David Lillie
Le Clos Guillot is a beautiful south-east facing vineyard, just east of the town of Chinon, above the Clos de l'Olive and adjacent to Le Chêne Vert. The upper slope of the parcel is clay over limestone (the lower part has sand and gravel over the rock, which permitted a tiny separate production from franc de pied vines, now mostly deceased) and the vines are young, planted from 1993 to 2000. Fermentation in wooden cuves, 12 months of aging in three to ten year-old barriques, 9 additional months in unlined cement vats. We have been buying this wine since it's first production in 2000 – it's one of the most elegant and Burgundian of Chinons. It's become increasingly difficult to write superlatives about this wine, as each vintage since 2014 has been superb in it's own way. And now 2020, a vintage the Baudrys describe as having old fashioned aromas and freshness typical of Chinon in years past, with firm acidity permitting long-term aging. The wine shows subtle, pretty aromas of raspberry, strawberry, earth, violet and citrus with hints of meat and bitter chocolate, bright and high-toned. The palate is medium-bodied and earthy with a chalky texture and firm acidity. The berry fruits have nice density, light but persistent, merging with mineral flavors in the long and very food friendly finish. This is a beautiful wine for those who appreciate subtlety and earthiness in their Chinons, reminding me of 2012 and 2014. Serve now with monkfish or halibut, roast chicken and white meats. This will be a lovely, light-bodied mature wine in 10 to 20 years. David Lillie
(60% Pinot Noir, 40% Gamay grown on sandy clay and flint soils over limestone in Cellettes, Chitenay and Fougères sur Bièvre, AOC Cheverny; 15-day whole cluster fermentation, aged in old barrels) 2022 is another great vintage for this light and lovely Cheverny Rouge from Hervé Villemade, similar to 2018 and 2020 but perhaps a bit brighter, really lovelu! Slight reduction then very pretty aromas of plum, strawberry and blood orange with rose and white pepper; tart cherry and chalky raspberry/strawberry fruit on the palate, light but sappy and long with earthy citrus and berry fruits in the refreshing finish. This is a delightfully natural thirst-quenching red - serve cool with any chicken or pork dish, charcuterie and mild cheeses. DL
(Arrives 5/23) Les 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, despite their presence on the label, 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 perfumed and precise style than the granite cuvées (in 2021), although the wafting aromatics of crushed chalk and white peach feel familiar. The palate has a nice tension though, with a polished richness countered by a chalky oyster-shell freshness, with a white-peach purity. It is pervaded by a fine grip, with firm phenolics, and modest acidity."(winedoctor)
(Arrives June 13th) This sensational Cru Communal Clisson spent more than 2 years on the lees before bottling. Rémi Branger on the 2020 vintage "We harvested the 2020s very early, beginning on August 24th, it was a precocious vintage. Maturities advanced quickly but we were able to keep good freshness and some nice bitter notes that were missing a bit in 2018 and 2019." The 2020 Clisson, tasted last month in the Loire, is a great success featuring classic, vibrant aromas of almond, pear, citrus and stone, with a dense very mineral palate with subtle white fruits and a long bright stony finish. This will provide superb early drinking, especially with shellfish and baked cod or sole, but please put some away as 10 to 20 years of cellaring will create something special. David Lillie
(Arrives 8/22) From the estate's website: "This is the renaissance of a cuvée created by my great-grandfather - a dry wine from our oldest parcel, planted in 1945 on soils of silex noir and vinfied in our oldest foudres - old 'tonneaux' from Porto purchased by my grandfather. We're using the label from the 1950s as well as the name of the cuvée - the famous 'Buvéz du Bon Pinon.' The fermentation lasted 2 to 3 months with only wild yeasts, which participate in the effect of 'terroir.' The fermentation was stopped by chilling the juice, followed by a soutirage, the wine then aged for 5 months in the old tonneaux. Aging potential of 15 to 20 years, serve with shellfish, oysters, cold fish, vegetable terrines, choucroute de la mer, rillettes and rillons." 7 grams/liter RS, 13.5% alcohol. This superb and elegant Vouvray is quite a contrast from the more open and expressive 2020 Sec. The "Buvez du Bon Pinon" is all elegance and depth, but quite closed, and just slightly opening on day two. The aromas are deep and creamy with subtle white peach, quince, earth, almond and stone, really needs time... The palate is dense and full with white and yellow fruits blending with earth, almond, anise and mineral notes. The wine is showing density and perfect balance but will need many years to really emerge - like the Huet Le Mont Sec, for example, give it ten years before drinking if possible - or a 12 hour decant if drinking now. Of course it's delicious today but try to wait... David Lillie
(Arrives 8/22) François and Julien Pinon make some of the finest sparkling wines in the Loire Valley. The superb Brut Non-Dosé comes from 45 year-old Chenin Blanc vines on Turonien limestone with topsoils of clay with silex, from four parcels; Les Haut de Terne, Les Hauts de Mortiers, Chopet and Les Planches Favettes. The 2018 was hand-harvested in three passes in order to select the best grapes, with two additional selections - on a "table de tri" and again before the press. Thus the best and ripest grapes are selected, enabling this cuvée with no addition of sugar, as in a Champagne Brut Nature. Aged sur-lies for more than 3 years. This beautiful wine shows elegant aromas of ripe white and yellow fruits, floral and earthy with almond and bitter lemon. The palate is creamy and dense, round and ripe but with firm underlying acidity, with almond, earth and mineral notes lingering in the long finish. Enjoy it now for its beautiful depth and balance, but peak drinking will be 2032 - 2050. A profound Chamapgne of Chenin! David Lillie
The new Chevalerie cuvée "Noms D'Oiseaux" is from two parcels symbolic of the domain, each situated at the two extremities of the slope overlooking the Loire. “Nom d’Oiseaux” to warn of the urgent need to respect our biodiversity, not just false pretences but through real actions. At any rate, the 2019 is a subtle and intriguing Bourgueil showing a bright deep red/garnet color with fresh aromas of raspberry, violet, citrus and earth. On the palate there is firm acidity and chalky texture with ripe raspberry and strawberry fruit with mineral and spice notes. The fruit shows layers of complexity with aeration, the finish is long and sapid with red fruits and earth lingering on the palate. This is a lovely light-bodied Bourgueil that will beautifully accompany a roasted farm chicken. David Lillie
(Arrives 5/9) The Amirault "Les Malgagnes" is a superb and very cellar-worthy Saint-Nicolas de Bourgueil, coming from a parcel with thin clay soils over the Turonian lImestone. Certified organic since 2009, and currently run by Yannick Amirault and his son Benoit. While I have enjoyed tasting this wine over the last 25 years or so we have rarely offered it, ao we're glad to have the superb 2019 in stock. Here's a terrific note from our friend John Gilman in The View from the Cellar: The 2019 les Malganges - these vines are now fully fifty years of age and the cuvée these days is raised in two-thirds older oak puncheons and one- third in sandstone amphorae. The bouquet here is simply beautiful, showing plenty of old vine refinement in its blend of cassis, mulberry, menthol, cigar wrapper, dark soil tones, coffee bean and a touch of spicy oak. On the palate the wine is pure, full-bodied and shows lovely mid-palate depth, with ripe, buried tannins, excellent focus and balance and a long, complex and very promising finish. This seems politely balanced today with the tannins more suave and seamlessly integrated into the body of the wine. It will need plenty of time to be ready to drink, but will be a fine bottle once it reaches cruising altitude."
(Arrives May 9) Chateau de Coulaine is one of the very best estates in Chinon, with a long history dating back to 1300! The domain has been certified organic since 1997 and is now run by the young and very capable Jean de Bonaventure. Coming from 30-year old organically farmed Cabernet Franc vines planted on yellow limestone and sandstone, with sandy clay soils, the 2020 "Bonaventure" showed beautifully tasted recently in Angers - it's a superb Chinon to drink now and over the next 5 to 10 years. In this great vintage for Loire reds, the wine shows lush blackberry, plum, earth and spice aromas with a dense, supple palate of black fruits, earth and saline minerals, with terrific length. Meant to be drunk young, the wine shows surprising depth and elegance with the refreshing brightness one finds in good Chinon. A serious wine at a reasonable price - Serve cool with grilled foods, roast chicken and charcuterie, open well in advance if possible. David Lillie
Back in stock, not much left! The Baudry Chinon "Domaine" is always one of our favorite reds from the Loire Valley and it's a sensational value as well. All Cabernet Franc of course, a blend of 75% from a parcel in St. Louans, where the thin clay over limestone soils give earthy well-structured wines, with 25% from gravel soils near Cravant, giving supple fruit and freshness. Organic farming, wild-yeast fermentation, aging in 5 to 10 year-old wooden vats and cement with almost no added SO2. The 2020 shows a pretty red/black color with bright rim. The aromas are quite floral and bright, a pretty melange of boysenberry, black raspberry and tart cherry, very pure with hints of earth and pepper. The palate is supple, sapid and ripe and the tannins are firm. At 13% alcohol, the balance seems perfect. Firm acidity and mineral flavors are mostly hidden under the beautiful melange of ripe red and black fruits. This is a beautiful "Cuvée Domaine" that is sensational now, served slightly cool, and that will cellar ten years and more due to the firm acidity. We loved the rather brawny 2019 which needs a few more years to drink at its best - drink the 2020 while you wait but put some away as well. Very highly recommended, and thanks to the Baudrys for producing such honest and soulful wines. David Lillie
The Roches Neuves Cuvée Domaine is grown on limestone bedrock with sandy clay topsoil, the vineyard is lightly plowed, with natural grass cover. The grapes are hand-picked into wooden crates,There is a low temperature fermentation, warming slowly and followed by aging on the fine lees without sulfur. This is as classic as can be, little hints of red and black berries wrapped in purple flowers with a clay-y salty finish. This is beautiful now and will reward multiple visits over the next few years.
(Arrives 5/9) 100% Cabernet Franc. The vieilles vignes in this case are estate vines ranging from 50 to 100 years old and scattered across a range of parcels on clay-limestone soils. The farming is certified-organic and is in conversion to biodynamics (on track for certification in the 2021 vintage). This new release of the Filliatreau "Vieilles Vignes" is a beautiful Cab Franc that can be enjoyed immensely now or in 15 to 20years. Bright black/red color with lovely aromas of ripe cassis, black raspberry, dusty stone, a bit of leather. The palate is lush and deep with a chalky texture and firm acidity beneath the black raspberry, cassis and black cherry fruit that is sapid, meaty and ripe. Long finish with dark chocolate, minerals, licorice, walnut and palate coating black fruits. Really lovely wine. Decant if drinking now, best after 3 to 4 years of cellaring then enjoy until 2040+. David Lillie
50% Pinot Noir, 50% Gamay from small parcels of clay and flint soils over limestone of Blois. "Rouillon" is our favorite red from Cheverny, always delicate and pretty even in ripe years like 2018 - 2020 - 2022, showing bright, floral tart plum, raspberry and wild strawberry aromas with citrus and earth. The palate is ripe and sappy with wild strawberry, plum skin, earth and spice. The finish is long with citrus and mineral flavors and a bit of tannin. Irresistible now, this should be very interesting after a few years in the cellar. Zero or minimal SO2. (Only a few cases are available)
(Arrival May 9) The 2019 "Clos des Molières" is from 30 year-old Chenin Blanc vines in a mid and upper slope parcel of thin clay and silex soils on limestone, yields of 25 hl/ha, certified organic with biodynamic methods as well, fermented and aged in 2 year-old 400 liter barriques. After one year, the wine is assembled in barrel or cuve and ages for an additional 6 months, followed by a minimum of 6 months in bottle before commercialization. The wine shows subtle aromas of almond, lemon verbena, dried pear, apricot and apple, chalk and stone. The palate is full and dense but vibrant with a chalky texture and subtle, complex white and yellow fruits, citrus, and almond, scintillating and long. It's a wine of contemplation that will open up nicely with time. Serve now with a mildly flavored ceviche, grilled fish, white meats and goat cheesees or hold for ten+ years. This is a lovely Jasnières, bravo to Sébastien Cornille. David Lillie
Hervé Villemade's 2022 Sauvignon Blanc showed beautifully tasted last February in Angers - the wine really hits the spot with classic Loire Valley aromas of exotic tropical fruit and invigorating flavors of lemongrass, ripe pear, and nectarine. The palate is supple and quite ripe in 2022 but remains balanced with a flinty, mineral quality that adds a refreshing tang and texture to this versatile wine. Perfect for sipping on a warm day with a variety of foods, I like this with grilled shrimp garnished with snap peas and summer vegetables.
Philippe Gilbert makes beatiful wines in Menetou-Salon, which abuts Sancerre, including lovely rosé and red from Pinot Noir and superb Menetou-Salon blanc from Sauvignon Blanc, certified Biodynamic by Demeter. The living soils are evident in this lovely wine, showing elegant aromas of pear, fig, citrus peel, lime flower, anise and stone. The palate is very mineral with firm chalky acidity unerlying pear, almond, citrus, stone and herbal flavors. This is a great pairing with any mild fish preparation and goat cheeses and it's far superior to Sancerres in this price range.
The Pellé Menetou-Salon "Les Blanchais" is from a single vineyard of massale selection vines planted in 1966. The soils are clay and silex over Kimmeridgian limestone as in Chablis and in the commune of Chavignol in Sancerre. Like the best wines of Chavignol, the "Les Blanchais" is vibrant and delicious as a young wine and will develop beautifully in the cellar for ten years or more. Paul-Henry Pellé farms the vines organically ferments the wines with native yeast and in the case of the parcellaires, élévage is a combination of barrels, foudre, and tank. The wines display a deft balance of ripeness, soil signature, and vivacity. And though they are delicious young, a bottle squirreled away for a few years will delight as the gorgeous fruit knits with the undercurrent of chalky minerality within. Open this a bit in advance if possible - cellar for 3-5 years and I imagine this will shine.