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Thanks to a tip from our friend Éric Texier, we have just received a shipment of sensational Poiré (pear cider) and Cidre (apple cider) from the talented Jérome Forget at the Ferme de L'Yonnière in Normandy.
"I am a peasant" says Jérome. "When I arrived at the Ferme de L'Yonnière in 1993, there were already orchards with some trees being 200 years old. It was obvious to me to keep these orchards and plant others. These are pasture-orchards. My cows graze under the trees and contribute to the maintenance of the orchard. There is perfect synergy between animals and fruit production (pears for Poiré and cider apples)" (This was common in the US until the 20th century - many farms in New England grew apples and pears in pastures with sheep or cows. This practice is being revived in vineyards aorund the world)
"My work is inspired by traditional processes. The fruits receive no treatment and are picked from the ground by hand. I use heirloom varieties that I try to highlight by exploring the association of different varieties blended together, as well as single variety cuvées. It also seems important to me to try to move away from the traditional image of cider or poiré: this somewhat old-fashioned image that we all too often have of a drink intended to be served with crèpes. Each variety of fruit has its specificity and I like, when preparing my cuvées, to associate the fruity side with astringency, which goes perfectly with fish, seafood and also cheese."
Ferme de L'Yonnière is just south of Domfront in Brittany, east of Mont Saint-Michel and has about 15 hectares of pasture and fruit trees. The region has been known for pears since about the 11th century (before apples) with perhaps a million high-branched trees in the Domfront area supplying pears and poiré to mostly local markets. The most important product, however, was brandy distilled from the poiré, much of it illegal, which went to bistros throughout France. The law caught up with the smugglers and in the 1960s thousands of the tall old trees were uprooted to make way for corn fields, or to provide the beautiful wood to furniture makers. To stem this decline, Jerome Forget and a handful of other growers banded to together to create the Poiré Domfront AOC/AOP bringing recognition to the oustanding quality of this unique local product, which was granted in 2002. The rules are strict - only the highest quality poiré pears may be used from the high-branching trees, including at least 40% of the distiinctive "Plant de Blanc," the pears must be picked from the ground when mature after falling from the tree, and the fermentations must be without additives with only naturally produced effervescence.
Jérome's "Cuvée Domfront" and the single-orchard "Champ de Poirier" are primarily "Plant de Blanc" but as noted above, Jérome likes to feature other superb old varieties in single-pear ciders such as the "Vinot" and "Fossey" on offer today.
"Vinot, a particularly ancient variety mentioned in writings from the 16th century, offers Thorn-like starbursts of gooseberry, rhubarb and yellow, lemony fruit. Fossey, Jérôme’s favourite variety, has the haunting aroma of rose bushes on a hot day" - Adam Wells in Cider Review
Our tasting with Jerome in France last winter, and re-tasting the Poirés last week, confirms that this tiny region of tall old trees is producing ciders that are truly unique in the world and that are sensationally delicious! They have the qualities of complex, refreshing sparkling wines and are great food pairings with a wide variety of cuisines, especially shellfish, seafood and cheeses. Representing only about 1% of Normandy's cider production, Poiré Domfront - and particularly those of Jérome Forget - belong in your fridge and on your table on a regular basis. We sincerely thank Jerome and the small group of other producers (only about 20 in total) that have preserved these beautiful trees and saved the pasture/orchards of Domfront from destruction. (And we thank Adam Wells of the Cider Review for his excellent articles on the history and Poirés of Domfront)
We recommend a mixed case and offer a 10% discount on 12 bottles. The Poirés are in our store and warehouse, please allow until Friday, September 8th for pick-up or shipping. (These are entirely natrual products - some bottles will have sediment and some will have varying degrees of pressure. Best to open over a sink! But all will be delicious!)
(CSW price $12.99) The 2021 Ferme de L'Yonnière "Cidre Paysan" is made from three heirloom apple varieties, Marie Ménard, Fréquin Rayé and Fréquin Rouge, grown in Jérome Forget's pasture/orchards near Domfront, Brittany. Deep gold color, complex aromas of ripe fruit, smoke, orange marmalade, earth and caramel. The palate is smoky and earthy, slightly sweet, with a full, soft mousse and flavors of apricot, minerals and citrus and bitter notes that continue on the long finish. This is not for everyone perhpas, but with a full-flavored cheese, seared scallops, smoked bluefish....yum! DL
Made from 3 varieties of pear, mostly Plant de Blanc, with Pomera and Gaubert, the Domfront shows elegant citrus, white flower and pear aromas, earthy, pure and bright. The palate is creamy and round, very dry with mineral and earth notes under the very fresh white fruits with notes of verbena and herbs. The finish is long, delicate and refreshing, just delicious! (Note - recently bottled, the cork is hard to extract, pliers may be needed, but this beautiful Poiré is worth the effort!) This will beautifully accompany your Thanksgiving meal, even the pies...David Lillie
(CSW price $16.99) The Ferme de L'Yonniere 2022 "Vinot" is a tiny production Poiré made primarily from this ancient variety of pear, along with "Plant de Blanc" and "Pomera." No added SO2, 6.5% alcohol. This elegant Poiré shows a very pale gold color with aromas of dried pear, citrus zest, rubarb, white pepper and wet stone. The mousse is fine and delicate with the palate showing intriguing herbal and citrus notes with great purity and depth - no SO2 added! - with a nice bitter acidity in the finish making this a great "food wine." This beautiful Poiré disappeared instantly when put on the table with some grilled tuna and garden veggies last week, reminding me a bit of the aligoté of De Moor. Enjoy - serve with oysters, says Jérome! We say serve at Thanksgiving! David Lillie
The Ferme de L'Yonnière "Fossey" is made only from this heirloom variety grown on high-branching trees, on Jerome Forget's estate near Domfront. No added SO2, 5.5% alcohol. This loevly Poiré shows vibrant aromas of tangerine, lemon peel, pear, white pepper and lemon verbena, quite fresh and unique. The mousse is soft and creamy with earth, mineral, pear, herbal and citrus flavors.. Less vibrant than the aromas - subtle, pure and round with soft tannins, lemony acidity and a bit of spice in the finish. This is a beautiful aperitif, and a great match for oysters, grilled fish and goat cheeses. Serve well chilled in a white wine glass. David Lillie
From the Champ de Poirier orchard, single variety Plant de Blanc. Pale gold color, nose of very ripe pear with stone, earth and caramel. the palate is round with a soft mousse, creamy and ripe wth notes of earth, almost meaty, with citrus peel and spice in the finish. Note - there was some sediment and our sample was a bit explosive on opening - best to open over the sink! Another bottle was perfect, complex and deep, the favorite of the tasting...