Trail blazing in Prince Edward County

It was December of 2016 when I last sat down to taste with Mackenzie Brisbois of Trail Estate Winery. With the first year anniversary of her inaugaral wine release having recently passed and the 2017 (Prince Edward) County in the City tasting coming up this Thursday, it seems as good a time as ever to revisit and publish my tasting notes on her multifarious ’15s. I had previously tasted a 2015 group of skin-contact riesling and sauvignon blanc in April 2016.

Related – No County for old wines

Brisbois’ concentration bordering on infatuation incites a summons to contest with the fruit reaped out of two Niagara vineyards, one farmed by Ed Hughes on the Lincoln Lakeshore and the other by Craig Wismer from his Wismer Vineyards Foxtrot Block on the Twenty Mile Bench. While time develops Trail Estate’s plantings in Prince Edward County and the fruit that will eventually come, these iconic Niagara Peninsula plots more than suffice and for what Trail Estate needs to say today. In fact I don’t envision Mack Brisbois moving on from these two sites any time soon, what with her triumvirate expressions focused on skin contact, wild ferments and barrel aging. It seems that riesling, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc, these vineyards and the Brisbois experimental style were all made for one another.

Which elicits my response to the question you are chomping at the bit to ask. Come on I know it’s what you are thinking. Why are these wines so expensive? Why pay $25-$35 for Niagara fruit bottled in Prince Edward County? Why pay a premium for speculative and probationary wines from a small up and coming estate not yet on the commercial radar? For any Ontario wine for that matter? These are all good, valid and ignorant questions.

First of all, these wines are made in minuscule quantities by a small group of passionate, risk-taking, acumen-exceptional people. The fruit is expensive, whether it travels three hours east from Niagara or not. Great winemakers to be have to hone their craft on something while they wait for their own gardens to grow. A rock star in waiting will earn stripes by purchasing fruit and turning water in wine. Most important to remember is the honesty of what’s inside their bottles, how in spite of their experimental nature they are so f-in clean, pure and drinkable. It’s also amazing to note that Brisbois is fully cognizant (and readily forthright) about the mistakes she made (and allowed others to make) in growing, fermenting and finishing these wines and how she would correct them going forward. These wines represent just the tip of her proverbial winemaking iceberg, of what’s to come when she gets really, really good at this. Not that she isn’t already but risks, mistakes and epiphanies will all combine and conspire to lead her and her labels to greatness. Are you reading me?

Here are the six wines tasted with Brisbois on that early winter’s day.

Trail Estate Chardonnay Musqué Foxcroft Vineyard 2015, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $32.00, WineAlign)

The sourcing is 100 per cent Niagara fruit that was previously allotted to the estate’s Vintner’s Weiss, here with six months extra wait time (in very old 500L barrels). Typically potpourri floral with lemon zest spritz in the air but also masculine musky. Not so strong like the passing herd of Ovibos moschatus but it’s there. The palate is all tight turns down tart alleys, fleshy and rippling. The textural breadth is key to keeping this Musqué from turning medicinal because a return to the aromatics finds expression in language often spoken by gewürztraminer or viognier. The talk of Muscat, or Musqué. There were 64 cases produced. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted December 2016

Trail Estate Riesling Barrel Ferment Foxcroft Vineyard 2015, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario (Winery, $28.00, WineAlign)

Mackenzie Brisbois spins some old world order on her riesling from Niagara’s Foxcroft Vineyard. It begins like every other in stainless steel but is then transferred to old 500L and 225L barrels, travels over the full malolactic threshold and is finally bottled unfiltered. This is not exactly a rogue approach but it is certainly throwback experimental. Is it an atypical, mad scientist outtake? Perhaps. But it is less unusual than her previous skin-contact series, invisibly stitched and tart-pan curl rieslings. In 2015 there is an amalgamated, pretty little funk, and lemon like you’ve not nosed before. At once expectedly oaky (in an old way) but now settling down, beautifully arid, preparing the nest for a life of comfort. The stoic nature of riesling is acclimatized with a meagre 1.5 g/L of RS and indiscernible sulphur. Was bottled in November. Timbered Trocken at its finest. A total of 125 cases produced. Drink 2016-2022.  Tasted December 2016

Trail Estate Chardonnay Unfiltered 2015, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $32.00, WineAlign)

A blend of vineyards, from Ed Hughes and (Wismer) Foxcroft, perhaps with some influence under the lingering auspices of the Norman Hardie school, here in the playful and progressive hands of Mack Brisbois. Mackenzie employs no sulphur at processing, allowing for chardonnay efficacious and liberally oxidized, settled, cold stabilized, non bentonite-affected, chilled and racked. Not lost is the ever-commented process of going at it with wild ferment, but also caution thrown to the wind via no temperature control (but yes on the Hughes fruit), with the final end game in search of and wanting a fruity Chablis side. Done up in half stainless plus 50 old 500L and two 225L barrels. The sulphur was added in October, the full malo achieved and then bottled in November. All of this technical mumbo-jumbo to say there is still quite a creamy, leesy, oaky feeling but like some others in Niagara (Robyn’s Block, Oliveira and Aberdeen) it totes great palate texture and a “fruitiness,” but it’s not fruity. It may not recreate the Chablis fruit to mineral purity but it is a righteous, proper and Niagara purity fashioned in PEC. There are 266 Cases. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted December 2016

Trail Estate Riesling Wild Ferment Ed Hughes Vineyard 2015, VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Ontario (Winery, $28.00, WineAlign)

This off-dry riesling was de-stemmed and steeped under 24 hours of skin contact, pressed and wikked by wild ferment. “Stopped on taste” notes winemaker Mackenzie Brisbois which turned out to be off-dry, at 19 g/L of RS. The skin contact confuses the perceived sugar levels “so if the mark was breached, so be it. I just realy liked where it was at.” Besides, the wine did it’s own thing, essentially, by and by and in presentation of itself. A very Mosel nose with no aromatic sweetness really and acidity to temper the sugar crawling across the palate. Carries a concrete feeling despite the stainless regimen and nary a tropical fruit or custardy cream moment intrudes. The orchard meets late August Niagara stone fruit is all that concerns. Darn delicious riesling. There were 120 cases made. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted December 2016

Trail Estate Baco Nouveau 2016, Ontario (Winery, $25.00, WineAlign)

More than OK I must say about this baco noir of resolute and absolute crush ability. Whether against or not against her will I cannot say but Mackenzie Brisbois must be the first to commercialize the musky and foxy hybrid in such a way, with carbonic maceration plus yeasts for eight days and the sugar arrested at at 5 g/L. TE released this antithetical BN on on Nouveau day but there were only 30 cases made. It is without a doubt the prettiest of nouveau and of all the bacos ever. There is no fizz, no re-ferment and it is very drinkable. A stable, dark fruit vetted, better than many gamay, thirst-quenching drink. A South African Jurgen Gouws Intellego meets Jacques de Klerk Thirst by way of baco noir in Prince Edward County. Fun, juicy, easy. Well done. Drink 2016.  Tasted December 2016

Trail Estate Cabernet Franc Foxcroft Vineyard 2015, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Barrel Sample)

Not bottled yet, this mason jar barrel sample is from a Wismer single-vineyard (Foxcroft). It will be pulled from (one new of six and the rest 13s and 14s) barrels this coming week but as of yet unsulphured it already has that slightly sulphured and coarse filtered feeling. Beautiful dark fruit has aromatically blossomed from being open a few days and this really speaks of of that rarely achieved Niagara cabernet franc imposiibility.  Soil-clay funky, so pure and precise. Carries that feign of sweetness, low alcohol, depth but so not heavy and plenty of spice. There will be 100-120 cases. $30ish.

This extrospective @TrailEstateWine #cabernetfranc ’15 by @MackBrisbois…wait for it.

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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Thirteen ways to taste Cuvée

Less than 24 hours after touching down at Pearson following a trip to Germany for ProWein (plus excursions through the Rheinhessen and Ahr Valley) I find myself in comfortable surroundings. Knotting a tie with Niagara Falls tumbling as it is always wont to do while in other proximate places Niagara’s wine folks get cleaned up real good, all of us ready to gather for Cuvée 2017. A grand affair.

The 29th annual Cuvée was indeed held last Friday, March 24 with the Grand Tasting at the Scotiabank Convention Centre in Niagara Falls. Organized by Brock University’s Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI), Cuvée presents an essential cross-section of Ontario VQA wines while also raising thousands of dollars to fund academic scholarships and research. A count of 750 guests were in attendance along with 48 participating local VQA wineries and celebrated regional chefs.

Chef Justin Lesso, Kitchen 76 at Two Sisters Winery, Roasted eggplant and zucchini caponata with sultanas, whipped ricotta, toasted pine nuts and sweet balsamic on crostini

Congratulations to the Cuvée award winners for 2017

Cuvée Vineyard of Excellence Award: Grower Gerald Klose, Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Tony Aspler Cuvée Award of Excellence: Wine journalist Ian D’Agata.

VQA Promoters Award for Lifetime Achievement:  Toronto restaurateur Roberto Martella, Grano.

VQA Promoters Award for Education: Barb Tatarnic, Brock University.

VQA Promoters Award in the LCBO: Melissa McFadden, Owen Sound.

VQA Promoters Award for Hospitality: Sommelier Mike Fish, Glassroots Restaurant in London.

VQA Promoters Award in Retail: Brian Hanna, sommelier at Huff Estates Winery in Prince Edward County.

VQA Promoters Award for Media: Angela Aiello, iYellowWineclub.

The Cuvée Scholarship winners are:

Cuvée Hosting Award for Academic Excellence: Jacob Johnsson-Werner

Cuvée Award for Academic Excellence: Stephanie Van Dyk

Cuvée Award for Academic Excellence in OEVC: Hannah Lee

Cuvée Graduate Scholarship: Jennifer Kelly

Scotiabank Centre chefs

New signage showed the way to 47 winery participants divided into a six-pack of of design, “hazarding all ones chances,” to seek and to find. Luckily I found my way, with ease, to divide, conquer and taste many wines. 

I’ve reviewed 13 from the Cuvée Grand Tasting. Here are the notes.

Megalomaniac Chardonnay My Way 2015, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $24.95, WineAlign)

A new order for chardonnay begins at Megalomaniac with winemaker Sébastien Jacquey now doing things his way. Lyrically speaking, a once buttery and brain freeze style of Megalomaniac chardonnay is now made My Way. The song reference is via Paul Anka (also interpreted through Frank Sinatra and Sid Vicious) but here turning with learned impression into Jacquey’s way. The bite into crunchy green apple and tart russet sting is more than cool, it’s downright intense. The pulsating, ebullient pop burst is techno chardonnay at its finest, melodic and built on sonic texture. My Way reminds more of Temptation, “heaven, a gateway, a hope, just like a feeling inside, it’s no joke.” There is great ripeness from warm St. David’s Bench fruit a bit less mineral so conversely eased away from oak. Also easy on the stirring of lees, to keep the purity, clarity and as Séb notes “we are always trying to listen to nature.” Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted March 2017  @MegalomaniacJHC

Tripping the #sauvignonblanc light fantastic @StratusWines @CreeksideWine “come and trip it as ye go / On the light fantastic toe.” #imaginative #cuvèe #cuvee2017 #skippedthelightfandango #whitershadeofpale #buthecrowdcalledoutformore

Creekside Estates Reserve Sauvignon Blanc Creekside Estate Vineyard 2013, VQA Creek Shores, Ontario (53371, $26.95, WineAlign)

Four months is an eternity in sauvignon blanc development and what was is not any more. Here again, “Ooo there I stand neath the Marquee Moon, hesitating.” Now some of the finest and most intelligently rendered spice you are ever likely to get from a bite anywhere in the SB diaspora is tasted. Effectively intense as it was not last fall, Creekside’s 50 per cent wood-aged ’13’s “life in the hive puckered up my night.” The risk is now rewarded. Last tasted at Cuvée with Yvonne Irving, March 2017  @CreeksideWine  @CellarMonkey  @PetiteOenophile  @AMH_hobbsandco

Of more worthy extraction and calculated tropical aromatics, the Reserve rendition of Creekside’s backyard vineyard play is deeply juicy and spiked with natural tonic. This wine makes full use of the slow, let it hang 2013 vintage and its dry, cloud covered temper. There are herbs and lime juice stirred into the cocktail and flavour does not pass by at a fleeting premium. This has richness and tangy appeal. The wish would be for more acidity but isn’t that always the case? Drink 2016-2019. Tasted November 2016

Stratus Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Niagara On The Lake, Ontario (Winery, $29.00, WineAlign)

Welcome to new adventures in hifi, J-L Groux-Stratus Vineyards-sauvignon blanc style. “Here it comes (and) I’m carried away” by the utter freshness and positively optimistic nature of the grape and its potential off of Niagara-on-the-Lake vineyards. Groux employed two Sancerre clones, 317 and 530, the former antiKiwithetical and the second more Loire obvious. Picked early straight out of REM sleep (for Stratus) though always loyal to aromatics, the crisp green apple bite is striking in a cool-climate designated white void of chive, grapefruit and green veg. The fitness, finesse and fineness really show on the palate, direct, fresh and very long. Speaks to the organoleptic language of taste. Could have very well been dubbed The Departure. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted at Cuvée, March 2017  @StratusWines

Fielding Estate Sparkling Rosé, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $29.95, WineAlign)

Fielding takes flight into traditional method, blush sparkling territory with this decidedly off-dry, fruit-driven, round and drinkable Rosé. Primarily 2013 based from pinot noir (84 per cent) and chardonnay (16) that spent up to 24 months on the lees. It’s habitual strawberry evidence and faint black cherry subtlety meet at the interstices of (13 g/L) of residual sugar, inviting and jacketing acidity. This is rose spectral, chaste stylish fizz to initiate Fielding’s investigation that will only become more and more complex. You’ll have to make a trip to Fielding if you want one, that or a reservation at Treadwell or Backhouse. All good options. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted at Cuvée, March 2017  @FieldingWinery  @RichieWine  @Heidi_Fielding

Adamo Oaked Chardonnay Wismer Foxcroft Vineyard 2014, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $29.95, WineAlign)

Nine months later and without the blind tasting arrangement it is Adamo’s chardonnay that once again directs the discourse. This second vintage and first solo record from B.C. native and winemaker Shauna White is a risk-taking, tart, fruit major, reductive minor virtuoso effort. It’s fresh, crisp, crunchy, pure, cooled down, off and out chardonnay. It’s also a classic Wismer-Foxtrot rendering interpreted with troubadour-diva talent. Chardonnay to “bring you apples from the vine,” so “run the bath and pour the wine.” Makes me anything but down.  Last tasted at Cuvée 2017, March 2017  @AdamoEstateWine

Really effective actuality, from barrel for couverture and bite, through texture by lees and with inhalant because of the mineral play. This has it all going on. The middle palate is so beautifully filled in, the spice and smokiness just a mild, intoxicating smoulder. Lovely stuff and terrific length. Drink 2016-2021.  Tasted blind at #NWAC16, June 2016

Thirty Bench Vineyards Small Lot Riesling Steel Post Vineyard 2014, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario (Winery, $30.00, WineAlign)

The pattern forming from riesling in 2014 out of Niagara is coming into clear, linear focus and with great hyperbole from this single-vineyard Thirty Bench. True to its vineyard nature nomenclature Steelpost is apropos of steel pulse beats and smoky to flinty intensity. It has been many vintages since this type of Steelpost showing and methinks it the kind of wine so misunderstood in its youth. Riesling that cuts like a knife, right through fruit and gets right to the mineral heart of the matter. It’s like walking on a tightrope, “just, just take a look and see, yeah. I’d wait two years before digging a little deeper. A future of flesh and bone awaits. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted at Cuvée, March 2017

Adamo Oaked Pinot Noir Lowrey Vineyard 2014, VQA St. David’s Bench, Ontario (Winery, $34.95, WineAlign)

Adamo’s second vintage takes a small but important step forward with reasons threefold by way of explanation. The first is fruit one year older, still a toddler relatively speaking but beginning to express itself with opinion and determination. Second is the baton and torch transfer from PEC set up man Jonas Newman to incumbent winemaker Shauna White. Third is simply Howard and Wes Lowrey’s Vineyard. This hallowed ground for Adamo is an allotted St. David’s Bench section as a gift with one stipulation. Don’t mess it up. With abide to terroir and essential tenets followed, this ’14 drinks as it should, rich, unctuous and tenuously structured. The spice is quite up front, dancing cheek to cheek with the precocious fruit. The continuance moves through a central vortex and into the back halls, carrying noticeable tannin down its dry and savoury descent. Might want to wait one more year. How is it this vineyard is able to speak regardless the maker? Only the one who knows his or her rows can answer the question. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted at Cuvée, March 2017  @AdamoEstateWine

2027 Cellars Pinot Noir Queenston Road Vineyard 2013, VQA St. David’s Bench, Ontario (421370, Was $35.00, Now $28.25, WineAlign)

This is one of those wines you need to revisit. The 70 per cent whole berry and 18 months in wood give it this posit tug between carbonic restlessness and organza texture. The flavours are now developing out of the tobacco road nose, into flanked borscht boullion distilled, like aqua vitae with cinnamon, Szechuan pepper and cardamom spice.  Tasted at Cuvée, March 2017  @2027cellars  @TheVine_RobGroh

Bright, high-toned Pinot Noir with rambling warm, St. David’s Bench red fruit aromas, out of the raspberry patch (thorns and thistles in) and off of the ripening pomegranate tree. Some rusticity and quarried character refracts within a mild tannic frame. Very floral and high on acidity. Blissfully and blessedly not over pressed and in fact rather well made. Yet another success employed by winemaker Kevin Panagapka with stylistic firm talon grip from out of the Queenston Road Vineyard. Drink 2016-2020. Tasted February 2016 and March 2017

Trius Showcase Chardonnay Wild Ferment Oliveira Vineyard 2014, VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Ontario (Winery, $36.20, WineAlign)

With fruit from the Niagara chardonnay mecca Oliveira Vineyard and the addendum of yet another stellar varietal vintage it is this Craig McDonald speciality that helps to steal the show. Striking out with near-raging acidity (pushing and possibly exceeding the 8 g/L mark) the Wild Ferment is one of the most formidable expressions of 2014, if not ever. All the moving parts work fervently and impressively as if the motor is running and the machine careening around the speedway. To keep composure it is texture that brings about grounding, balance and cadence, from obvious lees perfection and 30 per cent new wood plus the rest forged by two to five year old barrels. This is creamy, energetic and tannic chardonnay, all conspiring to express itself with both weight and poise. From a maker who’s been around the block a few times, the ’14 WF will go the distance. And you can start now. Drink 2017-2024.  Tasted at Cuvée, March 2017  @TriusWines  @PellerVQA

Ravine Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2015, VQA Niagara On The Lake, Ontario (Winery, $35.00, WineAlign)

The designation is NOTL and the fruit is a fifty-fifty draw from Niagara River along with less sandy estate soils. The fruit came is nicely warm, in the geek-noted 22.5-23.5 brix level, now double fast-forwarded to the spring of 2017 after its initial nine months in barrel. The frame is classic cabernet sauvignon, no matter the origin, housing and because of beautiful peninsula fruit. Twenty-five percent of the wood is texture giving and spice lifting atop blueberry, blackberry and Cassis. This is ripe but in retention of its acids with the creamy vanilla anglaise consistency only really felt at the finish. Only then. Tidy little $35 red from Marty Werner and Ben Minaker. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted at Cuvée, March 2017  @RavineVineyard  @marty_werner  @BMinaker23

Colaneri Estate Winery Insieme 2013, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $39.95, WineAlign)

Insieme is built around and upon a foundation of high quality vintage conditioned merlot (36 per cent) with (31) cabernet sauvignon, (19) cabernet franc and (14) syrah. The fruit is subjected to 100 per cent appassimento processing, turning smooth, ambient, atmospheric, “e petto a petto, noi respiriamo insieme.” This is Niagara’s cinema paradiso red blend, composed with Morricone classicism in ode to Amarone. Two years in second pass cigar barrels brings the smoke and the smoulder, syrah adds a peppery jolt and dusty merlot turns into raspberry purée because the appassimento makes it that way. With sugar and acidity equally running high there is a knowing balance in 2013, a silken palate and the structure to see it age. If nothing else, even at 15 per cent alcohol it achieves one thing. “Solamente amore.” Drink 2018-2022. Tasted at Cuvée, March 2017  @ColaneriWinery

Tripping the #sauvignonblanc light fantastic @StratusWines @CreeksideWine “come and trip it as ye go / On the light fantastic toe.” #imaginative #cuvèe #cuvee2017 #skippedthelightfandango #whitershadeofpale #buthecrowdcalledoutformore

Chef Andrew McLeod, Bolete Restaurant, Pork hock terrine with Jerusalem artichoke relish and black garlic

Domaine Queylus Pinot Noir Réserve Du Domaine 2014, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (392886, $44.95, WineAlign)

Two pinot noir worlds collide in the Réserve du Domaine, one from Jordan and the other Beamsville, with fruit forged and fused via Neudorf Farm’s Le Petit and Mountainview Vineyard. The collaboration is never lost on the Thomas Bachelder-Kelly Mason winemaking cooperation. Le Petit firms up the plummy rich unctuousness of Mountainview like any good spouse should and the match is unpredictable, at times inflammatory but in the end, made in heaven. Whole berries do their carbonic foreplay thing, infusing energy and keeping things light with assistance from a vintage in echo of the sentiment. This is more flavourful and quite possibly, potentially more structured than 2013 though it may also compromise some classicism for ultra modernity. It’s too young frankly to make such bold statements so let’s just call it a draw. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted at Cuvée, March 2017  @QueylusVin  @Bachelder_wines

Trius Showcase Cabernet Franc Red Shale Clark Farm Vineyard 2014, VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Ontario (Winery, $45.20, WineAlign)

Showcase is from the wealthiest of cabernet franc Niagara fruit aboard the Clark Farm rows and placed in the hands of Trius for full effect. The Red Shale is housed in 30-35 per cent new oak, travels fully and completely through malolactic fermentation and lots of lees are kept, stirred, shaken and promoted with extreme prejudice. This is rich and beautifully reductive, a smoky batter enriched by 18 months in selected, set aside for a rainy cabernet franc day barrels. Something exotic this way wafts as it always does, with green herbal phenols and sweet spice island Syzygium aromaticum. In the end its incredibly long despite its rebel youth so know that it will be a finer Niagara cabernet franc with time tucked in pocket. Another notch etched in Clark Farm lore. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted at Cuvée, March 2017  @TriusWines  @PellerVQA

Executive Chef James Price, Scotiabank Convention Centre, Lady Agnes’s roast duck saves the nation. Sloe berry and lavender brined duck, cellared vegetables, watercress and parsnip

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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VINTAGES preview April 1st

When you see one grand cru you’ve seen another grand cru #nierstein #rheinhessen #rhein

Globe-trekking critics, be a fool for value, plug in to musical Ontario and align with new world pioneers

as seen on WineAlign

Last Thursday I flew home from Germany after attending Prowein 2017, a massive wine fair in Düsseldorf that has to be seen to be believed. Picture nine immense convention halls each the size, depth and breadth of a Canadian football field, connected to one another and circling a courtyard like hangars in surround of incoming and outgoing flights at a major airport. The sheer quantity of human power and logistical planning required to facilitate and execute such a congress is in fact not unlike what happens every day at Frankfurt International. There may not be 100,000 employed to run Prowein, but at least that many wine stems are engaged.

It’s also hard to believe that this time yesterday I was standing on the crest of the red sandstone Grand Cru Neirstein vineyards overlooking the Rhein River. In advance of my trip to Germany I had the chance to taste through next weekend’s VINTAGES April 1st release and you will be pleased to find no shortage of quality wines under $20, many of which will solve your in advance of Easter needs. A token pinot noir with an anything but token twist and two hopping chardonnays are included for classic holiday food and wine association but I dig deeper into soils, varietal diversification and terroir for holiday pairing perfection.

There is no secret that Spain and Portugal sit at or near the pinnacle of Ontario consumer go to picks in the genre occupied by bargain reds. While the two recommendations below will certainly pair well with a feast of festive proportions, they also resurrect some grape varieties you might not automatically consider. Alentejo in Portugal and Castilla Y Léon in Spain offer great opportunities to discover local, endemic, world-class red wines. This early spring Ontario cold snap will soon be a thing of 2017’s winter past so I would suggest to get that BBQ tune-up completed because these wines are perfect foils for anything you can throw on the grill.

Travelling brings us together with the leaders and pioneers of fast-tracking and emerging wine regions and it is the global nature of this industry that through their own travels, they are brought to us. In September of 2015 I had the great fortune to spend a night and better part of a day with South Africa’s Ken Forrester. You will have noticed that Western Cape chenin blanc has taken the world by value storm over the last three to four years. There are several reasons for the varietal explosion, two of which are geology and climate. The third worth mentioning is Ken Forrester himself. When I tasted with Ken in Stellenbosch we travelled through half a dozen or more blocks, plots, vineyards and stylistically framed steen. Each and every year his Old Vines Reserve passes through VINTAGES. It is perfectly consistent and sets the benchmark for inexpensive and excellent South African chenin blanc genius.

Nicolás Zapata Catena and his daughter Dr. Laura Catena have pioneered similar if even deeper industry-leading work in Mendoza, Argentina. The father-daughter dream team have crafted terroir-focused Malbec and other well suited to time and place varietal wines. Over the past few years the Catena brand has expanded their portfolio by narrowing their focus into micro-terroirs in highly specific spots all over Mendoza. It’s not just Catena that has taken this brilliant South American approach to branding and this April 1st VINTAGES release is chock full of such precise varietal wines. Though I of course would be thrilled to offer up credit to the power brokers and buyers that be I’m not sure I’d give in to the idea that the grouping was executed with any preconceived plan. The patterning, by coincidence or not is nevertheless highly welcomed and I’m pleased to share these wines with you.

The Ontario presence is strong, as it should be, on the heels of a terrific Taste Ontario that was as promising as it was not surprisingly expected. Stratus hits the riesling mark with Wildass abandon, Flat Rock plays its annual MTV chardonnay tune and Thirty Bench does a varietal two-step that may just blow your mind. We should all be thankful for our local talent and in constant awe of Ontario’s wine ability to step out of its comfort zone, consistently improve on what it already does best and find ways to re-invent the wheel.

With the incantevole @chianticlassico hills fading from view, thank you #toscana #anteprime2017 #anteprimeditoscana #chianticlassico #vinonobiledimontepulciano #brunellodimontalcino

Speaking of Ontario, David Lawrason and I are still reeling from three days spent with an impressive Canadian ambassadorship contingent stationed in Düsseldorf’s Messe Prowein centre, sent there to spread the cool climate wine gospel to the world. The enthusiastic demands on our collective time were great. We will expand on the success of Canada’s presence on this important world stage in the coming weeks. John and Sara have also been on the road, globetrotting to the far reaches of the wine diaspora. It’s getting hard to track who might be where at any given time but in the first three months of 2017 we’ve had at least California, Oregon, Uruguay, Chianti Classico, Montepulciano, Montalcino, Lazio, The Ahr Valley, The Rheinhessen and every corner of New Zealand covered.

Through the course of our travels we are granted the opportunity to meet producers and winemakers, taste their wines and we often come across exciting products not seen before in Ontario. These discoveries are becoming increasingly important because the agents in Ontario receive an assisted head start on finding new wines. With the WineAlign Exchange inching closer and closer to bringing the reality of expert curation to wine buying and purchasing in Ontario, the connections we forge to these values and gems may soon see to finding their way into your cellars and your glass.

Godello’s Buyer’s Guide to VINTAGES April 1st:

Musical Ontario

Stratus Vineyards Riesling Wildass 2015, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (129700, $16.95, WineAlign)

It’s really hard to say whether Stratus Vineyards’ J.L Groux is more adept as a varietal impresario or as a master of assemblage so we’ll just call it a tie. Here into the riesling game he goes in the mere mortal affordable Wildass range and in 2015 he plays a smart varietal tune. You’ve just got to get some Wildass.  @StratusWines

Flat Rock Chardonnay Unplugged 2015, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (68015, $16.95, WineAlign)

The record keeps playing in rotation and the string remains unbroken with yet another quality vintage for the unoaked from Flat Rock. The crunchy apple and righteous waves of pertinence make this perennial best buy a required spin without any wonder why.  @Winemakersboots  @brightlighter1  @UnfilteredEd  @wine_gems

Thirty Bench Winemaker’s Blend Double Noir 2015, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (493973, $18.95, WineAlign)

The nomenclature is just so perfectly chosen and as you will find, this is a seamless joint between pinot and gamay noir. Double Noir performs the passe tout grains oeuvre from Ontario in combining two expatriate Burgundy grapes. I’ve long ago agreed these two make anything but strange bedfellows and the two grapes work seamlessly in Emma Garner’s new and idealistic red. Well done Thirty Bench. Pass the two grapes over, SVP.  @ThirtyBench

Align with new world pioneers

Ken Forrester Chenin Blanc Old Vine Reserve 2016, WO Stellenbosch, South Africa (231282, $17.95, WineAlign)

Reserve is a funny term for wines like this because it speaks to the idea that it should be put aside fore further use. I don’t think that is Ken Forrester’s plan and here he once again raises his old vines game with the 2016 chenin blanc. Stellenbosch continues to dole out some of the planet’s most striking and finest whites with chenin blanc at the centre of it’s value universe. With major thanks to Ken Forrester.  @KFwines  @WOSACanada  @WOSA_ZA  @Noble_Estates

In Situ Reserva Carmenère 2015, Aconcagua Valley, Chile (37952, $16.95, WineAlign)

In case you were wondering too, “In Situ is crafted from grapes that ripen on steep slopes alongside mysterious rock drawings from ages past.” The only expansion on that bit of ambiguity I can share is the purity and clarity levels of carmenère are fully explained in this Reserva. Another fine BBQ wine for April flowers and showers.  @InSituWine  @WinesOfChile_CA  @WinesofChile

Echeverria Cabernet Sauvignon Limited Edition 2011, Central Valley, Chile (389221, $24.95, WineAlign)

Though labeled as cabernet sauvignon the Limited Edition is generously supported by syrah and carmenère, resulting in a layered and grossly rich red blend. The individual varieties don’t really stake any obvious claim and while their integration is not exactly seamless, the layering back and forth over one another does work some Central Valley magic. Complexity wins points.  @VinaEcheverria  @LiffordON  @WinesOfChile_CA  @WinesofChile

Catena Malbec Appellation Paraje 2014, Mendoza, Argentina (492413, $22.95, WineAlign)

Last November Dr. Laura Catena told a small Ontario press audience “it’s a fact. Different soils give different flavours.” The WineAlign team had previously sat down with winemaker Ernesto Badja for a full-on, wide-scale investigation into a climat-precise and compendious look at the proselytism of Catena culture. Paraje Altamira was one of these such looks into single-vineyard terroir.  @CatenaMalbec  @LauraCatena  @Noble_Estates  @ArgentinaWineCA  @winesofarg

Trapiche Malbec Perfiles Calcareous 2015, Mendoza, Argentina (482083, $18.95, WineAlign)

The savvy marketed Trapiche foray into soil matters with malbec divines the intention that calcaire (calcareo) brings speciality to these Uco Valley vines. It’s not a huge stretch to sense some limestone in this malbec’s make-up and I am wholly impressed by its countenance, its continuity from nose to tail and yes, its mineral feeling. So glad Trapiche is onside. @TrapicheWines  @Dandurandwines  @ArgentinaWineCA  @winesofarg

The best of the rest

Paulo Laureano Reserve Tinto 2014, Vidigueira, DOC Alentejo, Portugal (488775, $19.95, WineAlign)

From the still somewhat unheralded and rising to stardom Alentejo the grape expectation here from vidigueira is no shrinking Reserve. This would make for a curious consumer side step into something different but at the same time so obvious and comfortable. At this price you can’t afford to do neither.    @winesportugalCA  @wines_portugal  @Nicholaspearce_

Senorio de la Antigua Mencía 2012, IGP Castilla y Léon, Spain (481549, $13.95, WineAlign)

Some solid and in some circles, very old estate vines (30-50 years) in Villafranca del Bierzo gift mencia for a pittance. Rarely does a $14 old world red give so much for so little. Great round acidity and length off the cuff of a vibrant tune. Simply great value. One of the best you will find all year.  @WinesofSpainSL  @Wines_fromSpain

Groth Chardonnay Hillview Vineyard 2014, Napa Valley, California (225672, $57.95, WineAlign)

From a 44-acre Yountville vineyard founded in 1982 and (mostly) re-planted in 1996. This is a perfect and prime example of all the right directions Napa Chardonnay has taken in the last 10 years, with kudos to Suzanne Groth for embracing the ideal, from restraint, for elegance and in balance.  @GrothWines  @suzgroth  @CalifWines_CA  @CalifWines_US  @NapaVintners  @TheVine_RobGroh

Dutschke Shiraz GHR Neigbours 2013, Lyndoch, Barossa Valley, South Australia (247296, $26.95, WineAlign)

You just have to let go and find the fun in this Gods Hill Road shiraz, a wine of deep-rooted flavour. The utter deliciousness and unctuousness of Barossa is capitulated and catapulted into Lyndoch space. To say that charred meats hot of the grill would work perfectly right now would be utterly correct. To see this age for up to 10 years and eke out more elegance is also true. I would suggest endeavouring in both.  @DutschkeWines  @Wine_Australia

Glaetzer Shiraz Bishop 2015, Barossa Valley, South Australia (627869, $39.95, WineAlign)

Ben Glaetzer’s incredible value Heartland cabernet sauvignon from this same release is not to be missed but I’ve chosen to focus on his flagship shiraz. From son Ben in ode to mother Judith, Bishop the maternal maiden name is the rock of the estate’s Barossa Valley reds. Bishop is a serious wine to be sure and this really leaves so much behind in the mouth long after it’s been sipped.  @GlaetzerWines  @Wine_Australia  @TheVine_RobGroh

Louis Moreau Chablis Domaine de Biéville 2015, Burgundy, France (106161, $27.95, WineAlign)

Just last week I stood in Moreau’s booth at Prowein and I talked with Frédérique Chamoy. She noted how excited buyers are about the 2015 Chablis. If you were ever to take the kimmeridgian plunge this quintessential Moreau and this vintage are the place to start, Pure, classic mineral Chablis with more fruit than I’ve ever seen.  @MoreauLouis1  @vinsdechablis  

Brancaia Chianti Classico Riserva 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (260802, $36.95, WineAlign)

Brancaia goes all in to exploit sangiovese and the for broke style solicits some patience to wait out in extra time. Though 16 months in barrel is nothing to call nothing it is not the wood that dominates these gregarious 2013 grapes. With time this swirls into a grosso sangiovese like liqueur with plums, cherries and spice. Really Riserva in style but not of the recent past, more like the older ways but translated to modern times.  @CasaBrancaia  @chianticlassico  @ChiantiClassUSA  @Noble_Estates

La Lecciaia Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 2010, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (241307, $69.95, WineAlign)

From the giving 2010 vintage and so beautifully so gifted here with La Lecciaia’s 2010 Riserva. Sangiovese that rests in such an ethereal nether-land will evolve with decades long grace. Classic would be one way of looking at it, heart-warming another and it’s remarkably ready to drink.      

It’s been a whirlwind of a start to 2017 and I am personally glad to be home, for now, even if it’s only for a short time. After all, there are too many wine discoveries out there and if were to let them pass me by I would not be Godello. So before too long I will head back out on the road, join the fairs, searches, digs and bring some love back home. As for now it is the April 1st release that deserves our full attention. Sara will bring best buys and new finds next week. Looking forward to April 15th David and John will return with your first in line VINTAGES picks. Until then, good luck with the hunt, have a Happy Easter and an equally happy Passover.

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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Quick link to Michael’s WineAlign Mix

Fifty ways to Taste Ontario

The Ontario wine industry is the best kept secret in the world. That much I’ve said before and this. “Ontario winemakers have figured it out. The “world-class” comparative humanities of aging and longevity aside, the comprehensive and widespread phenomenon of excellence, regardless of vintage, is now an Ontario reality.”

Related – Where does the taste of Ontario go from here?

Though it’s not always obvious at what time of year the event will happen, the annual get to know Ontario wines gathering’s 2017 parlay affectionately known as Taste Ontario Toronto was held a week ago today, on Monday, March. 6, 2017 at the Royal Ontario Museum. The number of Ontario vintners who have participated in Taste Ontario over the past five years seems as random as it is consistent. We’ve seen as few as 30, as many as 55 and 42 participants in 2017. I’ve been tracking varietal representation and this year considered a cease and desist order for placing a trending finger on the pulse of any given grape.

Related – Why taste Ontario?

Chardonnay rules, plain and simple and call it risk aversion if you must but why should Ontario shy away from developing the coolest climate designation on the planet? Chardonnay works and if you’ve spent any quality immersion time in Chablis you’ll drop the fight and join the team. Gamay remains an important and viable alternative to big bad reds but please, enough with trying to dress this sheep in wolf’s clothing. Cabernet Franc is getting better all the time. With thanks to venn diagram circles drawn in and out of the Lincoln Lakeshore but also magically deep into the Prince Edward County limestone, the great Ontario hope is developing into what we thought it might be. Getable and structured red wine.

Related – Taste Ontario’s polarity of personality

I don’t always taste Ontario but when I do I like to do it with Mike Di Caro. Mike grounds me and tasting by his side helps to keep my pulse at a healthy, wine tasting athletic rate of 40 – 60 beats per minute. Mike knows Ontario wine and never gets too high or too low. Tasting with him as Michael to his Mike I get to hang out inside the kind of discourse that delves into the ground, the makers and the market. Mike knows.

Related – Top wines shine at Taste Ontario 2013

With so many other opportunities to taste Ontario wines throughout the year, last week’s staging afforded the chance to re-taste a great number. These new assessments are so important to understanding and gaining new perspective on not just how our wines age but also how they are affected by early reductive environment shock and their ability to change (for the better) after a mere six to 12 months in bottle. The first snapshots are not always the clearest. Taste Ontario also brings new wineries to the table. It’s now my job to pay them visits. Here are 50 ways to Taste Ontario.

Sparkling

Flat Rock Cellars Riddled Traditional Method Sparkling 2010, Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario (383315, $29.95, WineAlign)

Time makes a difference so here the extended lees age (six months further, to 60) takes Riddled to another level. Considering the cost and attention to time, in the broad realm of traditional method sparkling wine there are some that are given away. Riddled. A whole lot of biscuit warmth, sody saleratus, gingersnap, tart Ida Red apple, breadth and a smile-inducing creamy palate. There is more wisdom and calm from 2010 so do not come around demanding tension and over-exciteability. Think Grower’s Champagne with Ontario heart and soul, dedication and purpose. The extended arm of Madronich-Johnston love is here, this year. It won’t get much better than this. Great length. Drink 2016-2025.  Tasted October 2016 and March 2017  @Winemakersboots  @UnfilteredEd  @brightlighter1  @wine_gems

The Grange Of Prince Edward Vineyards & Estate Winery Traditional Method Brut Rosé 2012, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $35.00, WineAlign)

Caroline and Maggie Granger have reset the compass and brought to market this original sparkling wine with a whimsical outré bounce in its step. It was a fortifying and henna-russet collecting 40 months time spent on the lees that to me has magnified and clarified the varietal expression. This is so pinot noir it gazes at itself in a mirror and vaporizes a telluric perfume replete with strawberry, dried cherry, peach and almond. Estate fruit shed of such lithe and delicate, near zero dosage animation tempts fate, digs into danger and elicits a nervy period of risk-reward. Reflection time is now and the oxidative Grange Brut Rosé walks a fine volatile edge and succeeds. Few sparkling wines can go gossamer this way and survive but like the finest spun web by a leggy creature cunning and wise, strength comes out of the most delicate weave. Science can be pretty cool.  There were 150 cases made. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted March 2017  @grangewinery

Riesling

Château Des Charmes Riesling Old Vines, Estate Bottled 2014, Niagara On The Lake, Ontario (277228, $17.95, WineAlign)

The language in ’14 is cordial and effete, with ripe sweetness trumping the pulse of energy. The old vines deliver distinct impression, compression and phenolic bitterness. There is no mistaking this distinct wine and in the vintage its clarity is only eclipsed by its easy drinking compatibility. Enjoy early. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted March 2017  @MBosc

2027 Cellars Riesling Falls Vineyard 2016, VQA Vinemount Ridge, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $18.95, WineAlign)

Virtual winery producer Kevin Panagapka continues his obsession with single-vineyard wines with this riesling grown just above and south of the brow of the Niagara Escarpment. Clay loam till soils with silt and shale face south along the long, one km wide, hummocky ridge and as per the vintage, a bit of simplicity is narrowed from good biodiversity. It all works towards simple pleasure, with sun-warmed fruit; pears, apples and such. Falls Vineyard grants top notch acidity and a bit of lime bitters for what is always a solid Vinemount Ridge expression. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted March 2017  @2027cellars

Rosewood Origin Riesling Mima’s Block 2014, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $22.95, WineAlign)

Smells like Bench riesling spirit. The energy comes from the über vineyard’s way of emission, gasseous and vital, linear, introspective and direct. This may just be the most aridity and brine ever teased from a Mima’s riesling, acidity coveting sugar notwithstanding, startling from beginning to end, with spirited shots of lime. Underrated and honest, the consistency of this riesling is possessive of great triggers and so beautifully defines the mineral Bench. Early suffocations blow off with ease and in the denoument there are crunchy stones, forever and always something to like. Mima’s never really needed an abundance of sugar for balance and kudos to that. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted March 2017  @Rosewoodwine

Cave Spring Cellars Riesling CSV 2015, Beamsville Bench, Ontario (Winery, $29.95, WineAlign)

In a word, balance. Well two, balance and brilliance. CSV in 2015 takes the reigns from itself and stands firm. The fruit is in charge, the mineral a support system unparalleled and the minor celebratory sweetness a mere afterthought when it comes to rounding out the complexity. CSV is pretty darn back in ancient dolomite time travel and escarpments high great in 2015, uplifting, serious but yet not so. The numbers trip the light fantastic, fooling like gold and bones dry are seemingly preserved in karst but impossibly not. The sensoria apprised reel from the finest acidity it can possibly carry in its veritable truth. Deep lemon intent and a new wax vernacular speak the clarity of a wine that listens to its own expert advice. Might as well have made itself. CSV 2015 is one of the finest rieslings ever made from Ontario grapes. Drink 2019-2031.  Tasted March 2017  @CaveSpring  @TheVine_RobGroh

Chardonnay

Redstone Vineyard Chardonnay 2013, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $19.95, WineAlign)

It would be hard not to make a most drinkable and full-fleshy chardonnay from the stellar vintage, especially with the omnipresent cool tempering from Beamsville bench fruit. Redstone does not disappoint though at first it may seem both reluctant and extremely taut. The flavours stretch out more than the aromatics which are flinty, woody and tart. They will relent and meld into the palate with some further bottle time. This is classic for the house braintrust and reminiscent of sketches drawn in some earlier vintages, like 2009. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted September 2016 and March 2017  @RedstoneWines

Henry Of Pelham Family Estate Winery Chardonnay Estate 2015, VQA Short Hills Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (268342, $19.95, WineAlign)

Perhaps by virtue of the language spoken by the 2015 vintage this chardonnay is hard to crack and touched with a minor, vitality-preserving note of reduction. It will yield to swirl and air, opening up many floral blossoms, notably apple and peach. Intensity is consistent for the Short Hills Blench vineyards stalwart, both for its locked in freshness and aromatic heavy breathing with thanks to dense clay soils and their “tossed up limestone.” Think cool-climate chardonnay with added layers of compression, fervent soil tang and as of yet unresolved (one-third) new French and North Ameriacn oak. Two to three years in process from two to three bottles per vine naturally translates and extrapolates to needing two or three more years in bottle to make it all come swimmingly integrated together. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted February and March 2017  @HenryofPelham  @SpeckBros

Meldville Chardonnay First Edition 2015, VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Ontario (Winery, $20.20, WineAlign)

Foremost a Derek Barnett perfume, rational from a generous barrel and irrational from the ripest fruit at a twain where each meet, both matter and neither dominate. Classic Barnett chardonnay viscosity, deep tang and the sweetest of dry extract. If this isn’t the most ambitious effort early in a re-invented career it would be hard to say what is but wisdom and experience count for more than a bottom dollar. Real length in real time will develop the vanilla, honey and liqueur well into this chardonnay’s tithe year. If singular isn’t the current descriptor now, it surely will be then. A new stylistic benchmark for Lincoln Lakeshore is born. Drink 2017-2023.  Tasted March 2017  @meldvillewines

Fielding Estate Winery Chardonnay Estate 2015, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (355842, $21.95, WineAlign)

The vintage offered up a whole set of challenges, especially for chardonnay on the Lincoln Lakeshore. Right off the aromatic bat I sense a little extra wood on the nose but low-yielding, ripe and healthy fruit can handle that sort of vintage-related truth. The coolness of a preceeding winter’s anti-glaze is contravened by the barrel up front and personal on the nose. The palate is all about cool-climate relegation, resignation and the overall picture is painted in balance; advance, recede, attack and retreat. Finishes with love interest, commercial appeal. Pretty complex chardonnay. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted October 2016 and March 2017  @FieldingWinery  @RichieWine  @Heidi_Fielding

Bachelder Chardonnay Mineralité 2014, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Agent, $22.20, WineAlign)

Mineralité is clearly nose-marked and cleverly marketed to celebrate rocks and soil, not barrel. The fruit seems plucked straight from the apple tree, crisp, tart and crunchy. Everything about this exacting Thomas Bachelder chardonnay screams foil to most else, from his wide reaching chardonnay domain and from the rest of the province. Other mettalurgical label referenced chardonnays still reek of oak and are too shy to distance themselves from the heart of the rocky matter. Thomas is serious about the moniker and goes at it with great intent. The vintage nearly, fully completely complies. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted March 2017  @Bachelder_wines  @LiffordON

Southbrook Vineyards Chardonnay Triomphe 2015, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (172338, $22.95, WineAlign)

The fruit for Ann Sperling’s chardonnay Triomphe ’15 is sourced primarily from Saunders (Beamsville Bench) with auxiliary support out of Heather Laundry’s old vine Lincoln Lakeshore vineyard. There are older, non-clonal blocks with perhaps some Musqué mixed in so the aromatics fly, with no restraint applied by the wild ferment and (mostly 300L) neutral oak. This Triomphe is anything but reductive, a no stress chardonnay from such a far from sluggish, clean ferment. The simplicity and complicity explain how beauty is curated, from a vintage where reduction did not happen or beg to happen so why try to force it. The copacetic re-quiescence bears witness to classic Ann Sperling in such a vintage. Chardonnay of mellow smoulder, of old barrel spice and one to define a certain kind on a line of disparate and unique, cool climate, i4c selections. There are 800 cases made. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted January and March 2017  @SouthbrookWine  @AnnSperling  @PaulDeCampo  @thesirengroup

@wismervineyards royalty, Craig, Thomas @Bachelder_wines & @normhardie (and delegate Peter @BouchardFinlayson ) talking north and south #vinelandbench

2027 Cellars Chardonnay Wismer Vineyard Foxcroft Block 2014, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario (421362, $22.95, WineAlign)

The ability of Craig Wismer’s Foxcroft Block to gift fruit, regardless it seems of vintage, is one of Niagara’s great stories. Even more special is how it allows each producer to own it and create value from differentiation. Kevin Panagapka works a decidedly reductive room with bees-waxy fruit from 2014 and of a wood creativity that deals more in spice than anything else. I really think this takes more risk than other Foxcroft efforts and they are numerous. The reward here is in the pudding, literally, in proofed fruit set up for unbreakable structure. The Sonoma glade and fog rings true in Bench-driven chardonnay speak while wood only creates a leesy stir. A very good vintage, as good as the previous two I would say and creates even more buzz for what will come next. Drink 2017-2021. Tasted March 2017  @2027cellars

Creekside Estates Chardonnay Queenston Road Vineyard 2014, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $24.95, WineAlign)

If classic Queenston Road Vineyard might be explained in one drop, try using the Creekside ’14 to do so. Riper than most Niagara fruit and easy as Sunday morning barrel influence come together for everything to gain. Here the chardonnay equivalent of reading a good book falls into lunch, followed by a mid-afternoon slumber. Mild notes of caramel and sandlawood come through on the lightly buttered rye toast palate. The only thing missing is a good slice of bacon. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted March 2017  @CreeksideWine

Domaine Queylus Tradition Chardonnay 2014, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Agent489591, $24.95, WineAlign)

The vintage brings an excess of riches and richesse to the Queylus chardonnay entry point, a place you would be wise to begin your foray into high-level, carefully crafted, cool-climate wine. This 2014 offers up its tour-guide expertise as a representational bridge into what Thomas Bachelder, Kelly Mason, the Queylus team and lake-proximate, lower Bench chardonnay is all about. The vintage takes an ambitious departure for the house and yet it carries enough (short history of) tradition in its DNA to resemble past issues of itself. Such a balanced wine for you here, of ripe and tart fruit, elasticity, stretch, rebound and finally, great length. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted January and March 2017  @QueylusVin  @Dandurandwines

13th Street Chardonnay Sandstone Vineyard Reserve 2013, VQA Four Mile Creek, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $29.95, WineAlign)

No surprise the vintage is a major plus for the Sandstone and the natural funk it owns. And I mean owns. Only Sandstone has such geological drive, not unlike chardonnay from South Africa’s Hemel-En-Aarde Valley. In 2013 there is a sweetness to the fruit mixed with a misty humidity and finally that falling over backwards with feet stuck in the clay and the calcaire. Wildness from J. P. Colas here and with attentiveness to place and time. Drink 2016-2021.  Tasted at #i4c16, July 2016  @13thStreetWines

Adamo Estate Chardonnay Oaked Willms Vineyard 2014, Niagara On The Lake, Ontario (Winery, $31.00, WineAlign)

Adamo sources from the same vineyard that provides fruit for 13th Street’s Sandstone Reserve in the Four Mile Creek sub-appellation of Niagara-on-the-Lake. Planted in 1983, it is owned and farmed by Erv, Esther and Eric Willms. In its early stages the fruit acted and reacted as a lean, taut and tension fuelled chardonnay with party a sign of letting up. Eight months later the juicy flesh of orchard fruit pushes past the vintage’s grip and lets tis wine breath a sigh of relief. Chalk one up to yet another cool-climate, calcareous clay stuck moment in time. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted twice, at #i4c16, July 2016 and Taste Ontario, March 2017  @AdamoEstateWine

Westcott Vineyards Reserve Chardonnay 2015, VQA Vinemount Ridge, Ontario (Winery, $31.20, WineAlign)

I don’t mean to skip forward and get ahead of Westcott’s aromatic propriety but knowing how a winemaker likes to celebrate texture and flavour sends me direct to a sip. That first taste reveals the sumptuousness of 2015 Vinemount Ridge fruit, ripe, savoury and fleshy peach-organized. Accomplishment number one for Arthur Harder and crew. An aromatic retrospective notices tradition and cool-climate reserve, as the name would suggest and then a full-on conversion moving forward, back to the present and into the variegated luxe of flavour gifted to mouthfeel. I love how this wine lingers with an almost analgesic sensation on the gums and up the sides of the mouth. If at moments it may seem too warm or right of balancing centre it is only because it has the gumption to test and heighten the senses. If any Peninsula chardonnay were a drug that could lead to addiction, Westcott’s ’15 is the one. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted March 2017  @WestcottWines

Icellars Chardonnay 2014, VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario (Winery, $35.00, WineAlign)

The aromatic hard to get personality is intriguing, not because of absence but due to a gentle wisdom and beautiful demure lurking behind the veil. I get the extract and the mineral quality inherent but need more. The palate gives more and more, especially a calcareous sensation and the lean qualities throughout are neither deficient nor bothersome. This is ambitiously market-introduced chardonnay created without getting ahead of itself and though the best the fruit has to offer is not quite coaxed, nothing has been added to distract or suppress what orchard fruit is there. Great appreciation is afforded the winemaker for keeping it simple, unadulterated and real. Drink 2017-2010.  Tasted March 2017  @FoolAnd60Acres

Closson Chase South Clos Chardonnay 2014, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $39.95, WineAlign)

Sometimes time matters. A year later the South Clos in 2014 has separated itself as the true Closson star, away from the CCV in ways it did not do in 2013, or before. The range of motion, aromas and flavours are dramatic and in beautiful flux, beginning with top notch orchard and stone fruit. The southern hill’s intense stony quality infiltrates before this opens up to reveal flavours as broad as the varietal spectrum will alow. If fruit slightly dehydrated, leather chewy and mille-feuille layered with fine, limestone wire interlocking are something of great appeal then chew on this South Clos for the next seven years. The texture and the length are wholly encouraging of the exercise. The score must change and the window be expanded. Drink 2018-2025.  Last tasted March 2017  @ClossonChase

The 2014 CCV South Clos Chardonnay is imbued with less tension, more elegance and fully-aclimatized cool-climate bent. It’s a linear, calm and directed soul raised from Prince Edward County soil royalty. The vintage offers up low-crop, scrupulously cropped stable if unexceptional fruit. This from a portion of the vineyard with the ability to plateau what can otherwise get season’s growth-mired in the proverbial middle of the road. Though not so tart, nor tense neither, there is a sense of tannic zest. Cool and precise, this represents concrete work from incumbent winemaker Keith Tyers. Drink 2016-2021. Tasted February 2016

The man, the chardonnay @normhardie #princeedwardcounty ’14 #vqa #winecountryontario As sure as fire will burn There’s one thing you will learn Is things you have cherished Are things

Norman Hardie County Chardonnay Unfiltered 2014, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $45.20, WineAlign)

So much locked in tight obscures the coaxing of a distinct and clear impression of Norman Hardie’s ’14 County chardonnay so I search for a reference point. There is danger in drawing comparisons between two single-vineyards and even more so Niagara to Prince Edward County, but I have to go there. Norman Hardie’s 2014 Niagara chardonnay is the rich and reductive, bullet-proof one. His extreme, hard as nails ’14 PEC counterpart may be the most mineral-focused ever produced off of County soils. The ferment spent 10 months in barrel plus 10 more in stainless steel and never fully completed malolactic. Chablis never had it so good. I can’t ever before recall this flirtatious and furtive combination conjoined by preserved lemon and ginger but also the smell of the apple orchard grinding through metal gears in the cider press. The magnitude of this ’14 chardonnay is felt even before the flavours begin their reveal because the layers of texture and tang are nothing short of remarkable. Hardie has gone for structure broke from this vintage reeling with impression, soliciting oyster, lobster and grand gustatory associations. There is so much going on, eliciting a response that imagines a change in direction and at least an unconscious metaphrasing of terroir. With this formidable chardonnay the idea of better or worse for Niagara versus PEC is finally laid to rest. Vintage rules. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted March 2017  @normhardie

Southbrook Vineyards Chardonnay Poetica 2013, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $49.95, WineAlign)

Always Ontario’s outlier, eccentric and non-conformist chardonnay and I say this with complimentary, best of intention flattery. The 2013 vintage is simply chivalrous to chardonnay and in Poetica’s corner, a perfect calm case of preux meets elegante. Here is a chardonnay of inherent oxidative wisdom, from cloud cover, cool, long breaths of Niagara air well into the elongated autumn and the address for what I refer to as “the age apparent one.” The iconoclast Poetica ideal conforms because it is matched with equal breadth by richness of fruit and confirms the way Ann Sperling makes her signature wine. Tasted blind my first guess would put this at five years old because of the exuding warmth so 2010 might just be the order. A 2012 Bench chardonnay might have also been the answer. But with Poetica the promise is like Meursault with uptown fruit, honey, vanilla, caramel, a Niagara vapour and ethanol. Such a telling display that only Poetica can play. Drink 2016-2024. Tasted October 2016, January and March 2017  @SouthbrookWine  @AnnSperling  @PaulDeCampo  @thesirengroup

CHABROL. That is all. #snacks @chabrolto

Other Whites and Blends

Malivoire Pinot Gris 2015, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario (Winery, $19.95, WineAlign)

With a string of no less than five well-executed and received pinot gris vintages tucked comfortably like brass in pocket, Malivoire’s pinot gris 2015 goes one step deeper. No pretender or pretension but yes with compression in ’15, noting melon and lime, white stone fruit, not dense but layered. More Alsace than before and poured blind would always and only be pinot gris. In the hands of Shiaz Mottiar the ’15 knows and says it. “Intention, I feel inventive. Gonna make you, make you, make you notice.” Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted January and March 2017  @MalivoireWine  @ShirazMottiar  @GroupeSoleilTO

Meldville Sauvignon Blanc First Edition 2015, VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Ontario (Winery, $20.20, WineAlign)

Not so much an aromatic sucess for sauvignon blanc though some faux botrytis in the guise of white peach and even mango is nosed. It is the palate that defines Derek Barnett’s First Edition and offers up description. Quite creamy in texture, tangy again from mango and then sharp and linear with the type of acidity that folds over itself to increase the notion and the effect that leesy textures creates. This lingers on the palate like a tropical pastille and sapidity is very real. It’s classic antithetical Niagara Peninsula sauvignon blanc and could not be confused with Marlborough, Elgin, Sancerre or any other varietal play in the great diaspora. Derek Barnett takes less risk here (as compared to his chardonnay) but at the same time perpetuates the marked differences in expression of NP sauvignon blanc. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted March 2017  @meldvillewines

Nyarai Cellars Viognier 2015, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $20.20, WineAlign)

Does not get much fresher in Viognier, anywhere. The tank has yet to leave the bottle which does not so much stand transfixed in shock as much as it buzzes like a fridge. Heady, radioactive, reductive and policed tight which I very much like. The expected flavours of peach and the pits are in while the texture thrushes inward and the linear, distillate character lashes out. Solid as a rock in a Niagara quarry. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted February 2016 and March 2017  @NyaraiCellars  @TerroirLover

The Grange Of Prince Edward Vineyards & Estate Winery Pinot Gris Select 2015, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $24.95, WineAlign)

If you are going to go for something you may as well go all in. Maggie Granger tells me the ’15 pinot gris saw 36 hours of skin contact. My math tells me that’s a 240 per cent increase over 2013 and 2014. As I said, all in. Now we have something that raises the stakes and despite some energy flatlining the sweet extract quality has never been finer. The Grange’s ’15 and its oxidative meets lactic and red berry-currant leafy personality is remarkably pure, clean, saline and yes, unusual. Add it should be because halfway there is nowhere. This succeeds because it crosses an imaginary line and fear is ignored. I can really imagine sipping this with pork liver mousse or cured Ontario fish, like rainbow or salmon trout. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted March 2017  @grangewinery

The Good Earth Viognier 2015, VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Ontario (Winery, $24.95, WineAlign)

Some of Ontario’s best viognier fruit comes from these picturesque vineyards, fruit that shines with tangy delight and also takes on the weight of compression from the great clay below. I do feel the 2013 vintage was better suited to both the varietal but also the way winemaker Ross Wise procured viognier in the purest form with glassy clarity. It will be most interesting to see what incumbent consulting winemaker Ilya Senchuk does with 2016 fruit going forward. Here, from what could only have been the lowest of low yields, this aromatic and treacly textured viognier is seamless and full of peach flavour. It lingers with its phenolic ripenss well into the next minute. Highly recommended especially for its lack of waxy or bitter edges. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted March 2017  @goodearthtweets  @goodearthNico

Stratus White 2013, VQA Niagara On The Lake, Ontario (660704, $38.20, WineAlign)

In 2013 viognier is back in the varietal mix, in reprise of its earlier role in support of chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and riesling. A different sort of vintage here for the White, seemingly led by a circular turning of chardonnay and viognier, like a cat chasing its tail. This really goes round and round with no obvious signs of where it will stop. Quite fleshy and lime juicy with stone fruit flavours in righteous abound. Really amalgamated and seamless even for itself. It is here that I think of it as The White. Niagara’s White. Lake Effect™. Drink 2017-2022. Tasted November 2016 and March 2017  @StratusWines

Gamay

Malivoire Gamay Small Lot 2015, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario (Winery, $19.95, WineAlign)

A change of pace is noted for gamay in 2015 and perhaps it takes itself to a place beyond. Seriously dark fruit (with more tannin showing up after some time in bottle than might have originally thought possible) is noted from just a nose on Malivoire’s 2015. The pressed extraction may turn out to be a process leading to greatly improved structure. This is not the gamay rising from riding on the go-go train but one more akin to Cru doctrine and demagogy. Flavours of black cherry and tart citrus lead to plenty of leafy and earthy savour. Look out Juliénas, here comes Small Lot. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted March 2017  @MalivoireWine  @ShirazMottiar  @GroupeSoleilTO

Tawse Winery Gamay Noir Unfiltered Redfoot Vineyard 2015, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $28.95, WineAlign)

The fruit for this deeply coloured gamay is drawn from Tom Koscis’ vineyard, big batch fermented but with a minimalist sulphured approach. Gamay that went through full malolactic in barrel out of sheer necessity. Winemaker Paul Pender is a big fan of this great site, a place that gifts perfect colour and a soil’s funk that is spot on. This is gamay of a noticeable velvety texture. Something strikes as deja nosed and sure enough, this was Pearl Morissette’s fruit in 2013 and 2014. Wisely natural and so bright, gulpable, back up the truck gamay. So beautifully and perfectly dry and even a wee bite of tannin. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted April 2016 and March 2017  @Tawse_Winery  @DanielatTawse  @Paul_Pender

The Grange Of Prince Edward Vineyards & Estate Winery Gamay-Pinot Noir Select 2014, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $24.95, WineAlign)

The ’14 is the first Grange gamay-pinot where the grapes were simultaneously picked and co-fermented. It’s a really ripe co-mingling and so much brighter than you’d think. “This is the vintage I was waiting for with this wine,” tells Maggie Granger. Clean, pure essence of raspberry dances on the nose and texture liquid chalky, lactic and taut. This wine also proves that this more than obvious bedfellow varietal combination makes more sense in the County than Bordeaux meetings of the kind. It remains to be seen if the Grange’s irreligious pagan pairing idea will catch on but if any vintage can spur the revolution, 2014 is the one. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted March 2017  @grangewinery

Pinot Noir

Flat Rock Cellars Pinot Noir 2014, Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario (1545, $20.20, WineAlign)

The Flat Rock has been a VINTAGES essential for several seasons and like any maturing pinot noir vineyard, four or five years are needed before quality is ensured. This wine has always provided quality but it is in 2014 where the stakes are raised. For the Twenty Mile Bench (and others Benches too) this vintage provides sweet extract, steadfast fruit, polished tannins and exceptional structure. Jay Jonhston did not mess with the cards, blended with acumen and has subsequently ran the table for his basic, normale, bring it to the (relative) masses pinot noir. It’s all you need to understand Flat Rock, The Twenty Mile Bench and the Niagara Peninsula. It’s essential. Drink 2016-2022.  Tasted October 2016 and March 2017  @Winemakersboots  @UnfilteredEd  @brightlighter1  @wine_gems

Bachelder Pinot Noir Parfum 2014, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Agent, $22.20, WineAlign)

Parfum doles out the Bachelder perfume with great Beaune intent and whole bunch hints from this most celebrated 2014 Niagara pinot noir vintage. With potpourri so bright and wildly tonal there needs to be some firmness for balance and this is present with tonic injection and finishing grip. The overall impression is a broad brushstoke and wells with its tea-seeping pot of mild but effective tannin. With thanks to “de-classified” Lowrey and Wismer-Parke vineyard fruit an ideal launching point progresses for the Bachelder way and encourages Le Parfum to set the stage for further investigative play. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted March 2017  @Bachelder_wines  @LiffordON

Malivoire Rosé Moira 2016, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario (Winery, $24.95, WineAlign)

Hard to believe what I see, a hue not blush nor pink, but gris. That “if my eyes don’t deceive me there’s something going wrong around here.” Forget about Provençe, don’t think too hard about Vin Gris but concentrate only on what Shiraz Mottiar has acceded with Rosé for Moira in ’16. Light and lithe do not begin to explain the rub. Rocks and stones are what come through the good earth on the nose. Is this the blush equivalent of mineralité, away from chardonnay and into pinot noir? “Is she really going out with him?” But the pinot noir component is almost non-existent so what is the phenolic advantage here? Has this gone too far or not far enough? Don’t mistake the things I say. This is delicious, understated and fully underestimated Rosé. It will have great appeal to a specific cognoscenti population and who could not think to drink it any day of the week? Commercially considered however, it may not speak a universal language. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted March 2017  @MalivoireWine  @ShirazMottiar  @GroupeSoleilTO

The Good Earth Pinot Noir 2015, VQA Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (Winery, $24.95, WineAlign)

Moving away from the Lincoln Lakeshore and up on to the ledges of the Niagara Escarpment we find pinot noir taking on a decidly firm and stony aromatic profile. Fruit in 2015 is graced with phenolic ripeness though certainly submissive to the elevated mineral tones. The strawberry-cranberry spectrum is acquiesced and the winemaking has rendered this clean as a pinot noir popsicle whistle. Great simplicity and consumer complicity is gained. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted March 2017  @goodearthtweets  @goodearthNico

You’re gonna want to make room for a whole cluster of these @SouthbrookWine #pinotnoir #triomphe #annsperling #laundryvineyard #organic #niagarapeninsula #vqa #beamsvillebench

Southbrook Vineyards Pinot Noir Triomphe 2015, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $29.95, WineAlign)

Ann Sperling’s inaugural pinot noir for Southbrook makes swift, acumen accomplished first time work with Heather Laundry’s vineyard fruit. While her peers of the current generation begin to play and progressively experiment, Sperling helps to usher in the whole cluster brigade with her own 40 per cent packed, tiny berry ferment. This sterling effort takes Lincoln Lakeshore pinot noir to another dimension and Ann is confident the 115 clone is so perfectly suited to the ideal. This whole cluster thing with pinot expresses the floral lift and in turn a gift into elegance and purity. Ripeness and richness take turns without drifting into black cherry darkness. There is some chalky, earthy reduction that needs to mellow and it’s still a bit gritty, palpable of textural and even a bit mean. It won’t take long for this just recently released Triomphe to pirouette, assimilate and dutifully represent an unmitigated success for Sperling, in this her 11th vintage at Southbrook. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted January and March 2017  @SouthbrookWine  @AnnSperling  @PaulDeCampo  @thesirengroup

2027 Cellars Pinot Noir Queenston Road Vineyard 2013, St. David’s Bench, Ontario (421370, $35.00, WineAlign)

Bright, high-toned Pinot Noir with rambling warm, St. David’s Bench red fruit aromas, out of the raspberry patch (thorns and thistles in) and off of the ripening pomegranate tree. Some rusticity and quarried character refracts within a mild tannic frame. Very floral and high on acidity. Blissfully and blessedly not over pressed and in fact rather well made. Yet another success employed by winemaker Kevin Panagapka with stylistic firm talon grip from out of the Queenston Road Vineyard. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted February 2016 and March 2017  @2027cellars

Bachelder Pinot Noir Wismer Parke Vineyard 2014, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario (Agent, $39.95, WineAlign)

Thomas Bachelder has never had a problem with timing. His first pinot noir from the specific Wismer Parke Vineyard (labeled as such) comes from a veritable cracking jackpot of a great varietal vintage. If you need some geographical placement here, The Parke is contiguous to the Foxcroft and Wingfield sections of Wismer in the eight farm-strong holdings on and around the Twenty Mile Bench. It is here that Bachelder concentrates the microscope on a sectional-cordoned off Wismer micro-terroir and its precision-apportioned mineralogy mined for sidetracked and step out of the box focus. What The Parke delivers in 2014 is a sweeter extract than Wismer proper and one that is stationary, static and accessible. The overall grasp is a mouthful easy on the spice or rather subtle in attack after it has climbed in and out of its barrels. Most polls would place Lowrey at the pinnacle of Ontario’s pinot noir vineyards but Thomas Bachelder’s 2014 work with Wismer Parke establishes a new player on the shortlist. This is an exciting entry point and the future will be bright. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted October 2016 and March 2017  @Bachelder_wines  @LiffordON

Icellars Pinot Noir 2015, VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario (Winery, $45.00, WineAlign)

The pinot noir condition is really challenged with Icellars ’15, a wine that acts as ambitious as its sister chardonnay but the results filtered through just the opposite. The aromas are dusty, rusty, coppery and full of dried fruit, but also weathered leather and savour. The palate goes deep south, humid and balmy with red citrus, plenty of tonic and a finish left by bitter citrus pith. Incredibly firm and old-world schooled, way back to Burgundy from another era. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted March 2017  @FoolAnd60Acres

Norman Hardie Winery & Vineyard Pinot Noir 2015, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (208702, $45.20, WineAlign)

Great purity of Twenty Mile Bench fruit lightens the load, re-focuses, revives, prolongs and re-lives the magic. Sweet, salty and bitter combinative phenols in cohorts distinguish the layering effect of a Norm Hardie pinot noir, no matter the source but here distinct as the s-shaped micro-cilmate curves of 20 Mile blocks. Quite the cake creamy texture and silky mouthfeel for a Hardie pinot noir would indicate that alcohol has crept above the norm but the magic is never abandoned and always prolonged. Heat and alcohol “never there. You’re never there. You’re never ever ever ever there.” Under 12 per cent, every time. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted March 2017   @normhardie

Cabernet and Red Blends

Redstone Cabernet 2013, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (415885, $19.95, WineAlign)

A cabernet blend more franc than sauvignon because of the savour and the plugged in currant fruit. Though the aromatic tones are elevated and venturing into menthol territory, the structure provided by palate and finish ground this two cab blend into solid clay. Will drink well for up to five BBQ seasons. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted September 2016 and March 2017  @RedstoneWines

The Good Earth Cabernet Franc 2015, VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Ontario (Winery, $21.95, WineAlign)

Just as cabernet franc is inherently wont to be this Good Earth celebrates a grape’s verdant habitual greenness of warming spring and fresh vegetal in waves that bring more advantage than not. Nicely tart and expressive of varietal ways, this is neither overly ambitious nor does it use wood to excessive advantage. With understated the great operative we are faces with cabernet franc allowed to go about its business, for under appreciated grace and the sort of electric and elastic length that goes on for days. Some will say too much of a good thing but if you know cabernet franc, it’s just right. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted March 2017  @goodearthtweets  @goodearthNico

Can I be #cabernetfranc for a minute? @meldvillewines @grangewinery

The Grange Of Prince Edward Vineyards & Estate Winery Cabernet Franc 2013 Select, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $24.95, WineAlign)

An extra year has paid great compliment to Caroline Granger’s ’13 cabernet franc, a wine of deeply aromatic and summer savoury dark fruit. Comparisons politically correct or not, this kind of County cabernet franc is so much more closely connected to Chinon than most from Niagara and it really combines cool-climate with limestone geology. What wood there was has melted and blended in with copacetic liquid chalky ooze, leaving this in a pure and pleasurable state of cabernet franc grace. A near perfect place. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted March 2017  @grangewinery

Henry Of Pelham Family Estate Winery Cabernet/Merlot Estate 2012, VQA Short Hills Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (395855, $24.95, WineAlign)

Exceeds elegant expectations with poise and presence, a Bordeaux blend so refined it pleases. Effectively restrained and remedies with tonic. Circulating acidity ranges while chocolate whips, but wholly within reason. Spice accents assist in the celebration (why not?) to effectuate this red’s firm grip and grasp of Claret reality. Drink 2015-2020. Tasted blind at WWAC15, August 2015, January and March 2017  @HenryofPelham  @SpeckBros

Fielding Estate Winery Cabernet Syrah 2014, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (258657, $25.15, WineAlign)

The rare and elusive Ontario cabernet-syrah returns with Fielding’s 2014, from mostly Lowrey Vineyard fruit set in 20-25 per cent new barrel for 16 months. Neither a 2009 or a 2013 was produced because “it’s a priority, not an afterthought,” insists winemaker Richie Roberts. The ’14 is a (50 per cent) cabernet sauvignon, (30) syrah and (20) cabernet franc compendium, treated like a top tier Bordeaux-esque blend with a French-Niagara twist. This is sultry-smoky, curative and red fruit, earthy-dried salumi-salmagundi, holy gastronomy in a glass blend. The Fielding-Roberts wisdom and acumen are all over in a wine that will prepare you for every eventuality. Would undoubtedly pair famously with the rare and elusive king of game birds, le bécasse, with bacon and fleur de sel. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted January and March 2017  @FieldingWinery  @RichieWine  @Heidi_Fielding

Norman Hardie County Cabernet Franc 2015, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $25.00, WineAlign)

Only 100 cases were made of Hardie’s 2015 County cabernet franc with thanks to a late spring frost. The impossible one is a destemmed, small basket press wonder that spent 11 months (one more than usual) in 30 per cent new (plus 70 neutral) 228L French barrels. The tartful dodger is slick, smart and spirited. Impossible because of its wood-smothered and smouldered upbringing and how it stays so lean, clean, stealth and low in alcohol. Some things are best left unexplained. Just take in the raspberry, cranberry and cool limestone, followed by the star anise and cassia red braised pork belly imagined, even if that’s just what dish would be so right alongside. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted March 2017   @normhardie

Meldville Cabernet Franc 2015, VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Ontario (Winery, $27.00, WineAlign)

A beautifully sweet, savoury aromatic cabernet franc of verdant bright tones and such commissioned, defined red fruit. Character is at the forefront, both for attitude and complexity, gently pressed and in varietal synch. This is precisely why Lincoln Lakeshore is the right place to be with the cabernet franc you love. This has great tension without being too firm, gritty or tannic. Though this celebrates the bright and the fruity it is not without enough structure to carry it forward five plus years. Pyrazine or green notes are curiously absent and there nothing suffers as a result of their omission. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted March 2017  @meldvillewines

Southbrook Vineyards Cabernet Franc Small Lot “101” 2013, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $34.95, WineAlign)

Gone is the Whimsy! idiom and preserved is the varietal freshman year class denotation. The “101” actually refers to the vineyard, a block in purport of aromatic restraint in a confident Cabernet Franc with more richness and tannin, not to mention raging acidity and acceptable volatility. There is lightness and brightness within the rigid tannic frame. The “101” vineyard shines while it broods. Dichotomous Cabernet Franc with an as yet undecided future. Drink 2017-2020. Tasted at Gold Medal Plates, November 2016, February and March 2017  @SouthbrookWine  @AnnSperling  @PaulDeCampo  @thesirengroup

Icellars Arinna 2014, VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario (Winery, $39.00, WineAlign)

Without knowing much about the blend, the nose tells me cabernet sauvignon leads the way. Merlot and cabernet franc trail behind the tart, purple citrus and tobacco-verdant personality. The accumulation is quite chalky, wood-inflected and with the middle palate transparency this emits as another example of a big effort (like the pinot noir) with a shortfall because it gets ahead of itself. Would likely better be served with less pressing, structural dreaming and more easy going impression. I suppose the style has to justify the price but for value and enjoyment a prudent decision would choose instead to follow the lead set out with the estate’s chardonnay. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted March 2017  @FoolAnd60Acres

Creekside Estates Cabernet Sauvignon Queenston Road Vineyard 2012, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $39.95, WineAlign)

The time in bottle has eased up the tannic throttle, leaving Creekside’s ’12 in a pleasurable if not quite fuly accessible state. The great fruit vintage was deftly pressed, that much is clear, because as the wood subsides it is not astringncy and bitters sliding into its place. Cassis, cassia and black cherry are the aromas of ilk, in delivery at this time and followed up with cabernet sauvignon silk. This is rightfully and righteously chewy cabernet sauvignon and without a doubt just about as good as it gets for Ontario. Though the limbo bar starts low, Rob Power’s 2012 climbs under with great agility and raises the stakes for everyone else. Still, I’d hedge bets and wait two more years for further integration and a little bit of truffling to begin. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted March 2017  @CreeksideWine

Icellars Cabernet Sauvignon 2015, VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario (Winery, $50.00, WineAlign)

Good quality fruit and equanimity from generous barrels define this ambitious effort. There is this underlying green streak that can’t be missed nor denied though it’s neither unexpected nor unusual. The texture runs quite complex, chewy and at times even crunchy, with enough structure to work towards a promising future. Wood and stemmy savour are certainly part of the mix but with time should integrate without much trouble. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted March 2017  @FoolAnd60Acres

Good to go!

Godello

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WineAlign

Seven climats in 54 Chablis Grand Cru

kimmeridgian

Le kimmeridgien en fossiles d’Exogyra virgula

Related – Chablis Premier Cru by Cru

I have spent the better part of these past eight months tasting, assessing, contemplating, excogitating, dreaming about and purchasing Chablis. I may have once believed that the rooted obsession incited by my visit to the kimmeridgian zone last July would cease and desist by the time the clock struck 2017. I was dead wrong. If ever there was a Chablis lifer transformed, you are looking at him.

Related – Chablis from Dauvissat to Vocoret

chablis-grand-cru

Related – Chablis got soil

Chablis Grand Cru can be found in the commune of Chablis on the right bank of the Serein River and the appellation comprises seven climats; Blanchot, Bougros, Les Clos, Grenouilles, Preuses, Valmur, and Vaudésir. “The terroirs, formed in the Upper Jurassic era, 150 million years ago, are composed of limestone and marl with Exogyra virgula, tiny oyster fossils. Chablis Grand Cru is one of the rare French AOC wines to make reference to its geology, notably the Kimmeridgean age.”

Related – Looking for Chablis in Ontario?

chablis-grand-cru-2

Related – Raveneau’s Grand Cru Blanchot 2009

If at first you have not written enough about a particular subject, keep on writing. My first grand assessment took my olfactory and gustatory senses, emotions and tangent extrapolating explorations into 76 examples of Chablis and Petit Chablis. I followed that exercise with 92 reviews to cover all the Premier Cru tasted in Chablis and Auxerre back in July of 2016 and also those I have assessed in the months since. Finally I have come to the Grand Cru, a group of top echelon Chablis that caused more personal reflection and inner exorcism than I’d like to admit. The count is 54 wines reviewed. At last, again and again I must pay retrospective and forward thanks to @purechablis  @vinsdechablis  @BourgogneWines and @vinsdebourgogne.

Related – Paradox in Chablis

au-fil

Au fil du Zinc Chablis, thon, concombre, crème d’anchois

Related – A Canadian in Chablis

Valmur

Patrick Piuze Chablis Grand Cru Valmur 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

The south-facing, Right Bank Grand Cru “Valley of Ripeness” parcel known as Valmur is from “val” which refers to “valley” and the French “mur,” which means “ripe.” Valmur and its great, late afternoon sun ensures phenolic ripeness unlike anywhere else, to accentuate the richness and the éclat. Yes there is this strong personality and guarantee of Grand Cru acidity but the creamy richesse is unparalleled for Chablis. Piuze recognizes both the place and the vintage and just lets this Valmur run free. What else should it be? Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted July 2016  @patrickpiuze  @LaCelesteLevure  @LiffordON

Patrick Piuze Chablis Grand Cru Valmur 2012, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

Before launching into the Valmur 2012 first an exhortatory preface, or at least a contextual, cautionary tale from Patrick Piuze. “It will look a bit older, on the nose, because we tasted so many 2015s.” True, we have just sailed through 18 (plus one 2014) so this Valmur does seem “dressed-up” and boozy with alcohol but it’s OK because the acidity is divine. Evolution has done some rendering and I get the feeling Patrick was picking later then than he is now. The liqueur leads a remarkable cocktail of pure Valmur geology distilled, subservience to ends, almost now, but now quite. If this Piuze Valmur is a Chablis meme to an aramaic Belshazzar’s feast, the Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin is clearly understood writing on the wall. Drink 2016-2021.  Tasted July 2016  @patrickpiuze  @LaCelesteLevure  @LiffordON

collet-grand-cru

Domaine Jean Collet & Fils Chablis Grand Cru Valmur 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Valmur under the spell and with classic Collet acumen is a tale of two parts told with seamless transitions. Two to three year-old Allier “Moyenne chauffe” barrels hold the central Grand Cru hill’s proud climat fruit for 12 months followed by five extra fortifying and corralling months. The Valmur clocks in at a minor but important and impressing half per cent extra of alcohol and you can nose the slow-release, micro-oxygenated wood. In part two there is this rich and expansive vacuum with definite taxing spice and of course that Collet-specific lemon acidity. The back end is dripping with citrus, taking the reins and leaving the wood behind. In another year or two the transition will complete for perfect symmetry. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted July 2016  

Sébastien Dampt Chablis Grand Cru Valmur 2014, Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

The Valmur is a négoce Grand Cru from Sébastien Dampt, so very rich with razor-thin mineral pastry, fruit and cream layered upon that mineral many times over. It is raised in some wood and some inox, resulting in a tiered tart wrought with some weight. This is really like sucking on a mouthful of rocks, at first, all saline and tangy. Then the custard and the (on the edge of) brûléed orchard fruit creams in. The tension hangs in that caramelized balance in a Grand Cru set from a very clean and vintage driven take on Valmur. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted July 2016  @SebastienDampt  @LesVieuxGarcons

Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Grand Cru Valmur 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Valmur leaves an indelible mark because in 2014 this one is just so confident and impresses with purpose. The Grand Cru vineyard is located on the top of the hill, both east and southwest facing, with some clay and marl (as a vein into the kimmeridgian sub-soil). There is more richness in Valmur and here surely a by-product of stupidly low (25 hL/L) yields. This carries in its DNA the complex and multi-faceted variegation of Chablis soils intertwined, reticulated and defined. Will make itself readily available ahead of the other Fèvre Grand Cru because of its richness as an extension of soil and exposition. Drink 2017-2023. Tasted July 2016  @williamfevre_  @WoodmanWS

Domaine Christian Moreau Chablis Grand Cru Valmur 2013, Burgundy, France (Agent, ON $74.00, BCLDB 116517, $60.99, WineAlign)

From winemaker Fabien Moreau and his tiny parcel of 50 year-old vines sandwiched between Vaudésir to the north and Les Clos to the south. A pittance (for Grand Cru) percentage of new oak is used for half of the fruit, eventuating in beautifully delineated bitter density and fresh dressed pith. Quite open for business at this early stage but so very complex and variegated. Upon a second go ’round you might think reductive when what you are really getting is cool fresh mineral, away from bitter and into the yet unresolved. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted July 2016  @ChristianMoreau  @rogcowines

Domaine Jean Paul Et Benoît Droin Chablis Grand Cru Valmur 2013, Burgundy, France (SAQ 12280775, $71.50, WineAlign)

Benoît Droin has crafted an esteemed, highly amenable and juicy Valmur in effete for break of dawn business openness. The acidity is really quite round, more so than the Moreau and quite in contrast to the Premier Cru (Montmains and Vaillons) Droins. There is more pitch and assertiveness in Valmur to be sure, qualities to qualify its Grand Cru positioning though still surprising to note how well it drinks while young. It’s a funny vintage to be sure, with more weight, aromatic liquor and pooling viscosity than most. Droin’s Valmur will develop a bilateral petrol-honey secondary note before the decade strikes end. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted July 2016  

lasperule-barbue-brulee-legumes-verts-croquants-jus-daretes-a-lugli

L’asperule Barbue, brûlée, légumes verts croquants, jus d’arêtes à l’ugli

Related – Enlightened Chablis of Château De Béru

Bougros

(Côte De Bouqueyreaux)

Patrick Piuze Chablis Grand Cru Bougros 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

The Bougros vines grown on the plateau and while the aromatics are a bit reserved (like those on the Piuze Terroir Découverte) this inward and recondite Grand Cru is an intense, raging from within Chablis. It is this collected and surrounded power that keeps Patrick’s Bougros so in control and while it is labeled at 12.5 per cent alcohol, Piuze admits that is maxes out at 12.2. This is significant when you consider what sort of sapidity plays out in the context of enigmatic behaviour. “You can’t have a duality between acidity and alcohol,” says Piuze. “I don’t want high alcohol.” What he wants is chaste tension and while 2015 is not the perfect vestal vintage to realize his plans, it stays the course nonetheless. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted July 2016  @patrickpiuze  @LaCelesteLevure  @LiffordON

Jean Marc Brocard Chablis Grand Cru Bougros 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Brocard’s Grand Cru Bougros ’14 is the most reductive Chablis tasted so far this week, striking, chiseled and young beyond youth. Saline and briny to the hyperbole of its younger siblings, the implosion of full extract is at once arid and then rich. This is a full-on pure and simply beautiful Bougros, precisely tart and very long. Will age gracefully into the middle next decade, with ease. In the hands of Brocard Bougros to the west is neither entry or exit point but more like the epicentre of the action. This 2014 is certainly a top example for the vintage and the Grand Cru. Wait three years for it to unwind. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted with Julien Brocard at the domaine, July 2016  @chablisbrocard  @LiffordON

Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Grand Cru Bougros Côte Bouguerots 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Côte Bouguerots is the two point two hectare Domaine plot close to the river at the base of the Bougros Grand Cru hill. The extreme anti-steppe where only calcaire and kimmeridgian soils exist is the moonscape of Burgundy, bald, austere and machinery retarding. The ’14’s stark karst reality bleeds sea salinity, intense citrus and as much inferential mineral as this place can and ever will. Such a masculine assertion of Chablis predicated on this sort of fluidic geology and assortative power comes across in only so few. While the complexity is increased in Côte Bouguerots it is also like a vacuum within the greater clime, concentrating richness without fatness. This is, simply stated, a great white bottle of wine. The length goes on forever. Drink 2019-2030.  Tasted July 2016  @williamfevre_  @WoodmanWS

Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Grand Cru Bougros 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent, $97.00, WineAlign)

If Bougros in 2013 is the outlier and the exit west away from the Grand Cru, the follow up 2014 turns that right around. In this terrific mineral meets acidity vintage Bougros strikes as the entry point into Grand Cru Chablis. The southwest facing climat launches the introductory impression of the Fèvre Domaine GCs, with idiosyncratic layers of citrus, namely lemon and lime. Fifty per cent of the Bougros (six of 12 hectares) lies calm and poised on the flat portion of the already mild slope, offering easier access and amenability. A launch point from where control is transferred from the operating system to the process and ultimately, the programmer. That would be winemaker Didier Séguier, he who takes a calm ferment and squeezes out its vital juices to render Chablis with all the attributes it has come to define. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted July 2016  @williamfevre_  @BouchardPere  @WoodmanWS

Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Grand Cru Bougros 2013, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent, $97.00, WineAlign)

The southwest facing Bougros is the furthest strip west of the Grand Cru climats at modest altitudes ranging from 130 to 170m. Bougros strikes me as the hardest to read and the outlier of the Grand Cru because it is less expressive of that necessary and contemplative Chablis mineral idiom but don’t be fooled into thinking it bourgeois or insignificant. That type off thinking will only look for trouble and lead to dire straits. “Sitting on a fence that’s a dangerous course.” Bougros of marl and clay is a clam before a storm Grand Cru. It is sneaky dangerous and long. The limestone permeate is integrated with deep intent. It fills all nooks but with nary an act of argumentation or attrition. The vintage is an expanding one, not so much one that leaves a direct impression as much as one of wide expression. The palate circulates with citrus and zest, more lime and grapefruit than others and in warmer tenses, native and prominent. One upon a time in the west. Drink 2016-2021.  Tasted April 2015  @williamfevre_  @WoodmanWS

Côte De Bouqueyreaux

Patrick Piuze Chablis Grand Cru Bougros Côte De Bouqueyreaux 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

The Côte de Bouqueyraux terroir is a (45°) steep-sloping solid bedrock section of Bougros. It’s also a name referring to “how the monks are calling it” back in the pressoir day. “Bougueriot,” from the Latin “bucca” which gave the Old French “bouque” (shrunken). Or, Boquereau, which took its name from “bouque-eau,” (narrow passage by the water). Piuze made only 600 bottles in 2015 from this highly specified, laser-focused, riverine-simulated and disciplined Grand Cru vineyard. This is tasted 14th in the great caves breakfast Piuze rendezvous with Patrick and is unequivocally the most intense. And yet there is this creamy, nutty and tart stone tree-fruit character that adds a level of toothsome delight. Will chalk that up to 2015, from “a really sharp place,” coupled with the warm vintage. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted July 2016  @patrickpiuze  @LaCelesteLevure  @LiffordON

piuze-bouqeyrou

Patrick Piuze Chablis Grand Cru Bougros Côte De Bouqueyreaux 2011, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

At 45° in angle the steep (perhaps the steepest) Côte de Bouqueyraux dangles Bougros like bait on a line and is the farthest thing from a shrunken (from the French “bouque”) or shrinking violet. This 2011 is what Patrick Piuze refers to as “in between ’09 and ’15 in style; my style.” He puckers, shrugs and adds, “pretty good for a vintage that isn’t supposed to age.” Once again it is Piuze that looks at Chablis, at Grand Cru Chablis from the very recent past as a wine of THE past. Most vignerons would see a 2011 Grand Cru as an infant, barely evolved and far too young to even think about passing any real judgement. Pious is the most pragmatic, honest and transparent of them all. It is both refreshing and confounding. Either for Bougros or in sub-climat terms this Côte De Bouqueyreaux is in the sweet spot. Citrus fruit, saline-mineral innervation and a vintage-affected softening combine for this lime-sherbet palate. Will drink with perfect reason for three to four more years. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted July 2016  @patrickpiuze  @LaCelesteLevure  @LiffordON

bordet-vaudesir

Vos désirs, in a word, #vaudesir @purechablis #jeanfrancoisbordet @bivbchablis #domaineseguinotbordet

Vaudésir

Domaine Séguinot Bordet Chablis Gran Cru Vaudésir 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Jean-François Bordet’s Vaudésir tells a climat tale with the sort of precision and clarity that really explains the Cru comparative to Les Preuses and Les Clos. Bordet took over in 1988 so 25-plus years of experience later and with the exceptional vintage in pocket he has really locked into Vaudésir. The finesse that calmly breathes from SB’s fruit farmed on this double semi-circled, steep-sloping hill is certainly mellow, golden and mature. It’s also alive. Bordet makes use of 10 hL wood tanks for aging (12 months) plus six more in stainless steel. This has been in bottle six months, just long enough to reveal the intoxicating perfume, the power, rich texture and the elegance. In the present (or futur proche) Bordet’s ’14 Vaudésir will incite your desires, as it will say “je vais congelé vos désirs.” J-F shrugs and holds out his hands as he tells you this so after a glass (and an exceptional meal prepared by Eric Gallet at Le Bourgogne in Auxerre) some of your fantasies may come true. The effect may come with less jouissance than Les Preuses and not quite as much puissance of Les Clos but true power nonetheless. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted July 2016  @BordetJean  @TheCaseForWine

Domaine Billaud-Simon Chablis Grand Cru Vaudésir 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (SAQ 11482703, $77.00, WineAlign)

For some producers Vaudésir is the pinnacle of their Chablis expression and yet here it seems the entry point as it leads in a tasting of four Grand Crus. From three parcels in the amphitheatre, one right at the top by the wood and two at the mid-way point on the hill. A direct, in your sight lines Vaudésir, so very lemon-lime push-pulled and densely tart. It’s taut but not sour, tight but not cringing from the tightening of the winch. The most masculine of Vaudésir perhaps with few equals though unwavering and unquestionable in its achievement of balance. The Inox secret is discarded (or complicated, depending on your vantage point) in favour of 100 per cent (15-16 years) old oak. This is Grand Cru after all. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted July 2016  @Billaud_Simon

Domaine Gérard Tremblay Chablis Grand Cru Vaudésir 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent, WineAlign)

Here from Vincent Tremblay a nicely stinky (dare it be said) and reductive Vaudésir of major mineral compression and the combative exaggerated energies of weight, body and density. This is a powerful expression of the climat that sits atop the Grand Cru hill, unique in round shape and steep slope as if created as a natural and ancient amphitheatre. Tremblay cuts a white stony line right through his chemin des vaudésirs, as any self-respecting Grand Cru Chablis should. Drink 2018-2023. Tasted July 2016  

Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Grand Cru Vaudésir 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (226373, $110.00, WineAlign)

Vaudésir from Fèvre’s Didier Séguier is the consummate erudite expression from the amphitheatre-chiseled and curled Grand Cru. It is here where there simply is no clay, only the calcaire for the kimmeridgian, so its all about high mineral commission. All Vaudésir is meant for aging but this, this is something other. Séguier the winemaker is a generous fellow, a giver of Chablis, gift-wrapped in 50 per cent oak and tank equality (as he does for all GC). The vernacular spoken is very direct primarily because of the veritable bath of mineral which translates to salinity off the charts. It can be imagined without any real difficulty that the alleged ancient sea bed is in this one. It will be some years before any change is noted and many more until mindfulness reigns in a secondary geological observation. Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted July 2016  @williamfevre_  @WoodmanWS

Domaine Louis Moreau Chablis Grand Cru Vaudésir 2014, Burgundy, France (124354, $79.00, WineAlign)

Vaudésir in Moreau’s Chablis cellar spent a mere handful of months in one, two and three year-old oak barrels, destined to an end game of gentle spice, then followed up with 24 months in stainless steel. Concentration, resolute vitality and depth render the barrel nearly obsolete, allowing the desires of the Cru’s mineral to really shine through. All that said it is a decidedly feminine expression, delicate and with richesse, but ultimately calm. Will age with charm and grace. Drink 2018-2025  @MoreauLouis1

lasperule-labbaye-de-citeaux-pommes-sautees-raisins-opaline

L’asperule L’abbaye de Citeaux, pommes sautées, raisins, opaline

Blanchot

Patrick Piuze Chablis Grand Cru Blanchot 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

The Serein River’s Right Bank Grand Cru faces south with vines that average 40 years-old. Neutral barrels are employed for the Piuze Blanchot so that density is derived slowly, effortlessly and with GC corradiation. In the cathedral of Blanchot there is always a compression intro. of mille-feuille flint and citrus but few act with as much immediate amenability as this ’15. Seemingly warm and downy, things begin to increase with intricate complexity and the point of convergence is met where persistence begins, two years down the tractor road, to carry on into the middle of the next decade. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted July 2016  @patrickpiuze  @LaCelesteLevure  @LiffordON

Domaine Billaud-Simon Chablis Grand Cru Blanchot 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (401984, $115.00, WineAlign)

From the top right (eastern) aspect of the white stones Grand Cru, just across the valley from Montée de Tonnerre. This is a fuller, slightly richer Blanchot but still so direct, piercing and impressed stone-dominant. Great lemon zest shaved into juice and an amplitude rendering dollop of curd. The lemon-curated and curative house continues to flex its citrus style. Once again, the enigma of Inox barrel and old barrels used. Why pour this last of the four Grand Crus? I suppose it’s because the rich fruit versus exigent stone is the epitome of Chablis paradox, in retrospect and with further addendum to what seemed obvious at the time. Blanchot is the gate-keeper of Grand Cru middle ground. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted July 2016  @Billaud_Simon

Domaine Laroche Chablis Grand Cru Les Blanchots 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Four of Domaine Laroche’s total of six-plus Grand Cru hectares are in Blanchot and comprise one third of all holdings in this ancient kimmeridgian climat and its southeast exposure. “We are the ambassador of this Grand Cru,” informs Elodie Saudemont, noting the low and slow ripening processes on the eastern portion of the Cru. The white clay defines Les Blanchots, infusing a fine minerality that delivers a purported sense of fitness and fineness to this wine. In 2014 there is a delicate arabesque lacework and a certain salinity, explicit and inherent to Blanchot. Floral like no other Grand Cru, of stereotypical but percipient aromas that call to the air what can only be white flowers. Not that it’s any shock but the length is exceptional too. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted July 2016  @DomaineLaroche  @SelectWinePros  @Select_Wines

une-degustation-chez-domainelaroche-originale-exceptionnelle-et-tellement-informative-merci-beaucoup-elodie-vaudevey-lesmontmains-lesvaillons-montedetonnerre-chablispremiercru-chablisgrandcru

Une dégustation chez @DomaineLaroche originale, exceptionnelle et tellement informative. Merci beaucoup Elodie #vaudevey #lesmontmains #lesvaillons #montedetonnerre #chablispremiercru #chablisgrandcru #leclos #lesblanchots #reservedelobedience

Domaine Laroche Chablis Grand Cru Les Blanchots Réserve De L’obédience 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Réserve De L’obédience is a cuvée coalesced from the best of Les Blanchots barrels, those that show the greatest balance between fruit and acidity. The entire technical team takes part in the process, to the end for a wine with the most finesse. There is no true reference point for such a wine, that is unless you can close your eyes, travel back in time and conjure up some 9th century L’Obédiencerie or 13th century Saint-Martin monks working a pressoir. Grand Cru Chablis separates itself from the rest for good reason but because L’obédience is a cuvée consolidated from the best of Les Blanchots’ barrels this is something other, or rather it is a cuvée spotted in a light separate from the rest of the Chablis Grand Cru. An unusual amalgamation, beyond the idea of selecting the best plots, into the concept of selecting the best wines. Here the practice of lutte raisonnée ensures balance is profligate and etched in stone. The acidity is pitch-perfect, the fruit a metronomic peregrination from streaming to richness and back again. Multiple exposures and various levels of ripeness be damned, this Grand Cru skips over the tribulations of plots and vintage variation. The best is stolen and used for great purpose. And 2014 was a friend. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted July 2016  @DomaineLaroche  @SelectWinePros  @Select_Wines

Domaine Long-Depaquit Chablis Grand Cru Les Blanchots 2012, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

The Long-Depaquit treatment for Blanchots is with 25 per cent barrel. A real preserved lemon and just a hint of paraffin is replete with such elegance and finesse on the nose. Les Blanchots is at once soft but also of a sexy smoulder, like flint that has been sparked, extinguished and left with a lingering wisp. So beautifully wound and full of demurred grace. But don’t be fooled, there is a punch of acidity and underlying spirit. The house accounts for a meaningful if ponderous part of the Blanchot riddle, its centrism wrapped in a mystery, in a fruit versus stone enigma. Recondite, interwoven Chablis. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted July 2016  @Matth_Mangenot  @Bichotwine  

Down by the river with #raveneau #grandcru #blanchot #chablis @lafolieauxerre #2009 #francoisraveneau #thankful

Down by the river with #raveneau #grandcru #blanchot #chablis @lafolieauxerre #2009 #francoisraveneau #thankful

Domaine François Raveneau Chablis Grand Cru Blanchot 2009, Burgundy, France

It would be misleading to address Raveneau’s Blanchot as chardonnay even as we know it as such because Raveneau produces wines as unique as door keys. They are so inimitable and each will only open the gate to its own unique perception. Blanchot is the southernmost of the seven Chablis Grand Cru climats and blankets the southeastern side of Les Clos. The Raveneau narration does not convey the notion of manifest feeling but instead splits the axiomatic atom of the climat. A sip and you are inside the Blanchot, gliding and passing through rock as if you are the ethereal and the wine is the solid foundation of thought, pathos and avowal. There are aromas that combine citrus and umami with a sweetness that can’t be denied or defined. The wine is just a child, complex, shy and yet unable to express both its meaning and power. But you try to get inside its head, stumbling over kimmeridgian rock replete with the smithereen-crushed shells of ancient fossils. This is a calm young Blanchot and you melt away while under its spell. Three more years should render its hidden meaning. Drink 2019-2034.  Tasted July 2016

La Folie d'Auxerre

Restaurant La Folie, Auxerre

Les Preuses

Patrick Piuze Chablis Grand Cru Les Preuses 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (SAQ 12034902, $106.00, WineAlign)

Les Preuses faces west, the Grand Cru Patrick Piuze notes “is always last. You cannot beat Les Preuses in Chablis.” The crux of what Piuze is aiming to accomplish with Grand Cru fruit is motivated by this climat and explained like this. “We are early pickers, early bottlers and (patient observers of) late transformations.” Semi-getting on towards vieilles vignes of 35 years are grown in Kimmeridgian limestone and clay soil. La Voie Pierreuse (The Stony Path) is the Piuze GC muse and his tightly wound elucidation will take longer to unravel, flesh up and drink heartily than most. Even in 2015 there will be no immediate Les Preuses gratification but there will be valiance and stony reward. Eventually. Drink 2018-2028.  Tasted July 2016  @patrickpiuze  @LaCelesteLevure  @LiffordON

Domaine Billaud-Simon Chablis Grand Cru Les Preuses 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (360834, $99.00, WineAlign)

What separates Chablis from chardonnay begins with these 65 year-old vines, with healthy yields (50 hL/H) that are perfect for the vintage from this stoic and iconic Cru. Here is the essentiality of Les Preuses, “the juice of the stone,” saline, crustaceous, briny and simply, utterly trenchant. This is the vraiment Preuses impression, a fossil entrenched in the chardonnay and subsequently on the brain and the senses. A straight jacket Chablis with length up Les Preuses, back to the river and then straight back up and away into the woods. Inox barrel (sic) and old barrels used. Drink 2020-2030.  Tasted July 2016  @Billaud_Simon

Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Grand Cru Les Preuses 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent, $123.00, WineAlign)

Les Preuses is comprised of two point five hectares in two plots held in the Fèvre Domaine, one east facing and steep, the second southwest, flat and deep. The memory of an old Roman stone road “Perreuse” lays beneath, as marker and sentinel to the ancient rocks and stones below. Les Preuses is a blend of the two plots, both equal in delivery of rich and mineral elegant fruit. No other Grand Cru offers such near-identical balance from blocks meant to compliment one another. It is this symmetry, mille-feuille layering and gainful repetition that dishes LP such a a different sort of singular variegation, not so much a vein but a 12-string strum over top one another. There is more length to speak clearly of and ultimate elongation in Les Preuses. It is simply citrus beautiful. A near-perfect record, from side A to side B. Play either one first because it always comes around full circle. Drink 2018-2027.  Tasted July 2016  @williamfevre_  @WoodmanWS

Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Grand Cru Les Preuses 2013, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent, $123.00, WineAlign)

There is a certain sense of romanticism that surrounds Les Preuses, a cinematic beauty in thinking about a two thousand year-old Roman road which ran below the current vineyard. “Perreuse,” meaning stone and tasted directly after Bougros offers a stark inherent and stylistic contrast and unfairly puts the western frontier Grand Cru to shame. In Les Preuses the fruit speaks with beautiful infancy and fanciful clarity. It’s fleshy, creamy soft and delivers Fèvre’s most markedly chèvre-like aroma. The palate replay indicates this climat is expressly possessive of true goût de terroir. The lines led by stone and friable marl deliver crisp and cool streaks, climbing to higher climes, over hills and collines. Even in the climate-confused 2013 vintage Les Preuses is top quality Chablis, above and beyond. Drink 2017-2023.  Tasted April 2015  @williamfevre_  @WoodmanWS

La Chablisienne Chablis Grand Cru Les Preuses 2013, Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

This particular concentrated salinity of Les Preuses is briny but not oyster briny, verdant but not savoury, tart but not piercing. The personality forged here is a calm before storm that will soon rage for three to five years and then settle into its predetermined gentile nature. A little bit of hay and popcorn feel is noted from more oak obviousness that couples with the vintage towards developing a richer style. In Ontario the equivalent ideal is like that of Tawse’s Paul Pender and when his wines age they remind me of Les Preuses. Here a great example of a Grand Cru in different hands and what impact the producer has on the specific expression for the terroir. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted July 2016    @vbartement  @Vinexxperts

domaine-testut

Grenouilles

Domaine Testut Chablis Grand Cru Grenouilles 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (WineryWineAlign)

In 2014 Grenouille in Cyril Testut’s domain returns to the typical and the expected. Though he employs 17 per cent new oak this persists stylistically so very much in the same range as his Premier Crus. You get oak in the guise of a minor crème anglaise and even more spice, but a delicate one. Round acidity is pronounced and in surround of the fruit richness as per the Grenouilles climat and this is observed as a very dedicated wine to the oeuvre. Lower yields (than the PCs) at 45 hL/H and 50 year-old vines combine for full-on variegated effect. This shows off great length, in oscillation and circular return. Grenouilles is different and the appreciation here is for loyalty and adherence to what is necessary. It’s so simple. Application of “cuivres et boites et assemblage” was completed before bottling. Drink 2017-2025.  Tasted July 2016  

Domaine Testut Chablis Grand Cru Grenouilles 2013, Ac Burgundy, France (Winery, WineAlign)

Some wines can be understood and disseminated just fine, but others are better vetted with the winemaker. Like this Grenouilles ’13, tasted at the domaine with Cyril Testut. The triad of vintage, climat and handling is made clear under Cyril’s supervision and explained with tacit and axiomatic clarity. “I like this vintage very much, difficult but very interesting.” Indeed it is vintage with good botrytis, not typical but so very interesting. In comparative literary and mythological ways it and Alsace Pinot Gris Grand Cru (and Hengst in particular) are construed to be running in parallel lines, with ripeness, metallurgy, orange blossom and tropical notes. But again there is a reigning in and a balance struck to stay away from the lychee, nectarine and mango spectrum. Minerality is still the king so you may allow yourself to be stationed in Beaune as well. I find great preoccupation in Testut’s Grenouilles ’13. It reads like few other Grand Cru. Drink 2016-2023.  Tasted July 2016  

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grandcru for breakfast, jambon persillé for lunch. C’est Chablis. Oh

La Chablisienne Chablis Grand Cru Château Grenouilles 2012, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

The smallest of the greats Château Grenouilles is Chablisienne’s Grand Cru (seven of 9.5 farmed hectares), situated below Vaudésir and sandwiched between (right) Les Clos, Valmur and (left), Bougros and Preuses. Grenouilles is the only estate in Chablis where grapes are picked, crushed, vinified and aged directly within the vineyard itself. Only in this Grand Cru and heightened by this increasingly understood ’12 vintage is a wonderful note of green fraises du bois and floor of the bois above Les Grenouilles. Then comes a palate pricked with darts of green apple and such tart density. Really inward, taut and determined Chablis. Poured at the domaine by Oenologist Vincent Bartement. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted July 2016     @vbartement  @Vinexxperts

grenouilles

La Chablisienne Chablis Grand Cru Château Grenouilles 2011, Ac Burgundy, France (82974, $99.00, WineAlign)

Tasted with Oenologist Vincent Bartement at the domaine. The Grand Cru Grenouilles sits just above the D965 and the Serein River, with Les Clos and Valmur to its left, Bougros and Preuses to its right and Vaudésir above. It may be the least understood, least discussed and oft forgotten Grand Cru, in part because La Chablisienne farms and bottles a near exclusive (seven of the 9.5 hectares) quantity on the smallest of the Chablis Grand Cru. In a small vertical (that included ’12, ’10 and ’05) when you travel back a year ahead of that cracking 2012 there emerges a clear olfactive difference. The self-effaced “neologism with cloudy contours” whiffs into more herbology and perhaps some crustaceous notes. Certainly a raised funky beat. The gustative sensation salvos to more glycerin and although not as much texture, the age is offering a minor oxidative, liquid maize drip into perceived honey. As a consequence length is not as pronounced and if this ’11 is (at this stage) the most awkward of the three (consecutive vintages), it is also the most tactile and the most astute. Drink 2016-2021.  Tasted July 2016     @vbartement  @Vinexxperts

La Chablisienne Chablis Grand Cru Château Grenouilles 2010, Ac Burgundy, France (SAQ 12449930, $98.75, WineAlign)

In a retrospective examined through a line-up with ’12, ’11 and ’05 in the vertical mix the development of Château Grenouilles emerges with some new-found clarity. This ’10 offer insights in ways the follow up vintages are not yet able to, now a year into secondary notes. The 2010 funk du fromage is musky strong, at first, and then beautifully developed from and into metal-mineral. Wonderful texture from 2010 and very little of the corn liquor. None even. A terrific vintage and what seems to me a near-perfect expression of Les Grenouilles. The most distinction is unearthed and appreciated, a calming pause, poise and such perfect temperament. A wonderful wine. Drink 2016-2023.  Tasted with Vincent Bartement, July 2016    @vbartement  @Vinexxperts

la-chablisienne-chateau-grenouilles

La Chablisienne Chablis Grand Cru Château Grenouilles 2005, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Château Grenouilles Chablis Grand Cru 2005 at 11 years-old is beautifully and slow-micro oxidatively evolved though in many ways suspended in animation and almost not at all. Closer to 2010 than the others (tasted along with ’11 and ’12) for sure, with compressed minerality and excellent glycerin woven into wonderful texture. There will be two to three more years of optimal drinking before a next level oxidation begins to break down the fruit and turn the mineral into mandarin orange mixed with coppery metal. Take advantage of this current open window. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted July 2016    @vbartement  @Vinexxperts

Patrick Piuze Chablis Grand Cru Grenouilles 2009, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

Grenouilles is a Grand Cru that Piuze used to work with but does not anymore. This 2009 is close to achieving its full resolve, now waxy, oleaginous, briny and filled with the kind of glück usually reserved for older riesling, especially out of Alsace. Piuze discusses Grenouilles as “the most uni-dimensional” of all the Grands Cru, but he likes the way it has come to this point. If it has to be a one-trick perfect pony than so be it. Drink 2016-2017.  Tasted July 2016  @patrickpiuze  @LaCelesteLevure  @LiffordON

Les Clos

Patrick Piuze Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (SAQ 12034929, $106.00, WineAlign)

Piuze gathers equal and opposing Les Clos fruit from two parcels, first (and in dominance) in communality with Blanchots and then by Valmur. While not a perfect vintage for the grand Grand Cru by any stretch of the Chablis imagination, precision and clarity is a guarantee under the tutelage of Patrick Piuze. Hail was certainly a factor so quantity is sacrificed to quality, with herbs, bitters and spicy salinity the collective foil to early picked fruit. It’s a toss-up whether or not Les Clos is more successful than Blanchots and it remains to be seen if phenolics will drive the ageability machine, but Patrick’s caution and judgement should see this through to live another day. It is Grand Cru after all and deserves at least two years respect. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted July 2016  @patrickpiuze  @LaCelesteLevure  @LiffordON

Domaine Billaud-Simon Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent)

Here Les Clos is a magnified adaptive narrative of the Grand Cru, rich and full of ripe excess. Riper than most of the others, which is saying something. Magnetic, platinum mineral with very expressive fruit from Billaud-Simon’s take out of the grandaddy of all Chablis climats. The biggest bad boy of the flight and in the eyes of the world, textbook Grand Cru. Salinity, floral blossom airy and briny, though not quite expressive of the fossilized, ancient river trenchancy of Les Preuses. But again, Chablis at it old school, from very little shrouded or spice-driven wood, classic, cool-climate, mineral-driven Chablis. The summation confirms why it is poured after Vaudésir and Les Preuses but ahead of Blanchots. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted July 2016  @Billaud_Simon

Domaine Jean Collet & Fils Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

At first seemingly a different expression of Les Clos, both in aromatics and personality. There is this exoticism about Collet’s ’14, a perfume that imagines far east markets, of incense and peppermint. Then the terroir takes charge, of precious metals, platinum, gemstones and the Exogyra Virgula of the ancient soil’s shells. This combination of sweet fragrance and mineral contusion is intoxicating for a Les Clos. The Collet take is also neutral with respect to wood and unlike Valmur, lemon preserve appears nowhere on the forecasted radar. And yet there is more spirit here than many, if not quite as laser-focused as others. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted July 2016  

Domaine Laroche Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Laroche’s (45 year-old) vines sit at the bottom of the slope where the ground ripples with an excess of limestone. Laroche build its Les Clos architecture through this super-structured mineral foundation, the use of enclosing shrubs for micro-biological bio-diversity and wood posts as opposed to iron. This Les Clos does not mess around. It’s a straightforward expression in mimic of a craftsman’s personality, i.e. technical director Gregory Viennois. As a portrait it makes a direct connection and an impression with extract, but also tannin and fruit of true Les Clos intensity. This is a truly engaging and laser Les Clos, of mouth watering acidity and repeatedly encouraging return sip-ability. Drink 2018-2024. Tasted July 2016  @DomaineLaroche  @SelectWinePros  @Select_Wines

 

Domaine Louis Moreau Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2014, Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Moreau’s take on the grand-père Grand Cru is more obvious, showy and in exhibition of wood apparent musculature on the masculine side of the Grand Cru spectrum, not so much as spice but with volume and a broadening in mouthfeel. The mineral is tangy strong and will surely need a few years to settle into the rich fruit and savvy wood. This is really a baby as far as Les Clos is concerned and should not even be considered to be opened any time soon. The long road ahead will twist, turn and loop back into itself before Les Clos settles into the karst of its limestone landscape. Take the time to navigate the sinkholes and cavernous spaces and rewards in the name of miasma, massepain and miel will one day fill your glass. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted at the domaine with Frédérique Chamoy, July 2016  @MoreauLouis1

domaine-william-fevre-chablis-grand-cru

Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Les Clos Grand Cru 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (641381, $130.00, WineAlign)

The Fèvre holdings are not so much a cornering of the market but more so, let’s say, are representative as existing out of the creator and chair of the exchange. The four hectares owned, farmed and produced of the largest of the (25 hectare) Grand Crus confirms Fèvre as the largest producer of Les Clos. Fifty per cent of the noble and lofty locale was planted by William’s father in the 1940’s, at the top of the hill. This 2014 is prodigious, ponderous and cracking, because it is a Fèvre, due to the house approach for this stand alone vintage and simply by virtue of that vintage. Here you have the richest Les Clos of them all, perhaps, but the puissance is dramatic. There is more pith and density here than any other. It is simply a wow Grand Cru expression, searing, intense, layered, compact, compressed and very, very long. This is the most gregarious, strutting peacock of Chablis. Tasted at the domaine with Director Didier Séguier. Drink 2020-2035.  Tasted July 2016  @williamfevre_  @WoodmanWS

Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Les Clos Grand Cru 2013, Ac Burgundy, France (641381, $130.00, WineAlign)

Whereas Les Preuses persists as a player as part of its own height scaling process, Les Clos is already perched, permanently entrenched at the precipice. The permeate is integrated with a commotion of purity and clarity like no other. The stone is juiced like real lime in metronome time, with nothing but time on side to see this through 20 years of evolution. The richest fruit, laciest of organza overlay and highest degree of variegation has been gently coaxed from this storied Grand Cru by Director Didier Séguier. Top Les Clos from the challenging vintage. Drink 2017-2033.  Tasted April 2015  @williamfevre_  @WoodmanWS

Sébastien Dampt Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2014, Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

I find in this a different sort of Les Clos from Sébastien Dampt, a négoce Grand Cru that is more linear, taut and even a bit austere. I’d go so far as to say this is the most piercing Dampt and the most piercing Les Clos I’ve comes across. For Dampt the first Les Clos was 2010 and here is his fifth vintage the Sébastien stride has been compassed and effectuated. This Les Clos will live very long as the length is exceptional. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted July 2016  @SebastienDampt  @LesVieuxGarcons

dampt

Sébastien Dampt Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2013, Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Together with Sébastien Dampt I tasted two bottles of the 2013 Les Clos because he was not satisfied with the first. It was the side by side comparison of the two négoce Grand Cru that taught me things about the Cru, the vintage and Dampt. Initially speaking this can retrospectively be looked at as quite anti-2013 and as such more in line with the follow-up ’14. It alighted linear, taut and nearly as piercing. But unlike 2014 it was broad, soft and filled with French crème. Perhaps this first bottle was a bit frenzied and inculpably enzymatic. The second bottle tasted, reminded and reacted more like a ’13, ripe and near boozy, rich and expressive, with the spice so very pronounced. What is learned is Dampt’s unique ability to perpetuate a house style, despite the vintage and the Cru. Some things can’t be fought or changed so his is quite a big Les Clos but in 2013 not without his signature line. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted July 2016  @SebastienDampt  @LesVieuxGarcons

La Chablisienne Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2013, Burgundy, France (Agent, $73.00, WineAlign)

The Chablisienne piece of Les Clos takes a fine and even a middle path with copacetic, inert cooperation interfaced between bled citrus and mined mineral. This is a very linear, direct, purely and precisely informative Les Clos. It speaks to the idea of consistency and to the expected despite coming out of a strange vintage. With a line clearly drawn into the dry, stone-flint, “mineral touch” Chablis directive it will take some time to develop its comfort level of flesh though fruit will always be the understudy. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted July 2016    @vbartement  @Vinexxperts

Lamblin et Fils Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2013, Burgundy, France

Smoky, wannabe flinty Grand Cru with a creamy, malo feel. Like a scoop of Grand Cru gelato, with a real almond paste smoothed into marzipan finish. Clearly speaks with more wood finishing than most and rounds out the stones of Les Clos with polish and crown moulding. As a result I would expect this needs a year to integrate but not as long as the more mineral examples. The fleshing has already begun and oxidative notes will rear before too long. Will drink beautifully beginning in the summer of 2017 and for two plus years beyond. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted July 2016

Domaine Christian Moreau Chablis Grand Cru Clos des Hospices dans Les Clos 2013, Burgundy, France (Agent, $94.95, WineAlign)

The very specific flint from top to bottom slope off of three hectares of terroir brings a climat’s certain acidity from the soil and in the guise of a multi/micro-parcel tang. From macro-mineral to stone fruity not this specific anywhere so fine. Does not show and will not show fatigue any time sooner or later, after all, it never has to climb to the top of Les Clos. The length here is legendary. It will be tough to find a better example for the vintage, from Les Clos and into an examination more specific and so precise. Drink 2019-2033.  Tasted July 2016

Domaine Long-Depaquit Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2012, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent, WineAlign)

Just because the richest of Grand Cru fruit can handle the added value, Les Clos receives a generous 35 per cent barrel fermentation. As per Les Clos the corpulence and amenability adds up to one grand and inviting Grand Cru Chablis. Always critically evident and full of joie de vivre, there is roundness on les Clos like no other Grand Cru and Long-Depaquit is front and centre to the end of that ideal. What separates this house’s style is the long and slowly evolving finish because and with thanks to the wood adding texture and cream to all aspects of its relationship with the largest Grand Cru. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted July 2016  @Matth_Mangenot  @Bichotwine  

Jean Marc Brocard Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Les Clos in 2014 to be honest is surprisingly a much more approachable Grand Cru, especially tasted side by side with Bougros, with nary a reductive moment. Here is the broad approach, a rich style, consumer-friendly chardonnay with a willingness to please to no end. Everything about this wine is liquid gold, like a still Champagne, haute of couture and stylish beyond words. That sense of affluence in style, and poise drift away dreamily into a slow, languid drizzle of warm caramel. Les Clos is anything but austere in the hands of many but particularly here, with this Brocard. Drink 2017-2023.  Tasted July 2016  @chablisbrocard  @LiffordON

Jean Marc Brocard Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2007, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Julien Brocard pours the Grand Cru Les Clos 2007 blind from magnum and the first impression is this seems to have at least 10 years on it, but it’s probably older than I think. My initial guess is 2002. From what most mainstream critics considered to be a classic stone-mineral vintage with average acidity, I am surprised by the density of mineral so culpable to its oxidative tendency but the acidity keeps it very much alive. The cork was not in the best shape so this clearly had an bomb effect on speeding up aging by five years. A 2007 that acts like a 2002 is not such a terrible thing. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted July 2016  @chablisbrocard  @LiffordON

long-dep

Grand Cru Moutonne Monopole

Domaine Long-Depaquit Chablis Grand Cru Moutonne Monopole 2013, Ac Burgundy, France (46706, $89.95, WineAlign)

The greatest of paradoxical moments is shared in confessional confidence with Moutonne because not just anyone can make a wine with the name and of such a singular distillation from within a venn diagram of places. While some lieu-dit in Chablis share affinities, territorial geography and climats with larger Premier Cru, it is only Moutonne that stands alone in the schematic drawn up for the Grand Crus. Though the Moutonne can’t help but take on the atypical characteristics of the 2013 vintage it also can’t escape from itself. Les deux visages are always relegated into the dichotomous and interconnected realm, of Les Preuses (five per cent) controlled with manifest destiny by Les Blanchots. Les Preuses’ fruit is feisty and must be heard and this is so necessary in the tropical and spicy vintage. There is no lychee here but there breathes some very ripe stone fruit and the great white geology of the Grand Cru. In spite of the vintage this is a beautifully managed Moutonne (fermented in 25 per cent barrel) with trenchant piquancy on the finish. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted July 2016  @Matth_Mangenot  @Bichotwine  

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES, February 18th, 2017

#newyear #newedges

#newyear #newedges

as seen on WineAlign

Local best buys ahead of Taste Ontario and Cuvée, Kosher for Passover and searching for common ground

In advance of the fourth VINTAGES release of 2017 and just a shade post Valentine’s Day we find ourselves in anticipatory times. Here at the crossroads of February and depending on which overfed rodent’s shadow you align with, we may yet be faced with four more potential weeks of winter. Concerning ourselves with more important things, we turn to the Ontario wine industry’s lead in anticipation of Wine Country Ontario’s big month of March. Two seminal events lie in wait just around the corner, ahead of and into spring.

Taste Ontario! Toronto Trade and Media Tasting 2017 comes to the Royal Ontario Museum on March 6th and the 29th edition of Cuvée will happen in Niagara Falls. Brock University’s Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI) will host more than 800 guests at the Scotiabank Convention Centre for the Cuvée Grand Tasting on Friday March 24th.

After tasting at Cuvée in 2016 I noted how riesling and chardonnay have not relinquished any stronghold on their domination, nor should they anytime soon. I can’t help but feel and notice that winemakers continue to reach for the big red machine and wish upon an intangible Bordeaux star when they should be concentrating on fresh, gulpable cabernet franc and gamay. They should also take some risk-reward chances with these necessary, best Ontario option red varieties. Press less, reveal freshness and let natural ferments find low-alcohol impressions of impossible, ethereal beauty.

It’s not just a matter of what, but where. By sifting through leads in geography, in the orientation of escarpments, benches and lakeshore flats, in the gestalt of the archaeology of tomorrow, in the vineyard landscape of today we can perchance unlock the riddle of the what and the why for varietal planting. The end game is to unlock the mystery within the puzzle of terroir, to figure out what grapes will thrive and where they can be given the best shot at success. It is not just about what happens beneath the soil, but also what happens above, around, beyond and in the minds of growers and winemakers.

Passover is sill nearly two months away but ever the proactive agency, VINTAGES lays out the usual Kosher for Passover suspects in the February 18th release, some Mevushal (cooked or, flash pasteurized), some not. Let us first examine the concept and then, the cuisine. An understanding of the rules and laws that govern wine on Passover is on a need to know basis. There are really just three key variants of information essential to purchasing and consuming on PesachThis applies to Jews and non-Jews alike.

Number one. Passover wine is specific to a Jew’s level of Kosher. From Reform, to Conservative, to Orthodox, all Jews have different variances of belief. A Reform Jew will likely drink any wine on Passover and then again, may not. But, he or she will almost certainly not require the bottle to be Mevushal. A Conservative may only drink Mevushal but in more cases than not, Kosher is good enough. An Orthodox Jew goes it only one way or the highway. Strictly Mevushal KFP, do not pass go, do not collect the Afikoman (the broken Matzah) money. Most Jews who appreciate a glass of good wine with dinner, and especially those who double as wine geeks avoid Mevushal wine at all costs, thought being, consuming heat-damaged wine is no way to go through life. That said, a good deal of the Kosher for Passover wines in our market are Mevushal (KPM) and some are really quite agreeable.

It’s quite simple, really. All wines labelled “Kosher for Passover” are kosher, but not all kosher wines are kosher for Passover. Further to that, wine does not become kosher by being blessed. It can be considered kosher (from the Hebrew; pure, proper) once it has complied with strict rabbinic criteria that render it acceptable for Orthodox Jews.

Few holidays put food under as much duress as Passover. The cooking is a science and an art unto itself, having to make use of Matzo, eggs and oil for eight days. It is a form of penitence, a tortuous walk through a culinary desert, at times horrific like a Fear Factor episode. Charred eggs, Haroseth, Chopped Liver, Kugel, Farfel Stuffing and desserts made with cake meal and Matzo Meal. Believe me, this chef has had nightmares.

Up until a year or two ago I noticed that Kosher wines seemed to have migrated bigger and bigger with each passing Lunisolar calendar year. Israel continued to race towards big, lush, often high alcohol reds. This trend could be seen as a masking or a compensating/mitigating strategy to oppose the rigours and past failings of making Kosher wine. It can also be viewed as a stylistic choice, to mirror what has taken place in Bordeaux, in California and in Australia for the past 20 years. For the first time, the reds on this VINTAGES release seem to collectively take an extraction and alcohol step back.

The Kosher contingent on the VINTAGES February 18th release continues to be Israel-focused, which is not a bad thing, but if you really want a better selection, head to one of three LCBO kosher boutique locations; 675 Wilson Ave., 180 Promenade Circle, Promenade Mall and 502 Lawrence Ave. W. It is here that the LCBO has stepped up their Kosher game.

As for scouring the best of the rest, WineAlign’s John Szabo laid down the low-down on Australia’s impressive showing in this release and found great value in a hodge-podge of VINTAGES value releases. I am searching for common ground and was quite impressed with two iconic southern French producers and their stellar-valued, pull no punches red and white. One hails from arid Côtes du Roussillon, the other off of old vines in Costières de Nîmes. Magic and lithe Oregon, endemic Greece and a most pleasurable drop of Sagrantino round out my shortlist. David and Sara shore up the global list with much needed and appreciated support with pertinent finds of their own.

February 18th Buyers’ Guide:

Keep on tasting Ontario

Tawse Sketches Of Niagara Riesling 201513th Street Cabernet Merlot 2013Kew Marsanne 2014

Tawse Sketches Of Niagara Riesling 2015, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (89029, $18.95, WineAlign)

@Tawse_Winery  @DanielatTawse  @Paul_Pender

13th Street Cabernet/Merlot 2013, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (56598, $19.95, WineAlign)

@13thStreetWines  @Noble_Estates

Kew Marsanne 2014, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (485334, $19.95, WineAlign)

@kewvineyards

Henry Of Pelham Estate Pinot Noir 2012Huff Reserve Pinot Noir 2014

Henry Of Pelham Estate Pinot Noir 2012, VQA Short Hills Bench, Niagara Escarpment (268391, $24.95, WineAlign)

@HenryofPelham  @SpeckBros

Huff Estates Reserve Pinot Noir 2014, VQA Prince Edward County (489708, $35.00, WineAlign)

@HuffEstatesWine  @PECWines

Kosher for Passover

Recanati Chardonnay Kp 2014Jerusalem Wineries 3400 Premium Shiraz Kp 2013Galil Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

Recanati Chardonnay 2014, Kosher For Passover, Non-Mevushal, Upper Galilee, Israel (128322, $24.95, WineAlign)

@recanati_winery

Jerusalem Wineries 3400 Premium Shiraz 2013, Kosher For Passover, Non Mevushal, Judean Hills, Israel (473900, $24.95, WineAlign)

Galil Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Israel (128058, $24.95, WineAlign)

@azureau  

Searching for common ground

Tsantali Reserve Rapsani 2012Gérard Bertrand Grand Terroir Les Aspres 2013Château De Nages Vieilles Vignes Blanc 2014

Tsantali Reserve Rapsani 2012, PDO Rapsani, Thessalia, Greece (734855, $18.95, WineAlign)

@TSANTALI_wines  @DrinkGreekWine  @KolonakiGroup

Gérard Bertrand Grand Terroir Les Aspres Syrah/Mourvèdre/Grenache 2013,  AP Côtes Du Roussillon Les Aspres, France (413245, $18.95, WineAlign)

@GBvins  @FWMCan    @Vins_Roussillon

Château De Nages Vieilles Vignes Blanc (Bio) 2014, Costières de Nîmes, France (479659, $19.95, WineAlign)

@chateaudenages  @MichelGassier    @ProfileWineGrp

Omero Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 2013Lungarotti Sagrantino Di Montefalco 2010

Omero Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 2013, Oregon (470146, $29.95, WineAlign)

@OmeroCellars  Brand New Day Wines & Spirits  @Oregon_Wine

Lungarotti Sagrantino Di Montefalco 2010, DOCG Umbria, Italy (315499, $42.95, WineAlign)

@lungarottiwine  @ProfileWineGrp  

 

While I sip and taste through Chianti Classico, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Brunello di Montalcino at Antiprime Toscane I hope you all find your gems from the February 18th release. See you in March for a taste of Ontario.

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign


Use these quick links for immediate access to all of our Top Picks in the New Release.

Michael’s Mix
Lawrason’s Take
Sara’s Sommelier Selections
Szabo’s Smart Buys

John’s The Good Oz and Miscellaneous Best Buys

Chablis Premier Cru by Cru

Chariot de Fromages at Le Bourgogne, Auxerre

Chariot de Fromages at Le Bourgogne, Auxerre

Chablis Premier Cru is a multi-faceted, varied and wondrous thing. The interlocking complexity of its many defined micro-terroir parts weaves a tapestry specific to Burgundy and dares to be easily understood. Trying to get to know Premier Cru Chablis lies somewhere between the iconic and the psychotic. It’s like stabbing at clouds, understanding French by way of Greek from Latin, attesting meteorological inclination, grasping at amorphousness. It’s a slippery, discreet and humble secret. Nobody can get a grip on it. Many have tried and others believe they have succeeded. Only the winemaker in Chablis can really intuit the nuances of climats and cru, but even then, the learning curve is boundless and endless.

Related – Chablis got soil

The relationship between grower, producer and land in Chablis is entirely familial. The master considers and treats the land, vines and grapes with great respect. The farms are totems and the wines amulets, blessed with the power ascribed to protect their owners from danger or harm, but also possessive of poised intelligence. The clarity of this becomes increasingly true with enough time spent with the Premier Cru.

Last week I published 76 notes covering all the Petit Chablis and Chablis AOC wines I have tasted going back to my visit in Burgundy last July. It’s now time to move forward, upwards and deep into the Premier Cru. This appellation is comprised of 40 climats, “a place where vine cultivation is attested for a very long time” and each commune or hamlet within the appellation has one or more main climats, the name of which may be applied to the other Premier Cru climats in that commune. There are 17 main, “flag-bearing” climats. Each are defined by their particular soil, aspect, geological and climatic conditions and the way they are farmed. The communes are located in Beine, Chablis, La Chapelle-Vaupelteigne, Chichée, Courgis, Fleys, Fontenay-près-Chablis, Fyé, Maligny, Milly and Poinchy. In this appellation, the words Premier Cru and/or the name of the climat of origin may be added to the name Chablis for wines grown on Premier Cru plots.

Premier Cru Climats photo (c) http://www.chablis-wines.com/

Premier Cru Climats
photo (c) http://www.chablis-wines.com/

Vins de Bourgognes tells us “no French wine-growing area has pinned its faith more firmly on the facts of geology. The main substrate is Jurassic limestone (specifically, Kimmeridgian limestone) laid down some 150 million years ago. The rock contains deposits of tiny fossilized oyster shells which remind us that Bourgogne once lay beneath a warm ocean. Regarding the Premier Cru, the particularity is that they are produced on either side of the Serein River (left bank and right bank). The most famous climats are those on the right bank, surrounding the Grand Cru.”

Related – Paradox in Chablis

Porc, de la ferme de Clavisy grillé au Bintoyan, sauce acqua pazza (coquillage, tomates, olives, câpres...) Restaurant L'Aspérule, Auxerre

Porc, de la ferme de Clavisy grillé au Bintoyan, sauce acqua pazza (coquillage, tomates, olives, câpres…) Restaurant L’Aspérule, Auxerre

If you are searching for definitive information on the micro-terroirs of Chablis you need look no further than the governing board’s website which may just be the best in the business. Precise, critically-pinpointing information awaits. The pages will tell you all you really need to know. Jean Paul Droin is “a winemaker with a passion for history” and has researched the possible origins of the names of the various Climats of Chablis. His findings are presented here.

Related – Looking for Chablis in Ontario?

The following 92 reviews cover all the Premier Cru tasted in Chablis and Auxerre back in July of 2016 and also those I have assessed in the months since. Thanks to @purechablis  @vinsdechablis  @BourgogneWines and @vinsdebourgogne

chablis-1er-cru-left

Left Bank

Montmains

(Butteaux, Forêts)

Domaine Des Malandes Chablis Premier Cru Montmains Vieilles Vignes 2014, Burgundy, France (SAQ 11094760, $39.25, WineAlign)

This Malandes Montmains from old vines (aged 55-60 years on average) carries the most fruit of any in a flight of Left Bank Premier Cru that is not directly attributed to citrus. Truly amenable chardonnay, juicy, replete in absolute faith to the delicacies of Chablis, as a wine raised healthy and fleshy from enough but not egregious barrel. The kind of Chablis laid ripe and ready to swim alongside the whole fish, preferably off the grill, with citrus and herbs to balance to fullness and the gravity. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted July 2016    @TrialtoQC

Domaine Jean Paul Et Benoît Droin Chablis Premier Cru Montmains 2014, Burgundy, France (SAQ 11678845, $44.75, WineAlign)

Benoît Droin’s Montmains is a far right expression of a Left Bank terroir out of which other producers often allow fruit to trump mineral. Benoît’s take is less about orchard and stone fruit and more into the flint meets acid and mineral Montmains. The layers of tart and mineral are nothing if not exceptional, pulsating and full of nervous energy. Here we find a son’s departure from a father’s winemaking ways, away from the barrel and into the steely, nearly blinding light, but clearly expressing the singular chardonnay effects off of kimmeridgian terroir. A Montmains to wait for and allow to age. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted July 2016

tremblay

Vincent Tremblay

Domaine Gérard Tremblay Chablis Premier Cru Montmains 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent, WineAlign)

The Tremblay presents a real wet and briny oyster shell Montmains plus some favourable generosity, forest aromatics and a solid construct of medium weight and intensity. Of the five Premier Cru poured by Vincent Tremblay this is the calmest Chablis of the crew. A meditative and restorative Montmains of sheer afternoon delight. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted July 2016  

La Chablisienne Chablis Premier Cru Montmains 2014, Burgundy, France (265090, $32.95, WineAlign)

Montmains from Chablisienne concentrates on the sub-climat of Butteaux, a generally guaranteed Left Bank strength and from a proportion that comes off of argileux soil. Skips over the oily pungency of 2013 and reprises the form and formality of 2012. Ships by bateaux an even more striking Chablis with the leesy sweet nose only Butteaux-Montmains affords, encouraged and developed for richesse. Once again the palate pulses with lemon-lime juiciness, more depth and richness and of course, so bloody piercing. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted July 2016    @vbartement  @Vinexxperts

From #chablis to #i4c16 see you in #niagara @coolchardonnay @DomaineLaroche

From #chablis to #i4c16 see you in #niagara @coolchardonnay @DomaineLaroche

Domaine Laroche Chablis Premier Cru Montmains 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (SAQ 13047641, $38.75, WineAlign)

Montmains from Laroche and winemaker Gregory Viennois comes off of the Left Bank from a great wide open valley of wide open spaces. The soil is heavier in clay than just about any Premier Cru and that sweeping vastness solicits solar vulnerability. Montmains can solarize early, be quick to put on excess wait and difficult to avoid oxidative tendencies. Canopy management and picking time is key. In 2014 Augedond brings fruit in wonderful balance to seek and find such great salinity and tingling briny obfuscation. This is where Montmains heads to a tart that is tense, intense and even a bit terse. And so this is direct strike Chablis with supporting flesh. Such a vital and long elixir. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted July 2016  @DomaineLaroche  @SelectWinePros

Domaine Jean Collet & Fils Montmains Chablis Premier Cru 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (405704, $34.95, WineAlign)

First tasted at the domain with Romain Collet. From 40 year-old vines on mostly white calcaire stony soil and how can you not taste it?! Classic and expected in every way, by Collet, in Montmains, for Chablis. Mostly mineral, somewhat smoky-flinty, by spontaneous fermentation (as with all of Collet’s Chablis) and just a fine thread of fruit clarity. Chablis the way it has to be, leaning back in traditional time but rendered with 21st century clean purity. No surprises and zero waver from the proper and the norm. Well-priced for the specific, direct and always white rock-led Premier Cru. Every Chablis lover should try this at least once. Drink 2016-2022.  Tasted July and November 2016  

Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Premier Cru Montmains 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (977587, $50.00, WineAlign)

The Montmains Domaine 2014 on Chablis’ Left bank is tethered from three and a half hectares split into three plots, facing southeast. It combines kimmerridgian and marl soils and sees 30 per cent in oak. More richness and full bodied palate to texture compendious behaviour seems inverted or contradictory to 2013, as if the wines were switched at birth. But this is the irony of Montmains, always offering a view to Chablis as a whole and making cause for constant second guessing. Or perhaps it’s the game played by winemaker Didier Séguier, to make use of vintage and wood in ways to subvert and throw fruit-mineral contradictions on its head. Then again, here is Chablis without batonnage so nary a pastille melt, no cream or fat. Lengthens from purity with just a slight bit of almond, without bitter, or butter. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted July 2016  @williamfevre_   @WoodmanWS

Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Premier Cru Montmains 2013, Ac Burgundy, France (977587, $50.00, WineAlign)

Montmains by Fèvre in 2013 is Chablis incarnate, a clear portrait in reveal of a non-obliterated view to the depth of the Premier Cru. Though we are once again discussing and assessing the misunderstood and often questionable vintage, Fèvre-consistency and confidence renders moot the trials. This Montmains is both portal and interior laid bare. Resolved and pourable, chardonnay as it is spoken in this cru is ready before it is born. Here the fruit is handled with Premier Cru poise, protracted beyond its borders so that it represents Chablis as a mechanism larger and axiomatic as a whole. The rocks never lie. Drink 2016-2021.  Tasted April 2015  @williamfevre_  @WoodmanWS

Pascal Bouchard Chablis Premier Cru Montmains Vieilles Vignes 2013, Ac Burgundy, France (374181, $36.95, WineAlign)

This was tasted at #14c16. As with 2011 but in contrast to 2012, the limestone stands chalky and flinty up front because Pascal Bouchard has allowed it to do so. The site is windy, not so steep and a cooler sort of red clay mixed in terroir. Quite typically energetic 2013 with the mineral sharing the stage with thick air whiffing gassy and atmospheric. It’s a tang that comes from cool metals and it pours or rather oozes with a squeeze of preserved lemon. The Montmains is an open-minded Premier Cru and this Bouchard works with the climat’s malleability to be transformed in a vintage like ’13. Drink 2016-2019. Tasted July 2016

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Descending substratum dans la cave @chablisbrocard #kimmeridgian #portlandian #calcaire

Butteaux

Patrick Piuze Chablis Premier Cru Les Butteaux 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (SAQ 12936615, $67.50, WineAlign)

Butteaux with Patrick Piuze stands apart not just from other readings but also independent and aside from his own separate Premier Cru dealings. This Butteaux feels a bit more boozy which is not a vintage surprise, nor is it when you consider the cru and its ability to deliver both texture and gastronomy. The chunks of limestone and chalky topsoil get in here like mineral syrup emulsified into grape extract with a Piuze variegation that subdues both aromatics and linear acidity. This Montmains sub-divided Chablis instead plays with length and focuses on presence, delivering successes on both ends. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted July 2016  @patrickpiuze  @LaCelesteLevure  @LiffordON

Patrick Piuze Chablis Premier Cru Les Butteaux 2010, Ac Burgundy, France (SAQ 12936615, $67.50, WineAlign)

After tasting through 18 2015s Patrick Piuze travels back in time and pulls this Butteaux as his choice for 2010, despite no label but identified by its cork. The sub-climat of Montmains is notable for its variegated character, tang upon tang, density folded into density, tart on tart. It is a fascinating look into the rear-view Piuze mirror from a terrific vintage and a time when he couldn’t yet have fully known what this terroir could do. The citrus is pure, intense and still in demand of attention. Though the window is clearly open it would not surprise to see this drink with similar personality for yet another few eye and palate-popping years. Yet another example of Premier Cru Chablis with ambitious aspirations and a seeker of Japanese inspired Bourgogne cuisine. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted July 2016  @patrickpiuze  @LaCelesteLevure  @LiffordON

Jean Marc Brocard Chablis Premier Cru Butteaux 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (294165, $46.95, WineAlign)

Another side by side 2015 to 2014 comparison which is a brilliant play by Mr. Julien Brocard to offer up a sense of relativity which is essential for understanding not just his, but all Chablis. Great freshness and woven salinity, brine and umami, from the lieu-dit within the greater Montmains climat. Butteaux’s western Montmains locale is one of major importance and significance, stratified and magnified in the crazy good 2014 vintage. The fight concentration is quite remarkable and rendered into pure citrus honey in the hands of Brocard. Really fine and tactile Chablis, tapestry textured, dentil frieze entablature of feigning and palpability. Butteaux is a wine of sun, balance and elegance from which ancient geology is the catalyst to make it all happen. Essential Chablis right here. Drink 2017-2027.  Tasted September 2016  @chablisbrocard  @LiffordON

collet-butteaux

Domaine Jean Collet & Fils Chablis Premier Cru Butteaux 2013, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Collet first began separating Butteaux from the larger Montmains Premier Cru in the 2009 vintage. Élevage in the obscurity of 2013 came with a significant amount of reduction and Collet did more with Butteaux than so many others could not out of almost any climat. The use of five to 10 year-old barrels has rendered a pretty and elegant Chablis, unheard of in ’13 and while it lacks the drive of ’12 or the acidity of ’14 it is more typical and just plain delicious without any tropical meanderings. Classic Chablis character is discernible albeit in lighter and more demurred tones. The acidity elevates fruit into the preserved kind, part lemon, part leek confit and part courgette pickle. Butteaux in 2013 is gastronomic, like bottled condiments and will ramp up a great piece of fish. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted July 2016  

Forêts

Patrick Piuze Chablis Premier Cru Forêts 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

It would be impossible to discuss Patrick Piuze and Forêts without bringing Vincent Dauvissat into the fray. To Piuze, Vincent is mentor, friend and benefactor. The fruit for Patrick’s ferment comes from Dauvissat’s domain and similarly in new blood’s hands it breathes the way only Forêts can, “with the confidential creak of oak, in the Dauvissat way.” Vincent’s quite politesse in Patrick’s care puts on confident airs, beneath the moon and with parallel lines drawn in a classically sharp but creamy Chablis. The balance struck between grace and tension is a performance only few from this special corner of Montmains learn to craft. Success in 2015 once again, with the best yet to come. Drink 2018-2026.  Tasted July 2016  @patrickpiuze  @LaCelesteLevure  @LiffordON

Patrick Piuze Chablis Premier Cru Forêts 2013, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

Patrick Piuze gains a whiff of his ’13 Forêts. “Hmm, like a riesling.” No other winemaker in Chablis is as honest as Piuze when it comes to extolling or denouncing the virtues of the vintage. “Like a virgin,” is what I begin to hum, “touched for the very first time.” And for the first time in 20 Piuze wines I consider chardonnay because this does not resemble it, but in a way that the rest do not. Forêts here is gassy, aerified, unusual, full of strange atmosphere and just plain atypical. Oh, Madonna this ’13 “made it through the wilderness” in spite of the weirdness, with enough citrus and mineral impression because, well, it’s still Chablis. “Cause only love can last.”  Drink 2016-2017. Tasted July 2016  @patrickpiuze  @LaCelesteLevure  @LiffordON

Domaine Testut Chablis Premier Cru Forêts 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (WineryWineAlign)

Forêts is a steely patron of the larger Left Bank Montmains Premier Cru and lies situationally between Butteaux and Montmains proper. Testut treats the mineral-rich fruit pulled from 70 year-old vines by doing it up in demi-muids. Forêts stands alone in its bifid interpretation of Chablis; it forges a hyperbolic relationship with the wisdom and the concentrated intensity of the old vines. The ripeness in the Testut ’15 is echoed while the minerality is amplified. Like climbing a hill by switchbacks and circumventing trails, Cyril Testut’s Forêts cuts angles and elongates the path. This Chablis is linear but with round fruit and presents a fascinating dichotomy. The citrus is different, in a way a form of umami in flavour and the tartness is very frank. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted July 2016  

Domaine Jean Collet & Fils Chablis Premier Cru Les Forêts 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

Les Forêts offers great contrast to Montmains but it’s not so direct and easy to compare. Perhaps the most enigmatic, mysterious and magical of all the Left Bank terroirs, in Romain Collet’s hands it bleeds less white stone but is conversely more piercing. With 10 per cent having slept in new barriques for 17 months you would think creamy and gossamer textured but then you would also know why Collet does this with Forêts. It both controls and also elevates the acidity onto a higher, astral Premier Cru plane. And so this elects as pure, unadulterated snow-driven Chablis, with a textural addendum thanks to the oak. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted July 2016  

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With Benjamin and Stephanie Laroche, La Manufacture

La Manufacture Premier Cru Chablis Forêts 2013, Ac Burgundy, France (SAQ 13133232, $43.00, WineAlign)

From the sub-climat of Montmains, this second vintage for la Manufacture is harvested earlier than the Beauroy and Vau Ligneau. Laroche’s Forêts is the first 2013 to not display the gaseous, atmospheric Chablis that has come from that vintage. Benjamin convinced his growers to wait, despite the rain, to compromise some quantity for quality. A risk taken but not a grand risk. The barrel took in 25 per cent of the fruit to round out Chablis’ edges while retaining its inherent acidity. Certainly one of the most balanced Premier Cru 2013s it seems, to date. Fuller than many but without blowsy hot air, or density. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted July 2016  @BenjaminLAROCHE  @StemWineGroup

Vaillons

(Les Lys, Beugnons, Séchet, Les Minots, Les Roncières)

Domaine Barat Chablis Premier Cru Vaillons 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

The vintage can’t hide in Barat’s Vaillons, noted first in a warm, boozy run of the nose, wildy floral and willy-nilly as per the flaunting cru perspective. The palate takes the baton and sprints further, deeper into lanes of ancillary luxury, honeyed, nearly tropical territory. This here is the biggest of the Vaillons, athletic, fast, rippling and perspiring from the summer swelter. Note the maple, apple and nectarine. Enjoy this opiate-edged, vintage-deemed Vaillons while the fruit shines with  sun-shining delight. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted July 2016  

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A preview of a much needed, friendly vintage with Sébastien Dampt. Alors, @remycharest

Sébastien Dampt Chablis Premier Cru Vaillons 2015, Burgundy, France (Agent, Quebec $40.86, WineAlign)

Tasted with Sébastien Dampt at the domaine, from 60 year-old vines a Vaillons so very early in its development, bottled two weeks ago, reductive and trying with yeoman effort to preserve freshness. The vintage demands such an emperor’s excess of style, to foster the adage of “this is ancient Chablis in new clothing.” Really just that. Very much a rich and creamy washed rind stylistic happening with lemon preserve and a tonic not really yet seen. Vaillons aperitif. There is the semblence vermouth in here. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted July 2016  @SebastienDampt  @LesVieuxGarcons

Domaine Jean Collet & Fils Chablis Premier Cru Vaillons 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (650804, $31.95, WineAlign)

L’élevage for Vaillons is 15 months, at first with more stainless steel fermentation (95 per cent) than the other Premier Cru. What follows is one third stainless, foudres and barriques. Examples tasted show that Vaillons has the ability to go big, to acquire added corporeal layers of sweet and creamy. It has been seen to drift into apéritif territory without stimulating the appetite. Even in an acidity-led vintage like 2014. Case in point here, a Vaillons with herbal qualities and one in which the wood is very much a part of the highly sapid personality. Needs a year to integrate. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted at the domain with Romain Collet, July 2016  

Domaine Jean Paul Et Benoît Droin Chablis Premier Cru Vaillons 2014, Burgundy, France (SAQ 11678925, $47.75, WineAlign)

Vaillons from Benoît Droin, like that of his Mont de Milieu and Montée de Tonnerre receives 25 per cent barrel fermentation and maturation though a negligible amount of new oak is used. For this reason the Vaillons is so very flint and and smoke-driven, intense of aromatic liquor, compression and drama. It is the epitome of Chablis rendered in strength from remarkable drive and line-centric forward movement. Look ahead two years to a point of early evanescence where cantata and flesh collide. The hegira for Droin’s Vaillons begins there. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted July 2016  

Domaine Billaud-Simon Chablis Premier Cru Les Vaillons 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (330175, $39.95, WineAlign)

Composed from several lieu-dit in the Cru; Les Minots, Roncieres and two parcels each of high solar-powered Chatains and Sécher. A rounder, softer, fuller expression by sun and out of the open-mindedness provided by exposure. Here the house accentuation from stainless steel helps to preserve freshness and keep it at the maximum. A committal success in 2014 for a vintage that demands acidity and freshness, here buoyed by decisions and understanding. Exemplary Vaillons of lemon with a shot of lime injection. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted July 2016  @Billaud_Simon

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Domaine Long-Depaquit Chablis Premier Cru Les Vaillons 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (19364, $34.95, WineAlign)

Immediacy from the specific stony soil of Vaillons, unmistakable, of tang in impression and such a broad mouthfeel. The presence of Vaillons is nearly always noble, sumptuous, modish and sensual. Extract and tannin are very much a part of the program. Ten per cent of the take saw time in oak, lending an ingrained smack of spice. I would not exactly call it lavish though it is certainly a Vaillons surfeited with fruit, sun and stone. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted July 2016  @Matth_Mangenot  

Domaine Testut Chablis Premier Cru Vaillons 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (WineryWineAlign)

Cyril Testut’s Vaillons 2014 has just been two months in bottle so there is some inhibition, shocky reserve (though miles from reduction) and a certain force field guarding. Try as I might to crack the stony shell I am repeatedly faced with structure taut, tight, rigid and not yet open for business. There is orange blossom and other white florality waiting to bloom and of course so much mineral wanting to burst. Vaillons is yet another tart and wisely mature-directed Testut. It needs a year to open and solicit audience participation. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted July 2016  

Domaine Laroche Chablis Premier Cru Les Vaillons Vieilles Vignes 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (991893, $36.95, WineAlign)

In many ways a carbon copy of the superb 2012, herbal, sharp and as predicted, saline and piquant. Vaillons is a special parcel, a climat with such linear reality and basic, factual raison d’être. The Kimmeridgian, calcareous clay and limestone is presented, discussed and celebrated for good reason because it makes for perfect conditions in Vaillons.
The 40-45 year-old Laroche parcel sucks it all in and don’t let anyone evince you away from or de-program you otherwise. Be the mineral. Vaillons of old vines (yes, they too work magic) that is precise, trenchant and miles beyond merely dependable. Treated to some battonage and very minimal oak. Examines the layered intensity of Laroche and the exceptionality of Vaillons. Tasted twice, at Domaine Laroche and at #i4c16. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted July 2016  @DomaineLaroche  @SelectWinePros

Domaine Laroche Chablis Premier Cru Vieilles Vignes Les Vaillons 2012, Ac Burgundy, France (991893, $36.95, WineAlign)

Gorgeous and wealthy Chablis of all that makes this unparalleled style of Chardonnay tick. Flinty, struck stone entry, vineyard hyperbole of mineral and the geology of ancients. Lithe, lifted, lightness of being but always brought back down by the minerality. Some flavour density by way of old vines wisdom and persistence that just won’t stop going. Superb quality. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted January 2016  @DomaineLaroche  @SelectWinePros

Domaine Louis Moreau Chablis Premier Cru Vaillons 2014, Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Vaillons is drawn from sub-appellative blocks in Les Epinottes and Roncières, with some vines as old as 65 years and yields quite low for where concentration trumps quantity. Very rich and concentrated is indeed the mode here, with good mineral bled from stone and very little in terms of sour or lactic edges. This is amenable Vaillons to be sure. A purity subsists and solicits simple and non-specific pairings, like Dorado, Sea Bass or Magret de Canard. There is this amazing salinity that hints at iodine, lemon and lime, but I would not call it salty. I would call it really refined Chablis. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted July 2016  @MoreauLouis1

a-kimmeridgian-breakfast-williamfevre_-chablis-bivbchablis-woodmanwines

A #kimmeridgian breakfast @williamfevre_ #chablis @BIVBChablis #woodmanwines

Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Premier Cru Vaillons 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent, $53.99, WineAlign)

Vaillons lies at the heart of the Domaine stylistic, from an entirely different sort of valley than Montmains but still facing southeast, certainly steeper (25 degrees) and early maturing. The three and a half hectares farmed in the Fèvre holdings are split into 10 plots and in 2014 picking was altered from the past 15 years’ norm, on and around the 20th of September. Adjudication through acumen deals a cooler 2014, of more herbiage, less piercing citrus and mineral but more pure fruit layers and also rounder for Chablis. There is more calm in these here Vaillons hills, despite or perhaps with thanks to the early picking. Later would have resulted in real winter fat. What ponder there is will step aside and the mineral will emerge up to and after five years. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted July 2016  @williamfevre_  @WoodmanWS

Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Premier Cru Vaillons 2013, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent, $53.99, WineAlign)

Here Vaillons of breadth to speak on behalf of the whole cru and the cru as a whole. The layering of expected Vaillons flinty-smoky struck stone is toned down, elastic and a bit flat-lined. Texture is the key to a Vaillons heart in 2013, especially considering the automatic nature of the aromatics. Personality is subdued relative to other Fèvre Domaine crus but mineral concentration is still a vital thing. Check the palate and that texture to bring this quiet one to life and to find the nuggets of fruit treasure buried within. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted April 2015  @williamfevre_  @WoodmanWS

Séchet

Domaine Jean Collet & Fils Chablis Premier Cru Séchet 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

Séchet is a formidable climat at the head of the Vaillons slope near the town of Chablis and needs to be coddled or it can be one tough cookie. Romain Collet employs 30 per cent new oak in 2014, requisite because of and for the humanity of it all. To taste this in the summer of 2016 is to drive south to Beaune, with bits of nuts and pats of butter smearing the flinty fruit like a galette under a rich almond glaze. The mask is painted thick at present but structure makes for length and with acidity vibrant and variegated this Séchet will nigh carry its popcorn and vanilla all the way to the next decade bank. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted July 2016  

Beugnons

Sébastien Dampt Chablis Premier Cru Beugnons 2015, Burgundy, France (Agent, Quebec $44.78, WineAlign)

From the Beugnons parcel within the Vaillons, raised entirely in concrete egg, the third vintage as such, for micro-oxidation. Gently ushered along with a very light and slow batonnage. Perfumed like lemon in concrete (reminding me of Terra Alta’s Domaine Lafou garnaxta blanca, or vice versa) and luminescent like brilliant gemstone, rich but of such gorgeous control. The round acidity envelopes discernible fruit (it’s 2015 after all) and just a hint of spice. That said it is still found to be a bit closed down and minutely austere at this stage but age will not suffer as a result. Again the vintage is kept at bay with freshness and elongation. There were 2100 bottles made (as per the size of the egg). Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted July 2016  @SebastienDampt  @LesVieuxGarcons

Les Lys

Domaine Long-Depaquit Chablis Premier Cru Les Lys 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (SAQ 10278920, $40.00, WineAlign)

An achievement in the richer style of Vaillons Premier Cru, broad and expansive, not entering the cortex with overarching acidity but rather good host invitation. A Bichot Burgundian stylistic really shows in Les Lys, not so much a wood attack but the lees and fullness is certainly felt. Acidity is late and round, encompassing and caressing. A softer 2014 and a good foil to other, sharper, more piercing brethren. Kept in 100 per cent stainless steel to preserve the acidity and the freshness. Even in 2014 this was necessary, for freshness and elegance. Certainly showing the most lifted and modern of the three Premier Cru on this day. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted July 2016  @Matth_Mangenot  

La Chablisienne Chablis Premier Cru Les Lys 2014, Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

La Chablisienne’s Les Lys from within Vaillons is codicillary to north by northwest exposure and later ripening. Flat out a wine of strength, urged linear and forward by high levels of kimmeridgian rock, inspiring and generating power and richness. The citrus here is so concentrated and also developed. Time stops and with great length there is just this. Les Lys. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted July 2016    @vbartement  @Vinexxperts

Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Premier Cru Les Lys 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (76984, $51.00, WineAlign)

Les Lys is perhaps the most particular, focused and pinpointed terroir of the Fèvre Domaine Premier Cru. Located in the Vaillons Valley as a sub-climat of the larger Vaillons, Les Lys is picked, vinified and bottled separately. Northeast facing, in many ways an antithesis and as what can be considered the antithetical Premier Cru, a place which doubles the richness coupled with the occupying, chalky minerality. Old vines of 50-65 years old are harnessed with and for their power, appearing but feigning boozy, thanks to very low yields and deep, concentrated phenolic development. An intense expression that is magnified by the portents of classic and structured 2014. Not quite British psychdelia but here Chablis is intoxicating, tracing circles around my head. “Time will tell if I’ll take the homeward track. Dizziness will make my feet walk back.” Always back to Les Lys. Drink 2017-2024. Tasted July 2016  @williamfevre_  @WoodmanWS

Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Premier Cru Les Lys 2013, Ac Burgundy, France (76984, $51.00, WineAlign)

Les Lys from within the Vaillons swims with liquid calcaire running through its interpolated climat veins and oozing from its extramural pores. It is a wine possessive of a seamlessness of chalky liquidity secreting in endless oscillations. Warmer than expected or perhaps within well-reasoned sensibility for the odd vintage, compounded by more savour and evergreen sensitivity. The Fèvre treatment of Les Lys in 2013 elevates above most others, then deals in longevity and perpetuity. Its piercing fruit-mineral skewer neither pokes nor scores. It simply permeates with fineness and appeal. Drink 2016-2020. Tasted April 2015  @williamfevre_  @WoodmanWS

Les Minots

Patrick Piuze Chablis Premier Cru Vaillons “Les Minots” 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

Patrick Piuze likes this single-parcel of 75 year-old vines in the warmest spot on Vaillons. He likes it a lot. The way he picks and vinifies turns over, inside and out the highest acidity and alcohol but it’s really a matter of place. This Vaillons is a striking wine, “Le Petit,” as he likes to call it and of the most wondrous mouthfeel. This from what Piuze likens as “the resto vintage,” so imagine the possibilities, the flinty, smoky, steely and cracking results that will come from true-blue, platinum, gemstone and ancient sea creature portended vintages. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted at the domain with Patrick Piuze, July 2016  @patrickpiuze  @LaCelesteLevure  @LiffordON

Les Roncières

Patrick Piuze Chablis Premier Cru Les Roncières 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

Piuze’s first attempt at tendering Les Roncières is here in this first edition ’15 from the single-plot, sub-climat inside Vaillons. You can’t help but sense the Dauvissat approach in Patrick’s take on Roncières with the conscious (or unconscious) allowance for the block within the block specific perfume. The stoic and quiet confidence of fruit submissive to mineral presentation points not to obviousness but to the basic tenets of smoke, flint and shell, Together they hover in the proverbial air. But Piuze’s Roncières walks a more direct line and of all his lieu-dit or Premier Cru ’15’s, it seems more akin to a vintage like ’14. This is because in mouthfeel it comes across as lean, but only in comparison to the rest of ’15. This is the one to really wait on and seek more time-rendered flesh. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted July 2016  @patrickpiuze  @LaCelesteLevure  @LiffordON

cote-de-lechet

Côte De Léchet

Côte De Léchet

Domaine Barat Chablis Premier Cru Côte De Léchet 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

It suffices to say that Domaine Barat’s prized terroir is this Left Bank Côte De Léchet. Their work with Right Bank plots in Fourneaux and Mont de Milieu is very good but it is here that they truly jibe and harmonize with the mise en scène of the kimmeridgian. A classic climat base wine, you note the pithy-leesy sense of washed rind cheese, the Barat richesse and spiced lemon palate. Concentrated and length-worthy, exceptional as oyster shell brittle speckled in its character. With 2016 qualified by Ludovic Barat as “une année très compliquée,” a once in a generation “catastrophe climatique,” this C de L is made all that much more important. The unprecedented combinative accumulation of hail, rain, frost, more hail and mildew in 2016 is unprecedented. With Barat’s excellent 2015 we’ll be able to say, “we’ll always have Côte De Léchet.” Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted at the domain with Angèle and Ludovic Barat, July 2016  

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A special @purechablis je ne sais quoi from #domainebarat #milly #umami #cotedelechet #chablispremiercru

Domaine Barat Chablis Premier Cru Côte De Léchet L’Umami 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

L’Umami is an extraordinary concept within (or without) the exclusivity of Chablis Premier Cru, a first picked, top of the plot from 90 year-old vines, separately vinified cuvée. It was a difficult harvest up at the helm of the Côte De Léchet and Ludovic Barat took this cogent fruit and laid it down in only stainless steel for 18 months. No oak, old or new, only metal on metal, mineral in mineral, stone vs. stone. You receive the most indeterminate if excellent experience that Chablis can gift but you can and will not be able to put your pointed finger squarely upon it. Thus the moniker, L’Umami. This is indeed a deferential outlook and flavour experience, a new and unreal, yet conversely experiential dive into the savoury and the mineral. The closest analogy I can make is like catching the melted drippings of limoncello granita, slightly boozy, wild and citrus musky. Few Premier Cru tastings come up so singular as this. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted July 2016  

Sébastien Dampt Chablis Premier Cru Côte De Léchet 2015, Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Interestingly enough that like the Beugnons this is also a bit closed at this time so again, despite the forward vintage, age for this Côte De Léchet will be aided. Richer though and fuller than the Beugnons, from a southern exposure but with high kimmeridgian and portlandian minerality. The wood is full on at this stage, not with spice like the Vaillons but with pith, kernel and then, coming up behind, drupe. While Sébastien’s 2014 might have reminded of say, a Jean Boxler (Alsace) sentiment in a chardonnay of precision and clarity, the ’15 can’t help but put a little unction at the junction of saline, mineral Chablis, as is his style and want. His 2014 just exaggerated this and ’15 does so with another shot of Dampt tonic. Really direct, inward vacuum of mouth watering and citrus expressing chardonnay. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted July 2016  @SebastienDampt  @LesVieuxGarcons

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Sébastien Dampt Chablis Premier Cru Côte De Léchet 2014, Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Dampt’s small “parcelle cinquantenaire” fortuitously facing southeast looks to higher pastures and reeks of greatness. From the terroir with the grand lookout and great kimmeridgian rocks comes this Premier Cru secretly blessed with an unknown umami factor specific to the Côte De Léchet. There are things about Chablis you can’t know or consciously discern from this but what you do puts you under spell, hypnotized and alert by fruit digging for mineral, driven into the earth. This C de L is what Sébastien concedes as being “hors normes,” non-standard Chablis concentrated from an ancient place. There is no oak, only Inox, a choice clear and necessary. What a piece of work this take on Côte De Léchet is and under the microscope of a precise and linear vintage. Classique. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted July 2016  @SebastienDampt  @LesVieuxGarcons

La Chablisienne Chablis Premier Cru Côte De Léchet 2014, Burgundy, France (SAQ 869198, $35.00, WineAlign)

Pleasure is always derived from Chablis off the prized Left Bank terroir with an ideal fan of slope and exposure and a perfect view across the Serein to the Grand Cru. La Chablisienne’s Côte De Léchet offers up a classic mineral nose with a bit of youthful SO2, taking account of its southwest exposure and carefully combing its calcaire-kimmeridgian soils for a very directed expression. Really works the specific climat for what is a cumulative expression of all around success. This is a broad and thoughtful Côte De Léchet, nothing unexpected and yet with everything gained. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted at the domaine with Vincent Bartement, July 2016    @vbartement  @Vinexxperts

La Manufacture Premier Cru Chablis Côte De Léchet 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

In La Manufacture’s 2014 there is a Léchet lightness of Chablis being with lift from the limestone and it’s like an appetizer or apéritif to gain entry into Premier Cru Chablis. Crisp, tart and delicate. Some spice lifts even higher but the youth is really a talking point. Exceptional minerality gained from 2014 is used to explain what that is. A minor youthful reduction will need six to 12 months to dissipate but this will assist in the aging process. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted July 2016  @BenjaminLAROCHE  @StemWineGroup

Domaine Gérard Tremblay Chablis Premier Cru Côte De Léchet 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

Tremblay’s handling tends towards the leesy side and aids in the promotion of that Lechet fromage and its ancient sea-salinity, crustaceous behaviour. In fact this level of marine salty is more intense than most and doubles down with elasticity and stretched length. Far from contemplative, Tremblay’s C de L is indicative of the linear, direct and precise house style. Drink 2016-2020. Tasted July 2016  

Simonnet Febvre & Fils Chablis Premier Cru Côte De Léchet 2013, Ac Burgundy, France (462549, $42.95, WineAlign)

This is a striking Chablis, drawn out of an atypical vintage and from the venerable Côte de Léchet Premier Cru, an angled Left Bank climat of necessitous Kimmerridgian soil. The rocks there may be my most favourite, craggy, ash blond chunks replete with ancient sea creatures embedded in the golden stratum. This teases with the gaseous and aerified aspects of the oxidative-evolved vintage but the picking and the treatment here are spot on and just in time, because just a day or two later and too stark would have been the result. Terrific weight, pitch perfect acidity and a grazing, elongated finish. Top, top quality ’13 not to be missed. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted September 2016  @SimonnetFebvre  @ImportWineMAFWM

Sylvain Mosnier Chablis Premier Cru Côte De Léchet 2013, Ac Burgundy, France (318139, $35.95, WineAlign)

From the Cru’s unparalleled southeast exposure on a 38 degree slope inlaid with kimmeridgian and white stone, the high salinity quotient and briny fossil/oyster shell is predictably omnipresent. Take a moment and smell the white flowers before giving back in to the stone and direct humming energy. Extreme this Mosier from low yields and tiny grapes, even for Côte De Léchet and covertly striking for 2013. One of the absolute best but and because it’s old school. In other words, not typical 2013. Taut freshness from antediluvian terroir is a beautiful thing.  Last tasted July 2016  

Classic Chablis from a very old vineyard (belonged to the Pontigny’s monk) with southeast exposure west of the town of Chablis and just above the small village of Milly. Mosnier’s parcel gifts delicate fruit, just so fortuitous in quantity and quality of lees overtures on stony lime-driven texture. Chardonnay in hands of terroir so flinty, lacy, organza fine. What more could be asked of for this next to nothing 1er Cru Chablis price? Drink 2017-2024.  Tasted March 2016

Sylvain Mosnier Chablis Premier Cru Côte De Léchet 2012, Ac Burgundy, France (318139, $32.95, WineAlign)

Mosnier’s ’12 is a flinty, mineral, fruit smacked in the face Chablis from the exceptionally sea-fossil shell, stony-kimmeridgian Côte De Léchet. Soil and its tang-rocky impart doesn’t get any more obvious than here with bleeding rusty sea-nail salinity for chardonnay. Carries weight and density with a peach-pit tonic in its citrus-bent flavours. Very long and never relenting in its intensity. Drink 2016-2021.  Tasted February 2015  

Jean Marc Brocard Chablis Premier Cru Côte De Léchet 2012, Ac Burgundy, France (181305, $26.95, WineAlign)

Tasted with Julien Brocard at the domaine from a bottle produced under the auspices of the biodynamic range and wondering if this is the cause to view this as so very different than Vau de Vey. Here the exceptional Côte De Léchet kimmeridgian terroir is rendered deeper, almost brooding, but far from humid. There is lemon but it is a preserved and slightly pithy one. Rich and layered, a variegation on liquid stone and density. This really submerges into the sub-strata. The most contemplative Côte De Léchet yet. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted July 2016  @chablisbrocard  @LiffordON

Vau De Vey

Domaine Laroche Chablis Premier Cru Vau De Vey 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (991893, $36.95, WineAlign)

A compressed chardonnay that strikes as a passion play between herbs and limestone and no surprise that the spoils go to the latter. The citrus is gassy, rising, bathed in atmosphere. The structure is predicated on stone, rock and struck flint. Chablis of metal and essential minerality, discovered and defined. This slow-ripened chardonnay will evolve one year for every month contributed by its growing cycle. Drink 2016-2026.  Tasted June 2016  @DomaineLaroche  @SelectWinePros

Steak Tartare, Bar Le Quai, Auxerre

Steak Tartare, Bar Le Quai, Auxerre

Jean Marc Brocard Chablis Chablis Premier Cru Vau De Vey 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (159012, $29.95, WineAlign)

Brocard’s Vau de Vey is a Left Banker that offers up a unique set of Chablis aromas, hard to pinpoint but recalling something akin to tubers sprinkled with rock salt. Even from the forward and sun-gifted 2015 vintage this is hard to tackle and there is some CO2 still working on the palate. Is expressive of dogged persistence, spirit and vitality. A very fresh Vau de Vey. From a very steep, east facing vineyard (nearly 50 per cent grade in spots), inviting and receptive to morning sun. Distilled down to the bare mineral essentials it is simply a wine that pops. Wait a year and drink it young while the ’14 continues to flesh and in lieu of the absence of ’16. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted July 2016  @chablisbrocard  @LiffordON

Jean Marc Brocard Chablis Chablis Premier Cru Vau De Vey 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (159012, $29.95, WineAlign)

The contrast is quite striking to 2012, two vintages so aligned and so very different. Here actually and surprisingly rich for a 2014 but essentially fresh and vital, as per the Vau de Vey locale, east facing, steep, always ready and sure to pop, like rocks on the gush of a geyser. Now settled past the once twitching phase, this has the surety of minerality from ancient kimmeridgian grants. A platinum VdeV with statuesque musculature. Long from head to toe. Personally speaking I’d wait two years for a further fleshing to ensue. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted July 2016  @chablisbrocard  @LiffordON

Jean Marc Brocard Chablis Premier Cru Vau De Vey 2012, Ac Burgundy, France (159012, $29.95, WineAlign)

Tasted with Julien Brocard from the biodynamic range, this Vaudevey (Brocard spelling, same, same) 2012 really is such an exceptional wine from an even more exceptional vintage. I write this with bias in a tasting that includes the ’14 and ’15 VdVs, so the viewpoint is at least obscured in part to the relative terms my current immersed opinion. Such texture, if only from an aromatic perspective, is estate defining, but it does not stop there. The palate brings such healthy phenolics and drive, purpose and this singular exceptionality of precision. The balance is impeccable and the tannin so fine. This will age for 10 years with love in kind and circumstance of the mind. The length slides in lingerings for miles and miles. Drink 2016-2025.  Tasted July 2016  @chablisbrocard  @LiffordON

Beauroy

Domaine Hamelin Chablis Premier Cru Beauroy 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (391805, $32.95, WineAlign)

While all the Chablis climats enjoyed an ideal growing season in 2014 I have to say that the Premier Cru Beauroy made full use of its gifts. The parcel lacks the striking mineral underfoot of close neighbours Côte de Léchet and Vaillons but what it does have is roundness and depth of fruit. In 2014 those aspects converge with the Chablis mineral ethos to paint a picture who’s whole is both the sum and the accumulation of its parts. Hamelin makes full advantage of fruit, rock and vintage. The triumvirate is saddled with ideal and ripe acidity an d the extract is second to none. A prime example and just about as good as it gets in the beautiful king’s climat. Drink 2016-2023.  Tasted August 2016    @oenophilia1

La Manufacture Premier Cru Chablis Beauroy 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

It is the deponent exhibition of Premier Cru Beauroy that La Manufacture creates the full-bodied cru, flirtatious, gregarious and giving. From what Benjamin Laroche describes as a “vraiment superb exposition,” Beauroy delivers so much lemon citrus of the preserved and pressed variety. It may not define calm, amenable and paradigmatic Chablis like Vau Ligneau but in other ways it is more than that. Ways that come from a need to flaunt and display. Such an interesting way with Beauroy. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted July 2016  @BenjaminLAROCHE  @StemWineGroup

Domaine Gérard Tremblay Chablis Premier Cru Beauroy 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

Tremblay’s is a Beauroy of salinity and beautiful brine, from a half hectare block, piercing if immediately gratifying Chablis. There are some underlying bitter notes (but good ones, like wasabi) but also necessarily and ultimately tart, smoky, flinty and compressed. Chablis in the mind of Beauroy as it surely once must have been, strayed from and has now made the traditional new once again. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted July 2016  

Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Premier Cru Beauroy 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (907733, $52.00, WineAlign)

Beauroy is a south facing Premier Cru harvested earliest than most and also done so to preserve freshness, acidity and the most that can be gained from its subtle terroir. Fevre treats it with 15 per cent oak and the remainder goes into tank. Beauroy’s deference here is acquiescence, its character preserved, like lemon compressed in a jar or a curd slowly concentrated to the point of pure, glossy, silken texture. I find this typical of Fevre for 2014, consistent with the rich house style and yet may be the most elastic and restorative Premier Cru of the eight tasted. Impressive all around. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted July 2016  @williamfevre_  @WoodmanWS

Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Premier Cru Beauroy 2013, Ac Burgundy, France (907733, $52.00, WineAlign)

A best of both worlds kind of Premier Cru Chablis, this beautiful Beauroy, with a fleur de sel-floral feminine side like Les Lys and a white meat, white heat masculine calcaire drift like Montmains. The barrel begins to show, in as much as whatever the fruit is willing to relent and submit. Charges into another gear, where mineral is spoken as citrus. Not as refined as Les Lys and not as gritty as bigger Montmains (or as deep) but in Beauroy the twain is met. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted April 2015  @williamfevre_  @WoodmanWS

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Vau Ligneau

La Manufacture Premier Cru Chablis Vau Ligneau 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

From the valley through the forest, Vau Ligneau is located parallel to Vau de Vey and is widely considered to possess a more favourable exposition. La Manufacture’s 2014 is all about freshness and elegance. “C’est Chablis,” says Benjamin Laroche with a wise and confident smile, followed by a knowing chuckle. Yes Mr. Laroche, this is Chablis. Direct, fresh, intense but somehow and needfully easy to understand and enjoy. Walks a straight citrus line and is very versatile. Near perfect because it can please just about every palate. Settle in and relish the definitive expression of Premier Cru Chablis and with Vau Ligneau there is no need for social media. Laroche does his very best here as a man of négoce, working with his growers. Now 2016 will be a difficult vintage, with at best 50 per cent of 5,000 hectares available and without any idea of quality or price. “It will be complicated in 2018” shrugs Laroche. Pack away this Vau Ligneau and make great use of its charms through 2018 and beyond. Drink 2017-2023.  Tasted July 2016  @BenjaminLAROCHE  @StemWineGroup

Domaine Louis Moreau Chablis Premier Cru Vaulignot 2014, Burgundy, France (525386, $36.95, WineAlign)

Vaulignot was created in 1976, one of the last Premier Crus to gain such status within the association. Note that Moreau’s nomenclature is Vaulignot instead of Vau Ligneau, but the meaning is exactly the same. Really round and rich Chablis with a relative and realistic purity specific to place. This alights as a sun-drenched and lemon waxy chardonnay with enough (thank you very much 2014) tension to keep it rolling right along. What Vaulignot brings to the Chablis table is stick to your tongue, mouth and ribs persistence and vitamin water mineral enhancement. In a way it is caught in the Chablis netherland between up front gregariously fruity and strikingly mineral/acidity piercing. Great length in this vintage. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted October 2016  @MoreauLouis1

Right Bank

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Fourchaume

(Vaulorent)

Domaine Séguinot Bordet Chablis Premier Cru Fourchaume 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

As if handed off like a relay torch or baton from the Petit Chablis, the thread of elegance, purity and clarity continues in the Séguinot Bordet Chablis. Freshness floats in Chablis suspension, a liquid not so much viscous but one that acts as a cradling or a coddling. There is spice up on the aromatic front and it heads straight north to tease and tingle the olfactory senses. Deeper down it’s all inter-metallic compounds and alloys, a dimension that exists in a realm beyond chardonnay. Chablis. A circumambient capacity resistant to wood or nut but steals subtle aspects of both. Tasted with proprietor Jean-François Bordet in Auxerre he concludes, “my story is in memory.” Chablis by wrote. Drink 2016-2022.  Tasted July and September 2016  @BordetJean  @TheCaseForWine

Domaine Séguinot Bordet Chablis Premier Cru Fourchaume 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

“Are you a leftie or a righty” is the first question Jean-François Bordet asks at Niagara’s i4c Cool Chardonnay Chablis masterclass. He does so and then introduces his very own Right Bank, Premier Cru Fourchaume 2014. So I guess we know where he stands. His ’14 is clean, elegant and long. It is a nourishing mouthful of Chablis and markedly layered with tart compressions that really travel back on the the tongue and to the sides of the mouth. Séguinot Bordet’s Fourchaume could be labeled as L’Homme Mort, but it’s not. This top of the Right Bank hill, kimmeridgian limestone lieu-dit is known for classic minerality that somehow and impossibly does not translate as smoky or flinty. In the hands of J-F it most certainly transmits the rock but with flesh on that mineral bone. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted July 2016  @BordetJean  @TheCaseForWine

La Chablisienne Chablis Premier Cru Fourchaume 2014, Burgundy, France (SAQ 11094671, $38.50, WineAlign)

Fourchaume by La Chablisienne stylistically shows how amazing it is that when you taste a Premier Cru that makes full breadth use of fruit from across the climats within a larger climat, you get such a full and rounded expression. This Chablisienne is a poster child for such a cuvée. In a way it so perfectly defines the largest of the Premier Cru because it is a melting pot for so many plots and blocks. It also employs more wood so here Chablis softens into the cream of crème anglaise, pretty, downy, like lemon chiffon. A generous, full and flat out feminine chardonnay of aggregated fruit to woo and court a decidedly English palate. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted July 2016     @vbartement  @Vinexxperts

Domaine Gautheron Chablis Premier Cru Fourchaume “L’homme Mort” 2014, Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

L’Homme-Mort is a block at middle slope adjacent to and counted as of the eight lieu-dits that make up the Fourchaume Premier Cru. To many hearts and minds, it is the best of them. The increased limestone presence is palpable on the Gautherons palate, after the latent aroma to atmosphere ubiety relented to that palate confident in retention of lemon and lime. L’Homme Mort is straight to the back of the mind direct, a Chablis recall to arms for the days of great acids. It will live long. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted July 2016     @ProfileWineGrp

Domaine Billaud-Simon Chablis Premier Cru Fourchaume 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Taken specifically from a block in the Vaupulent lieu-dit at the southern end of the larger Fourchaume. The style is rich but with mineral in the air, ethereal and intoxicating. Fourchaume does not always get to such precise and hovering heights. This is typically 2014 and elevated by citrus with extreme prejudicial clarity. Right in the linear wheelhouse. Long floral, waxy citrus finish. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted July 2016  @Billaud_Simon

Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Premier Cru Fourchaume 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent, $69.00, WineAlign)

Fèvre from from the largest Premier Cru is Chablis of a double-edged dagger, Domaine versus Domaine, cru within cru. Fourchaume is split into five distinct climats and with Fèvre holding plots in Vaulorent, they bottle both a Fourchaume and a Vaulorent. This particular expression of Vaulorent is from three point six hectares split into eight plots. Located on the Grand Cru hill so texture here mimics (especially Les Preuses) with an extension to the northwest of the same exposure, compressing into marl and cut with kimmeridgian stone impression. This is intense, dramatic, rich and lengthy. The most opulence, perhaps in all of the ’14’s. All drama. Begs to be enjoyed. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted July 2016  @williamfevre_  @WoodmanWS

Domaine Gérard Tremblay Chablis Premier Cru Fourchaume 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent, WineAlign)

Vincent Tremblay’s old vines Fourchaume was planted by his father Gérard’s father in 1951 smack dab in the middle of the Fourchaume. In the realm of Fouchaume this is stiff, right wing, reactionary stuff, bracing and complex. As intense in lemon acidity as any in the largest of the Right Bank Crus and very linear. Needs a couple of years to settle into its tough skin. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted July 2016  

Vaulorent

Patrick Piuze Chablis Premier Cru Vaulorent 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

Patrick Piuze does not offer up any sort of dissertation on the larger Fourchaume in presenting his Vaulorent. He has moved on. “This climat is so focused,” he confirms. “The real Chablis.” In my estimation Vaulorent is the opposite of Fourchaume, of anti-blanketing fruit-mineral amenability, sharp, fixated, honed-in. Though Piuze readily admits this about Fourchaume. “Me, I don’t understand it.” So he traded in his larger Fourchaume fruit for the more parochial Vaulorent. What he’s really saying (or I am thinking) is that he’s relying on instinct and holistic navigation to grace Vaulorent with respect. In 2015 mission accomplished. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted July 2016  @patrickpiuze  @LaCelesteLevure  @LiffordON

La Chablisienne Chablis Premier Cru Vaulorent 2014, Burgundy, France (111666, $41.99, WineAlign)

Perhaps more than any of their Right Bank Premier Cru, the Vaulorent is rich, round, super-sized and yet conversely flinty, all in all a very full expression and so well rounded. The significance of southern exposure must sometimes be minimized for the sake of extolling the virtues of this Cru at the northern end of the Grand Cru vineyards, bordering the Grand Cru climats of Preuses and Bougros. It is so different and singular on its own, from fruit raised by one grower for Chablisienne in the best, west facing exposure. It is a complex and purposed Chablis, perhaps the most distinct of the Premier Crus, really stands out, is more saline (and of a specific salinity) that drives the true mineral of Chablis like no other. And the length is just outstanding. Drink 207-2024.  Tasted July 2016    @vbartement  @Vinexxperts

Domaine Jean Paul Et Benoît Droin Chablis Premier Cru Vaulorent 2014, Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

Benoît Droin’s Vaulorent is approached with the same precise parenting as his other Chablis but none take a shine to ubiquity as they do from this Right Bank radiant one. This brings all aspects of Chablis exceptionality into play; smoke, flint, acidity and compression. The wood does nothing to detract from the incandescence and the flashing of mineral glare and yet the moments of fullness offer calming junctures of textural relief. It can’t always be piercing and raging acids. Balance is blessed countenance in Droin’s Vaulorent. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted July 2016

brocard

Jean Marc Brocard Chablis Premier Cru Vaulorent 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent, $29.95, WineAlign)

Brocard’s Chablis Premier Cru Vaulorent is drawn off of the eastern section of the amphitheatre vineyard next to Les Preuses Grand Cru. Vaulorent is not just any other Right Bank climat and in ’14 graces with an inexorable tapestry of geology and micro-climate in conspiracy for a very special plot. It brings a mille-feuille unction of variegated richness and a level of extract to feign sweetness. Brocard’s Vaulorent expresses the vineyard as it should, to show its strength as one of the most impressive and impressing climats not considered or recognized as Grand Cru. So elegant and so very, very long. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted July 2016  @chablisbrocard  @LiffordON

Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Premier Cru Vaulorent 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent, $87.00, WineAlign)

This second Fourchaume/Vaulorent from Fèvre completes the double-edged dagger investigation into a Domaine cru within a cru. Fourchaume the large and formidable Premier Cru is split into five distinct climats and Fèvre’s in Vaulorent provides the fruit for both the Fourchaume and this Vaulorent. The level of kimmerdigian mineral inflection is undeniably greater than in the grander Fourchaume ideal but whenever something is gained, something else is lost. Fruit suffering is a tragedy elsewhere in the chardonnay diaspora but in Chablis it is transformed into power, grace under pressure and ulterior elegance. That is this Vaulorent, especially in 2014. Here the ideals of presence, determination and persistence gather together. This is very adult Chablis, very serious and very young. It ranks with Montée De Tonnerre for sheer mineral guts if only missing just a Chapelot-like layer of richness. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted July 2016  @williamfevre_  @WoodmanWS

Vaucopins

Domaine Oudin Chablis Premier Cru Vaucoupins 2014, Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

From Jean-Claude and Christiane and their small vineyard by the village of Chichée, just south of Chablis, their now winemaker daughter Nathalie’s take on Vaucopins is a pressing matter from hilltop, southern exposure and grand old vines (65 years) in the Premier Cru realm. The combination of natural fermentation and a year resting on lees brings a smoothness and a silky clean texture to mineral lacing. Certainly draws from and for more herbiage and a calmer, keener, settled sense of chardonnay. Not as striking as some others but conversely beautiful and serene. Drink 2017-2022. Tasted July 2016  

Domaine Long-Depaquit Chablis Premier Cru Les Vaucopins 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (SAQ 10845111, $41.25, WineAlign)

Vaucopins is drawn off of five hectares on really steep slopes on the Right Bank. It is neither Les Lys nor Vaillons but somehow an across the river genetic and amalgamated combination of the two. Though there is a wild side to Vaucopins it really streams the vintage. Natural and corporeal because the fruit is untethered but habitual in that it mimics the Grand Cru. Its south-facing cragges and outcrops bring warmth to the kimmeridgian and that is why Matthieu Mangenot treats its élevage like a Grand Cru. The result is a very concentrated Chablis from 15 per cent (older Bichot barrels) oak fermentation. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted July 2016  @Matth_Mangenot  

Les Fourneaux

Domaine Barat Chablis Premier Cru Les Fourneaux 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent, WineAlign)

Some reduction still persists in this summer of 2016, attributed to the handling and mineral-levitating intent to foil one of the warmest Right Bank Premier Crus of Chablis. And so the salinity is clearly specific to Fourneaux, compressed like bricks of ancient oceanic residue and slag. Makes for an intense expression, of tension and in solicitation of patience. The vintage must be called out for defining such an anti-ambagious line with the words and wisdom of the calcaire-argileux. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted July 2016  

charly

Domaine Charly Nicolle Chablis Premier Cru Les Fourneaux 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

From a Right Bank terroir near Fleys in relative Premier Cru isolation (although close enough to Mont de Milieu), Charly Nicolle’s ’14 cuts like a knife through the “furnace” that is Fourneaux. The laser edge of acidity slices through the rich fruit and only Nicolle’s handling finds this sort of linear work from a climat well-known for its warmth and roundness. Such a pure, distinct, precise and purposed impression is imprinted on a taster’s Chablis brain. Long is the understatement. This is trekking on a road to forever.  Drink 2018-2024. Tasted July 2016  

Mont de Milieu

Garnier & Fils Chablis Premier Cru Mont De Milieu 2014, Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

From near and dear Premier Cru terroir a hop, skip and a rock slide away from the Grand Cru, the Garnier Mont de Milieu is charmingly larger (600L) barrel suave and soupy, more so and noticeable as deferential to many of its peers. A bit stoic and understated in the aromatic department and then linear, lean, unaggressive yet taut on the palate. Not the most corporeal M de M but then again that’s not necessarily the milieu. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted July 2016  @chablisgarnier

Domaine Billaud-Simon Chablis Premier Cru Mont de Milieu 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (373548, $44.95, WineAlign)

Billaud-Simon’s vines are up the hill in front of the forest, with four plots that work their way south and west and of parcels 40-70 years of age. This has such air and pomp in its deep breaths with the most maleficent acidity and tension in its grip. As stirring a Mont de Milieu as you will find built on 40 hL/H yields of solid citrus meets yellow apple fruit. Terrific attraction and length. Superb. Classic unoaked Chablis. Can envision it unchanging for seven years followed by a slow walk into and through the preserved citrus museum. With fruit this clean it will petrify before it spoils. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted July 2016  @Matth_Mangenot  

Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Premier Cru Mont de Mileu 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent, $69.00, WineAlign)

Mont de Milieu crosses the river to rest in Domaine territory on the right bank, facing south, with 55 year-old plots and crazy low yields (20 hL/L). The vintage was better than many in much of Chablis but winemaker Didier Séguier is not sold on this Mont de Milieu. Though flowering was not top notch it was easily better than ’13. Well, hotter at least, as there were days at 42 degrees. Consider the anti-Chablis like funk in the lemon, some disproportion and oddly-pronounced variegation. Some kind of natural, free-flowing character is exhibited in this M de M and it most certainly is an outlier. Coming back down to earth and digging into the rocks the notes say the finish is direct, piercing and marked by compressed citrus. Very mineral, of course. The early variant personality is chalked up to youth and this is not the first Mont de Milieu that appeals to time and patience. It should be afforded some. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted July 2016  @williamfevre_  @WoodmanWS

La Chablisienne Chablis Premier Cru Mont de Milieu 2014, Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Mont de Milieu’s Right Bank, Grand Cru, Vaucopins and Montée de Tonnérre proximate locale is not lost on the excellence level of Chablisienne’s effort. Further endorsed by the ’14 vintage this M De M is cooler, specing-savoury, briny, crustaceous even. The southern exposure develops rich and ripe fruit and along with some SO2, here the bivalve shell mixed with ripeness means divaricated business. It’s the rock and the ancient, subterranean, mineral flow of the Serein’s Crioux tributary that give the shellac, the lustre, prolongation and appendix. The Mont de Milieu ’14 right here is the oyster wine. Make great use of this purpose for a decade or more. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted July 2016    @vbartement  @Vinexxperts

Domaine Charly Nicolle Chablis Premier Cru Mont de Milieu 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

In 2011 Charly Nicolle reintroduced wood into the family Chablis continuum with 400L first, second and third fill barrels employed for the Premier Cru. Old (55 year-old vines) in the Mont de Milieu produce a leaner wine indicative of the climat with a not so unexpected high mineral direct shot to the back off the brain. An eminent predominance of lemon and lime runs parlous by juice, zest and juice again. This is a laser M de M, even by the cru’s standards, an effect created by incredulous and concentrated calcareous activity. Drink 2017-2023.  Tasted July 2016  

Domaine Barat Chablis Premier Cru Mont De Milieu 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent, WineAlign)

If Les Fourneaux seemed a bit backward and intense then this Mont de Milieu is downright cast against a solid kimmeridgian wall. Yet another dynamite and sharply oblique Chablis from an even more striking mineral plot in the most arresting of vintages. Though the current disposition is a chassis carved in crustaceous stone the rewards will be borne out of perseverance. The sous-vide mineral soak and deep saline rub has brought about slow white caramelization and will eventually morph into stony, ecumenical goodness. Wait for it. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted July 2016  

Domaine Barat Chablis Premier Cru Mont De Milieu 2013, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent, WineAlign)

You could not accuse this 2013 as being unprejudiced to vintage or unsectarian to climat. It is in fact typically 2013 with notes of mandarin orange, lychee and a texture more creamy than anything ’14 or ’15 in the Barat portfolio. It is also counter-intuitive to the Mont de Milieu milieu, waxy and honeyed, so more older Beaune meets sémillon than Chablis. The vintage has confused many a Premier Cru and this is not immune. That said there is no shortage of interest and perhaps even enthusiasm in the continuing investigation. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted July 2016  

Jean Marc Brocard Chablis Premier Cru Mont de Milleu 2006, Ac Burgundy, France (265348, $27.95, WineAlign)

Julien Brocard also pours this Mont de Milleu 2006 from magnum alongside the advanced Les Clos Grand Cru 2007. This only helps to accentuate a sense that the Premier Cru is quite youthful though the aromatics are imaginative of culinary gastronomy. From a warm year with low acidity, though slightly muddled the humidity here is comforting and blessed. A real pleasure to drink and were some scallops served alongside this would offer up a little slice of Brocard heaven. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted July 2016  @chablisbrocard  @LiffordON

Montée De Tonnerre

Domaine Billaud-Simon Chablis Premier Cru Montée De Tonnerre 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (325241, $52.00, WineAlign)

Tasted at the domaine, from three parcels, Montée de Tonnerre, Pied d’aloup and Côte de Chapelot, climats up on the hill on the right bank close to the town of Chablis. Rounder (with 10 per cent old oak) than Mont de Milieu but still of terrific 2014 acidity, though noticeable with more orchard fruit to mingle with the stones. The tension increases with some time spent with the M de T and like well-structured Premier Cru Chablis will want to do, it lingers with a combination of tension and amenability. Part gentille Alouette and part Kimmeridgian flinty, this is a terrific example of the co-habitable duality of great Chablis. It is also indicative of the transformative restoration and direction of Billaud-Simon under the auspices of winemaker Olivier Bailly. I will let this bird rest for a couple more years and then a promise. “Je te plumerai.” Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted July 2016  @Billaud_Simon

Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Premier Cru Montée De Tonnerre 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent, $75.00, WineAlign)

Montée De Tonnerre is deserving of its reputation and Fèvre is a large part of that classification. In the realm of the Domaine Premier Cru this is the most mineral (along with only one other, that being Vaulorent) and one of the most in Chablis. The two point two hectare site is gauged in three plots. The catalyst mineral bringer Pied d’Aloup sits at the top and faces east, Chapelot also faces east and offers up richness while Côte de Bréchain, planted in 1936 faces west and brings the acidity. It is in this amalgamation of prized terroirs where the persistence of ancient stone, pillars of vineyard, vine and Chablis climat are second to none. Incredible presence and ability, cauterized and accentuated by a vintage that ushers the stereotype, hyperbole and essential aspects of what it is to be called Chablis. Looking for a wine to explain why Chablis is not chardonnay? Look no further. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted July 2016  @williamfevre_  @WoodmanWS

Domaine Testut Chablis Premier Cru Montée De Tonnerre 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (WineryWineAlign)

A profound sense of minerality is not merely felt but understood in Testut’s Montée De Tonnerre. The entire experience with this ’14 is precise, focused and linear. Few Chablis are ever this salty (it really is the most saline) and there is this lovely oyster shell brine. Intense even for what I may have come to expect from Montée De Tonnerre, here the stones, rocks and shells ride in on tides of salinity. And yet there is an underlying ripeness so Testut’s is less sour (and/or tart) then most others in the 2014 range. Great example. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted July 2016  

Rouget, bouillabaisse, légumes d'été, Au Fil du Zinc, Chablis

Rouget, bouillabaisse, légumes d’été, Au Fil du Zinc, Chablis

Louis Michel & Fils Chablis Premier Cru Montée Du Tonnerre 2012, Ac Burgundy, France (SAQ 894253, $43.75, WineAlign)

The giving vintage is most expressive in the hands of Louis Michel, brimming with and pushing the limits of the Cru’s available richness. Montée de Tonnerre is capable of but normally kept shy of such viscous, lemon-lime fleshy Chablis. Will pour this way for another two years before developing some recession and spare tire weight. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted July 2016

Domaine Laroche Chablis Premier Cru Montée Du Tonnerre 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Montée de Tonnerre is a new négoce cuvée for Laroche, using fruit from some contact growers thus “Domaine” is not on the label. The entire allocation is aged in 55 hL foudres and there is certainly more oak influence in creamy texture than the rest of the Premier Cru, though there is no compromise because the salinity and acidity appear in droves. There is roundness within those contexts but because of the age potential of the vintage and the effect of a Chablis climat of such high esteem, patience is required. It is the passport to the MdeT’s future. A return sip 30 minutes later sees the wine open up a bit, the wood melting and softening, but still, structurally speaking so very tight and so, so long. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted July 2016  @DomaineLaroche  @SelectWinePros

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Domaine Jean Collet & Fils Chablis Premier Cru Montée Du Tonnerre 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (405720, $34.95, WineAlign)

Just amazing pitch and imploding vitality from a climat that demands traditional winemaking (in 100 per cent old wood) so as not to detract from a classic flinty, steely Chablis direction. No bells and whistles, just rocks and stones and straight ahead chardonnay. Takes what the vintage gives and tackles the rest. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted August 2016  

Domaine Jean Collet & Fils Chablis Premier Cru Montée Du Tonnerre 2013, Ac Burgundy, France (405720, $34.95, WineAlign)

Romain Collet sequesters 100 per cent old wood to gently coax the elegance out of the Montée De Tonnerre fruit, a task not readily or handily achieved in the most atypical and topsy-turvy 2013 vintage. At the few shakes under three year mark the expression acts typically citrus preserve zesty but the mouthfeel, texture and application are substantive, leaning to tropical. There is no breach so the wine remains in the proper sous-vide, subterranean mineral realm, with thanks to an early pick. Tart and tang layer with slow-developed, old wood spice. Quite lovely and emblematic of the storied cru for short term consumption. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted at the domain with Romain Collet, July 2016  

Domaine Jean Collet & Fils Chablis Premier Cru Montée Du Tonnerre 2011, Ac Burgundy, France (405720, $34.95, WineAlign)

Collet’s Montée De Tonnerre 2011 shifts forward and top heavy with good upfront fruit, namely green apple and a quarried road of verdant, emerald green, gemstone minerality. The middle ground is quite wispy, ethereal, misty and then grounded by the sort of tang only a moderate to generous percentage of Premier Cru rendered barrel can do. Lime peel and a linear extreme of acidity takes this M de T places, into an integrated summons for age ability. Drink 2016-2022.  Tasted February 2015  

The fromages cart at Le Bourgogne, Auxerre

The fromages cart at Le Bourgogne, Auxerre

Good to go!

Godello

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