The city of Vezelay sits in between the famous Burgundy regions of Chablis and the Cote d'Or, and has rarely brought much wine attention to itself. The historic abbey is a significantly larger draw than the majority of the vineyards, and with the large majority sold to 2-3 co-operatives most wine tourists just zip right by traveling from Auxerre to Beaune. But it only takes a few producers to create a revolution in the wine world, and the Montanet family is at the heart of two of the most important in Vezelay. Their original property, Domaine de la Cadette, emerged from the Cave Cooperative they ran in the 1990s and immediately became one of the most noted houses when they were picked up by importer Kermit Lynch. In 2000 the Montanet-Thoden label was created using the family's original vineyard holdings and some new plantings, which provide a notably different take on the region from the Cadette wines thanks to the varied soils. The wines have more in common with Chablis than those from Beaune, but they would never be considered Chablis clones either, and the efforts of the Montanet family show this region's character and potential brilliantly.
Though cool in climate, the region has good sun exposure which helps get the fruit a consistent ripeness that shows in the rich apple tones on the nose. The soils are not chalky like Chablis so the saline/seashell tone is absent, just vibrant citrus and white fruits.The palate is generous without any signs of oak aging or malolactic fermentation, which allows the zesty fresh apple and lime to fill the mouth through to the long quenching finish. While the Cadette shows a bit more intensity and aging potential, this is immensely approachable and food-friendly, perfect with all sorts of springtime dishes.
INSIDER'S PICK: NV MARIETTA CELLARS 'CHRISTO' LOT #3 NORTH COAST (Wine Advocate 91points) $19.99
For most of the drinking population, seeing a wine without a vintage on it (outside of Champagne) is a sign of low quality. A lot of that stems from the wine laws in most of Europe that do not allow the use of a vintage date on the most basic of wines or those that fall completely outside their appellation structure. The quality can be quite variable, and you are likely not going to have an obvious way to know just how long the wine has been in bottle. Making non-vintage wines does have the capability to make good quality, approachable and consistent wines in the right hands, and you are starting to find a revitalization in the approach by many of the new wave 'Traditionalist' wineries. Some use a Solera style method, where a small portion of the previous batch is blended with the new batch, which can bring a hint of aged or evolved complexity to the wine. Others will make smaller batches from portions kept in tank or barrel, using what is most ready and works the best at that time regardless of the age of each piece. Marietta Cellars has been doing this with their Old Vine Zin for decades (Lot number is up to the 60s now) and several years ago introduced the concept to make a Bordeaux based blend called Arme and this Rhone varietal based blend. Both blends are extremely successful with regards to quality and consistency, and show an extremely approachable style that makes them easy to enjoy without aging or long decanting.
Inky, tooth staining purple color and absolutely loaded with black fruits and dark spice that continue to open and evolve for hours on end, this is obviously not a lightweight wine. Even the small amount of Viognier is noticeable as it brings a hint of flowery perfume to the dark fruit; oddly, as it also does when used in Northern Rhone Syrah, it actually makes the wine look darker and shinier in the glass. In the mouth the texture is deep and palate coating, but the blend is extremely polished with very fine tannins. A bit on the modern side but approachable for all tastes, this impressive wine is a great option to have on hand for hearty meals and grilled foods.
INSIDER'S PICK: 2016 DOMAINE DE FONTSAINTE 'GRIS DE GRIS' ROSE CORBIERES $17.99
While the last stragglers of the 2015 Rose season are still showing very nicely but slowly drifting away (what remains still receiving an extra 5% discount btw), it is time to start introducing the new crop of 2016s. With these new arrivals come our annual re-education of the drinking public of two common misconceptions on Rose wines; that they are 1) sweet, and 2) fragile delicate flowers that need to be consumed before the end of the summer. Dry Rose is a large part of the European drinking culture, providing lighter red wine flavors that can be consumed during the warmer months and still go with the seasonal cuisine. While they may not be designed to last for decades, the better versions that have good acidity and body can survive quite well for a few years before fading (which is what makes the deals on remaining 2015s such a steal). This version from acclaimed Corbieres producer Domaine de Fontsainte is particularly durable and substantial due to the unique grape used, called Grenache Gris. This mutation off of the well known Grenache variety evolved to have an extremely pale skin color even when fully ripe, which provides almost no coloring during the wine making process. The pale salmon color in this wine comes from the same soaking process that would have produced a deep red wine. Here it intensifies the flavor and provides much needed acidity and length on the palate.
Pale, Provencal-styled pink in the glass, delicate looking at first but surprisingly intense aromas of watermelon and pit fruits. As much as the impulse would be to drink this fresh out of the chiller, the aromas are much more striking a little closer to the 60 degree mark. The flavors don't suffer from less chill either, continuing the juicy watermelon character on the palate with a mouthfilling texture and a light touch of dusty tannins on the finish. If you prefer a crisper finish, the colder temperature will make the acidity show through a tad more. This is routinely one of the more popular Roses offered out of the acclaimed Kermit Lynch portfolio, so the national supply tends to go fairly quickly. Be sure to buy in April what you hope to be enjoying in June and July.
INSIDER'S PICK: 2015 DOMAINE LE ROC DES ANGES 'SEGNA DE COR' COTES CATALANES$23.99
The French Catalonian wine regions were long known more for their fortified wines than their 'everyday' reds and whites, with the names Banyuls, Maury, and Riversaltes carrying a level of respect in the world of wine drinkers. Most of the wines that did come from here had the reputation of being chunky, heavy-handed, and lacking the depth and character found in wines from the Rhone even though they largely used the same grape varieties. Much of the fortified wine industry dropped off over the last 20+ years, and the Catalonian/Roussillon region has seen a huge shift in focus. Neglected vineyards are being renovated by a new generation of winemaker looking to rebuild the reputation of the wines from the ground up. Since the estate was established in 2001, Marjorie Gallet and husband Stephane have farmed their older vineyards by organic/biodynamic principles and planted their newest vines using these methods from the very start, even to the extent of using plow horses to tend the soils in most of their vineyards. Not only has their quality improved as the old vines adapt and the new vines mature, but their natural alcohol content has by and large gone DOWN. The wines still have big flavors, but can achieve the intensity without a boozy, over-saturated mouthfeel and headiness.
Segna de Cor comes from the estate's youngest vines of Grenache, Carignan, and Syrah, and deliver a perfect picture of the balance and harmony this region can provide. Deep and youthful purple in the glass, the aromas are of surprisingly crisp and crunchy dark fruit, lots of currants blackberry as well as savory dark spice. By aging only in concrete tanks versus any barrel, the lively natural character shows through with absolutely no sign of boozy heat. The weight and texture on the palate is quite substantial with a minimally filtered fullness to it, and matches the savory dark fruits on the nose perfectly. As it opens up there is a gamey high toned character that could scratch the itch for a Northern Rhone fan, but still showing off the underlying warmth of the region. Yet another fascinating wine that breaks down the preconceptions of what a region is supposed to produce.
The Best of the Best.
We offering free tastings on these wines in the store every Thursday and Friday, and a 10% discount off the retail price through the duration of the day. Come on by and give them a try!