La Maltroie: Bruno Colin’s Chassagne Rouge

COLINsmFifty percent of Chassagne is red wine, but it used to be more. La Maltroie and Clos St Jean are considered the best vineyards for rouge since the soils are uniquely suited to Pinot Noir. However, the growers get a lot more money for their white wines from Chassagne – upwards of 50 – 100% more, and understandably so given the village name does end with “Montrachet.” But what all this also adds up to is that Chassagne rouge is a just a really good deal.

Bruno Colin is the youngest son of retired Michel Colin-Deleger who was the third generation winemaker of this family estate up until 2003. The oldest son in the family is Pierre-Yves Colin who married Anne Morey and started the micro-negociant Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey. There are a lot of Colins and a lot of Moreys in Chassagne (they always have a good amateur rugby team made of winegrowers!). Bruno was joined by his wife Stéphanie, and together they farm eight hectares of land over thirty separate micro-parcels.

Cumulatively, these parcels amount to nineteen separately vinified cuvees from across Chassagne-Montrachet, Puligny-Montrachet, Saint-Aubin, Santenay, and Maranges. Twelve of these are are premier cru and all of them amount to only a tiny quantity of wine. Colin opts to vinify each parcel in a similar fashion so as to allow the terroir of each to resonate in the wines. Vinification is kept very traditional and the wines spend generally a year or a year-and-a-half in barrel. The wines are always beautifully balanced, with expressive but refined aromas, and showcase the unique harmony of fruit, minerality and nuance that is characteristic of the individual sites.

Production of all of Colin’s wines are tiny, but remarkably we were able to find a stash of the 2009 La Maltroie Rouge; a wine that is now seven years old – which is pretty much the sweet spot for red Chassagne. This is a fantastic opportunity to enjoy a perfectly mature bottle of red Burgundy from a very special place at an incredibly reasonable price. A very good deal indeed.

Cheers, John Beaver Truax

Bruno Colin, Chassagne-Montrachet Rouge 1er Cru “La Maltroie”, 2009 – $55.99
Premier Cru La Maltroie is unquestionably perfect for Pinot Noir. Bruno Colin has the tiniest of plots there—just .17 hectares—with vines that are nearly 50 years old.

You can place an order for Bruno Colin’s 2009 La Maltroie online or email us at


Benoit Ente and 2014 White Burgundy

Top 2014 white Burgundies are starting to hit the market, and what everyone says is true: these are wines you want to buy and cellar. Burghound, for one, just wrote: “I would not only counsel buying [the 2014 whites], but buying aggressively.” Some producers say this is the best vintage in over 20 years. Ben Leroux said if you don’t make great wine in 2014 you need to find another line of work.

Benoit Ente is in the right line of work. He is a top producer, one of those rare winemakers who makes great wines in borderline vintages. In 2014 he made absolutely brilliant wines.

A careful farmer, Benoit believes that controlling yields in the vineyard is the way to achieve the perfect acid-sugar balance necessary to make great white Burgundies. Once he has grown and harvested perfect grapes he can easily perform the kind of non-interventionist winemaking that he likes. He picks on the earlier side to guarantee crisp acidity. In a great vintage like 2014 the results are stunning: wines of purity and balance.  

Benoit inherited a tiny 2.4 hectare domaine in Puligny Montrachet which includes some great premier crus. Arnaud Ente, the Meursault specialist who studied under Coche, is Benoit’s brother. Like Arnaud, Benoit’s wines age very well. He uses less new oak than his brother and employs virtually no battonage. The wines spend 12 months in oak and then 6 more in stainless steel–this is as true for his Aligote as it is his Folatieres! The wines are crystalline and have wonderful intensity, but they emphasize elegance and terroir-expression.

Benoit’s wines are considerably more affordable than his brother’s. This has nothing to do with a lack of critical acclaim. Burghound, for example, has just reviewed the 2014s, and gave them rave reviews, with scores that are in line or even a little bit better than Arnaud Ente’s. When Antonio Galloni last reviewed Benoit’s wines he called them among the most impressive in all the Cote de Beaune! And Jon Bonne recently dubbed him “one of the next stars of Burgundy”.

Despite all this attention, in America neither Ente brother is quite a household name, like Roulot or Leflaive. And thank goodness! They don’t make much wine (the vast majority is sold to famous restaurants in Europe) and it’s already hard enough to get. We have a small allocation and are thrilled to be able to share this opportunity with our Burg-loving friends!

Cheers, John B Truax

Benoit Ente, Aligote, 2014 – $27.99
We couldn’t resist this bargain. These are old Aligote  vines in Puligny Montrachet. And the wine tastes more like Puligny Montrachet than Aligote.

Benoit Ente, Puligny Montrachet, 2014 – $72.99
This is a rare thing in Burgundy: a village level wine from vines directly across the road from a Grand Cru.

Benoit Ente, Puligny Montrachet 1er Cru “Clos de la Truffiere”, 2014  – $137.99
Thanks to a recent inheritance, this great terroir is now part of the Ente domaine, and 2014 is the inaugural release of this wine! It is from the sweet spot in Truffiere surrounded by a Clos. Old vines, mostly around 60 years. This has all the minerality and cut that you expect from a top-flight premier cru Puligny.

Benoit Ente, Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru “Folatieres – En la Richard”, 2014 “En la Richarde” $137.99
“En la Richarde” is a tiny section of the Folatieres vineyard which almost touches Chevalier Montrachet. Benoit thinks that this is his finest vineyard with the most aging potential.

A Week In Burgundy With John Truax (Part 6)

Tuesday, November 17

I had to great fortune to be invited back to Becky and Russell’s house in Bouilland for another gala luncheon and a vertical tasting of Grivot Richebourg. Thanks to a generous Burgundy collector we able to taste every single vintage of Richebourg that Etienne Grivot has made. We had 20+ vintages on the table that day.

The wines were lined up on both sides of a bare wooden table. There were lots of accomplished wine tasters present from France, UK, Hong Kong, Singapore, the USA and points beyond. Any wines that our gracious host could not provide came directly from Domaine Grivot for the tasting. An effervescent British taster from Hong Kong exclaimed, “Oh my. This is just like “The Matrix” – Download Richebourg!” And so we did!

1985 – pale brick red, astringent, tannic, souring fruit but good stuff.
1986 – orange/red, still has fruit but fading fast.
1988 – healthy orange red color, good fruit, great length, very fine and rich and round.
1989 – palish red, starting to brick, very fine, spicy, beautiful and long. No spitting of this wine. Lovely, rich, pure, very very fine.**
1990 – palish red, no bricking, mushroomy? Not in perfect shape.
1991 – palish red, no bricking, very very sweet fruit, still some tannin, great stuff ***
1992 – palish red, some bricking, great fruit and menthol flavors, powerful, astringent, tannic, very very nice. **
1993 – pale and very healthy red. Tannic, astringent, very long and powerful.
1994 – pale but healthy color, astringent, drying out but really a good drink, especially with food. Good spice.
1995 – healthy rich red color. Stinky nose. Very tannic and astringent. Not my favorite.
1996 – deep rich red with no bricking. Great fruit in the mid-palate. Astringent and tannic. Very, very young.
1997 – healthy deep red color. Great fruit. Powerful. Astringent. Tannic. Full.
1998 – NG. Stinky. Shot.
1999 – First bottle corked. Second bottle brought from the domaine. Lovely rich red color. Pure and rich and fine. Great fruit. Powerful. All components in excellent balance. Great wine. ****
2000 – beautiful healthy red color. Very pure and fine ripe fruit. Round and rich. Excellent wine. ***
2001 – deep red color. Powerful, rich, pure fruit flavors and spice masking tannins and astringents. Very nice. Lots of power. Very complete wine. ***
2002 magnum! – surprisingly pale color. Souring nose of fruit and spice. Really remarkable. Very very fine. Powerful. ****
2003 – Cerise red, stewed fruits, tannin and astringents, will last a long time. Good stuff, very interesting.
2004 – Nice color. Pure, powerful, tannic, astringent. Needs time.
2005 – Rich color. Powerful sweet fruit. Lovely, seductive, super wine. ***
2006 – Deep color. Sweet fruit. Mouthweight, very very fine. Superb. ***
2007 – Beautiful sweet fruit, very grapey, powerful and complete.
2008 – Full flavored and fine. Very sweet fruit, spice, tannin, astringents, lovely and complete. Will last a long time.
2009 – Super sweet fruit. Rich and full and long and precocious.
2010 – Pure, rich berry fruit, tannin and astringents. Very complete.
2011 – Cool, menthol, licorice, lovely.
2012 – Rich, ripe, brambly, pure. Very very fine.
2013 – Deep color, big, pure, clean, fine and rich. Great wine.

After such a magnificent tasting, we needed to come back down to Earth. Russell made another fantastic meal. We had smoked salmon and champagne and a magnum of 2008 Roulot Meursault Charmes. It was beautiful and full and rich. And a magnum of 2009 Jean Noel Gagnard Chassagne Montrachet 1er Cru Aux Chaumees.

Then Russell served his wonderfully soulful and earthy lentils and sausages which are known throughout the land and known universe. You can find his recipe on the Le Serbet website. Truly fantastic.

What great wine can you serve after a vertical tasting of Grivot Richebourg?1985 Bonnes Mares De Vogue from magnum. Very fine, sweet fruit, great, resolved – the tannin lay as sediment in the bottom of the bottle. Then aMagnum of 1999 Roumier Ruchottes Chambertin. Deep color, very blackberry fruit. Magnum of 1999 Grivot Echezeaux – deep black red. Wonderful black fruits on the nose. Pure and rich with a saline quality on the finish. And 2000 Comtes Lafon Volnay 1er Cru Santenots de Milieu. Nice, cerise color, rich red fruit, medium weight, good persistence and acidity. A lovely and nice wine. This would have been a showstopper on its own but the competition for attention was intense.

I was very lucky to get a ride back into Beaune with our host in a luxurious van with a group of very happy and well-fed Englishmen. I asked them to drop me near the arch in Beaune and meandered back to my apartment where I took a much-needed nap. It was still daylight.

When I awoke, it was dark and I was hungry. I wandered over to the Bistro de l’Hotel for a simple fish dinner without too much fuss. Fully expecting to eat by myself, much to my surprise there were two large tables full of people – many of whom I had run into again and again over the previous week. I saw my friend Jay sitting at the head table with Veronique Drouhin and her husband and the very gracious couple from the New York chapter of the Chevalier du Tastevin. The same couple who sat next to us for our first lunch in Burgundy a week before. They insisted I join them.

I asked the waiter if I could please get a simple fish and a glass of their most modest dry white wine, whatever he chose. Just after I ordered my fish and glass of white wine, a gentleman at our table offered me a glass of 1980 Drouhin Musigny. A very rare wine I never expect to see again. His warmth and generosity was surprising but that was his spirit. The waiter brought me a lovely fish and a glass of Heretiers de Comte Lafon Macon which was delicious with the fish and more along the lines of what I am accustomed to drinking in the normal course of my life. I sincerely believe that the simple wines give us perspective and allow us to better understand how magnificent and rare premier and grand cru wines are.

Some had dessert, all were sated after this long day of dining and drinking. I didn’t have any dessert or cheese. Some people ordered Armagnac and were going outside to smoke. I don’t smoke anymore and declined the offer.

Then our host took the check and proclaimed, “I’ll pay for this but not for their Armagnacs. They can buy their own.” They had ordered really fancy old Armagnac. I requested my check and much to my surprise the waiter told me it had been taken care of. What a gracious man.

Jay and I went back to our nearby apartment within easy stumbling distance from the Centre of Beaune. We were getting a ride to Geneva Airport the next morning and MoMo our driver wanted to get an early start. The day before he had taken someone to the Zurich Airport and was stopped three times on the way by various factions of the Swiss police. MoMo is a nickname for Mohammed and it had been just five days after the Paris attacks. As it turned out we got to Geneva Airport hours before our flight.

A Week In Burgundy With John Truax (Part 5)

MONDAY, November 16

I got up, made coffee, bought a croissant at the bakery across the street and I walked across Beaune. A gray morning, the clouds were low in the sky. Going to taste with the super talented Benjamin Leroux and two representatives of his NY importer. Ben was the winemaker at the great Pommard producer Comte Armand. Pascal Marchand was the regisseur, Ben was his assistant and then took over at the domaine. For several years Benjamin worked at Comte Armand in addition to running his micro-negociant. Last year he resigned from Comte Armand to work full time at his own business. He rents a fairly large winemaking facility not far from Bichot, Champy, Camille Giroud, Domaine des Croix, all in the center of Beaune.

I met up with the folks from the importer. We started with a simple 2014 Bourgogne Blanc from two vineyards by the edge of Puligny and Meursault. Village level wine, no new oak.

2014 Auxey Duresses – 6,000 bottles, very pure and clean and very floral, like jasmine. 2014 Ben says produced beautiful soft whites, clean, more crystalline, more expression of salinity.
2014 St. Romain Sous Chateau – fatter, richer, 30 year old vines grown at 380 meters full and rich. A warmer climate is making richer wines, more plush, rounder.
2014 Meursault AC – bright sweet fruit, From Blagny 10.6 HA, biggest cuvee. Sweet fruit but good “cut” and acidity.  Average 12.5 alcohol.
2014 Meursault Vireuils – By Auxey Duresses, above Luchets and Meix Chavaux.  Aromas like marzipan, almond paste.
2014 Meursault Narvaux – small berries – red soil, Chardonnay Muscate plus a little Aligote.  Pure, rich, spicy like nutmeg.
2014 Meursault Poruzots Dessus – Big, rich mid palate, 90 year old vines – small berries, very focussed finish.
2014 Meursault Genevrieres Dessous – Lilac and purity.
2014 Puligny AC – Steely and powerful and rich.
2014 Puligny Champs Gains – Minerality, intense, compact and stony – this will be a very long lived wine.
2014 Chassagne Montrachet Abbaye de Morgeot – foot of slope – more clay – richer style, more compact.
2014 Chassagne Montrachet Tete du Clos – top of Morgeot, very rocky, very poor soil where the vines struggle to survive.  Four and half barrels.
2014 Bourgogne Rouge from Santenay and Fixin – All in foudres – no new oak, wood from Citeaux.
2014 Savigny Les Beaune AC – very reduced, rich berry fruit under the reduction.
2014 Savigny Les Beaune 1er Aux Jarrons – beautiful pure blackberry fruit, good length, crisp acidity ***
2014 Volnay AC – lean and tough, four barrels produced.
2014 Volnay 1er Mitans – little reduced but pure and rich, tannic, astringent.
2014 Volnay 1er Clos des Caves des Ducs – .06 HA since 2006.
2014 Corton from Charlemagne and Bressandes
2014 Gevrey AC – four vineyard blend.
2014 Vosne Romanee AC – Mazieres plus Violette. Between Vosne and Clos Vougeot. All Pinot Fin – yum! Benoit says it’s easy to make wine in Vosne Romanee. ***
2014 NSG 1er Aux Thorey – 100% Pinot Fin planted by Sylvain Cathiard’s father in 1960.
2014 Clos Vougeot Petit Maupertuis – started as carbonic maceration.

2014 Clos Vougeot Petit Maupertuis – started as carbonic maceration. Beautiful pure and plush blackberry. Rich, full, long lived wine. ***
2014 Chambolle Musigny Amoureuses – spicy, aromatic, plush, red and black fruit. Lovely, pure.
2014 Bonnes Mares – On the Chambolle side. Strawberry/raspberry fruit, brooding, rich, pure, long finish.

I walked with my friends through Beaune to the Le Serbet offices. They were meeting one of Becky’s employees and then they were all going to the Paulee de Meursault with Ben Leroux. Everyone at the office was going to a public assembly at noon to honor a moment of silence for the victims of Friday’s attacks in Paris. After the moment of silence, the church bells rang 132 times.

The Paulee de Meursault is an annual party to celebrate the wines of Burgundy. It was organized in the mid-1920’s by Comte Lafon. Everyone brings bottles of wine to share. It starts at noon and ends around seven. A Dionysian revel!

I had the good fortune to attend the Paulee de Meursault in 2007 and sit at Dominique Lafon’s table just behind the guest of honor, filmmaker Claude Lelouch. It was an unforgettable experience. I still have the menu and my tasting notes. I thought the food was quite good. The lunch started at noon and we left at 7.

Many years ago, there was an award for the best book on French wine written in the year previous. The lucky author was awarded a barrel of Meursault. Unfortunately this tradition did not carry on. Jay would have worked hard to write that book, as would many other authors.

I walked across Beaune, stopped at the charcuterie and purchased a sandwich, went back to my apartment and had a much-needed modest lunch for a change. Then I walked across Beaune back to the peripherique to meet my friend David Croix at Camille Giroud. David is an old friend and a talented winemaker at Maison Camille Giroud and Domaine de Croix. There was a wonderfully diverse group tasting at Domaine de Croix. There was his importer from Montreal, his Finnish importers, a young woman from Tel Aviv – sommelier at one of the top restaurants. A truly international group. David also believes that 2014 was a classic vintage.

2014 Bourgogne – crisp, red cherry like fruit, no new oak, very very nice, from vineyards on the Cote Challonaise near Givry and from Cote de Beaune near Volnay and Premeaux.
2013 Ladoix Chaillots – limestone soil, high in silica. Very nice, tangy lively wine. Prickly on the tongue.
2014 Volnay AC – fifty year old vines from the bottom of Lurets, some whole cluster. Twenty five percent. Great raspberry fruit.
2014 Santenay Villages – Pointy acidity, tastes kind of lean. Not my favorite today.
2014 Marsannay Longeroies – late malo, brambly, prickly very fine, real strawberry perfume.
2014 Gevrey Chambertin Crais – gravelly alluvial soil with great drainage. Very sweet raspberry fruit, very very fine, fresh, beautiful ***

In between tasting wines – this cosmopolitan crowd of wine savants were discussing all sorts of things with David Croix, someone who is really in-the-know in Beaune. For instance, we discussed where some negociants were buying grapes and where they were buying finished wines, who really makes the wine that some of these negociants put their labels on. Always very interesting. We discussed how Faiveley went from making ½ barrel of Musigny to now 2 barrels of Musigny. Quite a jump. We were doing some of this back of the envelope financial calculations and figured out that Faiveley bought 2.2 ouvrees of Musigny from Dufouleur at the rate of $3 million euros per ouvree. We compared this to the recent purchase of Clos des Lambrays by LVMH. Lambrays sold for $100 million euros, but for that bargain price you not only got a Grand Cru vineyard in Morey St. Denis, but the wine cellars and winemaking facility, an historic manor house with fabulous formal gardens. So the new owners paid only $500,000 euros per ouvree and got all of this other great stuff to boot. A relative bargain!

Morey Saint Denis Clos Solon – rich, bloody, tannic.
Vosne Romanee Chalandins – Very Vosne, very classy, rich blackberry fruit
Santenay 1er Cru Clos Rousseau Clos de Roche Noir – pure and fine – tannic
Beaune 1er Cru (Cras, Avaux) 90 year old vines in Cras – full pure and rich

The only vineyards that Camille Giroud owns are Beaune 1er Cru Les Cras and Avaux and some land in the Haute Cotes de Beaune. However David supervises the farming of all of the vineyards that they lease or have grape contracts on. He says that what is most important to him is plowing, healthy vines and the type of Pinot Noir that is planted.

Volnay 1er Cru Lurets – round black fruit, very pretty, very mineral on the finish. Complete. ***
Gevrey Chambertin 1er Cru Lavaux St. Jacques – tight, hard, full, not open.
Corton Clos de Roi – Just above DRC’s parcel. Great fruit, power, menthol raspberries.
Charmes Chambertin – Just below Chambertin. Pure, rich, fine, very long finish. One new barrel, one four year old barrel, beautiful, open, rich and pure.
Clos Vougeot – from petites maupertuis – from the upper left side of the Clos Vougeot, perfumed, fine, rich, tannic, truly grand cru.
Clos de la Roche – Rich black fruit, very pure, very sweet fruit.
Bourgogne Blanc – Puligny plus Haute Cotes de Beaune. Bright with good depth of fruit.
Auxey Duresses – very fine, like Meursault’s little brother.

While continuing our freewheeling discussion of anything but Camille Giroud wines, we started trying to name all the different clos in champagne. We got up to five or six when one of the guys from Finland said that’s there’s probably a lot of wall building going on in Champagne right now. And then the importer from Montreal started talking about the Carillons. He represents both Jacques Carillon and Francois Carillon, two brothers who split the family domaine in half a few years ago. This domaine has existed in the family since 1632. This fellow had tasted at both domaines on the same day, the first time he’s done that. Jacques Carillon’s style is more like their father (or more Roulot). Francois Carillon went in a different direction. He is more commercial, more outgoing, he has bought grapes and his style is more like Dominique Lafon’s. One might think the split came out of animosity but it was totally amicable. Both brothers have large families to take care of. David Croix is incredibly good-natured about all this talk about anything but his work. We went back to the tasting at hand.

Chassagne Montrachet 1er Cru Vergers – Lemony and pure.
Corton Charlemagne – aromas like peaches, nectarines, stone fruits. David said it’s the best Camille Giroud Corton Charlemagne to date.

By now it was probably 6:30 or 7 and David asked if we wanted to try some older wines. He opened a 1978 Beaune Graves, which was remarkably fresh and youthful at 38 years of age. He then opened a 1976 Latricieres Chambertin which had incredibly sweet fruit and was truly remarkable 40 year old bottle of wine. David commented that the 1978 NSG Vaucrains and 1978 Clos St. Denis were not ready to drink yet. The founder of the house, Camille Giroud, had lived through phylloxera and he vowed to make wines that would last for 50+ plus years. He always made structured wines with good aging potential because if this terrible disease came back to Burgundy vineyards he wanted to have plenty of wine to drink. He taught his sons to make wine the same way and that’s why these old Camille Giroud wines are full of structure and tannin to this day. A remarkable tasting. Where else can go where they open a 1978 and then a 1976?

The young sommelier from Tel Aviv and I left Camille Giroud and were walking towards Cave Madeleine. We ran into the New York importers who had gone to the Paulee with Ben Leroux. They seemed surprisingly sober. They said they were hungry. “How was the food at the Paulee?” I asked. “Terrible!” they responded as they went off with the young sommelier from Tel Aviv to get something to eat. I continued on to Caves Madeleine to meet Pascal Marchand, his partner from Toronto Moray Tawse, Mark Finchum, and nine Canadian businessmen. Mark is the winemaker at Domaine Maume, the venerable Gevrey Chambertin estate that Marchand-Tawse bought last year. Cave Madeleine is a very nice, simple Beaune restaurant that fits about thirty people. There are two long tables. Its very informal. Simple, good food. They serve you stews and salads and stuff like that. Good dinner. We had simple food and magnificent wines. There was a group of winemakers and two Japanese girls sitting at the table in the front window. The winemakers greeted Pascal. The Japanese girls figured out who he was and wanted to get their pictures taken with Pascal. He is famous in Japan. Pascal had a huge, untrimmed beard that made him look like Man Mountain Mike the lumberjack. All that was missing were the red checked shirt and double bladed axe. Mark Finchum is a suave and sophisticated Englishman who has lived in France for many years and sardonically rolled his eyes at Pascal’s popularity.

Our very gracious host Moray Tawse chose a variety of great Burgundy wines to educate his Canadian guests. They served the wines blind to me and Mark and Pascal and we did our best to guess where they were from. We did pretty damn good.

2013 Henri Germain Meursault Charmes – pale, straw gold color, good weight in the mouth, crisp acidity, good length, really nice wine. The second wine was pale red color, good fruit, dry, astringent finish, young. It was 2006 LaFarge Volnay 1er Clos des Chateau de Ducs. The third was rich ruby red color, grapey aromas, red fruits, little tannin, fresh and forward. It was 2009 Chandon de Briailles Corton Bressandes.

Next we had a wine that was dark red, smelled of blackberry fruit and Chinese five spice powder and ginger. It was rich and full but kind of closed up. You could tell someday it was going to blossom into a really great wine. It was 2012 Cecile Tremblay Vosne Romanee Beaumonts. A serious bottle of wine, but really young.

The last wine was deep, dark red, rich blackberry aromas and spicy like the Burgundian pain d’epices. Kind of like gingerbread but not exactly. Great mouthweight, long finish, really nice wine. It was 2010 De Montille Vosne Romanee Malconsorts. Between me and Pascal we narrowed it down to the vintage and the vineyard.

It was a lovely dinner. Everyone had lots of fun.

A Week in Burgundy With John Truax (Part 4)

SUNDAY November 15th 

We were invited to a grand lunch at Becky Wasserman’s house in Bouilland. Her husband Russell Hone is a celebrated amateur cook who once worked for celebrated  Richard Olney. He made a dish that he has become renowned for – leg of lamb with 100 cloves of garlic. Take a leg of lamb, generously salt and pepper, brown in goose fat, flame in brandy, add 100 peeled cloves of garlic, cover with Sauternes and cook at a low temperature overnight until the meat is falling off the bone. Lunch for eighteen people, young and old, mostly people in the wine business, some very early in their careers, some retired, semi-retired or just tired – like me.

Champagne aperitif, lovely raw oysters with 2010 Bessin Chablis 1er Cru Fourchaume. With the lamb we had great wines – 2007 Denis Bachelet Gevrey Chambertin, 2007 Domaine Dublere Charmes Chambertin, 1999 Gouges Nuits St Georges 1er Cru Chaignots, 1999 Leroy Nuits St Georges les Lavieres – quite the Sunday lunch! 

After lunch at Becky’s, Jay and I got a ride back to Beaune and went directly to the Hospices de Beaune auction. We went through the security checkpoint at the market hall in the center of Beaune. The auction had been going on for several hours. It had started in the morning after a moment of silence and the 600 or so in attendance rose and sang La Marseillaise. This is not how the Hospices auction usually starts.

The first barrel sold was purchased by Huang Shan, the beautiful Chinese wine writer who sat opposite me the night before. I saw my friend Pascal Marchand and went over to sit with him and ask how the auction was progressing. We chatted quietly while listening to the auctioneer. I noticed other people I knew in the crowd and went to speak to one of the New Yorkers I was with the day before. He told me he had been outbid on every barrel he wanted to get and was dismayed. The prices were through the roof. He thought the best wine was the Clos de la Roche Cuvee Cyrot-Chaudron / Georges Kritter. The barrel sold for a record price, $117,700 Euros. The piece du Presidente, a 228 liter barrel of 2015 Corton-Renardes sold for a record $480,000 euros – purchased by an unidentified donor in Paris who wanted to donate it to the victims of the terror attacks. A third of that money will go to a national federation for victims and the remainder will be split between two medical foundations, the Institute Curie and the AVC Foundation.

There had been spontaneous bouts of fundraising throughout the day for the same reason. The American branch of the Chevaliers du Tastevin donated 40,000 Euros. The very front rows of the auctions hall were filled with negociants, Drouhin, Champy, Bouchard, and the like. They were waiting to snap up some barrels at reasonable prices just like they’ve done for generations. I saw Benjamin Leroux come in, sit down for about five minutes, raise his paddle, purchase a barrel and promptly leave. He obviously had done his research. Jay successfully bought a barrel of Meursault Charmes Cuvee Albert Grivault. Until 2005 when Christie’s took over the Hospices auction, only negociants could buy barrels, individual purchasers were unable to buy directly.

Sunday night we went to dinner at the Bistro L’Hotel. Me, Jay, our three New York wine trade friends. Again, there here was much discussion over what wines to order for dinner. I wanted to get a magnum of 2007 Chignard Fleurie Cuvee Speciale to go with the poulet de bresse but these guys didn’t come all the way to Burgundy to drink Beaujolais. I lobbied for a magnum of 2000 Simon Bize Savigny Les Beaune Bourgeots, which is what we finally agreed on. We had a bottle of champagne to start and some white burgundy with wonderful spring rolls filled with langoustines.  We ordered the chicken and rare steak and drank too much wine. It was not too contentious of a meal.

A Week In Burgundy With John Truax (Part 3)

SATURDAY November 14TH

Saturday the tragic events in Paris cast a pallor and sense of uneasiness over the celebratory mood. Some questioned whether the auction would even be held. Would the party at the Clos Vougeot be cancelled? The Paulee de Meursault? People responded in different ways, a somber tribute of music at one dinner, declarations of freedom and solidarity and patriotism.

We had coffee and a croissant at our apartment and hurried through Beaune’s crowded center. Stands were set up on every side street selling oysters, sandwiches, antique winemaking equipment, glasses, decanters, trinkets, hot dogs, bahn mi, pizza, pasta, snails and what have you. The cobbled streets were crowded with vendors taking advantage of this great influx of people from all over the world effectively doubling their customer base for one Saturday. We crossed the square where normally the Saturday market would be set up and went to the main entrance of the 15th century Hotel de Dieu, passed through security (tighter than usual) and went into the magnificent inner courtyard of this architectural masterpiece of the Middle ages.

We passed into the tasting hall and once again marveled at the medieval splendor of these rooms, the unique reddish-brown and white floor tiles emblazoned with the elaborate monogram of Nicolas Rollin, founder of the Hospices de Beaune and the vast collection of portraits depicting the many donors of vineyards over the centuries since the hospital was founded in 1443. A massive altarpiece dominates one end of the hall, Roger van der Weyden’s “Last Judgment” commissioned in 1452 by Chancellor Rollin and his wife, Guigone de Salins. Originally it was installed where the sick beds were situated so that the deathly ill patients could attend mass where they lay. It is a great masterpiece of the early Renaissance and influenced many later artworks including paintings by Hiermonyus Bosch, Michelangelo and Peter Paul Rubens.

We had arrived early to the tasting and met the newly appointed regisseur, the thirty-seven year-old Ludivine Griveau, who is the first woman winemaker in the history of the Hospices de Beaune. Her training as a technical viticulturist, agronomist and winemaker has well prepared her to oversee the 150 acres of vines, harvest and vinification. She is very enthusiastic about the 2015 vintage for both red and white wines, a great gift for her first harvest. She is obviously thrilled to start her tenure with such a fantastic vintage. I asked her about the Chablis, a new donation to the Hospices. How did they get the grapes down to the winemaking facility in Beaune? With great pride and excitement Ludivine explained that she had gone to Chablis to oversee the harvest and had personally driven the grapes down to Beaune in a refrigerated truck. I always want to know these seemingly mundane details. My friend Jay was interested in buying a barrel of white so we started with the 15 whites on offer. My (always) brief notes are even more so than normal because we had limited time to taste and the room was filled quickly with a crowd of people. Some people take long and detailed notes while tasting and I have never been able to do this. I write down brief impressions in a sort of personal shorthand that means something to me and if I really like something I may add some asterisks or a check mark or a smiley face. If I find a wine particularly unpleasant my notes will end with something derogatory. 

Saint-Romain, Cuvee Joseph Menault – Medium bodied, lovely, long finish
Pouilly-Fuisse, Cuvee Francois Poisard – light, fragrant, very nice
Chablis 1er Cru, Cote de Lechet, Cuvee Jean-Marc Brocard – Mineral, pure, clean, correct, very “chablis”
Beaune Blanc 1er Cru Les Montrevenots Cuvee Suzanne et Raymond – rich, full, robust ***
Meursault, Cuvee Loppin – full, rich, very good.
Meursault, Cuvee Goureau – good, good structure and poise, lean compared to the previous wine.
Meursault 1er Cru Porusots, Cuvee Jehan Humblot – full, rich, sweet fruit, very good.
Meursault Genevrieres 1er Cru, Cuvee Baudot – full, rich, very fine **

In contrast to my terse notes punctuated with asterisks – here is a tasting note that Anthony Hanson MW wrote for the Baudot Meursault Genevrieres 1er Cru: “Pale green-gold, with pungently fragrant, rich aromas.  All sugars have finished fermenting, revealing a creamily textured, intensely fruity wine, with nutty aftertaste.”  After all, he is a Master of Wine.

Meursault Genevrieres 1er Cru, Cuvee Philippe le Bon – odd, disjointed, harsh, not as “together” or harmonious
Meursault Genevrieres 1er Cru, Cuvee Bahezre de Lanlay – Full, rich, great mouthweight, very long finish.
Meursault Charmes 1er Cru, Cuvee Albert Grivault – from a parcel in Charmes just below Albert Grivault’s famed “Clos des Perrieres” – Soaring aromatics, very sweet fruit, funky mid-palate, long finish. Out of sync? 

But Jay loved it, by the way. So did Pascal Marchand. Jay ended up buying a barrel and Pierre-Yves Colin will do the elevage… I hope I get some!

Corton-Vergennes Grand Cru, Cuvee Paul Chanson – Sweet fruit with a funky element in the mod-palate and a very long finish. A fascinating and rare wine that used to be all Pinot Blanc but I believe is all Chardonnay now.
Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru, Cuvee Roi Soleil – Very intriguing aromatics of white flowers and cinnamon and aromatic spices, wound up very tight, lots of dynamic tension. Very powerful. A lovely wine I would like to try again someday.
Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru, Cuvee Francois de Salins – Very sweet fruit but somehow lacking depth and length of finish.
Batard Montrachet Grand Cru, Cuvee Dames de Flandres – Big, rich, powerful.

Then we tasted reds. People are excited about the 2015 vintage for both red and white.

Monthelie 1er Cru Cuvee Lebelin – Nice, simple, forest floor “sous bois”
Savigny-les-Beaune 1er Cru Cuvee Fouquerand – good fruit, astringent finish
Savigny-les-Beaune 1er Cru Cuvee Arthur Girard – Deep color, perfumed, like anise, great fruit, very fine
Savigny-les-Beaune 1er Cru Les Vergelesses Cuvee Forneret – Big, rich, full-bodied and long
Pernand-Vergelesses 1er Cru Cuvee Rameau Lamarosse – very powerful, rich, perfumed.
Auxey-Duresses 1er Cru Les Duresses Cuvee Boillot – simple, but interesting. Light bodied.
Beaune 1er Cru Les Montrevenots Cuvee Cyrot-Chaudron – good fruit, brambly, sous bois*
Beaune 1er Cru Cuvee Maurice Drouhin – Rich and sweet – very nice*
Beaune 1er Cru Cuvee Hugues et Louis Betault – funky, OK, dryish
Beaune 1er Cru Cuvee Brunet – very sweet fruit, good length, very nice*
Beaune 1er Cru Cuvee Pierre Floquet – very sweet fruit, good length, very complete
Beaune 1er Cru Clos des Avaux – Sweet fruit, rich, astringent finish
Beaune 1er Cru Cuvee Rousseau-Deslandes – Deep color, rich fruit, great length, noticeable tannins, a big wine
Beaune 1er Cru Cuvee Dames Hospitalieres – very sweet fruit, very complete, very very fine*
Beaune 1er Cru Cuvee Guigone de Salins – great cherry fruit, long finish, very complete and rich
Beaune 1er Cru Nicolas Rolin – deep color, concentrated, long finish
Volnay 1er Cru Cuvee General Muteau – deep purple red, rich fruit, ripe tannins, long finish.*
Volnay 1er Cru Cuvee Blondeau – deep purple red, full bodied, rich, long.  Great volnay!

I tried as many of the reds as I could before we rushed out of the tasting and went out to meet the rest of our group. The five of us were driving to Volnay to taste at Domaine Lafarge and Domaine d’Angerville. I wished I had tried to get to the Grand Crus before the room became hopelessly crowded, but I wanted to try all of the whites first. Looked to grab something quick to eat from the various market stands.  Saw a hot dog vendor but they hadn’t turned on the heat. Rather than a cold hot dog I went to a sandwich stand and in a few minutes had a warm ham and cheese sandwich – it was fast enough for even an impatient New Yorker! We drove on the beautiful road lined with plane trees that leads out of Beaune. After some mobile phone chatter we met two of our party outside of the car rental and were off on the picturesque D973 through Meursault and on to Volnay.

We arrived at Domaine Lafarge around 11:00 am and were met by Chantal and Frederic Lafarge. Domaine Lafarge’s 12-hectare estate was founded in the early 20th century and first bottled at the domaine in 1934. Frederic’s father Michel first began practicing organic farming long ago because he was in his vineyards everyday and didn’t want to breathe poison. He is now a robust 88 years old. By the 1990’s they were moving towards biodynamic viticulture, today the labels have Demeter certification although the estate has been “bio” since 2000. We took the elevator down to the most atmospheric cellar in Burgundy, some of which dates to the 13th Century.  This is a wonderfully claustrophobic, cold, humid and moldy aging cellar, with casks and bottles strewn everywhere. A place well in tune with their native microorganisms!

We first tasted from bottle a very exciting trio of wines I had been waiting for – a new project from Beaujolais called Lafarge-Vial. Chantal’s maiden name was Vial. A 2014 Chiroubles and two Fleuries. The Chiroubles is sourced from vines planted in the 1970’s. It has dark fruit, good weight in the mouth – delicious. The Fleurie Bel Air comes from a parcel right next to the cuverie on the property, it was planted in the 1930’s and 1950’s. It is elegant Cru Beaujolais, complex, good weight and steady finish. The Fleurie Clos Vernay was much more powerful, tasting of the granite rich soil in this vineyard. Ancient oak trees surround the vineyard, and the vines were planted in 1970 and 1985. It is a long term Cru Beaujolais. While I am sure these will be expensive (like Foillard or Metras) there will be lots of interest.

Lafarge often makes two versions of Aligote, Meursault, Passetoutgrains but because of terrible hailstorms there is only one of each wine. In addition the Bourgogne Rouge 2014 contains all of the Cote de Nuits Villages and Pommard Pezzeroles. Hail has been a terrible problem in Volnay in recent vintages. Frederic said that if you add up the harvests of 2011 + 2012 + 2013 = 2009’s large crop. Frederic further said that 2013 was a difficult vintage but a very good vintage – a late flowering, then very humid, very slow development, a difficult June and July followed by better and better weather in August and September and an October harvest. He said that 2014 is elegant and rich like 1966 and has the depth of 1978.  Then he said this:
“2013 is a very good vintage.
2014 is a great vintage.
2015 is a vintage that you hope to see once or twice in a lifetime.”

Aligote Raisins Dores – Good crisp fruit, citrus aromas, saline finish – a complex and wonderful bargain of Burgundy.  75 year-old vines of a low yielding variety of Aligote which is seldom planted these days except by the best growers only Ramonet, d’Auvenay, de Villaine, Ente, etc.
2014 Meursault – really nice, fresh, crisp, simple, well balanced Meursault with good mouthweight. This is a very good wine for mid term drinking.
2014 Beaune 1er Cru Clos des Aigrots Blanc – Only one barrel instead of 6. Floral, like chardonnay blossoms and white flowers, good mouthweight, pure, rich, good long finish. A very good wine that will be nearly impossible to find.
2014 Bourgogne Passetoutgrain L’Exception – 50/50 Gamay/Pinot Noir from 85 year old vines. This is a serious wine – great aromas, crunchy fruit, good body, tannin, astringence, a crisp finish. Like the Aligote and Bourgogne, a great bargain for Burgundy lovers!
2014 Bourgogne Pinot Noir – Light red berry fruit, pure, tannic, astringent, good body, great value. Made from 40+ year old vines that used to be classified as Volnay Villages plus this vintage includes all of the Cote de Nuits Village and Pommard Pezzerolles.
2014 Volnay – From Volnay vineyards outside of the village close to the borders of Pommard and Meursault. Fragrant red fruits, firm, very pure, long finish.
2014 Volnay Vendanges Selecionnees – from 4 vineyards in the village of Volnay, primarily red fruit on the nose, good mouthweight, long astringent finish. Wine for long term.
2014 Beaune 1er Cru Clos des Aigrots – Frederic says that this vineyard has the kind of clay with gravel that has good drainage – The wine has black fruit, really dense crunchy fruit with good mouthweight and a long finish. I hope I can try it again someday.
2014 Beaune 1er Cru Greves – from 93 year-old vines. Greves is one of the very best Beaune 1er crus and this is one of them – it has lots of red fruit, it is cool, rich, great body, pure and fine and very refined – top notch wine!
2014 Volnay 1er Cru Mitans – A favorite wine of Frederic’s – very Volnaysien! Pure, cool, like menthol strawberries – nice wine!
2014 Volnay 1er Cru Clos du Chateau des Ducs – This is literally Lafarge’s backyard. They have owned this vineyard for 100 years. There is about a foot of topsoil on top of a layer of gravel and under that is the bedrock which the roots bore into. Pure and rich and fine with very ripe and supple tannin on the finish. Very nice wine.
2014 Volnay 1er Cru Caillerets – Powerful and full and rich with a tight mineral core.  A long lived wine. Very very refined.
2014 Volnay 1er Cru Clos des Chenes – Mostly red fruit, big, rich, generous and fleshy.

As a farewell, Chantal and Frederic blind tasted us on a bottle of 2008 Mitans that had been opened the day before. It had red fruit and earthy, bramble like aromas.  Good weight. I thought it was a 2010. Very nice wine.

We walked out of Lafarge and walked up the street to the big house at the top of the village of Volnay – Domaine d’Angerville. We strolled into the courtyard and walked past the 18th century house to the backyard – the magnificent 2.4-hectare Volnay 1er Cru Clos des Ducs. It is a most picturesque Burgundy vineyard, a beautiful tilted trapezoidal shape with trees at the top, perfect exposure to the sun and marvel of marvels – a spring in the center of the slope that drains into a creek at the bottom below the vineyard. Guillaume D’Angerville says that this protects the grapes from hydric stress in the hottest of years. 

We walked into the immaculate anteroom to the winery, a groined vaulted ceiling, beautiful stone floors, the walls seemed new although they were centuries old. There was a curious large sink fashioned from an ancient horse trough – it has a clever drain that is channeled down one of the stone legs. Guillaume is constantly improving and maintaining his historic domaine. We went through a door and down a ramp into the cool barrel room beneath the house. He was explaining how after one of the frequent hailstorms that seem to annually plague Volnay the damage to the vines is alleviated by spraying a solution of arnica, valerian and clay which helps to heal the wounds and prevent humidity. This is a biodynamic treatment, Lafarge, Lafon D’Angerville in Volnay and many growers across the Cote d’Or have embraced biodynamic practices in their vineyards. Guillaume further explained that in 2004 he bought a sorting table, previously sorting was done in the vineyard through pruning and selection of grapes to be harvested. Less wine is made but overall quality is greatly improved. We started to taste wines from barrel:

2014 Bourgogne Rouge – pure and bright and clean with bracing acidity
2014 Volnay AC – Bright, clean, pure, someone says “Very Volnay”
2014 Volnay 1er Cru Clos des Angles – 6 barrels produced from a vineyard just below Fremiets. Red fruit and spicy, bright, pure, clean with good acidity.
2014 Volnay 1er Cru Fremiets – pure rich red raspberry fruit with a lovely saline finish.
2014 Volnay 1er Cru Caillerets – richer raspberry fruit, tannin and astringency, a bigger wine.
2014 Volnay 1er Cru Taillepieds – So named for the sharp stones that used to cut the feet of the vineyard workers – Cool menthol, raspberries, mineral notes and a great dynamic tension and focus.
2014 Volnay 1er Cru Champans – Pure bright red fruit, clean, fine, round, curvy, silky. A very complete wine, very harmonious.
2014 Volnay 1er Cru Clos des Ducs – Big, rich, pure, tannic, stunning length and coiled power beneath the fruit. Great wine.

Guillaume went into a locked caged in room off the barrel cellar, the library of old bottles. He came back with a 1991 Volnay 1er Cru Taillepieds, one of perhaps half a dozen left from this great yet often overlooked vintage. We sniffed and snuffed, tasted and discussed. A group of five New York wine professionals always have a lot of banter. Not much spitting out of this particular bottle.

We went out into the sunshine and while Guillaume was pointing out the adjacent farmhouses he had recently bought as he consolidates his hold on his particular corner of Volnay we started to discuss lunch. Which is a difficult thing to do in France as the hour approaches 3 PM. Guillaume called the local spot. Impossible, they replied. We tried a popular wine bar in Beaune – La Dilettante – but they were full up and could not accommodate any more people. Guillaume offered to open some cans of food and feed us there but warned that he was a terrible cook. We set off for Beaune.

We drove from Volnay to Beaune and we stopped for a traffic light. I glanced over and exclaimed, “Hey, that’s the place I was telling you about!” It was La Dilettante, Lolo’s wine bar. Laurent was the longtime sommelier at Caves Madeleine. We parked the car and went in to see if we could get a table or eat at the bar, but the tiny wine bar was packed, every seat was full. There were a bunch of sommeliers from London at a table littered with fancy bottles like La Tache. We asked if there was a chance we could eat at the bar when people left and LoLo relented and told us we could stay.

When you’re traveling with four opinionated wine professionals from New York, arguments about what to order are inevitable. We ended up on agreeing on some bottles from the chalkboard wine list. When it came to the next bottle, I pointed out there was a whole shelves full of wine that weren’t on the list, but had price tags hanging around the necks of the bottles. Why not get the Freddie Mugnier Fuees for instance? Further discussion ensued and someone championed Roumier Morey St. Denis. We had a nice lunch of wonderful prosciutto, cold salads and cheese. A good time was had by all.

After lunch we headed to another tasting of Domaine Clos Des La Chapelle. The tasting was in some ancient cellar in Beaune that used to belong to Maison Champy.  American financier Mark O’Connell bought a lovely property in Volnay and just kept buying vineyards in Burgundy until his wife admonished him. “We’re not buying anymore doggone vineyards!” The O’Connells graciously ushered us along with a group from London and we tasted through their 2014 wines.

Beaune 1er Cru Teurons – rich fruit, tannic finish, very nice.
Volnay 1er Cru En Carelle – sweet fruit, tannic and astringent finish.
Volnay 1er Cru Clos des La Chapelle – was owned by the Church. Was once part of Bousse d’Or. Soil is brownish clay with lots of gravel and has put very sweet fruit, long saline finish.
Volnay 1er Cru Taillepieds – one half hectare. Dark, rich, tannic, very long finish.
Pommard 1er Cru Les Chanlins TVV  – planted in 1930, one quarter hectare. Really pretty fruit.
Pommard 1er Cru Grands Epenots – very stinky, good fruit, very nice wine.
Corton Rognets – 50% whole cluster, very fine, great fruit, very fine tannins.
Corton Bressandes – .2 hectare. Wow! Very, very fine. Three barrels. 50% whole cluster.
Beaune 1er Cru Reversees Blanc – sweet fruit, fleshy, like peach flesh. Very pure.
2013 Corton Charlemagne on the Pernand Vergelesses side -100% new oak, very fresh, very fine, very persistent with a long, lingering finish. One barrel in 2013.

My cohorts were ready to go off to another tasting and I was exhausted. I also knew they would like some breathing space in the car they rented. Time for a much-needed nap before dinner! I wandered through the narrow cobblestoned streets of Beaune back to my modest efficiency apartment – just a room and a bath off the interior garden courtyard the ground floor of an 18th century house. Lots of Beaune looks exactly as it did hundreds of years ago. If you ignore the cars and modern signage, imagine horses and oxcarts, a world of the Middle ages can come alive in your mind’s eye.

Rosi and Anthony Hanson had graciously invited me to an elegant dinner at the 1243 Bourgogne Society so named because the building was built in 1243. This is a private club in a most impressive building – the convent next to the Hotel Dieu of the Hospices de Beaune. You go through an ancient doorway at the street right just to the left of the Hotel-Dieu and pass through a courtyard open to the sky but enclosed by the walls of the building. To leave the noise and commotion of the street behind and enter another world, a cloistered world of the home of the sisters whose sole duty was to care for the sick in the adjoining hospital. This would be their service to God for the rest of their lives. My footsteps on the gravel path seemed loud in the quiet of the enclosed courtyard. Undoubtedly the architect had designed this transition from one world to another.

On the ground floor there is a foyer, grand salon, a very elegant dining room with a complicated groined vaulted ceiling. In 2012 the 1243 Society was formed to create a wine society for its members. Bernard Hervet of Faiveley founded the club and spearheaded the renovation of the property. This night M. Hervet was hosting a large group in the main dining rooms. Our group was upstairs in a dining room that is called “The Promenoir.” It was once a hallway where the nuns would pass through from their living quarters into the Hotel Dieu to their duties caring for the sick. Apparently there are still three nuns living next door but we didn’t see any nuns during our dinner, just lots of collectors from London and Beijing and the people from Christie’s.

I was seated next to the effervescent Rosi Hanson, her husband Anthony was across the table. Seated directly opposite me was Huang Shan, a very beautiful young woman from Beijing. She is the only resident of mainland China studying for her MW.  Her English is quite good, she attended university in Bristol, England. Putting on his very best West Country accent the gregarious David Elswood, Christie’s International wine director had to ask her something about Brissols asking her out on dates during her years at Bristol. I am not sure that either one of us understood quite what he was talking about.

We had a five-course dinner, accompanied by fifteen wines. A private chef was brought in to cook for both our party and Hervet’s group downstairs. We were all served the same wonderful menu. It started with two preparations of foie gras with chutney, then scallops with a butternut squash veloute. A filet mignon of veal with autumn vegetables, cheeses with a salad of lamb’s lettuce and a pistachio and raspberry cake with sorbet. What did we drink? 2013 Christian Moreau Chablis les Clos des Hospices, 2005 Hospices de Beaune Meursault Genevrieres Cuvee Philippe le Bon, Criots Batard Montrachet, Savigny les Beaune from the Hospices, Pommard, Cote Rotie, 2002 Chambolle Musigny 1er Cru Comtes de Vogue, 1998 Faiveley Echezeaux, 2002 Potel Mazi Chambertin, 2004 DRC Grands Echezeaux. All from Magnum. Oh and then three different Sauternes. 

Halfway through our meal Anthony Hanson stood and announced that we had been invited to join the party downstairs in the grand dining room by Bernard Hervet. Bernard’s son Charles is a talented cellist and wanted to play a song as a tribute to the victims of the terror attacks in Paris the night before. He performed a beautiful yet somber solo cello piece by Pablo Casals, “Le Chant des Oiseaux.” It was a very moving performance and a solemn counterpoint to the festive occasion.


JB Truax

A Week in Burgundy with John Truax (Part 2)

FRIDAY November 13, 2016

Friday morning was grey and foggy, it’s always like this during the Hospices week. We went to Vosne Romanee to taste with Louis-Michel Liger Belair. There was a large group of ten or so people. We met outside the iron gate of the Chateau de Vosne Romanee at 9:30. Louis-Michel was dapper as ever in his signature red pants. He came out to the electric gate with his gigantic dog Arak and ushered us into the courtyard of the magnificent Chateau du Vosne Romanee, the ancestral home. He then dragged a trash bin across the yard to get picked up. Even the Count of Vosne Romanee has to take out the trash.

Louis Michel is lots of fun. He has a wonderful sense of humor and was joking with the familiar crowd of tasters from around the world. There was Claude Kolm, the eloquent and thoughtful veteran wine critic from San Francisco, Louis-Michel’s genial and very funny Scottish importer, some folks from London and a smattering of Scandinavians. We all had tasted there before.

2014 reds from Louis Michel are fantastic, elegant and refined. They have fresh acidity and are beautiful reflections of their terroir. His white is the best he’s ever made. He bought a Nuits St. Georges vineyard from Chateau de Puligny Montrachet in 2010 which produces both red and white wines. The Clos des Grandes Vignes Blanc. He lets some of the juice oxidize until it is brown in color and then adds it back to the unfermented juice. He says this inoculates the wine against oxidation. Lovely sweet fruit, 22% new oak, harvest began September 15th. This is a stunning white wine. Louis-Michel asked Jean-Marc Roulot to teach him how to make white wine.

We started by tasting three different Vosne Romanee that are all village level.

2014 Vosne Romanee A.C. – ten barrels made – beautiful spicy aromas, the hallmark of Vosne Romanee. Rich, ripe, plush, delicious. This wine gets better every year.

2014 Vosne Romanee Colombiere – more spice aromas, rich and full, very fine ripe tannins. Beautiful, crunchy fruit like biting into a ripe grape.

2014 Vosne Romanee Clos du Chateau – bigger, richer, fuller and more spice. Lovely, rich and full. Bright, sweet fruit.

Then we started tasting the premier crus.

2014 Vosne Romanee Premier Cru Les Suchots – touching Romanee St. Vivant. Dark fruits, very rich and full and fragrant. 15% whole cluster fermentation. Very complete Suchots, nearly Grand Cru in quality. Outstanding.

2014 Nuits St. Georges Premier Cru Les Cras – from 94 year-old vines. Located between Boudots and Richemone. A very Vosne like Nuits St. Georges. Very mineral. Black fruits, very complex, good mouthweight. A stunning Nuits St. Georges.

2014 Vosne Romanee Les Petit-Monts – sweet, red fruit like fraise du bois, very floral, very elegant yet powerful, rich and full. I only hope that I can try this wine again.

2014 Nuits St. Georges Clos du Grandes Vignes – dark black and red fruits, more of that crunchy fruit. Rich and ripe with crackling acidity. Very lively and racy. Interesting that he tasted this after the Petit-Monts.

2014 Vosne Romanee Aux Reignots – red berry fruit, long and full and rich and complex but elegant and transparent. Grand Cru quality from a Premier Cru vineyard. Fabulous wine.

2014 Echezeaux – leaner, more mean, tougher fruits and salinity. Crisp acidity. Coiled power.

2014 La Romanee – Soaring aromas, such remarkable complexity. Layers and layers and waves of flavors. As fantastic as the wines previous wines were, the intensity of La Romanee seemed almost hard to comprehend. So much better than the great Echezeaux.

Louis Michel then graciously let us taste four different 2013s:

2013 Nuits St. Georges Clos de Grandes Vignes – full, rich, fine, astringent.

2013 Reignots – scented, perfumed, very pure and fine. Fresh and showy. Classic wine.

2013 Echezeaux – tangy and prickly and very fine.

2013 La Romanee – Absolutely stunning. Scented and perfumed right up to Heaven. Fantastic, supple, unctuous with great mouthweight.

2007 La Romanee – very nice, very soft compared to the 2013 and 2014. I love the 2007 vintage. I think it’s underrated. Red fruit, chalky minerality, great “feel” on the palate, slippery, silky – fabulous wine. Drink it if you ever have the opportunity.

Thanks, Louis Michel!

We then went to see my old friend Pascal Marchand. Pascal came to Burgundy in the mid-eighties from Montreal, Quebec to work the harvest for Bruno Clair. He  worked so hard at harvest that Bruno Clair offered him a job in the winery. He went to wine school and got a job as the winemaker at Domaine Comte Armand in Pommard. He worked there from 1985 until 1998 – fourteen vintages. Then he was at Domaine Du Vougeraie for five or so years and now he has a negociant business in Nuits Saint Georges with partner Moray Tawse of Toronto, a dynamic business – Marchand-Tawse. They own vineyards and buy grapes. Pascal’s winemaking style has evolved over the years and he now makes forty plus wines between Marchand Tawse and Domaine Maume. Huge lineup of wines. Pascal made 8,000 cases in 2014. We tasted the 2014s from barrel, but not all forty of them.

2014 Nuits St. Georges A.C. – pretty, powerful, astringent.

2014 Beaune Clos du Roi – good fruit, bright, astringent on the finish.

2014 Volnay Fremiets – bright and lively. Sweet fruit.

2014 Nuits St. Georges Longecourts – a little known and underappreciated vineyard right below 1er Cru Les Saint Georges. Great rich, black fruits. Stunning, little known wine.

2014 Morey St. Denis  Premier Cru Clos des Ormes – rich blackberry fruit, very Morey. Full and rich and sappy. Pascal makes a number of great Morey St. Denis wines.

2014 Morey St. Denis Premier Cru Faconnieres – Black fruit, leaner, more structure than the Clos des Ormes, more tannin. Very nice, very young, lots of power lurking beneath the fruit.

2014 Gevrey Chambertin Premier Cru Cazetiers – licorice, black fruit, astringent, powerful, lovely.

2014 Gevrey Chambertin Premier Cru Perrieres – full, rich, astringent, tannic.

2014 Nuits St. Georges Premier Cru Les Cailles –  Prickly, piercing, good acidity.  Very, very pure.

2014 Vosne Romanee Premier Cru Les Suchots – spicy aromas jumped from the glass. Very Vosne, very fine. 100% whole cluster fermentation. Pascal’s Suchots vines have very tiny berries. I asked if it was Pinot Fin, a particular sub-variety of Pinot Noir that has very low yields because of the size of the berries. He answered that it was Pinot tres tres fin. Pinot Fin was ripped up and replanted with other varieties of higher yielding clones of Pinot Noir in the bad old days of people looking to make more wine regardless of quality. Nowadays most growers have gone back to having a greater variety of genetic material in their Burgundy vineyards by planting a “selection massale” rather than identical clones.

We then tasted Grand Crus.

2014 Corton – perfumed and pure and rich.

2014 Echezeaux – high toned and elegant. Very, very fine. Sourced from the vineyards La Pontardieres and Quartieres des Nuits.

2014 Clos Vougeot – located at the Echezeaux door. An amalgam of the spicebox of Vosne with the aromas of Musigny. A great Clos Vougeot.

2014 Bonne Mares – I thought this kind of smelled like hotdogs. What? It kind of did.

2014 Clos St. Denis – powerful and tangy with lots of finesse and elegance. Suave, lean, sophisticated – Clos Saint Denis is such a fantastic vineyard.

2014 Clos de la Roche – blacker fruit, very full and powerful. A bruising Morey Saint Denis Grand Cru.

2014 Charmes Chambertin – classic, with signature aromas of oyster shells and limestone. Very mineral, very Chambertin.

2014 Mazis Chambertin – really lovely sweet fruit with piercing acidity on the finish.

2014 Chambertin Clos de Beze – tangy,limestone-y, oyster shells, rich, long.

2014 Chambertin – liquorish, pure, fine, really jumps from the glass.

2014 Musigny – very spicy, very aromatic, very powerful, very long and fine.

We then tasted four 2014 whites.

2014 Savigny Les Beaune Premier Cru  Les Vergelesses – lemony, nice and fresh.

2014 Chassagne Montrachet Premier Cru Abbaye de Morgeot – very nice, very pure, very stinky like mature cheese. Smells almost bad, tastes great.

2014 Puligny Montrachet Champs Gains – pure and racy and elegant and chiseled.

2014 Le Charlemagne – racy and elegant and full and dry.

Tasting with Pascal is like being at the center of a whirlwind. The unbridled energy of the man is at times breathtaking.

We then went to lunch an hour and a half late, hurriedly finished eating and were driven at breakneck speed to Domaine Roumier. We were meeting three friends from New York, wine professionals, all in Beaune for the various festivities of Hospices week. They had just driven down from Paris that morning.

It was a cool and damp and foggy grey day in Chambolle Musigny, we were waiting outside of the chai just below a beautiful and tiny Chambolle vineyard that is on the slope behind Domaine Roumier. The grapes go into the very fine Chambolle Musigny AC. Christophe Roumier drove up as Pascal was leaving. They both stopped and I watched Christophe and Pascal talking from the respective drivers seats of their cars while pointing in opposite directions. It reminded me of two police officers having a squad car meeting. Pascal roared off, undoubtedly late to his next appointment. He is a dynamo.

So here we are at Domaine Roumier. Said hello to Delphine Roumier who was shepherding one group of Chinese visitors out while Christophe was guiding us in. I recognized the Hong Kong contingent from the previous evening at Ma Cuisine. A busy day at Domaine Roumier, a busy week in Burgundy with people drawn from all over the world for the Hospices auction week. Christophe gave us wineglasses and we started to taste.

2014 Bourgogne – pure and fine. Lovely wine. I asked Christophe where the grapes came from. He explained that this was sourced from forty year old vines just beside the Bons Batons vineyard. Same soil type as Bons Batons, a particularly fine and long lived source for Bourgogne Pinot Noir. Ghislaine Barthod, Philippe LeClerc, Geantet-Pansiot and Domaine Rion all make Bourgogne Les Bons Batons.

2014 Chambolle Musigny – pure, fine, simple and elegant. Roumier makes fifty barrels of Chambolle A.C. which includes some Premier Cru Fuees and Plantes. The Premier Cru Fuees and Plantes are vinified separately. The Fuees is from a very steep part of the vineyard which Christophe says does not produce wine distinguished enough to bottle on its own. The Chambolle AC used to include the Premier Cru Combottes grapes before Christophe determined that they were mature enough to warrant bottling a separate Premier Cru wine. People often refer to this wine as Roumier Chambolle Villages but I like to refer to it as Roumier Chambolle AC because of the high quality and because it does contain a significant amount of Premier Cru fruit.

2014 Morey St. Denis Premier Cru Clos de la Bussiere – a wholly owned vineyard surrounded by a wall, the monopole of Domaine Roumier. It is located right behind Domaine Dujac. This wine had dark fruits and deep rich aromas, it was astringent and powerful. Christophe says that 2014 has very fine tannins. He calls it an easy vintage like 2002, maybe like a combination of 2007 and 2008. Sounds pretty good to me.

2014 Chambolle Musigny Premier Cru Les Combottes – beautiful Chambolle perfume, red fruits. Very fruit driven, very pure and long.

2014 Chambolle Musigny 1er Cru Les Cras – twenty seven barrels of Cras. Again the unmistakable Chambolle perfume. Crunchy fruit, like biting into a piece of sweet candied fruit.

2014 Charmes Chambertin (Mazoyeres) – that oyster shell, limestone saline aroma often indicative of Chambertin. Tannic, astringent, very long.

2014 Ruchottes Chambertin – rich raspberry fruit, very mineral, more concentration.

2014 Bonnes Mares – rich and brooding, powerful, deep. It is hard to put into words a description of this wine when we are tasting, spitting and moving on to the next wine. Tasting from barrel is so different from sitting down to a meal and enjoying a bottle with your friends over a period of time when you can really get to know what it is all about. You want to linger over these wines and spend time with each one but when Amoureuses and Musigny are waiting for you. You just have to spit out the Bonnes Mares and move on.

2014 Amoureuses – soaring, perfumed aromatics – very sweet fruit, so much fruit that is hiding the tannins and power. One third of the vineyard was planted in 1928, one third 1963 and one third 1973 and 1989. A very rare and remarkable wine.

2014 Musigny – all the vines are from 1905 or older. No one is certain of their exact age. Very fine and long. Domaine Roumier makes something like a barrel and a half of Musigny, maybe four  or five hundred bottles? My meager notes just can’t communicate what is there in the glass. I just feel very lucky to be able to try Musigny. Twice in one day!

We left Domaine Roumier and drove the short distance to Vosne Romanee for our next visit with Marielle and Etienne Grivot at Domaine Grivot. There is an immense construction project going on at the domaine, there were gigantic trucks and a crane and lots of activity. A truck blocked the narrow driveway next to the new cuverie being built behind the house. Etienne will be able to walk from the top floor of his home into the top floor of the new winery and there will be a rooftop observation deck providing a splendid view of his holdings in Vosne Romanee including Richebourg. He is certainly proud of this great new facility and it will be fantastic to take in the view from his new sundeck.

2014 Grivot – Coteaux Bourguignons. This is the new appellation controlee name for wine produced from 100% gamay grapes on the Cote D’Or.  The old name was Bourgogne Grand Ordinaire. Cerise in color, reduced and stinky. Etienne called it “vrac” – simple. Literally translates as “bulk”.

2014 Chambolle Musigny La Combes d’Orveaux AC – Aromatic and perfumed, as all Chambolle Musigny should be, with a candied fruit character. La Combe d’Orveaux is one of those vineyards that has premier cru and village level designations and even more confusingly part that is now included as part of Grand Cru Musigny. But Grivot’s is in the village level.

2014 Nuits St. Georges Roncieres – beautiful fruit, very fine.

2014 Vosne Romanee 1er Cru Les Beaux Monts – twelve barrels. Classic Vosne Romanee pain d’Epices nose. This is sometimes translated as ‘gingerbread” but pain d’epices is not like American gingerbread. Powerful and rich and long, very fine.

2014 Clos Vougeot – fifty year old vines on average. Very bright fruit, very aromatic, more astringent.

2014 Echezeaux from Cruots –  deep rich aromatics, fine, pure and very, very long. Words again fail.

2014 Richebourg – on another level of interest and complexity, supple with great mouthweight, unctuous. Powerful, fine, long.

As if this was not enough, Etienne graciously offers a variety of 2013’s from bottle.

2013 Vosne Romanee les Beaux Monts – great fruit and power.

2013 Nuit St. Georges 1er Cru les Boudots – Etienne Grivot says this is a great wine to have with fish or pigeon. Thank you for this insight Etienne!

2013 Clos Vougeot – a beast.

2013 Echezeaux – vibrant. Alive.

2013 Richebourg – so powerful.

Friday night we had a lovely dinner at Le Gourmandin, a small cafe on Place Carnot, the circular street around a sort of town square in the center of Beaune. All of the restaurants were full of patrons.  We ordered oysters and a bottle of 2011 Raveneau Chablis Butteaux and poulet de Bresse and a bottle of 2006 Bruno Clair Chambertin Clos de Beze. The wines were affordably priced and delicious – so was the food. We ate all of the oysters and most of the chicken. We sat between a Dutch couple from Rotterdam – members of the wine trade and a couple from Britain who had been traveling in France for many years.

After dinner we walked around the square and ended up at a sort of impromptu outdoor disco that had been set up in the courtyard of the Bistro l’Hotel. Revelers were drinking champagne, dancing, celebrating. I went into the hotel lobby to use the bathroom and everyone – patrons, employees – was silently transfixed watching the television. France 24 was reporting the news from Paris just coming in. Gunmen armed with automatic weapons had attacked civilians at restaurants and a concert hall and at the Stade de France where France was playing Germany. The terrorists had assault rifles and had detonated suicide vests, bombs. The reports were sketchy, details were just coming in. I felt dread and fear and unease, bewilderment, uncertainty. A sinking feeling. No anger, not yet – just why? Why again? What next? It reminded me of the attacks on the World Trade Center, of the moment when I heard that President Kennedy had been shot, the moment when I heard about Martin Luther King. Of too many times in my life when hatred and violence had again sought to destroy everything we cherish. I went out and told Jay the news.

A Week in Burgundy with John Truax (Part 1)

Today we begin a wonderful journey with John Beaver Truax through Burgundy. He visited for a week during the 2015 Hospices de Beaune auction and we’ll be posting a series of installments of his trip each Thursday over the next few weeks. Enjoy!

THURSDAY November 12th  

Once again I had the great fortune to go to Burgundy with my friend Jay. That my work allows me to go to Burgundy twice a year is a dream come true. I am unbelievably lucky. We have traveled there many times before, always renting modest apartments in the center of the picturesque medieval cobblestoned town.

Much of Beaune dates from the Twelfth century or older. The walled city of 20,000 and its surrounding vineyards were recently named a UNESCO world heritage site. In the center of town is the Hotel-Dieu, the magnificent and remarkably ornate 15th century former hospital that is now a museum and the focal point of the Hospices de Beaune wine auction. The unmistakable brightly colored geometric tile roof is a symbol of Beaune, and the enduring prosperity of the nurturing vineyards.

We arrived on Thursday November 12th in Geneva and had a car pick us up at the airport to drive us over the mountains through the fog to Beaune. We were there for a week.  Lots of great tastings with the winegrowers at their domains and many memorable lunches and dinners. Oysters sold in the street, booths with food. There is always a carnival atmosphere for the week of the Hospices de Beaune auction. We had a simple lunch at a local bistro. There was a nice couple from New York there, friends of Jay’s from the Chevalier du Tastevin. They invited us to an elegant lunch on Saturday but we already had plans with the auction and tastings.

That night we had a great dinner at Ma Cuisine with Per Holmberg of Christie’s NY and winegrower Guillaume D’Angerville of Volnay. Ma Cuisine is a favorite restaurant of the international wine trade when they stop in Beaune. You never know who you might run into when you eat there. Etienne De Montille stopped by our table with a glass of Emmanuel Rouget Vosne Romanee Cros Parantoux. He was there with a large group of Chinese collectors from Hong Kong.

We had a 2009 Puligny Montrachet from Domaine Leflaive. It was pale straw gold color, full flavored with very good balance. Perfect with escargots. Puligny Montrachet with parsley garlic butter is pretty damn good.

I order pigeon. I love pigeon at Ma Cuisine. We looked at the magnums list and picked a 2008 Liger Belair Vosne-Romanee La Colombiere. Pierre came back from the cellar with a 2007. What a nice surprise.  It was number 47 out of 100 magnums. Medium brick red, lots of freshness, very good acidity. At its peak? Yes. The back label read,”Attribue a Ma Cuisine.” After a digestif we went to a local wine bar, Le Bout du Monde. Just to round off the meal, we ordered a rare bottle of Blanc de Noirs champagne, Selosse “Le Bout de Clos” disgorgement date of 13 March 2013.  Medium straw gold, smelled like toasted hazelnuts, round and rich and full and very fine.

— John B. Truax

The Story of the Chick’n Shack sandwich and the Three Cru Beaujolais

Beaujolais is perhaps the most versatile wine to accompany almost all foods. Probably not good with a caramel stout brownie sundae float, but I have not tried it. However, in Lyon, a town that celebrates food, Beaujolais is served with virtually everything. A salad with warm chicken livers in a mustard vinaigrette? Check. A spinach salad with lardons and warm vinaigrette made with the bacon fat. Cool bottle of Beaujolais–yes! Salmon? Very nice with Fleurie. A roast chicken and Regnie? Yes please. Steak and fries: Morgon. Blood sausage and Chiroubles? Why not.

Let’s say you want Thai food and it is kind of spicy. The fruit in 100% Gamay Beaujolais and Cru Beaujolais can handle the heat of the chilis. Same thing with Tacos al Pastor or Chiles Relleno or some nice tamales. Too bad the taco trucks can’t sell Beaujolais. If you want Peking Duck, the hoisin sauce is a fabulous match with the fruit of these wines. If you are going to have hot and spicy Hunan or Sichuan food that would destroy a delicate Burgundy, a Beaujolais can handle the heat. Remarkable versatility from one wine.

And now to return to Shake Shack for their latest creation, the Chick’n Shack. This sandwich is a buttermilk-marinated chicken breast, perfectly deep fried in a crispy bound batter, served on a potato roll with shredded lettuce, pickles and a herb mayonnaise. The mayo has parsley, thyme and chives and adds a lot of flavor. The meat is moist and juicy as properly deep fried food seals in moisture. I bought the sandwiches on consecutive days at the Shack in Madison Square Park.
We tried three Cru Beaujolais  with them. 2013 Guy Breton Morgon VV… “Too big and too bold.” 2013 Chignard Fleurie Les Moriers…  “Too light!” Sipping the 2014 Domaine du Vissoux Brouilly Pierreux… and we exclaimed, “This one is just right!: Now we are all feeling a little tired from all the Beaujolais and need a nap!”
John Truax

Be Part of the Great History of Burgundy’s La Paulée

What is La Paulée?

Centuries ago, the citizens of Burgundy were recovering from the dual ravages of the Hundred Years War and outbreaks of the plague. Nicolas Rolin, chancellor to Duke Phillip the Good, and his wife, Guigone de Salins, built the Hospices de Beaune, a free hospital and refuge for the poor. It endured over the centuries and functioned as a hospital until 1970, when a new modern facility was built nearby – all paid for by the annual sale of wine. For generations winegrowers have endowed the Hospice with gifts of the vineyards. Every year the harvests refill the coffers of this great public institution. Wine growing is indeed the alchemy of agriculture.

Every year since 1859 on the third Sunday in November, the Hospices de Beaune holds their charity auction in this magnificent example of Northern Renaissance architecture. The three-day festival is known as Les Trois Glorieuses. Saturday there is a black tie gala dinner held in the Clos de Vougeot. Sunday is the auction in the Hotel Dieu. And Monday is La Paulée de Meursault, an annual party to celebrate the wines of Burgundy and the hard work of the winegrowers; a celebration founded in the mid-1920s by Comte Lafon of Meursault. All of the vignerons bring bottles of their best wines to share with their compatriots. Lunch starts at noon and ends around seven… Truly a Dionysian revel! 

What’s La Paulée de San Francisco?

Fast forward to 2000 when Daniel Johnnes started La Paulée de New York as his tribute to La Paulée de Meursault. Since then it has grown into the the greatest Burgundy event in North America. Winemakers, chefs, wine collectors and sommeliers all look forward to this annual event, a bacchanal that is held in alternating years in New York and San Francisco. And this March 1st-5th the celebration will be in San Francisco!

How do I join in the fun?

There is no better place to try a dizzying array of Burgundy’s greatest wines than the Grand Tasting. It is a rare opportunity to meet growers from top Burgundy domains who are on hand pouring their wines and telling their stories. This is an event not to miss…  Just try not to drink everything and remember to spit so that you don’t sleep through the gala dinner!

Following the Grand Tasting is Saturday night’s is the Gala Dinner, a very social event that epitomizes the spirit of La Paulée de Meursault. Bring your best wines to share with the people at your table and your neighbors. There is a communal spirit to the gala dinner that encourages camaraderie and revelry. La Paulée is undoubtedly one of the best parties of the year.

John Truax