A few months ago I promised to start exploring Pinot Noirs from Oregon. I drank a bunch of wines. I wrote up a blog post. My computer crashed and I lost all my work. I got demoralized and the project stalled. But it was reinvigorated by a recent visit from Jean-Nicholas Meo, of the great Vosne-Romanée domaine Meo-Camuzet. He has just released the inaugural vintage of his Pinot Noir from Oregon, the 2014 Nicolas-Jay, and he swung by to taste and chat. We covered a lot during our brief visit but here are the highlights: Meo didn't go to Oregon because of the weather but rather its diverse soils and the availability of interesting sites to work with. In addition to Oregon, Meo is interested in the possibilities of Pinot Noir in northern Chile but not in California. The reasons may surprise you. Many passed on the Bishop Creek vineyard due to its high density plantings being too difficult to farm. Meo's Burgundian upbringing offered him a different perspective. Fruit from Bishop Creek form the base of the inaugural release of Nicolas-Jay but has all the makings of a future single-vineyard expression. What the 2014 may lack in 'greatness' it makes up for in pure deliciousness and future promise. So what’s Meo doing in Oregon? He is not the first Burgundian to venture West. Drouhin, Jadot, Lafon, and Liger-Belair all make wines in Oregon. Some of these pioneers were attracted to the cooler climate of Oregon that reminded them of Burgundy. Not so Meo. “From what I can tell,” he explained, “Oregon is a warm climate. Yes, people tell me that there are some cool vintages, like 2007, but I haven’t seen any yet. I’ve seen three vintages now and they’ve all been warm” He didn’t go to Oregon because of the weather, but because he thinks there are interesting soils and lots of land to choose from. “I’m also interested in Chile. The coast there is so long, that there just has to be some interesting places to grow Pinot Noir somewhere”. California, meanwhile, did not interest him. It’s too expensive, for one thing, and “Sure, there are some great sites for Pinot Noir, but there just isn’t that much to choose from.” In Oregon, buying vineyard land is definitely a lot easier, especially when you come to it with a Burgundian perspective. Jean-Nicolas and his business partner in the venture, a music executive named Jay Boberg, came across a vineyard known as Bishop Creek. The vines were already 28 years, pretty old by Oregon standards. And, unusually, they were planted at the relatively high density of 5,000 vines per hectares. In Burgundy, vineyards are planted at even higher density, typically 10,000 vines per hectare. It makes the vines work harder and produce fewer grapes, increasing their concentration. Ultimately, you get better wine. But in Oregon, vineyards are usually planted at significantly lower densities. It’s just much easier to farm. “There are fewer vines to prune, and you can fit your tractor in between the rows”, explained Jean-Nicolas. So the owner of Bishop Creek was actually having trouble finding a buyer. Nobody wanted to deal with the high density. But Meo, being from Burgundy, saw the advantages, and he and his friend secured the land. Meo is convinced that Bishop Creek is a special site and one day he will release a single vineyard expression. His first release, the 2014, blends Bishop Creek fruit with fruit sourced from nearby sites. That 2014 is a delicious bottle of wine. The fruit is dense, warming, and multi-colored, with both raspberries and blackberries in play. There is plenty of that “earthiness” that is the hallmark of Pinot Noir rom Oregon. And there is more structure than one usually finds in Oregon Pinot. About that structure. I asked Jean-Nicolas why Oregon Pinot is so often less tannic than Burgundy – a feature that, for many wines and many wine-drinkers, is part of their appeal. His answer puzzled me: “It’s because the wines have lower acid.” That warmer weather allows the grapes to ripen more easily, but often the tradeoff is lower acidity. Meo believed that Oregon wine has the tannic structure, but that you simply don’t experience it the same way as Burgundy because of lower acid levels. J-N knows a lot more about Pinot Noir than I do, for sure, but I need more convincing on this point. 2003 was a very warm, low acid vintage in Burgundy, but the tannic structure of the wines remains very apparent. But the discussion ended before I could press the point, as Jean-Nicholas had other business to tend to: namely, opening up wine from his domaine in Vosne Romanee for us to taste! I’ll save you the tasting notes, but needless to say, it was an incredible line-up of Burgundies. There was definitely an overall greatness to the wines that was not quite there in the Oregon Pinot. But that is totally OK. Meo’s Oregon wine is significantly cheaper and its pleasures far more forward. And these are still very early times for Oregon and for Meo’s adventure there. As the vines grow old and Meo is able to produce a single vineyard Bishop Creek, greatness may yet come. Have any of you tasted 2014 Nicolas-Jay? What did you think? Receive more stories like this and special offers covering the world of wine.
I’ve had the great pleasure of sourcing and selling German wine for over ten vintage releases – and not one has been as exciting as the release of 2015s! For the German wine crowd, summer can feel like a Riesling version of the holiday season – lots of happy demand for the just-landed summer quaffers, salivating pre-arrivals, eagerly-anticipated GG releases and the looming annual auctions. But the 2015s have taken all that to the next level! And rightly so since the wines themselves are also next level. 2015 was a vintage with an ideal configuration of elements that resulted in many near-perfect wines. Growers are claiming similarities along the lines of 2001 and (from those that can remember) 1971. If you recall, there was a very warm stretch in August that amped up the grapes physiological ripeness, but the cool, dry autumn meant they did not develop much botrytis. Harvest time was not rushed so the bunches could achieve optimal depth and extract creating textural and aromatic complexity, all the while temperatures stayed cool after that one heat spike, so the grapes retained natural acidity, freshness and energy. Starting now and throughout the fall we will be doing all we can to source as much of the best of the 2015 releases for you. Please sign up for our Riesling list to receive 2015 offers from our known favorite estates – Prum, Kruger-Rumpf, Peter Lauer, Weiser-Kunstler, Willi Schaefer, Schafer-Frohlich, A.J. Adam, Carl Loewen, Schloss Lieser, and Egon Muller. We will also be highlighting a number of under-the-radar producers who made fantastic wines not to be missed – Merkelbach, Eugen Muller, Knebel, Kunstler, and Dreissigacker are just a few – it’s a fun vintage to explore and cast a wide net and catch some very, very good Rieslings. Cheers, Rosemary Email Address Riesling Here is a list of the current 2015 Rieslings in stock and ready to purchase More Riesling questions? Email Rosemary at email@example.com
Under the La Closerie label, Prévost makes only two wines from a tiny 2.2 hectare parcel, Les Béguines, southwest of Reims in the village of Gueux. The grapes there are almost all entirely 40-year-old Pinot Meunier vines, with a very teeny amount of young-vine Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc in an adjacent bloc which (for now) are blended in to Prévost's flagship wine. The soils in this region are calcareous with sand, and the signature chalk of the Champagne region lies many meters below the surface, making these wines and interesting illumination of the varied terroir of Champagne. All of Prévost wines are fermented in neutral oak barrels, and then bottled the following summer without fining, filtration, or cold-stabilization, and only a minimal amount of sulfur. Prévost prefers post-disgorgement aging and these wines spend less than three years in on the lees before release – which is why they cannot be officially vintage labeled. Though they are conveniently coded with the year of harvest (LC13 is harvest 2013 for example). There are fewer than 10,000 bottles a year in total production. This wine embodies all the loveliest qualities of Pinot Meunier and the northern Champagne zone it thrives in – a unique character of umami, hay, earth, rose hip, structure, and generosity packed with the saline minerality signature of this subregion of Champagne. As you can imagine, with only 2.2 hectares we see very little wine each release. That said, it’s worth the effort to find them and we spent a long while sourcing what we could to have a little stock of the most recent release (LC13). These are some of the best Champagne additions you can bring to your cellar. With proper mid-term aging they will weave together harmoniously, becoming more structured and generous with each passing year. How long? You will be rewarded with 5-10 years of patience – but, of course, it's a joy to check in with a bottle here and there along the way. Cheers, Rosemary Jerome Prevost, Champagne Brut Nature Closerie “Les Beguines”, [LC13] $104.99
The big town of Chablis has a population of about 2,500 people. North of Chablis proper is the tiny hamlet of La Chapelle-Vaupelteigne with a population of 100. Jean-Claude Bessin's house is found there. It is an immaculately preserved little jewel built of local white limestone. Not surprisingly – as he was trained as an architect – everything is very ship-shape. So are his cellars, nothing is out of place. Some wineries look like a bomb went off, they are studies in chaos, whereas Bessin's cellar is calm and tranquil. Hoses are coiled, the floors are clean, the barrels in rows just so, like you are onboard a yacht. Jean-Claude married a Tremblay and was given the opportunity to take over his father-in-law's vineyards in Chablis. His first vintage was 1992. Jean-Claude is a charming and friendly middle-aged Chablisien winegrower – wiry and fit from working in the rock strewn vineyards. The demanding terroir of Chablis sculpts both the wines and its inhabitants! Very cold in winter, hot in summer, there is an intensity to the place – and to the wines, which taste like liquid rocks. Jean-Claude farms about 30 acres. Vine age is kept old by replanting only when necessary. Bessin's wines have real density and put on more weight as they age while retaining their remarkable, distinctive saline and mineral flavors. Most see no new oak; the most is 10%. 2014 is a remarkable vintage for white Burgundy from Macon, through the Cote Chalonnaise and Cote D'Or, all the way up to Chablis. I really think you should buy all of the 2014 White Burgundy while you can and cellar most of it – starting with Bessin. Cheers, John Truax Chablis AC - $22.99 - The Chablis AC was planted in 1950-1974-1996 & 2001. This can be drunk now. This is a great vintage to stock up on $20 Chablis. Chablis AC VV - $27.99 - The Chablis Vieille Vignes is sourced from vineyards planted in 1950 & 1974. You can start drinking now but it will be better with a couple years or so of bottle age. Chablis 1er Cru Fourchaume "La Piece au Comte" $39.99 - Vines planted in the heart of Fourchaume back in 1934. Bessin's signature wine and a Flatiron favorite. Burghound "Sweet Spot". Chablis Grand Cru "Valmur" - $59.99 - Jean-Claude claims not to know how old the vines in his 2 hectares of Grand Cru Valmur really are. I found one source that stated his Kimmeridgian clay and limestone vineyard was planted in 1947 - 1962 - 1974 - 1995 & 2000. Only fruit from the oldest vines make it into his bottling of Valmur. If you can - try to keep this for 5 years - or decant. This may be the least expensive Burghound "Don't Miss!" that you can find from this incredible vintage.