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September 2012

Domaine Chevalerie Cuvee Venus 2010

As of writing this I've been working with Chevalerie for about two years.  My French importer Laurent Bonnois had always admired them and had been working to import Chevalerie for some time. When Laurent finally got Chevalerie's wines he was so excited that I ordered the Chevalerie wines untasted; I never regretted it.  Domaine de Chevalerie is accepted as one of the leading producers in Bourgueil.  Established in 1640, Chevalerie is now run by Pierre, Stephanie, and Emmanuel Caslot.  I've written about them before here: The Best Producer in Bougueil.  Being as established as they are they don't need to worry about making wines that are "what the market wants"; they're free to just concentrate on making fantastically ripe and expressive wines, which they do very well.  Chevalerie has about 81 acres that are broken up into a variety of specific separately farmed parcels.  They sell off many of the younger grapes to focus on the plots that yield more distinctive individualistic wine. 

BUT!...every year Chevalerie produces a Bourgueil that's an assemblage of grapes from their various vineyards and that's made to be delicious and consumed young.  Each year the Caslot family commissions a different artist to design a label for it and re-names the wine.  In 2010 Chevalerie's entry level wine was called Venus.  At this point the 2011 cuvee has already been released but I have the last of the 2010 and it's just starting to really hit it's sweet spot and open up.  It's currently delicious!

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Aroma: The 2010 Chevalerie has a really intense aroma that hit's you with ripe blueberries and blackberries before you even get the glass to your nose!  Behind that wallop of lush dark fruit there's a hint of sweet rich farm soil, black pepper, and just a whiff of spicy tomato leaf.

Palate: This wine is so delicious and plump, I'm impressed.  It's not a super complex or intellectually demanding wine but it is delicious and very well balanced.  It has perfectly ripe black cherry, blueberry, and blackberry fruit, but it also has just the right amount of acidity to make the wine bright and vibrant with out actually distracting from that plump fruit.  There's a bit of black pepper and some ripe tannin on the finish that tie the Venus together  The mid-palate gets a bit darker and adds some currant notes, but over all this is just delicious perfectly ripe Cabernet Franc.

I'm really glad I held onto this and gave it a chance to mature.  It's gorgeous!  The Chevalerie Venus is available for about $15 at The Rosemont on Munjoy Hill, Whole Foods, Downeast Beverage, RSVP, and Lakonia in Saco


Pylon Rhone Rouge 2010

So you're aware that conventional wines can have all kinds of pesticide residues in them and aren't necessarily farmed in a way that's good for the environment; plus many of those mass produced wines lack character.  You want to drink wine that tastes like where it comes from and is healthier, but you don't want to spend more than $10.  Making wine is hard work and takes a lot of labor (that costs money), but every once in a while something awesome comes along.  So here it is.  Now you can have sustainably farmed biodynamic wine that tastes like where it comes from for $10!

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Grapes: The label says: 55% Grenache, 30% Syrah, 5% Carignan.  That equals 90%.  The other 10% is probably love but that's not USDA approved, so it gets left off the list.

Pylon is a special project by the Anne Pichon winery in the Ventoux region of France's Rhone valley.  Anne Pichon is run by Marc Pichon who made a jump from the wine export/import business over to wine making in 2008.  Marc purchased an old estate with just about 30 acres that was formerly known as Murmurium.  Marc kept the old vineyards and over the next couple years added another 10+ acres and modernized the winery.  All the farming is organic and grapes are harvested by hand.  Marc is very precise in the winery and uses lower fermentation temperatures in order to slow things down and allow the juice more time to pick up flavor from the grape skins. The Pylon is a reslut of Marc's close relationship with the importer T Edward (you can read more abouit him at their website here) and he makes the Pylon as a special "just for them" kind of side project.

Aroma: fresh cherry and red rose, but then followed by some darker aromas: a whiff of wood smoke, some black berry, the spice of black licorice.  There's also a spicy hint of pepper and a bit of the dried sun roasted earth that Ventoux has in abundance.

Taste: The Pylon is a well balanced and integrated wine.  I taste a lot of red berry fruit right up front, but it's balanced with white and black pepper and a slight dustiness.  The finish has more dried earth and a bit of black raspberry.  The tannins are there but totally in line with the rest of the structure.  The berry fruit takes center stage and is supported by the spice and tannin. 

The Pylon is a classic Rhone blend that really tastes like Ventoux for me.  It's organically farmed from old vines.  It's far less expensive than any parking ticket the city of Portland gives.  You can pick it up at Tess's Market in Brunswick, the Rosemonts on Brighton and Munjoy Hill, Whole Foods, Royal River Natural Foods in Freeport, Oak Hill Beverage, Treats in Wisscasset, and Downeast Beverage in Portland.


Domaine Chardon Gamay

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Name: Domaine Chardon

Varietal: Gamay

Vintage: 2011

Domaine Chardon is a newer family winery in the central Loire.  I went and visited Sophie and Thierry back in the spring of 2012 and was impressed by their attention to detail, the thoroughness of their operation, and the consistent character of the wines.  You can read about the tour and my impressions by clicking here.  Their roots are in the Loire and they came from wine making backgrounds, but Thierry's parents were forced to sell their winery and the couple ended up living in Paris for a while.  Eventually the Chardons couldn't resist the pull of the Loire anymore and decided to move their family back and reclaim their winemaking past. 

The Chardons bought a larger vineyard about 60 miles from Sancerre on raised chalk and silex rich soil.  They built a new winery, converted their vineyards over to organic agriculture, et voila, they were in business! They've been in business for less than 10 years (an eye blink in wine making terms) but are producing some great wines and are certified organic by AB.

Gamay is a pretty traditional grape in this part of the Loire, but we don't see it too much here in the US.  Although this is a traditional grape it's still not too common and most is consumed locally.  This is fermented in stainless steel and held in underground cement tnaks until bottling.  There's something about the Chardon Gamay that just continues to intrigue my taste buds; it's slightly awkward yet super earnest, endearing, and honest tasting.  It's very grounded in the poor mineral soil and cool climate of Touraine.

Aroma: This is not a Beaujolais Gamay and you can tell right off the bat!  The first aroma I get from the Chardon Gamay is wood smoke and charcoal!  Wait, let me clarify: green wood, specifically green birch or alder.  There's definately also black berry in the mix and some ripe black cherry, as well as something more pungeuntly earthy: a little deep black much from the wet low point of some farm field.  See, this is the endearing awkwardness I mentioned earlier; this Gamay has ripe fruit and gamey earth together.

Palate: Black cerry fruit hits me at first, but there's very bright acidity that's a big player in the taste of this wine.  The acidity turns the octave of it up a couple notches and almost kind of turbo charges the flavors.  The Chardon's mid palate changes direction though with a black pepper quality that leads into a smoky woodsy flavor on the finish. 

My lasting impressions are that the Chardon Gamay has an interesting combination of bright generous fruit and dirty funky earth.  I really enjoy it both for it's uniqueness but also for the very straight forward authenticity it has.  This Gamay still has all it's dirty juicy character; it certainly isn't trying to pretend it's a CA Merlot or something. 

This is about $14 and is available at the Rosemont on Munjoy Hill, Downeast Beverage, and Browne Tradin.


Trappolini Cenereto

The Trappolini family's vineyards are located in Lazio, just south of the border with Umbria.  In fact the Trappolini family's vineyard falls within the little piece of the Orvieto DOC that sticks over the border from Umbria into Lazio.  The Trappolinis founded their winery back in the 1960s and today are devoted to growing traditional indigenous grapes. The Cenereto is a blend of nearly equal parts Sangiovese and Montepulciano that doesn't see any oak aging. 

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Vintage: 2010

Aroma: Right up front I get fresh cherry, ripe raspberry, and some cranberry as you'd expect from Sangiovese, but it's more playful and juicy, to the point that it verges on being plummy. Hiding underneath there's soft aromas of thyme and bay leaf, maybe some oregano; in short it smells like dinner!

Palate: The Trappilini Cenereto is a medium bodied wine with a smooth texture and lush, vibrant, raspberry and cherry fruit.  It has bright acidity that doesn't steal the show from the berry fruit, but it does help make the wine dance.  The fruit flavors are so juicy and dark that they verge on cooked blueberry by the finish.  Speaking of: the finish is smooth and tails off slowly.  The Cenereto is nicely balanced and the components work well together. I think it's a pretty versatile food wine; having enough body, ripe fruit, and acidity to pair with salmon dishes on the one hand or braised meats and stews on the other.

This is under $14 and is available at the Corner Room, and at the Rosemont Markets, and Downeast Beverage.


Famille Laurent St Pourcain Blanc 2011

Famille Laurent's Saint Pourcain Blanc has just become the third addition to our portfolio from the Laurent family; their AOC white is a blend of equal parts Tressallier and Chardonnay. We were first wowed by their red Saint Pourcain 2007 back before the region had even attained AOC status.  You can read about my take on it by clicking here. 

The Laurent family is one of the top producers in Saint Pourcain, a small wine region in the Auvergne area of France.  Saint Pourcain is classified as being a satellite of the Loire valley, but culturally and geographically it's closer to Burgundy.  The soils here are a varied mix of granite and limestone and the Laurent family tries to preserve and work with the various soils by hand harvesting and vinifying each parcel separately.  Usually that means nearly thirty different plots to keep track of. The Laurent family follows many natural practices in their farming and wine making and uses only naturally occurring yeasts.  

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Aroma: This wine has some unique notes to the aroma.  It's not super aromatic or over-powering, but there's a vivid smell of crisp autumn breaburn apple.  I smell a hint of fresh honey and also a whiff of freshly broken granite rocks.  The dominant aromas are definitely crisp apple and white wold flowers.  It's a feminine pretty smelling wine that has a freshness about it that reminds of cool crisp autumn air.

Palate: The wine's palate is an interesting blend of the solid body of the Chardonnay and the nervier Tressallier.  The first impression is of ripe slightly honeyed fruit.  The wine seems lithe and svelte with good underlying minerality and supporting acidity, but not racy.  There's also a slight stoniness that grabs my palate in the middle.  The wine is crisp right up front but then it unexpectedly blossoms into this softer more supple taste of soft white peach and some ripe apple. 

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People can't get enough of the Saint Pourcain Blanc!

This is the same price as the other Saint Pourcains from Famille Laurent; under $15.  This is available at the Rosemont on Munjoy Hill, by the glass at Bresca, and Aurora Provisions.