Louis Dressner Selections Louis Dressner Selections Blog http://louisdressner.com/ Wed, 27 Jul 2016 10:40:36 GMT Jules Dressner <![CDATA[The Chile Chronicles, Part 6: Yumbel and Santa Juana!]]> http://louisdressner.com/date/2016/7/13/324/ http://louisdressner.com/date/2016/7/13/324/ Wed, 13 Jul 2016 14:19:57 GMT


After an extensive tour of the Maule Valley, it was time to spend some time in the Bìo Bìo Valley! Our first stop was in the sector of Yumbel to visit Tito Saavedra.

Surprise: this area produces...

Anyhow, the Bìo Bìo itself is a river, and the region is divided into two main sectors. Some, like Yumbel, have sandy volcanic soils. Other parts are more similar to the Maule, with limestone and granite. It rains more in Bìo Bìo than in the Maule, but it's still very hot. Because there is less industrial farming here than the Maule, you find a lot less french grapes. Bìo Bìo is dead in the center of Chile, and has some of the oldest vines in the country.

On to Tito's vines:

The soils consist of light clay and decomposed granite, and are much darker than any other site we'd visited.

These Paìs vines were planted in 1580!!!!!!

"The vines here are incredible. But I still feel Tito overworks them. A huge challenge with farmers is convincing them to prune for lower yields. In their minds, a good harvest is a plentiful one."

LA and Tito have been having pruning conversations that would reduce yields by 30%, in turn sacrificing quantity for quality. It's a recurring conversation with all of his suppliers; most are willing to compromise and do this on the vines LA purchases fruit from, but not the entirety of their land.

From the vines, we checked out Tito's "cellar" to try his Pipeño.

Check out this elaborate stool setup to get up to the lagar.

Ouuuhhh, a puppy!

It was time to taste Tito's Pipeño straight out of a big plastic jug.

It was fruity and spicy with nice structure. This is important to note since Tito's finished wine is what will be bottled as the 2016 Pipeño Yumbel.

"Sometimes I buy made wine, sometimes I buy the grapes to make the wine myself. I know Tito makes a good Pipeño without any bacterial issues so I trust his finished product. It would be great in the long term to buy the wine directly from everyone, but the challenge is being able to bottle very fast. Pipeños are all about freshness, and you don't want to lose that."

In 2016, Yumbel will be the only huaso-made wine we import the the US. Everything else was vinified by LA. From Yumbel, we were off to the Santa Juana sector. But first, we had to take a river ferry across the Bìo Bìo!

LA was relieved that it was the guy he liked working the ferry.

"There are two guys who work this job, and they both despise each other. The other guy is a total dick."

Once we were on the other side of the river, we took some dirt roads to the middle of nowhere. The drive brought us right to this closed gate.

Already there was a nice view.

Could we be in Santa Juana? The place that produces:

We were! After a few minutes, the lovely Luis Burgos let us in.

Before checking out the vines, we had to pop into Luis' house to meet his wife and proprietor of the land Sara. She was busy whipping up some home-made empanadas!!!!!

This was probably the most excited I've ever been writing about food on a trip.

But before eating, we had to see vines! This isolated plot of land is hands down one of the most beautiful I've laid eyes on.

Amongst some of the flatter vines, an entire box of harvested Paìs had been forgotten.

"I honestly think they just forgot it."

The soils here are similar to Coronel del Maule: red clay with decomposed gravel and flint. The vines used to be worked with systemics, but LA and his team have helped convert the land back to organic viticulture. Luyt comes with his team each year to prune, green harvest and pick grapes.

While Sara kept cooking, Luis served us a little bit of his Semillon for apero.

We also got to try his Merlot straight from huge plastic barrel.

My notes say: "Fresh, juicy juicy."

We also tried a Malbec, which was darker but still very easy to drink.

By this time we were starving, so we checked up on Sara and her empanadas.

They were SO GOOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I lost track but I think I ate six.

And of course it needed to be accompanied by some Pipeño!

Don't worry, it was Sara's, not Santa Rita.

Sara used to make the Santa Juana Pipeño herself, but didn't feel like making it this year, so LA bought her grapes instead.

"She's getting older but not letting herself slow down. She's always saying yes to every project thrown her way. However making the wine has become too time consuming. Luis makes his personal stash and that's enough for them."

Before saying goodbye, we had to take some goodbye pics:

And polish off that Pipeño:

By the way, I wasn't joking about those dirt roads:

<![CDATA[The Chile Chronicles, Part 5: Coronel del Maule!]]> http://louisdressner.com/date/2016/7/6/323/ http://louisdressner.com/date/2016/7/6/323/ Wed, 06 Jul 2016 19:25:18 GMT


From Pilen, we headed to the Coronel del Maule sector of the Maule valley to visit Raoul Perez.

From the moment we pulled into the farm, it was clear there was a special connection between Raoul and LA.

"Raoul is my biggest inspiration. We've had our ups and downs, but the trust is there and our our bond is unbreakable. This sector (Coronel del Maule) was the area that originally inspired me to make wine in Chile, and I am so happy to have met him."

After some nice helloes, it was time to check the vines.

On the way up, the Raoul/LA bonding continued.

When LA met Raoul, he was on the verge of abandoning his 1.5 hectares of Paìs.

"He simply felt it was too much work for what he could get paid for."

In a stark contrast to Raoul's beautiful vines (which, for some reason, always keep their foliage very late in the season), here is a picture of his neighbor's chemically farmed parcel.

I prefer these.

The contrast is even crazier in this pic:

The vines are at least 300 years old, and grow on soils of clay with decomposed gravel and flint.

"The roots go down 80 meters."

That's deep.

It was lunch time, and Raoul graciously invited us into his home. Before we could eat, we had to taste his Pipeño!

It was made in this lagar!

The wine is a blend of Paìs, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. It was delicious, fresh with herbal notes.

It also went really well with his wife's soup, made from their farm-grown garbanzo beans and hominy.

It is traditional to have soup AFTER the main dish in Chile, which I'm a big fan of. This was also my first opportunity of the trip to flex my "I'll have seconds" skills. Works every time at pleasing the cook!

During lunch, a rather amusing conversation revolved around Raoul trying LA's Coronel del Maule Pipeño each year and always saying: "It' ok. It's not as good as mine!"

Both are delicious, but LA admits that Raoul has a "slight" advantage: he's been making wine from this land since he was a teenager. I asked if Raoul ever sells some of his wine to locals or friends, and LA translated that he'd prefer giving it away.

"Most people don't care about the hard work and effort, and don't even know what they would be paying for. They just want some wine. And if they don't buy it from me, they will buy it from someone else. So I'd rather give it to them so they can enjoy."

Apparently, in Luyt terminology, "coffee" translates to "another glass of Pipeño". This was a good excuse to try a traditional beverage/porridge/energy drink consisting of Pipeño, toasted wheat and honey.

It was pretty good. After lunch, I made sure to give Raoul a big hug with the Huaso hat he gave me.

Raoul is the best. Here are pictures of his dogs for no reason other than I like taking pictures of dogs.

From Raoul's, we headed to another sector within Coronel del Maule called Pichihuedque. Here, we visited Miguel Alvear.

When we got to Miguel's, his entire family was huddled up eating boar stew from a beast slain just that morning.

They asked if we wanted some. After requesting a little taste, we got 3 huge plates. Second lunch was good (and quite honestly a little too filling), but permitted us to try Miguel's Pipeño, made from this huge lagar that can hold up to 18,000 liters!

"No chemicals. Natural."

Unsurprisingly, it was very tasty.

Moving along, Miguel's farm was quite a scene.

There were huge oxen everywhere.

Miguel insisted they were very nice and that I could even pet them, but I'll admit I wasn't reassured with this guy giving me the stanky eye.

Keep in mind that picture was zoomed in.

From Miguel's farm, we set off to check out the Paìs that produce:

This sector is much more marked by heavy clay, with much less decomposed granite and quartz than we'd seen in other areas.

"Because of the heavier clay, you get wines that are more on the fruit here, with less smokiness than Pilen or even Raoul's."

The second parcel we visited from Miguel had much redder clay.

The heavy clay, combined with the day's on and off rain, had made for treacherous driving. The car we'd rented was capable of much, but wasn't four wheel drive. For a moment it looked like we might get stuck. Fortunately, Miguel was ready for anything:

"Don't worry, I have oxen. They've got four wheel drive: with big hoofs and horns."

Our last stop of the day was Sergio Perez, who makes the delicious:

Look, here's the tinaja that made it!

Anyhow, this is the awesome Sergio Perez!

Nice hat Sergio! When we got to his house, we woke him up from his afternoon nap. If that day was anything to go on, he has no problem sleeping through the very loud music coming from his boombox.

In an unprecedented moment in this blog's history, I took a picture of a cat!

Too cute to pass up.

Anyhow, Sergio was supposed to press his Pipeño grapes the day we got there, but his employees didn't show up, so he didn't. But that didn't mean we weren't going to taste it!

In an impressive move, Sergio put together a natural filter by taking a bunch of stems directly from the lagar and jamming them on top of a fire hose.

My, oh my was it tasty!

Sergio is 79, and has been making wine since he is 12.

"I make Pipeño to give the workers something to drink right away. My Tinaja wines are the ones you can age."

Speaking of his employees, Sergio locks all of his doors because they are "drunk idiots." Maybe if he stopped giving them all that Pipeño, they'd be more trustworthy? Or maybe they need Mormonism in their lives?

After some Pipeño, we tried his eau de vie from barrel.

The single barrel was tucked away in an interestingly decorated room.

In what is perhaps the most bizarre advertisement I've ever seen, here is one for A BUTCHER SHOP pinned to the wall.


And even better, look who was right next to sexy butcher lady.

Here's four more pics from Sergio's I wanted to share but had absolutely no way to work in:


It was the end of a long day, and we were finally on our way home. Here some choice quotes from Louis-Antoine.

"Coronel is my center, my home base. It is my favorite part of the Maule. If only I could figure out how to make wine like these guys!"

"I know the Beaujolais and Coronel del Maule. And I prefer Coronel del Maule!"

"The people there are the crème de la crème. They are still human. They are independant. They are welcoming. They are kind. They don't judge you. They are everything good about peasantry. This is my family." ]]>
<![CDATA[The Chile Chronicles, Part 4: Tomenelo and Pilen!]]> http://louisdressner.com/date/2016/6/27/322/ http://louisdressner.com/date/2016/6/27/322/ Mon, 27 Jun 2016 21:38:58 GMT


On our fourth day in Chile, we started our day in a sector called Tomenelo to check out Elena Pantaleoni's Chilean side project.

It was fiercely guarded by the terrifying watch dog Chip.

All in all, 27 hectares of vines are planted mostly in Carmenere and Cabernet Sauvignon. Way back in 2007 and 2008, Louis-Antoine actually made a Clos Ouvert wine from this vineyard.

The 2007 we tried later that night was tasty!

While on the road, LA explained that at this point in time, he is working purely on a négociant model, purchasing fruit at an unheard of 3 times the market rate. However, he is more directly involved than most négociants with many of the parcels' viticulture, participating in pruning, green harvesting and picking. For plowing and day to day work, he trusts his suppliers.

"Everything is so spread out. I can't be everywhere at once."

Before setting out to discover more vines, we decided to visit LA's friend Lucien.

Lucien, a jolly guy in his 70's, is originally from Savoie. Around 30 years ago, he got sick of France, so he built a wood boat and sailed it to Chile. Since he's clearly good at building things, he founded a wood shop that makes some truly unique, beautiful pieces.

Everything is hand-made. Thin slices of wood are carved, pressed together, then polished and touched up.

He also still makes boats.

It was a quick visit, and Lucien was very disappointed we hadn't brought a bottle to drink.

"That's the modern world. Always on your way somewhere else. Always late."

For the record, it was 10 in the morning. And yes, we were late. Late to check out the stunning vineyards that produce:

After some dirt road action, LA stopped in the woods and told us we'd have to do the rest of the trip by foot.

It had been raining, so the ground was quite slippery.

"Even under better circumstances, it is impossible to get here with a car. During harvest we use an ox cart to bring the grapes back up."

During our walk, LA pointed out an exposed patch of rocks that revealed Pilen's subsoils:

We'd seen a lot of red clay already, but Pilen is particularly marked by iron.

After a solid 15 minute walk, we arrived to the first of 3 parcels of 200 year old Paìs.

The soils here are red granite, red clay and schist. At 580 meters of elevation, Pilen is truly a mountain vineyard.

Here are pictures from the equally beautiful second parcel.

These two parcels belong to a young man named Leonel Diaz.

He lives with his parents in one of the only two houses in the immediate vicinity (the town is a 20 minute walk away).

Leonel owns a lagar that he uses occasionally to make Pipeño.

And this tinaja (amphora), though it doesn't seem to be getting much use these days...

From Leonel's we took a short walk to the only other house in the vicinity.

There, we were greeted by the lovely Margarita Leon.

Margarita was very busy! First off, she was making food for her dogs.

This little guy was patiently waiting for his meal while sitting on a big bag.

Then she had to check on her tinaja to give her Pipeño a nice stirring.

And what about ALL THOSE CHICKENS????

But most importantly, Margarita was working on her main hustle, making hand-made plates and bowls from Pilen's abundant red clay.

Little did I know that I'd been eating out of her handiwork every night at Louis' house!

Just below Margarita's house are her and her husband's vines.

Some of the Paìs, for reasons LA could not understand, had not been harvested.

"They probably just had too much left."

Check out this 200 year old beauty.

Anyhow, that's it for now!
<![CDATA[The Chile Chronicles, Part 3: Luyt Life, The Cellar and Coelemu!]]> http://louisdressner.com/date/2016/6/20/321/ http://louisdressner.com/date/2016/6/20/321/ Mon, 20 Jun 2016 20:05:27 GMT


Louis-Antoine Luyt lives off an unmarked, unpaved dirt-road in the outskirts of Chillàn with his wife Dorothée and three kids: Antoine, Mathilde and Benoit.

They also have four beautiful dogs: Mr Pickles, Bazooka, Ron and Jane (only three pictured).

Though I would later find out this is fairly common, dozens of chickens freely roam the yard.

And let's not forgot Oinky, the lovable pig with a heart of gold.

On our third day in Chile, we were feeling the beginnings of winter: besides the sun setting at 6pm (the result of a just passed daylight saving time), it was foggy, rainy and cold!

Undeterred, we set out to Louis-Antoine's cellar to see where the magic happens.

LA shares this cellar with Viña Chillán, another winery focusing on organically grown vines surrounding the property.

A plethora of international grapes are planted here, including Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Paìs, Syrah, Carmenere and Malbec. Some of these LA vinifies in micro quantities as a side-project:

Stepping into the cellar, I spotted some familiar bottles!

The main room mainly consists of large stainless steel and fiberglass tanks.

However there are also a large amount of plastic lagars.

Check out that sweet sweater/beanie combo from the Quenehuao wool factory!

Anyhow, a lagar typically refers to a stone trough with an open top, but can also mean plastic or, as is more common in Chile, large wood vats.

As you can see, LA has all three. Since starting his Pipeño project in 2013 (old vine País from different sectors bottled in liters), the traditional huaso style of open-top vinification has deeply affected his cellar practices.

"When I started, I worked exclusively with cold carbonic macerations because that was the only way I really knew how to make wine. In fact, I remember the first time I met your father (the late Joe Dressner), we got into a huge argument about it, with him screaming at me that all I did was carbo, carbo, carbo! He still ended up buying the wines anyway!"

The vinifications have shifted to include some carbonic, but at this point are mainly whole-cluster or de-stemmed macerations with regular pigeages. In some cases, Luyt vinifies parts of the same harvest separately and blends at the end for more balance. The macerations are much shorter than probably any one else in Chile, leading to a noticeably less extracted style. It also doesn't hurt that he harvests 3 weeks to a month before the average winery...

"Making a Pipeño is a violent form of vinification. We de-stem and then do nothing. Everything happens really fast."

In a way, the Pipeño approach shares similarities with the hands off, semi-carbonic vinifications of the Beaujolais (famously dubbed by Marcel Lapierre as "lazy man's winemaking"). But working with open-top containers (which remain open throughout vinification, in itself much more of a challenge), has shown LA that it was time to reevaluate his winemaking practices.

"I think my separate vinifications, playing with pigeages, de-stemming and whole cluster, short macerations, long macerations, blends... It's partly experimentation, but I do believe it adds complexity to the vines. Since moving away from carbonic macerations, I've had to find my own way."

We spent our morning tasting wine, which isn't particularly interesting so I'll spare you. More interesting was our lunch!

Every day, LA and his team have lunch just a few 100 meters away in this "clandestine restaurant".

LA has struck an agreement with the lovely Angelica (pictured in the middle) to make daily meals for his team.

"Her husband is a farmer, and she cooks for his team, the Chillán team and mine. She's the best."

Her homemade sopaipillas were banging, as was her chicken stew.

Tea was heated right off the furnace.

The whole room had some funky details.

My favorite was a picture of a decapitated pig head in a bucket next to happy family pictures.

After lunch, we drove for over to the Coelemu vineyard that produces Gorda Blanca and the Pipeño Coelemu.

The steep hill pictured above is 300 year old Paìs that have never been exposed to chemicals. The soils consist of heavy red clay with decomposed quartz and granite subsoils, and are worked by horse.

The vines are within a private property of a very wealthy couple's country house (which can be spotted to the left of the picture below.

"They are here maybe one month a year. I'm not sure what their incentive was, but they've always worked the vines with tremendous respect. I'd actually been looking in this sector for quite some time, but was having no luck. They are the ones who contacted me."

Further along the path, another extremely sleep hill is home to 300 year old Moscatel (Moscato d'Alexandria) and some old vine Paìs.

As you can see, the vines here are very sparse.

On our way back home, we drove through a sector called Juarilue, which apparently is very... MORMON?

Apparently, this sector of the Bìo Bìo was once one of Chile's most prolific viticultural regions. But when the wood industry began gaining major traction, the cellulose companies realized they needed to sober up the locals, many of whom had a reputation for over indulging in the fruits of their labors. So they started subsidizing churches hoping to get people off the hooch. And I guess it worked!

To be fair, you don't want your workers to be hammered when chainsawing huge trees.

Within this sector, we were supposed to visit a newly sourced parcel of Cinsault but got lost for over an hour on dirt roads. LA never uses a GPS to get anywhere because these parcels are not searchable. It's an impressive skill, but in this case didn't pan out according to plan...

Still, we got some redemption by ending our day with the Figeroa family.

The Cinsault parcel we were trying to visit was theirs. Instead, we checked some of their Chasselas (yes, Chasselas) and Moscatel and pet their crazy eyed dog.

<![CDATA[The Chile Chronicles, Part 2: Truquilemu and Quenehuao!]]> http://louisdressner.com/date/2016/6/13/320/ http://louisdressner.com/date/2016/6/13/320/ Mon, 13 Jun 2016 24:41:17 GMT


After settling in- without jet-lag for once!- we were ready to see some vines! Santiago is about 4 hours away from where LA is based in the Maule Valley, and this would be our first of many insanely long drives.

If you're unfamiliar with Chile's geography, it's a uniquely laid out country. Bordering Peru, Bolivia and Argentina, it is extremely long and narrow.

LA's work focuses on three regions: the Maule Valley, the Bío Bío Valley and the Itata Valley. While driving down South, we had plenty of time to catch up on LA's vinous beginnings (if you haven't already, read his interview here for more insight).

The first wine LA ever made was some Cabernet Sauvignon and Carmenere in 2004 from grapes bought in vrac. Having worked with Phillipe Pacalet, he'd wanted to ferment them off their native yeasts but was forbidden to by the winery's enologist.

"He brought me to his office to have a "serious" talk about the need to yeast and re-acidify. The winery he worked for vinified the equivalent of 400 hectares of wine, so he was totally in an industrial mindset."

LA bought the finished wine back from this winery, and these were to be the first two Clos Ouvert wines.

Around this point in the drive, we drove past the vineyards of Don Francisco, the world famous host of Sabado Gigante.

Seriously, google Don Francisco wine.

As the long drive whirled along, LA mentioned that the wood industry, specifically pine trees, is a huge part of Chile's economy. Used for cellulose and paper, the increased demand and resulting specialization has meant that a huge amount of the country's native woods were torn out to make way for these conifers. Pay attention to the pictures in the upcoming recaps (including the one at the start of this post), and you'll notice that pine trees are intricately tied to Chilean scenery.

"It's green everywhere and blends into the scenery so you don't notice as much, but these are NOT the native trees of Chile! To me, this is the biggest environmental disaster this country faces."

With lunch time approaching, we stopped by one of LA's favorite restaurants, Las Brisas de Loncomilla.

The first thing I noticed was at least 5 dogs just hanging around outside.

My favorite was this little creature.

Naturally, I had to give her a nice belly-rub to prove it.

Shortly after sitting down, a man named Walter (who works with local farmers) dropped 3 Pipeños from a potentially new supplier. The best one came in a 3 liter coke bottle.

It might strike you as unorthodox, but keep in mind that the Pipeño wines are not typically bottled and this is how they are served. In fact, when we taste with LA each year to make our buying decisions, he always brings his samples in soda bottles.

The 3 liter Paìs went down real smooth, but the two others, from grapes picked much later, were still in bubbling in their primary fermentation stages.

After lunch, it was time to visit our first vineyard! We set things off at Truqilemu, the parcel where LA buys his Carignan.

Upon arrival, we were gruffly greeted by Walter Orillana, the owner of the vines.

I'm not really sure why he needed his rifle, but he held on to it the entire time of our visit. Which is probably why I never got that close to him when taking his picture.

Truquilemu is the flattest vineyard LA works with. The vines vary in age, but he sources from those that are between 70 and 80 years old.

The soils are composed of clay and sands.

LA explained that Carignan has been grown in Chile since 1860, but wasn't really developed until the 1940's. He's been buying fruit from Waldo since 2009, and purchases the equivalent of 1.5 hectares.

All in all, Waldo might have uttered 10 words the entire time we were there. But LA reassured me that his other suppliers are much friendlier.

"Waldo is the least sympathetic guy I work with: he never talks, always wants to angle business and is as friendly as a prison cell. But he works well and the fruit is beautiful."

From Truquilemu, we set off to Quenehuao, the site that produces Paìs di Quenehuao.

For those unfamiliar with the Paìs de line, LA only makes them from Paìs, the original grape planted by the conquistadores hundreds of years ago. This single vineyard line is meant to highlight the most singular, unique terroirs he works with.

Luyt is the only person making single vineyard expressions of Paìs, and originally caught a lot of flack for this. You see, the grape is de-classified for use as a single-varietal in all of Chile, and thus cannot produce appellation wine. It commonly denounced for being a lowly, inferior grape that can at best result in mediocrity.

But LA never really believed what others told him:

"The conquistadores were well educated and intentioned in their plantings. You had clergy members observing and bringing those observations back to Spain in order to make agricultural decisions. So when you tell me Paìs is a shitty grape that doesn't make sense here, it just doesn't add up to me. These guys knew what they were doing."

Anyhow onto the Quenehuao visit!

The vineyards we were about to visit were owned by Luis Gardeweg, an eccentric engineer who passed away last year. Before visiting the vines, we checked a still functional wool factory from parts he brought back from Europe in the 1950's and 1960's.

This is where LA gets a lot of his sweet sweaters. On to the vines!

Quenehuao's vines are grown on red clay with granitic subsoils.

The vines are approximately 250 YEARS OLD.

"There are no official records for the age of the vines, but you can make a fairly accurate estimate by examining the woods."

When I asked why some vines were much bigger than others, LA elaborated:

"The vines aren't all huge because when a wood becomes too gnarly, underproductive or broken, you let a new shoot grow from the bottom and eventually trim or snap off the old wood. Think of it as cutting your hair: it's the same rootstock coming from the same place but you need to touch it up every once in a while."

Phylloxera never affected Chile, so all the vines are franc de pied off native rootstock.

Rabbit shit is everywhere, serving as a natural fertilizer.

Quenehuao is name of the area, but for the wine LA is referring to the hill we visited, characterised by terraced vineyards on its sides as well as its flatter top. Because of its myriad of different expositions and granitic soils , it reminds LA of Morgon's Côte du Py in Beaujolais.

"When Marcel (Lapierre) came to visit, this was the vineyard that confirmed to him that I was onto something special out here."

If you'd read the interview I linked to earlier, you would know that LA befriended Mathieu Lapierre in oenology school and spent many years in the Lapierre's vineyards and cellar before returning to Chile for good.

All this talking about Marcel got LA into zen mode next to a particularly beautiful vine.

This inspired Keven Clancy, who also got in the mix.

The spirit was so strong that even I got into the mix.

"The vines are so healthy here. The only product they've ever been exposed to is a minuscule amount of sulfur. It's not like the old vines in Europe that you can tell are on their last legs."

Luyt has been harvesting fruit from Quenehuao's terraces for 9 years now.

On our way out from the property, Miguel and Gringa made sure we were well on our way.

From Quenehuao, we drove to Chillán, the city were Luyt is based. Before getting home, we swung by the super market to grab some delicious box wine.

Naw, just kidding. Instead we had some Luyt rarities like this 2008 sans-souffre Chardonnay that took two years to ferment:

And a 2008 Clos Ouvert, the first wine we ever imported from Luyt!

It was a hell of a first day!

A la proxima por la parte 3!]]>
<![CDATA[The Chile Chronicles, Part 1: Settling In.]]> http://louisdressner.com/date/2016/6/7/319/ http://louisdressner.com/date/2016/6/7/319/ Tue, 07 Jun 2016 22:58:10 GMT

In the seven years we've worked with Louis-Antoine Luyt, he's become a fixture in our lives: he regularly visits the United States to promote his wines and can be seen galavanting around the Dive Bouteille each winter. We see him probably as much as as anyone else we work with, but up until this recent trip, the opportunity to go visit him hadn't come up.

Getting to Chile had proven to be a challenge. Louis/Dressner is a company firmly rooted in Western Europe, and if you've followed my writing over the years, you know we spend a lot of time there. When in France and Italy, we can easily cover a lot of ground, visiting dozens of growers in a couple of weeks. But with LA as our sole South-American estate, bringing the team to Chile seemed just out of reach.

But after seven years and a strong, justified insistence from LA, it was finally time to visit. I asked him how many days I needed to be there to see everything, and he said 9. So with the dates set, I set off for Santiago.

After a relatively smooth flight (numbed by the sheer idiocy of Zoolander 2), I met up with LA and our travel-mate Keven Clancy of Farm Wine Imports and drove to LA's friend Tanguy to settle in.

Tanguy (pronounced TON-GHEE and not TAN GUY) is French, has lived in Santiago for 15 years and runs a successful catering company called Happy Crêpe. That's him on national television, which aired live on my last day in Chile. Apparently one of the hosts said: "You look like Kevin Costner. Why do you makes crêpes?"

If you make crêpes, they will come.

After a short nap, we set off to 99, one of the guys' favorite Santiago restaurants.

Lunch was delicious and cost 15 dollars.

LA had an appointment to show wine, but before that he wanted to show us his friend Diego's art gallery. We hopped into Tanguy's van (which reeked due to a recent explosion of eggs in the back seat), but it wouldn't start! Turns out he'd parked illegally and left his headlights on, thus entirely draining his battery. We tried to give the van a nice heave-ho but it was a no-go. Fortunately, LA has a local cab-driver friend who came to the rescue within minutes.

From there, we headed the art gallery Mutt to meet Diego.

If you've ever drank one of LA's Pipeño wines, you are familiar with Diego's work. He's the one that designed the label.

Anyway, here's some Diego art.

I wasn't feeling great that day so we headed home and I slept from 8pm to 9am the next morning. It did the trick.

Stay tuned for Part 2!]]>
<![CDATA[Coming Soon: The Chile Chronicles!]]> http://louisdressner.com/date/2016/6/3/318/ http://louisdressner.com/date/2016/6/3/318/ Fri, 03 Jun 2016 22:22:16 GMT
Updates have been slow on the blog for numerous reasons (getting used to new software here at the office, me losing my notebook on our last Italian trip), but I'm happy to report that in the coming weeks, I will be writing a multi-entry recap of my amazing 9 day trip with Louis-Antoine Luyt in Chile!

It was a fascinating and deeply inspiring trip, and I look forward to sharing it with you all!]]>
<![CDATA[New Visit: Causse Marines in Vieux!]]> http://louisdressner.com/date/2016/3/28/317/ http://louisdressner.com/date/2016/3/28/317/ Mon, 28 Mar 2016 27:55:57 GMT

To many, Causse Marines is an enigma. Why do they have clown noses on their labels? Why have do you literally know NONE of the grapes they work with? Why do they hate badgers?

Well, let's start off by answering the badger question. Badger translates to blaireau in French, which is slang for, well, an asshole. France also has this rather ridiculous, and very obligatory law that forces every bottle of alcohol to sport a barred out pregnant woman in an effort to instruct them to not drink during those nine months.

With no accompanying text and often less than half an inch in size (proving the pregnant stomach very hard to spot), there is a long running joke amongst vignerons that the logo basically looks like the government telling us that women are not allowed to drink. Highlighting this absurdity, Maisons Brûlées recently spoofed this with their Dernier Née cuvée, making the barred out pregnant woman the actual label.

Virginie Maignien and Patrice Lescarret, proprietors of Causse Marines, don't like assholes or the stupid barred pregnant lady logo, so they created their own logo: a barred blaireau, aka badger, aka asshole.

Sorry assholes: this wine's not for you...

Anyhow, if you want the details on the history of the estate, I recommend reading Causse Marines' profile and Virginie's in-depth interview. In this recap we'll be focusing on the vines. And dog pics.

On a hot July day, we set off to visit the entirety of Causse Marine's holdings.

Today, the vines are all within walking distance of the house. But when Patrice bought the farm in 1993, he had 10h spread all over the place.

eFor years, I was playing monopoly, buying pieces of land I didn't want to later exchange with ones I did.i

The first parcel we visited is a mix of Mauzac planted in 1928 and Muscadelle planted in 1932.

A large part of this plot is being torn out to replant Mauzac in massale.

Further down, we spotted some Mauzac from the 50es as well as old Prunelard.

Right around here, Patrice recently replanted some Verdanel, yet another indigenous grape no one has ever heard of.

"Before re-planting, Plageoles was the only one to have any!"

Causse Marine's soils are all clay and limestone, though different parts vary in their amount of limestone and rock, which at times can get very chunky.

We visited a lot of vineyards along the way, some of which weren't photographed. Amongst them, old vine Duras that produces Rasdu or Du rat des Paquerettes, Petit Manseng planted in 98, Chenin Blanc planted from Mark Angeli and Huet's massale trimmings (specifically from the Le Bourg parcel), an isolated clos of low yielding Muscadelle that are great for noble rot and, last but not least:

At 0.8 h of Ondenc, you are now laying eyes on the biggest Ondenc parcel IN THE WORLD. If you've never heard of Ondenc, and who can blame you, check out all the synonyms for the grape: Austenq, Béquin, Bergeracois, Blanc de Gaillac, Blanc Select, Blanc Selection Carrière, Blanquette, Blanquette Sucrée, Chaloche, Chalosse, Cu de Brecherou, Doudant Blanc, Doundent, Dourec, Dourech, Fronsadais, Gaillac, Irvine's White, Mauzac, Œil de Tour, Ondain, Ondainc, Ondent, Ondin, Oundenc, Oundenq, Oustenc, Oustenq, Oustenque, Piquepout de Moissac, Plant de Gaillac, Prendiou, Prentiou, Primai, Primaic, Primard, Printiou, Riverain, Sable Blanc, Semis Blanc, Sencit Blanc, Sensit Blanc, and Sercial.

Thanks Wikipedia!

Ok, time for some cellar talk!

From listening to Patrice and Virginie in the cellar, their never-ending goal seems to be the quest for freshness. Both acknowledge that they live in a hot place, and that picking earlier for whites and extracting less for reds have, after years of trial and error, yielded increasingly satisfying results. The cellar remains as experimental as ever, as we tasted skin macerated Mauzac, single varietal vinifications of Duras, Ondenc an absolutely delicious Syrah based Causse Toujours.

After all that tasting, it was time to relax on the hammoc with Tito the dog and Virginie and Patrice's adorable son Abel.

Everything was going great, but a slight disagreement with Abel about the French dubbing of Kung Fu Panda 2 quickly turned ugly:

While I was rushed to the hospital, Kevin and Denyse got to try some old dessert wines from the Causse:

Kevin also got to spend some quality time with Tito.

<![CDATA[Sicily MADNESS!!!!!!! Amazing I Vignieri Video and THREE Occhipinti Harvest Reports!]]> http://louisdressner.com/date/2016/3/4/316/ http://louisdressner.com/date/2016/3/4/316/ Fri, 04 Mar 2016 28:39:17 GMT

Forgive our lack of updates, shit's been crazy over here.

Anyhow, watch this amazing video of the traditional Palmento vinifications in Etna!

And guess who sent us not one but THREE harvest reports!

Arianna's 2015!!!!!

Arianna's 2014!!!!!

Arianna's 2013!!!!!

Louis/Dressner Selections: We've Got Internet Contentu]]>
<![CDATA[New Batch of 2015 Harvest Reports from Aganum, Bellivière and Domaine de Bongran!]]> http://louisdressner.com/date/2015/12/30/315/ http://louisdressner.com/date/2015/12/30/315/ Wed, 30 Dec 2015 22:43:15 GMT

A few pics of Agnanum!

A short and sweet recap from Domaine de Bongran and Domaine de Roally!

An incredibly in depth recap from the ever philosophical Eric Nicholas of Domaine de Bellivière!!!]]>
<![CDATA[New Estate: Chuteau Combel-la-Serre in Cornou!]]> http://louisdressner.com/date/2015/12/22/314/ http://louisdressner.com/date/2015/12/22/314/ Tue, 22 Dec 2015 5:07:45 GMT

Cahors. We'll be the first to admit the region doesn't exactly scream "exciting natural wine". For most, Cahors equals rustic, tannic and structured offerings meant to cellar and age for decades. So when we got an email from a friend of Matthieu Baudry asking us if we'd be interested in his wines, we were expecting either hipster carbonic glou-glou or super structured, dark as night teeth stainers.

What we got instead was something delightfully in between. Lo and behold, something's been bubbling in the village of St-Vincent-Rive-d`Olt, more specifically in the hamlet of Cornou!

This is Julien Ilbert, the proprietor of Combel-la-Serre:

We'd never met Julien, and other than immediately co-signing his excellent taste in T-shirts, didn't really know what to expect when showing up at his doorstep. That's because the Combel la Serre story has been steadily evolving over the last 17 years.

Vines have been in the Ilbert family for a very long time, but always as part of a larger poly-cultural whole. Before Julien took over in 1998, his father Jean-Pierre owned 40 hectares of cereals, 25 hectares of vines and 22 cows for meat and dairy. The grapes all went to the local cave coopérative. And right up to his retirement, Jean-Pierre worked the entirety of his land by himself, never hiring an employee. Think about that the next time you're complaining about your shitty day at work...

Before I give you any more Combel-la-Serre history, here's a picture of their dog UV to break up all this text:


In 1998, Julien split from the cave coopérative in hopes of starting his own estate. But a chance meeting with Matthieu Cosse at a rugby match (check Julien's shirt, he's an avid fan and player) quickly led to a commercial partnership. For seven years, Julien sold the majority of his grapes to Matthieu, making a small amount of uncommercialized wine on the side.

In 2005, the two split amicably and Julien reset his sights on independent production. A decade later, he finally feels that all the hard work in the vines and cellar has really begun to pay off and is ready to share the (literal) fruits of his labor outside of France!

We began our vineyard tour with the parcel that produces:

Such a sweet label. For those who are French readers/and or hip to natural wine slang, you will have seen both the word CARBO and the term "vin de soif" on this label and will therefore say: "Hey, I thought you said these wines weren't carbonic!" Well, I LIED. But not really, because this is the only carbonic wine Julien makes, and its represents a tiny part of his production.

The wine is called La Vigne Derière chez Carbo, and besides the obvious reference to vinification, is actually right behind the house of a certain Monsieur Carbonier! Well played, Julien. Well played.

The 1.3h of vines are planted in red clay and are 25 to 30 years old. The northern exposition makes this parcel the coolest Julien works. It's also the only Combel parcel where you can find a ton of galets roulées all over the vineyard:

"These characteristics give the wine an unprecedented freshness and playful fruit, which is why I've chosen to make a carbonic wine here."

Next, we visited young vines planted in Vermentino.

Vermentino is not typical for the region, but Julien planted 1 hectare because he loves the grape and wanted to break out from the Sauvignon and Viognier mold typically produced in this part of the South-West. He also thinks the vines will react well to the soils, as they are heavy in limestone:

Next, we visited a lieu-dit called Peyre Levade, which means "standing stone" in Occitan.

These are the most limestone heavy soils Julien works.

We ended our vineyard run the the Lac-aux-Cochons, aka "Pig Lake".

Not much of a curveball, but this parcel produces:

Also a sweet label. Here is the famous Pig Lake!

Ok, I know it's not that exciting. At least I tried!

Pig Lake is 2 hectares of Julien's oldest vines, most of them clocking around 90. The limestone subsoils here really fuel the grapes with minerality, and he considers it to be his best parcel.

After all that vineyard hopping, it was time to check out the cellar. And who else was there to greet us but barrel man!

Barrel man was built in 1948 by the village barrel maker.

The cellar is mostly large concrete tanks and oak barrels, though Julien occasionally uses stainless steel and fiberglass for certain vinifications.

If you want to read up on the wines, go check out the Chuteau Combel-la-Serre profile here.

It was lunch time, and Julien and his lovely wife Sophie cooked us an incredible meal of local delicacies, which of course involved foie gras and a ton of black truffles. At the table, Julien started opening a lot of great bottles, confirming that he's just as passionate about drinking wine as making it. At first, he even refused to have his wines at the table!

"At my house, we drink the wines of others at the table. I'm around my wines everyday, and there is so much amazing stuff out there. It would be a shame drinking the same thing every day!"

Still, he realized we were familiarizing ourselves with his cuvées and made an exception by letting us re-taste them alongside the food.

But next time, we're cracking open some Ganevat! And Baudry! And Egly-Ouriet!]]>
<![CDATA[René-Jean Dard of Dard & Ribo Interview!]]> http://louisdressner.com/date/2015/11/19/313/ http://louisdressner.com/date/2015/11/19/313/ Thu, 19 Nov 2015 26:21:29 GMT
photo via Wine Terroirs.

"Ieve been making sulfur-free wines since I was 15. I didnet even know you could add sulfur to wine until going to oenology school! "You have to", they said! My dad never sulfured the wines and I basically just followed in his footsteps."

"The truth is that sulfur is the vignerones sleeping aid: you put that in the bottle and everything stays put! Us on the other hand, ites constant sleepless nights! But ites the risk you take."

René-Jean Dard is a very elusive man. In fact, we've just blessed the internet with his only interview.

Read it here!!!]]>
<![CDATA[Some More 2015 Harvest Reports from Les Vins Contés, François Cazin and Jean Manciat!]]> http://louisdressner.com/date/2015/11/12/312/ http://louisdressner.com/date/2015/11/12/312/ Thu, 12 Nov 2015 26:00:13 GMT

Le Lemasson harvest team remains the most, um, interesting bunch in the game.

Les Vins Contés!

François Cazin!

Jean Manciat!

<![CDATA[New Visit: Domaine du Possible in Lansac!]]> http://louisdressner.com/date/2015/11/2/311/ http://louisdressner.com/date/2015/11/2/311/ Mon, 02 Nov 2015 14:41:08 GMT

Recognize these distinctive, colorful labels?

Well, if you drive up a certain long, winding road through the mountains of the Roussillon, you just may find yourself in Jajakistan, the magical land of their provenance.

Don't bother googling it: this fictional territory is actually Domaine du Possible proprietor Loïc Roure's playful nickname for the tiny village of Lansac.

"My friend came up with the name. Lansac really feels like a tiny, forgotten world. It is also very barren and dry, which inspired the fictional middle-eastern name."

We'd arrived just a few days after the big music festival Loïc has been organizing for almost a decade. From looking around his cellar, it becomes evident that art and music are a huge part of his life:

Notice that the colors on his walls match the labels on his wines?

We began our visit tasting through Loïc's 2014's. At the risk of sounding like a huge schnook, this feels like his breakthrough vintage to me. Yes, the conditions of 2014 were favorable and overall have produced excellent wines throughout France. But it's also been over 10 years since Loïc embarked on this his vinous adventures: the work in the vines and experience in the cellar are really starting show in the wine.

After our tasting, we drove almost half an hour to vines that border the Corbières appellation.

This vineyard consists of 100+ year old Carignan (actually from 1905!) planted on decomposed gneiss.

Currently, Loïc works 1.8 hectares here, though he plans to plant an additional 2.5 over the next two years. He's not sure what grapes he'll want to plant, but believes this land will lend itself well to a Syrah rosé.

From the old Carignan, we hopped back in the van and drove to the breathtaking vineyard that produces Coum Acò.

Oh yeah, Jorge was there!

The vines here are all Syrah, extremely shriveled and very low yielding:

Look at how small those bunches are! The soils consist of gorgeous schist:

Directly across from the Coum Acò vineyard, Loïc pointed out another plot planted in Maccabeu, Grenache Gris and Carignan Noir.

The final parcel we visited was yet another long drive (almost 20 minutes) to see the Grenaches that produce C'est Pas La Mer a Boire.

This area consists of 1 hectare planted in 1966. The constant winds and surrounding panorama make this Loïc's favorite parcel to work.

After that, big surprise: we ate a delicious lunch and hung out for a while.]]>
<![CDATA[Harvest Reports from Domaine Desvignes, A la Vôtre! and Altura!]]> http://louisdressner.com/date/2015/10/24/310/ http://louisdressner.com/date/2015/10/24/310/ Sat, 24 Oct 2015 25:27:41 GMT

2015 is looking good my friends!

Domaine Louis Claude Desvignes!

A la Vôtre!


<![CDATA[Harvest Reports from Eric Texier, Maison Pierre Overnoy, Chateau D'Oupia and Alice et Olivier De Moor!!!]]> http://louisdressner.com/date/2015/10/2/308/ http://louisdressner.com/date/2015/10/2/308/ Fri, 02 Oct 2015 25:14:38 GMT

Eric Texier!!!

Maison Pierre Overnoy!!!

Chuteau d'Oupia!!!

Alice et Olivier De Moor!!!]]>
<![CDATA[Sylvie Esmonin Interview!]]> http://louisdressner.com/date/2015/9/24/307/ http://louisdressner.com/date/2015/9/24/307/ Thu, 24 Sep 2015 27:57:46 GMT
photo source: Justerinis

"The other parallel I draw to Bordeaux (in Burgundy) is the fact that estates are getting bigger and more disconnected with the land and even the very essence of being a vigneron. Youeve got people hired to work the vines, people hired to work in the cellar, to sell the wines, etc... Where is the vigneron who knows how to do it all, and even if he isnet isnet the best in one task he makes up for it with another? In the end, he may not be perfect at every task, but the wine you taste will be unique for those very reasons! Youell taste the vigneron's character in the wines."

Sylvie Esmonin is not someone who puts herself in the limelight, but if you get the chance to talk to her you'll quickly learn that she is an incredibly sharp, talented and fascinating woman with great insight and opinions. One of my favorite interviews ever.

Go read it!!!

<![CDATA[It's That Time of the Year: 2015 Harvest Reports!!!]]> http://louisdressner.com/date/2015/9/17/306/ http://louisdressner.com/date/2015/9/17/306/ Thu, 17 Sep 2015 26:27:04 GMT

Best harvest video of all time? Duh!

Get hyped on 2015 by reading up on:

Fabbrica di San Martino!!!

Franco Noussan!!!

Francis Boulard et Fille!!!
<![CDATA[New Visit: Julie Balagny in Romanèche-Thorins!]]> http://louisdressner.com/date/2015/9/2/305/ http://louisdressner.com/date/2015/9/2/305/ Wed, 02 Sep 2015 26:33:46 GMT

This visit with Julie Balagny took place in August, 2015.

Words and photos by Jules Dresssner.

Julie Balagny has a new house!

And a new cellar!

There is no temperature control in here, but there is foosball:

More importantly, she was able to transfer her beautiful old manual press and concrete tanks from the previous space she was renting.

In what used to be a stable, a small enclave is reserved for Julie's barrel aging.

This is for the 100+ year old vines only.

For some reason, Julie has a 3 month old sheep called George living in her backyard.

George thinks he's a dog. More on that later.

On a totally unrelated note, did you know that for some reason, Converse sneakers apparently don't have the trademarku Red-Stripe® in Europe? And cost like 60 euro? That's why I bring all our vignerons mint pairs upon request:

After checking out the new house and bribing Julie with shoes, we sat down to drink taste the 2014 Chavot.

Loving that label. Plus it was going down like Grenadine.

Oh wait, that's actually Grenadine...

Hey, at least it's organic... Ok, ok, this is what Chavot actually looks like:

Chavot, for those who have been following Juliees past releases, is a blend of 30 year old vines on basalt that occasionally produce Cayenne and 40-70 year old vines on decomposed and solid granite that occasionally produce En Simone. For a reminder of what Julie's magnificent Fleurie parcel looks like, reread my recap from three years ago.

The wine needed a moment to open up, but when it did it had deep and subtle berry tones on the nose and palate, with spicy structure and a long finish. It was so good it made Zaggy get the crazy eyes.

Chavot is named after the village drunk, Bruno Chavot. He would always be hammered and making a fool of himself, so it became insider slang to use his last name as a verb after a big night of drinking.

"You were so Chavot last night"

"I love getting Chavoed while tailgating at the Giants game."

For the record, no one at LDM wines has ever been to a tailgate. EVER. Also, Bruno Chavot just moved back in with his mom at 55 years old.

Moving on...

The big news for Julie is that she has acquired an hectare of 40 year old AOC Beaujolais between Fleurie and Bornard, as well as 70 ares of Moulin-a-Vent! And we visited both!

We started at the Moulin-à-Vent parcel.

As you can see, it's quite steep. The soils here are decomposed granite with fat chunks to go around as well:

The vines here are pretty old, all over 50:

A North-West exposition and constant winds are, according to Julie, favorable to elegant, fresh wines. Though she is surrounded by conventional farming, the parcel borders a large ravine so it's not too bad for second hand chemical residue.

France went through a serious heat wave in 2015. Check out how dried all of this looks:

By now, we know that after almost three months of no rain, August showers saved the day for most of France. OUUFF!

Next we visited the Beaujolais parcel:

The hill you can spot in the back is Juliénas. The soil here consists of clay, pebbles and sand. As we walked around, Julie started ripping out these big plants from the ground:

eWhen you stop using herbicides, the plants that inevitably come back are erigerons and morelle noire."

They two plants are hyper-invasive because they produce a ton of seeds.

Upon returning to the vines, we sat down to drink taste a Cayenne 2013, a wine that never made it stateside. All of a sudden, George decided to show up!

I guess George thinks he's a dog, because started sniffing all the other dogs' butts (as dogs do) and playing with them.

Our dog Zaggy is terrified of everything, including sheep. She scurried away into the house while Denyse distracted George and Harrison.

When we sat down to finish the wine, George came under the table with the rest of the gang.]]>
<![CDATA[Old Stuff from the Cellar 2015: Volume 2!]]> http://louisdressner.com/date/2015/8/24/304/ http://louisdressner.com/date/2015/8/24/304/ Mon, 24 Aug 2015 23:49:35 GMT Agnès et René Mosse Anjou Rouge 2000:

Check those old labels! Upon opening, a bit of a metallic nose but great, dusty fruit that made me feel the blend was more Cabernet Franc heavy. The finish was rather short and the wine was not too tannic. Quite nice.

Luneau-Papin le L D'Or 1998:

I didn't find my notes for this but we finished it at lunch and I remember it being fresh and good.

François Pinon Cuvée Tradition 1998:

This was before François started making the 3 Argiles and Silex Noir cuvées, so the wine is a blend of both terroirs. Youthful color, good structure, a hint of sugar and distinct Chenin fruit. Drinking well.

Claude et Catherine Maréchal Chorey-les-Beaunes 1999:

Tasting stunningly young. Light body and captivating fruit; I would DARE to call it glou-glou. Light tannins, balanced acidity.

Bernard Baudry Les Grézeaux 2005:

A lot of the people at the table thought the wine was "hard, but I really liked it. 2005 was a very hot, solar vintage. The wine certainly wasn't fruity, though I liked its rustic charm and structure. The green pepper became more pronounced halfway through the bottle. Personally I think the wine needs more time to age.

Also, here's a picture of a comically large Saint-Nectaire we enjoyed at the lunch with the Baudry.

The 97 Pépière in the back was corked...