Louis Dressner Selections Louis Dressner Selections Blog http://louisdressner.com/ Thu, 03 Sep 2015 11:43:29 GMT Jules Dressner <![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

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 winds. 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 other dogs.]]>
<![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...

<![CDATA[The Many Dogs of LDM Travels, Part 1.]]> http://louisdressner.com/date/2015/8/19/303/ http://louisdressner.com/date/2015/8/19/303/ Wed, 19 Aug 2015 22:29:05 GMT


If you've been following Louis/Dressner Selections for a while then you know we're kind of obsessed with dogs. It all started from the pooch pictured above, Buster. Buster was the best, so much so that rare, revered one off cuvées are named after him!

"The Many Dogs of LDM Travels" will be an off and on series, and is basically an excuse for me to streamline content so that Denyse Louis and our office manager Sheila don't have to skip though all the vineyard pictures and boring terroir talk of my blog posts to get straight to the good stuff: DOGS!

Here is Andrea Zafei of Cerreto Libri's dog Porcupine. She enjoys long runs through the vines and homemade lasagna.

Elena Pantaleoni's magnificent dog Rocco was once shot by a local for trespassing. How many dogs do you know with such a high CUTE to GOT SHOT ratio? You can even see the gunshot wound on his chest!

Baxter over here lives at a lovely bed and breakfast somewhere in Emilia-Romagna. If you don't feed him at the breakfast table, he makes this face:

This sneaky lil' fella was abandoned before the Bera family found him and his twin sister in a shoe box. Those people are assholes!

This is my neighbor Megan's dog Reilly. She is pint sized and very hard to capture photographically cause she's always moving a mile a minute. But I snapped a good one of her!

Stay tuned. So many more dog pics...]]>
<![CDATA[It's Back! Old Stuff from the Cellar!]]> http://louisdressner.com/date/2015/7/25/302/ http://louisdressner.com/date/2015/7/25/302/ Sat, 25 Jul 2015 21:05:12 GMT

How do some old favorites hold up? Let's find out!

Jacques Puffeney Vin Jaune 1996:
This was opened at least two years ago, and was tucked back in the corner of the kitchen. Only a glass was left. I remember it being delicious two years ago, but it was overly oxidized and not showing great.

Pouchoullin Brézème Rouge 1997:
For those who aren't Eric Texier historians, Mr Pouchoulin was his inspiration for reviving the completely forgotten region. Mr. Pouchoulin was a factory worker, but had always kept an hectare of red and a little of bit of Roussane that he vinified traditionally himself. Eric somehow discovered him, was mesmerized by the wines and place and decided he had to work there.

A slightly dusty and musky nose at first, followed by pepper spice and balance on nose. Translucent but developed color. Medium body, nice acidity that lasts on finish. Pepper on mid-palate. Overall a fantastic bottle that kept getting better. Decanted an hour and half before drinking.

Franck Peillot Roussette du Bugey Altesse 2001:

Golden, advanced color without notes of obvious oxidation. Petrol on nose, which apparently Franck doesn't like but I found nice. Also Peach pit (God I hate writing about wine like this..). Rich, round body, slight petrol on mid-palate, great acidity and long, long finish. Another winner.

2004 Roilette Cuvée Tardive 2004:

Bottle was a Tardive even though the label doesn't mention it. This was pretty closed off when Alain opened it in his cellar, but got real good quick. The Roilette wines get a little dusty with age, particularly on the nose, but once the fruit came out it was unstoppable. Brownish color:

Total "pinotisation". Yum.]]>
<![CDATA[Summer Hiatus.]]> http://louisdressner.com/date/2015/6/15/301/ http://louisdressner.com/date/2015/6/15/301/ Mon, 15 Jun 2015 20:06:29 GMT Have A Great Summer

For the first time in the three and a half years since our new site launched, I am taking a summer hiatus from writing the blog. While there may be sporadic posts here and there (at this point I've forgotten what NOT writing here feels like), they will be inconsistent at best.

The good news is that this extended break will only mean an accumulation of new interviews and visits, but also time for us to reflect on new forms of content for the producers we (and hopefully you!) love. In the meantime, keep your eyes peeled for our grand entrance into a popular form of digital expression we've been mysteriously absent of for so long...

Have a great summer everybody!]]>
<![CDATA[Winter Bonanza 2015: Les Maisons Brûlées in Pouillé!]]> http://louisdressner.com/date/2015/5/21/300/ http://louisdressner.com/date/2015/5/21/300/ Thu, 21 May 2015 27:47:46 GMT

When I harvested at Clos Roche Blanche back in October, I got to hang out and get to know Les Maisons Brûlées' new proprietors, Paul and Corinne Gillet. As it turns out, they are super cool. This recap will confirm that.

We began our visit with Paul giving us an introduction of the estate. 8 hectares of vines are co-planted with nine varietals: Gamay and Sauvignon Blanc represent about 50% of the plantings, but Chardonnay, Menu Pineau, Pinot noir, Pineau d'Aunis, Côt, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc are also grown. The soils are clay and flint topsoils with limestone subsoils. Most of the vines are right around the house, on the hillsides of the Cher valley. Another 2.5 ha are on a lower plateaux. The hillsides are some of the best terroirs in the area as they are on mother rock and have great exposition.

Paul and Corinne took over the estate in 2013 from Michel Augé, a pioneer of organic and biodynamic viticulture in the area. Biodiversity in the vineyard was his life's work; Michel used to have a lot more vines, but realized that ones closest to his house had almost no neighboring vines and were surrounded by woods, meaning no chemical overlap and a better environment for biodiversity.

After walking past some 55 year old Gamay and Pineau d' Aunis, you reach the plateau at the bottom of the hill.

The area was mostly pruned, although Paul left several plants untouched in order to practice selection massale and replace dead vines. As you can see from some of the pictures, the area is surrounded by woods, which helps enormously with microbial biodiversity, encouraging the right bacteria to grow into the root systems.

Michel had planted a little bit of Gamay and Sauvignon here in franc de pied. This was an experiment. The vines are about ten years old, so the next few years will be integral in seeing if it works out on this type of soil, since it's usually around 10 years of age that vines begin to experience issues with phylloxera.

From the plateau, we started walking over to the Herdeleau coteau. But before that, we had to say hello to Paul's horse Danseur!

Am I the only one that feels like his mane is dyed like an 80's heavy metal bro?

Keep in mind he's not even three yet and this is what he looked like when he was born:

They grow up so fast.

Anyway, we then found ourselves on the beautiful Herdeleau coteau!

Depending where you are on the hill, you get closer or further from calcareous sub soil. On the hillsides the soils are fairly poor, which is why vineyards have been planted here for centuries, as nothing else would grow on them. Old Pinot noir, Pinot d'Aunis and Gamay are grown here and produce the R2L'O cuvée, as well Côt and Cabernet Franc that produce Érèbe.

We then walked back to the vinification cellar, which is tiny. Check out that sweet caricature of Paul done last year at
Vini Circus.

Here we tasted 2014 R2L'O which was INSANE, some Sauvignon and an orange wine experiment called Ça Me Plait:

About ten kilometers away, Paul barrel ages his wines and stores his bottles in this gorgeous quarry:

Tuffeau limestone from this quarry helped build much of the local landscape in the 19th century, then became a mushroom growing space in the 1930's. The quarry is HUGE, and goes on for about 5 kilometers! Paul and Corinne only use the front of it, but technically rent the entire thing. Paul offered us a tour through this veritable labyrinth, but warned there was no light and we'd need to use our phones to get around.

Fascinatingly, many archives of the mushroom's growing schedules are still painted and pencilled on the walls:

Perfect setting for a horror movie.

It was time to taste bottled wines and eat lunch. We started with Alterité, a pet nat made with Cabernet Sauvignon.

For those of you who are fans of the estate from the Michel Augé days, here's a glimpse of the new Maisons Brûlées labels:

Corinne had set up a beautiful long table for us to taste and eat.

Along with grilled sausages, potato and lentil salads, the group was sated with one of the biggest bowls of rillettes I've ever seen.

And let's not forget the biggest cheese OF ALL TIME.

]]> <![CDATA[Winter Bonanza 2015: Agnès et René Mosse in St-Lambert-du-Lattay!]]> http://louisdressner.com/date/2015/5/5/299/ http://louisdressner.com/date/2015/5/5/299/ Tue, 05 May 2015 23:57:17 GMT

Upon arrival to Mosse headquarters, we kind of freaked out these two journalists who were there to write a piece about the estate.

After a big hello with Agnès and René, their son Joseph took us out to the vineyards.

Joseph is the young man on the left of the picture above. He's 25, had just returned from working with Louis-Antoine Luyt for a year, is obsessed with sneakers and is poised to take over when his parents retire.

When we told him that my car had gotten obsessed with "Fresh Prince" by Soprano (click that hyperlink if you're a fan of the Will Smith sitcom. Totally worth it), he told us that that song was terrible commercial rap and played us something really good that I forgot. Though it was reminiscent to one of my favorite french rap songs of all time, "La Rue Cause" by Karlito (RIP DJ Medhi).

The Mosse family doesn't have any dogs, so here is a picture of one of their chickens.

The first vineyard we visited was a parcel of 10 year old vines that contributes to the production of the base Anjou Blanc.

Joseph explained that the majority of the region is defined by clay topsoil with schist subsoils, with the amount of topsoil schist composition (chunks, pebbles, sand) varying on where you are on the hillsides. There are lots of grains grown in the area as well as a fair amount of cattle raising. For the young vines, they do a very short pruning in order to limit yields from the get go. This helps to avoid having to green harvest later in the year.

All of the Mosse's vineyards are located in the Coteaux-du-Layon, an area defined by the abundant hillsides that curve and bend alongside the Layon river. The hills help induce humidity in the morning but also make for very warm afternoons; this helps botrytis thrive, which explains why the area has historically produces sweet wines from noble rot.

From the young parcel, we drove to Le Rouchefer, a parcel that sees its own cuvée.

Le Rouchefer is a 1.6 hectare parcel of 40 year old Chenin Blanc grown on iron heavy clay and gravel on schist, with pebbles and quartz at bottom. As you can see from the photo below, large chunks of schist are easily found on the top-soil.

Directly across the road from the Le Rouchefer, one finds the lovely Marie Besnard vineyard.

These crazy vines are over 100 years old!!!

René briefly made a Marie Besnard cuvée, but the vines have become so low yielding that he now blends them with Le Rouchefer. Also, for reasons unknown to Joseph, the vineyard is named after Marie Besnard, a local woman accused of poisoning 12 people from 1927 to 1949. If you're curious about her, you can get an in-depth bio on her murderpedia page.

The final vineyard we visited was Les Bonnes Blanches, from an area widely considered to be the best terroir in the Layon.

As you can see, this was the only vineyard the Mosse hadn't yet pruned.

The reasons why this is considered the best is two-fold: first is its geologically ideal proximity to the Layon. This is one of the rare vineyards that can produce an excellent Coteaux-du-Layon every year, but the Mosse intentionally harvest earlier to produce dry whites. The second is that the soils are composed of shallow decomposing schist and quartz on schist rock, so the roots of the vineyards' 40 year old vines can get exceptionally deep, providing an unparalleled amount of minerality in the wine.

After a solid vineyard tour, we got to taste all the 2014 barrel samples as well as some yet to be released 2013's (many of which have now hit the market).

Everything is smack dab delicious, including a CURVEBALL TWIST with the 2014 Magic of Juju, which is now 90% Melon de Bourgogne (WAAAAA????)!!!

More importantly, we ate the ultimate casse-croute lunch thanks to this butcher:

In that pot were some fantastic rillettes. But the ham, rillons, cheese and butter were nothing to scoff at!

So simple. So hearty. So good.

After lunch, we checked out the cellar.

The entirety of the Mosse production ferments and ages in old oak barrels, often for a really long time. Malo is a prerequisite on the whites, and often happens on the reds as well. The extended lees contact on the whites gives it a weight and unctuousness that take the wines to the next level. Also, René leaves a radio on 24/7/365 so that the barrels can listen to music at all times.

As we set up to say goodbye, the whole thing got very hug-centric:

<![CDATA[Winter Bonanza 2015: Thomas-Labaille in Chavignol!]]> http://louisdressner.com/date/2015/4/27/298/ http://louisdressner.com/date/2015/4/27/298/ Mon, 27 Apr 2015 27:59:07 GMT

RIP to Buster, the best dog ever.

If Louis/Dressner Selections was a band with a greatest hits album, Thomas-Labaille's Cuvée Buster would probably be Track 3.

We didn't have much of a sunlight window, so after a big group greeting with Jean-Paul Labaille, we headed straight to Sancerre's best and most terryfying vineyard, Les Monts Damnés.

Before getting into any details about Les Monts Damnés, we need to talk about Jean Paul's jacket. It is without a doubt the freshest jacket ever worn by a human being. And if its insane color combinations weren't enough, the brand's "manifesto" on the back is all the proof you need:

That is the best testimony for the life itself. Fact.

If you've never met Jean-Paul, the act of so effortlessly pulling off this jacket should cue you in to his extremely confident nature. Because let's face it; that shit is hard to pull off.

Ok, so have you seen or heard of this Mont Damnés vineyard? It's shockingly steep!

Monts Damnés is within the commune of Chavignol, and faces full South. About 80% of the vineyards in Chavignol are planted on steep hillsides, and are intentionally planted with grass to avoid erosion. Monts Damnés is the most extreme example of this steepness. Along with a majority of Sauvignon Blanc, a little bit of Pinot is planted on the hill's red clay. Due to the steepness of the hill, everything is done either by hand or with a mechanized hand-tiller that is still a ton of work. When they prune the vines, they leave the cuttings on the ground in order to create a natural fertilizer.

From Les Monts Damnés, we headed over to a vineyard called Cul du Beaujau.

Jean-Paul doesn't own this vineyard, but considers it one of the best views of Chavignol (which you can easily spot in the above pictures' backgrounds) and an apt contrast between the village's Southern and Northern hills, with the latter pictured below.

Of course, there's two sides to every story, so we then drove to the northern vineyards to check those out.

Here's a good pic of the view of the southern vineyards:

The sun was setting, so we decided to head to the cellar.

When you enter the relatively new Thomas-Labaille cellar (the facility is barely three years old), you immediately bear witness to this glorious work of art:

Some things you can't un-see...

Still, if you don't at the very least find this painting amusing, I don't know if we can ever be friends. I can only imagine the reaction of prudish tourists visiting the winery for the first time! Kudos to Jean-Paul for owning the boldest jacket AND self portrait IN THE UNIVERSE.

It was time to taste the 2014's!

The vast majority of Jean-Paul's production ferments and ages in these fiberglass tanks:

"They're not the most beautiful things in the world, but they get the job done!"

As with the rest of the Loire in 2014, everything was showing really well. Unsurprisingly, the highlights were the barrels of Monts Damnés, particularly the Cuvée Buster from a single barrel from Jean-Paul's best parcel of old vines within the "damned hill".

Someone spotted and decided to photograph this inspirational calendar:

After tasting the 2014 juices, we were treated to a truly next-level tasting of back vintages.

Jean-Paul pulled out all the stops. We tasted 12, 08, 06 and 01 Monts Damnés, 97, 96 88 and 85 Sancerre (later renamed L' Authentique), as well as a 99 and 97 Cuvée Buster. 1997 was the first ever Cuvée Buster, so this was an especially special bottle to try.

If having such an amazing tasting wasn't enough, Jean-Paul's wife Laurence prepared us a true feast that was one of the best meals of the trip!

Look at the size of that cheese plate!!!

When I complemented Laurence after the meal, she told me:

"It's easy. I'm used to it."

Oh my god can she cook! Jean-Paul was in a really good mood, and ended the night with 85 Mirabelle marc and 83 grape marc that happened to be kicking around.

Man that was a fun night.]]>
<![CDATA[Winter Bonanza 2015: Domaine Fernand Girard in Chaudoux!]]> http://louisdressner.com/date/2015/4/16/297/ http://louisdressner.com/date/2015/4/16/297/ Thu, 16 Apr 2015 27:57:36 GMT

Someway somehow, I'd never visited Alain and Fernand Girard. I'm not really sure why; we've been working with them so long that they definitely fall into the "We are going to drag 5 year old Jules and 3 year old Alyce all around France and bore them to death by visiting vignerons for two weeks straight." era of Louis/Dressner Selections. You see, there was a time when Joe and Denyse would spend their entire summers in France visiting growers. And because we were too young to stay at the house by ourselves, that meant we were obligatorily included in these insanely boring road trips. Plus French TV in the summer only played reruns of MacGyver and Knight Rider (aka K-2000)!

So yeah, I wasn't the biggest fan of summer vacation growing up...

But I'm not here to bore you with the past. I'm here to write about WINE STUFF.

Before heading to the vines, Alain Girard gave us a quick introduction to the estate. He took over from his father Fernand about 20 years ago, and is the fifth generation working his land. Here's a great picture from that era:

14 hectares of vines are spread over five communes with three distinct terroirs: gravely soils, flint and heavy clay.

We began the visit checking out the flint soils of Saint-Satur:

This next picture isn't really necessary, but I like how it highlights my R698 EVO's:

Louis/Dressner Selections: We Wear Nice Sneakersu

Alain explained that these soils have much later maturities than the others, bringing roundness and tension to the final blend.

Next up, the caillottes, or gravely soils:

The caillottes were formed millions of years ago when the land the vines grow on was an ocean. This terroir brings fruit to the blend.

Last but not least, we visited the beautiful coteaux of Verdigny to check the grosses terres, or heavy clay:

Back in the nineties, the village of Verdigny decided to completely redo this hillside in order to make larger, more regular plots with better drainage. This was done to avoid flooding of the town on the bottom of the hillside (which you can spot in the pics). Prior to this change, many owners had micro-parcels all over the hillsides like in Burgundy. But in order to make this restructuring work, vignerons had to exchange parcels so that their land was more coherent.

After a lovely tour of the vineyards, we got to check out the cellar. As it is so happened, a shipment was on its way to our NY/NJ/PA distributor David Bowler wines!

We began by tasting from many pre-blended 2014 tanks. Alain co-vinifies parcels with similar characteristics in stainless steel vats:

That's right: Alain owns a parcel called "piss pot".

2014 was a tough year due to a very rainy summer. Fortunately, an Indian summer in the fall saved the crop, and the wines have proven very satisfactory.

While tasting these distinct, unblended terroirs, I asked Alain's father Fernand if he'd ever considered making single vineyard or terroir driven cuvées.


- Why not?

- The blend is nice.

-But you never felt some parcels could make a great single vineyard wine?

- I like the blend.

- Have you ever been to the US?


- Have you ever wanted to visit?


Fernand Girard: a man of conviction. A man of few words.

We also got to do a fun flight of Sancerre from the last decade:

As well as this special treat:

Before leaving, we had to pet Alain's girlfriend's dog Gypsy.

<![CDATA[Winter Bonanza 2015: Champagne Tarlant in Oeuilly!]]> http://louisdressner.com/date/2015/4/7/296/ http://louisdressner.com/date/2015/4/7/296/ Tue, 07 Apr 2015 26:55:17 GMT

After a warm greeting from Mélanie and Benoît, we took a quick walk to Pierre de Bellevue, a nearby parcel characterized by the thinnest soils in the Marne valley.

From there, Benoît started breaking it down for us.

All in all, the Tarlants work 57 single parcels. Most are in Oeuilly but the vines are spread over four villages: Oeuilly, Celles-lès-Condé, Boursault and Saint-Agnan. Sparnacian soils (clay and limestone) are located on the higher portion of the hillsides, with more chalk on the bottom.

In Oeuilly, most of the vines are exposed east/northeast:

Being so close to the Marne river helps in dampening the effect of sunlight, allowing the grapes to mature very slowly. This is great for both concentration and acidity.

The other main village for the Tarlant's vines in called Celles-lès-Condé. Mostly Pinot noir is planted there, and the slopes are very steep and south facing. The total surface of the vineyards makes up 50% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay, 15% Pinot Meunier and 5% of Champagne's "forgotten" grapes: Pinot Blanc, Arbanne and Petit Meslier. The vines average at 35 years old, with the oldest around 70-ish.

Everyone was really cold, so we walked back to the Tarlant cellar to taste.

Maybe it was the jetlag, but the lighting was super trippy. Also, who knows where this leads?

Our friend Gaboush bravely went down there to explore and never came back, so we'll never know. Anyway, let's get back to being serious. While in the cellar, Benoît was quick to point out that:

"The simpler winemaking can be, the better it is."

Yet immediately after telling us this, we were explained that of the 57 vineyards, everything is harvested and vinified separately! All in all, there will be around 80 individual wines for Benoît to work with and blend EACH VINTAGE! That doesn't sound all that simple!

Fermentation is done 2/3 in barrel and 1/3 tank, always from indigenous yeast. Usually, young vines are fermented in tank. Very little is done to the wine, save a few batonnuges towards the end of fermentation for the yeasts to finish off the last grams of RS. Malolactic fermentation is rare and not what Benoît is looking for.

To ensure this, only new barrels are brought into the winery. About 3 to 5% on barrels are renewed every year, and Benoît prefers purchasing these in more powerful vintages so that the wood marks the wine less. Only the best juices are used for brand new barrels.

Tasting of the vins clairs begins in January. Benoît's first focus is always on making the best Brut Nature, then the rosé, then the single vineyard wines. Each year, one third of the harvest is kept as reserve wine.

Guess what else Benoît has been tinkering with?

Yup, amphoras. The big one has Chardonnay, the small one has Pinot Noir.

And though it isn't necessarily shocking for us to see tinajas/amphoras getting play in cellars these days (here is a list of people who use them), it still came as a surprise seeing these in the Tarlant cellar.

"I'm was very lucky that my family has always encouraged me to experiment with different ways of doing things."

Benoît is waiting to see if it brings anything extra to the wine, or if the secondary fermentation covers up anything that differs from the other barrel fermented wines. Regardless of the results, it's experiments like these that show how truly dedicated Benoît is to pushing things forward. He is truly next level in the cellar, and the work ethic is both impressive and inspiring.

From the cellar, we headed back up to the tasting room. But before we were allowed to taste any bottled Champagne, Mélanie had us all sign our names on two magnums of Cuvée Louis.

"We'll drink these next time you all come visit!"

From there, it was an all-out taste-a-thon of current and soon to be releases:

EXCLUSIVE: Get ready for this 2003 vintage wine, La Matinale.

Plus we got to eat a really healthy, hearty meal from Mme Tarlant senior!

<![CDATA[Winter Bonanza 2015: Ulysse Collin in Congy!]]> http://louisdressner.com/date/2015/3/25/295/ http://louisdressner.com/date/2015/3/25/295/ Wed, 25 Mar 2015 27:46:43 GMT

[I must give an infinite amount of thanks to Phillip Ehrlich for kindly providing his notes to me for this next batch of recaps. They would not be possible without him!]

Sorry for the lack of updates. The whole team was super slammed with the 2015 REAL WINE ATTACK tour, where 20 of the finest vignerons in the game SMASHED through Los Angeles, San Francisco, Reno, New Orleans and NYC in 8 days. As with last year, I believe the trip can summed up with one very telling picture:

Moving on...

Olivier Collin is a meticulous man in the cellar. Everything starts with this incredible manual press:

Yes, that is in fact a divine light shining on to me.

This is one of the first presses in the village of Congy. It was built in the 1950's, and the whole village used to use it. During harvest, it is hand operated by 4 people for 12 days, 18 hours a day.

"It's a lot more work, but for me it is fundamental: you extract more matter, tannins, anti-oxidants and it permits the wines to age longer. It may be hard to taste when the wine is young, but they become sublime later on."

Using a manual press forces Olivier to harvest at a higher maturity than if he used a pneumatic one, because otherwise the wine would take on bitter characteristics. The Chardonnay is pressed separately from the Pinot Noir, and all in all 4000 kg of grapes produce about 2050 liters of jus de presse (first juice) and 500l of jus de taille (2nd juice). Notice the numbers on each of these underground tanks?

Olivier meticulously keeps first and second juices from each pressing separately: the first press goes into the cuves 2-5, and he manually deviates the jus de tailles into cuve 1.

After press, Olivier pumps the juices into the débourbage vats pictured below.

The juices are left overnight and sometimes a bit longer to let the juice settle. Olivier likes the juice to be very clear and free of bourbes ("gross lees") because you never know what can be in there.

According to Olivier, many independent growers in Champagne choose to discard their jus de taille and sell them to négociants. This is why many "Champagnes de taille" are usually what ends up in supermarkets. In the case of the Ulysse Collin wines, Olivier feels that the jus de presse gives the wine its backbone and structure -permitting it to age longer- and the jus de taille makes the wine a little stronger, richer and adds gourmandise. Because the second juices are more murky and fragile, Olivier keeps them separated from the first juice at least 1 year before blending.

The entirety of the Ulysse Collin production is fermented and aged in barrel.

Olivier is not a fan of new oak, but new barrels are out of necessity syphoned in every year to replace the old ones. Another major development in the cellar is Olivier's recent investment in foudres, which have been used since the 2011 vintage.

If you're not familiar with the Ulysse Collin wines, sites are not blended and each cuvée is parcel specific. Today, Olivier produces four wines from four sites: Les Maillons, Les Pierrières, Les Roises and Les Enfers. And while vintage and reserve wine is important to the final product, this is not what Oliver is seeking to accomplish with his Champagnes.

"When you work this way (vinifying specific parcels), the goal is not to express the vintage or the percentage of reserve wine. I want you to taste the parcel, to taste its DNA."

Strong words.

Nothing is set in stone, but about 20 to 40% of each year's juices go into his reserve wines.

NON-SEQUITUR FACTOID: The limestone suboils in Congy feature the same type of rare black flint you spot at François Pinon's in Vouvray!

From the cellar, Oliver manually disgorged some 2014's for us to taste.

Before tasting, we took a quick stroll to go visit Les Roises and Les Enfers.

Les Roises and Les Enfers are neighboring parcels, with the former exposed full South and the latter exposed East. The soils for both parcels are clay topsoils and limestone subsoils, though les Roises has a almost twice as much clay.

Walking through Les Enfers, Olivier grabbed this plant from the soil:

It is called Le Mouron des Oiseaux, which might just be the frenchest thing I've ever heard.

"When you see this plant, you know your soils are doing well. It's a bio-indicator that proves there is healthy microbiology in the soil."

As we've discussed before, Olivier isn't 100% convinced with organic viticulture, at least not in Champagne. He tried working les Roises organically in 2012 and lost 80% of his crop.

"I admit 2012 was the wrong year to launch myself into working organically. But I really believe that is is extremely difficult working 100% organically in Champagne's conditions. As an aside, one thing I notice about organic Champagne is they tend to taste more bitter to me. I believe this is because the use of copper increases the thickness of the skins, and I feel it is evident in the wine. I still believe that the most important thing anyone can do in the vineyard is work the soils."

For protection, Olivier mostly sprays the vines with silica. However, if he sees a sickness taking place, he will intervene with Pecadeux, a non-systemic product that is legally allowed in German organics but not in France.

"I don't believe in treating my vineyards with with systemic products. But I also don't believe in letting my vines suffer greatly from illness. I treat them like I would treat myself: if I'm really not feeling well, I will take antibiotics to get better."

Of course, we then tasted the 2014's, which were obviously very young but already showing great promise. We were also treated to the one-time-only Le Magnum, a relic from 2006 vintage.

<![CDATA[New Estate: Agnanum in Campi Flegrei! Profile+Visit Recap!]]> http://louisdressner.com/date/2015/2/27/294/ http://louisdressner.com/date/2015/2/27/294/ Fri, 27 Feb 2015 27:33:35 GMT


There's an old Italian expression that goes: "Vedi Napoli e poi muori", or "See Naples and Die". I can't really explain why, but any city where traffic is this fucking insane at any random street corner will always have a special place in my heart.

It's worth watching until the end. So many close calls... So few helmets...

Also, this:

Best. Outfit. Ever.

But Napoli isn't just panic-inducing traffic, insane all-night street parties, incredible architecture, delicious pizza and fashionable children. If you head to the Western edge of the city, you find yourself in Campi Flegrei, a unique area on the edge of the Tyrrhenian Sea. Geologically, Campi Flegrei is marked by many large volcanic craters. Combine this with the sea's constant winds and you have a fascinating terroir.

While still within the city limits, much of the area feels desolate and forgotten. However, if you follow the twisty, unkempt roads to the crater of Agnano, there is plenty of beauty to experience at Raffaele Moccia's 4 hectare estate, Agnanum.

All of Raffaele's vines are located on a single, steep hillside overlooking the mainland in all its postindustrial glory.

Here is Agnano's lovely hippodrome:

Fortunately, once you turn away from the urban panoramic, you are treated to an absolutely stunning vineyard site.

The soils here are sand and volcanic ash, with the vines planted on terraces that make mechanization impossible. Terraces have been the traditional way of planting in this area for centuries, but in an all too familiar tale, most growers are abandoning them because it's too much work. Speaking of too much work, Rafaelle has to be very careful with his soils.

"If you don't till, the rain goes right through (the soil) and messes everything up."

To avoid this, he lets grass grow wild to absorb water that would otherwise overfeed the vines. The grass also helps create a layer of moisture that helps cool down the vines.

"I didn't come up with this system. It is very old!"

Rafaelle's land is considered a historical vineyard: the youngest vines are 60 years old and the oldest are "at least" 200. Because his soils are so sandy, everything is planted in franc de pied.

"We're drinking the wines the Romans were drinking. Well, with the help of a more modern cellar!"

2.8 hectares of the native Falanghina are planted for white and 1.2 hectares of Piedirosso for red. The vines are some of the most strangely shaped I've ever witnessed.

Rafaelle described the training system as pergola, yet it doesn't resemble what one usually associates with the term.

At one point, a distinct whiff of sulfur overtook the group. That's because there are nearby sulfur eruptions all the time.

See that smoke in the middle? Sulfur cloud.

As we continued our walk through the vines, Rafaelle explained that there are 4 layers to his soil: sandy volcanic, humus, fine sand from basalt and finally basalt subsoils. It is very compact, and in such the roots of the vines feed from all 4 layers.

"Though the younger vines only reach the first 3."

By "younger", I'm pretty sure he meant the 60 year old vines.

Another particularity of these soils is that they auto-restrict yields, which was surprising since the vines are so huge.

Look, it's an old lady working her land alone in the horizon!

I spotted hoses in the vines, and asked Rafaelle about them.

"These are not for irrigation, but rather to have water handy when doing treatments. It's much easier to start from the top of the vines and having pitstops on the way down than having to go all the way back down each time."

At the very top of the hill, some young vines have been planted in massale and franc de pied. They are 15. To help them grow and develop, Rafaelle has planted fava beans in the rows and fertilizes the land with rabbit shit.

I found rabbit shit to be an oddly specific animal for this task, but it turns out that Rafaelle has a side-buisness of raising rabbits, so that makes sense. Speaking of which:

Our tasting/lunch took place in this medieval dungeon type space that was a stark contrast to the beautiful vines.

Rafaelle's son, who is currently in culinary school, made us a banging lunch from this amazing wood fire oven.

Of course, we had to eat some rabbit!

We also tasted some wine. In the cellar, slow native yeast fermentations take place in stainless steel tanks. Malolactic has never occurred since Rafaelle took over the winemaking.

For the white wine, 10mg of sulfur is added at the beginning of fermentation and nothing after. A light filtration also takes place. The red is unfiltered and un-fined.

Rafaellees great, great grandfather used to sell the wine in vrac to to restaurants in Naples. He would load barrels up in a horse wagon and bring them to town.

"The wine became so popular that my father had to start a lottery system. The wine would go to the winners."

Rafaelle is the first generation to bottle the wine with the 2002 vintage. 4 wines are produced: a Campi Flegrei Bianco that is 100% Falanghina, a IGT white thates 50% Falanghina and 50% grapes Ieve never heard of. He also makes two reds from Piedirosso: Per e Palumm and Vigne del Volpe, a selection from the oldest vines. They are all delicious.

After leaving, we got a little lost on the way to our next appointment and, after pulling over, met a really ugly dog with a heart of gold.

Due to his underbite, we nicknamed him Teeth. I wanted to keep him forever.

<![CDATA[Paul Gillet of Les Maisons Brûlées Interview!]]> http://louisdressner.com/date/2015/2/16/293/ http://louisdressner.com/date/2015/2/16/293/ Mon, 16 Feb 2015 22:50:21 GMT

"When you truly love wine, you can immediately tell the difference in the way people work in the vineyards and cellar. You can taste convictions, from the choices made in the vines to those in the cellar."

A fascinating interview with Paul Gillet, the new proprietor of Les Maisons Brûlées. Find out how Paul and his wife Corinne went from opening a retail shop in Mulhouse to throwing pop up dinners in Buenos Aires. Read about their plans to start a viticultural estate in Argentina and eventually settling in France. Learn from Paul's wise words and choice philosophical musings!

Read the interview here!

<![CDATA[The Didier Diaries Part 9: The Grand Finale!]]> http://louisdressner.com/date/2015/2/4/292/ http://louisdressner.com/date/2015/2/4/292/ Wed, 04 Feb 2015 19:57:53 GMT


This final post is dedicated to Joe Dressner and Joe Dougherty. Your spirits live in the Clos forever.

I can't remember what time I woke up, but it was early. As if by divine intervention, it just so happened that the last harvest day of Clos Roche Blanche's last vintage landed on my last day in France. Sometimes, when you know you are going to be part of something significant before it's actually happened, the self-awareness leads to expectations of emotions running high from the get-go. But to my surprise, everyone remained cool and collected throughout the work day. Later on would be another story...

Just like with the Côt, Catherine and I were the last ones to arrive to the vines. Once again, Catherine immediately got into boss-mode and started leading us into the vines. Friends and family came to help, including Laurent Saillard:

Béatrice Augé and Balou:

and Catherine's daughter Claire:

The morning went by smoothly, with everyone working at a brisk, professional pace. Except me. I was super slow.

The Côt was nothing to scoff at and the Romorantins at Tue-Boeuf were gorgeous, but this Cabernet Franc gave' em a run for their money.

While we harvested, Didier vigilantly observed every bunch being dumped into the wagon to inspect quality and get rid of dirty extras such as leaves or branches.

Around noon, the wagon was full so Catherine sent the harvesting team home for lunch while we got ready to load what had been been picked into a vat. Before we could do this, 6 of us had to MANUALLY LIFT an old car that was in the way of the vat (we thought we could push it but the front breaks were stuck, resulting in an improvised Worlds Strongest Man event). Then Catherine had to do some serious tractor maneuvering to get the wagon in position.

Unlike with the Côt, here we did not manually de-stem a portion of the grapes on a moving tray table. Instead, we loaded the grapes into an égrapeuse, a mechanical device that de-stemms the grapes. But first, we had to drain the juice from the grapes crushed at the bottom of the wagon:

Once the grapes were ready to come out, we got to work!

You can't tell from the video, but you actually need 5 people involved at all times for this entire process: the first is Didier pushing grapes out from the top of the wagon. The wagon is equipped with this mechanism to make things go smoother:

The whole time, Claire was making sure the grapes fell correctly into the égrapeuse. You also need a person clearing the bins of discarded stems and two people getting their hands dirty at the bottom and pushing grapes through to make sure the machine doesn't get clogged. The last job is quite strange, since your hand is emerged in juice that is much colder than you'd imagine, effectively making your hand feel like an icicle.

Once this was done, we sat down for a long, beautiful lunch prepared by Catherine's mother Solange.

There was still some work to do, so got right back to it around 2:00pm.

And then, in a little over an hour's work, it was over. I was trailing in the back, but it was confirmed by Laurent's:

"That's it for Clos Roche Blanche's 2014!"

There were of course grapes to load into the vat, but not nearly as much as the morning's harvest. When we got back down to the house, Catherine was paying her pickers one by one. Some hung out, others left as soon as they got their check. There was some wine open, but I was desperately craving beer so Laurent, Claire and I went on a mission to grab a bunch.

Sipping beers, the late afternoon conversation was jovial. As it began getting darker, those still hanging agreed it was time to eat something. Along with the leftovers from lunch, Catherine cooked a huge bowl of pasta. Though every meal at Clos Roche Blanche is always complemented with wine from the estate, Didier chose to serve us, in honor of it being my favorite wine EVER, his very last bottle of L'Arpent Rouge 2010.

As the night went on, things predictably got emotional, especially as I had to tell many of the people I'd spent the last two weeks with goodbye. I also individually thanked Didier and Catherine for letting me be a part of this experience, one that for so many reasons will remain a hallmark in my life.

It got a little weepy...

Being there for the end of something that truly mattered is certainly bittersweet. Clos Roche Blanche is a magical place, and Catherine and Didier are magical people; whether they realize it or not, they have touched and inspired countless lives through their work. But as I stood outside at the end of the night, alone and watching the stars in the crystal clear sky, I didn't feel sad. If anything, I was excited to see what the future holds: for the Clos Roche Blanche vines, for Catherine, for Didier, for Laurent and Julien.

And shit, even for me.

<![CDATA[The Didier Diaries Part 8: Le Décuvage!]]> http://louisdressner.com/date/2015/1/24/291/ http://louisdressner.com/date/2015/1/24/291/ Sat, 24 Jan 2015 27:01:04 GMT


The décuvage, or "devatting", is the critical moment when you press the red grapes that have been macerating on their skins, stems and seeds to extract their juice. To do so, you have to manually take them out of the vat where they have been macerating.

That juice you see dripping from the vat is called the jus de goutte; this comes from the grapes at the bottom of the vat crushed by the weight of the bunches on top of them. The jus de goutte has usually finished its alcoholic fermentation by the time of the décuvae, but the berries that haven't completely burst still have a ways to go.

The jus de goutte drips down into the press, which is directly below the vats.

From there, the first step involves shoveling out the grapes from the vat into the press.

You eventually get to a point when you can't reach any more grapes from the outside and must physically enter the vat to keep pushing them out.

A few days after we devatted the Gamay, I would go into the vat of Côt to repeat this operation. IT IS SO HOT IN THERE! As Eben Lillie once described it:

"It's like being in a NYC subway with broken air conditioning In August!"

Not only that, but because of all the trapped CO2, you get all light-headed. It's kind of fun but also a little freaky, since fainting is never a good look.

Anyway, once the grapes are in the press, it's time for the juice to flow!

As you can see, the vats and press are outside (a unique particularity at Clos Roche Blanche), and the wine is racked by gravity into the underground cellar.

A few hours later, it was time to clean the press. The first step of this required removing the marc (or pomace), aka the solid remains of grapes after pressing for juice. Didier tractored this bin over so we could throw it in there.

By observing the marc, you can see that the grapes are evenly flattened but the stems aren't.

"This is great because it means the marc isn't imparting its flavor into the wine. 15 years ago, equipment was much less efficient. You would always see flattened stems."

As far as the press itself, the way it works is as follows: a bladder full of air pushes in a vertical line. Grapes are pressed and go through this grid, which does not let solids through.

The marc is aged for 3 years, then used as a natural compost for the vines.

After the marc had been cleared, it was time to vigorously hose everything down.

"Being a vigneron is 90% manual labor and 10% internal reflection. On the other hand vinifying is 10% reflection and 90% cleaning stuff. It's not as noble as everyone thinks!"

For every liter of wine produced, you need 1.5 liters of water to clean up the equipment.

"It used to be 2. We have better technology now."]]>
<![CDATA[Lotsa More Harvest Reports!]]> http://louisdressner.com/date/2015/1/16/290/ http://louisdressner.com/date/2015/1/16/290/ Fri, 16 Jan 2015 24:26:18 GMT


Francis and Delphine Boulard!!!

Eric Texier!!!

Campi di Fonterenza!!!

<![CDATA[The Didier Diaries Part 7: Le Prélèvement and Testing for Volatile Acidity!]]> http://louisdressner.com/date/2015/1/13/289/ http://louisdressner.com/date/2015/1/13/289/ Tue, 13 Jan 2015 5:00:58 GMT


I've already mentioned the process of the prélèvement in the first part of this series, but to re-iterate, it consists of grabbing a bucket's worth of grape bunches, crushing and analyzing them to decide if the time is right to harvest. In Part 2, Didier and I had done an initial prélèvement of the Cabernet Franc. Five days later, it was time to do another one.

The Cabernet Franc is not in the lieu-dit Clos Roche Blanche, but in a plot just outside of La Boudinerie (an old farm where Didier, Laurent Saillard and Noella Morantin live).

"I consider this our best terroir."

Didier's instructions were simple: pick a random row to pick random bunches from, repeat until your bucket is full. You also need to constantly snack on grapes to see how they taste. By utilizing this randomized process, you get a global idea of entire plot's overall ripeness. Picking lasted about 20 minutes.

From there, we headed back to "the lab" to test the juice out!

Catherine noticed that the pigs with arrows were pointing at Julien as if to indicate he was one, prompting us all to laugh.

The first device you can see in the pictures above is similar to an old school thermometer, and this is to measure sugar levels. This next device, which looks like a taser, is to measure PH levels.

The final test is acidity, where you keep adding this liquid until the juice becomes blue.

I still don't understand how it works, but it's essentially a chemical reaction that happens once there is the right amount.

After manually smushing my grapes, it was my turn to analyse my bucket's worth of fruit.

Our results were identical. After testing and tasting the juices, we agreed it tasted good but was not ready. In such, Dider decides to harvest the following Tuesday (October 10th).

"There is a big difference between today and five days ago, but it's not there yet."

"You knew just from tasting the grapes in the vines that they weren't ready, didn't you?"

"Yes. Well, I mean I'm not surprised they aren't ready."

On another day, Didier took me to the lab in his room to the Gamay for volatile acidity.

Here is the setup:

And the main piece of equipment is this cool ass thing:

This is how it works: you add 2 drops of oxygenated water (which blocks away any sulfur, which could alter results) and add 10ml of wine. The bottom heats the water, creating rising vapors that boil down the wine. Here is the whole process in action:

"It's very similar to a distillation".

The result of this operation is that all of the wine's volatile acid is diluted into vapor and water, both completely clear.

"Volatile means "it can fly", which is why it can easily get extracted out of the wine. All the other molecules are too heavy and will fall back down."

On a completely unrelated note, Didier has this sweet out-of-order pinball machine in his room.

<![CDATA[Harvest Reports from Elisabetta Foradori, François Cazin, Clemens Busch and Agnès et René Mosse!]]> http://louisdressner.com/date/2015/1/10/288/ http://louisdressner.com/date/2015/1/10/288/ Sat, 10 Jan 2015 5:04:27 GMT

We've been late on providing harvest reports this year, but rest assured that we still have a couple more batches after this post. I promise they will all be up on the site well before you get a chance to taste any of these!

Elisabetta Foradori!

François Cazin!

Clemens Busch!

Agnès et René Mosse!]]>
<![CDATA[Watch an Extremely Infomative Video about Quinta do Infantado and Learn A Shit-Ton!]]> http://louisdressner.com/date/2015/1/2/287/ http://louisdressner.com/date/2015/1/2/287/ Fri, 02 Jan 2015 26:56:32 GMT

Happy New Year!!!

Ring in 2015 by learning an insane amount of information on Quinta do Infantado and Port wine in general? Originally published by our lovely distributor David Bowler Wines, this video is narrated by João Roseira himself. It's a fascinating, well paced and extremely informative glimpse into the often misunderstood world of Port. It's also a glimpse into Quinta do Infantado's work and why they are considered one of the best Port producers in the world. Enjoy!]]>
<![CDATA[New Producer: Laurent Lebled of A la Vôtre!]]> http://louisdressner.com/date/2014/12/23/286/ http://louisdressner.com/date/2014/12/23/286/ Tue, 23 Dec 2014 27:02:51 GMT

Did you guys know we like wine from the Loire? Did you know that we work with 6 producers from Touraine? Well make it 7!

I met up with Laurent Lebled in the center square of Saint-Aignan, just a 5 minute drive from Clos Roche Blanche. From there, it was a quick drive to to a good portion of the land he rents.

Laurent currently rents land from 3 separate owners. Because he currently lives too far to do so, for the time being the Saint-Aignan owner does all of the viticultural work here. Laurent makes his specific requests (working the soil, yields, etc...), then comes with his team to harvest. And because he vinifies over an hour away (more on this later), he then shuttles the grapes in a refrigerated truck.

Originally from Saumur, Laurent planned to start his estate in Touraine. After some diligent research, he was able to secure rented vines and a cellar, but the guy with the cellar dropped the ball at the last minute. Laurent had to improvise and, as you will see, found himself forced to spread himself all over the place. He currently vinifies over an hour away in Savigny en Véron, but is confident he will eventually relocate to Saint-Aignan. Laurent been working the same 1.7 hectares here since he started in 2010.

0.8 hectares consist of Sauvignon planted in 1962 on clay and limestone. The Gamay is massale from vines planted in 1950 and 1970, and planted in rockier subsoils which give the wine a more structured acidity. The Cabernet Franc is on similar soil to the Gamay and planted in the 60's and 70's.

Laurent was born and raised in Saumur. Before making wine, he was a successful wood merchant for 30 years. Specializing in chestnut trees, he sourced woods from Spain, Portugal and Italy. But by 2008, the recession hit hard and Laurent had to shut up shop.

"I had never done anything else. But it was clearly the end of an era for this type of work. I had no idea what I was going to do, and never thought about making wine. Not even for a second."

It was his childhood friend Sebastien Bobinet, who himself gave up a first career to tend his grandfather's 2 hectares of Cabernet Franc, who proposed that Laurent follow a similar path. After some rigorous research to find land and a cellar, A la Vôtre's first vintage was in 2010.

"I just jumped right into it by learning in the vines. Sebastien helped me through the entire process in 2010, from pruning to vinification. Combined with the additional help of Patrick Corbineau, this gave me the confidence to continue. It's a beautiful second chance. It's an incredible feeling to see something through from beginning to end."

We then drove an hour to Chinon country, where Laurent was able to find the chai where he vinifies and ages the wine. Because of his proximity to nice vineyards, he couldn't resist renting some land here as well. This he works 100% from beginning to end. The first plot we visited was 0.49 hectares of Cabernet Franc planted on pure sand.

This plot used to be worked conventionally, and after 4 years of conversion Laurent is finally able to easily work the grass and soils.

"No one wanted this vineyard because the rows are all different (in length) and you can't use machines here."

The grapes here are blended with the Cabernet from Saint-Aignan to make the On Est Su l' Sable cuvée.

Both sites are vinified separately. I was surprised to learn that a parcel this far out could still be classified as an AOC Touraine wine.

"It can! The first vintage we made it a Touraine wine, but have stuck to Vin de France since then."

A lot of replacements have been necessary, and Laurent planted many in 2012. His neighbors also replanted a bunch at the exact same time, and the difference is shocking. Here's Laurent's:

And here are his neighbor's:

"I have no idea how that's even possible."

Me neither. As we drove off, I couldn't help but feel I'd been to this vineyard before. It all felt eerily familiar...

We then drove to Laurent's 0.6 hectares in Les Picasses, the famed lieu-dit where Olga Raffault (amongst many others) produce some of their most expressive wines. In fact, it turns out that Laurent's parcel direct neighbors Olga Raffault's Chenin Blanc!

This parcel was also worked conventionally prior to Laurent's rental, and in still in conversion. The grapes were looking nice, and Laurent believed he'd harvest a few days later.

From Les Picasses, we drove to Laurent's vinification chai, which just so happens to be in Savigny-en-Véron, the village where Olga Rafault is based. And it just so happened that Laurent's chai is literally three doors down from the Raffault house! Neighbors again!

We naturally popped in to say hi. Eric and Sylvie had no idea I'd be visiting, and were just returning from picking a parcel in Les Picasses. Though Eric was busy getting the grapes into tank, Sylvie graciously offered us a few drinks of older vintages.

As we kept chatting, the fact that they were neighbors in Les Picasses came up. And from there, it was confirmed that the parcel that the Raffault produce Les Barnabés with is RIGHT NEXT to Laurent's sandy parcel. That's why it felt so familiar! So to recap, Laurent Lebled and the Olga Raffault are neighbors EVERYWHERE. What are the odds?

As we left for the chai, Laurent was really happy that I introduced him to Eric and Sylvie.

"This is the first time I'm meeting a colleague and neighbor since I started. Sometimes I feel all alone out here. It's good to know there are nice people just next door!"

In the chai, Laurent showed me his vinification process. During fermentation, he keeps a heater on because it gets very cold in there. He tries keeping it around 20&#730;.

The main vinifications happen in concrete tanks with wood planks on the bottom. A full carbonic maceration takes place for 30 days (an average, "normal" carbonic maceration goes from 10-12 days). Here are the whole clusters in tank:

Once the fermentation takes place, the grapes are pressed and racked to fiberglass tanks:

The wines stay on their lees until bottling.

To taste the older vintages, we THEN had to drive to Laurent's storage cellar, an old tuffeau cave in a neighboring village.

Man this is a lot of bouncing around! We did a vertical all the way back to 2010. Each vintage- and this is not a bad thing- was radically different.

"I have no shame admitting that I am completely new to this and learning as I go. Every vintage has proven to be a completely unique experience, both in the work and in the flavors of the wines."

I found it particularly interesting how the wines are able to keep a more rustic, terroir driven quality than most pure-carbo vinifications. Laurent believes this is due to the extended period of time he lets the intra-cellular fermentation occur.

We THEN drove to Saumur to eat at the excellent Bistro des Jean, a tiny spot doing amazing French bistro fare. Highly recommended. The two owners were are originally from Saumur but had a successful place in Paris for years. Eventually, they got sick of the big city and moved back home. More importantly, they have this incredibly huge dog:

His name is Gandalf, and he is the size or a small horse!]]>