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Today's email is full of delicious food-friendly Beaujolais that are variations on a theme - beautifully aromatic, light to medium-bodied wines from Gamay, mostly from granite soils, with low to moderate alcohol, great terroir expression and gorgeous fruit - wines that are perfect, served a bit cool, with any mildly flavored cuisine, especially chicken and pork dishes, not to mention charcuterie and cow cheeses as well. All wines arive by Tuesday, March 12.
Let's start with Georges Descombes and his step-son Damian Coquelet. Located in Vermont, a tiny hamlet in Villié-Morgon, Georges Descombes is the unofficial fifth member of the iconic "Gang of Four": Marcel Lapierre, Jean Foillard, Jean-Paul Thévenet and Guy Breton. Georges took over the estate from his father in 1988, and immediately started shifting viticultural and oenological practices forward by practicing organic viticulture (certified by Ecocert) and eliminating all entrants or manipulation during vinification. A minuscule dose of sulfur - is usually added before bottling to help preserve the wines. Grapes are hand-harvested, then stored in a temperature controlled container before being placed in 60 hl cement tanks. A traditional, semi-carbonic maceration occurs, and the wine ferments from its ambient yeasts. For each Cru, Georges produces old vine cuvées which are vinified separately, then aged in barrel six months before bottling. We find the wines of Georges Descombes to be among the finest and most consistent in Beaujolais, always with moderate alcohol, lovely complex fruit and beautiful expression of each terroir. And of course the organic farming and minimal use of SO2 give the wines an extra dimension of purity and complexity of fruit.
Damien Coquelet bottled his first vintage, 2007, at just 20 years old! The step-son of Georges Descombes, Damien has worked alongside him since early childhood. Learning everything from Descombes in the vines and shared cellar has instilled the same values in Damien's work ethic: organic viticulture, hand harvesting, native yeasts, zero intervention in the cellar and little if any sulfur at bottling. The 2017 Morgon Cote de Py and 2016 Chiroubles Vieilles Vignes in today's email are particulary complex and aromatically pretty - they deserve your attention!
The Morgon Vieilles Vignes from Jean-Paul Thevenet is always one of the greatest of Beaujolais. From 4.75 hectares near Le Clachet, from vines averaging 70 years of age, with some planted before World War One. About 2,000 cases are produced. Vineyard work is biodynamic, fermentation is with wild yeasts at a moderately low temperature (10 - 13 degrees Celsius). Aging is mostly in old barrels with minimal extraction. While Thevenet's wines can be a bit austere in their youth, they age beautifully and are usually at their best between five and fifteen years of age. The 2017 is a beautiful example of this wine - please aerate of decant if drinking now...
Joseph Chamonard was one of the first growers in Morgon to adopt the ideas of Jules Chauvet and quietly made some of the greatest Beaujolais on his small estate. His daughter Geneviève and her husband Jean-Claude Chanudet took over the estate in 1990 and have continued to make small quantities of superb Morgon. Not as well known as Lapierre, Foillard, Descombes and other "stars" of the region, the wines of Domaine Chamonard are certainly of equal quality and deserve your attention. Although M. Chanudet eschews "biologique" certification, the vineyard work is exemplary, with only organic treatments and plowing in spring and early summer. The domaine has about 4 hectares of massale-selection vines averaging over 60 years-old, principally in the parcels of les Martillets, Chenes and Corcelette, planted at 10,000 vines per hectare. Harvests are late for maximum ripeness. Chanudet's winemaking is similar to Descombes and others in Morgon, with a low temperature soak and a combination of carbonic maceration and conventional fermentation with indigenous yeasts, followed by 8 to 12 months in foudre. While the Chamonard Morgons are always fairly rich and full there is good acidity and balance - even in 2003 and 2009 (a particularly great vintage for Chamonard) the wines possessed earthy acidity and were not "hot" or over-ripe. Of paticular interest today is a small quantity of Chamonrd's rare and beautiful Fleurie "La Madone!"
Many years ago, Christian Ducroux introduced us to the beautiful wines of Roland and Joëlle Pignard. Based in hamlet of "Saint-Joseph," above Villié-Morgon, the Pignards have 4 and 1/2 hectares, with parcels in Beaujolais-Villages, Regnié and Morgon and are certified organic by Ecocert and Biodynamic by Demeter. They plow and till using horse-drawn implements to avoid compacting the soil. No SO2 is used during fermentation or elevage, with a minimal dose added before bottling giving total SO2 of about 8 - 10 mg/L. The resulting wines have subtle, pure fruit with perfect acidity and a pronounced mineral character with graphite, stone and earthy qualities. Now in retirement, the Pignards will periodically be releasing their last remaining stock of these unique wines of terroir - they are delicious for current drinking and the Morgon '''Tradition" will cellar beautifully for five to eight years.
Our old friend Jean-Paul Brun of the Domaine des Terres d'Orees will be in NY for our Partners in Health tasting - we're happy to feature his lovely Beaujolais Blanc made from organically grown grapes on limestone soils in the southern Beaujolais, and we especially love his Côte-de-Brouilly, made from 50 to 60 year-old vines on a steep section of Mont Brouilly with a south-east exposition at about 1,000 ft of altitude. Here the soil is all stones, mostly a blue volcanic rock rather than the granite soils prevalent in the Beaujolais. These are both delicious wines and great values - we hope you try them!
Please Join us at Racines NY on Tuesday evening as we taste a very interesting selection of Beaujolais: 2009 Coudert Clos de la Roilette "Cuvée Tardive;" 2013 Ducroux Patience; 2014 Descombes Chiroubles; 2015 Dutraive Fleurie "Part des Grives;" 2017 Chamonard Fleurie "La Madone" and 2017 Thevenet Morgon Vieilles Vignes. 6pm, six half-pours $35 (The delicious small plates of Chef Diego Moya would be a great accompaniment!)
(Our note from 2018) We're very proud to have the lovely Morgons of Roland Pignard at Chambers Street. From high-elevation 50 to 60 year-old vines in the commune of Saint-Joseph north-west of Villié-Morgon, in sandy clay soils over granite in the lieu-dit "les Charmes. Biodynamic farming, no SO2 until a minimal dose before bottling, with a relatively short period of carbonic-maceration. The wine shows a bright medium red color with elegant aromas of black raspberry, black chery and earth with rose and violet. The palate is deep and ripe with firm acidity but stays light on its feet at 12.5% alcohol, with black and red fruits and mineral flavors that continue in the long finish. The "Tradition" cuvée is slightly rounder and deeper, but there is little difference between the wines in this super vintage for the Pignards. Serve cool with chicken and pork dishes, and put a few bottles away for five years as well. Highly recommended. David Lillie
(Our note from 2018) The Pignard's Morgon Cuvée Tradition is simply superb in 2016. Good friends with Christian Ducroux, the Pignards practise similar methods of biodynamic farming and natural vinifications. Produced from steep hillside vineyards, the wine ferments naturally, with approximately 10mg of SO2 added and spends a year in vat followed by a year in old barriques. The 2016 vintage was a difficult one for the growers, resulting in low yields, but with a sunny late season that produced beautiful wines with pure fruit, light to medium body and firm acidity. The 2016 Morgon Tradition is a superb wine, showing a deep red color and aromas of ripe morello cherry, strawberry and black raspberry liqueur, with violet, rose, orange peel and earth. There is berry liqueur on the palate which is dense and long but not heavy. It's well balanced and bright at 12.5 % alcohol, finishing with sappy black fruits, citrus and earth. Serve in it's vibrant youth with steak frites, charcuterie, coq au vin and cow cheeses. This will be worth cellaring, best perhaps 2022 - 2030. Highly recommended. David Lillie
George Descombes consistently makes some of our favorite wines in Beaujolais, and the his village wines are some of the best values in the region. George works the vines organically, ferments using only native yeasts and whole cluster, semi-carbonic maceration and bottles with minimal sulpher, creating expressions of Beaujolias that are fruit-driven, but with beautiful minerality and aging potential. His vines in Morgon are planted on soils of sand/gravel and decomposing granite. The 2017 is a beautiful medley of ripe red fruit: wild raspberries, dark cherry, red currants and pomegranate. It is balanced with floral aromatics of rose and violets, and an underlying earthy leafiness. There is great depth to the fruit, and the wine is carried to a long and satisfying finish by soft, ripe, and very well integrated tannins and good acidity. A hint of crunchy minerality rounds this out perfectly. Oskar Kostecki
The 2017 Regnié from Geroges Descombes is a finely balanced wine, even in a warmer vintage, Ripe and generous fruit is offset with lively acidity and a vivid intensity on the palate that keeps this wine lifted and fresh. On the nose there are aromas of red and black currant, strawberry, raspberry, black cherry, rose, violets, and licorice. The palate has soft and finely integrated tannins and shows notes of strawberry and raspberry compote, cranberry, blackberry, pomegranate, orange peel, baking spice and a granitic minerality, especially on the complex and satisfying finish. This is a very versatile wine, and I wouldn't hesitate to pair with a wide range of foods, from roast chicken, to burgers or even a pork chop. It was equally at home accompanying the watching of a movie on the couch with just a little, hastily composed cheese plate for backup. A joyful wine for all occasions. Oskar Kostecki
Georges Descombes is one of the great producers of natural Beaujolais - the Descombes Brouilly comes from 3.5 hectares on steep slopes, farmed organically. Carbonic maceration with whole clusters then a slow vertical press to finish the fermentation. No additives, a small addition of SO2 before bottling. The 2017 shows just a bt more ripeness and softer fruit than the 2016 with lovely aromas of strawberry, blackberry and violet with herbal and citrus notes. The palate is fresh and mineral infused with berry fruits and citrusy acids. This is a lovely food-friendly Brouilly to serve, quite cool, with chicken, pork, charcuterie and mild cheeses...
The Georges Descombes Regnié VV is a big, beautiful Gamay in this vintage known for ripe, full-bodied wines. The wine shows a deep red/black color and very floral aromas of ripe blackberry and red currant with hints of black cherry, earth and chocolate. The palate is deep and silky with surprisingly bright red currant and black cherry fruit liqueur, meaty and earthy, with a nice mineral kick in the long, lush finish. Serve this delicious Regnié with a steak or grilled meats and put a few in the basement for five to ten years. David Lillie
This is a classic version of the Descombes Morgon VV, showing subtle high-toned black raspberry and tart cherry aromas with plum, violet, citrus, earth and brown spice, really lovely. The elegant black and red fruits continue on the palate with complex notes of blood orange, mint and spice, quite saline and earthy as well, really showing the terroir. The wine is dense and structured but bright and balanced, finishing with refreshing acidity, citrus, cherry fruit, anise and mineral flavors. Delicious now, this should be superb in three to five years, and should drink well till 2030 and beyond. David Lillie
Damien Coquelet, working in the same stlye as his step-father Georges Descombes, has once again created some beautifully old-fashioned Beaujolais in 2017. The Morgon Cote de Py shows lovely aromas of raspberry, strawberry, citrus and rose, very pretty and bright. The palate shows a bit more stucture and darker fruit than the Damien's Chiroubles, with sappy strawberry fruit, a bit of citrus and a more earthy character. The finish is refreshing and long with juicy berry fruit and firm acidity. Serve quite cool with chicken and white meats, grilled foods and charcuterie. Lovely wine.
The step-son of Georges Descombes, Damien Coquelet has worked alongside him since early childhood. Damian's 2016 Chiroubles VV is a beautiful wine showing bright aromas of ripe raspberry, morello chery, violet and citrus, really quite pretty. There is a lively mineral attack on the palate with earthy plum, cherry and raspberry fruit that is sappy, earthy and long. Quite lovely now, this should really sing after a few years of cellaring. Highly recommended! David Lillie
The Thévenet Morgon VV is always one of the greatest of Beaujolais. From 4.75 hectares near Le Clachet, from vines averaging 70 years of age, with some planted before World War One. About 2,000 cases are produced. Vineyard work is biodynamic, fermentation is with wild yeasts at a moderately low temperature (10 - 13 degrees Celsius). Aging is mostly in old barrels from DRC with minimal extraction.. The 2017 Thévenet shows a bit of reduction, then complex aromas of red currant, rose, black plum, earth, violet, blood orange, spice and licorice, light and pretty when first opened then darkening with aeration. The palate shows bright red currant and berry liqueur with mineral, citrus, rose and spice. After three hours open the wine has gathered intensity with deep sappy and earthy black fruits. The finish is firm with citrusy acidity, fruit and mineral flavors with good density and length. Decant if drinking now, this superb natural Morgon will be best from 2022 to 2030. David Lillie
From four hectares of massale-selection, high density plantings ranging from 50 to 100 years of age in the lieu-dits of Chenes, Corcelette, and les Martillets. Vigneron Jean-Claude Chanudet works the vineyards organically but does not seek certification. Upon opening, the 2016 is slightly musky and burly, but with a little bit of air it unfolds into an elegantly balanced wine, displaying vivid fruit, soft tannins, medium body and bright acidity. The nose exhibits aromas of raspberry, cranberry, pomegranate, orange peel, dried rose, and a slight earthy quality. The palate carries the fruit very well, and introduces a slightly savory quality; a hint of black tea and blackcurrant leaf. Pair with all the usual suspects (i.e. roast chicken), this was also quite delicious on it's own. Oskar Kostecki
A rare and delicious Fleurie from Jean-Claude Chanudet at Domaine Chamonard! Since taking over from his father-in-law (Joseph Chamonard) in 1990, Jean-Claude has been keeping the beautiful natural traditions of this estate alive. This Fleurie comes from a single parcel of older vines planted on a steep slope of pink granite soils, farmed by hand without the use of any chemicals. Upon opening the 2017 is quite tight and wound up. With some air the nose starts to show aromas of raspberry, macerated strawberry, red apple peel, pomegranate, zesty orange rind, crushed violets, dried rose, sandalwood, and warm spice. The palate has a depth and intensity to it, and very long finish. One can feel this wine's potential, even through it's slightly awkward youthful demeanor. The bottle I tried took several hours to open up, and was much softer and more approachable the second day. And delicious! This wine has a long life ahead of it, and will reward your patience in the cellar. Oskar Kostecki
The Pignard's Beaujolais-Villages is from a high-elevation parcel with 40 year-old vines in sandy clay over decomposed granite. There is a very short carbonic-maceration to preserve the fresh fruit and only a tiny addition of sulfur before the bottling. The 2016 is a subtle, elegant and well-structured Beaujolais, hosting aromas of cherry, blackberry, and red apple skins, with a light presence of dark flowers. On the palate, there are flavors of dark cherry and essences of fresh, woodsy earth. The structure is lean, with clean minerality. This is a real Beaujolais of terroir that is elegant and delicious now and will improve over the next few years.
Jean-Paul Brun of Domaine des Terres Dorées has 2 parcels of 50 to 60 year-old vines on a steep section of Mont Brouilly with a south-east exposition at about 1,000 ft of altitude. Here the soil is all stones, mostly a blue volcanic rock rather than the granite soils prevalent in the Beaujolais. This is a gorgeous wine! Lovely aromas of ripe blackberry and bright fruits such as boysenberry and red currant, very floral with violets, citrus, cocoa and earth. The palate is ripe but balanced (at 12.5% alcohol) with very sappy black and red fruit liqueur with mineral salts and citrusy acids that linger in the lush finish. (Note that the vinification for this wine is the classic Burgundy method rather than the usual semi-carbonic practised in the Beaujolais.) A beautiful Beaujolais for current drinking and over the next few years. Highly recommended! David Lillie
Jean-Paul Brun's Chardonnay comes 35 year-old vines grown on sandy clay and limestone soils in the southern Beaujolais and is raised in stainless steel (no oak). Bright aromas of peach, apricot, lemon zest, and thyme lead to flavors of pure white fruits, juicy lime, crisp orange blossom, subtle herbal undertones, and a long chalky finish. Paired with salad, seafood,chicken, goat milk cheeses, or nothing at all, this is a beautiful choice and great value in white Burgundy!