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First, we'd like to apologize for being out of Stéphane Guion's wine for almost two months - a disaster, caused by various shipping problems, delays and vacations. The good news is that the shipment arriving next week includes the superb 2016 Cuvée Prestige! For those of you who like to cellar their Bourgueils - or who enjoy drinking a beautifully structured wine that's a bit young - the 2016 Prestige will be a special treat. The 2016 vintage in the Loire Valley was quite difficult, with many growers suffering huge loses to frost on the 27th of April, followed by periods of intense mildew attacks until early July that further lowered yields. Weather in the summer and fall, however, was near perfect with dry sunny conditions prevailing and just the right amount of rain in September. The resulting wines from this low yielding vintage are classically structured, with ripe, vibrant fruit and firm acidity - comparisons can be made to the excellent 2002 and 2010 vintages. Tasted a few weeks ago in France, the 2016 Prestige showed wonderfully with very pretty high-toned aromas and an elegant ripe palate with lovely fruit, firm tannins and terrific length. Thank you, Stéphane!
The Bourgueils of Stephane Guion have become some of the most popular wines at Chambers Street, and for good reason - the domaine was started by Stephane's parents in the 1950's and was converted to organic agriculture in 1965! Stephane, who received an oenological degree and then worked in Bordeaux and Chinon, made his first wine in 1990 and has maintained the organic methods of his parents, using only the natural treatments allowed by Ecocert. Harvesting is by hand and fermentations are with wild yeasts, with no sulfites added. (There are no sulfites added at bottling, only a minimal amount to protect the wine after the malolactic fermentation). The Cuvée Domaine, from 8 to 30 year-old vines, is fermented and aged in stainless steel tanks while the Cuvée Prestige, from 35 to 80 year-old vines, ferments in wooden vats and ages in old barriques. Stephane's Cuvee Deux Monts, first made in 2009 is from 80 year-old vines in "Petits Monts" and "Grand Monts" towards the top of the slope above Benais, facing roughly south-west with soils of clay over Turonien limestone (tuffeau, craie micacée).
After tasting with Stéphane, we paid a visit to his neighbor Stéphanie Caslot at Domaine de la Chevalerie in Restigné, another superb organic producer of delicious age-worthy Bourgueils. The Caslots make six different cuvées based on parcels with different topsoils and different types of underlying limestone - it's a fascinating journey through the great terroirs of Bourgueil. We tasted through the 2014 and 2015 vintages from each site - a superb tasting - and we are happy to offer the wines currently available in NY, mostly 2014s, including the superb "Les Galichets" certainly one of the greatest values from this over-achieving region.
While we're on the subject of Cabernet Franc, we'd like to give a nod to the Chateau de Coulaine, a superb estate in Beaumont-en-Veron, where the young Jean de Bonaventure is continuing the great work of his parents who converted the estate to organic and biodynamic farming in the early 1990s. The "Cuvée Domaine" and the "Bonaventure" offer soft, elegant fruit for current drinking, while the estate's south-facing parcel in the great "Les Picasses" vineyard is a superb Chinon to age that is surprisingly delicious to drink young! (Sorry, low stock on the Picasses, more is on the way...)
(All wines are in stock, with the exception of the 2016 Guion Prestige which arrives Monday March 4th; 2015 Ch. Coulaine Picasses, more inventory arrives March 11th))
2016 brings us another great Cuvée Prestige from Stéphane Guion in Bourgueil, whose domaine has been certified organic since the 1960s. From vines averaging 50 to 70 years old on classic soils of clay over limestone. 2016 was a very difficult vintage in the Loire Valley with many growers suffering huge loses to frost on the 27th of April, followed by periods of intense mildew attacks until early July that further lowered yields. Weather in the summer and fall, however, was near perfect with dry sunny conditions prevailing and just the right amount of rain in September. Comparisons can be made to the 2002 and 2010 vintages. The 2016 Guion Prestige shows wonderful brightness and balance with lovely high-toned aromas of strawberry compote with floral, herbal and musky notes, with hints of roast coffee and bitter chocolate. There is intense material on the palate which is elegant and ripe with fine tannins, with bright strawberry and cherry fruits encased in brisk, very earthy acids. A brilliant wine that needs five years or more in the cellar, peak drinking perhaps 2023 to 2040. If drinking now decant well in advance or open/taste/re-cork two or three days beforehand. 1989 and 1990 tasted recently at the domaine were fantastic — given the low price, this is one of the world's great values to cellar. Thank you, Stéphane!
From 80-year-old vines in "Petits Monts" and "Grand Monts" towards the top of the slope above Benais, facing roughly south-west, clay over Turonien limestone (tuffeau, craie micacée). This is the terroir giving the most elegant and age-worthy Bourgueils. 18-month élevage ; 40% in cuve inox, 20% in one new 400 liter barrel, 20% in one-year and 20% in two-year old barrels, assembled two months before bottling. Tasted in February 2016, the wine was fairly closed and tight, with deep, pure black fruits and perfect balance. This will be a sensational mature wine, best to wait eight to ten years, or more, then drink until 2040.
This is a superb "les Picasses" from Jean, Etienne and Pascale de Bonnaventure at Chateau de Coulaine, who have been practising organic and biodynamic agriculture since taking charge in 1988. The parcel is at the top of the vineyard with southern exposure, on the classic clay/limestone "tuffeau" in Beaumont-en-Veron. This quite dense and powerful Chinon is aged in one-third new barrels and barrels of one and two wines.The wine shows a dark red/black color with beautiful aromas of ripe strawberry and black-raspberry with earth, citrus and spice, really deep and pretty. The palate is quite dense and a bit more round and open than the more austere 2014, with dark berry fruits framed in a touch of oak. The fruit is elegant and deep and the wine finishes with black fruits, earth, firm acidity and elegant tannins. This is a "serious" Chinon of terroir that will drink well young and will age beautifully as well, best 2022 to 2040.
This is another beautiful wine from the shy and affable Stephane Guion who is quietly making some of the best wines in Bourgueil. His 2017 Cuvèe Domaine is from young (15 to 40 year-old) vines on clay/limestone terroir in Benais and is simply delicous, a bit softer and more foward than the vibrant 2016. The wine shows aromas of raspberry and red currant liqueur, violets and citrus - very ripe but still bright with earthy hints as well. The palate is medium-bodied and fresh with firm acidity but more supple than usual for the Cuvée Domaine, with chalky, saline mineral flavors framing the ripe red and black fruits, which continue in the long earthy finish. Drink now, served cool, with grilled chicken and pork, charcuterie, green vegetables and mild cheeses, or hold 5 to 8 years for a velvety mature experience. This is a beautiful wine that transcends its price point - Thanks to Stephane Guion! David Lillie
The Chevalerie "Diptyque" is from sand and gravel soils in Bourgueil, producing a wine to drink young, served cool - 100% Cabernet Franc, of course. The 2015 is particularly good, with lovely aromas of black raspberry and crushed strawberry with hints of violet, mint, pepper and earth. The palate is balanced, ripe and pretty with supple black raspberry and red currant fruit in a bright frame, a bit softer and more forward than the 2014. Serve a bit chilled with charcuterie, chicken and pork dishes and mild cheeses. DL
The Chevalerie "Galichets" vineyard is on mid-slope Turonian limestone with clay and alluvial sand and gravel topsoils, rich in silex; the vines average about 60 years of age - similar to the "Chevalerie" parcel but a bit lower on the slope, giving a wine that is more open and easy for early drinking. The 2015 vintage is excellent, with a bit more ripeness and lower acidity than 2014. This wine is a fabulous mix of fruit and minerals, perfectly balanced and with terrific length: dense black/red color, with aromas that blend soil, stone and blackberry fruit with hints of cocoa and violet. The palate is dense and supple and round - a blend of stone and ripe red and black fruits, continuing in the long, supple mineral finish. This is a beautiful Bourgueil that can be enjoyed now with roast chicken, pork dishes, even a steak - or hold for ten to fifteen years for a mature experience. It's a faulous value - congratulations to the Caslots! David Lillie
We're big fans of the Caslot family at Domane de la Chevalerie, who make soulful Bourgueils from organic/biodynamic vineyards on their superb terroirs. The Chevalerie vineyard is on mid-slope Turonian limestone with clay and alluvial sand and gravel topsoils, rich in silex; the vines average about 60 years of age. 2014 is a superb vintage for the Cuvee Chevalerie which shows a lovely deep red color and fresh ripe black raspberry and cassis with black pepper, stone, prune and roast meat. The palate is well-structued and quite concentrated with complex black fruit liqueur, spice, bitter chocolate, licorice and truffle, with a long finish of sappy fruit and mineral flavors. This is a beautiful Bourgueil of terroir that con be enjoyed now with coq-qu-vin, steak au poivre and grilled lamb, best to wait 3 - 5 years, then drink until 2030 and beyond. Highly recommended. David Lillie
This is a delicious fresh wine from Chateau de Coulaine, a 12-hectare estate operated by Jean and Pascale de Bonnaventure, which has been certified organic since 1997 and uses biodynamic practices as well. This 100% Cabernet Franc wine comes from the youngest vines near the Chateau, along the Vienne river, grown on clay/limestone and sandy clay soils. Harvested by hand, the grapes are macerated at cold temperatures and aged in concrete vats with little extraction and fining. Sulfur is added at minimal dosage at bottling. The nose shows a pretty aromatic bouquet of dark and red cherry, dark raspberry, strawberry, violet, chocolate, dark tobacco and savory notes. The palate is vibrant with fresh acidity and silky tannins with a very pretty finish. A wine full of energy, drink it over the next few years with light fare such as grilled pork chops, roasted chicken and mild cheeses. Caroline Coursant
This Cabernet Franc from Chateau de Coulaine is a lovely wine. Coming from 20-year old organically farmed grapes planted on yellow tuffeau stone and sandstone, with sandy clay soils, the wine displays a nice structure of minerality, acidity and elegant tannin. The grapes are fermented with native yeast and aged in large oak barrels with small addition of sulfur at bottling. With a beautiful bouquet of pyrazine, black raspberry, dark cherry, white pepper, rose and savory notes, the wine has a fine energy with a luscious texture. Enjoy this wine with duck, grilled meat, stews or nutty cheeses. Caroline Coursant