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New shipments from two of our most popular French estates arrived last week - Domaines des Amphores in Saint-Joseph and Château Peybonhomme-les-Tours in Blaye (Bordeaux), both producing superb, affordable wines through great Biodynamic farming and skilled natural vinifications.
Domaine des Amphores, in the commune of Chavanay, has been organic since their beginning in 1992, and since 2016 all the wines are Demeter certified Biodynamic. We have been working with Véronique and Philippe Grenier at Amphores for seven years now and we have noticed the quality improving each year as their great farming has made its effect on the wines. Their son Rémi, who is now winemaker at Château Grillet, has been in charge of vinifications for the whites, and the 2017 whites in this shipment show a new level of elegance. (Their other son, Sylvain, works at Domaine Michel Lafarge in Volnay, a nice address as well!) All the wines in this shipment are showing beautifully - please consult the notes below for details - but we have to give special mention to the delicious 2018 Syrah "les Iris." It's a junior Saint-Joseph which is bursting with fruit and mineral flavors while remaining balanced and refreshing in this lovely vintage for the Northern Rhone.
For almost fifteen years we have been enjoying the Biodynamic wines of the Hubert family of Château Peybonhomme-les-Tours in Blaye and Château La Grôlet in Bourg. The family acquired Peybonhomme-les-Tours in 1895 (classified in 1868 as "Premier Cru Bourgeois") and Jean-Luc and Catherine Hubert purchased Château La Grôlet in 1997, immediately converting the estate to Biodynamic farming as at Peybonhomme. Their son Guillaume Hubert re-joined the estate in 2007 and his sister Rachel arrived in 2012, assuring a continuation of style at these great estates and bringing new ideas, including cuvées without sulfur and aging in anfora. The Peybonhomme-les-Tours "Cru Bourgeois" at $14.99, made from Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec grown on classic clay/limestone terroir is certainly one of the best values in Bordeaux today. The La Grôlet Tête de Cuvée and the Peybonhomme "Quintessence" are both made from selections of the best barrels coming from the estates oldest vines. Thus the wines will differ from year to year but are always enjoyable in their youth and capable of aging beautifully for ten to fifteen years. In this shipment we're happy to offer the delicious Peybonhomme "Atypic" - atypical because of the blend of 50% Cabernet Franc and 50% Malbec, giving a more forward, juicy type of Bordeaux that will be perfect served cool with grilled foods this summer. And we love the 2018 Peybonhomme Blanc, made from young vines of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon, a complex and delicious white Bordeaux that is a fantastic value!
We're proud to offer the outstanding and affordable wines offered by these two domains - they are healthy and delicious products of living soils and conscientious winemaking, by estates that are committed to preserving the environment while producing wines of the highest quality!
From 100% Syrah in Chavanay, just outside the Saint-Joseph zone, tended organically since planting, in the early 90's, and now Biodynamic as well. The 2018 "Les Iris" Syrah shows lush aromas of blackberry and blueberry with hints of stone, mint, smoke and violet, quite fresh and pretty. The palate is dense and elegant, with cool acidity and lush blackberry and black raspberry fruit, with a fresh earthy finish with mineral, citrus and ripe red and black fruit flavors. Terrific length and depth for a wine at this price. This is a very versatile wine to serve cool with grilled chicken, pork and full-flavored cheeses or to sip by itself, slightly chilled. It's an authentic and delicious wine and a great value - and a lovely preview of the great 2018 vintage in the northern Rhone. David Lillie
Domaine des Amphores has a small, steep hillside parcel on granite soils in Condrieu, organic since 2002 and now certified Biodynamic as well. Philippe and Veronique Grenier have made a lovely 2017, 100% Viognier of course, showing a pale gold color and aromas of lime-flower, pear and peach, tea, lemon zest, almond and hay. The palate is dense and sapid, perfectly balanced with a firm center of mineral and stone flavors underlying apricot and pear fruit with almond and citrus. Rather full-bodied for a Condrieu but not in a cloying way, this should open up nicely over the next few years - serve with fish in sauce, Asian foods and white meats or as a superb aperitif with foie gras, pâtés and goat cheeses. David Lillie
We're not sure about the spelling, but Véronique and Philippe Grenier's "Sphé-érique" is a lovely "natural" Syrah, fermented and aged in a round concrete vat, and bottled with zero added sulfur. The wine shows lovely aromas of cool blackberry and blueberry fruit with violet, mint and citrus aromas, really quite complex and pretty. The palate is balanced and earthy with bright black fruits and firm acidity with stone and berry flavors in the refreshing finish. Serve this light and lovely Syrah with lamb, pork, guinea hen and of course with caillettes ardechoises. (Like most no-sulfur wines, it is best to consume on the day opened.)
"Les Mesanges" is a cuvée of Saint-Joseph made from 40 to 50 year-old organic Syrah vines on biotite granite soils in the vineyards of Pecher and Vauturerie at Chavanay, 60-70% destemmed, aged 18 months in 600 liter barrels. The 2016 Les Mesanges is a more elegant and earthy wine of terroir than the fleshier 2015, showing aromas of black raspberry, earth, a bit of blueberry, Italian plum and rose. The palate has an earthy texture with red currant and black raspberry fruit framed in firm acidity and saline minerals. Not a fruit bomb, but showing the Biodynamic farming in its elegant minerality. Open well in advance or wait 2 - 3 years then drink until 2032. David Lillie
Biodynamic farming, native yeasts, wild fermentations, good value –all phrases not typically associated with Bordeaux. Yet, each year the Hubert family provides us with just that in their staple cuvee from the Côte de Blaye. The Cru Bourgeois is a blend of mostly Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and a bit of Malbec. Generously aromatic owing to the rich clay soils in which it is grown, there's ripe red fruit, black currant, and spice, with supple tannins and an undercurrent of chalky minerality. This is a great addition to the dinner table alongside grilled meat or sipped on its own. Amanda Bowman
What's atypical about this delicious wine? It's a blend of Malbec and Cabernet Franc rather than Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, giving the wine a more supple palate and quite different fruit character. The 2017 has lovely, deep blackberry and cassis aromas with red currant, cassis and cherry on the supple, lush palate, with hints of earth and smoke. More "forward" than most Bordeaux, this versatile wine will pair beautifully with almost any beef, pork or lamb dish and is a fabulous value!
This is the ninth vintage of the Hubert family's "Blanc Bonhomme"which seems to get better every year. The vines are now 13 years old, 50% Sauvignon Blanc and 50% Semillon, certified organic and Biodynamic. The grapes are hand-harvested in the early morning, pressed gently, fermented with native yeasts and the wine is aged partly in new oak, mostly in cement vats. Only 650 cases are made. The 2018 shows elegant pear, lemon, herbal and dried flower aromas, with pear, ripe apple, citrus and chalky mineral flavors on the palate. A bit riper than previous vintages, but this really shows the terroir with crisp acidity, lovely white fruit, a hint of pineapple and oak and stony flavors in the finish. Really a lovely, balanced and food-friendly wine - serve with anything from oysters to grilled fish to roast chicken. David Lillie
The Detour Blanc is a beautiful blend of Roussanne, Clairette from 50 year-old vines, and Marsanne from the Collines Rhodaniennes. The nose is fresh, floral and lively with notes of grapefruit, tangerine, nectarine, white peach, honeysuckle and acacia. The palate is ripe and full but with nice saline minerals, with citrus confit, dried fruits, pear, apple and honeysuckle. The finish is long, dense and balanced, making this a lovely apéritif wine and a great combination with appetizers, full-flavored fish dishes, white meats, salads and mild cheeses. Just a delicious wine and a fabulous value! David Lillie
We love Condrieu, but Viognier from other regions can often be cloying and uninteresting. This example from the Grenier family in Chavanay, however, is elegant and outstanding. It comes from Viognier vines just south of the Condrieu AOC, always tended organically, certified since 2002, and Biodynamic since 2016. The 2017 "Les Iris" shows off the Grenier's great farming with a fantastic mineral character underlying the lush fruit. The wine shows very elegant aromas of white flowers, pear, almond, tea and stone. The palate is supple and dense with ripe pear and abricot, peach pit and stone. The finish is very earthy and long with white fruit, almond and stone flavors lingering on the palate with firm saline acidity. This is a superb Viognier - congratulations to young Remi Grenier who is working with his parents, vinifying the estate's white wines. David Lillie
Since its inception in 1992, Philippe and Véronique Grenier have practiced organic farming on their tiny estate in Chavanay, in the AOC Saint-Joseph just south of Condrieu. Their 2017 "Altitude 300" is a beautiful white Saint-Joseph made from 80% Roussanne and 20% Marsanne.The wine shows subtle, fresh Roussanne aromas of pear, almond, hay, bitter lemon, stone and lime-flower. The palate is refreshing and bright with creamy citrus, pear, apricot, thyme, flint and stone, with nice density and length and firm acidity. Drink now with fish in sauce, chicken and white meats and cow cheeses. A lovely wine and a great value! David Lillie
This year's Quintessence from the famille Hubert's estate in the Cotes de Bordeaux is composed of 70% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon from beautiful biodynamically farmed vines on clay limestone soils. The nose is dense and ripe on opening, showing ripe cassis, blackberry and raspberry, with hints of warming spice. With time open, the wine shows increasingly complex aromatic qualities, with more tobacco and earth coming through by hour 4 or 5. On the palate, the fruit is again ripe and dense, with cassis liqueur, ripe blackberry, and black cherry balanced by bristly tannins and limestone minerality on the long finish. After some time open, the palate leans more towards cacao and earth, but the ripe fruit remains dominant. A pleasure now with butter basted rib eye steak or roast beef, it will certainly improve over the next 10 to 15 years for drinking with lighter fare. Ben Fletcher
It's always a pleasure to drink a good Bordeaux such as Château La Grolet’s Tête de Cuvée, a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Malbec; it has complex fruit with deep savory layers not clouded by new oak and is certified biodynamic. The nose is dense with intense notes of fruit liqueur - strawberries and dark cherries with hints of red currants followed by turned earth and resinous herbs. The palate is firm and elegant with smooth tannins and fair acidity, showing more of a floral tone of violets and slight notes of leather. After some time open the wine begins to reveal itself; dark red fruit with figs, strong herbal character, and more pronounced florals with delicate tannins. An exciting Bordeaux that could pair well with leaner steak, pork chops on the grill, or savory chicken dishes.