Selections for June 2017

Top wine of a small producer.  Great Vintage.  Hardly comes to California!

2015 CHATEAU MALTUS – Lalande de Pomerol, Bordeaux, France

I’m pleased to be able to bring this to you, the top wine of Chateau des Landes.  I tasted ‘Maltus’ at the producer’s dinner table in January and immediately spoke for it.  The quick decision was necessary:  All Bordeaux 2015’s, even from satellite regions like Lalande de Pomerol, will be more delicious and sought for than any vintage since 2010.  THIS wine, made from 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc, is represented by only 440 cases, none of which make it to California.  It was only by virtue of being on the Kysela Pere et Fils wine trip that I’d even heard of and tasted it, and could request a rare dispensation from that importer’s Winchester, Virginia warehouse.

This wine is young, but made in a style and from a vintage which indulge with dark fruit even if you get the bottle open sooner than later.  The soils of its Lalande de Pomerol source are based on gravel and clay, along with the presence of iron oxide which some might sense in the feel of this wine.  Winemaker / Proprietor Nicolas Lassagne matched the pedigree of his newly-acquired plot with quality new French oak barrels from the Limousin and Allier forests, in which the wine spent 18 months.  To these investments he added the extra effort of getting the wine to barrel before fermentation was finished.  This is an important step in modern Bordeaux winemaking.  Fermentation is the only time the wine is generating a bit of heat.  Introducing a slightly warmer wine to oak is thought to help with color and oak flavor integration.  You shouldn’t perceive more woodiness because of this; you should admire a darker tint and taste a wine whose fruit is in better agreement with the delicate nuance of vanilla.  Yet another labor intensive exercise was also applied.  Note the photo above:  The special barrels for Maltus were placed on rollers so they could be spun periodically, re-introducing the settled lees to the entire wine.  This, too, is a texture enhancement, and a technique practiced by several of Nicolas’ garagiste peers.  One further “enhancement” is expected of YOU.  Whether you drink this sooner or later, have a look at what Nicolas is making us for lunch (in the other pic).  Go thou, and do likewise!

I want to sell you a lot of this important value, and intentionally overbought to accommodate your cellaring a bit of it.  We have a nice excess amount at this time, and another ten six-packs arrive from Virginia a little later this year.  Get yours!      

Modest vintage?  Conservative producer?  It’s all good!

2014 DOMAINE le CLOS des CAZAUX ‘La Tour Sarrasine’ – Gigondas, Rhone Valley, France

Here, friends, is wine you can drink.  – At least it’s wine I can drink and I’m willing to share!  Unlike the incoming 2015’s, the 2014 Rhones show more restraint with respect to the rich kirshy-ness one might want from rock star Rhones.  This is no rock star.  This is REAL.  I’ve had to be a little more picky in selecting 2014’s for our store, but I find the step back in alcoholic sappiness a relief for once.  I can DRINK this stuff!

Clos des Cazaux is another producer we visited on our January trip, one with which I was previously unfamiliar, and I was glad for the introduction.  Other winery visits that same day had us tasting darker, richer, more modern Rhones, but Cazaux connoted tradition.  A perfect complement to Vintage 2014’s reserved style is this producer’s more laid back and patient winemaking way.  Jean-Michel Vache actually does his work in Vacqueyras, just adjacent to Gigondas where he also owns plots.  New oak barrels are nowhere to be found at his place; this wine saw nothing but stainless steel and concrete vats on its way to the bottle.  Jean-Michel would rather express the virtues of his vines which are quite old and sustainably (virtually organically) grown.  They and the less intrusive winemaking are the reason why you can drink this seemingly conservative wine for up to ten years.

Never fear:  We will bring you the big ‘15’s.  You will revel in their riper fruit and more heady richness.  In the meantime, let’s hear it for a more classical message from the Southern Rhone, where dried herbes, pepper, dust, and a more modest level of fruit all agree to get along for many a year!