On the Trail

A Rare Visit From Millet

Gary Westby

We have been importing the great Sancerre wines from Franck Millet for twenty-one years. They have made so many of our customers (and the staff as well) so happy with their clean, racy, expressive wines, and today—after more than two decades—Frank and Betty Millet finally made it out to visit us. K&L customers in our Redwood City store were treated to quite the tasting this afternoon with the Millets pouring behind the bar. The couple has a sixty acre property centered around the village of Bué and produce only estate bottled wines. Their production hovers around 200,000 bottles a year, 80% of which is Sauvignon Blanc, and 20% of which is a combination of rose and red Pinot Noir.

Frank Millet is a third generation producer, and the first generation of his family to be a full-time winemaker. His grandfather Anthelme Roger also raised goats to make the famous cheese of the region: the Crottin de Chavignol. Frank's father Pierre passed the estate on to his two sons who decided to split the property and work on their own. Since then, Frank has had the opportunity to buy another domaine in the area to bring his total vineyard up to sixty acres. He is blessed with very old vineyards—they average over forty years old. The vineyard is all various types of limestone, but primarily 150,000,000 year old caillotes, a soil that gives approachable but surprisingly long lived Sancerre. He also has some vineyard on kimmeridgian soil and a type of chalk that they call griottes.

The winemaking is clean and cool at his domain. They do not use any chemical or animal products and de-stem everything. All of the whites go into 100 hectoliter stainless steel tanks and only the red wines see oak barrels at all. They only use indigenous yeasts for the fermentation. The main production there is the Franck Millet Sancerre Blanc, and this is one of the most delicious bottles of crisp, refreshing white wine that you can buy at K&L. It not only has great ripe citric aroma and flavor, but very nice texture as well. His fabulous "Insolite" prestige cuvee is selected from the very best plots of a given vintage. They only make 10,000 bottles, using only free run cuvee- no press juice is added. The wine is kept in contact with its skins for about 20 hours at sub zero temperatures underneath a blanket of CO2. This allows him to keep his sulphur counts low but greatly increase the complexity of the wine. Millet has long been my personal favorite sauvignon blanc in the store, and now I know why: it is a meticulous selection from a great terroir!

The Franck Millet Sancerre Rose is made with a half-and-half combination of free run pinot noir and macerated pinot noir. I love this wine for capturing both the crunchy Rainier cherry flavors and aromas of the grape and the cut grass and minerality of Sancerre. It is 5% of their production, so you have to act fast to get it. I buy my case the first day it arrives! If you like crackling, crunchy, fresh red wine the Franck Millet Sancerre Rouge is a fantastic bottle. It is made of all pinot noir, 70% in stainless steel and 30% in one to seven year old Burgundy barrique. It is about 10% of their production. The red cherry fruit, low tannin, and high minerality make this a perfect choice for spicy food. Yum!

-Gary Westby