On the Trail

Burgundian Business

David Driscoll

You wanna know how we should talk about Burgundy in this industry? How to get people interested? How to pique their curiosity and bolster their excitement? You do exactly what they do at La Chablisienne, the co-op we've been working with directly for the last year. You don't lecture, you don't preach, and you don't get pedantic; you pour people great wines from great vineyards, then simply answer their questions with short specifics that speak to the place in which the wines were made. We had an absolutely spectacular tasting this morning with Fabrice Roelandt, during which we tasted more than a dozen chardonnays, each from a different vineyard location, and each with its own unique flavor profile. I was honestly overwhelmed by the variety and the depth on display. When we commented about a wine's richness, he had an answer: "This vineyard is on the right bank of the river where there is more sun, therefore it's riper." When we remarked about a wine's clean acidity and freshness, he would say: "This vineyard is located in an valley inlet where it's cooler, that's why the acidity is higher." His simple and supportive approach to Chablis eduction was as refreshing as the wines themselves; it also spoke volumes about the philosophy at the facility. "La Chablisienne doesn't have a house style," he mentioned to us as we discussed the production methods; "We do simple winemaking that reflects the character of the vineyard, nothing more." I'm very excited to get more of these wines back into K&L. I bought a boat load for my cellar last year and I'm definitely going to reload with the upcoming fourteens and fifteens. With so many different holdings and expressions, you could get a pretty good understanding of Chablis's complexity simply by tasting through the Chablisienne portfolio. They range from saline and salty to round and seductive—and everywhere in between. 

From La Chablisienne we headed back across town to Gerard Tremblay where the operation is now being run by his son Vincent and his daughter Ilona, a formidable brother and sister duo that has carried on the family tradition. We began with a tasting of the upcoming 2016 vintage from tank, a harvest that should strike a bit of fear into your heart if you love Chablis. Due to ferocious frosts, hellacious hail, and a mound of mildew from the humidity that followed, many producers like Tremblay had their crops wiped out by fifty percent or more. The quality of what remained is very high, but the output was drastically reduced. This was across the board in Burgundy on the whole, but it was particularly bad in Chablis. After tasting in the cellar, we had lunch with the entire Tremblay clan—including mom and dad, as well as aunts and uncles—and gorged on pork with mushroom sauce and a few library bottles like the 1985 Tremblay "Côte de Lechet." Think Chablis can't stay fresh and invigorating after more than three decades in the bottle? Think again.

We had one final appointment in Chablis before heading off for the Côte d'Or: at Domaine Long-Depaquit, an Albert Bichot property with one of the most beautiful courtyards in the area. We met up with Matthieu Mangenot who walked us through the newly-bottled 2015 vintage and the devastation that followed in 2016 (the domaine lost seventy percent of its normal crop due to frost). With very little oak aging, the wines are incredibly crisp despite the warmer weather in '15, but there's definitely more heft with the extra ripeness (check out the '14 "Les Vaucopins" for a more traditional take). 

vhahhsoo1 (1 of 1).jpg

Long-Depaquit also has a monopole vineyard that's sometimes referred to as Chablis's "eighth grand cru;" a small slice of the hill that runs along the border between the grand crus of "Preuse" and "Vaudésir." While technically it's a blend of both vineyards, the domaine refers to the wine as "Moutonne" and it's widely-considered a separate terroir by locals in the region. We drove out to the site after tasting the spectacular 2014 vintage, a wine that combined power, weight, minerality, and grace. Hiking to the top of the site, we looked out over the entire hill of grand cru sites and said goodbye to those beautiful vines. After a spectacular twenty-four hours in Chablis, it was time to hit the road and head for Santenay.

Two hours later we were driving along the Route de Grand Crus, through Montrachet and the many heralded vineyard sites, towards Château de la Charrière; one of our most popular direct import producers and a label that easily represents the best bang for your buck we carry in Burgundy. Formerly run by Yves Girardin, the business is now run by his young son Benoit, who definitely has modernized the winemaking a bit since his first vintage in 2011. Whereas the wines were a bit funky and rustic previously, the past few vintages are much cleaner; showcasing the pureness of the pinot noir by de-stemming completely so as to remove tannic structure. I'd highly, highly advise you to check out some of the inexpensive 2015 reds we just got in. For less than twenty bucks, the simple Bourgogne Rouge is drinking like a dream. Their local Santenay 1er cru wines, however, were the stars. Sourced from up on the above-pictured hill, both the whites and reds were showcasing serious stuff. It was great to finally put a face to the name.

Last, but not least, it was back to the village of Puligny to visit perhaps our most popular producer: Jacques Bavard. This man can absolutely do no wrong at K&L, as his wines have become the darlings of both our staff and our savvy customer base. While we'll have another container of 2014s coming shortly (and you should really load up as 2015 and 16 are nowhere near as vibrant), we tasted through his splendid fifteens that were singing a fine tune already. As if that wasn't enough white wine for the day, we ended up over at Olivier Leflaive for dinner, drinking a flight of seven chardonnays from the standard Bourgogne blanc to the Corton-Charlemagne grand cru edition. Trey and I posted up at the bar while waiting for Alex to wash up and drank a glass of the 2014 "Les Sétilles" in anticipation of our meal. The wine was simply charming, round, and concentrated on the palate, but fresh with acidity and a clean, snappy finish. I need to go back and buy more of that one. The more I taste the 14 vintage, the more I'm beginning to realize what utter gems these wines are.

More tomorrow!

-David Driscoll