Keith's Loire Travelogue, Part 2

One thing I’ve learned about K&L Buyer trips is that they are not for the faint of heart! Buyers pack a lot of visits into a short amount of time so that they can see as many producers as possible. Luckily there’s ample cheese and wine for fortification.

On Day 3 of his trip, Keith visited with Vincent Denis of Domaine du Petit Clocher in Anjou, which lies on the lower bank of the Loire River. Vincent and his two cousins, Julien (winemaker) and Stefan (viticulturalist) run the family winery, founded by their great-grandfather in 1920. To this day, their site is steeped in family history. He showed Keith the historic, out-of-use cellar and the clocher (church tower) after which the domaine is named.

They farm their Cabernet Franc in volcanic microgranite soil, which they call “hot stone” because it retains more warmth for better ripening the red grape. Their Chenin Blanc is planted to schist—”cold stone”—because it is more suited to Chenin. They’re in a great spot for Chenin, the Coteaux du Layon, where moisture from the Layon River helps develop botrytis in the vineyards. All Chenin is hand-harvested and the family is in the process of moving toward organic farming.

In Chinon, Keith visited with a new Direct Import producer, Pierre et Bertrand Couly, from a family who’s been in the business since the 15th century. Bertrand took Keith through their vineyards. You can tell they farm sustainably by the healthy grass and wildflowers growing between the vines—no harsh chemicals here. They bottle a single-vineyard, full-bodied Cabernet Franc called Haut-Olive, from a plot located right above the Clos d’Olive. The regular Chinon is from a mix of different sites grown on yellow clay. They use no sulfur except a little at bottling, and all fermentation is in stainless steel. No oak aging, just super pure, clean Cab Franc and Chenin Blanc. Keith got to hang with their two dogs, Dior (white) and Yquem, the boxer. The Chinon Blanc, the Classique Rouge, and the Haut-Olive will all be on our shelves in a few weeks!

Domaine les Pins in Bourgeuil has been a solid producer for us and in the region for years. In fact, the family has five generations’ worth of experience exclusively with Cabernet Franc. Keith tasted new 2018 rosé, and it’s delicious. It’s not in stock yet, but we have the 2017 to tide you over until it arrives. Les Pins also makes a single-vineyard bottling from Perrier, one of the great vineyards of the region.

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In Touraine-Chenonceaux, Keith met Laurent Benoist of Domaine du Vieil Orme, along with his son and future vigneron, Louis. Louis will be the fifth generation! They’re focusing on sustainably farmed Sauvignon Blanc.

On to Sancerre! One of our longtime producers, Franck Millet, gave Keith a tour of his terroir. The picture above shows the caillottes soil, also known as hard Oxfordian limestone, with large chunks of gravel in it. The other soil on the property is terre blanche, the local name for Kimmeridgian marl, which is the chalky clay soil that turns white in dry periods. They have a lovely site, located in one of the famous amphitheaters in Sancerre.

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Then Keith visited with Aurore Dezat, who makes wine for her family winery, Domaine des Chasseignes, as well as her own label. She keeps her vines as clean and organic as possible.

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He had the unique experience of doing a terroir tasting with Domaine Cherrier, meaning that in each glass was a wine made from grapes grown on a specific soil type—terre blanche, caillotes, and silex. He then got to taste them in their final blend.

A man’s gotta eat! On to lunch, hosted by Jean-Marie and Francois Cherrier, with producers Aurore Dezat, Eric Cottat, and Marius from Domaine Tabordet.

Marius from Domaine Tabordet is a buzz-worthy young winemaker in Pouilly-Fumé. With a vineyard site next to the well-regarded Dagueneau, the domaine have the terroir to back up the talent. As of 2011, they’ve converted to organic farming and low additions of SO2. We carry Calci and their all silex cuvee, L’Autre Rive.

A visit with Nicolas, son of François Millet of Domaine des Côtes Blanches. And more cheese! The Millets farm organically, harvest manually, and use only gravity systems in their winemaking.

Keith wrapped up his Loire trip with a visit to Domaine Clef du Recit with Anthony Girard, where they ate cheese from Girard’s brother’s goat farm and played a version of petanque that involves clay discs. Keith tasted through a retrospective of vintages and was impressed with their longevity.

I have good news/good news: 1. Keith did not get gout during his trip, despite eating and drinking divinely, and 2. Keith has found many excellent wines that will very soon hit our shelves. Keep an eye out for them, and, in the meantime, we offer you some simple words to live by: more Loire! All the time.

- Kate Soto