Depending on where it’s grown, Syrah produces an enormous range of wines. Its most famous home is the Northern Rhône Valley, where winemakers grow pure Syrah on the steep hillsides of Côte Rôtie and Saint-Joseph. Further south, Syrah takes on a bit more muscle, and if not monitored carefully, can over-ripen and become heavy and hot.
Pinot Noir is grown around the world -- from Germany to California and Oregon to New Zealand. But nowhere does it reach the same level of complexity and elegance as in Burgundy. Pinots from Burgundy inhabit a traditional style that’s increasingly distant from much of the New World’s oak-heavy, fruit-driven trends.
In Burgundy, Grand Cru is as good as it gets. Only 1.3% of wines from Burgundy have the designation, and these are the finest bottles the region has to offer. They’re not exactly priced for weeknight enjoyment, but when there’s a special occasion, they’re awfully nice to have around.
Alsace is a land of beautiful contradictions. Wedged between France and Germany, this charming region changed hands four times between 1918 and 1945. Its inhabitants tend to identify as Alsatian rather than either French or German, and today Alsace incorporates the best traditions – cultural, culinary, oenological – of both nations.
Vineyard plots in Burgundy often bear the names of nearby historic features, many long since vanished. In Meursault, Ormeau and Genevrières are named for the “elm” and “juniper” trees that once stood there. Vide Bourse in Chassagne refers to its location at a dangerous road crossing known for “empty purses.” And the famous grand cru Chambertin was once the the “field” (champ) of a man named Bertin.
Most wine with dark, inky color is heavy and rich; and most light colored wines are also light in body. But these rules don’t always apply. In the Northern Rhône Valley winemakers grow Syrah at its northern limit, producing reds with intense, dark flavor, but balanced lively mouth feel.
From a distance, it’s easy to forget that our winemakers are farmers before anything else. Viticultural matters occupy the majority of their days, and it’s impressive to step back and remember that the delicate, polished creations in a bottle spring from capricious plants on hillsides of dirt.
Hot weather makes wine pairing tricky. Our main criteria for summer wines are threefold: low alcohol, good acidity, and chillable. White wine is the obvious choice, but we enjoy serving a few of our reds cool from time to time. The best of these are what the French call vins de soif -- wines for thirst.
July is here and tomatoes are finally back in season. Whether cooked and tossed with pasta and parmesan, or sliced raw and served with mozzarella, olive oil, and crunchy salt, they’re a staple of summer chez nous. (Or, rather, a casa.)
In France, Pommard has a reputation as a vin de garde (wine to cellar). Grown in clay- and limestone-rich soils, the wines are full of muscle, richness, and spice. A favorite of Thomas Jefferson, Pommard has made classic, well-respected red wines since at least the middle ages.
On most maps, Santenay is the last town in Burgundy’s famous Côte d’Or. Forever second fiddle to its famous neighbor Chassagne-Montrachet to the north, Santenay nonetheless produces excellent wines. With neither the staying power nor the tannic structure of wines from Chassagne, they are often far easier to enjoy young.
Chardonnay inhabits nearly every corner of the wine world, but nowhere does it reach the same expression as in Burgundy. The gently sloping hillsides of Burgundy are uniquely suited to growing perfectly balanced Chardonnay -- sunny enough to ripen grapes fully, but northern enough to retain enough acidity to provide lively freshness.
Gevrey-Chambertin is the largest appellation of Burgundy’s Côte d’Or. And because of its clay rich soils, its wines are of a similarly grand scale. Known for power and longevity, Gevrey-Chambertin often shows dark, intense fruit and a sturdy tannic structure.