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Magnificent Northern Rhône Syrah: New 92-95 point Côte Rôties

The Northern Rhône produces the world’s most complex and balanced expressions of Syrah. Particularly in Côte Rôtie, at the region’s northern limit, the wines combine inky, black, masculine fruit with extraordinary lift and finesse.

Our producer in Côte Rôtie is Christophe Bonnefond, who seems to make more impressive and well-balanced wines each year. Vinous’s Josh Raynolds writes, “a number of years ago Bonnefond made a conscious effort to dial back the ripeness that he was seeking in his vineyards. He also made the move to larger format barrels and smaller percentage of new oak. The result in 2017 is surprisingly accessible, perfumed wines that lean distinctly more towards elegance than brawn.”

We found Raynold’s characterization spot-on. Christophe somehow seems to coax more subtlety out of his vines with each passing year. His 2017s are magnificent — all three refined and vibrant. We’re excited to offer all three Côte Rôtie cuvées: their base cuvée Colline de Couzou, and their two top cuvées Côte Rozier and Les Rochains, both of which border the famous La Landonne vineyard.

 

Bonnefond Côte Rôtie 2017    ($58)
[Vinous 92] “black and blue fruits, licorice and succulent flowers, along with hints of cracked pepper and cola…sappy and energetic in style… supple tannins build on the finish, which clings with strong tenacity and resonating spiciness”

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Bonnefond Côte Rôtie “Les Rochains” 2017    ($72)
[Vinous 95] “expansive, smoke- and mineral-accented bouquet evokes fresh black and blue fruits, licorice, incense and violet… broad and muscular in style…plays richness off finesse with a steady hand and finishes with superb, dark-fruit-dominated tenacity”

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Bonefond Côte Rotie “Côte Rozier” 2017   ($72)
[Vinous 95] “expansive, smoke-tinged cherry, dark berry preserve, peony and incense aromas show excellent clarity…densely packed yet shockingly lively…superb energy on the seamless, strikingly long finish”

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Shimmering 2018 White Burgundy under $30

White Burgundy is among the best food-pairing wines around. It works at the high end – an ageworthy Meursault, a rich dish of veal in cream, etc. But it answers the call for something uncomplicated and reliable — a hearty bowl of mussels, chicken thighs on the grill.

Gerard Thomas’s Bourgogne blanc has been our go-to white burgundy for nearly a decade now. The 2018 is everything you want in a Bourgogne blanc: refreshing, complex, rich but not heavy, vibrant but not thin. It doesn’t make Meursault promises — but it way over delivers for $6/glass.

All of Gérard Thomas’s 2018s are lipsmakingly good — a tasty combination of fleshy texture and shimmering energy. At each classification level the wines drink above their weight. The 2018 Bourgogne has a bit more meat on its bones than usual, making it lovely on its own.

The nose is soft and elegant, with hazelnut and wood notes melting into lemon and baked apple fruit. There’s solid acidity and plenty of body, and it’s more mouthfilling than most wine of its class.

We strongly recommend setting aside a night for a high-end white Burgundy. But for a busy weeknight when all you need is something balanced and crisp and refreshing, look no further.

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Thomas Bourgogne 2018
bottle price: $29

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“Elegant and Refined” 2016 Red Burgundy from Michel Gros under $40

Michel Gros produces some of our favorite red Burgundies. His style is smooth and elegant, with warm, enticing notes of toast, red berries, and a silky texture. Gros’s village level and premier cru wines can be truly extraordinary, but they often require (and reward) investment and patience.

But not all Gros wines hail from such exalted zip codes. Gros makes several “petits vins,” which aren’t as complex or long-lived, but offer a chance to sample his brilliance at a more affordable price. In 2016 a late-summer heatwave added an extra dose of ripeness to the Hautes-Côtes de Nuits regions, and the resulting wines have unusual richness for the classification level.

The Fontaine-Saint-Martin vineyard is named for a nearby Cistercian abbey that dates to 1127. The hillside of vines was in production for centuries, and Michel has made wine there for over 40 years. The Fontaine St-Martin plot is indeed special — soil samples revealed the parcel contains the same mix of marl, clay, and limestone found on the Hill of Corton

The 2016 Fontaine-St-Martin punches well above its weight. It sports the vintage’s intricate, fine-grained tannins, with dark blue fruit, and floral notes of violets and roses. Master of Wine Julia Harding (via JancisRobinson.com) called it, “Dry, tight and fresh, elegant and refined … just a lovely, complete wine and well priced.”

If you’re in the market for the Gros village and premier cru wines, we recommend them with enthusiasm. But if you’re new to the producer, or in search of a terrific sub-$50 red Burgundy, look no further.

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Gros Fontaine-St-Martin rouge 2016
bottle price: $39

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Gorgeous White Burgundy from a Hidden Valley

Winemaker:   Michel and Estelle Prunier are a father-daughter winemaking team whose wines are humble and classic. Master of Wine Clive Coates calls the Pruniers “certainly the best grower” in the town, and their wines perfectly fit the charming, small-town Burgundian feel of the region.

Appellation:   Auxey-Duresses lies in the valley west of Meursault. Its reds are punchy and bright, with a bit of Pommard pluck; the whites are floral and golden, and at their best resemble their neighbor Meursault. It’s often a source for overperforming white Burgundies like today’s: Prunier’s Auxey-Duresses blanc 2017.

Wine:   The nose is gorgeous, showing white flowers and white pepper, with baked lemon beneath. The mouthfeel is round and full, with a long finish full of apple pie and crème brûlée. The Pruniers use only 10% new oak on this wine — all of its depth and texture come from perfectly mature grapes. Cover the label and your guests will think of Santenay or Meursault.

Pairing:   Try this with Shrimp Scampi — and there’s enough richness to stand up to some pepper flakes should the moment strike you.

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Prunier Auxey-Duresses blanc 2017
bottle price: $48

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Floral & Fresh: Delicious $24 Côtes du Rhône

Domaine:   The secret to winemaker Nicolas Haeni’s success comes down to one thing: elevation. The Malmont vineyards are perched high in the hills above Séguret, where cooler air and slower ripening grapes are the key to balance. As the rest of the Southern Rhône struggles to keep their reds below 15% alcohol, the Malmont cuvées boast exquisite and enviable freshness.

Appellation:   Today’s wine is classified as a Côtes du Rhône, but the vines are in Séguret. Winemaking here dates back to 611, and the style is typically rich, rugged and well priced. They’re great value alternatives to their famous neighbor Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

Wine:   The 2017 Malmont Côtes du Rhône provides all the delicious, dark complexity of a southern Rhône red, with none of the heaviness. The nose shows raspberry, blackberry, and lavender. The mouth is perfectly balanced: rich dark fruit, excellent freshness, a mouthfilling attack and a clean finish.

Pairing:   This is a great grilling red — burgers, sausages, even a pulled pork sandwich. But take a bottle out to your front stoop (a bit cool) on a summer afternoon, and you won’t need much else.

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Malmont Côtes du Rhône 2017
bottle price: $24

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Brisk & Refreshing: Delightful New Grüner-Veltliner. $19

Winery:   The Salomon-Undhof estate dates to 1792, and their terraced vines overlooking the Danube have long been an excellent source. The country’s preeminent wine guide calls them a “figurehead of Austrian wine history.” Their style is what you’d expect from 225 years of history — clean, polished, and refined.

Grape:   “Austrian wine” is nearly synonymous with Grüner-Veltliner, and 75% of the world’s Grüner is Austrian. The grapes typical expression is dry and savory, with excellent acidity and low alcohol. It’s delicious (particularly with food) year round, but it’s particularly perfect in the summer.

Wine:   Salomon’s 2018 Grüner Veltliner “Wieden” is a delight. The nose shows juniper, herbs and lime. The mouth is dry and mid-weight, with good notes of cucumber, lime zest, and grape skins. At 12% alcohol and with excellent freshness, this is a no brainer for warm weather.

Pairing:   Pair this with raw oysters, sushi, or fried chicken.

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Salomon Grüner-Veltliner “Wieden” 2018
bottle price: $19

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Everyday Bubbles: Superb Crémant de Bourgogne. $22

Domaine:   Picamelot is among Burgundy’s finest crémant houses. The Wine Advocate’s resident Champagne expert William Kelley writes that “Picamelot produces some of the best sparkling wines in Burgundy,” and calls their wines “elegant,” “excellent,” and “superb.”

Appellation:   Crémant de Bourgogne is sparkling wine made in Burgundy. The method is similar to Champagne: fermentation in tank, bottling, dosing with sugar and yeast, second fermentation, then disgorging. Crémant usually spends less time on the lees than Champagne, but can offer exceptional value.

Wine:   Picamelot’s Brut “Les Terroirs” is a blend of Burgundy’s three grapes: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Aligoté. It spends nine months on the lees, and was disgorged earlier this year.

Notes:   This nose is clean and elegant, with notes of almond, pineapple, and cream. The mouth is very dry, quite lively, and crisply refreshing, with apple fruit and a long vinous finish. At $22 this continues to be a steal; pair this with a warm Friday afternoon.

Also available in: Magnums.

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Picamelot Crémant Brut “Terroirs” NV
bottle price: $22

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Picnic Pinot: Crisp, Refreshing Summertime Red Sancerre

We love our Sancerre producer, Domaine de la Garenne. Their three Sancerre blanc cuvées are delightful: the crisp and fruity Sancerre 2019, the stony Sancerre “Bouffants” 2019, and the bracing, intense Sancerre “Infidèle.” They’re all Sauvignon Blanc at their most vibrant and delicious.

Garenne’s fourth Sancerre cuvée is also crisp, refreshing, and a perfect blend of fruit and minerals… it just happens to be red. Made from pure Pinot Noir, the Sancerre rouge is just beautiful this year: pure, refreshing Pinot fruit, unencumbered by oak.

The 2018 Sancerre is a perfect summertime red. The nose shows intense red cherry fruit, with notes of wild honey and raspberry. The mouth is bright, clean, and lively, with punchy freshness and a beautiful mineral core.

Take this on your next picnic, even if it’s only in the open trunk of your car, or on the front stoop. You won’t mistake it for Burgundy, but it’s as enjoyable and thirst-quenching as sub-$30 red can be. Pair it with cheese, crackers, and a warm summer afternoon.

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Garenne Sancerre rouge 2018
bottle price: $28

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Exquisite 92-point Premier Cru Chablis: Oyster Shells and Pears

We’re really excited about the 2018 Chablis lineup from Jean Collet in the May Futures. From their simple Vieilles Vignes to the magnificent Grand Cru Les Clos, Romain Collet handled the warm vintage with expert control, finding perfect balance and freshness in every cuvée.

While we wait for those to arrive, however, we’re enjoying the 2017s in stock now. And none is more enjoyable than the Chablis 1er cru “Montmains.” Drawn from 45 year old vines in a Kimmeridgian limestone-filled vineyard, Romain uses no new oak for this cuvée: it’s Chablis at its most pure and brilliant.

Chablis is the ultimate food wine — dry, crisp, vibrant, and refreshing. With everyone cooking at home more than usual these days, this is as versatile as food-paring wines come. Jasper Morris MW writes that Romain Collet “has made great strides,” and his domaine “is moving towards joining the pantheon” in Chablis.

Collet’s 2017 Chablis 1er Montmains is electric. The nose is bright and bursting with pear, stones, sea spray, lemon peel, and honey. The mouth is dry and chiseled, filled with exquisite tension and notes of green apple, chalk and oyster shells. Wine Advocate’s reviewer William Kelley awarded 92 points, and called it “a high point in the [Collet premier cru] range.”

We drink this with lots of food, but a particular favorite chez nous is Chicken Schnitzel. Use panko crumbs; after browning pour off most of the oil and deglaze with wine and finish with a cream reduction. The Chablis cuts like a knife through the sauce: a dynamic and delightful pair.

 

Collet Chablis 1er “Montmains” 2017
bottle price: $36

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Old Reliable: a Favorite Rhône Red Returns

Some wines just hit a sweet spot between price and quality. All the way back to our brick and mortar days in Dupont Circle in Washington DC, the Goubert Sablet has been among the best sellers in our lineup. When we left it off our order last fall, we had half a dozen customers write in to express concern.

It’s not the fanciest wine in our cellar — it’s not even the fanciest Côtes du Rhône. But there’s something about the balance of fruit, earth, texture, acidity, tannin and price that make it a winning combination. We’ve just restocked on the 2017, and it’s as solid and reliable as ever.

Gouert’s Sablet 2017 is at once dark and refreshing: the nose is a blend of wild cherries, lavender, blackberry jam, and cloves. In the mouth the fruits are red perfectly ripe, with beautiful freshness and a clean, spiced finish. The weight is perfect: rounded tannins, mouth-coating fruit, solid supporting acidity, and a mouthwatering finale.

We serve this with everything and with nothing. Pasta with garlic, pepper flakes, and too much parmesan is a favorite; but it’s right for almost everything. Serve it a bit cooled — it’ll be the tastiest $3.80 glass of red you’ve had in a while.

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Goubert Sablet 2017
bottle price: $18

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Rosé Arrives, at Last

We’re calling it — it’s now rosé season.

Sure it might be 50 degrees and rainy next week, but throw on a pair of sunglasses and a short sleeve shirt and just pretend. Summer has to get here some day.

This year we’ve got three exciting exciting rosés — all 2019s and just arrived. (And for those with a taste for fizz, we’ve also got two cuvées of pink bubbles.) The still rosés hail from the Rhône and Loire Valleys — two are Provencal blends of Grenache and Syrah, the other a Cab Franc.

All three offer different takes on the genre. We’ve expounded on each below, and offer a pink sampler of all three at the end.

 

Goubert Rosé de Flo 2019
Grenache/Syrah/Mourvèdre | As usual, this is the lightest weight. The nose is dry and fresh, with dry strawberries and lime zest. The mouth is light, clean, refreshing and delightful. You forget it’s even there. Pair this with fresh goat cheese on crackers.
Ansonia Retail: $19/bot
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Malmont Séguret Rosé 2019
Grenache/Syrah | Malmont’s rosé is like Goubert’s, with just a bit more substance. The nose is similar, with added notes of lavender and berries; the mouth is just as dry, but with a bit more texture. It’s longer, but just as clean and refreshing. Pair with a salad with confit or paté.
Ansonia Retail: $22/bot
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Sanzay Rosé 2019
Cabernet Franc | Sanzay’s Loire Valley Cab Franc rosé has a different profile — the fruits are fresher and riper, like crushed raspberries with a hint of mint. The mouth is full and dry with floral roundness that’s palate-coating but lively. This stands nicely on its own, or with a plate of sushi.
Ansonia Retail: $19/bot
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Rosé Sampler
Four of Each Wine
Ansonia Retail: $235/case
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Classy New Red Bordeaux: 91-point 2016 Cru Bourgeois. $25

Bordeaux is home to many of the most famous and expensive wines in the world. But it’s a huge region, and also produces wines that dramatically overperform their pricetag. One of our favorite places to find value in Bordeaux is at the Cru Bourgeois level.

This Médoc classification, revived in 2010, is earned each year, and awarded based on the quality of the wine rather than the name of the chateau. Of the few hundred cuvées awarded the status each year, the best include, to quote Vinous’s Neal Martin, “a clutch of fabulous wines that I bet could be sneaked into a blind tasting of Grand Cru Classé and nobody would notice.”

Today’s wine is a case in point: a no-brainer everyday Bordeaux for $5/glass.

Last year many readers picked up the 2010 Ramafort, a delightful wine with a few years under its belt. This year we’re suggesting a more recent vintage — the 2016 has just arrived and it’s terrific. The 50/50 Cab/Merlot blend is a younger, fresher take on the terroir, but one with silky tannins and a perfectly balanced texture.

Martin awarded 91 points, finding “a very attractive bouquet with blackberry, briary and cedar aromas.” He went on to find “fine grain tannin” and a “silky finish,” before concluding finally “Yes, yes, yes!” Martin suggests a 2020-2035 drinking window — based on how well last night’s bottle went down with a plate of ribs, we don’t think the case in our cellar will til the end of 2020.

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Ramafort Cru Bourgeois 2016
bottle price: $25

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“An Exercise in Harmony:” Silky Smooth 2017 Premier Cru Red Burgundy

Earlier this week we tasted through Pierre Amiot’s lineup of 2018s. The new vintage is excellent — full, ripe, and lush, but with bold foundation and plenty of material. The Amiots sent along bottles of 2017 to taste side by side, and the comparison was fascinating.

Both 2017 and 2018 are ripe vintages with plentiful fruit, but their underlying textures are worlds apart. Where 2018 tastes young and a touch rustic today, 2017 is already silky smooth. With appealing tannins and relatively low acids, the 17 Red Burgundies have been delightful from the start. Burghound calls it a “user-friendly vintage,” and we agree.

Today we’re suggesting Amiot’s 2017 MSD 1er cru “Aux Charmes.” Their delicious 2018s will be in this Sunday’s Futures release, and due to arrive in July — but this 2017 is in stock today.

The 2017 red Burgundies are gloriously easy to drink. They’re not flat or dull — there’s enough balance and tension to earn their Burgundian heritage — but they’re simply delicious. Amiot’s “aux Charmes” comes from a premier cru plot adjoining the great Grand Cru Charmes-Chambertin, and its name is apt. The wine always shows a silky, charming texture, but in 2017 it’s pleasant a few years ahead of schedule.

Tasting on Sunday, we found the Charmes 17 outstanding. The nose shows candied red fruits and faint toast; the mouth is silky smooth with intense red cherry and cinnamon spice. The tannins are papery, muted, and fine, showing the texture of a far more mature wine. Burghound found notes of “plum, violet and dark currant,” calling it “an exercise in harmony.”

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Amiot Morey-St-Denis 1er “Charmes” 2018
bottle price: $75

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Crisp Alsatian Aperitif: Dry, Refreshing Pinot Blanc, $18

Winemaker:   Christophe Mersiol’s wines embody the Alsace’s signature blend of fruit, flowers, and freshness. He attributes the exceptional purity in his wines to organic agriculture. They’re humble, well priced, and just delicious.

Varietal:   Pinot Auxerrois is a relative of Pinot Blanc, known for its viscosity and round, soft mouthfeel. In the wrong hands it can be flat and muted, but Mersiol’s is lively and fresh, full of energy and flowers.

Wine:   The 2018 Auxerrois has just arrived, and it’s delicious: straightforward, utterly drinkable wine. The nose shows green apples, honey, stones and wildflowers. The mouth is dry, smooth, and fresh, with tropical notes of mango and pineapple. At 12% alcohol it’s lively and crisp.

Pairing:   This is perfect background music — a glass to enjoy while you’re doing something else. Pair with a good book or cheese on crackers.

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Mersiol Auxerrois 2018
bottle price: $18

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[Advance Order] Punchy New 2018 Bourgogne Rouge

We’ve gathered the Ansonia team in Maine this week to taste through nearly 100 wines for the next two Futures issues. (We know, we know — someone’s gotta do it.) By this point in the year we usually have a good feel for the vintage, having spent a week tasting in Burgundy — but our cancelled trip means we’ve had to wait for samples to arrive from France.

In the meantime we’ve been reading up on the 2018s. It was an unusual vintage in Burgundy — even amid a trend of warmer and earlier vintages, this one stands out: record breaking temperatures, an early budbreak, enormous yields and high sugar levels. Many winemakers drew comparisons to 2003, but credited a very wet winter with 2018’s much better balance — same heat, less drought.

As usual, our first reds from the vintage come from Pierre Amiot, a family domaine in the heart of Burgundy. Amiot’s entire lineup of 2018 reds will be in next Sunday’s May Futures release, but we’re beginning today with their simplest: 2018 Bourgogne rouge.

The wine writers’ notes on 2018 reds are full of qualified enthusiasm. The best are said to be ripe, rich, mouthfilling, bold, and delicious — Vinous’s Neal Martin found “a sense of nascent joie-de-vivre” across the vintage. But wines picked too late can be overripe — blowsy, unbalanced wines that lack definition and character. “Very ripe wines of highly variable quality,” concluded Allen Meadows (Burghound).

With these reviews in mind, we wondered if Amiot’s 2018 Bourgogne might be a New Worldy fruit-bomb — pleasant, but neither balanced nor Burgundian. We needn’t have worried: the wine bursts with ripe, juicy fruit, but stands sturdily on the classical pillars of structure and freshness.

We found a pleasant, darkly floral wine, with notes of honey, plum/cherry jam, and black licorice in the nose. The mouth is punchy and juicy but with great definition — gulpable fruit with a precise, delineated finish. At the price, it’s a perfect picnic Pinot, due to arrive in time for July on the back patio.

As usual with this wine, quantities are limited; first come, first served. If there’s any left we’ll include it in next Sunday’s May Futures release.

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Amiot Bourgogne 2018
Futures price: $285/case

To order this wine, email Tom