Bachelder’s Trio of 2009 Chardonnays

Bachelder 2009 ChardonnaysThomas Bachelder, former winemaker of Le Clos Jordanne in Ontario’s Niagara Peninsula, has released a trio of Chardonnays from 3 different wine regions around the world – Burgundy, Oregon, and Niagara.  Why were these areas chosen?  Well, Niagara and Oregon have cooler climates similar to Burgundy, Chardonnay’s ancestral homeland, and since Bachelder wanted to showcase cool climate Chardonnay at its finest, these were logical choices.

Thomas has lived and worked in all three of these regions at some point in his winemaking career.  He does not own vineyards or wineries in these regions; he rents space in other wineries to craft these regional wines.  Please click here to see Konrad Ejbich’s interview with Thomas Bachelder.

An Education in Terroir

This project is a true education in terroir.  Although there is no direct English translation for this French term, “terroir” can be thought of, very simply, as the whole natural environment of a vineyard site. It refers to the soil, topography, climate, and even grape varieties and viticultural practices. The various types and combinations of each of these factors is unique to each site and is believed to contribute to the flavours, aromas, and style of the wine. The terroir of a particular place cannot be replicated elsewhere.

Winemaking

Bachelder made each wine exactly the same way in order to illustrate the unique terroir of each region – the only thing different is the ground the grapes were grown in.  The grapes are not from one specific vineyard, but were sourced from a number of good vineyards in each region, organic wherever possible.  Wild yeasts were used for fermentation and then the wines were aged for 16 months in older oak barrels. The oak is subtle and integrated and does not overpower the natural aromas and flavours of the Chardonnay grape.

All three wines were released at Vintages at the LCBO on Saturday, February 18, but the Oregon wine was pulled off the shelves temporarily.  Read “Tartrates in Wine – Bachelder Oregon Chardonnay” to find out why.  I didn’t open the wines until I was able to open all three of them together and could taste them side by side.

Bachelder Bourgogne ChardonnayBachelder Bourgogne Chardonnay 2009:  A bit tight with delicate aromas of lemon/lime citrus, yellow apple, white blossoms, wet stone, and a chalky, steely character.  The  rather austere minerality follows through onto the palate where there is a zippy acidity and a long length.  This is the most austere and flinty of the three Chardonnays (definitely Old World in style), but no less delicious.  I think this is my favourite of the three.  A great food wine.

Bachelder Oregon Chardonnay 2009Bachelder Oregon Chardonnay 2009:  Sweet, ripe fruit aromas of pineapple, peach, and citrus, with vanilla, minerals, and a very slight nutty note.  Rich and creamy on the palate with notes of sweet vanilla, caramel, and ripe yellow fruit, and a long length.  A style for those who like a rounder, creamier texture in their white wines. This is certainly more of a New World style, but it still retains the tension typical of cool climate Chardonnay, with a slight tartness on the finish.  While it’s very different from the Bourgogne Chardonnay, it’s without question a very pleasurable wine.

Bachelder Niagara Chardonnay 2009Bachelder Niagara Chardonnay 2009:  Stylistically, this Chardonnay lies somewhere between the Burgundy and Oregon examples.  It has the both the acidity and minerality of the Chardonnay from Burgundy, as well as some of the fruit flavours of the wine from Oregon.  This wine is full of citrus, tree fruit, wet stone, and spice aromas.  I also found a touch of smokiness – not sure if that’s the limestone soils the grapes grow in or the judicious use of oak.  This wine has a firm structure and a long length.  Very delicious.

All three of these wines are worth the $34.95 price tag at the LCBO.  If you can splurge a bit or have some wine-loving friends coming over, then I recommend you buy all three and taste them together to really get a feel for the unique terroir of each region.

Wednesday’s WoW! Bouchard Pere & Fils La Vignee Pinot Noir 2009

Bouchard Pere et Fils La Vignee Pinot Noir 2009

A Great Wine With Turkey!

This week’s WoW is for all you last minute Christmas organizers who are still looking for a good red wine to serve with your turkey dinner.  Bouchard Pere et Fils La Vignee Pinot Noir 2009 is a great choice at the great price of $16.95 at the LCBO.

This wine comes from Pinot Noir’s ancestral homeland of Burgundy, France, where some of the most incredible examples of this grape are produced.

Bouchard Pere et Fils

Founded in 1732, Bouchard Pere et Fils is now the largest domaine in the Cote d’Or.  In 1820, Bernard Bouchard purchased the royal fortress of Beaune, built by King Louis XI and King Louis XII.  Since then, Bouchard’s wines have been cellared in the bastions and ramparts of this fortress.  The domaine’s 321 acres of vineyards includes 185 acres of Premier Cru and 30 acres of Grand Cru.  In 1995, the Bouchard family passed the domaine on to a very old Champagne family, the Henriots, who have continued to run the domaine with the special attention and care the Bouchard’s did for over 26o years.

Winemaking

The grapes for this wine are grown by quality conscious growers who follow Bouchard Pere et Fils strict quality control standards.  Twenty-five percent of the wine is aged in barrels for 6 months while the remaining 75% is aged in stainless steel vats.  All maturing takes place in the cellars of the ancient Chateau de Beaune.

Tasting Notes

This wine is a pretty ruby colour and displays aromas of red berries, especially cranberry and raspberry, spice, and a hint of vanilla.  It’s medium-bodied, soft, and silky on the palate with a very good length.  A really nice red Burgundy for the price.  This wine could take the place of cranberry sauce with your turkey dinner this Christmas.

Picking Grapes in Burgundy

After spending 4 wonderful weeks in France, with over 3 weeks spent in the stunningly beautiful Burgundy region, I finally returned home to reality last week (and to a closet full of clothes that are now too tight).  The purpose of my trip was not just to taste and enjoy the incredible wine and food native to Burgundy – which I did in great quantities (hence the clothes that are now too tight) – I was also there to sacrifice my back, neck, shoulders, and fingers in order to experience the vendange (grape harvest) first-hand.  Well, I survived, with body and liver mostly in tact.

At the beginning of the summer, when we were planning our trip, it was thought that the harvest would be one of the earliest ever.  At one point we even thought we would be picking grapes as early as August 25th!  However, the weather changed in July, becoming a touch cooler and wetter, slowing down the ripening process a bit.  As it turned out, the harvest was still about 3 weeks early in some areas, with the harvest in Beaune and to the south starting on August 29th.

I worked for Domaine de Villaines Viserny, located north-west of Dijon.  The Domaine has 12.8 ha of planted with Auxerrois, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, and Pinot Noir, and its wines have been labelled as Vin de  Pays des Coteaux de l’Auxois since 1996.  They have chosen to train the vines on the Lyre system  The Lyre training system is said to reduce the risk of freezing and maximize the grapes’ exposure to the sun, and it is very rare to see this type of trellis in Burgundy.  We were quite happy when we found out we would be picking grapes on this type of trellis as the grapes are a bit higher off the ground than with the more traditional guyot system used in most of Burgundy, saving us from having to bend down too low to cut the bunches from the vines.  Due to our more northern location, we started picking on September 5, about a week after vineyards in the south.

“Team Canada”, as we liked to call ourselves, consisted of myself, Lesley (also a certified Sommelier), Alex (an LCBO employee), Andrea, and Jen.  We were the only foreign pickers in the group and I got the sense that the locals didn’t think we would last.  They were pleasant to us, but not overly warm.  It could also have been the language barrier.  I think they gained more respect for us as we dutifully showed up for work, and tried our best every day, even though we may have been tired and suffering.  By the end of our time there, they were very warm and friendly with us.

On our first day, we picked the Chardonnay that would be used for the sparkling wine.  We started work at 8 am and picked until about 10 am or so.  Then it was time for a ‘coffee break’.  There was coffee, hot chocolate, juice, and snacks available….and wine.  Yes, wine.  At 10 am.  Twenty to thirty minutes later, we would make our way back up the hill (the vineyard was located on quite a steep slope) to pick grapes for another couple of hours.  At lunch break, there was always an aperitif before the sandwiches were served –  one day Pastis, another day Ratafia – and of course, there was wine.  Afternoon break consisted of more wine…and cold beer.  I have to say, the beer really hit the spot after having spent the day in the hot sun.  

We were full of energy on that first day, but by the end of it we were wondering if we would indeed make it through the next 2 weeks of picking.  I think we went to bed at 9:30 that night.  The next day we picked Auxerrois, a much more difficult grape to pick as the vines were quite vigorous, and we had to fight our way through walls of foliage just to get to the grapes.  9 pm was our bedtime that night.  The third day it rained.  As I stood there in the vineyard on that rainy Wednesday morning, my neck and shoulders aching, my hands cold and wet, I was ready to throw in the towel.  How was I going to make it through another 10 days of this?  When we were called down the slope for lunch, I thought I understood one of the bosses say that we were done for the day (my French is not very good).  My spirits lifted and I looked up at him and said, “à demain?”

“Lundi,” he said.

“Lundi? Vraiment?” I asked.

“Oui, Lundi.”

A wave of relief washed over ‘Team Canada’.  We had 4 days off!  We practically danced back to the car.  We spent the next 4 days travelling around Burgundy and even made a day trip up to Champagne.

When we returned to work on Monday we knew we only had a week left.  We were tired and sore, but we made it.  I think our bodies even got used to it a bit.  I have wonderful memories of the 2011 vendange in Burgundy, but would I do it again?  I think once is enough.

Traipsing Around the Grands Crus – What a Day!

The day our big red bus drove south along the Côte de Nuits, I thought I was going to die and go to heaven right there.  We passed sign after sign naming so many of the famous vineyards I had only ever read about in books and seen on wine labels – Chambertin, Charmes-Chambertin, Chambertin Clos de Beze, Clos de la Roche, Clos St-Denis, and Clos de Tart,  just to name a few.  I practically had tears in my eyes, not believing that I was actually there, seeing this hallowed land with my own eyes.

We stopped at Clos de Vougeot where we visited the Château du Clos de Vougeot.  The first buildings on the site were built by the Citeaux monks in the 12th century when they realized the need for a place to make the wine from grapes grown on this vast vineyard.  In 1551, Dom Loisier, the 48th Abbot of Citeaux decided to add to the buildings and the large castle in the vineyards was erected.

During the Revolution in 1790, the Château and the vineyard were confiscated and became “property of the nation.”  During the next several decades, the domain changed owners many times and was near ruin when in 1889 a Burgundian by the name of Léonce Bocquet, saved the estate from certain destruction and spent vast sums of money restoring it.

In 1944, the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin, who had used the chateau since 1934, became the caretakers of the Clos de Vougeot, and took on the huge task of making the Château du Clos de Vougeot one of the shrines of Burgundy.

Tours of the domain’s buildings are available and there is a large gift shop where one can buy all kinds of wine related gifts, books, maps, and post cards.  No wine is made at the Château any more and none is for sale in the gift shop.

After our visit of Clos de Vougeot we again drove south to the village of Vosne-Romanée and walked around the widely celebrated Grands Crus vineyards of this commune.  Vosne-Romanée is mentioned in documents as early as the 6th century, and  although Gevry-Chambertin has 8 Grands crus vineyards and Vosne-Romanée only has 6, it is still considered to be the greatest Pinot Noir village in the world.   I think I had a religious experience…

A rather manic search through the tiny village led us to the red gates of the illustrious Domaine de la Romanée-Conti.  We did not go in as they are not open to visitors without an appointment.  The wines of Romanée-Conti are the scarcest, most expensive, and perhaps the best in the world (or so I’m told as I’ve never had the good fortune to try one).  The DRC, as Domaine de la Romanée-Conti is affectionately known, owns the entire La Romanée-Conti vineyard, as well as owning La Tâche in its entirety, about 1/2 of Richebourg, over 1/3 of Grands-Echézeaux, and 1/7 of Echézeaux, and large holdings in Romanee-St-Vivant.

Other than the letters RC at the top of the gate, the only other indication that this is where the most sought after wines on the planet are made is a tiny plaque just to the right of the red door.

What a fantastic day this was!

Domaine de la Motte – Chablis

My adventures in Burgundy continued as we climbed into our big red bus, and headed northwest, along the very narrow and incredibly winding roads, to the northern Burgundy region of Chablis, where we visited Domaine de la Motte.  The Chablis wine region is named after the small, sleepy village on the left bank of the River Serein. Just across the river on the slopes of a large hill, lie the 7 Grand Cru vineyards. Chablis is quite far removed from the famous Cote d’Or region of Burgundy, looking almost like a lone island off in the distance. It’s actually closer to Champagne than the rest of Burgundy.

Chablis is famous for its steely, flinty, minerally wines made from the Chardonnay grape.  There are 4 classifications of Chablis wines:  Grand Cru (7 of them), Premier Cru (17 of them), Chablis, and Petit Chablis.  For more information on Chablis, read my article “The Wines of Chablis” on Suite101.com.

Domaine de la Motte is located in the tiny village of Beine just northwest of Chablis.  It is run by the Michaut family, who were gracious enough to show us around their facility and offered us the opportunity to taste several of their wines.

Domaine de la Motte’s winemaking facility is new and pristine with big, shiny, stainless steel tanks and a floor so clean you could eat off it.  All the wines are fermented and aged in these beautiful steel tanks, with the exception of the Premier Crus which are aged in oak.  Once fermentation is complete, the wine remains in the same tank until the malolactic fermentation has run its course.  When MLF is complete the sediment is removed from the wine, refermented, and then added back to the wine to add complexity.  The wine is only racked once to prevent stress on the wine.  The finished wine is fined with Bentonite.  They admit that fining may take away flavour, but that consumers demand a completely clear wine. After fining, the wine is filtered once through a cake of ground seashells.

Domaine de la Motte owns about 60 ha of vineyards including parcels of Premier Cru vineyards, such as Vauligneau and Beauroy.  We visited both.  The Vauligneau vineyard is about 37 years old.  It was a forest until as late as the 1970s when vineyards were planted, and  was only recently promoted to Premier Cru status.  The soils are Kimmeridgian limestone which is a combination of chalky limestone and clay containing the fossils of ancient oyster shells.  In addition to making their own wines, they also sell some of their grapes to other negociants such as William Fevre and Bouchard Pere & Fils.

Beauroy Premier Cru is perhaps the flagship wine of Domaine de la Motte.  The vineyard has better explosure than the Vauligneau vineyard and the vines are about 40 years old.

The winemakers in the Chablis region and throughout Burgundy were very excited about the prospects of the 2009 vintage.  They claim it might just be the best vintage yet, especially for the white wines.  It seems the growing season had perfect conditions.  Clive Coates MW puts the vintage up there with 2005 and 1999 as the best in the last 25 years.

Tasting Notes:

Petit Chablis 2009: Lots of green apple, mineral, and flint aromas with a slight grapefruity note.   It’s light bodied with a steely minerality, zippy acidity, and a medium length.  A young, fresh, thirst-quenching wine.

Chablis 2007:  A light straw colour with a greenish hue and aromas of green apple, mineral, and gun flint.  Fuller-bodied than the Petit Chablis, it shows flavours of gun flint, chalk, and wet stone.  A nicely balanced wine with a good length.

Vieilles Vignes Chablis 2008: the grapes were grown on vines over 30 years old. An intense nose of gun flint, lime zest, and green apple.  A fuller-bodied wine again displaying concentrated lime and mineral flavours, with a long, creamy finish.  A very nice wine.

After a delicious lunch of wild boar pate with a baguette and various cheeses, we continued our tasting.  M. Michaut, himself, killed the wild boar and made the pate.

Beauroy 1er Cru 2007:  This wine was aged for 3 months in Troncais oak barrels. A beautiful nose of yellow and green apple, mineral, lime, white blossoms, and ever-so-slight vanilla.  The oak is very well integrated and gives the wine a creamy, smooth texture with flavours of vanilla, pineapple, lime and the steely minerality we all associate with a good Chablis.  A beautiful wine.  I brought a bottle home.

Pinot Noir 2008 Bourgogne: This wine is not labelled as Chablis, but as a generic Bourgogne.  Only Chardonnay can be labelled as Chablis.  Lots of red berry flavours, earth, spice, and bergamot.  Light bodied and refreshing, this wine shows flavours of red fruit and spice with a pleasant earthiness.   A nice, light, very quaffable pinot noir.

Before you ask, I don’t believe these wines are available for purchase in Ontario.  I have searched online and have not been able to find anything.  If any of you know if the wines of Domaine de la Motte can be found here, please let us know.  Unfortunately, many of the wonderful wines I tried in Burgundy cannot be found here.




Domaine Michel Prunier & Fille

I was introduced to the wines of Domaine Michel Prunier & Fille on my first night in Burgundy.  Exhausted as we were after what seemed like an eternity of planes, trains, and buses, we toasted our arrival with a couple of bottles of Prunier Cremant de Bourgogne.  The cremant was creamy and delicious.  I didn’t take any notes on this first night because, after being awake for over 36 hours straight, I don’t think I could have held a pen – holding a wine glass; however, was no problem.  I preferred to drink the cremant on its own, while a few of the others in our group liked it mixed with cassis, making it a Kir Royale.

Michel Prunier

A few days after we arrived in Burgundy, we went to the tiny village of Auxey-Duresses to visit the caves of Domaine Michel Prunier & Fille.  Driving through the village we noticed the ‘Prunier’ name on many of the buildings.  It seems that Michel and his relations own much of the town.  Clive Coates M.W., in his book “Cote d’Or: A Celebration of the Great Wines of Burgundy”, calls Michel Prunier the best grower in Auxey-Duresses.  Michel’s very young looking daughter now works with him, so he has added ‘& Fille’ to the Domaine’s name.

The descent into the caves of Michel Prunier.

Michel is very passionate about his wines and his caves and personally gave us a complete tour of his entire facility.  The caves are 350 years old and are quite amazing as you can see by the photos.

His white wines are aged for about 1 year or less in oak and the reds are aged from between 12 and 18 months.  All the oak used for the barrels is from the famous Vosges and Limosin forests.  Michel explained that the the Vosges oak is more dense and imparts more tannins to the wine while the Limosin oak is softer and imparts more vanilla flavours.  He uses the barrels for 10 to 12 years.  They only impart flavour for the first 3 years and after that they are used only for storage.  M. Prunier currently has about 250 barrels in his caves and he buys 30% new every year.

Pupitres for the Cremant de Bourgogne.

M. Prunier controls about 12 hectares of vines parcels in several different communes which he farms, for the most part, orgainically.   He makes a range of still white and red wines, as well as tiny amount of Cremant de Bourgogne.  His very small production of sparkling wine allows him to continue to do remuage by hand.  There was not a gyropalette to be seen.

Old vintages from '46, '47, and '49.

Tasting Notes:

Auxey-Duresses 2005 Blanc: aromas of lemon citrus, acacia and floral notes.  Zippy acidity, a round body and a medium length were evident on the palate.  A very pleasant but relatively simple wine.  This wine was aged for 6 months in old oak barrels.

Auxey-Duresses Old Vines 2007 Blanc: The vines are 75 years old and this wine was barrel fermented and aged in 15% new oak.  This wine shows more pronounced aromas of vanilla, spice, white flowers, pineapple, and citrus.  A very silky texture with toasty vanilla notes indicating much more oak influence.  Very nice.

Mersault 2007 Blanc: A complex nose of vanilla, caramel, spice, almond, and mineral.  A beautifully creamy texture with flavours of almond, vanilla, and spice with a buttery finish.  Delicious!  Estimated maturity is 2012.

Chorey-les-Beaune 2006: Fruity aromas of cherry, strawberry, and red currant dominate the nose.  It’s light in body and displays flavours of cranberry, cherry, and red licorice with a medium length.  Pleasant and quaffable.  Drink now.

Auxey-Duresses 2007: This wine shows more earthy aromas of mineral and rich soil, with cherry and red currant fruit.  On the palate the tannins are noticeably higher than the previous red with lots of red berry flavours and mineral.  This wine has the capability to age a few years.

Auxey-Duresses 1er Cru 2005: There was a distinct aroma of sulphur when this wine was first poured, but it blew off after a few minutes.  The wine shows aromas of red berry fruit and spice.  It’s medium bodied with concentrated red berry fruit flavours and a very silky texture with a long finish.  M. Prunier claims this wine will age well for 20 years.

Pommard Les Vignots 2006: A very pretty nose showing red raspberries, cranberries, and pink blossoms.  This wine displays a silky texture and soft tannins with flavours of cranberries and other red berries.  Yummy.  I brought a bottle home with me.

Volnay 1er Cru Les Caillerets 2006: Intense black cherry, red cherry, red berry, and violet aromas.  Smooth in texture, complex, and balanced. This wine is delicious!  Slightly fuller-bodied with bigger tannins and a very long length.  I brought one of these home too.

England used to be Domaine Michel Prunier & Fille’s top customer, but it seems that now Canada is.  It’s doubtful you’ll find any Prunier wines at LCBO stores but Le Sommelier Inc at http://www.lesommelier.com does carry some.  If you live in Ontario, check out their website and contact them if you’re interested.

La Roche d’Hys – A Little Piece of Burgundian Paradise

May was a crazy, yet incredible month, and the best part was my 2 week trip to Burgundy.  Yes, it was a wonderful trip and I have many (hundreds) of pictures and lots of stories to tell.  Let me start with La Roche d’Hys.

We stayed for 10 nights at a farmhouse located in the stunningly picturesque rolling hills of northern Burgundy, owned by the incredibly generous and hospitable Jeannette and Howard Aster.  The farm is called La Roche d’Hys and serves as a centre for artistic development and cultural studies.  Go to their website at www.larochedhys.com for more information about what they do.

Every morning we would trek up the hill to meet the big red bus that would carry us along the very narrow and winding roads, and we would spend the day exploring the many wonders of Burgundy.  We visited numerous wineries in an assortment of areas, a bakery, a fromagerie, a butcher, and a farm where foie gras is made.  We explored various villages, towns and cities, such as Dijon, Vitteaux, Flavigny, Vosne-Romanee, and of course, Beaune.  After our busy day exploring, discovering and tasting, we were treated to a home cooked meal back at the farm with a steady supply of local Burgundian wine from Howard’s cellar.  Yes, it was a hard life.

Stay tuned for more of my adventures in Burgundy.

La Roche d'Hys

The farmhouse.

A view from up on the hill.

A late afternoon view of the town of Vitteaux from La Roche D'Hys

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