Sunday, May 3, 2009

Wine List For John

All of the Champagnes that we carry at Thames River Wine & Spirits are grower-producer Champagnes. In other words, produced by the growers themselves from their best fruit, in the artisanal tradition.

Marc Hebrart Cuvee de Reserve $50
80% Pinot Noir, 20% Chardonnay, from soil of chalk and limestone, 5800 cases produced from the entire estate.
Marc's wines are powerful, masculine and dramatic. Sweeping tones of blue fruit are balanced and supported by focused acidity and magnificent expressions of minerality. Reminiscent of Corton Charlemagne in structure and concentration of fruit, the wine will improve as it warms and is exposed to air. I recommend serving it chilled but not cold in wide Bordeaux glasses to maximize aromatics.

Vilmart Grand Cellier $75
66% Chardonnay, 33% Pinot Noir, from soil of clay and limestone, 8750 cases produced from the entire estate, all free run juice.
Laurent Champs, owner and the wine maker at Vilmart, is widely considered one of the finest producers of grower Champagne. His use of oak in aging the base wine is as deft and poised as any grand marque in Champagne or Burgundy, and draws constant comparisons with Krug. His wines are beautiful, and exotic. Whereas Hebrart Champagnes are masculine, Vilmart wines are creamy, voluptuous and feminine, as well as informed by and insightful of their terroir.

I would serve both to each guest in two consecutive rounds, Hebrart first followed by Vilmart.

White wine

Nessa Albarino $15
From Rias Baixas (ree-ahs buy-shuss) in northern Spain made from 100% Albarino that is whole cluster pressed and does not go through malolatic fermentation, but is aged for one month on fine lees. All of that means that they are pressing their grapes softly to get the best juice, leaving the acidity in, while they create weight and texture. The result is a wine that has the body to satisfy your typical American Chardonnay drinker, but has much better acidity for food and is all together more interesting.

Luigi Baudana Chardonnay $18
From Piedmonte Italy. This is one of my all time favorite producers. Their Barolo is one of the best in the world, just ask the Gambero Rosso. The Baudana estate is a whopping 4.5 hectare and the Chardonnay is produced from a .5 hectare plot! The entire estate production is 2100 cases. The wine is stainless steel fermented and unadulterated in any way. As with all Baudana wines the emphasis is on viticulture, authenticity and varietal typicity.

Red Wine

Domaine La Manarine Cotes du Rhone $15
There are two astounding facts about this wine. The first is that this level of quality can be attained in a wine humbly labeled Cotes du Rhone. The second is that a wine of such dark complexity can be achieved with 100% Granache. I will address these in turn.
The wine maker, Gilles Gasq, learned his trade as assistant to Paul Jeune of Domaine Montpertuis, whose Chateaunuef-du-Pape is truly epic. In fact despite it's classification as simple Cotes du Rhone, the wine has quite a bit in in common with Cahtneuf-du-Pape. The vineyards are on a plateau just north of Orange known as the Plan de Dieu. The soil there consists of an impressive layer of Galets, the large quartzite stones that define the wine of Chateau-neuf-du-Pape.
Each time I drink this wine I am stunned by it's complexity, its ability to achieve layer upon layer of dark brooding flavors with one varietal. This is not a Granache of high toned fruit, of cherry and pepper. This is a wine of anise, fennel, currents and hard stone minerality.

Fratelli Alessandria Barbera $27
As with the Luigi Baudana, I came to this wine through the estate's much more famous Barolo. Alessandria Barolo is a perfect counterpoint to the brutish Baudana Barolo, it is fine and precise, intricate and involved. And like Baudana Chardonnay, the Alessandria Barbera is almost completely overlooked in favor of the very famous Barolo.
But good habits are hard to break, and in each case, a great winemaker will make great wine regardless of the varietal. Barbera is the narrow end of the wedge for California wine drinkers. Barbera has all the weight, structure and muscle that Napa drinkers have come to expect from wine, yet infinitely nuanced and full of what I call small flavors.
What was true for Mies Van der Rohe, is true in wine, god is in the details. The big sweeping statements provide the scope of the wine, but the small flavors that occupy the corners of your mouth, the fleeting, ephemeral wisps of terroir from an ancient vineyard, this is it's greatness.

I hope you enjoy them. You can reach me at if you have questions about these or any other wines.

Jim Morrison

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Blogger Loree Bourgoin said...

Nice list! I have enjoyed all but Luigi Baudana, which I'm also eager to try.

May 4, 2009 at 10:36 AM  

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