Maltroye Madness: Jean-Pierre’s Are 2011’s Best White Burgs, 93-95RAS!

The 2011 vintage was tough for some Burgundians. But not for the precise and eccentric Jean-Pierre Courmot and his beautiful plots in Chassagne-Montrachet. Jean-Pierre’s pinot noirs are pure and vivid with energy at every level and his 1er cru whites are the best I’ve tasted in this vintage – the best since 1989. Just stunning, among the great chardonnays of Burgundy. I love the rich and ripe Santenay (93RAS) and the dense La Romanee (95RAS) oughta be Grand Cru. Not easy for everyone get to in to see Jean Pierre. But I was an early member of the cult dealing with JP’s dad and every year I get inside the iron gate. The high-vaulted cellars are a gallery of bold modern art; the “backyard” is a treasure of a vineyard sloping down from the castle. Jean-Pierre’s jetset style makes him the Keith Richards of the Cote de Beaune, so we get along fine and I come home with a great supply. Maybe you can always get what you want, but you better hurry.

Buy 2011 Chateau de la Maltroye Bourgogne Rouge, Cote de Beaune
2011 Maltroye Bourgogne Rouge
Fresh, vivid pinot noir with great balance. Excellent effort by Jean-Pierre.
89+ points, Bob Sprentall, B-21 Proprietor
Buy 2011 Chateau de la Maltroye Blanc, Chassagne Montrachet
2011 Maltroye Chassagne-Montrachet Blanc
Solid village wine that exceeds that of just about every neighbor.
89 points, Bob Sprentall, B-21 Proprietor
Buy 2011 Chateau de la Maltroye Rouge, Chassagne Montrachet
2011 Maltroye Chassagne-Montrachet Rouge
Cranberry freshness in the Chassagne. Good terrior expression. Taut, berry fresh, and vivid.
91 points, Bob Sprentall, B-21 Proprietor
Buy 2011 Chateau de la Maltroye Clos Saint Jean 1er Cru, Chassagne Montrachet
2011 Maltroye Chassagne-Montrachet Clos Saint Jean 1er Cru
Very long, vivid, fresh with more drive than Jean-Pierre’s other reds. The clay here comes through adding body and balance….
92 points, Bob Sprentall, B-21 Proprietor
Buy 2011 Chateau de la Maltroye Santenay La Comme Blanc 1er Cru, Santenay
2011 Maltroye Santenay La Comme Blanc 1er Cru
Remarkable Santenay blanc. Been tasting this wine for 20+ years and this may be the best effort. Dense, rich, ripeness and full. Stunning effort for the vintage.
93 points, Bob Sprentall, B-21 Proprietor
Buy 2011 Chateau de la Maltroye Chassagne Montrachet 'La Romanee' 1er Cru, Chassagne Montrachet
2011 Maltroye Chassagne-Montrachet “La Romanee” 1er Cru
…La Romanee is in the league of Corton Charlemagne and Meursault Pierriere. Great memories of the 1989 made by Jean-Pierre’s father. This is Grand Cru.
95 points, Bob Sprentall, B-21 Proprietor

Jacques Lardière Swan Song:

Great 2010s for Louis Jadot

Ahhh… Burgundy. No place on the planet is more terroir-focused than the diabolically diverse soils of the Cote d’Or. This diversity is why we “Burghounds” (thanks, Allen) go nuts for the good stuff. No house in the Cote d’Or has the of the house of Louis Jadot and its magically methodical winemaker of 42 years, Jacques Lardière, who has retired after 42 years at the helm. He took over as head winemaker in 1970 and Jadot thrived ever since and now owns over 150 hectares of vines and works with hundreds of growers to make sure fruit is pure and wines are precise. Jacques never talks up his wines, his humble manner belying his mastery, instead he allows the label of Jadot and the skill of its growers tell the story, vintage after vintage. A gentleman like Jacques is always missed, but I have many memories of him in my cellar.



2010 Chablis: Stellar Chardonnay

Three trips to Chablis this year? Makes no sense, really. Tasting with producers such as Jean-Marie Raveneau, Roland Lavantureux, Guillaume Michel, and Olivier Savary, not so bad. Tasting the ’10s has kept me coming back for more. From wines with the steely, electric zing of all stainless steel tanks such as Savary and Lavantureux (both from our pal Kermit Lynch), to those that have more pronounced roundness from time in oak as with the wines of Droin. Chablis is a wine that pleases thanks to a lean line of minerality coming from chalky limestone soils composed of crushed crustacean shells from millions of years ago; the famous Kimmeridgian soil. We have sold a boatload of the ’10s, they are complete and textbook Chablis. Stocks are fading fast.


2010 Roland Lavantureux Chablis

Who produces a “village” Chablis as genuine as this? Roland Lavantureux has great sites and does a masterful job in the cellar. Excellent Kimmeridgian expression, weight and concentration. Solid and pure.

2010 Francine & Olivier Savary Chablis

…citrus-inflected nose that introduces rich and round flavors that possess plenty of volume as well as mid-palate density, all wrapped in a solidly complex and mineral-driven finish….

2010 Domaine Louis Michel Montée de Tonnerre 1er Cru Chablis

…White peaches, lime, slate and crushed rocks emerge from the glass, but here, too, it is the wine’s textural finesse that impresses above all else. A long, polished finish… utterly impeccable…

2010 Droin Vaillons 1er Cru

The 2010 Chablis Vaillons is another striking wine endowed with breathtaking purity in its pure, crystalline fruit. The oak is beautifully integrated. Sweet minty notes wrap around the textured finish….

2010 Droin Montmains 1er Cru

…impresses for its rich, voluminous fruit and gorgeous depth. This is not my favorite wine here, but the 2010 is impossible not to admire for its stunning balance and clean, articulate finish….


Chiroubles: You’ll Want this Big Bouquet of Violets

STUNNING! You want this wine. I am a sucker for old vines and concentration, who isn’t? …And Bouland? This guy is at the top. This is a wine to lust for, and those of you who have tasted great wines from Beaujolais or Burgundy know what I mean. This reminds me of a 2003 Chambolle-Musigny, but even richer and bigger, with similar stone delineation, AND a nose that is dangerously seductive. After all, there was good reason Gamay was allowed to be blended with pinot noir in the Cote D’Or a century ago. In January the growers here spoke of how early their harvest was last year. August harvest also occurred in 2003 and 2007, and think back to the great wines those vintages yielded. There are more ’11 Beaujolais coming your way, but this is a great start!


2011 Daniel Bouland Chiroubles

…Bright aromatics initially turn into plushness with earthy spice components. White pepper and blackberries with some sappy palate qualities… Complete and complex.

2010 Francois Carillon Bourgogne Blanc

Incredible Value, 90RAS

My May visit to Burgundy took me to some impressive addresses in Puligny-Montrachet. Carillon is certainly one, the family producing wine in Puligny-Monrtrachet since 1632. In 2009, Francois and his brother Jacques decided to split the domaine. Francois Carillon has a masterful touch in the cellar, that is clear. He had been the domaine’s vineyard manager, so the 2010s were most telling of his cellar talents. I have lined up on the Francois side, after all you gotta get it right in the vineyard to get it right in the cellar. Of all Francois’ wines tasted, the most remarkable to me was this little Bourgogne Blanc, so I had to press him. Sure the 1er Cru were impressive, but Francois seemed to be most proud of the Bourgogne, telling me that it is from three parcels within the Puligny-Montrachet appellation with vine ages of 45, 54, and 58! In fact, I preferred it to the village Puligny Montrachet. The richness of old vines is not to be missed. This is a stunning value and I urge you to give it a swirl.


2010 Carillon Bourgogne Blanc

Sophisticated nose; old vine pedigree. Rich and unctuous on the palate… a most interesting Bourgogne that exceeds most Puligny-Montrachet village wine. A real crowd-pleaser.

91 Point Oregon Pinot

I’m Convinced By The Brilliant 2010 Solena!

Got very excited finding Solena’s 2008 Grand Cuvee a while back and it takes a lot to excite a Burgundy freak with a U.S. Pinot. Happens most often for me in Oregon. Maybe because the vintages there are as dicey as they are in the Cote d’Or. Sure enough, the 2009 disappointed. And I skipped it. Good thinking! Luckily the gorgeous 2010 came about. Lots of fruit with touches of licorice and cinnamon. Actually, I think the secret ingredient is that this young winery has quite a heritage with a French accent in the family. He’s from Bordeaux, she’s from Napa, but the fruit’s from Willamette. Remember their wine love story? For their wedding gift in 2000 Laurent Montalieu, who grew up in the Medoc and Guadeloupe, and Danielle Andrus, nee Pine Ridge, bought an 80-acre estate in Willamette as their wedding gift to each other. They set up their bridal registry at top vineyard nurseries and listed six clones of Pinot Noir vines as wedding gifts. It’s paying off big now. If you liked the ’08, you’re gonna love the 2010.


2010 Solena Pinot Noir Grande Cuvee

Got very excited first finding Solena’s 2008 Grand Cuvee, and it takes a lot to excite a Burgundy freak with a U.S. Pinot. …gorgeous 2010. Lots of fruit with touches of licorice and cinnamon….

Final Offer: Stunning 2010 Chablis of Brothers Droin

Chablis! Mais oui. I found the most consistent success of the vintage up in Chablis, an hour and a half north of Beaune and decidedly colder (a few degrees centigrade adds up!). Beyond Dijon, almost Champagne. The clay and old calcareous shells in the Kimmeridgian soils give chardonnay the flinty edge I like. Especially with oysters… and looking at the old fossils in the soil, the oysters were here first. I’ve had 2010s from Puligny-Montrachet, Meursault and the surrounding villages, but bottle for bottle Chablis is the place of the vintage. The people are Jean-Paul and Benoit Droin of a family that has eight 1er cru vineyards, five grand cru sites and has been at it since 1620. A challenging year with sometimes challenging sites, but the Droins nailed it in 2010. Droin does a beautiful job with the best Chablis vineyards. This is terroir Burgundy fans can taste and love.


2010 Droin Chablis…simply dazzling, and makes for a great introduction to the estate’s 2010s. It boasts gorgeous, bright fruit supported by attractive minerality. High toned floral notes add further lift on the finish….

88-90 points, Parker’s Wine Advocate

2010 Droin 1er Cru Vaillons…another striking wine endowed with breathtaking purity in its pure, crystalline fruit. The oak is beautifully integrated. Sweet minty notes wrap around the textured finish. The Vaillons was aged 20% in oak….

92-94 points, Parker’s Wine Advocate

2010 Droin 1er Cru Montmains…impresses for its rich, voluminous fruit and gorgeous depth. This is not my favorite wine here, but the 2010 is impossible not to admire for its stunning balance and clean, articulate finish….

92-94 points, Parker’s Wine Advocate

2010 Droin Grand Cru ValmurThe 2010 Chablis Valmur is another big, spherical wine that covers every corner of the palate with expressive fruit. It shows fabulous overall balance and a stunning personality. This is ripe, deep and super harmonious….

93-95 points, Parker’s Wine Advocate

2010 Droin Grand Cru GrenouilleThe 2010 Chablis Grenouilles is fat, rich and seductive. It possesses tons of generosity in its sweet, enveloping fruit. It is the most accessible and open of the 2010 grand crus, but lacks a little of the sheer excitement…

91-93 points, Parker’s Wine Advocate

2010 Droin Grand Cru Les Clos…Sweet floral notes are woven throughout a core of expansive fruit in this richly textured wine. The Clos possesses fabulous balance and length, with a bright, zesty finish that balances some of the more overt aromas…

93-95 points, Parker’s Wine Advocate

My Best Bourgogne Blanc

2010 Paul Pernot

No, I haven’t found a better Bourgogne Blanc than this. I love Puligny-Montrachet is why and Paul Pernot personifies Puligny! Sure, we have Bourgogne from Bouzereau, a close contender. There’s also the Macon-Farges from Henri Perrusset down South. I love them too, but Puligny-Montrachet, Paul Pernot’s home, is the place for me. He owns a lot of vineyards, no doubt some vines are as old as Paul himself. The difference is that Paul’s chardonnay is growing in the distinct and ancient terroir of Puligny-Montrachet. The reason there are so many top cru vineyards here (the soil packed with chalk and minerals) shines through in its simplest wines. Paul Pernot doesn’t seem to have changed in the 20 years I’ve known him, and his wines are just as reliable. When I saw him last fall he still wore the same flat cap, probably the same glasses and is still squeezing his white Burgundies into lean, crisp mineral joys that taste of Puligny-Montrachet even when the label says Bourgogne.


2010 Paul Pernot Bourgogne Blanc

More akin to the 2008, very serious chardonnay from the village of Puligny-Montrachet and one of the great bargains of Burgundy.

Burgundy in South Africa!

Hamilton Russell Pinot Scores 93WA!

I search the world for great pinot noir as good as Burgundy’s and am usually disappointed. Not with Hamilton Russell in South Africa, though. I know you’re surprised. Sure, but the wines are flat-out exceptional. Ask Parker, Spectator, Enthusiast, they all agree, Hamilton Russell is unbelievably sophisticated. News to us, but the winery is 40 years old. It’s been a decade since my last visit and the hits keep coming. The key is that that vineyards are as far south as South Africa gets, almost in the sea with strong maritime influences, on soils of clay and shale. The pinot has big, bright red fruit with the silky elegance of Burgundy; tannins are soft yet the minerality and acidity give structure and balance. Everyone loving Burgundy (and anyone curious if South Africa makes world-class wine) has to try this wine. It’ll make a believer out of you, and make you add Hemel-en-Aarde to your list of great Burg appellations… and great buys.


2009 Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir

…bouquet of bright red cherries, red currant and a hint of dried blood. The palate is medium-bodied with very fine tannins and a lovely caressing texture in the mouth, fine tension and poise …shimmering finish..

Puligny-Montrachet? Saint-Aubin Is The Closest Thing! 92RAS

Sylvain Langoureau

Head south out of Beaune and it’s easy to spot Montrachet, the vineyard on the hill where all the wine tourists are taking pictures. For the best buys in white Burgundies, I like to go just a little bit farther, and turn right around the hill. I’m then in quiet St. Aubin and the warm home, winery, garage and cellar of the Langoureau family. Their village just above Chassagne-Montrachet is somewhere I could live happily; my dog and theirs would have a great time. From their place it’s just a short way up the hill to their 1er cru vineyards, just around the hill from Montrachet, barely 100 yards, same altitude, same rocks, facing more southerly and also gorgeous chardonnay. Right next to the border with Puligny-Montrachet and its grand cru prices. These are prime old vines with the bright young energy of Sylvain and Nathalie. In 2010, even their “village” blanc has nerve and intensity worthy of the neighbor’s admiration. The 1er wines could pass for Puligny. I like En Remilly best, ripe, dense and intense, but it’s a tough choice. So much finesse and polish in the Frionnes, you may like it better. Decide for yourself. At my prices you can try both for nearly the price of one Puligny-Montrachet. Premier cru Burgundy at bargain prices!

2010 Langoureau St. Aubin Blanc
2010 Langoureau St. Aubin Blanc

2010 Langoureau St. Aubin 1er Cru Frionnes
2010 Langoureau St. Aubin 1er Cru Frionnes

2010 Langoureau St. Aubin 1er Cru En Remilly
2010 Langoureau St. Aubin 1er Cru En Remilly

2008 Black Slate Porrera Rocks! 92RAS

2008 Black Slate Porrera
2008 Black Slate Porrera

You know we love Priorats, especially from the mountains around Porrera. I love how you can taste the very slick and slate-y licorella rocks of the terroir, down deep in the richness. And it smells like you’re in the mountains, climbing through the gorse and wild herbs. It’s such a difficult wine to grow that it can fetch $50 to $100 a bottle and up, yet this version from Marc Ripoll Sans is just as deep, pungent and silky and less than half the price. Even Rhett Beiletti, our French-loving connoisseur, says it has grenache spice and Burgundy grace, the best he’s tasted. Lucky for you we know Daphne Glorian of Clos Erasmus (one of founding winemakers of the Priorat revival) and her husband Eric Solomon so well. He started the Black Slate project not far from Erasmus to make village wine, from the same grenache and carignan and the same rocks as the big stars In 2008, Black Slate from Porrera is a classic old-vine garnacha-cariñena made by Sans whose family has been in Priorat for 200 years. It packs the black berries, licorice and spice of Spain‘s most distinctive terroir into a very sleek red. And for you, $20 $18. If you don’t know Priorat, now’s the time.

2010 Burgundy Preview: CdN-Villlages (91RAS) beats Nuits St. Georges!

2010 Gachot-Monot Côte de Nuits-Villages
2010 Gachot-Monot Côte de Nuits-Villages

I have to admire the little town of Corgoloin in the Cote de Nuits, so proud of its terroir and the source of marble for Frances’s best sculptors. It refused to be lumped in with Nuits-St. Georges and remained CdN-Villages. When I tasted Gachot’s wine this winter I could see why. Sure he makes fine wines from Nuits-St. Georges’s premier cru, but it was the 2010 CdN-Villages that knocked me out, the most complete and balanced red Burgundy I’ve had from the vintage yet, a terrific buy in values for the buck. This is a great find by Kermit Lynch (who got a steer from no less than Aubert de Villaine at DRC). You can’t tell Gachot these vineyards aren’t as good as Nuits-St. Georges. He treats them as if they were 1er cru and raises the wine in the same fine barrels. And they are just as deep in color, beautifully aromatic, full and complex. There’s no better preview of the 2010 vintage for the price.

A Napa Secret: “Drop-Dead Gorgeous” Snowden Cab (94+WA)

The Snowden cabernets are beautiful and explosive packages of red fruit, licorice and tobacco delivering as much flavor and style as you can get for a buck in Napa. Not surprising, since the Snowden wines have exceptional breeding. Their property is high above Rutherford and St. Helena, by Conn Valley and Howell Mountain, and has grown grapes for 140 years. If the name is new to you, I’m sure you’ve tasted their grapes in Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, Silver Oak, Ramey and others over the years. Their lineage extends to Burgundy for winemaker Diana Snowden, who worked for such nobility as Araujo and LeFlaive, is married to Jeremy Seysses of Domaine Dujac where she works as enologist and cellar master. So much for back story; the wines will grab you up front and hold on for a beautiful finish. Two of the most polished cabernets in California and an exceptional value especially at B-21. Snowden will be your new favorite Napa cab.

2009 Snowden Cabernet Sauvignon The Ranch
2009 Snowden Cabernet Sauvignon The Ranch
2009 Snowden Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve
2009 Snowden Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve

Rioja? …Or Burgundy? 2008 Predicador 92pt Finesse

2008 Benjamin Romeo Predicador
2008 Benjamin Romeo Predicador

You could be confused by the similarities but count me thrilled. Predicador is tempranillo treated with the exacting care of Cote d’Or pinot noir. Makes sense knowing it comes from Benjamin Romeo, the genius behind the luxurious Contador, which now commands $300. Yet his basic wine shows the same perfectionist standards and sensuous palate at an affordable price. Romeo got his start at the revered Artadi, and when he created his own winery in 2000, he took such pains with his own Contador that it sold for cult prices immediately. He has tiny vineyards of old vines intertwined with wild herbs and farms them biodynamically, picks cork trees individually and ages the wines in ancient grottoes. Thank goodness he also makes Predicador with his same distinctive flavors and style. A fraction of the price of Contador, and very hard to find in the U.S.