Isosceles is about perfect balance. That’s a lesson in Bordeaux as well as geometry, only played out in Paso Robles. Its juicy black fruits stop just at the brink of over the top. It’s still in harmony, sweet, silky and lightly spiced. Justin Baldwin started out to make a first growth Margaux in a very young appellation 30 years ago. Today, he has many fans. He’s kept to a left bank blend, mostly cabernet sauvignon, cab franc, merlot and a touch of petite verdot. Of course, the formula changes every vintage, but you always go wild for it and I continually run out. Now I have the 2008, his best in years, which is sold out at the winery. Justin Isosceles ’08 for $49.99? It’s a beautiful thing.
You might not know Faugères and I could not have found this patch of the Languedoc without help. So I’m thrilled that Kermit Lynch showed the way to this special place and a very special winemaker, Didier Barral, and his beautifully pure wines at the Domaine of Leon Barral. As lush and earthy as any in Chateauneuf or Priorat at a fraction of the price.
Let me tell you about the place, Faugères is about 50 miles west of Montpellier and maybe 30 from the sea, sort of near St. Chinian and Minervois. High altitude vineyards up in hills with so much schist that some people say the grapes ripen at night from the heat of the stones. Faugères has grown grapes for centuries. Barral is one big reason Faugères is now on the wine route. Some of the wood and slate buildings have been there for ages and some it hand-built yesterday. Small and old-fashioned, certainly. Barral and his wines are famous across France and a beacon around the world for the biodynamic winemaking of the future.
On my visit a Japanese activist was spending a year with Barral to see how he does it. The answer? With cattle, pigs and sheep in the vineyards, ladybugs and earthworms in the soil and natural yeast and an antique wine press. I tasted the luscious 2009s and feasted on Didier’s food in their ancient barn. He then set out two boudins he had made, a roast haunch of pork and a two foot wheel of Franche-Comte.
A unique experience, wines like few others can make from syrah, carignan and mourvedre. Each wine is marvelous; even the “basic” cuvee from 40 year old vines is a huge helping of Faugères‘ rich, wild terroir. I know you’ll want more, and at B-21′s prices, you can have them all. This is the best of the very old way of France.