Archive for the ‘wine reviews’ Category

gravel..gravel..gravel @ Chateau La Mission Haut-Brion

After lunch Clyde, Mark, Kerri, Ali and myself set off for an afternoon of tastings in the Graves region. We arrived at Château la Mission Haut-Brion just in time to meet up with the rest of the party fresh K&L Bordeaux contingent (Ralph, Trey, Alex and Steve) who had just flown in from Paris.

Originally constructed in the early 16th century amongst a pastoral setting, today the grand domaine of Château la Mission Haut-Brion is surrounded by the city of Bordeaux suburban sprawl.

On stony, gravelly soils, its approximately 21 hectares, (52 acres) are planted to Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc in the A.O.C. of Pessac Leognan.

The afternoon lineup..

Directly up the road from La Mission is the entrance to Château Haut-Brion, which is one of the 5 first class growths anointed in the 1855 classification. Similar to La Mission, the Château Haut-Brion vineyards also lie on gravelly soils interspersed with mounds of clay.  Approximately 48 hectares (119 acres) are planted to Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot,Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.  Just under 3 hectares (7.1 acres) are planted to white varietals, which include Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc.

As both Château Haut-Brion and Château la Mission Haut-Brion are presently owned by Domaine Clarence Dillon, our tasting that afternoon included the 2010 releases of wine from both of these domaines.

Clyde, Kerri, Mumu, Ali and Mark..

Here is a rundown of the wines that we tasted:

Château La Mission Haut-Brion

2010 La Chapelle de la Mission Haut-Brion

2010 La Mission Haut-Brion

2010 La Mission Haut-Brion Blanc    (formerly known as Laville Haut-Brion Blanc)


Château Haut-Brion

2010 Le Clarence de Haut-Brion (formerly known as Bahans Haut-Brion)

2010 Haut Brion

2010 La Clarté de Haut-Brion

2010 Haut-Brion Blanc (only 500 cases made!)

For a complete vintage report as well as tasting notes of all the 2010 Bordeaux that our team tasted, check out the 2010 K&L Bordeaux report!

Elevage at La Mission Haut-Brion

Our visit concluded with a brief tour of the grounds and chai, which includes this magnificent barrel room., which along with the formal tasting room, was completely renovated in 2007.

Team K&L strike a pose at Chateau Pape Clement

Our next scheduled tasting that afternoon was at Château Pape Clément . In addition to being ranked as a Premier Cru in the 1959 Classification of Graves, this venerable domaine also holds the title as the oldest wine estate in Bordeaux.

Le Pape des Vignes: Pope Clement V

Its vineyards were first planted in the year 1300, by Bertrand de Goth and perhaps more famously known as Pope Clement V. At the time, only red wine grapes were planted to the vineyards. In case you are wondering, this is the same (of French origin) pope who moved the papal court from Rome (actually he never left France) to Avignon for a period spanning 67 years (1309-1378).

During this period, also known as the “Babylonian Captivity”,  Pape Clement V’s successor John XXII erected the famous castle in the winegrowing region known as Chateauneuf-du-Pape (the pope’s new castle).

Tasting at Chateau Pape Clement

Fast forward about 8 centuries and Château Pape Clément is still going strong, this time under the ownership of Bernard Magrez, the French wine magnate who also owns also owns Château La Tour Carnet in the Haut-Médoc. In the photo above, Monsieur Magrez can be seen tasting wine in the far left corner of the room. The gentleman in the blue shirt next to him is the domaine’s consulting oenologist, Michel Rolland.

Our tasting here included not only the 2010 releases of Pape Clement but an introduction to many of the estates that Magrez has developed and owns across the globe which include Spain, Chile, Argentina and California.

For more photos of Château Pape Clément’s beautiful grounds and glorious past please check out Les Photos to the right.

Is there room at the inn? Chateau Ormes de Pez

As our first tasting day wound down, it was time to head north to our “crash pad” for the next several evenings.  About 45 minutes north of the Graves in the A.O.C. of Saint-Estèphe we arrived at Château Ormes de Pez.  This illustrious domaine is presently owned by the Cazes famille, who also own Château Lynch-Bages.

A toast to Bordeaux 2010!

This beautiful estate and its grounds are where we unpacked our bags, changed into something more comfortable, and toasted to our first day in Bordeaux!


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The original gangsta: Dunn Vineyards

When I first asked my colleague Mike Jordan, our domestic wine specialist at K&L, for advice regarding whom I should visit up on Howell Mountain, Dunn Vineyards were the first words out of MJs mouth.

Along with Philip Togni across the way on Spring Mountain, MJ described Dunn as an “old school” family run winery that year in year out produces ageworthy and distinct wines that totally reflect the soils and environment from which they come.

No two vintages taste or age alike, and experiencing wines from Dunn is more akin to tasting through a retrospective of grand red burgundy (an exercise in vintage variation and terroir) than many Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.

Mike Dunn, Susan, Mumu and Randy Dunn

Mike, Susan and I were met by Randy and Mike Dunn for a tour of the vineyards, winery and a retrospective tasting of cabernet sauvignon. Randy Dunn, who is also a UC Davis alum (1975), established the winery in 1979 with is wife Lori. 30 years later, Dunn Vineyards is very much a family affair, with son Mike coming on as cellar master and the assistant winemaker.

In 2003 Mike Dunn and his wife Kara also started their own project, Retro Cellars, which features petite sirah grown on the volcanic soils of Howell Mountain.

Enter at your own risk!

But before we dipped into the winery cave (literally, as you’ll see), Mike took us on a quick tour of the vineyards, located just a stone’s throw from the cellar door. Perhaps more effective than a no trespassing sign, this vineyard mascot (wild boar anyone?) captured my attention!

Way up and above the fogline: the vineyards of Dunn

In 1981 Dunn released it’s first vintage, which amounted to 660 cases of 100% Howell Mountain cabernet sauvignon. A year later, the winery released its first Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Today, Dunn farms 24 acres of cabernet sauvignon vineyards and an additional 6 acres of several other varietals, including these petite sirah vines shown above.

Currently Dunn produces around 2500 cases of Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon and 1500 cases of Napa Valley bottling, which includes up to 15% cabernet sauvignon from the Napa Valley floor.

The Napa Valley Cabernet is generally considered more user friendly and approachable sooner than the more structured and tanninc 100% Howell Mountain bottling. However both wines can definitely stand several years in the cellar and then some before they really hit their stride.

Red wax for the Dunn Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvigon

Although both wines are robed in a no nonsense, no frill sash like label, the most obvious way to tell them apart is by their respective closures. The Napa Valley bottling is finished with a foil seal, while the Howell Mountain bottling is finished in red wax.  Mike provided us with a quick demo of how the waxing is done. When it’s time to wax the new release of Howell Mountain cabernet, about 100 cases worth (1200 bottles) can be hand dipped a day.


step into the Dunn wine portal..

Next we were off to Dunn’s winery cave, which was completed in 1989 and is used for wine storage and elevage. This cave, along with numerous others like it found on Howell Mountain, provide excellent natural temperature and humidity control for wine.

Dunn’s elevage regime includes approximately 75% new French oak every vintage, and over a period of 30 months. Ageing these bottles in a conventional above ground and temperature controlled cellar for 2.5 years would cost a small fortune in heating/cooling bills.

The ultimate earthwork at Dunn

At the end of the long cellar corridor, I spotted what appeared to be a relic of or portal to an ancient world. Mesopotamia? The Mayan Empire? This formidable relief was also seeping some type of primordial looking ooze.  Turns out, this end of the line marked the point where the enormous drill bit used to carve out these cave stopped and pulled out. Stumbling upon this dramatic earthwork is one of the coolest things I have ever seen at a winery.

After a tour of the vineyards and cellar, it was now time to taste some wine! Randy Dunn led us through the tasting and provided additional commentary on each wine. Additional wine tasting notes for each wine are available on the Dunn website too.

True to the varietal, this young 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon exhibits lots of deep, rich blackcurrant and blackberry fruit, along with notes of bittersweet chocolate and mineral notes. Full bodied and fairly tannic,  with a rich and lush mid palate that finishes with formidable tannins, I would give the wine a 3 year head start before opening.  Then try it with grilled steak or pork roast. 13.9% abv.

Bump up the structure and intensity one notch and you’ll arrive at the 2007 Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon. Along with black berried fruits, a distinct earthy minerality prevails, along with toasty nuances courtesy of barrel ageing in French oak. The tannins here are a bit more strident as well, providing the opportunity to age this mountain wine a good 5-7 years before enjoying. 13.9% abv.

Ah, now we’re talking! Open and let this 1997 take in a bit of air and stretch its vinous legs so to speak. Medium + bodied, this 13+ year old red is growing up just fine. Dried berry fruits, notes of violets, crushed autumn leaves and toasted nuts are still supported by a good spine of acidity and a fine tannic structure. 13.0% abv.

At 23+ years of age, this stately and mature Howell Mountain red is drinking beautifully.

The dark blackcurrant fruits of the young 2007 have over time given way to deep and spicy red fruit nuances. Dried hibiscus flowers, along with light dash of cedar make for a Howell Mountain red that exudes finesse and elegance. I would try this with some sort of game bird..perhaps squab or pigeon? What a lovely wine! 13.0% abv.

Many thanks to Randy and Mike Dunn for the tour and tasting of one of Howell Mountain’s true originals!

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It’s Friday morning and a few minutes shy of 10 am.  Susan and I have just made the beautiful drive on Napa Valley’s famed “road less traveled”, a.k.a. the Silverado trail.  As we drive north past winery legends like Clos du Val, Stag’s Leap Winery, and Joseph Phelps, Susan reminds me that we need to keep a keen eye out for Deer Park Road, which could prove to be difficult due to the heavy morning fog blanketing the valley.

a sea of fog..Howell Mountain

Well, we find it. At the well marked intersection of Deer Park Road and the Silverado Trail, we hang a right and begin our climb up, into and through the fog and into another vinous dimension. At around 1400 ft. above sea level, which is just about where the limit of the Howell Mountain AVA begins, we cut through the soupy mess and find ourselves bathed in a bright, crisp winter light.

We continue through the town of Angwin,  take a couple more lefts, rights and arrive at O’Shaughnessy Estate Winery right on the dot. From the gated entrance up to the winery itself, it’s another three quarters of a mile of so, which is the perfect opportunity to take in the beautiful scenery: Madrone oaks, pines and cypress.

Cabernet Sauvignon @ O'Shaughnessy


And of course vines, and lots of them.  As we were soon to learn, O’Shaughnessy encompasses approximately 100 acres of Howell Mountain hillside set on two vineyard sites.  The Del Oso and Ampitheater vineyards, which were planted between 1997-2002, include 29 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon, and 6 acres are planted to the following blending varietals:

Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Merlot, Malbec, Carmenere and St. Macaire (a traditional Bordeaux varietal no longer cultivated in the region, but adopted in small measure in the US.)


21st century winemaking..

At the cellar door we’re met by Sean Capiaux, who is the head winemaker and COO at O’Shaughnessy.  A quick tour of the cellars, as well as a breakdown of the winemaking practices at O’Shaughnessy primed us for the tasting that was to follow.

Old world or New world? Bascially, the O’Shaughnessy winemaking ethos can be distilled or tweeted something like this: Neo-classic, using modern tools and analysis to make non-interventionist wine that is fermented naturally and bottled unfiltered and un-fined.

In addition to the modern stainless steel tanks, temperature control and automated pigeage, O’Shaughnessy boasts its own in house lab, which is ideal when timely decisions need to be made regarding the vinification and elevage process.

step back in time...

However state of the art is only one part of the larger picture at O’Shaughnessy. Make a sharp exit out the backside of the chai, and step back in time, to winemaking the way it’s been done for centuries..

to centuries old elevage techniques..

This 11,000 square foot cavern was dug out of the hillside directly behind the winery. 26 foot ceilings,  as well as the perfect ambient temperature for ageing red wine is where the O’Shaughnessy reds spend the better part of 2 years  in French oak barriques undisturbed as they mature.


amphora..oeuf or avocado?

Now what’s that? Along the wall, and tucked away within a separate little grotto we spotted this imposing concrete egg. I had seen these amphor-esque “oeufs” in France, and was curious to know what vinous project the O’Shaughnessy egg was incubating.

This concrete “avocado” (“..afterall, we are in California.” Sean states) contained 150 gallons (approx. 560 liters) of Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc that had been vinified and was presently undergoing elevage in this vessel.

Sean pulled out the ladder, climbed up and retrieved a sample for us to taste.  Bright and crisp citrus flavors, along with that requisite SB juicy bite of acid were matched by atypical minerality.  Atypical for California SB at any rate. This avocado SB took me closer to the Touraine in France’s Loire Valley, where I a more often find a more flinty or chalky quality to their sauvignon blancs. I suspect a bit has to do with the unlined concrete interacting with the wine.


With a tour of the winery and caves behind us, it was now time to taste some wine!

First up, the 2007 O’Shaughnessy Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon.

Composed mostly of Cabernet Sauvignon (83%) with smaller amounts of Merlot (6%), Malbec (4%), 4% Petit Verdot and St. Macaire (3%) from largely volcanic soils.

Lovely crushed red berry fruits..raspberry..dark cherry, damson plum, vanilla and black tea notes, along with fine medium+ tannins make for a rich, yet balanced “neo-classical” wine. I suspect that a beef tenderloin would be a great food/wine pairing.

Across the valley and some 15 miles to the south, O’Shaughnessy’s Mt. Veeder vineyard turns out a slightly more dense and strapping rendition of 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. The 2007 vintage comes from vines grown on “Betty’s Vineyard” (named after co-proprietor Betty O’Shaughnessy Woolls), a steeply terraced site composed of largely sedimentary (ancient riverbed) soils.

Deep, black cherry, blackberry and smoked meat and a brambly quality along with coarser tannins make for a more rough hewn and less elegant wine (right now) than its more refined cousin to the north. Ideally, I would wait 3-4 years before enjoying this with grilled ribeye (more rustic and hearty than tenderloin).

We rounded out the tasting with this rich pinot noir from Capiaux Cellars.

Sean Capiaux established his eponymous winery back in 1994.  Single vineyard bottlings of pinot noir throughout California are the focus here.  Sean’s “neo-classical” winemaking ethos remains in play with the Capiaux wines as well. Indigenous yeast fermentations, no fining or filtering at bottling.

The 2008 Capiaux Pinot Noir from the Pisoni Vineyard (Santa Lucia Highlands) is big indeed, but in no way a bruiser. Admittedly, the 15.2% abv had me more wondering if this pinot would taste more like cough syrup than fine wine.

However my fears were more than assuaged upon tasting. Deep cherry notes, spice, cinnamon stick, a touch of black tea and a lushness that envelopes the mouth without seeming hot or syrupy.  I suspect that this king size pinot noir would be pretty awesome with say roasted duck, filet mignon or a hearty mushroom risotto.

Many thanks to Sean Capiaux and O’Shaughnessy for such a great introduction to the wines of Howell Mountain and then some!


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After our tour of the vineyards and estate grounds, Svetlana and I headed over to Renaissance’s lakeside tasting room. As the winter light streamed in through the large windows, Svetlana began lining up the bottles.

winter's light @ Renaissance

But before we get started, let me provide a bit of winemaking backstory. Current winemaker Gideon Beinstock has been involved with Renaissance since its inception back in the late 1970s when he helped plant the fledgling domaine’s vineyards.

After wine travels and study in Europe, Gideon returned to Renaissance in 1994 and became the winery’s chief winemaker. The formative time and experience spent abroad inspired Gideon to affect a new beginning or “Renaissance” in the cellar.

Prior to Gideon’s arrival, the Renaissance wine style was one of considerable extraction, weight and tannic structure. The new spirit at Renaissance was going to employ different techniques. Gentle extractions, no inoculations for primary or secondary fermentations, no acid or must corrections, no fining or filtering, and only minimal use of sulfur dioxide.

The results are in the bottle. Elegant, ageworthy wines that at 5-10 years of age still had a lot to say. Moreover, I was grateful to see alcohol levels hovering around a modest 12.5-14%, the likes of which I rarely seen on comparable domestic wines of the same varietal since the early 1980’s.

In addition to his winemaking responsibilities at Renaissance, Gideon and his wife Saron are the owners of Clos Saron, their small familial domaine dedicated primarily to pinot noir.

large format bottles @ Renaissance


Below you’ll find a brief list and description of the range of wines produced at Renaissance.


Estate: The blue/gray Renaissance label denotes Renaissance’s Estate level wines and exemplify the overall quality and thumbprint  if you will of the domaine. Balanced and  ageworthy 100% estate grown wines.

Vin de Terroir: these wines hail from specific vineyard sites planted on the estate. The object here is to showcase the potential of a particular terroir (soil, site, micro-climate) as and its relationship to a particular varietal(s).

Reserve: Wines given the Reserve designation can either come from specially selected vineyard sites noted for producing exceptional grapes, or from a lot of grapes that are specifically triaged (selected) from a particular harvest. Regardless of the selection process, Reserve wines are produced with long term ageing in mind.

Premier Cuvee: Represents almost exclusively a barrel selection of what Renaissance considers wines of the highest quality and ageing potential.


We began our tasting with a selection of estate whites whose grapes are grown on some of the cooler vineyard slopes of the property. The 2007 Carte d’Or (a newer addition to the selections listed above) is a blend of 60% Semillon and 40% sauvignon blanc. It is fermented in stainless steel and does not undergo malolactic fermentation.

Although this is a classic Bordeaux blanc blend, to me the Carte d’Or evokes more of an Alsace meets Provence esprit. Squarely medium bodied, but with a fresh, almost pungent herb nuance and bright minerality. Very interesting, and I suspect a winner with a farmhouse cheese such as Banon or Picodon.

Next, Sveltana cracked open 2 estate syrah releases which are currently being offered by the winery. The 2002 and the 2005 offered textbook examples as to the significance of vintage variation.

The 2002 displayed subtle darker fruit berry notes, with hints of savory-beef notes. The tannins were a bit more pronounced, and there was a distinct bramley-ness to the wine. Really delicious and exhibiting lots of classic rough-hewn syrah character.

In contrast, the 2005 was a decidedly fleshier and more forward rendition of syrah. More red-berry notes, less bramble, a more round and ample texture, and with finer tannins than its older sibling. Keep in mind that this “weightier” 2005 still comes in at a modest 14% abv. So it was by no means a bruiser.

Renaissance’s Granite Crown is 50/50 cabernet sauvignon and syrah blend, and comprises part the the estate’s “Vin de Terroir” selection. I have always loved this combination, and feel like it is a truly under appreciated and overlooked style of wine with awesome potential.

Dark berry fruits, smoky tea, roasted herbs.. the cabernet provides structure, while syrah provides a bit of fruit and floral nuance. Yalumba’s FDR1A, Domaine de Trevallon, and Renaissance’s Granite Crown should all occupy top spots in this category as all three age are built for the long haul and do it so gracefully.


Renaissance’s 2001 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon was a revelation for me. With all of power, press and hoo ha about Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, who would think that such a stunning (and appropriately aged) example would come from Oregon House California?

First of all, the 2001 Reserve comes in at a modest 13.6% abv. No excess heat on the finish or up my nose. And certainly all of the textbook characteristics that I am looking for when I drink Cabernet Sauvignon. Black current, hints of tobacco, eucalyptus, mineral, smoke.

Fine tannins and acid to boot, this cabernet should easily hold its own for another 8-10 years if stored properly. This is the cabernet sauvignon that I will open at my next dinner party, or open to “show off” California wines to my french wine friends. At $45 a bottle, this (soon to be) ten year old bottle of red is an absolute steal.

Svetlana Sladkova of Renaissance Vineyard & Winery

We capped off the tasting with Renaissance’s 1999 late harvest Semillon. Produced in a style similar to Sauternes, these botrytis affected grapes were harvested at 28.3 brix and completed fermentation with 9% residual sugar (or 90g/l). A bit lighter and with less viscosity and sweetness than most sauternes, this unusual late harvest would be a great match with an Epoisses (from Burgundy) or Roquefort (Aveyron).

Thank you Svetlana, and thank you Renaissance  for showcasing such unique and expressive wines from California’s Sierra Foothills. A visit and tasting here is truly something to write home about.

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From a minuscule one hectare vineyard in the heart of the Languedoc comes this most unusual and profound red from Murielle and Laurent Girault. As you might recall from my last 2 posts on Domaine Begude, Laurent is the vineyard manager/winemaker at Domaine Begude.

hovering at around 1200 bottles: a.k.a. micro-volumes

In addition to his full-time responsabilities at Begude (as well as being a husband and dad) Laurent spends many of his weekends at a small Languedoc vineyard site not far from the town of Pezenas (about a 90 minute drive from Limoux). It is here that Laurent tends the vines that ultimately yield the fruits of his labor and love.  Both a red and a white are produced, and both from a veritable field blend of organically grown grapes.

Laurent Girault (photo courtesy of Domaine Begude)

The Giroflet rouge is composed 15 different varietals all co-planted in 1925.  Along with Grenache, Cinsault, Carignan and Syrah, you’ll find more ancient varietals like Aramon and Grand Noir de la Calmette.

more factoids…

Wine/Producer:  Murielle & Laurent Girault

Composition: 15 varietals (Grenache, Cinsault, Carignan, Syrah..)

Vintage: 2006

Country: France

Region: Languedoc

Sub-Region: Pézenas

Geology/Soil: Sand / Clay / Chalk

Alcohol: 14.5%

Importer: Premier Wines (available exclusively at K&L Wine Merchants)

US Retail: $20

Total Production: 1200 bottles (100 cases)

Harvesting is done by hand to ensure optimal ripeness (although never at the expese of acidity) and undamaged fruit. Fermentation takes place in stainless steel, with only natural yeasts being utilized. After primary fermentation the wine undergoes 24 months of elevage in older wood to develop addtional complexity and nuance. The Giroflet rouge is neither fined nor filtered.

Grilled tri-tip and 2006 Giroflet rouge

Gorgeous nuances of dark red fruits, baking spices and garrigue come to mind. The Giroflet rouge is a red to contemplate with a selection of fine cow or sheeps milk cheeses, or to enjoy with a garlic crusted roast leg of lamb or the grilled tri-tip and summer salad pictured above!

Projet Giroflet is truly a labour of love for those of us who appreciate hand-crafted artisanal wine from all corners of the world. Thank you Murielle and Laurent, and please, carry on!

Next: The lost vineyards of Les Clos Perdus

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Stéphane Ogier stops by K&L en route to Hospices du Rhône

My last visitor before the start of Hospices du Rhône was with Stéphane Ogier of Domaine Michel and Stéphane Ogier located in northern Rhône appellation of Côte-Rôtie.

The vineyards of this famous A.O.C. are located just south of the ancient town of Vienne and are spread across the 3 communes of Saint-Cyr-sur-le-Rhône, Ampuis, and Tupins-et-Semons. To work (or walk) the vineyards of Côte-Rôtie is one of the most challenging exercises that one can undertake in the world of wine..

Côte-Rôtie cross-section courtesy of Inter-Rhône

The slopes here are extremely vertical, so all work must be done laboriously and by hand. Composed overwhelmingly of grantitic rock, these steep parcels are planted to syrah, (with a bit of viognier) and keep from falling into the might Rhone river by judiciously fortified stone walls.  In english, Côte-Rôtie literally translates to “the roasted slope” , which references to the long hours of sunlight that these vineyards slopes receive. Nearly 60 different parcels or “lieu-dit”, all with varying exposition and slight variance in soil type no doubt contribute to the incredible complexity for which wines from this appellation are so famous.

What does a wine from Côte Rôtie taste like?

Descriptors often include:

blackcurrent, violets, bacon-fat (savory), smoke/flint (mineral), roses, white pepper.

La famille Ogier’s estate is located in the village of Ampuis, and consists of 15 acres (6 acres are within the Côte Rôtie appellation). Prior to 1980, Michel Ogier (a.k.a. pere), sold both his fruit and  wines  to the large negoçiant Marcel Guigal. However the new decade brought a change of esprit for Michel, and he began to bottle his wines under his own label. In 1997, Stéphane Ogier (fils), took charge of the property. Since then, the young, passionate and very determined Stéphane has rocked this small domaine to new heights, both in terms of quality and reputation.

Below is a recap on what I tasted with Stéphane.

2006 Michel and Stéphane Ogier Côte-Rôtie

 2006 Domaine Michel and Stéphane Ogier Côte Rôtie

Composed of 100% syrah from from vineyards located in both the Côte Blonde (70%) and Côte Brune (30%). The vine age ranges from 18-63 years. Deep, black cherry, with very subtle hints of smoke and savory notes. Silky mouthfeel and refined tannins.

2007 La Rosine Syrah

2007 Domaine Michel and Stéphane Ogier “La Rosine” Syrah

La Rosine comes from 15 year old vines planted between Côte Rôtie and Condrieu. Deep purple fruits matched with just a hint of tobacco, spice and fresh acidity make this a great wine to starting point for getting to know the wines and style of northern Rhone syrah.

soul mate..

2006 Domaine Michel and Stéphane Ogier “l’Âme Soeur” Syrah

l’Âme Soeur is composed of 100% syrah from vineyards planted on the opposite side of the Rhône River in Seyssuel and near the town of Vienne. These southwest facing slopes display a soil type quite simliar to that of the famous Côte Brune in Côte-Rôtie.

 L’Âme Soeur or soul mate in French is therefore a very fitting name for this cuvee which is  fermented and aged in cask, of which about ½ is new oak. Smoky, spicy and dark cherry characterize this elegant and inviting syrah.

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Roberto de la Mota leads us through the Mendel lineup

After our tour of the winery, our group sat down to a comprehensive tasting with Roberto de la Mota, the  head winemaker and partner of Mendel. As we tasted through both current and soon to be bottled selections, Roberto explained the vinification and elevage process for each wine.

Sometimes I can't read my own handwriting..

Lots of questions. Lots of note taking. I have outlined more specifics on each cuvee, and have also included brief tasting notes for each vintage below:


Varietal: Semillon

Vineyard region: Uco Valley

Sub region: Altamira-La Consulta

Elevation: 3330 ft-1000m 

Average vine age: 60 years

Rootstock: ungrafted 

Harvest method: Hand harvested 

Vinification: whole cluster press; 88% stainless steel, 12% barrel fermentation; no ML

Elevage: 10 months in 100% new French oak

Alcohol: 13.6%

Case production: 300

2009 Mendel Semillon:

Medium bodied and dry, with notes of lemon, chervil and tarragon. Buttered pear and subtle toast notes and countered with vibrant acidity. A substantial white that still manages to be crisp and refreshing. Really impressive on its own or perhaps with baked halibut or some other rich white fish entrée.

Varietal: Malbec

Vineyard region: Lujan de Cuyo / Mayor Drummond

Elevation: 3280 ft-1000m 

Average vine age: 80 years

Rootstock: ungrafted 

Harvest method: Hand harvested 

Vinification: stainless steel fermentation; no delestage, manual pigeage daily

Elevage: 12 months in 40% new French barriques, 60% second use barrique

Fining: egg white 

Filtration: no 

Alcohol: 14%

Case production: 5500


2007 Mendel Malbec:

 Medium+ bodied..damson plum, violets, bittersweet chocolate, smoky tea notes. The medium ripe tannins supple and make this malbec a really delicious choice to pair with grilled meats or a hearty mushroom based vegetarian dish.

 2008 Mendel Malbec:

 Not available in the US..similar floral, plum and blueberry notes, albeit a bit more awkward and not as integrated as the 2007. Tannins a bit more gritty. To be expected. This should be really tasting in a year or two.

Varietals: 70% Malbec, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon

Vineyard region: Lujan de Cuyo / Mayor Drummond

Elevation: 3280 ft-1000m

Average vine age: 80+ years

Rootstock: ungrafted

Harvest method: Hand harvested

Vinification: stainless steel fermentation; no delestage, manual pigeage daily

Elevage: 16 months in 100% new French barriques (mostly Taransaud)

Fining: egg white

Filtration: no

Alcohol: 14%

Case production: 3500 cases (6 pack)

2006 Mendel Unus:

 Amazing, amazing bouquet of plum, dried cherries, sassafras, cedar and spicebox. Medium ++ bodied, with luxurious and deep red berry fruits on the palate, and grounded with subtle nuances of oolong tea. Silky, fine medium tannins. Good acidity and great length to this super elegant red. Filet Mignon?

 2007 Mendel Unus:

 Not yet released..Big, and more muscle-bound right now than the 2006, but showing terrific intensity and deep, beautiful rich fruit. This should be dazzling in a few years. Let’s see what happens.

Varietal: 100% Malbec

Vineyard region: Altamira-La Consulta

Elevation: 4000 ft-1200m

Average vine age: 60 years

Rootstock: ungrafted

Harvest method: Hand harvested

Vinification: stainless steel fermentation; no delestage, manual pigeage daily

Elevage: 18 months total: 12 months in 100% new Taransaud barriques, then 50% of the wine racked to 100% new barriques for 6 months.

Fining: egg white

Filtration: no

Alcohol: 14.1%

Case production: 400 cases

2008 Mendel Finca Remota:

 Not yet released. Dark, liquid purple color. Medium ++ bodied with primary fruit notes of blueberry, plum and violet floramatics. Mouthfeel tastes like touching velvet. Although the oak regimen on this malbec is quite hefty, at this tasting the fruit has managed to handle it perfectly..this is not tasting “oaky”. Medium+ tannins and medium acidity. Thick and luxurious.

 coming up: Vamos a comer!

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