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A Fouzy Tout Summer

A Fouzy Tout Summer

The last time we saw Adrien Baloche of La Ferme du Plateau (more on him below) was at Anonymes, the zero sulfur salon held during the annual natural wine fairs in the Loire, in the waning days of normalcy before COVID took over the world. Adrien was set up next to a very prominent female winemaker. The biggest wine buyers from Copenhagen and Tokyo reached (and talked) over each other to get a tiny taste of her zero sulfur concoctions. Adrien stood a table away, running his hands through his hair, stressed as fuck about who was going to buy the upcoming vintages of his wine. He had also brought grape juice so everyone could refresh their palates after hours of ripping acid and a bit too much mouse. It was one of the best things that I tasted at Anonymes; thoughtful and practical. 

The rest of the trip, I kept pestering Jeff about Adrien and how much of his wine we could take. The trip went on, we came home, the world shut down, but I couldn't forget about Adrien. In May, we decided to commit to a significant amount of Adrien's wine, with the support of Eric and the ever-growing Domestique Wine Club (spoiler alert: September wine club is going to be lit). And I decided to help Adrien re-label our favorite cuvee, Fouzy Tout. Thanks to Google Translate, a printer in Tours who spoke a little English, and friend in the Loire, it got done just in time.


Drawing the label, I wanted something simple and optimistic. It was month two of COVID. At Adrien's farm, there's a rustic picnic bench that we once sat on together with his wife Anne, his best friend (whose name always escapes me), and a woman working with them that summer. I arrived after being terribly lost and taking the world's most expensive taxi ride there. We sat on the bench drinking coffee with lots of awkward silence. Looking back at that moment, it was a "fouzy tout." A muddle of people who didn't make sense together, but once we started tasting and talking wine, it clicked.

I wanted the label to reflect the messy and imperfect nature of many of our lives. It's a simple drawing. A doodle of a couple leaning on each other during a time when people were scared to leave their apartments and hadn't hugged loved ones in months. When I close my eyes and imagine visiting La Ferme du Plateau, I remember sitting on a bench feeling comforted by a group of complete strangers after a disastrous day of travel.


Fouzy Tout is a conferment of (primarily) Grolleau with Cabernet Franc and Chenin Blanc. The word is French slang for a blend. According to Adrien, "in cooking, for example, it means there are a lot of different things inside! If by any chance it's good, you've got a new recipe!" It's a light-bodied red/white blend that even in a hot vintage comes in at a whopping 11.5% alcohol. My tasting note for it in August was, "delicious."

It was important to me to give Adrien a label that reflected his thoughtfulness and kindness. From the maker to the label, Fouzy Tout is special and significant. It's a gentler and softer story than most in this money-driven world. Adrien isn't a self-proclaimed rockstar, but he is making wonderful wines that we're very lucky to have imported by Selection Massale and at the shop. Enjoy. 

- Rebekah Pineda

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Duplessis is Back

Duplessis is Back

We're stoked to have Chablis from Duplessis back in the shop! The family domaine is run by fifth-generation vigneron Lilian Duplessis. He's made the estate one of the few certified organic producers in Chablis. His careful maintenance of the land is apparent as each wine is a precise expression of a specific plot or a blend of Chardonnay from multiple plots amongst his eight hectares. 

Each plot is vinified independently in stainless steel vats and all the wines spend 12-15 months there before racking. Most are then typically barrel aged for six months (Vaugiraut, Chabils, and Petit Chablis only see stainless and Les Clos is in barrel for nine months). Minimal sulfur is used at bottling, if necessary. Lilian makes a point to forego sulfur entirely if he can.

As anyone who's had them knows, these wines are really special. They give you a taste of each mindfully cultivated and cared for parcel. The beautiful expressions of clay and limestone soils come through a variety of aromas, flavors, and textures. These wines are all about terroir and they're a good match for the stormy days of August and the coming change that signifies. 

Here is one of our favorite offerings from Duplessis:

Chablis 1er Cru Montmains "27 Mois D'Elevage" 2015
The grapes that make this robust wine come from Montmains, two plots of clay-limestone rich soils in Chablis. This vineyard sits on the left bank of the Serein River. Its name means "medium-sized mountain," as the vines are elevated and surrounded by two taller peaks. 

2015 was the last vintage of high yields until 2018, and since Lillian holds his wines back in barrel long enough, he saw what frost and hail did to his crop in 2016 and 2017 (yields were down around 75%). Because of this he held back some 15s in barrel to release over the few years in between so he didn't have as severe a shortage of wine. This wine was vinified normally but saw around 40 months of elevage!


It packs in the minerality and acidity while remaining very delicate. It's the perfect marriage between savory, smoky notes, and some more tropical fruit flavors like mango. Enjoy it on a late summer evening. 

- Erica Christian

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Producer Spotlight: Valerie Forgues

Producer Spotlight: Valerie Forgues

Valerie Forgues, producer at Domaine de la Méchinière, has seen her fair share of difficulties in her efforts to preserve the estate. In 2008, with no viticulture or winemaking experience, she pursued learning from other nearby vignerons so as to save her home, the place in which her sons had grown up, from bankruptcy. With guidance from former producers Catherine Roussel and Didier Barrouillet of the famed Clos Roche Blanche, she began to work her 16 hectares. Fast forward to today and she's farming organically, using native yeast fermentations, and harvesting all of her grapes by hand.

Her story is powerful and Louis/Dressner Selections interviewed her back in 2017. Below are excerpts from that interview. Read it to learn more about her story, one of perseverance.

- Erica Christian

How did you end up heading Domaine de la Méchinière? I’m not from the area and have absolutely no agricultural or viticultural background. I do have some family ties to the Cher, but it’s a total coincidence I found myself living here. Like a good little Frenchie, I went to school to follow a career path.

To answer your question about the estate, love is what brought me here. It was a decision I made with my ex-husband about 20 years ago. I knew nothing about wine.

 
So how did you go about taking the estate over? My brother-in-law was a retired vigneron, and he was instrumental in keeping things together in the very beginning. He quite frankly ran the entire estate the first few months, and for that I will always be thankful to him.

He was also very helpful in actively engaging me, in encouraging me to come see the work in the vines, what different choices meant, etc... He also made me understand that if I really wanted to do this, just how much responsibility it really meant. From managing employees to working the tractor, he showed me the way.

It was hard though, because of course having him around meant a constant reminder of my ex-husband. It also bothered me because at that point Didier would swing by occasionally and point out that his work was extremely conventional. Didier’s philosophy and vision of agriculture resonated with me in a way my brother-in-law’s did not.

 
So how did the two of you go about creating the new direction for the estate? I can’t even remember how the process started. But I know that we constantly talked about what was possible in the vines and the cellar, and that his responses resonated with me. I’d ask him what he would have done in my place. This led to him visiting the vines and cellar with me and getting increasingly specific with his advice. Some of it I follow, some I don't; but if I’m asking someone for advice it’s either to follow it or have a conversation about it!

I think that it was around 2011 that the collaboration was fully under way. He was helping me in the vines, constantly tasting from vat, giving his advice... It all happened very naturally. As far as converting to organic viticulture, which I began in 2013, these are the moments of our collaboration that I remember most vividly. It started with an argument: he told me that at the point I’d progressed, that I should take the next step and convert the vineyards. I told him to hold his horses: this meant making an already demanding job even harder! I had to ensure I was bringing fruit to the cellar!

I could never have taken such a big risk without his help, so he agreed he’d be there every step of the way to help me convert. And you know how it is: for someone to commit voluntarily (and benevolently!) to such a huge undertaking, he’s got to believe in the final result!

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Phase 1: Low ABV Ciders

Phase 1: Low ABV Ciders

Patrick has been shopping at Domestique since we opened. He came in often specifically looking for bubbles (Marnes Blanches Cremant and Capriades, among others). After chatting a bit, we learned he was making his own cider in Virginia. He came down for a tasting with Benoit Lesuffleur in July of 2019 and brought some samples. Almost a year has passed since then and we're so excited to carry his first bottling. He's doing everything himself: harvesting wild fruit, trialing no spray practices in an old-growth orchard, and fermenting with little/no SO2 in a couple hundred square feet of warehouse space. It’s very small scale, with roughly 425 cases total production for 2019.

The pear cider is absolutely delightful and is what we want to drink on the patio all summer long. The acid is present and lively without being overpowering. And the bubbles! They are soft and delicate; they don't just dissipate after five minutes open. Cider is what we've been craving recently as the weather warms up and we're hunting something to pair with dehydrated bike rides. And this one is perfect. Below, Patrick shares a little bit about his process, his background, and Virginia. It's a pretty fascinating read.

How did you get into cider? I’m drawn to cider primarily because pomme fruits are better adapted to where we are. If you go poke around the mountains and piedmont backroads, there’re seedling trees swarmed with vines and brambles that are still generally healthy and producing fruit. I fermented for other folks in Virginia for three years while I explored my own ideas in the cellar and researched sustainable growing practices (and drank as much natural wine as I could afford). 2019 is my first harvest on my own.
 
What makes Virginia unique for cider? Virginia has a deep history (on a colonial timeline) of apple cultivation, from homesteads to the post Civil War boom in production and exportation. While maybe not as directly relevant as the plots of Burgundian monks, there’s much to learn from the pre-industrial successes of these old orchards (it’s fun to read the decorous Gentlemen Farmer debates in agricultural society minutes on proper cover crop regimens). I’m working with the current landowner to revive and replant one of these 19th century sites in western Albemarle County, and found a few others to harvest from.

Within the world of cider, Virginia’s warm climate has not yet been fully explored. The austerity of cooler New York and New England gives way to more ample fruit down here. Most cidermakers inhibit malolactic and ferment in reductive environments, but I’m very curious about how to embrace the chin-dripping lushness of Virginia instead of fighting against it.

I also have to mention seedlings and their potential for novel expressions of place. The genetic variability of apples is such that each seed contains a new iteration of its bearing and pollen parents. Those that survive are uniquely attuned to their given place. A few are wonderfully tannic and acidic, perfect for cider.

Your feelings on RS in cider? RS in wine? I have no prescriptive opinion of RS, only that things must be in balance and come from the fruit. A key component of pears (and certain apples in warm years) is their sorbitol, so a key component of perry should be some sense of sweet.

I very much like the concept of ‘feinherb,’ that a ferment finds its own equilibrium point and may change year to year. I’ll stir to resuspend yeasts in as ferments slow with cooler weather, but if the microbiome of a given cider says “I’m good at 2 g/L,” and is stable, then that’s fine with me.

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Learning to love the South (of France, naturally)

Learning to love the South (of France, naturally)

Early into my hospitality career, the wines of Southern France often served as an afterthought or a cheap and easy nuits d’ivresse. It wasn't a lack of respect for them, rather the stark fact that I worked in a restaurant that only carried domestic producers and my outside of work wine drinking focused elsewhere. In Pittsburgh, for years the spot for natural wine was Bar Marco, an Italian-tilted slice of heaven residing in what was once a firehouse. The place has hosted a who’s who of industry luminaries but the person who introduced me to natural wine was Dom Fiore, the ultimate champion of natural wine. The first wine he ever poured me was Tu Vin Plus Aux Soirées, a Cab Franc and Malbec blend by Fabien Jouves with a label that fondly reminds me of Space Invaders. That’s precisely when I started believing that this "region" was far more than wines you buy when you can’t drink what you really want or need to get drunk. But it took me some time to figure out why.

I started at Domestique in October 2018 and pretty much immediately fell in love with the wines of Les Deplaude de Tartaras. I’m not sure if it was the beautiful labels (perhaps TBH), but the story I tell is that I saw their wine Mine de Rien and had to know more about the super obscure grape variety it held within (Mornen Noir). Over the next few weeks, each cuvée of theirs in the shop was on my list of wines to drink and each week I grew more impressed.


Once I started looking into why that was, it took me down a rabbit hole of reading about dry farming, organic-friendly climates, polyculture, and old vines. These are things that France's South has in spades. And they're what makes it such a hotbed for compelling natural wines that are both classic and vin de soifs. The only reason they don't usually get the respect (and, luckily, prices), at least historically, of their natural wine cousins to the North is because they fall below a certain latitude.

Jouves and Deplaude are two of the more important producers to me personally, but they are of many who are pioneering a new age of natural wine in the South. This is an area where it's all possible for anyone who is willing to work for it and make a name for themselves. What we have here at the shop is just the tip of the iceberg. There is so much to explore. I just hope you’re curious.

-Eric

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A Producer We Love: Ludovic Chanson

A Producer We Love: Ludovic Chanson

For Selection Massale, Ludovic Chanson was almost one that got away. As a friend of Frantz Saumon, he held a bit of sway, but was just getting started in winemaking when he met these dudes who were also just starting their import imprint. Ultimately, timing didn’t work out but an important friendship that would later prove fruitful was cemented. And, besides, would I be writing this if things hadn’t been remedied?

That’s fortunate for all of us because Ludovic is a vigneron who encapsulates the ingenuity and progressive thinking that’s defined Montlouis-sur-Loire over the past two decades. He trusts his process and focuses on farming. Ludo’s estate now stands at around six hectares, of which five are dedicated to Chenin Blanc. These are all planted on a plateau in the village of Husseau with clay-heavy soils that are littered with silex and feature a deep limestone base. He makes a range of wines both still and sparkling, none of which are red. He is certainly a specialist.

  • Pétillant Naturel ‘Ich i Go’ 2017: Ludo gets to show off his experimental side here. A rosé pet nat made from a Pineau d’Aunis heavy blend with a touch of Gamay. With this being Ludo’s only non-white wine, he wants to make sure he makes it count. The balance of fruit and spice here is on another planet completely.
  • Pétillant Naturel ‘Sans Pagne’ 2017: Keeping with the sparkling theme, we come to this wine, which is an equal parts blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. A great wine for anyone searching for an "intro to natural wine" for their friends. Co-fermented in fiberglass, there are just 15 ppm of sulfur added to this fresh and approachable wine.
  • Sauvignon Blanc ‘Gavroche’ 2017: This is Ludo's Pet Sounds. This wine is nothing like you’re expecting. It takes Sauvignon Blanc to the next level. So much texture, so much power. Beautiful intermingling of tropical fruits and minerals to create your new favorite every night wine.
  • Les Cabotines 2017: Chenin Blanc vines planted in Montlouis’ classic Aubuis soil, with some pebbles, limestone, and silex. Fully developed, dense, and powerful while showing off Chenin at its finest. Dry but ripe, seductive yet reserved. I love you, Chenin Blanc.
  • Les Pechers 2017: OFF DRY WINES PAIR WITH SPICY FOODS. OFF DRY WINES PAIR WITH SPICY FOODS. OFF DRY WINES PAIR WITH SPICY FOODS.
  • Implicite 2015: Let’s romanticize for a moment. It’s getting colder, days are getting shorter, and there’s one more pass of grapes to be picked before it’s all done for the season. That's what's in Ludo's Implicite Chenin Blanc. A stunning example of Montlouis terroir which is drinkable now, but why deny yourself the pleasure of laying this one down for a bit and seeing how it evolves. 
- Eric Moorer

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Producer Spotlight: Lilian Duplessis

Producer Spotlight: Lilian Duplessis

My desert island grape is Chardonnay and Chablis is a major reason why. 

In the time of fleeting insta-stories and poundable glou glou, Lilian Duplessis' wines are the other side of the coin. These wines are full of nuance and patience. Elegant and thoughtful producers like Lilian are the reason that I became infatuated with wine. Just as important, they're why I read about vineyards, soil types, and history. Below, I've jotted out a little information about the 12 new wines we have in the shop with the hope a few more grungy kids will want to drink Chablis with me. 

Domaine Duplessis is located in the heart of Chablis and is a 5th generation estate founded in 1985. Lilian Duplessis recently took over for his father, Gerard, and has been instrumental in converting the estate to organic farming. The vineyards have been farmed organically since 2007 and in 2013 the estate was certified (a rarity for the region). Lilian farms eight hectares all located in the Chablis and Petit Chablis AOCs. All vineyards used for village, Premier Cru, and Grand Cru wines are Kimmeridgian limestone, with the Petit Chablis coming from Portlandian limestone. Each plot is vinified separately in stainless steel and the Premiers Crus and Grand Cru spend six months in used barrels.

Lilian Duplessis' lineup provides an intellectual yet accessible way to explore the nuances of different sites from some of the best terroirs in Chablis (and in Burgundy period, for that matter). I hope that you'll temporarily abandon glou glou, buy a few, and come discuss these beautiful, serious wines with me.

- Rebekah Pineda

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Maison Blanche: That Other White House

Maison Blanche: That Other White House


My answer to someone asking if I’d like to buy eleven (straight from the domaine) back vintages of classic Bordeaux at ridiculously good prices would be an unflinching, unwavering vote in the affirmative. I'm aware that there are people out there who don't share my robust enthusiasm for the region, viewing it as passé or, even worse, boring! But what makes wine so much fun for me is that: 1) it's very subjective and 2) there's always an opportunity to change someone’s mind on a subject, region, or specific varietal. The best part of anything is often the discovery. Anyway, about Maison Blanche...
 
With the family having roots in the Bordeaux area for 300+ years, it's safe to say that what Maison Blanche may lack in notoriety it makes up for in consistency and perseverance. The house as we know it began in 1875, a product of the union of the Constant and Pineau families. Amélie Constant and Octave Pineau built an elegant white stone home that was a stark departure from the blond stones found throughout Saint-Émilion at the time. From there, Chateau La Maison Blanche was born.

In 1917, the land was passed down to their son André, a doctor who managed the property from a distance. André passed away in 1923 and everything went to his son, Fabien, who was then handicapped by a serious wound suffered in World War I and forced to sell. Just as luck seemed to be at an all-time low, Jean Barroy purchased the land from the Constant-Pineau family, only to turn around and sell six years later after several disastrous vintages. Then 1938 comes around and Louis Rapin from the Marmandais takes the helm and his endeavor leads to the resurrection of Maison Blanche. His ingenuity leads to expansion. The size of the house on the grounds is doubled, the farm buildings refurbished, and the vineyards replanted. From 1938 to 1959, Rapin’s vision for Maison Blanche was fully realized and became a model for excellent Bordeaux. From there, his son-in-law, Gérard Despagnes, took over and doubled cellar space, shed off useless land, and created another six hectares of land under vine.
 
The domaine of Maison Blanche is currently run by Nicolas Despagnes, who took over from his father in 1999. Nicolas immediately began pushing for organic and biodynamic certifications, both of which he now has, a true rarity in the region. His wines are blends of Merlot and Cabernet Franc that hang on the edge of ethereal. They're enchanting, classic, and provide tremendous value. They're real, natural Bordeaux. And they remind you of the reasons that Bordeaux has been held in high regard for so long and why we are fighting for people to fall in love with it all over again. In that fight, we always begin with the White House.

- Eric Moorer

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The importance of Belluard

The importance of Belluard

Dominique Belluard's wines are probably the most important wines in the world to me. That's not to say they're my favorite wines. I think they're probably too distinctive for that. But no wines have had a larger impact on my life.

In early 2011, Guilhaume brought a bottle of Belluard Les Alpes to Heart, my wine bar and retail shop in San Francisco. I don't think I'd ever heard of Gringet before he mentioned it was the varietal. Working in wine, new experiences are incredibly rare after a while. They're ether. But Les Alpes was objectively unlike anything that I'd ever had before. It was lush and creamy yet tasted like brackish water and stones. It smelled like jasmine and orange blossom and white button mushrooms. Drinking it was like hearing Sgt. Pepper's or Pet Sounds for the first time. It made me question my reference points. 

I immediately ordered as much of every Belluard wine as Selection Massale would sell me. They were a fledgling distributor. My wine bar wasn't much older. Looking at it now, I don't think it's hyperbole to say that these wines are largely responsible for Domestique. 

There are 20 hectares of Gringet in the world. Dominique Belluard grows 10 of them in Ayse, nestled at the foot of Mont Blanc. He took over his family's domaine in 1988 and slowly expanded its Gringet vines through massale selection plantings.  The vines are in a mixture of limestone, iron, and marl soils and sit between 300 and 450 meters, high enough to make these mountain wines but low enough to achieve full ripeness. 

Dom is a meticulous grower and vigneron. All his farming is biodynamic. Everything is fermented with native yeasts and sees very small quantities of sulfur (volcanic only). Elevage is done in concrete eggs, keeping the wines very fresh but providing enough oxygen exchange that they always develop a sense of layered density. 

I make it a ritual to drink one bottle of each current release of Belluard every year. I want to remind myself why it matters. Hopefully with this offer some of you can too. 

- Jeff Segal

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Producer Spotlight: Philippe Tessier

Producer Spotlight: Philippe Tessier

Domaine Tessier was founded by Philippe's father, Roger, in 1961 after he decided to plant some vines amongst the asparagus on his farm. As happens, Philippe returned home in 1981 to take over from his father. Over time, he expanded the farm from its humble roots to 23 hectares of land under vine between Cheverny and Cour-Cheverny. He's planted Romorantin, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Côt, Gamay, and many other varieties over a mostly limestone bedrock, with some areas featuring a bit more clay, some adding some silex, and even a touch of sand in the older sites. He farmed traditionally until 1998 when he decided to try his hand at a style of agriculture that was more respectful of the earth and would be a way to give back to what has given him so much. He gained his organic certification in 2002 and holds true to the belief that wine should: be expressive of place, bring pleasure, reflect the climatic challenges of each vintage, and, above all, be a sound and healthy natural product.

- Eric Moorer

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