HI, FRIENDS. CLOSED FOR A FEW DAYS. EMAIL US WITH WINE QUESTIONS, WE'LL HELP YOU FIND THE BEST NATTY FOR WHEN WE'RE BACK. HI, FRIENDS. CLOSED FOR A FEW DAYS. EMAIL US WITH WINE QUESTIONS, WE'LL HELP YOU FIND THE BEST NATTY FOR WHEN WE'RE BACK.

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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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Eric Goes To France: Part Deux

Eric Goes To France: Part Deux

After a wonderful morning and early afternoon, Adrien Baloche took me over to meet with Quentin Bourse from Le Sot de L'Ange. The roughly translated 'Idiot Angel' couldn't be anything further. Quentin is meticulous, determined, and committed to his vision for wine. His brain remains razor sharp despite moving at a clip that's honestly somewhat difficult to comprehend. The portion of the day that I spent with him was a complete whirlwind from the time we arrived. We started out by tasting through some of his new releases (they'll be here later this week!) and finished with a few too many brown spirits. A quick stop by the vines (certified biodynamic) for a brief stroll and then Quentin dropped me off with Frantz Saumon and Marie Thibault, just down the road. Frantz received us and kindly handed me a much-needed glass of water. We moved out back and into the cave where a handful of broken wine glasses littered the dirt floor.

“We had a few friends over last night.”

We breezed through some of Frantz's exquisite whites, with the ambient soundtrack of Marie’s wines fermenting in the background. She returned and took us out to her vineyards, with the wind ripping between the vines and the sun setting beautifully in the background. Our return to Chez Frantz and Marie was greeted with a beautiful, simple dinner. Fish stew, a salad, baguette, and of course delicious wine. That paired with the company of a loving family made for a day that I won’t be forgetting anytime soon. 

- Eric Moorer

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A Domestique Dispatch from France: Part One

A Domestique Dispatch from France: Part One

I was fortunate enough to get to spend a day between the communities of Rivarennes and Azay-le-Rideau with a few of our friends who happen to be exceedingly talented vignerons. This was not my first visit with winemakers, but ended up as one of the more rewarding experiences I've had in my life in wine. 

The day started with a six AM wake up and a taxi across Paris to the train at Gare Montparnasse. Roughly two hours and a transfer later, I found myself at Azay-le-Rideau hoping for another taxi to help me to my first destination, a meeting with Adrien Baloche. Of course, there wasn't a taxi in sight, which made for an entertaining walk to the town center roughly a half kilometer away. So, I called Adrien, who was gracious enough to come out and pick me up from the post office. Our conversation in his hatchback Ford was a comical exploration of both French and English as we'd both speak to our limit and then switch to the more comfortable tongue. We pulled onto his property via a narrow road with two way traffic. As a couple of trucks passed us, Adrien made sure to acknowledge each of his neighbors on their way out. He pulled off onto a gravel bit where he and everyone else parked when visiting and we got out.

There it was, La Ferme du Plateau, an actual farm on an actual plateau where a man and his family lived in two combined circular yurts. Before his abode was a corrugated metal structure resembling a warehouse. This was where the goats were housed. Surrounding us was nature by way of forest, and, of course, vineyard. Adrien is clearly connected to farming as his land is filled with lush greens and beautiful, dense trees surrounding everything. He has a charming dog on the property, Tully, who was responsible for touring us through the vineyards and baby orchard. After a short walk, it was time to meet the goats. His girlfriend is responsible for them and the production of the cheese made on the farm. The goats are a cast of characters.

Next, back to the car to head to the chai for tasting. Adrien has many vessels; fiberglass, terracotta, stainless steel, but no oak. He carefully released liquid from the first, then second, then third, fourth, and fifth. The white, from Chenin, was vivacious, racy, and fruit-driven. This was the first white I had tasted from him and I was impressed. This, from his fifth vintage, was stellar. We moved through the reds, all full of that Baloche agility. The new vintages of both the Ovin and Grolleau showed the maturity he has gained as a vigneron, more expressive and precise than their predecessors. The entire time I spoke of my love of his wines, which I could tell made him a bit uncomfortable, but as we tasted through even he was surprised by the quality he had produced. 

Tasting is tiring work, so we decided to relieve ourselves to lunch with his family. His aunt had put out a delightful spread of meats and terrine from the one pig per year that they butcher. A salad of butter lettuce that had been traded for cheese offered a touch of levity to the meal. We all shared conversation in a curious melange of French and English punctuated with laughter. We drank freshly bottled offerings from the new vintage while I played fetch with Tully in front of the yurt. I took in the winter sun in the expanse of Adrien's farm and thought about how this was only the start. 

- Eric Moorer

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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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Starting with Labet.

Starting with Labet.

We began talking about this newsletter last year. At the time, we were still hatching plans for Domestique. But we knew that we wanted our very first producer-specific mailer to be about Julien Labet.
 
In our minds, these are some of the most exciting natural wines in the world right now. They’re expressive of Jura terroir. They are “classic” wines. But they also have a combination of transparency and expressive, abundant fruit that feels like a burgeoning trademark. A signature in the making.
 
Julien has a little less than 15 hectares in the Sud Revermont, the Jura’s southernmost area, a stone’s throw away from Ganevat and Domaine des Marnes Blanches. He farms organically and has a light hand in the cellar. No fining, no chaptalization, no acidification, super minimal sulfur. Julien's father, Alain Labet, was one of the first vignerons in the Jura to make ouillé style whites. Nearly half of the domaine's vines are more than 60 years old (some of the Poulsard was planted in 1895!) and the vast majority of them come from massale selections. The vines are harvested by hand with yields of just around 10 hl/ha.
 
The wines below come from different parcels and represent a range of soil types (clay, limestone, schist, sandy loam) scattered with these old plantings. They are all beautiful expressions of the Sud Revermont terroir. And we’re proud to offer them to you.
 
Also, on that note, we’re now shipping to a number of states around the country. Check our website for more information. Happy new year.
 
- Jeff Segal

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