NV Cremant d’Alsace From Domaine Saint-Remy

Tuesday, December 22, 2015 8:37 PM


At TWH, I know it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmaswhen one out of every three purchases includes a bottle of bubbly. Our sparkling wine section has been relocated from the far edge of the sales floor to a beautiful, center stage, display – thanks Chris and Tom! It looks so festive!Each time I walk past the display, Carol of the Bells plays in my head. I am so ready to clink glasses with loved ones!But with so many delicious options, what to choose? For fine quality at an affordable price presented in a visually “giftable” package, my choice is Domaine Saint-Remy’s Crémant d’Alsace.
 
 
Domaine Saint-Remy traces its history as a winery back to 1725. It continues to operate as a family business with Corinne and Philippe Ehrhart at the helm with three generations of family working at the domaine. Seeped in tradition, the Ehrharts took the steps needed to become certified organic in 2010 and in 2012 became certified biodynamic. The Ehrharts are actively involved in the stewardship and preservation of Alsace’s viticultural heritage.
 
 
The Ehrharts visit us in San Francisco on a fairly regular basis. During their last visit in the summer of ’14, Philippe guided TWH staff in a tasting of several of his wines. As I pour over my notes from that day, I can’t help but noticethe many stars and exclamation points after each wine. Philippe told us that they only use barrel for Pinot Noir and use no commercial yeasts. They like to use a slow, gentle pressing for the grapes. The last wine we tasted was theCrémant d’Alsace. They began making it in 1982 and limit production to a couple thousand cases. My notes read“quite sophisticated – fresh & lively, elegant”. My notes made no mention of the grapes, though I do know it is a blanc de blancs using Chardonnay (just like in Champagne). The grapes are grown on granite in the lieu-dit of St. Gregoire, west of Turkheim.
 
 
I’ve been given my orders: my brother, the host, said to bring sparkling wine to serve with appetizers at our Christmas Eve dinner. For a large crowd – there will be at least 22 of us – the Saint-Remy Crémant d’Alsace will work perfectly. The initial creamy tangerine and ripe pear flavors give way to a snappy green apple finish. It is elegant and fresh. There will be stuffed eggs (always the first to go at a party, in my experience), little roasted potatoes with sour cream and caviar and other tasty morsels. ThisCrémant d’Alsace is versatile and complex enough to do special occasion hors d’oeuvres justice. A few bottles will also make their way as gifts to friends and neighbors I know who enjoy a good glass of bubbly. I am happy to help spread the cheer!
 
And a special cheers goes out to all of you that support and patronize our independent, small business. As an employee of The Wine House, I can’t tell you how rewarding it is to make connections and forge relationships with our customers. The Wine House is not my first job in retail, so I say this having years of experience….TWH customers are the very best! Happy Holidays! – Anya Balistreri
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If it isn’t Champagne, what do you call it? In France, the term used to denote a sparkling wine other than Champagne is Crémant. The 2010 Crémant de Bourgogne Perle de Roche from Domaine Sainte Barbe is therefore technically not a Champagne but you’d be hard pressed to know that if given a glass to taste blind.

Just like in Champagne, Domaine Sainte Barbe has the wine go through secondary fermentation in the bottle. This is called Méthode Traditionnelle. The darling monk, Dom Perignon, is erroneously credited for discovering this technique of making still wine into sparkling wine. The transformation of still into sparkling wine was less of a sudden discovery and more like a drawn-out process that evolved over a long time period. At any rate, Domaine Sainte Barbe’s winemaker, Jean-Marie Chaland, uses 100% Chardonnay, a blanc de blancs as it were, from two parcels: one in Mâcon and the other from the lieux-dit, La Verchère, in Viré-Clessé. The Chardonnay grapes are grown on clay and limestone soils, lending an especially minerally quality to the wine.
 
SainteBarbe
 
 
Jean-Marie takes further care by leaving the wine en tirage for a good long time, and in the case of the 2010 vintage, the wine sat on the lees for 30 months before disgorgement. Chaland’s 2010 Cremant de Bourgogne is rather dry, he uses only 4 grams of sugar per liter, which is low even for Champagne standards. It is a sparkling wine for Rock Heads – the affectionate term used for wine drinkers who have an affinity for mineral-driven, steely wines. At the store, we call Domaine Sainte Barbe’s Crèmant de Bourgogne, the Poor Man’s Les Mesnil because of that distinctive, crisp, sleek finish.

 

No need to twist my arm, I gladly embrace the tradition of drinking a glass – or two- of bubbly this time of year. Of course, I don’t usually need any encouragement to drink it as I adhere to the Lily Bollinger way of thinking (“I only drink Champagne when I’m happy, and when I’m sad. Sometimes I drink it when I am alone. When I have company I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I’m not hungry and drink it when am. Otherwise, I never touch it – unless I’m thirsty.”LB)
 
 
PerleRoche
On Christmas Day, after the wrapping paper and boxes were gathered and put into the refuse bins and we finished a couple cycles of The Christmas Story marathon, I was ready for a celebratory glass of bubbly. The 2010 Crèmant de Bourgogne was right on target with the slightly nutty nose and sleek finish. One sip pushed aside all earthly cares, helping me languish in the moment.

 

For New Year’s Eve, I’ll be arming myself with a couple of bottles of Sainte Barbe’s Crèmant de Bourgogne to take to a house party. The price makes it doable. It doesn’t hurt either that the package is elegant, but ultimately it is the quality in the bottle that will impress and so no one will be the wiser that I did not have to over-pay for mediocre Champagne.
 
In anticipation of the new year, I would like to wish all of you a healthy, joyous, and prosperous 2015!
 
 
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Editor’s note: The boss is usually way to busy to send out emails, and quite frankly, still is. Though here’s a rare glimpse into one of his discoveries earlier this year that’s NOW IN STOCK!!!

This estate was the big “eureka!” moment of my trip to France this past January. I had visited Jean-Marie a year before, and was completely taken with his wines, but I like to see a grower more than once before deciding to take on a portfolio. It’s nice to get a confirmation of two vintages in a row, and boy did I!

The family was selling grapes to the co-op until 1967, at which time Jean-Marie’s father, Jean-Noël, began estate bottling, under the Domaine des Chazellesname, a very good estate in its own right. (A side note – I originally visited them with the idea of importing the Chazelles wines. While there, Jean-Noël said, “my son makes wines under his own label; would you like to taste them too?” Well, sure! And as soon as I had the first Mâcon in my mouth I knew these were the wines I wanted.) Jean-Marie created his own separate estate in 1999, and soon, when his father retires, will take over all of his holdings as well. The family has farmed organically since those early days, and Jean-Marie’s estate became certified organic in 2006 – the first grower in Viré-Clessé to obtain that certification.

Jean-Marie farms eight hectares of Chardonnay vines, consisting of more than 20 separate micro-parcels, and produces roughly 3,000 cases a year. There’s a lot to like here: a high proportion of old vines – 3/4 of his estate is over 50 years old, and his prized Thurissey parcel is over 90. He always uses natural yeasts, and there is no chaptalization, nor acidification. His single vineyard bottlings are bottled unfined and unfiltered. One amusing change from father to son: Jean-Marie is not the horseman his father is, so he must plow with a tractor!

2009 Mâcon “Les Tilles”

This is from a parcel of 40-50 year old vines, located on a plateau of clay/limestone soil in the village of Montbellet. It is aged in stainless steel tanks, on its lees, then bottled. This wonderfully expressive, floral, citrusy Mâcon is super fresh, super mineral, and utterly delicious.

2009 Viré Clessé “Vieilles Vignes”

Viré Clessé is an AOC of the Mâconnais region (similar to Pouilly Fuissé or St. Veran), created just over 10 years ago. It’s a relatively small AOC, producing less than half the quantity of Pouilly Fuissé or St. Veran. This Vieilles Vignes cuvée is produced from three parcels of 50+ year old vines, with gravelly soils. Very fleshy, with great minerality, and in 2009 it shows just a touch of honeysuckle. Jean-Marie says he likes this best at 3-5 years of age, but it sure tastes good right now.

2009 Viré-Clessé “Perrière”

This is a new cuvée for Jean-Marie, made from a parcel that used to go into the Vieilles Vignes, but which he decided has the individuality to stand on its own. Again, great minerality (do you notice a trend?) and a long, stony, lees-y finish. Really classy stuff.

2009 Viré-Clessé “l’Epinet”

All hand harvested, from a vineyard planted in the 1940’s. He makes about 15 barrels – 375 cases or so. There’s no new oak on this, or any of his other wines. The barrels average about 5 years old, as he wants all that brilliant old-vine fruit to take center stage, not the vessel it’s aged in. This is already showing some complexity, with peach and lime, and plenty of spice, perhaps even a touch of licorice. A densely mineral wine. Wow.

2009 Viré-Clessé “Thurissey”

Viré-Clessé “Thurissey” this exceptional little (1/2 hectare) south-facing parcel is on the northern end of the appellation, away from his other parcels. The vines here are up to 95 years old, and he produces only about 200 cases. Again, no new oak; he uses a regimen of barrels between two and five years old. The wine is kept in barrel for a year on its fine lees, then bottled, without fining or filtration.

Thurissey is always a mineral wine, and even in 2009, which is a fruit-driven vintage, this is the wine for rock-heads. It’s less expressive than the l’Epinet right now; more like a coiled spring, just waiting to release its energy, filled with apple, pear, lime, and stone. Jean-Marie says this should age 5-10 years, or if you drink it now, it’s best to decant it.

2008 Crémant de Bourgogne “Perle de Roche”

Yes, there’s a sparkling wine too! Jean-Marie bottles this one under his “Domaine Sainte Barbe” label. Please pardon the confusion. It’s made from a parcel of young vines rich in limestone. It spends between 2-3 years en tirage, with a very low dosage (4 grams/liter) and there’s a small disgorgement every couple of years of about 3,000 bottles. Very fine for a Crémant, with tiny bubbles, a fresh chalky nose and quite a bit of finesse. Only a few cases available.

Sampler Case

I guess the best thing I can say about these wines is that you will look forward to the next sip, the next bottle, the next case! With that in mind, we’ve put together a very special Sampler Case to introduce these superb wines to you. You’ll get 3 bottles of Mâcon, 2 bottles of each of the Viré-Clessés, and 1 bottle of the Crémant. For taking the plunge, you’ll save 25% off the regular prices. We think you’ll be impressed.- David Netzer

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Spring Fizz

Saturday, April 9, 2011 4:26 PM



“You don’t stop laughing because you grow old. You grow old because you stop laughing.”

I don’t know if it’s all the daffodils and tulips sprouting up around town or just seasonal allergies going to my head, but I have got Spring Fever like you wouldn’t believe. Unfortunately, it’s not the kind that prompts me to clean my home as if I were about to host the Queen. However, it does have the effect of turning everything I hear or read into something not only spring-related, but something for which the presence of spring could be the only logical explanation.

Which brings us to the portion of the email where I explain what the above quote has to do with spring, and of course, wine (did I mention I also have a tendency to turn everything I see into something wine-related?). It all started when I logged onto our Twitter account this morning and saw this quote. Naturally, it made me smile and think of how spring is the perfect time to celebrate life, friendship, good times of past and those yet to come. In essence, to keep laughing. Cheesy, perhaps, but still apt in my opinion. Moreover, if we are to gather for laughter, we will need something equally apt with which to toast it.

Now for the part of the email that needs very little explanation, as it is almost inevitably “bubbles” that customers ask for when they are about to embark down a celebratory path. That said, this is not the first time, nor the last, that you will hear me say a celebration proper is certainly not necessary for the consumption of sparkling wine. I have and always will be a huge proponent of kicking to the curb any notion suggesting that certain wines be restricted to specific dates, places, weather patterns, lunar phases etc… Rules- who needs them?! So whether you’re mounting your party bus as we speak or quietly giving thanks to the asparagus gods, make this a season of celebration and laughter. Of course, I would never dream of leaving you hanging with a hankering for some sparklers and no suggestions, so I’ve picked a few of TWH staff favorites from fancy to affordable and everything in between. In fact, it seems like almost every day at least one of us comes into work and announces that we’ve recently had one of the sparkling wines listed below- with sushi (me), with fresh crab (David), avec petite brandade croquettes (Anya), on its own with squirt of blood orange (Chris), with peanuts while watching a baseball game (Tom)…. So I guess we’re practicing what we preach alright.

In sum, have fun- drink fizz.

NV Segura Viudas Brut Cava

We have adopted the term “house ‘Champagne'” from one of our customers to describe this Cava as it’s the kind of wine everyone should have at least a few bottles of on hand for an impromptu sparkling moment. While this has been an all-time favorite of TWH staff for some time now, in both the pocketbook and palate categories, there seems to be a consensus around the globe that this is a brut to be reckoned with. A blend of the regional Spanish grapes Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel-lo, the Segura is made in the same way as Champagne with its secondary fermentation and further aging done in the bottle. Rich and full, yet crisp and clean at the same time, it has classic citrus, apple and melon flavors but a delightfully unexpected earthy/herbal component. I’ve always been very impressed with the balance of this wine. It definitely out drinks its price-point.

Domaine d’Orfeuilles NV Vouvray Brut

How do I even begin to describe my adoration for this producer. If you thought my spiel about tulips and laughter was cheesy, hang on a moment because I’m about to top it. But first, a little background information. This Loire estate was founded by Paul Herivault in 1947 out of an old Medieval castle that no longer exists. Today the estate is run by Paul’s son and grandson whose M.O. is tomaintain the traditional methods employed by their predecessor and produce wines that reflect the distinct “flintiness” of the clay-limestone soil for which Vouvray is known. In this they have succeeded and then some. The Vouvray Brut, made from 100% Chenin in the traditional method, explodes with peach/apricot & soft white floral notes on the nose that follow through onto the palate with a clean chalky texture that, along with a brilliant acidity, hangs onto every tiny little bubble as if they were some sort of synchronized acrobatic trio (go team!). Anya summed this wine up nicely when she said “it’s one of the few sparkling wines that doesn’t make me wish I were drinking Champagne.”

Domaine d’Orfeuilles also makes a Touraine Rosé from Malbec (known as Côt in the Loire) that boasts beautiful, bright red raspberry fruit balanced by a nice dusty minerality. For some reason this wine (get ready for the cheese in five, four, three…) gives me visions of Mary Poppins ascending into the puffy clouds as she hangs nonchalantly onto her umbrella. Gosh, where do I come up with these things? But truly, it is a lovely representation of the outstanding diversity, quality, and value one can find coming out of the Loire.



2009 Bellenda Prosecco Superior
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This may be one instance where I tell you it’s ok to judge a wine by its label. The feminine, almost majestic looking, light gray-purple label is fitting for this vintage sparkling wine which bears the name of both the region from which it hails in northeastern Italy and the grape from which it is made. Hands down, this wine has the softest, most delicate mouthfeel of any Prosecco I’ve ever tasted. Slight hints of stone fruit and almond round out the vibrant minerality also present in spades. You may want to drink this in a white wine glass rather than a flute in order to experience the full expression of the wine.

NV Arlaux Brut

Arlaux has been one of our direct grower Champagne imports for years, long before the explosion of grower Champagne ensued. Situated in Vrigny, this estate is known for its use of Champagne’s “other” red grape, Pinot Meunier, which makes up nearly half of the blend and contributes anintriguing hint of forest-floor type earthiness. The rest of the blend is composed of mainly Pinot Noir and just a little bit of Chardonnay, which lends itself to a richer, more red-fruit flavor profile. In the world of sky-high Champagne prices, Arlaux represents an incredible bang for the buck… or should I say, bubble.

Joyeux printemps!

Emily Crichton

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