During the 14 years I was in retail, I could never find the time to get out and visit other wine shops. So with my new found liberation, I’m making up for lost time. On one of my first sojourns this beauty spoke to me – and it said all of the right things.
Domaine Barou is located in the VDP des Collines Rhodaniennes, which is a sub appellation of the Comtes des Rhodaniens. Did that help? How about it’s in the Northern Rhone, near St Joseph and the Ardeche. That’s as close as I’m going to get you. Emmanuel and Marie-Agnes Barou have been farming organically for almost 40 years (1975), and their vineyards are certified organic (Ecocert). The Cuvee des Vernes is 100% syrah from 30 year-old vines. After a brief cold maceration, and then an 18 day fermentation, it ages in five year old oak for nine months. Nothing nasty is done during that whole time, and a little bit of sulfur comes in at bottling.
The result is a $14 bottle of joy. Right away you smell the garrigue and spices, and then you’re treated to black cherries – then that same spice on the palate. The tannins are round, the mouth is full and the finish is long. And you can easily have a glass or even two, because the alcohol is sitting at 13%.
So get out there and hunt this one down, and now that you know where Domaine Barou is, you can visit them as well. Besides their wines, they’ll sell you their organically grown cherries (June), or their apricots (July) or their peaches (August and September.)
While catching up with a wine rep/friend of mine the other night at Buceo 95, a terrific wine and tapas bar on the Upper West Side, I was reacquainted with Le Clos D’Un Jour. That’s both the name of the winery, in Cahors, as well as the name of this particular cuvée. Stephane and Veronique Azemar make three cuvées on their seven hectare winery situated on the Lot River, where their total production is only 12,000 bottles, and their 40 year-old vines are farmed organically. Grass covering the entire land is weeded by Oussant sheep, who serve not only as good weeders, but also as wonderful natural fertilizers. Whatever the sheep don’t eat is removed manually, never by machine. The winery uses no pumps — only gravity — to move things along.
Le Clos D’Un Jour (the wine) is the Azemar’s flagship Cahors, and is a blend of 90% Malbec (a.k.a. Cot, or Auxerrois) and 10% Merlot. It’s fermented in steel tanks, and aged for 18 months in cement. As you’d expect, only natural yeasts are used and there’s no fining or filtration. The color is true to Cahors’ reputation for “inky black” wines, but this wine is elegant. The Malbec gives it the oomph, and the Merlot gives it the grace. Full-bodied, with surprisingly soft tannins, Le Clos is black currant heaven, yet lively and bright. For about $20, I say bring on the duck or steak!
I’m kind of breaking the rules by reviewing this wine, because it goes for around $30. However, it only comes in magnums, and that’s two bottles-worth, so it really only costs around $15, so it works for me. Jean-Francois Coutelou — locally known as Jeff — has been making wines naturally since 1987 in the Herault region of the Languedoc. He farms biodynamically, and there’s no hanky panky in the winery — just natural yeasts, no filtration or fining, and minimal, if any, SO2 added. If he does add it, it’s only in bottling.
The Sauve de la Citerne (“saved from the tank”) is a wine Coutelou makes from juice that he doesn’t know what to do with, hence the name. It’s juice that he feels just isn’t quite good enough for his higher priced cuvees, so he uses it to make this fabulous value. Take it from me, there’s nothing inferior about this wine whatsoever. It’s a full-bodied blend of 80% Mourvedre and 20% Grenache. Right away you’re in for a mouthful of blackberries and black raspberries, but then along comes a wave of bracing acidity and minerality. As time goes by it softens and there’s a nice creamy, velvety quality that takes over.
So the next time you have a gang over buy a bottle or two of this crowd pleaser. It’ll be gone before you get a chance to sit down and join your friends. And if you’re a retailer, you’ll appreciate the very cool label, too.
In the heart of the Willamette Valley lie 210 certified Biodynamic and organic acres, all owned and operated by the Marchesi family. Rudy is the head of the clan, which came to Oregon via the Bronx. I really like that, but what I like even more are their wines. In a bit of an unusual set up, Rudy has two winemakers — Ben Thomas who oversees the reds (namely Pinot Noir) and Stephen Webber, a Brit, who’s the lord of the whites.
Working with cooler climate grapes, Stephen gets to play with German and Alsatian varietals, and the Borealis is a beautiful blend of four. It’s about one third Muller-Thurgau, one third Riesling, 20% Gewurtztraminer and 14% Pinot Gris. I know it sounds like a car wreck, but it’s more like a sleek Mercedes two-seater. The wine starts slightly off-dry (1.6 r.s.) with ripe peach and pear, and then evolves, cruising along to a beautiful long grapefruit and lime finish. An excellent ride, with great mileage (only 12.3% alcohol) and zero sticker shock, just $16. This is definitely a wine you should park in your wine lot. Vroom vroom!
About twenty years ago, Dante and Helena Lomazzi became the third generation of winemakers at Dante’s four hectare family winery in Tuscany. In 1990 he converted the agriculture to organic (certified) and now practices biodynamic viticulture. The Rosso Jeune Vigne is their entry level red, made from 97% Sangiovese and 3% Colorino grapes. The wine is fermented in cement tanks and then aged in used Slovenian tonneau for a year. We’re talking native yeasts, no enzymes added, no filtration and only a tiny bit of SO2 added at bottling.
The result is a simply sublime medium/full bodied red with the perfect combination of brilliant red fruit, and herbaceous minerality. The acidity is there, the tannins are mild, the alcohol is 13%, and the price is somewhere around twenty bucks. Pretty much perfection in my book, but you be the judge. You know where to find me if you disagree, but I’m not worried.
Phil Coturri is one of the premier grape growers in Sonoma, and is now producing his own label. This wine does what a California Zinfandel should… it packs a punch, and is big and juicy, but it doesn’t just hit you over the head and make you go to sleep. See what Victoria thinks of the Sixteen 600 Estate Zinfandel 2010.
I found myself in Soho on two separate occasions this past week, and one wine reared its lovely head on each trip — once by the glass at Cocotte, and the second time in a conversation with Paul Shaked at The Cleveland, who was bemoaning the fact that he couldn’t get his hands on any more of it.
The wine that all that buzz in Soho was about was the Domaine Des 2 Anes Fontanilles 2009. The cepage is 60% ancient vine Carignan, and the balance is a combination of Syrah and Grenache Noir. It’s fermented in stainless steel tanks, and it’s simply amazing.
Domaine Des 2 Anes is a winery in Corbieres in the Languedoc region of France, owned by the husband and wife team of Magali and Dominque Terrier. Dominque works wonders in the vineyard, and Magali does her magic in the winery. The “2 Anes” refers to their two donkeys, who help with the pruning.
All of 2 Anes’ wines are certified biodynamic by ecocert, and they’re all made with natural yeasts, with no filtration or fining. For around $15 you’ll be treated a mouthful of dark plums, herbs and a hint of semi-sweet chocolate. This wine is bright, alive and sublime. With grilled lamb, pork, chicken, or veggies? Oh yeah.
Domaine Des 2 Anes is imported into the United States by Jenny & Francois Selections.
About the author: Andy Besch came to wine as a second career when he opened West Side Wine fourteen years ago on New York’s Upper West Side. WSW came to be known as the wine shop in the neighborhood for organic/biodynamic/natural wines. He has since sold the shop, and is enjoying diving even deeper into the world of natural wine.