Wine Review: Domaine Tollot-Beaut Chorey-Les-Beaune Rouge 2011

Now trapped at home, my cellar (aka crawl space) lights up the end of this dark tunnel. Each bottle holds a glimpse into the world before this plodding, boring present. I would rather open wines too early than too late for the sake of some palate time travel. So, yes, let us crack open another Burgundy.

Tollot-Beaut

Since the 1880s the Tollot family have made serious wine from their plantings in Burgundy in a 250 year old cellar. They jumped early to label when the Chorey-lès-Beaune appellation was created in 1921 and exported quickly to the states.

Chorey-lès-Beaune’s 336 acres are mostly Pinot Noir on plains beneath the shadow of the massive Grand Cru hill of Corton (red) and above the city of Beaune.

Chorey-les-Beaune: east-facing sunrise on the lower part of the slope

Almost half of Chorey’s producers are satisfied selling their Chorey off under the broader Côte de Beaune-Villages appellation. But not the Tollots. Generations of strategic small acquisitions in Savigny, Aloxe, and Beaune bumped their total to 60 acres, with two monopolies (vineyards they own outright), sustainably farmed (“lutte raisonée”) ofmostly old vines of the fancy Pinot Fin strain. Today, cousins Nathalie, Jean-Paul, and Olivier Tollot steer the ship.

The cousins Tollot that run Tollot-Beaut (I assume that’s a punch down paddle).

On trend, they de-stem most of the Pinot Noir and now limit new oak to 20% for village and 60% for Grand Crus.

I won a bottle of 2011 five years ago as an incentive when it was leaving Diageo. 2011 was stormy and tricky leaving aromatic and fresh reds that lack weight and power. Review agglomerators like CellarTracker.com say its window was 2014-2017, with 2020 reviews saying drink now. I am too bored to be patient.

Domaine Tollot-Beaut Chorey-Les-Beaune Rouge 2011

The bottle feels substantial, like a show off Champagne bottle.

The appearance looks a clear, medium intense garnet-rimed, ruby-cored color.

Intense aromas jab and creak with cola nut, balsamic, licorice, kirsch and plum, vanilla powder, and orange marmalade.

The palate feels chalk dry, with wood-splitting high acidity, medium woody tannins, medium alcohol, a medium body.

Medium plus intense flavors start delicate then arch more toward wood, earth, and spice braced by high acidity, rather than the fruity, complex, brooding nose. On point with other 2011s, there just is not much core fruit here. Flavors carry a medium plus length.

Tollot-Beaut’s ’11 shows charm, drive, and complexity, but now, in 2020, is passing its peak. The core fruit is fading to its structures of acid and tannin, and fruit switching to earth and spice. It is very good but likely never outstanding. If you have one, drink it now, with a duck or mushroom pate or aged cheese.

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Wine Review: Domaine Faiveley Mercurey 1er Cru Clos des Myglands Monopole France 2017

Trapped at home, with a tornado toddler, my office and garage bulges with nearly 180 bottles of samples that I can’t taste with my accounts. Some bottles may not make it to the other side. So, time to turn on a light in this viral tunnel.

If you are looking for something, well, at least interesting. When in doubt, go with the label with the most words:

Domaine Faiveley, Mercurey 1er Cru, Clos des Myglands, Monopole, France 2017

Is that the back label? What it all means:

This is an estate (Domaine) of the Faiveley family, in Mercurey (warm-ish southern Burgundy), from a 1er Cru (1st ranked and regarded) Clos (single vineyard) des Myglands (it’s name), Monopole (owned outright by the Faiveley family), from the 2017 vintage (generous and ripe, well, for Burgundy).

The appearance looks clear medium intense brilliant ruby core, with a wide clear wash rim.

Aromas smell clean, pronounced with oodles of baking spices and earth, balsamic, clove, blood orange, carob, tart red cherry, fennel.

The palate is dry, with high acidity, willowy medium intense tannins, medium alcohol, a medium body, and fine grained powdery earthen texture.

Lifted, complex, medium plus intensity flavors zing with blood orange, tart cherry, fine clove powder, granite powder, dried tobacco leaf, leather that carry a long length.

Faiveley’s Clos des Myglands 2017 is outstanding quality, bright but spiced, earthy and complex. I forget this is grapes. I did not even mention the grape is Pinot Noir until now.

It has personality, youth, and is all edge and energy with the world before it. This may be the blind hope of middle school. It may not age like its prestigious northern Burgundy neighbors. Give it a decade. But we could all use a bit of blind hope about now.

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Extreme Wine Trip: Okanagan Valley BC Canada Part 1

Stuck at home? Grab a glass of something nice. Since we can’t travel, stray with me to the edge of wine-making.

With so many “important” wine regions out there, I had set aside Canada’s Okanagan Valley. It was too far, too obscure, and too young to merit a trip. A drive would be nine hours. NINE HOURS. Trapped in a car with a two and half year old. Nine hours.

(Fearing just nine hours isolated with a kid seems quaint during the Covid-19 pandemic).

But slowly, the itch to take the WSET Diploma Level 4 has taken over. Seven years have passed since the WEST 3. Now that I am decently settled (rutted) into work and my daughter lets us sleep most nights, maybe, just maybe, I could finally memorize, say, the deductive effects of Carboxymethycellulose on calcium and potassium bitartrate levels. Or not.

However, we live in the embryonic Northwest: neither Oregon nor Washington offer the course, but Napa and Vancouver, BC do. Not to be blasé, but I visit Napa every couple years. Napa is out. But my awkward love for all things Canadian (it’s like a cold, quirky, polite Europe), and fact that Fine Vintage Ltd would tour the Okanagan for the WSET 4, decided it. Pack the kido and car!

OKANAGAN BACKGROUND

At the Northern limit of grape-growing, the Okanagan Lake and Valley stretches from the US border at the 45th Parallel 83 miles (three times Napa) right through British Columbia, up to and through the 50th Parallel. Vitis vinifera grapes should not grow here. But they do.

Now, we have visited vineyards almost this far North: Vancouver Island (read here), Luxembourg (read here), Champagne (read here), Dresden (read here), Prince Edward Island (read here), we even lived near the Finger Lakes in Upstate New York. All their wines share enamel-blasting acidity, light body, low alcohol, few recognizable vinifera grapes (Riesling, Chardonnay, even Pinot Noir), and a whole lot of unrecognizable grapes (Scheurebe, Vidal Blanc, Marechal Foch, Sauvignette, Frontenac…anybody?). So is the Okanagan any different? Yes and no.

winefolly.com

The Okanagan climate is land locked and continental (hot, dry, short summers, cold winters): akin to NY Finger Lakes, Columbia Valley WA, Alsace, and German wine regions. Like those land lubbers, their lakes or rivers play a key roll in moderating temperatures, stretching the season to ripen grapes. However, Lake Okanagan is just bigger, way bigger. It goes 761 feet deep and 83 miles long (over 100 feet deeper than Seneca Lake and almost three times as long). Add long sunny summer days (setting at 9pm) to his huge heat sink and the protection from Pacific rains by the Cascade Mountain rain shield, the Okanagan can ripen not only Pinots, Riesling, and Chardonnay, but Merlot, Syrah, even Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon. Yet the daily diurnal (hot to cold) range slows ripening and freezing early winters allow for Icewine.

Bags packed we head North. We stay the night in Seattle with friends for sanity, then head for the border.

Once we turn East, the flat farmland, grey marshes, and silver river vistas fade into riots of shattered mountains.

We climb. It cools. Forests and farms turn into into scrub and rock. At the summit we stop, like landing on a moonscape of thin air and rock. I get vertigo just looking at it.

Now this is a rain shadow. Of course nary a Pacific cloud makes it East of these massive mountains. It reminds me of the Cascades or Vosges but far more extreme.

After a rapid descent, our world flattens into arid high desert. The temperature rises as we cruise for hours East.

Finally, civilization emerges as we near our hotel on Okanagan Lake. Billboards for real estate, tasting rooms, and boat rentals pop up like weeds above the road. We tuck into a great Japanese meal, stock up on essentials, and crash at our hotel.

My class and winery tours start tomorrow. Check back for my whirlwind tour of Canada’s most extreme wine region.

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Time For Champagne: WSET 4 Diploma Blind Wine Tasting

We could all use some Champagne about now.

I am deep into my WSET 4 Diploma course by Fine Vintage Ltd. Once no longer sequestered at home from dawn to dusk trying to tame a whirlwind toddler, I will write more about it. But for now, I could not resist sharing this one.

We started blind-tasting three sparkling wines. With no leads on what they might be, cost, or consist of, here is my 10 minute note on the one that shone:

“The wine looks a brilliant, medium intense gold color with fine mousse.

Pronounced, complex aromas smell of strawberry, yellow grapefruit, lemon, chalk, toasted bread, almond paste, and vanilla.

The palate feels dry, with high acidity, medium alcohol, a medium body, and rounded yet crisp texture and supremely fine mousse.

Pronounced intensity flavors taste of strawberry, lemon, toasted bread, green apple, chalk, and clove that last a long length.

This is outstanding quality Champagne with age on it, given the high intensity and complexity both of flavors and aromas, the brilliance of color, the autolysis from extended lees aging and miles of length.

Suitable for aging as the combination of perservative acidity and top quality core fruit will evolve beautifully another five years or more.”

It turned out to be a Blanc de Blancs. All Chardonnay. Not strawberries. Bad taster! Bad! No biscuit!

I had fallen down a rabbit hole of assumptions: I could tell it was Champagne, I thought the class might pick a non-vintage to stay on budget, so of course I found “underripe strawberry” (Pinot Noir and/or Meunier) that was never there. At least Jancis Robinson’s review might have agreed, “I don’t think I would immediately take it for a Blanc de Blancs blind”. It was so ripe and biscuity. Blind tasting is such a mind-muddling affair.

The course proctor admitted they splurged (around $150). Pol Roger was the producer. The mellow, ripe 2009 vintage (declared only in 2008 and 2012) was top class: sourced exclusively from Grand Cru vineyards of Cramant, Les Mesnil, Oger, Avize and Oiry in the Côte des Blancs (fancy name of Champagne’s Chardonnay heartland). It went through full malolactic conversion and then aged in bottle for seven whole years, riddled by hand by the few remeures left in Champagne.

What a treat and what a challenge.

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Balkan Merlot Wine Review: VukojE, Galerija, Bosnia-Herzegovina 2016

Wow. Hi internet, I missed you. Toddler distractions notwithstanding, let us turn our sails back toward the wine dark sea. Many leagues ago, I started to review Balkan wines my mother-in-law smuggled back with her. The tannic, native grape, Vranak made for some puckered and challenged palates (read here). But, how does Bosnia-Herzegovina handle the stereotyped grape of plush pleasure and ease: Merlot?

Winery VukojE has a vineyard dedicated to Merlot, called Zasad polje. With me? Feel like your mouth is full of cotton yet? Me too. Zasad polje or as I like to call it, Zsa Zsa, is tucked in Bosnia-Herzegovina’s southern corner, a 40 minute drive inland, into Bosnia from coastal Croatia’s Dubrovnic. So a nice mix of coastal Adriatic mediterranean warmth and moisture but inland with diurnal range.

Welp, VukoJE’s Galerija is 100% Merlot. It uses whole cluster fermentation, then cools the grape for 8 months in barrels. Let us try it.

The APPEARANCE looks a clear, medium plus ruby, with medium clear rim: safe Merlot territory.

Its AROMAS roll with medium plus intense prune, orange peel, violet, and dried wood. Interesting…

The PALATE feels dry, with medium plus acidity, touching on volatile acidity (ruh roh), while tannins feel soft but reedy like balsa wood, alcohol and body are there in moderate presence.

The FLAVORS medium intense twangy orange juice, pruned plum, flint, with medium vanilla finish.

VERDICT:

VukoJE’s 2016 Merlot is bright yet dark-fruited and rough-edged, a bit of a jangly mix that yet manages to resolve itself into a pleasant friend for fatty, salty foods: tomato-based pastas, rare cooked meats, mushroom, young but hard cheeses, even rich fish dishes.

It is good (3 of 5), likely tastes better beside a lake in Bosnia-Herzegovina, but stateside comes off a bit pruned yet wild and twangy.

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