Tag Archives: Stupefacente

Chateau Chalon “Voile N•12” François Rousset-Martin, Nevy-sur-Seille, 2000

One of the most incredible wines ever, the “N•12” special cuvée from Chateau Chalon was absolutely mind blowing. Bottled in 2000, the cork had a funny cap pinned on it but I could see the color was the deepest yellow even through the green glass. The bottle itself is called a “clavelin”, and is a particular weight, shape and volume that dates back to 1506 under the law of Marguerite de Bourgogne.

Clearly this was a wine that would be challenging so I was careful to try it at varying temperatures (started chilled and let it warm in the bottle over a course of hours). Maybe challenging isn’t the right word, I mean that it deserved respect and focus, otherwise the many layers of flavor and texture might go unappreciated. Maybe it was because I was looking at Pierre Bonard paintings, but I felt the similarity: instant gratification from lush, vibrant colors that with pause open into permeating depth and subtle movement.

The colors reverberate at different intensities, the layers stringing together a whole bunch of sounds. It was like that with this wine: epic, erotic, historic. Almonds and honey, second cutting hay and some kind of incense, maybe turmeric, chamomile and genet. Finesse, but dank.

It turns out this bottle was from a special harvest from grower François Rousset-Martin, who has been working with Chateau Chalon more recently on vins ouillés (topped off, non-oxidative wines) previously unheard of for this AOC. But this wine rests for an extended élevage in barrels of 228 liters (Burgundy barrels) in ancient cellars, for a period of 12 years without topping off before bottling! The “voile” refers to the veil of yeast that forms along the top of the wine as it sits in the barrel, slowly building the character of what are considered some of the best wines in France.

In order to conform to the regulations of the Chateau Chalon AOC (subregion of Jura made up of 4 parts: Ménétru-le-Vignoble, Domblans, Château-Chalon et Nevy-sur-Seille), there are several other strict requirements, including that the wine must bottle at a minimum of 12% ABV, it must be 100% Savagnin, and if the weather is deemed unfit or subpar, it is recoiled and no wine can be made/sold under the AOC from that vintage.

Given the nature of the restrictions and history surrounding the appellation, it’s no wonder the vignerons of Chateau Chalon are referred to as auteurs. It really gives you a sense of the expectation that each winemaker is an artist in their own right, cultivating grapes with unique and expressive character. Do I enjoy the wine more knowing that it’s extremely rare and almost impossible to find? Yes, yes I do.

Sigalas Assyrtiko, Santorini, 2014

“You’re in luck. We just ran out of our regular Greek glasspour, so I’ll have to give you a barrel-fermented bottle from Sigalas. Sorry about that.” – at Sylvain, New Orleans

When I drove across Santorini on my way to Fira back in 2007, I couldn’t believe just how desolate the middle of the island was. The ocean wind whipped across the flat plateau in the middle of the sun stricken island, which I guess keeps the area sparse in touristy attractions that abound on the cliffside towns and Perissa’s mile long party beach.  185013_4346336789441_1943974424_n


What a crazy juxtaposition; to my left along the razor sharp cliffs were fields of flowers and sinewy grass dispersed between jagged beds of red, volcanic soil tumbling down into the ocean. How does this all exist in the same tiny island?

The nature patterns were insane. Although daytime was intensely hot and bright (even in early April you have to squint to see where you’re going), the wind died down to a cool breeze at night and was quiet, calling attention to the clear, starry nights- so calm that the middle of the island often developed a thin fog into the early hours of the morning. And the vines loved it. They were wrapped tightly round each other, flat against the ground in coils that allowed some small amount of moisture to feed them and trap the salt wind. I can really taste the effects that barrel fermentation had on this grape, and it’s damn delicious (not everybody does this with Assyrtiko on Santorini). Still with piercing clarity, it adds a “tenor”. Does that make sense? It did to me.

Since then, I’ve craved the strong minerality and aromatics of the island. Corsica has been a fun comparison in that regard. But this one really brought me back.

 Dominique Belluard, “Le Feu”, 2010

Oh man, “The Fire”. The most exciting wine I’ve had this year. Belluard is clearly a skillful master of the art of winemaking. Like a Grand Cru champagne, Le Feu somehow manages to simultaneously be extremely concentrated and complex while remaining transparent and elegant. The wine gets its name from the red iron stained soils of Ayse near the border to Switzerland.

This put Gringet on the map for me.
Le Baratin, Belleville, Paris

NV La Closerie “Les Béguines”, Jérôme Prévost


Birthday Champagne. I was looking for something along the lines of Jacques Selosse (undeniably unique, intense, and particular) when a friend recommended La Closerie. Coincidentally, Jerome Prévost studied with Anselme Selosse before beginning his own project in his cellar in Avize, until he was able to work out of his own place in Gueux. His wines are pretty rare and don’t get passed around much.

This Champagne comes from 48 year old Pinot Meunier vines, fermented sur lie in barrel with natural yeasts, unfiltered and no dosage. Initially a bright character that quickly pulls further into a textured and savory space of incredible depth.


Champagne Fleury, “Millésime” Cuveé Extra Brut, 1995

Pinot Noir (80%) and Chardonnay (20%)

The age gives this champagne such incredible structure and character, slightly “orangey” tasting with complex aromatics and impressive weight, only enhanced by it being 100% biodynamic. Held its own when paired with lamb ribs, mushrooms, watercress & lemon at Marta.


Rinaldi Brunate-Le Coste Barolo, 2008


This is wine. This is everything wine should be. This is a Barolo, but not just any Barolo.

There’s a first time for everything: for Eureka!, epiphanies, time traveling, time stopping, love, head stands, opera and vertigo. I didn’t think wine could do that all at once. To be prepared for this would be ridiculous. The wine was alive, humming colors, whispering fragments of spice and herbs, tingling my brain and pulling apart my thoughts like the machine that kneads la guimauve.

Malaxer pour la Gimauve

I had to close my eyes to listen. It took time. It got better and better- not clearer, just deeper down the rabbit hole. I thought a lot about so many things present and past. Nothing linear. Like looking at a painting or hearing a piece of music that haunts you, taunts you, you hear it, taste it, smell it, feel it, it’s so hard to figure out. And when I got there I only understood that I wouldn’t be able to describe it in words.

Farmed organically, fermented with indigenous yeasts without temperature control in his grandfather’s ancient, upright casks (tini), hand-punching the must and aging in large, very old, Slavonian oak botti– none of these are advertised gimmicks, rather the tried and true methods he lives by. No wonder vitners like Elizabetta Foradori see him as a mentor.

This bottle was particularly special to me because it is one of the last vintages to be produced as a Brunate-Le Coste, one of two styles of Rinaldi Barolo. It is essentially a blend of two crus, or vineyards in separate designations, that are carefully blended together just before bottling. 2009 was his last bi-cru vintage, because Italian law has changed and acquired similar regulations to France’s appellation contrôlée (esp. in Burgundy), where bi-cru wines are forbidden. More specifically, the wine can only cite 1 vineyard on the label’s bottle, which must be at least 85% of what’s inside. Otherwise, no specific vineyard can be listed. Giuseppe, furious with the change, had to make some tough calls. He and his daughters Carlotta and Marta decided to continue the Brunate at 85% and 15% Le Coste, and another wine (previously the other blend Cannubi-S.Lorenzo) will now be a blend of the remaining Le Coste, Cannubi and San Lorenzo called “Barolo di Barolo”. In a politically charged statement, he may add “Tretine” to the label, a made-up word that suggests it was made from 3 crus. I wonder if he’s ever spoken with Olivier Cousin…

It would be an honor to meet Giuseppe Rinaldi. I want to know more of his passion for wine, his inspiration, how he understands time. He remains without email, twitter, mobile, or any other modern form of communication, for as are his wines, he is the essence of a living tradition.

 Giuseppe Rinaldi