Saturday, May 19, 2018

Exploring Alsace with Pinot Blanc, Gris and Noir

If I trace my love for wine all the way back, it starts in Alsace. I was living in the far southwestern corner of Germany, in boarding school for 11th and 12th grades, and Alsace was a quick trip. I made a few excursions into quaint villages there, scarfing down (and swooning over) the local food, hiking around steep hills —I was enthralled by the way vineyards carved their place into the hillsides, all over the place.

As I hiked, I noticed vineyards planted into what looked like pure rock, and there were so many different kinds of rocks and chunks of earth that changed from ridge to ridge. Each nook and cranny was different. After a hike, I walked into a bistro in a small village, ordered a bowl of French onion soup, and asked if the bartender had any wine from the huge vineyard that climbed up the steep hills above town. I spoke no French and he almost no English (there was much pointing and gesturing) but I was served a glass of white wine I understood came from the vineyard I had just hiked through.

My teenage mind was blown away at this concept. I don’t remember the wine, I think it was a Riesling, and I had no idea how to evaluate or appreciate it in any serious sense. But it was delicious. And, more importantly, it instilled in me a desire to find more about this relationship between specific places and their wines.

All this to say, to this day, I have a special appreciation for wines from Alsace. They continue to intrigue and excite me, so I’m always happy to review more of them. This week, I have a range of wines from Alsace, all hailing from the extended Pinot family (Noir, Gris, Blanc). Like a lot of wines from this region, they can be moderately priced, considering the high quality.

These wines were received as samples and tasted sighted.

N.V. Lucien Albrecht Crémant d'Alsace Brut Rosé - France, Alsace, Crémant d'Alsace
SRP: $22
Bright and floral aromas with grapefruit, peaches, red apple peel, spicy herbal notes. Zesty and crisp on the palate with lots of red apples, grapefruit, red apple peel, along with notes of spiced tea, white pepper and floral perfume. So good for the money, this is fresh and lively and crowd-pleasing. All Pinot Noir. (87 points)

2016 Paul Blanck Pinot Blanc - France, Alsace
SRP: $16
Pale yellow color. Nose of crushed shells, raw almond, honeysuckle, over peaches and apples. Rich texture but medium-body, brisk acid meets plump apricot and peach. Notes of salty seashells on a dry and crisp finish – a summer day, oysters and shellfish style Pinot Blanc. (87 points)

2013 Albert Boxler Pinot Blanc Reserve - France, Alsace
SRP: $28
Deep yellow color. Aromas are rich with honey and bruised apple, but also bright and lively with lemon verbena, chalk and minerals. Crisp acidity frames the wine nicely, while medium-bodied and honeyed texture adds depth. Peaches, apricot, lime, lemon, doused in minerals, chalk dust and smashed rocks. Deep, focused, yet airy and elegant at the same time. Some interesting cellar potential here. (90 points)

2013 Trimbach Pinot Gris Reserve - France, Alsace
SRP: $26
Light yellow color. Aromas of apricot, papaya, drizzled with lime, topped with seashells and floral perfume. Medium-bodied on the palate, crisp and nervy style with a long streak of minerals and crushed shells. Dry but packed with fruit (papaya, pineapple, lime juice), with some white floral tones. Lovely, crisp but complex Pinot Gris that has a few years of aging potential for sure. (89 points)

2016 Emile Beyer Pinot Gris Tradition - France, Alsace
SRP: $20

Light gold color. Aromas of apricots, yellow plums, yellow raisins, rich with honey but also some bright white floral notes. Plump and rich on the palate but moderating acidity. Yellow plums, juicy apricots, laced with honey, cinnamon spiced tea, some crushed chalk and mineral tones clean out the finish. Rich texture and fruit but also clear and pretty. (88 points)

2016 Lucien Albrecht Pinot Gris Cuvée Romanus - France, Alsace
SRP: $18
Pale yellow color. Plump aromas of peaches, nectarine, spiced white tea, honeysuckle, daisies. Rich and juicy fruit on the palate but fresh acidity, this shows peaches cantaloupe, nectarine, along with some floral, white pepper, mineral tones. Pleasant and easy to drink but sports solid complexity. (88 points)

2016 Domaine Osterag Pinot Noir Les Jardins - France, Alsace
SRP: $27
Interesting light purple color. Aromas of juicy black cherries and raspberries, a lovely spicy herbal and pepper element, with roses and violets and rhubarb. Bright and airy feel to this wine, even though the acidity is tart and the tannins show grip. The fruit is red, bright and delicious, and I love those classic Alsace earthy-spice elements (this one shows black tea, rhubarb, black pepper). I’d like to see how this shows in four to five years. (89 points)

2014 Domaines Schlumberger Pinot Noir Les Princes Abbés - France, Alsace
SRP: $29
Medium ruby color. Aromas of tart cherries, strawberries, along with pickling spices, roses, spices tea, earthy-tobacco notes. Medium-bodied, dusty tannins, zippy acidity, it all lines up very well. Tart cherries, strawberries, red plums, laced with tobacco, sage, mushroom, pickle notes. I tasted this a year ago, and it’s developed nicely since then and should continue to do so. (89 points)

This post first appeared on the daily wine blog Terroirist.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Digging into Adam Lee's New Clarice Pinot Noirs

Credit: Robert Green Photography
California winemaker Adam Lee’s next chapter is just beginning. And things are looking good.

After 11 years, Adam and his wife, Dianna Novy Lee, sold their Siduri label to Jackson Family Wines in 2015. Adam agreed to stay on for three years, but he’s also been busy kicking off a different venture.

Named after his grandmother and inspiration, under the Clarice label Adam produces Pinot Noirs from two exquisite sites, Gary’s Vineyard and Rosella’s, both located in the Santa Lucia Highlands appellation of Central California. Having worked with both of these vineyards since their first crop (Gary’s in 1999 and Rosella’s in 2001), Adam knows these vines very well and counts the growers as his good friends. From these sites, he crafts harmonious and delicious wines.

With this new project, Adam is taking a different approach to the marketing and sales. Here’s how it works.
Clarice Family Club Members sign up for an annual subscription of $965 (broken into several payments over a few months to make it sting the bank account a bit less). Members get a case of Pinot in October, four bottles of each of Adam’s three wines: Gary’s Vineyard; Rosella’s Vineyard; and a Santa Lucia Highlands appellation wine that is blended from both Gary’s and Rosella’s Vineyards.

Adam also hopes to create something like a social media-savvy “extended wine family,” as he puts it. Members get special access to a portion of Clarice’s website, which will have plenty of wine-related content, and monthly articles from others in the wine business, who will address topics from label design to wine barrels to restaurant sales. There are also members-only Facebook and Instagram groups, where members can connect and share content.

“At Clarice Wine Company, I have decided that ‘selling wine’ isn’t what I like to do,” Adam says. “What I truly enjoy is the friendship, camaraderie, and sharing of knowledge and experiences that wine helps engender.”

Adam sent me barrel samples of the three Pinots he’ll be releasing to club members in October, and, I gotta say, they’re beautiful. Tasters of the finished wines are in for a treat.

He utilizes native yeast fermentation, and more than half of each wine comes from whole cluster fermentation. There’s plenty of juicy fruit, and a good amount of new oak, but the wines maintain a vibrant, lip-smacking style that reminds me of why I first fell for Adam’s Siduri Pinots almost a decade ago.

2017 Clarice Wine Company Pinot Noir- California, Central Coast, Santa Lucia Highlands
Deep ruby color. Lovely aromas of chilled raspberries and strawberries, with rhubarb, roses, cola and wild herbs. Precise acidity and smooth tannins on the palate, balanced nicely with juicy fruit (raspberry, crisp strawberry, red cherries). I get complex elements of raspberry leaf, rose petal, rhubarb, along with some cola and coffee, all of it woven together so well. Crisp, lively, yet so yummy. A roughly even split between fruit from Gary’s and Rosella’s vineyards, the wine is aged in 36% new oak. (92 points IJB)

2017 Clarice Wine Company Pinot Noir Rosella's Vineyard- California, Central Coast, Santa Lucia Highlands

Medium ruby color. Nose boasts bright cherries and plums, along with violets, spiced tea, rose hips, clove, cola, rich but airy aromas (somehow this makes sense when you smell it). Fresh and tingly acidity with suave tannins. Plump cherries, tart strawberries, crunchy plums, the pretty fruit is loaded with spiced tea, cola, coffee, earthy-loamy and mineral notes. Complex as hell, I can’t wait to see this wine when it’s finished, although it could use some time in bottle to come to its full potential. Aged in 77% new French oak. (94 points IJB)

2017 Clarice Wine Company Pinot Noir Garys' Vineyard- California, Central Coast, Santa Lucia Highlands
Rich ruby color. Smells of strawberries, raspberries, red apple peel, with sage, spicy oregano, sweet roses, deep but vibrant aromas here. Silky but structured on the palate with plush tannins and crisp acidity, the balance is wonderful. Juicy but tart fruit (dark cherries, gushing plums), along with notes of cola, sarsaparilla, earth and clove. So pretty and bright with gorgeous rich fruit. Aged in 77% new French oak. (93 points IJB)

This post first appeared on the daily wine blog Terroirist.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Wine Reviews: New Releases from Virginia

Having lived in the DC area for about a dozen years, I’ve been able to explore lots of wine country in Virginia, and I’ve seen quite a lot of change in that time. Not just the increase in the number of wineries and wines being produced (about 6.6 million bottles of Virginia wine was sold in 2016), but Virginia has seen increased consumer attention, newcomers making a scene, and benchmark producers continuing to excel.

I’m very much looking forward to tasting and reviewing the top 12 wines from the Virginia Governor’s Cup Awards soon (as I’ve done on this blog for the past three or four years), but, in the meantime, I’ve received a bunch of Virginia wine samples to highlight. Rosés, steely Chard, Cab Franc, Petit Verdot, and more, diversity in Virginia wine is a beautiful thing.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.

2017 Veritas Vineyard Rosé - Virginia, Central Virginia, Monticello
SRP: $20
Medium watermelon color. Aromas of strawberries and white cherries, rose hips and roses, orange blossoms, honeysuckle. Medium-bodied on the palate with a plush and fruity appeal, raspberries and orange blossoms, honeysuckle. Floral and fruity, spicy and herbal, so fresh and lively but it sports significant depth. Lovely Virginia pink from Veritas. Merlot and Cabernet Franc. (88 points)

2017 Rosemont of Virginia Rosé - Virginia
SRP: $18
Light watermelon color. Aromas of sweet roses, rhubarb, watermelon and candied cherries. Plump fruit on the palate (watermelon, cherry, red apple) but bright and tangy acidity. Spicy white pepper, rhubarb, roses and watermelon rind notes add complexity. Juicy and fruity but zesty and spicy, too. A delicious, eye-opening dry rosé made from 100% Chambourcin. (88 points)

2016 Chatham Vineyards Church Creek Steel Chardonnay - Virginia, Eastern Virginia, Eastern Shore
SRP: $20
Pale lemon color. Well, it’s steely! Brisk, salty, sea breeze, crushed shells on the nose, with lemon/lime and clean laundry. Medium-bodied with bright acidity, crisp texture but lovely depth of flavors. Peaches, pineapple, drizzled with lime. I love the saline and crushed shells aspect here. Pure, crisp, crystalline Virginia Chardonnay, it begs for local oysters. (90 points) 

2016 Blenheim Vineyards Cabernet Franc - Virginia, Central Virginia, Monticello
SRP: $22
Light ruby color. So fresh and bright on the nose with lots of strawberries, red cherries, pomegranate, along with rose petals, white pepper and tilled soil. Crisp acidity and light tannins on the palate, this is a bright and fresh wine with flavors of red cherry and pomegranate. Dusty and earth with notes of rhubarb, sage and cinnamon. A great way to introduce yourself to good Virginia Cabernet Franc. Aged nine months in French, American and Hungarian oak. (89 points)

2015 Casanel Vineyards Petit Verdot - Virginia, Northern Virginia
SRP: $42
Light purple color. Spicy aromatic punch of black tea, clove, sage, cedar and coffee on top of sour cherries and tangy black currants. Grippy but fine-grained tannins and fresh acidity on the palate. Zippy currants and blackberries mix nicely with coffee, cedar, smoky charcoal and earth. Structured so well, yet it finishes fresh. Aging potential (5-8 years, easy) is evident. For me, this is another data point supporting the argument that Virginia Petit Verdot is an awesome thing. All Petit Verdot aged 18 months in 50% new French oak. (90 points)

2015 Rosemont of Virginia Merlot - Virginia
SRP: $21
Deep ruby color. Smells of plum cake, black currants, violets, but I also get some notes of beef jerky, charcoal and spiced coffee. Medium/full-bodied with smooth tannins and fresh acidity, balanced quite nicely. Plummy, full of dark currant, fig paste, the fruit is mixed with charcoal, violets, roses, bell pepper, beef broth. Delicious, lively, earthy, savory stuff. 100% Merlot aged 18 months in barrel, 1/3 new Virginia oak and the rest used French oak. (88 points)

2015 Rosemont of Virginia Kilravock - Virginia
SRP: $33
Deep ruby color. Aromas of red and black currants, some blueberry, violets, clove, coffee grounds. Full-bodied but smooth with velvety tannins and medium acidity. Black cherries and currants, fresh and tangy fruit, mixed with cocoa powder, roasted chestnut, loamy, earthy notes, violets. Juicy and fun appeal but surprising depth and length as well. Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, aged in about 50% new oak (French and American) for 18 months. (89 points)

This post first appeared on the daily wine blog Terroirist.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Here Come the Rosés! 16 Pink Wines Reviewed

For American wine-lovers, Spring and Summer are prime time for pink wine.

Don’t get me wrong, I love rosé year round. I’ve actually developed a tradition of opening a good rosé on the first big snowstorm of the winter, and it’s a lot of fun. But the shelves of your local wine shop are surely piling up with various pink wines from all over the world, so you should have plenty of options to choose from.

I’ve been receiving lots of rosé wines, so I gathered some up and tasted through them, hoping to find some really good values to share. (Spoiler alert: I did.)

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted. It’s not even May yet, so I’m sure I’ll have another round of rosé reviews in the next two months or so. (Literally as I was writing this, I received a knock on the door with, drumroll, more rosé samples to sign for.) If there’s a bubble to burst in American consumers’ love for the pink, I’m not sure we’re there yet.

Check out these rosé wines from around the world below!

SRP: $70
Pale copper color. Aromas of chalk dust, white flowers, rose petals, red apple peel, bread dough. Brisk and tangy on the palate, tart and brisk but lots of depth, with flavors of white cherries, wild strawberries, red apple peel. Blazing streak of minerals in this wine, with chalk dust, sea salt, mixed with toasted baguette and lots of flowers. What a tangy and bright wine, but lovely textural depth as well. Mostly Pinot Noir, this is a blend of 25 vintages going back to 1985. (92 points)

2017 Ferraton Père & Fils Côtes du Rhône Rosé Samorëns - France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Côtes du Rhône
SRP: $15
Light rose color. Smells of fresh white peaches, strawberries, nettle and roses. Crisp and bright but plenty of textural depth. Peaches and watermelon, drizzled in lime, and topped with honeysuckle, dandelion, white tea. Notes of mineral and chalk dust on the finish. Delicious but shows significant complexity. (88 points)

2017 Très Chic Rosé - France, Sud de France
SRP: $17
Pale strawberry color. Nose of strawberries, white cherries, very perfumed with notes of spicy white floral tones. On the palate, this is medium-bodied with bright acidity and juicy texture. Watermelon, white cherries, strawberries, along with bright white and red flowers. Floral, juicy, fresh, solid for the price, surprisingly so. Grenache and Cinsault. (87 points)

2017 Château de Berne Rosé Urban Provence - France, Provence, Côtes de Provence
SRP: $23
Light pink/copper color. Bursts with aromas of peaches, cantaloupe melon, ruby red grapefruit, along with roses, lilies and wet stones. Medium-bodied, richly textured, with bright acidity. Pineapple, peaches and tangy limes blend well with plenty of spicy/herbal elements (nettle, raspberry leaf, white pepper). Crisp but fruity, fun but the complexity shows through. Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah. (88 points)

2017 Château de Berne Rosé Inspiration - France, Provence, Côtes de Provence
SRP: $20
Pale pink color. Bursting aromas of passion fruit, strawberries and peaches, topped in roses, spicy nettle and clover. Zesty acidity frames the palate nicely but plump fruit abounds (peaches, strawberries, lemons). Spicy herbal notes, deep floral tones, along with some crust mineral and chalky elements. Lovely Provence pink. Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah. (89 points)

2017 Château de Berne Rosé Emotion - France, Provence, Côtes de Provence
SRP: $16
Very pale copper color, like the inside of a grapefruit rind. So fresh and spicy on the nose, with nettle, dandelion, white pepper and honeysuckle, on top of plump peach and green melon. Crisp acidity, plush texture, lots of fruit (white cherry, lemon, peach) laced with white pepper and dandelion. Fresh, fruity, spicy, nice stuff for the price. Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah. (87 points)

2017 Kim Crawford Rosé Hawkes Bay - New Zealand, North Island, Hawke's Bay
SRP: $18
Bright watermelon color. Fresh and floral with watermelon, white cherries, strawberries, with white pepper, chalk dust, red gummy candies and roses. Bright texture, fresh and juicy texture, a zesty and fresh attitude with juicy strawberries, watermelon, nectarine. Notes of white pepper, cut flower stems, cucumber slices and gummy candy, yet dry and fresh. Fun, high-quality, Merlot rosé. (88 points)

2017 Hearst Ranch Winery Rosé Julia - USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
SRP: $22
Deep copper color. Very floral on the nose with roses, honeysuckle, dandelion, peaches and red apples. Crisp acidity on a medium-bodied frame, but plenty of rich texture here, and white peaches, raspberry, white cherries. Lots of flowers packed in here (roses, honeysuckle, wild clover), along with some dusty mineral tones. Goes down so easily despite significant complexity. A Paso kitchen sink blend of Syrah, Malbec, Tempranillo, Petit Vedot, Grenache, Petite Sirah. (89 points)

2017 Booker Vineyard Pink - USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
SRP: $50
By far the darkest “pink” wine in this report, this looks like melted raspberry cough drops in color. The nose has a lot to show: roses, raspberries, spiced cranberry sauce, cinnamon. Plump texture on the palate (14% alcohol) but the acidity moderates everything nicely. Raspberries, currants, cranberry jam fruit, this is a dark-fruited wine with lots of roses, clove rooibos tea. So rich, and a total stylistic outlier here, but Booker pulls it off. It ain’t cheap, and it ain’t a lightweight, but it’s delicious and well made. Grenache with 8% Syrah, this spends five days on the skins. (90 points)

2017 Lucas & Lewellen Pinot Noir Rosé - USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County
SRP: $18
Light watermelon color. Spicy green herbs and bright roses mix with strawberry and white cherry. On the palate, this is crisp and bright with a smooth texture and tart strawberry fruit, some juicier cherry and yellow plum. A bright, spicy appeal with some floral and mineral undertones. Lively, crisp, delicious, attractive at its price point. Includes 6% Viognier. (88 points)

2017 Castello di Amorosa Pinot Noir Rosato Morning Dew Ranch - USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
SRP: $39
Pale pink color. Bright aromas of lemons, limes, grapefruit, dandelion, lilies, and white pepper (a lot going on!). Tangy as hell, medium-bodied, with flavors of peaches, limes and nectarine. The mineral, quinine, limestone and chalk dust elements are really complex, and I get a mix of spicy white pepper, barley, oregano as well. Complex, zesty, fruity, mineral-driven, balanced so nicely. All Pinot Noir that is fermented and aged in concrete eggs. (90 points)

2017 Scotto Cellars Dry Sangiovese Rosé - USA, California, Central Valley, Lodi
SRP: $18
Medium watermelon color. Nose shows juicy cherries, strawberries along with lemon verbena, white pepper, and bubble gum. Plump texture with fresh acidity, lots of peaches, strawberries, white cherries, watermelon fruit. I also get notes of rose petals, bubble gum, white pepper, nettle. Fun, juicy, fruity, spicy, quite good stuff! 13% alcohol. (88 points)

2017 McCay Cellars Grenache Rosé - USA, California, Central Valley, Lodi
SRP: $18
Bright pink color. Aromas of crisp strawberries, white cherries, watermelon rind, nettle and rose petals. Medium-bodied (12.5% alcohol) with refreshing acidity and a good amount of depth. Tangy white cherries, honeydew, watermelons and peaches, richly fruity but laced with light, spicy, floral elements (which tea, honeysuckle, raspberry busy). Well-balanced, lovely stuff, per usual from McCay Cellars. (90 points)

2017 St. Amant Winery Barbera Rosé - USA, California, Central Valley, Lodi
SRP: $15
Bright cherry juice color. Bursting aromas of strawberry jam, candied apple peel, cinnamon sticks and rose petals. Bold and juicy on the palate with fresh acidity and plenty of raspberry and strawberry jam, candied apple. I get notes of spiced tea and cinnamon candies. Sweet fruit but nice and lively, too. (87 points)

2017 d'Art Wines Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé - USA, California, Central Valley, Lodi
SRP: $22
Bright raspberry color. Nose of crisp strawberries, roses, candied cherries, sweet red flowers, cinnamon sticks. Plump texture, this is a big pink wine at 14.8% with medium acidity and rich, vinous notes of red cherries and raspberries. I get notes of spiced, honeyed tea and sweet roses. This is a bold rosé that I’m thinking would pair nicely with a whole spread of charcuterie. (87 points)

2017 Long Shadows Wineries Julia's Dazzle Rosé Benches Vineyard - USA, Washington, Columbia Valley, Horse Heaven Hills
SRP: $20
Pale copper color. Lots of peaches and apricots on the nose, with green apples, cotton candy and nettle. Juicy and full of fruit on the palate (apricot, ultra ripe white peaches), but the wine stays fresh and balanced. Notes of honeycomb, dandelion and nettle accentuate the fruit. A nice pink Pinot Gris. (87 points)

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Exciting, Unique Wines from France's Jura Region

Vineyard holdings of Domaine Desire Petit. Credit: Desire Petit.
I'm a huge fan of wines from France's Jura region. This stretch of land between Burgundy and Switzerland has seen a ton of increased focus from American consumers in the past decade.

And for good reason. Traditional (and otherwise obscure) grapes like Trousseau and Poulsard offer red wines like no other on earth. Not to mention the producers making terroir-mirroring examples of Chardonnay, and other grapes.

Weygandt Wines, my favorite wine store in DC, has long been importing exciting selections from Jura producers, many of which I buy each and every year. I recently attended a tasting of some of Weygandt's Jura selecions, and, per usual, found a lot to get stoked about. And considering most of the wines cost about $20-$30, Jura wines (if you can find them) are relatively inexpensive to explore. Sure there are those expensive cult bottles that nerds gobble up, but there's still plenty of value hidden in Jura.

My notes are below on the wines I tasted...

N.V. Les Granges Paquenesses Crémant du Jura (France, Jura, Crémant du Jura)
Delicious stuff, as always from this producer. This is a bright and zesty cremant with floral, herbs, chalk dust flavors on top of apple and lemon fruit. For the price, so reliably good. 100% Chardonnay rom clay-limestone soils. (88 points)

2014 Domaine de la Pinte Chardonnay Arbois Pupillin Fonteneille (France, Jura, Arbois Pupillin)
Richly aromatic, delicious on the palate with a nice combo of creaminess and zestiness. Apples and honey and almond laced with chalk dust and some herbal tea and spice elements. Crisp, mineral-laden finish. Yum. This is always a delicious and fascinating Chardonnay. (91 points)

2015 Domaine Ratte Arbois (France, Jura, Arbois)
Love the spicy and herbal elements on this wine, lots of mineral depth and crushed rocks accent the juicy peaches and yellow pear fruit. Spicy, zesty, lots of minerals. From 60-year-old vines in the Grand Curoulet vineyard. Not sure if this is improving with age or a better bottle or I was just paying more attention but I liked this more than last times I tried it. Made from the Melon à Queue Rouge grape. (90 points)

2015 Domaine de la Borde Poulsard Arbois Pupillin Côte de Feule (France, Jura, Arbois Pupillin)
Love this stuff for its spicy, floral, delicate aromas, with red apple peel and raspberry leaf. On the palate this is vibrant and smooth and tangy with light tannins and serious gluggability, despite significant complexity and depth of flavors: red apple, raspberry, savory broth, pickling spices, meat drippings. Delicious stuff. (91 points)

2015 Domaine Désiré Petit Trousseau Arbois Pupillin (France, Jura, Arbois Pupillin)
Delicious stuff, bright and zesty but also intense and spicy. Red berries and earthy spice and clove. Elegant, harmonious stuff. (91 points)

2014 Domaine de la Pinte Pinot Noir Arbois (France, Jura, Arbois)
Another good showing of this Pinot, which is amazing for the price. Spicy, red fruit aromas. The palate is bright and fresh but structure is there. Red fruits mix with spicy tobacco, herbs, rhubarb. I love this so much for the price. (91 points)

Monday, April 23, 2018

Crémants & Aromatic Whites from Alsace's Lucien Albrecht

For the money, Crémant d’Alsace is some of France’s best Champagne-method sparkling wine. And for that, we largely have Lucien Albrecht to thank.

In 1971, this Alsace producer began trying the Champagne method on their own grapes. They liked the outcomes, so, along with two other producers, they pressed French authorities for an official designation. In 1976, Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée Crémant d’Alsace was born.

Forty-two years later, Lucien Albrecht is still carrying the Crémant d’Alsace torch, producing two main cuvées: a Brut (made from Pinot Auxerrois, Pinot Blanc, and Chardonnay) and a Brut Rosé (made from Pinot Noir). They produce other white wines as well (Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, Riesling, Pinot Blanc), but the firm is perhaps best known for their bubbles.

The Albrecht name in Alsace goes quite a ways back, to 1698, when Balthazar Albrecht settled in Orschwihr, a village in southern Alsace. This was a few decades after the Thirty Years’ War, which left much of Alsace destroyed, but Balthazar pieced together a living cultivating vines around Orschwihr, and passed this on to his descendants. Today, the firm
sources grapes from Grand Cru vineyards Pfingstberg, Spiegel, and Ollwiller, as well as Bollenberg.

I recently met up with Lucien Albrecht winemaker Jerome Keller when he visited Washington, DC, to chat and taste through his wines. Today, the winery is owned by a cooperative, and it purchases many grapes from very small, independent producers, all around the winery’s home of Orschwihr. They produce about half a million cases, with most of their production focused on crémant. The vineyard sources around Orschwihr are planted in dry clay and heavy chalk soils, and I found that the chalky terroir element shines through nicely in the finished wines.

Jerome talked a lot about the dryness of his wine, something I’ve heard from other Alsace winemakers still trying to point out to American consumers that Alsace wines are frequently dry and zesty or just so zesty that they taste dry. And while the importance of history is always front and center in conversation about Alsace wines, I was excited to hear that Jerome has some new plans to make a skin-fermented (i.e., orange) wine from Chardonnay. While not “new,” (orange wines are as old as wine itself), it’s nice to see some Alsatian innovation in this realm, and I, for one, am stoked about the idea.

My notes on the wines I tasted are below, and the prices are based on
Wine-Searcher averages.

N.V. Lucien Albrecht Crémant d'Alsace Brut Rosé - France, Alsace, Crémant d'Alsace
Nose shows bright flowers, ruby red grapefruit, and peaches. Zesty on the palate, slight creaminess, this is bright and tangy Cremant with flavors of red apple, ruby red grape fruit, and chalk dust. Fresh, fun, reliably good. All Pinot Noir. (87 points)

N.V. Lucien Albrecht Crémant d'Alsace Brut - France, Alsace, Crémant d'Alsace
I get chalk dust, white and yellow flowers, along with peaches and yellow apples on the nose. The palate is crisp and tangy with flavors of yellow apples, peaches, a solid streak of saline and chalk dust, hints of biscuits. Delicious for the price. A blend of Auxerrois and Pinot Blanc. (87 points)

2013 Lucien Albrecht Crémant d'Alsace Chardonnay Brut 1698 - France, Alsace, Crémant d'Alsace
This really surprised me. Aromas of rich yellow apples and pears, some salted almond, honey and crushed chalk. Zesty but some creaminess adds depth. Pears, yellow plums and bruised apple mix with sea salt, chalk dusty and a slight note of fresh biscuits. Richer than the non-vintage wines, but still focused, crisp, mineral-driven and very bright. I'd love to bury a bottle of this for three to six years. This was aged three years on the lees, and it has a 4 g/l dosage. All Chardonnay from limestone soils. (91 points)

2017 Lucien Albrecht Riesling Reserve - France, Alsace
Rich and honeyed and peachy on the nose, but also some chalk dust and flowers. Crisp acidity and a fresh appeal (2g of sugar in here) with peaches, apricots, limes. Honey, saline, chalk and minerals add complexity. Concentrated fruit from a low-yielding vintage, this is delicious right now but will improve with a few years. (90 points)

2017 Lucien Albrecht Pinot Gris Cuvée Romanus - France, Alsace
Juicy aromas of peaches, honey and yellow flowers. Bold fruit (peaches, mango) but still fresh. Fruit-forward but some interesting floral, spice tones as well. (88 points)

2012 Lucien Albrecht Riesling Pfingstberg - France, Alsace, Alsace Grand Cru
Gorgeous aromatics of peaches, nectarines, tennis balls, honey. On the palate, this is richly textured but so crisp and delicious. Juicy fruit but deep mineral presence. Lots of life ahead for this beauty. (92 points)

2016 Lucien Albrecht Gewurztraminer Reserve - France, Alsace
Pretty aromatic display of lychee, peach nectar and spiced tea. Rich and lush on the palate with medium acidity, hint of tannin on here, too (this gets a bit of skin contact). Apricots, mango, peaches, bold fruit but laced with spices, herbs and nuts. (89 points)

2015 Lucien Albrecht Gewurztraminer Spiegel Alsace Grand Cru - France, Alsace
Intense aromatics of pineapples, peach nectar, lychee, with white pepper. Rich and full but bright acidity. Peaches and mangoes topped in nougat, honey, white pepper, spiced tea. Wow this boasts a lot of complexity and will age nicely. (91 points)