The 2014 vintage in California was the second in a row substantially affected by severe drought. Despite very limited irrigation in the vineyards we work with, the available soil moisture was so greatly diminished by early August that the vines ripening process was accelerated before much sugar had accumulated in the grapes. Fortunately the weather stayed pretty even, and the early and rapid harvest produced exceptionally high quality fruit. Alcohols were low, acidity was strong, and energy and freshness were hallmarks of the resulting wines. Case in point: our 2014 Bone-Jolly Gamay Noir Rosé
Witters Vineyard At 3400’ elevation, above Camino, in the eastern reaches of the Apple Hill region. Soil is Aiken series vocanic clay-loam. The property was, for many years, a pear orchard, but in 2000 Bob Witters followed Ron Mansfield’s recommendation, and planted four acres of Gamay for us. Since 2011, we’ve used the Gamay from Witters exclusively for rosé.
Picked August 18th at a bit under 21 Brix, with a 3.28pH. Grapes were de-stemmed into the press, and pressed immediately. Juice fermented very cool at 55-60F, till dryness at mid-September, at which point the malo was blocked.
WINEMAKER’S TASTING NOTES:
Pretty pale-pink color with a little blue around the rim. Very fresh, penetrating nose . Juicy and precise on the palate, mouth-watering, showing lot of depth. The finish is long, and clean.This is already really versatile at the table, as always. Alcohol is 12.6%
Before 2000, Bob Witters’ property was planted to Bartlett pears, for quite some time. But by 1999, the pressure of global economics drove the market price for Bob’s pears so low that it didn’t make sense for him to keep farming them. The market for wine grapes, on the other hand, was expanding, and Bob had a conversation with Ron Mansfield about putting in a vineyard to replace his pears.
Since Edmunds St. John had been working with Ron at that point for a dozen years, we spoke about Bob’s site, and it seemed like it might be a really good site for Gamay, a grape that had been on our radar for some time. Ron conferred with Bob, and in the Spring of 2000, four acres were planted to Gamay, the first planting of real Gamay in California in a generation!
Witters is situated at 3,400 feet elevation, making it one of the highest vineyards in California. The soil is volcanic clay-loam, and the land slopes gently down to the North. At that elevation, temperatures are generally pretty mild, and nights can be quite cool. The risk for frost in the Spring is fairly high, and there have been a couple of years where crop losses were substantial.
First Principles – I didn’t get into the wine business until I’d been on this earth for 25 years. I’ve spent the last 29 years trying to steer Edmunds St. John through the maelstrom of the marketplace while simultaneously attempting to bring something new to the landscape of California wine. Who knows what’s next? I just might have a few more tricks up my sleeve!
Winemaking isn’t Rocket Science; it’s an ancient, relatively straightforward process that should yield, in any wine, a precise expression of the vineyard and the season that produced it.
Given grapes farmed attentively, with vines in optimal balance, the key to producing a wine that is an elemental, unfettered expression of its origin in place and time is being able to pick at that point closest to the moment when the flavor in the grapes has come fully into focus, a moment that is usually also when that flavor is most energetic. The window is fairly small. After the grapes are picked, I’m trying not to add or subtract anything from the raw material.
In 1987 a wine grower from a venerable domaine in Southern France visited our cellar, and tasted a number of wines from the harvest just past. When he came to the one from my favorite vineyard his response was dramatic: he raised his nose from the glass, slowly rolling his eyes upward in reverie. He sighed, and whispered, “la terre parle” (the earth speaks). If I have done my job well, when you taste our wine you may be similarly affected; this is a voice one longs to hear.
It is our goal to produce wines of the highest level of quality, integrity, and authenticity, the hallmarks of which are balance, nuance, and elegance, wines that express their origins in place and time, wines through which “the earth speaks” in a clear and strong voice. As a winemaker, for me there is no other voice.
After three decades, there are still many people who have not heard of us, but of those who have, most of them seem to say “Oh, yes; Edmunds St. John–they make great wines!”
Terroir : mix of 3 terroirs : galets roulés (big pebble stones) lauzes (flat limestones) and mostly sandy
Harvest : by hand with sorting
Vinification : 100% destemmed, 36 to 48 h cold maceration.
Hue : rose with blueish glares
Aromas : very fruity (strawberries cherry, red gooseberry, pink grapefuit and tangerine) and floral, delicates, of ancient roses
Mouth : rounded, well balanced and fresh
Pairings : fishes, seafood, white meat,
duck, oriental and asiatic dishes
Ideally located at the crossroads of Provence and Languedoc, the Domaine de la Mordorée produces some of the greatest vintages of the Rhone Valley : Châteauneuf du Pape, Lirac, Tavel.
Our philosophy has always been to produce the greatest wines possible. To achieve this goal we have selected the best parcels of land, the highest grade grapes and developed environmental friendly wine growing methods. The vinification and maturation of our wines combine both tradition and modernity.
The fruits of our efforts were quickly rewarded with prizes, in the Paris Agricultural Fair as well as other fairs where we have won over 160 medals since 1985. The specialized press and the greatest wine reviewers, like the Revue du Vin de France, Wine Spectator, or Parker have acknowledged and praised the quality of our wines.
The Mediterranean area granted us a climate and beauty which are exceptionally favourable to tourism. The whole environment appeals to discovering a unique wealth of landscapes and culture : Avignon, Arles, Nîmes, the Camargue, the Pont du Gard, the Luberon, and the Cevennes are minutes away, offering easy and boundless access to gastronomy, culture, nature or architectural heritage.
This outstanding environment naturally inspired us for the name of our Domaine : the Mordorée is the poetic nickname used locally for the woodcock that flies over our lands during its migrations.
« The end never justifies the means »
We strongly believe the way used to obtain a result is at least as important as the achievement itself. Of course, we aim towards the highest possible quality, but not at any cost : a result alone would by no means suffice.
Our code of ethics is profoundly based on respecting the gifts of nature through our soils and landscapes. This code of ethics is consequently applied to all the stages of production, ensuring that future generations may live in harmony with our heritage. We are but passers-by on Earth, our presence is ephemeral and we are not here to exhaust our resources but to develop our land’s riches.
Our actions are thus continuously guided by environmental awareness. This philosophy has guided us for 15 years. Our efforts have been particularly forceful over the past 5 years, seeking to support tradition with innovative solutions. The key word of this approach, both in definition and spirit, is respect.
Respect for nature, respect for man, respect for our customers and respect for our pledge.
These inviolable rules are the very basis of our estate : the rules that steer our concepts and actions today, and that we hope shall show the way tomorrow.
There are three main soil types in the lands of Tavel :
Quartz round pebbles on the villafranchienne terrace : Vallongue.
Flat lime stones originating from the Barremien crumbled hill-stones : Campey, la Vaute, Romagnac, Torette, la Vau et Clos, Les Vestides, les Comeyres, Vaussières.
Astien fluvial sands : Vaucrose, Vaucrose et Vacquières, Genestière, Codoyères, Le Palai, Roquaute, Bouvette, Olivet.
Some parcels have mixed subsoils, as in Cravailleux, where round pebbles and flat stones can be found as well as Astien fluvial sands and pebbles.
The soils are mostly poor in humus and organic matter, making Tavel an ideal land for winegrowing.
Pebbles and stones have a definite effect on the vines : Barremian flat stones are whitish and tend to reflect most sunrays during the day, activating the maturation of the berries. As for Villafanchian pebbles, they accumulate heat during the day that they release during the night.
The climate in Tavel can vary considerably depending on the spot; there can easily be a 2° Celsius difference between the east and west of the lands, like on the Vallongue plateau, more exposed to the cold Mistral, and Campey or Romagnac. What happens is some plots can be frozen while others aren’t, resulting in a different stage of maturity during the wine harvest, by a few degrees. Generally speaking, we have over 200 days of sunshine per year with average temperatures at 22°Celsius in summer, and 7.3° Celsius in winter. Rainfalls average 201 mm in summer and 503 mm the rest of the year. As for the Mistral, it blows on average 158 days per year out of which more than 100 days at 60km per hour. Sometimes, as was the case in May 2000, the winds can blow at over 100 km per hour, for over a week.
The grapes authorized in Tavel AOC (Appelation d’Origine Contrôlée) are the following :
Grenache, Cinsault, Clairette white and pink, Picpoul, Calitor (out of fashion : there are only a few dozens of vines left), Bourboulenc, Mourvèdre, Syrah and Carignan.None these grapes must exceed 60 % of a vineyard’s total, and Carignan must not exceed 10%.
The Tavel appellation vines exploited by the Domaine de la Mordorée are located on the plateau of Vallongue, at Palai, Roquaute, and Romagnac ; their composition is as follows : Grenache 60 % , Mourvèdre, Syrah and Cinsault 10%, Bourboulenc and Clairette 5%.
Plot in AOC Tavel, this area is called Vallongue West
Plot in AOC Tavel, an harmonious mix of sand and clay, planted with 8 years old Syrah.
The wines produced here are rounded and fruity.
To be noticed : one can see some pebble stones coming from the Vallongue plateau located on the left of this picture.
HISTORY OF TAVEL
Tavel has always been the land of vines and winegrowers: the remains of a Roman-time cellar were found in Tavel, still containing great amounts of grape pips, proving the importance of the wine industry at that time.
The reputation of Tavel is centuries-old: Ronsard, Philippe le Bel, the Popes of Avignon, François 1er and Louis XIV loved and praised this wine for its qualities. A quality that winegrowers have always sustained forcefully through the ages; thus, on the 8 April 1716 the consuls of Tavel asked that authorities forbid any wild import of grapes that would harm the reputation of Tavel wine. Then, on 10 September 1737, a royal decree authorized Tavel to be part of those villages to bear the CDR (Côte du Rhône) seal on its barrels, a seal which was the first to define an appellation covering several districts.
In those days vineyards covered 375 hectares in Tavel and were the main source of income for the village of about 200 families. A great period of expansion followed, and in 1819 the Vineyard reached 721 hectares. But then, the phylloxera disease almost destroyed the whole vineyard: from 800 hectares in 1868, the vineyard dropped to 50 sickly, and barely exploitable hectares, in 1870. The village population itself dropped from 1314 inhabitants before the phylloxera 611 inhabitants in 1931.
Villagers tried to diversify their activities: raising silkworms, making olive oil, small-scale agriculture or, in some cases, trying to get hired in the surrounding phosphate mines. Hopefully, this only lasted a few years, and by 1887 Tavel winegrowers once again believed in their vineyards.
1887 was the year when the first American stumps were bought and transplanted in Tavel: they represented the only efficient response to the phylloxera plague . By 1914, the Vineyard reached 195 hectares, then 260 in 1926 and 960 today. The energy developed by winegrowers can still be found today in the defense of Tavel wines, its reputation and lands of production. In 1902, an association was created grouping owner winegrowers in Tavel to protect the wines of Tavel, to preserve its genuineness and typical character. In 1928, this association started a long struggle to obtain an appellation that would define the vineyard lands of Tavel; in 1936 Tavel was one of the first wines to obtain the AOC acknowledgment.
Nowadays, most inhabitants of Tavel perpetrate their efforts for better quality, trying to use as few pesticides as possible to preserve the health of man and environment: Tavel is among the first pioneer villages to have developed reasoned agriculture .
Today, Tavel wines are found in all the wine menus of restaurants that have obtained three stars in the famous Michelin guide. Tavel wines export well and are found on all the tables of wine connoisseurs throughout the world.
About the name- Birichino- biri-kino. Like locksmiths in the United States that add additional AAAs onto their names to be the first listed in the telephone directory, and drawing on deep reserves of innate marketing genius, we went in search of something unpronounceable to English speakers, yet also difficult to remember that began with A or B. Alluce was an early favorite, seeming to evoke lightness and air in English, but in fact translating as big toe. Seeking something with that playfulness, though about some things we profess to be deadly serious, and inspired by the surprising, slighty racy character of our first wine, the Malvasia Bianca that leads one on to thinking sweet, and delivers something else entirely, we hit on Birichino, meaning naughty in Italian.And who doesn’t consider themselves just a little bit naughty, after all?
2016 Vin Gris
19th Century Contra Costa County mourvèdre first lent larger scale and density to our Vin Gris in 2015, an effect magnified in 2016. We’d originally planned to make a larger quantity of mourvèdre rouge in 2016, however the unpredictability of nature often leaves well formulated plans to wilt like a harvest intern without a trucker’s hat in the sizzling Oakley sun.
A mid-August spike of intense daytime and evening heat diminished prospects for the requisite color, tannin and body development for red, but the deeply rooted old vines didn’t defoliate, and the potential for killer rosé was apparent.
We crushed the majority of the grapes, and pressed to produce a light, visually delicate, though clearly intense pink juice. Fermented native in stainless, the finished wine is prominently marked by this lot of mourvèdre – spice, heft, structure, pink grapefruit rind, guava, a whiff of gunflint.
All the other elements are there – mid-body and red fruits from the alpine grenache from the Sierra foothills and from Besson, the fragrance and prettiness of the Bechthold cinsault, a bit of exotic stone fruit from the vermentino. But the mourvèdre really shows through – more muscular than curvaceous, more attack than restraint, more rock than rolle. But damn, it’s still pretty.
We are tremendously fortunate – on many levels – to have known and worked with George Besson Jr. and his exceptional vineyard for twenty years. George’s grandfather purchased the vineyard in 1922 [it was planted in 1910] from reputed bootleggers. We are honored to continue the long legacy of a commitment to the wine and spirits business at this property.
These non-irrigated vines, planted on their own roots, sit on a rocky gentle slope just low enough to disqualify it for the Santa Cruz Mountains appellation. Walking through the vines with George, one senses his deep affection and respect for the land and the vines, and his belief in man’s subordinate role to nature in determining the ultimate quality of the grapes grown there. As a consequence of the age of the vines, the lack of irrigation, and the conservative farming practices, the quantity of grapes grown there is quite small – rarely if ever over 2.5 tons/acre, and roughly 2 tons/acre in 2010. Thankfully, Georges Junior and Senior [who still lives in a house surrounded by the 11 acre vineyard] prefer the company of old vines to new neighbors or a vacation home in the tropics, as they appear committed to keeping these geezers producing for a long time to come.
Making good wines begins in the vineyard, working in harmony with the terroir to draw out its best.
The Joseph Mellot vineyards are managed according to principles of:
Sustainable pest control: prolonged observation of vine plots and climatic conditions and the implementation of environmentally responsible treatment programmes which take into consideration the real risk of disease development.
Yield management: systematic vine-pruning, disbudding, crop thinning if necessary and shoot thinning.
Vine plot traceability: all plots are monitored by computer to ensure complete traceability in production.
From the beginning of September or even late August, grape samples are taken regularly to monitor levels of maturity. Grapes are harvested at full maturity and sorted carefully to ensure that the juice is of the best quality. Each plot is harvested and vinified separately, with the grape harvest lasting approximately a fortnight (14 days).
Terroirs and grape varieties
The Loire Valley is the third largest wine-growing region in France. Designated a UNESCO world heritage site from Chalonnes-sur-Loire by the Atlantic coast to Sully-sur-Loire in the Centre, the Loire Valley offers exceptional land for viticulture and is a textbook example of a region with diverse terroirs. Seventy four appellations make up the mosaic of Loire Valley wines from Nantes to Sancerre, most of which are situated along the River Loire.
The vines are 15 to 20 years old and are located on the left bank of the Cher River, south-west of Quincy. They receive a great deal of sun and are planted in prominent hillocks composed of sandy, gravely alluvial deposits that date back to the beginning of the Quaternary Period.
Pinot Gris – This is a historic varietal of the Loire Valley which has become rare today.
The vineyards of Reuilly
At the heart of the Berry region, the vineyards of Reuilly lie between the Arnon and Cher rivers, covering an area of almost 204 hectares. The vines are planted on limestone marl slopes with a medium gradient and on high terraces composed of sand and gravel.
The area of appellation is divided between 7 communes: Reuilly, Diou, Lazenay, Chery, Lury, Cerbois and Preuilly.
30 Days of Rosé | #05 | La Vie en Rosé | Pays d’Oc | Cinsault Rosé | 2016 | $9.99
Rolling in at number 5 of our 30 Days of Rosé is La Vie en Rosé – a wine we like so much, that every year, we acquire stacks of it!
La Vie en Rose is wonderfully evocative, almost ‘fin de siecle’ approach. La Vie en Rose is off to a stylish start. With just a faint blush of color, a hint of red fruits and a fleeting brush of subtle, spicy wood, this is a supremely balanced, savory food-friendly style of wine that will help even the most hardened of skeptics see the wine through rose tinted specs.
This grape variety is the ultimate Pays d’Oc rosé wines par excellence! It produces fresh wines with a pronounced taste of strawberry and rose petal, becoming slightly tile-red when assembled with Grenache where the rosé takes on its roundness.
Pays d’Oc grape varieties
Pays d’Oc wines are fruity and new, elegant and modern or refined and contemporary. They are perfect for every occasion, fulfil every desire and are ideal for every table. They have a well-defined French character, bathed in sunshine and the Mediterranean, which makes them easily recognisable.
Excellent value for money, Pays d’Oc wines are resolutely appealing.
Pays d’Oc: IGP – Protected Geographical Indication – a quality label
Pays d’Oc IGP is attributed to a wine that is exclusively produced in the Languedoc-Roussillon and has been accepted for approval by the Pays d’Oc Wine Producers Union. The label is awarded to wines that meet strict production quality criteria. The wine must also display typical Pays d’Oc characteristics. 92% of all Pays d’Oc IGP wines are varietal wines.
Between Land and Sea
The Pays d’Oc territory winds along the Mediterranean Sea, weaving itself along 4 departments in the Languedoc-Roussillon : Pyrénées-Orientales, Aude, Hérault and the Gard. The Pays d’Oc boasts 200 km of beaches and vast expanses of vineyards bathed by the sun. A rich and natural combination of steep slopes, hilly peaks, vineyards, garrigue vegetation and the sea, the Pays d’Oc territory is embraced by its Mediterranean climate that comfortably enfolds the vines with its dry and windswept soils.
Having always embraced the vine, Pays d’Oc has adapted its vineyard and adopted grape varieties from different regions in France. These grapes have embraced the Pays d’Oc and taken on the region’s charm.
The terroir effect
The terroir effect is noticeable upon tasting wines from the different Pays d’oc zones. The Languedoc-Roussillon’s wealth of diverse soils and climates are exemplified by its *** terroirs. As grapes embrace the land from which they are grown, the grape varieties express themselves differently depending on the climate, exposure, relief, and soils. Pays d’Oc’s patchwork of wine-growing areas creates an expression of these grape varieties that is unique.
Pays d’Oc men and women
In the Pays d’Oc, mankind and vineyards tell one of the most beautiful stories of life and passion. Throughout the centuries and eras, passion for wine has always stayed alive. Despite all the ups and downs of history, it remains, more than ever, connected to its territory. Over the past 30 years, the men and women from Pays d’Oc have understood the importance of adapting regional viticulture to economic and regulatory changes. Their heartfelt commitment to the regional viticulture tradition has created a strong motivation towards optimising the use of the vineyards. Using a savoir-faire passed down through the centuries, they create high-quality wines that reflect Pays d’Oc’s typicity.
As a result, Pays d’Oc wines embody wine growers’ passion and commitment and reflect the producers’ ability to combine tradition and modernity.
This wine is quite emblematic of the great sea change that has occurred at Bonny Doon Vineyard since the sell-off/ draw-down of the Ginormous Doonamath, whereby we have essayed a most sincere effort to make “quieter” wines in a more natural, less manipulated fashion. As such, this Vin Gris is made from bespoke grapes and is not a byproduct of red wine production, per se. We harvested at the appropriate ripeness level for its style. The essential principle here is that less is truly more.
The ’16 Vin Gris is a bit of a departure from recent vintages, somewhat deeper in color and definitely a bit fruitier than some, though the fruit is perhaps (at least at this stage) more of the dark and brooding variety, particularly suggestive of black currants, Damson plum and rosehips. In our modern world, one must never, ever, ever, make anything like a health claim for an alcoholic beverage. Les français, on the other hand, have no difficulty believing that a properly selected wine can remediate, if not cure almost any medical or existential complaint. So, no, I’m not saying that the Vin Gris has a calmative effect on jangled nerves, nor that it creates an immense feeling of well-being almost immediately upon just scenting it, even before the first sip. (Though it does smell an awful lot like any of the sundry tisanes (tilleul, eglantine) that will definitely do you some good.) Its perfume is subtle, haunting, not vulgar or tawdry, like some of the louche rosés de la nuit. Enfin, this wine is all about elegance and restraint. Rosehips, cassis, fraises de bois, citrus rind, with a wonderfully austere stony finish.
The Grenache for our Vin Gris came principally from the Alta Loma Vineyard, harvested at the appropriate maturity level for this elegant style of wine. The Mourvèdre came from Del Barba Vineyard in Contra Costa County. About 22% of the wine is composed of traditional white Rhône varieties in substantial part from the Beeswax Vineyard, adding a surprising richness and foundation.
We also employed the practice of post-fermentation bâtonnage—the stirring or resuspension of yeast lees—to give the wine a certain creaminess of texture.
Food Pairing Notes
Just begs for oysters or stone crab.
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