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At Barrel with Languedoc’s Chateau Maris

USQ welcomes Jacques Herviou to the Barrel on Thursday, April 5, from 6pm to 8pm, for a duo of Languedoc cuvées from Château Maris. An entirley organic effort, from viticultural practices to a winery made completely of hemp bricks (that’s right, hemp!), Château Maris produces a delicious selection of biodynamic wines. Featured as a kick-off to Earth Month, we’ll pour two selections from the La Livinière Cru of Minervois. An are most notable for Vin Doux dessert wines, Minervois’s still wines are shooting to the spotlight thanks to efforts like those of Château Maris. Stop by for the old-vine Château Maris 2009 Biodynamic Syrah and Château Maris 2008 Continuité de Nature Carignane and get the lowdown on this planet-friendly effort!

Admission to this tasting is free, and reservations are not required.

Heard It Through the Grapevine

Do you want to be my date to the Spring Fling? Twist and Shout your way over to USQ tomorrow for our annual Spring Fling Mega Tasting. We’ll be pouring wines from Italy, Spain, France, South Africa, and Greece, set to our favorite sock hop hits. They’ll be a Whole Lot of Shakin’ Going On. Sip on summertime selections such as Nora Albarino, Naia Verdejo, Raats Estate Chenin Blanc, Hiedler Gruner Veltliner, Althea Prosecco, Willm Riesling, Chateau Larose Trintaudon Haut-Medoc, Rustenberg John X Merriman, and more. Throw on those Blue Suede Shoes, and we’ll see you there!

Admission to the tasting is free, and reservations are not required.

We Be Jammin’ at the Island Wine Party

Jam out to righteous Reggae while jet-sipping your way through the Mediterranean Sea’s prime wine-growing regions at USQ’s Island Wine Party, this Saturday from 2pm to 5pm. We’ll be your tour guides through Sardinia, Sicily, Corsica, Majorca, Canary Islands, and Porquerolles—no boat required! Sample popular varieties like Cannanou, Vermentino, Nero d’Avola, and Nerello Mascalese, but don’t miss out on esoteric pours such as Frapatto, Listan Negra, and Callet. These are unique wines with tons of personality, much like the their dreamy native isle locales. Featured producers include COS, Amina Negra, Bermejos,Domaine Leccia, Argiolas, and Planeta, among others.

Admission to this tasting is free, and reservations are not required. Boat shoes and sailor hats welcome. More information here.

Stephane Tissot Talks Jura

Stéphane Tissot boasts just as much character as his well-respected, nuanced, biodynamic wines from the Jura. A wine region nestled between Burgundy and Switzerland, the Jura’s chillier climate, late harvest times, and marl, clay and limestone- based soils provide the framework for unique and innovative wines, such as the sherry-like Vin Jaune and the native variety, Trousseau. Tissot’s “quest for aromatic diversity” has led to the creation of more than 30 different varietals, including such bottlings as his 2008 Traminer and 2010 Poulsard. He makes seven different Chardonnays alone, including the 2009 Chardonnay “La Mailloche,” which he poured at USQ along with five other bottlings in late February. We chatted with the exuberant Tissot about his Demeter-certified biodynamic wines, German Riesling and family vacations.

How would you describe Jura wine to someone who has never had it?
“How would I describe it? Oh my. Well, Jura is a small area between Burgundy and Switzerland. When you speak about Jura, you think mountain. We’re 80 kilometers from Burgundy but a completely different climate and soil. We have a very different history. We were Spanish for 80 years in 17th century. We have five different grapes [Chardonnay, Traminer, Poulsard, Trousseau, Savagnin] and a totally different style of winemaking.”

Do you blend the five varieties?
“No, the only blend is in the Crémant.”

What sets your wines apart from other Jura producers?
“I’m in the north of the area. I have an estate of 46 hectares. In total, I produce more than 30 wines, and for example, I make seven different Chardonnay. Every one is from a different soil—clay, marl, limestone—and each produces a different style of the wine. It’s clay soil on the ‘La Mailloche.’ It’s got lots of character, a very spicy Chardonnay, and lots of concentration but very nice acidity. Lots of acidity why? Because clay soil is a very fresh soil and results in nice acidity.”

You mentioned during the tasting a certain dish to pair with your Chardonnay. What was that?
“ ‘La Mailloche has lots of power, minerality and acidity. It goes well with chicken with cream of mushroom.”

We know you like experimentation. What are some of the projects you’re working on?
“We don’t enough! Every year we are trying to make something different and new. Each year is an experiment. Something new I’m doing now, is, well, most Jura producers make one Vin Jaune. I have enough Savagnin that I make four Vin Jaunes, each from different soils. When you speak about Vin Jaune, you speak about the winemaking, of the style, of the power, of the concentration, but sometimes we miss all the complexity of the wine on every soil. For me, four different Vin Jaunes is a step forward for winemaking.”

Describe the process of making Vin Jaune.
“Vin Jaune is very similar to Sherry. We use the grape Savagnin. There is a lot of alcohol capacity in these grapes, and we leave these grapes for six years in oak barrels. We leave a floor of yeast at the top of the wine, and this floor of yeast protects the wine [from the air] and gives a character to the wine.”

Why did you decide to go biodynamic?
“We have been biodynamic since 04. When you’re biodynamic, you have a different life in your vines, in your grapes, and in this way, you can make very easy wine. It leads you. You can keep your yields low, and it increases the minerality. When you drink a glass, you want to drink another one, because they have very nice acidity.”

What do drink at home?
“Oh, at my place, I drink wine from my estate, of course, but I really drink wine from everywhere. When it’s good, it’s good. I have lots of different styles of wine in my cellar. I like Syrah; the Rhône can be very very good. I like a good Riesling, too. You know, in France, it’s not so common to find a really good Riesling from Germany.”

What is the most memorable bottle you’ve had?
“One that is very interesting is…we bought land in 2001, and I had wine from those vines, a 1959. Very very good.”

What are some of your other hobbies besides wine?
“Mountains are very important in my life. I like skiing. I love to spend time with my family outside. Sometimes, I’m too busy to see my family. When a winemaker is working, he’s working. You have to take time with your family to visit without the wine.”

Does that mean family vacation? Where do you go?
“When we go on holiday, we like to rent a small boat on the channel in Burgundy and spend four or five days just winding along the channel.”

Check out his wines available at USQ here.

At Barrel with Daniel Boulle of Domaine les Aphillanthes

Rising southern Rhône producer Daniel Boulle considers himself a vigneron before a winemaker. Having tended vines and sold off his grapes for years, he, in 1999, began crafting his own Côtes du Rhône wines. Robert Parker wrote that they “may be the richest Côtes du Rhône I have tasted” and we appreciate the ripe character about them. USQ welcomes Boulle to the Barrel for a Tuesday evening of Domaine les Aphillanthes tasting. 

Boulle’s domaine is located in the small town of Travaillan, just northwest of Gigondas, and he produces several cuvées of Côtes du Rhône, with his wife, Helene. He employs a series of biodynamic practices in the vineyard and believes in minimal intervention. He ferments in concrete vats and bottles without filtration. What results are powerful and expressions of Rhône blends, such as his 100 percent Syrah, the Cuvée du Cros, and Grenache-Syrah-Mourvedre cuvées, Cuvée des Galents and Cuvée des Trois Cepages. Swing by for sips and stories on the Domaine les Aphillanthes current releases.

Admission to this tasting is free, and reservations are not required. 

Tasting Romanée-Conti with Aubert de Villaine

Romanee-Conti Tasting

What we saw on the sorting table was beautiful, some of the best Pinot Noir you can dream of.

This is how Aubert de Villaine, self-described “steward of the domaine,” referred to the 2009 harvest at yesterday’s trade tasting in the The Library at The Palace Hotel. One of the highlights of the year for each that I’ve been in the business comes with tasting the new vintage from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, an event comprised of wine writers, sommeliers, and buyers like me. As the wines are well beyond my means, it is a privilege to taste them, and listening to de Villaine’s synopsis of each vintage is more informative and enlightening than any wine course in which I’ve sat. His dissemination of the vintage from winter through harvest and élevage is not dissimilar from the way in which Ishmael tells his tale of the white whale, slowly and surely, building gravitas with inclement weather and pulling victories from sunny afternoons. Yesterday, he stumbled quietly in French for the first few words before explaining that his English was out of practice and apologized for the volume of his words: “My voice as I get old gets less and less." Naturally, when he finishes with the tale of the vintage it’s impossible not to have a deeper reverence for the wine in the glasses before you.

New to the lineup this year was the Corton, a bottling crafted with fruit from Clos du Roi, Renardes, and Bressandes. De Villaine described these parcels as among the original part of Corton, vineyards that existed before the appellation grew to its current size. When paired alongside the other wines there was a marked difference in both the aroma and flavor of this Beaune-based beauty which de Villaine summarized as only a master Burgundy Jedi could: “The wine of Corton looks towards the ground, and the wines of Vosne look towards the sky.”

As the tasting continued de Villaine made constant reference to the “airiness” of Vosne, a description that made perfect sense given the aromas that permeated the room. In past years (‘07, ‘04) the wines haven’t shown at their best at this tasting, but yesterday’s exposition left smiles on just about every face in the room. Comparing the ’09s to the ‘59 vintage, de Villaine remarked, “I don’t think I’ll ever see them at their peak. You may.

You may if you’re flush and lucky enough to find some. Each year the retail allocations shrink as demand grows. I find it amazing to think that given the current economy it is possible to sell as many bottles from this estate as one can get their hands on. The good news is that magnum lovers will be rewarded with more magnums in 2009. More magnums at the expense of larger formats, of which there will be none. Aubert explained that “95% of big bottles ended up at auction,” which elicited chortles from a grinning John Kapon seated at the table behind me. Once the subject of auctions and the parallel market came up, de Villaine discussed a number of new anti-fraud features they were planning to incorporate into the labels in coming vintages, “things that only we at the Domaine are aware of.

The tasting ended with a few sips of Le Montrachet. The 2009 seemed less melodramatic than in previous vintages, “more mineral,” as de Villaine described it, and completely devoid of botrytis. Sitting there among my colleagues I enjoyed the Montrachet from sip to swallow, savoring it as I read through my notes and quotes from de Villaine. I’ll spare you my impression of the wines (it’s obvious I enjoyed them), but a note scribbled between some nouns and adjectives reminded me that as we’d settled into the degustation Aubert ended his vintage report and encouraged us to taste in silence and avoid using words “for something that doesn’t need words.” His voice might be getting “less and less,” but to me his words have never been more resonant. -Jesse Salazar

Jour de Burgundy Saturday

Don’t just dream about a winter getaway to Europe; jet to the Salon tomorrow from 2pm until 5pm, for our Jour de Burgundy, featuring stops at Chablis, Puligny-Montrachet, and Nuits St.-Georges. Sip more than 20 bottlings from the heralded region, with guided tours of the wines of well-known producers including Joseph Faiveley, Meo Camuzet, Simon Bize, Henri Gouges, and Domaine Ramonet. Want to take home a souvenir? With our Winter Clearance Sale, wines in the tasting are available at up to 30% off, when you mix and match 12 bottles of still wine. Admission to the tasting is free, and reservations are not required.