November wine notes will be up first thing Saturday morning! Cheers! xo
1. Taparas Côte Du Rhône Rouge
- Producer: Les Vignerons d'Estezargus
- Region: Rhone Valley, France
- Varieties: Grenache, Syrah, Carignan
- Alcohol: 14.5%
- Flavor Profile: Medium-bodied, easy-drinking, clean, rustic red wine with notes of red and black fruit - it’s lively and juicy! Serve chilled for maximum enjoyment.
Les Vignerons d'Estézargues is a small cooperative of 12 winemakers/winegrowers in Rhone Valley, Southern France, founded in 1965. Together they have been making small, organic batches of natural wine for more than 30 years! Imagine a place just a stone's throw away from the enchanting medieval city of Avignon, known for its Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines. Here, in the quaint village of Estézargues, you'll find a rather extraordinary cooperative: Les Vignerons d’Estézargues! In France, these cooperatives, often referred to as 'cave co-op,' are traditional hubs for winemakers to collaborate, share expertise, and reduce costs by pooling resources. However, most co-ops focus on mass production, prioritizing quantity and cost-efficiency over quality or environmental considerations. But here's where Les Vignerons D’Estézargues breaks the mold. This unique cooperative, a rarity given its size, piqued the interest of Jenny Lefcourt (wine importer) early on, leading to the introduction of their incredible value wines to the US through J&F (Jenny & François Selections!). Established in 1965, Estézargues began its journey towards natural winemaking in the 1980s, under the influence of winemaker Jean-François Nicq, who drew inspiration from natural wine pioneers like Marcel Lapierre. What sets them apart is their commitment to minimal intervention—no commercial yeast, no enzymes, no gum arabic, no acidifiers, and very little sulfur, used only when necessary. They're not shouting 'vin naturel' from the rooftops, but insiders know that an Estézargues label means honest, no-nonsense wine. Another remarkable feature is their dedication to vinifying each terroir separately. This approach, championed by Denis Deschamps, allows them to showcase the unique character of each grower's best plots. These wines proudly bear the names of the individual domains, like Genestas or Grès Saint Vincent. In a world where individuality and community thrive together, Estézargues embodies this spirit. Armelle Rouault, the congenial CEO and winemaker, affectionately calls their cooperative a 'village gaulois,' with original founding families still at the helm, now in the hands of the third generation. As for the future, Armelle is excited about the transition to organic farming, with a significant portion of their land already certified. The sun-drenched plateau of Estézargues, kissed by the Mistral wind, makes it an ideal spot for organic viticulture, echoing the return to nature's wisdom. In the heart of the South, where tradition meets innovation, Les Vignerons d’Estézargues is carving its unique path in the world of wine.
2. Les Hautes Noëlles “Voulez Vous” Gamay
- Producer: Les Hautes Noëlles
- Region: Loire Valley, France
- Varieties: 100% Gamay
- Alcohol: 12%
- Flavor Profile: Medium-to-light-bodied red wine full of red fruit and black cherries. Luscious and juicy, with a dry finish. Serve chilled and enjoy within 3 days of opening!
Travel back to the 11th century when, while William the Conqueror embarked on his English conquest, something equally captivating was unfolding in the charming commune of St Léger les Vignes. It was here that the art of winemaking was in its nascent stages, just beginning to take root. Fast forward to the year 1180, and the wines produced in this region had already garnered such acclaim that they were selected as the Mass wine for the distinguished Abbey of Notre Dame de Buzay, founded by none other than the esteemed Bernard de Clairvaux, as well as the Abbey of Villeneuve.
Today, nearly nine centuries later, Domaine Les Hautes Noëlles proudly upholds this rich winemaking legacy. This family-owned estate, which was established in the 1930s, is nestled approximately 15 kilometers southwest of Nantes, right on the tranquil shores of Lac de Grandlieu, France's largest natural lake. With the Atlantic Ocean a mere 30 kilometers away, the vineyards occasionally benefit from the coastal breezes. In 2010, Jean-Pierre Guédon assumed the reins, and in 2020, Juliane and Jean-Gabriel Tridon took up the mantle to continue this storied journey. Today, they lovingly tend to 26 hectares of vineyards, meticulously adhering to the principles of organic viticulture.
But you might wonder, why are they here? After years of traversing the high seas, they found themselves yearning for the embrace of the land. It was during this period that they stumbled upon the world of wine—real wine, crafted by passionate artisans in cellars and amidst the vines. It was here that they realized a new and enthralling chapter of life was beckoning them—a simple yet profound connection, one shared by people of the sea and those of the land.
In a world that often seeks to exert control over every aspect of existence, the vine imparts a profound lesson in humility. There's what they understand about nature, what they grasp without the ability to fully explain, and then there's the vast, enigmatic unknown. The vine demands constant attention, urging them to plan not only for today but for the generations yet to come. And as for the wine itself, it evolves silently and purposefully within the quiet confines of a vat, taking all the time it requires.
This is their daily life now—a life immersed in this unspoiled and enchanting setting. And they wish for nothing more than to share it with you, their cherished members. Their dedicated team, akin to a crew on an enduring ocean voyage, navigates the challenges of winemaking with a shared vision. Their team comprises a versatile blend of experienced individuals, joined from time to time by seasonal workers when the vineyards require their attention. Brice, full of youthful vigor, lends his enthusiasm to both vineyards and cellar. Vincent and Marjorie make a formidable plowing duo, while Jacqueline, the bottling queen, reigns supreme amidst labels, cases, and the shop.
In this shared voyage, you are warmly invited to join in savoring the marvels of the vine and the simple, yet profound, pleasures of life amongst the vines. Welcome to Domaine Les Hautes Noëlles—a journey encompassing wine, nature, and the beauty of the unknown.
3. Barbacàn Rosso Alpi Retiche 2021
- Producer: Barbacàn
- Region: Valtellina, Lombardy, Italy
- Varieties: 100% Nebbiolo
- Alcohol: 13%
Meet the Barbacàn family: Angelo Sega and his sons, Luca and Matteo. This charming, small-scale winery is a true hidden gem nestled in the heart of the majestic Alps, a breathtaking mountain range in northern Italy. The term "artisanal antiestablishment" may sound a bit unconventional, but it perfectly captures the spirit of this unique winery. Towering peaks with steep slopes that seem almost impossible to conquer. For the Segas, their labor can be summed up in one word—heroic. They cultivate and hand-pick Nebbiolo, fondly known as Chiavennesca by the locals, from their seven hectares of vineyards in San Giacomo di Teglio, Valtellina, right on the border with Switzerland. The Segas are what we call grower-producers, the trailblazers of Valgella, driven by a passion that rivals the very mountains they call home. But make no mistake, this is no easy terrain to tackle, and the climate is no ally. Imagine vineyards perched at over 450 meters above sea level, painstakingly terraced on steep slopes. The amount of hard, back-breaking work required to maintain these vineyards is nothing short of heroic, as the Italians aptly put it. From the vineyard to the bottle, their strength, passion, and unwavering dedication shine through.
Now, let's talk about this wine! They're as honest as they come, paying utmost respect to the land and the unique characteristics of each vintage. At Barbacàn, you won't find any chemicals or industrial yeasts in the winemaking process. They believe in minimal intervention, and their commitment to detail is nothing short of extraordinary. There's no finishing or filtering here, just a profound dedication to crafting wines that exude finesse, flavor, and elegance. In their own words: "We are farmers in the Alps, guardians of our ancient native vines and the cultural heritage of traditional agricultural practices. Our wines are a genuine expression of each vintage, with all its quirks and harmonies, always different and delightfully unpredictable. Every season, we carry on the timeless traditions of an Alpine community deeply rooted in the cultivation of Chiavennasca." Barbacàn stands as one of the very few 100% natural winemakers in Valtellina. Their commitment to organic practices has earned them the prestigious certification from Valoritalia, sealing their dedication to preserving the unique character of this stunning region in every bottle. We love their wines so much. Unique, classic, modern, dependable, unexpected, elevated. There are no other winemakers like them.
4. Anne-Sophie Dubois “Sans Detour” Gamaret and Gamay
- Producer: Anne-Sophie Dubois
- Region: Beaujolais, France
- Varieties: 80% Gamaret, 20% Gamay
- Alcohol: 12%
- Flavor Profile: a medium-bodied red wine with low fruit on the palate. You’ll experience savory dried herbs, minerality and earth. Serve chilled or slightly cooler than room temp for maximum enjoyment!
Meet Anne-Sophie Dubois, a passionate and dedicated winemaker who has embarked on a remarkable journey that led her to Domaine Anne-Sophie Dubois. With a profound love for the craft, Anne-Sophie's winemaking philosophy centers around the belief that the true magic of wine lies in the vineyard. Her domaine is nestled in the AOC Fleurie region, precisely at 'Les Labourons.' Here, the vineyards boast unique characteristics: high elevation at around 400 meters, steep slopes exceeding 30%, and a soil rich in pink granite, sand, and stones. Anne-Sophie's vineyards thrive on high-density planting, with 8,000 to 10,000 plants per hectare. This 'cirque'-shaped vineyard, resembling an amphitheater, comprises 18 distinct plots, forming a harmonious ecosystem that reflects Anne-Sophie's commitment to respecting the land and minimizing external impact. Anne-Sophie embarked on the organic farming certification in 2018, ushering in a new era of rigorous vineyard practices that have significantly elevated grape quality. Pruning in winter, meticulous care during spring and summer, and compost fertilization in the fall—all these efforts contribute to the vitality of the vines.
Throughout the year, the soil is never bare, maintaining a living, vegetative cover that enriches the earth. Shallow plowing is the norm, and manual harvesting is a key practice, ensuring the integrity of the grapes. Anne-Sophie's winemaking philosophy emphasizes fresh, digestible, and elegant wines. Her 'whole bunch fermentation' technique, reintroduced in 2015, enhances the fruitiness and tension of her wines. In the cellar, Anne-Sophie practices non-interventionist winemaking. She's drawn inspiration from wine expert Jacques Néauport, who shared wisdom from the legendary Jules Chauvet, a pioneer of 'natural' winemaking. Anne-Sophie's cellar practices include manual harvesting in small boxes, meticulous sorting, gravity-based processes, spontaneous fermentation with indigenous yeasts, and minimal use of sulfur. Maturation in oak casks adds depth without overpowering the wines.
Anne-Sophie opts for clear and open wines, bottled without fining or filtration. When it comes to blending, Anne-Sophie follows her intuition, blending plots at harvest to create unique cuvées that showcase the essence of each plot and harvest. As a 'récoltant,' all her cuvées are crafted exclusively from grapes grown on her domaine. So, in each bottle from Anne-Sophie Dubois, you'll find her unwavering dedication to preserving the vine's wisdom and the purest expression of her terroir.