I’m grateful when I get to go to big wine trade tastings, but they can be overwhelming. One hundred-plus tables, many of them crowded with clamoring masses, yearning to drink taste free. My advice is to go in with a battle plan. Study that spiral-bound playbook you get on arrival! But sometimes it’s dumb luck that gets you (re)discovering a favorite. Case in point: stumbling upon the François Villard Viognier “Les Contours de Deponcins.”
So Villard is a famed producer in the very small appellation of Condrieu. I can say, without a doubt, the best Viognier in the world comes from here. Period. Game over. The wine “Les Contours de Deponcins” is not a Condrieu, but very, very close to one due to grape sourcing just outside the defined region.
François Villard Viognier “Les Contours de Deponcins” 2015
There is no white wine as exquisitely perfumed as Viognier. Unfortunately, most examples from the US are overblown, oily, soapy, and boozy.
Ain’t nothing like the real thing, baby.
Can a wine cause time to slow down/freeze and make you feel like you’re floating in space?
Drinking this Viognier is akin to misting essence of honeycomb all over a silk sheet then wrapping yourself up in it like a burrito then gently hovering over a cooling river while angels hand you bouquets of white flowers on a star-lit paradise journey.
There’s oak, but the barrels are all a few years old. (Don’t be afraid of oaked white wines!) So the oak adds mostly texture. It’s just delicious AF. No food needed! Enjoy this alone or with someone special. (BTW, YOU ARE SPECIAL.)
Let’s talk price. The average cost for a bottle on Wine-Searcher is $25. That is an astounding deal for a wine of this quality and pedigree. IT IS SPECIAL! SO. MUCH. SPECIALNESS.
A note on vintage: I’m not a big fan of aged dry white wine and especially Viognier. This is a drink-now wine. I see there is a 2016 vintage available as well. Go buy it, right now. (Please.)
lin·gua fran·ca noun: “a language that is adopted as a common language between speakers whose native languages are different.”
The headline for this article could read: “Local Boy Does Good!” Larry Stone is one of the most influential people in the wine industry. (Period). One of the first Americans to pass theMaster Sommelier exam (#9 in 1988),the only American ever to win France’s Grand Prix de Sopexa competition (better known as the “Best Sommelier in the World”). Wine director for Charlie Trotters. Founder (With Robert De Niro and Robin Williams) of the legendary Rubicon in San Francisco. Dean of Wine Studies at the International Culinary Center.
In 2006, he left the restaurant business to become the Gérant of the Niebaum-Coppola winery, now Inglenook. He worked with Augustine Huneeus at Quintessa, started his own Napa property Sirita and he also ran a négociant firm, Deux Chapeaux, with Daniel Johnnes. In 2010, Stone became president of Evening Land Vineyards, where he collaborated with Burgundian winemaker Dominique Lafon. Today, Evening Land is in the capable hands of Stone’s Protégé Rajat Parr.
Stone brought together a team led by Dominique Lafon. Who is Burgundy’s best-known winemaker, his name is attached to one of its most famous Domaines -Comte Lafon. The Comtes Lafon domaine, contains well over three hectares of premier cru vineyard as well a piece of burgundy’s grand cru Le Montrachet. Lafon Montrachet sells for thousands of dollars a bottle. He has been rightly called “the Wizard of Burgundy.”
He also brought on board winemaker Thomas Savre, who worked with stone and Lafon at Evening Land after working at luminary Burgundian properties as Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Domaine Dujac, and Maison Nicolas Potel. To manage the vineyards he brought on local viticulturist Mimi Casteel. Mimi is the daughter of Ted Casteel and Pat Dudley, co-founders of Bethel Heights Vineyard. She brings with her a lifetime of living and working in the valley and her families well known reputation for Sustainable and Biodynamic farming.
Stone was in negotiations with Evening Land’s neighbors to purchase the land adjacent to the famed Seven Springs Vineyard, even before he left the project. After he left Evening Land the Janzen family approached him with a deal to buy the land. He sold his stake in Sirita Winery, auctioned off his personal wine collection and convinced a few friends to invest.
They cleared the land – removing fruit and Christmas Trees – planted a vineyard and built a winery, designed by Lafon and Savre. Across the road from Seven Springs it is also adjacent Domaine Serene’s Jerusalem Hill Vineyard, Argyle Winery’s Lone Star Vineyard and Domaine Drouhin’s Roserock Vineyard.
A perfect vineyard sight, a remarkably capable team and an astute understanding of the wine business. It is not surprising these wines are already creating a buzz. Lingua Franca is being poured at high-profile Paris restaurants Vitus, Taillevent and Spoon. Impressive for a new minted American Pinot Noir.
The entire first vintage from Lingua Franca received 90 plus point scores from Wine Spectator! With The Tongue N’ Cheek making it in the
Refined and precise, featuring a structure that’s elegantly complex, with raspberry and cinnamon aromas and sleek cherry and mineral flavors. Drink now through 2022. 772 cases made.
92 Points Wine Spectator
He told me, “We are not trying to make ‘burgundy’, although that is of course an influence. We are making wines of very little intervention, wines of place”. Stone describes it as “exploring Oregon with the mind of Burgundy.” The name Lingua Franca represents the concept of universal language, of bringing people of different worlds to common ground – shared conversation, shared enjoyment. Lingua franca could be described as a conversation between Oregon terroir and years of traditional Burgundian winemaking.
If you were to make a list of what you would need to make a great wine, every box would be checked off on the list.
Not bad for the son of refugees.
His mother was a cheesemaker, and his father was a produce buyer at Seattle’s Pike Place Market. Stone was always enamored with food and even making his own wine at age 14. At the UW, Stone was a National Merit Scholar who studied abroad in Montpellier, France, and Vienna. He pursued a doctorate in comparative literature, earning a Fulbright Scholarship to University of Tübingen in Germany.He never finished his dissertation.
He was one of Seattle’s very first Sommeliers’ at a restaurant called the Red Cabbage. Later working at the Four Seasons Olympic before heading to Chicago and Charlie Trotter’s.
Local boy does good, and then some.
By Lenny Rede
Leonard Redé is the marketing person here at Esquin Wine and Spirits. An instructor in the Wine Technology Program at South Seattle, he wrote the curriculum for the Associate of Arts Degree in Food and Wine Pairing Sommelier Studies. A classically trained chef and pastry chef he was nominated for educator of the year while Chef Instructor at the world renowned Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts. He garnered international attention at his award winning restaurant Sapphire kitchen and bar. A restaurateur, wine steward, chef and educator with over 30 years of industry experience he has a unique blend of culinary and wine expertise. He loves to share his passion for all things gastronomic and he’ll gladly help you navigate the world of wine and is always quick with a wine pairing or recipe.
Chateau Mayne Vieil is a single vineyard (47 hectars) in Fronsac on a hill of clay loam with a moderate slope at an altitude of nearly 40 meters. The vineyard is planted with 70% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Franc. The village of Fronsac lies due north of Pomerol about 15 minutes from the famous chateaus of Le Pin and Cheval Blanc.
Mayne-Vieil is not some newcomer from 1500 to 1809 Mayne-Vieil belonged to the DePaty family. The squire DePaty, Lord of Mayne-Vieil, built the winery in the 17th century. It was eventually replaced in the 18th century by the fortified house with an elegant chartreuse that currently stands on the grounds today.
Mayne-Vieil was then purchased by the Fontemoing family; a group of renowned vintners from Libourne. In 1918, Louis SEZE acquired the property. His son Roger, an agronomist who succeeded him in the early 1950’s, expanded the vineyards to make a contiguous and beautiful plateau. His children Bertrand and Marie-Christine Sèze succeeded Roger SEZE in the 1980’s.
Château Mayne-Vieil cuvée Alienor Fronsac ’15 $14.99 btl / save $10 “Château Mayne-Vieil Cuvée Alienor is a selection of old Merlot vines. This is the luxury cuvée from vineyards in the Seze family since 1918. With its perfumed fruits and firm tannins, it is serious as well as sumptuous. It has weight and a dry texture that will soften into the blackberry fruits and generous structure. This wine, with its still firm texture, needs to age, so drink from 2022.” 93 pts Wine Enthusiast
This wine shows tremendous density and character. Although drinkable now this wine has the potential to lay down for years and at this price you can afford to buy a case to lay down. I find this wine utterly charming, if you have more questions – Arnie has actually visited the property and knows first hand the quality of this wine and the property.
“They were delicious, more for drinking then collecting I thought, although the Cuvée Alienor is a big serious wine that is 100% Merlot. At our dinner, Bertrand brought out two old bottles. They were still excellent and we were stunned to learn one was from 1949 and the other from 1959. Incredible. ” Arnie Millan
I had the good fortune last week to be invited to lunch with Bertrand Sourdais,the dynamic 5th generation winemaker and owner of Domaine de Pallus in Chinon, smack dab in the middle of the Loire Valley. He pulls double duty as a partner and winemaker of two wineries in Spain’s Ribero del Duero region.
“Thrilling, brilliant” are adjectives that have applied to the wines crafted by Bertrand Sourdais. Although his family estate is in Chinon in the Loire Valley, he made his international reputation with a Spanish wine, the 2002 Dominio de Atauta “Llanos del Almendro,” from Spain’s Ribera del Duero. In a celebrated blind tasting organized by two Europe’s most respected wine critics, Bertrand’s 2002 Atauta tied with the 1994 Vega Sicilia’s Unico, beating out the 2000 Château Latour; this was a shocking result as it was Bertrand’s first commercial vintage as winemaker.
Just after graduating from Enology school in Bordeaux, Bertrand apprenticed at Mouton-Rothschild, Santa Rita in Chile and Alvaro Palacios in Priorat. Bertrand took his first post as winemaker at Atauta in Ribero del Duero. After he left Atauta, Bertrand started Bodegas Antidoto and Dominio de ES, both in Ribera del Duero.
At lunch, Bertrand revealed that he was fired by the new owners of Atauta back in 2008. Even though he did not elaborate, the firing must have been a dramatic turning point in his life and, thirteen years on, you can still see it in his eyes. It still hurts. Yet I believe that the firing ignited a passionate determination to work only for himself with a fierce drive to succeed.
So he founded a new winery, with partner David Hernando, an agronomist, called Antidoto. Antidoto means antidote and it was just the perfect cure for Bertrand’s Atauta blues. It was no coincidence that they located Antidoto in the Soto de San Esteban zone in the Soria province, just a stone’s throw from Atauta!
At the same time, Bertrand’s father wanted to retire and to turn the estate in Chinon over to Bertrand. Bertrand was eager to take the reins of his family estate in addition to his commitment in Ribera del Duero. Bertrand told me he drives 8 hours each way from Pallus to Antidoto and back. That determined dedication is impressive and I think it is fueled by his traumatic firing from Atauta nearly ten years ago. Those wounds are still raw to this day.
Chinon is a prestigious appellation, mostly for Cabernet Franc, located in the center of the Loire Valley. It produces some of France’s meatiest Cabernet Francs which are sometimes compared to Bordeaux. As this is Bertrand’s home, his family estate, Domaine de Pallus, takes pride of place over his Spanish estates.
Bertrand farms his vineyards organically, using biodynamic treatments. Yields are kept low, sometimes too low (under 1 ton/acre!).
Below are the wines we tasted with Bertrand.
Pallus 2014 Les Pensées de Pallus: Les Pensées boasts a dark ruby color with aromas of dried herbs, anise and rosemary. On the palate, there is medium-to-full bodied fruit of tart black plum, black currant, black tea and bright acidity leading to a vibrant mineral finish. In stock at Esquin.
We also tasted, for the first time:
Pallus 2016 Les Messanges: Bertrand’s entry level Chinon, the. This is delightful fruity wine of elegance and balance. Available soon.
Antidoto 2015 Ribera del Duero: this is 100% Tinto Fino (Tempranillo) produced from grapes from the Soto de San Esteban zone in the Soria province, the cooler part of Ribera del Duero. Just released, this is a serious wine that can age. Available soon.
Pallus 2017 Messanges Chinon Rosé: A dry, crisp Cabernet Franc rosé perfect for Spring and Summer drinking. Fire up the outdoor grill! Available soon.
Antidoto 2017 Roselito Ribera del Duero: This complex Rosé is produced from 80% Tinto Fino and 20% Albillo Mayor, a little known local white grape indigenous to Ribera del Duero. Available soon.
Dynasty noun – a succession of people from the same family who play a prominent role in business, politics, or another field.
The Lurton Family can trace its winemaking roots in Bordeaux back to the 17th century. But it was the marriage of Denise Recapet to Francois Lurton in 1923 that the story of this family dynasty begins. Denise and François Lurton had four children, André was born in 1924, Lucien in 1925, Simone in 1929 and Dominique in 1932.
André, married to Elizabeth Garros, received the family home, Château Bonnet. In 40 years he amassed property totaling 600 hectares situated primarily in Entre-deux-Mers and the Pessac-Léognan appellation, of which he was one of the founders in 1987. Today, the fourth and fifth generations of Lurton’s control 27 Bordeaux châteaux. Everything from Bordeaux’s largest producer, Chateau Bonnet which is run by patriarch Andre Lurton to 2nd growth Margaux property Chateau Brane Cantenac to Château Cheval Blanc and Château d’Yquem.
Today the family has wine interests on most continents and almost all major wine growing regions. In their turn, Andre’s sons, François and Jacques, acquired wine estates in Chile, Argentina, Portugal, Spain and the Languedoc.
“If I were a vine, I would choose to be planted in Chile.” François Lurton
François and Jacques Lurton found this “dream land” whilst working as consultants for the San Pedro vineyards. The first bottles of Araucano, the name of the last of Chile’s indigenous people, was first released in 1997. In 2000, François bought 200 hectares of land in the valley of Colchagua. The valley around the town of Lolol, had that certain ‘je ne sais quoi’, that combination of high altitude clay-limestone soils, radical diurnal temperature change and the cooling influence of the morning fog.
The estate is located in a high valley that runs from East to West, which funnels cold air from the Pacific Ocean. The large temperature differences between the sea and the land causes a white fog “Humo Blanco” to develop, which can be seen most mornings just above the estate vineyards. Hot, dry days and foggy, cool nights, textbook perfect conditions for growing great wine.
The Lurton family bring literally centuries of winemaking knowledge to bear on this project. But, Francois is a forward thinking man with a vision. Francois Lurton employs 10 full time enologist that work across France, Argentina, Spain and Chile. 2012 the Araucano wines obtained organic certification. In 2013, Hacienda Araucano obtained biodynamic certification (Demeter). The winery is also 100% solar powered.
Lolol is one of the new coastal appellations in Chile. This wine represents the essence of the cool climate of Lolol. It is made up of the best plots of four grape varieties that excel in the valley: Carmenère, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Cabernet Franc. This blend was put together by Francois himself. The grapes are handpicked, double sorted and then left for a lengthy cold soak to gently extract the fruity aromas and smooth tannins. Once fermented separately the different grape varieties are blended together and are aged in French oak for 18 months. A true Chilean wine with a French touch.
Clos de Lolol Red Wine 2013 (Chile) $14.99 / Save $10
“Woodsy, spicy aromas of herbal plum and berry come with a light coating of chocolate. A round, rubbery palate is tight in the long run. Saturated plum and blackberry flavors are oaky in front of an extracted finish that runs long and doesn’t hold back. Drink through 2022.” 91 pts Wine Enthusiast
92 James Suckling, 91 pts Wine Advocate
“There’s never been a better time to buy Chilean wine.” James Suckling, “Indeed, hundreds of outstanding quality wines are entering the market. It doesn’t hurt that the current vintages available, especially for reds, are fantastic – mostly 2013, 2014, and 2015.”
Cassoulet is a rich, slow-cooked casserole originating in the south of France, made with duck confit, sausage and beans. Served with good crusty bread and a good bottle of hearty wine Cassoulet is just about the finest warden against the cold dark night.
There are as many versions of Cassoulet as there are French grandmothers and Chefs. Some include Lamb, pork shoulder or even partridge. Below I give you a basic version that comes very close to traditional.
Lenny’s Quick Cassoulet
4 ounces bacon, diced
1 cups chopped onion (3/4 lb))
1/2 cup celery, diced
1/2 cup carrot, peeled diced
1 lb Sausage links, cooked and sliced
1 tsp finely chopped garlic
1 tsp thyme
1each bay leaf
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 (14-oz) can stewed tomatoes, chopped with juice
2 each confit duck legs*
1 14 ounce can white beans
2 cups beef broth
1 Tbl tomato paste
2 Tbl olive oil
1 cups coarse fresh bread crumbs
1/4 cup Parsley, chopped
salt and pepper
In a large pot render diced bacon
2. Add carrots, onion and celery cook until translucent
3. Add sliced sausage
4. Add herbs and season
5. Add tomatoes, beef broth and tomato paste
6. Add duck confit legs
7. Drain and rinse beans and add to pot
8. Cover and simmer for 1 hour9.
Remove bones from cassoulet adjust seasoning if necessary. In a pan heat olive oil and toast bread crumbs. To serve portion out cassoulet and top with bread crumbs and chopped parsley. Serve with crusty bread and a hearty red wine.
Cassoulet calls out for a hearty wine, say Cotes du Rhone, Madiran or Cahors. Malbec has been made famous in Argentina where it produces lovely fruit forward reds, in Cahors where the grape is called Cot the wines are a little more rustic. Cahors is a small AOC wine region located in southwest France (the land of Cassoulet). The AOC is only for red wines, which must be made from a minimum of 70% Malbec and up to 30% Merlot or Tannat. Cahors Malbec tend to be deeper in color, more structured and fuller bodied than their Argentine counterparts.
Château Eugénie has been in the hands of the same family of winegrowers for generations. Their great great grandmother gave her name to the property.
Beginning Sunday March 19th, Esquin’s Arnie Millan will host a two-part series of classes
focused on the wines of the Rhone, their history and their effects on the world of wine.
The Rhone Valley is home to some of France’s greatest wines, from noble Hermitage in the North to celebrated Chateauneuf-du-Pape in the South. The ancient Greeks and Romans planted vines here. The Papacy moved here for a brief but unforgettable period, thereafter bringing great prestige to the area.
In short, this is a region with a wondrous past yet whose present achievements in wine attract the world’s attention. The wines of the Rhone continue to exert a huge influence on wines being produced around the world, from Washington State to Australia and South Africa.
The first class, on Sunday March 19th, features the Northern Rhone Valley from Cote-Rotie, Hermitage, Saint Joseph, Cornas to Saint- Peray.
The second class, on Sunday March 26th, explores the Southern Rhone Valley with its great villages dominated by the renowned Chateauneuf- du-Pape.
We will taste 8 wines per class from the region’s greatest appellations. Cost is $79 per class or $145 for the two-part series.
The classes will be held on on Sundays, from 1:30 – 4:00 p.m. in Esquin Wine & Spirits Sky Lounge at 2700 4th Avenue S., just South of the stadiums in SODO. Free parking is available in Esquin’s lot on the South end of the building.
To cellar, or to drink, a question many of us ask when purchasing a beautiful bottle of wine. Champagne is unique in that it’s aged to perfection in the caves of producers in France before release. Champagne benefits from long amounts of time on the lees (the dead yeast cells) leftover from secondary fermentation. When Champagne is aging in the caves, the lees have not yet been removed, so the Champagne is becoming more complex as it ages. Before corking, the lees are removed from bottles through a process called disgorgement. And, once the cork is in place, the Champagne is gradually exposed to a small amount of oxygen, let in by the porous surface of the cork over time.
Below: Champagne aging on the lees.
Producers taste their Champagnes at all stages of development, and will only disgorge and cork them when they’ve reached their prime. Therefore, in most cases, the Champagne will taste its best, as the producer intended it to taste, 6 months to about 3 years after corking.
However, many people enjoy the flavors of a cork aged Champagne. The oxygen will open up flavors, often expanding the range of flavors present. But if you’re not starting with perfect, high-quality Champagne, aging it too long can make the Champagne taste funky. Below is our general guide for aging your Champagne, based on type.
ROSÉ – Drink within 1 year after purchasing
Delicate and fruit-forward, most rosés are best enjoyed soon after they have been corked. The exceptions are vintage specific rosé Champagnes and rosé Champagnes made with the pinot noir grape. Both have the structure to generally age for 3-5 years under cork.
NON VINTAGE BLANCS – Drink within 3-5 years after purchasing
Non-vintage Champagnes are blended wines, made from a mix of recently harvested wine, and reserve wine. Most producers craft a non-vintage Champagne as their house style and most are aged to perfection in the cellars of their producer and don’t need to be kept under a cork for too long. The oxidation can eventually overwhelm the beautiful fruit flavors resulting in a mature effect.
VINTAGES – Drink within 10-15 years after purchasing
Vintage Champagne is always aged by the producer for a minimum of three years and often much longer. Vintages are only bottled in extraordinary years, when the grapes are perfect and weather conditions are ideal. Therefore, when buying a vintage Champagne, you can assume it’s high-quality, and age-worthy. Though still unpredictable, aging a vintage Champagne under cork will often open up the flavors and expand the range. Like wine, Champagne vintages are distinct and will taste different as they age. 1996, 2002, 2004 and 2008 are some of our favorite, most age-worthy Champagne vintages.
Our philosophy is to pop open Champagne as often as you can, to make any occasion special! Instead of keeping your “best bottles”, waiting for the perfect moment to pop the cork, open the bottle to celebrate any day! Toast to a home-cooked meal, your spouse, a bad day, a promotion, or anything. Opening that special bottle will create lasting memories and smiles for all.