From Weekly Wine

Philippe Kubler’s Beautifully Pure Riesling and Pinot Blanc Showcase the Best of Alsatian Fruit and Minerality

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 Philippe Kubler’s simple,
no-fluff label.


Have you been thinking about pouring that first splash of Alsace into your glass? There is probably no better time to take the plunge than right now because of the very successful recent vintages that are available.

If you are already a fan, now is the time to stock the cellar.

Wine Spectator rates the 2008 vintage an A and goes on to call it,

“An excellent vintage across the board. All of the region’s grape varieties performed well, and the type of acidity being reported by growers should help Riesling in particular.”

I just can’t get enough of the Philippe Kubler wines. I have been drinking them all week and every bottle “seduces” me. That word comes from La Revue du Vin de France. They are beautiful, dry, white wines with pert acidity and floral notes, that are so much better than other Alsace wines I’ve had.

Robert Parker has praise for Kubler as well:

“After earning his oenology degree from Bordeaux, and a stage at Cloudy Bay, young Philippe Kubler – took over at his family’s domaine beginning with the 2004 vintage. Based on the several samples that reached me while in Alsace from his second harvest, this is a vigneron to watch.” -eRobert

“Philippe Kubler is a young, idealistic, grower who will take risks to go for the utmost quality in his wines.” -La Revue du Vin de France

Let me tell you a little bit more about Philippe Kubler. Estates can be very old in Alsace. The Kublers have been making wine since 1620. Amazing! The Domaine is made up of only 9 hectares (about 22 acres).The age of the vines averages 30 years. They pick the grapes by hand. They age the wines in Alsatian oak foudres (big oak casks) for 8 to ten months.

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Couly Dutheil Baronnie Madeleine 2009: A Blend of the Two Best Vineyards in Chinon

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Baronnie Madeleine is a red Chinon cuvee from famous Domaine Couly Dutheil. It is made from Chinon’s two best vineyards (Clos de l’Echo & Clos d’Olive) and selected for bottling only in the great wine years (like 2009).

That’s a mouthful and so is Baronnie Madeleine. This wine is 100% Cabernet Franc, as are all finest reds of the Loire Valley. But this is an exceptional example of Chinon Cabernet Franc in an exceptional vintage.

How exceptional? The 2009 red vintage in Chinon is equaled by only 2005 and the legendary 1989 in the past 20 years. Certainly think about getting some 2009s and Baronnie Madeleine is without doubt one to stock up on.

Wine Spectator is a longtime fan of Couly Dutheil’s Baronnie Madeleine, and has awarded the wine a rating of 90 points or higher not just this year but for 5 of the most recent 7 vintages .

Here is what they said about the 2009:
“This fleshy, toasty style offers a core of dark plum and raspberry notes, laced with roasted apple wood and maduro tobacco. A nice, mouthwatering tapenade note adds length on the finish. Drink now through 2013. 5,000 cases made. Rated 90, -JM, Wine Spectator

The wine is complex with intense aromas with a seductively silky palate of ripe red fruits. It is round and charming, crafted with much thought to honor Madeleine Dutheil, daughter of Baptiste Dutheil who founded the estate in 1921. Madeleine Dutheil was the grandmother of the estate’s winemaker, Arnaud Couly.

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2008 Pinnacle Red Burgundy from Bernard Bouvier – Marsannay Clos du Roy

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 Marsannay Clos du Roy

I knew immediately when I tasted this wine that I wanted it in my cellar.

La Revue has called Bernard “one of the most talented winemakers of his generation.” He is one of the new generation of winemakers who has melded the best of the thinking of previous generations and huge respect for his vineyards with minimal intervention in the winemaking process.

When I tasted the 2008s in Cotes de Nuits Burgundies, I thought they were fabulous, particularly the wines of Bernard Bouvier. This is a wine with material! and complexity.

“”The most successful 2008s are sharply delineated, classic Burgundies with the complex fruit, mineral, floral and soil perfume and the inner-palate energy that other pinot- producing regions can only dream about-, IWC Steven Tanzer

And from Allen Meadows at Burghound ” The best ’08s are fresh, intense, bright, vibrant and very terroir- driven – in short it’s a classic Burgundian vintage. And as I noted in my vintage analysis last year, it is on the whole more interesting than either 2007 or 2006. And in a few cases, the wines are truly brilliant so don’t overlook them.” -Burghound

If you are after a great expression of the best of French Pinot Noir at a refreshingly sane price (and who isn’t these days?), you cannot ignore Bernard Bouvier.

Where is Marsannay? It is on the northernmost border of the northern Cotes de Nuits – just north of Gevrey-Chambertin. The Bouvier family has owned vineyards in the village of Marsannay at the northernmost border of the Cote d’Or for four generations.

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Domaine Lavigne Saumur Blanc 2010: A Crisp, White Chenin Blanc from the Center of the Loire Valley (in another wonderful vintage)

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 The Saumur Blanc presentation
from Domaine Lavigne.

Amazingly, mother nature has shown favorably upon the Loire Valley again in 2010, offering up yet another great vintage.

Wine Spectator writes “France’s Loire Valley…now looks to have rare back-to-back strong vintages in the pipeline. The 2010 harvest appears to be a potentially outstanding follow-up to the excellent 2009 vintage.”

I was in Saumur earlier this summer tasting the 2010 whites at Domaine Lavigne including this delicious Saumur Blanc. Everyone I spoke to in the Loire felt that while 2009 was a wonderful ripe vintage the 2010s had better acidity. In white wines acidity is what makes the difference and between refeshing and crisp and just Ok. It also magnifies the fruit. Acidity is a delicate thing to get just right but in 2010 that is what you get. A perfect refreshing white wine at a no-holding-back price.

Wine Spectator further specifies, “[2010] Wines should be fresher in style than the concentrated 2009s, with brighter acidity.” For Chenin Blancs specifically, they bestow a high rating of 89-92!

Now, as for the Domaine Lavigne Saumur Blanc, I am telling you this wine is charmant. It is made from the Chenin Blanc grape – like Vouvray. The wine seems to shimmer with a faint light. Crisp! It’s the acidity level more than anything else I think that makes it special. Nothing flabby squatting on my tongue. Its lithe and springy, bouncing around in my mouth with dashes of pears and grapefruits and lemons (Pascale would say peches blanches). I love it!

Domaine Lavigne is in the commune of Varrains which is between Angers and Tours in the Loire Valley. The Domaine is a family effort. Gilbert Lavigne and his daughter, Pascale, and son-in-law, Antoine Veron run the domaine. Their small production Chenin Blanc (they have only 5 hectares) is the object of a lot of family attention. It is a very special part of their family domaine. They have a palm tree right inside the walls of their domaine, which tells you something about the climate.

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Dom. Guintrandy CdRV-Visan Vieilles Vignes: 80-year-old vines (minuscule yields) in (another) spectacular vintage

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 The Domaine Guintrandy
Vieilles Vignes label
– 90 year old vines

The regular bottling off this high value Cotes du Rhone Villages Visan has been a huge success . Now I have received a very limited amount of Olivier’s very old vineyard cuvee that he bottles separately, Same care in the wine making but much lower yields, more profound flavors. Don’t miss the chance to experience what a difference old vine, lower yield production delivers in this 80 year old vine, 80% Grenache bottling.

Is it even possible that the southern Rhone has done it yet again? Wine Spectator rates the 2009 southern Rhone vintage a 93-96! “A cross between ’05 and ’07,” Wine Spectator raves, “with ripe fruit and polished tannins.”

Robert Parker agrees, bestowing a 93 on the southern Rhone vintage, and writing, “At the minimum, 2009 is an excellent vintage in the south.”

It looks like more great news from the southern Rhone. In fact, this is a drinker’s vintage: sumptuous, readily accessible fruit and soft tannins.

Of course, all wines from the same area are not created equal, even in a great vintage like 2009, and as La Revue du Vin de France wrote, “If you want to understand Visan, then Olivier Cuilleras is your man.”

The hierarchy of Rhone wines is as follows: while there are some lovely Cotes du Rhones, a Cotes du Rhones-Villages is decidedly a step above, and above that, there are nineteen communes authorized to append their respective village name on the label (as in this Cotes du Rhone Villages-Visan), which is an indication of their superiority.

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