From French Vineyards to Oregon Tables
Click on a boxed region name to learn more about the wines we import
and the people behind them,
or scroll down to see all of our delicious libations!
Click on a boxed region name to learn more about the wines we import
and the people behind them,
or scroll down to see all of our delicious libations!
Domaine Bliemerose is located in the town of Rosheim in the Alsace region, just about 20 minutes southwest of Strasbourg by car. The Domaine’s name comes from the words “bliem” which is Alsatian for flower, and “rose,” of course a flower itself as well as a nod to the town. The ode to flowers in the Domaine’s name parallels the experience of the wines themselves where floral aromas tend to bloom from the glass.
Domaine Bliemerose is headed up by Carmelle Simon-Maetz, an extremely dedicated and knowledgeable vigneronne (which is the feminine version of vigneron aka vine grower/wine maker). Her Domaine’s 17 hectares (42 acres) of Riesling, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Gewürztraminer, Muscat, Pinot Blanc, and Auxerrois are farmed organically, and the work in her cellar is done with low-intervention to allow the wine to best-express itself.
Perhaps most the most rare quality is that Carmelle’s wines are also built to age…they are delicate yet structured. I was astounded to find wines available all the way back to 2003! All the wines at Domaine Bliemerose were made with the intention to age beautifully, which is not always the case with Alsatian wine.
In addition to making wines built to develop over time, Carmelle respects the fact that each vintage is different, and the winemaking techniques must be catered to the vintage. Many winemakers take great lengths to create a wine style that can be replicated year after year, but not Carmelle. She understands that in order to capitalize on the grapes’ greatest potential, one must respect the weather. In some vintages, the wines will be sweet, sometimes dry. Maybe the grape needs barrel aging, or maybe they will show best from stainless steel, or a blend! Her belief and actions show that there is no silver bullet to execute perfect winemaking, but that the winemaker should be fluid and welcome to change; this is the theme at Domaine Bliemerose. A Bliemerose by any other name, or year in this case, will still taste just as perfect!
Fleurie, Morgon, Côte de Brouilly, Brouilly
The domaine has been making natural Beaujolais since 2009, though much of their vineyards were planted more than 60 years ago! The viticulture is performed in a way to respect the environment- as any good astronaut would. From December to March the vines are pruned by hand, with no herbicides used. The pruning is done to produce low yields for greater concentration of fruit. The soil around the vines is tilled throughout the year to limit weed growth, and of course never irrigated. These techniques allow for deep root growth leading to greater complexity of flavors and expression of terroir. In the cellar, sulfites are kept low and spirits are kept high.
During my first trip to France, I found myself in a tiny wine shop in Lyon to do some “research.” My eyes scanned the bottles on the shelf until they landed on a picture of a cartoon astronaut whose tanks on his back carried not oxygen, but wine. It was a Beaujolais from the cru of Fleurie, cleverly named Cuvée Spaciale. This, I thought to myself, is a wine I must try (and that it’d be pretty cool to breathe wine). One year later I was in a cellar, sitting down with Romain Zordan, the vigneron of Château de Grand Pré to taste the entire lineup of his incredible Beaujolais.
The wines have excellent fruit flavors of strawberries, raspberries, and even blueberries in my opinion, but also a stony minerality and other unique characteristics that I have difficulty putting in to words - so you are just going to have to try them! They are unlike other Beaujolais I have tasted, and I have had A LOT of Beaujolais. Make no mistake, the wines are true expressions of the region, but they stand out from the crowd; perhaps like the label. They are a must-have for any gamay enthusiast or aspiring space cadet.
(Though we were honored to represent these amazing wines in Oregon, L’Épicurieux is no longer imported by Cascadia Wine Imports)
A wine tasting turned into a full-on wine obsession in a small commune in Régnié-Durette, in the Beaujolais region. I casually met the vigneron Sébastien Congretel in a café through a friend, Gauthier Mazet. I had not heard of, nor tasted the wines, but I would not soon forget them. We moved from the café to Sébastien’s nearby home and opened up a couple of label-less bottles from his second-ever vintage of cru Beaujolais; a Morgon and a Régnié. It was with no preconceived notions, labeling, marketing, or prices, that my mild curiosity turned to outright excitement. How had he created such exciting wine after only two vintages? How is that possible? A few more hours with Sébastien provided me the answer.
I learned that Sébastien has a strong philosophy on how to make quality wine, and he also has the discipline in his viticulture and winemaking methodologies to back up the vision. These qualities combine to create a truly spectacular product. He makes natural wines and picks no bones with the fact that this demands sweat-equity both in the vineyard and cellar. It also doesn’t hurt that Sébastien’s mentor is Julien Sunier who has exploded in the wine scene recently by turning out spectacular natural Beaujolais. The tight-knit community in the region, the worldwide adoration for the wines, and an overwhelming increase in quality has propelled the Beaujolais region and its vignerons to rockstar status, and Sébastien is the newest up-and-comer to join the band.
The name of Sébastien’s Domaine is L’Épicurieux which is derived from the Greek philosopher, Epicurus, who sought happiness through restraint and balance; a perfect title for his wines and his style. The labels are playful and witty, but the wines inside are no-joke-delicious. They have a fruity and fresh character that allows for unabashed gulping, yet also have the nuance, balance, and depth that will put a smile on any wine nerd’s lips.
My respect for Sébastien and his wines runs deep. The wines will surprise and delight, and are perfect additions to Portland’s wine scene, so I hope you fall hard for them as I did.
Just as two heads are better than one, two expert winemakers are better than one. Jean-Baptise Bonnigal and Stéphane Bodet met during their studies at the university for winemaking, Lycée Viticole de Saint-Emilion, and became friends as well as business partners. As with all great vignerons, the pair is driven not by money, but by the potential of their vineyards and the prospect of making great wine. I was able to get a sense for how important this is to them and upon tasting the wines, I concluded they are knocking it out of the park.
The Domaine was previously known as Domaine de la Prévôté and has been in Jean Baptiste’s family for three generations prior. Now with Stéphane, they have created a new brand, Bonnigal-Bodet, Vignerons, and are creating a renaissance at the Domaine as the fourth generation.
Upon taking over the Domaine, they began to identify and isolate the highest quality vineyards of Chenin Blanc and Malbec. Isolating these vineyards has resulted in a multitude of astonishing cuvées, each is farmed and vinified the same, but the unique differences between them speaks to the identity of terroir. Hard work in the vineyards and proper timing of the harvest allow them to employ a non-interventionalist methodology in their winemaking, which results in the greatest expression of the Touraine-Amboise soils and climate. This gives their Chenin Blanc exceptional character and bracing acidity, and their Malbec great depth and personality.
The soils are worked throughout the whole year, the grass in the vineyards is controlled to preserve the microbial life of the soil, and the vines are treated with only biological products. In Autumn, once the sugar and acidity have reached optimal balance, the grapes are harvested by hand to avoid damage to the fruit as well as damage to the vines. Then the grapes are sorted, only the best ones are pressed, and the alcoholic fermentation is allowed to occur naturally from the yeasts of the vineyard. All this care and attention to detail is done “in order to better transcribe the emotion of our terroirs,” as said by the vignerons, though it was said in French so it sounded even better!
(Though we were honored to represent these amazing wines in Oregon, Château du Petit Thouars is no longer imported by Cascadia Wine Imports)
A winding wooded driveway slowly leads to a secluded fairy-tale-like château in the Loire Valley, between the towns of Chinon and Saumur. Made of white limestone with prominent spires, it is a large classic château, and though it is grand indeed, inside you will find a family that is endlessly friendly, welcoming, and humble. Sébastien du Petit Thouars and his wife D’Arcy own, live in, and run the château with their two young kids. The family took it over in 1636 and it has been handed down from father to son since that time. I was invited there for lunch one day and lucky for me, they also happen to make wine.
Grapes have been grown on the property as far back as they know. A twist of fate left the vineyards neglected during World War II when the château was occupied by German soldiers. After the war, life was breathed back into the vineyards, and there are now 37 acres of Cabernet Franc and two and half acres of Chenin Blanc planted.
For many years the vineyards had been assigned to the appellation of Touraine. However, starting with the 2016 vintage, the wines of Château du Petit Thouars have finally been rightfully classified as Chinon. The Chinon appellation is famous for making red wines of Cabernet Franc and white wines of Chenin Blanc, and the reds in particular are known to be some of the best Cabernet Franc in the world. You can imagine then, that changing appellation boundaries was a hotly debated and political matter since it can have serious impact on a vigneron’s style, notoriety, and livelihood. The recent change for Château du Petit Thouars has been positive though, since the soils, grape varieties, and wine style of the Château have been in line with great classic wines of Chinon for many years. Three of the four wines I have imported are labeled with the Touraine appellation since the reclassification was not retrospective. However, I’m also brining the 2016 Chinon blanc which is the first official Chinon released from the Château. It is 100% Chenin Blanc, vinified dry with excellent acidity and character, and I am proud to bring it home to Oregon!
In the cellar and in the vineyards, you will find Michel Pinard who has been making the wine at Château du Petit Thouars for the past decade. He also made Chinon at the iconic Domaine Charles Joguet for 21 years. Michel’s office -the cellar- is roughly carved out of the earth and is the product of a long-past limestone quarry, and gives the impression you are stepping into a tunnel to another world. It feels ancient; dimly lit with rows of barrels and the ceiling and walls are covered in a blanket of dark mushrooms. Here the wine lives during its élevage (time between fermentation and bottling). Depending on the cuvée, the wine will rest in mostly neutral oak barrels for the passing of about half a year all the way up to four whole years before release, as is the case with the 2010 Cuvée Amiral. I can’t tell you how excited I am that after so many years of careful vinification these wines have been brought across the Atlantic to be shared with my fellow wine lovers of Oregon.
To fully understand the story of Château du Petit Thouars, you have to pop the cork; whether the label says Touraine or Chinon, the wines are seriously delicious and are a great value. Sébastien’s philosophy toward wine is that it should be approachable and accessible without sacrificing quality; wines should be enjoyed with food, not as trophies. The wines of Château du Petit Thouars reflect this attitude perfectly.
Pour, swirl, sniff, sip, spit, repeat. Ten times, twenty times, one hundred times by noon. I walked amongst the sea of bottle heavy tables at the Loire Valley’s biggest industry wine fair, Le Salon des Vins de Loire, looking for something to jump out at me. I was, dare I say, becoming fatigued from the tasting marathon. But then, I brought to my nose, a glass of Pinot Noir made by the Fleuriet family in Sancerre. Woken out of my wine-slumber I hurriedly made note of the wine on the table and went in search of the person who made it. It didn’t take me long to find Mathieu Fleuriet.
Mathieu and his brother, Benoît, have been working their family vineyards since 1991 with their father who is a well-known vigneron, Bernard Fleuriet. The two brothers wanted to make their mark by making their own wine, so they purchased 15 acres of old vines in the heart of Sancerre, plus another four acres in Menetou-Salon and have begun producing truly stunning wines.
Benoît and Mathieu have great concern for the environment and have high standards of quality, so they do not use herbicides and the use of pesticides is limited as much as possible. The grapes are all hand harvested which allows for better selection of healthy fruit while treating them with the utmost care (there is less oxidation with grapes that are whole and undamaged). Once the grapes arrive at the winery, they are sorted by hand and transferred to tanks using a conveyor belt in order to avoid any crushing.
The winery is like Willy Wonka's factory for wine nerds. It is outfitted mostly with temperature-controlled concrete tanks, plus some foudres (large oak tanks) and a barrel room (for ageing reds). They chose concrete because it allows for optimal development of their wines. The concrete’s thickness protects the wine from undergoing any thermic shock from external temperature variations, and the wine is able to develop complexity due to naturally occurring micro-oxygenation resulting from the concrete’s porosity.
The three wines produced by the brothers are each distinct and incredible in their own way. Les Grandes Marnes is one of the most spectacular Sancerre whites you will ever taste, the white La Magie des Caillottes beautifully expresses the three soils of Sancerre, and finally the red La Magie des Caillottes is a demanding, yet ethereal, example of Pinot Noir which will make any Willamette Valley Pinot lover begin to consider wines from the other side of the pond. This is one of the first vignerons I found and knew I wanted to work with. I am very glad to be able to start blowing people’s minds, as mine was, with these wines here in Oregon!
Casually flipping through the pages of the Modern Encyclopedia of Wine (the only encyclopedia I have opened in 20 years) my eye caught a familiar name: Domaine de Bablut. Turns out, the Domaine in the book is the same iconic Loire Valley producer that I am lucky enough to be importing!
The Daviau family began farming vineyards as early as 1546 on the slopes surrounding Brissac. On the floor of the Loire valley, the family farmed cereal grains, while on the hillsides, they grew grapes. In the 19th century, the Daviau family shifted their focus solely to the vineyards. Today, Christophe Daviau is making amazing wines from grapes still farmed on the hillsides surrounding Brissac.
In the Autumn of 1996, Domaine de Bablut committed itself to organic farming, and has remained true to that commitment more than 20 years later. All of the Domaine’s vineyards are grown organically and biodynamically. The rows are plowed, no herbicides or synthetic pesticides are used. The rows have unmowed grass strips between them and the vineyards are separated by plantings of blackthorn, viburnum, dogwood, hazel, elder, redcurrant, and rose hips, all of which naturally exist in the Loire, and present a wide flowering spectrum favorable to the life of the insects, as well as promoting the biodiversity of the land.
With such an important tie to the land, it makes sense that Christophe’s wines demand recognition for their sense of place. In fact, Christophe’s vision is to not resist nature nor to make wines that are just a product of technology, but rather to reveal the expression of the terroir. And his wines do just that.
The wines from Domaine de Bablut are some of the finest examples of Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc I have tasted. It is an honor to be able to represent such great examples of the Loire valley here in Oregon.
Near the Atlantic coast of France, in the Western part of the Loire Valley, the Muscadet region consists of meandering vineyards of short craggily vines. Melon de Bourgogne is the sole grape variety of the region and it is a powerhouse of freshness and texture. The name of the region is often confused with Muscat which can be sweet, but Muscadet is known to be bone-dry, with searing acidity and a kiss of salinity. It makes for a perfect pairing with all kinds of seafood, particularly oysters, or you can just enjoy it by itself too, no judgement!
In the US, often only the simplest and most basic Muscadet wines make their way across the pond. While those wines are delicious in their own right, I was knocked on my heels upon my first visit to the region to see the vast array of other styles available that I didn’t know existed. There are many Muscadet wines that have complexity, richness, layers of flavors, and can be aged for decades!
During that fateful eye-opening trip, I was fortunate to meet the friendly and dedicated vigneron Eric Poiron of Domaine Henri Poiron & Fils. He drew wine from the underground tanks and old barrels with the pipette and the textures and flavors that ensued were stunning. I swear I can still taste it as I write this! The domaine makes classically styled Muscadet, Gros Plant (made from Folle Blanche…so delicious!), and extended élevage Cru-level Muscadet. The Cru-level wines are aged on their lees for a minimum of 22 months, the yields are low, and the aging potential is substantial. I am very lucky to be able to work with these rare beauties, especially since they are produced in such micro-quantities (just a few hundred cases are made per year). I feel it is my duty and honor to show the good people of Oregon what the Crus of Muscadet have to offer, and what Domaine Henri Poiron & Fils as shining examples have to offer as well. I am delighted to be working with such great wines and people!
Muscadet, Coteaux d'Ancenis
Landron Chartier is a small Domaine located in the Pays Nantais of the Loire Valley. The Domaine’s organic vineyards are spread through the Muscadet Coteaux de la Loire region producing white wines from the Melon grape. The vines continue through the lesser known region of Coteaux d’Ancenis where the Gamay grapes are turned into very intriguing red and rosé wines and pinot gris is used to make a sweet and incredibly rare wine called Malvoisie. Landron Chartier makes a handful of other wines such as some compelling and playful Vin de France, Pet-Nat’s made from Folle Blanche and Gamay, and a skin-contact orange wine!
Wine runs in the family at Landron Chartier. Benoît Landron, along with his father Bernard, and Mother Françoise run the small Domaine of 32 hectares. Benoît’s famed Muscadet-making Uncle, Jo Landron lives nearby as well.
The passion for low-intervention winemaking is evident when speaking with Benoît. These family made wines offer great character and aliveness that can sometimes be lacking in Muscadet, where the majority of wine is bought by négociants and sold en masse. However, at Landron Chartier, quality of fruit and integrity in the cellar are paramount. Organic farming, hand harvesting, native fermentations, and low added sulfites maintain the purity of the wines. Due to the cool climate and northerly latitude of the Pays Nantais, all the wines have great freshness, minerality, and beautiful texture.
I have been lucky enough to visit the vineyards and cellar of Landron Chartier, and have had the opportunity to spend time talking, tasting, and drinking with Benoît. These wines come from a great family where winemaking is their lifeblood and passion. From their family to yours - santé / cheers!
Coteaux du Giennois
When I arrived to meet Mathieu Coste at his Domaine in Coteaux du Giennois, a picturesque wine region in the eastern part of the Loire, he was plowing the fields in his tractor wearing a backwards hat and no shoes. He looked like a punk-rock farmer and I was immediately reminded of the saying that a vigneron’s personality shines through in their wine…I knew I was in for an awesome day. He stopped the tractor briefly to tell me he only had a few more rows to finish up. It was a nice day and a great view, so I was content to wait on the hill, surrounded by vines that had been organically farmed since 1982. To find vines that old which have never known chemical herbicides nor pesticides is not just atypical to the region, but is a rarity throughout the entire wine-producing world.
Once Mathieu hopped off his tractor (and slipped on his shoes), he led me to his cellar for a tasting, or rather, a drinking. Though we were only newly acquainted, that did not stop Mathieu from steering our conversation to religion and politics within the first five minutes. He is a charismatic and captivating man, and as predicted, his wines have the same qualities.
We tasted out of tank, barrel, and bottle; the depth of flavors, and the balancing act of fruit and acidity, snapped me back to my first tasting of his wines months earlier at a trade show. I tasted through all of his wines again on my visit to the Domaine, and ended up spending the rest of the evening with Mathieu, but I knew after the first sip months ago that I wanted to import his wines to Oregon. However, it was a nice surprise to spend time with a man who's wines and life naturally parallel each other; unfined, unfiltered, unforgettable.
The Chinon region is well regarded as the gem of the Loire Valley for Cabernet Franc; the unique terroir of the region allows for structured and complex wines which maintain elegance and nuance.
The wines of Patrick Lambert are a perfect example of this important region. The Domaine is very small, only six and a half hectares of limestone subsoil with a diverse array of topsoils including siliceous clay, gravel, sand, and flinty clay. Cabernet Franc is the only grape grown at the Domaine and the vines range from 20 years for the Rosé, to more than 55 years for the Vieilles Vignes, all the way up to 65 and 70 years for the mind-bending Cuvée Ame d’Antan. To respect the vines, Patrick farms organically and maintains the soil by plowing between the rows or allowing natural grass to grow, keeping chemicals out of the vineyard. His vines are pruned to limit yields so that the quality of the harvest is optimized.
The care of the vines is not the only part in the winemaking process where Patrick Lambert’s methods stand out as top-notch. Each year, as summer comes to an end and the harvest descends upon the Loire Valley, the grapes are picked by hand at the Domaine and the vinification process begins. Fermentation occurs only with yeasts native to the vineyards in coated concrete tanks. Maceration and alcoholic fermentations are done with controlled temperatures and then the reds are transferred to neutral oak and chestnut barrels where they are left to age and develop in the cold limestone cave carved out of the hill.
Patrick Lambert himself is a very kind, humble, and dedicated vigneron who took over his family’s Domaine in 1990 as the fourth generation. And though the wines are classically styled and distinctly recognizable as Chinon, they also have individualism and character. I tasted the wines on my first real visit to France and they have stayed in my mind ever since. I am happy that two years later I am finally able to bring these beauties to Oregon!
Near the French Alps in the Savoie wine region, a lively party was underway. I was fortunate enough to get an invite to the party and even more lucky when, in the wee-hours of the morning, a bottle of sparkling wine emerged...a bottle of Les Blaissières from Maison Crochet...and it was spectacular. One of the guests mentioned it was made by a friend of his and that it was not imported in to the United States. He asked if I thought Americans would like it and I certainly do think so, and I am proud to say that Cascadia Wine Imports is the first to bring the wines of Maison Crochet to the United States!
Soon after the party, I was able to visit Maison Crochet located in the Lorraine region, situated midway between Champagne and Alsace, where I met the man behind the wine: Wilfried Crochet. The northerly latitude gives the wines excellent acidity and allow for the perfect maturation of unique varietals such as Auxerrois which Wilfried takes full advantage of. That is, when he’s not busy cursing the badger who loves to eat the Auxerrois off the vine. Oddly the badger must not like Pinot Noir, since he won’t touch it, but luckily I will.
Though the terroir provides an advantage in making superb sparkling wine, it is not happenstance that they are so amazing. Wilfried is a true oenologist. He graduated wine school in Bordeaux and has cultivated wine regions such as Champagne, Burgundy, Côtes du Rhône, and Bordeaux. In fact, he cut his winemaking teeth working in Champagne selling wine to Champagne houses such as Veuve Clicquot. Not to mention he also had stints of winemaking in Australia, Greece, and Russia.
After his time in Champagne, Wilfried moved back to the tiny village of Bulligny to run the family Domaine, where he has rejected the Lorraine appellation label so that he can create wines with more autonomy. Though Wilfried is a world class winemaker, Maison Crochet is a down-home family affair: his mother Sandra who is as sweet as the day is long, and his father Lionel who can only be described as a kind old cowboy, help run the Domaine and only a short time spent with them afforded me the opportunity to also meet his energetic sons, kind wife, brother in-law, and twin nieces!
I can’t tell you how excited I am to bring such stellar wines back to Oregon and at really incredible prices. Keep your eyes peeled for these wines to pair with celebrations, food, or just any old Wednesday night.
Northern Rhône Valley
Domaine de la Roche Paradis is secretly nestled in a rather amazing hillside in the Northern Rhône Valley—but you don’t have to go there (although you should) to get a view of the beautiful mountainscape called Les Dentes (the teeth) – all you need is a quick look at the labels of any of their wines.
Though the Domaine is beautiful to see, the best part about it is inside the bottles; lovingly hand-crafted by Yann Menager. Yann and his father in law, Richard, are making insanely exciting wines that exemplify the best the Northern Rhône has to offer. From Côte-Rôtie, Condrieu, and Saint-Joseph (red and white), to IGP level Syrah and Viognier; each is stunning and I am very lucky to be able to bring these wines home to Oregon!
The Domaine is small, only 12 acres plus a couple sheep. Yann’s small production (~ 12,500 bottles in 2016) allows him to focus on quality. Alcoholic and malolactic fermentation are done naturally, the vineyards are tended organically, his grapes are hand-harvested, and the wines are aged in oak barrels, typically a few vintages old. His goal is to farm in a manner similar to the “old France,” before big commercial wineries and monoculture dominated. He wants to farm not just grapes, but vegetables, goats, sheep, and chickens. It’s Yann’s passion for the land and viticulture that make these wines exceptional and they definitely stand out in one of the greatest wine growing regions in the world. I can also say based off of first-hand experience, that his wines are a wonderful paring at any dinner gathering of family and friends!
Southern Rhône Valley
Domaine Bonetto-Fabrol is nestled in a very small and unique region called Grignan-Les-Adhémar located in the northern-most part of the Southern Rhône Valley. Being so close to the Northern Rhône, means the wines there are fresher than most of the South of France by escaping the region’s heat profile especially with the healthy dose of Le Mistral winds which whip through the Domaine’s vines, keeping them vigorous and healthy. The climate is still undoubtedly Mediterranean, and it is easy to identify the garrigue and lavender that adorn the valley in the wines.
The Domaine is quite small, only 15 hectares, and produces only 4,000 cases of wine per year which allows the vigneron, Philippe Fabrol, to give great focus and care to his vineyards where he grows Syrah, Grenache, Carignan, Cinsault, Roussanne, and Viognier. Philippe practices certified organic farming and biodynamics, uses yeasts native to the vineyards, and keeps interventions low throughout the winemaking process.
Philippe keeps freshness and texture a priority in his wines. He utilizes pre-fermentation cold maceration for the reds to pull the flavors and nuance from the grapes without over-extraction. The resulting wines have complexity, freshness, and are full of life and flavor. Crisp crunchy notes make them a perfect pairing with all types of foods, though the lighter style makes them easy drinkers on their own, and the truly stunning prices allow for guiltless gulping.
Southern Rhône Valley
The wines of Domaine Fond Croze, as it is known today, date back to 1997. However, the history of viticulture in the family goes back 100 years. Today the fourth generation of vignerons work on the Fond Croze Estate to make remarkable red, white and rosé wines using organic viticulture.
Everything began for the domaine the day after World War I ended, in 1918 ...
Returning from the great battle, Charles Long decided to settle with his family in Saint Roman de Malegarde, a small picturesque village in the North Vaucluse. He chose this village north of the Ventabren hill, behind the more famous villages of Cairanne and Rasteau, to enjoy life, his family and his new passion…agriculture. He acquired his first piece of land, and to provide for his family, he decided to cultivate vines, melons, peaches, and apricot trees, as well as farm animals.
Years later, his son Raymond followed him in his dream and helped him on the farm. Little by little they were able to obtain about 25 hectares of land, with a majority of it planted with vines and olive trees. To thank this small village in the South of France for having welcomed his ambitious family, Raymond became involved in the active life of the village. He created the Winegrowers' Union of Saint Roman de Malegarde, and eventually became mayor of the village and remained mayor from 1983 to 2010.
Today, Raymond’s son Daniel Long manages the now 65 hectares of vines and is continuing the traditional viticulture techniques of the area. His brother Bruno, is the complimentary oenologist who can be found in the cellar developing Daniel’s grapes into truly excellent wine.
The wines are stylistically classic for the region, but are notable for their balance, structure, and elegance. Though the wines are traditional in style, they also flirt with individualism and have a rebellious nature. In the Southern Rhône, blending grape varieties is typical, but Domaine Fond Croze has unique single varietal wines such as Cuvée Romanaise (100% Grenache) and Les Vieux Ceps de Raymond (100% Carignan). It is intriguing to experience these grapes on their own in the land of blends and the result is deeply rewarding. Give history a taste!
Southern Rhône Valley
It was after a series of unexpected events, on a blisteringly hot day in the Southern Rhône, that I found myself standing in the quaint cool cellar (cool as in cold, though it’s pretty awesome too) of Domaine Wilfried. Happily, the wines and my conversation with the vigneron, Wilfried Pouzoulas, turned out to be as refreshing as the cellar.
While some good things happen by chance, like my being at the winery that day, some things happen with lots of time and planning. Wilfried and his sister, Réjane, have run the Domaine since 2007, but their family has been growing grapes and making wine there for five generations. Their vineyards are in the appellations of Rasteau and Cairanne and the wines from these appellations are classified as Côtes du Rhône Crus, the highest-level classification, along with the wines of Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Hermitage. Their wines from Rasteau and Cairanne are blends of classic Rhône varietals (such as Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Cinsault, and Carignan) and the grapes grown in these regions are known to provide the wines with distinctive character and superior quality.
Wilfried and Réjane have an original take on classic Southern Rhône varietals, always seeking balance of ripeness, acidity, and freshness. This does not happen easily for organic wines in such a hot region. The brother and sister duo opt to remain in the vineyards during the summer months when the rest of Europe is on holiday to keep an eye on the fruit as it matures.
Of course, a wine’s soul is grown in the vineyards, but the hand of the vigneron allows these wines to stick out from many other Côtes du Rhône of the south. Harvest occurs just as phenolic ripeness is gained and before acidity drops, then the wines are aged in concrete vats which keeps the wine quite cool even in the heat of the region. The vineyards are organic, 85% of harvest is done by hand, yeasts are indigenous, and sulfites are kept to a minimum, just enough to protect the wines. The results are lively wines with exceptional mouthfeel that do not bog you down with over-ripeness, oakiness, excess alcohol or jamminess, rather they are precise and fruity. Pairs well with good food and great friends.
Côtes du Roussillon-Villages
In the Pyrenees foothills of Southern France, a small Domaine can be found dedicated to growing grapes and making wine that represents the purest expression of the land. Clot de l’Oum began in the late 90s with Eric Monné and his wife Lèia taking over the vineyards and deciding to tend the vines organically. Their farming and the vinification prioritize a respect for nature; not because it is stylish or hip to make natural wines, but because it is a truthful way to produce wine, and their results under this philosophy are exceptional.
Clot de l’Oum’s vineyards are located at relatively high elevation; between 1,000 and 2,000 feet. This allows for a cooler growing climate, which in turn, helps maintains freshness and low alcohol in the wines. The South of France can often be known for a bigger, bolder style. However, Clot de l’Oum’s wines are unique in that they focus on minerality and acidity. The dry climate and old vines (50+ years) ensure deep roots and low yields (15-20 hectoliters/hectare). Their vineyard have plantings of Syrah, Grenache Noir, Grenache Blanc, Grenache Gris, Carignan, Carignan Gris, and Macabeo from which they produce mostly field blends. The gnarled old vines have been organically farmed for 20 years which adds to the health of the vineyards and the depth of the roots. The soils are mostly granite, giving the wines that great granitic personality that can be found only in those soils.
Though vines have been grown in the Roussillon region since at least the fifth century BC by the Greeks, the region continues to battle preconceived notions of having lesser-quality wine. If there is a silver lining in this falsehood, it is that stellar wines, such as those from Clot de l’Oum, can be found for prices that are far lower than wines of similar quality from more famous regions.
Finding such truth and beauty in wines such as Eric and Lèia’s which are natural, clean, fresh, mineral, savory, and so very berry-tart, is very unique indeed. I am extremely happy to have met the Monné family, and I am proud to represent their wines here in Oregon.
If Savoie isn’t the most beautiful wine region in France, then I don’t know what is! Located in the Alps, the wines of Savoie are lean, crisp, fresh, and much like the people who live in the region, are full of vivacity. Domaine de Chevillard is at the forefront of the region’s burgeoning notoriety for “serious” wines. For a long time Savoie has been known for wines that are too simple and are just for drinking at the ski resorts. However, there is growing recognition that when farmed properly and vinified with intention and care, the wines can be as complex and beautiful as anywhere in the world.
The wines of Domaine de Chevillard are seen as proof of region’s potential. In fact, Matthieu Goury, the vigneron of the domaine, was awarded “Discovery of the Year” by France’s most prominent wine publication La Revue de Vin de France. Make no mistake, it is not just an evolving way of thinking, but rather, it is hard work and risk taking that is changing the perception of the region. Matthieu tends his vines meticulously and organically to demonstrate the full potential of his grapes. The white wines are pressed slowly using an enormous Champagne press located in the rafters of an ancient barn (pictured below). The slow and steady pressing keeps the wines delicate and ethereal. Then the wines (both reds and whites) are aged in neutral oak barrels, and further bottle conditioned until they are ready for release.
Matthieu has a deep understanding and passion for wine and viticulture. He went to school for oenology and spent time making wine in Australia as well as with Paul Jaboulet in the Northern Rhône Valley of France. 2016 was his first official vintage of Domaine de Chevillard and in just a short amount of time, has already gained significant notoriety throughout France. I am happy and lucky to be able to offer these wines here in Oregon, where now you can taste the revolution beginning in Savoie!