I'm back in Oregon after three weeks in France. It was another fabulous visit, hosting a tour in Champagne, another in Burgundy, and a week in between to see more producers and get more work done. It would have been nearly perfect had I not managed to leave my laptop on the plane to Paris - I arrived at my apartment in Reims to discover I was computer-less. Quite a surprise, to say the least! I immediately filed a report and claim, but never had a response from the airline, so I thought it was gone for good. Somehow I managed to function for three weeks doing everything on my iPhone - sending offers, processing orders, writing blog posts - I guess it's good to know it can be done. I am very thankful that all my stuff is backed up in the cloud, otherwise I'd have been sunk, for sure.
Of the 10 customers on the tour in Burgundy, six had been on the Burgundy tour with us before, and one couple was doing the tour for the third time! With so many repeat Burgundy-campers, I altered the itinerary this year to include a number of new producers and restaurants that we hadn't visited in previous outings. One of which was the Michelin 3-star Lameloise in Chagny, Burgundy's only 3-star and a true classic.
In all, a totally wonderful week of great food and wine and good times - topped off by the return of my long-lost laptop upon boarding my return flight at Charles de Gaulle! My karma must be pretty good - I thought it was a goner. Now, feeling great to be back in Oregon for the the most beautiful summer on the planet, and geting psyched up for our pre-IPNC screening of Three Days of Glory on July 26th in McMinnville (SOLD OUT!)
Stay tuned for all the updates as they happen..
I've been tasting up and down the Côte this week, and early indications are that the 2017s are pretty wonderful across the board - both red and white, and across the apellation hierarchy as well. The Bourgogne-level wines are gorgeous, as has been the case for the past several vintages in a row - and that's something that just didn't used to happen. Global warming, better viticulture, and a move toward more reasonable yields have given new life to the entry-level wines - which were often sketchy at best in most vintages.
The frantic vineyard work to keep up with the early season continues, but most growers feel they will be able to catch their breath by the end of the coming week. A couple of windy, cooler days have taken the edge off a bit, and the vines are looking healthy and happy for now.
Some of my favorite '17s from tastings this week - wines to keep an eye out for next year: Buisson-Charles Meursault Goutte d'Or, Charmes & Puligny Cailerets, Marc Roy Gevrey-Chambertin Vieilles Vignes, Violot-Guillemard Pommard Rugiens and Volnay Fremiets, Heresztyn-Mazzini Clos St. Denis, and a yummy Moulin-à-Vent from A-F Gros. Here’s Florence Heresztyn-Mazzini in Gevrey...
Speaking of A-F Gros, their new wine-bar and tasting room in Pommard is the best new addition to Burgundy in a long time. It's a must-stop on your next visit - and where else can you get Richebourg by the glass!
A quick update on our film - Three Days of Glory: We have signed a contract for worldwide distribution, and our official release will hapen in November! Details as they happen...
Our Burgundy tour group arrives tomorrow for a week of intensive hedonism - I'm looking forward to another great one. Stay tuned for all the pics and updates. In the meantime, I'll leave you with this little teaser...
I keep wanting to turn the corner and walk into the house where we lived for three months last fall. It's wonderful and bizarre at the same time, being back. I have never seen Beaune so incredibly busy and full of energy - it seems like the entire world has descended on this magical little vilage of 25,000 souls. The vignerons are working at a frantic pace, just trying to keep up with the rapid advancement in the vines. Mercifully they have dodged any frost damage this year, and so far no haistorms have caused any damage.
The vineyards are absolutely beautiful - as in Champagne they're several weeks early this year, headed for a September 1st harvest, or thereabouts. It looks like a potentially huge crop - some major green-harvesting will clearly need to be done.
So awesome to see that our longtime friend Thiébault Huber has been elected president of the Burgundy Winegrowers Assoc. - a major post with major implications for the future of Burgundy. Bravo Tib! One can still see evidence of chemical-heavy viticulture all over, but the telltale burnt-orange color of nuked weeds continues to diminish every year. It's now up to Thiébault and the new generation to lead the way for the future...
When I’m in Champagne I sometimes feel like I’m cheating on Burgundy - and vice-versa when in Burgundy. Is it possible to love two at once? I don’t think they know each other, so I keep getting away with it every time:-)
I’ve just arrived in Burgundy, have loaded in and unpacked at the Volnay house, and now have a few days before my next tour group arrives. I’ll be checking vineyards, visiting our growers, and tasting any of the 2017s that have already finished malo.
Last night in Champagne was a blast - a fun dinner with Gaetan Gillet of Champagne MOST in Avise at les Avisés - my 2nd time there in 5 days, and always a great meal.
Then I was able to stop in and see the always delightful Elodie Marion and her mom Bernadette at Marion-Bosser in Hautvillers. Her new NV cuvées based on 2012 are excellent, and her 2008 Vintage Brut is the best I’ve tasted from her cellar yet.
Here’s Elodie and Bernadette, and now I’m off to do exciting things like laundry....
This is the first chance I’ve had to catch my breath since arriving a week ago. Our annual Insiders tour of Champagne was a massive success, and now I’ve got a week to catch up on work before my next group arrives in Burgundy.
The update from Champagne - there’s a potentially huge crop hanging in the vineyards, with bigger clusters than most producers have ever seen. Some isolated sectors have been hit by hailstorms that have wiped out the crop in limited areas, but everywhere else there’s a big load on the way.
April and May were much warmer than normal, so the vines got off to an early and vigorous start. Rainstorms, some heavy, have been arriving every few days over the recent weeks. All that together has the crop 3-4 weeks ahead of schedule, causing the vignerons to compress work that would typically spread out until the end of July but now must be finished by the end of June. The frequent rain has been sending them scrambling to spray again and again - one producer reported spraying 8 times in the last three weeks!
Every year I take the group to one of the Grand Marques, just for perspective. The caves at Ruinart are truly stunning - but it seems like Disneyland compared to the family operations we work with.
Massive thanks to Cyril Janisson for a great vineyard and winery tour and tasting for the crew yesterday. He’s one of the true characters in Champagne and incredibly generous with his time and the beautiful Janisson-Baradon wines.
In the Epernay vines with Cyril.
After days on end of gastronomic delights, it felt right to wrap up the tour with a great burger at the new Sacre Bistro in Epernay - highly recommended!
Now a few days seeing growers here before heading down to Beaune. More as it happens...
Yet again, a banner day. I have sent the group back to the hotel in a glorious food coma, with visions of Grand Cru bubbles dancing in their heads.
No words can do justice to the amazing artistry that is dinner at Racine - here are five of the 11 dishes from tonight...
Beautiful tastings today at Julien Launois and Pertois-Moriset in Mesnil-sur-Oger, a great lunch at Les Avisés, and we are exhausted and very happy.
Good night from Reims, city of Kings
What a day! It’s late here, so I’ll let the pictures do the talking.
Lunch at 3-star l’Assiette Champenoise -
Plus killer bottles of Laval Rosé and Egly-Ouriet.
Tasting with Sophie Cossy -
And an amazing bottle of La Parcelle 2012
And of course the Chocolate mousse at Au Bon Manger
Thank you and good night!
Had a nice run this morning, lunch at Le Jardin, and a killer dinner at Doko Koko - and a great tasting and seminar with Aurelien Laherte. Good first day - we are not slacking.
Oh, and nice bottles of Agrapart Complanté and Fleury Rose. Good night...
Thanks to the magic of melatonin, I’m pretty much at full strength 48 hours into it here. A quick stop at my fave burger spot in Reims - Sacre Burger - and all is right with the world. A burger is eaten with a knife and fork here - somehow it’s not quite the same satisfaction as picking it up with two hands and chomping down, but it’s still damn good.
The first of my tour group arrived yesterday, and we stopped by in Rilly-la-Montage to see Clotilde at Marc Chauvet - a superb lineup as always, with the ‘11 Initiales bottling being a major standout.
Above - Clotilde Chauvet with Doug and Patty.
The train strikes are wreaking havoc across France at the moment - everybody’s schedules are getting turned upside down. All we can do is roll with it - and of course continue eating and drinking well. At least we know the chefs and winemakers won’t be striking anytime soon!
Off now to get the rest of our crew and head to lunch at Le Jardin. More soon...
It’s a rainy morning in Reims - it rained so hard this morning that it woke me up from a dead and delirious jet- lagged sleep. I arrived at the Paris airport yesterday morning at 8am, feeling pretty good. Whatever energy I had left was drained out of me by the brutal 3+ hours in the passport-control line. Yikes! I’d never seen anything like it. There were some 4-5,000 people in line being attended to by only 4 immigration agents - and of course the air-conditioning was non-existent. It literally sucked the life right out of me.
At least my luggage was waiting on the carousel when I finally got through! I loaded supplies into the Reims apartment upon arriving, and then managed to stay up until 8pm. I was awakened by a pounding rain after a good 10 hours of sleep, so I should be in fairly good shape for my tour group arriving tomorrow. Looking forward to another great trip, taking our customers on a deep dive into the hidden worlds of Champagne. I expect we might eat and drink fairly well :-)
Stay tuned for all the updates - and watch your email for all the offers coming your way directly from the cellars here in Champagne and Burgundy.
I had about a week to recover from Boston (see below) before packing up again to hit the road, this time to launch our movie Three Days of Glory. After two years of filming and post-production, the big day was upon us. Never having made a film before I didn't really know what to expect. I was a mixture of excited and nervous - this was going to be the first time an audience of people who weren't all pre-disposed to like it would see it, and that was a little nerve-wracking, for sure.
Fortunately - the response was really positive! Every screening so far has been sold-out, both at the Newport Beach Film Festival where we World-Premiered, and at the Cameo Cinema in St. Helena. Thanks for all of your love and support!
Keep an eye on our screenings page for info and tickets to any and all upcoming showings over the spring and summer. Fingers are crossed for a theatrical release and world-wide distribution this fall - stay tuned!
The forecast called for cold temperatures, constant rain, and high winds. We knew it was gonna suck. Nothing could have prepared us for the brutal reality of the conditions for the 2018 Boston Marathon. I can still barely believe it all myself.
We were warned to layer up, wear a bunch of items that we could peel off and abandon at the start, and to wear some old shoes we were willing to throw out, so we could change into a clean & dry pair at the start. Sounded like a good plan. I got on my layers, donned a decrepit old pair of running shoes, packed up my gear-check bag, and headed out the door.
It’s about 3 blocks from my hotel to the T station where I planned to grab the metro to the loading area (they bus everyone from the Boston Commons out to the starting line in Hopkinton, 26 miles away.) I got about 10 steps outside my hotel door when a wind gust blew me up against the building and my face was pelted with icy rain. I immediately had two thoughts: 1. I should just go back to my room, this is insane, no one should try to run a marathon in this. 2. They’re probably going to call off the race - this is really insane, really. And then I had a third thought - ‘well, I'll just head up to the check-in and see what’s going on, what the hell…”
Over the course of the remaining 2.5 blocks to the T station, I managed to get completely soaked to the bone from head to toe. The driving rain had filled my shoes, my “water-proof” jacket and hat and gloves were useless. It was so cold I started shivering uncontrollably. I have a condition known as Reynaud’s syndrome, in which my fingers go painfully numb when exposed to cold, damp conditions - basically anything under 55 degrees. It was 34 when I started out. My fingers turned purple, then black, then white, and swelled up to three times their normal size. They were so numb I couldn’t feel inside my pocket for my train pass. I wasn’t even to the train yet and I was in deep shit.
The train provided a few minutes of respite from the weather, and then I emerged onto Boylston Street into winds and rain that had seemingly intensified already. I dropped my gear-check bag, filled with dry clothes to change into at the end, and boarded the bus for the start line - still not really believing the race was actually going to happen.
It took about an hour to get to the “Athlete’s Village” - the staging area for runners prior to the start. It’s on athletic fields at a local high school, and the fields were surrounded by snow, merging into a sea of mud in all directions. The rain poured, the wind howled, and I started shaking uncontrollably once again. It was so cold, I was so miserable (as was everyone else, visibly so), and still in denial that this was actually going to happen. I went to the porta-potty and could not undo my pants, my hands were so frozen. I managed to take care of business somehow, and then set about to try and change my shoes and strip off my throw-away layers. The mud and the muck and the refuse of 30,000 runners was everywhere. It was raining and blowing so hard it was raining INSIDE the tented areas. I peeled off my track pants, sat down on an abandoned trash bag in the mud, and changed shoes. We were then called to start the .7 mile march to the start line. About 100 yards into the march my “clean and dry race shoes” were completely soaked through and covered with mud. Oh well…
I tried to put in my earphones, but the pounding rain and gusts of wind blew them right out of my ears. I opted to stick them inside my shirt, figuring I would try again further down the road if the weather let up. We finally made it up to the start line, the gun went off, and I suddenly realized we were actually going to do this. And we were off. Only one problem - my fingers were so numb I could not start my running watch, so I would have no idea of what pace I was running the entire day. No matter, it quickly became apparent that this was going to be a race of survival, not speed. No watch, no earphones - I just smiled and decided I had no choice but to roll with it.
Fortunately the early miles of Boston are mostly downhill, so it was relatively easy to settle into something resembling a normal running rhythm despite the weather. As we started, I realized that my shoes, socks and feet were so soaked through and cold that my feet had gone numb. I couldn’t really feel my feet until about mile 3 or so. My hands were just absolutely gone. My gloves seemed to make it worse, so I abandoned them early on and just pulled my hands into the sleeves of my running jacket to try and keep them from further exposure.
I was immediately struck by the amazing crowds of people who came out to cheer on the runners. There were 30,000 runners, and must’ve been over a 100,000 supporters out there lining the course every inch of the way, and screaming support and encouragement like nothing I’ve ever witnessed. It is truly amazing - old people, kids, everybody everywhere - I found myself smiling almost non-stop, it was so inspirational. I later learned from locals and Boston veterans that the crowd this year was perhaps even larger than usual - they really came out to support us on this savagely difficult day.
The rain was absolutely relentless. At times it would kick up several notches and rain so hard and the winds would blow us sideways - it was almost comical. I screamed out loud “you’ve got to be kidding” on a number of occasions. It was as if nature was saying “you think this is bad - try this!”
At about mile 12 or so, I decided to try again to put in my earphones. On long runs I usually listen to podcasts - I find that having something to focus on besides the run helps me lock-in to cruise-control mode, and I knew the daunting Newton Hills were looming a few miles ahead. I stopped at the water station and reached into my shirt for my Bose wireless earphones, only to find that they were gone. Merde! Must’ve fallen out somewhere along the course. Oh well. Keep on pounding, as my coach always reminds me.
Somehow, the conditions were so biblically bad that I was able to ignore them for long stretches at a time and just get into a good rhythm, inspired by the amazing support from the crowds. It turns out the hills - there’s a series of four of them from mile 16-21 - are not as bad as I had led myself to believe. The last one, Heartbreak Hill, is not so steep but it is agonizingly long. And of course the wind gusted up to a 40mph headwind about halfway up. I shouted out loud at Mother Nature yet again, and really had to laugh. It was so off-the-charts brutal that it started getting funny.
After the hills, it was just survival mode. That finisher’s medal at the end was the lure that pulled me on. That and the crowds. Boston - you people rock! When I turned left onto Boylston to head the last half-mile to the finish, I felt like I was winning the Olympics. The crowd was so loud - deafening - it was deeply moving and inspirational and a feeling and a sound I will never forget as long as I live. As neared the finish line I raised both hands in exultation, pumped my fist and screamed out a “Fuck Yes!” in honor of Shalane Flanagan (her husband Steve is my running coach), and hobbled my way through the water and food and medal and blanket stations.
On the way to pick up my gear-check bag, I saw a line about 3 blocks long for the Changing Tents, so opted to just stay in my soaked togs and hop on the train back to the hotel. it was on the train I leaned that Desiree Linden had won the women’s race, and that the top US male marathoner, Galen Rupp, had dropped out mid-race due to hypothermia. I later learned that the medical tents had treated over a thousand runners for severe hypothermia - I’m sure I made it through by the skin of my teeth. I was shaking and spasming by the time I got back to my hotel room. It must’ve been quite a sight, me trying to wriggle out of my soaked and destroyed garments. I’m glad there’s no video of that. The good news - I found my earphones - they had crawled down my back and were trapped in my wet shirt!
I took a hot shower, put on warm dry layers, and collapsed. I had worked for years trying to qualify for Boston, finally made it, and of course it had to be THIS year, the most bizarre ever! It was my worst marathon in years, time-wise, but that seemed beside the point yesterday. The wining times by the elite runners yesterday were the slowest in over 40 years. I survived Boston 2018, and I have learned this - I can do anything I put my mind to, and if 30,000 people can put themselves through a test like this, the human race is truly capable of amazing feats. We are Boston Strong!
Now, onto some Burgers, Beer and Donuts…
The first few months of the year are typically the slower, quieter times in the wine business. Here in the Caveau world it has been somehow non-stop action - it seems like my head is spinning on a daily basis! We've just had our best 1st quarter ever, and I am hugely appreciative and thankful for all of your support, passion, loyalty and enthusiasm. I know you can buy your wines from a million different places. That you choose to do so from us makes me very grateful, and makes me want to work even harder to deliver. It was great to see everyone at our spring tastings last weekend! Enjoy the juice. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Our film project, Three Days of Glory, is picking up steam as we head into our official World Premiere at the Newport Beach Film Festival on April 29th, and we've just added a bunch of screenings - Napa Valley, McMinnville, IPNC, Vancouver, Nice, Vero Beach - the list is regularly updated here - if we're going to be near you, grab your tickets and come see us! We should be in theatrical distribution this fall, so stay tuned for all the updates.
The new issue of Allen Meadows' Burghound is out - this one covering the 2016 reds from producers in the Côte de Beaune. Gorgeous wines that are in such short supply that many of out favorites barely exist. Yikes! Proud to see great write-ups and scored for the Caveau crew - including A-F Gros, Michel Mallard, Buisson-Charles and Violot-Guillemard. Watch your emails for upcoming offers over the spring and summer - we'll have tiny allocations to offer, so keep your finger on the trigger...
When I set out to make a movie about Burgundy back in 2016, it was motivated strictly by my desire to tell the story. It was totally a labor of love. Somehow I was able to convince filmmaker David Baker to join in as co-Producer/co-Director, and several of our customers to support our efforts through a small crowd-funding effort.
I knew absolutely nothing about making a movie. I just knew there was a story to be told that I hadn't seen in any of the Burgundy films that came before, and I wanted people to hear the story and see the real Burgundy that few outsiders ever do. Now, some two years down the line, we've got a finished film that is going to world-premiere at the prestigious Newport Beach Film Festival in April, and we just got our first major national press coverage. This is starting to feel very real!
We were honored to be included and receive a beautiful review in yesterday's Wall Street Journal - wine writer Lettie Teague wrote a nice piece about the interesting crop of wine documentaries of the last 2-3 years. The full article is available only to WSJ subscribers - but I can share my favorite part here:
"A much better and, yes, more passionate new Burgundy documentary, “Three Days of Glory,” will be released in April. The title is a reference to the three post-harvest days of celebration, and the film features such famous Burgundy names as Dominique Lafon, Veronique Drouhin and Aubert de Villane, as well as some more under-the-radar vignerons who are the true heart of the film.
Co-directed and narrated by Burgundy importer Scott Wright of Oregon-based Caveau Selections, the footage is often gloomy and rainy, and the music is suitably moody. Mr. Wright and his co-director David Baker tell the story of the disastrous 2016 vintage in Burgundy, one so severely reduced that some producers lost 90% of their harvest.
“They’re sitting on some of the most valuable vineyard land on the planet, but none of them are getting what you would call wealthy,” says Mr. Wright. The threat of buyers from outside the region snapping up land looms large. American writer and Burgundy expert Allen Meadows observes, “We very well may see a lot more corporate money coming in because the small landowner can’t afford to buy vineyards.”
While the vignernons describe real hardships, they remain hopeful and proud. Fabio Montrasi, an Italian architect turned winemaker, says of making wine in Burgundy, “It’s one of the most special places in the world, and sometimes miracles happen.” Vignernon Thiebault Huber hopes for “a beautiful baby” after the hardship of 2016, and as the film ends, a title card notes: “The 2017 harvest for most of Burgundy was the best crop in nearly a decade.” Yet the next card reveals: “There have also been three more sales of major grand cru vineyards to multinational buyers.” As the credits roll, the music is a triumphant song from the great chanteuse Régine: “Je survivirai” (“I Will Survive”). And that seems not only possible but perhaps even inevitable.
The best of these films reveal that wine can be a lot more than a bottle on a table in the hands of great winemaker—or a great filmmaker."
Wow - this is really happening! Stay tuned for screening information and all the upcoming news on the movie. Here we go!
Perhaps the most amazing thing about the seven year run of difficult vintages in Burgundy from 2010-2016 (hail, frost, mildew, short crops, and assorted combinations thereof) - is that the quality of the wines produced in each of these years has been generally outstanding. Despite the unprecedented adversity mother nature has thrown at the vignerons, the Burgundians have risen to the occasion time and time again. 2016 was the toughest road of all, with 50-90% crop loss due to a killer spring frost and off-the-charts mildew - and yet the resulting wines are not only good, they’re quite great!
So how, why? While there’s no definitive answer to a very complex issue, we have some ideas. First, that which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, as the saying goes. The Burgundians have out of necessity had to learn to deal with extreme conditions. It has become apparent that “what has always worked before” is no longer applicable, and the new generation of winegrowers has been willing and able to look at everything anew, thereby adapting and changing according to the conditions thrown at them. 20 years ago, few if any changed their vinification protocols to suit the given vintage - now I’d wager that most of them do.
Worldwide demand for Burgundy has done nothing but explode during the same time period, a market force that can only cause prices to continue to rise. While none of us want our favorite wines to get more expensive, there is a major benefit to higher prices. Now that they can charge a decent bottle price for the Bourgogne and Village wines, they’re able to keep their yields down in these appellations, which were historically hugely over-cropped in many cases. Thus the quality at these lower levels has vastly improved. As we’ll see below, the frost-ravaged Bourgogne vineyards performed exceptionally well in 2016, thanks to the small crop that was there to begin with.
The first wave of reviews for the 2016s is now out, most importantly the new report from Burghound - Allen Meadows, whose notes and scores carry the most weight in the Burgundy world. Here are some highlights from his vintage overview -
“From a wine quality perspective, one of the most important things about the 2016 vintage to appreciate is that very good to excellent wines were made up and down the appellation hierarchy. There were of course many excellent to even great wines made among the grands crus and best premiers crus but there were just as many fine villages and regional examples made as well and particularly so in the latter. Why? Because the frost damage was often the most severe (though certainly not always) in these lower lying vineyards. As such, the too often excessively high yields, which impairs wine quality for regional wines, largely didn’t occur.”
Allen’s key words for the ’16 Côte de Nuits reds - “Freshness, Energy and Grace”
But what you really want to know is, should you buy them, and how deep should you go, right? Here’s Meadows again -
“The best wines are wonderfully refreshing, transparent and graceful with moderately firm tannic spines where the all-important element of balance is supplemented by good but not high acidities. They are balanced wines built for medium to sometimes longer-term aging yet they should also be reasonably approachable young if youthful fruit is your preference. Before I offer more detail, the short answer is yes on both accounts that the 2016s deserve a place in your cellars and there is no reason not to go heavy – I for one will be buying all that I can afford and find. More specifically, there are two aspects that I absolutely love about the 2016s which are those of the crystalline transparency to the underlying terroirs coupled with their refreshing drinkability. One just feels like drinking the 2016s, in fact it’s hard not to like them.”
I spent three months tasting the 2016s throughout Burgundy, and I fully concur with Allen. These wines are really delicious, and great examples of what Burgundy lovers really love about Burgundy. The key, of course, will be getting hold of the wines you want. The quantities are severely diminished, and many of your favorite wines were not even made in ’16 - yields were so drastically small that many single-vineyard 1er Cru or Village wines were blended together.
We’ll be offering all of the ‘16s from our producers (including a few new members of the family) on pre-arrival offers over the coming weeks and months. Please keep your eyes on your email and respond as quickly as you can when you see something you want (from us or wherever else you may buy your wines). Not on our mailing list yet? Sign up here!
Thanks for all of your continued support - it’s going to be an exciting year!
As 2017 comes to a close, I’m overwhelmed by the wonderful support you’ve shown us again this year. We do what we do because we love it, and couldn’t imagine doing anything else, and we are so grateful for your business and friendship. Many of you have been sourcing your wines from us for some 18 years now - that’s incredible. In everything we do, we visualize you enjoying the wines with friends and family and good food - at the end of the day that’s what it’s all about, to our way of thinking. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Wow - what an amazing year, on so many levels. The biggest action of all was our three-month stay in France this fall (scroll down for all the pics and posts from our stay.) That made it a total of 17 weeks over there for me this year. I’m pretty much “at home” and comfortable there as I am here in Portland, and the lifestyle is not really very much different. I don't go to the local boulangérie for a fresh baguette here in the morning after my run every day, though I certainly could -I’m just not in the habit here. When in France…
One of the main goals of the extended stay was to spend more time in the cellars tasting, hoping to find more hidden gems and rising star producers to bring back to you. I am happy to say it was very fruitful on that front - I am blown away to have found nine new producers to add to the Caveau family over the coming year (six in Burgundy and three in Champagne) - many of which have never been available in the US previously. Some of which have never been available outside of Burgundy or Champagne. One never knows what you’ll find when out tasting - there is an awful lot of mediocre or disappointing wine being made in both regions. Maybe only 10% is worth our consideration - possibly even less than that in Champagne - but if you keep looking it is ultimately worth it. I know what I’m looking for, and I get very excited when I find people and wines that I love - my first thought is that I can’t wait to share them with you. 2018 is going to be a dynamic and delicious ride!
I can’t reveal any of the specifics quite yet, but I am thrilled to say that Caveau is back in the Burgundy business - as in producing wines over there under our own label! You may recall that back in 2008 and 2009 we made a little Chambolle-Musigny and Meursault, but haven’t had the opportunity to continue any winemaking over there due to the small crops from 2010-2016. 2017 finally brought Burgundy a normal-size crop, and we’re back in business! For now, suffice it to say that there will be some 2017 Caveau Grand Cru Burgundy and more coming your way in about 16 months. Stay tuned!
The other major action of the year involved our documentary feature film “Three Days of Glory”. Co-producer/director David Baker and I have been working on post-production since finishing filming in November ’16, and we got it into nearly-final form in time to have a sneak-preview screening in Beaune last month for all of the featured winemakers and local press. Aubert de Villaine of DRC, Dominique Lafon, Véronique Drouhin, Allen Meadows, Thiebault Hubert, Patrick Essa, Thierry Violot-Guillemard, and Caroline Parent are all in the film, and I’m so proud and happy with how it has all come together. We have just been informed that the film has been chosen to World Premiere at the prestigious Newport Beach Film Festival in California in April - we are so honored and excited! We’re working now on setting up a tour of private screenings in Portland and key markets around the country, so watch your email for all the info as it comes together.
I’m looking forward to a great 2018 full of great wine and food and travel. Our annual Insider’s Tour of Burgundy is already full for next June (all customers who’ve been on the tour before, some of them twice! Seems they like it! ) - but we still have a couple slots open for our exclusive Champagne Tour on June 13-17. Let me know if you’re interested and I’ll shoot you all the details…
Wishing you a wonderful holiday season, a very Merry Christmas, and a healthy and prosperous 2018!
It does not seem possible that our three months in France are at an end - it has really flown by! It has certainly lived up to, and in fact exceeded my expectations. From a business standpoint it has been very productive. My intention was that by being here for an extended period we’d be able to ferret out some exciting new producers and wines to bring into the family, and on that front I’m happy to report a smashing success. All will be revealed in the coming weeks and months, but for now I can tell you that in 2018 we’ll be introducing a total of nine new producers into the Caveau world! Each one is a small, family operation, focused on quality and integrity. People we’re excited to know and wines that we’re thrilled to drink and can’t wait to share with you. 2018 is going to be a banner year indeed!
Since my last report we were able to stop in and taste the awesome 2016s with Alexandrine Roy in Gevrey-Chambertin and Gilbert Felettig in Chambolle-Musigny. They, like nearly everyone else, were both hit badly by the killer April frost in ’16, and lost more than half of their production. What remained was superb, thankfully. Look for an offer on the Marc Roy ‘16s early in the new year - our allocations have just been set, and there will not be enough to satisfy demand, that’s for sure. Watch your email...
This was the first time we’ve ever spent Thanksgiving outside the US. The French have all heard of our uniquely American holiday, but the image they have of it comes from Hollywood movies and all the US TV shows that are huge over here. Having only a small kitchen in our Beaune apartment, and no easy access to a Turkey, we opted for a splurge on a holiday lunch at Lameloise, Burgundy’s only Michelin 3-star temple of gastronomy. It was truly an awesome meal, and the service and elegant setting felt very regal, but in a relaxed, country-side way - not stuffy or pretentious at all. Major yum!
In all our visits to France over the years we’d never made it to Alsace. On the advice of Thiebault Huber, a native Alsatian, we drove over to Colmar for a couple days to visit the famous Christmas Markets and check out the unique Germanic-French part of France. In a word, loved it! Charming, beautiful, and great eats. And of course more boulangeries and patisseries per capita than seems humanly possible. Not that I’m complaining!
Now we’ve just got a few days to squeeze in some good-bye dinners with friends, and then we’ll be back in Portland for the next 5-6 months. I can’t wait to see you at our Champagne event on Dec. 17th! Many stories, pictures and great wines are in all of our futures!
Another edition of “Les Trois Glorieuses” is in the books - truly the greatest wine celebration on earth, and always an incredibly fun and festive time here in Burgundy. The magical town of Beaune (Pop. 25,000) explodes to life with a massive influx of visitors from all over the world, and I’m sure the population here more than quadruples for a week or so.
We kicked off the weekend with a run - the Semi-Marathon de la Vente des Vins on Saturday afternoon. This was my 5th or 6th time, and Martha's first. It’s a beautiful course, but not one to run for a personal best - too many steep hills! (You don’t realize how steep the slopes of Pommard are until you try running up them, 9 miles into a 13-mile course!)
Sunday brought the 157th annual Hospices de Beaune Auction, where 787 barrels of the beautiful 2017 vintage were sold for a record take of over 13 Million Euros! The whites were up sharply with more than a 25% increase from last year, with the reds up less dramatically at 5-6% over 2016. The feeling here is that this bodes well, showing that demand is still on the upswing. Supply will be the problem over the next 12 months or so, as the delicious but rare 2016s are now hitting the market - or shall we say dribbling. No one has much of anything to sell - it will be very lean times for the producers until the 2017s are released in 2019. Our producers are looking at 5-10% price increases for the ‘16s, which will not even begin to cover their massive losses from the year, not to mention the losses from ’10, ’11, ’12, ’13, ’14 & ’15. It’s ironic that just as Burgundy is reaching its peak in popularity, there’s very little available for sale. That’s one of the themes we explore in our movie.
It was exactly one year ago we (Co-Producer Co-Director David Baker and I) finished filming our documentary feature “Three Days of Glory”, and have spent the last year taking some 50 hours of film and making it into a 75-minute movie that we hoped would, for the first time ever, capture the true heart and spirit of Burgundy. I think we’ve achieved what we set out to do - to let the world see the Burgundy that few outsiders ever get the chance to.
All of the winemakers and Burgundian personalities that are featured in the film were invited to a special sneak-preview screening last Sunday night in Beaune, and I admit that my stomach was in knots as the film rolled for the first time anywhere. Here was this American guy, showing the top Burgundians a film, telling them what Burgundy is all about! What was I thinking?! Fortunately, it seems that they think we got it right. One guest told us it “made her fall in love with Burgundy all over again” - and she’s lived here all her life! Another said they were “deeply moved, and thought we had really captured the truth”. An official release will happen sometime in early 2018 - so please watch this space and your email for all the info on upcoming screenings, events, etc.
If you’ve been reading this blog over the years, you’ll know that ever since my first experience in 2003 that the Paulée is my absolute favorite day of the year, every year. Birthday, Christmas, Anniversary - all rolled into one. Martha joined in for her first time ever this year. She has now declared that she is a "Musigny Girl" - this is going to get expensive :-) This year we were treated to an amazing 9-course feast from superstar chefs César Troisgros and Philippe Augé, and some 200+ bottles of outstanding mature Burgs that were brought by all of the guests to share. Massive thanks to my old boss and friend Véronique Drouhin and her husband Michel for organizing and hosting this world-class event.
A few favorites (of the 85 amazing wines tasted at the Paulée monday!)...
Martha & Pirrie and I are really looking forward to seeing you at our annual Holiday Champagne Tasting & Sale in Portland on Dec. 17th! It’s hard to believe we’ve been here almost 3 months. I’m not sure I’ve wrapped my head around the fact that we’re heading back home in just a couple of weeks - I know I’ll be excited to be back, and also a little sad to be leaving our little apartment in Beaune behind. Something tells me we’ll be back…
Kicking off the cruise in a magical night in Paris...
So much to catch up on since my last post! We were gone for a week, hosting our first-ever wine cruise on the Seine from Paris to Normandy and back, and it was a blast. It’s amazing how quickly one can become habituated to having first-class service around the clock! Kudos to the crew of the luxurious AmaLyra and all at AmaWaterways for a fabulous job, and for making everything run so smoothly.
I was deeply moved during our visit to Omaha Beach and the other Normandy D-Day invasion sites - I highly recommend a visit there at least once. So much of who we are as a people and a nation was enabled by the ten of thousands of young men who gave their lives there in June of 1944.
I really enjoyed teaching the Champagne and Burgundy seminars during the cruise - amazing that we could squeeze those in among the 6 meals a day that are served on the ship! We had the chef’s table exclusively for our Caveau group on the last night of the cruise, and enjoyed a great lineup of wines from our portfolio with a really fine meal.
Then it was off to Champagne again for a few days. First up was a day working with Julien Launois at Champagne Paul Launois in Mesnil-sur-Oger, doing the dosage trials for the upcoming release of his 2015, and selecting a single-barrel from 2017 for our next Caveau Single Barrel project. More details to come, but suffice it to say that we’ve got another exciting project ahead of us to work on together!
Next it was another day of dosage trials, this time with Sophie Cossy, as I tried to zero in for the perfect sweet-spot for the next release of our Caveau Extra-Brut. Sometimes it’s very obvious, and sometimes it makes you work for it. This time was one of those - the same base wine with 0.8, 1.6, 2.4, 3, and 4 grams per liter of added sugar were amazingly different - as always - but picking the winner was really an exercise in splitting hairs. I finally arrived at the version with 1.6 grams per liter, which I felt showed both the minerality, the lemon-lime fruit, and the notes of bread dough to their best advantage. Fascinating stuff - and a great reminder that Champagne is an incredibly complex beverage!
Now back in Beaune, and getting ready for the biggest and best weekend of the year - Les Trois Glorieuses! Making it especially festive this year is the sneak-preview screening of our film “Three Days of Glory” that we’re doing Sunday night here at the Atelier du Cinéma, with all the featured star winemakers who are in the film attending, and getting a first chance to see themselves up on the big screen. I’m incredibly excited, nervous and proud all at once.
With nearly 800 barrels up for auction at the Hospices de Beaune on Sunday, this will be one of the 4 biggest auctions in history. With the quality of the ‘17s being so solidly excellent, I expect we’ll see prices rise yet again, with possibly a record take for the Hospices this year. I’ll report in afterwards with all the details…