Caveau

A personally culled collection of the best of Burgundy & Grower Champagne, delivered to your door.

Caveau Selections -  from winemaker-importer Scott Paul Wright. We're specialists in the best of Burgundy and Grower Champagne, delivered to your door. Join our mailing list, sign-up for our Burgundy and Champagne Clubs, and take advantage of our exclusive pre-arrival offers. Start drinking hand-selected wines from the top artisanal producers at direct-import prices!

On the road with Three Days of Glory

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!

 With my co-Director/Producer  David Baker  at the World Premiere in Newport Beach

With my co-Director/Producer David Baker at the World Premiere in Newport Beach

 With the Burghound himself,  Allen Meadows , at the Newport after-party

With the Burghound himself, Allen Meadows, at the Newport after-party

 With Martha at the St. Helena screening

With Martha at the St. Helena screening

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!

Lesson in Survival

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.

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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.

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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!

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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…

 

Huge thanks and massive action...

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.

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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.

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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...

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It's starting to feel like this is real...

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!

 Filming in the Violot-Guillenard cellars in Pommard

Filming in the Violot-Guillenard cellars in Pommard

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!

 Winemaker Thiébault Huber, on the monitor during our shoot in Meursault

Winemaker Thiébault Huber, on the monitor during our shoot in Meursault

2016 Burgundies - "Freshness, Energy and Grace"

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.

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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.

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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!

Looking back on an amazing 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.

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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!

  Some new goodies headed your way in the new year....

Some new goodies headed your way in the new year....

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!

  Our new HQ in Burgundy?

Our new HQ in Burgundy?

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.

  The Burghound, Allen Meadows, on the big screen at our sneak-preview in Beaune

The Burghound, Allen Meadows, on the big screen at our sneak-preview in Beaune

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!

Cheers -

Scott

 

 

Heading home, with goodies in our sacks...

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!

  Alexandrine Roy, with her 2016s coming in the spring (and baby #2 on the way!)

Alexandrine Roy, with her 2016s coming in the spring (and baby #2 on the way!)

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...

  Gilbert Felettig - a man and his amphora full of Chambolle 1er Cru...

Gilbert Felettig - a man and his amphora full of Chambolle 1er Cru...

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!

  A decidely Un-Traditional Thanksgiving at Lameloise in Chagny

A decidely Un-Traditional Thanksgiving at Lameloise in Chagny

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!

  The classic Alsatian Tarte Flambée - yes, please!

The classic Alsatian Tarte Flambée - yes, please!

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!

  Some gorgeous Grand Cru juice from this cellar heading your way in the new year - stay tuned!

Some gorgeous Grand Cru juice from this cellar heading your way in the new year - stay tuned!

Three Days of (food and wine and) Glory!

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.

  Eating well - medallion of Elk at Les Popiettes in Beaune

Eating well - medallion of Elk at Les Popiettes in Beaune

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.

  David Baker with the Burghound himself, Allen Meadows, at the Three Days of Glory  premiere

David Baker with the Burghound himself, Allen Meadows, at the Three Days of Glory premiere

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.

  Your producer-directors with Estelle & Thierry Violot-Guillemard

Your producer-directors with Estelle & Thierry Violot-Guillemard

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.

  Two local legends - Thiébault Huber and Laurent "Lolo" Breslin (la Dilettante) at the premiere

Two local legends - Thiébault Huber and Laurent "Lolo" Breslin (la Dilettante) at the premiere

  With Véronique Drouhin at the premiere...

With Véronique Drouhin at the premiere...

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.

  Succulent, decadent rabbit at the Paulée

Succulent, decadent rabbit at the Paulée

A few favorites (of the 85 amazing wines tasted at the Paulée monday!)...

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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…

  In case you're still hungry, here's a little dessert...

In case you're still hungry, here's a little dessert...

Non-stop action, up and down the Côtes...

We were blessed with the last few glorious days of an Indian Summer here as we went to visit our producers in the Mâconnais and Beaujolais. That window has now closed, it seems, as temps have plummeted from the 70s to the low 50s, and we may get the first freeze of the year tonight. Yikes!

 With Pirrie and Fabio at Chateau des Rontets in Fuissé

With Pirrie and Fabio at Chateau des Rontets in Fuissé

First stop was in Fuissé at the dramatically beautiful Chateau des Rontets for tasting and lunch with Fabio Montrasi - my favorite Italian-Burgundian! Despite losing 90% of his crop to hail in 2016, he’s in good spirits and optimistic overall. Tasting his delicious (but frightfully rare) ‘16s explains his good mood. Plus - there’s a new addition to the lineup - a killer Bourgogne Blanc that I’m excited to bring in early next year. (It’s a great story - many of the vignerons in the Mâconnais who were not hammered by the hail in ’16 offered to sell fruit to those who lost most of their crops, to help make up some of the loss. Much of this cuvée is from fruit bought from the Lafon parcels in Mâcon-Chardonnay.)

 Tasting in Beaujolais with Julien and Antoine Sunier

Tasting in Beaujolais with Julien and Antoine Sunier

It was post-card perfect in the Beaujolais when we pulled in to Antoine Sunier’s spread in Regnié. I don’t remember having too many tastings outdoors, with sunglasses on, in late October. The wines lived up to the day - both Antoine’s and his brother-mentor Julien Sunier. Tasting both of their lineups side by side is always a treat. Both of their domaines keep getting better and better. They are really leading the way in meticulous, hands-on viticulture here. It’s such a shame that some 90% of the fruit in the region is farmed conventionally (if it’s “farmed” at all), and sold to the negoce or co-ops. The Sunier wines, and their brethren, are proof that the terroir has golden potential. Sadly, so much of it remains untapped.

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We’d hardly really spent any time in Lyon before, so popped in (just 40 minutes or so from the Sunier’s) for a fun 24 hours. A gorgeous, friendly, welcoming, exciting city. I really want to get back and spend more time there as soon as possible - great food culture, great vibe, parts of which we found very Portland-esque.

 One of the pedestrian bridges into old-town Lyon

One of the pedestrian bridges into old-town Lyon

Next stop was back in Fuissé at Domaine Thibert, where winemaker Christophe Thibert had just heard the news he’d been selected as the vigneron of the year! Bravo and well-deserved indeed. He laid a bottle of his amazing 2013 Pouilly-Fuissé Les Cras on us - truly great juice. Will save that for an apéro one night soon with a nice hunk of 24-month aged Comté cheese. Yes, please!

 In the cellar with Christophe Thibert

In the cellar with Christophe Thibert

I also had the chance to attend the 12th annual Artisan Vignerons du Mâconnais tasting down in Hurigny. 27 of the best, organic and-or Biodynamic producers in southern Burgundy were on hand to share their wares. What a great tasting. I was floored by the quality on display at table after table - truly a lot of world-class juice. The producers were engaged, engaging, passionate, and welcoming - eager to share their work with you, It was a stark contrast to the Vignerons Independants tasting we went to in Dijon last week.

At the Dijon event, none of the dozens of producers on hand seemed interested in being there or explaining their domaines or wines to you. You were not greeted or welcomed to their tables - it was as if they couldn’t be bothered. The quality of the wines overall was poor to mediocre in general. Martha tasted something that showed promise, and asked the producer if they were available for the US. The producer replied “to export to the US is complicated. If somebody else was willing to do all the work, we could be interested.” Wow! Overall - it was a great display of lack of effort, and how it manifests itself in the wines. I sometimes think people don’t believe me when I say that 90% of Burgundy is not very interesting, but it is sadly true.  

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The 7-day wine-cruise we’re hosting on the Seine sails on Thursday, and before we leave I’ll be working on more finishing touches on our film. Then I’ll be off to Champagne again for a few days, this time to do the dosage trials with Sophie Cossy for the next release of our Caveau Extra-Brut. Then I’ll be back in Beaune for the Trois Glorieuses weekend, the Paulée, and the sneak-preview screening of our movie. Other than that, not much is going on  - except for finalizing arrangements with the 6-9 new producers that will be joining the Caveau family next year! I’m so excited. Can’t release any details yet, but be assured there is more delicious Burgundy from the Côte de Nuits, Côte de Beaune, the Mâconnais and Champagne headed your way than ever before. Oh baby…

 And here's Martha, who took all these great photos (except this one!) in Lyon

And here's Martha, who took all these great photos (except this one!) in Lyon

Three Days (and 2 years) of Glory

We're getting closer - final edits are almost done on our documentary, and we'll be close enough to have a sneak-preview screening here in Beaune on Nov. 19th, following the Hospices de Beaune auction earlier that day. (Everyone is pumped about the auction - great quality, big quantity - should be lots of action this year...) It's been nearly 2 years since we started the project, and it's pretty amazing to see it all start to come together.The actual US release of the finished film will be sometime in the new year. There are still lots of details to pull together - stay tuned. One of the best parts of putting this film together has been doing the research - especially when we find pics of our producers from when they were little kids - great stuff!

 A very young  Thierry Violot-Guillemard , with his grandfather in the Clos Derrière St. Jean

A very young Thierry Violot-Guillemard, with his grandfather in the Clos Derrière St. Jean

The extended Indian Summer is coming to an end now, and within the next day or two the gold & orange leaves will start falling en masse. In the meantime, it's still quite magical...

  An enjambeur on a steep slope in the Hautes-Côtes

An enjambeur on a steep slope in the Hautes-Côtes

After reading and enjoying his stuff for many years, I finally met Bill Nanson for a glass of wine at Le Bout de Monde (Marc Roy '14 Gevrey VV, to be precise) the other night. Any Burg-lover owes it to themselves to check out Bill's Burgundy-Report.com - well written, great producer profiles, tons of tasting notes, and great photos too...

I finally had the chance to get up to the haute-côte to see the St. Vivant Abbey up in Curtil-Vergy, DRC has undertaken the renovation of this historical site, and it felt like a holy pilgrimmage to be there. It was over a thousand years ago, but those monks had it goin' on...

  Re-consteruction is underway at the abbey of St. Vivant

Re-consteruction is underway at the abbey of St. Vivant

We're heading down to the Mâconnais and Beaujolais for a few days next week - pics and action to come...

  Deelish lunch at Bistrot Lucien in Gevrey-Chambertin...

Deelish lunch at Bistrot Lucien in Gevrey-Chambertin...

Burgundian Indian Summer

Yes, they do call it “Indian Summer’ over here too. “l’Été Indien” is in full swing - we’ve had 6 straight days of gloriously sunny, 70+-degree days, just as the vines are turning bright yellow and earning their name the “slope of gold” (though I actually subscribe to the theory that the name Côte d’Or actually comes from “slope of the east”, but I digress…)

  The slope of Pommard. Whoa.

The slope of Pommard. Whoa.

I’ve just started tasting the very fine 2016s at a few of our producers, and will get a serious look at all of them before heading back to Portland in December. The 2016s are really, really good - at least at the top 10% of producers - but there are hardly any wines to be had. It’s a shame that these wines are so good, but from a vintage that produced the smallest crop in modern history. Coming after the classic 2015s, many folks may be tempted to sit out the ‘16s, but I truly believe that would be a mistake. Getting hold of any of the ‘16s will be the true issue - if you can find any from your preferred domaines, snap ‘em up when you can, as they are really lovely wines. Balanced, good fruit, good energy, and they’ll be offering up their best on the earlier side - something that doesn’t happen here all that often.

  More beauty - the hill of Corton

More beauty - the hill of Corton

Aside from being one of the absolutely great vintages of the last 50 years, something else notable happened here in 2015. It was the first vintage for a trio of young winemakers who I believe will be among the next generation of superstars here. Mathias Parent at A-F Gros, Joannès Violot-Guillemard in Pommard, and Thibaud Clerget at Yvon Clerget in Volnay all took the reins for the first time in ’15, and they came out of the gate with a bang. The proof, for me, is in their 2016s, which are flat-out gorgeous. Just about everybody made good wine in 2015. To have killed it in ’16 like these young lions is a great sign. The Clerget wines have been my greatest discovery here so far this fall - a domaine that dates back 28 generations - but was just re-launched in 2015 by young M. Clerget and his stellar line-up of Volnay 1er Crus. (Yes, they’ll be part of our Caveau world in the new year - stay tuned for all the action to come…)

Burgundy's new young guns - Mathias, Thibaud and Joannès.

Burgundy news updates...

A couple of significant new developments happening here. One - the announcement that the dossier proposing 1er Cru designation for parts of the Pouilly-Fuissé appellation has been approved. It will go into effect in 2019, and depending on when the papers are actually signed, the wines from the 2018 vintage could be allowed to carry the 1er Cru designation where applicable.

In total, 22 different sites covering 182.4 hectares have been included in the upgrade to 1er Cru, of the over 800 hectares in the appellation. Among the climats included in the upgrade are Ménètrières, Vigne Blanche, and Vers Cras - pieces of which are owned by our longtime producer Domaine Thibert Père et Fils in Fuissé. I'm happy to see these great terroirs get the recognition they deserve, as is the industry at large. We've always known that not all Pouilly-Fuissé was created equal! The new 1er Crus are in all four villages of the appellation - Fuissé, Chaintré, Vergisson, and Solutré-Pouilly. Will prices increase for the new 1er Crus? I imagine they certainly will, but it will be2-3 years before the 1st 1er Crus would be released, so we'll have to sit tight for a bit...

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The other item that's buzzing here is word that Champagne Louis Roederer has bought the Burgundy Grand Cru Monopole Clos de Tart - reportedly for a staggering sum of 220 million Euros. At 7.53-hectares, that comes to 29 MILLION Euros per hectare, or a cool 11.8 MILLION Euros (or about 14 MILLION $$) per acre - which I believe would set the new record for vineyard land here. Whoa. I don't have confirmation of this yet, but if it's true it is mind-blowing indeed.

  Christophe Thibert , proud owner of some newly-designated 1er Crus in Pouilly-Fuissé

Christophe Thibert, proud owner of some newly-designated 1er Crus in Pouilly-Fuissé

In our film Three Days of Glory (coming your way in 2018!), we talk a lot about the rising prices of Burgundy vineyards and the effects of corporate money coming in - I hope and pray that this is not just the tip of a massive iceberg...

Champagne and Chablis, the barnstorm tour, Pt. 1

Fred and Céline Gueguen have a cool new guest house on their estate in Chablis -  2BR, 2BA - which we highly recommend if you’re looking for a nice place to spend a couple of nights in Chablis. We kicked off our whirlwind tour through Chablis and Champagne with a stop at the Gueguen’s on Sunday night. They took us up to the lookout spot at the top of the Grand Crus - a gorgeous view - and then to their newly expanded winery facility across the river in La Chapelle Vaupelteigne for a sneak-preview of the still-fermenting ‘17s. Then down into the cellar to test the entire line-up of the 2016s, which were gorgeous. A very classic Chablis vintage, with intense, bright minerality. We’ll have another allocation of these coming in the spring - and yes, there will be some of their amazing Rosé in the spring too. Oh yeah, there is now some Grand Cru Chablis Blanchots in the Gueguen arsenal as well - stay tuned!

Then it was up to Ville-sur-Arce in the Aube for our first Champagne stop at Jérôme & Valérie Coessens - into the vineyard, into the cellar, and then into their living room for a 4-course lunch that rocked. The Coessens wines - all from the same single vineyard, all single grape, single vintage, are always amazing to taste. I’m a huge fan of his Brut Nature, but the 2014 Coteaux Champenois, the de-stemmed version, was a revelation with lunch. We’ll likely never see any of this in the US - few in America really understand that still wines from Champagne are actually a thing - but the good ones can rival some 1er Cru Burgs. Killer stuff…

  Checking out the terroir in the l'Argillier vineyard with Jérôme Coessens. Photo - Martha Wright

Checking out the terroir in the l'Argillier vineyard with Jérôme Coessens. Photo - Martha Wright

Vincent Laval (Champagne Georges Laval), the wizard of Cumières, always blows my mind every time I taste in his cellar. The purity, precision, and depth of his wines just may be unparalleled. Wow. He hand-disgorged his last bottle of 2008 for us, which was gorgeous beyond words. Truly a treat, every minute I get to spend with him and his juice…

  Vincent Laval - the wizard of Cumières

Vincent Laval - the wizard of Cumières

The ball of energy and force of nature that is Sophie Cossy tasted us through her lineup and showed us her newly re-designed labels, which I like a lot. She joined us for lunch at Doko Koko in Reims, the new “bistro” from the chef-owner of Racine, my favorite spot in Reims proper. It’s a 29 EURO prix-fixe for entrée-plat-dessert - with two choices in each and you can’t go wrong. Absolutely delicious. And a bottle of Laherte Rosé de Meunier at 45 Euros to boot - I could eat there everyday. I’ll be back at Cossy in November to do the dosage trials for the next release of the Caveau Extra-Brut - always a hugely exciting (and learning) experience…

  Tasting the 2011 Blanc de Blancs with Sophie Cossy. Photo - Martha Wright

Tasting the 2011 Blanc de Blancs with Sophie Cossy. Photo - Martha Wright

Speaking of Laherte, Aurélien blew us away with his 12-wine lineup, not counting a few experimental cuvées down in the cellar (including an interesting “pet-nat”, and a zero-sulfur bottling), and then one of the few remaining bottles of his 2006 Vignes d’Autrefois - evolved and complex and very, very fine.

  Just a part of the tasting lineup today at Laherte Fréres. Photo - Martha Wright

Just a part of the tasting lineup today at Laherte Fréres. Photo - Martha Wright

The drive west along the Marne out to the tiny hamlet of Launay (pop. Approx. 20!) to visit La Parcelle is always beautiful - and it never ceases to amaze me how “in the middle of nowhere” it really is. Stéphanie Chevreux and Julien Bournazel have an amazing, funky, cool, earthy and biodynamic farm there, and a crooked stone house from the 1700s that they call home. Their daughter Jade may be coming to stay with us in Oregon for a bit next year - she’s the same age as Pirrie and wants to come work on her English. I’m happy to report that with the addition of a new vineyard in Connigis, La Parcelle will soon have more than their normal 900 bottles a year for sale! The new parcel will produce a whopping 300 cases or so - but it’ll be a few years yet until any of that is released. In the meantime, we’re thrilled to continue to get our allocation of 10-15 cases per year of their magical elixir.

  Jade, Pirrie, your intrepid importer, with Stéphanie & Julien on the farm at La Parcelle. Photo - Martha Wright

Jade, Pirrie, your intrepid importer, with Stéphanie & Julien on the farm at La Parcelle. Photo - Martha Wright

One of my most enticing discoveries has been the delicious work Julien Launois is doing with his fabulous Grand Cru holdings in Mesnil-sur-Oger. Fruit that used to go the co-op is now being vilified in-house since the 2015 vintage, and in 2016 he started a single-barrel program that is perhaps the coolest innovation in Champagne in recent history. The new label will be called Paul Launois - watch your emails for updates and offers to come. This is world-class juice…

  Julien Launois, pouring a just-disgorged 1998 in Mesnil-sur-Oger. Photo - Martha Wright

Julien Launois, pouring a just-disgorged 1998 in Mesnil-sur-Oger. Photo - Martha Wright

Those of you in the Champagne Club will soon be getting your first taste of the talents of Gaetan Gillet and his label Champagne MOST - he’s the incredibly dynamic entrepreneur who became Champagne’s youngest vigneron ever at age 22 a few years back. He’s just moved into the old Mumm facility in Avize, which he’s renovating himself, and has some 30 different single-parcel Grand Cru Champagnes in barrel from the 2017 vintage in his new cellar. We won’t see any of these for a long time, though - he’s committed to keeping his wines 7 years or so on the lees prior to release. He’ll be releasing his 2013s in maybe 2020 - but until then we’ll have some more of his delicious Champers from purchased fruit on the way, stay tuned…

  In the cellar in Avize with Gaetan GIllet, Champagne MOST. Photo - Martha Wright

In the cellar in Avize with Gaetan GIllet, Champagne MOST. Photo - Martha Wright

Is there a more congenial, fun, and entertaining host in Champagne than Cyril Janisson at Janisson-Baradon in Épernay? He’s just the best, and his wines are spot-on. His tasting room and shop in the center of town are the MUST stop when you’re in town…

  The one and only Cyril Janisson, at Janisson-Baradon in Épernay. Photo - Martha Wright

The one and only Cyril Janisson, at Janisson-Baradon in Épernay. Photo - Martha Wright

In all, a fabulous swing through bubble-land. I’ll be back up there in a few weeks to see everyone I missed this time, and to finish up the next Caveau releases as well. Rock on!

  The lemon tart of my dreams - at Le Jardin in Reims. Photo - Martha Wright

The lemon tart of my dreams - at Le Jardin in Reims. Photo - Martha Wright

Running through the terroir

While on morning runs with Martha from Beaune to Pommard and back (or to Volnay or Meursault, depending on how far we want go), it’s been way interesting to discover some of the subtle nuances that make these individual climats (named vineyards) so different. Terroir is made up of so many things, but as you pass closely by the same parcels every day you can start to get a feel for some of the micro-climate nuances that contribute to the differences in the resulting wines.

There’s a spot in the Beaune 1er Crus when the road turns to the east and dips a bit, just below Les Avaux, when you can suddenly feel the temperature drop a few degrees as the wind blows down from a break in the hillside above. You can see exactly where the fog settles in the valley between the two slopes of Pommard, and which parcels are generally above the fog most mornings. You can see which parcels drain well and those where the water pools. You can feel when the wind is blocked and see why that parcel is warmer and likely to ripen earlier. Fascinating stuff indeed. You can see which blocks get the most sun, and thus are the ones to more consistently fully ripen.

I thought it might be interesting to map my run the other morning. I was amazed to see that on a 12-mile run to Meursault and back I had gone through some 48 different climats -

Beaune - les Sceaux, la Creusotte, Teurons, Reversées, Clos de la Mousse, aux Cras, les Avaux, Tuvilaine, Chouachoeux, Beaux Fougets, Boucherottes

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Pommard - Boucherottes, Epenots, en Largilliere, Charmots, Clos de la Commaraine, Poutures, Croix Noires, Chaponniers, Fremiers, Jarolières

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Volnay - Fremiets, Chanlins, Pitures, Clos des Ducs, La Barre, Bousse d’Or, Carelle sous Chapelle, en l’Ormeau, Ronceret, Champans, Caillerets, Chevret, Aussy, Lurets, Santenots,

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Meursault - Clos des Santenots, Santenot de dessous, Santenot de milieu, Marcasse, Criots, Peutes Vignes, Corbins, Perchots, en la Barre, Clos de la Barre.

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Wow. A great run, and a nice study in micro-climates and terroir. Multi-tasking at its finest!

Bad to the Beaune...

We're settling into life here in Beaune - three weeks in and it's starting to feel like we're in a nice rhythm. The apartment already feels like "home", we've got a nice routine with our various running trails and the track nearby, we've got our bakery and food vendor preferences pretty much dialed in, and it all feels really good.

  Enjoying some gorgeous fall days here on the Côte.  Photo - Martha Wright

Enjoying some gorgeous fall days here on the Côte. Photo - Martha Wright

My girls have found a nice yoga studio just down the block, have checked out one of the local wine-tasting seminars, and Martha took the wonderful cooking class at the Cook's Atelier which is just around the corner. Our friends Marjorie and Kendall have built a thriving enterprise here - I'm so happy for them.

  Yes, there IS great pizza in France - at Pizzeria Bufala in Beaune...

Yes, there IS great pizza in France - at Pizzeria Bufala in Beaune...

More thoughts on vintage 2017 here. It was solidly excellent pretty much across the board in the Côte d'Or, with the quantity of the whites down a bit due to the spring frosts, but most people are reporting a "normal" sized crop - meaning what "normal" used to mean before the last decade of tiny crops. The one caveat is that in an attempt to make up for a lot of lost crop from the last several years, some producers may have yielded to temptation and let a too-heavy crop hang, resulting in a potential lack of concentration. The better producers all reported "correct" yields - 2.5-3.5 tons per acre for the Pinot, but I'm afraid there are some who went way overboard. It's a potentially superb vintage, but it seems there will be variability due to excessive yields on the part of some producers.

Chablis suffered massive losses again this year - we'll be heading up there on Sunday to see Fred & Céline Gueguen and get all the scoop. Then we'll spend all of next week in Champagne. The word there is that the Chardonnay was superb, but quantity was less than hoped for. The Pinot Noir and the Meunier suffered from some serious mildew and rot attacks late in the season, and had to be sorted severely. Aurélien Laherte reports sorting out nearly 50% of his Meunier in Chavot.

  Only in Beaune -  DRC La Tâche and Romanée-St. Vivant at the supermarket!

Only in Beaune -  DRC La Tâche and Romanée-St. Vivant at the supermarket!

What makes the better producers better? Diligence, vigilance, never being willing to just "let things go" - the best of the best are on TOP of it at all times, dedicated and focused and determined. While running through the vines from Volnay back to Beaune on Sunday morning, we ran into my old boss Robert Drouhin, head of Maison Joseph Drouhin here since 1957. Robert officially "retired" in 2003, but there he was at 8am on a Sunday morning, out inspecting his blocks of Beaune Clos des Mouches post-harvest, taking pictures and trying to figure out why one block had leaves that were turning redish-brown well before the others. The man in his 80s, and he's still ON it. Quite an inspiration - no slacking allowed!

 M y final resting place? Martha has instructions to scatter my ashes here - Musigny to the right, les Amoureuses to the left...  Photo - Martha Wright

My final resting place? Martha has instructions to scatter my ashes here - Musigny to the right, les Amoureuses to the left... Photo - Martha Wright

My co-producer-director David Baker and I are making nice progress on the final phases of our Three Days of Glory documentary - nothing is locked in yet, but it's looking like we may be having a sneak-preview screening (of a "nearly-finished" film) here on Nov. 19th - more details soon...

  OK, if we must...

OK, if we must...

Action up and down the Côte...

It’s been pretty much non-stop action since the Paulée at Huber-Verdereau. Between settling in to a new rhythm of life here in Beaune, all of my normal work activity, work on our movie, running every morning (Beaune Half-Marathon coming up in November), and some exploring in Dijon, there have not been a lot of dull moments.

  Thiébault Huber - rockin' the 6-liter at his Paulée

Thiébault Huber - rockin' the 6-liter at his Paulée

Oh, and I had Musigny for breakfast on Saturday. Doesn’t everyone? François Millet at Domaine de Vogüé in Chambolle invited me in for a quick taste of the newly fermented ‘17 Musigny just out of the press, and then a taste of the ’15 Musigny which had just been bottled in May. The ’15 is an astonishingly great wine - a 97-98-pointer in my book. Destined to be one of the great de Vogüé Moose bottlings of all time. I hope I’m around in 20 years to see it get really interesting. It was fascinating to taste two different tanks of the ’17 - one from 25 year-old vines, one from 40-50 year-olds - there was indeed a clear difference. More concentration, more subtle power from the older vines. The length is amazing, younger and older vines alike. The length is there from day one in the truly great wines. Un grand merci, François…

  Just-fermented Musigny straight from the vat. Your intrepid importer, hard at work...

Just-fermented Musigny straight from the vat. Your intrepid importer, hard at work...

I’ve been doing a lot of research to try and pull together the final pieces we need for Three Days of Glory, our documentary feature that we should be releasing in early 2018. I’ve been able to get access to the archives of the city of Beaune - they have everything, including the original city charter, on parchment, from the year 1203. Whoa. I’m hopeful we’ll have the film close enough to finished to have a pre-release screening here in Beaune over the Trois Glorieuses weekend in November…

  Wine list from the 1924 Hospices de Beaune auction banquet. They were drinking fairly well...

Wine list from the 1924 Hospices de Beaune auction banquet. They were drinking fairly well...

Spent a fun day in Dijon en famille, and then Pirrie and I went to see the Dijon v. St. Étienne soccer match. I was underwhelmed by the energy level of the crowd. Most of the European matches I’ve been too have been in loud, boisterous stadiums - but the Dijonnais crowd basically sat there silently for the entire game. Maybe I’m spoiled by the great spirit of the crowds in Portland at the Timbers games. The Timbers Army needs to come teach these Burgundians a thing or two!

  At the stadium in Dijon. Fun match, dull crowd...

At the stadium in Dijon. Fun match, dull crowd...

Season 6 of one of my favorite TV shows ever - Engrenages - started this week. I got hooked on it on Netflix back home (it’s called "Spiral" in English, and the first four seasons are available for streaming in the US. I highly recommend it if you like well-written, well-acted police/murder mystery stuff…)

  Audrey Fleurot - one of the stars of Engrenages

Audrey Fleurot - one of the stars of Engrenages

Eating and drinking well in France doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Sometimes there’s truly nothing better than a classic “Sandwiche Mixte”….

  Jambon, fromage, beurre. Paradis.

Jambon, fromage, beurre. Paradis.

And finally - you know you’re in a small town when the lead story in the newspaper is about dog poop…

  Dog-poop - is it out of control in Beaune? (Not that I've seen - this is really clean city...)

Dog-poop - is it out of control in Beaune? (Not that I've seen - this is really clean city...)

La-la-la-la-la-la-la-lair-uh...

Last night was the end of harvest Paulée at Domaine Huber-Verdereau in Volnay. A very tired but happy crew chowed down on a feast of Choucroute Garni brought down from Alsace by Thiébault's parents, a fabulous chocolate-strawberry-genoise-whipped cream gateau, free-flowing Crémant and a 6-Liter Methusalem of the domaine's 2005 Pommard.

  The '05 Village wines are starting to show beautifully. This was a stunner...

The '05 Village wines are starting to show beautifully. This was a stunner...

And then everybody broke out in song. The songs at these domaine Paulées are not the same ones you hear at the Paulée de Meursault or the Chevaliers dinners at the Chateau de Vougeot - they are decidedly quite raunchy. I'm always amazed to see the grandmothers and old aunts and uncles in the room passionately singing along, to lyrics that are patently unprintable...

  Some of the harvest crew putting on a skit at the Paulée, including Thiébault's son Matthieu at right...

Some of the harvest crew putting on a skit at the Paulée, including Thiébault's son Matthieu at right...

It's all over but the singing here, for the most part. On our run from Beaune to Pommard and back this morning I saw only one crew in the vines. Virtually all of the fruit is now in the wineries and fermentations are getting underway. The relief at finally having a proper-sized crop is apparent on every vigneron face you see. There are many who weren't sure how they were going to make it through, but with this 2017 harvest they now have a lifeline. I'm so happy for them.

  One tired and happy vigneron...

One tired and happy vigneron...

We're a week and a day into settling into daily life here in Beaune, and it's going really well. The routine of a fresh baguette and the paper every morning seems already fully ingrained, as does the apéro at the end of the afternoon. When in France...

Burgundy & Champagne Harvest update 9-14-17

Most folks on the Côte de Beaune are now done, or will be finishing up in the next 24 hours. Pretty much the same story up in the Côte de Nuits as well - they started a bit later, but most are wrapping up shortly. The weather has been unseasonably cold the last 3 days, so the grapes aren't getting any riper at this point. The cool weather has helped keep good acidity levels, and everything was already quite ripe, so things have really worked out well. Chardonnay yields are down a bit, but still way up over the last several miserly years, and the Pinot yields are excellent across the board. The tanks and barrel cellars will finally be full. Whew...

  Hasn't really changed much since the MIddle Ages (though no one dresses so nicely for pigeage these days...)

Hasn't really changed much since the MIddle Ages (though no one dresses so nicely for pigeage these days...)

After another rough year in Chablis, harvest started this week, and the grapes that they have seem to be in very good shape and have reached good maturity. Some sectors were nearly a 100% loss due the spring frost in April, while others escaped fairly unscathed. Down south, two hail events hit Fleurie very hard in the Beaujolais, for yet another year. Yikes. Most of the Crus lost a fair amount of crop this year again, which makes me very sad (and reminds me to stock up on whatever '16s and '15s I can find!)

  Loading  les caisses  in Clos du Colombier for their quick trip to the winery

Loading les caisses in Clos du Colombier for their quick trip to the winery

Champagne, being such a far-flung region with dozens of micro-climates, has some folks already finished up, and some just getting into the thick of it now. Word from Aurélien Laherte  at Laherte Frères this morning is that they've finished up, with the Chardonnay being the star of the vintage for sure (have heard that from multiple sources), and that the Pinot and the Meunier needed pretty severe sorting to cull out the rot that had developed from all of the rain events prior to harvest. Those who sorted diligently will make excellent wines, as the ripeness levels were very good. Those who throw everything into the tank may not be so successful. It'll be a good year to separate the better growers from the rest.

Between vineyard visits and getting some nice runs in every morning in the vines, I've also been getting a good amount of time in on editing our documentary film "Three Days of Glory". It's getting very exciting - we've got a composer working on all the original music for the score as we speak, and we're getting the footage tighter and tighter as go. We're at a point where I can see the end in sight, and I really love how it's going. A special sneak-preview here in Beaune is a distinct possibility for this November. More as it happens...

Tonight is the end-of-harvest Paulée dinner at Huber-Verdereau in Volnay - Pirrie worked on the harvest crew this year, so she really deserves the celebration tonight. We're all looking forward to a fun night of Bacchanalia and Burgundian drinking songs, and god knows what else. The last time I was here for Thiébault's Paulée, in 2010, everybody got naked and went down the block to moon the village baker at about 3am. Never a dull moment here - more as it happens...

  Perhaps he had a bit too much at the Paulée in 1865?

Perhaps he had a bit too much at the Paulée in 1865?

Live from Burgundy - harvest update 9-10-17

Sundays are always eerily quiet in France, but right in the thick of the harvest it's a different story all together. Action continued hot and heavy everywhere today, with a lot of our producers planning to finish up in the Côte de Beaune over the nest 2-3 days, and some folks here are already done, as we've seen the harvest Paulées beginning in Meursault, Volnay and Pommard.

  Thiébault Huber  and crew with some gorgeous fruit headed for the winery...

Thiébault Huber and crew with some gorgeous fruit headed for the winery...

Today was the first chance I had to get up to the Côte de Nuits, where in the last few days massive picking has happened. Virtually all the Grand Crus were pretty much fully picked out - La Tâche, Romanée-Conti, Musigny, Bonnes Mares looked to be all done. There was a parcel or two of Romanée-St. Vivant still hanging, and the DRC crew was picking one of their pieces of Richebourg as we cruised by this afternoon. We saw one crew in action in Clos de Bèze, but the rest of the Gevrey Grand Crus also looked to be done. Hundreds of crews were in action in every village, with most people picking their Village and Bourgogne parcels today.

 It's not every day you get to see the  DRC  crew picking  Richebourg

It's not every day you get to see the DRC crew picking Richebourg

Sophie Meunier-Confuron says they'll finish everything tomorrow or early Tuesday at the latest at J-J Confuron. Perfect picking weather today - sunny and cool - had all the crews out working long days to bring in as much as they can under ideal conditions. Tomorrow looks great as well, so we may see lots of folks bringing in the last of the '17 fruit in the next two days.

 The literal fruits of their labors...

The literal fruits of their labors...

Got in a nice 10K run this morning, from our apartment in Beaune out through the vines and into Pommard and back. Ran into Caroline Parent and her dad François overseeing the crew picking their Beaune les Boucherottes this morning - stopped for a second to kiss everyone on both cheeks and then continued the run. Then saw Thierry Violot-Guillemard gunning his 4x4 through the streets of Pommard on the way to his cuverie. Burgundy is, at the end of the day, a small town...

Daughter Pirrie is picking Pommard Clos du Colombier with the Huber-Verdereau crew today, and will surely be one tired girl when she goes to school tomorrow in Beaune with Thiébault's daughter Clara. Martha also got into the action with secateurs in hand - what a trip! Have we really only been here 4 days? The non-stop adventure continues, stay tuned...

 MIss Martha in the Clos du Colombier

MIss Martha in the Clos du Colombier