2011 Lioco, Michaud Pinot Noir
The Chalone appellation is truly one of the most unusual wine-growing areas in California. It’s located on a unique geological formation called the Gavilan benchland, where the soil is rich in both limestone and decomposed granite. It’s a very dry area, with giant temperature swings of 60 degrees in the summer, hot days and cool nights in the shadow of the Pinnacles National Monument. It’s heaven for growing Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, so it’s no surprise that the Chalone Vineyard Chard won third place in the famous Judgment of Paris tasting in 1976. This wine is not made by the now big and commercial Chalone Wine Group, but by a small farmer, Michael Michaud, from his own organic vineyard. Michael made only a tiny amount of this Pinot, and it is brought to us courtesy of Lioco, founded by Matt Licklider, formerly of North Berkeley Imports (importer of fine French and Italian wines), and Kevin O’Conner, former wine director at Spago-Beverly Hills. We think this is one of the most unusual (and tasty) California Pinots ever to cross our doorway. The label gives a thorough description of the very precise winemaking process, the complexity of flavors and aromas, and also a good idea of the wide variety of potential food pairings. (We had it with a roast chicken dish at Miller’s Guild, and it was heavenly.) Sadly, it will be the last Pinot ever from Michaud Vineyard, as the exhaustion of farming such a desolate site has led Michael Michaud to give up the fight. It will continue to develop for at least another five to seven years, although you could drink it at any time. It’s $55 and we were able get the one case of it that came to Washington state.
2013 Domaine de la Tour du Bon, Bandol Blanc
This month we return to Bandol to present a white wine from another one of the producers imported by Kermit Lynch. Domaine de la Tour du Bon rests peacefully 150 meters above sea-level atop a limestone plateau in Le Brûlat du Castellet, in the northwestern corner of the Bandol appellation in Provence. The Hocquard family has been farming this land since 1968, though this has been a full-time farm since 1925. Their wines have achieved some notice in France, due to the limestone-based minerality, and Kermit was impressed enough to add the estate recently to his portfolio. (It turns out that the winemaker’s children went to the same kindergarten as Kermit’s kids.) This white is a classic Provence white. It is 85% Clairette, 10% Vermentino (or Rolle as it is called in the south of France) and 5% Ugni Blanc. Although Clairette is usually regarded as a pretty neutral grape, the wine shows a lot of character, elegance, and finesse. It’s fresh and concentrated and ready to drink, with aromas of citrus and exotic fruits, and it’s rounded out by a mineral and floral finish. The winery suggests trying the wine with bass grilled with fennel or white meats. It’s $38.25 and in good supply, as it has just arrived in Seattle.