Monday, July 1, 2013

Grown Up Chablis

“38 huh? We can’t get more people than that to drink Chablis?” my boss Randy as we discussed the outcome from the Chablis tasting the day before. Randy, a huge fan of those wines, was unable to attend, (newsletter and late writers….me included) the event and his heartbreak for both the missing it and the hearing that it wasn’t a blockbuster as far attendees, well it was all over his sweet face. I could feel his disappointment, knew he had fingers crossed that the place would have been crammed full of eager tasters and while I nodded and tried to give him the, “Yeah, I know, I know” eyes all I could muster was my ugly mug all scrunched, eyebrows digging deep into my brow, nose crinkled and head cocked as I said, “What?! What are you talking about?”

The thing was, in order to even put on that tasting of 10 Chablis I had to order a bunch of wine. It has taken years of painstaking repetition and the ever growing tiring of hearing ourselves talk but now, now we can't keep our Chablis in stock. Seems like every freaking time I turn around I am out of everything over there. From Petit Chablis to the Premier Cru stuff and seeing as I am often shocked that we are once again looking at naked Chablis racks, (as sexy as that might sound…naked racks and all, empty racks are just sad) that means people are over there, grabbing those wines off the rack, without even needing my help. They’re on it, they’ve figured it out and they keep coming back for more. “We have loads of people drinking those wines Randy, we can’t keep our racks full. People are drinking those wines more than ever before….it’s the “tasters” we can’t get to turn out for them.”

 Randy listened to my words, thought of the invoices that had arrived just days before, the ones with Chablis after Chablis listed, wines I had to reorder just so we had wines to pour and then looked at the number of those wines that sold to the smallish group that did show up Saturday afternoon and I could literally feel his sadness waning. He gave me that, “You’re right and I’m proud of you” grin the one that is so powerful for me now that it doesn’t even need words anymore and began preparing for the next event with what seemed to me a much lighter heart. I was once again reminded of the difference between wine drinkers and wine tasters, my comprehension of the former much deeper and I found myself very grateful for my merry band of wine drinkers that turned out, aren't "Oh, I only drink red" twats, get white wine and flip for the super dry wines from Chablis. Let the "tasters" drink their fluffy whites and chocolaty reds, we gots us some stony whites to drink. 

The final Saturday in June had us hosting a tasting devoted completely to the crisp, mineral-rich, zingy and astoundingly regal wines from Chablis. We were delighted to discover that there were far fewer people confused about what Chablis actually is, that it is a region in Northern France where they grow Chardonnay and not some generic term for inexpensive bulk white wine. In fact I believe there were less than five people there that needed the mini lesson and the rest; they had come specifically to taste and marvel in the complexity, texture and range of flavors that the Chardonnays from Chablis have to offer. The crowd’s comments and exuberance as expressive as the wines we were pouring. Some of the most compelling white wines we stock and our wicked smart customers are gobbling them up and sharing them with their friends, turning people on to grown up, real, true Chablis and we couldn’t be more excited about that.

Started with the wee wines……

2011 Val de Mer Petit Chablis ($18.99)

Leaning more to the delicate apple flavors this light and refreshing, un-oaked, dry white is just a blast of crispness and lively freshness. Great to just sip on but is also lovely with delicate fish and chicken dishes.

2011 Herve Azo Petit Chablis ($17.99)

The wines from Azo just continue to get better with each vintage and as much as we loved the last vintage of Petit Chablis we must say that the 2011 is remarkably good for the price point. I’ve had Premier Cru Chablis that didn’t offer as much as this wine. Nice round apple up front, loads of chalky white limestone, a hint of tropical flavors and a deliciously racy snap on the finish.

2012 Patrick Piuze Petit Chablis ($19.99)

I’ve said it before and I will say it again, I think this winemaker, Patrick Piuze, is one of the most exciting and must watch winemakers, not just in Chablis but in all of France. He’s a younger guy so luckily we have many years to spend learning from him. The youngest wine at a recent tasting it stood out for its vibrancy and bold, forward but very dry flavors. More citrus and flint with a big mouth feel and a super bright finish. One of my favorite $20 wines we have in the store.

On to the straight A.O.C stuffs….

2011 Roland Lavantureux Chablis ($22.99)

Such traditional and wonderfully balanced Chablis. Little more weight in the mouth than you find with many but the flavors are laser-sharp, citrus, stones, crushed nuts, a just the right amount of doughy notes. Nothing here not to love.

And here we moved on to the Premier Cru wines and the wines showed their pedigree from the very beginning. “Whoa, now this one….” I heard it starting here. The first two wines in this bracket were also my "teachery flight" as we had one vintage, one grape, one winemaker and the wines were worlds apart. “Next time someone tries to tell you terroir is bullshit, remember this flight" I urged them. They got it.....Cha-bliss

2011 Val de Mer 1er Cru Vaillons Chablis ($39.99)

Takes little more than a sniff to discover that you are dealing with a whole other level of quality when you are talking about Premier, or 1er Cru Chablis. More depth, texture, complexity and just more stuffing. This Vaillons is still showing a little tight but with some swirling the aromatics unfold revealing a wine of tremendous depth and flavor. Paired with some simple grilled seafood, think seared scallops, I sure as shit did, the wine shows off all its brilliance and stature.

2011 Val de Mer 1er Cru Les Forets Chablis ($41.99)

Explosive! Shockingly explosive aromas of lemon oil, pineapple, limestone and even a little grapefruit come bounding from the glass in full attack. Still typical enough for old world wine drinkers but there is enough curvy fruit and richness, slithery body here to win over a new world wine lover as well. I adore this wine and want a plate of crispy roast chicken to go with it!

2011 Roland Lavantureux 1er Cru Fourchaume Chablis ($31.99)

Not sure Lavantureux gets such round texture from such cool climate Chardonnay, I’m guessing there might be some neutral barrel usage but you can’t detect any oak on the palate, no the flavors are all un-cooked dough, the ocean, roasted lemon and some noticeable nuttiness as well. All that with this curvy weight and nice back bone of acidity. Such a lovely wine.

2011 Herve Azo 1er Cru Vau de Vey Chablis ($27.99)

Never better. This wine has never been better and might be my winner for most undervalued wine in the shop. A wine with this much complexity, mouth feel, concentration and lighting rods of minerality, should cost twice as much as it does. If you love Chablis you MUST try this wine. If you “like” Chablis you MUST try this wine, you’ll discover what it’s like to love Chablis.

One of my most thrilling moments behind a tasting table happened that day as every, single, person in attendance actually “got” Grand Cru. All too often the Grand Cru wines I pour are too young, slightly closed and frankly not ready to show their splendor, thus making my argument for Grand Cru seem more like wine merchant sales bullshit than truth which sucks because once you feel the difference…..well it makes all the freaking difference. This wine, this wine with all its regality and power, structure and demanding flavors, yeah people so got it and not once did I hear, “Yeah, okay but for the price”….not once. Still gives me a taco-eating grin, (sorry, shit-eating grin never fucking made sense to me…if you are eating shit, should you really be grinning?) to think about that….

2009 Brocard Grand Cru Bougros Chablis ($59.99)

As a retailer and specifically as the Burgundy buyer, there are few things that please me more or are more gratifying than when a wine proves, upon one sniff, that it is worth its price and when we poured this wine my heart lit up as each and every person that smelled it, even the ones that started with, “Why is this one so much more?” ended up letting out audible groans of pleasure. Love that more than I can express. The aromas range from roasted orange rind, spice, limestone, cold river stones, white flowers and even some un-ripe peachy layers. In the mouth the wine is just this side of being heavy, its palate staining for sure but the balancing acidity frames the wine perfectly. Ever been rendered speechless by a bottle of Chardonnay before? This wine is just that powerful.

Had a freaking blast and even now, days later….I want more.  


Ron Washam, HMW said...

My Sexy Samantha,
I'm rarely jealous of any wine tasting, but sitting around sipping on Chablis, well, it makes my Butteaux cheeks tremble.

I don't think I've ever met a wine person who didn't love Chablis. Yum. I want all of these, and you to help me taste them. One of my first "AHA" moments with wine, way back in the early '80's, was with a Raveneau Chablis. Imagine what California Chardonnay was like in those days, and then think about tasting a Raveneau Chablis. It blew my mind, which is my second favorite thing to be blown. Last Raveneau I had, I think, was on my 50th birthday. Right before the Rayas. Man, that was something.

You turned me on to Azo (I've been called worse), and Piuze. Killer wines for chump change. It's hot. Let's get naked and drink some really cold.

I love you!

Samantha Dugan said...

Ron My Love,
Damn, look who's all fired up over Chablis. Thought it was just me....and a big chunk of my customers I mean. I am always curious what California Chardonnay was like before the explosion of popularity, and in some cases, the over expression of richness and oak. I've read about them of course but reading can only take you so far as you know. There are wine like Mount Eden and Stony Hill that I picture when I read those old notes on California Chardonnay but I am sure I am way, way off. Bugs me that I will never know.

I love turning you on to new wines, the fact that you tasted and discovered Clos Rougeard at my teat is one of my most proud moments in fact. I ship off my little gifts and tastes of me with so much fucking glee it is sort of embarrassing. My only sadness being that I can't be there tasting and them with you, talking about them with you naked or not. That you dug the Azo, (and seriously babe, this vintage is unreal) and Piuze thrills me, nearly as much as your flirting does. I love you!

Samantha Dugan said...

Fuck me with the typos! Not changing it again so chalk it up to either dumb or over excitement because I'm talking to you.

Romes said...

Love, love, love the Chablis and mostly cause of the ones you have turned me on to! Wish like hell I lived there so I could taste more of them!

Samantha Dugan said...

When you coming out here again? I miss you. Well next time you do I will indulge both of our love for Chablis. Maybe and oyster night down the street and I bring the wine? I iz in if you iz and thanks for letting me teach you about Chablis.

Unknown said...

Really interesting post. I like the distinction between "wine tasters" and "wine buyers". I have heard that the higher end (1er cru and grande cru) Chablis see more new oak and go through ML. Is that true?

Samantha Dugan said...

Talk to any retailer, especially the ones that do tastings and they will tell you, huge difference between drinkers and tasters. Tasters come in and are dazzled by showy and flashy fruit, drink their $20 bucks worth, thank us and then leave. Drinkers are sometimes also tasters but they behave in a whole other way. They ask the same questions but they listen, they don't show up to tastings of wines they aren't really into....the buzz not being the draw, and they tend to see their entrance fee much like they would a ticket to class or museum, they're there to learn. One isn't better than the other per se, but one makes my day a bunch more fun. I have this one cat named Bill and when I am running through my wines I will hit one, feel my tinglers go up and I will say, out loud, "Ohhhhh Bill is going to love this" watching him shift from foot to foot, try and retain his funny man status while he puddles over a wine that I knew was made for him...fucking magic for me. Live for that kind of stuff. He is a drinker and people like him, (of which there are many) are the reason I show up all plucky and stuff. They make my job more fun. Tasters? They don't care who's pouring, they are there for a different kind of good time...not my crowd I have to say.

Yes is my answer to the oak ML question. Those 1er Cru and Grand Cru wines do see some oak, (some even use lots of new but those are producers I don't deal with)and o through ML but, and again I am talking about the wineries I deal with, you can't detect much if any oak flavor...only texture. Have you never had a 1er Cru Chablis Gabe? I might have to stuff a suitcase and head to Oregon for my next lesson....

Unknown said...

I am starting to put together an order for you in my mind, Sam. So far it's a grower champagne and a white Burgundy. When we're up to a six-pack, we'll talk business.

I've only tasted a bit of white Burgundy, and a bit of that was Chablis. I know I've liked it, but in my mind I think of crisp, mineral wines that go with seafood. Very curious to taste the balance between those wines and an unfiltered, oak-barrel-aged wine that's been through ML. I'm starting to get my hands on some Willamette Valley Chardonnay grapes, so my curiosity of White Burgundies is growing.

I'm jealous of your resources. I'm sure I could learn a lot from a flight of White Burgundies...and don't even get me started on my ignorance of Beaujulais and gamay...

Samantha Dugan said...

I am the first to admit that what I have access to, the places I've been and the people I get to call my friends within this magical business of ours....I have been a profoundly lucky woman. Very humbling actually. I'd love to send you wine, just wish I could share it and discuss it with you too!

Unknown said...

thats what the internet is for!

Samantha Dugan said...

No way! I thought the internet was for porn. Such a knucklehead I am.

Unknown said...


Sara Louise said...

I love Chablis! Love it, love it, love it! I've only recently fallen in love so I'm still in that butterflies in my stomach phase, but I can't help it. Chablis makes me giddy. I even find myself cheating on Rosé at lunch time with Chablis instead :)

Samantha Dugan said...

Those Roses will understand, or they would the second they washed down an oyster with Chablis!