Thomas Baur, Vins Francois Baur, Turckheim
This is why I really love Alsatian wines. They have big, explosive aromatics; they whet the appettite; and have great acidity, perfect for washing down rich, full-flavored food.
There's really no way to pick and choose from an Alsatian winery's price list. You just smile, take a deep inhale, and buy them all. When one is good, I find that they're ALL good.
David & Laurent Siozard, Vignobles Siozard, Lugaignac
David and his brother Laurent are twin brothers and the owners of two top-notch Bordeaux wineries--the Chateau Lapinesse in Pessac-Leognan and the Domaine du Claouset in Entre-Deux-Mers. They are 6th generation winemakers but a recent discovery of gallo-Roman ruins on their property sugges a far older heritage here.
Their wines have been super popular since we began offering them. They give us exactly what we need - succulent whites, rich reds, and stunning sweet wines. We love everything they make.
Vincent LaGrave, Fleur Eymerits, Lalande de Pomerol
Vincent Lagrave is a former rugbyman now farming exactly 1 hectare in Lalande de Pomerol, and in the process of renovating a building using his own homemade scaffolding--made from old pallets! This is the sort of one-man-show we're most excited about-- hands on, and high quality.
Lagrave makes two lovely Bordeaux; his other small holding is on the other side of the road--just OUTSIDE the Pomerol appellation. His wines showcase Merlot and Cabernet Franc at their succulent, lovely best.
Guylhaine Begue, Domaine Begue-Mathiot, Chablis
Maryse and Guylhaine Begue form an extraordinary mother-daughter winemaking team.
Guylhaine's father Joel entered into Chablis proprietorship in the mid-80's, having worked for a decade as a tacheron, (à la tache, meaning: by the task), a common working contract among Burgundy viticulturalists. In 1985 he managed to acquire 3 hectares and along with his wife, Maryse, grew their holdings to 12 hectares over the next 15 years--many in Premier Cru Vineyards. Following his death a few years ago, Guylhaine assumed the winemaking duties, bringing her own style to the operation.
Marie-Elodie Zighera, Clos de Mez, Fleurie & Morgon
Marie-Elodie Zighera took a step back from her business following the disaster harvest of 2016 (she made only 100 liters of wine) and almost quit. But with the encouragement of family and friends decided to soldier on, continuing her legacy as a 4th generation woman winemaker, and undeterred by one bad year. (which in reality was more like 6 out 7 difficult years in a row).
She thought to herself--"This is Burgundy. Thousands of winemakers have dealt with stretches of bad vintages yet continued on. Because the years where the magic happens...well, that's why we do what we do."
Géraldine Lochet, La Vigne de la Robe, Cotes Chalonnaise
There are more than 3400 wineries in Burgundy. The top one hundred get all the accolades, another hundred work with great quality under the radar, and the rest just go through the motions. Allow us to introduce you to #3401--the smiling, petite Géraldine Lochet.
After years as the cellar master for the well-regarded Chassagne Montrachet house of Philippe Colin, she decided to set out on her own, beginning with small grape contracts in Mercurey, Givry, St. Romain, and Montagny. Hers are the most delightful (and affordable) bottles of pedigreed white Burgundy I've had in many years.
Emmanuel Rouquette, Domaine Puits de Compostelle, Cotes de la Charité
It has been almost three years since I first connected with Emmanuel Rouquette. I was pointed his way by another vigneron in this beautiful part of France called La Charité-sur-Loire. I can be pretty confident that no one really knows about this place. So when I explained what we do at Cru they told me straight away to go see Emmanuel. There was no one better in the area.
I am now a super-fan of this part of the Loire, an area technically influenced by the river of that name that runs through it, yet feels and looks just like Burgundy. There's a lot of granite and slate here that give red wines much needed depth and complexity, and white wines a bright and fresh core.
Guy & Colette Vignoli, Domaine de Laguille, Bas Armagnac
Guy and Colette farm a beautiful 70-hectare farm in the Gers, approximately 2 hours from nowhere and are one of the finest distillers of Armagnac in the area. Their 200-year-old copper still is worth the visit on its own and the range of distillates is truly wonderful. This is how Guy has made a name for Domaine de Laguille over the years.
But then a funny thing happened. Somebody figured out tha the everyday dry wines were pretty good too. And they decided to sell them pretty darn cheaply too. What we get from Laguille at just $12/bottle is kinda sorta remarkable!
LANGUEDOC & ROUSSILLON
Emmanuelle Schoch, Mas Seren, Cevennes
Caroline Bonville, Mas Karolina, Maury
Cathy Sisquelle, Chateau de Rey, Roussillon
Valerie & Dominique Ibanez, Domaine de Roquemale, Montpellier
Wenny & Gabriel Tari, Chateau de Brau, Carcassonne
Toby & Julie Bainbridge, Angevin
Toby kicked off his agriculture career driving one of those house-sized combine harvesters all over the American west for a few years. At an Oklahoma weigh station he met his wife Julie, and not long after they hightailed it for France together to work in wineries and teach English in Burgundy. An opportunity with a Loire winery called Domaine Mosse (through an Aussie connection) planted Toby and Julie firmly in Chavagnes-les-Eaux, a whopping village of about 120 habitants not far from Angers.
Overall Toby works about 4.5 hectares of vines, mostly near Faye d'Anjou. There is Chenin Blanc for the white, and a little Cabernet Franc for playing around, but mostly he grows the little known Grolleau Noir--an ugly duckling grape variety if there ever was one. Why? Most Grolleau (or locally Groslot) lost its reputation over the years as it became the source of most the cheap and sweet bubblegum rosé that sells for 2 Euros a bottle in the discount grocery store. But a decade or so ago, a cadre of young winemakers arrived in Anjou and began rehabilitating both the vineyards and the image for Grolleau. And the results have been tremendous.
Pierre Martin, Sancerre
There are 350 independent wineries in Sancerre, 25 grower/negociants, and only 1 cooperative. Over 7000 acres are planted to vines (nearly 80% of the entire surface area) of which 3/4 are planted to Sauvignon Blanc. The appellation has been fully exploited for years by wine lovers and connoisseurs. Finding something new is virtually impossible. Getting a return email is a challenge.
About 3 years ago we called on an energetic young vigneron named Pierre Martin. And he dealt us into the game. We've never looked back. Pierre crafts mouthwatering and complex wines, and they are my ultimate Sancerre for drinking young, and will transport you to this special corner of France via the wine glass.
Jean-Pierre Guedon, Domaine Les Hautes Noelles, Muscadet
"Shall we go for oysters?" This was the question posed to me after my first visit with Jean-Pierre Guedon, almost five years ago now. I had arrived in Nantes on a cold but sunny February morning in 2016, hoping to finally complete a search for a quality, farm-oriented Muscadet producer. I still remember that visit like it was yesterday. Four hours of vineyard walk and talk, wine tasting, and a general, all-around feel-good "get to know each other" session. Since then we've imported around 600 cases of Jean-Pierre's wines.
Today I would consider Jean-Pierre a true friend. We've moved from vou voiement to tu toiement, enjoyed many meals together, and even shared a little vacation time with our families last summer. Not only that, but "JP" has been an invaluable resource for us as we have planned our consumer tours, and is a real ambassador for Brittany. He knows where to find great salt, fresh local cheese, good crêpes and cider, and of course--the BEST oysters.
Jean-Claude Chaucesse, Domaine de la Paroisse, Roanne
The Chaucesse family have been farming vines (and cattle) on this exact same property for 13 generations, since 1610. And in 1878 Jean-Claude's second great grandfather planted Gamay vines, just following the phylloxera epidemic, that actually still stand, and still yield fruit every year. They are simply awesome, and astounding.
I spent a pretty and glorious afternoon with Jean-Claude in 2015. I told him that I had visited a few other wineries in the region earlier that day and he winked at me as if to say, "you came to the right place." Four hours later I had made a new friend. We tasted some incredible wine together, learned an even more incredible story, and then we agreed to work together, with a handshake, while sitting at his kitchen table.
Mathieu Cosme, Domaine de Beaumont, Vouvray
Mathieu Cosme looks more like a retired rugby player, with his bear-like man-body belying the fact that he is making fine, aromatic, savory, dry Chenin Blanc. He's very clear that he doesn't really like sweet and cloying white wine, but that doesn't mean he doesn't enjoy a little sweet-ness. As such, his wines are actually nice and dry, yet sumptuous on the lips, like a sweet kiss, but limpid and refreshing going down. There's really nothing like them.
A winemaker many years ago told me that understanding Vouvray, and its ubiquitous grape, Chenin Blanc, goes a long way toward understanding white wine in general. The wine is ageworthy, yet lovely in its youth. It can be made dry, semi-dry, sweet, and sparkling. It is the most transparent of grapes, relying heavily on the ground upon which its grown, in this case the local tuffeau, a geologically ancient compressed chalky stone.
Antoine Van Remoortere, Menetou-Salon
Antoine's family came to the area from Belgium in the 60's to raise cows and grow cereals. They had a small vineyard to satisfy their family needs and sold the rest of their grapes to the local co-op. About eight years ago Antoine convinced his father to convert a barn into a winery and begin bottling their own wine. The winery is still a work in progress, without a tasting room or office.
This is a truly small, farmstead winery. Antoine farms just four hectares split between white and red grapes, and makes just two wines. His Sauvignon Blanc is everything I love about Loire whites--tense, limpid, sneaky complex, and oozing with character. Would it be fair to call this "baby" Sancerre? Maybe. But in many ways I like it more. There's a lot to love in this satellite appellation.