It seems appropriate to highlight one of our favorite French winemakers on Bastille Day. Let's talk about:

The Xavier Factor

The first time we drove to the village of Charcenne, a small hamlet in the department of the Haut-Saone in northeast France, we were supposedly headed somewhere magical, somewhere "not to be missed." After leaving Beaune, the viticultural heart of Burgundy, we drove for what seemed like hours...lots of hours. This is beautiful and scenic countryside, seemingly covered endlessly with fields of wheat, barley, and oats, and surrounded by forests. But nary a vine to be seen. Anywhere.

After 50km of this one starts to wonder "where am I going?" Was that winemaker in Nuits-St.-Georges fooling with us? Are we really going to find a winery out here somewhere? Seriously, this is as remote a part of France as one could find. Passing through villages takes about 20 seconds, there is no traffic, and in some cases you don't even see a human being.

Then, all of the sudden, the village pops up, with two signs marking its entrance. The first is billboard for the Fromagerie Milleret, a light industrial producer of supermarket cheeses, and the other is for Pepinières Guillaume, the nursery we'd been looking for.

What happened next was almost hard to believe.

[xavier guillaume] Greeted by the affable, cheery Xavier Guillaume, we were invited to see "what's going on here." This was no typical winery visit (in fact, there wasn't a winery in sight). Instead, we were in the middle of one of the most meticulously organized vine grafting and rootstock operations in the world. Turns out that the Guillaume family is an industry leader in preparing vines for vineyard planting. Chateau Margaux needs 10,000 new Cabernet plants? Call Guillaume. Angelo Gaia wants to plant 3ha of a new Sangiovese clone? Guillaume will handle that!

The Guillaume grafting operation prepares and ships nearly 30 million plants per year, all over Europe, Asia, and South America! Most of this work is done by hand, by locals (100% employment in this town), and right there in the middle of...well, we still weren't sure exactly where we were. After a few hours of learning more about vines and plants than ever before, and even trying our hand at a vine 'splice', Xavier suggested we try some wine. But we still hadn't seen any vineyards. Where was the fruit coming from?

Almost nonchalantly Xavier explains that he has a few hectares (turns out to be 15) planted on the gentle hills surrounding the village. "How can I sell new plants to wineries without showing them the nature of the fruit? There has to be something to taste!" To effect this, Xavier converted one of the nursery's outbuildings into a winery and makes a dozen different wines, mostly all from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. He pours his wines happily, in simple, non-fancy surroundings. His cellar is COLD and his wines are cheery and bright...like him.

[guillaumepn] In the days prior to visiting Xavier we had spent 3 days in Burgundy sipping arguably some of the world's finest wines--Meursault, Puligny, Gevry, Morey, Pommard--very elegant all, and quite exciting to be a part of. But honestly, standing there in Xavier's frigid cellar, a crooked smile on his face, gleefully sharing the fruits of his work, we found something really quite incredible.

We found X Factor.

Xavier is not bourgeoisie, he's not full of himself, he's not trying to do more than his land will allow. And guess what? His wines are more complex and meaningful for it. This is exactly who we're looking for--honest, happy, meaningful stuff.

The tasting that day lead to dinner, and dinner lead to more of a tasting, and that lead to digestifs. It was as complete and fulfilling (and kinda drunken) of a day in France as we've ever had, and maybe ever had since. Xavier's enthusiasm for his little corner of France was infectious and unforgettable. We can't wait to go back and see him again.

Vignobles Guillaume Chardonnay, Franche-Comté 2013, $18--I'm not dumb enough to call this a "baby" Meursault, but what the hell...It tastes just like a "baby" Meursault. Energetic, bright, youthful Chardonnay vinified in old, old barrels. A delightful white wine, with a quiet complexity. This is not sweet, buttery, oaky, lamp-oil Chardonnay. Right...it's the good kind!
Vignobles Guillaume Pinot Noir, Franche-Comté 2013, $18--Lively, fresh, Pinot with that "crunchiness" that I really love in cool climate Pinot. Also has a sort of mouth-watering quality (minerality), that can be elusive in Pinot. Totally slurpable and delicious, yet complex and complete, but a perfect summer red. Hard to believe it actually exists at this price!

Any mix 'n match 6-pack at $96
 
Please just reply with your CUSTOM request--something like this:
"4PN and 2CH" or "solid 6CH" or "3 of each"
(you get the gist. Roll your own!)
I hope you'll give these remarkable wines a try.

 
CorksCru Wine Merchants
339 NW Broadway Ave.
Portland, OR 97209
T: (503) 226-9463

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