What a day. We hit the ground at Charles de Gaulle at 7 a.m. local time, grabbed a car and started on the road to
Burgundy. (Thank heavens for GPS. Transatlantic flight brain does not navigate well.) The gray gloomy skies followed us all the way to Nuits-Saint-Georges where we’re staying, the earlier rains adding a glossy sheen to the vineyards in full leaf.
We later found out that today’s rain was the first in some time – early summer has been surprisingly dry. At our first visit, Philippe Livera of Gevery-Chambertin told us that the rain was certainly welcome, as the thirsty vines needed a pick-me-up. His assessment so far of 2011? Very, very good; the vines are in perfect health and the grapes look great. He expects to harvest at the first week of September, if not the last week of August—earlier than normal because of the precocious warm spring. So far, so good!
Philippe’s son, Damien, greeted us at the door and we all went in to the family’s underground cool cellars to taste their 2010s in barrel. For the past few years (ever since he finished his studies in Beaune), Damien has been Philippe’s right-hand man at the domaine, and as a team it’s really striking how this father-son pairing is firing on all cylinders. The 2010s we tasted in barrel as well as the 2009s—about to arrive in Berkeley within two weeks—are incredibly balanced wines, with concentration, finesse and serious character. They have to be some of the best we’ve ever had from the domaine, and this is after years (decades?) of tasting and selecting chez Livera.
Granted, these are two very different vintages, yet each shows the same elegant poise and fidelity to terroir—qualities that separate the good estates from the great. Very exciting stuff here, and certainly a great visit.
Still under the cover of drizzle we made our way to Gerard Raphet’s cellars in Morey-St.-Denis. Gerard now has new digs for vinification and storing his wines, located just around the corner from Clos des Lambrays. We met him at his new place and then walked across the square to the family cellars where he was aging his 2010s.
First, the awful news about Raphet’s 2010s. The hailstorm that devastated many parcels in Burgundy hit Gerard pretty hard—he lost close to 60% of his crop, not to mention 10% (“at the least,” he said) of rootstock, too. We stood with jaws agape at the few barrels he did have reserved just for us—sure, Raphet doesn’t make a lot of wines as it is, so 2010 will be a particularly rare vintage. And one that should be collected at all costs, because what we tasted was nothing less than stunning.
2010 is really a great, great year for Raphet—just as 2009 was before it. Pure, vibrant Pinot, with plenty of spice—these wines glow with an inner energy that is really captivating. More on the individual wines later, as we plan on revealing a very special 2010 Raphet offer this week—keep an eye on your email (and if you haven’t already, sign up for our mailing list!)
We finished the visit by tasting through the 2009s in bottle—what more can we say about this stunning vintage that hasn’t already been said? Gerard said it best, really, as he poured us a taste of his 2009 Clos Vougeot. “This is all I need, every day.” A glass of Clos Vougeot? “No, a bottle!”
To cap off the visit Gerard poured us a taste of his 2003 Charmes-Chambertin. It really was a shock to taste just how young this wine still is—and how surprisingly fresh—from the year of the “canicule,” or heat wave, in France. Gerard pointed out that by harvesting later he was able to vinify his 2003s as the weather cooled, thus preserving freshness. This wine still has years ahead of it!
Tuesday is Vosne—we’ll visit the incredible ladies of Mugneret-Gibourg, Anne Gros and Dominique Mugneret, plus a special visit to Domaine Arlaud in Morey-St.-Denis.