Hello friends. One of the best developments of late 2013/early 2014 on the imports side of things is the re-arrival of Thomas Calder Selections back into the Seattle distribution market, after a multi-year absence. (For a great primer on the role of an export agent like Calder, check out this Wine Spectator article from December 2012).
These wines have a (deserved) reputation as sommelier darlings: well-priced, terroir-expressive, low-impact wines that outperform their respective tariffs. And not surprisingly, they’re wines that are much more likely seen on restaurant lists than on retail shelves.
The arrival of the first set of new Calder wines in late 2013 was a total whirlwind, and we were almost completely shut out (we snuck in Olivier Morin’s Chitry Blanc as part of a Misfits offer), a combination of our importer/distributors bringing in too-small parcels and me not acting quickly enough.
Well, the parcels on this latest arrival are still small, but I don’t intend to repeat my mistake. Rather than spread these out over several offers and risk missing out, I’m going to lump them into one Calder mega-offer. These are wines that would traditionally be more for spring/summer, but I think many of us have realized the value of drinking sparkling wines and white wines and light reds throughout the year, especially if served with a meal.
I’ll try to keep the verbiage reasonably concise on each wine, but you really can’t go wrong here. This is a collection of crystalline, ethereal delights.
Beginning with a pair of wines from Olivier Morin (including a new vintage of that Chitry Blanc), who left a life of DJing to set up shop in Chitry, a region about as close to Chablis as you can get (see map). The soils here are the same kimmeridgian chalky series as Chablis, and it shows in the flinty minerality of the wines:
2012 Olivier Morin Chitry Blanc
Another killer vintage of cool-climate Chardonnay, this is a flinty/minerally/alpine-fruited Chablis ringer. High intensity at low weight seems to be the hallmark of this producer.
NV Olivier Morin Cremant de Bourgogne Rose “Tentation”
If we’re going to drink Cremant de Bourgogne, it’s not a bad idea to drink one made from a region as close to Champagne as any other in France. Chilly Chitry seems tailor-made for sparkling wine, if this bottle is any indication. It’s 100% Pinot Noir, a sparkling version of something like “Chablis Rouge” in a fantasy world where the French authorities would allow such a thing. The fruit profile is red, with notes of black cherry and strawberry lifted by floral cherry blossom notes and complicated by dark earthy Pinot tones. A bit late for Valentine’s Day (sorry, lovers), this will nevertheless make a brilliant fizzy pink through Easter, summer, and the remainder of the year.
Now onto the non-Morin portion of the evening:
2012 Domaine Labbe Vin de Savoie Abymes
Abymes is one of only a few dozen Cru sites within Savoie, and it refers to the avalanche-broken (abime) stones that comprise the vineyard. This is 100% Jacquere (one of the indigenous grapes of the region). It has a green/savory character reminiscent of Gruner; a mix of sweet pea, tobacco leaf, lime zest, and salty mineral. The Savoie, on the alpine French border with Switzerland, produces stunning whites that rarely hit these shores. Most never leave the region, because their textural mix of bright acid and creamy texture make them perfect pairings with the ooey-gooey fondues and raclettes of this part of the world. Commence drooling.
2012 Domaine Bordenave Jurancon Sec “Souvenirs d’Enfance”
From an estate founded in Jurancon in 1676 comes this 100% Gros Manseng given a bit of extended maceration on skins. That, along with the little extra bottle age, gives this wine an attractive deep golden color. In the mouth, we find an appealing textural waxiness, carrying waves of intense lemon and chalky mineral flavors across the palate. For those in a Chardonnay rut, this presents a compelling alternative.
2012 Domaine du Fontenay Cote Roannaise “Sine Nomine”
On granitic soils at the southern edge of the Loire Valley, a short drive from the Crus of Beaujolais, perhaps it should come as no surprise that Cote Roannaise specializes in wines from Gamay Noir. That includes one obsessive Englishman named Simon Hawkins, who is determined to make what he sees as proper Gamay: “At harvest time, most Gamay producers’ grapes weigh in at 10° to 11°. The fermenting wine is then chaptalised which means that sugar is added to bump up the alcohol level in the finished wine, commonly to 12.5° or 13°. This is missing the point. Why chaptalise? Sugar, after all will never replace the sun. The whole point of Gamay is about a light, fruity style that other grapes simply cannot do.” Amen. So this is 11.5% alc and drinks perfectly ripe and oh so pure, bursting with crisp and crunchy berry fruit and mineral tones. The silky mouthfeel and intensity are remarkable given the low weight. This is sunshine seen through the prism of Gamay Noir. Just glorious.
First come first served with no upper limits (although we do reserve the right to allocate if we come up short on any of these), and the wines should arrive in a week or two, at which point they will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.