France (click on each name for more information)
Roque Colombe (Region: Chateauneuf du Pape): Beautifully situated vineyards slightly northeast of the village (and next to the vineyards of Chateau Rayas) which produce very elegant and perfectly balanced Chateauneuf du Pape. The expressiveness and elegance of their wines is from a broad variety of soil types in the vineyards which include sandy soils, sandstone, terraces of river stones, marls, limestone, and "safres" - a locally unique terroir of compacted sand which adds balance and minerality to their wines.
Domaine des Capes - OF, NF (Region: Gigondas): The Daniel family has grown grapes in the area since 1753. Their Gigondas vineyards are located in my favorite part of the appellation in the upper valley between the "capes" of the two Dentelles de Montmirail that are above the village. The rockier soils in this area are full of minerals which produce the rich deep flavors in their wines.
Domaine de la Cheneraie (Region: Beaumes de Venise): Perfectly located south facing vineyards in the highest vineyard location above the village produce a very expressive and minerally wine. The Domaine's name is from the truffle oaks that once bordered the vineyards (chene means oak in French). Although there are not truffles in the wine, the high vineyard location does seem to add a bit more freshness and expressiveness to the wine from the cooling breezes at the higher elevation and the higher diurnal temperature change which cools the developing fruit each night.
Passe Colline - OF, NF (Region: Ventoux): Very beautiful and perfectly situated "mountain" vineyards in the Ventoux appellation which produce very food friendly, perfectly balanced, and minerally red, white, and rose blends.
Legende des Toques Cotes du Rhone - OC, NF (Region: Southern Rhone): An interesting consortium of small growers and the leading "cusiniers" of Southern France choose the blend for this very food friendly Cotes du Rhone each year. The cuisiniers (Toques!) use the wine as the house red in their restaurants and I have been delighting palates in California for three vintages now with this wine that has more versatility with food pairings than any wine in the portfolio.
Heritage Cotes du Rhone (Region: Southern Rhone): All of our wines are wonderful expressions of their local "terroir" but this goes further with expressing the long traditions and heritage of the Southern Rhone. This is a special "cuvee" produced each year by a collaboration of family vignerons whose vineyards are mainly on the minerally slopes of the Dentelles de Montmirail. The result is a rich, deeply flavored, and food friendly wine that follows the traditions of local wines that have been enjoyed for centuries in this area.
Terrasse Pavée (Region: Southern Rhone): Terrasse Pavée is a small producer located in the ancient village of Séguret which is located about five miles north of Gigondas in the foothills of the Dentelles de Montmirail. The village is known for its clay and limestone soils which result in very expressive and distinctive wines. My initial selection from the producer is a Cotes du Rhone Villages rouge which I thought was a remarkable example of the terroir.
Domaine Pierre Ravaut - OF, NF (Region: Burgundy): This was another fun and unexpected surprise as I didn't originally intend to import any wines from Burgundy given how many Burgundy wines are exported to the U.S. But, I love visiting Burgundy and so I planned to spend the night in Aloxe-Corton while on my way from Alsace to the Southern Rhone. On my way to dinner in Ladoix, I also noticed the sign of a local vigneron (Pierre Ravaut) on the wall of his Domaine and then also saw some of his wines offered by the glass at the local restaurant I selected that night. All of the Ravaut wines I tasted that night were really well made (and delicious too!) and so I visited the Domaine the next morning. The reality of Burgundy, however, is that there is also a pretty limited supply of wine. Pierre seemed amused at my attempts to speak French, however, and enjoyed talking about wine and so he graciously offered to let me import some of his wines.
Vignoble Angst - OF, NF (Region: Chablis): Vignerons are unfortunately full of angst each year about their vignobles (the places where those noble grapes are grown!), particularly in Chablis with its annual bouts with the two G-forces of gelee (frost) and grele (hail). This is an example of double Angst, however, with the talented team of Antoine & Celine Angst producing beautifully balanced and expressive wines such as their Premier Cru Cote de Jouan, AOC Chablis, Petit Chablis, a Bourgogne Blanc, and an Aligote each year.
Vignobles Bodillard (Region: Beaujolais): My search for a possible Beaujolais supplier took quite a while to sort through wineries that were not making interesting wines and which all pretty much tasted the same and then finding the delightful and expressive wines of Renaud Bodillard in Villie-Morgon. The winery has smaller parcels of vines in seven villages in the northern part of Beaujolais and the individual parcels had been selected for their potential expressiveness from the granite and schist soils that can be found in the hills in the area. Renaud is now in the fifth generation of the family that started the Domaine and he continues the tradition of always producing authentic wines.
Domaine de l'Oriel - OF, NF (Region: Alsace): This Domaine has vineyards in three of the more prominent Alsatian Grand Cru sites (Sommerberg, Brand, and Florimont) that are in a valley to the west of Colmar. Their very minerally and crisp Grand Cru Rieslings are heavenly and the Domaine also produces very good Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Silvaner, and the local specialty Edelzwicker each year. The Domaine is located in the charming small village of Niedermorschwihr where Albert Boxler is also located and whose Grand Cru Rieslings sell for twice as much as the Oriel wines from the same vineyards.
Chateau Moulin Rouge - OF, NF (Region: Bordeaux - Haut Medoc): This mid-peninsula "left bank" chateau produces beautifully balanced, supple, and food friendly Bordeaux blends each year. The location is in a prime area between Margaux and Saint-Julien and the Chateau produces very expressive fruit each year from its organically farmed vineyards.
Chateau La Mothe du Barry - OC, NF (Region: Bordeaux - Entre Deux Mers): The very talented and meticulous vigneron Joel Duffau produces very expressive and perfectly balanced wines each year from his organically farmed vineyards that have been owned by his family for over 300 years. Located only six miles from St. Emilion, this Chateau is producing top quality "right bank" wines each year but which are great values at only a fraction of typical St. Emilion prices.
Jean-Marie Berthier - OC, NF (Region: Loire - Upper Loire): Jean-Marie Berthier is a family Domaine located in Saint-Gemme which is about five miles north of Sancerre. The Domaine is now in its fifth generation of family members and it is known for very authentic wines which express the unique mineral content in its vineyards. The family has also broadened its vineyard holdings through the generations and now has vineyards in Sancerre, Pouilly-Fume, Menetou-Salon, and Coteaux du Giennois which is directly across the river from Sancerre and which borders Pouilly-Fume to the north.
Domaine Fabrice Gasnier - BIO, NF (Region: Loire - Chinon): In the Chinon appellation in the central Loire, I found the very expressive and nuanced wines of Fabrice Gasnier. The Gasnier wines all had the common characteristic of being very drinkable and enjoyable and made in ways where the Cabernet Franc tannins were perfectly balanced with the fruit and not the most dominant characteristic. Everything that I also found at the winery is state of the art starting with Biodynamic farming and continuing into the spotless state of the art cellar. In addition to the two Cab Francs that I have initially selected, the Domaine also produces a small amount of "Chinon Blanc" (Chenin Blanc) and I selected a delightful example of that as well.
Domaine de Rocheville - OC, NF (Region: Loire - Saumur-Champigny): Domaine de Rocheville is a relatively new estate in the Saumur-Champigny appellation that was founded in 2004 by Philippe Porche to fulfill his dream of creating expressive and environmentally conscious wines. The estate is certified as organic and has spectacular hilltop vineyards in Parnay, which is about five miles east of Saumur. The location is particularly beneficial for high quality viticulture as the weather is moderated by the cooling winds from the Loire River which is about one-half mile to the north and protection from the Fontevraud forest to the southeast. The expressive and high quality fruit each year is then carefully vinified according to characteristics of each parcel and that year's harvest and always with as little intervention as possible.
Domaine de Bel Air (Region: Loire - Pouilly sur Loire): In my search for interesting native varietals, I found an excellent and very minerally Chasselas from this producer in the Upper Loire. The village of Pouilly sur Loire is not as well known as the town of Sancerre which is about five miles to the northwest and on the opposite side of the river but, in my opinion produces, the village produces better wines from its better vineyard locations on the north side of the Loire. Aside from Chasselas, however, Sauvignon Blanc is by far the dominant varietal in the area and I have also selected an excellent (and very small production) Pouilly Fume from this producer.
Famille Mahieu (Region: Loire - Vouvray): I've selected a delightful and very food friendly "demi-sec" Vouvray from this producer whose family has been farming their mineral rich Vouvray vineyards for over 200 years.
Maison Lorgeril - OF, NF (Region: Languedoc): The Lorgeril's have been a prominent wine producing family in the Languedoc since 1620. Now under the leadership of Nicolas de Lorgeril, the family's careful development of their estates in Languedoc and Roussillon have resulted in producing wines from six premier regions within Languedoc. With their long heritage in the region, the family has also been careful stewards of their various terroirs through sustainable agriculture and observing organic principles as far as possible in region that does have its challenges during the growing season. The careful stewardship has been recognized with the awarding of HVE Level 3 certification (Haute Valeur Environnementale) which has high standards for biodiversity conservation, plant protection strategy, management of fertilizer use, and management of water.
Chateau des Adouzes - OC, NF (Region: Languedoc - Faugeres): The Chateau is located in the small village of Roquessels, a few minutes drive from the village of Faugeres. The rocky terrain around Roquessels is also considered the best vineyard location in the Faugeres appelation as the vineyards are in a natural bowl that contains significant deposits of schist. The wind patterns in this area also provides cooling winds to mitigate the summer heat and to maintain healthy vines and the freshness of the fruit. Another attribute of the Chateau des Adouzes wines are the age of the vines. All of the vines are at least 70 years of age and most are over 90 years old. The age of the vines is part of the terroir as well as they produce rich concentrated fruit that create the remarkable expressiveness in the Adouzes wines.
Chateau Ponzac - OF, NF (Region: Cahors): Beautiful hilltop vineyards west of Cahors produce one of the most pure expressions of Malbec that I have ever tasted. The very creative viticulturalist and vigneron team of Matthieu and Virginie Molinie blend their separately vinified parcels of Malbec each year into wines that you can enjoy either "maintenant" or well into the future.
Vignerons du Quercy - OF, NF (Region: Coteaux de Quercy): This is a very interesting area about 20 miles south of Cahors where its limestone plateau is a great place for growing Cabernet Franc. Other Bordeaux varietals and local varietals such as Tannat can also be used in each year's blends but overall this area provides a very interesting expression of Cabernet Franc. Adding to the fun is that each year's blends of the various cuvees are always different from year to year (and very expressive!). The wines I've selected from each visit have always been popular and successful and are quite a revelation for clients who had never heard of the appellation or its very interesting terroir.
Southwest France (Regions: Cahors and Gaillac): I've selected two very good Cahors Malbecs that are produced by a consortium of vignerons from their older "vieilles vignes" vineyards, a white wine from Gaillac that is made from an indigenous local white grape from the region (Loin de l'Oeil), and a fun red blend that is made from seven local indigenous grapes.