Chateau de Brézé: Harvest Loire!
I could rattle on about how these three wines represent some of the most exciting solitary examples of young, pure, mineral white wine I’ve ever had (and I will), but for now let's give props to "the source". As owner of The Source Imports, my good friend, Ted Vance, was kind enough to supply Viticole with a vertical 3-pack of my favorite vintages from each of Arnaud and Geraldine Lambert’s flagship vineyards. Without Ted, we would not be drinking so well, and I would not have been introduced to these wonderful people last spring.
April 2015 -- Rookie Observations
The Loire Valley can be surprisingly buttoned up for the nation’s beloved garden. I guess that’s what happens when the ag-center of France meets weekend in the country for the monarchy. The byproduct: noble farmer. It’s a beautiful clash, visible along the endless stretch of Chateaux that line the river. Saumur proper, quaint and clean—knows how to get medieval. The villagers are kind and honest, just chic enough to not warrant the label ‘villagers’. Ted and I would huddle in the tasteful bars and restaurants in town, warming ourselves with Chenin Blanc and shellfish broth… A 10-minute drive south to the town of Saint-Cyr is where the roads narrow and the plot thickens.
View from my bedroom window... Arnold tasting fruit in Clos de la Rue...
September 30th, 2016 (Over the Atlantic)
Dreaming of the Loire and typing like a T-Rex... Counting down the minutes ‘til wheels down at CDG. From Paris, I’ll retrieve my tin-can Peugeot for the 3-hour tour to Saint-Cyr. What’s wine country like, you ask? Picture the sticks within the sticks. They do have some ace cards—most notably Brézé (pronounced BREH-zay), a limestone-laden hill that is every bit of amazing. What it lacks in stature it makes up for in majestic Chenin.
April 2015 (At the Winery)
Arnaud and Geraldine Lambert welcomed our group with a vintage tasting of Chenin Blanc going back 15 years. Not a bad meet and greet. Oh yes, they live at the winery. It’s an amazing chateau. From my bedroom window you can see the sunken caves dug out by chieftains in the 12th century. It was a smooth transition from hideout to cellar. Thanks feudalism…
Later we would tunnel through the caves, sampling barrels ‘til all tooth enamel was compromised, but priority one was a taste of the outdoors. A Brézé bike tour required a lay of the land and we were all huddled around Arnaud’s vineyard map like contractors and architects in a project meeting. At the top of the map was the word Viticole (the study of wine growing). I didn’t know what the word meant at the time, but I liked it enough to have it join a list with ten other potential names for a growing business idea, yet to come to fruition.
And then there were the wines… In the boxing game, they say styles make fights. Arnaud Lambert matches up well with the recent Chenin Blanc revolution. He’s a straight shooter who wants his wines to echo sentiment. Allow me a geek moment: Traditionally, Chenin has been made in a very oxidative fashion, with honeyed botrytis and often perceptible sugar even at the dryest level. Chateau de Brézé turns convention on its ear—fans of Chablis and oysters please stand up. The wines are bone dry and razor sharp, with a heavy mineral presence and often some wood to tame acidity. It’s not that this is a new movement. They’ve been doing it for years. It’s just new to us, and we’re lapping it up.
Chateau de Brézé...
October 1st, 2016 (At the Winery once more)
Back again, finally. All is quiet from the Lambert living room. Rain threatens a sunset vineyard walk. Geraldine whipped up a multi-course lunch, and the three of us picked up right where we left off…
About the new website, a good friend just texted me “it’s nice to see a plan come to fruition”. There’s that word again, fruition. It’s a fitting word. Harvest time is upon us. Arnaud and Geraldine have welcomed their first born, Antoine. And today, Viticole has officially come to be. There’s a reason why I wanted to call my business so many other things, but the name Viticole kept jumping. There is a reason why other concepts melted away. Is it sappy to believe that certain things are ordained? Maybe. But I’m cool with sap. Sap is nutrient rich and brings life. Currently, I’m sitting at the same table that Arnaud’s map was sprawled out on, and I’m in the company of two of the loveliest people I know—now three. Life is good…
For a detailed look at the amazing history of Brézé, head over to https://thesourceimports.com/the-greatest-forgotten-hill/ and check out the article, importer Ted Vance wrote.
Tasting Notes: Imagine 3 iterations of a laser beam in liquid form w/ a healthy dose of citrus, white flowers, and briny stones. Clos du Midi is the most available right now. Clos David is the most tense and mineral-driven. Clos de la Rue is the whole package: texture, depth, and finesse
Seasonal Pairing: any local white fish will do (cream sauce it up for the traditional Saumur prep)
When to Drink: 2014 Clos du Midi: best now-2022+, 2013 Clos David: best from 2018-2030+, 2012 Clos de la Rue: best now-2030+
Geeky Things: Viticulture: organic Vinification: old foudre for both fermentation and aging. Clos du Midi is from a cool section of Brézé on clay and limestone. Clos David is a north-facing vineyard with predominantly sandy limestone and 45-year old vines. Clos de la Rue has is a warmer site with a unique strata of sand, limestone, and clay
Area Eats: L'Alchimiste, Le Pot de Lapin (Geraldine's parents' restaurant!)
Vintage Report: Arnaud loves the precision of 2015. 2016 will be a very light crop--check in later on quality...
Bigger Than Wine: $5 per case will be donated to National Alliance to End Homelessness. Ted personally chose this charity. You can check them out online.