Superb Quality from the Heart of Provence

Dom d'eole wineryDomaine d’Eole is a unique, if young estate created in 1992 by German oenologist Matthias Wimmer, purchased and transformed to certified organic farming by his partner, estate-owner and French financier Christian Raimont, and introduced into the United States by importer Olivier Daubresse.

The Domaine sits in the heart of the Provence, south of Avignon and northwest of Aix-en-Provence, at the base of the low Chaîne des Alpilles mountain range. The Alpilles block some of the Mistrial wind’s intensity – the fan is set to “medium” here rather than “high” – but still allow for some cool air from the Mediterranean Sea – just 25 miles south – to reach the vineyards.

What doesn’t reach the vineyards is a lot of rain, and what rain that does fall drains quickly through the complex, very ancient, limestone soils. The vines drive their roots deep for nutrients and water, and the alternating hot and cool, but always dry, climate is perfect for farming without chemical additives, pesticides, or sprays.

D'Eole Matthias Wimmer and Christian RaimontThe estate’s first, and only winemaker – German-born Matthias Wimmer – pointed towards organic farming from the estate’s founding in 1992 and achieved Ecocert Organic Certification in 1996. That same year, French financier Christian Raimont purchased d’Eole and enabled Matthias to invest in a state of the art winery and maintain his commitment to organics and ultra-low yields.

Seriously Small Crop Farming
About those yields. The Coteaux d’Aix en Provence appellation is most famous for its rosé wines and the farming rules here are built on the assumption that fresh, fruity, and pink is about all that’s required for success. So, vineyards in this rugged, non-irrigated, region can go all the way up to 60 hectoliters per hectare, a level that’s normally achieved by letting the vines groan under the weight of berries and not worrying about getting everything ripe – after all, you’re just making pink wine, right?

Dom d'eole bottlesAt Domaine d’Eole, things are a bit more serious. For red, white and rosé wines, the goal is perfect ripeness with plenty of intensity and structure. In the winter, vines are pruned severely, limiting the number of fruit-bearing buds that can form in the spring. Then, the “second crop” that forms in late spring is removed and the main crop adjusted by “green harvesting” – cutting off grape bunches – to ensure that each vine is balanced and prepared to deliver ripe grapes. Last, during harvest, trained harvesters inspect each grape bunch, leaving any that aren’t fully ripe and perfect condition on the ground to rot and, eventually, feed next year’s crop.

Across the d’Eole vineyards, then, the maximum yield Wimmer and Raimont allow to ripen and reach the winery is only 30 hectoliters per hectare – half of the legal crop. Smaller crop levels make farming more expensive – it actually takes more work to grow 30hl/ha than it does to let 60hl/ha hang! – but it pays off in better ripeness, silkier texture, and much, much, more flavor and complexity.

Dom d'eole roseWe’re showcasing the unique benefits of organic farming and ultra-low yields in today’s featured wine, the Domaine d’Eole Rosé 2017. But you have to taste the red and white wines to understand the full story. Join us this Saturday as estate owner Christian Raimont pours great selections from new releases and wines aged to perfection, too!

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Ribbon Ridge AVA: Old Vines, Old Soils, Great Wine!

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Willamette Valley’s Ribbon Ridge AVA

Our Patricia Green offer this week focused us on Willamette Valley’s Ribbon Ridge and why it produces such great wines.

Patricia Green’s 30 acre estate vineyard lies within the heart of the Willamette Valley’s Ribbon Ridge AVA – perhaps the single most exciting slice of this great Pinot Noir region and home to famed estates like Beaux Freres, Brick House, Penner-Ash, and more.

Ribbon Ridge is a spur of uplifted marine sediments off the northwest end of the Chehalem Mountains. The soils here are very fine, almost powder like, and rest on top of a porous sandstone base. With little surface water available along the ridge, dry farming is more or less required. But, the sandy soils drain freely and quickly, forcing vines to drive their roots down 20-30 feet or more in search of water from the deeply buried aquifer below.

Deeply Rooted Plants Offer Up a Special Wine
Old vines with well-developed root systems have a big advantage here, which is one of the reason’s Patty’s Old Vines Estate cuvee always shines. It’s from several blocks of mainly Pommard clone planted from 1984-1990. As Patty’s partner, Jim Anderson, explains, these 25-30 year-old vines deliver a wine that always “shows the red fruit profile, minerality and refined texture that the deeper rooted plants are able to offer up.”

If you enjoy Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, I simply cannot image how you won’t love this. And, if you’re just starting to explore Oregon Pinot, you will not find a better introduction or a stronger argument to get to know these marvelous, food- and sipping-friendly wines.

And, to make stocking up on great Patricia Green wines as easy as possible, you can mix-match the 2015 Estate Old Vine Pinot with the great value 2016 Pinot Noir Reserve and rich and darkly-fruited 2016 Pinot Noir Freedom Hill as well. Enjoy!

(See also our vintage-by-vintage assessment of Willamette Valley Pinot Noir.)

The Hardest Working Team in Burgundy

Jean Michel and Alexis GuillonWe’ve spilled a lot of electronic ink and killed plenty of digital trees telling you about Jean-Michel Guillon over the years. By this point, most of you know that this is one of the hardest working, most talented, and least compromising winegrowers in all of Burgundy. He and his son Alexis work the vineyards themselves (especially in August, when other winemakers take vacation just as the vines reach their most critical stage).

Want to see what that work looks like? Take a look at this video on the recently updated Guillon website for a drone’s eye view of the vineyards and vintage 2016 harvest!

They demand nothing less that perfectly ripe fruit, which allows them to make long, slow, intense fermentations running three to five weeks – extracting tons of flavor and only the most suave, ripe tannins.

Then they age their wines in the finest French oak money can buy. After Domaine Romanee-Conti and the Hospices de Beaune, Jean-Michel and Alexis are the single biggest buyers of new French oak in Burgundy ever year. Where growers who pick less ripe fruit and extract less during fermentation can find new oak overwhelm their wines, Guillon’s juice is so intense and deep that it needs the softening only new oak can give and absorbs the woody flavors with ease.

A Frigid Tragedy
The extra time and effort Jean-Michel and Alexis put in tending their vines pays off every year, but never more than in 2016. Hours and hours working their vineyards allowed them to counter the intense mildew pressure running through the season, leave their grapes out on the vine until fully ripe, and then bring in a crop of impeccable cleanliness and purity.

But, no amount of farming work could counter the tragedy of April 26-27. The sun set on the 26h on what had been a pretty, if humid, day. Then a front moved through, temperatures plummeted, and cold air poured down valleys and combes and enveloped the vines. By dawn a thick frost lay on the vines across Burgundy. As the sun came up and clouds cleared, bright sunlight refracted through the ice, burning the partially frozen grapes. And even where the berries survived, leaves crumpled and ultimately dropped to the ground, depriving vines of the engine needed to ripen their fruit.

By the end of the day on April 27, Jean-Michel and Alexis had lost about half of their Chardonnay and Pinot Noir crop for the vintage. Despite constant attention to the vines, still more of the crop was lost to mildew during the humid days of May and June. But fine weather returned from July through harvest in September, meaning that the small crop of grapes that had survived the spring ripened to wonderful perfection. As you’ll see for yourself when you taste these two wines, the first 2016s from Domaine Guillon we’ll present this year.