Federal Wine & Spirits

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This Week's Tasting

Our Picks of New French and California Chardonnays
June 27, 2018

Chardonnay is a protean grape that can be exciting only if it is properly grown and vinified. This week six that stood out in our tastings for character, intensity and value, plus a bonus of a limited relases of a top notch premier cru Puligny Montrachet.

Macon vineyard



Florent Rouve was a disciple of Jan Rijkaart, one of the growing number of Burgundy-based winemakers to who find a burgundy-like mineral complexity in the rocky hillside vineyards of eastern France. For value, depth, and complexity we liked his Arbois Chardonnay much better than his Macon. It has the richness, depth, and minerality of a serious and much more expensive Macon. This one is a steal at less than $20.

Alan Meadows writes that Christine Dubreuil Fontaine's 2016s should please those who enjoy classic Burgundies. That is certainly true of her basic Bourgogne Blanc les Crenilles. From a single limestone-rich vineyard in Pommard, it is a pure and vibrant, unoaked, clean, linear and long.

Young winemakers Anne-Fran├žoise and Jean-Marie Pidault run the historic Ch. de Pierreclos between Cluny and Solutre. Their organic Macon Bussieres was the best of their 2016s we tasted. It showed just the right combination of dimension, minerality, and vibrancy in taut balance with classic depth of the best wines of the Maconnais.

             Jacques Girardin is less well-known than his brother Vincent, but he operates a small but excellent domain in Santenay just south of Chassagne. We have loved his single vineyard white for several vintages now. I'm now happily drinking my case of 'lesser' vintage 2013. The newly arrived 2016 is bigger, more vibrant and concentrated. It might even exceed the 2014 and 2010 in longevity and breed. Although finely tuned with rich lemon-lime notes, it will develop bottle complexity over the next few years. Four cases only.



We liked the 2015 Orin Swift Mannequin Chardonnayat first taste, and began to love it as we came to appreciate its subtleties. Winemaker Dave Phinney was best known for “The Prisoner” but this is more impressive for its layered depth. Although it bears a mere basic California appellation (most comes from Sonoma but there is a mixture of Carneros) it is only lightly oaked and very rich in an understated way. You get a pleasurable synthesis of best of two styles of California chardonnay; crisp acidity, and richness of texture with just a grace note of oak.

            It is a graceful and rich whole, with an inviting aromatic lilt that is very unusual in a wine of its depth; I found it tremendously satisfying. We bought all there was in Massachusetts. We have only four cases left.

            Walter Hansel had sold grapes to some of California's most famous names for years. Only when son Stephen L took over did they begin to make their own wine. In just a few years the results have been astonishing. Case in point, this newly released 2015 Chardonnay from the Meadows vineyard in Russian River has superb intensity, vibrant acidity, and lots of power that make it a bargain in the current California Chardonnay market. Vibrant now, it also will mellow and develop complexity over the next two or three years.




2016 Florent Rouve Arbois Chardonnay; Aroma: deep rather heady full, mineral structure; Mouth: clean light acid, fleshy, deep oak, , leesy, bright acid. intense rather rich; Very Good Plus 19.99; Mixed Case, 17.99; Case, 16.99

2016 Dubreuil-Fontaine Bourgogne Blanc les Crenilles; Aroma: Lightly mineral very fresh clean soft apple pear; Mouth: Fresh clean nice chalky mineral very rich, sweet  bright acid, very good length, long; Very Good Plus 26.99; Mixed Case, 24.29; Case, 22.94

2016 Ch du Pierreclos Macon BussieresOrganic; Aroma: rather broad, very dense fleshy, green apple, firm, lightly clean, mineral very dense concentrated; Mouth: dense sweet fruit, rather pretty fine acidity, sexily textured, bright very fine; Very Good - Excellent 27.99; Mixed Case, 25.19; Case, 23.79

2016 Jacques Girardin Santenay Terres de Bievaux; Aroma: lots of sweet oak, clean saline, spicy acidity, fullish fruit, rather dense, lightly herbal ; Mouth: clean very pure, rather finely limey, lovely prettily firm, strong lemon lime & apple  finish, young and primary now, lots of potential; Very Good - Excellent 41.50; Mixed Case, 36.9; Case, 34.85


2015 Orin Swift Mannequin Chardonnay; Aroma: fresh lightly oaky, light oak deep fruit, heady rather dense, fresh acidity; Mouth: clean bright lime-melon, very bright clean, a sense of richness sense of richness; Very Good - Excellent 32; Mixed Case, 28.8; Case, 27.2

2015 Walter Hansel Chardonnay Meadows Russian river; Aroma: fresh very clean, bright lovely entrancing rather dense; Mouth: clean vibrant juicy bright fresh, lively acidity, very long; Excellent 34; Mixed Case, 30.6; Case, 28.9


Chardonnay Picks Case: Special, two each of the above wines - $310

Chardonnay Picks Pack: Special, one each of the above wines - $164 - may incur delivery charge

Or you can mix

 any six - 11 bottles of the above for a 10% discount

 any twelve bottles of the above for a 15% discount


We also will taste a top notch Pulugny Montrachet:

2015 Jean-Louis Chavy Puligny Montrachet Les Folatieres; Color: light green gold; Aroma:sexy deep,very oaky, lightly fresh,  woody , fine clean; Mouth: dense sweet rather fleshy, fullish, fat, clean acid, bright rather firm, tight; Excellent - Outstanding 135; Mixed Case, 121.5; bottles only.


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           - Len Rothenberg