Friday…Do You Know The Way to Montrachet?

By billn on October 05, 2004 #vintage 2004

harvestingAction packed day… a little work at Domaine pumping down wine and then off to visit some marquis sites in the Cote de Beanue. It was the prettiest day yet, so photo opps at the vineyards such as Montrachet and Genevrieres were perfect. While taking a few photos of the Montrachet vineyards, we exchanged pleasantries with a woman harvesting grapes with her crew in “Caillerets,” a Monopole vineyard of Domaiine Chartron. Turns out she is the sister of Chartron and she insisted that we meet her brother to taste some their wines…OK twist my tongue. That is one thing that continues to impress me about the people of Burgundy….their hospitality and kindness even when they are busy.

We tasted a few their Premier Crus and they exhibited an amazing clean, pure quality with that classic beam of minerality you find only there. Chartron was still harvesting while others we already finished. We asked why…He asked the same question. Why the hurry? Jean said wanted to wait a little longer as he believed a few more days would only add to quality of the final wines. We’ll see.

We got a bottle to go as we headed to Meursault for a little lunch in the vineyards. Of course it didn’t last long, so we needed more. But where? I knew the answer… Meursault!

While in Meursault we stopped by Alain Patriarche. (Not to be confused with the Patriarche sign in Beaune – differnet folks) After talking for a minute or two, we bought a bottle of their phenomenal Meaursault, “Vielles Vignes” 2001 and headed to the local deli for some croissants, cheese and meats. We drove to a little side road above the village and enjoyed a picturesque lunch…trully a perfect setting.

It is amazing to me the difference and unique tastes in wines for two villages so close together (Meursault & Puligny Montrachet). After lunch we drove through Volnay and eventually back to Pommard. A good day.

Harvest is over…tonite is the party. Don’t count on any reports.

John in Pommard.

Thursday: I’d Walk a Mile For a Camus.

By billn on October 05, 2004 #vintage 2004

party...Thursday was jammed packed with good stuff. We harvested grapes in Pommard just above “Les Charmots” and then in the afternoon just over line in Beaune. This was another picture perfect day with cool, dry weather and sunshine and clouds. The weather for harvest is perfect. Like I’ve said before, this is hard work. I worked tractor detail today… dropping the empty cartons along the rows and then coming back to put them on the tractor after they are filled. It is trully amazing how quickly a vineyard can be harvested with a good group of people. In addition to having fun, these folks know the meaning of teamwork. We knocked out an entire vineyard before lunch. And we had the red wine stained hands to prove it.

At 3:30 we made a visit to Domaine Camus, where we made a quick visit to his cellars then up to the one of his 5 Grand Cru vineyards, “Charmes-Chambertin.” He had so many workers out there that he used a bus to transport them. In the brief time I spent with him, I asked Hubert Camus what he thought of the harvest. Although “Charmes-Chambertin” received some hail, he was very pleased with the quality of the grapes. “This is going to be a special wine,” he said with a smile. Hubert always seems to be at ease everytime I have see him, but today his gentle disposition and smile asured me that this was going to be a great vintage. Of course, It’s hard to imagine anything else from “Charmes-Chambertin.”

We get that feeling from most of the producers. There are smiles and singing throughout Burgundy. Despite a few problems here and there, I get the feeling we’re in for another fun vintage.

Tonite at DInner it was “Take me Out to The ball game.” Of course that was after another encore performance of “Do Wah Ditty…” Harvest is finished tomorrow and tomorrow night is the celebration dinner.

John McCune in Pommard.

If at first … etc. trie, trie & trie again

By billn on October 01, 2004 #vintage 2004

ladybirds on grapesJust back from 3 days at the triage table, and it was great, good and oh my god in terms of the grapes.

Where there was hail and rot we were discarding as much as 25% of what was brought in – and remember that there was already a rough and ready trie at the vines!

Finished the day with Corton Rognets and these were beautiful grapes, very ripe, very clean but interestingly with the greenest stems I’ve seen all week. I think we did a pretty good job and look forward to tasting the wines as they develop.

The majority of the grapes are now in, Domaine d’Ardhuy still have their Corton-Charlemagne to harvest, but their reds were done a day or two ago.

As good as some reds will doubtless be, the whites could really eclipse the reds this year. Chardonnay is much more robust than Pinot when it comes to hail, it was only the removal of the rot, hence reducing yields, that stopped a really big harvest in whites.

It’s all in the grapes…

By billn on September 29, 2004 #vintage 2004

Seems like September has potentially saved the vintage, yet again! Many were the trials and tribulations of this year’s growing season, the harvest looked a bleak prospect only 4 or 5 weeks ago but a month with virtually no rain seems to have saved the day. The grapes are of course very heterogenous, no surprise given the hail and rot which dogged the vintage, but in the end it comes down to the trie. Today I joined in the triage of a Latricières, Charmes and some villages wines – some were much better than other as could be judged by the speed of the table and the amount of fruit being discarded. Rubish in, rubbish out is the old saying, I think we did a good job of sending out the rubbish first! Tomorrow we tackle Santenay, Beaune 1er and Chambertin.

Wednesday…Gevrey Body Wants Some…

By billn on September 29, 2004 #vintage 2004

rene leclercSorry for the corny title, but that’s what happens after picking a few grapes and tasting some wine, especially Gevrey-Chambertin. Today started with a little work in the vineyards of Beaune followed by a day being a tourist. We checked out the Hospice de Beaune, Clos Vougeot, & the Market in Beaune. A little shopping in Beaune followed by a visit to a few Domaines. It was a fun day of good tasting and learning.

After I visit to Clos Vougeot, we stopped by to say hello to Francois LeClerc, son of Rene Leclerc in Gevrey-Chambertin. Of course, what I thought would be a five minute hello turned out to be a 1 hour tasting seminar of their fantastic wines. Francois took us down in his cellars, where we tasted numerous barrel samples of 2003 vintage. We had “Clos Prieur,” “Lavaux St. Jacques,” and a few others before finishing with his Grand Cru, “Griotte-Chambertin.” 2003 was an interesting vintage, as you may know (the earliest harvest in 100 years) and, as with most winemakers, there was a lot of curiosity about how the end result;..There still is. One thing is for sure, The wines were great! Well balanced, more acid than expected and, as with most of Leclerc’s wines, ripe, luscious fruit, that always finishes with elegance.

Acidity was a concern/problem with all winemakers, and depending on who you ask, you will likely get a different answer how how the problem was solved; With Leclerc, they did not acidify, but rather made their wines in two phases. The second phase involved adding grapes from another visit to the vineyards. These grapes contained higher acid levels and matched well with the very ripe ones picked earlier in August. Of course, it’s way more complicated than that, but one thing is for sure: they showed beautifully. Leclerc’s philosophy is unique from many winemakers, especially outside of Burgundy. “Sometimes it is not good to know too much,” he told me, “a winemaker can get in the way. It is important to let the wine make itself. It’s not about the ‘ze winemaker’ ,” he said, “it’s about ‘ze grapes’ and the wine.” And Francois should know; He spent 2 years working at Archery Summit in Oregon. Francois’ philosophy is about expression of fruit. Normal maceration is about 10 hours…Leclerc rarely does half that time. They want fruit without overpowering tannin. Also they believe oak can dry out the wine so rarely will their wines spend more than a year in barrels. Leclerc is also very pleased with the 2004 vintage. Aside from random hail which affected just under 20% of the grapes, the remaining grapes are great and going to make some fine wines.

The weather has been great for harvest. Again, no rain and cool, partly sunny day. The late afternoon fall day made for some great pics, posing in front of the well-known vineyards of Chambertin, Corton, and Romanee Conti. It felt like a good fall Saturday. The only thing missing was a a football game. Real football, of course, American style. They don’t know what they are missing. I do.

Of course the day ended in some great food, good wine, and a lot of singing. Tonite I lead them in the old French favorite, “You Aint Nothin But A Hound Dog”… They like that one.

Elvis has left the vineyard.
Until later.

Loud Music

By billn on September 28, 2004 #vintage 2004

Please know that the harvest is going well here, maturity and acidity are good, sorting table and loud happy music, wines, work and fun

Tuesday – No Romance here…this is work!

By billn on September 28, 2004 #vintage 2004

tortochotIt’s just after Lunch and we have already had a full day. And Lunch is no fast food dive here…They go all out. More food than you can possibly eat and just when you can’t eat another bite, out comes Le Fromage. And of course what’s a meal without wine. Today’s lunch included a great Chardonnay from Jura. It’s early afternoon and boy do I want a nap. No time for that though, it’s back to the vineyards.

Picking grapes is much of what you expect or hope, but much much more. And lots of singing too. I don’t know the words, but who cares, I sing along anyways. Every evening meal begins ends that way. And I am catching on… especially to the harvest favorite, “A glou, a glou…” Last night I lead a rendition of “DO WAH DITTY DITTY DUM DITTY DO” which everyone seemed to love. Who knows maybe I started a tradition. We’ll see tonite.

Any ways, about picking… it was quite an adventure but it’s back-breaking work! Jean Luc Joilllot, the winemaker and owner of the vineyard, is very selective about the fruit he uses for the final wine. Much time and attention is given, even prior to sorting, to select only the best grapes. Not a difficult task really except that the key is to do it quickly. I certainly didn’t want to be labeled the slow American. Not that I would have known it. There’s a lot of pressure on you when you’re picking for the reputation of your entire country, you know. And it is essential to watch your fingers…those clippers are sharp! Well about 2 hours in, it happened. I was zipping along and snip – Ouch! Of course I didn’t say anything… don’t want the label of the wimpy American either. So there I am, snipping away, blood dripping from my hand and thinking to myself, “This cut is going to get infected, I’m going to get gan green and my arm is going to have to be amputated.” But at least I will have proof of being Burgundy for the harvest. A great story to tell my grand kids. By the way, grape acid is a good antiseptic… I hope.

So we picked quite a few grapes. Chardonnay and a little Aligote, not Pinot. And the grapes looked like a post card. A little rot here and there, but that’s to be expected. Later today we head to the “Hautes Cotes de Beaune” (or upper slopes of Beaune) to continue picking Chardonnay. There are some great wines made from grapes grown there; Parker calls it some of the best value wines in Burgundy. Jean Luc’s is stellar, if you haven’t tried it. And this year I helped make it.

The weather is perfect for harvest. Cool, slightly overcast, and dry. And the forecast is good all week. Harvest ends Friday with a big party. My plane leaves Saturday Morning; I hope I’m on it.

Tonite we will again gather for dinner, taste some wines, and of course, sing. I’m sure there will be a request for Do Wah Ditty. Who knows maybe I’ll lead everyone in a round of “Take me out to the Ball Game.”

Until tomorrow,
John in Pommard

Pommard & Gevrey

By billn on September 27, 2004 #vintage 2004

...It was a long, fun day today in Pommard; The weather is right for picking as it is overcast, cool, and no rain. This is good news for some folks as August weather was not too kind to those in some villages as they were hammered by periods of hail. Villages of Gevrey-Chambertin, Morey St. Denis, Pommard, and Volnay experienced some severe hail that damaged a few of the vineyards causing rot in on some of the vines. Interesting though, was the randomness of the hail. Not only did some villages experience littlle or no hail, some vineyards had experienced hail only in small portions. this was the case for example in Clos Vougeot. I spoke with Chantal Tortochot yesterday as we helped her sort grapes. “The lower portion of Clos Vougeot”, & she said, “received heavy portions, while the upper level received no hail at all”. She went on to say that even with the damage they are harvesting some great

Quite a conrast however from the 03 vintage. Late cool weather has been a problem for some. The grapes show great acid levels but fully ripe grapes are not found on all clusters. But most producers are very pleased with the harvest. Jean Luc Joillot, in Pommard is very happy with his harvest. “The grapes are well balanced,” he told me, “many vineyards like Les Rugiens qnd Les Charmots, received no hail and the fruit is nice. With the more difficult vineyards, we are just taking more time to sort the grapes and remove the bad stuff; The grapes that survived the damage are going to make some great wine. We shall soon see. As always in Burgundy, challenges are a way of life. You just do everything you can to allow the wine to make itself. But we’re certainly having fun here trying to stay out of the way. My back hurts, but the wine is soothing that each night.

Tommorow we are off the sorting tables and in the vineyards; Photos and reports to follow.
From Pommard
John (Goldenslope)

The harvest report for 2004

By billn on September 16, 2004 #vintage 2004

Hopefully this will be fun and at the same time informative. Roving reporters from domaines and harvest teams giving you the realtime news.
Cheers, Bill

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