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


By billn on August 11, 2004 #travel

ze frog

Currently at home admiring the wildlife in/on my pond.

I should be on holiday with wife & dog walking in the mountains around Arosa. They are there, but I am not.

I injured my back on Saturday so can hardly get up the stairs never mind a damn mountain. It’s the sacroiliac that’s the problem, but no physiotherapists for me – they make it worse – or at least that’s my experience to-date, osteopaths are okay but I don’t have one local.

It’s enough to drive one to drink! More tea vicar?

Moscow and Nizhny Novgorod.

By billn on July 22, 2004 #travel


Moscow and Nizhny Novgorod. It’s taken me some while to get round to putting the pics together, but I made this trip a few weeks back and really enjoyed it. The Russian people are great to spend time with and seem to know far more about their history and culture than we know about our own. The only barrier is having to keep up with the vodka and brandy toasts – particularly for someone like me who prefers a glass of red stuff.

Corkscrews for Surgeons!

By billn on July 12, 2004 #other sites

Looking more like a field-surgeon’s toolkit, it’s hard to believe, but this is an incredibly important resource for those of you with more than one corkscrew…

Peter Gabriel in Concert

By billn on June 13, 2004 #random

peter gabriel
The Romanée-Conti of popular music! I first saw Peter Gabriel at Manchester Apollo around 1982, his music is about skillfully woven layers of insight and genius. Despite lots of rain and a sky as black as a Rockford Shiraz the rain abated and we had a fabulous concert in Bregenz, Austria – the stage set on lake Constance.

I deposited lots of pictures here.

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