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The Thief

Our blog was created to help make the world of wine and beer easier to understand and fun to navigate.  There are a million things to know in this industry, we just want to help you understand the latest news and trends from around the globe.  So sit back with your favorite sip and let's go on an adventure.

 

Allan Crum
 
October 30, 2020 | Allan Crum

To the Point: The Wines of Eric Texier

"Every vigneron should accept his wines as they are in reality, and not how he wants them to be." - Jules Chauvet

This industry has many fantastic winemakers, individuals with the technical expertise to wring fantastic wine from average raw materials. There are far fewer great wine thinkers, vignerons who advance their craft with their minds as well as their barrels. Eric Texier is one of my absolute favorite wine thinkers, and like his Macconais mentor Jean-Marie Guffens, he is not at all afraid to say what he thinks, regardless of orthodoxy or offense.

Texier came to winemaking later in life than some, originally working as a nuclear engineer after a childhood in Bordeaux. After an abrupt career shift and a stage with the aforementioned Jean-Marie Guffens, Texier established his domaine in 1995. At the start, his business was entirely negociant, with rented parcels throughout the Rhône in Côte Rôtie, Condrieu, and Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Eric was later able to purchase vines in the forgotten appellations of Brézème and Saint Julien-Saint Alban, in the Ardeche. The Ardeche is the southernmost section of the northern Rhône. It shares the continental climate of Cornas, Hermitage, and Côte Rôtie, but where those terroirs are defined by granite and schist, Brézème is unique in the northern Rhone in having limestone soils. Brézème was considered the equal of Hermitage well into the 19th century, but the twin devastation of phylloxera and mildew meant that less than 10 acres of Brézème was still planted by the time Texier rediscovered it. Little did Eric know, those few acres held a viticultural treasure.

“It is not a variety. It is a name that has been given two different varieties, being different group of plants grown in different valleys, different villages, by different growers but all fitting more or less in the same characteristics. These same groups were sometimes called Serine, sometimes Syrah, Ciras, Petite Serine etc, while Petite Serine or Serine may have been used in some places to describe slightly different varieties, coming from cousin or parent plants and then developed into making their own varieties. The name Syrah includes all these different plants that fit in its description. Same can be said of Pinot and many other varieties. Serine is neither a clone since it's not a single individual but a family of plants. So, Serine isn't Syrah either, but fits in the big family of Syrah.” - Martin Texier, Eric’s son

Texier’s vineyard in Brézème held less than 2 acres of old vine Serine that was planted in the 1930s, before the availability of homogenous clonal material. These loose clustered, low yielding vines are sought out by Stephane Ogier, Yves Gangloff, Jean-Michel Stephan, and other top producers in the northern Rhône because of the intensely aromatic wines they produce. Texier’s work in the vineyard is some of the most progressive in all of France. Inspired by the no-till, polycultural approaches of Masanobu Fukuoka, Bill Mollison, and Didier Barroulliet (the retired former owner of Clos Roche Blanche, one of the finest organic domaines in the Loire), Eric has been certified organic from the beginning and has incorporated biodynamic techniques (he was once certified, though no longer) for the last 20 years. In true Texier style, he does not hold back when discussing his vineyard bugaboos.

“I do my best to never have to use the three things that I find the most intrusive in organic and biodynamic agriculture:

-Plowing (in between rows or at the root)

-Copper (Mildew, Black Rot)

-Sulfur (oidium)”

Texier tries to intervene as little as possible in the vineyard (and cellar, but we’ll get to that in a minute). He limits tillage to preserve humus and fungal networks and refuses to introduce animal manure for fertilizer. “The idea is not to bring any more organic compounds from outside.” “The less I touch, the better it is for the soil. This is what I believe.” “It's not strictly that I don't plow. Let's say that I avoid plowing, and each time I have to plow for whatever reason, I know that I'm doing harm to the soil.”

Texier’s winemaking mirrors his hands-off viticulture. Inspired by the wines of Marcel Juge and Noel Verset in Cornas, and Marius Gentaz-Dervieux in Côte Rôtie, his reds are 100% whole cluster, and all of Texier’s wines are fermented with native yeasts. When asked in an interview how he manages his native ferments, he simply replied that he “has a very good microscope.” He uses a wooden clamp to keep the fermenting cap submerged, avoiding classical extraction techniques like punch downs or pump overs. His Brézème Vieille Vignes Serine had a short, unsulphured maceration of 5-7 days under the submerged cap, then was gently pressed to old foudres, where it rested for 3 years before bottling with no SO2. The aromatic lift of Serine is in full effect, with bright cherry and stone fruit, smoked meat, and subtle stemmy herbaceousness that reminds me of fresh peppermint. Texier’s wines, like the man himself, are simultaneously thoughtful and confrontational. They make you sit up and pay attention.

“As growers, we have to go much further than organic growing (in fact pre-1950’s agriculture) or biodynamy (which is not much better than organic growing, at least when considered in today’s actual practice). We have to face the question that people like Masanobu Fukuoka, Bill Mollisson, Miguel Altieri, Marc Bonfils raised at the same time, during the 1970s, on all continents, which is, can we compose with nature instead of fighting against it?” - Eric Texier from “A taste of Petrol” (please, if you would like to learn more, look up this blog post. Texier succinctly critiques the fossil fuel and energy-intensive practices common within the natural wine movement, from diesel-hungry tillage to cold carbonic maceration. Worth a read.)

Eric Texier Brezeme Rouge 2017 $36, (CLICK TO SHOP)

100% Syrah. Brézème captured Eric's imagination as this once notorious appellation, rivaling the status of Hermitage, had dwindled to one hectare under vine by 1961. Located on the east bank at the southernmost tip of the Northern Rhône with clay-limestone soils, the area has a unique microclimate resulting from the cooling influence of the Vercors Massif and an altitude of 300 metres. Eric's annual production is around 20,000 bottles in total.

Eric Texier Brezeme Pergaud Cotes du Rhone 2014 $32 (CLICK TO SHOP)

100% Syrah. From a tiny parcel of 60-70-year-old non-clonal Syrah, located in Brézème on a steep south-facing slope comprised of limestone soils, the grapes are hand-harvested and then whole-cluster fermented in concrete tanks with a one-week maceration without pigeage, before aging for 30 months in old demi-muids and bottled sans-soufre.

 

Time Posted: Oct 30, 2020 at 6:44 AM
Emily Riley
 
October 19, 2020 | Emily Riley

Walla Walla Iconoclast: Marginalia Winery

MARGINALIA 3-PACK, SHOP HERE

 

Tim Doyle is a true iconoclast of the Walla Walla wine scene. I have yet to come across another winemaker in the valley who thinks about and makes wine with his heady, scientific attention to detail and form while maintaining such a modest and quiet demeanor. His youthful project, Marginalia Winery, produces only a handful of bottlings that upend the norm of what is produced in our area and we are incredibly proud to represent them here at The Thief. Perfect for pairing with a variety of autumnal dishes, we welcome you to get adventurous this week with Walla Walla wines and put Marginalia on the table!

Tim splits his time between his winemaking passion and his job as a professor at Whitman College(ancient philosophy and foundations of mathematics), as well as being a husband and father. His commitment to minimal intervention, brainy, somewhat natural wine is a beautiful thing to witness – and it may get you into an epically detailed conversation on the world of wine if that’s what you come looking for.  Most of all, however, his wines are delicious, incredibly fun, and worth exploring. We hope you will think so too!

In Tim’s own words: “Lighter red wines and amber wines are not accidental points of focus for Marginalia.  I work primarily with these styles of wine because I think they taste good with the foods I tend to eat: rustic breads, strongly flavored vegetables, salty cheeses, olives, lots of herbs and garlic, umbellifer spices, and glugs of olive oil.  The wines taste good on their own too, but the real test of a wine is whether it makes a simple meal into a memorable one”.

Light Red Wine 2018

  • Breezy Slope Vineyard, one of the highest elevation vineyards in Walla Walla (1700’)
  • 67% Pinot Gris, 33% Pinot Noir
  • Harvested at 23 degrees Brix, 3.3 pH, and 6.9 g/L titratable acidity on September 10, 2018
  • 100% whole cluster co-fermented for one week
  • Pressed to barrel at 10 Brix.
  • Aged in a mix of neutral 225 L American and French oak barrels
  • Lees stirred every other week
  • Total sulfur dioxide additions under 40ppm
  • Bottled unfiltered, with a small quantity of light lees

Red Wine 2017

  • 100% Syrah, Shiraz 07
  • Eritage Vineyard
  • 24.3 Brix at harvest
  • 70% whole cluster fermentation
  • 3.48 ph
  • Aged in neutral American oak barrels

 

Red Wine 2018

  • 70% Nebbiolo, 30% Syrah
  • Breezy Slope Vineyard
  • 23.9 Brix at harvest in November
  • 3.11 ph, 9.5 g/l TA
  • Destemmed
  • Aged with some new Oregon white oak

MARGINALIA 3-PACK, SHOP HERE

 

Time Posted: Oct 19, 2020 at 6:14 PM
Allan Crum
 
October 14, 2020 | Allan Crum

Domaine Vacheron Sancerre

“The 47-hectare family estate is surely one of the finest Sancerre producers.”

 – The Wine Advocate

There is a paucity of famous Sauvignon Blanc vineyards in the world. Perhaps it’s the ephemeral nature of most Sauvignon Blancs (more a thirst-quenching alternative to water than profound vinous experience), but besides Monts Damnes in Sancerre, Dagueneau’s various Pouilly Fumes, and Mondavi’s I Block in Napa Valley, I can’t really think of any. Domaine Vacheron, one of the finest domaines in Sancerre (which means they know a thing or two about Sauvignon blanc), is trying to change that.

Sancerre is a bit of an odd duck when compared to the rest of the Loire. It sits at the eastern edge of the Loire, much closer to Chablis and Burgundy than to Nantes and Muscadet. Before the twin scourges of phylloxera and powdery mildew, the majority of Sancerre’s wine production was red wine based on Pinot noir (with some obscure local varieties blended in for good measure). A parched Parisien bistro community, desperate for a quaffable white to accompany platters of moules frites, led to extensive replanting with vigorous, vivacious Sauvignon blanc. Nowadays, Sancerre is more of a brand than an appellation, a region that produces wines that are… ummm… cold, and…. ummm… wet? 

Domaine Vacheron is upending the mediocrity of generic Sancerre by taking their cues from the monopoles and climats of their Burgundian neighbors. In addition to biodynamic viticulture and much longer elevage than the average Sancerre domaine, Vacheron now vinifies 8 different single vineyard cuvees (6 white, 2 red). We have secured allocations of five of those unique wines. A note - Domaine Vacheron lies in the silica rich “silex” soils that are common in the eastern part of Sancerre. While some of their holdings contain limestone, they are best known for their siliceous vineyard (much like Didier Dagueneau). From the importer -

●       A full south-facing vineyard. ‘Les Romains’ was one of the domaine’s first ‘single-vineyard’ bottlings (the first vintage was 1997). Pure flint (silex) soils, rich in fossilized material; such soils contribute a minerality and smokiness to the wine.

●       A south-facing vineyard, on a plateau. The topsoil of ‘Chambrates’ is poor, a combination of clay and white stones, pieces of decomposed, shattered limestone (from the Jurassic geological era). Vine roots are trained to reach down to the chalky limestone “mother rock” subsoils, a source of minerals and nutrients that the winemakers believe gives a “particular edge” to the wine’s aromas and flavors.

●      ‘Paradis’ faces full south, on a steep hillside. Topsoils are stony and poor; subsoils are pure chalk “mother rock.” The family has trained vines’ roots specifically to reach deep into the subsoil.

●      A selection of fruit from vines in the ‘Guigne-Chevres’ vineyard, located not far from ‘Les Romains.’ A northeast-facing vineyard; very windy, which causes vines to grow close to the ground. Soils combine flint (silex) with red clay and limestone.

●      Le Pave - An east-facing, five-acre vineyard, planted by the family in 1990, on marl (limestone-clay) soils.

Domaine Vacheron has consistently produced some of the most profound and longest-lived examples of Sauvignon blanc (and Pinot noir, for that matter) that can be found anywhere in France. Long known for their sensitive viticulture, the domaine became one of the first in the region to convert to biodynamics (2004). Now under the steady guidance of cousins Jean-Dominique and Jean-Laurent Vacheron, the domaine has continued its house style with hand-picked fruit, low yields, and native yeast fermentation, followed by aging in Stockinger foudres or barrique. Many of the wines are bottled unfiltered after a year in foudre, a rarity for a region beholden to a market that demands fast turn-around. The Vacherons will not be rushed in their quest to explore and expand the notions of terroir in Sancerre.

SHOP HERE

Domaine Vacheron Le Pave Sancerre 2017

Domaine Vacheron Guigne Chevres Sancerre 2018

Domaine Vacheron Le Paradis Sancerre 2018

Domaine Vacheron Les Chambrates Sancerre 2018

Domaine Vacheron Les Romains Sancerre 2018

Domaine Vacheron Sancerre 2018

 

 

 

 

Time Posted: Oct 14, 2020 at 3:44 PM
Allan Crum
 
October 14, 2020 | Allan Crum

Staff Fall Favorites 6-Pack

SHOP HERE

Gulfi Cerasuolo di Vittoria 2017

Nero d’Avola, the dark, chewy, Syrah-esque grape of Sicily is lightened by the floral grace of Frappato in this blend from Sicily’s only DOCG. Organically grown, this may be the ultimate mid-week pizza wine.

 

Domaine Combier Crozes Hermitage 'Cuvee L' 2016

Speaking of Syrah (and I will, at length, if you don’t stop me), this peppery, funky northern Rhone example is textbook. The Combier’s were one of the first families in the region to convert to organics. Perfect for braised lamb (dutch oven sold separately).

 

Vietti Langhe Freisa 2017

Rich, savory, and slightly fizzy, Freisa defies expectations. Flavors of blackberry, red currant, and hints of tar make this a fantastic pairing for a charcuterie and cheese board because just because it has cooled down doesn’t mean you always want to have the oven going.

 

Les Vignobles Foncalieu Ensedune Petit Verdot 2017

100% Petit Verdot? From the Languedoc? Yes, and a delicious one at that. The sun in the south of France is perfect for ripening the notoriously late-to-harvest Petit Verdot. This one has red and blue fruit with pretty florality and a licorice root core that makes me think of pork with grill marks.

 

Domaine de Coursac Les Garriguettes 2017

The spicy red blends of the Languedoc are great with braises, stews, and frosted windows. This is 50% Grenache, 30% Syrah, and 20% Cinsault, organically grown, and fermented/aged in concrete tanks, reserving a purity that new oak would simply cover. Thyme roasted squash (and maybe a pigeon. People eat pigeons, right?) would bring the wild herb garrigue of Provence right to your kitchen.

 

Jerome Bretaudeau Champ des Cailloux 2015

Cabernet Franc always makes me think of fall. It often smells like dried, fallen leaves and warming spices. This blend of 70% Cabernet Franc and 30% Merlot was aged in amphora and older barrels. Roast a chicken. A whole one. Trust me. You need bones for gravy, and it’s fall.

Time Posted: Oct 14, 2020 at 3:40 PM
Allan Crum
 
October 7, 2020 | Allan Crum

Rosés for Autumn Days 6-Pack

ROSÉS FOR AUTUMN DAYS 6-PACK, SHOP HERE

Domaine de Coursac Rosé Soiree 2019

  • Languedoc, France
  • 50% Mourvédre, 40% Grenache, 10% Cinsault
  • Organic viticulture
  • Vinified at low temperature (50 degrees)
  • Fermented and aged in stainless steel
  • 5 months on lees
  • White flowers, pear skin, sea salt

Figuiere Mediterranee Rosé 2019

  • Le Londe, Cotes-de-Provence, France
  • Clay
  • 15-year old vines
  • 40% Grenache, 30% Cinsault, 20% Syrah, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Fermented in stainless steel at 60 degrees
  • Fined with animal agent
  • Peach, orange, preserved lemon

Hampton Water Rosé 2019

  • Languedoc, France
  • 60% Grenache, 15% Cinsault, 15% Mourvedre, 10% Syrah
  • Owned by Bon Jovi
  • Aged in French oak
  • 90 points WE, 90 points WS
  • Melon, tangerine, rose water

Chateau Minuty M de Minuty 2019

  • Cotes-de-Provence, France
  • Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault
  • Hand-picked, direct pressed
  • Settled for long period before fermentation
  • Fermentation at low temperature in stainless steel
  • Orange peel, red currant, yellow peach

Bastide Du Claux Poudrière Côtes du Louberon Rosé 2019

  • Luberon, France
  • 50% Grenache, 30% Cinsault, 20% Syrah
  • Clay and sand
  • 55-year old Grenache and Cinsault, 25-year old Syrah
  • Practicing organic, will be certified by 2021
  • Hand-picked, direct pressed
  • Fermented in cement with native yeast
  • Aged 6 months on lees in cement
  • Red grapefruit, golden raspberry, chalk

Gerard Bertrand Côte de Roses 2019

  • Languedoc,  France
  • Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah
  • Machine picked
  • Destemmed, cooled to 46F, then pressed
  • 15-30 day fermentation
  • Fined
  • Bottled early
  • Red rose, black currant, raspberry

ROSÉS FOR AUTUMN DAYS, SHOP HERE

Time Posted: Oct 7, 2020 at 11:04 AM

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