Home > Tasting Notes and Wine Reviews > The 2013 Robert Kacher Selections Spring Portfolio Tasting: The Winemakers

The 2013 Robert Kacher Selections Spring Portfolio Tasting: The Winemakers


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Earlier this week Lou and I attended the 2013 Robert Kacher Selections Spring Portfolio Tasting in Washington, DC.  The tasting was held at the historic Patterson Mansion on Dupont Circle which is the clubhouse for the 19th century Washington Club.  There was a large number of wines available to taste representing that of several dozen domains mostly from all over France.  Between the two of us we tasted many wines and wrote down many notes.  For the first post I have decided to concentrate on three domains whose winemakers were present at the tasting.  I first met Diane de Puymorin of Château d’Or et de Gueules and Corinne and Philippe Ehrhart of Domaine Ehrhart at last year’s portfolio tasting.  You may read about last year’s event in my series of posts The Robert Kacher Spring 2012 Portfolio Tasting.  This year I met Jean-Hubert Lebreton of Domaine des Rochelles.  I spent extra time with each of them learning more about the wines I was tasting and the domains they came from.

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Château d’Or et de Gueules

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Château d’Or et de Gueules is an older estate which was purchased by Diane de Puymorin in 1998.  Originally named Domaine de la Petite Cassagne she carved out a new estate named after her family crest.  She planted an additional 30 acres of vines made up of some Syrah and all of the white varietals.  She kept the ten hectares of 80 year old Carignan and nine hectares of 90 year old Mourvedre.  She has also planted some more Mourvedre.  The vineyards are located in the far south-east of Costières de Nîmes so they are influenced by a maritime climate.  Diane feels this gives her wines a certain freshness.  The old-vines are goblet trained and all of the vines are on soils of round pebbles.  She planted grass between the vines for competition but this was not really necessary for her vineyards.  She is two years into the organic certification process so she does not use any chemicals.  She uses fruit from her old-vine Mourvedre and Carignan in all of her wines.  She employs carbonic maceration for the Carignan because it is naturally too tannic so she wants to make it more elegant and avoid over extraction.

2010 Château d’Or et de Gueules, Les Cimels, Costières de Nîmes –
This wine is a blend of 60% Syrah, 30% old-vine Carignan, and 10% Grenache.  The varietals were fermented separately, the Carignan underwent carbonic maceration.  It was aged in tank.  There was a light, expressive nose.  In the mouth there was some initial vigor before citric, red fruit mixed with plenty of tannins.  There was some gentle acidity.

2011 Château d’Or et de Gueules, Trassegum, Costières de Nîmes –
This wine is a blend of 50% Syrah, 25% old-vine Carignan, and 25% old-vine Mourvedre.  The Carignan undergoes carbonic maceration.  The wine was aged one year in barrel and some time in tank.  The nose bore higher-toned aromas and berries.  In the mouth there were old-school flavors of red fruit.  The tannins eventually smoothed out as red raspberry flavors came out along with some textured, ripe tannins.

2011 Château d’Or et de Gueules, Qu’es Aquo, Costières de Nîmes –
This wine is 100% Carignan of which 80% underwent Carbonic maceration and 20% by pigeage.  It was then aged for six months in used oak barrels.  The flavors were perfumed with grip and a little red candy.  There was a graphite structure with drying tannins in the aftertaste.

2009 Château d’Or et de Gueules, Cuvee La Bolida, Costières de Nîmes –
This wine is a blend of 90% old-vine Mourvedre and 10% Grenache which was aged for 18 months in French oak.  There was a subtle but interesting nose.  In the mouth the flavors were dense, smooth and approachable.  The structure slowly came out and mixed with somewhat juicy acidity.  There was a little berry perfume in the finish along with good tannins.  Clearly, my favorite of the quartet.

Domaine Ehrhart (Domaine Saint-Rémy in Europe)

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Corinne and Philippe Ehrhart were present at the tasting.  Domaine Ehrhart first started producing Chardonnay in 1981.  It is not allowed in the other wines so all of the production is use in their Crément d’Alsace.  The first white wine I tasted, the Pinot Auxerrois is sourced from a vineyard near the Chardonnay vineyard.  Pinot Auxerrois produces smaller berries than Pinot Blanc.  This fact combined with the granite soils provides a wine of good complexity.  This wine spends 6-8 weeks on the lees.  The 2011 vintages was completely sold out so to meet demand the 2012 vintage was bottled earlier, just two weeks ago.  It is not possible to bottle the 2012 Rieslings because they started fermenting in October, shutdown in December due to the cold, and have only just started fermenting again.  All of the fruit is picked by hand and slowly pressed in one of two pneumatic presses.  Each cycle takes five to eight hours.  The fruit is fermented with indigenous yeast and remains in stainless steel.  Philippe likes to preserve freshness in his wine hence his use of stainless steel.  He does, however, use oak with his Pinot Noir.  Because they have vineyards in 11 different villages they employ some 47 or 48 different sized stainless steel tanks to keep everything separate   The wines are filtered about three weeks before bottling.

Corinne is constantly replanting parcels in the vineyards.  For example, she just replanted two in Herrenberg.  The replanting is done in small groups because it takes four years before the parcel will produce suitable fruit again.  They grow grass between the rows of vines.  Typically they have plowed one side and let the grass on the other side grow.  This year Philippe is going to try a new method.  When it is rainy he is going to cut the grass to encourage it to grow and absorb the moisture.  When it is dry he is going to let the grass flower.  Then he will come out with his lawn roller and roll all of the grass down.  There has been a lot of rain lately so the ground is saturated and soft.  So soft that he cannot yet get into the vineyards with his tractor for fear of damage.

The tasting finished with the 2005, Gewurztraminer, Sélection de Grains Nobles.  This is a wine produced from grapes affected by botrytis or noble rot.  The conditions for this wine occur approximate once every ten years at Domaine Ehrhart.  They are incredibly labor intensive wines because the fruit is harvested berry by berry.  2012 was not a vintage for any late harvesting because there were too many fall rains.

NV Domaine Ehrhart, Crément d’Alsace –
This wine is 100% Chardonnay produced by Methode Traditionnelle.  There was an apple, yeasty nose.  In the mouth there was a vibrant start with apple flavors making way to berries.  The acidity was noticeable on the lips as the bubbles burst in to a very soft mousse.

2012 Domaine Ehrhart, Pinot Auxerrois, Val St Gregoire –
This  There was a light, focused nose.  In the mouth there was richer fruit with nice weight.  The flavors took on ripe tea and herbs as it became creamy with integrated acidity.

2011 Domaine Ehrhart, Riesling, Vieilles Vignes –
This wine is 100% Riesling sourced from 28 year old vines sourced from different parcels, most in Rosenberg.  There was a tight, yellow nose.  In the mouth were concentrated berry, fruity flavors before drying out with stone notes.  There was acidity from the start along with good texture.  This should develop well.

2011 Domaine Ehrhart, Riesling, Herrenweg –
This is 100% Riesling sourced from 35 year old vines sourced from two parcels  located on alluvial soils mixed with stones.  There was a pretty, floral, berry nose.  It had a richness but showed good vigor to the berry fruit.  This was highly textured and almost chewy.  There were long, ripe tannins in the aftertaste.

2011 Domaine Ehrhart, Riesling, Grand Cru Schlossberg –
This is 100% Riesling sourced from soils with more granite.  There was a light nose of articulate white and yellow aromas.  The mouth bore weight to the yellow, flora, and dried herb fruit flavors.  The acidity was more noticeable at first then the flavors expanded in the mouth with ripe texture and lots of mouthfeel.

2011 Domaine Ehrhart, Pinot Gris, Im Berg –
This is 100% Pinot Gris sourced from parcels on soils of granite west of Val St. Gregoire, though it is more of a hill than a mountain.  There was weighty with rich white and yellow fruit, the biggest wine yet.  The was texture and underlying acidity.

2011 Domaine Ehrhart, Pinot Noir –
This wine is 100% Pinot Noir sourced from Rosenberg raised in 90% stainless steel and 10% oak barrels.  The nose bore Pinot Noir aromas with black, red, and mineral notes.  The flavors had some density and were very focused.  It was a touch saline with an interesting mineral finish.

2011 Domaine Ehrhart, Gewurztraminer, Herrenweg –
This was full-bore Gewurztraminer being the weightiest and richest yet.  The flavors followed the nose with the addition of residual sugar and fresh, black tea.

2005 Domaine Ehrhart, Gewurztraminer, Sélection de Grains Nobles –
This wine had some lovely, botrytis fragrance and remained articulate   In the mouth the flavors were racy and honied with baking spices, glycerin to the mouthfeel, and a fresh, long aftertaste.  There was a little cider flavor.  It was certainly special.

Domaine des Rochelles

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Domaine des Rochelles was founded in the 1890s.  Today it is run by 4th generation Jean-Hubert Lebreton who is named after both of his grandfathers.  The domaine is located near the town of St Jean des Mauvrets and is comprised of 60 hectares of vines.  It was Jean-Hubert’s great-grandfather who started the estate and specialized as a negocient for rosé wine.  Anjou use to export a large volume of rosé so this was a traditional focus at the time.  It was his grandfather who first started selling wine directly.  Cabernet Sauvignon was often used for rosé production.  Around 1960 Jean-Hubert’s father tried Cabernet Sauvignon from a small producer and liked what he tasted.  In 1962 his grandfather brought back Cabernet Sauvignon massal selections from Bordeaux and planted a vineyard.  In Anjou Cabernet Sauvignon was typically planted at the bottom of the hills below the Cabernet Franc.  Cabernet Franc would bud while there were still morning frosts on the bottom of the hill.  Since Cabernet Sauvignon buds later than Cabernet Franc it was not affected by the frost.  However, these lower sites had deep soils which produced low-quality fruit which was destined for rosé production.

The domaine has several types of soils so Jean-Hubert’s grandfather and father were careful where they planted the vines.  They also opened the Caveau at the same time.  This is a small tasting room, lined with bottles on the wall, where people may come to taste the wines for free. In the 1970s they brought a consulting oenologist form the Libournne, Didier Coutenceau.  By 1975 they received their first medal for a Cabernet Sauvignon based wine.  To this day Didier Coutenceau still works with the domaine.  There are now 28 hectares of Cabernet Sauvignon, 20 hectares of Cabernet Franc, 6 hectares of Grolleau, and 6 hectares of white varietals.  They are working towards an organic conversion.    The vineyards have been expanded and replanted with Cabernet Sauvignon since then.  All of these vines are massal selections from the original 1962 vineyard.  Since they have some of the oldest Cabernet Sauvignon vines in Anjou many research scientists have come to take massal selections.  The vine rows are spaced two meters apart with one meter of grass in between.

The domaine ferments in epoxy lined concrete vats.  They do not use pump-overs instead they have been employing submerged cap fermentation since the 1970s.  Basically, a perforated layer is placed half-way down the vat which keeps the cap in constant contact.  This slow process prevents too many tannins from being extracted.  The La Croix de Mission is a cuvee which was started by Jean-Hubert’s grandfather and father.  Jean-Hubert started the cuvée Les Mellerits.  The fruit from this parcel is a brute so Jean-Hubert employs barriques to tame the wine.

2012 Domaine des Rochelles, L’Ardoise, Anjou –
This wine is a blend of 90% Cabernet Franc and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from slate soils.  The wine was aged  There was a very fresh nose of purple fruit.  The flavors were sappy in the mouth with tannins in the structure.  The wine takes on tart red flavors, a little weight came out followed by young and attractive tannins.  This was easy to drink.  Jean-Hubert recommends drinking this within five years.

2011 Domaine des Rochelles, La Croix de Mission, Anjou Villages Brissac –
This wine is a blend of 90% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Cabernet Franc sourced from an average of 25 year old vines on white quartz and decomposed schist soils.  The wine was aged for one year in stainless steel tanks.  The expressive nose smells like rocks.  There were youthful flavors, a floral midpalate, and structure for age.  Jean-Hubert recommends decanting now for four hours and drinking within ten years.

2009 Domaine des Rochelles, Les Mellerits, Anjou Villages Brissac –
This wine is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from an average of 30 year old vines on soils of decomposed yellow schist with less water.  This was aged for one year in 33% new, 33% one year old, and 33% two year old oak barrels.  The fruit was different than before with licorice notes.  The flavors were purple and black with confidence and a serious, core of fruit.  I would cellar this a few years before drinking.  Jean-Hubert recommends decanting now for four hours and drinking within ten years.

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