When you arrive at home of Lilian and Sandrine, the odds are good you will be greeted by Fig. Fig is a yellow lab and he is still a puppy. For a puppy, he does a lot around the place. On our first visit, he kept our children occupied with his boundless energy and his constant demand for belly rubs. Fig loves belly rubs. Besides occupying underage visitors, he also keeps a keen eye on the vineyard when harvest is in session. Fig is the dog of the Matray family. Fig lives in Juliénas.
Where is Juliénas you ask? It is in Beaujolais. It is way north. In fact except for Saint Amour, it is the northernmost of the Cru areas (Cru refers to superior growing areas )
The Romans were in these parts quite a bit. The quaint town of Juliénas most likely gained it’s name from Julius Cesar (the one William Shakespeare wrote about, Et tu Brutus etc..). At least that is one version. Again depending on who you ask, Juliénas was probably one of the first vineyards planted by the Romans when they first conquered Gaul. So, wine in these parts goes way back. The wine from here is also called “Juliénas”. Not confusing at all! The soil here is mostly clay with some granite on the western edge. Like many parts of Beaujolais, Juliénas is further divided into smaller communities.
Some areas are better than others and make wines that are powerful and longliving. Some of these communities are : La Bottiére, Les Chers, Les Paquelets and Les Capitans. So, if you see a Juliénas that mentions any of the above the communes, you know it has some serious provenance. Our’s is from Les Paquelets.
Now, about the wine itself.
This is like all Beaujolais Cru, 100% Gamay Noir. These are powerful wines and benefit from long cellaring. Typically they are earthy wines, deep red in color and has aromas of strawberries, cinnamon, peonies and violets. Juliénas has an edge of spice to it.
Our Juliénas comes from Les Paquelets from Domaine Matray. Lilian and his wife Sandrine are deeply passionate about their land. They should be rightfully so, as they make one of the most talked about Juliénas. In The Cheesemonger’s Tales: Of People and Places, Cheeses and Wines, Arthur Cunynghame says about the Matray vines,“With a south, south-east aspect, Lilian Matray’s vines are perfectly placed to ripen beautifully.” He also quotes Lilian about his approach to winemaking,
“Wine is first and foremost a ‘terroir’. It is also a profession and, above all, a passion. Sandrine and I look after all the work in the vines from pruning to harvest, which remains manual. Following on this is the winemaking itself, right upto sales. Each stage is inseparable and receives as much care and thought as the last”.
Domaine Matray makes 2 cuvées of their Juliénas. The basic bottling Les Paquelets is unoaked while the Vielles Vignes from older vines is very mildly oaked. We couldn’t make up our mind which one we liked. So, we got both!
Now their Saint Amour is no slacker and has also gained a lot of press. The 2011 vintage was chosen as one of the season’s best wines by The Independent newspaper. They called it ” As gorgeous as a misty autumn morning….” They don’t make many bottles of this lovely wine. Many of you who bought this asked me if more bottles of this vintage are coming this year. Unfortunately, the answer is no. If you miss out on this, the next vintage (2014) will not be available until 2015!
If you live in Reno, NV, the Vielles Vignes and the Saint Amour are available at :
- Whispering Vine
- West Street Wine Bar.
If you live in California or anywhere else and would like to see any of these wines at your local wine stores, or have any questions about our wines, please contact us directly
Repeat after me: Vee-ohn-eeayay
I like Chardonnay. A really good Chardonnay. I mean a really, really good Chardonnay. And we have some amazing Chardonnay in the works for you guys- from Burgundy, Spain etc. But in the interest of discovering new wines, I would say there are some tasty alternatives to Chardonnay out there. We have the Rolle from Chateau des Sarrins which some of you tried and raved about. But today, I want to focus on the other white in our current portfolio, the Viognier from Remy Passot.
Viognier was pretty unknown in our parts until the last few years when it really starting making the rounds in the socialite circles. It became the Chardonnay alternative. If you were tired of drinking the fat, syrupy (cheap?) Chardonnays in the market, Viognier became the alternative. By the way, it is pronounced “Vee-ohn-eeyay”. Viognier is also grown in California. Tablas Creek in Paso Robles makes some good juice. So does our friends Jonathan and Susan Lachs of Cedarville in the Sierra Foothills. You should try them. But this grape has been around for a long time and is in fact one of the predominant white grape of the Rhone valley in France. It is in Northern Rhone near the town of Condrieu that Viognier achieves great heights. The appellation of Condrieu is a thin sliver of land that hugs the Rhone river for a few miles. Needless to say there isn’t much to go around. So, the economics of supply and demand makes this a pretty pricey wine. There are some excellent Viogniers from these parts, notably Georges Vernay and Chateau Grillet. That does not mean Condrieu is the only place where Viognier thrives.
Smart and resourceful vignerons figured out that Viognier grows quite well in the areas surrounding Condrieu extending down into the Rhone, a little east into the Jura and also a little north into Beaujolais country! These areas were given special designations and are now called IGP (Indication Géographique Protégée) Comtes Rhodaniens.
Say that 10 times – Indication Géographique Protégée Comtes Rhodaniens, Indication Géographique Protégée Comtes Rhodaniens, Indication Géographique Protégée Comtes Rhodaniens..eh never mind..!!
Remy Passot is a brilliant winegrower and it didn’t take him long to find a property in this IGP. Viognier happens to be Remy’s wife Dominique’s favorite white wine. This is a pretty young vineyard and the wines are joyful and delicious. Like young Viognier, there is peach, mangoes and other tropical aromas in this wine. They are meant to be drunk young maybe within 3 years of vintage. He doesn’t make a lot of it and so I grabbed all I could lay my hands on. So should you.
Do you have a favorite Thai or an Indian restaurant? Rent a copy of Kung Fu Hustle. Get a takeout of a Panang curry or grilled Tandoori chicken and wash it down with Dominique and Remy Passot’s delicious Viognier. Can you think of a better evening?
Find this wine and other wines from Dominique and Remy Passot at your local fine wine store or here.