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ROBERT PARKER'S COMMENTS ON VINE TRAIL WINES

C├ęcile Tremblay, Agrapart Champagne, Domaine du Mortier & Jean-Philippe Fichet

2008 Cecile Tremblay Morey St Denis les Tres Girard

Rated 89-90 Drink 2010-2017

Scents of resin, fennel, and dark berries in the Tremblay 2008 Morey-St.-Denis Les Tres Girard presage a sappy, cling and impressive complexity on the palate, burley tobacco, chocolate, and beef stock adding deep richness and perfectly complimenting the berry and herb interplay that follows into a long finish. You can certainly feel the abundant tannins here, but they're fine-grained, and the typical vivacity of the vintage acts like hidden springs buoying and engendering some refreshment. The wood is not entirely integrated but I suspect that will come about in the late stage of elevage and/or early bottle life, which I would estimate here at 6-7 years minimum.

Cecile Tremblay scored some of the most consistent successes of any Cote d'Or Pinot domaine with her 2008 collection and those from among her 2007 bottlings that I was able to sample included a couple of wines exceptionally impressive for that vintage. Tremblay blames irregular flowering and correspondingly disparate ripeness rather than any rot for the 25% of her 2008 fruit that she says was discarded on the sorting table, but pronounces herself "quite content" with the results, a judgment I can only characterize as exhibiting a ridiculous degree of restraint! (And while she didn't mention it and I didn't ask to taste it, I saw a lot of 2008 Bourgogne Rose lying around in bins at Tremblay's temporary cellar quarters in Gevrey.) To convey an idea of the concentration of raw material with which she was working, Tremblay noted that most of her fermentative lots were give only a single pigeage ... that's not per day, but in total. Anywhere from one- to two-thirds of whole clusters with stems were included in the ferments, with the most striking wines tending toward the higher end. The 2008s here (save for three noted) were still in barrels (form which I sampled representatives) when I last tasted, and were due to have been bottled in late spring. Incidentally, Tremblay recovered more of her family's properties with the 2009 vintage, which also yielded a bumper crop per vine of irresistible ripeness and what appear to be for the vintage unusual depth and verve, so any wine lovers have trouble scoring some bottles of 2008s might get their chance from 2009 despite the hype already surrounding that vintage.

2008 Cecile Tremblay Vosne Romanee Vieilles Vignes

Rated 90-91 Drink 2010-2018

Tremblay's 2008 Vosne Romanee Vieilles Vignes (from the Aux Commune and Aux Jacheres sites) exhibits the combination of juiciness and verve with richness of texture as well as the intensity of berry fruit with deep marrow-like meatiness that typifies her entire collection from this vintage. Here, sandalwood, ginger, cumin, and star anise add an allure more typical of some of the top Vosne premier crus. This classy village bottling should be worth following for at least 6-8 years.

2008 Cecile Tremblay Chambolle Musigy les Feusselottes

Rated 92 Drink 2010-2020

The Tremblay 2008 Chambolle-Musigny Les Feusselottes - recently bottled when I tasted it - smells of kirsch, almond extract, black tea, cardamom, and curry. Fascinatingly spicy, smoky, and brightly-fruited on its firm palate, this proves to be Pinot of immense grip, with deep, roasted meat richness in the finish offering striking counterpoint to the wine's very treble fruit. It should be especially fascinating to see how this evolves over the next 8-10 years, though I expect enervation rather than harmony to remain the key to its striking virtues.

2008 Cecile Tremblay Chapelle Chambertin

Rated 94 Drink 2010-2025

Savory sirloin juices are suggested on the nose and palate of the Tremblay 2008 Chapelle-Chambertin (tasted from bottle) to an extent that makes you shake your head wondering how such a thing could come from grapes. (We're talking here about especially tiny berries and millerandage-riddled clusters, as is the case every year from these ancient vines.) That said, plenty of ripe cassis, dark cherry, and licorice is present to compliment this wine's remarkably vivid carnal side. Dense, fine-grained tannin allied to energetic intensity of fresh fruit suggest the rippling of well-developed muscles in a torso that some (including me) would say is inherently testosterone-laden as a matter of terroir. Expect at least 12-15 years of vigor, but don't look for charm. While few could enjoy the combination of expendable income and luck it would require, a comparison of this Chapelle with that of Claude Dugat will make for a startling combination of truth-in-terroir with stark stylistic divergence.

2008 Cecile Tremblay Echezeaux du Dessus

Rated 93-94+ Drink 2010-2022

Tremblay's three barrels of 2008 Echezeaux du Dessus (two new; all crafted by impressively artisan but increasingly fashionable tonnelier Stephane Chassin) enjoyed rather exotic provenance, the oak for one coming from Jupilles and another from the Foret de Blois near the Loire and the famous, once royal forests of Fontainebleau just south of Paris. I wouldn't normally fixate on such issues, but I'm beginning to feel that it would be a mistake to discount anything that Cecile Tremblay considers important, let alone feels passionate about! Oh ... right, the contents of said barrels (one of which was still gassy from the completion of malo!): a nose of smoky Lapsang tea, cassis, licorice, dark mushroom stock and forest floor leads to a firmly but finely tannic, almost sparklingly brightly-acidic palate impression. This is going to express its concentration with considerable finesse, I feel sure, and it finishes with already almost kaleidoscopic complexity as well as prodigious length. But its glacial pace of evolution makes getting an at all precise picture of its personality difficult, and I expect that after bottling (which was scheduled for June), too, it will be slow to develop, and almost certainly worth following for more than a dozen years.

NV Agrapart & Fils Brut Blanc de Blancs les 7 Crus

Rated 90 Drink 2010-2015

The NV Brut Blanc de Blancs 7 Crus is absolutely beautiful. This is a touch darker than past releases, with hints of hazelnut and spice that add baritone-like layers of complexity to the fruit. The current release is 50% 2006 and 50% 2007. Roughly 25% of the wine was aged in neutral oak barrels, and dosage was 9 grams per liter. The 7 Crus is made from vineyards in Avize, Oger, Oiry, Cramant, Avenay Val d'Or, Bergeres les Vertus and Mardeuil, which translates into 70% Grand Cru and 30% Premier Cru fruit. Disgorged: June, 2010. Anticipated maturity: 2010-2015.

NV Agrapart & Fils Brut Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Terroirs

Rated 90 Drink 2010-2015

The NV Brut Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Terroirs exhibits a more pointed and focused interpretation of Chardonnay than the 7 Crus. Energy, vibrancy and superb delineation are the hallmarks of this delicious Champagne. The Terroirs is 50% 2006 and 50% 2005, all from the Grand Crus of Avize, Oger, Cramant and Oiry, with 25% of the wine aged in neutral oak. Dosage was 5 grams per liter. Disgorged: March, 2010. Anticipated maturity: 2010-2015.

2004 Agrapart & Fils Extra Brut Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Mineral

Rated: 93 Drink 2010-2020

The estate's 2004 Extra Brut Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Mineral shows the tension and clarity of this important Chardonnay vintage. A cool vein of minerality frames wonderfully expressive fruit through to the long, polished finish. This is a fabulous effort from Agrapart. The Mineral emerges from 40-year-old vines in Les Champboutons (Avize) and Les Bionnes (Cramant), both rich in limestone. The wine was fermented and aged in neutral 600-liter barrels and bottled unfiltered with just 1 gram per liter of dosage. Disgorged: June, 2010. Anticipated maturity: 2010-2020.

NV Agrapart & Fils Extra Brut Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru l'Avizoise

Rated 93 Drink 2010-2020

The NV (2004) Extra Brut Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru L'Avizoise is another explosive, full-bodied wine bursting at the seams with fruit. This, too, shows wonderful shades of dimension in a style that deftly balances exuberance with cool, reserved minerality. Agrapart crafts the Avizoise from two parcels of 50-year-old vines in the lieu-dits of Les Robarts and La Voie d'Epernay. Fermentation took place in 600-liter neutral oak barrels and dosage was 5 grams per liter. Disgorged: January, 2010. Anticipated maturity: 2010-2020.

NV Agrapart & Fils Extra Brut Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Venus

Rated 94 Drink 2010-2020

The NV (2004) Extra Brut Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Venus is a gorgeous, totally compelling wine. The impression of fruit is so vivid; one hardly notices the bubbles at all. This deep, vinous Champagne saturates the palate with incredible intensity and depth in all dimensions. An explosive finish stained with the essence of crushed rocks, mint and flowers leaves a lasting impression. The Venus is named for the horse that works this tiny old-vine parcel measuring just 0.3 hectares that was planted in 1959 and has never been farmed mechanically. A 100% Chardonnay from the 2004 vintage, the Venus was fermented and aged in neutral 600-liter barrels and bottled unfiltered with zero dosage. Disgorged: January, 2010. Anticipated maturity: 2010-2020.

2008 Domaine du Mortier Saint Nicolas de Bourgueil Graviers

Rated 91 Drink 2010-2011

The first I had heard of Fabien & Cyril Boisard and their Domaine du Mortier was when I tasted their 2008 Saint-Nicolas De Bourgueil Graviers, but I am going to diligently research them and their other wines now! This is the essence of Cabernet Franc. (Although, like some other Boisard bottlings that I haven't tasted, it's soil-specific - I'm told these two brothers are soil fanatics - and I don't doubt that this gravel wine tastes different from one on sand or clay). It smells deliciously of violets and iris, blueberry and elderberry; comes to a buoyant, polished palate vividly expressive of tart yet ripe fresh berry skins; and finishes with exhilarating refreshment, its exuberant fruit tinged with almond, salt and stone notes. Hints as to the unusual personality of this wine include manifestly low sulfur, a slight impingement of CO2 that reinforces its sense of levity; and (assuming the label can be trusted) 11.7% alcohol. This ripeness of flavor in 2008 is admirable in itself, but how was it possible in such a light wine?! All I can say is, you need to taste this remarkable value - indeed, remarkable wine - and ponder that question for yourself. Incidentally, the vintage date is inexplicably written solely on the top of the cork! (The importer informs me the French label includes the vintage on the back.) This 2008 sure tastes plenty fresh to me; in fact, I assumed it was a 2009 until I saw the alcohol level and the date on the cork. That said, the fun was largely over after six hours open in the refrigerator, so plan drink this tout de suite once you open it, so as to appreciate its virtues. I'd speculate it will remain delightful for at least another 12-18 months if not longer - provided you can keep your corkscrew away from at least a couple of bottles.

2007 Domaine Jean-Philippe Fichet Meursault les Gruyaches

Rated 91 Drink 2009-2017

From a tiny vineyard wedged between Bourgogne Les Pellans and Meursault Charmes, and vines planted in 1923, the Fichet 2007 Meursault Les Gruyaches tells a tale of man and terroir. Most of Les Gruyaches was incorporated into Charmes more than a half century ago, but the drainage in this section was poor. Fichet made some improvements on the margins of the site to counteract that. Chalky and alkaline notes announce themselves here already in the nose, while fresh lime, white peach, celery root, toasted hazelnut, lightly caramelized parsnip, and milled grain make for a complex amalgam of quite disparate but not discordant elements. This finishes with a shimmering, mouth-shaking sense of mineral-fruit exchange that this vintage can bring, and with saliva-inducing penetration. Fichet opines that it needs 4-5 years to really harmonize, and based on my thus far limited experience with older bottles, I-d predict it will surely still give pleasure 6-8 years from now.

Jean-Philippe Fichet's emphasis on retaining clarity and refreshment (via - inter alia - passive lees contact, high CO2 retention, and widespread use of demi-muids rater than barriques) positioned him to ideally avoid the pitfalls of 2006. But in 2007 his approach proved equally successful, resulting in wines that are in no way too lean, and that are for the most part youthfully expressive. -I'm only the orchestra's conductor.- comments Fichet. -Nature dictates the repertoire.- Nonetheless, he has shown a great talent for bringing out the best in each recent vintage.The Fichet 2007s - brought in almost entirely between the 10th and 14th of September - combine extract with energy and elegance, and he thinks they will continue to demand patience in bottle. Finished alcohols are mostly in the upper 12s, arrived at with, in Fichet's words, -very little- chaptalization. He encouraged long fermentations to enhance richness and complexity in his 2007s, although he says this meant walking a tightrope as regards volatility. For a few comments on how his earlier vintages are showing, see the conclusion of my note on this year's Meursault Tessons

2007 Domaine Jean-Philippe Fichet Meursault le Tesson

Rated 93 Drink: n/a

The 2007 Meursault Les Tessons reflects a site that Fichet likes to points out was once rated (in his view correctly) as among the commune's best. This is subtle at every level, from its creaminess; through the intricate interviewing of chalk, salt, and hard-to-pin-down mineral nuances with citrus, herbs, pit fruits and liquid narcissus and lily perfume; to a finish of persistent, wafting floral essences, chalk, and mouth-watering, saline, meat-reduction savor. I-m convinced there is an inner richness here that needs time to come to fruition and will make this already superb wine a haunting experience over the next 6-8 years. Not without reason does Fichet call this -my premier cru.- The 2001, incidentally, tastes today rather like a cross between classic Meursault and a dry Vouvray - in any event, irresistibly savory, and testifying to further potential - while the hint of petrol in the currently riveting 2002 may put some tasters in mind of Alsace Riesling and others of a wine signaling its need to be enjoyed now. The 2004, 2006, and 2007 will - in my estimation - surpass these. Fichet considers 1999 an excellent vintage, and the oxidized state of some bottles of his Tillets - we batted .500 in his cellars this summer - a reflection of defective corks.

2007 Domaine Jean-Philippe Fichet Meursault Chevalieres

Rated 93 Drink 2009-2016

Fichet's 2007 Meursault Les Chevalieres originates in the upper portion of this site (nearly touching Meix Chavaux and Les Luchets) with beneficial drainage and wind exposure. When you taste a wine like this, it's hard not to believe that somehow the chalky mother rock and stones of the site have somehow entered the wine, as there are scents and flavors one can only call stony and chalky, to the point of a tactile sense of dustiness. Setting aside what might be superstition, and turning from the stony elements on display here, there is also an ester-rich, high-toned essence of green herbs that lends a lovely cleansing sense to both the aroma and flavors, and marries beautifully with the lime and white peach fruit that serves for refreshment. Toasted almond and honey lend richness to this clear, vivacious and as already mentioned (at least metaphorically) mineral-inflected Meursault that finishes with mesmerizing and reverberating length. I would anticipate this being worth following for at least 5-7 years.

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