It is now Sunday evening in Burgundy and I have managed just one previous post on this trip - which only goes to show what a busy time it has been. Yesterday was a case in point, where two planned grower visits turned into four, resulting in an eleven hour day and a late dinner. Today has been more relaxing, with a long lunch on the sun-drenched terrace of the delightful restaurant St. Martin in Chapaize, followed by a mini tour of the highways and byways of southern Burgundy (detailed commentary provided by Monsieur Bennett). Tonight, we will enjoy a supper of cold meats, cheeses, salad and a few more bottles of wine, then it's an early start tomorrow morning, for the journey back to Nottingham.
I'll have plenty to write about over the next few days. Meanwhile, here are a few thoughts on a visit to taste the wines of Maison Ilan in Nuits Saint Georges.
I first heard of Ray Walker around 2 years ago, when he posted on the wine-pages forum about his desire to go and make wine in Burgundy. Apart from the fact that he is from California, I knew very little else about Ray. For some reason, I assumed that he was retired from the Rat Race and just fancied trying his hand at making wine in his dotage. In fact, he has just turned 30, with a background in real estate and finance - and didn't even have an interest in wine at all until around 5 years ago! Rather than repeat the story, I'll just refer you the the Maison Ilan website. There's a good blog, too (linked from the main website). For now, here are my notes from a rather special tasting of Ray's wines.
Morey Saint Denis 1er Cru Monts Luisants 2010
Bright, super fresh, ripe red fruits, redcurrant and an interesting lemony quality (probably due to the malic acid). Very nice.
Morey Saint Denis 1er Cru Les Chaffots 2010Savoury, herby, meaty aromas, with lots of redcurrant and raspberry. Again, plenty of malic acid, which only serves to give it even more lift. Delicate and expressive.
Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Les Corbeaux 2010
Prickly, light, full of cherry fruit. Nice!
Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru Aux Charmes 2010
Sweet raspberry fruit aromas and flavours. Very substantial, hugely enjoyable, with great promise.
Le Chambertin Grand Cru 2010
This is big, concentrated and crammed full of fruit. Incredibly elegant, long and utterly delicious.
Ray Walker and his 90 year-old grape press - a bargain at 400 Euros!
Then we were treated to 3 wines from the 2009 vintage, from bottle.............
Morey Saint Denis 1er Cru Les Chaffots 2009
Aromas of mocha, meat and hugely concentrated fruit, with an enticing vanilla/custard note. The palate is silky, with very fine tannins, juicy cranberry and redcurrant fruit and all manner of exotic spices. A fabulous wine.
Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru Aux Charmes 2009
There's a hint of fine Calvados, and again a strong whiff of mocha, but the fruit just sings. Wonderful Pinot Noir character, with immensely concentrated sweet, savoury fruit and breath-taking complexity. Opulent, but so completely elegant, with a finish that just goes on forever. For me, this was a truly profound wine.
Le Chambertin Grand Cru 2009
I didn't really manage to write anything coherent about this wine, although I do remember it was a bigger wine than the Charmes - richer and even more concentrated. But quite frankly almost as good. Frankly, to have the opportunity to taste two such profound wines, one after the other, was a very rare treat indeed. Stunning wine(s).
Always allowing for the fact that Ray Walker has yet to actually bottle his first vintage (he gave up on the first attempt at bottling the 2009's after 20-odd bottles, as the corks hadn't been paraffin-treated, so weren't going in properly) it really isn't too hard to imagine him becoming a very big star in Burgundy, in a very short space of time. Of course, there's many a slip between cup and lip, but this is a man who clearly knows what he wants, and is willing to put in as much work as is needed to get it. He's clearly had some great luck, not just in obtaining financial backing for Maison Ilan, but also in being able - in his first year of making wine - to source grapes from some of the finest vineyards on the Cote d'Or. But they say you make your own luck, and Ray is clearly a very driven man. The fact that he appears genuinely modest about what he has achieved in such a short space of time just makes you want even more for him to succeed.
That's it for now, but here are a couple of nice photos from our trip (and there's plenty more whey they came from)..............
This magnificent animal pulls the plough in the vineyards of the biodynamic
Domaine Romanée Conti
Domaine Romanée Conti