Champagne Yves Ruffin
Vallée de la Marne and la Montagne de Reims
Champagne Yves Ruffin was founded in 1971 by Yves Ruffin and his wife Odette Pitois. Both were born in families of winegrowers. From the start, they stood out from other winegrowers by choosing organic viticulture. Among thousands of winegrowers at the time, there were only 4 visionaries to take this decision in order to defend common values and the environment. They started with a 3 hectares (7.4 acres) vineyard in Avenay-Val-d’Or. By 1990 the family bought one-half hectare (1.2 acre) of vineyard in Tauxières-Mutry. They now have land in both Vallée de la Marne and la Montagne de Reims. After Yves’s retirement, his son Thierry Ruffin takes over the maison and starts modernizing it while perpetuating the know-how that made the maison stand out: organic viticulture, vinification in oak barrels, traditional pressing, longer ageing. His wife Sylvie and son Antonin are continuing the family business and the traditions of the maison.
Pemier Cru "Cuvee Racines" Extra Brut
The town of Carema, population 800, is located an hour’s drive north of Turin, tucked up underneath the Vallee d’Aosta border. The Nebbiolo-based wines of this area would already be rare due to the denomination’s tiny size, only 16 hectares (39.5 acres) in total. In truth, the winemaking culture here nearly disappeared, due to the vagaries of post-war economic change combined with the difficulty of farming the steep-terraced vineyards, which surround Carema in a natural amphitheater. Just five or six other producers farm 1 or 2 hectares each. Their heroic restoration work has saved this completely unique terroir--the grapes are trained on pergolas!--from oblivion. The pergola training--once a way to combine agriculture with viticulture in order to utilize every inch of the terrace’s hillsides--are not the only unique aspect of this terroir. The soils are mostly sand, with glacial stones of serpentine and gneiss and a small portion of chalk. The pH of the soil is very acidic, quite different from the Langhe. They are contrasted from the Alto Piemonte subzones such as Bramaterra, whose volcanic soil brings rusty notes and bigger tannins, though perhaps fans of the sandier Lessona could find some comparison. In total, the Carema wines are minerality-defined: you can feel the stones. Another distinction is tannins that.
Achille Milanesio was born in Ivrea in 1965 from a family of vine-nursery-men. The Milanesios have owned small terraces ( around 1 hectare) for several generations and their vines comes from a careful massal selections of the best Nebbiolo in the area, from the oldest and most balanced vineyards. The Carema Riserva comes from a couple of terraces in the higher plots, while L’Arsin ( = the grape cluster) is a selection of all the property vineyards.
The Cupano winery is perched on a stony hill above the Ombrone river with well draining soils high in mineral content. Year after year the winery is recognized with “un vrai grand terroir”. Ornella Tondini and Lionel Cousin moved to Montalcino from Paris with their daughter Orsa in the 90s and in 1997 Ornella and Lionel chose to plant their first 3.4 hectares (8.4 acres) of vineyards around the hill, all with a southerly exposure. Today the winery consists of 35 hectares (86 acres), all organically farmed: 6.4ha (16 acres) of vineyard, 2ha (5 acres) of olive oil trees, 18ha (44 acres) of forests, and 8ha (20 acres) of arable land. The family hopes to succeed in imbuing their wines with a memory of the landscape, the season, and passion they bring. Lionel was born in Cognac and studied winemaking in Burgundy, where he honed his winemaking philosophy of limiting your production so you can take meticulous care of the vines, use indigenous yeasts, age on the fine lees in Burgundian barriques, and no filtration or clarification. Being only 30 km (18.6 miles) far from the Mediterranean Sea, the vines take advantage of the temperate climate and sea breezes that dominate the valley and the Ombrone river flowing belowl. The soils, consisting of sandy clay with large substructure of cobble stones, are quite unique in Montalcino. At one time the vineyards were part of the Ombrone riverbed and the soils are remnants of the sediments left behind.
2000 was Cupano’s first vintage and from the beginning their intention was to produce wines for aging; seeking for evolution, elegance and complexity in time.
Domaine Mas Saint-Louis
Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Southern Rhône
Domaine Mas Saint-Louis was established by Jean- Louis Geniest more than a hundred years ago, bringing together family lands located near the old road from Avignon to Châteauneuf du Pape. Jean-Louis Geniest came from a long line of cooper-ropemakers, established on the banks of the Rhône and revered since the 18th century.
In 1909 Jean-Louis Geniest acquired Maison Vigneronne located in the Clos district of Châteauneuf du Pape, to vinify the harvests from his plots located around the old “Mas Saint-Louis”. Some of his old winemaking vats which have been renovated periodically are still in service, so as to maintain ties to the history of the property.
Jean-Louis' grandson Louis Geniest acquired new plots of vines creating a homogeneous and harmonious estate of more than 30 hectares (74 acres). His work was continued by his son Jean, and now Monique Geniest, Jean’s wife, runs the Estate. Her focus on soil health, quality of fruit in the vineyards, as well as the modernization of equipment is evident in the juice in the bottle.
Domaine de Panisse
Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Southern Rhône
Lyle Railsback, France+Western Importer: "New life at an old Provençal farmhouse in Northern Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
The Vacheron family behind Clos du Caillou acquired an old estate in Courthézon called Domaine de Panisse, which has existed for centuries and never been touched by chemicals, but since modern times has only sold their grapes to négociants. Located just below Beaucastel on the northern boundary of the appellation, the estate has 7 hectares (17 acres) that sits on the confluence of where the three major terroirs of the Châteauneuf all meet (galets roulés pudding stones, compacted clay, and pure sand). Planted to old massale Mourvèdre, Grenache, Syrah, and a little Cinsault, the vines have between 60-100 years of age.
Domaine de Panisse is organic and biodynamic, but since being farmed by Marilou Vacheron and her brother Axel in 2020, it is now in conversion to be certified as well.
Sharing a name with the famous Marcel Pagnol character Honoré Panisse, who Alice Waters also named her Berkeley restaurant after in 1971, the old-style reds from this tiny Domaine similarly echo a Provence of yesteryear. Finding Grenache from one of The great terroirs of France that is this delicious, elegant, and inviting--- that you actually want to drink! --- felt almost too good to be true, but may this be just the beginning."
Côtes-du- Rhône Rouge 'Le Mazet'
Châteauneuf-du-Pape Rouge 'Le Mas'