Category Archives: Pinot Noir


Burgundy is a most storied wine region, its wine among the most expensive and highly valued in the world. The wines hailing from Burgundy are thought to be the pinnacle of viticulture, yet here are some who think that the wines and region are no longer interesting and a bit staid. Something many do not know is that many new exciting things are coming out of Burgundy—one of them is the proliferation of outstanding female winemakers. Women are adding fresh perspectives to the old boys’ network of winemakers, and are reviving Burgundy with feminine creativity.

1) Domaine Manoir du Capucin,, has been a family run winery for many generations beginning with Chloe Bayon’s (MdC vintner) great-grand father who fell in love with Fuisse and helped to establish the AOC Fuisse in 1936. Chloé grew up in Nice with a passion for wine, which led her to study winemaking. In Nice, she found it difficult to be accepted because of her gender. Worked hard to prove her capabilities, then moved to Fussié 10 years ago to helm Manoir DU Capucin. Chloé manages the day-to-day operations of the 13 hectare winery along with two others, all while expecting her second child. Chloé’s goal in returning to Fussié was to restore the winery to the status of her great grandfather’s rich tradition of making great wines.

2) Domaine Feuillat-Juillot,, is owned by Francoise Feuillat-Juillot. Françoise has been making wine since 1989 with her father Nickel Juillot. Francoise’s passion for winemaking stems from a rich family tradition of winemaking. Getting to where she is now has been no easy feat. In Burgundy, if there are two children, female and male in a winemaking family, the boy is trained to become successor without regard to any winemaking talent the girl in the family may happen to display. That didn’t deter Francoise, her solution was to begin her own domaine. In 2004 she became owner and winemaker at Domaine Feuillat-Juillot where she manages 14 hectares with two other employees. She produces about 60,000 bottles yearly, 13 Premier Crus, and distributes is the USA.

3) Domaine Parent,, owned by sisters Anne and Catherine, is located in Pommard. Anne, fluent in English, travels the world promoting Domaine Parent wines and advocating for women winemakers. Anne and Catherine represent the twelfth generation of family winemaking in Burgundy. The family has been producing wine since 1635, and after 11 generations of male wine makers, the Parent sisters are in control of the domaine and have been since1998. Legend has it that Thomas Jefferson while serving as ambassador to France was a huge fan of their wines and a personal friend to Etienne Parent.

Anne and Catherine divide the responsibility of running the winery; Anne handles the wine making and Catherine handles the business of running the Domaine. Domaine Parent makes wine according to Burgundian classifications: Bourgogne, Village, Premier Cru, and Grand Cru. Anne’s personal philosophy on wine making is “There are no bad vintages, there are only bad winemakers”, she made this statement in reference to the extremely challenging 2012 vintage. Anne is also a big believer in organic and biodynamic farming and is moving her Domaine in that direction. Anne has had a passion for wine making from a very young age, but growing up with brothers, a father will choose males in the family to carry on the wine making tradition. In general women are left to explore other avenues to fulfill their passions. Anne went to university to study law then later returned to study wine making.

Once her brother left to start his own Domaine, Anne and her Catherine took control of Domaine Parent. Anne believes it is clearly more challenging for women coming up in the wine industry by having to prove themselves three times more than there male winemaker counterparts to obtain the respect they desire. An overall view of the wines from Pommard will find that they tend to be more masculine as well as elegant in style, this is also true of Anne’s wine. Her red wines from the Bourgogne and Village levels have dark cherry fruit with a peppery finish. The Premier Crus are rounder in style but still have a dark cherry acidity and a lingering peppery finish. Anne has created two amazing Grand Crus, upon tasting them the Burgundian classification system is fully realized. The 2008 Corton Grand Cru Les Renardes which was aged 16 months new french oak, has a deep garnet color, black cherry notes, round with depth on the palate. The finish is long with some spice, and you can sense that the oak is there but it doesn’t define this great wine.

4) Domaine Chateau de Chassagne Montrachet,, owner is Francine Picard. Founded in 1951 by her father Louis Felix Picard, owner of two hectares of vineyards in the town of Chagny. His children took over the winery in 1990 and they now have 13.5 hectares of land. Francine is also a true believer in the environment, and is steering her winery to become organic and biodynamic. Francine is the business mind behind Chateau de Chassagne Montrachet and incorporates a three-part business philosophy for running a winery: Organic Wine Making, Economics & Business, and the social aspects of managing a winery. Since 2006 she has directed and created a strong teamwork environment for her crew of approximately 30 employees

5) Domaine Dubreuil-Fontaine, winemaker and owner Christine Dubreuil- Fontaine, Located in the Côte de Beaune Domaine. Dubreuil started as a family winery in 1879. They have over 20 hectares , its vineyards cover the villages of: Pernand-Vergelesses, Aloxe-Corton, Savigny Les Beaune, Pommard, Beaune, and Volnay. She makes wine on variety of levels, Bourgogne, Village, Premier Cru, to Grand Cru. Christine has been in charge of the winemaking and the business of the Domaine for the past 20 years, she works closely with her husband and 10 employees. Christine is fulltime business woman and a loving mother of two children ages 13 and 17. Christine attended wine school in Beaune and then business school in Paris. In addition she lived in the US for several months working at Simi Winery in California and a local wine store in LA. Ms. Dubreuil- Fontaine is a fabulous wine maker who takes a balanced approach to winemaking believing in the limited use of oak.
We tasted through many of her wines the 2010 Pernand-Vergelesses Village contains plenty of good minerality, the 2009 Clos Berthet Premier Cru is driven by a fresh mineral quality that rounds out the wine, Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru was explosive with citrus fruits, well balanced yet a powerful long lasting finish. Pernand Iledes premier cru 2009 crushed black cherry fruit with balance acidity and a spicy peppery finish. This wine is an excellent choice to purchase and enjoy now.
Corton Grand Cru, wow! From the moment I inhaled the amazing aromas and put this beautiful wine on my palate, I knew it would be something special, deep garnet in color with a bouquet of black cherry and spice, then on the palate those fruits explode with flavor, well rounded, a mouth full of joy and a long lingering finish.

6) Domaine Rion & Fils, Pascale-Rion Pascale is the business lady behind this Domaine’s success she is also fulltime mother of three children and a wife, experiencing all of the challenges of balancing family life and running a winery. It is Pascale’s two brothers that are at the helm of the Domaine Rion& Fils, as well as handle all winemaking. This is due to traditional family structure in Burgundy, the patriarchal structure states that the son of the father will be head of the Domaine and winemaking no matter how talented the females might be. I believe deep down Pascale would love to be a winemaker. In fact, Pascale shared a tasty wine with me that she made in 09. Domaine Rion & Fils make several excellent wines starting with the village level in new Niuts Saint George north and south, Vosne Romanée, to Echezeaux. Moving into The Grand Cru Clos Veugeot, cherry spicy with great mineralbility and balance throughout the finish of the wine.

7) Domaine Taupenot-Merme, Ms Taupenot-Merme is President of the Association Femmes et de Bourgogne ( Her Domaine is at the heart of burgundy and vineyards at Morey- Saint Denis, this estate is a place to discover the wealth of Burgundy wines. The winery spans 7 generations her father is from Coté Beaune and her mother is from Côte Nuit, Ms Taupenot-Merme attended winemaking school in Beaune France and studied business in Paris and New York, she also travel to San Francisco California to study how wine was made in the West. She returned to Bergen in 1995 and started working with her father making wine at the domain, but soon after her brother returned to the Domaine. Once again we see the patriarchal system at work as the son takes over duties as winemaker. Forced to give up her ambition of becoming a winemaker, her duties now include being in charge of all the business aspect of the Domaine. Being in control of the business aspect of the Domaine has not diminished her great passion to make wine in the future. Currently a full time mother of 2 children 2 and 6 years old, Ms. Taupenot-Merme is a working mother and a business lady all in one. Putting in 16hour days accepting and meeting the challenging aspects of the dueling duties of mother hood and handling the day-to-day operations with a staff of 11 employees of the winery head on. As with many career minded mothers there seems to never be enough time in a day to fulfill all of her obligations. Ms. Taupenot-Merme takes educating future generations of winemakers seriously and especially believes women should learn every aspect of winery operations so that one day they will have the capabilities of taking over as winemaker. She is the President and a founding member of the female wine makers Association in Burgundy, which now has approximately 39 female members.

8) Domaine Audoin, Marie-Françoise Audoin Owner wine maker for 35 years with her husband Charles and son Cyril, They started this great winery with 2 hectares and through reclamation and purchasing new plots, they now have a total of 14 hectares, with most of the vines sitting hillside receiving the southeast exposure of Marsannay. Ms Audoin is a lovely engaging lady who communicated her passion and skill for winemaking to me effortlessly despite our language barrier. Marie tasted me through most of the wines that are produced at Audoin, along the way providing a history lesson on the rose Pinot Noir that is produced in Marsannay. Marsannay is the only area in Burgundy where the creation of rose of Pinot Noir is permitted. I would highly recommend Audoin rose of Pinot Noir. I tasted through the Audoin wines and found them pleasant, easy to drink and priced reasonably. The next generation winemaker at Audion will be their son Cyril , who has trained all over the world and in position himself to become a very prominent winemaker. As his parents begin to retire, Cyril is well prepared to take control of the domain and propel it to the next level.

9) Domaine Les Temps Perdus, owner winemaker Clothide Davenne, After 17 years as a winemaker for the Brocard Winery, Ms. Davenne went about establishing her own Domaine in 2005. Ms Davenne is an experimental and innovative winemaker using Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay Pinot Noir and a locally grown grape called Caesar. She also creates an excellent sparkling wine from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Ms. Davenne is a driven, determined, hard working lady who has a vision of the future and knows how to accomplish her goals. She admits to being very controlling of the entire operation from wine making to the business side of her domain, and has little patience for others who are not as driven and as motivated as she is in completing their daily tasks. Ms. Davenne is a seasoned veteran winemaker who has traveled throughout the world to become the best wine maker possible. Clothide’s story is a bit unique as she does not come from a family of wine makers, the family farm she grew up on did not revolve around viticulture.
Her tasting journey into winemaking started with the family tradition of giving their children a spoonful of champagne around the age of 8 years old. I started tasting through numerous bottles of wine with Ms. Davenne and her trusted assistant. Starting with a sparkling Brut Rose which I have to admit it was one of the finest rose that I’ve ever tasted couple with a hard to believe price point at under 10 dollars, truly phenomenal. She also produces a fantastic Sauvignon Blanc as well as a very nice example of Pinot Noir, which is not typically grown in Chablis. Ms. Davenne’s other white wines are made from the Chardonnay grape and an excellent example of how a great Chardonnay can be made in Chablis. She also makes a Grand Cru from Chablis, which admittedly was the finest Grand Cru that I tasted in Chablis. Ms.Davenne has a Son, who is currently more passionate about thoroughbred equestrian competitions than winemaking, he does however return during harvest to assist with day to day operations at the Domaine. Ms.Davenne looks forward to the day when wine becomes his passion, so that he may take control of the Domain in the future.

I would be remiss in completing this article without another mention of the very unusual grape variety called Caesar that Ms.Davenne grows from 100 year old vines, which just happened to produce one of the best wines I tasted during my journey through Burgundy. Thank you for the great visit and delicious lunch in a quaint town.

10) Domaine Des Malandes, Owner Vigneronne Lyne Marchive, Ms. Marchive is from an old Chablis winemaking family: The Tremblay of Chablis and in 1972 Vigneronne started her own winery and naming it Domaine Des Malandes. Controlling 27 hectares has taught her a profound respect for the environment. Ms Marchive and her wine maker Guenole Breteaudeau attempt to produce wines with freshness, finesse and minerality that come from the kimmerdgian soil associated with Chablis. Ms. Marchive is an amazing woman who has had the passion for wine from a very early age at a time when it wasn’t socially except-able for women to become wine makers. Realizing early on that she had the gift of smell and with the support of her Father (Mr.Andre Tremblay) she refined her skills. Miss Vigneronne was accepted into wine school at the tender age of 14 years old and would have been the only female in her class yet made the bold decision to turn it down, understanding her best education would come directly from the vineyards and the cellar. Ms Marchive operates the Domaine as a world class business with the majority of her delicious production (92%) being exported to Norway. Ms. Marchive has come a long way in the wine business and has earned the respect and admiration of her colleagues in viticulture. I tasted through a wide range of Domain Malandes wines and they are exactly what Ms. Marchive has strived to accomplish, lovely acidity and freshness with minerality that lingers on the finish.

11) Domaine Chateau de Beru, wine maker and owner Athenais de Beru, The de Beru family has owned their historical Château de Béru for 400 years. The tragedy of the philloxera crisis also known as the great French wine blight caused all the vines to be uprooted in the 19th century. It wasn’t until 1987 that Éric de Béru, out of his passion for wine undertook the pain staking efforts to replant the entire vineyard, and in particular, the famous Clos Béru.
His wife, Laurence and their daughter Athénaïs are now running the Domaine, they have invested considerable means to improve the production quality and give a fresh start to the Domaine. These tremendous efforts and the choice to adopt organic farming are beginning to bear fruits, and are noticeable in the vintages that have been vinified by Athénais and her team since 2004. After facing the challenging rebirth of the family Domaine in 2003 she harvested her first vintage in 2005, then started her own brand “Athénaïs” based on a close selection of parcels and growers cultivating grapes in the respect of Chablis terroirs.

I tasted three wines from Domaine de Beru the 07 and 09 Clos Beru from Monopole, the grapes are harvested by hand and fermented in old oak barrels without fining and filtration. The wine is aged for 18 months. This is a very unique wine. It was well rounded with fresh acidity, minerality and salt/iodinated lime on the finish. This is a complex, well-structured wine with it’s own identity.
Chateau de Beru also has a wonderful B&B on the property that is managed by her mother who makes a great breakfast every morning. Thanks for the hospitality.

My First Two Days in Sonoma and Napa

Sonoma and Napa Valley are two of the greatest places on earth to grow great juice. These valleys have enjoyed exceptional weather for grapes to flourish for the last 10 years, with the exception of 2011 when rain came early and during harvest. I’m reminded by a great quote from a great wine maker in Burgundy, Anne Parent ” there are no bad vintages only bad wine makers”….
> DAY 1: My visit began at Adobe Road tasting room in Sonoma Plaza. I had previously met Kevin Buckler (the owner of this fabulous boutique winery) ten plus years ago and his wines just keep getting better and better. We tasted through several wonderful wines, however some always stand out! The 2009 Cab Franc was truly outstanding. They don’t make a lot so it is definitely a must-buy if you can find it. The 2009 Cab from Beckstoffer Vinyards in Rutherford is a big, complex, and well balanced wine that shows the elegance of Rutherford. Adobe Road Winery is one of the hidden gems of the wine
> As a side note, there is a little restaurant on the north side of the Plaza called the Swiss Cafe -deceptively named since we had one of the best pizzas ever! Wonderful food, great service and friendly clientele….. added bonus: you can smoke cigars out front!
>DAY 2 : This day started early at the ever pristine Pride Mountain where we were hosted by the fabulous Katrina. She guided us through several wines starting with their Viognier which is standing out as a star. The 2012 Cab Franc from barrel won’t be released until March 2014, but if the barrel tasting was an indicator you should get in line now to buy some. It won’t last long!
> Our second stop was a short (and winding!) trip down the mountain to Spring Mountain Vineyards. We were met by Valli Farelli who already had thirst quenching Sauvignon Blanc poured while she reminded us of the vastly interesting history of the vineyard. In 1873 they planted Cabernet with most of the cuttings coming from Bordeaux. We tasted the both the 2001 and 2008 Spring Mountain Cab and
although both were very French in style, there is something very special about the 2001 Cab. I had tasted this on several other occasions and was not surprised to find it as magical as I remembered. Tasting like a very good first growth from Margaux, it is still one of my top five Cabernets ever in California.
> The last stop of the day was Heitz cellars. Their 2007 Trailside Cabernet from Rutherford was a program of perfection: blackberry, spice box, and minerality all adding up to a very expressive finish. Another stand-out was the 2012 Rose of Grignolino, an Italian Grape that finishes dry and was very refreshing on a hot summer day.
As a side note, I can’t drive through that area without the required stop to Buster’s BBQ! It doesn’t get much better than hanging with Buster and Barbara and the dogs….. and do I need to talk about the BBQ??? P.S. They have more up their sleeves….coming soon! >  Day three and four to follow.


Thaddeus goes on French Champagne binge

Thaddeus was one lucky guy last month, traversing France like a oenophile on a mission! He ate, drank and was merry for all of us and jotted some notes to share–and to make us jealous!
Here’s his trek through Champagne–both the region and the sparkling stuff:

My journey began on Oct. 15 when I arrived in Reims, France. I rented a car and drove to a lovely little B&B in the heart of Reims. The next day I drove to the village of Vertus home on Duval Leroy Champagne and tasted through various champagnes that were outstanding, Duval Leory has always been one of my favorite Champagne houses over the years.

The House of Krug in my opinion, is the best juice ever made! We tasted through vintages from 1998 to 2007 and all were amazing. The 2000 vintage was exceptional with such lively acidity that jumped out of the glass.

The next day was a magical one, starting at GH Mumm, where there 25 million bottles underground and eight different styles of Champagnes made. Some 50% of its wines are exported to  the U.S. Mumm has an underground museum that chronologically takes you through the art of making Champagne from the very early days. The visit concluded with a GH Mumm two-Star Michelin Chef preparing a legendary lunch in the vineyard at the windmill, overlooking the vineyard. Much thanks to GH Mumm, Agnes and our tour guide Claudette Legrand.
Then there is the 200-year-old Champagne house Perrier Jouêt. WOW!it is located in the heart of Epenany on Champagne Boulevard. The visit began with Ivan, a young historian who was extremely knowledgeable about the historical background of Perrier Jouêt, and how the art work is relevant to the history of this great estate. The tour and tasting were incredible, and the evening concluded with a five-star dinner  with my long time friend Agnes Jones. The Champagnes we tasted during the visit and dinner were simply outstanding starting with there Grand Burt, which is its largest seller. The vintage Belle Epoque Rose and Brut the creamy texture on the palate with the lively acidity were remarkable.
The end of all ends were the Belle Epoque Blanc de Blanc. This Champagne sets the bench mark for what a great Champagne should taste like. In short, it was perfect.
Next I traveled to Nicolas Feuillattte, the largest producer of Champagne on my visit. It is part of 85 different co-ops of about 400 champagnes. The tour was conducted my Alex and she was very knowledgeable about how this huge operation works so efficiently. The tasting was conducted by David Henault, who has produced 12 different Champagnes for Nicolas over the past six years and is responsible for 100 different Champagnes for the co-op.
He took me through the various Champagnes, of which the Blue label brut reserve is its No. 1-selling champagne. David makes a rose and Brut that’s aged in oak barrels. The cuveé 225 Brut and rose are truly outstanding and show the depths of his wine-making ability.
The tasting didn’t stop there. I was fortunate enough to taste thie high-end ’04 and ’95 Palmes  dí Or Rose and brut. Wow! This is the best terrior-specific 100% Pinot Rose I’ve ever tasted and the Palmes di OR was simply amazing.


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Mac’s back with another great pinot noir from Vision Cellars

When I got my Vision Cellars wine shipment recently, I immediately jumped into a glass of the 2010 Sonoma County pinot noir, a grape winemaker Mac McDonald is looking to perfect into one of California’s best versions of the wine. In the 15 years that he’s been at it for his own winery, he’s won awards and accolades for the bright flavors and natural acidity he’s bottling. The 2010 Sonoma County version is no exception — and I wish I had not been so anxious to dig into it. Who knows what a few years in the cellar might have done to it.

It brought back the sweet memories of our sunny afternoon picnic — Mac’s fabulous at the grill too! — with Mac and his wife Lil last summer. Mac insists his father, a guy named Sue, was among the best moonshiners in all of Texas in The Day. He tells the story with pride and a bit of humor, laced with quips that only a true Southerner can come up with. And he fits the small-town boy part as well as he spins the yarns in his usual overalls and straw hat attire.

He also claims that his first taste of wine at the ripe of old age of 12 was a 1952 burgundy that put him on the path to winemaking. “I never tasted anything so good and I knew then that I wanted to make a wine as fine as that,” he said last summer.

That was in 1955 and why only a few short years later he went west to California and learned his craft from one of the best: the Wagner family, makers of the wine that put me on the path to wine drinking, Caymus. “Mr. Wagner was kind enough to help a black man with no winemaking experience at all become a winemaker,” he said.

He buys the best grapes he can find from some of California’s most notable growers, Garys’ Vineyard and Rosella’s Vineyard in Santa Lucia Highlands. Check out his website at for a list of wines. Wine club members only get access to Ms. Lil’s Vineyard, which Mac, naturally, named after his wife of 45 years.