JJ Buckley Meets

2010 Bordeaux: Return To Terroir

2010 Bordeaux: Return to Terroir

Post by Chuck Hayward | February 4th, 2013

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UGC 2013 in San Francisco’s stunning Palace Hotel

Each year in January, the Union des Grand Crus, an association of 134 estates in Bordeaux, conducts a series of tastings across the United States designed to introduce the latest vintage to consumers and the trade alike. For us at JJ Buckley, the tastings provide a perfect opportunity to reassess these wines after assessing them as barrel samples one year earlier.

The latest tastings turned towards the 2010 vintage, an excellent year that was considered a return to classically-styled Bordeaux. Critics and merchants alike agree that the hallmark traits of the vintage – precise flavors, focused structure and a strong tannic backbone – will provide long-lived wines that will act as a perfect foil to the more forward and opulent qualities of the 2009s. (more…)

Pinot Noir NZ 2013 – Notes From Wellington

Pinot Noir NZ 2013 – Notes From Wellington

Post by Chuck Hayward | January 29th, 2013

Jim Robertson of Brancott Estate with Alder Yarrow of vinography.com discuss the vintage

Jim Robertson of Brancott Estate with Alder Yarrow of vinography.com discuss the vintage

Every three years, a large portion of the wine world descends on Wellington, the small capital city of New Zealand. Four days of informative seminars and lectures follow, combined with tastings of current and older vintages of Kiwi pinots. This year sees a large contingent of British wine critics in attendance, including Oz Clarke and Tim Atkin, alongside local representatives such as Matt Kramer and Alder Yarrow, putting forth their observations on New Zealand pinot. Aussies and locals make up most of the rest but there are many other countries represented among the 500 people in attendance.

For many in the trade, Pinot Noir NZ represents a unique opportunity to advance their knowledge about the category and, perhaps, take the steps necessary to place New Zealand’s pinots in a global perspective. I’m here to offer my comments as someone who has worked in the category for twenty years while seeking out exceptional wines for our customers. (more…)

A Pitch-Perfect Passion For Pinot

A Pitch-Perfect Passion For Pinot

Post by Chuck Hayward | January 8th, 2013

PinotFest Founder, Peter Palmer

PinotFest Founder, Peter Palmer

While tasting rooms and wine bars have traditionally been the best way to experience new wines, today’s oenophiles have a variety of tasting opportunities. Massive tastings have become commonplace, and are often presented in large spaces, hosted by organizations designed to promote a variety or region. While fun and often educational, the central purpose of these events is to encourage greater consumer interest in the labels being poured.

Not all tastings, however, are based on naked commerce. A number of wine events really are born from the sheer gusto of an individual – someone in the business who wants to share their passion with a wider audience. Just like tastings hosted by larger entities, the efforts of an individual wine enthusiast to convey his message can be showcased anywhere – from a big conference room to a small parlor. But such individualized tastings create a unique platform where one can experience an array of personally selected wines, each of which provides an insight into the mind of the host. A good example can be found in New York, where Paul Grieco saw his Summer of Riesling tastings (at his intimate Terroir Wine Bar) transform into an international phenomenon. Fortunately for us west-coasters at JJ Buckley, the Bay Area has its own similarly ardent oenophile. (more…)

Looking for Signs at Feytit Clinet

Looking for Signs at Feytit Clinet

Post by Chuck Hayward | June 5th, 2012

JJ Buckley’s Andrew Frieden spending some QT with Feytit Clinet

One of the advantages of spending a full week in Bordeaux at en primeur is the luxury one has to get to know a wine. Any other time of year, that would come through a winery visit, hanging out with the owner or winemaker, kicking the dirt, tasting through some barrel samples or older vintages. But, that is hard to do at en primeur. There, I relish the opportunity to taste a wine more than once. It really helps to taste a wine twice, three times, though four times is probably ideal. Call it statistics. You get a real sense of what the wine is all about after you have sampled it a few times.

So it was with Feytit Clinet, as we had a chance to taste the 2011 for the first time with Jeffrey Davies who is consulting with the estate, then once again at the Rive Droite tasting, where we had more quiet time to spend with the wine. It was then that we started to notice intriguing nuances in the wine that we hadn’t quite picked up on the first time. We tried it once more, perhaps too quickly at a negociant, but it wasn’t enough time to really pin down what it was that made the Feytit Clinet stand out. Then I found out we would have one more opportunity to taste it at the winery….where I hoped we could find a telltale sign that would best explain the wine’s mystique. (more…)

Sweet Relief at Chateau d’Yquem

Sweet Relief at Chateau d’Yquem

Post by Devon Magee | April 6th, 2012

Chateau d'Yquem

After seven consecutive days of tasting the 2011 Bordeaux reds from morning to night, nothing was more soothing on my palate than a trip south to Sauternes to taste the vintage’s deliciously sweet (and tannin-free!) whites. Amidst a week of rumblings regarding the patchiness of 2011 reds compared to ’09 and ’10, I found the persistent voice of an extraordinary vintage in Sauternes after visiting eight of the top chateaux.

To talk vintages in Sauternes is to talk botrytis, and in 2011, this noble rot spread quickly and uniformly, allowing growers to start picking early (at peak ripeness), to pick quickly, and to finish early. The result is evident in the purity of expression and freshness in the top examples that we tasted. (more…)

“Islands of Happiness” at L’Eglise Clinet

“Islands of Happiness” at L’Eglise Clinet

Post by Cory Gowan | April 4th, 2012

Arriving at L'Eglise-Clinet

As we packed our three cars and made our annual migration from the Left Bank over to the Right for our last days in Bordeaux, we put together the mosaic of the 2011 Bordeaux vintage. Although weather patterns can tell part of the story, there is no substitution for one-on-one conversations with vignerons, and, of course, tasting the actual wines. It was at a negociant tasting where Denis Durantou’s wines singlehandedly confirmed our suspicions that Pomerol may be appellation of the vintage. So directly afterwards, we did what any savvy Bordeaux buyer would do – we squished three into the back seat and made the long trek across the Gironde and Dordogne rivers into Pomerol.

Aside from a quick trip to Chateau Le Gay in 2010 and one ill-advised “back roads” (long story) journey to Cheval Blanc last year, I had actually never been to the village of Pomerol  - and I almost missed it once again. The only business of note in the tiny town was a small office of La Poste, and what I can only describe as an open-air junk shop with a man in overalls tinkering away. The rest of the landscape was all low slung buildings and a gentle sea of vines. (more…)

2011: The Sauternes Vintage

2011: The Sauternes Vintage

Post by Alex Shaw | April 6th, 2012

The "Lord of Barsac"

The sweet wines of Sauternes are undoubtedly wonderful, but they’ve always remained something of a mystery to me. I certainly knew the basics about botrytis (aka “noble rot”), the grape varieties, (primarily Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc, with a bit of Muscadelle at some properties) and of course their great aging potential. They’d always appealed to me, primarily due to the incredible juxtaposition of sweetness and acidity achieved in the greatest Sauternes. But aside from a lone visit to Yquem two years ago, I’d never spent any time in the region or met any of the producers.

It was thus on the last day of our week at en primeurs, when three of my JJ Buckley colleagues and I found ourselves with an entire day to spend in Sauternes and Barsac. We visited eight of the top producers: Doisy Daene, Climens, Yquem, Suduiraut, de Fargues, Rieussec, Coutet and Guiraud. At each stop, we received more insight into soil types, harvest techniques, production methods, and the wines’ versatility. We were treated to two meals paired with Sauternes, each highlighting the ways in which these wines can be enjoyed with any course, from starters to dessert, and – surprisingly – everything in between. (more…)