This was a piece written by Andrew following his first visit to Pomerol, Bordeaux several years ago. Hopefully, this will take you right into the thick of it, for some near first hand mental imagery. Read and enjoy!
The Road Through Bordeaux
Many of our clients think that life as a Sommelier, retailer, product sourcing expert, whatever, involves drinking wine all day, touring the great vineyards and wineries of the world, and jet setting across countries and continents in search of the perfect tipple. Sadly, it does not. Indeed, on occasion it is certainly appropriate for us to believe this myth as well. Or attempt to get close for just a few moments.
We’ve enjoyed a longstanding relationship with an exceptional producer of world class kosher wine, located within the most premier and storied vineyards anywhere on earth. Namely, Domaine Roses Camille, a not-so-new producer from older vineyards in the heart of Pomerol, the crown jewel of Bordeaux’s Right Bank. Roses Camille is a pioneer in the kosher French wine scene, utilizing premier vineyards and a talented winemaker to make a dedicated single label wine, for kosher and standard markets alike.
With the busy season around the corner, it was finally time to take advantage of that invitation to sneak around to the other side of the world. A quick trip for the senses; to see, smell, and touch the makings of harmony in a bottle. And, beyond checking out the lay of the land in the literal sense, there were a few producers off the grid which merited investigation.
A Cold Day in the Vineyards
I am in Bordeaux. Rainy, cold, not too wet everywhere. Like the weather in the Bay Area, not sure if it’s raining or very foggy. Lining the cobblestone streets of St Emilion are premium wine shops hungry for wealthy tourists. Driving around windy one way streets with traffic in both directions, we stop in to see old friends and make new ones. It’s cold today. Unlike yours truly, the vines recharge their energy with the cold. The near zero temperatures send them into hibernation, with the ground absorbing moisture to prepare for the inevitable heat in six months time. This is an in between moment in the season of the vine. It’s not harvest, it’s not bud break. Rather, for people as well as plants, it is a time for preparation, a time for planning. And a time to restore the immense energy required to create the perfect grape, from bud to blossom.
Enter The Domaine
In a nondescript building off a driveway in Libourne, a young ambitious winemaker has a vision for the world of kosher wine. There is no reason that kosher wine should be of any less quality than non kosher, explains the winemaker and owner, Christophe Bardeau. By his name, perhaps it is obvious that kosher is not a limitation for him personally. However, this is his calling, and we are better off as a result.
The vineyards and winery are just off the main “highway;” a back road shared by modern wineries and old widows alike. Drive another 5 minutes and you are in Lalande de Pomerol, the next appellation over. But take the southerly route and you will find yourself passing one signpost after another, indicating which legendary winery owns the endless vineyards in every direction. Yes, the names we’ve been told about are in fact a stones throw away from the Roses Camille vineyard itself. More specifically, a gravelly, rocky stones throw, indicative of the vast mineral stores that blend in with the sandy and limestone surface, insulating the layers upon layers of blue clay under the earth.
Standing in the vineyard is a very tranquil experience; I can see why Christophe enjoys spending his time here. The comfort exuded by living and breathing vines. Vines that have seen more history than they could ever share, and vines that will be yielding fruit long after the rest of us have become part of history.
The vineyard itself looks like, well, a vineyard. But with careful investigation, I learn that the vines that we are next to are in fact over 80 years old. Not only this, but they are a certain clone of Merlot where the stems of the clusters are red, as opposed to the usual green. This ancient version of Merlot is not commonly found in the area, since most vineyards were replanted after a major frost 60 years ago. The Roses Camille vineyard, along with a handful of other vineyards of significance (namely Chateau Petrus), are among the only ones to still have this ancient clone.
I noticed an orange painted stake in the ground. What is this? Christophe explained that this divides the property between Roses Camille and a neighboring property, La Violette. Another estate that is on the rise, this vineyard was responsible for La Violette’s 100 point wine a few years ago. From grapes harvested a few feet away from those that comprise the Roses Camille bottling. Rather impressive!
Inside the winery, there is no fanfare to be had. Only tanks, barrels, other equipment are present. We are met by the Shomer, a roving kosher supervising agent who assists with the production of nearly 100 kosher wines per vintage. He assists us in obtaining barrel and tank samples from the 2012 and 2014 vintages. As you might imagine, he knows his way around wine, and acts as a friend and advisor to those looking for a bit of experience and an outside opinion.
This one, he tells us, is a favorite. We taste the 2012 Echo Roses Camille out of the tank, where it is awaiting bottling in the coming months. After a moment or two to warm up, it has an electric aroma, jumping out of the glass, with full force vibrancy. It is rather dark, with a hyperactive bouquet of flowers, raspberry, vanillin. It is tannic with a very nice acidic backbone, and a lasting finish. Rather new world for the vintage.
Next, a barrel is opened where the 2012 Domaine Roses Camille is aging. This one is much deeper, darker, and is not giving us anything to work with. Tight and layered, we leave it for a few hours few hours…. after which it is more precocious, lots of violet, an intoxicating aroma. The body is adding weight as the tasting progresses. Very harmonious sample indeed.
Moving along to a bottled wine, we open and begin to enjoy the 2011 Domaine Roses Camille. Not yet released, we have been enjoying a mere tease via the excellent 2011 Echo Roses Camille. This Domaine version is beastly, full, and assertive. Aromas of roasted berries, and roasted coffee beans dusted in cocoa. Flavors of the same, plus lots of saline minerality, and the sensation of stone. The color is very dark, the body is very full, and the wine is enjoyable for this stage of life. Really should not be opened for years to come, but this is certain to become a classic.