Friday, March 12, 2010

The Legendary Clos de Tart

I’ve been dragged out of the Dark Ages and into the blogosphere, but I’ve been blessed by the gift of perfect timing! I’ve returned to Napa from a tasting in San Francisco of one of my absolute favorite wines on the planet… the legendary Clos de Tart in Burgundy. One of only a handful of Grand Cru monopoles (a vineyard wholly owned and farmed by one winery) in existence, the domaine is absolutely in the conversation of the world’s best Pinot Noirs, if not wines period. Forgive my fawning, but history doesn’t lie.

Founded by an order of Cistercian nuns in 1141, the estate has been owned by three entities in its entire existence. Think about that – three owners in more than 850 years. Only in Burgundy. This incredible property is perched like a sentinel above the village of Morey-St.-Denis and is now run by the brilliant Sylvain Pitiot, a man who arguably knows as much about the specific terroirs of Burgundy as anyone alive (see book recommendation below). It’s an almost frightening collision of gold-standard vineyard land and an uncompromising genius pulling the levers.

Organized by the winery’s importer, a small group of buyers and sommeliers were invited to Masa’s in SF for a private tasting. ( We started the ’06 and ’07 vintages of La Forge de Tart, the winery’s second label, to warm up the engine. I found the ’07 to be a little closed and tight, but these are generally wines that need at least few years to shine. The ’06 was more open-knit and effusively spiced with classic Burgundy hard red candy and cherry flavors. La Forge is comprised of “young vine” parcels, which the winery defines as 30-years old or younger (they also label it as Premier Cru - though it qualifies as Grand Cru - to heighten the distinction). Again, we’re talking about people who measure things by centuries, not decades or vintages.

If La Forge is a special wine, Clos de Tart is a monumental wine. Not in force or bombast, but in its profound combination of complexity and grace. We sampled the ’07 (young but extraordinarily promising), the ’03 (an amazing achievement in a very hot year that left many confounded), the ’01 (a Burgundy purist’s dream of spice, leather and earth) and the ’02 (find a bottle and pay whatever price is asked for it). All told, it was a resounding statement of this domaine’s ability to channel a given season through its terroir and express a growing season as well as any winery on the planet. Clos de Tart, j'adore.

Book Recommendation: Bound in a burgundy (what else) cloth cover in two volumes, Le Nouvel Atlas des Grands Vignobles de Bourgogne is a mind-boggling exercise in precision. I’m not sure if it’s available in the U.S. or if it’s been translated to English, but it’s worth an online search or having it shipped from France. It’s the most comprehensively detailed collection of maps, technical data and winery specs on Burgundy I’ve ever seen. A must for any student of Burgundy or collector of wine tomes. Written and conceived by Clos de Tart’s Sylvain Pitiot along with Pierre Poupon, it’s an heirloom-quality purchase for your shelves:

--Rhett Gadke, Wine Director

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