Tuesday, February 14, 2017

A Valentine's Crush

With Valentine’s Day here, it’s always fun to nurse a little secret crush, and here at Bounty Hunter, we are crushing hard on Burgundy.  In particular on Cyprien Arlaud, who came to visit us the other day in our downtown Napa tasting lab.  Cyprien has everything you want in a crush he’s tall with sandy blond hair and a massive passion for biodynamic farming and winemaking.  In perfect French-flavored English, Cyprien transported us to his family’s farm in the Cote d’Or.  As we tasted his wine we could reach out and feel the close spacing of the vines and hear the clomp, clomp of his sister Bertille’s horses, plowing between rows. 

Sometimes when people think of Biodynamic farming they imagine witches dancing around in the moonlight and burying a ram’s horn, as though it is more religion than science.  When Cyprien talks about converting to biodynamic farming practices, he is rational not romantic.  He stopped using pesticides because he likes to whole cluster press and felt that you could taste the chemicals in the stems.  He started plowing with draft horses because his vines are close together and he found that a tractor compacted his soils so much that water did not find its way to the vines roots.  Everything is based on trial and error and finding the perfect balance between freshness and ripeness in his grapes. 

As hands on as Cyprien is in his vineyards, he is learning to have a light touch in the cellar.  He told us that initially he put everything into new oak and tried to manipulate the wine because he thought that was what people wanted.  Quickly he discovered that he didn’t love the result.  His wines now are lightly spiced and ethereal, with beautiful red fruit.  He is always seeking that balance between ripeness and freshness, and oak is a partner rather than something to overwhelm the wine.

Domaine Arlaud is above all else a love story.  The vineyards were a wedding present for Cyprien’s grandparents from his grandmother’s family, and now they are Cyprien’s labor of love.  Burgundy is the perfect thing for Valentine’s Day.  It’s light and scented with rose petals and strawberries.  So make some Salmon with wild mushrooms, or put together a classic Coq Au Vin, pop open one of the bottles below and enjoy.

When one of the top producers in Morey-Saint-Denis goes biodynamic and invests in one of Vosne's top Premier Cru vineyards, we certainly take notice. Cyprien and Roman Arlaud crafted a dynamite "Petits Monts" in 2013. This vineyard, just above the grand cru Richebourg and adjacent to the mythical Cros Parantoux, is known for powerful, exotic wines, and this is loaded with violets, sandalwood, savory black cherries, cinnamon, and roses. Don't miss this one - we snagged just a few cases.

The "Aux Réas" vineyard is a rather large village vineyard just south of the town of Vosne-Romanée, which is home to the greatest Pinot Noir vineyards in the world, such as Romanée-Conti and Richebourg. Its name refers to this vineyard's longstanding planting with vines, with Réas meaning "furrows" or "rows." See if you can spot Vosne's signature exoticism and Asiatic spices in this one.

“Aux Cheseaux,” a name referring to old stone houses, is a terrific Premier Cru that is but a mere chip shot from the Grand Cru Mazoyères-Chambertin. This is Pinot Noir at its most regal: dark morello pie cherries, mushrooms, underbrush, and faintly saline marine notes have their fingerprints all over this one.

A family affair, Cyprien Arlaud, brother Romain, and sister Bertille run this fabulous domaine in Morey-Saint-Denis with exactitude and strictly adhere to biodynamic farming. They plow all of their vineyards not with tractors, but draft horses, one of whom is named Oka! This is the herbaceous, earthy, bright red-fruited side of Pinot Noir. It will come alive with a slab of pork pâté, triple cream cheese, and a hot baguette.

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