Scott’s Blog

Keep on rockin’ in the free world…

Monday, July 28th, 2014

Another IPNC is in the books, and as always it was a great one. The best wine event in the USA every year? No doubt about it. If you’ve never been, make sure you make it at least once – it truly is the best of the best.

It all kicked off with the Oregon premier of American Wine Story on Thursday night, a documentary that we’re featured in that tells the story of several US winemakers who abandoned successful careers to chase their dreams of making wine. Look for it this fall on demand and on iTunes, and Amazon, etc. It’s playing the film festival circuit now, and will then be in independent theaters.

Friday, Saturday and Sunday was non-stop tastings, meals, tastings, seminars, meals, tastings, and tastings. And then we had some wine.

Our '99 Chardonnay - the first Scott Paul wine ever...

On Friday we were part of a blind-tasting seminar, with five winemakers (3 Oregon, 1 California, 1 Burgundy) each presenting a wine, and everybody trying to identify whose was whose. Only three of the winemakers correctly identified their own wines (fortunately we were one of them) – it’s a very humble experience tasting blind, to be sure.

Yes, please...

The Grand Dinner Friday night and Saturday night’s Salmon Bake were the highlights as always, with thousands of bottles of amazing wines making the rounds. Favorites for me were a lovely ’95 Bonnes Mares from Domaine de Vogüé (merci François Millet!), a young but stunning ’11 Richebourg from A-F Gros, and a side by side of ’04 Musigny from Mugnier and de Vogüé (the de Vogüé won this round in a close call.)

We’re now in the middle of what looks like a long stretch of sunny, 90-degree days. The vines are happy, the grapes are plumping up, and summertime in Oregon is good. Let’s have some Grower Champagne, if you don’t mind…

2014 in the vineyards, 2013s in the cellar…

Friday, July 11th, 2014

Summer has arrived with a vengeance here in Oregon – sunny and hot non-stop for as far ahead as we can see. There’s a heat-wave on the way this weekend – 95-100 degrees for at least three days straight. The vines have been really happy up to this point, but this heat will be too much. At these temperatures, the vines will just shut down until the heat abates, and we are likely to see some signs of water stress in some places.

Overall the fruit set looks pretty good this year – there was some rain near the end of flowering that caused a lot of potential grapes to abort – it’s called “shatter”, so the clusters don’t have as many grapes on them as they would have. That said, we have a healthy amount of clusters, and likely won’t need to drop any fruit, as the clusters themselves will be on the small side. There are a lot of hens & chicks – clusters with tiny berries mixed in with the normal sized ones – and this makes us winemakers very happy. Those tiny berries have hardly any juice, but provide intensely concentrated flavor with very little tannin.

Looking good in our blocks of Ribbon Ridge...

It was my great pleasure to host my friend François Millet, winemaker at Burgundy’s legendary Domaine de Vogüé in Chambolle-Musigny, for a few days in Oregon earlier this week. He’s here with his wife and son on vacation touring the western US (it’s their third time in Oregon – they’re big fans!) – and we took him on a vineyard tour and invited him to sit in in our tasting and blending of the 2013s this week.

François Millet in the vineyard at Nysa

It’s not often one gets the undivided attention of the winemaker of arguably some of the world’s greatest wines – what a treat to have François taste through the cellar with us! The 2013s have arrived at a really nice place, thanks to Kelley Fox’s skillful vinification and elevage. There will be six different wines from us from the ’13 vintage – Audrey & La Paulée of course, along with single vineyard wines from Nysa, Azana and Ribbon Ridge, and a very special bottling we made in collaboration with Jean-Nicolas Meo of Domaine Meo-Camuzet in Vosne-Romaneé. More details on these next year as we get closer to release. Stay tuned…

Blending the 2013s with Kelley Fox, François & Julien Millet

So who do you like in the World Cup final on Sunday? I think Germany is the overall stronger team, but my heart is with Leo Messi and Argentina. He will cement his place as the the greatest player of all time if Argentina wins, and he totally deserves it in my book. Should be a tremendous match – I’m totally psyched.

I’ll leave you for now with a shot from the 4th of July on the banks of the Columbia in Hood River – what a great night!

Martha in the twilight in the Gorge...

Gooooooooooooooooooaaaaaaal!

Sunday, July 6th, 2014

I’m back from France, with apologies to Martha, who has been a Word Cup widow for much of the time since I returned. What a great tournament so far! Like a broken clock, even I am right once in a while, and my pre-tournament picks of Brazil, Argentina, Germany & the Netherlands have all made the semi-finals. Only Spain disappointed me this time around. I can see a Germany-Netherlands final. I just don’t see Brazil getting past the Germans without Neymar and Thiago Silva. The Netherlands have been playing at a higher level than everyone and should probably beat Argentina, but a moment of Messi magic could derail the Dutch in the semis. In my heart I’d love to see Messi and the Argentines win it all, but they haven’t shown us much, in all reality. Big action to come Tuesday and Wednesday…

I was in Burgundy for the first 10 days of the Cup – and saw many of the matches at the Publican, a great little brit-style pub in Beaune that attracted all the soccer fans from all over the globe that were in town. It was a trip to see big contingents of Brazilians, Belgians, Swiss, Costa Ricans, Argentinians, and of course a bunch of fellow Americans packed in to the pub to cheer on their national teams. Big fun…

With the French team crashing out of the World Cup to Germany yesterday, it was another blow to our Burgundian friends, who are all still reeling from the killer hailstorm one week ago. Thiébault Huber texted yesterday after the match to say simply “this is not a good vintage”…

À propos of nothing - Chicken with Époisses sauce. I'm just sayin'...

The big action this week in the winery is the blending trials for the 2013 Pinots – which have developed superbly post malo. Kelley & I and a special guest-star will be putting together the cuvées over Monday, Tuesday & Wednesday. As of now it looks like there will be six different Pinots from our 2013 vintage – La Paulée and Audrey, of course, plus single-vineyard wines from Azana, Nysa, Ribbon Ridge, and a special collaboration we did with Jean-Nicolas Meo of Domaine Meo-Camuzet in Vosne – Romanée, with fruit from our best blocks of Maresh Vyd. This is going to be very exciting indeed. More as it unfolds this week…

Who is this man?

Violent hail in the vineyards – a report from Volnay…

Sunday, June 29th, 2014

Yesterday afternoon at 5:15pm, the Côte de Beaune was hit with a violent hailstorm, destroying 50-90% of the potentially beautiful crop that was hanging in the vineyards in Meursault, Volnay, Pommard, and Beaune. This was the third year in a row that these villages were hit with a devastating storm. As if that were not bad enough, this will now be the fifth year in a row with a very tiny crop, as 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013 all produced a fraction of what a “normal” year would bring. Over those four years, they produced about two years worth of wine. As you can well imagine, the effects of this will be beyond devastating for many of Burgundy’s producers of all sizes.

I was taking a nap when the storm hit. It was so loud I thought the house was being bombed or was exploding. I stumbled to the window to see ping-pong ball sized hail stones covering the courtyard and inch or two thick. I walked to the bathroom, where the storm had blown open the window and a layer of hail stones was on the floor surrounding the toilet.

Hailstones on the courtyard outside my front door in Volnay...

The storm passed in about 2 minutes. I went outside and saw neighbors’ windows literally smashed out by the hail. It was so violent I was in shock – semi paralyzed and dazed by the destruction and the noise and the suddenness of the attack.

I stood in the doorway, just looking out at the carpet of hail, and then saw my friend Thiébault Huber walking toward the house. I was choking back tears thinking about what must have happened in the vineyards. I hugged my friend, who could barely speak, so distraught, crushed once again by the damage and the loss.

I’ve been Thiébault’s importer for 10 years now. He has become one of my dearest friends over those years, and he’s one of the finest people I’ve ever known. I don’t know anyone who works harder or does more for his neighbors and his industry. He is an inspiration, a leader, a person who works tirelessly to try to make things better for all concerned. He’s the president of the Volnay vignerons. He’s a leader in biodynamic viticulture. He created the eco-service station for vineyard tractors on the Côte de Beaune. He put together the lab that dozens of Volnay producers share during harvest to analyze their grapes and juice. He spearheaded the organization and deployment of a Côte-wide network of anti-hail cannons. And then to have everything destroyed yet again in a two-minute eruption of nature. It was simply too much to bear.

They launched the anti-hail cannons yesterday morning (they shoot silver nitrate into the air, which gets picked up by the wind and carried into the clouds, and mitigates the amount of hail and the size of the hailstones that fall – it cannot, however, stop the storm. Amazingly, it could have been even worse!)

Weapons of mass destruction - a close-up of the hailstones in Pommard...

The cruel icing on this cake was the fact that yesterday was the 10th annual celebration of the “Élegance des Volnay” – a special event that draws wine lovers from all over Europe and the world for a day of immersion in the special wonders of the wines from this magical little village. As the storm hit, Thiébault was under a small tent in the vineyards pouring wine for a group of American tourists who had come for the celebration. The tent saved them from potential serious injury (some people caught out in the open reported head wounds and massive bruising from the hail), but the vines were of course left defenseless.

Some 40 minutes later another violent hailstorm hit, this one closer to Beaune. I was in my car on the way in to Beaune when it hit. I thought the roof of my rented Toyota was coming in. There are permanent dents there now. Reports came in that it hailed so hard in Beaune it smashed birds to death. I am sad to confirm that, having seen a number of carcasses on the streets in the aftermath.

After all this, I knew it was going to be a difficult night at the Grand Dinner of the Élegance des Volnay – a gala affair held annually on the terrace of Domaine de la Pousse d’Or for all of the Volnay vintners and their guests – 260 of us all together. The mood was somber, to say the least, as everyone filed in with their heads hung low. Frédéric Lafarge, the Marquis d’Angerville, Nicolas Rossignol, Dominique Lafon, Pacal Bouley, all my friends were there. But what do you say? Sorry and sad do not begin to convey the depths of sorrow and sadness we all felt. After getting whipsawed for five years in a row, it just felt like cruel and unusual punishment to all in attendance.

Then Thiébault, as head of the Volnay vintners, was called to the stage to say a few words. We were all choking back tears as he took the podium, and as he began to speak it was clear he was fighting back his tears as well. His speech was short, simple, and moving. He reminded us all why Volnay was so special. A unique mosaic of over 200 different terroirs in one tiny village of just 200 hecatres, more than half of which is 1er Cru. The diversity is unparalleled, perhaps anywhere. And he reminded us that Volnay had been destroyed by hail three years in a row once before – in 1902, 1903 & 1904 – and that Volnay was still here, would always be here, and would always be Volnay. Long live Volnay!

Thiébault Huber at the podium

The applause was thunderous, and the lifting of spirits in the room was palpable. It was by no means a happy night, but everyone seemed to manage to find some flicker of spirit, and the evening moved on with at least a touch of a festive note or two. The hail did not prevent the vintners from bringing some fabulous wines to share. I counted some 32 different wines, mostly in Magnum or Jeroboam, that crossed our table, including especially nice bottles of ’93 Clos du Chateau des Ducs from Lafarge, ’93 Caillerets from Voillot, ’00 Bonnes Mares from Roumier (I was seated next to Christophe Roumier’s sister Anne, who was formerly married to Dominique Lafon), and a ’76 Pommard Rugiens from Thiébault’s grandfather, Raoul Verdereau.

This morning all of the winegrowers were out in the vineyards surveying the damage. It is very ugly indeed. Parts of Beaune and Pommard are a 90% loss. Beaune Clos des Mouches, which was a 100% loss last year, looks to have been destroyed once again. The southern half of Pommard and most of Volnay is at least a 50% loss. Pretty much the same for parts of Meursault.

Hail-damaged clusters in Volnay

It felt like walking around in the aftermath of a nuclear attack, or after a war had just pushed through. Sundays are always very quiet in France, but this one here especially so – a lot of heads hung low and muted voices, lots of TV trucks and crews on the vineyard roads filming and reporting the damages. The roads are carpeted in green in the center of the villages, layers of leaves stripped from the trees by the hail covering the streets.

Hail stripped leaves from the vines, and sent clusters crashing to the ground as well...

I am worried that this one will be the one that breaks people’s hearts, or their spirits, or both. Certainly some will be broken financially as well. After the last four years there were already major problems, and this will certainly spell the end of the line for a number of small family domaines. The damage of these five years will change much for many generations to come.

I am writing this now in the house that Thiébault’s mother was born in, and her mother before her. It was occupied by the German army during WWII. The stone walls here are three feet thick – this house isn’t going anywhere. Neither is Volnay.

Every picture tells a story…

Friday, June 27th, 2014

This one tells just part of the tale of a very good night at Ma Cuisine…

Attack of the Great Whites…

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

Continuing forward with the understanding that there’s no such thing as too much of a good thing, we cruised up the Autoroute to Gevrey to taste with Alexandrine Roy at Marc Roy, and we’re blown away by Alex’s 2012s in bottle – which are being packed and ready to ship as we speak. Alex took us on a nice tour of her parcels of La Justice vyd., and really helped illustrate what she’s doing in the vines, and all the hands-on adjustments she does all season long that make the difference in the end.

Alexandrine Roy, in Geverey-Chambertin "La Justice"

Lunch was at Castel Très Girard in Morey-St. Denis – chef’s choice of a three-course meal that was really outstanding. His perfectly rose-pink pork tenderloin was exquisitely done, and it totally rocked with the ’07 Clos St. Jacques from Bruno Clair, itself a kaleidoscope of aromas and flavors as it opened in the glass.

Then we made a pilgrimage to the Grand Crus of the Côte de Beaune – first the hill of Corton, and then down to Puligny and Chassagne to visit the motherlode.

All of us at Chevaliers-Montrachet

The topper of the day was a stellar tasting with Patrick Essa in the cellar at Buisson-Charles in Meursault, with several of the ‘13s in barrel, all of the ‘12s in bottle (including the new Chablis Grand Cru and the Puligny Caillerets), and a couple of older things served blind. Patrick put me on the spot to guess the vintage and the appellation. To my amazement I correctly guessed the ’95 Goutte d’Or (I may never do that again, so remind me that I once did that), and I was right on Charmes but wrong on the vintage for the next bottle – it was an ’89 that I guessed as a ’93. Regardless of lucky guesses, these were both amazing wines, living testaments to the ageability of non-mucked-with white burgs. Wow, what a treat.

And now an attempt to stay awake to watch the France-Ecuador World Cup match. More as it happens…

Patrick Essa - the master of Meursault for the new generation...

All in on the Côte de Beaune…

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

For people not in the business, tasting at three Burgundy domaines in one day is a lot. I’m here to say that our group this year not only handled it well, they rocked it yesterday. Huber-Verdereau in Volnay (including a walking vineyard tour from Pommard to Volnay), Thierry Violot-Guillemard in Pommard, and A-F Gros in Beaune – it was a great array of wines and personalities and a true full immersion in the culture and wines of the Côte d’Or. This is what we’re all here for, n’est-ce pas?

We even managed to squeeze in a couple of hours exploring Beaune on a perfectly beautiful sunny summer day. We have been totally blessed with amazing weather so far, and it looks to continue for the next couple of days at least.

Poulet de Bresse, sauce Époisses. Need I say more...

All my friends here were right – 21 Blvd. is quite excellent. It’s a new, elegant and beautifully decorated restaurant and wine bar on the boulevard in Beaune. We had a private room in their wine club for dinner last night, surrounded by an amazing cellar with over 700 top burgs on display, including many older vintages – clearly one of the best wine lists in town right now.

We drank well, starting with Chablis Grand Cru les Clos ’11 from J-P & B Droin, then a little ’11 Chambolle from Mugnier, and a really nice bottle of the ’07 Romanée-St. Vivant from l’Arlot. Life is good indeed.

Now off to Gevrey-Chambertin to taste with Alexandrine Roy and lunch at Très Girard in Morey. Then I’ll take the group on a vineyard tour of the Grand Crus in Puligny & Chassagne, before tasting at Buisson-Charles in Meursault to end the day. We soldier on :-)

A picture tells a few thousand calories…

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014

Tuna tartare, to the 10th power...

Dinner at Auprés du Clocher in Pommard, with Thiébault and Marielle Huber and our group. Chef Jean-Christophe outdid himself again. OMG…

Roast Pigeon breast topped with seared foie gras, on a fava bean purée with girolle mushrooms...

And here’s Thiébault à table with Burgundy camper Ted Lauder…

More as it happens…

And we’re off…

Monday, June 23rd, 2014

I suppose you could get the impression that all we do here is eat and drink. And you’d be right. And we do talk about wine a lot too – it’s kind of an ongoing week-long immersion class in Burgundy that we sneak in somewhere in between all the eating and drinking

It’s a great group of folks with me here again this year, including Ron & Barb Spangler from Virginia who are back for a second tour of duty – they joined us back in 2011 and have returned for more!

Lunch at Chez Guy was excellent as always yesterday – the 12-hour beef cheeks never fail. Oh my….

It was a gorgeous night in Levernois for a nice Sunday dinner at the Bistro du Bord de l’Eau, where the chocolate Liegois dessert was a huge hit, not to mention the foie gras, etc…

We hit the road in earnest today, down the A6 to the Mâconnais for a great tasting and lunch with Christophe and Sandrine Thibert in Fuissé. 15 wines, a lunch buffet, cheeses, dessert and coffee later – everyone was in fine form.

Then up the hill to the stunning Chateau des Rontets for a vineyard seminar and tasting in the cellar with the always charming Fabio Montrasi. Again and again I am so taken by the generosity and hospitality of our producers, who go so far out of their way to give our group an amazing experience. We so greatly appreciate it. The land has the potential to make wonderful wines here, but it is so clearly the people that make it truly wonderful.  Man, we are blessed.

Here's the whole crew with Fabio at Chateau des Rontets

Now off to dinner at the excellent Auprès du Clocher in Pommard with Thièbault and Marielle Huber and the crew – 12 of us together for a night of revelry and bacchanalia. Oh well, if we must…

And not a drop to drink…

Sunday, June 22nd, 2014

Steroids, antibiotics, pain-killers, expectorants, nasal spray – bring ‘em on! Don’t know when I’ve had so much fun :-)   The combination of all of these fine chemicals with alcohol is not advised, however, so for the next few days I’ll be tasting with my eyes and nose as I lead our group of customers around Burgundy for our annual one-week tour.

Nothing says I can’t eat, however! I do have a bit of an appetite, and was able to enjoy some killer charcuterie and fromage at La Dilletante in Beaune last night. “Lolo” Brelin, who for the last 17 years owned and ran Caves Madeleine restaurant in Beaune, opened his new Bar à Vin and small-plates place last November. In a word, it rocks. The wines are beautifully chosen, and every ingredient on every plate was sourced personally by Lolo, and he’s obsessed with finding the best of everything. This guy doesn’t miss.

Yes, please!

Today we’ll round up the group and kick off the tour with Lunch at Chez Guy in Gevrey-Chambertin, as always. Then I’ll do a Burgundy seminar for the group early this evening at their hotel in Pommard, before we go to dinner at the delightful Bistro au Bord de l’Eau in Levernois. We should get back in time for me to take a nap and get up to watch the USA-Portugal match in the World Cup – which starts at Midnight France time. We could actually move on to the next round with a win tonight. I don’t think that’s likely, but crazy things happen in the World Cup! Stay tuned…

The bill at La Dilletante, on an invoice pad Lolo scavenged from the 1960s. Trés Cool...