Monday, February 18, 2019

Top 25 Restaurants in Washington DC (Washingtonian, January 2019)

Pictures: Christian Schiller at the New Maxwell Park Wine Bar in Washington DC, USA

The Washingtonian is a monthly magazine distributed in the Washington, D.C. area. The magazine describes itself as "The Magazine Washington Lives By". Once a year, the Washingtonian releases a list of Washington's 100 best restaurants. The 2019 list was released a few days ago. Below you find the top 25 restaurants of the 2019 Washingtonian list.

The Washingtonian: Our 2019 Very Best Restaurants list hits newsstands this week, and we’re so excited for you to check it out. The list is a culmination of nearly a year of research (and by that I mean eating and drinking), hundreds of miles of driving, and a whole lot of careful consideration and debate. We visited over 300 restaurants in DC, Maryland, and Virginia.

Picture: Washingtonian January 2019

As in the past, we’ve ranked all 100 of the restaurants (the “we” in this case refers to me, Anna Spiegel, Jessica Sidman, and Cynthia Hacinli). So who’s number one? That honor goes to Minibar, Jose Andres’s wildly creative (and yes, wildly expensive) tasting room/lab in Penn Quarter. The place has been around for 15 years, but we were stunned at the mastery of every bite, which each brought together creativity and deliciousness—two things that don’t always go hand in hand.

Our top ten boasts both tried-and-true destinations (the Inn at Little Washington) and stunning newcomers (the omakase-only Sushi Nakazawa), plus plenty of places that don’t command blowout-dinner prices (have you tried that kimchee toast at Elle?).

In truth, we had about 120 places we were passionate and excited about. Narrowing the field was incredibly difficult, even given the fact that several closures—including Garrison, which shuttered just days before we went to press—left a slew of open slots. But with the help of a bunch of index cards, hours of energetic discussion, and an All-Purpose buffalo-chicken pizza, we pulled through.

Onward to the top 25!

1. Minibar: At José Andrés’s newly redone tasting room, chef Jorge Hernandez leads a 28-odd-dish progression that is surprising, thrilling, and above all, very delicious.

2. The Dabney: Jeremiah Langhorne uses mid-Atlantic and Southern flavors as a springboard, then makes magic in his Shaw restaurant’s giant hearth.

3. The Inn at Little Washington: For lovers of luxe mod-American dining and whimsical touches—a four-star popsicle, truffle-laden popcorn—there is no better place to celebrate than Patrick O’Connell’s Rappahannock County hideaway.

4. Sushi Nakazawa: Its Trump Hotel location might deter some, but they’re missing out on the city’s best sushi experience, an all-nigiri omakase.

5. Tail Up Goat: We’ve never had a dull meal in this cozy Adams Morgan dining room run by three Komi vets.

6. Pineapple and Pearls: Tasting menus can sometimes feel like Sunday mass. Aaron Silverman’s Capitol Hill prix fixe place is the opposite—unfussy and fun.

7. Elle: It’s our favorite breakfast and lunch spot by day. By night, it turns out dreamy cocktails and plates both creative and comforting.

8. Komi: Johnny Monis and Anne Marler’s menu-free tasting room in a Dupont Circle rowhouse is wonderfully unpretentious.

9. Kinship: At the more casual of their two Shaw restaurants, Eric Ziebold and Celia Laurent serve luxe dishes with a range of influences, from the midwest to Japan.

10. Little Serow: Johnny Monis and Anne Marler’s $54-a-person Thai spot is one of the best values in the city.

11. Inferno Pizzeria Napoletana: These Neapolitan pies are the best in the area, thanks to chef Tony Conte.

12. Spoken English: The standing-only, communal-table spot in Adams Morgan’s Line hotel turns out thrilling kushiyaki and whole roast duck.

13. Metier: Chef Eric Ziebold leans French at this subtly elegant Shaw tasting room, and Celia Laurent is the most gracious of hosts.

14. Del Mar: Fabio and Maria Trabocchi’s glittering Spanish dining room at the Wharf continues to wow us with opulent paellas and small plates.

15. Centrolina: Simple Italian dishes call for high quality ingredients and an assured chef. This CityCenterDC osteria has both.

16. Bad Saint: The Filipino cooking at this tiny spot is electric—and hallelujah, it’s just started taking reservations.

17. Himitsu: Kevin Tien’s Japanese-ish dishes are often brilliant, and the snug, macrame-hung space is a charmer.

18. Blue Duck Tavern: New chef Adam Howard has reinvigorated this Shaker-chic hotel dining room.

19. Sushi Taro: Washington has seen a boom in Japanese restaurants, but we can’t stay away from this 32 year-old institution’s sought-after omakase counter—or its half-price sushi happy hour.

20. Chloe: It’s a testament to Haidar Karoum’s finesse and skill that he can make a Bavarian sausage work on the same table as a delicate crudo and Lebanese hummus.

21. Masseria: Nick Stefanelli’s Italian tasting room near Union Market feels like a luxurious little world of its own, where you can sip Campari cocktails around fire pits and dig into a cannoli stuffed with foie gras.

22. Bresca: Our current favorite attraction at Ryan Ratino’s inventive 14th Street gem: the 19th century duck press.

23. Le Diplomate: Brunch with kids, a celebratory dinner, a late night cheeseburger, day-drinking rose on the patio—Stephen Starr’s 14th Street hotspot is the rare restaurant that’s suited to most any occasion.

24. Estadio: The cooking and cocktails are as strong as ever at this remarkably consistent Logan Circle Spanish place.

25. All-Purpose: Mike Friedman’s more-is-more Italian-American plates and pizzas are balanced by lovely salads and inventive vegetable plates.

The complete 2019 list of the 100 best restaurants in the Washington DC area, you find here.

schiller-wine: Related Postings

UPCOMING Tours/ Wine Dinners/ Tastings - Annette and Christian Schiller/ ombiasyPR & WineTours/ schiller-wine, Germany, France, USA (Issued: February 1, 2019)

A Firework of Flavors at Komi, the Best Restaurant in Town (Washington DC, USA)

Renaissance of the Terroir in Germany. Back to the Roots - Wine Tasting Seminar lead by Annette Schiller at the German Wine Society (Washington DC Chapter), USA

Virginia's Best Wines: 2018 Virginia Governor's Cup Competition, USA

Schiller's Favorites: New Wine Bars in Washington DC, USA

Schiller's Favorite Wine Bars in Washington DC, USA (2017)

American Wines with French Roots: The Wines President Obama Served at the State Dinner for President Hollande, USA/France

As Close as You Can Get to (French) Champagne at the US East Coast – Claude Thibaut and His Virginia Thibaut Janisson Sparklers at screwtop Wine Bar

Bordeaux Meets Virginia: Visiting Rutger de Vink and his RdV Vineyards with Anne Cuvelier from Chateau Leoville Poyferre in St. Julien, Bordeaux

Winemaker Dinner with David Reynaud, Domaine les Bruyeres, Crozes-Hermitage in the Rhone Valley, at Chef Bart Vandaele's BToo in Washington DC, USA/ France

Germany meets France: Bourgogne, Baden, Alsace and Pfalz - Tasting with the German Wine Society (Washington DC Chapter), led by Annette Schiller, USA/ France/ Germany

Jean-Michel Guillon from Gevry-Chambertin in Washington DC: Winemaker Dinner at 2941 Restaurant with Chef Bertrand Chemel

Annual Riesling Party at the Schiller Residence in Washington DC, USA (2017)

Friday, February 15, 2019

Extensive Vertical "Kastanienbusch" Tasting (Riesling and Spätburgunder) at Weingut Siener in Birkweiler, Pfalz, with Owner/ Winemaker Peter Siener - Germany-South and Alsace 2018 Tour by ombiasy WineTours: Baden, Alsace, Pfalz and Rheinhessen

Pictures: Extensive Vertical "Kastanienbusch" Tasting (Riesling and Spätburgunder) at Weingut Siener in Birkweiler, Pfalz, with Owner/ Winemaker Peter Siener - Germany-South and Alsace 2018 Tour by ombiasy WineTours: Baden, Alsace, Pfalz and Rheinhessen

In the Pfalz, we visited 4 wine producers during:  The Sun-Kissed South: Germany’s Pinot Noir, the Other Whites, the Culinary Regions - Germany-South and Alsace 2018 Tour by ombiasy WineTours: Baden, Alsace, Pfalz and Rheinhessen

Weingut Friedrich Becker in Schweigen
Weingut Siener in Birkweiler
Weingut Bürklin-Wolf in Wachenheim
Weingut Reichsrat von Buhl in Deidesheim

Pictures: Weingut Siener in Birkweiler, Pfalz

While the other three estates are all considered to be at the world-class level (and are VDP members, the association of about 200 German elite winemakers), Weingut Siener is a step below with 3/5 grapes in the Gault Millau WeinGuide 2019. Most of the wines are sold at the winery itself with exports accounting only for a small part of the output. Against this backgound, Weingut Siener produces most interesting, highly sought, high quality wines at a price point below that of the other three producers we visited in the Pfalz. Peter Siener's wines are like him character heads, occasionally a little stubborn, but unmistakable, with a lot of backbone and always worth the patience. Power, acidity and length mate in a variety of ways in his wines, with freshness and tension. Peter Siener is as deeply-rooted in Birkweiler as his vines are rooted in the soils of the foothills of the Palatinate mountains. Besides his passion for his wines Peter Siener also loves cooking and is passionate about food. That explains the grip and power of his wines that are perfect to match with food.

Peter Siener was our host.

Pictures: Welcome

The visit started with a glass of Weingut Peter Siener Sekt. Peter then took us on a tour of the famous Kastanienbusch and Mandelberg vineyards. We then sat down with Peter Siener in the courtyard of Weingut Siener for a Riesling Kastanienbusch and Pinot Noir Kastanienbusch vertical tasting comprising 5 vintages. Denise Siener served delicious local food from the Pfalz.

This is the second of two postings with regard to our visit of Weingut Siener:

Vineyard Tour at Weingut Siener in Birkweiler, Pfalz, with Peter Siener - Germany-South and Alsace 2018 Tour by ombiasy WineTours: Baden, Alsace, Pfalz and Rheinhessen
Extensive Vertical "Kastanienbusch" Tasting (Riesling and Spätburgunder) at Weingut Siener in Birkweiler, Pfalz, with Owner/ Winemaker Peter Siener - Germany-South and Alsace 2018 Tour by ombiasy WineTours: Baden, Alsace, Pfalz and Rheinhessen 

Pictures: Welcome Sekt at Weingut Siener with Peter and Denise Siener

Weingut Siener

For three generations, the Weingut Siener has been all about family and wine. Peter and Denise and their daughters Paula and Helena live in a traditional Winzerhaus in Birkweiler.

Peter Siener is the third generation owner and winemaker at Weingut Siener. He took over from his father in 2000 and has since stepped hard on the accelerator to pursue quality with a vengeance. He also doubled the vineyard site and has holdings in two of the best vineyard sites of the southern Pfalz: the Kastanienbusch and the Mandelberg both in Birkweiler. Since Peter's entry into the winery, new approaches have been taken in reducing yields, developing wines and marketing, with great recognition and much success.. He belongs to the generation of the young, energetic winemakers in Germany who follow new paths to only produce the best of the best quality.

Today, the vineyard are totals 15 hectares in the single vineyards Kastanienbusch and Mandelberg (Birkweiler), as well as Sonnenberg (Leinsweiler). They are planted with the white varieties Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Silvaner, as well as with the red varieties Pinot Noir, St. Laurent, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

The Siener wines are produced in 4 lines: Literwein, Gutswein, Erste Lage Wein and Grosse Lage Wein.

Bottle-fermented sparkling wines (Sekt) are also produced.

The winery is a member of the Vereinigung Südpfalz-Connexion and of FAIR'N GREEN.

FAIR'N GREEN

Peter Siener: By becoming a member of FAIR'N GREEN, we want to have our sustainable production certified, which translates into more transparency for our customers and even more sharing and control at every step in our work, and we believe it will optimize our operations in many areas - our contribution to environmental protection and social responsibility.

Chilled Wine (Hong Kong)

In terms of exports, Weingut Siener wines are available in Switzerland, Norway, Holland and Hong Kong (at Chilled Wine).

Chilled Wines: Siener - The Grape Whisperer. Peter Siener’s wines are a reflection of his own personality – generous, swinging, and thoughtful – wine is not just a product to him, and making it is not a job; he is ‘Vintner at Heart’. That’s why he is only fully satisfied if the quality exceeds his own expectations, ensuring that good can be better and better can be best. Sophistication and distinctiveness are things that usually fade with time, but the taste of Peter’s wines makes each moment everlasting.

Vineyard Tour at Weingut Siener in Birkweiler, Pfalz, with Peter Siener

Following  a glass of Siener Sekt, Peter took us on a tour of the famous Kastanienbusch and Mandelberg vineyards.

I have already reported about the vineyard tour here: Vineyard Tour at Weingut Siener in Birkweiler, Pfalz, with Peter Siener - Germany-South and Alsace 2018 Tour by ombiasy WineTours: Baden, Alsace, Pfalz and Rheinhessen

Pictures: Vineyard Tour at Weingut Siener in Birkweiler, Pfalz, with Peter Siener

Extensive Vertical Kastanienbusch Vineyard Tasting (Riesling and Spätburgunder)

After the vineyard tour, we drove back to the estate and sat down with Peter in the courtyard of Weingut Siener for a Riesling Kastanienbusch and Pinot Noir Kastanienbusch vertical tasting comprising 6 vintages. Denise Siener served delicious local food from the Pfalz. We started the tasting with a few other wines.

Pictures: Tasting at Weingut Siener in Birkweiler, Pfalz, with Owner/ Winemaker Peter Siener

The Wines Peter Poured

Weingut Siener produces most interesting, highly sought, high quality wines at a price point below that of the other three producers we visited in the Pfalz. Peter Siener's wines are like him character heads, occasionally a little stubborn, but unmistakable, with a lot of backbone and always worth the patience. Power, acidity and length mate in a variety of ways in his wines, with freshness and tension. Peter Siener is as deeply-rooted in Birkweiler as his vines are rooted in the soils of the foothills of the Palatinate mountains. Besides his passion for his wines Peter Siener also loves cooking and is passionate about food. That explains the grip and power of his wines that are perfect to match with food.

Pictures: Tasting Notes

A few other Wines

We started with a few other wines.


5 Kastanienbusch Rieslings

We then tasted 5 vintages of  Kastanienbusch Riesling.

Peter Siener: 1500 bottles per year. Slate. Low yield. Small, yellow berries. No need for green harvest. Old vines bring saltiness to the taste.


2016 Weingut Siener Birkweiler Kastanienbusch, Schiefer, Riesling

Peter Siener: Cool year. 36 hours pressing. 10 months on th lees. In stainless steel tanks. Good acidity. Fresh. Very mineral. Expect this wine to improve further.

2015 Weingut Siener Birkweiler Kastanienbusch, Schiefer, Riesling

Peter Siener:  Extremely hot year. 12 hours skin maceration. Riper. Less acidity. More voluptious. More opulent. 

2014 Weingut Siener Birkweiler Kastanienbusch, Schiefer, Riesling

Peter Siener: 40 hours skin maceration. Long time on the lees. 40% in used tonneaux. Is a bit closed now. Lots of herbs. Creamy.

2012 Weingut Siener Birkweiler Kastanienbusch, Schiefer, Riesling

Peter Siener: Fantastic year in the Pfalz. Harvested in November. Stainless steel. Mineral, spicy, elegant. Tannins well integrated. Perfect.

2011 Weingut Siener Birkweiler Kastanienbusch, Schiefer, Riesling

Peter Siener: Warm year. 12 hours skin maceration. Alcohol is in the forefront. Much less minerality than all the other vintages. Broad. Fat. Petrol at the end.

6 Kastanienbusch Pinot Noir and Spätburgunder

We finished with tasting 6 vintages Kastanienbusch Pinot Noir and Spätburgunder.


2014 Weingut Siener Birkweiler Kastanienbusch, Pinot Noir

Peter Siener: Green harvest. Very low yield. 14% alcohol. 100% in new barrique. Wood well integrated. Fine tannins. Silky with lots of power.

2013 Weingut Siener Birkweiler Kastanienbusch, Pinot Noir

Peter Siener: Green harvest. Very low yield. 100% in new barrique. THE year for Pinot Noir. Pinot Noir at its best. Very well made.

2012 Weingut Siener Birkweiler Kastanienbusch, Pinot Noir

Peter Siener: Brownish in the glass. Dry tannins at the back. Less complex than 2013 and 2014. 

2011 Weingut Siener Birkweiler Kastanienbusch, Spätburgunder

Peter Siener: Open vat fermentation. First  time without pumping. Lighter. Elegant. Lots of strawberry notes on the nose.

2009 Weingut Siener Birkweiler Kastanienbusch, Spätburgunder

Peter Siener: Hot year. Fat. Not enough acidity. The grapes were harvested too late. Opulent. Lacks elegance. Very massiv.

2008 Weingut Siener Birkweiler Kastanienbusch, Spätburgunder

Peter Siener: Very cold year. 100% in barrique. No brownish notes in the colour. Very fresh, young.

Bye-bye

Thanks Peter and Denise for a most impressive vineyard tour and a  world class tasting.

Picture: Bye-bye

schiller-wine: Germany-South and Alsace 2018 Tour by ombiasy WineTours: Baden, Alsace, Pfalz and Rheinhessen - All Postings (Published and Forthcoming

The Sun-Kissed South: Germany’s Pinot Noir, the Other Whites, the Culinary Regions - Germany-South and Alsace 2018 Tour by ombiasy WineTours: Baden, Alsace, Pfalz and Rheinhessen

Sekt: Cellar Tour and Tasting at Griesel&Compagnie, Sekthaus Streit, Bensheim, with Winemaker Rachele Crosara - Germany-South and Alsace 2018 Tour by ombiasy WineTours: Baden, Alsace, Pfalz and Rheinhessen

Lunch at 1 Michelin Star Restaurant Landhaus Feckl in Ehningen, with Chef Franz Feckl and Host Manuela Feckl - Germany-South and Alsace 2018 Tour by ombiasy WineTours: Baden, Alsace, Pfalz and Rheinhessen

The Evolving Structure of the Wine Industry in Germany – The Case of the Lake Constance Region

Schloss Salem at Lake Constance in Germany: A Museum, a School and a Wine Estate

Visit of Schloss Salem, Kirche Birnau and Weingut Markgraf von Baden - Germany-South and Alsace 2017 Tour by ombiasy WineTours

Cellar Tour and Tasting at Staatsweingut Meersburg in Meersburg, Baden, Lake Constance (Bodensee) - Germany-South and Alsace 2018 Tour by ombiasy WineTours: Baden, Alsace, Pfalz and Rheinhessen

2 Cellar Tours and 1 Tasting at Weingut Ziereisen in Efringen, Markgräfler Land, Baden, with Hanspeter and Edel Ziereisen - Germany-South and Alsace 2018 Tour by ombiasy WineTours: Baden, Alsace, Pfalz and Rheinhessen

Cellar Tour and Tasting at Pinot Noir Star Producer Weingut Martin Waßmer in Bad Krozingen, Markgräfler Land, Baden - Germany-South and Alsace 2018 Tour by ombiasy WineTours: Baden, Alsace, Pfalz and Rheinhessen

Dinner at Restaurant Schwarzer Adler, 1 Star Michelin, Oberbergen, Kaiserstuhl, Baden - Germany-South and Alsace 2017 Tour by ombiasy WineTours

Tasting and Cellar Tour at Weingut Hunn in Gottenheim, Tuniberg, Baden, with Kilian and Martina Hunn - Germany-South and Alsace 2018 Tour by ombiasy WineTours: Baden, Alsace, Pfalz and Rheinhessen

The World Class Wines of Alsace

In the world class white wine region Alsace

Tour and Tasting at Domaines Schlumberger in Guebwiller, Alsace - Germany-South and Alsace 2017 Tour by ombiasy WineTours

Cellar Tour and Tasting at Domaine Rieflé-Landmann in Pfaffenheim, Alsace, with Paul Rieflé - Germany-South and Alsace 2018 Tour by ombiasy WineTours

Cellar Tour and Massive Tasting at Domaine Rolly-Gassmann in Rorschwihr, Alsace, with Pierre Gassmann - Germany-South and Alsace 2018 Tour by ombiasy WineTours

Cellar Tour and Tasting at Domaine Pfister in Dahlenheim, Alsace, with Melanie Pfister - Germany-South and Alsace 2018 Tour by ombiasy WineTours

Promenade au Fleckenstein: Dinner at L'Auberge du Cheval Blanc (2 Stars Michelin) in Lembach, Alsace, with Chef Pascal Bastian - Germany-South and Alsace 2018 Tour by ombiasy WineTours: Baden, Alsace, Pfalz and Rheinhessen

Wine Tasting at Weingut Friedrich Becker – Germany-South Wine Tour by ombiasy (2014)

Vineyard Tour at Weingut Siener in Birkweiler, Pfalz, with Peter Siener - Germany-South and Alsace 2018 Tour by ombiasy WineTours: Baden, Alsace, Pfalz and Rheinhessen

Extensive Vertical "Kastanienbusch" Tasting (Riesling and Spätburgunder) at Weingut Siener in Birkweiler, Pfalz, with Owner/ Winemaker Peter Siener - Germany-South and Alsace 2018 Tour by ombiasy WineTours: Baden, Alsace, Pfalz and Rheinhessen

Vineyard Tour and Massive Tasting at Weingut Siener in Birkweiler, Pfalz, with Owner/ Winemaker Peter Siener

Schiller's Favorite (Wine-) Restaurants in Deidesheim in the Pfalz, Germany

Impromptu Tasting at Weinbar & Vinothek Weingut Dr. Bürklin-Wolf in Deidsheim, with Managing Director Steffen Brahner - Germany-South and Alsace 2018 Tour by ombiasy WineTours: Baden, Alsace, Pfalz and Rheinhessen

Impressive Vineyard Tour and Tasting at Weingut Reichsrat von Buhl in Deidesheim, Pfalz, with Richard Grosche - Germany-South and Alsace 2018 Tour by ombiasy WineTours: Baden, Alsace, Pfalz and Rheinhessen

Winemaker Dinner at Weingut Reichsrat von Buhl in Deidesheim, Pfalz, Germany

Tasting the Wines of Weingut Battenfeld-Spanier and Weingut Kühling-Gillot at the Spanier Family Home in Hohen-Sülzen and Touring the Winery with Carolin Spanier-Gillot - Germany-South and Alsace 2018 Tour by ombiasy WineTours

The Wine Maker Couple H.O. Spanier and Carolin Spanier-Gillot, with Roland Gillot, Lead Wine Tasting of Kuehling-Gillot and Battenfeld-Spanier Wines at Weingut Kuehling-Gillot, Germany

Cellar Tour and Tasting at Weingut Wagner-Stempel in Siefersheim, Rheinhessen, with Winemaker Oliver Müller and Owner Cathrin Wagner - Germany-South and Alsace 2018 Tour by ombiasy WineTours: Baden, Alsace, Pfalz and Rheinhessen

Cellar Tour and Lunch at Weingut Schloss Westerhaus in Ingelheim, Rheinhessen, with the Owners Countess and Count von Schönburg-Glauchau and Technical Director Toni Frank - Germany-South and Alsace 2018 Tour by ombiasy WineTours: Baden, Alsace, Pfalz and Rheinhessen

Tasting at Weingut Knewitz in Appenheim, Rheinhessen - Germany-South and Alsace 2018 Tour by ombiasy WineTours: Baden, Alsace, Pfalz and Rheinhessen

Schiller’s Favorite Wine Taverns in Mainz, Germany 

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Cellar Tasting, including from Barrel, at Domaine Éric Texier in Charney, with Laurence Texier - Rhône Valley Tour 2018 by ombiasy WineTours: Wine, Culture and History, France

Picture: Cellar Tasting, including from Barrel, at Domaine Éric Texier in Charney, with Laurence Texier - Rhône Valley Tour 2018 by ombiasy WineTours: Wine, Culture and History, France

We started our journey through the Rhône Valley with a visit to one of the innovative and most dynamic winemaker of the “young and wild” Rhône Valley crowd: Éric Texier. He is a Bordeaux native and nuclear engineer by training. He fell in love with wine and looked for opportunities to buy vineyards in areas with top terroir. Eric farms biodynamically and now owns vineyards in Brézème and in Saint Julien en Saint Alban, both small appellations at the southern tip of the northern Rhône.

Éric Texier's wife Laurence was our host. They live in Charnay in the Beaujolais Region, north of Lyon, and have rented a place there were they make their wines. The vineyards, however, are located in the southern part of the Northern Rhône Region. The vineyards are there as well as winemaking facilities for the initial phases of winemaking. We met in Charnay in their wine cellar and tasted with Laurence 5 Texier wines, including one from barrel.

Pictures: Arriving

Éric Texier (USA Importer: David Bowler)

David Bowler: Éric Texier might not have been the most obvious candidate to become one of the Rhône Valley’s most dynamic winemakers: he is a Bordeaux native and nuclear engineer by trade. But he fell in love with wine, drawn particularly to the wines of some of the great, old-school vignerons in the Rhône (Gentaz, Trollat, Verset, Juge), Burgundy (Henri Goyard at Domaine de Roally, Jean-Marie Guffens at Maison Verget), Beaujolais (Chamonard) and Provence (Mas de Gourgonnier).

Picture: Welcome

Bitten hard by the wine bug, Éric dumped the corporate-scientist life for one in vines and wines, starting with an internship with Guffens in 1993. By 1995, he and his wife Laurence and their two young children Texier family had moved into a house with a 16th-century underground wine cellar in Charnay in the southern Beaujolais and still home today—and Éric was bottling his first vintage.

At that early point, Éric was working closely with vignerons from whom he learned and purchased fruit. Having his own vines seemed an unattainable dream. But Éric’s favorite old-guard Rhône growers pointed him in the direction of a venerable old Syrah vineyard to the south but still technically part of the northern Rhône Valley: Brézème, a once-celebrated but by then long-neglected vineyard area in a remote area on the eastern side of the Rhône River, where the Drôme River joins it from the west.

Pictures: 16th-century Uunderground Wine Cellar in Charnay in the Southern Beaujolais

The coteau has full southern exposure, 300 meters in elevation, limestone-rich clay soils and an increasingly steep aspect with rockier terrain as the slope rises. Back in the mid-1800’s, the wines of Brézème had rivalled those of Hermitage (20 miles to the north, also on the eastern side of the Rhône), in terms of reputation and price; it attained solo AOC status in the Côtes-du-Rhône zone back in 1943. But by 1961, Brézème and its ancient terraces of pre-clonal, old-variant Syrah known as Serine had largely been abandoned. Éric was fortunate enough to be introduced to the “godfather of Brézème”, François Pouchoulin. Pouchoulin almost singlehandedly kept the Brézème AOC alive for over 50 years via his family’s tiny property, the Domaine de Pergault. Éric fell in love with the area and its rich viticultural history. He began working with the fruit and eventually acquired several hectares of Syrah and Roussanne.

Éric was able to do the same in a similarly obscure, Syrah-rich Ardèche vineyard area: St. Julien-en-St.-Alban. It lies across the Rhône from Brézème, on the western side, 200 meters higher up at 500 meters, with completely different, granite-based soils and a warmer microclimate; here Éric also owns a mix of Syrah vines--including some Serine--as well as Marsanne.

Texier bottlings from the oldest red and white vines in Brézème and St. Julien en St. Alban bear the moniker “Domaine Pergaud”, an homage to Pouchoulin. There are also younger-vine (30-40-year-old) clonal Syrah-vine bottlings from Brézème and St. Julien. When he has to replant, it is always selection massale.

Pictures: Tasting in the Cellar

While the heart and soul of Texier wines is the wines from Brézème and St. Julien, Éric makes a number of other wines. The entry-level Côte-du-Rhône wines (“Adèle” being the white, “Chat Fou” the red and rosé) come largely from his own vines, including in Brézème and St. Julien but also from the Vaucluse. Additionally, he makes very small quantities of Châteaunuef-du-Pape and Côte-Rôtie with fruit from like-minded vignerons with whom he has collaborated for years. No matter the source, Éric’s priority and passion is purity. Over years of intensive study and experimentation, he has picked and chosen from various farming traditions and philosophies--organics, biodynamics and Fukuoka among others—to arrive at the best way to get out of the way of the purest expression of grape, place and vintage in his wines.  His own vineyards are certified-organic, but he rejects the use of copper and sulfur treatments (which are permitted in organics); he uses some of the plant-based preparations of biodynamics but rejects its animal-based ones. He encourages cover crops but no longer works the soils. Harvest is of course strictly by hand.

Éric’s feelings about is farming choices are strong--and strongly expressed as is his way--but they are not dogmatic. The same goes for his cellar practices. In his own words, he is “very old-school and very minimalist”, adapting the particulars for vintage variation. Éric’s attention to the most minute details from start to finish is exacting and exhaustive. Reds and white both are generally made with whole clusters; native-yeast fermentation; short macerations; very gentle pressing; little to no sulfur, and only at bottling if at all; vinification and aging in cement, steel and used oak (varying sizes, never new); no punching down and no racking for reds; extended lees contact with no bâtonnage for whites; and no fining or filtering. He is restless and willing to try new techniques (example: amphora-aging for Marsanne in 2015). The goal is finesse, not weight or power, which one senses in the fine acidity, the high-toned aromatics and the clean lines of his wines.

Generally pegged as part of the natural wine movement in France, Éric shrugs this and every other label off. He is an intellectual, a scientist, and a pragmatist with a clear-eyed, unapologetic take on his work:  "My wines are not "nice" or "fun". I believe that they express where they come from and truly show a sense of regional identity. They are clear and precise. I don't give a damn what people are drinking at hipster wine bars in Paris or what a 1000-Euro bottle of Bordeaux tastes like. I'm very happy that people like my grandma and François Pouchoulin, the father of Brézème, like them."

The Wines we Tasted

We tasted 5 wines.

Brézème Blanc

Brézème Roussanne Côtes-du-Rhône
2017
Éric Texier
France
Rhône

100% Roussanne. Brézème is a small viticultural area 18 kilometers south of Valence. Like Hermitage and Crozes-Hermitage, Brézème sits on the eastern side of the Rhône but in the Ardèche, a less celebrated but increasingly, thanks to Téxier, a quality-driven growing area which includes many old vines. The soils are notably rich in limestone. His parcel of Roussanne is a southwest-facing clos, a true walled vineyard, with the biodynamically-farmed vines averaging 25 years old. For the Brézème Côtes-du-Rhône, Eric uses the youngest of them, planted in 2009. The fruit is hand-harvested and fermented as whole clusters with native yeasts in concrete tanks; the wine is also aged in concrete tank and bottled with only 30mg/liter of sulfur at bottling.

Roussanne is an uncommon, difficult varietal which ripens late, yields unevenly and suffers powdery mildew readily. Not surprisingly, its plantings declined over decades, but it is experiencing a Rhône revival, helped along by Téxier in fact. When grown and vinified with meticulous care, Roussanne can produce a rich, complex, age-worthy wine. Eric is currently the only producer of Roussanne in Brézème, where he feels the cooler microclimate and soils help temper Roussanne's natural fruit confiture-like tendencies.

Brézème Vieille Roussette Côtes-du-Rhône Pergaud
2015
Éric Texier
France
Rhône

Eric’s oldest-vine Roussanne on pure limestone. 50% on skins for 6-8 weeks in amphora and 50% direct-press in 20-yr-old old barrels; blended then and pressed together and aged in a mix of amphora & old barrels.


Brézème Rouge

St. Julien en St. Alban Vieille Serine Côtes-du-Rhône Pergaud (from barrel)
2017
Éric Texier
France
Rhône

100% Syrah. St. Julien-en-St. Alban is a village and vineyard area at the southernmost edge of the northern Rhône Valley, on the western side of the Rhône River in the Ardèche. Its granite soils, higher altitude and greater overall warmth distinguish it from Texier's other main vineyard site in Brézème, across the Rhône on the east side with limestone soils and slightly cooler temperatures. As he does in Brézème, Eric owns a small parcel of vines of old Serine--the legendary and unique group of non-clonal, highly variable Syrah--which he farms organically and harvests by hand (as with all of his vines). The wine is made in the same way as Texier's others: whole clusters are fermented with native yeasts in concrete tank with a short one-week maceration . There is no punching down or other cap submersion (only a moistening of the cap with wine) in order to avoid overextraction. Unlike the younger-vine, concrete-aged St. Julien Syrah bottling, the Pergaud Serine is aged for about 30 months in old 2500-liter foudres and bottled with no sulfur.


Brézème Syrah Côtes-du-Rhône
2016
Éric Texier
France
Rhône

100% Syrah. Brézème is an historic Syrah growing area at the southernmost edge of the northern Rhône Valley, on the eastern side of the Rhône River in the Drôme, near the start of the Alps It is a steep, south-facing hill rich in limestone and old vine terraces. Eric owns some old Serine parcels, as well as some younger clonal Syrah plantings going back 30 to 40 years. For this Côtes-du-Rhône bottling, Texier only this younger, clonal Syrah. The fruit is organically farmed and harvested by hand. Whole clusters are fermented with native yeasts in concrete tank with a short one-week maceration . There is no punching down or other cap submersion (only a moistening of the cap with wine) in order to avoid overextraction. The wine is aged in concrete for 15 months and bottled without filtration and with a miniscule10 mg/liter of sulfur.


Brézème Vieille Serine Côtes-du-Rhône Pergaud
2014
Éric Texier
France
Rhône


Bye-bye

Thanks Laurence for a great tasting.

Picture: Christian and Annette Schiller with Laurence Texier

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