Winery to Watch: Domaine Du Mont-Epin

By Robert Whitley

July 17, 2018 6 min read

When Richard and Stephane Martin purchased Domaine du Mont-Epin in 2015, they had a simple goal: Make wines that are fresh and pure at a good price.

Situated in the commune of Clesse in the Maconnais region of southern Burgundy, Domaine du Mont-Epin specializes in chardonnay, the grape of Macon. Far from the glitz and glamour of the premier cru and grand cru vineyards of the Cote d'Or, producing wines at a good price is hardly the problem.

Producing wines that can compete with more illustrious white Burgundies on the world market is quite another. I recently sat down with Richard Martin, the winemaker, at the French Trade Commission in San Francisco and tasted four samples from the 2016 vintage: Macon Peronne (the domaine borders the villages of Clesse and Peronne), Macon Peronne Etoile, Vire-Clesse and the Vire-Clesse Breillonde.

They will range in price from $18 to $30. For the most part these are unoaked wines, with only the Vire-Clesse Breillonde given any aging in oak (about 50 percent is aged in neutral barrels).

"We try to achieve purity of fruit and good minerality," Martin said. He farms organically, though the winery is not certified organic, and the land is worked with tools rather than machines.

All four wines were splendid. My personal favorite was the Macon Peronne Etoile, which was crisp with underlying richness and a distinct thread of minerality. It will retail for about $22. The Vire-Clesse Breillonde was the most sophisticated and elegant, and likely the most expensive at around $30.

For white Burgundy on a budget, you can't miss the Domaine du Mont-Epin.

Tasting Notes

Wines are rated on a 100-point scale. Wines are chosen for review because they represent outstanding quality or value, and the scores are simply a measure of this reviewer's enthusiasm for the recommended wine.

Groth 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, Oakville ($140) — If there is such a thing as a sweet spot for Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon, the Oakville district in the heart of the valley would have to be a contender. Robert Mondavi, Far Niente and Nickel & Nickel have taken up residence in Oakville and produce stunning cabernet with remarkable consistency. Though lesser known, Groth is no less impressive. The 2014 reserve cab is a reminder that the big three haven't cornered the market on quality. This wine is textbook Oakville, delivering rich layers of blackberry and cassis, a touch of cedar and graphite, splendid notes of wood spice and firm tannins that suggest long life. The structure, texture and balance of this wine are a collector's dream. Rating: 97 points.

Bruno Paillard Rose Premiere Cuvee, Champagne, France ($58.99) — Paillard's technique for his multi-vintage rose Champagne (the reserve wines used in the blend go all the way back to 1985) involves making a white base wine from pinot noir grapes and a red base wine from pinot, with a dash of chardonnay thrown in for its bright acidity and lift on the palate. This exquisite cuvee shows complex aromas of strawberry and citrus, and is vibrant on the palate and very dry due to a meager dosage of 6 grams per liter. The result is an impressive rose Champagne that has the power and oomph to stand up to roasted game birds, and the finesse and elegance to be enjoyed on its own as an aperitif. Rating: 96 points.

Louis M. Martini 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, Monte Rosso Vineyard, Sonoma Valley ($90) — Martini's Monte Rosso Vineyard is situated high in the Mayacamas Mountains on the Sonoma side of the line that divides Sonoma County from Napa County. It is one of the most coveted pieces of real estate in wine country and has produced some of the finest, most complex cabernet sauvignon in the region for decades. The 2014 shows exceptional balance despite an alcohol level of 15.5 percent. This heady wine shows layers of ripe black fruits along with supple, beautifully integrated tannins. Historically, the Monte Rosso cabs have aged well, but this vintage has "drink me now" written all over it. Try it with a thick, juicy grilled ribeye steak. Rating: 95 points.

J Vineyards 2016 Chardonnay, Russian River Valley ($30) — Winemaker Nicole Hitchcock demonstrates clearly here that she also has a deft hand with white table wines. Though J is primarily a sparkling wine house, its pinot noir, pinot gris and chardonnay receive every bit as much TLC as the bubblies. This vintage of the Russian River Valley chardonnay (there are other chards that are more site specific) is beautifully crafted, showing layered complexity with aromas of lemon creme, white peach and pear. The balance between fruit, acid and oak is exquisite, with a lingering note of wood spice that exhibits just the right touch without intruding upon the luscious fruits flavors. Rating: 94 points.

Follow Robert on Twitter at @wineguru. To find out more about Robert Whitley and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

Photo credit: at Pixabay

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