We first met Dominique Roger in 1984, a year after he had lost his father, a man who by all accounts was indefatigable in the vineyards until he was suddenly struck by illness too early in life. When Dominique spoke of his vineyards, he spoke of his father. When he spoke of his father, he spoke of his vineyards. Somehow, they were one in the same. It was immediately clear that young Roger was a manic vineyard manager, a guy who sported a perpetual "farmer's" tan.
Dominique spoke little of finances or financial goals. He drove a modest car and lived frugally. But when it came to his vineyards and his wines, he invested seemingly without thought of return.
No story better illustrates Roger's viticultural resolve than the following.
In 1989, Dominique bought a small plot of land, just a couple of acres on the hillsides of the tiny hamlet of Bue, the most remarkable of the wine towns of Sancerre due to the high concentration of calcareous soil. The purchase was unusual in that there is never land for sale in Bue. It was doubly remarkable because the plot of land was on an incredibly steep incline, so steep that no producer dared invest the time and resources into the planting and cultivation of the land. But Dominique, who had done his apprenticeship in Burgundy in the late '70s was certain that this hillside would yield some of the finest Pinot Noir in Sancerre.
In the Spring of 1990, Dominique began planting. The process was so arduous that it became common practice for the older, retired vignerons of Bue to bring their beach chairs out to sit and watch Dominique work. A bunch of old guys with a bag of sausages, goat cheese and a baguette, watching and chuckling as the young vintner drove stakes into the ground. In late April, Dominique had almost completed planting when a huge storm blew through the eastern Loire Valley. The storm tore up the vineyard, leaving hundreds of plants and wooden stakes in a muddy pond at the bottom of the hill. The following Spring, Dominque returned with stakes and plants. The retired vignerons returned as well. Today, Roger insists that this steepest of Pinot Noir plantings is a key element of his old vine Sancerre Rouge.
The greatest of the white wines produced by Dominque is the Sancerre "La Jouline," made from Sauvignon Blanc drawn off of vines with average age of 65 years! Vinified in stainless steel, this wine is fabulously fruity, but mineral, with great acidic backbone. In excellent vintages like 2004, Roger's "La Jouline" will age for up to 15 years, making it one of the most sought after wines in Sancerre. This is another white wine that begs for large stemware and plenty of aeration. Drink now- 2015.