2007 Domaine Daulny Sancerre Le Clos de Chaudenay

Domaine Daulny Sancerre Le Clos de Chaudenay We almost crashed before we got the crash course. About 25 years ago, we were treated to a whirlwind tour of Sancerre in a Renault 205. Our blood pressure may have hit new highs on the twisting wine routes of the Loire, but in retrospect, it was all worth it. Our last stop of the day was in the tiny hamlet of Chaudenay (outside of Verdigny) with the Daulny brothers. It was Bertrand Daulny, one of Sancerre's most respected enologists, who gave us the lay of the land. "There are two great villages for Sancerre, and one that is sometimes as good. Chavignol typically provides for the richest Sauvignon. If it lacks for something, it's minerality. Bue has richness, but excellent stony length. Verdigny is the last one. Here, it's all about minerality, but in a couple of instances there's something more." He shrugged his shoulders, then pointed to the hillside in the distance. "Ok, I may be biased, but that's what we have at the Clos de Chaudenay. Old, exceedingly healthy hillside vines -- something more."

This is a one-of-a-kind Sancerre that we first discovered when the vines were 'only' 50 years old. Now, 25 years later (!), the 2007 Clos de Chaudenay is one of the very best Sancerre of the vintage. Only 300 cases of the tiny production make it to the US. Clos de Chaudenay is something more: crystal-like in its purity -- green apple aromas tinged with honey -- packed with stony pink grapefruit richness and the firm finish that's benchmark Verdigny.

The day we discovered the Clos de Chaudenay began with an espresso and a pastis on the square of Sancerre. The Vacherons were there. So was Didier Dagueneau. But the master of ceremonies was Alphonse Mellot, the incredibly personal and gregarious winegrower/negociant. We had met Mellot in the US some months before and he told us that if we were to come to Sancerre, he would show us around.

We should have been uncomfortable when we saw Alphonse's arm in a sling, and should have been downright worried when we were told that Alphonse had broken his arm when his Porsche had locked horns with a tractor. But when Alphonse said "On y va," we threw caution and common sense to the wind and climbed into the Renault.

We had tasted in four superb cellars before careening through Verdigny on our way to Chaudenay. The Renault 205 hit Porsche-like speeds, but our one-armed driver wasn't holding the road so well. But after the tasting chez Daulny, all those bare knuckle turns were almost worth it.

View of Sancerre
View of Sancerre
The winemaking team here is formidable. Etienne is a 'terrien,' a man of the land, while brother Bertrand is the ultimate cellar rat. But even the team -- Etienne with his almost permanent 'tractor tan,' and Bertrand with his precision palate -- agrees that they have little to do with the special beauty of this tiny production cuvee. The wines of Verdigny are mineral, but when the hillside is perfectly exposed and the vines are 70+ years of age, that minerality is spiked with this gorgeous kernel of pink grapefruit richness, offering the best case scenario -- a wine that has the richness of Chavignol and the verve of Bue.

Tasting Notes from the WineAccess Travel Log
"Brilliant pale green color. Rich nose of green apples, pear and just a hint of honey (with a promise of more to come). Beautifully concentrated kernel of apple/quince flavors, initially tightly bound, unwinding slowly, enhancing the richness at the core. Fine vibrant finish that is at once all Verdigny and all old vines. Drink now-2012."