2011 Domaine Andre Bonhomme Macon-Villages
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Domaine Andre Bonhomme "Meursault at One-Third the Price"

In 1983, with over eight francs to the dollar, we made the lunch reservation at Taillevent that would lead us 300 kilometers south, to the small hamlet of Vire in Burgundy. At the time, Monsieur Vrinat had amassed the most impressive restaurant cellar in the world. The wine list wasn't so much a book as a weighty tome, pages devoted to back vintages of Bordeaux First Growths. The reading was better than anything Faulkner ever wrote.

As much as we'd done our best to arrive in disguise, dressed as appropriately as possible, we stuck out like two sore thumbs. To our right was a two-top. The Parisian woman's jewelry could have paid the year's rent for our 300-square-foot studio sublet in SoHo. Across the way was a table of six. All suits. All the bottles on the table were made by Chateau Cheval Blanc. Six vintages, all in magnum.

The sommelier approached, his silver cup dangling from his neck. He glanced unobtrusively over our shoulders as these guys are trained to do. Seeing the tome opened to the first of a dozen pages of white Burgundies -- then eying the matching stains on lapels that our dry cleaner at Place d'Italie hadn't been able to rub out -- he took pity on us. Then, he offered what still ranks as the greatest 3-star Michelin advice of our lives.

"I suggest the Macon-Vire from Andre Bonhomme. It's better than most of the village Meursault." He winked. "It's also one-third the price!" Then, he skated effortlessly to tend to the big bottle of 1961 Cheval Blanc.

As it turned out, Andre Bonhomme's 1978 Mâcon-Viré, drawn entirely from 50-year-old Chardonnay, was the ONLY Macon on Vrinat's list. The wine was magnificent, and just as the winking sommelier had suggested, it put most of Meursault in its place. Golden in color, rich and honeyed, the finish was endless, almost Riesling-like. We'd taste that 1978 again in 2002. It hadn't lost a step.

While the entrance chez Bonhomme has remained much the same, that whitewashed outer wall stoically displaying the name of the most revered winemaker the Maconnais has ever known, once in the courtyard, some things have changed. The parakeets still chirp, but the interior walls are now more colorful, painted pinkish-red. Since Andre took ill, his daughter Jacqueline, and her husband, Eric Palthey, manage the estate. In the cellar, young Aurelien Palthey, the couple's son, is a chip off the old block, drawing raves from critics, seemingly upping the ante on his grandfather's barrel-fermented protocol.

Something else has changed. The estate is a touch larger. When we first met Andre, he had just 15 acres of vines, all in Vire. A decade and a half later, Bonhomme would enter into a farming contract with the owners of a parcel Andre had long coveted. Two acres of 50-year-old Chardonnay, all east facing, planted on white Burgundy's prized limestone soils, would be added to the Bonhomme fold.

In 2011, that old-vine parcel would turn out just 2.5 tons per acre of sweet apple/honey clusters, all of which would be handpicked before making its way to Aurelien Palthey's crusher. When we tasted the 2011 Domaine Andre Bonhomme Macon Villages for the first time a few weeks ago, we felt like we we'd rolled the clock back 30 years -- and were again seated at that table for two at M. Vrinat's Taillevent.

While we've been able to eke out small allocations of Bonhomme Vire Clesse in the last three vintages, the tiny production of old-vine Macon Villages was always off limits. Until today.

This is a brilliant effort from young Palthey, one of the more gorgeously honed white Burgundies of the 2011 campaign. Brilliant pale gold to the rim with benchmark Bonhomme aromatics of ripe apple and honeysuckle, vibrant and piercing. The attack is unusually rich and forward, with lush layers of apple/pear intensity, a touch of bitter honey, all braced by zesty crispness.

Drink this luscious white Burgundy now for its juicy minerality, or do as we've done for the last thirty years. Pop one cork now, just to get your bearings, then lay the rest down for 5-20 years. As the sommelier first told us, "it's Meursault-like -- for 1/3 the price!"

Tasting Notes

2011 Domaine Andre Bonhomme Macon-Villages
"Brilliant pale gold to the rim, with textbook aromatics of ripe apple and honeysuckle, vibrant and piercing. The attack is unusually rich and forward, with lush layers of apple/pear intensity, a dose of bitter honey, a hint of anise -- all braced by stinging mineral crispness. Drink now for its youthful flash or do as we always do chez Bonhomme: Pop a cork in September to gain bearings, then lay the rest down for 5-20 years!"
-- WineAccess Travel Log

*Important Shipping Information
    • This is a Pre-Arrival Offer: Weather permitting, wine will begin shipping upon arrival, in September, 2013.

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