2011 Domaine de la Croix Senaillet Saint-Véran Sampler 12-Pack
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La Source des Fées and Richard and Stéphane Martin Marco Polo at La Source des Fées

Many importers would like people to think that they are modern day Marco Polos, embarking on unpredictable journeys on the world's wine routes, knocking on doors, ferreting out the good stuff. If you believe that one, give us a call. We'll make you a great deal on a 1972 green Maverick. The tires are a little bald, but boy does this baby purr.

How did we create our network of suppliers? We began in 1982 in France, in the cellars of Robert Ampeau, André Bonhomme and Jacques Diebolt. In each case, after creating strong partnerships and friendships, we asked for introductions to others. On and on it went for over 30 years, almost every great "find" giving birth to another.

So it was last week, while staying at one of the greatest B&Bs in Burgundy, that we arranged a tasting with seven suppliers in the Mâconnais and Beaujolais. Jean-Jacques and Gilles Corsin came, as did Aurélien Palthey of Domaine André Bonhomme. Jean-Pierre Sève, Patrick Brunet, Jean-Claude Janin and Gilles Gelin each brought three or four new releases. La Source des Fées served up the smoked salmon, pate, crudites and thick-crusted pain de campagne. But in addition to inviting our winemaker friends of the region, we asked each to invite another top producer who knew nothing of WineAccess — just to give him a taste of what we're all about.

And so it was, once again, that we landed two new superb estates without ever having to knock blindly on cellar doors, looking for Kublai Khan.

In 1969, Maurice Martin set up shop in the tiny hamlet of Davayé, just around the corner and up the hill from chez Corsin. In 1990, his 21-year-old son Richard took over, and would soon be joined by his younger brother Stéphane. Over the course of the next two decades, the Martins, needing to feed three families off the proceeds of Domaine de la Croix Senaillet, borrowed aggressively, purchasing dozens of small parcels in the most precious lieux-dits of Saint-Véran.

That afternoon at La Source des Fées, Richard (a dead ringer for actor/comedian Robin Williams!) brought three 2011 St.-Vérans, each from a distinct parcel of disparate soil composition. Les Rochats, Martin explained, is one of the most refined and complex of his white Burgundies, largely due to the vineyard's shallow chalky soil, strewn with pink limestone. En Pommards, with its somewhat deeper, more clayey soils, is richer and more generous. And the gorgeous Les Buis, drawn from a steep, east-facing, calcareous slope, is the most chiseled Saint-Véran of the bunch.

In a 2011 growing season that proved challenging for the least-rigorous growers — but absolutely sublime for our friends at La Source des Fées — the Martin brothers, like their friends the Corsin brothers, made multiple passes through the vines, dropping fruit twice, pushing the envelope on concentration. By the time Richard made the call to harvest, he explained, yields were down nearly 25 percent from the norm. Natural sugars came in at just under 23 brix. Acids were electrifying.

That night, after running up to Davayé and walking the vines of Domaine de la Croix Senaillet, we cut this small first deal with Richard Martin. We took whatever Richard would give us, with a promise that if all went well, he'd give us more next year. As night fell, we returned to La Source des Fées, and on a whim, logged on to erobertparker.com to see what the Wine Advocate might have had to say about the great 2011s from les frères Martin. That's when we learned that Parker had beaten us to the punch.

The Wine Advocate report on the top white Burgundies of the Mâconnais came out in August 2013. Somehow, we'd missed it. Coverage included exhaustive tastings with Pouilly Fuissé stars Christophe Cordier, Eric Forest and Château Fuissé. But amidst the Pouilly honor roll were a bevy of top St.-Vérans — the highest scoring of which were 2011s from our new friends at La Croix de Senaillet.

Golden to the edge, rich, pristine, and beautifully chiseled, the 2011 En Pommards, Les Rochats and Les Buis merited Wine Advocate descriptions like "Meursault-like," "excellent," "a precocious opening with spicy citrus fruit, lemongrass and honeycomb" — and ratings of 92, 92 and 91 points, respectively.

Tasting Notes

2011 Domaine de la Croix Senaillet Saint-Véran en Pommards
"The 2011 St Veran En Pommards comes from a 0.7-hectare plot of northeast facing 38-year-old vines and is fermented in tank and large oak barrels in equal measure. It has a strict, stony bouquet with light limestone and smoke scents, while the palate is more expressive at the moment, demonstrating fine tannins, nicely judged acidity and a harmonious, almost Meursault-like finish. Excellent."
92 pointsRobert Parker's The Wine Advocate

2011 Domaine de la Croix Senaillet Saint-Véran les Rochats Blanc
"The 2011 St Veran Les Rochats comes from a two-hectare parcel of 50-year-old vines. It offers a pretty, feminine bouquet with light scents of lemon, honeysuckle and acacia that blossom in the glass. The palate has a pleasant saline tang on the entry. There is very fine weight and harmony here, with subtle honey and spice notes decorating the finish that is concentrated for a 2011. Very fine."
92 pointsRobert Parker's The Wine Advocate

2011 Domaine de la Croix Senaillet Saint-Véran Les Buis
"The 2011 St Veran Les Buis is a small cuvee of just 3,000 bottles from 45-year-old vines in a 1.5-hectare plot close to the winery. It has a precise, unpretentious, almost understated bouquet that is tightly coiled at the moment, whereas the palate already boasts quite a precocious opening with spicy citrus fruit, lemongrass and honeycomb. It is very focused and it probably needs to develop just a little more persistency to complete the package."
91 pointsRobert Parker's The Wine Advocate

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