2011 Domaine des Terres de Chatenay Vire Clesse Chazelle
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View from South Chatenay $11 Per Day on a Powder Blue Raleigh Professional

In 1979, we answered an ad in a local French newspaper. A grower in Chitry, a small hamlet outside of Chablis, was looking for harvesters. The job paid $33 a day. As we were spending just $11 per diem touring France on our powder blue Raleigh Professionals, the division was easy. Each day in the vines would provide for three in the saddle. We made a call, struggling with our broken French, then pedaled from Auxerre to Chitry.

The grower, Edmond Chalmeau, owned 22 acres of Chardonnay, divided into a patchwork quilt of twenty-some parcels. Not only would each parcel be harvested separately, but often we'd do two passes on the same patch, first picking the bottom of the hill before returning for the slower-maturing top portion. In 20 days, we took a graduate level course on the challenges of growing fine Chardonnay in Burgundy.

Ever since, we've worked our way into every young cellar in the region, searching for the stars. Last June, we found one in the form of the young enologist Jean-Claude Janin.

It was Gilles Corsin, the winemaking wizard of Davaye, who engineered our rendez-vous with one of the most talked about young winegrowers in the Maconnais. At first glance, Jean-Claude Janin's gamble on 12 mature hillside acres in and around prime time Vire-Clesse, seemed like a recipe for disaster. The property was too small, most suggested. Janin and his wife would be obliged to do all the work themselves -- both in the vines and the cellar. Even worse, those dozen acres were divided into an equal number of parcels, tripling the workload in the vines. But despite all the naysaying, it wouldn't take long for the Janins to stun winegrowers from Fuisse to Meursault.

We tasted the entire lineup of sold-out 2009s and 2010s. Each bottle was brilliantly chiseled, rich, yet built for the long haul. But the prize of the Janins' Terre de Chatenay was a quarter-hectare of 60-year-old vines set in the center of southwest facing slope in the commune of Chazelles. In a 2011 vintage that married 2009 plumpness with electrifying 2010 minerality, Jean-Claude described the "Chazelles" as the richest and most powerful of the bunch. He'd get no argument from us.

Pale golden to the edge, with piercing aromas of apple and pear, laced with the bitter honey that Janin suggests will claim center stage in a half-decade's time, the attack is far more Cote de Beaune than Macon -- the dense concentration of the old vines bracketing electrifying Burgundian acidity.

On our first salvo, we squeezed out 900 bottles from Jean-Claude, all of which would disappear on a brief Friday morning in August. There were 118 buyers, 24 of whom were kind enough to share their thoughts with WineAccess. The 2011 "Chazelles" garnered an average rating 4.16 stars out of five -- one of the highest of the year for an under-$20 Chardonnay. Surprise, surprise.

Tasting Notes

2011 Domaine des Terres de Chatenay Vire Clesse Chazelle
"Pale golden to the edge, with piercing aromas of apple and pear, and a touch of the bitter honey which will come to dominate in a decade's time. The attack is far more Cote de Beaune than Macon. Rich, ripe and chiseled on the attack with luscious ripe apple opulence, all cut with high-toned calcareous vibrancy. Drink now for its out-of-the-gate crispness or age for up to a half-decade on a cool cellar."
-- WineAccess Travel Log

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