2011 Domaine Vincent Ricard Cuvee Les Trois Chenes Touraine
 
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Vincent Ricard Picasso on a Harley

In the mid-1980s, while seated at Vacheron's cafe in Sancerre, a young winemaker stormed into town on a Harley. It was a scene right out of Easy Rider. Didier Dagueneau looked like a viking. His strawberry-blonde hair was wild, as was his unkempt beard. Dagueneau was one part Jerry Garcia, another Gerard Depardieu -- a twinkling of the Wizard of Oz. He shook hands at every table, then pulled up a chair. Our perspective on Sauvignon Blanc would never be the same.

That summer, we spent dozens of nights with Dagueneau, eating outside his small, two bedroom house above St. Andelain. Didier's mind never had an off-switch. As we ate, we tasted. His criticism was always insightful, sometimes biting, and often crude, ripping apart the wines of certain neighbors, just as he appropriately lavished praise on others.

But unlike most of France's budding superstars, Dagueneau was equally hard on his own releases, often finding fault where we found none. Constantly pushing the needle, Didier championed a vinification protocol that flirted with the herbal allure of Sauvignon, while walking the tightrope between sweetness and the 'impression of sweetness.'

Over the following decades, right up until the accident that tragically took Didier's life, young winemakers made the pilgrimage to St. Andelain. Dagueneau was said to be generous with his advice, always carving out time for his mentees. Many came back energized, though few were willing to walk Dagueneau's tightrope.

But in the case of one quiet, cherubic winemaker from Thesee-la-Romaine, whose family estate was also strewn with St. Andelain "Silex," Didier's words struck a prescient chord. Soon after his father turned over the cellar to a 23-year-old Vincent Ricard, Dagueneau's student conjured up a brilliant Sauvignon Blanc called "Les Trois Chenes." Eight years later, in the topsy-turvy 2011 vintage, Vincent fashioned a brilliant, golden-hued, barrel-fermented Sauvignon Blanc that would have made Easy Rider proud.

"I'll never compare Trois Chenes to Dagueneau. That would be presumptuous," the winemaker whose Sauvignons now grace the wine lists of over two dozen Michelin-starred tables. "I'm just a young painter. Didier was Picasso. But if you asked me which wine I try to model Trois Chenes after?" Vincent smiled. "That's easy."

April and May of 2011 were hot and dry, getting Ricard's hillside vines off to a fast start. But a cool, rainy July and August posed challenges. Vincent, true to Dagueneau protocol, took to the vines, dropping crop aggressively so as to provide ample aeration between the clusters that remained. When the rain stopped and the blue skies settled in, yields had been thinned by 20%. Vincent hand-harvested early. Sugars were high. Acids remained firm.

The 2011 "Trois Chenes" is a masterpiece in a vintage where many in Sancerre struggled. Brilliant straw-gold in color with exquisite aromas of ripe pear, tangerine, white flowers and mineral spice, the attack is at once weighty and vibrant. The rich pear/apple core is subtly kissed with sweetness, the solid acid backbone bracing all the barrel-fermented flint soil opulence.



Tasting Notes

2011 Domaine Vincent Ricard Cuvee Les Trois Chenes Touraine
"Brilliant straw-gold in color, infused with exquisite aromas of ripe pear, tangerine, white flowers and mineral spice. The attack is rich, dense and weighty, packed with apple/pear plushness, gently kissed with sweetness. The finish is minerally and bracing, bracketing all the barrel-fermented opulence with Silex cut. Drink now-2016."
-- WineAccess Travel Log

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