Femmes Vignes du Monde

Top French Wines of 2015

We haven't published a newsletter in about a year and haven't printed one in two years... so what gives? We have always enjoyed the crazy busy holiday season as it's a great time to enjoy a glass of wine with the right meal, family and friends, as we reflect upon the year at hand and dream about the next one. It's a time of giving gifts and thanking folks for what they do and who they are. It's a time for us to highlight the best we have to offer-- it's our goal to make your holidays even better, to help accentuate this special time. So, we decided to publish this special holiday edition... We wish you and yours the merriest and happiest of holiday seasons and look forward to seeing you here in the shop or online. Cheers!

12 Champagnes of Christmas Top French Wines of 2015



If you haven't heard of Claude Cazals or some the other Champagnes on this Best of the Year List it is because they are from tiny producers who sell the lion’s share of their minuscule production to private clients and to nearby Michelin-starred restaurants. Clos Cazals is a nine acre walled in vineyard that is situated behind the village church in the Grand Cru village of Oger in Champagne’s Cote de Blancs region. This special bottling is made from fruit drawn from a small parcel in the clos located in front of proprietor Delphine Cazals' home that was planted back in 1957. The fact that the vineyard is enclosed gives the vines protection from the wind which results in grapes that are always the ripest in the village. Last year, after years of searching, we got our hands on an allocation of the 2002 Clos Cazals and it was a huge hit. The 2004 has now landed and its fresher and more elegant than its formable predecessor but no less sublime. It’s pale straw-gold in the glass with a very fine, but persistent, pelage. This 2004 captivates with aromas suggestive of bruised red apples, pears, nougat, and cotton candy. The palate presents a long procession of flavors suggestive of lemon drops mingled with white summer fruits that slowly morph into notions of lime and baking spices all of which are seamlessly fused to a frim stony undercarriage. Simply perfection, like taking a Tesla for a spin.

$119.95 750ml [376269] Hi-Time Wine Cellars add to cart button


What separates this Champagne from the crowd is that delivers beaucoup bank for buck. Made from one of the best Champagne vintages of the decade, this, as yet unrated, blend of 90% Chardonnay and 10% Pinot Noir this 2008 is very reminiscent of the 2002 "Saphir" which earned a 95 Points from the Wine Spectator. Here the taster encounters outgoing orchard, ginger, butternut, and spice flavors that stay fresh and vibrant from stem to stern. Its silky long-play finish adds appealing notes of minerals and toast to the ensemble. Truly out performs many Big Name vintage bubblies selling for sixty dollars and more a bottle.

$40.98 750ml [378217] Hi-Time Wine Cellars add to cart button


If you haven’t had a Bollinger Champagne in the last few years, it’s fair to say you will be in for a pleasant surprise. Under the guidance of director Jérôme Philipon the powerful, oxidative style of the past has given way to an approach more characterized by freshness and finesse as this scintillating 2004 amply demonstrates. The following remarks by noted wine atuthority Anotonio Galloni are spot on: "[It] is a beautiful wine with a lot of vintage character, but the style is a bit less oxidative than Bollinger fans are likely to expect. Pears, hazelnuts, spices and crushed rocks all flow through to the tense, vibrant finish. It will be interesting to see if the 2004 puts on weight in the bottle, as so many wines from this vintage have. Today, it is bright, linear and quite pretty. Green apples, pears and flowers all add lift on the close. 95 Points."

$109.98 750ml [376921] Hi-Time Wine Cellars add to cart button


On a gentle slope just outside of the village of Le Mesnil-sur-Oger sits Les Chétillons, a vineyard has come be known as one of the very finest sites for sparkling Chardonnay wine cultivation on the planet. Here the chalk is never more than four inches from the surface while the vines, which range in age from 40 to 70 years in age, enjoy a perfect sun orientation. The Peters family has nurtured their three Chétillons plots since 1930. It wasn’t until 1971 that these parcels, which are vinified separately, were blended into a single vintage Champagne whose towering quality is such makes that it is now regarded as a serious rival to Salon. In 2008 Francois Péters turned over operation the family’s business to his son Rodolphe making this 2009 his first Chétillons release. Well he is certainly off to a great start is as this recent Wine Spectator review suggests: "A lovely Blanc de Blancs that offers more with each sip. Firm and structured at first, this is wrapped in a fine, creamy mousse. The flavors expand from poached pear and chalk to toasted hazelnut and glazed apricot to hints of fleur de sel and passion fruit coulis. Drink now through 2029. 75 cases imported. 94 Points."

$104.98 750ml [375674] Hi-Time Wine Cellars add to cart button


We have featured the estate grown Champagnes of Paul Para since the 1980's (well before the start of the Grower Champagne craze) because they provide excellent examples the Montagne de Reims terrior and because they always over deliver for money. However their flagship Special Club bottling is the one Bara Champagne that "slips one socks off" rather than "knocks them off". Containing the most Chardonnay (30%) in the lineup and the aim here is refinement and pleasure. Veteran wine critic Josh Raynods raves: "Light gold. Assertive tangerine, quince paste, ginger and potpourri scents are complemented by smoky mineral and leesy nuances. Juicy, focused and concentrated, showing very good lift and thrust to its sappy citrus fruit and buttered toast flavors. Spreads out impressively with air and lingers with strong spicy persistence. I really like the blend of richness and vivacity here. 93 Points."

$74.98 750ml [378987] Hi-Time Wine Cellars add to cart button


As we have already noted, 2008 was a banner vintage in Champagne but for Taittinger it was partially special because it was the year that Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger was finally able to buy back his family’s company from the American Starwood Capital Group. With Taittinger back at the helm the firm is making impressive strides in becoming more eco-friendly and quality conscious actions reflective of his long term vision. As with past efforts, this vintage Brut is made exclusively from first (i.e. gentle) press wines. It is a fifty-fifty blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay harvested mostly from the Grands Crus in Montagne de Reims and the borders of the Valle de la Marne. Last July James Suckling inked this rave: "Taittinger's complexity is apparent here on the nose of this complex, rich and deeply powerful vintage Champagne. Flinty struck match reduction, toasty yeasty notes and bright lemon-infused citrus notes are all bursting from the glass amid savory, chalky minerals. The palate has a bold lemon citrus and peach fruit flavor to it, really saline, minerality and contained. Some glossy brulée-like notes to close. Drink now up to five years. 93 Points."

$75.99 750ml [377861] Hi-Time Wine Cellars add to cart button


This was one the big standouts, out of nearly one hundred contenders, at the annual the Therry Theise Champagne tasting. What impressed us go greatly was how this Blanc de Blancs, which is absolutely bone dry, manages to be so completely delicious on its own. Here is a Brut zero that will appeal to “oenophiles” and casual drinkers alike. Antonio Galloni enthuses: "[It} is soft, creamy and nicely textured, with attractive nutty and spice notes that add resonance to the Chardonnay fruit. This is a relatively soft 2008 Blanc de Blancs that brings together the energy of the year with soft contours that render the wine approachable today. The non-dosage style is highly appealing. Disgorged May 2014. No dosage. 92 Points."

$59.98 750ml [377507] Hi-Time Wine Cellars add to cart button


Benoît Marguet is one of the rising young stars of the Montagne de Reims and his Champagnes have been on our acquisition target list for a long time. The foundation of Marguet’s quality is the excellence of his fruit, the lion’s share of which is organically or biodynamically farmed. In the cellar Benoît minimizes the use of sulfur compounds. All of Marguet’s wines are fermented in oak barrels and left to naturally complete their malolactic fermentations. The result of these, and other painstaking practices is a line-up of dazzling Champagnes that show uncommon flavor intensity as well as poise. The village of Ambonnay takes its name from Amboniacus, a Roman official that directed the vineyard plantings of Gaul during the reign of Emperor Probus. This all Ambonnay bottling is a great example of Marguet’s style and is a most worthy addition to our Christmas list. These remarks of Peter Leim paint a most accurate portrait: "…True to its vintage, it is round and warm, marked by a broad richness and velvety texture. It’s made of equal parts Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, and despite showing a lot of ripeness, it’s firmly anchored in soil, showing a pronounced and darkly savory minerality under its rich fruit. It finishes with long, fragrant aromas, feeling tense, vibrant and harmoniously composed. Last tasted: 4/15. 2 Stars."

$64.95 750ml [378266] Hi-Time Wine Cellars add to cart button


The hamlets of Bouzy and Ambonnay sit below a broad amphitheater of vines that comprise the epicenter of great Pinot Noir in Champagne. The family of Francois Clouet is privileged to own twenty acres of vines in the best mid-slope locations of both crus. Composed entirely of Pinot Noir, their strawberry pink rose offers up effusive aromas and flavors of ripe red berries, watermelons, blood oranges and nougat. On the palate one senses the richness and power of its Grand Cru terrior but taut acids and a streak of minerality provide the support to keep things nervy and fresh. This a versatile, crowd pleasing bubbly that’s vinous enough to work with rich Holiday fare yet smooth enough to charm all on its own.

$44.98 750ml [376767] Hi-Time Wine Cellars add to cart button


Despite hailing from Le Mesnil Sur-Oger, one of Champagne's most hallowed Grand Cu villages, Robert Moncuit Champagnes remain way under the radar. We first took notice of the small family firm after their 2007 vintage received a rave (92 Point) review from Vinous critic Josh Raynolds. This past June we heard that the 2008 had arrived in California and naturally we were excited to see what winemaker Pierre Moncuit would do with this outstanding vintage. The Champagne greatly exceed our high expectations and we decided, then and there, to make it our first selection for The 12 Champagnes of Christmas. The riper, more supple fruit of the 2008 harvest provides more texture and breath than its predecessor had but it still sports the classic cut of acidity and the deep Salon-like minerality that made the 2007 so special. This then, is an utterly compelling Cote des Blanc Champagne that must be ranked with very best Chardonnay Champagnes of outstanding class of 2008.

$64.98 750ml [376606] Hi-Time Wine Cellars add to cart button


Eric Rodez is yet another Grand Cru, under the radar, Champagne grower producing incredible quality for the money. Prior to taking over the family’s operation in the 1980's Eric worked three vintages in Burgundy and one at Krug. These experiences gave him invaluable insights to blending and barrel usage. Grand Vintages represents Eric's opus maximus cuvee. It is a 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay, multi-vintage mix that cherry-picks the best vintages over a nine year span. The youngest wines in this edition are from 2004, which make up 30 percent of the total, while the rest come from 2002, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1996 and 1995 all vinified in barrel with no malolactic fermentation. Australian Champagne authority, Tyson Stelzer writes: "…Its deep, layered complexity matches the recipe: generous stone fruits, figs, honey, toast, roasted nuts and mixed spices of all kinds. For all its vast intensity and full-bodied proportions, it maintains absolute control and balance, making way for fine-grained, pronounced, salty minerality to draw the finish out long and fine.....95 Points." The resemblance to Krug's Grand Cuvee is striking but, of course, the price is far, far lower.

$69.95 750ml [377228] Hi-Time Wine Cellars add to cart button


Our last Champagne is also our oldest and is a great example of a vintage Champagne from a classic year drinking at its very best. The first key to this longevity is the use of rigorously selected grapes from Premier Cru old vines (most more than 40 years old) from a great vintage. The second factor is extended (more than a decade!) aging sur lattes in the cellar which adds layers of complexity while maintaining freshness. Last December The Wine Spectator's, Alison Napjus raved: "The lovely, lacy texture wraps around the firm acidity and broad shoulders of this well-knit Champagne, supporting an aromatic profile of baked plum, chopped almond, lemon curd and warm spices. Hints of brioche and cognac emerge on the persistent finish. Disgorged March 2014. Drink now through 2024. 3,000 cases made. 93 Points."

$79.98 750ml [3765008] Hi-Time Wine Cellars add to cart button
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ROBERT PARKER 93 POINTS - "This impeccably run, biodynamically farmed estate of Alfred Tesseron goes from strength to strength. The 2012 triumphs once again with its notes of dark plum, blackcurrant, licorice and almost a hint of truffle, its full-bodied, supple tannins, and beautiful, expensive mouthfeel. Complex and deep, this dense ruby/purple-colored wine may not be at the level of the 2009 or 2010, but it is a successful wine in this vintage, and a significant wine in 2012. Anticipated maturity: 2017- 2035."

WINE SPECTATOR 92 POINTS - "Broad and fleshy, with an alluring feel to the layers of steeped plum, blackberry coulis and raspberry reduction notes, all gliding over ample but polished tannins. Loam, tobacco and warm stone accents stay in the background for now but add steady base notes to the finish. Packs in solid fruit for the vintage, with a commensurate tug of earth. Best from 2017 through 2025."

$101.99 750ml [333845] Hi-Time Wine Cellars add to cart button


BURGHOUND 92 POINTS - "There is an abundance of Chablis character here with notes of iodine, algae, citrus and much more discreet nuances of mineral reduction along with hints of dried yellow orchard fruit. The silky yet entirely serious mediumbodied flavors exhibit plenty of minerality on the citrusy and hugely long finish that is clean, dry, long and balanced. This highly impressive effort should reward up to a decade of cellar time though drink well before that if desired."

$99.99 750ml [321341] Hi-Time Wine Cellars add to cart button


eROBERT PARKER 95 POINTS - "The 2013 Maury Sec Serge & Nicolasisa blockbuster that goes screaming past its humble price point. Made from a blend of 60% unoaked Grenache and 28% Syrah and 12% Carignan aged in 500-liter demimuids, it boasts tons of kirsch, peppery herbs, licorice and hints of crushed flowers to go with a full-bodied, layered, and beautifully concentrated feel on the palate. Coming all from the black schist soils around the village of Maury, it pretty much maxes out the QPR scale and is a complete, balanced Roussillon to drink over the coming 7-8 years."

$22.99 750ml [345254] Hi-Time Wine Cellars add to cart button

A monopole planted between ‘55 and ‘59 - it had been abandoned and was rescued from scrub brush.

BURGHOUND 90 POINTS - "A more deeply pitched and slightly riper nose reflects intensely earthy and sauvage aromas of underbrush and dark currant. There is good richness to the round yet attractively detailed medium weight flavors that possess plenty of minerality that adds a touch of lift to the more powerful and ever-so-mildly rustic finale. This well-balanced effort should also drink well young if desired."

$59.99 750ml [322309] Hi-Time Wine Cellars add to cart button


ROBERT PARKER 94 POINTS - "A sensational effort, the 2010 Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee La Cote Ronde reveals a touch of toasty oak in the aromatics, but it is beautifully integrated with kirsch, roasted Provencal herb, espresso and black currant aromas. This full-throttle, masculine and rich wine possesses sweet tannins as well as good integration of structure and acidity. It is built for the long haul, yet can be drunk in 2-3 years or cellared for two decades."

WINE SPECTATOR 93 POINTS - "This isn't shy, with flashy mocha, toasted raisin, cinnamon and pastis aromas rushing forth, but there's sleek, integrated structure and solid layers of linzer torte, plum pâte de fruit and bramble to fill it out. A tarry edge lingers on the finish. Best from 2014 through 2026. 700 cases made."

VINOUSMEDIA 91+ POINTS - "Opaque purple. Ripe, smoke-accented aromas of blueberry, cassis, violet and vanilla, with a peppery topnote. Lush, deeply pitched dark fruit flavors pick up a bitter chocolate nuance in the glass, along with a hint of licorice. Dusty tannins build with air and add firm grip to a long, spicy finish. This wine possesses strong material but needs some time to stretch out."

$49.99 750ml [345013] Hi-Time Wine Cellars add to cart button


eROBERT PARKER 95 POINTS - "In the same mold as the 2012, the 2013 Cotes Catalanes Grenache D66 is being held for six months in bottle prior to release. Completely destemmed (as are all the wines here) and aged in 30% new barrels, it has elegant, lively notes of blackberry, cassis, plum, pepper and violets to go with a medium to full-bodied, balanced and yet still hedonistic feel on the palate. A slightly tweaked blend of 75% Grenache, 15% Syrah and 10% Carignan, this is a more civilized version of this cuvee that still won’t disappoint with regard to depth, flavor or length. Drink it over the coming 5-7 years."

$37.99 750ml [333501] Hi-Time Wine Cellars add to cart button


One cannot think of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, the most celebrated cru of the Southern Rhône, without thinking of Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe. The Brunier family is legendary in its own right, having been rooted to the enigmatic plateau known as "La Crau" for over one hundred years. The wines of Vieux Télégraphe evoke the concept of terroir in its purest form: they reflect their dramatic climate, the rough terrain that defines the soil, their full sun exposure at a higher altitude, the typicity of the varietals with an emphasis on Grenache, and of course, the influence of their caretakers, the Brunier family. For many, La Crau is Châteauneuf-du-Pape’s grandest cru.

eROBERT PARKER 93 POINTS - "Lastly, the flagship 2012 Châteauneuf du Pape is a classically structured, elegant effort that will evolve gracefully on its balance and harmony. Showing the telltale seaweed, currants, olive, licorice and ample minerality so common in this cuvee, it’s medium to full-bodied, lightly textured and focused on the palate, with plenty of tannin. It needs 3-4 years of cellaring and will have 15-20 years of longevity."

$69.99 750ml [333929] Hi-Time Wine Cellars add to cart button


ROBERT PARKER 90 POINTS - "This wine has turned out well and is one of the strongest efforts from this estate in many a year. Three-fourths Merlot and the rest mostly Cabernet Franc, the wine offers up oodles of sweet black raspberry, camphor and black currant along with some forest floor and roasted herbs. Super-fruity, opaque ruby/purple, medium to full-bodied, hedonistic and lush, it should drink nicely for at least 10-12+ years."

WINE SPECTATOR 92 POINTS - "Fleshy, with lots of intense blackberry, plum and boysenberry notes blended together and wound with licorice strips and singed alder wood. Solid grip through the finish has a slightly chewy feel now, but should soften soon enough. Best from 2015 through 2025."

$54.99 750ml [333118] Hi-Time Wine Cellars add to cart button


New owner Arnaud Lambert restored this 15th century estate in 2009 and converted the property to organic farming (currently being converted to biodynamic). The hill of Brézé is one of the great terroirs of the Loire Valley benefiting from higher elevation, cooling wind, and the friable, limestone soil know as Tuffeau intermixed with clay and sand. The Clos du Midi Saumur Blanc is fruity and vibrant on the palate. The fruit is very present (lemon, lime). An excellent representation of a dry Chenin Blanc from Château de Brézé.

$18.99 750ml [345255] Hi-Time Wine Cellars add to cart button


50% Syrah, 50% Grenache.
Vin de France (formerly known as Vin de Table) is the most basic quality tier for wines from France. What does that mean? Generally, to us, we've found some of the best everyday quaffers-- like those featured in our Wine of the Month and Wine of the Month 2 programs-- that don't cost a fortune. This is one of those wines. Syrah and Grenache are excellent partners in wine, both grapes enjoying warm climates such as those found in the south of France (or Spain or other parts of the 'new world'). This wine also hails from Mas de Boislauzon, a winery with holdings in Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Côtes du Rhône, comprised of brother and sister team (and fifth generation winemakers) Christine and Daniel Chaussy, which is another significant feather in this wine's pedigree cap. But what it really came down to, as it usually does, is the fact that this wine is delicious and reasonably priced. It's a good summer red in that it's not too big in body as one might find in a Cabernet Sauvignon or Cab blend, but big enough to serve with red meat at a late afternoon or early evening barbecue or affair.

The nose is an attractive mélange of mixed red and blue fruits, a touch of hillside bramble, dark spices, sea salt, light florals and a hint of cured meats. In the mouth, the rounded, sexy texture is kept trim with acidic structure in what amounts to a beautiful pas de deux on the palate. Fruit is king as jammy raspberry and strawberry fruit intermingle with violets and other darker florals; again a touch of spice... excellent structure, rounded tannins keep it lean and uplifting as the finish adds a touch of earth to the rich fruits.

$12.95 750ml [345035] Hi-Time Wine Cellars add to cart button

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