My notes after tasting this wine for the first time with Daniel Brunier last year ended emphatically with “THIS IS THE FUTURE” in capital letters. When speaking about the Grenache-based reds of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, many of you can probably guess what I meant—a bunch of adjectives rarely associated with this storied appellation lately: drinkability, elegance, finesse, balance, freshness. Here are the rest of my tasting notes: Beautiful, luminous, medium ruby robe. The explosive nose is a basket of ripe red fruits. First taste impression is supple, with smooth, silky tannins. The finish is an enormous fireworks display of filtered-over-stones minerality that is textbook (and old-school) La Crau, the Bruniers’ original Châteauneuf cuvée. This wine really sneaks up on you, by seducing with its upfront sweetness and approachability and then tackling the intellect with its class, complexity, and distinctive terroir stamp. Of course, Piedlong rivals the great terroir of La Crau, which explains a lot of the magic. Boasting the same riverbed stones and underlying clay, it also enviably occupies the high-altitude point of the appellation, an advantage today. The Grenache from this site is blended with Mourvèdre from the sandy lieu-dit of Pignan, which lends uncharacteristic finesse to the south’s wild dark-horse grape. This masterful blend gives us a more approachable wine than La Crau in its youth, with a unique and delicious character. All Grenache in the world should aspire to be this gorgeous. A triumph from Daniel, Frédéric, Edouard, and Nicolas Brunier. BRAVO!!
Vignobles Brunier embodies the ensemble of the holdings by the Brunier family. Brothers Frédéric and Daniel are the fourth generation of their family to farm the land of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. They have worked hard to solidify the legacy left by their father, Henri, and their great-grandfather, Hippolyte. In 1986, the family complemented their portfolio, offering more affordable cuvées that showcase the diversity of terroirs within their holdings. The “Pigeoulet” and “Mégaphone” are fresh, rich in fruit and easy to appreciate young. The red Châteauneuf “Piedlong”, sourced from the Piélong lieu-dit, is a profoundly mineral wine that balances elegance and purity with the muscle that is found in this great appellation.
The southern Rhône valley is Grenache country. It’s also known for its stones. With a viticulture history dating back well before the Popes arrived in the 12th century and one of France’s oldest appellations d'origine contrôlée, Châteauneuf-du-Pâpe, the southern Rhône is unquestionably one of France’s best known and premier winegrowing regions. The wines have the pedigree and age-worthiness of Burgundy and Bordeaux, but with a rustic, Mediterranean character. Like most wines from southern France, the reds, whites, and rosés are blends. Filling out the Grenache for the reds and rosés, you’ll often find Syrah, Carignan, Mourvèdre, and Cinsault. The common white grape varieties are Grenache Blanc, Clairette, Bourboulenc, Viognier, Roussane, and Marsanne among others. From the alluvial riverbed stones found in Lirac, Tavel, and Châteauneuf to the limestone cliffs of the Dentelles de Montmirail that influence Beaumes-de-Venise (where you’ll find excellent Muscat), Vacqueyras, and Gigondas, great terroir abounds.
Kermit’s entrance in the region came in the mid 1970s on his first trip with Richard Olney, an American ex-pat and friend of Alice Waters. On that trip, Richard introduced Kermit to the Brunier family of Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe. Soon after, Kermit began importing the Brunier’s wines—their Châteauneuf-du-Pape “La Crau” bottling remains a staple of our portfolio today. In the late 1990s Kermit teamed up with the Brunier family to purchase the famed Gigondas estate, Domaine Les Pallières. More than 40 years later, we now import wines from fifteen southern Rhône domaines spanning the entire area of the region.
Every three or four months I would send my clients a cheaply made list of my inventory, but it began to dawn on me that business did not pick up afterwards. It occurred to me that my clientele might not know what Château Grillet is, either. One month in 1974 I had an especially esoteric collection of wines arriving, so I decided to put a short explanation about each wine into my price list, to try and let my clients know what to expect when they uncorked a bottle. The day after I mailed that brochure, people showed up at the shop, and that is how these little propaganda pieces for fine wine were born.—Kermit Lynch
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