Posted on Jan, 26. 2012 by Kevin Sidders
You know that bittersweet feeling of getting in on a great thing just as it’s on its way out? Well, that’s how we felt (see below) when we discovered Jean Gauradet, the “Best Kept Secret in Pommard”, in his last vintage, and sold out his 2006 Monthelie to the Guild. Such is life; however, rumors of the estate’s untimely demise due to his ungrateful offspring were greatly exaggerated. Under new leadership but still within the watchful tutorship of Jean, the estate (now known as Domaine Berthelemot) is back with a vengeance – and is delivering the same awesome displays of power, grace, classicity and beauty that we’ve come to expect from a Defcon veteran (for the uninitiated, our “Defcon” label applies to absolute, 100%, no-brainer wines that transcend simple adjectives and superlatives, and has only been used on a small handful of wines since the Guild’s inception).
Of course, upon hearing of the wine’s return, I was instantly skeptical – I’ve had enough “Defcon”-ish players in my time that never repeat their all-star batting average in subsequent seasons, and so I tend not to get my hopes up – but a little part of me really wanted it to be true. And so I tried a swirl of it, a week fresh off the container, and it was almost what you’d expect after its long journey: all the pieces were there, but it felt jumbled. So our rep waited patiently for another couple of months, and called me last week with a bottle waiting to be sampled. It’s here, I could tell from the tone of his voice. And sho’nuff, it’s here. Our ‘baby Pommard’ is back, and I couldn’t be more thrilled. After almost 3 years, the Defcon Returneth! I still have some of the 06, and it’s not been long since my last bottle got uncorked, and the similarities are (for obvious reasons) uncanny – this is that same classic juice, with perhaps just a bit more force and focus—a bit more Pommard-iness. I know: Oh, darn! So, here, just go back to my original offer, and you’ll see why I originally fell in love with this wine:
Some of you may remember that I featured Jean Garaudet not to far back—his ’05 Bourgogne was outstanding, and the Guild took it all. Well, I’m the picture of confidence when I say that his ’06 Monthelie just takes it to a whole new level—several levels up, honestly. Monthelie is not very well known—it’s a tiny southern Beaune appelation sandwiched between Muersault, Volnay and the hills. While it can often produce thin, inexpressive, run-of-the-mill red burgundy, there is plenty of potential tucked away up there. The better examples turn that lack of body into grace and finesse. Ted Stevenson, in the New Sotheby’s Wine Encyclopedia, calls Monthelie the most underrated in all of Burgundy.
As for Jean Garaudet, Pierre Rovani calls him “the best kept secret in Pommard…(Garaudet’s) elegant wines, saturated with lavish amounts of ripe fruit and harmonious, mouthfilling, satisfying flavors, offer formidable evidence of the positive effects of low yields and old-vines”. After being so impressed with Garaudet’s Bourgogne, I was expecting a similar wine in the Monthelie, perhaps with a bit more depth and a touch less concentration. So when we opened the bottle and poured the first glass, you can imagine my surprise when the wine lept out of the glass with power, concentration, extraction and meat. This is Monthelie? It was full of brute force, spicy, with an aura of recklessness—not at all what I was expecting. It was almost like he’d blended some typically dark, rich Pommard in here.
As the wine opened up, it began to find its footing, and by the end of the second glass, I was getting some of that finesse, finally. The front end of it was still a bit concentrated, but behind that, there was a perfumed quality, like aged Chateaunuef from a lean vintage, and bright red fruit with tongue-enveloping acidity. Still, though, it was leaping out of the glass. Every sniff was huge, and it was not relenting. The depth was immense, and we marveled at this juxtaposition of the concentrated front end and the precise acidity and intensity of the mid-palate. It was just so unassuming, like a genius who doesn’t realize his own brilliance. I was blown away, to put it lightly.
So Kevin corked the last few inches of wine and sent it home with us, explaining that it still had some opening up to do. On the drive back, Steph asked how much it costs; she was expecting mid-$30’s. Try mid to upper teens, I said. I’m not sure she believed me.
An hour or so later, I poured the last glass; surprise surprise! I was treated to yet another level. That perfumed character that it had eluded to earlier had taken over. The concentration up front had backed off a little, and it was now (as I put it in a quick “holy crap!” e-mail to Kevin as I was drinking it) like fresh-cut spring flowers drizzled in cherry reduction. The bright, fresh nose gave a new meaning to the old “bouquet” that gets tossed around; this is the kind of elegance, finesse, and whispers of greatness and I would hope for from a $40 bottle of 1er cru Burgundy. But Monthelie? For the 3rd time that night, I was slayed by this unassuming bottle from a backwoods Beaune village.
This is all terribly bittersweet, though, because Jean Garaudet is hanging it up. This will be his last vintage, as his children (fools!) have no interest in taking the reigns. So here we are: his last year; it’s amazing wine, wine that far, far outpaces its tariff, and so I’m writing this DEFCON e-mail with flashing red lights and sirens. I can say with utmost confidence that a Burgundy of this caliber, at this cost, comes along maybe once every couple years (especially since the Guild gets a special price break.) I’ll be ordering plenty for myself, Kevin’s taking a good chunk, but the supply is not that deep. He’s been sampling it around the area, and I’m afraid that someone else is going to jump on it soon, so I implore you: do not flounder or falter. If you love great Burgundy, and love great inexpensive Burgundy even more, you simply cannot do better than this.
2006 Jean Garaudet Monthelie (Côte de Beaune)
There you have it. One of the very best wines we’ve had the good fortune to offer here at the Guild returns like Roy Hobbs to knock it out of the park again. At the price of many a village-level Bourgogne, you have what could be mistaken for some mean Pommard. I dare you to say no…
2009 Domaine Berthelemot Monthelie
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Retail Price: $34.25