Adele and Elsa Martrot are winemakers from the Meursault village in Burgundy, continuing a long family tradition. They are the daughters of Thierry & Pascale Martrot. Elsa delivered a baby girl three months ago and Adele is expecting a baby girl in December, almost assuring that, if the will is there, the next generation will be led by women.
Winding through back roads that connect the small villages of Pommard, Volnay and Monthelie in the Cotes de Beaune region, we arrived at the Domaine de Martrot estate with its old stone buildings, farming equipment and a cellar beneath the house.
Those who are familiar with Burgundian wines have most likely experienced their releases. They began exporting wines to the states in the 1950s and, today, 70 percent of their production is exported, mostly to the United States, Japan, Norway, Denmark and, more recently, other parts of Asia.
Although records were destroyed during the French Revolution, they know that their family has been producing wine in Burgundy since the late 1800s. Their total production is 150,000 bottles or 12,500 American cases per vintage. The wines originate from 24 hectares of estate vineyards (60 acres) located throughout Cote de Beaune’s best appellations.
The only AOC permitted grapes in Burgundy are chardonnay and pinot noir with one small exception. Beaujolais had a few gamay vineyards grandfathered in. The weather is much like Sonoma County, the Carneros and Santa Rita Hills, California appellations that produce our finest Burgundian varietals
In 2016, there was an April frost from Chablis to Macron and they lost 60 percent of their grapes which resulted in 80 percent less yield. Adele explained that the moisture left from the frost combined with the heat from the sun can burn the buds. At times, to save their vintage, they are forced to burn hay bales to create a smokey haze that filters the sunlight.
Less quantity usually results more highly concentrated wines. When weather creates hardships for the producer, Mother Nature and the consumer are often the winners. Hence, we tasted selections from the 2016 vintage.
Domaine de Martrot produces about 20 wines per year, evenly split between rouge and blanc. French wines are always identified by the region and appellation and we tasted a diversity of terroir, each with its own identity.
To begin, Adele poured the 2016 San Romain, a blanc from northern Cote de Beaune. Because it is warmer and the days are longer, the grapes mature faster and are picked in August. There was a clear minerality to the young wine that will become rounder within four to five years.
The 2016 Meursault Blagny 1st cru (premier growth) from a nearby appellation had a healthy acidity that was balanced throughout. Adele described it as a good pairing with spicy Asian food, specifically sushi. They are increasingly exporting their wines to the Japan market.
For me, the white that stood out was the 2016 Meursault-Charmes 1st Cru, a wine recently awarded 94 points by Wine Spectator. Musky, stone fruit and minerality aromas preceded
complex, rounded stone fruit flavors with hints of honey and vanilla. This wine is available in the Bay Area for $90. My bottle cost 55 euros, purchased and enjoyed in Burgundy.
Another 1st Cru release, the 2016 Puligny-Montrachet Les Chalumeaux was a stunning blanc with very evident floral notes on the nose and palate.
The 2016 Monthelie, an elegant village wine from low-yield vines, was more medium-bodied than the other red wines that we tasted. The end result of an early Spring hailstorm was lower quantity and higher quality.
Because of how the vines are planted, the chardonnay is harvested by machine and the pinot noir by hand. Migrants from French West Africa, including Senegal, Chad and other countries as well as Spain augment locals from the area.
Our last wine was a 2014 Blagny Le Piece Sous le Bois 1st Cru, expressing significant black cherry and spice aromas, reminiscent of fine pinot releases from top California appellations. The dark berry flavors were round and fruit forward, lingering on a long finish.
As we celebrate our granddaughter’s first birthday next week, I will imagine her developing a palate for Burgundian wines and, maybe someday, crossing paths with two young cousins making wine under the roof of a stone building in Meursault.
Lyle W. Norton is a wine enthusiast and blogger in Santa Rosa who has written a wine column for 15 years. Visit his blog at www.lifebylyle.com or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.