Desperately Seeking Chasselas: San Francisco, California (Part 3)

Lady Chasselas 2013, Mylène Bru, Vin de France

This is the third in a series of adventures wherein the peripatetic author seeks out chasselas in unlikely foreign venues. As we all know Switzerland’s native white grape is not well represented outside of its home country but when it is found elsewhere duty and allegiance demand that I buy it. This bottle comes from the natural wine emporium Vineyard Gate in Millbrae, California.

Renegade winemaker Mylène Bru sources her chasselas from a half hectare of fifty year old vines located near her home of Corbières in the Languedoc region of southern France. It comes from the lieu-dit known as La Fon de Lacan within the commune of Saint-Pargoire. Its chalky soils are reminiscent of some in Switzerland but its rugged look is distinctly Mediterranean. The vines are trained in the visually appealing bush vine (gobelet) style in deference to fierce winds that regularly blow through this part of the Languedoc. Another distinguishing feature of this climat, and one you’ll almost never find in Switzerland, is its northeasterly exposure. All vineyard work is done manually or with the assistance of a horse and the entire property is farmed biodynamically. Yields are preternaturally low at 15 hl/h as opposed to low yields in Switzerland of 40 hl/h.

A gentle pressing is followed by débourbage and a native yeast fermentation. The wine is aged on its fine lees for five months en cuve and then nine months in bottle. There is no fining or filtration with minimal sulfur additions before bottling.

The Wine: This one has the trademark golden straw color of chasselas. Its apple cider aroma is not so typical, however, but more commonly associated with naturally made white wine. It is slightly reductive and all the more mineral because of it. In fact, it is so mineral and savory it may have been hacked from a salt cave. Lurking beneath all of that are aromas of mustard seed, garam masala and lemon salt (punctuated by a volatile lift that is again typical of naturally made wine). The palate is slightly sour, tangy and a touch prickly which all conspire to underline the dry cider notes. There is also a slight lemon confit edge to it.

An opened, refrigerated bottle was deeper in lemon confit fruit two days later and reassuringly stable enough to recommend to those who love natural wines and to those who are doubtful.

Vineyard Gate
238 Broadway
Millbrae, California 94030
(650) 552-9530

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