Domaine Marc Roy Gevrey-Chambertin 2007
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Domaine Marc Roy Gevrey-Chambertin 2007

Though Alexandrine Roy's roots are firmly planted on her family's small (4 hectare) estate in Burgundy's Gevrey-Chambertin, she has honed her winemaking skills all over the world, working in Australia, Central Otago in New Zealand and Bandol in Provence before returning to work with her father Marc on the family estate. Not to be limited, Alexandrine now functions as contributing winemaker for Phelps Creek Vineyards in Oregon, which unsurprisingly specializes in the two major Burgundy varietals, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay; she has produced a special Pinot cuvée for the winery. To complete the international circle, I met Alexandrine in New York at the recent Terroirs et Signatures de Bourgogne 2009 wine tasting event. Alexandrine is direct, feisty, and absolutely charming in her evident total dedication to her family's tiny spec of Burgundy and its handful of signature wines.

Alexandrine runs the winery with true focus, doing the kind of work I would call hands-on, if it didn't also involve her feet. The Domaine employs the same labor force every year to pick the grapes in the field. These knowledgeable workers are able to sort the grapes as they are being picked, obviating the need for a sorting table and bringing the fully destemmed grapes more quickly from field to fermenter, where Alexandrine herself may be found accomplishing the pigeage the old fashioned way, employing the aforementioned feet. Not one to settle for only putting her physical oomph into her wines, Alexandrine also follows a philosophy that is in keeping with her responsibility as fourth generation family winemaker. “The key to our wines,” she tells me, “is classic style, elegance, balance and tipicity.” A gentle extraction process is the norm, as is an average aging of one year in oak that is at least half used. Nothing in excess, in other words, except dedication.

While the distinctive Gevrey-Chambertin reds are the winery's specialty, Domaine Marc Roy also produces a limited amount of white wine, under the Marsannay, Les Champs Perdrix appellation, about 2000 bottles from a half hectare section. I would have loved to try this Chardonnay, but Alexandrine's Passion des Terroirs table showcased red wines only, two of winery's three major offerings. The missing red was the Gevrey-Chambertin "Cuvée Alexandrine," which, if it reflects in any way its namesake, has got to be as seriously and authentically Burgundian as can be. The wine reflects something of a secret recipe, a culling of the best vines from a number of parcels, to compensate for the fact that the winery has neither grand nor premier cru parcels.

I first tasted the 2007 Domaine Marc Roy Gevrey-Chambertin Vielles Vignes, $33, a product of seventy year old vines, the winery's main cuvée. Visually the wine showed me a bright, clear ruby of medium depth. The nose is a pleasant and well balanced mix of dark berries with some baking spice, sweet black licorice, warm cedar, rose and a tinge of earth. The wine is dry with firm acidity, medium body, with a palate of ripe berries and a tinge of pomegranate tang. The finish is elegant, very well balanced, combining fine grained tannins with some fragrant cedar. Overall, the wine brings the soft tannins and agreeable texture one associates with Gevrey-Chambertin, showing delicacy and depth in one integrated package. I want to revisit this wine in just a few years, however.

The 2007 Domaine Marc Roy Gevrey-Chambertin Clos Prieur, $40, is the product of a fifty-year-old single parcel located a pebble's throw from several Grand Cru properties. I found the look of this wine one of the most marvelous I'd beheld in quite some time. The clarity and luminosity is impressive, the hue a medium depth true scarlet. The wine's nose did nothing to derail the good visual start, bringing rich red cherry, dried cherry and a fresh brambly raspberry; the juice you get on your fingers after you gorge yourself on the fruit. Fruit, well supported by acidity, also leads on the palate: cherry, pomegranate, ripe red plum, and blackberry. The palate shows some nutmeg and clove as well, with cedar woody notes. My disparate observations do not do justice to the wine, however, since it shows excellent integration of all these flavor elements, the acidity, and some reasonably firm tannins. Fruity cedar shows on the long finish. The elements come together so well you could drink the wine today or cellar it depending on your level of patience.

“The Vielles Vignes is frank and pleasant,” Alexandrine tells me, “with a lot of red fruit. The wine has very good persistence, enhanced by a good acidity, and soft ripe tannins. The Clos Prieur has a more delicate nose that increases in intensity as the wine opens up, with a firm attack on the palate led by cherry. Tannins are firm but elegant and ripe. We make this Pinot in a classic terroir-driven style. You can drink it now but it will become rounder and silkier if you wait two years.”

Verdict: Terroir says it all

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Gevrey-Chambertin may be one of those magical sounding Burgundy appellations, but when the wine is as evocative as the name, we have something.

food writer Elliot Essman James Beard Foundation Journalism Award
James Beard Award Nominee Elliot Essman

food writer Elliot Essman James Beard Foundation Journalism Award

Alexandrine Roy of Domaine Marc Roy in Gevrey-Chambertin checking
temperature and sugar content.

Alexandrine Roy checking temperature and sugar content.

Alexandrine Roy of Domaine Marc Roy in Gevrey-Chambertin.

This image gives a new meaning to the concept of “hands-on” involvement in the winery.

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