Quest for Gamay wine bears fruit
by Kurtis Kolt
March 6th, 2019 at 12:05 PM
As of this writing, I have 4,576 unread messages in my email inbox.
This sounds dire, but the majority of these are marketing emails that usually cascade downward throughout the day without much thought. Like many, I receive a daily barrage of communications from PR agencies, importers, wineries, and potential Russian brides, all of them touting the urgency of their queries.
The direct emails are attended to quickly, but it’s the consistent newsletters, sales, and offers that easily slip down my list of priorities and tend to spiral into the abyss of my server.
However, there are consistent marketing emails from certain contacts that do capture my attention, and even if I receive a handful over the course of a week, I’ll likely open the latest without hesitation and pore over its contents.
Trialto, a local wine-import company with a mandate of bringing in premium “wines of people, place, and time”, is an entity I’ll always make time for. For more than 20 years, it has brought wines from some of the best producers around the globe to our market, and I’m always interested in what it’s up to. There isn’t an abundance of importers with portfolios I’d pretty much wholly recommend, but Trialto’s book is chock-full of gems.
It was a few weeks back that I caught an email from Neil Punshon, part of the company’s management team, sharing news of Domaine Chapel, a Beaujolais producer they’re just beginning to bring into the market.
Now, I’m a big fan of all things Beaujolais, and I often consider Gamay my favourite grape variety; light, charismatic reds are my jam of late. I responded to the email within moments, asking if there was an opportunity for me to try their wine.
It couldn’t have been more than a couple hours later that I was in Trialto’s Yaletown office chatting with Punshon, glass in hand.
The agency had been having an issue: their flagship wine of the region, Mathieu and Camille Lapierre’s Morgon 2017 (Beaujolais, France; $44.99, B.C. Liquor Stores), is so good that keeping it in stock year-round has been a challenge. Just a few months back in these pages, I referred to that terroir-driven, worthy wine as sound and delicious, with “mineral-laden plums, violets, blackberries, and Bing cherries, joined by the umami character of sun-dried tomatoes and fresh-carved roast beef”.
I was told by Punshon of a rather (literally) fruitless search for another producer to keep that quality level humming year-round here in British Columbia. At the tail end of recent touring and tasting, he was introduced to the proprietors of Domaine Chapel on a whim; they were friends and neighbours of the Lapierres and got connected over a dinner on the last night of his trip. Punshon became a fast fan, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Proprietor David Chapel’s family background is on the culinary side of things (his father is a Michelin-starred restaurateur), and it was after his most recent time spent as a sommelier in Japan and New York that he and his spouse, Michele Smith-Chapel, began this venture in the region, with 2017 being their first official vintage.
Fans of this style of wine can now saunter into local private wine stores like the West End’s Marquis Wine Cellars or Kitsilano Wine Cellars, pick up an incredibly tasty bottle of Domaine Chapel Juliénas “Côte de Bessay” 2017 (Beaujolais, France; $57 to $62, private wine stores), and enjoy an exceptional Gamay sourced from a tiny two-hectare parcel of 65-year-old vines steeped in granite and schist. Raspberries, violets, and an intriguing note of roasted chestnuts fill the aromatics, leading to more raspberries, cherries, and plenty of charm on the palate. It’s a wine that has resonated top of mind for a few weeks now. I’m glad there was due diligence and patience in the search for a new wine in this category to add to local shelves. We’ll see labels from other crus, like Fleurie and Chiroubles, in coming years.
Find a bottle (or two), allow a hint of a chill, and pour liberally alongside everything from local Ocean Wise salmon or cassoulet to fried chicken or wild-mushroom risotto.
To keep yourself in the loop on gems like these, do visit Trialto’s website. While you’re there, poke around the site to learn about their wide array of producers. There’s a lot of great information and background on modern legends from Australia, Rioja, Burgundy, and beyond, and you can sign up for their newsletter and keep up-to-date on latest releases. Just like me, you may find a new favourite wine. Of course, you’ll have to actually open those emails to increase those odds.