Feeds:
Posts
Comments

It isn’t always like this. Honestly, there are times when it all seems to just spill over, the images around me, I get too used to them. I don’t know. The moments where I catch myself thinking of Burgundy as simply the place where I live, the place where two of my three children were born, a collection of the many small villages that I’ve walked through when I didn’t have a car that has somehow turned ‘normal’, it bothers me for some reason. Not too long ago I lived right next to San Francisco, I’ve never walked across the Golden Gate bridge. I’ve met so many here that have walked on it, no, ran the full distance of it. To live so close to something wonderful, while being numb to the full gravity of it all…well, it just feels wasteful.

 

This is why I do my best to look at the small things as much as I can, taking in each aspect of my day as if it will be the last time that I’ll get a chance at it. Time is too precious, the moments too fleeting to not want to draw them close, the inertia of it all sweeping you off center. I typically feel this way. My family, the place where I live, the food, wine. I look around most of the times hoping that I can remember just how beautiful some of the things are that I have been fortunate enough to see, taste and smell.

 

With my wines, it has been a bit of a different story. I don’t taste the finished product all too often. I know, crazy. But when you are on a micro level such as we are, you start to think about each bottle opened today is one less that we will be able to try later on. I want our children to experience some of our wines as they mature and develop. And besides, we haven’t been at this for ages, most of my wines shouldn’t be opened for a decade or more. Of course I want to know how the wines are maturing, I just feel a bit guilty opening them up too early. Though at times, curiosity gets the best of me or visitors are stopping by, and bottles get opened.

 

It has been a long time since I’ve tried a few of the wines I opened up the other day. I’ll spare you with tasting notes, I’m biased anyhow. What I will say is that while I am well removed from the idea that my decisions somehow increased the quality of the resulting wines, there are no amount of words that can convey just how proud I am and how fortunate I feel to be in Burgundy with all of the opportunities that life, family, friends and luck have provided me. I find myself shaking my head in disbelief when reflecting on how all of this came together.

 

For everyone that has helped along the way, I appreciate your support!

 

All the best,

 

Ray Walker

MAISON ILAN LOGO

5 Harvests down, on to number 6   /   2013 Maison Ilan Futures Window

Hello again Everyone,
I wanted to reach out to everyone tonight to say a few things about the support that we have been given and what it has meant to not only my family but to the growth and success of our winery. It hasn’t been too many years since I was in California dreaming about getting my hands dirty with grapes, watching every wine show on TV that I could find, reading every last sentence within any wine book I could get my Hands on. I was and still am obsessed with wine. With just five short years under my belt here in Burgundy, I approach the visit to the vineyards with the same excitement as I did when I first visited in January of 2009. I still nudge Christian and the girls while pointing to some beautiful angle of the slopes that I couldn’t let them miss. As much as I feel at home in Burgundy, the reality of it all has escaped me, I can’t believe my place in Burgundy is where we call home and the birthplace to two of our three children. 

And as much as I am what I Call a practical optimist I can see now that all of this crazy jump off of the cliff and hope for a cozy landing could have gone a million different ways. I didn’t care about that at the time, I just wanted to jump, the rest didn’t matter since the ground beneath me had never supported what I really wanted out of life anyhow. What I found was more than a path towards producing wines in the land that I Love, but a life for my family as well as an overwhelming amount of support for what my Vision was. That did and still does mean quite a lot to all of us. We appreciate the support you have given to us over these past five years and promise to continue to let our passions drive us towards providing individual wines and increasingly refined customer service. 

While thinking of the significance of 2014 being our 6th vintage here in Burgundy, we figured it would be as good as time as any to share a bit of news. This year we are set to start production on our 4th and 5th Grands Crus that we purchase in fruit. We will have more news on this later. 

2013 Futures Window Closing Soon

Everyone has been incredibly supportive of our winery during this Futures campaign. With such a small vintage as well as a new importer in U.S., we are now in the process of closing down the 2013 Futures Campaign. We all thank you for supporting our winery and for so many of you passing along your experiences with our wines at home as well as when visiting us in Nuits Saint Georges or at the Abbey de la Bussiere. 

Thank you again!

Ray and Christian Lili Walker
Maison ILAN
Côte d’Or
France

MAISON ILAN LOGO 3

- 2011 US Private Client wines have shipped!

Hello everyone,
I’m writing to you tonight to share a bit of news as well as changes at Maison Ilan. The first thing to mention is that the 2010 Gevrey-Chambertin Les Corbeaux orders will be arriving Stateside in roughly 30 days. As some of you know, these bottles have delayed some orders from being released. Also, it is with great pleasure that I can share with everyone the news that the 2011s (destined for the Private Client list)  have been picked up today and are heading to the US as we speak!! Wineflite will contact all US clients once the wines have arrived Stateside. Rest assured, they will make sure to take weather into account when scheduling deliveries and and holding wines for those that wish

I know, I know, they should have been resting in everyone’s cellars by now. I completely agree. So, with the wines having been bottled more than a few months ago, why have the wines taken until now to ship to the private clients? And why did the importer wines ship before the private client wines?

What we are trying to do with our private client list is simple, at least it should be. Simply put, I love going direct to our clients. Sure, importers are our clients as well. However, with private clients we are able to have a direct connection with those that are enjoying our wines. It means a lot for us to know who is going to be receiving our wines once they leave our winery. On top of this, selling all of our wines to an importer means that we aren’t able to build personal relationships with those that support us directly.

Since our first vintage, we have had a strong interest in going direct to our clients, especially in the US where the wine laws are complex. We didn’t have a model to follow as we didn’t know of anyone else doing this and so it has been a learning process as we have refined the connection between our clients and our winery. The first and second vintages saw our wines being brought in by our importers. They brought the wines in for us as an additional service, which was outside of what their core business was since they believed in the future of a direct model.

Moving forward with our third vintage, the 2011s, the importance of finding a permanent solution that would meet the needs of our clients was clear. The solution is Wineflite, a company which specializes in connecting wineries with their clients, one of the most important aspects of our winery. While the need for this solution was clear, we were not prepared to make the switch prior to the 2011s being bottled. The 2011s going to the importer were shipped right after bottling, while the private client 2011s awaited a streamlined solution.

The wines will arrive to your door without you having to work out importation details just as before, but you can now think of Wineflite as your personal shipper, dedicated to bringing your wines from our cellar to your doorstep without unnecessary complications. We appreciate that the road to this point has been a learning experience, but we are confident that these refinements to our winery shipments will provide a great benefit to everyone.

- Further Efficiencies

Our ordering process has at times been more complicated than it needed to be. The idea was simple enough, literally calling every single client that has placed an order. While speaking with everyone during this time has been enjoyable for us, we have come to the decision that this part of our business could use a modern update. We are currently developing an online ordering website that will allow vintage offers to be viewed, orders to be processed, and visibility on shipment updates. We believe that this will provide our clients with a better purchasing experience.

Cheers!

ray_signature

Ray Walker
Maison ILAN
Nuits-Saint-Georges
Côte d’Or, France

For those of you that purchased either directly or through merchants, you will be contacted once the wines arrive in the USA!!!!!!!!!

 

Thank you for your support and patience!!

Edit: Direct client wines were sent in a later shipment on June 9th.

Cheers

 

Ray

Hello everyone, 

as many of you may already know, the 2011s have been bottled and have already started to be shipped out to importers in the UK, Denmark, and Belgium. Wines for the US will be picked up on Monday. Private clients outside of US will be contacted directly for shipping instructions. 

 

I am proud to say that I believe that the wines greatly benefitted from the extra time in barrel! 

 

Thank you everyone for your amazing support!

Hello Everyone,

this entry will be a bit of a departure from my typically wordy…’style’. Nope, this time I am straight to the point behind my posting. Some of you are letting out sighs of relief. Shame on you.

Anyhow, as a negociant, I have the ability to purchase grapes, wine in barrel/tank or even in bottle. Since the beginning it was made clear to me that it was much easier to find wine than it was to find grapes. With my lack of initial understanding of this concept of not wanting to do less work, have all of your grapes sold and not have to worry about where to store barrels I was often frustrated in having Clos St Denis, Richebourg, Clos de Beze, Morey St Denis 1er Cru Clos Sorbe and many others offered to me when I couldn’t break from my focus and passion for buying the grapes and doing all of the production bits myself. To be fair, alright – all of these producers had more experience than me and a few were favorite producers of mine. However, one gripe stood in the way.

It wouldn’t be my wine!!!!!!!! How in the world could I sell a wine and act like it is my own when someone else did all of the work? Sure, there are major financial considerations….to consider. And sure, more Euros would be nice, especially when we haven’t had a bountiful harvest since 2009. But if I put the money in my pocket in this manner, by going against what I am personally passionate about, I feel like I would be selling or cheapening what makes me get after it and pushes me study on my profession with great pleasure.

So, here is the deal. I was offered some 2013 Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Folatieres, and some 2013 Echezeaux, both in barrel. By shaking hands, I walked into Echezeaux 2014 forward in GRAPES! The grapes were offered in connection with the wine. Where does that leave me? Well, I could sell the wines as Maison Ilan wines and not say a peep. They are damn good at the moment. I could also just create a second label for when these situations come up. But the choice was simple, since the first two weren’t options at all, more like a ‘why the fuck would I do that?’ scenario. I’ll be buying the 2013 wines, and selling off to another negociant – at a cheaper price than I will buy it for if need be. I’d rather lose money in the pursuit of my passion than tainting what wine means to me.

We should produce around 2+ barrels of 2014 Echezeaux, our fourth Grand Cru! Whatever I have to do to get to this point I will gladly do.

Cheers

Ray

Good morning everyone,

I wanted to take a brief moment to speak about what we do here at Maison Ilan . Many of you reading this know a bit about my story, but the take home message shouldn’t be that I am such a nice guy that my wines have to be amazing or anything similar. What I hope to make clear in my story being out there is that I am never afraid to go off of the beaten path in order to do what feels right to me. Some may call this intuition, I just describe it as being obsessive in my pursuit of finding the path that corresponds to who I am at my core. This in no way is to suggest that I always make the best decisions, but I take in an incredible amount of information prior to moving an inch. Once I am comfortable, I leap, without doubting a second of it. I believe this to be a sign of my faith in my decisions.

As a producer of wines, each of the decisions involved have resulting consequences. I view many of the processes in the production of wine which I view to be ‘additional’ as giving consequences to the wine that are distracting. Some distractions can be utterly delicious, of course. Though I find it personally interesting to explore what exists in the land surrounding me here in Burgundy without these distractions, or the consequences of additional processes. In my view, this provides a certain level of clarity which I cherish. As with many things, there are compromises.

My main compromise at Maison Ilan is oak. There, I said it. Oak has been a bit of a compromise for me. I’ve attempted to decrease the amount and type of oak flavors that are transmitted into our wines. The way that I see things, the finished wine arrives after a series of events and transitions are completed. These transitions in particular from grapes on the vine, to being placed into collecting vessels, primary fermentation vessel, secondary fermentation vessel, settling vessel after élevage and then into bottle create stress on the grapes/wine. In order to decrease this stress during these transitions, I have attempted to be gentle and patient (the two work together) with the desire of keeping the stress at a lower rate while smoothing out the transition events.

We may discuss the other aspects at a different time, but for now, allow me to provide some insight into my views on élevage.

First of all, this is a step that is quite necessary, potentially simple, though filled with a dizzying amount of variables that promise to change details both large and small for a particular wine. We fill our barrels direct from the wooden fermentation tanks on the ground level while the barrels are resting in the cave below using gravity. They are filled in the order that the wine is pulled from the tank. The free run is filled, and once the tank’s excess wine has been drained, we enter the tanks (no doors) and manually fill 10 liter buckets with the grapes still holding onto wine. These buckets are then pressed in our 100-year-old wooden vertical press. This press wine is then ran via gravity into the cave, either completing the last barrel that was being filled with the free run wine. If the free run wine filled the last active barrel then an empty barrel is the first recipient of the press wine. What I hope to illustrate is that the wines are not held in a tank prior to being placed into barrels, they are ran straight through. This method preserves more CO2 as the wines are not entering an extra vessel prior to arriving in the barrel. A result of this decision is that the wines will have more variability from each other. As an example, a freshly filled third barrel in a cuvée of five barrels will taste different from the first barrel filled, even with every other detail made identical. Having all the barrel deconstructed in this manner thrills me more than I can convey. Part of this is knowing that there are differences inherent in the order in which the barrels were filled and how this affects the wine.

As much change as the grapes had gone through in making the change from resting on the vines to finishing fermentation, going into a barrel is a bit of a shock. Sure, the wines fermented in wooden fermentations tanks prior to this step but the transition is not to be underestimated. All too often, freshly fermented wines that seemed somewhat pleasurable are strangely out of sorts when tasted after being placed in barrel. I’ve tried this at one week intervals for the first three to four months and can say that even with used oak barrels, the wines are in a state of shock. What was once pleasant is now off-balance and awkward. I don’t necessarily find oak on the profile but the lack of composure is striking.

Fast forward to around the 12 month period, and the wines have finally shed some of the new wine awkwardness. The wines at this point have not been moved via racking (drawing the wine from its lees – the ‘sediment’ residing in the lowest part of the barrel), and topping up the volume inside of the barrel to prevent oxidation has been performed with just marbles instead of wines. The marbles displace volume and do not introduce ‘foreign’ wine into the barrel’s environment.

Now here is the interesting part. We have a good number of visitors at Maison Ilan. I’ve always felt the need to put the best foot forward, and to, well, not give someone an off wine. There is an importer that liked my initial lack of interest in showing a particular wine and smiled in mentioning that part of what he admired about Henri Jayer was that if you visited his cellar while he didn’t like one of his wines, well you just weren’t offered the wine to taste. If the Richebourg wasn’t ready, for you to taste, it wasn’t ready for to taste – and you wouldn’t! I liked the thought of not wanting to show a wine before it was ready and figured it also increased my professionalism in only showing what was pleasurable at the moment. So I went through and placed one stone on my ‘favorite’ barrels of each cuvée and did about twenty tastings focusing on the stoned barrels. I inevitably showed other barrels during tastings because I was so excited to show other shades to the same color, but I generally stuck to this for the twenty or so tastings.

What made for a ‘favorite’ barrel? Well, commonly the reduced barrels were ruled out. I tried to explain reduction to a few visitors and unfairly tired of explaining my thoughts on it and decided to not show these barrels. I liked some of the reduced barrels but there are so many factors that come into play, one of which was timing. I loved a good many of the reduced barrels with around 30 seconds or so of time provided in order to let the reduction blow off. The issue that I saw was that many visitors would drink the wines without giving the wine any air. They seemed to like the wine (some would call the reduced barrel as their favorite once the reduction blew off) but I felt the wine wasn’t given proper context. Another common deciding factor was clarity. There seemed to be certain barrels that were less transparent. I couldn’t understand why, but some would just have it in spades while others lacked definition. There was one thing else. Some of the barrels showed more wood than the others, even though the same barrel maker, similar barrel age, toast levels and forest were employed. This sensation wasn’t constant or even aggressive but as sensitive as I had grown to oak some of the barrels would stick out over time, fall back in line and then poke out yet again.

The tastings were just random visitors, over about four months. We weren’t getting that many visitors at the time so the stoned barrels would keep their one piece of limestone on the leading edge of the barrel and I’d largely forget about it until I would be asked about it during some of the tastings. Keep in mind that each time I top up, I choose random barrels to taste and I taste each barrel inside of a cuvée at random points in order to follow the wine’s evolution.

And then it happened. I started to notice when tasting on my own that the stoned barrels weren’t my favorites. Some of them were quite reduced, I wouldn’t have picked the wine as a tasting barrel, the definition was gone, and the barrel two over was tasting in line with my preferences. Time after time this happened. It happened enough that I’d have two tasting barrels going. One day one would be showing well, the next day it would switch characteristics with its neighbor.

Since that moment, I decided to show each visitor a random barrel from each cuvée. Of course some of the wines may not show as another barrel, but I figured that was the most accurate way to show the wine to visitors, fluctuations and all. Some may not get what the wines were doing, but really it didn’t matter. The point was to experience the wines in their current state without reigning in how the wines showed or which part of the wines were being experienced. It is now much more of a pleasurable thing to show, share and explore the wines with the visitor instead of guiding the through the wines.

At the 18 month mark, where wines have for the past few generations generally been bottled, and while the (nearly literally) night and day fluctuations have settled down a bit, the changes are still there. I had also previously noticed that wines would commonly show reduced and then open, only to show reduced a bit later down the line.  This is something that I saw in the 2009s, 2010s and started to see again with the 2011s. Throughout this time, I kept up my reading of older books on the wines of Burgundy. The subject of élevage (aging wine in barrel-literally ‘raising’) played in a role in a few of the books. Nothing truly stood out for me so I just kept plugging away with my plans. The slight oak edge had trailed off, with a finer degree of focus and depth to the wines. There was much pleasure at 12 months with these wines, but the point was sharpened with the additional 6 months in barrel.

The 2009s had been bottled without purposely extending time in barrel, 2010s as well. All had been bottled besides a lonely cuvee of Gevrey-Chambertin, with just a barrel and a half that was given a bit of time to wait out its malolactic fermentation. Slowly but surely I started to hear others’ plans for bottling the 11s early and began to fall in line with this. I started to relay this when speaking with those that had purchased our wines as futures. I started planning bottling to begin in January of 2013 in spite of not being convinced it was the right thing. Part of my rushing was also coming from literally 4 or 5 folks that really wanted the 11s early, seeing as the 09s and 2010s came in after I had forecasted. The thing is that my forecasts were based on what other producers were doing, I wasn’t doing anything else that my neighbors were doing, so I shouldn’t have believed that this most important part would somehow fall within the same lines as what others were doing. With 2011s in particular, one aspect that bears mentioning in this context is that didn’t know anyone else in the Cote d’Or that hadn’t chaptalized a single wine in 11, I was clearly stepping outside the norm, if only by doing what came naturally.

Nonetheless, I felt the pressure to fall in line with my neighbors, that is until I started paying even more attention to the wines. They didn’t show as wines that were finished with their elevage being that they adjusted so much, reminiscent of someone settling into their seat, finding the right position to be in prior to getting comfortable. It felt odd to have the thought, but, “Maybe the wines aren’t ready yet”. Were the wines going to be excessively oaky, would the wines be less transparent? The oak-forward section of the cycle had all but fallen from my radar and their was a consistent clarity throughout each lineup of barrels within a cuvee. Maybe I could leave the wines in for a bit longer…

I went through all of my older books from the 18th and 19th century looking for any insight into what I was thinking of doing. Not much. Andre Jullien made a reference in 1801 to aging the better wines for a longer period of time. I had another book in my library to check out, Cyrus Redding’s 1833 classic, A History and Description of Modern Wines. This is what I read:

Redding2

Redding1833

Reading this text, I didn’t find any ‘right’ answer, but that was fine. I wasn’t looking for one. What I was hoping for was some historical perspective. It is easy to speak of traditional practices while only speaking about what was done in the preceding generations. Though I greatly prefer to have more of a long view on these sorts of details. It has to be an apples to oranges situation since wines are different today from their early-19th century counterparts, but I must say that what I found in this text along with my own findings with the 2010 Corbeaux as well as the still busy 2011s reinforced my interest in extended aging.

Today, the 2010 Corbeaux has been bottled now for a few weeks, after having aged in used oak for around 40 months. The 2011s are nearly all bottled and showing that with 28 months in barrel did them well. The wines have now settled out with increased depth, transparency and resolve. As the above text suggests, there is no one right time to bottle a wine. Though even when taking into account just how much I have loved my 2011s, there is just so much more to enjoy today.

Two years in used wood is going to be a fixture here. It is a decision that I am making for the wines that we will all be drinking many years from now. I see no need to rush simply for the sake of rushing. I want the best for the wines, and for those that will consume them. Let us be clear that the wines do not move at our speed, our schedules, or dinner dates. They aren’t art, fast food, a trained animal or machine. They move at their own pace. I for one will gladly afford them the patience that they ask for and indeed deserve.

Cheers

Ray

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,122 other followers

%d bloggers like this: