France 2013 - Day 1 - Old Friends/New Friends

Despite losing our luggage and having no change of clothes, we left Bordeaux, drove for an hour or so, and pulled into the driveway of one of our most successful direct imports from Cognac: Jacques Esteve. The Coup de Coeur Cognac from Esteve has been a huge hit at K&L throughout 2012. It's put our brandy section on the map. It was time to meet up again with Mr. Esteve and see what else could be added to the selection.

Esteve's property is unassuming. It blends into the rest of the small village where both his home and distillery reside. Sitting on the border of Petit Champagne and Grand Champagne, divided by only a small river, his grapes grow in a very mineral, limestone-rich soil, making his base wine very similar to the GC profile: high-acid, low-alcohol, full-flavor.

The best distillates from Cognac take decades to fully mature. While wines evolve in the bottle, Cognac will change in the barrel. I know what you're thinking: David, all spirits mature in wood. However, Cognac gets tight in its youth and can shut down at certain ages, much like wine. You might buy a case of 2005 Bordeaux, only to find that the wines are tannic and closed in their flavor profile. You simply opened the bottle at the wrong time. Cognac can be the same way. 8-12 year old barrels can be quite unforgiving and neutral. However, another ten years can change things completely. The perfumy fruit comes out and the Cognac reaches its true potential.

Esteve Plentitude. Made of 100 year old Cognacs as well as pre-Phylloxora juice. That's some really, really, really, really, really old shit. And it tastes pretty good, too. We'll probably grab a few bottles of this guy, along with some more affordable Esteve expressions. However, it was time to move on towards a new producer we were interested in.

The vineyards of Ragnaud-Sabourin stretch far over the hills in Grand Champage. 33 hectares of Ugni Blanc with a bit of Folle Blanche as far as the eye can see. This estate is known throughout France as having the goods. Would there be anything on hand for the two Davids?

I know what you might be thinking. Ragnaud? That sounds familiar. True. Last year's trip resulted in some amazing products from Raymond Ragnaud. This Chateau is indeed related. The original owner of the estate, Gaston Briand, had a daughter who married a man named Marcel Ragnaud – brother of Raymond. Marcel passed away unfortunately in 1996 and left the estate to his daughter Annie. She married Mr. Sabourin and, voilée, the Ragnaud-Sabourin Cognac house was born.

Annie still runs the tasting bar and these Cognacs are seriously legit. They easily form one of the most polished GC collections I've ever tasted. Refined, rich, but elegant.

The local warehouses are dark, dingy, and full of booze

The still is a classic alambic.

The estate is picturesque and the juice is bangin'. There's a 35 year old expression we should be able to sell for about $150 that is among the best Cognacs I have ever tasted. However, there's no time to talk about that now. I'm exhaused. We had dinner with the Dudognons tonight and it's been a late one. Time to hit the hay.

More tomorrow!

-David Driscoll

David Driscoll