Thierry Michon’s property is in the Fiefs Vendéens, located not far from the Atlantic in the westernmost vineyard district of the Loire Valley; he semi-affectionately calls it “le fin du monde,” and wondered aloud when we first visited him in 2011 why some Americans from San Francisco would show up there to taste his wines. He honestly thought maybe we were lost, but we weren’t any more so than we usually are. It was raining mercilessly, that day in November, and we were sadly limited to a tour of his small winery and a quick tasting of his wines (we have a tough job, but don’t cry for us). When we visited again in May 2014, the sun was shining and Thierry took us on a whirlwind tour of the area. The man is a gifted, respectful farmer and his magnificent vineyards accurately reflect his ideas, but the other places he took us may have made a deeper impression: a 9th century church in Brem-sur-Mer (he wanted us to understand the spiritual and historical power of his homeplace), the cemetery where generations of his family are buried (so we could appreciate his personal connection to the land), and the little house where his parents live (his barefoot father went out to the garden and picked for us the most beautiful head of lettuce we’ve ever seen). Although we think his wines grew empirically better between our visits, it wasn’t until we tasted the wines that day after our tour that we truly understood the soul of what Thierry is doing way out there, in “le fin du monde.” We hope it works for you, too.
2011 Domaine St Nicolas “Le Haut des Clous”, Fiefs Vendéens, Loire Valley
100% chenin blanc grown in schisted clay and aged for a bit in wood (20% new); Thierry Michon is one of the few vignerons in his neighborhood whose wines have enough energy to integrate oak. The 2008 Le Haut des Clous was the first of Thierry’s wines to leave us awestruck, and subsequent vintages have proven conclusively that it wasn’t a fluke. Our original tasting notes are peppered with exclamatories: explosive! smoky! tannin! etc., and all of those terms remain in play although the fruit character can vary from understated to fleshy (the 2011 is more the former). Sure, you could drink Huet’s Clos du Bourg or even Joly’s Coulée de Serrant (if you could find them), but dollars to doughnuts Le Haut des Clous is in that class and one of the best wines made from chenin blanc on the planet. Splendid! Superb! Stupendous! We can’t turn it off.
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