Cave Caloz

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The Caloz family established their domaine in 1960, setting up their home and cellar in the village of Miege which sits midway between the town of Sierre, at the southern end of the Valais, and the famous ski area of Crans-Montana. Fernand Caloz, father of the current proprietaire, began the arduous process of tending the vines in this mountainous region where the vineyards sit on steep terraces and must be worked by hand. Conrad Caloz, son of Fernand, joined by his wife, Anne-Carole, now manages the affairs of this small family domaine.

The domaine follows a philosophy and system of viticulture known locally as “Production Intégrée”, an approach designed to “protect nature and the environment”. Conrad Caloz is a founding member of Vitival, the governing body of this viticultural movement, since 1989. The rules of this system require the growers to follow a regimen of sustainable practices in the vineyards and the equipment used in the production of the wines is regulated as well, all in the cause of insuring the ongoing vitality of this visually stunning region.

The Coteaux de Sierre appellation and the village of Miège benefit from the high-altitude conditions typical of the Alps. The soil is heavily infused with stones of all sizes set within a thin topsoil, conditions which create excellent drainage and provide a setting for wines to express an intense minerality. An exceptional amount of sunlight, long summers and minimal precipitation create ideal conditions for growing ripe and healthy grapes.

Within the appellation of Coteaux de Sierre, there are two distinct vineyard sites recognized for producing superior quality. Caloz has planted his vineyards to a wide range of grapes of local origin. “La Mourzière” is a terraced slope that produces wines of finesse and elegance. Due to the steep slope of the hill, the vineyards are exclusively on terraces that are supported by man-made stone walls. Within “La Mourziere”, Caloz’s parcels are planted to Fendant (Chasselas), Petite Arvine and Humagne rouge. The other special site, “Les Bernunes”, is located on the high slopes sitting between the villages of Sierre and Salquenen. “Les Bernunes” was the first vineyard cited in the ancient historical records of the Valais region. This micro-climate, influenced by its position in a concave bowl in the slope, allows for age-worthy wines of structure and balance, as well as late-harvest delicacies. Here, Caloz has planted the Savagnin grape, known locally as Heida-Paien, and the Cornalin.

Caloz’s Gamay comes from an ancient vineyard called “Les Fontanettes” which sits above the town of Miege. Soils here are poor and limestone-dominated, full of stones with the hard limestone very close to the surface. Sandrine works her vineyards without the use of chemicals, and harvest is always entirely by hand. In the cellar, fermentation begins naturally, inside the grapes, and pressing is done toward the end of fermentation (a classic semi-carbonic maceration). Fermentation and aging take place in stainless steel, and without extreme temperature regulation. Sulfur is only applied after malolactic fermentation is complete—neither on the grapes, nor at bottling—and then only a homeopathic dose.

Gamay  “Les Fontanettes”: is ethereal and beautiful in the glass, a translucent and gently coppery pale red, with more lightness and clarity than this variety often shows. Aromatically speaking, it’s completely intoxicating—the purest and most vivid ripe-strawberry, with glimmers of white pepper and Indian spices. The palate is seamless, with the strawberry theme echoing—actually, it’s very much like biting into that elusive Perfect Strawberry, where the acid is bright and clean and the fruit is ripe and succulent, and the whole thing is just so impossibly delicious that you just know, at the moment you’re eating it: fruit doesn’t get any better than this. The tannins are all but nonexistent, and the wine is a delicate dance of acid, limestone power, and fruit perfection.”
Cave-Caloz-Fendant-2008 Fendant La Mourzière: in Switzerland, the Chasselas grape is nearly ubiquitous and is known as the Fendant. When allowed to produce with no control, this grape variety is notorious for its abundance and consequent lack of concentration and character. But, when grown in the proper zone by a serious vigneron like Caloz who prunes severely to limit harvest levels, the Fendant can produce marvelous wines with a steely character, bright acidity, exceptional length and vitality. Here, the cepage captures the essence of this mountain terrain.
Cave-Caloz-PETITE-ARVINE Petite Arvine La Mourzière: The Petite Arvine is very much a local grape found only in the Valais and on the other side of the mountain in the Italian district of the Valle d’Aosta. At its best, and Caloz produces a classic example, the Arvine is a full-bodied white with a tendency to show an enticing note of grapefruit zest. Excellent density married to balancing acidity marks the Arvine from “La Mourziere” as a wine worthy of aging.
Cave-Caloz-Heida Heida – Paien Les Bernunes: This version of the famous Savagnin (the grape in the Jura responsible for the great Chateau Chalon and the full range of Vin Jaunes) does not share the oxidative notes of its cousin from the Jura. Rather, it is a dry wine with tantalizing aromas that capture the smell of the mountain herbs, the pine forest and the crisp Alpine air. A shy-bearing vine that matures late, the Heida-Paien requires a patient and talented vigneron to display its complex character. The “Les Bernunes” vineyard is recognized for its capacity to produce this grape variety at its best.
Cave-Caloz-Malvoisie-Fletrie-2008 Malvoisie Fletrie La Mourzière: From the Pinot Gris grape, this late harvest wine is rich and viscous, packed with all the elements necessary to keep the wine in focus. A pleasant minerality reminds us of the source, lest we get carried away in the honeyed notes of the rich fruit. The grapes are left to raisin on the vine and are frequently harvested in late December or even into January of the following year.
Cave-Caloz-Cornalin Cornalin Les Bernunes: An expression of exuberant wild berries marks the best of the Cornalins produced in the Valais. Again, the exceptional exposure of the “Les Bernunes” vineyard permits the Cornalin grape to ripen well, producing a purple-tinted wine that is vivacious and lightly tannic in the finish.
Cave-Caloz-Humagne-Rouge Humagne Rouge La Mourzière: At our urging, Conrad Caloz has begun to raise his Humagne Rouge, a local grape notorious for its fickle nature and stubborn refusal to ripen quickly, in a larger barrel format (demi-muid). We believe that this elevage helps to tame this wine which has rustic nature and firm structure.

Switzerland’s Liquid Assets: Wines of the Valais

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Cornalin Les Bernunes 2014

To all:  We drank the Cornalin “Les Bernunes” 2014 from Caloz this evening with total satisfaction.  This red gained strength and depth throughout the course of the meal.  Beautiful color; racy, alpine aromas that move to smoky, meaty, Syrah-like (northern Rhone locale); long finish, very fresh with spice and licorice components; starts simple, clean but […]

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Visit to the Valais

After a couple of days in the Alto Piemonte and the Canavese, Neal crossed over the mountains via the Gran San Bernardo pass to visit our growers in the Valais in Switzerland … herewith his initial comments: “We arrived in the Valais on Tuesday evening, I introduced our newest colleague, Ross Mattis, to the traditions […]

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