Driven by a passion for Burgundy and the dream of making wine, Japanese Sommelier Koji Nakada left his native Tokyo in 1996 and moved to Beaune to study oenology at the prestigious CFPPA. The first thing he had to do was learn French. He enrolled in language class at Dijon where his teacher was the lovely Jae Hwa Park, an expatriated Korean. During Koji’s studies in Beaune, and during his subsequent internships at Chateau Kirwan in Bordeaux, and at small houses in Champagne and Alsace, the two dated and then married. They formed Maison Lou Dumont, their artisanal micro-negociant domaine in Gevrey-Chambertin, in 2000.
Koji’s goal is to produce pure, honest, regionally correct Burgundy of minimal manipulation from organically farmed grapes. Though not an official qualifier for the Lou Dumont wines, some of the grapes for their Bourgogne Rouge come from a biodynamic vineyard in the Côte Chalonnaise. A strict minimum vine age of 30 years is imposed for all grapes used (though grapes for the Gevrey-Chambertin that come from Lieu-dit La Platière feature 75 year old vines). Koji and Jae Hwa believe that a respectful and balanced approach to the environment and viticultural practices elicits the highest quality juice. The three Japanese characters on their label stand for sky, earth, and man, with all three together representing the concept of terroir.
The name Lou Dumont, is a combination of their goddaughter’s name Lou (who Koji says is charming and with much character, as are their wines), and from the French for “mountains,” a nod to the hilly terrains where both Koji and Jae Hwa grew up.
Koji takes a minimal approach to his wines, limiting pump overs and punch downs. He vinifies with natural yeasts and adds low doses of sulfites during vinification and a little at bottling--no more than 30 grams/liter for reds and 50-60 grams/liter for whites. Wines are matured in oak from the Jupilles forest in the Loire, which is renowned for its tightly-grained barrels that do not impart too much of the wood that can mar delicate flavor profiles. Incidentally, Jupilles barrels are the only barrels used at Chateau d’Yquem.
In 2012 Koji and Jae Hwa purchased their first parcels of land in Burgundy: no small feat for a non-native Burgundian. Their purchases include: 1 hectare or Bourgogne rouge, 1 ha of Gevrey-Chambertin AC, and 1 particularly prized piece of Bourgogne Aligoté with vines over 100 years old. The Nakadas look forward to working with their Aligoté parcel, the first wines of which are slated for release in 2014. Gevrey-Chambertin, where they created their domaine and cave, is the Pièce de Resistance, and owning even a small parcel is what Koji calls ‘a dream.’ “This is our legacy in Burgundy,” said the very humble and proud Koji on a recent visit to Los Angeles, “That we can pass this land along to our children is for us the dream. Gevrey gave me this gift for my 40th birthday.”
Inhabiting the northern reaches of the Côte de Nuits, the Pinot Noir vineyards of Fixin abut Gevrey-Chambertin and produce wines of similar character. The appellation is full of well-reputed Premier Crus that offer some very fine Pinot Noir, even if not quite delivering the exact precision and elegance—nor price tag—of a Gevrey-Chambertin Grand Cru. These are Les Arvelets and Les Hervelets, Clos de la Perrière, Clos Napoléon and Clos du Chapître. A classic Pinot Noir from Fixin will be rich in dark fruit, underbrush and exhibit good structure and minerality.
Thin-skinned, finicky and temperamental, Pinot Noir is also one of the most rewarding grapes to grow and remains a labor of love for some of the greatest vignerons in Burgundy. Fairly adaptable but highly reflective of the environment in which it is grown, Pinot Noir prefers a cool climate and requires low yields to achieve high quality. Outside of France, outstanding examples come from in Oregon, California and throughout specific locations in wine-producing world. Somm Secret—André Tchelistcheff, California’s most influential post-Prohibition winemaker decidedly stayed away from the grape, claiming “God made Cabernet. The Devil made Pinot Noir.”
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