Archive for July, 2013

Categories : Wine, Wine Thoughts
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2 Unique, Old World White Wines

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 2009 Radikon Slatnik

 One of the most radical, “on the edge” winemakers in the world is Stanko Radikon.  Based out of Oslavia across the border from Italy’s Friuli region in the northwest, the Radikon wines are as eccenrtic as they get.

Here is what Michael Tulipan of the Organic Wine Journal noted on his blog–

Radikon’s land hugs the side of a hill in Oslavia, nestled between the town of Gorizia and the Slovenian border. To the north are the Julian Alps, which help block the cold continental winter winds that could damage the vines, and to the south, less than twenty miles away, is the Adriatic Sea. The sun-soaked vineyard faces south and southeast, unfolding beneath a winery that looks like a cantina out of the old west. A true natural winemaker, Stanko has gone past what is considered organic, eschewing all chemical treatments since 1995, even when it means losing grapes. He also stopped adding sulfites in 2002. Due to the vertical nature of the land, most tasks have to be done by hand and the vines are trimmed to produce fewer bunches, generally four to five per vine, resulting in more concentrated juice. radikon2

Like most Friuli wineries, Radikon is a family affair. Stanko’s son Sasa is an enthusiastic guide as he takes us through the cellar, stopping to taste wines at different stages of the aging process. Where many winemakers would be content to bottle their wine, Sasa emphasizes theirs has time to go. I ask, “How long?” He answers, “Until my father feels it is ready.”

Radikon wines are notable for several reasons, especially the amount of time invested in them and the natural methods employed. Once de-stemmed, grapes experience an extra long maceration on the skins in cone-shaped vats. Starting in 1995 Stanko tried anywhere from seven days to nine months before settling on about four months in 2005. During this period, the grapes are stirred three or four times a day then go through a double extraction, the first caused by water and the second by alcohol. The wines are aged a minimum of three years in large oak casks, followed by at least another year in the bottle before being released.

In the interim, the wines receive no added sulfites and they are not filtered before being bottled. The end result is an amazingly complex and profound wine that can age for years, even a decade or more. While not adding sulfites can make wines less stable, according to Stanko the long maceration results in substances being extracted from the grapes that protect the wine and allow it to age, creating wines, that are in his words, “totally genuine.”

Four wines make up the Radikon line, Jakot (a reverse play on the now verboten Tocai), Ribolla Gialla, Oslavje (a blend of chardonnay, pinot grigio and sauvignon blanc) and Merlot. While best known for its whites, which are characterized by rich gold to copper hues, cloudiness, deep aromas and complexity, Radikon’s sole red, merlot, is a true expression of the grape and not to be missed“.


 2001 JL Chave Hermitage Blanc

The iconic Chave family have been producing wines from the Hermitage hill for at least 14 generations.  Theri wines, both red & white, have been some of the most prestigious, hard to get & expensive over that time period.  There is no doubt they are some of the most unique & noteworthy wines of the world.  AAA1

I am one of those people who believes great wines are made in the vineyard & Hermitage has proven itself over the centuries as being one of the world’s GREAT sites.  I was always under the assumption the soil was mainly decomposing granite.  While many of the very special parcels are in fact comprised of granitic soils, it really is not the only act in town.  After spending a day with Gerard back in the 80’s and more recently his son, Jean Louis, walking the hill, I was amazed at the myriad of soils, which comprise the hill, which were over the years smashed up upon each other by glaciers.   Hermitage rocksHermitage white soilHermitage white stones

The Chave family have at last count 37 different parcels featuring all kinds of different soils to work their magic with.  Here are 3 of their parcels just to show how diverse each can be.

It really took me a long time for me to understand Chave’s Hermitage Blanc.  It really is unlike any other wine.  The 2001 has a striking nose–powerful, deep, profound, REAL stony, masculine, oily/viscous, with great structure & power….STILL.  I was amazed at how youthful it still is.   There is an unusual acaia-hawthorne-lanolin smell which I don’t recall ever smelling in any other white wine I have had.  I was awed by the depth, layering & verve of this truly big, yet UN-heavy white wine.  It really is worth the hassle & expense of finding an aged one to try.  It really is one of theworld’s unique & iconic white wines.

Categories : White, Wine
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One of the areas I believe our industry does not spend enough time on is “what is good wine”.  And, to better understand this concept, we also need to spend some time showing tasters, I believe, truly masterful winemakers……what we refer to as game changers….& their wines.  These can then serve as benchmarks which other, subsequent wines can be compared to.   Andre Ostertag of Alsace, France, for instance, is truly one of the most brilliant minded winemakers in the universe.  I could easily say the same about Gunter Kunstler.  So, why not compare their wines (& from the fabulous 2009 vintage…mano a mano).  There will NOT be a winner…..that is not the intent  Both wines are just too good!  This hopefully will instead give tasters a base to work from as they explore the world of wine.  The other pair of wines (Pinot Noir based) features Michel Reverdy & his fabulous Sancerre Rouge…& an amazing Pinot from the iconic Coche Dury in Burgundy, France.  What a tasting…….pure, transparent. delicately nuanced wines of fabulous intensity, glorious breed/pedigree done with seamlessness, complete-ness, class. finesse & refinement. 

ABCD22009 Hippolyte Reverdy Sancerre ROUGE

A very fragile, gentle, highly refined, uber-ethereal, “one of kind” Pinot, which defines an appellation..

Hippolyte Reverdy’s family has been making wine in the charming village of Verdigny, a commune of Sancerre in the eastern Loire, for many generations—perhaps as far back as 1600. Shortly after, the passing of Hippolyte, his son, Michel, was left with his mother to bear the burden of loss and to assume the responsibility of running the farm alone. Today, Michel farms fourteen hectares of vineyards on his own. Chris Santini, our man in France, writes of Michel, “His dedication is total. He’s one of the few remaining vignerons in France who truly live like a paysan [peasant]. No vacation, no travel, ever. He’s happy just to stay on the farm, working seven days a week, and wanting nothing more and nothing less…[Michel] plans to keep working the land until he physically can’t get himself out to the vines any longer.”  Since Michel has taken the reins, Kermit says that Reverdy has since “become the benchmark domaine of our day.”  After tasting a Sancerre rouge from the domaine, Kermit asked Michel to craft one for him in the traditional demi-muids, (400 liters) and specified that he would like it unfiltered. Since then, his rouge is the talk of Sancerre, one of a kind”.

2009 Coche Dury Bourgogne ROUGE  ABCDEF

A wonderfully pure, elegant, graceful, lovely Pinot from one of Burgundy’s truly iconic superstars.

The enigmatic, modest, Jean-François has only recently & reluctantly accepted the celebrity status of his wines. When asked, he would be most likely say that it is rigor, constant vigilance, and adherence to old-school tradition that makes the wines so special. Jean-François’ heritage seems more closely linked to the studious, farmer-monks that once propagated this area of Burgundy during the Middle Ages, as his work style is almost hermetical. The Coches farm almost nine hectares of vineyards on minuscule parcels over six communes.. Though they are best known for their Chardonnay, they also bottle six exquisite Pinot Noirs. No clones of any kind are planted—an absolute rarity in Burgundy”.The Coche-Dury vineyards are tended like gardens, every vine immaculate, no pushing weeds, even the stony topsoil raked to perfection. The vines are vibrant, bursting with life and energy from their roots, buried deep in the soil. The Coches are the first out in the vines every day in Burgundy, and among the last home…These long hours pay off at the end of the year, because the reward is some of the most beautiful grapes in Burgundy, and that is the secret to their stunning success.

ABCDE  2009 Domaine Ostertag Riesling Grand Cru “Muenchberg”

a true majestic Alsatian thoroughbred from his flagship parcel in the Muenchberg Grand Cru vineyard

To call André Ostertag a revolutionary winemaker is to tell just half the story. He is a pioneer, certainly, but also an ardent environmentalist.  Since going biodynamic in 1997, has been an active member of the natural farming community. There is poetry to Ostertag’s practices. He looks for the nuance of terroir rather than the typicity of a grape varietal. He rejects formulaic, scientifically engineered wines.

As he so beautifully explains in Kermit Lynch’s Inspiring Thirst,

…true quality is that which succeeds in surprising and moving us. It is not locked inside a formula. Its essence is subtle (subjective) and never rational. It resides in the unique, the singular, but it is ultimately connected to something more universal. A great wine is one in which quality is contained. Such a wine will necessarily be uncommon and decidedly unique because it cannot be like any other, and because of this fact it will be atypical, or only typical of itself.

2009 Kunstler Riesling DRY “Hochheimer Domdechaney”  ABCD

there is no doubt, Gunter Kunstler, is crafting some of the VERY best DRY wines out of Germany today.  Being from the Rheingau region, his Rieslings display such power, profound-ness & character.  When I was growing up in this industry, the Domdechaney vineyard was always revered as one of the truly iconic vineyards in Germany & this wine will show you why.  Cheryle & I (& my best friends, husband & wife Nunzio & Joanne) where there in the vineyard in 2009 with Gunter at harvest…..& were so impressed, we had to special order this wine from Gunter right then & there, before the miniscule amounts of this fabulous wine was gobbled up by the rest of the world.  Here is DRY German Riesling in all its glory—majestic, magnificent & glorious.

Categories : Wine, Wine Thoughts
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Pink Wines 07-09-13

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Yes, it is Summer.  The weather is noticeably hotter & the days longer.  The seasonal food specialities seems to be lighter AND the sea is bountiful &  thankfully we therefore have all kinds of fresh seafood available.  In southern France & along the Mediterranean basin this time of the year, well chilled carafes of regional PINK wines dot the seaside cafe tables.  The locals there have had many, many years to understand & appreciate that well made roses are undoubtedly well suited for the Summer months, & its hotter weather & its seasonal foods.  Here are a few we currently enjoy.

neyers Ch

 2012 My Essential Rose

Here is a VERY light colored, pretty, refreshing, wonderfully delicious, thirstquenching & food friendly French rose from superstar Master Sommelier Richard Betts.  What a discovery this has been for us!  Here is what Richard had to say–

From the South of France, just over the hill from Aix, a blend of 40% Grenache, 40% Cinsault, 18% Syrah, 1% each of Carignane & Mourvedre, direct press (no saignee juice here, hence the light color & lack of bitterness).  The idea is rosé as I love it; dry and refreshing, smell red yet taste like a lip-smackingly delicious white.  Importantly, this is not saignée, it’s all straight to press goodness.  Pass the chalice and get after it“.   Bouvier

 2011 Regis Bouvier Rose

Regis Bouvier is a small, truly artisan producer (1981) who makes delicious, ethereal, interesting & really food friendly wines from his stellar vineyard holdings in Marsannay.  We just had a bottle last night of his 2011 Rose & let’s just say, it was such a pleasure, it really was the inspiration for this blog.  Unlike many of the fruit driven, tooty fruity roses we see coming out more frequently today, this one is barrel aged in oak for 10 months, framing the character, adding depth & rounding out edges, without compromising deliciousness, lightness, etherealness or food friendliness.  In the Old Days, pre-global warming, Marsannay was famous for their rose wines.  I surmise that back then the area was over all too challenging to produce stellar reds.  Times have changed…..& we now see more & more winemakers looking to take advantage of the weather warming & produce red wines, rather than rose.   The soils are interesting–a mix of limestone, marl, clay, stoney & gravel & the resulting wines can be interesting & unique . I, for one, am glad & most thankful that Bouvier still makes a little rose.  This really is a superb wine, which happens to be pink.

La Spinetta Rose

Il Rose di Casanova

Yes….it is VERY hard to find “good” Italian Rose.  Most winemakers focus on making top quality RED wine, which may include bleeding off (saignee) some of the juice early on in the fermentation, thereby increasing the remaining juice’s skin contact potential.  Then with the leftover, bled off juice they try to make a decent rose or something.  While this may make for a blacker, better RED wine, it often results in a very mediocre Pink wine.  For me, this is even more apparent with Italian grape varieties.  Superstar winemaker Giorgio Rivetti, in this case, set out to make a good rose instead.  50% Sangiovese & 50% Prugnolo Gentile (another clone of Sangiovese, most notably from Montepulciano) from his Tuscan vineyard (sandy & ocean sediments influenced soils) grown at roughly 1000 feet elevation.  The skin contact is no more than 1 hour & the wine is fermented in stainless steel, & is then aged on the lees for 3 months.  We love the notes of sour cherry, pomegranite & floral qualities, how seamless it is from beginning to end & how it finishes UN-oaky & UN-bitter…..all done in a VERY tasty, lively, refreshing, food friendly style.  Bravo!!!!   Gardoni2

2012 Corte Gardoni Bardolino “Chiaretto”

Remarkably……yet another delicious, standout Italian PINK wine!!!!!  This one comes from Veneto, up in the northeast part of Italy.  Records show that the Piccoli family have been growing grapes in the area since the 1600’s.  

GardoniToday Gianni Piccoli is a well-known and highly respected figure in the region as well as a fierce leader in the fight against the homogenization of the local wine scene. While local cooperatives push for laws that would force producers to plant only French grapes like Chardonnay and Merlot, the place of honor at Corte Gardoni is reserved for local varietals such as Garganega, Corvina, Rondinella, and others. The Piccolis’ vineyards occupy 25 hectares, while the rest of the property encompasses orchards, forests, olive trees, and arable land“.

Here is their Chiaretto (what the locals call their rose), which is typically produced from 50% Corvina, 30% Rondinella & 20% “other” grapes.   It is much darker in hue than those listed above….and seemingly more fruit driven….BUT still lovely, irresistibly delicious, food friendly & very well suited for this time of the year.

Categories : Rose, Wine
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Neyers Vineyards

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We have been been friends with Bruce & Barbara Neyers for a long time AND have been HUGE fans of their wines also for a long time.  I distinctly & clearly remember at a Trade Wine tasting held at the Halekulani Hotel, Bruce came to me with a bottle of his 1992 Neyers Merlot in hand.  It was that good!  And, it still serves as a benchmark of what Californian Merlot can be.

I recently has an opportunity to sample 3 of their wines & walked away again VERY impressed with each.

Neyers logo

neyers Ch

 2011 Neyers Chardonnay “304”

Neyers winemaker Tadeo Borchardt, is really at the top of his game, making some of the very best, most interesting wines out of California today.  It is so inspiring to see such a young talent find his stride & the “zone” for his craft.  

Owner, Bruce Neyers is & has been the National Sales Manager for Kermit Lynch Wine Merchants for many, many years.  It is then no surprise to me that his own wine project, Neyers Vineyards, would over the years continually infuse Old World knowledge, methods & techniques into how they farm their grapes & how they craft their wines.

 On a trip through France, & specifically the Chablis region in this case, Tadeo was inspired by the wonderfully mineral driven, remarkably light & crisp white wines he tasted there from such illustrious producers as Lavantureu &, Savary.

 This “304” bottling is a homage to French Chablis, its producers & its wines.  I don’t think there is anything like it out of California.  Furthermore, such lighter, crisper, mineral driven wines are ideal for warm weather sipping.

 The key is finding the right grapes to best accomplish this difficult task….at least doing it well.  The first vintage, Tadeo was able to find the right kind of fruit, grown around a rock outcropping down in southern Carneros.  He has since thankfully found similar grapes from other parcels…all with the same kind of extreme stressful, meager growing conditions, which is apropos for lower alcohol, mineral driven, crisp, complete Chardonnay.

 A Toast to Bruce & Tadeo for bringing their dream to life!

“For years, I’ve loved the light, elegant bottlings of Chardonnay from the Chablis area of Burgundy. These wines speak of the soil. They rarely spend time in oak barrels, but are fermented and aged in neutral tanks made from stainless steel or cement. We call our wine of this style Chardonnay ‘304’, & is fermented and aged in stainless steel tanks, and given maximum exposure to the natural yeast lees during the process. The wine is bright, crisp, fresh and delicate”.  Neyers Cab

2010 Neyers Cabernet Sauvignon

 I know wine can be about fashion & “what’s IN”. The current craze is BIG, dramatic, lavish, opulent, resoundingly oaked red wines.   That’s all fine & dandy!  For me, however, this is a real Cabernet Sauvignon thoroughbred…..the way it should be, in my opinion.  NO fruit bomb here!    Stylistically, it lies somewhere between the New World & the Old World.  Just the other night I was fortunate to try the 2001 Philip Togni Cabernet Sauvignon.  It reminded me of the Old Days, when Cabernets were earthy, firm, structured & more about real balance.  As I noted in that blog….I miss the Old Days…& those kinds of wines.  Well here is a more contemporary style of those kinds of wines….BUT much more elegant, classy, well textured AND balanced (naturally).

Here is what Bruce Neyers recently wrote to me about this fabulous wine–

The 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon comes entirely from the two parcels we call Cabernet Sauvignon North and Cabernet Sauvignon South, on our Conn Valley Ranch. They were both planted by Dave Abreu in 1992 using a mix of 110R and 3309 Rootstock, budded to Thorvilas budwood, material that originated in the John Daniels block of Inglenook, and was brought back from Ch. Margaux in the early nineteen-forties by John Daniels after his stay at Ch. Margaux as a guest of the Ginestet family. The vines are planted 3′ by 6′ are are mostly pruned in bi-lateral cordon, although we are toying now with the idea of converting at least some of it to cane pruning. The finished wine is about 95% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Merlot, cropped at about 2 tons per acre. the berries are de-stemmed, then fermented on the skins with indigenous wild yeast for about 60 days. The tank is drained and pressed and the wine is racked to 60-gallon French oak barrels, 25% new, for about 16 months. It’s a blend of several oak types, and several toast levels. The wine was bottled unfined and unfiltered“.

Neyers M2010 Neyers Merlot

The blend for this year is 85% Merlot & 15% Cabernet Sauvignon all from their organically farmed estate vineyard out in the Conn Valley.  As you will recall, the Merlot comes from the basalt soils (compacted volcanic ash).  Yes, this is the wine, albeit a newer release, which originally caught my attention back in the mid 90’s.  I still feel today this is one of the 2 best Merlots produced in California.  Nothing tooty fruity in this bottle.  In fact it is, like many top echelon Bordeaux, much more about soil & character with a little more full-ness from the generous Californian sunshine.  A TRUE Standout!

Categories : New Releases, Wine
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Tonight was yet another BYOB wine dinner down at DK Steakhouse with the wine crazy gang of the “Dead Liver Wine Society”.  Yes, another sell out….with quite a line-up of wines & a mix of new people.  DKZ6


CABERNET SAUVIGNON–’07 Duckhorn; ’98 Hess; ’99 Artesa; ’97 Chateau St Jean “Reserve”; ’01 Philip Togni; ’06 Groth “Reserve”; ’08 Groth “Reserve”; ’96 Heitz “Martha’s Vineyard”; ’05 Palmaz; ’03 Caymus “Special Selection”; ’07 Caymus “Napa Valley”; Ardente “Atlas Peak”; ’97 Livingston Moffett; ’06 Ghost Block; ’05 Flora Springs “Out of Sight Vineyard”;  ’03 Flora Springs “Out of Sight Vineyard”….PLUS–’83 Chateau Lynch Bages; ’03 Chateau La Gomerie; ’09 Kistler Chardonnay “Dutton Ranch” & ’09 Kosta Browne Pinot Noir “Sonoma Coast”.

 I helped to open & decant the wines & then unfortunately had to rush back to our VINO restaurant.   BUT, I was able to taste a few REAL gems before heading out. ( Thank you all for sharing).


 2005 Palmaz Cabernet Sauvignon

Palmaz is an exciting Napa Valley wine project.  The Estate vineyard is 55 acres on the slopes of Mount George at the southern end of the Vacca Range.  It consists of 14 unique terroirs at 3 elevations–400, 1200 & 1400 feet.  The consulting winemaker is superstar Mia Klein (Selene).  As I told the attendees, Mia always crafts such gorgeous wines, which tend to be more about elegance, class, fabulous texture & balance & sophistication.  DKZ3

 2001 Philip Togni Cabernet Sauvignon

 I remember having a fabulous 1976 Chardonnay made by Philip Togni when he was still winemaker at Cuvaison.  He was a real standout winemaker back then.  Philip studied with the legendary Emile Peynaud at the University of Bordeaux & was also assistant regisseur at Chateau Lascombes, both quite the accomplisment back then.  In 1981 he planted his own vineyard, 2000 feet up, near the top of Spring Mountain.  His first commercial Cabernet Sauvignon was with the 1983 vintage.  Sadly because of phylloxera, Togni had to replant his 25 acre parcel in the early 90’s.  Tasting his 2001, reminded me of the Californian Cabernets of Old….earthy, sturdy, complete, well structured & well balanced.  (When I first had it upon release, it was tight fisted, closed, puckering & unyielding).  I really miss the old days & these kinds of wines.  Bravo!

DKZ 2003 Chateau La Gomerie

I smiled to myself when I saw this bottle.  The theme was Cabernet Sauvignon & two people brought French versions.  The second curve ball was this wine is 100% Merlot…albeit a 94 pointer!  The home base property is Chateau Beau-Sejour-Becot of St Emilion, which was purchased by Michel Becot in 1969.  In 1995 Becot purchased the adjacent 2.5 hectares & is today looking to produce “garage wine” under the Chateau La Gomerie label with the help of French superstar wine consultant Michel Rolland.  The wine initially had some bottle stink to it, which dissipated after me decanting it back & forth for 20 or so minutes.  Thank you Ed for bringing this wine!

DKZ21983 Chateau Lynch Bages

I was really taken back when I saw this bottle.  30 year old, classified growth Bordeaux? When decanting, the wine’s nose was simply intoxicating–so glorious, classic & full of pedigree & breed.  Yes, there was the cedar box/tobacco/dried fruit smells characteristic to Pauillac, but the breed/pedigree is what took it over the top for me.  Just stellar!!!!  And amazing.  Thank you David!

Categories : Red, Wine, Wines Revisted
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