Archive for August, 2014
Sweet wine is an interesting topic.
How does one get such ripeness & sweetness in the wines?
One answer is to simply leave the grapes on the vine longer or until they start to raisin. This is a very tricky line to walk. As the sugar rises, the acidity lowers. If you are therefore not careful, you could end up with a cloying or flabby wine. A simpler way is to stop the fermentation early, so the finished wine has residual sugar. Another way, would be to dry your grapes, such as they do in Italy, on straw mats. Yet, another way, is to encourage botrytis cinerea to infect your grapes. This beneficial mould will essentially get rid of water & thereby concentrate the extract & acids in the grapes. Or, one could do a combination of the above. The point being, there is more than one way.
These 3 wines feature very different & interesting approaches & it is a reminder why the resulting wines are so VERY different, especially with age.
Furthermore, I personally don’t talk about sweet wines too much, mainly because the wines are really about super ripeness & sometimes botrytis, especially in their youth & the terroir therefore often gets masked. It is true, however, after considerable age & the sweetness & the ripe fruitiness has a chance to resolve, the terroir can make an appearance again. Such is the case with this trio of wines.
Chateau de Fargues has been owned by the Lur Saluces family since 1472. They are the same family which also owned Chateau d”Yquem, which they sold off in 1999. This estate has 15 hectares of vines planted on a clay-gravel plateau, roughly 4 kilometers southeast of d”Yquem. Typically their blend is at least 80% Semillon with Sauvignon Blanc AND the yields are often lower than d’Yquem’s. The grapes are harvested through many vineyard passes (sometimes as many as 12) & are aged for at least 3 years in once used barrels from d’Yquem. This 1983 had lots of dried fruit nuances, honey, beeswax, stoniness, apricot, earthiness & a real waxy feel to it. One could see that this wine also had started making the transition from sweetness to a more tactile quality on the palate, which is also part of the resolvement. I felt, however, with the drying of the fruit, the alcohol & a bitterness poked out in the finish, which makes me better understand why many love to pair these kinds of wines with richer, fattier foods such as bleu cheese, pates & even foie gras. Thank you Michael for sharing this treat!
Now, this is a VERY unique & interesting wine, which is remarkably still under the radar screen for most wine aficionados. The appellation is Anjou in France’s Loire Valley & is actually located in the heart of the Coteaux du Layon, which is famous for their late harvest Chenin Blanc based whites. This 145 acre estate has been in the Touchais family for 8 generations (1787). My first experience was a 1947, which I tasted in the mid 80’s. I was blown away how unique & interesting this wine was. These wines are reputed to live as long as 100 years & the 1947 tasted so surprisingly youthful. I suspected this 1975 would therefore be an infant, but was still anxious to try it. The soils are schist, clay & limestone. The most curious aspect of the Moulin Touchais wines is how they are produced. (It wasn’t that long ago, no one was allowed in the cellar, & people therefore questioned the authenticity of its longevity). They say, 20% of the grapes are harvested only 80 days after flowering, when the grapes are essentially unripe with high acid levels. The other 80% is then harvested 120 days after flowering (dehydrating on the vine). (Botrytis is rare in this neck of the woods, which at least partially explains the nose, taste & color of the resulting wines). The wine is fermented in stainless & aged at least 10 years before release. The 1975 has a surprising freshness with baked apple, quince, mint, apricot, honey nuances. It was amazingly precise, fine, refined, intrguingly minerally with balanced acidity. Because of the bottle age, the wine’s once apparent sweetness had changed considerably to a much more tactile sensation. It was fabulous!!!! AND so interesting! Thank you Brent, for sharing.
The records show this estate has been around since 1561. Most of their vineyard holdings have red slate soils–Nierstein (Hipping, Pettenthal & their monopole Brudersberg) & a little in Nackenheim Rothenberg. This wine was the most gracious of the 3 “stickies” tasted tonight.. NO hard edges whatsoever AND had the most finesse. I had always previously thought Oelberg was a grosslagen (large collective site), but on a recent map, I noticed it was a single vineyard, past Hipping, down the hillside some. This wine was rich, lush with tropical fruit character, some botrytis & a distinct stoniness. One could also see that the once apparent sweetness is changing to a more tactile creaminess on the palate.
As you may know, Palmina is a wine project dedicated to Italian grape varieties grown & produced in the Santa Barbara appellation by Chrystal & Steve Clifton. The 2012’s are a truly stunning set of new releases…..actually better than most Italians we taste. The quantum leap in quality is because their vines are maturing AND the wines are now wild yeast fermented & aged for a short time in OLD oak, as opposed to only stainless steel as we saw in the past. The minerality & terroir is still clear & transparent, but with more round-ness & texture.
Arneis “Honea Vineyard” 2012–From the Honea vineyard—sandy soils in the Los Olivos district. Wild yeast fermented & aged in stainless & old oak. Definitely has a green thing running around in the nose & taste, rounder than previous vintages with a crisp, refreshing edge. My over all comment is, if the staff can sell a sauvignon blanc, they can certainly sell this wine. For the price—much more quality for the dollar than many Italian versions.
Tocai Friulano “Honea Vineyard” 2012–From the Honea vineyard—sandy soils in the Los Olivos district. Wild yeast fermented & aged in stainless & old oak. Again, my over all comment is, if the staff can sell a sauvignon blanc, they can certainly sell this wine. For the price—much more quality for the dollar than many Italian versions (where it is now named Friulano). 90% of this wine is whole cluster pressed into stainless, & wild yeast fermented. The other 10% sees a 30 day skin contact, wild yeast fermented in OLD oak. While this grape has similar characteristics as sauvignon, it also innately has a slight nuttiness/bitterness & should be paired with more complex dishes, which have vegetables or some meat to it.
Palmina Malvasia Bianca 2012–These kinds of aromatic grape varieties I believe is a VERY important & needed segment of white wines, instrumental in better pairings with today’s contemporary foods. As I mentioned to one wine professional today, I think it is important to teach the staff how to sell these kinds of wines. The mentholating/perfume qualities really help heighten the foods, just as herbs will. The garpes for this wine come from the Alisos Vineyard of Los Alamos & the Larner Vineyard of Ballard Canyon. After 24 hours of reefer, the grapes are whole cluster pressed, wild yeast fermented, which finishes its fermentation in OLD oak.
Young winemaking phenom, Gavin Chanin, is hotter than hot right now, including at least 1 “Winemaker of the Year” award. He therefore is moving up the pecking order for top quality parcels in some of Santa Barbara’s most revered vineyards & prized parcels. What separates the Chanin Santa Barbaran grown wines from those grown in other wine growing regions, is minerality. This helps to push the wines beyond fruit & oak, as well as help buttress the wine’s acidity, keep the alcohol levels moderate & much more balanced. These wines were REALLY terrific at today’s tasting & without a doubt the best we have had from tis young winery.
Chanin Chardonnay “Los Alamos” 2012–The grapes come from the highest point in the vineyard, where the sandy soils change to more calcaric shale/limestone. The wine is whole cluster pressed, barrel fermented & aged for 16 months in French oak (15% new). This wine was so ethereal, pretty, with fabulous texture—Quite ABC Nuits Blanches like. Fabulous!
Chanin Chardonnay “Bien Nacido” 2012–I believe Gavin gets W Block, 41 year old vines. Whole cluster pressed, barrel fermented, 11 months in French oak (30% new). This wine was much more stony, more masculine than the Los Alamos with more grandeur.
Chanin Chardonnay “Sanford & Benedict” 2012–This is definitely one of the finest Chardonnay vineyards in ALL of California. Gavin gets fruit from one of the older parcels (planted in 1976)—rocky soils with diatomaceous earth. They believe this is a Wente Chardonnay selection from Mt Eden. The wine is whole cluster pressed, sees 11 months in French oak (25% new). Definitely has breed & class!
Chanin Pinot Noir “Los Alamos” 2012–777 & 115, NO stem inclusion, 11 months in oak (20% new). This is a VERY pretty, lighter colored, REALLY ethereal, enticing, more feminine Pinot with is still SO seamless, charming, refined & classy. VERY impressive!!!
Chanin Pinot Noir “Rinconada” 2012–This vineyard is located next to Sanford & Benedict, 50% Pommard & 50% Mt Eden, 40% stems, 15 months in French oak, 25% new. Still lighter in color, BUT much more masculine & grander in style.
Justin Willett is is a NEW AGE superstar & his wines are on the very top winelists in New York, San Francisco & the other major markets. OUTSTANDING!!!!! He is just now hitting his stride & many insiders are saying his 2012’s are his finest wines to date!! His is a passion for purity, finesse, texture & balance (naturally)…almost effortlessly so.
Tyler Chardonnay “Zotovich” 2012–Dijon clone 76, grown in the wind pounded, sand, extreme Zotovich vineyard. This wine is SOOO pure, seamless & sophisticated. Many say, this is his finest Chardonnay to date…..which is saying alot.
Tyler Pinot Noir “La Encantada” 2012–667 & Pommard, panted in 1999 & organically farmed. 20% new oak. This is his most savory Pinot….only 4 barrels produced. WOW!
It has been a while since we tasted Beaujolais Here are three 2013’s. In a former professional life, we fell in love with a group of 9 from the region. This would have been back in the late 80’s/early 90’s. The wines were so darn good, tasty & soooo irresistible. Here are 3 of the 9. Isn’t it amazing, that after the 20 plus which have passed, & ALL of the wines I have since tasted, that that list of 9 has not changed!!! It just doesn’t get better for me. When you taste these, you will understand.
Chignard Fleurie “Les Moriers” 2013–The Les Moriers parcel is like a finger jutting out & therefore surrounded by Moulin-a-Vent. His is 8 hectares of 60 year old vines. Sees 13 months in OLD foudres. “light, playful yet deep, ripe fruit”, with a lovely charming personality. Superb!
Nicole Chanrion Cote de Brouilly 2013–Located mid-slope on the Mt Brouilly—black/blue granite, which is very different from the pink granite below.. 6 hectares of 50year old vines. Whole cluster/carbonic. Intriguing, frisky with a slight, surprising masculine edge.
Chateau Thivin Cote de Brouilly 2013–The oldest estate on the MT Brouilly. The grade is steep (48%), black/blue granite, high up. “handsome, virile, earthy aristocrat”.
I have a true passion for great Riesling & it has been very long running. Bert Selbach & his Dr F Weins Prum has to be top 4 for me. Having said that, though, if I were to start a German wine portfolio & could choose whoever I wanted, Bert Selbach would be #1!!!! First of all he is descendent of the iconic Prum family & therefore inherited a dream team of single vineyard parcels. Secondly, he is essentially, a 1 man show & the wines are certainly artisan & handcrafted.. Thirdly, & probably most importantly, his wines have incredible, captivating lightness, ethereal-ness, delicious-ness, refinement & sophistication, and they can therefore appeal to a wide audience of wine drinkers, from layperson to the most picky of wine expert. Here are 2 standouts for you to see for yourself.
Dr.F. Weins-Prum Riesling Kabinett “Urziger Wurtzgarten” 2011–½ a hectare in one of the steepest vineyards of the Mosel with a reddish to the slate…..which clearly shows in the perfume. What an amazing wine this is!!!!! Harvested at 89.7 oechsle, 7 total acidity, 51 g/lresidual sugar. For me, the wine of the day!!!
Dr.F. Weins-Prum Riesling Spatlese “Wehlener Sonnenuhr” 2012–One hectare in this “Grand Cru” (my words). Harvested at 100 oechsle, 7 .8 total acidity, 90g/l residual sugar. OMG!!!!!
3 epic, rustic red wines from the 2007 vintage (7 yars old)—2 from Italy & 1 from Spain. Each should really ring your bell. It is VERY important for us at VINO to continually feature top caliber wines from the Mediterranean basin. Yes, it is our passion….BUT….it makes sense with the kind of foods Chef Keith creates. How does the lay person sift through all of the labels & marketing jargon to better determine what to buy? Here are 3. Yes, just another opportunity to learn!
There are many top caliber Brunello di Montalcino. Ciacci Picolomini, however, standout because of their desire to make the wines in the vineyard & then showcase its purity in the finished wine. Although many producers may say that in their spiel, Ciacci Picolomini truly delivers it in the wine. Pianrosso is their top site—stony slopes near the Orcia river in the south-southwest corner of Montalcino. This majestic, 100% Brunello is fermented in stainless & concrete & aged for 36 months in 20 to 62 hectoliter Slavonian oak.
This is a very masculine, provocative style of Barolo from Alice Bel Colle in the Alto Monferrato area of Piemonte. Theirs is a contiguous 96 acres of hillside, east to southeast facing at 950 feet elevation. This wine was aged for 24 months in large Slavonian casks & old French oak barrels.
Clos Pissarra is a new standout wine project from Priorat, Spain, under the direction of Mater Sommelier Emanuel Komeiji. They excel at small batches of superstar wines, grown in the VERY steep, non-terraced hillsides of slate with virtually no top soil. La Vinyeta is their top bottling, 2.5 acres of 125 year old Carignane & Grenache. The yield in 2007 was a miniscule 1 ton, for the 2 ½ acres!!!!!!—2/5 of a ton per acre……50 cases worth..
A while back, a friend asked me to start digging around for interesting Washington state wines. He strongly felt, this is the time, as there is a whole, NEW generation of winemaking phenoms emerging in the Washington state wine scene AND taking it by storm. This whole scene reminds me of what unfolded in Paso Robles, Santa Barbara & the Anderson Valley, where a group of young bucks are looking to change the game. Furthermore, the Rhone varietal based reds can provocatively fill that opening between Pinot & Cabernet, in terms of weight & drama. Thankfully, the pursuit is making wines offering better natural balance without compromising depth & true character.
Here is one of the real standouts…..created by Sean Boyd…in homage to the wines of France’s Rhone Valley. Thankfully, these wines are very balanced, elegant, refined & classy.
Rotie Cellars Southern White 2013–60% Viognier, 25% Roussanne & 15% Marsanne, wild yeast fermented in stainless steel. These kind of exotically perfumed, seamless, well textured white wines are especially well suited for contemporary styled foods.
Rotie Cellars Northern White 2013–100% Marsanne, wild yeast fermented in stainless with 30% malolactic, this wine is much more masculine & structured with a more stoniness.
Rotie Cellars Southern Red 2012–65% Grenache, 25% Mourvedre & 10% Syrah. The whole berries are cracked not crushed, wild yeast fermented & spends 16 months in 2 & 3 year French oak barrels. Such a lovely, charming, seductively textured beauty.
Rotie Cellars Northern Red 2012–97% Syrah & 3% Viognier co-fermented. One can smell the rocks of Walla Walla in this wine 16 months in 2 & 3 year barrels. This is a gorgeous, savory, masculine, yet seamless, well textured & delicious.
Here is a VERY interesting project we have anxiously waited for, for some time. The estate vineyard is located in the Red Mountain appellation at higher (930 to 1230 feet), more rocky site than the highly revered Ciel du Cheval. The first wave of Force Majeure wines which have arrived to the Islands are part of their “Collaborative Series”. Each is a collaborative bottling features Ciel du Cheval fruit, crafted by some of the VERY top winemakers of the state…..with Wine Advocate scores beginning at 93 points & the highest being 96 points. The production levels of each wine range from 180 to 280 cases, which coupled with the high scores, makes it that more amazing we even were get some for the state of Hawaii!!! Furthermore, for the long term, as their estate vineyard matures, they have hired on Todd Alexander, former winemaker of Bryant Family in the Napa Valley, who also worked with icons such as superstar vineyard-ist David Abreu & superstar French consultant Michel Rolland. This certainly is a project to continually keep an eye on!
Force Majeure Collaboration Series II Syrah 2011–A collaboration with Ross Mikel of Ross Andrew winery. 98% Syrah & 1% each of Viognier & Roussanne (Ciel du Cheval)..20 months in French oak (33% new). 93 to 95 points—The Wine Advocate….only 180 cases produced. Smokey, dark, sinister, intriguing, intense, masculine yet very aristocratic.
Force Majeure Collaboration Series VI Red Wine 2011–A collaboration with James Mantone of Syncline. 47% Mourvedre, 42% Syrah & 11% Grenache (Ciel du Cheval). Fermented in concrete egg & old oak puncheons, aged for 18 months. 94 to 96 points—The Wine Advocate….only 280 cases produced. Another masculine, mega-intense beast.
Force Majeure Collaboration Series IV Red Wine 2010–A collaboration with Carolyn lakewold of Donedei wines. 75% Merlot, 13% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc & 2% Petite Verdot. (Ciel du Cheval). Essentially FREE run juice aged in French & American oak (50% new). 94 points—The Wine Advocate….only 200 cases produced. A “tour de force”, sophisticated Right Bank look-a-like.
Force Majeure Collaboration Series Cabernet Sauvignon 2011–A collaboration with Chris Gorman of Gorman wines. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon (Ciel du Cheval-from the incredibly steep parcel). 20 months in 100% new Taransaud barrels. 93 to 95 points—The Wine Advocate….only 200 cases produced. A masculine, statement Cabernet of incredible intensity & fortitude.
Again, one of our goals for 2014 is to feature more & more good wines……those which others can be compared to. This will help tasters create a solid base to work from as their tasting adventures continue. It is not as easy as one would think. Here are 4 standouts for our tasting in VINO tonight. Yes, just another really good opportunity to learn! Wines like this just don’t happen along!
In a time where people seek Brunello which have a more King Kong persona, here is a much more elegant, suave, highly refined version masterfully crafted by “Hall of Famer” Vittorio Fiore. In speaking with Vittorio recently, I admire how he champions bio diversity in the vineyard & specifically the appreciation for heirloom & heritage plant material. I also love how he strives for purity, texture & balance in his wines, rather than power, showiness & clamour. Here is an example.
2012 Lionel Faury St Joseph
SENSATIONAL French Syrah—hillside grown (up to 35% slope), granitic soils, stomped by foot, 12 months mostly in large foudres & demi muids (10% new oak)–gloriously Old World Syrah, the way it should be—explosively aromatic, wildly rustic, masculine, stony & authentic. What a perfune!!!!!–meaty, peppery, peppercorns, gamey, lavender/violets. I am sure glad there are still winemakers looking to make more authentic, classical, handcrafted wines like this, that’s for sure!
2012 Domaine Trotereau Quincy “Vieilles Vignes”
TOP echelon Sauvignon Blanc grown in sandy soils & silex with underlying pink limestone. Not too many people will remember that Quincy was the 2nd recognized AOC in France (1936)….& that monks started planting here in the 12th Century. There is a reason, isn’t there? There are today only about 200 hectares planted & the majority of the fruit goes to co-ops. Here is one of the true artisan “boutiques”—dating back to 1804. The vines for this “Vieilles Vignes” cuvee were planted in 1905 through 1943. This wine has a wonderful, flinty kind of minerality which is more masculine than ethereal, but captivating & riveting nonetheless. Here is yet another example of why I am glad some things don’t change!!!!!!
2009 Franz Hirtzberger Gruner Veltliner Smaragd “Rotes Tor”
Hirtzberger is certainly one of the true pillars (5 generations) of Austria’s Wachau Valley. Here is one of their standout, single vineyard Gruner Veltliners—from Rotes Tor, a steep, very rocky hillside. You will be surprised at the intensity, immensity & concentrated character of this wine. Yes, this wine has a thickness, an almost unctuous viscosity, which is not heavy or overbearing to the palate The Oechsle levels must have been really higher than what is labeled. The resounding stoniness helps to buttress the wine’s acidity levels. This is an example of power, character & grandeur, that’s for sure!