Archive for April, 2016


In Search of Value

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I am sure there are many wine drinkers who go to a store’s wine section, get overwhelmed by all of the different bottles, labels and names that are lined up on the shelves.  Yes, it can be quite confusing.  And because of that,  I have heard countless times, how people select wines based upon the eye catching label, pretty packaging, the 96 point rating  or the fact that the wine was on sale.  There is so much marketing jargon and image building in today’s world, it is hard to find out what the real dealio is on wines, even for the professional.

With a little research and digging around, however, one can find great values, which will deliver much more quality for your dollar spent.

For example, one of the aspects of wine I relish is those where a family owns the vineyard.  The really passionate and dedicated ones are then vested in the wine from the ground to the bottle.

Another good sign then is if they farm their vineyard sustainably and try to create a “living” vineyard, one they can later proudly turn over to the next generation.  This says something about them & their core values.

I then usually dig around in the less en vogue wine growing areas to find true value, where the land is much less expensive, especially if it was bought a generation or so ago, as this can greatly affect the store shelf price tag.

To help you get started, here are a few of our favorites.

2014 HYBIRD CHARDONNAY–The Schatz family purchased their vineyard in the 1950’s, out in Lodi, California. They farm sustainably, the first grower In the region in fact to certify 100% of their acreage by a third party.  The resulting estate Chardonnay is wonderfully tasty, pure, refreshing, thirstquenching & hard to beat for the price…and on many different levels.

2013 ANCIENT PEAKS MERLOT  “MARGARITA VINEYARD”–The Ancient Peaks estate vineyard is roughly 1000 feet in elevation in the hills of southern Paso Robles, California and is owned by three ranching families.  Certified “sustainable in practice”, the 2012 Merlot comes from 3 different parcels, each with ancient seabed soils.  There is therefore nothing simple or tooty fruity here, just lots of “mountain grown” flavor, depth and earthy character, which is why its perennially gets so much accolades and acclaim.  It really is too hard to beat for the price and therefore well worth searching out for.

2012 ERNESTO CATENA CABERNET SAUVIGNON  “TAHUAN”–Ernesto is the oldest son of the iconic , Argentinean wine legend Nicolás Catena. He decided in 2002 to branch out on his own to fulfill his vision of what the foothills of the Andes Mountains could create in the vines and the resulting wines.   Like his father, Ernesto also has vineyards high up in the foothills, which he organically farms.  The Ernesto Catena Cabernet Sauvignon is one of our favorites in terms of great value, as it is  elegant, suave, classy in style and certainly over delivers for the price.

2013 DOMAINE de FONTSAINTE CORBIERES–Historically, the  vineyards of this domaine were planted by the Romans, way back when.  The  Laboucarié family came on the scene sometime in the 17th Century and have been farming their vineyards & making wine since.  This is one of our all time favorite southern French “country” red wines, because of how delicious, lighter bodied and gulpable it is year in and year out.   You will also be amazed how diverse this wine can be with foods, from pizza, to meatloaf to vegetarian oriented foods to lighter pasta dishes to even more complex fish preparations when served slightly chilled.   With every cork popped and subsequent taste, I am always utterly re-amazed at the still very reasonable price tag.

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A very different perspective of Pinot

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Today in our VINO wine bar we did a tasting of 4 different Pinots from a very unique perspective.

2009 Movia Pinot Noir “Modri” –we began the tasting with a Pinot totally “out of the box”.  We wanted to get the tasters out of thinking & evaluating Pinot Pinot 1with preconceived notions.  In doing so, this wine was like serving a wine to the tasters blind.  Furthermore, we did not ask participants to identify the grape variety, soil, vintage, producer.  We instead asked if this was a “good” wine, eventhough it was not something they were used to.  What would they pay for this wine…….& what kind of foods would they think of serving this wine with.

Afterwards, we provided tasters some information from the winery’s website–“The Movia estate dates back to 1700, passing into the hands of the Kristančič family with a wedding in 1820. The estate extends over 22 hectares of land, about half of which lie on the Italian side of the Goriška Brda (Collio).  Heading up this iconic family estate is the absolutely brilliant & vanguard ALEŠ KRISTANČIČ, who once noted–Pinot Noir is like a virus. Once you’re infected, there’s practically no cure. At the same time it is one of the most difficult varieties for cultivation: there is no system, there are no rules, neither in selecting the parcel, nor in deciding on the method of planting, nor regarding the right time for harvesting. This is a variety that never ceases to surprise – sometimes it brings joy, sometimes disappointment. It causes so many headaches that even a small success delivers great joy“.  The Pinot is grown in Brda marl, hand harvested, wild yeast fermented & spends up to 4 years in 220 liter barrique.   Pinot 2

2011 Fürst Spätburgunder “Centgrafenberg GG”–Owner/winemaker Paul Fürst was selected as 2003 “Gault Millau Winemaker of the Year” & is today one of the top Pinot Noir maestros in the world.  In contrast to Pinots from other well know “homes” of this varietal, I find his renditions to be so hauntingly ethereal & so remarkably delicately nuanced & therefore so incredibly unique & probably “out of the box” for most avid Pinot lovers.  This therefore was yet another opportunity for tasters to ask themselves if this was a “good” wine… much they would be willing to pay & what kind of foods it might work with.  As readers will recall from past blog posts, the initials GG represent Germany’s attempt at a Grand Cru system & therefore the Bürgstadter Centgrafenberg has deservedly been selected as one of those standout vineyards.  Located in the Franconia winegrowing region of Germany, its red sandstone-clay-rocky soils create a very different profile of Pinot in comparison to his other holdings, most notably the Klingenberger Schlossberg.  Yes, the wines are pricey, but I believe one gets much more quality & pedigree than many equally priced Pinots from the New World.  Furthermore, I also think they have a rightful place on the world class mantle even in comparison to many one finds from Burgundy in similar price ranges.   Pinot 3

2014 Lucien Boillot “Les Grands Poisots”–here is a white wine, produced from the Pinot Beurot grape variety (a mutation of Pinot Noir), grown in Burgundy, France.  While visiting Boillot  several years back, my wife Cheryle & I were captivated by the one white wine in the incredible line-up of new releases we tasted at the domaine.  It smelled vividly of wild strawberries & all kinds of cherries, which really caught us off guard.  So, we ordered the wine.  Much to our surprise when the wine actually arrived into Islands & we excitedly cracked open a bottle, the red fruit had taken a back seat to Burgundian minerality.  Wow, what a trip!  We really loved the wine nonetheless.  Back then I was told the wine was produced from a couple of rows of vines in their Gevrey Chambertin holdings, but have subsequently also heard the vines are in Nuits St Georges.  In any case, as we have noted in previous blogs, the Cote de Nuits is most famous for their red wines & the Cote de Beaune for their white wines.  Here was an example of a Cote de Nuits white which because it was not Chardonnay had a very different character (with qualities/character I also see in other whites from the area).  Besides the red fruit nuances, there is a much more copper hue to the color & a rounder, more generous mouthfeel, especially in the middle.  Kind of reminds me of the Pinot Noirs vinified white used in Champagne before the extended yeast/less aging.  Fascinating to say the least.  Pinot 4

2008 Cavallotto “Langhe” Bianco–to continue this thought, we ended this tasting with a Piemontese Pinot Noir vinified white. The wine had wonderful minerality, flowed so evenly & completely from beginning to end & finished UN-oaky, UN-alcoholic & UN-bitter.  The wine smelled of Burgundy like minerality & over the years has fooled many of its origin.  Many years back, Cheryle & I stayed in & toured Piemonte, Italy.  I just wanted to see & walk as many of the Cru vineyards as I could.  At the top of my list was the steep hillside, conca Bricco Boschis & the brothers Cavallotto, who produce some of my favorite Nebbiolo.  In our tasting there, I was mesmerized by one of their white wines, which was simply labeled as Langhe Bianco.  It truly was one of the most interesting we encountered on that trip to Italy.  I soon found out that the family, we were told, had recently purchased some of the lower, flatter parcels down below, which included some then 22 year old Pinot Noir & Chardonnay vines.  I surmized, being a family engrained in producing more traditional styled wines, a red Pinot Noir would look odd in their portfolio.  However, by vinifying it white, it would then be a wine of the vineyard rather than of any grape varietal…..hence Langhe. (in addition to legal labeling requirements).  In any event, it made total sense to end this tasting with this wine.  Being a 2008 & therefore some bottle age & development, it was mesmerzing, captivating & VERY uplifting.  AND, there was again a reminder in color, taste & texture of the Pinot Noirs vinified white used in Champagne before the extended yeast/less aging.

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