Archive for May, 2017

All modesty aside, I thought this tasting/get together was a fabulous experience.  I saw & learned a lot & sincerely hope all of the young wine minds who attended did too.

As a side note, I would like to add a thought or 2.

A few days after the tasting, a long time fellow co-worker, now turned level 3 sommelier, stopped by VINO.  He had worked at VINO for a few years some time ago & therefore understood our continual search for “good” wine.  He also remembered how we look to “tell their story” in an effort to serve our guests wines we are proud to serve.  Since leaving VINO, he has worked at some real top wine destination restaurants in California & now in Las Vegas.

He mentioned that although he loved the wines from Au Bon Climat, Costa de Oro & Scherrer, they were, in his experience, a real “hard sell” on the restaurant floor, even in San Francisco & Las Vegas.   That really floored me & was actually quite depressing.  It took me a few days, to sort & sift through that bit of insight & ponder how to address that.  (I am an admitted addresser).

As this tasting clearly reiterated to me, all 3 of the wineries he mentioned, in my opinion, produce really good wines.  AND, they have done so, for many, many years.

In addition, each of these producers also, in my opinion, under charge us for their wines, not that I am complaining.

So, top quality (good enough to REALLY standout at this tasting & its top caliber line-up)………offering BIG quality for the dollar………hmmmm……

Isn’t part of my job as a sommelier to find wines like this, even if they are not recognizable?

AND, even if they are not lavish, opulent 95 to 100 point rated or are not colored orange or from Mt Etna, isn’t it part of my job as a sommelier to be able to find suitable opportunities to turn people on to such wonderful valued discoveries?

Furthermore, because of having delivered these kinds of traits for quite some time, shouldn’t these kinds of wines actually be considered core staples for their respective categories in one’s wine program?

There are many more questions I would like to ask, but at least, that’s a start.

I absolutely love challenges like this!

At VINO, we have been recently getting a special egg.  This Japanese couple took over a farm in Waimanalo.  They changed the diet & water of the chickens.  Now, the egg is much more orange to the yellow.  They harvest 5 mornings & we get the eggs in the afternoon.

Our VINO Chef Keith Endo has chosen to support this farm & champion this egg.  He therefore uses them wherever & whenever he can.  So, all of floor staff now tell our guests a story about this egg in an effort to help promote it.    We now sell quite a bit of eggs AND this farm’s eggs are now on allocation, which thankfully means the demand is higher than the supply.  They now thankfully have a better chance of making it!

The point here is, one CAN make a difference, which is really cool, especially when it is the right thing to do.

Categories : Wine, Wine Thoughts
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May
15

A Tasting for Young Sommeliers Part 2

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We continued this gathering & tasting of young sommeliers with wines produced from grape varieties they are more familiar working with–Cabernet, Pinot Noir & Chardonnay.  Again, the goal of this blind tasting was to reiterate the search for what is “good” wine.  Tasting all of the wines BLIND would help better understand & appreciate the wines from a different perspective, with the influences of labels, pricing & media scores/hoop-la.

SIXTH FLIGHT–Cabernet Sauvignon

We started this flight with a 2001 Forman Cabernet Sauvignon, which was kindly brought & shared by Brent.  As VINO regulars well know by now, we are HUGE fans of Ric Forman’s Cabernets & have been for quite sometime.  The first wine I tasted from this venerable winemaking icon/master is the 1969, when he was still a young turk at Sterling vineyards. As good as wines were back then (the 1974 Sterling “Reserve” in particular), the quantum leap in quality happened when the vines from his very own estate vineyard came to fruition.  The vineyard has 2 distinct parcels–one on the “floor” on a small amphitheater surrounded by solid rock.  The soil is whiter-gray gravel, which he had once told me was a pushed river bed.  This was the source for this particular bottling.  I watched in amazement how tasters could readily smell the gravel/crushed rock character this wine showed, which by the way, was WAY different from most of the Napa Valley Cabernets they were used to.  This wine was a real, intense, mesmerizing thoroughbred, which offered lots of character, mojo, texture & fabulous balance, which is a very different experience than the dried fruit, autumn leaves, cedar, cigar box nuances would get from similarly aged peers.  AND, it was so surprisingly youthful still in its core.  What a wonderful bottle of wine, which I felt we were drinking at an ideal time of its life!  In comparison, Ann kindly brought & shared the 2011 Arnot Roberts Cabernet Sauvignon “Bugay Vineyard”.  This was an ideal wine for a comparison, as Arnot Roberts is certainly so highly regarded by the sommelier community, because of their vineyard sourcing & how they chase the concept of “In Pursuit of Balance” in all of the various grape varieties & single vineyards they work with.  As expected, it was very elegant & classy in style.  Having said that, in all fairness, we should have poured this wine after the 2001 Forman, especially since the Forman is riper, blacker Napa Valley fruit AND the very fact it was 10 years older & has had a chance to resolve itself.  I certainly applaud Arnot Roberts for looking to produce more transparent, balanced wines.  For me in this case, however, I just wanted more.   Theirs was like a wine chasing winemaking & specifically the “In Pursuit of Balance” concept, rather showcasing character or really moving me.  I just think they haven’t hit their stride quite yet…at least consistantly.  (Still, although I didn’t say so at this tasting, I wish one could taste the 2012 Camino “Montecillo Vineyard” produced from a similar hillside on the Sonoma side of the Mayacamas to better understand what I am trying to say.  Another example worth checking out, although from a different sub-region of Sonoma–Alexander Valley–is the Scherrer Cabernet Sauvignon “Scherrer Vineyard”.  Both of these wines still exhibit the concept of “In Pursuit of Balance” but with more mojo & character, AND at 60% of the cost.)

SEVENTH FLIGHT–Pinot Noir

This actually was the category I was most excited to taste & discuss, when originally putting together this tasting.  The concept, for example, of “In Pursuit of Balance”, was originally started by Rajat Parr & Jasmine Hirsch, which has in my opinion provoked a lot of really interesting thoughts & conversations.  While it may have sadly created a polarization & controversy amongst parts of the Californian wine community , it did raise a lot of questions.  Questions which I don’t think can ever be fully answered, as everyone has their own opinions, thoughts & beliefs.  Still, I cherish the fact that questions were & are being asked.  Thank you for that.  And, thank you to all of the winemakers who voice an opinion.  It really is a way for me to continue to learn.  I therefore headed into this flight looking for wines of balance–forward or elegant, oaky or not, Dijon clone or heritage–balance was for me the key.  We started this flight with 2013 Hilt Pinot Noir “Old Guard”.  This was a project that really caught my eye on a trip up & down California wine country a couple of years ago.  Spearheaded by winemaker Matt Dees (of Jonata fame), the project features fruit from a matrix of most interesting vineyard sites–old vine Sanford & Benedict (Mt Eden vine selection with some Martini, planted in 1971, own rooted & their 30 acre parcel is organically farmed); Bentrock & Radian vineyards (2 extreme vineyards located in the western most areas of the Santa Rita Hills) & Puerta del Mar (5 acres of extreme conditions actually outside of the Santa Rita Hills boundaries).  In addition, Matt has some older vine fruit from Solomon Hills & G Block (planted in 1973 on its own roots) of Bien Nacido to work with if needed.  The “Old Guard” is the bottling that wow-ed me the most.  Produced mostly from the old vine Sanford & Benedict parcel (25% stems, 10% new oak), I loved the masculine, vinous, savory, musky, classy character this wine shows.  In looking over my notes, I did not see any fruit nuances listed.  In addition, though quite masculine & full of mojo in style, this wine still displays fabulous texture & balance.  Yes, this certainly was a treat.  Thank you Cheryle for sharing.  The next wine of the flight was the 2012 Rhys Pinot Noir “Horseshoe Vineyard” a 94 point (by both Parker & Galloni) Santa Cruz phenom really exploding onto the wine scene.  The classy, gracious, seductive style certainly is quite alluring, charismatic & captivating.  I can better understand all of the hype & hoop-la for the Rhys wines. I surmise the only thing really holding it back is the roughly online $100 per bottle price tag, especially when one considers the roughly online $70 a bottle tag of the Hilt listed above!  Thank you to Keith for sharing this bottle!  The next blind wine, the 2006 Costa de Oro Pinot Noir “Gold Coast Vineyard” was the mind blower of the day for me.  It REALLY caught me off guard, because how sheer, ethereal, superbly light, airy & transparent it was truly was after 11 years of bottle age.  Now, this was definitely my kind of Pinot!  I never, however, dreamed this bottling of wine could evolve into something this special!  Talk about having a wine at the perfect time of its life!  And, thinking about it further, this was the perfect vintage to reward us in such a way.  Thank you Brent for sharing.  (By the way, the price tag of the current release, in case you are interested, is roughly $29 a bottle Hawaii retail.  Isn’t part of a floor sommelier job is to find wines that greatly over deliver quality for the dollar like this?)  The last Pinot of the flight AND actually the centerpiece wine that prompted me to do this tasting, was the 2004 Whitcraft Pinot Noir “Q Block”, a wine shared by Nicholas Miller of Bien Nacido Vineyard.  As VINO regulars well know, I have been a huge fan of the early on Whitcraft Pinot Noirs from the 1990’s & on until the 2006 vintage from then owner/winemaker Chris Whitcraft.  His were VERY masculine, heady, rambunctious, wild & wooly Pinots, not always correct, but certainly well worth enjoying & provoking thought.  He was a devout disciple of world renown Pinot icon, Burt Williams (co-founder of Williams & Selyem, which they sold I believe in 1997) & was in fact best friends until Chris passed away a few years ago.  My anticipation to taste & savor this wine was so longing.  I was shocked, however, how belligerent, coarse, oaky & alcoholic this wine showed after following the 2006 Costa de Oro.  Such a big disappointment.  When I went back to the wine later, however, it tasted like a Whitcraft–masculine, savory, vinous & wild & wooly.  I should have poured the Whitcraft BEFORE the Costa de Oro.  Wow, what a lesson!

EIGHTH FLIGHT–Chardonnay

A few weeks back at a trade wine tasting, I was blown away at the truly superb quality offered by the 2014 Au Bon Climat Chardonnay “Sanford & Benedict Vineyard”.  My notes simply said–“tastes like liquid rock…..mega-intense, but elegant, refined, majestic & superbly balanced“.  I also remember saying…at less than $30 a bottle Hawaii retail!  OMG, are you kidding me?  The next day, I called the winery to see if I could buy an older vintage to showcase side by side at this tasting.  They thankfully sent the 2008, as a gift to this Young Sommelier tasting.  Thank you Jim & Jim.  The 2008 Au Bon Climat Chardonnay “Sanford & Benedict Vineyard” still showcased glorious minerality, structure & superb balance, but was so visceral, bordering somewhat creamy & so much more layered because of the additional bottle age.  In short, for my palate, these 2 wines were excellent……worldly….& truly memorable, all at quite the reasonable price, especially considering the quality.  Interestingly, someone kindly brought a highly acclaimed (94 & 95 point rated) Sonoma Coast Chardonnay to share.  I will leave it as unnamed for reasons which will soon be more apparent.  The website noted, words like minerality, seductive, formidably structured & grand.   I thought the wine to instead be–brazen, frantic, over oaked, hollow, VERY bitter & highly alcoholic.  Not only was I really turned off by this wine, but was even more so when I found out the online price tag to be $84.99 a bottle (not including shipping)!  Not only was the 2014 Au Bon Climat WAY better mano e mano….but then dwell on the fact that you can get 2 2/3’s bottles for 1 bottle of this wine!  NO brainer.

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May
14

Keplinger Wines

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One of the true, New Age winemaking phenoms is Helen Keplinger, 2012 Food & Wine magazine “Winemaker of the Year”.  Although for some, she seemed to have come out of nowhere, she has worked at some very considerable wine projects–“Since 2004, I have been the winemaker for some exciting projects, including Cellers Melis (Priorat), Kenzo Estate, Fort Ross, Sarocka, Scullly, Arrow & Branch, & Bryant Family Vineyards”.

Keplinger is her sole focus now.

Here are the two wines which has arrived to the Islands.

Keplinger “Sumo” Red 2014–a lavish, rich, deeply flavored red with near decadent opulence & a dense, hedonistic mouthfeel. Still, despite its heft, the 2014 is still wonderfully delicious, juicy & well textured with a stoniness in its core.  “Sumo is a Cote Rotie twist on Petite Sirah – Petite Sirah co-fermented with Viognier, and blended with a small amount of Syrah. The 2014 Sumo is a blend of 84% Petite Sirah, 13% Syrah, and 3% Viognier, all from Shake Ridge Vineyard. The Petite comes from three blocks, one is 80% rock and produces small, thick-skinned berries with intense aromatics and dense structure. The second Petite block also has very rocky soil with a western exposure – the berries are ever so slightly larger and the skins slightly thinner (remember this is still Petite!), bringing a juicy elegance to the blend. The third Petite block is at the bottom of a north-facing block, and is all about vibrant, fresh fruit – the lifter of the trio. The 2014 Sumo was aged in a mix of barriques, Muids d’Oc, and Demi Muids – all French Burgundian cooperage – 75% of which was new.   290 cases produced“.

Keplinger “Lythic” Red 2014–another intriguing, deeply flavored red–in 2014–a blend of 32% Grenache, 36% Mourvedre, and 32% Syrah – all coming from Ann Kraemer’s incredible Shake Ridge Vineyard, 1700’ in the Sierra Foothills of Amador County. Farmed to perfection, the extraordinary Sierra uplift soils, loaded with quartz, basalt, soapstone, and shale always combine to create wines of great purity, richness, and minerality. The Grenache, Mourvedre, and Syrah blocks are all on rock-filled slopes with excellent exposure and drainage. The blocks were harvested for optimal ripeness on five different dates, and combined into small co-fermented wine lots, each with a different percentage of whole cluster grapes. The wine was aged in once-used and neutral French Demi Muids for 16 months before being bottled without fining or filtration. 250 cases produced“.

I could spend a very long time speaking of the merits of Ann Kraemer’s Shake Ridge Vineyard up in the Sierra Foothills.  The soils are mesmerizing & seemingly everchanging from parcel to parcel & from hill to hill.  And, Ann is one heck’uv a farmer, that’s for sure.  That is also a big reason why these wines are so darn good!

And, just to give you history, here is what Antonio Galloni wrote about last year’s collection from this winery.

VINOUS: 2014 Sonoma and Points North: New Releases, Parts 1 & 2 (Feb 2016)    by Antonio Galloni

These are without question the finest wines I have tasted from Helen Keplinger. The 2013s and 2014s are simply captivating across the board. Over the years, Keplinger has refined her approach, which includes a greater reliance on large format oak as well as important investments in equipment. The result of those significant sacrifices are very much in evidence. Readers will find a few new wines in the range, all of them welcome additions. As good as the 2013s are, the 2014s have the potential to be even more compelling. I can’ t say enough good things about these wines and the daring spirit they embody.  Full Review

2013 Hangman’s | 95+

2013 Diamond Bar | 95

2013 Sumo | 95

2013 Lithic | 94

2013 Fuego y Mar | 93+

2013 Caldera | 93

2013 Basilisk | 93

2013 Mars | 93

2013 El Diablo | 92

2014 Eldorado | 90

 

 

Categories : General, Red, Wine
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Here is another tasting we put on for “Young Sommeliers” at VINO today.  In our continuing search for “good” wine, the wines were served BLIND, so everyone could taste & assess the wines more objectively, rather than based upon any label, cost or ratings.  I told everyone, I would be opening 8 to 10 bottles of wine, as starters & serving them blind.  Participants could either bring a blind wine or chip in $20.  We served the wines by grape variety.

The goal was to assess if the wine was good or not.  Why or why not.  How much would you pay for the bottle.  And, finally, what kind of foods would one serve with each.  These facets, after all, are in my opinion, more important than identifying the grape variety, soil, vintage, producer, etc.  I truly believe this is sommelier “homework” & how blind tasting could help.

FIRST FLIGHT–Zinfandel

I purposely chose 2 specific, quality Zins to showcase–the 2013 Edmeades Zinfandel “Shamrock Vineyard” & the 2013 Scherrer Zinfandel “Old & Mature Vines” for different reasons.   The 2013 Edmeades Zinfandel “Shamrock Vineyard” is from a 2.1 acre parcel, planted in 2001, 2800 feet in elevation in the hills of Mendocino.  It really is quite macho, masculine, hearty, wonderfully savory with lots of “mountain grown” character & structure.  I also chose this wine because it features the “Primitivo clone”, “a vine which is different from the more typical Californian Zinfandel vines.  The resulting grape bunches are denser & more tightly packed, often thicker skinned, more evenly ripening & more disease resistant“.  In comparison, the 2013 Scherrer Zinfandel “Old & Mature Vines” is a very unique style of Zinfandel, which I refer to as–“an old vine Zin crafted by a Pinot Noir master–& therefore much more elegant refined, suave & refined.”  The “Old” vines were planted in 1912 on a bench in Alexander Valley just above the Silver Oak planting.  This wine offered lots of vinosity.  Two really good Zins–1 macho, savory, “mountain grown” & quite savory & the other–more red fruit, vinous, elegant, more refined & so well textured.  Hopefully, these 2 will give young tasters benchmarks to work from.

SECOND FLIGHT–Rhone Varietals

I wish I had a dollar for every time someone in the profession mentioned how American grown & made Syrah, Grenache & Rhone varietal based red wines do not sell in their restaurant.  I would be rich.  Well, as someone who buys wines for restaurants & also works the floor at night, if this happens to us, I believe this it really is my fault.  If carrying these kinds of wines is the right call for the restaurant, then I should continuously tinker with ways to market, promote & encourage more sales.  Yes, this would include training the staff, but I also have to work on better ways of marketing & promoting the concept to increase demand at the same time.  Frequent winetastings, food & wine pairings, including in newsletters, provocative & interest generating winelist verbiage, offering a rotating selection of one of two by the glass every week as a special (& the staff also will then get to try the wine as well) are some ideas to help the cause.

We have found that many of the well farmed, superbly crafted renditions, after all, can help fill the big hole which lies between Pinot Noir & Cabernet Sauvignon on the winelist, in terms of drama, weight & mojo.  Think about it.  If 2 of the people in a party of 4 want a Pinot & the other 2 want Cabernet, here is your opportunity!

In addition, with the growth in popularity of Mediterranean inspired foods, more rustic styled of these kinds of wines can add to pairing options, especially to those who prefer New World wines to those of the Old World.

With those thoughts in mind, we included several wines from this category.  AND, thankfully some of the participants also contributed some as well.

We first started with the 2014 Neyers Carignane “Evangelho Vineyard”, which Rick had kindly brought to share. At VINO, we have had quite the fascination with this grape variety, because of it potential for deliciousness, high toned aromatics, its vivid, lively acidity & its wonderful pliability, all of which can greatly enhance a meal.  While our attention with this grape has been mainly focused in the Old World–southern France, Italy & Spain–we instantly fell in love with this Californian rendition.  The vines were planted in 1886 thru 1891), own rooted & planted in sandy soils out in Contra Costa.  Yes, sommeliers across the country have a real fascination & appreciation for old, heritage vines & the vinosity it can innate provide.  We also really relish how these kinds of more rustic edged wines work with our kinds of foods.  The next wine, the 2014 Turley Cinsault “Bechthold Vineyard”, also features fruit from own rooted, old vines, (planted in 1886) but in this case, from Lodi, California.  Winemaker Tegan Passlacqua is one of those, thankfully, looking to champion these old souls. This wine is very different than the previous stylistically.  Though very pretty & VERY vinous, it has a richer, lusher, more viscous mouthfeel & seemingly higher alcohol than the label states & therefore probably has more appeal to a wider audience. Thank you Sean for sharing.  In any case, both quite delicious, fascinating red wines well worth seeking out.  (As a side note, Neyers also produces a “Sage Canyon” bottling as well, which blends the Evangelho Carignae with some Syrah, Grenache & Mourvedre & crafted ala Maxime Magnon in winemaking style, which I also GREATLY appreciate & love).

THIRD FLIGHT–Grenache

The next duo started with the 2105 Sucette Grenache from superstar Master Sommelier & brilliant wine mind Richard Betts.  This undoubtedly was one of the true shining stars of the day & I must add, one of the best Grenache based red wines from the New World I have encountered to date.  The fruit comes from 90 plus year old, own rooted vines in Vine Vale, located in the Barossa Valley, of Australia & its sandy soils.  The wine exuded wonderful vinosity (old vine-ness), savoriness & character, was VERY seamless, well textured & still quite a remarkably good drink.  It really does show what this grape variety is innately capable of.  Thank you to Warren for sharing this special bottle.   In comparison, one of tasters, Keith, kindly brought a 2014 a tribute to Grace Grenache “Besson Vineyard”.  This is a wine project dedicated to Grenache, spearheaded by New Zealand born winemaker Angela Osborne.  It is more typical of what one would expect from California in style–loads of ripe, more forward fruit with spice, & some earthiness.  Furthermore this particular bottling, which hails from the Besson Vineyard down in Monterey & its 100 year old vines, did have some vinosity & character as well.  These kinds of Grenache based reds, although somewhat pricey, can be quite the “cross over” opportunity to get more New World drinkers to try something “out of their box” & therefore opening new wine horizons.

FOURTH FLIGHT–Intermezzo

We started the next duo with the 2013 Evening Land Gamay Noir “Celebration”.  Sommeliers across the U.S. are going gaga over true artisan, passionately farmed & produced French (Gamay Noir) Beaujolais.  They’ve genetically proven this grape variety is a descendent of Pinot Noir & in the mostly granitic soils of Beaujolais, it can produce some superbly delicious, incredibly food friendly, gulpable red wines WHICH greatly over deliver for the price tag.  Well, with that theme in mind, here is one from the much heralded Seven Springs Vineyard up in Oregon.  This small parcel was planted in 1983 & is fermented in concrete (via wild yeast & carbonic maceration) & then aged in OLD oak for 8 months.  The surprisingly gamey/rustic nose was bordering off-putting for some, but the wine’s wonderful deliciousness, refreshing edge soon dispelled any apprehensions.  One could have a lot of fun on the restaurant floor pairing a wine like this to food, that’s for sure.  Though slightly out of place, we then served the 2011 Selene Merlot “Frediani Vineyard”, which Jamm & Erica brought to share.  This wine certainly wow-ed a lot of tasters because its savory, deeply scented, earthy character, its core of solid, well structured core & mojo & how well balanced it really was.  This wine was really good!  Who says 2011 red wines from the Napa Valley are not worth cellaring?  Kudos to Mia Klein for such a truly superb wine!

FIFTH FLIGHT–Syrah

The final trio of this flight started with the 2010 Ojai Syrah “Bien Nacido Vineyard”.   I have been a very avid fan of this winemaker, winery & their wines for quite some time, especially their Bien Nacido vineyard wines–Chardonnay, Pinot Noir & this bottling of Syrah.  Knowing this tasting was coming up, I had contacted the winery & they were kind enough to sell me this winery from their library & send it to us in time.  Thank you Fabien Castel.  For me, this is undoubtedly one of the VERY finest Syrah bottlings out of California, year in & year out….& as Fabien noted the 2010 was not only one of their best ever, but it was also really singing right now.  And, so it was!  The 2010 was profound, masculine, majestic with mega intensity, structure & mojo, yet very masterly crafted with great balance, texture & class.  It was initially quite closed, but certainly opened up to strut its stuff with time.  This is definitely a real thoroughbred stud.  In comparison, Heather was kind enough to share the 2011 K Syrah “The Hidden” from Washington state.  It was really an idea contrast to the Ojai for young tasters, as it clearly showed much riper, lavish, much more forward fruit, a healthy dollop of new oak–& was loud & up front.  This is typically a style of wine which would garner highly scores & many accolades (95 points in this case by Robert Parker–we just looked it up).  Still, the Ojai was a significantly better wine for my palate, by far, AND at a much lower cost.  The final wine of the flight was the 2001 Girasole Syrah “Eaglepoint Ranch”.  In this vintage my best friend, Nunzio Alioto & Jeff Figone & I brought some Syrah grapes from Eaglepoint Ranch, a mountain top vineyard above the town of Ukiah in Mendocino.  We asked dear friend & Pinot maestro, Fred Scherrer to make the wine.  Well, here it is 16 years later, a bottle Fred recently sent to me from a stash he found in his cellar.  The intent of sharing it on this day was to remind tasters of how transparent, elegant, refined & majestic Syrah can be.  Even one that is “mountain grown”.  Thank you Fred.  Mission accomplished!

 

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May
01

Limestone & Wine

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We did a small wine tasting the other night at VINO, which hopefully shed some light on the topic of wines produced from vines grown in limestone.  There is apparently much controversy & subsequent discussions on minerality in wines.  I will leave the conclusions of the hows & whys to the scientists/experts.  I would say, though, each of these five wines displayed minerality in my humble opinion.  Each were in fact grown in limestone based soils & I wanted to see what a side by side tasting of this five some would show. 

2014 Denis Jamain Reuilly “Les Pierres Plates”–Reuilly is an appellation is France’s Loire Valley, in what is referred to as the Central Vineyards.  Unlike those of neighboring Sancerre & Pouilly Fume, where I once read is a collision of different soils types, Jamain’s vineyard is pure Kimmeridgian limestone, complete with an abundance of fossilized sea critters.  To better contemplate what this could mean, we poured a 2015 Regis Minet Pouilly Fume “Vieilles Vignes” side by side, since Minet mentioned to me, while dining at VINO recently, that his soil was a mix of clay, marl & Kimmeridgian limestone that was quite different from Jamain’s property’s soil.  The resulting 2015 has an amazing core with a resounding mojo & wonderful, though not hard, structure.  In comparison, the Reuilly was much higher toned, more floral, lime blossom, saline kinds of nuances, lighter on its feet & much more high toned & seemingly more taut.  I am sure there is much more to the whys of the differences, but it sure help set the table for the next wine.

2014 Roland Lavantureux Chablis–while growing up in this industry, whenever someone mentioned Kimmeridgian limestone, I would immediately chirp–Chablis.  Yes, I had been programmed at a very early age.  I have long been really mesmerized & fascinated by the incredible purity, transparent & riveting minerality I would find in mid to top level Chablis wines. Some of my absolute favorites, since the 1980’s, came from the house of Roland Lavantureux.  His always had a real artisan feel, rather than just a long, cool, tank fermented profile.  I was also always quite taken by its very touching & personal expression of minerality.  Remarkably, the increasing frequency of warm vintages has greatly changed the richness/apparent ripeness of the wines & certainly turned up the “volume” of what they want to say.  In addition, Roland’s two sons have now taken over running the estate, & one can see the inevitable difference in the winemaking & resulting style changes.  While that is all true, this is still artisan, pure, soil driven Chardonnay from the one & only Chablis region & its long association with the Kimmeridgian limestone the vines are planted in.  AND, one can also see how the Chardonnay grape variety has quite distinctive differences than what the Sauvignon offers in the two previous wines, soil aside.

2012 De Villaine Rully “Gresigny”–here was the next wine that was poured–an absolutely pure & breathtaking Chardonnay from the grossly under rated Côte Chalonaise in southern Burgundy & the home/wine domaine of Aubert deVillaine, one of the all time “Hall of Fame” legends.  “However high profile his day job, Aubert still considers himself a vigneron like any other, and Bouzeron’s off-the-beaten-path location left him alone to make his own wines without the demands of upholding an international reputation. The domaine was horribly rundown when the de Villaines took over, but years of studying this unique terroir have made them pioneers in one of the last forgotten enclaves of Burgundy“.  While I have been a huge fan of this estate’s wines since the 1980’s, because of how pure, elegant & masterfully done their wines are, this 2012 Rully “Gresigny” really took my breath away.  I was told the soil, though limestone, has more clay/silt to it. The resulting wine is soooo different than the Chablis when tasted side by side.  It is not as floral/seashell-y.  On the palate, this wine somehow seems less angular & therefore rounder, with more viscosity & texture, which could at least be partially from oak (albeit old) influence.

2014 Guillemot Savigny-Lès-Beaune “Vieilles Vignes”–The last wine of the line-up is a Pinot Noir from Savigny-lès-Beaune, where “the Guillemot family has worked their vines for 8 generations to produce a more classic style featuring finesse & balance, all while leaving us a reminder of Savigny’s rustic character. Yes, these are wines that epitomize the local terroir and emphasize grace & elegance over power & structure“.   The grapes for this bottling come from 3 different parcels–Planchots de la Champagne, Dessus les Gollardes, Vermots— which they say has more marl & gravel components to the clay-limestone base.  As light colored as this wine looked, it certainly was still quite masculine & noticeably structured (someone might say austere) on the palate.  Still, I was quite taken how sheer, ethereal & wonderfully pure & transparent this wine truly is, & where the soils is much more prominent than fruit or grape variety.  It just needs some time aging in the bottle.  I would love to try this wine in 15 to 20 years, that’s for sure!

Categories : General, Wine, Wine Thoughts
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