Archive for January, 2019

Jan
21

Salinity in wines?

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Growing up in this industry, I was always reminded of the French concept of terroir. They, in fact, have had centuries of finding those special parcels of land which manifested something special in the resulting wines. This concept spread throughout the wine world and many still refer to the concept of terroir. Somewhere along the line, tasters noted “minerality” in their tasting notes. The question has now become is minerality associated with terroir? Scientists are now publicly saying, there is NO conclusive proof that minerals, essences, etc, can be transmitted through the root system, through the plant and make their way into the grapes themselves. How can that be? (I really think that what some people call “minerality” may in fact not be soil driven). I would also say, there are in fact some wines which are VERY soil driven. A French Chablis is a perfect example. To take that a step further, I find there are wines which have salinity to them. I am sure some would question—from the soil or from the surroundings? Which brings us to this blind tasting opportunity. FOUR wines, served BLIND. We wanted to see if salinity can be detected in a finished wine.

2013 Bregeon “Gorges”–This is an absolute “must to try”, as there really is no other wine like it. This is the Muscadet grape variety–50 year old vines, grown in gabbro (a unique blue-green metamorphic rock) soils in close proximity to France’s Atlantic coast. VERY naturally minded both in the vineyard & winemaking, this special, gifted winemaker aged the wine for at least 2 years on the lees for texture, stability (without having to use so much sulfur) & real & “quiet” complexity.

2014 Lavantureux Chablis–100% Chardonnay grown in Kimmeridgian limestone soils in northern Burgundy, where there is NO ocean nearby. This is as naked, pure, absolutely riveting & food friendly as Chardonnay gets.  How does it get its salinity?

2016 Caravaglio Salina Bianco–The Caravaglio family have worked their land in the Aeolian Islands, off the coast of Sicily for over 500 years. They are in fact credited for first planting the Malvasia, Corinto Nero & other local grapes on both the Lipari & Salina islands. This 2016 Malvasia Secco combines a wonderful, exotic, perfume with minerality, structure & a touch of salinity.

2017 Sigalas Assyrtiko–Paris Sigalas is the iconic winemaking superstar of Greece. His home turf is in Oia, on the island of Santorini. This is a very unique winegrowing niche—flat, mercilessly sun baked vineyards with light weighted pumice soils, lack of much rainfall & gusting, often pounding coastal winds (certainly very warm during the day). The island has, in response to these severe conditions, developed a unique koulara style of training their vines to protect the grapes. This wine alone is worth coming to this tasting, it is that good–masculine, savory, profoundly stony, structured with salinity, especially in the after taste & a slight piquant bitterness in the finish.

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Jan
21

What Old World Grenache Can Be

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I am one of those wine people who believe the soils and growing conditions can greatly affect the resulting wine.  Fortunately, the Old World countries such as France and Italy, have had decades, even in some cases centuries to discover where the truly special vineyards are.  In many of these cases the wine is then named after the place, rather than the grape variety.

To better illustrate what can be, let’s, for instance, take a look at the Grenache red grape variety.

While there may be some real standouts made exclusively from Grenache, this grape variety has really made quite the niche for itself when blended with other grape varieties such as Syrah, Mourvedre and Cinsault, just to name three.

In France’s southern Rhone Valley, many top echelon wineries have created quite the reputation and legacy through their blends of these grape varieties grown in their estate vineyards.  Each vineyard offers different soils and growing conditions, which along with the skill of the winemaker, in my opinion result in a VERY different kind of wine!

Here are some which have stood out for me over the years.

2014 Catherine Le Goeuil Côtes du Rhône Villages Cairanne–The hilltop village of Cairanne in France’s southern Rhone Valley is little known outside of the country.  Locally, it is generally considered the home of some of the finest Grenache based red wines among the 17 legally recognized Côtes du Rhône Villages.  It is also the home to wine wonder woman, Catherine Le Goeuil, who is and has been one of the champions of the organic and biodynamic farming in all of France for quite some time.  Her wines are rustic and earthy yet so charming and wonderfully delicious.  I recommend you serve it slightly chilled for afternoon sipping, outdoor barbecues or just to wet the whistle.  What a great value!

2012 Domaine Gallety “Côtes du Vivarais”–The Côtes du Vivarais runs along the western flank of the northern part of France’s southern Rhone Valley.  I only became acquainted with this newer wine appellation in roughly 2007 upon a visit.  I was so mesmerized by their tasty, interesting and unique red wine, we special ordered some for our VINO restaurant.  This bottling is 50% 50 to 60 year old vine Grenache and 50% 25 to 30 year old vine Syrah grown in a very different mix of soils.  A warmer, somewhat semiarid kind of spot, as the you will see in the picture.  We were so taken by this wine’s transparency, refinement, class, texture and balance.  I am so surprised this wine hasn’t really yet been discovered, so I suggest you take advantage of the fabulous pricing it still has, especially considering the superb quality in the bottle.

2014 Sang des Cailloux Vacqueyras–The village of Vacqueyras is yet another small, relatively low keyed discovery.  When I first visited, in 1991, I was taken back how many soils types I would see there during a 15 minute drive.  We enjoyed a filling lunch at a café before heading to meet owner/winemaker Serge Férigoule.  It was to be an introduction to a man, his vineyard and wine I will remember forever.  To this day, it is one of my favorites.  His vineyards are located on the Plateau des Garrigues, an elevated mishmash of rocks, rounded river stones, red clay and limestone, which gives this wine its strong, masculine, wildly rustic core, depth and soulfulness.  Typically, the blend is mostly Grenache with a slug of Syrah and small tidbits of Mourvedre and Cinsault.  This wine was also the partner of one of my all time food and wine pairings—Fire Roasted Ribeye Steak with a bay leaf chimichurri.

2014 Vieux Télégraphe Châteauneuf-du-Pape “La Crau”–Undoubtedly, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, is historically, the most famous wine appellation in France’s southern Rhone Valley.  It is also home to one of the world’s most famous red wines, which over the past 20 years, have been getting lots of press and high scores, which will, at least, explain some the much higher prices.  Like all areas, the are many nooks and crannies with different characteristics.  (Think about how different Nanakuli and Manoa are on O’ahu).  One of the most special and celebrated vineyards parcels of the appellation I have run across is La Crau, which is what I would characterize as a mound of rounded river stones (galets roulés) pushed together by ancient glaciers.  This gathering of stones with other earthen soils, minerals and the old vines of mainly Grenache and Syrah, can create a VERY different kind of wine—majestic in a very masculine manner, with a very earthen, rustic core and the ability to age into something utterly magical down the road when cellared properly.  Yes, $90 is pricey, but when one compares what you can get from Bordeaux, Napa Valley or Burgundy, this really is a deal.

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Jan
05

A Tasting of FOUR Corsican Reds @ VINO

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We just came back from Corsica which has been on my wish list for thirty-plus years. What a trip!!!! And one which has inspired this tasting.

On this night, we will taste FOUR of the most interesting wines from the island—each from a different appellation and their finest resident producer. Each well represents what this wild, remote countryside has to offer and its wonderful, innate savoriness, rather than fruitiness to its core. They should show tasters the vast potential of what this island is capable of producing. I suggest you jump on the bandwagon now and beat the crowds, the inevitable long wait lists and escalating prices.

After all, how often do opportunities like this come around?

2014 Giacometti Patrimonio “Cru des Agriate”–From the Patrimonio appellation (north—highlighted in dark purple). Located in the very remote Agriate desert….4½ hours of rugged four wheeling to get to this spot. We in fact turned around, because the road was too challenging and way too time consuming. 97% Niellucciu and 3% Grenache, grown in clay, limestone and schist. Fermented in stainless and aged on the lees for ten months.  I loved its earnest savoriness, transparency & texture.

2014 Maestracci Corse Calvi “E Prove”–From the Calvi appellation (northwest—highlighted in light purple)…a hearty, masculine style. A very important winery for the future, because of their high quality wines, grown and produced under the direction of true vigneron Camille-Anaïs Raoust, one of the island’s “chosen” winemakers, PLUS they really over deliver for the dollar. 35% Niellucciu, 35% Grenache, 15% Sciacarellu, 15% Syrah grown in clay-sand on granite. Fermented in stainless and aged for one year in large foudres.  4 years in age, this masculine, rustic, savory red was rocking!

2017 Abbatucci “Valle di Nero”–From the Ajaccio appellation (west—highlighted in red)…Jean Charles Abbatucci is regarded as one of the very top vignerons in all of Corsica. He is a fiery proponent of heirloom, indigenous vines grown uber-biodynamic. 100% Carcaghjolu Neru—sourced decades ago high up in the isolated and mountainous interior of the island from elderly peasant farmers, effectively saving it from extinction. We had this wine one night at Le 20123 Restaurant in Ajaccio, Corsica with their rustic, very classical styled foods and was certainly one of the highlights of our trip.  I loved how juicy, savory, delicious, suave & surprisingly food friendly it was.  Typically less than 200 cases produced.

 2016 Buzzo Bunifazziu–From Bonifaccio–the southern tip of the island.  (We served this wine BLIND, just for fun.)  This dense, savory, minerally, rustic red wine is produced from the native Minustellu grape variety, grown in hard argilo-calcaire (limestone) soils & fermented & aged in stainless (NO stems).  This wine was the unsolicited, though unanimous crowd favorite of the night.

Thank you to all who came.

Categories : General, Red, Wine, Wine Thoughts
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Jan
05

Keith’s BYOB Grenache Tasting 09-24-18

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One of our VINO teammates, Keith, puts together a themed BYOB tasting every now & then at his home.  The latest one featured Grenache based wines & proved to be quite a learning experience.  Thank you to Keith AND all who came to partake & share.

Here is a list of  the wines we tried on this evening–2015 a tribute to Grace Grenache “Besson Vineyard”; 2015 Sucette Grenache “Vine Vale Barossa Valley”; Joel Gott “Shatter”; 2012 Even A. Bekke Ventoux “Clos de Trias”; 2014 Sierra Cantabria Garnacha; 2013 Les Mille Vignes “Chasse Filou”; 2015 Gramenon Côtes-du-Rhône “L’Elémentaire”; 2015 Gramenon Vinsobres “La Papesse”; 2010 Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe Châteauneuf-du-Pape “La Crau”; 2016 Domaine de Fontsainte Corbières “Gris de Gris” Rosé.

This line-up proved to be quite insightful, an unbelievable opportunity to sample wines side by side.  It is so easy when sampling each wine on its own to get caught up in that you liked this wine for various reasons, including the story behind the wine or the 92 points anointed by wine writers such as Robert Parker.  It really can be a whole ‘nother experience when tasting the wine side by side to others.  The insights experienced can be quite remarkable.

Having said that, here were my highlights–

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2015 Sucette Grenache “Vine Vale Barossa Valley”–I was really again taken by this wine’s wonderful savoriness, transparency, elegance, mojo, vinosity & suavability.  I really thought it was superb!  AND, I would without a doubt spend the $15 more a bottle that it costs in comparison to the wine tasted prior.  The vines were planted in 1860 & 1870, own rooted in dominately sand.  Definitely a wine well worth seeking out.  Thank you Cheryle for sharing this wine!

2013 Les Mille Vignes IGP Pays de l’Aude “Chasse Filou”–this wine rocked!  It had lots of mojo, character, funk & soul to its core, while still offering delicious, ripe, vinous fruit from beginning to end.  It really was something to savor & enjoy.  OMG.  I will certainly be buying this wine again!  (50 year old vines, clay, limestone soils, de-stemmed, aged for 18 months in stainless & bottle before release).  Owner/winemaker Valérie Guerin is certainly one of the hottest tickets down in southern France & this wine clearly showed us why.  Thank you Jacob for sharing!

2015 Domaine Gramenon Côtes-du-Rhône “L’Elémentaire”–such wonderful character–old vines, unique soils–marvelous transparency, savoriness, class & surprisingly light on its feet.  This wine scored much lower than the Clos de Trias Ventoux by the wine media (92 points) & I thought the opposite, as it displayed much more vinosity/complexity, class & soulfulness.  I am a huge fan of this domaine, its wines & their strong belief in doing things as sustainably as their main core value.  Thank you Ann for sharing this wine!

2015 Domaine Gramenon Vinsobres “La Papesse”–what a wine!  Certainly one of the wines of the night for me.  I have been quite the fan of this domaine’s wines for a while now.  For those of you not so familiar with them, Domaine Gramenon produces at least 8 different red wine bottlings under their label, with at least 3 others under the Maxime François Laurent label, so it can be quite confusing to navigate the differences between each of them.  Well, let me say, this particular bottling, 2015 Vinsobres “La Papesse” is the best I have from either to date.  Besides showcasing their signature transparency, savoriness, class, this one had much more mojo & a real soulfulness to its core, which I found so intriguing & totally mesmerizing.  Wow!  Thank you Cheryle for sharing!

2010 Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe Châteauneuf-du-Pape “La Crau”–how does one follow a touching wine like the Gramenon Vinsobres “La Papesse”?  Certainly not an easy task.  Leave it to host, Keith, to bust out one of the most iconic producers of Grenache based reds AND with a bottling from the 2010 vintage.  While all of the previous wines on this list offered something unique & quite special, this wine additionally offered real pedigree.  Yes, this was an example of what world class Grenache blends could be.  It is no wonder why this estate & its wines are so highly revered, AND, I would add to that, based up this taste, deservedly so.  Thank you Keith for sharing!

2016 Domaine Fontsainte Corbières “Gris de Gris” Rosé–we ended this tasting with a sip of wonderfully refreshing rosé–50% Grenache Gris, 20% Grenache Noir, 20% Carignan, 5% Cinsault, 5% Mourvedre–from southern France & the Corbières appellation.  This has been on our favorite list since the 1980’s, because of how delicious, thirstquenching & incredibly food friendly their wines are year in & year out.  PLUS, they each offer such GREAT VALUE on top of it all.  Thank you Ann for sharing.  A wonderful way to end this tasting.

Categories : General, Red, Wine, Wine Thoughts
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