Archive for General

Sep
23

A duo from Quintarelli

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While I have been quite a fan of the Quintarelli wines for a while, as the prices rose, there were less opportunities for tastings them.  I also must admit that while I appreciate Amarone & the immense skill & effort needed to grow & produce one, I have not been so wow-ed by Amarone in general.  The wines were often too much about ripeness for me & less about terroir.

(Please understand, I once fortunately had a 25 plus year old Quintarelli Amarone & therefore understood that once the wine had a chance to resolve itself through considerable bottle age, the terroir would show itself once again, surrounded by harmony & real thoroughbred class).

Eventhough I was so impressed with the magnitude of Quintarelli Amarone (& Dal Forno Romano & I would also include Quintarelli Alzero), I just couldn’t bring myself to buy them because of the high price tag & more often than not, chose to instead spend my money on something else.

It was therefore quite thrilling to again sample a couple of of Quintarelli red wines that had some bottle age.  I was anxious when I first saw the bottles & most thankful to sample such wine treasures.  And, while they were not Amarone, they were standouts & very memorable in their own right.

2008 Quintarelli “Ca’ del Merlot”–just in case readers are not familiar with Quintarelli wines, this wine is NOT at all about Merlot, & as far as I know, has NO Merlot included in its blend.  This is a single vineyard (limestone, clay & basalt dominated soils), rising up to a hillside near & above the town of Negrar with the Veneto region of northeast Italy.  It took me a while to understand this bottling, as it is typically a blend–mainly of Corvina & Corvinone with a small percentage of Rondinella & a smattering of other grape varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon & Franc, Nebbiolo, Croatina & Sangiovese.  The key word to describe this wine is “graceful”.  It is really graceful as it smoothly glides down the palate, yes, with more viscosity & density & I was really taken by it.  It is also much more than ripe fruit, opulence & a raisiny edge.  It was unique & memorable.  50% of the grapes are immediately pressed & initially made as one would a still red wine.  (The other 50% is dried for 2 months.)  This juice is then added to the Amarone lees which creates a secondary fermentation (ripasso).  Once that is complete, the wine is then racked into large Slavonian oak barrels for at least 7 years.  Yes, Quintarelli is world renown for his patience & great care when making his wines, which is mostly why his wines are so individual, highly revered, sought after & pricey.  We are quite the fans of this wine.

1990 Valpolicella Classico “Superiore”–I was actually initially given this wine blind.  I had NO idea what was in the glass & I was really quite taken with what I was smelling.  The wine had lots of class & vinosity, was VERY captivating & VERY harmonious.  When I was told what it was I just dove back in again & again.  The perfume really was very unique, compelling & virtually incomparable to anything I remember having before.  There was a delicate, sweet oak presence though very well integrated with dried fruit & a wonderful savoriness, lush, viscous texture, nuance after nuance & a very long finish.. Though obviously aged, it was quite surprisingly youthful in its core.  What a wine!  Not necessarily Grand Cru in its intent, but certainly a very intriguing, provocative, unique & a special bottle of wine.  Thank you Mike for sharing!

Both of these wine treasures reaffirmed the masterful talent of Quintarelli, that’s for sure.

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Sep
14

Pictures from Way Back When

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A picture someone sent to me. OMG!!! Look how young we were back then.

 

Back row–left to right–Fred Dame, Wayne Belding, Richard Dean, Emanuel Kemiji, Ronn Wiegand

Front row–left to right–CF; Ed Osterland; Evan Goldstein; Barrie Larvin; Brian Julyan; Larry Stone & Nunzio Alioto.

Wow!

 

Then, how about this one?

Back row–left to right–Fred Dame, Steve Morey, Nunzio Alioto, CF, Richard Dean, Steve Geddes

Second Row–left to right–Scott Carney, Bob Bath, Wayne Belding, Ira Harmon, Angelo Tavernaro

Front Row–left to right–Barrie Larvin, Brian Julyan, Sally Mohr, Madeline Triffon, Evan Goldstein

 

Finally, how about this one?  Taken at the Sardine factory in Monterey, the day Fran & I passed!

Left to right–Fred Dame, Brian Julyan, Fran Kysela, Barrie Larvin & CF

 

 

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Here are FOUR wines from islands within the Mediterranean realm—Sardegna, Sicily & Corsica. Each are interesting, tasty and very unique.. These islands are definitely on my bucket list, not only because of the wines, but the countryside, foods, the smells, the people, culture and the list goes on. All 5 somehow seem tainted by the western world. These wines remind us of that.  I can’t wait to trek on down & visit each & experience their magic first hand.

2016 Vigne Rada Vermentino di Sardegna “Stria”  

This is a dry, minerally, vivacious, uplifting, completely refreshing white wine from Alghero on the northwest coast of Sardegna, an area “surrounded by stunning beaches and breathtaking limestone cliffs on either side. Conditions here are ideal for growing high-quality grapes: fresh maritime breezes, while the poor, rocky soils are perfectly suited to the production of balanced, characterful wines. Farming is sustainable, by hand, with help from the whole family. Vigne Rada’s Vermentino is reminiscent of wildflowers and Mediterranean herbs, with a mouth-coating texture and clean, saline finish”.

2016 Vignetti Vecchio Etna Rosso “Sciave Vive” 

The adventuresome sommeliers throughout the U.S. are sniffing/searching around Etna, down in Sicily for the next “discovery” to be found.  It is a very hot topic nowadays–Nerello Mascalese grown in high altitude volcanic soils–, although I would say, finding really good ones are hard to come by.  “Husband, Carmelo Vecchio and wife, Rosa La Guzza are true locals to the Island of Sicily. Their “Sciare Vive” Rosso—comes from 1.5 hectares (1600 to 2000 feet in elevation) and innately captures the rustic character of the wild countryside it is grown in and definitely the most interesting of the Sicilian red wines we have had to date. 90% Nerello Mascalese, 10% mostly white indigenous varieties (Minnella, Inzolia, Carricante, Grecanico, Catarratto, Malvasia) for aromatics, refinement and texture.

2015 Terre Nere Etna Rosso “Guardiola” 

With all of the hoopla amongst the sommelier community across the country for Etna wines, we ran across this one.  It has the masculinity of the Nerello Mascalese as its core–intriguing, savory, dark characters–smoke, espresso, musky, slightly singed sandalwood, with a very savory charm & presence.  Guardiola is a 1.6 hectare parcel, mostly pre-phylloxera vines, located between 800 to 1000 meters in elevation.  This is certainly is a wine to pay attention to.

2017 Marquiliani Rosé Gris

I am a huge fan of this wine & this winery.  Finally, the 2017 has arrived, all the way from Corsica. We sadly did not get much of it this year, so here is your opportunity to try it . As importer Kermit Lynch once said—“this wine is like drinking a cloud. There’s an absolute weightlessness to it.  Nothing is left on the palate but perfume”. This is much more than a romantic notion. It is captured in the bottle.  “The Amalric family has farmed Domaine de Marquiliani since the 1950s. The village of Aghione is not far from the old Roman capitol of Corsica on the eastern coast of the island, poetically known as the Costa Serena. Flanked against the Corsican Mountains where the flats begin to rise into the hills, this small village of 235 inhabitants is just as celebrated today for its sulfur springs, olive groves, and vineyards as it was thousands of years ago. The enduring legacy is no coincidence—cool nights, high altitude, and the soil help the grapes retain their freshness and allow for a slow, even ripening. The terraced land of Aghione is a mix of schist and granite gravel with silt that has descended from the mountains over the last ten thousand years.”

2016 Giovanni Montisci “Modestu” 

This is a VERY unique white wine to say the least.  Other worldly, I would say…..as I haven’t had anything quite like it.  One can tell this is Moscato, just from smelling it–fragrant, lime blossoms, star fruit with a thickness/viscous mouthfeel, surprisingly done with lots of charm, freshness, intriguing stoniness AND vinosity.   Yes, this wine really blindsided me on how interesting it really is to savor, taste after taste.  What??????   Giovanni started with only 2 hectares in Mamoiada, located in the more remote, mountainous inland–60 year old vine Moscato, grown in sandy, granite, clay soils, wild yeast fermented in 1000 liter stainless, NO ML, then aged for 6 months in OLD barrique.   A VERY interesting drink….& somewhat pricey, which makes sense given what it takes to grown & produce such a wine!

Categories : General, Wine, Wine Thoughts
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Yes, at VINO, we really work hard to find and feature wines from the Mediterranean basin, especially those based on indigenous grape varieties. I recently read that one person said there were 511 different grape vairieties in Italy alone and another said there were under 2000. The point is—there are many. They somehow work well with our style of cooking. I would say their innate savory nuances has at least something to do with it. In this tasting, we look to feature wines from four different islands. Yes, in these cases it does make a difference in the resulting wines. Indigenous grape varieties grown on islands……..how often do opportunities to taste such a line up like this come around?

 

 

 

 

2014 Portelli Cerasuolo di Vittoria (Sicily)–A 5TH generation of this family is now running the domaine. Their home is in southern Sicily where they toil in vineyards comprised of mainly clay and limestone. This bottling is 70% Calabrese and 30% Frappato —“a joyful drink—luscious & charming with firm structure—country wrapped in suede.”

.2014 Giacometti Patrimonio “Cru des Agriate” (Corsica)–A wine grown in a very remote (4 ½ hours of rugged 4 wheeling to get there), wild “countryside on the northern end of the Island of Corsica. 97% Niellucciu, 3% Grenache, we love its real & distinct savoriness and while very masculine in character, it thankfully has mesmerizing transparency & an even kiel.

2017 Sigalas Assyrtiko (Santorini)–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 and 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 is all about mesmerizing minerality with a touch of salinity, a very masculine personality & a slight piquant bitterness to the finish.

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

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One of our VINO family…….you know what I mean, Vern?…….asked the other night if we would be open to doing a dinner geared for German Riesling. So, I asked VINO Chef Keith, if he would do something out of the box like this, so we can make it happen.   As you will recall, Chef Keith has been with us twenty plus years and used to be the Executive Chef for Sansei Kapalua and Sansei Honolulu. So, this is that night! Chef Keith has created a menu with German Riesling in mind.

I would also like to mention that one of my all time favorite winemakers in the world, Bert Selbach, has retired after the 2015 vintage. So, we took this as an opportunity to showcase three of his last wines, each from a GREAT vineyard.

Owner/winemaker Bert Selbach is a direct descendent of the iconic Prüm family, whose roots go back to the 1600’s.  Bert’s parents, Anna Prüm, the youngest of the Mathias Prüm children and her husband Dr. F. Weins, used her inheritance to establish the Dr. F. Weins-Prüm estate in 1911.  Their vineyard holding included parcels in the some of the finest vineyards of the Mosel River region (& all of Germany)–Wehlener Sonnenuhr, Graacher Himmelreich, Graacher Domprobst, Ürziger Würzgarten & Erdener Prälat, each with some very old vines.

We loved Bert’s winemaking, as his wines masterfully showcased the pedigree, purity & character of each site in the finished wine, all done with supreme elegance, transparency, precision & deliciousness–young or older.  These were truly one of kind, unforgettable, timeless masterpieces for me.

Sadly, 2015 was Bert’s last vintage (at least that we know of).   He is retiring with no heirs to take over.  We have heard he has sold his parcels to his first cousin, Manfred Prüm (& daughter Katharina) of Joh. Jos. Prüm who live next door.  For wine collector’s around the world, this is a joyous thing as Joh. Jos. Prüm, having been named 1996 “Gault Millau Winemaker of the Year” & produces some of the most collectible white wines in the world.  For me, this is the end of an era.  There has never been wines like those from Bert Selbach & Dr F Weins Prüm.  Aloha my friend.  A toast to you & your future!

Here is the menu–

KOJI CURED TAKO–mizuna salad, ginger sesame vinaigrette and house made tsukemono 

wine:  2014 Dr F Weins Prüm Kabinett Feinherb “Graacher Himmelreich”

What a fantastic, seemingly simple dish!  Curing the tako with koji gave it terrific taste & umami with a slightly salty edge.  the mizuna innately has a burst of heat & bitterness, which was tempered from the slightly sweet, sour, tangy ginger sesame vinaigrette & the vinegary crunch of the house made tsukemono.  This Riesling, at 9 degrees alcohol was slightly sweeter than medium dry, which helped calm done the sweet-sour-slight heat of the Asian components, while the riveting minerality & crisp acidity kept the palate fresh & alive between bites.

 

MISO CHILEAN SEA BASS–smoked wilted tatsoi, choi sum, squid ink pasta, fukujinsuke & roasted garlic butter

wine:  2011 Dr F Weins Prüm Kabinett “Ürziger Würzgarten”

I remember some time back, my uncle proudly served us his miso butterfish specialty, which he took great pains to prepare for us.  After the dish was served, he halted the show, jumped up & told us to wait while he scurried off to pick some of his very unique/unusual limes off of the tree on the side of his house.  These limes looked much more like green-yellow oranges, especially in size.  After he sliced them, he proceeded to squeeze the wonderfully aromatic, unusually, slightly sweet juice with its surprisingly subdued though high pitched, ‘lime” acidity onto each of our miso butterfish.  He then said, now try it.  In short, it was electric!!!  A pairing unlike anything I had had before AND the his squeezed unique lime juice made the miso taste like something so very different & completely wow-za.  This was a HUGE, eye opening experience for me & was the inspiration for this pairing.  The Chilean sea bass was marinated with the different misos for 30 hours, baked & then torched at the last minute, making it somewhat sweet, salty, slightly charred/caramelized with lots of umami & interesting.  Interestingly the 2011 Dr F Weins Prüm Kabinett “Ürziger Würzgarten”, amongst all of its riveting minerality, rather lean focus (compared to other vintages I had been fortunate to taste) also had very citrus-y acidity with a lime like lift to the finish.  Hence the pairing.

SAKE BRAISED PORK BELLY NITSUKE–grilled bok choy, roasted Japanese taro, Chinese five spice demi & house-made kim chee daikon

wine: 2015 Dr F Weins Prüm Spätlese “Wehlener Sonnenuhr”

While nitsuke is usually a preparation for fish, Chef Keith chose to instead use the sake, shoyu, sugar to braise his pork belly, to soften the meat, while at the same time making it slightly sweet & lightly salty.  In addition, he sprinkled a little shichimi on the meat to give a slight edge of heat, which would heighten & accent it some.  We therefore chose to pair with a Spätlese from one of Germany’s finest single vineyards & its profoundly slate driven soils & therefore resulting minerality in the finished wine.  This wine also helped balance out the slight heat from the kim chee daikon.  Quite interesting.

DESSERT

Green Macha Tiramisu–sweet azuke beans with shichimi & vanilla ice cream

 

 

 

I also included pictures of each of these incredible vineyards to add dimension towards a better understanding & appreciation of the wines presented tonight.  After all, a picture is worth a thousand words.  From left to right–Graacher Himmelreich, Ürziger Würzgarten & Wehlener Sonnenuhr.

 

 

Aug
16

A BYOB Syrah Tasting 07-09-18

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Our “in house” wine “mole” Keith also works full time at one of Hawaii’s top wine retailers.  This young man has a genuine passion for searching out good wines, both locally & it seems on line too.  Every now & then he puts together a BYOB winetasting at his home & invites a bunch of wine friends over to hang out, share their wine stash & talk story.  This was one of those nights, which he themed Syrah.

Here is the list of wines we tasted–

2012 Urban Legend Syrah “Cooper Ranch”; 2014 Yangarra Shiraz “Estate McLaren Vale”; 2007 Whitcraft Syrah “Stolpman Ranch”; 2015 L’Ecole Syrah No. 41 “Columbia Valley”; 2011 Gramercy Cellars Syrah “Lagniappe; 2013 Villa Creek “High Road”; 2001 Girasole Syrah “Eaglepoint Ranch”; Fabrizio Dionisio Syrah “Castagnino”; 2014 Vignoble Jean-Luc Jamet “Vino de Pays–Collines Rhodaniennes”; 2013 Chateau Fontanes “La Petite Serine”; 2015 Gramenon “Sierra du Sud”; 2014 JL Chave Crozes Hermitage “Silène”; 2013 Clape “Vin de Amis”; 2009 Matthieu Barrett Cornas “Les Terrasses du Serre”; 2014 Lionel Faury Côte Rôtie; 2014 Lionel Faury Côte Rôtie “Emporium; 2005 Patrick Jasmin Côte Rôtie.

Here is my comments on some of the highlights–

2012 Urban Legend Syrah “Cooper Ranch”–Urban Legend is a pretty exciting wine project in Oakland, California.  They buy grapes from some very interesting nooks & crannies of California to make some interesting wine for sale at their facility in Oakland.  This Barbera was grown in Plymouth, California, roughly an hour or so east of Sacramento in the Sierra Foothills.  A few years back, I went to visit Dick Cooper & walked away with a true admiration of him & what he does.  He is definitely an icon & excels at growing Barbera.  This 2012 was juicy, tasty, inviting, a real crowd pleasing style & explains why this wine project is gaining such momentum in becoming a  real wine destination.

2007 Whitcraft Syrah “Stolpman Ranch”–Chris Whitcraft was a “one of kind” winemaker.  Either people loved his wines or they didn’t.  There was little ground in between.  I am not sure if he made this 2007.  Having some health issues for quite some time, he was on & off in making the wines in the 2000’s.  I had always thought, 2006 was the last vintage he made himself & from 2007 on, his son, Drake, was at the helm with Chris helping.   (I was REALLY sad to hear of Chris’s passing some years back.  I doubt there will be another like him.  Such a gifted artist).  This 2007 was really good.  It had the wild & wooly nose, a Whitcraft trademark, with a muskiness, a prominent earthy/forest floor core & a smoky, & uplifting surinam cherry/floral edge.  On the palate, the wine flowed very well, was very harmonious & finished much more civil than one would expect.  I really liked it.  Kudos to Drake.  (FYI–the Stolpman Ranch takes growing Syrah very seriously & is the home to some top notch grapes that’s for sure).  Thank you Brent & Helen for sharing this wine.

2015 L’Ecole Syrah No. 41 “Columbia Valley”–Last year, I visited this winery, which is located outside of Walla Walla town, to taste through their wines.  Their wine tasting room was bustling with business & tasters are buying whatever they can get, especially on the higher end of the spectrum.  It was like a shark feeding frenzy.  Good for them!!!  It is understandable, as their style of wines tends to be forward, generously fruited, plush, palate satiating & certainly made people smile.  This wine was along those lines.  Thank you Ann for sharing this wine.

2011 Gramercy Cellars Syrah “Lagniappe”–wow, this was quite the stunner.  The nose was compelling–sandalwood, dried fruit, exotic spices–with wonderful savoriness, class & intrigue.  It was amazingly elegant, suave, well textured & so finely balanced.  We were also quite entranced with the harmony & gracefulness displayed, given this wine is only 7 years old.  Superb job guys!  It shows tasters what can be in Washington.  As I had mentioned last year after a visit to Washington wine country, I really think Syrah has a home to shine & excellent renditions like this one will make this relatively unsung grape variety grow in importance, prominence & acclaim there.  Thank you Rani for sharing this bottle.

2013 Villa Creek “High Road”–This was quite a shock to the palate following the Gramercy wine.  It was saturatingly black, was, especially initially, huge, voluminous, lavish, bordering decadent, opulent & mouthfilling with hotness in the finish.  One could readily tell this was from a very warm growing area.  With each additional sip, however, this wine definitely had minerality to its core (from the siliceous clay/calcareous soils in the vineyards), which made the wine seems less heavy than it actually was AND much more interesting both in the nose & palate.  While I have been advocating filling the big gap that lies between Pinot & Cabernet on the winelists with more Grenache or Syrah based wines, I would say then that this wine would be a transition for the Cabernet drinker…..AND I think they will be thrilled.  While Villa Creek is a highly lauded producer of Mediterranean grape variety blends out of Paso Robles, his High Road bottling hails exclusively from the much heralded, iconic James Berry vineyard.  The blend changes every year as it is a wine of the vineyard…..what the vineyard wants to say in any given year…….rather than a varietal oriented wine.  That is the magic of High Road.  Thank you Ann for sharing this bottle.

2001 Girasole Syrah “Eaglepoint Ranch”–this was an absolutely glorious, well aged red wine in all its glory.  It was something truly special.  (Unfortunately, it was Cheryle’s last bottle).  It was stunning in its youth AND glorious 17 years later–in BOTH cases showing the potential of what Syrah can be in California.  Girasole was a project where my long time San Francisco friends–Nunzio Alioto & Jeff Figone & I purchased grapes from some very interesting & unique vineyards & asked some of our winemaker friends to craft the wine.  (For more insight into that, please go to the archives section of this blog & look up the JoMani/Girasole post).  This was an opportunity for us to see what a masterful winemaker could do with really good, out of the norm, grapes.  In this case, it was Syrah from Eaglepoint Ranch (1400 feet above the town of Ukiah in Mendocino) & Pinot maestro Fred Scherrer–to me a match made in heaven–“mountain grown” Syrah, crafted by a Pinot master.  Yes, this wine was a dream come true right out of the gates & now 17 years later, a wine, I wish I had more of.  (I want to thank then Edmeades winemaker Van Williamson, then vineyard manager, Casey Hartlip & winemaker Fred Scherrer for making this happen).

2014 Jean-Luc Jamet Valin “Vino de Pays–Collines Rhodaniennes”–we, as a group, really liked this wine.  It featured the dark, voluptuous Syrah fruit reminiscent of the Côte-Rôtie magical mix of violets, lavender, green peppercorns, olives & the savory/raw meat nuances, all done with the Jamet suave-ability & swag. This wine actual comes from the Valine vineyard, which is located atop the Côte-Rôtie hillsides & therefore actually outside of the AOC boundary, yet it still has pedigree & something extra to its mojo.  The other bit I should clear up, is that there is now TWO Jamet producers, as the 2 Jamet brothers split up & went their separate ways.  Jean-Paul Jamet still has the Domaine Jamet label & half of their prime vineyard holdings & Jean-Luc Jamet is the proprietor of this particular wine & label, using his split of the vineyards.  Based upon this wine, I can’t wait to try his Côte-Rôtie “Terrasses” bottling…..& later compare, side by side, the Côte-Rôtie produced by each brother.  Thank you Jamm & Erica for sharing this bottle.

2013 Château Fontanès  “La Petite Serine”–from its first vintage, I have taken a fancy to this Syrah based red wine.  It is the handiwork of Cyriaque Rozier, also the winemaker of Château La Roque, down in the Pic St. Loup appellations of southern France.   Château Fontanès  is his own project.  While most noted for “country” styled wines, including one produced from Cabernet Sauvignon from his own organically/biodynamically vineyards.  A while back, Cyriaque acquired some Petite Serine vine cuttings from the Rhone Valley to the north & from pretty serious minded producers & planted them in his home turf.  I remember way back when early on, the most interesting, compelling northern Rhone Syrahs were, more often that not, produced from this heirloom/heritage vine at houses such as Verset, Clape, Chave & most notably Gentaz Dervieux.  Good enough endorsement for me.  The variable it seems, however, is the controversy of which vine is actually Petite Serine?  Well, if I was impressed by the wines from that iconic quartet, then if it were up to me, I would go to each of them & plead for cuttings.  Cyriaque would not disclose which producers he sought out, but I would say, I’m sure they are that level of quality.  His 2013 “La Petite Serine” wine is much more interesting, savory & compelling than those from most of his neighbors.  I definitely feel he is on to something & the wine is worth searching out, keeping in mind, this is NOT Cru quality or to be confused from Cornas, Hermitage & Côte-Rôtie.  I should also mentioned when one tastes this wine & then look at the more than reasonable price tag, you will appreciate it more & more.  Thank you Jacob for sharing this bottle.

2015 Gramenon “Sierra du Sud”–this was another big time group favorite, I would say because of its provocative transparency, apparent vinosity, balance, texture & uplifting finish.  This is old vine Syrah from the northern reaches of the southern Rhone Valley, grown by a uber–au naturale minded family who lives by this principals, rather just writing about them.   While most of their red wines are Grenache based, Sierra du Sud is Syrah, grown in a varied mix of clay & limestone with gravel, galets roulés, and/or sand.  While I have been a fan of this domaine, their culture & their wines for quite some time, this really was the first time that the Sierra du Sud bottling rocked me.  I was really taken.  Thank you Heather for sharing this bottle.

2014 JL Chave Crozes Hermitage “Silène”–we were again quite taken by this wine & its very skillful winemaking.  While Chave is one of the most iconic wine families in the world (& since 1481), I remember the then younger Jean Louis Chave launching his JL Chave wines in the early 90’s, almost as if to serve as entry wines to their wine world.  I also remember the first 2 St Josephs were very impressive.  This 2014 Crozes Hermitage “Silène” had way more class, mojo & character than almost all of the other Crozes Hermitage red wines I have previously encountered.   I am sure that can be attributed to using grapes coming from more fertile, flatland parcels, while the JL Chave mainly comes from a steep hillside on the east facing flank of Hermitage hill, all done with the Chave masterful winemaking touch.  I think most agreed they would buy this wine, given the chance.  Thank you Keith for sharing this wine with us.

2013 Clape “Vin de Amis”–this was yet another wine everyone really seemed to fawn over.  The nose was classic northern Rhone Syrah–lavender, violets, raw meat, herbs, olives, green peppercorns, musk–explosive & so compelling.  In the mouth this wine was rich, surprisingly voluptuous without any sense of heaviness whatsoever, seamless & VERY savory, soulful & marvelous is the best word I could think of.  It had amazing wow factor without being Cru quality.   This is 100% Syrah produced from young Cornas vines & from a 1 hectare parcel of round river stone soils, just south of the village.  Definitely a wine worth seeking out, especially given the quality for dollar ratio!

2009 Matthieu Barrett Cornas “Les Terrasses du Serre”–Matthieu is a young winemaker of Cornas whose notoriety is meteorically growing amongst the sommelier community & press across the country.  (the Wine Spectator for instance is all over this wine & this domaine, rating it 95 points).  His domaine–Domaine du Coulet–owns roughly 10 hectares of Cornas vineyards, which means over 10% of the total AOC Cornas acreage, mainly in “gore” soils (decomposing granite).  His Les Terrasses du Serre bottling (1 of 4 he currently produces) is 100% Syrah–45 year old vines, 70% in oak (6 to 10 year old barrels) for 18 months & 30% in concrete egg.  I didn’t know what to make it of this wine at first, as it is much more about unrestrained power, density, fortitude–attributes that warrants the high scores & accolades.  While the gaminess & rustiness is toned down (thankfully for most tasters), & the winemaking very skillful, I then would question its meter on soulfulness, especially since I was brought up with Cornas from Verset, Clape & later Allemand.  After all is said & done, however, I would say, yes, there is a big niche for this wine.  It does make you stop, think & enjoy.  Plus, on line, the wine is listed at $59.99, which is substantially lower than those of Clape & Allemand.   Thank you Keith for sharing.

2014 Lionel Faury Côte Rôtie–we are big fans of this northern Rhone Valley domaine & its wines.  Philippe Faury started the domaine in 1979 & over the years grew his vineyard holdings to 11 hectares (last count).  I had even heard early on, they had acquired some of the breathtaking, steep St Joseph vineyards of Joseph Panel (another of my past favorites).  Son, Lionel, took over the reins, I was told, in 2006 (although his father still works side by side with him).  I love the purity/transparency of their wines as “there’s a real attention to detail here, and nothing is done in haste.  Every method used encourages the grape towards greatness with the ultimate respect for its fragility” as one writer appropriately noted.  “The vines were planted in 1993 & 2008, on steep slopes (with a grade of up to 45%) facing south by south-east, from two parcels in Côte Brune (Fourvier and Le Plomb).  The real compelling-ness of this wine really starts with its wonderful perfume–white & dark flower floridity, so enticing & fragrant with a core of provocative musk, sandalwood, earthy, smoky, exotic spice nuances.  On the palate, it is lovely, soothing, enchanting, somewhat velvety, despite its apparent masculinity.  Yup, a New Age Côte Rôtie, done in a more classical style, well worth seeking out.  Thank you Storm for sharing!

2014 Lionel Faury Côte Rôtie “Emporium”–in comparison, their “Emporium” bottling comes exclusively from their Fourvier lieu-dit & is VERY different.  I felt it to be more majestic & aristocratic….more pedigree–more compact, with more structure & impact.  It is “quietly” more showy, at least by their standards though NEVER as showy as those from Guigal, Chapoutier & other more modernists.  Both wines are 70 to 80% destemmed & aged in 220 & 600 liter barrels (Emporium for 27 months & the AOC for 18 months).  I was really taken with these wines.  Thank you Cheryle for sharing.

 

2005 Patrick Jasmin Côte Rôtie —This domaine is now run by the fourth generation of this family, extending back to the late 1800’s.  I first visited back in 1991, when Robert was still alive & running the domaine.  It was a very memorable visit, which is saying a lot for me when one considers I also visited–Chave, Gentaz Dervieux, Rene Rostaing, Verset & Clape, just to name a few Syrah highlights on that trip.  Robert was a burly, jovial & passionate man & what stuck in my mind from that initial visit, was that he owned but only 4 hectares of prime vineyards (today it is 5 hectares), where he co-planted both 96% Syrah ( a séléction massale known as “la vieille sérine”, championing this ancient version of the varietal, known for its beautiful aromatics, smaller berries and seeds, and lower yields) with 4% Viognier.  Robert used Burgundian barrels to age his wines (in different sizes) & since 1984 he said he started experimenting with new oak–10% with the 1989.  He also started bottling, per his U.S. importer, Kermit Lynch’s request, his wines unfiltered & unfined with the 1989 vintage.  I was fortunate to taste his Côte Rôtie back to 1978.  I loved its wild rusticity, its provocative musk, earth, savage character in the wines, each vintage, which were as burly, surly & masculine as he was.  This 2005 had a similar “cheesy” kind of edge, I later recalled from my early on tastes at the domaine with similar earthy, smoke, masculine qualities that I had also found in those early bottlings.  I would say, that the 2005 had a much stronger oak presence, but was well integrated.  This wine was just a reminder for me of where northern Syrah came from & a VERY different persona/style than that we tasted from Matthieu Barrett earlier.  It’s funny, back in 1991 & on that trip, Rene Rostaing’s wines stood out from the rest, because of his avid use back then of new French oak, whereas Jasmin’s wine totally fit in.  Today in comparison, Jasmin stands out from the rest, particularly this 13 year old one, because of its old style.  Thank you Jamm & Erica for sharing.

Categories : General, Red, Wine, Wine Thoughts
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A Dinner with Bruce and Barbara Neyers of Neyers Winery in Napa Valley

Bruce Neyers is undoubtedly one of the most brilliant, knowledgeable wine “minds” I have ever run across.  He was part of the wine evolution in the Napa Valley during the 1970’s/80’s/90’s till the present.  In addition, in 1992, he became the National Sales Manager for Kermit Lynch Wine Merchants, one of the real “game changing” wine importers of small, artisan wineries from France (& now Italy as well).  Barbara Neyers was the right hand person for Alice Waters & her game changing Chez Panisse restaurant the first 20 or so years.  With the 1992 vintage, this incredible couple bought & relaunched their Neyers label, some of our very favorite wines out of California.  This are just some of the highlights of TWO illustrious, game changing careers, just so you better understand what level these 2 play on.

The behind the scenes workings of this couple, let me say that Bruce, because of his 40 plus years of experience in California has a very long time & comprehensive view & understanding of where we came from, what worked & what didn’t & launched this project accordingly.  In addition, with his workings with some of the most esteemed wine maestros from the Old World, he could include that to his methodology both in the vineyard & winemaking.  This would be quite a difference maker in their resulting wines.  (NO “fruit” bombs).

Furthermore, because of Barbara’s intimate knowledge of cooking (& Bruce’s for that matter) I could readily see, over the years, their move to more & more balanced wines, which were thankfully much more food friendly in style.

Lastly & most importantly, the Neyers winery is very uber-sustainable, in their approach to farming & making their wines.  It is the way they live.

Yes, they are quite the couple & I am so honored & thankful to have met them.

Here is the menu–

APPETIZER (d.k Steak House Executive Chef  Albert Balbas

 SLOW ROASTED KUROBUTA PORK BELLY–with a crispy “Small Kine Farms” cremini mushroom risotto cake, Swiss chard, and red wine rosemary jus

WINE:  2016 Neyers Carignan “Evangelho Vineyard”–a celebration of the 139 year old vines! Foot stomped, wild yeast fermented and bottled unfiltered. I think of this wine as a homage to the great Maxime Magnon of Southern France.

 

INTERMEZZO  (d.k Steak House Executive Chef Albert Balbas )

TRUFFLE CAJUN SEARED HAWAIIAN AHI— with cilantro pesto, ponzu, crispy garlic chips, and lemon garlic aioli

 

2ND COURSE (Sansei Waikīkī Executive Chef Adrian Solorzano) 

SEARED SCALLOP WITH SQUID INK PASTA–with Mari’s Gardens mixed greens, Limoncello vinaigrette, roasted garlic-almond butter, shaved beets & fennel

WINE:  2016 Neyers Chardonnay “304”–Bruce Neyers–“A few years ago Tadeo Borchardt accompanied me on one of my regular trips to France, and we arranged a visit in Chablis with my favorite winemaker there, Roland Lavantureux. The tasting was a career turner for both of us, as we moved through wine after wine, each bursting with bright flavors, crisp acidity, and an aftertaste of refreshing minerality. Later that day, we made our plan to produce a bottling of Chardonnay with no oak contact.  First we needed a source for the grapes. Paul Larson’s family has been growing grapes in the Carneros District of Sonoma County for over a century, and Paul has a parcel that is thought to be the southern-most Chardonnay vineyard in Sonoma County. That proximity to the Bay makes it one of the coldest grape-growing spots in northern California. Moreover, many of the vines are in the bed of what used to be a large creek, so the soil is rocky, with a deep gravel deposit. Those two factors – cold climate and rocky soil – make the vineyard particularly attractive for a Chablis-style Chardonnay, as the combination of high natural acidity with strong minerality are two elements we look for in classic Chablis. We were delighted that the weather at Larson’s vineyard was so chilly that these were the last grapes we harvested.”  Shot Wente Chardonnay vine, wild yeast fermented in stainless steel (& 15% concrete), no ML, circulating lees contact.  A real favorite!

 

INTERMEZZO  ( Sansei Waikīkī Executive Chef Adrian Solorzano) 

SHRIMP CEVICHE–with fried quinoa, cilantro, sweet Maui onions, & yuzu juice

 

MAIN ENTRÉE  (d.k Steak House Executive Chef Albert Balbas) 

“ANDREW’S MEAT” TAJIMA WAGYU STRIP LOIN–with pancetta haricot verts, au poivre sauce, grilled Hamakua Ali’i mushrooms & smashed fingerling potatoes

WINES–2014 Neyers Cabernet Sauvignon  “Neyers Ranch”–We have watched with joy the journey of this couple & their estate vineyard over the years.  Today, without a doubt their Cabernet Sauvignon bottlings are some of the VERY best out of California because their experiences (both from Napa Valley & the Old World), ever growing expertise, vision & worldliness, their passion & their grass roots driven hard work, gritty determination & perseverance.  “When we were ready to plant Cabernet Sauvignon on our Conn Valley Ranch in 1984, we dug more than 20 test holes on the property. The exposed 8’ depth of soil from each of them was analyzed by the best soil chemist in the area. He directed us to plant Merlot on all of the land below 600 feet elevation. Why? Because above 600 feet the soil changed dramatically, and became much more suitable for Cabernet Sauvignon. Once onto higher ground, the clay/loam/gravel soil was given over to rocky land rich with Basalt. Cabernet Sauvignon is a vigorous grape variety, and the rocky hillside soil retards its vigor, which is much better for the wine.  The Neyers Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard in the hills of Conn Valley is one of the rare 10% in the Napa Valley capable of producing great Cabernet Sauvignon. This happened through careful planning, though, not simply the good fortune of being in the Napa Valley. The project that we began in 1984 with the purchase of our home ranch, has now exceeded our wildest expectations. It only took 30 years“. Bruce Neyers

2010 Neyers Merlot  “Napa Valley”–(A library selection from the winery, served out of magnum).  It was the 1992 Neyers Merlot that initially caught my attention, it was that special. I would further add this bottling is the finest out of California year in and year out. What a wine this truly is!   WOW!  Organically farmed, this is vanguard wine for the cellar and definitely worth checking out. They sadly don’t produce an estate Merlot bottling any more.

 

DESSERT  (DK Restaurants Pastry Chef Cherrie Pascua) 

MAUI GOLD PINEAPPLE BREAD PUDDING–with housemade haupia squares, candied macadamia nuts, and crème Anglaise

Great job & much mahalos to the Chefs & the Management team!  Thank you to Managing Partner Ivy Nagayama for always doing unreal things, “out of the box” to make us all think differently & continue growing.  Kudos & much respect!

Here are FOUR very interesting wines that not too many wine buyers would go looking for in a wine store, but I would say, each are worth experiencing. I had my first Irouléguy and Cahors in the 1980’s and my first Zweigelt in the early 1990’s AND, I still keep going back for more. Why? Because each are unique, interesting and authentic wines, which shed a very different light on what wine can be and each is from a family owned and run wine estate. I find it so fascinating when a winery incorporates the family’s culture and heritage into what they do, especially when new generations tweak without taking away from the integrity, typicity and soul of the wine. Please join us on this journey.

2015 Arretxea Irouléguy–66% Tannat, 17% each of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.  This masculine, savage, wildly rustic, savory red from the Basque area of southwestern France is a unique, authentic, family owned project reminiscent of the old days & ways.   Their steep, terraced land is amid beautifully lush wildflowers, set against the white peaks of the Pyrénées,The sandstone soils of Irouléguy are ideal for these grapes because they are streaked with iron oxide, mica, silica, limestone, clay, and dolomite. The mineral diversity lends an intensity to the wines, making them wild, earthy, tannic, and rich in spicy aromas.”

2015 Château La Grave Cahors–100% Malbec.  Cahors is the ancestral home of the Malbec grape variety.   Historically A.O.C. Cahors is known as the “black wine” of the Southwest—deeply inky, hearty, earthy wines”.

2013 Sattler Zweigelt “Reserve”–How often does one get to sample a top Austrian red wine?  “Zweigelt is Austria’s most widely planted red variety. It is is a cross of two traditional Austrian varieties St.Laurent and Blaufränkisch and produces some of Austria’s most interesting red wines. In this case, the estate vineyards are located around the village of Tadten in the winegrowing district of Neusiedlersee. Tadten is part of an enormous gravel bar that stretches more than five kilometers and the soils are therefore mineralic and layered with gravel, brown earth and occasionally sand”.

2010 Château Moulin “Canon-Fronsac”A throwback in style to the Old Days, when Bordeaux reds smelled and tasted like Bordeaux wines. This bottling is 100% Merlot grown in the clay limestone soils of Canon-Fronsac on the Right Bank of Bordeaux.

 

Categories : General, Red, Wine
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Jul
16

A Tasting of Pinot Noir

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Last night we did a tasting of Pinot Noirs with the VINO staff & some of our wine friends.  We served the wines BLIND (again, not to guess anything, but instead just to assess the wine–whether it was good or not–why/why not–……how much would you pay retail for it……& what kinds of foods would it work with & why).   This was fun & quite insightful.  It is amazing what side by side tastings can help reveal.  (FYI–I eliminated those that didn’t show so well in this blog, just to keep things positive).

2016 CF Wines Pinot Noir “Santa Maria Valley”–The 2016 has just arrived into Hawaii & this was the first time our staff actually tried the wine.  Like the 2015, it was light in color–one could readily see through the wine–, had wonderfully alluring perfume (although there was fruit smells, it definitely had an underlying minerality/earth core, especially on the palate).  Yes, this wine was quite ethereal, savory, remarkably light on the palate, though very compelling, lovely, delicious, seamless AND UN-oaky, UN-heavy, UN-alcoholic–& therefore ideal with a wide range of foods it could work with.  I was very proud of the wine, & even more so because everyone liked it so much.  In fact, for many, it was the wine of the night, which was saying a lot, given the incredible line-up.  Thank you Gary Burk of Costa de Oro again for another wonderful vintage.  (I believe the first vintage was 2002 & with each vintage, the outcomes just seems to be getting better & better.  I really don’t completely understand how Gary does it!)

2012 Neely Pinot Noir “Spring Ridge Vineyard–Hidden Block” –while this wine was quite masculine & savory in style, it displayed a surprisingly light hue, which was very different than the last time I had had it.  It had dark kinds of fruit with a stoniness/base notes in the core, was seamless, suave & a wonderful drink.  On this night, this bottling showed so much better than what I have experienced from previous vintages, which were also very good, especially for the dollar.  It was also a popular selection on the night from the tasters.  (3 acres–roughly 700 feet in elevation, planted in 1997–Dijon clone 115–fractured sedimentary soils, no irrigation, NO herbicides/pesticides, wild yeast fermented, bottled unfiltered, unfined, for all 405 cases).

2016 Camino Pinot Noir “Umino Vineyard”–this is the handiwork & own project of Tadeo Borchart, winemaker of Neyers Vineyards.  The grapes come from Umino Vineyard in the Sebastopol Hills appellation, a very cool hillside (11 acres planted in 1996/1997 to Dijon clones & #459. though I am not sure what Tadeo actually gets) within the Sonoma Coast AVA.  This wine was not as showy as one would expect from Dijon clones & this neck of the woods, but that’s just Tadeo’s style.  Tasters all agreed it was very enjoyable–suave, classy & VERY well balanced, something to be thankful for in these parts & these days.

2016 Big Table Farm Pinot Noir “Willamette Valley”–When we opened Sansei in Seattle in I believe 2015, we made sure we included their wine onto the small, but well selected winelist.  While in Seattle recently, I was reminded this to be one of the hotshot wineries from Oregon by 2 of the finest wine stores there.  So, I bought a bottle to try.  The Oregon wines we had previously admired included top end projects such as Evening Land, Chapter 24 & more recently Lingua Franca, each interestingly feature superstar French consultants such as Dominique Lafon & Louis Michel Liger-Belair, as well as highly revered American wine professionals such as Master Sommelier Larry Stone, Rajat Parr & winemaker Sashi Moorman.  I originally searched out Big Table Farm because winemaker Brian Marcy did a stint at Neyers winery in the Napa Valley, a winery who does things in the vineyard & winery with Old World sensibilities & uber-sustainably.   NO big press & NO big star power, just a couple set to own an actual working farm, complete with animals & respect for the land, to which they added a winery.  (Maybe it was wine first, then came the farm).  The perfume was pretty, nuanced, alluring & compelling rather than showy or oaky.  On the palate, we loved the elegance, grace, transparency & balance of the wine.  It was delicious & very intriguing in a more civil, well balanced style.   This style of wine sometimes gets overlooked in side by side comparative tastings, especially ones like this with so many quality minded wines.  It grabbed my attention!

2016 Rose & Arrow Estate Pinot Noir “1st Highland Close–Chehalem Mountain”–I originally opened a single vineyard Oregon Pinot Noir for this slot, but was shaken in disbelief how much VA the wine overtly displayed, UNTIL I realized it was “barrel sample”.  My mistake.  (Barrel samples should be consumed as early on as possible, especially those using little sulfur).  So, to remedy the situation, I grabbed this bottle of wine, as I was scrambling around, searching for something to fill the slot.  In short, this wine was a revelation.  I was really taken by its supreme elegance, grace, class, texture & balance.  While the others tasted really good, this was CRU quality…..majestic & highly sophisticated.  I previously did not know what I was opening, so you can imagine my surprise & thrill after popping it open & tasting it!  OMG.  The “1st Highland Close” bottling is from 1.88 acres–very rocky & higher elevations–in the Chehalem Hills & crafted by team Chapter 24.  346 cases.

2014 Denis Jamain Reuilly Rouge–The appellation of Reuilly is located in the Central Vineyards of France’s Loire Valley.  Its nearby neighbors include the more recognizable Sancerre & Pouilly Fume.  Interestingly, one of Reuilly’s other neighbors, Quincy, was the 2nd appellation approved by the French government in the 1936 AOC declaration (even before anything from Bordeaux, Burgundy or Champagne!).  The point being, this area has been noted for growing & making noteworthy wines for quite some time.  I would add to that, that the notoriety was more for the white wines back then, pre-“warming of the planet” & its effects of more sun drenched vintages & therefore the increase in frequency of red wine production & the subsequent higher acclaim.  While the soils of Sancerre & Pouilly Fume are a mix of limestone, sand, gravel & marl to the clay, Jamain’s Reuilly vineyards feature Kimmeridgian limestone soils, very similar in profile to those found in Chablis.  As wine lovers well know, the white wines of Chablis, at its best, offer such purity, divine minerality, etherealness & lightness on the palate, so very different from the other Burgundy Chardonnays to the south.  Jamain’s Reuilly similarly offers this kind of character in their white wines, intertwined with the traits of Sauvignon Blanc.  On the red side, their Pinot Noir based reds similarly are light colored & weighted, more ethereal, leaner, firmer, lower in alcohol & therefore much more quaffable & food friendly in style.  Not for everyone, but certainly a treat for us to try.

2015 Meyer Näkel Spätburgunder “Ahr”–I vividly remember my first experience with this producer & his wines back in the late 1980’s, they were that good!  I was also quite in awe when I traveled there in the early 1990’s when seeing their vineyards & just talking story with Werner.  While many of the top echelon of German winemakers have a real precise, more scientific edge, I instantly found Werner Näkel, to be more engaging, which makes sense since he was previously a school teacher before taking over the reins of this iconic estate.  That first encounter was, in fact, a big welcome party, complete with a big tent, lots of wine, simple pupus & lots of talking story & laughter with at least 50 to 60 people.  I was again quite taken by his Pinots, & on this night, especially his “S” bottling.  These were definitely wines to be taken seriously, at a time when German Pinot Noir was almost as a novelty, with exceptions from Joachim Heger from Baden & Paul Fürst from Franconia.  Meyer Näkel is located in the Ahr region, the most northerly of all of the winegrowing regions of Germany.  They have 3 noteworthy Cru vineyards–2 featuring some blue slate to the base & the other gray slate to the base.  That is why I often get a slate-y character in the wines & the wines over all have a distinct minerality to them.  Werner was selected 2004 “Gault Millau Winemaker of the Year” & deservedly so.  The wines feature a masculinity in their core, but are nonetheless seamless & well balanced.

2014 François Lumpp Givry Premier Cru, “Petit Marole”–François Lumpp is located in Givry within the Côte Chalonnaise of Burgundy, France.  Because of the ever rising prices of the noteworthy Pinot Noir based red wines, especially from the Côte de Nuits & its iconic villages such as Chambolle Musigny, Gevrey Chambertin & Vosne Romanee, we are always looking elsewhere & digging around for gems, which offer quality at more affordable prices.  Here is one which recently came on to our radar screen.  While, this wine will never be confused with any of these more renown, iconic villages by any means, one can’t help but appreciate the wonderful transparency, pretty & ethereal qualities of this wine.  Yes, I adore Pinots which are alluring, classy, refined & delicately nuanced.  This is that kind of wine AND we were all quite surprised at its reasonable price.

2015 Ganevat Pinot Noir “Cuvée Julien”–“Jean-François Ganevat is a master of his craft, one of the true magicians of the eclectic. To say that his grapes are spun into gold would not be far from the truth; they are entirely otherworldly.”  Ganevat works with vineyards in the Jura region of eastern France, each at varying elevation, steepness grades & facings.  I therefore thought why not throw in one of his extremely hard to get wines just to provide a different perspective & hopefully create a stir.  Cuvée Julien comes from a 7 hectare parcel of limestone-clay, which was planted in 1977.  Its done via whole cluster & aged for 12 months in oak.  The resulting wine is NOT oaky, but one can readily tell it is framed by oak.  This wine has a mesmerizing purity/transparency, wonderful, soothing texture, bountiful sublime nuances which just appears with each swirl & sip.   Yes, this was a wine to behold & I think referring to it as entirely otherworldly is most apropos.

2000 François Jobard Blagny “La pièce sous le bois”–François Jobard has been one of my favorite producers out of Burgundy for a long time, though mainly for his Cru white Meursaults.  Over the years he also produced this bottling of red wine, which was always hit or miss for me.  It wasn’t about the quality of what’s in the bottle at all.  I find/found this bottling to be very moody with more downs than ups.  Someone in the know once lamented to me that this wine just doesn’t travel well at all.  Makes sense to me, because usually when I taste it, it is so closed & unforgivingly hard, even more so than their white wines can be.  On the other hand, I once tried a 1996, which was re-released from the winery in the mid to late 2000’s that I thought to myself–“finally”!  Well, unfortunately the other 11 bottles of the case, were closed & hard.  There is no doubt the wine has vinosity & complexities, but they are so hidden.  I even had a 2002 & a 1995 in the past couple of weeks & walked away scratching my head in bewilderment.  The 2000, on the other hand, on this night was halfway open.  It had a murky, masculine, tight fisted perfume that I thought was captivating once the bottle stink aired away.  In the mouth, it was NOT welcoming or delicious in any sense, but this wine had good structure, vinosity in the core & was finely detailed, just tight fisted & still quite hard.  The partially open nose still made it a wine well worth trying.  Sadly this vineyard has been redone with Chardonnay, so whatever bottles are out there is the last of this bottling.  Thank you Helen & Brent for sharing.  I always love the opportunity to try a wine from François Jobard.

Categories : General, Red, Wine, Wine Thoughts
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Jul
16

Old World Classics

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The wine world has greatly changed over the past twenty years and will continue to change as time rolls on. The lines of typicity and authenticity for each region, each wine is getting blurred by the dramatic improvements both in working the vineyards and in the winery. What are classic wines today? Here are four that we think fit the bill. We will serve them blind, just for fun! Please join us on this journey.

2014 Domaine de Durban Beaumes de Venise–We thought this wine was important to show because of it’s wonderful savoriness.  We find savoriness can very important when considering food pairing.  The Leydier family took over this ancient site in the 1960’s.  Although located in France’s southern Rhone Valley, their Grenache based red wines (this one  typically roughly 70% Grenache, 25% Syrah & 5% Mourvedre) are very different from the other, more famous villages, partly because of the grape mix, the vineyard’s soils & special microclimate.  “To walk through the high-altitude vineyards at Domaine de Durban is to walk through an astounding span of history. On the site of a former Roman healing springs destination, a mere handful of soil reveals well-preserved, ancient Roman roof tiles and medieval pot shards. The domaine and its vineyards sit atop a picturesque plateau in the Vaucluse, sheltered by the Dentelles de Montmirail, just above of the village of Beaumes-de-Venise.   A constellation of fortune seems to converge at this particular spot. Pine trees protect the area from the intensity of the persistent mistral. The soils are rich and deep, with clay, limestone, and the soft, ochre Trias, (quite different from the flatter, lower elevation vineyards of sand, clay & galet stones of the neighboring villages), lending finesse and freshness to their wines. The high altitude in the vineyards means a slightly cooler microclimate with strong sun exposure, a blessing that the Leydiers credit for the amazing consistency their wines enjoy year after year“.

2005 López de Heredia Rioja Reserva “Bosconia”–this truly iconic Rioja estate is one of the few who still follow the traditions which Rioja is historically world renown for.  This family has preserved for over 130 years of running this estate & their inclusive vineyards, the 2 most notable–Bosconia & Tondonia.  This 2005 Bosconia is classic Rioja–Tempranillo (80% or so), Garnacho (15% or so), Mazuelo and Graciano, spending 5 years in barrel.  It’s no wonder that this venerable Rioja star & its Tempranillo based reds in all its glory, is the rage among the sommelier community across the country.

2012 A & G Fantino Barolo “Dardi”–we were so thankful this estate came on our radar screen.  For me, it is getting harder & harder to find small, artisan Barolo-ists like this, who own & farm these kinds of special vineyard parcels & grow & craft more classical styled wines with this kind of pedigree, old style typicity, authenticity & personal touch.   In addition, their wines have a wonderful purity/transparency & though quite masculine in its core, they still offer elegance & refinement, rather than being coarse, (especially in its youth), surprisingly accessible (without the use of roto fermentors) & controversially rustic.  “The Fantinos are also blessed with some of the oldest vines in the entire Barolo zone, thanks to the fastidious care given to them by Alessandro and Gian Natale. Planted in 1946 and 1947 and pruned in an old style that is very labor intensive. Barolos from Bussia tend to have deep color and rich fruit and while they don’t lack the classic tannic structure of Nebbiolo from this part of the world, they are not nearly as hard as the Barolos from the southside of Monforte or from Serralunga”.

2015 Faury St Joseph–we absolutely love the nose of this wine-exotically perfumed, gamey, peppery & lavender scented–as it does capture the core of what the Syrah grape variety can be.  The vines were planted in 1979 & 2007 on steep terraced hillsides.  “The steep slopes of the northern Rhône present a challenging terrain where farming is only feasible through terracing. On these terraced slopes, the Faurys’ vines take full advantage of the southern and southeastern sun exposure, benefitting from optimum ripening.  A combination of the predominately granitic soil, partial de-stemming (in about 70% of the grapes), soft crushing of the grapes with a pneumatic press, and temperature controlled fermentation offer a liveliness and freshness that one does not often find in wines from the northern Rhône.  There’s a real attention to detail here, and nothing is done in haste.  Every method used encourages the grape towards greatness with the ultimate respect for its fragility.  Pigeage, the punching of the cap, is not carried out with tools, but gently by foot – not just poetic but also pragmatic.  Unlike many other vignerons in the region, the Faurys have a strong aversion to new oak. Though the reds definitely see time in barrels, there is a rotation between new and old alike, along with a variety of sizes, ranging from the smaller barriques to the larger 600-liter demi-muids. 

Categories : General, Red, Wine, Wine Thoughts
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