Archive for Wine Thoughts

Feb
05

Wine Speak Page 5 “Hospitality”

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The Wine Speak journey really started when Amanda Wittstrom Higgins asked if I would come to Paso Robles to teach some classes for the wine tasting room attendants & the servers of restaurants from their area.  I was really quite taken that she & her team were searching for ways to move the wine community of her area forward.  Education is certainly a good call…..especially their wish to bring “outside” talent in to shed light from a different perspective.  That would prove to be the underlying driving core of Wine Speak–come to share & learn, thus fostering camaraderie & collaboration.  Thank you all who came to share & learn!

DAY THREE-Panel One “ABC’s of Wine” 

I was really moved looking at the attendees faces during this seminar.  One could readily see a community of professionals wanting to learn.  I was just looking to say things that would make each think…& then hopefully “imagine the possibilities”.

 

DAY THREE-Panel Two  “So you want to be a professional”

Originally, this panel was entitled “so you want to be a somm?”  Back in the 1980’s Fred Dame worked hard to bring the Master Sommelier exam to America.  (It was previously only given in England, AND in my opinion, Fred was the only person I knew who could make this happen.  We as a wine community truly owe him so much thanks for all he did & still does).  Today, because of the great influence the Court Of Master Sommeliers has on setting standards on wine service, there has been a whole new generation striving for the MS pin, with generations also lining up behind.  The purpose of this panel was to ask 3 iconic, long time sommeliers to share their insights, wisdom & experiences which would hopefully remind us what the true “craft” of being a sommelier is & inspire all, moving forward.

 

–Fred Dame MS–former long time Chairman of the Court of Master Sommeliers

–Nunzio Alioto MS–former long time Chairman of the Court of Master Sommeliers

–Mark Shishido–Wine Director of Alan Wong’s Restaurant in Hawaii & Hawaii Restaurant Association “Hall of Fame” recipient

Thanks guys for coming to share.

 

DAY THREE-Panel Three “Hospitality by Hawaiian Airlines” 

Up until 10 months ago, I was traveling interisland here in Hawaii, at least 2 times a week.  Add to that the mainland jaunts I would also take during the calendar year & that added to the growing number of miles on an airplane.  I always prefer to fly on Hawaiian Airlines.  The flight attendants truly make me feel welcome, appreciated AND cared for.  So, when my event partner Amanda asked the principals responsible for the service to come share what they do hospitality wise & how they teach this, I was thrilled, as I have experienced the results of their hard work countless of times.  How they execute hospitality is remarkable & special & hopefully, the professionals of the Paso Robles/Atascadero area would benefit from their story.

–Renee Awana, Managing Director Product Development, Hawaiian Airlines 

–Alisa Onishi, Director of Brand Management, Hawaiian Airlines

These two ladies absolutely killed it!  They created ambiance, incredible content & an A+ presentation that, judging by the crowd’s reaction, inspired & moved all who attended, including me!  I was so thankful for the experience.  Thank you ladies.

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Feb
05

Wine Speak–Page 4 “Day Two”

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Just to provide a very different perspective on the Syrah & Cabernet grape varieties featured & discussed on Day One, we assembled 2 panels for Day Two, with some very amazing talent from the Central Coast of California to foster & continue the open discussions.

DAY TWO, Panel One–“Central Coast Syrah” 

We settled on featuring 3 panelists for this one.   (left to right in the picture)

–Matt Dees. Jonata.  Jonata is a top echelon wine project, which is the Santa Barbara-n sister of Napa Valley’s much heralded Screaming Eagle winery.  The estate vineyard is located in the Ballard Canyon, southeast & therefore warmer than the Pinot Noir country of the highly acclaimed Santa Rita Hills.  As we have seen over the years, this special site, under the direction of winemaker Matt Dees & iconic superstar wine consultant, Michel Rolland, has been producing some super high scoring, sought after Syrah & Cabernet Sauvignon based red wines. 

–Justin Smith, Saxum.  I think most would agree, Justin is one of the most prominent wine figures in the Paso Robles appellation & deservedly so.  His family own & run the very revered James Berry Vineyard.  His own label, Saxum, is one of the very top collectibles out of all of California.  In fact his 2007 Saxum “James Berry” bottling garnered 100 points AND was selected at the top of Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines.  In addition, Justin has helped many top level wineries to kick start their project by helping them select a site, advise on the planting & even winemaking.  Who better to provide insight into the Paso Robles appellation than he?  

–Adam Tolmach, Ojai.  I am one of those BIG fans who believe the Ojai Syrah from Bien Nacido Vineyard is one of the true standout Syrah based red wines in all of America.  In the 1980’s/early 1990’s, owner/winemaker Adam Tolmach was co-founding winemaker/partner of Au Bon Climat, which specialized in Chardonnay & Pinot Noir done with Old World sensibilities.  We were so thankful when Adam founded Ojai & added Syrah to his portfolio.  With the 1992 vintage Adam convinced the Miller family to plant Z Block, up atop the hill rising above Bien Nacido proper (Santa Maria Valley).  It really was this parcel & what it offered & his Old World sensibilities that catapulted the Ojai Syrah to the head of the class.  He is more than a top winemaker.  Adam Tolmach is “Hall of Fame” in my book & it is an honor having him on the panel.

 

DAY TWO, Panel Two–“Central Coast Cabernet Sauvignon” 

We settled on featuring 4 panelists for this one. 

–Matt Dees, Jonata (Ballard Canyon).  El Desafio de Jonata is one of the most highly acclaimed Cabernet Sauvignon based out of the Santa Barbara appellation & we asked founding winemaker Matt Dees to shed some light on the evolution of this wine.  Unlike its neighbors, the Jonata estate vineyard sits on sand.  How does Cabernet fair in such soils?  To show us what can be, Matt shared his 2005 with us.

–Guillaume Febre, Clos Solène (Paso Robles).   Clos Solène is the fulfillment of a dream for Guillaume & his wife Solène.  In the beginning, his family has crafted wine and farmed wineries in Narbonne, South of France for the past three generations.  “Guillaume lived on the winery in the south of France, Château Saint-Eugénie, until he was 22. He was attending University in 2000 when his family decided to sell its land and move the wine business to Bordeaux, in the Côtes de Bourg, Northwest Bordeaux City“.  Guillaume instead chose to move to California where he worked with Stephane Asseo at L’Aventure for many years.  It is understandable given his past that he works with both red Rhone varietals & Cabernet Sauvignon.

–Tyler Thomas, Star Lane (Happy Canyon).  I remember back in the early 1990’s, Bryan Babcock noting the huge potential he felt Cabernet grown in Happy Canyon had.  Winemaker Tyler Thomas was recommended to us by Matt Dees of Jonata, saying Tyler is the one who can help us understand the insights & potential this appellation has.  

–Michael Sinor, Ancient Peaks (Paso Robles).  We included Michael Sinor & the wines of Ancient Peaks, so we could be reminded of the great value these wines offer.  Estate grown fruit, from a family owned & operated vineyard, 1000 feet in elevation in southern Paso Robles…….all at $18 a bottle retail? As a wine buyer, one of our jobs is finding such value driven, quality wines.  What a discovery this was for us & we wanted Michael to provide insight into the project.

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Feb
05

Wine Speak–Page 3 “Day One”

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It started when I was asked to do a ABC wine class for tasting room/restaurant servers in Paso Robles by Amanda Wittstrom Higgins at Ancient Peaks winery.  I said sure.  Can we do more?  In 2 weeks time we were able to assemble our “dream team” of TOP professionals who could foster interesting insight, wisdom & experiences dialogue that would hopefully create more questions & dialogue.  And, if we included some from  “outside” the region this would help nurture cammaderie & create collaboration.

The first panel–“New World Syrah” was held on January 9, 2018.

The premise for me is I believe Syrah is one of the world’s top 3 red grape varieties AND so grossly under appreciated.  I believe as a wine community, we need to help raise awareness. 

I remember the first time I had the Cote Rotie from Gentaz Dervieux & thinking how the hell can God & man grow & produce a wine like this…..something way beyond a grape variety & winemaking.  This beckons the question, how can we in the New World move forward with that thought.  NOT to be French, but to move the taster similarly to what I had experienced.

Amanda & I were hoping through collaboration & sharing of ideas, insight & experiences with vine material, growing & producing, this can help those of the New World to move forward with this varietal.  We then thought, who would be our dream team to inspire people.  While I originally thought one panel would be enough, we decided to change & do a few panels, so we could better foster more discussions….from different perspectives.

DAY ONE, Panel One–“New World Syrah” 

We settled on featuring 4 panelists for this one.    

–Greg Harrington of Gramercy Cellars (Washington state), who I think is one of the VERY best from that area right now. In addition, FYI, Greg was the former wine director for the Wolfgang Puck restaurants AND Emeril Lagasse restaurants.  He was also President of the Court of Master Sommeliers—America Chapter for 5 years.  His wines deftly display his knowledge, vast experience & passion. 

–Bruce Neyers of Neyers Vineyards is one of the wine yodas.  I have known Bruce for 40 or so years.  I first met Bruce back in the 1970’s when he ran Joseph Phelps—a time when they were one of the first to champion Syrah (& Riesling) in California AND created Insignia, a Cabernet blend, with the 1974 vintage.  In addition, in1992 he took over as National Sales Manager for Kermit Lynch Wine Merchants (the premium game changing importer of true artisan standout French wines, such as Chave in Hermitage, Gentaz Dervieux & Robert Jasmin, Rene Rostaing in Cote Rotie & Clape, Verset & Allemand in Cornas amongst others).  Because he goes to France 3 to 4 times a year to visit them he clearly understands what they do & how, as he is REALLY good friends with each.  Bruce therefore because of 40+ years in California wine industry & 25 years dealing with the top producers of France is the ideal man to translate the New World & the Old World in these kinds of wines.

–Andy Peay of Peay Vineyards.  We asked Andy to come & give us insight into “cool” climate grown Syrah.  The Peay estate vineyard is located in the far northwestern corner of the Sonoma Coast, four miles from the ocean & reputed to be one of the coolest sites in the world for the Syrah grape variety.  It’s hard to imagine such an extreme, inhospitable site like theirs could ripen quality grapes every vintage. 

–Serge Carlei from Carlei Wines out of Victoria, Australia.  Although Serge is renown for Chardonnay & Pinot Noir, he also produces some very interesting Syrah in a much more civil style.  In addition, Serge has some very interesting views, insights & experiences on the whole organic/biodynamic grape growing subject.

 DAY ONE, Panel Two–“Cabernet Sauvignon”

Fortunately, all three of the panelists from the previous session also grow & produce superb Cabernet Sauvignon based wines too.  So, with this session we switch grape varieties, but continue the dialogue, sharing & insights to address this grape variety from different perspectives & 3 different parts of the New World.

Panelists:

–Serge Carlei  Carlei Wines (Victoria, Australia)

–Bruce Neyers Neyers Winery (Napa Valley, California)

–Greg Harrington of Gramercy Cellars (Walla Walla, Washington)

I loved how Bruce Neyers shared memories of the 70’s & 80’s in Napa Valley (& his work at Joseph Phelps); his work since 1992 with the producers from the Kermit Lynch portfolio & how he & his team continually evolve & transition because of his experiences.  And, Serge Carlei, for his “under the radar” region & very practical AND very personal organic/biodynamic regime in the vineyards & why.  And Greg Harrington for his wonderful insight into what’s happening in Washington state, wine production wise AND his incredible understanding & insights in a very practical, worldly manner.  Wow!  What a day!

 

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Feb
05

Wine Speak–Page 2 “The Place”

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I am most thankful for how the communities of Atascadero & Paso Robles just jumped in to support the Wine Speak event.  It really is what made this event & moment in time so special.  Thank you to ALL who made this happen in such a special way.  

The Carlton Hotel of Atascadero for being such an integral & gracious host.    

The town of Atascadero for letting us use their town hall, because of the size of attendance. 

 

 

The Pavillon

The people.  

 

The amazing event guru, Amanda Wittstrom Higgins & her Ancient Peaks team.

Again, thank you ALL!

 

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Feb
05

Wine Speak–Page 1 “The Mission”

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“Wine Speak” was a gathering of top wine professionals & wine lovers this past January (9, 10 & 11) in Paso Robles/Atascadero, California. 

Our goal was to create an opportunity for the wine community to get together for a time of sharing, learning and camaraderie.

By featuring a diverse range of topics, wines, regions and panelists, we wanted to kickstart dialogue and conversations that will move the central coast forward. Simply put, Wine Speak is all about sparking innovation through collaboration. 

We are so honored that leading wine authorities from near and far signed up to steer this inaugural event. We thank the many winemakers, sommeliers and hospitality professionals that attended AND the whole community of the area for just jumping in to create the collaborative magic I believe this event had.

Furthermore, this was ultimately a unique chance to make friends and build relationships in the name of our wine community.

Thank you to all who joined us.  

Sincerely,
Chuck Furuya (Co-Founder) and Amanda Wittstrom Higgins (Co-Founder Mainland)

 

 

 

 

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Jan
18

A Dinner with Fred Scherrer

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We are HUGE fans of Fred Scherrer & his wines!!!!!

Here is where it starts.

 

Here is the dinner we did with him on Friday, January 5th, 2018

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Jan
04

A Different Slant on Bubbly

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‘Tis the season for bubbly. Here is your chance to taste four very special, unique wines, yes, a completely different slant of what bubbly can be! This certainly proved to be an eye opener for many. 

Airole Lambrusco “Marcello”–We start this tasting with a sparkling (fizzy) red wine—100% Lambrusco Maestri, grown at 750 to 1000 feet in elevation overlooking the Po Valley in Emilia Romagna. Tasty, brimming with vitality, delicious, exuberant fruit & a wonderfully refreshing fizz.  This is a wine to enjoy.  Something to refresh.  Something to quench the thirst on an especially warm day.  Served well chilled, we also think this is a terrific choice with an assortment of salumi & cheese.   (By the way, this one of the most highly acclaimed Lambrusco—International Wine Challenge—2016 Gold Medal/ 2011 Best Sparkling Red Wine; 2011 VinItaly—Grand Gold Medal just to name a few). 

Gregoletto Prosecco “Sui Lieviti” (Italy)The category of Italian Prosecco now is one of the top wine imports into the U.S., & they range in price from $7.99 to $22 a bottle.  How does the average wine buyer know which one to buy?  Well, here is one that will set the bar for you on what true Italian Prosecco can be!  Gregoletto was in fact selected as SLO Foods—“Winery of the Year”. This avant garde winery ages their wines on lees for more complexity and bottle as such. A completely different perspective on what Italian Prosecco can be! The sui lieviti bottlings represent the history of this region before the Champagne method was invented. The secondary fermentation continues in bottle over an indeterminable amount of time, in fact each bottle is slightly different. Vino vivente! Living wine!” 

Ruggeri Prosecco Vecchie Viti(Italy)–As the category of Italian Prosecco continues to grow, I am sure we will see the concept of SUPER Prosecco also grow, both in production & in popularity too.  Perhaps some produced by method champenoise, perhaps some fermented or aged in French barrique barrels, certainly old vine cuvees or perhaps some incorporating a dollop of Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco or even Pinot Noir.  The question then would be, will it still be typical of Italian Prosecco?  Just so you have a starting point to compare others to, here is a standout Prosecco produced from a smattering of 80 to 100 year old vines! 90% Prosecco, 6% Verdiso, 2% Blanchetta & 2% Perere and six months on the lees for complexity. We will delighted to see how refined & airy this cuvee is, with sublime vinosity & tiny, flirtatious bubbles.  

Raventós I Blanc Brut Rose “De Nit” (Spain)If you are looking for a sparkling wine, but cannot afford the prices of Champagne, here is one to consider.  Yup.  Sparkling from Spain!  In fact, in my opinion one of the very best houses!  This family has been farming their land for twenty one generations! The vineyards are rich in fossilized marine soils and the grape growing (mostly Xarel-lo with some Monastrell blended in) and precise, detailed winemaking.  Bravo!  PLUS, it is uniquely still AND thankfully Spanish.

Dec
28

PINK Wines 08-17-17

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I am always re-amazed at how PINK wines have meteorically grown in popularity. Finally! One of the side effects of Rosés being en vogue, however, is that an inevitably growing number of not so good, commercially minded renditions pop up and continue to pop up….which in my opinion can either suffocate the store shelves with more plonk than good OR wine tasters will become leery of pink colored wines again. No….PLEASE……we cannot let that happen again. That was the inspiration for this night’s tasting, four standout PINK wines to show tasters what can be. To make things even more fun, we will serve BLIND! 

2014 Leccia Patrimono Rosé–A PINK specialty from one of the most revered producers out of Corsica and deservedly so. 80% Niellucciu & 20% Grenache grown in the remote, rugged, wild countryside, this is a masculine, hearty pink-ster which also thankfully has elegance & refinement. 

2016 Hans Wirsching Rosé Trocken–from the Franconia winegrowing region of Germany near the town of Iphof.  Although I have had this winery’s rosés in the past, I have not purchased any until this one. It not only is drastically different (a blend of Pinot Meunier, Portugeiser & Domina rather than Pinot Noir dominated), but it is also a real standout! Yes, if you treasure prettiness, perfume, finesse, deliciousness and ethereal lightness, you will enjoy this wine too! 

2016 Marquiliani Sciaccarellu Rosé–Produced from the indigenous Sciaccarellu grape variety (& 10% Syrah) on the remote eastern coast of Corsica, This for me is truly one of the most special renditions produced today. As importer Kermit Lynch aptly says—Drinking her rosé is like drinking a cloud. There’s an absolute weightlessness to it. Nothing is left on the palate but perfume.”  

2015 Regis Bouvier Marsannay Rosé–To help put this wine in perspective—the soils here are mostly limestone, the kind of limestone which is world famous for alluring, beguiling, elusive Pinot Noir RED wines. The village of Marsannay, however, is located at the top of the heralded Cotes de Nuits and has historically provided a kind of a warm up to the BIG GUN villages just a bit further south. For me, it also has been the home of some very noteworthy PINK wines, which Bouvier producing the most ethereal, pretty and delicious.

Categories : General, Rose, Wine, Wine Thoughts
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Dec
22

A Quartet of Gamay Noir 10-19-17

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I have been an admitted Gamay Noir/Beaujolais fan for sooooo many years. I still can’t understand why this category of wines is not blazing in popularity. How can one not love the deliciousness, the lightness of weight (viscosity) and heavenly gulpability of a slightly chilled Beaujolais AND, at such ridiculously reasonable prices. Well, here are a couple of other tidbits which might whet your appetite even more. They’ve genetically proven Gamay Noir is a descendent of Pinot Noir, which at least partially explains the deliciousness and incredible food compatability. We did one Gamay Noir tasting back at the end of August. We now look to yet another, with four DIFFERENT examples……each about deliciousness, food friendliness & gulpability. To make things even more fun, we will serve them BLIND!

2013 Stéphane Aviron Chenas “Vieilles Vignes”–Typically the Cru Village of Chenas produces more a masculine style of Beaujolais with lots of mojo.   “Stéphane Aviron uses old vine parcels & creates very expressive, age-worthy wines relying on traditional and new methods, including organic and biodynamic vineyard management. His wines are authentic in every way & drink like fine Burgundy. This Chenas is produced from pre-phylloxera vines that average over 100 years old. Yes, this is standout Cru Beaujolais! 

2014 Maison L’Envoye Morgon “Cote de Py”–The appellation’s finest vineyards are along the Côte du Py. Here is one from 40 to 50 year old vines planted in schist soils rich in manganese and iron. This soil structure provides a gunflint/mineral edge to the typical raspberry/dark red fruit nuances. This is true Cru Beaujolais, just like the old days–delicious, food friendly & gulpable in style. 

2013 Stéphane Aviron Morgon “Cote de Py”–The Morgon Cote du Py is Stéphane Aviron’s most structured, earthy wine. The grapes are sourced from the slopes of an 1150-foot inactive volcano that is regarded as one of the top terroirs in all of Beaujolais. The 40 to 50 year old vines face due south on a well pitched hillside of poor sandy soil. The wine is aged for 12 to 14 months in new & old barrels”–much more vanguard in style. 

2014 Quenard Gamay Noir “Chignin”–This is old vine Gamay Noir grown in the steep, terraced, limestone scree soils found in the foothills of the French Alps at truly dazzling heights. This was a chance to try another delicious, food friendly Gamay Noir from a different perspective.  This wine was much more open with its charm, vibrant personality & rustic scented perfume with a solid frame & firm tannins.

 

 

Categories : General, Red, Wine, Wine Thoughts
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Dec
22

A Quartet of Gamay Noir 08-31-17

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I have been an admitted Gamay Noir/Beaujolais fan for sooooo many years. How can one not love the deliciousness, the lightness of weight (viscosity) and heavenly gulpability of a slightly chilled Beaujolais? Well, here are a couple of other tidbits which might whet your appetite even more. They’ve genetically proven Gamay Noir is a descendent of Pinot Noir, which at least partially explains the deliciousness and incredible food compatability. Furthermore, the “Gang of Four” revolutionized and then took this grape variety and the region to a whole ‘nother level, following the principles of Jules Chauvet. So…on this night, we will try renditions from three Chauvet-ists AND then one mystery rendition, just to mix it up. To make things even more fun, we will serve them BLIND! 

2013 Robert-Denogent Beaujolais Villages “Cuvée Jules Chauvet”–wonderfully delicious, interesting, gulpable Beaujolais at its best from Jean Jacques Robert, the unofficial 5th wheel of the “Gang of Four”!  “The 1.14 hectare parcel (twenty and seventy year old vines) is leased from the niece of Jules Chauvet, Benedicte Chauvet, farmed with organic practices (but not certified). indigenous yeasts fermentation takes place in 228 L oak barrels. Carbonic maceration for fifteen days. No sulfur during harvest or vinification, minimal amount used at bottling. Aged sixteen months in seven year old barrels. Neither fined nor filtered”. 

2012 Foillard Fleurie–a Grand (versus “country” styled)-Cru Beaujolais, sourced from two lieu-dits: Grille-Midi and Champagne…45 to 50 year old vines.  “Of all the disciples of Jules Chauvet, Jean Foillard is the most likely to succeed in the practice of using very little SO2, without having his wines act capriciously at the slightest change in atmospheric pressure. His wines possess magnificent body, a unique viscosity and give aromas of a unique purity and grace”. 

2013 Charly Thévenet  Régnié “Grain et Granit”–this is a masculine, wild & VERY rustic, some would say feral, bordering raunchy (in a good, au naturale way) style of Cru Beaujolais from the son, Charly, of Jean Paul Thévenet from the “Gang of Four”.  Take a trip on the wild side!  The vines were planted in 1932 & 1946. ”biodynamic farming techniques in the vineyard, never adding synthetic herbicides, pesticides, or fungicides to the vines. He harvests late, with an aggressive sorting of the grapes, adds minimal doses of sulfur dioxide, ages the wine in four-year-old Burgundian barriques, and bottles his wines unfiltered”. 

2013 Thibault Liger-Belair Bourgogne “Les Deux Terres”–we slipped this wine (75% Gamay Noir & 25% Pinot Noir) into the tasting to show tasters how the addition of Pinot Noir AND the fact these vines grow in limestone soils can affect the resulting wine.  Yes, the wines had harder, more severe acidity & much harder, gripping tannins.  A surprise wine, just to mix things up some!

Categories : General, Red, Wine, Wine Thoughts
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