Archive for New Discoveries
Our New Year’s Eve winetasting in VINO, included 3 top echelon “grower” Champagne. (A friend brought the 4th, just to share). The recoltant manipulant (grower) category of Champagne seems to be really catching on & growing across the country. Here are 3 certainly worth checking out!
100% Chardonnay from the Grand Cru Village of Oger. Surprisingly powerful, penetrating!
80% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Noir, actually from a single parcel in Rilly la-Montagne. No ML, 10 months in OLD barrels. 50 months sur latte. One of the true standout “grower” Champagnes.
Jacques Selosse Blanc de Blancs Initial “Grand Cru”
Jacques Selosse Blanc de Blancs Exquise “Grand Cru”
100% Chardonnay from the villages of Avize, Cramant & Oger. Typically for the Initial bottling Selosse uses the lower slope vines of the 3 villages AND blends 3 different vintages. Then for the Exquise bottling, he will add a little more dosage , so there is a hint of sweetness (typically around 24 grams per liter). On this night the Initial tasted stark, pure & minerally (to the point of being more Burgundy-like than Champagne like). It was exciting tasting the Exquise, which I do not think is imported into the U.S. or perhaps in very minute quantities, side by side. It gives one a very different perspective.
A while back, a friend asked me to start digging around for interesting Washington state wines. He strongly felt, this is the time, as there is a whole, NEW generation of winemaking phenoms emerging in the Washington state wine scene AND taking it by storm. This whole scene reminds me of what unfolded in Paso Robles, Santa Barbara & the Anderson Valley, where a group of young bucks are looking to change the game. Furthermore, the Rhone varietal based reds can provocatively fill that opening between Pinot & Cabernet, in terms of weight & drama. Thankfully, the pursuit is making wines offering better natural balance without compromising depth & true character.
Here is one of the real standouts…..created by Sean Boyd…in homage to the wines of France’s Rhone Valley. Thankfully, these wines are very balanced, elegant, refined & classy.
Rotie Cellars Southern White 2013–60% Viognier, 25% Roussanne & 15% Marsanne, wild yeast fermented in stainless steel. These kind of exotically perfumed, seamless, well textured white wines are especially well suited for contemporary styled foods.
Rotie Cellars Northern White 2013–100% Marsanne, wild yeast fermented in stainless with 30% malolactic, this wine is much more masculine & structured with a more stoniness.
Rotie Cellars Southern Red 2012–65% Grenache, 25% Mourvedre & 10% Syrah. The whole berries are cracked not crushed, wild yeast fermented & spends 16 months in 2 & 3 year French oak barrels. Such a lovely, charming, seductively textured beauty.
Rotie Cellars Northern Red 2012–97% Syrah & 3% Viognier co-fermented. One can smell the rocks of Walla Walla in this wine 16 months in 2 & 3 year barrels. This is a gorgeous, savory, masculine, yet seamless, well textured & delicious.
Here is a VERY interesting project we have anxiously waited for, for some time. The estate vineyard is located in the Red Mountain appellation at higher (930 to 1230 feet), more rocky site than the highly revered Ciel du Cheval. The first wave of Force Majeure wines which have arrived to the Islands are part of their “Collaborative Series”. Each is a collaborative bottling features Ciel du Cheval fruit, crafted by some of the VERY top winemakers of the state…..with Wine Advocate scores beginning at 93 points & the highest being 96 points. The production levels of each wine range from 180 to 280 cases, which coupled with the high scores, makes it that more amazing we even were get some for the state of Hawaii!!! Furthermore, for the long term, as their estate vineyard matures, they have hired on Todd Alexander, former winemaker of Bryant Family in the Napa Valley, who also worked with icons such as superstar vineyard-ist David Abreu & superstar French consultant Michel Rolland. This certainly is a project to continually keep an eye on!
Force Majeure Collaboration Series II Syrah 2011–A collaboration with Ross Mikel of Ross Andrew winery. 98% Syrah & 1% each of Viognier & Roussanne (Ciel du Cheval)..20 months in French oak (33% new). 93 to 95 points—The Wine Advocate….only 180 cases produced. Smokey, dark, sinister, intriguing, intense, masculine yet very aristocratic.
Force Majeure Collaboration Series VI Red Wine 2011–A collaboration with James Mantone of Syncline. 47% Mourvedre, 42% Syrah & 11% Grenache (Ciel du Cheval). Fermented in concrete egg & old oak puncheons, aged for 18 months. 94 to 96 points—The Wine Advocate….only 280 cases produced. Another masculine, mega-intense beast.
Force Majeure Collaboration Series IV Red Wine 2010–A collaboration with Carolyn lakewold of Donedei wines. 75% Merlot, 13% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc & 2% Petite Verdot. (Ciel du Cheval). Essentially FREE run juice aged in French & American oak (50% new). 94 points—The Wine Advocate….only 200 cases produced. A “tour de force”, sophisticated Right Bank look-a-like.
Force Majeure Collaboration Series Cabernet Sauvignon 2011–A collaboration with Chris Gorman of Gorman wines. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon (Ciel du Cheval-from the incredibly steep parcel). 20 months in 100% new Taransaud barrels. 93 to 95 points—The Wine Advocate….only 200 cases produced. A masculine, statement Cabernet of incredible intensity & fortitude.
Today’s winetasting VINO was an opportunity to explore…AND hopefully have some fun along the way.
2012 Chateau Feuillet Petite Arvine
A VERY unique white wine from Valle D’Aosta at high altitudes & hand built stone terraces to hold the soils & vines in place. I believe that is why they planted vines too….so the roots would help hold the soil in place.
“The vines actually sit in a very shallow sandy soil, but their feet wriggle into crevices in the solid granite bedrock. Any rain is quickly dried out by cleansing winds. And the vineyards are planted on an ancient riverbed, where over the millennia the Dora Baltea River has cut through the mountain, creating the current river valley and leaving behind mineral deposits that the wines happily lap up. The trump card, however, may be the exposition of the vineyards, which in combination with the chilly climate, high altitude, and drastic diurnal temperature shifts provides the magic charm sought by vignerons everywhere: extremely long hours of gentle sunlight”.
“Maxime Magnon is part of one of the most revolutionary wine movements in France should give him a justifiable swagger to his step. Born & raised he Burgundy, because he could not afford land there, he founded his domaine down in Corbieres, amid a rocky, limestone-schist terrain, thankfully already the home to a series of organically farmed, really old vines, from heirloom grape selections. La Begou is currently his one white wine—primarily a blend of 50 to 60 year old vine Grenache Gris & Grenache Blanc, wild yeast fermented & so VERY unique in character”.
wild yeast fermented, partly in stainless, though mainly in old demi-muids….& aged for 16 months in 12 year old barrels.
As VINO regulars well know, we are big fans of the wines from Maxime Francois Laurent & Domaine Gramenon. He is part of the vanguard who are passionately & dedicatedly looking to grow & produce their wines as naturally as possible. Here is one that is truly unique!!!! 80% Clairette, 20% Viognier, 30 year old, organically farmed vines grown in clay limestone. The wine finishes its fermentation in the bottle
It’s NOT that often we run across white wines from California, which have the weight of Chardonnay, with unique-ness & interesting-ness, especially on such a high level as these 2 display. You should, therefore, take a serious look at these 2.
2011 CARLISLE “THE DERIVATIVE”
Winemaker/owner Mike Officer has made quite a name for himself through his big, full throttle red wines, many of which comes from really old vineyard sites. If you look at the scores & ratings his wines perennially get, you will be astounded, as he seems to do it below the radar screen. Curently he produces but 2 white wines. The 2011 Derivative is 66% Semillon (from Monte Rosso vineyard, which was planted in 1886) on a steep, rocky Mayacamas hillside, on the Sonoma side, fermented in 37% new oak; 24% Muscadelle (from Pagani Ranch, planted in 1920) fermented in stainless steel & 10% Palomino (from Saitone Ranch, 118 year old vines) fermented in old oak. Yes, it is safe to say, this is an Old Vine cuvee! Leave it to someone like Mike Officer to have the discipline & dedication to collect & produce a wine like this.
2012 LINNE CALODO “CONTRARIAN”
As you may know, we are avid fans of the great potential Paso Robles has for making interesting wines. A lot can be attributed to the limestone/silaceous soils of the westside. These poor soils not only help to slow down sugar ripeness, but also help to deftly create buoyancy in the finished wines. While many of the region are looking to Viognier, Roussanne & Marsanne to produce whites, we have seen even more potential for interesting-ness so far from grape varieties such as Grenache Blanc, Picpoul & Vermentino. I think most aficionados would agree one of the 2 leading the charge of moving Paso Robles onto the world stage is Matt Trevisan of Linne Calodo. Here is his one 2012 white wine.
“I planted Grenache Blanc and Picpoul in 2007. My older Contrarians were Roussanne Viognier blends, but I felt like they lacked the acidity to be refreshing on a hot day. Basket pressed whole cluster for 48 hours with some skin soaking contact. pressed into a concrete 2000L tank. Native fermentation, co-fermented as the different picks come in. I can only handle 1-2 tons at a time for pressing, but I make so little of this white that I can take my time. I leave it on lees til 1 month prior to bottling then clarify by racking. Unfliltered, unfined. No barrel for this vintage. Viognier for this vintage is from Denner. I use the Viognier to just slightly round out the acidity. I’m planting a half acre of Vio on the new piece to either use in this blend or with the reds”.
It is really amazing how craft beers have thankfully caught on in the local restaurant scene, which has created more demand for importers & distributors to bring in a growing array of quality minded beers.
Fortunately, a real standout- Big Island Brewhaus, is local.
I first met brewmaster/owner Thomas Kerns when he helped open the Fish & Game Brewing Company in the late 1990’s over in Kahana, Maui. In the mid 2000’s the awards & accolades really starting rolling in & deservedly so and over time, Tom & his beers really developed quite a following. I was surprised to hear that Tom & his wife Jayne moved to Waimea over on the Big Island, first taking over a Mexican restaurant & finally starting to produce their craft beers again. In several recent tastings, these beers are really worth searching out for.
Of his impressive portfolio of beers, here are the 3 we really liked. They are all available only in the 22 ounce bottle.
In addition to my comments, I have also included some more technical information (noted in Italics) from Bill “The Beer Guy” Carl (Beer Specialist & Certified Cicerone©) who presented them to us this last go around.
“The Golden Sabbath is a Strong Belgian style Golden Ale. Traditionally a Belgian Candy sugar is used in the beer to lighten the body while increasing the alcohol. Tom Kearns prefers to use Hawaiian raised honey instead of the candy sugar to increase the sugar content. The honey may not always be raised on the Big Island but is ALWAYS raised in Hawaii. A blend of Ohia/Lehua, Christmas berry, and Macadamia honey is used in the beer along with Cascade, German Hallertauer, and Czech Saaz hops”.
This is a very tasty beer, with lots of fruity-spice-floral qualities with the honey nuances popping in and out. I’ve never had a beer done in this style before, but I really liked how delicious it really is. Makes you want to drink more and more with each sip.
“Overboard IPA is a two-time gold medal winner in the American IPA category (the most populous category) during the 2011 & 2013 US Open Beer Championships. The hops in the IPA are Centennial, Cascade, Simcoe, and Amarillo leading to 50 IBUs”.
We love how outgoing and showy this beer is. The exotic/citrus fruit & spice aromas just seem to jump out of the glass. It is definitely firm in structure has lots of vigor and personality with a rather brazen, whopping finish. Definitely a winner!
WHITE MOUNTAIN PORTER
“White Mountain Porter incorporates both hand toasted Hawaiian coconut and Big Island grown and roasted coffee from the award winning White Mountain Coffee Co on the Hamakua coast. Both Cascade and Czech Saaz hops are used in this roasty, lightly sweet, 3 time award winner from the US Open Beer Championships”.
Where the previous two beers are for thirstquenching & gupability, this one makes you stop and think. Sipping and relaxing. There is, of course, lots of roasted coffee character with cacao & coconut nuances. It is darkly colored and has a real soothing yet refreshing creaminess which the bubbles seem to accentuate. I imagine enjoying this on the lanai on a cool evening, while relaxing and winding down.
Yes, these are very interesting, well made beers. PLUS, it is another way to support local!!!!!
There has been a 2 to 3 year hiatus of us getting more of this wine. In reality, the production is just too small, especially in vintages like 2010 & 2011. Thankfully, we were able to get some 2012. The grapes come from a wind pounded hillside down in Monterey & we love how winemaker Eric Laumann is able to craft such a pretty, enticing, lush, rounded, wonderfully aromatic, food friendly white wine. We find these well executed, aromatic, refreshing white wines work their magic with contemporary fusion foods.
Owner/winemaker Mike Officer & his team are one of the TOP producers of Zinfandel out of California. His are real formidable, highly acclaimed wines, that’s for sure & deservedly so. He also produces a tiny bit of REALLY interesting white wine.
WHITE WINE “The Derivative” 2011—one of 2 white wines I know of that he produces. 66% Semillon (Monte Rosso—planted in 1886), which is fermented in oak; 24% Muscadelle (Pagani Ranch—planted in 1920) which fermented in stainless steel & 10% Palomino (from Saitone Ranch—118 year old vines), which is fermented in OLD oak, making it a total of 27% new oak. This wine has vinosity & a unique viscosity.
Here is one of the rising star, new producers of Sauternes. It hasn’t been easy for this relatively, new start up winery. Making a world-class Sauternes takes a lot of sacrifice, especially when you only 7 hectares of vineyards & your last job was an Atlantic fisherman. Still, everyone understands the awe-inspiring brilliance this winery deftly displays through their wines. Their biggest challenge is the unpredictability of Mother Nature & from therefore then trying to manage your limited cash flow. An extreme case is the 2011 vintage. A couple of their small batches could noy qualify under the Sauternes appellation. What to do? Here is the brilliant, magic answer in two different “looks”.
–2011 Domaine de L’Alliance “Declinaison”–A DRY, botrytis affected Semillon, aged in 350 liter barrels (new & 1 year old). TOTALLY exotic & interesting, way beyond anything you might have previously had.
—2011 Domaine de L’Alliance “Sauve des Eaux”–Again botrytis affected grapes, but done in a Moelleux style & aged in 2 to 3 year old barrels. Just another REAL eye opener!!!!
Here are some wines you might want to check out!
DOMAINE LA TOUR VIEILLE–Here is truly standout domaine from the Catalan region of southern France.
“The vibrant little seaport town of Collioure is nestled on the Mediterranean coast, just north of the Spanish border, in the area known as French Catalonia. In 1981, Vincent Cantié and Christine Campadieu took over two small, family-owned domaines where they had grown up, in Collioure and Banyuls, respectively. Together, they farm vineyards planted on steep, schist terraces overlooking the sea, where they are constantly exposed to the fierce and wily wind known as “La Tramontagne.” This constant wind not only ensures naturally low yields, but also keeps the grapes free of mildew with little need for pesticides or copper sulfate. Their vineyards are so steep that cultivation must be by hand, and extensive irrigation canals and walls (all made from the schist rock) are their only prevention against soil erosion, although there is almost no soil left to recede! These canals snake down the hillsides, separating the parcels. At harvest, the grapes are carried up and down the mountain in baskets. This method of farming, while extremely challenging, preserves the traditions of their ancestors“.
We are HUGE fans of their Collioure still RED wines as well as their Banyul fortified wines.
“They have several single vineyard bottlings of Collioure, and several cuvées of Banyuls, from Christine’s family’s holdings. Banyuls, neighbor of Collioure, sits only two kilometers from the Spanish border; it is famous for its fortified wines. Tour Vieille also produces a wide range of practically extinct late harvest and extended elevage white and red wines, the ultimate meditation wines at the end of a meal. The heart, soul, and hard work that go into crafting these wines make their labor of love all the more delicious“.
Today, we tried THREE incredibly unique & interesting wines from this estate.
—Rancio Sec “Cap de Creus”—produced from Grenache & Carignane (15% potential alcohol)—maceration & partly direct press. Aged in old oak where it develops a rancio character.
–“Memoire d’Automnes”—Grenache Gris & Grenache Blanc—late harvest…at least 4 years in barrel—developing an oxidative/flor like character AND ending up as a dry wine with the rancio/flor nose.
—Banyuls “Vin de Meditation”—Grenache-Carignane, aged in a solera system….the starter being 1952. Quite an impressive wine!!!!
On this day, we tasted 2 very interesting & unique sparkling wines. Both also offer stellar quality & tremendous value. The challenge is learning how to sell them. As I mentioned though, if one can sell a Californian or Italian bubbly on the floor, then why can’t one sell one of these, especially since the quality is so high? Is it just because the names are not recognizable? In my mind, quality should be first & foremost.
—Punta Crena Spumante Brut—this one comes from Liguria, Italy. The Ruffino family have been growing & producing their Punta Crena wines for over 500 years, mostly on the steep, rocky terraces of Liguria, a mere 1200 meters away from the Sea. You would think, if their wines were not good, interesting, they would not have been able endure 500 years of selling their wines. Who would buy them? AND, if the wines were of low quality, they would have lost their exalted reputation along time ago, right?
These are definitely some of the most interesting indigenous wines from all of Italy. This sparkler is produced from the Mataossu grape variety. Where it once was so widely planted, the true Mataossu, today, is grown by only 1 family ….in 1 village (Varigotti). They have several patches….this particular one is of red, rocky clay…a soil also found in Provence, France. In both cases, it results In a very interesting terroir character. I don’t exactly know why the Ruffino decided to make this one bubbly….but that they did, via the method champenoise. What a fabulous combination—a rare, indigenous grape variety, grown in challenging soils, held in place by the vines’ roots & the ancient, hand built terraces & made bubbly. The wine smells of the sea, the sun baked rocks & wild shrub surrounding the vineyard—delicious, refreshing, food friendly AND bubbly. Definitely gets my vote for BEST VALUE!
—Nicole Chanrion Brut Effervescence—Here is yet another VERY unique sparkling wine. This one comes from Beaujolais down in southern Bungundy. It is 100% Gamay Noir, also produced via method champenoise. Within the Beaujolais appellation, over the centuries 10 villages were deemed as being Cru (the highest of quality). Chanrion is located on the Cote de Brouilly, an abrupt volcanic mastiff jutting out in an otherwise series of gently rolling hills. One of the two leading producers of this appellation is Nicole Chanrion. To me in addition to brilliance in crafting wines, Nicole seems to have quite an artistic edge to her as well. For me, then, it was no surprise when I was told of her now producing a sparkling wine. The grapes are direct pressed, so there is no pink hue evident whatsoever. I love how rounder & so delicious this bubbly really is. Makes total sense given Nicole is making the wine. Well worth checking out!!!!
Another fabulous tasting get together at our VINO restaurant featuring 4 interesting 2012 white wines.
Petite Arvine is a highly regarded grape variety best showcased from the Valais region of Switzerland. This 100% rendition hails from a very unique parcel located in Italy’s Valle d’Aosta.
“The vines sit in a very shallow sandy soil, but their feet wriggle into crevices in the solid granite bedrock. Any rain is quickly dried out by cleansing winds. And the vineyards are planted on an ancient riverbed, where over the millennia the Dora Baltea River has cut through the mountain, creating the current river valley and leaving behind mineral deposits that the wines happily lap up. The trump card, however, may be the exposition of the vineyards, which in combination with the chilly climate, high altitude, and drastic diurnal temperature shifts provides the magic charm sought by vignerons everywhere: extremely long hours of gentle sunlight”.
“Manni Nössing is located in Alto Adige—or Südtirol of northeast Italy, specifically in the town of Bressanone (a.k.a. Brixen), less than twenty miles south of the Austrian border, amid the towering peaks of the Dolomites. Manni’s vineyards benefit from the mountain climate and steep slopes of glacial deposit that make up the Valle Isarco, the narrow valley to the northeast of Bolzano that is known for its fresh, aromatic whites. His Müller Thurgau perfectly exemplifies the house style of precision, freshness, class, and minerality”.
2012 Virgona Salina Bianco
Salina is a small Island located somewhere between Sicily & the southern tip of southern Italy. We were thrilled to get some of the 2011 & are even more excited with the fabulous 2012. They say, this wine is produced from the Inzolia & Cataratto grape varieties, but I would wager there is also a smidgeon of Malvasia blended in as well. Even more intriguing is how smells & character from the sun baked stones & wild shrub from the surrounding countryside find its way into the wine in addition to a saline edge which must come from the nearby ocean somehow.
2012 Domaine Skouras Moschofilero
Here is an absolutely terrific Greek white wine produced from the Moschofilero grape variety, grown at between 1000 & 2000 feet elevation in a very unique volcanic soil. Because the grape vine malady, phylloxera does NOT like this soil, these vines are still on its own roots. In addition to wine’s wonderful perfume, it also has a very unique texture/viscosity, which is why it is being served last in this line-up.
Just the other day we tasted 3 interesting Austrian wines you might want to consider. The first 2 come from Heidi Schrock. The 10 acre estate vineyard is located in the village of Rust (Burgenland), which is roughly 5 miles from the Hungarian border. The ampitheater of rolling, sandy, southfacing hillsides (with some clay & calcareous) near Lake Neusiedel traditionally result in rich, viscous wines.
This grape variety is believed to be the same as the Muscat Blanc a Petits Grains, & comprises 95%, of this wine, with the remaining 5% being Muscat Ottonel. Fermented in stainless, there is 3 grams per liter residual sugar, 5 total acidity & finished off at 13.5 alcohol. As expected this wine has very perfumed, “crazy kine” fruity aromatics–lychee immediately comes to mind with lots of ripe pears & a distinct wet stone minerality. The has lots of viscosity, bordering unctuous with a liveliness in the middle & finish.
2012 Rose Biscaya
I haven’t yet been able to find out what grape varieties make up this blend. I was told there were 8?….which tells me there must be some white grapes included. The wine is fermented in stainless steel & some old wood. It has 3.8 grams per liter of residual sugar and 6.6 total acidity. This is NOT a light ethereal PINK wine. It, too, has viscosity with a distinct textural edge going on. It however is NOT heavy at all….BUT I would look to pair with lighter meats, charcuterie & even stews.
2006 Wallner Namenlos
Namenlos means Nameless & comes fro the Sudburgenland, one of the smallest growing areas (500 hectares) & coolest. They are known for their genuine, typical, earthy Blaufrankisch red wines, which are hearty, extroverted yet delicious. This cuvee is produced from vines which average 40 years in age & aged in old oak.
Santorini is an ancient, very picturesque Greek island, with remarkable blue waters & breathtaking, panoramic views.
This is also the home of one of Greece’s finest white wines, which is produced from the indigenous Assyrtiko grape variety.
The vines are planted in volcanic soils, which have very little clay, resulting in wines of a distinct minerality. Furthermore, these soils, interestingly, are inhospitable to the phylloxera louse, which is why there is still a remarkable amount of VERY old vines scattered throughout the wild countryside.
These “vine baskets” (kourloura) are purposely grown into this shape, hand woven as they grow, to survive the extreme growing conditions–surreal heat, strong, pounding winds & general lack of water. Because there is no phylloxera, these OLD vines’ roots burrow deep in the volcanic/pumice soils in search of water & therefore pick up all kinds of trace elements, which just add to the resulting wines’ minerality.
Of the 3 main white grape varieties ( Assyrtiko, Athiri & Aidani), Assyrtiko is the standout with innate racy acidity & assertive & pronounced minerality.
“Domaine Sigalas was founded in 1991, Their vineyards are considered the oldest continuously cultivated vineyards in the world (over 3000 years)“.
This wine is 100% Assyrtiko, grown volcanic, black lava & pumice soils which have some sand, very little clay & is VERY poor in any organic matter. The fermentation is done in stainless steel at cool temperatures.
Here is what I wrote after a recent tasting of the 2012.
“Took a while to open up aromatically. I had to keep coming back to try this wine over & over again to better understand it. It, however, was worth it as I find this to be a fascinating white wine. On the palate, it displayed a assertive-ness, bordering coarse-ness/rugged-ness, which reminded me of an Italian Nebbiolo vinified white, I had with the 1991 vintage–stony, masculine, red wine-ish character (viscosity & innate bitterness). When I came back to it after a bout with the red wine line-up, I enjoyed it more, as the bitterness was NOT as evident (after having the red wines). One would need to be quite specific in pairing foods with this fascinating wine, I believe.”
To that, I would add……..the more I have it, the more & more I like it. It REALLY is tasty & unique.