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One of the most tantalizing facets of wine I have appreciated over the years is the synergy created by planting the right vines in the right terroir. Especially in the skillful hands of a masterful winemaker, this can create a much more interesting, intriguing wine.
California has an abundance of vin de fruits & vin de climats. No judgements here, that’s just the way it is.
It is, therefore, quite a thrill to find wines from California which can marry the soil & the grape variety & then create oenological magic.
Such is the case at Neyers.
The Neyers 304 Chardonnay bottling, for instance, is a blend of Shot Wente, a heritage selection, planted in parcels of rocky soils. The resulting wine truly has the unique aromatics of the Shot Wente & just as important……. the stones, which makes for a far more interesting wine than those that just showcase Chardonnay fruitiness, clonal or otherwise.
In addition, the stoniness/minerality really adds to the buoyancy of the wine, making it seem lighter than it really is. We truly love this naturally lower alcohol, mineral driven, crisp, complete Chardonnay & find it ideal to serve by the glass, because of how delicious, light & much more food friendly it is.
Another stellar, interesting Neyers wine to offer by the glass is their Sage Canyon Cuvee. The base is Carignane & Mourvedre from 130 plus year old vines out near Oakley, with some Grenache & Syrah added in. This wine is foot stomped, wild yeast fermented & bottled unfiltered & unfined.
One could say, this is a homage to the wines of Maxime Magnon, a standout winemaking renegade down in southern France, who is really championing the Carignane grape variety AND a very, almost radical, au naturale approach to grape growing & winemaking..
In both cases, the wines are certainly interesting & provocative, but at least equally as important, they are delicious. Now, if we expect the foods we serve to be delicious, shouldn’t the wines we serve by the glass be delicious too? And, tonight…..not 20 to 40 years down the road?
Yes, these are 2 wines I would definitely order at a restaurant who was serving them by the glass.
In addition, as a professional, I also believe it is important to support these kinds of projects—those who believe in heirloom/heritage grape vines, which are farmed sustainably & thereby having a “living” vineyard.
And if the BATF ever required a disclosure back label, the Neyers’ very short list would only include the grapes used & perhaps a tiny bit of sulfur before bottling. How pure is that?
Slacker Stereotype 2012
Slacker The Professional 2012
A “side” project of Matt Trevisan of Linne Calodo featuring blends he crafts from grapes from the Slacker & Oakdale ranches. Still, masterfully blended….BUT at a different price point.
Gramercy Cellars Syrah Columbia Valley 2012
Gramercy Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Lower East 2012
Stellar, highly acclaimed Washington State wines from Master Sommelier Greg Harrington. Warren was right…it is time to really Look at the New Age generation forming there, just as we have seen in the past from Paso Robles, Santa Barbara & Anderson Valley.
Anthill Farms Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast 2012
Drew Pinot Noir Fog Eater 2012
TWO superb Pinots….from New Age winemakers, in pursuit of true balance & deliciousness.
Maison L’Envoye Attache Pinot Noir 2012
Mark Tarlov teams up with Mike Etzel Jr & consultant Louis Michel Liger Belair from Burgundy for this lovely Oregonian Pinot
Drew Pinot Gris Filligreen 2013
Melville Estate Viognier Verna’s 2012
Linne Calodo Contrarian 2013
We continually look for top caliber AROMATIC white wines, as we think there really is a HUGE opportunity to pair with contemporary fusion foods. Here are 3 superb examples.
Rivers-Marie Chardonnay Sonoma Coast 2012
Melville Estate Chardonnay 2013
Tyler Chardonnay Dierburg 2012
These 3 producers exemplify a New Age of what California Chardonnay can be.
Quenard Chignin Blanc 2013–A dry, amazingly light & crisp white from savoie, France & the foothills of the French Alps.
Domaine Maestracci E Prove Blanc 2012–Yet, another example of why I am so revved up about Corsica & its wines.
Reverdy Sancerre Cuvee Ortus 2009
Champalou Vouvray Clos Portail 2011
SPECIAL bottlings (produced in only certain vintages) from TWO of my all time favorite Loire Valley wines
The other night, our friend, Dr Chris, surprised us all by bringing in a selection of some interesting wines from the Isle of Corsica. As VINO regulars well know, I have a real hankering for Corsica, as I have wanted to visit there for well over 25 years, ever since I tasted my first glass of Luigi Clos Nicrosi. The wine had such interesting flavors, viscosity & unique character. I am sad the wine is no longer produced. Well, the importer, Kermit Lynch, has uncovered several other interesting producers over the past few years & is now importing them into the U.S.. Thank you Chris for a wonderful tasting AND including the map, pictured to the right, which gave everyone a better picture of where each of the wines come from.
Michel Angeli is the man behind this winery, which is located in Cap Corse at the northern tip of the Island. As the map will show you, this region actually looks like a finger pointing north. The soil is mainly schist-clay & Michel had first planted Vermentinu & Codivarta & later Niellucciu (he got from Patrimonio) & Aleatico he got from Elba. 1952 was his first harvest. This particular bottling is typically around 50% Niellucciu, 25% each of Aleatico & Merlot, which he ferments in 100% stainless steel. Yes, it is rustic in smell & taste, is quite masculine in character, but flows on the palate surprisingly well from beginning to end. Merlot makes a surprising appearance, given Michel’s appreciation of native grape varieties, but as expected, it really seems to round out the edges in this case. (By the way, we have also purchased some of his rare Rappu wine, which is Aleatico, dried out on straw mats for 10 days, pressed, fermented in concrete (a touch of residual sugar, 16% alcohol) & then aged in old oak barrels for 7 years.
2011 Canarelli “Corse Figari”
Canarelli comes from the southern tip of Corsica. The vineyards lie inland from the sea, along a plateau, on granitic-alluvial soils rich in minerals & is both organically & biodynamically farmed. The climate is greatly moderated by the winds gusting off the Gulf of Figari. The 2011 Rouge is 80% Niellucciu, 15% Syrah & 5% Sciaccarellu, 100% destemmed & aged in large foudres for 14 to 18 months. One could readily detect the Syrah in the nose & taste. Eventhough people say this is a rustic style, I think it would be an easier wean into Corsican red wines for the Californian palate than any of the other reds we tasted on this night. (On another note, they also have indigenous grape varieties such as Carcahjolu Nera, Biancu Gentile, Paga Debiti, Barbarosa & Minustellu planted & featured in some of their other bottlings).
Yves left his family domaine to create his own, which specialized in a single terroir–“E Croce” E Croce faces the Gulf of St Florent & features a chalky soil, which lies upon a thick bedrock of pure schist. This is essentially another 1 man show. This bottling is 90% Niellucciu & 10% Grenache, which was fermented in stainless steel & aged for 12 months before release. One could detect on first smell & taste there is some Grenache in the blend. (We tasted the wines with NO knowledge of the soils the vines grew in nor the grape varieties used). Leccia’s wines are more refined, elegant & quite classy. They are really a pleasure to drink.
Antoine Arena Patrimonio
Arena is certainly one of the most revered producers of the Island. His vineyards are located in the Patrimonio appellation. Within Patrimonio he organically farms several parcels. Carco (2 hectares, planted in 1987) is mainly Niellucciu in chalky-clay-limestone soils. Morta Maio (2 hectares, planted in 2001) on clay-limestone soils. Of the 3 tasted on this night, I much preferred the 2010 Carco, which had a complete-ness, balance & soul. This wine surprised me, as I usually find Arena wines too much for my palate. Yes, it was rustic, perhaps too much so for many tasters, but it really had something to say, in a VERY unique way.
Although, this wine was NOT tasted on this night (mainly because we have not been able to get for the past couple of vintages), I just have to mention it here, because it is so damn good! I remember Kermit Lynch once saying–“Drinking her rose is like drinking a cloud. There is an absolute weightlessness to it. Nothing is left on the palate but perfume“. Marquiliani is located on the island’s eastern coast (Costa Serena)….in the village of Aghione, high altitude, & therefore, cooler nights. The terraced vineyards are a mix of schist, granite & gravel with silt. The rose is typically 90% Sciaccarellu & 10% Syrah, direct pressed, fermented in stainless steel with NO malolactic.
I cannot believe this winery & its wines are still “under the radar screen” for most wine aficionados. I truly believe their wines REALLY over deliver, quality for the dollar. The Estate “Gold Coast” vineyard is roughly 30 acres located on a wind pounded mesa, 5 minutes closer to the ocean from Bien Nacido—roughly 10 acres-Chardonnay & 20 acres-Pinot Noir (most of was planted in the late 80’s/early 90’s to heirloom/heritage plant material—mostly Martini for Pinot & clone 4 & Wente for Chardonnay). The soils are very sandy with tiny bits of seashells as it was one time under water. These soils & the sea breezes which pound the vineyard help create the sea-shelly minerality in the finished wines. Winemaker/co-owner, Gary Burk is another 1 man show operation….so it is yet another artisan, family owned, small, Estate project. The resulting wines are so pure & transparent (seashells), elegant, lovely, impeccably balanced with fabulous texture & superb balance. I also think DELICIOUS is the perfect word to describe their wines.
This is a wonderfully pure, transparent, lovely, seamless, UN-heavy Chardonnay totally about the marine soils it is grown in. Mostly comprised of estate fruit, although there is some Fiddlestix Dijon clones added for seasoning…NO new oak, 100% malolactic with some less contact.
2012 Chardonnay “Santa Maria Valley”
100% Estate fruit (clone 4 & Wente), 100% malolactic & 30% new oak. This wine still has the purity & transparency, but certainly more lush & textural. Way over delivers!!!!!!
2012 Chardonnay “Reserva Dorada”
250 case production—a selection of the best barrels—wild yeast fermented, 100% malolactic, 50% new oak. This wine is way more stony than it is minerally….but more subtle upon entry on the palate, though luscious, viscous & grandiose without any sense of heaviness or oakiness.
An absolutely lovely, delicious, seductively textured Pinot, which REALLY over delivers for the dollar. The 2012 is mainly Estate fruit (Martini selection) with tiny amounts of Kick On Vineyard (also Martini) & Solomon Hills (clone 115). The wine sees NO stem inclusion & is aged in OLD oak.
2012 Pinot Noir “Santa Maria Valley”
100% estate Martini selection (planted in 89 & 90)…10 picks thru the vineyard (23 to 24.5 brix), NO stem inclusion, 30% new oak. This wine certainly showcases the savory, reticent, earthy-floral spice of the Martini selection with a seasalt/nori character from the marine soils, BUT still sooooo delicious, lovely, ethereal & seductive.
2012 Pinot Noir “Oro Rojo”
A selection of the finest barrels (this year only 10). 50% new oak. Displays more grandeur, BUT still will lots of finesse & subtlety initially with elegance, gracefulness, class & refinement. WOW!! A real standout!!!!
These 2 wines are produced, by Mike Kuimelis, exclusively from their 4 estate vineyards. As you well know, we love working with family’s who own & work their vineyards. 2 of the vineyards are in the Dry Creek appellation (1 hillside & 1 hilltop) & the other 2 are located in the Alexander Valley appellation (1 hillside & 1 hilltop). This family definitely understands that true wine quality is created in the vineyard. We selected Mantra partly because of their terrific vineyards….AND mostly because of the unpretentious BUT passionate dedication of Mike Kuimelis to produce unique wines full of character. NO fruit bombs here!!!!!! No exaggerated, showy, flamboyant, fashion trending wines. His are elegant, suave, PURE, polished & classy. The wines are wild yeast fermented & then inoculated to finish.
2012 Zinfandel “Old Vine Reserve”–70 year old vines—94% Zinfandel & 6% Petite Sirah (field blend) from reddish stony Aken soils. 3 separate picks…16 months in French/Hungarian/American oak (25% new).
2012 Cabernet Sauvignon “Alexander Valley”–100% Cabernet Sauvignon (25 to 28 year old vines)—reddish, stony Aken soils (Cloverdale/Geyserville (hillsides)…Aged for 20 months in French/Hungarian/American oak (25% new).
Mobius is a project dedicated to offer more value oriented wines, still crafted by Mike Kuimelis of Mantra. While Mike still sources grapes for this label in an effort to keep the quality high, he is channeling more & more of his estate grown Zin, Merlot & Cabernet to this program. The wines are still stylistically more elegant, suave, well textured & polished.
2012 Zinfandel “Alexander Valley-Sonoma County”–100% Zinfandel from their Geyserville estate vineyard within the Alexander Valley appellation. This wine is aged for 16 months in French/Hungarian/American oak barrels.
2012 Pinot Noir “Central Coast”–The grapes come from westside Paso Robles (Eric Russell). NO stems, whole berry, open top fermenters & aged for 16 months in French & Hungarian barrels (25% new)
“Skirt Chaser” non-vintage (120 cases)–Mike Kuimelis’s latest “look”—roughly equal parts Cabernet Sauvignon (2007—Dry Creek), Merlot (2009 Alexander Valley); Petite Sirah (2009 Alexander Valley) & Zinfandel (2012 Alexander Valley)…Aged in French/Hungarian/American barrels for 16 to 20 months (30% new)
2011 Cabernet Sauvignon “California”–A much more value driven Cabernet produced from grapes—Estate/Paso Robles & Mendocino. 94% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% each—Merlot, Cabernet Franc & Petite Verdot….Aged for 16 months in American & Hungarian oak (20% new).
2012 Cabernet Sauvignon “Sonoma County”–80% Dry Creek & 20% Cloverdale (mainly Cabernet Sauvignon with some Merlot, aged for 18 months in French/Hungarian/American oak (20% new)
Jason Drew is essentially a 1 man show located up in Elk, California. When I first met him, he was working at a Napa Valley winery. He later worked at Babcock during their heyday, where, before he left, he was associate winemaker. He started his own winery, based in Buellton featuring some interesting Santa Barbara-n grapes. He & his wife Molly packed up & moved further North where they purchased their own place up in the Mendocino Coastal Ridge. Drew has been selected at least twice as “Winery of the Year”. His wines are lovely, delicious & impeccably well balanced. You can certainly win a lot of friends with these wines.
2013 Pinot Gris “Filligreen”–This vineyard is located on a rocky river bench, northeast facing in mid Andersona Valley. It is biodynamically farmed. Being so narrow, it actually is a cool, wind tunnel, which is ideal for this grape variety. The wine is fermented in 50% stainless & 50% old wood….50% malolactic, 5 months on the lees.
2012 Pinot Noir “Fogeater”–Fogeater is a Boontling term for the early settlers. The 2012 is 35% Balo Vineyard (organically farmed), 35% Atkin; 20% Morning Dew (Burt Williams’ vineyard) & 15% Wentzell….a combination of 777, 667. Old Rochioli, Pommard & La Tache. 30% whole cluster, 11 months in French oak (15% new), 29% each 1 year & 2 year old barrels & 45% old oak.
2012 Syrah “Perli”-Perli is 2200 feet up in the Mendocino Coastal Ridge, 10 miles from the ocean. co-fermented with 3% Viognier….40% whole cluster, 15% stems…11 months in 3 year old oak. We think there is a HUGE opportunity to fill a vast void that lies between Pinot & Cabernet, which wines like this can aptly & profoundly fill.
“Maison L’Envoyé, ‘The House of the Messenger,’ tirelessly explores the finest sites dedicated to the cultivation of Pinot Noir. We strive to craft wines that not only jubilantly sing of their origins, but are also delicious in their own right. With winemaking footprints in both Burgundy and Willamette Valley, Maison L’Envoyé champions many unsung growers who have farmed their vineyards over multiple decades and generations. Led by former Evening Land founder, Mark Tarlov, Maison L’Envoyé brings together a colorful cast of Burgundian winemakers, Oregon vignerons and Napa Valley based wine importer, Old Bridge Cellars. In Burgundy our winemaking team is based in the town of Beaune, drawing from several sites including the Premier Cru, Savigny Les Beaune ‘Les Marconnets.’ In Oregon’s Willamette Valley, we source a selection of Pinot Noir grown in both volcanic and sedimentary based soils, from multiple AVAs including Yamhill-Carlton, Ribbon Ridge and Eola-Amity Hills”. Maison L’Envoye from my point of view strives to produce wines of purity, transparency, elegance, refinement, deliciousness AND probably most importantly, offer GREAT VALUE.
2012 Maison L’Envoye Pinot Noir “Attache” (Oregon)–Produced from vines grown in 75% volcanic soil & 25% sedimentary soil. So, I asked Mark, what is the difference between this wine & the Two Messengers Pinot Noir? He said simply….”just try the 2 wines”. Attache has much more aromatics/perfume, richer with more extract yet more elevated character & certainly more focused. 35 day, whole berry fermentation, NO stems inclusion, NO punch downs, 33% new oak. More, more, more!!!!
2012 Maison L’Envoye Morgon “Cote du Py”–A VERY delicious, more “country” styled Cru Beaujolais (VERY different from the more supped up, SUPER Beaujolais renditions from Foillard, Diochon & Chignard). These are 40 year old vines from the Cru Morgon & its most revered “Cote du Py”, in fact located at the top of the hill, with its pebbly, schist soils with manganese & iron. The wine is wild yeast fermented, whole berry then aged for 12 months in 3 to 4 year barrels & bottled unfiltered & unfined. GREAT VALUE. Wonderfully food friendly!!.
2011 Maison L’Envoye Bourgogne Rouge–Produced from fruit–7 villages, the core coming from the Hautes Cotes de Nuits & 15% Premier Cru—“Les Marconnets” from Savigny-Les-Beaune (clones/selections—877, 114, 113 & 119). The winemaking is overseen by Olivier Merlin. –wild yeast fermented in stainless steel (long & cool) & then aged for 12 months in old oak. A very pretty, refined, finesse oriented Burgundian Pinot at a fabulous price.
2011 Maison L’Envoye Bourgogne Blanc–A classical Maconnais Chardonnay—pure, light, fresh, minerally & food friendly. The 2011 is a blend of grapes from the villages of Vire, Prissey & Fuisse & is direct pressed, wild yeast fermented & aged for 12 to 14 months in old oak barrels. Another GREAT VALUE!
2011 Maison L’Envoye Savigny-les-Beaune Premier Cru “Les Marconnets”–“Savigny-lès-Beaune, a humble commune off the beaten path in the northern reaches of the Côte de Beaune, is divided by the river Rhoin. On the southern side, closest to Beaune, the slope faces northeast; this is where the premier cru climat of Les Marconnets sits. The soil here is sandy and pebbly, rich in iron, and ideal for the aged vines which call it home. The wine is wild yeast fermented in old oak barrels & aged for 12 months. This wine displays the dichotomy of Savigny with an elegant fruit profile contrasted by savory notes. Petite, red berries share the palate with forest floor and roasted meats, sewn together by a taut mineral core and fine oak tannins. In a word: silky”.
As you may know, Palmina is a wine project dedicated to Italian grape varieties grown & produced in the Santa Barbara appellation by Chrystal & Steve Clifton. The 2012’s are a truly stunning set of new releases…..actually better than most Italians we taste. The quantum leap in quality is because their vines are maturing AND the wines are now wild yeast fermented & aged for a short time in OLD oak, as opposed to only stainless steel as we saw in the past. The minerality & terroir is still clear & transparent, but with more round-ness & texture.
Arneis “Honea Vineyard” 2012–From the Honea vineyard—sandy soils in the Los Olivos district. Wild yeast fermented & aged in stainless & old oak. Definitely has a green thing running around in the nose & taste, rounder than previous vintages with a crisp, refreshing edge. My over all comment is, if the staff can sell a sauvignon blanc, they can certainly sell this wine. For the price—much more quality for the dollar than many Italian versions.
Tocai Friulano “Honea Vineyard” 2012–From the Honea vineyard—sandy soils in the Los Olivos district. Wild yeast fermented & aged in stainless & old oak. Again, my over all comment is, if the staff can sell a sauvignon blanc, they can certainly sell this wine. For the price—much more quality for the dollar than many Italian versions (where it is now named Friulano). 90% of this wine is whole cluster pressed into stainless, & wild yeast fermented. The other 10% sees a 30 day skin contact, wild yeast fermented in OLD oak. While this grape has similar characteristics as sauvignon, it also innately has a slight nuttiness/bitterness & should be paired with more complex dishes, which have vegetables or some meat to it.
Palmina Malvasia Bianca 2012–These kinds of aromatic grape varieties I believe is a VERY important & needed segment of white wines, instrumental in better pairings with today’s contemporary foods. As I mentioned to one wine professional today, I think it is important to teach the staff how to sell these kinds of wines. The mentholating/perfume qualities really help heighten the foods, just as herbs will. The garpes for this wine come from the Alisos Vineyard of Los Alamos & the Larner Vineyard of Ballard Canyon. After 24 hours of reefer, the grapes are whole cluster pressed, wild yeast fermented, which finishes its fermentation in OLD oak.
Young winemaking phenom, Gavin Chanin, is hotter than hot right now, including at least 1 “Winemaker of the Year” award. He therefore is moving up the pecking order for top quality parcels in some of Santa Barbara’s most revered vineyards & prized parcels. What separates the Chanin Santa Barbaran grown wines from those grown in other wine growing regions, is minerality. This helps to push the wines beyond fruit & oak, as well as help buttress the wine’s acidity, keep the alcohol levels moderate & much more balanced. These wines were REALLY terrific at today’s tasting & without a doubt the best we have had from tis young winery.
Chanin Chardonnay “Los Alamos” 2012–The grapes come from the highest point in the vineyard, where the sandy soils change to more calcaric shale/limestone. The wine is whole cluster pressed, barrel fermented & aged for 16 months in French oak (15% new). This wine was so ethereal, pretty, with fabulous texture—Quite ABC Nuits Blanches like. Fabulous!
Chanin Chardonnay “Bien Nacido” 2012–I believe Gavin gets W Block, 41 year old vines. Whole cluster pressed, barrel fermented, 11 months in French oak (30% new). This wine was much more stony, more masculine than the Los Alamos with more grandeur.
Chanin Chardonnay “Sanford & Benedict” 2012–This is definitely one of the finest Chardonnay vineyards in ALL of California. Gavin gets fruit from one of the older parcels (planted in 1976)—rocky soils with diatomaceous earth. They believe this is a Wente Chardonnay selection from Mt Eden. The wine is whole cluster pressed, sees 11 months in French oak (25% new). Definitely has breed & class!
Chanin Pinot Noir “Los Alamos” 2012–777 & 115, NO stem inclusion, 11 months in oak (20% new). This is a VERY pretty, lighter colored, REALLY ethereal, enticing, more feminine Pinot with is still SO seamless, charming, refined & classy. VERY impressive!!!
Chanin Pinot Noir “Rinconada” 2012–This vineyard is located next to Sanford & Benedict, 50% Pommard & 50% Mt Eden, 40% stems, 15 months in French oak, 25% new. Still lighter in color, BUT much more masculine & grander in style.
Justin Willett is is a NEW AGE superstar & his wines are on the very top winelists in New York, San Francisco & the other major markets. OUTSTANDING!!!!! He is just now hitting his stride & many insiders are saying his 2012’s are his finest wines to date!! His is a passion for purity, finesse, texture & balance (naturally)…almost effortlessly so.
Tyler Chardonnay “Zotovich” 2012–Dijon clone 76, grown in the wind pounded, sand, extreme Zotovich vineyard. This wine is SOOO pure, seamless & sophisticated. Many say, this is his finest Chardonnay to date…..which is saying alot.
Tyler Pinot Noir “La Encantada” 2012–667 & Pommard, panted in 1999 & organically farmed. 20% new oak. This is his most savory Pinot….only 4 barrels produced. WOW!
It has been a while since we tasted Beaujolais Here are three 2013’s. In a former professional life, we fell in love with a group of 9 from the region. This would have been back in the late 80’s/early 90’s. The wines were so darn good, tasty & soooo irresistible. Here are 3 of the 9. Isn’t it amazing, that after the 20 plus which have passed, & ALL of the wines I have since tasted, that that list of 9 has not changed!!! It just doesn’t get better for me. When you taste these, you will understand.
Chignard Fleurie “Les Moriers” 2013–The Les Moriers parcel is like a finger jutting out & therefore surrounded by Moulin-a-Vent. His is 8 hectares of 60 year old vines. Sees 13 months in OLD foudres. “light, playful yet deep, ripe fruit”, with a lovely charming personality. Superb!
Nicole Chanrion Cote de Brouilly 2013–Located mid-slope on the Mt Brouilly—black/blue granite, which is very different from the pink granite below.. 6 hectares of 50year old vines. Whole cluster/carbonic. Intriguing, frisky with a slight, surprising masculine edge.
Chateau Thivin Cote de Brouilly 2013–The oldest estate on the MT Brouilly. The grade is steep (48%), black/blue granite, high up. “handsome, virile, earthy aristocrat”.
I have a true passion for great Riesling & it has been very long running. Bert Selbach & his Dr F Weins Prum has to be top 4 for me. Having said that, though, if I were to start a German wine portfolio & could choose whoever I wanted, Bert Selbach would be #1!!!! First of all he is descendent of the iconic Prum family & therefore inherited a dream team of single vineyard parcels. Secondly, he is essentially, a 1 man show & the wines are certainly artisan & handcrafted.. Thirdly, & probably most importantly, his wines have incredible, captivating lightness, ethereal-ness, delicious-ness, refinement & sophistication, and they can therefore appeal to a wide audience of wine drinkers, from layperson to the most picky of wine expert. Here are 2 standouts for you to see for yourself.
Dr.F. Weins-Prum Riesling Kabinett “Urziger Wurtzgarten” 2011–½ a hectare in one of the steepest vineyards of the Mosel with a reddish to the slate…..which clearly shows in the perfume. What an amazing wine this is!!!!! Harvested at 89.7 oechsle, 7 total acidity, 51 g/lresidual sugar. For me, the wine of the day!!!
Dr.F. Weins-Prum Riesling Spatlese “Wehlener Sonnenuhr” 2012–One hectare in this “Grand Cru” (my words). Harvested at 100 oechsle, 7 .8 total acidity, 90g/l residual sugar. OMG!!!!!
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
When I mentioned German wines, most people make funny faces in response. It has become very apparent to me, the words “German wines”, conjure up images of sweet, syrupy wines for many.
There are many things I would love to say about that, but we’ll save that discussion for another day. I would prefer to instead focus on the thought that ALL wines can be made dry, medium dry, medium sweet, sweet & dessert in style…….depending on what the winemaker wants to do…..whether it is Cabernet, Chardonnay, sparkling, red or white.
While it is true that there are many German wines which are made sweet, there are also many wines vinified DRY. For many years, VINO regulars have been asking us to do a German wine tasting.
Well, here it is. We chose to do a DRY white wine tasting first, because it is regarded as the purest form of German white wine.
Great producers believe any flaw in a dry white wine can readily be seen, smelled & tasted in their dry wines. The growing & selection of grapes is therefore of paramount importance.
In addition, for this tasting, we looked to feature 4 of the VERY best dry wine producers out Germany…..kind of a dream team!!!! The goal is to show tasters what excellence is. Wines like these don’t come around too often….just another opportunity to learn!
2012 Hans Wirsching Scheurebe DRY
The Scheurebe grape variety was an attempt to have a grape variety which had Riesling-esque nobility but would ripen earlier. It was created by Dr Scheu in the 1916, when he crossed the Riesling grape variety with what is now believed to be a wild grape variety. While it has had its moments over the years in production, I would say, most thought of it as a secondary grape variety, used for bigger production. Part of it can be attributed to its seemingly lack of acidity & its real citrus like flavors. To date, for me, the finest Scheurebe’s are undoubtedly produced by Hans Wirsching of the Franconia region. Their estate vineyard sites are high in gypsum content. The 2012 was harvested at 88 degree oechsle & 5.9 total acidity. Wirsching Scheurebe has some “quietly” exotic fruit, along with the minerality….with a little more roundness, which would appeal to a wider spectrum of wine drinkers, without taking away from its wonderfully friendliness. Well worth checking out to say the least!
2012 CF Wines Muller Thurgau DRY
Next in the line-up is the CF Muller Thurgau, which is a wine crafted for DK Restaurants by Paul Furst of Franconia, Germany. The Muller Thurgau grape variety was created in 1882 by DR Muller…..by crossing Riesling with what is now believed to be the Madeleine Royale grape variety. This resulting grape variety was one of the other Riesling crosses which caught quite a few eyes for its potential. The finest is undoubtedly produced from Paul Furst, under his family’s label Rudolf Furst. Their estate has but ¾’s of a hectare (red sandstone soils) planted to this grape variety. One cannot help but be amazed at how ethereal & effortlessly light in weight it is, which is further enhanced by the innate minerality from the red sandstone the vines grow in.
Here is a DRY Riesling from one of Germany’s true iconic Masters—Helmut Donnhoff of the Nahe region. Sourced mostly from Schlossbockelheimer Felsenberg (90%) the rest comes from his Niederhausen Hermannshöhle & Leistenberg vineyards—both steep,, rocky hillsides which has lots of porphyry rock soils. Wonderfully pure, captivating & remarkably food friendly!!!!
The Rothenberg Cru is a gentle, red slate soiled slope rising from the Rhein River, which produces some undeniably powerful, masculine Rieslings. The 2011 GG was harvested at 95 degrees oechsle & 5 total acidity. Despite the power & immense concentration, I marvel how unboastfully this wine comes across. In the 90’s these GG styled wines from this estate were MEGA-intense, tight fisted & unyielding. What a change!!!! Truly masterful. This estate is really in the “zone” right now.
Mike Officer & his team are one of the VERY TOP producers of Zinfandel out of California today.. His are real formidable, highly acclaimed wines, that’s for sure, which are well worth seeking out.
—Zinfandel “Saitone Ranch” 2011—is another old vine vineyard (planted in 1895) in that Olivet Lane corridor. The 2011 is 92% Zinfandel & 8% “other grape varieties. The wine sees 16 months in oak (22% new) & bottled unfiltered & unfined.
—Zinfandel “Carlisle Vineyard” 2011—is his own ranch, planted in 1927 on Olivet Lane & organically farmed. The 2011 is 82% Zinfandel & 18% other grape varieties (38 in all). Wild yeast fermented, 16 months in oak (27% new), bottled unfiltered, unfined.
LOIRE VALLEY CABERNET FRANC
It wasn’t that long ago, when most Loire Valley reds appeared to look more darker hued rose. Well, Global Warming took care of that! In any case, one can find some real interesting, provocative, crispy, snappy reds with attitude with some searching. One of the reasons, I started checking out wines like this more & more, aside from their uniqueness & interesting-ness, was to find more wine selections which could aptly fill the gap between Pinot & Cabernet, in terms of weight & extract without compromising food friendliness. Yes, they are hard to find, especially the interesting ones (as opposed to the correctly made ones). Here are 2—
—2012 Chateau d’Epire Anjou Rouge “Clos Cerisale”—Chateau d’Epire is located in the small appellation of Savennieres where from schist soiled vineyards of Chenin Blanc, they produce a stark, severe in its youth, masculine, honeyed-floral, hard white wine, which with some bottle age, it changes into an exotically perfumed, honeyed, intriguing, mesmerizing white wine, which is truly like no other. They also get some Cabernet Franc grapes from the Anjou appellation to produce this delicious, provocative & rustic scented lighter bodied red. Given the price tag, one can have a lot of fun with unique red, especially with foods.
—2011 C&P Breton Bourgueil “Trinch”—we were so honored & thrilled to have Catherine Breton come to Hawaii last year. We had been trying to get her Bourgueil Red wines to Hawaii for quite some time. This dynamic winemaking duo well represent the New Age generation of wine in France. Their wines are brilliantly crafted & some of the true standouts of their region. At the same time, as you will see with this bottling, they still honor, respect & showcase the unique-ness, rusticity & authenticity of terroir, whether it is Vouvray or Bourgueil. Trinch, means “Cheers” someplace in the world. Trinch to me means a really tasty, wildly rustic, masculine, surly, sultry, snappy, outlandish Loire Valley Cabernet Franc which has finally made its way to the Islands….at least legally. No one can say, this is gentle, ethereal or finesse oriented wine, that’s for sure. It too lies somewhere between Pinot & Cabernet in terms of weight & extract.