Archive for Red

Jun
07

Another Look at What Syrah Can Be

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For our VINO tastings, in general, we try to show participants a glimpse of the whole world of wines, something beyond just California and the New World and to create opportunities, which both professionals and non-professionals would not normally have access to…this is one of those tastings.

Over the years, while growing up in this industry, I was always taught Syrah was one of the world’s top five “noble” grape varieties. It was capable of making truly memorable red wines with that offered something extra. Along the way, something got lost in the transition from the old days to today. I would say Australian renditions muddied the waters some because of their BIG, opulent, over blown, often over ripe bottlings. These certainly created quite the sensation and headline news at one time because of their all universe high scores from the major wine writers. Syrah, however, doesn’t have to be loud, bold or swashbuckling. I prefer those that are transparent, refined, sultry, gamey, earthy and full of soul. I am hoping this tasting of four examples, served BLIND, will help you better understand what I am trying to describe. Hopefully, then they will help create a benchmark or two of what Syrah wines can be. 

2017 Lionel Faury Syrah “Collines Rhodaniennes”— Faury fashions more classical, blue collar styled wines–earnest, traditionally grounded, masculine & forthright.  This “Collines Rhodaniennes” bottling comes from parcels on plateaus at higher elevations than St Joseph, granitic soils. 80% destemmed. 6 months in demi-muids (10 to 20 years old).

2016 Jean-Paul Jamet SyrahCollines Rhodaniennes–Finally, some Jamet Syrah is making its way to the Islands! This estate is certainly in the groove of producing top caliber Syrah.  While their Cote Rotie wines are certainly “trophy”-esque, we find superb value in their Collines Rhodaniennes bottling.  The 2016 is a blend of three parcels:– young-vine Côte Rôtie; mica schist terroir on a plateau next to the domaine and outside of the Côte Rôtie appellation AND the 3rd from a plateau above Condrieu. Grapes are 90% de-stemmed and aged 11 months in older barrique (10-20 years old).

2016 Betton Crozes Hermitage “Espiègle”–100% Syrah from La Roche de Glun—alluvial soils with large quartz stones. Crushed by foot, wild yeast fermentation. One year in six year old (white Burgundy) barrels and bottled unfiltered and unfined.  This is an example of a more contemporary styled, fruit forward Syrah to compare with the others.

2015 Kermit Lynch/Louis Barruol Crozes Hermitage “Tenay”–The Louis Barruol-Kermit Lynch collaboration is the combination of two world class talents.  Louis has the insight & right connections/network to search out interesting parcels of Syrah (really focusing on the Petite Serine vine), crafting the wine & then blending the resulting wines with super palate Kermit Lynch.  A blend of two barrels from the lieu dit of Tenay, 30 to 50 year old heirloom/heritage vines.  The Tenay parcel is located on an upper slope just north of hermitage.  We loved the extra dimensions the old vine Serine innately has.

Categories : General, Red, Wine, Wine Thoughts
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Jun
07

What Carignane based wines can be

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Carignane can make very interesting, savory, tasty and wonderfully food friendly red wines and I am always on the look out for wines produced from this grape. When it is good, it can be smoking. Unfortunately, it can also produce very nonchalant renditions. Here is your chance to try FOUR tasty, really unique and interesting examples, each from a true vigneron of the region, just to show tasters what can be! To me a vigneron is a master of his craft who creates magic like few others can.  

2013 Neyers Carignan “Evangelho Vineyard” (California)–Undoubtedly one of our favorites out of California. These vines are around 139 years old age, own rooted, grown in predominately sand soils. Then foot stomped and done with Old World sensibilities. We are so thankful this old vine vineyard has not yet been ripped out or replanted.

2013 Domaine Neferis Selian Premier Cru “Reserve” (Tunisia)–we first tasted this wine at SommCon 2018 at a Carignane tasting conducted by  Geoff Labitzki MW & Brian Lynch.  I marveled at this wine because it was tasty, interesting, rustic, savory with a hearty personality & really delivering at a surprisingly reasonable price.  Tunisia is located in North Africa, across the Mediterranean from Italy and southern France. This is old vine Carignane, well worth checking out.  

2016 Les Milles Vignes Fitou “Denis Royal” (Southern France)–From one of the hottest winemakers in southern France, this cuvee is 80% (75 year old) Carignane 10% Grenache & 10% Mourvedre—such a spellbinding, old vine, wonderfully textured standout.  Their vineyards in the rugged terrain of Fitou is a composite of clay, limestone, marl & schist.  Furthermore, these sites are fiercely & relently pounded by the region’s infamous, ferocious Tramontagne wind, which just adds to the unforgiving growing conditions.  It is without a doubt work driven by passion.  The reins have been completely turned over to (daughter) Valérie Guerin, who in turned, along with her wines are currently one of the “wine darlings” of Paris wine scene.

2013 Domaine Vinci “Rafalot” (Southern France)–Absolutely wild, wooly, unabashed funkster, probably because of the extreme low, if at all, use of sulfur. The wine nonetheless moves me because it does have a good dose of soul, hidden amongst the funk.  Domaine Vinci is located in the heart of Roussillon–a hodge-podge of remote, non-contiguous parcels, totaling only about 6 hectares.  The “Rafalot” bottling comes from a parcel of 100 year Carignane vines grown in clay limestone.  The whole clusters are gently foot stomped with minimal, if any sulfur used during the winemaking process.  It is aged for 18 months in demi-muids & 12 year old barrels.  This is something very unique & different.

Categories : General, Red, Wine, Wine Thoughts
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May
24

“Claret” Styled Californians

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In the old days, the English used to refer to Bordeaux red wines as claret. While this tasting is not featuring any Bordeaux red wines, I just used to the word to conjure up a style reference—classy, elegant, civil, refined and so different from the lavish, humonguous “fruit bombs” quite in fashion these days. Hopefully these wines will show a different slant of what California is capable of.

2016 Obsidian Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon “Obsidian Ridge Vineyard”–This a rising star of noteworthy Cabernet from the Red Hills, Lake County, offered at surprisingly reasonable prices. The 2016 is 95% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Petite Verdot, 1% Malbec and 16 months in oak, 45% new.  “Obsidian—glassy black rock of volcanic origin—covers the hillsides of Obsidian Ridge Vineyard. The steep, sloping terroir of this land, with its incomparable red gravely soil shot through with obsidian, is all that a winemaker could hope for. Half a mile above sea level, the harsh mountain climate shows our fruit no mercy, and this builds character. Pacific winds, blinding mountain sunlight, and cold, rocky conditions produce grapes with exceptionally thick skins, dark color, and intense flavor”.

2016 Falcone Cabernet Sauvignon “Paso Robles”–I first met husband/wife winemakers John and Helen Falcone during their tenure at Rusack Vineyards. They were ex-Napa Valley-ers who came down to the Ballard Canyon enclave of the Santa Barbara appellation and completely turned the project around. While doing so, they also purchased a small parcel in eastern Paso Robles (Creston, I believe) and in 2000 planted four acres each of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. This wonderful 100% Cabernet, aged for 17 months in French and American oak (52% new) is the fruit of their journey. I ran into them at the past two Wine Speak events and we were able to get some to share with you all.

2014 Consortium Cabernet Sauvignon “Napa Valley”–This is a collaborative effort by the “Band of Vintners”, a high profile, wine “rat pack” (including Jason Heller MS) of the Napa Valley, which “overdelivers pound for pound” AND especially for the dollar.  83% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot & 2% Petite Verdot.

2014 Selene Merlot “Frediani Vineyard”–we purposely poured this wine last & BLIND for the tasters.  Our intent was to show the Merlot grape variety, when grown in interesting soils & microclimates is very capable of producing top caliber wine.  In Bordeaux, for instance, the Right Bank seems to be growing its acreage of Merlot.  PLUS, despite the downward turn in popularity of Merlot in the U.S., currently the 2 most expensive Bordeaux “trophy” red wines are Merlot based.  Furthermore, on a recent wine trip to Washington state, I was very impressed with many Merlot based red wines there & truly believe this grape has a real potential & future there.  So, just to mix things up a little, we poured this wine on this night.  100% Merlot from the iconic Frediani Vineyard & superstar winemaker Mia Klein.  It did not disappoint.  In fact, right out of the gates, it had the most provocative perfume–with lots of depth, savoriness, character & vinosity.  Some might think it is because of the additional bottle age or that perhaps Merlot opens up sooner after its been bottled.  Whatever the reason, this wine had grandeur, class & much to say.  On the palate, it was deep, glorious, vinous & savory with superb texture, flow on the palate & balance.

Categories : General, Red, Wine, Wine Thoughts
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Apr
10

Savory Red Wines

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Here is your chance to try FOUR really unique and interesting Italian red wines, each from a true vigneron of the region! To me a vigneron is a master of his craft who works with a code, discipline, skill, passion and dedication for his craft. This honor is for a select few who embrace and masterfully work through a grape, a vine, a vineyard and create magic like few others can. We love how savory and food friendly each is, without any sense of heaviness or gaudiness. What an opportunity!

2015 Renzo Castella Dolcetto di Diano d’Alba “Rivolia”–For most Piemonte wineries, Dolcetto is often an after thought, planted when Nebbiolo or Barbera couldn’t be. In comparison, Renzo Castella proudly is a Dolcetto specialist—50 year old organically farmed vines in the Diano d’Alba appellation with its largely sandstone dominated soils. We were absolutely captivated with this charming, classy, delicious rendition. WOW! 

 

2017 Baron Widmann Vernatsch Südtiroler”–Grown at roughly 2000 feet elevation in the mountains of northeast Italy. 100% Sciava from one of the most revered vineyard-ists in all of Italy.  “Light colored, delicious and very drinkable table wines (sort of like a cross between Beaujolais and Bourgeuil and as mouthwatering and savory as that description suggests). This is a wine to be drunk and not discussed”. 

2010 La Viarte Schiopettino di Prepotto “Colli Orientali”–Schiopettino is an indigenous grape variety of northeast Italy, high in the hills.  It seems to excel in the Prepotto enclave.  Interestingly, Schiopettino seems to be fastly rising in recognition among the sommelier community across the country. This grape variety is easier to grow than many of its peers, while still delivering a wonderful savoriness, especially in the core, without pondering weight, richness or high alcohol levels. It definitely has a rightful place at the dinner table.

2017 Vigneti Vecchio Etna “Sciare Vive”–Mostly Nerello Mascalese—50 to 130 year old vines—grown in the volcanic soils of Etna at 2000 feet elevation and only six months aging in 500 liter oak. Yet, another red wine all about savoriness and mojo, while still being wonderfully transparent, surprisingly refined and delicious.

 

Categories : General, Red, Wine, Wine Thoughts
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Jan
21

What Old World Grenache Can Be

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Jan
05

A Tasting of FOUR Corsican Reds @ VINO

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you to all who came.

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

Keith’s BYOB Grenache Tasting 09-24-18

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

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

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

Having said that, here were my highlights–

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories : General, Red, Wine, Wine Thoughts
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I distinctly remember my first encounter with the Morgon wines from the “Gang of Four”.  In short, they were like no other wine I had encountered before.  Led by Marcel Lapierre, the “Gang” included Jean Foillard, Jean-Paul Thevenet & Guy Breton, who were inspired by & followed the teachings of Jules Chauvet & his very “back to basics” thoughts both in the vineyard & the winery.

When I then brought the wines to Hawaii back in the early 1990’s, not even in my wildest imagination would I have imagined these four would “change the game” in Beaujolais, make Beaujolais “cool” to drink again & stir the thought pot, which would help change the way wines were grown & produced throughout France & eventually the world.

Yes, it was four guys in Beaujolais. 

Imagine my absolute thrill that 2 1/2 months ago, one of them, Jean Foillard & the children of 2 of his contemporaries’/”partner’s in the Gang” would be coming to Hawaii to do a tasting,  They were part of immense wine talent that came here to participate in the 2018 Hawaii Food & Wine Festival.

The line-up of wines for their tasting was quite impressive–1 flight featuring the wines from Marcel Lapierre (Camille Lapierre representing), 1 flight from Jean-Paul Thevenet/Charly Thevenet (Charly Thevenet representing & 1 flight from Jean Foillard (Jean Foillard representing).

A big, much mahalo to Warren Shon of SGWS for making this happen.  What a tasting & experience!

Categories : General, Red, Wine, Wine Thoughts
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Dec
10

A Carignan Tasting at SommCon (San Diego)

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SommCon is an en masse gathering of sommeliers & other wine professionals.  The one held this past November was in San Diego, California & featured 3 days worth of panel discussions, presentations & educational seminars.  One of the most interesting presentations I attended was– “Carignan–it’s just not for blending any more“–by Geoff Labitzke, Master of Wine & Brian Lynch of Kermit Lynch Wine Merchants.

My fascination for the Carignan grape variety has really grown over the years.  As the title of the seminar suggests it was typically used as a blending component rather than a featured, stand alone bottling.

The first Carignan based red wine that caught my fancy was from Domaine de Fontsainte & their Corbières red in the late 80’s/early 90’s.  I found it to be so delicious, tasty, food friendly & gulpable.  Shortly thereafter, when tasting other Corbieres red wines from their neighbors, I was rather put off by the over use of Syrah to their blends & I was thankful to have experienced the Fontsainte rendition first.  Subsequently I also took a fancy to their “Réserve La Demoiselle” bottling (the Carignane planted in 1904).  These 2 wines opened a whole new thought for me on what Carignane could offer.

A short time later, my next Carignan experience was produced by the Pellegrini family (California) back in the early 1990’s.  I found it to be tasty, interesting & quite food friendly though very unique, rambunctious & virile.  It was also quite a great value for what one got in the bottle.  This wine showed me what was possible in California, especially from the Sonoma & Mendocino wine growing areas.  (I have since found 2 other interesting Carignane based red wines out of California worth checking out–Folk Machine “Parts & Labor” & the Neyers Carignan “Evangelho Vineyard”)

In both cases, I found Carignan not to be showy or as outgoing as those wines produced from Syrah, Grenache or Mourvedre grape varieties.  It had its own set of characteristics.  I especially liked old vine renditions as Carignan seemed to be quite a conduit of character & vinosity from the old vines to the wine in the bottle, at least in certain cases.  It really was those cases that greatly peaked my interest.  After Fontsainte, I discovered that importer Kermit Lynch added other Carignan driven wines to his fabulous portfolio, including old vine Carignan dominated bottlings from Sylvain Fadat at D’Aupilhac, Maxime Magnon, Leon Barral, Vinci & Les Milles Vignes.  Each offer something special & compelling.

With Carignan, there were also some to be found out of Spain’s Priorat region that are also interesting.

So, I was quite anxious to see what Geoff & Brian would offer at this tasting seminar.  They did NOT disappoint.  Geoff sought after & collected some interesting renditions from Mexico, Sonoma, San Diego, Chile, Spain AND Tunisia of all places!  Brian brought & shared 4 true Carignane superstars from his portfolio–Maxime Magnon “Campagnes”; Domaine D’Aupilhac “Le Carignan”; Vinci “Rafalot” &  Les Milles Vignes “Dennis Royal”–each wine featuring 80 to 100 year old Carignane vines, their fruit & very masterful grape growing & winemaking. It was quite an insightful gathering of wines & tasting & I was overjoyed.  Thank you guys for this fabulous opportunity! 

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Nov
24

VINO–out of the box

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Someone recently commented that Italy had roughly 511 different grape varieties. Another said 1200. The point is—there are many. The most challenging aspect I have discovered during my travels to wine country is finding the really “good” examples, sifting through the lists of possible wines and wineries to find those that have something interesting, unique and memorable to offer. That is not as easy as one would think. Last trip, for instance, after two weeks, up and down Italy, we found none fitting the bill. Still, one has to keep trying, right? Here are four which recently came on to our radar screen and are really worth checking out, keeping in mind, each is totally out of most people’s comfort zone. 

2014 Castelluccio Sangiovese di Romagna “Le More”–Here is Sangiovese with a twist. This one is grown in the Modigliano hills, which until the 1930’s was referred to as “ancient Tuscany”, as it was still considered part of Tuscany. The soils have a layer of marl-limestone with elevations between 750 to 1500 feet. Not only is this quite a unique & special site, BUT also consider this project is overseen by legendary, superstar winemaker Vittorio Fiore.

Lambrusco, Ariola “Marcello Gran Cru”–At VINO, we have a real hankering for a glass of well chilled, wonderfully refreshing, uplifting Italian Lambrusco & are therefore always looking.  Here is one of the most acclaimed of the Lambrusco category.  Produced from 100% Lambrusco Maestri, this is a vividly fresh, fizzy, completely refreshing wine ideal served well chilled & with a selection of salumi & cheeses.  “Marcello impresses with its aromatic richness and for its softness. A Lambrusco that contains a rare amount of technique, passion and nature, thanks to its immediate pleasantness of the flavor. The cellar Ariola, founded in 1956, stands on the hills between Felino and Langhirano, in the heart of the Food Valley and Doc Colli di Parma”.  Undoubtedly a benchmark to measure others by in the future.

2014 Livon Pignolo “Eldoro”— I became intrigued with the Pignolo grape variety back in the early to mid 1990’s, because of one bottling–that from then named producer Zamó  & Palazzolo, from the Colli Orientale subzone of Friuli, Italy.  Those early renditions, had a very dark pigmentation, very strikingly blue/purple hued, (rather than black) showed that this grape variety had a strong core, ample tannins & firm structure.  I then was further intrigued with the Pignolo from Walter Filiputti & vintages in the late 90’s/early 2000’s, when we were opening VINO over on Maui.  Filiputti also worked with vines near & around the Abbey at Rosazzo, just as Zamó had.  This certainly seemed to be a sweet spot for growing this rather challenging grape variety.  I didn’t know what to expect from this Livon rendition, as it was a gift.  It’s core, mojo & presence was a shadow of what I had had before.  I wouldn’t say I was wow-ed by any means, but it was interesting nonetheless.

2010 La Viarte Schiopettino del Prepotto–100% Schiopettino.  La Viarte’s estate vineyards are located in the Colli Orientale region of Friuli.  Insiders say this red grape variety grew in popularity because it was much easier to grow & with more consistent yields than indigenous Friulian vines such as Pignolo.  Still, we continually look for more & more red wines like this which offer real savoriness from beginning to end in the wine without any sense of heaviness & richness. We believe wines like this can offer a completely different dimension to food & wine pairings.

2011 Petro Nera Sforzato di Valtellina–a completely different and unforgettable take on what Nebbiolo can be. Valtellina is one of the northernmost grape growing areas of Italy. The entire DOCG is but 282 hectares in size, the best sites—high in elevation, dizzyingly steep and therefore terraced This the home to Nebbiolo, locally known as Chiavennasco.   Sforzato di Valtellina takes a slightly different approach, using the passito method–the grapes are harvested late when the bunches are partly raisined. And then they undergo further drying in aerated crates. It is quite unusual to do so with Nebbiolo,” says Stefano, “But it really enhances the wine in color, aroma and flavour.”

 

Categories : General, Red, Wine, Wine Thoughts
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