Archive for White

Jul
07

BYOB Chardonnay Tasting

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On this night, tasters, mainly our VINO staff, brought an assortment of Chardonnays just to try side by side.  Since it was a group tasting, we asked everyone to add in their 2 cents, so we could all learn together as group, from the wines & each other’s comments.  Thank you Keith for hosting this wonderful learning opportunity.

Here is the list of wines everyone brought–

2010 Ridge Chardonnay “Monte Bello”; 2015 Ballard Lane Chardonnay: 2015 Foxen Chardonnay “Bien Nacido Vineyard–UU Block”; 2014 Au Bon Climat Chardonnay “Santa Barbara”; 2007 Au Bon Climat Chardonnay “Sanford & Benedict Vineyard”; 2013 Jean-Paul Brun Beaujolais Blanc; 2015 Les Héritiers du Comte Lafon Mâcon Chardonnay “Clos de la Crochette”; 2016 William  Fèvre Chablis “Champs Royaux”; 2104 Savary Chablis “Vieilles Vignes”; 2010 Jean-Paul & Benoît Droin Chablis Premier Cru “Vaillons”; 2012 Robert Denogent Pouilly Fuissé “Vieilles Vignes–La Croix”; 2004 Cherisey Meursault-Blagny Premier Cru “La Genellotte”; 1996 François Jobard Meursault Premier Cru “Genevrières”.  Yes, lots of highly rated wines!  Thank you all for sharing.

Here are some of my highlights.

The 2010 Ridge Chardonnay “Monte Bello” (roughly $80 a bottle retail–92 to 94 point ratings)–showed lots of blatant, toasty oak/hazelnut (with apparent American oak pungency) notes right out of the gates.  Well made, good flow, structure, stony, surprisingly light on its feet (in comparison to what the nose forewarned), oak framed with prominent alcohol in the finish (more than the 14.4% shown on the label).  A question mark purchase for me after seeing the price.  2015 Foxen Chardonnay “Bien Nacido Vineyard–UU Block” (roughly $40 retail–rated 90 points)–reminiscent of the region’s old guard & therefore balance & mineral driven, more so than expensive oak,  flashiness & alcohol.  This wine showed a better finish & therefore was much more palatable than the previous 2.  Surprisingly elegant, though forward with well integrated oak & high lemon like acidity (almost too much so for some tasters).  It is also a peculiar combination of stony, fresh steamed rice nuanced & an old fashion pungency (the latter I sometimes get from Santa Maria Valley old vine clone 4).  Interestingly, the 2014 Au Bon Climat Chardonnay “Santa Barbara” (roughly $22 retail–88 points)–was much more seamless from beginning to end, classy, better textured & more complete than the previous 3 wines.  Tasting these wines side by side was really eye opening & made me appreciate the Au Bon Climat winemaking even that much more.  While it wasn’t grand or anything of the sorts, it displayed sublime minerality, grace, deliciousness & real value.  2007 Au Bon Climat Chardonnay “Sanford & Benedict Vineyard” (roughly $35 retail–88 points)–there is no doubt this was by far the most compelling of the Californian Chardonnays we sampled on this night.  By far!  The wine had mesmerizing vinosity, minerality & mojo, like one would expect from a Cru bottling with superb texture, seamlessness, balance & class. We hear more & more rumblings of how ABC has seen their best days or their production is way too high to make top echelon wines.  This bottling clearly shows otherwise……AND, at 11 years old.  What a wine!  Thank you Erica & Jamm for sharing.

We then segued into Chardonnays from Burgundy, France.  While on paper the list looked impressive & interesting, I scratched my head in wonderment as I felt some of them greatly under delivered.  Still, tasting these wines side by side turned out to be quite the learning experience–which made some wines really shine & others not.  (We didn’t do the tasting blind, in order to make the experience less intimidating for the new attendees).

The 2016 William Fèvre Chablis “Champs Royaux” was a real surprise, as it perennially receives media high praise, is surprisingly reasonably priced & has wide appeal.  The 2016 features a pretty floral, seashell & mineral scented nose with a delicious, rounder than expected mouthfeel.  In comparison, the 2104 Savary Chablis “Vieilles Vignes” was a Chablis of wonderful, sheer etherealness & mesmerizing, pristine purity.  The finesse, vinosity, delicate intricacies carry through on the palate, done with great class & truly remarkable lightness/airiness.  WOW!  The 2012 Robert Denogent Pouilly Fuissé “Vieilles Vignes–La Croix” also showed exceptionally well on this night.  Much richer, seemingly riper & therefore more showy than the preceeding Chablis born wines, this La Croix vineyard (but 2 hectares of 80 year old vines) bottling had prominent & captivating vinosity & character done with superb texture, balance & class.  Stellar!  I distinctly remember the 2004 Cherisey Meursault-Blagny Premier Cru “La Genellotte” upon its release, mostly because how much I loved this newly discovered domaine for me & its wines.  Theirs was very reminiscent of the old style of artisan white Burgundy I grew up with.  It was vehemently masculine, virile & seemingly like a chiseled block of rock……with a resounding oak thread framing it.  I remember thinking, “I wish I could taste this wine again when it is 20 years old!”  On this night, it was but 14 years of age & I was quite stunned at how beautiful, seamless & stunning it truly evolved to be in the bottle with age.   I understand & appreciate that it is a VERY unique style & therefore VERY different from the more highly acclaimed domaines such as Coche Dury, Ente & Roulot.  And, I am most thankful for the difference, because it is so good, artisan & unique.  (Thank you Cheryle for sharing!)   The shining star of the evening for me was the 1996 François Jobard Meursault Premier Cru “Genevrières” (thank you VERY much Jamm & Erica for sharing).  I also remember having this wine upon release.  It was unbelievably tight fisted & hard.  (I think this style has held them back from gaining the true acclaim they profoundly deserve).  I also remember thinking, I can’t wait to try this wine again when it is 25 years old.  Here it was  23 years old…..in all its glory.  For me, this was having a grand wine at an ideal point of its life.  (I should also mention, that in the early days, I thought their Premier Cru Charmes parcel was their showpiece.  While it still is so very impressive, I find their Genevrières to be worthy of Grand Cru level quality & this wine clearly shows why).

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May
27

What Sauvignon Blanc Can Be

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from a winetasting at VINO………

Here is a chance to check out first hand what Old World Sauvignon Blanc can be.  Yes, for us, these are some of the very best!  How often does one get such an opportunity? 

2014 Denis Jamain Reuilly “Les Pierres Plates”–This is a wonderfully pure, remarkably light and ethereal Sauvignon Blanc—to me, one that is quite unique and riveting. Certainly, a VERY interesting way to start this tasting.  “Reuilly is located in Sauvignon Blanc territory (central Loire Valley vineyards), an ancient winemaking village that today has only about 300 acres in vines.  Our bottling, Pierres Plates, is from a specific vineyard with Chablis-like soil full of chalk, fossils and sea shells.  Try to imagine Sancerre grown at Chablis.  The fruit is lively, with white flower perfumes, citrus and minerality.  It has finesse and precision”.     

2015 Régis Minet Pouilly Fume “Vieilles Vignes”–Quintessential Sauvignon Blanc in all its glory and certainly one others can be measured by.  “His vineyards sit at 750 feet, surrounded by hills on the far east of the Loire River, and centered proudly on the prized limestone and clay of the Kimmeridgian chain. The scattered flint in these vineyards imbues the wines with a character quite distinctive from the neighboring village of Sancerre. In the eloquent words of KLWM Store Manager, Steve Waters, “You couldn’t ask for a cleaner, fresher, flintier, or truer expression of Sauvignon Blanc. Its mouth-watering acidity, depth of flavor, and fleshy texture will have you racing back for more.”

2014 Diploi Sauvignon Blanc Voglar–What a unique, standout white wine.  It is a wine all about chiseled rock & displays that kind of profile.  “Peter Dipoli represents one of the wine world’s pure talents, a pioneer in Alto Adige who is producing wines on a level beyond what anyone thought possible in this mountainous region. After much research and study, Peter determined that the steep, high-altitude (1500 to 2000 feet) slopes near Bolzano are ideal for the production of complex, age-worthy Sauvignon Blanc. His in-depth study of terroir seems to have paid off, as the Voglar bottling—a pure Sauvignon Blanc grown in limestone soils on near-vertical slopes, fermented and aged in acacia casks—is characterized by gorgeous exotic fruit with abundant minerality

2009 Hippolyte Reverdy Sancerre “Ortus”–Hippolyte Reverdy perennially produces some of our favorite Sauvignon Blanc.  We are enamored how remarkably light, ethereal & minerally the resulting wine typically is.  Yes, I have frequently been, over the years, distracted by neighboring wines which are initially more prolific & eye catching, but, I always somehow make my way back to this producer & his wines.  “Reverdy’s world renown importer into the U.S., Kermit Lynch, says–Reverdy has “become the benchmark domaine of our day. One of the things I love about it is that it leaves on the lips, not the palate, not the throat, but on your lips, a fresh little lemony whisper which makes it a fabulous complement to simple fish dishesThe Ortus bottling is produced only in exceptional vintages—so far—2003, 2005 and 2009. This special wine is aged in 400 liter barrels where it undergoes malolactic and sees lees stirring daily. It is then aged in old barrels for an additional year and then released after an additional year of aging in bottle. This is the crown jewel of this venerable estate”.

Categories : General, White, Wine
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One of the joys of exploring Italy’s vast number of growing areas is finding the gems—those that stand above the crowd, showcase something unique, interesting and noteworthy. While many of the nooks and crannies up and down Italy are steadfast and have been around for quite some time, I have been more and more wow-ed by the some of the new found specialties produced in Italy’s mountainous northeast corner. These high elevation sites, full of mineral deposits, quite different from flatter, lower elevation sites, can produce something truly special & breathtaking AND so VERY different from any other part of Italy.  

2015 Cantine Terlan Pinot Bianco–An absolutely riveting, mineral driven, standout white wine, grown between 1,000 to 3200 feet elevation. The first vintage was 1928.

2015 Manni Nössing Sylvaner–Nössing produces some of the very finest, breathtakingly pure white wines out of northeast Italy. 

Less than twenty miles south of the Austrian border, that Manni Nössing runs his small winery 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, which is ideal for his house style of precision, freshness, class, and minerality”.

2015 Château Feuillet Moscato Bianco Val d’Aosta”–Here is yet another breathtaking rarity….this one from nearly 3,000 feet high altitudes of the Val d’Aosta region.

“The vines sit in a very shallow sandy soil, but their feet wriggle into crevices in the solid granite bedrock. And the vineyards are planted on an ancient riverbed and the wines happily lap up the cornucopia of mineral deposits. The trump card, however, is the chilly climate, high altitude, and drastic diurnal temperature shifts that provides the magic charm sought by vignerons everywhere: extremely long hours of gentle sunlight”.

2014 Dipoli Sauvignon “Voglar”–A real showstopper, well worth paying attention to. 

“Peter Dipoli represents one of the wine world’s pure talents, a pioneer in Alto Adige who is producing wines on a level beyond what anyone thought possible in this mountainous region. After much research and study, Peter determined that the steep, high-altitude slopes near Bolzano are ideal for the production of complex, age-worthy white and red wines. At 2000 feet altitude, Sauvignon enjoys a longer growing season, attaining great ripeness while retaining the acidity that would allow it to age in bottle. His centerpiece—the Voglar bottling—is a pure Sauvignon Blanc grown in limestone soils on near-vertical slopes, fermented and aged in acacia casks—and is characterized by gorgeous exotic fruit with abundant minerality.

 

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Oct
23

A Taste of German Wines 07-15-17

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We tasted quite a slew of German wines today.  Here are some of the highlights.

We started off with a flight of 3 DRY styled white wines.  The first was the 2014 Rudolf Fürst Weissburgunder “Pur Mineral” from Franconia, Germany.  Owner/winemaker Paul Fürst was selected as 2003 “Gault Millau Winemaker of the Year”.  We have been BIG fans of his Rieslings, Muller Thurgau, Pinot Noirs & now the Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc).  While many of his wines come from his estate vineyard (sandstone soils) in Burgstädt, this pure, precise, ethereal, remarkably light & absolutely riveting white wine comes the Volkacher Karthäuser vineyard & its limestone soils…..3 hectares…harvested at 92 oechsle, fermented dry (50% wild yeast), sees NO malolactic & is then aged in 1500 liter big oak.  Definitely a wine worth searching out for.  The next wine tasted was the 2015 Hans Wirsching Silvaner Dry “Iphöfer Kalb” VDP.ERSTE LAGE.   Hans Wirsching is another standout Franconian winery & has been for a VERY long time.  Their 3 TOP vineyard sites are located in Iphöf–Julius Echter Berg, Kronsberg & Kalb.  “The Iphöfer Kalb is a steep slope that faces south with gypsum-keuper soils.  I realized a few years back, the grape variety Silvaner is innately & amazingly pliable (at least on the country” style of renditions) & can therefore work with a wide range of foods.  This bottling however is meant to be more sophisticated…..higher level.  The words Erste Lage, in fact, is Germany’s effort at a Cru system, highlighting dry wines of distinct quality levels.  It certainly delivers accordingly.  The final wine of the flight–2015 Wirsching Scheurebe Kabinett Dry “Iphöfer”–I am always so re-amazed every new vintage how delicately perfumed, remarkably light & pretty & wonderfully delicious this wine is.  I also think this is one of the finest white wines out there to consider with pairing with contemporary Asian fusion foods.

Theo Haart was “2007 Gault Millau Winemaker of the Year” & is growing & crafting some of the finest white wines in the world.  His home turf is mainly Piesporter Goldtröpfchen, which many would equate to a Grand Cru level vineyard if there was ever such a thing.  Haart also owns small parcels in Piesport-Kreutzwingert (monopole), Domherr & Gräfenberg, as well as a small 1 hectare parcel in Wintricher Ohligsberg.  I often shake my head in wonderful when tasting his TOP echelon wines & how he deftly able to combine such power, profound, ageworthy structure & pedigree with such civility, sophistication & grace.  At our Sansei Seafood Restaurant & Sushi Bar, we readily offer the Reinhold Haart Riesling “Piesporter” bottling, a medium dry to dry (12 degree alcohol), wonderfully minerally estate Riesling, which is sourced from a combination of their vineyards of Piesport.  It really is amazingly food friendly & over delivers for the dollar.  The 2014 Reinhold Haart Riesling Kabinett “Piesporter”, in comparison is slight sweet, & only 9 degrees in alcohol & therefore suited for dishes somewhat more spicy or salty in preparation.  The 2015 Reinhold Haart Riesling Kabinett “Piesporter Goldtröpfchen” is all Goldtröpfchen, deep clay soils with gray-blue slate & the minerality, vinosity & filigree is quite different than the previous 2 wines.  It is also seemingly slightly sweeter & only 8.5 alcohol, which makes it an ideal wine for spicy, salty Asian inspired foods.  The showstopper of the line-up is the 2007 Haart Riesling Kabinett “Piesporter Goldtröpfchen”, which has much more mineral character, vinosity, profound depth, pedigree, intricacies & pizazz.  PLUS, with 10 years of bottle age, the once apparent sweetness had partially changed to a more creamy, tactile, viscosity on the palate AND allows the minerality to come more front & center.  What a wine!!!

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We decided to showcase FOUR real showpiece white wines on this night! Side by side….BLIND.  This was some kind of tasting!  After all, how often do opportunities like this come about?

2009 Hippolyte Reverdy Sancerre “Ortus”–Hippolyte Reverdy grows and produces some our favorite Sauvignon Blancs in the world from the French appellation of Sancerre. After all the years of following wines and getting distracted with newly discovered Sauvignon Blancs, I am now more than ever, convinced he is the master of this grape variety.   The wines are pure, minerally, intricate, masterfully textured and balanced year in and year out. Every now and then, when the vintage warrants, Reverdy produces an “Ortus” bottling—his best of the best—done with aging in large neutral oak barrels, 100% malolactic and twice a week lees stirring without being over done or with too much bravado. This is undoubtedly one of the real standouts from France’s Loire Valley. 

2015 Faury Condrieu–a rarely seen, nearly forgotten standout white wine appellation! Having said that, there really is no other wine like it, when it is grown and crafted at this level AND standard. The media hype those that, in my opinion, over do their wines. Thankfully, this family understands the importance of preserving such vines and craft their wines in honor of their history and heritage.  Such an intoxicating perfume combining exotic fruit/floral qualities, stony, base notes, a lush, visceral texture, bordering unctuous & surprising, sublime pedigree which separates it from other Viogniers I have encountered.  Nothing thankfully over done.  Definitely a benchmark! 

2013 Nigl Grüner Veltliner “Alte Reben”–A chance to taste the finest Austrian Grüner Veltliner standouts of the year. The vineyards are steep and mostly primary rock (gneiss) and mica slate, tucked deep in the Krems Valley on the edge of the Senftenberg mountain. Here is his Old Vine bottling–mega-intense, seemingly chiseled from the rock it is grown in, with lots of old vine intricacies, resounding, bordering hard structure with great length & grandeur. 

2012 Dönnhoff Riesling Hermannshöhle “GG”–There is no doubt Helmut Dönnhoff is one of the world’s TOP winemakers and his Hermannshöhle parcel is his crown jewel. GG is Germany’s attempt at a Grand Cru level of quality. Iconic winemaker + great vineyard + Grand Cru quality = whew, what a truly monumental wine!  The 2012 deftly combines power, mesmerizing minerality, old vine intricacy, structure with class & grandeur.  This is a REAL majestic thoroughbred.  OMG.

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Jul
31

2015 Nichon Semillon

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In all of these years of being in the wine industry, I cannot recall having a Semillon which really stood out.

Well that all changed when we tasted the 2015 Nichon Semillon a few weeks back.  This 100 case lot of 80% Semillon & 20% Sauvignon Blanc is yet another remarkable, totally ingenious wine project of superstar Master Sommelier Richard Betts.  The 60 plus, own rooted vines are planted in the deeply sandy soils of Vine Vale, within Australia’s Barossa Valley.  Betts writes to us–“way beyond organic or biodynamic to a style that we refer to as feral. Yup, it’s wild and full of wildlife (read: gigantic spiders, etc.) The vines are pruned, the grapes are picked and other than this, nothing else occurs – no plowing, no water, no pesticides, no herbicides, did we say no plowing?  whole cluster BASKET pressed…Barrel fermented in second use french barrique. (We get used chardonnay barrels and ferment and age in here.) then aged entirely in second use French oak for 12 months. There is NO malo, no fining, no filtration.  Did we say no plowing?

 

We continue the tasting with a gang of white wines.  White on, bro!

2016 Palmina Pinot Grigio “Santa Barbara”–Palmina is a project featuring Italian grape varieties grown & produced in the Santa Barbara appellation of California by winemaker Steve Clifton.  (Quite candidly, I am not quite sure who else is still involved with Steve).  The 2016 is markedly different from the previous Pinot Grigio bottlings.  It definitely has a more coppery hue to the naked eye, which reminds me of a more ramato (skin contact) style.  The wine is still tasty, refined, seamless–just with a little more flesh & a bitter almond to the finish.  I would also suggest that it is still greatly & thankfully still way underpriced.  Thank you to Warren for sharing this bottle.   2016 Chehalem Pinot Gris “12th Ave Grill”–Here is a wine “designed” for head wine star, Rick Lily, over at 12th Ave Grill.  As one taster noted–“I love it, because it is so pretty & delicious“.   Can’t argue with that kind of endorsement.  Kudos to you Mr. Lily!   2014 Au Bon Climat Pinot Gris/Pinot Blanc “Santa Maria Valley”–This certainly was one of the standout white wines–very classy, elegant, seamless texture AND plenty of mojo in the core.  I also love the superb balance AND mostly what a SENSATIONAL VALUE this truly is considering the price. 

2015 Lieu Dit Sauvignon Blanc “Santa Ynez Valley”–I have been a huge fan of this bottling for a few vintages, as it showcased the very best attributes of what Sauvignon Blanc can be in California–elegance, refinement, class with sublime, earth driven nuances.  Quite candidly, however, I was a little disappointed with this particular wine.  Although it still showed much of the characteristics I had previously admired, it was rather lackluster, disjointed & kind of a “plain Jane” on this night.   I think it was mainly due to following the previously tasted Au Bon Climat wine.  It still was quite good & undoubtedly dwarfed the New Zealander that followed–2015 Petit Clos Sauvignon Blanc “Marlborough” (from Clos Henri) with much rounder edges, seamlessness & a much better finish.

2015 Cambiata Albariño “Monterey”–Such subtle & enticing perfume with seamlessness & wonderful flow on the palate.  We have really been working hard to find such fragrant, aromatic grape varieties, as they provide a very different compatibility when pairing with foods.  This one is from our wine friend Eric Laumann, using vines grown especially for him down in Monterey.  In addition, this wine really does over deliver for the dollar.  The sad news is, there was apparently only 205 cases produced.  I am not so sure what to say about the 2013 Matthiasson White Wine “Napa Valley”.  Winemaker Steve Matthiasson has developed a huge following, especially among the sommelier scene.  We therefore had big expectations for this wine, because the core is Ribolla Gialla, an Italian/Slovenian grape variety (vine cuttings from Josko Gravner) which Steve is especially high on.  It was unexpectedly & unfortunately quite underwhelming on this night (forward, hollow in the middle, no core to it, & oaky/alcoholic & bitter in the finish).  Maybe it was due to shipping or storage, which was undetermined, because no one said they brought it.   It was still a treat to try.  

2013 Melville Viognier “Verna’s Vineyard”–the first commercial Californian grown Viognier I tasted was a 1986 from Bill Smith of La Jota up on Howell Mountain.  The next, shortly thereafter was one from Calera.  Because of its wonderful perfume & aromatics, it seemed to really catch on & lots of people were planting it.  It was en vogue.  The challenge for me, however was finding “good” ones.  I remember trying one in the early 90’s which was organically grown in the Russian River appellation.  It was exotically perfumed, as expected, thick viscous, luscious, BUT flabby, quite hollow, noticeably alcoholic & bitter.  The following year the same winemaker contacted me again, with much eagerness over his new rendition.  The grapes came from the same vineyard, but he noted harvested at way lower brix to retain the acidity & freshness.  In both cases, I just felt, this quite fickle  grape variety really didn’t do too well in his spot.  I have found that this exotically scented grape variety seems to do especially well in the marine soils & cool growing confines of Santa Barbara county.  Here was a stellar example–enticing, uplifting perfume, the weight of a Chardonnay grown in the same vineyard, an interplay of exotic & minerality, seamlessness & lovely, captivating deliciousness.   Thank you Micah for sharing. 

2014 Folk Machine Chenin Blanc–Chenin Blanc did not have such a good reputation over the years in California.  There were far too many that would lacksidasically grown & made.  Along came former skateboarder Kenny Likitprakong who found some very interesting Chenin Blanc sources, the first from down south in the Santa Barbara appellation & more recently from the old vine Norgard Vineyard on the Talmage Bench in Mendocino in 2010.   I believe these vines are more like 36 years in age.  While this wine does not have too much resemblance to the Chenin Blancs of France’s Loire Valley (& so it should be, by the way.  This is California after all!), this particular bottling is a fairly good drink & certainly much better suited for the dinner table than most Californian Sauvignon Blanc bottlings I have tasted.  The 2015 Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc/Viognier–was kindly brought to share by one of Hawaii’s top sommeliers.  He routinely buys this at the wine store for under $13 a bottle & feels he really gets his bang for his buck.  Thank you for sharing!

Categories : White, Wine, Wine Thoughts
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Loire Valley–this duo centered around the fact that I was able to get a bottle of the much heralded Guiberteau Saumur Blanc “Brézé” on my last trip to Seattle.  My point was, while I really respect & appreciate superstar cuvees like this, I wanted to compare it to another producer’s top echelon Loire Valley bottling, Bregeon “Gorges”, just to keep things in perspective.  The 2013 Bregeon “Gorges” hails from the western region of the valley, where the greatly under appreciated Muscadet grape variety calls home turf.  While many of the soils are marine influenced, mostly sand & fossilized sea critters, this particular producer & his vineyards are planted on “Gabbro soils–an old, blue-green, volcanic rock, rarely found in vineyard land. Formed by magma eruptions under the ocean floor, it is said to impart intense complexity to Michel’s wine“.  To add to this wine fulfilling its potential, Bregeon further ages this cuvee for at least 2 years (different vintage to vintage) in subterranean glass cuvees on its lees, all done with a very masterful touch.  The 2013 was just SOOOO breathtakingly pure, minerally & delicately nuanced with a distinct, salivating salinity.  Eventhough it is quite pricey at roughly $38 a bottle retail, I bought it just because of how good it really is..  In comparison, we poured the much heralded 2012 Domaine Guiberteau Saumur Blanc “Brézé”.   This family has owned vineyards in the Saumur appellation for well over 100 years & today headed by Romain Guiberteau, who along with his father reinvented the estate & wines in the 1990’s.  The single vineyard La Brézé is their crown jewel & is truly recognized as one of the most profound single terroirs in all of the Loire Valley.  Their 1.2ha parcel, is sand & clay on limestone & today organically farmed.  A little over 1/2 of the vineyard was planted to Chenin Blanc (the other half Cabernet Franc), planted in 1933 & 1952 (although I believe there are some younger vines scattered here & there).  The juice is whole cluster pressed & wild yeast fermented in 1 & 2 year barrels & then aged on it lees for 18 months.  This is an example of a SUPER wine.  It seems every wine sooner or later features a similar standout.  Yes, there is still Beaujolais–light, delicious, unpretentious & carefree….& now there are also SUPER Beaujolais, just as their is Loire Valley Chenin Blanc & now this SUPER version.  This is an undeniably “tour de force’ bottling–so mega intense & concentrated, almost to the point of being liquid rock, with a resounding, bordering puckering structure & a strong oak presence, especially on the palate.  I suggest those lucky enough to have this wine in their collection, put it away for at least 15 years before trying it.  And, while I think the Guiberteau wine is a real trophy & deservedly so, for VINO, we think the Bregeon “Gorges” is much more appropriate, especially with our foods (& targeted price points).

German wines–This duo was to be the final pairing of the night.  It wasn’t that long ago where Germany would ripen Riesling typically 2 to 3 vintages out of every 10.  This encouraged scientists to work on finding grape vine crossings, which would offer Riesling nobility, but would ripen earlier.  One of the most popular crossings developed was Scheurebe.  In the old days, I sometimes would pair the quite exotic, fruity styled Scheurebe Spätlese with lighter foie gras dishes as well as with Asian inspired meat/fowl dishes such as Chinese Peking Duck.  Not all Scheurebe, however, are equal & one therefore needs to be very selective when purchasing one.  Plus, now, because we can essentially get ripe Riesling Spätlese & Auslese more regularly, the demand for Scheurebe for me is far less.  Still I thought it would be fascinating to try 2 Spätlese–1 Scheurebe & 1 Riesling–both from the 2008 vintage.  The 2008 Pfeffingen Scheurebe Spätlese “Ungsteiner Herrenberg” proved to be quite tropical/exotic fruited in aroma with some gewurz-ish spice & floral nuances.  Eventhough it was a more classic vintage, this 2008 was filled with gorgeous, unctuous, ripe, tropical fruit (I suspect more Auslese than actually Spätlese) whose once obvious, apparent sweetness (despite the 10.5 alcohol level) had at least partially morphed into a more tactile, visceral mouthfeel/texture.  The 2008 Dönnhoff Riesling Spätlese “Niederhauser Hermannshöhle”, in comparison , was decidedly more about slate/rock character than any kind of fruit–seemingly chiseled out of rock & done with precision & masterful workmanship.  Dönnhoff produces wines of immense concentration, elegance & adulterated power with truly majestic pedigree (especially with this vineyard, revered as the finest in the Nahe region) & the innate ability to get better with age.  The soils of Hermannshöhle are “mostly black slate with some igneous rock & limestone“.   We really treasure vintages like 2008, especially in this day & age, as they can offer wines of such purity/transparency, elegance, refinement & filigree, as was the case here.

Categories : White, Wine, Wine Thoughts
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Dal Forno Romano & Quintarelli are the 2 iconic winemaking legends of Italy’s Veneto region, up in the northeast.  As I once read somewhere, they produce “monster” Amarone red wines, which are not only very hard to get, but they are also quite pricey.

Interestingly, both producers also produce small amounts of insanely unctuous dessert styled passito wines when the conditions are right, which are even harder to get!

1997 Dal Forno Romano Nettare  0402

While Dal Forno produces a RED passito wine, named Vigna Seré (produced from mainly Corvina with some Rondinella, Coatina & Oseleta blended in & then aged for 36 months in new barrique), which he refers to as his crowning jewel…every now & then he also produces a white passito from mainly Gargenega with smaller amounts of Turbiana & Trebbiano Toscano blended in & then aged in barrique for 30 to 40 months.  The 1997 is a decadently unctuous, thick elixir with all kinds of crazy, idiosyncratic nuances from white chocolate, vanilla bean creme brulee to marzipan, honey & beeswax.  It really is as decadent as can be, & still so amazingly youthful.  I cannot even begin to think what this wine will be like when it has a chance to resolve itself, not only in the residual sugar/sweetness front, but also what is preserved & hidden underneath, just waiting to emerge once the sweetness resolves.

2003 Quintarelli Amabile del Cerè  0401

The rarest of all the Quintarelli wines—the current vintage is 2003 and the previous vintage was the 1990. It is named after a lost barrel that was hidden under food stores and undiscovered during a Nazi raid of the property during WWII. The barrel was discovered years later and the wine had aged beautifully“.

Just as Dal Forno & Quintarelli go head to head with their Amarone & Valpolicella wines, the battle continues with their passito wines. Amabile del Cerè is also mainly Gargenega with some Trebbiano Toscano & a smidgeon of Sauvignon Bianco, Chardonnay & Saorin.  Typically, there is 30 to 40% noble rot & the wine spends 5 to 6 years in French oak.  Yes, this is another amazing, completely decadent, rich, unctuous white wine.

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Apr
22

Loire Valley–Part 1 (Sauvignon Blanc)

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Here is a tasting we put together recently for a group of young sommeliers.

As I have noted in previous writings, one of my jobs as a restaurant wine buyer is to provide expertise…….enough so that I can sift through the myriad of wine offerings & better & hopefully smartly determine what we will buy for the restaurant.

I therefore think to get better at this skill, it really helps to establish & grow a strong foundation.  In the case of sommelier-ing, this includes having a bank of really solid, “good” wine choices.  By doing so, you have a base to measure others by.

Several of our chefs are headed for Japan, mainly on a food inspiring trip.  When asked what restaurants they should look to eat at, my comment was to find smaller, unique “hole in the walls” who have garnered a niche & respect from true foodies for serving solid foods which come from passion, hands on dedication, culture, heritage & authenticity.  I think then one can taste & experience more traditional ingredients & techniques & therefore better understand a sense of purity & of where they came from culinarily.

From this base, we can look to add our touches.

Why would one want to morph already morphed foods?

One can apply a similar thought to wine.  I therefore look to establish a base of well made, pure, more traditional styled wines of any given category.  From there I can create different sub-categories such as “internationalized”; “superstar”; modern; “country/food friendly” or whatever.

Over the years, there are at least 8 Sauvignon Blancs from France’s Loire Valley, which really standout to me amongst the crowd.  Interestingly, I would have thought that at least a few would have been replaced by now.  Here are 5 of them–

1A1Domaine du Salvard Cheverny–Sauvignon Blanc (& some Sauvignon Gris with up to 16% Chardonnay permitted) grown in sand-chalk-limestone soils.  This cuvee typically showcases exotic fruit nuances, passion fruit & even guava in some vintages (perhaps from the Sauvignon Gris), with a rounder middle & a distinct minerality on the palate, much more so than in the nose.  I generally refer to this wine as being more “country”ish in style–meaning delicious, unpretentious, light, food friendly, gulpable & perennially over delivering for the dollar.  1A3

Trotereau Quincy “Vieilles Vignes”–sand, silex, pink limestone soils.  This vineyard also still has a surprising number of 100 year old vines I am told.  As a side note, Quincy was but the 2nd AOC granted back in 1936.  The old timers must have known there was something special or unique in the soils here.  I poured this wine next, because, it has a more flinty character in the nose & seems more nervier with more bracing acidity.

1A4Regis Minet Pouilly Fume “Vieilles Vignes”–clay, limestone, marl at 750 feet elevation.  We adore this wine’s purity & cleaner, fresher, minerally approach.  This was one of the first true artisan, “boutique” Loire Valley wines which caught my attention as a young professional.  I really find it so incredible that in all of these years I have yet to find another which has at least equally caught my fancy.   Deliciousness certainly has something to do with that.    1A11

Roger Neveu Sancerre “Clos des Bouffants”–a relatively new star on our radar screen.  I am always so amazed at how many diners easily recognize the word Sancerre on the winelist, yet it has been so challenging for me over the years to find really good Sancerre.  My “go to” rendition is by Hippolyte Reverdy, because of how ethereal & delicately refined it can be.  Now, of course, the Hippolyte Reverdy Sancerre is quite allocated.  Leave it to wine importer, Kermit Lynch, to thankfully find yet another jewel.  The Bouffants parcel is roughly 700 to 850 feet in elevation, with a steep, southern exposure & a limestone bedrock (40% active limestone).  Here is one you can make lots of friends with.

1A2Denis Jamain Reuilly “Les Pierres Plates”–The village of Reuilly is also located in the Central Vineyards of the Loire Valley.  I poured this sauvignon last because I typically find it the most ethereal of the five.  I am told the soils is Kimmeridgian limestone, very similar to what one can find in Chablis, complete with fossilized oyster shells & other sea critters.  My wife Cheryle, in fact, noted in this blind tasting how much it smelled of seashells in the nose.  Plus, on the palate, it is more refined & ethereal with a lime edge & definitely not flinty like those above who have more marl to their soils.

Quite an interesting learning opportunity AND on several different levels.  Thank you to all who came.

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