A Piemonte update

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We just came back from Piemonte, Italy, a month or 2 ago.  While to most visitors it may seem things haven’t changed much over the years, to me it has.

Please remember this was a region where once upon a time the Nebbiolo grape variety was lucky to ripen 2 or 3 vintages out of every decade, at least enough to produce a stately, eye catching Barolo or Barbaresco.  One could therefore safely say the Langhe hills was a very marginal growing region for the Nebbiolo grape, therefore quite challenging to produce true magic.

In comparison to the old days, consider the wonderment of a string of recent, highly accoladed vintages–2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2001 & 2000.

Yes, I would say things have changed & Nebbiolo is certainly now more than ever the center of attention…..AND in a big way.  (I was, in fact, utterly amazed how at the producers we visited, they were essentially sold out of everything).

Furthermore, since we were there right in the middle of harvest, I would also note that 2016 looks to be another vintage worth buying.  aa2-la-morraaa2-barolo-hillside

This trip to Italy really wasn’t about wine, so our winery & vineyard visits & times were quite limited.  When we first drove into the region, we were drawn to the La Morra hillside, it was that breathtaking, especially this time of the year, full of grapes & workers buzzing around.  Some of the grapes were already harvested & others were just waiting to be plucked.  Yes, it look to be another successful crop.  The Nebbiolo grapes we tried from Cru vineyards such as aa2-barolo-vinesaa2-barolo-grapesaa2-nebbioloBrunate, Cannubi, Cerequio, Rocche & Bricco Boschis, although quite different in taste & character, the grapes we randomly tasted seemed to have wonderful ripeness & superb physiological maturity.  Furthermore, watching the faces & expressions of the winemakers, as they tasted the grapes coming into their winery, they seemed quite happy with the quality.

Our first official stop of the morning was with Elena Penna & her husband/winemaker Luca Currado of Vietti.  As Barolo followers well know, Vietti is & has been one of the true pillars of Barolo wines.  Although some might say this is a traditional minded winery, there is some modern innovations & thinking going on at this estate.  I would also venture that since the estate was recently sold to an American family, it is inevitable there will be further changes down the road.   Still, on this day, Elena was at her best–BIG personality, just full of life, passion, so exuberant & so charming.  How can one not love her?  The estate has roughly 37 hectares (30 owned & 7 leased).  The vineyards are farmed organically & biodynamically.  Their main Crus–Villero (1.3HA old, 1HA new); Brunate (2.2HA, planted in 1965), Lazzarito (roughly 4HA, planted in 1965); Ravera (7HA, planted in 1999 & 2000) ( Rocche di Gastiglione (2.2HA, planted in 1961).  aa1-scarrone

In between grape deliveries, Luca would come in & out & taste the wines with us.  Each of the wines tasted were stellar.  I was especially, however, taken by the 2013 Barbera d’Alba “Vigna Scarrone”.  This is truly some kind of Barbera.  Luca, in fact, convinced his father this esteemed Barolo entitled vineyard (Scarrone) should be planted to the Barbera grape instead of Nebbiolo.  And, so it was in 1989 & 1990.  This was a REALLY big deal!  Such a big leap of faith to say the least!  I absolutely loved the savory, roasted chestnut/sandalwood character of this bottling & its divine elegance, class & refinement.  Truly a standout!

I was also quite taken with the 2013 Nebbiolo “Perbacco”.  (We also had had the 2012 the night before at a restaurant in Alba the night before).  The wine had such elegance & class AND WAY over delivered for the dollar.  I wasn’t at all surprised, given the innate class both wines deftly displayed, that both vintages were comprised of some noteworthy Barolo vineyards.  aa1-brunateaa1-rocche

Lastly, we tasted all 5 of their 2012 single vineyard designated Barolo.  While each of them were truly superb & for different reasons, I was especially drawn to the 2012 “Brunate” & the 2012 “Rocche di Castiglione”, each being a scant 300 case production in 2012.  The 2012 Barolo “Brunate” (the vines planted in 1956 & 1964) was resoundingly Grand Cru like in quality, if there was such a thing.  It was that good!  It was rich, savory with deep, provocative character, umami & vinosity with saddle leather, bay leaf, sandalwood, roasted chestnut nuances & a distinct rose petal like quality in the finish.  The 2012 Barolo “Rocche di Castiglione”, on the other hand, was totally all about pedigree & vinosity from the very first whiff–majestic & aristocratic, done with refinement & style.

aa2-robertoOur next stop was at Giacomo Conterno.  The winery is run by the current generation–Roberto Conterno.  The estate vineyard, Francia was planted in 1974–9HA of Nebbiolo & 5HA Barbera.  In 2008, Conterno also purchased 3HA of Ceretta vineyard (1HA of Barbera).  Although these vineyards are only about 2km apart as the crow flies, the soils are so very different (Francia–more calcareous & ceretta more clay)….& the wines are therefore very different.  In 2015, Conterno also purchased a little less than 6HA of Arione vineyard (100% Nebbiolo).  “Monfortino” is the estate’s top wine–(a concept hard for me to explain, as sometimes in parcels which standout in the vineyard or lots which standout in the winery & is produced only in certain years–by Conterno himself.  There was, for instance, NO Monfortino made in 2003, 2007, 2009, 2011 & 2012).

The 2 Barbera d’Alba we tried, both from 2014 were obviously different.  The 2014 Barbera d’Alba “Francia” was much more musky, masculine with more obvious mojo & distinct rocky, mineral & saltiness character.  The 2014 Barbera d’Alba “Ceretta”, although made virtually the same way offered much more bay leaf, spice & a savoriness on a much more elegant, refined frame.

We then continued with the 2012 Barolo “Francia”–very majestic, magnificent, elegant with tar, roses, musk & lots of pedigree.  The 2012 Barolo “Ceretta”, in contrast, was seemingly more forward, riper, bigger tannins with a savoriness & distinct bay leaf nuance & a rose petal-ness in the finesse.

All 4 wines displayed terrific presence, style, balance & top tier quality & in my opinion well deserved of their high level of respect & acclaim.

Having said that, the 2010 Barolo “Monfortino” was on a whole ‘nother level.  OMG.  In the past, I found some vintages of Monfortino to be somewhat over the top & actually too much for me.  This was NOT the case with the 2010.  Yes, it was more intense, concentrated with much mojo than the younger 2012 “Francia”, but was at the same time amazingly pure with breathtaking depth, intricacy & with such grandeur & pedigree.  It certainly WOW-ed me that’s for sure.  (BTW & FYI–in 2013 there will be NO “Francia”….all 100% “Monfortino”….which should tell you something about what Roberto thinks of the vintage).  aa1-cortese  aa2-cavallotto aa2-mascarello

We also did a quick jaunt to taste/buy some other Piemontese producers of which the 2 we were most impressed with was Giuseppe Cortese (Barbaresco & his “Rabaja” bottling) & Cavallotto (Barolo & his “Bricco Boschis” bottling).  Both were sold out of 2010, 2011 & aa1-cortese-bottlesaa1-cortese-rabaja-132012 & we tried in vain to get some 2013.  We were especially fortunate at Giuseppe Cortese, however, as he had some open bottles of older vintages we could try.    I must say, the 2005 & the 1998 were in real sweet spots right now.  I could go on & on about these 2 standout producers & their wines, but let’s just say these are 2 stars well worth seeking out, especially if you are looking for pure, elegant, refined, more traditional minded Nebbiolo.

Finally, let me just say, I am also in awe every time I have the opportunity to visit Rabaja.  Whether it is considered a vineyard or a hillside, the answer depends on who you speak to.  In any case, one thing is certain….this is certainly one of those special, unique sites for Nebbiolo.  aa1-cortese-rabaja5aa1-cortese-rabaja2aa1-cortese-rabaja3aa2-barbaresco

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We recently did a winetasting in VINO, featuring 4 interesting wines from southwest France.

Marcillac, Domaine du Cros

The appellation of Marcillac is found in the western part of Auvergne, nestled in the mountain range known as the Massif Central. Philippe Teulier’s vines lie at elevations as high as 450 meters on a few different steep, rocky hillsides that surround the village of Clairvaux. Much of his vineyard is terraced and the soil is an iron rich clay known locally as “rougier” with outcroppings of limestone. His wines are made from one grape type, the local grape of Marcillac, Fer Servadou”.  The 2014 is masculine, quite savory in its core, interesting & really delivers for the dollar.

Cahors, Chateau La Grave

Deep in the southwest of France, amidst dramatic rock formations and cliffs, the Lot River slowly snakes its way along the valley floor, coiling covetously around the charming town of Cahors. A.O.C. Cahors is known as the “black wine” of the Southwest—the deeply inky, earthy wines–is also the birthplace of Cot, the grape more commonly known as Malbec”. Here is a new project for the Bernède family –100% Malbec from a vineyard right down the road. “It is increasingly rare to see a Cahors, which consists exclusively of the native Malbec, or Côt, as it is locally known. Without any Merlot to soften it, this Cahors is decidedly old-fashioned, with a deep black robe and earthy, chewy tannins to frame the ripe, juicy fruit that seems to jump out of the glass”.  As far back as I can remember, Cahors was readily referred to as black wine, so on this day I expected it to be dark & impenetrable.  It was not, although it was still very masculine, savory, structured & virile with lots of earth, spice & mojo.  This is another wine which really over delivers for the dollar.

Irouléguy, Domaine Arretxea

Irouleguy is one of the smallest appellations in southwest France. It is surrounded on three sides by Spain, France and the Basque, which at least partially explains its unique foods, wines & sub-culture. “The majority of their eight hectares are planted to the native grape varietals, Tannat for the red. The sandstone soils of Irouléguy are ideal for these grapes because they are streaked with iron oxide, mica, silica, limestone, clay, and dolomite. The mineral diversity lends an intensity to the wines, making them wild, earthy, tannic, and rich in spicy aromas. Full southern exposure allows the Riouspeyrous to achieve ripeness in these cooler climate vineyards. They vinify each terroir individually through traditional vinification methods.” This is a hearty, robust, masculine red wine, one not for the feint hearted or those looking for New World fruit bombs.

Jurançon, BruBaché

A VERY unique & special white wine produced from “10 hectares of terraced schist & limestone vineyards along steep slopes surrounded by breathtaking views of the snow-capped mountains that crown the Basque country. This is Gros Manseng and Petit Manseng, all biodynamically farmed”.

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a Duo of Italians

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At our VINO restaurant, we are constantly looking & tasty Italian wines to add to our offerings.  Here are a couple, which came highly recommended–“trophy” styled wines–which is a category really growing in popularity across the country.  They are certainly each mega intense & are very swashbuckling in style.  We, however, only bought one of them.

2011 Dipoli Sauvignon Blanc “Voglar”–here is a Sauvignon with the presence & swag of early Didier Dagueneau bottlings, similarly produced from the aa1 voglarvision & passion of one man.  The importer noted–“a pure Sauvignon Blanc grown in chalky dolomitic limestone soils on near-vertical slopes (1800 to 2000 feet in elevation), fermented and aged in acacia casks—is characterized by gorgeous exotic fruit with abundant minerality“.  This wine is certainly a “stand alone” star–really mega intense & structured, yet is still so pure, quite stylish & refined.

aa1 braida2009 Braida Barbera d’Asti “Bricco dell’ Uccellone”–Barbera is a grape variety which has a lot of interesting attributes.  The challenge pre-mid 1980’s, was finding ways to harness its mojo in fulfilling its real potential.  Braida was certainly one of the stars to bring this grape variety to the limelight with their Uccellone bottling.  It was also suggested to me to search for Barbera in the Asti appellation, as the Alba appellation usually reserved their best sites to the Nebbiolo grape variety, which is how I came upon 3 producers–Coppo, La Spinetta & Braida.  The Bricco dell’ Uccellone bottling hails from the Rocchetta Tanaro vineyard, located roughly 500 to 600 feet in elevation with predominately clay & sandy soils, which helps in the savory, masculine edge the resulting wines have.  The 2009 was aged in French barrique (225 liter) for 15 months.  Definitely a stud to search out for, although insiders would say the high acclaim certainly has decreased the availability & increased the prices.

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Lavantureux Chablis

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Lavantureux has been one of our favorite wine producers since the 1980’s. We love and have loved the stark, authentic, mesmerizing purity of their wines, which hail from the limestone soils of Chablis. I once read, “NO nonsense wines with show stopping nerve”, which is certainly and completely apropos. “The region is best-known for the Kimmeridgian soils, a highly-prized terroir of limestone and clay infused with tiny, fossilized oysters. The intense chalk and sea-shell minerality lends deep complexity to whites”. Furthermore, I have admired how tasty, honest, artisanal & personal their wines really are…….always at a truly remarkable price, given what’s in the bottle. There are not many wineries singing a song their own way like Lavantureux. Here are three of their offerings we tasted & bought recently. Wines like this just don’t happen along. Don’t miss out.

2014 Petit Chablis 

aa1 box“The Portlandian soils in the extension of the Chablis appellation, known as Petit Chablis, may not enjoy the same reputation as the Kimmeridgian, aa1 Petithowever they imbue the wines with a crisp, lively freshness and zesty, citrus aromas that speak to the deep mineral component of northern Burgundy. There is no accounting for these imaginary boundaries. As Roland once told Kermit Lynch, his US importer– “I don’t know why the INAO named some vines ‘Chablis’ and others ‘Petit.’ When I stand in the middle of my vineyard, the row to my left is Chablis, to the right it is Petit Chablis, but you can’t see any difference.” Fermented and aged in stainless with five to ten months on the lees, depending on the vintage.  Of the 3, this seems to be the lightest in weight and with more etherealness to the minerality & therefore  a wider window of foods one can work with.

2014 Chablis   aa1 chablis

This was the bottling which originally captured my attention and spurred my imagination. Yes, this is Chardonnay in its purest form—so transparent, minerally lively and zesty. In the old days, we would offer such a wine with raw oysters. While other producers may offer a Chablis bottling, I haven’t had one this artisanal, personal and sincere. “This wine drinks as honestly as the man who made it”. Typically 70% stainless and 30% older five to six year old barrels (something his sons added to the winemaking).

2013 Chablis Grand Cru “Vaudésir”  aa1 Garnd Cru

In the beginning I recall there only being two Lavantureux bottlings. The sons added other bottling including this one2.6 hectares of 60 year old vines. This wine is therefore VERY different than what Roland would make, as it is barrel fermented (partially stainless steel)—with aging in old oak with roughly 15% in new oakGrand Cru….baby……that tastes like chiseled rock–pure & majestic.

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Is Bitterness IN?

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My wife & I dined at a hot, newer restaurant recently.  The rosé Cheryle ordered by the glass was from a rather obscure appellation & a hip producer.  While it was tasty, we both found it somewhat bitter & inadvertantly clashed with the foods we were eating, which is at least partly why I believe she only had the one glass.  It was not something we discussed or thought much about while dining, but it was something I certainly thought about later.

The question I then asked–is bitterness now IN?

It seems we encounter wines by the glass at restaurants more & more which have a bitter finish.  In addition, many of the cocktails we taste also have a bitter edge, especially those made from whiskies.  The same can be said about many of the hotshot craft beers we taste, especially in the IPA & Double IPA categories.

So in addition to climbing alcohol levels more frequently found in wines today, one can also add the increase & seeming acceptance of bitterness levels.

Furthermore, I am also quite amazed to see how many people don’t seem to notice or mind how the higher alcohol & bitterness really affects pairing with foods.

Yes, tastes have certainly changed.

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Henri Perrusset Mâcon Villages

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We are very fortunate at VINO to taste many different styles of wines.  There are times when we sample a bevy of “trophy” wines, each world class, grand and truly memorable.  This is especially most enjoyable when we revisit a particular wine which we previously had had 20 to 30 years prior and can see first hand how the wine had changed with the years of bottle age.

Another real joy of tasting wines is to run across a wine which stands out because of how honest, unpretentious, artisanal and personal it is.  It would be like hearing a singer sing a song their own way, and from the heart.  The especially endearing ones are, not of the “trophy” or highly acclaimed genre and for me and greatly over deliver for the dollar.

The Henri Perrusset Mâcon Villages (roughly $20 a bottle) is a prime example.   This is a “country” styled Chardonnay based white wine from the limestone soils of the Mâcon region  of southern Burgundy.  (There is in fact a limestone quarry a couple of kilometers further down the road.)   A very flowery, ethereal, some say seashell character somehow gets transmitted from the limestone-marine soils, through the vine and into the grape itself.  While some will argue that this is just a romantic notion, I don’t find those kinds of character in grapes from vines grown in clay soils.  If you want to check this out yourself, buy a bottle of a New World Chardonnay—California, Oregon, New Zealand or Australia, for instance, and sample it side by side with this Perrusset.

Then, also consider which one seems more refreshing and thirstquenching.  Given the weather we have been experiencing lately, this is the kind of wine that hits the spot for sipping on those especially warm, often muggy days.

Interestingly, over the 40 plus years of tasting wine, I have never run across a Mâcon Villages which hits the spot like the one from Perrusset.   It is beyond correctness and scientifically sound.  Furthermore, this bottling is certainly not grand or highly acclaimed and I would actually be surprised if it ever scores more than 85 points on any writer’s 100 point scale.  It does, however, standout and is memorable.  One could say this wine has the “it” factor and I am continually reminded of this by how my wife smiles every time a bottle is cracked open.  Honest, unpretentious, artisanal and personal is its schtick.

As one would imagine, wines like this are far and few in between.

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Marisa Cuomo

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aa1-cuomo-viewA couple of friends, Warren & Erin, went on a trip to Italy 4 or so years ago.  One of their stops was the breathtaking Amalfi Coast.  Smartly, they hired a driver to show them the area, which included a stop at his friend’s winery–Marisa Cuomo.  Warren was so impressed with the wines he thoughtfully brought a bottle back for me to try.  I thought the wine was very interesting to say the least.

In researching the wines further, their estate vineyards are comprised of Dolomitic limestone on steep, rocky & terraced hillsides overlooking the sea–in Ravello & in Furore.  aa1-cuomo-hillsThe winery itself is located in the small town of Furore, which is located at roughly 2500 feet in elevation between the more famous towns of Amalfi & Positano.  The panoramic view of the sea below is truly breathtaking.  The very steep hillsides are terraced & the roads traverse the spectacular, formidable aspect.  I was further intrigued because they championed heritage/heirloom vines–mainly Falanghina & Biancolella for the white wines & Pedirosso & Aglianico for the reds.

aa1-cuomo-vinesAs we walked the terraces, I was astounded to see how the vines (averaging 60 to 100 years in age) grew out horizontally from the limestone walls!  It was the craziest thing.    aa1-cuomo-pergolasaa1-cuomo-pergola2

The vines are then trained on pergolas, which I imagine facilitates air circulation of cool ocean breezes at night to offset the heat of the day.  As a side note, since we were there as they started to harvest, I was really shocked at how extremely low their yields naturally were, especially for the red wine grapes.  I mean some bunches only had 6 to 10 grapes.  When I asked, I was told this is normal–a combination of the really old vines grown on such extreme soils & conditions.

I next had the wine in Carmel, California a couple of years later at Casanova Restaurant.  The wine sommelier there was kind enough to give me a contact name & information of the company who brings the Marisa Cuomo wines into the U.S..  To make a long story short the wines finally arrived here in the Islands 3 weeks ago.  Here are 2 of their standouts.

aa1 Fiorduva2013 Marisa Cuomo Fiorduva–to date I was quite taken by their “Ravello” & “Furore” white wine bottlings.  aa1-cuomo-white-grapesBoth are comprised of the Falanghina & Biancolella grown in the Dolomitic limestone soils of the 2 sites.  Ravello is at higher elevation (300 to 400 meters) & Furore at 250 meters.  In 2014 Ravello is much more aromatic & perfumed with more refinement & an uplifting personality.  Furore, on the other hand, is like a block of rock–liquid rock, with some sea spray qualities.  This bottling, Fiorduva, in comparison, sheds a completely different light on what the vineyards want to say.  The 2013 is a blend of 3 “below the radar screen” indigenous white grape varieties–30% Fenile, 30% Ginestra, 40% Ripoli & is vinified with soft pressing and fermentation at 12°C for about three months.  This wine has much more viscosity than the other 2, seemingly produced from much riper grapes, probably hand selected grape by grape.  The perfumed is very unique, but still one readily detects the rocky & saline nuances nonetheless.  I have not had a white wine like this before, that’s for sure.  aa1-cuomo-red-grapesaa1 furore riserva

2011 Marisa Cuomo Furore Rosso Riserva–although I really enjoy the regular Furore Rosso bottling–so good, we just had to offer it by the glass at our VINO restaurant–their Riserva bottling is a real eye catcher.  I would, in fact, picture this wine as a thoroughbred.  A stallion, with lots of underlying strength & power, but effortlessly so.  The 2011 is  50% Piedirosso (locally known as per ‘e palummo) and 50% Aglianico. The grapes are harvested when fully ripe and are destemmed and crushed before undergoing fermentation with intense maceration for 30 days, followed by malo-lactic fermentation and development 12 months in new French oak barriques.  I get quite apprehensive whenever I hear NEW French.  In this case, however, the oak is very well integrated & does not take away from the Italian-ness of this wine.

Their wines are definitely well worth seeking out!  aa1-cuomo-signaa1-cuomo-cave





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It is still Summertime & it has been hot!  Translation–a very we bottle of delicious rosé please.

2014 Ravaille Ermitage du Pic St Loup Rosé–Not that long ago, the Languedoc winegrowing region of southern France was considered by many to be a sea of mediocre wine.  Over the past aa1 Ravaille25 or so years, however, very determined wine importers, such as the iconic Kermit Lynch, have been searching out & finding a growing number of small family wine estates who own & farm some very interesting parcels & produce some very interesting wines.  Such is the case here. The Ravaille family, for example, have resided in this nook for well over 1,000 years & it was by no accident therefore that they selected their specific parcels to start their wine adventure.  “The unique soils from the Ravaille’s higher-altitude vineyard slopes on the Pic St Loup is a collision of soils between the dominant marly limestone and dolomite; red and white clay, sand, schist, and round galets, which has happened over the eons”.  Although I had been a fan of their fascinating red “country” wines for quite some time, it really is their rosé which recently really caught our full attention.  The 2014 is 30% Syrah, 30% Grenache, 30% Mourvèdre, 10% Cinsault. All making for a very unique, yet wonderfully delicious pink wine.

2015 Clos Sainte Magdeleine Cassis Rosé–Cassis is a seaport village located on the coast of Provence, France.  Clos Ste. Magdeleine.  Founded in 1860, aa1 cassisthe Sack-Zafiropulos family have been running this estate for 4 generations.  This winery first came on my radar screen because of its iconic white wine, which many insiders would say is the quintessential pairing with bouillabaisse, the world renown regional fish stew/soup of Cassis & elsewhere throughout southern France.  On at least 2 separate visits to the domaine, while we did taste the white & the rosé, we would only buy the white.  Only in the past few years has the family really stepped up their game to produce a standout rosé, so much so, the wine is now apparently quite allocated.  In fact, in just a short time, I now think this has become one of our absolute favorites PINK wines from anywhere in the world–because of its deliciousness & remarkable ethereal-ness, which creates interesting, mesmerizing minerality & buoyancy in the resulting wine.  I also like how despite its limestone crispness, this wine additionally has a roundness & interesting viscosity that I love. Yes, this is a wine well worth seeking out!  By the way, the 2015 is 40% Grenache, 40% Cinsault, 20% Mourvèdre, fermented & aged in stainless steel with NO ML whatsoever.   Here is one of the best quotes aptly coined for this estate & its wines–“Clos Sainte Magdeleine’s success lies in an uncanny ability to capture a dichotomous nerve and sun-kissed unctuousness in their wines, making them both incredibly food-friendly and delicious entirely on their own“.

2013 Yves Leccia Rosé “Ile de Beaute”–Here is a VERY masculine style of Corsican rosé , produced from a heritage massale selection of Niellucciu, direct pressed & sees NO ML.  Throughout aa1 lecciathe Corsican challenging, rugged terrain, we have seen & tasted quite a few really good, hearty, rugged Niellucciu based red wines.  It is therefore quite understandable then that a Niellucciu based rosé would be masculine in its profile.  While that may true, thankfully the combination of chalk & schist bedrock soils the vines grown in gives the wine a mesmerizing minerality & Yves Leccia’s masterful winemaking results in a wine that has surprising elegance, class & refinement.  As the importer recently noted–“Yves Leccia has a certain presence and noble bearing to him, much like his wines, which are often referred to as the “Rolls-Royce” of Corsican wines, a reputation earned after nearly 30 years of making consistently elegant and sophisticated wines. Yves decided to branch off on his own in 2004 and focus on the single terroir he felt was the top in Patrimonio. This terroir, “E Croce,” sits on a thin chalk soil above a thick bedrock of pure schist, facing the gulf of St. Florent”.

2014 Chateau d”Esclans Rosé “Rock Angel”–One of the world’s true superstar PINK wine producers, under the direction of Sasha Lichine & long time superstar Bordeaux enologist Patrick Leon with a almost rock star kind of status & therefore following.   Imagine, for instance, a rosé getting a 98 point rating?  Yes, this rosé project has certainly created quite a splash on to the world wine scene with their multiple bottlings of Provencal pink wines.   I thought the first few vintages I tasted of their “go to wine”, “Whispering Angel”, was much better than the current bottlings.  I also thought their crown jewel bottling, “Garrus”, was just too much for me, both in amplification & in price ($80 a bottle).  The “Rock Angel” bottling has settled into quite a sweet spot, although still seemingly quite pricey at $38 or so a bottle).  When one considers however, top level Californian Chardonnays sell for even more dollars, then this wine certainly over delivers for the dollar.   Mainly Grenache with some Rolle blended in (although I think there is some Cinsault too)—just the free run juice with some slight first press is used—then aged in demi muids (600 liter) & stainless steel

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Here is yet another quartet of interesting red wines from Italy…..

La Basia–here is a small, interesting, family owned winery whose vineyards are located up to 900 feet elevation in the hills on the western shores of Lake Garda in Lombardy.  These wines are not aa1 valtenesiaa1 morenegrand, nor do they have any aspirations of grandeur.  They are instead, thankfully, more about regionality, authenticity & typicity created by a very hard working family.  We tasted 2 of their red wines, which are now proudly featured at our VINO restaurant, 1 by the glass & the other on the bottle list.  The core of the Valtenesi “La Botte Piena” bottling is the indigenous Gropello grape variety to which some Barbera, Sangiovese & Marzemino is added.  Eventhough it is heralded as a light, fruity wine, I think most every day palates would find the wine has a dark, masculine, hearty character, deceivingly intense & structured with a surprising grip & mojo & quite a bit of tannins/astringency, albeit fine, in the finish.  I find this wine even more intriguing & compelling the more I smell & taste this wine.  It has red fruit, blueberry, mulberry nuances with German licorice, bay leaf & some kind of Indian spice intricasies.  There is also an underlying earthy component which is so very different from limestone or schist in nature……& very well integrated.  Where there are so many “correct” wines out there, this one has much more to offer & is therefore worth seeking out to try!  We readily serve this wine with our Roasted Organic Chicken with a Tuscan bean stew.  This is really an interesting drink with or without food.  The Marzemino “Le Morene” bottling, on the other hand, is 100% Marzemino (grape variety) & “Le Moraine” refers to the glacial soils the vines grow in.  This wine is much darker in color, has more body & more viscosity.  There is both red & black fruit, as well as a stoniness prevalent.  I think it has a wider appeal than the previous wine, just because of its richness, wonderful texture which also hides the tannins more.

Nanni Cope Terre del Volturno “Sabbie di Sopra Il Bosco” 2012–from Castel Campagnano, in the upper region of Caserta of CampaniaThe roughly 6.2 acre aa1 nanni copeSopra Il Bosco vineyard is located at approximately 700 feet in elevation.  The grape mix for this bottling is mainly Pallagrello Nero with some Aglianico & a dollop of very old vine, ungrafted Casavecchia.  The 2012 is dark, black chocolate color with some browning on the rim.  Chinese preserved plums, licorice, saddle leather nuances with a dark abyss core.  A friend who specializes in plants once gave me what he called a “curry” plant.  It smelled somewhat of curry but with a more vegetal edge.  This wine has that same kind of scent.  On the palate, this wine is masculine, mega concentrated & well structured with astringent, puckering though surprisingly refined rather than coarse tannins.  This wine definitely has mojo & certainly needs some time to resolve itself.  Still, it is an interesting drink nonetheless.

aa1 KurniOasi Degli Angeli “Kurni” 2009–this is a very fascinating red from Marche, Italy, one that took a bit to understand & appreciate.  The main challenge for me intially was the noticeably sweet, ripe fruit, which reminded me of Amarone from the Veneto in style, but instead produced from 100% Montepulciano (grape variety)–50 or so year old vines.  Still, the wine has balance, superb flow on the palate & lots to say, just in a VERY different way.  The Oasi Degli Angeli estate dates back three generations, starting with a small farm in the Marche Cupra Marittima (Ascoli Piceno), 24 acres in size, 330-820 feet in elevation, southfacing, soils–loose, pebbly, sandy, silty, with chalk.  The family does NOT use any chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides.  the wine is fermented in 60% vertical barriques & 40% stainless steel (without temperature control) & then aged in French barriques (20% of which is new) for 20-22 months & then bottled unfiltered, unfined.

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A Pair of 2006 Red Burgundies

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Last night a friend came into VINO & had two 2006 red Burgundies–2006 DeVillaine Bourgogne “La Digoine” & the 2006 Robert Chevillon Nuits St Georges.  Both wines were stunning in a very transparent, ethereal style.  I remember when they were first released, the 2006’s were quite overshadowed by the hype & high acclaim of the 2005’s.  Still, I chose to buy more 2006 than 2005, partly because of the price difference, but also because I thought the ’06’s would be so glorious & more “classic” with some bottle age.  (The 2005’s, in comparison, would take considerable amount of bottle age to come out of its cocoon).  aa1 digoine

The 2006 La Digoine was so sheer (like lace), pure & pretty.  The color was lighter hued & very transparent.  The perfume was enticing, alluring & so refined…..qualities I could have only hopedaa1 NSG would evolve.  I was so mesmerized with each whiff as the wine opened up with air.  I wish I had bought more.

The 2006 Chevillon Nuits St Georges had a much more meaty, musky, autumn humus smell to it, more masculine with more pedigree & “meat on the bones”.  The muskiness was compelling, quite beguiling & I kept wanting to dive back in for more.  (This wine also made it clearer to me, how so remarkably sheer & ethereal the “La Digoine” was.)

Yes, these 2006 wines were something to behold & are just now opening up again.

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