Storm Wines was founded in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley of South Africa by Hannes Storm, and his first vintage on his own was 2012. Hannes worked for 12 years in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay before discovering two small vineyards for sale and establishing his namesake winery. He produces his wines with a goal of showcasing terroir above all else, practicing careful viticulture and minimal intervention in the cellar to craft these small production wines. Hannes produces his Vrede Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from vines planted in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, the Ignis Pinot Noir from vines in the Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, and the Ridge Pinot Noir from vines in the Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge. He also crafted his first Ridge Chardonnay with the 2019 vintage. Total production sits around 1,800 cases annually.
Today’s Wine: 2015 Vrede Pinot Noir
100% Pinot Noir; 13.5% ABV
The 2015 Vrede Pinot Noir is pale to medium ruby in color and mostly opaque. After opening up for about 30 minutes, the very Burgundian nose showcases aromas of ripe red cherry, black raspberry, boysenberry, tobacco, barnyard, forest floor, gravel, and dried green herbs. On the palate, I get notes of redcurrant, raspberry, stemmy strawberry, leather, sous bois, black tea, smoke, saline mineral, and light oak. This is light- to medium-bodied with medium acidity, light tannins, and a medium (+) length finish. 550 cases produced.
Price: $40. I think this is very appropriately priced, and while more expensive than other South African Pinot Noirs I’ve tried this offers more depth, elegance, and the Old World style I prefer. Pair with seared duck breast, pheasant, or venison filet.
Epoch Estate Wines, located in the Willow Creek District of Paso Robles, was established by Liz and Bill Armstrong in 2004. Liz and Bill are geologists by trade, and knowing the importance of terroir in winemaking they settled on Paso Robles for its weather, rugged terrain, breadth of soils, and fruitfulness for Rhône varieties. The couple purchased the Paderewski Vineyard in 2004 and later expanded with the Catapult Vineyard in 2008 and York Mountain Winery in 2010. Paderewski is composed of limestone and calcareous rocky soils, Catapult of shale, clay, and silt rocky soils, and York Mountain of sand and fragmented sandstone. Though very different in climate and soil composition, all Epoch vineyard sites have one thing in common: they force the vines to struggle, reach deeply for nutrients, and produce concentrated and quality fruit. Across these incredibly diverse vineyards, Epoch plants Grenache, Mourvèdre, Petite Sirah, Syrah, Tempranillo, Zinfandel, and Cabernet Sauvignon for the red varieties and Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, Picpoul Blanc, and Viognier for the whites.
Today’s Wine: 2015 Veracity
47% Grenache, 34% Mourvèdre, 19% Syrah; 15.4% ABV
The 2015 Veracity is opaque medium purple/ruby in color. I gave this 2 hours to open up, but the wine really started showing beautifully an hour or so in. The expressive nose showcases aromas of blackberry, blueberry, plum, violet, cigar box, graphite, smoked game, black pepper, and chocolate. Once on the palate, this wine displays notes of blackcurrant, spiced black plum, black cherry, anise, tobacco, rocky soil, ground pepper, clove, and coffee grounds. This is medium-bodied with medium acidity, fine-grained medium (+) tannins, and a long finish.
Price: $65. This is very fairly priced, and one of the better GSMs I’ve had from Paso Robles save for Saxum (but there’s a significant price jump there). This Epoch is very well-balanced, expressive, and the high ABV goes unnoticeable. Pair with herb-roasted lamb, barbecue pork ribs, or mushrooms.
Hiyu Wine Farm, established by Nate Ready and China Tresemer, is a 30 acre working farm in the Hood River Valley of Oregon. The property consists of 14 acres of vines, 4 acres of fields and pastures, 4 acres of forest and a pond, and 0.5 acres of market garden with the balance devoted to food forests. Guided by the practices of biodynamics and permaculture, Hiyu tends very little to their vines and they do not hedge or green harvest. Rather, all mowing or tilling is accomplished by pigs, cows, chicken, ducks, and geese that live in the vineyards in cycles throughout the year. Hiyu does not use any sulfur in the vineyards and claims to spray 85% less material than a standard organic or biodynamic vineyard, with the majority being cinnamon oil or herbal teas. Interesting to note, the vineyards are divided into 0.5 acre blocks each planted to a field blend of varieties. There are 80 different varieties and even more clones planted on the farm! In the cellar, Nate practices minimal intervention winemaking and prefers long aging in oak before the wines are bottled unfined and unfiltered with minimal SO2 (5ppm max).
The 2015 Ramato is medium copper/amber orange in color while being transparent yet hazy. Once this blossoms in the glass, the nose showcases aromas of tangerine, orange rind, peach, rose petals, hibiscus, fresh cut wheat, hazelnut, and bright mineral. In the mouth, this intriguing wine displays notes of apricot, grapefruit, orange marmalade, cantaloupe, mixed wildflowers, ginger, and white pepper. This is medium-bodied with medium acidity, light tannins, and a thought-provoking medium (+) finish.
Price: $80. The value perspective is a bit difficult with this one, because I feel this wine is more about the experience. Yes, it is of supreme quality and so well-balanced you will say “wow;” but this is certainly a wine for the explorers who want to shock their palate back to life and compare prices more for how a wine makes them feel. With that out there, I would certainly buy more of this…if I could find it. Pair with salmon, oysters, or Parmigiano-Reggiano amongst other strong cheeses.
To say Pierre-Yves Colin was a rising star turned legend in Chassagne-Montrachet over the last decade or so might be an understatement. Pierre-Yves started working with his father Marc Colin (the Burgundian legend in his own right) in 1994 and became winemaker until the 2005 vintage when he decided to branch out into his own venture. Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey was established by Pierre-Yves and his wife Caroline Morey (daughter of Jean-Marc Morey) and spawned out of a negociant business the couple started in 2001. Pierre-Yves inherited 6 hectares from his family and purchases fruit from carefully selected growers, but there is no question he knows all of this terroir like the back of his hand. When making his wines, Pierre-Yves presses the fruit very slowly and at higher pressures than normal, racks directly into 350L barrels for natural fermentation, never stirs the lees, and diverts his wine by gravity into his cellar. Pierre-Yves’ wines spend two winters aging in the cellar before being bottled unfined and unfiltered. Whether it be thanks to the intense attention to terroir, his winemaking practices, or any minute decision he makes throughout the year, there is no question that Pierre-Yves’ wines are something special.
The 2017 Chassagne-Montrachet is transparent pale gold in color with water white variation near the rim. I recommend decanting this wine due to its youth, but try to keep it a few degrees below cellar temperature as you do. The nose showcases aromas of ripe golden pear, yellow apple skins, white lily, matchstick, incense, cotton candy, white pepper, and crushed stone minerality; the matchstick and incense are most pronounced. Once on the palate, the wine displays notes of lemon, honeydew melon, stone fruit, white wildflowers, smoke, white tea, and saline mineral. The wine is medium- to full-bodied with beautiful and vibrant high acidity into a long, well-rounded finish. This continued to get better as it opened up over a couple hours, but will be unbelievable with a few more years of cellaring.
Price: $100. Though not an inexpensive bottle of wine, the PYCM Chassagne-Montrachet is actually quite a good value because it drinks significantly better than even the highest quality village wines. Though I certainly popped the cork too soon on this, the precision, depth, complexity, and quality are all there to make this a necessity in your cellar. Pair with lobster, foie gras, or blue cheese.
The Paring is like a “little sister” to Jonata and The Hilt, both wineries I wrote about previously, and is produced from blocks that are either too young or not stylistically aligned with its big sisters. As I mentioned in previous posts, Jonata and The Hilt are sister wineries of Screaming Eagle through a shared owner in Stan Kroenke who also owns the LA Rams and other sporting teams. Jonata excels with Rhône and Bordeaux varieties while The Hilt commands Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, providing the basis for the Paring portfolio which includes a Bordeaux Blend, Syrah, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Rosé of Pinot Noir. Fruit for The Paring is sourced primarily from the Ballard Canyon, Sta. Rita Hills, and Santa Maria Valley regions of Santa Barbara, and the winery also shares its skilled winemaker Matt Dees with Jonata and The Hilt.
If you care to further your reading today and perhaps get a glimpse into the “big dogs,” you can check out my prior reviews on Jonata and The Hilt below today’s tasting notes.
The 2015 Paring Red is opaque deep ruby/purple in color and near black at its core. I suggest giving this a good hour+ decant, which helps the wine blossom to showcase a nose of blackberry compote, crème de cassis, spiced plum, anise, tobacco, crushed rock, cinnamon, and a hint of oak. Once in the mouth, the wine displays notes of black plum, blackcurrant, blueberry, redcurrant, sweet tobacco, charred earth, green herbs, espresso, and light toasted oak. This is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (+) tannins, and a long finish.
Price: $25. This is a very fairly priced everyday drinker that I think can both appeal to a broad range of consumers (thanks to its fruit-forward qualities) and to the more particular “connoisseur” (thanks to it NOT being oak-bombed and offering some nice depth). Pair this with ribeye steak, veal, or charcuterie and mild cheese.
Prior Jonata and The Hilt Posts:
2005 Jonata El Corazón de Jonata (click here) 2010 Jonata Tierra (click here) 2006 Jonata El Alma de Jonata (click here)
Domaine du Pégau is one of the great estates in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, and though it became officially established in 1987 its roots and those of its proprietors extend significantly further back in time. Today the domaine is under guidance of Paul Féraud and his daughter Laurence, though the Féraud family can be traced as far back as 1670 in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Titles to the earliest Féraud vineyards reach 1733, though the family sold most of their production in bulk to top négociants (like Jaboulet-Aîné, David & Foillard, and Guigal) when Paul joined the family business. In 1964, however, this all changed when Paul decided to bottle about 420 cases under his own name when estate bottling really started to pick up. 1987 marked the year when Laurence joined her father and the duo changed their name and label from Domaine Féraud to Domaine du Pégau. Pégau spanned a somewhat small 17 acres of vines at this time, with still a significant amount of produce sold to négociants, but as Laurence took a larger and larger role they phased out selling fruit and the 1990 harvest was fully used for their own wines. Today the domaine consists of 21 hectares of vines in Châteauneuf-du-Pape with another 5 hectares in Côtes du Rhône, 20 hectares in Côtes du Rhône Villages, and 19 hectares classified Vin de France.
85% Grenache, 9% Syrah, 4% Mourvèdre, with the balance Counoise and other authorized varieties (best guess – no tech sheet); 14% ABV
The 2009 Cuvée Réservée is opaque deep garnet in color with medium ruby variation. I decanted this for 3 hours, which allowed some funk to blow off the nose. Once this opens up, aromas of blackcurrant, black raspberry, boysenberry, cigar box, graphite, forest floor, truffle, slate, clove, and underbrush leap from the glass. On the palate, I get notes of brambleberry, figs, black cherry, anise, red and purple florals, tobacco, charred earth, earthy mushroom, rocky mineral, coffee grounds, and game. The wine is medium-bodied with medium acidity, dusty medium (+) tannins, and a long finish with added notes of iron and smoke. This is drinking magnificently right now, given the time to open up.
Price: $100. I think this is very fairly priced, as Pégau with the 2009 vintage produced a wine of depth, elegance, and complexity that reaffirms them as an estate to beat in CdP. Pair with herb-grilled lamb, wild boar, or charcuterie.
Domaine Paul Jaboulet Aîné is one of the most historic wineries in all of the Rhône Valley, established in 1834 by Antoine Jaboulet in Tain l’Hermitage. Though nowadays we know Tain l’Hermitage (particularly Hermitage and Crozes-Hermitage) very well, it was a quiet winegrowing region when Antoine started assembling vineyards there. One of his greatest vineyards, and arguably one of the most famous in the world of wine, La Chapelle in Hermitage has been with the domaine since its origin and created a leaping point for the generational expansion throughout Crozes-Hermitage, Cornas, Gigondas, Côtes Rotie, Condrieu, and Chateauneuf-du-Pape amongst other appellations. When Antoine passed away, his vineyards went to sons Henri and Paul (the latter the source of the domaine’s name) and passed from generation to generation for nearly two centuries. In the latter half of the 1900s, Gerard Jaboulet promoted Rhône Valley wines throughout the world in an effort to expand their reputation even more. When Gerard passed away in 1997, however, Domaine Paul Jaboulet Aîné passed to his sons Philippe and Jacques until, in 2006, Jean-Jacques Frey purchased the domaine. Jean-Jacques’ daughter Caroline is today’s winemaker and viticulturist at the domaine, and her striving for excellence in every facet of the role is bringing this historic estate to new heights. Caroline achieved sustainable farming status in 2006, and has since started moving toward organic and biodynamic viticulture as well.
Today’s Wine: 2017 Crozes-Hermitage Domaine de Thalabert
100% Syrah; 13.5% ABV
The 2017 Crozes-Hermitage Domaine de Thalabert is opaque deep purple in color. I decanted this for 4 hours, with the wine blossoming to showcase a nose of black plum, blackberry, cassis, violet, worn leather, hint of nail polish remover, wet rock, light smoke, and mocha. Once in the mouth, the wine displays notes of blackcurrant, black plum, black cherry, licorice, mild tobacco, granite, savory green herbs, chalky mineral, and blood. This is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium tannins, and a long finish.
Price: $30. Today’s wine is another outstanding value (I do try to find them as often as possible). This drinks with depth and opulence but remains beautifully elegant and with a structure to go for at least another decade. Pair with smoked duck breast, high-quality ribeye, or grilled sea bass.
Matthiasson Family Vineyards is a small winery established in 2003 by Steve and Jill Klein Matthiasson. Steve grew up passionate about farming, passing time as a gardener and cook while in college before co-writing the California manual on sustainable vineyard practices in 1999 after graduate school for horticulture. Jill is also passionate for farming, particularly the sustainability side of it, and she studied botany at Penn before ultimately attending UC Davis for grad school studying traditional methods for soil health.
Matthiasson is probably most well-known for their Napa Valley White Wine (an interesting blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Ribolla Gialla, and Tocai Friulano), but they also either grow or source (often by lease) Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc amongst other varieties. Steve and Jill maintain their own vineyard in the West Oak Knoll area, while sourcing from others throughout the Napa Valley and Sonoma County including Red Hen, Bengier, and Linda Vista amongst others. All of the vineyards are either organically farmed or transitioning to organic viticulture, and as you might guess Steve and Jill believe great wine starts in the vineyards. Steve is pretty involved in each vineyard they source fruit from, catering farming practices to each specific one so that no matter the source their fruit is healthy and fully ripe. Coupled with his traditional winemaking methods, the Matthiasson wines come out beautifully balanced with lower levels of alcohol and gorgeous acidity.
Today’s Wine: 2018 Linda Vista Vineyard Chardonnay
100% Chardonnay; 12.2% ABV
The 2018 Linda Vista Chardonnay is transparent pale straw/gold in color with water white variation near the rim. Once this opens up in the glass, the nose emits aromas of golden apple, underripe pear, lemon citrus, honeysuckle, chamomile, vanilla, and saline mineral. On the palate, I get notes of white peach, golden apple skins, melon, tropical citrus, white lily, brioche toast, crushed stone mineral, and light spice. The wine is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity into a long, refreshing finish.
Price: $28 ($32 direct from winery). This is an outstanding value for Napa Chardonnay. While many competitors can be flabby or have far too much oak, this is lean and drinks with beautiful precision (almost feels Burgundian). Pair with roasted chicken, oysters, or salmon.
La Rioja Alta is a historic winery established in 1890 by five Riojan and Basque families in Haro’s Station Quarter. The endeavor was named Sociedad Vinícola de La Rioja Alta, and in 1904 La Rioja Alta merged with Ardanza Winery. The two years, 1890 and 1904, are important for La Rioja Alta and today’s Gran Reservas 890 and 904 allude directly to those milestones. Today, La Rioja Alta practices sustainable viticulture with 16 hectares dedicated to organic viticulture, limiting treatments in the vineyards and utilizing renewable energy to support many of their operations. La Rioja Alta produces their wines from estate vineyards, with yields kept to under 5,000 kilos per hectare in order to yield higher quality fruit. All of the barrels are produced onsite by the Rioja Alta cooperage, and they use oak imported from the United States which they dry in open air for 2 years before use. All barrels are racked individually by candlelight and the wines go through long aging to preserve harmony and balance before release.
Today’s Wine: 2010 Rioja Gran Reserva 904
90% Tempranillo, 10% Graciano; 13.5% ABV
The 2010 Gran Reserva 904 is translucent deep garnet in color with ruby hues. I decanted this for 7 hours and drank it over 2 hours, though in honesty this could’ve opened up longer. The nose showcases aromas of blackberry jam, blueberry, raspberry, blue/purple/red floral bouquet, dried tobacco leaf, savory herbs, coconut, cinnamon, and vanilla bean. On the palate, I get notes of spiced plum, juicy blueberry, raspberry, violet and lavender, licorice, tobacco, pebbles, thyme, baking spice, and cedar. This is medium-bodied with medium acidity, velvety medium tannins, and an incredibly silky mouthfeel into a long finish. Give this 5-7 years in the cellar and drink over the following 2-3 decades.
Price: $58 (typically averages $66). This is absolutely worth the price, being undoubtably the best young Rioja I’ve enjoyed to date. The wine drinks with pure elegance and finesse after a long decant, but has the structure to age effortlessly for decades to come. Pair with roasted lamb, roasted game bird, or chorizo and Manchego cheese.
Domaine Vincent Paris was established in 1997 with 1 hectare of inherited vines in Cornas. Vincent studied enology for four years before working alongside his uncle, famed Cornas vigneron Robert Michel, and desiring autonomy with his own wines. Vincent set about planting vines in St. Joseph and Cornas, ultimately acquiring La Geynale in 2007 and farming a total of 8 hectares today. Vincent farms 1.5 hectares of Saint Joseph, 6 of Cornas, and 0.5 of Vin de Pays with meticulous attention and refuses to use insecticide or chemical fertilizers while limiting treatments. Vincent severely prunes his vines (to only 4 bunches per vine) which helps produce concentrated, high quality berries and cuts down on green harvests. In the cellar, Vincent destems his fruit to varying levels and ferments the wines naturally after cold maceration at relatively lower temperatures. The wines spend 3 months in vats and then a year in oak barrels that are never new but rather 2-8 years old in an effort to not mask terroir, before they are ultimately bottled with light fining but no filtration.
Today’s Wine: 2017 Granit 30
100% Syrah; 13% ABV
The 2017 Granit 30 is opaque medium to deep purple in color. I decanted this for four hours, which allowed the nose to blossom and showcase aromas of blackberry, black plum, overripe blueberry, bacon fat, violet, wet rocky/clay earth, charred herbs, rubber, and gravel. Once in the mouth, the wine displays notes of dusty blackberry, black cherry, cassis, anise, sweet tobacco, mild smoke, granite, black pepper, chocolate, and iron. There is even a funky note of root beer flavored Bottle Cap candy! This is medium-bodied with medium acidity, medium tannins, and a long finish.
Price: $40 (might be able to find it a few bucks cheaper). This is a really nice value for Cornas, especially if you can snag it for around $35. While the Granit 30 is the more approachable and modern bottling, this drank significantly less people-pleasing than I was expecting (which is great). Pair with herb roasted lamb, venison steak, or braised beef ribs.
Today’s Story: North Valley Vineyards (Soter Vineyards)
North Valley Vineyards is a partnership between Tony & Michelle Soter, winemaker James Cahill, and Director of Sales & Marketing Brian Sypher. Though the wines are produced and bottled by Soter Vineyards, North Valley Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Rosé are in a sense the “regional” wines coming from sustainably-farmed vineyards in the Willamette Valley rather than Mineral Springs Ranch, Soter’s estate vineyard. Diving a bit deeper, the team sources their fruit from the Dundee Hills, Eola-Amity Hills, Ribbon Ridge, Yamhill-Carolton, and McMinnville viticultural areas with vineyards including Roe & Roe, Beacon Hill, Momtazi, and Zena Crown. Though Tony and James are highly involved in the farming of these vineyards (affectionately referred to as “satellite estate vineyards”) and they could certainly yield exceptional single vineyard bottlings, North Valley Vineyards carefully blends the wines from each site into the finished product. Tony and James produce their North Valley wines with gentle, traditional winemaking practices and age them in French oak typically only 5-15% new.
Today’s Wine: 2017 North Valley Reserve Pinot Noir
100% Pinot Noir; 13.8% ABV
The 2017 North Valley Reserve Pinot Noir is moderately opaque pale ruby/purple in color. This needs an hour to breathe, but once it does the nose showcases aromas of black cherry, dried blueberry, blood orange peel, leather, rocky soil, wet slate, pine, and cola. There is some slight heat but I think it’s due to the young age. On the palate, I get notes of black raspberry, baked cherry, juicy blackberry, blue florals, silt, mushroom, eucalyptus, allspice, and stony mineral. This is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (-) tannins, and a long finish.
Price: $60 from the winery (though I paid $42 retail). I think this is somewhere between fairly priced and a good value at $60, but if you can find a deal like I did it is an absolute steal. This has all the characteristics of great Oregon Pinot Noir and, while it has that luxurious feel to it, doesn’t seem too heavy handed by the winemaker. Pair with duck breast, herb roasted pork, or dark chocolate.
Domaine Moreau-Naudet is a small estate located in the Chablis region of northern Burgundy. Though Moreau-Naudet has been a family-run domaine for quite some time, it was 1999 when Stéphane Moreau joined his father and drastically shifted the winemaking practices. Stéphane transitioned to fully organic viticulture alongside biodynamic practices, started harvesting his vineyards completely by hand, and practiced a minimal intervention winemaking style that includes natural yeast fermentation, slow élevage in large oak barrels, and minimal added sulphur. Stéphane was a nonconformist for Chablis in this sense, and took significant inspiration from Vincent Dauvissat, Didier Dagueneau, and Nadi Foucault. Sadly, Stéphane passed away incredibly too young (in his upper 40s) in 2016 and the future of the domaine fell to questioning. Shortly thereafter, however, Stéphane’s wife Virginie and his assistant winemaker displayed great adeptness by stepping in and remaining steadfast to Stéphane’s philosophy and style then and to this day.
Today’s Wine: 2017 Chablis
100% Chardonnay; 12.5% ABV
The 2017 Chablis is medium gold in color with water white variation near the rim. Give this 30 minutes to an hour to open up and you will be handsomely rewarded. The nose showcases aromas of white peach, lemon peel, stone fruit, summer melon, honeysuckle, and chalky mineral. On the palate, I get notes of lemon zest, baked pineapple, quince, green apple skins, white florals, flint, and saline mineral. This is medium-bodied with vibrant high acidity and a well-rounded mouthfeel into a long, mouthwatering finish. While the wine doesn’t have as much depth as I was hoping for, its precision makes up for that and makes me excited to try it again in a few years.
Price: $35 (though you can find this cheaper, especially in Europe). This is a great value and it’s hard to believe this is a village wine thanks to its finesse and precision. Would love to try this again in a few years. Pair with oysters, snails with garlic butter, or gougères.
Montepeloso is a small, 15 acre estate located in the Tuscan comune of Suvereto. Current owner and winemaker Fabio Chiarelotto purchased the estate in 1998, though Montepeloso was already producing world class wines under original owners Willi and Doris Neukom. When Fabio took the helm, he undertook an immense overhaul of the vineyards, reshaping them over the course of 8 years by retraining, pruning, and regrafting a significant number of vines. Fabio loved the wines of Montepeloso before this drastic feat, however he rightfully assumed that the terroir had so much more to offer in producing elegant and finessed wines rather than concentrated examples easy to make in the hot climate. Fabio’s wines are proclaimed as some of the greatest examples of Tuscany’s “new wave,” characterized as “beautiful, profound, and expressive.” Fabio practices biodynamic viticultural methods, relatively short macerations, fermentation using only native yeasts, and bottles his wines without filtration.
The 2016 Eneo is opaque medium ruby in color with some purple hues. This needs at least 1-2 hours to really open up, but once it does the nose showcases aromas of plum, blueberry, black cherry, anise, lavender, cigar box, dry chalky soil, dried green herbs, light baking spice, milk chocolate, and light oak. Once in the mouth, this beauty displays notes of brambleberry, black raspberry, black plum, mild tobacco, scorched earth, slate, savory herbs, black pepper, and espresso. This is full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, fine-grained medium (+) tannins, and a long finish dominated by black fruit and purple/blue florals.
Price: $45. This is an outstanding value, and certainly one of the greatest out of Tuscany I’ve had in a long, long time. The finesse and depth this shows at such a young age is breathtaking, and I would love to stick this into a blind tasting lineup with wines twice it’s price. Pair with Bistecca alla Fiorentina, hearty red sauce pastas, or charcuterie and Parmigiano Reggiano.
To review, Bodega Chacra is a small winery established in the Río Negro region of Patagonia in 2004 by Piero Incisa della Rocchetta. Piero’s goal is to create transparent, honest wines that showcase his unique terroir through organic and biodynamic viticulture, so he eschews the use of artificial fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides. Instead, Piero uses vegetable and mineral preparations in his compost alongside a range of biodynamic practices ranging from the horn manure preparation and horn silica preparation to the German chamomile preparation and oak bark preparation. Detailed explanations of each biodynamic preparation can be found here. Chacra’s vineyards produce low yields and fruit selection is incredibly rigorous come harvest, so only the best and healthiest grapes make the wine. Maceration and fermentation occur in small tanks with an emphasis on skin contact, and the wines age in extra fine grain French oak barrels. All of the Pinot Noir is bottled 100% natural and unfiltered.
Today’s Wine: 2018 Sin Azufre Pinot Noir
100% Pinot Noir; 12.5% ABV
The 2018 Sin Azufre Pinot Noir is opaque pale purple in color. Once this opens up, the nose showcases aromas of dusty red cherry, brambleberry, violet, leather, tilled rocky soil, slight barnyard, crushed rock, graphite, and a hint of oak. There was some olive on the nose but that blew off after an hour. On the palate, I get notes of dried tart cherry, dusty raspberry, brambly blueberry, rose petal, sweet tobacco, black tea leaf, dried earth with finely crushed rock minerality, green underbrush, and clove. This is light- to medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (-) tannins, and a medium (+) length finish.
Price: $35. This is a difficult one for me on a value perspective. When it comes to the majority of today’s wine drinkers, this would not be a good value simply because I don’t think the average consumer would like it. When it comes to the explorers or those who want to liven up their palate and are familiar with “natural” wines, I think this is a great value. Pair this with rosemary and thyme chicken, roasted duck breast, or charcuterie with Brie or Gruyère cheese.
Tenuta Santa Maria was established by the Bertani Family, a family with deep roots in the Valpolicella region of Veneto. Documents place the family in Valpolicella as early as the mid-1500s, though it was brothers Gaetano and Giovan Battista Bertani during the mid to late 1800s who ventured to create a new standard for their family’s wines. After being exiled to France, Gaetano Bertani returned and brought back an appreciation for the Guyot Method and the brothers practiced it when planting their vineyards with high vine density to reduce yields and create more concentrated fruit. Though Santa Maria follows traditional winemaking methods for the Veneto region passed down through generations of vintners, they also appreciate technological advancement and utilize modern techniques to produce the highest quality wines possible. Today Tenuta Santa Maria is guided by Gaetano Bertani, the great-grandson of founding brother Gaetano, and his sons with utmost respect for their history and fact that they are one of the oldest Italian winemaking families still in operation.
Today’s Wine: 2013 Amarone della Valpolicella Riserva
The 2013 Amarone della Valpolicella Riserva is medium to deep garnet with ruby hues. I decanted this for around 3 hours which greatly helped the wine blossom, however right out of the bottle this was a beauty. On the nose, I get aromas of cherry liqueur, sweet plum, fig, anise, purple florals, dried leather, crushed rock, cinnamon, and spice. Once in the mouth, this wine displays notes of sweet cherry, boysenberry, prune, licorice, dried rose, tobacco, dried rocky earth, brown sugar, nutmeg, and chocolate. This is medium- to full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, velvety medium tannins, and a long finish. It’s amazing how incredibly well-balanced this wine is, particularly given the 16% ABV which you would never guess.
Price: $74. Great QPR on this bottle, especially when compared to Quintarelli or Dal Forno Amarone that sells for $300+ (and more for the Riservas). Now I’m not saying this is the same calibre as Quintarelli or Dal Forno, but its elegance, balance, and quality are enough to make me think of them. Pair this with Wagyu filet mignon, wild boar, or parmigiano reggiano.
Chanin Wine Co. was established in 2007 by winemaker Gavin Chanin, and his goal is to produce single vineyard Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from Santa Barbara County. Gavin selected the vineyards to source his fruit based on their organic (or at minimum sustainable) farming practices while also seeking older vines. The current vineyard selections include Sanford & Benedict in the Sta. Rita Hills, Los Alamos between the Santa Maria and Santa Ynez Valleys, Bien Nacido in the Santa Maria Valley, and Duvarita just west of the Sta. Rita Hills. Gavin eschews higher alcohol levels in his wines to foster balance and finesse, while practicing gentle winemaking methods and avoiding additives such as commercial yeasts, bacteria, and enzymes. All of Chanin’s wines are bottled unfiltered.
Today’s Wine: 2015 Bien Nacido Vineyard Chardonnay
100% Chardonnay; 12.5% ABV
The 2015 Bien Nacido Chardonnay is gorgeous deep gold in color and transparent. This was beautiful out of the bottle, but really opened up after an hour in the glass and continued to change with the nose showcasing aromas of lemon zest, white peach, golden pear, stone fruit, white florals and honeysuckle, dry/dusty gravel, brioche, faint dried vanilla bean, spice, and stone minerality. On the palate, I get notes of golden apple skins, baked pear, peach, lemon and lime citrus, white lily, crushed rock, hazelnut, exotic spice, saline minerality, and very light toasted oak. This is full-bodied with beautiful medium (+) acidity and a remarkably well-rounded mouthfeel into a long, lingering finish that makes you yearn for another sip. 23 barrels produced.
Price: $39. This wine is a ridiculous value. Not only are the complexity, precision, and depth something to write home about, this stands up to a significant amount of high-quality white Burgundy I’ve enjoyed over the years. I truly must applaud Gavin Chanin for this exceptional bottling. Pair with hazelnut-crusted roast chicken, smoked whitefish, or lobster.
López de Heredia Viña Tondonia is a family-run winery established in 1877 by Don Rafael López de Heredia y Landeta after he fell in love with the Rioja Alta region, particularly the area of its capital Haro. Don Rafael began designing and constructing his winery in 1877, and today it exists as the oldest in Haro and one of the first three in Rioja. Knowing he needed to own his own vineyards to ensure higher quality wines, Don Rafael added his namesake Tondonia vineyard to his holdings in 1913-1914 and it consists of 100 hectares on the right bank of the Ebro River. Since, the winery grew to encompass three more vineyards named Viña Cubillo, Viña Bosconia, and Viña Zaconia. The estate is noted for its buildings as well, since the López de Heredia family expanded them with each passing generation. The estate spans 53,076 sq m, with 19,718 sq m of buildings including underground cellars up to 200m long and 15m deep which help store around 14,000 oak barrels for aging. When it comes to winemaking, all harvesting is accomplished solely by hand and the fruit is treated very delicately in baskets made at the winery’s cooperage. In the cellar, the López de Heredia family follows traditional winemaking methods passed down from generation to generation.
For more information as well as pictures and an overview of the López de Heredia portfolio of wines, check out their very detailed website here.
The 2006 Viña Tondonia Reserva is mostly opaque medium ruby in color. After reading recent commentary on this, I decided to decant the wine for 9 hours with little tastes along the way. At hour 5 this was starting to show nicely, but at hour 9 this thing is singing. The nose showcases aromas of black cherry, brambleberry, black raspberry, licorice, leather, forest floor, truffle, ground herbs, cardamom, black pepper, and oak. On the palate, I get notes of ripe cherry, red plum, stewed strawberry, tobacco, scorched earth, truffle, graphite, dried green herbs, chocolate, and slight oaky spice. This is medium- to full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (+) tannins, and a long finish.
Price: $40 (cheaper in Europe). LdH is always an incredible value, and this bottle is no different. The wine is beautifully complex and textbook Rioja, while being remarkably age-worthy. I’d say give this another 5 years or so in the cellar and drink it over the following 2 decades. Pair this with herb-roasted lamb, roasted pheasant, or Manchego cheese.
Jolie-Laide is a small, boutique winery established by Scott Schultz in Forestville, California, though he sources his fruit from various California winegrowing regions and appellations. I previously wrote about Jolie-Laide’s history and reviewed their 2016 Provisor Vineyard Grenache in A Journey for the Mind and Palate, and I highly encourage you to read this post if you haven’t already. For now, let’s get onto the tasting notes of today’s remarkably fun wine.
Today’s Wine: 2019 Trousseau Gris
100% Trousseau Gris; 12.4% ABV
The 2019 Trousseau Gris is transparent peach/salmon in color. The nose showcases aromas of tangerine, melon, stone fruit, white florals, cream, white peppery spice, and saline mineral. On the palate, I get notes of white peach, nectarine, melon, pink rose, honeysuckle, white tea leaf, and crushed stone minerality. This is medium-bodied with crisp medium (+) acidity and plush mouthfeel into a fully rounded and long finish.
Price: $30 direct from winery. This is a great value for several major reasons. Its quality and precision are impeccable, it is very fun (drinks like a cross between a rosé and white wine), and the versatility is profound. Pair this with lobster, herb-grilled chicken, or a turkey sandwich.
Absentee Winery is a boutique winery established in 2016 by Avi Deixler in Point Reyes, California and is situated in a barn of a working dairy farm. Avi had to fight tooth and nail with the Marin County Planning Commission to establish his winery, but ultimately he prevailed and is the only registered winery in the North Marin Wine District. Before starting Absentee, Avi worked at wineries in California, Oregon, Australia, and France and ultimately gained an appreciation for natural wines and wanted to produce his own with ONLY grapes. Avi sources his fruit from the organic-certified Poor Ranch in Hopland, and his wines are produced using whole cluster fermentation and carbonic maceration with no additional yeasts, temperature control, or SO2 and sulfites. Also interesting is the fact that Avi “refurbishes” his own barrels by purchasing used barrels and hand sanding the interior to remove any residue, blemishes, and chemicals. Avi’s wines are produced in a hands-off style and bottled unfined and unfiltered, with the results embodying true expression of fruit unhindered by modern additives.
Today’s Wine: 2018 Flaws
100% Abouriou; 14.5% ABV
The 2018 Flaws is deep opaque purple in color, nearly black at its core. Once this opens up, which doesn’t take too long, the nose showcases aromas of black cherry, blackberry, black raspberry, violet, dried leather, loamy earth, vanilla, and slight woody spice. On the palate, I get notes of black plum, blackberry jam, tart cherry, anise, black pepper, baking spice, and underbrush. This is full-bodied with medium acidity, medium (+) tannins, and a long finish.
Note: Not sure what happened to the label of my bottle, it’s supposed to show half of a bear on roller skates. Looks like this guy got flipped upside down and printed both ways!
Price: $40. On a value perspective, this is a bit pricey. Particularly if natural wines are your style or you want to explore the arena, there are much better options when it comes to your wallet. However, this was purely a fun wine to try because I’d never before heard of Abouriou, the nearly extinct variety, and it was highly enjoyable. Pair this with barbecue pork ribs, grilled sausage, or roasted duck.
Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande is a historic estate that traces its routes to the late 1600s and ranks as a Second Growth (Deuxième Cru) based on the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855. I previously wrote about Pichon Lalande when reviewing their 1986 vintage in Bordeaux Battle and the 2003 vintage in Decidedly Opulent Pauillac. To save myself (and yours as a reader) the hassle of reproducing (or reading) such a detailed and lengthy history, I will copy my short previous write-up below.
Pichon Lalande is considered by many to be a classic example of Pauillac, known for its deep, concentrated layers of ripe fruit accompanied by notes of cassis, tobacco, and earth.
With nothing short of a somewhat tumultuous history, Pichon Lalande’s ownership changed hands over the years and earned its name when the founder’s daughter Therese received it as a dowry for her marriage to Jacques de Pichon Longueville. During the 18th century, the estate was dominated by women (Therese de Rauzan, Germaine de Lajus, and Marie Branda de Terrefort) throughout the winemaking process until Baron Joseph de Pichon Longueville took over for his mother. In 1850, with his death, the estate split between his two sons and three daughters and ultimately resulted in the division of Comtesse de Lalande and Pichon Baron.
With no familial heirs, Edouard Miailhe and Louis Miailhe purchased Pichon Lalande following WWI. Edouard’s daughter, May-Eliane de Lencquesaing, took over management in 1978 and became a prominent ambassador for Bordeaux wines while dramatically increasing quality of her estate. One of her major endeavors, and possibly most famous, was growing the size of Pichon Lalande from 40 hectares of vines to 89. In 2007, however, May-Eliane sold a majority stake of the estate to the Rouzaud family, owners of Roederer Champagne, and management changes as well as renovations took place.
The 1966 Pichon Lalande is medium garnet in color and moderately transparent. This wine is singing as a pop-and-pour, with the nose showcasing aromas of graphite, cigar box, forest floor, truffle, and peppercorn followed by faint redcurrant, cranberry, dried violet, and green herbs in the background. On the palate, I get notes of pencil shavings, dried tobacco leaf, leather, black tea leaf, underbrush, gravel, and mushroom with cassis and redcurrant poking through. This is still medium-bodied with lively medium acidity, medium (-) dusty tannins, and a medium (+) length finish. Best during the first 1-1.5 hours, but honestly didn’t fall apart too much slightly beyond hour 2 (when it was gone).
Price: $350. Provenance is key here, but if proven and you can find this for sale it is absolutely worth the tag. My bottle threw almost zero sediment, the color and structure were both profound, and this drank incredibly youthful given its age. I would’ve pegged this as 1980s if I tasted it blind. Pair this with wagyu filet mignon, earthy mushrooms and/or truffle, or mild cheese.
Bodega Chacra was established in the Río Negro region of Patagonia in 2004 by Piero Incisa della Rocchetta. Piero is the grandson of Marchese Mario Incisa della Rocchetta who created Tenuta San Guido (Sassicaia) and fostered the foundation of his understanding of wine. At Chacra, Piero’s goal is to create transparent, honest wines that showcase his unique terroir through organic and biodynamic viticulture. To this end, Piero refuses to use any artificial fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides in the vineyards and rather resorts to vegetable and mineral preparations added to compost. The estate’s compost consists of fruit skins, autumn leaves, and natural guano produced by the animals who live there, as well as an assortment of biodynamic preparations that most wine consumers would probably cringe over. (For a description of these preparations and their functions, check out the Chacra website here.) Chacra’s vineyards produce low yields to begin with, though at harvest they carefully select the best fruit and leave the rest for the birds or other wildlife to encourage biodiversity. Maceration and fermentation occur in small tanks with an emphasis on skin contact, and the wines age in extra fine grain French oak barrels.
I highly encourage you to check out the Chacra main page here to explore their history and practices further, as well as look at the extensive picture gallery.
Today’s Wine: 2018 Mainqué Chardonnay
100% Chardonnay; 12.5% ABV
The 2018 Mainqué Chardonnay is a gorgeous medium to deep gold in color changing to water white near the rim. This needs some time to open up, but once it does the nose showcases aromas of lemon, crisp golden apple, pear, honeysuckle, straw, matchstick, wax, vanilla, and cotton candy. On the palate, I get notes of white peach, lemon citrus, pineapple, snap pea, almond, cream, honey, white pepper, and stony minerality. Full-bodied with an unbelievably supple mouthfeel and medium (+) acidity into a long finish.
Price: I paid $50, but it looks like there are a few stores in New York closer to $40-45. Nonetheless, this is easily the best Chardonnay I’ve had in a while and in value terms is certainly worth its price (even if you hit $50 like me). The precision, expression of fruit, and elegance of this wine makes you think high quality Burgundy (coincidence Jean-Marc Roulot collaborates?). Pair this with rosemary lemon chicken, salmon, or spring vegetables.
Bodega Bouza is a family-run winery located in Montevideo, Uruguay and everything they do is centered around their large family and teamwork. The family owns 4 vineyards named Melilla (10.4 ha), Las Violetas (15.4 ha), Pan de Azúcar (7.44 ha), and Las Espinas (1.64 ha) planted to a combination of Albariño, Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot Noir, and Tannat. They also grow a small plot (1.44 ha) of Riesling in Pan de Azúcar. All of the fruit is manually harvested and destemmed before being sorted berry by berry, and all wines are vinified lot by lot in 50 hl containers. Malolactic fermentation occurs in oak barrels and the wines age for 6-18 months in American and French oak before being bottled unfiltered and resting another 6-12 months.
Today’s Wine: 2017 Tannat Reserva
100% Tannat; 14.5% ABV
The 2017 Tannat Reserva is opaque deep ruby in color with deep purple hues. Once this opens up, the nose displays classic aromas of blackcurrant, black plum, blue and purple florals, anise, smoke, cardamom, and oak. Once on the palate, the wine showcases notes of blackberry, cassis, black cherry, fig, leather, clay and wet gravel, charred herbs, and baking spice. This is medium- to full-bodied with medium acidity, velvety but medium tannins, and a long finish dominated by inky black fruit. Roughly 1,900 cases produced.
Price: I paid $30, but it looks like you can find this closer to $20-22. This is an outstanding value if you find it closer to $20 (I do see some stores out there) but at the $30 price-point it does start getting competitive. Would I buy it again at $30? Most likely. But at that price it wouldn’t be one of those wines I find and buy a case of for a value play. Pair this with duck confit, beef sausage, or Roquefort cheese.
Domaine Courbis dates back to the 16th century, with the estate today under watchful guidance of brothers Laurent and Dominique Courbis. Laurent and Dominique took over from their father Maurice in the early 1990s, and though they maintain traditional practices such as hand harvesting and rigorous sorting the brothers greatly modernized the winemaking philosophy at the estate. Consisting of 35 hectares under vine, the domaine falls largely in Saint-Joseph with 18 hectares of Syrah and 5 hectares split between Marsanne (95%) and Roussanne (5%). The next largest holding is in Cornas with 8 hectares and the balance is split among Crozes-Hermitage, Saint-Péray, and others appellations. The fruit is sustainably farmed, fermentation occurs in tanks, and aging occurs in oak barriques that vary from new to 3 years old, with the overall style yielding intense and concentrated wines.
Today’s Wine: 2015 Cornas Champelrose
100% Syrah; 14% ABV
The 2015 Cornas Champelrose is opaque medium to deep purple in color. I decanted this for about an hour, and it seems that is as long as this needs due to its aim of being approachable young. The nose showcases aromas of jammy blackberry, blueberry, violet, crushed rock, smoke, and light oak. Once on the palate, the wine displays notes of blackberry, black plum, black pepper, tobacco, wet granite, chalky mineral, and chocolate. This is medium- to full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, dusty medium tannins, and a medium (+) length finish.
Price: $40. This is a tasty Cornas, but on a value perspective I’d probably look elsewhere. This was lacking complexity compared to others, and certainly fits into a more “people-pleasing” camp that is already highly competitive. Pair this with beef short ribs, grilled lamb chop, or charcuterie and blue cheese.
Pietradolce was established in 2005 on the northern slopes of Mt. Etna in Solicchiata and consists of 11 hectares of vines situated between 600 and 900 meters above sea level. The vineyards are divided into three sections, with two in Rampante and one in Zottorinoto, but overall the soil is dominated by stones and sandy loam rich in mineral elements thanks to the volcano. Since its founding, Pietradolce chose to work only with native varieties of Mt. Etna with Nerello Mascalese, Nerello Cappuccio, and Carricante taking center stage and growing largely as traditional bushes. At the heart of Pietradolce is a philosophy of caring for the land and both the winemaking practices as well as the physical winery itself are eco-friendly.
Today’s Wine: 2014 Contrada Rampante Etna Rosso
100% Nerello Mascalese; 14.5% ABV
The 2014 Contrada Rampante is almost fully opaque deep garnet in color. This seemed to show best after 1.5 hours decanting, however it continued to evolve and add complexities throughout the 3 hours from pop to last drop. The nose showcases aromas of bing cherry, strawberry, licorice, rose and violet, leather, black volcanic earth, smoke, oregano, cinnamon, stony mineral, and oaky spice. Some slight heat surfaces as well. On the palate this beauty displays notes of black cherry, dried stemmy strawberry, crunchy black raspberry, cola, anise, tobacco, rocky yet loamy earth, earthy mineral, mocha, and allspice. This is medium-bodied with high acidity, medium (+) tannins, and a long finish characterized by lingering notes of iron.
Price: $38 (but good luck). I’ve had many Etna Rosso’s that I proclaim as exceptional values, but this wine might take the cake as the greatest one yet…if you are lucky enough to find it. The utter complexity that surfaces in this wine and its rustic beauty that could be mistaken for a great red Burgundy demands attention and respect. Pair with pasta bolognese, veal parm, or swordfish.
Ad Vinum is a small natural wine producer established in 2016 by Sébastien Chatillon, a former sommelier at Le Chateaubriand in Paris. Sébastien was not always interested in wine, however, and after dropping out of college he worked as a candy salesman, stablehand, and rock band member amongst other odd jobs. Sébastien’s interest in wine actually stemmed from partying with his friends in one of their father’s wine caves, thanks to his realization that he truly loved the beverage and wanted to learn more about it. After his time at Le Chateaubriand and taking a deep dive into natural wines, Sébastien moved to Vallabrix in the Gard department of southern France with the goal of making his own wine. Ad Vinum’s fruit is all organically farmed and hand-harvested, with the fermentation process accomplished spontaneously with only indigenous yeasts. Some of the wines also see carbonic or semi-carbonic maceration. Practicing restraint in the cellar, Sébastien wants his wines to speak for themselves and the terroir and he bottles them unfined, unfiltered, and with zero added SO2.
Today’s Wine: 2018 Bim!
Blend of Grenache, Cinsault, and Mourvèdre (no tech sheet); 12.5% ABV
The 2018 Bim! is mostly opaque pale to medium purple in color. Once this opens up, the nose becomes incredibly aromatic and fresh with aromas of blackberry, candied plum, stemmy red berries, violet, crushed rock, black pepper, and bright mineral. On the palate, this lively wine displays notes of blueberry, boysenberry, brambly raspberry, strawberry licorice, sweet tobacco, green underbrush, and rocky mineral. This is medium-bodied with medium acidity, medium tannins, and a medium (+) length finish.
Price: $35. This is a delicious, highly chuggable wine that can be perfect for those branching into natural wines. Bim! is wonderfully balanced and made with carbonic maceration and spontaneous fermentation in stainless steel tanks, providing a beautiful freshness to it. Pair this with grilled lamb, spicy Mediterranean chicken, or barbecue.
Domaine Ramonet was established in Chassagne-Montrachet in the late 1920s by Pierre Ramonet, and quickly became one of the preeminent producers of white Burgundy. The 1934 Ramonet Chassagne-Montrachet Premier Cru Ruchottes, for instance, was the first estate-bottled white Burgundy imported in the US and catapulted the domaine to international fame and admiration. Ramonet remained one of the most highly-sought producers throughout the 20th century, until issues with premature oxidation damaged their status like many other producers in the mid to late 1990s. The domaine ultimately passed to Pierre’s son André until he passed away in 2011, and then to Pierre’s grandchildren Noël and Jean-Claude who worked in the vineyards since 1984. Since 2013, Domaine Ramonet labels bear Jean-Claude Ramonet alone following Noël’s semi-retirement and his wines, particularly the whites, remain a force to be reckoned with.
In the vineyards, Ramonet likes to work with older vines and keep his yields low. Most of the wines are produced from vines 12 to 50 years old, though they typically like to use vines 18 years or older. The domaine’s vinification practices are traditional in nature, with the whites starting in tanks before transfer to French oak barrels and the reds in cement vats for maceration and fermentation. New oak usage varies by wine and vintage, with the whites typically seeing 10-15% for village wines, 30-40% for 1er Crus, and 50%+ for the Grand Crus. Reds typically see 10-20% new oak for village wines and 30-40% for 1er Crus. None of the white wines are bottled fined or filtered.
The 2015 Clos Saint-Jean is pale to medium ruby in color and moderately transparent. Once this opens up in the glass, the nose showcases aromas of black cherry, black raspberry, lavender, raw leather, slight barnyard, black tea, cinnamon, rosemary, and mineral. There is some slight heat as well. On the palate, I get notes of red plum, cranberry, black cherry, tobacco, forest floor, charred herbs, underbrush, chalky minerality, and blood. This is light- to medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (-) tannins, and a medium (+) length finish. Not as balanced as the 2014 vintage I had in November, 2019.
Price: $100. This is not a bad price, but I can’t go as far as saying this is a good value because there are many outstanding Red Burgundy options at or less than $100. That being said, I’d be curious to try this again in a few years. Pair with seared duck breast, herb-crusted lamb, or mushroom stroganoff.
Domaine Pierre Boisson is one of three family domaines who all work together and make their wines in the same cellar located in Meursault. Pierre, alongside his father Bernard (Domaine Boisson-Vadot) and sister Anne (Domaine Anne Boisson) watches over the family domaine which encompasses 8.5 hectares primarily situated in Meursault but with smaller holdings in Auxey-Duresses, Monthelie, Pommard, and Beaune. The family doesn’t use any chemical fertilizer or pesticides in their vineyards and, at time for harvest, everything is accomplished manually. Pierre, like Bernard and Anne, practices traditional Burgundian winemaking methods and accomplishes fermentation using only native yeasts. Though the wines will see some new oak (typically never more than 25-30% for the high-end and lower for village bottlings), there is no set percentage and it varies vintage to vintage and wine to wine with the goal of never masking a wine’s true character. All wines are bottled unfiltered at the domaine.
Today’s Wine: 2017 Bourgogne Blanc
100% Chardonnay; 13% ABV
The 2017 Bourgogne Blanc is a beautiful pale gold in color with hues of straw and water white. On the nose, this emits aromas of lemon zest, white peach, pear, tangerine, white florals, hazelnut, saline minerality, and light oak. Once on the palate, this displays notes of lemon and lime zest, green apple skins, golden pear, tropical citrus, honeysuckle, saline mineral, and dried vanilla bean. The wine is medium-bodied with vibrant high acidity into a crisp and refreshing finish.
Price: $40 (much cheaper in Europe). I thought this was an outstanding value for White Burg and this bottle was perfect for the hot weather I enjoyed with it yesterday. Pair this with roasted chicken, Dover sole, or crab.
Unfortunately, today’s producer is another that, no matter how hard I try, does not appear to have a searchable history. I once again found accords of a select few enjoying the wines of Piero Testore, which according to CellarTracker consist of 1967 and 1974 vintages of Barolo. I’m sure there is more out there somewhere, so if anyone knows about the history of Piero Testore please let me know!
Today’s Wine: 1967 Barolo
100% Nebbiolo; 13% ABV
The 1967 Barolo is pale tawny in color holding onto pale ruby in the bowl of the glass. This certainly needed some time to breathe and really started to show well after 4 hours decanting. On the nose, I get dominating aromas of forest floor, earthy mushroom, and musty cellar before a beautiful bouquet of stewed cherry, dried rose, anise, dried herbs, tea leaves, tar, and cinnamon. On the palate, this displays notes of dried cherry, stemmy raspberry, dried-out licorice, dried rose, mild tobacco, truffle, sous bois, and light peppery spice. Beautifully aged, this Barolo is medium-bodied with medium acidity, integrated medium (-) tannins, and a medium length finish.
Price: I paid $60, though I’m not sure what the market value of this is/should be. I’m certainly glad I took the chance on this bottle because once it opened up, it was not only fun but incredibly enjoyable. It doesn’t hurt that the 1967 vintage for Piedmont is one of the excellent, milestone vintages. Pair this with filet mignon, veal, or white Alba truffles.
Established by Scott Schultz, Jolie-Laide is a small, boutique winery crafting wines in Forestville, California. Jolie-Laide is a French term of endearment for something unconventionally beautiful that translates to “pretty-ugly,” and Scott decided to use it in naming his winery following experiences in the restaurant business. When he worked at Bouchon in Yountville, Scott realized that the majority of people didn’t seem to explore the wine list but rather stick to Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, or Cabernet Sauvignon. He thought this was a travesty of sorts, given the wonderful varieties including Gamay, Valdiguié, Vermentino, or Trousseau Gris. Eventually Scott transitioned out of the restaurant business and found himself working alongside Pax Mahle, a wildly skilled winemaker in his own right. One year, Pax allowed Scott to make a wine of his own using 1-2 tons of fruit and he decided to use none other than Trousseau Gris because of how fascinating of a variety it is to him. Alas, Jolie-Laide was born and continues to produce magnificent and wildly fun wines today.
When it comes to sourcing his fruit, Scott works with farmers he has known for years who largely follow organic practices and work incredibly unique sites. After harvest, all of the Jolie-Laide red fruit is foot crushed and left whole cluster with some of the varieties (like Gamay) seeing carbonic maceration. Thanks to Scott’s selection of incredible sites, he can be pretty hands-off during the rest of the winemaking process and let the terroir and fruit speak for itself. Jolie-Laide lets their wines ferment naturally and, instead of using temperature control, says “we stick things in the sun if we need to get them warm” (source). Furthermore, Scott adds little SO2 when necessary in part because his wines tend to be bottled young to both preserve freshness in the fruit and provide barrels for the following year’s harvest.
Today’s Wine: 2016 Provisor Vineyard Grenache
100% Grenache; 12.8% ABV
The 2016 Provisor Vineyard Grenache is pale ruby/garnet in color and moderately transparent. I drank this over 4.5 hours (don’t ask me how I restrained myself) and it is remarkable how drastically this picked up weight over time. The nose showcases aromas of candied strawberry, juicy raspberry, black cherry, red licorice, sweet tobacco, granite, oregano, and cinnamon. Once on the palate, the wine displays notes of muddled strawberry, tart red raspberry, candied plum, anise, tobacco, dark leather, crushed rock, green herbs, and peppery spice. This is medium- to full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (+) tannins, and a long finish. While this started off thin and falling off by mid-palate, my patience was handsomely, handsomely rewarded.
Price: $38. Buy it. All I can say is if you can find this bottle close to the price, it is supremely worth the adventure. If you do though, and haven’t taken heed of my commentary above, I implore you once again to give this air. Pair with braised pork, wild boar, or smoked charcuterie.
Chanin Wine Co. was established in 2007 by winemaker Gavin Chanin, and his goal is to produce single vineyard Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from Santa Barbara County. Gavin selected the vineyards to source his fruit based on their organic (or at minimum sustainable) farming practices while also seeking older vines. The current vineyard selections include Sanford & Benedict in the Sta. Rita Hills, Los Alamos between the Santa Maria and Santa Ynez Valleys, Bien Nacido in the Santa Maria Valley, and Duvarita just west of the Sta. Rita Hills. Gavin eschews higher alcohol levels in his wines to foster balance and finesse, while practicing gentle winemaking methods and avoiding additives such as commercial yeasts, bacteria, and enzymes. All of Chanin’s wines are bottled unfiltered.
Fun Fact: The artwork featured on Chanin’s labels is Gavin’s own.
Today’s Wine: 2014 Duvarita Vineyard Pinot Noir
100% Pinot Noir; 13.28% ABV
The 2014 Duvarita Vineyard Pinot Noir is pale ruby in color and moderately transparent. Once this opens up, the nose showcases aromas of strawberry, red cherry, rosehip, leather, tobacco, loamy earth, smoked game, green herbs, and exotic spice. On the palate, this displays notes of bright red cherry, muddled strawberry, black raspberry, violet, worn leather, charred earth, stemmy underbrush, and cracked pepper. Light- to medium-bodied with a velvety mouthfeel, medium (+) acidity, medium (-) tannins, and a medium (+) length finish. 34 barrels produced.
Price: $50. Not really the style I was expecting, as this reminds me of a Kosta Browne or Williams Selyem, but this is certainly a delicious Pinot Noir. This is very well-made and the lower alcohol content does seem to help bring out the elegance and finesse of the wine. Pair this with seared tuna, grilled quail, or herb-roasted chicken.
Broc Cellars, located in Berkeley, California, is a boutique winery established by winemaker and owner Chris Brockway. Though Chris purchases the fruit for his wines, he ensures that all of it comes from sustainably or organically farmed vineyards (often managed by him) where the use of synthetic pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, or fertilizers is eschewed. In crafting his wines, he utilizes spontaneous fermentation where only natives yeasts and bacteria reign supreme without any additives. Chris doesn’t add any nutrients, enzymes, or tannins to his wines and adds zero to minimal SO2 depending on the wine. For his varieties that range from Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay to Nero d’Avola and Valdiguié, Chris sources fruit from Mendocino, Sonoma, and Solano counties as well as Alexander Valley and beyond.
Today’s Wine: 2018 Got Grapes
100% Valdiguié; 11.5% ABV
The 2018 Got Grapes is pale purple in color and moderately opaque. I simply let this open in the glass with the nose showcasing aromas of cranberry, dried raspberry, red and purple florals, slight barnyard, wet sand, steel cut oats, eucalyptus, and rocky mineral. Once on the palate, this delicious wine displays notes of crunchy red raspberry, strawberry, pomegranate, rocky soil, stemmy underbrush, tobacco leaf, black pepper, and mineral. This is light- to medium-bodied with gorgeous medium (+) acidity, medium (-) tannins, and a medium (+) length finish. This Valdiguié is sourced from two dry farmed vineyards in Mendocino County, and the fruit is destemmed and fermented on the skins before being pressed into tanks to complete fermentation and aged for 6 months in neutral French oak barrels. 400 cases produced.
Price: $27 direct from winery (I snagged it for $24). This is not a wine for every palate but it is not too far out there by any means for those who want to explore a naturally-made wine. For me, I thought this was absolutely fantastic and for its price not only of supreme quality and delicious but certainly fun. Pair this with roasted chicken, grilled salmon, or charcuterie and hard cheeses.
I previously wrote about Dirty & Rowdy when reviewing their 2018 Familiar Mourvèdre in Wildly Fun California Mourvèdre, but I will recreate their story below.
Dirty & Rowdy is a small, family-operated winery founded in 2010 by couples Hardy & Kate and Matt & Amy with the goal of producing minimal intervention “honest wines.” Known for their range of Mourvèdre bottlings, Dirty & Rowdy also produces Petite Syrah, Chenin Blanc, and blends that include a GSM and Semillon-dominant white almost all with 100% whole cluster native fermentation, either zero or minimal SO2 added, and no filtering or fining when bottled. Dirty & Rowdy sources their fruit from vineyards in Mendocino, Monterey, Contra Costa, El Dorado, and Amador Counties, with most vineyards organically farmed or at a minimum “responsibly” farmed and unique.
The 2018 Familiar Blanc is gorgeous medium gold/yellow in color and completely transparent. The delicate nose emits aromas of melon, peach, tropical citrus, white florals, straw, chamomile, and saline mineral. Once in the mouth, this easy drinking wine displays notes of pear, golden apple skins, lemon zest, grapefruit, honeysuckle, white pepper, stone minerality, and wax. This is medium-bodied with vibrant medium (+) acidity and a fully-rounded mouthfeel into a medium length finish. The wine is produced with 60% whole cluster and 40% skin native fermentation with no winemaking additives and minimal SO2.
Price: $30. Similar to my experience with the Dirty & Rowdy Familiar Mourvèdre I reviewed a few weeks ago, this is a thoroughly enjoyable and fun wine. Pair this with shellfish, roasted pork, or Manchego cheese.
Spring Mountain Vineyard is a large estate and winery comprised of what used to be three unique properties, each with their own vineyards and wineries. Spring Mountain Vineyards (Miravalle) consisted of 257 acres, Chateau Chevalier (Chevalier) of 120 acres, and Draper Vineyards (La Perla) of 435 acres before being combined. La Perla is the uppermost and oldest portion of today’s estate, established in 1873 by Charles Lemme and home to the first Cabernet Sauvignon planted on Spring Mountain. La Perla expanded from 285 acres to 435, largely thanks to the addition of the vineyard just below it planted by Fredrick and Jacob Beringer in 1882. To the north of Beringer’s vineyard was Chateau Chevalier, whose winemaking presence began in 1891, and next door was Miravalle. To learn more about these historic estates and their eventual culmination into Spring Mountain Vineyard, check out the website here. Today, SMV consists of 850 acres on the eastern slopes of Spring Mountain with roughly 226 acres planted to vine that are broken into 135 small vineyard blocks.
Whether or not you check their website regarding the three original properties linked above, I highly recommend browsing their intensely-detailed winemaking page here and the equally intensive vineyard page here. Though there is far too much detail for me to delve into here, I will try to highlight that the vines are very densely planted to reduce yields and produce concentrated, naturally ripened fruit while utilizing sustainable practices. In the cellar, Spring Mountain Vineyard separates their vineyard lots, ferments using only natural yeasts, usually bottles the wines unfined, and adds minimal SO2. The winery is also incredibly proud of their 100% estate bottling process.
The 2010 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon is opaque deep ruby in color. I decanted this for 2 hours and drank it over the following 2 hours. The nose showcases aromas of blackberry, plum, ripe blueberry, black raspberry, tobacco, loamy earth, black pepper, slight baking spice, and mocha. Once on the palate, this beauty displays notes of blackcurrant, juicy plum, black cherry, pipe tobacco, charred earth, gravel, coffee grounds, ground herbs, and chocolate. This is full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, refined medium tannins, and a long finish. Supremely elegant and well-crafted.
Price: $150 direct from winery (but I got this at an absolute STEAL of $50 at a Los Angeles wine store). $150 is probably pushing it on a value perspective, but at $100 or less this is a must-try. The quality and elegance of this wine is truly living up to the estate’s name. Pair this with filet mignon, lamb, or charcuterie and cheese.
Terroir al Límit was established in 2001 by Dominik Huber and Eben Sadie when the duo purchased fruit from the Perez family of the Mas Martinet winery and vinified their first Dits del Terra. In 2003, they acquired their own wine cellar in the village of Torroja del Priorat and quickly set about purchasing more fruit and releasing new wines. Since the beginning, Dominik’s goal is to produce terroir-driven wines utilizing ancient Burgundian winemaking traditions and he took this a step further by practicing organic and biodynamic viticulture, minimal intervention, whole cluster fermentation, and concrete or amphora aging. The painstaking manual process in the vineyards (save for assistance from a mule named Frida) coupled with Dominik’s winemaking philosophy yields wines of beautiful elegance meant for “enjoying in the company of family and friends.” To explore this incredible winery further, check out the website here.
Today’s Wine: 2011 Dits del Terra
100% Carignan (85-year-old vines at 400m elevation); 13.5% ABV
The 2011 Dits del Terra is mostly opaque and medium ruby in color. This requires an hour in the decanter which allows the nose to blossom with aromas of dried cranberry, raspberry, black cherry, rose, cured meat, tobacco, earthy mushroom, forest floor, and crushed rock. Once this hits the palate, it displays notes of cranberry, strawberry, raspberry, licorice, dried tobacco leaf, dried loamy earth, baking spice, ground green herbs, and slate. The 2011 Dits del Terra is beautifully balanced and medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium tannins, and a long finish. 4,458 bottles produced.
Price: $80. Terroir al Límit produces my favorite wines that I’ve had from Priorat and, while not inexpensive, provide the quality and elegance to justify it. Pair this with turkey and cranberry sauce, venison, or herb-roasted lamb.
Te Whare Ra is a small family-owned winery established in 1979 but under the guide of winemakers Anna and Jason Flowerday since 2003. TWR’s vineyard is one of the oldest in Marlborough and consists of 11 hectares planted to Gewürztraminer, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Syrah. Anna and Jason manage their vineyard adhering to organic and biodynamic principles, while also practicing minimal intervention in the cellar. The duo keeps their yields low, all fruit is hand-picked and hand-sorted, no chemicals are used in the vineyards, and the wine is made as naturally as possible with no fining agents, chemical tannins, or chemical yeast nutrients added. TWR is a founding member of Marlborough Natural Winegrowers (MANA) and is certified organic by BIOGRO NZ. To learn more about TWR’s farming and winemaking practices, explore their portfolio, or meet the team (including their cows and dogs), check out the website here.
Today’s Wine: 2014 Pinot Noir SV5182
100% Pinot Noir; 13.5% ABV
The 2014 Pinot Noir SV5182 is pale ruby in color and moderately transparent. I simply let this open in the glass for about 30 minutes and the nose showcases aromas of black cherry, raspberry, blue florals, leather, loamy earth, savory herbs, cinnamon, and peppered game. Once on the palate, the wine displays notes of blueberry, black raspberry, ripe cherry, spicy plum, tobacco, forest floor, wet stone, dried green herbs, and violet. This Pinot is medium-bodied with medium acidity, fine-grained medium (-) tannins, and a long finish. 129 cases produced.
Price: $40. This is elegant and of superb quality, while also being a fun exploratory wine since I haven’t had much Pinot Noir from New Zealand. The fact that this is a “natural” wine adds another delightful dimension. Pair this with duck breast, pulled pork, or baked chicken.
Spottswoode traces its roots to 1882 when a German immigrant by the name of George Schonewald and his wife Catherine purchased 31 acres at the foot of the Mayacamas Mountains with the intention of using it for a summer home. The Spottswoode name, however, did not come around until 1910 when Susan Spotts acquired the estate. As Prohibition dawned, the Spottswoode estate fell into disrepair but the family continued to sell grapes to the Christian Brothers Winery which made sacramental wines. The estate remained under ownership of Spotts family descendents until, in 1972, Mary and Jack Novak purchased the estate and moved their family to St. Helena. The Novaks quickly set about expanding with an additional 15 acres and replanted their pre-Prohibition vines to Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, and Sauvignon Blanc. Jack passed away unexpectedly in 1977, but Mary was determined to continue their dream and completed her first harvest while selling fruit to wineries including Shafer and Duckhorn. In 1982, Mary christened the estate Spottswoode Estate Vineyard & Winery and produced her first Cabernet Sauvignon. Spottswoode started utilizing organic farming methods in 1985 and became certified organic in 1992 by CCOF. Today, Spottswoode remains under the watchful eyes of Mary’s youngest daughter Beth, who joined in 1987, and Mary’s oldest daughter Lindy, who joined in 1992.
To learn more about this historic and award-winning winery, check out their website here. You can browse their portfolio, read about specific farming and winemaking practices, or view pictures of the beautiful grounds and Victorian home which adorns the labels.
Today’s Wine: 2018 Sauvignon Blanc
100% Sauvignon Blanc; 14.1% ABV
The 2018 Sauvignon Blanc is transparent deep straw in color with yellow variation. The expressive nose showcases aromas of Meyer lemon, cantaloupe, golden apple, lime zest, lemongrass, honey, saline mineral, white pepper spice, and cream. On the palate, I get notes of white peach, lemon and lime zest, grapefruit, green apple skins, freshly cut grass, brioche, white florals, and vibrant minerality. This is medium-bodied with high acidity and a lush, fully-rounded mouthfeel leading into a finish that lingers and lingers.
Price: $40 ($35 if you’re lucky). One of the better California Sauvignon Blancs I’ve enjoyed, though I tend more toward France. This bottle is crying for a hot summer’s day, and I’d be curious to try it on such a day with a few more years of bottle age. Pair this with oysters, Dover sole, or grilled chicken salad.
Arnot-Roberts is a boutique winery established in 2001 by Duncan Arnot Meyers and Nathan Lee Roberts, two childhood friends who grew up together in Napa Valley. After college, Nathan started working with his father as a cooper of oak wine barrels while Duncan pursued winemaking throughout Napa and Sonoma counties. Arnot-Roberts began with a single barrel of wine the duo produced in their basement and over time grew through the purchase of fruit from renowned vineyards in Napa, Sonoma, El Dorado, and Amador counties as well as the Santa Cruz Mountains. When selecting vineyards, Arnot-Roberts makes sure the farmers are both “passionate and conscientious” because their goal is to produce small quantities of honest, terroir-driven single-vineyard wines which truly express their unique place.
Today’s Wine: 2016 Que Syrah Vineyard
100% Syrah; 12.2% ABV
The Que Syrah Vineyard, planted in 1993 at an elevation of 850 feet, is the oldest planting of Syrah on the Sonoma Coast. This organically-farmed vineyard is composed of sedimentary schist, shale, and fractured mudstone and Arnot-Roberts became the steward of the site in 2013.
The 2016 Que Syrah is mostly opaque medium purple in color heading toward fuchsia at the rim. I decanted this for 1.5 hours and drank it over the following 2 hours. The nose showcases aromas of plum, blueberry, licorice, rocky soil, black olive, green beans, ground herbs, and smoke while screaming of whole cluster fermentation. Once on the palate, this displays notes of brambleberry, black plum, cola, wild blueberry, mild sweet tobacco, crushed rock, ground green pepper, olive, and exotic spice. The wine is medium- to full-bodied with medium acidity, elegant medium tannins, and a long finish. 4 barrels produced.
Price: $70. While not the greatest California Syrah I’ve had, I would be comfortable putting this up with the greatest “natural” California Syrahs I’ve had. While not for everyone, I would suggest the explorers and Syrah lovers looking for something new give this a shot. Pair this with a good burger, herb-roasted lamb, or braised beef.
Pietro Caciorgna is a very small family-owned and operated farm and winery based in Casole d ‘Elsa of the Siena province of Tuscany. Giovanni and Fulvia Caciorgna moved to this countryside location in 1953 with their seven children and set about farming cereals, corn, sunflower, and cattle fodder. Fortunately for us, the family also practiced viticulture for their own consumption which spawned into the wines for purchase today. Having grown their property to 20 hectares, the Caciorgna family farms 2.3 hectares of Sangiovese planted in 2001 on the hill of Osteria delle Macchie in Tuscany and branched into Sicily to produce their Etna Rosso. Pietro and his wife Elda manage the day-to-day of the estate, and their philosophy is to produce quality wines while caring for the environment. For instance, they use zero chemical fertilizers in the vineyards and only copper and sulfur when necessary to produce honest and terroir-driven wines. The family was driven to start a new venture in Sicily in 2006 by none other than Marco de Grazia (behind Tenuta delle Terre Nere) where they purchased a small 0.5 hectare vineyard of Nerello Mascalese before expanding with the purchase of another just over 1 hectare in size. Pietro also purchases some fruit from his neighbors and produces his wines in a small cellar located in Rovittello, yet the drive for quality and terroir-driven wines remains the same.
Today’s Wine: 2016 Guardoilvento Etna Rosso
100% Nerello Mascalese; 13.5% ABV
The 2016 Guardoilvento Etna Rosso is medium garnet in color with ruby hues and moderately opaque. I decanted this for about an hour which allowed the nose to showcase aromas of ripe red cherry, stemmy strawberry, dried raspberry, tomato paste, red rose, leather, dried earth, rocky mineral, and pine. Once in the mouth, this wine displays notes of baked cherry, raspberry, red licorice, red and purple florals, thyme, crushed rock, tobacco, volcanic earth, allspice, and earthy mineral. This is medium-bodied with vibrant medium (+) acidity, medium tannins, and a long finish.
Price: $30. This is an outstanding value and another example of why I love Etna Rosso so much. For those unfamiliar with Etna Rosso and a step deeper the variety Nerello Mascalese, I highly suggest giving them a try. Pair this with pork chops, veal parm, or tomato sauce pasta.
Describing Jayson Woodbridge requires a thesaurus. Passionate is a good word, along with driven, charismatic and hedonistic. You could add exacting, arrogant and volatile. Woodbridge is happy to paint a target on his chest and dare you to shoot if he’s trying to make a point. And he’s always trying to make a point.
Tim Fish, Wine Spectator
Today’s Story: Hundred Acre
Hundred Acre was established with an inaugural 2000 vintage by owner and winemaker Jayson Woodbridge who endeavored (and to this day endeavors) to create a pinnacle Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. A former investment banker characterized by some as flamboyant, visionary, genius, arrogant, volatile, and contrarian (source – one of many), Woodbridge named his winery for the Kayli Morgan Vineyard’s resemblance to the Hundred Acre Wood from Winnie the Pooh. Childhood cartoons aside, Woodbridge demands utmost precision in farming the vineyards and making his wines where nearly everything is accomplished by hand. The vines are pruned by hand and grapes sorted INDIVIDUALLY by hand under a rockstar team of Philippe Melka (consultant) and Jim Barbour (vineyard manager – think Checkerboard and Blankiet) but ultimately the buck stops with Woodbridge. To gain more insight into this producer of more than one dozen 100-point wines, you’ll simply need to sign up on the waiting list (which reportedly spans longer than 5 years) here.
Today’s Wine: 2005 Ancient Way Vineyard Summer’s Blocks Shiraz
100% Shiraz; 15.5% ABV
The 2005 Ancient Way Summer’s Blocks is opaque deep garnet in color with deep ruby/purple hues. I decanted this for 1.5 hours and drank it over the following 2 hours. The remarkably youthful nose showcases aromas of juicy black plum, black raspberry, baked wild strawberry, fig, coconut, black licorice, cigar box, cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla. I am surprised there isn’t any heat on the nose given the high ABV. Once in the mouth, this elegant wine displays notes of blackcurrant, jammy blackberry, black plum, bing cherry, anise, sweet tobacco, gingerbread, chocolate, black olive, and savory herbs. This is medium- to full-bodied and incredibly well-balanced with medium (+) acidity, velvety medium (-) tannins, and a long finish. What is truly impressive here is the utter silkiness of the mouthfeel; I don’t think any wine I’ve had compares.
Price: $150. Considering the Hundred Acre Cabs go for $500+ per bottle I was excited to try their Shiraz for this price and it is absolutely worth it. On paper, this doesn’t seem like my style of wine but I couldn’t help but nearly gulp this down. Pair this with balsamic glazed duck breast, roasted leg of lamb, or mature hard cheese.
Chateau Musar was established in 1930 in the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon by Gaston Hochar when he was 20 years old. Inspired by his travels throughout Bordeaux and the 6,000-year-old winemaking history of Lebanon, Gaston set about producing wines with a non-interventionist philosophy and planted Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan, and Cinsault for his reds in high-altitude gravel and limestone soils. During WWII, Major Ronald Barton of Château Langoa-Barton and Leoville-Barton was stationed in Lebanon and became friends with Gaston which strengthened the tie to Bordeaux and exists to this day. In 1959, Gaston’s eldest son Serge took over winemaking after studying at the University of Oenology in Bordeaux and started making wines “his own way.” Shortly thereafter, in 1961, Gaston’s second son Ronald joined the family business to handle the financial and marketing aspects. Serge was named Decanter Magazine’s first ‘Man of the Year’ in 1984 thanks to his steadfast production of quality wines during Lebanon’s Civil War (1975-1990) and the brand continued to build upon international fame for its elegance and quality. In 1994, Serge’s son Gaston joined the winery and was accompanied later in 2010 by his brother Marc. The two manage the estate together today with Gaston running the winery operations and Marc running the commercial aspects.
Chateau Musar became Lebanon’s first certified organic winery in 2006 and their wines spend a remarkable 7 years at the winery before release. The red wines are fermented in separate cement vats, racked 6 months after harvest, aged for 12 months in French Nevers oak barriques, and bottled without filtration at the end of the third year after harvest before the blend is aged an additional 3-4 years before release. The white wines also ferment in Nevers oak barrels for 6-9 months but are bottled after their first year and spend 6 years in the cellars before release.
Today’s Wine: 2011 Chateau Musar Rouge
Roughly equal parts Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan, and Cinsault; 13.5% ABV
The 2011 Musar is opaque deep ruby in color. I decanted this for about an hour and drank it over the following hour. The nose showcases aromas of blackberry, plum, black cherry, anise, cigar box, forest floor, slight barnyard, exotic spice, and faint smoke. Once in the mouth, this displays notes of redcurrant, juicy plum, dusty cherry, black raspberry, worn leather, tobacco, dried earth, crushed rock minerality, baking spice, and black pepper. The wine is medium- to full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, tight-knit and dusty medium tannins, and a medium (+) length finish.
Price: $50. Chateau Musar is always one of my favorite wines to buy in the $50 price-point because they offer incredible value and the opportunity to explore a wine region I wager most people haven’t experienced. These wines are also incredibly cellar-worthy. Pair this with peppercorn-seasoned steak, venison, or mature cheeses.
Guilbaud Frères is a family-owned winery and wine merchant established in 1927 by Edouard and Marcel Guilbaud in the Muscadet Sèvre et Maine appellation of the Loire Valley. Edouard and Marcel came from a long family history of winegrowers and took their culminated knowledge of the land, quality producers, and attention to detail in creating the principles of their new venture. Now nearly a century later, a fourth generation guides the Guilbaud Frères brand and, in addition to sustainably farming around 60 hectares of their own vineyards, purchases and produces wine from carefully selected growers. To check out their broad range of AOP wines, you can visit the link here.
Today’s Wine: 2018 Sancerre Les Chênes Vieux
100% Sauvignon Blanc; 12.5% ABV
The 2018 Les Chênes Vieux is transparent medium straw/yellow in color. The nose is quite expressive with aromas of tangerine, honeydew melon, lemon peel, honeysuckle, grass, slight smoke, and chalky minerality. On the palate, the wine displays notes of white peach, grapefruit, green apple skins, chamomile tea, finely crushed rock, brioche, and bright mineral. This is medium-bodied with mouthwatering medium (+) acidity and a lush mouthfeel into a crisp and refreshing medium length finish.
Price: $30. This is a very nice Sancerre for the price and drinks with beautiful precision while making me excited for a warm day outside again. Pair this with sole, lobster, or roasted chicken.
Fontodi is a historical wine estate located in Panzano in the heart of Chianti Classico. Though vines have been cultivated there dating to the Roman Empire and vinification history at the estate traces its roots to at least the 16th century, the Manetti family who currently operates the estate acquired it more recently in 1968. Prior to purchasing Fontodi, the Manettis produced terracotta tiles for several centuries which, alongside winemaking, is another activity the Chianti region is famous for. The Manetti family poured a large amount of resources into the estate, which today consists of around 130 hectares with 70 hectares planted to vine and certified organic. The great quality of their tiles crossed over into the wines, which come from vineyards that are sustainably-farmed where the family eschews chemical use. Vinification takes place in Fontodi’s incredibly modern cellar built across multiple levels to make use of gravity flow and the wines age in French oak barrels.
Today’s Wine: 2015 Chianti Classico
100% Sangiovese; 15% ABV
The 2015 Chianti Classico is opaque deep ruby in color. I decanted this for 3 hours and drank it over the following hour. The nose showcases aromas of black cherry, blackcurrant, black plum, red licorice, rose and violet, tobacco, truffle, scorched earth, mocha, white pepper, and sage. There is also some heat which throws off the balance and needs time to integrate. Once in the mouth, the wine displays notes of blackberry, jammy blueberry, rich black plum, black cherry, cigar box, graphite, dried chalky soil, ground green herbs, black pepper, and espresso. This is medium- to full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, grippy medium (+) tannins, and a long finish dominated by black and blue fruit. Needs at minimum another 5 years, as it’s kind of a kick in the teeth right now, but the quality is certainly there.
Price: $42. A very solid QPR with this one, but there are other Chianti Classicos that are cheaper, more approachable now, offer similar complexity, AND have the structure to go the distance like this bottle. But don’t get me wrong, this is certainly worth a try if it’s in your price range and you have the patience to lay it down. Pair this with lasagna, chicken parm, or pizza.
I could not, for the life of me, find any information about Brero. I could, however, find accounts of others enjoying their wines; but no family/winery history or if they are still producing wine (I would put my money on “no”). If you can tell me anything about Brero, please do! If not, enjoy the tasting notes of their 1978 Barbaresco below.
Today’s Wine: 1978 Barbaresco
100% Nebbiolo; 13.3% ABV
The 1978 Barbaresco is moderately transparent and pale garnet in color heading toward pale tawny. The nose is dominated by tertiary notes like forest floor, earthy mushroom, damp cellar, and tar but after a little over an hour in the decanter blossoms to showcase aromas of delicate dried red rose, cherry, dried raspberry, a pinch of cinnamon, black tea, and tobacco. On the palate, which is vibrantly alive, the wine displays sweet red cherry, dried raspberry, savory green herbs, red and purple florals, tobacco, forest floor, truffle, stemmy underbrush, and white peppery spice. This is medium-bodied with still lively medium (+) acidity, integrated but dusty medium (-) tannins, and a medium length finish. There is still remarkable structure in this wine but I would drink it now.
Price: I paid $80, who knows what it’s worth! This was an immaculate bottle and provided a very fun drinking experience. Pair this with veal, pheasant, or filet mignon with truffles.
Produttori del Barbaresco was established in 1958 when, during widespread poverty of the 1950s, a priest in the village of Barbaresco gathered 19 small Nebbiolo growers to pool their resources/fruit and produce wine together to survive. For the first three vintages, the group made their wine in the church basement until they built a winery across the town square where Produttori del Barbaresco is still located. Today, the Produttori consists of 51 members and controls over 100 hectares of vineyards planted entirely to Nebbiolo to craft only Barbaresco D.O.C.G. and a more approachable Nebbiolo Langhe. Though each family is in complete control of their land, when it is time to come together in the cellar the wines are made using traditional methods including 18-21 day primary fermentation and aging in botti for up to three years. In exceptional vintages, the Produttori produces 9 single-vineyard Barbaresco wines from the remarkable Asili, Rabajà, Pora, Montestefano, Ovello, Pajè, Montefico, Muncagota, and Rio Sordo crus. The cooperative’s total annual output is roughly 45,000 cases of which 50% are Barbaresco, 30% are single-cru, and 20% are Nebbiolo Langhe.
Produttori del Barbaresco vineyards range from 600-1,300 feet above sea level on steep hills and consist largely of clay and limestone marl with veins of sand. The land varies greatly due not only to its size and varying microclimates, but also in terms of various crus such as how Ovello, Montefico, and Montestefano having higher clay content. The distinct personalities of the fruit from each cru blend together into the final wine to beautifully marry some of Barbaresco’s greatest vineyards in an unusual and honest representation of the terroir. To learn more about the individual crus and browse a gallery of the vineyards, check out the Produttori website here.
Today’s Wine: 2016 Barbaresco
100% Nebbiolo; 14.5% ABV
The 2016 Barbaresco is deep garnet in color and slightly transparent. I decanted this for 3.5 hours and drank it over the following 2. The nose showcases aromas of black cherry, dried raspberry, blood orange, licorice, rose petal, violet, dry tobacco, loamy earth, damp cellar, tar, hay, dried herbs, and cedar. There is a touch of heat as well. Once on the palate, the wine displays notes of black cherry, raspberry, cranberry, red rose, dried leather, clay, ground peppercorn, pipe tobacco, asphalt, and smoke. This is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, grippy medium (+) tannins, and a medium (+) length finish. Certainly approachable with a good deal of decanting, but this needs another 5-7 years in bottle.
Price: $40. Crazy, crazy good value and a wine I cannot count how many times I recommended to friends and family. Often overshadowed by Barolo (though that seems to be changing) Barbaresco is another wine made from Nebbiolo you need to try and this is one of the great producers. Pair this with wild duck, veal chop, or filet mignon.
Domaine Romaneaux-Destezet is a small wine estate established by Hervé Souhaut in 1993 in the Saint-Joseph AOC of northern Rhône. Souhaut farms roughly 5 hectares of vineyards with vines aged 50-100 years old and crafts his small batch wines in the cellars of his in-laws’ converted hunting lodge. In making his wine, Souhaut uses hand-harvested organic whole grape bunches and semi-carbonic maceration in an effort to achieve wines that are elegant with refined tannins and approachable in their youth. The wine ferments in wooden and concrete tanks using only natural yeasts before being aged on fine lees in used oak barrels for 8-12 months. Souhaut adds only a minimal amount of SO2 at bottling and his wines are unfiltered. With production totaling less than 4,000 cases annually and wines highly allocated, Souhaut produces Vin de Pays wines (largely Gamay, Roussanne, and Viognier) under the Domaine Romaneaux-Destezet name as well as the AOC wines under his own name.
Today’s Wine: 2017 Syrah
100% Syrah; 12.5% ABV
The 2017 Syrah is opaque medium to deep purple in color. I decanted this for 2 hours and drank it over the following 4 hours. The nose is complex and evolves over time to showcase aromas of blueberry, black plum, olive, violet, sweet tobacco, loamy earth, smoke, clove, chocolate, and light oak. On the palate, I get notes of tart blueberry, sweet and juicy plum, black cherry, purple and blue florals, black olive, scorched rocky earth, tobacco, grilled meat, and green herbs. This is full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, elegant medium tannins, and a long finish filled with jammy black fruit.
Price: $39. Excellent value for this Rhône Syrah made in a more “natural” style. Though the domaine’s production is limited and the wines highly allocated, this is worth seeking out. Pair this with lamb, herb-roasted pork, or venison.
The Hilt is a small, relatively young winery located in the rough, rugged, and windswept Santa Rita Hills AVA about 13 miles from the Pacific Ocean. The Hilt is a sister winery to Jonata, whose wines I reviewed three times prior, and falls under support of Stan Kroenke who owns the LA Rams and Screaming Eagle. The Hilt shares an adept winemaker in Matt Dees with Jonata, and similarly provides him a vast and difficult terroir ranging in soil type, altitude, and microclimates to craft wine. The Hilt’s fruit, consisting only of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, comes from vines that are forced to dig deep for nutrients, face brutal maritime winds, and yield small numbers of concentrated grapes.
The Hilt consists of three vineyards named Bentrock, Radian, and Puerto del Mar. Bentrock is made up of long, rolling hills roughly 400-500 feet above sea level and totals roughly 92 acres of which just under 80 are planted to Pinot Noir and just over 13 are planted to Chardonnay. Radian differs greatly in that its terrain is rugged and steep where, at its highest point, grapes face fierce winds at 700 feet elevation. Consisting of just over 100 acres, Radian is planted to 95 acres of Pinot Noir and only 6.1 acres of Chardonnay. The Puerto del Mar vineyard sources much of the fruit for The Hilt’s Estate wines, and also houses the winery where Matt Dees goes to work in the cellars. Typically Bentrock fruit sits at the core of The Vanguard bottlings, Radian at the core of The Old Guard bottlings, and a blend at the core of the Estate bottlings.
You can read more about the winery and their offerings (including tech sheets) at the website here.
Today’s Wine: 2016 Cuvée Fleur Chardonnay
100% Chardonnay; 13.2% ABV
The 2016 Cuvée Fleur is vibrant medium to deep gold in color. Once this opens up in the glass, the incredibly expressive nose showcases aromas of melon, yellow apple, jackfruit, white florals, vanilla, beeswax, exotic spice, and saline mineral. In the mouth, this beauty displays notes of lemon, pineapple, stone fruit, honeysuckle, almond, dill, flint, saline mineral, and mild oak. The wine is medium- to full-bodied with mouthwatering medium (+) acidity and a well-rounded, lengthy finish. This is a beautiful Burgundian-style Chardonnay made exclusively for Wally’s in Los Angeles and will only get better with a few more years of bottle age.
Price: $45. This is priced closely with the standard Hilt Chardonnay and delivers similarly great value, however it is more difficult to acquire since it appears Wally’s is the only carrier. Pair this with lobster, herb-roasted chicken, or halibut.
Château-Figeac is an ancient Bordeaux wine estate located in Saint-Émilion that traces its roots to the 2nd century and the Gallo-Roman period. The estate is named for Figeacus who built a villa on the property, and with such excellent terroir it is one of the few wine properties to see continuous use for the past 2,000 years. In 1586, Raymond de Cazes rebuilt the origins of the château in classic Renaissance style and the cellars today where the wine ages during its second year trace to this construction. In 1654, the estate transferred by marriage of Marie de Cazes to the Carles family who were very influential in the region and undertook modernization of viticultural techniques. The Carles family also built the current château in 1780. During the late 18th and early 19th centuries as financial crises roiled the region, Château-Figeac sold some of its land holdings, including 15 hectares that became Château Cheval Blanc, and passed through seven owners in 50 years.
In 1892, the Manoncourt family acquired the heart of Château-Figeac and brought in Albert Macquin to structure the vineyards, bring in oak vats from the property, and test novel agricultural species on the property. The label was created in 1907 and bears the crest of Henri de Chèvremont (great-grandfather of Thierry Manoncourt) and for decades the estate produced world-class Bordeaux largely under management of enologists. In 1943, however, Thierry Manoncourt participated in his first vintage and convinced his mother to keep the estate and play a more hands-on role. In 1947, Thierry started at Figeac full-time with a degree in agricultural engineering and tirelessly set about learning and understanding the incredible terroir.
The 20th century was filled with other milestones for Château-Figeac, including its classification as Premier Grand Cru Classé in 1955. Figeac became famous for its near 1:1:1 blend with Thierry planting the vineyards to 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Cabernet Franc, and 30% Merlot and his wife Marie-France joins him to increase the wine’s global exposure. During the late 1980s, Laure and Eric d’Aramon (daughter and son-in-law of Thierry and Marie-France) moved to the château to help manage the estate and Eric eventually took operational control until 2012. Agricultural engineer Frédéric Faye joined Château-Figeac in 2002 and learned their vineyards and winemaking techniques alongside Thierry until his death in 2010. Today, Madame Manoncourt alongside her daughters and team guide the estate onward keeping to the traditions set forth by Thierry.
Today, Château-Figeac consists of 40 hectares of vineyards (down from its peak of 200 hectares) and is the largest wine estate in Saint-Émilion. The signature features of the terroir, three gravel ridges, provide excellent growing conditions for the three grape varieties planted there and the castle finds itself surrounded by 14 hectares of parks, meadows, ponds, and woods as well. Figeac respects the biodiversity of their vineyards as a founding principle, while also relying heavily on scientific analysis of the terroir and traditional yet modernized winemaking techniques. Château-Figeac produces about 100,000 bottles of wine per year, in addition to about 40,000 bottles of the second wine Petit-Figeac. For more on this remarkable estate, check out their website here.
The 2014 Figeac is opaque deep ruby in color. I decanted this for 2 hours and drank it over the following 3 hours. The nose is ridiculously complex and profound, changing dramatically as I drank this and showcasing aromas of blackberry, blackcurrant, redcurrant, crushed lilac, anise, pencil shavings, graphite, cigar box, tobacco, loamy earth, crushed green peppercorn, baking spice, and oak. Once in the mouth, the wine displays notes of blackberry, plum, blueberry, redcurrant, violet, licorice, tobacco, scorched earth, mocha, dried herbs, and toasted oak. This wine is full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, high tannins, and a long finish with added notes of slate and iron.
Price: $115 (average price in US is $166). I got this for an absolutely incredible price at one of my local wine stores, but even around $160 per bottle this is fantastic and still less expensive than other vintages that overshadow 2014. Pair this with Beef Wellington, stewed game, or veal.
Bruno Giacosa was one of the most respected and legendary winemakers not only in Piedmont, Italy where he crafted some of the most highly regarded and traditionally made Barolo and Barbaresco, but throughout Italy and the world. At age 13, Bruno helped his father and grandfather in the cellar of their Langhe winery and joined the family business full-time two years later. Though Bruno never studied to become an enologist, his appreciation of traditionally made Barolo and Barbaresco spawned from this time with his family and instilled in him some of the most important practices he followed for his entire career until his death at the age of 88 in early 2018. Bruno was quite adept at selecting parcels and fruit for his wines, and always emphasized intentionally small grape yields, limiting treatments in the vineyards, traditional vinification methods, and allowing the wines to honestly display the terroir and typicity through minimal intervention. Historically, Bruno crafted his wines with fruit sourced/purchased from some of the greatest crus of Barolo and Barbaresco and it wasn’t until the early 1980s he purchased his own vineyards as estate-bottling rose in prominence. In 1982, Bruno purchased the Falletto di Serralunga d’Alba vineyard which became the source of arguably his greatest Barolos ever made, followed in near significance by his purchase of the Asili and Rabajá plots in Barbaresco in 1996. Today, the Bruno Giacosa estate is in the capable hands of his daughter Bruna alongside his longtime enologist Dante Scaglione and they continue Bruno’s winemaking philosophies while respecting traditional techniques.
Today’s Wine: 2017 Roero Arneis
100% Arneis; 14% ABV
The 2017 Arneis is transparent deep straw in color with golden hues. On the incredibly aromatic and somewhat earthy nose, the wine emits aromas of white peach, golden apple, stone fruit, lemon zest, grass, white florals (especially lily), saline minerality, and cream. Once in the mouth, the wine displays notes of pear, peach, dried pineapple, lemon, stone fruit, white and yellow florals, honey, beeswax, almond, white peppery spice, slate, and mineral. This is medium-bodied and bone-dry with vibrant medium acidity and a crisp mouthwatering finish. Definitely a bottle of wine for the beach.
Price: $26. Outstanding value and one of the more exciting white wines I’ve had lately. I highly recommend enjoying this on a hot summer’s day. Pair this with roasted chicken, light seafood, or creamy cheeses.
Sloan Estate was founded in 1997 by Stuart Sloan, a former Seattle-based owner and executive of the Quality Food Centers supermarket chain. After he purchased 40 acres on the eastern hills of Rutherford between 875-990 feet in elevation, Sloan assembled a team of wine rockstars including vineyard manager David Abreu, winemaker Mark Aubert (replaced in 2004 by Martha McClellan), and shortly thereafter renowned consultant Michel Rolland. With 13 acres planted to vine, the team set about creating one of Napa Valley’s greatest Cabernet Sauvignon wines and crafted their first vintage in 2000. While the flagship wine is a proprietary blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (dominant), Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot, Sloan released a second wine named Asterisk which is typically a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot that debuted with the 2004 vintage. In 2011, longtime Sloan fans Sutong Pan and his daughter Jenny acquired Sloan Estate alongside the Goldin Group and to this day maintain the goals set forth by Stuart Sloan alongside the incredible winemaking team he put in place.
Today’s Wine: 2004 Asterisk
Blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot (no tech sheet); 14.5% ABV
The 2004 Asterisk is opaque deep garnet with ruby hues. I let this open up for about an hour and drank it over the following hour, allowing the nose to showcase aromas of blackberry, black plum, black cherry, tobacco, rocky earth, truffle, graphite, chocolate, clove, exotic spice, and well-integrated oak. Once in the mouth, the wine displays notes of blackberry, crème de cassis, black raspberry, purple florals, cigar box, smoky volcanic earth, earthy mushroom, black tea leaf, black pepper, coffee grounds, and dark chocolate. This is full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium yet still firm tannins, and a medium (+) length finish. Not drinking at all like it’s nearly 16 years old. Even though some tertiary notes are certainly starting to come through, there remains a significant backbone of dark fruit.
Price: $150. This is certainly a great value next to the Sloan flagship and other cult Napa Cabs/Bordeaux blends, and drinks magnificently well for its age. Pair this with filet mignon, herb roasted lamb, or duck breast.
Domaine Bachelet is a small wine estate located in Gevrey-Chambertin consisting of just over 4 hectares of vineyards. The domaine is run by Denis Bachelet who, since 1983, almost single-handedly works tirelessly to produce elegant and honest wines. Denis was born in Belgium, and though his family is drenched in winemaking tradition his father elected to work in the chemical industry there while his grandparents tended the domaine back in France. Denis studied winemaking in Beaune for three years before ultimately joining his grandparents at the estate, though he only became fully involved in winemaking in 1981 shortly after his grandfather’s death. By 1983 when he took over completely, the domaine consisted of only 1.8 hectares and he quickly sought to expand his holdings to make a better living. In 2008, Denis’ son Nicolas joined the domaine and the Bachelet family slowly grew by purchasing more parcels. Today, Domaine Bachelet produces a range of wines including Bourgogne, Village, 1er Cru, and Grand Cru offerings though these gems remain difficult to find but worthwhile seeking out.
For more, there is a great “interview” with Denis here and a background of the domaine and their portfolio here.
Today’s Wine: 2017 Bourgogne Rouge
100% Pinot Noir; 12.5% ABV
The 2017 Bourgogne Rouge is pale ruby/purple in color but fairly dark and moderately opaque most likely due to its youth. This requires about 1.5 hours to truly open up, and once it does the nose showcases aromas of blackberry, baked cherry, raspberry, violet, saddle leather, freshly tilled soil, steel cut oats, a hint of baking spice, and oak. On the palate, I get notes of blueberry, spiced plum, sour cherry, stemmy strawberry, sweet tobacco, forest floor, charred green herbs, bright mineral, and peppery spice. This is light- to medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium tannins, and a medium (+) length finish. Certainly very tight right now without extended decanting, but this is a very precise wine that needs another 5 years in the bottle.
Price: $65 (cheaper overseas). Certainly not cheap for a Bourgogne Rouge (I saw some stores selling this at almost $80), though you can definitely say its quality puts this near a Village wine. I need to revisit this bottling in a few years and explore the Bachelet portfolio further. Pair this with seared tuna, roasted chicken, or mild goats cheese and charcuterie.