Blog Feed

Featured

One of My Favorite Valpolicella’s

Today’s Story: Dal Forno Romano

Dal Forno Romano is a family-owned and operated estate winery established in 1983 in Val D’Illasi by Romano Dal Forno. Though the winery is relatively new (built in 1990), the Dal Forno family has owned the property where their vineyards sit for four generations and produced wines previously for the majority of that time. The wines since 1983, however, launched the Dal Forno family quickly to prominence with their big, beautiful, and true to variety style. The estate’s vineyards are all traditionally farmed and planted to indigenous varieties of Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella, Oseleta, and Croatina, while Romano practices more modern techniques in the cellar. Though Dal Forno typically achieves incredibly high-quality fruit (barring any vintage challenges), they remain wildly rigorous in the selection process come harvest. The fermentation process is designed to extract as much character from the grapes as possible, while aging in oak barriques provides enough backbone to the wines without completely stealing the show.

Today’s Wine: 2013 Valpolicella Superiore Monte Lodoletta

70% Corvina and Corvina grossa, 20% Rondinella, 5% Croatina, and 5% Oseleta; 14.5% ABV

The 2013 Valpolicella Superiore is opaque deep ruby in color and almost black at its core. Given about 90 minutes to open up, the nose showcases aromas of black cherry, plum, blackcurrant, cedar spill, violet, smoked meat, cracked pepper, chocolate, and slate. Once in the mouth, this opulent yet elegant wine displays notes of blueberry, blackberry, tart cherry, rich tobacco, scorched earth, tar, chocolate, baking spice, and vanilla. This is full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (+) but velvety tannins, and a long finish.

Price: $100. I think this is well worth its price tag, and Dal Forno Romano provides consistently delicious and high-quality wines across vintages that I’ve tried. This is also my go-to by the glass wine at one of my favorite wine bars here in Los Angeles. Pair with ribeye steak, roasted chicken with fig, or charcuterie and aged cheese.

Featured

Opulent Pinot Noir From One of California’s Most Famous Vineyards

Today’s Story: Bien Nacido Vineyards

Bien Nacido Vineyards traces its history to 1969 when brothers Bob and Steve Miller (whose family had been farming in California since 1871) acquired what they thought was an ideal plot of land to plant vineyards. Bien Nacido, as the vineyard was named, was planted by 1973 (the first vintage) and consisted of about 300 acres of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Though the estate’s vineyards have grown dramatically over the years and now include varieties of Syrah, Merlot, Viognier, and others, it is the initial 300 acres that demonstrated the immense promise of winemaking in the Santa Maria Valley. Situated at high elevations and not far from the Pacific Ocean, Bien Nacido is one of the most famous and revered vineyards in California winemaking for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. In addition to Bien Nacido Vineyards crafting estate wines, there are a number of producers each leasing their own rows or blocks and crafting wines from this historic land.

I would be remiss, however, if I did not discuss the history of the Bien Nacido land before it was planted to vineyards. In 1837, the land was actually part of one of the first Spanish land grants where two square leagues went to Tomas Olivera. Tomas named his land Rancho Tepusquet after a nearby creek, and later sold the property in 1855 to his son-in-law Don Juan Pacifico Ontiveros who built a home on it. Alongside his wife, Don Juan raised horses and some livestock, planted grains, and produced small amounts of wine from grapes they planted. Though the vineyards of Bien Nacido today surround Don Juan’s home, the initial estate planted by the Miller brothers in 1969 sprung from grazing lands.

Today’s Wine: 2016 Estate Pinot Noir

100% Pinot Noir; 13% ABV

The 2016 Estate Pinot Noir is medium ruby in color and mostly opaque. Given 30 minutes or so to open up in the glass, the wine showcases a nose of black cherry, black raspberry, red and purple florals, dried tobacco, forest floor, underbrush, baking spice, and pepper. Moving onto the palate, I get notes of cranberry, pomegranate, wild strawberry, leather, loamy earth, game, crushed rock, green herbs, and iron. This is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, light tannins, and a medium (+) length finish. 415 cases produced.

Price: $50. I think this is right around fairly priced, but on a value perspective it doesn’t blow me away. The wine offers everything I love in California Pinot Noir (lower ABV, solid depth, and Burgundian feel), but there are some less expensive options that achieve the same. Pair with herb-roasted chicken, duck breast, or turkey sausage and mild blue cheese.

Featured

Fantastic Representation of Albariño

Today’s Story: La Marea

La Marea is a very small wine label focused on Spanish varieties in the I. Brand & Family Wines portfolio. Established by Ian Brand and his wife Heather, I. Brand & Family Wines consists of the labels I. Brand & Family (California inspired wines), Le P’tit Paysan (French inspired wines), and La Marea. La Marea yields highly limited quantities of Grenache and Albariño wines, with all fruit sourced from sustainably or organically farmed vineyards in the Monterey Bay area. These wines are meant to showcase the challenging terroir of the largely limestone, rocky, salty, and windswept Monterey Bay region and with La Marea Ian is dedicated to single vineyard bottlings that express each unique site. Ian delicately crafts transparent wines using a combination of native and cultured yeast for fermentation and typically neutral oak for aging.

Today’s Wine: 2019 Kristy Vineyard Albariño

100% Albariño; 13.2% ABV

The 2019 Kristy Vineyard Albariño is deep straw/pale yellow in color and transparent. A somewhat delicate nose opens to showcase aromas of lemon zest, grapefruit, summer melon, white and yellow florals, sea shell, and saline. Moving onto the palate, the wine displays similar sea-filled notes with stone fruit, honeydew, white peach, lime, wax, brine, and marine mineral. This is light-bodied with vibrant high acidity and a plush mouthfeel that yields to a crisp and immensely refreshing finish. 850 cases produced.

Price: $24. I think this is absolutely worth the price and is a fantastic representation of the Albariño variety. When I saw this is coming from the Monterey Bay area of California I had to give it a shot and am incredibly glad I did. Pair this with oysters, lightly smoked whitefish, or ceviche.

Featured

Fun, Pure, and Delicious Trousseau

Today’s Story: Arnot-Roberts

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. I previously wrote about them when I reviewed their 2016 Que Syrah Vineyard in Boutique Syrah for the Explorer, which I felt is a wine for those looking for a new take on California Syrah. As I wrote before, 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. All Arnot-Roberts wines are made in small quantities with incredible attention to quality and they are crafted to showcase the terroir of each specific site or appellation.

Today’s Wine: 2018 North Coast Trousseau

100% Trousseau; 12.1% ABV

The 2018 North Coast Trousseau is captivating deep salmon in color with rose/pale ruby hues in the bowl. It is also translucent, but slightly hazy. Once this opens up, the nose emits aromas of ripe strawberry, wild raspberry, cranberry, red florals, game, dry gravel, and dried herbs. On the palate, I get notes of bing cherry, boysenberry, strawberry, red licorice, underbrush, peppery spice, clove, and stony mineral. This is light-bodied with gorgeous medium (+) acidity, medium (-) tannins, and a medium (+) length finish. 26 barrels produced.

Price: $35. I think this is a great value wine for a number of reasons, namely its quality and how fun it is to drink. This is a variety many people may not be familiar with, and I think this bottle is a great example to explore. Pair this with steak tartare, Basque-style tuna, or charcuterie and cow’s cheese.

Featured

Food Friendly Value Italian Red

Today’s Story: Pasetti

Pasetti is a family-owned estate and winery established by Silvestro Pasetti, now in its fifth generation of winegrowing and winemaking. Though Silvestro and later his son Rocco worked largely on planting vineyards and battling Phylloxera, third-generation Franco began producing his own wines during the 1960s. Franco prided himself on growing healthy and high quality fruit by spending a lot of time in his vineyards, though he also realized the need to craft a respectable wine for broad appeal in the cellar. When management of the estate passed to his son Mimmo, Pasetti expanded into the foothills of Pescosansonesco and acquired vineyards with 45-year-old somewhat abandoned vines. All of the Pasetti wines are made using native varieties such as Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Trebbiano d’Abruzzo, Pecorino, and Passerina which was an important decision by Mimmo to stick to their roots while those around them planted Cabernet, Merlot, and Chardonnay. Though Mimmo continues to run the estate today, he is joined by his wife Laura and their children Francesca, Massimo, and Davide who work alongside him.

Today’s Wine: 2015 Tenutarossa Montepulciano d’Abruzzo

100% Montepulciano; 14.5% ABV

The 2015 Tenutarossa is opaque deep ruby in color. Given a couple hours to open up, the wine showcases a nose of blackberry, plum, black cherry, licorice, leather, baking spice, sage, and slight oak. Once in the mouth, this dark-fruit dominated wine displays notes of blackberry, blueberry, dark plum, anise, sweet tobacco, loamy earth, chocolate, clove, green herbs, and iron. This is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, grippy medium (+) tannins, and a long finish.

Fun Fact: This wine used to be called “Testarossa,” but I am told Ferrari had a problem with that…

Price: $30. This is a pretty solid value good for everyday drinking, while offering great versatility with food. Pair with lasagna, beef brisket, or spicy Italian sausages.

Featured

Burgundian Pinot Noir From Willamette Valley

Today’s Story: Cristom Vineyards

Cristom Vineyards was founded in 1992 by Paul and Eileen Gerrie in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA of the Willamette Valley. I previously wrote about them when I reviewed their 2016 Estate Viognier in Textbook New World Viognier and I am excited to explore one of their single vineyard Pinot Noirs today. Cristom consists of eight estate vineyards totaling just over 100 acres, four of which are planted to Pinot Noir (Eileen, Jessie, Louise, and Marjorie) and four that are planted to Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Viognier, and Syrah. Using sustainably farmed estate fruit, winemaker Steve Doerner practices minimal intervention in the cellar to produce wines that transparently showcase the terroir of each site.

Today’s Wine: 2013 Louise Vineyard Pinot Noir

100% Pinot Noir; 13.5% ABV

The 2013 Louise Vineyard Pinot Noir is slightly translucent pale ruby in color with hints of garnet. Given 45 minutes or so to open up, the wine blossoms with a nose of cherry, black raspberry, stemmy strawberry, cola, bacon fat, dried tobacco, forest floor, dried green herbs, and cinnamon. On the palate, I get notes of sweet plum, black cherry, licorice, worn leather, tobacco, sous bois, nutmeg, rocky mineral, and light oaky spice. This is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (-) and slightly chewy tannins, and a medium (+) length finish.

Price: $40. I got this for an incredible deal, which makes it a fantastic value proposition for my tasting. With an average price closer to $60 or more in the marketplace, however, this falls into the category of “worth it” but not classified as a great value. Pair with herb roasted chicken, rack of lamb, or charcuterie and cheese.

Featured

Gamay With a Mind Blowing Value Proposition

Today’s Story: Marchand-Tawse

Marchand-Tawse is a Burgundian négociant created through a collaboration between Pascal Marchand and Moray Tawse. Both Pascal and Moray are French Canadians, making their success in Burgundy somewhat unusual.

Pascal Marchand comes from a background in wine (after working a few years as a merchant sailor on freighters in the Great Lakes), having taken over Clos des Epeneaux in Pommard in 1985 at the age of 22. Pascal was one of the early adopters of organic and biodynamic viticulture in Burgundy, bringing heightened quality to Clos des Epeneaux and world renown to its name. Jean-Charles Boisset later approached Pascal to run his family’s Domaine de la Vougeraie in 1999, and he remained there until 2006 when desiring more freedom in his ventures. Pascal took over at Domaine Jean Fery, all the while setting the stage for his own label that would eventually become Marchand-Tawse.

Moray Tawse, on the other hand, has a background in finance and co-founded First National in Canada which focuses on real estate lending. He has had a long-standing love of wine, however, which led him to establish Tawse Winery which is one of Canada’s leading wineries. Thanks to his love of Burgundy, Moray approached Pascal in 2010 and the two established their partnership.

Marchand-Tawse sources fruit from a great number of vineyards, most of which are either organically or biodynamically farmed. The négociant produces a wide range of wines, spanning appellation and village bottlings up to some of the greatest Grand Crus. Pascal’s winemaking style is rather traditional, seeking to have the fruit and terroir express themselves in a most honest and transparent form. Many of the wines, like the one I’m reviewing today, are left 100% whole cluster and not destemmed before fermentation in stainless steel tanks. Aging for my wine today, amongst others in the portfolio, occurs in French oak barrels 0% new and there is no fining or filtration before bottling.

Today’s Wine: 2016 Coteaux Bourguignons

100% Gamay; 12.5% ABV

The 2016 Coteaux Bourguignons is mostly opaque pale to medium purple in color with ruby hues. Once this opens up, the nose showcases aromas of red cherry, raspberry, baked strawberry, violet, lightly charred soil, finely crushed rock, and stemmy underbrush. On the palate, I get notes of brambleberry, plum, ripe raspberry, pomegranate, dried forest floor, clay, green herbs, and light smoke. This is light- to medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium tannins, and a long finish. I could see this developing further over the coming few years, but it’s hard to resist right now. 362 cases produced.

Price: $24. This is an outstanding value wine in my opinion, as it drinks with such depth and terroir expression rarely found in bottles of this price range. The quality of fruit is also spectacular. Pair with seared duck breast, coq au vin, or grilled salmon.

Featured

Mouthwatering Single Vineyard Chardonnay

Today’s Story: Rivers-Marie

Last week I enjoyed the 2015 Silver Eagle Vineyard Pinot Noir from Rivers-Marie so much that I decided to revisit the producer for a Chardonnay.

To recap from my post last week, Rivers-Marie is a family-owned winery established in 2002 by husband and wife duo Thomas Rivers Brown and Genevieve Marie Welsh. Thomas and Genevieve work with vineyards throughout the Sonoma Coast (especially in Occidental-Freestone) and produce Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, with small amount of Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa fruit as well. All of the Rivers-Marie wines are meant to be refined and terroir driven, showcasing each unique vineyard site through single vineyard bottlings. This being said, they produce some appellation wines as well.

Today’s Wine: 2012 B. Thieriot Vineyard Chardonnay

100% Chardonnay; 13.8% ABV

The 2012 B. Thieriot Chardonnay is gorgeous deep gold in color and transparent. This was singing right out of the bottle but blossomed further as it opened in the glass and warmed slightly. The nose showcases aromas of golden apple, crisp pear, stone fruit, honeysuckle, flint, toasted nuts, sea shell, saline mineral, and dried vanilla bean. Once in the mouth, the wine displays notes of green apple skins, mango, lemon zest, tropical citrus, toffee, slight smoke, dill, wax, saline, and brioche. This is medium-bodied and well-rounded with high acidity and a long, lingering finish.

Price: $100. This is pricey for a California Chardonnay no doubt, but I would certainly buy this again. While clearly a California Chardonnay thanks to the fruit profile, there are a lot of characteristics of Burgundy here and both the quality and depth are compelling. Pair with roasted chicken, lobster, or asparagus and shaved hazelnut.

Featured

Another Delicious Bottling From Jolie-Laide

Today’s Story: Jolie-Laide

Today I return to another bottling from Jolie-Laide, a boutique winery established by Scott Schultz in Forestville, CA that I have written about several times already. If you missed my prior posts, my review of the 2016 Provisor Vineyard Grenache linked here contains the most in-depth background on Jolie-Laide and Scott, and I encourage you to check it out. If you would like to read my reviews for the 2019 Trousseau Gris and 2016 Halcon Vineyard Syrah to augment your knowledge of the portfolio, they are linked here and here, respectively.

Today’s Wine: 2017 Shake Ridge Vineyard GSM

Blend of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, and Viognier (no tech sheet); 13% ABV

The 2017 Shake Ridge GSM is mostly opaque medium purple/ruby in color with pale purple variation at the rim. Once this opens up, the nose showcases aromas of blackberry, blueberry, anise, violet, slight barnyard, stemmy underbrush, and granite. On the palate, the wine displays notes of plum, brambleberry, tart wild blueberry, lavender, tobacco, gravel, herbs, black pepper, and mild spice. This is light- to medium-bodied with high acidity, fine-grained medium (+) tannins, and a long finish.

Price: $38. I think this is a good value GSM blend, and while it comes across slightly bigger than other Jolie-Laide wines I’ve enjoyed the same quality and focus on an honest wine is still starkly apparent. Pair this with venison steak, grilled lamb, or charcuterie.

Featured

One of California’s Most Famous Cult Pinot Noirs

Today’s Story: Marcassin Vineyards

Marcassin Vineyards is an incredibly small “cult” winery established by Helen Turley and her husband John Wetlaufer in 1990. Focusing entirely on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, Marcassin produces around 2,500 to 3,000 cases of wine annually and a large majority goes to mailing list customers (with the waiting list said to be thousands of names long). The estate Marcassin Vineyard consists of 20 acres on the Sonoma Coast and, thanks to its growth from 10 acres over time, is now the main source of Marcassin’s fruit. With her vineyards planted very densely, Turley intentionally limits yields to produce healthier and more concentrated fruit which she then harvests on the riper side. Turley ferments her wines using only native yeasts, keeps them on the lees for 6-8 months, and ages them in 100% new oak barrels. When it is time for bottling, the wines are unfined, unfiltered, and do not see cold stabilization. The wines typically hit the market (or rather their collectors’ cellars) five years after the vintage.

Today’s Wine: 2007 Blue-Slide Ridge Vineyard Pinot Noir

100% Pinot Noir; 14.9% ABV

The 2007 Blue-Slide Ridge Pinot is opaque pale to medium ruby in color with purple hues. This took some time to open up in the glass, but once it did the incredibly complex nose changed overtime to showcase black cherry, blueberry, black raspberry, black licorice, dried tobacco leaf, forest floor, black pepper, black olive, cinnamon, charred green herbs, and crushed rock. On the equally complex palate, the wine changed with each sip to display notes of sweet raspberry, red cherry, wild blueberry, strawberry jam, red licorice, tobacco, loamy earth, underbrush, mushroom, mild baking spice, and charred oak. This is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (-) tannins, and a long finish. Still a lot of life left in this wine, though it is pretty well balanced already given the high ABV.

Price: $275. While this is certainly one of the best California Pinot Noirs I’ve had, I can’t say it is a good value at the price I paid. I understand the incredible rarity of this wine, but it is simply a treat that has been on my bucket list that I don’t see myself spending the money on again. If you are on the mailing list, however, that is a completely different story. Pair this with seared duck breast, roasted chicken, or rack of lamb.

Featured

Gorgeous Rioja Blanco

Today’s Story: R. López de Heredia

I previously wrote about R. López de Heredia, one of my favorite producers in Rioja, when I reviewed the 2006 Viña Tondonia Reserva in One of My Favorite Rioja Producers Does It Again. LdH 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. All of the fruit sourced for these wines is estate-owned, a pathway they started following early on when Don Rafael realized it was the surest way to ensure impeccable quality of his vineyards, fruit, and wines. 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.

Today’s Wine: 2008 Viña Tondonia Reserva Blanco

90% Viura, 10% Malvasía; 12.5% ABV

The 2008 Viña Tondonia Reserva Blanco is beautiful deep gold in color and transparent. The exquisite nose showcases aromas of peach, apricot, honeydew, chamomile, hazelnut, brioche, honey, and seashell, while the palate displays notes of lime zest, melon, orange marmalade, tropical citrus, white florals, toffee, almonds, and mineral. This wine is light- to medium-bodied with gorgeous high acidity and a plush, luxurious mouthfeel into a long finish.

Price: $65. Even though these are more expensive than their red counterparts (thanks to a smaller production) I find them to be just as superior a value for their gorgeous depth and complexity. Pair this with lobster, roasted chicken, or almonds.

Featured

Rockstar Single Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot

Today’s Story: Rivers-Marie

Rivers-Marie is a family-owned winery established in 2002 by husband and wife duo Thomas Rivers Brown and Genevieve Marie Welsh. Thomas is well-known throughout California winemaking thanks to his consulting practices and winemaking stints with names like Schrader, Maybach, and Outpost, however Rivers-Marie is a personal project born in Pinot Noir. Working with vineyards throughout the Sonoma Coast (especially in Occidental-Freestone), Thomas crafts Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and small amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon (Calistoga, St. Helena, and Oakville) in a more restrained, terroir-driven style than can be expected from his other ventures. The Pinot Noir bottlings consist of appellation wines and a number of single vineyard offerings, all produced with native yeasts and partial whole cluster fermentation. Thomas’ Chardonnays are made in similar minimalistic fashion with whole cluster barrel fermentation, no stirring, limited sulfur additions, aging in 0-25% new French oak, and are bottled unfined and unfiltered. The Cabernets are made to walk the fine line between power and elegance, showcasing classic Napa Valley fruit but not overpowering the terroir expressions.

Today’s Wine: 2015 Silver Eagle Vineyard Pinot Noir

100% Pinot Noir; 14.1% ABV

The 2015 Silver Eagle Pinot Noir is opaque medium purple/ruby in color. This takes some time to open up in the glass, but once it does the nose showcases aromas of cherry, black raspberry, dried strawberry, forest floor, game, cola, mint, baking spice, and crushed rock. On the palate, the wine displays notes of plum, black cherry, licorice, blue florals, tobacco, charred earth, dried green herbs, and iron. This is medium-bodied with high acidity, medium (-) tannins, and a long finish.

Price: $75. Not cheap for California Pinot Noir and getting up there with some of the bigger “cult” brands, but this is very elegant and definitely worth the price. This seems to be made in a slightly more refined style than many of the opulent, “in your face” Pinots that command similar or higher prices. Pair with herb-roasted chicken, mushroom risotto, or assorted charcuterie.

Featured

Middle Tier People Pleaser From Napa Valley

Today’s Story: HALL Wines

HALL Wines is a family owned and operated winery established by Kathryn and Craig Hall in the Napa Valley. The Halls purchased the Sacrashe Vineyard in Rutherford in 1995, though did not open a winery there until a grand opening in 2005. In between, however, the Halls acquired the Bergfeld Winery in St. Helena in 2003 and opened as HALL St. Helena in July, 2003. HALL consists of roughly 150 acres of estate vineyards planted to Bordeaux varieties of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Sauvignon Blanc, though they also source from carefully selected winegrowing partners. With the vineyards farmed organically and controlled to lower yields, the fruit for HALL Wines is intended to be as healthy as possible and highly concentrated. All fruit is hand-harvested and taken to the wineries in small baskets where it is destemmed and cold soaked before fermentation begins. During primary fermentation, HALL uses both natural yeasts and pure cultured yeasts followed by secondary fermentation which may include malolactic bacteria added to help the wines along the way in small French oak barrels. HALL uses French oak barrels more than 50% new for the aging process, which lasts 16-22 months for the reds before bottling.

Today’s Wine: 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon

87% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Merlot; 15.8% ABV

The 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon is opaque deep ruby in color with purple hues and fairly heavy staining on the glass. Given a couple hours to decant, the wine blossoms to showcase a nose of blackberry, blackcurrant, spiced plum, loamy earth, basil, baking spice, vanilla, mocha, and oak. There’s also a good amount of heat from the high ABV. On the palate, I get notes of cassis, black cherry, fig, anise, tobacco, wet slate, savory garden herbs, chocolate, and cedar. This is full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (+) tannins, and a long finish.

Price: $55. This is about what you’d expect for the price-point, not necessarily making it a good “value” but not saying it’s overpriced. With how age-worthy this seems, it could be a good addition to your cellar to break out in several years for those Napa Cab lovers. Pair with ribeye, grilled lamb, or burgers.

Featured

Refreshing and Fun White From Santorini

Today’s Story: Estate Argyros

Estate Argyros was established in 1903 on the island of Santorini and today is run by fourth generation winemaker Matthew Argyros. The estate consists of 120 hectares with vines averaging 70 years old, all of which are ungrafted (original rootstock) thanks to the island’s inorganic soil providing immunity to Phylloxera. All vineyards are planted to indigenous varieties of Santorini, including Assyrtiko, Aidani, and Mavrotragano. Argyros farms their vineyards organically under sustainable guidelines, using no pesticides and only grape skins and stems following harvest as compost. All harvesting is accomplished by hand and winemaking is very traditional, yielding wines that are transparent representations of their very unique and difficult terroir.

Today’s Wine: 2018 Assyrtiko

100% Assyrtiko; 13.5% ABV

The 2018 Assyrtiko is transparent pale gold/yellow in color with water white variation near the rim. Once this opens up, the nose showcases aromas of lemon and lime zest, green apple skins, white lily, damp grass, saline mineral, flint, and light smoke. On the palate, the wine displays notes of lime, grapefruit, lemongrass, peach, sea salt, volcanic minerality, and chalk. This is light- to medium-bodied and bone dry with high acidity into a crisp and refreshing finish. The fruit is sourced from 100-120 year old ungrafted vines and fermented in stainless steel vats.

Price: $30. This is a solid value for its quality, and it’s also a fun wine to try because I hadn’t had any Assyrtiko before. Pair this with oysters, sushi, or salad with grilled chicken.

Featured

Beautiful and Traditional Napa Cab

Today’s Story: Mayacamas Vineyards

Mayacamas was established in 1889 by German immigrant John Henry Fisher and is located in the Mt. Veeder AVA of the Napa Valley. Fisher went bankrupt in the early 1900s, however, and the winery ceased production with the onset of Prohibition (although bootleggers are said to have made wine in the cellars during the early years). Mayacamas was owned by the Brandlin family during the 1920s and 1930s, before being purchased by Jack and Mary Taylor in 1941 when the estate received its current name. Mayacamas changed hands yet again in 1968 when Robert and Elinor Travers purchased it, with the couple quickly setting about expanding the aging facilities and vineyard holdings while planting and replanting vines. Charles and Ali Banks purchased Mayacamas in 2007, though the winery has since changed hands again to the Schottenstein family.

Though the history of Mayacamas is long and inclusive of many ownership changes, the one constant is the traditional style of winemaking they practice. Mayacamas was one of the wines in the 1976 Judgment of Paris (they poured their 1971 Cabernet Sauvignon) which showed the estate can stand up with the greatest Californian and French wines of the world. Mayacamas dry farms their vineyards and transitioned a large portion to organic viticulture in 2013, further enhancing the quality of fruit. Very traditional in style, they age the wines in neutral oak to not mask any of the true expressions of the Cabernet Sauvignon variety or the terroir.

Today’s Wine: 1989 Cabernet Sauvignon

100% Cabernet Sauvignon; 12.5% ABV

The 1989 Cabernet Sauvignon is very youthful opaque deep garnet in color with plenty of ruby left. After 3 hours in the decanter, this beauty blossomed with a nose of blackcurrant, blackberry, cherry, redcurrant, pencil shavings, cigar box, tobacco, forest floor, truffle, gravel, and thyme. On the palate, the wine displays notes of blackberry, crème de cassis, black plum, redcurrant, violet, graphite, tobacco, sous bois, green herbs, cracked black pepper, and cedar. This is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium dusty tannins, and a long finish. If tasted blind 100 times, I’d call this 1st or 2nd Growth Left Bank Bordeaux every time.

Price: $200. If provenance is impeccable, like this bottle was, this is absolutely worth the price. Drinking up there with some of the greats of Bordeaux, this is an incredible value. Pair with filet mignon, roasted lamb, or portobello mushrooms.

Featured

Unique Grenache That Drinks Almost Like a Rosé

Today’s Story: Whitcraft Winery

I wrote about Whitcraft a few days ago when reviewing the 2016 Pence Ranch Clone 828 Pinot Noir, so I’ll make your Saturday reading light and move onto the tasting notes. If you missed my post about Whitcraft earlier this week, you can find it here.

Today’s Wine: 2018 Stolpman Vineyard Grenache

100% Grenache; 12.79% ABV

The 2018 Stolpman Vineyard Grenache is deep salmon and rose petal in color with medium pink variation. This is a very light Grenache, looking and drinking almost like a rosé. On the nose, I get aromas of strawberry, cranberry, rose, leather, gravel, underbrush, rocky mineral, and slight spice. Once in the mouth, the wine showcases notes of raspberry, tart red cherry, baked plum, red and purple florals, cinnamon, mint, herbs, and peppery spice. This is medium-bodied with medium acidity, medium (-) tannins, and a medium (+) finish. All around a great summer red.

Price: $45. I find this one tough to describe on a value perspective, because it’s not your typical Grenache and it’s not a rosé. This in mind, it’s a super fun wine to taste and I loved it for the warm weather. It’s also very high-quality like most Whitcraft wines are. Pair this with bruschetta, charcuterie and cheese, or a lobster roll.

Featured

Clean, Honest, and Burgundian Cali Pinot Noir

Today’s Story: Ceritas Wines

Ceritas Wines is a small, family-owned winery spearheaded by husband and wife duo John and Phoebe Raytek. John and Phoebe source their fruit from trusted vintners mainly in the West Sonoma Coast and Santa Cruz Mountains, with all sites practicing sustainable or organic viticulture. John is highly involved in the vineyards they source from, and in many cases the vintners only sell fruit to Ceritas and are labeled “Monopoles.” Considering himself a winemaker of the Old World style, John believes that fruit should lead the way throughout the winemaking process and he is merely there to watch over, listen, and learn about each unique site. In the cellar, John practices minimal intervention but “flexible” winemaking, with the wines meant to showcase with honesty and transparency the terroir of each specific vineyard site.

Today’s Wine: 2017 Porter-Bass Vineyard Pinot Noir

100% Pinot Noir; 13.3% ABV

The 2017 Porter-Bass Vineyard Pinot Noir is mostly opaque pale ruby in color with hints of purple. This took a good hour to open up in the glass, with the nose showcasing aromas of red cherry, strawberry, blueberry, rose petal, forest floor, stemmy underbrush, crushed rock, flint, and mineral. On the palate, I get notes of dusty raspberry, dried cherry, crunchy pomegranate, plum, slightly stale licorice, violet, garden herbs, and stony mineral. This is light- to medium-bodied with medium acidity, medium (-) tannins, and a long finish. Gorgeous wine and very Burgundian in style, though 3 more years in the bottle will do it wonders.

Price: $75. Though not an inexpensive Pinot Noir, this still offers strong QPR when compared to the “big boys” of California Pinot Noir and the quality is impeccable. Pair this with roasted chicken, duck breast, or charcuterie.

Featured

Refreshing and Well-Made Bourgogne Aligoté

Today’s Story: Domaine Jean-Claude Ramonet

I previously wrote about Jean-Claude Ramonet when I reviewed the 2015 Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Clos Saint-Jean in Exploring a Red From a Legendary Producer of White Burgundy. 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. Though the domaine has had its ups and downs over time largely due to premature oxidation in the 1990s, Jean-Claude Ramonet has returned the wines to fresh heights and remains a force to be reckoned with in the world of white Burgundy.

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.

Today’s Wine: 2015 Bourgogne Aligoté

100% Aligoté; 12.5% ABV

The 2015 Bourgogne Aligoté is transparent medium yellow in color with deep straw variation. On the nose, the wine showcases aromas of golden apple, white peach, white florals, cotton candy, dried vanilla, mild herbs, and mineral. Once on the palate, this displays notes of lemon citrus, yellow apple skins, snap pea, white wildflower, wax, and dill. The wine is light- to medium-bodied with high acidity and a plush, luxurious mouthfeel into a lingering but refreshing finish.

Price: $50. This is a very well-made, high quality Aligoté that I think justifies the price-point. Pair with oysters, roasted chicken, or cheese.

Featured

Beautifully Honest Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir

Today’s Story: Whitcraft Winery

Whitcraft is a small, family-owned and operated winery in Santa Barbara, CA known for their traditionally made and “unadulterated” Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Established in 1985 by Chris and Kathleen (Barnato) Whitcraft, the winery started as a passion for both the craft of winemaking and the lifestyle. Chris learned from California greats including Joe Heitz, Dick Graff, and Burt Williams while simultaneously hosting a radio show about wine from 1978 to 1989. Chris and Kathleen’s son Drake joined the family winery and took over in 2007, maintaining the traditional practices of hand-harvesting, foot-pressing, no added enzymes, and native yeast fermentation. Whitcraft’s wines are pure, well-balanced, and honest representations of the fruit and terroir, often remaining low in alcohol and not seeing much added SO2. Drake hand fills and corks his wines, with production incredibly limited and often reserved for mailing list clients or restaurants. Though Chris passed away in 2014, his vision and passion live on through Drake to this day.

Today’s Wine: 2016 Pence Ranch Clone 828 Pinot Noir

100% Pinot Noir; 13.49% ABV

The 2016 Pence Ranch Clone 828 Pinot Noir is translucent pale ruby in color. Once this opens up, the nose displays aromas of ripe red cherry, wild raspberry, forest floor, stemmy underbrush, mint, dusty dried rock, and light baking spice. Moving to the palate, the wine showcases notes of strawberry, black cherry, cranberry, licorice, tobacco, loamy earth, white pepper, and green herbs and vegetation. This is light- to medium-bodied with medium acidity, light tannins, and a medium (+) finish. Would love to revisit this wine with a few more years of bottle age.

Price: $68. Whitcraft Pinot Noirs are some of my favorites out of California, and while they don’t have that opulence found in a lot of cult Cali Pinots I think they strike up right with some of the big dogs and therefore make a good value play. Pair with grilled duck breast, herb-roasted chicken, or goat cheese and salami.

Featured

Outstanding Traditional Rosso di Montalcino

Today’s Story: Biondi-Santi (Tenuta Greppo)

Biondi-Santi (Tenuta Greppo) traces its roots to the mid-1800s when Clemente Santi realized the immense promise of the land and vineyards in the heart of Montalcino. A writer with a profound knowledge of chemistry, Clemente set about crafting wines built for long-term aging and utilized racking and barrel aging techniques that were much more advanced than neighboring producers. Clemente started gaining admiration for his wines, particularly the 1865 vintage of red wine at the 1867 Universal Expo in Paris. After Clemente passed away, his grandson Ferruccio took over and continued the drive of producing age worthy wines with 100% Sangiovese. Though he passed away in 1917, in 1932 Ferruccio was credited with the invention of Brunello di Montalcino by an interministerial commission studying the area.

Ferruccio’s son Tancredi took over management of the estate following his father’s death, quickly becoming an ambassador for Brunello and bringing the wines to new heights. One of the unique practices Tancredi started is the refilling of old bottles of reserve wines, beginning with the 1888 and 1891 vintages in 1927. With Brunello wines at new heights of quality, particularly those of Biondi-Santi, Tancredi’s son Franco eventually took over the estate and brought them to wider audiences. Franco travelled the world tirelessly to showcase the longevity and beauty of his wines, while also growing the estate from 4 hectares to the current 25. Today, Franco’s sons Jacopo and Alessandra work at the estate and are joined by Jacopo’s son Tancredi who marks the seventh generation of family tradition.

The winemaking practices at Biondi-Santi are very traditional, beginning with manual harvesting of fruit and sorting in the vineyards at the end of each row. The fruit is gently crushed for native yeast fermentation in concrete tanks, with the musk pumped over twice daily. Malolactic fermentation occurs under temperature control, lasting 30 days, before the wine is transferred to large Slavonian oak barrels to age. The Brunellos then spend at least 3 years in these barrels before being bottled, where it sits for at least another 6 months before release.

Today’s Wine: 2015 Rosso di Montalcino

100% Sangiovese; 13.5% ABV

The 2015 Rosso di Montalcino is translucent medium garnet in color. This wine showed its best after two hours in the decanter, with the nose showcasing aromas of cherry, dried strawberry, tomato paste, red rose, licorice, tobacco, dried earth, savory herbs, and mocha. Once on the palate, the wine displays notes of cranberry, tart cherry, raspberry, strawberry, violet, leather, tea leaf, woody spice, crushed rock, and underbrush. This is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium fine-grained tannins, and a medium (+) length finish.

Price: $110 (cheaper in Europe). Certainly not cheap (particularly for Rosso di Montalcino) but an outstanding bottle of wine that lives up to the great Biondi-Santi name. This is a very precise wine drinking beautifully now, but the ageability is certainly there. Pair with meat sauce pasta, lamb with rosemary, or Pecorino cheese.

Featured

Rasteau That Unfortunately Does Not Live Up to the Hype

Today’s Story: Domaine Gourt de Mautens

Domaine Gourt de Mautens was established by Jérôme Bressy in 1996 and is located in Rasteau of Southern Rhône. Though Bressy’s family owned vineyards in Rasteau for some time, the small AOC was not incredibly well-known. Jérôme’s father Yves converted his vineyards to organic viticulture in 1989 which allowed Jérôme to inherit healthy vines (30-100 years old) and soils for his first vintage, though he quickly took this a step further and started practicing biodynamic farming (later certified in 2008). The domaine consists of 13 hectares with chalky top soil composed of rocky clay and marl, largely attributed to the fact that water tends to flow toward the domaine following a storm. The name itself comes from “a place where the water flows” (Gourt) and “storm or bad weather” (Mautens). Bressy’s vines struggle due to poor nutrients in the soil, however, and produce low yields of 10-15 hl/ha. All harvesting is manual, and the fruit is sorted three times before beginning natural yeast fermentation. After the wines age, they are bottled unfined and unfiltered.

Today’s Wine: 2016 Vaucluse Rouge

Blend of Grenache, Carignan, Mourvèdre, Syrah, Counoise, Cinsault, Vaccarèse, and Terret Noir; 16% ABV

The 2016 Vaucluse Rouge is opaque medium to deep purple in color. This needs some generous time in the decanter to open up, but once it does the nose showcases aromas of black plum, crème de cassis, black raspberry, fig, black licorice, crushed rock, mild herbs, and black pepper. There’s also a slight sting of alcohol. Once on the palate, the wine shows notes of black cherry, candied strawberry, spiced plum, violet, light smoke, savory herbs, and milk chocolate. This is full-bodied with medium acidity, medium (-) tannins, and a long finish.

Price: $60. This is not my style of wine. It comes across rather big, sweet, and boozy (though I will say the ABV surprisingly doesn’t throw off the balance too much). It drinks more like a cocktail to me, and though I hoped saving some wine for day 2 would be better, it is all too much the same. Perhaps this is a vintage (or off bottle) story, but I don’t think it lives up to the hype.

Featured

Incredible Quality Just Outside Ribera del Duero

Today’s Story: Galia

Galia was established in 2009 as a personal project of vigneron Jérôme Bougnaud with the partnership of Daniel García-Pita of El Regajal. Though Jérôme comes from a lineage of winemakers in Cognac, France, he works extensively in Spain and particularly along the Duero River and just outside the official borders of Ribera del Duero in Castilla y León. Galia’s vineyards consist of relatively small parcels and are scattered along the river within the provinces of Soria, Burgos, and Valladolid. Most of these vineyards sit at 795-1,000m above sea level and consist of old vines aging 50-100+ years old. Jérôme practices organic viticulture and all fruit is harvested manually before going through whole cluster or partial whole cluster natural fermentation. The wines age in 15% new French oak barrels before being bottled unfined and unfiltered. Since many of these wines are bottled as Vino de Mesa because the vineyards lay outside established D.O.s, they can be an outstanding play for value given the incredible yet “under the radar” quality of land.

Today’s Wine: 2015 Le Dean

99% Tinto Fino (Tempranillo), 1% Albillo; 15% ABV

The 2015 Galia Le Dean is opaque medium to deep ruby in color with deep purple hues. Once this opens up (I gave it 3 hours in the decanter), the nose showcases aromas of dusty cherry, plum, dried fig, leather, pipe tobacco, forest floor, dried herbs, and cedar. Once in the mouth, the wine displays notes of black cherry, brambleberry, licorice, tobacco, loamy earth, chunky crushed rock and clay, underbrush, and chocolate. This is medium- to full-bodied with medium acidity, medium (+) tannins, and a long finish. 758 bottles produced.

Price: $55. Very high quality and well-made for the price, with the depth and balance (you can’t even tell this is 15% ABV) pushing this into the good value category. Pair with roasted lamb, suckling pig, or charcuterie.

Featured

Fun and Delicious Grower Champagne

Today’s Story: Domaine Francis Orban

Domaine Francis Orban was established in 1929 by Léopold Orban in the small village of Leuvrigny, not too far from Epernay. Though Léopold initially sold his fruit to the larger houses of Epernay, he decided to branch out and make his own wines as one of the first Grower Champagne houses in Leuvrigny. The domaine today spans 18 acres of vineyards between Leuvrigny and Sainte-Gemme, with 90% planted to Pinot Meunier and vines averaging 30-40 years old. The vineyards are farmed utilizing sustainable viticulture, harvesting is done completely by hand, and fermentation is accomplished using only indigenous yeasts in stainless steel tanks. In the NV bottlings, about 50% of the blend is comprised of reserve wines. Francis Orban is today’s 4th generation steward of the domaine, following the footsteps of his great-grandfather Léopold, grandfather Gaëtan, and father Pol.

Today’s Wine: NV Champagne Extra Brut

100% Pinot Meunier; 12% ABV

The Champagne Extra Brut is transparent deep gold in color. On the nose, I get aromas of yellow apple skins, golden pear, brioche, white pepper, almond, clay, and mineral. Once in the mouth, the wine showcases notes of lemon citrus, green apple, toasted nuts, toast, crushed rock, and cream. This is very dry and medium-bodied with high acidity and a crisp, refreshing finish.

Price: $45. Great QPR with this one, which tends to be the case with almost every grower Champagne I’ve had over the years. This wine is also incredibly fun to try, not simply for the fact it is 100% Pinot Meunier (typically a blending variety in Champagne) but also because it is Extra Brut with dosage of 3 g/l. Drink this on its own or pair with caviar or shrimp.

Featured

Outstanding Value With a Long Life Ahead

Today’s Story: Mastroberardino

I previously wrote about Mastroberardino when I reviewed the 1968 Taurasi Riserva in An Italian Legend early this year.

Mastroberardino is a family-operated winery founded in 1878 in Atripalda within the Provincia di Avellino in the Campania region of southern Italy. While widely known for their production of Taurasi DOCG, Mastroberardino further cemented themselves into Italian viticultural history through tireless efforts to identify and protect native ancient varieties in Campania, particularly those formerly grown in Pompeii. For instance, Mastroberardino was selected by the Italian government in 1996 to oversee the Villa dei Misteri project in Pompeii where they replanted vineyards destroyed by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in AD 79 using the same plans, varieties, viticulture, and winemaking practices of that period in time. Though the winery has had its ups and downs over time (including near collapse following WWII due to economic hardship, phylloxera, neglect, and even family feuds), Antonio Mastroberardino resurrected his family’s legacy and helped build the winery into what it is today: a standard bearer of winemaking in southern Italy. Traditionalists in style, Mastroberardino continues to make some of Italy’s most historically important wines with Antonio’s son Piero now at the helm.

Today’s Wine: 2015 Taurasi Radici

100% Aglianico; 13.5% ABV

The 2015 Taurasi Radici is opaque medium to deep ruby in color with deep garnet variation near the rim. I gave this a couple hours to open up, allowing the nose to blossom into aromas of black cherry, ripe plum, strawberry, licorice, game, dusty dried earth, crushed rock, cedar, chocolate, and cracked pepper. Once in the mouth, the wine displays notes of blackberry, black raspberry, cassis, anise, violet, tobacco, loamy soil, granite, coffee grounds, smoke, mild vanilla, and rocky mineral. This is medium- to full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, high tannins, and a long finish. Drinks with remarkable depth, complexity, and character now but will only be better in five years and beyond.

Price: $40 (I got a steal at $29). At $40 this is a great value and I do not use the term “steal” lightly when I realize and appreciate I only paid $29 for this experience. This is one of those wines that I could be completely comfortable stockpiling for enjoyment over the decades to come. Pair with wild boar, roasted lamb, or smoked and spicy charcuterie with Pecorino cheese.

Featured

Tasty Gewurztraminer From Centuries of Tradition

Today’s Story: Maison Trimbach

Maison Trimbach is one of the most notable winemakers in Alsace, established in 1626 by Jean Trimbach. Today Trimbach is under the guidance of Hubert Trimbach and his nephews Jean and Pierre, rounding out 12 generations of family ownership and shared knowledge. Pierre’s daughter Anne, the oldest of the 13th generation, also now works in the family business. Though Trimbach’s world recognition greatly expanded in 1898 when Frédéric Emile Trimbach earned the highest marks at the International Wine Fair in Brussels, Trimbach is largely famous for the legendary Clos Sainte Hune vineyard. Located in the Rosacker Grand Cru vineyard, Clos Ste Hune has belonged to the Trimbach family for over two centuries and produces some of the most exquisite Alsatian Riesling in existence.

The Trimbach estate consists of 40 hectares encompassing 50 parcels across six villages that include Bergheim, Ribeauvillé, and Hunawihr. Trimbach also operates as a négociant business to produce additional non-estate wines. All of Trimbach’s winegrowing practices are sustainable and they try to preserve the natural environment of the vineyards. Trimbach practices close pruning and soil tilling while encouraging moderate yields and rigorous fruit selection come harvest which is accomplished entirely by hand. When the grapes are gently crushed at the winery, juices flow via gravity and Pierre vinifies and matures the wines adhering to centuries of tradition with both finesse and focus on the terroir. After being bottled each spring, the wines are released by maturity with some spending 5 to 7 years in the cellars to achieve balance before release.

Today’s Wine: 2016 Gewurztraminer

100% Gewurztraminer; 14% ABV

The 2016 Gewurztraminer is transparent medium gold in color. On the nose, I get aromas of tangerine, peach, lemon curd, rose, beeswax, and petrol. The palate is quite vibrant and lively, with notes of mandarin, grapefruit, pear, ginger, white florals, herbs, and mineral. This wine is medium- to full-bodied with medium acidity and a dry, long finish.

Price: $24. I think this is fairly priced and a pretty solid representation for the variety. Pair this with foie gras, Munster cheese, or apple streusel.

Featured

Legendary Aged Barolo Just Past Its Prime

Today’s Story: Giacomo Borgogno & Figli

Borgogno is one of the most legendary, time-tested producers in Piedmont, producing Barolo since their founding by Bartolomeo Borgogno in 1761. Though the estate always produced quality wines, it was Cesare Borgogno who launched the estate to new heights when he took over in 1920 by exporting the wines to Argentina, Europe, and the United States. Cesare also initiated the practice of keeping half of the Barolo Riserva production in their cellars for 20 years before release. When Cesare passed away in 1968, the estate went to his granddaughter Ida and her future husband Franco Boschis with the couple joined by their children Cesare and Giorgio in 1984. In 2008, the Farinetti family acquired the winery and remains set on maintaining the rich traditional practices of the Borgogno and Boschis families to this day.

Today, Borgogno consists of roughly 38 hectares with 8 hectares made up of woodlands and 31 hectares planted to vine. Roughly 60% of the vineyards are planted to Nebbiolo, with the balance planted to Dolcetto, Barbera, and Freisa aside from 2 hectares of Riesling and 3 hectares of Timorasso. The estate also owns vines in the famous Barolo Crus of Liste, Cannubi, Cannubi San Lorenzo, Fossati, and San Pietro delle Viole. In 2015 and 2016, Borgogno commenced a shift to organic viticulture and does not use any chemical fertilizers or herbicides in the vineyards. The traditional methods of winemaking remain in place, with wines experiencing long spontaneous fermentation in concrete tanks without selected yeasts and long aging in large Slavonian oak barrels.

Today’s Wine: 1961 Barolo Riserva

100% Nebbiolo; 13.5% ABV

The 1961 Barolo Riserva is translucent and pale tawny in color clinging onto pale garnet in the bowl of the glass. The nose is decidedly tertiary, with aromas of earthy mushroom, musty cellar, dried tobacco, black tea leaf, smoked game, and tar leading the way with incredibly faint dried rose petal, cherry, and dusty raspberry in the backdrop. On the palate, the wine displays notes of forest floor, dried underbrush, truffle, leather, black cherry, fig, rose, anise, and faint cinnamon. This is medium-bodied with medium acidity, light tannins, and a medium finish. While still showcasing textbook aged Barolo characteristics, this is certainly past its prime and I would’ve loved to try this 5 years ago.

Price: $200. This is a bottle for a fun tasting experience, but while it is drinking decently well for the age I do not think it’s worth the price paid because this is past its prime. Pair with veal and truffles, pheasant, or delicate mild cheeses.

Featured

High Quality New Zealand Pinot Noir

Today’s Story: Fromm Winery

Fromm Winery was established in 1992 by Georg Fromm and winemaker Hätsch Kalberer, with the intent of producing European-styled wines of Pinot Noir, Syrah, Malbec, Chardonnay, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, and Gewürztraminer. The vineyards and wines are 100% organic, and Fromm believes in allowing the fruit and terroir to speak for themselves rather than being heavy-handed in the cellar. The vineyards are densely planted, they do not use any artificial chemicals, and refrain from irrigating the vineyards so the vines struggle and produce quality, terroir-driven fruit. Though Georg Fromm returned to his native Switzerland in 2008 to tend to his family winery, Fromm Winery today is under the watchful eyes of family friend and owner Pol Lenzinger, co-owner Stephan Walliser, and George Walliser.

Today’s Wine: 2017 Cuvée H Pinot Noir

100% Pinot Noir; 13.5% ABV

The 2017 Cuvée H Pinot Noir is pale to medium ruby in color and translucent. Once this opens up, the nose showcases aromas of black cherry, strawberry, licorice, forest floor, gravel, mixed herbs, mild baking spice, and vanilla. On the palate, the wine displays notes of plum, pomegranate, wild raspberry, strawberry licorice, lightly smoked game, loamy earth, finely crushed rock, and light oak. This is medium-bodied with medium acidity, medium (-) tannins, and a medium (+) finish.

Price: $35. This wine offers great QPR, drinking with both quality and depth while coming across quite Burgundian in style. Pair with roasted chicken, Beef Wellington, or quail.

Featured

Outstanding Napa Sauvignon Blanc

Today’s Story: Lail Vineyards

Lail Vineyards was established in 1995 by Robin Daniel Lail, though her family’s history of winemaking in Napa Valley spans much further back in time. Robin is the great-grandniece of Captain Gustave Niebaum who founded Inglenook Vineyards in 1879, and his dedication to quality not only yielded some of the greatest wines in Napa but in the world at the time. After Gustave passed away in 1908, Robin’s father John Daniel, Jr. picked up the reigns having grown up in the vineyards of Rutherford with an appreciation for the land and winemaking. During Prohibition, Inglenook stopped producing wine and sold their fruit to Beaulieu Vineyard who were selling sacramental wine to the church. Following Prohibition’s repeal, John Daniel, Jr. resumed winemaking at Inglenook and produced some of the greatest Cabernet Sauvignon throughout the world until he sold the property in 1964. Though there was a gap between the sale of Inglenook and beginning of Lail Vineyards, Robin never let her passion for winemaking wane. She worked alongside Robert Mondavi during the 1970s who helped mentor her and tell her of her family’s significance in the Napa Valley, and she co-founded Dominus with Christian Moueix in the early 1980s and Merryvale with Bill Harlan in the late 1980s and early 1990s. When Robin decided to take her passion and dedication to her family’s history further, she and her husband Jon established Lail Vineyards and brought along renowned winemaker Philippe Melka.

Today Lail Vineyards consists of two estate vineyards, Totem and Mole Hill. The Totem vineyard is 2.5 acres and was part of the original Inglenook Vineyards in Yountville. In 2006 and 2007, the Merlot planted in Totem was t-budded to Sauvignon Blanc. The Mole Hill vineyard, on the other hand, is 3 acres planted to Cabernet Sauvignon between 1600-1700 feet in elevation on Howell Mountain.

Today’s Wine: 2018 Blueprint Sauvignon Blanc

100% Sauvignon Blanc; 14.3% ABV

The 2018 Blueprint Sauvignon Blanc is completely transparent medium straw/yellow in color with water white variation. On the beautifully delicate nose I get aromas of lemon and lime zest, pineapple, mango, honeysuckle, freshly cut grass, saline mineral, and dried vanilla. Once on the palate, the wine displays notes of apricot, grapefruit, peach, honeydew melon, white florals, dried herbs, white pepper, and mineral. This is medium-bodied with high acidity and a lush, well-rounded mouthfeel into a crisp and refreshing finish. 1,342 cases produced.

Price: $40 from winery (I paid $35 retail). This is an outstanding Sauvignon Blanc that certainly punches above its price-point. The depth, complexity, and quality of fruit here makes this a necessity to try and I see this drinking even better over the coming five years. Pair with Dover sole, oysters, or pesto chicken.

Featured

Incredible QPR From Chianti Classico

Today’s Story: Castello di Monsanto

Castello di Monsanto is a family-owned estate and winery in the Barberino Tavarnelle municipality of Chianti Classico. Aldo Bianchi was born in San Gimignano, however he left before WWII to seek opportunities in northern Italy. When Aldo visited Chianti again, however, he fell in love with Castello di Monsanto and purchased the property. It was Aldo’s son Fabrizio, however, who through a love of wine and entrepreneurial spirit realized the potential of their terroir and produced their first wine in 1962 using fruit from the Il Poggio vineyard. This was a special endeavor, not simply for it being the first Monsanto wine, but because it was the first single-vineyard Chianti Classico Cru. Fabrizio did, however, make a Chianti Classico Riserva in 1962 as well. As time passed Fabrizio augmented the Monsanto portfolio with Fabrizio Bianchi Sangioveto Grosso (100% Sangiovese in 1974), Nemo (100% Cabernet Sauvignon in 1981), Fabrizio Bianchi Chardonnay (in 1990), and more. Today, Fabrizio’s daughter Laura (who joined in 1989) works alongside him at Monsanto to carry the estate onto another generation.

To learn more about Castello di Monsanto and view pictures of the vineyards, cellar, and castello, check out the website here.

Today’s Wine: 2016 Chianti Classico Riserva

90% Sangiovese, 10% Canaiolo and Colorino; 14% ABV

The 2016 Chianti Classico Riserva is mostly opaque medium ruby in color with garnet hues. I decanted this for 2 hours thanks to its youth, and the nose showcases aromas of ripe cherry, cranberry, plum, anise, loamy earth, tar, savory herbs, and light oak. Once on the palate, the wine displays notes of brambleberry, dusty black raspberry, pomegranate, black cherry, tobacco, crushed rocky soil, mild baking spice, coffee bean, and oak. This is medium-bodied with medium acidity, medium (+) dusty tannins, and a long finish.

Price: $25. Outstanding QPR, and one of those wines to buy by the case to stock in your cellar. This is incredibly young but approachable with air, and will drink well for another decade or two at least. Pair with pasta bolognese, ossobucco, or meat lover’s pizza.

Featured

Powerful Zinfandel-Based Blend From Sonoma County

Today’s Story: Bedrock Wine Co.

Bedrock Wine Co. was established in 2007 by Morgan Twain-Peterson in a converted chicken coop in his friend’s backyard. Though Bedrock has grown over the years, Morgan stays true to a mission of working with respected growers throughout the state of California in preserving and breathing new life into old vineyards dating to the late 1800s and early 1900s. Working with vineyards from Contra Costa County, Sonoma Valley, Oakville, Lodi, the Russian River Valley, and beyond, Morgan produces wines with Zinfandel, Mourvèdre, Carignan, Petite Sirah, Alicante Bouschet, Grenache, Semillon, Gewurztraminer, Trousseau Gris, and Riesling. He also works with a handful of other varieties and is always on the hunt for more to explore. Though his blends can seem pretty eclectic, Morgan keeps his winemaking simple by gently handing the fruit, fermenting with whole clusters and only native yeasts, and rarely or never fining the wines.

For more on Bedrock’s history, the vineyards they work with, or the portfolio of wines, check out the website here.

Today’s Wine: 2018 Pagani Ranch Heritage

Zinfandel dominant blend with Alicante Bouschet, Lenoir, Grand Noir, and Petite Sirah (no tech sheet); 14.5% ABV

The 2018 Pagani Ranch Heritage is opaque deep purple in color with dark fuchsia near the rim. I decanted this for about 2 hours, allowing the expressive nose to showcase blackberry, blueberry, plum, anise, leather, chiseled rock, cracked pepper, chocolate, and oak. Once in the mouth, this bold and powerful wine displays notes of black plum, black cherry, cassis, unlit cigar, wet slate, tar, peppery spice, and charred oak. The wine is medium- to full-bodied with medium acidity, medium (+) chewy tannins, and a long finish. Fantastic now with some air, but will only get better with age.

Price: $50. Without a doubt worth the price, but would be immensely more rewarding if you have the patience to lay this down and check on it in another five years. This is a bold, thought-provoking wine that will pair with barbecue pork ribs, bacon-wrapped ribeye steak, or lasagna.

Featured

Traditional Brunello di Montalcino for a Great Value

Today’s Story: Fattoria dei Barbi

Fattoria dei Barbi is a historic estate in Montalcino, founded in 1790 by the Colombini family who were one of the region’s most influential and noble families. Though they established Barbi in 1790, the family owned land in Montalcino dating back to 1352 and first built Poggio alle Mura (now Castello Banfi) and then Argiano. The Colombini family greatly helped build the prestige and quality of Brunello di Montalcino as one of the original producers, with bottles back to 1870 in their cellars today. Barbi was the first Montalcino estate to ship wine to France (1817), by mail order (1832), and to the United States (1962), England (1969), and Japan (1975). Today the estate spans more than 306 hectares and is under guidance of 20th generation family member Stefano Cinelli Colombini.

To learn more about Stefano, this historic estate, or peruse their portfolio of wines, you can visit the website here.

Today’s Wine: 2015 Brunello di Montalcino

100% Sangiovese; 14.5% ABV

The 2015 Brunello is medium to deep garnet in color and mostly opaque. Given a couple hours to decant, the wine blossoms to showcase a nose of black cherry, redcurrant, dried strawberry, cedar, tobacco leaf, worn leather, loamy earth, gravel, and savory herbs. Once on the palate, the wine displays notes of plum, juicy blackberry, black raspberry, stemmy tomato paste, blue florals, licorice, tobacco, oregano, espresso, and black pepper. This is medium- to full-bodied with medium acidity, medium (+) grippy tannins, and a long finish.

Price: $45. The 2015 Barbi Brunello di Montalcino is a great value for the region and is beautifully traditional. Give this another 5 years of bottle age and drink it over the following decade. Pair with Bistecca alla Fiorentina, herb-roasted leg of lamb, or Pecorino cheese.

Featured

Textbook New World Viognier

Today’s Story: Cristom Vineyards

Cristom Vineyards was founded in 1992 by Paul and Eileen Gerrie in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA of the Willamette Valley. Established out of an appreciation of winemaking, the land, and Burgundy’s concept of terroir, Cristom is known for their estate Pinor Noirs. Cristom consists of eight estate vineyards totaling just over 100 acres, four of which are planted to Pinot Noir (Eileen, Jessie, Louise, and Marjorie) and four that are planted to Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Viognier, and Syrah. Cristom’s vineyards are all certified sustainable and carefully tended such that come harvest all fruit is as healthy and expressive of the terroir as possible. Cristom winemaker Steve Doerner practices minimal intervention in the cellar and wines are fermented whole cluster with native yeasts, all in an effort to produce high quality and elegant wines with a sense of place.

Today’s Wine: 2016 Estate Viognier

100% Viognier; 14% ABV

The 2016 Estate Viognier is pale straw/yellow in color with medium gold and water white hues. On the nose, I get aromas of tangerine, white peach, honeysuckle, toffee, vanilla bean, and saline mineral. Once in the mouth, the wine showcases notes of apricot, mango, peach, white florals, wax, and herbs with an almost medicinal character. This is medium- to full-bodied with medium (-) acidity and an oily mouthfeel into a rounded, long finish. 978 cases produced.

Price: $30 average (I paid $22). I would surely pay $30 for this, because it is a great example of New World Viognier, but I can call it a value much closer to the $22 I paid. There wasn’t as much depth in this that I hoped for. Pair with quail, lobster, or sea bass.

Featured

Tasty Bordeaux Blend to Broaden Your Palate

Today’s Story: Viñas de la Erre

Viñas de la Erre is a family owned and operated winery established in Valle de Guadalupe in 2009. The Erre family acquired the Hacienda San Martín Caballero back in 1985, however it functioned mostly as a family farm and way for the family to expand their legacy in Guadalupe. In 2008, however, Claudio met Rogelio Morales who was then cellar manager and assistant winemaker at Spring Mountain Winery in Napa and they struck up a friendship. When Rogelio and his family visited the Erre’s in Valle de Guadalupe, Rogelio realized the potential of the land for winegrowing and offered to help mentor the change from farming to winemaking. Since fully launching in 2014, Viñas de la Erre practices full estate bottling (similar to Spring Mountain) and winegrower Ernesto I. Rocha, enologist Rogelio, and vineyard manager Claudio work to craft premium estate wines. Together as a team they sustain the vineyards, hand harvest all fruit, and monitor the winemaking process from fermentation to barrel aging and bottling.

Today’s Wine: 2013 Selección de Tintos Reserva

68% Cabernet Franc, 16% Petite Verdot, 12% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Sauvignon; 13.8% ABV

The 2013 Selección de Tintos Reserva is opaque deep ruby in color. I recommend giving this a good 45 minute decant before enjoying. The nose showcases aromas of black cherry, blackberry, tobacco, scorched earth, dried herbs, black pepper, chocolate, and oak. Once on the palate, I get notes of black plum, blackcurrant, black raspberry, anise, sweet tobacco, rocky earth, underbrush, and light baking spice. This is medium-bodied with medium acidity, medium tannins, and a medium (+) finish.

Price: $31. This drinks right around it’s price-point, but I’d love to see this closer to $22-25 per bottle. I noticed during some research this sold for $42 at one point, which I believe is definitely too high. Pair with roasted pork, beef burgers, or pepper-crusted steak.

Featured

High Quality Washington Bordeaux Blend That Drinks Like Left Bank Bordeaux

Today’s Story: L’Ecole No. 41

L’Ecole is a family-owned winery established by Baker and Jean Ferguson in 1983 in the Walla Walla Valley of Washington State. L’Ecole is the third-oldest winery in Walla Walla and today is under guide of 2nd generation owners Marty and Megan Clubb (Megan is the daughter of Baker and Jean) and their children Riley and Rebecca. Marty and Megan moved from San Francisco to Walla Walla in 1989 where Marty took on the role of manager and winemaker at L’Ecole, while Riley and Rebecca remain involved. Marty, alongside Norm McKibben of Pepper Bridge Winery and Gary Figgins of Leonetti Cellar, partnered to expand Seven Hills Vineyard in 1997 and develop SeVein (1,800 adjacent acres) in the mid-2000s and are largely considered pioneers of winemaking in the Walla Walla Valley.

In addition to their two estate vineyards Ferguson and Seven Hills, L’Ecole contracts with a number of respected winegrowers throughout the Walla Walla and Columbia Valleys. The Ferguson and Seven Hills Vineyards are certified sustainable, as is the Pepper Bridge Vineyard where L’Ecole has been sourcing fruit since the early 1990s. Marty and his team have a pretty tight grip on viticulture not only in their estate vineyards but in those they source from, practicing aggressive pruning, drip irrigation, and shoot thinning to produce wines that are vibrant and expressive but show their unique place. During the winemaking process, Marty strives to create wines that are expressive and highly aromatic. He and the team handle fruit very delicately and use gravity flow, limited adjustments during fermentation, gentle racking, and minimal fining and filtration at bottling.

Today’s Wine: 2016 Ferguson Vineyard Bordeaux Blend

62% Cabernet Sauvignon, 26% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc, 6% Malbec; 14.5% ABV

The 2016 Ferguson Vineyard is opaque deep purple/ruby and nearly black at the core. This deserves a good 4 hour decant, with the nose showcasing aromas of blackcurrant, redcurrant, blackberry, fig, cigar box, pencil shavings, forest floor, wet slate, espresso, and black peppercorn. Once in the mouth, the wine displays notes of crème de cassis, black cherry, dusty blueberry, anise, tobacco, potting soil, graphite, dark chocolate, and charred oak. This is full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, high but tightly knit tannins, and a long finish.

Price: $50. Really good value. The quality is remarkable and if tasting this blind I would call it a high quality Left Bank Bordeaux. Pair with prime ribeye, garlic/rosemary roasted lamb, or venison.

Featured

Screaming Value From Heathcote, Australia

Today’s Story: Jasper Hill

Jasper Hill is a small family owned and operated winery in Heathcote, Australia founded by Ron and Elva Laughton. The Laughtons planted their vineyards beginning in 1975 with all of the vines own rooted (not grafted for resistance to Phylloxera) and today they include Emily’s Paddock (3ha Shiraz with 5% Cabernet Franc) and Georgia’s Paddock (12ha Shiraz, 3ha Riesling, and 1ha each of Semillon, Nebbiolo, and Viognier). There was a third vineyard, Cornella Vineyard, that was 4ha Grenache but it unfortunately burned in 2013. Jasper Hill’s vineyards are organically farmed and they do not use irrigation, insecticides, herbicides, synthetic fungicides, or artificial fertilizers. Meanwhile all pruning and harvesting is accomplished by hand and tillage remains low. Thanks to minimal intervention in both the vineyards and cellar, Jasper Hill wines are meant to display their terroir with honesty while maintaining the innate character of each variety.

2013 Occam’s Razor Shiraz

100% Shiraz (Syrah); 15% ABV

The 2013 Occam’s Razor Shiraz is opaque deep purple in color with ruby variation near the rim. After opening up for an hour and a half, the wine showcases a nose of blackberry, juicy plum, blueberry, cassis, lavender, cigar box, wet gravelly soil, graphite, light baking spice, and toasted oak. Once on the palate, this displays notes of black plum, black cherry, redcurrant, black licorice, sweet tobacco, loamy earth, smoke, slate, black pepper, and chocolate. This is full-bodied with medium acidity, medium (+) somewhat chewy tannins, and a long finish dominated by black fruits and iron.

Price: $30. This is an outstanding value, perhaps the greatest value Shiraz I’ve had to date. The wine drinks with such elegance and beauty you could mistake this for something at least twice its price. Pair with a bacon cheeseburger, roasted leg of lamb, or duck.

Featured

Tasty and Opulent Nero d’Avola

Today’s Story: Gulfi

Gulfi is a family owned and operated wine estate located in Chiaramonte Gulfi, and it was established by Raffaele Catania. Though Raffaele fled Sicily during the crisis following WWII and moved to France, he always desired to return to Chiaramonte Gulfi and even sent his savings there with the hope of purchasing property. In 1970, the Catania family moved back to Sicily and Raffaele devoted himself to winemaking which began during the 1980s following the first release of Gulfi’s Nerojbleo label. When Raffaele passed away in 1995, his son Vito had the important decision of leaving his career in the chemical sector (at his own company no less) or selling the family vineyards. Fortunately for Gulfi, Vito had a deep-rooted interest in wine from growing up in France and decided to take over the Gulfi winery.

Gulfi practices organic viticulture by not using any chemical fertilizers, insecticides, or pesticides and only uses manure and/or leguminous crops in the vineyard to enrich the soil. Meanwhile the hot and dry climate defends against insects and mold. Furthermore, Gulfi does not irrigate their vineyards which forces the vines to struggle and reach deeply for nutrients in turn producing higher quality and healthier fruit. Gulfi grows Nero d’Avola, Frappato, Nerello Mascalese, Nerello Cappuccio, Carricante, and Albanello (all native varieties) and all are harvested manually.

Today’s Wine: 2016 NeroBufaleffj

100% Nero d’Avola; 14% ABV

The 2016 NeroBufaleffj is opaque medium purple/ruby in color. Given about an hour to open up, the nose showcases aromas of black cherry, black plum, prune, licorice, dried tobacco, charred loamy earth, cocoa powder, and light oaky spice. On the palate, this wine displays notes of spiced black plum, dark cherry cola, jammy blackberry, dried strawberry, anise, tobacco, dusty volcanic earth, dried green herbs, and a hint of oak. This is full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (+) tannins, and a long finish dominated by syrupy black and blue fruits.

Price: Typically $40-45 (I paid $35). Very well-priced if you can find it around $35 like I did, but I think the more common $40-45 range puts this a little over the top to be called good value. Without a doubt a delicious wine though. Pair with grilled game, beef stew, or mature cheeses.

Featured

A Truly Special Riesling

Today’s Story: Weingut Reichsrat von Buhl

Reichsrat von Buhl was established in 1849 by Franz Peter Buhl, and the estate quickly became a benchmark of quality for Forster Riesling. Thanks to uncompromising quality, von Buhl Rieslings became some of the most expensive in the world and even filled the glasses of those toasting the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869. Even Otto von Bismarck became a loving fan of von Buhl wines and praised their Ungeheuer which is sourced from the best plot of the 29 hectare Grand Cru Ungeheuer vineyard.

In 1909, Franz Eberhard Buhl (the son of Armand von Buhl and Juliane Schellhorn-Wallbillich) orchestrated the marriage of the von Buhl and Schellhorn-Wallbillich wineries, establishing one of the largest privately owned German wine estates at over 200 hectares. At this point, Franz Eberhard changed the winery name to Reichsrat von Buhl (adding his title as a member in the house of Lords in the kingdom of Bavaria). Franz Eberhard passed away young in 1921 and his widow Frieda Piper von Buhl adeptly ran the estate until her death in 1952. With no familial heirs to the estate, Reichsrat von Buhl went to Georg Enoch Freiherr von und zu Guttenberg who was a political friend of Franz Eberhard.

Over time, Reichsrat von Buhl decreased in size to about 52 hectares of vineyard land thanks to financial challenges, though they maintained ownership of some of the greatest sites in Deidesheim and Forst. From 1989 to 2013, von Buhl was leased to Japanese business man Toyohiro Tokuoka but changed ownership in 2005 to a local businessman named Achim Niederberger. When Tokuoka’s lease ended in 2013, von Buhl went back to being a family-run estate and winery.

All vineyards owned by Reichsrat von Buhl are certified organic and the current team is unified behind natural and sustainable viticulture. All white wines from von Buhl are Riesling (except for two noble sweet wines) and all red wines and rosé are made from Pinot Noir. Of all the land planted to vine that von Buhl owns, 45% is classified as either VDP.Erste Lage® (Premier Cru) or VDP.Grosse Lage® (Grand Cru) – source. For more on this historic German estate, check out the website here.

Today’s Wine: 2014 Forster Ungeheuer Riesling Großes Gewächs

100% Riesling; 13% ABV

The 2014 Ungeheuer Riesling GG is transparent medium yellow in color with medium to deep straw hues. As the wine opens up, it constantly evolves and showcases its complexity transitioning from dominant aromas of dried gravel, petrol, and pineapple into apricot, peach, white florals, exotic Asian spice, honey, and smoke. Once in the mouth, this gorgeous Riesling displays notes of white peach, lemon zest, green apple skins, apricot, saline and crushed rock minerality, honeysuckle, beeswax, flint, and dried herbs. This is medium-bodied and bone-dry with gorgeous high acidity and a lush mouthfeel into an incredibly long finish.

Price: $70 (but looks like there is some in bond for ~$40/btl in 6 packs). To be honest I would buy the 6 packs in bond from Europe if I could, because this is absolutely worth every penny of the $70 I paid. Riesling is a variety I am trying to explore further, but this is certainly the greatest example I’ve had to date. Pair with chicken Pad Thai, roasted pork, or sushi.

Featured

There’s Only Beauty Here

Today’s Story: Jolie-Laide

Jolie-Laide is a boutique winery established by Scott Schultz in Forestville, CA, though he sources his fruit from trusted vintners across a range of appellations. “Jolie-Laide” translates to “pretty ugly,” and is a French term of endearment for something not conventionally beautiful which in this case stems to lesser known or “unloved” grape varieties Scott works with. I reviewed two wines from Jolie-Laide previously, first the 2016 Provisor Vineyard Grenache in A Journey for the Mind and Palate and most recently the 2019 Trousseau Gris in Incredibly Versatile Trousseau Gris. For a more detailed overview at how Scott makes his wines or where he sources his fruit from, you can check out these prior posts if you haven’t already.

Today’s Wine: 2016 Halcon Vineyard Syrah

100% Syrah; 12.8% ABV

The 2016 Halcon Vineyard Syrah is opaque medium purple in color with ruby hues. Given an hour and a half or so to open up, the wine showcases a nose of blackberry, plum, black cherry, smoked charcuterie, tobacco, charred earth, green herbs, black peppercorn, and crushed rock minerality. On the palate, I get notes of brambleberry, blueberry, boysenberry, black raspberry, licorice, sweet tobacco leaf, red florals, dried rocky soil, graphite, savory mixed herbs, and a hint of oaky spice. This is full-bodied with medium acidity, high tannins, and a long finish dominated by chewy red and black fruits.

Price: $44. Another outstanding value from Jolie-Laide, and my favorite wine I’ve tried from them so far. This has everything you could want from a Cali Syrah twice its price: depth, evolving complexity each hour it breathes, finesse, and character. Pair with herb-grilled lamb, spicy Korean-style pork, or a quality burger.

Featured

Burgundian Pinot Noir From South Africa

Today’s Story: Storm Wines

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.

Featured

Beautiful Paso Robles GSM

Today’s Story: Epoch Estate Wines

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.

Featured

Perhaps the Most Interesting Wine I’ve Ever Had

Today’s Story: Hiyu Wine Farm

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).

Today’s Wine: 2015 Ramato

80% Pinot Gris, 15% Gewürztraminer, 5% Pinot Noir; 15% ABV

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.

Featured

Breathtaking Chassagne-Montrachet

Today’s Story: Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey

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.

Today’s Wine: 2017 Chassagne-Montrachet Vieilles Vignes

100% Chardonnay; 13% ABV

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.

Featured

Tasty Bordeaux Blend for Everyday Drinking

Today’s Story: The Paring

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.

Today’s Wine: 2015 Red Blend

50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc, 10% Petit Verdot; 14.5% ABV

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)

2016 The Hilt Cuvée Fleur Chardonnay (click here)

Featured

One of My Favorite CdP’s

Today’s Story: Domaine du Pégau

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.

Today’s Wine: 2009 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Réservée

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.

Featured

Excellent Value From One of the Rhône Valley’s Most Famous Domaines

Today’s Story: Domaine Paul Jaboulet Aîné

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.

Featured

Lean Chardonnay That Begins With the Farmers

Today’s Story: Matthiasson Family Vineyards

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.

Featured

Rioja to Be Cherished for Decades to Come

Today’s Story: La Rioja Alta

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.

Featured

Rising Star in Cornas

Today’s Story: Domaine Vincent Paris

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.