Outstanding Effort in a Tough Vintage

Today’s Story: Château Montrose

I previously wrote about Château Montrose when I reviewed the 2016 La Dame de Montrose in Incredible Value in a Second Wine, but I wanted to revisit the estate for the “Grand Vin.”

Château Montrose is a historical Bordeaux wine estate located in Saint-Estèphe and established in 1815 by Etienne Théodore Dumoulin on a patch of land his family purchased from Nicolas Alexandre de Ségur but largely forgot. At the time of Etienne’s death in 1861, the estate spanned 95 hectares though his heirs sold it in 1866 to factory owner Mathieu Dollfus who quickly redeveloped and modernized the buildings and winery with the best technology of the time. One of Mathieu’s most interesting achievements, in my opinion, is the construction of a windmill to pump water aboveground and flood the estate which ultimately saved much of the vineyards from phylloxera. After Mathieu passed away in 1886, the estate fell to the Charmolüe family who, from 1896 to 2006, guided Château Montrose through wars and financial crises while crafting some of the best vintages and providing stability. Martin and Olivier Bouygues acquired the estate in 2006 and engaged in a massive renovation project, propelling Château Montrose to ever increasing heights for decades down the road. Montrose, one of fourteen Deuxièmes Crus (Second Growths) in the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855, produces world-class wines and even placed third with their 1970 vintage in the Judgment of Paris in 1976.

Today’s Wine: 2012 Château Montrose

57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, 1% Petit Verdot; 13% ABV

The 2012 Château Montrose is opaque deep ruby in color with purple hues. This required a good 3 hours to open up in the decanter, blossoming to showcase a nose of blackcurrant, blackberry, pencil shavings, cigar box, freshly tilled earth, cracked pepper, dark chocolate, dried green herbs, and crushed rock mineral. Once on the palate, the wine displays notes of black cherry, dark plum, cassis, dried tobacco, loam, graphite, cocoa, underbrush, and light oaky spice. This is medium- to full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, high grippy tannins, and a long finish.

Price: $115. Given the vintage and how well this wine performs I think this is very appropriately priced. Particularly relative to other Montrose bottlings from stronger vintages that can be 2-3 times as expensive. There is also quite a bit of life and development left in this bottle, which could make $115 down the road look like a steal.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.