t’s been a great few weeks on the tasting front. Lots of Burgundies to begin, then some terrific wines from Oregon and then to cap this week off a series of explosive wines from California. YES! California. As many of you know, California wines are generally not high on my love letter list. But in the interests of forever expanding my wine horizons I agreed to an early morning tasting with Joshua Klapper.
It’s a great time of the year to be in the wine business. Although, to be honest, all year is a great time to be in the wine business. But right now is when we have a multitude of trade tastings and with those come the wine makers. And with the wine makers comes knowledge. Specifically, knowledge about the vintage. And if there is one area in the world that is vintage specific its Burgundy. Early hail can wipe out a vintage, overbearing summer heat can destroy the fruit, late august rains can finish what otherwise may have been an exemplary vintage. Burgundy, by its geographic location gets all things that nature can conjure up – snow, ice, hail, scorching sun and devastating floods. And its why I find the wines from Burgundy some of the most intoxicating and complex wines in the world.
Way back when, I had recently returned to London from living in France. Toward the end of my stay there I came across an amazing red wine from the Rhone. I hadn’t ventured far out of my home town, in Perpignan, and my comfort zone was mostly wine from Spain or Languedoc. The Rhone was an area I knew little about. But this wine was utterly divine - lots of oaky aromatics, plenty of plush dark fruits, jammy, figgy and quite exotic. Being young at the time I liked the latter flavor the most! I was dismayed that I couldn’t buy it in England, but I remember driving to Calais one weekend and at the local supermarket I saw the unforgettable label and for about £5 per bottle I bought 3 or 4 cases of the 1983 Chateau de Beaucastel Cote du Rhone. It became a legendary vintage and a legendary wine. I mention this because over the subsequent decades I have always hoped to find something equivalent - truly great wine at a great price - the Holy Grail of the wine enthusiast. Sadly, you aren’t going to find much at $5 these days but $15 is probably the equivalent of the £5 I spent back in 1985.
Many, many, years ago I became transfixed with the wines of Spain. Possibly because I lived outside of Perpignan for a while and we would venture into Barcelona for good food and better wine than we got back in Languedoc. But over the years my love affair with Spanish wine stayed strong until Parkerization took place. All of a sudden Spain was the hot commodity. If you didn’t have Spanish wines in your cellar or in your shop you didn’t know wine. Parker started handing out 100+ point scores like there was no tomorrow. Winemakers lapped it all up and began making more and more heavily extracted, Cola meets Barbie style wines. That’s when I moved on…toward Burgundy. Burgundy is its own animal. Not for the feint hearted and not for those who follow the critics scores. Most Burgundians aren’t overly fond of critics – except perhaps Neil Martin.
But what if you could experience the pleasures of Burgundian style wines from Spain? What if there were wine-makers in Spain who didn’t really care about scores, and 100 pointers. Didn’t want to be a Lear Jet owner? What if there were wine-makers who cared more about the actual quality than making a wine for a critic’s taste? Could I be enticed to rethink Spain? Yes.
In fairness to the French term, Pretty and Ugly allows an artist much lee-way in the pursuit of greatness. Scott Schultz is an artistic wine-maker. He makes less than 500 cases of his own label each year. They are ‘unconventionally beautiful’ wines and they are some of the most sought after wines in California. Up there with the likes of Manfred Krankl and Togni. Fortunately, at least for now, not up there in the stratospheric price realm of his counterparts.
Sometimes it’s fun to just go back to basics. In any given week we get the rarified, sometimes, opportunity to taste really expensive wine. More often than not I am underwhelmed. More often than not the wines come with 1,000,000-point scores. Sometimes it’s just nice to try a bunch of wines, new, or seasoned winners, that meet the criteria of being just good everyday wine at a good price. Over the last few tasting sessions these are some of those wines:
There has to be a little trust somewhere. And I don’t mean, ‘the check is in the post’; we know that’s bollocks. But in wine, there must be a little trust. But…like any bit of trust, you need to work up to it and deserve it. And maybe, after 12 years of delivering reasonably decent wine to customers at Wine at Five, we have earned a little bit of trust. Certainly more than the Muppet, who is presently trying to earn a little bit of trust from Melania, but let’s hope she doesn’t give it to him.
An interesting week of wine. Like the winter Olympics going on now we had some surprising failures, some that should never have been sent abroad and some absolute gold winners. In no particular order here’s what we liked:
Ailala, Ribeiro Treixadura. A white wine from Galicia, Spain. Windswept, salty, plump around the edges with great florality. This last word will be used a lot from now on. Can’t find it in the dictionary, which is just silly, so I made up my own definition – a wine with florality is one that has aromas of flowers, a palette reminiscent of the scent, is pretty, fresh and vibrant – just like a bouquet of fresh picked flowers.
But with fish, this wine is standout. It spends a few months sitting on its lees and this gives the wine a little roundness – do not mistake this for oak – no oak touches it. The weight adds a dimension that puts this wine beyond Pinot Grigio and Vino Verde. A really lovely, clean, fresh Spring white.
Discounted Price: $20.00 SAVE 20%
Fattoria San Lorenzo, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi 2016 $15.00 ($17.00 on the shelf)
This is a great introduction to Verdicchio. The grape is most commonly grown in the Marche region of Italy and whilst there are many inexpensive and plonkish versions of the wine, if you do the homework and find small producers using old clones and limiting production, the wine can be truly delicious. As in the case of Fattoria San Lorenzo. Gino – the father of the present wine maker stared planting verdicchio clones back in ‘40s and his son has tended the vineyards since the early 1990’s. He transferred everything to organic and biodynamic farming and reduced yields to miniscule amounts. Total production across all 7 wines is less than 2,000 cases. This has a lovely bright lemon skin flavor, hints of almond paste on the finish and great acidity. Who needs another Pinot Grigio?
Sometimes, when I worked on Wall Street, I didn’t want to wake up. And if I had to, I didn’t want to go to work. Wine at Five was opened in March 2006 and I don’t think there has been a morning since that I haven’t wanted to come to work – that’s a monumental difference.
This morning, for instance, I listened to the Muppet in the High House saying that the High House was horrible and he didn’t want to live there any longer (boo-hoo) – and there are a lot of people who would concur, but for a very different reason. I thought to myself, do I want to get up? Do I want to listen to this rubbish? Do I want to go to work where 40% of my wages are going to feed this Muppet in the High House (probably less since I believe he only eats meatloaf)? Then I remembered that my Aussie friend was going to bring us some Aussie wines at 10 and I never looked back! That’s the beauty of doing what I’m doing now. Licensed alcoholic – love it.
So Gordan brought over a bevy of delicious wines and since I haven’t put together a ‘go-box’ for a while I thought I would do so now, based on the delicious wines that we began tasting at 10.00 this morning. And here we go:
Alpha Crucis Fiano 2016. The grape is an ancient Italian varietal from Campania, but grown in McLaren Vale in southern Australia. It has the subtle flavors of white stone fruit, jasmine and slatey stones. A lovely rendition of a Mediterranean wine. This has power and boldness yet remains very light and nimble. Delicate almost! $24
David Franz Sémillon 2012. Wow. The benchmark for sémillon must be Chateau Haut Brion. That wine is on my list of greatest wines ever tasted. But few, if any sémillon wines come close to it. I’m not saying that this wine is a contender, but in its own place it was delicious. Powerful minerality, saltiness, sourness, sweetness. All coming at you from different angles. Mouth is overloaded with flavors. Very special. Very, very good. Don’t be put off by the age; David releases this Grave styled wine after 5 years of rest. It takes time to achieve the complexity of flavors that he wants from the wine and of the 2012 vintage he stated that it will come to fruition 5 years after bottling. How right he was. $29
Paxton Graciano 2016. Dave Paxton is one of Australia’s unsung heroes of the wine world. He’s in his 30th year of wine-making and I guess when you have 30 vintages under your belt you know a thing or two. Who, for instance, would think to graft Graciano vines onto 85 year chardonnay root stock? Graciano is an old varietal from the Rioja region of Spain. The grafting onto chardonnay makes this wine much lighter than its Spanish cousin. Also, livelier, rounder, younger feeling. With a slight chill on the wine this is a hard to beat BBQ wine. $22
Tim Smith Bugalugs Shiraz 2016. If they had been making this wine when Australia decided to chase the Parker scores making massive dark chocolate mousse styled wines, they would never have entered the wine recession that they did for 10+ years. Even though this wine comes in at 14.2% alcohol you don’t feel it. Lovely fruit, lovely cornucopia of baking spices and lovely, juicy mouthfeel. Another red that would welcome a slight chill – just to bring out a touch more acidity. But even without it’s a beautiful wine. $25
Single box – 1 of each (4btls): $100.00
Double box – 2 of each (8btls): $170.00
Triple Play – 3 of each (12btls): $240.00
What a great way to spend a Summer’s afternoon – invite a bunch of friends, sit around, talk about the Muppet and toast the years to come with a bottle or two of Aussie gold. Special.
Since we only tasted the wines this morning wines will be delivered here Friday. Let me know what you want and we’ll have them ready for the weekend.
All the best
This is a long article about a tasting I experienced on June 27 in the city. I began writing it soon after the tasting. I make no apologies for the length or the substance – Burgundy is one of the great luxuries of life. There is really no cheap way around it but there is every reason to spend money on it. I have written this article unbiased by price – thought I do point out wines that are great value. I have reviewed no other critics comments on these wines and I do not even know whether they are rated by any critic.
I have tried to price the wines as reasonably as possible. The ‘front-line’ price has already been discounted but should you wish to mix and match a 12 bottle case I have further discounted the price by 10% - in some cased you are getting a net 20-25% discount. It is impossible to make the wines available to everyone but I want to make them available to more than most.
I do enjoy a glass of wine every night for its health benefits. The other glasses are for my witty comebacks, my flawless dance moves an d my snappy blogging! I can happily say that I am on what must be my fourth glass of wine. It’s called a tasting, and it’s very classy! And since I am tasting Burgundy it takes a serious amount of concentration, which seems a lot less effort after the fourth glass.
Perhaps that is why I find drinking Burgundian wines so enjoyable. As I grew older my metabolism seemed to shift toward lighter, more complex, less bosomy wines. A friend recently discussed the similarities between drinking pinot noirs and chardonnays from the great Burgundian villages, and inspecting rare Persian carpets. It wasn’t a parallel that I immediately understood but in listening to him talk about the intricacies of the weave, the colors, the textures of the different silks, the complexities of the patterns, I began to see a balance between these two rather dichotomous objects. When he started discoursing about the prices, I saw immediate parallels.
Burgundy is not cheap. Rarely in life are great thigs cheap. The White House is cheap, but it will return to greatness. And yet on a sliding scale there are some fabulously affordable Burgundian wines, and if there was ever a reason you should invite a business colleague over for dinner, it’s so you can write off a great bottle of Burgundy as a business expense, as you and your ‘colleagues’ polish it off.
Last week I was invited to a small office tasting of some new Burgundies. It was a very casual affair – maybe 50 bottles. A table of charcuteries and fromages from local delicatessens, nothing over-the-top. I did however spend quite a few hours visiting and revisiting. But only so that I could write this piece with an expert eye, and an expert tongue! Here’s what I drank – all the wines are available and because I want to make this experience available to as many as possible, there are no minimums. All I ask is that in the event that you wish to buy single bottles, allow me a few days to collate orders so that we can meet minimum shipping requirements. All the wines have been priced at the case discount price but should you feel, like I do, that these are wines for which the golf bag can be moved to create space, then I will add a further 10% discount on 12 bottles, mixed or not.
Some pre-amble on vintages, since more so in Burgundy than most other worldly places, the weather patterns in any particular year are very important. According to Allen Meadows, one of the pre-eminent historians and critics on Burgundian wines, “the 2015 vintage in the Cotes de Nuits is the best vintage since 2005. In the Cote de Beaune 2015 is the best since 1999”. That pretty much says it all – try finding any 2005 or 1999 Burgundy now!
Domaine Manciat – 9 hectares of chardonnay concentrated around the village of Charny in the southern Maconnais. All limestone soils, old rootstock, sustainable farming.
St. Véran 2015 (wh) From two plots of vines which are both mid-slope plantings on sandy limestone soils; the fruit from the two parcels is kept separate. Hand harvested, pressed in whole cluster and naturally fermented in used oak barrels. After aging on their respective lees the two wines are blended in tank before bottling.
Very elegant, balanced and smooth. Fresh, with a little more body than a simple Macon. Great Value.
Patrick Piuze – one of the great names in Chablis. His encyclopedic knowledge of the Chablisienne Terroir has enabled him to create great relationships with the top producers in Chablis. Whilst 90% of Chablis is machine-harvested, Piuze only hand harvests
Chablis ‘Terroirs Coteaux de Fontenay 2016. (wh) From a steep west-facing vineyard behind the Grand Cru hill on the right bank of the Serein. The valley runs north to south and cold winds come from the north. Fermented and aged 50% in used barrels and 50% in stainless.
Great weight, fresh with bright vivacity. Perfect summer quaff.
Chablis ‘Terroir Vallée Sebillon” 2016 (wh) On the left bank of the Serein from the commune of Beines. Fermented and aged 75% in used barrel, 25% in tank.
Very fresh, limestone and minerality, crisp, clean, like fairy dust. Intoxicating.
Baron Thenard – Very traditional vignerons with acreage in Givry and Cote d’Or; 1er Cru in Chassagne, Grand Cru in Corton and 2nd largest owner of Le Montrachet vineyard with 4 acres.
Givry 1er Cru Clos St. Pierre Monopole 2013 (red) Vineyard faces east with very red soil, rich in iron. After fermentation in large open top wooden fermenters, wine is aged in 50% wooden foudres and 50% used oak barrel.
Silky smooth, dense ripe fruit with hints of seriously aged balsamic. Brooding wine with loads of complexity.
Vincent Latour – 6.5 hectares in the heart of Meursault. Some of the oldest chardonnay vines in the area – dating back to 1925. Classic wines with great floral aromatics but vibrantly juicy pit fruit on the palate.
Bourgogne Blanc 2013 (wht) What a treat to find an affordable, great chardonnay. From vines planted in 1951 and 1973, aged 10 months in 50% barrels and 50% demi-muids.
So young and fresh. Lime juice, butterscotch and grape skin. Fabulous round mouthfeel. Terrific price.
Meursault “Cuvée St. Jean” 2014 (wht) From two parcels – Les Vireuils planted in 1998 and Les Crotats planted in 1925!. Fermented and aged in demi-muids on the lees (no stirring) for 12 months.
Incredible richness combined with a lightness of being! Heavenly, sexy, polished. Bright end notes. Could I leave a few bottles alone for another 10 years? Probably not.
Chavy-Martin – located in Puligny Montrachet with just over 20 acres. Restrained greatness classic styled Puligny. Organic farming.
Bourgogne Blanc 2015 (wht) From two parcels, one near Meursault and the other near Puligny Montrachet. Aged for 12 months in barrel and 7 months in tank before bottling.
Terrific value. Young clean white stone fruit, winter melon, bright – brilliant balance. All the best days of summer in a bottle.
Puligny Montrachet 2015 (wht) 30 year old vines. One word – delicious.
Puligny Montrachet ‘Les Charmes” 2015 (wht) Lieu-dit vineyard bordering Meursault 1er Cru Les Charmes.
Two words – more delicious.
Thomas Morey – youngest son of Burgundian nobility Bernard Morey. 10th generation winemaker. New oak usage now less than 20%; only spontaneous fermentation with indigenous years. Organic farming. Alre4ady probably better than his father.
Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Morgeot 2013 (wht) From two parcels Les Brussonnes and Les Fariendes. A heady cocktail of lemon, lime, orange, smack of vanilla -just pure essence. Fabulous.
Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Macherelles 2014. (wht) Low lying vineyard just north of the village of Chassagne-Montrachet where the soils are chalky and begin to take on more iron.
Chalky, dusty, floral and loaded with white fruits. Unctuous and nutty. Not for your mother-in-law. Keep this close, drink alone.
Chandon de Briailles - terrific discovery. Ultra-traditional style, neutral barrel regime only; significant whole cluster fermentation. Wines are light in color and have great energy and complexity due to biodynamic practices.
Perand-Vergelesses Blanc 1cru Ile de Vergelesses 2015 (wht) ETA late July (still qualifies for case discount) Clay and limestone soils. 20 year old vines. Incredibly fragrant, floral, like a chocolate factory making only white chocolate. This is Vergelesses at its most sublime. No wonder it’s a female winemaker.
Perand-Vergelesses Rouge 1cru Ile de Vergelesses 2015 (red) ETA late July (still qualifies for case discount) Average age of 40 year vines. Almost zin like but with a much prettier floral and fruit note. Chewy – a perfect match for an elegant BBQ. Plenty of dark fruit but lightened with a soft touch. Wow.
Corton Les Maréchaudes Grand Cru 2015 (red) ETA late July (still qualifies for case discount) Shallow limestone terroir facing due east. Planted in 1974 and 1979. Only three owners have rights to Maréchaudes.
Dark chocolate covered raisins of the highest quality. My life would be complete every time I drank this wine. Black fruit, bramble, cocoa. Like a Pain Chocolate with a shot of expresso. Life is good.
Domaine Berthaut-Gerbet – mostly in Fixin with a few lots in Gevrey-Chambertin and Vosne-Romanée. Winemaker now Amélie Berthaut. A new voice in Fixin that is the antithesis of rustic. Pretty, elegent and fruity with precision.
Fixin Les Clos 2015 (red) Between 60-90 year old vines. Aged 20 months in oak barrels. Deep, ripe, fleshy fruit. Brooding and gamey with silky length. Love Fixin -such great value over a Vosne-Romanée.
Vosne-Romanée 2015 (red) Primary fermentation in cement tank then moved to barrels for malolactic fermentation and aging. Probably the best value VR I have found lately. The wine echos. It’s young and forward but not brash – everything is in place. Perfect glass of Pinot.
Arnoux-Lachaux – 20+ acres in Vosen-Romanée and Nuits St. Georges. Very classic style, precise wines. Exemplifies each terroir perfectly. Almost always 100% whole cluster fermentation
Nuits-Saint-Georges Les Poisets 2014 (red) Soil is marly-limestone, average age of vines is 60 years. Loaded with black currant, blackberry, loganberry. Hugely elegant – black cherry all around the finish.
Vosne-Romanée 2014 (red) A blend of several VR vineyards. Average age 50 years. All separately fermented, final blend 8 months prior to bottling. Spectacular wine. Want in my cellar. Highest score given to a wine during the tasting.
Echezeaux 2014 (red) What the hell. Less than an acre in the middle of Echézeaux. One word – fabulous.
If you are interested in any of the wines give me a call or reply by e-mail. I will collate as orders come in and advise an ETA by the end of the week. Thanks for reading – all the best
Spring time is always exiting around here. For the past couple of months, we’ve been tasting and considering new wines for spring and summer, and though the weather hasn’t really followed suit with the calendar, the goodies have started to trickle in. This week, some of my personal faves from Oregon made their way through the door. Division Winemaking Company is a Portland based winery founded in 2010 by Kate Norris and Thomas Monroe. Inspired by the wineries of Loire, Beaujolais, Burgundy and the Northern Rhone where they first learned winemaking and viticulture, the urban winery creates spectacular Oregon and Washington wines. Determined to make approachable and balanced wines though minimal manipulation, Kate and Thomas have a commitment to work with well farmed terroir expressive vineyards, many of which are organic and/or Biodynamic. Collectively, their wines are very pure and precise; the reds are fruit-driven and vibrant, the whites are compelling and persistent.
We didn’t get a lot to play with so if you’re interested in reserving some, give us a shout. Or come by on Saturday and we’ll be pouring the three wines we brought in, the Sauvignon Blanc, the Rosé and the Pinot Noir. Take a look:
Division Villages Sauvignon Blanc ‘La Frontiere’ $25 (18 bottles in stock) Today and Saturday: $23.75/1 bottle: $22.50 any mix of 6 bottles: $21.25 any mix of 12 bottles.
The vineyard source for this wine is run by Myron Redford and Vikki Wetle, true pioneers in the Oregon wine scene. This is the first time the folks at Divison get to work with these grapes, and the wine shows the clear Sauvignon Blanc characteristics, led by grapefruit, yellow mango and flinty aromatics. They (thankfully) stayed away from the dreaded “cat pee” notes, as well as the Dole tropical fruit cup tendencies that seem to dominate the domestic Sauvignon Blanc scene. The palate is full and vibrant, with secondary notes of wildflower honey. So good!
Division Villages Gamay Rose ‘L’Avoiron’ $23 (36 bottles in stock) Today and Saturday: $21.75/1 bottle:$20.75 any mix of 6 bottles: $19.50 any mix of 12 bottles.
2016”l’Avoiron” Rosé of Gamay Noir is a crisp, vibrant and mineral intense rosé wine with a perfect peachy pink hue, and harkens more of white wine in body and texture. We are reminded of Beaujolais rosés with the aromatics that include strawberry, peach, and chalky lime. The palate is bright and mineral rich with a distinct berry intensity. We are sure this rosé will be the perfect accompaniment to spring, summer, and just about any fun gathering that calls for wine
Division Villages Pinot Noir ‘Methode Carbonique’ $30 (24 bottles in stock) Today and Saturday: $28.50/1 bottle: $27.00 any mix of 6 bottles: $25.50 any mix of 12 bottles.
The initial idea for Division’s “Méthode Carbonique” Pinot Noir was never to an be overly complex wine, but rather more of a fun and quaffy wine in style. The 2016 vintage has changed their thoughts and while the wine is classically carbonic in nature (clean and bright), there is much more going on than in past vintages. The wine is aromatically dense with concentrated strawberries, well harmonized cloves, anise and fresh quince. The palate is singing with strawberry compote and a hint of smokiness. All in all a perfect summer red, with plenty of intrigue for discussion, or simply as a lovely accompaniment for just about anything.
Today and Saturday we will offer the wines as indicated – 5% off bottle one; 10% off a mix of 6 and 15% off a mix of 12.
These may just be the best summer wines you wish you had bought.
See you today, and if not, see you tomorrow.
All the news that's fit to print and some that's not.
I am sitting here reading about certain Canadian schools that have banned school trips to the US over fears that the Muppet’s immigration plans may affect schoolchildren on buses coming across the border. I am ashamed that this Muppet in the High Castle can have such an effect on global travel. But if the by-product is that all the American airline companies go bankrupt, and remain bankrupt, then I won’t be so upset. Maybe then we will have national airlines that put the customer first; why can Singapore Airlines be profitable and still provide one of the greatest airline experiences of all time; so too Virgin Airways, and have you ever flown Qatar? OMG. Compared to AA they are in a universe so beyond anything that an American ‘national’ airline provides that I wonder how you can make America ‘great’ again, if you don’t start with the airlines. But then again, I’m not in the Muppet House and maybe it’s more important to just ban all those great airlines from entering US airspace because maybe there is a Muslim aboard. Oh boohoo.
And so it is/just like you said it would be/Life goes easy on me/Most of the time/And so it is/The shorter story/No love, no glory/No hero in her sky/
Damien Rice – The Blower’s Daughter.
If you have never heard the song I urge you to find it and listen to it. His music travelled with me through Chile whilst I rode a Yamaha Tenerife across the Andes into Argentina and back. Along the way I visited a few wineries whose wines we have brought in over the last few months, and whose philosophies adhere closely to mine. As an example; one of the largest producers of commercial swill in Chile is Concha y Toro. They own so much and buy so much they might as well put a big sign on their gate ‘Trumpet Vines and Palace’. But in a vineyard a few kilometers from where I stood with Pedro Parra (more about him later), the farmers pick grapes for $0.08 cents per kilo. On behalf of Concha y Toro. In the vineyard where Pedro Parra manages the vines, he pays the farmers a fair-trade price of $1.50 per kilo. In return, they farm organically, they reduce quantities, they sustain the biodiversity of the vineyards and they can afford to send their children to school and live above the subsistence level.
And so it is – just like you said it would be. The wineries I visited produce some of the most amazing wines I have ever tasted from a region known for its commercial plonk. Each wine was a testament to the wine-maker. Dazzling with complexity, life, flavor and joy. I never wanted to put down a glass, and did so only that it may be refilled…quickly. I learnt about the land and especially the soil – Pedro Parra has a doctorate from the Institut Agronomique National in Parisin soil. He is a world-renowned oenologist who is in such demand that to spend a day with him is a privilege. The day after I met him he flew to Burgundy to consult with a famous wine-maker who was having possible problems with her soil. The week before I met him, Jancis Robinson (famous UK wine critic) flew to Chile to meet him and to discuss vineyard management and how his wineries can produce such alternatives to the commercial stuff sold in every Supermarket in the UK.
I met a young student of Pedro’s who with his Dutch wife is producing quite possibly the best Cinsault I have ever tasted. And doing so on mountainside vineyards where tractors have never been and where cars pull off to the side of the road miles from the vineyard because the vineyards themselves are in the middle of nowhere. These soils have never met Monsanto. And I met Charlie Villard whose chardonnay and Syrah want to make you cry. Finally, I drove south to the island of Chiloe and from there took a little boat across the sound to another tiny island and met up with Marina and Alvaro, owners of Pura Fe, Kuyen and Antiyal. Rather than spoil their wines with my dumb adjectives, buy their wines and come up with your own.
In the days that I spent tasting these wines and learning about why they are different I became aware of a simple truth amongst these wine-makers. If you preserve and care for the land, if you allow nature to govern; and if you are not greedy, the Gods of grapes will be kind to you and not of wrath. The shorter story/No love, no glory/ No hero in her sky.
I have written below a little piece about some of the wines from the wineries. At the very bottom is a price list and various combo packs that may be of interest. Even further down I have posted a scrap book of photos from the trip. If you want to know more about these wines please call me, and if you should be inclined to purchase any of them please let me know. We have approximately 30 cases on order now for delivery late next week. We can add to it if needs be.
Villard, Valle de Casablanca Le Chardonnay Grand Vin.
Charlie Villard is a character larger than life. Young, good looking and driven by a passion to make wine that will please his parents…and us. The vineyards are meticulous, and organic. On the drive up to the winery I noticed these massive looking vines tightly planted to maximize production. The plants looked stressed, overly inundated with chemicals. Five kilometers along I entered the Villard winery. All around me were incredible hues of vibrant greens. The vines looked like they were smiling. There was no stress, no antibiotics, no fertilizers, just pure nature. The chardonnay has immense balance and soul. There is sea salt on the palate (the vineyards are not far from the Pacific Ocean), honeysuckle, nougat, apricot and almonds. This is not a dense chardonnay; quite the opposite, it is bright and full of vigor. Lovely.
Vinateros Bravos Pais.
I stood in the vineyards where these wines come from. Across the horizon was the Pacific. To the east were the Andes, as close in sight you felt you could touch them. The vineyards have nothing but sky above them. And they are old - seriously old. The vines have been left to grow and flourish with little intervention. Though the majority of fruit is Pais, these vineyards have vines in them that were planted 80 years ago - maybe they are Pais, maybe not. What matters is that the wine is as pure and as fresh as you can imagine. It’s a table wine that compliments everything, and everyone.
Vinateros Valle del Itaca Cinsault Canto a Lo Divino
Almost certainly the most memorable Cinsault I have ever had. Leo has an understanding about wine-making that defies his experience (which is pretty damned good already). The wine captures the ‘terroir’ perfectly. A little crushed spice, a hint of aromatics live clove and nutmeg, some orange blossom, and you could continue. The length is amazing but sadly there are only 750ml in the bottle.
Pedro Parra Y Familia Cinsault Imaginador
From the master, a Consult very different from Leo’s. Much broader, fleshier, fruitier. But all in balance and all ‘in depth’. The wine resonates with boldness and yet remains lively and young. By contrast, I want to drink Leo’s Itata Cinsault soon after the vintage. Pedro’s Cinsault could lie in my cellar for another 15-20 years
Villard, Valle de Casablanca Syrah Tanagra
Not cheap, but a lot less than Cornas and dare I say it, every bit as good.Some of the oldest vines at Villard are used in this wine. It is the creation of the second generation, Jean Charles and Sebastian. Each brother brings a separate dimension to the wine; Jean Charles has the wine making experience, Sebastian has a knowledge of oak that knows no bounds. He runs his own cooperage, manages his forests, and selects only the finest oak staves for his barrels.Between them they have mastered a wine that is simply intoxicating. It is made entirely by hand - hand picked, hand stemmed, and even hand placed into the barrels. The various size barrels work their magic for 12-18 months and then the brothers create the final blend. It’s an amazing wine.
Antiyal, Valle del Maipo Kuyen
Alvaro Espinosa is a child of the vineyard. His grandfather was a negociant, his father was a wine maker and now two of his sons are beginning the formidable task of taking over. But Alvaro still makes the wines. In 2015 he was named as one of the 50 most influential wine makers in the world by Decanter Magazine. His discourse on biodynamic farming is listened to by wine-makers from all corners of the world. And in a tiny little winery he extracts everything that nature is willing to give him, and then he makes great wine. The Kuyen is a blend of Syrah, cabernet and petit verdot. It is ethereal; very smooth, loaded with tiny berries and really gentle. Plenty of backbone, plenty of rich, undulating fruit flavors and a heady palate of cigar and cocoa.
As I write this I realize that these wines are all so different and whilst they will please almost every palate, I shouldn’t be the one to judge how best to mix them up. So here’s the deal.
Mix and match any 6 bottles and get 12% off the price.
Mix and match any 12 bottles and get 15% off the price.
Mix and match any 18 bottles and get 18% off the price.
You choose what you want in the box. Let me know and we’ll have it ready by next weekend.
Villard Le Chardonnay Grand Vin: $32.00 per bottle $28/6; $27/12; $26/18
Vinateros Bravos Pais: $22.00 per bottle $19.50/6; $18.75/12; $18.00/18
Vinateros Bravos Itata Cinsault: $22 per bottle $19.50/6; $18.75/12; $18.00/18
Pedro Parra Cinsault Imaginador: $25.00 per bottle $22.00/6; $21.25/12; $20.50/18
Villard Syrah Tanagra: $68.00 per bottle; $60.00/6; $58.00/12; $55.75/18
Antiyal Valle del Maipo Kuyen: $34.00 per bottle. $30.00/6; $29.00/12; $27.75/18
The Tanagra is very limited and the Villard chardonnay is quite limited. Don’t be afraid to pull the trigger sooner, rather than later. The discounted prices are good through next Monday, February 27.
I have just arrived back from the most intense, exciting, exhilarating and enchanting trip to Chile. What an amazing country and what amazing wines. But you will have to wait for the report since there is so much to write about, and I haven’t started!
In the meantime I was straight back in the saddle yesterday tasting through a bunch of inexpensive Bordeaux wines. I had recently noticed that my ‘cheap’ Bordeaux collection in the cellar had been ravaged by time and unconscionable, alcoholic mice. But it’s always nice to have a go-to Bordeaux that didn’t cost an arm and a leg, that drinks like a Chateau Palmer, and does the job – really well.
So Marina had set up an appointment to taste a few small gems from Bordeaux and I tagged along. I am very glad I did. This is what we finally agreed upon:
Chateau Vieux Meyney 2015
Chateau Vieux Meyney has been owned by the de Taffin family since the 1920s. It is located on a plateau and hillside in the town of Villegouge, close to the Dordogne River, just north of Fronsac, on the right bank of Bordeaux, where the Merlot grape thrives in clay-sand soils. The vineyard location and sloping terrain ensures the optimal ripening of the fruit. The wine is aged in stainless steel tanks to allow it to mature rapidly for early drinking and enjoyment of the soft Merlot fruit and its enticing aromas.
Very pleasing structure to the wine. Fresh and lively but with an undercurrent of red and blue fruits. The lack of oak allows the merlot grape to shine and this lack of interference gives you a very easy, delightful quaff. No harsh edges nor ungainly acidity.
Chateau Grimard 2015
Chateau Grimard is a classic styled Bordeaux, offering a deep red-purple color, a lush bouquet, and ripe plummy-cassis fruit with good structure. It is a wine with more definition and character than most other petite chateaux, which is in part due to the excellent location of the property. It is vinified and matured in stainless steel tanks to ensure that it gives immediate pleasure at the table.
Chateau Signoret 2015
Located in the heart of the Entre-Deux-Mers, Château Signoret is a family estate. The vineyard covers 11 hectares. The terroir of the estate is mainly composed of clay and limestone. It is ideally suited for the growing of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. The blend of these grape varieties gives a better aged wine. But this wine is best when drunk now and for the next 2-3 years. It has a little more oomph than the previous two wines. A little more black fruit, a little more concentration. Probably better with a large meal than just a hunk of bread and cheese.
All three of these wines are ‘table wines’. They are supposed to be purchased in bulk and simply stored in some nice cool spot away from the everyday ho-hum of life. But then brought out at every opportunity and especially in a moment of peeved angst when you lean forward to turn off the rubbish that now pops up on TV at every opportunity. Did I come back to a different country?
To empower you to by these wines in bulk here is this week’s special:
Mix and match any of the 3 wines into a case (12 bottles) and pay just $12 per bottle - $144 per case
Mix and match any of the 3 wines into two cases (24 bottles) and pay just $11 per bottle - $132 per case
Mix and match any of the 3 wines into three cases (36 bottles) and pay just $10 per bottle - $132 per case.
Please send me your orders. I plan to order the wines, based on demand, this coming Monday. Wines will be delivered by Wednesday. CC details with order please.
Normal retail price per bottle is $15.00. BIG savings for the ‘yugest week of the year’ – The Donald.
All the best
There are many reasons why I enjoy my job. At the top of the list is having lunch with an Italian wine maker and friend whilst tasting his portfolio of wines, again. That was my simple pleasure yesterday lunchtime. Giancarlo Guarnieri, the owner and winemaker of Azienda Lanciola was in New York for the day. Lunch was at Osteria del Principe, a favorite hangout of wine aficionados and restaurateurs. During our lunch people would simply appear. Everyone wanted to chat, eat some prosciutto, drink some wine, no one cared about the parking ticket commandant and nether a word about Trump was uttered. It was a great lunch.
Food and friendship aside, one of the wines we revisited was Lanciola’s stunning Super Tuscan. We all know what that term means, but over the years the word has been bastardized to include almost any wine, irrespective of cost, that blends Sangiovese – the key ingredient in Chianti, with a host of other red wines, either indigenous or not. Terricci is Lanciola’s ode to real Super Tuscan. It’s a blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. It has, IMHO, few peers and trust me, I’ve drunk and tasted a good many Super Tuscans that merit little of the Super and more of the second-rate. I do enjoy good Super Tuscans and I enjoy having them in my cellar because they last. Well beyond the sell-by-date, and my one regret with Lanciola is that I didn’t buy more of his 2001s that are just now coming to the fore.
The Terricci that we opened yesterday was the 2009. A babe in cotton swathing. So many more years to go. I had a quick glance through some critics’ tasting notes on the wine (interestingly in Robert Parker, Galloni called the 1999 “brooding and masculine” and 12 years later Monica Larner called the 2011 “brooding and masculine” – smacks of Melania Trump no? Just further bullshit from the Parker files), and what came through the most was the wines simple complexity. Nice terminology I think. The wine is complex but the clarity of the wine is very simple – it’s a pure, unadulterated fusion of grapes and oak and time that delivers up a wonderful bouquet of pure Tuscany.
Delving into more wine and more prosciutto (have you ever tasted the difference between a 12-month prosciutto and a 24-month prosciutto? OMG – so much umami!) I discovered that Filippo Pistone, Lanciola’s importer to the US, had three vintages of Terricci tucked in the warehouse. Lunch was getting better and better.
I now have the pleasure of offering 3 vintages of the Terricci Super Tuscan. 1999, 2000 and 2009. I want my customers to have the ability to try all three of them. Invite some friends over and open each vintage. Taste test them for yourselves. Buy some more and leave them to age, gracefully, in the cellar until you decide to invite the friends back again! So, here’s the deal:
3 Pack. I bottle each vintage: $60 per - $180 per pack
6 Pack. 2 bottles each vintage: $55 per - $330 per pack
9 Pack. 3 bottles each vintage: $50 per - $450 per pack
12 pack. 4 bottles each vintage: $45 per - $540 per pack
That’s an amazing deal. Let me know what you would like – I’ll collate the orders and have the wines here by early next week. As an aside – I have been selling Giancarlo’s wines at Wine at Five for almost 10 years. His base-line Chianti is our 2nd highest selling wine in the store and every time I receive my allocation of Terricci it is generally sold out before it hits the shelves. This was an opportunity humbly received and accepted during the course of a very simple pleasure. Great food, great wine, great friends.
We often hear about Farm to Table from restaurants wanting to elaborate on their relationship with terra firma and their commitment to using food grown responsibly and locally. We have the same thing in the wine world – Vine to Table. And this latest trio of wines is a perfect example of exactly that.
La Casaccia is a four member, family owned, winery in Monferrato, an AVA within the Piedmont region. Mother, daughter, father and son. They work the winery by hand, literally. From harvesting the grapes, by hand, hand sorting the grapes in the vineyard, bottling, labelling, shipping etc. Everything is done by them and by hand. The vineyards are organic, minimalist and non-interventionist.
But what sets them apart is they have also never been exported to this country, they are imported by a very small importer and they haven’t yet figured out that they could probably charge twice the price that they are presently asking.
Here are my tasting notes:
La Casaccia Poggeto Grignolino: Almost the color of a rosé but this is true red wine. Beautifully light in texture with a zippy freshness and a bundle of red fruit. This is perfect patio drinking. A slight chill on the bottle, some cheese, some salami, a baguette – perfect. Honestly doesn’t get much better than this.
La Casaccia Monfiorenza Freisa: Bolder, with more black fruit than red. Still extremely elegant and poised, with a delicious after taste of cherry and chocolate bits ice-cream. Again, there is a vibrancy and youthfulness to this wine that edges it past the doldrums of so many inexpensive, tasteless red wines. With a pizza, perfect, with a BBQ, unbeatable. Delicious.
La Cassaccia Barbera del Monferrato Giuanin. Barbera can be such an overdose. Commercialized by dozens of producers seeking the next 90 point cheapy, it has a tendency to be overdone and over-extracted. La Casaccia’s Barbera is anything but. You taste the earth and you sense the Terroir. Long finish with dark black fruit, great aromas and an undulating softness that makes you want to finish the bottle.
As you might have guessed, I was quite excited about these wines. They are the perfect accompaniment to a dinner party that starts on the patio, evolves in the kitchen and sits at that table. Terrific wines at a terrific price – made even better by this combo offering:
Buy a mixed case, 4 bottles of each wine, for $162.00 They will be priced, briefly at $15.00 per bottle during May and will increase to $17.00 in June – if there is any left. But seriously, $162 for a case of terrific wine for 3 separate occasions, that’s true Vine to Table.
Let me know – quantities, as always, are limited. The winery makes less than 2,000 cases in total. Not much of it comes over here.
It’s been a while since I had the opportunity, or the inclination, to put together a combo pack of wines. Whilst I have been tasting some excellent wine the last few weeks it was not until today that the chance to pair and try two very different, yet both very delicious wines, came up.
Earlier this morning I had my taste buds excited by a range of wines from Oregon. As many of my readers know, if you are going to buy Pinot Noir from the West Coast you really need to delve into the wines of this State. This is where Pinot likes to grow, and wine-makers who are passionate about making great wine grow the best Pinot Noir in Oregon. The first flight of wines were from the J.K. Carrier vineyard. This winery, started in the late 90’s is owned by Jim Prosser. A lifelong wine-man, he apprenticed in Oregon and with Roumier in Burgundy and finally decided to put his own initials on a wine label. He is a true believer in allowing acid and fruit to co-exist for pure pleasure; and his pinots deliver, every last little drop. We began with his entry level pinot – the Provocateur. This is the blend of juices left from barrel sampling his 5 sourced (and estate) vineyards. It’s an easy drinking table wine, slightly expensive but every bit as good, if not better, than many entry level Burgundy pinots. His first run, blended pinot is Vespidae – sourced from all his vineyards and left to mature in barrel for 18 months, undisturbed, like a baby in swaddling cloth. His three single estates are Antoinette, Anderson and Shea Vineyards. I have written short tasting notes below.
The story continues with a tasting about 4 hours later, of wines from the Harper Voit Vineyards. Drew Voit, the wine maker popped in to taste me on his line-up of 4 pinots. I mentioned that J.K. had been in just a few hours earlier but he wasn’t fazed! Nor should he have been. What a great way to taste the differences between two of the most accomplished wine-makers of pinot noir in Oregon. The wines spanked. Very different in taste and substance but both sets of wines equally delicious. If I could just win the lottery, I would be a very happy drunk – table wine at my house would be J.K whilst waiting for Chef to prepare dinner and by second course, Voit Pinot Noirs to finish. With a full staff to clean up and wash up I would sit back in my leather armchair and contemplate a world without pinot. Yuk!
J.K. Carriere Vespidae 2013 - $48.00
Aged in barrel for 18 months – allows the wine to become mellow. Flavors of Turkish Delight, pomegranate and bright cherry. Very fragrant, very supple. Low alcohol, deference to a Volnay style. Sweet, feminine and delicious.
J.K. Carriere Shea Vineyard 2013 - $77.00
From possibly the greatest pinot noir vineyard in Oregon. This is the bass player to the Carriere Quartet. Ripe, rich pop in your mouth chocolate covered cherries. Fuller body, meaty but not gamey. Think standing rib roast drippings!
J.K. Carriere Anderson Vineyard 2013 - $77.00
Wonderfully aromatic aroma – honeysuckle, rose petal orange skin. Ultra-smooth high octane red berried juice. The saxophone player in the Quartet. Spunky, with a touch more acidity than the Shea. Bright fruit, elegance, dreaminess.
J.K. Carriere Antoinette 2013 - $77.00
The brightest of the four. Definitely the singer – Ella meets Whitney Houston. Even more aromatic than the Anderson. Bright red cherry, red currant, pomegranate. And all baked together to make the best pie your mother ever made.
2nd Flight – Harper Voit
Harper Voit Strandline 2013 $49.00
Notice the difference between these two wine-makers. J.K’s wines are a little leaner, allowing the fruit to resonate, Voit’s wines are more akin to a late night Blues concert. The Strandline leans on sweet fruit, black currant and berries. Touch of baking spice and cookie dough.
Harper Voit Perrydale Hills 2013 - $64.00
Soft beckoning cherries. Very elegant, velvety texture. More feminine in pose. Some earthy grip on the palate combined with more black cherry, cedar and nougat.
Harper Voit Bieze Vineyard 2013 - $78.00
Most savory of all the pinots. Great aromas of slow-cooked duck and bacon fat. Fennel, cedar and anise shine. Great length on the palate and a warm, subtle finish. Reminiscent of a great Vosne Romanee. Delcious.
Oregon pinots are not inexpensive. The cheap ones tend to be disgusting, so a complete waste of money. These wines will offer a great tasting platform – either in pairs over a romantic dinner or as flights with friends and family. Either way, I really want customers to enjoy the subtleties and nuances of each wine, hence the combo box offering.
One bottle of each wine, 7 in total, for a half a baker’s dozen! In other words, take all seven, the Vespidae is FREE and you pay only $422 in total. Being that Jim Prosser makes less than 100 cases of each of his single vineyard estates, the offer is limited by what my distributors can allocate to me. But for someone looking to put wine into their cellar either for immediate drinking, or to taste over the next decade, there are not many pinots from Oregon that can beat this line-up.
A memorable day of tasting! Wines will be deliver here by Friday. Please order by 4.00pm tomorrow.
All the best
vintager cabernet & vintager chardonnay
For as long as I can remember I have been asking my wine reps to bring in whatever they have from California that is very, very good, and inexpensive. The words are an oxymoron and I have argued them countless times, for years. Why is it that California cannot make inexpensive, good wine? And I make no apology to this comment – J. Lohr is not an inexpensive, good wine. I’m talking about making wine that tastes way better than it cost. I’m unrepentant when it comes to California. Make decent wine at a decent price. Don’t use your marketing skills and your apologetic assumption that all Americans believe that White Zinfandel is the ‘creation’. Because it is not.
For years this has been my request. Occasionally we have found great wine at a great price and we have bought it and sold it to our customers. And have done so gladly, because the wine was good. This morning I was reintroduced to a private label wine collection from California. In the interest of being totally candid, I tasted these wines back in October of last year. I thought they were very good but the price was not. And so I passed on the wines. Today I re-tasted them and again was very taken by them. Even more so when I was informed that because of my comments back in October last year the distributor had agreed to lower the prices.
I am now able to offer two great Californian wines for under $20 per bottle. For a limited time (2 weeks from today – February 10) these two wines are on sale by the solid case for $16.00 per bottle. Thereafter, if I have any left, they will retail for $22 and $24 per bottle respectively.
The Vintager Chardonnay. The wine is sourced from Knight Valley in California. The distributor is not allowed to say where the grapes come from but we did our own homework and the grapes come from Newton Vineyards. I have to say that as chardonnays go I was very surprised at how good this was. There is an element of oak both on the nose and the immediate palate but thereafter you do not get the oak-nose bleed that is so common from Californian chardonnay. There is a very subtle sesame oil flavor (oak) on the front palate that follows through with a textured balance of white peach, white grape and apricot on the finish. We all thought that this was an exceptional chardonnay. When we first tasted it we would have been required to price it at $26 - $28. At $16.00 this is a train robbery.
Next up was the Vintager Cabernet Sauvignon. Again, when we first tasted the wine I thought ‘wow’. This is a 2008 classic Cabernet from California, but I have to price it at $36.00. At the time I already had a bunch of mid $30 Cabernet but I really would have liked to include this. Problem is, selling a private label wine – i.e. A wine that has been sourced from other vineyards and sent to a custom crush facility to be bottled under the label of a distributor, even if the wine is very, very good, I feel that I have to inform the customer of the wines provenance and I don’t think selling it at $36 is quite fair. This wine is very, very good. It has that aged nose of cedar plank and incense, on the palate it has a little prune, some roasted fig, touch of balsamic for acidity and plenty of rich dark fruit. At $16 per bottle/solid case this is an excellent table wine. Californian Cabernet at this price doesn’t get much better. And believe me, I have tried finding it for 10 years.
Today’s New Wines:
The Vintager Chardonnay. $192.00 solid case – 14-day offer. Retail price February 11 $264.00 case
The Vintager Cabernet. $192.00 solid case – 14-day offer. Retail price February 11 $288.00 case.
With over 3,500 different varieties of grapes it’s hardly surprising that there is so much good wine in Italy. Hardly surprising that there is so much bad wine too – but that tends to be in the bracket of what I call “plonk”. Bear in mind that Sicily produces more wine than any other region in Italy and possibly more wine than the entire rest of Italy (if you believe certain statistics). It contributes enormously to the plonk wine lake that enshrouds the less expensive wines of this country. In researching the wines of Abruzzi I was drawn to comments made by a select few critics that ranged from: ‘Despite such ample provision, an emphasis on quantity rendered it the most exported DOC wine—as well as one of the most lacking in distinction.’ And: ‘One may naturally assume that Abruzzo is inherently deficient, lacking the essential elements necessary to support quality wine production.’
Not a great start when being offered a sample of a Montepulciano D’Abruzzo. But is became very evident that this was a wine that had slipped through the gaps of mediocrity and was well placed to win best in class. Fiamme Montepulciano D’Abruzzo Reserva 2012. It has all the hallmarks of what once can expect from Abruzzi wines – plenty of dark fruit, soft tannins, and fleshy roundness. But it was the balance of all elements that drew me to the wine. Lovely ripe berries, integrated tannin and acidity, deftness of cedar and oak and a full body that didn’t drown you in neutrality. This is a great every day wine, made even better when purchased by the case with a 15% discount!
Bottle price: $15.00
Case price (solid): $12.75/$153.
15% Offer ends: February 5, 2016