New Wine - La Casacchia

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.

An Oregon Taste Off

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!

Tasting Notes:

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.

The Offering

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

New Wine - Vintager Cabernet & Vintager Chardonnay

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.

New Wine: Fiamme Montepulciano D'Abruzzo Riserva 2012

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

Wishing You All a Very Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year

From all of us at Wine at Five we wish you all good tidings for Christmas and may we all be a little bit wiser than we were this year in the next. We hope that success follows you through 2016 and we shall continue to appreciate all that our customers are to us. We shall make 2016 and even better year of wine and laughter, good food and good friends.

Thank you for being our customers and our friends.

Rocca di Castagnoli vs. Breakfast Burrito

Last week I was visited by a wine-maker from the Chianti Classico region of Tuscany. Honestly, I didn’t think I could expand our Chianti portfolio but the wine rep promised breakfast and who can refuse such an offer. What happened to the breakfast I have no idea but fortunately I was introduced to the wines of Rocca di Castagnoli. And dare I say it they were better than what might have passed as breakfast!

A Vindaloo Summer

So this is what an ‘Indian Summer’ is in America! Vindaloo on steroids! Personally I hate it – 3 shirt changes per day, constantly sweaty, walking in and out of air-conditioning and my hair? God, what a mess. Only thing I look forward to is a very sensible, English sized glass of wine – we call them pints over there. So I’ve been drinking a lot. And the more wine I ‘sip’ the less inclined I am to either go outside or remember how piss awful it is outside. There’s a moral there somewhere.

McKinlay Pinot Noir

McKinlay Pinot Noir

The summer isn’t the best time necessarily to be tasting a lot of new wines. Traffic is typically slow with parents away paddling on beaches and kids sidling up to the Tiki Bar (or is it the other way round?). And historically Rye becomes a very sleepy town. But I had the opportunity earlier this week to try some new Oregon Pinot Noirs and really, who can say no to an offer like that? One in particular caught my fancy.