Eric Solomon Selections 

Selections from European Cellars

As an importer, Eric Solomon is a champion of indigenous varieties and lesser-known appellations with a knack for discovering seriously delicious wines – including many selections where Grenache plays a major role. Eric continues to seek out “the next big thing” and uncover the many treasures that lay hidden in the European landscape. His portfolio of wines is distributed by Maverick here in Chicago and I had an opportunity to taste through a few selections from his book with Mark Lindzy of European Cellars. Founded in 1989, European Cellars is an importer of wines from France, Spain, and Portugal.

2008 Gramona Gran Cuvee Cava -- San Sadurní d’Anoia, the birthplace of Cava, lies in the Alt-Penedès. Jose Raventós of Codorníu introduced método tradicional sparkling winemaking to Spain in 1872. Cava wines require less time on the lees than Champagne: nine months for basic bottlings, fifteen months for reserva, and thirty months for gran reserva.  Bottles of Cava can always be spotted by the mark of a four-pointed star imprinted on the cork. The Batlle Family has been making wines since 1881. Gramona ages all their Cavas for a minimum of 18 months, and an average of 4 years. The Gran Cuvee is Gramona’s entry-level wine and is made from equal parts Xarel.lo, Macabeo and Chardonnay and aged between 24 and 30 months. Pale straw color. Aromas of caramel, green apple, lightly toasted brioche. Moderate+acidity on the palate with tangy green apple, lemon curd and buttered biscuits. High quality for the price and it’s vintage dated.

2010 Jean-Paul and Benoit Droin Chablis Villages
– Benoit is the 14th generation of Droins, whose history as winemakers goes back to at least 1620. Benoit’s father put the domaine on the map but Benoit runs a more sophisticated operation from a large modern winery. In the cellar, Benoit moved away from his father’s preference for new oak and wines such as the village level Chablis are fermented and matured in tank. Benoit may employ the use of oak in select premier and grand cru wines. Pale gold color. Aromas of yellow apples, tangy lemon curd, limestone and oatmeal, fresh and clean on the palate with moderate+acidity and a crushed mineral finish. Perfect wine for a clambake!

2011 Pazo Senorans Albarino, Rias Baixas, Spain -- Records indicate the Pazo de Senorans dates back to the 16th century. Now converted into a winery, the mansion is a magnificent example of those ancestral Galician houses built in the countryside.  Marisol Bueno and Javier Mareque bought this estate in 1979, which already had vineyards planted with the Albariño grape variety. Marisol Bueno is the true pioneer and force of this young appellation. Through her work, the DO was created in 1988, quality thresholds were introduced, and the region began to receive wider worldwide recognition. Three production areas make up the Rias Baixas and the largest is the Val do Salnes sub-zone which is where the Albarino grapes for this wine are grown. Located northwest of Pontevedra, this is where the newer styles of Albarino were pioneered. Pure Albarino wines bear the name of the grape and wine designated as Val do Salnes must be a minimum of 70% Albarino. Pale straw color. Aromas of white flowers, peaches, apricots and grapefruit. Moderate+acidity, fresh yellow apple flavors with a slight pithy bitter finish. It would be excellent with a grapefruit and radicchio salad or a shellfish platter.

2010 Rafael Palacios "Louro do Bolo" Valeorras, Spain -- Rafael Palacios began his wine project in Valdeorras in 2004, purchasing mature vineyards of the indigenous Godello variety from older local growers. His previous experience in the area as a consultant had motivated him to try and recuperate the unique sub-zone of the Bibei Valley in the Municipality of O Bolo. Valdeorras (Golden Valley) is the furthest inland of Galicia’s DO Zones and is the most continental in terms of climate – hot summers, longer autumns and colder winters. The nature of the Godello grape has shown itself to be a good performer under these circumstances. This predominately Godello-based wine was named “Louro do Bolo” after the vineyard district that the grapes were sourced from. Pale gold color. Aromas of grilled pineapple, vanilla, nutmeg, lees and menthol. Five months of barrel aging imparts the wine with a Meursault like nuttiness, moderate+acidity on the palate, slight mintiness with a bright, fresh but rich texture. 

2011 Bodegas Mustiguillo "Mestis" Blanco VdT, El Terrerazo, Spain -- This small, charming winery was built on the site of a former stable and has become the star of the Utiel-Requena.  In September of 2010, Bodegas Mustiguillo became Valencia's first winery with the 'Vino de Pago' designation - and one of only eleven in the entire country. Mustiguillo is unique in its quest to “rescue” the indigenous Bobal variety, a grape known primarily for rose production, but when handled carefully, can produce reds of remarkable quality. Now the quest is to rescue another one of the indigenous grapes, Merseguera. Merseguera is planted in Valencia and is a mainstay of the Levant. The best examples have pleasant fruit with a little herbiness on the nose. This is a blend of 70% Merseguera, 25% Malvasia and 5% Viognier. Pale straw color. The Malvasia component really comes through with aromas of geraniums, mix of tropical fruits and interesting floral notes. Moderate+acidity, it’s fresh and clean on the palate.

2011 Michel Gassier Cercius Blanc, France
-- On the southern edge of the Rhone Valley near the ancient city of Nimes, the legendary mistral winds of Provence sweep over the vines and out to the Mediterranean Sea. The Latin name for these north-northwest winds is CERCIUS – the defining feature and raison d’etre for partners Michel Gassier, Philippe Cambie and Eric Solomon to launch this new project. Made from a blend of 70% Grenache Blanc, 30% Sauvignon Blanc from 25 old vines. Pale straw color. Aromas of green apples, yellow apple skin and honey. Moderate + acidity, slight bitterness on palate. Sauvignon Blanc qualities define the overall fresh structure and flavor. Region is very close to the sea and seafood would be an ideal pairing.

2010 Domaine Roche Cotes du Rhone Cairanne
-- Romain Roche (around 30 years old) has inherited the historic 15 ha domaine of his parents. Like many young emerging growers his parents sold all the grapes to the famous negoce. 2009 is his first vintage bottled for his domaine under the watchful tutelage of Philippe Cambie. The vineyards are between 40 and 105 years old with an average age of 60 years. 70%Grenache, 30% Syrah from 60+yr old vines. Red plum color, pink rim. Aromas of black fruits, white pepper and dried Provencale herbs. Clean, fleshy and juicy on the palate. Moderate plus grippy tannins and moderate acidity. Lots of blue fruits on the palate. Cairanne is one of the best Cotes-du-Rhone Villages.

2010 Domaine La Garrigue Vacqueyras
-- Domaine La Garrigue takes its name from the wild herbe de Provence and ground cover of Provence called Garrigue, a familiar scent often captured in their bottlings.. 80% Grenache 10% Syrah 5% Mourvedre 5% Cinsault from 70+ year old vines. Black plum color, pink rim. Aromas of animal, leather, black fruits and dried herbs. Juicy on the palate with additional notes of animal, game leather, dried herbs and sweaty saddle.

2008 Jimenez-Landi Pielago Mentrida -- José Benavides Jiménez-Landi and Daniel Gómez Jiménez-Landi were raised among concrete tanks and old press machines. At the age of 27 they both decided to dedicate their lives exclusively to wine, and in 2004 they restored the old winery introducing new technologies and machinery with the single target of producing maximum possible quality, based in respect to environment and tradition. Mentrida is located south west of Madrid in the Castilla La Mancha. Over-strength and tired wines destined for the bulk blending market were traditional in the region but newer winemakers such as Benavides and Landi are helping to turn this image around. 100% Garnacha (Biodynamic). Dark port color. Aromas of black cherries, figs, raisins and ripasso from Italy. Shockingly high in acid on the palate with moderate+grippy tannins, black fruits, cocoa, raspberry liqueur and chocolate covered cherries. This is a very intense and intriguing wine.

2010 Casa Castillo Monastrell, Jumilla, Spain
-- In 1941, Mr. Jose Sanchez-Cerezo acquired the “Propiedad Viticola Casa Castillo” for development of rosemary. In the property was a winery built in 1870 by the French when phylloxera forced them out of their vineyards in France (Jumilla is one of the few places in Spain that successfully resisted the infestation of phylloxera, hence making it an ideal place for this new winery). In 1985, the second generation of the family revived the property with the reconstruction of the vineyard and with the introduction of new varieties. The first wine was launched to the market in 1993. Red plum color, pink rim. Slight funkiness in the nose with aromas of juicy red fruits and spiced figs. Refreshing acidity on the palate, juicy fruit, easy to drink.

2009 Capcanes Costers del Gravet, Montsant -- The name Costers del Gravet translates to “slopes of Gravet,” referring to the sloped vineyards located in Gravet that were selected for this wine. Blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Garnacha, 10% Carinena from 30-60 year old vines. Black plum color, ruby rim. Aromas of mint, menthol, tangy red fruits and crushed minerals. Flavors of red plums, slight leather component, animal and licorice. Moderate acidity, moderate+ grippy tannins. Montsant is located in Tarragona and is often sold as “baby Priorat” since it surrounds that region, producing wines from many of the same grapes and styles. These wines have less pedigree and are considerably more affordable than Priorat.

2007 Izadi Rioja Reserva -- Located in Rioja Alavesa, Izadi aims to produce wines that express the character of the local varieties. The Anton Family founded Izadi in 1987 after years of running vineyards in Villabuena de Alaba. The Antons also own a one star Michelin Restaurant (Zaldiaran) in the hamlet of Vitoria. The word Izadi means Nature. Made from 100% Tempranillo. Red plum color with garnet rim. Aromas of black cherries toasted coconut, dried herbs and American cheese. Moderate acidity on the palate, moderate+tannins, flavors of juicy red fruits.

2011 Gramona Gessami Penedes
-- made from a blend of 40% Sauvignon Blanc 35% Muscat d’Frontignan 15% Muscat d’Alexandria and 10% Gewürztraminer. Pale straw color. Aromas Juicy Fruit gum, green apples and white flowers. Bone dry on the palate, mango iced tea, moderate+acidity. Very fresh and floral.


Cream Rises to the Top 

My cell phone instantly autocorrects Andy Pates to Andy Pâtés because even it knows how cool Andy and his team at Cream are. It senses we’re dealing with a bon vivant who champions all things delicious in life and demands a more honorable spelling.  

Andy and his partners founded Cream Wine in 2001 and over the last decade have grown the company into one of the nation’s leading artisan wine, spirits and sake distributors and marketers. The Boarding House will be working extensively with Cream simply because I really like their wines and they’re a fabulous group of people to do business with. Good people make good wine and nice people sell nice wine.  Sometimes, it’s really that simple.

I recently sat down with Portfolio Manager Shane Salois, On Premise Sales Manager Dan Fullick and Sales Associate Erin Drain (during her first week with Cream) for tasting of a few items from their portfolio. Here are my tasting notes with certainly more to come….

NV Barmès Buecher Cremant D'Alsace, France --  Julen Dopff (1875-1972) was the pioneer of quality sparkling wines in Alsace. Through his lifelong friendship with the Heidsieck family of Champagne, he became familiar with the production of sparkling wines and eventually decided to produce them in Alsace. It wasn’t until the 1980’s that sparkling wine became a viable commodity in the region. The domaine Barmès Buecher was founded in 1985 (biodynamic since 1998) and is run by Geneviève Barmès. This blend of Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay is bottled with zero dosage. The grapes are harvested at 13% potential alcohol but the fermentation is arrested at around 11.7% alcohol and 22 grams/liter residual sugar. Thereafter, the second fermentation (on bottle) is started using the natural fructose, leaving enough sugar to cover up for the dosage. Pale straw color. Fresh and lively mousse with aromas of green apples, orange zest and toasted brioch. Moderate+acid acidity on the palate with additional flavors of lemon peel and candied orange zest.

2011 Michel Delhommeau Muscadet St. Vincent, Loire Valley -- Michel & Nathalie Delhommeau farm 28 hectares of vines planted on almost pure rock in the village of Monnières. The rocky gabbro soils that dominate the region is essentially formed from molten lava. To identify the terroir of his vineyards, Michel vinifies only by soil type, separates tanks out by vine age, and keeps volumes quite low. Pale straw color with green hues. Aromas of green apples, crushed rocks and lemon rind. Fresh and juicy on the palate with moderate+ acidity and fruit components reminiscent of a vibrant Sauvignon Blanc.

2011 Domaine Pajot Les Quatre Cepages, Cotes de Gascogne
-- The Cotes de Gascogne designation is used for vin de pays wines produced in the Armagnac region located in the southwestern portion of France. The Barreau family has run Domaine de Pajot for three generations, and today, Damien Barreau is the present manager. Eighty acres of vineyards are farmed naturally with plantings of Colombard, Ugni-Blanc, Gros-Manseng and Sauvignon Blanc as well as Merlot and Cabernet red grapes. The quatre or four grapes for this blend are: Ugni Blanc, Colombard, Gros Manseng and Sauvignon Blanc. Pale gold color. Most of the wines that I’ve had from this region are quaffable but forgettable but this actually shows some aroma and flavor. Aromas of tropical fruits, crushed minerals, green herbs and lemon verbena. Palate shows high acidity with flavors lime zest and fresh basil.

2011 Foucher-Lebrun Le Mont Sancerre, France -- A négociant, Fourcher-Lebrun was founded by Paulin Lebrun in the 1920's, selling non-bottled wines to cafés and restaurants. Son in law Raymond Foucher came aboard in the 50's. It wasn't until 2009 that a new partner, rare wine broker Jean Mounard, started sourcing from highly select plots in the Loire, that they started producing steely Sancerres like Le Mont. Pale straw color with green hues. Clean nose with hints of tropical fruits, limestone and citrus zest. Palate shows moderate+acidity, crushed minerals and a fresh and clean finish.

2010 Domaines de Pattes Loup Chablis, France --  Proprietor Thomas Pico owns five hectares of vineyards and purchases additional fruit from vineyards owned by his father but that Pico farms himself, all in Courgis and Chablis itself. He began a program of strict yield control and a conversion to biodynamic viticulture—a rarity in Chablis. His Chablis AC, from 55+-year-old vines, is fermented in about 30-40% in concrete egg-shaped fermenters with the balance in stainless steel. Pattes Loup means "wolf's paws".  Pale gold color. This is not your typical Chablis with more tropical driven fruit in the nose and juiciness on the palate. Aromas of lemon curd, oatmeal and slight chalky minerality. Fruit is very focused on the palate with flavors of orange zest, yellow apples and a slight nutty oxidative note on the finish. Moderate acid. Excited to try his Beauregard and Montmain. 

2011 Bieler Pere et Fils Sabine Coteaux d'Aix en Provence
-- In 1992 Philippe Bieler founded Chateau Routas in Coteaux Varois – a small appellation in the middle of Provence. In 2005, his children, Charles and Mira took over the winery and started Bieler Père et Fils with an emphasis on Rose. They felt that the Coteaux d'Aix en Provence appellation was even more suited to the type of rosé they wanted to make so they zeroed in there. The Bielers work closely with a group of seven growers with vineyards in the hills surrounding the city of Aix en Provence. The wines are made just outside of Aix en Provence in a custom crush winery. Charles is also the driving force behind Gotham Wine, a project that bottles and sells wine in kegs to restaurants. The Sabine is made from a blend of 50% syrah, 30% Grenache, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Cinsault. Pale blush in color. Aromas of watermelons, raspberries, juicy strawberries and fruity bubblegum. Palate shows moderate acidity with additional flavors of Provencale herbs and tangy grapefruit.

NV Eric Bordelet Poire Authentique, Normandy
-- Formerly the sommelier at one of Paris' most famous Michelin 3-star restaurants (Arpege), Eric Bordelet was encouraged by his good friend Didier Dageneau to pursue his dream of making world-class cider in his native Normandy. There are some 100 varieties of apples on the farm and a small orchard of pear trees planted around 1700. 85% of the types of apples in the base cuvee come from heirloom or antique apple trees. The orchards are farmed organically and biodynamically, and Eric believes that this is the regimen, which produces the best fruit for ciders. Over 20 different varieties of pears are used for the Authentique. Pale gold color. Aromas of pears, quince and almond cake. Dry on the palate with pleasant fizziness, at 4% alcohol, finishes dry. Eric’s Granit bottling is made from Tiny pears from 300-year-old pear trees some 20 meters high which have never seen a drop of chemicals. The Sidre Doux is produced from up to 100 different varieties of apples.

2011 Seven Hills Pinot Gris, Oregon -- Casey McClellan cultivated his interest in wines while planting the first block of Seven Hills Vineyard in the early 1980's. In 1988, Casey returned to the Walla Walla Valley to join the vineyard's founding partners in establishing Seven Hills Winery. The Pinot Gris was sourced from the Melrose Vineyard in Umpqua Valley. Pale straw color. Aromas of peaches and melond. Fresh and lively on the palate with moderate+acid, peach pit, hint of smoke and dry on the finish. Would be nice with salmon with a butter sauce.

2010 Palmina Pinot Grigio, Santa Barbara -- In 1995, Steve met Greg Brewer and formed the partnership that has become Brewer-Clifton, a winery solely devoted to vineyard-designate Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from the Santa Rita Hills appellation. While tasting many wines, he realized the immense similarities between his favorite Barolos and Barbarescos and the red Burgundies. Palmina is a passion project devoted to producing exclusively Italian varietal wines. Straw gold color. Aromas of yellow apples, honey, quince and green pears. Moderate+acidity on the palate with fresh clean yellow apple flavors. More of a Friulian style with more texture and weight.

2010 Abeja Chardonnay, Washington State
-- John Abbott was the winemaker for Canoe Ridge for a decade but moved on to pursue winemaking on a more personal scale. Abbott's quest matched up nicely with Ken Harrison's own plans for a new winery (and B&B) just outside of Walla Walla. Ken and Ginger Harrison, John Abbott and Molly Galt formed their business partnership in 2002, dedicating themselves to producing largely estate-grown wines at the property now called Abeja, which is Spanish for “bee”. 2010 was an exceptionally cool year. Pale gold color. Aromas of buttered apples, lemon custard, slight nutty component. Moderate acidity on the palate, well-integrated spice notes from the oak, flavors of quince, yellow apples, cloves and nutmeg. Well-balanced. Look forward to trying their Cabernet Sauvignon.

2010 Verdad Albarino Sawyer Lindquist, Santa Ynez Valley
-- Verdad (a project by Bob Lindquist and Louisa Sawyer Lindquist of Qupe fame) is devoted to making Spanish grape varietal wines. There are two primary vineyards that Verdad sources from. The Ibarra-Young Vineyard in Santa Ynez Valley, which is organically farmed and the Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard in Edna Valley, which is Demeter Certified Biodynamic. Pale gold color. Fruit forward aromas of peaches, apricots, honey and tropical pineapples and mangos. Slight residual sugar on the palate, moderate acidity with juicy tropical fruit and tangerine flavors.

2010 Melville Estate Pinot Noir Santa Rita Hills
-- In 1989, Melville Vineyards, a family owned and operated enterprise was founded in Sonoma County's Knights Valley. In 1996, Ron Melville’s desire to grow Pinot Noir and Chardonnay brought Melville Vineyards and his sons Chad and Brent, to Lompoc's Santa Rita Hills appellation, located in the western Santa Ynez Valley of Santa Barbara County, California. Since then, they have also developed an interest in Rhone varietals, particularly Northern Rhone Syrah and Viognier. Greg Brewer of Brewer-Clifton is their winemaker.  Black cherry color, pink rim. Aromas of sweet cherry pie filling, cola, cloves, sasparilla and floral notes. Moderate acidity, moderate tannins on the palate with flavors of red cherries, macerated raspberries and baking spice. Always a solid choice for Pinot Noir.

2010 Robert Talbott Pinot Noir Sleepy Hollow Vineyard, Monterey
-- Talbott Vineyards is another well-known wine name around town in Monterey. Talbott’s Sleepy Hollow Vineyard in the Santa Lucia Highlands has become legendary for its Chardonnays. The winery was founded by Robb Talbott in 1982 and the first release of Chardonnay was in 1983 from their Diamond T Estate vineyard in Carmel Valley. In 1994, the Talbotts acquired the Sleepy Hollow Vineyard and the property became the home to the winery’s current winery. Wine maker Dan Karlsen took over for Sam Balderas, who retired in March 2008. Dan began his career in 1980 at Dry Creek Vineyard and has worked at Dehlinger Winery, and later as the winemaker for Domaine Carneros. In 1998, Dan became the winemaker and general manager for Chalone Winery, where he worked until 2007. Black cherry color. Aromas of sweet cherries, red plums and ripe raspberries with notes of baking spices. Moderate acid, low tannins with ripe cherry fruit flavors and vanilla on the palate.

2008 Tamarack Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley
-- Founded in 1998 by Ron and Jamie Coleman, Tamarack Cellars is dedicated to the production of small lot, hand-crafted wines from select vineyards in the Walla Walla Valley, Yakima Valley, Red Mountain and Columbia Valley appellations. The winery is located in a restored WW II fire station and barracks at the Walla Walla Airport Complex. Production began in 1998 and is currently up to 5800 cases of the 2001 vintage. Blueberry fruit, inky structure. Made from a blend of AVA’s in Columbia Valley. Black plum color, maroon edge. Aromas of blackberry fruits, cedar and spice. Concentrated on the palate with inky blueberry fruit flavors. Moderate+tannins, moderate acidity. Intense, fruit driven and rich – reminds me of a baby Quilceda Creek.

2009 Ransom Grenache Pheasant Hill, Rogue Valley, Oregon
-- Ransom Wines & Spirits, founded by Tad Seestedt in 1997, is an artisan winery and distillery located in McMinnville, Oregon. Tad sources fruit from organic, sustainable and biodynamic vineyards mostly in the Eola Hills AVA to produce small batches of site-specific wines. This is interesting considering you don’t see many Grenache based wines out of Oregon but the folks at Ransom believe the warm to hot summers in the Rogue Valley are ideally suited to this varietal and predict, Grenache will become a hallmark varietal of the southern part of the state. Red cherry golor, red to garnet rim. Aromas of eucalyptus, menthol, fresh mint and raspberries. Moderate acidity on the palate, moderate tannins with additional flavors of minted raspberries and strawberries.

2010 Dashe Cellars Les Enfants Terribles, Heart Arrow Vineyard, Zinfandel, Mendocino -- - Dashe Cellars is a family-run artisan winery founded in 1996 by the husband and wife winemaking team of Michael and Anne Dashe. They share their experience and insights gained from top wineries such as Chappellet, Seavey Vineyards, Ridge Vineyards, Far Niente, Schramsberg and RWS Brandy Distillery, plus Château La Dominique in Saint-Emilion. Les Enfants Terribles (the "Wild Children") series was named as such because of the way the grapes are grown, and the techniques used to make this wine—fermented with the native yeasts on the grapes; aged in older French oak barrels; unfined and unfiltered; and bottled with low SO2 levels. Red cherry color, pink rim. Bright raspberry and strawberry aromas with notes of clove spice. Juicy on the palate with moderate acidity and moderate tannins. Would be a fun wine to pair with Vietnamese food.

2008 Matin Calme Sans Temps, France -- Domaine Matin Calme was started by husband and wife team Véronique Souloy and Anthony Guix in 2006 when they bought an extraordinary vineyard of Carignan and Grenache Noir vines that are more than 100 years old around Belesta in Roussillon. The wine is never pumped and the fermentation is completed with only the natural yeasts. There is no SO2 used in the fermentation process of the wines and in some vintages, like the 2008, there is no SO2 used to stabilize them. The yield is very, very small at 20 hl/ha and there is no fining or filtration whatsoever. They are firm believers in the value of bottle age especially for natural wines, which is why their youngest style wine is released just now. 100% Carginane. Black plum color, orange garnet rim. Aromas of manure, leather, animal, black fruits, hoisin and five-spice powder. Moderate+acidity and moderate+tannins on the palate with additional flavors of animal, sweaty saddle, game and leather.

2010 K Vintners Milbrandt Syrah Wahluke Slope -- Located at the base of the Blue Mountains in Walla Walla Washington, K Vintners opened its doors to the public on December 3rd, 2001. The property where the winery sits was homesteaded in 1853 with the adjacent farmhouse built in 1872. In 1997 Butch and Jerry Milbrandt planted their first grapevines in Eastern Washington’s Columbia Valley AVA. Blue-black color. Aromas of black plums, smoke, blueberries and vanilla. Moderate acidity, moderate+tannins, concentrated flavors of blue fruits and smoke. Inky.

2010 Chateau de Saint Cosme Gigondas, France -- Chateau de Saint Cosme is the oldest estate in Gigondas with its Gallo-Roman fermentation vats perfectly preserved. The property has been in winemaker and owner Louis Barroul’s family since 1490. Bend of 60% Grenache / 20% Syrah / 18% Mourvèdre / 2% Cinsault. Red plum color with pink rim. Grenache heavy aromas of black pepper, raspberries, white pepper, and strawberries. Fleshy on the palate with flavors of red plums and white pepper. Moderate acidity, moderate tannins. Interested to try the Valbelle bottling made from 80-year old vines.

2007 Bonny Doon Le Cigare Volant, California -- Randall Grahm was born in Los Angeles in 1953 and attended the prestigious University of California at Santa Cruz where he majored in Liberal Arts major. With his family's assistance, Randall purchased property in the Santa Cruz Mountains in an area known as Bonny Doon with the original intention to make Pinot Noir. Randall soon began experimenting with Rhone varietals and confirmed that California's temperate climate is well suited to the sun-loving grapes of the Mediterranean. Inspired by the style of wine made in the French city of Chateauneuf-du-pape, California winery Bonny Doon, has decided to honor the town by naming their wine after an interesting chapter in the city’s past involving UFOs. Starting in late 1954 people throughout France began reporting UFO sightings. The sightings were popularized by heavy media attention, and became a concern for the citizens of France. The most common shape of the crafts reported were cigar shaped, called “Cigare Volant” in France, meaning flying cigar. Although there were no sighting reports from Chateauneuf-du-Pape in the press, the people of the town were so concerned by the sightings and the effects the UFOs may have on their wine, that the mayor banned the UFOs from landing in their vineyards. The town’s controversial decision made the news of several French papers of the time.Made from a blend of 60% Grenache / 32% Syrah / 4% Mourvèdre / 4% Cinsault. Red plum color, garnet rim. Aromas of wild raspberries, chamomile tea, lavender, Provencale herbs, tobacco, spice and macerated stewed strawberries. Juicy on the palate with notes of bright juicy red fruits and spice. Moderate + acid, moderate tannins with firm structure. The 08 Cigare Volant was made in demi-johns which I’m really excited to try.

2010 Villa Creek High Willow Creek Cuvee, Paso Robles –- Villa Creek Cellars was founded in 2001 by Cris and JoAnn Cherry. The Cherry's goal was to harness the extreme terroirs of the west side of Paso Robles. As owner and wine director of Villa Creek Restaurant, Cris created a diverse list featuring fine boutique producers from around the globe. This global influence has helped to shape wines he creates at. JoAnn designs the labels that characterize what goes into the bottle. 60% Grenache / 20% Syrah / 20% Mourvedre. This is crazy good! Black plum color. Ripe and raisinated fruit notes. Reminds me of a highly concentrated Zinfandel with a firm structure. It’s 15% alcohol but you don’t feel a burn. Would be perfect for braised dishes, pork buns or game with a fruit sauce. Really nice wine!



The Heritage of Wine 

As I was scheduling meetings with my wine sales reps for The Boarding House, it dawned on me that I’ve been really lucky to have a surprising number of the same people call on me for the past decade. They’ve seen the evolution of my palate, they know what types of wines get me excited and more importantly, we’ve become really good friends over the years. Danny Klieman from Heritage Wine Cellars has been calling on me since my days at Everest and I just absolutely adore him. He has a tremendous amount of passion for the wines he represents, and more often than not, his infectious enthusiasm is well warranted.

I’ve had a number of meetings with Danny but the following is what we tasting during round one for The Boarding House:

NV Adami Garbèl Prosecco DOC, Treviso, Italy -- the late Adriano Adami followed his father into winemaking and his sons have gone on to do the same. Brothers Armando and Franco are both trained oenologists making Prosecco in the Valdobbiadene zone of the eastern Veneto. The Adami family have owned their vineyards here since 1920.  Franco Adami was the former president of the consortium of producers that is responsible for creating and administering the D.O.C.G. regulations. They make several types of Prosecco including single cru bottlings of Cartizze and Vigneto Giardino but the Garbèl is their entry-level style. Garbèl in the ancient local dialect means "crisp and dry". With close to 13 g/l of residual sugar, this is slightly off dry with notes of peaches, melons and fresh apples. Moderate+acidity, soft mousse and pleasant peach fruit driven finish.

2011 Palliser Estate Sauvignon Blanc, Martinborough, New Zealand -- Situated just 1.5 hours drive from Wellington, New Zealand’s capital city, Martinborough is perfect for day trips to Wairarapa wine country. Martinborough was established in 1879 and was named after farmer, John Martin. Wairarapa consists of three sub-regions - Martinborough, Gladstone and Masterton but Martinborough is the most established and most widely recognized. The entire region is defined by the western Tararua Range and the Ruamahunga River, which runs through all three regions, starting in the north in Masterton, through Gladstone and continuing past Martinborough. Palliser Estate was part of the first wave of wineries to become established in the winegrowing region of Martinborough, with their first plantings in 1984. Since 1991 winemaker and vineyard manager Allan Johnson has taken a very holistic approach with his winemaking style. Palliser was the first in the area to receive ISO status for their environmental management. This includes controlling winery waste, ensuring packaging materials are recyclable and promoting sustainable methods of pest management and weed control. Pale straw color with hints of green. Aromas of tomato leaf, passion fruit, grapefruit, bell pepper and green herbs. Flavors of passion fruit, lime zest and crushed minerals on the palate with moderate+acid, lively, fresh, clean finish.

2011 Pewsey Vale Vineyard Riesling, Eden Valley Australia
-- High in the hills surrounding the Barossa Valley lies Pewsey Vale, Eden Valley's first vineyard. In 1847, its founder Englishman Joseph Gilbert planted a one-acre vineyard, the first in Eden Valley and one of Australia's first high altitude, cool climate vineyards.  The cooler temperatures found at this height encourage a longer ripening period which extends well into autumn. Louisa Rosa is the Pewsey Vale wine maker as well as being responsible for all the white wines in the Yalumba portfolio. This is a classic example of dry Eden Valley Riesling. Pale straw color with green hues, aromas of lemon-lime fruit, minerals, white flowers and herbs. The palate is dry with flavors of lime, citrus fruit and limey minerals on the finish. Moderate+ to high acidity.

2010 Santa Barbara Chardonnay, Santa Barbara
-- Owner Pierre Lafond has the distinction of starting Santa Barbara Winery in 1962, the first post-Prohibition winery in the county. In 1998 construction began on Lafond Winery, with son David Lafond as general contractor and Pierre Lafond as Architect. Winemaker Bruce McGuire has been with the family since 1981. For this Chardonnay, McGuire sourced fruit from six different vineyards throughout western Santa Barbara County. Pale gold color, nose shows lemon custard, baked apples, and quince. Well-balanced on the palate with moderate acidity, tropical fruits but not a lot of nuttiness.

2009 Molnar Family Wines Poseiden’s Vineyard Chardonnay, Carneros -- Nicholas Molnar “discovered” Napa Valley in the late 1960’s and was immediately reminded of his homeland in Hungary (from which he had just managed to escape Communist rule in 1956). He began buying land and developing vineyards throughout Napa Valley. In 1973, he developed Poseidon's Vineyard, in the Carneros appellation of Napa. For over 30 years they have been supplying grapes to wineries such as Joseph Phelps, Heitz Cellars, Sterling, Pride Mountain, Acacia, and Mumm Napa Valley. In 2003, Nicholas’ sons teamed up with wine maker Michael Terrien, formerly of Acacia and Hanzell, to produce Molnar Family Wines. Pale gold color, aromas of caramel, butterscotch, vanilla, lemons and baking spice. Moderate acid on the palate, soft and creamy texture, clove spice and lemons on the finish. Aged in 100% Kádár Tokaj oak.

2009 Flowers Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast -- Flowers was founded by nursery owners Walt and Joan Flowers as a way to combine their love of wine with their passion for agriculture. They found their property through a three-line classified ad in Wine Spectator before the region became well known for Pinot Noir. In 1989 Walt and Joan purchased 321 acres, including a ridge top, high above the Pacific Ocean on the northern Sonoma Coast and became pioneers in the area. They planted a vineyard and originally sold grapes to Kistler before starting their own winery in 1994. Today, Flowers Winery produces Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from its two estate properties, Camp Meeting Ridge Vineyard and Sea View Ridge Vineyard, as well as select vineyards in the coolest regions of the Sonoma Coast AVA.  In 2009, the winery formed a partnership with Huneeus Vintners, owner of Quintessa in Napa Valley and Veramonte in Chile. I’ve always been a huge fan of Flowers and featured them on my wine list at Everest but I recall the Chardonnay was vastly different back then. This is much leaner and more mineral driven on the palate with less butter and oak. Pale gold color, notes of pineapple, apples, quince and spice. Palate shows moderate+acid, lemon curd and slight hazelnut notes with a bright and vibrant finish.

2010 Vasse Felix Chardonnay Margaret River, Australia -- Founded in the mid-1960’s, Vasse Felix was the first commercial vineyard and winery to be established in the Margaret River region of Western Australia. Margaret River is positioned on a cape, where it is surrounded by ocean on three sides. The natural sea breeze and current systems from the Indian and Southern oceans help regulate the seasonal temperatures, reducing extreme cold and heat within the vineyards. Winemaking at Vasse Felix is led by Chief Winemaker Virginia Willcock. Pale gold color with green hues. Nose shows lime zest, tart green apples and mineral. Palate is fresh and zippy with a light and lean texture. Flavors of apples, limes, minearals and moderate+acidity.

2009 Paraiso Santa Lucia Pinot Noir, Monterey -- Coming from Monterey, Paraiso was a well known name around town. The vineyard and winery are owned by the Smith Family who have been grape farmers in Monterey for over 30 years. Paraiso’s 400-acre estate vineyard lies at the southern end of the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA in Monterey County, California. Winegrape pioneers of the region, Rich and and his wife Claudia Smith began planting this property in 1973. Today, Rich and his son Jason manage almost 150,000 vines in 16 different blocks. Black cherry color, garnet edge. Aromas of black cherries, licorice, baking spice and a slight vegetal note. Juicy palate shows moderate acidity, low tannins and flavors of sour cherries and raspberries.

2009 Bethel Heights Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley --The property now known as Bethel Heights Vineyard was originally platted in 1909 and recorded under the name Bethel Heights Walnut Groves. A number of the original walnut trees are still flourishing around the edges of the vineyard. The first vines were planted at Bethel Heights in 1977, in the Eola Hills of Oregon’s Willamette Valley by twin brothers, Ted and Terry Casteel, and their partners, Pat Dudley and Marilyn Webb. In 1984 they produced their first commercial vintage of 3000 cases. The Bethel Heights Estate and Justice Vineyards provide the core of this blend. Black cherry color, garnet edge. Aromas of black cherries, chalky minerals and raspberries. Concentrated on the palate with moderate acidity, low-to-moderate tannins. Flavors of black cherries, plums, orange zest, spices and raspberry with a distinct chalky mineral finish.

2010 Patricia Green Estate Pinot Noir, Ribbon Ridge AVA, Oregon -- One of the most highly sought after wines in Oregon, Patricia Green Cellars almost deserves a “cult status” because of the notorious Patty Green and her partner Jim Anderson.  The winery, itself, is located in the Ribbon Ridge district of Yamhill County on the 52 acre estate purchased in 2000 by Patty and Jim. Ribbon Ridge is a sub-appellation of the Willamette Valley AVA that sits 22 miles southwest of Portland, 4 miles northwest of Dundee, and 40 miles east of the Pacific Ocean. Ribbon Ridge is contained within the larger Chehalem Mountains AVA - which is contained with the Willamette Valley AVA. Red cherry color, pink edge. Aromas of sour cherries, mushrooms and forest floor. Juicy and bright and on the palate with flavors of black cherries, raspberries and red apples. Moderate+acidy, moderate tannins showing with slight grippiness.

2010 Bodegas Triton Tridente, Mencia, Castilla Y Leon, Spain -- The Gil Family Estates initiated this project in order to preserve the natives grapes of Castilla and Leon – Tinta de Toro, Prieto Picudo and Mencia. The 50 year-old Mencia vineyards are located in the territory of Bierzo in the province of Leon. Black plum color, magenta rim. Notes of ripe raisins, figs and a Port wine like fruit forwardness. Concentrated rich fruitiness in the mouth with flavors of raisinated plums and figs. Moderate tannins, moderate acid and fleshy mouth-feel.

2011 Tablas Creek Patelin de Tablas Rouge, Paso Robles -- Tablas Creek Vineyard is the result of a decades-long friendship between the Perrin Family of Château de Beaucastel and Robert Haas longtime importer and founder of Vineyard Brands. The families created a partnership in 1985 and in 1989 purchased a 120-acre property in the hilly Las Tablas district of west Paso Robles for its similarities to Châteauneuf du Pape: limestone soils, a favorable climate, and rugged terrain. Tablas Creek is the only winery in California to produce Rhone style wines from true French cuttings. The Tablas Creek Vineyard Patelin de Tablas is a blend of four red Rhône varietals: Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre and Counoise and incorporates fruit from seven top Rhône vineyards in Paso Robles. Black cherry color, magenta rim. Flavors of black plums, black pepper, violets and spice. Moderate tannins, low to moderate acidity, fresh, juicy and quite tasty!

2009 Buil and
Giné, Giné Giné, Priorat, Spain -- The Priorat DOCa is located in the southwest of Catalonia is home to some of Spain’s richest, most concentrated red wines. Carthusian monks established a monastery or “priory” on the spot, which was called Priorat de Scala Dei, the Priory of the Staircase of God.  Garnacha and Cariñena are the traditional varietals of the region, struggling to achieve even small yields in the rock-strewn schist soils of the region. In 1996 the Buil & Giné family decided to return to wine making in Priorat. Both their grand and great-grand parents had been wine makers and merchants. In the spring of 1998 they introduced their first wine, Giné Giné 1997. The wine's name consists of their grandfathers' two last names. 40% Red Grenache & 60% Carignan. Black plum with magenta rim. Aromas of leather, tar, smoke, ink & minerals. Very concentrated on the palate with moderate acid, moderate tannins. Flavors of ripe black fruits, iron and animal but clean and not leathery.

2009 Juan Gil Monastrell, Jumilla, Spain -- Jumilla wines, produced in the northern part of Murcia, are mostly produced with the Monastrell grape. Monastrell represents over 85% of the vines planted and is the third most widely planted grape in Spain. The Juan Gil winery is located in the heart of the Jumilla country, in the middle of a stretch of land owned by the Juan Gil family. The history of Juan Gil dates back to 1916 when Juan Gil Ximénez (great grandfather of the current generation of Juan Gil) built a small cellar in the city of Jumilla. Black plum color, magenta rim. Aromas of ripe blackberries, vanilla and cloves. Slightly off dry on the palate, lush mouth filling fruit, soft and juicy texture. Low-to-moderate acid, low-to-moderate tannins.

2010 Beckmen Vineyards Cuvee Le Bec Rouge, Santa Ynez Valley -- The son of a cattle buyer, Tom Beckmen spent his childhood working on a local ranch outside of Chicago. He founded Beckmen Vineyards with his son Steve in 1994 and has focused on the cultivation of his estate vineyards including Purisima Mountain Vineyard, a world-class winegrowing site, and the source of some of North America's most highly prized Rhone varietal wines. The Cuvee Le Bec is made from a blend of 44% Syrah, 34% Grenache, 13% Mourvèdre and 9% Counoise. Red plum color, pink edge. Aromas of black plums, raspberries, black pepper & roasted beets. Moderate acidity and tannins on the palate, ripe silky black fruit flavors, dried herbs with a hint of clove.

2009 Decero Malbec, Remolinos Vineyard, Agrelo, Mendoza, Argentina -- Decero which means “from scratch” is a winery owned by Thomas Schmidheiny. I had an opportunity to visit the estate a few years ago and I can report that no expense was spared in its construction. It was glistening with modern architectural detail and shiny wine making equipment. The vineyard at the estate is named “Remolinos” after the tiny whirlwinds in the area that thread their way along the vines, keeping the grapes dry and in perfect condition. The 110 hectare estate located in the sub-region of Agrelo was planted in 2000 to Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Tannat. All the Decero wines come from this single vineyard. Black/blue color, magenta rim. Concentrated flavors of  black plums, mocha, violets, vanilla and licorice. Moderate+tannins on the palate, low acidity. Ripe and intense concentrated flavors of candied black plums and mocha but shows some restraint on the finish.

2009 Decero Cabernet Sauvignon, Remolinos Vineyard, Mendoza, Argentina -- Black plum fruit, pink rim. Black plums, blackberries, licorice and spice. Very well balanced on the palate, moderate tannins, low acidity. Flavors of dark berries and licorice. Delicious Cabernet Sauvignon, especially for the price.

2010 Errazuriz Carmenere Single Vineyard Don Maximiano Estate, Anconcagua Valley, Chile -- Don Maximiano Errázuriz founded Viña Errázuriz in 1870 in the Valle de Aconcagua, 100 kms north of the capital city, Santiago. Recognizing that this valley, was ideal for growing grapes, he became a pioneer in the region. Today, the tradition of quality lives on with Don Maximiano’s descendant, Eduardo Chadwick. Eduardo is the fifth generation of his family to be involved in the wine business. Carmenere can be overly vegetal sometimes with excessive notes of bell pepper and a smell that I can only describe as bug spray. This is one of the better Carmeneres I’ve had. Black plum color, pink edge. Slight green vegetal component but just enough to make it interesting. Palate is supported by generous ripe fruit and notes of black olives. Moderate+tannins & moderate acidity.

2009 Anheuser Schlossbockelheimer Konigsfels Riesling Kabinett, Nahe -- At the end of the 19th Century, Rudolf Anheuser became the first grower in the Nahe region to start the cultivation of vineyards planted solely with Riesling. Today, the 13th generation owns and manages the estate. And in case you’re wondering, indeed, one of the Anheusers immigrated to the States to start brewing beer in St.Louis and we all know how that turned out. Schlossböckelheim is a village in the Upper Nahe and has two vineyards that have been classified by the VDP as Erste Lage – Kupfergrube and Felsenberg. The Konigsfels vineyard is known to produce racy Rieslings and this wine shows some of it. Pale gold color, aromas of honey and green apple. Off-dry palate shows a bit more development with notes of lemon peel, green apple and slight note of caramel. Moderate+acid.

2011 Georg Albrecht Schneider Niersteiner Paterberg Riesling Kabinett, Rhinehessen
-- The estate has been owned by the Schneider family for 7 generations.The family owns 15 hectares of vineyards in the town of Nierstein, including holdings in the Roter Hang (Pettenthal, Oelberg and Hipping). Pale gold color with green hues. Aromas of green apples, peaches, pineapples, honey and crushed minerals. Off-dry to sweet on the palate, juicy tropical fruit notes, high acidity. Very fresh and juicy.  


Joe Glunz, Jr. in the House 

I can’t tell you when or even under what circumstances I first met Joe Glunz, Jr.  This is not meant as a slight against him -- quite the opposite in fact. Kind-hearted, sincere and quick with a story to make you laugh, he’s the type of person you easily become friends with and are hard pressed to ever recall a time when you weren’t. 

Joe Glunz, Jr. and his nine siblings are now the fourth generation of the Glunz family to work in wine. In 1888, his great-grandfather, Louis Glunz, began bottling wine, beer and spirits at a storefront on Wells and Division Streets. The House of Glunz is still going strong and a visit to Barbara Glunz-Donovan and her son Christopher Donovan is more than highly recommended. Joe’s branch of the family owns and operates Louis Glunz Wines, a wholesale and import company as well as the Glunz Family Winery in Grayslake.

In between sharing stories about everything from movies and restaurants to vitamins and family doctors, Joe and I managed to discuss and taste through the following selection of wines from his portfolio.

NV Pierre Delize Crémant de Bourgogne -- Cremant is a French term for a dry sparkling wine produced outside the Champagne region using the traditional method of sparkling winemaking. Cremant wines are quite often an affordable alternative to Champagne. Cremant provenances include Alsace, Bordeaux, Loire, Limoux as well as Burgundy where this wine hails from. Traditional Burgundy grapes may be used (with certain percentage limitations). The Pierre Delize consists of Pinot Noir, Gamay and Aligote. Pale gold in color, notes of crisp green apples and lemon rind. Crisp on the palate with a soft but swift mousse, moderate+acidity. A nice candidate for Champagne Cocktails, Mimosas or Bellinis. Made exclusively for Louis Glunz.

NV Rack and Riddle Sonoma County Blanc de Noirs
--  Rack and Riddle is a project from Bruce Lundquist, former General Manager of J Vineyards and partner at Longboard Vineyards. He co-founded Rack Riddle with partner Rebecca Faust in 2007. In addition to producing their own line of sparkling and still wines, Rack & Riddle also functions as a custom crush and winemaking facility. The Blanc de Noirs is 92% Pinot Noir and 8% Chardonnay. Slight coppery pink hue, earthy Pinot Noir notes of beets, strawberries, brioche and citrus. Finishes clean with a lingering toasty note.

2011 Domaine Michel Girard et Fils Sancerre, France -- Joe’s parents met the owners of this winery at a wine trade show in France some years ago. Girard’s style is to veer towards a more full-bodied version of Sauvignon Blanc. Pale straw color, notes of green apple, lime zest, and flint in the nose. Moderate+acidity on the palate with a slight pithy bitterness on the finish. A straight forward style – simple, fresh and clean.

2010 Gianni Gagliardo Fallegro Favorita, Piedmont, Italy
-- A unique and interesting wine from a fourth-generation Piedmontese producer known for his Barolos. Favorita – the so-called “favorite grape” - is native to Piedmont but a relative of Vermentino (popular in Liguria and Sardinia). The grape tends to produce wines higher in acidity but relatively neutral in terms of flavor, which is not necessarily a bad thing if fresh and fruity is what you’re after. Pale straw in color, green apple on the nose, half way between a still and sparkling wine with a distinct effervescent frizzante quality on the palate. Crisp, clean and light bodied with moderate plus acidity and flavors of green apples and pears. This is certainly a playful and interesting alternative to Pinot Grigio.

2011 Four Graces Estate Grown Pinot Gris - Willamette Valley
-- Pale gold in color, aromas of peach skin, and tropical fruits in general. Palate is off dry but fresh, lively and bright with moderate acidity. This is an interesting wine featuring the ripeness and RS of an Alsace Pinot Gris but the fresh zippiness of an Italian Pinot Grigio. Winery President Anthony Van Nice once worked for a wine distributor here in Chicago.

2010 Breggo Cellars Pinot Gris, Anderson Valley
-- Breggo Cellars was purchased by the Cliff Lede winery in 2009 as a foray into Pinot Noir and Alsace varietals. Incidentally, Cliff Lede is known for their Bordeaux style wines from the Stag’s Leap District of Napa Valley. Pale gold color, nose is a tropical fruit bomb of mangos, pineapples and honey with notes of marmalade and orange zest. Off-dry on the palate with additional tropical fruit notes and moderate acidity. If an Alsace style Pinot Gris is what they were aiming for, they hit their mark.

2011 Dry Creek Dry Chenin, Clarksburg
-- The Dry Creek Fume Blanc was on the wine list at a restaurant that I worked at in Monterey back in 1995 so I’ve known this winery for quite some time. Pale straw color, nose is reminiscent of Sauvignon Blanc with notes of citrus zest and green apples. Dry and crisp with moderate + acidity on the palate and a whiff of fruitness. It’s definitely made with a Sauvignon Blanc hand and would be a good match for shellfish.

2011 Morgadio Legado del Conde Albarino, Rias Baixas
-- Morgadio means “only son” in Gallego, the Galician language spoken in northwestern Spain. Legado del Conde is Morgadio’s sister wine. Rías Baixas includes three sub districts: El Rosal and Val do Salnés on Galicia's rainy Atlantic coast, and Condado do Tea located further inland. Condado's benign climate, southern exposure and reflective soil maximize Albariño's concentration. Pale gold color, nose shows fresh melons, peaches, white flowers and citrus rind. Palate is rich, lush and textured with additional flavors of melons, green apples and peaches. Moderate + acidity. Excellent summer wine to pair with grilled fish and seafood.

2010 Maison Prosper Maufoux Pouilly Fuisse, Burgundy, France
-- Based in Santenay, the southern-most village in the Cote D’Or, Prosper Maufoux was founded in 1860. Pale gold color, aromas of lemon curd, citrus and a splash of tropical fruit. Moderate+acidity on the palate, softly textured, no signs of earthiness, clean and straightforward. Sometimes Pouilly-Fuisse can smell like a damp basement and I don’t get that component here. That’s what I mean by clean and not earthy.

2010 Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt Josephshofer Riesling, Kabinett, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Germany
-- a mouthful to say but delicious to drink. In 1999, the winery celebrated their 650th anniversary. Wholly owned by the Kesselstatt estate, the Josephshofer site lies just outside the village of Grach along the Mosel and right next door to the famous Sonnenuhr vineyard. This is a very young Riesling and should develop further in the bottle but at this stage it features high racy acidity, flavors of crisp green apples and honey with an off-dry finish.

2008 Schloss Saarstein Serriger Schloss Saarsteiner Riesling Kabinett, Mosel, Germany -- The Saarstein estate owns the oldest vineyards in the village of Serrig and is among the leading producers in the Saar Valley. Saar Rieslings often feature the lightest body yet the most pronounced acidity with characteristic aromas of apple, citrus, peaches and subtle mineral notes from the slate soil. The vineyards are less protected than those of the Mittel Mosel, which gives the wines its vigorous acidity. Pale gold color with hints of green in the glass, aromas of mango, pineapples, petrol development and green apples in the nose Palate shows high, racy acidity, off-dry sweetness and a slight nutty quality on the finish.

2009 La Follette Chardonnay, Manchester Ridge Vineyard, Mendocino Ridge
-- Were you a fan of Flowers Chardonnay back around 2006 or so? If so – you’ll love Follette because Greg Follette made it. Greg was the research viticulturist /enologist for famed master winemaker André Tchelistcheff and has worked for wineries throughout California and Australia. His resume includes illustrious names such as BV, Jarvis as well as Flowers where he was the head winemaker and general manager. In 2001 he founded Tandem wines to produce small-lot Russian River Valley Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and in 2009 Tandem was renamed La Follette through a new joint venture with Pete Knight from Quivira. This Chardonnay is sourced from the Manchester Ridge vineyard which lies parallel to the rugged Mendocino coast at 2000 foot elevation, about 400 feet above the fog line. Gold in color with aromas of roasted hazelnuts, pineapples, caramel baked apples, cloves and a dose of tropical fruit. Moderate acidity and flavors of lemon curd on the palate, well balanced as the acid keeps the fruit in check.

2010 Ridge Estate Chardonnay, Monte Bello Vineyards, Santa Cruz Mountains
-- I grew up not too far away from Santa Cruz which afforded me several opportunities to meet winemaker Paul Draper and I can’t overstate how much of a fan I am of him and his wines. So much so, we served Ridge Lytton Springs Zinfandel at our wedding luncheon. No matter where I go, a bottle of Ridge is never too far behind. Joe knows how I feel about Ridge and he was kind enough to open the Estate Chardonnay for our meeting. Pale gold color, notes of warm vanilla bean, golden apples and lightly toasted nuts on the nose. Santa Cruz Chardonnays tend to feature a high amount of acidity and this is no exception. Moderate + acidity, fresh, lean, crisp and focused on the palate. It’s bright and nutty. 

2010 Laurence Feraud Cotes du Rhone, France
-- This is the negociant label from the owners of the highly prized Chateauneuf-du-Pape estate Domaine du Pegau. This classic Cotes du Rhone is made from a blend of 80% Syrah and 20% Grenache. Black cherry color, magenta rim. Aromas of black pepper, black plums, dried herbs and smoked meat. Palate shows moderate acidity, medium fleshy tannins with notes of smoke and pepper. More of an elegant, bright and fresh style to be served with a slight chill. 

2000 Dehesa La Granja Seleccion, Vino de la Tierra de Castilla y Leon, Spain -- In 1998, Alejandro Fernández and his wife Esperanza Rivera, having created Tinto Pesquera and Condado de Haza in their native Ribera del Duero acquired the historic 1800-acre "La Granja" estate. Alejandro rapidly set to work reconverting the bull ranch to wine production, with 325 acres of old-clone Tempranillo from his vineyards in Ribera del Duero. This wine is in its own league. Opaque black cherry color with maroon edges. Aromas of black cherries, tobacco, cloves, mushrooms, black pepper, dried herbs and vanilla. Moderate acidity on the palate, medium tannins, medium acidity and black fruit flavors that lean to a more modern style. Hard to believe this wine is tasting so fresh and lively at 12 years old. 


Getting Candid with Candid Wines 

Prior to joining Candid Wines, Jordan Warners spent time on the floor at Alinea where he assisted with service as well as the wine program. A few weeks ago, I received an email from him along with a proposal and the following note, “Attached you will find a presentation from Candid Wines with consideration to your upcoming program at The Boarding House. I tried to draw on the strengths of the catalog: food wines, Loire, Rheinhessen, and regional Italy. Older vintages are also listed.” Jordan was clearly speaking my language and when we met for our tasting, his selections truly lived up to the sommelier code: interesting regions and grapes, wines that speak of a sense of place, unique or old-school winemaking methods and quirky winemakers (especially the ones who wear leather pants, drive recklessly, listen to Bob Dylan or preferably all of the above).

Here are my notes on the wines we tasted during our meeting:

NV Pierre Moncuit Brut Champagne RM, Mesnil-Sur-Oger -- In Champagne a Récoltant-Manipulant (identified by RM on the label) is a grower who makes his/her own Champagne. These smaller houses don’t have the advertising budget of the bigger houses but the quality of what they produce is often outstanding and many of them are worth seeking out. Pierre Moncuit established his Champagne house in Mesnil-sur-Oger, at the heart of the Chardonnay dominated Côte des Blancs, in 1889. His daughter Nicole now runs the property and is training her daughter Daphne to eventually do the same. The NV is 100% Grand Cru Chardonnay and features notes of crisp, green apples, lemon zest, very fresh in style with faint toasty quality on the nose. Spent 3 years on the lees.

2002 Pierre Moncuit Mesnil-Sur-Oger –- with five years on the lees, it’s far nuttier in the nose than the NV but still maintains a core of freshness. Notes of marzipan, lemon curd, citrus rind, green apples and buttery brioche. Still a baby! 

2010 Domaine de la Louvetrie "Fief du Breuil" Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maines
-- Jo Landron is the mustached winemaker at Domaine de La Louvetrie. He took over the family estate in 1990 and has carried on the tradition of producing marvelous wines bottled according to the soil types found in his vineyards. The Fief du Breuil is made from south-facing old vines planted in harder, silica-veined orthogneiss soils. With notes of tropical fruits, apricots, mango skin, ripe peaches, honey and hay, the Fief du Breuil bears a faint resemblance to the Chenin Blanc based wines from Savennieres or one can even make the argument for Alsace Pinot Gris.

2010 Domaine du Petit Coteau Les Grenouilles Sec, Vouvray, Loire Valley -- This Domaine is the certified organic arm of the well-known Château Moncontour estate, located in the heart of the Vouvray appellation. Pale gold color, green guava, green apple and lime zest on the nose. Moderate+acid, light-bodied and dry on the palate with Sauvignon Blanc like fruit notes. Intense lime flavors would be a good match for Thai dishes. Grenouilles means frog in French.

2010 & Co Supernatural Sauvignon Blanc, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand
–- I met winemaker and owner Gabrielle Simmers a few years ago during her market research tour of the US. I was immediately impressed by her passion, drive and business acumen - she was clearly a woman on a mission! Gabrielle has an interest in design and the packaging of her wines, which includes a crown cap (the kind you see on beer), reflects her ability to think differently. The winery was recently awarded the coveted Gold Pin at the New Zealand Best Design Awards, recognizing the most innovative product and brand design. Pale straw color, nose shows honeysuckle, passion fruit, slight hint of gooseberries, moderate+acid and dry on the palate with fruit forward notes of tropical fruits and green herbs.

2010 Tommasone Biancolella, Isola d'Ischia
-- La Pietra Tommasone is a historical Ischia island winery that had ceased to operate when Tommaso Monti died in the 80's. Antonio, Tommaso's son at the time was in Germany running a small hotel and restaurant. In 2000 he decided that it was time to spend his efforts on the land and vines he inherited. Biancolella grows almost exclusively on the island of Ischia and this was my first experience with the grape. Gold color (reminds me of Gewurtztraminer), nose shows grilled pineapple, vanilla, mango and banana, aging on the lees lends richness on the palate, silky texture, moderate acid, notes of tropical fruits but the finish is fresh. Needless to say, I live for wines like this.

2004 Domaine Schaetzel Riesling Cuvee Reserve, Alsace -- The wine list that I oversaw at Everest featured one of the largest selections of Alsace wines in the world. The smell of older wines from this region always brings me home. Domaine Martin Schaetzel is located in Ammerschwihr (ahm-er-shh-weer) in the southern part of Alsace, near the picturesque city of Colmar.  The winery dates to the decade following WWII when Jean’s uncle Martin Schaetzel rebuilt the cellars following the destruction of Ammerschwihr at the end of the war.  Jean took over in the 1980′s and promptly set out to convert the estate to first organic and then biodynamic farming. This is a classic example of an older Alsace Riesling – deep gold color, nose shows aromas of crème brulee, honey and banana, dry on the palate with moderate+acid and a nutty, oxidative finish.

2007 Domaine Schaetzel Riesling Rangen de Thann, Alsace -- Jean farms parts of the Grand Cru vineyards of Kaefferkopf (Kaff-er-koff), Rangen de Thann, Schlossburg and Mackrain.  The Grand Cru wines have a much greater capacity to age and this wine is still quite youthful. Deep gold color, botrytis-esque aromas of honey and apricots, mango. Palate is off-dry, moderate acidity, rich, fat texture. We’re almost in Vendanges Tardives territory here.

2005 Domaine Guiberteau Breze Saumur, Loire Valley -- Romain Guiberteau oversees the organically farmed vineyards and winemaking of his family estate that began around the time of World War II. The estate is dedicated to two grapes: Cabernet Franc and Chenin Blanc (50+year old vines).  The Breze Blanc is gold in color, barrique fermentation, and aromas of smoked minerals, honey, caramel, crème brulee crust and lemons. Palate is dry with fresh moderate acidity, gunpowder like flintiness, lemon curd and Puligny-Montrachet like finish on the back end. Remarkable wine given the appellation and age.

2006 Bressan Pinot Grigio Venezia Giulia, Italy
-- The Bressan family owns about 20 hectares in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia appellation in North-Eastern Italy on the border to Slovenia.  They deal with indigenous varieties such as the Schioppettino, Pignol and Verduzzo Friulano and their wines have a propensity to age well beyond the established norm. This is not your momma’s Pinot Grigio! At over six years old it’s showing a Sauternes like gold color, aromas of mineral, smoke, banana peel, citrus marmalade, palate is dry and still fresh with umami-like savoriness. Shows more of the Pinot Gris side of the grape.  Wine was aged in large, neutral oak casks. Richer style that could easily handle red meat.  This is your answer to people who say Pinot Grigio can’t be taken seriously.

2010 Domaine des Cedres Cotes du Rhone
-- Domaine des Cèdres winemaker, Dominique Pons has been into organic winemaking for at least 20 years, and was one of the first in the Côtes-du-Rhône AOC to go organic. In addition, he's been studying and applying the principles of Biodynamic farming at Domaine des Cèdres for several years.  This wine is made from 60% Grenache, 25% Syrah, 10% Carignane and 10% Cinsault grapes from St. Nazaire. Black cherry color, magenta rim, aromas of blue fruits, black pepper and smoke. Palate is dry, moderate acid, firm structure, moderate+tannins, flavors of purple flowers, dried herbs and smoked plums. More of a steak wine versus burgers.

2005 Bressan Schioppettino, Venezia-Giulia, Italy
-- Schioppettino is a red grape grown predominately in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region of Italy.  Also known as the Ribolla Nera, Schioppettino literally means “gunshot” or “little crack”.  Today, Bresssan is one of the few winemakers making wine from the Schioppettino grape. Garnet color, slight bricking at the rim, nose shows tertiary aromas of roasted earth, beets, dried cherries and spice. Palate is dry, moderate+acidity, moderate tannins, licorice and a slight menthol flavor with a long finish. 

2009 Turner-Pageot "Carmina Major" Languedoc, France
–- Australian Karen Turner and her French husband Emmanuel Pageot, a former Sommelier own Domaine Turner-Pageot.  They have five hectares in three different plots around the village of Gabian. All their vines are north facing, except for their Grenache Noir and are biodynamically farmed. Carmina Major is a blend of 70% Syrah and 30% Mourvedre grown on cooler north facing slopes. Opaque blue-black color with magenta pink rim, nose shows leather, game, and underbrush. Palate is dry with more animal driven notes of game and leather with additional floral notes coming through. Concentrated intensity, moderate acid, moderate+tannins, and firmly structured, high complexity with a long finish. Ideal wine for venison and game.

2004 Domaine Guiberteau Les Arboise Saumur, Loire Valley
-- garnet color, aromas of charred and roasted meant, game, smoke and leather. Palate is dry, moderate acidity, moderate tannins, slight medicinal component, ripe black cherries and green bell pepper. Muscular and massive, this is a serious Cabernet Franc.

2001 Schaetzel Kaefferkopf  Gewurztraminer Grand Cru* Vendanges Tardives, Alsace -- deep gold color, luscious and exotic aromas of peaches, apricots, rose petals, pineapples. Palate is sweet with exotic tropical flavors, honey, nutmeg and cloves. Finishes with a slight oxidative note. This is one of my favorite wines to pair with excessively pungent cheese.

*Kaefferkopf is particularly well suited to Gewurztraminer and Riesling but was not classified as a Grand Cru until 2006.