Monday
Jul302012

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.  

Monday
Jul232012

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. 

Sunday
Jul152012

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.

Sunday
Jul082012

Pure Wine with David Read

Evolucio Furmint ~ one of my favorite wines from the tasting

The next tasting for The Boarding House wine list was scheduled with David Read of Pure Wine Company. David and his lovely wife Sarah were amongst the first group of people I met when I moved to Chicago. I lost touch with them over the years so it was nice to spend time with David catching up and tasting through selections from his portfolio.

SPARKLING

NV Domaine Collin Cremant de Limoux -- Limoux is a small town and appellation located north of Catalonia in Southern France. For centuries – well before Champagne came along – the region has been devoted to the production of wines that would sparkle naturally after a second fermentation kicked in during the spring (a process known as methode ancestrale). The traditional grape here is Mauzac used to make Blanquette de Limoux. In 1990, the Cremant de Limoux appellation was created and relies more heavily on Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc to favor a more international style. Philippe Collin is originally from the Champagne region of France and he makes a rather unique Cremant de Limoux more in style with his Champagne roots by using 30% Pinot Noir along with Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay for the blend. Fresh and lively nose of green apples and honey. Palate features a soft mousse with tangy acidity. A nice option as a value sparkler.

NV Drappier Carte D'Or Brut  --  Mostly Pinot Noir based Champagne showing pleasant green apple notes with a slight toasty quality on the palate. Fresh, lively and perfectly charming.

NV Huber Hugo Sparkling Zweigelt Rose Austria --  Zweigelt (a crossing of Blaufrankisch and St. Laurent) was developed Dr. Zweigelt in 1922 and today represents Austria’s most popular red grape. Zweigelt produces easy-to-drink wines filled with notes of juicy tangy red berries, cherries and soft tannins. I’ve also had versions of Zweigelt with deep concentration and aging potential. Here we have a sparkling Zweigelt (along with a splash of Pinot Noir) with notes of strawberries, watermelons, raspberries and a finish showing a perceptible amount of residual sugar.  Could make for a fun BBQ wine if you wanted to get creative with pairings for ribs and such.

WHITE WINE

2011 Gateway Vinho Verde, Portugal -- I’ve gotten to know Vinho Verde quite well as a good portion of my early twenties was spent memorizing its subregions for my Master Sommelier exams. Vinho Verde means green wine, a reference to the youthful state in which the wine is sold. It can be white, red or rose – in fact the vast majority of Vinho Verde is red. No matter the color, Vinho Verde is not terribly complicated and should be consumed within a year of purchase. This wine fulfills the duties of what Vinho Verde should be – crisp, clean, fresh and lively with a slight bitterness along the lines of radicchio.  The blend here is Arinto, Loureiro, Trajadura and Azal.  

2010 Marchetti Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi -- This appellation is located a mere 20 miles from the Adriatic Sea and understandably the simple, lemon and citrus notes would pair nicely with seafood. I tend to prefer the neighboring Metalica wines as they’re bit fuller and more concentrated but as a simple sipper and perhaps as a Pinot Grigio alternative, the Jesi version gets the job done. 

2010 Monte Tondo Soave, Italy
-- I’ll admit that whenever I come across a bottle of Soave, the Rico Suave song immediately pops up in my head.  This Garganega based white is straightforward, simple and clean.

2011 Hermann Moser Gelber Muskateller Niederösterreich
 -- Muskateller is German for Muscat and Gelber Muskateller is the gold-skinned version. Muscat based wines always seem to remind me of geraniums and this wine is no exception with added notes of honeysuckle. On the palate, the wine is dry, fresh, crisp and clean. Because of the floral notes, dry Muscat can be tough to pair with food, which is why I like to present it as an aperitif wine.

2011 Hermann Moser Gruner Veltliner Per Due, Kremstal
 -- Weingut Hermann Moser is run by Martin and his wife Carmen Moser. The estate is 300 years old and is located in the village of Rohrendorf in the Kremstal wine-growing region in Lower Austria. Per Due comes from a single vineyard called Wolfsgraben, the "wolf's ditch'. I find Gruners often fall into two camps: tropical fruit driven with a fat texture or more crisp and lean with lemon-lime citrus notes.  The Due falls into the latter category with classic notes of white pepper, peaches, stone fruits, white flowers and green apples.

2011 Hermann Moser Gruner Veltliner Karmeliterberg, Kremstal -- This is a richer style Gruner with more weight and texture on the palate. Notes of white pepper, slight pithy bitterness, citrus oil, peach pit, honey and cilantro.

2011 Macherndl Gruner Veltiner Kollmutz Federspiel Wachau
-- Federspiel wines are second on the three-tier classification system (Steinfeder, Federspiel and Smaragd) developed by the Vinea Wachau association for its dry wines. Federspiel designated wines require a minimum must-weight of 17° KMW and 1.5-12.5% abv.  The name refers back to the times of falconry, when this favorite form of noble hunting was practiced in the Wachau. Erich Jr took over in 1998 and has become a dynamic representative of the younger Wachauer generation. Kollmutz vineyard produces a style with more richness on the palate balanced with notes of peaches, green pears, fresh mint and just a slight hint of grapefruit skin.

2009 Macherndl Gruner Veltliner Steinwand Smaragd Wachau
-- The Smaragd designation indicates the ripest and most concentrated dry wines of Vinea Wachau-members. The alcohol content begins at 12.5% by volume. Smaragd refers to the emerald-colored Idex lizards often found on the terraced vineyards of the Wachau. Dry but with full-blown tropical notes of mango skin, pineapples and honey with classic white pepper flavors and a touch of bitterness on the finish.

2009 Lo Triolet Pinot Gris Valle d'Aosta
-- Lo Triolet is named after the lucky three-leafed clover known as Trifoglio in Italian.  Surrounded by the northern Alps along the border to France and Switzerland, the Valle d’Aosta is Italy’s smallest region (in terms of both production and size). The region also boasts some of the highest elevated vineyards in Europe.  The geographical crossroads results in a diverse array of grapes planted in the Vallee d’Aosta including Gamay, Pinot Noir, Dolcetto, Nebbiolo, Freisa, Fumin, Vien de Nus, Petit Rouge and Blanc de Morgex. This Pinot Gris came from vineyards planted at a staggering altitude of nearly 3,000 feet above sea level.  Features crisp green apple notes of cool climate Pinot Grigio from Italy but also the honeyed tropical fruit notes of an Alsace or Oregon Pinot Gris.

2011 Evolucio Tokaj Furmint Hungary
-- Furmint is used to produce dry wines as well as the famous Tokaji – the legendary sweet wine from the Tokaj-Hegyalja region in northeastern Hungary. The name Furmint is taken from the word ‘Froment’, for the wheat gold color of the wine it produces. The grape is susceptible to noble rot but also has the ability to maintain high levels of acidity. The Evolucio is dry Furmint at its best -- bright, tart green apple notes, cantaloupe, candied orange zest and a crisp lemon-lime finish. Falling somewhere between the style of a Sauvignon Blanc and a rich Pinot Gris, I’m absolutely obsessed with this wine!

2009 Dierberg Chardonnay Santa Maria Valley
-- The Dierberg Vineyard is located in the near-extreme Western part of the Santa Maria Valley AVA, one of the coolest vineyards in the appellation.  And like many other producers in California, the wines are inspired by Burgundy. Very well balanced style with menthol notes, roasted hazelnuts, caramel, golden delicious apples and lemon curd. Offers a nice balance between oak, fruit and acid. Primary fermentation takes place in larger 400 liter barrels for less oak influence and less than ten percent of the wine goes through malo to retain lively acidity.

2009 Ken Forrester FMC Chenin Blanc South Africa -- I find most South African Chenin Blanc to be crisp, simple and somewhat reminiscent of Sauvignon Blanc. The FMC is Ken Forrester’s pet project to demonstrate South Africa’s potential to produce marvelously rich and complex Chenin Blanc to rival those of the Loire Valley. Medium gold in color, rich, fat and creamy texture with off-dry with notes of honey, sweet baked apples, spices, peaches and apricots. There’s a fair amount of residual sugar here making this wine an easy pairing for stinky, creamy cheese or a lightly sweetened fruit dessert.

ROSE

2011 Chateau Virgile Costieres de Nimes Rose -- This is a family-owned domaine by two brothers, Serge
 and Thierry Baret, who along with their father, cultivate 35
 hectares of vineyards located less than ten miles from 
the Mediterranean Sea. Costieres de Nimes is part of the Rhone as the climate soil and topography of the vineyards are so similar to those of the Southern Rhone located just over the river. Bottles of Costieres de Nimes bear the symbol of the Roman settlement at Nimes, a crocodile chained to a palm tree. Made from a blend of 90% Grenache and 10% Syrah, the grapes are hand-harvested at night to preserve their freshness, and then 100% de-stemmed before undergoing a short 12-hour maceration in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks. The result is a wine with a blush pink hue with flavors of red fruits, sour cherries, orange zest, and more savoriness on the palate as opposed to the sweet watermelon notes of more deeply colored roses.

RED WINE

2008 Montinore Estate Parson's Ridge Pinot Noir Willamette Valley -- This was my first wine from this producer. Parsons’ Ridge is a 25-year-old vineyard block certified biodynamic by Demeter. Light garnet color, nose shows more age progression with notes of dried cherries, dried herbs and baking spices with tea like tannins.

2006 Chehalem Pinot Noir Reserve Willamette Valley
-- I’ve always been a big fan of Chehalem and this was a fun opportunity to try a somewhat older vintage from them. Shows medium concentration, moderate acidity and notes of black cherries, red plums, clove and vanilla. 

2009 Three Saints Pinot Noir Santa Maria Valley -- The second wine from Dierberg is named after the three “Saints” of the region: Maria, Rita and Ynez. Slight spritziness on palate with green herbaceous notes. Grippy tannins with a bright and tangy finish.

2010 Pali The Bluffs Pinot Noir Russian River Valley
-- Pali was founded by entrepreneurs Tim Perr & Scott Knight in 2005. They named the winery after their hometown of Pacific Palisades located on the coast of Southern California. Sourced from low-yielding fruit, this is a big juicy Pinot Noir with notes of sweet cherry liqueur, roasted beets, clove, cinnamon and warm vanilla. Alcohol clocks in at 15.3%

2009 Tantara Pinot Noir Santa Barbara County
-- Tantara was the name of a horse owned by Tantara founder Bill Cates some years ago. This is a big fruit bomb with loads of sweet ripe cherry fruit, clove, licorice and vanilla.

2008 Dierberg Pinot Noir Santa Maria Valley
-- well made and technically precise Pinot Noir with black cherry fruit, baking spice notes and hints licorice and mocha. Just like Dierberg’s Chardonnay – it’s well balanced.

2010 Capiaux Pinot Noir Chimera Sonoma Coast
-- The Chimera is a blend of Pinot Noir from nine vineyards. Moderate plus concentration on the palate with, sweet ripe black cherry notes, cola spice, dark fruits and purple flowers. This is another big Pinot Noir.

2010 Sottimano Langhe Nebbiolo Italy -- Huge change-up after tasting those fruit forward Pinot Noirs. The Langhe Nebbiolo is produced in the Basarin cru in Neive. The vines are still very young and therefore Sottimano, always in favor of quality over volume, declassified from Barbaresco DOCG to Langhe Nebbiolo DOC. Classic Nebbiolo here: garnet, slight orange color, aromas of smoke, melted tar, animal and leather. Palate shows sour cherries, bright acidity and firm tannic finish. Good value in lieu of a Barbaresco.

2007 Meroi Nestri Colli Orientali del Friuli Italy
-- made from 100% Merlot. Flavors of orange rinds, green bell pepper but not entirely herbaceous, slight leather component but gamey on the finish. Considering Paolo Meroi owns a little restaurant in northern Italy, Trattoria al Parco, I’m guessing this wine would pair quite nicely with food, grilled meat in particular. 

2009 Jemrose Foggy Knoll Grenache Bennett Valley Sonoma County
-- Satsuma oranges, raspberries, white pepper, poultry spice and firm tannins on the finish.

2007 Domaine de Trevallon Vin de Pays des Bouches du Rhone -- Declassified Les Beaux de Provence (due to a higher than permitted amount of Cabernet Sauvignon).  Whatever you want to call it, this 50/50 blend of Cab Sauv and Syrah is certainly impressive. Medium plus concentration with flavors of black fruit liqueur, cloves, cinnamon, spices, black plums and dry dusty tannins. Not inexpensive but a pleasurable wine worth seeking out.

2007 De Trafford Cabernet Sauvignon Stellenbosch South Africa
-- For some reason, many South African reds taste smoky to me and this is no exception with additional notes of bell pepper, black olives and cassis.

2008 Shane The Unknown Syrah North Coast
-- With stints at Torbreck, Copain, Gaillard, Paul Hobbs and Kosta Brown – there’s no arguing Shane Finley’s resume is certainly quite impressive. Experience is the best teacher and it shows with his take on Syrah. Showing a style clearly influenced by the great wines of the northern Rhone with notes of black plums, violets, smoke, bacon fat, crushed minerals, black pepper and fleshy tannins. Only 500 cases produced.

2009 Areola Anjali Priorat Spain
-- Anjoli is the name of the adopted daughter of Rose Galceran, one of the partners of Celler Ardevol. Made from a blend of 40% Garnacha, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Syrah and 20% Merlot. This is pretty juicy for Priorat with gobs of ripe raisinated fruit, figs, black plums and sweet tobacco spice. An easy-to-drink style and a good introduction to the Priorat. 

2009 Priest Ranch Napa Valley
-- Priest Ranch was originally settled by James Joshua Priest in 1847 and was known as Priest Ranch for over 100 years. Classic Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon of black cherries, mocha, vanilla and a soft supple

2008 Caravina Cabernet Sauvignon Seavey Vineyard, Napa Valley -- Seavey was on the wine list at a restaurant I worked at in 1995 and it was one of my favorite Cabs to recommend to customers. This is their second label now in it’s 10th vintage. Very well made with fleshy tannins and that signature blueberry fruit that I get from their flagship wine but at nearly half the price.

Tuesday
Jul032012

Tasting Vino with H2Vino

Words to live by

Eat.Sleep.Drink.Vino. Seems a rather appropriate way to describe my life lately as I start building The Boarding House wine list. I paid a visit to my friends Veronica Hastings and Todd Hess of H2Vino for an epic tasting of wines from their portfolio. We were also joined by Jaime Burda, my H2Vino sales associate who has a great passion for the wines she represents. She also has an impeccable palate.

H2Vino specializes in boutique producers from regions all over world including France, Spain, Italy, Australia and South America. Many of their wines are biodynamic, sustainable, organic or organically farmed. Their criteria for representing a brand is quite simple - the wines have to taste good and they have to enjoy doing business with the winery owners or importers. I can certainly get on board with that philosophy.

Here is the lineup of what we tasted and my accompanying notes.

Jean Berrerd et fils Domaine de la Madone Beaujolais-Village Rouge "Le Perreon" 2009 -- Property owned by two brothers, one of whom works on the single vineyard project for Dubeouf. Le Perreon has granitic vein running through it which is what makes it so special. This wine is custom built for charcuterie with notes of raspberry and strawberries, bright acidity, sasparilla spice, clove spiciness, firm tannins, tart. Tannins and acid are the perfect components for balancing the effects of fat and salt. Served with a slight chill, this would make a nice match for a picnic of cured meats, cheese, olives, pate and some good crunchy bread.

Les Tannes en Occitanie Pinot Noir Pays d'Oc, France 2011
- This is an H2Vino project. They wanted a Pinot Noir that was affordable and tasty to offer their customers as a by the glass pour. After searching around and coming up empty, they decided to work with one of their winery contacts to have one made specifically for them. The fruit comes from Provence and the resulting wine is elegant with tart cherries and spice. It's a simple, straightforward style that would be good with roast chicken. Many Pinot Noirs at this price point can be green but this is very pretty.

Berthelemot Hauts-Cotes-de-Beaune Rouge 2009 -- in 2006 Brigitte Berthelemot purchased this property from Jean Garaudet, the vineyard manager for Comtes Lafon. Several vineyards came along with the purchase but Brigitte purchased additional vineyards throughout Burgundy which is not an inexpensive or easy thing to do. Garaduet's nephew makes the wine. Firm tannins, red fruit, spice notes, real elegance with firm finish. Notes of violets, cardamom, Asian spices, galangal.

Churton Pinot Noir Marborough, New Zealand 2008
-- Churton is the name of the British town Sam Weaver grew up in. Sam worked in wine retail and then moved to NZ twenty years ago to become a winemaker. He consulted for many wineries and worked harvest in the northern hemisphere to gain experience working two harvests a year. His vineyards are biodynamically farmed. Notes of clove spice, raspberry liqueur, dry, fleshy finish. Interesting combo of intense fruitiness upfront but serious earthy finish. Concentrated fruit component would be a good match with duck and a sweet cherry sauce. Game in nose with licorice. Veronica likes to pair this with Asian style duck.

River's Edge Pinot Noir Umpqua Valley 2009 -- River's Edge began with the purchase of two vineyards, Black Oak Vineyard and Elkton Vineyard, by Mike and Vonnie Landt in 1996. The previous owners were Ken and Mary Thomason, who planted the vineyards in 1972. Wow -- very interesting nose with a coffee, skunky, almost cannabis like element. Doesn't taste like it smells with a juicy, savory, expansive palate. Definitely on the elegant side. I was told the nose is usually not this skunky and the bottle could just be going through a phase which happens.

Fort Ross Fort Ross-Seaview, Sonoma Coast Fort Ross Vineyard 2009
-- Fort Ross Seaview is one of the newest AVA's in California. At 27,500 acres, was carved out of the 480,000-acre Sonoma Coast AVA, which has been criticized as too big since its approval in 1987. Fort Ross-Seaview is unofficially part of the “true Sonoma Coast,” which lies above the beaches of the Pacific Ocean. This is a monolithic Pinot Noir: dark black cherry color, kirsch liqueur, rhubarb, concentrated fruits, concentrated core, very flashy, clove, spices, new oak, well integrated. For people who like their Pinot Noirs big, large and juicy.

Aubichon Cellars Pinot Noir Willamette Valley 2010
-- Jim Sanders and Tom Mortimer founded Aubichon Cellars in 2007 so this is a fairly new winery. They source their fruit from the Dundee Hills and Chehalem AVA. Red garnet with magenta rim. Very distinct pink peppercorn nose hits you first followed by coriander, red fruits and cardamom. Juicy bright style with notes of green pepper spice and vanilla. Predominant sour cherry fruit notes.

Nebout St Pourcain Blanc "Tressallier des Gravieres" 2010
-- St. Pourcain is located right in the middle of France in the oak producing Allier departement. Less than 1300 acres of vineyards produce a range of wines that are typically light in body, dry and high in acidity. Tressalier is a traditional variety but white wines can also be made from Chardonnay or Sauvignon. Gamay is often used to make a rose or light-bodied red. The nose on this is downright interesting and reminds me of that slight gaminess that you get from mussels and not in a bad way. It is very high in acid with flavors of green apples and lemons with a minerally and salty finish. An excellent match for mussels prepared with a garlic and white wine lemon sauce. Could also be nice with oysters.

Acustic Blanc Monstsant, Spain 2010 -- Montsant is the region just surrounding Priorat on the north-eastern edge of Spain. Winemaker/proprietor Albert Jane makes wines that are not typical of what the region produces. The Acoustic Blanc blends indigenous white grapes from the region: Garnacha Blanc, Macabeo, Garnacha Gris and Pansal. This is the perfect summer wine with notes of honeysuckle, peaches, melons and just downright juicy. Would be excellent with jamon and melons. Like a bowl of fresh fruit, it's just summer in a glass and one of my favorite wines that I tasted for this session.

Vincent Dureuil Janthial Rully Blanc 2009
-- Jean-Francois Coche says, "If I see his name on a wine list, I don't give it a second thought and simply order his wine." The wines of Vincent Dureuil-Janthial have set new benchmarks for the Rully appellation in the Cotes Chalonnaise. This is the 'Estate' village white, coming only from domaine grown fruit. It derives from several different, organically managed plots with an average vine age of 40+ years. Medium gold in color, fresh mint in the nose with hints of roasted nuts, oatmeal, banana skin, great concentration on the palate with lemon preserves and crushed mineral notes. This Rully is really good!

Clos du Mont Olivet Cotes du Rhone "Font de Blanches" 2009
-- Making wine is a family affair at Clos du Mont Olivet and the three Sabon brothers Jean-Claude, Pierre and Bernard have run the domaine for the last 30 years with their children (David, Mylene, Celine & Thierry) now slowly taking over. The wines are composed predominantly of Grenache (usually around 80%), with Syrah, Mourvedre and Cinsault completing the blend. The vines of this estate average over 60 years old. Ripe raisinated fruit jumps at you right away, with tons of black pepper spice, raspberry, strawberry, leather, animal funk and violets. Fragrant white pepper, intense rusty iron on palate with grippy, dry tannins on the finish.  60%Grenache, 30%Syrah. Concentrated structure better suited to steak vs. burgers. I'm particularly excited to try their Chateauneuf-du-Pape, especially the Cuvet du Papet.

Domaine La Bouissiere Gigondas Rouge 2009
-- Thierry and Gilles Faravel have serious mountaineer credentials in Gigondas. This is mountain terroir, with cooler weather and demanding soils, a mix of limestone and clay. The family's Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre vines are mostly older (between 30 and 50 years) and are very low yielding. The Gigondas Rouge combines older-vine (40+ years) Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre and is aged in a combination of new and older barrels and tank. The style tends to be very concentrated with tremendous aging potential. Nose shows violets, licorice, dark plums and fresh turned earth. Palate structure is massive and extracted with firm tannins on the finish. Definitely a big style that would benefit from decanting.

Oratoire St Martin Cairanne Rouge "Hautes Coustias" 2006
-- Sitting northwest of Gigondas and neighboring Rasteau, l’Oratoire Saint-Martin in Cairanne has long been considered the best of the region. These 70-year-old vines thrive on the steepest, coolest and chalkiest part of the appellation, delivering low yields.  A blend of 60% Mourvèdre, 20% Syrah and 20% Grenache, aged for two years in older demi-muid. Dark cherry in color with leather and animal in the nose. Soft, dusty, powdery, lavender tannins. Big and dry on the palate with flavors of roasted beets and meat. Six years and it still has a long way to go. I had the Cairanne Blanc at Todd and Veronica's house a while back and and it had made quite an impression on me as I still think about how well it paired with the spring pea risotto served that evening.

Gros-Tollot Minervois Rouge "Les Carretals" 2009
-- Minervois is located in the Languedoc-Roussillon region. Red and rose wines are made from Carignane, Lladoner Pelut, Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre. White Minervois is also produced in small quantities. This estate is owned by Anne Gros of Vosne-Romanee and her husband Jean-Paul Tollot. Their 14 hectares of vineyards in Cazelles, north of Carcassonne, sit at the foot of the “Montagne Noir,” at some 660 feet above sea level -- curiously enough, the same altitude as Vosne-Romanée.  The higher elevation helps achieve cooler evenings allowing the grapes to ripen slowly and evenly. Les Carretals is 100% Carignane wine from a 2-acre, chalky plot planted with century-old vines. Faint funkiness in the nose with dried herbs, ripe raisiny fruit profile with figs and extracted blueberry on the palate. Firm structure and dry tannins on the finish. I'm on a bit of a Carignane kick right now and if Anne Gros is down there making wine, it seems I'm not the only one.

Preys Touraine Blanc "Fie Gris", Loire Valley 2010
-- Touraine historically was the center of gunpowder production, and the surrounding hills are full of flint, a mineral-rich rock that endows grapes with a bracing freshness and flinty fire. If you've ever played with those toy cap guns as a child, you'll know the smell. Fie is an old Loire white grape variety and is thought to be an ancestor of Sauvignon Blanc. The variety has largely been abandoned because of its low yields but winemaker Jacky Preys continues to carry on the tradition and produces but a handful of fruit each vintage. This is the stuff that gets sommeliers excited simply because of the rarity and historical connection of the grape. Petrichor aromas (smell of rain hitting wet pavement)  with additional notes of hay, tart green apples, crushed rocks and honeysuckle. Crisp on the palate with lemon-lime acidity.

Sparkman Ruckus Syrah, Red Mountain, Washington State 2010
-- Chris Sparkman spent a couple of decades as a sommelier in restaurants such as Commander’s Palace in New Orleans, Michael’s in LA, Todd English’s Olives in DC and Mackay Restaurants in Seattle. After the birth of their first daughter, Chris and his wife Kelly decided to focus on family and moved to Washington State to start Sparkman Cellars. The Ruckus is made from 89% Syrah and 11% Cab Sauv fruit sourced from Klipsun and Ciel du Cheval vineyards in the the Red Mountain appellation. This is a massive wine, jet black inky color with smoke, black fruits, vanilla, smoked meat and black pepper on the nose. The palate is concentrated with tons of blue plum fruit and a firm finish. American Cote-Rotie for sure. Only 223 cases made. H2Vino is technically sold out of this wine until next year but hopefully I can score some Ruby Leigh and Stella Mae (named after the Sparkmans' adorable daughters) for The Boarding House in the fall. 

Pascal Cotat Sancerre Blanc "La Grande Cote" Loire Valley 2010
-- No one can doubt that winemaking runs in the blood of the Cotat family. On the slopes of the Monts Damnés in Chavignol, the family has tended both Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir since the end of the second World War. Today there are two Cotat domaines—one in Chavignol, headed by François, and one in Sancerre, run by Pascal. The Cotat family pioneered single-vineyard bottlings in Sancerre, and each terroir—whether “Les Monts Damnés” or “Grande Côte”—has its own unique personality. Soils share the same chalky heart as do those in Chablis. In general Pascal wines show a more luxurious, plush mouthfeel in combination with this balanced acidity. (François wines, in comparison, often show more flinty, Chablis-like notes.) Fresh and clean in the nose with hints of lime zest, minerals and honeysuckle. The palate shows a very distinct yellow curry flavor (think curry gravy on chips). Todd agreed with me and said he often uses that descriptor even though it tends to elicit strange looks from people. I'm with you Todd on this one!

Peique Bierzo Rosado Spain 2011
- Bierzo is a small region located in the north west of Spain in the small province of Leon. Light, pale and fragrant red wines are proudced from Mencia, a grape thought to be identical to Portugal's Jaen. Mencia can also be found in neighboring Valdeorras and Ribeira Sacras regions. 100% Mencia, dark pink almost cranberry in color with notes of pomegranates, watermelons and strawberries. Rose tends to be a "just drink-it, don't overthink-it" kind of wine but this is so juicy, you'll find yourself guzzling it and then wondering who emptied the bottle.

Sauvete Touraine Rouge "Antea" Loire Valley 2008
-- The Sauvete vineyards in Monthou-sur-Cher are found on a south-facing, stony plateau overlooking the river Cher, and are full of older vines. This is 100% Malbec which is a first for me from this region. Unfortunately, the fruit on this wine was shut-down but the palate showed a great deal of structure. The nose reminded me of removing the plastic from wash-rind cheese, specifically Grayson from Meadow Creek Dairy. Veronica and Jaime indicated that the wine usually shows a lot more fruit and will pull another bottle for me. I'll be sure to update my notes when I've had the opportunity to try another bottle.

Celler Pardas Negre Franc Penedes 2006 -- Celler Pardas is run by Ramon Parera and Jordi Arnan, a husband and wife team (enologist and agronomist, respectively) who bought the dormant winery in 1996 when they discovered a distinct parcel in Alt Penedes. The vineyards are worked organically; Ramon and Jordi control all aspects of the boutique winery. The Negre Franc red is a blend of 60% Cabernet Franc, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon plus 5% each of Sumoll and Merlot. This is an extremely interesting wine as it showed numerous personalities ranging from ripe and figgy to reminiscent of older Cabernet Sauvignon based wines from California or Bordeaux. Additional notes of iron, leather, raisins and dried herbs weaving in and out. This is the type of wine you want to get to know through the course of an evening along with a saddle of venison.

TATT Columbia Valley Red Blend NV -- a mostly Syrah blend from Columbia Valley. TATT stands for Tried and True Table Wine and it lives up to its name: pleasant, agreeable, juicy, well made and an all around good wine. Rather interesting label.

Alexandria Nicole "Quarry Butte" Horse Heaven Hills 2009
-- Alexandria Nicole Cellars produces small lots of hand-crafted wine from their Destiny Ridge Estate Vineyard. The 263-acre estate vineyard is located high above the bluffs on the Columbia River, near the town of Paterson, Washington in the Horse Heaven Hills AVA which borders the Yakima Valley AVA on the north and the Columbia River on the south. The Quarry Butte is made from a blend of 54% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Merlot and 17% Syrah. Black fruits on the palate with leather, tobacco, minerals and vanilla on the finish with tangy acidity.

Tres Sabores Porque No Napa Valley 2009
-- Tres Sabores which means “three flavors” in Spanish after the flavors that come from the trio of terroir, the vine and the artisan winemaker. The wine is a blend of more than half Zinfandel, and then Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah and just a bit of Petit Verdot. Juicy, fresh, easy to drink style. Zin components definitely show through.

Trust Cellars Riesling Walla Walla 2010
-- Steve and Lori Brooks, in their former lives as a journalists for CNN in Atlanta, got to know a thing or two about wine because they traveled and they drank it--all over the world. Steve realized, nearly twenty years into his life as a journalist that he wasn't happy and decided being happy was worth the risk of leaving life as they knew it in Atlanta behind to give the winemaking business a try. Lori still works for CNN. Fresh, clean style with a touch of spritz on the palate. Off-dry with notes of honey and melons. Not terribly complex but quaffable. I look forward to giving their reds a try.

Tarrica Gewurztraminer, Central Coast 2010 -Tarrica Wine Cellars is a small, family owned winery started in 2000 in Paso Robles. An off-dry Gewurztraminer with the requisite notes of lychees and rose petals.

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