Sat 18 Feb 2017
The limited edition “Miljenko’s Selections” wines from Grgich Hills Estate are named for the winery’s co-founder and longtime winemaker Miljenko “Mike” Grgich, and the label is a fitting tribute to this Napa Valley pioneer. (Present winemaker is Ivo Jeramaz.) Our Wine of the Day is the superb Grgich Hills Miljenko’s Selection Essence Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Napa Valley, a sauvignon blanc of riveting purity and intensity. The wine fermented with natural yeasts and aged nine months in large oak casks, so any wood influence is subtle, almost subliminal. The color is pale straw-gold; aromas of lime peel, lemongrass and gooseberry are heightened by notes of jasmine and lilac and a kind of sunny, leafy fig suggestion. The texture is both soft and talc-like and boldly crisp with assertive acidity; flavors take on a wisp of stone-fruit rounded by a tangerine edge, all finishing with grapefruit rind, seashell and limestone scintillation. The energy and elegance of this sauvignon blanc cannot be overstated, nor can its poignant, piercing minerality or its lovely sense of presence; it is one of the most sheerly beautiful examples of the grape I have encountered. 13.5 percent alcohol. Production was 646 cases. Drink now through 20 to ’22. Exceptional. About $55.
A sample for review. The label image is one vintage behind; 2015 has not made it onto the winery’s website.
Thu 16 Feb 2017
Posted by Fredric Koeppel under Grillo
, Sicily No Comments
Consumers can find plenty of wines from Sicily made from the so-called international grape varieties like chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon, but it seems more fitting to me to drink wines fashioned from indigenous grapes such as grillo for white and nero d’avola and nerello mascalese for reds. A fine example of that white grape, long a staple in the production of Marsala, is the Tenuta Regaleali Grillo Cavallo delle Fate 2015, Sicilia, a wine that seems to embody the encompassing geography of sea, sky and mountain in one sleek, spare package, mirroring the shimmer of its pale gold hue. Notes of roasted lemon, spiced pear and acacia open to aspects of dried meadowy herbs and flowers and a kind of sunny leafy rasp; there’s a touch of fig and a wisp of salty iodine to a finish replete with burgeoning limestone and flint minerality; acidity bright as sunlight lends vibrant immediacy.13 percent alcohol. We drank this last night with swordfish that I marinated for a few hours in a bath of olive oil, soy sauce and lime juice. The olive oil, infused with garlic and thyme, has been used the previous night in chicken confit, so there’s that. The wine was a perfect foil for the richness of the swordfish. Drink through 2018 or ’19. Excellent. About $20.
A Leonard LoCascio Selection for Winebow Inc., New York. A sample for review.
Tue 14 Feb 2017
Posted by Fredric Koeppel under Germany
, Riesling No Comments
The St. Urbans-Hof Nik Weis Wiltinger “Alte Reben” Kabinett Riesling 2015, Mosel, is a thrilling example of the riesling grape offered at a remarkably fair price. How old are the old vines — alte reben? They originate in a vineyard established in the early 1900s, with some of the vines dating back that far. The soil sits on Devonian slate with a high iron-content that lends the wines a profound sense of minerality. The wine is made all in stainless steel with indigenous yeasts. The color is a shimmer of pale straw-gold; the wine is fresh and bright and tends toward brilliant immediacy of effect in its notes of jasmine and honeysuckle, peach and lime peel, lemongrass and green apple bolstered by a burgeoning element of flinty-limestone. The spicy stone-fruit flavors display a slightly honeyed element, but the wine is totally dry, enlivened with chiming acidity and crystalline minerality of intense focus and purity, all leading to a finish animated by graphite and grapefruit. The wine’s texture and structure, lithe and balletic, flow across the palate like liquid money. 10.5 percent alcohol. I cannot say enough how exciting this riesling was to drink, how much it felt like an embodiment of the spirit of the grapes and place where they were grown. No, it does not possess the depth of character of a “Grand Cru” vineyard, but, wow, what a fabulous, scintillating surface it conveys. It was perfect with a soup of cabbage, pork and shiitake mushrooms with lots of garlic and ginger that I made last night. Excellent. About $18, a Crazy, Raving Bargain.
An R. Shack Selection, for HB Wine Merchants, New York.
Tue 14 Feb 2017
Posted by Fredric Koeppel under Burgundy
, Cabernet franc
, Loire Valley
, Napa Valley
, Pinot noir
, Russian River Valley
, Sparkling Wine No Comments
Valentine’s, the most fraught day of the year, when everybody in America is going to be as romantic as hell or die trying, and what’s more romantic than that? In case you — meaning any person of whatever gender fluidity, age, religion, political stance, food preference or IQ — forgot to lay in a bottle of Champagne or sparkling wine, here is a brief roster of examples, all Brut Rosés, that register at various levels of delectability on the palate and dent-free on the pocketbook; in other words, delicious and not too expensive. (I understand that “expensive” is a relative concept.) Though actual Champagne is not included here, that is, bubbly made exclusively in the Champagne region of France, these models are produced in the famed “Champagne method” of second fermentation in the bottle, the same bottle it will be sold in, after some length of time resting on the lees in said bottle before being finished with the cork and wire. The process is a tad more complicated, of course, but I’m into simplification today so I can get a bottle of sparkling wine into your hands before it’s too late. Two of these selections are from France — Loire Valley and Burgundy — and two from California — Russian River and Napa-Carneros. So, drink up, have fun, dance a step or two and give him or her or him/her a smooch for me.
Credit: Leslie Barron, Big Love, acrylic and mixed media on panel, 24 by 48 inches. Courtesy of L Ross Gallery, Memphis, Tennessee.
De Chanceny Brut Rosé nv, Crémant de Loire, is a product of Alliance Loire, a cooperative founded in 2002 to take advantage of vineyard connections that range from Muscadet in the west to the appellations of Touraine in the center. This is 100 percent cabernet franc, aged on the lees at least 12 months. The color is an attractive pale copper-salmon hue, enlivened by a steady stream of tiny bubbles. Aromas of strawberry and raspberry are touched with the slight astringency of mulberry, fleshed out by orange zest and a hint of cloves. This Crémant de Loire is dry, crisp and lively, animated by pert acidity and a deft limestone edge. 12.5 percent alcohol. Truly charming. Very Good+. I paid $15 locally, but prices around the country vary from about $13 to $19; don’t pay that much, My Readers.
Signature Imports, Mansfield, Mass.
Founded in 1831, Domaine Albert Bichot produces Burgundy wines that encompass the complete geographical and hierarchical aspects of the region. Today, however, we look not at any of the domaine’s Premier Cru and Grand Cru wines but at its quite satisfying non-vintage Albert Bichot Brut Rosé Crémant de Bourgogne, composed of chardonnay, pinot noir and gamay grapes. The color is pale copper-pink, the essential bubbles active and energetic. Notes of blood orange, cloves, tangerine and red cherry are given a serious touch by an element of limestone minerality. It’s quite dry but displays lovely bones and a deceptive quality of tensile strength. 12 percent alcohol. Excellent. About $25.
European Wine Imports, Cleveland, Ohio. A sample for review.
The J Vineyard Brut Rosé nv, Russian River Valley, is a blend of 66 percent pinot noir, 33 percent chardonnay and 1 percent pinot meunier; it aged two years en tirage, that is, on the lees in the bottle. This is all flushes, blushes and nuances, from its very pale copper-sunset hue, to its slightly fleshy, subtly ripe notes of orange zest, raspberry and lemon rind touched with almond skin, to its steely, chiseled structure. The bubbles, however, are nothing discrete, being a dynamic upward surge like a fountain. This sparkling wine is elegant and fine-boned, finishing with an intriguing hint of grapefruit bitterness. 12.5 percent alcohol. Excellent. About $45.
A sample for review.
The Frank Family Vineyard Brut Rosé 2012, Napa Valley-Carneros, a blend of 76 percent pinot noir and 24 percent chardonnay, offers a pale copper hue flushed with rose-petal pink; the tiny bubbles teem like a glinting tempest in the glass. This is a focused and intense sparkling wine that displays burnished notes of blood orange and tangerine, red raspberries and currants wrapped in a package of lightly toasted brioche and limestone steeliness, managing to be both generous and austere. Lip-smacking acidity and effervescence and scintillating minerality keep it appealing and dynamic, while innate elegance makes it lithe and attractive. 12 percent alcohol. Production was 500 cases. Drink through 2019 to ’21. Excellent. About $55.
A sample for review.
Fri 10 Feb 2017
It’s interesting that these two gewurztraminer wines, made in regions thousands of miles and a hemisphere apart, received such similar treatment in the winery, that is to say, mostly stainless steel with a judicious amount of wood. Drink these with charcuterie, pork chops smothered in apples and white wine, seafood soups and stews, grilled mussels, moderately spicy Southeast Asian cuisine.
These wines were samples for review.
First, the Gundlach Bundschu Estate Vineyard Gewurztraminer 2014, Sonoma Coast, produced from vineyards where the vines are 10 years old and 40 years old, fermented and aged in 90 percent stainless steel tanks and 10 percent neutral French oak barrels; in addition, and even more interesting, 15 percent of the grapes were frozen before being pressed. What’s the result of this process? A clean, fresh and spare gewurztraminer that displays a very pale straw-gold hue and arresting aromas of lime peel and grapefruit, lychee, gardenia and jasmine, with following hints of green tea and lemongrass and an overall sheen of petrol and limestone. It’s pretty heady stuff, all right. On the palate, the wine is pithy, crisp with essential acidity, and lively with a kind of flinty nervosity, these elements providing a keen edge to the lovely, ripe, talc-like stone-fruit and citrus flavors, culminating in a finish flush with grapefruit bitterness. 14.3 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2020 or ’22, as time should burnish this to a state of pure golden minerality. Excellent. About $22.50.
Grapes for the Lawson’s Dry Hills Gewurztraminer 2014, Marlborough, New Zealand, derive from vineyards planted in 1981. The regimen is six months in 80 hectoliter tanks — 2,113.37 gallons — and standard French barriques. This is a truly lovely wine, from its shimmer of pale gold hue to his intriguing scents of lychee and gardenia, grapefruit and mango, with notes of petrol and honeysuckle, to its exquisite tension among spicy flavors of figs, quince and ginger; scintillating limestone minerality; and bright acidity that cuts a furrow on the palate. The essence here is a briery, loamy, heather and woodsy character under succulent yellow fruit, leading to a typical stony finish freighted with grapefruit rind bitterness. 14 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2020 to ’22. Excellent. About $19.
Imported by The Country Vintner, Ashland, Va., a division of Winebow Inc.
Thu 9 Feb 2017
You may think I’m wayward and quixotic for recommending a rosé wine on February 9, a day of storms, wind, snow and ice for much of the nation, but yesterday I drank a glass (or two) of this wine while sitting on the back porch, wearing shorts and a t-shirt. And then the temperature dropped precipitously, so we had a very cold night, a chilly but sunny today, and tomorrow we’re back in the 70s. Who can live with this whiplash approach to mid-Winter? The wine is the Toad Hollow Dry Rosé of Pinot Noir 2016, designated Sonoma County, though the grapes derived from the marine climate of Carneros. The wine’s name — “Dry Rosé” — indicates that at one time and perhaps even now American consumers considered rosé wines sweet, though the great majority of them are bone-dry. While made completely from pinot noir grapes — no grenache, cinsault, counoise, no syrah or mourvèdre — this rosé thoroughly partakes of the spirit of its counterparts in Provence. The color is an entrancing pale onion skin hue — what used to be called “eye of the partridge” — and the aromas of orange zest, peach and strawberry are subtle and delicate, bolstered by a hint of wet stones and dried thyme; a few moments in the glass bring in notes of watermelon and lilac. On the palate, this charming rosé wine is a little gingery, featuring peach and raspberry flavors enlivened by crisp acidity and a burgeoning limestone and flint element. “Charming,” yes, but quite spare, slightly honed and chiseled, nothing gushing or abundant; I call it classic and graceful. 11.5 percent alcohol. Now through the end of 2017. Very Good+. About $15, representing Real Value.
A sample for review.
Wed 8 Feb 2017
The sparkling wine Crémant de Bourgogne may be made from any of the grape varieties allowed in Burgundy, meaning predominantly chardonnay, aligoté and pinot noir, but including gamay and pinot blanc. The product must be fashioned in the “Champagne method” of second fermentation in the bottle it’s sold in. The Crémant de Bourgogne appellation is extensive, reaching from Chablis down through Burgundy proper, Chalonnaise, Mâconnais and Beaujolais and encompassing 365 communes in four départménts. Grapes intended for Crémant de Bourgogne are generally cultivated separately from grapes that go into the great village, Premier Cru and Grand Cru wines of Burgundy and Chablis; that land is too precious and those grapes too expensive to sideline into sparkling wine, though that was often the practice at great estates before 1975, when the appellation regulations were laid down. Until 1975, the product was known as Borgogne Mousseux. A great deal of Crémant de Bourgogne is produced by cooperatives or by estates that specialize in effervescence; on the other hand, some of Burgundy’s best-known domaines, such as Yves Boyer-Martenot, Duc de Magenta and Jean-Noel Gagnard, still engage in the practice. In truth, many domaines are so small that they don’t have room for producing Crémant.
The house we look at today is Domaine Louis Picamelot, founded in 1926 in Rully, a village — population about 600 — in the Côte Chalonnaise. The domaine is still in family hands, in the third generation, but run by sons-in-law. Picamelot draws chardonnay, aligoté and pinot noir grapes from its own 10 hectares of vineyards in Côte Chalonnaise and Côte de Beaune but also from vineyards under long-term contracts reaching from Beaujolais to Chatillonnais, a region (not an appellation) lying between Chablis and the Côte d’Or that contributes heavily to Crémant de Bourgogne. I found the four examples from Picamelot reviewed here to be beautifully made, very sophisticated and mostly worthy of giving lower-priced Champagne — or higher-priced, for that matter — a run for its money. The sparkling wines of Domaine Louis Picamelot are imported by Ansonia Wines, Newton, Massachusetts. These wines were samples for review. Map of Crémant de Bourgogne from bourgogne-wines.com, a very informative website.
The medium straw-gold Louis Picamelot Le Terroirs Brut, nv, Crémant de Bourgogne, is a blend of 57 percent pinot noir, 32 percent chardonnay and 11 percent aligoté, aged at least 12 months on the lees. Elements of limestone and seashell surround notes of baked lemons and pears that open to stone-fruit compote, cloves, heather and toffee; it’s surprisingly dense and viscous on the palate, gathering an array of mineral-tinged textural elements and glimpses of yellow fruit that neatly balance bright acidity with a slightly creamy nature. 12 percent alcohol. Very Good+. About $24.
Made from 100 percent pinot noir grapes, the Louis Picamelot Les Terroirs Brut Rosé, nv, Crémant de Bourgogne, aged at least 12 months in the bottle on the lees; the grapes came from vineyards in the Côte Chalonnaise. The color is pale salmon-copper; energetic bubbles stream upward in a steady surge. Aromas of raspberry, peach and orange peel open to hints of raspberry leaf and cinnamon bread, over a limestone and steel character; on the palate, this is fine-boned and tensile, slightly briery, clean and elegant while offering a dynamic veracity of bright acid and a scintillating mineral element. 12 percent alcohol. Excellent. About $24.
The Louis Picamelot Terroir de Chazot Blanc de Noir Brut, nv, Crémant de Bourgogne, is also 100 percent pinot noir, this from a designated vineyard situated on the higher hillsides of St. Aubin in the Côte de Beaune. It aged at least 18 months in the bottle on the lees. The color is very pale straw-gold, while the persistent stream of tiny bubbles is satisfying and exhilarating. Notes of roasted lemon and pear nectar open to hints of tangerine and lime peel, almond skin and lightly buttered cinnamon toast and a sort of fragile seashell-limestone element of chiseled minerality. That honed and hewn quality persists on the palate, where its chalk and flint character defines a spare, elegant package of lovely nuance and subtlety. 12 percent alcohol. Excellent. About $30.
The Louis Picamelot Cuvée Jean Baptiste Chautard Brut 2012, Crémant de Bourgogne, is a blend of 77 percent chardonnay and 23 percent aligoté, qualifying as a blanc de blancs. A pale gold hue is animated by a teeming torrent of frothing bubbles; it’s a clean, spare, elegant sparkling wine that features notes of roasted lemons and spiced pears with undertones of quince and ginger, chalk and lightly toasted brioche. This builds character and substance in the glass, layering pertinent limestone minerality with brisk acidity and hints of baked stone-fruit flavors, all wrapped in a lively effervescent nature that doesn’t emphasize any element unduly; balanced yet exciting. 12.5 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2020 or ’22. Excellent. About $38.
Wed 8 Feb 2017
Posted by Fredric Koeppel under Chardonnay
, Umbria No Comments
Tellus is a label from the Falesco estate in Umbria, founded by brothers Riccardo and Renzo Cotarella in 1979. The brand explores international grape varieties produced to sell inexpensively. The Tellus Chardonnay 2015, Umbria, was made all in stainless steel; it proclaims its freshness and immediate appeal with subtlety and delicacy. The color is very pale straw-gold, and the aromas express an essence of ripe and slightly honeyed pineapple and grapefruit, touched with nutmeg and acacia, quince and ginger, with hints of limestone and flint. This chardonnay flows across the palate in a sleek, lithe and supple manner, boosted by crystalline acidity and scintillating limestone minerality. Yes, it’s quite dry and spare, yet deeply imbued with charming elements of deftly spiced citrus and stone-fruit flavors. 12.5 percent alcohol. Perfect with lighter fish and seafood appetizers and main dishes. Production was 2,000 cases. Very Good+. About $16.
A Leonardo Locascio Selection, imported by Winebow Inc., New York. A sample for review.
Fri 3 Feb 2017
Posted by Fredric Koeppel under Corvina
, Verona No Comments
It’s chilly and brisk today in what’s called the Mid-South in these here parts, putting me in mind of a hearty but not overdone or blockbusterish red wine. Such a candidate would be the Scaia Paradiso 2013, a Rosso Veronese from Tenuta Sant’Antonio, a noted producer of Valpolicella and Amarone. The wine is a blend of 50 percent corvina grapes, 20 percent each corvinone and rodinella and 10 percent cabernet sauvignon. The wine undergoes a second fermentation on the skins of dried cabernet grapes for about 10 days, in the ripasso method of Valpolicella, though cabernet is unusual in this respect. The wine aged for a year in 500-liter oak casks, about 132 gallons, compared to 59 gallons for the standard French barrique. This is a gritty, loamy, smoky wine — there are three of the Dwarfs — whose dark but not over-extracted ruby-garnet color testifies to an innate transparency and lightness of being. Aromas of deeply spiced and macerated black and red cherries offer notes of cherry skin and pit, along with a foresty element of briers and brambles; a few moments in the glass bring out hints of mint and blueberry. A nicely chiseled graphite element pervades the texture, serving as backdrop for a barky and rooty quality, like some black tea concocted by monks, and a bit of Damson plum, licorice and violets, all animated by enlivening acidity and a touch of dusty tannins. None of these characteristics are unduly emphatic or dominate, the whole package being a model of balance and integration. 14.5 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2019 or ’20 with full-flavored pasta dishes, grilled red meat or dry aged cheeses. Excellent. About $18, representing Real Value.
Imported by Dalla Terra Winery Direct, Napa, Calif. A sample for review.
Wed 1 Feb 2017
Jackson Family Wines acquired Siduri Wines, the cult producer of single-vineyard pinot noirs, in January 2015. Smart purchase for a company heavily into pinpointing exclusive wineries and producers of pinot noir in California and Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Founder Adam Lee remains as winemaker. The wine considered today, however, is not a single-vineyard effort but a wine that seeks to be the embodiment of Sonoma County’s Russian River Valley AVA, a noted powerhouse of pinot noir and chardonnay wines. The Siduri Pinot Noir 2015, Russian River Valley, derives from seven vineyards throughout the diverse landscape and micro-climates of Russian River Valley and a variety of clones. This one is for fans of big-hearted pinot noirs that wear their gushing fruity attributes and underpinnings on their sleeves. Not particularly my style — I prefer more nuance — but it’s obviously so well-made that I can’t resist offering it as another Wine of the Day. The color is a striking deep ruby-purple with a glowing violet-magenta rim; it’s a dark and intense pinot noir that features scents and flavors of smoked and macerated black and red cherries and currants touched with iodine and iron and notes of rhubarb, allspice, sandalwood and sassafras. Silky smooth is the texture, running like satin ribbons over the palate, while bright acidity lends liveliness and firm, graphite-tinged tannins give grit and verve. Loam and leather come up, as well as some foresty asperity in the depths, more smoke and a blithe hint of wild cherry. 14.3 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2020 or ’22 with roasted chicken or game birds, pork tenderloin or veal. Excellent. About $35.
A sample for review.
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