Napa Valley’s Chateau Montelena is best-known for its long-lived chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon wines. Riesling is something of a Rieslingsideline, but that doesn’t mean the approach is casual. The Chateau Montelena Riesling 2014, Potter Valley, is anything but off-hand. Potter Valley, in Medocino County, was approved as an American Viticultural Area in 1983; it’s the northernmost AVA in the vast North Coast region. This is a riesling of crystalline intensity and presence that begins with a pale gold hue and continues with arresting aromas of peach and lychee, spiced pear and lime peel, jasmine and lilac; there’s a snap of gunflint and a whiff of damp limestone. Chiming acidity cuts through a talc-like texture that whatever its burgeoning lushness feels spare, chiseled and elegant, presenting a thoughtful paradox of sensations to the palate. The wine is quite dry yet juicy with flavors of slightly dusty roasted lemon and candied kumquat; the finish brings in touches of limestone and spiced grapefruit, ending with a bracing saline note. 13.5 percent alcohol. We drank this wine last night with salmon dusted with fennel pollen rub and seared in a cast-iron skillet. Winemaker was Matt Crafton. Excellent. About $25.

A sample for review.

Yes, I’m offering another riesling as Wine of the Day, because, it seems to me and I have said before, that rieslings are perfect cattin rieslingwines for Autumn. Drink the Joseph Cattin Riesling 2013, Alsace, with roasted chicken or pork loin, lighter veal dishes, duck or rabbit terrine, charcuterie or seared or broiled trout, salmon or swordfish. This is a riesling — aged a minimum of four months in stainless steel and old oak tanks — of fine bones and gently chiseled structure, delicately modeled but strung along the energy and verve of bright acidity and scintillating limestone minerality. The color is very pale straw-gold; beguiling aromas of green apple, lemon, lime peel, lemon balm and grapefruit are twined with hints of verbena and jasmine, all expressed with eloquence but decided nuance. There’s more forward thrust on the palate, as the acid and steely-stony elements take charge and deliver a dynamic boost through a finish that’s spare and elegant without being austere. Flavors are dominated by lightly spiced lemon peel, quince and pear. A real beauty and a joy to drink. 12 percent alcohol. Excellent. About $14, a Raving Great Value.

Imported by T. Edward Wines, New York. A sample for review.

Eating at one of our favorite local fine dining restaurants Friday night, this wine, served as aperitif, was a revelation. The Schloss Gobelsburg “Gobelsburger” Riesling 2013, Kamptal, Austria, originates from an estate that can date its heritage back to 1171, when the schloss-gobelsburg-gobelsburger-riesling-kamptal-austria-10224971monks of Zwettl Monastery were granted the right to plant vines. In the 900 or so years that followed, the property changed hands many times, sometimes owned by the church, often by private owners, until 1996, when Schloss Gobelsburg and the whole estate were taken on a long-term lease by Willi Bründlmayer and Michael Moosbrugger. The center of the estate is the castle, actually a Renaissance palace updated during the Baroque period. The property consists of six vineyards encompassing 35 hectares spread over terraced hillsides of mica-schist and gneiss and hollows between hills where the soil is more loess and loam. These vineyards are treated separately as expressions of individual terroir and micro-climate. Fifty percent of the grapes cultivated are gruner veltliner, along with 25 percent riesling with the rest in red grapes, 8 percent zweigelt, 7 percent St. Laurent, and 5 percent each blauburgunder (pinot noir) and merlot.

The Schloss Gobelsburg “Gobelsburger” Riesling 2013 is perhaps the most radiantly pure and intense riesling I have tasted this year. The color is a beguiling pale straw-gold hue that practically shimmers in the glass; notes of lemon balm and lime peel, lemongrass and peach are seamlessly woven with a bare hint of lychee and touches of dusty limestone. These elements segue deftly onto the palate, where the wine’s mineral character burgeons into a simmering and scintillating — but never overwrought — attitude of stony rectitude that does not preclude an almost winsome citrus and stone-fruit nature decked with the subtlest quality of cloves and jasmine. The inextricable amalgam of flowers, fruit and talc-like minerality, energized by bright and piercing acidity, is delicious, provocative and unforgettable. NA% alcohol. Drink now through 2018 to 2020. Excellent. According to wine-searcher.com, the average national price is about $18, marking a Rare Unimpeachable Value.

A Terry Theise Selection, imported by Michael Skurnik Wines, Syosset, N.Y.

As with so many estates in European wine regions, Weingut Leitz has an interesting story. Though official records place the Leitz family in the winemaking industry of the Rheingau as far back as 1744, it wasn’t until the early 1960s that Josef Leitz rebuilt a leitzwinery damaged by Allied bombing near the end of World War II. His grandson, Johannes Leitz, took over the estate in 1985, turning the family’s interests primarily to the reisling grape. Starting with the 2.9 hectares the family owned — 7.16 acres — Johannes expanded the Leitz holdings to 43 hectares — about 106 acres — in 2014. Of that quantity, spread over a dozen individual vineyards, the area that produced the wine under review today, the Leitz Rudesheimer Berg Schlossberg Riesling Trocken 2013, Rheingau, measures exactly 1.17 hectares. The slope of Berg Schlossberg is 58 degrees, meaning that tending the vines and harvesting grapes can be extremely taxing, if not downright hazardous. The soil that supports (if that’s the word) this vineyard is a very hard and rocky red slate clay with quartzite mixed in, meaning that the vines have to struggle to root downward and find water and nutrients. The stress causes the vines to reduce the size and number of grapes, but those grapes exhibit great aromas, body and character. The Leitz Rudesheimer Berg Schlossberg Riesling Trocken 2013 offers a very pale gold hue and enticing scents of lemon balm, lime peel and peach that open to notes of quince and crystallized ginger; touches of cloves and talc add to the perfume. You must prepare yourself for what happens next, because this is a wine of palate-shattering acidity and scintillating chalk and limestone minerality; the words lively and crisp scarcely begin to describe the shimmering vibrancy that animates this exceptionally dry riesling. If that were all there was to it, we could take our puckery mouths and go elsewhere, but fortunately the wine also embodies touches of stone-fruit flavors, hints of baking spice and slightly candied flowers and an almost subliminal breeze of fresh seacoast salinity. The alcohol content is an eminently manageable 12.5 percent. Drink now through 2020 to 2025. We had this wine with swordfish seared in a cast-iron skillet in a coffee rub with urfa and maresh peppers. Excellent. About $20, an Amazing Value.

Imported by Schatzi Wines, Milan, N.Y. A sample for review.

Argyle’s Lone Star Vineyard in Willamette Valley’s Eola-Amity Hills AVA allots just under seven acres to the riesling grape, amounting to a bare two percent of the cultivation of the estate’s vineyards. The three blocks of riesling are divided into grapes that will undergo fermentation and aging in stainless steel, coming out with a smidgeon of residual sugar, and those that go into neutral French oak, coming out totally dry. That combination lends the Argyle Nuthouse Riesling 2013, Eola-Amity Hills, remarkable vibrancy and resonance, as well as real presence on the palate, though you would swear that the wine was weightless. The color is pale straw-gold; aromas of peach and spiced pear are wreathed with notes of lychee and petrol, quince and ginger, jasmine and honeysuckle; give the wine a few moments in the glass — serve it chilled and let it gradually and softly warm up — bring in hints of nectarine and lime peel. This is a richly golden, slightly honeyed reisling whose riveting acidity drives through a generous talc-like texture to allow the emergence of burgeoning limestone minerality; it displays a liveliness that goes beyond just crisp acidity to an essential dynamism that does not negate its delicate and elegant structure. 12 percent alcohol. Production was 1,300 cases. I happily drank a glass of this wine with a Parmesan cheese omelet with tomatoes and green olives. Now through 2019 to 2023. I consider this riesling among the best not only in Oregon but on the West Coast. Exceptional. About $30.

A sample for review.

Perhaps what you desire is a riesling that offers a touch of sweetness to balance the spice and mild heat of an Indian curry or pad thai or some similar dish from Southeast Asia that delivers multiple layers of flavor and temperature. I have a candidate for that office. It’s an inexpensive wine from Germany’s Rheinhessen region, the Georg Albrecht Schneider Niersteiner Paterberg Riesling Kabinett 2012, and it draws on the sweeter extension of the Kabinett purview, Kabinett being, to express the matter simply, the driest category of Germany’s classified wines. I don’t mean that the wine is cloying or dessert-like, only that its intense ripeness slides across the palate with a feeling of juicy, slightly roasted and brandied citrus and stone-fruit flavors steeped in green tea. The color is medium straw-gold; an enveloping softness of peach, pear, lychee and lime peel trembles from the glass, augmented by traces of candied orange rind and pink grapefruit, this subtle and nuanced panoply of delights anchored by a distinct sense of leafy, loamy earthiness; a few moments of swirling, sniffing and sipping bring out touches of quince and ginger and an echo of caramelized fennel. This completely pretty wine plunges across the taste-buds like liquid money, nothing profound but eminently attractive. 10 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2017 or ’18. Very Good+. About $15.

Imported by Winesellers Ltd, Niles, Illinois. A sample for review.

Sometimes all we require from a white wine is that it be clean, fresh, cold and tasty and that it goes down like a sea-breeze. Other times, however, we desire a white wine with more weight, with more character and savor, especially that latter quality. So today I offer 10 such white wines, produced from many wine regions and from a variety of grapes, a couple rather unusual. These are the white wines that stimulate the palate as well as refresh the spirit. As usual with these Weekend Wine Notes, I eschew a recital of technical detail, historical perspective and geographical data — all of which I adore — to present quick and incisive reviews designed to pique your interest and whet the old taste-buds. These wines, all rated Excellent except for one Exceptional, were either samples for review or were tasted at a wholesaler’s trade event. Enjoy, but with good sense and moderation.
Abbazia di Novacella Kerner 2013, Valle Isarco, Alto Adige, Italy. 13.5% alc. (You may add kerner to your list of obscure grapes.) Medium straw-gold hue with a faint green cast; roasted lemon, notes of quince and ginger, thyme and pine resin, touch of peach and a tantalizing hint of iris and lilac; slightly dusty and buoyant texture, focus on bright acidity and clean limestone minerality; spiced pear and yellow plum flavors with a saline edge. Now through 2016 or ’17. Excellent. About $19, marking Good Value.
Alois Lageder Haberle Pinot Bianco 2013, Sudtirol, Alto Adige, Italy. 13% alc. Pale gold color; every aspect of lemon: lemon peel, lemon balm, lemon curd, with hints of green apple, peach and grapefruit, a whiff of almond blossom and rosemary; a savory and saline pinot blanc, trussed by limestone and flint minerality that devolves to a bracing finish featuring a bite of grapefruit bitterness. Now through 2016 or ’17. Excellent. About $23.
Éric Chevalier Clos de la Butte 2013, Muscadet Côtes de Grand Lieu Sur Lie, Loire Valley, France. 11.5% alc. 100% melon de Bourgogne grapes. Pale straw-gold hue; unusually sizable and savory for Muscadet, with a lithe, sinewy structure based on fleet acidity and glittering limestone and flint minerality; pert and redolent with lemon and lime peel and a hint of almond blossom; notes of pear and apple; overall, glistening and glassy, delicate and finely-knit but with impressive heft. Now through 2016 to ’18. Excellent. About $16, a Real Bargain.
Clemens Busch Grauen Schiefer Riesling Trocken 2012, Mosel, Germany. 12% alc. Shimmering pale gold color; distinct aromas of lychee and rubber eraser, cloves, lime peel and grapefruit and a pert gingery quality, touch of jasmine; blazing acidity and scintillating limestone minerality; quite dry but with inherent citrus and stone-fruit ripeness; lovely lithe texture with elegant heft; a hint of loamy earthiness in the finish. A brilliant riesling. Now through 2020 to ’22. Excellent. About $30.
Etre Chardonnay 2012, Sonoma County. (Saxon Brown’s unoaked chardonnay.) 13.5% alc. 447 cases. Medium straw-gold color; ripe and spicy pineapple and grapefruit scents and flavors; an intriguing whiff of toasted oats; cloves and orange rind; all ensconced in lime peel and limestone minerality; bare hint of honeysuckle and mango; notes of spiced pear and roasted lemon; lively but not crunchy acidity; seductively lush texture but nothing opulent or obvious. Why would this need oak? Now through 2016 or ’17. Excellent. About $28.
Grgich Hills Estate Fume Blanc 2013, Napa Valley. 14.1% alc. 100% sauvignon blanc grapes. Certified organic. Pale gold hue; lime peel and lemongrass, grapefruit and jasmine, mint and heather, a touch of guava, all seamlessly wreathed with a sort of breathless ease; lime and a note of peach in the mouth, a hint of thyme and timothy, lovely supple refined structure, a golden core of quince and ginger; finish is all flint, limestone and grapefruit rind. Now through 2017 or ’18. Exceptional. About $30.
Kennedy Shah Dubrut Vineyard Reserve Riesling 2012, Yakima Valley, Washington. 13.3% alc. Pale gold color; penetrating and provocative aromas of petrol, lychee, peach and spiced pear, top-notes of lemongrass and lime peel; crushed gravel and shale; very dry but luminously fruit-filled and animated by bright acidity and a vibrant limestone presence; notes of lime pith and grapefruit bitterness on the finish. A chiseled, multi-faceted riesling with plenty of appeal. Now through 2016 or ’17. Excellent. About $25 .
André & Michel Quenard Les Abymes 2013, Savoie, France. 11% alc. 100% jacquere grapes (to be added to your roster of obscure grapes). Very pale gold color; cloves, cedar and mint, roasted lemon and spiced pear; vibrant acidity with a crisp edge, and more steel than limestone; clean and refreshing but with a woodsy aura and a touch of mossy earthiness on the finish. Drink through 2016. Excellent. About $20.
Saxon Brown Fighting Brothers Cuvee Semillon 2012, Sonoma County. 13.5% alc. 334 cases. Pale gold hue; beeswax, fig, quince and ginger; slightly leafy and herbal; candied orange peel, hint of mango; back-notes of spiced and brandied stone-fruit; wonderful sleek, silken texture, slides across the tongue like money; quite spicy and savory on the palate, with lip-smacking acidity and a wisp of limestone minerality. Pretty damned irresistible. Now through 2016 to ’18. Excellent. About $28.
Schloss Schonborn Riesling Trocken 2010, Rheingau, Germany. 11.5% alc. Crystalline and transparent in every sense, with marked purity and intensity; very pale gold color; winsome jasmine and honeysuckle, ripe and spicy pear, peach and lychee; hints of lemon balm and lemon curd; incisive acidity and decisive limestone and flint elements; slightly candied lime and grapefruit peel, cloves and ginger; the finish is all hewn limestone, a little austere and aloof. Now through 2020 to ’22. Excellent. About $18, representing Great Value.

The experience at VINO 2015 — as at VINO 2011, the last time the event was held in New York — is overwhelming. Again, the three-day conference about Italian wine and the Italian wine industry and their relationship with America occurred (last week) at the venerable Waldorf Astoria hotel, and though my room this year was not as grand as my accommodations were four years ago — not, I hope, a reflection of any diminishing of my status — the hotel is a sumptuous place that certainly fulfills any expectations for service. (In fact, the Waldorf is so exclusive that to eat breakfast in Peacock Alley, just off the ornate lobby, you have to reserve a table and wear a dark business suit.) It’s pretty interesting and even gratifying to mingle with (or observe from a distance) some of the great figures in wine education and authorship, people who wrote some of the definitive and best-known books in the business, including Karen MacNeil, Ed McCarthy, Harriet Lembeck, Kevin Zraly, Terry Robarts, Elin McCoy and others. It’s also a treat to hobnob with a host of my blogging compatriots, exchanging notes and thoughts.

To a significant extent, the conference is about selling wine or figuring out how to sell wine, so most of the attendees come from the wholesale tier of the industry, and their presence tips the focus toward getting wine to the market and in the hands of consumers. For example, a seminar about the wines of Calabria given by an author and educator emphasized the land and region, the characteristics of the grapes and the details about the wines, while a seminar on the wines of the Campania region given by an expert in Italian wines at the retail level was mostly about how to sell the wines and explain them to customers.

The overwhelming part consists of the sheer numbers of estates, producers and cooperatives offering wine to taste — according to the Italian Trade Commission, 350 producers and more than 1,200 wines. In addition, Slow Wine, an adjunct of the Slow Food organization, mounted its own, smaller and very select tasting of wines from producers featured in their wine guide. There’s no way that one sane healthy person could taste even a fraction of that vinous flood, so as I mentioned in a previous post, I tried to be judicious and pick producers carefully or, to be honest, on a whim. It’s surprising how often that rather antimethodical method works out, especially among the producers that do not have representation in the United States. Of course when the opportunity arose, I didn’t hesitate to taste the wines of prestigious estates too.

Today, I launch a series devoted to the wines I encountered at VINO 2015, beginning with four producers, from the Slow Wine tasting, that do not have representation in this country. Listen up, importers!

Postcard image of the Waldorf Astoria from vanartgallery.bc.ca.
Tenuta Terraviva lies close to the coastal town of Tortoreto in the region of Abruzzo. The organic estate produces small quantities of white and red wine from local grapes such as trebbiano, pecorino and montepulciano, employing thoughtful application of wood and steel to craft delicious, lively and charming wines with a slightly serious edge and surprising complexity. Alcohol content stays consistently in the 13 to 13.5 percent range. I tried the sleek, spicy, lightly honeyed and blossomy Terraviva Trebbiano 2013, the winery’s entry-level white, made in stainless steel; another trebbiano, Mario’s 40 2012, which undergoes 12 months in large oak barrels and six months in steel tanks, lending notes of spiced pear, candied grapefruit and almond flower (about 415 cases); the intriguing ‘Ekwo 2013, Abruzzo Pecorino, made in stainless steel and offering distinct hints of heather, yellow plums, mango and lime peel (about 335 cases); and for red, the Lui 2011, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, aged half in used barriques and half in steel tanks, for a feral and woodsy effect of wild cherries and raspberries, dried mountain herbs and leather, with real dusty tannic grip (about 1,650 cases; alcohol content 14 percent). Tenuta Terraviva is looking for an American importer, and we would all be happy if one were found. At the current conversion rate of euros to dollars, the Trebbiano 2013 is priced at about $10.25, while Mario’s 40 2012 is about $13.50. Even after the costs of importation and the three-tier system, these would be attractive and reasonably priced wines.
Villa Venti is located about 30 kilometers directly west of the sea-coast resort city of Rimini, in the extreme southeastern corner of Emilia-Romagna. Boasting bed and breakfast lodging and a farm for demonstrating organic and biodynamic methods, the estate is operated by the Castellucci, Giardini and Riva families. I tried two of their wines, the exotic Serenaro 2013, Forli Bianco IGT, made from the very local famoso di Cesena grape, and the appealing and enticing Primo Segno 2012, Romagna Sangiovese Superiore, as well as the version from 2011. This red wine, which sees no oak, is deceptively light, with floral and spicy fragrances that seem to nourish the soul, very pretty red cherry and raspberry fruit, bracing acidity and a surprising amount of supple loamy tannins; that’s the 2012; the ’11 offers even more burnish, depth and purchase. It made me long for a dish of pappardelle with rabbit or a selection of salumi and cheeses. In Italy, this stylish wine costs about 10 euros.
The founding of Torre San Martino began with the discovery, in 2000, of sangiovese vines dating back to 1922. The estate occupies 70 hectares — about 173 acres — in the central Appennines of the area called Tosco-Romagnola; we’re still in Emilia-Romagna but in the far west. The stunning young woman who poured the wines of Torre San Martino supplied me with a sleekly designed brochure, all black, white and gray, but it offered no technical information about the products, and the estate’s website is “Under Construction,” so I can deliver no technical data about how these wines were made, though someone is doing something right. The intriguing white entry, the Vigna della Signora 2013, Colli di Faenza Bianco, is a blend of chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and albana grapes, the latter an indigenous vine that does not get much love, despite its DOCG status. In combination, though, with unspecified amounts of chardonnay and sauvignon blanc, it produces a wine that seems pure gold, from its brilliant straw-gold hue to its notes of yellow fruit and flowers, spiced pears and caramelized grapefruit and orange zest, and a texture poised between pert acidity and moderate lushness. The Vigna 1922 Riserva 2011, Sangiovese di Romagna, is made exclusively from those 93-year-old vines; it’s a wine of great elegance and breeding, intensity and depth, displaying a sense of history and geography, and if you could not sell the hell out of it in restaurants in New York, Chicago, San Francisco and L.A. then you would need to get a job cleaning milk shake machines. The Gemme 2013, Sangiovese di Romagna Superiore, is a younger wine in every way, fresh and amenable but with plenty of stuffing. These are sophisticated wines that embody high-design components and an interesting narrative; how could they not find an American importer?
I was terrifically impressed by the wines of Ronco del Gelso, an estate located in the Isonzo DOC of Friuli Venezia Giulia, in northeastern Italy. Mainly white wines are produced here, with a few reds, and these white wines are notably fresh, clean, crisp and spicy, as in the instance of the Toc Bas 2013, made from friulano grapes. More layered is the Sot lis Rives 2013, a barrel-aged pinot grigio that employs crystalline limestone qualities and vivacious acidity to cushion tasty peach, lime and grapefruit flavors, with hints of hazelnuts and almond blossom. The Siet Vignis Chardonnay 2013 aged a year in 2,500-liter oak barrels, lending the wine lovely subtlety and suppleness, while retaining well-defined mineral elements and delicious citrus and stone-fruit flavors. Best of these, however, is Ronco del Gelso’s Schulz Riesling 2013, a captivating and winsome wine made all in stainless steel, resting on the lees with no malolactic fermentation; the result is a beautifully balanced amalgam of peach, pear, lychee, jasmine and limestone that’s slightly sweet on the entry but very dry on the finish and exhibiting all the verve and energy you want in a great riesling.

I’ll say it right here: Buy the Loosen Bros. “Dr. L” Sparkling Riesling Sekt by the case. Produced by the well-known German estate that makes riesling wines in all categories from generic/proprietary to single-vineyard treasures, this lithe and nimble sparkling wine will inject some zest and dare I say “fun” into the rest of the Yuletide and New Year season. Made in the Charmat method that induces bubbles in a pressurized tank (rather than a second fermentation in the individual bottle as with the Champagne method), this charmer sports a very pale gold hue and a surprisingly vivid and constant stream of invigorating bubbles; this is notably clean, crisp and fresh, with touches of green apple and spiced pear and bare hints of bay leaf, thyme and lemon rind; there’s a kiss of sweetness at first, but limestone minerality and bright acidity turn it dry and savory from mid-palate through a finish etched with steel. Completely delightful. Very Good+. I paid $16 locally, but you find it around the United States of America discounted as low as $13.

Imported by Loosen Bros. USA, Salem, Oregon.

Dry riesling can be a versatile wine with the food of Autumn and Winter, at least in its Germanic or Eastern European versions. I’m thinking of such items as pork chops or pork roast cooked with apples; charcouterie; schniztel and other veal dishes; game birds stuffed with prunes and walnuts. All right, now I’m hungry! If your imagination and taste buds are leaning in those directions, try the Gunderloch “Jean-Baptiste” Riesling Kabinett 2012, from Germany’s Rheinhessen region. The color is very pale gold, just a shimmer of hue; delicate and beguiling aromas of peach and spiced pear, jasmine and lime peel and a bare intriguing hint of diesel lead to a presence on the palate that perfectly combines moderate richness of ripe stone-fruit with incisive limestone-and-flint minerality and scintillating acidity; the complete effect is of tremendous vibrancy and resonance caged by elegance and an ethereal character. 10.5 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2017 or ’18. Excellent. About $20.

Imported by Rudi Wiest Selections, San Marcos, Calif. Tasted at a wholesaler’s trade event.

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