"I KNOW OF NO ONE WHO CAN TAKE THE STUFFINESS OUT OF A WINE BLOG AND TURN IT INTO A THEATRICAL, SATIRICAL YET EXTREMELY INFORMATIVE PIECE OF WORK THAN DEB FROST"-TERRY P
Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Hook Vineyards Grenache 2016
We had a sudden realization over the long weekend that we haven’t been really thinking about American wine lately, much less drinking it.It’s largely because it’s been difficult, particularly with some of the devastating wildfires in California, to find great values. But here is a slightly off-offbeat selection of 100% Grenache from a Santa Lucia Highlands winery long noted for fine Pinot Noir. A perfect way to celebrate the great victory of our country’s heroic role models, our Women’s World Cup Champions, it is as unique, savory, complex, emotionally and intellectually satisfying as their dramatic moment. The Santa Lucia Highlands is a long narrow AVA running down the Western Side of the Salinas Valley— pure Steinbeck territory, a marked contrast in terrain and lifestyle from the arty beach communities like Monterey and Carmel on the oceanside. The Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard was among the pioneers in the area, devoted to European quality cellar worthy wines designed to specifically to enjoy with food since 1975. In 2008, they moved down to Santa Cruz and opened their first tasting room where wine tourists could compare and contrast their bounty with those of nearby competitors. This Grenache, grown in a cooler climate than in France, where it is primarily a blending wine or Spain, where it becomes Rioja. The climate imbues this bright, raspberry sweet fruit with a lighter body. Some may not even suspect this is Grenache, until an unfinished bottle really opens up after a day or two. It is surprisingly good with unexpected fare— such as Mexican or Asian that you might not never contemplate pairing with a more formal Rioja. Also great with burgers and especially lamb— perhaps it’s time to get out the skewers. It’s really too good for Sangria, but when the heat rose we could not resist pouring in a little ice, seltzer, and the local berries peaking now for the primo red, white and blue experience!
Cembra Cantina de Montagna Schiava 2017
Schiava in the wrong hands can sometimes be a little harsh (but then so can anything in the wrong hands). But this is hands down, one of the nicest, round mellow, aromatic expressions of this grape we have ever enjoyed. Established in 1952, the communally run Cembra Cantina di Montagna is the highest cellar in Trentino. Imagine the Sound of Music— only with the Italian version of a very young Brigitte Bardot twirling around on the Mediterranean side of the mountains. Sacre bleu mon dieu! This raspberry hued, perfectly constructed bottle, at only 12% alcohol literally bursts open with mountain air and terroir. A terrific value. You will not go wrong with this.
CRAZY GOOD MACON
Clos de Rocs Grand Vin de Bourgogne Mâcon-Loché 2017
Olivier Giroux, a native of Burgundy’s Maconnais region, was born and grew up in a vineyard on the side Fuissé. But it was not until 2002 that he was able to buy his own property in the vicinity, which he renamed Clos de Rocs. The wines he has been making there in the last two decades, particularly from the small parcel of land designated as the Mâcon-Loché appellation, have become acknowledged as some of the best values in white burgundy today. This talented young vigneron’s approach is organic, although he would rather devote his time to perfecting his wines than crossing all of the t’s necessary for official certification. This elegantly structured bottle, with icy mineral notes of ancient seabeds, pear and comice, is absolutely stellar. It immediately summons visions of plump oysters and all manner of seafood delights.Rarely does a wine so literally shout for its perfect complements. But it is equally satisfying with vegan spreads. Splash out on this— it will seriously prick up your senses even on the most gloomy summer night.
La Bastide Blanche Bandol 2018
Michel and Louis Bronzo bought property in Provence in the early ‘70s, intent on elevating Mourvedre grown under the Bandol appellation to the heights of Chateauneuf. In 1993, conditions created a benchmark vintage, making them one of France’s top producers. Mourvedre makes up 7!% of this beautiful rosé, followed by smaller proportions of Grenache (14%). Cinsault, and a smidgen of Clairette 3%). The vines are now a little over thirty years old, and the terroir limestone with the small pebbles known as cailloux. The farming is organic, and the result is just a pure hit of Provence. You literally taste the sea and the air in this mineral laden pale raspberry/watermelon colored potion. A simply phenomenal choice for summer!
Domaine Michel Juillot 2016 Bourgogne Pinot Noir
Burgundy can be daunting. This delicious, round, cherry blossoming Pinot Noir is anything but. Jean-Michel Juillot is the third Giboulot to oversee the family’s estate in Savigny-les-Beaune. He has recently made the transition to organic farming, and this vibrant red, slightly mineral tinged fruit just bursts from the bottle as a result. There is no old-fashioned stuffiness, bargain-squeezing wateriness or modern trendiness— just a beautifully medium structured bottle that will not overwhelm a warmer night. Hands down, one of the best values you will come across for an easy-drinking, non-bank breaking Burgundy this season. Drink it fresh and drink it now. It is a charm.
2018 Chateau Soucherie "Rose de Loire"
With Château Soucherie’s new cellar master Vianney de Tastes, we sampled both a pure-Grolleau tank of 2018 rosé and the tank that will be Rosenthal Wine Merchant’s cuvée: a blend of 60% Grolleau and 40% Gamay. The blended tank was far superior in its vinosity and complexity, and we look forward to a phenomenal rosé from our long-standing partner in Anjou this vintage. With vigorous acidity, laser focus, and an impression of tangy fruits which prompts salivation, this is a stellar example of how the Loire’s naturally cool climate can yield rosés of potentially even greater poise than their southern counterparts. The 2018 Rosé de Loire was pressed directly, with a brief several hours of maceration to extract color and phenolics, and will have spent five months on its lees in stainless steel.
CHINON SAUVIGNON BLANC
Chateau de la Bonneliere Les Devants 2017
This exquisite organic Sauvignon from the left bank of the Loire Valley’s Chinon so smoothly melts on your palate, you may never be satisfied with your more brittle, acidic old standbys again. The difference is that extraordinary. It is aromatically melon and citrusy- almost as round as an unbaked Chardonnay, but with a more vibrant kick and long mineral finish. This property, with cellars beneath the walls of the 13th century fortress, has been in the Plouzeau family since 1846. But it wasn’t until Marc Plouzeau, who took over from his father in 1989 and dedicated the clay-limestone vineyards to organic viticulture (to the befuddlement of many neighbors, who wondered why go to all the fuss) that its wines have been worthy of international raves and awards.The grapes are harvested at full maturity and the cold made, naturally stabilized wine can be enjoyed young. A fabulous choice for spring and summer evenings that deserved to be kicked into higher gear.We will be serving it frequently.
GLOOMY WEATHER SPLENDOR
Domaine de la Chapelle des Bois Morgon "les Rentay" 2015
Gloomy weather calls for some special wine.
And this Morgon- which may be as difficult to identify as gamay from the Beaujolais region as it is to recognize spring in today chilly squalls- is seriously special. Domaine de la Chapelle proprietors Chantal and Eric Coudert-Appert are the seventh generation to work this family estate in Fleurie. They are steadfast believers in classical tradition, hewing closely to the principles of lutte raisonn biodynamically growing, hand harvesting, and interfering with natural processes only in cases of extreme emergency. They have refused to cater to fruity Beaujolais fashion. Instead, this is a deep dark ruby, almost licorice looking and tasting bottle, you might almost confuse it with Chateauneuf du Pape though without any of the latter
fusty stiffness. This has the earthiness of classic Burgundy but with a spritelyfresh juiciness. It literally makes the palate soar. And at 14.5% alcohol, due to the unusual climate conditions of this particular harvest- that is not all that will soar, so dispense accordingly. This will stand up to much heftier fare than you'd ever expect to pair with gamay- steak, stew, even red sauced pasta. The possibilities are endless.
Put some away for a rainy day.
A SAINT-AUBIN LEGEND
Henri Prudhon et Fils Bourgogne Les Charmeaux 2016
Pinot Noir reigns in Burgundy. And Les Charmeaux may be one of the most charming we’ve tasted in any season. Lithe and gracious, it leaps up at the palate like the perfect host to anticipate and eagerly accommodate your pleasure without any pretense or stuffiness. Henri Prudhon, born in 1921, is a legend in Saint Aubin, where his family has been based since the 17th Century, and he served as mayor for countless decades. It was only in 1983, however, that he, his wife and his two sons (one of whom, Gerard, has succeeded him at the village hall as well as the vineyard) began making their own wine, rather than selling the fruit of their nearly 15 hectare holdings to prominent negociants. Neal Rosenthal has been working with them since the winery’s inception. It is one of his great discoveries and success stories. Today they produce 90,000 bottles of numerous red and white wines, 85% of which are exported. And this pinot, an incredible value at this price, is just pure, fruit forward, sustainably, un-interfered ambrosia. It’s fantastic with roast chicken or cheeses, but so versatile we can hardly think of anything we would NOT want to eat with it— well, ok, maybe not spicy Asian or Tex-Mex— but you may have your own ideas, or like us, be perfectly happy to sip all on its own on a spring or early summer evening. Tremendous buy!
Pascal Bellier Cheverny Blanc 2017
Cheverny, in Vineuil in the Loire Valley, right above the river and close to Blois, is the only French AOC appellation that allows a blend of Sauvignon and Chardonnay. Bellier, who established his domaine (where he also grows Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Gamay, and Romarantin) in 1960. His choice is a distinctive, delectable combo of 80% Sauvignon and 20% Chardonnay. The Chardonnay seems to soften and round out the Sauvignon. This is just yummy— fresh, bright, beautiful pale gold, reflecting its sandy, pebbly terroir and pure nature of Bellier’s environmentally friendly methods. This tastes like a vibrant mountain spring, with delicate hints of citrus and elderflower. Previous vintages have garnered numerous prizes and this bottle, which must be drunk young, seems destined to garner additional accolades. At 12.5% alcohol, it is unbelievably thirst quenching. It is spectacular with Asian cuisine, as well as a vast array of seafood and traditional French charcuterie. A divine value, perfect for warm weather. Out of the gate, it is already one of our fave raves of the season.
Bauer Rosé Niederösterreich
Well, this is quite a pleasant surprise! We know that Germany and Austria occasionally produce something other than the traditional effervescent ümlauty whites, but this Rosé is simply stupefyingly good! Herbaceously perfumed, minerally crisp, the freshest of fruit forward, this is absolutely one of the most gratifying and distinctive rosés we have ever enjoyed. And no wonder it is so superb- Josef Bauer, who manages this 10 hectare family winery in the Grossrienthal area of the Wagram region with his wife, is the fourth generation of his family to do so. This expertise, along with their passionate commitment to the preservation of the environment and creating pure, honest, biodynamic wines that honor the terroir and natural fruit, is immediately evident from nose to finish. And the liter bottle is an unbelievable value. Never mind the high ratings it’s received from the usual Suck ups (no names, please : ) it’s fast become a favorite personal quaff of people who are really in the know (and given that they walk the floors nightly at highly regarded establishments right here in River, uh, New York City,, their customers will let them know immediately if they are not). YOU MUST TRY THIS IMMEDIATELY! Ignore our advice at your peril. This is the bomb for spring/summer! And if we find anything even remotely oomphy, you will certainly be the first to find out.
$13 Liter bottle
Antxiola 2018 Getariako Txakolina
This happy palate slapper is such a perfect wake-up call from winter doldrums. Txakolina has always been a Basque speciality, as intrepid travelers long before Barcelona became a trendy tourist destination, are well aware. But the DO of Getaria Txakolina was not founded until 1989, which is when the Errasti family, which had been growing and making wine from these vineyards' indigenous Hondarrabi Zuri and Hondarabbi Beltza formally founded the Antxiola (pronounced ahn-cho-la) winery. Antxiola refers to a legendary nearby home that was part of the area’s historic fortification wall. Its recorded provenance goes back to 1555, but it has been standing even longer. It seems to perfectly encompass the ancient traditions of this citrusy slightly effervescent wine— which must be drunk fresh and young (and once you try a bottle, you will probably want another immediately. At only .11% alcohol, its green apply tartness is fantastic with seafood and of course, paella, which it is born to accompany. But it is also delicious with a platter of hummus and grape leaves and will add extra sparkle to your usual Asian delivery. A real treat.
BOURGOGNE PINOT NOIR
Maison Chanzy 2017
Another wonderful spring red! The vines of Maison Chanzy, in the heart of Burgundy, were originally planted by monks in the 17th century. Its current director, the award winning Jean-Baptiste Jessiaume, is dedicated to the respect of this ancient history and biodynamic cultivation of modern wine. More elaborate Grand Crus are produced here, but this young charming fruity Pinot Noir, cultivated in clay and limestone soil, is perfect for everyday drinking, late lunches and early suppers. It is delicious with white meats, especially chicken, fruit salads and vegetarian platters.
Le Rendez-Vous de Acolytes 2015
This pure expression of Grenache is just like uncorking spring— slightly funky, earthy, you may want to let it breathe a little or even decant before relishing the many joys (least of which is its amazing price) of this fruity biodynamic clearly artisan crafted bottle from the Southern Rhone. Ardeche is about halfway between Montpellier and Lyon, and it is where Florence and Olivier Leriche, who met at agricultural college in Bordeaux and trained at some of Burgundy’s finest chateaus, found themselves able to afford their own property. There, they found old vines sitting in limestone and clay terraces. “Accoles.” the old Occitan word for terraces, actually inspired the name of their domaine. They are now producing about nine wines since establishing themselves on the property in 2005. This mineral laden tart cherry bouquet’d Grenache is a great introduction to their marriage of Burgundian philosophy and Southern Rhone barrique technique. Delicious!
“OLD TIME ARGENTINA”
Don Valentin Bianchi “Lacrada” 2017
Bodega Valentin Bianci, started in 1928, by Don Valentin Bianchi, is one of the oldest and finest family owned wineries in South America. The founder passed away in August, 1968, but heirs Valentin Eduardo Bianchi and Ricardo Stradella Bianchi have continued making beloved, award winning wines while modernizing the facilities to compete with worldwide industry trends.California winemaker Robert Pepi has been recruited to further maximize the potential of the revered Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon traditionally cultivated here. Don Valentin Bianchi Lacrada, a Bordeaux styled blend, has long been a beloved best-seller, particularly at home in Argentina, where it is considered a paragon of Mendoza fruit and regional expression. But all we can tell you is that this combination of approximately 1/3 each of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec is just pure fresh delicious ruby jammy juicy juicy juicy juice. Yes, you read that right. And the juice stands alone- without the over -oaking that can make lesser quality bottles from the region somewhat cloying. Drink it alone- with maybe a bite of manchego, some olives, almonds or other Tapas-type nibbles- to really appreciate, then proceed to pairing with not only the beef (well, they’re Argentinian) that the producers suggest. This wine will liven up your homemade rice and beans, Mexican take out, pizza, pasta you name it. One of the most glorious, absolutely yummy bargains in the shop right now. Its possibilities may be endless.
Clos Reginu Corse Calvi Domaine Maestracci 2017
Corsica is, of course, probably best known as the island of Napoleon’s birth. But its valley of Regina has been producing wine for at least that long— even if some of its stellar stand-outs, like this spicy gem, are just beginning to develop an international reputation. Domaine Maestracci has been a family run estate for over 120 years. Camille Anais Raoust took over from her parents in 2015 and her fascinating blend of Niellucciu, Grenache, Sciaccarellu. Syrah, Mourvédre and Carignan is so alive the cork jumps out of the bottle that makes you expect some sprizz to follow. But there are no bubbles, just a wild mix of Mediterranean breeze, fruity aroma, chewy licorice, and smoky herb. You will want to sit with it for a while and mull it over as you try to place it. You might really think it’s some kind of odd Nebbiolo for an absolutely ridiculous price. It might even be fun to play a guessing game with guests- it is that unusual. It is also hard to believe that anything so abundantly flavorful is only 12.5% alcohol. It is a great choice for French specialities like cassoulet, but perfect with roasted chicken or vegetables and stupendous with pasta or cheeses. This is a real find and incredible buy- don’t pass it up.
Ashbrook Estate Margaret River Semillon 2017
Sémillon is France’s third most widely planted white wine grape variety, after Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. There, it is blended with Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle to create White Bordeaux. It is also the primary component in “noble rot” dessert wines such as Sauternes. But in the hotter climate of Australia, it loses the accent over e and exhibits some unique characteristics that make it one of the world’s hottest deals today. Its citrusy top notes and tropical pear mango flavors really come to the fore in this tremendous offering from a family operation flourishing since 1967. Semillon has sometimes been distinguished from Sauvignon Blanc by what some critics have described have described as a lanolin component (as distinguished from the “butter” with which Chardonnay is imbued, generally courtesy of aging in oak). But here, it imbues only body— as opposed to wax lips more suitable for Halloween costume rather than fine dining. This extraordinary versatile crispy white stands up amazingly to spicy Asian fare— it may be one of the best choices for Indian food ever, but it similarly elevates take-out Chinese, Thai, or sushi. Can imagine it will be super for lazy afternoons and picnic suppers in warmer weather. But right now, it provides just the perfect jolt of fresh joy.
A GEM FROM THE SOUTHWEST OF FRANCE
Brumont Petit Torus Madiran 2014
Tannat is often called the “healthiest” grape, due to its chart-topping levels of anti-oxidants that benefit the heart. It originated in Madiran, a small village in the Basque region of Southwest France. It has since been transplanted around the world and flourished in California and Oregon) ut particularly in Uruguay, where it has been touted as the “next Malbec.” There, the grape often has a slightly softer, less tannic expression. But if you really want to get a feel for Tannat, go to the source. And this fantastically priced bottle, 60% Tannat blended with 20% each of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, from a producer passionately devoted to its finest cultivation, is what it’s all about. It is sumptuously dark, well structured and spicy with aromas of chocolate,, espresso, cardamom and licorice. It is superb with spicy food- from Basque specialities like cassoulet to Indian curry as well as barbecue, pizza, lamb, roast chicken, or hearty cheeses. It’s remarkably versatile— and such an unbeatable value and great change of pace during the bracing bleakness of winter— your heart will love it, one way or another!
Château de Montguéret Saumur Brut "Tete de Cuvee"
Loire Valley, France
People who believe that champagne or sparkling wines made in the style associated with the famous region are only for holidays or toasts are really missing out on a vast realm of pleasurable experience. This wonderful bottle is a case in point. Made in Saumur, the heart of the Loire Valley, where the calcareous rock, tuffeau, has created not only magnificent terroir, but empty quarries magnificent for cellaring and aging, this is not a frivolous wine. It has a unique, serious heft and deep, robust color that really deserves to be savored on its own merits rather than splashed and gulped. Produced in a temperate maritime clime, with the Saumur hills buffering the western winds, the plots further from the Loire have a continental feel. Continually gaining respectability, the area’s wines are fast becoming the go-to for white Burgundy admirers looking for affordable options. This is a superb first-course starter or accompaniment for lighter or spicy meals. It really must be tasted!
2016 Volanga Chardonnay
Chardonnay is not a grape we tend to associate with Spain, which is only one reason this sprightly Spanish refresher is such a nifty surprise. Just when the over buttery, over oaked California variety we’ve become perhaps overly familiar with has become a bit of a chore to even contemplate, here is a bright, lemony pine pleasure. Valonga is an old farm on the right bank of the Cinca River, managed by three generations of the same family since 1931. It has had vineyards and a winery since the beginning of the 19th century, in addition to cultivating walnuts, olives, almonds and cereals. Wine is approached here not like a fashion trend, but a food— just as one of our favorite contemporary writers on the subject, Eric Asimov, insists it should be. And this is a pure, delicious chaser for infinite fare— from the aforementioned olives and nuts to chicken, fish, lighter pasta dishes, spicy Asian fare or fruit. Perfect for post-holiday decompression and planning spring picnics to come!
A NEIGHBOR OF BAROLO
Matteo Correggia Nebbiolo Roero 2015
We were very impressed with the 2010 vintage we first found worthy of spotlighting a few seasons ago, but this bottle literally knocks it out of the park. Matteo Correggia’s son Giovanni took over after his father’s untimely passing in 200, and this offering both honors the pioneering patriarch’s memory and pays testament to the son’s increasingly deft touch. The “Roero” designation is reserved for red wines made in Piedmont’s Province of Cuneo from a minimum of 95% Nebbiolo grapes with the addition of 2%–5% of non-aromatic red varieties and must be cellar-aged for twenty months, six of them in wooden barrels. This is just pure cherry/plum bliss, from the first sip— it makes your mouth explode with the same kind of sensation you get from the special little fruits that seem to peak for a blessed magic moment in summer. The structure is extraordinary- typical of a much more expensive wine, with firm tannins and sweeping perfumed finish. Fabulously food-friendly (especially for Piemontese specialities and truffles) but simply scrumptious with any red sauce and cheese. Wowza!
SPARKLING FROM HUNGARY
An exquisite sparkling wine of shimmering golden color with a nose of medium intensity which offers discernible notes of citrus, pears, and white peaches. It's effervescence provides a creamy texture on the palate paired with an elegant and zesty acidity, a union of lithe body and minimal alcohol creating a well balanced brut nature. With hints of white flesh fruits typical of a chardonnay the Törley also exudes notes of grapefruit and tropical spices. Not a one dimensional sparkling dry wine, the Törley chardonnay Brut Nature carries an elegant buoyancy that cannot be matched at the bargain price of $12!
CRU DU RHONE
Domaine Eyverine 2017 Cairanne Cru du Rhône
This brand new cru will absolutely light up the dark hours of the Winter Solstice. Cairanne used to be classified as “Côtes du Rhone Villaged Cairanne,” but after proving its excellent consistency over a prolonged period was elevated to cru status in 2016. This is the second year’s release. So get it while it’s hot! Warm, spicy, licorice-y fruity and organically pure delicious is really more like it. A combination of Syrah, Mourvedre, and Grenache- it is an absolutely lip smacking spirit brightener. The alcohol content is listed as 14.5%, but this is anything but a heavy logue-y knock out, just absolute bright juicy flavor. The vintners suggest pairing with lamb and beef, but that’s selling it short. This wine is so much more versatile— we loved it with spicy Indian style stews— eggplant, chickpea, potato or any combination there of. Would also be super with turkey, roast chicken and all kinds of cheese. It’s delightful. Let us know what you think!
AMERICAN PINOT GRIS
Parducci Small Lot Pinot Gris 2016
Should you need to take a respite from frenzy and overindulgence, this perfect, incredibly affordable food-friendly sipper from one of Mendocino’s oldest family owned operations does just the trick. Pinot Gris is actually the same grape as Pinot Grigio—and originated in France’s Burgundy, though it was popularized in late 20th Century Italy. Scientists at UC Davis have even more recently discovered that its DNA is the same as that of Pinot Noir- the only difference is the color. Pinot Grigio is often made in a lighter, more floral style. Pinot Gris can be a little more formidable, smokier and suitable for aging. But this sustainably grown and vinified bottle, part of a collection the descendants of the legendary patriarch John Parducci are releasing from small premium lots to celebrate their 85th year, is ready to drink right now. It is modest, yet drily elegant— just the thing to take the fuss out of between holiday meal planning and present wrapping, without a bit out of your budget. A great find!
BEAUJOLAIS FOR THANKSGIVING
Chateau Cambon Beaujolais Récolte 2017
WOW! It is so easy, particularly at this very moment, when the now perhaps overhyped mass market Beaujolais Nouveau comes in, tasting perhaps more silly soda pop year after year, comes in, to forget what truly great Beaujolais can taste like. And this one is just SO unexpectedly good. With the first sip, you realize that this is painstakingly handcrafted, pure, natural, luxuriously velvety raspberry inflected juice made by people who truly love and understand wine. It speaks for itself. You don’t even need to know the back story. This was originally a joint venture of friends, all Beaujolais natural wine movement pioneers, the late Marcel Lapierre, Joseph Chamonard, his daughter Genevieve and son-in-law Jean-Claude Chanudet who found a forgotten 13 hectare parcel, between Morgon and Brouilly, originally planted in 1914. If it languished unheralded for decades, it was largely because iit was originally planted in three separate parcels outside the geographic parameters for grand cru status. Despite its lack of noble certification, these vineyard veterans recognized the extraordinary value and potential of the superb clay granite and calcareous sand terroir. They combined the vines to make one harmonious plot and applied the biodynamic-organic principles of which they were such great, early champions. Only natural yeasts are used, and the wine rests as long as necessary in 200 year old casks. The operation is now in the hands of Jean-Claude Chanudet and his wife Genevieve, and this réserve offering is made from the oldest vines, known as "Le Cambon.” It is wonderful and beautifully structured without being soporific— at 12.5% alcohol, it is fabulous with all kinds of food from beef to chevre- but beyond perfect for Thanksgiving. It is a celebration unto itself!
Di Sipio Montepulciano d;Abruzzo 2014
Attention! If you really want to enjoy this joyous bounty of delight to the max, don’t do what we did. Which was being in such a hurry to taste this baby that without thinking, we cracked it and poured. It was good, but NOTHING like the next day, when we went back to the finish the bottle and encountered what had overnight opened into a virtually psychedelic rainbow of glorious cherry fruit and licorice herb sensation. Let it breathe, and you will be absolutely knocked out even faster than by a punch from Rocky Marciano, who was born in the little town from whence this comes. It was phenomenal with all kinds of savory foods, and an absolute master pizza masterpiece. Just resplendently vibrant fresh fruit with no oak interference. Highly recommended!
Domaine des Tournelles 2015
Bekaa Valley, Lebanon
If you are looking for a fantastic fall white wine value, this soft warm 78% Viognier, 18% Chardonnay, 4% Muscat d’Alexandrie from a legendary Lebanese winery established by French farmers in 1868 ticks all the perfect boxes. The grapes are grown organically nd harvested by hand at some of the highest altitudes in the Northern Hemisphere, and the dry year round sunny weather precludes the fungal issues that have blighted crops elsewhere in the world throughout history. The wine is still crafted in the stone walled, wood ceiling’d facility built according to Lebanese architectural traditions in 1868, although some modern modifications, as you might imagine, have been made since. Just as the grapes are grown naturally, to emphasize the unique terroir, there are no artificial cooling mechanisms that maintain the ambient temperature in the time honored ways of the ancient world. This is an ambrosial honey almond palate pleaser that takes the chill out of the fall air and is so food friendly you may seriously want to consider making it your house white. It is perfect for entertaining a discriminating crowd that will never suspect what an amazing deal you’ve snagged!
Château Pascaud Bordeaux Superior 2015
As many of us are all too painfully aware, Bordeaux is the French region responsible for some of the world’s most illustrious- and expensive- wines. The legendary bottles from the finest chateaus, laid away for decades, are as accessible to even the fairly well-heeled, as a great deal on a Rembrandt at auction. But the reality is that the terroir of the region, with gravel, sandy stone and clay, buffeted by an ocean climate, is fairly standard throughout. As is the blend of Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot, rounded out with Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot or Malbec. Chateau Pascaud Bordeaux Superior, whose grapes are grown on hillsides with conditions very like the nearby Saint Emilion, is a great example of the real bang you can get for a buck if you simply know where to look. And compared to the skyrocketing prices of similar California wines, this is an even greater bargain. Primarily Merlot, this bottle is a deep ruby color, with soft tannins and hints of licorice, blackberry and cherry. Let it breathe a little, and never mind fooling your guests— even you will have a hard time believing you found something this good for under $20 a bottle. It seriously compares to wines being sold for nearly four or five times as much. It is unbelievably food friendly, pairing beautifully with everything from eggplant to steak, and of course, delectable French cheese. But with Thanksgiving just around the corner, you may want to start thinking about it as an equally fine compliment to turkey and great alternative to Zinfandel. It’s not too early to stock up and leave the worries to some other holiday issues.
Domaine des Valanges Macon-Davaye 2017
The Mâconnais is one of Burgundy’s most vibrant regions right now. Where Pouilly-Fuissé’s rich, ripe wines once took pride of place, towering above the preponderance of simple inexpensive bottles once lumped together as Mâcon Villages, there is a new generation of winemakers. Not bound to the formal strictures of domaines that trace their vineyards and hoary traditions back to the Middle Ages, these adventurers are passionately committed to the freedom of expression of the most au courant methods of natural farming. Jocelyn and Michel Pacquet formed Domaine des Valanges in 1980. Their original 2.5 hectares has since increased to 11, of which 8 are located in the appellation of Saint Véran. The terroir is especially conducive to the Chardonnay grape, pre-eminent in all of their wines. This plot, called “Les Prés Cousins,” after the district in which it is located, is ideally situated halfway up the sloping alps, in silky clay soil covered by a solid limestone band. The minerality anchors this honey pear ambrosia that is a graceful aperitif and fantastic accompaniment for fish, seafood, white meat and innumerable vegan entrees. A pure palate pleaser!
Château Du Petit Thouars Les Georges 2016 Chinon Rouge
Loire Valley, France
Chinon, located south of the Loire on its left bank, produces Cabernet Franc unmistakably different than expressions of the noble grape elsewhere-- somewhat less harsh, softer, fresher, and fruitier. Perhaps it is only fitting that the only Chinon legendary Neal Rosenthal has at long last found worthy of importing under his reputable mantel comes from the renovation of one of the area’s oldest properties, with a fascinating legacy unto itself. The grand estate was built in the early 1500’s as a little hunting lodge for a wealthy family with an even more luxurious home in its native Thouars and has been since known as “Petit Thouars.” In 1636, it was purchased the first George, Cardinal Richelieu’s diplomat, and has managed to remain in the family for twelve generations, through the French Revolution (at which point one of the current owner’s ancestors fled to fight for America’s independence), the subsequent wars that consumed not only Europe, but the world. Wine was there produced there centuries ago, but it was not until the 1970s, when the father of the current George (commonly known as Sebastién) planted a 10th of the 150 hectare estate, directly behind the great house,with Cabernet Franc. Sebastién and his wife D’Arcy decided in 2013 to move to the chateau from Paris to raise their young family and revitalize the wine-making operation.The clay- limestone terroir (as opposed to the sandier soils in which cabernet franc thrives elsewhere) is exceptional for beautifully structured red wines as well as superb Chenin Blanc. The facilities are managed by a native Chinnonais, Michel Pinard, formerly aide-du-camp to one of the appellation’s finest vignerons, Charles Joquet. And what a stupendous, easy drinking palate tickling quaffer this is. Wonderful for simple fall dinners and lightening all manner of gloom, seasonal or otherwise.
Marc Deschamps Pouilly-Sur-Loire 2017
Loire Valley, France
NEWSFLASH! We are not bringing you this bulletin to further confuse you regarding French white wines with similar sounding names that many Americans may well be too embarrassed to even try to pronounce or order in public, never mind contemplate the distinctions. Some of us may have encountered Pouilly Fuissé in Hemingway’s descriptions of the good life in Paris before we were old enough to legally purchase it, even if it were readily available anywhere other than the most sophisticated restaurants or wine purveyors in this part of the world. It is an elegant, expensive wine made in the Mâcon region of Burgundy from the Chardonnay grape. Pouilly Fumé is something else altogether, made in the Loire from Sauvignon Blanc. And now here we have before us Pouilly-sur-Loire, which is not some newfangled thing. It’s actually been made for a long time in the Loire, but in much smaller quantities than Pouilly-Fumé, hence the unfamiliarity. Pouilly-sur-Loire is made from the Chasselas grape (although Sauvignon Blanc is permitted as an supplement, although that is not the case with this particular, excellent example). Chasselas, popular in Switzerland, is only grown on 40 hectares in the Loire region, compared to the 1200 hectares devoted to Sauvignon Blanc. The wine it produces is somewhat softer, with less citrusy acidity or trademark gunflint notes than is typical of Pouilly- Fumé. But, as demonstrated by this bottle, made in a winery owned for generations by the prominent Figeat family, until its last patriarch and the local mayor, Paul Figeat, was killed in a tragic 1991 accident, it is delicious and genuinely thirst quenching. Marc Deschamps, a colleague who has modernized the facilities while remaining true to the family ideals, has continued to make the kind of wine that vignerons prize among themselves. It is not for laying down, however. Chasselas ripens early and Pouilly-sur-Loire must be drunk young. At only 12% alcohol, it is ideal for late lunches and informal early evenings. It is great with goat cheese, light pasta, grilled shrimp and white fish. Even better as a change of pace for take-out Chinese or Thai!
Reverdito Langhe Nebbiolo 2014 Simane
Wine can be such a seemingly mysterious world. Even if you decide to splurge $60-$100, say (which, let’s face it, is less today than a pair of many ORDINARY basketball sneakers) on a special date night or occasion, how can you even appreciate the value you’re getting without your palate having evolved somewhat? This excellent bottle can help you do that. It is made from the nebbiolo grape, which produces some of not just Italy’s, but the world’s most incredible, treasured wines, Barolo and Barbaresco. It takes years for the tannic properties of the most illustrious of these to develop— even if remotely available in one’s local shop, you cannot buy them young and immediately pop them open for dinner. They have to be laid away for at least a decade to mature. But the grapes used for Langhe nebbiolo often come from the same vineyards, or just beyond the geographical boundaries of those for the finest Barolos and Barbarescos. The grape really only thrives in Italy’s Piedmont and Lombardy regions. Michele Reverdito and his sister Sabina grew up in the vineyards- but his father saw himself as a farmer, not a winemaker, and always sold his harvest to neighbors. His children released their first vintage in 2000, and each year shows exceeding promise. Their Langhe Nebbiolo could actually be classified as Barolo San Giacomo, but Michele feels the soil, which he works as naturally and biodynamically as possible, contains a little too much clay for a classic Barolo. His choice is our win— this wine, delectably chewy, dark cherry, with licorice and tobacco hints, is, simply, an unbelievable steal at just over $20. Let it be your gateway bottle to the pleasures and riches well beyond this price point. It is fit for truffles, game, and the most elegant, preferably wild, mushroom risotto. This is not just a meal, it is an education.
Château Bois Brinçon Grolleau 83 2013
Loire Valley, France
Robert Parker critics, rejoice! If you’ve always thought his ratings are as reliable as, say, the judgements of certain Supreme Court nominees who’ve been bought by private interest groups, this may be the wine that confirms his palate is full of baloney. He has long bashed Grolleau, a dark grape named after the French word for “crow,” grown in the Loire Valley. It was long used as a main component of Rosé d’Anjou, which once comprised over half the entire production of the Loire Valley’s Anjou region, but whose popularity has coincidentally waned with his diatribes. Parker insists growers should replant with lower yielding and perhaps more expensive Gamay and Cabernet Franc. This bottle should help the resistance strike back! Man the barricades and enjoy the the delicious dark hue that simply clings to the cork of this bottle, letting you know it is naturally produced in the most time-honored way at one of the oldest vineyards in Anjou, dating all the way back to 1219. The château and vines sit alone near the picturesque Blaison-Gohier, a hamlet straddling the tectonic plate dividing ‘black’ Anjou from ‘white’ Anjou on the Loire’s south bank. It has been in the family of Xavier Cailleau since 1891, but during post war difficulties of the 50’s, Cailleau’s grandfather was forced to give up making wine, sell his grape harvest to a local co-op and supplement his income by planting orchards. In 1991, Xavier and his wife Geraldine decided to re-open the cellar and begin winemaking once more from the 1/2 of the chateau’s 44 hectares that were still planted with vines. He has has since acquired other parcels.From inception, Xavier was devoted to organic principles, although official certification was not granted until 2006. This Grolleau is from a single hectare of vines re-planted in 1930, after the estate’s original plantings, survivors of the phylloxera epidemic, were ultimately lost to the great frost of 1928. The “83” here is a tribute to the age of the vines when this bottle’s grapes were harvested. This gorgeous, food friendly, fruit forward wine is light in alcohol (which makes for a perfect summer-to-fall transition) but heavy in history. Do yourself a favor and drink it all in.
Commanderie de la Bargemonne 2017
Yes! There IS a bright side to this hot, completely insufferable climate (literally and otherwise) right here right now. You will rarely have a better, perfectly legitimate excuse to try another phenomenal rosé you might not be so otherwise amenable to immediately treat yourself to. Even for the most parsimonious, now is the appropriate moment to splurge an extra 5 bucks over your budget conscious $11.99 threshold. Get whomever you plan to share it with to go halfsies, it's money better spent than on a subway to anywhere! This pure, natural insanely refreshing libation is so terrific- you will be stunned by the sheer difference between these two price points. This is a handcrafted bottle, not mass market stuff that may suffice for the barbarians at the BBQ who would be just as happy with chugging Bud Light, that may be as unsubtly dyed as our noodnik-in-chief’s combover and can taste as astringent as if it’s been vinified in a tine can. This wine is beautifully aromatic, light peachy and strawberry hinted in color and essence, sustainably grown on a foremost Provence 160 acre estate established by Knights Templar in the 13th century. It is fabulously food friendly. But we also love it for our own little twist on this summer’s hottest drink (according to the New York Times, so you know it must be true), the Aperol Spritz. We switch out the usual recipe’s 3 parts Prosecco with this, add the requisite 2 parts Aperol (now back in stock after flying off every store shelf in Manhattan- see HOT, above) a slice of orange and splash of soda (the Vintage Seltzer Mandarin flavor at Frank’s is particularly nice and often on sale). You can call it the VOP spritz and serve it to every VIP in your book. We also love it in the lighter margarita we love to make by the pitcher in summer- substitute it for one part tequila, and top off with a bit of fizzy Pellegrino instead of seltzer, should you really want to splash out. Do it now!
Zantho Zweigelt 2016
We don’t want to ruin the lasting surprise we enjoyed upon slitting the foil on this interesting bottle, so we will leave you to discover and delight in this really nifty innovation yourself. But even better, this superb Austrian red is even more interesting than its pioneering package. Austrian red, you say? Most of us were probably unaware that wine of note other than incandescent Grüner Veltiner, which actually comes from the same region, is even produced in Austria. But Burgenland is at the easternmost part of the country, next to Slovakia and Hungary, where good red wines have long been made, if not widely available beyond Eastern Europe, during centuries of political strife. Never mind that the original name, Rotburger, given to this hybrid of two other indigenous grapes, St. Laurent and Blaufrankisch by Fritz Zweigelt in 1922, does not exactly roll mellifluously off the tongues of English speakers…. But in a country where 1/3 of the vineyards are now devoted to non-white production, this is actually the favorite red. The village of Andau, first noted as Zantho in 1488, is a hot region with gravelly iron and mineral rich terroir that is the perfect habitat for red grapes, as well as a rare woodland lizard. Give this a bit of breathing time to fully experience the cranberry cinnamon succulence of this spicy red. It is perfect for these dreary rainy days we wait for summer to reappear. But it is also, speaking of cranberry, a great partner and value for Thanksgiving fare. You may want to start thinking ahead!
COTES DU RHONE ROSE
Domaine Les Aphillantes 2017 Côte-du-Rhône Rosé
Southern Rhone, France
Another rosé knock out you must absolutely try this summer! The Southern Rhône leads the way to Provence’s olive groves, sunshine and Impressionist summers. The warm climate, low rainfall and small yields derived from the small stone or galet strewn fields, is responsible for fruity, spicy wines that are, unlike the more dry, austere products of Bordeaux, amazingly refreshing this time of year. Daniel Boulle’s roots in the area are as deep as his vines, many of which are more than 30 meters underground. He is the fourth generation of a family of growers that once sent all of its fruits to a local commune. He has expanded beyond the original 10 hectares he inherited, and devoted the operation to biodynamic, organic winemaking with minimal intervention. Wine is fermented in concrete vats, and moved solely by gravity. Boulles caters to no local trends or commercial fads, guided solely by his impeccable taste. For those to whom such things matter, Robert Parker has called his estate one of the finest in the Southern Rhône. But let your own palate be your guide to this exquisite, effervescent varietal blend (50% Grenache, 40% Cinsault, 7% Mourvèdre, 3% Counoise). This rosé is really special.
CELESTIAL GAMAY FROM A LITER!
Coteaux Bourguignons Dominique Piron 2016
You may have noticed you rarely find bottles labelled simply as Beaujolais any more, if at all. For that we can thank the Beaujolais Nouveau mishagoss- that has unfortunately grown, in recent years, from a once cute promotional stunt for a once only locally appreciated wine to the raison-de-etre for flooding the world with far too much truly awful plonk every November. Which is too bad, as you realize when you have the opportunity to savor the wonderful, fresh expression of the gamay grape of the 10 finest crus, of which Morgon may be one of the best. And the Côte du Py, an ancient blue volcanic hill at the heart of the village, has long been considered its finest terroir. Dominique Piron is the 14th generation of a family that has been wresting the profound mysteries of the low cropped vines and sheer granite for centuries. This wine is structured well enough to lay down, but it is especially delicious, fresh and spicy right now. One sniff of the the aromatic fruit and earthy minerals, and you will be instantly transported to a sunny French afternoon. Absolutely fantastic for summer drinking, this bottle is pure pleasure.
SANCERRE FOR SUMMER
Domaine Serge Laloue Sancerre 2017
Loire Valley, France
Why is Sancerre so much more elegant, refreshing, delicious (and a little more pricey- though worth it-as this bottle so beautifully demonstrates) than the average Sauvignon Blanc- which is after all, made from the same grape variety? Sancerre, which can only be 100% Sauvignon Blanc, is an appellation in the Loire Valley, the geographical middle of France, and the historical center of French resistance from the days of the Huguenots to WWII. But what makes the difference in the wine produced there is not only the fierce independence of its people, but the terroir of the area’s slopes—stony and limestone based at the midpoint, which leads to early grape ripening, and siliceous clay at the top. This gives the wines a particularly mineral, flinty note— unlike the grassiness this wild grape exhibits elsewhere. Sancerre is also never oaked— which lets this distinctive terroir star, rather than be smothered. Serge Laloue’s parents began growing tobacco, grain and grapes at their family farm in the 1930’s and selling wine made there at a small café they owned in the village of Thauvenay. In 1960, their son Serge returned home to help with the harvest and never left, having decided to prioritize and restructure his clan’s wine making business and devote its holdings, to which he began adding, parcel by parcel, solely to vineyards. The operation is now run by his son and daughter, who are equally determined to pursue his philosophy of sustainable agriculture and non- chemically interfered with wines. This wine, with its peach and melon nose and stony tenacity, is particularly fantastic in summer. It is absolutely delicious with goat cheese and whatever lighter fare you can stomach on the doggiest of days.
PECORINO BIANCO-NOT CHEESE?
Feudo Antico Terre di Chieti
Pecorino is not just a delicious cheese, it is also the name of an indigenous, once considered minor Italian varietal that barely known beyond local boundaries. This terrific, style and character laden organic white may very well change that. Feudo Antico was started in 2004 by winemakers with generations of experience, devoted to reviving native crops and protecting the local environment of their native Abruzzo. Pecorino had fallen out of cultivation largely because its low yields were not highly profitable to the less talented or highly trained. The producers considered it a good omen when they immediately discovered, during planting of new vineyards in the clay hillside and humble San Pietro farmhouse just purchased for their facility, the ruins of a nearly 2,000 year old Roman villa, complete with terra-cotta wine containers or “dolia.” The Abruzzo Office of Archeaological Heritage rushed to help excavate and catalogue the site, soon declaring it the oldest example of a rural Roman villa where large-scale organized farming devoted to the cultivation of vines was established. This is now the smallest DOC wine in Italy- and each bottle reflects its incredible history and the future Feudo Antico hopes to create by educating and employing the youth of Abruzzo to cultivate their unique climate, culture and soil. The result is fresh, floral, mineral finished and fantastically priced. It is perfect for summer and pairs as beautifully as you might suspect with hard cheeses such as its namesake, light pasta and seafood. And knowing that such gems exist, you may never be able to settle for a glass of insipid Pinot Grigio again in anything other than a famine or emergency.
SANTA CRUZ MOUNTAIN PINOT NOIR
Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyards Santa Lucia Highlands
Pinot Noir 2015 River Road Vineyard
There is a legendary story about how Gary Pisoni, Santa Lucia Highlands’ pioneering and prominent winemaker convinced his father to plant wine grapes on the family farm in 1982, asking him if he’d ever been invited to a “$250 lettuce tasting.” And so began the transformation of a once humble sleepy area at the foothills of the Santa Lucia Range, about 15 miles southwest of Monterey Bay into the lode for California’s premium Pinot Noirs. The Salinas Valley below is still lettuce country, but Spanish missionaries grew grapes in the highlands in the late 18th century, and Pisoni could not help but note the success of his neighbors Rich and Claudia Smith, whose Paraiso Vineyards became the area’s first modern facility in 1973. Pisoni and a high school friend, Gary Franscioni, who have since acquired several vineyards which also provide fruit for some of the region’s highest end boutiques, have harnessed the fog influenced microclimates and varying granitic terroirs to quickly establish their now formidable reputations and encouraged an entire generation of artisans making exceptional, stylistically unique wines. Richer and more alcohol laden than those of Santa Barbara, Sonoma or the Santa Cruz due to later harvests well above the coast, a briny, ocean-breeze derived salinity provides the necessary for great, exciting wines. These are anything but soporific fruit bombs. And while many vintages from the various vineyards are collector’s items only, this particular bottling, a silky yet chewy, cherry, plum tobacco tannin infused offering, is a rare affordable pleasure— particularly for a summer red. It is simply delicious. Grab it while you can.
Château de Pourceiux Blanc
Cotes de Provence, France 2017
This wonderful bottle captures all of the magic, beauty and delicate perfume of Provence. Built on Roman ruins, the formidable chateau, where wine has been made for centuries, built on Roman ruins, has belonged to the family of the Marquis d’ Espagnet, since the 1700s. Its 62 acres of sloped, southern-exposed vineyards nestle between the mountain ranges of the Monts Auréliens and Cézanne’s preferred subjects, the Sante-Victoire. In 1993, the chateau was designated a Historic Monument. But although winery still uses 18th century vats still located in the cellar. this wine is anything but an ancient artifact. Under the direction of Michel d’Espagnet, who has headed the family’s operation since 1986, it breathes with fresh, modern vitality. The yield is limited and only organic, chemical free fertilizer is used on vines that spring from terroir that is sandstone and clay. Perhaps that imbues the wine with a ripe, melon-y sense of pinkishness- you might almost swear, despite your own eyes, that you are sipping a rosé. The 2017 vintage is particularly delightful. This is a perfect summer weekend wine, which will immediately evoke fields of sunflowers, aromas of lavender and the essence of country village charm.
ROUSSANNE FROM THE NORTH
Jeanne Gaillard Roussanne 2015
Northern Rhone, France
Oh lucky day! We are still raving about Pierre Gaillaird’s Croze- Hermitage 2015, and what falls into our hands? A beautiful white wine from his very talented daughter (who, legend has it, was first sent to work in the vineyards as a child as punishment for some misdeed and found it pure passion, rather than penance). By the time she was 24, she had studied wine making and business in Beaune, worked for a Burgundy estate and a California winery, and come into a total of 13 hectares of her own in Crozes-Hermitage and Collines Rhodiannes. Ten years on, she has firmly developed a formidable reputation of her own.This Roussanne is a great example of how she has earned it. Roussane- which means russet in French, is a reddish gold grape which is one of the rare grape varieties permitted in certain red and white wines in France. It is traditionally blended with Marsanne in Northern Rhone whites such as Crozes-Hermitage and Saint-Joseph and elsewhere and is a familiar component of Chateuneuf-du-Pape. It is sometimes confused with Viognier— both have a rich, spicy, somewhat apricot tone. But Roussanne can provide, as this bottle demonstrates so amply, an intense experience all its own, reflecting the handpicked harvest and mineral fine sand and granite of ifs Massif Central terroir. It is worth buying just to marvel at its gorgeous honey color alone. But it drinks as beautifully, aromatically, elegantly and roundly as it looks. It will age well for another five or six years, but why wait? Right now, it has a fresh, glorious bite all its own. A prize!
5/2/18 SYRAH BEYOND
Pierre Gaillard Crozes-Hermitage
Northern Rhone Valley, France
Spoiler Alert! Spoil yourself- or mom, if you think she’s worth it- with this delicious treasure from feisty adventurer Pierre Gaillard. At 12, Gaillard was caught plowing a neighbor’s parcel with a horse. After earning an oenology degree from the prestigious institute in Montpellier, establishing his career at Vidal Fleury before setting out on his own in 1985, he is now acclaimed as one of Northern Rhone’s finest winemakers. The 2015 vintage has been highly praised— and this bottle may become even more interesting and valuable after being laid down for a few years. But if you are really itching for an immediate treat, this bracing expression of unmanipulated, gently caressed (as opposed to over casked) cold macerated cherry fruit can be drunk young and now. You must, however, be prepared to open it up and really let it breathe— the better part of a day wouldn’t hurt. You may want to siphon off a thimbleful just so you can appreciate what an extraordinary difference a little tenderness and some time will make. The result will pay off in a joyous gustatory revelation you may be hard pressed to find at this price point now or ever. Grab this. It’s worth it.
4/16/18 Toscana Rosso
Lagone Aia Vecchia Toscana 2016
File Under: There’s Always a Bright Side. If we’re going to be swamped instead of allowed to enjoy what by all rights should be the glory of spring (please, it’s taking longer to deliver than Mueller’s investigation : ) we might as well drown our misery in decent, affordable style! Generations of the Pellegrini family have been devoted to wine. In 1996, they purchased unusual hillside property in the Bolgheri DOC to create small batch, fine quality Super Tuscan blends made from special rootstocks from Bordeaux, as opposed to indigenous varieties, in a perfect elevation and micro-climate for premium grapes. Under the supervision of Hungarian winemaking legend Tibor Gal, they released the first Lagone vintage in 1998. This interesting combination of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc has only continued to garner kudos since. Recently rated a whopping 94 by Decanter, this deep ruby potion revels in its French oak provenance, cherry, cassis, and licorice notes. Fantastic with red and white meat, perfect with pasta and/or cheese. More elegant and structured than many a chianti or Sangiovese— particularly at this price. You may also want to compare it with some of your everyday Bordeaux.. An easy drinking, terrific change of pace and phenomenal value. Mix up some minestrone and you’ll be happy ’til the sun shines again.
3/29/18 THE RHONE PARADOXE
Château Mas Neuf Rhône Paradoxe Blanc 2016
Costerie Nimes, Rhone Valley, France
This sturdy, simply delicious, incredibly affordable white from France is worth celebrating all on its own— but it pairs so beautifully with ham, it’s a hands-down choice for a memorable Easter dinner. It’s also wonderful with seafood, goat and sheep cheese, white sauced pasta- the possibilities are endless and we can’t wait to experiment further. This is definitely one of the freshest discoveries of the year. Grenache Blanc and Roussanne have rarely been blended so spritely and exquisitely at this price. But that it is not the paradox to which its name refers. Château Mas Neuf occupies an unusual geographical position. Half way up the Costiéres de Nîmes’ southern side, it receives similar sun as Languedoc and Provence and warm Mediterranean sea breezes, but the cool night and early morning dew are not found in the further inland portion of the Rhône Valley. The difference is immediately expressed in the grapes, which are tended as organically as possible, and the resulting style of wine. It is young, yet refined— a perfect way to greet the holiday and the season. It is truly spring in a bottle. Enjoy!
3/20/18 bistro pinot noir
L'Agnostique Pinot Noir 2016
A funny thing happened after drinking that Domaines Des Chavaliers a week or so ago. We raved about it then and we just can’t stop raving. Don’t make us stop! It overwhelmed us with an unconcontrollable desire to find more phenomenal Pinot Noir, though unfortunately, that dry, elegant class act from Burgundy may have spoiled us. We only realize how amazing it is at a $27 price point when we have been unable to find anything that comes ANYWHERE close in a similar range. In the process, though, we tried a lot of currently available Pinot Noirs. And although L'Agnostique is rather different in style, and we think of it as more of a fun warmer weather wine (and we are desperate for some warmer weather with which to enjoy it), it was an obvious stand out.. It’s made somewhat more like a modern West Coast Pinot Noir— more sugar and somewhat softer—so it may very well appeal to fans of that approach— and is a great value in comparison. This is an incredibly food friendly, bistro-styled Pinot Noir, sourced from northern Languedoc, near the Puy de Dôme, the highest volcano in the Chain des Puys. In addition to embodying the volcanic terroir, the vines are buffeted by the omnipresent Mediterranean wind, which keeps them healthy and aerated. “L’Agnostique” means skeptic—which typifies the brand owners’ (whose first release was a cheeky blend of Gamay and Syrah. This 100% Pinot Noir, overseen by.Fréderic Maignet, chief winemaker for a famed Beaujolais château, is not quite as outrageous. It is just fun, young, yummy and unfussy, perfect for bistro staples onion soup, croque monsieur and roast chicken or good old American standbys from grilled cheese to burgers.
3/8/18 CLASSIC BOURGOGNE PINOT NOIR
Domaine de Chevalier Pere & fils
Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2014
It is always such a singular pleasure to confront and contemplate a classic, well defined glass of Burgundy like this one, made of 100% Pinot Noir, one almost wonders what one has been doing opening anything else for a subtle end of day pick-me-up with a handful of grapes. nibble of cheese and cracker or two, preparing to cozy up and ignore all storms- of nature and otherwise- beyond the confines of hearth (or toaster oven, as the case may very well be) and home. This estate, inherited after WWI, ranging over two medieval hamlets, one of which once housed the Hospices de Beaune, by Marcelle Dubois, his daughter and son-in-law Emile Chevalier. By 1959. Emile’s son Georges began bottling all harvests of the increasingly prestigious property, and in 1975, Georges’ son Claude continued to expand, increasing its size to 226 hectares, and upgrading both the vineyard’s working methods and vilification process. At the northern tip of the Côte de Beaune and edge of the Côte de Nuits, the estate occupies a rare position and glorious southeastern exposure. The wine is bottled after September’s harvest, and vinified traditionally in temperature controlled vats for 10 days before 10 months of maturation in oak bottles. The result is light, earthy and well structured, with an utterly relaxing, supremely easy drinking peppery cherry cassis bouquet. And it’s so very versatile— try it with salads, chicken (particularly in pot pie), meat or vegetarian stew— as well as reliable. Definitely worth keeping a couple of bottles on hand in the event of company. It will make the most unexpected guest more than welcome.
3/2/18 and the winner is......
With great balance between fruit and acidity, notes of citrus and green apple are featured in this crisp and mineral, easy-drinking white wine. Although terrific on its own, it will pair especially well with oysters, sushi, salads, asparagus, spicy foods and fried foods. In German, Lustig means “funny, merry, happy, jaunty.” With an easy-to-pop crown-cap closure and a full liter of wine in each bottle, this is a great wine to drink with friends or whomever as we agree or disagree with the Oscar winners!
2/23/18 dalmatian nectar
Croatia’s Dalmatian coast is literally just a hop, skip or sail, as the case may be, across the Adriatic Sea from Italy. It would be surprising if wine was NOT made there. And it has been, from local grapes, since Greek settlers were established by the 5th century BC. The Romans continued suit, and celebrated the god Bacchus with a temple that remains on the northern coast of Istria. The Roman influence is also seen in the north where a hill named Mons Claudius honored the many vineyards planted for the Emperor. Christianity spread through Croatia, as throughout Europe during the Middle Ages, but when the Ottomans conquered, Muslim law made exemptions for sacramental wines. Should one doubt the seriousness of such rules, there is even a 1407 statue standing in Korcula that warns landholders who neglect their vineyards will be punished with not only loss of their profits, but their right hands! But by the late 19th century, the Phylloxera that devastated Europe destroyed what wine industry there was in Croatia. And Word War II, which created Yugoslavia, followed by the horrific ethnic politics that subsequently ripped it apart, determined that if any wine was indeed made, it was not going to travel far. Which is too bad, because judging from the excellent wines that have been appearing on the international market since the end of the most recent strife and Croatia’s 1991 declaration of independence, there is an incredible bounty of tremendous values, particularly made from hitherto unfamiliar indigenous grapes. One of these is Plavina, which has helped, along with the introduction of modern technology and EU- conforming style and quality regulations, to account for Croatia’s current rank of 30th among wine producing countries. White wines predominate in the North, but Plavina is considered Croatia’s most underrated coastal red grape, with unique characteristics that differentiate it from both local varietals and the more familiar Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Barbera and Syrah now cultivated to both blend and stand alone. This fresh, handpicked and barely filtered Plavina, grown in the warm climate and rocky soils facing the Adriatic, could almost be mistaken for an Italian country wine. It is pure juiciness, bursting red berries with lively acidity, solid tannins, a hint of chocolate and cigar, and natural earthy terroir. Try this versatile find in place of your usual Italian red pasta and pizza accompaniment or whatever makes you toss a coin between Malbec and Cabernet. It’s slightly lighter in alcohol and so easily quaffable, you may want to spring for two bottles off the bat— the first has a mysterious tendency to suddenly disappear!
2/15/18 ambrosial ribera!
Ansejo & Manso Joven
Ribera del Duero
With just one sip of this superbly balanced value-priced bottle, you realize that despite the unfamiliarity of this merely thirteen year old Bodega, the wine could not possibly be made by a neophyte or clever marketer who’s retired from a career minting money to indulge in a bucket list vineyard fantasy. It was only in 2004 that Jésus Asenjo was encouraged to estate bottle fruit his family has been growing for 110 years. His grandfather, Tiofilo, planted what are considered some of the finest vines in the region, and he has spent his life in the vineyards and continues to tend them himself year round. He is helped by a talented young woman, Natalia Calleja, a former lab technician he soon promoted to head winemaker. The production is organic, and everything about this bottle feels fresh and unfussy, musty or dark, as so many traditional and sometimes off-putting Spanish products can be. “Joven,” as many in this hood are well aware, means young in Spanish.This wine is produced in a small quantity from a combination of this tiny village estate’s best and youngest fruit from bush-trained vines planted in clay soil. Fermentation uses only natural yeast, and after stainless steel tank fermentation, it spends just three months (another reason for the “young” appellation)in a combination of French and American oak barrels. Ms. Calleja’s talent is obvious in a unique, lively, fruity cherry, plum juice that is particularly refreshing for fall. Drink this instead of over-hyped, mass-market Beaujolais— it is a fabulous accompaniment for food- especially anything with garlic! We drank it with an improvised crostini we threw together the other night, rubbing a clove and dribbling all over toasted whole wheat sourdough Bread Alone peasant bread from Frank's, topped with a little bubbling crispy mozzarella,. cherry tomato and fresh basil. Trust us, it was AMBROSIAL.This would work wonders with roast chicken, store bought pizza, burgers, pasta, you name it. Really a treat at an unbeatable price.
2/14/18 valntines day sparkling rose
Antech Cremant de Limoux Émotion 2014
If you are searching for a way to put some fizz- figurative and literal- into your Valentine’s Day, stop right now. As much as we adore both great champagne and great rosé (and have always been willing to splurge for either) we have cottoned to the mere idea of pink bubbly as much as well, cotton candy (now that we have to pay to fill our own cavities, among other things). So, truth be told, we were probably more skeptical than anyone else will ever have a right to be when this was first proffered as a decent libation, never mind a holiday toast. We are still laughing at ourselves. This would be a terrific bottle even without the bubbles— but it is really one of the best, as well as most unassuming, sparkling wines from any country we have ever had the pleasure to sip.
Wine historians, in fact, believe that the world’s first sparkling wine was produced here, in the Languedoc-Rousillon, in (some say 1531, others 1544),before Dom Perignon, by monks at Saint-Hilaire’s abbey, rather than in the Champagne region, which has, of course, usurped not only the “méthode champenois,” but the huge fortunes made as a result of convincing the French government to insist that nothing in world made beyond its specific, relatively small geographical limits can be labelled as such.
But perhaps being slightly out of “official” bounds has allowed six generations of this family- now headed by a formidable daughter, Françoise, to develop its own unusual blend that until now has remained a pretty well kept wine insiders’ secret. “Émotion,” just one of the family’s superb wines, marries the very different combination of hand-harvested Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Mauzac and Pinot Noir for AOC Cremant de Limoux in the traditional method to create a just beautifully beaded, pale pink, dry floral arrangement of delicate strawberry/cherry hints. Elegant, crisp- you will absolutely not believe that anything this excellent is available for even half the price of Champagne. There may be no going back for us- never mind Valentine’s, this is going right into the running for all future celebrations, up to and including New Year’s. A great choice for picnicking, too, it is an out-of-this- world aperitif and perfect pair for fresh spring/summer salads as well as sashimi, Chinese or Thai any time of year. This is better than chocolate! (Though it works well with that, too). Be your own valentine. Émotion will reward you- and/or those you love- with a most charming little kiss.
2/9/18 barbera d'asti
Barbera de Asti 2016
Have we previously noted that with one VERY rare exception (a funky bottle of a fairly odd orange wine), we have NEVER, over the course of decades, been disappointed with any bottle bearing the imprimatur of Neal Rosenthal? We were really pleased, as we may have mentioned, reading the NYT’s Eric Asimov’s lovely memoir recently, to discover that Rosenthal’s personal guidance and sensibilities regarding biodynamic, terroir-reflective cultivation and handcrafted traditions (as opposed to merchandising “brands”) were fundamental to Asimov’s formidable professional palate and ideas regarding the sheer enjoyment of wine as food. And despite Rosenthal’s career-making discoveries in the villages of Burgundy’s Cote d’Or, his import business actually began with two Piedmont growers. One of them was the Anfosso family, with whom he released his very first vintage in 1978. Descendants of DeForvilles who left their native Belgium in 1848, the fifth generation is represented by Valter and Paolo Anfosso. Unlike their early DeForville ancestors, who sold bulk wine directly to restaurants and retailers who bottled it, the entire production is now bottled, which occasionally includes purchases from neighboring communes, at the estate. Since the first go in 1940, the output has grown to about 100,000 bottles a year. The grapes are all hand harvested, and the reds vilified traditionally, fermented on the skins, and bottled 18-20 months from harvest, as regulations demand and the result tastes anything but mass-produced. It is a simply stunning deep purplish red, with an equally deep concentration of red plum and dark cherry flavor. It is vibrantly complex, smooth and delicious, especially if one does not jump the gun and allows it breathe generously before serving. Some pundits will insist it pairs best with game, but please, don’t rush to Fort Tryon to shoot the pigeons. It’s fantastic with practically any Italian dish, particularly red-sauced, you can dream of, as well as roast chicken, meatloaf, burgers, whatever tickles your fancy. It is simply too good, particularly at this reasonable price, to pass up.
2/2/18 the press
Super Bowl Spectacular!
H.A. Oswald Family
The Press Chardonnay
With all that is going on in our country today, it is understandable that one tragedy has become overlooked. Which is that far too many Americans have become brainwashed into believing that no matter what their feelings about football, it is their duty to serve and consume some of the worst combinations of junk food and pissy drink on Super Bowl Sunday. RESIST! And in order to lead the way, we suggest a Chardonnay that celebrates all that is great about this land, our land’s native terroir and pioneer spirit. Husch Vineyards, planted in 1968, was, with its initial releases in 1971, the first bonded winery in Mendocino County’s Anderson Valley, the northernmost part of California’s ever more impressive wine growing region. In 1979, grape growing neighbors, the H.A. Oswald family bought the winey from Tony and Gretchen Husch. Today the original 21 acre Husch Vineyard is planted to spectacularly well received Pinto Noir, Gewürztraminer and Chardonnay, and warmer climate grapes Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Muscat and some Chardonnay are grown on the Ukiah Valley’s Russian River in the La Ribera Vineyards. The family run operation is now in the hands of the third generation— which includes Zac Robinson, who sold his Silicon Valley start up, “Ask Jeeves” in order to devote himself to the organic, handcrafted wines his Grandpa Oz insisted be worthy of not only sharing with the world (as they were at some notable Reagan state dinners) but his neighbors. And this bottle, a limited pressing of Chardonnay from both vineyards, is a tart masterpiece of sophisticated bright flavor with just the right finishing dab of buttery oak. It is fabulous with all kinds of dishes, from cheese to chicken. But if you’re going just the nosh route this weekend, pair this with a fresh roasted eggplant dip. Just one toast will make everyone a winner.
1/29/18 biodynamic cotes du rhone
Domaine de Joncier L'O de Joncier 2016
Southern Rhone Valley, France
This scrumptious biodynamic Grenache (with 2% Cinsault) would be a great treat at a much higher price point— for under $17, it is simply impossible to refuse! The legendary importer Kermit Lynch has outdone himself with this fabulous find from an impressive female winemaker, Marine Roussel, who had a successful career as a graphic artist in Paris before taking over the domaine her agronomist father Pierre established in 1964. This fresh, spicy cherry-tinged ambrosia, which should be served slightly chilled to fully appreciate, just bursts with her unique verve and hand-harvested organic style. A wonderful pick-me-up that truly feels like spring in a bottle. No lover of happy surprises from France should pass this one by.