Millennials are into wine, but the industry hasn’t figured that out yet, says Julia Coney in the Washington Post.
Small, family owned wineries are always assumed to make artisanal, sustainable wines. In Meininger’s, Felicity Carter asks if it’s true. “There is an implicit assumption that smallholders are more ethical, more craft-oriented and better for the environment than their big counterparts. This is a fundamental misunderstanding of how the wine market functions.”
In Wine-Searcher, W. Blake Gray considers how the new Chinese wine tariffs on Australian wine will have a global impact. “Of all the slow and fast factors that drive a vineyard ecosystem, climate feels like the hardest for a vine grower to grapple with. Soil can be amended, canopies can be managed, but the vast and chaotic shifts in weather events seem beyond human control.”
Welcome to my weekly roundup of the wine stories that I find of interest on the web. I post them to my magazine on Flipboard, but for those of you who aren’t Flipboard inclined, here’s everything I’ve strained out of the wine-related muck for the week.
I taste a bunch-o-wine (technical term for more than most people). So each week, I share some of my wine reviews (mostly from samples) and tasting notes in a “mini-review” format.
They are meant to be quirky, fun, and (mostly) easily-digestible reviews of (mostly) currently available wines (click here for the skinny on how to read them), and are presented links to help you find them, so that you can try them out for yourself. Cheers!
“People are frequently shocked to discover that of the hundreds of Napa Valley wineries, just five are allowed to hold weddings on-site. The five, Beringer Vineyards, Merryvale Vineyards, V. Sattui Winery, Charles Krug Winery and Brasswood Estate, all in St. Helena, were grandfathered in to what some call an antiquated rule that regulates winery events.” Jennifer Billock delves into the history of the restrictions in Wine Enthusiast.
A severe thunderstorm that struck a wine warehouse and shipping company last week in North Bergen, NJ disrupted deliveries to stores in the New York metropolitan area at one of the year’s busiest times for wine sales. Eric Asimov reports on the details in the New York Times.
Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I’m pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently.
This past week included wines from all over the place. But let’s start quite close to home, at least for me. Urban Legend Cellars is a small operation working out of the “wine ghetto” on the island of Alameda, near Oakland. Run by the husband-and-wife team of Steve & Marilee Shaffer, who are “recovering” engineers from Silicon Valley who decided they wanted to make wine. They purchase grapes from a wide range of sources, and make a number of wines, including this Vermentino, from the Clements Hills sub-AVA in Lodi. It’s quite fresh and tasty, and might easily convert anyone to Vermentino’s charms.
A little farther afield I’ve got a cracking Chardonnay from J. Christopher Winery in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, which illustrates perfectly why people are so excited about Oregon Chardonnay. It’s crisp and citrusy, and gorgeous.
You could say the same thing about the Dr. Loosen Riesling from the famed “spice garden” vineyard, Ürziger Würtzgarten, in Germany’s Mosel River Valley. One of Germany’s more famous sites for Riesling, made by one of Germany’s more famous names makes for a scintillating example of the form.
Let’s move on to reds.
Before I dive deep into a pool of Syrah, I’ve got a Pinot from J. Christopher winery that will be of interest to anyone who likes their Pinot Noirs more on the savory, earthy side.
I was recently sent a number of Côtes-du-Rhônes, which were a lovely reminder of how I really should be drinking more of them. All were compelling, from the lean dark fruit flavors of Stephane Ogier’s rendition, to the more savory, brooding qualities of Delas Frere’s interpretation.
But my favorite example of Côtes-du-Rhône comes from Clos Bellane, a small organic producer that sits at more than 1200 feet of elevation on steep, limestone slopes outside the village of Valréas, which sits in the northern part of the southern Rhone wine region.
Vigneron Stephane Vedeau purchased the Clos Bellane estate in 2007 and is making really remarkable wines there, as this, his entry-level wine, demonstrates. It’s wonderfully aromatic, incredibly fresh and bright, and just a delight to drink. And at between $16 and $20, it’s a shockingly great value.
Back on this continent, I was really delighted to see just how fresh the Owen Roe “Ex Umbris” Columbia Valley Syrah was in its expression of boisterous blackberry fruit. A bit father south in Oregon’s Applegate Valley, Troon Vineyard is making whole-cluster fermented Syrah where you can really taste the influence of the stems, making for a savory interpretation of the grape.
Lastly, I’ve got one of the regal wines of Taurasi, the Piano di Montevergine from venerable producer Feudi di San Gregorio. This wine comes from the estate’s oldest plantings of Aglianico at an elevation of around 1300 feet above sea level in the Irpina region of Campania, not far from Mount Vesuvius. Even at 8 years of age, this wine is still a bit of a monster when it comes to tannins, and needs some air to mellow, as well as perhaps some more time in the bottle. In my personal experience it is a wine that rewards significant aging, especially if you appreciate the leather and dried flowers scents that Aglianico can offer with some time in the bottle. Now, however, the Piano is a bit forte, if that’s your speed.
2019 Urban Legend Cellars “Gill Creek Ranch” Vermentino, Clements Hills, Lodi, Central Coast, California Palest greenish-gold in color, this wine smells of poached pear in sweet cream. In the mouth, bright pear and pastry cream flavors have a slight tinge of lemongrass and chamomile. Silky textured, this wine has a very nice acid balance and crisp finish with a hint of orange peel. 13.1% alcohol. 168 cases made. Closed with a screwcap. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $24.
2018 J. Christopher “Olenik Vineyard” Chardonnay, Willamette Valley, Oregon Palest gold in the glass, this wine smells of citrus pith and white flowers. In the mouth, the wine is quite floral, with a gorgeous quartz-like crystalline quality and juicy lemon and lemon pith flavors, and a touch of green apple. Very elegant and poised with just a hint of salinity in the finish. . 13% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $45. click to buy.
2018 Dr. Loosen “Ürziger Würtzgarten Spätlese” Riesling, Mosel, Germany Palest greenish-gold in color, this wine smells of tangerine zest and white flowers with a hint of lemon cucumber. In the mouth, gorgeous exotic citrus flavors mix with honeysuckle and rainwater minerality, all sizzling with excellent acidity. Lightly to moderately sweet, but definitely in my sweet spot. 8.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $35. click to buy.
2016 J. Christopher “JJ” Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon Light to medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and raspberry fruit shot through with a hint of barnyard funkiness. In the mouth, pure bright cherry and raspberry fruit has a nice zing thanks to excellent acidity. There’s some bitter cedar and herb notes lingering in the finish along with that faint hint of manure. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $32. click to buy.
2018 Clos Bellane Côtes-du-Rhône Villages Valréas, Rhône Valley, France Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of rich cherry fruit. In the mouth, wonderfully juicy flavors of cherry mix with incredibly aromatic herbs like wild thyme and lavender even as a crystalline stony quality makes the whole red and black fruit concoction glint and shimmer on the palate. Barely perceptible tannins. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $18. click to buy.
2017 Stephane Ogier “Le Temps Est Venu” Côtes-du-Rhône, Rhône Valley, France Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of dark cherry fruit and a touch of forest floor. In the mouth, juicy black cherry flavors are shot through with dried sage and other dried herbs making for quite a savory impression. Very faint powdery tannins creep about the edges of the mouth, while a faint bitter herb and orange-peel note lingers in the finish. 14% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $24. click to buy.
2018 Delas Freres “Saint-Esprit” Côtes-du-Rhône, Rhône Valley, France Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry, cassis, and potting soil. In the mouth, flavors of black cherry, cassis, and wet earth have a wonderful freshness to them thanks to excellent acidity and a faint green herbal kick that meshes with a definite stony quality. Dark and brooding, yet without feeling heavy, and quite delicious. 14% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $15. click to buy.
2018 Owen Roe “Ex Umbris” Syrah, Yakima Valley, Washington Medium to dark purple in color, this wine smells of rich blackberry fruit with a hint of woodsmoke. In the mouth, wonderfully juicy blackberry and cassis flavors are positively electric on the palate thanks to fantastic acidity. Faint, powdery tannins dust the palate while notes of licorice emerge on the finish. Excellent. 14.1% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $24. click to buy.
2018 Troon Vineyard “White Family Selection” Syrah, Applegate Valley, Southern Oregon, Oregon Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of wet earth and chopped herbs. In the mouth, juicy black cherry and cassis flavors are shot through with a cedary, incense quality, thanks no doubt to the whole cluster fermentation, which seems to have imparted a sort of woody note from the stems. Excellent acidity and freshness, with tightly wound, muscular tannins that flex through the finish. 14.8% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $30. click to buy.
2012 Feudi di San Gregorio “Piano di Montevergine – Riserva” Aglianico, Taurasi, Campania, Italy Inky garnet in the glass, this wine smells of leather, dried flowers, and licorice. In the mouth, massive, billowy tannins envelop a core of black cherry, licorice root, and dried flowers, even as earthier, darker notes rumble about in the basement. Good acidity, but still massive even with 8 years of age. Give it some air, or better yet, another 5 years in the bottle. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $65. click to buy.
The New Place CUYAMA, CA: Hundreds of acres of new winegrape vineyards have been planted with Chardonnay, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot in Cuyama, California. Located in the northeastern corner of Santa Barbara County, the sparsely populated Cuyama Valley has become an important agricultural and oil and gas region, producing such diverse crops as pistachios, lettuce, and wine grapes.
INSTRUCTIONS: Download this image by right-clicking on the image and selecting “save link as” or “save target as” and then select the desired location on your computer to save the image. Mac users can also just click the image to open the full size view and drag that to their desktops.
BUY THE BOOK: This image is from a series of photographs by George Rose captured in the process of shooting his most recent work WINE COUNTRY: Santa Barbara County, a visual celebration of one of California’s most beautiful wine regions. The book can be ordered on George’s web site.
PRINTS: Fine art prints of this image and others are available at George Rose’s web site: www.georgerose.com.
EDITORIAL USE: To purchase copies of George’s photos for editorial, web, or advertising use, please contact Getty Images.
ABOUT VINOGRAPHY IMAGES: Vinography regularly features images by photographer George Rose for readers’ personal use as desktop backgrounds or screen savers. We hope you enjoy them. Please respect the copyright on these images. These images are not to be reposted on any web site or blog without the express permission of the photographer.
I’m thankful and privileged to be healthy and safe during these pandemic times. But, like many millions of people, my travel plans for this year have evaporated.
For my five-year-old daughter’s birthday this spring, I was thrilled to bring my family to Portugal. It is a country whose culture, wine, waves, food and natural bounty fascinate me to no end. When I’m there, I often think, more than any other place I’ve visited: I should have been born here. While that trip is dashed, I can’t wait to get back when it’s safe to do so.
When I visited the region of Alentejo three years ago, I found an overwhelming amount of diverse and high-quality wines and producers. It was such a treat to dig deep into the region’s tradition of wines fermented in amphora, explore the history and diversity of the region’s adopted red grape Alicante Bouschet, and I was impressed to learn about the exciting white wines produced there as well.
As an outdoors, nature and wildlife enthusiast, it was sometimes hard to think about wine while I was traveling through Alentejo — there was just so many rolling hills, forests, fields, and natural beauty going by outside my window. With relatively low population density, large amounts of uncultivated land, and ever presence of the famous cork forests, the region offers a lot of unspoiled natural beauty and thriving wildlife. Among the group I traveled with was Wines of Alentejo’s U.S. director Tiago Caravana, who, in addition to his wine career, is an incredible wildlife photographer, and was always on point with my random questions about the region’s diverse mammals and birds of prey.
So, I hopped at the chance to attend a webinar with Tiago and others in the region’s trade group this summer. We tasted what I consider to be some really solid examples of what the region can produce, and we spent a lot of time discussing the sustainability efforts of the regional winegrowing commission. Lots of Alentejo producers have been taking sustainable vineyard and winery practices serious for many years, but in 2014, the regional winegrowing commission created a voluntary program called Wines of Alentejo Sustainability Program.
This program is designed to improve environmental, social and economic welfare in the region, specifically focusing on issues like water control, pest management, energy conservation, and packaging. Several of the wineries represented in the tasting focused on their attempts at improving sustainability by using sheep to reduce cover crops, utilizing bat boxes to fight pesky insects, increasing use of solar power, reducing bottle weight, etc.
But the proof is in the bottle, and these wines offer a good window into Alentejo’s ancient and thriving wine culture. These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.
2018 Herdade do Esporão “Colheita” Branco– Portugal, Alentejano, Alentejo SRP: $16
Medium yellow color. Generous aromas of nectarine, peaches, cantaloupe, with honeycomb, hay, nougat and floral perfume. Creamy texture on the palate with crisp acidity, deep but balanced with lovely yellow plums, apricot and orange peel. Juicy, deep but bright with notes of sea salt, chalk, toasted almond, honey, hay and candle wax. Expressive, complex, everything is lined up wonderfully in this crazy value of a white wine. Antao Vas, Viosinho, Alvarinho and other white grapes, fermented partially in concrete, aged on the lees for four months. (90 points IJB)
2018 Casa Agricola Alexandre Relvas “Sao Miguel do Sul”– Portugal, Alentejano, Alentejo SRP: $12
Medium purple color. Aromas of jammy raspberry, blackberries, with vanilla, grilled herbs, pepper and cola. Full-bodied, velvety tannins, medium/low acidity. A soft, accessible, chewy feel with sweet plum and raspberry jams, along with some cocoa, cola and tobacco. Fun, easy-drinking stuff but some freshness and complexity as well. Aragonez, Alicante Bouschet, Trincadeira and Cabernet Sauvignon. (86 points)
2018 Herdade dos Grous Tinto – Portugal, Alentejano, Vinho Regional Alentejano SRP: $19
Light purple color. On the nose, with jammy raspberries, strawberry, with smoky earth, mint, charcoal, rose petals. Bold but surprisingly fresh on the palate with velvety tannins and plenty of raspberry, black cherry and plum jam fruit. Notes of spicy tobacco, earth, mint, cocoa powder make this a dynamic wine for the price. Fresh but complex, delightfully grill-out friendly. 35% Alicante Bouschet, 35% Aragonez with Touriga Nacional and Syrah, aged nine months in French oak. (88 points IJB)
2017 Herdade dos Coelheiros “Coelheiros”– Portugal, Alentejano, Alentejo SRP: $20
Deep purple color. Rich, suave aromas of black currants, black cherries, roasted plums, with smoky earth, cocoa, ginger snaps and pepper. Full-bodied with velvety tannins, medium acidity keeps it lively. Suave blackberry and roasted fig fruit mixes with notes of pencil lead, cocoa, coffee, vanilla. Fresh despite the generosity of fruit. Could age but great now for grilling. Real good stuff for Zinfandel fans looking to branch out. Aragonez and Alicante Bouschet, aged 12 months in French oak. (88 points IJB)
2014 Carmim Reguengos “Garrafeira dos Sócios” – Portugal, Alentejano, Alentejo, Reguengos SRP: $48
Medium purple color. Complex aromas of tart cherries and blackberries, with deep green and black olive tones, tilled earth, anise and coffee grounds. Full-bodied, with dusty tannins, medium acidity, a structured but lively feel. Cherries and blackberries mix well with complex notes of anise, leather, charcoal, dusty earth, mineral and rocky elements. This is in a great place right now, and just goes to show how well Alentejo wines can age. Alicante Bouschet with 20% Touriga Nacional and 15% Tinta Caiada, aged in French and American oak for 14 months. (90 points IJB)