Wine in the Time of Coronavirus, Part 63: Coasting (A Coastal Chilean Sauv Blanc Roundup)

(images: Wines of Chile)

Ever wake up thinking, “I wonder what’s going on with coastal Chilean Sauvignon Blanc these days?”

Me, neither, but I’m not one to turn down virtual samples tastings that provide deep-dives into the unfamiliar, and so I found myself recently taking part in a round-up tasting of Sauv Blancs from Chile’s coastal areas, guided by of Vinous.com’s Joaquín Hidalgo, and Julio Alonso (Executive Director of Wines of Chile US).

Despite multiple visits to said areas over the years, there’s much about Chilean Sauv Blanc that I found surprising, if not downright shocking. SB Landed in Chile in the 1800s (ok, I did know that part). It’s now Chile’s second most widely planted variety (behind Cabernet Sauvignon – didn’t know that), accounting for roughly 40% of the white grapes grown in the country. SB joins Cabernet as grape pair that makes up the highest volume of Chilean wine exports to the USA (SB in general above $11/bottle is growing in sales in the U.S., by the way).

The SB grown in Chile’s coastal area is influenced by both the Humboldt current and the Coastal Range, promoting the development of more herbal, floral, and zestier sides of the variety’s expression. Morning mists filter sunlight until the afternoon, and the current cools the air up to 50km inland (until the Coastal Range effectively shuts down the influence). Summer temperatures average around 77F, with few “peaks.” Ripening is gradual, so freshness is more easily preserved in the grapes. Coastal Range soils (which are even older than the nearby Andes) contain clay, quartz, schist, and iron, making for a complex mix in which the vines take root.

The results? Pleasantly unexpected…

Wine in the Time of Coronavirus, Part 63: Coasting (A Coastal Chilean Sauv Blanc Roundup)Viña Morandé Gran Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2020, Casablanca Valley, $20

Fermented in French oak, and sourced from a single vineyard. Mineral, intense, assertive, grassy, and citric, this SB has nice roundness on the palate, with spices, herbs, peppers, and a long freshness. A great call for white fish and/or scallops with lots of butter. LOTS of bang for the buck happening here. BAM!

 

Wine in the Time of Coronavirus, Part 63: Coasting (A Coastal Chilean Sauv Blanc Roundup)Matetic Vineyards EQ Coastal Sauvignon Blanc 2020, Casablanca Valley, $20

Grapes for this little elegant gem are sourced from organic/Biodynamic vineyards in Rosario Valley, just five miles from the ocean, in low fertility soils (so vigor is naturally lower). Flinty and herbal, it stays a bit smoky, mineral, salty and spicy throughout. Fresh, and long, with plenty of jalapeno, under-ripe papaya, and lemon rind action.

 

Wine in the Time of Coronavirus, Part 63: Coasting (A Coastal Chilean Sauv Blanc Roundup)Casas del Bosque La Cantera Sauvignon Blanc 2020, Casablanca Valley, $18

From the La Cantera vineyard, situated in a natural depression that collects the ample cooling influence from the sea. You get lime and lime blossom, green herbs, and pepper on the nose. Plenty of punch on the palate, but also some nice roundness and good length. Refreshing, this one really ‘pops’ in the mouth, with textural, interesting acidic verve.

 

Wine in the Time of Coronavirus, Part 63: Coasting (A Coastal Chilean Sauv Blanc Roundup)Montes Wines Limited Selection Sauvignon Blanc 2021, Ledya Valley, $15

Leyda enjoys direct sea breezes, often with a line-of-sight right to the ocean. This one comes off as a very cool-climate SB on the nose—herbal, citric, and floral, with plenty of green notes. It isn’t deep, but it cuts like a knife with great acidity and a lively, almost lighthearted feel. Hope you like jalapeno, though!

 

Wine in the Time of Coronavirus, Part 63: Coasting (A Coastal Chilean Sauv Blanc Roundup)Viña Koyle Costa La Flor Sauvignon Blanc 2021, Casablanca Valley, $18

From San Antonio Valley, made from organically grown grapes, this white comes off a bit understated on the nose—but the spices, herbs, and exotic touches are all there. Nice palate balance here, with smoothness (thanks to some four months on the lees) and vivacity. Tangy lemon is the dominant force , and it’s tasty (if not super long).

 

Wine in the Time of Coronavirus, Part 63: Coasting (A Coastal Chilean Sauv Blanc Roundup)Viña Garcés Silva Amayna Sauvignon Blanc 2020, Ledya Valley, $25

Also sourced San Antonio Valley, this sultry SB is definitely more tropical and floral on the nose than its tasting lineup counterparts. The palate is richer, rounder, but has a very nice sense of minerality that adds texture to the broadness. Bigger, for sure, but also quite bright.

 

Wine in the Time of Coronavirus, Part 63: Coasting (A Coastal Chilean Sauv Blanc Roundup)Ventisquero Wine Estates Grey Single Block Sauvignon Blanc 2019, Atacama, $25

Herbs, apples, chilies, and minerals hit fast and hard on the nose on this aggressive white. Sourced near the Atacama dessert, from calcareous soils, it’s supple, with saline, freshness, and big tropical fruit flavors. I loved the texture, it feels more substantial than its 13% abv might suggest.

 

Wine in the Time of Coronavirus, Part 63: Coasting (A Coastal Chilean Sauv Blanc Roundup)Viña Tabalí Talinay Sauvignon Blanc 2021, Limarí Valley, $24

The high proportion of Calcium carbonate in the soils (which are drier in general) seems to imbue this SB with something extra. Wet stones, white flowers, green pees, green chili, limes, flint, saline… it’s sporting a quite complex nose. The palate gets exotic with starfruit, papaya, citrus, and mandarin. And it is absolutely JUMPING in the mouth. Talk about mineral… and the tension is fantastic. Elegant stuff that’s worth seeking out.

Cheers!

Upscale your palate! My new books are now available from Rockridge Press!

Copyright © 2020. Originally at Wine in the Time of Coronavirus, Part 63: Coasting (A Coastal Chilean Sauv Blanc Roundup) from 1WineDude.com - for personal, non-commercial use only. Cheers!

Wine in the Time of Coronavirus, Part 62: ‘Round & ‘Round (Tasting Librandi Calabria Recent Releases)

(image: Librandi)

Italy’s Calabria has been a bit of a victim of its own success.

The ancient Greeks dubbed Enotria Tellus—”Land of Wine.” Sporting a diverse terroir that features plenty of ocean influence and even more sunshine, wine grapes have thrived there for eons. Which led to the modern Calabrian wine market becoming co-op heavy, focused on maximizing production above all else. Queue the subsequent reputation crash during the wine quality revolution of the last few decades.

The subject of one of my more recent virtual sample tastings—Librandi—has been a bit of an outlier in Calabrian terms, helping to usher in a new quality-focused renaissance for the region by focusing on lower production of international grape varieties. Their success, and that of a handful of other such producers in the region, somewhat ironically led to more purchases of estate vineyards, and a revitalization and re-planting of native Calabrian varieties.

Wine in the Time of Coronavirus, Part 62: ‘Round & ‘Round (Tasting Librandi Calabria Recent Releases)
(image: Librandi)

What comes around, goes around. And in this case, it literally goes around: Librandi has what they call a “varietal garden” of 200 autochthonous grape varieties planted at their Rosaneti estate planted in (what I imagine must be a rather difficult to farm) spiral.

Third generation vintner Paolo Librandi led our tasting, first explaining the history of his family’s operation. Librandi started bottling their own wine in the 1950s, and Paolo’s grandfather had six hectares (one for each of his kids) that eventually was grown by his uncle Antonio into over 430 hectares. Paolo’s father was a math teacher, who circled back to the family business in the 1970s. They call Cirò home, where about eighty percent of all Calabrian wines are made. Winemaking there dates back at least 2,500 years, but is still finding its footing in the modern wine market (“Surely it’s our fault,” that high-end Calabrian wine isn’t yet more well-known globally, Paolo noted). Maybe we can help rectify that just a teeny tiny bit today…

Wine in the Time of Coronavirus, Part 62: ‘Round & ‘Round (Tasting Librandi Calabria Recent Releases)2019 Librandi Segno ‘Librandi’ Cirò Rosso, $15

Paolo told us that the aim for this 100% Gaglioppo red is for “immediate pleasure and drinkability.” It doesn’t see any wood, instead going for a fruit-forward display of brambly red berry action, violet notes, and dried herb aromas. This is very fresh for a Calabrian red, offering poise and delicacy as well as bright cherry flavor and hints of game. Very friendly stuff.

 

Wine in the Time of Coronavirus, Part 62: ‘Round & ‘Round (Tasting Librandi Calabria Recent Releases)2020 Librandi ‘Segne Librandi’ Cirò Bianco, $15

Speaking of friendly, there’s the white counterpart to that Cirò Rosso, made from Greco Bianco (a grape found pretty much only in Calabria). “It’s a peculiar grape,” according to Paolo. “It needs extra stressful conditions, it’s a variety that needs to suffer a little bit to get really ripe.” It’s hardship is our gain, in the form of tasty citrus notes with white flower aromas, Mediterranean herb notes, and zesty mouthfeel that’s fruity, fine, and fun.  

 

Wine in the Time of Coronavirus, Part 62: ‘Round & ‘Round (Tasting Librandi Calabria Recent Releases)2019 Librandi ‘Duca Sanfelice’ Cirò Rosso Riserva, $20

Another Galioppo red, this time aged in both steel and concrete vats (still no oak), into a form that Librandi described as “our idea of our benchmark and the philosophy behind it.” The vines are trained in traditional “alberello” (head-trained) style, from the Greek system that promotes radiant heat reflecting back onto the grapes from the ground. While the nose is similar to its little Rosso brother, there’s far more concentration, depth, and minerality here. The tannin structure is lovely, with an elegant streak framed by freshness and a hint of astringency, all supporting a brambly fruit palate that’s refined, and replete with sour cherry, leather, tobacco, and dried violets.

 

Wine in the Time of Coronavirus, Part 62: ‘Round & ‘Round (Tasting Librandi Calabria Recent Releases)2019 Librandi ‘Gravello’ Val di Neto Rosso, $30

First produced in 1988, “this was always our flagship” noted Paolo, a red crafted to appeal to international tastes, and a wine that helped Librandi (and Calabria) gain attention on the global wine stage. A blend of 60% Galioppo and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, it’s sourced from a calcareous, clayey vineyard that is roughly bifurcated by the plantings of the two varieties. 12 months aging in 50% new French oak make this Librandi’s more showy red. It’s juicy, with dried flower petal, herb, red berry, and blackcurrant aromas and flavors swirling on a big, meaty, and structured palate. There’s more power than poise here, but there’s also no lack of refinement. Bring steak, and you’ll be happy.

 

Wine in the Time of Coronavirus, Part 62: ‘Round & ‘Round (Tasting Librandi Calabria Recent Releases)2021 Librandi ‘Critone’ Val di Neto Bianco, $19

Named for Socrates’ pupil, this peachy, flinty Chardonnay (with a splash of Sauvignon Blanc) is more overt than it is philosophical. Originally crated by Paolo’s father for the local market (they were among the first to plant Chardonnay in the area), it became “by far the best seller in all of our markets” according to Librandi. “This is the wine that pays the bills.” Plenty of apricot, tropical fruits, flowers, and herbs are happening here for you Chard lovers, with saline and spicy hints on the back end of the palate keeping things interesting.

 

Cheers!

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 61: Here We Go, Again (More Sella & Mosca Recent Releases)

(images: Sella & Mosca)

Wow.

We’re now at the point where the Covid-era virtual visits/tastings for producers who have previously been doing virtual visits/tastings are coming around yet again, with new rounds of vintages to explore. We’ve officially lapped in the “wine in the time of Coronavirus” series.

Holy sh*t.

Back in part 41(!) of this series, I got to taste some samples alongside the folks from Sardinia’s Sella & Mosca. For the 61st post in this series, we’re back with Sella & Mosca. And I think my head is going to explode, in both the good (these are some very tasty wines) and bad (for f*ck’s sake, this pandemic has been looooooong) senses.

For this round, we were joined (virtually) by Giovanni Pinna (their Winery Director) and Alfonso Gagliano (who handles the American market for Sella & Mosca). For those of you who, like me, have been robbed of travel to Sella & Mosca’s home turf of Sardinia, here’s a quick primer:

Sardinia sits south of Corsica, and is on of Italy’s largest islands, though it’s much less populated than its other large island, Sicily. During the Summer moths, things really get into swing on Sardinia—its population of 1.2 million or so roughly doubles at t hat time. There are usually twice as many goat and sheep on Sardinia than there are people. Geologically, it’s more similar to Provence (from which it once detached) than to, say, Tuscany. Its isolation birthed uniqueness in several forms, including in culture, language, and gastronomy.

Now that we’re up to speed, let’s drink…

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 61: Here We Go, Again (More Sella & Mosca Recent Releases)2020 Sella & Mosca Torbato Spumante Brut, Alghero, $25

Vines for this bubbly are “very near the sea, and the Mistral brings the salt on to the vines” according to Pinna. Interestingly, the Torbato grapes develop a sticky film that tends to capture a crust of salt on the skins. Iodine, white flower, white grapefruit, saline and citrus pith all greet you here. It’s almost delicate in flavors but not in texture or in aromatics (hello, Charmat method!), and it feels ultra-refreshing in the mouth. Herbal hints send it off on a long finish. You could do SOOOOO much worse in terms of a beachside sipper.

 

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 61: Here We Go, Again (More Sella & Mosca Recent Releases)2021 Sella & Mosca La Cala Vermentino di Sardegna, $14

Citrus, tropical fruit, wet stone, saline, jasmine, and herbs… ahhh, Vermentino, how I love thee. Especially this one, which is both generously tropical in the mouth and also excitingly vibrant, showing just enough structure to be intellectually interesting as well as just plain ol’ delicious. This is a perennial overachiever and remains a white not to be missed (especially for the $) by Vermentino fans. There’s good reason this is one of the best-selling Vermentino labels in the U.S.

 

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 61: Here We Go, Again (More Sella & Mosca Recent Releases)2020 Sella & Mosca Monteoro Vermentino di Gallura Superiore, $28

Sourced in the Gallura area, on the slopes of the south side of Mount Limbara on sandy soils derived from granite, this white sees 4 months of lees contact in stainless steel. The extra lees activity make this perfumed and heady, richer in the nose and the mouth and more exotic in its tropical fruitiness. Herbs and underbrush, lively acidity, salty hints… It makes me want to kiss the glass, and not in an entirely ‘just-friends’ way.

 

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 61: Here We Go, Again (More Sella & Mosca Recent Releases)2019 Sella & Mosca Cannonau di Sardegna Riserva, $15

Aged for 2+ years (with 6 months in wood, though none of it is new), this red is showing its Grenache family connection with all of those dried violets, pepper, and bright red fruits on the nose. Fresh and balanced in the mouth, with some spice notes, lots of friendly cherry and plum fruit flavor, this vintage might not be quite as elegant as previous releases, but is uber-friendly (and is going to make a lot of drinkers quite happy).

 

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 61: Here We Go, Again (More Sella & Mosca Recent Releases)2018 Sella & Mosca Tanca Farrà 2018, Alghero, $32

A 50/50 split of Cannonau and Cabernet Sauvignon that Pinna describes as “a really good marriage.” Indeed, it is. Savory with red and black cherry, balsamic, sweet tobacco leaf, there’s also plenty of cassis, earth, and just-ripe black plum. The Cabernet comes out in the mouth, where it brings some funk, dried herbs, and blackcurrant action. Quite long in the mouth, with a nice balance between savoriness, vibrancy, structure, and textural tension.

 

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 61: Here We Go, Again (More Sella & Mosca Recent Releases)2016 Sella & Mosca Marchese di Villamarina, Alghero, $70

Cabernet Sauvignon, all on its lonesome here. Mature and quite earthy, with leather, funk, game, stewed red fruits, cigar box, sweet herbal spices and licorice, yet still young in the mouth, and feeling silky. Lots of dark fruit is served up with plenty of savory balsamic drizzle. Soooo fresh, and that freshness does NOT let up despite the great length of the finish. Elegant stuff, and you might think that you’re sipping on a well-crafted 3rd Growth Bordeaux if you had this one blind.

 

Cheers!

Upscale your palate! My new books are now available from Rockridge Press!

Copyright © 2020. Originally at Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 61: Here We Go, Again (More Sella & Mosca Recent Releases) from 1WineDude.com - for personal, non-commercial use only. Cheers!

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 60: Nebbiolo, Six Ways (Tenuta Carretta Recent Releases)

image: Tenuta Carretta

It’s hard to shake the pressure of 555 years of history.

Just ask Tenuta Carretta (with whom I recently enjoyed a virtual Zoom samples tasting, guided by CEO Giovanni Minetti and Technical Director Paolo Scaiola).

It was on 28th of November, 1467 that a sharecropper concession was drawn up that officially kicked off the estate’s history. Their name originates from noblewoman Domina Careta Constanzi, who lived in Alba in the 14th Century. Today, Caretta is in the hands of the Miroglio family (who purchased it in the 1980s). But the estate’s history still looms large.

Carretta seems downright terrified of doing anything that might screw up their historical terroir. The vines never see herbicides, and only get treated with limited insecticide use (in keeping with their “Green Experience” certification); the big focus is on creating “perfectly ripe grapes” according to Minetti. Those grapes being primarily Nebbiolo, which was the main ingredient in all of the releases that we tasted together that day, and remains Tenuta Carretta’s bread-and-butter variety. Nebbiolo is notoriously finicky in terms of the exposure it demands and and soil types it prefers (mainly calcareous and tuffaceous, with a “Goldilocks” balance of sand, silt, and clay). It buds early, is sensitive to rapid temperature changes, and otherwise gives winegrowers headaches that aren’t (at least, not primarily) related to hangovers.

Carretta has little to fear based on our tasting: their vines are in excellent hands. Here are my dime-store thoughts on six of their current Nebbs…

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 60: Nebbiolo, Six Ways (Tenuta Carretta Recent Releases)Tenuta Carretta Langhe DOC Nebbiolo “Podio” 2020, $22

Historically, in 1467 the estate’s then owner specified that the entire Podio harvest be reserved for him alone. The modern incarnation of this crowd pleaser includes 20% Barbera, and is absolutely bouncing with lots of tart red cherry, wild strawberry, and rose petal action out of the gate. Delicious, food-friendly, and very, very fresh, a bit of structure mitigates the tartness, and the whole thing goes down about as easy as Nebb can.

 

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 60: Nebbiolo, Six Ways (Tenuta Carretta Recent Releases)Tenuta Carretta Roero DOCG Riserva “Bric Paradiso” 2017, $50

From Piedmont’s most tragically overlooked designation. The name means “Paradise hill,” a description of the vines that grow in the amphitheater-shaped vineyards right by the winery. This Nebb is spicier, with more pepper and dried herb notes. It’s also more supple and broader, with hints of elegant cedar peeking through. Fresh and earthy, with a complex, intense texture and cherry jam flavor, this is quite Elegant (while still being approachable and delicious).

 

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 60: Nebbiolo, Six Ways (Tenuta Carretta Recent Releases)Tenuta Carretta Barbaresco DOCG “Garassino” 2017, $NA

This powerful red is sourced from the north side of Alba, with compact soils that force more effort by the vine roots to find water. Vanilla bean, dried roses, tart red plum, dried cherries, dried orange rind, a gorgeous earthiness, and a hint of leather… You’d at first think you were dealing with Barolo, but the austere and concentrated expression betrays the Barbaresco origin. The finish is very long and the freshness never quits from start to end. And Wow. I mean, VERY long. “A more nervous Nebbiolo” according to Scaiola. Maybe, but don’t confuse its nervous energy for a lack of confidence!

 

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 60: Nebbiolo, Six Ways (Tenuta Carretta Recent Releases)Tenuta Carretta Barolo DOCG “Cascina Ferrero” 2017, $50

I’m not quite sure how they pulled off a Barolo this elegant in such an infamously warm vintage. They claim that this is their most classically structured Barolo, being a vineyard blend. There’s tobacco leaf out the ya-ya, followed by red plummy fruit aromas, forest floor and then dried herbs. Spicy, toasty, structured and yet so supple in the mouth, with a broad palate profile, it’s long and graceful and still a mere puppy.

 

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 60: Nebbiolo, Six Ways (Tenuta Carretta Recent Releases)Tenuta Carretta Barolo DOCG “Cannubi” 2016, $100

Here’s the Barolo money shot, folks. Unfolding in layers and taking its sweet time about it, this red is incredibly elegant, and quite reserved at the moment. It’s going to take some time (and then some more time) to fully come around. But as the earth, leather, rose petal, and red fruit action develops, it will turn into an absolutely understated beauty.

 

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 60: Nebbiolo, Six Ways (Tenuta Carretta Recent Releases)Tenuta Carretta Barbaresco DOCG Riserva “Bordino” 2016, $50

They describe this as an outlier, from 1981 and 1999 plantings on the eastern side of Treiso in Sant’ Alessandro. The plot sees high exposure, with steep slopes and silty marl soils. It’s the last Nebbiolo they pick during the harvest, producing very thick skin grapes. It spends 36 months in large barrels (mostly Slavonian). And Whoa – all kinds of floral action happening on the nose here. The palate is absolutely classic: equal parts austerity, red plum plumpness, and electrifying acidity. The finish is long, spicy, balsamic, intense, and begs for another sip. F******k, this is good.

 

Cheers!

Upscale your palate! My new books are now available from Rockridge Press!

Copyright © 2020. Originally at Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 60: Nebbiolo, Six Ways (Tenuta Carretta Recent Releases) from 1WineDude.com - for personal, non-commercial use only. Cheers!

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 59: Rule Breakers (Bellenda Valdobbiadene Recent Releases)

Have old map of Treviso, will taste…

“We always wanted to break the rules.”

So mentioned Prosecco family producer Bellenda owner Umberto Cosmo and his daughter Lucrezia during an online samples tasting I attended (relatively) recently.

If ever an outfit in Valdobbiadene embodied the Italian spirit of flaunting convention, it’s this one. Founded in 1986 by Umberto and his brothers and father, Bellenda came about due to Umberto being “almost disgusted” by the industrial nature of his family’s animal breeding business. For generations, his family owned vineyards and sold their fruit to local producers—forming a small estate/boutique winery was, at the time, relatively unheard of, particularly in Italy’s Prosecco region where larger brand labels dominated. Detractors told Umberto’s father “‘you are going to lose a lot of money, because Italian wine is dead forever.'” Given the immense success of Prosecco bubbles since then, that piece of advice seems to have aged about as well as milk.

It’s not just in approach and size that Bellenda bucks the trends; as you’ll read below, they take every chance they can get to turn the conventional notion of Prosecco firmly onto its proverbial ear…

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 59: Rule Breakers (Bellenda Valdobbiadene Recent Releases)2021 Bellenda San Fermo Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene Superiore, $22

This delightfully elegant sparkler takes its name from the county church that sits adjacent to the limestone-clay vineyards that source it. It’s one of the more precise Prosecco incarnations you’re likely to encounter, offering up pear (with the skins) and wet stone notes. The palate is fresh, fresh, FRESH, with ample green and red apple flavors that are both crisp and over-ripe. It’s hard not to love this wine’s vibrant mouthfeel and fantastic length, ending with citrus pith notes.

 

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 59: Rule Breakers (Bellenda Valdobbiadene Recent Releases)2018 Bellenda S.C.1931 Pas Dosé, Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene Superiore, $NA

Named after Sergio Cosmo (Bellenda’s founder) and the year of his birth, this kick-butt Superiore sees partial oak barrel fermentation without temperature control, resting on the lees for three months and then again in the bottle for up to eighteen months, finally being disgorged without liquer d’expédition. Sugar levels are ultra-low (about 1g/L). Apple bread, white flowers, ripe pears, apples, and toasted nut all hit from the nose, along with earthy notes among the more evolved fruit flavors. On the palate, it feels substantial and austerely serious, coming off as reserved and tightly wound—a serious ‘head-fake’ when it comes to what we conventionally think of with respect to Prosecco. Lip-smacking and almost chewy, this is an age-worthy bubbly that might have you rethinking your entire Prosecco mindset.

 

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 59: Rule Breakers (Bellenda Valdobbiadene Recent Releases)2018 Bellenda ‘Sei Uno’ Brut, Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene Superiore, $25

Multiple plays on words going on here, with “61” being Umberto’s birth year, and “you are…” being a phrase that apparently his wife like to use (use your imagination to fill in the blank). This classic method sparkler from Rive di Carpesica also spends several months sur lie, with a further six months of bottle aging in Bellenda’s cellar. And… wow… this has nose reminiscent of am excellent non-vintage Champers, with pear, apple, filbert, and brioche action all over the place. The texture is complex, bouncing between richness and vibrancy, all the while dominated by lovely apple flavors. Refreshing above all else, you won’t mistake this for a Champagne in the mouth, but you wouldn’t dare dream of turning this elegant sipper away, either!

 

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 59: Rule Breakers (Bellenda Valdobbiadene Recent Releases)NV Bellenda ‘Così È’ Col Fondo, Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco, $20

“As it is” is a fitting name for this Vino Frizzante. Umberto had to convince his brothers to let him craft this one. The tradition of local farmers taking unfiltered Prosecco with their meals lives on in this bubbly, which is bottled with natural yeast sediment, giving it an appealing hazy appearance. Sourced from a south-southwest facing vineyard near Carpescia, this has a classic Valdobbiadene nose but is less boisterous about it. A palate cleanser to its core, this is profoundly fresh in the mouth, there being pretty much no residual sugar in the mix. Consider it a “more modern” take on the current semi-sparkling craze (well, the craze among wine geeks, anyway)—it’s elegant AF, but you’d better like your bubbles on the zesty side!

 

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 59: Rule Breakers (Bellenda Valdobbiadene Recent Releases)NV Bellenda Fratelli Cosmo Carpesica Metodo Rurale, Veneto, $NA

The most unconventional of all of the unconventional wines in the Bellenda lineup, there’s no added SO2 here. This wine is allowed to ferment for fifteen days on the skins, in non-temperature-controlled wooden vats, and secondary fermentation taking place in the bottle. Bellenda state that they “made this wine with our heart as well as with our head,” in a throwback to the “accidental” bubblies that gave birth to sparkling wine in the region. It’s slightly hazy in appearance, with an inviting nose of flowers and grape notes, just-ripe pear, and a mild bit of funk. Balanced and fresh in the mouth, you get flavors of toast, peaches, and banana. The structure comes off like apple skins in a delicious, ambling way that’s about as crowd-pleasing as Pet-Nat gets. It makes a strong argument for putting more Glera-based Pet-Nat on the market…

 

Cheers!

Upscale your palate! My new books are now available from Rockridge Press!

Copyright © 2020. Originally at Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 59: Rule Breakers (Bellenda Valdobbiadene Recent Releases) from 1WineDude.com - for personal, non-commercial use only. Cheers!

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 57: Pregnant With More Than Just Possibilities (Antonella Corda Recent Releases)

Antonella Corda (image: Antonella Corda)

When I joined a media tasting (back in January… f*ck you, we just had a baby!!!) to go through samples of recent releases from Sardinia’s Antonella Corda, we were missing one important attendee: Antonella Corda.

Corda was unable to join the tasting of her namesake’s wares because she was about to give birth, making her motto “di madre in vigna” particularly apt. And so, as they say, the proceedings were pregnant with more than just possibilities.

Antonella herself has never been a stranger to the wine world, as she is related to one of the most important wine families on the island, the Argiolas. Located in Serdiana (about 20 kilometres north of Cagliari in the southern part of Sardinia), Antonella Corda (the estate, not the lady) was founded in 2010. Producing about 60,000 bottles/year (along with some olive oil) from their sand, clay, and loam soils, their vines are influenced by cooler northern winds (which helps mitigate the infamous Sardinian Summer heat in the vineyards), restraining maturation and retaining acids.

They farm two main vineyards. First, there’s Mitza Manna, the favorite vineyard of Antonella’s grandfather (Antonio Argiolas), sitting at about 200 meters in elevation, and growing Vermentino and Nuragus (which benefit from the calcium deposits of the soils there). Next, there’s Mitza S’ollastu, located on the border of the town of Ussana, where they primarily grow Vermentino and Cannonau. Soils are mainly riverbed influenced, with pebbles, sand, loam and clay (making it a great spot for developing structure and balance in the grapes, according to them).

As longtime 1WD readers are already aware, I am a total sucker for Vementino, so you probably already know where this one is going…

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 57: Pregnant With More Than Just Possibilities (Antonella Corda Recent Releases)2020 Antonella Corda Vermentino di Sardegna, $20

I’m like a broken record when it comes to Sardinia’s Vermentino (well, the well-executed examples, anyway). White flowers, minerals/wet stone, citrus, light herbal notes, yellow apple, white peaches, and freshness… It makes me want to buy several bottles, and I almost never actually buy wine with my own money any more. Notes of oranges, citrus zest, and mild hints of earth add complexity to this hand-harvested little delight. This is Elegant without sacrificing deliciousness, juiciness, or fruitiness.

 

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 57: Pregnant With More Than Just Possibilities (Antonella Corda Recent Releases)2020 Antonella Corda Nuragus di Cagliari, $19

This variety was typically used in the south of the island as a low-brow house wine; here it gets the premium treatment. One hectare of plantings produced just 5,000 bottles of this one. It’s quite floral, and heady, with a saline note and also some savory elements. And Fresh!, with stone fruits, pear, and lime zest. Consider this one lighter/medium bodied and just friggin’ delicious. It’s the kind of white that evokes the seaside and makes you want to drink all day. That interesting pithy note on the (very long) finish will wake you up from your nap.

 

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 57: Pregnant With More Than Just Possibilities (Antonella Corda Recent Releases)2018 Antonella Corda ‘Ziru’ Isola dei Nuraghi, $NA

Ziru is a skin-fermented Vermentino, aged in amphora for 24 months. Just 2,500 bottles were made. Unfiltered because why not. The name comes from the traditional term for amphora used to store wine and oils in Sardinia. Almost neon lemon in color, it offers a savory, mineral, salty nose, with dried white fig, lemon peel, peach, apricot, and orange rind. Matured notes of dried tropical fruits emerge on the palate, with roundness but also tons of vibrancy. Almost smokey, with lemon drop hints and great structural elements. Super long. So, yeah, the love affair with this grape variety continues unabated.

 

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 57: Pregnant With More Than Just Possibilities (Antonella Corda Recent Releases)2019 Antonella Corda Cannonau di Sardegna, $30

10% Syrah, 90% Grenache, 15% abv, 100% sexy. It’s a lovely light red in color, but don’t let that fool you. Little hints of game and leather show up, but this red is dominated by fresh, ripe red berries, rose petals, red cherries, white pepper, and mint. Equal parts smooth and fresh, with good length, it holds the alcohol level well, though you do feel it on the long finish. Sultry stuff that goes down dangerously easy. Hangover warning!

Cheers!

Dispatch from 1WD HQ: What We Drank at the Half-Century Mark!

Pretending to be Iron Man on my 50th

According to my mother, one is allowed to turn 49 as many times as s/he likes, but one can only turn 50 once. Personally, I don’t subscribe to that particular philosophy because, well, math, but turning 50 felt like it ought to be a milestone to recognize (“Half-Century Club” actually sounds kind of cool, if you ask me).

And so Shannon treated me to a session at the local iFly indoor skydiving spot, where I got one step closer to actually becoming Tony Stark / Iron Man (in my mind, at least). Much fun was had (we’re already planning our next sojourn there). However, while several people wanted me to give a run-down of the iFly experience, I (not surprisingly, I suppose) got many, many more questions about what I was drinking to celebrate the BIG 5-O.

Well, this

Dispatch from 1WD HQ: What We Drank at the Half-Century Mark!

First off, let’s get this out of the way right now: you won’t see any birth year wines in this list. That’s because by birth vintage was atrocious across almost all of the professional wine world landscape, generally damp and cool. Most `72s are closer to vinegar now than they are to wine. There have been some notable exceptions, but for the most part, `72s are a hard pass from me. So these selections (all of which are from the sample pool, lucky me) are quite a bit more modern

Dispatch from 1WD HQ: What We Drank at the Half-Century Mark!2016 Domaine Carneros by Taittinger Le Rêve Sparkling Brut Rosé (Napa Valley, $145)

I couldn’t resist popping open this bubbly. Not with a note like that from irrepressible wine pro and all-around awesome person Remi Cohen. This is an extraordinary vintage of Le Rêve—a 55% Pinot Noir, 45% Chardonnay blend that’s absolutely banging with cherry, ginger, and dried rose petals action. The depth of palate fruit (strawberry, peach) is exemplary. It feels mineral, ripe, and on the drier side (though absolutely still voluptuous). They’ve done Northern Cali quite proud with this one.

Dispatch from 1WD HQ: What We Drank at the Half-Century Mark!

Dispatch from 1WD HQ: What We Drank at the Half-Century Mark!2010 Antonelli San Marco Chiusa di Pannone (Sagrantino di Montefalco, $40-ish)

Longtime 1WD readers might recall this stellar producer, which was featured on these virtual pages back in 2018 after my press jaunt to Montefalco. I tend to travel quite light for business trips and thus have become very selective on which (if any) bottles come back in the luggage with me; this one passed that threshold with flying colors. And I’m very glad that it did. Ten years on, and this red is just starting to show its mellowed side. It remains impeccably balanced for being 15 percent abv. Crushed Walnut, stewed plums, baking spices, a silk-laden mouthfeel, and just an overarching sense of gorgeousness. My partner Shannon likes to joke that, despite being quite several years my junior, I keep her young. Well, this Sagrantino gives me a serious run for the money in the perception-of-youthfulness department.

 

Dispatch from 1WD HQ: What We Drank at the Half-Century Mark!

Dispatch from 1WD HQ: What We Drank at the Half-Century Mark!NV Osborne y Co. Solera India Rare Sherry (Andalucia, $450)

This Medium-Oloroso style Sherry label traces its history back to 1922, when Osborne crafted Sherry for Spanish diplomats stationed in South America, once referred to as “the Indies” (hence the name). Aged 25 years in the traditional system of soleras and criaderas, in American oak barrels, there’s nothing about this wine that doesn’t scream “Holy Sh*tballs!” in all of the best ways possible. Toasted caramel, toasted nuts, dried figs, baking spices, a palate that seems almost immeasurably broad and immensely deep simultaneously, like you’re staring into the infinite expanse of the universe. The finish seems almost as long as our ever-expanding universe, come to think of it…

Cheers!

Upscale your palate! My new books are now available from Rockridge Press!

Copyright © 2020. Originally at Dispatch from 1WD HQ: What We Drank at the Half-Century Mark! from 1WineDude.com - for personal, non-commercial use only. Cheers!

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 54: The Coolest White Wine You Aren’t Drinking (A Nas-Cëtta Deep Dive)

(image: Associazione produttori di Nas-cetta del Commune di Novello )

Back in November 2021 (!), I attended a media tasting with producers and wines of Piedmont’s Langhe DOC Nas-Cëtta del Comune di Novello. These are basically the coolest Italian white wines that you (almost certainly) aren’t (yet) drinking.

This is yet another unsung grape that appears to be native to Italy’s Piedmont. The first written testimonies of Nas-Cëtta (or “Anascetta”) date back to 1877, when scholar Giuseppe dei Conti di Rovasenda in his Essay on universal ampelography, called it “a very delicate grape and exquisite wine.” A bit later, In 1879, Lorenzo Fantini in the Monograph on Viticulture and Oenology in the Province of Cuneo, linked it to the small comune of Novello, definig it as “almost exclusively produced in the Novello area” and whose “goodness is due solely to nature that provides exquisite grapes.”

So, of course, it almost disappeared into obscure oblivion within a century. First, Phylloxera all but wiped it out, then production tanked with the poverty that followed WWII. Then, Nebbiolo took off as the guaranteed cash-cow wine grape (which also happened to be a lot hardier than the relatively fragile and pain-in-the-ass Nascetta, which no one was particularly interested in farming). By the 1990s, the situation was dire enough to inspire a revitalization effort, first by Professor Armando Gambera and then by Elvio Cogno (who acquired grapes from the two oldest vineyards in Novello, dating back to 1948 – one of which still exists in Pasinot, now owned by Le Strette). As Valter Fissore (of Elvio Cogno & the Association President) put it, “It’s quite challenging to start producing a white wine from an unknown grape variety” in the very heart of Barolo’s production area.

Thankfully, however, that’s exactly what the intrepid producers of Nascetta are attempting to do. It’s a labor of love for a grape that is disease-prone, and characterized by limited vigor, low productivity, and even lower fertility. As Savio Deniele (of Le Strette) put it, “Nascetta is something particular” (which is what Italians use to say it’s unique/special, but the more Americanized connotation of it being eccentric/odd applies just as fittingly).

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 54: The Coolest White Wine You Aren’t Drinking (A Nas-Cëtta Deep Dive)2019 Arnaldo Rivera Nas-Cëtta del Comune di Novello Langhe $NA

This winery is most known for its Barolo, and Nacetta is the only white wine that they make. “We strive to find the purity… of this variety,” noted Rivera’s Gabriele Oderda. The first vintage was in 2016. This white sees extended time on the lees. It’s immediately lovable on the nose, with perfume, white flowers, brioche, and citrus action. The flavor profile is more citrus than apricot, and comes off quite Riesling-esque. Deep, mineral, and fresh, it was affection-at-first-sniff for me.

 

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 54: The Coolest White Wine You Aren’t Drinking (A Nas-Cëtta Deep Dive)2019 Elvio Cogno ‘Anas-Cetta’ Nas-Cëtta di Novello Langhe $28

As per Cogno’s Valter Fissore: “I have a lot of harvests [of Nascetta], behind me. I spent a great effort to save this grape. I have seen the beautiful evolution of this wine.” These guys have experimented on the best production methods for Nacetta more than just about anyone else. With spice and mineral notes, a heady nose, delicate herbal tinges, and pepper hints, there’s much here to keep the intellectual stimulation going. Flavors of just-ripe exotic fruits and tropical fruits abound. The palate is alive/electric/exciting. If you love N. Italian whites, you need to find this one.

 

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 54: The Coolest White Wine You Aren’t Drinking (A Nas-Cëtta Deep Dive)2019 Le Strette ‘Pasinot’ Nas-Cëtta del Comune di Novello Langhe $29

Savio Deniele co-founded Le Strette with his brother, and his mother-in-law is one of their grape suppliers. They began selling Nascetta in 1999, and now produce two labels (including a single vineyard cru from the region’s oldest vineyard). With all of the peach and apricot this one throws around, it feels almost like a (really good) Chardonnay. Wonderful concentration awaits on the palate, which is broad but still lively. It has deep structural appeal as well (Nascetta being relatively high in tannin). Probably the Nascetta to use to convert the weary.

 

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 54: The Coolest White Wine You Aren’t Drinking (A Nas-Cëtta Deep Dive)2020 Stra Nas-Cëtta Langhe $NA

Stra has a mere 1 hectare of Nascetta plantings, but are betting on the increased passion behind the variety. Smoky mineral notes kick things off, followed by exotic stone and tropical fruit aromas. There is gorgeous transparency to the palate freshness, and the spiciness lingers on a long finish with ginger hints dutifully picking up the rear.

 

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 54: The Coolest White Wine You Aren’t Drinking (A Nas-Cëtta Deep Dive)2019 Luca Marenco Nas-Cëtta Langhe $29

This family producer started making Nascetta in 2018, and uses only stainless steel in its production. Owner Luca initially felt that he “did not have the patience” to make a good Nascetta. He was wrong. Along with the cutest label maybe ever, this steely, fresh white exudes apricot and wet stone notes, feels alive in the mouth, and flaunts its citrus and apple skin flavors on a structured palate that’s long and very well put-together.

 

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 54: The Coolest White Wine You Aren’t Drinking (A Nas-Cëtta Deep Dive)2019 Casa Baricalino del Comune di Novello Nas-Cëtta(Langhe) $NA

This rendition of Nascetta spend 4 months in barrique, possibly explaining its almost effortlessly smooth palate feel. A gorgeously heady, lifted nose brings toast, citrus pith, and spiced apricot. All the while, the Nascetta fingerprints of freshness and classy structure are evident.

 

Cheers!

 

What We Drank When Gianna Came Home (1998 Gosset Celebris Extra Brut)

As most of you who follow this blog already know, the 1WD family recently had a +1 when my second daughter Gianna was born at the end of September. We’re smitten, of course… and getting accustomed to functioning on less sleep than we though possible for carbon-based life forms… but smitten, nonetheless.

I still consider myself on 1WD paternity leave at the moment, so postings here have been infrequent and way, way , WAY behind. Which, having come of age in Peak Capitalism USA, of course makes me feel guilty. Despite the fact that access to everything published on 1WD is still priced at $0.00.

Anyway… I thought I’d share what we drank after my girlfriend could finally drink again and we brought Gianna back to the homestead, so that this little corner of the Global Interwebs seems a bit less neglected!

What We Drank When Gianna Came Home (1998 Gosset Celebris Extra Brut)1998 Gosset Celebris Extra Brut Millesime (Champagne, $200)

There’s a part of me that has fallen in love with Gosset’s 1970s-esque, so-hideous-it’s-awesome throwback packaging. And a part of me that hasn’t. But since they’re from oldest wine house in Champagne (established in 1584), they get a pass. Thankfully, what’s inside that packaging isn’t anywhere close to being hideous. This 64% Chardonnay and 36% Pinot Noir bubbly is a blend of wines from 1999, 1998, 1996 and 1995, and finished off with a fairly low dosage of 3.5 g/l. 1998 was the fourth vintage of their prestige cuvée to be released in a decade span, sourced entirely from 8 Grand Cru sites (in Côte des Blancs, Montagne de Reims, and the Grande Valée de la Marne).

AS far as what’s in the glass: this is gorgeous drinking, folks. Dried tropical fruits, like pineapple, that exceedingly pure, along with bruised golden apple, brioche, dried flower petals, and grilled lemon… The palate is linear and focused, but with enough depth and roundness to prevent it from being too stand-offish. It’s basically exceptional, and a great choice for those who like the Champagne middle-ground between zingy, electrodes-hooked-up-to-your-nipples acidity and croissant-shoved-into-a-glass richness.

Also, because you will hound me for them probably if I don’t do it… here are more baby pics:

Cheers!

Upscale your palate! My new books are now available from Rockridge Press!

Copyright © 2020. Originally at What We Drank When Gianna Came Home (1998 Gosset Celebris Extra Brut) from 1WineDude.com - for personal, non-commercial use only. Cheers!

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 52: Pinots Crossing (Dutcher Crossing Single Vineyard Recent Releases)

So… the global [pandemic has now gone on so long that not only have we crossed the threshold of 50 virtual samples tastings, but we’re circling back and revisiting producers that have already held such events…

In this case, that’s actually a positive development, as I got a chance to revisit the single vineyard wines of Dutcher Crossing—this time, however, focusing on three SV Pinot Noir releases from the 2018 vintage rather than (quite lovely) Sonoma Chardonnays.

Leading the virtual sipping were Dutcher Crossing winemaker Nick Briggs, and Terra de Promissio Vineyard’s impeccably-polite owner Diana Karren. As Briggs put it, the idea behind the single vineyard tastings was to once again showcase how DC “really explore that site and how those clones interact with that site.” But since the only people who really care about clones are winemakers, vineyard managers, and vine nursery staff, we are going to spend a lot more time talking about the three vineyards and the three wines showcased, and a lot less time (ok, probably none) talking about Pinot vine clones here. Anyway, let’s dive in!

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 52: Pinots Crossing (Dutcher Crossing Single Vineyard Recent Releases)2018 Dutcher Crossing Terra de Promisso Vineyard Pinot Noir (Sonoma Coast, $53)

Terra de Promissio is currently the most designated single vineyard in all of Sonoma County, appearing on over ten bottlings. Diana and husband Charles Karren bought the site in 1999, and planted it in 2002. And then everything kind of went to hell. “When the vines went in,” Karren recalled, “I was seven months pregnant.” Issues stacked up and funds got so tight that she contemplated dropping out of school and declaring bankruptcy at the time. Thankfully for them (and for us), the family rallied some funding and it pulled them through (“our story [of the vineyard] is the story of America for us” she noted). Dutcher Crossing has been working with this site since before the Petaluma Gap AVA was officially approved, so they have a feel for what works best when it comes to Pinot there. “They treat us as friends and family,” Karren mentioned when discussing DC; “I love that they’re very much involved in the grape-growing process.”

DC sources from the ocean-facing hillside at TdP vineyard (according to Karren, “the stakes are bent at an angle” in the first few vineyard rows due to the wind.) The position promotes thicker skins to protect the grapes—and thus more structure and color in the resulting wines. Briggs mentioned that “this is the wine I always grab” when asked which of his Pinots happens to be his favorite. And, well, it is pretty damned good. It’s big on flavor (pomegranate, black cherry, black raspberry), big on spices (black tea leaf, cedar, dried herbs), structure, suppleness, and power. This is about as robust as Sonoma Pinot gets, and is flexing its textural muscles, but in a polished and authentic way. Yeah, it’s structured, but that fruit is all silky showiness, too.

 

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 52: Pinots Crossing (Dutcher Crossing Single Vineyard Recent Releases)2018 Dutcher Crossing Bucher Vineyard Pinot Noir (Russian River Valley, $53)

As per Briggs, this site near Healdsburg sees “warmer days, and not even as cool” evenings, promoting more of a “Sonoma aroma.” Seven different Pinot clones were planted by John and Diane Bucher on this 30+ acre hillside spot, with the steepness of the vineyard adding the potential for more complexity (helping to balance the natural lushness of the fruit that comes off this warmer spot).

There is great fruitiness here (ripe cherries galore), enticing aromas (graham cracker, vanilla, citrus peel, earth, and backing spices), and a young structure. But it’s also perky in its palate liveliness, and buoyant in its cherry fruit flavors (which are ripe and fun without being obnoxious about it). The finish closes out with more black cherry and hints of pepper, and the whole thing feels gorgeously balanced.

 

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 52: Pinots Crossing (Dutcher Crossing Single Vineyard Recent Releases)2018 Dutcher Crossing Cut Root Vineyard Pinot Noir (Russian River Valley, $56)

This is the inaugural vintage from this site, the culmination of about six years of work (vines went in in 2015). “We were only able to develop about four acres,” Briggs pointed out, with the rest of the site too steep or wooded to plant (the vineyard sits near Occidental). It’s a cooler, less windy site, protected by the 100-feet tall Redwoods that surround it.

The hard work to prep the site was worth it—based on this release, the spot has serious potential for top-notch Sonoma Pinot. Rose petal notes mingle with herbs, black pepper, tea leaf, and both dry and fresh red currant fruit aromas. The palate is at once large/expressive and also lithe/transparent, with a long, spicy, mineral finish that’s laced with chocolate and earth tones. This is damned fine stuff, with a promising future ahead of it.

Cheers!