Staying Strong (More Rodney Strong Recent Releases)

Earlier (ok… much earlier) this year, I had the opportunity to hit up an in-person, sit-down tasting media dinner (the idea of which seemed almost too quaint to even contemplate during COVID) with Rodney Strong‘s Director of Communications Chris O’Gormon and head of winemaking Justin Seidenfeld. I’ve now known these guys for a long time, so it was an easy (and vaccinated/boosted) call to jump at the invite.

Despite having a lengthy history with the Rodney Strong brand (who longtime 1WD readers will recall were pretty much at ground zero of the whole online wine influencer thing), they continue to surprise me. Every time I think that I have them pegged stylistically, they more or less prove me wrong. What they are truly consistent about these days is offering consistently rich, very high quality Sonoma action for the money.

RS recently expanded Seidenfeld’s role, placing him in charge of oversight of the vineyards, and asking him to do a soup-to-nuts audit of their winemaking and winegrowing practices. Seidenfeld is opinionated, thorough, and decisive, and that’s resulted in RS retooling hundreds of acres of plantings. And resulted in a wine that’s now become an almost ridiculous, case-buy bargain…

Staying Strong (More Rodney Strong Recent Releases)2019 Rodney Strong Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County, $30

First, let’s talk about that bargain. At $30, RS’ 2019 Alexander Valley Cab is a screamin’ deal. Powerful and poised, it ought to feel bigger considering its ABV, ought to smell oakier considering its 24 months in barrel, ought to seem flabbier given its breadth and opulent plummy fruitiness. Nope, nope, nope. It’s rich, rewarding, and yet structured, tight, earthy and mineral. Some of that, I suspect, comes to an exceptional vintage in the region in general. But clearly the production ship at RS continues its slow, steady turn towards a fresher backbone to support their modern, silky style. This red is a minor triumph in that regard.

 

Staying Strong (More Rodney Strong Recent Releases)2019 Davis Bynum Dutton Ranches Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, $58

Just about 50 years ago, Davis Bynum became the first winery to produce a single-vineyard Pinot from Russian River Valley. It’s basically been a can’t-miss sourcing site ever since, which helped prompt RS to buy them in the first place. Delicious, spicy, and supple, this red screams “top-shelf” and “steakhouse” and I suspect would be as “can’t-miss” a pick from the wine list as its vineyard source is for great RRV fruit. In other words, RS is continuing to do the Bynum name proud here.

 

Staying Strong (More Rodney Strong Recent Releases)2018 Rowen Wine Company ‘600 L’ Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County, $150

This red (along with 600 R, more on that in a minute) is part of a limited production project to show off the highest end of RS’ portfolio prowess, and one that I’ve been fortunate enough to follow for a few years now. It’s Left Bank Bordeaux inspired, blending Cab with Petit Verdot. For the Cab, they sourced from the most vigorous vines at high elevation on Cooley Ranch (one of western Sonoma County’s most impressive vineyard sites). This is intense, deep stuff, with ample spiciness, and fantastic structure. It is long, powerful, and means business, revealing what it wants to when it wants to do it. The glimpses you get, however, show great promise: cedar, leather, blackcurrant, and swoon-worthy headiness that’s equally elegant and showily impressive.

 

Staying Strong (More Rodney Strong Recent Releases)2018 Rowen Wine Company 600 R Red Wine, Sonoma County, $150

600 R acts as a sister wine to 600 L, taking inspiration from Bordeaux’s Right Bank (being composed of over half Merlot, with 29% Cabernet Franc and 12% Cabernet Sauvignon). This blend came about as Seidenfeld and winegrower Ryan Decker became more and more enamored with the fruit coming from certain blocks on Cooley Ranch, including Sky High, Thompson and Prune Orchard. Figuring that they had to do something to showcase those blocks’ collective potential, they came up with the idea of an ‘R’ to the 600’s ‘L’. The Merlot component is immediately assertive here, giving the wine a round, plummy feel. Peel away that fruit-forward layer, and things get very complex very quickly. Graphite-like minerality, freshness, and delightful herbal spices enter the fray, followed by clay earthy hints, tart cherry fruit flavors, and an intermingling of wood spices and blackcurrant action. Gorgeous.

 

Cheers!

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

Copyright © 2022. Originally at Staying Strong (More Rodney Strong Recent Releases) 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 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!

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 56: Happy Holidays? (Wine Spoken Here Virtual Happy Hour)

Sooooo close to my goal of taking a Zoom screenshot where I’m t he only one looking at the camera!

To give you a sense of just how much of a time commitment having both a teenager and a newborn can be, witness this very post, which is merely four months or so late!

I was fortunate enough to have been invited to share in one of the periodic Virtual Happy Hours hosted by the stellar team at Wine Spoken Here, a small-but-mighty wine PR group headquartered in California, this one being their now-annual year-end holiday celebration in which they supply samples of wines that they just personally enjoy. Given that they’re seasoned wine pros all, the picks tend to be absolutely stellar in these events, and last December’s (!!) picks were no exception.

There are some rather interesting selections in this lineup, so if you’re in the mood for something a bit outside-the-conventional-box, you’ll want to pay particular attention to what we got seriously, seriously buzzed on sampled during our Zoom call…

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 56: Happy Holidays? (Wine Spoken Here Virtual Happy Hour)2019 Chateau La Nerthe Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc, $65

Hailing from one of the oldest and largest estate of Châteauneuf du Pape this blend (Grenache Blanc 40 %, Roussanne 34 %, Clairette 20 %, Bourboulenc 6 %) is the real deal. Christophe Bristiel (their Export Manager, who joined our call) told us that “Water is key. The property was built because it has water. Those natural springs are a key element on the style of the wine.” They’re one of the largest producers of white in CdP (at one point, half of the production was white wine according to Bristiel – currently it’s just over 15%). Most of the white vines are planted close to the water table, so they get enough moisture even in the driest CdP vintages. The white wines of the region in the late 1700s sold for a premium over the reds to Boston and Philly merchants (according to their records). Today, “it remains a hand-sell; even in France, many people don’t know that we make white wine in Châteauneuf. It’s a blend of terroirs, and a blend of grape varieties.” The Clairette vines are well over 90 years old, and are still bush trained. The percentages vary each vintage, but the most important component is always the Roussanne (which is picked first), fermented in oak on its own.

Honeyed, heady, and hedonistic, this is all round and generous in the mouth. There’s a very long floral, mineral, flinty finish with white peach and just-ripe pear action, and bits of bees wax, too, and just a hint of ginger. Delicious. Sexy AF. Love it.

 

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 56: Happy Holidays? (Wine Spoken Here Virtual Happy Hour)2019 Beckstone Cabernet Sauvignon, Horse Heaven Hills, $20

This is Bill Leigon’s new project, made at Pacific Rim’s winery – working with the Mariani family (of Banfi fame). Horse Heaven Hills is 25% of the planted acreage in Washington State, and one of WA’s warmest areas. “Beck” is an archaic New England word for a “swift flowing stream.” appropriated here as  description for the ancient Missoula Floods that largely created the area. Technically a single vineyard wine, 1500 cases were made (with plans to grow). 4% of the fruit comes from Red Mountain. Small bits of Merlot, Muscat Cannelli, and Malbec are thrown in as well.

Evoking cocoa powder, black and blue plummy fruits, oak spices, and sweet tannins, this has a nice dusty edge to it, and surprising length (full of black fruit and wood spice) for the money. Absolutely a crowd pleaser.

 

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 56: Happy Holidays? (Wine Spoken Here Virtual Happy Hour)2015 Tom Eddy Wines Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, $160

Wine Spine Spoken Here partner Rusty Eddy’s brother Tom crafts this beauty. Tom was at Wente in the `70s, was General Manager at Souverain, and crafted the first vintage at Tom Eddy Winery in the early `90s. His property literally straddles the Napa/Sonoma county line. “We really strive for concentration with the challenge to make an elegant wine,” Tom noted when he joined the Zoom. “You can have power, you can have structure” and still be age-worthy. “We kind of go against the grain. We’re not Parker-philes. 2015 was a really unique vintage. We kind of got fooled. We thought that the harvest would be on the lighter side. We didn’t realize how small the berries would be.” About 1/2 consists of Stagecoach Vineyard fruit.

There’s soooo much going on in this one. Still young and even a tad oaky due to its youth, there’s juicy blackcurrant action all over the place. Black plum, cedar, graphite, hints of smoked meat/game, along with great texture, silkiness, and just enough freshness and red plum action to keep it perky. Authentic, and has serious “mojo” and character. Great, great balance. Just 285 cases produced.

 

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 56: Happy Holidays? (Wine Spoken Here Virtual Happy Hour)Imayo Tsukasa ‘Black’ Extra Dry Junmai Sake, $120

This was an odd one, in the best ways possible. The very modern (and more or less all-black… queue the Spinal Tap quotes) label clues you in on what to expect in the bottle from this 16th generation producer. One of the driest Sakes you can ever find at +15 (basically the max), it has a crazy interesting nose, with earth, truffle, dashi, and umami. Savory, potent, powerful, and long with a commanding style, it feels like Sake going to war (with Iron Madien’s Senjutsu blaring in the background.) Tough to find, but one of the most unique Sake experiences you’ll EVER have if you do find one of the 30 or so cases that were imported.

Cheers!

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

Copyright © 2020. Originally at Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 56: Happy Holidays? (Wine Spoken Here Virtual Happy Hour) from 1WineDude.com - for personal, non-commercial use only. 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!

 

Dispatch from 1WD Paternity Leave: Yule-Tidings

Yuletide greetings from 1WD paternity leave, folks!

Despite the fact that I am woefully, epically, insanely behind on just about everything blog-related, I am still receiving a sh*tload of samples (likely in lieu of the pandemic pretty much still slamming the brakes on any wine-related travel… in fact, it’s had both feet pegged on those brakes and doesn’t seem at all interested in releasing them anytime soon). So as you might imagine, pickings for the 1WD homestead’s Yuletide gatherings (in which, fortunately, Baby Gianna’s grandparents on her mother’s side were able to grace us with a visit) were far from slim.

And so while, with a 3-month-old in the house, we might not be sleeping all that well, we are most certainly still drinking well…

Dispatch from 1WD Paternity Leave: Yule-TidingsNV Domaine Carneros by Taittinger Cuvée de la Pompadour Brut Rosé (Napa Valley, $45)

Rosé bubbly is almost always at least a somewhat sexy choice, and this one is most definitely in that category. It more or les lets it all hang out, with impeccable structure and a fine mousse that are elegant dressings on a spirit that is absolutely ready to PAR-TAY down.

 

Dispatch from 1WD Paternity Leave: Yule-Tidings2018 Frank Family Vineyards Chardonnay (Carneros, $35)

FF has never been afraid to go big (probably too big in the case of their Pinot, actually) and that formula pays off big-time here in a white that feels tropical, plush, and lushly generous—without also dragging down your mouth into flab territory. Pops of citrus zest and ginger come a bit unexpectedly and keep things intellectually interesting during the hedonistic romp.

 

Dispatch from 1WD Paternity Leave: Yule-Tidings2019 Scattered Peaks Morisoli Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley, $150)

Here’s how winemaker Joel Aiken described the long-standing magic of this top-shelf site in Napa: “The soil in the Morisoli vineyard is classic alluvial fan (bench-land) soil with lots of gravelly loam and great drainage. This soil moderates vigor and the location, just east of Mt. St. John provides some cooling shade late in the afternoon. Clone 7 performs beautifully on this well drained soil with the resulting wine more similar to wines from mountain vineyards than other valley floor vineyards. Blending the two vineyards highlights the best of both creating a wine that is complex and approachable early on but will also age beautifully for decades.” This red is SOOOO young and tight right now. Joel is a master with this vineyard, and it shows. Eventually, these gorgeously lush, spicy plums start to emerge. Elegant cedar notes appear, too, and there’s an amazing length to it all. Quite a decent amount of dustiness, grip, depth, and freshness all over. It’s jam-packed, expressive, textural, and BIG.

 

Dispatch from 1WD Paternity Leave: Yule-Tidings2016 Dow’s Late Bottled Vintage Port (Portugal, $25)

Impressive stuff for the relatively modest price here; this Port definitely brings a “baby brother VP” feel. Pure ripe blueberry, over-ripe blackberry, dried fig, and, appropriately in this case, tons of Christmas spice action. Lots of bang both in the palate, and for the buck, in this one.

Cheers!

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

Copyright © 2020. Originally at Dispatch from 1WD Paternity Leave: Yule-Tidings from 1WineDude.com - for personal, non-commercial use only. Cheers!

What We Drank When I Had Both My Kids Over Thanksgiving

Here are a few things that I learned during our 2021 Thanksgiving holiday celebrations and libations:

  • It’s always best to have both of your kids around, and I was thankful and lucky enough that both of my daughters were at home when we broke bread over the holiday.
  • I’m predictable (this will become more obvious when we talk about what we poured with Turkey Day in a minute or two).
  • Bagged turkey might not be the superior turkey cooking method, but it is absolutely the best combination of tastiness vs. cooking effort extended (fight me!).
  • I’m a very lucky (and grateful) guy to have Shannon as my partner (and Baby G. is lucky to have her as a mom).

Ok, and with that all out of the way… we cooked, we ate, we drank. Here’s the skinny on the latter! Also, you’re welcome for the inclusion of yet another baby pic!

What We Drank When I Had Both My Kids Over ThanksgivingNV Bruno Paillard Premiere Cuvee, Champagne, $55

Yeah, yeah, I know. Even I’m sick of hearing me talk about these guys. Having said that, I am growing increasingly convinced that there is no better crowd-pleasing, ageworthy, non-vintage Champers out there for the money at the moment. Again, fight me!

 

What We Drank When I Had Both My Kids Over Thanksgiving2019 Dutton-Goldfield Rosé of Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, $32

What this bold, berry-tinged rosé lacks in complexity it more than makes up for in food-friendliness and downright sexiness. It’s not subtle in its approach, but that mouthfeel is just pure seduction, and it helps that the quality level is up to par with Dutton-Goldfield’s normally astronomically high standards.

 

What We Drank When I Had Both My Kids Over Thanksgiving2017 Blackbird Vineyards Paramour, Napa Valley, $135

Popping open Blackbird’s flagship reds is starting to become a bit of a holiday tradition a the 1WD household, which would be an expensive proposition if I wasn’t in the fortunate position of getting these puppies as samples. The 2017 Paramour is an “embarrassment” of Oak Knoll riches. Being based on Cabernet Franc (a long- admitted personal favorite), the bramble and herbal spice notes that start peeking above the dark, plummy fruit horizon of this mouth-coater are a fantastic compliment to the complex graphite, oak, and tobacco action here. You could bypass all of that if you really wanted to (which I would decidedly recommend against doing) and just enjoy the sultry, smooth-as-silk mouthfeel, which is textbook high-end Napa and absolutely world-class.

 

What We Drank When I Had Both My Kids Over Thanksgiving2017 Donnafugata Ben Ryé Passito di Pantelleria, Sicily, $45 (375ml)

Longtime 1WD readers are also likely sick of hearing me talk about this stellar Sicilian producer, and in particular this dessert label that helped put them on the fine wine map. Given that I attended the first retrospective tasting of Ben Ryé ever held by Donnafugata, I feel as though I’ve got a good handle on the vintage nuances of this gem. So I can tell you that 2017 is among the burliest and most potent-feeling Ben Ryé vintages in recent memory. The sultanas seem extra powerful, the marmalade a bit more pleasantly astringent (like it’s got extra bits of orange skin), the figs a bit more dried and concentrated. It’s a dessert wine for those who like their vinos big, bold, and offering no quarter.

Cheers!

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

Copyright © 2020. Originally at What We Drank When I Had Both My Kids Over Thanksgiving from 1WineDude.com - for personal, non-commercial use only. Cheers!