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 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 58: Going Native, Again (More Esporão Recent Releases)

Herdade do Esporão is a producer that is close to my Portuguese-loving heart, having worked closely with them in the past, visited on a few occasions (including taking what I think is the only Terrible Towel photo atop of their ancient tower, just before Superbowl XLV…), and even recently catching up with them during one of the many (many, many) virtual samples tastings during COVID.

So it was nice to dip my Portuguese-loving toes back into their vinous waters and see what else they’ve been up to lately, courtesy of yet another virtual samples tasting, our 58th such feature since the onset of the pandemic. Jeeeeeeebussssss…..

Anyway…

This time, we got to taste their wares alongside Esporão Group Chairman João Roquette, and Herdade do Esporão lead winemaker, Sandra Alves. Sandra joined Esporão back in 2001, overseeing white wines production, and then extending her responsibility to reds as well in 2016, working alongside her mentor and longtime Chief Winemaker David Baverstock.

A bit of backgrounder on Esporão: they are basically the biggest thing going in Portugal’s literally and figuratively hot ALentejo winegrowing region. They farm 600 hectares of estate vineyards, started all now 100% certified organic, and crank out about 40 million bottles of wine per year (80% of it being red). In recent years, they’ve been pushing the pedal down on promoting the Portugal’s and Alentejo’s autochthonous grapes; as Roquette put it, “Moving towards native Portuguese varieties is a trend and will continue driven by search of identity/differentiation and climate change.”

Here’s what my Portuguese-loving palate thought of some of their more recent wares…

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 58: Going Native, Again (More Esporão Recent Releases)

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 58: Going Native, Again (More Esporão Recent Releases)2020 Herdade do Esporão Colheita Branco (Alentejo, $18)

Esporão has a knack for taking grapes that you can’t spell or pronounce as a non-Portuguese speaker and making you want to learn to spell and pronounce them, and that’s the case with this crowd-pleasing blend of Antão Vaz, Viosinho, Alvarinho, and “others.” Tropical, buoyant, exciting and inviting, hints of green tea leaf citrus greet you at first. There’s good balance for such a warm region (though it leans to the fuller/richer/riper side) and a pleasing minerality, closing with a complex hint of astringency/structure.

 

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 58: Going Native, Again (More Esporão Recent Releases)2018 Herdade do Esporão ‘Esporão’ Reserva Branco (Alentejo, $20)

Primarily built on Antão Vaz, Arinto, and Roupeiro, from older vines that were planted even longer ago than my first visit to Esporão (feeling old… are those liver spots on my arm?!??). I’ve always viewed this label as an overachiever and that trend continues with this fine vintage. The nose is tropical, but definitely spicier than its less expensive Branco cousin, with ginger, and hints of dried herbs and toast. Pink grapefruit, lemon, pith, and peach and apricot flavors weave in and out. This has depth, freshness, and very good persistence, with a finish that feels almost as long as the COVID pandemic.

 

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 58: Going Native, Again (More Esporão Recent Releases)

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 58: Going Native, Again (More Esporão Recent Releases)2019 Herdade do Esporão Colheita Tinto (Alentejo, $18)

Here, the native Touriga Nacional, Aragones, and Touriga Franca are co-fermented in concrete tanks with Alicante Bouschet and Cabernet Sauvignon into another easy-to-love result. Dark red plums, light tobacco spice, dried herbs, vanilla, and pepper all add to a modern-feeling entry. In the mouth, there’s great balance and ‘punchiness.’  The finish isn’t that long, but the food-friendliness of this sipper will make it a hit with pretty much anyone who likes their meat and their wines red.

 

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 58: Going Native, Again (More Esporão Recent Releases)2018 Herdade do Esporão ‘Esporão’ Reserva (Alentejo, $25)

A kitchen sink of awesomeness that includes Aragonez, Trincadeira, Touriga Nacional and Touriga Franca along with Syrah, Alicante Bouschet and Cabernet Sauvignon (all harvested and fermented separately by variety, then receiving a mix of American and French oak aging). The vineyards that source this red are nearing 50 years of age, and the resulting depth and structure makes this a deep, sultry experience. Lots going on here… toast, oak, caramel, sweet tobacco, dried herbs, cola, and ripe, plummy fruit (red, black and blue). The size and power are kept in check with pleasant dusty tannins, fresh red berry flavors, and an overall sense of deliciousness. The cola extends on a long finish with a bit of heat and a lot of character (and fresh and stewed plum fruit flavors).

 

Cheers!

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

Copyright © 2020. Originally at Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 58: Going Native, Again (More Esporão Recent Releases) from 1WineDude.com - for personal, non-commercial use only. Cheers!

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 55 (“The Dirt Doesn’t Hurt”: Revisiting Scattered Peaks)

What a treat to virtually revisit Napa Valley’s Scattered Peaks (virtually, in this case—which is fitting, given that tasting their wares was one of the last things I got to do in a public wine-media-type setting before Covid hell broke lose). This tiny outfit’s cellar is helmed by living winemaking-legend-type Joel Aiken, who, when asked about what makes this label special, replied “The dirt doesn’t hurt.”

You can fill yourself in on the Scattered Peaks backstory from our pre-Covid tasting. The TLDR version is that it involves some excellent Napa terroir, Joel’s extensive experience, and the resources of Purple Wine Company’s Derek Benham.

When you’re done, let’s dive right into the juice…

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 55 (“The Dirt Doesn’t Hurt”: Revisiting Scattered Peaks)
Winemaker Joel Aiken and PR maven Tim McDonald

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 55 (“The Dirt Doesn’t Hurt”: Revisiting Scattered Peaks)2020 Scattered Peaks Napa Valley Fume Blanc, $20

An interesting choice to go with given their pedal-to-the-medal Cabernet debuts, this white is 100% Usibelli Vineyard (Pope Valley) sourced, and was made by Joe Tapparo with Joel consulting. The aim, according to Joel, was “trying to make a wine with good acidity in it and real complexity.” You can hardly tell that this one sees any oak, it’s so vibrant and lively. Starfruit, melons, grapefruit, lemongrass, citrus, all of which are doing just fine, thanks. This one delivers a lot of tastiness, and heck of a lot of value.

 

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 55 (“The Dirt Doesn’t Hurt”: Revisiting Scattered Peaks)2019 Scattered Peaks Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, $40

Almost entirely Cabernet (a smattering of 4% Merlot made its way in), this red is also made by Joe Tapparo with Joel in a consulting role. Aiken practically beamed when talking about this one. “It’s a baby. Lots of power, lots of color. That part of Pope Valley makes killer wine. It’s got a lot of life ahead of it and a lot of intensity. I’m pretty happy with this.” He ought to be—There’s SERIOUS bang for the buck here. This can easily give Napa Cabs in the $60-$75 range a run for their money. Plums, ripe blackcurrants, dried herbs, mint, and a sultry deliciousness that’s basically irresistible… No way I would have pegged this for under $70 in a blind tasting. At this price, we are in case-buy territory.

 

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 55 (“The Dirt Doesn’t Hurt”: Revisiting Scattered Peaks) 

 

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 55 (“The Dirt Doesn’t Hurt”: Revisiting Scattered Peaks)2019 Scattered Peaks Napa Valley Sage Ridge Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, $125

Sage Ridge Vineyard is in the eastern hills of Napa, not too far from Pritchard Hill and south of Howell Mountain. Joel describes the fruit form this loocation as “lush.” Soils are of fractured shale with red clay, which he claims reduces vigor (so, very small, concentrated berries). He favors the Cabernet clone 169 plantings there, which still retain pyrazines but “only well-behaved pyrazines” according to Aiken. “It tends to have this lush, creamy [nose]. Even though it’s mountain fruit, with tiny berries. I love this ranch.”

The operative word here is DEEEEEEEP! This is so young, the panoply of oak flavors and aromas have yet to integrate fully. BUT… Blackberry, blackcurrant, graphite, warm baking spices… it all just keeps coming and coming in waves on a smooth-as-silk palate. The tannin chains are Alaskan-pipeline long. It’ll keep you coming back for (a lot) more. For mountain fruit, this is as sexy and accessible as they come.

Cheers!

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

Copyright © 2020. Originally at Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 55 (“The Dirt Doesn’t Hurt”: Revisiting Scattered Peaks) from 1WineDude.com - for personal, non-commercial use only. Cheers!

Dispatch from 1WD Paternity Leave: What We Drank on Shannon’s Birthday

Because my partner Shannon is out-of-this-world, she got first dibs on the wine sample pool for celebrating her recent birthday. Shannon has very specific tastes and makes no bones about expressing them—she favors Grenache reds and, well, we didn’t have any. Doh!

BUT… she also favors German Sekt (yet another reason she’s a keeper!), which luckily we did have lurking in the basement sample boxes.

So here’s a quick view into what we imbibed to toast Shannon successfully completing another trip around the Sun (and looking good while doing it):

Dispatch from 1WD Paternity Leave: What We Drank on Shannon’s BirthdayNV Markus Molitor ‘Molitor’ Riesling Sekt Brut (Mosel, $20)

Like a lot of perennially underappreciated wine styles, this one punches a bit above its fighting weight class. Dry in style and in personality, there’s plenty of biscuit, lemon rind, and yellow apple to love here, and a persistent finish that’s way longer than ought to be expected for a sparkler in the $20 range. Toasty, with nice yeast action and admirable depth, it stays elegant while remaining deliciously pungent and vibrant.

 

Dispatch from 1WD Paternity Leave: What We Drank on Shannon’s Birthday2018 Newton Vineyard The Puzzle (Napa Valley, $125)

An amalgam of fruit—77% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Cabernet Franc, 8% Merlot and 4% of Petit Verdot/Malbec—as well as vineyards sources (including Mt Veeder, Spring Mountain and Yountville), hence the name. This is basically the Newton flagship red, and it’s very much a SEX B-OMB. Sultry, silky, savory, seductive, supple, showy, and probably a lot of other adjectives that begin with an “S,” this one goes down very smooth. The tannins feel ample but the chains are looooooooong. This is a red built to impress right out of the gate, almost overflowing with an embarrassment of riches in its black and blue fruit flavor profile. Dried herbs, graphite, and wood spices all get in on the action, too. It’s worth the price of admission simply from the hedonism perspective.

Cheers!

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

Copyright © 2020. Originally at Dispatch from 1WD Paternity Leave: What We Drank on Shannon’s Birthday from 1WineDude.com - for personal, non-commercial use only. Cheers!

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 53: Overachievers-R-Us (Domaine Bousquet Recent Releases 2021)

(image: Domaine Bousquet)

[ Editor’s Note: Listen up, friends of 1WD! With Baby Gianna due pretty much any day now, it could be a few weeks before this humble little corner of the Global Interwebs gets an update from me. I will be back in fighting form (if a bit – ok, more than a bit – sleep-deprived) and posting on here with mini-reviews and features just as soon as the new addition provides me enough time to do so. Until then, drink – and be – well! Cheers! ]

I’ve often said that we’re currently living in the single greatest time to be a wine lover in the history of humanity. This is due to the simple fact that global competition in the wine market is so fierce that the baseline level of quality required to get a wine to that market with a viable chance to sell it is probably the highest that it’s ever been.

Having said that, while the chance of running into a flawed wine on a store shelf these days is ridiculously small, the chance of picking up a perfectly serviceable but BORING wine are, as a sort of twisted side effect of that fierce competition, probably higher than ever. You can easily get a clean, tasty vino, but will it “blow your skirt up?” Maybe, maybe not. Which is why for the last 3+ years I’ve been such a fan of Argentina’s Domaine Bousquet (see previous coverage here) – purveyors of clean, serviceable, tasty wines that are bargains in terms of QPR, and more often than not have something about them that puts them above the fray of duller-than-an-actuarial-convention status so often found at their respective price-points.

This time, I couldn’t meet Domaine Bousquet viticulturalist Franco Bastias and economist-turned-proprietor Anne Bousquet in person (thanks, Covid), so I joined a media samples tasting with them via Zoom. Except I wasn’t wearing any pants, since they could only see me from the waist up. Just kidding. Probably.

Anyway, you can delve into the Bousquet history here – since we’ve already covered that, let’s talk about what these guys have going for them that makes their stuff better than boring. They’re sitting at 4,000+ feet, twice as high in elevation as Mendoza. They saw potential in Tupungato early on, at a spot that was still virgin land before they planted. “It was quite an enterprise to first clean up all this land,” Anne Bousquet mentioned. “By 2000, we were ready to plant. You have to be patient, you have to wait for them [the vines].” Fortunately for them, the land consisted of Alluvial soils from the Las Tunas River in the Andes, with calcareous deposits in the lower layers, forming “caliche” rock. Good stuff for high elevation vine plantings. What they don’t grow themselves, they from multiple Tupungato growers who have or are getting organic certification. Now, they’re BRCS, Vegan, & USDA Organic certified (among other certs – they’re working on Demeter now).

And… that’s mostly it. Throw in a talented staff and Argentina’s low-ish production costs, and you’ve got a recipe for over-achievements like these…

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 53: Overachievers-R-Us (Domaine Bousquet Recent Releases 2021)2021 Domaine Bousquet Sauvignon Blanc (Tupungato, $10)


Canopy management helps keep DB’s SB from being burned by the ample Argentine sun; and the deep sandy, gravelly soil helps promote the acid retention needed to balance the ripe fruit. This white is surprisingly herbal for Argentine SB. Though it doesn’t lack for tropical/exotic fruit notes, it’s almost New Zealand-like in its boisterous, aromatic style. Chalky/mineral hints show up as well. In a word, the palate is “Zesty!” Bright in the mouth, with lots of pith and grapefruit, starfruit, and spice, there’s just great bang for the buck here.

 

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 53: Overachievers-R-Us (Domaine Bousquet Recent Releases 2021)2019 Domaine Bousquet Reserva Chardonnay (Tupungato, $20)

It’s probably odd to cite a nose as feeling delicious, but… here you go. Peaches, apples, cream, even some dried flower petal notes all hit with nice precision. The flavors of apples, citrus, white peach and pear are all lively and energetic. You don’t feel the power of the 14.5% abv until it hits the edges of the palate as it broadens on your tongue. Toasty finish, good length, plenty of freshness… Another underachievement.

 

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 53: Overachievers-R-Us (Domaine Bousquet Recent Releases 2021)2018 Domaine Bousquet ‘Gaia’ Cabernet Franc (Gualtallary, $17)

The presence of calcareous stones mark the sandy soils at this wine’s source site, and it’s topped off with 8-10 months aging in French oak. Personally, I LOVE all of of the green dried herb, spice, and lovely dark fruit (plums, black raspberry, black cherry) action on this. It’s immediately inviting, and carrying most of the right Cab Franc calling cards. Structured, vivacious, and deeply dark-fruited on the palate. Yeah, you get some of those green notes (and minerals, too) along with a good balance of depth and structure – but it’s CF, so you knew what you were signing up for when you bought it, right? At the price, this is Go-To red for nerds like me.

 

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 53: Overachievers-R-Us (Domaine Bousquet Recent Releases 2021)2018 Domaine Bousquet Gran Malbec (Tupungato, $22)

The site for this Malbec has soils similar to those that source their SB, but the roots in this case have extended quite deeply. With Malbec being sensitive to its moisture uptake, this helps the grapes get good concentration. And concentrated this is. Cassis and blackberries, along with some dark red plums, show up on the nose, which is reserved at first but opens up nicely after a few minutes of air time. Slight hints of chocolate mint, pencil lead, leather, and tobacco follow. In the mouth, it’s supple, with red fruits that are juicy, tangy, and also ripe and chewy. Very fresh (thank those cool, high altitude Tupungato nights), with darker herbs and spices on the finish. Delicious stuff, and (you guessed it), an Overachiever.

Cheers!

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

Copyright © 2020. Originally at Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 53: Overachievers-R-Us (Domaine Bousquet Recent Releases 2021) from 1WineDude.com - for personal, non-commercial use only. Cheers!

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 51: Figuratively Pint-Sized (Launch of Le Grand Verre Wines)

Maybe it’s because I’m expecting my second kid and have a temporarily renewed affinity for all things small and cute, but I found the idea of Le Grand Verre’s figuratively pint-sized (they’re actually 6.3oz) packaging intriguing enough to accept their live virtual tasting/samples invitation.

I mean, the sort of test-tube-esque bottles are kind of cute, in a mad-scientist-meets-excited-wine-lover kind of way. The fact that they focus on providing wines from French producers that are led by women, and that focus on sustainable/organic offerings was really just cool icing on the cake for me.

Nicolas Deffrennes, the founder of Le Grand Verre, grew up in what he described as “a really small town in Cotes du Rhône.” When attending Harvard, Deffrennes “had my ‘eureka’ moment” after joining the university’s famous wine club. “My dream job was to be helping French exports,” he noted.

As for the selections at Le Grand Verre, Deffrennes explained that their focus on organic/sustainable and female-led estates developed more naturally from their primary goal, which was to showcase “more off the beaten path, more authentic wines” Receiving a grant from Burgundy, they designed their proprietary packaging (shatter-proof, double sided, recyclable PET mini-bottles) and toured vineyards to find wines for the program.

As we’ll see in a minute, the wines are good and, for the most part, outperform their extremely modest price points (I’ve tried to extrapolate full bottle prices below based on what their flights cost), but the packaging kind of shares equal billing with them at the moment. Deffrennes vision was to provide “the freedom of sampling, without the need to open an entire bottle” (is this actually an issue that most of us even have after sheltering-in-place?). The minis are deliberately designed so that the color of the wines can be seen easily, with the elongated, slim shape apparently helping to make pouring easier. They are double-coated to help preserve freshness. When pressed to detail how long a wine might stay fresh/drinkable in LGV’s proprietary, Deffrennes demurred that the design was meant to preserve the wine “for a long time.” At which point, I had to channel my inner K2-S0:

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 51: Figuratively Pint-Sized (Launch of Le Grand Verre Wines)

Anyway, let’s see how the contents of that innovate packaging fared, shall we?

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 51: Figuratively Pint-Sized (Launch of Le Grand Verre Wines)2020 Domaine de Caylus Chardonnay (Pays d’Herault, $6.25)

Domaine de Caylus resides on 25 hectares of organically farmed vineyards in the South of France. Inès Andrieu calls the shots there, her grandfather having bought the Domaine in 1963. “My father [still] lives downstairs,” she noted. The family have been winegrowers since 1865. “It’s difficult, as a woman, but it’s a good life, it’s a beautiful life,” she told us. “Now, I am the manager. My first goal is to preserve our lifestyles. We live here, and it’s important for us to preserve the future of my children.”

This white sees no oak, which helps put its white flower, lemon blossom, lemon, white peach, and yellow apple aromas front and center. It’s a pure nose with very good intensity. In the mouth, it’s refreshing, with lovely white peach and pear flavors, along with some lovely apple notes. Just really, really fresh. “We’re trying to minimize any intervention” Andrieu explained, and this Chardonnay seems all the better for it.

 

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 51: Figuratively Pint-Sized (Launch of Le Grand Verre Wines)2020 Domaine de Caylus Rosé Blend (Pays d’Herault, $6.25)

A Grenache/Syrah blend that’s redolent with aromas of roses, bright cherry fruit, watermelon, and wild strawberry. Delightful stuff once you sip it, with lots of bright and ripe red fruit on the finish, which has good length. “You can share it with your love. It’s very good with vegetables. Maybe you can take it to the beach with a picnic. Not complicated, but fresh and fun,” Andrieu explained. Yep, nailed it.

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 51: Figuratively Pint-Sized (Launch of Le Grand Verre Wines)

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 51: Figuratively Pint-Sized (Launch of Le Grand Verre Wines)2020 Domaine de Val d’Arenc Bandol Rosé (Provence, $7.50)

“Of course” is how Château Val D’Arenc’s Gérald Damidot put it when asked about whether or not they were now focused on organic viticulture. Val D’Arenc has been practicing organic viticulture for over 10 years, and Damidot has been in the winemaking biz for double that (13 of those years being in Bandol). “I make the wine with all the passion I can,” he emphasized, preferring a “delicate, feminine” style for his wines.

Case in point on that latter remark: this Mouvedre-based pink. The grapes are hand picked, and meant for rosé production. Damidot described it as “Not a simple rose, it’s gastronomic”—and he’s right. Pomelo, white peaches, flower petals all mark the alluring nose. Super fresh on the palate, there’s a ton of citrus pith, white pepper, and texture here (especially for the price). It really does suggest food in that pithy astringency and long citric finish.

 

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 51: Figuratively Pint-Sized (Launch of Le Grand Verre Wines)2019 Château Peyredon (Haut-Medoc, $7.50)

This family-run, organic Bordeaux estate can boast a respectable neighborhood, bordering the likes of Château Poujeaux, Château Chasse Spleen and Château Maucaillou. Gamey and spicy, with hints of smoked meat, black fruits, and clove, this is a fresh take on Bordeaux red. Just-ripe blackberry, toast, smoke, chewy tannins, and good structure mark the palate, leading to a tangy, long, and earthy/funky finish.

Cheers!

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

Copyright © 2020. Originally at Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 51: Figuratively Pint-Sized (Launch of Le Grand Verre Wines) from 1WineDude.com - for personal, non-commercial use only. Cheers!

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 50: Opposites, Attractive (Comparing/Contrasting Portugal’s Douro and Vinho Verde)

Holy. Crap!

It’s actually been fifty… FIFTY!… of these not-in-person Zoom tastings since the global pandemic started? I’m getting twitchy for lack of travel, but my samples coffers remain more than full enough to supply with me with enough alcohol to dull the pain.

For this 50th incarnation of SiP (Sort-of-Shelter-in-Place) sipping, we catch up with longtime friends of 1WD, Portugal’s Esporão, who made their name as one of the most famous, well, names in Alentejo. Esporão has, since my time working them several years ago, branched out to acquire Quinta dos Murças—a Douro property that was just being on-boarded when I first visited them—and Quinta do Ameal, an historic property in Vinho Verde.

If you’re thinking “well, those two are about as far apart stylistically as you can get,” you’re on the right track, as that was more-or-less the theme underpinning the tasting of recent releases by both estates that I attended, led by Ameal winemaker José Luis Moreira da Silva and Esporão’s Frank Paredes. “Our main goal,” emphasized José Luis “is to produce wines that represent each region, and show the differences with both.”

And different they most certainly are, though once could , with enough quick driving, see both of them in the same day.

The lusher, much wetter, and much greener Vinho Verde is still technically the #1 selling Portuguese wine region in the USA, and the largest DOC in Portugal by vineyard area. Rainy, lush, cool, and continental, with influence from the Atlantic ocean, the region’s vines grow mainly on sandy loam and granitic soils (“that reinforce the acidity” according to José Luis). By contrast, the Douro is, of course, noted for its steep viticulture, Schist/slate soils, arid climate, fortified wine production, and potentially scorching Summertime temperatures.

Such a juxtaposition of regions yielded what you’d expect: vibrant white wines, and the deep, plummy reds to match them as opposite sides of the Portuguese vinous coin. There’s a bit more to the story, of course, and that’s where our tasting kicks off…

2020 Esporão Quinta do Ameal ‘Bico Amarelo’ (Vinho Verde, $12)

Ameal is the more recent Esporão  acquisition, but the more historic, dating back to 1710. The property runs 2600+ feet along the Lima River, with rolling hills and changes in elevation providing variation in growing conditions. The previous owner bet big-time on the Loureiro  grape variety here, running with it since about 1990. Loureiro means “laurel” (and the grapes do smell like it). “It’s incredible how these wines resist aging,” noted José Luis. “For me it resembles Riesling. It’s all about the acidity and the freshness. The idea here was to produce a different wine” than the region had been known for previously, “more valuable, more premium.”

Here, Loureiro, Alvarinho, and Avesso are blended from three different subregions, in an attempt to “look for the harmony” between these grapes “in a natural way” (i.e., no gas, no sugar added, etc.). The vineyards are about 25 years old. This is floral and mineral, with lovely citrus notes (think limes, lemons, grapefruit…). Vivacious and fresh in the nose, with tropical hints, there’s plenty of acidity to go around, of course, but there’s also nice roundness on the palates’ edges. Light, fresh, and finishing with green apple and lime pith. This one delivers intellectual payoffs as well as refreshment—for a price that kind of defies belief.

 

2020 Quinta do Ameal Loureiro (Vinho Verde, $18)

This 100% Loureiro is “a blend of all the plots we have on the estate” explained José Luis, (those near the river giving acidity, and those on the hills bringing depth), and sees 6 months of batonnage. Talk about fresh aromas… Flowers, limes, and lemon rind – not overtly complex, but the nose feels elegantly refined. Juicy and refreshing, with mineral and bay leaf hints, the palate is absolutely electric, but never looses its cool or its composure. The finish is, indeed, reminiscent of Riesling, with its stone fruits and hint of spice. Elegant and excellent, and sporting a WAY long for the price!

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 50: Opposites, Attractive (Comparing/Contrasting Portugal’s Douro and Vinho Verde)

2017 Esporão Quinta dos Murças ‘Assobio’ Red (Douro, $14)

While Ameal was already a well-established and well-regarded brand before Esporão picked it up, Murças still remains a bit of “a blank slate” for Esporão, even 12+ years after they acquired it. Its 48 hectares of vines (across 155 total ha) sport lots of biodiversity, and a bit of historical significance—in 1947, Quinta dos Murças had the first vertical plantings in the Douro (82% of the estate is planted in vertical rows today). The plantings favored more concentration and quality but lower yields (and in some cases, deeper roots), while also promoting more aeration in the vines, helping against disease pressure. “It’s really an important part,” noted Paredes, “the elegance is linked to these conditions” in their Cima Corgo location (the somewhat cooler area of Douro). The estate is now 100% Organic, benefiting from a 2015 a soil survey that afforded them deeper understanding of the plots and terroirs.

This blend of Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, and Tinta Roriz hails from vines that are now nearly 40 years old. The name (meaning “Whistle”) is derived from the sound the wind makes when it whips through the vineyards. Balsamic, blackberry, black plums, and ample spices mark the nose of this very friendly red. With nice freshness, its acidity balances its ripe red fruit palate and its tannins, which arequite well managed. Hints of wood spices round things out on the finish. This will make friends.

 

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 50: Opposites, Attractive (Comparing/Contrasting Portugal’s Douro and Vinho Verde)2018 Esporão Quinta dos Murças ‘Minas’ (Douro, $24)

This red comes from al-estate fruit, with vine plantings dating from 1987-2011. Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, and Tinta Roriz are here joined up with bits of Tinta Cao and Tinta Francisca. The QUinta’s traditional lagares are still used for foot treading the grapes. Intense and ripe, this one is spicy, spicy SPICY! The fruits are quite black, and they are powerful. Leather, dark dried herbal spices, wood spices, dried violets, and smoke all show up, too. The palate is fresh, exciting, and also deep with tangy red fruit, big and spicy black plums, and balsamic notes. This feels young right now, and will likely get even more robust given a few years in bottle.

Cheers!