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 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 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!

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!

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!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Cheers!