Le Du’s Wine Club – December 2015

Happy Holidays from Le Du’s and many more!

This year we have a lot to be thankful for at Le Du’s Wines and 2015 will certainly go down as one of ourmost memorable vintages. Le Du’s Wines first opened in September 2005 and though there have been some challenges through the years, like a great vine we overcame them!  We still can’t believe that 10 years have gone by so fast, and that this will be the last wine club of 2015!

Every year we like to take a step back and look at what we accomplished during the year, and what we could do to make things even better!  We’re proud to have the best wine club in NYC, so we look forward to having you on board with us for 2016 as we continue to take you on journeys across the wine world and open your mind to new discoveries. We’re also making some changes in our Saturday wine tastings, as they will be more focused on a specific theme and they will now be from 2 pm to 7 pm. But most importantly, we want to make it known how thankful we are to have your amazing support, because without you, we would not have been able to reach this special milestone of 10 years.

We know that this time of year can be hectic, but we curated a special wine club to help make things easier so you can relax and spend more time with friends and family.  Hopefully, each glass of wine that you have from this month’s wine club will transport you to a peaceful dimension.

We generally associate Holiday season with sweet spice; the air is colder, and there is just something about it that just makes you want to eat and drink bolder food and wine.  All of this month’s wines have one thing in common: they all have a distinct spice aspect to them, and a certain satisfying richness and complexity. Christmas dinner provides the perfect opportunity to pair delicious food and wine. While your particular menu may vary, there are classic pairings that work well with traditional Christmas meals. This is why we picked wines that have good body but are not overly tannic, and have that perfect finish to go with just about any occasion and dish that you might prepare.  We at Le Du’s Wines wish you a happy and safe Holiday season!

Donna Olga “Lady’O” Spumante Brut Rosé NV

In the heartland of Montalcino located in the dramatic hillscapes of Tuscany is located one of the region’s most innovative and exciting producers, Donna Olga. This estate takes its unusual name from its owner, Olga Peluso Centolani, a woman who is deeply passionate about Montalcino and the Sangiovese grape. The estate is a beautiful secret garden that consists of 11 hectares, but only 4 hectares are currently cultivated with perfectly-manicured Sangiovese vines.  Olga’s love for the Tuscan countryside and nature with its cycle of seasons, its fruits, its mysteries, brings every year a production of 20,000 bottles of Brunello di Montalcino. The wines all share an extraordinary combination of power and elegance, style and structure, harmony and longevity, every bottle bringing the unforgettable sensorial experience that only the greatest wines can give.

However, because Olga is such a progressive thinker and is always looking for new challenges she decided that she wanted to experiment with a sparkling Sangiovese done in the Traditional Method. Before we tasted Donna Olga Spumante we were all quite skeptical; after all, it’s not very common to see sparkling Sangiovese. However, we were all won over, as the results are simply brilliant. The wine has notes of burnt wood and ripe cherries finishing with a smooth note of coffee and chocolate with a hint of mint.

Bergerie de L’Hortus Classique Blanc Val de Montferrand 2011

A young agronomist studying at the University of Montpellier back in the 70’s discovered an abandoned piece of land nestled between two facing limestone cliffs. The grape vines had grown wild and the huge olive trees were ancient; it was obvious to Jean Orliac that this location had been cultivated in ages past, producing the classic Mediterranean trio – olives, wine and wheat, and that this would be an ideal site to produce a “Grand Vin,” the dream of this passionate man. Starting with 5 hectares and acquiring another 50 soon after, Jean Orliac named his property “l’Hortus”, the Latin translation for “The Garden”, as homage to the land and its tradition. Early on, his grapes were transported to the local cave cooperative for pressing; in 1990 his cellars were built which allowed him to vinify and bottle on his own property.

The Bergerie de l’Hortus range comes in three colors: red, rosé and white. The red grapes grow in land parcels low in the foothills, whilst the whites grow at the bottom of the valley. In both cases the plants are less exposed to the elements than those that grow on the higher slopes. Overall, the grapes mature later than those destined for the Domaine de l’Hortus range. The whites grow in soil consisting of alluvial deposits mixed with hard limestone from the cliff sides and from softer limestone deposited on the slopes as the river carved out its bed. It’s a combination of soil type and climate that results in the grapes ripening very late. But it also results in the wine’s excellent balance between acidity and aromatic complexity.

The Bergerie de L’Hortus Blanc is a blend of 30% Roussanne, 20% Sauvignon Blanc, 20% Viognier, 10% Sauvignon Gris, 10% Chardonnay, 5% Petit Manseng, 5% Bourboulenc that is perfectly executed with fresh apple slices, lemon peel and white peach with hints of straw and honeyed toast. With plenty of peach, citrus and toasty flavors on offer in the medium-bodied palate, it has a refreshing acid line and a long, silken-textured finish.

Hager Matthias Riesling “Terrassen” 2014

Weingut Hager Matthias is 5 kilometers north of Langenlois in the Kamptal. Matthias studied at the school of Oenology & Viticulture in Krems, Austria and worked for years at Weingut Franz Hirtzberger (Wachau) and Weingut Ernst Triebaumer (Rust). Matthias began to create his own style of wine at the age of 19. For the last 15 years he has been producing terroir driven Grüner Veltliner and Riesling from the estate selection. They have been Biodynamic certified from Demeter since 2005.

Kamptal gets its name from the river Kamp that flows directly through it, and is also home to Austria’s largest wine-producing town, Langenlois. With a vineyard area of 3,802 hectares, Kamptal is one of the most successful wine regions in Austria, and boasts a high proportion of outstanding, quality wine producers. Culture and tourism also play a significant role and effective from the 2008 vintage, the Kamptal DAC defines wines made from Grüner Veltliner or Riesling in two styles, a classic-styled medium-bodied wine and a rich, opulent dry Reserve style.

The sandstone slopes are so steep that only a thin layer of soil is retained, and exposure to the sun is high. Riesling thrives on these steep slopes; closer to the Danube the valley broadens and more red grapes are grown. Riesling is also called the king of the white wines. It is a very typical grape variety in Kamptal and needs spares and stony soil. Only on this soil it develops its typical character. The harvest is rather little; therefore the quality is especially good.

The Riesling Terrassen 2014 is as corresponding to the vintage a very light and also pretty fruity and minerally wine. The fresh acidity makes it to an ideal companion with fresh fish or sushi.

Ronchi di Cialla Ribolla Nera 2012

This historic Friulian Estate is strictly a family business. While Dina and Paolo Rapuzzi, who founded it in 1970, were attached by wine growing, their children Pierpaolo and Ivan belong to a generation that “grew up with vines”. At that time, the only traces of Schiopettino were in ancient manuscripts and in the memory of the elders. Paolo and Dina Rapuzzi managed to find about 70 surviving vines in the valley and nearby, which enabled them to create a whole new vineyard and resuscitate Schioppettino. The policy of the estate was from the beginning to work only with indigenous varieties, such as Ribolla, Refosco, Schioppettino, Verduzzo and Picolit that in the Cru’ Cialla found the perfect environment. After 40 years Ronchi di Cialla established on the market the reputation to produce some of the finest age-worthy wines of Friuli.

The earliest written mentions of Schioppettino go back to 1282 on manuscripts now kept in the Albana Castle, in the Prepotto province. Historically, this grape has different names in different regions, according to the language of the land: Sclopetin (Friuli), Pocalza (Slovenia) and Ribolla Nera (Italy). Since its origins, Schioppettino has always been grown in a very small area on the southern hills of the Prepotto county. Traditionally, two “cru” stand out for quality: Cialla and Albana.

A delicious effort by this fantastic winery as it reveals an exotic combination of earthiness, juniper berries, herbs and dark jammy fruit with excellent concentration and follow through on the palate.

Viuva Gomes Collares 2006

There’s a region in Portugal, on the coast, northwest of Lisboa, called Collares.  It is one of Portugal’s most ancient areas and it is entirely planted on sand.  Why is that important?  Because when phylloxera destroyed most of Europe’s vines in the 19th century, it didn’t destroy Collares.  Because phylloxera doesn’t like sand.  Thus, Collares is the only official appellation in Europe with all original vines.  Collares is also one of the most endangered wine regions in the world.  It has become the go-to vacation spot for affluent Lisboans so the land has become much more valuable as beachfront property than vineyard land.  There are only 23 hectares left.  To put that in context, Grand Cru Burgundy vineyard Clos Vougeot is over 50 hectares.  The production of wines allowed to use the Collares designation is around 4,500 bottles.

This was quite a change from a century ago when there were thousands of hectares of vines and, as one of the only regions left with vineyards, their reputation soared.  They were called “The Bordeaux of Portugal” and experienced a brief, yet intense, international flowering of interest but as Europe’s vineyards came back on line and Portugal descended into a nearly eighty years of strife, civil war, and dictatorship, the fortunes of Collares faded.

Viuva Gomes is one of only three remaining independent bottlers left in Collares.  Their total production is around 1,000 bottles.  The truth is the future does not look bright for Collares.  There aren’t any new plantings.  Most of the old timers are gone and their kids are more interested in taking the money and running rather than spending their lives digging in the sand.

Very light red, with muted baked cherries, kale, cinnamon, black pepper, sea salt, lavender, and thyme on the nose followed by tart strawberry crème on the initial palate entry with a zesty blast of kitchen spices (oregano, bay leaves, cilantro) on the mid-palate.  The acidity is sublime, with a finish of very tart cranberry and a hearty, pleasing grape tannic grip.  The alcohol is low, the flavors unexpected, and the overall experience delectable.

J.L. Chave Cotes-du-Rhone “Mon Couer” 2013

Jean-Louis Chave is the embodiment of tradition. Arguably one of France’s finest estates, this family-owned producer of red and white Hermitage hangs its hat on the continuity and beliefs of successive generations – in an open-minded, pragmatic way. It only takes a look at the neck-label on bottles of Chave Hermitage to understand the conduit and philosophy of the domaine. ‘Vignerons de Père en Fils depuis 1481’ (vine growers from father to son since 1481) is clearly inscribed for all to see.”

Jean-Louis Chave makes these négociant wines to showcase what he believes to be the potential of the appellations with which he works. The Côtes du Rhône ‘Mon Coeur’ is always a blend of Syrah and Grenache, the percentages of each vary according to the vintages, and is sourced from the crus of Vinsobres, Visan, Buisson, and Estargues. Each lot for Mon Coeur is vinified separately, and proves to be a delightful blend of Syrah and Grenache; the former adding pure cool fruit notes and granitic self-belief, the latter warmth and a gentle invitation to mid-week indulgence.

Youthful purple color. Ripe dark berry and cherry-cola scents are enlivened by a peppery quality and a hint of violet. Round and fleshy on the palate, offering gently sweet blackberry and cassis flavors and a zesty spine of acidity. Finishes long and spicy, with building sweetness, soft tannins and a hint of smokiness.

 

 

 

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The Pleasure Principle: Rozak Pinot Noir 2009

I have no explanation as to why this Pinot Noir is so reasonably priced.  It checks all the boxes.  Single Vineyard?  Check.  Small production?  150 cases.  High-quality appellation?  Santa Rita Hills.  Respected Grower?  Randy Rozak sells fruit to some of the most prestigious names in the area.  Bottle Age?  2009 is the current release.  On paper, everything about this wine tells me it should be around $50 on my shelf yet there is sits, sub-$30.  Thus, when I went to taste it, I braced myself for disappointment.  Surely Mr. Rozak isn’t giving us all a deal just to be honest and fair.  Who could even imagine such a concept?

So, how does it taste?  Check that box with several gold stars!  It’s pure pleasure.  This is unabashedly big fruit Pinot and I LOVE IT!  I dig the subtle complexity of Burgundy as much as anyone but there is definitely room in my world for juicy-cherry-madness!  I always tell my customers, if you’re looking for value in California wine, find the growers.  People like Randy Rozak make teensy bits of wine at super-fair prices because they make their living selling fruit to other people.  He’s making wine because he wants to and we, the wine-drinker, are the ones who benefit!

rozakRozak Huber Vineyard Pinot Noir 2009  $27.99

Smells like Christmas!  Plums, quince, pine resin, charcoal, sweet kirsch.  It’s BIG CHERRY on the nose and the palate is pure pleasure.  It coats the mouth in sweet waves of cherry/raspberry/craisin.  There are hints of peanut butter fudge but this is not over-extracted Pinot.  Rather, it is both high-octane and light on its feet.  The Christmas pine recurs on the palate but there are proper, chunky tannins on the back end and sneaky acidity.  This is not wine geek Pinot.  It is not trying to be Burgundy.  It is bodaciously drinkable Cali Pinot at a hard-to-believe price point.

 With High Regards,

JT Robertson

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The Golden Age of Beaujolais

One of my favorite wine writers, John Bonné, just penned an excellent piece for Punchdrink.com arguing that the time for Crus Beaujolais has finally arrived. It’s about time!

http://punchdrink.com/articles/who-will-decide-the-future-of-beaujolais-thevenet-lapierre-david-beaupere/

Wine lovers started paying attention to Crus Beaujolais in the eighties when wine importer Kermit Lynch brought stateside the wines of the “Gang of Four”, namely Lapierre, Thevenet, Brun and Foillard. All of them were students of Jules Chauvet, a fervent biodynamist and the spiritual father of “natural wines”.

For a long time they were the only game in town as many of the old time farmers still preferred to sell their grapes to large negoce Houses. This changed in the past twenty years or so as the negoce could not absorb such large quantities of grape because of the decline in popularity of Beaujolais Nouveau.

Today a new generation of Crus Beaujolais producers is emerging, either taking over their parents vineyards or acquiring top vineyards that had been left fallow for years. This new crop of vignerons is often passionate, dedicated to organic or biodynamic farming and lowering yields.

Names like Julien Sunier, Yann Bertrand and Remi Dufaitre are now joining the elite ranks of Beaujolais and are not to be missed. These are serious wines made in the best vineyards of Morgon, Fleurie, Moulin a Vent and others.

The series of wines we are proposing today can be drunk young but I urge you to cellar a few bottles. Great Cru Beaujolais can age just as well as fine Burgundy or Bordeaux. I once enjoyed a bottle of 1937 Moulin a Vent “La Roche” that could have passed for a 1er Cru Cote de Nuits. I’m not recommending to wait that long, but a good bottle from a reliable producer will reach its zenith after about 7-8 years.  Almost everything below represents our entire allocation.  Truly, these are some of the best producers in France and as the shadow of Beaujolais Nouveau continues to fade, these producers, young and old, are redefining the region.

Cheers,

Jean-Luc

Yann Bertrand

“One of the most exciting new producers in Beaujolais, this is Serious stuff.  A prime potential for ageing, don’t be surprised if you mistake some of Bertrand’s Cru for Cote d’Or.”  Jean-Luc

Last year we introduced you to Yann Bertrand, a talented young winemaker from Beaujolais with vineyards in both Fleurie and Morgon. Yann never set out to become a winemaker, but when he finally embraced his destiny and settled down at the family farm to learn the craft, he couldn’t have hoped for better teachers; he counts Yvon Metras and Jean Foillard as his mentors (if you’re not familiar with the region’s history, let’s just say these guys really, really know what they’re doing).    All the vines are at least 30 years old (some much, much older) and planted in the pink granitic sand typical of the area.

This year gets a little tougher as the proverbial cat is now out of the bag and many Beaujolais aficionados now place Yann’s “Cuvee du Chaos” at the top of the quality scale. Fortunately we are now offering other vineyards from his winery, including the excellent Morgon “Bio-Dynamite” and the Fleurie “Vieilles Vignes”.

Fleurie “Vieilles Vignes” 2014  28.99  17 Bottles

100% Gamay from 60+ year old vines grown on granitic sand. Organic farming. Carbonic maceration with native yeast and without SO2 for 17-20 days. 7-9 month aging 225-liter used barrels.           

 

Fleurie “Cuvee du Chaos” 2014-EXTREMELY LIMITED  37.99  31 Bottles

100% Gamay from 80-110 year old vines grown on granitic sand. Organic farming. Carbonic maceration a froid with native yeast and without SO2 for 17-20 days. 7-9 month aging 225-liter in used barrels (minimum 10 years old)       

 

Morgon “Vieilles Vignes” 2014-LIMITED  31.99  13 Bottles

100% Gamay from 60+ year old vines on granitic shale. Organic farming. Carbonic maceration with native yeast and without SO2 for 17-20 days. 7-9 month aging 225-liter used barrels.

Morgon “Cuvee Bio-Dynamite” 2014-EXTREMELY LIMITED  37.99  21 Bottles

100% Gamay from 80-100 year old vines.  Organic farming. Carbonic maceration a froid with native yeast and without SO2 for 17-20 days. 7-9 month aging 225-liter in used barrels (minimum 10 years old)     

 

Clos de la Roilette

“An all-time favorite, Roilette is as pure an expression of great Beaujolais as you’re likely to find.”  Jean-Luc

The original owners of this estate labeled and marketed their wine as Moulin-a-Vent.  But when the boundaries of the crus were formally delineated in the 1930s, they ended up on the wrong side of the tracks, so to speak.  Thumbing their nose at the bureaucrats, they abandoned the usual Burgundian labeling practice of putting the appellation in the largest text, and instead dubbed their estate Clos de la Roilette and featured a picture of the owner’s horse, Roilette.  The Coudert family purchased this estate, then in a state of abject disrepair, in 1967.  Though obliged to replant the bulk of the vineyards, they were able to preserve two plots of original vines, which, now over eighty years old, serve as the source for their Cuveé Tardive and Griffe du Marquis bottlings. Vinification is traditional, the wines undergoing semi-carbonic maceration under a submerged cap, thereby gaining ample heft and structure while preserving their elegance and finesse.  The wines are aged in giant oak foudres (except for the Griffe du Marquis, which spends 18 months in used 228-liter Burgundy barrels), allowing them to breathe and develop secondary characteristics without marking them with oak.  This very special estate offers wines year in and year out that marry the signature dark-floral aromatics of Fleurie with the gentle muscularity of Moulin-a-Vent (and the aging potential that comes with it).

Clos de La Roilette Cuveé Tardive 2014$29.99 (750mL) / $67.00 (1.5L)  22 Bottles/11 Magnums

From two parcels of 80 year old vines (one of which is located directly behind Alain Coudert’s home), the Cuvee Tardive is quickly gaining “cult wine” status amongst Beaujolais aficionados. With a total bottle production ranging in the low thousands, the Cuvee Tardive is a concentrated, deep, weighty, and complex expression of Beaujolais, though it would be closer stylistically to Moulin-A-Vent then it would to Fleurie. Made for ageing, the Cuvee Tardive also drinks well in its youth, offering flavors and structure more akin to its Cote D’Or cousins in the north then what is considered typically Beaujolais. Cellar this beauty or use it to change minds about the potential of Beaujolais.

Clos de la Roilette Fleurie 2014 – $24.99 (750mL)  32 Bottles

From 25-30 year old vines from Roilette’s 9 hectare estate, the inter-mingling of Fleurie and Moulin-A-Vent style is perhaps most in evidence in their entry level release. With all the bright, red fruit, and silken ease of Fleurie but with the addition of the sappiness and tightly wound weight of Moulin-A-Vent, the Fleurie AOC is that rarest of things, a quaffing wine with depth.

Julien Sunier

“Another young gun, Sunier’s wines are sumptuous, silky, and absolutely delicious.”  Jean-Luc

Julien Sunier came to wine in the most unlikely fashion. The son of a Dijon hairdresser, he met Christophe Roumier, one of his Mom’s clients and a legendary winemaker who took him under his wing as an intern at his Chambolle-Musigny estate.  He then travelled the Western Hemisphere, working harvests in New Zealand and California and upon his return worked alongside winemaker Nicolas Potel and Jean-Claude Rateau where he solidified his passion for biodynamic farming.  With land in Burgundy out of his reach financially, Julien set his sights on neighboring Beaujolais, first working for a negociant for 5 years. There, he gained an invaluable understanding of the different terroirs this great wine region offers.

In 2008 he finally realized his dream of buying 8 acres of densely planted hilltop old-vines vineyards in the villages of Morgon, Fleurie and Regnié. He has slowly been converting them to biodynamic farming.  Harvesting is entirely by hand, Julien uses whole cluster during maceration and starts fermentation in concrete vats with natural yeasts. The wines are then aged for 11 months in 3 to 5 year old barrels he buys from Domaine Roumier.  The resulting wines are pure, elegant with bright red fruit notes and a nice floral element. They are wines that one can drink out of the gate, but have the depth and structure to reward medium-term cellaring.

Julien Sunier Morgon 2014 – $31.99  24 Bottles

Two parcels; one on the sloped lieu-dit of Corcelette and the other at the edge of the Morgon/Régnié border in a vineyard named En Oeillat. Both parcels were planted in the 1960s. Both are densely planted.  Aged for up to 11 months in 3 – 9 year old Burgundy barrels so the charming fruit and granitic soil flavors aren’t lost.

Marcel Lapierre

“Almost without peer, Marcel Lapierre defines Morgon, and his Cuvee Marcel Lapierre is one of the most cellar-worthy wines in all of Beaujolais.  This is heady stuff.”  Jean-Luc

Of course, lastly we present the big daddy of them all.  Winemakers of Marcel Lapierre’s generation took conventional farming, with its machines and pesticides as settled law, which, of course is at the root of present-day funk the region finds itself in.  Marcel assumed control of his family’s winery in 1973 and soon became one of small group of growers influenced by Beaujolais negociant Jules Chauvet, the pioneer of what became the natural wine movement.  Far from the laissez-faire image of natural winemaking, Chauvet was a trained chemist who made numerous contributions to winemaking science and stressed scrupulous cellar hygiene and a rigorous understanding of the microbiology of fermentation.  In a region that by the late 1970s was essentially known for Beaujolais Nouveau, a simple wine made from grapes rushed through the vinification process to yield a beverage that is ready to consume in the year of harvest, Chauvet’s teachings marked out a path toward quality, authenticity, and eventually a reputation as one of France’s most exciting wine estates.   Since the late 1970s, the wines have been fermented on indigenous yeasts, and aged for nine months in used burgundy barrels. The Morgon is made from 60+ year old vines, and in exceptional years, a parcel of 100+ year old vines is set aside for the “Cuvee Marcel Lapierre”, distinguished by a label featuring the vintage year in Roman numerals.  Both wines are bottled with minimal sulfur but will remain fresh for many years if properly stored.   Marcel himself unfortunately left us in 2010, but his son Matthieu has followed admirably in his footsteps.

Marcel Lapierre Morgon 2014 – $33.99 (750ml)/$72.99 (1.5)  19 Bottles/6 Magnums

Marcel Lapierre “Cuvee Marcel Lapierre” 2014 -$54.99  12 Bottles

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2013 in Sonoma: The Year of Chardonnay

“Simply put, Failla is a reference point winery for the Sonoma Coast. This is as good as it gets.” Antonio Galloni

I won’t beat around the bush on this one.  Ehren Jordan, owner/operators of Failla, is one of the most talented winemakers in the world.  I’ve been harping on this point for years so I feel a bit like a broken record but if you’re not familiar, Ehren was the longtime winemaker at Turley.  At the same time, he and his wife began a small winery dedicated to delicacy, mostly from single vineyards in the Sonoma Coast.  The fact he was making some of the most brilliantly high-octane Zinfandel along with his Failla range at the same time is almost beyond belief.  That would be like if the same band came out with Abbey Road and Houses of the Holy at the exact same time.  These days, he’s 100% devoted to Failla and the results are stunning.

I was fortunate enough to visit him a year ago and even more fortunate to taste his 2013s which had just been bottled.  In my mind, 2013 is a legendary vintage for cooler climate California.  To be more specific, the Sonoma Coast EXCELLED in 2013.  The Chardonnays are some of the best I’ve ever tasted and the Pinot Noirs are not far behind.  I can tell you, tasting these freshly bottled a year ago, they were already so full of pleasure yet packed with extract and potential.  I would highly encourage anyone who is interested in cellaring wine to forget about some of these for 5-10 years.

We are always treated to healthy allocations of Failla but, make no mistake, most of these are reserved for restaurants.  I’ve chosen a mix of my absolute favorites from my tasting at the winery.  All are discountable by the case so I would very much encourage you to mix and match.

All photo credit to Christie Rizzo, my fiancée, who insisted I give her photo credit J

Failla Sonoma Coast Chardonnay 2013 $39.99  60 Bottles

“92 Points. The 2013 Chardonnay (Sonoma Coast) is a terrific appellation-level bottling. Lemon oil, apricot pit, white pepper and chamomile are all very much alive in this beautifully expressive, pliant Chardonnay. The finish bristles with a real sense of energy. This is pure class all the way.”  Antonio Galloni

Failla Haynes Vineyard Chardonnay 2013  $64.99 12 Bottles

“94 Points.  Green pears, white flowers, mint and white peaches open up in the 2013 Chardonnay Haynes Vineyard, a dry-farmed site in Coombsville planted with head-trained, own-rooted vines. The style is bright, floral and precise. Expressive saline notes support the nuanced, impeccable finish. There is so much to admire here.”  Antonio Galloni

Failla Chuy Vineyard Chardonnay 2013  $64.99  24 Bottles

“95 Points.  Petrol, graphite and a host of exotic, Riesling-inflected notes blossom in Failla’s 2013 Chardonnay Chuy Vineyard. Butter, spice and tropical fruit are laced into an oily, viscous finish. The 2013 is intense and vivid to the core. It is also a fabulous example of this superb Chardonnay vintage.”  Antonio Galloni

Failla Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2013 $39.99 60 Bottles

“88 Points.  Crushed flowers, sweet red berries, mint and spices lift from the glass in the 2013 Pinot Noir (Sonoma Coast). Savory and floral notes add nuance on the ethereal, somewhat fleeting finish. This mid-weight, young-vines Pinot is an excellent choice for drinking over the next handful of years.”   Antonio Galloni

Failla Occidental Ridge Pinot Noir 2013  $69.99  24 Bottle

“92 Points.  The 2013 Pinot Noir Occidental Ridge Vineyard is one of the more beautiful and expressive wines in the range. Gorgeous red-toned aromas flesh out in an ample, pliant Pinot with tons of intrigue. Cinnamon, orange peel, white pepper and cranberry add attractive aromatic overtones. The Occidental Ridge is gorgeous today and should drink well for the better part of a decade.”  Antonio Galloni

With High Regards,

JT Robertson

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Flavio Roddolo: Piedmont’s Quiet Soul

“Flavio Roddolo remains the great artisan of Barolo. He is the last vestige of a bygone era in traditional winemaking.” 

Monica Larner, Wine Advocate

It’s an interesting exercise to imagine the day to day life of Flavio Roddolo.  He lives alone, in the house and winery of his father.  He works alone, farming his 6 hectares and bottling his 1600 cases all by his lonesome.  He doesn’t own a computer and the farthest abroad he travels is to the grocery store in Monforte.  By all accounts, he is a quiet, grumpy man who would rather be on his tractor than take part in the game of wine.

“I visited the winery, which is more accurately described as a farmhouse high up in the hills of Monforte.  The views and overall ambience on this day were among the most tranquil I have encountered in over a decade of visiting Piedmont. Roddolo is as down-home and unassuming a grower as readers are likely to encounter. He is man of few words and reserved expression, but that is fine, as the wines speak for themselves with grand eloquence.  The only problem with these wines from Flavio Roddolo is that they will be difficult to find.”  Antonio Galloni, Vinous Media

In my more introverted moments, I dream of becoming a man resembling Roddolo.  He lives his life free of pretense or need for attention.  Wrapped in isolation, he has embraced the rustic, simple life of his fathers.  At a time when the myth of the artisan farmer has become omnipresent, Roddolo is the truth in the cliché.  His wines reflect the man and his life.  As if you could bottle a thousand yard stare across the Piedmontese hills.  They are brooding, deep, and full of soul.  I might never leave it all behind and become my own version of Roddolo but at least I can taste it.

Flavio  Roddolo Barbera D’Alba  Bricco Appiani 2007  $32.99

*Only 30 bottles remaining of the great 2007 vintage!

“The 2007 Barbera d’Alba Superiore is an expertly crafted wine that highlights the profound fruit beauty and dark berry nuances of Barbera. The wine shows a surprising level of fullness and generosity. Soft tannins and round fruit flavors wrap around the palate, but the mouthfeel is ultimately kept fresh and crisp thanks to the wine’s balanced acidity.”  Monica Larner, Wine Advocate

“Kirsch, bacon fat, violets, and framboise on the nose, followed by a high-toned and quiet cherry fruit entry but the mid-palate comes alive with burnt earth, tart raspberry, flower stems, shitake mushrooms, and red pepper flakes.  The tannins on the back end are potent but not at all aggressive, keeping in mind there is no new oak here, so this is all-natural structure, with a bright acidity and a finish which lingers for nearly a minute.  This is a Serious wine (with a capital “S”).  This is so far beyond most Barbera D’Alba, it should practically be considered in a different category.”  JT Robertson

Flavio  Roddolo Nebbiolo D’Alba 2008 $42.99

“The 2008 Nebbiolo d’Alba wraps around the palate with serious depth. Black cherries, plums, spices, tobacco and leather flesh out in a powerful, intense wine that will rival most Barolos an Barbarescos for its tannic heft and pure structure. The 2008 is an intriguing wine to savor over several hours, as there is a lot going on in the glass.” Antonio Galloni, Wine Advocate

 

“Blood sausage, graphite, kirsch, thyme, cayenne, kumquat, pork trimmings.  There is obviously so much more to be discovered here.  Even on the nose, you can tell this is a tightly wound wine.  After 5 hours open.  Immensely satisfying but not for the feint of heart.  Tart strawberry, again more blood, LOTS of grey stone, chewy palate presence.  The tannins are SERIOUS (with a capital S) but not abrasive.  These are proper tannins all the way.  Gosh, how long will this last?  Lovely acidity but also some sweet framboise on the finish.”  JT Robertson

With High Regards,

JT Robertson

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Anthony Hammond dry Riesling & Pinot Noir: Taste the Rheingau Renaissance!

hammond (1)I was first captivated by the sublime majesty of the finest Rheingau wines early on in my wine journey, but these truly excellent bottles are precious finds indeed.  More often, the basic wines are uninspiring, and even some very expensive wines often fail to live up to their promise of their famous names.  What happened to the fabled wines that a hundred years ago commanded prices surpassing those of Romanée-Conti or the First Growths of Bordeaux?

Well, the owners of most of these historic properties were the kind of people who wore monocles and had “von” in front of their names, aristocrats who saw themselves primarily as landowners rather than vintners.  The hired winemakers, because of their fiduciary responsibility to their employers, were generally quite risk-averse.  You can’t make great wine without taking risks!   Even a land so picture-perfect for making the world’s greatest wines succeeds only on the talent and gumption of its stewards.  Luckily, the bean-counter is slowly giving way to the dedicated, confident artisan, and a handful of young, ambitious producers are producing wines that would make their Victorian forbears quite proud.

Anthony Hammond is an unlikely find in this stodgy, aristocratic region.  Born to a German mother and an American father, Anthony Robert Hammond spent the formative years of his life in Germany, before his wanderlust brought him to places as far flung as Natchez, Mississippi, and San Francisco, as well as a string of prestigious wine shops and restaurants in Europe.  Though he had no family connection to winemaking, it became increasingly clear to Anthony along his travels that this was his calling.  He saw the Rheingau’s untapped potential, and duly set up shop in Oestrich-Winkel (in a part of town that I am told looks uncannily like post-industrial Bushwick), and amassed some prestigious vineyard holdings on the steep terraces of the Rüdesheimer Berg, a huge hill with a forest on top which I like to think of as the Corton hill’s evil twin.

Despite their slick packaging and simple labels (no doubt the product of Anthony’s American merchandising savoir-faire), these are some of the most authentic expressions of the Rheingau I’ve ever experienced.  The Pinot noir in particular does superb justice to a variety that has a long and distinguished history here (it was brought here in the middle ages by the Cistercians, whose abbots met yearly at their headquarters in Burgundy).  The Riesling is effortlessly dry, refreshing, and light on its feet, clocking in at just 11.5% alcohol.

German wines have long been regarded as something of a specialty item, holding the rapt attention of a few devoted amateurs, but safely ignored by the general public.  Anthony Hammond has crafted a lineup of wines that deserve, even demand, the attention of any true wine lover.

 

 hammond-riesling Anthony Hammond Riesling trocken 2013 – $15.99

This delicately stony dry Riesling marries dried thyme and laurel notes with classic Rheingau melon peel, underripe apricot, and white peach.  Restrained and genteel, this light-handed but masculine wine is an excellent accompaniment to shellfish, smoked fish, or simply an evening on the terrace.

 

 hammond-pn Anthony Hammond Pinot Noir 2013 – $16.99

High-toned, with a bouquet of alpine herb, crushed volcanic rock, and luscious redcurrant.  The texture supple and palate-coating, with creamy minerality and elegant soft-edged tannins.  Aged in a combination of used French oak and 1200-liter German oak casks, this wine emphasizes the tangy red-berry aspect of Pinot noir, without the sense of underripeness this usually entails.  This resolutely Germanic pinot is a joy to drink!

 

Cheers,

Duncan McRoberts

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One for tonight and one for the cellar: a pair of magical Auslesen from Daniel Vollenweider

Our story begins with a young Swiss guy and a bottle of Egon Müller 1990 Auslese…

Daniel Vollenweider, a Swiss with no winemaking background, had a dream.  Inspired by the greats like Egon Müller, he wanted to make to make sweet Mosel Rieslings in the classic style, a quixotic undertaking for a new winemaker, considering the increasing hegemony of dry wines, especially in Germany but increasingly also on the export market.

A persistent theme in German wine is that of once-heralded vineyards that have gone derelict, abandoned when the painstaking hand-labor required to tend and harvest them outstripped the prices the resulting bottles were able to fetch.  Terroir can’t speak on its own; it requires an interpreter in the person of a winemaker.  If a great vineyard goes uncultivated, if no-one is making wine from it, it will find itself mute and its reputation for greatness will lapse.  Such has been the fate of many a storied site over the past century.

Luckily, many of these remained untouched, requiring only a little hard work to rehabilitate.  So it came to pass that our hero Daniel was able to find a single hectare of old, ungrafted vines on the Wolfer Goldgrube, to be later expanded to a modest 5 hectare estate, a comfortable footprint for a one-man show such as his.  In addition to his Goldgrube parcel, he also now farms a quirky but beautiful old Clos he identifies only as Schimbock, and a spectacular parcel of ancient vines in the Kröver Steffensberg, represented by the wines I’m offering today.

Vollenweider 2008 Kröver Steffensberg Auslese (for tonight) – $49.00 net

Beautiful soft-focus minerality.  Nice herbal character.  Ripe red apple and canteloupe, jasmine and oolong tea.  Hints of  brown sugar and salty caramel on the finish.  Serene and delightfully integrated, an eminently sippable Auslese.

Vollenweider 2010 Kröver Steffensberg Auslese Goldkapsel (for the cellar) – $78.00 net

How much flavor can you pack into 7% alcohol?  Broad, creamy mango, candied pineapple and lemon succade.  Wonderful glossy texture, with just a little grip, and brilliant, brilliant acidity.  Considerable (but balanced) residual sugar will integrate with time in the cellar, and this wine will reward many decades of patient storage.

These are some of the most masterly wines I’ve encountered in the classic fruity Mosel style, arguably the equal of the top historic estates, with a stylistic imprint all of their own.  They have a certain bright, glossy impact, and satisfying warmth, like Riesling played through a vintage tube amplifier.  The 2008 Auslese is wonderfully developed and harmonious, and is drinking superbly now but will easily keep another 20 or 30 years.  The 2010 Goldkapsel is built for the long haul.  By all means, open one now; it’s a thrill to drink!  But make sure you save some for the cellar, where its brash exuberance will slowly mellow into true class and sophistication.

Both wines in this offer are pre-arrival.  Please let me know by noon Friday if you are interested in purchasing.  I will contact you to arrange delivery once the wines have arrived.

 

Cheers,

Duncan McRoberts

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