Tasting Group 150 Selections for October

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2008 Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Le Crau
Rhone Valley, France

Importer Kermit Lynch hits the nail on the head: “One cannot think of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, the most celebrated cru of the Southern Rhône, without thinking of Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe. The Brunier family is legendary in its own right, having been rooted to the enigmatic plateau known as “La Crau” for over one hundred years.” By law, Châteauneuf-du-Pape producers can blend up to 13 different grapes to create this famous cuvee. Vieux Télégraphe typically uses a handful of these – 65% Grenache, 15% Mourvèdre, 15% Syrah & 5% others – Cinsault, Clairette, etc. The wines of V.T. are widely considered classics, displaying strength, rusticity, earthiness, and tremendous longevity. The old vines of the La Crau vineyard are all used for the final assemblage. A wonderful bottle for a crisp Fall evening, ready to drink!

Wine Advocate:This classic effort possesses more stuffing than most of its peers. It reveals this estate’s tell-tale notes of earthy garrigue, herbs, licorice and seaweed, a medium to full-bodied mouthfeel, soft tannins and more depth than many 2008s. Nevertheless, it will not be a long-ager, so readers are encouraged to drink it over the next 5-7 years.”

2010 Chateau La Lagune, 3rd Growth
Bordeaux, France

Chateau La Lagune’s 89 hectares of vineyards are situated in the Left Bank’s Haut-Medoc area. The blend of the wine closely reflects the plantings of the property: Cabernet Sauvignon (60%), Merlot (20%), Cabernet Franc (10%), and Petit Verdot (10%). This 3éme Cru Classé was built in 1715 and the vineyards established in 1724. In 2000, both Chateau La Lagune and Champagne Ayala were sold to the Frey family. The Freys sold Champagne Ayala and bought the legendary estate of Jaboulet in the Rhone. The Frey family is also a shareholder in the Champagne house of Billecart-Salmon. The 2010 Bordeaux vintage was quite good, and this is one for the cellar – at this point in its evolution, it is not likely to be in a place to provide immediate pleasure. In time, it will deliver signature flavors of espresso, smoke, tobacco, fresh, herbs and layers of lush, ripe black and red berries. Be patient!

Wine Advocate 94pts: “Another great success from proprietress Caroline Frey, the 2010 La Lagune provides an essential drinking experience, with notes of Asian plum sauce, mulberries, kirsch liqueur and black currants. The wine also exhibits a savory, rich smokiness and subtle lead pencil shaving notes. Full-bodied and pure, combining both elegance and power, this should hit its stride in 5-7 years and last for at least two decades. Drink 2018-2038”

Tasting Group 75 Selections for September

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2013 Tami Frappato Sicily, Italy

100% Frappato. One might be misled by the phrase “Everyday Wine” printed on the cartons that hold the Tami line of wines. This bottle really punches above its weight. Winemaker Arianna Occhipinti is part of the new generation responsible for driving Sicily to the top of everyone’s list of what’s now important in Italian wine. She oversees this terrific project on behalf of a group of friends including her boyfriend who runs Tami, a quirky store in Siracusa. Frapatto, one of a handful of indigenous Sicilian varieties, has thicker skins than its deeper, more imposing pairing partner Nero D’Avola, yet it makes a surprisingly feminine wine. Enjoy its straightforward, fresh, fruity red-fruit driven flavors with antipasti, pasta, pizza & grilled meats.

Arianna Occhipinti: “The Tami project was an idea that came to me a few years ago, and that was to prove that it’s possible to make good, simple, natural wine in Sicily. Tami is something I’ve started with some friends who own vineyards in Contrada, a district close to mine. The goal was to take good grapes and make a simple, every day wine.”

2012 Waldgries St. Magdalener Classico Alto Adige, Italy

92% Schiava/8% Lagrein – red varieties that are common to Northern Italy. A dollop of Lagrein is added to bring color and structure to the racy Schiava, but don’t take this for a lightweight. This beauty is spicy, floral and elegant and takes on weight and a lovely plush character with a little air. Without question its style evokes the red wines of Northern Burgundy – at a fraction of the price. The Waldgries estate is north of Bolzano within the tiny appellation of St. Magdalener and produces only 4000 cases per year from a tiny 5 hectares.

“The wines show almost unparalleled character, stylistic definition and above all territoriality… Waldgries wines are always elegant and balanced throughout, with great personality.” –Gambero Rosso 2010

2013 Hendry Ranch Albariño Napa, California

100% Albariño, a fragrant, floral, high-acid variety rarely seen outside of Spain’s Galicia. The Hendry family has been farming the same 114-acre vineyard in Northwestern Napa since 1939. The latitude in the valley experiences substantial marine influence, and allows the Hendrys to grow 10 different varietals including Primitivo & Petit Verdot. There has been a recent movement in California to break out of the Chardonnay-Cabernet-Merlot mold and explore other varieties & the Hendrys were pioneers, planting their Albariño blocks way back in 2003. This wine offers up ripe and gorgeously floral aromas. Firm acidity, with flavors of green apple and Meyer lemon on the palate. A pretty, tangy, fresh wine, great as an apéritif or first-course wine. Only 594 cases produced.

Tasting Group 150 Selections for August

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2005 Emidio Pepe Montepulciano d’Abruzzo
Abruzzo, Italy

100% Montepulciano. Emidio Pepe is a singular producer creating amazingly complex age worthy reds and whites in a region of mass produced, overly engineered versions of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. The family has been producing wines here since the end of the 19th Century & the winemaking has remained unchanged philosophically since Emidio Pepe took over the estate in 1964. Noooo, this is not your local Trattoria’s Montepulciano by the glass… The story here is really the extraordinary wine-making. Grapes are sourced from certified biodynamic vineyards, fermented and aged 18-24 months in cement tanks. The wines are then bottled unfined and unfiltered, without added SO2. Before release, the wines are decanted by hand into new bottles, and then labeled. The wine is aged for seven years in the cellar before release. So you know it’s been carefully tended and safe all these years. Just 2500 cases produced of this vintage. Super old-school Italian, so be sure to prepare a meal worthy of it.

Wine Spectator 93 pts: Fine-grained tannins frame this supple red, with
flavors of plum sauce, black cherry and red licorice, accented by savory notes
of sous-bois, mushroom and spice box. Drink now through 2020.

2005 Pierre Andre Gevrey-Chambertin, Les Cazetiers, 1er Cru
Burgundy, France

100% Pinot Noir. 2005 was a marvelous year in Burgundy and here is a rare opportunity to have a Premier Cru wine just entering its prime drinking window without doing any of the waiting! Although technically Pierre Andre’s operations are based in Corton, the acclaimed domaine produces wines from Chablis, the Cote d’Or and even Beaujolais, with holdings of more than 370 acres in total. Today, Pierre André has become synonymous with an endless quest to produce the ultimate wine from each individual parcel and a symbol for the very best of Burgundy. The large commune of Gevrey-Chaambertin sits in the Côte de Nuits and produces wines that are known for their deep color and structure, considered to be masculine in style. There are 20 Premier Cru sites and Les Cazetiers is among the very finest, producing intense, rich, robust wines.

Tasting Group 75 Selections for July

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2009 Domaine Rolet Pere Arbois Rouge                           Jura, France

A blend of Trousseau, Poulsard & Pinot Noir, the principal red varieties of the Arbois appellation. What a perfect summer red – fresh & light-bodied with flavors of small juicy red fruits, bramble and a touch of wild thyme framed by light, superfine tannins. It was just a matter of time before we had to pay obscure Jura its due…this red-headed stepchild of France’s cool-climate wine regions is finally basking in the warm glow of geeky attention with its distinctive and unapologetic wine styles. The Jura is nestled between Burgundy’s Côte d’Or and Switzerland. Set apart geographically, its remoteness has permitted very traditional styles and wine-making practices to survive. Domaine Rolet is a small, celebrated estate in the area, established in the early 1940s. Put this in the fridge for 15 minutes before enjoying it with charcuterie or a morsel or two of Ossau-Iraty cheese.

2012 Clos du Tue-Boeuf Cheverny Blanc “Frileuse” Loire, France                

33% Sauvignon Blanc/33% Chardonnay/33% Sauvignon Gris (a pink-skinned clone of SB). Since the Middle Ages, there have been records about the lieu-dit “le Tue-Boeuf” and its excellent wines which were enjoyed by local nobility & the kings of France. This wine is produced by Thierry Puzelat in the Cheverny appellation of the Loire. Cheverny is in the Central Loire Valley, achieving official AOC status in 1993 and produces mainly whites. “Frileuse” roughly translates to “the little cold one,” and unsurprisingly, it’s the parcel within the Clos du Tue-Boeuf that gets the coldest. Thierry sticks to organic production, no sulfur on vinifications, vinifies in barrels and only a small dose of SO2 is added before bottling (always less than 15mg), so share this with a Natural Wine seeker or a member of the self-proclaimed Sulfite-sensitive tribe. This is rare juice – in 2012, just 3 barrels of this exotic, citrusy cuvee were produced.

2013 Salcheto Toscana Rosato Obvius                           Tuscany, Italy

This Rosato is primarily Sangiovese with 10% “kitchen-sink” grapes blended in: Canaiolo, Mammolo, Merlot, Cabernet Franc & Petit Verdot. Salcheto is one of the first 100% carbon-neutral wineries in the world, is Certified Organic and was the recipient of the Award for Sustainable Viticulture in the Gambero Rosso Guide, 2014. Salco is the winery’s most important vineyard and means “willow tree” in the ancient Tuscan dialect. Salcheto is the name of a stream that runs through the property where willows once grew in abundance. They have just begun to replant willow trees on the estate in areas not suitable for viticulture. Only 250 cases imported !

Tasting Group 150 Selections for June

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2005 Baron de Ley 7 Viñas Reserva

Rioja, Spain                                                                                                                                                                 

An homage to traditional Rioja winemaking, Baron de Ley 7 Viñas is made from all seven grape varieties permitted by the Rioja D.O. including Tempranillo, Graciano, Garnacha, Mazuelo and the three white varietals Viura, Malvasia and Garnacha Blanco.   An impressive take on The Old Rioja meets The New Rioja.

2011 Didier Dagueneau “Pur Sang Blanc”

Loire Valley, France                                                                                                                                              

100% Sauvignon Blanc. Practicing Biodynamic. The legendary Didier Dageneau died in a tragic accident 2008 but his family keeps his vision in sight. His work has been carried on by his son Benjamin, to critical acclaim. The wines at Domaine Didier Dagueneau deserve their rightful place among the great singular wines of the world, the goal being balance, harmony and longevity always. Since the beginning, the wines at Dagueneau have always been raised in oak barrels. Through extensive experimentation, there is always a mix of sizes, shapes and percentage of new and used barrels which are exploited to varying degree depending on vineyard and vintage. The Dagueneaus have worked closely with the world’s top coopers to create some uniquely-shaped, very low-toast barrels (e.g. “cigares” and small foudres) that offer nuanced benefits of lees contact and/or specific oxygen exchange, all tiny facets that add up to a finer product in the end. The domaine’s most popular cuvee, Pur Sang is filled with aromatics of citrus, quince and fine minerals. On the palate the wine is ethereal, intense, and mouth-puckering.


Tasting Group 75 Selections for May

2013 Trefethen Dry Riesling (Napa, CA)
100% Riesling. Now this is some crazy stuff. We were so skeptical of this wine. Riesling from Napa? Are you kidding? No – we were absolutely shocked at the lithe frame & low/correct (12%) alcohol and could not believe this came from Napa. Forget what you expect, it’s perfectly lovely – white jasmine flowers, orange blossom & lime, it’s fresh, sunshin-ey, just delightful. If you’re a professed non-rosé drinker, this is definitely a candidate for summer wine. Trefethen is known for their Cabs & Chardonnay: during the past three decades, Trefethen wines have amassed a cornucopia of major awards and accolades, beginning in 1979, when the 1976 Chardonnay – their fourth vintage! – was chosen “Best Chardonnay” in the world at the Gault-Millau World Wine Olympics in Paris. 12.5% abv – how do they do it in Napa??

2011 Catherine Le Goeuil Côtes-du-Rhône Villages Cairanne (Rhone, France)
51% Grenache, 35% Syrah/Mourvèdre, 14% Carignan/Counoise. France’s Rhone Valley is home to one of the country’s largest wine appellations – Côtes-du-Rhône. This designation includes both good value, though generic CDR wines as well as the more exalted CDR-Villages wines (about 17 named villages). These latter wines are regarded as a step up in quality & each is identified as producing higher-quality wines distinctive of the specific regional style. Cairanne is one such parish and is considered to be one of the finest CDR-Villages wines produced, It is a matter of time before its status is elevated further to that of Gigondas & Rasteau – other named Rhone villages that have been awarded appellation status in recent years. In 1993, with little experience and great determination, Catherine Le Goeuil bought a 6ha domaine that today produces 1600-2100 cases of red & white wines. This wine has a ripe and decadent nose of wild thyme, stones, and loads of Grenache fruit; it is chewy & concentrated with fine tannins. Delish!

2011 Castello di Neive Pinot Nero « il Cortini » (Piedmont, Italy)
100% Pinot Noir from the Langhe Hills of Piemonte. A slightly unusual player for the region known for the 3 Bs – Barolo, Barbaresco & Barbera. Tradition, research, and creativity make up the philosophy of the Castello di Neive winery. Recently released photographs from the winery’s library show that, as early as 1904, Pinot Nero was being bottled at the castle. Growing up, Italo Supino’s favorite wine was his father’s “Cuvée Privée.” This wine, which was served at family gatherings and made from grapes bought from the then current owner of the castle—a Count Guido Riccardo Candiani, was sourced from a vineyard (i Cortini) right next to the Castello di Neive. Once his family purchased the castello, Italo decided to pay tribute to his father’s memory by continuing to make the Pinot Nero with il Cortini’s grapes. Ruby red with aromas of cherries, currants & raspberry jam, light & fresh on the palate. Delicate tannins and a light body make this a finessed but structured wine. Aged for a year in small neutral French oak barrels. 14.5% abv.

Tasting Group 150 Selections for April

2009 Château Simone
Aix-en-Provence, France

With a few exceptions, we are accustomed to enjoying early-drinking, uncomplicated reds, whites and rosés from the South of France. One of these notable exceptions is Château Simone. This historic estate, situated in the hills just south of Aix-en-Provence, has been in the hands of the Rougier family for two centuries and holds a virtual monopoly on the appellation of Palette. The red from Simone is an elegant yet well-constituted wine of great depth. It is primarily composed of Grenache and Mourvèdre but its special character reflects the presence of a mélange other grape varieties, albeit in small proportion, including Cinsault, Syrah, Carignan, Cabernet Sauvignon, Castet, Manosquin, Théoulier, Tibouren, Picpoul Noir and Muscat de Hambourg. It may be drunk now, but it definitely deserves more time to develop the silky elegance & nuance it has earned its reputation for. Annually, there are just 2400 bottles available for the US market.


2010 Domaine Michel Niellon Chassagne-Montrachet Blanc, Clos St. Jean 1er Cru
Cote de Beaune, France

100% Chardonnay. Michel Niellon is a very quiet, unassuming man in his mid-seventies. Despite being nominated by Robert Parker as one of the five best white wine makers on the planet he remains totally self-effacing, and almost bemused by his own success. His wines are prized by White Burgundy lovers for their concentration, purity and ability to develop complexity & elegance. It is unfortunate that waiting for this magical transformation has become such a dicey proposition. Of course we are referring to the problems with premature oxidation that have plagued White Burgundies, some of the finest, most age worthy white wines in the world. Niellon has taken a few steps to combat the mysterious problem, including using a slightly wider cork to protect against oxygen ingress. To be safe, drink this bottle over the next year or so. Domaine Niellon has only 6 hectares of vines and therefore, the supply of his wines to the world is severely rationed.