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.

Tasting Group 75 Selections for March

2012 Poggio al Tesoro Vermentino “Solosole”           

Bolgheri, Italy

100% Vermentino.  “Solosole” means “just sunshine” and aptly so, because Vermentino truly is one of the sunniest grapes known to man. And we could certainly use it right now to usher ourselves out of the grip of winter at long last…!  Vermentino is a white grape that’s seen mainly in Italy & Southern France, where it is called Rolle.  In Italy, the central region of Tuscany is a stronghold, along with the island of Sardinia & craggy Liguria on the northwestern coast.  Vermentino typically produces light, attractively aromatic & refreshing wines and Solosole is no exception.  Enjoy it on its own and it will complement fresh sushi or seafood prepared in any manner – grilled, fried, poached or on the half-shell.  Solosole is grown & made in sunny Bolgheri by the Allegrini family.  This is a relatively new project for the Allegrinis who are already well established in the Veneto for crafting high-quality Amarone & Valpolicella.


2011 Falesco Ferentano Lazio IGT

Lazio, Italy  

100% Roscetto.   The lovely Roscetto is an ancient indigenous Roman variety from the Montefiascone region that was rescued from extinction almost single-handedly by superstar oenologist Ricardo Cotarella. It isn’t grown anywhere else in the world!  It is certainly interesting to see such a fringe grape being made in what must be considered an international style.  Cryomaceration techniques (using dry ice) are implemented in the wine-making to preserve aromatic freshness, and the wine later sees four months of oak for a bigger mouthfeel.  Golden-hued, it has enticing, lush tropical aromas.  Ripe & full-bodied with a good deal of complexity, Ferentano will stand up to anything that can handle a big Chardonnay, so pair it with substantial dishes like risotto or anything with a cream or béchamel sauce.              


2012 Cascina delle Rose Dolcetto d’Alba A Elizabeth

Piedmont, Italy

100% Dolcetto.  Cascina delle Rose is located in the Rio Sordo Valley in Barbaresco and roses are indeed omnipresent on the farm and in the vineyards.  Organic viticulture is practiced.  The translation of Dolcetto is “little sweet one” which is a little misleading, as most Dolcetto coming out of Piedmont Italy is neither.  While versatile, these wines tend to be high in tannin and low in acidity.  Dolcetto, like Barbera is an everyday wine meant to be drunk young in the area known for well-structured Barolo & Barbaresco that one must wait for.  Winemaking techniques can drive different styles.  The more “old-school” Dolcettos will present firm tannin, blueberries, leather & tea, making them good to drink with hard cheeses and rich meats.  Softer, fruitier versions such as this one will be a bit more approachable and pair well with appetizers, pasta dishes with light sauces & fresh cheeses.

Tasting Group 150 Selections for February

2011 Maison Benjamin Leroux Volnay                                                     Burgundy, France  

100% Pinot Noir.  Benjamin Leroux is the Régisseur at Domaine Comte Armand, Clos des Epeneaux in Pommard.  In his role as director, he is in sole charge not only of the vineyards and winemaking, but also the sales and accounts.  Remaining in his position, Leroux launched his own label with the 2007 vintage.  Leroux is considered to be one of the most gifted and knowledgeable winegrowers in all of the Cote d’Or, a potential heir apparent to the great Henri Jayer.  He is clearly one to watch.  This Volnay contains a significant portion of 1er Cru grapes, so is a great value.  2011 is a fine vintage and the wines will be more approachable in early stages than the 2010s.  Volnay, situated in the middle of the Cote de Beaune sub-region, is renowned for making some of the smoothest, most delicate, most elegant wines of the southern Cote d’Or, the Chambolle of the south.

2005 Pecchenino Barolo “Le Coste”                                                         Piedmont, Italy       

100% Nebbiolo. The commune of Monforte d’Alba produces the most structured wines of the Barolo region. Big, bold, deeply concentrated wines are the norm, with great potential for aging – a necessity for their more slowly maturing tannins.  2005 was an excellent vintage, producing quite tannic wines.  Pecchenino’s aims for extremely low yields – just 1kg per vine for the Le Coste, from the San Giuseppe vineyard, and long macerations – 30 days for this cru.

Wine Advocate: “Pecchenino remains a reference point producer for wines from Dogliani. More recently, the estate’s Barolos have shown much promise as well.  The 2005 Le Coste is a big, sleek Barolo loaded with black cherries, minerals, flowers and graphite. The Le Coste shows the telltale imposing Monforte tannins, but here there is more than enough fruit to provide balance. The finish is long and harmonious…clearly needs time to come together, but it is a highly promising Barolo. 24 months in oak barrels of various sizes. Anticipated maturity: 2013-2022.”

Tasting Group 75 Selections for January

2012 Bodegas Viñátigo Tinto Joven                                                            Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain 

100% Listan Negro.  The Canary Island chain, off the north coast of Africa (Morocco) has a diverse group of microclimates. As in much of Sicily, its striking landscape is host to entirely volcanic soils which impart a unique minerality to its wines.  Viñátigo considers themselves to be an example of symbiosis between wine and volcano.  Due to the geographical isolation of the Canary Islands, varietals that are obsolete on mainland Spain are still being planted as they have remained unexposed to Phylloxera, the deadly louse that destroyed much of Europe’s vineyards in the late 19th century. Tenerife is one of the islands in the chain, situated between tiny La Gomera & Gran Canaria.  The vineyards here reach an elevation of 3000 feet and are terraced into the steep hillsides. On Tenerife, red wines are more common and are mostly made from Listan Negro.  This wine is a sleeper!  It is squeaky clean, bright & juicy and tastes of earthy ripe raspberries.  Listan Negro is distantly related to the Mission grape, one of the earliest varieties planted in California.

2010 Bodegas Perez Pascuas “El Pedrosal”                                                  Ribera Del duero, Spain        

100% Tempranillo.  Tempranillo goes by many names in Spain; in Ribera it is known as Tinto Fino.  Ribera del Duero holds many benefits for its native grape of Tempranillo. In particular, the high altitude of 2600 – 2700 ft above sea level allows the grapes to maintain higher acid levels, important for a warmer climate.  This acidity allows for the freshness found in this young vine Tempranillo, despite its 14% alcohol level.  Aging for 12 months, six months in American and six months in French barrels, gives it a pleasant whiff of vanilla.  It is very straightforward, a well-made example of what the region has to offer, with flavors of dried fruit, coffee and cherry laced with mocha.

Bodegas Rey Fernando de Castilla Oloroso Sherry                                         Jerez,  Spain             

100% Palomino.  Sherry is Spain’s treasure but is woefully under-appreciated, perhaps because it is misunderstood.  The common perception of Sherry likely involves a distant cobwebby memory of grandmother sipping a sweet brown mystery elixir from a cut crystal glass, or worse, the “cooking sherry” sold in supermarkets that is loaded with salt and who knows what else!  The truth is that sherry is truly is a magic elixir.  It starts life as a dry wine that is fortified with neutral spirit and then is guided to its eventual style (Fino, Amontillado, Oloroso, etc.) depending on its character in youth.  Finos are yellow, dry, tangy, light and delicate.  Also dry, Olorosos are the winter sherries – the color of mahogany with deep, rich, warm, nutty flavor.  Their complexity is a result of long aging in the unique fractional-blending Solera systems the region is known for.  Enjoy a nip in the evening before bed.  Have it alone to contemplate its wonderful complexity or with a bit of dried fig & walnut cake…