Vinography Images: Stormy Skies


Stormy Skies
Stormy skies seen over a vineyard in Pope Valley. Most California vintners are wishing for such skies and the chance for the kind of green carpet we would normally have this time of year in the vineyards, as we continue through one of the driest winters in memory.

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Original: Vinography: A Wine Blog


No Quitter

Pooped the hell out. Another busy holiday season under my unfortunately expanding belt. Always fun but damn….. Tired. I miss you all!!! xoxoxoxoxoxo Sleepy Wine Slinger

Source: Samantha Sans Dosage

Great Domestic Sparklers

I recently was lucky enough to have a day and a half free in California’s wine country and given the timing, it was in fact just last week, I took advantage of my time as appropriately as possible. I went sparkling wine tasting! I am just as bad as the next guy when it comes to sparkling wines. Thinking about them only rarely, and mostly towards the end of the year.


There is of course no need for a holiday to pop a bottle of bubbly. You know what the next line is of course. Bubbly turns every day into a holiday. And while that is patently untrue, the bubbles do come as a welcome treat whenever they are popped. And with the case of California’s bubblies, that has never been truer. 


After years of being told that Californian Sparklers are just that way: fruity and generous and fun if not complex, and we’re really only in about the third decade of California’s modern sparkling wine renaissance so we are talking of an eternity here, California’s Sparkling wines have come of age. Of course there were always standout offerings but what we have now is a full fledged market segment offering a variety of styles. A novel idea to be sure.
I was only able to visit five producers on my recent trip, and though I’ve visited Schramsberg in the past it is of course worth mentioning here as they are one of the most important and the most historic Sparkling wine houses in the country. I look forward to spending some time with them on my next visit to the region when I also hope to visit Roederer and Scharfenberger up in Anderson Valley, but alas on this visit it was all Sonoma and Napa.


I started in Sonoma and then moved onto Napa before ending in Carneros. I present the tasting notes that follow in chronological order but will go out on a limb and briefly discuss the wines on a more qualitative level. For me the general level of quality at Iron Horse and J Winery was a notch higher than at the other, larger houses, though it is quality you have to pay for. For minerality and wines of terroir Iron Horse cannot be beat. J specializes in wines with the nuance that careful ageing brings. They are the equal of the Iron Horse wines, though in a different style. 


The wines from Gloria Ferrer, Mumm Napa, and Domaine Carneros were all of a high quality as well, though there is more of a distinction here between their most broadly distributed wines, serviceable and well priced, and each winery’s top of the line offerings which are often only available direct from the winery, and via each’s website. It comes with the territory of course. If you are going to produce in large quantities it is basically inevitable that quality will take a hit so we should applaud the affordability of wines of this quality on offer at each winery.


Once you venture into the more expensive offerings you do tend to get a noticeably improved product, which tends to give you a fuller idea of house style specifically and the potential of Sparkling wines in a more general sense. There is no doubt that even with sparkling wine, when fruit is picked less ripe, that california has an edge when it comes to richness of fruit flavors, and in truth nowhere is this more evident than at the lower end of the price range. These less expensive California Sparklers should prove terrifically popular because they do tend to be fruitier than say their European counterparts. A trait that is well in tune with the marketplace. It’s a feature of the wines that the industry celebrates, while holding it in check, particularly as one moves up the price scale when one hopes to encounter the creamy textures and subtly toasty flavors and aromas of brioche, nuts, and dough that are integral to fine Methode Champenoise wines.  


It is a fine line to walk, and each of these producer has chosen their path. All are successful, and yet unique. If I had to associate each with one word to help guide consumer the results would look like this:


Gloria Ferrer: Fruity

Iron Horse: Terroir

J Winery: Ageing

Mumm Napa: Confectionary

Domaine Carneros: Earthy


More complete notes will of course help frame the production of each, and reading them with that one word in mind certainly helps to focus on what I found important in each. It’s the holiday season and the truth is that every day this week is special, thus every bottle of bubblywe open is a celebration. Make the most of what little we have left of 2013 and celebrate with a weekend full of bubblies as a lead in to the big event next Tuesday night! Taste test some of these domestic sparklers and see for yourself that they are up to the challenge of welcoming in the New Year!




Original wine they opened tasting room with in 1986, usually very heavy Pinot, 85% plus


Fruity on the nose with hints of vanilla and faint toasted nut character,. with a rather fine mousse, this delivers lemon curd and  green apple flavors with with juicy acids, all framed by a little toasty nuttiness and some sweet pie crust accents. Rather fruity, fun and easy to like. 88pts



8% Chardonnay, seven to eight hours skin contact,


Red berry, cherry character on the nose is also a bit earthy and spicy. Starting off with a  little raspberry fruit, this has a lovely texture, nice midpalate depth with real red fruit character and hints of tangerine followed by a lemony edge of acidity on the backend which shows hints of of creaminess and sweetness. Very attractive with nice fruity complexity. 89pts



2/3 Pinot 11.5gr 6.5 years on lees


Smells rather evolved with subtle notes of smoke, bookbinder’s glue and hazelnut with a touch of dried flowers, and butterscotch. Bright on entry with a  huge dried apple, tart apple attack followed by floral notes with hints of white chocolate, a little chocolate covered cherry fruit, a little dried lemon peel and  good length, finishing tart and juicy with a fine softness to the hints of  coconut and strawberry on finish.  91pts





Very floral on the nose with accents of worn wood, dried orange peel, white mushrooms, hazelnut skins. Aromatically this shows terrific focus and gains nuanced notes of  orange and hazelnut cream with air. This is lovely on entry, taut and bright and earthy with the creaminess from the lees contact not obscured by sugar. Not as complex as the nose would lead one to believe, but with fine mineral notes, palate cleansing acids and a lingering meyer lemon finish. 91pts



36 hours contact


Earthy on the nose which gains hints of pressed flowers, dried citrus peel, hint of sweetness, a little Chinese five spice spiciness, and a touch of carob with air. A bit of a  coarser mousse typical of roses with a  fine bright palate full of earthy dry pear fruit,  a hint of meatiness, and then lovely spice on the backend. This is moderately rich and textured in the mouth with fine persistence to the dried strawberry and cranberry flavors with a touch of dried orange peel on the finale. Compklex, rich and a bit powerful. 91pts



Lovely nose, complex and floral with sweet pear fruit turning spicy with a hint of white pepper over candied almond  dried apple peel,and candle wax nuance. Lightly creamy on entry though with big flavors in the mouth. The mousse is a little aggressive but this has some fabulous layered flavors of  lime, lemon curd, deep slightly mushroomy notes,  cashew, brazil nut and light vanilla accents. It’s really quite complex and long, rich with umami, and rather elegant finishing with a nice edge of nougat.  I love the savory flavors here. 93pts



Left on lees for 11.5 years


Waxy, yellow fruit, plantains, incense and candle wax with a strong vanilla undertone emerge on the nose. This has a lovely, fine mousse and subtle flavors of freshly baked bread, white mushroom, fresh lemon pith with a hint of pineapple emerge on the palate followed by burnt orange peel on the long finish.  Elegant with a light buffering of creaminess on the racy palate. 91pts



19 years on the lees


Very nutty on the nose then full of honeycomb,  linzer torte, raspberries, whipped cream, citron peel and angelica root. Just great complexity on the nose, In the mouth this has a rather soft mousse and gentle flavors of burnt citrus peels, a bit frontloaded with some jellied lime and almost blackberry fruit, then this leans out on backend then drops off on finish. Rather delicate. 90pts



Tart on the nose with a little quinine and quince over yeasty, Brie like, creamy, sweet pear fruit Soft and tart on entry with plenty of yeast wrapped apple, melon and mineral flavors. This has a gentle buttery sweetness to it but is a bit lean, fresh and simple, and a bit short. 87pts



90% ish Pinot, 3% muscat


Sourdough, pollen, and ice cream grave the nose layered over a base of melonny fruit. Noticeably sweet on entry,then a little spicy in the mouth with hints of honeysuckle, peach, and creamy melon fruit that leads to a lightly sweet finish. The muscat shows up more obviously on the finish. Easy to understand, easy to like. 87pts





4 gr


A very pretty nose with lots of yeasty character, fennel and fruity freshness with some vanilla notes adding some highlights. This is tense, zesty and bright in the mouth with a nice rush of clear white fruits followed by a yeasty midpalate flecked with sweet kiwi and green apple skin flavors. There’s really good length here and this turns attractively floral and chalky on the finish. Bright, brisk and mineraly with a fine mousse, this is superbly refreshing. 93pts



78% Pinot, little skin contact


Dark, a bit sour fruited and citrussy on the nose then turning a little sweet and earthy with hints of Asian pear, wild cherry and dried rose petals. A very fine mousse greets the palate along with a hint of dill right up front. Elegant on the palate with lovely herbal shadings to the fruit which is a bit front loaded with fruit then turns nuanced and complex on the mid-palate, with nice acids that drive the moderately chaly finish, and flavors of cranberries. This is nicely rich with just a touch of spice, and a nice juxtaposition of fruit and chalky minerality. 91pts



74% Pinot




Wonderfully complex aromas of yeast, brioche, sweet almost peachy and tangelo fruit fill the glass. Made in a brighter, tenser style this shows off steely mineral notes up front, followed by subtle yeast tones well integrated on the lemon zest and lemon pith rich midpalate. very refined and long on the finish with a bit of clay minerals the finish with a hint of fruit cake with tart plums on the finale. very precise and elegant. 91pts





Floral with sweet caramel accents to the Brie yeastiness on the nose with a subtle edge of toastiness, and candied apple undertones Floral on entry and quite sweet with lots of fruit, a bit of strawberry, lots of sweet pear, sweetness adds richness here but obscures the detail. Some fine strawberry suggestions emerge on the backend along with plenty of yeasty complexity. The finish is a pop of sweetness then cleansing acid, wrapped in a moderately creamy, rich mouthfeel. 89pts



Same base, a hint of brandy added 10gr


With a sweet nuttiness on the nose, then floral aromas and  notes of dried peaches, melon and pear all topped with touch of cotton candy makes for a fabulous nose. Love the balance of freshness, sweetness and aged character here. Nuanced, bright, clear and tense in the mouth in a very brisk and clean style that highlights the chalk and mineral flavors on the palate while leaving layers of hazelnuts and peach to the long finish. This is a little large scaled but shows real finesse in the mouth. A gorgeous wine. 92pts





8 years on the yeast


Relaxed on the nose which is broad with baked orange, lime, floral, carnations, and a little freshly baked bread. A touch sweet but cleans and fresh on the palate with lovely  precision to the high toned and lemony,  subtle complexity on the midpalate and gentle tones of raw nuts on the soft finish. elegant and gentle. 91pts


Pinot seven day cold soak 63% Pinot


Spicy with aromas of candied cherry, creamy strawberry and a little salty oyster shell on the nose as well as softly yeasty accent notes. Opening with a touch of tart plum which is followed by some sweet nutty brittle notes and then  lots of red fruit on backend, filled with tart cranberry through the finish, which could be a bit longer. Rich and creamy yet rather firm, this is quite bold on the midpalate before fading a bit on the finish. Would love this with food. 90pts



74% Pinot


Socks, chestnut, chalk, brioche, chunky sugar, and lean, steely, white Asian pear fruits all come together on the wonderfully aromatic nose. Steely on entry with an initial burst of  lemon pith that quickly turns creamy in the mouth and leads to a tense, perfumed midpalate filled with subtle red fruits and a texture that is firm, tense and vibrant with real persistence to the tart fruits. minerals, and softly yeasty complexity on the finish. I could drink this all night long. 93pts





Launched in honor of 20th anniversary

two to three years 14gr


Bright and citrusy on the nose with a light leesy edge to the almond, brioche and orange peel Aromas. Starting off a  little creamy in the mouth with a hint of vanilla, bright acids emerge to help support the fairly big lemony fruit. There are  gorgeous acids here that really drives the palate,full of  green apple and mineral flavors with a gentle mousse. This is really quite elegant with lovely cut on the palate and a strong finish filled with the flavors of panettone and brioche tempered with a steely edge. Finishes just a touch sticky. 92pts



Five years, 12gr


Nutty, earthy and complex on the nose with a little red fruit, subtle sultanas, hints of chalk and smoky almonds adding nuanced complexity.  On entry this is clean, and precise with a lovely bright attack, gorgeous balance, subtle sweetness, great acids. There’s a soft mineral accent to the apple and pear fruit on the palate and this finishes with great length, though it still shows a little sweetness on the finale.  Very pure and fresh fruit flows through to the green apple finish with accents of marzipan and delicate hints of butter and toast adding further detail. Lovely and complete. 93pts



Two to three years 12gr


Strawberries and smoke greet  the nose joined by  earthy aromas and hints of cherry pie and minerals. This is quite powerful in the mouth with  lots of raspberry and baked strawberry fruit, strawberry/rhubarb pie, a hint of herb, shortbread cookies and a little mineral. Holding its sugar very well, and showing firm mineral and dried berry fruit on the finish, this remains very very precise through the palate but lacks a little nuance and complexity. 89pts



Seven years, 12gr


Layered smoky, toasted nuts,clay, dough, and little creamy strawberry aromas on the nose are joined by hints of honey and river stones with air. Right out of the gate this is  elegant and  refined with a  lovely mouthfeel that is both firm and creamy, rich yet fresh, and attractively complex with  earthy, mineral notes framing a core of citrus pith and leading to a big, aromatic finish with lingering mineral notes. 92pts



New offering


Two to three years, 4gr


Dusty, steely, firm nose shows hints of  toast, chalk, dried pear and dried flowers. Wonderfully tense, and snappy in the mouth this offers up  mineral driven flavors laced with hints of dried herbs, polleny flowers and gorgeous yeasty notes that support a core of dried apple and pear fruit. gentle and delicate in the mouth with a finish that is clear and tense with dry white fruit and a little lemon curd accent. Wonderfully pure and focused. 92pts





Toasty and sweet on the nose with shadings of vanilla. Slightly coarse mousse on entry lending this a rather  energetic feel in the mouth with bright fresh citrus flavors that are  a little creamy but  very acid driven and bright in the mouth. Finishing modestly with a gentle nutty character and apple fruit this is simple and easy. 86pts



Little Pinot Gris


Yeasty then fairly complex on the nose with with bitter melon, chalk, sweet herb, and candied fennel seed. aromas. A little  creamy on entry then showing fairly big Meyer lemon, apple and a hint of green walnut flavors on the palate which is nicely layered and nuanced with a fine mousse. This shows good length good length, refreshing acids and a bit of pithy grapefruit on finish. Fruity but fresh and well balanced. 88pts



Two years on lees


A little creamy on the nose and filled with aromas of strawberry shortcake and almond cookies with some sweetly spicy top notes. True to the nose this is a little creamy on entry, with earthy red apple peel flavors and subtle creamy accents on the palate then this drops off on finish. A little short and simple. 85pts



In mags they age for six years in bottle, reserve mag seven years,


Yeasty on the nose with complex notes of spice, toast, and some dried herb strawberry tops accenting the core of sweet raspberry fruit. Lightly creamy in the mouth, this retains a nice bright feel and shows attractive mineral notes on entry followed by nuanced raspberry, earthy red fruit, and little rose petal note on the midpalate. There’s a subtle sweetness supporting the palate and this finishes with fine length and flavors that gain mineral and hazelnut details. A vast improvement over the 750 version of this wine. 90pts



About 30% in FO


Sweet pear fruit on the nose is wrapped up in layers of  fresh dough and powdered sugar with some floral top notes and kiwi fruit accents. This is a big wine, rich and powerful with  earthy,  deep flavors of apple strudel, walnut, French bread and a little preserved lemon. The texture is actually a touch soft and slightly creamy in the mouth, lending this a voluptuous feel with heirloom apple flavors on the backend that lead to a long, tart, simple finish. 89pts



42 months, part of proceeds go to Milagros children’s foundation


A little orange marmalade and waffles on the nose. This has that crisp baked/ fried dough/toasty thing going on topped with a little caramel and vanilla, cream, and just a hint of spice. Fairly bright on entry, then turning rich and faintly sweet on the palate with tangerine, peach and green apple flavors topped with a spritz of pith lime. There’s plenty of autolytic character though it gets lost in the sweetness which emerges on the finish with a donut edge. a little crispy creme like. 88pts



10% Pinot gris, three years on the lees


Sweet on the  nose, which shows an array of candied and rich dried fruit aromas: red currants, apricot and dried apples over a base of lightly toasted bread. Fresh dough flavors fill the mouth on entry and this shows a  fine mousse and creamy texture up front followed by bright juicy acids. There’s lovely purity of fruit here,  all lemon and pear with a hint of kiwi and a suggestion of white chocolate adding some  attractive complexity to the backend, though this does peters out a touch on the finish. 89pts



Sweet on the nose with lots of brioche character and a  little baked peach fruit topped with hints of smoke and Brie. This offers an attractive blend of aged character and fruit, with nice cut on entry, really quite firm, dry and transparent with fine mineral base notes and a layered, almost wood spice like palate impression. The fruit is cool and crisp and white with green apple skin and key lime pie notes then reverts to a mineral quality on the  fairly long finish, revealing lovely complexity and length on the finish. 91pts



Sweet and  peachy on the nose with lots of  caramel, toast and cream character topped with a hint of lemon rind. Pretty sweet right off the bat, this is round, rich and soft in the mouth with lots of sweet pear and peach fruit framed by sweet tea and  vanilla chiffon accent notes. Everything wraps up in a plump, sweet finish. Very easy wine for those looking for something obviously sweet. 86pts





2009 estate Brut exclusive to the winery, organically certified


67% Chardonnay


Toasty and earthy on the nose with lovely dried floral notes and a hint of smoke adding detail to the subtle peachy fruit of the nose. Clean and fresh, if a touch simple in the mouth with lovely apple and almost peachy fruits framed with nice mineral and autolytic complexity: big  linden flowers and  herbal tea notes. Fairly elegant and well balanced showing more of a lemon curd quality on the backend, this is underpinned by fruity acids and finishes with decent length. 90pts



60 PN


Hints of red fruit greet the nose, little creamy strawberry jammy notes. The mousse is just a hint aggressive, and the palate shows off nice dry pithy flavors backed up with gentle Brie and raw almond and cashew notes, gaining an attractive core of  apple fruit with a hint of pineapple on the modest finish. A bit fruity and simple. 87pts



28 gr


Quite complex on the nose with aromas of clay, dried apricot, raspberry and black tea. The mousse is a bit coarse in the mouth, though this retains  bright acids that help to balance the considerable weight of the sugars. it is quite well balanced in the mouth and doesn’t come off as terribly sweet, with a texture that is quite creamy and flavors that lean towards the lemon chiffon, preserved citrus end of the spectrum. Gaining a little powdered sugar on the back end, this is very clean and easy to drink,and  holds its sugar pretty well, really doesn’t come off as 28 grams except on the very end of the finish where you are left with sweetness. I’d like to pair this with some cave aged Comte and see what happens. A very attractive Demi-sec. 91pts



Three years


Dusty rose petals along with earthy yeasty undertones support strawberry and earthy wild berry fruit on the nose. While creamy up front, this turns  round and moderately rich but nicely firm with acids on the midpalate. With a hint of peach at its core then strawberry and cranberry fruit leading to the  clean finish with nice brioche and cream notes this shows some attractive complexity. Additional time in the glass reveals flavors of apricot torte, and a hint of tangerine, as this turns quite aromatic in the mouth, particularly on the backend which is long and picks up a little mineral tinge and some fresh dough on the finale. A lovely rose. 92pts




60 PN

4 years on lees


Cut apples with hints of smoke, apple peels and old wood greets the nose.With a fine mousse and  bright acids on entry this shows early snap on the palate that gains a nice richness on the mid palate where it shows quite a dry profile, steely with flavors of key lime pie followed by big citrus pith on backend and then a hint of white chocolate on the moderately long finish, clean, Sapid and focused, a little hazelnut adds additional complexity as this finishes assertively dry, and a little spicy with mouthwatering acids. Clean, focused and direct on the palate. 91pts



100 Chardonnay


Six years on yeast


Decidedly aromatic,with big toast, floral, dried lemon, and  smoky, dried herb aromas. This has a most  fine mousse, lending it a very refined feel  in the mouth. There are lovely complex citrus flavors, key lime pie, lime zest, with a hint of pineapple and oily pinenuts and a suggestion of gingery creme brûlée in the mouth.  Finishing with a big pop of lemon curd and lemon grass flavor, before turning complex and earthy, this then softly fades in the mouth, with modestly noticeable sweetness. Fairly big, rich and complex. 91pts



Earthy on the nose and Pinot Meunier like, with hint of black cherry and middle eastern spices, black spices, poppy seeds and a hint of dried pork. this shows a rich, round, zaftig style with white chocolate and raspberry/blackberry jam on the nose that translates to nice tart berry fruit on the palate. Very soft and velvety in the mouth with flavors of cranberries and lemons, over a base of mineral and Brie. There’s nice clarity to the fruit, aromatic and almost a bit minty of the long finish which picks up a little dried tangerine ruby grapefruit peel. excellent in the style. 92pts


Via: Snooth – Articles

The Best Champagnes I’ve Tasted Lately

Champagne Caps Reims 2006.JPG

Champagne cap collection in Reims France © 2013 George Rose.

When I look back on my days as a beginning wine drinker, I find many reasons to chuckle, and more than a few at which to shake my head. As we begin our journeys to becoming wine lovers there are so many things we do not know. Our limited experiences tell us something about the world of wine, but only much later do we realize how little.

For many years after I started drinking wine, I didn’t like Champagne. I found it bitter and parching, an angular sort of drink that needed to be sipped politely when occasions called for it, but surreptitiously traded for a glass of white or red whenever the opportunity arose.

Only after several years of enjoying wine seriously did I realize that my experience with Champagne was like trying to see an entire landscape through a tiny peephole. It turns out that I simply just hadn’t ever had any really good Champagne. In part, that is because neither I, nor the people whose parties I attended, bothered to pay enough to get the really good stuff.

For you see, the moment I learned the difference between really great Champagne and poor Champagne, I also learned just how much the good stuff costs. Are there a few great values under $40? Sure. But all the best Champagnes will cost you $60 or more.

It just took me many years to realize that they really are worth it.

Great Champagne is one of the world’s most phenomenal wines. The best of them are both incredible versatile food wines, as well as utterly quaffable soloists.

At its best, Champagne offers the perfect blend between savory qualities — saline notes, roasted nuts, or buttery brioche — and the more typical floral and mineral elements we expect to find in white wine. The best Champagnes seem like meals in themselves, but without significant mass — as if you could simply go on drinking glass after glass after glass.

I don’t drink nearly enough Champagne, and chances are, neither do you.

And if you’ve never had the opportunity to sample well-aged Champagne, you’re missing out on one of life’s greatest pleasures.

My cellar is modest, and my pocketbook not so deep, so my chance to sample many of the world’s top Champagne bottlings comes once a year when the Institute for the Masters of Wine comes to town and puts on their annual tasting. While it doesn’t pretend to offer comprehensive coverage of the top Champagnes of the world, it does a fair job of bringing a number of the best small growers and large houses together for an evening of tasting.

Here are my favorites from this year’s tasting.


ruinart_rose.jpgNV Ruinart Brut Rosé $70
Pale baby pink in the glass with medium fine bubbles, this wine smells of sappy rosehips and apples. In the mouth, beautiful notes of rosehip, hibiscus, and red apple skin morph to pink grapefruit as the wine finishes beautifully. Juicy and delicious. click to buy.

2008 Louis Roederer Brut Rosé $65
Palest baby pink in the glass with medium-fine bubbles, this wine has a very stony aroma, with only the barest whiff of flowers and fruit. In the mouth, very juicy sour cherry and saline flavors leave the mouth puckering and wishing for more for a very long time. Delicious. click to buy.

2004 Perrier-JouÃ<<t Belle Epoque $260
Pale peach in color with medium-fine bubbles, this wine smells of citrus peel and hibiscus. In the mouth citrus and hibiscus notes merge with a deep stony quality that lingers for a long time through the finish. Quite pretty and bright, with lovely balance. click to buy.

2004 Pol Roger Brut $100
Light salmon in color with fine bubbles, this wine smells of citrus peel and rosehips. In the mouth, the mousse proves quite velvety, and carries delicate lemon and grapefruit flavors through a very long finish. Delicious. click to buy.

NV Camille Savès Brut Rosé Grand Cru $60 click to buy.
NV Charles Heidsieck Brut Rosé $65click to buy.
NV Henriot Brut Rosé $53 click to buy.
NV Lallier Brut Rosé Premier Cru $55 click to buy.


2004 Veuve Clicquot Vintage Rosé $75
Light baby pink in the glass with a hint of salmon, and medium-fine bubbles, this wine smells of toasted wood and berries. In the mouth yeasty flavors of oak, forest berries, and saltines are delivered on a velvety mousse. Ultimately a bit too much wood for my taste, but undeniably tasty. click to buy.

NV Pehu-Simonet Brut Rosé $70 click to buy.
NV Piper-Heidsieck Brut Rosé Sauvage $45 click to buy.
NV Taittinger Brut Prestige $60 click to buy.

NV Champagne Bollinger Brut Rosé
NV Jaques Chaput Brut Rosé
NV La Caravelle Brut Rosé
NV Henri Billiot Brut Rosé

NV Nicholas Feuillatte Brut Rosé


2002 Piper-Heidsieck Brut Rare $150 brut_Rare.jpg
Pale gold in the glass with very fine bubbles, this wine smells beautifully of hazelnuts and sea air. In the mouth the wine has a wonderful toasted brioche quality that sings with bright lemon curd and lemon zest flavors over a bed of deep, resonant minerality. Beautifully soft mousse. Utterly mouthwatering and gulpable. Fantastic balance and acidity. click to buy.

2000 Pol Roger Brut Sir Winston Churchill Cuvee Prestige $200
Light gold in the glass with extra-fine bubbles, this wine smells of yeasty, toasted levain with a whiff of wet stones and dried flowers. In the mouth a velvety mousse delivers flavors of tangy green apple, fuji apple, and the salty buttery note of saltine, all on a lovely wet stone underbelly. Yum! click to buy.

1990 Veuve Clicquot Cave Priveé $215
Light greenish gold in the glass with extra-fine bubbles, this wine smells of very toasty, buttered sourdough. In the mouth the wine has a fantastic salinity to it, with more than a modicum of toasted oak, but the wood is forgivable amidst such a compelling melange of spices, buttered biscuit, and juicy citrus notes. Delicious. click to buy.

NV Krug Brut Grande Cuvée $135
Pale gold in the glass with extra-fine bubbles, this wine smells of toasted nuts and cream brioche bread pudding. In the mouth a gorgeously soft mousse delivers lemony, resiny toasted brioche flavors along with notes of crème brulee touched with sea salt. Perfectly balanced and just. So. Damn. Good. click to buy.

1995 Charles Heidsieck Brut Blanc des Millénaires Blanc de Blancs $190
Pale greenish gold in the glass with extra-fine bubbles, this wine smells of sappy lemon oil and toasted brioche. In the mouth the mousse is quite velvety with strong lemon oil and toasted brioche flavors and a pure crystalline minerality that is stunning. Gorgeous, with a long finish. click to buy.

2004 Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs $125
Pale gold with a hint of greenness to it and extra fine bubbles in the glass, this wine has a wonderful lemony saline aroma. In the mouth, it is regal, with a laser-straight backbone of lemon zest and seawater that push the salivary glands to overdrive. Savory and delicious in a way that makes you want a gulp, and then another. Filigreed, with fantastic acidity and balance. click to buy.


2004 Moet & Chandon Dom Pérignon Brut $150
Pale greenish gold in the glass with fine bubbles, this wine smells of toasty biscuits, and a sappy citrus aroma that is quite arresting. In the mouth saline notes of green apple have that same resinous quality of the nose, and a hint of toastiness as the wine heads to a very long finish in which the mineral quality of the wine emerges. Fantastic. click to buy.

2000 Gosset Brut Grande Millesime $90
Light gold in the glass with extra-fine bubbles, this wine smells of baked apples and toasty buttery biscuits. In the mouth the wine is mouthwateringly saline, with a mix of toasty biscuits, hazelnuts, and a kelpy note that is quite delicious. Perfectly balanced, and quite delicate. Yum! click to buy.

1998 Henriot Brut Cuvée des Enchanteleurs $165
Pale gold in the glass with very fine bubbles, this wine smells of green apples with a hint of yeasty biscuits. In the mouth, a velvety mousse delivers flavors of green apple and wonderfully saline butter biscuits. A stunning mineral undertone crackles through the wine electrically. Remarkable. click to buy.

2003 Philipponnat Brut Millésime Cuvée 1522 $80
Light gold in the glass with very fine bubbles, this wine smells of lemony asian pear. In the mouth gorgeous asian pear and lemon juice flavors float on an ethereal foamy cloud that perfectly balances the floral and mineral components of the wine. Quite refined and utterly delicious. Wow. click to buy.

2005 Pierre Gimmonet & Fils Brut Cuvée Special Club Millésime $80
Light blond in the glass with fine bubbles, this wine smells of resinous apple and a hint of toasted sourdough. In the mouth, the mousse is quite soft and sensuous as it flashes notes of green apple, wet stones, and a trace of butter biscuits. Juicy and delicious, and utterly compelling. click to buy.

2002 Pol Roger Brut $85
Pale gold in the glass with very fine bubbles, this wine smells of bright apples and pears dusted with saltine crumbs. In the mouth the wine has an effortless quality to it, sliding easily down the throat without a second’s thought. Deceptively light on its feet, this wine is a stunning feat of balance between mineral, floral, and citrus touched by a faint saline toastiness. click to buy.


2005 Gaston-Chiquet Brut Cuvée Special Club Millésimé $80
Light gold in the glass with fine bubbles, this wine has a wonderfully mineral and saline aroma. In the mouth, the wine is quite stony, with deep mineral tones that lend the overall package a sense of glassiness. The mousse is ethereal and delicate. Focused and linear, with an edge that seems like it might cut you if you weren’t careful. click to buy.

2005 Henriot Brut Millésimé $60
Pale greenish gold in color with fine bubbles this wine has a stony nose of green apple tartness. In the mouth a velvety mousse delivers flavors that all seem saturated with greenness — green apple, cucumber, and a kelpy sea air quality that is quite attractive. Delicious and nicely balanced. click to buy.

2006 Louis Roederer Brut Vintage $65
Light gold in the glass with a greenish tinge and fine bubbles, this wine smells of bright lemon and apple aromas. In the mouth it has a piney aspect, with sappy lemon, apple, and unripe pear flavors that merge with a stonier quality. Notes of mineral, grapefruit, and fleur de sel linger in the finish. click to buy.

2006 Piper-Heidsieck Brut $70
Light gold in the glass with fine bubbles, this wine smells of unripe pear and apples. A moderately fine mousse delivers a cloud of apple, pear, and crushed stone flavors to the palate. Bright and juicy and delicious. click to buy.

2004 Veuve Clicquot Brut La Grande Dame $125
Light greenish gold in the glass with very fine bubbles, this wine smells of ripe apples and oak. In the mouth, a nice balance of bready, yeastiness and crisper apple flavors have a nice saline kick, but the finish doesn’t measure up to the juicy flavors. Tasty, nonetheless. click to buy.

vilmart_Cellier.jpgNV Vilmart & Cie Brut Cuvée Grand Cellier $60
Palest gold in the glass with fine bubbles, this wine smells of cold cream and white flowers. In the mouth the wine is exceedingly floral, with gorgeous mineral tones and flavors of cold cream and vanilla, but little trace of oak. Crisp and bright and quite distinctive. click to buy.

2005 Ayala Brut Blanc de Blancs $80
Light gold in the glass with medium-fine bubbles, this wine smells of apples, wet stones, and pear skin. In the mouth, a crisp package of stony green apple and mountain spring water leaves a beautifully clean, long finish in its wake. Lean and delicious. click to buy.

2002 Pol Roger Brut Blanc de Blancs $90
Light gold in the glass with fine bubbles, this wine smells of toasty bread, apples, and asian pears. In the mouth a velvety mousse delivers wonderfully long and saline flavors of toasted oak, apples, and asian pears. Juicy and bright. click to buy.

NV Ruinart Brut Blanc de Blancs $63 click to buy.
NV Henriot Brut Souverain $35 click to buy.
NV Philipponnat Brut Royale Réserve $44 click to buy.


2004 Bollinger Brut La Grande Année $110
Light gold in the glass with medium-fine bubbles, this wine has a bright saline and yeasty aroma. In the mouth a soft mousse offers bright yeasty and lemony flavors with a nice tang to them. click to buy.

2004 Perrier-JouÃ<<t Brut Belle Epoque $125
Light greenish gold with medium-fine bubbles, this wine has a coarse mousse which reveals flavors of apple, pear, and a hint of biscuit. Mineral notes emerge on the finish. click to buy.

2004 Veuve Clicquot Brut $85
Palest gold in the glass with very fine bubbles, this wine smells of apple and sappy lemon aromas. In the mouth stony flavors of lemon, grapefruit, and pomelo zest have a tart and tasty quality. click to buy.

2006 Demière-Ansiot Brut Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru $70
Pale greenish gold in the glass with medium-fine bubbles, this wine smells of crushed cashews and sour citrus. In the mouth, flavors of lemon and pink grapefruit are juicy and bright and crisp. Tasty. click to buy.

2002 Pascal Doquet Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs $90
Light blonde in the glass with medium-fine bubbles, this wine smells of old parchment and asian pear. In the mouth, saline flavors of apple skin and a hint of biscuit stay juicy and bright through a crisp and lengthy finish. click to buy.

NV Bollinger Brut Special Cuvée $50 click to buy.
NV Gosset Brut Grande Réserve $58click to buy.
NV Perrier-JouÃ<<t Brut Grande Brut $35click to buy.
NV Varnier-Fanniere Brut Grande Cru $48click to buy.
NV Henriot Brut Blanc de Blancs $40click to buy.
NV Pascal Doquet Le Mesnil sur Oger Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs $80click to buy.
2006 Louis Roederer Brut Blanc de Blancs $80click to buy.

NV Ayala Brut Majeur
NV Camille Savès Brut Carte Blanche Premier Cru
NV Charles Heidsieck Brut
NV Charles Ellner Brut Cuvée de Réserve
NV La Caravelle Brut Cuvée Niña
NV Lamiable Brut Grande Cru
NV Louis Roederer Brut Brut Premier
NV Piper-Heidsieck Brut
NV Pol Roger Brut Réserve White Foil
NV Roederer Estate Brut
NV Taittinger Brut La Française
NV Pol Roger Rich Extra Cuvee de Reserve Dosé
NV De Souza à Avize Brut Réserve Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs
NV La Caravelle Brut Blanc de Blancs
Nv Demière-Ansiot Brut Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru

2007 Lamiable Cuvée Les Meslaines Blanc de Noir
NV Devaux Brut Cuvée D
NV Eric Rodez Brut Cuvée des Crayères Grand Cru
NV Gaston-Chiquet Brut Tradition
NV Michel Loriot Brut Cuvée Réserve
NV Nicholas Feuillatte Brut Réserve
NV Pol Roger Non-Dosé Pure Extra Cuvee de Reserve
NV Gosset Brut Grand Blanc de Blancs

NV G.H. Mumm Brut Cordon Rouge
2004 Pierre Moncuit Brut Grand Cru Le Mesnil Blanc de Blancs

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Original: Vinography: A Wine Blog

Shopping the Big Brands

I get it. Not all of us have the time to research wine. Diving into the details to find that perfect bottle. No, for many of us buying wine this time of year is just something we have to do. It’s not that you don’t love wine, it’s simply that there isn’t the time, or the impetus to spend inordinate amounts of time deciding, and searching for what to buy.

After all, we’re buying wine for friends and family members who may not be able to tell the difference between that Napa Valley Cabernet and the last bottle of Malbec they enjoyed. While that may tell us more about the wines than they drinkers I get the point. You want to be able to walk into your average wine store and find a bottle on the shelf that is reasonably priced and of good quality with cross-referencing endless lists. OK, so here’s the only list you really need. It’s a list of ten of the most reliable producers that are broadly distributed in the marketplace. Nothing fancy of course, just well made, delicious wines at a fair price vintage after vintage. I’ve also listed the standout wines from each producer that are widely distributed and great values.

Rodney Strong



Dry Creek Vineyard






Clos du Val



Freemark Abbey








J Lohr



Chateau Ste Michelle



Elk Cove



Credit: Snooth – Articles

6 Spectacular Holiday Recipes

Christmas is upon us. It is the time for sharing and showing our love for friends, family, and even strangers. It’s also a grand time for a little showing off, of our culinary skills. Not that the recipes that follow are particularly complex or difficult, though the finished results do give that impression. In fact, for the most part I chose the recipes that follow because they give grand results without requiring Le Cordon Bleu level skills.

I also chose them because this is the time of year you should be sharing some of your best wines. Yes, the family may not be the most appreciative of the gift, but as they say: it is the thought that counts. And if you don’t share them now, who will you end up sharing them with? Fellow wine geeks no doubt, at a bring out your best dinner that pits one wine against another. No. Better to share them with your family and have them tell you that your prized bottles “tastes great, it’s fruity and smooth and doesn’t leave a bad taste in your mouth!”

Yes, there is that moment when you think to yourself “what have I done?” but there are the smiles, and laughter, and these delicious recipes and that emotion quickly passes, replaced by the joy and levity of the season. 

Merry Christmas my friends and to those of you who do not celebrate Christmas, you still have ample reason to be thankful, and of course share the bounty of the season.

Source: Snooth – Articles

Might I recommend Hesh.

“I’m not a wine connoisseur” (Always said with an exaggerated emphasis on the word connoisseur) ~ I think it is that exaggerated, mocking,  nasal-rich tone with which this often delivered that bothers me the most. As if being into wine makes you a snob? Do car collectors, stamp collectors or art collectors have to deal with that? I think getting rid of the word connoisseur might help. I think wine lovers are some of the most generous and least snobby people I know, they share their wine and knowledge freely and want to teach others about this thing they love. There are those “wine snobs” and those are the people that think Sliver Oak is the only wine worth drinkingâ€|.they are not wine connoisseurs either! All real wine is red”  ~ Tell that to a bottle of Montrachet you twat. This type of dismissal of all things white is not only ignorant but tells me that the one that utters such a comment, doesn’t drink as much or as richly as the rest of us. Saying you don’t care for white wine bothers me less, that’s a preference, (and I will be asking which white wines you have tried..they don’t all…

Source: Samantha Sans Dosage

Great Gifts for Geeks

After compiling lists for so many great wines to gift in 2013 I am left with a few wines worth recommending that just don’t seem to fit in anywhere. They are, for a lack of a better word, geek wines. Not that some of the wines that made my list weren’t geeky enough. These are simply wines that tend to fall outside the mainstream of wine appreciation, and as such don’t fit into the easy categories of my previous articles.

They are wines that may very well emerge into the mainstream, as for example Gruner Veltliner has after being a geek’s darling for many years. Though that is somewhat unlikely, seeing as the geekiness factor has been ratchetedup over the years and now focuses on not only the obscure, but oftentimes the rare as well. What follows are ten wines worth trying, and tracking down since they are of course obscure. They are perfect for gifting to your favorite wine geek being relatively unknown, delicious, and rich with history.

Credit: Snooth – Articles

Wine Gifts: Italy

So far I’ve worked my way through a pretty impressive set of wines that would make for some splendid gifting. I’ve covered Cabernet, Pinot Noir, the wines of France and today I turn my attention towards Italy. Without a doubt my favorite wine producing country; Italy is home to more variety and styles of wine than anyplace else on the planet.

As much as i would love to run through all of those wines today, the truth is that gift giving will generally focus on but a handful of famous wines. This of course makes perfect sense, gifting being about buying something that someone might not buy for themselves or buying something that is particularly noteworthy and special. With this in mind  I will spread my attention a bit more liberally throughout the country. I’ve got my suggestions for Nebbiolo and Sangiovese of course but there are simply so many noteworthy and special wines being produced in Italy today that to ignore them would do a disservice to them and to you, our potential gift giver.

I will however start here with Nebbiolo, my favorite grape and when placed in the hands of one of the top producers, a grape capable of producing wines that marry power and elegance. At once hugely structured, yet so aromatic with delicate perfumes of violets and roses, leather, tar, red fruits and licorice all wrapped up in an age worthy package that can evolve for decades. Barolo and Barbaresco, they are two of the world’s greatest wines. Dare i say the greatest? Having said that they also generally require a fair amount of cellaring, which can pose a problem for pouring whatever vintage is on the shelves at this moment. Here is a very brief rundown of vintages to help guide your purchasing.


2010 Just a few Barbaresco from this vintage have hit the shelves as of yet. A vintage that seems to be better in Barolo, where it is spectacular, than in Barbaresco, where it is merely very good. A classic vintage that might have some early appeal but is structured for the long haul, and is not the best option for early consumption.


2009 The current release for Barolo and a lovely one at that. Big, rich with the fruit of a warm vintage yet quite structured as well. These should drink well enough today and for the coming year before closing down.


2008 A very aromatic and smaller scaled vintage that is bright and austere with an almost lacy, yet frm structure. Not a hedonistic vintage but one that is remarkably complex and has that delicate/powerful thing going in spades. 


2007 A warmer vintage; plump with ripe fruit yet many wines are not very well balanced. Still drinking well enough though and as a generalization, with an approachable character that makes them good for gift giving. 


2006 Tough as nails, but a great vintage.


2005 Similar to 2008 in style though many wines have shut down.


2004 A very good vintage with fairly classically styled wines, though some are a touch dilute. Still approachable today.


2003 The product of a very hot vintage, easy drinking and plump if neither terribly complex nor particularly structured. 


2002 A washout best avoided with one notable, and expensive, exception.


2001 A great vintage that is shut down hard, as evidenced by this recent tasting.


2000 A warmer vintage that yielded plump, generous wines that do not represent the pinnacle of what Nebbiolo can achieve but these wines are drinking terrifically today and would make a perfect gift this holiday season.






The Produttori del Barbaresco bottle a set of single vineyard wines from the top sites in Barbaresco, except when they don’t. In which case, as so happened in 2010, the wines are simply declassified and blended into the Coop’s basic Barbaresco, which is not a terribly fair to characterize this wine. A classic example of Barbaresco and the vintage in the best sense of the word,. This is a great introduction to Barbaresco and while it is a wine that is accessible upon release it promises to improve for a decade with ease. 



I think I’ve written enough about Burlotto’s Monvigliero so I expect I am preaching to the choir here. It’s a very traditional wines that is foot trod, whole cluster fermented, macerated on the skins for 100 days and aged in large format wood. Coming from the top site in the village of Verduno, tucked away in the north western corner of the Barolo zone, it’s a wine that has escaped attention for years but is a stunning example of Nebbiolo. Elegant and rich, approachable early in its life and capable of improving for two decades, it delivers a beautiful expression of Nebbiolo redolent of strawberries, cinnamon spice, olive tapenade and hints of truffle and herbs. 



Here’s another little known producer turning out big time wines. Cascina delle Rose is a small family run winery with a very young winemaker, but don’t let that dissuade from trying the wines. They are fabulous. Gentle and delicate yet so complex and nuanced, they represent some of the best values in Barbaresco today. 



I’ve been a big fan of Brovia for quite some time, and the Rocche vineyard as well. When they come together you get one of the finest wines of the region. Classically austere and almost severe at times, Rocche is  one of the greatest vineyards in the region and Brovia’s interpretation is a wine for the ages. There’s plenty of fruit but the wine is linear, with it’s toughness well buffered by sweet herb and licorice tinged red fruits. It’s a wine that will reward cellaring and several decades of it in fact.



Mascarello’s Monprivato is a rarity in Piedmont. A single vineyard wine from a monopole. It’s a wine that can be underwhelming in its youth but when it matures it’s an explosion of power and elegance. Full on rose petals and strawberries laid over lovely limestone and herbal nuance. It has one of the greatest track records in all of Piedmont and remains a compelling value in the world of fine wine.





Trentino/Alto-Adige. This is where I feel at home, having spent many years in the region. I love these wines, there is such a variety to be had, and yet they tend to see spotty representation here in the states. To a certain degree that is due to their great success in their local markets. The Brenner Pass feeds Austrian and German tourists right into the region and they tend to return home with their trucks full of great wines, but the paucity of great wine from the region also reflects our buying habits. We have focused so much on Italy for wine values, ie cheap wines, and famous Italian gems for so long that we have missed the boat with many of the less famous or more difficult to farm regions.  So our fascination with other regions of Italy tends to make these wines tougher to find, though it also keeps the prices within reason. It’s a great region to find surprises for even the most knowledgeable wine geeks. 



Here’s a wine with a very long name, and a confusing one at that. It’s simply Terlan’s Pinot Bianco Reserva with the name written in both Italian and German as is the custom in the Alto-Adige. Terlan is famous for their white wines and their Pinot Bianco in particular, and this is one of the finest renditions available. Offering a great blend of cool white fruits and minerality, it ages superbly developing richness and depth that is almost unheard of at this price. 



Another wines that is iconic of the Alto-Adige is the indigenous Lagrein. Prone to hard, green tannins, it’s only been over the last two decades or so that vineyard practices and and an understanding of terroir have come together to yield the exceptionally high quality versions that we have today. That makes this wine, whose vineyards date back centuries even more surprising. It’s a fabulous example of the variety. Rich with dark fruit and subtle chocolate and mineral accents that develops an alluring, velvety character with age. It’s tough to track down, though it is imported, which makes it a killer gift.



South of the Alto-Adige one finds Trentino where the great reds come from Teroldego. I have some emotional attachment to the grape, my palate  was, to a large degree, raised on it. An unusual wine for a list like this, Teroldego is not known for it’s great cellaring abilities, but rather for it’s early appeal, tart berry flavors, and supple, rich mouthfeel.  Some producers are able to take the wines to another level. Foradori has recently resumed producing single vineyard examples of Teroldego, biodynamically farmed, raised for a period in amphorae; they are wines that are bursting with life and vivacious flavors. Teroldego almost tamed but still with it’s wild, mountain roots intact. 



Finally, further south in Trentino, almost to the border with the Veneto one finds the isolated farm of San Leonardo. Making a Bordeaux blend in indigenous wine country is not an easy or simple task. Making wines that are world class does make it a bit easier, but the truth is that while Cabernet is not completely unknown in the region, this is an odd wine to find here. It makes it an outlier and a bit on the obscure side of things but if you take the time to taste the wines of San Leonardo you’ll be rewarded with a fabulous experience, reminiscent of Bordeaux of a certain age. Black currants and herbs share the glass with firm little tannins that effortlessly support 12-20 years of ageing. This is a bit of a throwback wine in that it’s not a blueberry shake of a Cabernet based wine, and it has the high acidity that Italian palate loves, but if that sounds like something you might be interested in you have to track down a mature bottle of San Leonardo to enjoy while you are waiting for the current releases to reach their apogee. 



The Veneto


Of all the regions of Italy I would expect the Veneto to see the most seasonal business from consumers in the USA. The wines, mostly the Amarone, are expensive and associated with cold weather drinking. Benefitting from several months of air drying before being fermented, the fruit from these vines yield concentrated wines. We have some deep seated need to associate these wines with other wines made from dried grapes, most of which are dessert wines, and think that Amarone must be this incredibly dense, rich and strong wine but, both modern and classic versions are evidence to the contrary. Amarone is a rich wine, and powerful, but on par with many a Zinfandel or a Shiraz, and as such can and should be enjoyed year round, though they do make great gifts!



Speri is one of the more traditional producers of Amarone. Their wines are powerful, and rich with spicy flavors but they are also endowed with enough fruit to drink rather well when young. A dry Amarone, some are noticeably sweeter, and a structured one at that. Speri’s wines age quite well and to my mind represent a happy medium between the rustc and the modern styles of Amarone.



To a degree Tedeschi’s wines are similarly styled, approachable when young but better when aged, though they are more fruit driven and lack some of the rustic appeal of Speri’s Amarone. A powerful example of Amarone, smooth, polished and deep with dark berry and cherry fruit, it’s a great introduction to the style for people more used to modern wines. 



And then there is Bertani. These are wines for the cellar. never about fruit per se, Bertani’s Amarone is about nuance and elegance, only apparent when mature. These are wines that speak with perfume, and persistence on the palate. they seem to be small scaled when compared to many of the wines produced as Amarone today, and while they do need some 15 years in the cellar to fully blossom, once they hit that peak of maturity they reveal wonderful aromatic complexity full of red fruits, dried citrus peels, nutty nuances and hints of dried flowers. 





Sicily is the new frontier. Long a backwater of Italian wine, old vineyards, and new wine makers have been transforming the landscape. Today Sicily is one of the most exciting regions of italy for wine. Values abound and old-vine Nero d’Avola and Nerello (Mascalese and Capuccio)  are establishing themselves as exceptional world class wines. There’s a lot of natural winemaking going on in Sicily as well, which helps focus the minds of many in the business of promoting and selling wine. It’s a great region for wine gifts, still emerging and not yet on the radar with many wine lovers and as you can see that means that the wines remain relative values. 



Calabretta is one of the great values in Sicilian wine. An old school producer framing old-vine Nerello organically, the wines are kept in large format wood for six to seven years before bottling, and then released after about ten years of age, so don’t be surprised by the vintages you see on offer. The high altitude vineyards on Mount Etna give wines that are are complex, rich in minerality and firmly structured. I don’t know of a better value for lovers of traditionally made wines. 



Frank Cornelissen has been producing natural wines from vineyards high on Mount Etna only since  2000 making him a new comer to this region. The wines are made in a totally non-interventionist way and represent only what the year has given. As such they are certainly not for everyone, though everyone should try one of the Cornelissen wines to understand the potential of both the region and natural winemaking  in the extreme. Rosso del Contadino is the entry level wine here, a blend of red and white grapes from various vineyards. It’s subtly spicy, with that telltale volcanic aroma framing pure and lively cherry/red berry fruit all topped with feral, musky nuance. Not a wine for everyone but an amazing wine none the less. 



Another old-vine Nerello, Passopiscare represents the elegance and brilliance Nerello Mascalese is capable of. Vines range from 70 to 100 years of age here and the wines are produced in a traditional style, though one that is much more refined than at either Calabretta of Cornelisson. There are fine grained tannins here supporting the lovely red fruit with fine acidity lending lift to the palate. It can seem almost lightweight at times but given air, or time in the bottle, the wine gains weight and length for it’s spicy, mineral driven finish. 



While Nerello definitely has the lion’s share of the spotlight shining on Sicilian wines these days Nero d’Avola is also an important and noteworthy variety that is making a name for itself. One of the primary differences between the two is that Nero d’Avola is somewhat well known, albeit for producing great value wines. As such it faces a steeper challenge breaking through to becoming simply recognized for producing great wine. At their best, and this Gulfi is among the best, they are powerful wines, rich in luscious black cherry fruit. Gulfi specializes in single vineyard examples of Nero d’Avola, organically farmed and produced in an enlightened traditionalist style. Grown in fairly chalk soil, this is a Nero d’Avola with an austere edge, and flavors that are acid driven, gaining richness and complexity with age. 



Everyone who meets Arianna Occhipinti can’t help but be amazed by what this young woman has achieved. A finer ambassador for Sicilian wine and natural farming would be challenged to find, based on her wines of course. While I am partial to her SP68 Bianco in particular, her Frappato could be seen as her finest wine. In my mind Frappato, with it’s easy character and lovely fruit, could be Sicily’s great vinous ambassador, so it’s no wonder that Arianna has such a knack for drawing out the grape’s delicate charm. Gorgeously aromatic with haunting notes of wild herb laid over the pure and sometimes subtly austere fruit of Frappato, this is just a joy to drink.





Arguably Italy’s greatest grape, Sangiovese makes its way to our shores in everything from simple, inexpensive table wines to some of the grandest bottlings Italy is capable of. Due to it’s long history we are totally accepting of this remarkable flexibility and in fact this is part of the grape’s appeal and charm. How many other varieties can produce wines that are perfectly suitable for a meatball hero on Tuesday night and then an elegant dinner on Friday? It’s that drinkability, that high acid, fresh fruit and subtle complexity that has won so many over to Sangiovese. Of course this makes it an exceptional candidate for gift giving, a built in consumer base and near universal recognition of it’s potential. At the same time though it also allows for the production of plenty of over-priced dreck gussied up and sold to unsuspecting consumers under the banner of Sangiovese. Here is one section of the market where buying blind is the proverbial mindfield, at any price, though you don’t have to spend much for world class Sangiovese. 



If you want the poster child of affordable, great Chianti look no further. Monsanto has a fine track record for producing wines that, as is typical with Chianti Riserva, drink well on release yet age well for a decade or two. Monsanto’s Chianti Riserva almost demands some ageing, coming off as a bit ordinary when young, then finding its stride about 8 years after the vintage. 2010 is an exceptional year for Chianti, not as ripe as 2009 but with great focus and balance. This is a wine to buy by the case. 



Year and year out Bucerchiale is one of my favorite wines. This is not from the Chianti Classico region but rather from Rufina where one finds wines that are usually rather austere and restrained. This is a wine that has benefited from the extra fleshiness and ripeness of the 2009 vintage, though there is also plenty of alcohol here as well. Leather, slightly rustic tannins, yet supple, long and bright with great purity of fruit. I’ve watched the price of Bucerchiale creep up over the years but I’m still looking forward to adding the 2010 to my cellar.  This usually begins to show well about five years after the vintage and drinks well for at least another decade.



No it doesn’t say Chinati on the label but this classic blend of Sangiovese with dollops of Colorino and Canaiolo aged in large format wood could be labelled as Chianti, and would be one of the very best. The estate decided long ago to forgo the right to use the Chinati moniker in the pursuit of producing better quality wines. We’re talking about decades ago when the white grape Trebbiano was a required component in Chianti and Montevertine wasn’t having any of it. The results speak for the themselves. Some of the most ethereal, deep, and complex wines being produced in Tuscany today, the whole line-up from Montevertine is attractive but this Riserva is the sweet spot between quality and price. 



While many, if not most so-called Super-Tuscans relies on some Cabernet I Sodi is built on Sangiovese with just a touch of Malvasia Nera added for perfume. It’s a wine that reflects its terroir, poor and difficult to farm, in the best of ways. This is a powerful wine, structured yet so well balanced and rich with soil and smoke nuances laid over a base of well judged oak spice. It’s a wine that always surprises on the upside in the cellar and has remained an attractive value. I love the marriage of the old, a classic blend of grapes, and the new, that touch of new oak here and the fact that the winemaking does not obscure the wine’s origins. 



If you think of the region that is most closely associated with premium Sangiovese you have to think of Brunello. Whether or not this is absolutely true, the Brunello producers have done a terrific job of promoting themselves and their wines in the marketplace. Many of the wines are too modern for my tastes but some, like those from Conti Costanti for example, retain a slightly rustic edge, leathery, gamy nuance, and tart red fruits that are typical of Brunello. There is also a Riserva from Conti Costanti that sometimes is a better wine, but rarely is worthy the considerable uptick in price. As is the case with most of the great Brunellos, this wine require cellaring, until about the age of ten. Before then you’re likely to think the wine thin and uninteresting as it has a tendency to shut down in the bottle, but when it finally emerges as a mature wine you’ll be treated to a symphony of tobacco and spice, velvety richness and  wild red fruits. 



Dessert wines


After weeks of writing about wines for the holidays I’ve realised that I haven’t even mentioned dessert wines. It might seem odd to finally do so here, while recommending the wines of Italy, but the truth of the matter is that Italy is packed with dessert wines from North to South. Some of the most famous grapes in Italy got their start as famous dessert wines, Sagrantino and the grapes used for Amarone, while many are made exclusively into dessert wines, Moscato Rosa and Zibibbo for example, and don’t even get me started on Vin Santo and Vino Santo! The bottom line is that Italy is a fantastic resource for amazing dessert wines, virtually all of which are not fortified, making them an easy and delicious way to cap of the perfect holiday meal. 



Moscato Rosa is a rare specialty from the Alto-Adige. Red muscat,  redolent of roses, red fruits and subtle baking spices is a wonderful dessert wine and seeing as it’s a rare find it also makes for a wonderful gift. Girlan is a great producer, also responsible for the greatest expression of Schiava from the Alto-Adige, the ancient vine bottling from the Gschlier vineyard which is seldom available at retail here in the States. The Pasithea Rosa is a passito style wine, modest in alcohol at about 12.5% but quite sweet, if well balanced with fine, juicy acidity. 



Coming from Pantelleria, an Island off the coast of Sicily that is closer to Tunisia than Sicily, it seems quite obvious that Ben Rye should be a sweet wine. Produced from the local Muscat of Alexandria, known as Zibibbo, the grapes for Ben Rye, Arabic for “son of the wind” , are in fact air dried for about a month after harvest, after which they are slowly fermented, with new dried grapes added to the must periodically, until the wine achieves about 14.5% alcohol. It is then briefly aged in stainless steel before bottling, capturing it’s unique bend of peach, dried fruit, orange rind spice, and wind swept herbal perfumes. 


Vin Santo is a totally misunderstood wine. There is plenty of inexpensive Vin Santo that is in fact best used for dipping biscotti in, but that hardly does justice to the genre. Felsina’s Vin Santo adheres to traditional guidelines, blending Trebbiano, Malvasia, and Sangiovese grapes that have been air dried on trellises, this Vin Santo undergoes a typical slow fermentation before the wine is aged in small 100 liter oak casks for seven years. The resulting wine is plenty sweet, with enough acid to balance the sweetness of course, and is full of honied pineapple, peach and dried citrus flavors layered with the subtle spice of its oak ageing. It’s a rare Vin Santo that really needs a few years in the cellar to reach perfect harmony but at the age of about 15 years it really starts singing. It is the perfect end to a holiday dinner, or a list of Holiday gift suggestions!


Origin: Snooth – Articles

Holiday 2014 Gift Guide Tchotchke Edition

Time is running out. It’s the holidays and if you haven’t purchased your favorite wine lovers their gifts yet. There is enough time, but not if you don’t know what you’re looking for. Grabbing a bottle from the local wine shop is still an option. There’s enough time to have a great bottle shipped if that’s the route you want to take. I’ve already published lists of great options from France, and of Pinot Noir and Cabernet, with Italian wine gifts to follow tomorrow and wines for Geeks on Wednesday!

Today I’m featuring some great stocking stuffers. Smaller gifts that are still great, and that I would love to receive. Many are readily availalbe and all can be shpped to your door in time for the holidays. Consider this to be the Holiday 2014 Gift Guide Tchotchke Edition!

Source: Snooth – Articles