Frank (Drink What YOU Like) was in town again. I typically meet up with Frank at one of the innumerable wine events which take place in Washington, DC. We decided to shake things up and actually pay for our wine. Actually, I do not get invited to many events so I typically pay for my wine both at home and at restaurants. Range is a great place to go for wine, the list is diverse and prices per bottle start in the $20 range. Surprisingly, there are no half-bottles.
Frank wanted to have a lighter red wine with dinner, perhaps not Beaujolais and not Loire Cabernet Franc due to his upcoming Cabernet Franc tasting on Sunday. Going off of these restrictions we let sommelier Elli Benchimol pick a wine for us. She suggested Sicily which worked for us so she returned with a bottle of the 2010 Tenuta Delle Terre Nere, Caldera Sottana, Etna Rosso. This wine is a blend of Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio source from a single vineyard at 600-700 meters of elevations. The vines here range from 50 to 100 years of age. Though the wine was light in a sense, it packed some deceptive structure and really needs several more years in the cellar. We even had Elli pick our main courses of Octopus and Pork. The wine did start to open up during the course of our dinner so I would recommend dumping it into a decanter.
As were deeply engaged in discussing the wine blog-o-sphere Frank was up for another drink. Again, there were no half-bottles so I figured we could order a full bottle then take the leftovers. I suggested the well priced 2008 Finca Sandoval, Salia, Manchuela at $26 but when I mentioned the 2010 Jean-Paul Thevent, Vieilles Vignes, Morgon Frank lit up. ”That’s a Kermit Lynch wine,” he said. That worked for me. Unfortunately, the supply of the 2010 vintage was exhausted and the next case held only the 2011. We decided to try it and idiotically, keep trying it. It wasn’t the best. Frank did not much care for it and Elli even made a face or two. She decanted it and swirled it for quite some time. It eventually opened up, just a little bit to reveal some delicate berries and citrus. Too bad, this wine is made from fruit sourced from a parcel of vines 45 years old and a parcel which is 110 years old.
To allay our feelings Elli returned with a bottle of 2010 Aurelien Verdet, Le Prieure, Hautes-Cotes de Nuits and two fresh glasses. She gave us generous pours which she refreshed later on as we enjoyed the wine. This was much more interesting, a little earthy, good concentration, and weight. The fruit is apparently sourced from a 4 hectare vineyard planted in 1970. I do not think we concluded anything that night but I had a good time talking a lot over a rather long period.
Lou came over last week so we could catch up and taste some wines. He had recently been in San Francisco where he drank interesting wines from Huet, Donkey & Goat, Clos Saron, Ferret, and Broc Cellars at such places at Locals Corner and Terroir. As attractive as his experience was we ended up having a pretty good night. The 2004 Gernot Heinrich, St. Laurent was in fine shape. It was showing maturity but not much complexity and was best drunk up on the first night. The 2009 Weingut Arachon T. FX. T. Evolution was an interesting wine. Weingut Arachon T. FX. T. was started as a joint venture between Tibor Szemes, F.X. Pichler, and Manfred Tement. After the passing of Tibor Szemes his widow jointed the venture. A cooperative of twenty-five growers provide their best Blaufrankisch, Zweigelt, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine is then produced at the Arachon winery. From both the first sniff and taste it is evident this is a serious wine meant to be aged. I suspect the Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot give it a bit of heft. I would try this again in a few years when it might be even better. I stared at the back of the 2010 Rosso Azzurro, A Crush on Mt. Eta, Nerello Mascalese label for sometime. The graphics of the moon and lady bug looked familiar, even the font did. It turns out this wine is the project of Jean-Marc of Domaine Rouge-Bleu. There was pretty high-altitude volcanic fruit but the structure makes itself present and could use some integration. Perhaps this will happen in a few years. The 2007 I Custodi, Aetneus was a good wine. I seemed to have drunk it more for enjoyment than for taking notes. It was more athletic than the Rosso Azzurro and would work out well with food. Lastly are the pair of wines from La Stoppa. I recently tasted the 2010 La Stoppa Trebbiolo Rosso with Charles Gendrot of Williams Corner Wine. I must agree with Phil that particular bottle was a bit bretty and took some work to get through. This bottle was completely different and all about fresh and ripe red fruit. Enjoyable and well priced. I believe La Stoppa is a low sulphur winery so perhaps there will be some bottle variation. The 2007 La Stoppa, Barbera Della Stoppa was the more serious of the two. It showed more concentration and was also more rugged, perhaps the pure Barbera nature coming through. I would stick this in the cellar and drink the Trebbiolo Rosso in the mean time. As always Lou and I split the leftover wine making sure to inject a good dose of Private Preserve. When I went to open a bottle of red wine for Jenn and I to actually drink she exclaimed, “Why? I really like these wines.”
2004 Gernot Heinrich, St. Laurent, Burgenland -
Imported by Vin Divino. This wine is 100% St. Laurent sourced from 5-35 year old parcels in on high slopes at 140 meters in Gols. The fruit was fermented with indigenous yeasts in both stainless steel and wooden vats, underwent malolactic fermentation then was aged for ten months in used oak barriques. Alcohol 13%. The nose was almost mature with a little wood aromas. In the mouth there was a slightly tart start with red fruit and acidity on the tongue. The wine rounded out a bit with black fruit. Best on the first night. ** Now-2015.
2009 Weingut Arachon T. FX. T., Evolution, Mittel Burgenland – $35-$40
Imported by Weygandt-Metzler. This wine is a blend of Blaufrankisch, Zweigelt, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon which was fermented in stainless steel then aged in French oak barriques. Alcohol 14%. There was a good, assertive nose with almost floral pepper aromas and fine old perfume. The mouth follows the nose with black fruit and old perfume. There was a firmness to the flavors which became racy towards the finish with a good aftertaste and watering acidity. Serious. *** Now-2020.
2010 Rosso Azzurro, A Crush on Mt. Eta, Nerello Mascalese, Sicily – $30
Imported by Williams Corner Wine. This wine is 100% Nerello Mascalese sourced from old-vines at 600 meters. The fruit was partially destemmed, fermented with indigenous yeasts in open-top barrels then aged for one year in two neutral 500 liter barrels. Alcohol 13.5%. The nose bore powdery ripe red berry fruit and eventually minerally, black and red fruit developed. In the mouth there was a fine firm structure which builds up until the drying tannins stick to the lips. With air a very delicate, pepper and graphite flavor comes out. The flavors are attractive but the structure suggests it needs age to both resolve and integrate with the fruit. There was watering acidity in the end. **(*) Now-2018?
2007 I Custodi, Aetneus, Etna Rosso – $32
Imported by Williams Corner Wine. This wine is a blend of 80% Nerello Mascalese and 20% Nerello Cappuccio sourced from 100+ year old vines at 750 meters. The fruit is 80% destemmed then fermented in stainless steel vat before malolactic fermentation and 20 months aging in used barriques. Alcohol 14%. There was a distinctly Sicilian nose of ripe aromas and perhaps mulberry. The mouth follows the nose with a good amount of fruit. The tannins were obvious early on but mix well with the dry flavors and minerals. Despite my short note I did like it. Drink with food. *** Now-2018.
2010 La Stoppa Trebbiolo Rosso, Emilia IGT – $20
Imported by Louis/Dressner Selections. This wine is a blend of 60% Barbera and 40% Bonarda macerated on the skins for 20 days then fermented with indigenous yeasts in stainless steel. There was a bright nose of berry fruit and toasted spices. The flavors were rich in the mouth with ripe cranberry and other youthful, ripe red, fresh fruit. Well done. With air there were gobs of fresh red young fruit to which the acidity played a supporting roll. There was almost a grapey pulp texture. *** Now-2015.
2007 La Stoppa, Barbera Della Stoppa, Emilia IGT – $32
Imported by Louis/Dressner Selections. This wine is 100% Barbera sourced from 25-45 year old vines macerated on the skins for 30 days then fermented with indigenous yeasts. It was aged for one year in used barriques. Alcohol 14.5%. The first whiff was of almost stewed fruit but then the nose became articulate. The articulated scent follows in the mouth with a very ethereal earthy flavor and brambly nature. With air the wine became more pebbly with earthy fruit, a hint of Pilsner, and a fine, drying structure of tannins left on the lips. This definitely needs age. A ripe red raspberry flavor came out but there is more to this wine. It was a little rugged and yeasty in the aftertaste. *** 2015-2023.
I recently tried my second wine made from the indigenous Sicilian varietal Perricone. The 2009 Castellucci Miano was my first followed by this featured bottle from Valdibella. Both bottles of Perricone were lighter wines leaning towards black red fruit with structure for the short-term. They are interesting wines but I recommend them for those curious to try a new varietal. A step up is the Fattorie Romeo del Castello, Allegracore which I certainly recommend to all for $3 more. This is an affordable wine from Mt Etna which is quite fresh with pleasing tartness and rather attractive tannins. These wines were purchased from Chambers Street Wines.
2010 Valdibella, Acamante, Perricone, Sicily – $19
Imported by T. Elenteny Imports. This wine is 100% Perricone sourced from Catarratto vineyard at 300-500 meters. It was fermented with indigenous yeasts. Alcohol 12%. The nose revealed light red fruit with peppery spiced shrimp shells (I know, quite a description coming from me.) On the second day there were aromas of delicate black red fruit. In the mouth there was dry, bright red fruit then black red fruit which mixed with minerals and acidity. There were fine+ tannins on the front of the tongue. Dry. ** Now-2015.
2009 Fattorie Romeo del Castello, Allegracore, Etna Rosso - $22
Imported by Louis/Dressner Selections. This wine is a blend of Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappucino sourced from vineyards at 700 meters. It was fermented in stainless steel vats. Alcohol 13%. The color was a light cranberry garnet. The light nose was interesting with pungent red fruit. In the mouth there was initially black red fruit which lay low on the tongue. Then it steps through with acidity driven, dry black fruit flavors. It became tart with a little orange citrus note. There was a dry, textured, mineral finish with almost chewy, flavorful tannins. *** Now – 2019.
I am used to coming across under-performing or flawed bottles of wine. Most of the time these were immediately detectable by the nose alone. At one point I believe I experienced an average of 7% flawed bottles. However, I was confident in my palate so I routinely returned these bottles, as the folks at MacArthur Beverages may attest to. As I drink more wines sealed with alternative closures I seem to come across less flawed wines. But lately I have started coming across a different set of flaws which manifests itself in a similar manner regardless of varietal or region. These wines have a good nose but in the mouth the flavors are often bright red, very dry, full of powerful tannins, and a strong yeasty/Pilsner flavor. They are, in short, flawed and undrinkable.
Three examples from last month include the Frank Cornelissen, Susucaru 4 (I wrote about it earlier here), the 2010 Domaine de Gimios, Rouge Fruit, and the 2011 Natalino Del Prete, Nataly. The common thread is that these natural wines are all made without the use of sulphur dioxide. The yeasty/Pilsner flavor I tend to attribute towards fermentation with indigenous yeast and I do not mind it to some degree such as in the 2010 Weingut Hexamer, Meddersheimer Rheingrafenberg, Riesling Quarzit or the 2011 Occhipinti, SP68 Bianco. But when the wine so strongly reminds me of beer and combined with the other issues, I am completely put off. I do not know what causes these problems. The Frank Cornelissen was purchased at MacArthur Beverages and the Domaine de Gimios and Natalino Del Prete were purchased at Chambers Street Wines. These are both reputable stores so if it is a storage issue I doubt it occured at the store.
At first I thought I simply did not understand a certain style of natural wine, that they were meant to taste like that. Now I believe I am experiencing the flaws of non-sulphured wines. Alternative closures were created in light of the flaws attributed from cork. If sulphur use may prevent this type of flaw then why are these flaw tolerated? How many people try a flawed bottle of non-sulphured wine and think it is meant to be like that? For a brief but interesting comment check out the final paragraph in Mike Steinberger’s post from one week ago.
Frank Cornelissen, Susucaru 4, Dry Rose, Etna – $26
Imported by Fruit of the Vines. Produced from the free-run juice of various indigenous varietals. Alcohol 13.5%. Rather cloudy in the glass which is not surprising given the clumps in the bottle. Beautifully texture, aromatic nose is very enticing. Then in the mouth it started with pure tart, thin, dry flavors. Very tart at first but after an hour or two the flavors were of pure, dry, grapefruit juice followed by a yeasty Pilsner finish. Strange disconnect between the nose and mouth. Poor.
2009 Le Petite Domaine de Gimios, Rouge Fruit, VdT – $23
Imported by Fruit of the Vines. This wine is a blend of Cinsault, Alicante, Grenache, Carignan, Aramon, and Muscat sourced from a 1 hectare plot (which is planted with 16 different varietals). Biodynamic and no sulphur dioxide is used. Demeter certified. Alcohol 13%. The nose was light to medium in strength with red fruit, cooked green veggies, and black tea. In the mouth the wine starts with scented red flavors which were very dry then yeasty, Pilsner flavors. There were very fine, drying tannins which stuck to the gums. With air the yeasty, Pilsner flavor started very early on and lasted through the long aftertaste. Poor.
2011 Azienda Agricola Biologica Natalino Del Prete, Nataly, Primitivo, Salento IGT – $18
Imported by Louis/Dressner. This wine is 100% Primitivo sourced from 80+ year old vines from almost 7 hectares of vineyards. Certified organic with no use of chemicals, pesticides, and sulphur. Alcohol 12.5%. The color was a medium grapey ruby. The medium strength nose was very lifted with aromas of red candy, perfumed, and powdery texture. In the mouth the flavors followed the nose with tart, tangy red fruit which was dry. The wine than became very dry with powerful tannins which coated the mouth along with some salivating acidity. Then a yeasty, Pilsner and dark red fruit aftertaste. * Now-2018.
For the most part I take pictures of all of the wines I drink, be it by the glass or bottle. I write down tasting notes for the vast majority of these wines but in social settings I find taking notes prevents me from joining the conversation. I want to maintain a history of everything I drink, not to tout trophy bottles (which rarely cross my lips) but to provide material for a vinuous biography later in life. The first two wines were brought by my Uncle to Thanksgiving dinner. He served the 2009 Etude, Pinot Noir Estate in a decanter with the bottle squirreled away. In a feat of sheer luck and brilliance I deduced 2009 Californian Pinot Noir. I do not drink many Californian Pinot Noirs but this worked well in the general hub-bub of dinner which was punctuated by a few crackles from the fireplace. I believe everyone enjoyed it for it was tasty to drink. We then moved on to the 2007 Albert Morot, Beaune Cent-Vignes. Still showing firmness this wine encouraged you to take small sips then reflect upon them. I think it should be cellared a few more years but I did not mind its current state.
2009 Etude, Pinot Noir Estate, Carneros
This wine is 100% Pinot Noir sourced from various vineyards and aged in French oak barrels. Alcohol 14.4%. There was a light to medium strength nose of dark red fruit. In the mouth the flavors were spicy with brambly Pinot fruit then brambly bluer fruit. The wine became racy towards the finish where a sweeter side and some spice came out. This was forward, pleasing, and drinking well out of a decanter.
2007 Albert Morot, Beaune Cent-Vignes, Beaune 1er Cru
Imported by Robert Kacher Selections. This wine is 100% Pint Noir which was fermented in stainless steel and is raised in some new oak. There was a light nose of wild, red fruit. In the mouth the black cherry flavors were framed with blacker fruit in the finish. It was still a touch firm with integrated acidity which kept the wine lively and matched by a sense of levity. There was texture in the finish and orange juicy acidity. Should drink for a decade but needs a few more years.
We recently popped over to Shane’s for a roasted chicken dinner. I brought over the Cornelissen and the Tikves in brown bags for the fun of it. I poured small tastes of the Frank Cornelissen, Susucaru 4 to which Shane wondered if it was something like a Movia wine. It did not come across too well with exclamations, spitting, and dumping occurring all at once. This sparked an idea in Shane’s head so he chilled down a Rhode Island Riesling. The current release is 2010 so his bottle of 2008 Newport Vineyards, Vintner’s Select Riesling has a few years of age on it. It was a perfectly acceptable wine, while a bit sterile and lacking flavor in the finish, it smelled and tasted like Riesling. And it was from Rhode Island, how cool. The 2010 Tikves, Barova, Red showed well reflecting the studious attention paid to the vineyards and winemaking. Philippe Cambie is the consulting winemaker. He has helped create a modern wine with fruit flavors that make you scratch your head and wonder what varietals the wine was made from. Lastly, there was the 2007 Tablas Creek, Esprit de Beaucastel. I thought the color and nose were a bit more advanced than its age. Unsure of vintage I guessed it a French wine made from Syrah and Grenache perhaps from Gigondas. I got 50% of the varietal composition correct! And being Tablas Creek a guess of France was not too off base. To Shane the fruit had a purity which reminded him of California. I really like the wines of Tablas Creek but am remiss that the Cotes de Tablas Rouge became too expensive for a daily wine.
Frank Cornelissen, Susucaru 4, Dry Rose, Etna
Imported by Fruit of the Vines. Produced from the free-run juice of various indigenous varietals. Alcohol 13.5%. Rather cloudy in the glass which is not surprising given the clumps in the bottle. Beautifully texture, aromatic nose is very enticing. Then in the mouth it started with pure tart, thin, dry flavors. Very tart at first but after an hour or two the flavors were of pure, dry, grapefruit juice followed by a yeasty Pilsner finish. Strange disconnect between the nose and mouth.
2010 Tikves, Barova, Red, Republic of Macedonia
Imported by Eric Solomon/European Cellars. This wine is a blend of 85% Kratosija and 15% Vranec sourced from 35-year-old vines located on soils of Smolnik with humus and Povilna wyth fern and mountain flora biomass. It was aged in stainless steel. Alcohol 14.5%. There were well made flavors of lightly powdery black and red fruit, a little woodsy tannin, plenty of well done acidity. Young, nice, and well made. Should drink well over the short-term. Contemporary but with a flavor profile I cannot put my finger on.
2008 Newport Vineyards, Vintner’s Select Riesling, Rhode Island
This wine is 100% Riesling. Alcohol 12%. There was a light Riesling nose. In the mouth the white fruit was somewhat ripe at first with clean Riesling fruit. There was a decent start with some acidity then the wine muted and faded off with no acidity and loss of flavor. A pleasant enough drink which made a favorable introduction to the wines of Rhode Island.
2007 Tablas Creek, Esprit de Beaucastel, Paso Robles
This wine is a blend of 44% Mourvedre, 29% Grenache, 21% Syrah, and 6% Counoise sourced from the 120 acre organic estate vineyard. It was fermented in stainless steel using indigenous yeasts then aged in French oak foudres. Alcohol 14.5%. It smelled a bit older on the nose with rich, clean mixed fruit which reminded me of Gigondas. In the mouth there was a dense mixture of black fruit, spices, and a long, lifted aftertaste that left dark flavors of wood box in the mouth.
We continued our New York adventure by caravaning up to William’s home in Tuxedo Park. I was very excited. Not only would we get to see William’s recently renovated home but we would attend the Traditional Christmas Dinner at The Tuxedo Club. It was a particularly foggy day, so thick that we could only see a few dozen feet into the trees lining the highway. This lent an air of mystery all of the way to Tuxedo. The turn from Tuxedo into Tuxedo Park is initially unassuming until the gentle curve uphill is complete. There you are faced with the megalithic architecture of Tuxedo Park’s Gate Lodge and Keep. The gatekeeper grants admission only to owners and their guests. It is a fantastical entrance to a place the likes of which I have never seen before.
You might not have heard of Tuxedo Park but if you know what a tuxedo is then you have some awareness of the park’s interesting history. You may read about the origins of the tuxedo in The Wall Street Journal here. Tuxedo Park’s history is a long and quiet. It is located about one hour north of New York City in Orange County. Some 13,000 acres of land was originally acquired in 1814 by Pierre Lorillard II. The land remained unused until the completion of the Erie Railroad in the mid 1880s. In 1885 Pierre Lorillard IV succeeded in obtaining control of 7,000 acres. He originally envisioned Tuxedo Park as an exclusive hunting and fishing preserve for his friends. He planned to stock the land with game, surrounded by a game fence to keep them in, and stock the lakes and pond with fish. His plan quickly expanded to include cottages, stores, schoolhouses, churches, a library, and a hospital. To help develop the property he brought in architect Bruce Price and landscape engineer Ernest Bowditch. In 1886 the Tuxedo Park Association was incorporated to oversee the park and screen applicants. Only the wealthiest families with the highest social standing were allowed access. The first phase of construction lasted from 1886 to the mid 1890s. It included thirteen cottages designed in the Shingle Style. These were meant to be temporary residences thus were small and neither insulated nor heated. A second phase of construction begin at the turn of the century and lasted through several decades into the 1930s. These houses were much larger and designed for year round occupation with heating, plumbing, and electricity. A wide range of architects designed these houses which richly featured such revival styles as Tudor, Jacobean, and Dutch Colonial. As with the lexicon of Bruce Price’s architecture, the new architects were encouraged to subordinate their designs to the natural surrounding of the land.
Tuxedo Park garnered renewed interest in the 1970s. For several years houses were demolished, lots split, and new houses built which were incongruous to the park. In 1978 Tuxedo Park was nominated as a historic development which was notable for its social and architectural experimentation. The application notes that of the 286 structures surveyed 42% were constructed in the nineteenth century and another 35% prior to World War II. At the time the buildings were still in “unusually good” condition and “beautifully maintained.” In 1979 Tuxedo Park was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. There is now a Board of Architectural Review which reviews all aspects of renovation and construction.
We drove past the Lodge and Keep following several windy roads. These megalithic buildings were completed in 1886 to house the gatekeeper in the Lodge and trespassers in the Keep. Today Tuxedo Park is classified a village thus it maintains its own roads and police force. The gate is now home to the Tuxedo Park Police. Tuxedo Park is set between Cairn Mountain and Eagle Mountain. The land is heavily forested, rather hilly, and full of boulders. Nestled throughout are homes of every description and size. At one point we drove alongside Tuxedo Lake and could easily see beautiful houses dotting the hills and rocky outcroppings of the far shore. During a drive that weekend through the various roads meandering from and surrounding Lake Tuxedo I was primarily struck by the beauty of the rugged hills, the consistency of the forest all the way to the lake shore, and the frequent outcroppings of rock and boulder. Only after taking in the terrain did I notice that the roads simply follow the contours of the land and that the houses, regardless of their size, are placed within the landscape. Many older houses, and at least one notable new house, feature rustic stone walls and terraces on the lower levels binding them to the land as if they were simply the organized rearrangement of materials available at foot. We eventually turned past the Tuxedo Park Club and up a hill to park alongside the Cottswald Cottages.
We unloaded our car as William promptly made a warming fire in the living room. Once settled in the first order of business was to make a plate of cheese, crackers, and caramel puffs then open some wine.
Spending the weekend in a historic home certainly deserved a historic wine so we opened 1974 Produttori del Barbaresco, Barbaresco. This wine is 100% Nebbiolo sourced from many different vineyards facing south, south-west, and south-east. The 1974 vintage resulted in a large yield with the wines initially highly regarded but then somewhat less so in retrospect. The Wassermans found several of the Produttori del Barbaresco crus to be drinking at or near prime in the mid to later 1980′s. Indeed the initial glass was marked by woodnotes and a thinness of flavor but the wine itself was in great shape. We set the bottle aside to revisit later in the evening. It eventually fleshed out to show a hint of ripeness and a pure bacon flavor. Even the next morning the remains of the uncorked bottle tasted exactly the same. I suspect this wine will continue to live for some time but now it is more a hint of its past.
We managed a quick tour of the house, stable, and grounds. Charles H. Coster was a senior partner at J.P. Morgan and Company who owned a large English manor house in a Middle Ages style designed by William A. Bates in 1894. He subsequently built the Cottswald Cottages and Stables in the late 1890s on a road where stables and carriage houses were built for the larger houses of Tuxedo Park. The property, since divided in two, consists of two cottages flanking the bottom of a T-shaped stable and carriage house. The three buildings consist of rough-hewn blue stone, sandstone casements, leaded windows, and slate roofs. The cottages were originally occupied by the servants and stable help. At some point prior to the 1970s the cottages were converted into private residences. While both of the cottages have been recently renovated the stable and carriage house remains in what looks like its original 19th century condition.
One enters the stable through a gateway in the front wall. Though the gate itself is removed the bolts are still evident. The drive itself consists of a yellow herringbone brickway that extends all the way into the back of the stable. The stable and carriage house is entered through a large sandstone archway flanked by large iron lanterns. The original sliding wood doors still exist inside the building but are resting on the ground off of their rollers. It looks like the carriages were stored in the front portion of the building with the horses stabled in the back.
The majority of the interior consists of rough stone walls but the middle section consists of old plaster and lathe rooms with a stairwell to the hay loft (and amazingly more rooms). The back stable section was enclosed by two massive sliding doors with the top glass section protected by stout horizontal metal bars. The back wall of the building is covered with white subway tiles whereas the rest of the walls are plaster and lathe. Back here the floor switches to simple brick flooring with ring-bolts set into the tile and X-shaped drains in the floor demarcating the original stalls. Throughout the building virtually every single pane of the leaded windows survives intact. In fact the only hints of the 20th century are the occasional runs of armored electrical cables.
With the Produttori del Barbaresco set aside I opened the Frank Cornelissen, Rosso del Contadino 9, Etna. A quick sniff of glass revealed we were in for a treat. Frank Cornilissen is a Belgian who makes wine on Mount Etna. He attempts to observe nature by avoiding all vineyard treatments be they chemical, organic, or biodynamic. He produces wine from some 8.5 hectares of vineyards which he harvested late in October to mid November. The Rosso del Contadino is a blend of local red and white grapes from various vineyards. The fruit is crushed by foot and machine, fermented in polycarbonate containers then aged in terracotta amphoras for roughly 10 months. It is bottled without any sulphur after the lees have been purposefully stirred up. This was a great wine with a confident, complex nose of red fruits, Christmas baking spices, and layers of other aromas. For some time the three of us sat there, noses buried in the glasses, trying to capture what we smelled. Eventually we moved on to pour glass after glass of the wine. In the mouth the delight continued with fresh, juicy, and sappy red fruit, persistent and engaging. The timing was impeccable, upon finishing the bottle it was time to dress for dinner.
We piled in to the car all dressed for dinner then drove down the hill to The Tuxedo Club. The Tuxedo Club opened May 30, 1886 some eight months after Pierre Lorillard IV and Bruce Price picked the location. The club buildings have existed in various forms since then. Today there are facilities for golf, swimming, boating, and racquet sports. The racquet facilities are unique specializing in Court Tennis, Rackets, Lawn Tennis, Paddle Tennis, and Squash. Covered in heavy fog the holiday lights and giant wreaths of the club leant a romantic air. We joined the group in the back room where they were already cocktailing. A quick drink and a few nibbles later the dinner bell was rung and we were seated in the dinning room. Holiday music from a piano greeted us as we promptly sat down.
The club hosts Formal Dinner Service on Friday and Saturday evenings. The dinner we attended was a fixed three course meal of Roulade of Dover Sole with Scallop Mousseline, Beef Wellington with Sweet Corn Puree, and a dessert of Port and Spice Poached Pear. Wine was not included so I took the opportunity to look through the wine list. The diverse wine list was spread over several pages and included such choices as 1998 Chateau Margaux, a 2008 Hecht & Bannier cuvee, and three vintages Vieux Donjon.
Tempted as I was by the Vieux Donjon I opted for the 2009 Antica Terra, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley. The bottle was served at the proper temperature which helped show it off. The nose was scented with black and red berries. In the mouth it showed finely textured fruit with just the right amount of acidity. It was thoroughly enjoyable and felt like the perfect choice. I imagine it will benefit from one to two more years in the cellar.
After dinner we slowly drove home through the thickening fog and retired to the living room. The fire had died out but the house was cozy warm. We opted for one more glass of wine so I opened the 1988 Chateau Doisy-Vedrines, Sauternes. This wine is mostly Semillon with some Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle sourced from 30 year old vines. The fruit was fermented and aged for 18 months in 60% new French oak barrels. The nose and flavors were primarily of complex apple supported by acidity but the body itself was rich and weighty. It left the impression of mature flavors with a youthful delivery. I went to bed that night happy to have spent so much time with William and relaxed by the intimate nature of Tuxedo Park. Visiting Manhattan followed by Tuxedo Park was a memorable experience I shall never forget.
During a recent visit to MacArthur Beverages a diverse selection of wine from Williams Corner Wines had literally just been dropped off. Tim opened several of the boxes and pulled out wines for me to try. One of them was the 2010 Azienda Vinicola Calabretta, Gaio Gaio. I enjoyed the wine very much and posted about it here just two weeks ago. Charles Gendrot of Williams Corner Wines recommended I try the 2002 Etna Rosso as well so I picked up a bottle last week. For those keeping track I stopped by the store on Saturday as well and will be returning again tomorrow. Good thing I have plenty of annual leave!
The Calabretta Etna Rosso is produced from a 7 hectare vineyard of Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio. This vineyard averages 60-80 years of age with some vines more than 100 years old. The vineyards are located at 750-800 meters on soils of black, volcanic, stony ground. The vineyards themselves are terraced with stone walls. The fruit is harvested in mid-October, destemmed, and fermented in stainless steel using indigenous yeasts. It undergoes malolactic fermentation then is aged for 36-42 months in 50-75 HL Slavonian oak casks which are located in the underground cellar.
Some may recollect this wine (or even tasted it!) for it was Eric Asimov’s #1 pick in his February 27th, 2012 article, “Sicilian Reds Harness a Volcano’s Energy”. According to Massimiliano the 2002 vintage was rainy in September. With harvest in mid-October the wine turned out with more acidity and lower alcoholic degree than other vintages. This 2002 Etna Rosso shows more earth, integrated acidity, and ample minerality. The Gaio Gaio is produced from a young vineyard and shows more red fruit, prominent acidity, and citrus. Whereas I would drink the Gaio Gaio over the short-term the Etna Rosso at ten years of age is still youthful. I suspect it should be cellared for several more years for development and should easily last another decade. Many thanks to Massimiliano for providing the images and answering my numerous questions. This wine is available at MacArthur Beverages.
2002 Azienda Vinicola Calabretta, Etna Rosso – $27
Imported by Williams Corner Wines. This wine is Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio sourced from 60-80 year old vines in Calderara. Alcohol 13.5%. The nose is light with dense orange-red fruit with a touch of sweaty and earthy aromas. In the mouth there is plenty of red fruit, acidity, and minerality from the start all delivered in balance. The flavors expand in the mouth with more minerals, tangy fruit, structure in the finish, and a long aftertaste. With air finely, lifted black red fruit comes out along with fine tannins and tart fruit in the long aftertaste. ***(*) Now-2025.
Two years ago I never would have guessed I would drink so much Italian wine on a regular basis. Such was (and still is) my deep-seated love of the Rhone. Now I continue to dive into Italian wines as a result of such selections as these two. The Vigneto Saetti is a welcoming and an original change to our first glass of bubbles in the evening. Its earthy flavors capture ones attention, that is, along with its textile label which might be home in a line of wine-inspired clothing. This natural wine is produced without added sulphur. The Giralmo Russo is from an organic vineyard featuring centenarian vines. It shows good concentration to the fruit with a contemporary personality which I now suspect should open up after a few more years of age. I recommend both of these wines, one for each coast. The Vigneto Saetti is available at MacArthur Beverages and the Girolamo Russo is available at Soul Wine in Seattle.
2011 Azienda Agricola Vigneto Saetti, Rosato dell’Emilia – $17
Imported by Louis/Dressner. This wine is 100% Salamino di Santa Croce sourced from 40-year-old vines. Fermentation is begun in steel barrels followed by six months on the lees in the bottle before disgorgement. No added sulphur. Alcohol 12%. The color is an interesting medium, dried rose and cherry. The nose is very subtle with dried leather notes. In the mouth there is earthy red fruit delivered by bubbles that prick at first along with a wave of acidity then they burst becoming frothy and smooth. Dark, earthy flavors, and red fruit come out in the middle with another wave of acidity in the finish and aftertaste. The fruit is dry with a bit of tang. There is a subtle yeast and Pilsner note in the aftertaste. *** Now.
2010 Girolamo Russo, ‘a Rina, Etna – $25
Imported by Elliott Bay Distributing. This wine is a blend of 98% Nerello Mascalese and 2% Nerello Capuccio sourced from vines planted in 1908, 1948, and after 2004. The vineyards are located on the northern slopes of Mt Etna at 650-780 meters. It was fermented in stainless steel then aged for 14 months in 2nd and 3rd use French oak barriques. Alcohol 13.5%. This color is a light garnet. The light nose reveals wood smoke and some ripe, strawberry candy. In the mouth it is lighter bodied with ripe Nerello flavors which combine with red candy and dark red flavors, perhaps fleeting minerals. There is a little dried fruit/jam concentration that works well with delicate red flavors. There are gentle ripe+ tannins which are spiced. *** Now-2019.
A few selections from Azienda Vinicola Calabretta recently arrived at MacArthur Beverages. This was a new producer for me so I happily bought the affordable Gaio Gaio.The Calabretta family have been growing grapes on the slopes of Mt Etna since 1900. It has only been since 1997 that the family has focused on the international distribution of their wines. The estate is located on the north side of Mt Etna near Castiglione di Sicilia. The south-facing vineyards are at an elevation of 750 meters. The wines are produced naturally without use of chemicals in the vineyards and cellar. Both of us enjoyed this wine. It is a strong value from Mt Etna which, after a few hours of air, is quite satisfying. This wine is available at MacArthur Beverages.
2010 Azienda Vinicola Calabretta, Gaio Gaio, Etna – $17
Imported by Williams Corner Wine. This wine is Nerello Mascalese which saw some time in Slovenian oak casks. Alcohol 11.5%. There is a light nose of red fruit, orange and some darkness. In the mouth the red fruit briefly mixes with old perfume before raspberry candy and cranberry flavors come out. There is fresh acidity on the sides of the tongue, subtle and ripe floral bits, along with ripe tannins. There is sweet citrus in the finish. After a few hours it fleshes out to develop a gentle weight. *** Now-2015.
The wines of Vinicola Benanti are a part of the recent arrivals at MacArthur Beverages. I grabbed the wines because I was unfamiliar with the producer and they are attractively priced for Etna wines. Over one century ago Giuseppe Benanti began the production of wine on the family’s farm at Monte Serra on Mount Etna. In 1988 his grandson, Dr. Giuseppe Benanti revived the production of wine. Today the estate is run by Giuseppei and his sons Antonio and Salvino. The vineyards are located at three general areas: Etna, Pachino, and Pantelleria. The wines featured in this post originated as fruit from Etna and Pachino. The Etna vineyards are located at different altitudes and regions of Etna. The Pachino vineyard is located in south-east Sicily in Syracuse. The vines are located on a hot and arid plain with soils of chalk and clay. All fruit is hand-harvested, transported in refrigerated trucks if needed, then produced using minimal mechanical equipment. The fruit is fermented with indigenous yeasts and aged in French oak.
I must admit I thoroughly enjoyed all three of these wines. For some reason I had it in mind that the white Edelmio was from the 2011 vintage. When I started reading the back label I was surprised to see it was four years older It is remarkably fresh and should drink well for several years. Both of the red wines have the same varietal blend but are sourced from different vineyards. They tasted quite different and I do recommend you try both of them side by side. However, if you can only purchase one bottle then grab the Serra della Contessa. Containing fruit from ungrafted pre-phylloxera vines this wine already has a strong presence in the mouth. It should still develop for several more years and only become better. These wines are available at MacArthur Beverages.
2007 Benanti, Edelmio, Sicily - $19
Imported by The Country Vintner. This wine is a blend of 50% Carricante and 50% Chardonnay. The Carricante is sourced from a vineyard on Etna whereas the Chardonnay is sourced from Pachino. The whole bunches are fermented with indigenous yeasts in French oak casks then aged for 12 months on the lees in the same casks. The wine is a light yellow in the glass. The nose reveals delicately textured yellow fruit and a hit of orchard. In the mouth the flavors start off with a bit of zing on the tongue as light, yellow fruit, some tartness, and flavors of stone come out. There is a moderately round mouthfeel, plenty of fresh acidity, more stones in the finish, and a silky aftertaste. *** Now-2017.
2005 Benanti, Rovitello, Etna – $27
Imported by The Country Vintner. This wine is a blend of 80% Nerello Mascalese and 20% Nerello Cappuccio sourced from Castiglione di Sicilia which is located on northern Mt. Etna at 750 meters. The fruit is harvested in October. The vines are 80 years old on soils which are sandy, volcanic, and rich in minerals. It was fermented with indigenous yeasts then aged for 12 months in French oak barrels. The color is a medium earthy ruby. There is a fine nose of black cherry, fine cedar, and perhaps a touch of pine. In the mouth the flavors start with ripe-ish red fruit which turns to stoney blue fruit as the flavors lighten up. There is a wood grain texture with spices and cedar before the flavors become savory with a chewy black note. There are very fine drying tannins and nice incense. *** Now-2019.
2004 Benanti, Serra della Contessa, Etna – $30
Imported by The Country Vintner. This wine is a blend of 80% Nerello Mascalese and 20% Nerello Cappuccio sourced from Monte Serra which is located on the eastern side of Mt. Etna at 500 meters. The fruit is harvested at the end of September. The vines are 100 years old, some of which are ungrafted, on soils which are sandy, volcanic, and rich in minerals. It was fermented with indigenous yeasts in very large oak casks, underwent malolactic fermentation, then aged for 12 months in oak barrels. The good nose reveals low-lying aromas which are almost brambly. The flavors in the mouth are a touch riper than the Rovitello, more refined with smooth black and red fruits. The sweetly spiced, fine tannins which coat the lips. The chunkier tannins make this a good wine to work around the mouth. ***(*) 2015-2022.