Archive for August, 2012

Old-vine Chenin Blanc from Le Rocher des Violettes

August 31, 2012 1 comment

Vineyard, Image from Le Rocher de Violettes

Earlier in the month I was curious to try more Chenin Blanc so I purchased this bottle upon Phil’s recommendation.  There is nothing new I may add about Le Rocher des Violettes that is not already covered by Chris Kissack’s thorough producer profile and that of Vintage ’59.  In short, Xavier Weisskopf pursued a degree in viticulture and enology in Chablis.  Upon graduation he became chef du cave for Louis Barruol of Chateau de Saint Cosme.  There in Gigondas he produced four vintages. In 2005 he purchased 22 acres of old vines and a 15th century stone cellar in Saint Martin le Beau.  The vineyards were the property of two old vignerons and had fallen into a chaotic state.   The vines are rather old, most were planted before WWII with some of the Cot planted in 1891.  Xavier restored the vineyards and today farms organically, severely prunes the young vines, harvests by hand, uses indigenous yeasts, and prefers wood over stainless steel.

Entrance, Image by tertoog (flickr)

This is a fine off-dry wine.  It is interesting both on the nose and in the mouth.  Now that I have tried it I am quite curious to taste Xavier’s other wines.  This wine is available at MacArthur Beverages.

2010 Le Rocher des Violettes, Les Borderies, Montlouis-sur-Loire – $22
Imported by Vintage ’59.  This wine is 100% Chenin Blanc sourced from the 2.5 acre Les Borderies parcel which averages 80 years of age.  The fruit was fermented in wood with indigenous yeasts then aged for six months in older demi-muids barrels.  RS ~15g/l, Alcohol 13%.  The color is a light straw with a copper hint.  The nose is lightly textured with aromas of ripe white fruit and a little dried floral aspect.  In the mouth it is a bit puckering with off-dry, yeasty apple flavors.  There is some weight as the flavors become less sweet.  The wine becomes tangy with air, like fresh fruit, and shows plenty of acidity in the finish and aftertaste.  There is a subtle hint of stones.  This will age.  *** Now-2022.

We Try a Pair of Wines Imported by Small Vineyards

The two selections featured in this post were imported by Small Vineyards of Seattle.  They focus on importing Mediterranean wine from family owned wineries that hand-harvest their fruit and are “earth friendly.”  They place the added restriction that the estates must be one of the smallest 10% in the region.  Both of these wines produce 6,000 to 6,500 cases per year.  Azienda Agricola de Tarczal is an old winery located in the northern Trentino Alto-Adige.  Though it came into the family just over one century ago the records for the estate document a history of vineyards and wine production back into the 17th century.  This particular wine is dedicated to Mozart for in Don Giovanni, Act 2, Scene 15 we find:

DON GIOVANNI (a Leporello) Piatto!
DON GIOVANNI Versa il vino.
(Leporello versa il vino nel bicchiere)
Eccellente marzimino!
LEPORELLO (Questo pezzo di fagiano piano piano vo’ inghiottir.)
DON GIOVANNI (Sta mangiando quel marrano; fingerò di non capir.)

The reference to the Marzemino grape may not be surprising for Mozart’s librettist, Lorenzo da Ponte, grew up near Venice where one also finds the Marzemino.  This was my first introduction to this varietal and if you are curious, it is worth the price.

Azienda Agricola Perazzeta is located in Montenero from which one may view Montalcino to the north.  Here the vineyards are a bit lower and warmer.  This wine is still young at this point but I think it should develop nicely over the next few years.  These wines are available at MacArthur Beverages.

2009 Azienda Agricola de Tarczal, Marzemino D’Isera, Trentino Superiore – $16
Imported by Small Vineyards.  This wine is 100% Marzemino sourced from the Castello, Brugnara, and Dossi vineyards on soils of basalt.  It was fermented in stainless steel followed by 12 months aging in large Slavonian barrels.  RS 1.1 g/l, TA 5.0 g/l,  Alcohol 12.5%.  The color is light to medium grapey ruby.  The light nose reveals yeasty fruit. Int he mouth this fresh, fruity wine has a cooler aspect and a yeasty aspect.  This wine remained brighter with young red fruit, fresh acidity, and a grapey aspect.  The aftertaste bears more red grapefruit flavors.  ** Now-2015.

2010 Azienda Agricola Perazzeta, Erio Supertuscan, Tuscany – $16
Imported by Small Vineyards.  This wine is a blend of 50% Sangiovese, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Syrah and 10% Merlot sourced from a 7 hectare vineyards located at 300-340 meters on soils of river stones, chunks of quartz, and ancient shells.  The fruit was fermented in stainless steel, underwent malolactic fermentation in barrel then was aged 18 months in one-use French  barriques.  RS 1.4 g/l, TA 5.7 g/l, Alcohol 14%.  This starts with harder fruit flavors of dry cherry supported by underlying blue fruit.  After a few hours the red and blue fruit flavors flesh out.  The concentrated red fruit is matched by a balanced structure.  The aftertaste sports a lifted flavors and a little incense.  This should develop nicely over the short-term.  **(*) 2014-2019.

Another Interesting Italian Wine

The wines of Velenosi first came to my attention this spring when Anne Hay (Domaine Select Wine Estates) brought Andrea Bianco (Velenosi) to MacArthur Beverages for a tasting. You may read my impressions of those wines here.  I had tasted the 2008 vintage of Il Brecciarolo so was surprised to find the an older selection from the strong 2006 vintage.  Both Jenn and I rather liked this wine.  I would be tempted to cellar this several more years but it may be drunk now.  Perhaps pair it with some meat.  This wine is available at MacArthur Beverages.

2006 Azienda Vitivinicola Velenosi, Il Brecciarolo, Rosso Piceno Superiore – $15
Imported by Domaine Select Wine Estates.  This wine is a blend of Montepulciano and Sangiovese sourced from vines grown on mostly clay soils at 200-300 meters.  The fruit was fermented in stainless steel before aging 12-18 months in 2nd and 3rd use barriques.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The nose is light and subtle with aromas of wood and roast.  In the mouth the wine gently introduces itself with soft, dusty flavors of blue and red berries.  The flavors are a little tart with good acidity.  Black tea and licorice follow supported underneath by a tannic structure.  With air it reveals a bit of bottle age and ripening black fruit along with the structure which underpins the entire wine.  *** Now-2021.

A Top Tip: Try the 2010 Cantina Nalles Margre, Galea

Here is my tip for the morning, if you want to try a unique wine then taste this cuvee from Cantina Nalles Margre. This cantina was created in 1985 from the union of Cellars Nalles, founded in 1932, and Magre-Niclara, founded in 1954. The winery is a thoroughly modern structure which uses gravity to transport both grapes and juice. They produce wine using fruit sourced from 140 growers who cultivate some 150 hectares of vines. These vineyards are located over a 40 km stretch between Nalles in the north and Magre in the south. The altitudes vary between 200-900 meters. From these diverse sites they produce three different levels of wine: Classic Wines, Crus, and Baron Salvadori. The Galea is a Cru meaning the fruit is sourced from a single vineyard, this one being over 100 years old. Note, the Cantina is located in Alto-Adige which means it is bordered by Austria to the north and Switzerland to the west. As such the majority of the people speak German followed by Italian. This results in the front label carrying the German varietal name Vernatsch and the back carrying the Italian name Schiava.

Vineyard in South Tyrol, Image from Sonia Belviso, Under Creative Commons (flickr)

Both Jenn and I really enjoyed this wine. We do not drink much wine made from Schiava. Not only does this wine offer both a refreshing change in aromas and flavors but they are delivered with good personality. For $11 one really should try this wine. I had difficulty describing the nose so perhaps subsequent bottles must be opened to help form a description. Until then, enjoy my tip for today. This wine is available at MacArthur Beverages.

2010 Cantina Nalles Margre, Galea, Alto Adige Schiava – $11
Imported by the Country Vintner. This wine is 100% Schiava which was aged in big wooden barrels. Alcohol 13%. The color was light to medium garnet. Jenn best described the high-toned nose as “dried mushroom and dried tobacco, but not sweet.” In the mouth there were good fruit flavors which followed the nose. There is both good body and mouthfeel with a balanced amount of acidity. The unique flavors return in the aftertaste. I found a Pilsner note to the slightly tart fruit. With air this wine reveals a large personality along with a gentle, sweet ripeness. *** Now-2014.

Continuing Today’s Fun With the 2010 Thymiopoulos, Young Vines

I have lately come across many tasty wines and feel like I barely have enough time to make you aware of them. The 2010 Thymiopoulos, Young Vines is one such example. It recently appeared on the shelves at MacArthur Beverages so I was prompt at purchasing a bottle. Earlier in the Spring I first discovered the 2009 vintage (you may read my post about the wine here and view some pictures here). My enjoyment of the 2009 vintage from Thymiopoulos Vineyards led me on a quest to explore Greek wines. The 2010 vintage of the Young Vines is also lovely, if not better than 2009. According to Andrea Englisis the 2010 vintage was great all over Greece. Beyond the extra year of vineyard maturity, these really are young vines, Apostolos Thymiopoulos decided to produce this wine without any oak influence. This has resulted in a fresh, berry flavored wine that all should try. It might benefit from a year in the cellar but it is fun to drink right now. Many thanks to Andrea for answering my questions. This wine was purchased at MacArthur Beverages.

2010 Thymiopoulos Vineyards, Young Vines, Xinomavro, Naoussa – $15
Imported by Athenee Importers. This wine is 100% Xinomavro. Alcohol 13.5%. The light nose reveals lovely, concentrated fruit aromas. In the mouth the fresh berries mixed with fresh herbs and drying, citrus tannins. With a short amount of air the fruit popsicle flavors become lovely and capture ones attention so much so that you do not mind the young tannins. There is an interesting dark, mineral aftertaste. *** Now-2016.

Having Fun With the 2011 Badenhorst, Chenin Blanc

August 27, 2012 1 comment

The 2011 Badenhorst, Secateurs, Chenin Blanc is pure fun.  I first tasted it at The Country Vintner Portfolio Tasting this spring.  There I tasted through a range of Badenhorst Family Wines which were poured by Adi Badenhorst himself.   This wine captures the essence of Adi’s jovial and friendly personality as well as his deep-rooted history with vineyards and wine making.  This Secateurs selection is part of the introductory line and a strong wine at that.  I recommend that you pick up a few bottles to drink outside while you grill up lunch or dinner.  Just make sure you do not drink it too cold.  This bottle was purchased at Wishing Well Liquors.

2011 Badenhorst Family Wines, Secateurs, Chenin Blanc – $17
Imported by Broadbent Selections.  This wine is 100% Chenin Blanc sourced from old vines, a good deal of which are 50 years old.  The fruit is harvested over 12 days which is added daily to the already fermenting fruit in concrete tank and older French oak casks.  It is then aged for seven months on the gross lees.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The color is a light yellow-straw.  The light nose reminds me of yellow citrus and indigenous yeast aromas.  In the mouth the citrus flavors are fresh with moderately creamy mouthfeel, yeast notes, and ripe, gravelly flavors.  With air this medium to full-bodied wine reveals spices and yellow fruit all delivered with a honied mouthfeel.  *** Now-2016.

Two Wines from La Grange Tiphaine

August 25, 2012 2 comments

During my visit to Wishing Well Liquors Philip recommended a wine from Domaine la Grange Tiphaine.  He is very excited about the work of Damien Delecheneau and his wife Coralie.  The estate has 19th century origins and has been passed down the family through four generations to Damien.  Damien and Coralie had extensive international experience by the time Damien returned to the estate in 2002 at the age of 23.  Today they produce wine from 14 hectares of vineyards located in Montlouis-sur-Loire, Touraine-Amboise, and Touraine.  The two selections featured in this post come from Touraine-Amboise.  This appellation is located on both banks of the Loire river near the Chateau Amboise.  They manage the estate in an organic and biologic way.  Fermentation is carried out with indigenous yeasts.  They do not employ any stainless steel so these wines see a mixture of concrete, fiberglass, and oak.

Damien in a Vineyard, Image from Dme la Grange Tiphaine

I was rather surprised by the Ad Libitum because it started off as a good, early-drinking red but then it managed to return with serious, mouthfilling flavors.  With this estate on my radar I promptly grabbed a bottle of Clef de Sol during a recent trip to MacArthur Beverages.  The Clef de Sol provided new aromas and flavors for us.  It was more robust and contained more fruit on the first night so it is best to consume the bottle after you open it.  This might have merited a higher score based solely on the first night but nevertheless it remains an interesting wine.  I recommend trying both of these selections.  For further information I suggest you read Chris Kissack’s excellent producer profile and Jim Bud’s post about his visit.  The Ad Libitum was purchased at Wishing Well Liquors and the Clef de Sol was purchased at MacArthur Beverages.

2011 Domaine la Grange Tiphaine, Ad Libitum, Touraine-Amboise – $17
Imported by Potomac Selections.  This wine is a blend of 45% Gamay, 35% Cot, and 20% Cabernet Franc sourced from 15-45 year old vines on soils of red clay and limestone.  It was aged for five months in fiberglass tank.  Alcohol 12.5%.  The nose revealed bright red fruit, pepper, and dried herbs.  In the mouth the flavors start with good, classic pepper but then they fade out only to return with a low-lying, mouthfilling flavors of dark, ripe, lipsticky fruit.  There are drying, sticky tannins on the teeth as red fruit and a bit of tang come out in the finish.  There is also some salivating acidity and citric tannins in the aftertaste.  *** Now-2015.

2005 Domaine la Grange Tiphaine, Clef de Sol, Touraine-Amboise – $18
Imported by Cambier Imports.  This wine is a blend of 65% Cabernet Franc and 35% Cot sourced from 60-year-old vines on soils of white flint and limestone on clay.  Alcohol 13.5%.  It was fermented in concrete tank followed by aging in 225l and 400l barriques.  This was a medium+ color of garnet and cherry.  The light to medium strength nose was unusual with pleasing aromas neither Jenn nor I could place.  There were also aromas of wood notes and perfumed, black fruit.  In the mouth there were hard, stone-like flavors, black fruit, then some wood note mixed with a bottle-aged personality.  The flavors became a little hollow in the middle.  Tart on the tongue, there was a little salivating acidity and old wood.  In the finish the dry, tight flavors mixed with old perfume, drying tannins, and subtle weight which gently filled the mouth.  ** Now-2017.

I Buy Good Wine at a Discount Liquor Store

August 24, 2012 2 comments

The Sign Along Route 50

I have been visiting the beaches of Ocean City, Maryland since I was a little boy.  This has involved driving along Route 50 through the city of Easton.  I can recall always driving past Wishing Well Liquors but for the last several years I have been intrigued by their sign advertising the “Area’s Only Wine Cellar.”  Last year I featured a pair of posts about purchasing and drinking wine in Ocean City.  Having read a comment by Justin Bonner on Wine Berserkers about purchasing a bottle of wine from The Wishing Well Liquors, I just knew I had to stop by on our recent beach trip.  When my mom and I walked into the store we knew we were in for a treat.

Discount Liquor!

Wishing Well Liquors has been around since 1957.  Four and a half years ago it changed owners for the third time when it was purchased by Dave Douglas.  Wine was not part of the original strengths of the store so when Dave Douglas decided to cultivate a wine selection he brought on Philip Bernot.  Philip Bernot has been in the wine industry for decades.  Today he still recalls being a teenager working in his father’s San Diego store where he squirreled away bottles of 1968 Sebastiani, Pinot Noir, Limited Cask and 1969 Inglenook, Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.  Together Dave and Philip designed an above-ground wine cellar expansion for the store, the layout, and custom racking.

The Last Place You Would Expect to Find a Wine Cellar, Image from Wishing Well Liquor

When you walk into the store you immediately pick up on the vintage look with the classic, sweet smell that takes a liquor store decades to acquire.  The front-center of the store features a check-out area stocked with smaller bottles of liquor.  The walls and shelves are filled with an extensive selection of budget and high-quality liquors, along with a selection of more affordable wines.  There is also a walk-in beer chiller filled with micro-brews.  As you continue to the back of the old store you will come to the new wine cellar room.  The blond wine-racks and spot-lighting put on a good vibe but once you focus in on the labels being stock you will be surprised.

Inside the Wine Cellar Room

Philip picks wines primarily based on taste so it is not surprising that his first recommendation was the 2007 Chelti Estate Vineyards, Chelti from Georgia.  You may check out my previous review of this wine here.  Take the time to browse through the store but make sure you ask Philip for some recommendations for he has immense enthusiasm.  This results in a diverse array of international selections at all price points.  On the day we visited he was pouring 2009 Mercedes Eguren, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tierra de Castilla to taste.  I now know I shall always stop by Wishing Well Liquors on my way to the beach and highly recommend that you do as well.

Some Wine for Tasting

Here are the wines which we walked away with.  And yes, we bought liquor too.  After all the 75th running of the International Gold Cup is quickly approaching.

  • 2011 A.A. Badenhorst, Secateurs, Chenin Blanc, Swartland
  • 2010 Patrick Piuze, Val de Mer Chablis
  • 2011 La Grange Tiphaine, Ad Libitum, Touraine Amboise
  • 2009 Clos Sigeuier, Cahors
  • George Dickel, No 12, Tennessee Whiskey

An Affordable Wine for the Cellar

August 23, 2012 4 comments

The Mas Des Bressades, Les Vignes de Mon Pere is a type of wine that I like to have laying about my basement.  Not only does it smell and taste good but it has balanced structure to support short-term aging.  Why not stash a few bottles away then get back to me in three years with your thoughts?  This bottle was purchased at MacArthur Beverages.

2010 Mas Des Bressades, Les Vignes de Mon Pere, Cabernet-Syrah, Pays du Gard – $15
Imported by Robert Kacher Selections.  This wine is a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Syrah sourced from 30+ year old vines.  It was vinified in both stainless and concrete tanks followed by 12 months of aging in new oak barrels.  Tried over two nights the color is fairly dark.  The nose reveals herbs, wood, along with scented blue-ish fruit.  In the mouth this youthful wine has flavors which follow the nose.  Purple fruit mixes with stone notes, showing some concentration along with wood box and drying tannins.  Nicely done but will be best after short-term aging.  **(*) 2015-2022.

A Wee Bit of Bottle Age

For several dollars more than our daily wine-drinking budget I am able to purchase Italian wines with a wee bit of bottle age.  Of the trio featured in today’s post we both preferred the Pratesi.  This “Super-Tuscan” is actually a Bordeaux blend and one you should try if cedar box, stones, and tobacco sound attractive.  A bit more traditional is the Rivera which is made from Aglianico.  At this point it remained tight and in need of additional age.  I do not know if it will gain complexity with additional age but it should certainly become more approachable.  The Oliveto is interesting for it is made from Sangiovese fermented in Slavonian oak vats.  There are interesting flavors to this wine but I was distracted by the disappearing fruit and emerging warmth.  The Pratesi was purchased at Wide World of Wines.  The Rivera and Oliveto were purchased at MacArthur Beverages.

2004 Azienda Agricola Pratesi, Carmione, Rosso Toscano – $20
Imported by Winebow.  This wine is a blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, and 10% Cabernet Franc sourced from a six acre vineyard planted in 1995 at 600 feet.  It was fermented in stainless steel tanks, underwent malolactic fermentation, then was aged for 18 months in French barriques.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The color is medium+.  The nose is fresh with aromas of dark fruit.  In the mouth the wine eventually softens and fleshes out to reveal blue and black fruit, cedar box, and some stones.  There are fine+ ripe tannins which coat the tongue and the inside of the lips.  There are nice flavors of tobacco in the aftertaste.  There is moderate concentration to this wine which is still integrating.  A bit tannic a this point with spearmint and a spicy aftertaste.  Drinkable now but best after 2-3 years.  *** Now-2022.

2005 Azienda Vinicola Rivera, Cappellaccio Riserva, Aglianico, Castel del Monte – $22
Imported by Bedford International.  This wine is 100% Aglianico sourced from a vineyard at 220 meters.  It was fermented in stainless steel then was aged for 12 months in French barriques.  Alcohol 13.5%, TA 5.7 g/L, pH 3.45, RS 1.8 g/L.  The nose was similar to the mouth.  The flavors of blacker red fruit remained tight.  It was a touch salty with a dry profile and confident drying tannins.  There was a little salivating acidity.  At this point the structure overpowers the fruit leaving wood notes in the finish.  ** 2015-2022.

2006 Tenuta Oliveto, Il Leccio, Rosso di Toscana – $20
Imported by Ima Imports.  This wine is 100% Sangiovese sourced from vineyards planted in 1997 and 1998.  It was fermented in Slavonian oak vats followed by 14-15 months of aging in French oak tonneaux.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The color is a medium cherry-garnet.  The light nose reveals high-toned red fruit and wood box.  In the mouth there were robust flavors, menthol, hard minerals, and some spritz.  The fruit flavors dried up and shrank in the middle becoming a touch spicy in the aftertaste.  The menthol flavors exist throughout as some heat warms the aftertaste.  With air cinnamon flavors, red and black fruits, and mature notes come out.  There are fine tannins in the aftertaste.  I would drink this up before the fruit dries out.  ** Now.