September 15 2010 issue
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MAILBOX, NOTEBOOK, CALENDAR, HOT PICKS
This subalpine region of Lombardy, bordered by Switzerland to the north, stretches for 34 miles with the provincial capital, Sondrio, near the midpoint. Valtellina’s schist-bedrock vineyards are situated on south-facing slopes, with the mountains serving as protection from cold northerly winds while helping to trap the heat in the east-west valley. The stony soils also retain heat for release during the night, creating optimum conditions for the long growing season that Chiavennasca (the local name for Nebbiolo) needs to develop fully. The best vineyards are at 1,200-2,500 feet in elevation and, because of their steepness, must be tended by hand, increasing costs and limiting production. Heavy winter rainfall causes landslides and soil erosion. Drying, westerly July winds, coupled with the meager 17-to-25-inch topsoil, create regular hydric stress. Tough going.
The local Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) is Valtellina Superiore, while the DOC is simply Valtellina (Veltlin in German). The Indicazione Geografica Tipica for whites and reds is Terrazze Retiche di Sondrio. DOCG wines must contain at least 90% Chiavennasca and be aged a minimum of one year in barrel and one in bottle. Valtellina Superiore Riserva must be aged for at least three years in barrel and one in bottle. A DOCG Sforzato (Sfursat) di Valtellino can also be made, at no less than 14.5% alcohol, using dried grapes in the style of Valpolicella’s Amarone. No more than 3.8 tons per acre may be harvested; the average winegrower owns about 2 acres. From west to east, the five subzones are Maroggia (the most recently delineated), Sassella (named from the Italian word for rock, sasso ), Grumello, Inferno, and Valgella. Sassella and Inferno are the warmest areas, Valgella the coolest.
The majority of Valtellina wines were exported to Switzerland until the late 1980s, when Italian wine exports to the United States took off. Around that time, grower Domenico Triacca began to isolate local clones of Chiavennasca. Concurrently, his brother Giovanni pioneered a reorientation to contoured horizontal vineyards, which allowed him to plant grasses for nutrition and erosion resistance, to spray fewer chemicals, and to use mechanization as a means of reducing labor requirements. The core of the Swiss-Italian Fratelli Triacca’s holdings is its 31-acre La Gatta estate, the largest contiguously owned vineyard in Valtellina. The steep vineyards here are not part of any subzone because, according to Giovanni, "when the regulations were written, they neglected to include those owned in great part by us nearby Swiss." His Casa La Gatta label serves as a good, if commercial, introduction to Valtellina with its light-medium body and cherry notes.
Aldo Rainoldi’s grandfather founded this family’s winery in 1925. Today, Rainoldi owns 21 acres and sources fruit from 78 growers, with 95% of his production based on Chiavennasca. Small quantities are vinified white and blended with Sauvignon Blanc; a bit more is blended with the red Rossola and Pignola to make a refreshing, sour-red-fruit-accented sparkling rosé from the highest vineyards. The 2006 Rainoldi Sfursat, mostly from Grumello vines, is very good.
Siblings Isabella and Manuele Pelizzatti Perego run Ar.Pe.Pe., a family business dating back to 1860. Since 1990, they’ve used fruit exclusively from their own 23 acres, including some vines as much as a century old. Isabella told me that "we found honey notes on some of our older wines, which we attributed to acacia wood, so we made the same for some of our new fermentation vessels." Riservas here are aged as long as four years in wood; the 1997 Sassella Rocce Rosse displays an elegant nose of brown spice and porcini and a profoundly earthy, firm palate.
Andrea Zanolari (pictured with me) is proprietor and enologist of the former Pietro Plozza family estate (now Plozza Vini), one of the first wineries here to focus on bottled rather than cask wines and the first to commercialize Sforzato. When asked what’s holding the region back, Zanolari replied that "the biggest problem is to understand where is Valtellina and what are its wines. Using the name Chiavennasca rather than the better-recognized Nebbiolo doesn’t help." His 2006 Plozza Sfursat Vin da Ca’ sports an array of wild-berry and pomegranate aromas and a palate bursting with red fruit and earthy notes.
In the United States, the most visible Valtellina wines are those of Nino Negri. Founded in Chiuro in 1897 by the Negri family as a business venture, it was pushed ahead by Nino’s son, wine-school graduate Carlo Negri. Carlo’s mantle has been ably assumed by the universally respected winemaker Casimiro Maule. Owned by giant GIV since the 1980s, Negri boasts annual sales of some 67,000 cases, accounting for 20% of the region’s overall output. While the flagship Sfursat 5 Stelle justifiably receives rave reviews, it was the 2006 Sassella La Tense, with its black-olive aroma and palate of dried cherry and fig, that entranced me.
Cheers, David Furer
In the July 31, 2010 , Restaurant Spotlight, the surname of Cat Silirie, wine director of Boston's No. 9 Park, was misspelled. Sommelier Journal regrets the error.
JEREZ SHOWS ITS STUFF AT VINOBLE 2010
Daily 90ºF-plus heat reigned over the seventh edition of Vinoble, held May 30-June 2 in Jerez, Spain. The welcoming speech by commissioner Pancho Campo, MW, of the Wine Academy Spain and Mayor Pilar Sánchez of Jerez heralded "65 exhibitors promoting their sweet and fortified wines to the world." That was five fewer booths than in 2008, however, and overall attendance was also down markedly.
Under duress of inadequate air conditioning, 30 professionals from around the globe assessed the quality of 87 wines culled from a massive array of categories in the inaugural Vinoble competition, sponsored by New Spain Wines. Gold-medal winners were the González Byass Palo Cortado Añada 1978, the Tierras de Mollina Carpe Diem Transañejo Malaga, and the Alvear Pedro Ximénez Dulce Viejo Añada 2000 Montilla-Moriles, which also received the grand prize. An additional five silver and eight bronze medals were awarded. Spouses David Denton, CWE, CSS, and Maria Denton, CWE, sommelier at Charlie Palmer Steak and general manager at Ruth’s Chris Steak House in Washington, D.C., respectively, were on hand as American organizers for the Wine Academy Spain. Although they were concerned about palate fatigue, they found that "the balance and freshness of the wines made us want to continue tasting beyond the allotted three hours."
Sandrine Garbay, the veteran cellarmaster of Château d’Yquem, made her fourth appearance at Vinoble to share four vintages: 1990, 1996, 2000, and 2007. "Most people don’t know that we’re at Sauternes’s highest elevation at 85 meters [280 feet]," she pointed out, "so the fog dissipates sooner than anywhere else, allowing grapes to dry earlier than others in the appellation." She told me she thinks both quality and quantity have improved in the wake of climate change, having "no effect upon botrytis levels, though the higher temperatures have concentrated grapes’ flavor, making for overall better wines."
Josep Roca, the sommelier of the three brothers who own Girona’s El Celler de Can Roca, ran down a litany of subtle food-and-wine pairings. Most notable were those emphasizing spices, such as cardamom’s affinity for Gewürztraminer and ginger’s for Muscat and Viognier. An off-the-wall suggestion of pu-erh tea with porcini was met with murmurs of approval. The best actual pairings, however, were a foie gras-chocolate mousse with a sweet Oloroso and a fresh redcurrant-accented custard with Inniskillin’s 2005 Cabernet Franc Icewine, slightly edging out the Emrich-Schönleber Mönzinger Halenberg Riesling Auslese intended for this dessert. In another session, I moderated a three-person panel on icewines, featuring four Canadian samples, two from Austria, and one each from Germany and Spain. The popularity of this category showed in the overflow attendance.
A relaxed luncheon allowed a glimpse into Bodegas Urium, a Jerez bodega acquired last year from Lustau. The vision of proprietor Alonso Ruiz was demonstrated by botas carefully selected from a range of cellars, offering a complete range of VORS Sherries and a credible Fino.
A find for me was Hungary’s Alana Winery. The winemaker, Attila Németh, lives in Tokaj, while his radiologist brother Andras and sister-in-law Allison Tonkin reside in Salt Lake City, acting as the sales force for the winery’s only export market. Alana purchased the 48-acre Furst Löwenstein vineyards and winery along Mad’s main street in 2005, with the first wines hitting the United States last spring. Because most of the Furmint vines are still too young, Hárslevelű is the current calling card. The 2005 Muscat Betsek, from the top vineyard site’s highest and rockiest point, was my favorite.
As a sign of the times, several of Spain’s 15% unemployed demonstrated outside the entrance in support of greater governmental assistance. An added reflection of the country’s economic crunch was the news that the eloquent César Saldaña, director of the Sherry Consejo Regulador, has recently assumed management of the combined regulatory councils of brandy and Sherry vinegar.
—David Furer, CWE
ONE NEW MASTER CERTIFIED
Sommelier Journal congratulates Kathryn Morgan, the only wine professional to earn Master Sommelier status during the Court of Master Sommeliers’ August examination at the Four Seasons Resort and Club Dallas at Las Colinas, Texas. "This was my sixth try at the exam," she reported, "and though I’m happy to be able to say I passed theory and tasting twice, it hasn’t really sunk in yet. I am thrilled to be a part of such an amazing community and grateful for my many generous mentors all over the country." Morgan currently serves as the wine director at Michel Richard Citronelle in Washington, D.C. There are now 106 Master Sommeliers in North America and 171 worldwide.
HUERTA WINS TEXAS CONTEST
Few events attract as many top wine professionals from around the country as the annual TexSom Conference, sponsored by the Texas Sommelier Association and the Wine and Food Foundation of Texas. This year’s sixth annual event was held Aug. 15-16 at the Four Seasons Resort and Club Dallas at Las Colinas. Seminar topics ranged from Greece to Portugal to South America to Washington state, with outstanding wine samples arranged by organizers Drew Hendricks, MS, and James Tidwell, MS. A highlight was the session on wine flaws conducted by ETS Laboratories of St. Helena, Calif., using doctored vodka samples.
The yearly competition for Texas’s Best Sommelier is a cornerstone of the conference. Judged by a panel of Master Sommeliers, the all-day exam evaluates theory, tasting, and service. Jason Huerta, sommelier of Dallas’s Pappas Bros. Steakhouse, emerged as the winner from a field of 21 entrants, receiving a $2,500 scholarship and round-trip airfare from the Guild of Sommeliers Education Foundation, to be used for a Court of Master Sommeliers certification program. Second place and a $1,500 scholarship went to Jack Mason of Mark’s American Cuisine in Houston; third place and a $1,000 scholarship were awarded to Steve Murphey of Mid-State Wine. Next year’s TexSom will be back in Dallas on Aug. 14-15.
—David Vogels, CWP
BRING THE TASTING ROOM HOME
TastingRoom, Inc., has created a new opportunity for wineries to market to consumers and the trade by offering sample-size portions packaged in wine-tasting kits. Using Total Anaerobic Sample Transfer Environment (TASTE) technology, the company transfers wine directly from full bottles into 50-ml glass bottles in a sealed, zero-oxygen chamber. The screwcapped bottles are designed to replicate a winery’s standard-size bottles, right down to a mini-label. The winery designates a four- or six-bottle flight, similar to what would be poured in its tasting room; also included in the kit are a wine-tasting menu and winemaking notes.
Tasting kits will not only be available to consumers on TastingRoom’s website, launched in May, but can be used by wholesalers for presentations to retail and restaurant accounts. According to Violet Grgich, vice president and proprietor of Napa Valley’s Grgich Hills Estate, "By our sale representatives using the 50-ml bottles instead of lugging around the 750-ml bottles, they can taste a wine buyer on a just-opened bottle. It cuts down on waste, makes it easier for them to carry samples, and ensures the wine is fresh and has not been sitting in an open bottle." In 2009, says E. Peter Seghesio, CEO and winegrower of Seghesio Vineyards in Alexander Valley, Calif., "we were the first to ship these to customers and a few top restaurant sommelier buyers. The response was fantastic. A more formal offering to customers and 300 of the top restaurants in the country happened in late March and April of this year. We sold 500 packs in one week to customers through our tasting room." Other TastingRoom clients include Chateau Montelena, DeLoach Vineyards, Gundlach Bundschu, Patz & Hall, Talley Vineyards, and Trefethen Family Vineyards.
WINE WORLD MOURNS TWO PIONEERS
Douglas Murray, a founding partner of Chile’s Viña Montes, died on June 20 at age 68. Murray was the marketing force behind Montes from its formation in 1987, launching Montes Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon as the first premium-category wine export from Chile.
Born in Chile’s northern Atacama Desert and educated in the United States, Murray started his career in international banking. In 1982, he joined the management team of Viña San Pedro, of which his bank was a part owner. By 1987, he and co-worker Aurelio Montes had become close friends and were committed to their own project, Discover Wines. The following year, they were joined by Pedro Grand and Alfredo Vidaurre, adopting the name of Montes, who was already recognized as one of Chile’s leading enologists, for their label.
Always open to adventure and innovation, Murray supported Aurelio Montes’s audacious idea to plant Syrah on the 45º slopes of the Apalta Valley. Not only was the varietal untested in this region, but planting on high, steep slopes was considered pure folly—Murray was fond of telling visitors that the grapes were harvested by acrobats. The result of their vision, of course, is "Folly," one of Chile’s most sought-after wines.
Murray served as the founding chairman of Wines of Chile and was actively involved in the creation of quality controls and appellations for Chilean wines. A comment from Chile’s new association of independent winemakers, MOVI, sums up his impact on the country’s wine industry: "MOVI is trying to do now what Montes did single-handedly 22 years ago. Montes had to face traditional wineries, satisfied with the status quo, and MOVI is born in a totally different climate, where everyone wishes them well and tries to help them."
—S. Peter Smith
South Africa and the international wine community lost an influential figure with the passing of Graham Beck on July 27 at age 80. Born in Cape Town, Beck studied commerce at the University of Cape Town and made a fortune in home renovation, then parlayed that into a greater fortune in coal mining. After selling off his coal interests, he devoted himself to two of his passions, wine and horse racing.
Initially drawn to the Breede River Valley‘s Robertson district for its Thoroughbred farms, he purchased the Madeba estate in 1983 with the vision of producing a world-class Cap Classique, the South African sparkling wine made by the méthode champenoise . Arid, inland Robertson was best known at the time for fortified dessert wines, racehorses, and roses, but it receives cool, moist air from southeasterly winds and has a limestone soil base. Beck replanted a large portion of the vineyard to Chardonnay; in 1990, he began construction of the winery and brought in Pieter Ferreira, a winemaker with experience in Champagne and at the Pierre Jourdan winery in Franschhoek. The first Graham Beck Cap Classique was made in 1991, and the 1999 Brut Blanc de Blancs brought the Diners Club Winemaker of the Year award to Ferreira. With the acquisition of vineyards in Franschhoek and Stellenbosch, the range expanded to include a full and highly acclaimed line of still wines. Graham Beck Wines is now entering its third generation of family ownership and operation, with four farms and two wineries.
Beck owned prominent horse farms in Kentucky and Robertson, as well as a property-development company in Israel. In 2005, he purchased the Steenberg Vineyards and hotel in Constantia, South Africa. He gave generously and often anonymously to many causes, including poverty relief in rural communities and nature conservancy. The Robertson property includes a wildlife preserve and the Graham and Rhona Beck Skills Center, which opened in 2009. The farm was the second of 15 to be awarded "Champion" status by the Biodiversity in Wine Initiative.
U.S. RESTRICTS LANGUEDOC PINOT NOIR
On the heels of the French government’s investigation and subsequent prosecution of 12 Languedoc producers and growers for passing off Merlot and Syrah as Pinot Noir to E. & J. Gallo and other U.S. producers, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) announced on May 3 that it will require a French declaration on Pinot Noir imports. Producers and importers of Pinot Noir from the regions of Oc, Aude, Hérault, Gard, and Pyrénées-Orientales will be in limbo until assurances can be obtained from the designated French government agency. TTB spokesperson Saul Cruz advises industry members to check the TTB website frequently for updates and to reference the frequently-asked-questions link about Industry Circular 2010-5. In the meantime, options for any existing stock labeled as Pinot Noir are few: relabeling as "red table wine" or blending and labeling accordingly. Importers are more likely to negotiate returns to the producers in question or simply wait it out, which poses a significant risk unless the inventory was shipped in temperature-controlled containers.
Many importers believe the TTB overreacted by creating what amounts to a paper embargo on the region, but producers in Burgundy are breathing easier thanks to efforts by Louis-Fabrice Latour, president of the Syndicat des Négociants en Vins de Bourgogne. After meeting with high-level French and U.S. officials, Latour was able to confine the ruling to wines from Languedoc-Roussillon. As Bernard Retornaz, president of Louis Latour, Inc., based in Marin, Calif., says, "The U.S. was targeting anything with Pinot Noir on the label, and we were able to demonstrate that Burgundy is being very strictly controlled." Maison Louis Latour also produces and imports Domaine de Valmoissine, a
vin de pays
from Côteaux du Verdon, which is not among the regions affected by the TTB regulations.
—Deborah Parker Wong, AIWS
WEINBERG'S WINE TECH
The night may be cruising along when you suddenly notice that you’re running low on chilled bottles of a popular wine. In a heartbeat, you’re faced with a major problem—unless you’ve got a few Ravis stashed nearby. This instant wine chiller, which is intended mainly for reds, but also works with whites and rosés, brings a wine from room temperature to cellar temperature (54-64ºF) in seconds. The Ravi works with a cartridge (stored separately in the freezer) that contains more than 2 feet of looped stainless-steel tubing. Snap the cartridge into the holder, pop on the top, insert the bottle into the top, put your thumb over the carburetor, and tilt the whole contraption at a 45º angle over a glass. Then release the carb and let ’er rip, or keep the wine in the unit for a few seconds longer to get even more of a chill. No batteries required.
The folks at Ravi, based in Longueuil, Quebec, tout their FDA-compliant chiller as the smallest and fastest on the market, asserting that it will keep its cool for as long as 90 minutes out of the freezer. The use of stainless-steel tubing ensures that the wine’s characteristics will not be affected. I found that, as advertised, the Ravi was more effective with reds. It struggled to work the same magic with whites or rosés, though, probably because of the lower required serving temperature. (It is not intended for use with sparkling wines.) While the unit is a bit unwieldy when perched on top of a bottle, it is portable enough to move from wine to wine as needed. It’s also easy to assemble and maintain. To clean, simply rinse the cartridge with water and allow it to dry; there’s even a small pump included to blow out any remaining water droplets before refreezing.
One unit costs about $40, and a Ravi-decanter combo pack is available for around $120 at www.ravisolution.com.
—Benjamin T. Weinberg
COMINGS AND GOINGS
San Francisco’s Benu, featuring progressive-American à la carte and eight-to-12-course tasting menus, has been opened by Corey Lee, former chef de cuisine at The French Laundry; Marc Hartenfels is the general manager, Yoon Ha the head sommelier, and Michael Ireland the sommelier. Set to open in the city next month are Lindsay and Michael Tusk’s Cotogna ("quince" in Italian), a casual spin-off of Quince, and Michael Mina’s Bourbon Steak . Also in San Francisco, Adam Keough is the new chef at Absinthe Brasserie & Bar, while Ben Cohn has been promoted to executive chef at Spruce . Slated for a December opening in Healdsburg, Calif., is Shimo Modern Steak from Cyrus’s Douglas Keane and Nick Peyton, featuring an Asian-influenced menu accompanied by Sonoma wines. Martin Chavez and Grant Raeside have opened Plaza Wine Bar in Sonoma, Calif., offering wines from each of Sonoma County’s American Viticultural Areas. Zut! on Fourth is opening in Berkeley, Calif., where chef Jim Wimborough’s Mediterranean cuisine is paired with French, Spanish, Italian, and California wines. 8 1/2 Taverna has been launched in Los Angeles by chefs Fabrizio Di Gianni and Enzo Sanseverino, with Di Gianni overseeing the Italian-centric wine list. Shawn Armstrong has been named executive chef of Mandarin Oriental Las Vegas at CityCenter. Hotel Fifty in Portland, Ore., has appointed Kairos Cuilann des Rosiers as director of wine and spirits. In New York, Peter Eljastimi has opened Bazaar Mediterranean Bistro, where chef Rick Laakkonen prepares a French-, Iberian-, and North African-inspired menu matched with a wine list of six reds and six whites. Also opening soon in the city is the Italian Ciano, by Shea Gallante and Stratis Morfogen, with John Slover as wine director and Jonathan Gilbert as general manager; Bell Book & Candle, with chef John Mooney growing more than half his produce in 60 hydroponic towers on the restaurant’s rooftop; and Valentino’s on the Green, from chef Don Pintabona and chef de cuisine Jimmy Canora. Bar Artisanal Restaurant & Tapas Bar has closed, and chef Seamus Mullen has left Boqueria . The New York-based BLT Restaurant Group is opening Casa Nonna in Washington, D.C., featuring antipasti, pizza, and pasta. Also in Washington, chef R.J. Cooper plans to open Rouge 24, named for the 24-course new-American tasting menu he developed at Vidalia, with eight beverage pairings offered for each meal. In Chicago, Matt Moore and David Flom are opening Chicago Cut Steakhouse, where the wine list will be delivered to guests via iPad. Brasserie JO has closed, but is slated to reopen in October as an affordable French restaurant with chefs Tim Graham and Walter Manzke at the helm. Joseph Lenn has been named executive chef at Blackberry Farm’s The Barn in Walland, Tenn. The St. Regis Atlanta has hired Harry Constantinescu as its new wine director. In Sonoma, Calif., Rodney Strong Vineyards has promoted Greg Morthole to winemaker and Justin Seidenfeld to associate winemaker, and Marcia Monahan has joined Matanzas Creek Winery as winemaker. Steve Sangiacomo has been elected chairman of the Sonoma County Winegrape Commission, while the Sonoma Valley Vintners and Growers Alliance has named Maureen Cottingham as its executive director. Ray Johnson is the new director of Sonoma State University’s Wine Business Institute. Napa Valley’s Clos Du Val has appointed Kristy Melton as assistant winemaker, and consultant Luc Morlet has joined the winemaking team at Signorello Estate. Owen Smith has been hired as director of winemaking at Weibel Family Vineyards and Winery in Mendocino, Calif. In Paso Robles, Calif., Kevin Sass has been promoted to winemaker of Justin Vineyards & Winery, and Daou Vineyards has named Karen Hunt as president. Desert Wind Winery in Prosser, Wash., has promoted Mark Chargin to head winemaker and Scott Siver to assistant winemaker. Larry Stone, MS, has been named general manager of Evening Land in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Aleksandar Kolundzic has joined Pillitteri Estates Winery in Niagara, Ontario, as winemaster.
N.V. Varichon & Clerc Brut Blanc de Blancs Privilège, Savoie $12
Varichon & Clerc, in the Savoie Mountains at the foot of the French Alps, has been making méthode traditionelle sparkling wines since 1901. This blend of Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc is an amazing value for its quality. It’s light, clean, and refreshing, with notes of green apple and dried peach and a touch of cream. Golden apple and melon rind come through on the palate. Although it is labeled brut, there is a touch of residual sugar. Perfect as an aperitif on a hot summer day. Importer: AIG Imports, www.aigwines.com .
2005 Klein Constantia Vin de Constance, Constantia (500 ml) $50
The Constantia region of South Africa has been producing wine since 1689. Klein Constantia, one of five wineries subdivided from the former Constantia Estate, makes its Vin de Constance as a tribute to the 18th-century "wine of kings," Constantia. The Muscat grapes were harvested late, left to macerate on the skins for several days prior to fermentation, then aged four years before release. The wine shows a copper-orange color and slow, thick legs. Intense aromas of jasmine, honey, and ripe cantaloupe are followed by flavors of orange marmalade and apricot. It is decadently sweet, but crisp acidity pulls the flavors along on a lengthy finish. Pair it with triple-cream cheeses and quince paste. Importer: Cape Classics, www.capeclassics.com .
2007 Bodegas Juan Gil, Jumilla $15
Bodegas Juan Gil, established in 1916 in the southeastern Spanish state of Murcia, is run today by the founder’s great-grandchildren. This wine is 100% Monastrell (Mourvèdre) from 40-year-old vines. Deep ruby with pink-purple edges and slow-staining tears, it offers a nose of dark-berry compote and sweet spices. The palate is rich and full, with flavors of black cherry, plum, and white pepper topped off with a kiss of cedar smoke. Try it with burgers, Korean short ribs, bittersweet chocolate, or all by itself. Importer: Fine Estates from Spain, Dedham, Mass.
2006 Domaine de la Vougeraie Savigny-lès-Beaune Les Marconnets $50
The premier cru Les Marconnets vineyard sits on a steep hillside of Savigny-lès-Beaune, facing the city of Beaune. This wine displays a pale, ruby-garnet hue and aromas of pomegranate, strawberry, tea leaves, and dried roses. It has a supple mouthfeel and firm, but balanced, tannin and acidity, followed by lingering notes of black cherry and charred cedar plank. Serve it with duck confit over mixed greens. Importer: Boisset Family Estates, www.boissetfamilyestates.com .
DAVID GLANCY, MS, CWE
Director of Wine Schools
Professional Culinary Institute
N.V. Gruet Blanc de Blancs Sauvage, New Mexico $14
In 1982, Champenois Gilbert Gruet and family decided to branch out from their Côte de Sézanne village to make sparkling wines in the United States. After passing on California and Texas, they chose the higher altitude, poorer soils, and lesser costs of New Mexico. (In July, Gruet’s children, Nathalie and Laurent, purchased the west Texas Cap*Rock Winery for a steep $6.5 million, with the intention of retooling it for more bubblies.) This new product is an ’07 Chardonnay (though no vintage or grape is indicated) that is fermented without malolactic conversion and sees only stainless steel and 24 months of bottle age before disgorgement. It’s bone dry, with a closed nose, a lemony and grippy palate, and a long finish. Beautifully crafted and punching well above its weight for the money. www.gruetwinery.com .
González Byass Sherry Palo Cortado Añada 1978, Jerez $194
Often referred to as "Sherry lovers’ Sherry," Palo Cortado falls somewhere between Amontillado and Oloroso in character and represents less than 1% of all Sherry production. This one is rarer still—an unblended vintage bottling from a single cask that, amid rumors that the category may be phased out by the Consejo Regulador, may soon become a museum piece. It was my top scorer in the recent competition at Vinoble 2010, with a life in the mouth that few wines can match. Although it’s dry, the concentration of flavors creates a suppleness mimicking sweetness, and it boasts an array of earthy, exotic aromas and a finish lasting nearly an hour. Importer: San Francisco Wine Exchange, www.sfwe.com www.sfwe.com .
2004 Remelluri Colección Jaime Rodríguez, Rioja $80
"Driving winemaker" Telmo Rodríguez recently began overseeing his father Jaime’s 259-acre estate after an absence of many years, in partnership with his Oxford-educated sister Amaia (recently of Burgundy’s Domaine Leflaive). Made before their tenure, this is a traditional Rioja that clearly demonstrates the potential of the old vines. A blend of 70% Tempranillo, 25% Garnacha, and 5% Graciano, it was fermented in large barrels and then aged 20 months in barrique. It possesses a nose of plum, cocoa, and pomegranate; a medium body with beautifully balanced tannins; a lush texture from the high percentage of Garnacha; and a long, spicy finish. Classy and classic. Importer: Fine Estates from Spain, Dedham, Mass.
Caribou Crossing Canadian Whiskey Single Barrel $50
Touted as the world’s first single-barrel Canadian whiskey, this is indisputably a fine drink. Unfortunately, the producer and importer have provided little for the bartender or server to sell on, save that it’s 80 proof with some rye in it. Released in April, it’s redolent of honey and almonds, with a light-medium body characteristic of column distillation. The clean, warm palate finishes with brown spice, confirming the presence of rye in the blend. Importer: Sazerac Co., www.sazerac.com .
DAVID FURER, CWE
2008 Producteurs Plaimont Côtes de Saint-Mont Les Vignes Retrouvées, Southwest France $12
Saint-Mont, next door to the more famous Madiran, is a conservatory of unknown and nearly extinct grape varieties. The people behind Producteurs Plaimont have worked arduously to study and preserve many of these grapes, establishing a concept of retrospective vine growing and winemaking ("Les Vignes Retrouvées"). This wine is a blend of the indigenous Gros Manseng (60%), Petite Manseng (20%), and Arrufiac (20%). The grapes spend a short time on the skins for extra richness, followed by six months in barrique. The result is a delicious mélange of white peach, ripe cantaloupe, and vanilla in a crisp, citrus-laden frame. Importer: Fruit of the Vine, New York.
2009 Casa Marin Sauvignon Blanc Laurel Vineyard, San Antonio Valley $25
Chile’s San Antonio Valley appellation was made possible by a pipeline that brought water from the Maipo River in 1997. Grapes were planted immediately, and the Chileans have not looked back. Casa Marin, one of the true pioneers of the region, has revolutionized the country’s coastal grape farming and winemaking. Its Laurel Vineyard lies on a hillside slope, nearly 400 feet above sea level and just 2.5 miles from the ocean. This extremely windy area of poor calcareous and clay soils produces a rich, voluptuous Sauvignon Blanc, brimming with mouthwatering grapefruit and calamansi flavors, striking acidity, and aromas of jasmine and exotic flowers. Importer: Domaine Select Wine Estates, www.domaineselect.com .
2009 Domaine du Cros Marcillac Lo Sang del Païs, Southwest France $13
Marcillac is a tiny, obscure appellation comprising eight growers and less than 400 acres. Philippe Teulier of Domaine du Cros makes wines exclusively from the Mansois grape (also called Fer Servadou, Braucol, or Pinenc, depending on where in the region it’s grown). Lo Sang del Païs ("Blood of the Countryside") is rustic yet quite supple, with juicy raspberry flavors and exotic purple-floral aromas, underpinned by iron and gravel notes. I like to think of this wine as a cocktail of Chinon and Beaujolais with a dash of Côtes du Rhône. Importer: Wine Traditions, www.winetraditions.com .
2006 De Martino Single Vineyard Old Bush Vines Las Cruces, Cachapoal Valley $28
The De Martino family and winemaker Marcelo Retamal are in the forefront of Chile’s quest for new and extreme terroirs, as well as old vineyards that have essentially been forgotten for the past 50 years. One of these exciting locations is the Single Vineyard Old Bush Vines, which produces Las Cruces, a blend of 60% Malbec and 40% Carménère. The ’06 version is elegant yet ripe, with aromas of crushed raspberry, red cherry, and black plum, accompanied by layers of exotic spice, tobacco, and licorice. It will benefit from a few years in bottle and a short decanting. Importer: Opici Import Company, www.opici.com .
FRED DEXHEIMER, MS