L’opera des Vins ‘les années folles’ Vin de France 2015

Winery: A native of the Loire Valley, Jean-Pierre Robinot began crafting wine in 2002, prior to that he owned a natural wine bar in Paris and was the co-founder of the renowned independent wine publication: “Le Rouge et Le Blanc”. He has 10 hectares of vineyards in Jasnieres and Coteaux du Loire, and also purchases grapes from friends and neighbors that share the same winemaking philosophy and principles. His wines are known for their clarity of fruit, complexity and true expression of terroir.

Winemaking: All vineyards are farmed organically. Zero chemicals or additives of any kind are used. Only indigenous yeasts are used, sulphur is not added at all, no filtering or refining. Wines are not released until Robinot believes they are ready to drink.

Tasting Notes: Golden amber in colour with heady aromas of sea spray, seashells, honey, apricot and a trace of graham cracker. Delicate apricot, pear, peach and a shake of cinnamon are glossed by citrus acidity. Consistent, fine bubbles carry thru to the very end, chalky minerality and a squeeze of tangerine linger between each sip. Engaging, refreshing with an elegant edge, this is spectacular on its own, or with interesting foods. [I enjoyed it on its own, then with raw provolone and homemade bread and salty butter.]

Blend of Chenin Blanc and Pineau d’Aunis
Vin de France
France
Bottled by L’opera des Vins, Jean-Pierre Robinot
12% Alcohol
$32
Enjoy now thru 2019

Zuccardi ‘Serie A’ Malbec Mendoza 2016

Estate: The Zuccardi family has been making wine in Mendoza since 1963, when Alberto Zuccardi planted his first vines. Now in his 90’s, Alberto is known as a pioneering force in both Mendoza and the Uco Valley. Today, the multiple estate vineyards and winery are headed by Alberto’s son, José, along with José’s eldest son, Sebastián, and daughter, Julia [the 3rd generation].

The family believes in caring for the land and “using people rather than machines whenever possible”. Many of the families that worked with the company under Alberto’s leadership are still with the estate today. With over 800 hectares of vineyards, the family focuses on “coexisting with nature without damaging it”. Preservation of biodiversity is greatly important; more than 70 hectares are woods, over 1800 species of native flora are preserved, and biological corridors have been created. Chemical products are not used at all, the vineyards are farmed sustainably and organically, with 35% currently certified organic. Sustainable methods, including a comprehensive recycling program, composting of must and skins, and solar energy are utilized in the cellar.

‘Serie A’ stands for “Argentina Series” and was created as a means of expressing the “most representative grape varieties by recognizing the best growing regions specific to each and selecting top vineyard sites along the foothills of the Andes Mountains.” The Serie A line “demonstrates the richness and diversity of Argentina’s many micro-climates and soils”.

Philosophy: “The word ‘family’ is central to the way in which we have always run our business.”

Winemaking: Grapes are from different vineyards across the Valle de Uco, making “the wine more complete and complex”. Fermented with indigenous yeasts in concrete vats, part of the wine was aged in used French oak barrels for 10 months.

Tasting Notes: Deep red-violet in colour with aromas of black cherry, plum, leather and crushed black peppercorn. Black cherry, blackberry, dark chocolate and a shake of white pepper are framed by bright acidity and black tea tannins. Baked berries and baking spice linger on the velvety finish. Fruity and lush, fantastic on its own or with a wide variety of dishes.

100% Malbec
Mendoza
Argentina
Produced and Bottled by Familia Zuccardi
13.5% Alcohol
$15 [average price]
Enjoy now thru 2020

Rated 91 points by Wine Advocate

 

Sample submitted for editorial consideration.

Giacomo Fenocchio Barolo DOCG 2011

Estate: The Fenocchio family has been producing wine from their land in the heart of the Bussia in Monforte d’Alba since 1894. In 1964, Giacomo Fenocchio took over for the estate with the goal of crafting the finest wines in Barolo, so he purchased prime parcels in some of the best crus in the Langhe. Today, Giacomo’s son Claudio heads the estate and continues his father’s tradition of crafting character driven wines. Considered as one of the next stars in Barolo, Claudio’s is known for his minimalist, non-internationalist approach. He makes 11 different wines from 14 hectares of vineyards. His wines are renowned for their “level of terroir clarity that is only found in the top echelon of producers”.

Winemaking: Following agricultural practices passed on for 5 generations, the estate is both organic and sustainable. Grapes are from a 1 hectare, hilly vineyard at 350 meters in elevation with sand, clay and calcareous marl soil. Vines are 20 years old. Traditional method of long maceration with natural fermentation, 40 days in stainless steel tanks. Aged 6 months in stainless steel tanks, 30 months in large capacity Slavonian oak casks (25-35 hl) and successive refinement in the bottle.

Tasting Notes: Garnet with brick edges in colour with ever-revolving aromas of black cherry, candied violet, tar, roses, chocolate cherry tartufo and cherry pie. Layers of all the cherries [black red and a streak of sour] tarry earth, violet and orange peel framed by grippy tannins and fresh acidity. Licorice, crushed black peppercorn and earth line the lengthy finish. A bit of rustic charm to this Barolo, the complexity will only continue to increase with time. A lovely sip.

Pairing Suggestions from the Winemaker: meat, game and mature cheeses age which are so typical of the local kitchen, also goes very well with all the rich dishes of international cuisine.

Enjoy at 17-18°C [62-64°F]

100% Nebbiolo
Barolo DOCG
Italy
Estate Bottled by Azienda Agricola Giacomo Fenocchio s.s.
14.5% Alcohol
$30[average price]
Enjoy now thru 2026

Willamette, Dammit! Wine & Dinner with Brian O’Donnell of Belle Pente

 

One of the many cozy lounge areas at Gedney Farm.

I have been fortunate to meet many of my fellow wine lovers in person after getting to know them on Twitter and Instagram. Sommelier Peter Miscikoski and I share a love of organic, biodynamic, character driven wines from small producers and a love of post-punk and goth music. [Follow him here peterm_99 ] In addition to his usual duties as sommelier, Peter hosts a “Sommelier Series” of winemaker dinners and events at Gedney Farm in the Berkshire mountains in Massachusetts. Two restored Normandy style barns crafted for the finest stallions and Jersey cattle during the Berkshire’s “Gilded Age” are the backbone of Gedney Farm. Surrounded by 200 acres of rolling pastures, the barns [one a 16 room boutique hotel, the other a restaurant and event space] are both exceptionally preserved and strikingly modern. Check out their innovative and extensive amenities here.

I was super excited when Peter invited my husband and I out to Gedney Farm for a winemaker dinner with Brian O’Donnell, owner/winemaker at Belle Pente in the Willamette Valley, Oregon. Accompanying the selection of Belle Pente wines was a specially curated tasting menu from Executive Chef Rob Burnell. Chef Burnell expertly crafted a menu reflecting the notes of Spring, yet with a hearty richness as the temperatures are unseasonably cold. He particularly included root vegetables to compliment the earthy character in the wines. A true farm to table menu, all ingredients are organic, sustainably sourced and local.

Brian is incredibly knowledgeable and down to earth, he happily chronicled the story behind each wine, along with his 20+ year journey in winemaking, answering all questions along the way. The title stems from this East Coast/Western Europe girl being enlightened to the correct pronunciation of Willamette. Brian, himself originally from New York, was informed immediately upon his arrival in Oregon that it is pronounced “Will-AM-it, dammit”.

Owner and winemaker Brian O’Donnell of Belle Pente.

Estate: Passionate about crafting high quality wines with respect for the environment, Brian O’Donnell, along with his wife Jill, founded Belle Pente in 1992. They purchased a 70-acre farm in what is now the heart of the Yamhill-Carlton AVA in the Willamette Valley, Oregon. Belle Pente [bell-pont’] means “beautiful slope” and refers to the estate’s hillside vineyards, along with reflecting “the inspiration that we draw from the exquisite wines of Burgundy and Alsace”. The 16 acres of vineyards are 240-500 feet in elevation, planted with Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Chardonnay. For more information on the estate vines, terroir and the dedicated, neighboring vineyards that additional fruit is sourced from, click here.

Winemaking: Both organic and biodynamic viticulture is used, along with dry farming and intensive canopy management. Sheep, goats and cows roam the property, providing natural weed control and compost. Cover crops are rotated, grasses planted for biodiversity, and forest left for buffer. Almost everything they use is generated on the farm.

All grapes are hand harvested. The winery has a 3 level gravity-flow facility “designed for gentle, natural winemaking in small lots, with minimal handling and manipulation, to preserve varietal integrity and the unique attributes of the time and place in which the wines were grown”.

Philosophy: “Great wine is made in the vineyard and merely nurtured in the winery.”

Belle Pente Muscat Willamette Valley 2015

Tasting Notes: Super aromatic, with lush peach, apricot, candied ginger and white flowers. Juicy apricot and pear with a squeeze of lemon accented by a floral hint and balancing acidity. Finishing dry and fruity, keeping you reaching for more. Dry and refreshing, a perfect companion to hot summer days.
100% Muscat
11.8% Alcohol

Winemaker’s Note: Brian recommends this as an aperitif, or with first courses, and that it is fantastic with asparagus!

Belle Pente Pinot Gris Willamette Valley 2014


Tasting Notes: Enticing aromas of marzipan, golden fruit, wildflowers and a drizzle of honey. Fresh acidity frames yellow apple, apricot and a trace of ginger spice, finishing dry and fruity. Easy drinking and fantastic on its own or at the table.
100% Pinot Gris
14.1% Alcohol
$18

Winemaker’s Note: Aged half in neutral wood barrels [a combination of oval barrels that are 4 years in age, and larger barrels 10 years old], half in stainless steel for about 10 months. This combination allows for richness and weight but retains freshness. Can be paired with everything, a terrific food wine.

Paired with avocado toast & spicy buttermilk cress salad.

Belle Pente Chardonnay Willamette Valley 2012 Continue reading

Castello di Farnetella Chianti Colli Senesi DOCG 2015

Estate: Castello di Farnetella is located in the province of Siena in Tuscany, Italy. The name Farnetella derives from farnia, “the English oak”, which grows in great profusion at Farnetella. The Poggiali family [owners of the renowned Fèlsina estate] purchased the historic 432 hectare estate with its 56 hectares of vineyards in 1981.

Fèlsina is headed by Domenico and Giuseppe Poggiali along with Giovanni Poggiali, the oldest of Giuseppe’s three sons. Fattoria di Fèlsina is renowned as one of the greatest vineyards in the Chianti Classico region of Tuscany, producing “one of the finest ranges of age worthy and complex Chianti bottlings in all of Italy”.

Philosophy: “A profound respect for the Tuscan traditions of yesterday.”

Winemaking: As with all of Fèlsina’s properties, the vineyards are farmed organically and sustainably, additionally, Castello di Farnetella is also practicing biodynamic methods. Grapes are hand harvested from vineyards with loam, sand, clay and chalky soils. Aged in large oak botti for 8-12 months, followed by 3 months in the bottle.

Tasting Notes: Transparent ruby red in colour, with aromas of cherry, leather, black pepper, toasted oak along with a trace of floral. All the cherries [red, black and a streak of sour] layered over a pepper spice and earth core, framed by fresh acidity and dry tannins. Black cherry, tobacco and a wisp of spiced oak linger between each sip. Super versatile at the table, and a great value. [It was fantastic with roasted cauliflower, lentil stew with cheddar, thyme and ricotta.]

90% Sangiovese, 10% Merlot
Chianti Colli Senesi DOCG
Italy
Estate Bottled by Fèlsina S.P.A. Società Agricola Castelnuovo Berardenga
13% Alcohol
$11
Enjoy now thru 2025

Rated 89 points by Wine Advocate