Domaine Sainte Croix ‘Le Fournas’ 2013

Brings the funk like the BT Express.

Estate: Domaine Sainte Croix is located in the rugged hills of the High Corbières on the border between the Languedoc and the Roussillon, in the very southern part of France. The 13 hectare [32 acre] estate is owned and run by the English husband and wife team of Jon and Elizabeth Bowen. The area is known for its fantastic Grenache-centric wines, small stone wall enclosed vineyards and fig, almond and wild cherry trees. The vineyards are comprised of multiple terroir, including “of steel-blue limestone to sandy, gravelly clay shot through with quartz crystals, to sheets of purple-green schist.”

Philosophy: “Fine wine is made in the vineyard. Our aim is to express the terroir of the domaine, we see the cornerstone as being the health of its vineyard ecosystems.”

Winemaking: The estate has been certified organic since 2008. Grapes came from vineyards with a blend of limestone, chalky-clay and sandy loam soil. The Carignon grapes came from vines over 100 years old. Fermented using only indigenous yeasts found on the grape skins. 100% matured sur lie in tank for 18 months. Unfined, loosely filtered.

Tasting Notes: Dark garnet in colour with aromas of wildflowers, peppery spice, candied cherry and funky sawdust. Cherry, blackberry, hibiscus and a shake of black pepper wrap around a flinty mineral, earthy core, backed by balancing acidity and silky tannins. Fruit and funk wrap up the velvety finish.

Pairing Suggestions from the Winery: Particularly good accompaniment to the cuisine of the Mediterranean region using tomato-based sauces, olives or wild herbs such as thyme or rosemary.

50% Carignan, 21% Grenache, 19% Syrah and 10% Mourvèdre
Corbières AOC
France
Mis en Bouteille au Domaine Par J & E Bowen
13.5% Alcohol
$16
Enjoy now

Zestos Tinto Old Vines Garnacha 2015

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Brand: Zestos wines are the product of Manuel Martinez, a 3rd generation winemaker whose family has been producing wine in Madrid for centuries. He owns Viños Jeromin, an organically farmed bodega that crafts wine from 3 different districts within the Madrid DO.

Winemaking: Grapes are sourced from high elevation vineyards of San Martin Valdeiglesias, just northwest of Madrid. Located at 574 m [1,883 ft] in elevation, with granite and sand soil, the vines were planted from 1960 to 1970. The San Martin area is known for producing “the most floral and mineral Garnachas in all of Spain”. Vinified and aged “in cement and stainless steel tanks to emphasize the purity of flavor and the youthful, fresh character of the Garnacha grape”.

Tasting Notes: Red-violet in colour with aromas of candied flowers, strawberry, cherry, a hint of pink peppercorn and earth. Super fruity with cherry, plum, blackberry and black cherry dusted with black pepper. A streak of anise and mint compliment the bright fruit flavours. Minerals, along with returning black pepper and cherry comprise the dry, supple finish. Easy drinking, versatile and a fantastic value.

Pairing Suggestions from the Winery: “Put it next to any casual foods you care to: pizza, Panini sandwiches, pulled pork sliders, fajitas, cheese quesadillas, and pastrami and corned beef sandwiches. This is an “easy quaffer” wine, as well. If you don’t have any aged manchego or aged Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese handy, just pour some in your glass and enjoy!”

100% Garnacha
Vinos de Madrid
Spain
Bottled by N.R.E. 2B/40.527-M for CÍA de Vinos del Atlántico
13.5% Alcohol
$9
Enjoy now

Casaloste Chianti Classico DOCG 2011

casaloste2011

Estate: Founded in 1994, by Giovanni Battista d’Orsi, along with his wife Emilia, Casaloste is located in the Greve region of Chianti Classico in Tuscany. Casaloste, together with the other Wine producers of Unione Viticoltori di Panzano has strongly supported and financed The Experimental Station for Sustainable Viticulture (Stazione Sperimentale per la Viticoltura Sostenibile- SPEVIS). The institution aims to find environmentally friendly solutions for winemakers. Not only certified organic [since 1994], the estate also operates “off the grid”. They produce all of their energy needs thru its solar photovoltaic system and biothermal renewable plant fuels.

Winemaking: Aged in French oak barrels of 25 and 35 liters and in barriques “for a period of about 12 months”.

Tasting Notes: Dark garnet in colour with aromas of cherry, earth and soft spice. Soft and velvety, with cherry and strawberry over layers of white pepper, leather and earth. Plush tannins, fruit and soft spice linger between each sip. A lovely, classical balance of fruit/spice/earth/leather notes Chianti Classico is renowned for.

90% Sangiovese, 10%Merlot
Chianti Classico DOCG
Italy
Estate Bottled by Giovanni Battista d’Orsi
14% Alcohol
$16
Enjoy now thru 2018

Benvenuto Brunello: Agile to Brooding, each with its own Story to Tell

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I was delighted to spend an entire day welcoming the 2012 Brunello di Montalcino vintage at Gotham Hall in NYC! Hosted by Jeff Porter, acclaimed wine director for Mario Batali and Joseph Bastianich restaurants, along with the Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino, the seminar and following walk around tasting was a fantastic way in which to become immersed with the latest vintage of Brunello.

Montalcino is in Tuscany, the central region of Italy and is bordered by the rivers Ombrone, Asso and Orcia. It is located 40 km from the sea and 100km from the Apennine Mountains and has a Mediterranean climate. Wine and olive oil have been crafted there for over 2000 years. Etruscan wine amphorae [clay jars], dating to the 4th century BC, along with numerous documented mentions regarding the wines of Montalcino from Medieval times on, testify to the continuous production in such an esteemed area.

Although it has the dimensions of a small square box, it is not a homogenous territory; the climate, soil and altitude all play a part in creating different terroir. Situated on a hill, the soils differ immensely from area to area, most drastically seen with loose soil at the lowest areas that increase in minerals as one goes higher up the hill. At one time many, many years ago the area was actually underwater; the soil is loaded with crushed marine sediment, especially marl [or mudstone, a clay soil with high amounts of calcium carbonate] and limestone.

The seminar was a great window into the factors that comprised the 2012 vintage, and an opportunity to immerse oneself in their character. Following are my impressions:

• The Brunello region consists of 24,000 hectares, 3500 hectares of which is vineyard, 2000 hectares devoted to Brunello vines amongst 250 producers. 30% of all Brunello is imported into the United States.

• Rather significantly, 2012 has been given a 5 star rating from the Consorzio. This occurs in about 25% of vintages.

• The movement towards sustainability and organic farming continues to increase. There isn’t a lot of disease to fight, and producers are witnessing the multitude of advantages to environmentally conscious methods. The current estimate has 15-20% of estates organic and/or biodynamic.

• Brunello are known for their incredibly lengthy ageing capabilities, however this doesn’t mean they need to be cellared for 10 years in order to be enjoyed. Ultimately, ageing is subjective. It depends on your personal taste; do you enjoy more fruit and acidity? Or are you a fan of less fruit and subtler earth/mineral flavours? All producers feel that the wines are drinking now, or can be cellared. Personally, I feel that many I tasted needed a couple of more years to fully develop; however that doesn’t prevent me from enjoying a few bottles now!

• As with many Italian wines, All Brunello is intended to go with food; “they’re not cocktails”.

• The weather was erratic and unpredictable in 2012. The year started off dry without any snowfall. Brunello is one of the most arid regions in Tuscany, they rely on snow for ground water, and so this was problematic. February saw lots of snow, but unfortunately it was late and stunted the vines a bit. Next up were Torrential downpours that struck right in the middle of flowering, causing more loss. May thru August was incredibly hot, then absolute perfection arrived in the middle of august and continued thru to September. Many winemakers feel that the vintage was really made in those final 8 weeks.

• Due to the above listed circumstances, the 2012 harvest was one of the smallest in many years, the turbulent weather ultimately reducing the production by about one-third. Grapes were small and the bunches themselves also small, leading to fantastic overall grape quality. The smaller the better with Sangiovese, as smaller berries retain their fruit flavours, aromas and acidity better.

• Overall, the consensus from winemakers and all of us fortunate enough to have tasted numerous 2012 bottles, is that the wines are bright with ripe fruit and acidity, and have a “pretty” quality about them. Some have seen this as a return to more elegant, classic, traditional styled Brunello. Others, such as famed wine critic James Suckling considers their “vibrant fruit, lively acidity, and ultra-fine tannins” to be wonderfully bold and intense; a “rockstar” vintage.

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The seminar presented 7 wines from the 2012 vintage. Whilst all were fantastic, below are the ones that I found to be most engaging,
All are 100% Sangiovese.

Talenti Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2012

talenti
Hailing from the southwestern part of the region, accessible and easygoing in character. Bright layers of red berry fruit, pepper spice and earth with an herbaceous streak. Baking spices pair up with berries on the plush finish.
15% Alcohol
$50

Collosorbo Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2012

collosorbo
Not as complex as most, but with it’s own identity. Strikingly meaty, with dark fruit and clay minerals culminating in a lengthy, pepper spice finish. Rich and brooding, just lovely.
14% Alcohol
$50

La Magia Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2012

lamagia

So new, its label hasn’t caught up yet.

Elegant and mineral driven. Cherry, flinty minerals and spice glide atop silky tannins, culminating in a dry fruit and clay mineral finish. Delightful and engaging, this would be fantastic with just about any dish.
14.5% Alcohol
$40

Loacker Corte Pavone Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2012

loacker
From the famed biodynamic pioneering Loacker family, this is a powerful expression of Brunello. [Coincidentally perhaps also the darkest shade of garnet seen in the 7 wines.] Velvety and intense with layers of fruit, spice and floral notes. Licorice and a hint of bitter chocolate linger on the plush finish. With its velvety softness and well-integrated, dynamic flavours, this was not only a personal favourite, but also that of many of my fellow attendees.
15% Alcohol
$75

contrast

A study in contrast: the dark, inky garnet Loacker on the left, transparent ruby red of the Pian delle Querci on the right.

Pian delle Querci Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2012

piandellequerci
In direct contrast to the Loacker Brunello, this hails from the far north of Montalcino and was the lightest in colour. Agile and bright with an herbaceous edge [think pine and cypress] to the vivid strawberry and blackberry fruit, energizing savory elements and traces of bitter cherry comprise the wonderfully dry finish.
14% Alcohol
Currently not imported into the US

A study in character, from elegant to agile to powerful to brooding, each bottle with its own story to tell.
Cheers!

Media event hosted by the Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino

Ampeleia ‘Unlitro’ Costa Toscana IGT 2015

unlitro

Estate: Located in the rugged hills of Maremma, near the Tuscan coast in Italy, Ampeleia is the passion project of 3 friends; pioneering winemaker Elisabetta Foradori, Thomas Widmann and Giovanni Podini. [For a detailed account of Elisabetta Foradori’s lifelong work in Trentino, the biodynamic approach, initiatives taken to preserve indigenous plants and wildlife, and the more ethereal, nuances of winemaking, please explore the Foradori website here]. Unlitro is the estate’s 3rd wine; “one litre of Ampeleia is an expression of Ampeleia’s vitality and subtly delicate nature”.

Philosophy: Listening to the land and “creating a deep awareness” of a sense of place. Harmony with nature allows Elisabetta “to express the beauty of the land in her wines”.

Winemaking: All vineyards are farmed biodynamically. As little as possible human intervention in the winery, with only indigenous yeasts used. Grapes were sourced from the estate’s youngest vineyards. Aged for 6 months in cement tanks.

Tasting Notes: Transparent garnet in colour with aromas of wild berries, pink peppercorn and a flash of funk. Vivid cherry, strawberry and blackberry are backed by pepper spice and dusty earth. Black pepper, strawberry and rhubarb comprise the lengthy finish. Engaging and easy drinking with a beatnik edge, well worth seeking out!

Blend of Alicante [Grenache], Carignan and Alicante Bouschet
Costa Toscana IGT
Italy
Estate Bottled by Societa Agricola Ampeleia
12.5% Alcohol
$20
Enjoy now thru 2018