The Man of Madiran

Alain Brumont

In the southwest corner of France less than 100 kilometres east and inland from the Atlantic Ocean lay the wine lands of the Côtes de Gascogne, of Pacherenc Du Vic Bilh and of Madiran. It is here where the soils of argileux, galets stones and calcaire are of course found in a climate where it can get very warm, but there is this influence from the Pyrenees Mountains that bring drying winds, keeping temperatures down at night and making for dry conditions in the fall. There is also that Atlantic oceanic influence for the greater region of Gascogne, even if the sea lies 96 kilometres away, The waters are responsible for bringing fresh air and freshness into the wines of Madiran and are perhaps the greatest single key to the phenolic ripeness factor. All together the mitigating and micro-climate agglomerate conditions allow for longer grape hanging time deep into the season.

Tasting at WineAlign with Laurence Brumont, Alain Brumont and John Szabo M.S.

THE man of Madiran is a man known not just to his peers and colleagues nearby but to winemakers all over the world. Vineland Estate’s Brian Schmidt wrote, “this man has had a profound impact on wine all around the world.” Decanter’s Andrew Jefford has referred to them as “France’s most undervalued fine wines.” Indeed it is Alain Brumont’s pioneering work, with noble oak and barrels for making wine. “Elegance, freshness and apogée for a wine come with time, patience no acceleration of elements with an artifice like micro oxygénation,” says Laurence Brumont. “It’s the philosophy of Alain to give the time and the respect of environment, respect of grapes, respect of terroir.” Brumont is the dominant producer in his region and that he has found the way to teach and to tame the deepest and darkest of grapes is the stuff of legend. Monsieur Brumont and his wife Laurence brought their Château Montus and Château Bouscassé wines to the WineAlign offices just two weeks ago. They sat down with John Szabo and I to taste through a magnificent Pacherenc and a few examples of their exemplary Madiran. Here are the notes.

And @winealign we tasted the greatest of #madiran terroir with the Man himself, #alainbrumont of @montusbouscasse

Château Montus Pacherenc Du Vic Bilh 2013, Pacherenc Du Vic Bilh, Southwest, France (Agent, $30.99, WineAlign)

Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh, from the regional-dialectal word “paisheradas,” translated roughly as “vineyard rows” and Vic-Bilh, meaning “old country.” The small appellation is adjacent to and roughly the same size as Madiran, as part of Gascogne in far southwestern France. The appellation specializes in sweet whites, can be and often is a 100 per cent varietal wine and in Alain Brumont’s case it’s truly Vin de Garde, made solely from petit courbu, aged in a variety of barrel shapes and sizes. The varietal gathering can include petit courbu, petit manseng, gros manseng, courbu blanc and arrufiac but Brumont uses essentially only the first, with just a few points of petit manseng. It’s a subtle smokiness and a seriously honeyed late harvest white with the most exceptional golden hue. Apricots come from the nose, with candied lemon peel and then this acidity that preps your buds before you’ve even taking a sip. From a vintage in France that may have confounded but it only works to develop and accentuate complexities. Caramelizations inclusive of a sentimental awareness of burnt orange come through and the length is dramatic, variegate and extended. It’s never sweet or cloying in fact it almost makes you think that’s it’s vinified nearly dry. This makes it most fascinating and only aids in abetting the dialectic. Has been made since 1991/1992. Drink 2018-2026.  Tasted October 2018   vinsdemadiran  montusbouscasse  markanthonyon  @MontusBouscasse  @MarkAnthonyWine  Marine Madiran  @MontusBouscasse  @MarkAnthonyWine

Brumont Tour Bouscassé Madiran 2012, Southwest, France (414615, $17.95, WineAlign)

From a terroir with much variegation in the argileux; white, red, grey and black. Mostly tannat with some cabernet sauvignon. You do in fact need to taste this wine on repeat because at times it will surprise you with great freshness. Like now, at this moment, with bright (dark) black cherry fruit and striking acidity. There is still this brooding and structure with side snaps of brewed umami. Can’t help but be, what with tannat and wood. And yet, get your nose deep into this glass and the multifarious argileux will get right up into you. Drink 2018-2022.  Last tasted October 2018

There is always some pleasure to be derived from pre-aged Madiran at such a price, regardless of how polarizing a bottle can be. Brumont’s ’12 is lean, mean and more than touched by wood. There is chocolate and balsamic, soy and tar. Pre micro-oxidative work now sits comfortably at six years on and with many more to go. Good interest at $18. Drink 2018-2022. Tasted August 2018

Château Montus Madiran 2013, AC Madiran, Southwest, France (Agent, $33.76, WineAlign)

From the man Alain Brumont and at the lead for and with his neighbours who basically invented the by now highly strategized and in many cases essential practice of micro-oxidation. This is how and why Brumont’s tannat from southwestern France is able to move ever so slowly in bottle through the slow-developing evolutionary stages of life. The Montus is clearly structured to keep its character intact, through the hard shell of tannin and the pyramid built by barrels that teased oxygen early and now keep all important aspects locked up safe and tight. It’s a boozy feeling and yet high-toned, with the darkest of fruits and the sharpest of tacky edging. You can imagine this resting as is for a decade and then slowly revealing what secondary personality can only be coaxed when the tenets of tannin have begun to melt away. That said, the chocolate never will. Drink 2020-2029.  Tasted October 2018

Château Montus La Tyre 2009, AC Madiran, Southwest, France (Agent, $135.27, WineAlign)

La Tyre, literally “the tire” is the pinnacle of Alain Brumont’s tannat from Madiran. It’s a wine that needs a decade to even begin to relent and open up for viewing, nosing and tasting. Pitchy to the nth cimmerian degree it would be hard not to see this wine as THE Madiran, the epitome of a red wine from Gascogne. The nose is über-umami and in fact in character it reminds so much more of Brunello Riserva meets sagrantino from Montefalco combined with Taurasi aglianico than it does Bordeaux. Not that Toscana, Umbria or Campania are the reference points but old school meets micro-oxidative winemaking surely is. The formidable acidity and the way in which the expense of barriques inject major influence is similar to what happens when sangiovese is subjected to said same sort of winemaking. The underbrush, garrigue and intensely concentrated argileux all combine, along with toasted wood to make this one of the most intense and structured red wines on the planet. Should seek and realize its best at some point in its late teens or early twenties. Drink 2025-2039.  Tasted October 2018

Good to go!

godello

Alain Brumont

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Important and impromptu study session at Stratus

It was planned as a big chill weekend, set aside months before because if you don’t dot the calendar you will never find the time. It was a meeting of old friends who rarely see one another, coming from different cities and countries to gather in Niagara for reasons unknown. It was more than an important impromptu tasting at Stratus Vineyards on a blustery October Sunday. Thanks so much Ben, for the hospitality and new revelations.

I pack my case, I check my face
I look a little bit older
I look a little bit colder
With one deep breath, and one big step
I move a little bit closer, I move a little bit closer
For reasons unknown

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TG5X4kOjEX8

Related – Chase food pairings with Stratus

I’ve written about Stratus Vineyards before, about Yoda of assemblage and varietal maître winemaker J-L Groux. Ben Nicks is the winery’s hospitality master, mentor and guiding light. It’s no coincidence that Ben set us up with six current releases in the tasting board room with a tease of three local cheeses and a morsel of Mario Pingue’s salumi. A subtle arrangement this micro-pairing, seemingly inconsequential but oh so very poignant and perfect. 

The Ozonator

Related – The Stratus-Momofuku continuum

Ben leads us through the inner workings of Stratus and you should know that this behind-the scenes tour is no ordinary junket nor is what goes on back there any accident. Sustainability is key, planned to a T, in particular with respect to water use. We pass by the hydrosieve, a simple stainless box used to aerate wines during fermentation and Ben explains the great ozonator, to clean and preserve sterility in the winery. When ozone gas is introduced to an environment with bacteria, mold or any other organic material, it readily donates one of the oxygen atoms to oxidize or destroy that material. The ozonator is highly effective in controlling Brettanomyces populations.

More than an important impromptu tasting @stratuswines on a blustery October Sunday. Thanks so much Ben, for the hospitality and new revelations.

Related – Select tasting through years of the Stratus Red and White

In the boardroom we set about tasting with the saturated vineyards as our backdrop. Grapes continue to hang though there is no surprise in that. Stratus is known to wait out the rest of the Peninsula in search of more phenolic ripeness and infinite aromatic possibilities. Here are the seven wines tasted on Sunday, October 28th.

Stratus Vineyards White 2014, VQA Niagara Lakeshore, Ontario (660704, $38.00, WineAlign)

So what is White ’14’s status in late October 2018? Still pronouncing struck flinty with a capital F and elevated into the air on a pillow of fine smoulder. What is duly noted at this stage is the pause, at calm, unaffected by gravity and then, the length. In other words, a perfectly drinkable state.  Last tasted October 2018

White assemblage under the Stratus label is not like spinning a single record, it’s like Rock ‘n Roll radio. Opening a bottle brings great excitement and anticipation, with a sense of wonder. What songs am I going to hear or more to the point, which grape varieties am I going to taste, in which percentages and in what order? In 2014 it’s a medley of chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, viognier, sémillon and gewürztraminer. The blend spent 21 months in (15 per cent) new oak. The fruits are varied and each one (or mélange of several) represented a hit in their own right. Tutti frutti, orange blossom special, little green apples, the lemon song, kiwi, peach, tangerine and forbidden fruit. In the end I heard it through the grapevine, by way of a conduit provided by great and necessary acidity. A top quality Stratus White, worthy of repeat plays. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted twice, May and June 2018

Stratus Vineyards Chardonnay 2016, VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario (Winery, $48.00, WineAlign)

This Stratus is the year of the utmost natural chardonnay, the one where knuckling down and waiting with great patience leads to the most ambient of varietal wines. Not that the indigenous yeast plan is new (it dates back to ’09) but it is unfiltered and the aromatics are wonderfully nostalgic. This too (like the White) has that uncanny and unmistakeable flinty smokiness but in the realm of chardonnay it’s surprisingly delicate and finessed. ’Twas a warm vintage and so there must be an initialization of richness and the lush contextual accession will continue to develop but for now its tighter and sitting in a pool of quietude. Revisits in two and three years will tell the wine’s story. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted October 2018

Stratus Vineyards Gewürztraminer 2017, VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario (Winery, $29.00, WineAlign)

The plantings are Clone 47, one of two from Alsace (along with 48) that are often used in Ontario. There are few regional equals like this one of subtle floral expression in lemon waxy spray, yellow rose fragrance and citrus oil incumbency. The acidity is buoyant, unaggressive and supportive and so the residual sugar number is probably higher than expected, perhaps in the mid to upper teens. Works the derivative volatile aroma compounds drawn from flowers, fruits, leaves, and stems to great aromatic effect. In any case it’s a health affirming gewürztraminer by essential oil and through the act of sumptuous behaviour. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted October 2018

Stratus Vineyards Red 2015, VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario (131037, $48.00, WineAlign)

Harvested over a week’s time in mid to late November from a warm if unremarkable vintage that followed a polar vortex winter, the just released 2015 Red is the five-headed Bordelais made from cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, petit verdot and malbec. If indeed perception is conceived to occur through five senses then all are needed to feel the fingers and toes of this assemblage. It’s also a matter of mathematical relevance, especially if you’ve tasted a few vintages of this most consistent appellative blend. And so standard deviation is relevant in assessment. From one Stratus Red to another we are looking at two sets of five different numbers that have the same mean but different standard deviations and it can be argued (because of the methodology), the same standard deviation but different means. If only J-L Groux knows the answer to the mean and standard of each Red set we can still look at this ’15 and note how it’s quite dusty and high-toned in its youth, with a richness that will eventually bring it all down to earth. It’s a chewy Red with some dried, leathery fruit, as per the mean, equal and opposing to the fresh and friendly, as per the standard deviation. As a matter of assemblage it’s as classic and recognizable as any in the accumulative history and also reminiscent of the past, like ’07, ’10 and ’12, to name just a few. With cabernet sauvignon at the head it tells us that ripeness is the virtue and comfort the result. By the way, the varietal breakdown of 40, 24, 23, 11 and 2 equates to a mean of 20 and a standard deviation of 14.40. For what it’s worth. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted October 2018

Stratus Vineyards Cabernet Franc 2015, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (412759, $38.65, WineAlign)

The 2015 cabernet franc of warmth and layering is wise in the ways of fruit. It’s an overt and resolute varietal wine picked at intervals and in succession with on the fly intent. The endeavour is worthy of the ideal and in turn, every moment of our consideration. Here is where you can begin any one of your carefully thought on handful of cabernet franc explorations, not just any mind you but from those that start at the top of the pyramid, from the top down. What is striking about 2015 is the sweet herbal quality, with a bushy tisane in place of hard to ascertain, high-toned pyrazine. What you will find is actually quite simple; cabernet franc grown, raised and fashioned by winemaker J-L Groux at Stratus. I just love this fruit. These chips have fallen where they may. Drink 2020-2038.  Tasted October 2018

Stratus Vineyards Syrah 2014, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $48.00, WineAlign)

Stratus turns back time and into varietal subtleties so that sniffs and sips of this ’14 are met with pauses. This iambic syrah is indeed something other, with dusty peppery notes and an unforced extraction that does little (at first) to challenge or demand that you work for your sips. The floral aromas form the crux of the unstressed syllables and are followed by strong flavours, a.k.a. the stressed syllables. The poetic feel is one of clause, pause and punctuation, with acidity strong but also fine and the even ripening from the grapes is a matter of obvious clarity. I suggest that the winemaking is more hands off than before and the wine needed little to no clutter to reach this goal. The richness is subdued and the balance as bountiful as it is beautiful. The drinker must read-render this syrah stanza so that it is both comprehended and appreciated. There may be some potential tension in doing so because you need to know how to seek out the stressors but also where to find the metrical pauses. Unearthing all the elements will help to pair with food that reads the same, like a seared duck breast, rare and sliced, or a lean piece of beef, carved tagliata style. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted October 2018

Stratus Vineyards Sémillon Botrytis Affected 2016, VQA Niagara On The Lake (Winery, $38.00, WineAlign)

One of the most unique dessert wines in Ontario this is neither late-harvest nor Icewine in origin. Only the third time it has been made, the 2016 sémillon launches with a smoky beginning, as expected and yet, is always appreciated. Some of the fruit is harvested early, but other bunches in the same vineyard are some of the last to be harvested. This low alcohol anti-sticky is from the warm vintage and from the same spot in the vineyard, vintage in vintage out. Most interesting is how these pristine botrytis affected grapes are picked ahead of the rest of the clean fruit used for the dry sémillon. It’s a very vinous sém with distinct apricot and longan notes. Great acids in 2016. Has still retained some waxiness and found some tropical fruit despite the early pick. All of the counterintuitive ideals tell us that the warm vintages can make for top quality dessert wine. This is the masquerade party wine made by the Way Outs band. “That’s where the fun is, way out, WAY OUT!” Drink 2019-2028. Tasted October 2018

Good to go!

godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Sonoma County: Diverse by nature plus California, Italy and others in VINTAGES Oct 27th

Taste of Sonoma – Diverse by Nature

Related – WineAlign Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES Preview – Oct 27th, 2018

In last week’s preview covering the October 27th release it was John who wrote about the “Premium Parade.” John has reminded us all, as did David in his previous report for October 13th that VINTAGES likes to roll out the big guns in the two months leading up to the holiday season. What a shocker. I’m pleased to follow-up on the theme with more than a few overflowing handfuls of high-end wines that settle with great weight and density into a more than similar ilk.

It’s more than just a late October release that delivers gifts of such hedonistic and full character flavour. The Sonoma County Vintners came through town just last week with armfuls of the good stuff. There was a trade and media walk-around tasting in the afternoon of the 16th followed by a VINTAGES supported consumer affair in the evening. Thirty-three producers showcased 75 wines and it is safe to say that Sonoma knows how to put on a show. What piqued my interest the most was a Masterclass/Tutored Tasting titled “Diverse by Nature” and hosted by none other than WineAlign’s John Szabo. My notes on the wines poured are featured just below. All of the 75 wines continue to be available for purchase on the VINTAGES Shop Online site.

The VINTAGES opinion is one that states “Sonoma County is predominantly family farmers who produce some of the world’s best grapes and wine and have done so for generations. It’s also the first wine region in the US to commit to becoming 100% sustainable by 2019.” They noted that the event features “a bounty of stellar Pinot Noirs, full-bodied Cabernets, stylish Chardonnays and spicy Zinfandels – most with 90+ scores.” This is nothing but truth. I scored all 10 wines I tasted at the Sonoma seminar at 90-plus.

Greg MacDonald, VINTAGES Category Manager, New World Wines, North America (excluding Ontario) & South Africa, explains where Sonoma stands in the current pantheon of California wines. “I would agree that many top wines from Sonoma can stand toe-to-toe with their Napa counterparts on quality and while many offer relative value, there are now iconic wines from Sonoma that can and do command similar top-tier price points. What Sonoma can still offer that Napa can’t anymore (for the most part), is wines at more approachable price points for everyday consumers – the sheer size of Sonoma County makes this possible.  This means it’s a win for both collectors and consumers. I don’t consider Sonoma an emerging region for California as a buyer – it’s arrived.”

John Szabo M.S.

So what is so special about Sonoma County? First look at its size. With approximately 75,000 planted acres only Bordeaux is bigger (much bigger) and Sonoma easily outgrows Napa Valley, New Zealand, Bourgogne and the Okanagan Valley. Nearly 500 wineries grow a multitude of varieties but there is some definitive concentration and specialization. In terms of hectares chardonnay is king, at 6,500 while pinot noir and cabernet sauvignon follow closely at roughly 5,400 each. The next four most planted grape varieties are zinfandel, merlot, sauvignon blanc and syrah.

Five distinct soils make up the multifarious terroir of Sonoma; Francisco Complex covers nearly half of the west and northern territories. Then we find Salinia, Glen Ellen Formation, Sonoma Volcanics and Wilson Grove Formation. The coolest spots and perfect for chardonnay are Green Valley and Carneros while it is the pinot noir appellations of Fort Ross-Seaview, Sonoma Coast and Russian River Valley that bridge the gap to a moderate climate. In that mid-temperature category we see the merlot high ground of Chalk Hill and Bennet Valley.

Both chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon work well in the moderate to quite warm spots of Sonoma Mountain and Sonoma Valley. Slightly warmer are the zinfandel hot spots of Rockpile and Dry Creek Valley. The warmest areas that are best suited to cabernet sauvignon are Alexander Valley, Fountaingrove, Knights Valley and Pine Mountain-Cloverdale Park. Let us not forget the rest of the Sonoma County AVAs, Moon Mountain, Northern Sonoma and Petaluma Gap.

Most important these days is what’s found inside and within these distinct regional territories. In Sonoma they like to call them “neighbourhoods,” micro-climates like Middle Ranch and Laguna Ridge in the Russian River Valley. These are akin to the Villages of Bourgogne so consumers can now begin to seek out varietal specificities with which to align from these hoods.

These fantastic humans helped to bring the excellence of @sonomacountyvintners to Toronto today. And it was great ~ @california.wines #sonomacounty #sonoma #sonomavalley #alexandervalley

Don’t look for a singular regional-varietal character, but rather look at the towns, a.k.a in that Bourgogne sense of the ideal, the Villages. Look back to 1857, to the story of the Buena Vista Count, collector of European grapevines (mainly in Vienna) brought back to California. This got everything started, including the Croatian variety zinfandel which at the time was being cultivated as part of the Austro-Hungarian empire. Look at the transfer from bulk to premium wine in the 1970s and the infamous moment at the Judgement of Paris when Chateau Montelena was the shocking victorious wine.

John mentioned last week that the main VINTAGES theme for October 27th is in fact Italy and not California and so David and I offer up some critics’ love for the great wines of that vast producing country. We take you to Umbria, Veneto, Toscana (including Chianti Classico) and Piemonte for some stellar choices. We wrap up the selections with some miscellaneous wines from around the globe, including some homegrown picks just a jog down the QEW and onto the Niagara Peninsula.

Sonoma Chardonnay

Sonoma Picks

Three Sticks Durell Vineyard Chardonnay 2016, Sonoma Coast, California (VINTAGES, $79.95, WineAlign)

From the confluence of three appellations, coast, valley and mountain, not to mention a combination of rock and soil in ratios that as assets determine influence. Buttery and if aromas were textured this would be viscous, licked up from the thickness of fog filling in the mid-palate. Notable is that here the change in Sonoma styles over the past decade is arriving at this gate of transparency. Sharper now and gummed by less glück is the simplest way to sum it all up. Expressive in the ways of varietal and place is the bigger picture summarized. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted October 2018   threestickswines  halpernwine  @ThreeSticksWine  @HalpernWine  @threestickswines  @halpernwine

Patz & Hall Chardonnay 2016, Sonoma Coast, California (VINTAGES, $65.00, WineAlign)

Much more direct, sharp, pinpointed and poignant for modern day chardonnay, with ripe orchard park flavours, high acidity and great internalized impression. Five vineyards get together in this perfectly tidy house conglomerate and added up the stylistic is expressly P & H. From many famous Sonoma vineyards sometimes, often but not always inclusive of Sanchietti, Parmalee Hill, Pleasant Hill, Gap’s Crown, Dutton Ranch and Durell. A necessary parts when integrated are counted as contributors to the whole. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted October 2018   patzhall  philippedandurandwines  @PatzHall  @Dandurandwines  @PatzHall  @VinsPhilippeDandurand

Ramey Wine Cellars Chardonnay 2016, Sonoma Coast, California (VINTAGES, $57.99, WineAlign)

Wild ferment and thrown in to bottle, literally. From Goldridge, those parochial, sought after soils, composed by 70 per cent Martinelli Charles Ranch and (30) Platt Vineyard. Rich without weight, texture without acting overly creamy. A beautifully balanced wine. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted October 2018   rameywinecellars  liffordgram  @RameyWineCellar  @LiffordON  @RameyWineCellars  @liffordwineandspirits

Siduri Pinot Noir Parsons Vineyard 2015, Russian River Valley, California (VINTAGES, $70.00, WineAlign)

Just west of the winery is the flat topography characterized by compact clay soils of Parsons’ Vineyard on the Santa Rosa Plain. The 2015 pinot noir is one of high energy ripe fruit but also beautiful acids. This is the ripe pinot noir we’ve come to know from the last 20 years and occupying a chair at the hyperbole of thought and execution. Such a guarantee of what to expect from the Russian River Valley. Strawberry jam, cola and the artfully managed barrel dodger. Broad and velvety. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted October 2018   siduriwines  halpernwine  @SiduriWines  @HalpernWine  @halpernwine  @Siduriwines  @halpernwine

Chalk Hill Estate Pinot Noir 2015, Russian River Valley, California (VINTAGES, $80.00, WineAlign)

Broad, even riper, of real lush texture and a bit ferric. Tart, tight, intense with at the edge evolution, development and ripeness. This is the trimmer set to the finest setting, allowing some room for growth but also leaving behind a stylish, nearly clean to the skin style. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted October 2018   chalkhillestate  liffordgram  @ChalkHillEstate  @LiffordON  @chalkhillestate  @liffordwineandspirits

Deloach Vineyards Pinot Noir Estate 2014, Russian River Valley, California (VINTAGES, $70.00, WineAlign)

The organically and biodynamically farmed Olivet Ranch Vineyard estate block has been owned by Boisset Family Estates since 2003. In 2014 this is bigger, fuller, taller, riper and certainly imbued with more wood influence. This from the J.C. Boisset stable is almost a throwback to innocent and precocious times. While the acidity in this vintage carries the dark fruit to terrific heights, it really is impressive how this works the glass and the room. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted October 2018   deloachvineyards  jc_boisset  jcb_collection  liffordgram  @DeLoachVineyard  @JC_Boisset  @LiffordON  @deloachvineyards  @BoissetCollection  @liffordwineandspirits

Dry Creek Vineyard Old Vine Zinfandel 2015, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County, California (VINTAGES, $55.00, WineAlign)

Shows an extreme ripeness of being reaching to the breach and teetering on the edge while so successfully camping there. Dark fruit, nearly dusty and so filled in. Ripe, figgy and raisined with managed acidity to keep things in swimming balance. Berries of varying ripeness on old vines make for the great multi-juxtaposed connections. The 22 per cent petite sirah increases the curiosity, that plus three types of oak. So much going on and a good vintage for this OV zin. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted October 2018   drycreekvineyard  wineloversca  @DryCreekVnyd  @WineLoversCA  @drycreekvineyard  @WineLoversCA

Seghesio Cortina Zinfandel 2014, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County, California (VINTAGES, $55.00, WineAlign)

From 1972 planted vines on Cortina soil and yet curiously not referred to as old vines. The high-toned dark fruit does in fact present a curious juxtaposition, ripe and hematic but also savoury, dusty and mineral. This is just around the corner from entering into the perfect window of its life, integrated and in delivery of its gravelly-loam origins. Only identifiable as Seghesio and always on point. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted October 2018   seghesio  pellerwines  @seghesio  @APImportAgency  @seghesio  Andrew Peller Import Agency

Silver Oak Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Alexander Valley, Sonoma County, California (VINTAGES, $118.95, WineAlign)

Take some time to allow Silver Oak’s cabernet to settle in and you might just smile a bit more. Here we are at that point, certainly glued to a house style, big in barrel with American influence and set up with Daniel Baron’s signature passed on through Nate Weis, most recent accomplice as Director of Winemaking. Pencil shavings and early harvested balance plus some wood waiting out of that wood means you are given some Alexander Valley grace at this stage of fine tannin development. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted October 2018   silveroakcellars  halpernwine  @SilverOak  @HalpernWine @SilverOakCellars  @halpernwine

Rodney Strong Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Rockaway Single Vineyard 2013, Alexander Valley, Sonoma County, California (VINTAGES, $100.00, WineAlign)

This is the “lay down in the third bed and it was just right” Rodney Strong cabernet sauvignon from half new French barrel and nicely integrated at this point. Here the darkness of fruit and tighter if rounder structure comes from mountain fruit. Dusty dark black with briny Mediterranean accents leads this down a spice route road. In a delicious spot right now with a finishing bite of very dark, high cocoa content chocolate. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted October 2018   rsvineyards  markanthonyon  @rsvineyards  @MarkAnthonyWine  @Rodney.Strong.Vineyards  @MarkAnthonyWine

Buyers Guide to VINTAGES Oct 27th

California Picks

Cline Ancient Vines Zinfandel 2016, Contra Costa County, Central Coast, California ($24.95)

Kenwood Jack London Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Sonoma Mountain, Sonoma County, California ($39.95)

Mount Veeder Winery Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Napa Valley, California ($49.95)

Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Napa Valley, California ($74.95)

Italian Picks

Zenato Valpolicella Superiore 2016, Vento, Italy ($18.95)

Carpineto Farnito Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, IGT Toscana, Italy ($28.95)

Ruffino Riserva Ducale Oro Gran Selezione Chianti Classico 2014, Tuscany, Italy ($47.95)

Castello Della Sala Cervaro Della Sala 2016, Umbria, Italy ($68.95)

Palazzo Brunello di Montalcino 2013, Tuscany, Italy ($69.95)

Ca’ Romé Romano Marengo Cerretta Barolo 2012, Piedmont, Italy ($72.95)

Grillesino Battiferro 2016 Morellino di Scansano, Tuscany, Italy ($18.95)

Miscellaneous Picks

Thelma Mountain Vineyards Sutherland Pinot Noir 2015, Elgin, South Africa ($19.95)

Redstone Chardonnay 2015, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario ($19.95)

Charles Baker Riesling Ivan Vineyard 2017, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario ($27.20)

José Pariente 2016 Verdejo 2016, Rueda, Spain ($19.95)

Echeverria 2015 Gran Reserva Syrah, Maipo Valley, Chile ($15.95)

André Brunel 2015 Cuvée Sabrine Côtes du Rhône Villages, Rhône, France ($15.95)

Stoller Family Chardonnay 2016, Dundee Hills, Yamhill County, Oregon ($27.95)

Hidden Bench Estate Chardonnay 2016, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario ($29.95)

Luigi Bosca Terroir Los Miradores Malbec 2014, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina ($32.95)

I’ve been in fervent travel mode, scrambling voraciously around the globe gathering as much knowledge as my brain can handle. I’m also on the constant tasting and discovering lookout for gems to add into the WineAlign Exchange. Recent trips have taken me to Chianti Classico, Nova Scotia and Niagara. I’ve also recently judged with David Lawrason at the Great Kitchen Party (formerly Gold Medal Plates) in Toronto. I’m off to Argentina, followed by Chianti Classico and Piemonte. There will be no rest when there are so many wines to discover! Until later,

Good to go!

Godello

Taste of Sonoma – Diverse by Nature

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Hamilton Russell three ways

Olive and Anthony Hamilton Russell at Ridley College

Anthony and Olive Hamilton Russell are tireless wanderers of this earth. When you consider the amount of time they spend travelling in support of one, their eponymous winery, two, their Hermanus friends and colleagues and three, Wines of South Africa, it’s amazing that they are able to find time to produce high quality wines. That they do with great consistency and though they are responsible for interpreting the Hemel-en-Aarde in three ways, in each case they do one or two things and they do it really well.

Hamilton Russell Vineyards works three appellations. The WO of Hemel-en-Aarde Valley is a geological wonder akin to Burgundian soils of 35-50 per cent top soil clay layered with exposed shale, closest to Walker Bay. It is here that Anthony and Olive pioneered the raising of chardonnay and pinot noir. Ashbourne red and white blends are fashioned in the Upper Hemel en Aarde Valley, on the eastern border of Hamilton Russell Vineyards, built of decomposed granite, with freer draining soils and more diurnal temperature fluctuations then the Hemel en Aarde Ridge. The property is named after Anthony’s great, great-grandfather Lord Ashbourne who was Lord Chancellor of Ireland in the late 1800’s. Southern Right is the line of pinotage and sauvignon blanc raised on the western border of Hamilton Russell Vineyards, on a 448 hectare property just behind the old fishing village of Hermanus.

In 1991 Hamilton Russell was the only one producing wines. Now there are 22 in the valley. They began running in 1991 and made full purchase in 1994. A cold current rises up from Antartica into the tip of South Africa’s (Western Cape) “making quality winemaking possible,” explains Anthony. “Our soils have been on the surface for more than 300,000,000 years. I like that you can taste ancient soils in every glass.” Hamilton Russell is what he refers to as their “immediate family.” Southern Right and Ashbourne are close relatives.”

As for varietal choices, there is little doubt that pinotage is (once again) booming while others are dropping. The plantings are very much on the rise. “What people thought was pinotage was badly made pinotage. It’s not a bad grape,” insists Hamilton Russell. We like to control what’s happening on both borders of Hamilton Russell.” So Southern Right (1994) and Ashbourne (1996) are more than just passion projects. “We also want to change people’s perception of pinotage,” he adds. There were no releases between 2011 and 2014, instead it was used as a re-thinking period and a chance to reflect on vineyard/agricultural culture, followed by the new age. “I don’t have a beard, I’m in my 50’s (plus) and I’m doing some pretty hipster stuff. We just don’t look the part.”

I have had numerous opportunities to taste, track, re-taste and follow the chardonnay and pinot noir over the past five years. I often add to my notes because theirs are highly organized, Burgundian powered structures that demand re-visits and respect. The Ashbourne and especially the Southern Right varietals and blends have seen less exposure but the notions of longevity (Ashbourne) and drink-ability (Southern Right) are fast gaining attention.

A few weeks back and post i4C Cool Chardonnay conference I sat down with Wines of South Africa’s Laurel Keenan, Angela Aiello and the South African Wine Society to listen in on Anthony Hamilton Russell’s dissertation and a tasting of eight wines. Here are the notes, plus two for their recently released ’17 chardonnay and pinot noir.

Southern Right Sauvignon Blanc 2016, WO Walker Bay, South Africa (512277, $21.95, WineAlign)

The Southern Right whale is a frequent visitor to Walker Bay and this sauvignon blanc should be a frequent visitor to your glass. It’s a white wine that acts as a messenger to its proximate location to a cold body of water. It’s a pure Western Cape fresh, flinty and smouldering sauvignon blanc so akin to a Bordeaux White. You could close your eyes and imagine Pessac-Leognan (perhaps even hoping for Sancerre or Chavignol) but there really isn’t any need. Six clones and six yeasts, multiple ripeness levels and some clay-grown vines deliver fat fruit to meet the linearity and tension of other shale grown fruit. In the end it’s a complex and rare chance to taste this kind of value. Drink 2018-2020.  Last tasted July 2018

The pungent nature of this sauvignon blanc brings a vigor sight and taste unseen. Classic herbal meets gooseberry and passionate notes are berry-derived and very floral. The palate confirms the notion and makes one a true believer in Walker Bay. Drink 2017-2020. Tasted July 2017   olive_hamilton_russell  noble_estates wosa_za  wosa_ca  @OliveHR  @Noble_Estates  @WOSA_ZA  @WOSACanada  Olive Hamilton Russell  @NobleEstates  @WOSACA

Southern Right Pinotage 2015, WO Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, South Africa (486167, $26.95, WineAlign)

Tasting ’15 while ’17 is already sold out back home. From an opulent and wide open vintage, the wine offers just those expressive attributes. Smokiness meets curative meaty notes and an umami sort of South African garrigue. From a vintage where phenolic ripeness occurred at a higher level of alcohol so it carries a 15 per cent volume, but does so with marked ease. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted July 2018

Hamilton Russell Ashbourne 2009, WO Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, South Africa (486167, $25.95, WineAlign)

The Ashbourne ’09 includes cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, malbec, petit verdot and syrah blended in, “which brings nothing really to the party,” says Anthony Hamilton Russell, “but at least it doesn’t compete with Southern Right.” It’s deeply savoury and smoky, continues to smell like chocolate and will always show its wood. The single-vineyard heavy clay block was always in delivery of fruit ripe but never over that edge, all the while telling its shepherds when to pick so that balance and structure can be had. The linger and length are exceptional. “The variety doesn’t suck.” Truth that. Drink 2018-2024.  Last tasted July 2018

Ashbourne is a 25 barrel cuvée and the outlier in the Hamilton Russell pinot noir-chardonnay stable. With more than enough time behind at eight years on it is essentially evolved and resolved, now a downy blanket of Bordeaux fibres woven, seamless and soft. The fruit dries a bit but like all great aging South African reds the candidly curated acidity is years from relinquishing its grip. Ashbourne is not a matter to blow one’s mind but it teaches some vinous life lessons about Hemel-en-Aarde and the greater good of aged South African reds. It can be enjoyed right now and left for another decade. Like Meerlust’s Rubicon it’s an easy on the pocketbook gift in kind to Ontario from proprietors Anthony and Olive Hamilton Russell. Drink 2017-2024.  Tasted October 2017

Hamilton Russell Ashbourne Pinotage 2015, WO Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, South Africa (486167, $25.95, WineAlign)

It could be expected that this 2015 pinotage blend would already act somewhat to quite advanced when in fact the evolution is virtually non-existent. A side-by-side revisit with 2009 is all that is needed to drive the point. The ’15 is still quite demurred, tightly wound, not in a fresh to reductive way but more in terms of its finely-crafted pyramids of Giza architecture. The acidity and the spice are up there on the crests of the upper steps, very near to the pinnacle. Again it is the way the wine stays with you like a slowly rendered demi-glacé made from the lightest roast of bones that keeps the karst of stone sublime in your mind and mouth. Drink 2018-2028.  Tasted July 2018

Hamilton Russell Ashbourne Pinotage/Cinsault 2018, WO Swartland, South Africa (486167, $25.95, WineAlign)

“We wanted to work with an unoaked pinotage, to mix with a lighter and brighter cinsault.” In fact the cinsault really shines with (by now) classic Western Cape lithe ability because the pinotage allows it to. Add to that a verdant, pyrazine and currant streak and in the end you get perfume but no impenetrability that an overly green and wooded forest would demand. Beautiful (1972 planted) Paardeberg on decomposed granite gifts a chic and classy, perfectly correct blend of these two made for each other varietals. Will settle into one another so effortlessly and with sleepy grace in another year or so. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted July 2018

Hamilton Russell Ashbourne Sauvignon Blanc/Chardonnay 2018, WO Walker Bay, South Africa (Agent, $25.95, WineAlign)

There can be no more fruit in a white blend than what bursts from this sauvignon blanc-chardonnay scene. Just released in South Africa and carried by Anthony and Olive (Hamilton Russell) on the plane. Chavignol is the reference point, with lightly structured sandstone soils bringing lightness, airiness and delicate fruit. Or think Jim Clendenen’s Au Bon Climat out of Santa Barbara. It’s democratically priced (a Hamilton Russell first) without gratuitous sugar and still dry, tart and direct. Also the first screw-cap for the company. Bottled just three weeks ago. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted July 2018

Hamilton Russel Vineyard Chardonnay 2017, WO Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, South Africa (931006, $44.95, WineAlign)

A Hamilton Russell chardonnay must have its nuts, butter and über direct acidity. It just may remind of Bâtard perhaps because depth, richness and a ridges-straddling connection to the valley it comes from all work in this way. But what else brings that connection? In 2017 it’s elegance for sure, but also intensity. This 36th vintage is “a reflection, always of the same piece of ground, even if we are always insecure and trying to improve, it’s a far bigger thing than we are. We feel justice to serve it. We feel we have a duty to this.” This is what Anthony Hamilton Russell told me last year and it perfectly applies to this 2017. Back then he noted that “god made the 15s and winemakers watched. In ’16 winemakers made the wine.” So what about ’17? With heady attention paid to its eccentricities and idiosyncrasies, it’s really a matter of both. Drink 2019-2026. Tasted twice, July 2018

Hamilton Russel Vineyard Chardonnay 2016, WO Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, South Africa (931006, $44.95, WineAlign)

Says Anthony Hamilton Russell. “It took the French to teach me not to care about the colour of chardonnay, but to only worry about flavour and texture.” Fermented with a healthy amount of solids and introduced to oxidation in its youth. This helps and results in a chardonnay well-adjusted to adult life and to adults. “You cannot measure an aesthetic with a number,” meaning you can’t learn from a measured response. Literally speaking. The balance is as good as this archetype of an HR white has ever been. It is after all, the HR white.  Last tasted July 2018

No stone is left unturned in the Hamilton Russell 2016 chardonnay because it speaks with utmost Hemel-en-Aarde Valley clarity. There is less make-up in 2016 so the fruit, acidity and subtle salty quality all must have begun to speak from the word go. The first pressed, non-clarified must would have done nothing but made the maker’s smile, mimicking a foggy morning over Walker Bay and so they have allowed the wine to speak for itself. This is a beautifully restrained and go it alone rendered to be measured chardonnay, with beauty and grace. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted September 2017

Hamilton Russel Vineyard Pinot Noir 2017, WO Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, South Africa (999516, $58.95, WineAlign)

’m not sure it can be stated often enough that when you continually do one thing well, without compromise or mutation, than you’re more likely to do it very well. This is the case with a Hamilton Russell pinot noir, the only one that is produced. From the best fruit available and swinging in the direction of the vintage, either into or away from the winds of vineyard or winemaking. The 2017 is like the chardonnay in that it’s a best of both worlds seasonal and acumen-focused display, neither one or the other dominant and in the end, so balanced. The fruit depth is exceptional, the acidity deeper still and the intensity wound around it all. It’s so precise and layered, like a pinot noir prism, like staring far inside the intricate and symmetrically patterned angles in a diamond. Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted July 2018

Hamilton Russel Vineyard Pinot Noir 2016, WO Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, South Africa (999516, $58.95, WineAlign)

“We believe in wines of consequence.” How pinot noir is capable of performing in South Africa can be defined right here, with a wink and a nod to Gevrey-Chambertin. Pure unbridled Hamilton Russell cerebral joy, nothing taken for granted and all possibilities celebrated.  Last tasted July 2018

This welcome ethereal return of Hamilton Russell’s Hermanus benchmark pinot noir follows on the heels of the early-picked, dense, muscular and compressed 2015. Comfortable alcohol meets optimum phenolic ripeness so lets think on it in terms of ’08 burgundy, though perhaps not as tight and classic. This is the second fully organic vintage, not certified but with no systemic use of chemicals. Young (just last year turned 30) winemaker Emul Ross from Chamonix and viticulturist Johan Montgomery have reverted to gentler pressing and travelled further away from hyper-reduction. Open fermenters handle the entire pinot noir harvest at once so there is nary a posit tug of war or movement at shock times. Thus the elegance and as mentioned, the ethereal. It should always be noted that all the HR grapes go into these wines, with no tactical moves and philosophical aberrations (any more), no reserve wines, no single-vineyard, no divergence from monopole, always staying the broad expression course. “We committed to this in 1981 and other than experiments, we’ve stayed this way,” says Anthony Hamilton-Russell. There is simply no plot, block, aspect, top, middle or bottom slope separation. It’s pinot all in for one purpose, fully conjoined and conspiring to make the Hamilton Russell expression. This expression, of pure fruit, no drudgery, clarity and exceptional length. Drink 2017-2029.  Tasted October 2017

Olive and Anthony Hamilton Russell at Ridley College

Good to Go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Planeta’s Sicily

Missed flight fifth order of business @planetawinery 2008 #santacecilia #docnoto

On a most recent trip to Sicily I tasted no less than 20 wines from Planeta’s five estates, most with winemaker Patricia Tóth and some all by my lonesome. I will be tasting more with the ethereally-worldy Tóth in just over an hour from now so what better time to share these notes than right now. There was a Chardonnay 2002, Eruzione Riesling and Santa Cecilia Noto 2008 as well but those notes need time, music and deeper thought.

Degustazione e bei tempi with the @planetawinery gang ~ #lookup #siciliaenprimeur #siciliaep18 #siciliaep2018

Planeta Grillo Terebinto Sicilia Menfi DOC 2017, Sicliy, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Planeta’s varietal grillo is raised at Cantina Ulmo in Menfi, a western Sicilian outpost where pebbly-inlaid deep soils are found around Lake Arancio. The terebinth is a Sicilian shrub with glossy fronds. a.k.a. Pistacia Terebinthus or white pistachio, used as rootstock for pistachio production. The Menfi grillo is pulled from a low lying clay vineyard at 50m. Aromatics and texture are equally rich at maximum ripeness as bottled sunshine, pomelo sago unctuous and so consumable. Mango trees are actually in the same family as pistachio but of more interest is the fact that the female trees produce the nuts while the male produces the pollen. Sounds familiar, not to mention that male and female pistachio trees are often grafted together to bring about pollination. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted May 2018  planetawinery  plant dependent  noble_estates   @PlanetaWinery  @Noble_Estates  @planetawinery  Tóth Patricia  @NobleEstates

Planeta Alastro Sicilia Menfi DOC 2017, Sicliy, Italy (Winery, SAQ 11034361, $22.00, WineAlign)

Alastro amalgamates 70 per cent grecanico with 15 each grillo and sauvignon blanc for one tart, intense, highly aromatic, mineral and striking western Sicilian white blend. It’s certainly got a tropical feel but not in any creamy or humid sense. Also known as the bush La Segreta, meaning “broom,” the horny plant was used for natural fences and as a general intruder deterrent. Take note of the locked in neoteric and floral aromatics from this early September harvested blend, wild as its name suggests and best when youthfully fresh. Grecanico can age but this blend screams immediate gratification. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted May 2018

Carnage for two please

Planeta Etna Bianco 2017, Etna DOC, Sicliy, Italy (Agent, $33.99, WineAlign)

The Etna is 100 per cent carricante produced at the Feudo di Mezzo winery in the Contrada Taccione, in Montelaguardia. Now labeled simply as Etna, not as the artist formerly known as Bianco and apparently for no reason at all. Seventeen was a really warm year here in the 690-720m vineyard and so the quickest maceration was performed due to so much sun-developed colour on hand. Stayed on lees until February, also less than usual but again the hot season saw quick development. The quotient distilled is a plentiful one, a brocade like golden silk, full and full of everything it can be. Not the sapid, mineral and volcanic salty carricante of let’s say 2014 but sometimes “luxury is the opposite of vulgarity…and complication, a necessity that begins where necessity ends.” Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted May 2018

Planeta Eruzione 1614 Carricante 2016, Doc Sicily, Italy (Agent, $42.99, WineAlign)

Passion projects are not for the faint of heart but they are perhaps reserved for winemakers too smart and too worthy for their own good. Eruzione is such an animal for Planeta’s winemaker Patricia Tóth, a varietal carricante ode (with 10 per cent riesling) to the great and tragic 1614 Etna eruption. If boys don’t cry I still shed a tear or two for history and for my love of this wine. It comes from the black volcanic soil of the Contrada Sciaranuova vineyard, next up the mountain from Contrada Santo Spirito. In ’16 it’s not measured by a low ’14-like pH, not quite as sharp, so therefore fuller and with more unction. It’s still an Etna-bled eruptive white, still beating raw by laser focus out of inspirational terroir. Readier too because it’s been held back a few more months for release. This wine will let you arrive at where you want to be. So many whites are mired in repeatable refrains. “Plastic passion is a Hyacinthe heart. Plastic passion is a transparent tart…Plastic passion is a gold guarantee. The plastic passion is murdering me.” Eruzione is life affirming and though other wines may pay the bills, this cariccante is the cure. Fill your prescription and drink up its passion. It’s the winemaker’s too. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted May 2018

Planeta Rosé Sicilia DOC 2017, Sicily, Italy (Agent, $16.95, WineAlign)

Planeta’s Rosé is half nero d’avola and half syrah, the nero coming from higher elevations. “We want something that we like to drink,” is the matter of fact explanation from winemaker Patricia Tóth. The first vintage was 2007 and it has evolved into this lithe and yet lush blush, the syrah bringing crisp verve and nerve. It is perhaps not as aromatic as some high level Planeta but that’s the life where odd bedfellows compliment one another in a modern world. Salty and sexy equals good combination. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted May 2018

Planeta Cerasuolo Di Vittoria DOCG 2016, Sicily, Italy (Agent, $29.37, WineAlign)

The only Sicilian DOCG in Planeta’s hands is noticeable, contractable and notable for quality consistency, both for the denomination and the estate style. Rich but tangy with so much soil voce, it flows effortlessly across the palate with malleable texture. Like Bourgogne Villages it starts at fruity and two years forward will begin to morph, into tobacco, funghi and salts of the earth.  Last tasted May 2018

Planeta’s Cerasuolo di Vittoria brings together nero d’avola and endemic frappato with only a stainless steel ferment in an anti-oxidative and naturally anti-oxidant way. This is nothing but freshness in a bottle with its ubiquitous red berry verve. You can just feel the breaths in this radiant Planeta, of winemakers and coveters of Sicilian treasures. You just have to taste Cerasuolo to understand how generous and graceful it is, earthy but of lovely clarity and spice all over the finish. Drink 2017-2021. Tasted November 2017

Planeta Cerasuolo Di Vittoria Classico DOCG Dorilli 2016, Sicily, Italy (Agent, $38.95, WineAlign)

Cerasuolo di Vittoria Classico is one thing, Dorilli 2016 is another matter altogether. The name of the estate marks the iconography of this Planeta blend, from a chosen vineyard carrying the dialectical tome of the river passing by. The old maps say Dirillo but through time this has changed, just like this Burgundian wine will draft through wake and evolve. There is a minor reduction here so it’s not as open as the normale though it’s offset by an extra year of aging for release 18 months after harvest. Blooming should happen some time in 2019 after the 70 per cent nero d’avola and (30) frappato begin to unfold out of itself for a full and layered Vittoria. Still there is the Cerasuolo fragrance from a guarantee by vintage and for texture. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted May 2018

Planeta Nocera Sicilia DOC 2016, Sicily, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

This is just the second vintage of Nocera, from the province of Messina and one of the most dramatic vineyard landscapes on the planet. La Baronia on Capo Milazzo is a long strip of a peninsula that looks out to the Aeolian islands. Nocera is by accounts an unusual variety made by approximately 15 producers, also in Faro and the total wines produced are from 28 hectares in total. The expectation is a marine wine of macchia, myrtle and garrigue. “It’s a beast,” says Patricia Tóth, especially in marine areas with huge clusters. It’s notable for its thickness and tannin, smelling of white pepper, maybe a note of geranium and it just might become a superstar. It’s like a child of cabernet franc and primitivo but with gamay plus pinot structure. Or like Bandol, with fleshy tannin and with time it will beocme a velvety version of its thick self. Don’t forget the salinity. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted May 2018

Planeta Eruzione 1614 Pinot Nero 2016, IGT Terre Siciliane, Sicily, Italy (Winery, $42.99, WineAlign)

Even within the erudite and super-investigative Eruzione 1614 series there is no internet or Planeta mention of the newest member Pinot Nero IGT Terre Siciliane 2016. It’s high volcanic mountain landscape time we talk about Etna and pinot noir. The symbiosis is a reality meeting necessity at a crossroads of potential. Not just any potential mind you but a Burgundian one. “We don’t want to talk about Bourgogne but Etna is the only Sicilian terroir where it can build a house,” says winemaker Patricia Tóth. The perfume, texture and tannic structure is all pinot noir, picked on a Saturday afternoon which was the moment of truth from green to spirit, the aha before moment the sun-dried plum is placed into the cognac. This is all heard in Sicily but it’s all true. There are now two terraces of fruit, so the current production of 1472 bottles may become 4000! Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted May 2018

Planeta Eruzione 1614 Nerello Mascalese Sicilia DOC 2016, Sicily, Italy (Winery, $42.99, WineAlign)

Like the yellow lorry carricante thriller it is Etna Rosso incarnate that is portrayed in this Eruzione red lorry nerello mascalese (with nine per cent nerello cappuccio) from up the mountain’s 890m vineyards of (Contrada) Sciaranuova, but with some fruit from lower altitude at 600m. The vine age is part 2008 and part 20 year-old vines and a small section going back 90 years but just a small spot. The higher you climb for nerello macalese the more finesse you acquire. This Eruzione is swimming through lava with it, smoothed by plenty of silky texture, raspberry and chalky liquid tannin. Nerello, “you ain’t nothing but a true embrace. You ain’t nothing but a hidden face.” Your Planeta edition gets neither more refined, elegant nor focused. You’ve been descried as the “alternative classic” or the new light pinot noir. Maybe frappato, but not you, nerello mascalese. Let’s leave you out of the discussion. Leave you alone. Talk about the weather. Drink 2019-2025. Tasted May 2018

Planeta Santa Cecilia Doc Noto 2015, Sicily, Italy (Winery, $54.99, WineAlign)

The first vintage was in the late 90s and the appellation eventually became DOC Noto, with the initial vintage of 2003 having been where it was fully done in Noto, but 2008 is the official DOC recognition. This is when both Noto and Sicilia are on the label for the DOC to be recognized as 100 per cent nero d’Avola. Comes by way of the white chalky soils of Noto and is deceptively rich, deeply rendered, of an incredible acidity, dark and viscous fruit. There is so much happening in violet florals and light. Did I mention the acidity, amazingly linear but waiting to circle and become ringing. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted May 2018

Allemanda Sicilia Noto DOC 2017, Sicily, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Allemanda is made from 100 per cent moscato bianco and if you have not tried to sit on a beach in the shade with a bottle of this gently but forcefully aromatic farfalle of a Noto in Sicilia white then you have yet lived. The self-professed Baroque dance is truly an exotic reminder of jasmime blooms and tropical citrus. It’s actually a bit tannic and also extremely refreshing. Two hands in the air for Noto’s soils and sea-proximity to do what’s necessary and beautiful for moscato. Dangerously consumable. Drink 2018-2021. Tasted May 2018

Cometa Fiano Sicilia Menfi DOC 2017, Sicily, Italy (Winery, $49.99, WineAlign)

Cometa from Menfi is the other fiano, the somewhat rare and effusive fiano from Sicily. The elusive one is a Planeta speciality and one of winemaker Patricia Tòth’s great secret varietal weapons, a Mediterranean that pleases quickly, compliments all that is drawn from the sea and is capable of developing complexity with age. This is both floral and juicy, combining for this lychee meets honeysuckle into tropical territory. Streaks like a comet indeed, right across the palate and into your psyche. Not to mention your bleeding heart. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted May 2018

Burdese Sicilia Menfi DOC 2014, Sicily, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Burdese is cabernet sauvignon (70 per cent) and cabernet franc as the playful Bordelais blend, dialectical in nomenclature and in style. It’s an adaptation from “Bordolese” and into the land. The trilogy of sun-ripened phenolics, rich texture and silky tannins make this quite easy to drink, especially with four years past and medium rare protein on the plate. All aspects of sun-reasoned votes play notes, of tomato, dusty plum and dark currants. Flavour abounds with no sign of impending decline. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted May 2018

Maroccoli Syrah Sicilia Menfi DOC 2014, Sicily, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

The name Maroccoli is local for “ideally situated vineyard” and syrah must find its spots to shine. An elevated hill between lake and sea is this Maroccoli’s place in the sun and the syrah it delivers is spicy, high tonal and indelibly stamped with firm grip. It’s both meaty and exotic, wildly berry filled and sharp as a tack. It seems syrah could use an extra year or two beyond the Bordolese out of Menfi. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted May 2018

Sito Dell’umo Merlot Sicilia Menfi DOC 2014, Sicily, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Here the biggest of the three Menfi reds and the varietal home from where the estate’s story really begins. No wood holds barred or lack of ripeness can keep this Bordolese down, not with such a firm grip by way of tannin derived off of sun-worshipping vines and generous barrels. On its own the merlot is more demanding than the Burdese and just as grippy-peppery as the syrah. It’s a wine best enjoyed when it reaches the balsamico-ganache-medicinal herbs stage. That has yet to happen. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted May 2018

Missed flight fifth order of business @planetawinery 2008 #santacecilia #docnoto

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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The great Gabbiano

@castgabbiano in light of expression and meaning

A return visit at Castello di Gabbiano

Federico Cerelli is Chianti Classico’s new renaissance ranger, a man on a mission to not only seek out great terroirs but also to reinvent what can be induced, coaxed, persuaded and realized from his denizens of field and plantation. Though Castello di Gabbiano’s portfolio is a massive project with scopic reach, Cerelli never rests on complacency, laurels or sales figures. There is no settling for average at Gabbiano or the blasé delivery of unexciting wines just because you’ve already earned the trust of your buyers. If a Gabbiano owned or managed vineyard in Mercatale Val di Pesa requires the cash to improve the health of the vines or to rip out and replant, than it is done. Can there be a finer example of commercial scope meeting artigianale than the quixotic and obsessive Castello di Gabbiano?

About his masterpiece novel F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote “I want to write something new, something extraordinary and beautiful, simple and intricately patterned.” Like the vineyards of Gabbiano but also a project in Radda in Chianti that is Federico’s new baby, that being the remarkable IGT Toscana work at Poggio di Guardia with Stefano di Blasi. It is there on a storied plot and historical estate where they are producing sangiovese with cabernet, merlot and amphora raised rebo. Cerelli can thank the work he’s put in at Gabbiano and the team who support his endeavours for this springboard to something exciting and new.

Gabbiano’s hills in Mercatale Val di Pesa

Related – Three days, eight estates, Chianti Classico

A return visit to the 12th century Castello di Gabbiano touches an estate and a castle that remained in the possession of the Florentine banking family Bardi until the early part of the 15th century. After it passed to the Soderini family, one of the most politically influential families in Florence, it was converted of the turreted manor house of Gabbiano in Fattoria, already completed by the late 15th century.

Today the 147 hectare estate is divided up into DOCG Chianti Classico (109 hectares), IGT (35) and Vin Santo. I have had the pleasure to taste with winemaker Federico Cerelli, Managing Director Ivano Reali and Marketing Director Silvia Bottelli on several occasions and this most recent sit-down focused on vertical looks at Riserva and Gran Selezione. Ivano is responsible for directing the complete renewal of all estate vineyards including new plantings and managed improvements to the estate’s winemaking facilities and practices. At the start of our visit Federico drove us to the ridge opposite and to the east of the castle and winery to gain a clearer ante-understanding of Gabbiano’s soil types, slopes, aspects and exposures. Looking at the blocks you can intuit how the two men work side by side with meticulous attention, verging on obsessive, to focus on agriculture and how it connects to winemaking. Federico and Ivano are in constant analytic contact with the vineyards and corresponding production methods. There is no rest for these two. Later on our discussion on Gabbiano and Chianti Classico carried over to dinner at the estate’s restaurant, Il Cavaliere. These are my notes on the seven wines poured.

Triumvirate #chianticlassico Riserva and Gran Selezione verticals at @castgabbiano with Federico Cerelli 2011-2013

Castello Di Gabbiano Chianti Classico Riserva 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (216309, $22.95, WineAlign)

The consistency of the Gabbiano Chianti Classico Riserva continues in 2015 and it is becoming increasingly impossible to find matchable quality at this price level. The 2015 is a Riserva of extreme youth, really grippy, full, extracted and liquid chalky rich. Don’t misunderstand or be duped because this ’15 isn’t brighter than the more than surprising ’14. It is not a question of stepping back from success and time will be a factor for both longevity and the preservation of freshness. So it is a matter of vintage. This carries an early and spicy sangiovese wisdom and this will serve it well. It’s frankly a bit hot right now but that too will relax. With each passing year another rung is ascended up the CCR ladder forged by the Federico Cerelli and Ivano Reali Gabbiano union. Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted September 2017  castellodigabbiano  markanthonyon  @castgabbiano  @MarkAnthonyWine  @castellogabbiano  Ivano Reali (Castello Di Gabbiano)  Mark Anthony Wine & Spirits

Castello Di Gabbiano Chianti Classico Riserva 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (216309, $22.95, WineAlign)

Now tasting with winemaker Federico Cerelli he says he wasn’t even sure he would make Riserva out of 2014 but with more skin contact and longer maceration he was able to add some structure. The depth is the thing. This will age much longer than most would choose to give it credit for.  Last tasted September 2017

The difficulties presented by the vintage were determinate in excluding the Gran Selezione Bellezza from production so it is that bottle’s loss that became the Riserva’s gain. The single vineyard’s 2014 yield may not have been stellar but its significance is not lost on the overall Riserva gathering, down 40 per cent in quantity. It is here that we see the expertise of a winemaker like Federico Cerelli, to work with new parameters literally thrown at him by chaos and uncertainty. Less than 18,000 bottles came out of 2014 and the wine saw its expected time in barriques and botti, none of which were new. This is CCR of sangiovese brightness meets firm ’14 grip. The varietal freshness is preserved in ways previous vintages were not. Once again this incumbent year is put on vivid display, befallen to knowing hands and forward thinking minds. The aging potential here is excellent. Drink 2018-2029. Tasted February 2017

Castello Di Gabbiano Chianti Classico Riserva 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (216309, $22.95, WineAlign)

The advanced character is minor but poignant, as expected and predicted. A touch of balsamic, softness and richness.  Last tasted September 2017

First and foremost it is the wood, or the lack of wood that stands out in the CCR 2013. It may be observed as a different kind of wood, less polished and more natural but what really wins out is the fruit. The cherries are surfeited by impressed tannin and linger with good tonic for a good length of time. Great restraint shown by winemaker Federico Cerelli. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted June 2016

Burrata e pomodoro at IL Cavaliere del Castello di Gabbiano

Castello Di Gabbiano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Bellezza 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (652438, $39.95, WineAlign)

Bright, structured, vibrant, just in a great state, with tons of fruit and yet it will continue to improve, over the next two or three years.  Last tasted September 2017

Tasted with winemaker Federico Cerelli alongside the new era ushering 2012, a wine with six months further resolve, which is really just a moment in life. Looking at this 2013 it clings to that ’12’s ideal, still firm and in need of down time, stirring still, wasting some time. Here a gear switch, alteration and adjustment. A reduction of new oak, an increase of the mineral cogitation specific to the Albarese soil, with tannins great like in 2012 but finer, more elegant. This is more classic in the sangiovese thought because what also is allowed is the level of dry extract, “over 30 for sure” notes Cerelli. This Bellezza is pure sangiovese, the best Bellezza in years, classic to remind of many years ago but a very modern wine. It is the Gabbiano predicament and the predilection to announce what Gran Selezione means so in a word, bravo. You could actually drink this now and then over 25 years. “What is Bellezza? This is the best block of the estate” is the answer as told by Federico. Great tannins, simply great tannins. Drink 2019-2032.  Tasted May 2016 and February 2017

Castello Di Gabbiano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Bellezza 2012, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (652438, $39.95, WineAlign)

Quite antithetical to the bookends of 2011 and 2013 this feels a bit cooked and raisined at this stage though it’s certainly a different sort of vintage and forged from a deferential set of structure parameters. Enjoy earlier while the others work their slower evolutions.  Last tasted September 2017

Sangiovese all in, 100 per cent pure-blood and nothing but new barrels to round off every divergence, angle and edge. Expectations demand secondary characteristics from such a bella Chianti and this piccolo Gran Selezione delivers. In 2012 it over-delivers, already hinting at tertiary aromas and flavours, leathery, cedary and potent. Due to its advancing ways it’s a bit of a double-edged sword, albeit carried by a knight on a beautiful horse. It’s a joust we should all be willing to wage in the near to medium term, especially if a Florentine steak or double cut-veal chop are part of the battle. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted February 2016

Castello Di Gabbiano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Bellezza 2011, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (652438, $39.95, WineAlign)

Tasting Gabbiano’s Gran Selezione Bellezza 2011 in 2017 is a treat of timing and perhaps the advantage is unfair, also for having already tasted 2012 and 2013 on two occasions each. The slings, arrows and raptures of experience offer perspective for having waited out this Chianti Classico borne of a hottish and dry season. Now having gained another two years in bottle it has benefited from the integration and the settling. I really get true sangiovese character, savoury, tart, energetic but certainly sheathed in more new barrel than the more recent and scaled back vibrant 2013. Really chewy, this ’11 has come together in such an amenable and fortuitous way. Drink 2017-2024.  Tasted September 2017

Ristorante Il Cavaliere at Castello di Gabbiano

Gabbiano Dark Knight 2016, IGT Toscana (Agent, $17.99, WineAlign)

Dark Knight is cabernet sauvignon and merlot from the Tuscan coast with some estate sangiovese, It’s lush, dark, silky with a little bit of residual sugar (7 g/L). Fruity, simple, faintly sweet and for so many commercial purposes, it’s a slam dunk. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted September 2017

@castgabbiano in light of expression and meaning

Good to go!

Godello

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A river runs through Greve

Ruffoli, Greve in Chianti

Chianti Classico is not one of the more famous left versus right bank terroirs in Europe but in the case of Greve in Chianti a river does run through it. My recent September 2017 sangiovese exploration brought me to Greve and a retrospective concern shows how visits to Querciabella, Villa Calcinaia and a subset of Montefioralle wines now explain a contrast in landscape meets topography, position and soil that at the time was not fixed on my menzioni geografiche radar. What happens left or west of the river is one thing and to the right something other. Were that it were so simple I wouldn’t have to expand, but it’s not and I do.

Related – The ins and outs of Panzano in Chianti

The Greve river (fiume Greve) is a 43 kilometre slide of twists, turns, switchbacks, rises, falls and settles into floodplains. It’s origins are upon Monte Querciabella in Radda, north of Volpaia, southwest of Badaccia a Monetmuro and southeast of Lamole. Heading swiftly northwest it then crests as a flat flood plain between Panzano and Greve, known as the Piano di Montagliari. Continuing north it slices the village of Greve in Chianti and along Strada 222 past Villa Calcinaia, Verrazzano and Vicchiomaggio. It eventually spills into the Arno River at Firenze.

Related – Into the Castelnuovo Berardenga great wide open

Querciabella’s position in Ruffoli east of the Greve hamlet and the river is one of the more distinct and perhaps least understood of Greve’s areas. Ruffoli is another communal sub-zone that requires the introspective investigation for its singularities and peculiarities. It is the Chianti Classico poster child for seeing the vineyards through the trees. Along with neighbours Poggio Scalette and Il Tagliato there forms a special bond for the combination of altitude, great stands of forests and the multifarious soils that have been unearthed from beneath those heavy woods. In fact Ruffoli may be the most Burgundian meets Alsatian terroir in all of Tuscany. It’s a very cool place.

Related – Because the night in Gaiole

Not all clones are created equal #sangiovese #ruffoli #chianticlassico #greveinchianti #querciabella

Related – Castellina in golden light

Comparatively speaking Villa Calcinaia and the hills west of Greve are more of a landscape of tumbling rocks and stones down hills into gravel and silt where the river lies below. Stand on the upper terrace of Calcinaia’s property, look up into the hills and then back across the Chiantigiana and the study in contrasts is a fascinating one. Calcinaia’s soils down by the river are clay-loam and as you climb the hill the sand and calcaire with Galestro predominating lends the name “chalk quarry” to the estate.

Related – Get Radda for Chianti Classico

South from Calcinaia and Viticcio we come upon the next great Greve sub-zone known as Montefioralle. Simply assessed Montefioralle is close to Castello di Montefioralle, southwest of Greve and south of Greti. The hamlet has 79 residents and sits at an elevation of 352 meters. The zonazione is home to the Associazione Viticoltori Montefioralle of 14 producers; Altiero, Belvedere, Brogioni Maurizio, Villa Calcinaia, Podere Campriano, Podere San Cresci, Roberto Grassi, Le Palei, Luciano Meli, Poggio Riccioli, Schietto, Terre di Baccio, Castello Di Verrazzano and Vitticio. The growers refer to their collective soil soul as “on the left side of the river, the peculiarity of the soil and the microclimate give to the Sangiovese grapes a unique and strong identity.” The terroir in Montefioralle is indeed mostly calcareous clay, with sand and in some cases, outcrops of “compresso indifferenziato argille scagliose,” part schisty calcaire with less instances of Galestro or Alberese and more Macigno. Once again yet another micro-territory in Chianti Classico to be considered for menzione geographiche aggiuntive.

This sixth of seven exposés on i cru di enogea, the greater and smaller territories within Chianti Classico covers the visit to Querciabella and the Montefioralle tasting with Sebastiano Capponi at Villa Calcinaia. I’ve reviewed 18 wines in total.

Querciabella

Querciabella is the continuing vision of the late patriarch Giuseppe Castiglioni, a man of Milanese origins who purchased and launched the estate in 1974 in the post sharecropping, mezzadrina era. Since 1988 with his precocious and ahead of the global game decision to convert the farm to organic practices, it is the emotional and soulful braintrust of Sebastiano Cossia Castiglioni that leads Querciabella forward. The estate is also biodynamic (2000) although minus the hocus-pocus, voodoo chile, astrological, new age nonsense. There are no animal-based preparations employed, no stuffing cow horns with manure, only plants, all in the name of applications rooted in ethical principles. The forests are maintained and cover crops are composed of grasses, herbs, cruciferous vegetables and legumes. 

Our visit to Querciabella coincided with harvest so we were able to watch first hand the sangiovese grapes coming in and going through the presses. Grapes destined for Chianti Classico and IGT Toscana. In 2000 Querciabella’s Camartina was proclaimed as the greatest Italian wine of the year by virtue of combining scores rated by the Italian wine guides. At the time it was a sangiovese dominant blend and in this tasting we were able to taste a vertical that showed how it has transformed into the cabernet-led blend it is today. The cru of Ruffoli was investigated through pours of Chianti Classico and Palfreno, a merlot only made in selected vintages. We also got a glimpse into the history and evolution of Bátar, a white wine of not so subtle reference to Bâtard-Montrachet. Our tasting was one of patent application for full Querciabella disclosure, led by winemaker Manfred Ing and CEO Roberto Lasorte.

Revisiting the exceptional @querciabella @chianticlassico at the source

Querciabella Mongrana 2013, IGT Toscana, Italy (Agent, $28.95, SAQ 11192183, $25.25, WineAlign)

The first vintage of Mongrana was 2005 and the blend is now 50 per cent sangiovese plus 25 each cabernet franc and merlot. The fruit comes coastal from the Maremma, easy-going dusty and orchard red. Very red fruit, so crushable with ripe acidity and a grippy finish. Spicy and round, but pointed, in a right and delectable direction. Bloody delicious, this medieval blend of poetry, of knights and horses. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted September 2017  querciabella  grape_brands  @Querciabella   @querciabella

Querciabella Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (728816, $30.25, WineAlign)

This vintage is the third as a 100 per cent sangiovese and Manfred Ing points out how there is a lot less Radda fruit in the mix due to pest problems and so much of that fruit was dropped. Whatever (lack of) balance may have been in question last February is no longer debatable. This is a most exceptional 2014.  Last tasted September 2017

I am at first quite surprised by the aromatic candy and volatility on this Greve in Chianti Querciabella when considered after the extraordinarily balanced 2013 recently tasted. But this ’14 is still silly young and the sweet opening is just a portal in which to crawl through. Once inside there is this specific liquor, a pool filled with more wealth of sangiovese fruit than the basin can currently hold. So it’s spilling over the edges in its youth and it’s simply too much for the glass to hold. I think the house took this a bit too far in reaction to ’14’s weather and a bit of balance has been compromised. I’m not sure this will ever find the elegance that ’13 showed but it does match the ripeness and the necessary triumvirate opposition forces of grip, acid and tannin. Huge wine. Maybe it just needs five years to settle into its skin because of course the fruit is red bright, not dark, hematic and brooding. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted February 2017

Querciabella Chianti Classico Riserva 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

This Riserva picks up right where the ’13 normale left you hanging and wishing for more. As is so often the case when it can be excellent CC but disappointing, or at least, not quite meeting high expectations from CCR. This Querciabella carries the same pure fruit but with another layer of concentration and purity. Where it really excels is in a combinative and almost but not quite too serious combative struggle between texture and structure. The acidity is red tapioca pearly fine and the tannins ridiculously fine. So appreciative of this Burgundian-style, Beaune winemaking for sangiovese. Certainly Premier Cru in quality though in the end, if only by a splitting hair, I will always choose the CC. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February and September 2017

Querciabella Turpino 2011, IGT Toscana, Italy (Agent, $54.95, WineAlign)

Turpino Toscana IGT is a blend of cabernet franc (40 per cent), syrah (40) and merlot (20), with this being the second commercial vintage. For winemaker Manfred Ing it’s about “having the ability to do small, micro-vinifications,” to produce a Super Tuscan wine from the Maremma coast, but here also including some cabernet franc and merlot from Greve. It’s hematic with still a minor reductive note that persists and though its draws from grapes and sites around the region the Querciabella liqueur distinguishes and pervades. The name’s origin might come from one of a few sources. Turpino, an eighth century monk and archbishop of Reims, Turpinus or Tylpinus. Turpino from the poem written by Ludovico Ariosto, the “Orlando Furioso.” Or perhaps fictional from the medieval verse Cronaca di Turpino o Historia Karoli Magni et Rotholandi. The wine is grandioso in its own right, really wound tight, still of the Querciabella red fruit but quite forward and stand alone despite the oak and the age. The freshness is actually quite remarkable as it seems both agronomist and winemaker really understand their fruit. There is even a marine saltiness running through. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted September 2017

Camartina

Querciabella Camartina 2011, IGT Toscana, Italy (Agent, $100.00, WineAlign)

Camartina is Querciabella’s red of greatest reason, lineage and purpose, from Giuseppe Castiglioni through Sebastiano Cossia Castiglioni and Manfred Ing. The first vintage was 1981 of this 70 per cent cabernet sauvignon and 30 sangiovese from organic (1988) and biodynamic (2000), frightfully low-yield vineyards and it is not produced when the year is not right. The varietal obviousness from the cabernet is so transparent, especially for Toscana, dusty, Cassis-led, full of black raspberry fruit and ripe verbena. The sangiovese brings the acidity and a secondary layering of tannin but there is nothing fat or brooding about the cabernet. Freshness again and elasticity that starts wise and comes back in. Very focused and length that delivers more and more waves of that fruit. Tannins are pure and their fineness only stretches and further lengthens the accord. There can be no consideration of understanding until at least four years after vintage with seven being the correct launching point. Alas. Drink 2018-2028.  Tasted September 2017

Querciabella Camartina 2005, IGT Toscana, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Camartina in 2005 is 70 per cent cabernet and 30 sangiovese, two years forward after 2003, the point where the cabernet replaced the sangiovese as the varietal so here we are early in that ideal. An ideal that has persisted to 2011 and beyond. Warmth of vintage shows with 12-year mark secondary character but of a vintage that wasn’t (at the time) considered great (being between 2004 and 2006). Here it’s really claret-Bordeaux like, with Cassis, graphite and this open phase of life. Really quite expressive and yet the wood is more a part of the mix, albeit with a savoury edge. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted September 2017

Querciabella Camartina 1999, IGT Toscana, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Camartina back in 1999 was a very different wine, of 85-90 per cent sangiovese and 10-15 per cent cabernet sauvignon, all from Greve, specifically the cru of Ruffoli. Would have qualified as a Chianti Classico Riserva back then (and potentially Gran Selezione now, though not for long), both because of varietal percentage and location. So the reference point is taken, this from the last Camartina that winemaker/enologist Giacomo Tachis followed through to the end. The structure has made this one built to last with the umami factor running plateau high and the acidity persistent and lifted, but sweet and layered. The spice, savour and this mint-rosemary-lavender-sage mix is really quite striking. Drink 2017-2025.  Tasted September 2017

Querciabella Palfreno 2012, IGT Toscana, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Palafreno is organic and biodynamic Greve farmed 100 per cent merlot from Ruffoli made in small quantities and only in the finest vintages, with 2000 being the first. Picking merlot is the most precarious preoccupation in Toscana, as explained by Manfred Ing, “it’s nearly ready, it’s ready and it’s gone.” The three-day window of merlot. Palafreno is an ancient Italian word designating a noble riding horse used by medieval knights for travel, parades or tournaments. Palafreno the merlot is an open book, quite ripe, not from a cold vintage to be sure but one of a a slow ripening gait, with some rain and then long, extended trotting through heat. Very spicy, really chalky, tart, tight and highly tannic. In other words, merlot of structure, musculature and regal status. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted September 2017

Batter

Querciabella Bátar 2014, IGT Toscana, Italy (SAQ 12294771, $97.00, WineAlign)

Batar from the Latin battere, variant of battuere, to beat, strike repeatedly hit. Bátar, a not so subtle reference to Montrachet and at Querciabella the name used to have a D on the end, but a letter from the French changed that, to Batàr with the accent but the Milanese translation remains essentially the same. Between 1988 and 1991 the wine was called Bâtard-Pinot, which was a blend of Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris. Between 1992 and 1994 the name was Bâtard because Chardonnay had been added to the blend. In 1995 the name was changed to Batàr in order to avoid confusion with French AOCs of Burgundy whose name contains the word ‘Bâtard’ (Bienvenues-Bâtard-Montrachet, Criots-Bâtard-Montrachet and Bâtard-Montrachet). Batàr is the Querciabella outlier, a long thought on project to combine pinot bianco and chardonnay and elevate its white appellative status though barrel aging and full malolactic. It may just be the most singular white wine in all of Chianti Classico, perhaps in all of Toscana. It’s like Beaune-Bourgogne and Norman Hardie rolled into one Tuscan white blend package, with a fine oxidative line running through a fresh, tannic and pure wine, with thanks to the generous use of French barrels. The length is exceptional but to be honest, not unexpected. Another galestro-elastic-saline wine, in its own special way. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted September 2017

Querciabella Bátar 1998, IGT Toscana, Italy (WineAlign)

Batàr has been the name since 1995 after the Bourgignons forced Querciabella to drop the “D” at the end. This ’98 is certainly oxidative (and unavoidably so because of style and time) but the acidity really persists. A comparison with 2014 is quite futile as this is just from another era. Texture and flesh is strong, floral, honeyed, tannic again and even carrying some notes of pineapple, beeswax and almandine. Would make for a wonderful blind pour at a pirates on a picnic dinner. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted September 2017

Appassitoio (drying room) at Villa Calcinaia

Villa Calcinaia

For a full report on Villa Calcinaia please click on this link.

Related – Six hundred years of Villa Calcinaia in Chianti Classico

After a September evening visit to Calcinaia we convened at Ristorante Pane E Olio in Firenze for a final meal with the Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico’s Silvia Fiorentini, Christine Lechner and Calcinaia’s Count, Sebastiano Capponi. It was here that he opened the only varietal bottle of its kind.

Villa Calcinaia Occhiorosso 2015, IGT Vino Dei Colli Della Toscana Centrale, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Occhiorosso is Endemic to Lamole, cultivated at Calcinaia and raised by Sebastiano Capponi. Only the lonely occhiorosso are the red eyes of Greve in Chianti, the war on drugs varietal feeling, in cohorts to cousin sangiovese. “Come and see, where or when there’s everything. On my ways, be better, get to my soul.” Drink 2017 -2019.  Tasted September 2017

I was under the impression this was called “Ocolos” which could very well be a shortened version of concupiscentia oculorum, “the lust of the eyes,” or in this case sarcopodium odoratum, with a sangiovese-copycat more volatile (but not screaming sour in any acetic way), just earthy, not microbilia, but soil funky. This is in fact Occhiorosso, drawn from a specific seven rows of vines, adding up to one barrique and it will go to bottle in July. Earthy, from Galestro soil located on the upper seventh and eight terrace of sangiovese, so different from the single-vineyard cousin, Gran Selezione Bastignano. The perfume is redolent of sweet scented bedstraw and exotics, like orchids just beginning to decay in water, still in control of its enticements. This is the natural sangiovese, very specific to place. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted from barrel, February 2017

Greve in Chianti – Montefioralle

The Montefioralle Divino wine festival organized and promoted by the Grape Growers Association of Montefioralle took place on September 23 and 24, just four days before we met at Villa Calcinaia to taste through the wine growers’ wines. The harvest festival is a two day event with tasting stalls and direct sale. The members are producers with estates and/or vineyards holdings around the Montefioralle hill west of Greve.  @ViMontefioralle  @viticoltorimontefioralle

A #greveinchianti #montefioralle @chianticlassico run through @villacalcinaia in Sebastiano’s caves

Altiero Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Altiero Chianti Classico 2014 by Paolo Baldini is 100 per cent Montefioralle sangiovese with a distinct reduced balsamico, soy and tar complexity. Oak stands out in a deep, dark and handsome way. It’s kind of sweet in a chcolate ooze of dessert topping sort of way. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted September 2017  aziendaagricolaaltiero    Azienda Agricola Altiero

Brogioni Maurizio Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Brogioni Maurizio is plain good funky Greve in Chianti Chianti Classico of its own sweet funk with a bounce in its step, a funk that does not so much blow away as carry on with the musicality of the fruit. The palate piles on with great harmonic volatility. The beat is part disco and part Funkadelic R & B all wrapped and warped into one crazy fun wine. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted February and September 2017  #brogionimaurizio  Maurizio Brogioni

Villa Calcinaia Chianti Classico 2014, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $25.95, WineAlign)

From a challenging and low-yielding vintage that took away more than it gave. The varied renditions of Chianti Classico are all over the map so it’s a revelation to come across Sebastiano Capponi’s calm and beautiful ’14 life. His is a sangiovese that was allowed to just be itself, aromatic to savoury, immune from the pressures placed upon by vintage and expectation. Calcinaia’s is a Greve in Chianti of roses, violets, more amenability than most ‘14s and without any real bother from the barrel. Quite pure with very mature sangiovese flavours, circulating and by extension from natural acidity. The length is exceptional for annata. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted February and September 2017  @villacalcinaia  @Nicholaspearce_  villacalcinaia  nicholaspearcewines  @calcinaia  Nicholas Pearce

Podere Campriano Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Win eAlign)

Podere Campriano Chianti Classico 2014 is Elena Lapini’s organic 100 per cent sangiovese. The label notes Greve in Chianti straight under the winery name and the sense of appellative pride is duly noted. Lapini’s ’14 is so proficiently correct, righteously tart, deeply rendered and soulful. The low-yielding, young adult (15 year-old high density vines) fruit was picked on fine acidity and carries this plummy note to counteract the launching tang and direct energy. Really stays focused and keeps it clarity through a long finish. Great example from Montefioralle. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2017  poderecampriano  @ElenaCampriano  Elena Podere Campriano Lapini

Podere San Cresci Chianti Classico 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Santa Cresci Chianti Classico 2013 from David Ballini carries both five per cent of cabernet franc and merlot alongside the sangiovese in the only sample of ten from Montefioralle that comes from the little peninsula outcrop with a slightly different soil composition, “compresso indifferenziato argille scagliose,” part schisty calcaire with less Alberese and more into the Macigno than the others. The unfair playing field puts this in ’13 territory, with its silky and filled in mid-palate and plenty of vintage energy. The cab franc and merlot do indeed impart a right bank Bordeaux moment, however fleeting, and the roasted meat meets dark ropey fruit is quite the excitement creator if ever there was in sangiovese. This the outlier is quite vital even if some raisin notes pop in and out of the fruit. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted September 2017  ballanza12_  David Arnold Ballini

Terre di Baccio Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Terre di Baccio Chianti Classico 2014 from Montefioralle boldly expresses the rich brooding of sangiovese and an acquiesced savoury streak with 10 per cent cabernet franc in the mix. This final sample of 10 confirms the consistency of terroir, style and execution, readily apparent across the Montefioralle grouping. They are deep, hematic, dark and intense sangiovese. This is no exception. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted September 2017  #terredibaccio  @TerrediBaccio  Agriturismo Terre di Baccio

Castello Di Verrazzano Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $30.25, WineAlign)

Castello di Verrazzano Chianti Classico from Luigi Cappellini is 95 per cent sangiovese with five per cent “other varieties.” A really ripe and filled to the brim CC for ’14, fully pressed and expressed. Oak laden in as much as Greve in Chianti can be, like a milkshake with bitter almond elements. From the north part of Montefioralle on Alberese and some Galestro with sandy soils. A solid early drinking and lush Chianti Classico. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted September 2017  verrazzanopeople   @StaffVerrazzano  @Smallwinemakers  Castello di Verrazzano  The Small Winemakers Collection

Viticcio Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (283580, $19.25, WineAlign)

Viticcio’s also hails from the north part of Montefioralle (on the western side of Greve in Chianti) and its typical Alberese, Galestro and sandy soils. A good punch of dark red and black raspberry fruit is mostly sangiovese (with two per cent merlot), spicy and bitterish with wood notes and plenty of savour. This ’14 from the vintage of great demand and attention to detail is tart and chalky, needing some time. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2017   viticciowinery  majesticwinesinc  @viticciowinery  @MajesticWineInc  Viticcio Winery  Majestic Wine Cellars

Good to go!

Godello

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