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Archive for May, 2008

Pax Mahle is considered to be an ultratraditionalist. “We take a very pure approach,” explains Mahle, “one that was more commonplace 100 years ago in France than it is today.”

That approach includes organic farming, foot-crushing the grapes, natural fermentations and absolutely no fining or filtering. He contends that his style of winemaking is really without a style.

It is also worth noting that their approach to customer service is a throwback to another era as well. Everyone I have ever interacted with has been very personable, genuine and helpful. They also sent me a handwritten and thoughtful thank you note after I had ordered my wine.

Mahle used to work as a wine buyer at Dean & DeLuca. After tasting a few thousand wines for his job at D&D, he became convinced that the cool coastal vineyards of northern California could produce his beloved Rhône style of nuanced, layered Syrah.

He might have been on to something as he seems to be developing quite a following. A couple of years ago a special five-case lot of his 2004 Pax Wine Cellars Syrah sold for an auction-high $18,000 at the Paso Robles Hospice du Rhône benefit.

Pax has produced a Rousssane in previous vintages, but this is their first Marsanne/Roussane/Viognier release.

Light, golden straw in color and a little cloudy in the glass. Pear, apple with soft white flower and wet stone on the nose. Pear, honey, vanilla, pepper, buttered almond and wet cement one the palate — pronounced minerality with creamy acidity and a lingering finish. Oak is there for structure, but it is also very subtle. More appealing as the wine continues to open through the course of the evening.

Had I not known it was from California, I might have guessed this wine was from the the Rhône valley — proof that he doesn’t just produce Rhône-like Syrahs.

Certainly not a value, but a great bottle of wine. I wish I could afford to drink Pax wines on a more regular basis as I would put them on my short list best producers in California.

Recommended.

44 % Roussanne / 38% Marsanne / 18% Viognier
10 % new French Oak
13.5 % Alc by Vol
165 cases produced

Other wines from Pax:
Pax Syrah Sonoma Hillsides Russian River Valley 2006

Other recommended California Rhône whites:
Tablas Creek Côtes de Tablas Blanc 2006
Melville Estate Verna’s Viognier 2007
McPrice Myers Viognier Larner Vineyard 2006
L’Aventure Roussanne 2006

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This wine is a blend of Garganega, Trebbiano Toscano, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Saorin (believed to be a clone of the Tokay grape and meaning “flavor” in Veronese dialect).

Garganega is the 5th most widely planted white grape in Italy and the main grape used in the production of Soave (it constitutes 70-100% of the blend). Garganega is also a key component in Bianco di Custoza and Colli Euganei.

Very light golden straw in color. Damp, musty, wet cement — fruit is quite subdued on the nose. The damp, musty characteristics were not nearly as noticeable on day 2. On the palate, a bit of citrus, apple, apricot, honey and almond butter. Soft minerality and acidity, medium weight with nice richness and a clean finish.

Very approachable (and only 12.5% alcohol)– certainly a well made wine, but the main thing that excites me about this wine is that it is a Quintarelli — and there probably are other white wines that I would recommend for this level of quality at a lower price point. That being said, a bottle of anything Quintarelli is always memorable — but I think the truly special memories are his red wines.

Related posts:
Quintarelli Primofiore 2004
Giuseppe Quintarelli Valpolicella Classico Superiore 1999

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Unti’s vineyard was founded in 1990 and the winery in 1997.

It is owned and operated by George, Linda, and Mick Unti. Mick manages all winemaking, sales and marketing for the winery. Sébastien Pochan is the winemaker.

My first exposure to Unti was 3 or 4 years ago on a trip to California. We were at Ridge and they recommended we stop at Unti. I ended up buying more wine at Unti than at Ridge.

I am especially fond of their Petite Sirah — and most of their wines are a very good value as well.

The are located in Dry Creek Valley and have about 60 acres under vine. They grow Zinfandel, Syrah, Sangiovese, Petite Sirah, Grenache Noir, Mourvedre, Barbera, Montepulciano, Grenache Blanc, Picpoul Blanc and Vermentino.

They produced 6,800 cases of wine in 2006.

Their rosé is 65% grenache and 35% mourvedre. Pink with a slight hint of gray in color. A little flat on the aromatics, but some white flowers, strawberry and pepper on the nose. Raspberry, rose water and black pepper on the palate. A full bodied and complex rosé with some spice (and a little bit of heat), nice acidity and a crisp finish.

Interesting to note that the clones for the grenache were purchased from Tablas Creek and Alban Vineyards. Unti states that these clones, originally selected from Chateauneuf du Pape, give darker color and better structure than the majority of Grenache planted in California.

$16-18 a bottle. 14.3% alcohol. 450 cases produced. This may not be at the top of my rosé list, as I think there are better options for the dollar; however, it is a very nice rosé — and I will continue to buy it in coming vintages. I would probably opt to serve this with food — and something quite substantial given the weight, complexity and spice.

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This wine is from the region of Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine. Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Main is collection of vineyards, scattered between 23 communes around the confluence of the Sèvre and Maine rivers as they flow towards the Loire. This region produces 81% of the Muscadet and many contend this region produces the best Muscadet.

Muscadet once held a reputation of being (at best) an early-drinking, neutral foil for seafood and (at worst) a bland, tasteless, light and watery drink. Muscadet may not be considered one of the elite white wines of France, but they are gaining greater recognition as U.S. consumers search for value in the wake of a falling dollar — and the quality of the wines has also improved.

The fruit is cultivated with great care, using biodynamic methods. The wines are true to place and considered to be terroir-driven. The terroir is largely sandy, although there are areas that feature clay, granite, schist and gneiss (a common metamorphic rock often associated with granite).

The Chereau Carre Muscadet Chateau De Chasseloir is pale straw in color. Very bright and fresh aromatics with lots of stone fruits, sour apple and citrus on the nose. Apple, pear, a little citrus and some sea foam on the palate. Loaded with crisp, lively acidity and nice minerality — and a clean finish. A solid Muscadet — and an example of a quality white wine at $8 a bottle — and a perfect summer wine that screams for raw oysters or clams.

While this won’t change your life — it is a very good wine and a tremendous value. Food friendly at 12% alcohol. Imported by Monsiue Touton Selection Ltd.

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In 1923, Fabel Barbou, purchased the 20-hectare estate of Domaine des Corbillières ( situated in the town of Oisly, about 30 kilometers east of the city of Tours). Fabel planted his first Sauvignon Blanc, introducing the varietal in this central Loire appellation.

His family has followed in producing what many consider to be one of the region’s best examples of the grape type.The wines are now made by Fabel’s great-grandson Dominique, with the same great care and passion. The Estate has expanded to the present 23 hectares which is harvested as follows:

    13 hectares are of the Touraine Blanc Sauvignon
    1 hectare is of the Touraine Rosé (Pineau D’Aunis )
    8 hectares are of the Touraine Rouge (Gamay, Pinot Noir, Cot and Cabernet Franc)
    1 hectare is of Crémant de Loire (Chardonnay and Pinot Noir )

      The Sauvignon Blanc is tank fermented and never sees oak. On the nose, nice aromatics with citrus with key lime. On the palate, vibrant and bright grapefruit and citrus notes — and a touch of grass. Solid acidity and a touch of minerality. Very crisp with a nice prolonged finish.

      This was one of the wines I tasted at the Kacher portfolio tasting. I really liked it at the tasting, but tasted it at the end of the afternoon after I had tasted some 30-40 wines. I was quick to pick up a bottle when I saw it at a local wine store to see if a second tasting would validate my initial impressions. I may have liked it even more, given that I was able to decant it, taste it — and then also enjoy it with food.

      A terrific wine and an even better value at $10 a bottle. This wine and the Breton Beaumont Chinon might be the best wines I have had for the money this year. The Cheverny Le Petit Chambord from Francois Cazin is a close second as well.

      Recommended. Imported by Robert Kacher.

      Is anyone willing to offer up their best values they have purchased from this year? Leave a comment!

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      This wine is made by Francois Cazin. It is from the appellation of Cheverny, one of the most recent new appellations in the Loire Valley (1991). By legislation, a Cheverny wine has to be a blend of varietals, and François Cazin’s white is 70% Sauvignon Blanc and 30% Chardonnay.

      I like the fruit and acidity of the Sauvignon Blanc combined with the minerality and body of the Chardonnay.

      Light golden straw in color. Notes of pear, mineral, citrus and a hint of wet grass on the nose. On the palate, lemon with pear, apple and wet stone. A bit of sweetness, almost like you might expect from a Chenin Blanc. Outstanding minerality components with bright, crisp, mouth tingling acidity.

      At about $15 a bottle, this one of the best white QPR (quality – price – ratio) plays of the year so far — really a tremendous value and a great wine. Strongly Recommended.

      Cazin also makes a cuvée of Cour-Cheverny made from Romorantin. Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc are the primary white varietals of the Loire Valley, but Romorantin has been grown in the Loire Valley since the reign of King Francis I in the sixteenth century.

      Another outstanding selection from Louis/Dressner.

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      I finished Alice Feiring’s book today — it was like a split of a great wine (meaning a 375 ml bottle) — not nearly enough of a good thing and left me wanting more…..

      I think it is an important book that deserves attention and discussion. I know it will stir emotions, but hope that it will also generate discussion and an desire for wine drinkers to know what it is they are drinking.

      Wineries are not required to disclose all of the elements in the wine or the process to make the wine. That nice little bottle of wine you brought home could have been manipulated with designer yeasts, enzymes, tannin, oak chips, oak on a rope, through the bunghole oak socks, oak dust, acid, beet juice and other additives — not to mention the over-extracting techniques, micro-oxygenation, dialysis and reverse osmosis — and a whole list of things you might not want to know about. When did wine become a vinicultural hot dog?

      Too strange to be true? View this article in Wines & Vines, a publication aimed at winemakers, that details all kinds of bells and whistles to add to your winemaking bag of tricks. The article is appropriately entitled Viagra for Barrels. Insert bad joke here.

      Wine making began as art, evolved to become a combination of art and science. Today, it is often more driven by science and technology, rather than being the result of a process that for the most part occurs in the vineyard. Add to the mix that the market is heavily influenced by the opinions of a select few critics (especially Parker) who award very ripe, fruit-driven, with heavy oak — and winemakers take every tool of the trade to manipulate the results, leaving out authenticity, place, artistry and tradition.

      A difficult pill to swallow for those of us that love to ponder the aromatics and the complexities and nuances of a wine’s flavor profile. Having spent time, energy and money on something on much that was at least in part an illusion….and now you are stuck with a few cases of that 1982 Marion Jones Estate Cabernet bottled under the supervision of Frau Blücher.

      The good news is that there are still some gems that are wonders of nature and artistry — and those are the wines Alice Feiring champions — they are at least worthy of your consideration. At the end of the day, you can let your palate decide — but you should know what you are drinking.

      In general, I tend to agree with many of the points that she makes in the book. At the same time, I am sure there are some wines that I might enjoy that she might turn her nose up at — but that is also my prerogative. One’s taste in wine is in large part subjective, but I certainly think there are some points that many of us can agree on.

      Her book is one of the most enjoyable I have read about wine in a few years. It is a great testament to finding your passion, letting it be your guide and making the most out of the ensuing journey. The book will also make you wonder just exactly is in that bottle and how did it get there — a question that is much more difficult to answer than it should be. Strongly recommended.

      Visit her blog — always a great read and also very interesting to see her detail reactions to the book.

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