Archive for November, 2009

Spain has an appellation system for wine like France and Italy with the main classification of quality wine is Denominación de Origen (DO). Rueda gained DO status in 1980, the first DO to be approved in the Castilla y León region. While Sauvignon Blanc and Viura can also be used, only wines produced with at least 50 percent Verdejo are permitted to be labeled Rueda. For the Rueda Superior designation, at least 85 percent must be Verdejo. Sauvignon Blanc became an authorized variety for the Rueda DO in 1985. In fact, the importance of this grape is underscored by the fact that it has its own appellation, Rueda Sauvignon, which has to be 100 percent Sauvignon Blanc.

Ángel Rodríguez Leal is said to produce the best wine in Rueda, Martinsancho.  I have only tasted a handful of wines from Martinsancho, but I can say this Rueda is excellent and can certainly imagine it being the best. Ángel Rodríguez is credited with preserving and reviving Rueda’s indigenous Verdejo grape.  In the early 1970s, there arose a push to rip out Verdejo completely. Martinsancho, a vineyard of ancient Verdejo vines that had been in Ángel’s family since 1784 and he refused to uproot them. Rodríguez went further and regrafted his other vineyards from the Martinsancho cuttings. As a result of his efforts, he is credited with having saved Verdejo. Today, the origins of most of the Verdejo vineyards in Rueda can be traced back to Martinsancho cuttings. Ángel Rodríguez’s efforts have even been recognized by King Juan Carlos.

Aromatics of pear, stone fruit, white flowers and honey. On the palate, stone and orchard fruit with some citrus, a burst of tropical fruit (papaya, mango) and loaded with salty minerality. Very approachable and food friendly, not to mention an outstanding value at $16 a bottle. A very unique and distinctive wine. 13% alcohol. Imported by Sole Agents.

This would be on my list of top Spanish white wines of the year, along with the Viñedos de Ithaca Odysseus Garnacha Blanca Priorat 2008 and the Viñedos de Ithaca Odysseus Pedro Ximénez 2008. Strongly recommended.

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This wine is made from Pedro Ximénez, traditionally known as a sherry grape. Joseph and Silvia Puig make the only still Pedro Ximénez in Spain. The grapes are sourced from a 75-year old vineyard near Scala Dei. The wine is carefully fermented in the “old-style” without temperature control. A cold maceration for between 10 and 18 hours in new French oak barrels is followed by native yeast fermentation in temperature controlled stainless steel vats. About 150 cases are produced annually.

Light golden yellow color. Aromatics of stone and orchard fruit with white pepper. On the palate, more orchard fruit with golden raisins, almond butter, bay leaf, citrus and pepper. Complex, rich and substantial with good acidity and a persistent finish. 13.5 percent alcohol.

I thought this opened up a bit and was more enjoyable at 55-56 degrees. I would recommend any of the wines from Odysseus. Though the Grenacha Blanca might be my favorite, the PX is the most unique and interesting.

About Viñedos de Ithaca
The father and daughter team of Joseph and Silvia Puig named their winery Odysseus in honor of the Greeks who first brought vines to Spain. Odysseus makes Garnacha Tinta based reds, as virtually all of the producers in Priorat, but they have attracted the most attention for their Garnacha Blanca.

Viñedos de Ithaca Odysseus Garnacha Blanca Priorat 2008
Viñedos de Ithaca “Akyles” Priorat 2007

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Marie and Marcel run Domaine Richaud, with Marcel as winemaker and Marie as manager. Marcel makes some wonderful wines, mostly of the little known village appellation Cairanne. Many consider him one of the top 2 or 3 producers in the appellation. His estate is made up of plots inherited from his parents as well as rented parcels, so some grapes are sold to the local co-op or to négociants. The wines are made in the vineyard by pruning short, never using synthetic fertilizers, keeping the average age of the vines over 25 years old and keeping yields low. His wines are made in large capacity cement vats, each varietal is vinified separately and blended some 8 months later. The wines are not frequently racked and are not fined or filtered.

Richaud’s wines are said to be very popular in France, selling out almost immediately after release. I have read that sales at the estate’s tasting room account for the majority of all sales (though I find that difficult to believe).  On a trip to Paris in September, we went to dinner at Le Gorille Blanc on our first night and I was more than a little excited to see his ’07 Galets offered by the glass.  In the United States it takes a little bit of work to find his wines — and the l’Ebrescade is one of the more difficult given total production is around 400-450 cases. I have only found the ’05 l’Ebrescade at the little shop of treasures otherwise known as Chambers Street Wines.

The l’Ebrescade is Richaud’s top wine, with an average vine age of 45 years — grown on clay and limestone soils. It is a blend of 37% Grenache, 28% Syrah and 35% Mourvèdre. The l’Ebrescade is aged in barriques or demi-muids. Dark red fruit, violet, soy sauce, rare meat and hint of bubble gum on the nose. The aromatics remind me of Domaine Gramenon wines in that they have a just a touch of grape Bubblicious on the nose. Also, like the wines from Domaine Gramenon, Richaud’s wines express a purity of fruit. Loaded with pure dark red and blue fruit, earth and licorice with some meaty and smokey nuances. Dense and rich, balanced and precise. Solid acidity, structure and finish. 14.5% alcohol. Imported by Louis/Dressner. Strongly recommended. I drank this over the course of three evenings. I thought it showed best on day 2 and would certainly decant prior to serving.

All of Richaud’s wines would be on my list of top wines for the year. Other wines would include the 2007 Domaine Gramenon Sierra du Sud and La Segasse, the 2005 Basetti from Edmunds St John, the wines of Ariana Occhipinti and a number of 2007 Rhônes.

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Another wine from Weygandt Wines, the new wine store in DC featuring importer Peter Weygandt’s portfolio. One of the great things about the store is that they taste wines every day. They usually taste the same half dozen or so wines for the week, but last Saturday they tweeted that they tasting some different wines than earlier in the week.  The Morgon from Bouland caught my eye and so I decided to stop by given that it was Saturday and Peter Weygandt might also be at the store (which he was).

I tasted the wine at the store and picked up a couple of bottles to bring home. The 2008 Daniel Bouland Morgon Vieilles Vignes is 100% Gamay made from 60 to 90 year-old vines grown on granitic soils that are rich in iron and manganese. Daniel Bouland is considered one of the traditionalists in Beaujolais, careful hand-harvesting, very low yields and wild yeast fermentations help create a complex and ageworthy Morgon (5 to 15 years is recommended by the estate).

Dark ruby color — with a shade of black olive, but transparent. Nose of strawberry and cherry with some earthy and floral notes. On the palate, loaded with cherry, strawberry and raspberry as well as some cranberry, earth, and crushed asphalt. This might be a serious Beaujolais, but it is also ranks very high in quaffability. Lightly fined and unfiltered. 13% alcohol. Recommended and a very good value at $20 a bottle, not to mention a solid choice for Thanksgiving.

More Thanksgiving picks:
Arianna Occhipinti Il Frappato Sicilia IGT 2006
Jean & Agnes Foillard — Morgon Cuvée Corcelette Vieille Vigne 2007
Occhipinti SP68 Rosso Vittoria 2008
Rhys Alesia Sonoma Coast Chileno Vally Pinot Noir 2006 (or any Pinot from Rhys)
Passopisciaro Sicily IGT 2005
Domaine Gramenon La Sagesse Côtes du Rhône 2007
Clos Saint-Jean Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2005 (or one of the great CdPs from 07)
Les Aphillanthes Côtes du Rhône 2007
Domaine Richaud Côtes du Rhône Terres de Galets 2007
Edmunds St. John Rocks & Gravel 2005
Cheverny Le Petit Chambord Domaine Francois Cazin 2007
André Perret Saint Jospeh 2007
Domaine Ricard Cuvee Les Trois Chênes 2008
Tablas Creek Vineyard Côtes de Tablas Blanc 2008
Mas des Bressades Roussanne-Viognier 2007
Mourges du Gres Terre d’Argence Blanc 2007

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IMG_1698As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, DC has a new wine store. Weygandt Wines is the best wine store in DC and in the same league with the best in the country (Chambers Street, Kermit Lynch, K&L, Astor and the Wine Exchange). At Weygandt it’s not the range of the selection (albeit impressive), it’s about a hand-picked selection that is especially strong in terms of French wines. They taste wines each and every day from 4-8 pm — and staff are super friendly, helpful and knowledgeable. The experience is further elevated on many Saturdays by the presence of Peter Weygandt. He helped me pick out some wines a couple of weeks ago. He suggested the 2007 Alary Cairanne La Font d’Estevenas (a wine I bought in 05 and 06). He said the 07 was very special, so much so that it was the red wine he selected for his daughter’s wedding this past summer.

The Alary family have been growers for 11 generations. One of their sites is on the choicest parcel of Cairanne, known as the Font D’Estevenas. The Font D’Estevanas site in Cairanne gives its name to two of the domaine’s top wines ( a white and a red). The red is a blend of 60% Grenache and 40% Syrah planted some 40 years ago from cuttings brought from Hermitage, blended with Grenache and Counoise, some of the Grenache vines being over 100 years old.

Dark ruby in color. Aromatics of ripe raspberry, cherry and kirsch with violets and a little earthiness. On the palate — loaded with deep, ripe red and dark fruit with some rare meat, pepper and graphite. Opulent and textured with silky tannins and a solid finish. I thought this showed better on day 2 and I would definitely hold for 2-3 years at a minimum or decant in the near term. This would stand up against many a Chateauneuf du Pape. Another great wine from the Weygandt portfolio. Recommended.

Not surprisingly, my short list of favorites wines from the Rhône 2007 vintage is dominated by wines imported by Kermit Lynch, Louis/Dressner and Peter Weygandt.

Favorite Côtes du Rhônes 2007
Domaine Gramenon Sierra du Sud
Domaine Gramenon La Sagesse Côtes du Rhône
Les Aphillanthes Côtes du Rhône (Cuvée des Galets & Cuvée 3 Cepages)
Domaine Alary Cairanne La Font d’Estevenas
Domaine Richaud Côtes du Rhône-Villages-Cairanne
Domaine Richaud Côtes du Rhône Terres de Galets
Domaine Gramenon Les Laurentides Côtes du Rhône
Escaravailles Côtes du Rhône

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IMG_1694I learned late yesterday that Silvia Puig was pouring her wines at a dinner at Tallula in Northern Virginia last night. It wasn’t enough notice for me to make it and regretted not being able to attend.  Tonight, I came home and attempted to remedy the situation by opening a bottle of their Akyles.

The Akyles is a blend of 40% Garnatxa Negra & Peluda (Peluda is a variant of the Garnatxa grape so-called because the underside of the leaves have a hairy or “peluda” appearance) 45% Carinyena  and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon. Vinification is done directly into 400 liter French oak casks with the skins, so that the never-ending stirring can be accomplished during fermentation with native yeast in order to get the rich tannins and color from the grapes.  Aged in the same barrels once topped off for 10-12 months.

Beautiful dark ruby in color. The nose is a packed with dark cherry and currant, violet and rose with a little vanilla, orange and cola. The color and the nose suggest another dense and extracted red wine from Priorat (not to mention weighing in at 15% alcohol), but this is actually quite graceful, finessed, supple and balanced. That all being said, there is a lot of fruit (dark and baked berry) with some fig, olive, green vegetable and vanilla. Nice minerality. Expansive with a big finish.

I was really impressed with the Odysseus Garnacha Blanca Priorat 2008, but this is a winner as well. Recommended — and a good value at $22 a bottle. Imported by Vinos Unico.

About Viñedos de Ithaca
The father and daughter team of Joseph and Silvia Puig named their winery Odysseus in honor of the Greeks who first brought vines to Spain. Odysseus makes Garnacha Tinta based reds, as virtually all of the producers in Priorat, but they have attracted the most attention for their Garnacha Blanca.

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IMG_1689What makes Daniel Boulle so special, in my opinion, is his absolute perfection in growing. His yields are minute and the fruit is perfect. ~Peter Weygandt

As I wrote in a recent post, there is a fantastic new wine store in DC. Weygandt Wines is owned by Peter Weygandt and Todd Ross. Peter Weygandt has been an importer of wines for 20 years with Weygandt Metzler. I went back to the store for another visit yesterday and was surprised to see Peter Weygandt at the store. I was even more surprised by how friendly and personable he was. Peter chatted with me about the store and helped me pick out some wines — he was extremely approachable, modest, sincere and generous with his time and knowledge. It was a real delight to spend some time with him.

I’ve tasted a few of the wines I purchased from Weygandt Wines. My favorites were both from Les Aphillanthes. There are a number of cuvées produced at Les Aphillanthes. I selected three of the cuvées from the six of seven wines from Les Asphillanthes.

The “Cuvée des Galets” is a blend of 60% Grenache, 20% Syrah and 20% Mourvedre, from yields of only 20-22 hl/ha (less than half of what he is allowed to produce). Bright ruby red. The Grenache really shines on the nose. Cherry, strawberry and violet wrapped in meaty, gamey and peppery notes. On the palate, black cherry, strawberry and cranberry with pepper, herbs and bacon fat. Structured with silky, chalk-edged tannins — and a little chewy. Solid finish. 14.5% alcohol.

Perhaps even better than the Galets is the “Cuvée 3 Cepages” of equal parts Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre. Darker ruby in color with cherry and violet with some cassis, pepper and garrigue.  On the palate, cherry and dried cranberry with licorice, rare meat, earthy and floral notes. The 3 Cepages has a bit more impact with a little more acidity and tannins than the Galets — as well as a more pronounced and persistent finish. 14.5% alcohol.

Both wines would be on my list of favorite Côtes du Rhônes from 2007. Strongly recommended.

About Les Aphillanthes
Prior to 1999, Daniel Boulle and his wife Helene sold all of their fruit the local co-operative. Friends and colleagues saw that his fruit was of superb quality, and convinced Daniel and Helen it deserved to be bottled as it stood, rather than absorbed into the wines of the local co-op. Domaine Les Aphillanthes was born and today is a rising star of the southern Rhône.

Boulle sees himself as a vigneron rather than a winemaker and he applies minimal intervention in the winery. Recently Boulle has introduced biodynamic practices to the vineyard. Boulle was encouraged in this new practice not by contact with other followers of biodynamic principles, but by a success in treating his own son’s eczema using natural medical products which Boulle likens to a biodynamic approach. In the winery, Boulle transports the wine using gravity feed, and ferments in concrete vats. The wines are bottled without filtration.

Favorites from Côtes du Rhône 2007
Domaine Gramenon Sierra du Sud
Domaine Gramenon La Sagesse Côtes du Rhône
Domaine Gramenon Les Laurentides Côtes du Rhône
Les Aphillanthes Côtes du Rhône
Domaine Richaud Côtes du Rhône-Villages-Cairanne
Domaine Richaud Côtes du Rhône Terres de Galets
Escaravailles Côtes du Rhône

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