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Gulfi is a relatively new producer of organic wines — their wines aren’t widely available but worth seeking out. Astor Wines in NY and the Wine Exchange usually have some of their wines in stock.

Gulfi was established in 1996 and current production is about 20,000 cases. It is made from the Sicilian red grape Nero d’Avola. It comes from a limestone-based vineyard around Pachino in the Val di Noto region of Sicily. 8,000 bottles were produced.

This wine still had lots of life and was really showing beautifully. It had softened since I last had it some 4 or 5 years ago. Very approachable and comforting. I thought this was like Barry White in a bottle. It was smooth, soulful and didn’t need anything else to set the mood. I have some 2005s, but think this is the last bottle of the 2000 vintage.

14% alcohol. Imported by Selected Estates of Europe. I also really liked their Carjcanti, a white wine made from Carricante.

Here is the menu from our “Head to Tail” dinner and Northern Rhône tasting at Palena on February 2, 2011. The food was outstanding. Palena has long been one of my favorite restaurants in DC. My favorite wines were the Vernay Condrieu 06, Allemand Cornas 06, Chapoutier Ermitage 92 and the Jamet Cote Rotie 2001.

Carne Cruda  – Diced Gretna Farms (Virginia) Tenderloin, Shaved Reggiano and Lemon Olive Oil
– Gaston Chiquet Brut 1997
– Chapoutier Hermitage Blanc Chante-Alouette 2004
– Georges Vernay Condrieu Coteau de Vernon 2006

Brodo  – Julienned Crêpes, Slivers of Gretna Farms Beef Shoulder, Vegetable Garnish in a Rich Clear Oxtail Broth
– Auguste Clape Cornas 1996
– Thierry Allemand Cornas Reynard 2006

Spiedini d’Amore  – Grilled Beef Heart – Roseda Farms (Eastern Shore) House Cured Beef Tongue – Roseda Farms, Puntarella, Radish and Herb Salad – Salsa Verde
– Jean Paul and Jean Luc Jamet Côte-Rôtie 2002
– Rene Rostaing Côte-Rôtie Cote Blonde 1996
– Chapoutier Ermitage L’Ermite 2002

Oxtail and Beef Cheek, “Vaccinara” Horst Co-Operative (Pennsylvania) Toasted Vermicelli Pasta Aglio e Olio
– Jean Paul and Jean Luc Jamet Cote Rotie 2001
– Rene Rostaing Côte-Rôtie La Landonne 1995
– Chapoutier Ermitage le Pavillon 1992

Wood Grilled Steak –Roseda Farms Ribeye Steak (Dry Aged 8 Weeks in House) Corona Beans, Sautéed Escarole, Horseradish Cream
– Jean-Michel Gerin Côte-Rôtie Les Grandes Places 2006
– Guigal Côte-Rôtie Chateau d’Ampuis 1999

Meadow Creek Dairy “Grayson” – Galax, Virginia Local honey,  Our Tyrolean Almond Bread
– Ogier Côte-Rôtie 2001
– Radio-Coteau Syrah Timbervine 2004
– Sine Quo Non Syrah The Marauder 1999

Fiore di Latte Ice Cream – Trickling Springs Dairy (Pennsylvania) Dried Fruit Compote, Red Wine Sauce Cookie
– 2001 Domaine Yves Cuilleron Condrieu Roussilliere
– 1988 Château Caillou
– 2003 Château La Tour Blanche Sauternes

Many have said the 2009 vintage is the best ever for Beaujolais. I’m not going to argue with that having enjoyed just about all of the 09s. Jean-Paul Thévenet and Marcel Lapierre’s wines have been my favorites to date, though each time I have a bottle of Lapierre it seems to distance itself from all others. That said, there are some wines downstairs still to be had — Foillard’s Morgon Cuvée Corcelette Vieille Vigne  and his Morgon Côte du Py, Lapierre’s Morgon Cuvée Marcel and others.

Last night I opened a bottle of the Thibault Liger-Belair Moulin-à-Vent La Roche. The wines from Thévenet and Lapierre show a more feminine side, while this is more masculine. A bit more body and fruit as well as a bit darker, but also focused and soft. I can’t say this appealed to me at the same level as the Thévenet or Lapierre (which isn’t a fair comparison), but it is well made and definitely has a delicious factor. To make it even more impressive, this is the first release since Thibault Liger-Belair bought a piece of property in Beaujolais.

He owns 8 acres in Moulin-à-Vent and the average vine age age is 60 years. He sold-off the grapes in 2008, as Thibault contended it would take more than a year of working with the vines to perform to his desired standard. Thibault is currently transitioning the vineyards to be farmed biodynamically.

The Thibault Liger-Belair domaine is located in Nuits-St.-Georges and has almost 18 acres under vine. The domaine has been in the Liger-Belair family for 250 years, having been passed down through the family for the next 5 generations. In 1982 Xavier Liger-Belair died and the business was sold. That same year Xavier’s son, Vincent Liger-Belair, took over the buildings and restructured the domaine by having three sharecropper winemakers handle the work. Then in 2001, Vincent’s son, Thibault Liger-Belair, took over the vines as the winemaker and created Domaine Thibault Liger-Belair. His wines are imported to the U.S. by Vineyard Brands.

Related posts
Thévenet Morgon Vieilles Vignes 2009
Jean & Agnes Foillard — Morgon Cuvée Corcelette Vieille Vigne 2007
Jean Foillard Morgon Côte du Py 2007

The holidays are usually a great time of year for wine. Over the Thanksgiving holiday, we had some great wines from Pierre Luneau-Papin, Jacques Puffeney, Heymann-Lowenstein, Rhys and Marcel Lapierre.

Yesterday, I went to a tasting at Weygandt Wines for a vertical vintage tasting of Châteauneuf-du-Pape from Domaine Charvin (2001, 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2008). Really quite a remarkable tasting given that there are few free tastings of such high-caliber wines. It was really remarkable to taste how a great producer can start to blur the impact of vintage but also allow the characteristics of each vintage to speak. The 2001 and 2005 were excellent (as expected given the vintage), but I was also impressed with the 2004 and 2008.

During the last couple of months, I have also been drinking a number of wines from the 2009 Beaujolais vintage. I have had the Marcel Lapierre Morgon a few times and last week I had the Morgon from Jean-Paul Thévenet. Both wines are really quite outstanding. The Lapierre has really lovely aromatics and fruit, the Thévenet has great purity and feels quite Burgundian. These two wines have been the most memorable this holiday and expect that I will enjoy them again before the end of the year.

Jean-Paul Thévenet and Marcel Lapierre are part of a small group of producers that Kermit Lynch dubbed the Gang of Four (the others being Jean Foillard and Guy Breton).  The Gang of Four was not a formal group, but perhaps best embodied the “old school” qualities that these wine makers have championed in the region.

Thévenet works a plot in the Morgon appellation. The average age of the vines is 70 years and they are cultivated organically and yield very little fruit. The grapes are fermented with natural yeasts and, quite remarkably, often without the addition of any sulfur dioxide. After fermentation Thevenet ages the wine for six to eight months in used oak barrels that he manages to get from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. It is bottled without filtration. 13% alcohol.

It takes a little bit of work, but both wines can be found for about $25. While that might not be inexpensive, both are extremely high quality and outstanding values. Imported by Kermit Lynch.

Thanksgiving 2010

This weekend I spent a little time downstairs picking out the wines for Thanksgiving.Thanksgiving is always a great time for wine. For me, it is a holiday spent with family and loved ones that come together to share a special meal. It is a time to raise a glass and a time to reflect and give thanks. All of this is facilitated and made more memorable by wine.

Thanksgiving is also a time for endless columns on wines to serve at Thanksgiving. I hope this isn’t one of them — all I will say is that the wines I chose this year are wines I enjoy and have meaning. They also very food friendly. Muscadet is one of the great food wines that also works well as an apéritif. Once food is served, the Huet Vouvray Le Mont Sec will bring weight, richness, complexity and acidity to the table. For red wine, a lot of people propose Zinfandel as the ultimate Thanksgiving wine, but I think Beaujolais (it’s a harvest wine and the tart and sour cranberry characteristics make it a natural fit). This year, the last bottle was selected as an homage to Marcel Lapierre. Here is the lineup for Thanksgiving 2010:

Pierre Luneau-Papin Muscadet Sevre et Maine L D’Or 2002
Pierre Luneau-Papin Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur lie Excelsior 2005
Domaine Huet Vouvray Le Mont Sec 2007
Domaine du Vissoux Pierre Chermette Beaujolais Cuvee Traditionnelle VV 2009
Jean & Agnes Foillard — Morgon Cuvée Corcelette Vieille Vigne 2007
Jean Foillard Fleurie 2007
Marcel Lapierre Morgon 2009

Related posts:
Alice Feiring on Marcel Lapierre
Eric Asimov on Marcel Lapierre

Pierre Luneau-Papin Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur lie Le L d’Or 2002
Pierre Luneau-Papin Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur lie Excelsior 2005

More Thanksgiving Recommendations:
Arianna Occhipinti Il Frappato Sicilia IGT 2006
Rhys Pinot Noir
Jean Foillard Morgon Côte du Py 2007
Daniel Bouland Morgon Vieilles Vignes 2008
Sean Thackrey Pleiades XVIII Old Vines
Jacques Puffeney Arbois Poulsard “M” 2006
André Perret Condrieu Chéry 2006
André Perret Saint Jospeh 2007
Gerard et Pierre Morin Sancerre Chêne Marchand 2007
Pascal and Nicolas Reverdy Sancerre Cuvée Les Coûtes 2008
Lopez de Heredia Rioja Tondonia Rosé 1998

Juan Antonio Ponce heads up this small family run bodega who began bottling their own wines in 2005, after generations of traditional grape-growing that continues today, with the adoption of biodynamic techniques. The Ponce family has 22 hectares of vineyards in the municipality of Iniesta (in the province of Cuenca).

Only traditional methods are used in the winery. The grapes are vinified separately and each wine is made with grapes from a certain block, each representing a different terroir, with its own personality. All Ponce’s grapes are old vine Bobal, averaging 50, but up to 85 yrs old, and are planted at an altitude of 2,300 feet and higher. Bobal is a variety of Vitis Vinifera, native to the Utiel-Requena region in Valencia. Bobal is the third most planted variety in Spain, but most people are probably not familiar with the varietal.

At Bodegas Ponce, they showcase the diversity of soil of each of the various plots, producing wines with different characters, always with reference to the variety Bobal. There are very few, if any other producers working with Bobal in this manner, and in only a few years Bodegas Ponce has managed to create a serious following of their wines around the globe.

Last month, I had a bottle of their La Casilla, from 30-70 year old Bobal vines and aged 9 months in 300,400 and 1,500 liter French oak vats. Aromatics of dark fruits with violets. On the palate, big and bold with generous amounts of ripe dark fruit, graphite, smoke, bubble gum and toast. I was at Terroir Wine Bar in Tribeca a couple of weeks back. I’ll certainly return, not only because they offered La Casilla by the glass. La Casilla is currently on sale at $15  a bottle at Canal’s Bottle Shop (it retails for about $22 a bottle).

This week I opened Ponce’s La Casilla Estrecha, from 72 year old Bobal vines and aged 9 months in 300 liter French Oak vats. It is reminiscent of the La Casilla, but a bit more depth, complexity and polish.

The wines are imported by C&P Wines. Recommended.

Domaine Gramenon is one of the most respected producers in the Rhône. In his book on the wines of the Rhône valley, Robert Parker classified Gramenon in the same category as Beaucastel and Fonsalette. In 1998, owner Phillipe Laurent nearly doubled the area of his vineyards by purchasing some 50 acres in Vinsobres. A year later, he died in a tragic accident and his wife decided to sell some 35 acres the Perrin brothers at Beaucastel. Michelle Aubery-Laurent and her son Maxim-François continue making wines in a pretty natural way, with sulphur dioxide used just at assemblage. Their vineyards are farmed organically, and they never filter or fine their wines.

Their wines are not very well known in the United States as they are available on a limited basis. I found Gramenon’s wines through Kermit Lynch’s newsletter. He described them as a pure expression of biodynamically farmed, old vine Grenache with knock-out fruit flavors tempered by a core of strong minerality. Some might not want to pay $30 for a bottle of Côtes du Rhône, but I was able to pick up a sampler pack of their wine from Kermit Lynch at 25% off and each one of the wines has been a winner.

Last year I found some older vintages of Domaine Gramenon at MacArthur Beverages in Washington, DC — including a few bottles of their Ceps Centenaires La Mémé from 2000 and 2001. The Centenaires La Mémé is made from 100 year old Grenache vines. It is fermented with stems and aged without any sulfur dioxide additions. Gramenon’s wines are said to show best in their relative youth, so wasn’t sure what to expect from a bottle from the 2000 vintage. Copper plum in color, definitely showing a some age. Still showing some lush and silky fruit on the palate, though not as bright as the younger Gramenon’s I have had. It’s picked up a lot of complexity and has also softened and mellowed. Not sure I would sit on this much longer, but it was a memorable bottle. Add another notch to why this domaine is on my list of favorites.

Related posts:
Domaine Gramenon La Sagesse Côtes du Rhône 2007
Domaine Gramenon Sierra du Sud 2007
Domaine Gramenon La Sagesse Côtes du Rhône 2007
Domaine Gramenon Côtes du Rhône Blanc Vie on y Est 2008
Domaine Gramenon Les Laurentides Côtes du Rhône 2007

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