It's Wine Blogging Wednesday again, and this month's theme, hosted by Fork and Bottle, is one of the best in many months. I love Italian whites, and haven't had nearly enough Friuli wines, so it's a great excuse seek out a great one.
This month, I feel very fortunate to have been turned on to a wine that I can revisit for this month from a master winemaker, Ferdinando Zanusso at iClivi. I first tasted this at the wonderful restaurant, Hearth, in NYC with one of my dear friends who just happens to work for Artisan Wines, an important importer of great Italian wines. Hearth had it on special by the glass, but honestly, I think it was not this exact bottling, but I still remembered it was very exciting at the time.
When I heard of our theme I called up my friend and asked if he could send me some more to write about today and he also sent a red Friuli and one more Clivi for the cellar. That is what friends are for --I really love this wine.
This is completely natural wine. No oak. No racking. No filtering. Natural yeast from the grapes themselves do the fermenting. Only age and long slow cold fermentation form what ends up in the glass. The grapes, mostly Tocai with a little Malvasia, come from very old stock, up to 70 years old, with very low yields. The result is a stunningly clean wine.
The first thing that hits you is how fresh the wine smells, like it was just pressed with the headiness of the must rising from the tank. Then comes gentle flowery tones, honey, seaside minerals, and a hint of banana tropicals. The lack of filtration makes the wine coat the palate in a lovely way, with some nice heft. Five years of age has left her mark, imparting a beautiful glow in the glass. While this has less of the bracing acidity of a lot of the Friuli whites I've had, with more minerality that doesn't detract from pairing this with food. It is drinking perfectly now, but a few more years of age couldn't hurt.
Seek this wine out. Highly recommended.
Thanks to the Wannabe Wino for hosting this month's Wine Blogging Wednesday, our 40th month of co-global-tasting and blogging.
With humble apologies to my friends at P.S. I Love You, I usually put this grape firmly in the blender category. I say this because Petite Sirah is usually such an inky massive beast, that a little goes a long way in a blend. That being said, it's not just the color that it imparts in a blend, but also an aroma lift that adds complexity.
My wine this month didn't disprove my preconceived notion above, I'm afraid. It was a gift from a great Greek friend, who I begged to bring me some Greek wine one dinner party. Even out here in the land of wine, she couldn't find anything...alas, she did find a bottle with a Greek name! - Orpheus.
I often like Lolonis' Zinfandels, so it was a welcome gift. Lolonis is known for its organic practices and the ladybugs that are their trademark. You can meet the family and get a ladybug sticker next ZAP. This wine was blended with a small amount of Valdiugé, but subsequent years have used Gamay.
Lolonis "Orpheus" Petite Sirah 2001
This wine's aroma is a heady brew of blueberries, allspice, and quality new oak, with hints of dried mushrooms that show its age. The flavor is quite peppery with puckery tannins and a clean, but short-lived finish. There is a shocking amount of sediment in this wine, so much so in my bottle, that it was tooth coating and almost chalky. Not really recommended, I'm afraid.
Oh, I love it when I have the perfect WBW selection right there in the cellar, and with a nice bit of age on it to boot. This month's host, The Brooklyn Guy has asked us to find a Burgundy looking beyond the Côte d'Or, and to do so for less than $25. I usually like to scour my favorite haunts for something that fits the bill, but this time I'm going for the quintessential Mâconnais, from Les Héritiers du Comte Lafon. The label for the Clos du Four offering from Les Héritiers is on the Mâconnais page in Jancis' new 6th edition of the Wine Atlas, stating "There could be no greater complement to this southern Burgundian outpost than the arrival of Lafon and Leflaive".
Dominique Lafon is a fourth-generation winemaker known for his stunning Côte d'Or Burgundies. Les Héritiers du Comte Lafon is his second offering from land he purchased in the Mâcon in 1999 and is farmed with Biodynamic principals. He is unique in making distinct wines from each vineyard to express its own terroir rather than blending all his holdings together.
While his Meursault Perrieres can fetch over $300 a bottle upon release, M. Lafon's gifted hand with the Chardonnay grape can be sampled even at the $25 range with the Mâcon-Milly Lamartine, named for the village where the winery is. A must try, and one that is relatively easy to find, especially in the Bay Area.
Tasting Notes: 2003 Mâcon-Milly Lamartine
Slate and granite minerality as well as lemon and pear appear on the nose. For the "simplest" of the Lafon offerings, the mouth-feel is massive and coating and the color of beautiful golden straw. There is a middle softness that is probably due to the strange weather in Burgundy in 2003, with grapes for this wine picked in August. So, it's not as crisp as a cru Chablis, but not as soft as a Montrachet. Heady, floral, and lovely. Highly recommended.
The Brooklyn Guy is taking the reins for next month's Wine Blogging Wednesday. You taste the wine, post on your blog, and write to our generous host on November 14th, 2007 and be included in the round-up of this month's theme, "Silver Burgundy". We're not talking about the Gold Coast (Côte D'Or) but rather, the more affordable areas like the Côte Chalonnaise and Mâconnais.
Look to the villages within these, such as Mâcon or Mâcon-Villages, or Bouzeron, Rully, Mercurey, Givry, and Montagny. There are plenty of easy to find wines and good values to choose from. I'm looking forward to this one. Coincidentally, tonight I have a glass of Premier Cru Montagny in my hand as I write this, and I have quite a few to choose from. Those in the Bay Area should really consider heading over to the Wine House on Carolina Street & 17, my choice spot for good values in Burgundy.
This post isn't going to start on the wine, rather starting with the lack thereof. I live in an area where you can get Krug at my local supermarket, but it took 5 local stores to find a Portuguese wine that fit the bill. I started in my local specialty shops, those filled with tasty treats from nooks and crannies all around the world, but nothing to be had other than vintage Port.
You see, for this one I was most interested in seeing what was out there. Besides the two reviewed below, I found only one other dry red, and it was nearly $70 from a boutique winery in Portugal that I was unfamiliar with. It took good ol' Cost Plus to have the biggest selection of Portuguese red wines...three to be exact.
So one thing is that our hosts, at Catavino, (Iberian specialists), got out of this is me running around complaining to all my merchants to get more Portuguese wines!
Another fascinating thing is that two of the three I found at Cost Plus from from international wine moguls, Freixinet and Domaine Baron de Rothschild. I thought I would try the Baron's and another, Adriano from Adriano Ramos Pinto.
Medium in color and quite fragrant, largely of Cabernet. This is a blend of Aragones (tempranillo), Cab and Syrah. The Syrah gives is it a certain spiciness which is very appealing. This is made in the style something like a super-Tuscan with lots of clean toasted new oak. I say toasted because it has a distinct smokiness to the nose, along with a fresh earthiness. There is also some typical raisin-like aromas of many Tempranillos. A good value for under $15.
I know it's Thursday. I did get a day grace period from the good Dr. Vino, host of Wine Blogging Wednesday this month, and originator of this month's theme, Go Native. Grapes from whence they originated. I dug out two curiosities from my cellar for this one.
2005 Charphony, Thomas Coyne, Livermore Valley
First up, is a blend. I know that may be stretching the rule, but hear me out on this one. Livermore mainstay, Thomas Coyne, had one bottle of this left last time I visited, and I had to buy it. The blend is 75% Symphony (from Lodi) and 25% Chardonnay (from Livermore). Yes, Symphony is a grape and this particular lot of grapes came from a vineyard only 49 miles from the wine alchemists at U.C. Davis that created it, so I would certainly consider it a native. Every grape was once something else, no? Vignerons have been cross-breeding grapes for thousands of years.
Symphony is a cross of Grenache Gris and Muscat of Alexandria. According to Jancis' "Guide to Wine Grapes" it had a brief period of being vogue as an off-dry wine in the 1990s. I guess I missed those in-vogue parties. It's not 100% Symphony because it is such a heady Muscat-like wine that it would just be too much if it wasn't blended with something. The scent is like fresh orange peels and newly cut golden delicious apples, mixed with beeswax. It's fully dry, and not unpleasant, but really more of a novelty.
2005 Chateau Saint Martin de la Garrigue Picpoul de Pinet
Made from an ancient grape in the Languedoc, Picpoul Blanc, Picpoul de Pinet is full-bodied and oily, much like your average Marsanne or Rousanne from the area, but doesn't have any of the beautiful floral characters of those two noble grapes. Picpoul means "lip-stinger" in French, and it does have a bit of a bite. The main scents are of gunpowder, flint, and petrol so along with the high alcohol content, you would think it would have an explosion of flavor. Unfortunately, this is another novelty wine, this time imported from Kermit Lynch (never one to shy from being able to sell the weird by his prose). The flavors are super-minerally and a little lemony, sort of like a Greco de Tuffo or Falanghina. Repeat buy? Nope not this one.
It's hard to believe that Wine Blogging Wednesday has been going on for three years. Congratulations, Lenn, for starting something that we all really love each month and thanks for hosting this month at Lenndevours. I discovered WBW with #7 , posted all but a couple of times and hosted "Red Kiwis" for #17. And the group has grown enough to merit its own site, winebloggingwednesday.org.
Winemaker, Michael Ouellette writes on the back of his labels: "Wine intended for restaurants, crafted to keep the palate lively. " I found this lively and surprisingly complete for a wine that fits our quest for Unoaked Chardonnay. Oak in white wines adds scent and body and rounds/balances out the acids and fruit. But for the right fruit, keeping the wine in steel can still yield a wine with significant body and weight, with balanced flavors. (For an good read on Oak, check out the entry in the 3rd edition of the Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson. )
The nose on this wine is not cone-shaped as the label may suggest, but has citrus notes of grapefruit and lemon as well as green apple and chalky minerals. Medium in body, this is does have a lemony tartness to it that would lend itself to eating cream-based restaurant food. While I don't find this wine lacking, I can't help but wonder what a lightly oaked version would be like. Repeat buy? Maybe. I served this with some lemony sand dabs and I really think with something creamier the wine would shine a bit more. This is on of the better unoaked chardonnays I have had --SO much better than the ubiquitous Kim Crawford on every shelf these days. It is from fine Napa grapes, after all...
For this month's tasty theme, Passionate Spain Michelle and Kevin, are our hosts from My Wine Education.
This, gentle readers, is for me what Wine Blogging Wednesdays is all about. A broad and simple theme was chosen, and we bloggers are forced to stretch our knowledge base. I confess that Spanish wine is a weak part of my wine education. While I feel like I know enough to find a decent Rioja in a Spanish restaurant, and I do really love sherry, I know little about the lesser wine regions of Spain, how grapes popular in the world behave in her climate. I had this wine in my cellar, but had yet to try it, and knew little about it when I bought it, other than it was recommended by Prima and imported by an impassioned driving force in interesting Spanish wines, Jorge Ordonez At around $11.00, this has to be one of the best values I have ever found.
This is made with 100% Monastrell (known in France as Mourvèdre and Mataro in California of old) from 40-year old vines in the shallow chalky soil of Jumilla, south eastern Spain. The yield is very small, around 1.8 tons per acre, and the wine is fermented as whole clusters. Jorge Ordonez claims that the grape performs better in Spain with the hotter weather than in France. I'm not totally convinced of his statement, but dollar for dollar, this Spanish version is much cleaner and has fewer flaws than any similarly priced Southern French wine I've tasted.
The color is very purple, almost the thickness of young Petite Syrah, colored all the way to the edges (exhibiting its' youth). If I tasted this blind, I would say it was a young Gigondas from a hot year. There is considerable smoke on the nose and fresh blackberry. Huge, mouth-filling fruit rounds it out.
I paired this with a Spanish-inspired chicken with fresh fennel, peppers, garlic, white wine and lots of smoked paprika. It held up to the smokiness and the liberal dose of Spanish hot sauce.