I've been working through some wines from Savio Soares and wanted to let you know about three that I'm liking.
From the Chignin region of Savoie, in the eastern part of France, we have a little Jacquère. At under $13 a bottle this Cellier des Cray is a refereshing, innoocent example with a splash of CO2 and orange essence. Nothing exciting, but wet and fun. Party wine white alert.
I have to say the Octavin Dorabella '08 Poulsard was delicious. Kind of the wine that you keep on coming back to you, it just kept on saying, Alice, come here. It was puls, lighthearted and ethereal but with a vein of tannin. At $30, a little steep, but the glass was empty.
Then we come to Domaine Le Picatier which was the most gamay-like pinot noir I'd ever had, which I suppose is a compliment coming from granitic soils of the Cote Roannaise, an area that gets no respect.
The ‘Auver-Nat-Noir’ is a VdT Pinot Noir, aged for 11 months in barrel. And I loved it. Tremendously complex. This is reported on Richard Kelley's site as being a traditional fermentation but it seemed methode (partial carbonic) in the best sense, in the way of Puzelat, where the grape (okay, even if I did think it was gamay!) shone through. It was spicy, cinnamon, perfume by the gallons, angels and angles, with a compelling floral finish. About $23.
It was a cool May in Sonoma. I had just pulled a gnarly
celery root from Marcy's back yard and felt quite proud of myself (it was a
Guests arrived. The inevitable pile up of wines collected on
the marble kitchen island. I was
looking forward to some old Gaglioppo I carried north from Los Angeles. But
little did I know, those were not going to be the treat of the evening. After the beet salad came an
Arnot-Roberts. I had heard the buzz. New faces about town.
“This is your wine, the 2008 Clary Ranch syrah? ” I asked Nathan Roberts as I tried
to register what this new taste of old California was in my mouth. Alcohol,
mint, clover, stem, spice, color and horse.
“Pretty neat!” I said as I noted that this must have had low
Sure, I found it lovely, delicious but I suspected that some readers of other blogs would
run for a stick of gum. I thought to myself, '"If is a
direction alternative for California, I'm in-- ready to write a retraction to
my 2008 op-ed piece on California wines.
Then I doubled
back to the label...11.5%?
"But how?” I asked.
The 2006 was picked on November 3rd @ 21.05 Brix and that
was the ripest that wine has ever plumped out to. The 2007 never quite made it to ripeness and the 2008 squeaked through. The 2008 wine was foot -trodden (as was the '07) and had
plenty of cola, clover and spice, helped by whole cluster, natural
To find out how, I needed to spend some time with the three
Ts; thinking and talking and tasting. Last month, I olled in to their old apple
processing barn in Forestville, Sonoma. It was the second day of that hot
spell, the one that felled so many grapes in the Golden State.
The winery was warm, let's make that hot. We retreated to a
narrow packing room with the A/C. There I was, around a barrel with fresh-faced
Nathan Roberts and his equally fresh faced boy-hood bud, Duncan Meyers, friends
since their Cub Scout days in Napa
grew up in Napa and make wine like these?” I asked with great admiration.
They were embarrassed by the Cub Scouts but tried to explain
to me they grew up around wine and their evolution was nothing unusual.
"Napa? And you make low alcohol and low intervention wines? No
inoculations, acid or tricks. You've got a chardonnay in there still not
finished from 2009. Don’t people think you’re freaks?”
Turns out this
was a relatively new turn of vinous events for them. As Nathan said, "The
narrative for me is being rewritten."
vintage was in 2002. Their real philosophical change came about in the cooler
2005. Other people in California were flipping out but they liked this lean. So
they did some soul searching. The wines they admired were high acid, low jam,
with some edge and always provoked a reaction. They traveled, they talked to
winemakers, unlike so many other winemakers who bow at let's say Thierry
Allemand's feet, they actually listened to those wines. They did not mimic, but
they listened instead of drinking Allemand and making fruit bombs.
As Duncan said,
"Our palates shifted westward towards the ocean."
Which is how they unearthed the Clary Ranch. Writer,
Jordan Makay describes that
vineyard close to Tomales Bay
beautifully in a piece for San Francisco Magazine, "Windblown, fog
tormented, denuded hillsides ."
2009 Arnot-Roberts Old Vine White Compagni-Portis Vineyard
Sonoma Valley ($30): -Gosh, I love california field blends. This is floral,
honeysuckle, lily and a bitter edge.
2009 Arnot-Roberts Chardonnay Green Island Vineyard Napa
Valley ($30):- Lively and lemon.
2009 Arnot-Roberts Trousseau Luchsinger Vineyard Clear Lake
($30): yes, you read right. Trousseau. A gamay lilt and perfume, berry and
bitter. Pretty complex cookie.
2007 Arnot-Roberts Cabernet Sauvignon Bugay Vineyard Sonoma
County ($80): helped out by the petite verdot and cabernet franc, bell pepper
varietal character but sweet fruit and Reminds me of a cali cab with aging power, like the ones we love now from the 70's?
In August, I arrived from sticky New York into hot Sonoma sun. I couldn't complain, after all it was their first two steamy days of the entire vintage. Ever wilting me, the arid 110 degre day was far more tolerable than 90 and 100% humidity of New York City.
I would be lying to you if I didn’t say that sitting in dinner party pro, (Marcy with the worlds best dog)
Marcy Mallette’s Healdsburg backyard, with a fig tree groaning with unripe fruit and guests sopping up the last of their Alaskan salmon BLT wasn’t a joy, even if everyone wore wearing flip-flops, and Kevin Hamel (my boss on the Sagrantino project and winemaker for Pellegrini) made fun of my trapped shoes. I was outted from the shtettle. That's okay.
I reached into the pileup of wines we had assembled. "You got to taste this," I said, and poured around, then sat down on the stoop, near the long, al fresco dinner table.
Taking a tentative taste of Coturri’s 2005 Cabernet, Hardy Wallace said, “That sure is some Hippie juice." He was certain the wine had a significant retro taste, within spitting distance of a Haight-Ashbury head shop.
ripped off from Hardy's facebook page. Wallace, you might remember, is the young cherub who arrived to northern California from the South to live out a dream. The dream had been induced when he won a very high profile contest to be social media guru for a Kendall Jackson winery. He knocked out the competition with his brains, chops and goofball charm. After his six months, however, he really found his dream job, with Kevin Kelley, the winemaker whose grapes I had trod, cheated on, really, when my Sagrantino was in process. His palate, as far as I could see was more aligned with 'hippie juice,' than techno-wines. I kept on trying to look into his face to see what he really thought about the wines. I knew if I had the rosé or even the chardonnay he'd have been won over as Marcy and I had been.
Earlier that day, when it was only ninety-three degrees or so, she and I drove to the Coturri Global Headquarters in Glen Ellen, clear on the other side of the county. We wended on the back lanes, past brush and the spindly copper barked trees. Baking in the heat, the landscape seemed friendlier to cattle ranching than grape farming, I thought. And then there were the zinfandel vines, floppy and unirrigated.
Tony Coturri (with brother vineyard manager Phil) had the winery bonded in 1979, aiming to make wine the way their father learned from their Tuscan grandfather. The only difference seems to be fermenting in one-ton redwood tanks instead of two-ton and more whole clusters. They had been in my consciousness since the mid-eighties. I remember back in the day seeing bottles of Coturri relegated to the 'organic' wine section, a pathetic rack of a few wines down the block at Astor Place. The bottles stood upright, in the sun, languishing and bleaching out. Not a good thing for natural wines without sulfur.Perhaps like so many, I discounted them as hippie juice, but was that a bad thing? I mean, I was a little hippie wanabee, too young at the time to be part of the movement, but yearning to grow up to be free.
It wasn’t until Jenny Lefcourt, (a woman who could look like my dark haired sister, who started to import natural wine in 2000) took them on as her sole-American winery, did I reconsider.
I was at a party in New York City (not that long ago) and the only wine I could drink there was the 2004 carignan. I didn’t just like the wine, I loved it, earthy, never a touch of new oak, brambly and call me impressionable, but I thought it tasted, like California, whatever that means; wild, unbridled and friendly.The talk on the street was that sometimes the wines were great and sometimes they sucked. But to some, they were cult, before there were cult CEO wines. Tony always made his wines with the credo, organic viticulture, nothing added, nothing taken away and no sulfur, even at bottling.
This was crazy. Tony was never a hipster. I'm not sure he, even with his wooly, unkempt beard, was ever a hippie, he just cared about land and health and the environment and honesty.
Separated at birth by 6000 miles, the Coturri winery had been organic and sulfur free---that reads ‘hard core natural,’ since the beginning years. Two years before Francois Morel started his sans soufre wine bar in Paris, Tony was an American pioneer. Thirty years later he was just as hard core as Laureno Serres in Terre Alta. The only difference is that the others had a circle of friends, of like-minded people. Until Tony joined up with the Return to Terroir group, he was working in total isolation. He did not have a clan. He didn’t have any idea he wasn’t alone untl he went to Paris around 2000 and a friend told him about a wine store, he can’t remember which one, that had natural wines. He discovered Paolo Bea, sagrantino, as a matter of fact. He was still struggling but maybe he belonged to something bigger. And now he does.
Some of my favorite wines from that tasting were:
'09 Coturri Chardonnay: peachy and refreshing.
'08 Carignan; Yes, from the smoky year, and there it is like a lamb smoking on the spit. Sheep, lanolin and currant.
'05 Cabernet; VA alert, if you can't take it, move away, but I think this touch is lively. Old school, not too ripe, earthy with just enough lilt, and berry fresh.
'03 Cote de Cailloux; a blend of Rhone-ishisms, forest and licorice.
The next generation:
Nick Coturri, "I finally took a look at one of those enological catalogues and was pretty shocked."
Importer Paolo Bernardi clued me in these wines he brings in from Venezia Guila.I had never had them. Highly yummy stuff. All better the next day.
Violet. Jasmin. Peony. Intense, pignolo, bur not much grip or tannin but intense acidity, and a cloud like finish.
Smells like opium perfume. Again intense, bloody, hotly spiced with an edge and a long finish. Quite the experience.
Cousin Leduc Grolleau 2007
tart, gentle and edgy.
Cousin Leduc Pur Breton 2006
Carnation, inhalation, lots of life and texture the VV has a berry nose and as deep as a quarry.
Comptoirs de Magdala Amourvedre 2007
From young vines in Bandol, when you are in a mood for lots of silt and texture and need to shake your fist for emphasis.
Domaine Deux Anes
Magali in the Languedoc can do no wrong. Just buy them.
Chemin de Bassac pinot 2007
THis from the Languedoc, Cotes de Thongue, doesn't have much structure but it is pretty and pleasant, medium weight and ...will fulfil a pinot craving at a great price point. It's your new party wine.
From the 2007 Souteronne (gamay) to the 2007 Syrah (twig and cocoa), Saint Joseph, (elegance and wisdom) ad the Sainte Epine (knock out) I rest my case. Always jumping with vitality, they refuse to stay in the glass.
Christian and Audrey Binner
Everything from this Alsatian domaine is lovely.(and don't forget their 2005 Pinot)
But the affordable (maybe $14-$20) 2005 Saveurs Printanieres is your spring/summer wine. Yup. One of those Alsatian blends. Glug. Glug.
DOMAINE DU TUNNEL
Maybe it's the terrific 2007 vintage but the arrow hit my heart when I tasted these at the Skurnik tasting.
According to John Livingstone Learmonth's book. Stephane Roberts destems around 60%. The wine is clean, modern in that sense, and the vineyard work and the structure of the wine (without the help of new oak) comes through.
St. Peray 2007
all apple and apricot.
St. Joseph 2007 (around $30)
muscle. tight. dark fruit and spice. ride em horsee.
Ah, rusticity refined. Finesse and lively acidity.
Cornas Vin Noir 2006
I dropped to my knees and prayed. Touch of mint made it way into these 100 year old vines.
I know that's really enthusiastic but, it's wildly available and its pretty and under $20 which right now feels like a steal. In other words, this is a wine you can find outside of the major wine hubs and get some enjoyment.
It's got the right stuff, think cherry with suede in a drinkable weight that could stand a chill. Great bathroom literature. The kind of stuff that keeps you behind that locked door reading for a while. And best of all, it's not boring.
Contrary to the general feeling out there, sometimes I do show up. I don't always hide behind my computer. To prove it, I took Dr.Vino's suggestion and am throwing my voice into the ring of Blogging Wednesday or Wednesday Blogging, for September the 12th.
Here goes. The assignment was to put forward an indigenous grape from its hometown.
Bless Georg Mumelter's little heart for making this (possibly $14 dollars?) wine at Griesbauerhof, his farm situated outside the Alto Adige city of Bolzano in the DOC of St. Magdalener.
I bet the wine would taste much better in situ--such gorgeous, quasi-Alpine country up there--but here in lower Manhattan, it was extremely pretty. But just in case it made a difference, I climbed to my roof to see if the altitude changed the wine's taste. It didn't.
Schiava (aka Vernatsch,) comprises most of the blend. I have no idea what else is in this bottle, perhaps a touch of Lagrein?
And as far as its taste? Spicy, peppery, touches of aspirin and fresh strawberry in a fun-weighted wine that was entirely perky and surprising.
I'm hunting the Leon Trotskys, the Philip Roths, the Chaucers and the Edith Whartons of the wine world. I want them natural and most of all, I want them to speak the truth even if we argue. With this messiah thing going on, I'm trying to swell the ranks of those who crave the differences in each vintage, celebrate nuance and desire wines that make them think, laugh, and feel. Welcome.
And, if you'd like a signed copy, feel free to contact me directly.