About this Blog

The blog focuses on the essence of wine and food, not how many points or stars it receives. The opinions are mine and should be taken only as that, an opinion not gospel.

Like many collectors, initially I was very much influenced by wine ratings. I purchased wines based on points, even if I had never tasted the wine. And it was much worse than that. I would drink a wine with a high rating, not like it, yet since it was highly rated I’d rationalize that I did not yet appreciate the wine, or that my palate was not sophisticated enough to understand the wine. How’s that for lunacy? As a result my cellar grew in all directions while my palate narrowed. By the time I realized the style of wine that I enjoyed, my cellar abounded with wines whose styles I did not enjoy. All of these wines were very highly rated, just not my cup of tea, or glass of wine to be more accurate. Fortunately I was able to sell many of these wines to those who either enjoyed them or wanted highly rated wines. Don’t misunderstand, I am not against wines with high ratings, in fact I own many. It is just that I now purchase wines based on the producer, the style and my palate, not the rating. Nor do I shun reading reviews. I very much respect Antonio Galloni, Alan Meadows, Eric Asimov and John Gilman and read their reviews routinely. I pay attention to what they write, not the points they award.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Louis/Dressner Tasting

Each year Chambers Street Wines in conjunction with Louis/Dressner Selections hosts a tasting of the wines of some of the Dressner portfolio producers.  The $20 entrance fee is a donation to Partners-in-Health, an international medical organization committed to improving the health of the poor and marginalized.  For more information about PIH click here.  This year the event was held at City Hall Restaurant in lower Manhattan.  It was quite an event as one might suspect with 34 of the most talented winemakers from France, Italy, Germany, Slovenia and Chile pouring their beautifully crafted artisanal wines.

If you read my previous posts Joe Dressner and The Back of the Bottle you know how highly I feel about this importer.  The portfolio abounds with naturally made wines of finesse and soul at very reasonable prices.  My cellar holds 18 of his portfolio producers and after yesterday it will add a few more.

When I taste wine, I do not take it in, swirl it around and spit it out.  In my opinion wine was made to be appreciated and to properly do so you need to drink it.  While this does limit the amount of wines I can taste at an event with as much wine as this one, I find that with careful selection, it expands my tasting experience.  Here are some of the highlights from the tasting.

Renardat-Fache 2011 Bugey Cerdon (Methode Ancestrale Rosé).  This was a ridiculously phenomenal sparkling rosé.  Lively and pure, the wine danced on my tongue and cried yummy, yummy, yummy all the way down.  This delicious wine is made from a blend of Gamay and Poulsard in which the grapes are fermented at low temperatures in tanks to obtain a sweet, low alcohol wine. This partial fermentation preserves the softness, aromas and color of the grapes. Because the alcoholic fermentation has not yet peaked, the wine retains its yeasts and fermentation continues after bottling. Once this second fermentation occurs, the remaining yeasts are filtered out and the wine is rebottled.

The Bugey, located halfway between Lyons and Geneva, is one of the tiniest and most obscure wine areas in France. Although the altitude is modest, the terrain is very mountainous. The vineyards are hard to detect, little patches here and there on steep slopes looking southeast or southwest, lost in the midst of fields with grazing cows, and dense forests. The total Bugey acreage in vineyards is 170 hectares. The varietals are many, borrowed from all the surrounding areas: Gamay, Poulsard (a grape from Northern Jura), Roussette, Mondeuse (both from Savoie) and Chardonnay. Many still wines are produced, but the region's star wine is the Cerdon Méthode Ancestrale, a semi-dry, pink bubbly made by spontaneous, but incomplete, fermentation.  $20.

In my post 3 Amazing Wines I wrote about a Chenin Blanc from the Savennieres commune in the Loire region of France.  The stony schist soil of this area of France produces wines with a delicious minerality to them that I really enjoy.  Thus it was with great expectation that I tasted two wines from Domaine du Closel – Chateau des Vaults.  The vines are organically farmed and the vinification process is very traditional.  The 2007 Savennieres Clos Papillon, from one of the best parcels in the area is fermented in barriques for almost a year.  The wine possessed terrific complexity and was round and delicious with nary a hint of oak.  $33.  The 2011 Savennieres La Jalouise was less complex but possessed a refreshingly pure crispness that appealed to me more than the Papillon bottling.  It was round and delicious.  $23.

The Mâconnais district lies in the south of the Burgundy wine region in France.  It takes its name from the town of Mâcon. It is best known as a source of good value white wines made from the Chardonnay grape; the wines from Pouilly-Fuissé are particularly sought after. Almost all the wine made in the Mâconnais is white wine made from the Chardonnay grape.  I had not tasted much wine from this region so I was eager to taste the 2011 Macon-Charnay “Franclieu from Jean Manciat.  The wine is made in stainless-steel vats, to express the fruity, floral aromas and flinty minerality that characterize the best Chardonnay in the region. It was terrific.  It possessed stunning purity, crispness and complexity on the palate.  Hard to believe it only costs $19.

The wines of François Pinon are considered among the finest of Vouvray. His vineyards are in the corniche (ridge of a cliff) of the Vallée de Cousse. The soil is clay and silica on a base of limestone (tuffeau) with flint (silex) and the area is rated among the top sites in the appellation for Vouvrays of distinction and long life.  I tasted three of his wines today, 2010 Vouvray “Les Trois Argiles” (previously known as Cuveé Tradition), 2010 Vouvray “Silex Noir” and NV Vouvray Brut Petillant.  The Les Trois Argiles possessed a subtle sweetness on the palate and finished with considerable length.  The Sixex Noir exhibited a golden straw hue, had impeccable balance and purity on the palate and finished with lengthy seduction.  The Vouvray Brut Petillant, a sparkling Chenin Blanc, was as good as Champagnes costing 4 to 5 times the price.  All of thes wines are about $22 a bottle.

I have been drinking a lot of Marc Ollivier’s Muscadet for the past couple of years, thus I was very happy to meet this master winemaker in person and taste three of his wines that I had not tasted before.  These gorgeously crisp and minerally white wines are made from the Melon Bourgogne grape.  While they are delicious in their youth, they can also age for 20 years or more. I began wih 2010 Muscadet Sevre et Maine “Clisson”.  It is made from 50 to 110 year-old vines on a lower slope at Pepiere.  As with all his wines the grapes are hand-harvested then aged on the lees for 24 months. The wine was stony and elegant and finished with incredible length. It can be enjoyed now or cellared for 20 to 30 years.  It is considered one of the greatest wines ever produced at Domaine de la Pépière.  $24.

The next wine was 2009 Muscadet Sevre et Maine “Chateau Thebaud Clos Morines”. From a superb parcel of old vines on a steep slope comprised of a very warm and porous granite soil this was wonderfully fresh with superb acidity and a brilliant stoniness. Bottled after 30 months on the lees, this is another wine that will provide superb drinking now and last for 20+ years.  $24.

I followed this with his 2009 Muscadet Sevre et Maine “3”. This wine spent 3 years on the lees (hence the name) and like the previous two displayed wonderful freshness, acidity and focused fruit.  Like the others it can be enjoyed now or cellared for 20+ years.  $24.

If you are a lover, as I am, of ice-cold fresh oysters, then you must try one of these wines with them.  It is a perfect match.

I first tasted the remarkable wines of Bernard Baudry about 3 years ago.  His wines are masterly crafted from vines that are up to sixty years old.  One of the stars of the Chinon in the Loire Valley, his reds are made from 100% Cabernet Franc and possess complexity, finesse, elegance and finish with great length.  They can be enjoyed now or cellared for 10 – 15 years.  From the terrific 2010 vintage I tasted the Chinon Domaine ($19), Chinon “Les Grezeaux” ($26) and the Chinon “La Croix Boissee” ($38).  Each was fantastic.  These are wines with tremendous soul and it would be impossible to choose a favorite.

At age 24 Sicilian born Arianna Occhipinti made her first wine.  Now 7 years and numerous NY Times articles later she has become an icon to a generation of wine lovers that appreciate honestly made and pure wines that touch the soul.  Her 2010 Siccagno Nero D’Avola is such a wine and was superb.   It was a spectacular expression of pure fruit with an impeccable balance of acidity and minerality and a simply gorgeous finish.  Talk about soul, this wine has it in spades. $39.

Adjacent to Arianna at the tasting was Francesca Padovani of Campi di Fonterenza in Montalcino, a producer I was not familiar with.  Francesca and her twin sister Margarita planted their first vines in 1997.  I tasted the 2010 Rosso di Montalcino.  It was delicious.  Traditionally made it had glorious ripe and pure fruit, was soft on the palate and finished beautifully.  $35.  I also tasted the 2007 Brunello di Montalcino which, as one would expect, had considerably more depth than the Rosso.  Still a baby this is destined to become a beautiful wine in a few years. $90.

My wine loving friend David, who accompanied me to this tasting, listed amongst his favorites in addition to the afore mentioned Bernard Baudry and Francois Pinon wines:

2009 Romeo del Castello Allegracore from Mt. Etna in Sicily.  $22

The terroir driven Rhone wines of Eric Texier:
2010 Eric Texier Cotes du Rhone Rouge.  $15
2011 Eric Texier Cotes du Rhone Brezeme.  $24
2010 Eric Texier Domaine de Pergaud Brezeme Vieille Serine. $34
2010 Eric Texier Chateauneuf-du-Pape Vieilles Vignes.  $54

The gorgeous “orange wines” of Stanko Radikon of Slovania:
2010 Radikon Venezia Giulia Pinot Grigio (amazing juice) $40
2010 Radikon Venezia Giulia Ribolla Gialla.  $40
2010 Radikon Venezia Giulia Oslavje (a blend of 40% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Grigio, 30% Sauvignon Blanc).  $40

The wines of Elena Pantaleoni of La Stoppa in Emilia Romangna.
2007 IGT Emilia Bianco Ageno.  $37
2010 IGT Emilia Rosso Trebbiolo Frizzante.  $21
2007 IGT Emilia Barbera della Stoppa.  $35

Each of these wines is a terrific example of traditionally crafted wines.  They provide a remarkable drinking experience and prove beyond any shadow of a doubt that one does not have to spend a lot of money to enjoy truly GREAT WINE.  All wines are available from Chambers Street Wines, NYC.  I strongly suggest you try a few.


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