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, January 12, 2014

Discoveries of 2013 • Part 1 • White Wines

In addition to collecting and drinking wine from great producers like Conterno, Mascarello, Ravenau, etc., finding small producers that make extraordinary wines has become a particular passion of mine.  Most of these wines travel under the radar.  As a result they are reasonably priced, but more important they are, in my humble opinion, terrific drinking experiences and are proof that one does not have to spend a lot of money on highly rated, cult wines to enjoy great wine.  As there are quite a few wines, I am splitting this up into two separate posts, starting with white wines.  Here are some of my favorite white wines from 2013.

France – Burgundy - White

Pierre Yves Colin was the winemaker for his father's Domaine Marc Colin until 2005 before venturing out on his own to start Maison Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey.  He is an rising star in the Cote de Beaune, crafting delicious white Burgudy since his maiden vintage in 2006.

2011 Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey St. Aubin "La Chatenière" 1er Cru ($45).  Michael Skurnik Wines.  Great expression of the Chardonnay grape. Beautiful acidity, crisp and clean palate with a lengthy finish.  This is a great value.

2011 Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey Chassagne Montrachet les Embrazees 1er Cru ($80).  Another delicious wine from this producer.  Wonderful balance and purity on the palate.  Layers of complexity, focus and finesse. Good acidity for this wine to last for quite some time.  This is top-notch juice.

Thomas Pico is another young (mid 20’s) rising star in the region who started the tiny estate Pattes Loup (wolf’s paws) in 2005. Pico harvests everything by hand, and ferments all his wines using indigenous yeasts in old oak barrels.

2011 Pattes Loup Chablis ($35).   Polaner Selections. This is a terrific Villages level Chablis, pristinely pure with impeccable balance, vitality and superb minerality.  Great juice at a great price.

The Mâconnais district lies in the south of the Burgundy wine region in France, west of the River Saône. 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. Chardonnay is the main grape. Jean Manciat is one of the top producers in the area.

2011 Jean Manciat Mâcon Charnay Franclieu ($18).  Louis Dressner Selections.  Made in stainless steel vats, the wine exhibits a gorgeous fruity and floral aroma, while on the palate it has stunning purity, crispness and complexity.  Simply delicious.

France – Jura - White

I became a fan of wines from the Jura region of France a couple of years ago.  I find them full of finesse, depth and character and amongst the best wine values around.  The Jura is a petite and relatively obscure wine region in eastern France, between Burgundy and the Swiss border. Its geographical isolation has helped it to remain a rare bastion of traditional winemaking techniques, and today it produces some of the most distinctive wines in the world. Reds from the Jura are often light-bodied, earthy, berried, and reminiscent of the village wines of Burgundy (though here they are made of local grapes like Poulsard and Trousseau).  The whites are made from Savagnin and Chardonnay in a somewhat oxidized manner.  The Savagnin has a very different taste than other white grapes and may not appeal to the casual wine drinker.

2008 Michel Gahier Arbois Chardonnay ”La Faquette ($35).  Rosenthal Wine Merchants. This was a superb bottle of wine, very Jura-like with a bit of oxidation, but a clear, pure and well-balanced palate and a lingering finish. 

France – Loire – White

One of my favorite white wine grapes is Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley in France. Vouvray is perhaps the best know region for the Chenin Blanc grape.  It produces sensational whites from its chalky soil.  About 100 miles due west from Vouvray is Savennieres where the Chenin Blanc grape grows in slate-like soils of schist and sandstone that is evident in the wines. I find them to have a steely freshness that is strikingly different from Vouvray, but wonderful to drink and enjoy.

2011 Domaine du Closel Chateau des Vaults Savennieres La Jalouise ($21).  Louis Dressner Selections.  This is a superb Chenin Blanc.  It is a round and focused wine that evolves beautifully in the glass as you drink it.  Do not drink this wine too cold, or you will miss its complexity and superb finish.

1994 Château d'Epiré Savennières Cuvée Spéciale ($45).  Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant. The Cuvée Spéciale is blended specifically for Kermit Lynch from the estate’s top parcel.  An austere wine that has aged magnificently, it is aged in chestnut barrels, a method the estate has abandoned for its more modern wines.  On the palate it displayed a sublime viscosity and perfect balance. 

France – Corsica - White

2011 Comte Abbatucci Ajaccio Blanc "Cuvée Faustine” ($38). Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant.  Made from 100% Vermentino grapes this wine possesses bracing crispness, freshness and vitality. To keep his vines happy, Jean-Charles Abbatucci is known to drive his tractor out to his vineyards and play traditional Corsican polyphonic songs over loudspeakers for their benefit. After the harvest he’ll treat his cellar to the same music as his grapes ferment and come of age.  The results speak for themselves, as this is an outrageously delicious wine.  

Italy – Friuli Venezia - White

The white and orange wines of Friuli Venezia are amongst my favorite wines anywhere.  They have tremendous depth, sparkling hues and are simply delicious to drink. Nicola Manferrari founded the Borgo del Tiglio estate in Buttrio in 1981.  He has been making world class white wines ever since.

2010 Borgo del Tiglio Collio Bianco ($35).  Grand Cru Selections.  This is his entry level white, a blend of Friulano, Chardonnay, Malvasia, Riesling and Sauvignon, that possesses a fantastic sparkling light yellow hue, enormous bouquet with a rich, pure, focused palate and magnificent finish. Not only was I impressed by how crisp and clean the wine was but also by the fact that it kept evolving in the glass with each sip. A wine with soul!

Studio di Bianco
2010 Borgo del Tiglio Tocai Ronco della Chiesa Collio ($70). This beauty of a wine is made from 100% Tocai Friuliano grapes. Like the Collio Bianco the wine has great balance and acidity for longevity. Crisp and pure on the palate and still very much a baby, this wine should drink well for at least a decade or more.  

2010 Borgo del Tiglio Studio di Bianco, ($85).  The estate’s flagship wine, it is a blend of Friulano/Sauvignon and Friulano/Riesling co-fermentations from the estate’s hillside vineyards in Ruttars. It is a stunning wine.  I was immediately seduced by the gorgeous crystalline hue and stony bouquet.  On the palate it showed great complexity with lush, pure fruit and soft minerality.  The wine evolved with each sip.  This has the acidity to last at least another decade.  It finished with great length.  A wine with soul!

About 10 miles down the road from Buttrio is the village of Cormons, home to the wine estate of Dario Raccaro. Mr. Raccaro, a former professional basketball playe, is adamant about vinification in steel for his whites in order to retain the purest expression of the fruit and the terroir.

2012 Raccaro Collio Friuliano Vigna del Rolat ($34).  Jan D’Amore Wines. This is considered his top cuvee and his made from 100% Tocai Friulano grapes.  Grapes are soft pressed and cold fermented at 18º C and vinified in stainless steel.  12,000 bottles are produced annually.  I found the wine to be medium bodied with nice acidity, focused fruit and balance.  A very good value.

2012 Raccaro Collio Malvasia ($33).  Made from 100% Malvasia grapes in the same method as the Friuliano.  4,000 bottles produced.  I liked this better than the Friuliano as it had more depth on the palate with excellent acidity and nice fruity finish.

Ten miles east of Cormons in the small town of Gorizia, not far from the Slovenian border, is the tiny estate of Dario Princic.  Mr. Princic, a member of the Italian natural wine movement ViniVeri, crafts some of the most wonderful “orange” I have ever tasted.  These wines, while made from white grapes and get their orange color by spending some maceration time in contact with the grape skins, need to be drunk at red wine temperature to appreciate their unique character and flavor.

2009 Princic Pinot Grigio ($45). The Vine Collective. One of the best "orange" wines, and certainly the most unique Pinot Grigios, I have yet to taste. The hue of this wine is more rosé like in color than the amber or orange hue most of these wines possess. It was round and delicious, with good depth and a long finish. The grapes see a 7 day maceration on the skins in large open-top oak and chestnut fermenters, and the wine is aged for 2 years in botti, tonneaux, and used barriques. No fining, no filtering. Only 2500-3000 bottles produced.  Definitely a wine with soul.   In the same price range he also makes a Ribolla Gialla and Jakot (100% Tocai).  

Italy – Veneto - White

Soave is probably one of the most popular white wines ever exported from Italy.  It has a reputation of being an inexpensive jug-like style wine. It is made from the Garganega grape of the Veneto region.  Like most grapes however, when put in the hands of a master winemaker, some incredible wines are the result.  This past year I had two such Soaves. 

2011 Filippi Castelcerino Soave ($15).  Poloner Selections.  Absolutely terrific Soave for the price.  It was crisp with fresh fruit on the palate with a very pleasant finish.

2010 Inama Soave Vigneto du Lot ($26).  Dalla Terra Winery Direct.  This single vineyard Soave is stunning.  While it sees 30% new Barrique, the oak is completely integrated into the wine.  On the palate this is crisp, clean and focused with a round and delicious Finish.

For about half the price ($14) the Inama Soave Classico could well be the wine value of the year. Made completely in stainless steel, and while it does not have the depth and finesse of the du Lot, it is also round and delicious and very enjoyable to drink.

Austria/Germany - White

Riesling is another white wine grape that I am very fond of, especially those that are on the drier side.  I had a few this past year that have become permanent residents of my cellar.

2003 Hirsch - Riesling Qualitätswein Trocken Kamptal Zöbinger Heiligenstein ($69). Michael Skurnik Wines. Light straw-gold hue. Palate laced with tropical fruits and lovely acidity.  It also possessed a wonderful minerality and had a pleasant and savory finish. Terrific dry Riesling.

1999 Hexamer Meddersheimer Altenberg Riesling Spatlese ($55). 2001 Hexamer Meddersheimer Rheingrafenberg Riesling Hochsgewachs ($35).  Michael Skurnik Wines.  Both of these were terrific.  Lovely golden hue, with a fruity and moderately sweet palate. Both finished with considerable length and richness.  Delicious wines.

USA - NY State - White

One of my most pleasant surprises of last year were some wonderful wines from Long Island in New York State. Christopher Tracy, winemaker at Channing Daughters located in Bridgehampton in the North Fork section of Long Island is making some remarkable wines at very reasonable prices.  Of those I tried this year, I especially liked these:

2011 Channing Daughters Scuttlehole Chardonnay, ($18). Channing Daughters Winery. This was very nice, although I think it would have benefitted from a couple of years in the cellar.  Nice citrus bouquet with a crisp, creamy and fresh palate and excellent acidity.  It started out light-bodied, but with 30 minutes in the glass it became more full-bodied with a pleasant, if somewhat short finish.  The following day both the body and finish improved a lot.  A terrific glass of wine at any price, but at $18 a bottle, fantastic QPR.

2011 Channing Daughters Brick Kiln Chardonnay, ($22). What an excellent bottle of wine this is.  It was reminiscent of a young top-notch Chablis from Burgundy.  Sparkling crystal hue, crisp, fresh and round palate with a yummy finish.  Tremendous QPR.

2006 Channing Daughters North Fork Meditazione, ($45).  An “orange” wine from New York.  Who’d thunk it?  Certainly not I. Not only is it true, but it is also outstanding.  Made from a blend of Tocai Friulano, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Muscat Ottonel, Viognier and Malvasia Bianca, it had a terrific color and superb purity and balance on the palate with a seductive finish.  I intend to buy a lot more wines from NY State this year.  They are difficult to beat for both price and quality. Hermann J. Wiemer is another top producer in the NY that is worth checking out.

Stay tuned, my favorite red wine discoveries will be posted in the very near future.


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