This is high-density, 100+ year nerello mascalese fruit from high altitude, ancient lava soil. A contrada is a specific lava path where magma once flowed from Mount Etna. Now cooled, several contradas leading out from the volcano have decomposed into rich, volcanic soil; these lava flows have found their way, and over time, nerello has found its way to evolve on their special soils.
Over the last few releases (2009-2012), winemaker Andrea Franchetti seems to be finding his own path, as he searches for the right way to let his wines speak. Once blended together in 2008 & previous Passopisciaro, he now releases separate bottlings from each contrada. This 'Contrada R' stands for 'Contrada Rampante,' a contrada that translates to 'prancing.'
Rampante. Was it named thusly because the lava pranced down the volcano? Or does prancing refer to the way the wine interacts with the palate? Certainly, the flavors have a dance to them. Better yet, perhaps Rampante is a foreshadowing of what the wine can inspire in its drinkers.
Passopisciaro 'Contrada R' 2010 (Sicily, Italy)
This is special stuff. Medium bodied wine, with complex aromas ranging from beef to flowers and everywhere in between. Perfect ripeness, expertly-handled tannins, delicious phenolics. But beyond hitting all the technical marks the wine is simply beautiful.
Located on the sandy soils of a bird estuary that juts out into the Atlantic ocean, Baos Quintas vineyards produce some interesting & affordable wines from Portugal. Their 'Herdade de Gambia' is a blend of 65% touriga nacional, 25% syrah, & 10% aragonez.
Normally famous for fortified Moscatel, the Setubal Peninsula is revealing some different wines that are expanding the image of the region. Located just a short drive south from Lisbon, this is a great value from Portugal.
Winemaker: Nuno Cancela de Abreu
Place: Setubal Peninsula, Portugal
Blend: 65% touriga nacional, 25% syrah, 10% aragonez
Boas Quintas 'Herdade de Gambia' 2012 (Peninsula de Setubal, Portugal)
a delicious, dark fruity wine with cherry skin aromas and a
phenolic, cravable ripeness.
The wines from Avennia are the result of winemaker Chris Peterson's craftsmanship. Chris worked for many years in Washington State at DeLille Cellars, and had inspirational moments with Rhone wines during his carer that made him want to focus on syrah and Rhone blends. Most of the vines he works with are ownrooted-- phylloxera hasn't been such a threat in Washington State.
The history of syrah in Washington State is not that long of a tale-- the first syrah vines went down in 1986 for David Lake at Columbia Winery. This 'Arnaut' syrah comes from two older plots in the Boushey vineyard, planted in 1994 and 1996.
This vineyard sits right in the middle of the Yakima Valley, and has interesting complex soils of loam and loess, deposited during the Missoula Floods at the end of the last ice age.
Avennia 'Arnaut' Boushey Vineyard syrah 2011 (Yakima Valley, Washington State)
unmistakably syrah with aromas of meat, fresh herbs, and white pepper; rich and powerful on the palate, flavors of spicy braised meat, rich extraction, great acidity, and a sizzling mineral finish.
This is a blend of 19 barrels from Bodegas M. Sánchez Ayala, this manzanilla is the 6th edition from this particular solera (which also can be tasted in numbers 4,8,16,22,& 32).
Don't be afraid of the tartrates...
Other bottlings that appear on this website:
Equipo Navazos #41 Palo Cortado
Equipo Navazos-Niepoort joint project 2011
Sometimes a wine captures your fancy in such a unique way... This particular wine is one that entices you back and back again for another smell, another sip. Each time it is different, a paradox that is both subtle and powerful. Every time I pass this bottle in the cellar, I give it a quizzical, respectful look. It's the same look you'd give to Richard Feynman or Einstein if you were to pass them on the street-- a look of deference cloaked in confusion because you know how vitally important they are to the world, but you cannot quite comprehend the fine details of their particular contributions. It's the same with this wine: I don't understand it, but it is undoubtedly awe-inspiring.
Perhaps the mystery of this wine lies in the unique genetics of the grape variety: the país grape has an incredible history locked up its DNA. Originally from Spain in the Castilla-La Mancha area, then exported around the world in the 1500s, it found its way to Chile in the ships of Spanish conquistadores (Robinson et al 2012:550-552). It also ended up in the Canary Islands, California, and Mexico. The grape has many different synonyms, including listán prieto and mission. País was most likely the first Vitis vinifera variety to be cultivated in the Americas, and it helped many of the first colonists survive. The grape spread over vast tracts of land as priests and religious organizations planted vineyards for sacramental wine. In the uncertain landscape of sixteenth century America, these early vineyard planters wanted to work with a dependable variety that could make a wine that would not oxidize or otherwise go bad before the next harvest. País' high levels of resveratrol make it quite resistant to oxidation, and thus a perfect candidate for a wine that could be stored for long periods of time under colonial conditions (Brethaur 2012:5). It's a hearty grape, with potential for high yields and an innate resistance to drought-- thus an ideal variety for the dry farmed, high-altitude historic plots in the Maule Valley's subregion of Cauquenes.
Louis-Antoine Luyt, a Burgundian greatly influenced by the philosophies of his close friends in the Lapierre family, ended up in Chile on a brief visit to learn Spanish. He ended up staying, and a restaurant career exposed him to the local wine world. He became entranced by the tiny plots and small growers who mostly sold their fruit to larger companies (Dressner 2012). What if the special plots could be vinified alone? What could be learned about Chilean terroir? He went back to France to study winemaking, then returned to Chile to see what he could do with some of the more interesting plots he had encountered. Starting up a winemaking business wasn't easy; but Luyt is quite possibly as resilient as the país he so loves. In 2010, a great earthquake claimed 70% of his production, and yet he perseveres.
This 2011 is the second vintage of Luyt's país project. He bottles three separate plots by their parcel names: Pilen Alto, Trequilemu, and Quenehuao. The Quenehuao parcel is but one part of his país trilogy, and with a collection of the oldest rootstocks on the planet-- dating back some three centuries-- the vineyard is truly a wonder of the world. Who was the farmer that planted the cuttings here sometime around 1700? If only there were a historic register for these museum vineyards. Just a few other vineyards on our Earth can boast such age.
The grape: pa s
The parcel: Quenehuao
Age of original ungrafted rootstock: 300 years
Winemaker: Louis-Antoine Luyt
Elevage: 10 months in concrete
100% Uvahuasa 'El Pais de Quenehuao' 2011 (Chile)
aromas of pork sausages, dried means, and celery seed; a quite savory aroma. Perfectly ripe phenolics that make the acid blend right into the tannins and the entire wine is full but stealth. It sneaks up on you because not one part of it is screaming for attention. Intriguing to smell, and extremely pleasurable to drink.
Domaine aux Moines sits right on the banks of the Loire River, just a few miles southwest of Angers. Winemaking in Savennières dates back to at least 276 AD and gained a stronghold as monks propagated sacramental vines. When Savennières became an AC in 1952, two sub-appelations were granted as well: La Roche aux Moines and La Clos de la Coulée Serrant. The two small sub-appeliations sit right next to each other, and both produce extraordinary wines today.
In 1981, Monique Laroche began winemaking at Domaine aux Moines, and today she works with her daughter Tessa. The mother-daughter team works mostly with chenin blanc but has a small amount of cabernet franc. The chenin blanc is all hand harvested at low yields. Their harvest is a longer process-- a series of selections ('passes') of the vineyard that occur over several weeks. Fermented with indigenous yeasts, the wine then ages in a blend of tank and wood. This 1994 was farmed sustainably, but since 2009 they've been in conversion to organics (perhaps their neighbor Nicolas Joly has something to do with it)...
Domaine aux Moines 'Roche aux Moines' 1994 (Savennières, Loire, France)
This wine was lovely-- it was rich and just slightly off-dry, but barely noticeable because of the taut, balancing acidity. In addition to soft fruit characteristics, there are plenty of secondary aromas such as dried leaves, dried meats, and wet earth. I had this one with spicy seafood and it was delicious-- the earth aromas brought out all the umami flavors in the food, and the slight sweetness tempered the heat.
An excellent resource for Savennières (& the Loire in general) can be found here.
Renaissance Brewery in Marlborough, New Zealand, brews and bottles in one of the oldest buildings in Blenheim. Founded in 2005 by two California expats, and with a decade of track record behind them, owners Andy Deuchars and Brian Thiel have a growing brewery on their hands.
Their hops are home-grown, and their water comes from the mountain range that is the backbone of the South Island (the Southern Alps).
Renaissance 'Chocolate Oatmeal Stout' (Marlborough, New Zealand)
One of the most unique things about this beer was the texture. The bubbles didn't have a creamy foam like most stouts; instead, the bubbles were harder and they reminded me of the kind of bubbles that occur in root beer. The aromas were complex and powerful-- coffee was pretty strong, cacao came through more on the palate, and oatmeal contributed mostly to texture.
Domaine Gresser "Kritt" 2010 Pinot Blanc (Alsace, France)
Domaine Gresser is a small family winery, and Remy Gresser, the winemaker, recently switched to biodynamic farming. I'm always curious about what inspires such a high-committment switch, and when I asked him, he replied matter-of-factly, "I am the first consumer of my wine."
The imagery of the label background evokes the gravel soils of the Kritt site, and in a more imaginative way it evokes the schist soils that dominate the Andlau region of Alsace. Remy has had a bit of experience here, and probably learned a thing or two from his ancestors who have been tending vineyards in this region since 1520. A deeper interest in soil types has become an interesting trend in Alsace, with producers and consumers in the region creating a healthy dialogue about what is in the glass and what soils it comes from. Remy has been a big part of this conversation, as he has been quite active as president of the Conseil Interprofessionnel des Vins d'Alsace.
Domaine Gresser uses an innovative scale on the back label to help guide consumers that indicates the sweetness or dryness of the wine on a simple scale.
Similar scales have been picked up by a number of producers. It's similar to the IRF (International Riesling Foundation) sweetness scale.
These wines are incredible values. They are barrel matured which gives them a softer, elegant structure and ripe, drinkable acidity. The same structure also holds true for his gewurztraminer, which I have long used for a by-the-glass pour at several restaurants.
I’m Erin, and I’m thirsty for drinks and the secrets they hold. Wine is my main game, but I’ve been known to love a cocktail here and there, and who doesn’t like a good beer on the regular? This blog is for wine/spirits/beer geeks. No beverage will be left unsipped! Posts are at least weekly, more if possible.