A seventh generation winemaker, Raphaël Pommier tend’s his family’s certified organic vineyards on the right bank of the Rhône River in the Ardeche region. The chapel of Notre Dame de Cousignac, built in the 7th century, lies in the midst of the vineyards. The Pommier family bought the property in the Napoleonic era, cultivating both wine and silk back then. Now a part of the Ogier group, Raphaël sources grapes for this Châteauneuf from organic estates. Vinified in stainless steel tanks, it is aged for 12 months in a mix of cement and stainless. It offers lightly tart red fruit aromas, along with licorice and a bit of spice. The round, ripe, red berry and plum fruit flavors are backed by touches of creamy cocoa and leather. Fine, mostly resolved tannins come through on the finish, which is marked by balanced, food friendly acidity. Would go great with roast chicken, roast beef or game, winter squash or baked pasta dishes.
We were fortunate to be able to get five cases of this small production wine, made by Peay Vineyards in California. Cep means vine stock in French, and the emphasis is on making wines that express the Peay family vineyard’s personality, but at about half the price. Grown organically, this wine’s alluring nose emphasizes tart, green fruits (kaffir lime and other sour citrus), with savory notes of fennel, thyme, mint and tarragon. The fruit flavor on the attack confirms the lime in the nose, adding lime pith and roasted lime nuances. The mid-palate has salty and mineral notes as well as a hint of floral sweetness. The acidity is fresh throughout making the wine crisp and focused with a clean finish. Another one to try while it’s still available.
Sometimes, in the vast warehouses of our distributors, wines get lost or buried, and if you’re lucky, there are some real gems to be found. That is the case with this wine. I happened to see it in one of their price books, so I tried it, and it so impressed that we bought the last two available cases. Being a 2013 vintage, this wine has had time to develop some character: the tannins have smoothed out, leaving a silky, delicious wine. A blend of 90 percent Sangiovese and 10 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, it has aromas of cherry, dried cranberry and white pepper, with crushed herbs, cedar and earthy notes making an appearance. A balanced wine with bright acidity and abundant fruit, it has a broad mid-palate with a lingering finish. I encourage you to try a bottle before it’s all gone.
I really want to like domestic Chardonnay, but the sweeter, oakier, big and buttery California Chardonnays are just not my style. Where there is new hope, however, is out of Oregon, but it has taken a while. In its developmental stages the nascent Oregon wineries were certain that, because they grew great Pinot Noirs like Burgundy, they could also grow wonderful Chardonnays. But, they went about it a bit wrongly to start. What they did was bring up cloned vines from California—it’s not that far away. Unfortunately, the Chardonnay vines that thrived in the hotter climes of California, in Oregon, too often made lean, overly acidic wine. Frustrated, but not beaten, David Adelsheim (of Adelsheim Winery of course) had a bit of Wiley Coyote genius moment, and in 1984 went to France to bring back some Dijon Clones. Oh yeah. Cool climate to cool climate; it worked. True to the grape’s heritage they decided against new oak barrel ageing and full malolactic secondary fermentation. The impressive result is a crisp, clean Chardonnay, uncluttered by manipulated flavors, but accented with apple brightness and hints of lemon zest. More food friendly than cocktailable, this is a wine to open your evening along with those light nibbles or with chicken or fish with lighter sauces. If you are a fan of French Chardonnays, this is your baby too, and at a more domestic price!
Located in Umbria in the heart of Tuscany, in a town called Collazzone that is situated above the Tiber River Valley, La Segreta is focused on making wines from indigenous varieties and making them in a way that respects the local flora and fauna. All vines are pruned by hand, all grapes are picked by hand and all wines are spontaneously fermented with natural yeasts. Freghino is a proprietary name which translates to “Teenage Scoundrel.” It’s a blend of 92 percent Sangiovese, 4 percent Colorino and 4 percent Malvasia Nera, all of which are certified organic. After alcoholic fermentation in stainless steel, the juice spends six months in French oak and another six months in stainless steel. The resulting wine emits aromas of black cherry, sun-baked earth and thyme. On the palate I sense sour cherry, clove, chocolate and dried orange peel. With gravelly tannins, medium body and pronounced acidity all in great balance with the fruit, I feel like this wine is a great value. The patience the winery displays during fermentation and elevage really comes through in the finished product. Fabulous!
PROLOGUE: Brouilly is a Beaujolais Appellation Contrôlée at the southern edge of the Burgundy region in France. The grape that they grow and vint there is Gamay.
Used to be that Merlot was the American red wine dandy (before Merlot fell from grace). People could pronounce it, and it had recognizable flavors that could be expounded on with confidence. It became so popular that competing varieties would tout that they were the “new Merlot.” Like any boom though, it busted. Merlot is still (and will always be) one of my favorite varieties, but mostly now, I have to sway people over to it. Nowadays, I say that Merlot is the new Merlot. I want to tweak that a bit, Beaujolais is the new Merlot! Yes everyone, because of that maddeningly wonderful swill that is released just before Thanksgiving, the Beaujolais Nouveau, everyone now knows how to say Beaujolais, and it does have recognizable fruit flavors that can be expounded on to make any regular cork dork feel like a true wine geek. The price is right too! This Beaujolais, from the village of Brouilly (one of the ten Beaujolais Villages) is light in body, bright in color, lower in alcohol, and long on the wonderful spicy peppered strawberry that is the recognizable signature flavor profile of Beaujolais. Bright acidity lets it pair perfectly with afternoon cheeses and light openers. And, while there’s still heat in the afternoon, a slight chill (not cold) makes this wine perfect for September’s lengthening shadows. Enjoy!
This month, my last in the wine shop, I’m celebrating with a ten year old tawny port. Hand harvested at their optimum moment, the grapes are de-stemmed, crushed, and converted into wine through careful maceration. This is enhanced by constant churning during fermentation to extract their color, tannins and aromas. The process takes place in vats (lagares) at a controlled temperature, until the right degree of sweetness (baumé) is achieved. At this point brandy is added, to create the final fortified wine. The 10 Year Tawny is made by blending wines of different harvests, each having aged in oak casks for varied periods of time. The average age of all the wines in the blend define the age on the label. This honey colored port has a fine nose of toasted almonds with butterscotch and honey. The deep flavors have a mouth filling richness, smooth, unctuous and very tasty. I liked it for the textural pleasure and pure nutty flavor that led to a persistent after taste. Enjoy with appetizers like strong cheeses and paté, or it would be a wonderful choice to serve with delicious caramel brownies, chocolate desserts, or pistachios.
As this is being printed, I will be at our rental in Puligny, most likely sipping a glass of local wine. IMHO this little village’s surrounding vineyards produce the greatest white wines in the world. My selection this month is a modest Puligny Montrachet village A.C. (though some might argue that there are no modest wines from this appellation), not one of the legendary Grand Crus a couple of hundred meters up the slope that command price tags of $500 to $1000 and up.
I chose this wine partly because I was headed to Puligny, but also because it was a new producer to me and to the store, (and from another highly touted vintage for white Burgundy). The layers of complexity and extra depth for which this village is renowned are immediately apparent on the nose and carry through on the palate. Notes of pear, ripe peach and acacia flower play against each other, with a touch of the exotic. As it sits in the glass and takes on air, it seems to grow in stature and in length—a good sign for future development. This is indeed a stellar example of Chardonnay from hallowed ground, and I was thrilled to discover a new under-the-radar producer, reasonably priced given where it’s from. I will be looking for more examples of this producer on my trip to Burgundy.