Flor de Penalva Dao Red ($12.99)
From the producer:
Technology: Total destemming crushing, fermentation in stainless steel vats at 28-30 ° C, aging in stainless steel vats for 1 year.
Taste: Ruby color, bright appearance, clean aroma, with fruity notes, pine wood and wild flowers. In the mouth it has good freshness, body, soft tannins and pleasant finish."
This winery uses a cooperative of growers in order to get the best fruit, which in this case includes two varietals of Spanish origin and one that's indigenous to the local area. Tinta-Roriz (Tempranillo), Jaen (Mencia), and Alfrocheiro make up this blend that has a delicate elegance. This is not the bold Portuguese red that I've had--it is, as reflected in its name, a floral wine that is light/medium on the palate. This is a real value for the quality.
De Muller Aureo Dulce Anejo 1954 ($29.99)
From the producer:
"An exquisite sweet wine elaborated from the most selected vines of white Garnacha and red Garnacha and aged for long in oak barrels using the best solera method.
Splendid amber colour with numerous mahogany tones.
Rich, sensational, with many nuances, this sweet wine tastes very smooth, with fruity notes of prunes, raisins and figs giving us a very agreeable and warm sensation with a clear toasted aftertaste which shows us its long ageing in old oak casks.
This is the perfect wine for special celebrations and for normal days, too. Ideal with dried fruits, nougats, fresh cheese, quince, foie-gras and all dessert recipes. Sublime to be drunk alone."
This is a fortified wine, not unlike Port, but with the flavor profile closer to an Italian Vin Santo. The solera method of aging means that as bottles come off the oldest barrel, a little wine is left and blended with some from the next-oldest barrel. What that comes down to is that there's a tiny bit of the original 1954 wine in this bottle. If you love dessert wines, if you've never had one, or if you think you won't like one, please try this. It's wonderful.
Etienne Oudart Champagne--Brut Référence ($50.99)
From the distributor:
"Jacques Oudart belongs without any doubt to the upcoming stars of the Champagne area. The Oudart Family has been involved in Champagne making since the late 1950’s. They own 22 acres spread mainly over 2 regions: Vallee de la Marne and the Epernay area. This is definitively a major asset as it gives Jacques the possibility to blend all 3 grape varietals and still have the influence of all the various terroirs.
Jacques Oudart is very meticulous about winemaking and insists on extending his Champagne aging in order to hit the perfect ripeness when the bottle reaches the consumer.
Champagne Oudart’s trademark is to create elegant and fine wines. Most of the cuvee blend uses Chardonnay for its strength, Pinot Meunier for the fruit and Pinot Noir to add personality.
Bright gold color with some note of copper. On the tasting aromas of toast, brioche and hazelnuts appear. Long aromatic persistence in the mouth."
This Champagne is produced sustainably with minimal chemical intervention. The production is relatively small at 25,000 bottles per year. I sometimes find Champagne to be too "yeasty" tasting, but this one strikes a nice balance with the fruit and acidity. I find that it is great value for money, and it's nice to be able to support a smaller winemaker. I would much rather drink Oudart than Moët or Veuve.
Domaine du Chateau de Fleys Chablis 2015 ($25.99)
From the distributor:
"Julien Philippon moved from the neighbouring Morvan region to Fleys in 1868 as a lumberjack . Gradually he bought land and vineyards that still today represent the majority of the Estate. Julien Philippon, on the advice of an old winemaker and general counselor in Chablis, was certainly the first to plant the rootstock 161-49 in 1936, vines still in production at the place called 'Les Monts de Milieu.' Since the Estate has been transmitted through the generations. Today the Estate cultivates about 55 acres on some of the best Chablis terroir, all around the central 'mont du milieu.'
An AOP Chablis that has the depth of a 1er Cru! This Chablis comes from a 4 ac 20 year old vineyard adjacent to the 1er Cru 'Les Fourneaux.' Aged 100% in stainless tank, it stays on the lees for 10 months. The vinification gives this wine the minerality of Chablis with a complex aroma structure. This Chablis has an exceptional concentration and length in mouth, which makes it a great choice for seafood,asparagus and goat cheese. It can also just be enjoyed for what it is: a great expression of Chablis!"
It was HARD to rid my mind of the image of a big jug of bad California wine whenever I heard the word "Chablis." I call it wine trauma. I was finally able to accept that proper Chablis has NOTHING to do with Carlo Rossi. Even so, I put off selling one for about a year, and then Thomas introduced me to this beauty. Technically this is entry-level, but it's about as fantastic a wine as you can get outside 1er Cru, and it will, I guarantee, heal any wine wounds you might have when it comes to the name "Chablis."
Clos des Cazaux Vacqueyras "Les Clefs d'Or" ($26.99)
"The Clos des Cazaux domaine was founded in 1905 by Gabriel Archimbaud. The Archimbaud and Vache families are among the oldest ones in Vacqueyras, dating back to 1635. The 98 acre estate is currently run by Jean Michel and Frederic Vache.
The vines are cultivated with utmost respect to the environment. Only Bordeaux mixture (antifungal agent consisting of a solution of copper sulfate and quicklime) and sulfur are used in the phytosanitary (pertaining to the health of plant) and vineyard treatment. At all times, the vineyards are manually tended, including manual harvest. To ensure optimal quality, only the best grapes are selected during a green harvest in Summer which eliminates at least 20% of the production.
Vacqueyras is also a 'cru' since 1990. The appellation rules are very similar to those of Gigondas, and thus to Chateauneuf-du-Pape, although only half the grapes in a red Vacqueyras haf to be Grenache. The rest are usually Syrah. Mourvedre, and Cinsault. Vacqueyras may be red, white, or rose, although only a miniscule proportion of its dramatically expanded vinyard total of 1,000 ha/2,500 acres is planted with white grape varieties.
50% Clairette, 30% Rousanne, 20% Grenache Blanc
10,000 bottles produced annually
The juice ferments naturally and its temperature is maintained at 16 C all through fermentation. This allows to obtain a pure white wine with a lively acidity. It features flavours of fennel and white flowers. The c
Clairette brings a refreshing acidity. The mouth is long and soft."
This wine is one that you really won't see often. Not only is the production quite limited, but in general white Vacqueyras is a rare find. In the U.S. we have finally embraced red blends, but white blends are still elusive, and that's a shame. White Rhone blends are particularly lovely, and can be enjoyed year-round. This wine is a fine example: it has a full, round mouthfeel, and is soft on the palate, but with just enough acidity to give it structure and character. This is something special.
Hesperian "Anatomy No. 1" 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon ($34.99)
Napa Valley, California
From the distributor:
"Anatomy No. 1 Cabernet Sauvignon is a blend of fruit from select vineyards in Napa Valley and aged 18 months in a mix of 20% new French oak; 30% once- and 50% twice-used French oak. Anatomy No. 1 is a medium bodied Cabernet Sauvignon that has cedar, graphite, and pencil lead notes similar to French Bordeaux, but wrapped inside there is California ripe fruit qualities of blackberry, plum, fennel and baking spices from oak aging that emerge through over time. All of Philippe's wines are meant for contemplation and it pays off to experience them slowly. They are made to reflect the land and the influence nature has on the subtle nuances in tannin, aromatics, and flavor.
While at Rothschild-held Château Clarke in the Médoc, Philippe Langner worked alongside Jacques Boissenot and Michel Rolland, the man responsible for some of the world’s highest-scoring and notoriously rare clarets and Cabernets. Following a season in South Africa, Philippe returned to California — he earned his degree at U.C. Davis — spending a decade as head viticulturist and winemaker at Napa’s Sullivan Winery, while simultaneously developing Hesperian. In 2010 Philippe left Sullivan, settling into Hesperian full-time at his current 14-acre plot on Atlas Peak. Philippe Langner, under his Hesperian label, makes single-vineyard (mostly), small-lot Napa Cabs from carefully chosen sites in well-regarded areas of the valley, such as Rutherford, Spring Mountain and Coombsville, in addition to Atlas Peak where he is located."
This is a great example of how Napa Cabs are starting to diverge from the monolithic fruit bombs that they have been. For sure there are some great wines that are big, bold, and fruity, but recently some winemakers are using a more delicate hand to craft an end product that speaks more of terroir and nuance than simple flavor profile. I think there is room for both, and I'm happy to sell this Napa Cab to show what a French influence can have over a California style. It is a lovely marriage of ripe fruit and restrained oaking that is a delight to drink.