Smooth: Blackberry, Cherry, White Pepper, Roses
Chanin's winemaking philosophy is rooted in representing each individual vineyard by emphasizing balance, finesse, and co...
Elegant: Crisp, Bright Lemon, Rich Pineapple, Saline
Chanin's winemaking philosophy is rooted in representing each individual vineyard by emphasizing balance, finesse, a...
Bold: Velvety, Cassis, Cherry Cola, Licorice
When the Fellom family purchased their ranch at 2200′ elevation on the Montebello Ridge in 1929 it came with an established ...
Elegant: Dried Cherry, Pomegranite, Basil, Fleur de sel
Proprietors of Liquid Farm, Nikki and Jeff Nelson, make the wines along with guidance from the talented guys...
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Bold: Rich, Citrus, Apple, Lavendar
From the winery: "We make wine from vineyards that are distinguished sometimes by being ignored. Our wine often does not resemble oth...
Smooth: Ripe Raspberry, Earthy, Floral, Grippy
Edmunds St. John is a Rhône blend specialist making wine in Berkeley, California since 1985. Their "Rocks and G...
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Bold: Dark Fruit, Meaty, Smoky, Herbal
Clarine Farm is located at 2600 feet in California’s Sierra Nevada Foothills. On their 10 acres they grow winegrapes, r...
Elegant: Bright, Cherry, Stony Minerality, Dried Herbs
La Clarine Farm is located at 2600 feet in California’s Sierra Nevada Foothills. On their 10 acres they grow ...
Elegant: Red Berries, Floral, Mineral, Complex
After working under some of the greats, including Cathy Corison and John Konnsgard, Jason Drew and his wife Amy found...
Smooth: Rhubarb, Strawberry, Wild Cherry, Savory
Pax Mahle makes Wilde Farm wines. Wilde Farm was a place long before it was a wine. Built in 1907 by Samuel Wilde, ...
Smooth: Cranberry, Sweet Cherry, Anise, Almond
Sam and Jessica Boone Bilbro both have a passion for wines and between them have learned many aspects of the industry. Toge...
2012 Habit La Encantada Pinot Noir Santa Barbara($54.99) - Super limited Pinot Noir from one of the coolest sites in the region -- and one of the coolest winemakers we know, Jeff Fischer. Gorgeous.
2011 Hunt & Harvest Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley($27.99) - Nicely priced, well-structured, food-friendly Napa Cabernet from Dan O'Brien, formerly of Cultivar Wines.
Coming Soon (as in early next week):
2012 Salinia 25 Reasons Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc($22.99) - Two words: Petillant Naturel (Pet Nat for short). Petillant in French refers to the light bubble (about half the pressure of Champagne) and Naturel refers to the fact that no sugar or yeast is added and the carbon dioxide (bubble) is naturally released during primary fermentation. Let's just say, put down that fancy beer and pick up this addictively refreshing Sauvignon Blanc from Mendocino.
2011 Enfield Wine Tempranillo Shake Ridge Vineyard Amador ($39.99) - Our first wine from this exciting new producer intrigued us all upon tasting it. Juicy blue fruits and lots of character. Please pass the duck rillette.
Five California Wines To Try This Summer:
2013 Matthiasson Rose Napa ($24.99) - Get over it; pink wine is hot (as in cool) and it's time to take it seriously. This beauty is technically more peach in color but t's delicate, flavorful, complex, and even pairs well with notoriously difficult foods such as asparagus and vinaigrettes.
2013 Massican Sauvignon Napa ($29.99) - We love all of winemaker Dan Petroski's Massican wines but for summer nights, this bright and minerally Sauvignon Blanc just screams to be drunk by the sea, paired with things from the sea.
2013 La Marea Albarino Monterey County ($26.99) - This fresh and aromatic white will make you a believer in Albarino from California. If you're grilling your seafood or adding some spice, look no further.
2013 Edmunds St. John Bone Jolly Gamay Noir El Dorado($22.99) - I've said it before and I'll say it again, this wine made me a Gamay lover and now there's no stopping the romance. Trust us and put a little chill on it to get the party started.
2013 Broc Cellars Love Red ($26.99) - Another summer red that deserves a chill, we went through more than a few bottles of this very pretty Grenache-based wine while watching the World Cup. We did leave you some; your welcome.
Five Non-California Wines To Try This Summer:
2013 Domaine Vincent Ricard Le P'tit Rose France ($15.99) - A graceful Rose from the Loire Valley made from Gamay and Cabernet Franc. Fresh and fruity , it's a great foil for your lobster roll of choice.
2012 Etz Gruner Veltliner Austria ($14.99) - You need to have a Liter of Gruner in your life this summer, and this clean, fresh, zesty example is a real steal.
2012 Estelle Sauvion Muscadet France ($16.99) - This Muscadet Sevre-et-Maine from the Loire is seriously one of the most interesting examples we have ever tasted. Oysters, mussels, and then more oysters -- the brinier the better.
2012 Strehn Blaufrankish Austria ($16.99) - A juicy, bursting-with-fruit red wine that you really need to invite to your next picnic, roof party, or backyard barbecue.
2011 Lanza Bardolino Italy ($14.99) - Picture yourself on the shores of Lake Garda, sipping the perfect Italian summer red wine while indulging in a bowl of pasta. Light, bright, and the perfect "escape".
Tetra-Paks (AKA Adults Juice Boxes) Are Here:
If you haven't noticed, we have liter and half liter tetra paks of wine for your summer fun. They're light, convenient, eco-friendly, and, most importantly, the juice is good. Choose from Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Italian White, or Italian Red. All under $15 bucks.
Wine production in Greece goes as far back as 3rd Century BC. Evidence of winemaking was found in vessels uncovered from ancient times; vessels I saw with my very own eyes. It’s safe to say that the Greeks introduced viticulture to some of the top fine wine producing countries of today.
So, what happened to Greek wine culture? During troubled times for Greece, towards the end of the Byzantine Empire and the Ottoman Empire, vines and wine production virtually disappeared. Some areas of the country continued to grow grapes and produce wine, but standards were low and the quality was poor. Much of the production was carried out by Monasteries for religious purposes.
It seems that today, despite its oft discussed economic troubles (seriously, nearly everyone there seems to ‘joke’ openly about it), Greece is making a comeback when it comes to quality wine production. Some Greek producers hold tight to deep seated traditions, indigenous grape varieties, and planting practices, but there are also wineries embracing modern techniques and employing a crop of ambitious young winemakers that are just begging to be taken seriously.
On a recent trip to Athens, Naxos, and Santorini, I mostly fell for the white wines, and particularly for Assyrtiko. That’s no surprise as much of the best Greek wine is centered on white varieties. The weather, filled with sunny days and warm breezes, and the island cuisine of fresh fish and local produce, only adds to the appeal of refreshing white wines, and the occasional rose.
The quality of the whites I drank ranged from a barely drinkable “homemade” house white at a Taverna in Anafiotika, to an easy, charming Assyrtiko recommended by the glass in Athens, and finally to a special, memorable, wild-ferment Assyrtiko at the Gai’a Winery in Santorini. The Assyrtiko grape presents itself in many different styles. It can be mineral-laden and citrusy with bracing acidity or more rounded out from oak ageing with peach and floral flavors. It’s also the main grape used to produce the traditional late harvest wine, Vinsanto, in which the lovely acidity balances out the sweetness to produce enchanting fig, caramel, and orange flavors.
I was pleasantly surprised by the reds as well, and sampled a wide variety of styles, from charming and buoyant to powerfully tannic. The two red grapes I came across most often were Agiorgitiko and Xinomavro and many times these were blended with other indigenous Greek grapes or international varieties including Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. Most Agiorgitiko is from the Nemea appellation in southern Greece, where the high altitude vineyards allow for the best balance. Xinomavro is one of the boldest, most structured reds from Greece. In the Naousa appellation, up north, it is produced as a single variety wine and in Rapsani, further to the south near Mt. Olympus, it is blended.
All in all I came away with a very favorable opinion of Greek wine; both for what it is and where it’s headed. It wasn’t just the vibrant green-blue waters of the Aegean, the backdrop of whitewashed houses, or the labyrinth-like streets of quaint centuries-old villages that made the wine taste good. It is good. Not that I would argue that being in this beautiful place certainly added to the allure.
(Hint: Don’t say “Opa!” when you toast someone with a drink in Greece, say “Yamas!”. Opa is used as an alternative to “oops” rather than a way to say “cheers”. We heard opa most when we were about to rear-end the car in front of us in Santorini traffic.)
Some of the wines I tried (errr, drank):
2011 Tsantali Rapsani – A traditional blend of Xinomavro, Krassato, and Starvroto grapes. A red that is light on its feet with sultry flavors including berries and savory notes. The wine almost tastes like the sun; or is that sundried tomato? Soft tannin and fresh acidity. Older vintages look to be available in the U.S. for $15 – $20.
2010 Diamantakos Xinomovra Naoussa - A third-generation family winery makes this bold red, which is aged in American and French oak barrels. A bigger red than expected given I had only tasted very light Greek reds up to this point. The wine has noticeable, chewy tannins and aromas and flavors including black cherries, white pepper, and earthy notes. Not readily available in the U.S. but if it were it would probably run around $35 retail.
2008 Kir-Yianni Diaporos Single Vineyard Red Macedonia - Wow. We ordered this with a Strip Steak (based on a recommendation, to be fair) and it really was the perfect accompaniment. The winery was founded by Yiannis Boutaris in 1997, who had been at his grandfather’s family winery, Boutari, which was established in 1879. The wine is a blend of 87% Xinomavro and 13% Syrah from a single block of the Yianakohori Vineyard in Naoussa. It does a wonderful job of balancing power and elegance. Available (NY) for $30 retail, although I’m not sure this is the single vineyard, which may be a bit more.
2008 Boutari Grande Reserve Naoussa - 100% Xinomavro from the winery, mentioned above, founded by Ioannis Boutaris in 1879. The wine is aged 4 years, 2 years in oak barrels and 2 years in bottle and I loved tasting the still-fresh cherry along with dried fruit and baking spices. We were asked to guess the unique flavor in this wine and, although I didn’t want to be “that wine person” I finally had to throw out “tomato”. This was correct and was supposed to win me a bottle of Grande Reserve. Funny, I didn’t leave the winery with it, though! $25 U.S. retail.
2013 Gai’a Assyrtiko Wild Ferment Santorini - As mentioned, I enjoyed many examples of the Assyrtiko grape, especially the ones with bracing acidity. This one stood out, however, for its depth. The citrus and acidity are still there, but the wine has a richer palate and lots of mineral flavors and some nutty notes. It spends 12 hours on the skins and is then moved to small tanks, French and American oak, and acacia barrels where fermentation is allowed to develop naturally. The tanks and barrels with the most character are chosen for the Assyrtiko Wild Ferment. Available at retail for $25-$30.
2002 Gai’a Vinsanto Santorini - Before arriving in Greece, I’ll admit I still was not clear on the difference between Vinsanto from Santorini and Vin Santo from Italy. Vinsanto, or wine from Santorini, is a tradition dating back to the 7th century B.C. It is a dessert wine made from majority late-harvest Assyrtiko grapes and is distinct from Italy’s Vin Santo (wine of the saints), where the tradition of this “holy wine” is more tied to the church. We tasted many delicious Vinsantos on the trip but the Gai’a wine had such a pretty bolt of acidity that it made the sweetness all the more palatable. Not readily available at retail but would be $50-$60.
A word about Retsina. Retsina is a wine, sometimes rose but mostly white, flavored with pine tree resin. Greeks have had more than 3,000 years to warm to the taste, but for me it wasn’t particularly enjoyable. As with anything, there are fine examples and lesser examples but you really need to appreciate your wine with a sharp bite to enjoy it. The concept came about as a means to preserve wine being shipped; containers were sealed with pine resin to avoid spoilage and people took a liking to the aroma and flavor. According to a few Greek bartenders we spoke to, Greeks don’t drink it much anymore but they have to have it on hand for tourists who ask about it (guilty).
We were lucky enough to be invited to join James MacPhail, proprietor, grower, and winemaker at MacPhail Family Winery, for a dinner at The Lion in NYC Wednesday night. The lineup of wines included a Rose of Pinot Noir, the 2011 Gap’s Crown Chardonnay, and five different Sonoma Pinot Noirs from the 2010 and 2011 vintages.
A small family winery in Sonoma, MacPhail also sources fruit from vineyards in the Sonoma Coast, Russian River, and Anderson Valley appellations. Picking and sorting is done by hand and minimal intervention is used in the eco-friendly winery.
James Macphail grew up in Marine County and, in the 1990s began working in wineries in Sonoma. It was during that time that he fell for the charms of Pinot Noir, specifically from the cooler coastal areas of Sonoma Coast and Anderson Valley. He introduced MacPhail Family Wines in 2002 after having worked at various wineries including Merry Edwards.
MacPhail sold to the Hess Collection in 2011 to spend more time making the wine and less time on the sales aspect of the business. Generally people are under the impression that when a bigger company steps in, the wines will change and the “small family winery” aspect will all but disappear. But James is still the guy in the vineyards and the winery, making the decision and applying his non-interventionist approach. By the enthusiasm of his long-time fans and supporters (some of whom came in from Pittsburgh to attend the dinner!) it’s all working out just fine.
There was passionate interest in all the wines we tasted but the favorite of the majority of guests was the 2010 The Flyer Pinot Noir. The first vintage of this Russian River Pinot Noir, which is reserved for special vineyards not in the regular program, is from Kathleen Inman’s Olivet Grange Vineyard. Whether it was the silky smooth, red fruited character with gentle vanilla notes, the fact that it was announced as the most limited of the wines on the menu, or because it was the last wine of the night we’ll never know. Let’s just say it was in high demand.
My personal favorite was the 2010 Pratt Vineyard Pinot Noir from the Sonoma Coast., a more delicate, high-toned Pinot Noir and very flavorful and charming. The other wines tasted included the 2010 Rose of Pinot Noir (still fresh!), 2011 Gap’s Crown Chardonnay, 2011 Dutton Ranch Pinot Noir, 2011 Sundawg Ridge Pinot Noir, and 2010 Gap’s Crown Pinot Noir. We just received the wines at the shop, as evidenced in the photo below, and what was not claimed at the dinner will be on sale starting on Monday 5/19.