Analog Wines For the Digital Age

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Christmas Miracle . . . not . . .

This is for all the ever hopeful wine guys out there:

Guy calls up and wants 12 of this champagne and 7 of that Condrieu by New Year's Eve and I say, "Cases?" thinking my ship had come in, big dinner party, hundreds of people and he says, "Bottles." and I say, sure, no problem, "Where do you want it shipped?", kind of deflated but still, a sale is a sale, right? So he says, "Paso Robles" and I just about died laughing. Paso is about as far away as you can ship a case of wine.

We did come to an agreement but my hopes of thousands of dollars vanished. I wonder. I am going to get coal in my stocking?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

More harvest photos from San Polino in Montalcino in Tuscany

Look at that view!

Katia, the owner, working the cellar . . .

"Sangiovese grosso" grapes, just harvested . . .

Gigi, winemaker and owner . . .

Daniel, their son, out harvesting the grapes.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Here are some harvest notes from Cirelli in Abruzzo . . . .

(The view from the farm.)

Montepulciano: harvested on sept the 10th, sept the 15th, sept the 16th. Please note that montepulciano is averagely harvested during the first 2 weeks of October…

High temperatures during the day (30 degrees), little bit lower and fresher at night (22-24). Was very hard to harvest with that warm climate but we did and I am quite happy because I lost 5 kilos! Now I look like a model and I am seriously thinking about changing job eheh!

I decided to harvest so early because I want to continue focusing on freshness, acidity, finesse, lightness. In that way I hope I’ve been able to partially save all these fundamental elements to my wines. Of course I was obliged to loose a little bit of poliphenolic maturation but I hope that aging and refining will smooth tannins. I am not worried at all by the colour since I don’t like deep dark wines.

The musts have been fermented by piede de cuvee and it is now resting in amphorae, cements and steel tanks.

Trebbiano: lovely vintage. I am sure I will love the white wines from this year. I harvested on sept the 20 and the grapes were at 19 babo therefore I am expecting a long life trebbiano.

Beatiful grapes, beautiful colour, perfect wellness. It is still fermenting and there are 3-4 days more.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Some harvest notes from Katia of San Polino in Montalcino . . .


A couple of weeks before harvest a journalist who writes for the English wine specialist Jancis Robinson asked me how I thought this year’s harvest would be. I replied that my impressions were mixed. August and September were overly hot and dry, but that I believed that we should expect many surprises.

He entitled his article “Montalcino’s surprising 2011 vintage” and quoted my letters

( )

But, indeed, the 2011 vintage certainly brought many unexpected results....

We have around 10 acres of vineyard, all 100% Sangiovese, from which we make the Brunello di Montalcino, Rosso di Montalcino and Sant’Antimo.

Most of our land is situated around our 500 year-old farmhouse where we live above a winery which we converted from the old stables after planting the vineyards in 1998/9.

We have a small, family-run winery which we farm organically/biodynamically. In the winery we like to say that our wines are just fermented grapes that have had nothing added and nothing subtracted. So we’re particularly sensitive to the characteristics of the grape clusters we bring in from the fields.

On a hot year like this you could expect to find small, concentrated grapes which would very likely produce wines with overly high alcohol and low acidity levels. Yet a Brunello depends heavily on a high acidity to give its kick and longevity, so you can imagine that we were very anxious.

And here came our big surprise: we knew that the grapes were healthy but we had never seen them healthier and juicier, with gorgeous tannins and a great acidity. Even better than expected.

Perhaps because we had left enough grapes on the vines, so they didn’t concentrate too much, perhaps because we had managed the foliage in the canopy well this year, who knows, but we’re certainly not complaining.

Each morning of harvest you shoot out of bed at dawn filled with excitement. Its hard to describe a more exhilarating sensation. You have everything ready; the ripe grapes hanging on the vines, the empty vats, the pickers and the cutting scissors, and you just wait for the them all to get together.

We started harvest on an overcast but warm Sunday, September 25th. All our family and friends came to help gather in the first selection of best grapes from the fields in front of our house.

I cooked mammoth quantities of “penne con salsciccia e pomodoro” for lunch which we ate outside in the shade of the olive trees. The mood was happy and by that evening we had filled the first of our 35 hl slavonian oak vats.

What an emotion!

We stayed up working till around 1am washing out the picking crates, cleaning the de-stemming machine and pumping over the grapes in their juice. The marathon had started.

Over the following seven days we slept less and less while doing rigorous selections in all the fields; first passing through and picking the perfect clusters and only then the rest.

Each selection passes into its own vat, so we’ve ended up with ten different vats with ten different selections!

Fermentation started in the first vat around three days after it was filled, and slowly the other vats kicked in.

Of course we are not adding any artificial yeasts; we like the grapes to ferment on the yeasts that sit with them in the vineyard. It makes for more unique wines.

We now have our ten fermenting vats bubbling away under our bedroom. They range in alcohol content from 13.5% to 14.70%, the colour is intense and the aromas are good.

We have to get up at least three or four times in the night to check on them, to see that the temperatures haven’t rocketed or that no vat is overflowing.

Our youngest son just left for college and we’ve become “empty-nesters”. So the full vats are our new fledglings and while I miss him madly they help ease the way.

We’re now thinking about the 2012 harvest in San Polino. Does anybody want to come and do the nights?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Vajra Harvest - the beginning of Barbera . . .

The harvest of Barbera

Yesterday we started the harvest of Barbera and we ended the white grapes. Our father Aldo is very happy with the fermentation of Dolcetto and he said that there are some steel tanks of Dolcetto d'Alba Coste&Fossati very very nice.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Some pictures from Vajra of the harvest and vinification of Dolcetto . . .

The Dolcetto: from the vineyard to the wine-cellar

The vineyard of Dolcetto in Novello

The selection of the grape

Bunch of grapes

Stalks of Dolcetto

During the fermentation of the's like a juice

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Francesco at Cirelli has gone crazy! He bought some amphorae and I don't even know what they are for . . .

Vajra's harvest: Fact Sheet- Barbera d'Alba DOC SUPERIORE

The Wine

Designation: Barbera d'Alba DOC
Wine type: red dry wine
Variety: Barbera 100%
Bottle size: 750 mL

The Vineyard

An expression of the terroir, our Barbera comes from an exceptional vineyard. Bricco delle Viole is in the Comune of Barolo, our oldest vineyard and a great Barolo cru, with soils rich in magnesium and manganese and very low in iron. Back in the days, farmers used to plant multiple varieties in each hillside. So called progress drove most of the people to focus on one variety per block. Here, we preserve a small piece of history by saving these old vines.

The Farming

Farming: sustainable
Pruning: Guyot mixed system
Ground: natural turfing
Irrigation: no
Green harvest: yes, according to vigor and climate of the season

The Harvest

Harvest: secon half of September to first decade of October
Picking: by hand
Sorting: manual

The Vinification

Vinification: 20-day maceration at free temperature < 32°C.
Method: traditional, punch-down
M.L.F.: during first year of ageing
Ageing: 20-24 months in Slavonian oak casks

A violet red color followed by great concentration in the nose and mouth classify this 2007 Barbera vintage. Dark fruits, dried herbs, flowers, and liquorice easily coalesce into light mineral notes. Our 2007 vintage Barbera Superiore has a richness and depth that lasts all the way from the nose to the tremendous finish.

“Una Barbera che baroleggia”. This was said to express a terroir driven Barbera with structure and complexity. Somehow, a Barbera that tasted like a Barolo. That’s what we ask to our Superiore: to give us as many facets and emotions of our Barolos, with all the crisp character of its variety.

Vajra's harvest: The King in his kingdom

Vajra's harvest: The King in his kingdom

Fact Sheet- Barbera d'Alba DOC

The Wine

Designation: Barbera d'Alba DOC
Wine type: red dry wine
Variety: Barbera 100%
Bottle size: 750 mL

The Vineyard

This Barbera is a harmony of six vineyards expressing both the ancient Helvetian and Tortonian soil types of the Piemonte. The vines planted in calcareous soils (Tortonian soil type) produce much more delicate, aromatic wines with bright acidity and tones of wild berries. These are characterised by the sweetness in the mouth and their smooth texture. Helvetian soils offer instead wines full of perfumes of ripe black fruits that differ for their soothing aromas, bold tannic structure and minerality. These characteristics, mixed with a soil high in iron develops a wine with a fleshy richness.

The Farming

Farming: sustainable
Pruning: Guyot mixed system
Ground: natural turfing
Irrigation: no
Green harvest: yes, according to vigor and climate of the season

The Harvest

Harvest: second half of September, but this year we will start during the second week of September
Picking: by hand
Sorting: manual

The Vinification

Vinification: 15-day long fermentation at free temperature <31°C.
Method: traditional, with punch-down
M.L.F.: following alcoholic fermentation
Ageing: 14-16 months in French and Slavonian oak casks

Bottling according to evolution and moon cycle, usually at the beginning of the summer of the second year after harvest.

TASTING NOTES 2009: A violet red color alludes to the sweet, dark fruits which make for a distinctive fragrance and rarefied elegance. The powerful nose leads to a rich, concentrated and smooth mouth. The black fruits melt into mineral and graphite notes, leaving a sublime finish. We classify the Barbera as rich and long-lasting, yet intriguing and complex.

Vajra's harvest: Picking

Vajra's harvest: Picking

Monday, July 11, 2011

Camus - Bruchon Savigny-Les-Beaune 2002

Opened this the day it arrived in Northern California at Pizzaiolo and I was blown away. Power and finesse. Ripe cherry, licorice, spearmint with loads of acidity to balance out the fruit plus a minerality you can only find in Bourgogne. Blew my socks off for the price. And for a 10 year-old wine, it was amazingly fresh.

If you are interested, we still have a few cases to sell over the summer and then it will be gone. At that price, I may buy some for myself. Come autumn, it will be the perfect wine for Thanksgiving . . . but we will be sold-out by then and I don't want to miss it . . . and neither should you. ;-)

Camus - Bruchon & Fils 2002 Savigny-Les-Beaune



Friday, July 8, 2011

I will be the talent @ The Cheese Store of Beverly Hills . . .

talking about the Burgundies selected from Beaune Imports and pairing them with cheeses from all over France. This is going to be fantastic and all the dates are almost sold out! So don't wait.

White Burgundies & The French Cheeses That Love ‘Em

Thursday, July 14th 7:00 - 9:00pm

Wednesday, July 20th 7:00 - 9:00pm

Tuesday, July 26th 7:00 - 9:00pm

$60.00 per person

Credit Card required for reservations

48 hr cancellation notice or you will be charged for your seats!

Please call 310.278.2855 to make your reservation


Email to


Reply to this email with the following information:

Your name (and the leader of your pack, if you have one):

Number of Guests: (include yourself in the count)

Preferred Date:

Daytime Phone Number:

Do not send credit card information via email. It is not secure!

We will use your card information if it is on file, and if it is not, we will contact you directly.

Location: To Be Determined...stay tuned

Free valet parking will be provided regardless of location.

We look forward to seeing you!

Norbert, Tony, and everyone at The Cheese Store of Beverly Hills

419 North Beverly Dr.

Beverly Hills, CA 90210

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

L'Hermitage Beverly Hills Wine Tasting next Tuesday, June 21st . . .

Viva Vino Amore!

Please join us for a Tasting of Italian Wines
paired with cheeses, charcuterie and Italian-inspired appetizers.
Co-hosted by Sommelier & Importer Justin Gallen
of Rinascimento Wine Company,
he will introduce some of his favorite Italian wines,
remarkable wines because
of the "blood, sweat and tears that are shed
working with nature to make something great."

Tuesday, June 21st
6:30 - 8:30
$35 per person

L'Ermitage Beverly Hills Hotel
9291 Burton Way, Beverly Hills CA 90210
323.850.5558 for reservations
space is limited
reservations will be secured with a credit card

a collection of small production, handcrafted Italian wines:
Costadila` Prosecco 450 SLM
...a beautiful organic sparking wine from the Prosecco grape made in the Veneto
Favaro 2009 Erbaluce DOC Caluso
...literally translated Erbaluce means "grass of light"
G.D. Vajra 2008 Dolcetto D'Alba, Coste & Fossate DOC
...aromatic & fruit-forward, elegant & accessible
Favaro 2007 BASY (Barbera/Syrah) made from passion, simplicity and respect for the land
G.D. Vajra 2007 Barbera d'Alba DOC
...flows with exceptional depth & richness
G.D. Vajra 2006 Barolo, Albe DOCG
...a classic style cuvee, elegant, spicy and delicious
G.D. Vajra 2009 Moscato d'Asti DOCG
...the essense of summer with notes of peaches, apple, apricot, pineapple. A gem!

Wines will be available for sale at a discount the night of the Tasting.

About Justin Gallen & Rinascimento Wine Company:
Justin Gallen began his wine career in 1991 as a harvest worker and progressed to tour guide, retail wine manager, wine buyer, distributor sales representative, sales manager, and regional sales manager before founding his Rinascimento Wine Company, a fine wine brokerage and importer dedicated to providing expect sales representation to small, artisan wineries entering the competitive California wine market. Justin is currently finishing a Diploma of Wine and Spirits from the Wine and Spirits Trust (WSET) of London, England and is also a Certified Italian Sommelier with the Associazione Italiana Sommeliers (AIS) of Milan, Italy and with the North American Sommelier Association. Justin's success lies in his constant thirst for knowledge and his celebration of new experiences, new wines and new friends from around the world.

About Chef Joseph Elevado:
Chef Joseph Elevado's inspired culinary style is drawn from his experience and passion for culinary "travel" while still embracing traditional techniques learned at any early age while helping his mother prepare meals, as well as watching "Julia Child" and other cooking shows on television. A year after graduating from the New York Restaurant School in 1996, Joseph was hired by renowned Chef Nobuyuki "Nobu" Matsuhisa's Nobu NYC as a Master Cook and, over the next eight years, honed his skills in classic Japanese food preparation, first in NYC and later as Executive Chef at Nobu Las Vegas. He opened his own restaurant, Social House, in Las Vegas in 2006 where he put his unique style of cooking to practice and delivered a bold dining experience that was both eclectic and approachable. The Social House brand has developed a solid reputation and cult following for its delectable cuisine, unrivaled decor and exuberant vibe, much of which the Chef is now bringing to L'Ermitage Beverly Hills as Executive Chef.

About L'Ermitage Wine Club:
A series of wine pairing dinners and wine tastings...with benefits. While L'Ermitage Wine Club events are open to the public, it's our hope to attract a membership of wine and food lovers that will regularly attend the Club's various wine-related events and take advantage of the benefits that come with membership, such as special discounts on featured wines, special offers as a result of accumulating frequent Winer Points, and discounts from The Cheese Store of Beverly Hills and other retail, restaurant and cultural partners of the Club. Membership is free.

Save the Date:
Wednesday, July 20th
L'Ermitage Wine Club's next Winemaker Dinner
...details to follow

L'Ermitage Wine Club
Hollywood & Wine

Sunday, May 15, 2011

VivaVinoLA this week at Skirball Center

Come by and taste the great wines from G.D. Vajra and Luigi Baudana at VivaVinoLA!


Tasting event for the first time in Los Angeles as part of VIVA VINO LA

which offers a taste of more than 200 wines from the Regions of Campania,

Friuli, Marche, Piedmont, Puglia, Sicily, Tuscany, Umbria, Veneto and more!

6:30 - 9:00pm CONSUMERS

Skirball Cultural Center

Ahmanson Ballroom

2701 North Sepulveda Boulevard

Los Angeles, CA 90049

RSVP required

**Discount code:VVLAfriends

Buy tickets at

Saturday, May 7, 2011

2nd stage of the 2011 Giro d'Italia starts from Alba in Piemonte . . . .

. . . so this is a perfect time to plug my lovely wines from G.D. Vajra! It is a sprinter's stage so look for one of the guys below to win, barring some unseen catastrophe, and what would be better than a nice bottle of G.D. Vajra Moscato d'Asti, chilled within an inch of its life, after a hard long stage? Or maybe the Langhe Riesling . . .


  1. Tyler Farrar (Garmin)
  2. Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre)
  3. Mark Cavendish (HTC)
  4. Gerald Ciolek (Quick Step)
  5. Theo Bos (Rabobank)
  6. Robbie Hunter (Radio Shack)
  7. Robbie McEwen (Radio Shack)
  8. Julian Dean (Garmin)
  9. Mark Renshaw (HTC)
<p>Giro d'Italia - Stage 2 Map</p>

And of course, the the stage ends in another one of my favorite towns, Parma. I know Parma pretty well as my good friend Max M'bassado grew up there and I went to visit occasionally to see him play soccer. Always amazes me that soccer is still played in the winter over there (the summer and early fall was always reserved for working the harvest!) as it is butt-cold and moist in the winter. Brrrrrrr.

Well, I am putting my money on Tyler Farrar to get a few stages this year and let's see what he can come up with tomorrow.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Austrian Tasting at Elvino (all weekend long!)

Come on down to Elvino and taste the following wines with me! Tonight, Saturday night, and Sunday afternoon/evening.

1142 Abbot Kinney Blvd.
Venice, Ca

2009 BERNHARD OTT, Grüner Veltliner “Am Berg”
A unique are, the Wagram is a cliff-like formation paralleling the Danube River, running east-west some one to ten miles from its banks. The formation is actually the remnants of the Danube’s ancient shoreline, left behind as the river moved south-east towards what is now Vienna. A string of picturesque towns sit at the base of the cliffs, while terraced vineyards grow above and in the hills that continue beyond. Most of the soil is loess, perfect feeding ground for Grüner Veltliner.

Bernhard Ott has built a considerable reputation in Austria for his Grüner Veltliner, the county’s premier white grape. In 2005 Ott committed to biodynamic farming, and according to importer Bill Mayer, the change has given the winemaker more peace as he spends his time in the vineyards. The grapes for this wine come from fruit grown at various sites on the "Berg" (the terraced vineyards above Feuresbrunn). The wine delivers the classic scents of white pepper, green apples and pears, with bright golden apple fruit, refreshing minerality on the palate wrapped up with a zesty, citrusy finish. “Exquisite lightness, fresh and crisp, casual and surprisingly adult.” says Bernhard. Tasting Tip of the Day: Try a zesty Gruner with your next sushi dinner. -Biodynamic-
2006 STADLMANN, Rotgipfler
The Stadlmanns have been growing vines in the Thermenregion (Thermal Region), south of Vienna, for seven generations. Intrinsically linked to this region, each successor has built upon the wealth of experience, experimentation and expertise from family members prior, leading to a vast knowledge of the Thermenregion and its unique terroir.

Well-regulated influences from the Pannonian basin determine the climate from the south and east while the Anninger Mountains block the cold winds from the north and west. A wide variety of well irrigated and warmed soils (natural hot springs dot the landscape) ranging from lime interspersed soil to sandy clay to alluvial rubble makes the Thermenregion one of the few winegrowing regions in the world able to produce noble white wines and full-bodied red wines, as well as elegant sweet wines of world-class quality.

A unique and traditional variety of the Thermenregion, Rotgipfler’s name is derived from the reddish coloring of the vine's bud in the springtime. Winemaking focuses on the purity and clearness of its distinctive fruity character, with aromas suggesting ripe pear, baked apple and orange tea and exotic fruit flavors balanced with cleansing acidity and minerality.
-Certified Organic-
2007 STEFAN BAUER , Zweigelt
This wine is made by Stefan Bauer, a winemaker whose reputation is on the rise in Austria, and whose Zweigelt (a hybrid of two indigenous Austrian varietals, St. Laurent & Blaufrankisch) has become a favorite at Elvino. Known as a serious young man, Bauer works reductively; meaning, he does everything he can in the vineyard to produce healthy and ripe grapes, then, the work done, he does as little as has possible in the cellar, the idea being everything he has to do there makes the wine “less good”.
Good plummy fruit here with white pepper and subtle smoky notes adding a touch of complexity. Can’t decide between Pinot Noir or Syrah? Next time reach for a Zweigelt!

Lunch with Francesca Vaira at Terroni DTLA . . . best lunch ever!

Francesca Vaira  2010 Langhe Freisa Kye` Library  2006 Langhe Freisa Kye` Library 2014 Luigi Ba...