Analog Wines For the Digital Age

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

G.D. Vajra review from the Wine Advocate from 1994 . . . .

I was reading through some old reviews on the Robert Parker website for G.D. Vajra and I found this one.

The first line is classic.

"Twenty years from now, long after this review has been forgotten, somebody will discover a bottle of this wine languishing in the corner of a dark, damp cellar and will be blown away by its quality."

and I like the last line, too.  I guess that has changed . . . . and here we are 20 years on (almost) and I would love to taste that wine . . . but there is none to be found., The Independent Consumer's Guide to Fine Wine

1990 G D Vajra Barbera d'Alba Riserva Bricco Delle Viole
A Barbera Dry Red Table wine from
Barolo, Barbera d'Alba, Piedmont, Italy
Wine Advocate #95
Oct 1994 Robert Parker 94 Drink: 1999 - 2014
Twenty years from now, long after this review has been forgotten, somebody will discover a bottle of this wine languishing in the corner of a dark, damp cellar and will be blown away by its quality. This tiny producer has turned out a majestically rich, full-bodied, blockbuster Barbera that requires five more years of cellaring. It displays an opaque purple color, and intense, awesomely-concentrated flavors that need to be tasted to be believed. Clearly made from what must have been late-harvested grapes, it is remarkably rich, with low acidity, and sensational extract. With spectacular purity, richness, and full-bodied intensity, it should be a profound wine provided its purchasers have patience.

No known American importer.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A little love for Cirelli's Anfora Montepulciano . . .

I ran into this woman at the Wine House in Los Angeles by chance.  She was asking Lance, the wine buyer if he knew where she could find this "great wine a friend of mine brought to dinner last night" and on her phone was a picture of the Cirelli Montepulciano d'Abruzzo 2011 Anfora!  Turns out it was out of her usual price range, but she bought it anyway!  She was so excited about it that I had to get a video of her for Francesco.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Luigi Baudana winery and vineyards . . . .

I stole these images from the Luigi Baudana website that is still under construction.  But the photos are beautiful.

Looking towards Serralunga d'Alba

Baudana Vineyard

Baudana Vineyard from another angle

Baudana Vineyard from the top

Cerretta Vineyard
Cerretta Vineyard
Look at the arches.  I wonder how old this cellar is?

Aging in barrique and botte

In the fermentation part of the cellar

Piemonte Seminar at Osteria Mozza with Giuseppe Vaira

Taylor Parsons of Osteria Mozza doing the honors

Guiseppe in forma

"Let me explain to you how the vineyard is . . . "

The sommeliers getting some education on Piedmont and G.D. Vajra wines.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Eloi Durrbach and Domaine Trevallon . . . video!

The 2009 Trevallon Rouge has just been released and it is wonderful.  Watch this video to give you a true feeling of what it is like at this amazing estate in the south of France.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Cerasuolo d'Abruzzo Anfora love from Do Bianchi!

Jeremy Parzen has a great blog called Do Bianchi and recently wrote up the Cerasuolo d'Abruzzo Anfora wines from Francesco Cirelli.

Below is a link to the post.  Enjoy.

from Jeremy Parzen's blog, Do Bianchi

Monday, October 15, 2012

Harvest Update - Musto Carmelitano - Pian del Moro Vineyard . . .

Aglianico del Vulture grapes from Pian del Moro
from Elisabetta Musto Carmelitano

in allegato troverai le foto della vendemmia di pian del moro
(attached you will find some photos of the pian del moro)

il vigneto più vecchio
(the oldest vineyard)

qui oltre la raccolta a mano tutti i lavori vengono fatti manualmente perchè il sesto di impianto è vecchio 
(here, in addition to harvesting by hand, all the other work is also done by hand because the layout of the vineyard is old)

  quindi le file sono molto strette
(so the rows are very tight.)

annata stupenda le uve erano sane...
(Stupendous harvest as the grapes were very healthy . . . )

See how close the vineyards are?

Looking over the "Plain of the Blackberries".

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Harvest Update - G.D. Vajra

Barbera grapes

Looking out the windows of the cantina

Looking out over Barolo and all the Langhe

Grape seeds after fermentation.  Grape seed oil perhaps?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

San Polino Harvest 2012 update . . .

2012 Vendemmia at San Polino from Katia

Well here we are again, four days into the harvest...incredible to think that another year has passed.

We’re a good team this year, all with our different roles:

Matt and Luigi (Gigi)
Luigi, my husband, noting the characteristics of the different grape batches, organising the selections and deciding into which of the big wood vats they should be put to best bring out their potential for the making of fine wines.

Matt and Avni
Alberto, our right-hand-man and close colleague, managing the work in the fields, the picking schedules, the crushing of the clusters, back and forth on the tractor, coming in with full to bursting boxes and leaving with freshly washed ones to lay out again along the vineyard rows.

Paolo, a great guy from Montalcino, and Matt, our young, lovely Californian helper, lifting the full boxes in and out of the tractor and gently dropping the grapes, cluster by cluster into the de-stemmer.

Bianca and Susanna with the others in the fields picking while teasing and joking.

Altin, Alberto’s younger brother, filling in wherever necessary, on the tractor, smiling and generally being merry.

Katia, myself, in the winery, connecting the pumps, washing down the vats, sitting on top of them as the grapes come in to see that the consistency is right and that the vats don’t overflow, pumping the new wines over morning and evening……..and, of course, making sure that no-one goes hungry…..

The harvest has been surprising this year. The grapes are extraordinarily good, considering the rough ride they have had. Earlier in the summer we had come to expect a difficult harvest due to the dry winter and terrific heat from early June into late August, but, thank god, or whoever, it rained at the end of August/early September and the grapes were saved along with us.

We’re going to make some very wonderful wines, with great colour and an alcohol that will range from 13.5 to 14.7, just right. Early days, but that’s our prognosis. Watch out for San Polino Brunello di Montalcino 2012!!!!

I have my first morning off (semi, as I’m being called back work). With my hands blackened by the colour  and tannins of the grapes I’m clacking away on my laptop at the kitchen table. I can hear the pump working in the winery under the living room. We still have 2.5 hectares (6 acres) to pick. We’ll start on the fields in front of the house this afternoon. I wish our kids were here, three of them plus a grandchild, but university terms unobligingly start before the harvest – a very inconsiderate decision on the part of the school authorities, don’t they know any better??

Paolo got his head stuck in a vat
The grapes in the vats will start to ferment in a day or two, we don’t add in shop bought ferments, just allow the natural yeasts on the clusters to do the job, which ultimately makes for a far more authentic San Polino terroir wine.

The vats will explode into action one by one, and we’ll be taking turns at night duty for the next ten days or so making sure the bubbling grapes are kept control.

Katia and Matt
Gigi (husband) bought me a small loudspeaker for my laptop so I’ll have my music and audiobooks….long and wonderful nights.

We are right bang in the middle of our 2012 harvest!!!!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Q & A with Katia of San Polino: new wood in the winery?

Tino made of Slavonion wood
JG (Justin Gallen): Looks like you got some new oak barrels for fermentation and aging. Can you tell me more about them?

KN (Katia Nussbaum): The round ones are called botti, singular, botte, and the tall ones are tini (tino). They hold from 25hectoliters (660 gallons) for the botte to 38hectoliters (1,000 gallons) for the tini. in our case.

We use the tini for fermenting the wines, you can see that they have large stainless steel openings and doors on the top and at the side, the top one for taking in the grapes at harvest and doing the pumping over and the bottom doors for taking out the skins later on in the process and then the sediments. The tini then double up as ageing tanks.

JG: Do you prefer tini, barrique or botte for aging the wines?

KN: We prefer though to use the botti for ageing the wines. They're good and have a much higher ratio of wood to wine as there is no stainless steel. They can be harder to clean though, because you can just jump into a tino to clean it out. (I say "just" but it actually takes around 4 hours with water and a sandpaper block and loads of muscle) whereas you'd have to have a shrinking pill to get into a botte, so we clean them with the high pressure water thing, idropulitrice, (pressure washer) I don't know its name in English as I never used them in London.

getting the new tino through the cellar door in the ancient building can be sometimes difficult

moving the new botte into position

JG: What kind of oak is it and where does it come from and how do you treat it?  Is it Slavonian?

KN: Yes, Slavonian oak. They're not burnt, like barrique, and give a soft spicy taste to the wines, vanilla, butter, cinamon etc. We do use some new or semi-new barrique on the brunello, or at least on 10% or so of the brunello. After fermentation and in around early January, when the malolactic fermentation is finished we take the lees and divide it up between our barriques (about 25/30 litres of lees per our newish/new barriques). We then fill the barriques with our best wines from the vintage and roll the barriques around with vigorous spins (they're on a contraption with wheels) every day for 4 months. This really does give the wines a sense of greater body.  They become a little yeasty, in a nice way, thicker and richer as the alchemy of yeast proteins mixing with wine and wood tannins occurs. In all the wine stays in the barriques for 6/9 months, more or less. Right now we are moving all the wines in the cantina around according to what we consider as appropriate to the wines. The real aim, apart from cleaning all the containers and making sure that the wines don't get too wooded, or not wooded enough, is to free up the fermentation tanks for the new grapes.

Next:  a harvest update from San Polino . . .

Friday, September 28, 2012

Rinascimento - Harvest Update from Az. Ag. Cirelli in Abruzzo!

From Francesco Cirelli . . .

Montepulciano d'Abruzzo

Here I am with a short update concerning vintage 2012 @AgricolaCirelli.
On sept the 26th I harvested the montepulciano grapes for making the cerasuolo amphora. Outside temperature 25 degrees C, nice and fresh with a morning fog which has been blown away too soon unfortunately.

Going into the anfora (amphora)
Grapes were is a good shape and health; 20 babo grades. The colour of the must is simply charming and I felt in Provence for a while… I used the free-run must only.

On sept 27th and 28th I harvested the grapes for the montepulciano amphora instead. Outside temperatures went up to 29 degrees (S#]t!)  Again: healthy with a well balance; 20 babo grades as well and free-run must only.
Free run juice

During the night of the 27th the cerasuolo and the montepulciano musts have naturally started the fermentation;
Fermenting must

great emotion this early morning to see the bubbles bubbling within the amphoras…" Un abbraccio, Francesco

Looks fun.  Wish I could be there.  A huge hug to Francesco and Michela from the West Coast!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Wine Group Recap - 09.24.12

Clear and bright with a pale gold core out to a watery rim. Clean with medium aged aromas of cheese rind, lemon rind and a waxy apple aroma. Clean and dry in the mouth with medium plus acidity and a long finish. Excellent length a little alcoholic but a-okay. Tasty. 2008 Vouvray?
2006 Brokenwood Semillion Reserve $39.99  and 11%

(only one of our group got this wine right and it was a good job, too.)

Deep gold color out to a bubbly rim. Slightly earthy and loamy with a funky long waxy finish.  Bret?  Finishes dry with lots of acidity and sparkling. Ultimately not supposed to sparkling. Grand Cru Alsace Pinot Gris?
1998 Zin Humbrecht Clos Windsbuhl Vendange Tardive Riesling

(I was the closest to this one but I didn't get that it was Riesling.  It was funky and weird.  Totally refermented in the bottle and slightly oxidized.)

Clear with pale gold core out to a watery rim. Clean and salty with green apple notes with citrus lemon and medium plus acidity and a long finish. A little hot in the mouth. Pretty simple. Stainless steel chardonnay? Chablis?
2009 LaRoche Grand Cru Les Blanchot in screw cap

(This was nailed by a few people in the group and it showed well.  I really like screw cap wines from France.)

Clear and bright with a deep core of ruby out to a watery rim orange rim. Clean with pronounced developed aromas of soy, cedar, cranberry, sawdust, undergrowth, licorice and spice and pencil lead and iron. Dry with plummy notes of green tea and medium plus tannins and a dark finish. Bordeaux. 1998 or maybe older? Excellent. Pommerol?
1987 La Jota Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain 13.5%

(This was the surprise of the night.  I would say that no one was even close.  We all thought it was Bordeaux.  All of us.)

Clear and bright with a medium ruby core out to an orange rim. Clean with pronounced developing aromas of dill and plummy flavors of plum. Lots of truffle. Excellent acidity and long finish.  Rioja for sure.  Vintage?  Older.
1995 La Rioja Alta Gran Riserva

(Everyone picked up on this wine right away because of the American oak.  It was pretty tasty wine, too.)

Clear with medium ruby core out to a watery orange rim. Pronounced developing aromas of cedar and spice and rose and lavender and plummy and slightly hot and and a spicy long finish. Soy, tobacco. Lots of tannin and rough finish. Needs so much time. Barolo?
2001 Altesino Brunello Montosoli 14.5%

(We all thought this was Barolo although a few thought it would be from something else in Italy, but no one guessed even remotely that this was Brunello.  Good wine but a little rough for the money.  I think it was $135 or something?)

Overall, a fantastic tasting with great wines.  There was a Smaragd Gruner Veltliner from Knoll that we didn't try because it was corked but besides that and the Vendange Tardive from Zind Humbrecht, all the wines were tasting fantastic.

And as I said, the shocker was the elegance and power of the La Jota 1987 Cabernet Sauvignon.


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

More photos from harvest 2012 @ G.D. Vajra . . .

Dolcetto grapes from the Fossati vineyard in Barolo

A wasp is always a good sign as it means the juice inside the grape is sweet!

Fermentation is going on!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Az. Ag. Favaro gets 3 Glasses for 2nd straight year for their Erbaluce di Caluso Le Chiusure!

Az. Ag. Favaro gets 3 Glasses for 2nd straight year for their Erbaluce di Caluso Le Chiusure!

Az. Agr. Favaro Benito ~ Caluso
(sustainably farmed)

The small family-run Benito Favaro estate was established in 1992.

"My father, Benito, as well as being the one who had the intuition 15 years ago that this adventure was worth embarking upon, still looks after the vineyards and is the real heart and soul of our operations. My brother Nicola helps him in the highly complex and fundamental work of tending the vines. I do my best in the cellar, steering our wines in what we are convinced is the right direction. Mama Rosanna, like all mothers, does a bit of everything, always with great enthusiasm. She's our jack-of-all-trades, without whom the squaring of the circle would be missing. My sister Elena, with her partner Claudio, cultivate all the vineyards planted with red grapes that are then vinified in our cellar. It may seem like a fairytale existence, but it is really just the simple story of a family who produces wine and firmly believes in what they do, following sound and healthy principles. Our vineyards are located in Piverone on a hill of glacial origins, the true home of our vines." Camillo Favaro 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Harvest Update - Az.Ag. Cirelli - Day One


Here I am with  some notes from day 1.

Trebbiano d'Abruzzo

June and july were terribly dry but fortunately I carefully green harvested this year leaving leaves enough to shade the grapes and prevent any extreme warm during the day.

Also, Sunday a benefical rain came together with a cold wind from the north which both helped to calm the temperature down.

Cirelli basket press creating a starter cuvee
Today it was Trebbiano: 15 quintals of hand selected and harvested grapes for creating the piede de cuve.

18 BABO, nice and fresh acidity, good tannin maturation. From 15 quintals of grapes we had 10 quintals or must which is now decanting for 24 hours. The fermentation will start naturally and we are going to use these 10 quintals to start the fermentation of the rest of the trebbiano musts.

Soon with other updates.

Monday, August 27, 2012

A little rain in Montalcino goes a long way to saving the harvest . . .

SAN POLINO 8/26/12

Happy vines! Happy us!!!

It rained this morning after three months of drought: 90+ days of intense heat, sun  and baked earth followed by restless hot, hot nights. The drought was taking its toll on the vines and we could see signs that they were suffering as they struggled to find water as regulation states that we are not allowed to irrigate  We knew that with less than half a day’s rain our vines would survive and carry  our grapes to the maturation we need to make an exceptional Brunello.

And this morning the weather finally broke.

By 10 am clouds were glowering in the south west and a storm was gathering; then with claps of thunder, lightening, a wind blew up and it arrived.

At first the odd enormous splashing drop and we thought: “Oh, no, it’s passed us by”. Then the clouds opened, pelting down huge and very wet. Beautiful.

We hurriedly closed doors and windows and I rushed outside to take photos, unfortunately with only my Blackberry to hand. The hens sheltered under the lilac trees, the dogs ran wild and I got soaked within seconds. The vines dripped, dripped, dripped and we knew that the harvest was being saved.

A wonderful sight and a very happy Sunday morning.

Two hours later and the sun is back, the cicadas are chirping. We’re doing some wine tastings for an imminent bottling.

We’re deciding where to go this afternoon, it being Sunday. I opt for the sea and a late afternoon swim whereas my husband wants to visit my brother on the mountain and go to a local town fair to listen to the music and watch the fireworks.

The vines will be happy whichever we choose.

Katia - San Polino

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Our wine group tasting wines from Monday night . . .

1999 Bartolo Mascarello Barolo, 2009 Domaine Francois Raveneau Chablis Montee de Tonnerre,   2010 Sancerre Les Monts Damnés, François Cotat, Chavignol, 2001 Domaine Marcel Deiss "Gruenspiel" Premier Cru White Blend, Bergheim, 2011 Holly's Garden "Pagan" Pinot Noir Whitlands

1. Clear and bright with pale gold core out to a water white rim - almost touch of gold. Clean with bright aromas with pear and salty minerally rocks. Dry with medium plus acidity, slight oxidation in the nose and a slightly off dry finish.  Lots of alcohol. And slightly corky. Mushroomy.  Sauvignon St Bris?
2010 Sancerre Monts Damnes from Francois Cotat - Not my favorite wine in the tasting as I thought it was slightly corked and if it wasn't corked then it was just tasting bad.  And certainly not typical. No one in the group got that it was Sauvignon from Sancerre and I think I may have been the closest with St.Bris but I wasn't confident enough to shout it out.

2. Clear and bright with pale gold core out to a watery rim. Clean with grassy notes high in the nose and vanilla. Dry with flavors of lemon and baked apple with medium plus acidity and a long finish.   Bourgogne Blanc or Chablis from 2010.
2009 Domaine Francois Raveneau Chablis Montee de Tonnerre - Very classic Chardonnay in the nose with some oak but I definitely didn't think it was a $150 wine.  My bad.

3. Clear and bright with deep core of dark gold. Clean with developed aromas of apricots and candied orange and jasmine. Off dry with medium acidity, lychee and rose petals.  Excellent long finish. Slightly petillant in the mouth.  Wehlener sonnenhur Riesling spatlese or auslese Riesling or pinot gris?
2001 Domaine Marcel Deiss Gruenspiel Premier Cru, Bergheim(Riesling, Gewurz, pinot noir!) - No one could have gotten this wine right.  It was slightly sweet and we all kept throwing out adjetives describing one wine or another but because it was such a blend, we were totally confused.  Sweet but not too sweet, good acid, but not too much acid.  Nose of GW but mouth of Riesling? I was confused and so was everyone else.

4. Clear and bright with pale ruby orange core out to a orange watery rim. Clean with aged aromas of seeder and loamy undergrowth and older oak. Dry with medium plus to high tannins and cranberry and orange peek and some cedar.  Excellent acidity and a long finish. 1980's Barolo and maybe older?  Soft but hard.
1999 Bartolo Mascarello Barolo - this one was nailed by a group member as a "banker" or a wine that is so iconic that you need to get it immediately.  Maybe not the vintage or the producer, but definitely region.  I thought it was older than it was but definitely thought it was from a traditional producer and would probably have said Mascarello given the choice.  A true and perfect expression of nebbiolo that could go for another 20 years, easy.

5. Clear with deep ruby core out to a watery orange rim. Clean with old watery loamy under brushy smell with salty spicy cedar boxy and dark, dark fruit with a little pepper spice. Lots of alcohol and an older, long finish. Syrah from Rhône?   Maybe older Chateauneuf?
1998 Chateaneuf du Pape  Les Caillou Andre Brunel - another taster nailed this wine and I was with him but couldn't call it for sure.

6. Cloudy and slightly ruby. Dirty, soy, mercaptins, tomato, and geranium.  Boy, that sucked!
2011 Holly's Pagan Victoria Pinot Noir - there was something flawed about this wine but no one could agree what it was but strangely, some stuck up for the wine as being "natural".  I almost lost my mind!  I have "natural" wines in my portfolio, whether made with organically grown grapes or with biodynamic practices in the vineyard and cellar, and I am sorry, but if this is "natural" then I don't want it.  Ever.  I cannot convey how distinctly horrible this wine was and if it is supposed to be this way, then that is the reason why people don't drink "natural" wines and why we as an industry have trouble getting some people to enjoy wine on a daily basis.  If this is "natural" we would be killing all of our customers or at least driving them far, far away.  But that said, I think it was just poor winemaking . . . and mistakes happen to everyone.

So overall, I thought the tasting was a success and I look forward to the next one with great anticipation.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Pre-Harvest G.D. Vajra walking in the vineyards

Ready or not ready?  Looks like lots of variation in the bunches.

Aldo and Giuseppe Vaira

Riesling or Moscato

Aldo Vaira

Sinio- Roddino e Novello

Giuseppe, looking very Roman.

Aldo checking the grapes out.

Giuseppe working hard to get up those steep slopes.

What do you think?  Dolcetto?

Son and father, Aldo.

Just about ready.

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...