Analog Wines For the Digital Age

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Davide Carlone Wines . . .

So far, what I like about these wines best, is that they are easy to drink.  Not quaffable, per se, but definitely all the parts are well integrated and you won't feel bad for drinking them now.  And the great thing is that no one knows about these (and the production is so tiny that most people will never know about it.).  But for you first early adopters, you can taste wines that are beautifully made, have a sense of place and are a real pleasure to drink.

Call me or email if you want to find out where to buy these great wines.  (310) 270-3747 or

Boca doc
Vitigni: Nebbiolo 70%, Vespolina 30%
Epoca di Vendemmia: 10 Ottobre
Fermentazione: 8/10 gg sulle vinacce
Malolattica svolta al più presto con l’innalzamento della temperatura nell’ambiante cantina. A
seguire precipitazione statica naturale
Affinamento: 3 mesi in vasche d’acciaio, due anni e mezzo in botti da 10 hl. in rovere di Slavonia
Resa per ha: 70
Bottiglie: 2000 a 5000

Boca DOC
Grapes: 70% Nebbiolo, 30% Vespolina
Harvest Date: October 10th
Fermentation: 8 to 10 days on the skins
with malolactic following as soon as possible with the raising of the temperature in the winery.
No filtering or fining
Aging: three months in steel tanks, two and ½ years in large Slavonian casks of 1000 liters.
Yield per acre: 3,000 lbs
Cases produced: from 166 to 400 depending upon the vintage

Croatina Colline Novaresi doc
Vitigni: Croatina 100%
Epoca di Vendemmia: 10 Ottobre
Fermentazione: 8/10 gg sulle vinacce
Malolattica svolta al più presto con l’innalzamento della temperatura nell’ambiante cantina. 
A seguire precipitazione statica naturale
Affinamento: solo acciaio
Resa per ha: 80
Bottiglie: 2000 a 3500

Croatina Colline Novaresi doc
Grapes: 100% Croatina
Harvest Date: October 10th
Fermentation: 8 to 10 days on the skins
with malolactic following as soon as possible with the raising of the temperature in the winery.
No filtering or fining
Aging: only stainless steel
Yield per acre: 3,500 lbs
Cases Produced: 166 to 300 per year depending upon the year

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Santa Caterina Vermentino 2012 Poggi Alti

All white pepper and fresh peach this is about as clean and crisp as you can get but the extra nine days on the skin during fermentation make the weight and body deeper than one usually associates with Vermentino.  Excellent.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Aglianico ripe for the picking from Musto Carmelitano . . .

Aglianico grapes ripe for the picking.

The picture above is from Musto Carmelitano.  Looks like harvest of the Aglianico from their vineyards in Vulture is just starting!

"Musto Carmelitano ranks high among my most pleasant discoveries of 2012. The estate makes three Aglianicos, all from organically farmed vineyards. The Aglianicos range from a younger- vines bottling all the way to the top-of-the-line Pian del Moro, which emerges from a parcel of 80 year-old vines. All of the reds are bottled unfined and unfiltered. I found the best of these wines transparent and just plain gorgeous. Readers should do what they can to taste these soulful, utterly intriguing reds." - Antonio Galloni - The Wine Advocate

The 2010 is tasting ready to go but of course has those big tannins associated with Aglianico but they are silky and the black pepper in the nose is almost overwhelming but then just pulled back enough to make it spicy and fun.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Cirelli Cerasuolo d'Abruzzo - the perfect summer sipper . . . .

Cirelli Cerasuolo d'Abruzzo

The Cirelli Cerasuolo d'Abruzzo 2012 is tasting great right now.  Lots of cherry fruit and acidity and a little bit of that salty terroir thing going on, too.  It is also a critter wine, notice the beautiful butterfly, which I am sure is recognizable to all as the sign of freedom and transformation (okay, I am reaching here . . .) but whatever.  The wine is good.

The grapes for this wine were grown specifically to be direct press rose` and that has some advantages.  Lower alcohol and higher acidity would be the most obvious.  And now that the weather is getting really hot, and our rose` season is finally upon us, this is a great wine for those hot days.

Monday, August 26, 2013

New arrivals of G.D. Vajra Dolcetto d'Alba 2011 and Barolo Chinato . . .

The 2011 Dolcetto d'Alba from G.D. Vajra is in stock and tasting great.  From a really warm vintage, even though the stated alcohol is 12.5%, I would definitely say that this wine punches like it is heavier.  That ripeness of the vintage I don't feel in the mouth as much as in the nose, where the wine is unusually spicy, almost like it had seen some oak, but as I know this isn't the case, extremely exotic.  Clove and licorice seed come to mind.  But of course the wine retains that great acidity and sweet fruit of Dolcetto.

The new Barolo Chinato from G.D. Vajra is also in stock and if you haven't ever had a great Barolo Chinato, this is it.  Fashioned in homage to the Capellano Barolo Chinato, great friends of The Vajra's, this Barolo Chinato is a stripped down version, made from only 16 different herbs and spices using the Barolo Albe in any given vintage as the base.  The label depicts the herbs and spices in the wine.  Of course, the most prominent of the botanicals is quinine bark (which is "china" in Italian and, hence, the source of the drink’s name, Chinato).  Quinine is a natural anti-malarial compound and has been used for centuries to protect against that disease.  Quinine is the tonic in tonic water, just FYI.

For our purposes, the G.D. Vajra Barolo Chinato is a perfect digestivo to calm the stomach after a big meal and it is also most widely used as the amaro in cocktails.  My favorite cocktails using the G.D. Vajra is still one whipped up by Erik Adkins of Heaven's Dog  a few years ago.  Or you can add it to any Negroni recipe to make it extra spicy.

The Italian Fog

2 oz Millers Gin
1/2 oz G.D. Vajra Barolo Chinato
1/2 oz Apricot eau de Vie
1/2 oz lime juice
1/2 oz simple syrup

served shaken, not stirred

The Barolo Chinato can be ordered by the bottle and it comes in 750 ml.



Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Chateau La Canorgue Cotes du Luberon 1994 - still going strong after all these years.

Chateau La Canorgue Cotes du Luberon 1994

So as the the two followers of this blog know, along with importing Italian wines, I have the honor of selling the wines from France and Spain of Beaune Imports.  At the end of the year, the owner of Beaune Imports, Michael Sullivan, gives each salesperson a mixed case of older vintages from the portfolio.  It is usually some assortment of twenty year old Burgundy, that you would expect to age well, and some other lesser wines of around the same vintage that you wouldn't expect to age well . . . but strangely, many do.  What a fine surprise is always is to have 20 year old Sancerre that sings like it did in its youth!

Last night for our usual wine group I pulled from my gift case of older Beaune Imports wines and we struck gold!  It was my favorite wine of the tasting and most people loved it.  The 1994 Chateau La Canorgue Cotes du Luberon.

Clear and bright with pale ruby core to an orange rim.  Truffle and licorice and boysenberry in the nose.  A little barnyardy but not distractingly so.  Lots of mint and bloody meat in the mouth.  A nice long finish.  Pure finesse but with a little bit of tannin and spice to keep things lively.  Just great.

Certified Organic for many years, this wine is around 30% Grenache and 70% Syrah and would have retailed back in 1997 for somewhere in the neighborhood of $10 a bottle.  It is a steal for triple the price.

The 2010 vintage is current and drinking really well at 3 years of age, but as we can all attest from our tasting last night, a little more age in the bottle will do it just fine.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

2012 Favaro Erbaluce di Caluso Le Chiusure . . . the best yet?

Made from the vineyard right in front of the winery, it is the flagship of the winery.  Tre Bicchiere two years in a row, it has now become the star that other Erbaluce makers follow in hopes of reaching the same heights.

In 2012, you can feel the vintage more than in 2011.  While 2011 was slightly hot and the flavors muddled, the 2012 is crisp and intense, the aromas of gooseberries and hay jumping from the glass.  In the mouth it is zesty and firm and lingers instead of fading away, inviting another sip.

Just arrived on our shores it will be in short supply.  So seek it out.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Waiting for the action to start at The Wine Country in Signal Hill

G.D. Vajra Barbera d'Alba 2010
G.D. Vajra Dolcetto d'Alba Coste & Fossati 2011
G.D. Vajra Langhe Nebbiolo 2010
G.D. Vajra Barolo Albe 2008
G.D.Vajra Moscato d'Asti 2011

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

A great introduction to San Polino and their farming practices . . .

Just a little video of San Polino with lots of great shots of the vineyards and the people.
The password: sanpolino

Brief but gives you a great sense of where the wine comes from . . .

Monday, July 8, 2013

Helichrysum from San Polino . . .

San Polino also has a cuvee by the same name from the highest part of their estate vineyard.

Helichrysum is an herb that one finds all over the hills of Montalcino and it is in particular abundance at San Polino.  The smell of the countryside is the smell of Helichrysum among others.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

In the bag today . . .

A good mix for being on the street today selling wine.  Some summer whites, a rosè, some cru Beaujolais, Italian Pinot(!) And some Barolo . . . as nothing says summertime like Barolo!  ;-)

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Brunello dinner at Osteria Mozza with San Polino!

Katia Nussbaum
Osteria Mozza’s Primo Ministro Room
Wednesday, April 24th 2013
7:00 pm
$145 per person, exclusive of tax and gratuity

In 1990, Luigi Fabbro and Katia Nussbaum bought the stunningly beautiful, overgrown property of San Polino, a 500 year-old farmhouse just outside of Montalcino. They immediately set about reinvigorating the land, replanting and refurbishing the vineyards and, beginning in 2001, producing delicious Brunello.
They are conscientious stewards of their terrain, maintaining the pristine beauty of the property by practicing strict biodynamic viticulture on their south-facing slopes. Winemaking is similarly holistic, which is to say that San Polino’s wines reveal more about soil than winemaking. These wines are soulful, layered expressions of Sangiovese grown in the Montalcino zone, and we have been fans of long-standing.

We are very excited to welcome Katia to the Osteria for a special winemaker dinner. Along with a 5-course Tuscan feast prepared by Chef Matt Molina, we’ll be sampling eight different San Polino wines, including their inaugural 2001 Brunello Riserva. For the Sangiovese lover or the neophyte, this is sure to be a night of great wines, delicious food and stimulating conversation. 
Please join us!!!

For more information, or to reserve your place at the table, please contact our 
Special Events Director, Nicole White, at OR 323.866.5290

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Pruning at San Polino in Montalcino with Katia Nussbaum . . .

Pruning time at San Polino (and other thoughts):

In viticulture there should be a good reason behind whatever you do in your vineyards. We make organic grapes and organic wines and with our approach to farming we do not ever want to leave things to chance; we wish to be the chief protagonists in deciding how our grapes will turn out in any particular year.

Just a few weeks ago in Montalcino - brrrrrr, cold!

The preparation for our next harvest, our future Brunello 2013, started last October when we ploughed the land in between the rows of vines so that the winter rains could penetrate the soils and feed the vines. In November we seeded the fields with plants such as beans and sweet peas which would enrich the soil with nitrogen to feed the organisms that would feed the other organisms which would ultimately feed the vines. We also seeded wild flowers to encourage as many insects, fungi, bacteria and yeasts as possible into the vineyards, to make for a greater biodiversity of living species in the environment around the vines.

Then over winter everything was quiet in the vineyards, until we started the yearly pruning.

Each year the vines must be pruned so that they will produce the right amount of grapes (1kg per plant) at the right height from the ground (80cm ) with the right amount of foliage (1 square metre of leaves for every kilo of grapes). These measurements work for us, growing Sangiovese grapes for the production of the Brunello di Montalcino. They give us a medium yield of grapes with good concentration, tannins, acidity and without too much alcohol.

The advantage of having a small farm is that you can do all the necessary work at the right time.

The part of the vineyard to be pruned this week.

Farms that have large extensions of vineyards have to start their pruning process often as early as December in order to have it all finished before the first spring growth starts. This can create problems for the plants for three main reasons. Firstly, any large cuts made during the pruning process can traumatise the plant during icy weather. Secondly, early pruning can lead to early budding. This can be disastrous in the case of a late frost. Lastly, large farms will have to rely on the work of many people, so the pruning work will not always be of a consistent quality. Any lack of skill and proficiency in the pruning process can damage the production of healthy grapes in the summer.

Avni's hand leaving a grape producing bud and a lower leaf only producing bud/branch

Luckily, with only 5 hectares, we can do the pruning at the best time. This is the period just before plants begin to wake up from their winter slumber. The lymph is not yet moving and the climate is on our side, with the hard winter frosts already passed. We like to prune with a waning moon which keeps the lymph from rising and helps the plant stay dormant. You may disbelieve this, but it’s so, I’ve seen it. As the February/March moon starts to rise the plants start to drip as you cut them. The higher the moon, the more liquid they lose. It would be anthropomorphic to say that they’re crying, but it certainly feels that way when you see it!

Showing the shape and use of the cutters

We began to prune the vines this last week immediately after the full moon.

We use hand cutters, with long handles and tough sharp blades. They’re easy to manipulate and make neat, net cuts. We make only small cuts, in order to protect the plants from damage and so that they can easily seal the wounds.

We leave four spurs with two buds on each vine, making for not more than eight branches per plant as the growth starts. Most of these buds will grow into grape-producing branches but sometimes we leave lower buds that will only produce leaves, and not grapes. We do this on purpose to keep down the quantity of grapes while allowing the plant greater capacity for photosynthesis.

Katia pruning.

It takes one person 16 full time working days to prune 5 hectares of vineyard. Two people, just over a week. Long hours flat-out. While pruning we select and put aside cuttings from vines that we know produce the best grapes. We’ll use these cuttings next month for grafting onto plants that we wish to change or invigorate.

Katia's trained professional help

That’s enough for now, I’d say. Better get some sleep because there’s pruning to be got on with tomorrow!!

Katia Nussbaum – San Polino

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Giuseppe Vaira lunch at Il Moro . . .

So, every once in a while, instead of doing the dog and pony show with a supplier, it is fun to get a group of people together to taste the new vintages of a wine and eat some good food together and look at the wines in the context of how they pair with food.  The modern way of selling wine on the wholesale side is you trot around with open bottles and taste wine buyers at their place of business and gauge their reactions and take orders or don't take orders depending upon how much they liked the wines.  But all of this is done in a pretty shallow fashion as the buyers don't have much time to devote to learning about the wines and the tastings are done fast and without food and there is little or no contemplation.  But if that same buyer can sit down with the producer, relax a little bit and get the chance to taste the wine in the context of a meal and be able to ask questions between sips of wine and bites of food, this changes the dynamic between the wine and the buyer and the winery.

Last week, I had a chance to have a group of buyers join Giuseppe Vaira of G.D. Vajra and Luigi Baudana at Il Moro in Los Angeles to share a meal and drink the new vintages of G.D. Vajra and Luigi Baudana wines.

Decanting really brings the young wines to life
Here is the list of wines for the day in the order we tasted them:
NV G.D. Vajra N.S. della Neve Spumante
2011 G.D. Vajra Dolcetto d'Alba
2010 G.D. Vajra Barbera d'Alba
2009 G.D. Vajra Barbera Superiore
2009 G.D. Vajra Langhe Freisa "Kye`"
2008 G.D. Vajra Barolo "Albe"
2008 G.D. Vajra Barolo "Bricco delle Viole"
2008 Luigi Baudana Barolo "Cerretta"
2008 Luigi Baudana Barolo "Baudana"

Below are some photos of the wines as we decanted them.
The Barolo "Cerretta" is tasting pretty darn sexy right now.

Freisa, Barbera, Barbera Superiore et al.

Freisa, Barbera d'Alba

Barolo Bricco delle Viole, Dolcetto d'Alba
The wine and food were a perfect match.  The Tagliata di Manzo was heavenly but I was one of the only ones to get it.  We must be in L.A.!

A great time was had by all and of course, a huge thanks to Giuseppe Vaira for his friendship and the greatness of his family's wines.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Giuseppe Vaira of G.D. Vajra Winery in San Francisco next week . . .

Giuseppe Vaira of G.D. Vajra winery will be pouring the 2008 G.D. Vajra Bricco delle Viole Barolo and the 2009 G.D. Vajra Barbera Superiore at the Slow Wine 2013 tasting in San Francisco  Monday, February 4th
12 - 4 pm
Terra Gallery 511 Harrison Street

Members of the trade can register here but there is no public tasting.  :-(

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

G.D. Vajra vineyards in Winter . . . .

Isidoro Vaira took these pictures the other day around the G.D. Vajra winery.

G.D. Vajra is in the little frazione (township) of Vergne.  

The roses at the end of the rows in the vineyard popping their heads above the snow

Best to stay inside next to the fire and drink some good wine.
Looks like some good wines for a winter's day.
Would be great to taste a  Barolo from Vajra that is this old . . . 

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...