Just a short drive from Paris lies France‘s famed Burgundy wine region with its centuries-old tradition of producing some of the most complex and captivating cuvées of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay that the world has ever known. Over the last several decades, these acclaimed varieties have doggedly expanded their reach across the globe producing wines ranging from ripe, full-bodied and richly-textured to a racier, brighter acid style, whose more angular framework tends to open up a broader range of culinary possibilities.
The 2011 Green Valley Pinot Noir from Bob Wait, has grabbed the attention of discerning palates here for good reason. Its lovely, complex nose offers black raspberry, soft rose petal, clove, fennel, black olive and an enticing savory element reminiscent of hearty, roast venison in a balsamic reduction. On the palate, tobacco leaf, black plums and allspice weave an ensemble that displays great intensity. Bright acidity enlivens the palate, focuses the wines multi-dimensional profile and drives it to a seamless and enduring finish that leaves one thirsty for more.
Alsace, where classic grape varieties with names like Pinot Blanc, Gewurtztraminer, Pinot Gris, Sylvaner and Riesling speak to the franco-germanic tug-of-war that dominated the region for several-centuries, produces both straightforward, consumer-friendly wines that simply refresh and satisfy astride offerings of great complexity, power, structure and longevity.
The region’s vines have journeyed successfully around the world to places like Australia, Italy and the Pacific northwest – frequently capturing the varietal typicity and purity of expression that makes the wines from Alsace so delightful!
California’s Anderson valley, in the shadow of the Pacific ocean, is an area that continues to produce world-class, cool-climate wines that echo the historical districts from which they hail. Pinot Gris has truly found a home here and consistently lovely efforts continue to underscore the region’s aptitude for this multi-dimensional variety.
Cliff Lede’s Breggo winery produces wines from the Pinot Gris variety that among others, like the most engaging examples from Alsace, shows short to mid-term aging potential which allows the variety to express every bit of its sometimes undervalued potential for complexity.
I was delighted recently to experience the 2009 vintage that still held its youthful, pale-straw hue flecked with vibrant gold. The nose offered enticing floral notes of rose petal, lilac and lemon blossom along with ripe pineapple and powdery slate. On the palate, evermore layers of tropical fruit – mango, guava and kiwi – came forward fusing with poached pear, sea salt and even greater notes of minerality. The wine showed purity and a light to medium texture that filled the mouth and produced an expressive and lingering finish.
In a clear sign of exceptional terroir, opportune vintage and artisan craftsmanship, a variety of otherwise moderate aging potential here pushes its boundaries to reward those virtuous of patience with the discovery of the compelling secrets that such an exercise can at times afford.
The 2009 Breggo Anderson Valley Pinot Gris wove this union beautifully!
The 2012 currently retails for around $25 per bottle. For more information contact the winery at: http://breggo.com/.
Unlike its western neighbors where Cabernet Sauvignon is king, the wines from the right bank are driven by Merlot and Cabernet Franc, generally exhibiting a less structured and more fruit forward character.
While the 1983 vintage is certainly hard to come by these days, the opportunity to revisit a top château effort thirty years on yet again underscored the potential for longevity and complexity of which this region’s pinnacle domains are capable.
As for many Bordeaux-blend wines three decades patient (served decadently from a 6-liter bottle), the 1983 Chateau Bellefont-Belcier had a somewhat rustic dimension on the nose with signature elements of sweet smoke and beef bullion. Quickly however, lovely hints of steeped, black cherries began to emerge promising a truly engaging tasting experience.
On the palate, rich, dark plums mingled with herbal notes of rosemary and wild fennel set against hearty, earth tones of coffee ground and sweet, tomato confit. The texture was rich and mouth filling and with its still bright acidity the wine had retained a fresh character that created a harmony and balance making it truly impressive! In addition, like every great wine, it boasted a lingering and palate enveloping finish that begged you to return for another glass – and facing down 6 liters, mine was never quite shy of full.
There are many vintages for the house currently on the market but a true steal would be found in the 2009 vintage, retailing for just around $37 per bottle.
In 1999, Bob Davids broke ground on his Santa Barbara county estate, Sea Smoke – today an established star of California’s central coast. The vineyards, situated on the rocky, mid slopes of the Santa Ynez river basin are exposed to the cooling influences of the Pacific ocean making for prime conditions from which to coax world-class Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
I recently tasted one of six offerings produced by the estate. An intersection between Burgundian complexity and new world exuberance, this wine shows great generosity of fruit while simultaneously calling forth structure, minerality and earth tones that underscore its old-world/new-world character.
The nose offers lush raspberry and blackberry fruits with intriguing notes of black tea leaf, soft cinnamon spice, hints of fennel and sweet, smoked venison. The palate is lush, exhibiting black raspberry, fine tannins, bright acidity and from the polished, French oak, subtle notes of sweet caramel. The wine is harmonious, showing great equilibrium and finesse as well as a lengthy and persistent finish.
While I had heard much about the exciting profile and character of these wines I had yet to experience them first hand. It is no wonder that they are elusive in the marketplace.
Your mission if you choose to accept it…
Located in the Anderson valley, Witching Stick Wines sources fruit from a selection of California’s prime vineyard lands. Crafted from some of the oldest vines dotting the rocky clay and loam soils of the windswept hills of Sonoma county’s San Pablo bay, this elegant, multi-dimensional chardonnay at once shows structure, finesse, aromatic intensity and flavor purity reminiscent of the engaging white wines of Burgundy.
On the nose, enticing layers of quince and orange blossom intersect with caramelized notes of peanut brittle and apricot jam. The palate is lush, exhibiting brown sugar dusted, yellow peach and poached pear, exotic lychee fruit and a stony/slate character that all speak to site. The wine has lovely texture and a creamy mouth feel and is lively, focused and harmonious. Production here is small with only a few hundred cases of each of the wines the domain offers. Pearl diving was never an easy gig!
For more information contact the winery at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
With formal training in zoology, Jules Taylor would seem an unlikely winemaker candidate. Yet, the influence of growing up in Marlborough as the wine industry began to flourish would ultimately draw her into the fold.
Mentored by some of New Zealand’s top winemakers, Taylor was encouraged to step out on her own and did so with the launch of her own label in 2001. While she produces wines from the classic varieties that put the country on the map, she also offers up cuvées not typically associated with the islands.
One such wine I recently had the pleasure of tasting is her Gruner Veltliner – a variety commonly emanating from Austria where it shows pronounced minerality, citrus and stone-fruit characteristics and often, good cellaring potential.
Taylor’s version has a somewhat softer profile yet stays true to the variety. The 2012 exhibited beautiful citrus notes of lime and tangerine blossom that fused with a stony profile on the palate. The wine was bright and had a lovely vibrancy bolstered by refreshing acidity. Candied lemon peel and Bartlett pear joined this chorus as the wine pushed on with harmony and a persistent finish.
So, the secret is out and there are now, even more exciting wines to discover just to the east of the Tasman sea.
Current retail, $16.99.
R. Pouillon & Fils (sons) is a third-generation estate whose dedication to sustainable farming practices denotes a philosophy that seeks harmony with the terroir and its reflection in the house’s wines.
I recently tasted one of the four cuvées that the current husband and wife team of Fabrice and Elodie Pouillon bottle at the domain.
The Champagne Brut – Cuvee de Reserve is a blend of the classic varietal partners in this region: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier. The wine makes a lovely first impression on the nose with hints of fig, acacia honey, soft lime and lemon blossom, honeysuckle, ripe, golden apples and freshly braided baker’s dough. It exhibits nice weight on the palate as well as a bright and persistent finish and while delicious now, can easily be cellared for 2 to 3 years.
Current retail, $35/$45.
Argentina continues to impress with its “heritage” varieties and this Torrontés-driven cuvée is spot on! Lovely white flowers wrap around enticing tropical aromatics of lychee and pineapple while stone fruit characteristics of both apple and peach bring even more complexity to this wine. Riesling-influenced acidity and citrus notes of tangerine and meyer lemon complete the broad sensory profile here while the lush texture and chalky, gravelly finish strike a note of elegance uncommon for this price point. Enjoy with seared white fish and mango salsa. Current retail, $10/$11.
From the collaboration of two of the most well respected producers in all of the Rhone valley comes this lushly textured, deep, black purplish wine exuding the opulence of Syrah in an almost, New-world style. Rich layers of dark plum and blackberry fill the palate as characteristic hints of soft, white pepper laced with whispers of violets, enticing anise and notes of aged leather meet soft cocoa powder in this deliciously dense and fruit-packed effort. The tannins are round and silken reflecting this ripe and powerful vintage yet the wine still offers enough refreshing acidity and balance that it possesses the necessary lift to make it indisputably harmonious. Enjoy now or hold for the next 4 to 6 years. Current retail: $29.99.
On the nose this lovely effort represents what makes these wines so charming: dry apple and notes of almond mingle with gravelly earth notes and a subtle yet persistent aroma of quince paste. The palate exhibits orange peel as well as sweet lemon zest with a clean finish and soft acidity. At $18 a bottle this is a perfect summertime apéritif!
“Brut Classic is akin to an operatic overture, an epicurean instant that opens the door to a shared and special moment.” Thierry Hamon, head sommelier of “Le Cinq restaurant” – Four Seasons Hotel George V – France.
This venerable Ay producer consistently crafts one of the most generously elegant examples of truly world-class, non-vintage champagne available. A blend of the three varietal pillars of champagne production: pinot noir, pinot meunier and chardonnay, its enticing aromatics of freshly toasted brioche mingle with perfumed Pippin apples, candied lemon and hints of freshly hulled almonds. The palate is rich and seductive exhibiting notes of lemon curd, soft chamomile and acacia honey. A fine bead of swirling bubbles skirts delicately across the palate making for a focused, expressive and enduring finish that is truly engaging.
If you have never experienced Deutz Brut Classic or any of the other cuvées from this reference producer wait no longer. At $38 retail in most cellars you will have never dropped a better coin!