Les Pallières and and Gour de Chaulé embody Southern Rhône's best overachieving appellation, Gigondas. Commonly known as Baby Châteauneuf, Gigondas has the elevation and steep slope grade to induce a seriousness to these Grenache-dominant blends that are in another league of terroir from neighboring zones.
Terraces cut into the Dentelles de Montmirail hillsides give us Gigondas from the 15th century-founded Domaine Les Pallières. Of the two cuvées produced by the Brunier brothers (also owners of Vieux Télégraphe in Châteauneuf du Pape), it is the Terrasse du Diable (Devil's Terraces) that has always struck a chord for me. These are the highest elevation plantings on the estate, bringing the essential brisk structure to balance Grenache's forward-baked strawberry and white pepper profile.
Gour de Chaulé, like Pallières, focuses on high percentages of Grenache in their blend, not relying on the dark and muscular tones of Syrah and Mourvèdre to impress. (Both domaines use over 85% for these two cuvées). While Pallières partially de-stems, Gour de Chaulé always sees 100% whole cluster fermentation. Here, an extra element of tension and a more reserved fruit profile gives one of the most disciplined frames of a Southern Rhône red.
The Nahe's Emrich-Schönleber, alongside Keller, Dönnhoff, and Schäfer-Fröhlich, comprise Germany's most noble estates in the Grosses Gewächs realm, where the country's best dry Rieslings are found.
Halenberg is a towering wine built for the cellar. While Fruhlingsplatzchen, from red slate and clay soils, offers more immediate charm, Halenberg, deriving from blue slate soils, is more reserved upon release. With time, in cellar or decanter, notes of crisp green apple, candied lime, and peppermint emerge. Halenberg stands apart from other GGs with its saturating, deep mineral expression on the palate, with many layers unfolding when given patience.
Importer (and my long-time Riesling guru) Stephen Bitterolf of Vom Boden highlights where Emrich-Schönleber lands stylistically: "They are neither as baroque and lavish as Dönnhoff, nor as fiercely angular as Schäfer-Fröhlich... In fact, for me, stylistically, you would have to leave the Nahe altogether to find the wines that remind me the most of Emrich-Schönleber, and that would be Keller in the Rheinhessen."
Led today by Frank Emrich, this family began growing Riesling on the treacherously steep slopes along the Nahe river in the mid-1700s. In the 1960s, they began to focus entirely on viticulture and winemaking (Before then, it was a risky proposition to have their livelihood be at the will of nature so directly). Over the next two decades, the estate steadily grew to ten hectares.
Pierre and Catherine Breton's Cabernet Francs from Bourgueil and Chinon represent everything our selection stands for: Organic and biodynamic viticulture, minimal winemaking, single expressions of place, and wines that beg to be opened with complete abandon. These are among the most gratifying wines in the Loire.
One cuvée speaks to me differently than the rest. Clos Sénéchal is 100% Cabernet Franc from a 1.3-hectare parcel of clay over white tuffeau—the prized and finely-grained chalky limestone found in the Loire. It's always the most seamless and elegant of the Breton's single-vineyard Cabernet Francs. Here, Cabernet Franc is suave, and site-specificity is high-definition, with notes of black cherry, fresh potting soil, iron, and lavender jumping out of the glass. There is a sense of composure and effortlessness with Clos Sénéchal that bridges a difficult gap that can sometimes exist between natural wines and the more classic, age-worthy bottlings.
Many have sought to express this distinct terroir from the eastern slope of the volcano, but one family is most synonymous with the greatest heights it has achieved. Etna doesn't have a classification system to rank estates or vineyards like Bordeaux and Burgundy, but if there was one Grand Cru white from these volcanic slopes perched over the Mediterranean, it would surely be Benanti's Pietra Marina.
Sourced from 80-year-old vines, Pietra Marina showcases Carricante at its most structured and age-worthy. While salinity is a hallmark of this grape variety, the defining element here is a tightly wrapped core of citrus, orange peel, and almond. There's a frame and touch of austerity to Pietra Marina that shows a discipline worlds apart from the more oxidative and plush style of wine commonly found in Milo. In the end, it's the vein of minerality and grip that appropriately put this benchmark bottling on the table with top Chablis and Burgundy.
Benanti's story began in the 1800s, but it was in 1988 that the estate began to garner fame. Giuseppe re-examined and questioned every aspect of Benanti's viticulture and winemaking, challenging conventional wisdom on clones and their compatibility in each parcel. Aging in stainless steel is a crucial element in keeping this southerly white wine so fresh and crisp. But make no mistake—it's these same qualities that give Pietra Marina its backbone to age in your cellar for many years to come.
It's a rare treat to be able to offer a new American wine project and be present at inception. Years ago, in Potter Valley, Mendocino, walking the Kimmel Vineyard with Sashi Moorman and Jason Kimmel, it became apparent a special combination of minds and terroir was ready to take form. Today, I'm happy to announce our exclusive release of the 2019 Kimmel Lilied and Ungilded!
Kimmel Wines was born to honor low interventionist winemaking, allowing the land and each vintage to be the guiding light. Lilied began as an idea from Sashi Moorman to produce a soulful blend of equal parts Syrah and Cabernet Franc similar in style to the wines by Provençal iconoclast Domaine Trevallon. The wines all go through élevage under the guiding hand of Sashi and his thoughtful team led by John Faulkner. Founded in 1969, Kimmel Ranch is in the far reaches of Mendocino in western Potter Valley. Located at 1,000 feet of elevation, at the entrance of the Mayacamas, the sprawling mountain range gives way to afternoon coastal breezes allowing for cool relief after warm summer days.
Lilied is 50% Cabernet Franc from the Kimmel Vineyard and 50% Syrah from the famed Bien Nacido Vineyard's X Block. A long élevage (First in barrique and then puncheon) was crucial to resolve the firm tannins into silky fineness that dances on the mid-palate. The Cabernet Franc's nervy nature and dark fruit, married with the savage wildness of Syrah, makes for a striking wine you can confidently enjoy now. The cuvée name means "to adorn" and combines the names of Lilian and Edward Kimmel.
Ungilded is 100% Cabernet Franc from the Kimmel Vineyard, inspired by the wines of Clos Rougeard. The fruit is destemmed and fermented without additives, and it starts in an open-top dairy tank to give a greater cap-to-juice ratio. The unadulterated fermentation gives a pure expression of Cabernet Franc (Hence the name, Ungilded). The nervy nature of the Cabernet Franc softens to a lacey texture with classic floral aromatics. These vines were planted in 1980 on Franciscan shale with Saint George rootstock in a California sprawl configuration. Edward and Lilian had the foresight to settle in the far reaches of the California wine region and plant where there were few vines at the time.