• Dolcetto's Solo in the Spotlight:  San Fereolo Dogliani

    Dolcetto's Solo in the Spotlight: San Fereolo Dogliani

    Dogliani, just south of Monforte in Barolo, is a land where Dolcetto rules the hillsides. There's no sibling rivalry here with Nebbiolo and Barbera. This is where Dolcetto gets all the love. And in Dogliani it's Nicoletta Bocca's 1936-planted Dolcetto vines that offer the most mesmerizing and enchanting reflection of this appellation.

    There are very few producers in Barolo that will devote prime hillside parcels to Dolcetto. But, in Dogliani only the best, steep, south-facing vineyards are planted to the variety. Bocca purchased the San Fereolo property in 1992 in the Valdibà subzone and converted to organic and biodymanic viticulture, now certified by Demeter. Bocca's oldest vines of her estate go into the flagship San Fereolo Dogliani bottling. She waits 8 years to release each vintage, with a split between large barrel elévage and then into bottle for extended aging.

    There's no denying how important Dolcetto is from Dogliani's northern neighbors. Even there it's more than a simple "daily drinker", with complex blue and black fruits, bitter chocolate, licorice, smoke, and black olive notes. But, San Fereolo's Dogliani from 81-year-old vines is entirely another beast. There's a weight and texture that points to a very different class, with an underlying stream of rocky minerality and agile frame that reminds us we're in another home.

    2009 was a warm vintage that gave us plush, forward, and very open-knit wines, full of dark, powerful fruit held in check with underlying structure. Whereas Nebbiolo tends to do best in more moderate growing seasons, Dolcetto is always eagerly awaiting those of serious warmth. It's in these vintages that Dolcetto excels the very most.  

    For me, the introduction to Bocca's top wine really turned my preconceived notions of Dolcetto upside down. Even with exposure to the best bottlings from Barolo the Dogliani holds a grace and sense of quiet conviction that is undeniably great. This is where world class Dolcetto takes the leading role of terroir and runs with it.
    Posted by Alexander Rosen
  • The Crescendo of La Rioja Alta:  Gran Reserva 890 & 904

    The Crescendo of La Rioja Alta: Gran Reserva 890 & 904

     

    It's one of Rioja's great gifts to hold back wine in bottle under the aging requirements of the Reserva and Gran Reserva designations. For me, La Rioja Alta sits in elite company with a very select band whose wines typify the heights that can be achieved with Rioja's extended winery aging protocol. 

    Today, I'm happy to offer a range of La Rioja Alta's Gran Reserva 890 & 904, including their flagship 2009 Viña Ardanza at $40 per bottle.


    Gran Reserva 904 comes from vines with an average age of 60-yrs-old comprised of 90% Tempranillo and 10% Graciano. Gran Reserva 890 comes from La Rioja Alta's very oldest vines, with 95% Tempranillo, supplemented by just 3% Graciano and 2% Mazuelo. Like all aged Rioja, both 904 and 890 take on notes tobacco, leather, cinnamon, bright red cherry, and a finish with very subtle vanilla bean and coconut.

    But as you imagine, these aged reservas flaunt deeply layered and complex notes, all interwoven seamlessly with an unrelenting and haunting finish that exemplifies what Grand Cru level Rioja is all about. Examples going back to 1973 have been some of the most memorable wine experiences I've ever had. But, make no mistake, the extended aging at the winery means each is ready for prime time tonight. 


    Five families in 1890 from Rioja and the Basque country founded Sociedad Vinícola de La Rioja Alta with a common goal of making age-worthy, grand wines. Located just across the street from Lopez de Heredia, La Rioja Alta also has come to be respected as a prime address for terroir-driven Rioja, emphasizing elegance and transparency of Tempranillo at a time when a more extractive and heavy-handed style has come to garner the 100-point-scores.

    Traditional winemaking in Rioja is centered around using American oak for aging. All barrels are air dried and manufactured on site, a rarity in the world of wine that allows for ideal quality control. At La Rioja Alta barrels utilized for aging are more aged and neutral, limiting the overt American oak flavors of coconut and dill that tend to dominate modern producers here, masking the more earth-inflected, tobacco, and red cherry notes that make Rioja one of a kind.

    Rigorous selection of grapes is the foundation of producing world-class wines for so many decades here. Small refrigerated boxes are used to transfer clusters from the vineyards to the winery. The success at the estate over the years have given way to a brand new winery in 1996 where no expense was spared. La Rioja Alta marries the great tradition of winemaking in this region with the modern advancements now giving clean, precise, and soulful wines of place.

     

    Posted by Alexander Rosen
  • The Pearl of Volnay:  Domaine Michel Lafarge

    The Pearl of Volnay: Domaine Michel Lafarge

    The highlight through eight days in Burgundy in July 2018 was undoubtedly visiting for the first time with Frédéric Lafarge in Volnay. The village is synonymous with grace and delicacy, but ardent collectors know in the traditional realm they can be among the most long-lived in Burgundy. The wines of Domaine Michel Lafarge are models for this tightrope act of finesse and tension, and they are among my favorites for this reason precisely.

    Today, I'm happy to offer a deep lineup from Domaine Michel Lafarge, highlighted by one of the regions's greatest value Pinot Noir, the Bourgogne Rouge from 2015 & 2014.

    The Bourgogne Rouge is sourced from one hectare of 41-52 yr-old vines in the lieu dit, 
    Petit Pré. Within the context of this most humble Burgundy appellation, Lafarge's example is the stuff I simply dream to drink on a nightly basis. It's highlighted by a purity and ethereal lift that's almost never realized at this level in Burgundy.

    Domaine Michel Lafarge was founded in the early 1800's, and today is managed by Michel, with his son Frédéric, and granddaughter Clothilde. The trio has seen dramatic trends sweep through Burgundy in their time. During the 1950's, vignerons started incorporating chemicals in the vineyard, but Lafarge never considered it. In the mid to late 80's when the practice of elevated extraction was rampant this domaine continued their own path founded on transparency. And then in 1995, Lafarge was one of the very first to begin biodynamic practices in the vineyard.

    Tradition can mean so many things in Burgundy, but the use of hand-destemming and reliance on nearly all older barrels for aging places the domaine in a very specific position.

    It may be unfair to jump in categorizing Volnay as feminine and ethereal, leading one to believe the wines lack the rigid structure required for serious aging. Michel Lafarge touched on this really eloquently in his terrific interview with Levi Dalton on I'll Drink to That! Wine Podcast:

    "It's difficult to achieve the silkiness in tannins, but in Volnay it's unacceptable to have hardness. It's the silkiness of the tannins that define the overriding definition of Volnay."

    Domaine Lafarge holds vineyards primarily in Volnay, with plots in Pommard, Beaune, and Meursault. All wines have a regal frame met with the translucent qualities that put terroir firmly in the crosshairs. Volnay may not have Grand Cru vineyards, but if given the opportunity to drink any Côte de Beaune reds, my first choice is always Volnay.

    Volnay Vendanges Sélectionnées comes from multiple parcels in the middle of Volnay adjacent to Premier Cru vineyards. 1.25 hectares of 50-yr-old vines. Aged in 7% new wood.

    Beaune 1er Cru Clos des Aigrots comes from a 0.88 hectare parcel of vines planted as far back as 1949. Soil here is limestone and clay, but with a mix of gravel and red clay.

    Beaune 1er Cru Grèves comes from a 0.38 hectare parcel of vines planted in 1951 on light gravel soils over limestone.

    Volnay 1er Cru Les Caillerets comes from a 0.28 hectare parcel planted in 1957 on red and brown clay soils over limestone. Aged in 15% new wood.

    Volnay 1er Cru Clos du Château des Ducs (Monopole) comes from a 0.57 hectare parcel planted as far back as 1946 on deep brown clay soils over limestone. This vineyard is owned exclusively by Lafarge and located next to their home garden. Aged in neutral oak.

    Volnay 1er Cru Clos des Chênes comes from a 0.9 hectare parcel planted as far back as 1951 on shallow red clay soils over limestone on the lower portion of the vineyard.
    Posted by Alexander Rosen
  • Russian River Block-by-Block:  Rochioli Back-Vintage Pinot Noir

    Russian River Block-by-Block: Rochioli Back-Vintage Pinot Noir

    There's no name in Russian River Valley Pinot Noir who's demanded more attention during the grape's rapid rise in popularity through the last decades like J. Rochioli.Today's offer includes limited quantities of Rochioli's best parcels spanning 2006 to 2009.

    As great as the demand was for Rochioli upon release, today's enthusiasm for these vintages has increased tenfold. The upfront pleasure these initially provided meant that very few have been left to age, and those that do become available are quickly snatched up by collectors. Many featured today are the only offers in the country.

    Rochioli Pinot Noir from this era marks an important shift at the winery where the power and extraction was dialed back, giving way to a more nuanced and energetic style. Although the micro-batch, non-interventionist approach draws inspiration from a Burgundian model, the wines are Russian River Valley through and through. The sun-kissed element of Pinot Noir from this section of Sonoma is the centerpiece of the wines. However, it was Rochioli that was a leader in the region's focus toward extreme site-specific winemaking. The unique alluvial and sandy "Yolo" loam soil along the Russian River gave an opportunity to vinify each parcel separately, offering wild distinctions between plots.

    Joe Rochioli Sr. settled on this land in 1934, originally planting Cabernet Sauvingon in 1959. His son, Joe Rochioli Jr., realized Pinot Noir was better suited and was a pioneer in bringing clones in from Burgundy in 1968. At this time very little was known in Sonoma about the grape. But, when Williams-Selyem began purchasing the fruit in the early 80's everything began to change, and the successes convinced the Rochioli family to begin to estate-bottle.

    Today, Rochioli is very much to Sonoma Pinot Noir what Mondavi is to Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Unfortunately, concerning availability, the scale of production has continued to be very small. Today's perfectly stored, back-vintage releases of their top parcels is a rare collection not to be missed!
    Posted by Alexander Rosen
  • Rheingau Redux:  J.B. Becker 1990 through 2015

    Rheingau Redux: J.B. Becker 1990 through 2015

    The Rheingau's unconventional and delicious wines of J.B. Becker are known well for his very late winery releases. Vintages offered below are 1990, 1996, and 2008. But, his 2015 collection of dry and dry-ish (halbtrocken) wines are equally as intriguing.

    Since 1971, Hajo Becker has been farming 11 hectares in the Rheingau. Certified organic since 2005, though Becker worked organically for decades. Native yeasts ferments and aging in massive 2,400-liter barrels. "Singular" is often the descriptor used for these mainly dry wines, and I cannot think of a better application of the word. These taste unlike any Riesling, or any wine you're likely to ever have. They are charming, supremely vibrant, and endlesssly thought-provoking.
    Posted by Alexander Rosen