Arriving at Stella di Campalto was a curious moment. As I stepped out of the car and felt the intense blast of heat something didn’t seem quite right. We’re in the middle of a very extended heat wave here in Tuscany, but I had just left the north side of Montalcino where the weather had been substantially cooler. How was it that I was about to enter the home of arguably the most featherweight and famously dubbed “Burgundian” estate in all of Montalcino? But as all things go with Stella di Campalto, this is a winery where since inception conventions have been broken.
Today, I'm very happy to offer the 2010 Stella di Campalto Brunello di Montalcino Riserva, both in 750ml and 1.5L formats, as well as the 2012 Rosso di Montalcino(100% de-classified Brunello di Montalcino). Today's offer is also the only in the entire country for each wine.
The moment you taste a Stella di Campalto wine you realize these defy any preconceived notions you may have of the rich Sangiovese Grosso varietal in Montalcino. I learned there are many keys to the surprisingly fine and lifted personality of Stella’s wines. Many of these parcels contain high concentrations of sand and white quartz, and strong breezes come from down from the Mount Amiata, a former volcano. A river in very close proximity to the estate also plays a role especially helping temperatures dip quite low at night, preserving the much needed acidity.
We tasted parcel by parcel (a rare opportunity) and could see how these elements from various soils worked together to create the grand image of this tiny estate. Some showed high toned with white pepper spice, and others darker and more savory. But, each had a common thread of weightlessness and a beautiful sense of agility.
The very young Stella had been living in Milan with her family and began to fall in love with traditional wines. Serendipitously, she was gifted by her father-in-law an un-planted property on the southern side of Montalcino. After exploring the rundown former farmhouse, and finding the quiet setting very comfortable, she made the move to plant vines. Her heart was adamant about 100% Sangiovese and farming the land with organic and biodynamic principles - now certified.
The birth of Podere San Giuseppe Stella di Campalto dates back to 1910 when Giuseppe Martelli had a sharecropping estate. It was abandoned in 1940 and then acquired by Stella’s family in 1992. Today, 6 parcels of vines comprise these 6.7 hectares, each being fermented on its own prior to blending.
Fermentations are in old open top wood casks, with 45-minute pumpovers 4 times per day, surely an element to the soft tannins. The wines follow traditional methods of long, slow ferments (30+ days) and are aged in botti with a very small addition of old barrique.
I’ve never come across another Brunello which showed so well each time it was poured, no matter the vintage, no matter weather decanted or popped-and-poured. To me, this is always the true sign of a great producer.
The wines are unfortunately made is very small quantities, and allocations are usually counted in bottles, not cases. I’m always working to acquire more even with the challenges due to quantity, but after this visit my determination had a new sense of rejuvenation. Again, today's three bottlings are the only offered in the U.S.
I'm going to keep this one very brief today. Outside of 1854-planted Mission vines, no wine is more American than old vine Zinfandel. And no winery's work with the variety has a better track record of aging than Ridge Vineyards' Geyserville & Lytton Springs cuvées.
Today, I'm very happy to offer a deep range of back-vintages from both revered sites. Quantities are very limited and wines are not available online.Please give me your desired order and I will do my best to accommodate.
Current release Ridge Geyserville & Lytton Springs are staples at my Thanksgiving table each year, but I have not been lucky enough to open an aged example alongside the turkey. Though, I've already made my personal selection from below for my trip back home to Maryland for this year's festivities.
As a descriptor, "Burgundian" has its advocates and detractors. I've always felt comfortable using it for certain traits I find in wines. But, there's no place the word gets tossed around more freely (or appropriately) than when I'm in Beaune hanging out with friends and being introduced to new wines. It was during France's World Cup semifinal match televised outside at Bar du Square in Beaune where the greatest revelation of my month in France came to fruition.
Today, I'm happy to offer the 2016 Domaine Gallety Côte du Vivarais Rouge for $26 per bottle, and down to $23.83 on 6 bottles or more.
A long time winemaker friend named Felix from Rully suggested Domaine Gallety as we ordered plates of charcuterie, cheese, and the most delicious tarte flambée of the trip. Gallety is a 50/50 Rhone blend of Grenache and Syrah from a high altitude setting within the northern section of the greater Southern Rhone Valley. I was surprised the proud Burgundian wanted to order a Rhone wine. He was surprised I had no idea who Domaine Gallety was. Kermit Lynch had been importing them into the US unbeknownst to me for a short time.
As the bottle was brought to the picnic table heads turned toward Felix with a showering of approval. THIS was the kind of Southern Rhone wine that belonged at a table in Beaune. Now, "Wines of Place" is the foundation for my selections, in that wines taste like they can only have been born of one place, not many. What does Gallety taste like? Well, everything you can expect from the specifics of THIS place.The higher altitude setting in this northern part of the region endows Grenache with a more fresh strawberry note vs. the more jammy side of things found further south. The Syrah brings a more savory side of the purple hued fruits and adds in some black pepper, violets, and roasted meat elements. In the end, the flavor profile matches the setting as if you had conjured the experience in your mind before first sip.
Onto "Burgundian": Gallety is situated in the Côtes du Vivarais, which was officially awarded A.O.C. status in 1999. As compared to the more recognized Côtes du Rhone appellation located across the river, Vivarais sits on the west and sees a cooler and much longer growing season. Without the afternoon exposure to direct sun and its heat, the wines here always maintain a lighter and more elegant, mineral-driven sensibility as compared to their neighbors on the other bank of the river. With the 50/50 blend and the central location, Gallety's rouge fits a perfect middle ground between the styles of the southern (Grenache-dominant) and northern rhone valley (100% Syrah).
More on "Burgundian": Alain Gallety and his son David-Alexandre are avid travelers, constantly visiting domaines throughout the county to learn and apply techniques to refine their work each year. Organic viticulture was adopted in the early 80's (rare for these parts), and top-loading gravity-fed tanks were installed to ensure freshness and integrity of fruit would be the cornerstone of the house style. The Gallety's also use Burgundian barrels for aging (another rarity here) as they believe the element of finesse they deliver is perfectly suited to this rocky limestone and clay terroir. Here, the very most rocky parcels have been selected for plantings - so rocky that they are only able to be worked by a draft horse.
As Thanksgiving is approaching I always find Rhone wines to be a perfect fit. But truth be told, my palate has shifted dramatically over the last 15 years from the inky, bombastic, melted licorice tone toward the more graceful, understated, and terroir-driven realm. At going down under $24 per bottle, there's no wine from the Southern Rhone I can recommend with more enthusiasm today than Domaine Gallety.