Some of our most successful offers to date have come from late winery releases via Portugal and Spain. In all circumstances these are red wines. While wineries do age whites for late release, it's just not nearly as prevalent as with reds. Furthermore, drinking 25+yr-old whites can surely be a fascinating and even delicious exercise, but if I'm not at least enticed to finish an entire bottle, it's a hard pass for me.
Today, I'm very happy to offer the white that broke this mold, the 1991 Caves San João Poco do Lobo Arinto Branco for $63 per bottle, and discounted with special mixed 3-pack pricing including the 1994 Cabernet Sauvignon and 1996 Tinto (Baga).
In 2013 the Costa family, owners of Caves San João in Portugal, decided to open their cellars up and begin to release wines that have aged on site. Vintages ranged from 1959 to 2000. The dominant white variety in coastal Barraida is Arinto. In its youth Arinto has a sharp acidity that begs to be given time in bottle. Having these wines arrive directly to California this year from Caves San João is a fortune that simply does not exist today in the world of wine. Well, at least not at pricing that dips below $60 for a 28-yr-old white wine at its peak.
1991 was a particularly stellar year for Arinto in Portugal's coastal Barraida zone. Vines were planted in 1950 on a mix of limestone and clay that endows this high acid variety a serious sense of grace. To bring some flesh and texture the white Arinto grapes are partially fermented on their skins. And instead of aging in oak, this is exclusively aged in cement tanks, an important element as to why at 28 years old this white still carries a relatively pale hue and wicked amount of tension.
Using aged Viura of white Rioja is an adequate gauge for the general profile you should expect here. I'm hesitant to dive into the cornucopia of flavors, as this covers such a diverse range from citrus to stone fruit, fresh herbs to white flowers, and finishing with chalky minerality that veers more toward rounded earth tones as it's exposed to air. If this were a red I would heavily advise against decanting for aeration, but as a white I think this really begins to hit its stride after about 30 minutes in the decanter.
While these late winery release reds from Portugal have proved to be big hits with our customers, I'm very excited today to finally offer a white. One that doesn't just check the intrigue box, but also brings a delicious-factor that will pull you to the bottle's very last drop.
"One of the things that is so remarkable about Cathy Corison’s cabernets is how cool and classic they are in profile, hearkening back stylistically to the great Rutherford Bench wines made on the valley floor in the 1960s and 1970s, when so many other winemakers in Napa will tell you today that it is simply not possible in an era of global warming to make wines in that style anymore! "
- John Gilman, View from the Cellar (05/17)
When asked to name favorite Napa Cabernet Sauvignon my mind goes two places instantly: Cathy Corison in the valley and Philip Togni on the mountain. Not to take anything away from the brilliant wines produced elsewhere in Napa, but these two heroes simply sit at a different table as I see things. If Togni is famous for his rugged and dark fruit-inflected Spring Mountain wines, then Cathy Corison is the standard bearer for Napa's most restrained and finessed style.
Today, I'm happy to offer the newly released 2016 Corison Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.
The Corison Cabernets always strike me for their more ethereal style, but still just as defined by their concentrated black cherry, violets, cigar box, and graphite tones. The surprising feature in how these wines are characterized vs. Napa neighbors is they age beautifully despite being lauded for their "grace" and "elegance". Experiences tasting Cathy's wines back to her 1990 vintage (just last month) are great reminders of how well these age, still holding structure and fruit.
The Corison Napa Valley designate bottling is sourced from vineyards that span that Rutherford Bench. The Kronos Vineyard comes from Kathy's home winery in Saint Helena, old vines planted on that famed phylloxera resistant St. George rootstock. The Kronos bottling may not be dubbed "Cult California" like some of the behemoth "100-pointers", but it is still among the rarest and, as far as I'm concerned, one of the very greatest wines of America.
Terroir-driven Napa Cabernet has become a bit of a selling point over the last decade, but Cathy Corison has been on this path since she founded her winery in 1987. Or course, the real story of Corison began many years before. After graduating from UC Davis with a Masters degree in Enology, Cathy began working in 1978 at Freemark Abbey and then was the winemaker at Chappellet throughout the 80's. As stylistic tides shifted in Napa she was resolute in telling her own story, one emphasizing a sense of place without artifice. And so, Corison was born, sourcing grapes from the famed 7-mile long, 2-mile wide Rutherford bench, located just west of Highway 29.
New California Wine, as was appropriately dubbed by Jon Bonné in his excellent book, has brought to the forefront so many talented winemakers throughout the state who are working to express terroir through more minimal intervention and a scrupulous eye on balance. While so many exciting projects are coming from every corner of the state, Napa Valley as a region has been more tied to its recent history of bombastic wines than others. Today, there's no project more dynamic than what Massimo Di Costanzo is producing from the Cabernet Sauvignon grown in Coombville's Farella Vineyard.
I'm very happy to offer Di Costanzo's 2015 Farella Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon and 2016 "DI CO".
Di Costanzo's Cabernet Sauvignon captures everything that's so thrilling about the variety when coming at it from a very sensitive and thoughtful approach. It's at once dark and savory with smoke, graphite, and scorched earth notes reminiscent of the volcanic ash scattered throughout the vineyard. And, at the same time the wine is supremely elegant and speaks to Massimo's travels throughout the world working with the tannic variety and getting accustomed to taming its burly predisposition.
Coombsville is perhaps the coolest AVA within all of Napa, thanks to moderating influences from the nearby San Pablo Bay. Before launching his label Massimo spent years working with the Farella winery getting intimately familiar with the nuances of the red gravel-dominant vineyard.
Massimo's 2016 "DI CO" Cabernet Sauvignon comes from a shale and sandstone vineyard at the foothills of Mt. Veeder in Napa Valley. Only 270 cases produced.
After receiving his Enology and Viticulture degrees from UC Davis in 2002, Massimo worked with wineries in Tuscany (Tignanello), Stellenbosch, Mendoza, ending at Ovidand then Screaming Eagle in Napa working as the winemaker alongside Andy Erickson. Massimo's extensive familiarity with old-school Napa Valley has greatly shaped his approach to production. It's these wines from the 1960's and 1970's that are the ultimate inspiration for what's being achieved today from this epic Coombsville site.
Chateau Moulin de Tricot is the first place my mind goes when I think of Cabernet Sauvignon-dominant Bordeaux that has stuck to tradition and continues to offer sharp pricing. The Margaux estate personifies all of the grace and regal structure the commune has been associated with for centuries. From their small 5 hectares a second label, the Haut-Médoc, takes their strength in authenticity and value to the extreme.
Today, I'm happy to offer the 2015 Chateau Moulin de Tricot Haut-Médoc for $35 per bottle, with special pricing down to $32/btl on 4 or more.
At this price point there is no left bank Bordeaux I drink with more regularity or enthusiasm - Baby Margaux with Bourgogne Rouge pricing. And like those warm, even growing seasons in Burgundy where I highly recommend the most moderately priced wines, here too in 2015 I say going deep will reward many years of enjoyment.
I love Bordeaux. And particularly the Cabernet Sauvignon-dominant examples regularly found on the left bank. The gravel here is suited to the variety, just as on the right bank of the Gironde the clay soils fit better with Merlot. The sad state of affairs is that Merlot plantings in these left bank gravel vineyards has been increasing steadily over decades in order to provide more soft-fruited wines that capitulate to a global palate.
Chateau Moulin de Tricot has stuck with tradition and is a rarity in Margaux as they still have 75% of their vineyards planted to Cabernet Sauvignon. They also have unusually dense vine spacing with 9,500 vines per hectare, providing naturally concentrated yields. The Haut-Médoc is aged in small one-year-old Bordeaux barrels, giving the oxygen exchange needed to soften structure while limiting any ostentatious oak flavors.
I've always had an aha moment each time I've tasted the Haut-Médoc bottling from Moulin de Tricot, but 2015 was something different. The vintage has simply elevated each component of this wine. Margaux has often been called the "Iron Fist in the Velvet Glove", explaining the balance between grace and dead-serious regal structure.
In this exceptional Bordeaux vintage this moniker is even more suited to their Baby Margaux. The dark fruit intensity, graphite and cigar box notes, and long finish is something extra-ordinary. Very special pricing has been included to make this the easiest call as we lead into Thanksgiving.
Today's magnum-only offer is a first. But, I cannot think of a wine better suited to the format than Enfield Wine Co's 2015 Haynes Vineyard Chardonnay. While 750ml's disappeared in a flash, I made sure to go deep on magnums of this personal favorite, from the growing legend that is, John Lockwood.
When John Lockwood's 2015 Haynes Vineyard Chardonnay floored me, his initial reaction was to point to a "perfect storm" of growing conditions. Knowing John, this modesty is key to the success in all his wines. But actually, it's his relentless curiosity and ever-questioning approach that's responsible for one of the greatest wines from California I've yet to drink.
Sommeliers have blinded it as Pierre Yves Colin-Morey. Descriptors like laser-focused and weightless flood the mind when tasting. Lockwood has produced some terrific wines, but for me the 2015 Haynes Chardonnay is his most thrilling achievement to date. This month, Eric Asimov of the New York Times gave us a close look into Lockwood's steady rise in becoming a household name in the wine world.
Today, I'm happy to offer John's 2015 Enfield Wine Co. Haynes Vineyard Chardonnay 1.5L for $100 per bottle. Also featured is a wide range of additional wines from Lockwood.
John and I met while working at Failla Wines in 2011. From a solar-powered cabin on the extreme Sonoma Coast, four of us in total organically-farmed the Failla Estate Vineyard, home to Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Syrah. In retrospect, taking the leap to that plot of vines was perhaps the single most important professional choice I've made.
Getting to know John in tight quarters and amongst vine rows was a never-ending exploration into all things wine. Early mornings, late nights, the discussions never ceased. It was clear immediately that his thirst for discovery would be the root of all accomplishments to come. It was that summer of 2011 that John bottled his very first wine for his Enfield Wine Co. label, from Haynes Vineyard.
Haynes, located in Napa's coolest AVA Coombsville, is home to a special parcel of 51-yr-old Chardonnay vines. These same vines were the source of John Kongsgaard's early work with the seminal Newton "Unfiltered" Chardonnay of the 70's. Lockwood had sourced from Haynes since 2010, but it wasn't until 2015 that he was given the opportunity to work with this prized, old vine parcel.
The magic of these old vines isn't just in the obvious concentration, but rather it's a story of soil. Haynes is famous for a very high pH powdery white volcanic ash subsoil, endowing wines with wild levels of acidity that are rare to find in this region where ripeness is never too shy. The younger vines John had previously worked with here had shallower root systems that only tapped into the alluvial gravel topsoil. When the change was made to the old vine parcel in 2015 the real magic of this fascinating subsoil came to fruition in bottle.
The 2015 growing season saw a heat spike toward the end where sugars rapidly rose, outpacing the expected drop in natural acidity. Lockwood was given substantially ripe Chardonnay with wildly high acidity levels - an easy comparison would be 2010 in the Mosel. The wine was gently and directly-pressed to avoid any unwanted phenolic character. And the wine was aged in large 500L neutral French oak barrels and did not see sulphur until after 1 year in barrel.
For me, finding white wines in California that are built upon their focus and agility is the ultimate rarity. There's a head-spinning level of refinement and incisiveness to this wine that will appeal to every single white Burgundy lover. There are no bones thrown when it comes to selections for the shop. I buy what I love to drink, it's that simple.
And, I'm so confident this wine will appeal to lovers of finely-tuned styled white Burgundy and Chenin Blanc that I will give a full credit to the shop for anyone who isn't pleased with what they find in their glass. That's a guarantee.