• Côte de Beaune Cache:  Red Burgundies of Boisson-Vadot

    Côte de Beaune Cache: Red Burgundies of Boisson-Vadot

    Boisson-Vadot is largely a Chardonnay domaine, but today we focus on the more limited Pinot Noirs from father and son, Bernard and Pierre. Much like their Chardonnays, the reds are built upon precision and purity of fruit without artifice.Each of the three reds are crystal clear windows into respective terroir, and for this they offer excitement from first sip to last - the ultimate prize.

    Pierre and his father Bernard do not regularly host visitors, attend trade tastings, or travel to various markets. In fact, coaxing just a little bit of information out of Bernard on afternoons in Meursault was so difficult that I learned quickly to quiet down and just enjoy what was poured. But, without question, new oak influence is kept well below 30%. Fruit is de-stemmed and sees extremely modest levels of extraction. 

    The Monthelie has many of the qualities of its downslope neighbor in Volnay. This is the softest, most accessible, and charming of the trio. The fruit spectrum tends to be a little darker here and has supple tannins that make it, perhaps, the ideal introduction to the domaine's style.

    The Auxey Duresses Premier Cru, much like their white, showcases a chalky sense of minerality and wild floral elements thanks to these high elevation vines planted on porous soils. Of the four, this is the most agile, graceful, and feminine. 

    The Pommard, like at Lafarge, is a wildly different expression of the village that's more commonly known for dark earth and burly tannins. The whole picture is one that completely changes pre-conceived notions of this sturdy village, and here the top red of the house has a length of finish that belies its humble villages level designation.

    The Hautes-Côtes de Beaune, is a brand new cuvée from Pierre. It's a welcomed bottling that personifies the house style of high-toned cherry fruit and brings a value (and much greater availability) that makes it easy to go deep on. 

    The most rare wine in the lineup is the elusive Rosé of Pinot Noir.  Released quite a bit later than a typical rosé, this has the structure and chalky minerality that has demanded some time in bottle to soften. While rosé of Pinot Noir can be difficult to pull off in a compelling way, often seeming to lack the best virtues of the noble grape, Pierre's hits the nail on the head. Today's offering is the only in the U.S.
    Posted by Alexander Rosen
  • Priorat Re-Discovered:  Terroir Al Límit

    Priorat Re-Discovered: Terroir Al Límit

    My first visit after landing in Barcelona took me 2 hours northwest to the land of llicorella in Priorat. In many ways Priorat was the single region that pulled me to the Old World as a primarily California drinker as I was finishing college. The llicorella (black slate) of these high altitude vineyards, often resembling a lunar landscape, imparted colossal minerality and a full-throttle inky, black fruit quality that hypnotized me from first sip. While my palate has changed quite a lot since the early 2000's, it has been a huge surprise to see a winemaker here who, in tandem, changed the profile of Priorat. Dominik Huber's Terroir Al Límit shows a face of the region that diverges drastically from the norm, and constructs wines true to this slate foundation, except with a transparency and fresh streak that's altogether singular.

    Today, I'm happy to offer the four wines from Terroir Al Limit's 2014 release that opened the window for me to see Priorat's magic in a shimmering light.

    Terroir Al Límit's lineup is centered around Garnacha and Carinyena's explosive violet aromatics, met with wild strawberry and an array of blue fruit tones. The slate and clay soils that are so special to Priorat endow each wine with a deeply layered and saturating mineral punch that forms the cornerstone of all wines. But, alas, building trends over the 1990's have placed just about every winery of this region into a camp of high extraction and high oak influence that obscures an authentic sense of place. And, that's where Huber raced in stage left. 

    First and foremost, Dominik employs an organic and biodynamic approach. Given the arid climate, one would imagine this a popular regimen, but it's still incredibly rare. Secondly, infusion and semi-carbonic fermentations make Terroir Al Límit a completeoutlier. This whole cluster fermentation limits extraction and keeps the beastly tannins at bay a bit. His aging in Austria's Stockinger foudres is also an integral key to preserving the delineation and more filigreed expressions of terroir.

    When deciding which cuvées might appeal to you most, I'd like to really hammer home one point. Rarely have I visited a region where grape variety falls into the background behind terroir as much as in Priorat with Huber's style. Garnacha does best in more clay-dominant sites, and the wines show this more broad sensation on the palate, with arguably a touch more in the red fruit camp. Carinyena, alternatively, is best suited on pure llicorella and schist, where a more vertical and incisive personality forms, with a touch darker profile and scorched earth traits.  

    In the end, this is the one destination in Priorat that you must become familiar with if your palate has lead you to Burgundy and traditional Northern Rhône. Although the wines here would never be mistaken for the aforementioned, the clarity and poise found in glass is founded on similar principles. 

    Torroja Vi De La Vila is the "village" wine here, consisting of equal parts Garnacha and Carinyena from 50-75-yr-old vines. This is the sole wine of Terroir Al Límit that sees a blending of these two main varieties.

    Abrossar taps 90-yr-old Cariyena from a north-facing slope. This exposition was of little interest to many vignerons in times past, but with warming temperatures and Huber's insistence on freshness over power, this wine today is the model for Carinyena's prospects of levity and elegance.

    Les Manyes taps 50-yr-old Garnacha vines from clay-based soils. Broad and saturating with more red fruit tones and a long mineral-driven finish.

    Les Tosses (where Dominik and I are pictured above) is a steep and very high altitude Carinyena vineyard containing 90-yr-old vines. Along with Les Manyes, this is the magnum opus of Terroir Al Límit.

    * Decanting each wine for over 30 minutes prior to drinking is highly recommended.

    Today, finding myself so far removed from the powerhouse-styled wines that I gravitated towards a decade ago can leave me a bit melancholy at times, as that was such an exciting period in my growing interest in wine. But, landing on the sole domaine that harnesses all of those rare traits of Priorat in a more understated style that speaks to my palate today is simply thrilling. Sharing my passion is the goal everyday as I write these offers, and I cannot think of a better stop on the wine route to illustrate a region's promise in shifting a style as what Dominik has done with Terroir Al Límit.
    Posted by Alexander Rosen
  • Celler Pardas Blau Cru:  Malvasia's Diamond-Cut Debut

    Celler Pardas Blau Cru: Malvasia's Diamond-Cut Debut

    Penedès surely is most recognized as the birthplace of Cava, but this Spanish region on the Mediterranean is now the next exciting stop on a tour that's re-shaped my thinking on Spanish whites. Celler Pardas has been on a journey since 1996 to show the serious side of still wine from Penedés. Their Blau Cru, comprised of Malvasia de Sitges, captures Catalonia with a dry Riesling-like precision that absolutely floored me.At $29 per bottle, Blau Cru makes the continuing case for Spain's wine renaissance towards diamond-cut focused whites.

    Malvasia grows in many regions throughout Europe, each with a slightly different genetic makeup. Wherever it may be vinified the resulting wines commonly stand out for rich, oily texture and vivid floral qualities. In the upper Penedès, the limestone, 300 meter elevation, and influences from the Bitlles River bring a more straight-line focus to Malvasia that actually conjures Germany's Mosel in its precision.

    Malvasia has a textural weight that sits on another spectrum from Riesling, but at its root the Blau Cru from Celler Pardas is defined by the same elements. There's a seamless texture and crystalline quality to the yellow stone fruits that screams of mineral spring purity. It's a wine I kept coming back to again and again during a recent tasting, mesmerized each sip with this unusual juxtaposition. One between the oily, broad texture and the incisive, energetic cut that took my mind to the most pristine qualities I find in favorite dry Rieslings. 

    Ramon Parera (an oenologist) and Jordi Arnan (an agronomist) founded this estate in 1996, sure of themselves that there was another side of Penedès to passionately get behind. While sparkling wine of Cava may be the largest export, it's the organic farming focus of this duo that's leading the charge in the artisanal movement from this northern pocket of Catalonia. For anyone who loves the mineral-driven side to whites, but also the richer orchard fruits commonly found elsewhere, this is the wine that shows these two worlds can brilliantly collide into one.
    Posted by Alexander Rosen