• Willamette Valley Apogee:  2016 Lingua Franca Mimi's Mind

    Willamette Valley Apogee: 2016 Lingua Franca Mimi's Mind

    For years there was building buzz about Dominique Lafon's new collaboration with Larry Stone in the Eola-Amity Hills. That buzz reached a crescendo when the first vintage was released, and today the wines of Lingua Franca stand as among the very best Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays in the New World. 

    Today, I'm happy to offer the top Pinot Noir from Lingua Franca, the 2016 Mimi's Mind, sourced from Mimi Castell's iconic vineyard of heritage Pommard vines in the Eola-Amity-Hills.

    Like all of the Pinot Noir from Lingua Franca, Mimi's Mind is all about forward, pristine red cherry fruits with great lift and dead-serious definition. It may sound trite, but the balance in Mimi's Mind is again sole reason Lingua Franca has skyrocketed to prominence in such a short period of time. These are just perfectly composed Pinot Noirs of grace, and Mimi's Mind is where the grandeur of all the elements reach its apogee.

    Originally, I sat down a few years ago with Larry in La Jolla and tasted through the inaugural release from his winery, Lingua Franca. And since that time I've made two visits to his state-of-the-art winery in the Eola-Amity Hills. Tasting through the 2017's in barrel made clear this project is continuing to raise the bar.

    Larry and Dominque had become very familiar with the Eola-Amity Hills working previously with the Seven Springs Vineyard, and in the end, Larry planted vines and built his winery right next door. Though their admiration of Oregon terroir throughout Willamette Valley was very high, both found a magic combination here where the entire picture of the wines maintained sharp focus. This was the sweet spot where minerality met ripe texture and the results personified that elusive Burgundian sensibility: Elegance and impact, without the compromise of terroir.

    As consulting winemaker, Dominique Lafon of Comtes Lafon in Meursault, has a style that highlights silky fruit and seamless texture. His Volnay and Meursault wines are among the most collected in the world, and early on Larry Stone was a huge force introducing these to America. Larry was the 9th American to become a Master Sommelier and became the very first to win the Best International Sommelier in his competition in Paris. Working with Charlie Trotter's in Chicago and then the iconicRubicon restaurant in San Francisco Larry's work to cultivate the following of Burgundy in the US cannot be overstated. 

    The Jory and volcanic soils in Eola-Amity proved to be the ideal landing for this joint venture. And recruited from Burgundy was their winemaker, Thomas Savre, whose work in the cellars of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti brought a skilled and meticulous eye into the fold. Lingua Franca is one of the most exciting new estates I've been introduced to. The overall balance and purity of fruit to each of the cuvées ultimately reflect their place. The legendary names that built this winery from the ground up have surpassed even the highest expectations placed upon them.
    Posted by Alexander Rosen
  • California's Old Vine Jewel:  Turley Wine Cellars

    California's Old Vine Jewel: Turley Wine Cellars

    At first glance, our deep collection of Turley wines may seem like an outlier in our Old World-focused collection. The reason I go deep on these prized wines from America's oldest vineyards extends far beyond their historical significance. Turley personifies the best of American wines today, never shying away from ripeness if it's to the detriment of terroir expression. While the collection of Zinfandel and Petite Syrah has a hedonistic side, they are balanced, precisely detailed, and always supported by fresh acidity. Turley is simply the gold standard.

    Today, I'm happy to offer a wide range of Turley's best, from their more recent Napa Valley Estate Cabernet Sauvignon through their wide range of Zinfandels.

    Turley defines American viticulture today perhaps more completely than any estate. Working with over 50 vineyards they apply organic principles and rely only on native yeasts for fermentation. Head winemaker, Tegan Passalacqua (of Sandlands) is rightfully respected for his work in the cellar as much as for his encyclopedic knowledge of California's diversity of old vineyards throughout the state. 

    While Zinfandel and Petite Syrah inherently push towards higher ripeness, their thoughtful approach with vines from Paso Robles to Napa Valley is to preserve acidity and manage tannins. If there's a hallmark for me here it's a lacy and polished texture endowed with incredible concentration. Each cuvée is crafted free of reliance on excessive new oak, additives, or manipulation in the cellar. These are ultimate wines of terroir, epitomizing the best of California's viticulture heritage.

    When serious BBQ is at hand, Turley's reds are among the first I reach for. Their vibrant, fruit-forward, and deeply nuanced traits lend themselves perfectly for the wide range of grilled meats and marinades. A bottle of 2001 Hayne Vineyard Petite Syrah opened on Valentine's Day was a great reminder that these are wines for the record books, and the pure joy they give even after a decade in bottle is evidence of their greatness. 

    California Old Vines Zinfandel is the first place to turn for introduction to the skill and brilliance from Turley. This special cuvée is a collection of vines up to 129-yrs-old from various organically-farmed vineyards in Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino, Lodi, Contra Costa, Amador and Paso Robles. At $49 per bottle, this is the benchmark for California Zinfandel. 

    The Estate Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is comprised on 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, a rarity in these parts. Sourced from vines planted on the eastern portion of the Turley's home and winery in northern Saint Helena. Honest, estate-farmed Napa Valley Cabernet with a palatable price tag is hard to come by. This is the first place I turn.

    Mead Ranch is planted to Zinfandel at 1,600 ft. atop Atlas Peak on red volcanic soils in Napa Valley's east side. Vines were first planted here in 1880. A great example of how sun-soaked, west-facing vineyards in the valley can still retain great brightness and acidity.

    Hayne Vineyard was planted in 1953 on gravelly loam soils on the west side of Saint Helena. Head-trained vines have always been dry-farmed. If there is one stretch of Napa Valley that may be considered Grand Cru territory, this is it. Among California Petite Syrah vineyards, there is Hayne, and then there is everyone else.

    Kirschenmann is located in Lodi's Mokelumne River AVA and owned by winemakerTegan Passalacqua. These vines were planted in 1915 on silica-rich sandy soils. The real excitement about this newer site for both Turley and Sandlands is the magic of these old vines coming from a special pocket of Lodi that sees great moderation of heat from the cool waters of the river and delta breezes. 

    "I tasted a mind-bending range of superb wines during my most recent visit to Turley. If I had to make a list of my 2017 highlights, this tasting would surely rank at or near the top. The 2016's are aromatically deep, bright, and super-expressive with regards to site...Prices remain exceedingly fair given the quality of what is in the bottle."
    - Antonio Galloni of Vinous (03/18)
    Posted by Alexander Rosen