Rinaldi is a revered traditionalist following family techniques used since the early and mid-1900s. With long macerations on the skins aging in large botti, the results are powerfully deep Baroli met with precision and aromatics that make them incomparable. They offer wild spices, gamey notes, and of course, Nebbiolo's tell-tale tar and roses.The Giuseppe Rinaldi wines first appeared in 1921, though, it was during Beppe's lifetime that the world's attention turned toward Piedmont—Beppe's spirit is more immortalized than the legendary wines he produced. Sadly, he passed away in 2018, but he had several years to see his daughters, Marta and Carlotta, continue to raise the bar.
I visited the Rinaldi cantina just before harvest in 2012. It was nothing short of a privilege to meet the Rinaldi family and taste the wines, including the monumental 2010s still in botti. Finding back-vintage wines is not a common occurrence today, and I was thrilled to work with Rinaldi's US importer, Vinifera Imports, to acquire several older wines directly from the Rinaldi estate.
Situated between Pomerol and Saint Emilion on the second-highest point along the Gironde estuary, Chateau Le Puy is a Bordeaux estate rooted in sensibilities more commonly found in Burgundy. The wines' finesse, dead-serious focus, and drinkability are worlds apart from the stylistic norm.
These vines have been farmed free of chemicals since 1610, and today full biodynamic practices are employed, with work done by horse. The estate's plantings include 85% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc, 6% Cabernet Sauvignon, and small percentages of Malbec and Carménère on an amalgamation of red clay, silex, and limestone soils.
In addition to working the vines organically and biodynamically, their fermentation and élevage methods are considered uncommon. Infusion and semi-carbonic methods limit the extraction of hard tannins and retain more primary fruit traits, providing soft texture with bright, open-knit fruit out of the gate. And aging in large foudre preserves all of that verve carried into bottle.
Some of our most successful offers to date have been late-winery releases from Portugal and Spain. Our two mainstays are Caves São João in Bairrada, Portugal, as well as Lopez de Heredia in Rioja, Spain. Past offers have highlighted the Poço do Lobo Branco (White) wines, but we’re returning to their tried and true Tinto (Red) wines, with vintages going back to 1983.
Caves São João was established by the Costa brothers in 1920. Today, their family also produces wines under the Porta dos Cavaleiros, Poço do Lobo, and Frei João labels. In their devotion to producing traditional Portuguese wines, these wines fell out of the limelight in the 1990s during the Robert Parker era, but freshness and finesse are in again! Bairrada is a formidably wet, cool region in the dead center of Portugal. The soil is clay and limestone, and the main red grape variety, Baga, produces small berries with thick skins. Incredibly tannic and acid-driven in their youth, these wines blossom to reveal profound finesse and complexity in due time.
Luckily, we don’t have to go through the hassle of cellaring these wines for decades. In 2013, the Costa family opened their cellars and released wines aged on-site from the 1959 to 2000 vintages. No oak is used—all of the wines age in cement tanks for a minimum of 24 months to retain their freshness. Having these aged wines arrive directly in California is a fortune that rarely happens. In fact, Caves San João is the only winery in Portugal (and one of the few in the world) to do this commercially.
Note: We advise against decanting the red wines, but the white begins to hit its stride after about 30 minutes in a decanter.
Santa Barbara's cool-climate wines have growingly become one of my obsessions. For me, the most integral name in the array of labels is Sashi Moorman. His Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Gamay are among my favorites, but his first label, Piedrasassi, offers downright delicious and complex reflections of Syrah.
Piedrasassi harnesses savory, bright, and superior aromatics while never shying away from the innately luscious qualities that define California Syrah. They nail the roasted meat, violet, and black pepper trifecta at each price point. The P.S. bottling, sourced from a handful of Piedrasassi's single vineyards, is the perfect introduction to their philosophy on cool-climate Syrah, and the vineyard-designate bottlings best exemplify how these wines continually develop in bottle over many years.
Sashi vinifies and ages as naturally as possible, excluding sulfur at fermentation and only utilizing native yeasts. Whole cluster inclusion and aging in larger 500-liter barrels ensure the lively, crushed rock virtues that make Northern Rhone Syrah so unique aren't lost here in Santa Barbara.
Cru Beaujolais has been a cornerstone of our selection from the start. While Foillard, Métras, Lapierre, and Dutraive represent the foundation for the greatest value reds in France, the younger generation is now clearly making its mark. Yann may be separated from the aforementioned because of age, but when you line up his wines, it's crystal clear these are commanding interpretations of terroir.
Yann grew up in Fleurie, but after studying commerce in school and traveling through the Alps, he never expected to circle back to become its generation's brightest talent. He found himself working in a wine shop, and surrounded by passionate people, the flames of curiosity were stoked. He spent time working under perhaps the region's most revered names: Yvon Métras and Jean Foillard. Like them, Yann knew that organic farming and traditional methods in the cellar would be his path forward.
In 1992, Yann's family purchased vineyards and slowly converted them to organic farming. Yann took a more active role in leading the domaine in 2013, and he began applying what he had soaked up from his apprenticeships. Similarly, Yann's style is one of elegance, silken texture, and laser focus, expressing each unique terroir in the Famille Bertrand stable.