• Nebbiolo with Wings: Antoniolo Gattinara Osso San Grato

    Nebbiolo with Wings: Antoniolo Gattinara Osso San Grato

    High in the hills above Barolo and Barbaresco Alberto and Lorella Antoniolo have captured the grace and wisp of Nebbiolo in the most shimmering way. We clearly have a love affair with Piedmont, but highlighting just how intricate and dynamic Lorella's Osso San Grato is deserves a spotlight unto itself.

    Gattinara sits on volcanic rock, as opposed to the limestone and clay soils of Barolo and Barbaresco an hours drive south. The best vineyards that produce the most elegant wines here prominently have a white, dusty and sandy soil above the mother rock. Although, generally cooler than its southern neighbors, the temperature swings between hot and cold are very drastic in Gattinara. Coupled with the very low ph soils, Nebbiolo here customarily has a lighter hue, but still with the immense structure that allows the wines to age for decades with ease.

    The Antoniolo's were the first in Gattinara to bottle single cru wines back in 1948.
    The Osso San Grato vineyard was planted in 1940 on these famed white, dusty sand topsoils. Although grapes like Bonarda and Vespolina are legally permitted to blend with Nebbiolo to soften the edges and plump up the fruit profile, Lorella's family has always vinified 100% Nebbiolo for this special cuvée. The prime terroir allows this Nebbiolo to flaunt a wild array of flowers, mint, sage, leather, with high toned cherry and wild strawberry notes. 

    Antonio Galloni of Vinous has thoughts on the 2010 that bear repeating, 

    "A wine of exquisite beauty, the 2010 has all the qualities that make Nebbiolo such a temptress; seductive aromatics, finely sculpted fruit and a finish that lasts forever...Quite simply, the 2010 Osso San Grato is a reference-point wine for Nebbiolo, Gattinara, Piedmont and Italy."

    We aren't shy about our feelings regarding the heights achieved by the more ethereal and classically proportioned wines of the world. The Osso San Grato is surely part of that select list.


    2009 Antoniolo Gattinara Osso San Grato
    $72 per bottle.

    2010 Antoniolo Gattinara Osso San Grato
    $80 per bottle.
    Posted by Max Kogod
  • The Best of Languedoc Reds!

    The Best of Languedoc Reds!

    France's southwest Languedoc has always been known for its warm Mediterranean climate, diversity of soil, and unmatched value. Vines were originally planted here in 125 BC by the Romans, and the ease at which the vines took to the land made them an immediate success throughout the empire. Today, the region has an abundance of 100-year-old + plantings of Grenache, Syrah, Carignan, and Mourèdre. The dry and favorable climate allows organic viticulture to strive. The trick is finding producers that hit that sweet spot between ripe, luscious fruit and fascinatingly mineral-tinged wines with a serious component of freshness. These are the benchmark producers of the region that deliver the goods. Don't let their modest prices lead you to believe these aren't incredibly serious and age-worthy wines. Each of these represent the best of their respective appellations, and all are found on top Michelin restaurants throughout the US and abroad. With fireplaces roaring these are the best choices to pair alongside your roasts tonight.

    Perhaps nobody exemplifies the pride and tradition of the Languedoc as much as Mas de Daumas Gassac. Located in the Hérault, the domaine was established in 1970 when Véronique and Aimé Guibert came across an abandoned farmhouse owned by the Daumas family along the Gasasc river. The underground cold water springs and surrounding mountains created a relatively humid microclimate that mirrored Bordeaux's Médoc. This combination led to the planting of Cabernet Sauvignon on limestone-dominant soils. Un-cloned cuttings from the top chateau of Bordeaux were planted here with the intention of giving top level quality rather than the more common priority in the region towards top level yields.

    The near-perfect 2010 vintage is a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6.2% Cabernet Franc, 5.3% Merlot, 3.6% Pinot noir, 3.2% Tannat, 2% Malbec, and 9.7% "rare grape varieties". It comes in at a cool 13.4% alcohol thanks to its unique location within Hérault and influences by the Gassac river and underground cold springs. Full of dark, savory spices, espresso notes, dark chocolate, and brambly blackberries. 

    Perhaps nobody exemplifies the pride and tradition of the Languedoc as much as Mas de Daumas Gassac. Located in the Hérault, the domaine was established in 1970 when Véronique and Aimé Guibert came across an abandoned farmhouse owned by the Daumas family along the Gasasc river. The underground cold water springs and surrounding mountains created a relatively humid microclimate that mirrored Bordeaux's Médoc. This combination led to the planting of Cabernet Sauvignon on limestone-dominant soils. Un-cloned cuttings from the top chateau of Bordeaux were planted here with the intention of giving top level quality rather than the more common priority in the region towards top level yields.

    The near-perfect 2010 vintage is a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6.2% Cabernet Franc, 5.3% Merlot, 3.6% Pinot noir, 3.2% Tannat, 2% Malbec, and 9.7% "rare grape varieties". It comes in at a cool 13.4% alcohol thanks to its unique location within Hérault and influences by the Gassac river and underground cold springs. Full of dark, savory spices, espresso notes, dark chocolate, and brambly blackberries. 

    2010 Mas de Daumas Gassac Hérault Rouge
    $49 per bottle.

    1988 Mas de Daumas Gassac Hérault Rouge
    $159 per bottle.

    1989 Mas de Daumas Gassac Hérault Rouge
    $169 per bottle.

    1990 Mas de Daumas Gassac Hérault Rouge
    $179 per bottle.

    Maxime Magnon was born a Burgundian, but without any family vineyard holdings. He worked alongside Jean Foillard of Morgon, where he learned the ultimate hands-off approach to natural viticulture and winemaking. He chose to settle in Corbières and purchased nine parcels over eleven hectares very high in the hills. He was certain that in order to craft intensely aromatic and wildly unique wines he would need to find that ideal spot with great elevation and very old vine plantings.

    Maxime employs organic and biodynamic farming, vinifies without sulphur, and uses a high portion of whole clusters in fermentation. He carefully sources Burgundian barrels from Chassagne-Montrachet. His wines are wild in a way that is rare for the Languedoc. They are very high toned and delicate, while still incredibly concentrated and intense. There's a liveliness on the palate that absolutely calls to mind those peerless wines of Jean Foillard.

    2014 Maxime Magnon Corbières Rozeta
    $34 per bottle.

    Rozeta comes from a combination of parcels on incredibly rocky limestone and schist soils with almost no topsoil. Mainly Carignan supplemented with Grenache Gris, Macabou, and Terret, which are all picked and fermented together.

    2015 Maxime Magnon Corbières Campagnès
    $47 per bottle.

    Campagnès comes from 100+ year-old Cariganan vines from a single vineyard of limestone and clay. This is the top wine of the estate and the most age-worthy.

    In 1985, upon receiving his degree in viticulture and oenology, Olivier Jullien returned home to find an underwhelming state of wine production in the Languedoc. Heavy crop loads and commercial farming had led to wines that had no signature of place or authenticity. He began revitalizing his family's vineyards, and purchasing choice parcels in the surrounding hillsides. No longer were his family's grapes sold to the local cooperative. Olivier, at just 20 years old, would vinify and age his family's wines with a sense of purpose in highlighting the best his appellation, Terrasses du Larzac, has to offer.

    At 3,000 foot elevation and 25 miles north of the Mediterranean, this personifies the more elegant and aromatic side of what the Langeudoc is all about. The soils are a total amalgamation between Olivier's parcels with limestone, clay, schist (decomposed granite), and gravel being dominant in each unique parcel.

    The blend of Carignan, Syrah, and Mourvèdre all work to provide complementary pieces. The Carignan for freshness. Syrah for inky color and body. Mourvèdre for its structure. Partial whole cluster fermentation is used to add spice and freshness, and large barrels are used for aging to preserve tension. Bright cherry, red plums, violets, and sweet brown spices all meld together with perfect harmony here.

    2010 Mas Jullien Terrasses du Larzac Rouge
    $48 per bottle

    Posted by Max Kogod
  • Ultimate Precision from the Côte de Beaune: Vincent Dancer

    Ultimate Precision from the Côte de Beaune: Vincent Dancer

    On a frigid April morning in 2012 I visited with a newer producer for me. There were lots of rumblings about what Vincent Dancer was doing in Chassagne-Montrachet and Meursault. Some had spoken about his radical approach, others simply noted that his Chardonnay from his grand vineyards were a departure from what his neighbors had been producing for generations. After meeting and tasting with the humble, and somewhat shy Dancer, it became clear as day that this was the domaine I would have a laser-focus on going forward. My plans to open my shop were still years ahead, but I began collecting Dancer's wines for myself immediately.

    Vincent came from Alsace and quietly grew his estate in Chassagne-Montrachet into five hectares of vines. He became the very first vigneron in the fabled village of Chassagne to become certified organic. Slowly his wines began to show up onMichelin star restaurants throughout France. The accolades began to follow:

    “The highly gifted perfectionist, Vincent Dancer, incarnates the new generation of young, dynamic wine growers.”  -La Revue du Vin de France

    Dancer's style is one that looks to tell the story of vineyard and vintage without any background noise. There are no labratory yeasts, enzymes, acid adjustments, fining, or filtering. Battonage (stirring of the lees in barrel), a practice widely used in Chassagne to give weight, texture, and creaminess to wines in not utilized here. This is the ultimate hands-off approach to natural winemaking.

    Dancer's wines jump out initially for their intensity of bright, perfectly ripe fruit. The precision of each cuvée is finely woven and there's a tremendous difference between each of his bottlings. His style is most closely connected with Pierre Yves Colin-Morey, but yields are kept lower by Dancer and the wines showcase more concentration and power. And that is the secret to what makes these wines so marvelous. They walk that ultimate high wire of lean, defined structure with a huge depth of flavor intensity and concentration.

    I've been assembling this relatively large collection of wines from Vincent for some time now. The 2014 vintage marks the first time these have been widely imported to the United States, and I jumped on them.

    2014 is clearly shaping up to be one of the greatest white Burgundy vintages over the last several decades. The hallmark was thick skins with a tremendous amount of extract met with bright acidity that provided a once-in-a-decade like balance. It reminds me quite a lot of the 2015 vintage throughout Gemany. The wines are not short on power, and they are filled with a rocky core of minerality with all the buffering needed to signify a near perfect vintage.

    2014 Vincent Dancer Bourgogne Blanc 
    $39

    2014 Vincent Dancer Meursault Les Corbins
    $59
    From the northern end of the village where richer and more textural Chardonnays are common, this shows a rare combination of saturating texture with a firm mineral spine.

    2014 Vincent Dancer Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Tête du Clos
    $104
    From a special walled-in-parcel located in the 1er Cru Morgeot vineyard. Crystalline, full of verve. Considered to be a Grand Cru level parcel within Morgeot.


    2014 Vincent Dancer Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru La Romanée
    $109
    The richest of the Chassagne wines here. Located next to the famed Grandes Ruchottes vineyard.

    2014 Vincent Dancer Meursault 1er Cru Perrières
    $199
    The greatest vineyard of Meursault. With air notes of hazelnuts, meyer lemon, and cream. All in a Grand Cru-level chiseled frame. The ultimate combination of power and finesse!

    Back-Vintage Gems:

    2013 Vincent Dancer Meursault 1er Cru Perrières
    $187

    2012 Vincent Dancer Meursault 1er Cru Perrières
    $224

    2007 Vincent Dancer Meursault 1er Cru Perrières
    $229

    2012 Vincent Dancer Bourgogne Blanc
    $47

    2004 Vincent Dancer Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Tête du Clos
    $149

    Posted by Max Kogod
  • Alpine Stars: The Best Reds from the Foot of the Alps

    Alpine Stars: The Best Reds from the Foot of the Alps

    Whenever the depth of winter creeps its way in I find myself reaching for a smaller and smaller group of red wines. Where Burgundy, Loire, Rhone, Piedmont, and Tuscany are mainstays throughout the fall there comes a time about now when I start craving something wild, different, and immensely soothing. The alpine vineyards in France and Italy just south of Switzerland are the place I continually turn, and they continually deliver exactly what I'm looking for. These moments are frustrating in the sense that each of these three producers should have their wines opened with regularity 12 months a year. However, it's now that we need to take a close look at the best of what the vineyards at the base of the Alps have to offer.

    Like her family before her, Elisabetta Foradori focuses primarily on Teroldego, the indigenous red grape grown at the base of the Dolomite mountains in northeast Italy. The decision she made to shift from industrial farming to an organic and biodynamic model in 2000 elevated her family's estate onto the world's stage.
     
    Foradori's Teroldegos are the kinds of wines that you'd like to see on the list at every restaurant you frequent, as its versatility is remarkable. It opens with notes of dark plums, licorice, and heady roasted flavor, then softens allowing more floral and herbaceous qualities to come to the forefront. From first sip to that last these wines of Elisabetta are always changing, and fascinating to no end. 

    2011 Foradori Teroldego IGT
    From gravelly soils, aged in a combination of neutral barrels and stainless steel.
    $27 per bottle.

    2013 Foradori Sgarzon Teroldego IGT
    Darker and more concentrated, with more black fruits, black licorice, and wild savory spices.
    From sandy soils. 8 months macerating in amphore, with further aging in large neutral barrel.
    $46 per bottle.

    2013 Foradori Granato Teroldego IGT
    From fine silt and gravel soils, aged in neutral barrels.
    The most refined and understated. Textured and creamy, black cherry, dark plums, and mint.
    $66 per bottle.

    The Grojean family have been farming their vineyards in the mountains of Italy's Valle D'Aoste for generations, but it wasn't until 1969 that they were recognized at a local expo and the wines began to be exported. Importer Neal Rosenthal is dialed into the alpine vineyards throughout northern Italy like no one else. His portfolio is so diverse with talents like Jean-Marie Fourrier, Jacques Carillon, and Montevertine, but it's these smaller, more modestly priced producers from esoteric regions that define the brilliance of his band of vignerons.

    The village of Fornet in the Valle D'Aoste sits in the shadow of the towering Mont Blanc. As you can imagine the high altitude conditions provide a snap and clarity to the wines here. Torrette Supériur is sourced from the Rovettaz vineyard comprised largely of sandy-clay soils. The native variety Petit Rouge makes up 85% of the blend, with 10% Furmin and 5% Cornalin. The wine is aged in stainless steel preserving the bright and electric fruit personality. Black raspberry, red licorice, and wild herbs all meld together here to craft an absolutely delicious wine completely reflective of its unique place.

    2010 Grosjean Torrette Supérieur Vigne Rovettaz 
    $24 per bottle.

    Domaine Belluard is home to the most thrilling and complete wines in France's Savoie. Dominique Belluard took over his family's vineyards in 1988, at that time the estate was also home to dairy cows, apples, and a mix of agriculture. Just 30 miles from Mont Blanc the village of Ayse is greatly influenced by the towering Alps, but plantings for all of the vineyards are kept at a relative low altitude to allow for maximum ripening.

    In addition to Dominique's monumental Mont Blanc sparkling wine, he produces Mondeuse, a native red variety of the region. Of all Dominique's wines his Mondeuse is the rarest with less than one hectare planted. This wine in fermented and aged in amphore and sees no oak or steel at any point of aging. Mondeuse shows a vivid purple quality that calls to mind both Syrah a Gamay. This stands out for its pitch perfect balance, and absolutely singular notes of wild herbs and beaming purple and black fruit characteristics. Their is a softness to the wine that makes it just so easy to drink, but it's structure and mineral backbone is still totally present and vivid. Allocations of this wine are usually less than 12 bottles per year. We were lucky enough to secure a few different vintages here. These wines age beautifully, as primary fruit softens and notes of wild flowers and minerality come more to the forefront.

    2014 Domaine Belluard Mondeuse
    $57 per bottle. 

    2013 Domaine Belluard Mondeuse
    $57 per bottle.

    2012 Domaine Belluard Mondeuse
    $57 per bottle.


    Posted by Max Kogod
  • Bordeaux: The Other Side of the Coin

    Bordeaux: The Other Side of the Coin

    Bordeaux has become an increasingly difficult region to sum up in a brief tag line. The style that endeared itself to millions of wine lovers of generations past has largely subsided. Today it's most common to find more full throttle, dark, extracted, oaky, and jam-inflected wines. Vineyards that have screamed of terroir as much as anywhere in the world have been overshadowed by power and the prized quality of a first bombastic impression. Subtlety and quiet conviction does not draw big scores.

    But, this isn't a look at how everything has changed. It's a focus on what has just about stayed the same. While modernization has improved quality throughout the region these producers highlighted have remained focused on more traditional winemaking and exceptional vineyard management. These are the domaines that deserve your attention.

    Moulin de Tricot was established in the 1800's on the gravel and sand soils of Margaux on the left bank of the Gironde estuary. The property is just under 5 hectares. While most of the Margaux appellation has moved towards a higher planting of Merlot to give more plump, juicy, and forward qualities to their wines, Moulin de Tricot has maintained their historic balance of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Merlot. The wines here are quintessential left bank Bordeaux, showcasing tell-tale cigar box and graphite among the array of black cherry and plum notes.

    The Chateau produces two wines, the Haut Médoc (partially comprised of land outside of the Margaux appellation), and the flagship Margaux bottling. Both wines are aged in older French oak barrels. The mix of sand in the soil in Margaux gives the wines an elegance and delicacy that stand out a bit from their northern neighbors with more gravel-dominant soils. These two bottlings are the first place to turn for honest, terroir-driven Bordeaux at a price point that stands out in stark contrast to the wines coming from throughout their zip code.

    2012 Chateau Moulin de Tricot Haut Médoc
    $29.95 per bottle.

    2005 Chateau Moulin de Tricot Margaux
    $74.95 per bottle.

    Château Le Puy sits on the same plateau as its famed next door neighbors Pomerol and Saint Emilion on the right bank. Le Puy is at an unusually high 350-meter elevation, offering a cooler microclimate within the region. Like most wines hailing from the right bank Merlot is the dominant variety in these blends. At Le Puy 85% Merlot is joined with Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Carmenère, and Cabernet Franc.

    Clay is usually the feature of the right bank, but a substantial amount of limestone exists at Le Puy. Coupled with the high altitude and minimal interventionist approach the wines here are distinctly old school. Chemicals have never been used in the vineyards, sulphur is eliminated from the equation during fermentation, and the lunar calendar has continued to guide cellar practices. These are unapologetically mineral-driven, completely authentic, and singular wines.

    The Château produces two reds. The "Emilien" bottling is aged in large foudre to start, helping preserve brightness of fruit and verve. "Barthelémy" is made in minuscule quantities, and comes from a very limestone-dominant single vineyard. It is aged in smaller barrels, of which less than 10% are new.

    2012 Château Le Puy "Emilien" Côtes de Bordeaux
    $42.95 per bottle.

    2010 Château Le Puy "Bartelémy" Côtes de Bordeaux
    $164.95 per bottle.

    Domaine du Jaugaret has been run by the same family since the mid 17th century. Small production takes new meaning here with a total vineyard planting of 1.3 hectares. Average age of the vines is 50 years, comprised of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon along with Petit Verdot and Malbec (from 100-year old vines). Again, the missing large component of Merlot has moved this time-honored and typical St. Julien blend to be seen as more of an outlier amongst its contemporaries.

    Jaugaret is on very deep gravel soils, and this means yields are painfully low each year, but concentration of fruit and sharply defined minerality give the wines a vivacity and electric personality that is completely unique in Bordeaux. My first time tasting I couldn't help but be reminded of a sense of fluorescent saturation on the palate, met with vivid, high-toned minerality.  The fruit is very much in the red and black raspberry category, met with bitter chocolate and pencil lead. There is something so very traditional about the wine that it almost seems alien in nature. Sadly, the larger appellation's move in the modern direction have made this case for Jaugaret. 

    2009 Domaine du Jaugaret Saint-Julien
    (2009 brought a more fruit forward, round, and plush style)
    $103.95 per bottle.

    2010 Domaine du Jaugaret Saint-Julien
    (2010 brought a combination of high ripeness and relatively high acidity. Wines with tremendous energy)
    $164.95 per bottle.

    Ducru-Beaucaillou is one of the great Second Growth classified chateau of Bordeaux, with original plantings at the start of the 13th century. The name translates to "beautiful stones", as the estate is comprised of round stones from its incredibly gravelly soils along the Gironde estuary. It's these very deep soils with their excellent drainage that play such a large role in the definition and concentration to the wines here.

    Plantings are 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Merlot, with some parcels going back to 1918! A rise in quality has been seen here in the last several decades as now the strict selection of grapes for this bottling has been reduced by 50% compared to what was practiced in 1982. Grapes not deemed worthy for this top bottling are destined for their 2nd label, La Croix Ducru-Beaucaillou.

    The 2008 vintage was unique for Ducru. The growing season was cool with challenges throughout the summer, but a true Indian summer ended things magnificently. The vintage calls to mind the more classic wines of yesteryear where earth and floral notes played a more substantial role.

    The traditionally-minded John Gilman of View from the Cellar captures things here very well,

    "The 2008 Ducru-Beaucaillou is one of the top wines of the vintage...While Ducru has produced exemplary efforts in both 2009 and 2010, make no mistake, the 2008 is the finest of the troika. A great 2008!"

    2008 Ducru-Beaucaillou Saint-Julien
    $154.95 per bottle.

    Posted by Max Kogod