Welcome to our Blog

The daily Post

Read our Blog

Focus on Andrea Sartori – Wines of Cerulli Spinozzi

Cerulli Spinozzi, run by Enrico Cerulli Irelli, is a prestigious historic agricultural estate aiming to nurture tradition whilst embracing a modern approach.

It was originally formed in the early 1900’s through the merger of two properties, that of the Spinozzi family and that of the Cerulli Irelli family. Out of their common love and passion for agriculture was born the company Cerulli Spinozzi.

Though it’s history may date back more than a century, the current winery that produces the amazing wines we can taste today was built in 2003 by two brothers on the Cerulli Irelli side – Francesco and Vincenzo. 2003 was also the year Cerulli Spinozzi partnered up with the Sartori di Verona brand, with the aim of reviving momentum and the value of the 53 hectares of indigenous grapes. It was through their exquisite and rich ruby-coloured Montepulciano d’Abruzzo that the Cerulli Spinozzi estate caught the eye of Sartori, as it demonstrated the family’s dedication to the viticulture perfectly and aligned with Sartori’s goal of extending itself beyond the boundaries of the Veneto region in the name of exploration.

One of Cerulli Spinozzi’s most prized features is its remarkable location. From every angle you can see the Gran Sasso Mountain, which is home to the southernmost glacier in Europe and which, it is said, Napoleon himself found to be a worthy place to rest. A few kilometers away, past the rolling hills of Teramo that lie to the west, you can reach the Adriatic coast, where in ancient times the low sandy beaches were easy landing places for pirates and fishermen, while today they welcome vacationers.

 

2015 Cerulli Spinozzi Montepulciano d’Abruzzo D.O.C

Ideally served with roast meats and game, this flagship 100% Montepulciano wine has a robust structure with good fruit, medium acidity. Read More

Focus on Andrea Sartori – Wines of Mont’Albano

Mont’Albano was founded in 1985 in the heart of the Friuli Venezia Giulia region, as a result of the intuition of Mauro Braidot who, unlike the majority of the producers of the time, converted his 5 hectares (12.3 acres) of vineyard to organic production.
The company did not take long to grow, thanks to its philosophy and its excellent wines from Friuli, so in 1998 the winery was expanded to form Mont’Albano has (a limited partnership company).

In addition to its own grapes, it began processing grapes grown by other producers, provided by trusted regional producers who respect the strict guidelines that Mont’Albano demands so as to be able to put its brand on its products.
In 2008, Mont’Albano became part of the ‘Sartori di Verona’ group, thus establishing the company Mont’Albano S.p.A. sp. By combining its expertise in organic production with the experience of the historic Verona-based winery, which had already been engaged for some years in an organic viticulture project, the product range was expanded to allow the Mont’Albano brand to offer wines from the Veneto to its customers, as well as wines from Abruzzo and Sicily produced by companies belonging to the Sartori group.

Today, the functions of logistics and administration are carried out in Verona, the wines are produced by certified ‘organic’ winemakers, in compliance with the institutional parameters promoted by the relevant authorities and fostered by Mont’Albano which, in the various regions, carries out surveillance with regard to legal standards as well as checking that producers comply with principles that Mont’Albano has constantly promoted over the past 30 years. The parent company of the project, Mont’Albano Agricola, is still operational in Friuli, where it crafts a range of niche wines that represent the company’s flagship products.


2016 Mont’Albano Pinot Grigio Friuli Grave DOC

This organic Pinot Grigio hails from Friuli one of the most famous regions in the world for this grape. Sweet apricots touched with lemon and minerality are the watchwords of this wine.

2015 Mont’Albano Nero d’Avola Terre Sicilian IGT

From the island off the toe of the boot. This wine sings of its extreme terroir. Rich ripe red fruit balanced with acidity and minerality – truly complex expression of the Mediterranean .

Focus on Andrea Sartori – Wines of Casa Vinicola Sartori

Pietro Sartori

In the last part of 1800s, Pietro Sartori’s trattoria was a place that could not be missed for merchants, small industrialists, and businessmen of the area, for whom Pietro could never lack the best Rosso Veronese, as it called back then. It was this inn and its strategic location that would turn Pietro into a wine merchant: the daily pouring over the counter and the direct sales to the public in demi-johns and bottles made it necessary to have a steady supply of wine that was sufficient in both quantity and quality.

Thus, in 1898 grandfather Pietro bought his first vineyard in Negrar, so that the good wine would always be on the tables of his devoted clientele. In those days, horses had to carry people and goods, and Peter rode like a pioneer determined to find opportunities to expand businesses everywhere job opportunities and growth arose, in Verona, in Brescia, on the shores of Lake Garda, and lower Trentino. A flourishing business definitely did not deter him, however, from his desire to have a large family: he had five children and he made them all study, encouraging them to attain a degree, something that was not too common at that time.

Now among the Sartori family, there stood a lawyer, an engineer, a doctor … and Regolo, the sole heir to exhibit, without a doubt, a calling for wine. It would be Regolo, who would take charge of the company after Pietro’s retirement and re-launch the family’s trademark towards the second half of the last century.

Regolo Sartori

Regolo proves himself a worthy son of his father. He believes in the company, has a great passion for wine, and works tirelessly to consolidate and make Sartori even more respected in the market.

The headquarters is always Villa Maria, an investment grandfather Pietro had probably already imagined as the ideal place to raise his family and his company.

A true gentleman devoted exclusively to his profession and his family, Regolo was regarded as a rather talented wine broker with an extraordinary palate. He loved to care for it as a violinist does his hands.

Regolo used to personally prepare his wines for his customers, who, at the end of the “composition” would affix their signatures on the barrel, confirming their approval of the blend.

Today, Sartori reproduces this way of working on a large scale. Sartori = tailoring, in a name, an omen! Just as a tailor styles, Sartori measures, sketches the design, chooses the fabrics and finally creates the suit–the blend, the wine–which will walk down the world’s most prestigious “catwalks” and shine in a glass of Amarone or Soave Classico, the quintessence of Made in Verona, Italy.

After the Second World War, in 1947 Sartori officially starts to produce and market its wines. The company grows, the numbers become significant, and expansion remains a priority for Regolo. He improves the technology, buys new vehicles, and works without ever accepting and using, in his own vocabulary, the word “holiday.”

But in 1952, Regolo dies, and his two young sons, despite the difficulties, assume control of the company. Pierumberto, in the jargon of the family, becomes Foreign Minister and looks after the business side, while Franco assumes the title, Minister of the Interior, or in other words, production and personnel management.

In the 60’s there is a boom. Italy is a land commercially now “won” and the company follows its own calling for export by taking on new countries like Germany, Britain, and the United States, markets for which there is a natural affinity.

The family estates are their “safe” and celebrate the most important grapes for their wines: Amarone, Valpolicella, Soave.

They became a source of great satisfaction thanks, a constant improvement that was, is, and always will be a key feature of Sartori di Verona. In the late 90s, Regolo’s sons, Franco and Pierumberto, loosen up some of their control of the company.

The hand-over coincides with an event of revolutionary scope, not only for company assets but also for the identity of Sartori di Verona: joining the Board of Directors of the Colognola ai Colli winery.

The occasion was historical: two true champions, Pierumberto Sartori and the Director of the Cantina Sociale di Colognola, Giancarlo Lechthaler, had met, studied, visited each other for quite some time, and eventually established a bond of mutual esteem.

There is the appropriate understanding, personal even before commercial, to combine their business strengths: from Cologna, production capacity and from Sartori, distribution and marketing. The goal is to launch a common project with ambitious objectives for growth in producing and distributing high-quality wine throughout the world.

The venture marks the final exit from the stage of the “senior” Sartoris. They decided to abdicate, this time officially, in favour of the young heirs. In fact, the agreement establishes the beginning of a new era at Sartori, one with a renewed awareness based on a number of previously unknown vineyards, sales with exponential growth, accessibility, otherwise impossible, to people, equipment, knowledge, experience, and organizational skills.

Today, Sartori’s success is in large part due to its international efforts, which represent over 80% of its sales in over 50 countries: throughout Europe, in North and South America, in Russia, in South East Asia.

The motto “di Verona” together with the noble presence of Can Grande della Scala that stands out in our logo, attest to our profound and indissoluble bond with the places, history, beauty and elegance of one of the most visited cities in the world. Sartori, as we like to say in the company, has always fought for Verona, focusing exclusively on the classic Veronese wines: Valpolicella, Soave, Bardolino, Bardolino Chiaretto.

Wines elegantly reinterpreted and personalized to meet the tastes of consumers from the four corners of the world, thanks to dedicated wine-making trips, but above all to the precision of our master blender and his international team of winemakers.

The labels on which the company is now focusing on are Regolo Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso DOC and Marani Bianco Veronese IGT (a.k.a. Ferdi in the U.S.), two wines that are extremely representative of the Sartori portfolio.

With these two wines, Sartori stretches the borders of the established rules or discipline, always using Veronese vines and varietals, but doing so with a freer hand in order to create a style and characteristic identity–an identity that the company would, one day, like to see regarded as the direct expression of its elegant style and of its personality as a wine producer.

Since 2003 Sartori has focused heavily on organic practices on all their sites. In conjunction with this, there is a focus on tailoring the best wines and not being swept around on the wings of fashions.


The Wines of Casa Vinicola Sartori

NV Sartori Erfo Prosecco

One of the most elegant and complex presentations of Prosecco.

 

2015 Sartori Marani Bianco Veronese IGT

Garganega; one of Veneto’s traditional grapes. Complex and tropical with an acid studded spine.

 

2012 Sartori Regolo Rosso

Named for the son of the founder, this wine highlights Sartori’s devotion to tailoring stunning wines from the vines and varieties found in Veneto.

 

2009 Corte Brà Amarone della Valpolicella DOC

This is a true classic Amarone from the hill north of Verona. Intensely spiced and perfumed this wine gives way to ripe tannins and dark fruit culminating in a mouth wateringly unctuous flavour bomb of a wine.

 

2013 Sartori Rerum Recioto della Valpolicella Classico DOCG

This sweet representation of the vines north of Verona is a balancing act of red fruit driven sweetness balanced beautifully with acid and delicate tannins.

 

NV Sartori Grappa di Amarone della Valpolicella

Distilled exclusively from the grapes that make the famed Amarone. Aged for 2 years before bottling, it’s round and floral with a palate touched with dried fruits.

Introducing Demeter Zoltán – Legend of Tokaji

A brief history of Zoltén Demeter in his own words.

“My winery was founded in 1996 with the intent to take a full and active part in the recognition and rediscovery of Tokaj terroir and its wines. I obtained the professional basis partly in the Budapest University of Horticulture, partly in the United States, France and Great Britain. I have participated in the life of Tokaj-Hegyalja since 1993, launching and running foreign-owned wineries. In the first years of my venture, I made wine from the family owned a plot in Boda vineyard in Sátoraljaújhely with the traditional tools of our cellar. In the following years, I purchased lands in different parts of Tokaj-Hegyalja: Szerelmi vineyard in Tokaj, Veres, Betsek and Ősz-hegy vineyards in Mád, Hold-völgy and Új-hegy vineyards in Rátka and the Kakas and Lapis vineyards in Bodrogkeresztúr. Today I produce wines from 9 different vineyards in 5 settlements, totalling 7 hectares. Wine fermentation and maturation takes place in the cellar of a historic house built in 1790 in the town of Tokaj. Using up my opportunities I strive to make single vineyard selections each year. I produce wines in 3 categories, which are, Dry, Főbor (principal wine) and Aszú wines, which I am inclined to think are most clearly able to reflect the uniqueness of Tokaj-Hegyalja.Through conscious yield restriction, one can understand the optimal maturity and uncover the diversity and richness of each vineyard. I eagerly try to promote Tokaj’s revised position on the world map of wine.”

 


2015 Veres -Tokaji Furmint

This dry wine is scented with heady white flowers, green apple with a palate to match with the addition of lime.

 

2013 Eszter -Tokaji Cuvée

Ripe stone fruit jump out of the glass. The wine is a beautifully crafted balance between fruit and vineyard. Honeyed and oily with a crisp acidity playing ying to the fruit weights yang.

 

2007 Aszú – Holdvölgy Vineyard Selected

Complex spice and savoury notes from Botrytis rich fruit at harvest. Well integrated and balanced.

Andrea Sartori – The Driving Force behind Sartori di Verona

Blonde, blue-eyed Andrea Sartori, president of Sartori di Verona enjoys Cuban cigars, has a mean golf swing, and even speaks with a slight Midwest twang. All three characteristics were honed over two decades of travelling throughout the US – but belie his heritage as a scion of one of Italy’s most influential winemaking families.

Andrea is the great-grandson of Pietro Sartori, who founded the Sartori di Verona winery in 1898. Today one of the Veneto’s “Big Five” wine producers, Sartori di Verona has expanded significantly under Andrea’s leadership. It is a testament to Andrea’s success and to the reputation he enjoys throughout the Italian wine industry that he was called upon to serve an unprecedented two terms as president of Italy’s principal wine producers’ trade group, the Unione Italiana Vini (Italian Confederation of Vine & Wine), from 2004 through May 2010. The UIV represents some 60% of the Italian wine industry by turnover. In his dual capacity as owner of a major Italian winery and former head of the UIV, Andrea has benefited from an eagle-eyed view of the wine business in Italy and the world. “There is little demand for good quality wines. Today they have to be very good indeed!” Sartori drily observes.

Andrea’s global perspective started early. After three years studying business at Verona’s University of Economia e Commercio and attending the Cuoa business school in Vicenza, Sartori perfected his English while attending classes at New York’s Columbia University. Back home Andrea started selling Sartori wines in the Italian market, but the world beckoned. Before long he hit the road, helping to expand markets in the US, Canada and Europe. In 1998 he was appointed Managing Director of Sartori di Verona and was named President of the company in 2000.

Soon after assuming the reins at Sartori di Verona, Andrea embarked on an ambitious range of initiatives designed to help Sartori stay ahead of the global competition. Early in the new millennium, Sartori di Verona joined forces with Cantina Colognola to assure a reliable supply of high-quality grapes. The high-profile enologist, Franco Bernabei, was recruited to consult. Sartori and Bernabei collaborated on the launch of a new premium collection of wines from a Sartori owned estate in the Mezzane Valley, followed by the acquisition of the pioneering Mont’Albano winery in Friuli to act as the anchor for its collection of organic wines.

Washington State Wine Country – Syrah is delicious

Columbia Tower, Seattle WA

Washington State Wine Country – Where are you and how do you get there?  Located in the great Pacific Northwest – From Seattle, cross the Cascade Mountain Range, heading east, inland to one of the finest grape growing areas in the USA and second largest next to California.

Unlike many wine regions, Washington cannot be defined by a single grape or even a group of grapes. While Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Riesling and Chardonnay are the most common in terms of production and plantings, nearly 70 varieties are planted and experimentation continues.

Chateau Ste Michelle Wine Estates (Columbia Crest)

Wine Tip – Washington State Syrah – this variety continues to thrive here and show its diversity.  Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay are the top red and white grapes planted and there are plenty of great examples across the region to show why.  Washington State is a warm, dry climate and many of these wines have a similar level of fruit ripeness, concentration and oaky style that once in the bottle, tend to look all the same.  This is a positive in many respects, the quality is always consistent and customers feel confident about their style preference from vintage to vintage with very little change.  This may also be why Syrah gets noticed, while stylistically these wines tend to be deeply coloured and fuller bodied, there is a broader range of alcohol levels, acidity and flavours, especially more savoury notes that differentiate the wines from each other.

Horse Heaven Hills AVA in the distance (photo taken in Red Mountain AVA).

Washington State is a distinctive and diverse growing region, with a range of soil types.  There is a large diurnal shift which preserves natural acidity great for balance.  The grapevines here are own rooted, which make this another unique feature of the region.  Like many wine regions, there are some big players, but also a legion of small, family producers to discover.

Snake River in the Columbia Valley

Key areas where Syrah performs best are Columbia Valley AVA, Naches Heights AVA, Red Mountain AVA, Wahluke Slope AVA, Walla Walla Valley AVA, Horse Heaven Hills AVA, Yakima Valley AVA.

Hedges Family Wine Estate in Red Mountian AVA

Winegrowing – How is Syrah made here – Syrah continues to impress and makes a strong case for the best value for money Syrah on the planet in my mind.  21,300 tons were crushed in 2016.  8% of total crush.  So plenty of potential for growth.

Syrah is Washington’s third most planted red grape after Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.  7% of all vineyard land planted in the region.  There is a diversity of styles from dark fruit, such as blackberries, to blueberries and cranberries as well as savoury, espresso notes.

Viognier is occasionally co-fermented, giving these wines a distinct floral uplift.

Alcohol levels can range anywhere from under 13.5% to 16% based on the warmth of the growing region and the style the winemaker is looking to achieve. Winemakers in Washington follow traditional methods with Syrah, ageing the wine in small French, and sometimes American, oak barrels for often 14 months or longer. Many producers frequently limit their use of new oak compared to other varieties, with some recently using concrete fermenters and ageing the wines in neutral oak barrels and puncheons.  Here are some of the standout Syrah Producers from this trip:

Columbia Crest – based out of the Horse Heaven Hills AVA – especially their Grand Estates range. For the money these wines are fantastic value and regularly receive strong accolades for their work.  A most impressive winemaking facility – a must visit.

K Vintners – run by the man himself, Charles Smith, who is based in the famous Walla Walla AVA – regularly listed at the top of many critics list of Syrah producers in the region. These wines are deep coloured, picked very ripe and made with low intervention, often without destemming.

Hedges Family Wine Estates – also a highly regarded Syrah and Bordeaux Blend producer, making old world, classically structured styles based in Red Mountain.  A really lovely family who farm using organic and biodynamic principles.

a’Maurice – are making elegant, savoury Syrah showing reductive, smoked meat and olive tapenade-like flavours with perfume and floral characters that I love in Syrah.  Delicious.

Efeste – out of Yakima Valley, hit the blueberry, juicy fruit and mineral edge of Syrah, sleek and terroir driven.

L’Ecole – in the Columbia Valley are a renowned Syrah producer, very reliable showing spicy, rich and complex styles.

Charles Smith of K Vintners at his tasting room in Walla Walla

 

Introducing EXOPTO – Bordeaux meets Rioja

Exopto = Tom Puyaubert

When thinking of Rioja, Bordeaux isn’t usually the first connection you make. In the case of EXOPTO you can’t separate the two and that is down to one fact; Tom Puyaubert…

Tom is an enigma when it comes to wine makers in Rioja. In 2000 this Frenchman moved from Bordeaux to Rioja. Initially, his focus wasn’t on wine but barrels. Working for Saury (a top barrel producer from Bordeaux), he was exposed to the highest levels of wine from the region and he fell in love. With a background making wine in both France and USA particularly focused on working in smaller wineries rather than working on a commercial scale.

In a region known for traditional wine making Exopto is pushing boundaries. This acceptance and integration of new technology, winemaking techniques and ideology are the hallmarks of these wines. From hanging the Graciano longer until it’s almost raisin-like to extended ageing in oak of Rioja’s dominant white grape Viura.

2014 Exopto –  Containing 60% Graciano, Rioja’s rarest red grape, this wine is a power house of fruits of the forest, baking spice and dark chocolate.  [READ MORE]

2015 Horizonte de Exopto – Following a more traditional line this Tempranillo matches blackberry and smoke with silky tannins and a mineral lift. [READ MORE]

2015 Bozeto de Exopto –  50% Garnacha, 40% Tempranillo, and 10% Graciano. Punchy currants, cedar and tobacco. [READ MORE]

These are some truly astounding wines.

A New perspective on Australian wine

A New perspective on Australian wine

What follows is Michael’s short retrospective on his intensive 9-day tasting tour through some of  Australia’s greatest wines regions and how looking at all their wines in concert has changed my view of Australian fine wine.

 

Day 1

Arrive in Sydney 8.30am, the most beautiful clear sunny day you could wish for. Being the first day and excited about what was in store for the next 9 days. I ran through the hotel, dumping the bags, and rushing to the first tasting. All the more enthused to seeing the beautiful Quay restaurant with the harbour shimmering in the background. The tasting begins. This is a free pour style tasting with more than 100 wines arranged on 3 tables, History, Evolution and Revolution. The first table telling a classic story of Australian wine, these are well-known wines with massive pedigree and families dating back decades.

Some examples below,

History (Wynns John Riddoch Coonawarra Cabernet, Yarra Yering Dry Red No1, Henschke Hill of Grace, Tyrrell’s 4 Acres Shiraz, Grosset Polish Hill, Penfolds RWT)

Evolution ( Cullen Diana Madeline, Jamsheed Syrah, S.C.Pannell Tempranillo Touriga, Bindi Block 5 PN, Mac Forbes Woori Yallock PN, Brash Higgins Zibibbo, Jim Barry Assyrtiko)

Revolution ( Ruggabellus Sallio, Chevre by Jordy Kay, Brian, Sami-Odi ‘Little Wine’ #6 Syrah, Latta Tranquil)

Of course also some classic stickies

(Penfolds Great Grandfather, Chambers Rare Muscat, Seppeltsfield dry flor solero)

Day 2

Riesling Masterclass Hosted by Jeff Grosset

Here we have the master of Grosset Wines telling a story of the development of Riesling in the Australian market from its introduction in 1838 in Penrith NSW and being the most planted grape by ha until 1990! When it was usurped by the almighty Chardonnay. As well as the wines development and movement from warmer climes and richer wines through to the more common Clare Valley and Eden Valley examples we see today with their impressive clarity and purity. Progressing even further with fun fruity and orange Riesling of Mac Forbes EB10 Ginger Rizz.

Day 3

The perfect start to the day, Shiraz.

A sensory study focussed on sensory properties of Shiraz, Australian or otherwise, and the perception of chemical profiles and climatic regions. 24 wines all Shiraz to be judged blind, not against each other by us, but by creating markers of more or less of ‘desirable characters’ vs the control wine. The control (which turned out to be a $15 supermarket wine!) was up against wines worth up to 15x the price. An interesting exercise which we will probably not know the results of for a few years to come, but highly informative to see such wines put together.

The day concluded equally well with Australian First Families (a group of leading multi-generational winemaking families) present the history, heritage and provenance. Starting the journey with the most classic of whites the Mount Pleasant Lovedale Semillon at 10.5% abv and 0% RS! Chardonnay from Howard Park and Tyrrell’s. Famous Cabernets from Brown Brothers, Tahbilk, Taylors, Yalumba, Shiraz from d’Arenberg, Jim Barry and Henschke all being round up with De Bortoli’s Noble One and the infinitely deep and dark Rare Muscat from Campbells. A showcase of both the diversity of Australia’s climates and the shared history that carries with them through producing fine wine.

 

Day 4

1 short hour on the bus out to Geelong greeted by yet another hot and sunny morning, we dive into one of Australia’s lesser known regions. This is where the fun begins with young energetic and experimental winemakers who choose to make great wines from exciting grapes varieties. These winemakers have been using anything from Lagrein to Sagrantino to produce their own unique take on the terroir and the variety. Lethbridge made a particular point of showing the plethora of possibilities for the region with some beautiful back vintage examples of 100% whole-bunch, 100% new oak Chardonnay and Pinot Noir each showing incredible balance for such heavily oaked wines.

Day 5

Heathcote and Macedon Ranges are on the list today, again a stone’s throw from Melbourne just a couple of hours by bus. Starting with the hot and eucalyptus surrounded vineyards of Tellurian wines, where Tobias Ansted (winemaker) noted the unique character of some vineyards getting their eucalypt(minty) flavour from the trees surrounding the vineyard expelling gases if temperatures rise above 35C. This is also the temperature at which vines will tend to go dormant so hopefully not too often. A touch of light rain started as we made our way over to the Curly Flat Vineyard and Cellar door in the Macedon Ranges. Moving a little higher in elevation and onto the side of a small hill (a mountain for Australians) gives a much cooler climate a touch extra rainfall and the unexpected ability to make some delectable PN/Ch methode traditionelle sparkling wines. Though truly at this stage they are making more of the still wines, their terroir will surely rise up in the near future for some great bubbly.

Day 6

All feeling a little worse for wear we head off to one of Melbourne’s classic new wave beard wearing urban collaborative wineries called Noisy Ritual. They provided Bloody Mary’s for the soul and great American style low and slow smoked brisket for the stomach as well as an interesting insight into how the wine enthusiast can bring a little more wine knowledge next time they sit down with their friends (or even a bottle of their wine!). Flights to Adelaide ensued for me as the groups split up across Australia from Tasmania to Perth. Of course, the first stop for any Adelaide goer has to be Penfolds, with their gargantuan collection of Grange (every vintage ever made, even the secret ones) and frankly slightly too opulent crystal Imperial (6L) pourer and decanter. Though you can be guaranteed a great show and maybe a tour of the biggest barrels I have ever laid eyes on, with their Helen Keller at a whopping 48,979L. While we were there we had to look at some of their wines showing young and old vintages of the same wine demonstrating just how well the wines can stand up to time. Long discussions were had over the pros and cons of screwcap vs diam vs natural cork, no answer was found.

Day 7

Maclaren is the flavour of the day, boasting some of the warmest climates and biggest wines we were likely to see on the tour, this region has become famous for its’ epic Shiraz and more recently the outstanding Grenache. First stop is Bekkers wine a boutique winery from horticulture enthusiast Toby Bekker and his wife. Of course, they straight away made me throw my preconception about what Mclaren Vale could be by presenting 3 elegant and complex wines based on Grenache and the provocatively named Syrah. All wines showing a clear sense of place and purity of fruit, with a relative mere hint of new oak (puncheons used) these wines had real beauty and length. No sooner having had my mind blown we headed off to Chapel Hill slightly further down the road where I was brought back to the real world by the hilariously late harvesting of some of Mollydookers’ vines well after most others had finished, no doubt another epically concentrated wine for them. With such short time, Chapel Hill was occupied with many great producers all showing their wares in harmony helping to build their region profile with their expressions of Mclaren Vale in a glass. (much closer to what I remembered)

Day 8

We land in a smaller funkier and more adventurous part of Australia, Adelaide Hills’ Basket Range Festival. Many a barefoot, scruffy face and long hair to be seen here, though this was to be expected given this was a natural wine festival. Welcome to the world of no sulphur, no additions and some, epically good expressive and varietal wines. Though to be fair there was also a bit of faulty wine where the terroir or varietal character was clouded by the producers’ complete refusal to clean up the wines before release. I take my hat off to those who are able to produce great wines with such self-imposed restrictions. Particular favourites, BK Wines Chardonnay(s), Charlotte Dalton Semillons and the CRFT Gruner-Veltliners all of spectacular texture and intrigue. All this followed by a tour of Shaw + Smith and more tasting this time of more traditional but equally delicious tasting of great Chardonnay and Pinot Noir produced by Shaw + Smith and some of the other original Adelaide Hills producers. The bus leaves with all aboard for the adventure to Barossa Valley where we were treated to Barossa Valley Port-style wine from the 1929 vintage while standing on the mountain (hill) between Eden Valley and Barossa Valley surveying all the old Shiraz vines we could see, an amazing spot to overview the entire region.

Day 9

Henschke, this is the first stop of the day. For anyone not familiar with the now 151-year-old winemaking family from the Eden Valley, they are making some of the greatest expressions of Australian Shiraz to make it into a bottle (think Grange pricing). A short tour passed some vigorously bubbling Shiraz in a concrete open top fermenter and passed the mysterious Octaves(46L) of Madeira and into the tasting room for a quick run through some of their favourite wines from bottle and some still fermenting from linear Riesling to densely spiced Shiraz these really are wines to be sought after. Yalumba was next in line, this time taking us down into one of the old 250,000L concrete holding tanks for a comparative tasting of the greater Barossa sub-regions. These guys break them down to Barossa (holding within it Northern Grounds, Central Grounds and Southern Grounds moving down the valley) and Eden Valley (holding within it High Eden). By my reckoning on basic terms of course, northern grounds produced Rich Fruits, Central Grounds produced wines of savoury and menthol notes, southern grounds ripe black stone fruit (plum) while Eden Valley produced fresher examples with more pure fruit. My pick is Eden Valley. Seppeltsfield is the last and final stop of the tour, one last winemakers’ dinner to be had, in this case however the highlight was fortified with their unbelievable unbroken vertical of Port Style wines dating back to 1878 each of us tasting our birth year (1991 in my case). It has to be said that there was some comparison of the vintages going everybody claiming their vintage to be the best

Day 10

Flights home ☹

And on these long flights, I had time to think back on what I had learnt and what I had seen. What was I to make of the massive array of fine wine presented during those 9 days? All I can say is Australian wine has a strong identity, hidden behind the mask of homogenous large volume Shiraz. Don’t be afraid to explore every little region you come across, there are gems in every single one.

Puneet in California: Day 5

California Day 5 – Napa to Sonoma Coast

A great drive from Napa to Sonoma Coast through such A.V.A’s as Alexander Valley and Russian River. The drive along the Sonoma Coast is quite awesome, with the eerie mist swirling around you, next to steep drops to the sea. We arrive at Fort Ross on the Sonoma Coast, make our way up Timber Cove Road and into Seaview Rd (Flowers is at No.14500 Seaview Rd). As if by magic we pop out of the Ocean Mist. Immediately the sun and temperature hit us.

It’s quite impressive, The vineyard sits on either side of a canyon which is literally the San Andreas fault line. The soils are multiple including a lot of soil similar to Burgundy – Volcanic Schist, but also red iron/clay. The steep hills are not terraced but instead close planted straight down the steep slopes. The whole site is farmed Biodynamically. Every 15th row is a crop of flowers with various functions for the eco system, and multiple cover crops. The site we have come to is the Camp Meeting Ridge site – 35 acres, elevation 1,400 feet. The Sea View Ridge is about 10km south and can be seen in the distance from Camp Meeting Ridge.

 

We walk onto the back deck of the house for the tasting, and what an incredible view.

 

 

2016 Sonoma Coast Rosé
Provencal style  – light onion skin, well balanced, light red and raspberry fruits, gentle vanilla touch of spice – very good.

 

2015 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
9-11 months oak – hints of wet stone and shortbread – citrus and stone fruits – some hazelnut and light toast – delicious.

 

2014 Camp Meeting Ridge Chardonnay
19 months oak – 1,000 cases per year – more fatty creme brûlée – second half shows the classic sea salt mineral oyster shell aspect – exceptional.

 

2015 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
Distinct mossy character – clean red fruit ripe and integrated tannins – seamless – strong pinot noir typicity.

 

2014 Camp Meeting Ridge Pinot Noir
Beautiful warm brown earth notes, exceptional fragrance and perfumed notes – which takes this into Premier Cru + territory.

 

2014 Seaview Ridge Pinot noir
Meatier – took a while for the nose to open up, also more acidity – bigger all round – concentrated red fruits. Will please those Otago Pinot lovers. (The vineyard is higher elevation and iron rich).

 

That evening I revisit the 2013 Hirsch Chardonnay – clearly a cult wine here, almost the younger protegé of Flowers (although the two vineyards are not connected in any way). It is expensive – but quite possibly even more Burgundian in style than Flowers. It is not quite as fatty as flowers and the palate broadens out as you taste – with more mineral and saline elements. Anyway, I managed to finish a bottle of it, and then thought I saw the coming of the New Messiah as the sun set over the Pacific – so it must be quite good.
 
THE END OF THIS CALIFORNIA WINE EXPERIENCE

 

Sweets, Aperitifs and Digestifs!

A perfect meal always has that touch of a little extra…

An aperitif to set the tone, digestif or dessert wine to take the final notes to a whole ‘nother level… In the eyes of Dhall & Nash the elements that make a wine list great are; The Wine, internationally known and critically acclaimed, of optimal drinking age and referenced on internationally acclaimed lists.

Aperitif – Fernando de Castilla Oloroso Antique

With a history dating back to 1837 and every drop being agged for at least 20 years this Sherry is a highly sought after treat.  Following the ancient traditions of the region, this sherry is unfined and meticulously nurtured. It’s so good it’s been a staple on the list at The Ritz for years.   “The NV Antique Oloroso is open and expressive in the nose, with a predominant note of hazelnuts and varnished wood, a sweet touch of spices, brandy filled chocolates and orange rind. The perfectly balanced palate shows intense, clean, pure flavors and great length. 5,000 bottles produced yearly. Drink 2013-2016” –Luis Gutierrez 95 pt (Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate)

Digestif – Chambers Rutherglen Grand Muscat

Set in the spiritual home of fortified wines in Australia – Chambers is one the big dogs. This nuanced Muscat is dark spicy and richly sweet; think espresso, candied orange zest and cherry pie. This rare treat is sought by somms the world over. From Rockpool, Sydney to The Grand Hotel Stockholm this wine is revered.  “Deep mahogany. Dried fig and black tea on the nose, then concentrated mocha and molasses flavours, enlivened by candied orange zest. Full, rich and sweet, but surprisingly drinkable, with terrific intensity and length.” – JOE CZERWINSKI 97 pt (Wine Enthusiast)

Noble Wines- 1998 Château d’Yquem Sauternes

This is the pinnacle of dessert-style wines, d’Yquem needs little introduction.  Thomas Jefferson purchased 250 bottles of the 1784 vintage stating Sauternes, This is the best white wine of France and the best of it is made by Monsieur de Lur-Saluces. The wine’s balance of acidity and sugar means its ageing potential is amazing, Robert Parker scored the 1811 vintage 100 points in 1996, well over a century since the grapes were harvested.  The ‘98 is elegant and refined; sweet aromas of creme brulee, pineapples, apricots, and white flowers. Medium to full-bodied with a firm nutty complex finish. No amazing restaurant can be without this wine for ages.  “Pale gold. Knockout aromas of creme brulee, coconut, vanilla bean, honey and orange peel. Lush and seductively silky in the mouth; its creamy, seamless texture makes it seem deceptively accessible today but sound acid structure should keep it going for 20 years or more. Not hugely sweet or tropical but very complex and fine. Firm, hazelnutty finish offers great length…” – 95 pt Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar