Two Wines, Snow, Hungry Birds

Given the recent weather, I am pretty certain, no matter where in the great New England outdoors you may be standing at the moment, that you are quite knee deep in snow. In my particular case, thigh deep, actually, and trudging through to fill a bird feeder with seed for our local fine-feathered friends.

I am thinking to introduce you to a couple of wines that, back indoors, brought some much appreciated sunshine – however virtual it may have been – to an otherwise snowy weekend:

vinarija-dingac-plavac-peljesac-2012-1Dingac Vinarija Pelješac 2012
I adore this somewhat geeky wine from the Pelješac (pell-yuh-shatz) Peninsula on Croatia’s rugged Dalmatian Coast. Produced from 100% head-trained Plavac Mali or Little Blue, Plavac is apparently a varietal cousin of California Zinfandel. Savory herb components are in good unison with the wine’s sweeter notes of wild berry, plum, and dried fig, underlined with delicious salinity, a taste / aroma profile calling to mind that of Carignano del Sulcis. Come to think of it, both do share a certain wildness of spirit. That humid conditions do not exist in the vineyard(s) has allowed the producer to forego spraying vines for mold. A flourishing yeast population kick-starts a wild fermentation conducted in stainless steel. Aged for one year in used oak.

vajra-barolo-albe-2009G.D. Vajra Barolo Albe 2009
Vajra’s Barolo Albe conferred a fitting level of refined drinking to a family sit down of rare-cooked lamb t-bone cuts, butternut squash risotto, and roasted asparagus, dinner taken by the woodstove on a recent and cold ass New England evening. On the feminine side of the Barolo gender-meter, this lovely wine gives up delicate notes of dried flowers, herbs, underbrush, hints of anise and cocoa, pleasantly ripe tannins. Blended from sustainably farmed grapes sourced from three different vineyards at altitudes of 400-440 meters, undergoes 30 – 40 day fermentation. The wine is aged ~36 months in Slavonian oak.

As an aside, both these wines, in their respective price ranges, bring serious value for money to the table. Poseur wines with inflated price tags: take notice. But, that’s a discussion for another day.

Anyway, yesterday brought another fourteen inches of snow. And I hear that Punxsutawney Phil, America’s weather forecasting Groundhog, on February 2nd 2015, the 129th North American Groundhog Day, predicted another six weeks of winter. Best I should pull on boots and thick wool trousers and head out to top off the feeder.

Chateau Lilian Ladouys 2009 Bordeaux-St. Estephe

It’s not particularly difficult to remember the beautiful things one comes by on equally beautiful, rainy fall days, when the city looks monochromatic against the grey drizzle.

lilian-ladouys-2009But, I am struck by the fact that I am still thinking about the Chateau Lilian Ladouys 2009 which I had tasted on just such a day during a recent and rather lovely tasting of Bordeaux wines held in an intimate space at Beautique on Manhattan’s west side.

With history dating back to 1654 when it was named Chateau La Doys, ownership of the St. Estephe property known today as Chateau Lilian Ladouys passed during the 18th century to the Barre family before being purchased in recent years by French businessman Jacky Lorenzetti, who also owns full or significant stakes in several other Chateau in the Medoc.

Host Hortense Bernard, Millesima USA
Host Hortense Bernard, Millesima USA
This elegant Bordeaux is produced from the property’s 47 hectare vineyard planted to 58% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc in a gravely, clay, limestone soil mix typical of St. Estephe. Average age of vines is 40 years.

Vinification is carried out in stainless steel, malolactic fermentation done in barrel on 10% of the fruit, 90% in tank. The wine rests in 40% new French oak for 14-16 months.

Tasting Notes:

Dense, velvety palate full of ripe red and black fruit, notes of pencil lead, earth, tobacco and spice. Harmonic, with well-integrated wood toast. Good grippy tannins and a finish that goes on for miles.

Tasting hosted by Millesima USA.

Event coordinated by Vigneto Communications, great job as always, a pleasure to taste in a venue whose character so well fit the personality of the wines.

Aglianico: Do-It-Yourself

Aglianico: Do-It-Yourself

For those of you pursuing an indie do-it-yourself wine education (Really, who else can do it for you?), you might like to take time to explore one of the great and most important grape varietals of Italy’s south, Aglianico.

You’ll probably notice pretty quickly two confounding things about Aglianico: a) that you won’t find it in every wine shop and, b) that when you do, you will likely encounter Aglianico wines from varied regions such as Campania, Sicily, Molise, Puglia, and Basilicata to name a few.

tenuta-del-portale-le-vigne-a-capanno-2009-1All the aforementioned regions produce noteworthy expressions of Aglianico and you must try them eventually. But, do yourself a favor: begin your exploration with Aglianico from Basilicata, Aglianico del Vulture to be specific (takes its name from the region’s dormant volcano Monte Vulture), or from Campania’s Taurasi appellation (named for one of the production area communities), as those two expressions of Aglianico generally set the bar for important Aglianico reference points.

Brief geography: Basilicata is that part of the Italian peninsula that forms the ankle on the boot. You can locate that pretty easily. With only slightly more effort, to find the area for Taurasi, zero in on the Province of Avellino in Campania and you’ll have the place (Hey, don’t complain, I did say “brief” geography, remember? It is do-it-yourself, afterall). Separated by just 40 or so miles, the very common denominator relating the del Vulture and Taurasi production zones is the volcanic soil on which they are situated and in which Aglianico seems to thrive.

I can offer a thumbnail sketch of how the Vulture and Taurasi wines compare: well, actually, I hate doing this kind of broad brush thing, because there are always exceptions, but as you force me:

Aglianico del Vulture wines tend to be wines of complexity and detail, with dark and red fruit tones underlined by mineral character (volcanic, right?) and firm, often dusty tannins, while Taurasi – again, generally speaking – is perhaps the more structured of the two, also has the mineral thing going on, a wine that can show incredible depth and a finish that can go on forever. When cellared, Aglianico wines from either del Vulture or Taurasi areas will reward your patience.

Descriptors for wines from either zone could include red cherry, black cherry, plum, violets, smoke, meat, leather, vanilla, cocoa, menthol and tobacco, and no, that is not a definitive list. Foodie’s will appreciate that Aglianico’s naturally high acidity makes it a great food wine (and also balances alcohol levels that can be north of 14%).

Recommended, reasonable price points and pretty good trade distribution as far as I know:

Bisceglia Aglianico del Vulture
Tenuta Portale Le Vigne a Capanno Aglianico del Vulture
Mastroberardino Radici Taurasi
Terredora di Paolo Taurasi Fatica Contadina

Siro Pacenti Rosso di Montalcino 2008

Siro Pacenti Rosso di Montalcino 2008

When discussing Rosso di Montalcino wines, I am not especially fond of the term “baby Brunello”. The two are different wines, really, wines of differing intent, in fact. One is not simply a pint-sized version of the other.

That said, in the case of Siro Pacenti Rosso di Montalcino 2008, well, I am willing to make an exception.

After a one hour decant, Pacenti’s Rosso exhibited enough scaled-down, Brunello-like character, that “baby Brunello” seems a rather accurate description.

siro-pacenti-rosso-di-montalcino-2008-aGiancarlo Pacenti (Siro was the estate’s founding elder) has often been described as an innovator within the Montalcino zone, a modernist producer, seeking more color and structure from Sangiovese, choosing French barrique over traditional Slavonian oak for aging his wines, playing to the preferences of an international consumer.

Perhaps.

When the music is well-played, I am not so sure the source of artistic inspiration matters.

In any case, Pacenti strikes me as a producer possessing a deep understanding of Montalcino terroir married with precision production methods who creates Sangiovese wines not to be missed by anyone interested in the Montalcino appellation.

Tasting Notes / Impressions:

The initial decant released a plume of bright cherry, strawberry, and red currant. As the wine opened up, hints of violets, earth and smoke came and went, adding complexity. Black cherry tones filled out the wine’s lower register. Muscular and supple on the palate with firm, velvety tannins, acidity balanced with just the right degree of ripeness.

Sangiovese grapes for Pacenti’s wines are hand-harvested and undergo rigorous hand-selection. The Rosso di Montalcino undergoes a wood regimen of new (30%) and year old (70%) barrique, though avoids overt wood attributes. About 3,000 cases made per year.

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