Category Archives: Wine Articles

Grapelive Report From Italy


Antinori’s Tormaresca –  At the Bocca di Lupo Estate in Puglia

By Brandy Falconer, grapelive.com guest columnist

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tormaresca1.jpgLast week I had the pleasure of traveling to Puglia (Apulia) in Southern Italy to visit one of Antinori’s two estates under the Tormaresca label.  We left Naples, driving southeast on the A16 toward the heel of Italy’s boot, and about two and a half hours later, encountering sun, snow and rain along the way, we arrived at the Bocca di Lupo estate.  Directly translated as “Mouth of the Wolf,” it should also be noted that a common expression of “Good Luck!” is translated as “In bocca al lupo!”
My first thoughts when we arrived were of (my) home, the Salinas Valley, with its beautiful flat rows of agriculture, surrounded by green rolling hills in the distance. Even the weather was the same this time of year, a cloud-filled grey sky with a bit of rain and wind…which kept changing every minute. I appreciated the signage that guided us to the winery, something that doesn’t exist everywhere in Italy, and though the building was new and a bit stark on the outside, there was nothing sterile or overly modern about it. It fit in beautifully with the landscape, as if it was simply a renovated farmhouse and barn, reflecting the movement from grape-growing to winemaking at the facility. Grapes have been grown here for centuries, as in most of the south, and in the last decades there has been a noticeable movement from growers to producers.

tormaresca5.jpgWalking through the front door of the winery was like being welcomed into a home or small resort. Offices occupy the downstairs, then a spiral stone staircase brings visitors to a window-lined upstairs where there are meeting rooms, a salon and dining room, all looking out on the vineyards and across to the hills. The interior and exterior are represented in pale colors with sand-colored stone block, which is not only beautiful and serene, but also the result of a desire to use only indigenous materials in the construction. The furnishings also reflect the history of the area, equally inviting and functional; it is easy to feel comfortable here. Their guest rooms (sorry wine pilgrims, for business associates only) are cozy and relaxed, and above all quiet; something I really appreciate after living in downtown Naples for the last several months.

Maria Teresa from the Marketing and Sales department arrived to guide me through the winemaking facilties, which are spacious, modern and practical in a beautiful setting. Rather than looking dormant for the winter, the super-clean presses and tanks seem to be just taking a work break before spring. While one small cellar for the white wines is set up to easily move the barrels after a brief aging period, the main cellar has long, low rows of red stained barrels.  Not at all a “warehouse” cellar, this deep, square chamber is so quiet and visually pleasing  that it resembles a spa. It was so cold outside, the cellar actually seemed warm, and there was even a bit of fog hanging in the room which added to the atmosphere.

tormaresca3.jpgAdjacent to the cellar, we entered the tasting room. With its low arched ceiling and stone walls, it was much like being in a traditional cave cellar, but a large arch window at one end, looking out on the quiet cellar below created a charming ambiance. The long wooden table was set with glasses and bottles, and the tasting began. We started with the 2008 Chardonnay, considered their “base wine”. Not to be confused with “bottom of the line,” this un-oaked Chardonnay (music to my ears), with its fresh, well-balanced acidity and minerality is a wine that you can enjoy with your entire meal. The more complex 2008 Pietrabianca Chardonnay, made with a small amount of Fiano grapes and aged 4-5 months in oak barrels, has a richer, more tropical fruit flavor with hints of caramel. Tasting this wine again after 10 minutes in the glass, I immediately thought of my mom’s famous cheesecake and how delicious the combination would be. This isn’t your mother’s Chardonnay!

Something worth mentioning now is that although we did not have the chance to taste the Calafuria Negroamaro Rosato (Rose) this time, I did sample it at Vinitaly this Spring, and was impressed. Though it is not exported yet in the US because of limited quantities, I believe we will be seeing it, and many more beautiful Rosato wines from southern Italy soon, so prepare your palates and set aside your preconceived notions.  Now, on to the reds. The first poured was the “base red,” called Neprica with its beautiful ruby color. Satisfying many palates in the US, this wine and its name, is a harmonious blend of Negro Amaro, Primitivo and Cabernet Sauvignon, hence, NePriCa. The concentrated flavors and dry finish of this wine bring to mind a dish of lean meat stewed with tomatoes, like pepper steak. As I began asking about the winemaking philosophy at the estate, it was a pleasant surprise to be joined by the estate winemaker, Laura Minioa, who comes from a family of winemakers and agronomists. With her guidance, we moved on to the 2006 Negroamaro Salento IGT from Tormaresca’s other estate in Puglia, Masseria Maime. Laura explained that this estate’s proximity to the ocean offers a variation in terrior and results in a distinctive expression of the grapes grown there. The Negroamaro’s dense ruby color prepares you for the blueberry and deep forest aromas and earthy flavors. Next in the glass was the Primitivo Torcicoda  Salento. An even darker, purple-ruby color with aromas of prunes and straw gave way to a nice, smooth mouthful, with flavors of dark fruit jam and aged meats. This is an enjoyable wine, and my favorite of the lineup.

tormaresca6.jpgIt would have been a shame to come all this way and not be able to enjoy these wines in their native environment…at the dining table.  Luckily, there was another group visiting the winery and I was invited to enjoy lunch along with the other guests.  To start, the Chardonnay was the perfect palate cleanser in between bites of delicately fried artichokes and  bruschetta with melted cheese and black olives individually wrapped in parchment bags. The more substantial Pietrabianca Chardonnay complimented the full flavored home-made pasta with mushrooms and tomato-caper sauce. The surprise was the 2006 Bocca di Lupo Castel del Monte Aglianico DOC which was silky on the tongue with a tannic bite finish. Aromas of apple spice cake and chocolate covered cherries made my mouth water as much as the rosemary beef loin with which it was served. The wine enhanced the dish beautifully and the herb and salted flavors in turn harmonized with and softened the wine, which is what I believe is an exquisite pairing.  In contrast, the last sips of Aglianico in my glass acted as a palate cleanser between bites of the decadent chocolate lava cake. As if we needed another dessert (am I complaining?) traditional almond cookies were served with the Kaloro Moscato dessert wine. Though I am not traditionally a fan of the Moscato grape, I enjoyed the orange flower aroma and flavor of this wine, especially with the cookies. Yes, I had more than one…for the sake of research of course!

Something to be said about this winery and estate is that there is a refreshing consistency among the aspects of the business, I think due to the strong sense of history and culture of Puglia, and the generations of experience of the Antinori family.  The facilities, wine and food are all well thought-out, traditional, and simple without being plain – good representations of this little-known part of Italy.  Puglia is a region to which I will always be glad to return, and Tormaresca offers wines that will be a pleasure to enjoy again and again.

Grapelive Latest

Grapelive Daily Pick

By Kerry Winslow

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sheldon07pn.gif2007 Sheldon Pinot Noir “Roma” Vineyard, Anderson Valley.
After crafting many interesting and critically acclaimed wines over the last few years, Dylan Sheldon and Tobe Sheldon, Sheldon Wines have released what maybe their best yet with this wonderful single vineyard Pinot Noir from the Roma Vineyard in the Burgundian like Anderson Valley. Sadly, it may turn out to be the only vintage, as fires in 2008 wreaked havoc to the grapes and then the vineyard was sold. I loved the Sheldon 2005, and 2006 Pinots, but this one is something very special and I suggest getting some before it is gone for good. Dylan makes some fun and unique Rhone style wines as well, and he’ll focus mostly on them as he seems to be off the Pinot Noir bandwagon for the time being, though he is making a Loire style red made from Cabernet that has beautiful balance and old world elegance. Back to the Pinot, Dylan let the terroir and vintage shine through and ended up with near perfection. The nose has pretty floral notes, roses and wildflowers before hints of tea spice and red currants come through. The palate is still young and brisk with black cherry, plum and raspberry fruits in rich layers, in the background there is mineral, lavender and violets leading to a long finish with subtle oak notes and lively clean acidity. This wine drinks like a fine Burgundy and will most surely grow and develop over the next year at least, getting even better. ($50 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

www.sheldonwines.com

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Grapelive Latest: Feb 3

Grapelive Daily Pick

By Kerry Winslow

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wg07ck.gif2007 Wind Gap Syrah Castelli-Knight Russian River. *New Release

My favorite of the Pax Malhe Wind Gap wines so far, as it is the most developed and perfumed at this stage, making it easy to love now, though it will also gain with a bit of bottle age. This wine has forward Syrah fruit and shows beautiful violets and sweet spices on the nose and on the palate with lots of boysenberry and blueberry fruit. This Syrah is as thick as the other Syrahs, but also has a touch more elegance and class, while giving up only a slight bit of power and intensity. This is a proven vineyard and winemaker, so can highly recommend this vintage and hope you enjoy it as much as me! This forward and beautiful Syrah is all about pleasure and will keep gaining and developing over the next year to two years, making for a wonderful wine for short term cellaring and early drinking! ($49-56 Est.) 94+ Points, grapelive

 

(Available by special order, very limited, at Rancho Cellars, call 1-831-625-5646)


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Grapelive Latest: Feb 2

Grapelive Daily Pick

By Kerry Winslow

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willishaefer08.gif2008 Willi Schaefer Riesling QBA, Mosel, Germany
This dry and fresh Riesling has plenty of flavor and intensity and doesn’t need the normal sweetness to be interesting. Germany is really moving to drier wines and this one s very dry, but has nice depth and texture with a cheesy and mineral nose that leads to a palate of lime, green apple and tangy apricot. There is a strong acid core and it is very vibrant, but it is rounded and not aggressive giving lots of pleasure and the touches of slate, flint and petrol fumes are mild and add to the whole. There is a sense of earth and terroir in this wine, though it is very clean and elegant, making for a Riesling that is well worth the asking price and then some. ($22 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

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Grapelive Latest: Feb 1

Grapelive Daily Pick

By Kerry Winslow

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tofanelli07.gif2007 Tofanelli Zinfandel Napa Valley
Most Zin lovers will know that some of the best Turley wines in the past have used fruit from the famed Tofanelli Vineyard and that this small production Zinfandel is one of the most interesting wines made from this grape. This vintage of Tofanelli is near perfect and this Zin shows off all its talents with rich and flavorful layers of dark fruit and polished balance and class, not always found in modern Zinfandels. This wine is everything that Zin can be without crossing that line and being over the top or bloated, it has lush sweet fruit and smooth texture, but still is lively and fresh. The nose is crushed berries and spicy leading to a blackberry, plum, raspberry and currant filled palate that flows in waves in the mouth. There is some tangy boysenberry, briar and wild spices that pop into the mix that adds to the whole and the finish is long and savory. ($ 36) 94+ Points, grapelive

*Tasted at ZAP, Zinfandel Tasting, in Jan. 2010.

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Grapelive Latest: Weekend Special Review

Grapelive Special Review

By Kerry Winslow

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99dyquem.gif1999 Chateau d’ Yquem Sauternes, White Bordeaux Sweet Wine, France.
Never ever let a chance to taste d’ Yquem pass you by, it is always magic and wonderful, that much better with friends and or lovers, lucky me I had friends around, though of course it would have been just that much better to have my someone special around too, but it did make me think of her! It is hard to imagine not smiling and being giddy when tasting this wonderful sweet wine that is like no other. Chateau d’ Yquem is sublime and worlds apart from anything else and lives up to all the hype with ease. This vintage shows the best of this famous Sauternes, but it is still very young and a touch simple for d’ Yquem, though it is not a complaint, it is just my view at this stage of development. The nose is rich with honey, vanilla and sweet smoky spices with hints of citrus and tropical fruit, which leads into a warm and lush palate of figs, lemon tart, candied pineapple and passion fruit all thickly wrapped together, but with life and vibrant charm. The finish is very impressive and lingers on and on with again a sweet smokiness and with more fig, orange honey and peach notes. ($129 375ml, or $200 750ml Est.) 94-96 Points, grapelive

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Grapelive Latest: Jan 28

Grapelive Daily Pick

By Kerry Winslow

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pont00.gif2000 Chateau Pontet-Canet Pauillac Red Bordeaux, France.
This wine teases you with want and desire, being shy at first, but then crashing on the palate with classic Bordeaux flavors and complexities that include red berries, plum, currants, mineral, gun powder and black olives all delivered with a tar like quality. A background of tobacco, sage and spice fades as the wine opens up, but is in no way unpleasant and gives complexity before the tangy fruit comes back and lasts on the long finish. This wine is still very young feeling and would do with another 3 to 5 years before giving elegance, even though it shows a pure Pauillac nature. Have patience if you own this Bordeaux, and if you must open soon, give lots of time and decant it 2 to 5 hours!

*A Fifth Growth estate, across the street from Mouton and owned by the Tesseron family, Pontet-Canet is a still rising star and is a Parker favorite for quality and value with a case production of 25,000 to 40,000 depending on vintage. The vineyards are made up of 68% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot and 12% Cabernet Franc with an average age of 27 years old.
($61 Est.) 90-92 Points, grapelive

*Still a few at:

Rancho Cellars

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Grapelive Latest: Jan 27

Grapelive Daily Pick

By Kerry Winslow

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pv00.gif2000 Chateau Petit Village Pomerol Red Bordeaux, France.
No question this is a fine and wonderful wine that shows beautiful fruit and texture all ready with an amazing palate of elegant layers, this is one great Pomerol that will not let you down in anyway. The nose is refined and has just the right amount of perfume and fruit to peak your interest and make you want to fill your mouth with this nectar that has pretty red and black fruit and subtle tannins. The mouth grows as the wine expands with raspberry, black cherry and plum fruits with flashes of mint, spice and mineral. Air just brings out more and more class in this wine and shows the vintage for what it is, a classic and without any doubt will continue to show near perfect balance and length.
*Rated by Parker as Excellent and on par with Third Growths, Petit Village is now considered an estate on the rise in Pomerol with ownership, since 1971, in the hands of Bruno Prats, the owner of Cos D’ Estournel, then later AXA Insurance Group. This estate has about 27 acres of vines, 70% Merlot, 18% Cabernet Sauvignon and 12% Cabernet Franc with a small case production of only 5,000 from vines that average close to 30 years old. (Pomerol does not have a classification system.)
($75 Est.) 93-94 Points, grapelive

Available at:

Rancho Cellars

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Grapelive Latest: Jan 26

 Grapelive Daily Pick

By Kerry Winslow

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ang00.gif2000 Chateau L’ Angelus Saint-Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classe Red Bordeaux, France.
I was very excited to get a chance to try this Angelus as I’m a huge fan of Cheval Blanc from just down the way, and I was not at all disappointed with this top class Bordeaux. L’ Angelus has divided the wine critics, because of its modern styling, but I found it full and rich with sublime elegance and length, plus wonderful complexity from nose to finish. This Bordeaux is worth every penny and will mature with grace while only gaining in class and richness. The nose has more evolved accents that reveal the best of Cabernet Franc allowing for a beautiful floral and fruity perfume that has dropped the new oak into the background at this stage. The palate has thickness and fills the mouth with red fruits, chocolate and spicy liqueur notes. The finish is long and has notes of toffee, cassis and vanilla that adds to the pleasure and in no way takes away from the pretty fruit core. This wine can be enjoyed now, though can go another decade easy.
*A top Premier Grand Cru Classe L’ Angelus has been long known as a great wine, even though it didn’t make it to Premier Grand Cru Classe until 1995, which it certainly deserves, even Parker noted that he thought they should have got there in 1985, and without a doubt is an estate that ranks with the superstars. Owned by the de Bouard de Laforest family, L’ Angelus sits on perfectly facing south slopes with vineyards made up of 50% Cabernet Franc, 45% Merlot and just 5% of Cabernet Sauvignon, which turn out close to 15,000 cases.
($244 Est.) 95-96 Points, grapelive



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Grapelive Latest: Jan 25

Grapelive Daily Pick

By Kerry Winslow

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hb00.gif2000 Chateau Haut-Bailly Pessac-Leognan Red Bordeaux, France.
This is one of the most bright and pretty Bordeauxs I’ve ever tried and I was intrigued by the length and pure pleasure it delivered, this might be one of the great sleepers of the vintage! The nose is ripe and perfumed with lots of violets, roses and wildflowers mixed with spicy berry and cloves before a elegant array of fruit that comes in layers across the palate. The mouth is raspberry, blackberry, plums and red currants that come out in savory and spicy fashion with mineral, mushroom and leather notes in the background. This is one very pretty wine that is what most people expect of a fine Bordeaux or Claret (in England) and a wine that has plenty of style and depth. Enjoy this wine now, but this wine has plenty of years left to grow and expand, so be patient and enjoy, and if you can get some as it is a great value. I tasted this wine in a line up of six 2000 Bordeaux wines over the course of a few hours and from start to finish it was in my top two the whole time and compared well with wines almost four times its price!
*This small Cru Classe estate, Haut-Bailly, is making wines that according to Parker put it at least at Third Growth level and more recently seen great improvement. The production is pretty small at around 12,000 cases from vines that are close to 40 years old on average with 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc. Haut-Bailly has a long history even if they are considered a newcomer, and the second owner in 1872 thought that adding cognac added dimension to his wines, but quality has really been much on the rise since 1979, though Parker notes that both the ’61 and ’64 vintages were fabulous.
($65 Est.) 93-94 Points, grapelive

Available at:

Rancho Cellars

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