Saturday, November 30, 2013

A Benchmark Tuscan Red

“I do not want a wine to blow my mind. I want a wine of elegance, perfume, and good persistence in the mouth, that marries well with the food on my plate.” Sergio Manetti, Montevertine

Rosso di Toscana IGT "Montevertine", Az. Agr. Montevertine 2010

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Clos Canarelli's Vin de France From Corsica

Clos Canerelli is a small domaine in the Corsican village of Figari in the southern tip of the island. Production in the dry, poor granite, red alluvial soils at Clos Canarelli is sparse. The weather is harsh, with the constant wind from the Gulf of Figari drying out the soil quickly, though the dry conditions also serve as a natural antiseptic, protecting the vines from diseases such as phylloxera.

Yves Canarelli converted the vineyards to both organic and biodynamic farming, making it possible for his wines to display an unusual freshness, complexity, and aromatic intensity that others in Figari have been unable to achieve. In the cellar, Yves only uses indigenous yeasts, and prefers slow, deliberate, precise fermentations, and leaves his reds unfiltered. Like other natural-wine proponents he also experiments with egg-shaped cement tanks (modern-day amphorae) and whole cluster fermentations.

Yves Canarelli has also championed the planting of old Corsican indigenous varietals. He ripped out entire vineyards of foreign varieties in favor of heirloom Corsican grapes. And in some cases, he has preserved ancient vines of indigenous varieties still planted in his vineyard. However, many of these heirloom varieties are so old that France's appellation system no longer recognize them. Yet, Canarelli has persisted to produce tiny quantities from vines of Carcaghjolu Neru, Sciaccarellu, and Minustellu.

Yves Canarelli defends Corsican terroir and native grapes by classifying its two best wines Vin de France! Both are not easy to find, even in Corsica, as production is tiny. The wines are categorized simply "Vin de France" because both don't conform to the INAO requirement for approved varieties, yet nothing could be more native to Corsica than the heirloom grapes used for these wines. Thus, Canarelli is prevented from printing the vintage on the label. Our current stock are both 2009, and the "L09" code is printed on the label.

Vin de France "CN", Clos Canarelli (2009)

Vin de France "Tarra d'Orasi", Clos Canarealli (2009)

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Beaujolais Day Tasting 21st November and Haiyan Fundraiser

No disrespect to Nouveau, but we are pouring instead some wonderful cru Beaujolais and a delicious Sparkling Gamay this Thursday.
Vin Mousseux Sec "Turbullent", Stephane Serol (Domaine Robert Serol) NV
sparkling rosé from 100% Gamay planted in the granitic soils of Roannais just west of Lyon and almost touching Beaujolais region

Beaujolais-Villages "Vieilles Vignes", Domaine Jean-Claude Lapalu 2012
from Gamay vines averaging 45 years-old, Jean-Claude's most significant early influence came from the writings of Jules Chauvet, France's "Father of Natural Winemaking"

Brouilly "Vieilles Vignes", Domaine Jean-Claude Lapalu 2012
from Gamay vines averaging 60 years of age, this is is a blend of grapes fermented with carbonic maceration and grapes vinified traditionally, and in both cases no sulphites were added during vinification, as Jean-Claude adds minimal sulphites during bottling

Brouilly "Brulius", Raphael Champier 2012
low-key but talented are the words used to describe the young vigneron Raphael Champier, whose Beaujolais are very difficult to find but highly sought-after in the hipster natural wine bars of Paris

To accompany these wines, a taste of delicious pork and duck charcuterie from Fabrique Delices.

We just ask for a donation of $5.00 to give to the American Red Cross to benefit the victims of typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. No advanced reservation required for this special tasting. Just come in between 12:30pm and 6:30pm. Don't miss this!!!

Vineyard Gate
238 Broadway
Millbrae, CA 94030

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

White Burgundy of the Year

Unfortunately--truly unfortunately--we're sold out. Good luck finding it, too. Cyril Audoin produced just 3 barrels or 700 bottles of this 2011 Marsannay Blanc La Charme aux Pretres. In the west coast of the United States a mere 180 bottles showed up. At a price of $37 our stock sold out immediately and I could not replenish it.

It is the first vintage for this single lieu-dit Marsannay white. Previously Cyril Audoin blended the parcel into his Marsannay Blanc. But in 2011, he decided to separate out his tiny parcel of La Charme aux Pretres vineyard. This is Chardonnay from the northern end of the Cote de Nuits, yet it seems to channel Puligny down in the Cote de Beaune. Intensely perfumed. Hazelnuts and white stone fruits. Delicious. Its finesse and delicacy imbue class, making it hard not to believe it is not Puligny in your glass. A triumph for both the gifted Cyril Audoin and the marvelous terroir of his vineyard.

I can't wait for next year's release. I already heard 300 bottles were promised for the west coast. I will be waiting first in line.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Tasting 2009 and 2010 Saint-Emilion Grands Crus Classés

Created in 1955, the Saint-Emilion classification doesn't quite project the same gravitas as the 1855 Medoc classification. The problem I believe is the classification aims ambitiously to be inclusive and egalitarian. There are over 200 chateaux classified Saint-Emilion or Saint-Emilion Grand Cru, 58 Grands Crus Classés, and and 18 Premiers Grands Crus Classés. And every ten years the classification is updated to much gnashing of teeth and law suits from those excluded and demoted.

Contrast the Saint-Emilion classification to the 1855 Medoc classification in which only 62 red Bordeaux producers are included and, except for one change, has never been updated.

Despite the controversies the 58-strong Saint-Emilion Grands Crus Classés chateaux represent the sweet spot in top Bordeaux values today. For the most part their wines sell for under $50 in the highly desirable 2009 and 2010 vintages. Yesterday's tasting in San Francisco hosted by the Association of Grands Crus Classés of Saint-Emilion featuring these two vintages attested to the overachieving quality of the wines. But the tasting went beyond showing what everyone already knows. Less expected, perhaps, was the diverse quality from one producer to another and the interesting contrast between the 2009 and 2010 vintages.

Gwendeline Lucas pouring La Dominique, with the 2009 showing a soft, seductive style, whilst the 2010 is fresher though I noted a particular hardness.

I felt Jean Faure with up to 60% Cabernet Franc in the blend excelled in both 2009 and 2010 vintages. Here poured by Fanny de Kepper.

I caught the popular Bay Area-based wine video blogger, Monique Soltani, covering the event, fresh from recent stints in Tuscany and Bordeaux. I can't forget the time she visited Vineyard Gate to do a video blog about the store. It was a lot of fun being interviewed by her.

Tasters crowded the table of Destieux, where I met with Nicolas Dauriac, Anne Marie's son. I was introduced to Anne Marie by a mutual friend during her visit to the Bay Area several years ago. I took us all to a favorite neighborhood northern Chinese restaurant in Burlingame, CA, where we drank her Bordeaux with the Chinese cuisine. The pairing was a hit. The family also owns Montlisse in Saint-Emilion and La Clemence in Pomerol. I like their style, they go more for elegance, instead of power. Nicolas was thrilled to mention to me that at a recent blind tasting Destieux topped both Canon-la-Gaffeliere and Pavie!

Next to Destieux's table was another popular stop for tasters, the wines of Faugeres and Peby Faugeres. This wine-critic-favorite producer not surprisingly makes a modern style Saint-Emilion that tends to be bigger and riper tasting than most. The 2010 Peby, the all Merlot flagship wine from Faugere's oldest vines, clocks in with an alcohol of at least 15%.

Right next to the Faugeres table was another proponent of modern style Saint-Emilion, Fleur Cardinale. Both Faugeres and Fleur Cardinale pay for the consulting services of Michel Rolland. However, for my taste, Fleur Cardinale handles this bigger, riper style much better, particularly in the 2010 vintage. 2010 Bordeaux shows freshness and good acidity but also elevated alcohol. 2009 wines taste softer and sweeter by comparison. From what I've tasted of both 2009 and 2010 Bordeaux, it is not easy to make vintage generalizations. You have to go producer by producer, wine by wine. While many Bordeaux experts and fans have praised the fresh acidity and structured quality of 2010s, and I won't disagree, many of the wines are a touch hard and the ripeness seems forced. I would still put my money on many 2009s over the long run.

One of my favorite wines of the tasting was poured by Virginie Larramona from the Association de Grands Crus Classés de Saint-Emilion. It is the much overlooked Chateau Dassault, which is still owned by the Dassault family. Michel Rolland has also been its consulting oenologist of late. Yet, the wines are a marked contrast in taste and style to those of Faugeres and Fleur Cardinale. They evoke a more classic Saint-Emilion. In both 2009 and 2010 vintage, the balance in concentration, elegance, and structure is really beautiful.