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January Focus Group: All 4 Winners!

January Focus Group: All 4 Winners!

Thursday, 06 January 2022 12:04

L'Alpage Chasselas, Mont sur Rolle, Switzerland 2020, $23

L’Alpage is a custom cuvée selected by Eric Solomon to capture the pure minerality and refreshing qualities of Chasselas grown in specific terroirs along the upper Rhône river banks. This style of Chasselas is a friendly, thirst-quenching wine perfect for after a day of hiking or snowshoeing and always welcome with cave-aged Gruyère, raclette, or fondue. Initially, we launched this cuvée from vineyards in the Valais under the local name Fendant, but with the 2020 vintage, we discovered a plot of Chasselas in the village of Mont-sur-Rolle in La Côte – a singular place with a quintessentially Swiss vista taking in Lac Léman and the Alps. 


Pietramore Pecorino, Abruzzo, Italy 2018, $21
Antica Tenuta Pietramore is a certified biodynamic winery located in the far north of Abruzzo, just a few miles from the board of the Marche. The estate covers 70 hectares which are planted to the principal grapes of the region: Montepulciano, Pecorino, and Trebbiano Abruzzese.  Their Pecorino is one of the best examples of grape we have come across, embracing the richer presence the grape is prone to.  Full bodied and enlivened by racy acidity, the wine is remarkably easy to enjoy with fresh pear and white peach on the palate and just a touch of lanolin peeking through. $21.

Monte Rio Primitivo, Lodi, California 2020, $19.99

  There is an unusual sense of "nakedness" in the immediacy of fruit and whiffs of tea leaf-like dusty/earthiness to the just-released 2019 Monte Rio Cellars Primitivo. Something strange for a California wine, but very deliberate for this particular wine brand which proclaims itself (on its website home page) devoted to the "Spirit of Old California." That is to say, a style of wine harkening back to, perhaps, the 1950s or early '60s, when California vintners were not yet hooked on the taste of oak, and 12.5% alcohol was the norm rather than rare exception. Monte Rio Cellars, which is owned by a multi-award winning New York City sommelier/restaurateur named Patrick Cappiello, would like to bring back that "old" style. In fact, a style that he imagines might have been employed in the 1800s or early 1900s, when everything was fermented with natural yeasts and even sulfur wasn't routinely used. And when a 5-year old barrel was still considered "new." 

Vivid blue-tinged ruby color leading to an intensely fragrant red fruit aroma with very "Lodi" nuances of black tea and almost umami-like protein quality (think aged cheese), with leafy/herby undertones. The entry on the palate is soft and gentle, but by the middle it becomes zesty, edgy yet meaty in its fruit focus, lingering with a moderate tannin and herbal/leafy notes. The deep color and fruit focus, according to Cappiello, is a product of 100% whole cluster carbonic maceration (whereby whole clusters are sealed in a closed tank, initiating an intracellular fermentation in each berry resulting in softer tannins and elevated fruit qualities). That sense of "nakedness" in the wine's fruit profile and earth toned distinctions is also attributable to Cappiello and Mahle's unsulfured approach to winemaking, done entirely with native yeasts and strictly neutral "old wood," and finished at a very restrained 12.5% alcohol. ***************************************************

Terre Rouge "Garrique Red", Sierra Foothills, California 2013 $19.99

92 Points Wine and Spirits:  Bill Easton blended this wine from two sources—an old-vine cabernet vineyard in Shenandoah Valley and syrah from Monarch Mine Vineyard at 2,500 feet. It’s gruff at first, with an unmovable solidity to its tannins, as if infused with dissolved Foothills granite. Aromas of anise, mint and pine bark gain clarity with air, giving the wine extension rather than just density—an impressive length of flavor that feels true to place, wild and fascinating. Leave it in the cellar for several years before bringing it out for steak.

Wine Enthusiast: Reserved fruit and spice flavors, and a soothing, gripping texture will make this medium-bodied blend of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon a great dinner guest. Plenty of tannins give a fine sandpaper feel on the tongue, and the wine will counterbalance the richness of meat, fowl and game dishes.