Metro Wines Blogs

Metro Wines Asheville, NC

Francoise Antech

 

We had lunch with Winemaker Francoise Antech (phonetically "on tesh") from Limoux last week and shamelessly asked a lot of questions. Francoise was both generous in her comments and candid.
 
We tasted two of her sparkling wines paired with family style dishes at Rhubarb. "The wines are made in the Methode Champenoise but with different grapes," Francoise says. "Mauzac is from Limoux."
 
First up, Rose"I did not want to make Rose just for a barbeque!" says Francoise. Clara Vie Cremant Rose made in Limoux is a blend of Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Mauzac and a touch of Pinot Noir. This Rose is a hand harvested and hand crafted cuvee made from old vines growing close to the Mediterranean Sea. On the nose you will find small wild red fruits and spring flowers carrying over to a round, fruity palate with a clean finish. And the bubbles? Fine and constant.
 
Next, Clara Vie Brut Nature, Blanquette de Limoux! A blend of 90% Mauzac with equal parts Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc. The wine is a yellow golden hue in the glass with those fine bubbles for which Francoise is known. Fresh aromas of green apples, honeysuckle and white flowers on the nose. the palate is white fruit, balanced minerality and a long finish.
 
Francoise is a 6th generation winemaker. The family estate in Limoux sits in the South of France in the shadow of the Pyrennes and close to the border of Spain. "Bubbles were invented here in Limoux by the monks 150 years before Dom Perignon!" says Francoise. 
 
Francoise tells us that the winery has always been worked by women and only recently have men joined the inner winemaking circle. "Since I was born, I have always been in the vineyard and cellar and I took over 22 years ago," says Francoise. "My father, unlike so many, said that it was my choice."
 
It did not take long to realize that the path she had chosen would not always be easy. The climate is difficult and there is always the threat of a fatal frost in the winter. Sometimes nature can take from you. "But," says Francoise, "nature always gives you something back, every year is different and you never know what the juice will be like."
 
Francoise works as close to nature as possible. Through leaf analysis, she can determine what the soil needs and she gives the earth ONLY what it needs, no more. "Everything is possible in the vineyard." 
 
But is the wine natural? Francoise bristles, with not only the approval but vigorous agreement with everyone seated at the table, at the term "natural." Limiting interference and manipulation is "just what you do," says Francoise. "We interface just enough."
 
But not every aspect of the wine business is within your control. Shipping is a big issue with Francoise. Everything involved in shipping wines around the world has a negative environmental impact. "We try to compensate in the vineyard to restore an ecological balance," says Francoise. But how? "We plant trees, almond, fig, fruit and cypress!"
 
While Francoise totally enjoys making wine, what she is really passionate about is the comaraderie with other women winemakers. She is a member of Vini Filles (http://www.vinifilles.fr/), a group of over 280 women winemakers in France. Started over 10 years ago, a gathering has good food and good wine. "But, mostly, it is about choosing family," Francoise says. "These are my sisters."
 
The pricing and style of these wines make it possible to enjoy bubbles everyday. And this is a goal for Francoise. "Bubbles, make life better!"
 
Francoise produces 850,000 bottles each year exporting 60% of her wine to 30 countries. Most of the wine goes to the UK, USA, Canada, Japan and Italy. Both wines also have a healthy market in Taiwan, Singapore and Russia. "Very good with sushi."
 
When not drinking her own wines, what does Francoise prefer? "Sancere and Burgundy," she says. "I prefer wines that are not oaked, I want to taste the terroir." Francoise does really enjoy Bordeaux but says it is too expensive. "I prefer Languedoc" she says. "I am looking for quality to price, not just a big name." What about wines from this country? Francoise finds some bottles of Pinot Noir from Oregon to be "beautiful."
 
Francoise wants you to know that her trademark fine bubbles are not just about the wine. It's about the glass too. "The bubbles depend on the soap you use for cleaning," says Francoise. "You must rinse the glass thoroughly with just water. And if you use an automatic dishwasher, don't use any rinse liquid."
 
"Wine should not be complicated," says Francoise. "It makes life better and builds good relationships."

 

Continue reading
  34 Hits
34 Hits

Michele D'Aprix

 

WOW. What a night. Michele D'Aprix is not just a great winemaker but a natural comedienne! About 35 participants came out to welcome Michele. We learned. We laughed. We left knowing all about Bordeaux.

 
You know from previous posts that Michele was studying chemistry and bartending in Boston. I would not say that she is an accidental winemaker but there are some elements of chance in her story. She took that chemistry degree and what was becoming an interest in wine to University of California Davis.
 
Her interest strengthened and before long she had realized that her future would be to channel her chemistry background into oenology. While working down the wine road at UC Davis, Michele was told that the only way to really become a winemaker is to just DO IT. That means you need internships. 
OK. Michele landed an internship in Burgundy. It was going fine but she found herself interested in getting dirty with grapes beyond Pinot Noir. So, while building her vineyard and winemaking skills in Burgundy, she heard about an opportunity in Bordeaux. Truth be told, Michele thought it would be a hard road to hoe in Bordeaux, a small, shall we say, very traditional (read male dominated) community. But she wrote to the Chateau anyway. "This was like writing to Bruce Springstein and saying I just bought a guitar, could you give me lessons?" But the answer is already No if you don't try. Right? The Chateau said YES! Come on down.
 
Michele said that they, like so many others in France, thought she would be a boy. Her last name is French and Michele is often a boy's calling card. Michele lives in NYC except during the harvest in Bordeaux and trips around the country to showcase her magic. And much of her family lives in Raleigh.
 
The master of the house at the Chateau was not a winemaker but rather a a made it rich Microsoft guy who thought it would be fun to own a winery. That said, Michele pretty much had the run of the place from the get go.
 
So, Michele is working the vineyards and stirring the pot. It was (and is) hot in the vineyards and the cellar. Microsoft guy served lunch everyday but it was usually heavy dishes like cassoulet paired with big red wines. It is Bordeaux after all. But it is also hot. 
 
Michele wanted to lighten the lunch load with a crisp white wine. She found an extra tank at the Chateau and commenced to bringing the light to the table. The winery across the street was growing Sauvignon Blanc (SB) and Michele took the extra grapes. Bonanza! Michele was the recipient of more grapes than the tank could hold.  About 5% of space was left between the grapes and the lid. Not good. If the tank is not fully filled with grapes, air fills the gap and the wine can become oxidized. 
OK. Regroup. Michele added 5% of the white varietal Semillon. This addition of Semillon to the SB turns the wine into White Bordeaux. The wine is good. All the spark of SB but with a smoothness from the Semillon. Pierre Angulaire White Bordeaux was born but was still just a table wine at the Chateau. And there are still lots of homeless SB grapes across the street.
 
More tanks, Michele thought. With all the easily accessible SB grapes and the initial success with white, Michele sought out more available tanks. She found some at a winery down the road. The winemakers that tasted the blend loved it and urged Michele to bottle it for sale. Now Pierre Angulaire hits the market! 
 
But Michele is devoted to red wine, and while she produces an excellent White and Red Rhones as well as Rose, Bordeaux is still  her passion. She bottles "Pentimento," a blend of 75% merlot and 25% Cabernet Franc.
 
Somewhere along the line, she met acclaimed winemaker Stephane Derenoncourt (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St%C3%A9phane_Derenoncourt) who shared his genius with her. Pentimento justs gets better and better.
 
Michele told us why she named the bottle Pentimento. The name is taken from a 1973 book by Lillian Hellman about the layers of her life (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lillian_Hellman) Wine is like that too. Layers. From the workers in the vineyard to the retail store. Layers.
 
But, of most importance, Michele said that MetroWines was one of two favorite wine shops anywhere. Believe it! Thank you Michele and back at you!
 

 

  
Continue reading
  54 Hits
54 Hits

All About Emmanuel Kemiji

Tonight is the night! Emmanuel Kemiji, Master Sommelier, WineMaker and Winery Owner, hosts a sold out wine pairing dinner at the acclaimed Vivian in Asheville! Emmanuel, on a very busy day, stopped by the shop a few hours ago to say hello to the staff. We shamelessly cornered him for a few minutes.
 
In our casual conversation with a very excited and a bit star struck staff (including me!), we asked to learn about this very accomplished person in the wine world. What we uncovered in nothing compared to what the dinner revealed about Emmanuel's travels down a long and vinous road to becoming a highly regarded winemaker.
 
But here it is: Turns out Emmanuel lives in Puerto Rico. He says the island was devastated in a way "that you cannot imagine"but it is coming back, slowly but surely. His own home was damaged but not demolished. While Emmanuel lives in Puerto Rico, his work and we do mean WORK takes place in Spain and California.
 
In conversation, Emmanuel made mention about "working the harvest." What? You work the harvest? I admitted that I thought he probably stirred the pot a bit, maybe sternly said the batch needs a touch more Carignan, maybe signed off on the final brew, but work the harvest? Oh yeah. He does. Emmanuel is a hands on winemaker. He is involved throughout the entire process. These are most definitely HIS wines.
 
In Spain, Emmanuel and partners own the vineyards and winery where Clos Pissara is made in Priorat. The California operation is very different. Emmanuel is a road warrior sourcing the grapes from around the state and makes wine in a facility he leases. A lot more mileage and legwork, but these are also totally HIS wines.
 
From what we hear, everywhere Emmanuel went in Asheville during the day he was asked where he was having dinner. When he told them he was scheduled for a wine pairing dinner in the RAD at Vivian, everyone was suitably impressed and jealous! And those who attended tell me the jealousy was more than justified!
 
On to the dinner...................
Packed house. I am told you could feel the electricity in room. Guests were MetroWines customers, Vivian customers and some Asheville culinary notables including Liz Button! Yes, that Button.
Born in New Jersey of Greek and Spanish heritage, at 2 years of age, his parents packed up Emmanuel and moved to London. Spending his, shall we say, formative years, in London and Europe, the roots of the finer things in life, even if subliminally, were surely sown.
Emmanuel says his parents had friends everywhere, even California. A trip to Sacramento to visit friends there coincided with his search for a college. Emmanuel took an instant liking to the area. But what about college? In what turned out to be a "what should be, will be moment,"  Emmanuel was advised that UC Davis was just up the road. 
So OK. Off to UC Davis. He started off studying Economics and Spanish Literature. And while Emmanuel was not particularly interested in wine, he started to take notice of enology. He began taking electives in enology and learning about wine making. Finding enology interesting, the pursuit of the subject was still more an interest than a career direction.
But then he met Brian Kosage (https://www.bkosugewines.com/). (Skipping ahead, Brian becomes ultimately Emmanuel's winemaker in future episodes!) The friendship and association with Brian channeled Emmanuel's casual interest in enology into more of an unstructured passion. 
After graduation, Emmanuel became sommelier at Ritz Carlton in San Francisco. Nice job. But he and Brian wanted to get their hands dirty and work a harvest.  Hard work (and there is always the possibility of snakes! I added that part.)  
Moving forward on a path from which Emmanuel may not yet have realized he would not turn back, after working several harvests, he and Brian decided to try making wine. As luck, or fate for those who subscribe to it, would have it, one of the Roederer owners in Alexander Valley said he would give Emmanuel a ton of grapes, the beginnings of about 200 cases, to test drive his winemaking skills. 
Emmanuel and Brian did indeed make 200 cases of wine with those Roederer grapes. Great! Now what? Emmanuel has his share, about 120 cases, in his San Francisco apartment. Time to call friends to help him drink it. If you pour it, they will come! And they did.
And, of more importance, they like it. A LOT. As luck would again have it, or well you know, fate, some of the friends owned restaurants. They want to buy it for their eateries. By this time in the wine world, the 3 tier distribution system was firmly in place. The system requires the winery or importer to sell to a distributor who sells to the a restaurant or shop. 
That said, it was and is illegal for a winery to sell directly to a restaurant, even one owned by friends.  So, Emmanuel, became, in his words, "a bootlegger." The wine took off. Emmanuel had to get right, real and legal. In 1998, he "became an honest man" and sold his wines, and a LOT of wines, legally. 
And the rest is, as they say, history. Now, as a giant in the wine world, does Emmanuel have words of wisdom for aspiring winemakers? He says: "the secret to making great wine is to get best grapes you can and then don't screw it up!" 
Toward that goal, Emmanuel has locked in some of the best vineyards in California including what are considered the 5 best vineyards for Chardonnay in the state. As proof of the success of his philosophy, Emmanuel has a interest in the vineyards in Russian River put Russian River on the wine map. Same in SoCal. Used by Pissoni, the most famous producer of Pinot Noir in SoCal. 
How did he do it?  "Persistence and proved ability." 
 
Oh, and BTW, Somewhere ablong the line, Emmanuel became a Master Sommelier. That's a BIG deal. While Emmanuel was a little to humble to mention this accredidation, you should know: Kemiji became the twelfth American to pass the Master Sommelier exam in London, England and one of only nine to date to pass on his first attempt. He then went on to become the first sommelier to establish a commercial winery, Miura Vineyards.
Restaurant recommendation from this international, palate competent citizen? Emmanuel says, while he loves it here in Asheville,             his culinary heart lies elsewhere: "My favorite place is San Sebastian in Spain."
 
MetroWines has and will always have wines from Emmanuel Kemiji!
 
For more about the history, philosophy and the WINES! go here:
 
Continue reading
  65 Hits
65 Hits

Jon Tomaselli of Torii Mor, Dundee, Oregon

 

MetroWines hosted a tasting with Associate Winemaker Jon Tomaselli of Torii Mor Winery in Dundee, Oregon. First, Jon is of Sicilian heritage! I totally shared a "Ciao Asheville" ( https://www.facebook.com/CiaoAsheville/ ) calling card with him. His wine roots go deep and far back into Italy. And you know that made us happy to hear!
 
The Torii Mor Website says of the Italian Connection: "With three generations of Italian winemakers in his family, Jon Tomaselli began his love affair with wine at the age of 4 years old while assisting the elder Tomasellis in their viticultural endeavors. By the age of 8, Jon knew he had found his calling in life." 
 
After growing up Italian!!, the Website says of his journey to winemaker: "In 1999, Jon graduated from Arizona State with a degree in small business management. After four long years in the trenches of corporate America, Jon went into business for himself brokering wine grapes from California and wine equipment. Upon moving to Oregon in 2006, Jon was offered a position at Torii Mor and in 2007, was promoted to Associate Winemaker under the direction of Winemaker Jacques Tardy.
 

Jacques brings his Burgundian heritage and his years of experience to Torii Mor and carefully produces wines of elegance, balance, and intention, utilizing our Olson Estate Vineyard and other prestigious vineyards in the Dundee Hills and other AVAs within the Willamette Valley."

 
Jon was informative, unpretentious and flat out fun. He escorted us through a tasting of six different versions of Pinot Noir. You might be asking how different can they be? With the different soils and the myriad of factors, including harvest date, fermentation temperature, skin contact, oak aging or not, all the way down to cork or screw cap, that can be adjusted and tweaked in the winemaking process, all six were distinct and very different. You can read all about his wines here: https://www.toriimorwinery.com/product-category/red-wine/
 
What we all really liked was his basic approach to explaining the process. Some of us finally GOT IT. Jon explained that the winemaker can control the weight of the wine. And this is of great importance to him. He is suitably unhappy with what has happened to most domestic versions of Pinot Noir. Too big. Unbalanced. Unstructured. Flabby. Just too much!
 
He likened the process of controlling body to dipping a tea bag in a cup of hot water. Every time you dip the bag, the tea becomes stronger. But imagine if you dip the bag in cold water. And then increasingly hot water, the difference in strength or weight of flavor in the tea. Same with wine!
 
Punch Down and Pump Over are the two main processes by which a winemaker can induce the juice to have contact with the grape skins. Wine Folly describes it this way:
 
punchdown-vs-pumpover-with-winePumpovers Pumpovers can extract higher amounts of tannin in a wine depending on the frequency and force.
Some pump over systems are basically wine sprinklers, offering a gentler extraction and some aggressively stir
up the fermentation tank. For larger fermentation tanks in commercial operations, much needed oxygen comes
through a pumpover device.

Punch Downs Punch downs, on the other hand, are a very delicate way of stirring a wine. Theykeep skins from getting too extracted and little to no amount of added oxygen in the fermentation. Punch downs are typically done by hand and are more popular with non-interventionist winemaking.  

So, the more you punch down or pump over, the heavier the weight of the wine. And then there is temperature control. The cooler the temperature, the fruitier and fresher the wine. Within the varietal, Jon has great leeway to not only reflect the terroir but the all important weight he not only prefers but believes is appropriate for the grape. GOT IT!
 
Jon has agreed to SKYPE with us from his habitat in Dundee! Any Hale, Director of The Asheville School of Wine, is contacting him now! Stand by....

 

Continue reading
  122 Hits
122 Hits

Alessandro Cellai, "Rock Star Winemaker"

 

What a delightful guy! Alessandro Cellai (https://wineinsicily.com/en/feudi-del-pisciotto-winery-sicily-and-chianti-regarding-alessandro-cellai/) was interesting, fun and very, very, very accomplished. 

 
Seems like some people are just born with a genetic predisposition to do what they end up doing. Alessandro is one of them. He was, no doubt about it, born with the wine gene. That stands in stark contradistinction to me who was born with the "Watch Mary Tyler Moore Reruns Over and Over Again" gene, a predisposition I can assure you I have fulfilled!
 
There is so much to tell you about Alessandro but so much has already been written about and by him, all available on the internet and YouTube, I think I will let you focus on the aspects of his life and winemaking that interest you. 
 

First, let me say that I hope Alessandro is not shining me on! He is mighty charming and could do some shining with ease but he seems like a real and nice guy. And I could see he was visibly taken aback when I gave him my business card. He says his mother's name is the same as mine, Trippi. She was from the Tuscan village of Civitella Della Chiana in Arezzo. "It is not a common name and I have only heard it around the Florence area." How cool is that?

Are we cousins, I ask with great hope? Alessandro says, "Probably, up the line somewhere." That works!  A world class winemaker for a cousin, even if it is several generations back in the old country and a little light on connectivity, is good enough for me. Alessandro says he will send me something that his mother signed. WOW!  I am all over town today telling everyone about my cousin. But enough about my excellent adventure. Back to Alessandro...


So the "Rock Star Winemaker" Alessandro Cellai sandwiched a quick visit to MetroWines between two other engagements in Asheville. Add a very curious crowd @MetroWines meaning I had limited time to question our guest so I dived right in to the less than technical stuff. We already know his wines have balance, structure and a berry taste and are highly reviewed. Yada. Yada. Move on...

I was determined to make sure that I got to the bottom of this "Rock Star" designation. What's that all about? Turns out Alessandro was chosen by Decanter Magazine as the Best Winemaker Under 40 in the World! The WORLD I say. Read: "Rock Star." Yeah, that's my cousin!

But do you believe it? The RockStar thing, I ask? Alessandro hesitates a bit. Ok, I say, put another way then, can you name a better winemaker? "No." He believes it. And well he should. After tasting the wine, I know I do!

Alessandro says he entered the wine world through his uncle. A Catholic priest at a church in Tuscany, Alessandro's uncle made the sacramental wine with Sangiovese grapes he planted and farmed on the church property. A not so little divine intervention! And from there, the wine gene took over.

Alessandro has two children. His son, Lorenzo  is 18 and studying economics. His daughter, Barbara is 16 and, Alessandro hopes, his winemaking successor. Barbara is already studying viticulture and is hands on at the winery. 

Do women in wine have a tough time in Italy? Do you have any concerns about your daughter pursuing a career in winemaking? Alessandro says "No." He does not see discrimination against women in the wine industry. "Women have always been winemakers in Italy." About this time, I am wondering why I am not in Tuscany! I have the Mary Tyler Moore boxed set of 7 seasons. I can go anywhere now.

Now the important stuff. Favorite actor? "Bruce Willis." So I guess "Die hard" is your favorite movie? Alessandro says, without a hint of equivocation, "Si. All of them."

Actress? "Julia Roberts." Movie? "All of them. Any of them. I like Pretty Woman but, really, all of them."  It is clear that Alessandro really, really, really likes Julia Roberts!

And if you are kicking back to watch a Julia Roberts movie, what wine in today's lineup that included Grillo, Frappato, Nero d'Avola, Cabernet Sauvignon, and his most awesome dessert wine, do you pour. "Nero d'Avola." That might have been my favorite too.

Vineyard Dog? "Si, due cani." Alessandro has two Black Labs named Tom and Jerry.

Finally, what music did he want us to play for the tasting? "I like music from the 60s and 70s but if I have to pick just one, The Beatles."

I write this through the haze of wondering why I am not in Firenze. My cousin is a rock star winemaker! And a real nice guy.

 

 

Continue reading
  302 Hits
302 Hits

Decero: Stephanie Morton-Small

   Stephanie Morton-Small, chief Commercial officer, for Decero in Mendoza, Argentina hosted a sold out Seated Tasting on Tuesday, September 11th. What's the one thing Stephanie wants us to remember? Mendoza is the size of California and, so, not all parts are created equally! Great Wines. Great Speaker. Great Night!

 

Chief Commercial Officer

Experiencing wine at some of the greatest estates of France during time spent in Bordeaux, Burgundy and Aix-en-Provence was the seed from which Stephanie’s career in wine grew. After graduating from University of London, time in the UK wine trade was fast followed by nearly a decade in international sales and marketing roles based in Australia and further consolidated by an MBA.

Having been a Director of a group of some of the finest and well established wineries in Australia, Stephanie was attracted to moving away from the “established” to start something “from scratch”. The long-term vision of Thomas Schmidheiny and the quality of every aspect of Finca Decero, from the ground up, formed a unique attraction which caused Stephanie to move to Argentina in 2007.

As Finca Decero’s Chief Commercial Officer, Stephanie manages the full commercial side of Finca Decero and has consistently managed the business from start-up development, launch, to ongoing sales and marketing of all Finca Decero’s wines including the most recent fly-away success of ‘The Owl & The Dust Devil’.  Through an exceptional network of importer and agency partners and having attracted an array of fine restaurants where most of the wines are sold, Finca Decero enjoys a positioning aligned with Thomas Schmidheiny’s vision for a world class wine estate of Argentina.

 

Continue reading
  303 Hits
303 Hits

Francois Servin Talks @MetroWines

 

Francois Servin poured his Chablis @MetroWines on Saturday Night, May 19th.
There were over 40 people crowding the bar through the two hours of the tasting so a sit down interview was not possible. This is what I gleaned from Francois as he responded to questions from the crowd.
 
First, Francois is a lovely and engaging person, with or without great Chablis!
 
Francois is ALL about Chablis and so was his father before him and his father before him. So he likes, he makes, and he almost exclusively drinks Chablis. 
 
Francois says there is a danger beyond diversity in this singular approach to wine. If all you drink is your own, he says, "it's hard to tell if the wine is off."  Francois and other makers in Chablis have a regular get together where they taste test each other's wines.
 
But what if you got crazy, I asked Francois, and drank another wine? Waht wold it be? "Red Burgundy," he says. Some security, Francois believes, in this choice. "Because there is some pain with Bordeaux," says Francois.  "Bordeaux is either too old or too young, there is always something wrong and you don't know until you open the bottle!"
 
What if you get crazy again and decide to grow another varietal. What would it be?Sit down. "Zinfandel," says Francois. "Zinfandel is fruity and easy to drink." 
 
So not all things California are bad! But one thing that is bad is what the big early produces did to the name Chablis. The truth is that jug had a concoction of mostly table food grapes, not Chardonnay from Chablis. I ask Francois how we can get past the stigma of a big jug that calls itself Chablis. Francois suggests we refer to the bottle first as Chardonnay and then say it is "from Chablis."
 
BTW, Francois does not eat cheese. I ask what the cheese eaters would pair with his Chablis. Francois says some french cheese that I can't pronounce and "gruyere."
 

Besides the US, Francois says his biggest markets are UK, Japan and, get this, Russia.

And one more thing. I had Disco cranked up on Spotify. I asked francois if he would prefer different music. "Yes, Country," he says. "I don't get to hear it much in Chablis!"

 
All in all a good night. 
Continue reading
  296 Hits
296 Hits

Scot Covington, Trione Vineyards and Winery

We just had a great time hosting Scot Covington, winemaker for the highly regarded Trione Vineyards and Winery in Sonoma. Trione is not a nationwide brand, they are known for their small lot productions. So, I ask what brings Scot to Asheville. "A very small plane," he says. 
 
Scot Covington has an extensive and commendable biography of experience. But, lets be honest here, what we wanted to know was why his name, "Scot" only has one "t." I know. I know. You are thinking shallow. Well, we will get to the wonky stuff but the explanation for the lonely "t" actually turns out to be interesting.
 
"My grandfather was Scottish from the Orkney Islands, a Scot" says Scot, "my father wanted my name to reflect our heritage." Hence, Scot. 
 
OK. Back to the bio. In the beginning when the Trione Family decided to work wine on their Home Ranch in Alexander Valley, they set out to find a one-stop shopping winemaker with design, construction and winemaking experience. WOW. That's a lot to ask. Enter Scot Covington.
 
Scot says: "The Trione Family basically gave me a blank piece of paper and said "design your winery." WOW, again. Scot designed a straightforward winery for small lots and "hands-on-winemaking.' Mission accomplished.
 
Scot brought years of experience and expertise to the challenge. After graduating with a degree in Enology from California State University, Scot worked in Sonoma County, South Africa and Australia. His mentors included Bill Bonnetti and Merry Edwards. I am tired of saying WOW, but WOW!
 
Trione sells grapes from their 650 acres to other wineries, some of the BIG names you would recognize, but Scot keeps the "top 3 percent" for Trione. That said, this is a good time for me to say that what you get in a Trione bottle will cost you more from one of the well known, mass marketed nationwide brands. Blind Tasting anyone?
 
While Scot respects Napa, let's be clear, he is a big proponent of Sonoma wines. We tasted 4 of Scot's Sonoma County Wines: Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon.
 
The Sauvignon Blanc was the hit of the tasting. The style is a little more fuller bodied and a touch smoother than you would find in a bottle of the varietal from New Zealand. I asked Scot if his wine work in South Africa had any influence on the style of his Sauvignon Blanc. "Yes, definitely. This wine is stylistically between Marlborough and Loire."
 
The Chardonnay was lovely. If you like French, this bottle is for you. Scot recommends this Chardonnay with a "plate of salmon and mashed potatoes!" I might add a healthy dollop of butter and chives but that's just me....
 
Since there are literally zillions of bottles of domestic Pinot Noir, I asked Scot what he wants customers to know about his Pinot Noir."Trione Pinot Noir is classic Russian River with a core of deep black cherry fruit, forrest floor, leafy." What is the perfect food partner?"Wild mushrooms," says Scot.
 
The Cabernet 2011 was spectacular. Scot posts his notes about all of his wines on the Trione website. Awesome! About the 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon Block Twenty-One (reaad: here's your wonky stuff!):
 
Our Block Twenty One Cabernet is a selection from the Trione Cloverdale Ranch, located on the western flank of the Mayacamas Mountains, in the northern portion of Alexander Valley. The vines, planted in 2001 with Bordeaux clone #337, grow in clay and sandy loam soils underlain with a high percentage of gravel. Cabernet Sauvignon grown in this ideal terroir develops deep, concentrated flavors and fine, smooth tannins. Cases produced: 707 six-packs 
 
The wine is a classic Bordeaux blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Merlot and 2% each of Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec. Growing season 2011 was relatively cool, thus promoting slow ripening, full flavor development and complex structure. We hand-harvested and fermented each variety, then moved the wines to barrel, where they aged six months. Once we determined our blend, we returned the wine to barrel for an additional twelve months, to 'marry' the varietals. We used tight-grained French oak barrels (45% new) from coopers Taransaud, Vicard and Bossuet. Alcohol: 14.4 percent by volume TA: 6.41 g/l pH: 3.75 Tasting 
 
Notes: Complex aromas foretell rich flavors of black currants, allspice and a hint of clove. Full bodied with velvety texture, smooth tannins and an extensive finish, this Cabernet blend will age in the bottle 10 years.
 
 
Scot also does a Zinfandel for Trione. He says he consulted with Carol Shelton, the undisputed Goddess of Zin, about plantings for the Zinfandel. She and he nailed it.
 
I asked Scot, because I knew you would want to know!! if he does a Rose for Trione. Indeed he does. "100% Pinot Noir." We are working on bringing it to you.
 
And, settle down, I did ask if he had a dog. "I am in the process of adopting a liter of Brittany Spaniels." Scot promises to send pictures. In the meantime, we took a picture with a pinata just to get the excitement started. Now me, I would have figured Scot for a Scottish Terrier.
 
But that's just me.
 
Continue reading
  1141 Hits
1141 Hits

Barnaby, Olga, Lexi and The "J Turn"

 

We caught up with Teutonic Winemaker and Owner, Barnaby Tuttle, on his way to Home Grown in Asheville for lunch. Barnaby was eating his way through Asheville! After the Teutonic Tasting @MetroWnes on Friday Night, he went two doors down to Gan Shan downing a bowl of Drunken Noodles and a healthy serving of Bok Choy. He woke up hungry at Midnight and had frozen pizza burned to charcoal on the bottom and cheap BIG BOX beer. Yes, even winemakers DO crazy when on the road!
 
Barnaby is a Portland, Oregon native. Before his current incarnation, he was an iron worker and worked for an autowrecker that salvaged vintage car parts from the 50s, 60s and 70s. Hold that thought - both jobs become very important later........
 
Before we go further, let's set the Tuttle stage. Barnaby is married to Olga who drives a 62 Plymouth Valiant at the Dragstrip in Woodburn, Oregon (http://www.woodburndragstrip.com/). Lexi a Border Collie mix with some way cool ears (see below) gleefully joins the pack a little later. Moving on......
 
Barnaby decided to go down a different path and took a job at a restaurant in Portland. Until that moment, Barnaby's path and that of wine had not crossed. So, not because he was interested because he really wasn't, but because the restaurant needed someone to learn about wine, Baranby was sent to wine classes.
 
The class was based on blind tasting. Barnaby found this process valuable as he was "forced to analyze and look deeper." One day the instructor brings in a series of bottles of Pinot Noir from different areas. Barnaby became fascinated with the difference in the bottles as a result of the different terroirs, "just a block away." Who knew? Now Barnaby knows. His path has crossed that of wine.  He becomes the wine buyer at the restaurant.
 
Back at the restaurant, Barnaby met a German Importer. One thing leads to another and to Germany and tasting a lot of German wine and meeting German winemakers and finally to Barnaby telling Olga: "I got to quit my job and make this stuff!" I ask how Olga took the news. "She was concerned but she knows that once I make up my mind, I follow through." And so he did......
 
Starting Teutonic on a shoestring budget, Barnaby says his experience at the autowrecker came in mighty handy. He built his own machines, designed a process for stacking barrels, was able to repair his forklift and benefited from his understanding of the "flow" of production. "And frankly," Barnaby says: "I would not have been able to afford to start the winery without this experience."
 
Teutonic Wines are intended to complement food, lower in alcohol (9 to 12%) and a little higher in acidity.  Wines are made in neutral barrels so that the flavor of oak does not overpower the wine and the delicate flavors of some dishes.
 
But who is Barnaby outside the winery?
 
What is your favorite part of being a winemaker? "Discovering the unexpected. Being surprised by what a wine becomes. And then traveling the country presenting the wines. I met so many interesting people."
 
What do you drink if not your own wines? "Mostly, the wines made by my friends. I like Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc." (BTW, friend of the shop and one of the MetroWines favorites, John Grochau, lives down next door to Barnaby's Grandmother.)
 
What do you do in your spare time? "I work on old cars if I can, but, honestly, I am working all the time. I am consumed by this!" The hard and constant work has paid off. Barnaby has been successful in placing his wines in a number of states including New York, Washington DC, Texas and is very close to placement in England, Norway and Japan.
 
Favorite movie? "Spinal Tap."
 
TV guilty pleasures? "Old shows like Perry Mason and Rockford Files." Here, I tell Barnaby that I am also a Rockford Files fan and ask whether Olga can do the famous Rockford turn. "Oh, you're talking about the J Turn! Not yet but I'll suggest it to her!" Stand by Portland for Olga working it in a parking lot near you soon. Oh yeah!
 
What would you do if not a winemaker?  Barnaby is interested in linguistics, specifically accents. 
 
"Language is oral history." The pervasive regional dialects, according to Barnaby, tell centuries of stories and global movement. Barnaby says that in one small German village he visited there were 6 dialects! The winemaker by day sounds pretty far into this subject. "I think you could map world migration considering language with an overlay of DNA." WOW! 
 
Barnaby noticed my New Orleans accent and said that I should be proud of it. "Think of the confluence of cultures that went into making that unique sound." I feel good!
 
Bottom line? What do you want readers to know about who YOU are. "I am a working class guy who made good."

 

Continue reading
  1045 Hits
1045 Hits

Ray Signorello

* THIS JUST IN: NEW REVIEWS FROM ROBERT PARKER on SIGNORELLO WINES *

95+

2013 Signorello Estate Padrone

The 2013 Proprietary Red Padrone, the winery’s flagship wine, is a blend of 92% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Merlot and 3% Cabernet Franc

aged 21 months in 100% new French oak prior to being bottle unfiltered.

This wine exhibits an inky purple color, notes of graphite, blueberry, blackberry, a hint of cocoa and a dense, full-bodied superrich mouthfeel with good acidity and strong, but well-integrated tannin.

Give this wine 6-7 years and drink over the following 35-40.

- Robert M. Parker, Jr. (October, 2016)

 

98

2015 Signorello Estate Chardonnay Hope's Cuvee Napa Valley

The best Chardonnay I have ever tasted from Ray Signorello has to be the 2015 Chardonnay Hope’s Cuvée.

With its tiny yields, old vines and unfiltered style of keeping the wine nine months in barrel (of which half is new French oak and the rest used),this wine is absolutely spectacular.

The wine has a Montrachet-like richness with profound concentration from the tiny yields, loads of caramelized citrus, honeysuckle, white peach, melons and a touch of brioche.

It is full-bodied, but great acid, purity and length make for an incredible wine from this old vineyard’s clay and loamy soils.

Drink over the next 10-12 years as this has every indication of being long-lived.

- Robert M. Parker, Jr. (October, 2016)

 

95

2015 Signorello Estate Seta (Semillon /Sauvignon Blanc)

He makes one of the more intriguing and fascinating proprietary white blends, the 2015 Proprietary White Seta, which is 66% Sauvignon Blanc and 34% Semillon aged nine months in two-thirds

French oak and bottled unfiltered (somewhat of a trick, since there is no malolactic).

This is a serious Haut-Brion Blanc-like wine with notes of lanolin, sealing wax, caramelized citrus, honeysuckle, a touch of tangerine and exotic fruits.

The wine is medium-bodied and concentrated, with great acidity and freshness. The sad thing is, less than 100 cases were produced.

- Robert M. Parker, Jr. (October, 2016)

 

NOW BACK TO REGULARLY SCHEDULED PROGRAMMING:

Big. Bold. Bella. This will become clear as you read on. Ray Signorello says, "my passion is wine." I know what you're thinking. Yada Yada. What winemaker doesn't say that? But there is a difference in the intensity here. This guy means really, really means it. And there is no better proof than Signorello Wines. "I am always in the pursuit of excellence," Ray says, "but perfection is elusive."
 
    But if the judgment of Robert Parker is the quantifiable definition of excelllence, Ray Signorello is pretty darn close.  The 2013 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon received 94 Points and the 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon Padrone brought in 97+ points.
 
   According to the website, which BTW, is one of if not THE best winery website I have ever seen.... (And this just IN: the website is being updated. Same address, new stuff HERE)! "Signorello Estate is a one-of-a-kind reflection of a wholly unique Napa Valley hillside vineyard and terroir. Planted and cultivated by the Signorello Family since 1977, these grapes are the foundation of their richly structured, intensely flavored Estate wines. Ray Signorello, Jr. has left no stone unturned, no philosophy unexplored, no ancient or modern viticulture and winemaking idea untried in his decades-long quest to produce the perfect Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon for his customers."
   Ray Signorello hosted a Burger Lunch at Red Stag in Asheville today for some of his customers. He shared what was very, very obviously his passion for wine. In the beginning, Ray was working toward a career on Wall Street. He started making wine as a hobby and 28 years later, he has carved a real niche in the Napa Valley Cabernet Market. Located on The Silverado Trail, Signorello is in good company with wineries including Shafer and Stag's Leap.
   The philosophy is simple Ray says, "we keep our hands off the process as much as we can." That said, the wines are unfined and unfiltered. While Signorello Wines do a table proud now, they are built to last. Made with all French Oak, and only French Oak!!, the focus is, Ray says,"on collectors." The Reds can go over 20 years in the bottle. Even the Chardonnay can do 10!
   Competition is tough in the wine business but Ray stays the course. "We do not pander with over oaked-under fruited wines," he says. "And I would not bottle a wine that I would not drink myself."
   So, yes, these barrel fermented wines are as you might expect from Napa Valley "big" and "bold" but here's the "bella." Instead of being a big, bold, brash, perhaps even sloppy, just big for the sake of being BIG, smothering food in a wash of fruit flavored motor oil (sorry, I might have gone a little too far there), Signorello wines are partners. "Our wines are geared for food," says Ray. "The style is more Euro with good acidity and structure.
 
    As it is not all that common to hear a California winemaker emphasize food compaibility. So I ask Ray why? "Might be my Italian heritage that dictates the food and wine interplay."  Oh yeah. What do you drink, Ray, when not opening a bottle of your own? What is a good pairing? "White truffles and Barolo, maybe a little tagliatelle." Rays says without hesitation.
   Ray was also inspired by his visits to Old World wine estates. He insists that his visitors to his winery experience his wines with their "natural companions: food." But at Signorello Estate, it's not just talk. The winery has an on-site chef. Equipped with a full-sized professional kitchen stocked with gourmet meats, artisan cheeses and vegetables fresh from estate gardens, the Estate Chef creates dishes harmonized to bring out the subtle nuances in Signorello wines.
 

   The Signorello Estate Chef will guide you through a five course pairing experience explaining the pairing philosophy and describing each creation. This is a wine and food experience unlike any other in the Napa Valley.  Want to go? In my head, I am already gone. "The Enoteca Signorello" is a 2 hour adventure on Thursday through Monday, March through November starting at noon for $175 per person. 

   Back to reality! Ray Signorello stopped by the shop last night and hosted a tasting of his wines. I had a chance to ask a few more questions while Ray graciously juggled a crowd of abot 30 wine fans. He appears in personas you see him in his stock photo, that is, sophisticated, sport jacket, Italian leather shoes, nice haircut.

   So it came as quite a surprise when I asked Ray his favorite movie and he said "Gladiator" so fast my head was spinning. I don't know why I was not expecting that answer. But I just wasn't. Not that anyone can't respect even love "Gladiator" but I just wasn't expecting it. Ray loves the view into Roman life and remains partial to all things Roman.  But would Ray ever grow Italian grapes in California? Maybe a Sangiovese? I say other California winemakers do. "No," Rays says as quickly as he let loose on "Gladiator!" Ray thoroughly and professorially explained, with a lot of complicated wine terms but, basically, California is for Cab!

What Ray poured:

FUSE: Ray chose to the name to emphasize the fusion of varietals. This blend of 86% Cabernet, 8% Cabernet Franc and 8% Petite Verdot received 90-92 Points from Robert Parker in Wine Advocate. Parker said: "This wine was still in barrel and shows loads of espresso roast, blackcurrants, and hints of white chocolate and spicebox in an elegant, yet authoritative, medium to full-bodied style." 

And addressing the harvest, Parker said: "2013 may turn out to be the finest vintage I have experienced in tasting North Coast varietals over the last 37 years. it's a game changer in terms of the consistency of quality, the depth of quality, and the across-the-board excellence for so many wines."

2013 Cabernet Sauvignon

“The 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Estate is a beauty. Inky purple-colored, with notes of charcoal, graphite, blackcurrants and blueberries, the wine is dense, opulent, full-bodied, fresh and full. It should drink well for up to 20 more years.” 94+ Points Robert Parker, The Wine Advocate, October 2015 

WINEMAKING NOTES: Traditional French winemaking practices: native yeast fermentations, extended maceration (each lot averaged 25 days on the grape skins) and pump-overs twice a day. The 2013 vintage aged for 22 months in 64% new oak from Troncais, Nevers and Alliers, coopered into thin-staved, medium-plus toast Chateau Ferre barrels by coopers Tarransaud, Saury, Darnajou and Nadalie. To preserve fruit intensity and body, the wine was not filtered prior to bottling

And 2012 PADRONE

“This is a fabulous wine, meant to evolve over three decades. It offers up notes of charcoal, scorched earth, blackcurrant, blackberry, chocolate and a touch of espresso. A wine of great intensity, full-bodied opulence and a multilayered mouthfeel, this is a formidably endowed, serious Cabernet Sauvignon-dominated wine from vineyards with some of the best fruit on the estate. Drink it over the next 30 years.” 97+ Points Robert Parker, The Wine Advocate, Oct. 2015

WINEMAKING NOTES: Traditional French winemaking practices: native yeast fermentations, extended maceration (each lot averaged 25 days on the grape skins) and pump-overs twice a day. The 2012 vintage aged for 22 months in 100% new oak from Troncais, Nevers and Alliers, coopered into thin-staved, medium-plus toast Chateau Ferre barrels by coopers Tarransaud, Saury, Darnajou and Nadalie. To preserve fruit intensity and body, the wine was not filtered prior to bottling on September 5, 2014.

And finally, you're thinking that I forgot to ask about the winery dog. Au contraire!  Ray does not have a a dog of his own because he travels so often. BUT, there is a winery dog. And a mighty happy one with a vineyard full of friends!

 

 

Continue reading
  1407 Hits
1407 Hits

Quincy Steele

I told Quincy that the purpose of these interviews is to get to know the winemaker personally. The truth is that we can read about their wines on their well done websites. And, let's face it, with winemakers also working to market their wines and answering questions from retailers and writers like me! they may have necessarily developed some standard operating answers.
 
So let's get right to the point. "Quincy, do you have a dog?"
 "I do," he says. "A Border Collie Collie, Oona. She spends every day with me chasing rabbits at the winery." Sounds like a great day to me I say! "Yeah, she loves it. Oona came from a farm so she is in her element."
 
Quincy is the son of legendary winemaker and winery owner, Jed Steele. "I was always around wine." Quincy remembers how the Steele Dynasty started. "My father would drive around with his wines in the back of a truck and not return home until all the wines were sold!"
 
Quincy seems to have the heart of a poet. Before he turned full on to winemaking, he was studying history and english with intentions to teach. But then he says "the wine bug bit me."
 
Quincy is Assistant Winemaker for Steele and now has his own labels: Shooting Star, Writer's Block and Calvino Jones. "As winemakers, we look for good vineyards, the best sources, concentration of fruit." Quincy says of the core work.  "Because winemaking is basically farming."
 
Quincy poured his shooting Star Zinfandel, Writer's Block Petite Sirah, Calvino Jones Mountain Wine Elaboration and Steele Aligote to a crowd of about 30 @MetroWines. The Aligote was a break out star!
 
Aligote under the Steele label, from a vineyard in Sunnyside, Washington is a Steele specialty. "There are only about 5 acres of Aligote in the United Staes," Quincy says. "Steele is the only or one of the only wineries making wine from Aligote."
 
Quincy is particularly proud of his Shooting Star Zinfandel. "Many Italian winemaking families settled in Mendicino so many of the vines are 50 years old." Made from these sturdy vines, Quincy says "Shooting Star Zinfandel is a great value for the high quality."
 
But Quincy keeps his poetic heart in the wine. Take a look at the back of a bottle of Writer's Block.  A different writer waxes poetic on the back of the label for each varietal changing with each vintage.
 
"From dryland to highland and flats and mountains...deep roots put down, tapping ideas as well as terroir. Always as much an unapproachable lady, fortunately secretive and seductively shady. a fictitious myth this zinfandel of mine." Colin Davis
 
"Bear with me. Normally words trip off my tongue like hundreds of curbside drunks trying to hail the same taxicab," so says the back of the bottle of Counoise. "The bottle temptress is green, smoky green of lichens and cool thickets where lovers escape from parched Augusts and prying eyes," the writer says of Syrah.
 
The wines under the label Calvino Jones are Quincy's work inside and out. Calvino Jones Mountain Wine Elaboration is a blend of grapes from 15 different vineyards. Quincy made the wine with another winemaker and designed the label. "I wanted a fun label but also one that reflects the wine," he says. "Most labels have nothing to do with what's in the bottle!"
 
Writer's Black Wines are food friendly and versatile. Never over the top or too big as, let's tell it like it is, some California wines can be.
 
But back to the business of wine. Quincy has worked in vineyards and wineries in all around California, Australia, Argentina and Burgundy, many trips to Burgundy, back and forth to Burgundy, Burgundy, Burgundy, Burgund!
 
All of this experience, travel and forward thinking have brought Quincy to a new endeavor:  Working with several other winemakers on a project addressing the inherent "energy" in the winemaking process. The research focuses on whether to ever "intervene in the process" and, if you do, when, how and why. Quincy would always prefer to "do the hard work at harvest" and then "let it flow."
 
So Quincy makes great wine. But who is he? I ask few questions to try to find out!
 
Favorite movie? Quincy says movies that show the search for "who you are" but in "a light way."
 
Song? Quincy answers this one quickly: "Watching the Detectives by Elvis Costello."
 
Desert Island Wine? "Pinot Noir. It goes with the kind of fruit and vegetation you might find on most islands." Which one, I ask. Quincy is pretty specific about his one and only one wine question! "A single vineyard Burgundian style."
 
If you are not serving Steele wines, what will we find on your dinner table? "Burgundy. I go back and forth there quite a bit."
 
Going out now on a big and bold and plainly apparent limb, I ask Quincy if his wines French influenced? "Definitely." No surprise there!
 
I ask Quincy what he wants people to know about his wine. "It's about the land."
So says the poet winemaker.

 

Continue reading
  2339 Hits
2339 Hits

Kent Rosenblum

"Don't give up your day job." That's how Kent Rosenblum, veterinarian, explained his venture into the wine world. 
 
While working as a veterinarian in Montana, Kent took a trip to California and was bitten by the wine bug or, as he says, "I fell in love." He started buying grapes and making wines, for the most part, in his basement. 
 
It was a big deal in 1978 when Kent turned out 400 cases. He sold his wines to family and friends. Lots of them. But as is turns out, it was actually All of them. "The wine made a profit so I thought I would make more," Kent says, "but I ran out of friends!"
 
One step forward, as they say, and two steps back. But Kent kept at it and won a gold medal in 1979 at a California fair. "Of course, you must remember" Kent says humbly, "there were only 130 winemakers at the time in California!"
 
I asked Kent if there was a "special bottle" in his life. "Yes," he says. "One that changed my life." 
 
Until 1987, Kent was still working as a veterinarian seeing small exotics, birds and reptiles as clients. When he could, Kent had been experimenting with refining techniques, that would later become legend! including "cold soaking grapes before fermentation."
 
That same year, a small winery in Emeryville, California calls Kent saying they heard he was the "Zin Guy" and they needed help. The fermentation process had come to a STOP.  
 
Kent goes to the rescue. He found the wine to be "still sweet." Realizing this would take some work to resolve and wine remedies outside the walls of this winery, Kent offers $2 per gallon. Kent's new passion was costly and even at that rock bottom price of $2 per, Kent says "I needed a loan to make it happen!"
 
But the stars were aligned and Kent worked his "Zin Guy" magic. To kickstart the fermentation process, Kent needed to heat the wine so that the yeast in the grape juice would get active. He did. The yeast did. It worked. Kent also pumped in another Zin of his making and the blend "took off," Kent says "the wine turned dry." 
 
The $2 per purchase resulted in Kent having a LOT of wine in his basement which was, at the time, his winery. He decides to send a few bottles, one might speculate just to have a few less bottles in the basement!, to the San Francisco Wine Competition. 
 
You guessed it. Kent wins. Within a day, he has 300 orders for his wines. But Kent didn't even have a label for his winning wine. "One day I was a veterinarian managing my office," Kent says, "and the next day I was a winemaker. This was the defining moment."  
 
Within a year, Kent went from $75,000 to $750,000 in sales and became known for his expertise in making wine. He was popularly promoted from "The Zin Guy" to "The King of Zin," a title he retains!
 
 
These days, Kent's daughter, Shauna, is the winemaker. The winery called Rock Wall, homed in an old hanger next to a bird sanctuary in Alameda, California has become a California wine landmark. "Rock Wall is the original urban winery," Kent says.
 

While his veterinary days are in the past, animals are still front and center. Take a look at the Rock Wall Rock Hound label. That guy playing the guitar sporting the Ray Charles Sunglasses is Sunny, Shauna's blind pitbull.

 
Everything turned out great, actually beyond great, for Kent Rosenblum leaving his profession and turning winemaker. But, bottom line, winemaking is a tough business. And as Kent says: "Don't quit your day job."
 
About Rock Wall Winery:
 

About Us

The etymology of our name: Rock Wall Wine Company is located on the former Alameda Naval Air Base which was decommissioned in 1997 and turned over to the community and is slowly being converted to civilian use. The name Rock Wall refers to the defensive perimeter wall built during WWII in the San Francisco Bay to protect the base from Japanese air to sea torpedoes. All military installations on the west coast created similar protective barriers. This wall is visible from our facility as well as elsewhere on the base. The wall has also been a popular fishing location for local anglers looking for striped bass.


The Rock Wall Wine Company represents a new chapter in the East Bay winemaking scene. The winery offers wine lovers one of the most unique experiences in the wine world.  Shauna Rosenblum is the winemaker for Rock Wall Wine Company. She learned everything she knows about winemaking from her father Kent Rosenblum who is CEO.

The Rock Wall Wine Company is founded on the philosophy of the right grape in the right place and are the result of many long-term relationships with acclaimed vineyards. Grapes are sourced from all over California which creates a diverse winemaking environment, complete with different grape varieties, styles and regional flavor profiles.

Ideally situated in Alameda, California, the winery boasts spectacular views of the San Francisco skyline, and more importantly its locale allows the winemaking team to be regionally centralized - ensuring that whether Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley, Zinfandel from Sonoma County, Petite Sirah from Contra Costa County or Chardonnay from the Santa Lucia Highlands, the winemaking team is able to handle the fruit soon after it is picked.

Housed in a converted 40,000 square-foot airplane hangar the winery is located on what was once a Naval Air Base. Also known as Building 24, the hangar is due north of a defensive rock wall which made up the perimeter of the base. Taking their name from this protective wall, the Rock Wall winery building has been retrofitted with state-of-the-art winemaking equipment.

A unique concept, Rock Wall Wine Company is, in essence, an urban winery that services the East Bay. Through the wine center, the Rock Wall owners look forward to continuing the legacy of urban winemaking as well as providing an environment whereby making, tasting and learning about wine is fun!

Continue reading
  1764 Hits
1764 Hits

Poderi Parpinello. Sardegna!

"Paolo, will you live to be 100?"
"Probably not. I have stress!"
That's what Paolo Parpinello, Winemaker for Poderi Parpinello in Sardegna, said when asked about the recent outcry that Cannonau, a grape indigenous to Sardegna and the star of one of his most popular wines, is, in essence, the fountain of youth!
 
I ask Paolo how did this fountain of youth stuff get started? "On the Today Show," says Paolo in a way that lets me know he has been asked this question many times. 
Apparently, a writer named Dan Buettner opined in his book "The Blue Zones Solution: Eating and living Like the World's Healthiest People, that, with regard to people around the world who live the longest, the Cannonau grape may be contributing to their longevity. Sardinians drink three to four small (3-ounce) glasses of wine a day on average, spread out between breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a late afternoon social hour in the village. "One might argue, Buettner says, "that the all-day small doses of this antioxidant-rich beverage could explain fewer heart attacks." 
 
The Cannonau grape made wine is "one of the reasons," Paolo says, for the long lives in Sardegna "but not the only reason."  According to Paolo, bottom line, "It's the lifestyle." 
All red wines have the same antioxidant proprieties. There was a time when all we talked about was the French Paradox. The French eat all those all those heavy sauces and creamy cheeses and steak frites and Napoleons and yet they live longer than us. The thinking was that the red wine was the lifeline. But the residents of Sardegna are living even longer! "Some live to 115!" Paolo says.
So why is Sardegna different? "It's the food, the pollution free atmosphere," Paolo says. "There are no nuclear plants, no dangerous electromagnetic fields, no big power towers." I think he is saying, in essence, a lot less cell phones.
And it's the way people view work. "The shepherds take their time. They eat cheese at lunch." Paolo explains. "Two glasses of wine for lunch and two for dinner!"
But don't go thinking we are talking about one or two shepherds here. Shepherds represent a substantial percentage of the population in Sardegna. There are a LOT of shepherds because there are a LOT of sheep! "More sheep per capita than New Zealand," Paolo tells us. "Two sheep for every person!"  A LOT of sheep means a LOT of good Pecorino Cheese.
 
I ask Paolo what's this Cannonau grape all about? "The grape is indigenous to Sardegna," Paolo says. In the glass, Cannonau is deep red in color with red fruit and spice on the nose. Made Parpinello style, the wine is dry and elegantly full bodied. "I made this wine in more of a modern style, more popular," Paolo says.
And if I may interject here and it is worth the double negative, in my experience in the store, you just cannot NOT like Cannonau! The varietal is great with red meat, game and cheese, especially Pecorino! but can handle some seafood as well.
 
Paolo shows me where Sardegna is on the map. It's out there a bit and closer to Spain than I recalled from my dismal and relatively uninformative geography class in 4th grade.
 

"Sardegna was settled by Catalans 600 years ago. Some of the street signs in Alghero are written in Catalan and the Catalan dialect is still spoken in some parts" Paolo says. 

And a little Spanish crept over into Poderi Parpinello. "My Vermentino is called Ala Blanca," says Paolo. "The word for white in Italian is Bianca."

Who knew? Clearly, Sardegna is A most interesting place in the world. Much like Sicily, EVERYONE was there from the get go. Fast forward to the 15th century.

History tells us that in 1469, the heir to Sardinia, Ferdinand II of Aragon, married Isabel of Castile, and the Kingdom of Sardinia, now separated from Corsica, was set to be inherited by their Habsburg grandson, Charles I of Spain. In order to defend their Mediterranean territories from raids of those confounded Barbary Pirates, the successors of Charles I fortified the Sardinian shores with a system of coastal lookout towers leading to development, such as it was in 1469, along the coast.

The Kingdom of Sardinia remained Spanish for approximately 400 years, from 1323 to 1708.  Spanish traditions, customs and culture were absorbed, and to this day, as Parpinello told us, Catalan is spoken in the western city of Alghero.

OK. Back to regularly scheduled programming.......
The Paparnello Family moved to Sardegna from The Venetto in 1964. "My father and his father were winemakers," says Paolo. "Always." And his father was "always" in the field tending his vineyards. "My mother would say that my husband has only a relationship with the vineyards," says Paolo, "he is there from sunrise to sunset."
Parpinello Wines are sold across the US with some of the biggest outlets being on the west coast in California, Washington, Oregon and in Chicago.
Here you can find Parpinello Wines on the menu at Chiesa in Montford. And that is where Parpinello joined us for dinner after the "on the house" tasting @MetroWines.
 

 
Chiesa rolled out the red carpet for his visit welcoming Paolo on their way cool, daily updated blackboard and on the menu! Paolo took pictures of everything and his FB page is looking all Asheville right now!
Check it out  HERE.
 
The entire Parpinello Family is involved in wine. Paolo's sister, with a degree in Agronomy and Oenology is a professor and her husband is a consultant who has worked with UC Davis, but Paolo is the winemaker and international representative for Parpinello. That's lot of work. Paolo has stress! 
When Paolo takes a break, he likes to go to Portugal.
 
You should take a break. If you have not tried Parpinello Wines, do yourself a favor, go over to Chiesa and go Sardegna!
About Poderi Parpinello HERE.
Continue reading
  1699 Hits
1699 Hits

Buglioni: The Accidental Winery

The Accidental Winery
 
"What do we do now?" That's what the Buglioni Family said in 1993 when they looked out the window of their new house and saw a 12 acre vineyard full of grapes a month from harvest.
 
The Buglioni Family was in textiles. All they intended to do was buy a house the family could share. They had not planned on a vineyard, a harvest or being winemakers.
 
But here it was. Acres of grapes. So they sat down and set a plan.
 
"We went to the best wineries in Valpolicella asking if they wanted our grapes," says Mariano. "We were not asking to sell the grapes. We just did not want to throw them away."
 
When the winery saw the quality of the grapes, they were very interested in the crop.  OK. Sure. But, now what? Mariano tells us that he asked the winery to send people to guide The Buglioni Family through the process of harvest.
 
The Buglioni Family did have one advantage in this difficult situation. Being in the textile business, they had a lot of employees handy with a scissors! After being advised on the correct type of scissors for cutting grapes off vines, that being a secateur, 30 textile workers set to harvesting! 
 
"One of our friends rode through the vineyard on a scooter with a basket offering paninis for the workers," Mariano says."We completed the harvest in 3 days!" The harvest was a hit and The Buglioni Family decided to do it all over again every year. "We harvested the grapes this way from 1993 to 1999!" 
 
Things started to take a turn for the future along about 1998. "My father began renovations of the old house," Mariano says. "He decided to set aside a room just in case the family decided to make their own wine."
 
In 1999, construction was finished and, in 2000, a winemaker was hired! But the winemaker and consultants were making the same wine at Buglioni that was widely available.  Mariano says the family decided they wanted wines with "our own style, our own personality." 
 
What do we do, again? Mariano went to the university and requested names for the 3 best winemakers. Diego Bertoni, 23 years old, was hired and he remains the winemaker.
 
Buglioni was in the wine business! The winery started selling and selling to the point of needing an agent. But the family hit another snag. "Since the agents knew we had been in the textile business," Mariano says, "no one took us seriously."
 
That said, The Buglioni Family, now mightily determined to break into the wine business, came up with yet another plan. They opened Osteria del Bugiardo in 2005 in Verona. The wines were a HIT. Buglioni got the respect they so well deserved. And they landed an agent.
 
The first wines exported outside of Italy went to Switzerland and that country remains one of the biggest markets for Buglioni, particularly Buglioni Amarone. The Buglioni style is appealing to the international travelers who frequent Switzerland for banking and commerce.
 
Mariano poured  Buglioni Gargenaga, Valpolicella Ripasso and Amarone here @MertoWines for about 40 customers. We found the Gargenaga, think Soave, smooth with better body than you might expect. The Valpolicella Ripasso was bright and and full without being overpowering, and the Amarone was easy on the palate and just well done. I get why they like it in Switzerland!
 
Mariano suggested pairing his amarone with langoustein! Say what? Charlie Stanley of Cork & Fork @MetroWines says: 
 
"While most people associate Amarone with richer, red meat dishes such as braised beef, osso buco, or short ribs, it has much more flexibility. 
 
Consider the wine makers suggestion of a simple seafood pairing. Begin by procuring 3-4 high quality langoustien, more commonly known as Norway Lobster in Europe. Now here is the crazy part. Don't cook them. Split each langoustien down the center axis creating two mirror sides. Now drizzle a small amount of high quality, extra virgin olive oil over the langoustien followed by some finely chopped Italian flat leaf parsley. 
 
There remains just one more step. Open a bottle of Amarone that has a slight chill on it, and enjoy your feast." 
 
Back to the story....Now, having been successful in both endeavors, does Mariano prefer the textile business or the wine industry? "Definitely the wine business because it is true, it's real," says Mariano. "Wine is shared at tables all around the world with food and friends."
 
And so we tested his theory! Mariano joined us for dinner at Chiesa in Montford where owners Robert and Melissa hosted us at the community table.
 
"Valpolicella means," says Mariano, "the valley of many wines." Valpolicella was, according to Mariano, one of the first wine making regions in Italy. 
And it is monumentally beautiful. About 15 miles from the heart of Verona and from there about another 30 to Milano, this is pretty much a dream world.
 
Over dinner, I asked Mariano where a person who lives in Valpolicella !! goes on vacation? "Greece, Sicily. This year, maybe Puglia."
 
Is there is a winery dog? "Yes. A boxer."
I wonder if Mariano needs a dog sitter while he is in Puglia.

 

Continue reading
  1837 Hits
1837 Hits

Suzanne Groth

"We do not hire "rock star" winemakers or wine consultants that pop in and out at Groth," says Suzanne Groth.  "We look for dedicated winemakers invested in our wines who will watch the wine through the entire process." Groth winemakers have been working with the winery for three decades. "We make certain that there is a multi year overlap to insure passing down techniques and insuring consistent quality." 

 

   Suzanne was in Asheville to host a dinner at The Grove Park Inn.  The wines paired perfectly with the perfectly prepared dishes. Groth wines are bold on the nose and palate but within bounds setting them apart from many California wines that are just about being BIG. While you could certainly enjoy Groth Wines solo, particularly the Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay, these are unquestionably food wines.  

   So how did we get to this point....................

  Graduating from Lewis and Clark College in 1992 with a BA in art history, Suzanne entered the art world, working in a gallery.  But soon, she decided on a career in wine. After spending four years with the Henry Wine Group, a California wine distributor, selling fine wine to restaurants and retailers in the San Francisco Bay Area,  Suzanne says, “It was only after selling other people’s ‘wine vision’ that I was able to appreciate how very special Groth Vineyards was.”  She returned to the family business in 1998, working several years in wine sales and Public Relations before becoming VP of Sales and Marketing in 2009.

   Suzanne's parents, Dennis and Judy Groth, are Bay Area natives and lived there until they decamped to Napa Valley in 1985. Dennis, a CPA was a partner at Ernst and young before joining Atari in 1978.

  In 1981, the Groths purchased a 121-acre parcel in Oakville adding a second 44 acre vineyard in 1982. Totaling These vineyards are the primary source of grapes for the Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc wines produced by Groth.

   Established in 1982, Groth crushed the first grapes for their own wines that same year. Production increased quickly to 30,000 cases by 1984. By 1985, the winery needed full-time attention from Dennis and Judy, so they moved their family to the Oakville property. And the rest is, as they say, history. "When we arrived in Oakville, vineyards were planted with Charbono but my father believed that this could be great cabernet country," Suzanne says. "And now, the area is considered one of best areas in world for elegant cab."

   Suzanne tells the story that sounded similar to the experience of Chateau Montelena in "Bottle Shock." Making wine is a labor of love and an expensive one. The Groths were facing an uphill financial battle and feared they might lose the farm, literally. "My father had to sell some of the land he loved." But out of the blue, Suzanne says, the Groths got a call from a friend who said that Robert Parker had just awarded 100 points!! to Groth Cabernet Sauvignon.

   Groth has come a long way. The winery has produced well balanced wines for decades and their work has not gone without notice and BIG notice.  Groth Sauvignon Blanc was served at The White House dinner welcoming Tony Blair, former Prime Minister of Great Britain!

   And despite her many responsibilites at the winery, Suzanne still works her art. She gave us all a print at the dinner. Her work is much like the wine, dynamic but within bounds.

   And I did not forget to ask if there was a winery dog. "Two Pugs," Suzanne says, "they come to work with me everyday."

Continue reading
  1631 Hits
1631 Hits

Jesse Lange and Maggie

BIG Night @MetroWines. BIG. Jesse Lange, Manager and Winemaker for Lange Estate Winery, A Wine Enthusiast Winery of the Year, poured to talk about and taste his Pinot Gris (90 Points, Wine Enthusiast) 2013 Pinot Noir ( 91 Points, Wine Enthusiast and 90 Points from Robert Parker) and Pinot Noir Reserve (93 Points, Wine Enthusiast). BIG.
 
So here's the scene: Customers are anxiously waiting for the three bottles set to show. We are loving the Pinot Gris. We all agree that the creamy palate would be great with Asian food, like some of those big, spicy shrimp from Gan Shan Station. Oh yeah! And the 2013 Pinot Noir followed by The Pinot Noir Reserve left us behaving a little bit badly (Come on, you know we were.) asking for more!
 
Jesse read the crowd. BIG became BIGGER. He went to his car and pulled out a Pinot Noir Freedom Hill for us!. WOW! This is a spendy bottle. "A little heavier in body," says Jesse, "big and bold dark fruits." We ask if Jesse has more bottles. Turns out there is a 6 pack traveling with him. Within in minutes that was past tense. A customer bought all 6 within seconds of tasting this lush Pinot Noir with hints of black peppercorns, oak spice and, Jesse says, "guava notes." 
 
Now that the crowd has settled down, I can chat a bit with Jesse. He is an easy going, nice guy who loves the wine biz, the land, his family and Maggie (we will talk about HER later). Jesse lives on the Lange Estate with his wife and family in Dundee Hills, Oregon.
 
Having lived in Portland, about 30 miles southwest of Dundee Hills, I seize any opportunity to check in on the place. We talked a little politics, specifically, Oregon Governors Neil Goldschmidt and John Kitzhaber, both promising politicians caught up in scandals of their own making.  "Why do men destroy their careers like that," Jesse says.  
 
Jesse is a lot younger than yours truly so he does not remember the election and re-election of Bud Clark, the Portland bar owner, who was elected Mayor on the strength of his bar patrons and fans of a poster he made titled "Expose Yourself to Art." And he does not remember my boss, Oregon Commissioner of Labor Mary Wendy Roberts.
 

Ok, back to the winery...

From Santa Barbara, Jesse has been in the wine world since he was "three years old" helping his parents on the farm. He trained at New Zealand's Lincoln University while a student at Oregon State then spent two years "as a cellar rat" for winemaker Bruce McGuire at Santa Barbara Winery. Jesse joined the winemaking team at Lange in 2004. He is responsible for winemaking but also vineyard oversight, distribution and general management. Busy guy.
 
Jesse looked over our collection of Oregon Pinot Noir Wines. "Thank you for supporting Oregon Pinot Noir!" Having served as President of The Dundee Hills Winegrowers Association and President of the famed Oregon Pinot Camp, Jesse knows the winemakers at most of the wineries shown on our shelves including Grochau Cellars, Shea, Elk Cove, Ken Wright, and Patricia Green.
 
So Jesse has all these awards and high ratings for his wines, chairmanships and extensive knowledge. Awesome but what's really important here? Right. The winery dog! 10 year old winery dog, a golden Retriever named Magnum but most affectionately called Maggie. "I walk the vineyard and pull a cluster to check the grapes. I taste a grape from the top, middle and bottom for quality and ripeness, Jesse says. "Maggie follows and does some tasting herself!" 
 
 
But, Jesse adds, while Maggie loves Willamette Valley Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, she does not like Malbec or Grenache. "She won't even sniff the stuff!"  And after working the fields for many years, there is no changing her mind. "It's hilarious to try and present her those varietals!"
 
 Come back Jesse! Bring Maggie!
Continue reading
  1957 Hits
1957 Hits

Hugues Romagnan, Pol Roger

We were pretty close to a bubbly paradise @MetroWines last week when Hugues Romagnan dropped by, talked, tasted and taught.
 
Hugues Romagnan has been Export Manager at Pol Roger since 2012. He studied Political Sciences and Economics obtaining an MBA at Lyon Management School and a Master at Dijon Argo Engineer School. But the passion for wine came from his grandfather, a winemaker in the Rhone Valley. When he is not traveling the world bringing the magic that IS Pol Roger to his anxiously awaiting customers, Hugues lives in Reims. 
 
Really Hugues? Some fabulous life! Are you just trying to make me cry?
 
I told Hugues that it sounds like he has the best and easiest job in the world. How hard does the Pol Roger Representative have to work to convince you to buy Pol Roger? Exactly. Hugues could not in good conscious deny it.
 
Anyway, Hugues was off to New Orleans after his visit to Asheville. Always interested in my home town, I asked him where he was staying. "The Monteleone." When I was 10, I thought there could be no more glamorous, no better place than The Monteleone on Royal Street in the French Quarter. Now, after having done a little traveling, although far less than I would like, I can say there are certainly more gilded, way more GLAM, more historical, but no better place! Hotel Monteleone has a history of rooming acclaimed authors including Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, William Faulkner, Truman Capote and more recently, Anne Rice. And now, Hugues!! More History here: http://hotelmonteleone.com/history/
 

If Hotel Monteleone is history in a building, Pol Roger is history in a bottle. "The winery," says Hugues, "unlike many in France, has remained family owned since its founding in 1849."  Hugues told us about an organization, Primum Familiae Vini, started in 1991 by family owned wineries. Information here: http://www.pfv.org/en/.

 

Primum Familiae Vini

The same business concerns

The decision of an annual gathering

Robert Drouhin and Miguel Torres realized that they not only shared a dedication to excellence and a commitment to traditional winemaking values, but had many similar business concerns. 

Their conversation inspired the idea of an annual gathering where a select group of representatives from the world's leading wine families could share their collective talent and knowledge in the pursuit of greater excellence.

The following year their plan came to fruition. 

They set up the base of an informal association of family-owned companies which today remains unique in the wine world, and probably also in the wider business world. It transcends geographical borders while maintaining the common business link of vineyard ownership and winemaking. 

Today, PFV members continue to exchange experiences of the wine trade, gain insight into future trends and explore solutions to their business challenges.

 
If selecting wines from a family owned winery is important to you, Hugues suggests that you look for the organization logo on the back of the bottle:
 
Inline image 1
 
And the Champagne making tradition and historical methods have never wavered. "There are only 10 Riddlers left in "Champagne and" Hugues says "four are with Pol Roger!" Riddling is turning the Champagne Bottle by hand ever so slightly to help consolidate sediment for better and easier removal.  "This links us to the past," says Hugues. WOW. The word is overused but, let's just say it, that's awesome!
 
Pol Roger has been appointed by Buckingham Palace as an official supplier to The Royal Family. And if you read our articles in The Laurel of Asheville, you know about the Winston Churchill Connection. But just in case you missed it: http://thelaurelofasheville.com/lifestyle/breweries/grape-vine-wine-preferences-indulgences-winston-churchill/
 
"We produce 100% of our Champagne in our own winery," says Hugues. "That means nothing is out-sourced and we control quality from vineyard to bottle." Indeed they do!
 
Hugues looked around at our bottles and pointed out the winemakers he knows PERSONALLY! including Janasse, Family Perrin,  Drouhin. "I sit on boards with these winemakers" There goes that amazing life again. Hugues!
 
Hugue says this was his first time in Asheville but he will be back. "It's beautiful here." Oh, and BTW, he loved the shop."You have a very good and diverse collection." I told Hugues that our philosophy @MetroWines that we believe that wine is about food, family, friends and community. Hugues said, "I can see that from your collection of wines. It is important to share the history and the story of the bottle. That is all part of the wine."
 
Hugues thanked us, believe that, thanks us!!! for carrying Pol Roger! Really Hugues. Now I am going to cry. How sweet is that?
 
Continue reading
  1629 Hits
1629 Hits

John Grochau Interview

 
John Grochau is such a likable, easily accessible guy, that he has been interviewed a LOT of times and told his extraordinary story as many.  He has already been asked all the fun stuff: what would you be doing if you did not make wine; what would you drink at dinner aside from one of your wines; what's your favorite wine region apart from Oregon? And he has movie reviews on the Grochau Cellars website. So there!
 
 
That said, this is sort of our story about Grochau Cellars.
 
Before our shop on Charlotte Street, we had a small, very small shipping business located in Arlington Virginia. We were so small that it was difficult to find distributors who would "distribute" to us. We were able to convince Ed and Barbara at Wine traditions in Falls Church and James at Roanoke Valley Wine Company to take us on.
 
James introduced us to two wines from which we have never departed: Paitin Barbera Serra and Grochau Cellars GC Commuter. The truth is that we pretty much built the business on the back, the very strong back of GC Commuter. The bottle was such high quality for such a reasonable price that, even with shipping, GC Commuter was a great buy.
 
 
We were thrilled to find we could still offer GC Commuter here on Charlotte Street through Haw River Wine Man. The bottle has always, and there is no reason to believe that will ever change, been one of our best sellers.
 
So, it was a BIG DEAL for us to meet John Grochau and say thank you. He was just like you might have imagined him from his interviews, straight forward, genuine, well settled and real likable. 
 
John was born in and returned to Beaverton, Oregon, just outside of Portland. As I worked in Portland Oregon years ago, we talked a little about my connection to the city reminiscing about the one of a kind grocery chain, Fred Meyer, my old neighborhood of South Burlingame, Barbar Boulevard, the old restaurants, the new restaurants, the lightrail and the bridges. 
 
And we talked John's connection to Asheville. The conversation centered around a couple, now living in Asheville, who joined us for the tasting. Turns out they met John almost 30 years ago in Portland where he was working in a bike shop. The couple helped him land a job at a restaurant in Portland.  They think, and John agrees, that this was one of those turns in the road that put him on the wine making path.
 
Once John decided to make wine, unlike many who start in this business, he had no real financial backing. He bought grapes from area vineyards and made small batches building his reputation as a skilled winemaker the old fashioned way through determination, know how and flat out hard work. The Portland turned Asheville couple says John used the same great meticulous care to fix bikes and transferred it to making wine.
 
And how did Grochau Cellars get to Asheville? Mike Tiano, a partner in haw River Wine Man read a story about Grochau Cellars Pinot Noir in a wine publication. The article also said that John Grochau was introduced to wine and the winemaking landscape in his early 20s while racing bicycles for a French team in the Loire Valley. Also a cyclist, this revelation definitely appealed to Mike. So Mike called John and we called Mike.
 
The only thing left to ask is about the "winery dog!"
 
 
Direct from John Grochau on the winery dogs. That's the kind of guy he is!
 
2 winery dogs
 
Stella, 14.5 year old Border Collie/ Chow mix.  Aka: Fuzzball, fuzzykins, fuzzy pants.  Sweet and stubborn, good dog days are over, does what she wants which isn't much.  Looks like she is part panda 
 
Olive, 4 years old border collie/poodle.  Loves chasing tennis balls and chasing (2 kills that I know of) squirrels.  Goofy and playful torturer of stuffed animals.

John Grochau
Grochau Cellars
 
Continue reading
  1511 Hits
1511 Hits

Francoise le Calvez Interview

"It's a family business!" 
 
We spoke with Francoise le Calvez as she poured and discussed five of her wines under the Coupe Roses label.
 
 
Francoise and her enologist husband, Pascal Frissant, work Coupe Roses in the Minervois Appellation with passion and state of the art technology. But in the end, as Francoise reminds us, a "it's family business."
 
Francoise began her journey into wine with her father. The PH of the soil in the vineyards was not optimum. Her father found a soil researcher who concluded that "the roots were not going deeply enough to have the best expression of the soil." The problem was resolved but it is a constant labor of love. "We are always working on the soil," says Francoise, because when you get right down to it, "it's all about the soil."
 
At Coupe Roses, in the village of La Caunette in Minervois, Francoise and Pascal make authentic wines, "wines of the soil,"  and"wines that express the "slow work of nature." Francoise describes her wines as an "expression of the terroir" and a "universe of sensory poetry."
 
Champs du Roy Blanc is an aromatic, dry blend of Grenache Blanc and Muscat. 
Francoise says the grapes for this wine are chosen "because of the chemical composition of the soil."
 
Fremillant Rose is based on 40% Mourvedre blended in equal parts of Cinsault, Grenache and Syrah. "Each grape gives character to the wine." The wine has an interesting color leaning, as Francoise says "toward violet!"
 
 
Ahhhh, Bastide. "The nose is quite strong." Bastide, made of equal parts Carignan and Grenache with about 5% Syrah, pairs with food or can go alone. "It's a Bistro Wine!" Francoise says there is a lot of discussion in France about Carignan. Noting that French wines in Languedoc are most often Syrah based, Francoise reminds us that there was a time "when wines were up to 90% Carignan." The varietal is, Francoise says with determination, "very good when it's young" and "we must save Carignan!" 
 
Vignals is a "rich and intense" wine made in steel tanks to bring out "the best in the grapes."  Vignals is 60% Syrah with 30% Grenache and a touch of Carignan. "Varietals are vinified separately to determine how the varietals will perform."
 
Pouring the Grenache, Francoise says: "This is a perfumed wine. The strong aromas come from the herbs, rosemary, thyme and lavendar, growing in the soil." A blend of Grenache with 10% Syrah, the  wine is aged in oak barrels making it a bit, Francoise says,"more subtle."   A lot of aromas and flavors here. I even found tobacco on the nose. Francoise likes the "cherry finish."
 
Orience is mostly Syrah with 10% Grenache. Aged in 30% new oak barrels, this is the heavy hitter but in no way too much. Francoise finds "Szechuan pepper notes on the finish."
 
As Francoise pours, discusses her philosophy and the characteristics of each wine, she often repeats with a smile as well as conviction, whats in her heart and what it's really all about at Coupe Roses:  "It's a family business." And that says it all.
 
You can find Bastide on the menu at AMBROZIA.
Continue reading
  1605 Hits
1605 Hits

Bruwer Raats Interview by Skype

I met Bruwer Raats two years ago at a wine pairing lunch. His commitment to his winemaking was immediately obvious but, as the conversation went on, his commitment to his land, his community and his family were equally obvious. And by the time that last Cabernet Franc blend crossed my palate, you could say with certainty that RAATS Wines and RAATS were class acts.
 
We talked with Bruwer Raats on travel by SKYPE from Stellenbosch @MetroWines on April 2nd.  He, with his son in tow, had pulled over on a tree lined road to take the call and talk with his fans. Now, that's dedication and just down-right nice! Bruwer lead us through a tasting of Chenin Blanc Original, Old Vine Chenin Blanc, Red Jasper, Cabernet Franc and his mega-HIT, Compostella. 
 

Not to be short but nothing more could be said about RAATS Wines than has been said with accolades by respected wine publications worldwide including Wine Spectator, Stephen Tanzer of International Wine Cellar, Riscura Red Hot Wine Awards and Wine Advocate. 

 
In his Cape Fearless article in The Wine Advocate, Neal Martin scored RAATS Wines between 89 and a whopping 95.  WOW! And Wine Spectator listed RAATS as one of the Top 100 Wineries in the World. See what I mean? What more could we say.
 
So RAATS wines are great but what about the winemaker? You probably already know that the original partnership was between Bruwer, his brother Jasper and their father Jasper Senior, and that he trained at esteemed South African estates as well as Cakebread in Napa, California, and that he sources his grapes from very specific soil types from vines 25 years old or older, and that he believes that "The best viticultural soil for Chenin Blanc in all the land is undoubtedly located in and around Stellenbosch," and that all grapes are hand picked and that there is "extraordinary attention to detail" in the making of RAATS Wines. EXHALE.......

But you might not know Bruwer, as a result of and testimonial to his winemaking skills, has been the winemaker for Indaba since 2008. Indaba says "He brings extensive knowledge and personal devotion to Indaba, aiming to create handcrafted wines that are stylistically fresh, juicy and approachable."
 
That's great too. But what Bruwer wanted us to know about his association with Indaba is that Indaba has taken their "commitment to education in the vineyard" up to the next level with the WELL Project (Winelands Education of Living and Learning) in South Africa. The project will support child development by providing infrastructure, learning materials and teacher training at schools established for wineland worker's children.
 
And that kind of concern extends to his philosophy of winemaking. Bruwer said he will not, I repeat, will not cut corners. "When you put your name on a bottle, you represent yourself, the generations before you, your family and what you stand for."
 
As for style, Bruwer summed up what he says separates RAATS from a lot of winemakers: "At RAATS, we do not make monster wines. There are enough monsters in this world!" 
 
And that style all started with Bruwer's passion for Cabernet Franc. When he started working with Cabernet Franc, Bruwer says his father, who eventually came around to see his vision, said "why can't you just be normal and plant shiraz?"  While Bruwer will tell you that it is his goal to produce the "pure expression of Cabernet Franc," on some level, his father was right because"everything that can go wrong will go wrong with Cabernet Franc." Bruwer's blockbuster, best selling Cabernet Franc Blend, "Red Jasper," is named for his father.
 
We asked Bruwer if he hoped his son would be a winemaker. Bruwer said he wanted to avoid imposing what is really "a parent's vision" on his son. "I would tell him what my father told me "to think for himself, to follow his heart."
 
And all that, commitment, dedication and yes, heart, are in a bottle of RAATS.

 
Continue reading
  1803 Hits
1803 Hits