Funaro Nero d’avola
Plano Alto Garnacha/Carinena blend
La Posta Malbec
Jo Landron Sparkling Wine Atmosphères
Phillippe Auchère Sancerre
Brouca Côte de Glou Red Wine
Quinta do Mouro Reserva zagalos
Casal Vegri Valpolicella Superiore
Allegria Poivre de Mourvèdre
Marchesio Arneis – Organic and Biodynamic
Sergio Marchisio is a quiet pioneer: He was the first-ever farmer to plant Arneis in Castellinaldo, the first to make méthode Champenopise sparkling Arneis, and the first in the region to use amphorae for Nebbiolo.
The Marchisio family farms vines (always organically) in many of the area’s top sites – including Nebbiolo from the famously sandy slopes Valmaggiore. Sergio’s two sons, Fabio (winemaker) and Ivo (agronomist) round out the team.
Aromas recalling beeswax, hazelnut, and wild herbs form the nose along with a whiff of petrol. On the dry, restrained palate, honeyed notes accompany dried apricot and Meyer lemon before a bitter almond close. Fresh acidity keeps it lifted. All the youthful richness of a great natural, authentic Arneis, capable of directly recounting the marine origin in the Roero. The wines are bright, vibrant, and always bursting with aromas.
Try it with roasted fish, spicy pasta sauces, cream sauces and poultry. For an interesting experience, open the bottle and have a glass; recork it and put it in the fridge, have another taste; repeat. For me the wine is transformed from an angular Sauvignon Blanc-like experience to a more rounded Chenin-like one
BERNIER CHARDONNAY – SUSTAINABLE
We’ve been carrying Bernier Chardonnay since we opened the shops in 2002. It offers great value, is varietally correct and could pass for an entry level White Burgundy at a fraction of the cost.
Of all the wines produced in France’s vast Loire Valley, Chardonnay is probably the least celebrated. Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Muscadet, Cabernet Franc, and even Malbec and Pinot Noir have justifiably deserved reputations there. But Chardonnay? It’s a minor player at best.
And yet, this is an oversight. There is more-than-decent Loire Valley Chardonnay to be found and enjoyed. In the far eastern end of the Loire, the variety figures in the relatively obscure but often delicious wines from the small Cheverny appellation, where it is blended with Sauvignon Blanc to produce crisp and elegant wines.
A hundred miles or so to the west, on the other side of the Loire not far from the Atlantic Ocean, Chardonnay is grown and bottled on its own in the Muscadet region. One producer doing this successfully is Couillaud Brothers, as this 2018 Domaine de Bernier Chardonnay amply demonstrates.
In 1978, just after purchasing Château de la Ragotière, the Couillaud brothers also purchased an estate on a beautiful hillside in the Loire Valley with a schist terroir. Part of the plot still needed to be planted, and Bernard Couillaud was curious about which varietals would do well in this area, where the two dominant varietals were Melon de Bourgogne and La Folle Blanche. After some research, the Chardonnay grape piqued his interest due to its unexplored potential in a maritime region. He launched the project and immediately set out for Chablis to research and learn more about Chardonnay. Planting started in the spring of 1987 and, over the course of three years, 42 acres were planted on the hillside plot.
Soon after the project began, Danny Haas of Vineyard Brands became interested and wished to taste the final product. In 1990, after having tasted Bernier Chardonnay amongst several other wines from the brothers, he was convinced of its potential and Bernier was introduced to the market.
Domaine de Bernier Chardonnay is made with 100% Chardonnay grapes in the Western Loire Valley, Aged on the less to add weight and texture, it is also refreshing and crisp. Made in an unoaked style, it is delicious with lobster, fish, curry, and hard cheeses.
FUNARO Nero d’avola – ORGANIC AND BIODYNAMIC
Funaro is a family-owned organic winery in Santa Ninfa in the Trapani province on the Italian island of Sicily (‘Sicilia’). The estate was founded in 2003 when the Funaro siblings – Tiziana, Clemente, and Giacomo – decided to make wine from vineyards that had been in their family for three generations. Wines are made under the Terre Siciliane IGT.
They farm 85 acres of which 60 acres are vineyards (on two sites–see below) and 15 acres are olives, plus arable land, vegetable plots, and fruit orchards.
The Funaro enterprise consists of two farm estates in Western Sicily, not far from the coastal towns of Marsala and Trapani.
In addition to building an eco-friendly winery facility complete with solar electricity and a natural wastewater recycling system, they obtained organic certification for their vineyards, olive groves, and orchards in 2011.
As the Funaro family demonstrates with this organically farmed, unoaked 2019, Nero d’Avola has many different shades. Most Sicilian wine lovers have been conditioned to think of Nero d’Avola wines as dark, dense, and well-oaked, but here we have something different—a new-generation take on the grape that prioritizes freshness and easy drinkability over showy intensity.
Hand-harvested, and macerated on the skins for about ten days, after which they are placed in steel tanks for fermentation. The wine rests for several months and is then bottled. Intense ruby red in color, with purple hues. It has a fruity bouquet with hints of red berries (cherries, blackberries). It has a rich flavor, with the typical acidity of Nero d’Avola, with a long finish.
NOTRE DAME DES PALLIÈRES Rasteau Coudoulière – SUSTAINABLE, organic practices
Domaine Notre Dame des Pallières is a very old family estate, whose name comes from a place of pilgrimage visited by the Provençal people in the middle ages who believed that the fountain on the property would protect them from the plague.
Claude Roux and his cousin Jean-Pierre have so many generations of Gigondas wine-making experience in their family that they don’t know exactly how many of their relatives have been involved up to now – Antique writings suggest that this Domain existed in the 900’s. Fortunately, this tradition is continuing with Claude’s children, Isabelle and Julien, gradually taking over the day to day responsibilities of farming, production, and administration.
Vineyard holdings total 74 acres in Gigondas, Rasteau, Sablet, and Cotes du Rhone.
When asked about their methods, they smile and explain that they are simply following the traditional methods of the family members that came before them.
“Coudouliere” – This zone is unique in that it is a spot where grey clay (deposits of plants and algae from 3-6 million years ago) and brown clay (river deposits) intersect at the root level, meaning more complexity than you see in most other spots in the Southern Rhone. With 1,000 feet of altitude, there is also a terrific freshness to wine grown from this site. Elevage is traditional, taking place in neutral barrels. Alcohol comes in at a very reasonable 14% – A welcome contrast to the 15%-16%+ we are seeing in this category nowadays.
Cassis and blackberry flavors are ripe but mouthwatering in this full-bodied red. A Grenache-dominant blend augmented by smaller proportions of Mourvèdre, Syrah, and Cinsault, it’s buoyantly fruity but maintains a twist of herbal freshness.
Bodegas San Valero Plano Alto Garnacha / Carinena blend – Sustainable
The cooperative winery Bodegas San Valero (BSV) was formed in 1944 by 60 local winegrowers. Today it covers almost half of the 1,500 growers associated with co-ops in D.O.P. Cariñena. San Valero manages 700 grape growers cultivating over 8,600 acres of vineyard as active members of the cooperative. 100% of the vineyards surround the winery facility near the village of Cariñena (with many qualifying for a single vineyard designation); the region’s day-to-night temperature variations, high winds, and notable elevation all support consistent ripening with minimal treatments.
Through them, BSV has brought the area’s traditional tastes into the 21st century, protected and restored rather than retouched. The mission of director Domeque Sanz is to safeguard the denomination’s heritage.
During his 37 years making wine for BSV, Domeque Sanz has seen large shifts in technology from temperature control to recent work replacing pesticides with pest-controlling techniques such as pheromone-based sexual confusion. The winery works with decades-old vines to increase both the quality and quantity of the region’s historically powerful, structured wines. Locally they are known as el vino de las piedras (the wine of the stones) and have impressed European drinkers in the know for centuries, counting philosophers like Voltaire and Spanish kings like Philip II and Alfonso XIII among their historical fans. While international varieties like Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc have found a home here, innovation has been concentrated on improving traditional approaches and fixing past problems of less than optimum ripeness at harvest time and spoilage in the final product: “The profiles of the most classic wines are already well defined,” says Domeque Sanz. “Many have now been rejuvenated by our ability to use technological advances.”
93 points, James Suckling: “This is rather inky with dark berries and graphite to the black cherry aromas and flavors. Medium-bodied with firm tannins and a long textural finish that goes on for minutes.
92 points, International Wine Report: “The 2019 ‘Plano Alto’ is fresh and inviting, as it opens to aromatics of black raspberries, wild cherries, pomegranate, sweet spices, and fresh flowers which all jump from the glass. On the palate, this is vibrant with fresh red berries, florals, and spices. This is accessible today, but should continue to develop nicely over the next 2-3 years.”
La Posta Malbec, Pauliucci – Sustainable
Jo Landron Atmosphères Sparkling Wine – Organic
“Jo Landron remains one of his region’s most conspicuous over-achievers, and his name (or that of one of the domains with which he is affiliated) on the label is a virtual guarantor of fine quality.” David Schildknecht
Jo Landron is a man whose modesty is only matched by his mustache. Reticent to accept praise for his expressive Muscadets, he credits the diversity of the domaine’s terroirs, situated on the upper slopes of the Sèvre River near Nantes. Since 1990, after taking the reins from his father, Jo has expanded the family holdings from 26 to 50 hectares of vineyards. His approach to viticulture is the result of an ongoing philosophical journey, which began in 1999 with the labor-intensive commitment of organic conversion, eventually earning certification from EcoCert in 2002. By 2005, with the guidance of consultant Pierre Masson, Jo and his team began implementing biodynamic practices and became certified in 2011. Over time, the treatments applied to the vines clearly contributed to an increased balance and liveliness in the wines. A strong awakening occurred; the Muscadets became not only an expression of grape and soil, but a deeper reflection of the place where they are grown.
Biodiversity is foundational to Jo’s farming philosophy. While the majority of his vineyards are dedicated to Melon de Bourgogne, seven hectares are planted to Folle Blanche, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and the relatively unknown grape of Montils, all of which make up the blend for Atmosphères, Jo’s crisp and cult-y sparkling wine. The diversity of soils and distinct terroirs form the identity of the Landron Muscadets: Amphibolite grown on plots underpinned by metamorphic rock, Les Houx from plots of sandstone on clay, and both Fief du Breil and Clos la Carizière from plots grown on orthogneiss and quartz.
His sparkling wine, Atmosphères is produced from young vines grown in sandy, rocky clay soils. Hand harvested and fermented in vat. Methode Champenoise techniques are used here with a dosage of 5g/l. Only 1000 cases produced. Crisp, dry, and aromatic. Very refreshing and pure fruit that brings the classic mineral qualities one would expect from this area to a sparkling wine that shows good finesse and length. Folle Blanche 36%, Pinot Noir 33%, Chardonnay 31%.
Philippe Auchère Sancerre – Organic
Philippe was born into a Sancerre-growing and sheep-farming family but instead chose to become a pastry chef. When he returned to the family farm in 1995, he brought environmental consciousness, a love of natural wine, and a pastry chef’s attention to detail to the already impressive old vines and classic limestone-clay terroir.
Auchère represents the ultimate in farm-scale viticulture. His property, in the village of Bué (home to famous estates such as Lucien Crochet and Jean-Max Roger), doubles as a sheep farm – meaning, not all the property’s 15 acres are planted to vines.
What is planted to vines, however, is managed with rigor by Philippe and his son-in-law, Paul: this is one of the few organic domains in the region, eschewing all chemical inputs. Sheep and pigs graze in the vineyards to help manage weed growth, and Auchère uses “micro tractors” to limit soil compaction and reduce CO2 emissions.
The soils here are the pebbly limestone-clay mixture known locally as caillottes, one of three distinct soil types found in the region. Auchère’s Sauvignon Blanc is hand-harvested, of course, and in the cellar, terroir “transparency” is the name of the game: the juice is fermented on native yeasts only and is never supplemented with enzymes or other “nutrients.”
In the glass, it’s a glistening straw-gold with hints of green at the rim, bursting forth with aromas of citrus fruits, tart white peach, green mango peel, white flowers, lemon balm, oyster shells, and wet stones. It is medium-bodied and the perfect example of what wine geeks mean by the word “racy” – mouth-watering and invigorating all the way through the aromatic finish. The result is a gorgeously elegant, refined, and “pre-climate change” style Sancerre. In other words, no aggressive alcohol, no goofy tropical NZ aromas, and no uncharacteristic viscosity. Just classic, 1990’s Sancerre in a style that is a perfectly balanced cross between Gerard Boulay and Crochet.
Pull the cork on this one about 15 minutes before serving and let it rip: This is an all-occasion, über-versatile white for salads, seafood, and of course the kind of goat’s milk chèvre every Sancerre producer pulls out when you visit their wineries. A true classic!
Wines are fermented in tank (with native yeast), then partially finished in large, neutral barrels.
Brouca Cote de Glou – Organic, Biodynamic and Natural
Frédéric Brouca grew up in Normandy, and lived a nomadic lifestyle with his Canadian wife, Elaine, with the bulk of his time spent in Faugeres.
From an early age, Frédéric had loved farming and had expressed his desire to become a winemaker. In 2001, after he completed his Master’s Degree in Finance, he went back to school to gain a Sommelier diploma. This was the start of his wine career.
The Broucas took over 25 acres of vines in Faugeres in 2012, and in 2013, their inaugural vintage was created. Domaine Frédéric Brouca is a modest winery, fueled by the concept of reducing human intervention in the growing and winemaking process. Their wines are fresh and vibrant, made simply and without any revolutionary risk-taking. The success of their wines is thanks to letting nature run its course; to a simple return to good, honest farming.
Côte de Glou is a blend of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre grown in pure schist soils in the hilly slopes of the Faugères appellation. The forty-year old vines yield a perfectly balanced and powerful wine. With rich dark fruit and a notable structure, this zero-sulfur added wine was fermented with native yeast in in stainless steel tank, and ten month élevage in 60% stainless steel and 40% Foudre Tronconique, with a light filtration at bottling.
53% Syrah, 37% Grenache, 11% Mourvédre
The result is a savory red with a peppery spice note and a long, clean finish
Quinta do Mouro Reserva, Zagalos – Organic
Few wineries are as emblematic of the small farm movement of the Alentejo in the 80’s and 90’s as Quinta do Mouro.
Quinta do Mouro is located at the gates of the walled city of Estremoz. Owned by the Zagalos family for centuries, Miguel Louro purchased the estate in 1979, planted the vineyards and produced his first vintage in 1994. This is a Quinta, or small vineyard, opposed to a Herdade (large rural ranch or farm), which is most common in Alentejo. The vines are mostly planted in schist soils, with low productivity and without irrigation. The production is 100% estate and harvest is done by hand in small 20kg boxes. Wines are still crushed by foot here at Quinta do Mouro and most are aged in 300L Portuguese and French oak barrels. A true classic Portuguese estate.
“People say that Miguel Louro has always been like this, an iconoclast. His fight is for authentic wines, for honesty and for creative freedom. He gets annoyed by a world of “certified, regulated, supervised” wines… “I am one of the few real winemakers. I make my own grapes. Consumers know that if they open a bottle of mine that it is from Estremoz.” And rest assured that “my wine has to be irreverent and controversial. As I am “… Whatever he does, whatever he says, his wines have a legion of faithful followers committed to his cause – and attracted by his image.” – Manuel Carvalho, in Jornal Público 21.05.2016
The blend of essentially indigenous Portuguese varieties, Trincadeira (50%), Aragonez (30%), and Alicante Bouschet with 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, is aged for a year in used French and Portuguese oak casks, so there’s no overt oak flavor. And while it’s pretty irresistible now at seven years old, it will gain depth and nuance over the next five years. Deep ruby color with garnet overtones. Aromatically intense with well-ripened red and black fruit and some spice flavors. Good volume and complexity in the palate, with round tannins and good acidity, long and fresh finish.
Quinta do Mouro is an estate in the large Alentejo region in the southeast of Portugal, which was planted with its first 15 acres of vines in 1989 by current owner and winemaker Miguel Louro and now extends to 80 acres of mostly indigenous varieties.
Casal Vegri Valpolicella Superiore – Organic
The Valpolicella wine region in the Veneto, Italy has the unique ability to produce four different types of wine. These are: Amarone Della Valpolicella DOCG, Recioto Della Valpolicella DOCG, Valpolicella Ripasso DOC and Valpolicella Classico or Classico Superiore DOC.
Although the same varieties (Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella, Molinara) are used for the four wine types, the result is entirely different. Amarone holds a DOCG status and is bold, concentrated, overripe, and usually high in alcohol with long aging potential. On the other hand, Valpolicella has DOC status and is light, aetherial, fresh, and with moderate alcohol, and it is preferable to drink it during the first three years. Recioto has DOCG status and is sweet, and Ripasso has DOC status and is placed somewhere in the middle of Amarone and Valpolicella.
In many ways this is the signature wine of Ca la Bionda, it is a totally uncompromising Valpolicella made from the pick of the crop grown only in the Casal Vegri vineyard. Usually, in Valpolicella, the best grapes are reserved for the Amarone and the second selection for the Ripasso wines. Not so at Bionda; this is a classic single vineyard wine with an unwavering commitment to the best interpretation of the vintage possible, the style varies, the DNA does not.
Casal Vegri is a single vineyard on an east-facing slope, harnessed by ancient terraces between 350 and 1200 feet above sea level, the soils are rocky, sparse clay on limestone. The vineyard is farmed organically and the vines are trained using a traditional pergola system, the family has great faith in this technique which is especially successful in very hot and very wet years. The only issue is that this is a system that requires exhaustive manual labor.
The grapes are picked by hand, usually in the last week of September, and then travel a short distance to the winery where they are destemmed for a temperature-controlled fermentation in steel tanks. Following fermentation, ninety percent of the wine is aged in botti (3000 litre barrels) and the balance in barrique, for eighteen months. After blending it gets a further six months of bottle aging before release.
As a result, the wine is fresh, aromatic, and complex. It’s a ruby-garnet color, with a nose showing violet-tinged notes and red berries such as red cherry, raspberry, and cranberry. The palate is deliciously balanced, with silken-textured acidity and polished tannins. Pure sour cherry and forest fruits are delightful. Beautiful drinking when young, it will improve and can age for a decade.
While Casal Vegri is amazing when young, it will develop for a decade. It’s an excellent companion for roast meats while vegetarians should head for a mushroom risotto.
70% Corvina, 20% Corvinone, 10% Rondinella and Molinara.
Allegria Poivre de Mourvèdre – Organic
Located at the base of a dormant volcano between Montpellier and Béziers in the Languedoc-Rouissillon region, Domain Allegria is a Franco-Argentine project with famed oenologist Roberto de la Mora (Cheval des Andes) making the wines from grapes grown by the d’Aboville family’s organic wine farm.
Eight years ago Ghislain and Delphine d’Abocille found paradise on the southern slope of Les Baumes, an extinct volcano overlooking the Haut Languedoc town of Pezenas. This windy site called out to them as ideally suited to the production of interesting wines and more importantly as a rural location perfect for raising their tight-knit family of seven. The couple partnered with friend and mentor Roberto de la Mota when purchasing the property, and Roberto continues to lend his wisdom with each vintage.
This is one of only three locations in France with a high concentration of basalt soil, the other two being the Grand Cru of Rangen in Alsace and Clermont Ferrand in Auvergne. The second primary component of the soil here is quartz river rock, a soil type made famous in Chateauneuf-du-Pape. The quartz here comes from the same source as that in Chateauneuf, but is jagged rather than rounded due to it not having traveled as far. One will find that the quartz here is also present much deeper, continuing underground for hundreds of feet and thus lending a searing minerality to wines grown here.
In total the property is comprised of 23 acres and divided into four vineyard blocks. Each vineyard block is used for one specific wine the family produces. All vines are certified organic and this was the region’s first winery principled on ecological design and process. SO2 additions are extremely limited (under 20mg/L).
Grapes are fermented in unlined concrete vessels that were custom designed to accommodate manual pigeage/punch downs, which still eight years in is a favorite after-school activity for all of their kids (they strap the kids into climbing harnesses that are roped to a bar overhead and let them go wild).
Allegria means “joy” inOccitan, the local language.
Sourced from low-yielding, 40-year-old Mourvedre vines that sit on the western edge of the property. Named for the peppery notes from this varietal that emerge when one keeps skins in contact with the wine for a longer period of time. Aged in mostly used, tight grain Eastern European barrels to bring aromatic complexity without adding overwhelming oak flavors.