Bargain Club Selections – July 2023
- Orsianna Cabernet Sauvignon, Mendocino (Organic)
- Scarpa “CasaScarpa” Barbera d’Asti
- Vigneti Massa “Terra” Barbera, Monleale IT
- Borell-Diehl Rose of St Laurent (Liter)
- Lazy Monkey Chardonnay, Mendocino (Organic)
- Biokult Grüner Veltliner (Organic)
Orsianna 2017 Mendocino Cabernet (Organic) $17.99
Produced by the uber-talented winemaker, Bob Swain (Parducci, Mendocino Wine Co, and others), Orsianna Wines punch well above their weight class. Lotta wine for the money here!
The owners were long-time grape growers before deciding to leverage their farming skills with a brand of their own. Located near Hopland in the eastern part of Mendocino County, the vineyards are on an alluvial fan leading into the northern Russian River. They are owned by a man named Bernie Orsi, one of the three partners in Orsianna (the brand is a combination of their last names). Orsi sells his fruit to high profile wineries in Napa and Russian River Valley who eagerly seek his sustainably dry-farmed, biodynamic and organic fruit (non-certified).
Tasting Notes: Juicy aromas of lush, dark fruit then an elegant texture leads into its pleasantly long, fruit-driven finish. Aged in twice-used barrels for softness and just a slight suggestion of oak flavors.
Scarpa “CasaScarpa” Barbera d’Asti $19.99
Though Barbera reaches its highest expression when grown in Piemonte, the grape remains in the shadow of the region’s powerhouse grape – Nebbiolo. But order a glass of the house red at any Piemonte café and you’re likely to get a Barbera – it’s the everyday wine of the Piemontese. Even this wine’s name, CasaScarpa, reflects its role as a comfortable house wine – a wine for relaxing in your slippers at the end of the day.
Scarpa Wines was founded in 1854 in Nizza Monferrato (a top region for Barbera) a few miles East of the town of Asti. Scarpa showcases the region’s grapes with a full range of wines and price points.
Barbera from the Asti region features mixed fruit flavors – cherries, plums, raspberries… with some iron-like notes and pleasant spices. Here’s a fun way to spend an evening – taste this wine next to the Barbera from Massa and see if you don’t agree this one offers a slightly more elegant, fruit-driven profile. Its low tannins and high acidity beg for food. Drink now through 2026 – with time, Barbera’s fruit notes fade, becoming more savory with hints of forest floor and must.
Vigneti Massa Terra Rosso Barbera $17.99
If you were a kid today in Walter Massa’s village of Monleale (Southeast of Asti about 15 miles), one of your weekly chores would be to refill the family’s wine jugs from the large stainless steel tanks in Walter’s cellar. And because he’s a big talker, and an enthusiastic advocate for his region and its wines, you might have to wait for him to finish with the journalists before he could fill your demijohns with this wine – his largest production of his small, 13,000-case winery.
As the story goes, weary travelers who have lost their way to Monleale only need to mention Walter’s name to at any gas station or cafe attendant within miles to get a pleasant “ahh oui, you’re looking for Vigneti Massa”, an enthusiastic smile and directions to his cellar. Everybody knows Walter.
At the heart of it though, Walter is a farmer who imbues each of his wines with his big, infectious personality. 100% Barbera from outside the grape’s top regions (Alba or Asti), this is testament to the importance of the fatidious farmer. Drink now through 2027.
Borell-Diehl Rose of St Laurent (Liter) $19.99
A whole delicious liter of light, fresh, medium-pale rosé from Austria’s dark-skinned, dark-juiced Saint Laurent (sankt LAOW-dhent). Sustainably dry-farmed. No herbicides or pesticides. The wine’s refreshing acidity makes it almost seems spritzy.
The timbered building that houses this family-owned estate in Germany was built in 1619, though the Borell-Diehl brand wasn’t started until 1990. That’s when Annette Borell and Thomas Diehl got married and merged their families’ wineries into one. Starting with a total of 12 acres, they now farm 84 acres of vineyards in the Pfalz area. Their holdings are a complex geology of loess, limestone, red sandstone, with deposits of minerally muschelkalk (‘shell lime’, aka limestone).
Annette and Thomas’ oldest son George (at left, teasing Dad) has taken the helm at the estate, but only after training at other producers like Rebholz (Pfalz), Wittmann (Rheinhessen), and Von Volxem (Saar) and an internship in New Zealand in 2016. His quality commitment includes his use of rigorous crop thinning, hand-harvesting, elimination of pesticides or herbicides and reliance on dry-farmed vineyards. Certified vegan by the European Vegetarian Union.
‘Lazy Monkey’ Mendocino Chardonnay (Organic) $14.99
Another selection from Mendocino County, an area we love for its abundance of good wines at affordable prices. Made from grapes farmed using organic and biodynamic techniques, the wine is crafted in a style showing elevated aromas that are exotic, fruity, and bright.
Tasting Notes: On the palate look for nuanced Chardonnay flavors, lilting acidity, and clean fruit flavors (citrus, pear, yellow apples) and a yeasty-butteriness. Only a small amount of this wine saw new oak barrels, the rest was aged in neutral oak before being blended for final bottling. The wine saw complete malo-lactic fermentation – a winemaker’s option used to soften the wine’s crisp edges. Only 500 cases produced.
Pair this wine with a wide variety of your favorite summer foods. Enjoys hanging out on its own, it also pairs well with lighter grilled foods, rich cheeses, creamy sauces and most vegetarian fare.
Biokult Grüner Veltliner (Organic), $20.49
As the distinctive red-and-white-striped logo on the top of the bottle indicates (see image at right), this is a wine from Austria. And while Austrian Riesling may earn top prices on the world stage, the country is also ground zero for the delicious Grüner Veltliner grape (GREW-nuhr velt-LEEN-nuhr, AKA ‘Gru Vee’).
Over the past couple of decades, the wine has built a cult following with a style favoring low-oxygen techniques that preserve the fruit’s delicate (and much-valued) aromas. On the nose you may find crisp green apple, citrus (lime), honeysuckle and tarragon. The palate is fresh and crisp but still offers ripe fruit notes, a hint of white pepper on the finish that ends with a pleasant lick of salinity. Pair with Asian dishes, sashimi/sushi, grilled shrimp egg dishes (one of the few wines that work!) and light fresh cheeses.