Classic Club Selections – July 2023
La Staffa Verdicchio
Cotiere Hilliard-Bruce Pinot Noir, Sta Rita Hills
Cusine en Famille Vin de France Rouge ‘Les Bas M’en Trombent’
DOMAINE LAFOND – Tavel Rose
Westgate Cabernet Franc, Santa Ynez
La Staffa verdicchio, Castelli di jesi DOC, Superiore (Organic) $24.99
If you ever get an opportunity to attend the wild wine circus that is VinItaly, know that you could spend a week of solid (foot-killing, back-breaking) days in the pavillions and still not get as much accomplished as you would at the after parties. That’s where real connections are made and great wines curated and shared.
And that’s where I met Riccardo Baldi earlier this year. He happened to be sitting across from me and we quickly hit it off – within a few minutes he was enthusiastically and patiently interpreting not just what was said, but its context and politics and the gossip behind it. Long before he knew I was a U.S. retailer or I knew he was a producer, he became my advisor on all things Italian. As the party wound down and we went our separate ways, I promised to visit his booth and taste his wines. I finally found the time to do so near the end of my week in Verona and to say I was impressed is an understatement. This is just one of three Verdicchio wines he produces, and each one is impressive in its own right.
Known as “the King of Verdicchio” among his peers, young Baldi earned that title when his first vintage (at the young age of 20) earned high praise from Europe’s wine press – Gambero Rosso. Now in his 13th vintage, he focuses exclusively on Verdicchio from his organic vineyards in the Castelli di Jesi (cass-TEL-lee dee YES-ee) DOC of the often-overlooked Marche (mar-kay) region of Italy. If you like Verdicchio wines, buying one from this DOC helps identify a wine of quality.
Riccardo ferments this wine in casks made of of accacia as well as cement tanks, with indigenous fermentation occurring and lees aging for several months. This technique results in a wine of beautiful freshness and a fuller mouthfeel than many Verdicchio wines. The wine expresses itself through fruity aromas with notes of flint and straw. Drink it now for an expression of its youthful self, though the wine will also age for many years to come, developing darker color and rounder caramel notes on top of its foundation of distinctive lemon.
Cotiere Hilliard-Bruce Pinot Noir, Sta rita hills $41.99
A gentleman named Kevin Law (Left) is the mind behind Cotiere, where he serves as the owner, business manager, vineyard relations manager and winemaker. In other words, he’s a one-man show that turns out incredible wines for not a lot of money. Kevin went to school (a lot of it!) to pursue a career in the atmospheric sciences, geography and geology. But during his school years he worked in fine wine shops as well as production facilities and caught the bug, found out he was good at the production side, and launched his first vintage in 2008 – just 9 short years after graduate school.
Law owns no vineyards of his own, but has been granted access to fruit from some of Santa Barbara’s best, such as the Hilliard-Bruce vineyard, the source for this wine. The famed Sta Rita Hills AVA is home to this vineyard as well as some of Santa Barbara County’s other top sites (Fiddlestix, Sanford & Benedict, Clos Pepe, Sea Smoke and too many others to mention). The average Pinot with these bona fides is selling for $50 – $75, making this Cotiere a relative bargain even though it’s on the pricier side of the boundary for this club.
The Hilliard Bruce Vineyard is located in one of the coolest regions in Santa Barbara, just inside the Santa Rita Hills on the west end of Route 246. Planted in very sandy, silty loam, these vines are majestically placed amongst the native oak trees, and are meticulously farmed. The fast draining soils and maritime influences stress the vines which builds intensified flavors and unique character.
VINOUS 94 Points
Cusine en Famille ‘Les Bras m’en tombent’ Rouge (organic) $22.99
In the world of wine, there are bottles best reserved for a grand seduction. A wine served to help close a big deal over a five-star dinner, or a wine Hef would have brought to the grotto to wash down a fistful of little blue pills so he could keep up with his array of youthful bodies. Such wines are usually prestigous, sometimes glorious and always expensive.
This is not one of those wines.
This is a wine for dining with family, for cooking with friends, for serving just ever-so-slightly chilled on a hot summer day or when you’re unsure of what wine you want to open.
A blend of organically-grown Grenache and Cinsault, two of the Rhone valley’s primary red grapes, grown in sandy soils that amplify the wine’s red fruit notes of tart fruit jams and the heady aromas of fresh raspberries at the farmer’s market fruit stand.
Serve with picnics, appetizers on the deck, or when welcoming a new neighbor. Its bright notes of crunchy red fruits would also pair well with a rich cheese (Brie, for example) drizzled with a tart fruit jam, such as the Amarena cherries available at both locations of Farmstead Cheeses and Wines.
DOMAINE LAFOND “Roc-Epine” Tavel Rose (organic) $24.99
Ahhh, Tavel. A region in the Southern Rhône known for its dry rosé with a notably dark, cherry-like color from longer-than-usual skin contact, which also results in a distinctively higher level of tannins.
Some would say it’s distinctive style has made it the epicenter of rosé, a style that inspires awe in the hearts of all other rosé producers. Its popularity peaked in the 1950s-60s and is on the rise again today. And so are their prices, sadly, but there are only so many acres of vineyard that can be planted in the area designated as “Tavel” and that ol’ law of supply and demand still applies.
The winery was founded in 1780 and passed through various family members until Jean-Peirre Lafond built his own winery and named it Domaine Lafond “Roc-Epine” after a famous race horse of the day (perhaps the horse that won him sufficient funds to start a winery? Only my supposition, but…) Today the torch is being passed to another generation of Lafonds (left).
The typical Tavel wine is a blend of Grenache, Cinsault and Clairette, but Lafond adds additional varieties allowed by the appellation to achieve a greater complexity. This wine is a blend of Grenache 60%, Cinsault 10%, Syrah 5 %, Carignan 5% and Clairette, Picpoul, Bourboulenc, Mourvèdre (another 20% in total).
You can never go wrong bringing a Tavel rosé to a summer gathering. Its flavors and aromas are bigger than many rosés, and its tell-tale spice notes extend its fruit notes with greater complexity, making it a delicious accompanist to your favorite foods of any season.
Domaine St Germain ‘La Pierre Marquée’ Altesse Roussette de Savoie (organic) $35.99
A stunning white wine from the Savoie region, on the border of France and Swizterland, this is true to the wines of the region – bright and crisp on top of a rich, almost waxy, mid-palate flavor profile.
The grape is appropriately named – the French word “Altesse” translates as “highness”, and if you’ve seen the Alpine vineyards of Domaine St Germain (right) you’d be inclined to agree.
In addition to its environmentally-descriptive name, Altesse also happens to be one of the best white wine varieties of the Savoie.
Tasting Notes & Pairings: Earthy notes of honey and wet stone lend complexity to the notes of tropical fruits such as mango with some golden delicious apple sneaking in around the corner. A wine for fondue, for grilled prawns, hard mature cheeses (Parmesan, Fontina, Gouda, Pecorino…) and alpine cheeses (Gruyere, Fontina, Emental…) all of which are usually available at both locations of Farmstead.
Westgate Cabernet franc, curtis vineyard, santa ynez valley, $28.99
In the world of Cabernet Franc there are two primary styles – the Bordeaux style and the Loire style. The former is riper and rounder and used as an integral part of the classic Bordeaux blend. The Loire style is leaner, lower in alcohol and brings a bell pepper characteristic people either love or hate. This wine is crafted in the former style – the Bordeaux style, but is NOT a blend, it is all Cab Franc, all the time.
The grapes are from the Curtis Vineyard, one of the most famous vineyards in Santa Ynez Valley, the area highlighted in the cult movie “Sideways”. Curious wine fans may like to know that the vineyard is made up of a blend of soils, from Chamise shaley loam to Linne clay loam and Arnold sand with threads of rock and shale that keeps yields low and quality high.
We got a great price on this wine on the condition it would not be posted online. Compare it at $40.