CLASSIC CLUB SELECTIONS – SEPTEMBER 2023
- Massone Gavi Masera
- Dom Canadel Bandol Rouge
- Errazuriz Carmenere MAX RSV
- Ollieux Romanis Alba Rose
- Dashe Cellars Zinfandel, Vyrd Select
- Donna Paolina Greco di Tufo
MASSONE GAVI MASERA $20.99
The word “Gavi” on the label can lead one to believe that is the name of the grape inside the bottle. But alas, Gavi is one of Italy’s 77 most prestigious regions known as DOCG. The Gavi DOCG is located in Southern Piemonte within reach of the Mediterranean sea breezes from Liguria just to the south (see map). These breezes contribute the cool nights that keep this wine crisp and refreshing.
The grape here is the venerable Cortese. Never heard of it? Cortese is pretty obscure outside Italy’s Piemonte region, where it sees its highest expression in Gavi wines like this one. They are often considered the perfect seafood wine.
This fresh, seafood-friendly wine features fragrant aromas of herbs, tropical fruits (banana), stone fruits and a freshly-mowed hay pasture. On the palate it has a nice hint of salinity and bitter almond finish that is deliscious with a wide array of lighter foods such as fish, shell fish, angel hair pasta with tomatoes, basil and garlic, and most vegetarian dishes.
Winemaker/Owner Stefano Massone (STEH-pha-no mah-SOH-ney) has been in the wine business since he could walk, taking over the family business from his dad once he came of age. Now, several decades later, he says his commitment to his vineyards grows stronger each year.
Versatile and food friendly, this is a wine I’m pleased to make available for you.
CHATEAU CANADEL BANDOL ROUGE $25.99
The Soil: Château Canadel’s unique vineyards are planted on a geological anomaly – an inversion of soil layers from the birth of the Alps. To understand why this vineyard is so unique, imagine a cross section of the earth, with older layers of our crust towards the center. Now imagine a layer from the Triassic layer (200 million years old) being flipped on top of the youthful Cretaceous layer (a mere 65 million years old) due to tectonic plate activity. The result is that the Chateau now has some of the oldest soils in all of Bandol.
Such unusual soil is found only in a handful of other wines (Pibarnon, Terrebrune, and in Domaine Tempier’s La Migoua vineyard) but almost nowhere else in the appellation. The limestone and clay soils are particularly good for water retention in an otherwise arid region.
The People: Until 2007, the grapes from this estate were sold to Domaines Ott (famous for their $50 Rosé). But that’s when the property was purchased by Jacques and Caroline de Chateauvieux. The winery is now run by their daughter, Laure Benoist, an agricultural engineer, and her husband, Vianney Benoist, an agronomist and enologist.
Vianney spent 4 years making wine at the famed Domaine Tempier, gaining valuable experience in the age-worthy wines Bandol is known for. Mourvedre is the lead grape in the region, and at Canadel as well.
The couple follow organic and biodynamic viticulture practices, with all work being done by hand on the terraces. In the winery, the wine moves from stage to stage using gravity flow only, no pumps, and is bottled without filtration. The resulting wines show incredible depth and terroir expression.
This is a wine of significant value – an age-worthy red for under $30 is a rarity!
ERRÁZURIZ CARMENERE MAX RSV $22.49
The Winery: Though our focus at Farmstead is on small family-owned growers and producers, there is the occasional large family-owned producer whose accomplishments make them worthy of inclusion. One such producer is Errazuriz.
Founded in the late 1800s by Rafael Errázuriz, the winery took on a partner a century later – a young man named Eduardo Chadwick, whose family now runs the business. Eduardo was named to Decanter Magazine’s Hall of Fame in 2018, an honor bestowed upon only one person each year. The winery opened their new facility in 2010, which has become a global reference point for sustainable production.
In this same vein, there can be little argument that Errázuriz is Chile’s top producer. Though I’d be willing to entertain arguments from Concha y Toro, Undurraga and Montes, their achievements are nearly insurmountable:
- “Top 100 Wineries” Wine & Spirits Magazine
- “10 best wine in the world” Berlin tasting, 2004
- First Chilean wine to receive a 98 pt score from Robert Parker
- Recognized among the ‘Top 50 Worlds Best Vineyards’
- First 100 Point score for a Chilean wine from James Suckling (2014, 2017)
The Wine: Named in honor of the winery’s founder, Don Maximiano Errázuriz, the MAX line of wines represents Chile’s best terroir for each varietal in the MAX line. Carmenere is Chile’s landmark grape variety, and while Errázuriz produces many other great varietal wines, Carmenere is the most representative of Chile’s winemaking achievements, in my view.
In the glass we see an intense purple color with violet hues. Aromas of black and red fruits with spice notes of paprika and black pepper framed by hints of dark chocolate. The palate delivers notes of cherry and strawberry, black pepper and a touch of black tea with a mouthfeel that is fresh, round, and soft with soft tannins giving it a silky texture. The wine spent 12 months in French Oak barrels (25% new). 13.5% ABV.
OLLIEUX ROMANIS ALBA ROSÉ, CORBIÈRES CRU BOUTENAC (ORGANIC) $26.99
The Winery: Roman history echoes throughout the ancient town of Ollieux Romanis, as it grew to prominance centuries ago as a source for water. Records show the first vines were planted here in the 11th Century, and today the estate still balances their ancient traditions with the conveniences and efficiencies of modernity at it’s gravity-fed winery.
But its history is marred by greed, tempers and a rift that divided the estate into two for more than a century before Jacqueline Bories (right) re-united the properties in 2006, once again forming Chateau Olliux Romanis, a not-small but organic producer who still uses horses and humans in their vineyards.
Just South of the village of Corbieres, the organically farmed Ollieux Romanis Estate is among an elite handful of producers that constitute the only Village AOC of Corbieres, Crus Boutenac, one of the terroirs that literally defines quality for the entire Languedoc region.
For the past 200 years, the Bories Family have farmed the Ollieux. Red Sandstone, Limestone, Puddingstone and Clay tell a complex history of oceanic coverage, sedimentation, alluvial deposits and the Massif Central rift expansion – perhaps only of interest to the geologist or serious wine geek!
Today, this diverse bed of diverse soils are home to Ollieux Romanis’ Old Vine Carignan, Mourvedre, Syrah, Grenache Noirs, Grenache Gris and Cinsault……all fermented by Native Yeasts and bottled ‘Sans Soufre’ (without SO2), a winemaking decision that requires a winery that maintains almost surgical levels of sanitation to prevent bacterial contamination of the wine.
The Wine: FAns of Italian wines may assume that “Alba” refers to the town in Piemonte, but nothing could be further from the truth. A blend of 40% Cinsault, 30% Grenache Gris, 30% Grenache Noir resulting in a pale salmon color, a light body and aromas/flavors that hint at ripe strawberries, rose petals and white pepper.
DOM GÉRARD MILLET SANCERRE $32.49
As I write this, it’s late on Thursday, August the 3rd, just two nights before the first Saturday in August. That’s when the French town of Bué holds its annual fair celebrating the town’s history as a den for sorcerers and ghosts.
According to legend, they used to organize witching hours on dark nights. The version of the town’s history I read was completely vague on what such witching hours entailed, but whatever it was, I imagine it had something to do with assuring a successful wine harvest – this is Sancerre at its most charming.
Bue is a small town just South of Sancerre, located in a the center of a crater-like indent in the surrounding hillsides covered in grape vines. It would be difficult to imagine a more picturesque setting.
Tasting notes: A vibrant mix of lemon zest, kaffir lime, wet rock and nectarine aromatics intermingle floral notes that lead into a palate brimming with ripe citrus and stone fruit flavors that are framed by the wine’s mouth-watering structure. Great when paired with goat cheese – a classic for Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley.
DASHE CELLARS ZINFANDEL, VYRD SELECT $27.49
Dashe Cellars is a small, family-owned winery located smack dab in middle of an urban area. Here in the Berkeley/Oakland/Alameda area, I can think of about 2 dozen such wineries (and I’m probably forgetting a bunch!), producers who contract with some pretty impressive growers and craft delicious, award-winning wines. While they miss the bucolic scenery of the wine country, they thrive by bringing a taste of the wine country to thirsty city-dwellers.
Founded by the husband and wife winemaking team of Michael and Anne Dashe, Dashe Cellars crafted its first vintage of Dry Creek Zinfandel in 1996 more than a quarter century ago!
Based on the belief that people shouldn’t have to go all the way to wine country to taste exceptional wines, they remain committed to creating wines that reflect the unique soil, climate, and regional characteristics of the vineyards they work with. To attain these goals, Dashe Cellars employs both traditional and “natural” winemaking, including small-lot fermentation, indigenous yeasts, and little-to-no fining or filtration. As a result, when poured into our glass their wines may appear a bit like a Hazy IPA.
Mike: Mike fermented his first beer at the age of 15, reconditioning an old refrigerator to brew his first batch of beer. “I stumbled upon a pamphlet, literally stapled together, about home brewing written by some big-bearded guy on the East Coast. I didn’t know anyone who was making their own beer back then. I fell in love with the science of it all – the idea of being able to transform something through a natural process.”
Anne: Anne grew up in a fishing village on the coast of Brittany in France. She knew early in life that she wanted to work in science, but had no desire to sit at a desk working a 9-5. While attending the University of Bordeaux, she found herself torn between becoming a perfumer or a winemaker. What ultimately put her over the edge? The professor who told her that she’d never get into the school’s enology program because she was a woman. I guess we all owe that professor a debt of grattitude!
DONNA PAOLINA GRECO DI TUFO $21.99
Greco di Tufo is a DOCG of the Campania wine region in southern Italy – the “shin of the boot”. It is arguably the region’s most prestigious white wine (with Fiano di Avellino and Falanghina). As is all too rare with Italian Grapes, the wine is synonymous with the grape variety used to make it.
Those familiar with the wines of the Loire Valley kno “Tufo” as their regional word for the bleached-white stones formed many millenia ago from compacted limestone. It’s been quarried there over the centuries as the preferred building material of royalty and other wealthy landowners. This is not that.
The ‘Tufo’ here in Italy’s Campania refers both to a village that produces this wine and also a very different type of rock – known as ‘tuff’ in English – which is made of at least 75% volcanic ash (see photo at right).
As do most volcanic soils, the Tuff soils lend unique character to this region’s wines, an aromatic and mineral complexity.
Tasting Notes: A mouth-watering white wine showing aromas of lemons, yellow orchard fruits and toasted almonds. The lingering finish features notes of almond and minerals/stones. A wine intended to bring immediate pleasure, we recommend drinking this wine now through 2024.
The Winery: Donna Paolina is a new winery by any standards, New World or Old. It was founded in 2011 as a partnership between three of Compania’s brightest stars – the Alois family (small producer seeking to grow), Carmine Valentino (oenologist) and Gerardo Contrada (Vineyard manager at several Campanian properties). Their aim is to produce wines that express the best of the unique terroir of Greco di Tufo.