For decades, you and I have been enjoying the magical wines of Nicolás Catena Zapata. The Bodega first launched in 1902 by Nicolás' grandfather, those first Malbec plantings in Mendoza now span six historic vineyards and multiple varietals. Discovering these parcels, once nothing more than high altitude desert scrub land, converting each into the most important vineyards of Argentina, is the stuff of legend. As Nicolás has proved everyone before him incorrect – the original European immigrants, his own, former vineyard managers – he has given us one staggering wine after another. He has pushed every limit, planting vineyards ever higher, reaching snowcapped peaks at elevations above 5,000 feet, searching for lower fertility and the ultimate expression of terroir. Dr. Laura Catena – his daughter, a Harvard graduate Biologist – working with Catena's world-renowned Head Winemaker Alejandro Vigil, discovered two, highly individual sub-plots within The Adrianna "Parcelas." These plots – named in honor of Nicolás' youngest daughter – are Catena Zapata’s highest; Laura's excavations revealed deep pockets of "White Stones" and "White Bones" here, changing the face of Chardonnay on this mountain – forever. Suckling calls the results from the "White Bones" plot "The Montrachet of Argentina;" there isn't a better description than that. Mythical.
Being the retail partner for James Suckling's national tasting event, the "Great Wines of the Andes USA 2016" has afforded me an incredible insider's peek at some of the most unbelievable wines I have ever tasted. If you have even a smidgen of doubt as to the world-class level of the wines coming out of South America, this will be the wine to forever alter your perceptions. A collaboration between Julio Donoso and André Ostertag of Alsace, Montsecano produces mountain grown, Grand Cru caliber Pinot Noir from two single vineyard hillsides in Chile's terroir driven, granite rich Casablanca Valley. That André Ostertag is involved guarantees that the project is 100% Biodynamic, to include horse and plow, hand-tilled soil where required and vinification via stainless steel micro tanks and concrete egg fermenters – new oak is abhorred. Watching the team, as they slowly, steadily guide horse and plow through the rich, aromatic soil immediately brings to mind my time at Pontet Canet; one feels as if they're in a different world witnessing the human touch that goes in to making these profound Pinot Noirs. If you're a drinker of Burgundy's finest, a lover of the greatest bottlings of America's West Coast, or simply seeking the finest juice to wear a Pinot label, do not miss this offer.
Historical relevance and the Roman Empire notwithstanding, today's Chateau Larcis Ducasse bears very little resemblance to the Right Bank estate of old – or even the one of the 1990s for that matter. Helene Gratiot Alphandery, the niece who inherited this fine estate in the 1940s through family ties dating to 1893, managed Larcis Ducasse until 1990. And while the family still retains ownership, everything else has changed. In 2002, the most important consultants of Right Bank fame were brought in to establish Larcis Ducasse as a rival to the most prestigious estates throughout St Emilion. The dynamic duo of Nicolas Thienpont and Stephane Derenoncourt has elevated Larcis Ducasse to a formidable position in less than a decade. Formally elevated to "St. Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classe 'B'" as of 2012, Larcis Ducasse has been rolling in the big scores for well more than a decade; joining the 100 point club with their 2005. We're opening the doors to our cellar today, offering a perfectly stored, ex-cellar parcel of their 2008. Drinking beautifully, this dreamy '08 demonstrates the fantastic work Derenoncourt and company are performing at this gorgeous estate.
Of all the Grand Gala Tasting Events hosted here at B-21 over the years, none are as popular as the Italian events. Importers and winemakers from every corner of Italy attend these events, entertaining while educating so many enthusiastic B-21 Italian wine lovers. This year, we took things to the next level, sponsoring James Suckling's event of epic proportions "Great Wines of Italy 2017," which took place in Miami on March 6, 2017. I couldn't be more proud, Suckling telling the world that he considers B-21 one of "the best independent wine merchants in America!" To celebrate this huge success, marking the occasion for all to remember, I've gathered together an unmatched collection of the highest-rated wines from that event as well as those you consider perennial favorites. This collection of Italian wines shares the fabric and history of Italy; it's so much more than a group of table wines. The complexities of the wines, the histories of the families, the iconic nature of the cuvees... these are the stuff of legends. I trust you'll find something to love and I thank you for making B-21 what we are today.
It's rare these days to find an American wine estate that boasts six generations of continuity. But that's the Corkrum family story; first landing in the Walla Walla Valley of the Washington Territory in 1865. Through the late 1800s and into the 20th century, the Corkrum family built a thriving wheat business on that original homestead, the Spring Valley Ranch. By the 1990s, Shari Corkrum and her husband Dean Derby recognized the growing popularity of wines from the region, and planted their first two acres of vines. Shari – the granddaughter of Uriah Corkrum, the first Corkrum born on the original Spring Valley Homestead, in 1865 – and Dean planted those inaugural acres in 1993, and by 1999 their son – Devin Corkrum Derby – estate bottled the family's first Meritage. Honoring his great grandfather, Devin would christen that wine "Uriah," debuting the small batch blend in 2001. A huge success, the 2000 vintage of Uriah was selected as the #17 wine on Wine Spectator's "Top 100" list. For 2012, Uriah is once again in top form. Serge Laville, current winemaker, trained alongside Devin and continues the longstanding tradition of small batch winemaking that the family demands. The tell-tale terroir of the Spring Valley Vineyard is on full display, and this remains one of the most unique, iconic wines of the state.
Not far from the Tuscan coast – equidistant from Livorno and Pisa – nestled 1,000 feet above sea level, rests the ancient village of Ghizzano. As economic turmoil in the 1980s all but vanquished its few hundred inhabitants, Pierfrancesco Venerosi Pesciolini remained. Descendant of the original Pesciolinis who established Tenuta Ghizzano in the 14th century, the village itself and its most important wine estate were in his hands. Pierfrancesco partnered with famed agronomist PierMario Meletti Cavallari (Grattamacco), identifying the perfect clone of Sangiovese for these gently rolling hills, later incorporating Cabernet to their estate. Towards producing world-class wines, Pierfrancesco replanted his vineyards from a mere 2,500 plants per hectare (high volume, low quality wines) to an astonishing 6,600 plants per hectare (First Growth Bordeaux, by example, are planted at 10,000). Pierfrancesco then launched Veneroso, in 1985. Named in honor of Ghizzano's historical wine legend, Veneroso Venerosi the inaugural release garnered top honors in Gambero Rosso. And the 2012 is among the finest I've tasted. Deeply, darkly fruited, with all the elegance and minerality of top vintages, this is one of Tuscany's most brilliant wines – one you should know; one I truly adore.
Young, passionate, very-well trained graduate oenologists Jorge Serôdio Borges and Sandra Tavares da Silva are the husband-and-wife owners/winemakers at Wine & Soul, producer of Pintas "Character." Jorge hails from Niepoort, while Sandra – first female winemaker in the Douro – began her winemaking career at Quinta do Vale Dona Maria. Their strong ties to the Cima Corgo zone of the Douro – Portugal's most famous region for world-class, dry red table wines – drew them to the Pinhão Valley along the mighty Corgo River where they purchased a single, terraced, walled vineyard named "Pintas" more than a decade ago. As their company gained fame, they later acquired the stunning "Quinta da Manoella" vineyard, with its parcels of 80-year-old vines tucked into terraces carved out by dynamite a century earlier. Augmenting their extremely old vine parcels, they added the 45-year-old Vale de Mendiz vineyard – adjacent to their original "Pintas" parcel – a few years ago. This is the source for "Character," and the work performed in this parcel mirrors the couple's efforts across every plot they own. Natural, organic, dry-farmed, non-interventional. A serious, don't miss wine from the most passionate team in the region.
Alain Voge and his right-hand man Alberic Mazoyer (the latter previously banging out the goodies Chez Chapoutier) are the men to beat in Cornas. Multiple top flight cuvees, impeccable wine making, and a string of chart topping Cornas bottlings have earned this estate “superstar” status. I recall fondly – in a Pavlovian state – Voge’s mind-bending 2010 VV; a cuvee that set a new standard for appellation and winemaking. Today’s offering is “close to what this estate produced in 2010, which is saying something”, per Dunnuck. Alain produces his Vieilles Vignes cuvee from a parcel of vines averaging 65 years of age within the heart of his 15 acre holding on the crest of the Cornas hillside. This slope is locally referred to as the “Gore”, nicknamed for its fractured, decomposed granite soils. Hand harvesting is mandatory, machines cannot maneuver the treacherous angles and slippery granite. These gnarled vines, deeply rooted in search of nourishment, render miniscule yields; wines of unmatched power and strikingly sexy minerality are the resulting produce. I have never tasted such consistently magical Syrah – and I’ve been drinking this stuff for 30 years. Get ready to be impressed.
My first visit to Marsannay, in 1985, was before it was even an appellation. I "discovered" it because I was lost, drove right past my turn in Gevrey. But there I was, five miles from Dijon, truck stops, pizza joints – and vineyards. It was mid-afternoon, I wasn't going back to Gevrey, so I decided on an adventure. Making my way through dusty back roads I pulled into the first open gate I found. It was the home of the Huguenots; my journey of discovery lasted the rest of that day – and into the next! These are proud winemakers, multiple generations making wine here without a thought for appellation status; passion drives them. Winemakers here bottle gloriously delicious red, white AND ROSÉ (oh, the Rosé!) wines that easily compete with wines further down the Côte costing three, four times the money. Returning a few years ago, I met the Bouviers, thrilled at what Regis is doing in his Biodynamic vineyards. And Philippe Collotte, with his parcels planted in 1947! A wine drinker's paradise, having gained AOC in 1987, the wines – even those born from seriously old vines – are downright cheap. You'll thrill at the discovery here, every selection – just as I did three+ decades ago.
What better way to begin a collection of the best values in Italian drinkers than with a Montepulciano/Aglianico blend from the maestro himself, Riccardo Cotarella? From a single vineyard called Ramitello, planted 50 years ago on the historic estate of the Marquis Norante of Santa Cristina in Molise, Ramitello Rosso justifies this estate's cult-like following. Perfectly complementing Cotarella's gem is another cult classic, Tua Rita. Rita Tua and her husband, Virgilio Bisti, secured 40 acres of land in 1984, in medieval Suvereto, the Tuscan province of Livorno. Luca d'Attoma joined as winemaker; the rest is history. Rosso dei Notri – half Sangiovese, the balance equal parts Cab, Merlot and Syrah – does double duty as a smokin' value as well as ambassador for the thrilling 2015 vintage. Quietly gaining superstar status in Apulia, Sebastiano de Corato bottles a jaw dropping Aglianico, dubbed Rivera. Marco Bernabei brings his magic to Sebastiano's old-vine site; the duo unmatched anywhere in the zone. Finally, Le Casematte Peloro Terre Siciliane, a 70% Nerello Mascalese, 30% Nocera blend from 30 year old vines planted high above the Strait of Messina in the northeast corner of Sicily. Brambly, black fruited and spices for days, this is why we love the Island, oh so much.
Brunelli fans no doubt recognize and love the ever popular and deliciously consistent regular bottling from La Togata. The regal blue label, adorning that opaque bottle has become one of the most popular, well-known wines from Brunello over the past three decades plus. La Togata Brunello – for most fans – is only known by this one, blue label. But deep in the cool, stone cellars at Danilo Tonon's Tenuta La Togata (near the Argiano farm), esteemed visitors – particularly dignitaries – will find exceptionally rare bottlings of the estate's über-rare black-label Togata, called "dei Togati." Tenuta La Togata's fattoria encompasses three extremely prestigious vineyard sites; all designated in the Brunello register as superior parcels. From these vineyards – Montosoli, Pietrafocaia, and a small but very fine parcel adjacent to the Church of San Sigismondo of Montalcino – Togata's cellar master maintains old vine Sangiovese Grosso planted to a unique trellising system at varying elevations. The best parcels, twice pruned, their grapes subjected to a rigorous selection process, are destined for "dei Togati." Very few vintages of "dei Togati" have been released; 2010 marks their finest release since 2004. This is one I've been searching for; one you're going to cherish – a rarity from "The Vintage of a Lifetime."
Five miles south of Dijon, resembling suburbia, and fifteen miles north of Gevrey, the ancient vineyards of Marsannay are fairly new to the production of world class Pinot. My first visit to the Cote in the '80s revealed precious few wines of notoriety, the appellation wasn't created until 1987. Fast-forward 10 or 15 years and the landscape drastically shifted. Third, fourth, even fifth generation (and very proud) vignerons began altering the face of these hillside vineyards in Marsannay, where limestone, granite and clay soils offer potential for deeply colored and – if yields are managed – penetratingly zesty wines. One such passionate man is Philippe Collotte, a serious yet affable guy whose wines I've been following for about a decade. His 2014s are the most complete, complex set of young wines I've sampled to date – the Champsalomon one of the finest wines I've EVER enjoyed from this appellation. Another standout, in the center of Marsannay's best sites, just above Champsalomon, Collotte's Clos de Jeu (from 50+ year-old vines) is brimming with black Pinot fruits. You can't go wrong with Collotte in 2014, and I invite you to explore the full range. Classic, dominant wines.
Domaine des Soulanes – not to be confused with the similar sounding Domaine la Soumade from Rasteau – is a new discovery for me, one of the glorious benchmark producers of the Roussillon brought to the States by importer extraordinaire Peter Weygandt. Run by Daniel Laffite – no family affiliation to my knowledge – Soulanes is a collection of parcels just outside the now-famous town of Tautavel – home to the remains of the Tautavel Man, whose 450,000 year-old bones were discovered in an ancient cave in this village in 1971. Planted to gently sloping foothills near the Pyrenees Orientales at the border with Spain, Daniel's centenarian plots of gnarled Carignan in the Mas de la Fredas site are utilized in the production of his Cotes Catalanes Kaya cuvee. Miniscule yields and a true hands-off approach to his winemaking style result in one of the most deeply colored, intensely floral, amazingly classic wines of its type that I've encountered – from anywhere. I've tasted Carignan of various vine age and vinification methods for decades, often disappointed, understanding of its standing in the world of Vitis Vinifera. But in the hands of Daniel Laffite – especially for 2013 – this is a magical wine. "Kaya" is the name, one you'll be glad you discovered.
I've enjoyed tasting several dozen of these spectacular 2010 Brunelli, my notes concurring across the board with the pros – I also understand why prices continue creeping upwards. Finding Máté for such a killer price was a real stroke of luck, my timing was perfect. Ferenc Máté is a Brunello lover through and through, keen on getting his wines (consistently well scored) in the hands of guys like me who recognize classic Brunelli. As an avid lover and collector of Brunelli – Ferenc authored The Hills of Tuscany and A Vineyard in Tuscany – Ferenc Máté commissioned Fabrizio Moltard – agronomist to Angelo Gaja – for clonal selection and vineyard planting. No costs were spared in the formation of Máté; international acclaim was immediate. Consistently at the top of the charts, theirs is a Brunello combining refinement with powerful fruit – 2010 was their dream vintage. The floral, spice and terroir notes driving this wine could easily fetch $75+; Über Deal indeed! You're gonna want that.
I've been traversing the backroads of France's Deep South for decades – was there before many of today's superstars bought their first grapes. So you'll understand my ecstatic nature – my complete amazement – upon first tasting the breathtaking wines of Domaine Barral. This is a guy with so much to teach; his neighbors in Faugeres are witnessing history come to life. Named in honor of his grandfather, Didier Barral's Domaine Leon Barral recalls the estates of long ago – now becoming increasingly popular as today's generation accepts Biodynamics. His is a rather large estate, one which requires a lot of assistance in its tending. Nearly 75 acres in total, spread across the schist-rich rolling hills of the Faugeres appellation, Didier owns the oldest vines in the neighborhood – a nice parcel approaching their 100th birthday. His helpers are priceless; twenty cows, horses, and pigs grazing the cover crops, building an interdependent, microbiotic ecosystem where the vines and their fruit are the greatest beneficiaries. Methodical canopy management, hand harvesting, gravity fed winemaking, indigenous yeasts. I cannot say enough; you simply must try these staggeringly intense, multi-dimensional wines. Each one another step towards perfection. You will never look at Faugeres the same way again.
Among my most lasting memories of the Roussillon (France's deep south-west at the border with Spain) was a visit to the region in the early 1990s. My host – pedal to the metal in his classic Citroen – zigzagged us up a seemingly abandoned, steeply angled road as we headed to the summit of a vineyard-capped mountain off the coast, near Port-Vendres. Suddenly, he slammed on his brakes, summoning me to exit the car. Not quite to the summit, he said we'd made about 2,000 feet elevation, motioning to the crumbling limestone slopes adjacent. Dangling from the crumbling rock were the roots of vines from several yards above. The scree-covered slopes, eroded from years of wind-swept conditions were now exposing the roots of numerous vines. Yet these ancient roots somehow remained affixed into the mountain, burrowing dozens of yards below over the decades, sending nourishment to the vines planted above. These are the types of ancient vines and soils that comprise one fraction of the many complex parts which come together, resulting in the greatest wines now being made in the Roussillon. The address where these masterpieces may be found? Hervé Bizeul's Domaine du Clos des Fees. This is the kind of wine you want – it deserves discovery – and you’re going to be talking about it for years.
There's something very special about the soil, the microclimate, the history, the very essence of the Mayacamas Mountain Range in northern California. Robert Keenan was quite certain of the potential of this site, a location which eventually earned the AVA of Spring Mountain District – a moniker known the world over for its world-class Cabernets. Keenan and his crew began clearing the historical site, opting for Cabernet, and working with architectural engineers to rebuild what remained of the original stone building which was previously used by the Conradi Winery. Keenan celebrated his first harvest in 1977.
Today, the 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve from the Spring Mountain Vineyards estate marks the thirty-fifth vintage for the Robert Keenan Winery. A true American icon, this cuvee is now one of the most important in the region, with Robert Parker telling us that the Reserve (and others from Keenan) "Are among my favorite wines in Napa Valley." I'm quite pleased to bring this "blockbuster... full-bodied, very rich, powerful..." gem of a Cabernet to you today. At a price that's as serious as the mountain range which makes this powerhouse possible.
From time to time, I like to walk the warehouse, see what goodies we've collected in the cold recesses over time; 50 years at this location there's no telling what we might find in the warehouse. I guess that's an advantage to having such an expansive, cold warehouse – you don't really worry about all those treasures (until the accountants start asking questions). So last week I took a stroll down Big Bottle Lane – took a special bottle or two home, too. Friends, our collection of perfectly stored big bottles of Italian wines – pristine condition, perfect provenance – would send your Pavlovian senses into overdrive. Magnums of 100 pointers, double magnums of 2007 Brunelli, big bottles of 2010 Baroli... yeah, I went nuts with the ordering; you'd think I have a love for perfection – and an affection for large formats. Well, it's Italian Madness time – okay, so I stole from basketball season, it's still catchy – and you're gonna flip for the selection; the prices are a slam dunk! Sorry, couldn't help myself... Seriously though, take a look at this selection, and remember: these are my personal stash; you won't find better conditions, or a better selection under one roof.
I've been visiting the vineyards, growers and winemakers of Chateauneuf du Pape since the late 1980s, drinking and collecting wines from this region more than any other in France – yes, including my beloved Burgundies. Along the way, I've built some lasting friendships, trusted relationships with real professionals; the kind of folks I can trust to share the real truth with me when it comes to a vintage's true character. One of those guys is Josh Raynolds, who covers the wines of Chateauneuf (among his multiple fields of responsibility) for Galloni's online publication, Vinous. I first met Josh in his role as National Sales Manager for Neal Rosenthal, and his no-nonsense approach and straightforward style led to a bond and a trust I consider invaluable to this day. Josh too, has been deep in the Rhone scene for decades and when he shares his views, the world listens. And that's precisely why I'm sharing his professional critique of the 2013s; there's a very good reason why you need to be buying 2013 CDPs, especially considering my exceptional sale:
"The best 2013s are built to age, thanks in no small part to the often higher percentages of late-ripening varieties, notably Mourvèdre, that are included in the wines. Then there’s the fact that many producers, as mentioned above, opted to blend the fruit from their oldest vines into a single “basic” bottling, resulting in Châteauneufs that are in many cases more structured and higher in acidity than usual, Grenache being a low-acid variety. That bright acidity actually gives many of the wines early appeal for their freshness, but there’s a backbone to the best wines as well, which makes many ‘13s solid cellar candidates. Generally speaking, my inclination would be to dig into most of the 2014s before—and sometimes even well before—the majority of the 2013s."– Josh Raynolds, Vinous
Similar to California's AVA system – or France's system that governs its appellations – Argentine officials have established a new, impressive and very respectable IG (Indicación Geográfica) program to identify the greatest terroirs of their country. This program was detailed in great length by the Wine Advocate, and it's truly fascinating – especially if you're a terroir fanatic like I am. The efforts to which the officials have gone to identify and honor the best terroirs is nothing short of spectacular, and this new IG system elevates the country's wines to an entirely new level. Teho's sub-zone was recognized during this process and is one of the best IGs in Mendoza's Val de Uco. The Val de Uco contains three departments (Tupungato, Tunuyán and San Carlos). Within San Carlos (Teho's home) only 4 zones were elevated to IG status; La Consulta being one of them, now denoted on Teho's label. Being honored with an IG is a BIG deal; the studies have left many vineyards chock full of craters – these folks are not kidding around.... For Teho's 2013, modern techniques meet old vine plantings: egg-shaped fermenters as well as open top bins handle a field blend of very old vine varietals. To say that the wine expresses the best – the very future as well as the past – is quite appropriate. We will all be talking about this one for decades.
My tastings of several dozen top 2013 Chiantis makes it clear that these latest releases are the most complete, complex set of Sangioveses I've encountered since 2010 or the '06s before them. In speaking of the 2013 Fèlsina selections in particular, Galloni was clear, "This is a phenomenal set of wines that confirms Fèlsina’s standing as one of the great estates in the world. It’s as simple as that." Giovanni Poggiali has been assuming more responsibility in the cellars as Giuseppe Mazzocolin enters retirement, this set of tremendously successful 2013s marking Giovanni's official step into the role of head winemaker. Arguably his most impressive bottling for 2013, the Fontalloro is sourced from two of the estate's finest single vineyards, Poggio al Sole and Arcidossino, straddling the border between Chianti Classico and the Chianti Colli Senesi where multiple microclimates merge, expressing Sangiovese's full spectrum of complexities. From the rocky, calcareous nature of the Poggio al Sole subsoils, the landscape shifts in the Arcidossino plot to sand, loam, silt, and ancient marine sediments. Layering the fruit from these sites built an astonishing 2013 Fontalloro. With its dark stone fruits and miles of personality, this is one Fontalloro you simply cannot be without.
Riccardo Cotarella, "Il Mago," the Magician, is considered by many Italy's finest winemaker. His talents have catapulted numerous estates – wines in all price points – to stardom, prompting Parker to dub Cotarella "Italy’s answer to Michel Rolland." Riccardo's Tuscan beauties, especially his consistently gorgeous Vino Nobile di Montepulciano selections from Fattoria del Cerro are special favorites. Anyone who loves Vitiano, Falesco or Colpetrone, as you do, knows he's a genius. His passion is for indigenous wines with beautiful expressions of their local character. I tasted with Riccardo again at VinItaly last year. A truly elegant guy with thick wavy gray hair, perfectly cut suits; meeting the man sheds light on the elegance in his wines. Stylish, but never arrogant, and his Montepulcianos capture terroir and tradition perfectly. These are Montepulcianos which perfectly reflect place; rolling hills, high stone castles and churches straight out of "The English Patient" (which they are). Riccardo makes wines that are perfect distillations of this corner of Tuscany, masterfully tending the local Sangiovese, known as Prugnolo Gentile. For 2013, "Il Mago" returned his most magical Nobile to date; Galloni insisting it's "a wine that delivers so much pleasure..." You've loved it for years, prepare for your new favorite.
High up in the hills, overlooking the Northern Rhône River below, Monsieur Monier is the third generation to farm his family's vineyards in the lieu-dit of Brunieux, a very special spot in Saint Joseph. Now in his early sixties, he recalls the ways of his father, when thoughts of exports and estate bottling were foreign to this town of 700 inhabitants; when trading estate-grown apricots for electrical work was more important than making a living selling wine. In his father's day, grapes were sold to the local co-op, and it wasn't until Jean-Pierre took over that these 30-45 year-old vines began receiving the attention they were due. Following in the steps of Biodynamic professionals in Germany, Monier saw his estate certified Biodynamic by 2006, placing him and his vineyards in an elite, albeit small class of growers. Known as the STGT (Soil to Glass Transfer) group – a category developed by Northern Rhône expert, John Livingstone-Learmonth – these winemakers "survived the onslaught of marketing campaigns, press hype, fashions in winemaking, and wine school orthodoxies" to produce wines vividly true to their origins. You haven't experienced Saint Joseph until Monier's wines have been in your glass. Today, that opportunity has come.
If the name Gavin Chanin isn't already known to you – especially you fans of California's most precious Pinots and Chards – well, I'm not sure if my feeble attempts to define this giant among mere mortals will do his work justice. But I'll give it a go. Lompoc-based Gavin Chanin has been racking up the praise (and points) from every major professional wine magazine for his eponymous label since breaking out on his own after a serious tenure at both Au Bon Climate and Qupé. His inaugural vintages at Chanin Wine Co. catapulted him to rock star status, his Bien Nacido Vineyard and Los Alamos Vineyard rocking the charts. San Francisco Chronicle named Gavin "a winemaker to watch." But all the points, praise and prose took a back seat to Forbes, who crowned Gavin one of their "30 under 30." With that, Gavin was instantly on the wall with LeBron and Zuckerberg. Today, he's partners with another rock star, Bill Price, and together they are bottling the most incredible Chards and Pinots from places the likes of Gap's Crown (which Bill owns) and Rita's Crown – to name only two. How lucky are we to have this shot; to have these unbelievable wines to offer to our Cali wine loving friends?!
I had a hunch, and that hunch was dead on! You really do like larger formats, you truly do. After witnessing the movement of inventory thanks to last week's Italian Madness offer, I hit the warehouse again, this time in search of even larger formats of the greatest wines I've ever bought from Italy. And just as I said before, 50 years at this location there's no telling what I'm gonna find in the warehouse. This week's stroll down Big Bottle Lane recalled my favorite trips to Italy, times spent with great friends at VinItaly as well as throughout the greatest vineyards anywhere on earth. I unearthed double magnums of one of the most coveted specialty cru Amarone of the zone, along with 12-year old, perfectly cellared double mags of cru Barolo that stopped me in my tracks. I turned the corner and couldn't believe what greeted me next. Pristine cases of my favorites, multiple vintages in multiple formats, from the greatest vintages Tuscany has recorded prior to 2010. This is – yet again – a group from my personal stash, now on sale for you and yours. Perfectly cellared, just waiting for a new home.
If you're like me – nose to the ground, constantly seeking out the hottest producers in New Zealand – you've no doubt heard of Astrolabe. Winemaker Simon Waghorn was tagged by Wine Spectator in their Top 100 list (2013 edition), coming in at #60, the editors declaring them "A New Zealand brand to watch." The key to their success has been their ability to adapt, sourcing new contracts with top growers, never resting until that golden egg of a site has been unearthed. Located in Marlborough, Astrolabe opened its doors in 1996, based on the experience and vineyard contacts that Simon had built over a tenure which began in 1982. Simon believes in site, and his 2014 Marlborough Pinot speaks to his strengths. Grapes from multiple sites are brought together, utilizing plots from the Beacon Hill Vineyard – where the Waihopai Valley meets the Wairau Valley – as the primary base, where New Zealand's oldest parcels of "foundation" block Pinot are tended by Jeff and Vanessa Hammond. These are plots on decades-old soil of stony alluvium, undissected terraces of old. New World meets Old here, Pinots of intensity – wines you'll want to know if Pinot is your game.
From the town of Santa Barbara – "American Riviera" – to Lompoc, the wine region of Santa Barbara hugs the Pacific Coast 120 miles northwest of L.A. Spanning more than 116,000 acres, it includes Santa Maria Valley, San Luis Obispo and the Santa Ynez Valley. The famous Sta. Rita Hills is also a part of Santa Barbara as are Ballard and Happy Canyon. But before this region became so wildly famous, there were the pioneers. Au Bon Climat, Qupé; launched by men who tenured at Zaca Mesa. Fess Parker, Cambria, Cargasacchi; all pioneers of the region. And where would we be without Brewer Clifton, Dierberg, and Hitching Post? Yes, the movie Sideways brought the folks to Santa Barbara ca. 2004, but the region's roots belong to William Benjamin Foxen, English sea captain and great-great grandfather to Dick Doré, co-owner at Foxen Vineyards. Benjamin arrived in the 1800s with the purchase of the historic 9,000 acre Rancho Tinaquaic, establishing the family's farm. Today, Bill Wathen and Dick Doré proudly farm 2,000 acres of that original ranch, producing reference point, single vineyard Santa Barbara Pinots (and more) that are a permanent part of my ever expanding Santa Barbara Pinot collection. I hope you have a chance to taste this 2013 Block 8; it's truly the stuff of legend.
Negociants aren't anything new, but when you combine the immense talents of the family members who comprise this team, negociant takes on a whole new meaning. The Centonze family formed their organization in the late '90s. Father (as well as grandfather) Giovanni – a well-respected oenologist and former president of the Association of Sicilian oenologists – and his son Nicola – also an oenologist, graduate of the renowned University of Conegliano Veneto, a list of clients a mile long – make the wines from 100% certified organic sites, which are naturally low vigor and planted exclusively to indigenous varietals (the majority of their selected sites are old vine plots). Giovanni's granddaughter Martina is also working on her oenology studies – at the University of Marsala – and carries out promotions. Carla, another granddaughter, manages the family wine shop in Marsala and has already graduated studies as a wine technician. Brother Gino – Carla's father – runs the family business in Marsala. Together, this incredibly gifted family of wine produces precise, authentic, terroir-focused, varietal wines you really need to know. The 2014 Nero d'Avola in particular will stop you in your tracks; you'll wonder how they do this for the price.
Apulia (Puglia to the locals), affectionately known as "The heel of the boot," has enjoyed a renaissance over the past decade plus. Long-established wineries have turned from their bulk-wine ways of old, beginning anew with a determined focus on quality. Gianni Cantele was one of the first, shifting his namesake estate while continuing to focus on the region's native varietals. His wines offer a balancing act I've really come to enjoy. While others are garnering attention for ever more expensive bottlings, Gianni is offering us wines that speak of place and time – terroir inflected, pure varietal tones – for prices that seem too good to be true. Tasting his 2012 Primitivo is the perfect example. A Wine Spectator issue recently offered an in-depth look at the region, with tasting notes on multiple wines, to include several Primitivo bottlings priced up to $100. Gianni's? At less than a tenth of the price of some of those triple dollar offerings, Cantele is alone as THE consumer's top advocate. Add to that his dynamite Salice Salentino – pure Negroamaro grown on the coast of Apulia in Lecce, "The Florence of the South" – and you've got a duo of case buys perfect for grilling season.
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