West Coast Rosé of Pinot Noir: Not Just for Summer

The rosés of Pinot Noir being made in California and Oregon are substantial wines suitable for drinking the year-round.  In this article, we review some of our favorites from the 2021 vintage.  Most of them are cultivated and fermented specifically for rosé. Well-chilled, a Pinot Noir rosé is the perfect dinner companion, pairing beautifully with salmon, pork, chicken and vegetable dishes.  These wines may be purchased direct from the winery websites.

For a much more extensive review of Pinot Noir rosés from California, Oregon, and France, see last year’s in-depth report Rosés from Around the World.    Continue reading

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Pelliegrini’s Three Shades of Pinot Noir

The Pellegrini family emigrated from Lucca, Italy, to Santa Rosa, California, in 1915 and soon began growing grapes and making wine. Sixty years later the family established the Olivet Lane Vineyard in the Santa Rosa Plains. Today, Alexia Pellegrini, the 4th generation of the family, continues the winemaking tradition.  Among the many wines sold under the Olivet Lane label are three different expressions of Pinot Noir: Pinot Noir Blanc, Rosé of Pinot Noir, and Nouveau of Pinot Noir, all crafted by winemaker Charlie Fauroat. Sourced from the original Martini clone vines planted by Vincent Pelligrini in 1975, they’re all very good. Continue reading

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Victor Mendes: From Successful Wine Retailer to Negociant

Vienna Vintner’s Victor Mendes is offering customers and wine club members a new line of delicious wines sold under the VIX label. The wines are sourced from California’s Central Coast and are crafted in collaboration with Edgar Torres, owner and winemaker of Bodega de Edgar in Paso Robles’ Peachy Canyon.  The line consists of 14 premium wines, mainly of Spanish and Rhone varieties that are produced in small quantities. Presently, Victor is selling his wines locally. However he has plans in the works to distribute them in other wine markets. Continue reading

Posted in Cabernet Sauvignon, California, Countries and Regions, Pinot Noir, Red Wine, Uncategorized, White Wine, Wine Type | Leave a comment

Crimson Lane Vineyards: An Exciting New Quality-Oriented Winery in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains

Businessman Tom Herrity is doing everything right with his new vineyard and winery in the Blue Ridge Mountains.  We recently visited him to see the progress he’s making and to taste his first vintage, made by winemaker and brother-in-law, Dominick Fioresi.  Dominick has considerable winemaking experience in Virginia at Linden, Ingleside, and Delaplane.   In this brief article we discuss this exciting venture and offer general comments on the wines. Since the red wines are Crimson Lane’s first vintage made at another winery in less-than-ideal conditions, we don’t give them ratings. However, we do conclude the future looks very bright for Crimson Lane.

In developing his project, Tom first found the perfect site for growing grapes, a south/southeast facing high altitude (950—1465’) mountaintop in the Manassas Gap that receives continuous cooling breezes.  While the soils vary by elevation, they are all fast draining. The combination of excellent aspect, climate, and soils mean there’s less disease pressure than most vineyard locations in Virginia.  Tom then enticed the East Coast’s top viticulturist, Lucie Morton, to advise him on planting the vineyard. They dug their first soil pit in 2011 and then planted multiple clones of several grape varieties, including Petite Manseng.  At present, they have almost 24 acres planted with a goal of reaching 35. Their vineyard management practices result in clean fruit and low yields (2 tons/acre at present).

Tom and Dominick next built their winery incorporating all the latest technology for cold maceration, pressing, and fermenting grapes. They have also made a careful selection of barrels. While they have released some white wines made at this facility, the reds are still in barrel or bottle awaiting future release.  The final part of Tom’s project is a large tasting room, now under construction, designed by California’s top winery architect, Howard Backen. While Crimson Lane’s wines will mostly be sold at the cellar door, this venture is not tourist oriented.   Reservations will be required to visit the winery, and only small parties will be allowed.

The winery is producing several red wines including two red blends, Colina and Parral. Both are blends of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon and given 24+ month aging in mostly new French oak. Both wines are well made and have good concentration of red and black fruit with a silky texture and firm tannic grip. Parral is especially refined in character and is Crimson’s flagship wine. Both wines would benefit from decanting before serving.  In addition, the winery is producing small amounts of single varietal Syrah, Petit Verdot, and Nebbiolo. Quality-wise, they are all promising wines, especially the Nebbiolo (labeled Vitale), which revealed a dried red cherry nose with good acidity, medium tannins and a long finish. As befits Crimson’s high quality standards and limited production, prices on these wines range from $55 to $80;

In addition to the reds, Crimson Lane makes several whites.  We tasted a 2021 Sauvignon Blanc of clones 1 and 376 made in a reductive Loire Valley style that showed good acidity and citrus and melon flavors. The 2020 Barrel Aged Chardonnay spends 18 months in 30% new oak, mostly French, giving it a seamless, creamy, rich character. Given the barrel regime, we were surprised how well integrated the oak was.  Crimson Lane also produces a steel fermented Chardonnay we did not taste. Our favorite white was the 2021 Albariño, which could pass for a good quality wine from Rias Baixas.  Prices on the whites range from $30 to $45.

We look forward to tasting future releases of Crimson Lane wines.

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Iliana Malihin: Fire and Wine in Crete

Fire-Damaged, Pre-Phylloxera Vine

In recent decades Crete has rediscovered it indigenous grapes and old vineyards of self-rooted  vines.  Iliana Malíhin has been one of the leaders of these efforts in the high elevation vineyards of schist and quartz-riddled clays located near the village of Melabes where her winery (established in 2019) is located not far from Crete’s southern shoreline. Unfortunately, the wildfires that have swept Europe this summer also arrived in Crete. The damage to Iliana’s vineyard was significant.  She estimates that 80 percent of the pre-phylloxera vines farmed by the 37 grower she sources from have been damaged. International efforts are now underway to help the growers and winemakers to rescue their vineyards. A crowd funding campaign is underway; the URL is given below. Continue reading

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Lyrarakis Winery: Saving Crete’s Indigenous Grapes

Giorgio Lyrarakis

Lyrarakis is a family winery on the Alagni plateau in Peza located south of Heraklion. It’s  known for rescuing indigenous varieties like Dafni, Plytó, and Melissaki.  It also specializes in other Cretan grapes like Liatico, Kotsifali and Mandilari. Brothers Sotiris and Manolis founded the vineyard in 1966. Beginning in 1992 their sons Bart and Giorgios began bottling wine under their own label. They source grapes from throughout the island to produce a range of “single area” wines made mostly from single varietals indigenous to Crete. The grapes from their own 15ha of vines are all farmed organically. Most the parcels they work with are dry farmed and hand harvested, and many are head pruned as well.  Look for more on Crete wine in our upcoming report on The Wines of Crete. Continue reading

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New Releases from Bodega Marichal of Canelones, Uruguay

Alejandro & Juan Andrés Marichal

Tannat is Uruguay’s signature grape. Unlike the fiercely tannic Tannats of France’s Madiran region, those of Uruguay are accessible early on with rich flavors, good depth, and in the hands of the right winemakers, like Juan Andrés and Alejandro Marichal of Bodega Marichal, they offer complexity and refinement. We review the new releases of Bodega Marichal below. For more about Bodega Marichal and Tannat, see our report on Tannat and Other Wines of Uruguay. Continue reading

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2021 Italian Rosatos of Sangiovese & Other Varieties

Italian rosatos (rosés) are made throughout Italy from a large number of grape varieties including Nerello Mascalese from Mt Etna, Nero D’Avola from elsewhere in Sicily, Aglianico from Campana, Barbera and Nebbiolo from the Piedmont, Grenache (Gamay di Trasimeno) from Umbria, and Bombino Nero from Puglia.  However, the rosato most commonly seen by customers in the US is made of the Sangiovese grape from Tuscany. In what follows we review several excellent still and sparkling rosatos, mostly made from Tuscan Sangiovese.  For more on Italian rosatos, see last year’s comprehensive rosé report, Rosés from Around the World.  Also, see our recently published article on Italian ramato, Italy’s Rosé from a White Grape: Valentino Butussi’s Pinot Grigio Ramato.

Terra Costantino Mt Etna Vineyard

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Morét-Brealynn: A New Promising Pinot Noir Label

Morét-Brealynn (More-ay Bree-lynn) Wines is a new label of Russian River Pinot Noirs that carries the name of its founder, Morét Brealynn.  The three wines reviewed here are her inaugural vintage.  They are all delicious and easy-drinking, young wines made in small quantities.  They are fresh tasting with good concentration and offer ripe dark red berry fruit flavors of the kind that pair well with a variety of bold flavored dishes.  We paired the wines with a campanelle pasta of pork and lamb and steak-frites. Continue reading

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Italy’s Rosé from a White Grape: Valentino Butussi’s Pinot Grigio Ramato

Abbazia di Rosazzo

The Valentino Butussi vineyard and winery are located in one of the most charming parts of Friuli-Venezia Giulia, the small town called Corno di Rosazzo.  Overlooking (see photo) the vineyards of Corno di Rosazzo is the Abbey of Rosazzo, which dates back to the 10th century.  We visited Corno di Rosazzo and the Abbey while preparing our report on The Wines of Friuli: Collio’s Special Whites.  Unfortunately we did not have time to visit the Valentino Butussi winery.  However, Butussi recently sent us three ramato wines as part of our annual rosé review, so we now have the opportunity to write about them and, hopefully, we will do a more extensive portfolio review in the future.  [We did review the Butussi Pignolo in an earlier article on Italian wine.] Butussi has a stellar reputation in Italy, so it’s especially disappointing that no US importer brings in their wines. Continue reading

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