Albariños from the Palacio de Fefiñanes: Current Releases

The Palacio de Fefiñanes in Cambados

Rías Baixas is famous for its Albariño, and the Bodegas del Palacio de Fefiñanes is one of the oldest and most prestigious wineries of the Rías Baixas DO [Denominación de Orígen]. Established in 1904, today the winery is housed in the 17th century palace located on the town square in Cambados.  Juan Gil de Araújo Careaga, President of the Consejo Regulador de Rías Baixas, is the owner of Fefiñanes, and famed winemaker Cristina Mantilla makes the wines at Fefiñanes in addition to several other, premiere Galician estates.  In this article, we review the current releases of Fefiñanes; for our review of an earlier vintage tasted with importer Fran Kysela, see our article Bodegas del Palacio de Fefiñanes: Albariño from Rías Baixas.  We will soon be publishing a full, in-depth report on Albariño and other wines of Rías Baixas with reviews of the wines of over 40 wineries.  Look for it!

The three wines reviewed here show the varied expressions of Albariño in Rias Baixas. They’re all sourced from vineyards located in the Val do Salnés, the most important, traditional growing region for Albariño. The regular bottling, the first one listed below, is a pure expression of the very fresh fruit grown in this subzone, made with a short cold soak and time on the fine lees. The second bottling, the 1583, sees aging in neutral oak with more time on the lees with battonage, and is more creamy and firm as a result. The third bottling, III Año, is a selection of the best grapes with extended time on the lees and aging in tank prior to bottling, leading to greater richness and complexity.

Winemaker Cristina Mantilla & Owner Juan Gil de Araújo

The Wines

Bodegas del Palacio de Fefiñanes 2019 Albariño de Fefiñanes Rías Baixas ($33) 92 The regular bottling of Fefiñanes Albariño reveals a tropical bouquet of peach, citrus and mango. The attack is bright and fresh with a steely, precise palate showing stony minerals married to nicely concentrated fresh fruit. A perfectly focused wine with mouthwatering acidity. The flagship wine of Fefiñanes, it was first produced in 1928. It’s sourced from 60 growers in the Cambados region. Fermented in stainless steel. Over 14 thousand cases produced. 

Bodegas del Palacio de Fefiñanes 2019 1583 Albariño de Fefiñanes Rías Baixas ($48) 93 The (lightly) oak matured 1583 Albariño shows a spicy nose of jasmine, dried pineapple, and a hint of orange zest. It’s full and creamy with a firm backbone and layers of rich, spicy flavors on a focused palate, finishing very dry with a saline note. A selection of fruit in the vineyard with fermentation beginning in stainless steel and ending in French barriques where it ages on the lees with gentle battonage for 3 months before being racked back to stainless steel for further aging. Cristina Mantilla began making this wine in 1995, her first vintage at Fefiñanes. 

Bodegas del Palacio de Fefiñanes 2016 Albariño De Fefiñanes III Año Rías Baixas ($71) 95  Yellow gold. The III Año reveals a vibrant bouquet of tropical fruit with hints of citrus and herbs. This is an elegant wine with rich, complex flavors and very expressive minerality. Fruit and acidity work in tandem in a wine of impeccable balance. One of the very best wines tasted for this report. This 100% Albariño is a selection of the best fruit and the best tank. Aged for 7 months on the lees in steel tanks and another 23 months in tank before bottling in February 2020. 

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Tezza: Current Releases of Amarone and Ripasso from the Valpantena Valley

100% organic certified, the Tezza winery in the Valpantena Valley northeast of Verona is now managed by the third generation of the family.  They undertook a major renovation of their 28 hectares of vineyards in the towns of Poiano, Nesente, and Sezano in 1998, including replacing old vine training methods by Guyot. The winery was also modernized, and a new drying facility for producing Amarone and Recioto was built with controlled temperature and humidity.  The grapes for Amarone are dried from the time of harvest (September/October) until December. The Tezza cousins Flavio, Vanio and Federico have managed Tezza vineyards and made the wine since 1998. The wines are fermented in stainless steel and are aged in Slavonian and French oak barrels. 

Amarone della Valpolicella is a dry, red wine made from dessicated (appassimento) grapes. It’s full-bodied, has a delicious dried fruit character, and is typically high in alcohol for a table wine.  Valpolicella Ripasso has some of the same dried fruit character of Amarone but with lower alcohol and a significantly lower price. 

Amarone is made by drying selected, late-harvested grapes in a drying room (fruttaio) for 4-5  months until the grapes lose about 30 percent of their weight, resulting in the desired sugar concentration.  The dried, whole cluster grapes are then pressed and fermented. The juice is then fermented and racked to oak barrels and barriques for periods ranging from 24 to 48 months. With their grapes of high sugar concentration, Amarones are high in alcohol when fermented, usually 15-18 percent; the legal minimum is 14 percent.  

For more on Amarone, see our Report # 41 The Amarone Wines of Valpolicella and the articles we’ve written about Amarone and the appassimento process available free on our blog.

US Importer: Regal Wine Imports

The Wines

Tezza 2017 Corte Majoli Valpolicella Ripasso Superiore ($20) 90  Medium dark red. The Corte Majoli Ripasso is a softly textured, flavorful wine showing dark red fruit aromas and flavors with hints of earth. There’s not a lot of dried fruit character, but it’s delicious and easy drinking. 60% Corvina, 20% Rondinella, and 10% Corvinone aged 12 months in oak. 

Tezza 2017 Ripasso Valpolicella Valpantena Superiore ($22) 91  Dark ruby. Sumptuous nose of spicy plum with a dried fruit nuance. Full in the mouth with beautiful, fine firm tannins, excellent acidity, and vibrant flavors that mirror the bouquet. Lovely, long finish.  Delicious .  80% Corvina and 20% Rondinella matured 18 months in barriques.

Tezza 2016 Corte Majoli Amarone della Valpolicella ($35) 90  Ruby red. This blend of Corvina (70%), Rondinella (20%), and Covinone (10%) shows appealing aromas of fresh and dried dark red fruit.  The palate reveals red berries and cherries with nuances of baking spice and dried red cherry.  With round tannins and moderate acidity, this is an easy drinking Amarone. Aged 24 months in barriques.

Tezza 2012 Amarone della Valpolicella Valpantena ($55) 92 Deep ruby. The 2012 Tezza Amarone offers a vibrant, complex nose that evokes Christmas cake laden with juicy, rich dried fruit. On the palate, it’s ripe and generous and multidimensional with layers of dense flavors of dark cherry jam and dried berries with hints of cedar, tobacco, and baking spice. Finishes long and flavorful with ripe tannins.  A blend of 80% Corvina and 20% Rondinella matured 36 months in oak barrels.

Tezza 2012 Brolo delle Giare Amarone della Valpolicella Valpantena Riserva ($65) 94 This is a fruit forward Amarone that shows incredible freshness despite being almost 8 years old. The nose reveals dark cherry, kirsch, and spice, which are mirrored on the palate with hints of dried grapes and currants. Beautiful silky mouth feel and a long, long rich finish with firm, round tannins.  The concentrated flavors hide the 16.5% alcohol.  80% Corvina, 15% Rondinella, and 5% Oseleta aged 48 months in barriques.

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Boordy Vineyards: New Releases from Maryland’s Historic Winery

Boordy Vineyards is Maryland’s oldest and most storied winery [see the story below). It’s also one of the most visible examples of the rapid rise in quality of East Coast wines.  We’ve reviewed Boordy wines on a regular basis and featured the winery prominently in the publication of our report The Wines of Maryland. In this article, we review the new releases from Boordy. The white wines are from the 2019 vintage, an excellent year, especially after the super-wet 2018. 

Founded in 1945 by Philip Wagner, a former editor for the Baltimore Sun and author of the 1933 book American Wines and How to Make Them, Boordy was purchased in 1980 by long-time growers, the R.B. Deford family, and relocated to their historic Long Green Farm in northern Baltimore County. Rob Deford, who studied winemaking at UC Davis, assumed the roles of winemaker and president, and began the transition of this storied winery to the modern era. In 2008 Rob and his son, Phineas, initiated the complete replanting of all estate vineyards with the advice of consulting viticulturist Lucie Morton. This was followed by the construction of a new state of the art winery opened in 2013 with a production capacity of 170 thousand gallons.  Long Green Vineyard, located on the home farm, consists of 18 acres of vines and principally provides white and rose wines, while reserve reds are sourced from Boordy’s 25-acre, rocky, sloping South Mountain Vineyard in Maryland’s Blue Ridge in western Frederick County, an historic site that in the 1970s supplied red grapes to Catoctin Vineyards.  Ron Wates is the vineyard manager and Tom Burns and José Real (from Jeréz, Spain) are Boordy’s winemakers with technical assistance from Bordeaux’s Michele Rolland consulting firm.  Total annual production is 36,000 cases.

Boordy’s South Mountain Vineyard

The Wines

Boordy Vineyards 2019 Albariño Reserve South Mountain Maryland ($45) 90+ This easy drinking East Coast Albariño offers attractive scents of melon, apple and citrus. It’s round and full on the palate with a firm acid backbone. Finishes clean and fresh.  Sourced from a low yielding parcel of the South Mountain Vineyard in Frederick County and fermented and aged in used Burgundian oak for six months. 
  

Boordy Vineyards 2019 Sauvignon Blanc Maryland ($30) 90 Dried herbs, green orchard fruit and minerals show on the nose of this fresh-tasting Sauvignon Blanc. There’s good concentration and bright lemony acidity on the palate, finishing with lingering fresh notes. Sourced from Boordy’s Long Green Vineyard. 
 

Boordy Vineyards 2019 Chardonnay Reserve Maryland ($45) 91 Medium yellow straw. Appealing hints of tropical fruit show on the nose of this well made Chardonnay. It has a full, round mouthfeel and well integrated toasty oak. Finishes with good length and flavors of honeydew and orchard fruit complemented by hints of spice and tropical fruit.  Sourced from South Mountain Vineyard, fermented and aged in oak barrels of 1-2 years age. 
 

Boordy Vineyards 2016 Merlot Reserve South Mountain Vineyard Maryland ($45) 92 This is a delicious Merlot showing smoky red and dark red fruit with hints of earth and cedar on the nose. In the mouth, it’s velvet smooth and seamless with excellent balance and an attractive earthiness. Finishes with fine rounded tannins and a lovely, long finish.  100% Merlot matured in French oak for 18 months. 

Boordy Vineyards 2017 Cabernet Franc Reserve South Mountain Vineyard ($45) 92  This is a beautiful Cabernet Franc with exemplary varietal character showing a nose of wet autumn leaves. It has a silky feel in the mouth with cedary dark red fruit complemented by tangy acidity and earth notes. The tannins are firm, and the finish is long, flavorful, and spicy.  100% Cabernet Franc matured in French oak for 18 months. 

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Philip Wagner: Maryland’s First Modern Winemaker  Born in 1904 and raised in Michigan, Philip Wagner began work as an editorial writer for the Baltimore Sun in 1930.  He started making his own wine from California grapes (Zinfandel and Carignan) during Prohibition and then planted a tiny vineyard to vinifera, which failed.  While working in London he learned of French-American hybrids being grown at the East Maling agricultural station and brought cuttings to plant in his Maryland vineyard. He also reputedly brought in suitcase cuttings of Vidal Blanc from Monsieur Vidal himself in Cognac.  He also wrote about making wine and in 1933 published the book American Wines and How to Make Them, which became the Bible to many winemakers. He also developed the Boordy Nursery, which became the source of French-American Hybrid cuttings for the entire East Coast. This is where viticulturist Lucie Morton’s family purchased their first grapevines. In 1945 Philip and his wife Jocelyn opened Boordy Vineyards, which Wagner called the first American winery dedicated to producing wines from French-American hybrids.  Meanwhile he continued writing and advocating the planting of French-American hybrids on the East Coast. Walter Taylor of Finger Lakes’ Bully Hill Vineyards agreed, and he and Boordy engaged in a sometimes bitter war of words with Konstantin Frank, who thought only vitis vinifera could make fine wine. In 1980, one of Wagner’s grape growers and a UC Davis grad, Rob Deford, purchased Boordy Vineyards.

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Roero’s Malvirà in Italy’s Piedmont: New Releases of Single Vineyard Arneis and Nebbiolo

Tasting the single vineyard Arneis and Nebbiolo wines from Malvirà brought back pleasant memories of our visit to the winery in Canale while working on our Roero report. That’s when Roberto Damonte presented the wines at the Hotel Villa Tiboldi surrounded by estate vineyards (shown here). In this article, we review the current releases of these wines.

Established in the 1950s by Giuseppe Damonte, this estate is run today by brothers Massimo and Roberto Damonte.  This is one of Roero’s larger wineries with 43 ha of vines, 30 of which are in the Roero appellation. They are located in 8 different vineyard sites, mostly in Canale, including the historic Vigna Renesio. The San Michele vineyard has 80 year old vines. Roberto and his son Giacomo are the winemakers, while Massimo manages the vineyards.

The US Importer is Indigenous Selections.

Roberto & Massimo

The Wines

Malvirà 2019 Renesio Arneis Roero 92  The Damonte family began farming this special, historic (it was famous for its wines in medieval times) vineyard in 1985, the first vintage of the Malvirà Renesio Arneis. Fermented and aged in stainless steel with about 8 months on the lees, the wine is soft and lush with notes of fresh and dried pear, white peach and fresh garden herbs. Although Arneis is not a high acid wine, this one is fresh and crisp, superbly balanced, and refined in character. 13% alc 
 

Malvirà 2019 S.S. Trinità Arneis Roero 90  Grown in the sandy soils of the Trinità vineyard, this is an Arneis that’s easy to drink with pleasant melon, pear and almond aromas and flavors, a full round mouthfeel, and nice acidity that provides a firm backbone. It’s a food friendly wine that can also work as an aperitif. 

Malvirà 2018 Vigna Saglietto Arneis Riserva 91 Vigna Saglietto is a particularly vibrant Arneis. It reveals a complex melange of white peach, almond, a hint of Cointreau, and a light toasty note. The palate is crisp with a stony minerality and a persistent finish. The fruit comes from the Saglietto vineyard with its calcareous clay soils. Matured 10 months half in stainless steel, half in 450L barriques.

Malvirà 2016 Vigna Mombeltramo Roero Riserva 92  Dark ruby red. This single vineyard Nebbiolo comes from the Mombeltramo vineyard, which has especially calcareous soils. It opens with a bouquet of red plum and cherry with floral notes. These are mirrored on the palate with herbal and earth notes. It shows good depth and superb balance with a silky texture and firm tannins. The wines from this vineyard are particularly austere in their first years of life, and it shows in this bottle. They’ll soften with time, and we recommend cellaring this bottle a couple of years. 14.5% alc 
 

Malvirà 2016 Vigna Renesio Roero Riserva 93  As usual, the calcareous clay soils of Renesio produce our favorite of the Malvirà single vineyard Roeros. It offers superb freshness on the nose with light red berries and fresh plum aromas. It’s silky on the attack with a refined texture, firm structure and excellent balance, finishing with persistent red berry notes and fine, tannins. 14.5% alc 
 

Malvirà 2016 Vigna Trinita Roero Riserva 91  Medium ruby red. Sourced from the sandy soils of the Trinità vineyard, this Nebbiolo begins with a delicate, floral, rose petal and red berry scented nose. The attack is soft, and the palate is silky and elegant with fine firm tannins. Firm tannins argue for cellaring this wine at least a couple of years. We loved the 2007 vintage of this wine after a dozen years of aging. 15% alc 
 

Malvirà 2017 Barbera d’Alba 91  Dark ruby red. Effusive savory, earthy and rich black and red fruit aromas and flavors. Smooth and silky on the attack with a full, broad palate of concentrated dark earthy fruit. Rich extract on a prolonged finish. 14.5% alc. 

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Wine from Turkey: Vinkara in Anatolia

Turkey’s Vinkara winery was established by Ardiç Gürsel in 2003 in the Anatolia region, reputed to be the birthplace of winemaking at least 8 thousand years ago. The modern era of winemaking in Turkey began in the 1990s. In this article, we taste several wines made of some of Turkey’s indigenous grapes  (Narince, Bogazkere, and Kalecik Karasi) by one of the country’s leading wineries. 

Located near the capital Ankara, Vinkara has 200 acres of vineyards planted at 700m elevation in the Kizihrmak River basin around the village of Kalecik. It’s a cool (73.2F mean temperature in July) and relatively dry (16-20 inches annually) climate with high diurnal temperature variation in the growing season. The soils are of clay, sand and limestone.

Ardiç Gürsel & Marco Monchiero

The winemaking team has been led by Italian enologist Marco Monchiero since 2008. Marco also makes the wines with Francesco Monchiero at Monchiero Carbone in Roero.  It’s truly a small world. Francesco is also the president of the Consorzio Tutela Roero, and his wife Lucrezia Scarsi is export manager at Monchiero Carbone, one of the top producers in Roero. They were very gracious hosts during our week long visit to Roero to better acquaint ourselves with the wines and winemakers for our report, Wines of the Piedmont: Arneis and Nebbiolo from Roero.

Vinkara’s US importers are Terroir Selections, House of Burgundy, and Winebow.

Vinkara in Winter

The Wines

Vinkara 2019 Narince Kalecik-Ankara 90  Pale straw. The Narince, originally from the Black Sea growing region, shows a fresh citrus nose with lemon and orange zest notes. It offers a fresh, very flavorful, soft and round palate that mirrors the nose with good freshness and bright acidity. Finishes crisp with medium length. 13.5% alc.  US Importer: House of Burgundy
 

Vinkara 2018 Narince Reserve Kalecik-Ankara 92 Medium yellow straw. Offers a fragrant bouquet of honeycomb and orange and lemon citrus. A flavorful wine with good concentration and hints of lemon curd, honey, and acacia, the palate has a creamy character from 14 months on the lees in neutral French oak. A particularly fresh and attractive white wine. RS 2 g/L, 14% alc. US Importer: Terroir Selections   
 

Vinkara 2016 Yasasin Brut Kalecik-Ankara 90  The Yasasin Brut delivers a nose of white fruit with hints of yeast. It offers good effervescence, an abundant mousse, and flavors more reminiscent of a Loire Cremánt than Champagne. A pleasant bubbly with a dry finish and medium acidity. Made from Kalecik Karasi grapes; 12% alc. US Importer: Terroir Selections 
 

Vinkara 2011 Bogazkere Reserve Kalecik-Ankara  91 Dark ruby. Made from the Bogazkere (“throat burner in Turkish) grape, this full, lush wine offers spicy dark red plum and cherry fruit complemented by earth and cocoa powder notes. There’s good density and freshness and a firm tannic backbone. A wine meant to be consumed with hearty food. Matured 30 months in 225L French Burgundy barrels. 13.5% alc. Note: the current vintage of this wine in Turkey is 2014. US Importer: Winebow 
 

Vinkara 2016 Kalecik Karasi Reserve Kalecik-Ankara 91 Medium red. Light red plum and red berries show on the nose of the Pinot Noir-like wine. The attack is very soft, and the palate has a silky feel with good depth of flavor. Made from Kalecik Karasi grapes (indigenous to Central Anatolia) that spend 12 months in tank before bottling. 14.5% alc.  
 

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Sangiacomo Wines: Current Releases from Sonoma

The Sangiacomos are third generation farmers in Sonoma with fifteen different vineyards and more than 100 individually farmed sites  located in Carneros, Sonoma Coast, Petaluma Gap and Sonoma Valley. Until recently they exclusively sold grapes to the top wineries in Sonoma and elsewhere.  However, wishing to make something more from the fruits of their labor, they recently ventured into producing premium wines on a modest scale.   

The three wines reviewed here are among Sangiacomo’s early releases.  After tasting them, we can report that they are terrific wines that auger well for the future.  The wines are sourced from Sangiacomo’s  magnificently farmed  vineyards, and the wines are crafted by talented veteran winemake James MacPhail.  As noted quantities are very small, under 300 cases per label at present, so readers interested in purchasing these wines or joining their “Club Famiglia” should contact the winery soon.  Tel: (707) 934-8445  

The Wines

Sangiacamo 2018 Chardonnay Sonoma Coast ($55) 93  The Sonoma Coast Chardonnay is a lovely wine revealing rich aromas of orchard fruit and light toasty oak. Barrel fermented with battonage every two weeks followed by 10 months of aging in 30% new oak, it reveals a rich creamy mouth feel and is both fresh and complex on the palate and offers a wonderfully persistent finish.
                              

Sangiacamo 2018 Four Siblings Sonoma County ($65) 95  The 2018 Four Siblings is an extraordinary Chardonnay, certainly among the finest Chardonnays we have tasted this year from California. Sourced from the Heritage Block of Sangiacomo’s 50-year old Green Acres Vineyard, the Four Siblings is elegant and refined offering aromas of white peach, citrus and floral notes. On the palate it reveals a rich minerally mouth feel with excellent tension, crisp acidity and a lingering finish. Superb!
 

Sangiacamo 2018 Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast ($60) 92  The 2018 Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast is a delicious, medium to dark ruby wine offering aromas of red berries and plum. On the palate it reveals delicate and spicy black raspberry with a hint of toasted oak. Aged 10 months in 35% new French oak, the wine is nicely balanced with round tannins and a juicy finish.
 

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Eternal Wines: Current Releases from Walla Walla

Eternal Wines specializes in terroir driven, single vineyard wines from the Walla Walla and Columbia Valley appellations.  Established by professional sommelier and winemaker Brad Binko in 2014, Eternal Wines sources fruit from some of Washington’s most famous vineyards.  As our reviews below show, the wines are packed with flavor. We’re especially fond of the Syrahs.  Since the winery is young, the wines are not yet well distributed, but they can be purchased direct from the winery at www.eternalwine.com.  The tasting room is in Walla Walla’s airport district.

The Boushey Vineyard

The Wines

Eternal Wines 2018 Eternal Insight Marsanne Walla Walla Valley ($34) 90 Butterscotch gold. This Marsanne from one of Walla Walla’s best known vineyards is a ripe wine showing baked apple and toasted almonds on the nose. It’s creamy but with good apple cider like acidity and flavors that mirror the bouquet. Have with roast chicken or white meats like veal or loin of pork. Sourced from the Boushey Vineyard (Tablas Creek clone) in the Yakima Valley AVA, basket pressed and barrel fermented with ambient yeast and aged 14 months in neutral French oak. 13% alc. 

Eternal Wines 2019 Eternal Lust Albariño Columbia Valley ($29) 91 Pale yellow straw. This is a nicely balanced Albariño, solidly flavored with a firm acid backbone and good freshness throughout. Pear and melon are complemented by hints of starfruit and mandarine. Finishes long with a lingering sense of freshness. From the Otis Vineyard, basket pressed and fermented with ambient yeast in barrel. 

Eternal Wines 2016 Eternal Patience Roussanne Walla Walla Valley ($39) 90 Yellow gold. Honeycomb, acacia and yellow stone fruit show on the nose and palate of this decadently rich Roussanne. It’s full in the mouth with good flavor and rich, syrupy extract on the finish. Shows a touch of heat on the finish. Given the wine’s richness, why not dial back on ripeness a bit? Sourced from Cockburn Ranch Vineyard, whole cluster pressed in French barrels and then matured 22 months in French oak with full malo. 14.5% alc. 

Eternal Wines 2019 Eternal Perspective Grenache Blanc Columbia Valley ($29) 90+Introduced by aromas of white melon and dusty herbs, this is an unusually bright and fresh version of Grenache Blanc. The palate is redolent of tart green apple and stony minerals; it’s mouth filling, and rich extract shows on the finish. The fruit comes from Painted HIils Vineyard, basket pressed and fermented with ambient yeast in barrel. Just 13.1% alc. 
 

Eternal Wines 2016 Eternal Foundation Syrah Walla Walla  Valley ($59) 93 A perfectly balanced Syrah with hints of smoke and tobacco complementing blackberry fruit on the nose. Savory elements of bacon and herbs de Provence kick in on a tightly focused and dry palate. Bright underripe dark berry acidity provides a pleasant uplift on the finish. A blend of 95% Syrah and 5% Roussanne whole berry fermented with ambient yeast in 1.5T stainless fermenters. Matured 22 months in barrel and puncheon. 15% alc. 

Eternal Wines 2016 Eternal Darkness Syrah Walla Walla Valley ($59) 92  Opaque purple-ruby. Ripe blackberry, dark cherry compote and black olives show on the nose. There’s a silky smooth attack and restrained sweetness on a fleshy palate of noteworthy breadth, finishing long with velvet tannins. All whole cluster, fermented in stainless and matured 22 months in barrel and puncheon. 15% alc. 

Posted in Countries and Regions, Red Wine, Uncategorized, Washington, White Wine, Wine Type | Tagged | 1 Comment

The Wines of Georgia: A First Look

Alaverdi Monastery & Wine Cellar Dating from the 11th Century

Georgia is the cradle of human winemaking with archaeological evidence dating from 6 thousand BCE. Soviet collectivization largely destroyed traditional winemaking, but a wine renaissance focused on small producers and indigenous grape varieties began in the early 21st century, and today there are over 1,300 wineries and 48 thousand hectares of grapes. While the US is just the 10th largest importer of Georgian wine, consumer interest is growing rapidly. We will be publishing a new report on The Wines of Georgia in the near future. We’ll look in depth at the wines and, also, explore the country’s exciting cuisine. In this article, we take a first look with the aim of introducing our readers to the unique and varied wines of Georgia.

The Georgian wine in the marketplace is either traditional or modern. Modern winemaking is similar to that done in the rest of the world. However, traditional winemaking is quite different. It’s done by putting crushed grapes, sometimes with stems, in buried terracotta vessels called qvevri. White wines are sometimes given extended time on the skins, producing “amber” wines.  When these traditional wines are made with organically grown grapes, ambient yeast and very small additions of sulphur dioxide, they are called “natural” wines. 

Georgia is home to over 400 indigenous grape varieties.  However, most wines are made with just a few varieties, and the majority of vineyards are in the Kakheti region located to the east of Tbilisi.  The single most popular white variety is Rkatsiteli, a grape native to the Kakheti region, but now grown throughout Georgia. It accounts for over half of all plantings. The most popular red variety is Saperavi, which makes a rich, full bodied wine, especially when matured in oak barriques.

Our comments on several traditional and modern Georgian wines follow below; US importers are listed when known.  We are in general impressed with the overall quality of these wines. We will evaluate many more wines and give them IWR scores in our upcoming report on The Wines of Georgia.

MODERN WHITE WINES                                                                            

Kakhuri Gvinis Marani 2017 Manavi Dry White Kakheti   Light yellow straw. This wine made from the Kakhuri Mtsvane grape offers a fruity bouquet of spicy pear and melon. The spicy quality continues on a medium weight palate with notes of stone fruit and ginger. Finishes with a lingering sweet fruit note. An excellent food wine. Kakhuri Gvinis Marani was established 9 years ago in Village Gurjaani in the Kakheti region with vineyards in several microzones. Importer: Interbalt Products  

Khareba Lipartiani 2014 Queen Tamar Reserve Georgia   The fruit-rich Queen Tamar Reserve has a fresh melon and orchard fruit nose. It’s round and soft on entry with pleasant pear and melon flavors. It’s mouthfilling, crisp and dry with good acidity and a dry, flavorful finish. A handpicked blend of 60% Krakhuna, 25% Tsitska, 8% Mtsvane, Sauvignon 5%, Chardonnay 2% fermented and aged in stainless steel on the lees for 7 months. Khareba is a large producer with 1000 ha of vines in several parts of the country. It makes both qvevri and modern wines. The lead enologist is Vladimer Kublashvili. The Lipartiani family’s history dates from the 9th century; Vakhtang Lipartiani revived the family’s wine cellar. 
 

Vaziani NV Tsinandali Kakheti   Light yellow straw. Attractive bouquet of pear, melon and dried flowers. Clean and crisp attack with good freshness and balance and easy to like Bosc pear like flavors. Bright mineral like finish. This is a modern wine made in a style familiar to most Western wine drinkers. A blend of Rkatsiteli and Mtsvane. Vaziani was established in 1982 in the city of Telavi in the Kakheti region and modernized in 2012. 
 

TRADITIONAL QVEVRI WHITES

Danieli 2016 Kisi Qvevri White Wine Kakheti    Medium dark amber. There’s a spicy quality to the nose of this traditionally made Kisi wine. Hints of cinnamon, baked apple, and dried cherries show on the nose. It’s broad on the palate with a spicy, cooked fruit character, finishing with good richness and bright acidity. Excellent food wine. Made from 95% Kisi and 5% Mtsvane from the Akhmeta region, Magraani territory. Danieli is located in Village Argokhi, Akhmeta Municipality, the Kakheti region. George Babunidze is the winemaker. 

DoReMi 2018 Mtsvane Khaketi    Amber copper color. Multifaceted bouquet of orange peel, pomegranate and baked apple. Round and soft on entry, the flavors mirror the bouquet on a mouthfilling, spicy palate. Dry with good extract and a hint of astringency on a prolonged finish; excellent food wine. DoReMi was founded in 2012 in Village Gamarjveba, Rustavi Municipality, in the Kartli region with the mission of creating organic wines using ancient techniques. They source grapes from the Kartli, Imereti and Kakheti regions. Importer: Terraneo Merchants 
 

Makashvili Wine Cellar 2017 Khikhvi Kakheti   Amber orange. Aromas of dried herbs, tart orange, and baking spice. Opens with a soft, creamy texture and orange extract and dried citrus flavors and finishes dry with firm tannins. Made of 100% Khikhvi fermented in qvevri. The Makashvili Wine Cellar is owned by Vaziani Winery; all wines are made with traditional qvevri. It’s located in Village Telavi in the Kakheti region. 
 

Makharebeli 2017 Rkatsiteli Kakheti  A delicious amber wine showing dried orange and cherry aromas. It’s broad and full in the mouth with good depth and an especially appealing dried cherry quality on the palate. Dry on the finish but with good length. A blend of 90% Rkatsiteli and 10% Kakhetian grapes from the village of Vazisubani, Alazani Valley, Kakheti region. The winery was founded in 2009 with 2.5 ha of estate vines

 Sagvine 2016 Rkatsiteli Dry Amber Wine Kakheti   Gold straw. Scents of fennel and Cointreau show on the nose. Soft on the attack with a mouthfilling, lanolin like quality and complex flavors of orange marmalade, honeycomb, and white pepper. There’s good acidity and overall freshness. A well made and nicely balanced wine with a smooth, dry finish. Fermented in qvevri for 6 months. US Importer: Georgian Wine House.

RED AND ROSE WINES

Corporation Georgian Wine 2014 Mukuzani Singing Wine Kakheti   This Saperavi wine is an excellent savory, dark red wine. Its bouquet reveals red fruit, underbrush and a hint of cedar. The palate has a silky quality and excellent depth of flavor, mirroring the bouquet, and it finishes long with rich extract. Sourced from the Mukuzani zone located in the Kakheti region. The Corporation Georgian Wine was founded in 1999 by Dmitri Nozadze in the village of Tsinandali. It makes wine under several labels and is one of the top exporting wineries of Georgia. The winemaker is Albert Utiashvili. 

Dugladze 2016 Mukuzani Dry Red Kakheti    This 100% Saperavi has a pronounced bouquet of ripe dark red fruit. It’s well made and full in the mouth with a savory character flavors of plum, dark cherry and hints of tobacco and chocolate. Finishes with good length and fine firm tannins. An excellent wine to accompany meat stews. Sourced from the Mukuzani zone of the Kakheti region. Destemmed and fermented in stainless steel and matured 9+ months in French oak. The winery was founded in 2004 by the Dugladze family; they have 355 ha of vineyards in the Kakheti, Imereti and Kartli regions. The winery was one of the largest in the Soviet Union when it was built in 1984; it was modernized by the Dugladze family beginning in 2004. 

Simon Chkheidze Cellar 2018 Otskhanuri Sapere Dry Rosé Imereti Region   Light ruby red. This full bodied and deeply colored rosé offers a nose of spicy red berries and red apple. It has a fruity attack and richly flavored palate and resembles a traditional Spanish rosé of Grenache. It’s clean and fresh with good acidity. Produced and aged in Kvevri from Otskhanuri Sapere grapes grown in the Nugzar and Marmuka Chkhektze located 220-240 m above sea level. From Village Obcha in the Imereti Region. 12.9% alc. 
 

Zangaura 2017 Saperavi Kakheti   This is a big and very flavorful red wine. Ripe dark red fruit shows on the nose with a hint of dark chocolate shavings. It’s full on the attack with good depth of delicious, dark red fruit. The mouth feel is silky with lovely depth and precision. Zangaura was founded in Village Akhalsopeli, Kvareli Municipality in the Kakheti region in 2004 by Georgian Wines Ltd, which owns 40 ha of vines. From the Zangaura river valley.  
 

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Barbera d’Asti and Barbera d’Alba: Fresh, Fruity and Outstanding Value

The Barbera grape variety is high yielding, relatively easy to grow, and makes fresh tasting fruity, high acid wines.  Thought to have originated in Italy’s Piedmont region, today it’s grown throughout the world.  However, it’s still mostly grown in Italy where the best Barbera comes from the Barbera d’Asti and Barbera d’Alba appellations.  While it doesn’t have the lofty reputation (and price) of the Nebbiolos grown in Barolo and Barbaresco, Barbera offers excellent value. And when grown with reduced yields and fermented and matured in barriques it can produce a wine of considerable depth and complexity. In this article, we review several Barberas from the Piedmont, ranging in style from light and fruity to dark and layered.  In general, they offer excellent value and beautiful pairing with the lighter cuisine that is becoming increasingly popular. 

The Wines

Abonna 2018 Rinaldi Barbera d’Alba ($25) 90 Dark ruby. Bright dark plum, dried plum, cherry and huckleberry show on the nose and palate. Medium weight with ripe fruit, good balancing acidity, and a medium long finish. Rather high alcohol. 15% alc. Importer: Regal Wine Imports

Andrea Oberto 2018 Barbera d’Alba ($20) 90  Dark ruby. Dark red fruit with prominent savory notes show on the nose. Nicely balanced on a fresh, clean, medium weight palate. Lovely red fruit flavors, easy drinking, and a long finish. 14.5% alc. Importer: Regal Wine Imports

Enrico Serafino 2017 Pajena Barbera d’Alba ($17) 91  Opaque ruby. Powerful bouquet of dark red fruit with hints of toasted spice and chocolate. Big on the palate with loam dark fruit flavors; excellent balance with good acidity and a persistent finish. Exceptionally good for the price! Sourced from sandy loam vineyards within the Roero DOCG and aged 15+ months in barriques and larger oak casks. 13.5% alc. Importer: Dalla Terra 

Franco Serra 2018 Barbera d’Alba ($13) 88  Opening with faint aromas of earthy, light red fruit, this entry level Barbera d’Alba is an easy drinking, light bodied and modestly flavored wine. It could pass for an Italian rosso. 13% alc.  Importer: Scoperta

Franco Serra 2018 Barbera d’Alba Superiore ($16) 89+  Medium dark ruby. A pretty wine with earthy notes and hints of red berries on the nose. Soft and mouth filling with flavors of dried plum, round tannins, and a persistent finish. Aged in large oak barrels for one year. 13.5% alc.  Importer: Scoperta

Franco Serra 2018 Barbera d’Asti ($11) 90  Medium dark red. The Barbera d’Asti offers outstanding value. There’s appealing red fruit aromas and an attractive, concentrated attack of red and dried red fruit on the palate. Lovely balance, too. 13.5% alc.  Importer: Scoperta

Franco Serra 2018 Barbera d’Asti Supeiore ($12) 90  Medium dark red. A delicious, easy drinking wine that offers incredible value. Attractive soft, silky texture with good balance and dark plum with earthy notes. Finishes long with lingering flavors. 13.5% alc. Importer: Scoperta

Le Croci 2017 Barbera d’Asti Superiore ($15) 91  Dark ruby red. Begins with attractive scents of dark plum and toasted oak that are mirrored on the palate with complicating savory notes. Silky mouth feel with good acidity, dense fresh fruit, firm tannins and a persistent finish. Outstanding value! Aged 12 months in oak. 14% alc.  Importer: Scoperta

Malvira 2017 Barbera d’Alba 91  Dark ruby red. Effusive savory, earthy and rich black and red fruit. Smooth and silky on the attack with a full, broad palate of concentrated dark earthy fruit. Rich extract on a prolonged finish. 14.5% alc.  Importer: Indigenous Selections 

Michele Chiarlo 2017 Le Orme Barbera d’Asti ($17) 89  Ruby-purple. Shows a fruity, vibrant bouquet of huckleberry and plum with subtle herbal scents. There’s a lively interplay between fruit and acidity on a balanced palate with fine grained tannins that lend just enough spine on a lingering finish. 13.5% alc   Importer: Kobrand Corporation  

Monchiero 2016 Barbera d’Alba Superiore ($16) 88  Dark red. With an understated, savory nose, this medium concentrated Barbera d’Alba reveals plum and dark cherry fruit with earthy/herbal notes. Finishes dry with lingering earth notes. 14.5% alc.  Importer: Scoperta

Punset 2018 Barbera d’Alba ($18) 90  The Punset Barbera d’Alba offers pure plum and red berry fruit on a tangy, clean palate. While light bodied, this is a well made and balanced wine with good concentration and a firm structure. There’s a touch of astringency on the finish. 14% alc. Importer: Regal Wine Imports

Rinaldi 2017 La Bricca Barbera d’Asti ($17) 91 Huckleberry, blueberry and blackberry show on the nose and are mirrored on the palate. This is a mouth filling, well balanced palate. Very fresh with good depth and length. Fermented in stainless steel and aged in oak for 12+ months. 14% alc. Outstanding value! Sourced from 20 ha of estate vineyards in the hills of Alto Monferrato, close to Acquit Terme, in the heart of one of the Southern Piedmont’s special growing areas.  Importer: Kysela Pere et Fils

Terzetto 2018 Barbera d’Asti Superiore ($12) 90 Medium red. A delicately styled Barbera with aromas of red berries and earth and light red fruit on the attack with vibrant acidity. It offers a soft attack, an easy drinking style, good balance, round tannins, and a persistent finish. Matured in oak; 13.5% alc. Outstanding value.  Importer: Scoperta

Tibaldi 2018 Barbera d’Alba ($22) 89  Dark ruby. Lovely sweet red plum and cherry scents introduce this fresh, vibrant Barbera. The attack is bright with a dry mid-palate, noteworthy red fruit and a firmly tannic, long finish. An attractive, fairy priced Barbera d’Alba. 14.5% alc. Importer: Regal Wine Imports 

Vietti 2018 Trevigne Barbera d’Alba ($28) 91  Medium ruby red. Ripe red and black fruit aromas and flavors are complemented by savory, earthy herbal notes. The Trevigne Barbera d’Alba is beautifully balanced with a silky texture, concentrated flavors, and a long flavorful finish with round tannins. From 35 year old vines in Monforte, Castiglione Balletto and Castiglione Tinella. Matured in a mix of Slavonian and French oak and stainless steel tanks. 14.5% alc.  Importer: Dalla Terra 

Vietti 2018 Trevigne Barbera d’Asti ($18) 92  A complete wine–complex, layered, and balanced. Savory aromas are complemented by dark red fruit. Soft on the attack and dense on the palate revealing ripe flavors, perfect acidity, and beautiful overall structure. A very fine wine. Sourced from three vineyards in the Grand Cru area of Asti, two parcels of the La Crena vineyards and one parcel adjacent to La Crena. Matured 14 months in a mix of French and Slavonian barrels. 14% alc.  Importer: Dalla Terra 

Vietti 2017 Vigna Scarrone Barbera d’Alba ($47) 93  The Vigna Scarrone is opaque with a spicy nose of dark fruit accented by loamy earth. This is a blockbuster Barbera, big on the attack and very concentrated, slightly brooding, with lush, juicy fruit and big round tannins. From an organically farmed, 30 year old, single cru vineyard in Castiglione Falletto.  Importer: Dalla Terra

Vietti 2017 La Crena Barbera d’Asti ($47) 94  Our favorite of the Vietti Barberas, the La Crena is elegant with a creamy attack and silky texture. Layered showing dark fruit, loamy earth and a hint of tobacco finishing very long with wonderful ripe tannins. From the organically farmed La Crena vineyard, planted in 1932, in the commune of Agliano Terme in the Monferrato hills south of Asti. Full malo. Matured in French barriques and Slavonian casks. 14.5% alc.   Importer: Dalla Terra 

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Great Values in a Time of Pandemic: Selections from Chile

Chile has made its mark by producing and exporting wines of exceptional value.  With a pandemic raging, the economy shrinking, and many wine consumers unemployed, there’s a growing demand for affordable wines that offer real drinking pleasure. With this week’s announcement that the US will continue to levy the 25% tariff on European wine, consumers will turn to other wine producing regions like Chile for the best values. In this article, we review some of our favorite new value selections from Chile. To learn more about Chilean wine, consult one of our in-depth reports on The Wines of Chile.  The wines reviewed here are imported by Global Vineyard Importers of Berkeley CA.

Domus Aurea Vineyard

White Wines


Albamar 2019 Chardonnay Casablanca Valley ($12) 90+ 
The Albamar Chardonnay is sourced from the Casablanca Valley, one of Chile’s prime regions for growing this variety. The wine is fruity and softly textured with attractive, fresh orchard fruit complemented by hints of cherimoya and flinty minerals. A straightforward, honest Chardonnay, it’s well balanced and easy drinking. Viña Albamar is the principal label of the William Cole Winery. 

Albamar 2019 Estate Series Sauvignon Blanc Casablanca Valley ($15) 89 Pleasing aromas of white grapefruit and nettles gives way to a fresh, brisk attack and a light palate.  Finishes with good length and lingering citrus/herbal flavors complemented by a nice acid-mineral note.  An outstanding wine for the price.  

Apaltagua 2019 Unoaked Chardonnay Reserva San Antonio Valley  ($13) 88 Green citrus, herbs, and mineral-like scents are mirrored on the palate with assertive acidity.  There’s good flavor concentration and a prolonged, extract-rich finish.  A bit too sharp for quaffing, it’s best to pair this wine with simply prepared seafood. 13% alc

Calcu 2019 Sauvignon Blanc Semillon Reserva Especial Colchagua Valley ($13) 90 This Bordeaux white blend sourced from cool climate vineyards reveals scents of nettles and herbs with hints of citrus. It’s full in the mouth with good freshness and appealing white grapefruit and lemon citrus flavors. Finishes with solid persistence.  A blend of 68% Sauvignon Blanc and 32% Semillon from estate vineyards in the foothills of the Andes and from Marchigüe, located in the coastal Pacific. 12.5% alc.

Red Wines

Apaltagua 2017 Colección Pinot Noir San Antonio Valley ($25) 91 From Chile’s maritime-affected San Antonio Valley the Colección Pinot Noir offers excellent freshness and complexity of flavor. The nose reveals dark red fruit and notes of underbrush and dried herbs. In the mouth there’s a silky texture with dense flavors that mirror the nose, excellent balancing acidity, and round tannins and lingering rich flavors on the finish. 13.5% alc. This is an outstanding value in New World Pinot Noir. 

Apaltagua 2018 Envero Carmenere Gran Reserva Colchagua Valley ($17) 91 Effusive fragrance of plums and dark cherries. This is a well balanced, very flavorful wine with vibrant acidity and firm, round tannins. The flavors mimic the nose with good depth and fullness in the mouth. Great pairing with lamb chops.  14% alc. 

Apaltagua 2018 Envero Cabernet Sauvignon Gran Reserva Tricao Vineyard Curico Valley ($17) 90  Ripe and rich, the Envero Cabernet Sauvignon offers tasty plum and cassis accented by earthy notes.  It offers a suave mouth feel and medium flavor density, finishing with good length and slightly astringent tannins that will soften with a bit more bottle age.  

Apaltagua 2017 Grial Carmenere Apalta Valley ($75) 93  Dark ruby. This super premium Chilean Carmenere offers aromas and flavors of dark berries and plum with complex spice notes and a hint of cocoa powder.  The palate is deep, dense and seamless with a refined, silky texture, a juicy, persistent finish and fine grained tannins. Well worth the price. Sourced from 60+ year old vines. 14% alc.

Calcu 2017 Cabernet Franc Reserva Especial Colchagua Valley ($14) 90  Medium dark red.  Purple plum with nuances of toasty oak and dried herbs on the nose. Fruit forward with a light mid-palate and pleasant flavors. Finishes firm with good acidity. 

Gillmore 2016 Mariposa Red Blend Maule Valley ($20) 92 This 50/50 blend of dry farmed Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon from the Loncomilla Valley is an exceptional value. The wine is full and silky with Syrah contributing lush dark fruit and Cabernet Sauvignon adding firm structure.  The two grapes combine to produce a wine that’s full bodied and smoothly textured. It’s made by the highly regarded Chilean winemakers Daniella Gillmore and Andrés Sánchez with fruit from their estate vineyard. 


Maquis 2017 Cabernet Franc Gran Reserva Colchagua Valley ($20) 90
Showing effusive plum and cherry fruit with earthy notes on the nose, this is a nicely balanced, medium weight wine with a silky texture and bright acidity. Its round tannins and fresh fruit character make it easy drinking, perfect for pizza. 14% alc. 
 

Maquis 2017 Carménère Colchagua Valley ($20) 91   Dense, dark garnet red. Effusive bouquet of plum, blackberry and smoky mesquite. Spicy on the attack with a super silky texture and layers of fresh dark red fruit complemented by smoky, earthy notes.  Long, lingering finish.  Sourced from a vineyard located between the Chimbarongo Creek and the Tinguiririca River in the central Colchagua Valley. A perfect complement to grilled meats. 

Maquis 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon Colchagua Valley ($20) 91  Dark red. Showing fresh scents of red and dark red fruit with herbal and spice nuances, this is a beautifully balanced, medium weight wine showing lush fruit on the palate. It finishes with fine firm tannins. A wine that pairs beautifully with today’s cuisine. 

Viña Quebrada de Macul 2016 Domus Aurea Cabernet Sauvignon Upper Maipo Valley ($45) 93  A value wine is one that offers outstanding quality for the price.  While the Domus Aurea Cabernet Sauvignon is on the pricier side for Chilean wine, its high quality still makes it an exceptional value.  Powerful aromas of dark fruit, violets, and smoky oak.  Broad in the mouth with a silky texture and layers of dark fruit married to savory herbs and well-integrated toasty oak.  A youthful, focused wine with fine firm tannins that will improve still further with a couple of years aging.  Cabernet Sauvignon blended with Petit Verdot, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc.  

Posted in Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Chile, Countries and Regions, Pinot Noir, Red Wine, Uncategorized, White Wine, Wine Type | Tagged | Comments Off on Great Values in a Time of Pandemic: Selections from Chile