Beau Marchais: New Expressions of California Pinot Noir

Adam Lee & Phillippe Cambie

We recently had the opportunity to taste three outstanding Pinot Noirs released by Beau Marchais, a new project launched in 2019 by two seasoned winemakers, Adam Lee of California and Philippe Cambie of France.  Their joint venture brought together the talents of one of California’s finest Pinot Noir winemakers with one of Châteauneuf-du-Pape’s most illustrious enologists and consultant to more than 80 wineries. Despite his extensive winemaking experience, Philippe never had opportunity to produce Pinot Noir, yet he and Adam Lee jointly crafted outstanding wines that in our opinion exhibit new expressions of California Pinot Noir. Continue reading

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Vermouth’s Resurgence as Aperitif: Dry and White Vermouths from Europe and America

Vermouth is enjoying growing popularity, including a number of American producers of attractively packaged, premium bottlings.  As shown in the graph below, sales in the US are on a strong upward trend (a 21% increase in US Vermouth imports in 2018 alone) as younger consumers shift from spirits to lower alcohol drinks like Vermouth. The global market for Vermouth is predicted to almost double between now and 2027 to $15.7 billion.  A fortified, aromatised wine flavored with herbs and spices, Vermouth comes in many different styles ranging from very dry to sweet. It varies in flavor, sweetness, and texture depending on how they’re made, including the base wine, the level of sweetness or residual sugar, the herbs and spices added, and the type and length of aging.  In this article, we focus on dry and off-dry Vermouths made by some of the best European and American producers.  In a future article, we’ll review sweet Vermouths and Chinatos. Continue reading

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Chateau Bu-De: Cultivating Quality on Maryland’s Eastern Shore

In 2013, Brenda and Warren Dedrick purchased the 440 acre Bohemia Manor Farm located on the shores of the Bohemia River in Maryland’s Eastern Shore.  History shows that in 1660, 4 thousand acres of land, including the present day Bohemia Manor, was given by Lord Baltimore to Augustine Herrman, a Bohemian cartographer in compensation for his mapping the waterways of the Chesapeake. Brenda and Warren chose this site to commence their dream of producing fine wines.  They planted vines, built a 5 thousand case capacity winery and began assembling the vineyard and wine-making teams to make that dream come true.  We review the Bu-De’s current releases in this article; we reviewed earlier vintages in our 2019 report on The Wines of Maryland.   Continue reading

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Teliani Valley: Outstanding Values from a Modern Georgian Winery

The country of Georgia has the world’s oldest winemaking tradition, over 8,000 years, yet they’re new to many consumers.  Georgian wines are increasingly appreciated by wine enthusiasts and the trade owing to their uniqueness and excellent quality to price ratios. Wines made using traditional qvevri (large, buried clay vessels) have attracted the most attention from connoisseurs and sommeliers, but Georgia’s indigenous grapes like Rkatsiteli and Saperavi also produce excellent quality wines using traditional winemaking techniques. As a result, Georgian wine exports to the US have averaged 30 percent growth over the past five years.  In this article, we review the wines of Teliani Valley, one of Georgia’s most important, modern wineries and the first Georgian brand to establish itself in the US market where it offers an outstanding quality to price ratio.  

Teliani is now one of Georgia’s largest wineries producing over a half million cases per year, most of which (70%) is exported, and it has one of the largest vineyard holdings in the country, about 250 hectares of vines. It uses modern as well as traditional techniques to make wines from Georgia’s indigenous grape varieties.  It’s located on the site of Prince Alexander Chavchavadze’s 19th century winery where a French winemaker introduced modern winemaking.  It was succeeded by a Soviet style winery focused on making large volumes of wine at low cost to be exported to Russia and other parts of the Soviet Union.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, Giorgi (Gogi) Dakishivili, one of Georgia’s best-known winemakers, played an important role in the transformation of Teliani Valley into a modern, quality-oriented producer.  After studying enology at the Lomonosov Institute in Odessa, Gogi joined the winery in 1995, and in 1997 he and a group of investors began making wine using old Soviet equipment.  In 2004, Teliani Valley received funding from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development to build a new, state of the art winery.  The winery was later sold to Georgian Capital, a Canadian based investment fund.

Teliani Valley wines are imported by Georgian House of Greater Washington.   It is the premier US importer of Georgian wine and has as its mission to tell the untold story of Georgian wines to the US.  Their web address is:

The International Wine Review has launched a major initiative to acquaint its readers with the wines of Georgia, as well as the country’s varied, rich cuisine.  The pandemic has caused us to postpone travel to Georgia, but we are conducting regular tastings here in Washington DC in anticipation of preparing an in-depth report on Georgia in 2021.  We recently wrote about the wide variety of Georgian wine in our first article here. 

Wine Reviews and Ratings:   

Teliani Valley 2019 Tsolikouri Lechkumi ($15) 90  This wine is made from the Tsolikouri grape variety in the Lechkhumi growing region (near Rachi). This wine is made using conventional techniques—fermented in stainless steel using inoculated yeast.  The bouquet reveals clean orchard fruit mirrored on bright, crisp palate with citrus notes and bright acidity. 

Teliani Valley 2019 Amber Blend ($17) 91 This wine is a blend of four native varieties: 40% Rkatsiteli, 10% Kisi, 10% Khoikhoi and 40% Mtsvanane. Medium dark gold in color, it is fermented in stainless steel with six months of skin contact. It displays herbal aromas from the Kisi grape, moderate acidity and complex flavors with hints of dried fruit and nuts. It’s a lively wine with firm but not aggressive tannins.  

Teliani Valley 2019 Saperavi Kakheti ($14) 90 This Saperavi displays a medium ruby red color and red berry fruit with vibrant acidity. It is an easy drinking wine with a fresh clean character, straightforward but very attractive.  Fermented in stainless steel.

Teliani Valley 2019 Saperavi Selection Kakheti ($22) 92 This is a vineyard selection which is bigger and more complex on the palate than the regular Saperavi. It is also chewier with dark plum and dark berry flavors. The tannins are fine and firm, and the finish is quite agreeable.

Teliani Valley 2018 Kindzmarauli Kakheti  91 The Kindzmarauli is a red, semi-sweet Saperavi-based wine which displays a dark ruby color with aromas and flavors of dark plum, sweet blackberry and pomegranate.  It is soft on the palate with an off-dry attack and rich fruit, finishing with just a hint of sweetness.  35 g/L RS

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The Vineyards at Dodon: Organic Viticulture in Practice

Tom Croghan of the Vineyards at Dodon is a physician, a cellular immunologist and now, a winemaker. Tom’s theory is that “wine is the product of our relationship with nature”.  And his background in medicine has transitioned to his belief that viticulture and medicine can build healthy immune systems, i.e., think about creating good, healthy plants, and healthy plants translate to good wine. He puts this into practice at his 555 acre working family farm and 16 acre vineyard in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. We reviewed the wines of Vineyards at Dodon in our recent report on The Wines of Maryland. In this article, we discuss the winery’s approach to viticulture, and we review their current releases.

Tom Croghan

When Tom and his wife Polly, a GW University professor, began field trials in 2007 at their vineyard property in Davidsonville, Maryland they found very little organic matter at Dodon. Tom Croughan is more of the regenerative farmer that people in the wine industry are beginning to hear about in vineyard management. Pennsylvania’s Rodale Institute promotes technologies that aim to rejuvenate the soil so that the healthier soil enhances the productivity of the land and improves the quality of life for both communities and consumers. The Vineyards at Dodon promotes this technology too.

Using plant diversity as a tool to improve soil, Tom has developed a system of tools to build up the soil. A few of the items in his toolkit are: Perennials (the vineyards themselves), Annuals (e.g., forage radishes that increase nitrogen in the soil), Pollinators (actually sanctuaries for insects to find food other than grapes and be able to hibernate for the winter), and Crimping (rather than tilling). A crimping machine folds over and flattens the cover crops rather than digging them up, which would release carbon dioxide into the air rather than retaining it in the soil.  Applying these techniques over the past seven years, the pH level of the soil at Dodon went from 3.51 to 3.25.  In addition to the healthier soil, the Vineyards at Dodon enjoy lower diurnal fluctuations in temperature and frost protection due to their proximity to the Chesapeake Bay.

The wines are made by Tom Croughan with assistant winemaker Seth McCombs and consulting enologist Steve Blais. Lucie Morton is the consulting viticulturist. 

The Pandemic

Dodon has a modern tasting room, but,  as in other industries, the pandemic moved a lot of customer activity out of doors.  The family initially took care of first responders, food workers and their 800 member Wine Club.   But during the pandemic they have also made a lot of new friends over the months with wine consumers looking for safe, outdoor activity. Dodon actually managed to increase employment during the pandemic, employing out of work schoolteachers and others.  

The Wines

Vineyards at Dodon 2018 Sauvignon Blanc Maryland ($27) 90  Lightly aromatic with a leesy, dried flower nose. There’s good density of flavor with nuances of citrus and herbs and a lovely mouth feel of firm minerality on a broad palate. Aged sur lie in stainless steel for 5 months. 12.1% alc.

Vineyards at Dodon 2018 Drum Point  Maryland ($39) 91 More aromatic than the Sauvignon Blanc, the Drum Point Sauvignon Blanc-Chardonnay blend reveals scents of green apple and honeydew melon. In the mouth it’s round and full with a stony minerality. Finishes long with a tart green apple edge.  An original wine with a blend of 77% Sauvignon Blanc and 23% Chardonnay barrel fermented and aged 11 months in French oak. 12.3% alc.   

Vineyards at Dodon 2015 Dungannon  Maryland ($59) 91 Semi opaque dark red.  The nose is complex and intricate showing notes of smoky tobacco, black raspberry, and slate like minerals.  Full and lush on the palate with a silky texture and a firm structure showing nuanced flavors of dark red fruit, loamy earth, and a hint of chocolate.  Nice rich, long finish with firm dry tannins.  A blend of 80% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 10% Cabernet Franc matured 21 months in 58% new French oak. 

Contributing Editor Karen Stokes authored this article.

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Selections from Portugal: Affordable Current Releases

Portugal is home to 400 varieties of grapes, many of which make delicious wines and most of which are unfamiliar to the average consumer.  In this article, we review some current releases of white and red blends of Portuguese grape varieties that offer excellent quality for the money.  These wines come from three of Portugal’s well-known wine regions: Vinho Verde, Dão, and the Douro. To learn more about Portugal’s exciting wines, read our report on The New Wines of Portugal.

Vinho Verde

Esporão 2019 Bico Amarelo Vinho Verde ($12) 89 The Bico Amarelo is a blend of Loureio, Alvarinho, and Avesso. Lightly aromatic, it is fresh tasting and crisp on the palate with hints of citrus and peach. It is an easy drinking wine like so many other Vinho Verdes and is offered at a very affordable price.

Quinta do Ameal 2019 Loureiro Vinho Verde ($18) 90  The Quinta Ameal Loureiro is a delicious wine sourced from an historic property in the Lima River region of Vinho Verde. The indigenous Loureiro grape displays aromas of citrus and is mouth filling on the palate with over all freshness and lively acidity.


Broadbent 2019 Dão White Dão ($15) 90  This is a very clean, crisp and dry white wine that’s easy to drink. There’s attractive citrus fruit with hints of thyme and lemon zest on the palate with good balancing acidity and a nice long, flavorful finish. Good as an aperitif or paired with modern, light cuisine.  A blend of Encruzado, Malvasia Fina, Bícal and Gouveia grapes fermented separately in stainless steel and subsequently blended.  Made by Sogrape Vinhos for Broadbent. The winemaker is Beatriz Cabral de Almeida. 13% alc


Broadbent 2019 Red Douro ($13) 89  This fruit-driven blend of Tinta Roriz, Tinta Barroca, Touriga Nacional, and Touriga Franca begins with a fragrant bouquet of ripe dark red fruit with brambly spice notes. The rich fruit character continues on the palate and medium long finish. A good, honest and unpretentious wine that’s well worth the price. Sourced from several Douro vineyards.  Luis Sottomayor is the winemaker.  13% alc.

Broadbent 2018 Red Reserve Douro ($24) 91  The Reserve Red is a complex and expressive wine that shows a nose of dark fruit complemented by nuances of tobacco, bitter chocolate, and toasted oak.  Made in the international style, it’s densely flavored of dark red fruit and spice with savory underpinnings on a well-focused palate and finishes with excellent persistence.  A blend of Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, and Tinta Barocca sourced from several vineyards in the Douro and matured in oak for 12 months. Luis Sottomayor is the winemaker. 14% alc.

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Mt. Airy’s Black Ankle Vineyards: Maryland’s Vinous Star

Black Ankle’s Vineyard

When Ed Boyce and Sarah O’Herron established Black Ankle Vineyards near Mt. Airy, Maryland,  in 2002, little did they know it would become one of the East Coast’s premiere wineries. Today, they’ve developed a cult following, a large and growing wine club, and one of the region’s most popular tasting rooms that’s beautifully designed to accommodate the influx of wine lovers seeking out their wines.  We’ve tasted their wines many times over the years, including for our recent report on The Wines of Maryland. In this article, we once again review their current releases.

Sarah O’Herron & Ed Boyce

When searching for vineyard land, Ed says that they were not 100% sure what their ideal location would be. But with all they’ve learned over the years since the purchase, they can say in hindsight they’re now very happy with their selection. There’s plenty of underlying very rocky soil beneath the topsoil with maybe 50% chunky rock in it.  Basically, if farmers thought the land could not be worked, it was deal for grape growing. At the start, Ed was the vineyard manager and Sarah the winemaker. But a lesson they’ve learned is that it all works better now that they share both of those responsibilities.

Their wine-making success led them to purchase other land in Maryland. Their new 230 acre Clarksburg farm named Live Edge has now been planted with its first grapevines. Ed and Sarah feel this location provides the right kind of rocky soil and good sloping hillsides that make an excellent growing area. The goal is to plant white wine grapes in addition to Tempranillo, Merlot and Petit Verdot.  And like their hospitality building at Mt Airy, their Live Edge structure will be constructed of the straw hay bales consistent with their organic principles.  All of their vineyard management is done without herbicides. Their other new location is in Westminster MD; Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache are on the horizon for this site with its low vigor soils.

The Pandemic

The pandemic affected Black Ankle Vineyards as it did the whole industry. In their case, their expanded outdoor space worked well for them to handle more wine customers and to keep everyone outdoors. They are also grateful to their 3,000+ Club Members who have supported them from the pick-up and delivery period to the State’s restricted reopening. They were able to retain employees by redirecting some of their efforts to the new delivery system and were actually able to hire some, new part-time staff to handle protocol & sanitation issues. Melissa Schulte, their General Manager, organized more than 8 weeks of Virtual Tastings and coordinated with local restaurants to offer food-and-wine pairing dinners to be enjoyed at home while helping the local economy. 

Socially Distanced Tasting Room

Ed and Sarah were proactive in avoiding any potential harvest staffing issues. They brought their H2A workers back early to be sure they did not run into any travel restrictions later in the season. Their Vineyard Manager, Evencio Torres Martinez, who started with BAV in 2003,   lives on the property, and that, too, contributed to consistency in vineyard management. To be sure, their 56 acres in Mt Airy looks like it will produce 9,200 or more cases of wine in 2020—one of their largest harvests.

Ed and Sarah’s “little corner” of Maryland continues to grow in size and prominence.  Their contribution to Maryland’s growing reputation for fine wine cannot be overstated.

Black Ankle in the Snow

The Wines

Black Ankle Vineyards 2019 Albariño Frederick County ($34) 91 Very fresh melon, white peach, and orchard fruit nose with hint of lemon zest. Zesty on the attack with brisk acidity and flavors that mirror the nose complemented by a mineral aspect. Lovely creamy lemon finish with good lingering extract. 13.4 % alc.

Black Ankle Vineyards 2019 Gruner Veltliner Sud  Frederick County ($56) 89  Appealing nose of orchard fruit with hints of guava and fresh herbs. Soft on the attack with a nice leesy, round feel to the palate with an interesting mix of ripe citrus and apple. Medium acidity, and finishes with a nice crispness.  A blend of 99% Grüner Veltliner and 1% Viognier; 12.5% alc.

Black Ankle Vineyards 2019 Reserve Chardonnay  Frederick County ($48) 91  Light yellow straw. Light apple and pear nose with mineral notes. Soft on the attack with a balanced but lightly flavored palate showing hints of wood spice married to orchard fruit. Nice brisk acidity and a pleasing minerality with good freshness but subdued in character. Fermented and aged 8 months in oak barrels. 12.6% alc.

Black Ankle Vineyards 2017 Crumbling Rock Frederick County ($56) 93 Toasty oak notes, hints of chocolate dust with dark fruit.  Soft on the attack with a seamless, elegant palate of beautifully integrated flavors.  Very good concentration and lovely texture—silky, seamless, and la sense of freshness with good length, too. Finishes with fine, firm tannins.  A blend of 36% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 19% Cabernet Franc, 13% Petit Verdot, and 2% Malbec. 15% of the blend is matured 30 months and 85% spent 18 months in 50% new oak barrels. 13.8% alc.

Black Ankle Vineyards NV Slate 6 Frederick County ($56) 92  Warm baking spices, earth, and dark red fruit show on the nose. Lovely silky mouthfeel with layers of interesting flavors—fresh plum fruit, spices, a touch of dusty earth—and lingering flavors on the finish. A bit lighter than the Crumbling Rock, Slate 6 is a beautiful blend of 49% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Cabernet Franc, 21% Petit Verdot, 7% Merlot and 1% Malbec matured 18 months in oak barrels. 

Black Ankle Vineyards 2017 Leaf-Stone Frederick County ($56) 91  Medium red. Spicy nose of baking spice, earth and dark red fruit.  Silky texture with firm almost astringent tannins.  Dark berried fruit on the well-balanced palate continues on to a long finish of rich extract. 100% Syrah sourced from estate vineyards of decomposed slate with quartz veins, matured in oak barrels.

Contributing Editor Karen Stokes authored this article.

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New Releases from Maryland’s Linganore Winecellars

Founded in 1976 in Mt. Airy, Linganore is Maryland’s oldest estate vineyard and winery. With 80 acres of vineyards nestled on 230 acres of rolling countryside and an annual production of 40 thousand cases, Linganore is also Maryland’s largest winery. We first reviewed the Linganore wines for our 2019 report The Wines of Maryland. In this article, we review the current releases. 

Before Linganore Winecellars in Mt Airy Maryland was opened as a winery, it was actually a wine-making hobby of Jack and Lucille Aellen. But the hobby grew when Lucille’s father donated his home winemaking equipment to Linganore. They processed 6 tons of grapes their first commercial year. Much of that production was the state’s first semi sweet grape wines. Honey and pure fruit wines were introduced the same year. In fact, the Maryland Wine Association today awards a Jack Aellen Cup for “Fruit Wines and Meade.” 

Anthony and Melissa Aellen

Jack Aellen was also proactive in establishing by 1983 the first federally designated grape growing area in north central Maryland now known as the Linganore Viticultural Area. Also, in the 80’s and 90’s, when sons Anthony Aellen became Executive Winemaker and Eric Aellen later became Vineyard Manager, new experimental grapes from Cornell University’s grape breeding were introduced and tested at Linganore. Today their winemaking team includes Ray Mitcham as Head Winemaker since 2014 and in 2017 Melissa Aellen, now a 3rd generation winemaker, as both Winemaker and Director of Operational Change.  Due to the work of these generations, Linganore has been on a steady track of introducing vinifera grapes to increase their dry wine offerings (although no longer a test site for Cornell) and to expand the winery. They purchased Maryland’s first mechanical harvester (2000), added a state of the art fully automated Italian bottling line (2003), renovated a 19th Century barn to a new cask aging cellar (2004-2006), and installed a centrifuge to clear wine sedimentation (2005).  In 2011 the Aellens converted the winery’s power supply to 100% wind power, which lead them to win one of the 2011 Green Business of the Year awards from the Baltimore Business Journal. Continuing on their “green path”, Linganore now has 8-10 wind fans that “shoot” cold air back into the air, thus helping to fight off frost. And they are constructing an 8,000 sq ft warehouse with a more south-facing and longer sloping roof where they will install solar panels.

The pandemic affected Linganore much as it did other wineries, although for Linganore it also canceled their annual music & wine festival season. They were able to do curbside wine pick-up and some limited home deliveries. But they also supported their local community by offering a bottle discount to diners who purchased a meal from a local restaurant and showed their receipt at the winery! To handle increased outdoor activity, Linganore has now added fire tables outside for small group reservations, and the wine-tastings are delivered to the table along with a wineglass, a water bottle, and a menu. Despite the pandemic, they have grown their Wine Club to about 1,500 enthusiasts.

The Linganore wine-making team currently works with 18 varieties of grapes on 70 acres of vines.  And they recently harvested 259 tons of grapes, their largest harvest to date.  Looking forward, Melissa Aellen would like to explore more aromatic & acidic white wines, a passion of hers. And she is looking forward to the release of their 2019 Albarino and their on-going work on a Blanc de Blanc. 

Linganore Winecellars has three different labels: “L” labels are Estate grown and mostly available at the winery, the Banner Label with a Maryland flag at the top are the well distributed table wines, and finally the Watercolor Series or sweet wines. For this report we tasted both the Estate and Banner Label wines, mainly 2019 vintages. According to Ray and Melissa, 2019 was one of the best harvest seasons with lots of sunny days and no rain in September.

The Wines

Linganore 2019 Chardonnay Reserve ($30) 90  Spicy, tropical and stone fruit notes on the nose.  Soft and round on the attack followed by a full, suave, creamy palate feel due in part to working the lees.  Flavors similar to the nose with additional notes of warm spices.  Finishes clean with good length, this is a lovely, easy to drink Chardonnay. Estate Chardonnay from 10 year old vines, handpicked and whole cluster pressed, fermented in neutral barrels and matured primarily in oak with lees stirring and full malo. 

Linganore 2019 Vignoles ($28) 91 Medium yellow.  Tropical, ripe pineapple and lychee nose.  Beautiful, sexy suave mouthfeel with pineapple and coconut notes.  The acidity is toned down but still there, and the finish is richly tropical and very long.  Beautifully made wine. Fermented in stainless steel then racked to barrels with constant lees stirring and partial malo.

Linganore 2019 Seventh Rose ($17) 90 Copper tinged pink.  Ripe red berry aromas.  Hints of spice and rose petals.  Soft on the attack with nice fresh flavors on the palate.   Fruit flavors tend to crab apple, berries, and spice. Finishes with a light cinnamon note and good uplifting acidity. 90% Chambourcin, 10% saignée blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot; fermented and aged in stainless steel.

Linganore 2019 Saperavi ($23) 89 Semi opaque purple red.  Wild berry, sage, and ripe dark plum and vanilla on the nose.  Soft on the attack with unusual flavors of plum, sour cherry, and dark earth.  A rustic wine with bold, rustic flavors. Complex and unusual. Sourced from 4 year old vines; handpicked, destemmed, crushed and fermented; barrel aged for 10 months in 40% new French oak with full ML.

Linganore 2019 Cabernet Franc Reserve ($41) 90  Medium red garnet. Shows a perfumed bouquet of fresh and dried red berries, earth and autumnal leaves. Medium weight on the palate, this Cabernet Franc has good varietal character. It’s a youthful wine, and it improved considerably after being decanted for several hours. The palate mirrors the bouquet, and the mouth feel is silky after decanting. Sourced from 10 year old estate vineyards; handpicked and fermented with extended maceration; aged in 43% new French oak with complete ML.

Linganore 2017 Exposure ($45) 89  Complex bouquet of earth, smoky oak and dark plum.  The palate shows tangy dark fruit with prominent earth notes and dry, firm tannins.  Needs time in bottle to soften the tannins.   63% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Cabernet Franc and 12% Petit Verdothandpicked and then fermented with extended maceration before pressing; aged in 83% new French oak and racked to neutral barrels after 12 months.

Contributing Editor Karen Stokes authored this article.

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Battuello Vineyards: A Napa Grower’s New Wines

In 1906 Italian immigrant Matteo Battuello arrived in America by steamship docking at Ellis Island.  Relatives in Napa Valley encouraged him to come to California, which he did, and in 1909 he purchased property in Saint Helena and founded Battuello Vineyards. Today the vineyard is managed by the 3rd and 4th generation of Battuellos, Craig and his son Dave, both of whom studied agriculture at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.  They sell most of their grapes to Stag’s Leap (which makes a single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon from Battuello grapes), but beginning in 2016 they began holding back a small amount for winemaker Michael Trujillo to craft into their own wines.   

The 82 (68 planted) acre Battuello Vineyard lies in Napa Valley’s Saint Helena appellation where the family grows Cabernet Sauvignon, Valdiguie, Petit Verdot and Sauvignon Blanc.  They follow sustainable farming practices.  Total production is less than one thousand cases.

The Wines

Battuello 2019 Valdiguié Rosé St Helena, Napa Valley ($28) 91 This rosé is lively, bright and packed with fruit. It evokes Thanksgiving cranberries and pink grapefruit with just a hint of cinnamon. Very appealing and superb balance with brisk acidity, nice depth and outstanding persistence. 100 cases made 12.5% alc. 

Battuello 2018 Valdiguié St Helena, Napa Valley ($45) 92 Dark ruby. Our favorite of the Battuello portfolio, the Valdiguié offers delicious fresh aromas and flavors. Dark berries and spicy toasted oak show on the nose, while the palate reveals huckleberry, plum and a hint of red berries. There’s beautiful balance, juicy acidity, and good persistence on the finish. This wine is a winner! Aged in French oak. 145 cases produced. 14.5% alc. 

Battuello 2018 Petit Verdot St. Helena, Napa Valley ($70) 91+  The Petit Verdot is a very good wine from its dark berry, dried herbs, and cedary nose to its rich, long finish. It’s soft on entry, silky in texture, and mouth filling with good density and purity. We especially like the persistent finish. 14.5% alc. 

Battuello 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon St. Helena, Napa Valley ($90) 91  Saturated dark ruby. Showing a dark red fruited nose of mulberry, plum, cassis and toasted oak, this is a nicely concentrated, albeit slightly rustic, Napa Cabernet Sauvignon. Flavors mirror the nose with well integrated oak and earthy dark red fruit, finishing dry with good extract. There’s excellent fruit in this wine; greater refinement would give it an even higher evaluation. 14.4% alc. Just 65 cases made. 65 cases made, 14.4% alc. 

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Cottanera’s New Releases from Sicily’s Mt. Etna

Mt. Etna is one of the world’s most unique wine terroirs, as we discovered on our trip there for our report on The Wines of Sicily.  In this article, we review the current releases of one the most prominent producers, Cottanera. Located on Mt. Etna’s northern slope in Castiglione di Sicilia, Cottanera has 65 hectares of Nerello Mascalese, Carricante and other indigenous grape varieties planted on lava alluvial and clay soils at 700+ meters elevation.  Given their impressive quality, the wines are all very reasonably priced (under $30).  

Cottanera was founded by Francesco Cambria in 1962, who planted vines on the 100 ha estate and sold the grapes.  In 1982 Francesco’s son Gugliemo decided to build a winery to produce their own wine, selling it in bulk.  In the mid-1990s the family decided to put a focus on producing premium wines and launched the Cottanera label.  Today Cottanera is one of the largest vineyards on Etna.  

The US Importer is Indigenous Selections.

Cottanera Vineyard on Mt. Etna

The Wines

Cottanera 2019 Barbazzale Bianco Sicilia 91 Medium yellow straw. Shows notes of ripe lemon, lemon shavings, and lemon curd on the nose. Broad with good depth and lingering rich flavors that mirror the nose with good balancing acidity and a viscous persistence at the back of the palate. Predominantly made of Catarratto from the Barbazzale contrada with a dash of Viogner. 13% alc   

Cottanera 2018 Bianco Etna 93  Medium yellow straw with an olive tinge. Shows a complex nose of cherimoya, lemon pith and fresh herbs that are picked up and amplified with subtle citrus notes on a lanolin like, slippery textured palate.  Finishes with excellent persistence and lingering rich lemon/mineral extract.  Made of 100% Carricante from estate vineyards at 750m elevation, fermented in stainless steel and aged sur lie for 6 months. 12.5% alc. 

Cottanera 2019 Rosato Etna 92  Light pink with an apricot tinge. Vibrant scents of peach flowers, yellow raspberry, and mandarin zest with a mineral edge. This superbly balanced, medium weight rosé is crisp and incisive on the attack with tangerine citrus, pomegranate and a hint of apricot, finishing with a complex and persistent aftertaste. 100% Nerello Mascalese. 13% alc. 

Cottanera 2018 Rosso Diciassettesalme Etna 93 Medium ruby red. Intriguing scents of red raspberry, cherry and hints of wet earth on the nose. The palate is refined with excellent freshness and purity, mirroring the bouquet with additional notes of spices and tobacco leaf. Finishes long and precise with mineral nuances. Sourced from a 700 m high vineyard in the Diciassettesalme contrada. Matured 8 months in large oak casks. 14% alc.

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