It’s important to have different levels of wine in your house. What I mean by this is taking care to have different wines that meet different kinds of wine drinkers. For example, there are your friends who enjoy a good glass of vino but don’t really care what you give them, those who like good wine but shop for the bargain so will tell you what you should buy in the $10-$25 range, and finally there are those who like what you like and to whom you want to give a good value, but higher end wine on hand. I’ve picked two wines will help with these scenarios: a Montepulciano and a Brunello Riserva.
Abruzzo – Montepulciano
Yes, this is an $11 bottle of wine and, yes, this bottle is a delight to have around. We all started from the bottom when we began drinking wine—$8, $6, sometime $2 bottles that now would make us sick, but what if you could have an $11 that drank like most $20-$25 bottles? This is Quattromani’s Montepulciano d’Abbruzzo. Balanced, delicious and perfect for coming home and popping a bottle for any occasion.
Toscana – Sangiovese Grosso
It’s not often that you get a great wine such as a 13-year-old Brunello Riserva for under $90 a bottle—in fact, this almost never happens. Col d’Orcia’s 2000 expression is showing incredibly with notes of tobacco, dried fruit and leather. The southwestern positioning of the estate allows for a slightly more opulent and softer style of Brunello. This wine is properly aged and ready to drink, a real treat.
I’m very lucky to work in this industry and taste as many wines as I do. I’m exposed to countless producers, both those storied and those lesser known, all makers of stellar wines. With all the variety I’m privy to, it’s exceedingly difficult to choose my top five of the year, but after a lot of thinking, I’ve managed to whittle it down. In ascending order, these are my top five wines of 2013.
When Sergio first introduced me to Gravner, I’d yet to have an “orange wine” and I was completely blown away by the flavor and complexity. I have been a Gravner loyalist ever since. Typically, I’ll enjoy a bottle of 2003, as the 2005 is still too young to drink, but I did have the opportunity to taste the 1998 and it was even better than anticipated—warm, balanced and beautiful—it’s always hard for me to choose descriptors because the wine changes so much from the time it’s opened, to when it hits your glass, to when it touches your palate, from first to final sip.
4. Vin Santo from barrel in Florence
There’s really no way to describe this but a once-in-a-lifetime experience. To see the mats where grapes are dried, to touch the family crest on the barrel and to be able to have a sip from said barrel—there’s really nothing more to say than perfectly golden.
Ketchup is my main tasting note here, and this is one of the oldest wines I had all year. I had the pleasure of attending a Christie’s pre-auction dinner and sampled this beautiful wine. It was part of an auction lot that was originally purchased for around $36 a case in the early 1950’s.
2. 1987 R. Lopez de Heredia Viña Tondonia Rioja Tempranillo blend
I’m always excited to find a birth-year wine that I enjoy, especially because I am mostly relegated to California Cab for my birthdays. I was very excited to find this one on a wine list and it was quite delicious. Tobacco, smoke, some red berry skin, a lot of sweet cherry. Perfectly ready to drink and not over the hill in any way.
Aged, oxidized and delicious, this wine was my absolute favorite of the year. It was on the by the glass list at Ai Fiori for a while and I would always go to visit my former roommate and savor this wine. Not everyone likes oxidized wines, but they are some of my favorites, and this year, an oxidized wine was my favorite wine. The toasty, honeyed apple skin character is really not matched by anything else.
It always interests me the way my tastes change from year to year. Not only that, but I’m fascinated how my favorite wines also change in structure and taste. Most years, all of my favorites are red; sometimes I go through sparkling phases; other years I can’t get enough Syrah. Of course, what I’m exposed to has to do a bit with wine trends, and those trends in turn influence my favorites, but I’m always willing to try something new and what’s recommended to me. Being open to wine from all producers and in all its forms allows you to not only open your palate, but also to open your mind to new producers, regions and grape growing techniques. The wine world is ever evolving and we must evolve with it, lest we miss out on an incredible wine.
Honorable mentions: Conterno Dolcetto 2011, many of the Poulsards I’ve had throughout the year, and Andre Clouet 1911 Champagne.
Baby, it’s cold outside. And since I don’t have any hot cocoa in the office, the next best thing is to pop down to the cellar and open two powerful wines that are sure to warm our insides while the wind whips our flag outside. With the holidays and the cold weather in mind, I chose these wines as equivalent, possibly even superior, to any warm sweater you can slip into to warm yourself.
Drinking for today:
You’ve probably read a lot about this producer recently from IWM, and for good reason. Cupano is an incredible Brunello producer that Sergio discovered through word of mouth in Italy. More importantly, he worked hard to get us an exclusive contract; you can only get these wines at IWM. One of Cupano’s beautiful selections is not a Brunello or a Rosso; rather, it’s a decadent and lush blend. Sure, a Cab Sauv/Merlot/Sangiovese blend from Tuscany is not new, but normally they hail from the Maremma coast or from Chianti. The bottlings from Montalcino are sometimes nothing to write home about, but when it comes to this bombastic creature, you should get your pen and paper ready. It’s remarkable. Drink now and for the next 7-10.
For the Cellar:
Voerzio is often considered the “mad scientist” of Barolo. He maintains the smallest yields of all his neighboring producers, sometimes harvesting as little as two or three bunches of grapes per vine, producing just a few hundred cases of each selection he makes. Because of this, Voerzio’s wines are concentrated and exude massive power, but they require a minimum of ten or fifteen years before you dive in. 1996 is considered one of the top vintages of Barolo in the past 50 years as it produced wines of structure and grace that could age well for decades. This is a pairing of producer and vintage not to miss, and we have less than a case of it left, so it is limited. Drink now and for 10-20 years.
Christmas is two weeks away and everyone at IWM is busy as an elf getting wine ready for all our clients’ gifts orders. So far it’s been a fun and exciting season. On my way home last night I could smell the fresh pine trees being sold for Christmas on the corners. For some reason this put me in the mood for something sparkling. When I got home, I opened the wine fridge to see what I had. I did not want to do anything crazy as I was just in the mood for something easy and refreshing to drink while I finished up some work. I reached in and pulled out a bottle of Fantinel Brut Rosé that I had brought for Thanksgiving and had purposely left behind for just this type of occasion. This is one of my go-to value sparklers. It never disappoints.
Fantinel makes its Brut Rosé in the tank method in which the wine undergoes a secondary fermentation in bulk tanks and is bottled under pressure. Crafted from Pinot Nero and Chardonnay, it has a faint pink color, a really nice perlage that warms the palate after a burst of acidity that gives it a fresh mouth-feel at the same time followed hints of berries. Bright and dry and just what I was looking for, this under $20 sparkler also has some richness that makes it food friendly. So if you are looking for some great sparkling wine to fill your stocking or your glass, stock up on some Fantinel–Brut or Rosé you won’t be disappointed.
Today I’ve picked two outstanding selections: Domaine Alan Gras Auxey Duresses Très Vieilles Vignes Rouges 2011and Domaine C. Moreau Chablis Grand Cru Blanchot 2011. The Auxey Duresses from Domaine Alan Gras, founded in 1979, is a mono-varietal Pinot Noir from a tiny 3.7-acre parcel. Auxey-Duresses are located in the Côte de Beaune next to Meursault, Saint Roman, and Monthélie and near Volnay, and the domaine itself sits in the picturesque village of Saint Roman high up on a hill overlooking Pommard and Meursault.
The Moreau family has been one of Chablis’s stalwart vignerons since 1814. Christian Moreau is one of the wine world’s leading figures and Chablis’ celebrated ambassador. Christian and his son Fabien regained the right to produce wines from their extensive vineyard holdings and market their wines under their own label C. Moreau Père et Fils in 2002, having sold their previous company of J. Moreau et Fils with no family member actively involved with the new ownership. Chateau Moreau practices organic farming and has slowly been receiving certifications since 2011, and the wine I chose for today, the Grand Cru Blanchot, is one of seven Grand Cru vineyards in the heart of Chablis.
This fabulous bright crimson Auxey-Duresses derives from very old vines with some having 104 years of age. Alan Gras has a magic touch when making wines and the aromas of this ‘11 illustrates his expertise with its drawn-out scents of cherry, raspberry, floral notes and spice. On the palate, the wine glides easily across the roof of the mouth with silky texture and lovely red fruit flavors. With all the verve and character of a great Volnay at about half the price, this wine, though drinkable now, finishes with intensity and tannin, so it could be put away for a few more years. Alain Gras makes only 300-500 cases of this wine annually, and our allocations are precious little.
The Domaine Christian Moreau Père et Fils Grand Cru Blanchot is from vines that have an average of 27 years with a high density planting of 7,000 vines to the hectare. Domaine Christian Moreau parcel of Blanchot, located next to the Grand Cru Les Clos along the left bank of the Serein River, sits in the midsection of the hill with Kimmeridgien limestone. Rich in small oyster fossils helps the Moreau Blanchot achieve a distinct minerality. The wine is made in barrels ranging between one and three years, and the majority of the wine is aged in stainless steel with a very small portion going into oak barrique. This star bright, straw yellow wine shows a nose of lemon, orange and tangerine, coupled with notes of white flowers, white pepper and herbs. On the palate, the citrus flavors are evident with pronouncements of apple, hint of cream, strong minerality, and plenty of body and structure. This Blanchot is built for the ages with a long graceful finish. A superb wine!
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