Friday, September 23, 2016


TESSARI Garganega Brut 2014
GARGANEGA (pronounced gahr-GAH-neh-gah), is the sole grape grown and used to produce 5 signature wines at Cantina TESSARI in Soave Classico Veneto in the northeast of Italy. These are the FIVE Expressions of Garganega, as Cornelia Tessari puts it. Sitting down with her recently, to lunch and to taste their wines, along with Stacey Ristuccia & Francois Dufour of Importer Matchvino, was a true gift and pleasure. The Centre Street Cafe' in Jamaica Plain provided an intimate and relaxed setting, with time to experience the wines with food and camaraderie.

Cornelia is Granddaughter to winery founder Antonio Tessari, who originally started the Monteforte d’Alpone vineyard in 1933 as a cooperative with 1 hectare of land situated on the hillsides. Since then her father Aldo has purchased an additional 13 hectares and they now run vineyard and winery exclusively focusing on the one varietal. She and her brothers Antonio and Germano carry on the legacy of being family owned and run. They have been producing sparkling Garganega for 6 years. This day we were treated to two expressions of sparkling!

With Cornelia Tessari (right) & Matchvino in JP

TESSARI Garganega Brut 2014, made with the Charmat Method (2nd fermentation in the tank rather than in the bottle as in the traditional méthode champenoise) was a Golden Mouthful. Slightly toasty on the nose with ripe pear, hint of almond and light green apple on the tongue. This is lush and clean, perfect for awakening the palate ... fresh & lovely to savor as well. Grown in volcanic soil rich with basaltic rock and clay, expressing area specificity to Garganega. 

AVUS Garganega Sur Lie

AVUS Garganega Sur Lie is unfiltered and a distinctly unique expression of the grape.  2nd fermentation is in the bottle "con fondo" with natural yeasts providing richness exhibited by a certain yeastyness on the nose. All the while hints of cider balance with freshness. A small amount of Recioto must is also added. An example of carrying forward the traditions passed down from their grandparents prior to practices of modern sparkling techniques. Gorgeous and soulful, this is romance in a bottle!

GRISELA Soave Classico DOC 2015. "Grisela" is a nickname the Tessari's gave their grandfather meaning gray/blonde hair. This wine has whispers of candied fruit and floral aromas, delicious nectar in the mouth. Clean and sublime. Grapes are hand harvested with battonage and long stay on the lees in the tank. They don't disturb the wines, adding nothing. Very low sulfites used, only in bottling. Tasting this wine prompted me to ask Cornelia what was growing nearby. To this she replied, Cherries and Olive trees. Yes, of course ... Beautiful! (sorry not pictured, was too enthralled with drinking the wine!)

BINE LONGHE Soave Classico DOC 2013
BINE LONGHE Soave Classico DOC 2013.

This is Soave late harvest. "Bine Longhe" means "long rows", the grapes growing literally in one long row in a pergola trellis system that follows the contour of the the Costalta hill vineyard (Vigneto di Costalta). Shoots of select bunches of grapes are cut but left trellised as they dry. Vinification is the same as with Grisela, however they leave wine in the tank for 1 year and in the bottle for an additional year. Here I initially detected aromas of grapefruit and tropical fruit, followed by a certain salinity, like green olives. This was fuller bodied while restrained, clean and lean. A dichotomy? And truly asks to be enjoyed with food. I was enjoying a caesar salad with chicken, which was an apt pairing.

Caesar Salad w/Chicken @Centre St Cafe', JP

Rodolfo Neirotti (Vino di Vino) & TRE COLLI
TRE COLLI Recioto di Soave DOCG"Tre Colli" means "Three Hills", illustrating where the Tessari Estate is situated. Grapes are handpicked and dried for 6 months. As with the Bine Longhe, wine is left in the tank for 1 year and in the bottle for an additional year. 
Dazzling in color with hues of amber and honey, with an entirely fresh expression on the nose, deepened with very subtle hints of anise & fennel. Herbs and honey continue on the palate ... gorgeously harmonious, beautifully married!

Stacey Ristuccia & Francois Dufour of Matchvino

Cornelia Tessari with tasters including Wine 24/7 (right)

Matchvino imports TESSARI wines along with a handpicked portfolio of Estates making authentic and fine wines, exclusively Italian. They seek out "true wine; wines with a soul. Wines that capture the lands where they are grown".

Thank you Cornelia, we hope to soon find your wines in MAINE! 

Wednesday, April 13, 2016


Paul Drinan (Exec Director, Friends of Fort Gorges) with Louise Philbrick & Judy Bernier
Community is a happening thing here in Portland. Case in point, a recent event sponsored by SoPo Wine Co, "Good Wine for a Good Cause", held at GRACE on Chestnut Street.  All proceeds benefited the Cancer Community Center, whose mission is to provide free programming and support the well being of people living with cancer, their families and friends. Services include: support groups, education, wellness, creative expression, social opportunities and complimentary therapies.

Good Wine for a Good Cause event at GRACE
SoPo Wine Co. (South Portland Wine Co.) represents an extensive portfolio of handpicked, unique and artisanal wines, beers and botanicals. In serving the entire state of Maine they work with a completely hands on approach. "They won't sell what they won't drink"

Wines from over 25 wineries were offered at this event, and many of the winemakers were on hand to pour, which made for a festive evening for avid tasters. 

Just a few highlights follow!

From Domaine Spiropoulos in Mantinia Peloponnese Greece, Ode de Panos Brut NV. This 100% moschofilero is white gold in color with delicate hints of floral on the nose and crisp clean finish. So pretty!  Wonderful as aperitif or with Mediterranean fare. Made with charmat method and organic. From Athenee Importers, Hempstead, NY. 

Chris Badini of Athenee Importers with tasters
Spiropoulos Ode de Panos Brut NV

Dow's Vale do Bomfim 2012
Catherine Oster (SoPo wine co) w/tasters

Dow's Vale do Bomfim 2012 from the Douro in Portugal is as old world as the label illustrates! A blend of Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Barroca grapes. With plenty of structure and earthy with dark, lush fruit such as cassis. Notes of spice and smoke. Dry finish. Delicious and a great value! 

Layne ("Wine Maniac") & Judy Witherall w/Susan Grenier (SoPo)

Charles Smith K Guido from Jack's Vineyard in Walla Walla, Washington. 100% Sangiovese. Wonderfully balanced fruit, soft, woodsy. Tabacco. Underlying graphite. A wine born of the new world with underlying old world sensibility. Son of a Welsh mother and French father, Smith in fact grew up outside Sacramento, CA. After much world travel, he became a self-taught winemaker, artisan and pioneer in the wine world based in the Pacific northwest. 

Doug Watts (SoPo) & John Anderson (Patricia Green Cellars)

The Adras Godello, an ISAAC FERNANDEZ SELECCIÓN from the Ribeira Sacra region in Galicia northwest Spain is lovely pale yellow in color. Clean, with citrus lemon on the nose and palate along with richer fruit and floral notes, it ultimately sings with minerality.  From 40 year old Godello vines grown in alluvial (gravel, sand) and granitic soil. Terroir absolutely apparent here. What a great summer wine! From Grapes of Spain, Inc.

Look for these and other SoPo wines at your local retailers and restaurants ... RSVP, Rosemont Markets in Portland and Yarmouth, and Perkins & Perkins in Ogunquit to name a few!

Saturday, March 5, 2016


Christine & Herve' Villemade with Eric Texier at Drifters Wife, Portland, ME
With a winter chill still upon us here in early March, it was a pleasure to be warmed and thoroughly transported by the presence of two French winemakers and their wines here this past week.

Hervé Villemade and Eric Texier, along with Christine Villemade and Josefa Concannon (Louis Dressner Selections) paid us a visit at Drifters Wife in Portland last week. A selection of their wines was featured for this special event ... lively tasting and conversation ensued!

While the two hail from different regions in France, Villemade from the Loire Valley and Texier from the Rhone region, there was much camaraderie at hand. It is after all about the wines and a passion for all that entails, from the soil/terroir to cultivation of grapes in the vineyards and process of winemaking in the cellar. They both create natural wines, that being with very little intervention and/or little or no additives. They are both certified organic.

Hervé has vineyards in Touraine in Cellettes in the Loire region. His family estate, originally called Domaine du Moulin was founded by his Grandparents and taken over by him in 1995. While initially farmed conventionally, he found that wines that were really speaking to him were natural wines. Simultaneously he developed an allergy to sulfur. He has since completely transformed the estate to organic agriculture.

He had a few things up his sleeve this evening, bringing a couple of bottles not on the list (always a special treat for wine geeks)Desiré 2014, old vine 100% Pinot Noir is named for his Grandfather and truly special. This was elegant and sophisticated with hints of pepper and luscious yet lean fruit. Floral notes of violets. Olive. Finesse. I loved this one. While not presently carried here, perhaps in the near future?

Les Acacias 2014 is made from Romorantin, a grape unique to Cour-Cheverny in the Loire. Equally distinctive and illusive was the wine itself. Subtle saline on the nose with quiet eruption of lime citrus in the mouth. An enigma. And with more time I am certain more fully evolved in the glass. This wine comes from 2 parcels in the same vineyard, a 60 yr old and 30 yr old vinefied together. Free run juice. Ferments in open barrels. Aged in Acacia barrels. AOC Cour-Cheverny. Lovely!

Christine & Herve' Villemade w/Ned Swain (Devenish Wines)

Eric Texier at Drifters Wife, Portland
Residing in Lyon, Eric Texier works with vineyards in the northern Rhone region. After working with vigneron Jean-Marie Guffens at Verget in Burgundy, he eventually found his way to the unique terroirs of Brézème and Saint Julien. Wine from these appellations is also very rare, with 5 producers in Brézème and 2 in Saint Julien. "They are the terroir of farmers, proud of their rusticity and history". With regard to his initial leanings to Burgundy, he finds a parallel here in terms of its single varietals and parcel specific bottlings.  

He works organically and biodynamically, following the lunar calendar and experimenting with planting other types of plants between rows of vines, along with zero intervention to soil or vines.

Two beautiful and distinct expressions of Syrah are the St-Julien en St-Alban 2013 and Brézème 2013. The St-Julien en St-Alban had warm, sweet, earthy fruit on the nose and soft on the tongue. Essences of spice and earthy moss. Lovely. Feminine. As Eric says, fine for sipping. The Brézème was his favorite. I found it edgier with more structured fruit. Strong, rustic presence. It longs to be enjoyed with food! You'll find plenty of fine pairings at Drifters Wife.

Herve' Villemade & Peter Hale
Herve' Villemade & Orenda Hale, Drifters Wife

These wines may be found while supplies last at Drifters Wife and Maine & Loire, 63 Washington Ave, Portland, ME.. Imported by Louis Dressner Selections, NY, NY and distributed by Devenish Wines, Portland, ME

Thursday, January 7, 2016


Famille Peillot, Vignerons
Mondeuse 2014
Bugey, Montagnieu, France

100% Mondeuse Noir

Astonishingly black garnet in color with scarlet overtones, this lively wine is spicy & herbaceous on the nose. Bright, spicy/dry fruit follow on the palate with a woody, lean expression. Excitingly fresh in the mouth yet rustic, showing fruit such as cranberry, elderberry and violets. Lilting. Lifting. Juicy. Later some black pepper, maybe spruce? A soft start on the tongue makes its way to a zippy dry finish. One unique wine! 

Reminiscent of Refosco or Pinot Noir, the Mondeuse grape (indigenous to Bugey) is not one we often come across ... I was thrilled to experience it! It truly is a startlingly black garnet color, which in other grapes may translate into seriously saturated fruit. Not so here, as location, climate and terroir most likely have lots to do with its zesty, lean expression. The Bugey wine region is a tiny appellation in Eastern France between Lyons and Geneva near the foothills of the Jura Mountains. The small isolated parcels of vines owned and worked by Franck Peillot, vigneron are in the mountains, mostly on extremely steep hills, surrounded by woods and prairies, meeting the edge of the Rhone River. Peillot describes Mondeuse as such, "To me it's an ancestor, it's a Gaul with a big mustache, and just like our ancestors, they are firmly rooted in the past". His vines are very old, some 100 years, dating back two-three generations. He works everything by hand and uses indigenous yeasts, with little intervention in the cellar.

This wine is a Louis/Dressner Selection, imported by LDM Wines, New York, NY. Only a few cases came to us through Devenish Wines and Maine & Loire Wine Shop in Portland. Hopefully there will still be some available in the shop when it reopens sometime this winter, along with their new wine barDrifter's Wife (located at 63 Washington Ave., Portland, ME.) See you there!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015


RAYR - The Wine Shop, 67 Pascal Ave, Rockport ME

On a recent Saturday I motored up to Camden/Rockport for a well overdue visit to two of Maine's Gems in food & wine, RAYR Wines in Rockport and Francine Bistro in Camden. 
Only an hour and 40 minutes or so drive from Portland, it is well worth carving out time for a visit, especially this time of year when the summer season has calmed down and the feel is more low key and local ... just what we love! Nonetheless, both venues were still bustling with energy.

Tasters reveling in the wines at RAYR

The occasion precipitating the trip was a tasting of SoPo Wines (presented by SoPo rep, Heidi Martin) at RAYR Wines. 

I loved the Domain Guerrin & fils Saint Veran Le Clos Vessats 2013. A French Burgundy (therefore 100% Chardonnay), lovely lemon yellow color with floral essences on the nose such as acacia flower. You'll want to drink this not too cold in order to truly experience the luscious rounded fruits ... white peach and pear, along with the soft, creamy mouthfeel. This all balanced by beautiful acidity. The estate is located just west of the Macon in the village of Vergisson. Terroir is decidedly clay/limestone, which truly comes through in this artisanal wine. I am offering this as one of my wine choices on my Thanksgiving table, for those enjoying white with their turkey. And somehow I imagine this will be perfectly exquisite with a savory parsnip/sweet potato dish as well. $22/bottle. A Peter Weygandt Selections, Weygandt - Metzler, Unionville, PA.

Wines from the Vaucluse region of France really float my boat! The Andre Brunel Cotes du Rhone is earthy & herbacious with underlying minerality and great depth of fruit. Old vine grenache blend (75%), with 15% Cinsault, 10% Syrah. Located in Travaillon, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, from an estate of 5th generation winemakers, the Brunel family has owned vineyards here since the 17th century. Soil is stony with limestone subsoil. No herbicides or pesticides used. Sustainable farming and companion planting employed around vines. $14/bottle. Robert Kacher Selections, NY, NY
Proprietor Jason Haynes & SoPo rep Heidi Martin
Local French Chef, David Grant
We in Portland are lucky to have so many wonderful venues for wine, however, I can safely say that RAYR would fine itself in a unique niche if located here in our fair city! The milieu at RAYR is artful, warm and tasteful with a truly amazing selection of wines - palate is decidedly Old World, so close to my heart (and tastebuds). That said, Owner Jason Haynes has found a way to represent a broad spectrum of wines for varied palates, in a serenely tasteful way.  One may also find a delicious selection of fine specialty food items here. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015


Cru Des Agriate 2013

97% Nielluccio, 3% Grenache

This elegant unpretentious Mediterranean table wine expresses a clear, saturated hue of garnet red. Clean briary fruit emerges with underlying steely graphite on the nose. Tinges of anise. Lean, earthy & spicy, this has lots of acidity, along with juicy dark fruits such as blackberry and plum, as well as an herbaceous tenacity. Enjoy this wine with Food!  Perfect with a pizza pie of ricotta, mushrooms and herbs, as I enjoyed here ... all of the marvelous minerals and spice cut through the creaminess of cheese, earthy mushrooms and olive oil. Also try with Charcuterie, Tapas or Pasta with rich sauces!

$22/btl at Maine & Loire on Washington Ave, Portland. 

Domaine Giacometti was founded in 1987 by Christian Giacometti and now assisted by his daughter Sarah and son Simon, who will eventually take the reins. 

While my photograph may illustrate lush origins, this wine actually hails from the Agriate Desert (thus Cru des Agriate) on the island of Corsica in the appellation of Patrimonio. A vast rugged, arid landscape on the northern end of the island. One needs a 4-wheeler to access the estate! Three separate parcels of vines are situated at the foot of Mount Genova, the highest point in the area. The Libecciu, a hot dry wind rolls down off the coast of Italy year round. Such conditions cause the vines of the native Corsican varietal Nielluccio to forage deeply for its nutrients. Cool sea breezes help moderate and prevent disease. Terroir of granite and clay clearly comes through in this unique yet approachable wine. Imagine pouring from a gorgeous pottery pitcher made by hand. Grapes are hand-harvested and fermented with indigenous yeasts in stainless steel tanks and aged 10 months on fine lees. 

Enjoy now!

Imported by Kermit Lynch, Berkeley, California and distributed in Maine by National Distributors. Also available at Browne Trading Market on Commercial Street and Union at the Press Hotel by request

Thursday, June 4, 2015

DOMAINE RIBIERA La Croisee des Chemins at MAINE & LOIRE

Domaine Ribiera
La Croisee des Chemins 2012
Aspiran, Languedoc France

80% Grenache, 20% Cinsault

Garnet red in color, with a tinge of sienna bespeaking a certain earthiness, this all-natural wine has deep, wild sweet fruit and earthy spice box on the nose; Brambles, dark cherry, black raspberry  and deep violets on the palate, with notes of eucalyptus, cedar, dark cocoa and graphite. Exotic spices such as star anise make ephemeral appearances ... with rich bright fruit shining through all that funky earthiness and clean dry finish making for one sexy red! $23/btl at Maine & Loire on Washington St. in Portland. 

Unfined, unfiltered with zero added sulfites, grown without pesticides and with natural vinification, here is a tour du force! Some natural wines are extremely mercurial. While I enjoyed many nuances with this one over the course of a couple of days, I found it held together and opened up beautifully. The vines grow on galets roulés and marl, round rocks over lime rich clay and silt. 35 year old vines are hand harvested and de-stemmed before a 3 week fermentation in steel vats. Aged 10 months in tank and demi muid (an oak barrel used for centuries to transport wine by boat, allowing for long aging periods with phases of prolonged reduction. Used generally for Mediterranean varietals such as Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre)

Winemaker Regis Pichon of Domaine Ribiera was originally a sommelier in Paris at one of the world's great cellars at La Tour d'Argent, as well as having worked at the renowned wine shop Hediard where he met his wife Catherine. In 2005, they moved from the city to a small wine village in the Languedoc region of France called Aspiran; located on the western edge of the Hérault Valley between Clermont l'Hérault and Pézenas, amidst a sea of vines, olive, pine and oak trees. While he does have a background in the classics of Bordeaux and Burgundy, the inspiration which drew him to winemaking was tasting a bottle of Pierre Overnoy from the Jura ... a wine made without sulphur that exhibited such freshness and quaffability. He presently leases a small winery, sharing space with fellow independent producer and winemaker David Caer from Clos Mathélisse.  

Peter Hale (Maine & Loire) w/recent line-up of natural wines
Maine & Loire (Wine Shop), opened in the middle of January of 2015 in Portland's East End. Proprietors Orenda and Peter Hale spent many years in New York city restaurants and more recently in Williamsburg, Brooklyn before envisioning a retail space where they might bring together all they love. They've filled a niche here, focusing on wines truly expressive of place, supporting growers and winemakers who work and nurture the land where they grow the grapes. This along with championing wines made with minimal intervention, from vine to cellar to bottle, organically and/or biodynamically farmed, "celebrating wines that are alive and soulful"

Another of my favorites from the day's line-up - Sistema Vina, "Chateau Paquita" 2013. From Felanitx, Mallorca, Spain, this is 40% Callet & Montanegro, 20% Monastrell. This one reminded me of a French Rhone wine with funky, earthy nose, spice and depth of cherry fruit. Grown in red and calcerous clay high in iron oxide and galets roulés. Here is one I will indeed revisit!

Orenda Hale w/Luca!
La Croisee des Chemins is from Zev Rovine Selections, a purveyor of handcrafted wines from Brooklyn, NY. Imported by Fruit of the Vines, Long Island City, NY. Both are and distributed here in Maine by Devenish Wines.