Tuesday, January 22, 2013


Rosso Alto Mincio Gemei 2011
I know it's a mouthful ... both in words and palate, but I've unearthed what I believe to be a gem of a wine in the midst of this winter freeze!  Obscure and/or unfamiliar doesn't have to be scary however, especially when you get down to tasting and exploring a bit as to it's origins.  

Rosso Alto Mincio Gemei 2011
Peschiera del Garda
Verona Veneto, Italia

40% Merlot. 20% Cabernet Sauvignon. 40% Corvina, Molinara, Rondinella & Lagrein

One first notices a depth of color, deep dark crimson red, luscious like a regal robe.  Immediately on the nose, dusty earthy fruit, spice box, brambleberry along with red and black fruits.  Rich, bright cherry dances on the palate and later anise, eucalyptus and herbaceous brush.  With a beautifully soft mouth feel this gets more unctuous with time.  The color seems to intensify, along with a pronounced funkiness on the nose, spiced fig on the palate with flashes of tartness from deep cerise fruit.  Finish is uber smooth with herbaceous residuals and fine balance.  Delicious!  Enjoy with a hearty antipasti plate of meats, roasted vegetables and cheeses and imagine enjoying in your garden, while inside your dining room!  $17/bottle at Browne Trading Co., Portland

OTTELLA is the producer.  Azienda Agricola Ottella is the actual name of this agricultural estate located in the town of Peschiera del Garda in the DOC (designated growing area) of San Benedetto di Lugana.  Located at the southern end of Lake Garda in northern Italy, the vineyard is owned and run by the Montresor family, winegrowers for many generations - Franceso, his father Lodovico, his wife Elena and brother Michele.  They vinify all grapes from their own 25 hectares of vineyards and all are completely harvested by hand.  Terroir has glacial origins, composed of layers and layers of calcerous sediment, clay and red clay, called "leopard spot" configuration.  Surrounded by beautiful countryside, lakes and olive groves, the adjacent vineyards exude these influences.  The Montresors aim to create wines that are exceptionally modern yet are intrinsically expressive of the earth and vines from which they come and all of the history that holds.  

Brought to us by Easterly Wines, Belfast, ME and the Importer, Ideal Wine & Spirits, Medford, MA.  May be found at the following venues:  Browne Trading Co., Aurora Provisions and Bresca, Portland; Tess's Market and Trattoria Athena, Brunswick; The Lighthouse, Manchester; Blue Hill Wine Shop, Blue Hill; Uncorked Wine & Cheese, Augusta; Burby & Bates, Orono.

Thursday, January 3, 2013


Henry Natter Sancere Rouge 2009

Exciting wine news for us here in Maine in the new year, is the arrival of a new Importer - Vintage '59 Imports!

Based out of Washington DC and established by Roy Cloud in 2003, they specialize in cutting-edge, French regional artisan wines, the classic vins des terroirs. A common thread connects Vintage '59 vignernons. These are growers who manage small domaines, whether farming organically, biodynamically or simply sustainably with a common sense approach, and who seek to preserve a traditional way of life, creating wines that are a unique expression of the earth from which they come.  "Their holistic approach requires a great deal of work in the vineyard, but it is work that is embraced because the rewards sought are as much personal and spiritual as they are financial. (Vintage '59)"  This approach fits beautifully with the philosophy of CRUSH Distributors, purveyors of fine, unique and artisan wines to Northern New England, a company created and run by women (Tabitha Blake and Megan Sleeper), who will be bringing them to us.

I had the pleasure of being able to experience some of these wines recently over the holidays and previously. Consider this a little warm-up sampler ... the actual line-up is yet to be determined!

Domaine Henry Natter
Sancerre Rouge 2009
Loire Valley, France

100% Pinot Noir (pictured above).  Brilliant garnet red in color, with a tinge of sienna (like soil and earth). Underpinning of earthy notes such as bark or twigs resonate, while beautiful/austere fruits of bing cherry, cranberry, even teaberry emerge through just the subtlest hint of smoke. Matured in oak barrels, using natural and traditional methods.  Elegante.  Lean.  Jubilant, yet understated.  We enjoyed with a delicious holiday ham, wild rice w/pecans, acorn squash quarters and arugula salad with pear and shaved Parmesan!  Wonderful chefs in my family ... Formidable!

Henry Natter Sancere Blanc 2010

Domaine Henry Natter
Sancerre Blanc 2010
Loire Valley, France

100% Sauvignon Blanc.  Golden light yellow in color.  Gorgeous and clean, minerality personified. One whiff says ... "Oysters on the half shell" !!!   The limestone soil comes shining through here.  There is also a richness present, no doubt due to some aging in oak. I frankly got so enthralled with this I neglected to take explicit notes!  

Nonetheless, this was elegant, lively and transported my senses to a heavenly end!

Pavillon de Chavannes, Côte de Brouilly 2011
Domaine du Pavillon de Chavannes,
Cuvee Ambassades 2011
Côte de Brouilly 
Beaujolais, France

100% Gamay.  Côte de Brouilly is a small area within Brouilly, the largest of the ten Beaujolais Crus in the region of Burgundy.  Vineyards are situated high up on the slopes of the extinct volcano, Mont Brouilly.  Terroir - blue granite laced with volcanic, crystalized mineral deposits.  

This wine has aromas and notes of violets, cranberry and plum, tart/deep fruit.  Peppery.  As it opens a bit more earth, even smoke and tobacco.  Balanced and Smooth.  Here I enjoyed with a rustic soup, but I'm thinking ... where is the cassoulet?!  

Mas Conscience terrasses du Lanzac 2008

Mas Conscience
Cuvée L’As 2008
Terrasses du Larzac
Coteaux du Languedoc, France

45% Grenache, 45% Syrah, 10% Carignan.  

I love the story of how the name "Mas Conscience" and the "donkey logo" came about.  The vineyards are located on the outskirts of Saint-Jean-de-Fos, a village in the Languedoc-Roussillon region near the Mediterranean.  It was originally known for its ceramics, such as large jugs used to store olive oil and wine, and transported via donkeys during the Middle Ages.  The Benedictine abbeys of Aniane (founded in 777) and Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert (founded in 804) were located nearby.  Every year, the notables of Saint-Jean-de-Fos would offer the abbeys either a jug of oil or wine or both, according to their conscience.  Winemakers, Geneviève and Laurent Vidal spent time there as children, and so integrated a bit of history of the village when establishing their vineyards in 2003.  Also, L'As means ace, as this is the top wine from Geneviève and Laurent.

Terroir is limestone and gravel, surrounded by the Languedoc underbrush, garrigues. Deep dark burgundy in color.  Rich earthy fruit such as plum, chocolate, blueberry and huckleberry permeate the nose and palate.  Graphite and bark follow.  Emerging in time an herbaceousness, with deep black cherry and hints of fig, even raisin.  Beautifully smooth mouth feel from the Syrah - but with the tenacious grenache, completely balanced to a dry finish.  I love wines from the Languedoc and this is a beauty!

This is merely scratching the surface of what's sure to come.  Stay tuned to and keep your eyes open at restaurants and retailers in the area, for many more wines from Vintage '59 Imports, the fruits of partnership with CRUSH Distributors.  CHEERS!