Monday, January 19, 2015


Domaine Benjamin Taillandier
"Laguzelle" Minervois Languedoc, France 

Blend of Cinsault, Syrah & Carignan. 

Dark garnet in color with scarlet highlights, this is one juicy mouthful and a quintessential French table wine. Earthy/funky on the nose initially, with exotic spice, green & black pepper and hints of wild violets. Luscious and lean blackberry fruit and dark berry undertones on the palate. Later, underlying briar calms down and gets down. Herbaceous, like bay leaf. Unctuous hints of fig on nose resolve ultimately and utterly lean and quaffable. 

This completely natural and authentic wine comes from Domaine Benjamin Taillandier, located in Caunes-Minervois, situated between the ancient city of Carcassone and the Massif Central. Southern exposure and Mediterranean oceanic influences, along with protection by les Montagnes Noir from cold winds make for unique locale. Minervois takes its name from the fortified village of Minerve, built by the Romans and reportedly dedicated to the goddess of wisdom. The region was recognized as AOC in 1985. Diverse soil includes schist, sand, clay and limestone. 

While Benjamin had technical training at winemaking school and worked in conventional wineries, his greatest influence was working alongside natural winemaker Jean-Baptiste Senat, with ideas and techniques that inspired and shaped his current practices in his present Domaine. Grapes are farmed organically and biodynamically, harvested by hand (1-2 weeks before other producers). Short vinification, aged 6 months in stainless steel. Only natural yeasts. Laguzelle Minervois is one lively wine, with much character. Other favorites of mine from Dom. Benjamin Taillandier include VITI VINI BIBI and BUFENTIS. 

If you happen to be in Caunes-Minervois, stop by Cantine du Curé, his terrific wine bar downtown ... open during the summer season.

Here in Portland, ME, we are fortunate to know these wines through Zev Rovine Selections, Brooklyn, NY, Imported by Fruit of the Vines, Long Island City, NY and Distributor Devenish Wines, Portland, ME. Also carried by new Natural Wine Shop, Maine & Loire, Washington Ave; Rosemont Market, Brighton Ave; RSVP, Forest Ave; Aurora Provisions, Pine St, Portland and Oak Hill Beverage, Scarborough. 

Thursday, January 8, 2015


L. Aubry Fils Champagne Brut Rose' at Hugo's, Portland, ME
Only now in the still of winter, having survived all the bustle, busyness, even pandemonium of the Holiday season, is a moment of silence to remember and recall the visit of a wine virtuoso, a luminary if you will, with us here in Portland, ME ... namely Terry Theise. What a gift! He arrived last November, making himself available both to the trade and the public, in a myriad of experiences: Wine & Champagne tastings, wine dinners, and visits to local retailers and restaurants, bringing with him his signature poetic, soulful and articulate approach to wines from his Champagne, German and Austrian portfolios. His unique way of describing the flavor profile of a wine, of relaying some obscure yet essential detail of technical process or sharing a recollection of time spent with one of his grower producers in their particular terroir was a study in vivacity, brilliance and humor. 

Terry Theise w/Tasters in Greater Portland
I resonate with his views ... In his own words, "There is a schism between two groups of vinters and drinkers: Those who feel wine is "made" and those who feel it is "grown". If a grower believes from his every day experience that flavors are inherent in his land, he will labor to preserve them. This means he does nothing to inhibit, obscure or change them." (from his book, Reading between the Wines). This rings so true for me and I venture to say for many of us here in Maine, where we are keen on the farm to table movement, whether the family table or from the kitchen of one of the many nationally acclaimed restaurants here; not to mention the steadyily emerging underground movement of Natural Wines coming to us from importers, especially France, Italy and Eastern Europe to name a few

Now to some of the wines and a few tasting notes! The Champagnes ... L. Aubry Fils Champagne Rose' Brut - blend of Chardonnay, Petit Meunier and Pinot Noir, mostly from the 2010 vintage. This is toasty and creamy, yet chalky dry and clean, with purity of blackberry fruit coming through. Luscious.

Revelers @ Hugo's Portland w/L.Aubry Fils Champagne Rose' Brut!

                                              Gaston Chiquet Brut 'Tradition' & Vilmart & Cie "Grand Cellier" Champagne                                                  
Gaston Chiquet Brut 'Tradition'A blend of  Pinot Meunier,  Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir. Deliciously clean with notes of lemon chiffon and toasted nut. Lovely, focused and elegant. This one made from the base premiere cru vineyard 2009. 8.2 - 8.6% residual sugar. 
Vilmart & Cie Champagne "Grand Cellier", a gorgeous expression of 65% Chardonnay, with Pinot Noir. 10 months in large wood barrels. Here especially, an emphasis on Wine before the bubbles, as is signature of grower producer Champagne. 50% from dominant vintage, 50% previous vintage. Lovely hints of brioche and subtle salinity, with the "homeopathic quality of really old wine" (TT).
Lallement Champagne Brut NV, 80% Pinot Noir, 20% Chardonnay saw full malolactic fermentation, never touching oak. Also, scrupulous growers, such as those Terry works with, use neutral yeasts rather than innoculating with conventional yeast to control fermentation. Precise and lively, even zesty, this one exudes white exotic flowers, crystalline expression. "An heirloom apple cellar, a silent pond" (TT).  Correct temperature for drinking Champagne he asserts, pour at fridge temp of 40 degrees, thereafter fine!

Dönnhoff Kreuznacher Krötenpfuhl Riesling Kabinett 2011, from the Nahe region of Germany. This one has distinctive petrol/diesel on the nose, yet silky on the tongue making for an angular nose/lyrical palate. Hints of pear and apricot emerge through to an architectural finish. Krötenpfuhl means "frog pond", a delightful little aside! Terroir is sandy marl, alluvial soil. 

Dönnhoff Norheimer Kirschheck Riesling Spatlese 2011, also from the semi-arid Nahe region in Germany. Here the soil is sandy slate (lower volcanic). This expression ... of cherry blossoms, subtle petrol, light honey, grasses and clover. Perhaps not so uncoincidentally, the old name "Kirsche" means cherry, suggesting that wild cherries once grew among the vineyards. Enchanting! The vineyards are located on south facing steep slopes and soil of slate and sandstone.
Schloss Gobelsburg Gruner Veltliner 'Gobelsburger 2013, Kamptal Austria. According to Terry, 2013 a great year. This wine exhibiting gooseberry and stone fruit, a racy, juicy expression of the 60-70% estate fruit. Schloss Gobelsburg, under the direction of winemaker/cellarmaster Michael Moosbruger, is focused on creating wines with individuality and character rather than an emphasis on the clean, uniform wines of other international cellars.

I encourage you to seek out these unique and beautirul wines and inquire of others from his estate selections that may be available. Brought to us here in greater Portland by SoPo Wine Co and imported by Skurnik Wines, NY, NY. Ask your local retailers and restaurants  up and down the coast ... Rosemont Markets, Browne Trading Co., The Farm Stand, Lolita Vinoteca, Hugo's Restaurant, Fore Street ... to name a few in Portland!

In a nutshell and in his words ...

Beauty is more important than impact.
Harmony is more important than intensity.
The whole of any wine must always be more than the sum of its parts.
Distinctiveness is more important than conventional prettiness.
Soul is more important than anything, and soul is expressed as a trinity of family, soil, and artisanality.

Here Here!  Thank you Terry (and thanks to SoPo Wine Co for bringing him here) ... Come back and see us again soon with more of your exceptional discoveries!

Terry Theise w/Wine 24/7