For the last Insider's Pick of this year's anniversary we decided to break out a rarity. A bit of a unicorn, actually, but definitely not priced how wines of this quality and scarcity usually would. Bernard Baudry is on the very short list of great Chinon producers, along with Philippe Alliet and Charles Joguet, helping to elevate the reputation of the region for over 40 years. Cabernet Franc is the focus grape by far here, with barely 5% planted to the other noble grape in this part of the Loire, Chenin Blanc. The style here, when done at all, is always dry, mirroring the Savennieres style further down the river. Baudry is one of the very few top producers to even make a Chenin Blanc, much less bother to feature plantings in a top vineyard, but the result is stunning.
From the first pour the rich, oily aromas of cool white fruits and Spring flowers come forth, and a constantly changing array of melon and citrus come forward as it opens up. Never fruity or tropical, but lots of intensity. The palate is equally complex and exciting, juicy and mouth-filling at first with lots of quince and pear, then quickly getting drier and racy showing off lots of mouthwatering lime, natural acidity and pulpy white fruit. While this may not be everyone's ideal cocktail wine, it would be amazing with a variety of citrus prepared dishes, from seafood to poultry, even standing up to pork.
We're offering free tastings as usual, this Thursday June 29th and Friday June 30th, 2016, and a 10% discount off the retail price of $28.99 for the Chinon Blanc through the duration of the day. Stop by between 12 Noon and 7:30pm for a free taste, and bring home some incredible wine.
INSIDER'S PICK: 2014 HALCON VINEYARDS PINOT NOIR MENDOCINO OPPENLANDER VINEYARD (Wine Advocate 93points) $31.99
Anyone that has driven along the Californian coastline -or sat in silence through a friend's or family member's thousands of pictures from their last trip (a little editing would be nice!)- can tell you how much the climate and landscape changes from mile to mile. Most wine fans are familiar with those variations in the more famous growing areas of Sonoma like Russian River Valley and the Sonoma Coast, as they are a much easier journey from the main population areas around San Pablo Bay. Further North the growing potential of Mendocino is just starting to be scratched outside of the Anderson Valley, and while the region may be too remote to become a tourist destination, the grape quality mandates that wine producers continue exploring. The Oppenlander vineyards is 20 acres of vines sitting on a family farm just 10 miles in from the ocean, uniquely planted to French Dijon clones on their own roots. This was a risky endeavor 20 years ago when they started because 'own rooted' vines are more susceptible to phylloxera and other potential diseases, but through their isolated situation and careful organic farming the vineyard is healthy and among the most sought after sources in Mendocino.
Deep ruby color in the glass, the aromas are big yet restrained, reflecting the cool climate of the vineyard with notes of dark earth and cola behind the briary black fruits, avoiding the bigger boozier profile many of the sweeter Pinot Noirs can show.The palate is equally vibrant and dark, hinting at some tart blackberry skin tannin behind the cool complex dark fruit with very little oak or jammy extracted texture getting in the way of the natural deliciousness. Yes, the farm is also famous for making blackberry jam, but absolutely NONE of it will be found in the wine!
One thing we enjoy about wines here is being able to present unique wines from around the world. We like to use the word 'identity' when we can, a wine that has a true sense of place. No contrived marketing, no focus group that tells what the wine SHOULD taste like, no desire to make a wine just so it appeals to as wide a population as possible. At the other end of the spectrum is a wine like this, built from a single older vine site in the Catalonian town of Pinell de Brai, and the blend of grapes comes from how the vineyard is planted. In the case of a producer like Mendall, there is the added distinct individuality in each wine from using the native yeasts from each vineyard to accomplish the fermentation instead of commercial yeasts. All this results in layers and layers of signature, distinctive flavors that provide a wine that is completely its own.
We will also be the first ones to admit, this individuality may not rub everyone the right way. The aromatics are dark with lots of plum and currants, a lot more savory than sweet in profile with notes of wild game and sun baked clay. There is also the suggestion of a yeasty note that comes with many wines that do native yeast fermentation, almost citrusy, but it does evolve away as the wine opens up and the dark fruits build. The mouthfeel is massive and chewy, lots of tannin and unfiltered texture which really drives the gamey flavors across the palate. It is definitely not a 'pop and go' wine for the evening; we have thrown part of the wine into a decanter today already, and anticipate this showing well all the way through the weekend. Many may prefer some wines with more immediate gratification, but those looking for a truly unique experience to stash in the cellar or play with over a weekend will enjoy this rare gem.
Dry Rose has been an immense part of the winemaking culture across Europe, especially over the last century. France in particular has created a large part of its industry around the wine, with many techniques perfected in the Provence/ Languedoc/Rhone regions that have become standards around the world. Many Americans tend to think that pink=sweet, and unfortunately an overwhelming number of wineries perpetuate that reputation, even the more 'serious' wineries. Thankfully more and more small independent wineries are applying the techniques of the great dry Rose producers to their own creations, and the quality and volume of pink juice is improving every vintage. Stolpman Vineyards is one of the more innovative producers in Santa Barbara's Ballard Canyon AVA, with a diversity of mostly Rhone varieties on their property planted in blocks of experimental methods to create a broad spectrum of wines. Their rose over the last decade+ has evolved using different grapes and techniques, settling in the last few years on being exclusively Grenache off their estate, with a few tweaks in the formula each year to improve and adapt to each growing season.
An extremely pale salmon color in the glass, especially for a Grenache based rose which usually get more cherry in color, all thanks to Stolpman harvesting specific blocks early to keep the color very low and acidity high. They also do a carbonic, or whole grape cluster, fermentation that creates more color and aroma without adding tannin, and blend that back in to create a final color they are happy with. The aroma is straight of of Provence with a perfume of fresh strawberry and watermelon with a touch of tart citrus peel. There is plenty of body behind the light refreshing fruit on the palate (and the surprisingly low 11%abv) that gives the pale fruits lots of juiciness, and the tingly acidity makes the finish light and lively. Fans of great French Rose should not turn up their noses at this wine, as they would likely be hard pressed to pick it out of a blind tasting as an outlier. Kudos to Stolpman!
Wine has always been part of the European culture, even in the regions where the quality hasn't become world famous. Much of Eastern Europe has been governed over the centuries by groups that did not promote individual excellence as much over the general populace, so there was very little effort put towards identifying the best wine producing areas and promoting them the way other countries did. Larger co-operatives were always the name of the game, and workaday value was the goal. But uniqueness still existed in the forms of their native grape varieties that helped to describe and create whatever local flavor could exist. In the last few decades the growth of individuality within the wine industry has helped improve the quality greatly, and when taken purely for what is provided in the bottle delivering outstanding values. The Melnik grape is the cornerstone of the Bulgarian wine industry in much the same way Grenache does for the Rhone/Southern France, providing deep dark and consistent wines that are really starting to see high achievement in the Struma River valley.
Fans of a dark fruited wine like a Syrah will be immediately drawn to this from the first pour with the inky color and deep plum and spicy currant aromas, a touch of toasty new oak and gamey meats. The fruit on the first sip seems almost Australian at first with the richness of texture, but the Melnik grape's dark gamey character keeps the profile from entering that flavor profile, as well as some added tannin from a small portion of Petit Verdot in the blend (a little P Verdot goes a LONG way). This wine delivers a lot for its regular everyday price, but thanks to some special 'end of the vintage' pricing the remaining amounts of the 2013 vintage are an undeniably outstanding value. The promise of more and more wines like this from Bulgaria are promising, even if the Melnik grape never becomes a household name.
The Best of the Best.
We offering free tastings on these wines in the store every Thursday and Friday, and a 10% discount off the retail price through the duration of the day. Come on by and give them a try!