Sunday, February 14, 2016

Gambero Rosso Tasting

Gambero Rosso Tasting 30th Anniversary
I recently attended the 30th anniversary tasting of the Gambero Rosso which is Italy's major wine review and publication. Each wine that was presented was awarded between one and three Bicchieri (glasses)  Earning one is a sign of quality within the region and varietal that is produced. Getting three is the highest level of praise and reward in Italy.  Every region of the country was represented and all of the wines were at the least excellent. Since there were more than 130 properties pouring I took the road of least resistance and chose 25 estates that either had a type of wine I was interested in or a producer I knew by name or reputation. Even using this criteria it was very complex in that there were many styles of wine making as well as levels of extract.  The following are some of my high lights and I hope they can provide you with a small road map of wines to taste in the coming year. 
Vietti-  an important estate of 87 acres and making some of the most impressive Barolo and Barbera.  Their portfolio of single vineyard wines is most impressive and they are found at retail in many places in the Bay Area and in fine dining restaurants as well. 
Bel Colle-  a smaller estate which makes a outstanding single vineyard Barolo: Monvigliero '09 and Symposia '11, well worth looking for.
Perhaps the most well known area of Italy.  The Sangiovese based wines here are stunning.  There are several different clones used in different parts of Tuscany which accounts for the difference in flavors you encounter from each part of Tuscany.
LAMOLE de LAMOLE-  Chianti from Reserva to Grand Selection they are top quality.
BRANCAIA-  a top quality producer of various grades of Chianti and IGT wines. Imported by Gallo this is a star in their line of imported wines. Well worth looking for at retail.
BADIA A  COLTIBUONO- Chianti producer of the highest quality. They seem to appear at many trade tastings and are members of Slow Wines another Italian trade association.  Well distributed and worth the money for the quality they provide. 
POLIZIANO- Vino Noble de Montepulciano.  This estate makes high end and entry level VN.  Classic structure and aromas make this a leader from the area.
BOSCARELLI- Vino Noble is another estate (35 acres) which is at the top of the list of quality.  From entry level to single vineyard and IGT they all are exceptional.  Prices range from $30-$60. 
CANNLICCHIO DE SOPRA- Brunello at the top of the hill in price and quality. Worth the money to experience.
MASTROJANNI-  Brunello single vineyard (Loreto) as well as traditional bottles are excellent.  
MASI-  producers of some of the most outstanding wine in Italy. Their Amarone della Valpolicella -Campolongo de Torbe '09 is amazing wine.  They have a huge lead in quality in the region. They also bottle some very rare and unique white wine which is also a treat to the senses. Always search out their Amarone.
A region rich in sparkling wine. Franciacorta is home to many of the top growers and producers of fine aged Italian sparkling wine. Below are the names of stellar producers.  Prices are on the high end but you will enjoy stellar complexity and flavors.
LA MARCHESINE- complexity with fruit and acidity 
CA' DEL BOSCO -  highest quality and fine Reserve wines
BELLA VISTA-  '08 Reserva a winner
FERRARI-  '09 Reserva is stunning
DONNA FUGATA- produce the finest dessert wine of the island. Ben Rhye is their tray dried Zibbo (Muscat) that is so fresh and deep you must taste it to believe it. Their whole line of wines are very very good. 
BAGLIO DE PIANETTO- makes red and white wine from fruit unique to the island. They have earned their spurs and are stars in the quality end of Sicilian wines.

 I know there are many more to ponder over but these selections represent true quality with scores that were not bought. Italy provides wine drinkers quality wines and prices that more than compete with the domestic market. Treat yourself with a bottle from Italy with a meal you will not be disappointed. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015


                                           ENTERING MONTE ROSSO VINEYARD

I recently was able to tour the historic Monte Rosso Vineyard of Louis M. Martini winery with my good friend Joe Becerra of  During this visit we learned so many facts about this historic place in the hills of the Mayacamas mountain range.  This vineyard has been the source of a major portion of older vintages of Martini Special Select and Private Reserve from the early 40's to well into the 80's and still is part of their Napa bottling.   The vineyard is a total of about 500 acres of which 250 are planted with grapes.

The vineyard was founded and built by Emmanuel Goldstein in the early 1860's.  He was a well to do grocer who turned his interest to wine and with the labor of early Chinese immigrants the land was cleared and the vineyards were established.  In 1886 he built a stone gravity fed winery on the property.  This facility has been deemed unsafe since the earthquake of 2014.  There are no plans at present to reinforce the building. The keystone with the founding date is visible from the road.  The vineyard changed hands a few times and continued to produce fruit through prohibition.  At he end of prohibition Louis M. Martini bought the vineyard named Mt. Pisca and named it Monte Rosso due to the deep red volcanic soils. These came about as a result of the volcanic eruption of Mr. Veeder thousands of years ago.  E.J. Gallo purchased  the Louis Martini winery in 2002 and with it Monte Rosso.  Today they continue the Martini tradition of excellence in the vineyard.

We were able to get up and close to the area with information provided to us by Ranch Manager Brenae Royal. She is responsible for information about all facits of the growing cycle. When asked what was a problem with vineyard health her response was mites.  Because it can be so dry and dusty there are a large number of them.  They are using natural predators but it is an uphill battle. I was amazed at the vigor of the old vine Semillion !!

The major reason the vineyard is so unique is that it is the home to more than 40 acres of vines which are from the 1890's as well as more than 75 acres of 75 year old Cabernet Sauvignon which were planted by Martini in 1938.  The following red grapes are grown: Cabernet, Petite Sirah, Syrah, Malbec, Petite Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Sangiovese. The older rootstock is St. George and that stood Philox?).  What is also unusual is that there are two blocks of white grapes on the property. There is a 3+ acre parcel of 110 year old Semillion and another block of Folle Blanche that dates to the late 1930's.   All the red wines carry the signature rich full mouth flavors of red fruit and solid acidity and tannins. Once you taste a Monte Rosso wine you begin to understand that the flavors produced here are unique to this site only.

There are a number of wineries who produce Zinfandel or Cabernet from this vineyard.  Martini produces Monte Rosso fruit that is made at their mini winery,  Winery 254 located at the back of the main wine making facility. Ed Sbragia gets his Cabernet partly because he and Mike Martini are old time musicians who play together and they have know each other for decades.  Mike Carlisle and Morgan T. Peterson get their grapes as part of their mission to produce wines from heritage sites in California. Others are: Rockwall, Rosenblum, Rancho Zabaco, Biale and Ravenswood.  They all produce classic renditions of this site.  The average cost of a bottle of Monte Rosso is in the area of $40/60 a bottle.  The cost of fruit is quite high and you can understand when the quality of the wine is so high.

                                                   FLAVOR PROFILE
Morgan Twain Peterson has the best explanation of Monte Rosso and the wines produced.  All varietals grown provide the aromas and flavors of the vineyard.  Cabernet, Zinfandel, Syrah you name it they all have the imprint of the vineyard.  You smell and taste Monte Rosso before you get the the varietal character.  This is what makes Monte Rosso so distinct and unique.  You must try some soon.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Selling wines from your cellar

How do you get top dollar for your wine?

You have some wines that need to find a new home or you have  come into possession of  wine you choose not to drink, what are your choices to turn these bottles into cash?  After selling some wines through different channels I have found that all ways of selling wine are not equal.  Remember that selling something involves your fixing a price and getting the price you want.  You then have to transfer the wine and get payment.  

                            DO NOT EXPECT TOP DOLLAR is an excellent source for finding the current price of your wine at the retail level.  If you sell a wine  at retail that means you gain full mark up.  Make sure your price is such that the buyer feels they are getting either a good deal or a wine which is hard to get.  

                     AUCTION HOUSES AND THEIR FEES

 All auctions need to make money from their sales and the work they perform in not only sales but advertising, delivery and payment. 

K&L Wines have an auction department that will take your wine and take a photo of it and give an impartial description based on prior evaluations from printed sources:  Parker, Decanter, Wine Spectator and other published descriptions.   They offer the seller a few options.  You can take the sale price of the wine minus 15% as the final money earned from the sale.  So $1,000  would net you $850.  You can also choose to take the final payment as a credit at the store.  So now you have $1,000 to spend but your cost of doing business is reduced by the profit margin of the wine (10-15%) and the taxes on the purchase (9%).    K&L does not charge the buyer a premium for the wine.   

Bonhams run auctions every three or four months.  They will take your wines and put them in a catalogue at an estimated  price of high and low for the lot.  If you have a large amount of wine you may also have to give up a bottle for tasting purposes which you must include in your sale price.  They also take a percentage of the sellers price for their part of advertising and promotion.  Bonhams also charges the buyer of the wines 19% above the final hammer price plus sales taxes.  This turns out to cost you almost 30% on top of the purchase price.  

                                   LOCATION OF SALES
I have sold wines in parts of Southern California which pay much more than in Northern California.  Prices for older wines vary and from my experience there is more money to be made in Southern California with both older and smaller hard to find wineries. Once again wine searcher is valuable in finding sources for wines.  

                                                            One Line Sales
Ebay and other on line sources are a way to sell but you become involved in transfer and monitary exchange.  
                                                          Private Sources
I have not done this but have friends who have sold wines to restaurants and retail stores.  These sectors need to make a profit and often do not offer higher dollar amounts for older and rare wines.  There are retailers of wine who will buy wines in high demand but they need to make a profit. They are also cautious about how the wine was handled and how it was obtained. I know of people who have taken dinners in exchange for wine at restaurants.  This works for both parties if both agree. 

                                           Prepare  Yourself

Establish a price that you will sell your wine for.   Research and find a source that will accept your wine and give you documentation as to the minimum you will accept and a time table as to when the wine will appear for sale.  If selling at retail make sure the buyer is solvent and of solid reputation.  Be prepared to be told that your wines are not worth as much as you feel they are worth.   In the end it your choice to make as to what you will accept as your final payment.   Good luck….