Thursday, October 11, 2012


During the past week I attended one of the most informative tastings of Italian wine in years.  I was introduced the Italian region of Morellino di Scansano.  This growing area is within the  physical area of Maremma. The closest airport is located in Grosseto. The growing area of the appellation covers land near the Mediterrean up to the foothills of the town of Scansano. Morellino di Scansano was given the D.O.C.G. (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) in 2007. This is the Italian equal of say: Pommard, Barbaresco, Gigondas, Barolo,St. Emilion etc.  In order to earn this denomination the wines must be of at least 85% Sangiovese and come with in the geographical land mass designated. The wines produced must show the individual character of the land.  At present there are 250 growers of the wine region with 90 producing their own label of Morellino.

The quality of the wines produced under the name Morellino de Scansano is outstanding. I had never before seen or heard of the name or region of Morellino. The range of wines tasted were well above average in quality and all had solid color and aromatics which expressed the Sangiovese in many different ways due to the blending of either Granache, Merlot, Cabernet, Cabernet Franc, or Syrah. Most of the wines see modest amounts of time in oak except for the reservas. The young 2011's are most often produced in stainless steel or concrete vats.  As for the price of these wines they fall in the area of $15-$22 per bottle.  This is very fair when they are compared to other Italian reds of similar quality.

Within the Italian  viticultural community there is keen interest. This is shown when people like Jacopo Biondi-Santi have established vineyards in Scansano.  His  Castello di Montepo is unique since he has brought a special clone of Sangiovese known as BBS11, which is from the Biondi-Santi llGreppo vineyard.  His annual production is but four thousand cases!!!  He is the biggest name on the scene but among the other producers are people with as little as 10 hectares as well as a co-opertive with 20+ growers.  Keep your eyes open or ask your wine merchant if they have  access to Morello di Scansano. These are wines that will reward your curiosity. Importation of Morellino di Scansano like all newer wines is just getting started.

Some producers you should look for are;
Castello di Montepo
Moris Farms
Terre di Flori
Tenuta Pietramore di Collegafiano:  "Brumaio"
La Selva:  "Colli dell'Uccellina
Bruni: "Laire" Reserva

Keep in mind that since the DCOG is only five years old there is a lot of room to grow. I found the owners and winemakers to be technically sound and eager to expand the their market place.  The quality of the wines shown is very high.  This appellation is well worth your time and effort. Bring a bottle of this region to your Italian wine buff friends and watch their expression.  Enjoy..

Chile Defines New Vineyard Designations

On Oct. 9th, I attended a tasting seminar which was to introduce the new designation of vineyards in  Chile. The new alignment is linear so that it subdivides many existing appellations.  This is ambitious in that as recently as the past month they (government/growers) have decided to give consumers more information to make their choices. Here they are:

COSTA: Coastal vineyards are influenced by the Pacific Ocean and its moderate temperatures as well as fog.

CORDILLERAS: These are the vineyards of the plains which are more inland but can still get some marine influence. These vineyards are typically the warmest spots and are the home to deep reds like Carmenere, Cabernet, Cabernet Franc etc.

ANDES:  High altitude vineyards have the cooling effect from the Andes.  Because of their location their water source is run off from the Andes.  The greatest daily temperature variation, called diurinal,  is in the Andes. 

These designations have been made but not implemented as of now.  The problem is that many growing areas such as Maipo, Colchagua and Maule cover more than one area of designation. My thought is that the concept is excellent but the market place is still realizing the potential of wines from Chile.  What ever they choose to implement this recognition it must start out very simple such as: color code for each region, a number or letter designation, a seal or some form of recognition which will not deter a buyer but still give information.

The wines that were shown from each region expressed the concept that there are indeed regional differences within the same valley. Another fact that helps Chilean wines get their rich flavors and aroma compounds is that the growing season runs from September to March. Most of the wines produced have a long hang time, i.e. time grapes remain on the vine.  Here are some of my impressions of wines which are available now in the market place.

Tabali "Talinay" Limari area Coastal 2011:  This is a serious Sauvignon Blanc with very clean pronounced steely aromas and flavors. Grown on a limestone base this leans toward a Sancerre style with stunning acidity to carry the flavors into a very long finish.  Clone 1 and 242 are the source of this wine. What is quite amazing is that this vineyard is in a desert climate with drip irrigation from Andes run off.  Taliney vineyard is only six years old !!

DE MARTINO Alto Los Toros  Andes Syrah 2008:  This stunning wine was produced from the third leaf since planting.  At 5,000 ft. altitude it has deep rich color and wonderful aromas for such a young wine. The future of this vineyard apppears limitless.

El PRINCIPAL 2007 Maipo Alto -Cabernet Sauvignon:  3,000 ft. altitude with generous aromas of leather, graphite and stone.  Wonderful wine which can stand up to rich meat and cheeses.

MONTES OUTERLIMITES. Carignon, Granache, Mouvedre 2010 Alphalta Vineyards.  From an 8 year old vineyard which is farmed by the famous Montes winery, this vineyard is an Andes designation with 15% new french oak.  Not quite a full blown Rhone wine it is just as on spot with the classic blend of Rhone flavors with a lighter body. Very good...

VENTISQUERO  2010 SINGLE VINEYARD CARMENERE  MAIPO CORDERILLAS: From 14  year old vines and quite full and impressive.  Notes of coffee and dried fruit are mixed with mild tannins for a full mouthfeel and finish.  Impressive for what it is..

Summary:  The wines of Chile are true bargains in the world of wines.  They are grown in ideal conditions and have had a large investment for capital to establish modern winemaking.  They are still finding the best places for each varietal but they are learning quickly.  I am a big proponent of southern hemisphere wines.  You get quality at a more than reasonable price.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Crush Pad Quandry

Recently Crush Pad the custom producer of individual wine producers has gone out of business.  This has caused all of the clients to be in limbo as to how to retain ownership of their barrels of wine and continue to get them into bottle.  There are many questions to be asked and answered in this issue.

My first issue is the cost of being an absentee wine maker.  The out of pocket cost of even a modest wine is so much more than you would pay for a wine of comparable commercial quality. The only thing you are getting is a finished bottle of wine with your name on it.  Your ego is costing you a lot of money !!!  This is the second time Crush Pad has closed its doors.  A few years ago they left San Francisco and sold off all their old inventory and it was a field day of very good buys at the expense of those people who were not able to finish their wines.  They lost all of their money and Crush Pad sold off their wines.

It now appears that people who have wine in barrel are not able to get their wine since Crush Pad is in debt to many growers and other industry providers.  The wine is now being held as an asset against all of the claims by people who are owed money.  It is possible that some people will lose their barrels of wine and the money they have invested to this point. The best possible senario is that the court will allow the owners of wine to gain access to what is theirs after paying more money.  The worst case is that the court will declare all of their assets part of the liquidation and sell them off to the highest buyer. So much for your home made wine with expert guidance. This is the classic  case of  no one wins..

My advise is to skip this type of operation and continue to buy smart.

2008 Gallo Signature Napa Cab is a Winner!!

During the speed tasting of red wines at the Wine Bloggers Conference in Portland I tasted perhaps the best most well crafted  Cabernet of the week. It was produced by Gallo Family Wines. It was their 2008 Napa Cabernet Sauvignon..  Winemaker Gina Gallo has crafted a stunning wine with complex flavors that yell "I am great wine."  What struck me most was the deep dark and rich aroma of berry and rich tannins. The larger portion of the fruit for this wine came from the  William Hill vineyard  the other component is from Monte Rosso the legendary site which was owned by Louis M. Martini.  155 barrels of this gem were produced which works out to just under four thousand cases.  There was not one wine on the table which could match the color, aroma, flavors, texture and finish of this wine.. The best part is that the suggested retail is $40!!

In this mad world of super high prices for wines which do not merit the dollars, here is a classic Napa Cabernet that has a realistic price and in my mind is a bargain when you compare it to the likes of wines in the $75+ category. During the conference I tasted a number of cult Cabernets and this wine is the equal of any of them. Try a bottle of this wine before some writer gives it a ton of points and it disappears from retailers shelves.

 I am told that the release date for this wonderful wine is the first part of October.