September 2021 Club Selections

I may end up claiming the entire month for my birthday, as I am having so much fun and I had to stop at my local wine shop The Fine Wine Source in Livonia to get the selections.  I am sure that I tend at times to sound like a broken record, but it is a great place for me to spend some time tasting and talking about wines, not to mention buying some wine.  Of course, they are always looking for my better half, and who can blame them?  They survived the last year, when so many businesses were driven to ruin by the draconian mandates of our local satrap.  I and all of their patrons are pleased that they did.  The owner selects two wines each month for his club members, one Old-World and one New-World and by belonging to the club, one gets case pricing, each time one buys wines, whether by the bottle or by the case.

The Old-World selection was Chateau Toutigeac Rouge Bordeaux 2019.  After studying genealogical charts by Rene Mazeau, the Mazeau family has an uninterrupted history of being winemakers since the Fifteenth Century.  Charles Mallet, a wine merchant in Paris and Castillon la Bataille, purchased the estate in 1928.  His great, great grand-daughter, Oriane Mazeau, has continued the tradition as the fifth generation to make wines at Chateau Toutigeac.  The estate which is thirty-five hectares is located in Entre-Deux-Mers on silica clay, with vines from three to fifty years of age.   The wine is fifty percent Merlot, thirty-five percent Cabernet Franc and fifteen percent Cabernet Sauvignon.  The entire harvest is completed in one week and the initial fermentation is for fifteen to eighteen days in Stainless Steel, and then it is transferred to subterranean, glassed vats for twelve months.  According to the notes the wine is a deep red with a nose of red fruits (currants and plums), which continue on the palate with soft tannins and a finish of more soft fruits.

The New-World selection is Lone Birch Red Blend Yakima Valley 2018 in Washington State.  The family has been farming in the Yakima Valley for over four generations and has eight-hundred-thirty acres.  The landmark of the estate is the seventy-year-old Lone Birch that resides in the vineyard that was planted by the great-great-grandfather who was the initial steward of the land for the family.  They have continued the concept of being an environmental steward and they also maintain sustainable practices for the vineyards and the winery.  The wine is a blend of forty-five percent Merlot, thirty percent Syrah and twenty-five percent Cabernet Sauvignon.  The harvesting was finished by hand by block, and each block was cold soaked for forty-eight hours and then inoculated with yeast strains.  The wine was then aged for eleven months in French Oak, of which twenty percent was new and forty percent was neutral.  The wine is described as having a nose of dark currants, blackberry, cola and sweet plums with a palate offering some fruit forward notes along with sandalwood, espresso, malt-chocolate and smoked spices (from the mix of barrels), with balance acidity and a medium finish.  September just keeps making me happy, and I am so bad.       

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And a Duckhorn Migration 1996

We were celebrating the August and September birthdays at one of the sister’s homes, as they have an inground swimming pool and the weekend might be the last hurrah for the season.  Since, my Bride is one of five daughters and each has a husband, plus children and now some grandchildren, you can see how if we celebrated each birthday individually, that is the entire social calendar for the year, so it is much easier and saner to bundle the honorees together; though the names on the cake can get pretty crowded at certain months. 

With the party, being a pool party, the food selection was more casual, though the appetizers remained about the same.  There were fruits and vegetables, dips, and assorted cheeses and crackers.  There are times when I can literally make a meal just from the munchies and I am sure that holds true for some of the others at the party as well.  To start off the revelry, we brought Gazela Vinho Verde Rosé NV which is made by Sogrape Vinhos of Portugal, and it appears as if in the future this wine will also be labeled as “Aire.” Vinho Verde has developed its own coterie of followers and I think the group gets larger every year, as it is just an easy wine that is perfect for hot weather and with water nearby, either a pool, lake or ocean.  Portugal, it is often said, has had a rather foot-loose and fancy free about grape varieties in certain areas, as even the winemakers cannot state for sure what has been planted over the decades, if not centuries.  In the Vinho Verde region there are over fifteen thousand hectares planted and seventy percent is white.  Most of the Vinho Verde Tinto is for domestic consumption, but I guess they are exporting more, since the white has become so popular.  To give you an idea about the grape varieties that may be encountered just for the Tinto, the ones recommended are: Azal-Tinto, Borracal, Brancelho, Espadeiro, Padeiro-de-Basto, Pedral, Rabo-de-Ovelha and Vinhao.  Other permitted varieties are: Alicante-Bouschet, Docal, Espadeiro-Mole, Grand-Noir, Labrusco, Pical, Touriga-Nacional, Trincadeira-Preta and Verdelho-Tinto. The wines are made in Stainless Steel and the malolactic fermentation takes place in the bottle, which causes the natural petillance or effervescence of the wine.  This wine was frothy and plenty of big bubbles appearing in the glass after pouring.  The wine had a nose and a taste of watermelon and strawberries in a raspberry color.  Very easy and definitely quaffable, in fact my Bride said that she likes this wine even more than the white. 

The dinner segment was just a casual, as it was a barbecue of bratwursts and hamburgers, along with the classic sides that one would encounter at a cookout like this.  Later on, there was the sweet table and the obligatory birthday cake.  Since I was one of the honorees, I did bring a special bottle from our cellar, just to see how the wine was progressing as we have some more of the wine resting.  We had a bottle of Duckhorn Vineyards Decoy Migration Napa Valley Red Table Wine 1996, which we bought at the winery.  Years ago, we had the good fortune to have a private tour and tasting during harvest with one of the Duckhorn sons and at that time, the wine was a blending of different varieties and different contract and owner properties, back when Duckhorn Vineyards produced all of their wines in Napa Valley, now Duckhorn is one subsidiary and Migration is another subsidiary.  The original concept for Migration is that the wine could change from year to year.  This wine was produced from fruit harvested from seven different vineyards within the appellation.  The wine was fifty-one percent Cabernet Franc, twenty-six percent Merlot, thirteen percent Cabernet Sauvignon and ten percent Petit Verdot.  The wine was aged for eighteen months in a blend of sixty percent French Oak (ten percent new, sixty percent second and thirty neutral) and forty percent American Oak (all second use).  Silly me, I forgot to pack my Durand and of course the cork broke and I had to use a coffee filter and a funnel to decant.  This wine was just beginning to show its age, but the nose was vintage Right Bank, the nose and the tannins were soft, but it was still a chewy wine with a good long finish.  For a twenty-five-year-old, it behaved very nicely and a pleasure to drink.

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Louis’ Chop House

There were the four of us continuing a birthday celebration, that I tagged along on, as we know that I have no shame.  We were going to Louis, but not Louis in the Bronx.  We were going to an old-fashioned chop house or steak house, to me, they are both interchangeable.  Growing up for me, as a kid, this was the type of restaurant that I frequented the most, and hence the most comfortable of places to be.  Nothing frou-frou or “new age” or any other contemporary wording. 

We had a classic dinner for the four of us, since we just had a lobster roll about an hour before dinner, we had a lighter appetizer to share, and that was Crab Stuffed Mushrooms in a Lobster Cream Sauce.  You know, something light.  Since the restaurant was fifty years in the making and kept evolving from the original, but not a major evolves, just some elegant fine tuning and tweaks.  We had a bottle of Barone Fini Pinot Grigio Valdadige DOC 2020, a wine that is under the corporate umbrella of The Deutsch Family of Wine & Spirits.  The Bonmartini-Fini family began making wine in 1497 when the two noble families merged in a wedding up in Northern Italy.  It is still family owned.  This wine is their flagship showcasing the grapes of the Valdadige DOC.  The fruit is hand-harvested and I will go out on a limb, though not a long limb and presume that the wine was fermented and aged in Stainless Steel, though it is not revealed by the winery.  It was a great way to start the meal, as the wine had a nice floral nose of citrus and lemon, with a palate of melon and apples in a balanced acidity with a touch of mineral terroir at the finish.  It just made it easy to enjoy another sip of wine.

For our entrées we went with some classic dishes, my Bride did Surf & Turf, which was really nostalgic, as it seems to have disappeared from most menus or they have tried to update and modify a simple combination of a Filet Mignon and a Lobster Tail.  I also went with another classic nostalgic dish of Veal Oscar, medallions of sautéed veal topped with crab, asparagus and Sauce Bearnaise (and you know that I am on a diet).  I actually had to go through five choices from a rather large wine list to select the two wines that we had, and the red wine, they came out with was an up-sale, but that was fine, by that time. My complaint is that wine lists are computer printed lists, so there is not a need to have that many wines listed that they can’t supply, and they blamed it on what is going on in the world, though my wine shop doesn’t seem to have problems getting great wines, but I digress and I was a bit agitated and forgot to take a photo of the bottle, until I got home.  We had a bottle of Chateau Teyssier Saint-Emilion Grand Cru 2014 part of the JCP Maltus group.  It was a charming classic interpretation of a Saint-Emilion wine that is eighty-five percent Cabernet Sauvignon, and fifteen percent Cabernet Franc.  Aged in French Oak, of which a third is new, the wine was delicious with a nose of dark fruits, and it had soft tannins with great black cherry, smoke, spices and a nice medium finish of terroir.  What we called in the old days, a nice Saint-Emilion.

The other problem and it is rampant in our state, is that there are plenty of jobs, but no takers, so with a dearth of employees there was no tableside offerings of salads, steaks or desserts.  We all shared a classic Detroit dessert of a Hot Fudge Cream Puff and I had a taste, but I went with a glass of Dow’s 10-Year-Old Tawny Porto, a Port Wine from Oporto in Portugal and from one of the great Port makers there.  Instead of a cordial glass of Port, I was given a six ounce pour, and it took a little longer to nurse it. The wine must spend a minimum of six years in casks and it is blended with other wines and that is how they get the 10 Years on the label. The Port Wineries have casks of wines that are of many different years and they blend the different casks to maintain the taste that they are known for. The grapes that are used and there is no way of knowing the percentages of each, because of the process of making Port wines are: Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Barroca, Tinta Roriz, Tinto Cao and perhaps Souzao, Tinta Amarela and Mourisco Tinto.  It was just a beautiful glass of Port, as I think a Tawny is the easiest drinking and understandable for most people, and a great nightcap.   It was an excellent way to end the day with a fellow birthday honoree.

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A Wine Day in New Baltimore

As the days pass quicker, at least once a year, I know that I can celebrate my day and have a bit of selfish-indulgence.  Well actually, I think that I may be stretching the day longer and longer each year.  We were going to celebrate our Brother-in-Law’s birthday, and his birthday is at the end of August, it is lumped together with all of the September birthday honorees, see how I am stretching the celebration.  I know I have no shame, but it is a race against the Grim Reaper and I am not Dorian Gray.

The actual birthday honoree and his wife, one of my Bride’s sisters and us went into the town of New Baltimore.  The community was founded in 1796 by French explorers, which make sense, as Detroit was founded by the French as well, and had a strong French community for years.  It has a quaint old-fashioned downtown on the water front, with a beach and I guess it was good that we got there on the day that we did, because they were getting ready for an art fair on the beach and I am sure that the next day, parking would have been impossible. We were wandering around the downtown visiting different store fronts and we went in for a tasting at the Washington Street Wine House “A Petit Winery.”  The winery offers wine, gift baskets and accessories and they were celebrating eleven years in business.  Their wines are international in scope, as they buy wine concentrates and finish the wines in house.  There were no vintage dates, no AVA concerns and at the moment were offering thirty-eight different wines.  They allowed a few complimentary tastings and when I went to take a photo of the wine and the glass, the wine bottle was quickly removed and I was told that that I was doing something not allowed.  I was so put off by their behavior that I rather lost interest, though my Bride tried her full allotment of tastings, though I did wish to try their Amarone, as I had just bought some for the house, that I haven’t even got around to writing about.  The Amarone tasting like raisin wine to me, so I guess they achieved their goal.  My Bride found a bottle that she wanted to buy, their Washington Street Wine House “Cheap Date” Riesling-Gewurztraminer NV, so that I had a bottle to photograph.  This was a pleasant and easy drinking wine with some floral notes and taste offering some citrous and honey. 

We then walked across the street to On The Bay, a boutique nautical fashion and home décor shop near the shore of Anchor Bay.  The shop had the feeling of a “Jimmy Buffet” album, with a full bar, beer and wine with offerings for Brunch, Lunch, Dinner or Dessert while having a day of shopping in New Baltimore.  We placed an order for their Lobster Roll, which we understand is the favorite of the locals.  It was Lobster meat served hot with drawn butter and their seasonings on “Hawaiian” rolls with a side of Pineapple Coleslaw; and we sat out on the patio behind the store, and outside of being a haven for bees that day, it was a fine appetizer for our dinner later on that evening.  We also had a bottle of Vino del Sol Gen5 Chardonnay Lodi 2018.  Vino del Sol was founded in 2004 and they refer to themselves as “The Argentine Wine Specialist” and offer wines from Argentina, California, Chile, Japan and New Zealand.  All of the wines that they represent are estate-grown, sustainably-farmed and family-owned.  For five generations the Lange family has lived and worked their land in Lodi, California and they are certified green by Lodi Rules Sustainable Wine-growing.  The wine is ninety-five percent Chardonnay, two and a half percent Viognier, two percent Sauvignon Blanc and a half-percent other.  The average age of the vines are fifteen years, they harvest at night, with gentle pressing, yeast inoculated, with two days of settling, fermented Sur-Lie for twenty days, and then aged an additional twelve months Sur-Lie, with twenty-five percent of the juice aged for six months in new French and American Oak barrels.  It was a nice Chardonnay with a good nose and some buttery-oakiness to the palate with a short to medium finish with a tinge of mineral terroir.   For a very reasonable price, this was a nice wine in the afternoon for us to share.  

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Twenty Years

Twenty-one years ago, we were actually being tourists in “the city that never sleeps” according to Francis Albert.  No business trip, no frantic rushing around Midtown, we were just looking around.  In fact, we took the boat to Ellis Island, where most of the Armenians after the Genocide were routed to Canada, because there were quotas back then.  As I look at the photo my Bride took of me, almost a year to the day later, the background of the picture was totally changed forever.  A year later, I and everyone else was watching in total disbelief that terrorists used commercial jetliners and commandeered two planes and used them as weapons to destroy the Twin Towers.  A day that we claimed that we would never forget, guess what? We have a generation that wasn’t even born and they have a different attitude about what happened, in fact, plenty of people now, it seems have forgotten, or it is convenient to forget about it. 

There was a famous restaurant that I never had a chance to dine at, though my Bride did.  The employees of Windows on the World were actually getting the restaurant ready for lunch, just like all the employees that filled up that tower and its twin next door.  Some people did survive that fateful day, that were in the buildings, most were not that fortunate.  I remember how impressed I was to learn that the entire staff at Daniel, in the Upper Eastside cancelled all of their reservations, and then moved the staff down to “Ground Zero” to cook and to make sure that all of the emergency crews had a chance to eat.  I am also sure that other restaurants and individuals did the same, it is just that Daniel remains part of the story to this day for me.  The country pulled together on that tragic day, and the following sad days as everyone tried to put the facts together to make sense. 

I remember the following year after that tragic date, my Bride and I were all packed and ready to go to Carmel-by-the-Sea for a week of wining, dining and luckily even some dancing as well.  On September 11, we got a call that my daughter was in the hospital ready to give birth to her first child.  We got there with all of the commotion that surrounds the birth of a child.  It was almost midnight and her physician looked at me, and said I have no idea why the baby has not been born yet, as she is fully dilated.  I looked at my watch, and chuckled to myself, and told the doctor, this will all be remedied in about fifteen minutes and he looked at me puzzled, as if I had some strange super power that I was not sharing with him. I walked back into the room that my daughter was in and after a few minutes I informed her that it was past midnight and it was now the Twelfth of September, and that she could have the baby.  She looked at me, and asked me if I was sure, and I confirmed it, and in a few minutes, they were wheeling the mother-to-be off to the delivery room.  I continued to chuckle to myself, because I knew that my daughter did not want the child to be born on that infamous date, as she felt it would be bad luck.  After my grandson was born, and I made sure that all were healthy and with no complications, I kissed the two of them good bye for the moment and told her we would be back after our week away, and that we had to be at the airport that morning around 4:30.  I am happy to say that our eldest grandson is now in college.

No wine, no dining, just bear with me and allow me some indulgence to be solemn, even a raconteur has painful stories that have to be endured, as I give you little snapshots of almost the same date, in a three-year span.

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Two From Canada

It is amazing how lifestyles change in a matter of less than two years.  We definitely used to go out, much more often.  We now eat in, way more often, but the silver lining is that we are actually drinking some of the wines that we have forgotten about, or had gotten mislaid.  My father’s family ended up in Canada, after the genocide and they were in the Hamilton and St. Catherines area of Ontario, which is now wine country, fifty years ago, it wasn’t, but that is another story.  My Bride and I still like to go to that part of the world, and once the current “world leaders” figure out, how to open up the longest peaceful border in the world, we will go back again.  After all, give me a day or two and I will be speaking Canadian like a native. 

One of the mislaid bottles of wine was from the Niagara-on-the-Lake wine region, or as the locals like to say NOTL.  We visited and tasted and left with wine from Small Talk Vineyards.  The closest that we found to some of the small wineries of Michigan was Small Talk Vineyards. They are a fifty-year-old private estate and as soon as you pull up to their parking lot, you know that it is going to be fun. Splashy vibrant colors attack you immediately. There is a huge sign saying “Come In, Come In.” You just know that it is going to be a fun visit, because they are having fun. The tasting room is like a patio with more vibrant colors.  The wines are front and center, and in case you missed the bottle from what they are pouring from, there are huge posters on the walls duplicating not only the front label, but the back label as well, because the front is what you say, and the back, may be what you are thinking. The wines, were as much fun as the winery.  Small Talk Vineyards Burning Ambition Niagara-on-the-Lake VQA 2012 was a Riesling and Gewürztraminer blend that was aged in Stainless Steel.  They are a family-owned small batch winery, originally bought in 1954 as a fruit and poultry farm, and in 1985 they began planting a vineyard.  It now has seventy-eight acres and grows eleven varietals.  We had a nine-year-old white wine and we took a chance and chilled the wine to have with dinner, as we have had some great results with some older Riesling wines, as well as some older Gewürztraminer wines.  We were very happy, as the wine was still youthful with a great floral nose, fresh fruit and just the right number of spices.  When I just recently did a Google search, my original article on our visit was the sixth site mentioned, just a bit of bragging.  Of course, it was our last bottle, and it made me think of the sign that they had on our way back to the parking lot “Good riddance, we thought you’d never leave.”

Henry of Pelham Family Estate Baco Noir Ontario VQA 2019 was the first wine from Canada that I had from my local wine shop, and it is a winery that I knew of, but we had never visited while we were on either of our trips to Niagara-on-the-Lake region.  Three sons ages nine, fourteen and sixteen were the creators of the original vineyard that they planted shovel by shovel in 1984, while their parents were back in Toronto.  The first harvest was in 1988 and they didn’t even have barrels initially for the first harvest.  The wine was successful and they were one of the early wineries for the area.  This fruit is grown in the Short Hills Bench of the Niagara Peninsula.  Baco Noir is a Cold-Hardy hybrid that was developed for North America, especially in the North-eastern parts of the United State and Canada, but it is also found in Michigan and Ohio that I know of for sure. The grape is a blend of the French Folle Blanche and the local Grande Glabre.  It is a popular grape for Northern climes as the grape matures quickly on the vine, with high acidity and the winegrowers try to extend the growing season as long as possible to tame the acidity. These grapes are grown on the original vineyard site of Henry of Pelham, and was one of the earliest known planting of grapes for Canada in 1842. The wine went through full maceration and fermentation in Stainless Steel and then aged for six to eight months in American Oak, of which twenty-four percent was new.  The wine was a nice dark red with notes of currants and blueberries, some spice and a nice toasted oak finish.  So, I guess it is time for me to take off my chesterfield and go into the parlour and watch “Hockey Night in Canada” -eh?   

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Another Day Date

One of the great things these days, is the chance to have dates again with my Bride, though she may be getting tired of being with me, after the last almost two years.  She is probably happy, that we don’t have a smaller house.  She is still trying to get me healthy, though it is a losing battle.  After giving up cigars and all other bad habits like that, somehow, I gained forty pounds, the first twenty pounds fell off, rather easy, but this next forty is determined to stay with me.  We are trying to do 5K walks, but in the extreme heat we may only do a 3K walk, otherwise I might be writing these articles from a hospital setting, and they probably wouldn’t approve of my diet or my wines.

Periodically we break up our morning walk in the neighborhood, as there only so many times when we want to have to walk around sprinkler systems, or yapping dogs that by now should be used to seeing us, walk hand in hand all around our subdivision.  My Bride is excited, because she has this vinyl or plastic “Fit Bit” watch that is somehow in sync with her computer.  We break up our routine by going to other communities to walk around, and we can tie the walking with some window shopping, do people besides us, still do that?  Beyond window shopping, there is a chance of some actual shopping, maybe a frou-frou coffee and brunch.  We ended up at a restaurant called Toast and they were very busy, but the hostess suggested that we might get a seat near the bar, and we found two seats.  My Bride had the Nova Scotia Benny which was two poached eggs, smoked salmon, spinach, heirloom tomatoes, English muffins, dill Hollandaise and a Balsamic drizzle.  It also came with their highly touted Bacon-fried-rice which is Jasmine rice, bacon, avocado, pickled vegetables, crispy onion strings and spinach.  I had their Why So Blue? Pancakes which was a blueberry compote, lemon-honey-ricotta cheese, lemon zest and syrup with a side of Applewood bacon.  We split each other’s dish, though to be truthful, we could have split either of the orders and it would not have negated our walk. 

A brunch would not be a brunch without a Mimosa, and their recommendation was Mimosa for the Table, and they offered five different bottles of bubbly, two I thought were sacrilege to be used for a Mimosa and we ended up with a bottle of Avissi Prosecco DOC NV and a small carafe of orange juice and we mixed our own, which was perfect, just the way we like it.  Avissi Prosecco is of course from the Veneto region, otherwise the grapes would be called Glera, because only the Glera grapes from Veneto may be called Prosecco.  The wine is made using the Charmat Method, which is the way most of the wines from the region are made, as it is a more affordable way and to be mixed with orange juice, it is perfect, in my book.  The wine has a floral nose of honeysuckle and gardenias, a nice crisp tasting extra dry wine with a finish of ripe pear.  It was tasty, even without adding the orange juice.  It is owned by the Trinchero Family Estates and if we weren’t having brunch, it would be an enjoyable wine with almost any dish that we might have.   

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A Toscana and a Greve

I had a couple more Italian wines while I was at my local wine shop The Fine Wine Source.  Both of the wines were based on the Sangiovese grape, the workhorse of Chianti and Tuscany.  It is always fun to taste similar wines next to each other, even when they carry different designations, but the rules of some regions are quite strict, to maintain the image and quality of the land.

Piaggia Vannucci Pietranera Toscana IGT 2020 is a very interesting wine with probably the most famous entry level designation, which when the DOC laws were codified, many of the winemakers felt that the rules were too stringent and they rebelled.  The Piaggia estate is in the commune of Poggio, in the province of Prato.  The winery was purchased and developed by Mauro Vannucci in the mid Seventies.  Part of the vineyard was in the Carmignano DOCG designation, and he felt that the sun, along with the dry clay soil would produce a great wine.  His first wine was produced in 1991, and his daughter Silvia is now the current owner of the winery. The estate is now about twenty-five hectares, of which fifteen are vineyards. The Pietranera label is their pure Sangiovese wine that they are producing for a popular price wine that offers the terroir of their land.  The grapes are pressed and the juice and skins are placed in small vats for fermentation with natural yeasts, with constant racking of the wines for about twenty days.  The malolactic fermentation goes for about three months after the juice has been transferred to small wooden barrels, and then is stored in bottle for an additional six months before release.  The wine was a pretty ruby red with a classic nose of cherries and spices.  The palate appreciated the cherry jam flavor, with a touch of cocoa and spices, balance tannins and a moderate count finish with some terroir.  I think this wine will be best enjoyed while it is young.

Azienda Agricola Lanciola Le Masse Di Greve Chianti Classico 2016 is just a few kilometers outside of Florence and the land as a vineyard is recorded back to 1587 to the Ricci family, and today it is owned by the Guarnieri family.  The estate is about eighty hectares of forty for vineyards and forty for olive groves.  The vineyard is basically planted with Sangiovese, but they grow a small amount of Canaiolo, Colorina, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah.  Fourteen hectares of the estate is in the designation of Greve, which is in the heart of Chianti Classico.  The terrain is hilly with southwestern exposure on a bed of shale.  The wine is ninety-five percent Sangiovese and five percent Canaiolo.  Initial fermentation is done in Stainless Steel tanks and the secondary fermentation in two-year old oak barriques and twenty-five quintal barrels for twenty-four months, followed by six months resting in bottles.   The wine is a pretty ruby shade with a nose of sweet cherries and vanilla.  A medium bodied wine offering the red fruit, vanilla and some spices, with balanced tannins and a medium count finish of fruit and terroir.  This is a wine that I think would be best enjoyed in its youth, or perhaps just a few years in the cellar.  

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Altesino Montosoli

Another case of wine memories of days of yore, while I was tasting wines at my local wine shop The Fine Wine Source.  I guess in the early days when I was self-educating myself about wines France and Italy were the two major points of interest for me, probably for the majority of wine drinkers back then, with Germany and Spain also in the running.  I had finished high school and college before the 1976 wine tasting that changed the world.  Growing up, in my old neighborhood, the odds of having a wine was low, but if we did, the wine was Italian.  As a student, most of the Italian wines were much more affordable, and I am not even talking about the fiascha bottles of Chianti, those curious bottles of wine that had a rattan/wicker wrapping around the bottle that eventually became a candle holder.  The basketry work, probably cost more than the wine that was in the bottle.

I had a chance to try Societa Agricola Altesino Brunello di Montalcino Montosoli DOCG 2016, and most of the time the wine is usually referred to as Altesino.  The Palazzo Altesi which still overlooks the estate was built in the Fifteenth Century.  Altesino has been owned by the Gnudi Angelini family since 2002.  In 1975, they were one of the first to introduce a Cru wine, a single vineyard wine, in Brunello di Montalcino, as well as in Italy.  Altesino has about fifty hectares of basically all Sangiovese, the grape of the region, and referred locally as Sangiovese di Montalcino.  The Montosoli wine spends at least two years in casks, plus three to four months in French barriques, for a total of four years of aging, and then another four months in the bottle before release.  This wine traditionally will age for twenty to thirty years and this is the latest release of this Cru wine.  The wine had a beautiful ruby color with a floral nose with blackberry and balsamic notes.  The wine offered rich dark fruit, some pepper with rich tannins and a wonderful long count finish, that just called for another taste. 

I mentioned memories, because I have written about the Altesino Brunello di Montalcino DOCG since their 1996 vintage, and if I had earlier, which may be possible, the label was lost.  Brunello di Montalcino was the first region to get the DOCG designation. Most of my memories of this wine has been in restaurants.  The basic Brunello di Montalcino is aged for four years, with a minimum of two years in large Slavonian Oak casks.  The wine is a beautiful garnet color and an enticing nose of cherries, red fruit, and lavender.  A big chewy wine, is the best way for me to describe it, and it will hold its own for a good twenty years.  A really solid wine, but over the years, I have learned to expect the best from Altesino.    

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Alto Moncayo Veraton

Another trip down Memory Lane, courtesy of my local wine shop The Fine Wine Source.  It really is interesting to see how, if any, vintages can affect a wine.  I was in retail, my entire career, so I can understand how there is certain merchandise that one has to carry for the clientele, especially if you originally created the market for your shop.  It is even better, if the product you have to carry is excellent.  I applaud the shop for not stocking their shelves with the popular brands that are in all the gas stations, drug stores, grocery stores and big box stores.  Their customers shop at the store for wines worth a drive for, and they know that they aren’t being price gouged either.

Bodegas Alto Moncayo Veraton Garnacha 2018 and the last bottle that I tried was the 2015. Bodegas Alto Moncayo was founded in 2002 in Campo de Borja DO in the Aragon region of Northern Spain; and Campo de Borja DO was granted in 1980.  While it was recognized fairly recently the area was recognized for wines back in the times of the Roman Empire.  The winery is a partnership of the Andalucía winemaker Jorge Ordenez, the Australian winemaker Chris Ringland and Bodegas Borsao one of the largest and most influential producers in Campo de Borja.  The winery makes three wines and I had a chance to try two of the wines (on that past visit), and all three are made from the Garnacha varietal, which is a grape that I enjoyed back in my youth, but I had no idea that I liked the Grenache grape, but I certainly loved Rhone wines, especially when I could get some Chateauneuf-du-Pape.  While Tempranillo is the King in Spain, that honor in Campo de Borja goes to Garnacha.  The vines just produce a big wine in this mineral-laden area that is basically rain-free.

Bodegas Alto Moncayo Veraton Garnacha 2018 is a fine example of wine from Campo de Borja DO.  The town of Borja has a long history going back to 5 BC and thought to be from tribes of mixed Iberian and Celtic stock.  The Borgia family, that is famous in Italy, during the Renaissance, and produced two Popes, were of Borjan origin.  The winemaking goes back to the time of the Romans and the Cistercian monks.  Rain is scarce in the region, the low regions are of brown limestone, while the middle elevation offers soil of deposited stones and iron-rich clay, while the highest elevation in the Moncayo foothills offer stones, iron and lime.  I had to show two different views of the label, because the pretty part, doesn’t identify the wine, unless you already know the artwork.  This wine is made from vines that are thirty to fifty years of age.  The wine is barrel aged for sixteen months.  Even the second vintage of this wine that I had was delicious with a nose of dark fruits, and those fruits follow through on the palate along with a touch of chocolate, nice tannins, balanced with a medium count finish with terroir.  Whenever I think, and especially when I taste Grenache (Garnacha) I always think of Thanksgiving and a roasted turkey, and some mental images are always there.    

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