Coming Full Circle
It is hard to believe I have been slinging wine for 26 years. That is half my life! When I was in my early 20’s living in Mexico I knew I wanted to study wine, so I came to California because that’s where all the good wine was (right?). After getting a gig at a place with a very serious wine cellar, I quickly learned that I loved old world wine (wine from the EU). California was not my thing. I buried myself in studies, the wine cellar and bottles of European wine. Oh, the elegance, restrain and history I found in every bottle was all consuming.
I could not get enough!
During many lifetimes as a sommelier, sales rep, wine educator and sales and marketing manager for California wineries I of course fell head over heels in love with California wines. As co-founder of Colony Wine Merchant, I wanted to celebrate family owned wineries from California. It has been an absolute joy. As of late I have revisited wine studies as well as teaching others about wine. I am back to burring my head into the old world and wanted to share what I love about European wines. It’s a feeling of coming full circle, or perhaps… just becoming.
M. Chapoutier “Belleruche” Rosé, Cotes du Rhone, France
Belleruche translates to beautiful beehive in French which takes its inspiration from the bees and hives found on the sustainable vineyards of M. Chapoutier. The Chapoutier family settled in the Rhone Valley in the 1800’s producing wine from esteemed vineyard sites in Hermitage and Châteauneuf-du-Pape. In 1990 Michel Chapoutier took the role as winemaker and forged a new way of caring for the land, vines and humankind.
Michel is considered a maverick in the industry as he was the first to use braille on wine labels for the seeing impaired, he introduced single vineyard selection and he converted farming practices to biodynamic viticulture. One might say he is a national treasure as he is the most critically acclaimed winemaker with the most 100 point and 90 plus point wines. The fact he can make a highly collectable 100 point wine and a summer sipping Rosé with the same attention to detail and farming practices makes me love him even more.
Summer without Rosé would be a sin. Be sure to make this wine a part of your celebrations, BBQ’s and Tuesday night in.
Pair with mild cheese, smoked salmon and Jenna Kurtcher’s book “How Are You Really”.
Founder – Chapoutier Family Winemaker – Michel Chapoutier
Retail - $16
Drink: This summer
Bava Nebbiolo, Langhe, Italy 2019
First things first, most Old World reds are made to go with food. They are not necessarily meant to be sipped while on the porch gossiping with your bestie. They belong on the table with your meal. This is no exception! This Nebbiolo is full of sour fruit and great acidity that gets your palate ready for a bite food (or meaty gossip). This wine begs you for a plate of pasta or Focaccia Boi Pizza which is what I am having while I am writing these notes.
Nebbiolo is considered the King of Grapes and the Grape of Kings. From the Barolo and Barbaresco regions of Piedmont, Nebbiolo is very tannic and is made to age. You will find Barolos in the finest cellars aging alongside the most sought-after wines of the world. Those wines can age 20 to 30 years and not disappoint. Nebbiolo from Langhe is much softer, lively and fruity and made to be enjoyed in its youth.
The Bava Family has grown grape vines since 1600 and in 1911 the family built their first winery. Since then, over a hundred vintages have gone by, with six generations following one another. This is the history I love!
Pair with anything Italian and whatever makes you happy.
Founder – Bava Family Winemaker – Some of the Bavas
Drink: Whenever you feel like it but soon
Oltesse Malbec, Cahors, France 2014
Malbec is one of the 6 original Bordeaux varietals and was known as the grape that added an inky and tannic quality to Bordeaux blends. It was known to be susceptible to disease and frost, so vintners decided against replanting it in Bordeaux after the frost of 1956. Malbec migrated south (yes to Argentina too) to the warmer region of Cohors. It is known as the region of castles, great food and wine and art de vivre.
This little wine is an expression of what I love about old world wines: great value, low alcohol, bone dry, good acid, earthy and has some age on it (the Europeans are so patient). There is not an ounce of flash with this wine. It does not hit you over the head with a bunch of ripe fruit and new oak which is nice every now and again.
Great with grilled lamb, stewed meat and aged cheese.
Founder – Teresa Franzia Winemaker – Cédric Tannière
Retail - $17
Drink: The aging has already taken place so please enjoy
Viña Mayor, Tampranillo “Gran Reserva”, Ribera del Duero 2012
As I implied with the last wine, the Europeans are so patient. Please, let’s take a moment to understand and appreciate what “Gran Reserva” means on a wine label from this region. Gran Reserva is a legal term that denotes the wine must be aged for 5 years (with a minimum of 2 years in oak) before it is released. This 100% Tempranillo was aged 2 years in oak and 3 years in bottle. I mean, come on! The patience and care (and money) it takes to produce a wine that you won’t make a dime on for years is not for the faint of heart.
Bodegas Viña Mayor starts their long journey on making world class wine in the vineyard. Since 2011, the winery has been committed to protecting the environment and is certified under the Wineries for Climate Protection Initiative. Through the conservation of natural habitats, winemaking culture, and traditions, they continue to make big impact on viticulture while making a small footprint on the environment.
The good fortune of finding a wine that that aged 5 years at the winery and another 5 years in the cellar makes for quite a treat. In its youth Tempranillo is full bodied, bold and has contrasting flavors of cherry and tobacco. With age this wine has become balanced, complex and it ready to enjoy with a grand meal.
Perfect with cured meats (chorizo of course), meaty Paella and with people that are as layered as a good Paella.
Founder – Antonio Barceló Winemaker – Almudena Alberca
Drink: The aging has already taken place so please enjoy