A german pinot with precision and true terroir

Nowadays, pinot noir is grown everywhere in the world, but actually it has been grown for quite some time in Germany and more precisely as spätburgunder. To be honest, it had not caught my attention previously since my impression so far has been that the wines have had too much oak flavours or/and frankly just been dull and dry. This wine is something else. It is from the very best region of Ahr in the south-west of Germany and more precisely Pfarrwingert in the town of Dernauer. 40 km south of Bonn. The young Julia Bertram appears focused on low alcohol (label says 12.5%) and to raise her wines in no new oak at all to achieve true terroir expression as well as affecting the grapes as little as possible, e.g. not using pumps. What a joy to hear that our preference is making its way through even here in the better parts of Germany for wine. We read that she was crowned “the wine princess” in Germany for her efforts of promoting German wine abroad back in 2013. Super-interesting producer!

2015 Ahrweiler Spätburgunder, Julia Bertram

A combo of translucent cerise and somewhat pale pink-orange-red core with cyan edges.

A graceful perfume of slate, Sicilian orange, tiny notes of dry honey, spice cumin, nutmeg and lovely red flowers. A lovely, fragrant and genuine nose that resembles a chambolle 1er cru.

The fruit is very pure, on the brick of overripe and currently in the background of the overly vivid and currently gnarly acidity wrapping distinct orange-peel and some spicy element. Also underbrush and slate gravel. Texture is smooth, chewy and pliant. This certainly is just a baby and needs to rest a few more years to come together, but it is obvious to me that this is a wine that broods over remarkable purity, unique honest terroir and balance.

92-93p

A lavishly pretty etna rosso packed with lava minerals that is a steal for the money

The typical blend with 80% nerello mascalese and the rest nerello cappuccio. Fruit is from young vines on the north-west slopes of Etna. Terrazze dell’Etna is founded by Nino Bevilacqua in 2008. Nino restored a farm whose oldest parts are from the 800 Century in Randazzo. The wine maker and enologist is Piero Carucci.

2013 Etna rosso Carusu, Terrazze dell’Etna

Glowingly crystalline and opaque cerise-red and blood orange core with pink-orange edges. Lovely colour.

Some oil paint, notes of wall paper adhesive, tea leaves, natural clove, red fruit and of course lava ash. Give this some hours and you are rewarded with a complex and graceful perfume slowly carrying beautiful red flowers. A lavish, captivating and quite intense nose of grace. Wow!!

Spice infused and clean red fruit coated in intense lava minerals. Mostly genuine, ripe and tasty strawberries, but also salmiak. Slender body, well balanced, focused and elegantly dressed wine with smooth and pliant texture of juvenile, but ripe tannins. Certainly my type of wine and a steal for the money! This is definitely a producer to drink more of and is immediately my house-wine. (Tasted 9/2-2017)

94p

 

A very price-worthy 2015 Chilean pinot from Casablanca valley

The grapes collected for this wine grows on the pacific hillside in the Casablanca valley, Chile, 100 km north-west of the capital Santiago. The breeze from the sea renders a preferable long ripening cycle with good balance of fruit, tannins and acidity. 40% of the juice is raised in french new oak for 6 months. It is a family business and the wine maker is the son of Thierry Villard, Jean-Charles.

2015 Villard expresion reserve pinot noir “Casablanca Valley”

Interesting nose of rowan berries, cranberries, chalky gravel dust and dog rose. On the palate, earthy, ripe and creamy strawberries, notes of apricot and cranberries. It has some complexity, but its balance, pliancy and generous fruit is what stands out. It is very good wine made with finesse, especially considering its remarkably low price tag and certainly something special. (Tasted 4/2-2017)

90-91p

A Rioja with less American vanilla pudding

Yes, and certainly very surprising, I stumbled upon a flirtatious Rioja recently at the Swedish monopoly that as it turns out is not the usual kind with insanely high level of toasted new American oak that normally is like putting all the fruit into really thick and creamy vanilla ment for sweet desserts. It is a quite new French producer, Tom Puyaubert, who is also a barrel binder from Bordeaux. He uses 30% whole clusters, conducts cold soak before a long 21-days extraction on the skins. The juice is then raised in 30% new oak (80% French, 20% American) but not the traditional 100% American one only with an abundance of vanilla flavours and cola notes. However, Tom is using well toasted oak barrels as he believes it is a “purifying” treatment of new oak. Fruit is the expected tempranillo (80%) for complexity and the rest the classic graciano for ageing and garnacha (grenache) for structure. Grapes are bush-grown in clay and limestone soil at an elevation of 500 m above sea-level from vines planted in 1980, whereas the other two origin from Rioja Alta planted mostly between 1950-1960.

2014 Rioja Horizonte, Bodegas de Exopto

Glowingly and a translucent mix of red purple and ruby red core colour with light pink edges.

Yes, there is obvious oak on the nose and the flavours are certainly elevated by it, but it is not taking over completely and there is a lot of cocos and mint too. In addition, after a while a perfume of mineral-coated under vegetation, complex smoke, distinct eucalyptus and herbs appear.

The fruit is in the back currently covered in thick oak powder, but the pleasant abundance of black currants and black cherries slips through anyway, fortunately. Yet I’d certainly (as anyone trust me) like much, much less toasted oak, the wine is generous, sharp but smooth, energetically fresh, it is certainly intense and built with finesse and elegance. Yes the oak addition is too much and way too well toasted, but but.. for some strange and unholy reason, it gets away with it only by the way of its charm, finesse, precision and in its evil flirtation. It is a remarkable achievement especially considering its price tag. Ensure to give it at least 2-3 hours of decanting in 18 degrees Celsius. Since high toasting levels is Tom’s belief, let’s hope he will cut down even further on the amount of oak in the future, because it will be beneficial for such a good balanced wine. (tasted 3/2-2017)

88-89p

An interesting priorat from very old vines with balance and finesse

We keep exploring the interesting and dynamic Priorat region west of Barcelona with its special soil of slate (“Ilicorella” in Catalan) and quartz. This wine is made of 100% Carignan/Cariñena from bushes in steep terraces with most vines planted in 1939. The wine maker José Mas Barberà ferments the grapes in 300 L amphora vats and 500 L neutral oak barrels. However, it is raised in barriques made of dense Allier wood. José prefers freshness over ripeness so he harvest early and uses whole bunches.

2013 Priorat “Clos Cypres”, Costers del Priorat

The colour is beautiful with glowingly red purple core and pink-cerise edges.

The nose is initially perceived as subtle and closed, but after a lot of airing (half a day, actually) it finally and fortunately wakes up. Initially oak powder, but thankfully diminishes with airing. Then it emerges slowly as complex, sharply focused with a wonderful and graceful perfume of dried flowers, fresh mint, bay leaves, crushed stone dust, distinct garrigue notes, ginger, cinnamon and coriander.

On the palate, it is quite rich and packed with dark- and pure black fruit infused with a combo of herbs, savoury notes, deep minerals and an abundance of spices framed by thick, chewy but currently youthful tannins. The depth here is as expected from such old vines and it is certainly a slender and freshly perfumed beauty that impressively and with confidence is balancing her long and elegant catwalk to the finish line. Yet, balance, freshness and finesse is the main impression. The absolute only backside is its oak addition and I would like them not to use any new oak at all, since the terroir is too interesting and everything else is so great. A guess is to keep it for a few more years yet to let the tannins improve some. (Tasted 19/1-2017)

93-94p/100

 

Tasting of DuMOL 2014

I attended a mini tasting of the DuMOL wines in November, which gave a good introduction to their wine. It was the 2014 vintage that was on display, a vintage where winemaker Andy Smith Is very pleased with the results.

My impressions after the tasting is that this is a producer with a high lowest level. All wines showed a god balance and the most common denominator was a fresh and energetic acidity.

At the end of the tasting my favorites where the “Isobel” Chardonnay and the “Ryan” Pinot Noir.

2014 DuMol Russian River Valley Chardonnay

This is a rather forward Chardonnay with lively but broad acidity, an abundance of ripe dense tropical fruit and some notes of oak. The denseness in the fruit is lower on the palate than on the nose. The finish is dominated by acidity but there is also an ever so slight bitterness.

DuMOL Isobel 20142013 DuMol “Isobel” Sonoma Coast Chardonnay

A very generous wine with layered fruit, where stone fruit dominate, on the nose but also a waxiness and some herbal notes to give a freshness. The acidity is mouthwatering and well integrated with the wine. There is almost a sweet touch on the palate of the wine.

2014 DuMol Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

A rather dense nose with both black and red fruit with a fresh expression. On the palate a precise and energetic acidity take the front seat and the red fruit dominates the black. This is a good wine characterized by fruit and a fresh acidity.

2014 DuMol “Ryan” Green Valley of Russian River Valley Pinot NoirDuMOL Ryan

Complex nose with bright red fruit but also dense blueberries and marzipan. Great acidity on the mid palate but unfortunately with a slight slight bitterness in the finish. Some herbal notes also appear on the palate. Need some time to integrate but this is a good Pinot Noir.

2014 DuMol Russian River Valley Syrah

I find the wine light for at Syrah both on nose and palate but there is no lack of fruit, where the red fruit dominate. I would have preferred some more nuances and perhaps an earthiness for a more complex expression. Still this is a quality wine with good energetic acidity.

 

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Visit to Joseph Swan Vineyards – A pioneer in Russian River Valley

Introduction to Joseph Swan Vineyards

Joseph Swan Vineyards was founded approximately 50 years ago by Joe Swan who before that had a career as a pilot. In 1967 he bought some Zinfandel vineyards in the Russian River Valley and shortly after he started replanting some of these with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay by imported clones from France which in fact are some of the oldest Pinot Noir vineyards in the area. Joseph Swan Vineyards is a rather small estate in terms of volume, but it has had an important role in the development of the wine region. Joe Swan passed away in 1989 and since then Rod and Lynn Berglund run the estate in line with the principles established by Joe Swan.

A few short notes about how Joseph Swan Vineyards produce their wines:

  • They do not control temperature during fermentation and this results in a natural cold soak since the fermentation will not start immediately.
  • Approximately 30 percent of their grapes come from owned vineyards.
  • Approximately 20 percent whole clusters are used in the Pinot Noir wines.
  • They use 20-25 percent new oak for most of their single vineyard Pinot Noir wines.
  • Neither fining nor filtering is used.

Tasting notes for the wines from Joseph Swan Vineyards

The whites

2014 Joseph Swan Vineyards Viognier “Catie’s Corner”

Dominated by apricot both on nose and palate but there is also some pineapple and green melon. Oily texture on the palate and it does get rather intense and shows some warm alcohol notes. This is definitely food wine.

2014 Joseph Swan Vineyards Grenache Blanc Catie’s Corner Vineyard

Fresh notes of both green and yellow apples on both nose and palate but also with some peach and green melon. There is a fresh acidity that adds some direction to the wine.

2014 Joseph Swan Vineyards Chardonnay “Kent the Younger”

The nose is more forward than the palate, showing apricot, green and yellow apples and some slight tropical fruit notes. There is a slightly oily expression on the palate and the acidity is rather careful.

The reds

2013 Joseph Swan Vineyards Pinot Noir “Saralee’s Vineyard”

Very fruit driven Pinot Noir with cherries, raspberries and some rather ripe strawberries. On the palate the wine is very juicy and fresh and has a slight herbal note. The acidity is good and adds some energy. An easy to like Pinot Noir of good quality.

2013 Joseph Swan Vineyards Pinot Noir “Suicide Hill Great Oak Vineyard”

Very intense fruit aromas with raspberries, strawberries and cherries, combined with a cool and fresh acidity and some minerals. There is a herbal and minty element to this wine and some violet notes. Almost no structure. The wine has a unique coolness and a pure intense fruit.

2012 Joseph Swan Vineyards Pinot Noir “Trenton Estate Vineyard”

Brimming fruitiness with cherries, blackberries and raspberries but also some intense blue floral notes. On the palate there is a slight marzipan sweetness as well as some herbal notes. It will be very interesting to see how this wine develops with time. This is a wine with a very strong personality.

2012 Joseph Swan Vineyards Zinfandel “Zeigler vineyard”

Brimming high pitched fruit notes on the nose and a vibrant acidity and fresh fruit on the palate. Some herbal notes in the background. There is also a silky tannic structure. Surprisingly slim Zinfandel.

2012 Joseph Swan Vineyards Tannat “Matthew’s Station vineyard”

Intense black and red fruit with an abundance of cherries and blackberries. There is a good tannic structure and a slightly harsh acidity. This is a wine with strong personality.

2012 Joseph Swan Vineyards Pinot Noir “Trenton View vineyard”

Bright red fruit with a rather sweet touch. There are an abundance of cherries but also orange peel, marzipan and strawberries. On the palate the wine is rather sweet, juicy and with a very silky texture. The acidity is soft but good. This is a generous and forward wine but slightly one-dimensional at the moment.

Summary of impressions from the visit to Joseph Swan Vineyards

Joseph Swan Vineyards has an exciting range of wines, some of them from old vines and some

I did bring my assistant to this tasting…

from more unusual grapes like Tannat. In general, the wines of Joseph Swan Vineyards have an abundance of personality and the tasting never gets predictable.

Their Pinot Noir wines are characterized by an intense bright fruit expression, often with cherry and intense violet notes, that I find similar to what I sometimes experience in wines from Lafarge in Volnay. Despite the fruity expression the wines never get dense and heavy, but rather has a refined expression. They also seem very transparent to the vineyards and vintages.

My favorites from the tasting were the Trenton Estate Pinot Noir and the Suicide Hill Pinot Noir, but I also enjoyed the slim Zinfandel Zeigler and the pleasant Trenton View Pinot Noir.

 

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Visit to Cobb Wines – A star in the Sonoma Coast region

Introduction to Cobb Wines

The Cobb Wines estate was founded in 2001 by Ross Cobb and his father David Cobb. Ross is a winemaker and David works in the vineyard. Cobb Wines have their own vineyards, where the oldest were planted in 1989, but they also source grapes from other growers in the region. Cobb Wines focuses on Sonoma coast vineyards with its cool climate in order to render elegant and refined expression of their pinot noir wines.

During my visit I met with Ross Cobb who comes across as very knowledgeable but also very humble and constantly searching for new ways to improve his wines. Ross has experience from other producers in the region but he has also done extensive traveling to Burgundy and shows great interest and knowledge about how they work in Burgundy.

A few short notes about how Cobb Wines produces their wines

  • They select cool sites and harvest early to ensure wines with a lighter and more refined expression.
  • They use lightly toasted and fine grained oak to ensure the wine is not overtaken by oak flavours.
  • A minimum of 22 months in oak, often beginning with a higher amount of new oak and then reducing this depending on how the wine develops.
  • Ross is also experimenting with up to 30 months in oak but then with a less percentage of new oak.
  • A rather long cold soak of 2 weeks, beginning with whole grapes, and then approximately 9-14 days of fermentation.
  • They use dry farming when the vines are old enough to handle it.
  • When they buy grapes they always have longer relationships and full right to decide the vineyard management
  • They do no filtration.

Tasting notes for the wines from Cobb Wines

2014 Cobb Pinot Noir Emmaline Ann

Vines planted in 1998 and Cobb has worked with them since 2006.

Careful and elegant nose with an almost sweet red fruit, marzipan and some Asian spices. Soft but very nice acidity and a juicy expression on the palate. Again some Asian spices but also oranges on the palate. This is an elegant and soft wine with good balance.

2014 Cobb Pinot Noir Rice-Spivak

Vines planted in 1998, Cobb has worked with them since 2003.

Brimming red fruit with raspberries, cherries and lingonberries, but also some spices. There is a silky tannic structure and an energetic acidity. The fruit is slightly tart on the palate. This is a forward wine with a vibrant expression and great fruit. Will have a long life ahead.

2014 Cobb Pinot Noir Coastlands Vineyard: 1906 Block Pommard

There is fresh red fruit on a basis of darker fruit where blackberries dominated. The palate is surprisingly slim with vibrant and tight acidity and young dark fruit. There are also spicy notes and a slight earthiness. This is a complex wine that will need time do develop completely and find its balance, but the potential is great.

2013 Cobb Pinot Noir Coastlands Vineyard: Diane Cobb

Complex nose with rather dark fruit, like blueberries, cherries and blackberries, but also lingonberries, earthy notes, minerals and some herbs. Very juicy and fresh acidity with a mouthwatering feel. On the palate we also find orange peel and again herbal notes. For a rather forward and complex wine it has a slim and fresh finish. This is a fantastic wine.

2012 Cobb Pinot Noir Coastlands Vineyard: Old Firs Block

This is an intense wine with a rather dark expression on the fruit notes, an abundance of earthiness but also a slight oak influence. There are dark cherries, blueberries, minerals and some lingonberries. The tannic structure gives some backbone and there is a good acidity that prevents the wine from getting heavy. Will need much more time to peak.

Summary of impressions from the visit to Cobb Wines

You can probably tell from the tasting notes that I was very impressed by the wines from Cobb.
Two things stand out for me: 1. The great balance in the wines, already at this young age; 2. The complexity and multi layered expression, where the fruit is just one component. Even though it is not the ambition of Ross to make copies of the wines from Burgundy the kinship is very apparent.

My favourite at this tasting was the 2013 Diane Cobb, but I was also very impressed by the even quality and I think it is worth mentioning the energy in the Rice-Spivak, the completeness of the 1906 Block Pommard and the complexity of the Old Firs Block. This is a great line up.

I will definitely follow the development of Cobb Wines with great interest also in the future. Well done so far!

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A 3rd visit at Comte George de Vogüé – 2015 vintage tasting

On our last day of visits in Burgundy, a Friday the 25th of November, we met up with François Millet at domaine Comte George de Vogüé as we usually do in the last past years every time we are in Burgundy. The domaine has been around for a long time, actually since 1450 and the owners, Claire de Causans and Marie de Ladoucette, are the 20th generation of the family. François Millet was hired by them in 1986. He is a perfectionist and talks about young vines as “gifted teenagers but without any experience”. They are the largest owner in the best vineyard of Chambolle, the 10 ha large grand cru Musigny vineyard. 0.62 ha within this vineyard is planted with chardonnay for a very interesting re-planting of the Musigny blanc, but it has not yet been released to the market. They need to reach about 25 years of age before they are ready according to François. Their other grand cru is Bonnes-Mares and the “should be grand cru” Les Amoureuses. In addition, four premiers crus of which these can be mentioned; Les Baudes (bordering the Bonnes-Mares in the east) and Les Fuées (Their plot is in the middle bordering the Bonnes-Mares in the south) that have an average age of 45 years. They work organically, but they are not extremist in any way. Rather traditional and meticulous.

The 2015 vintage

François explains that 2015 vintage has a overly fast bud break, flowering and a warm June and July without any rains that reminds him of the long drought in 1976, but he agrees that it also shares some characteristics with 2005. A bit of rain in August really saved this vintage. They started harvest on the 3rd of September. There were little juice in the berries, so it is rich and concentrated, but at the same time remarkably fresh, balanced and transparent. Certainly a unique combo of richness, balance and freshness.

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François Millet

The ever so philosophic François has an interesting way of using metaphors to explain each vintage and he describes the vintage like relaxing on a ship’s deck on a Sunny day. He continues, “The Bonnes-Mares is the forest above the big, deep lake of Musigny and the river to that lake is the Amoureuses”.

2015 Chambolle-Musigny – BARREL

Mainly from Les Porlottes (west of the Chambolle village close to the nearby forest), but also contains juice from Chambolle’s premiers crus Les Baudes (bordering the Bonnes-Mares in the east) and Les Fuées (Their plot is the middle bordering the Bonnes-Mares in the south) that have an average age of 45 years.

A bright and fragrant nose. Bright black fruit wrapped in some spices and really fresh, vibrant minerals. Surprisingly elegant, balanced and generous for a village. 91-92p/100

2015 Chambolle-Musigny 1er cru – BARREL

This wine is made exclusively of declassified grapes from young vines (<25 years of age) in grand cru Les Musigny. “The Musigny in short trousers.”.

A slow and fragrant nose. Black fruit, but also pomegranate. Some spices and newly cut ginger. Notes of cinnamon. Really fresh, balanced and packed with vibrant and quite intense minerals. Elegant, rich and just so fresh. 93-94p/100

2015 Chambolle-Musigny 1er cru Amoureuses – BARREL

Mainly planted in 1964, 1974 and 1976. Only 0.56 ha in here. Stoney topsoil on a bed of limestone. They did a second racking just one week prior to our visit.

Beautiful, sensual and fresh floral top notes and vibrant, intense minerals at the base. Fruit leans more to black currant than normal, but also red currant and pomegranate. All wrapped in an abundance of sensual and intense minerals that steers the wine. Newly cut ginger and white pepper. A very sensual, delicate and sappy wine with impressive precision and persistence. 95-96p/100

2015 Chambolle-Musigny grand cru Bonnes-Mares – BARREL

2.7 ha located in the south-east corner of which the oldest were planted in 1945. Stoney and thin top soil mainly in the red soil part of this vineyard with more clay and marls, but very little minerals. François says that this wine is a wild man wine that needs close contact, but he was very careful this time and punched the grapes much more gentle than usual and fewer times than usual to avoid too much extraction and keep the sappiness. He also adds that “everything in here is purple in almost every sense”.

A very deep purple colour. Forest, pine, morning dew, peony? and black-blue fruit. Very, very juicy, creamy and sappy. Some anise seeds and undervegetation. A deep, multilayered, very pure and expressive wine with impressive precision. 96p/100

2015 Chambolle-Musigny grand cru Musigny – BARREL

The domaine owns the massive amount of about 7.5 of 10 ha here of this great grand cru. The oldest vines were planted in 1956, but parts were re-planted in steps 1986-1997. The terroir is not that much different from the Amoureuses, but it always offer more authority and precision. François compares it to the big and deep lake on a great summers day with little wind. 30% new, medium-toasted oak.

Deep red-red purple colour. Aristocratic and elegantly slow, but intense floral with a noble sensuality. The palate is long and balanced with an ample mid-palate of generous, rich and very fresh fruit; mainly pomegranate, but also black currant and raspberries. Also ginger and integrated spices. Super elegant, driven by truly vibrant minerals and with that special precision and depth to die for already. It will be truly exiting to wait for the release of this wine. 97-98p/100

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Frederik and François Millet

Another great Bierzo from Descendientes de J. Palacios

Alvaró Palacios and his sister’s son Ricardo Perez are certainly very skilled and this time we enjoyed another of their Bierzo wines, the villa de Corrullón, is blend of vineyards from 60 – 100 year old vines on steep hills with 97% of the local grape mencìa and the rest green varieties. Hard selection, a long 32 day extraction on the skins is conducted and the juice is raised for 16 months in french barrels. We tasted the very price-worthy 2014 Pétalos here.

2013 Bierzo villa de Corullón, Descendientes de j.palacios

Colour is dense with a dark core and glowingly red purple edges.

A pleasant perfume of freshly cut coriander, subtle spice cumin and notes of clove. Some subtle cola- and popcorn notes from skilfully toasted oak treatment as any such wine from Burgundy.

The palate is forward in a modern way (but no oak is noted), packed with cool, ripe fruit wrapped in really crisp and electric acidity framed in chewy, ripe tannins. In addition, subtle Asian spices. herbs, yellow plum, pears and anise seeds. An impressively balanced and quite rich wine, but not powerful, with precision and pliancy. Approachable already, but probably peaking in about five years. (tasted 2/1-2017)

91+p