Massanois Imports Annual Tasting 2019

This was my second year attending the Annual Tasting, and I want to extend my thanks to both, the Massanois Imports, all the producers present and the crew of City Winery. These are merely brief notes on some of the wines that I tasted. 

2007 Weingut Max Ferd. Richter Mülheimer Sonnenlay Riesling Spätlese feinherb: This is aging beautifully, not much has changed since last year, a hint of the orange flower note on the nose (some botrytis) the wine was peach, mirabelle and mint. There is a hint of ginger on the long sweet and sour finish Still young but reaching into maturity. Light and bright - a perfect afternoon in a bottle. 

2016 Weingut Max Ferd. Richter Mülheimer Helenenkloster Riesling Eiswein: Stunning wine, ripe, with oranges, mango and ripe apricot. It is ripe, but the sweetness is balanced by a bright, mineral note. While it clearly shows notes of rich tropical fruit, there are lighter, brighter tones still hidden within. Given time, this should blossom into a beauty. 

2015 Karthäuserhof Eitelsbacher Karthäuserhofberg Riesling Großes Gewächs:
This was a wine I was looking forward to, as I am quite fond of the 2015 vintage. It did not disappoint, the wine is thoroughly bright, with a deep mineral streak that speaks to its origins. While lighter than some, the wine shows white peach, pear and apple. I can see this aging into a classic MSR Riesling, and yet this trocken is quite delicious already. 

2010 Karthäuserhof Eitelsbacher Karthäuserhofberg Riesling Auslese: This is a throwback Auslese, with a modern spatlese weight, yet rich with tropical notes and ripe peaches. There is a hint of pineapple and mango toward the back, but the mineral nature of the wine keeps it fresh. Quite impressive! 

2010 Parusso Barolo Bussia:
The 2010s are still quite young, but this Bussia is already showing a floral, rose and violet nose. Elegant mid, light color, with juicy red cherry fruit in the mid. The structure is still quite rustic, powerful tannins, with hints of tar and spice. This will age into an excellent wine. 

2015 Bruna Grimaldi Barolo Bricco Ambrogio: This was an elegant Barolo, floral on the nose, with spice, cherry and purple flowers. The mid is quite tight, though elegant, smooth tannins, and sweet cherry fruit. A beautiful young wine.

2015 Bruna Grimaldi Barolo Badarina:
Unlike the Bricco Ambrogio, this is a richer, darker expression of Nebbiolo, sweet raspberry, dark cherry and savory herbs in the mid palate. The mineral undertones keeps this wine in check, leading to a long and still quite tannic finish.   

2012 Bruna Grimaldi Barolo Badarina Riserva:
A serious, powerful wine from a tough vintage, sweet, ripe cherry fruit, darker toward the back palate, quite tannic, yet polished, with a savory herb on the finish. 

2017 Cascina Gilli Malvasia di Castelnuovo Don Bosco:
Seeing Paolo Vergnano in New York was an unexpected pleasure, having visited Cascina Gilli this past summer. Their Malvasia is an absolute pleasure, a guilty pleasure indeed, fruit salad, cotton candy, with a slight raspberry effervescence. Ripe and sweet, it has an underlying herbal structure and a refreshing citrus note. Delicious! 

2013 Cascina Guido Berta Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza:
This is a powerful wine, with earthy cherry fruit. It is still quite young, but the savory. Chewy mid is already hard to resist. 

2015 Bibbiano Chianti Classico Montornello:
A mineral expression of Sangiovese, bright red fruit, cherry, earthy tones, good power toward the finish. Quite elegant already and clearly with potential.

2015 Bibbiano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Vigna del Capannino: Richer and riper than the Montornello, with darker, deeper fruit. Quite firm, more in need of time, but clearly with aging potential.

2013 Fanti (Tenuta San Filippo) Brunello di Montalcino Vallocchio:
A bright, fresh Brunello, elegant but with a more rustic, chewy mid palate. Great structure here, a wine that need decanting or, preferably, time. 

2015 Fongoli Montefalco Rosso Serpullo:
Juicy, ripe sweet fruit, medium bodied, deep mid, sweet and ripe finish. Quite intriguing! 

2012 Fongoli Sagrantino di Montefalco Fracanton:
This wine has spent six years in anfora, and the result is a fresher, brighter fruit flavor, ripe cherry and blackberry on the nose, powerful fruit in the mid, serious and needing time. 

2017 Anthony Nappa Wines Cabernet Franc Bordo:
An interesting Cab Franc from Long Island, with ripe fruit and bell pepper on the nose, good mid palate, red fruit, juicy and bright. Good long finish, with some herbs and spice. 

2014 Brittan Vineyards Pinot Noir Gestalt Block: Ripe, powerful expression, tannic and rich with blueberry and cherry tones. This is an intriguing expression of Pinot, taking the clarity of cooler climate fruit but with the richness and power that is quite unexpected. 

Willamette Pinot Noir Auction Seminar - A Unique View into the Valley

When I think of Pinot, Willamette Valley comes to mind only a step behind Burgundy. To be fair, I am biased – Oregon was my first trip without my parents as a teenager. I spent a year in school in Oregon as well, at Willamette University, across from the Capitol Building. But there is another basic bias, I have been to Oregon. From the serene beauty of Crater Lake, to the quaint towns of the Oregon coast, and the majesty of the mountains – it is easy to fall in love. The valley itself, nestled between the foggy, dreamy Pacific Coast and the power of the Cascade Range, allows for a cool, dry growing season so well suited to the Pinot Noir grape. 

The history of Oregon Pinot, from the early days of David Lett and Dick Erath in the 1960s, to the 500 wineries of today, was one of community. When asked at the seminar “What does Willamette Valley stand for?” Eugenia Keegan quickly replied: “Quality and Collaboration”. And the latter brings us to the Auction itself, now in its fourth year, it represents the winemakers of the valley coming together to showcase their region. Small lots of 5, 10 and 20 cases by 86 producers will be offered, including six unique lots of Chardonnay, made by previous and current auction chairs, often in collaboration (the 2016 poured at the seminar was made as a collaboration between Bergström and Adelsheim wineries). Scheduled for April 5-6th, it will bring trade professionals to Oregon, allowing them to experience the Valley for themselves. 

We tastes six Pinot Noir wine at the seminar, as well as a lovely and fresh Rosé, from Big Table Farms and an Auction Collaboration Chardonnay. The Pinot Noirs spanned the last six vintages, from 2011 to 2016, and allowed us a peek into the evolution of the wines in the bottle, as well as the specific terroir and winemaking styles represented. I was most taken by the 2013 Soléna Estate Zena Crown Vineyard and the 2012 Penner-Ash Wine Cellars Hyland Vineyard Pinots. Both showed the structure and masculine nature I often see in Oregon Pinot Noirs, with juicy red berry dominating. The Penner-Ash clearly darker, riper, showcasing the rich vintage, with a core of deep plum fruit on the back palate and a rich, spicy finish. It handles the oak beautifully, adding a layer of velvet onto the dusty and brash fruit. The Soléna, on the other hand, is a lighter, more perfumed wine, opening with violets and sour cherry tones, leading to a bright, fresh mid palate of cranberry and tart red cherry. The vintage shows itself here as well, with the beautiful fresh acidity and the higher, more nervous structure. I really loved the raspberry notes on the long finish. 

Of the younger wines, I must mention the 2015 Drouhin Oregon Roserock “Auction Cuvee” Pinot Noir. While still quite primary, it showed a unique dry cherry and dry cranberry on the nose, with a core of black cherry fruit and savory herb on the palate. This is still painfully young, and in need of age, but the sweet cherry finish makes the sacrifice worthwhile. I would love to see this wine after a decade in the cellar. I must also say a few words about the Chardonnay, a grape that, after a slow start, is quickly gaining ground in Oregon. The 2016 “The Pioneer and the Punk” Chardonnay, a joint venture of Josh Bergström and Dave Paige, was a treat. Still youthful, with a hint of vanilla over the bright citrus of the nose, the wine opens to reveal a bright palate of dry pineapple, mango and a touch of tart lemon curd. The mineral notes and the brighter lemon zest are hiding underneath, waiting their turn, but give them a few years and this wine will really begin to sing. 

I would like to thank both Shirley Brooks and Eugenia Keegan for their insightful and education seminar, and to Jarvis Communications for the invitation 

Raw Wine Fair in NYC: a Photo-Essay

Call me a skeptic, a cynic even… but hard to define words are a sign of danger for me. What exactly is “Natural” wine? I understand the term organic - to an extent, for it too has limitations. I get the point of eco-friendly, bio-intensive agriculture. But “Natural” does not come to me, forgive the bad writing, naturally. I can admit it - I too had negative experiences with wines that use the term as a cover. But Natural, Organic and Low-Intervention wine-making, both as a terms and as ideologies, have come a long way; and so have the wines. I was stunned at the quality across the board of this year’s Raw Wine Fair in New York City. Wines exhibiting bright, crisp fruit, deeply aromatic, elegant and speaking of place and time. From the superstars of the movement like Cornelissen, Scholium Project, Radikon, Gravner to the multiple newcomers and risings stars across the globe - there was a clear message sent at the fair: “Raw Wine is not a Fad”.

Founder of Raw Wine: Isabelle Legeron

Listening to Isabelle Legeron, the Founder of Raw Wine, describe the her vision of Natural wine, one thing was clear: it is all about the agriculture. “We can talk about the cellar later,” she said, “90% of the work is in the vineyard.” Her passion was infectious -  “terrior is life in the vineyard”, and I cannot agree more. In a world looking more and more at organic food, organic agriculture, organically farmed grapes for wine are surely as important. I will add, certification itself is not the answer, it is the commitment that matters. Isabelle pointed out that only 7% of the world’s wine grapes are farmed organically and, certification discussion aside, that is shocking. Unlike food, wine is a luxury good, and thus, in my opinion, should set the standard even higher. If I had any doubts about the message of the movement and of Raw Wine, Isabelle blasted every one of them. This isn’t about a specific ideology - it is about a commitment to Nature itself. And that I cannot argue with. 

Radikon Ribolla - bright, complex and textured wine

I have always loved the Ribolla - the depth and texture is incredible

Look for their Grillo and Nero d’Avola wines - juicy and delicious.

Anyone surprised that there was crowd several layers deep here? A master.

I was so excited to finally meet Abe Schoener of Scholium Project in person!

The 1MN Cinsault was stunningly pure, with ripe red fruit and bright acidity

Fleury BN shows a ton of complexity, a must try.

I really enjoyed the deep, rustic citrus and textures in this wine

Pure fun in the glass, ripe exotic fruit and a layer of mineral

A ripe, dry Muskateller? Always a yes from me.

I was impressed by the elegance and light hand of Preisinger wines

Finally meeting Joe in person! The Syrah really impressed me with cool toned fruit and long finish

Unique? That’s just the bottle, the wines are much more than that - don’t miss these

Roberta’s Pizza - a must try!

I want to take the opportunity to thank Isabelle Legeron, Raw Wine, Heritage Radio Network and the producers themselves for this eye-opening experience! I cannot wait to taste more and learn more. 

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