Thursday, December 22, 2016

A selection of the best wines tasted in 2016: Part II, winery visits

In Part I of this topic, I had promised to complete the series in two posts. I lied. After compiling the data for the second post, I realized that I had to further segment my intended second into two distinct posts, one dealing with winery visits (mostly current releases) and the other with wines tasted "around the way" (older wines). This post covers the winery-visit wines.

Winery visits reported on the blog during the course of 2016 include:
  • Portions of the North Greece wine tour not otherwise reported in 2015
  • Visits to Domaine Skouras in Nemea and the Wines of Athens producers during the Winelovers 4th Anniversary Trip
  • Visit to wineries in Sicily, as facilitated by Brandon Tokash
  • Visit to Piemonte for the launch of Suzanne Hoffman's Labor of Love
  • Visits to port houses and estates in Porto and Douro as part of a DWCC-reverie trip
  • Visits to port houses and estates as part of the recent Winelovers Conference
  • Visit to Umbria as part of an Art in Voyage trip.
The regions, and the selected wines, are presented below.

North Greece 
Ktima Kir Yianni
Ramnista 2011 and 2005 (PDO Naoussa Xinomavro) -- More muted on nose; spicy; more vegetal character but more elegance. The 2005 exhibited some more developmental characteristics to include truffles and kerosene.

Wine Art Estate
The first wine poured was the 2013 Techni Alipias, an 80/20 Sauvignon Blanc-Assyrtiko blend. The wine was aromatic with a grassy nose accompanying grapefruit and tropical aromas. The minerality and mouthfeel reflected the Assyrtiko contribution. Bright acidity with some bitterness and a lengthy finish.

The next wine up was a 2015 Malagousia. This wine exhibited fruity and floral aromas and a slight reductiveness. White flower, white peach, white melon. Uber pleasant.

The 2011 Assyrtiko was tank fermented. Less mineral than Santorini Assyrtikos. As is the case for all the estate's white varieties, the fruit was sourced from the Kali Vrisi vineyard. Citrus and complex tropical fruit suggestive of riper grapes. Citrus rind. The 2014 Assyrtiko was barrel-aged and showed toast notes and grapefruit. The oak (medium toast) was beautifully integrated.

The 2014 Chardonnay spent six months on oak. Sweet vanilla notes and great acidity. A burnt toast flavor is late-arriving. This could be a Chardonnay in the class of Leeuwin Art Series Chardonnay or Capensis were it not for an overt oak presence

Cantine Paolo Cali
Cantine Paolo Cali is located in the Salmé district of Vittorio in the heart of the Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOCG and Vittoria DOC regions. Within the larger estate, 15 ha of organic vineyards are planted on pre-historic marine dunes at elevations of 180 m. Two of plots -- Forfice and Frappato -- are planted on these beach sands.

As the capper to the morning's tastings, Paolo brought out a bottle of 1932 Cerasuolo. As he explained it, this was a family wine that has been stored in a 250 L chestnut vat and is only tapped for special events like holidays, festivals, and family occasions. He was somewhat sheepish in offering it, apologizing ahead of time for any injury that it might cause. He had nothing to apologize about.

The wine was golden in color, providing a visual clue to the presence of oxidative notes (or oxidation). On the nose, an elegant tawny port, figs, dates, walnuts, coffee, dried cocoa, and burnt orange. On the palate smooth, balanced with a surprising amount of acid still present after all these years. Oxidative notes that struck the right tones. Surprisingly different than what I was expecting. Still a lot of life left in this baby. Long, smooth tropical finish. I luxuriated in this wine and rued the fact that we had to leave abruptly -- with most of the bottle still intact -- in order to get to another appointment.

Barone di Villegrande (Milo, Mt Etna)
The 2012 Etna Rosso was unctuous with faded sweet strawberries, red plum, nutmeg, dried herbs, dried bark, and mahogany on the nose. Great weight on the palate along with strawberry, raspberry, and spice notes. Great acidity. Long, dried herb, spicy finish. The tannins and acidity tell of a long life to come.

Barbara Liuzzo preparing to lead us in a tasting
Lineup of the wines tasted
Azienda Frank Cornelissen
After our discussion and tour of the cellar we tasted four of the Cornelissen wines beginning with the Munjebel bianco 2014. This white wine is made from 60% Grecanico Dorato and 40% Carricante. Unlike the majority of Etna producers, Frank does not see Carricante as the best grape for the region's white wines. He feels that it is too acidic. The grapes for this wine are grown on 40+-year-old vines grown in the Calderara soprano and Borriglione vineyards. A total of 4000 bottles of this wine is produced annually. This wine is amber in color, a result of fermentation on the skins. Florality, spice, and a savoriness on the nose. Savoriness flows through to the palate. A textured wine with great acidity and a long finish.

Our next wine tasted was the estate'e entry-level red wine, the Contadino 2014. This wine is made from 85% Nerello Mascalese with contributions from Nerello Cappuccio, Alicante Bouchet, Minella nero, Uva Francesca, and Minella bianco. This 24,000 bottle production is sourced from 50+ year vines grown in the Piccolo, Malpasso, Campo Re, Crasa, Piano Daine, and Porcaria vineyards. This wine is red-fruit dominant but has some blueberry notes. Rich and earthy. Structured.

The Munjebel rosso 2014 is a pure Nerello Mascalese from 60+ year vines grown on the Chiusa Spagnolo, Monte Colla, Porcaria, Barbabecchi, Rampante, Piano Daine, and Crasa vineyards. Red berry fruit and drying tannins. Rich and balanced.

The final wine tasted was the 2014 Munjebel Feudo di Mezzo, in this case an en primeur sample. Savory with a preponderance of black olives. Long, bitter finish.

The tasting included 2011 and 2012 Rovitellos. This is a Nerello Mascalese-Nerello Cappuccio (10%), single-vineyard blend which has been aged for 12 months in barrique and an additional 12 months in bottle. Savory dried-herb note overlaying tobacco, cigar box (more prevalent in the 2011), mahogony, spice and fig. On the palate, raisin, fig, dried and green herbs, spiciness, and an oily finish. Raisiny character more prevalent in 2011 but beautiful fruit character on both wines. The fruit masks some of the complexity of the 2011.

Tasting lineup

The first wine tasted was the Arneis 2015. The grapes for this wine are sourced from vineyards planted in 1967 in Santo Stefano Roero on calcareous clay soils. The training system is guyot and the planting density is between 4500 and 500 vines/ha. The wine is fermented in stainless steel tanks and remains on the lees for 25 days.

Walnut and creamy richness. Lime and lime rind. Minerality. Attention-grabbing acidity. According to Elena this wine should be put aside for a while; maybe 1 year.

The La Crena Barbera d'Asti 2012 is sourced from vines planted in 1932. South-facing vineyard on clayey silt soils and vines trained guyot. Twenty-day fermentation in open-top steel vats and then transferred to barrels for MLF. Aged in barrels and barriques for 16 months. The old vines generally yield structured, powerful wines and this drives the decision to keep the wines in bottle for an additional year before commercial release.

Rich red fruit. Savoriness. Oily. Concentrated. Hint of sweetness. Great acidity. Full round mouthfeel yielding to a long finish.

The Barolo Brunate 2012 is sourced from 43-year-old vines grown on chalky-clay soils in the historic Brunate vineyard in La Morra. The 1.6-ha plot is planted to 4600 vines/ha. Three days of cold maceration is followed by 15 days of fermentation and five days of maceration. MLF in barrels followed by 36 months of aging in large barrels and barriques. Blended and bottled without filtration.

Classic tar and rose notes. Pine. Asphalt. On the palate, rich yet focused. Silky tannins. Fresh, fruity, and elegant.

As was the case for the Brunate vineyard, the Lazzarito vineyard is also blessed with chalky-clay soils. The 1.7 ha Vietti plot is SW facing and the 39-year-old vines are planted 4500 vines/ha. The 2012 Lazzarito had a nose of beautiful, rich red fruit with baking spices, black pepper, and a savoriness. Powerful wine with sweet red fruits dominating the palate.

I have described the Rocche di Castiglione MGA in greater detail elsewhere. The Vietti plot is 1.3 ha in size, is SE-facing and is planted to 4600 plants/ha with 47-year-old vines. A 29-day fermentation-maceration period is followed by MLF and 31 months in barrel.

The 2012 Rocche di Castiglione exhibited red cherries, roses, licorice, and spice on the nose. Power and bright acidity on the palate. Full, round mouthfeel. Lengthy finish.

Paolo Bea
The first wine tasted was the 2011 Arboreus. The Trebbiano Spoletino vines are more than 100 years old and each plant can produce between 40 and 60 kilo of grapes. The vines are in excess of 3 m tall and grow around trees, eventually killing them. The wine spent 22 days on the skins during fermentation. The wine had an orange color and and orange peel on the nose along with a savory, nutty, asparagus character. Spicy and bright on the palate. A lovely wine.

The second wine was the 2009 Sanvalentino Umbria Rosso IGT and is made from second-passage grapes from all vineyards. In 2009 it was a blend of Sangiovese (60%), Sagrantino (30%), and Montepulciano (10%). This wine spent 32 months in oak. On the nose, sweet herbs, baking spices, and a savoriness. On the palate, sweet red fruit and power with biting acidity. Full-bodied. Mouth-coating tannins. Lengthy finish

The 2008 Pipparello Montefalco DOC Rosso Riserva is a blend of Sangiovese (60%), Montepulciano (25%), and Sagrantino (15%). This wine spent 10 months in stainless steel tanks and 33 months in 25 hl slavonian oak barrels. High-toned, focused, concentrated dark fruit with spice. Huge wine on the palate. Concentrated. Savory with tar and mint notes.

The 2008 Rosso de Vèo Umbria Rosso IGT exhibited red fruits, tar, and a little bit of stewed fruit on the nose. On the palate it showed as relatively simple and lacking in concentration. Giampiero was not satisfied with this wine and opened a second bottle. This second bottle was far more expressive on the nose and showed a lot more concentration. Anise, licorice, tar, and black fruits. Balanced.

We next tasted the 2008 Pagliaro. This is the estate's flagship wine, a 100% Sagrantino that was macerated for 38 days after which it spent 10 months in stainless steel and 33 months in large oak barrels. The vines from which the grapes for this wine are sourced are between 35 and 45 years old. Spice, anise, licorice, tar, and jammy sweet fruit on the nose. Dense and fleshy on the palate with expressive tannins.

The final wine tasted was a new entrant onto the market, the 2007 Cerrete Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG. The vines for this wine are planted in a 3-ha vineyard at the highest point of the Sagrantino area. Total production is 4000 bottles. This wine was produced in 2007 for the first time and was not produced in 2008. Grapes from the vineyard that were not used in this wine in 2007 were used in the Rosso de Vèo wine. Sweet, concentrated, dark fruit along with licorice and tar.  Delivers fully on the palate. This is a beautiful wine. I was so impressed that I bought a six-pack on site.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

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