Morrell Wine Bar

Archives: December 2014

The Best Wines Come Out for The Holidays

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10872965_10205524312167119_6623565103658264408_oI could not have asked for more this holiday season. I spent my days surrounded by friends, celebrating with the team at Morrell, and let’s not forget, eating like a king and tasting great wine. Christmas Eve was particularly special this year. With each arriving guest came another amazing bottle of wine. The best part is that a number of my top-scoring wines can still be found at retail, and I assure you that I’ll be stocking up. This was truly a holiday to remember.

I started my tastings of the day with the 2004 Dom Ruinart Blanc de Blancs, which was a real “WOW” wine. I kid you not when I tell you that the first thing I did after tasting it–was to buy another bottle. While the 2002 needs another decade, the 2004 is open for business and seductive to the core. This would be a great Champagne for New Year’s Eve or any occasion for that matter.

egblindThe Ruinart was quickly followed with a blind tasting of a gorgeous red wine which baffled us all. It was gorgeous with its dried fruits, spice and exotic citrus tones on the nose, all leading to a youthful and exciting performance on the palate. To find out that this wine was the 1987 Vega-Sicilia Ribera del Duero Único was quite a surprise. What a shame that so few people understand what the Ribera del Duero is truly capable of.

10869806_10205524310247071_8424249987880127353_o2004 Ruinart Champagne Dom Ruinart Blanc de Blancs – The nose was fresh, intense, and utterly Burgundian with crushed flowers, saline minerals, white cherry, stone fruits, and smoke. Wonderfully textured on the palate with mineral-infused stone, peach, sour apple and inner floral tones. The 2004 Dom Ruinart grabs your attention and keeps you coming back to the glass. It’s a Champagne you can spend time with and never grow tired of. (96 Points) (Morrell)

1801198_10205524314207170_1817112788654246745_o1987 Bodegas Vega-Sicilia Ribera del Duero Único – The nose was wonderfully alive with rich dried cherry, sweet spice, dusty potpourri, baker’s chocolate, hints of orange peel, and undergrowth. On the palate, it was tense with silky textures and a mouthwatering bitter twang, as dark fruits with a hint of citrus gave way to savory herbs and beef broth. The finish was long with tart, dark fruit and hints of herbs. It was fresh and youthful yet maturing all the same; what a gorgeous wine. (94 Points) (Morrell)

The next set of wines were paired with German cuisine in my home. Each guest received a heaping plate of Kassler Rippchen, sauerkraut, potato dumpling with pork reduction sauce, braised string beans and creamed spinach. Not to mention a variety of sides and salads. I can’t stress highly enough how well German food pairs with both bold whites and mature red wines. As for the Champagne, what better a pairing than smoked pork?

barocorThe ‘08 Larmandier-Bernier simply floored me; yet another bottle which I must buy more of. So deep and layered, yet so refined. The ’98 Hermanos Peciña Rioja Gran Reserva was incredible and a serious value in wine for today or twenty years down the road. This was a wine of poise, yet there’s so much potential for the future. The ’05 Carlisle Syrah, on the other hand, was a lesson in intensity and balance. Yet another Carlisle to convince me that I should be on this mailing list. Mike Officer of Carlisle is simply knocking these wines out of the park. Imagine the best of Northern Rhone and the best of California together in perfect symmetry. And what is there to say about the ‘89 Paolo Scavino Barolo Bric del Fiasc? Stunning, intense, superior quality, amazing youthfulness–yet drinking beautifully–drop-dead gorgeous! This family has been making world-class Barolo for decades. You may not be able to find the ’89 too easily—but you owe it to yourself to start putting younger vintages away.

10847762_10205524312127118_8002259242991227997_o2008 Larmandier-Bernier Champagne Blanc de Blancs 1er Cru Brut Nature Vertus – The nose was pure and lively with saline minerals and apple up front, followed by fresh brioche and spring floral notes. On the palate, it was smooth with lively bubbles giving way to spiced apple, inner florals and minerals, which lasted through the finish. Expressive, detailed and fun; what more can I ask for? (93 Points) (Morrell)

10830586_10205524312247121_4010351925696472183_o2005 Carlisle Syrah Dry Creek Valley – Intense yet finessed on the nose, showing mushroom, undergrowth and musk up front; yet with time its fruit began to emerge, revealing dark wild berry, savory herbs, pepper and spice. On the palate, it was velvety-smooth with pleasing textures, as ripe blackberry, plum and exotic spice seemed to saturate the senses. It was intense with a hint of heat, yet never tiring with notes of dark chocolate and menthol lasting throughout the finish. This was a perfect synergy of Rhone meets and Cali, and it’s a wine I will look for again. (94 Points)

10896283_10205524313407150_8240641743806848713_o1998 Bodegas Hermanos Peciña Rioja Señorío de P. Peciña Gran Reserva – Utterly classic Rioja, as my first foray to the rim of the glass revealed dark fruit, vanilla and spice, yet quickly blossomed to show dried florals, leather and dark soil. On the palate, it was soft–almost weightless–with red berry, plum, leather, notes of spice and pepper; all kept lively by its brisk acidity. Notes of tobacco, dried fruits and a hit of red licorice lingered on the finish. This was still remarkably young and should continue to gain in both complexity and presence on the palate. (93 Points)

10887098_10205524313567154_7470664746248710775_o1989 Paolo Scavino Barolo Bric dël Fiasc – Dark, rich, elegant, balanced and utterly seductive; the 1989 Paolo Scavino Bric del Fiasc is a dark beauty of incredible depth and intensity. The nose opened to reveal a sweeter side of Nebbiolo with ripe, dark red fruit, spice and tobacco; yet with time in the glass, more detailed notes of dried flowers, soy, undergrowth and menthol emerged. On the palate, it remained youthful and slightly firm, yet set perfectly on its evolutional path. Dried cherry, leather, spice and baker’s chocolate seemed to saturate the senses with a contrast of brisk acidity keeping it lively and fun. This is perfect example of just how classic 1989 Barolo truly is. (96 Points)

There were other wines served in between these giants, but this where it was at. Each of these thrilled me with each visit to the glass. Plus, being surrounded by family and friends made the whole thing that much better. As I mentioned before, some of these can still be found at retail—I’ll be off to grab some myself—and I urge you to do the same.

Happy Holidays! Here’s to 2015 and even better times ahead.

Eric Guido

An Eye-Opening Experience: The Glenlivet

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glassIn the world of wine, I find that searching for the obscure and impossible-to-find bottles often results in much more satisfaction than tasting through large production, easier-to-find wines. I suppose this has affected me in much of what I do, especially with one of my recent explorations in life, Single Malt Scotch. Of course, like most new intrigues in life, I’ve spent a good amount of time listening in on conversations and picking the brains of other Scotch drinkers in an attempt to find the best bottles—the must-try bottles. However, the results had been a mixed bag of satisfactions and disappointments. In reaction to this, I began to withdraw a little and found myself relying on a small number of Scotch producers, which I knew I liked. Oh, what a mistake that was.

Why? For starters, I had skipped the biggest brands of Single Malt Scotch. For you wine lovers out there, imagine if you decided to taste through Bruno Giacosa’s Barbaresco Rabaja Riserva (a top-shelf, highly allocated Italian wine) without ever tasting Produttori del Barbareco’s Rabaja Riserva. In essence, you’d be tasting an amazing $250 bottle before tasting a $50 bottle that’s easily 99% as good. Do the math; is the $250 bottle really worth the price?

Barrel Aging at The Glenlivet Distillery

Barrel Aging at The Glenlivet Distillery

All of this brings me to The Glenlivet. The fact is that, up until recently, I Ignored The Glenlivet because it was so widely recognized as the Scotch of choice. The chances of seeing a bottle of 12-year Glenlivet at your favorite bar are pretty high. In my old way of thinking, this meant that I should skip over it and move on to the more obscure—big mistake. What’s more, with the 12-year being their flagship bottle (and highly enjoyable on its own), when you start to delve into the 15- and 18-year, you find an amazing mix of single malt expressions.

glenlivet12I believe I’ve had something of a revelation. I’m sipping The Glenlivet 12-year, and it speaks to me about satisfying the craving of a larger audience. It’s soft and sultry with all the sexy spice you want, yet without the hard edges you fear. It’s that introduction Scotch—the one that tells you if your exploration into Scotch is a one-night stand or a life long commitment. If you like it, great… If you love it, take the next step.

As I move on to The Glenlivet 15-year Old French Oak Reserve, I find sweet vanilla on the nose as it lulls me into a state of satisfaction, yet there’s something more lurking beneath that nose of pure hedonism. It’s something rich and deep with woodsy, spice notes, a slight bitterness and a kick that reminds you that this is a glass of 15-year-old scotch. It’s in its adolescence and it wants to explore; all it needs from you is a willing invitation.

Glenlivet-7But then The Glenlivet 18-year hits your table. You just graduated, high school is over, and it’s time to play with the big boys. The 18-year takes the sensual, sweet notes of the 12-year and marries it with the wisdom and depth of a life full of experiences. It’s richer, darker, spicier, and sweeter on the nose with citrus notes, tropical fruits, dark chocolate and cherry. It’s a scotch that challenges you by asking “are you ready to taste me?,” and when you take the plunge, it goes down like silk—you can’t quite prepare yourself for an 18-year until the moment you experience that first sip. For me, a well-seasoned, medium rare steak makes for the ultimate companion to such a spirit.

In the end, my closed-minded methods had made me blind to one of the most enjoyable single-malt scotches that I could hope to taste.  I’m eagerly awaiting the day that a dram of The Glenlivet 21-year is placed in front of meas I can only imagine the depths to be found there. The Glenlivet will certainly find a place in my home collection, and I can’t wait to start pouring it for my guests this holiday season.


Article and Tasting Notes by: Eric Guido

Year in Review: My Top Wines of 2014

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ericguidoatwork3It’s that time again. 2014 is coming to a close, and the holidays are in full swing. I’m sorting through recipes for Christmas Eve, Christmas parties and New Year’s bashes. However, before I get too deep into things, I love to look back over the past year and my 500+ tasting notes for my top wines of the year. This isn’t a list that’s built through politicking or overthinking the subject. Instead, these are my favorite wines of the year in four categories: mid-priced gems, top-shelf wines, vintage wines and eye-opening experiences. You may notice that I don’t have a value wine section, but that’s because my article “Give the gift of wine for Christmas” spells out many of the best value wines I’ve had this year.

Barolo BlindLooking over this list, I’m not surprised to see such a large representation of Riesling, as this year my eyes were truly opened to the heights of which they are capable. If you happen to be looking for a vinous New Year’s resolution—I would highly recommend exploring this amazing variety.

Italian wine continues to amaze me for both quality and value. Nowhere else can such world-class wine be had for the relative value Italian wines represent. However, I’m also very happy to see wines from Burgundy (a region I’m only now beginning to truly understand), Austria and California.  I’ve tried to include links wherever possible, but unfortunately, the greatest winemakers of the world don’t always have the best websites.

All kidding aside, there’s something for everyone here. This is truly my “best of the best” list. I would love to put any of these wines in my cellar.

Top Mid-priced Wines

Each of these bottles deliver the goods in spades, and if you compared how good they are against how much they cost, then you’d see that each of them is a serious relative value. This is the sweet spot where I find my most enjoyable drinking, because they perform beautifully but won’t break the bank. Give one of these to your boss for Christmas or New Year’s, and there would be no shame.

3520352010 Montepeloso Eneo Toscana IGT – This showed a dark and inviting nose of medicinal black cherry, blackberry, leather, animal musk, pipe smoke and a savory, buttery earthiness-like rich winter cuisine. On the palate, it was focused, yet plush and with a perfect balance of acidity. Red and black fruits, black licorice and notes of mineral stone saturated the senses and seemed to stick to every corner of the palate. It finished with dry, dark fruit extract penetrating the senses while its structural elements flexed their muscles and tugged at my gums. This was an impressive wine with a beautiful future ahead of it. (95 Points)

3574222009 Zenato Amarone della Valpolicella Classico – The nose was exuberant with medicinal cherry, crushed raspberry, dark chocolate, floral undergrowth and a hint of volatile acidity. On the palate, it was velvety-smooth with intense, bright cherry which remained fresh yet dense, with herbs, black licorice and spice. A slight bitter note lasted into the finish with spiced cherry and dark chocolate. It’s a beautiful wine! (95 Points)

emrich-schonleber2012 Emrich-Schönleber Monzinger Halenberg Riesling Trocken – The bouquet on the Emrich-Schönleber was drop-dead gorgeous, starting with intense wet slate and minerals, then opening up to reveal peach, apricot, smoke and a hint of undergrowth. On the palate, it was rich yet focused with pulsing acidity giving way to green apple, minerals and lime. So youthful and tightly coiled yet wanting to burst from its seams with a tense, structured finish. This wine was stone, fruit, and earth personified. (94 Points) (Morrell)



Proving that It really does all end in Burgundy

Proving that It really does all end in Burgundy

Top-Shelf Wines

Sometimes the occasion calls for the best wines, and the ones listed below are sure to please. These are wines that some may refer to as “collectible.” However, I prefer to call them highly drinkable. These are bottles that will blow away the competition and leave no survivors. They may cost a pretty penny, but they’re worth every red cent.

lodovico2008 Tenuta di Biserno Maremma Toscana Lodovico – The Lodovico was stunning and a true classic in the making. The nose was dark yet elegant, with wild herbs and minerals up front, yet quickly opened in the glass to reveal red berries, dried flowers, charred meat, and the slightest hint of oak. On the palate, it was rich yet youthfully firm, with one of the most enjoyable velvety textures which enveloped the experience from start to finish. Dark red fruits, hints of sage and dark chocolate saturated the senses yet were balanced by lively acidity. The finish seemed to clench the palate with noble tannin, slightly drying the fruit yet providing much pleasure. This was a drop-dead gorgeous wine. (96 Points) (Morrell)

2005 Fourrier Clos St. Jacques clip2005 Domaine Fourrier Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Clos St. Jacques Vieille Vigne -A model of poise and balance, as the nose showed dark red fruits, contrasted by soil tones and moist clay with a lifting hint of mint and herbs. On the palate, it was delicate, supple and finessed with focused red fruits, blackberry, dry spices and earthy soil tones. Remarkably long and fresh on the finish with dried red fruit and herbal hints lingering long. It’s a beautifully-balanced wine in its early maturity yet has decades ahead of it. (96 Points) (Morrell)

Pape Clement Pessac Leognan 2009 (1 of 1) edit2009 Château Pape Clément – Classy and elegant with a gorgeous nose which will make the Bordeaux lover swoon. The 2009 Pape Clement opens up with a balanced and utterly gorgeous nose of ripe, dark red fruits, dusty floral tones, minerals and undergrowth. On the palate, it’s youthful with decades of development in store, yet still shows elegance with a delightful display of dark red fruits, plum, espresso and earth tones. It clenches the palate on the finish, showing off its formidable structure, yet this is a joy to drink. (95 Points) (Morrell)

Top Vintage Wines

If you’re anything like me, then it’s the older vintage wines that truly make cellaring wine worthwhile. Don’t get me wrong; I love young wines, but if I had a choice, I’d grab a 20+ year-old Barolo any day. These are all wines older than ten years that truly made me stop and take notice in 2014.

3489231989 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Cascina Francia – The nose was deep, rooted in the earth with iron and minerals, yet dark and imposing as rich black cherry, licorice and dried roses gave contrast to rock dust and black soil tones. You could sense that as much as this wine was willing to give, there was still so much more being held in reserve. On the palate, balsamic notes gave way to dark fruit and inner floral perfumes, yet the wine’s muscle and girth seemed to be working hard (yet in a futile manner) to try and keep it all concealed. The finish was filled with strawberry, tar and tobacco notes in a long, youthful expression. This is a wine that anyone who considers themselves a fan of Barolo must taste at one point in their lives. (97 Points)

1998 Quintarelli Amarone1998 Giuseppe Quintarelli Amarone della Valpolicella Classico – It is always a treat to taste Quinartelli Amarone. The nose showed dusty dried flowers and powdered cocoa, eucalyptus and preserved cherries with a slightly smoky hint to it, along with spice box and molasses. It was finessed, yet intense on the palate with a smooth consistency and weight, as notes of candied cherry, rum raisin and cardamom coated the senses. The finish stayed for over a minute with notes of cherry, fig and spice. (96 Points)

closdespapesedit2001 Clos des Papes Châteauneuf-du-Pape – The 2001 Clos des Papes was a showstopper with a rich nose which seemed to traverse from sweet to savory with each tilt of the glass. Aromas of rich blackberry and cherry were offset by dark soil, charred meat, brown sugar and garigue. On the palate, it was soft and seductive, yet fortified with balanced acidity, showing flavors of dark fruits, cherry, grilled herbs, fresh-turned earth and with a lingering note of spiced plum and dried flowers on the finish. (95 Points)


Eye-opening to say the least!

Eye-opening to say the least!

Eye-Opening Experiences

This is a new category this year, and I felt it’s a necessary addition. The fact is that I’ve had some truly eye-opening bottles of wine placed in front of me this year. These are the wines that convinced me to dig deeper, and I hope they’ll do the same for you.

3817522010 Selbach-Oster Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Riesling ‘Rotlay’ – The nose was insanely beautiful, showing sweet spices and floral notes, lemon curd, and ripe peach with hints orange and green grass. On the palate, it was all about perfectly balanced intensity. The weight and sweetness of this wine is at first perceptible but then is swept away by a burst of green apple acidity, leaving a slightly oily texture with tropical fruit and citrus notes which seem to last for over a minute throughout the finish. This is a sweet wine, balancing its girth as if on the point of a needle, swinging this way and that–yet never tipping over. Love it. (94 Points)

3889122005 Carlisle Zinfandel Carlisle Vineyard -The nose was intense and constantly evolving with ripe yet fresh fruits, showing stemmed strawberry and cherry, sweet floral tones, exotic spice and minerals. On the palate, it was fresh yet expanded to cover all the senses in spirited ripe cherry, plum and dark chocolate. Juicy, ripe, spiced red fruits lingered on the finish. This wine was incredible and a new experience in Zinfandel for me. (94 Points)

FX Pichler Sauvignon Blanc2010 F.X. Pichler Sauvignon Blanc Grande Réserve – The nose of the Pichler Sauvignon Blanc was all about intensity and form. Ripe peach, lemon curd and sweet cream were offset by notes of wild herbs and hints of forest funk. On the palate, it was weighty with a hint of sweetness, yet balanced perfectly by brisk acidity, showing young peach and herbal notes. The finish was long and rich, showing palate-saturating lemon and lime along with inner floral tones and a mouthwatering quality which seemed to accentuate the entire experience. (94 points) (Morrell)

If you’ve gotten this far, then you are truly committed, and for that I thank you. 2014 was a year of remarkable experiences, for which I consider myself very lucky to have been a part of. As I look forward to 2015, my spirits are high. Happy Holidays to you and Drink Well!

Thank You, Eric Guido

An Epic tasting of 1989 Barolo started my year in 2014.  If you have a reliable source, then you should be buying these beauties.

An Epic tasting of 1989 Barolo started my year in 2014. If you have a reliable source, then you should be buying these beauties.

Article and Tasting Notes by: Eric Guido

Kutch Pinot Noir: Passion in a Bottle

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kutchAfter a number of lackluster vintages, 2012 in the Sonoma Coast gave growers and winemakers exactly what they needed: a perfect growing season. Although yields were generally high, the best producers were well poised to make the right decisions in the vineyard and bring in a harvest of perfectly ripe, quality fruit. As many now know, Pinot Noir is undergoing a Burgundy-inspired renaissance in California. Producers are looking more to wines of finesse and detailed nuances while maintaining silky textures and focused fruit. It’s a good time to be into Pinot Noir.

IMG_8896Jamie Kutch has been described as Pinot-obsessed; just listening to him speak about whole cluster fermentation will convince you that this is a man on a mission. His goal is to create the best expression of terroir-driven Pinot Noir that the Sonoma Coast has to offer–a wine that gives a respectful nod to his love of Burgundy, and one that will make “very old bones,” as he would say. This passion started over ten years ago when he decided to uproot from his life as a NASDAQ trader with Merrill Lynch and move to California to follow his dreams. After a slightly rough start, Kutch Wines embarked on a trajectory that has only escalated vintage after vintage.

Now working in a large warehouse space which has been outfitted into a winery, Jamie slowly ferments his top-shelf single vineyard wines, whole-cluster and in 4-ton wooden vats, handmade in Burgundy. From there they are further aged sur le (on the fine lees) in French oak, half new, before bottling.

The results are fruit-intense Pinot Noirs of amazing muscularity and class. The stem contact works wonders, providing textural complexities and an exotic bouquet.  Elegant and complex, yet poised like a clenched fist, and showing all the natural beauty of their cool-climate origins. These are highly enjoyable today, yet as Jamie Kutch says, capable of making old bones.

I can’t recommend them highly enough. Enjoy!

On To The Notes:

kutch falstaff 20122012 Kutch Pinot Noir Falstaff Vineyard – The nose showed intense tart raspberry, blackberry and spice, with dark floral tones and a hint of licorice. On the palate, it was medium bodied with silky textures and remarkably fresh, showing tart blackberry and blueberry with the slightest hint of brown stems. Wild berry and mineral tones lingered on the finish, along with inner floral notes. (92 points)

kutch McDougall Ranch 20122009 Kutch Pinot Noir McDougall Ranch – The McDougall Ranch presented a finessed and fruity nose with enticing exotic notes, showing ripe red berry, spearmint, tangerine and spice. On the palate, it was silky and rich, yet balanced perfectly with spine-tingling acidity which kept the fruit lively and refreshing. Staying true to form, the finish turned slightly darker with a sweet spice note which lingered long. This a beautiful new world Pinot and really shows the potential of the Sonoma coast. (94 points)

Article and Tasting Notes by: Eric Guido

Just in Time: Champagne 101

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Moët & Chandon Champagne Brut ImpérialIt’s time to have a serious talk about Champagne. For years I avoided this category after being let down by too many lackluster pours at weddings and celebrations.  I honestly didn’t understand the appeal, as my mouth would fill with bubbles (sometimes overwhelmingly so), and the nose would give me nothing more than a whiff of bready minerals.

However, as has often been the case on my road to better understanding wine, it took something of a paradigm shift, provided by a generous friend and a bottle which opened my eyes. And what a world they were opened to. A good Champagne is like no other wine. As a pairing with food, Champagne is one of the most diverse wines you can have on the table. What’s more, Champagne has an instant effect on people, as their eyes light up when a glass is handed to them. It’s also a great way to start a meal, as its palate-cleansing bubbles and acidity provide the perfect canvas for the wine or meal to follow. Yet great Champagne deserves its own spotlight, providing so much character in its bouquet, along with a perfectly soothing journey across the palate, and long, almost haunting flavors on the finish.

champagne tastingThe first thing to realize here is that you don’t need to spend a small fortune to have a similar experience; you just need to realize a few simple facts.

  1. The average Champagne that we are poured at a wedding or party is usually the most affordable option the host could manage. The reality is that most guests don’t pay much attention to the quality, because what’s in the glass means a lot less to them than it does to wine-lovers like us.
  2. Champagne doesn’t perform best in a champagne flute. I know this may come as a surprise to most, but the fact is that the flute was designed to help the development of bubbles—not flavor or bouquet. Try using a white wine glass with a small tulip shape instead, and you’ll find much more satisfaction in the glass.
  3. Most Champagne is served too cold. Any wine will shed its attractive qualities as it chills below 44 degrees. First the body falls out, then the flavors, and before you know it, even the nose.
  4. A Champagne glass shouldn’t be “topped off.” It’s much better to simply pour a new glass once the first is completed because Champagne is an experience from the first sip to the last. It goes through a number of phases in the glass, and each one is as enjoyable as the next. However, if you top it off, you’ve interrupted its natural progression.

Champagne Lineup 2Armed with these easy tips, you’re already on your way to a much more enjoyable experience. Yet there’s one more point to keep in mind, and it’s that there are a number of styles of Champagne, and knowing which you prefer is paramount. Each Champagne house has a style, and it’s usually in their NV champagne offering that you’ll find the best prices and also the most dependable experience from bottle to bottle. This is why Champagne houses blend, sometimes over a hundred lots of still wine before bottling and secondary fermentation. Their goal is to create a wine representative of the house style. What’s more, they understand that the Non-Vintage wine is the one which will communicate the quality of the brand to consumers, as it’s the Champagne that most people will buy.

Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 2004What this means for you is that you can count on reputable brands to regularly deliver a great experience. Below is a quick list of dependable producers and their styles listed from light (finessed, crystalline, and pure) to full (rich, intense with tons of character).

Light-to-Medium; Jacquesson, Billecart-Salmon, Nicholas Feuillatte, and Taittinger

Medium; Charles Heidsieck, Deutz, Jacquart, Moet Chandon, Pol Roger and Salon

Medium-to-Full; Henriot, Ruinart, Veuve Clicquot, Bollinger, Louis Roederer and Krug

Amour de Deutz Chamagne 1999 tree lighting (8 of 5)Beyond this, you have vintage Champagne, which will follow the house style yet is usually aged further and adds the unique qualities of the specific vintage. This is when Champagne can really get fun—but also expensive. These wines are only made in the best vintages. As with any category of wine, you will notice a step up in quality, yet this is the range that I save for my close friends, as it’s a celebration wine of the highest caliber.

It pays to mention that Champagne can also age beautifully in a cold cellar. One of my favorite bottles, the 2002 Dom Ruinart Blanc de Blancs, is many years away from its pinnacle, and I eagerly await the day it emerges from its shell.

Below, you will find a large selection of my favorites from this year. I’ve organized them from Non-Vintage – to Rose – to Vintage bottles. Prices range from $40 – $150+, yet there is something here for everyone.

Ruinart Champagne Blanc de BlancsRuinart Champagne Blanc de Blancs NV – The nose was remarkably fresh with spring florals, stone fruits and a hint of fresh cut grass. On the palate, it was fruity with green apple and a hint of exotic spice, yet refined with soothing. Notes of grapefruit lingered long on the finish along with pretty inner floral notes. (91 points)

Moët & Chandon Champagne Brut Impérial NV – The nose was everything I want from a non-vintage Champagne, as hints of yellow flowers, stone fruit and straw rose up from the glass. Bright and fruity on the palate with piercing acidity, which worked wonders here as the mouth watered, leaving hints of green apple on the senses. (89 points)

Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label Brut NV ChampagneVeuve Clicquot Yellow Label Brut NV – A beautiful nose of unripe peach, apricot, hints of caramel and fresh toast rose up from the glass. On the palate, it showed tart apple with fine bubbles and a lasting note of minerals and spring florals. (90 points)

NV Krug Champagne Brut Grande CuvéeKrug Champagne Brut Grande Cuvée NV – A unique and magnificent Champagne which will thrill your guests is the Krug Grande Cuvee, showing a mélange of orange rind, spice tangerine and minerals on the nose. It was smooth and seamless on the palate with notes of ripe apple, almond and hints of minerals carrying through the finish. This is a bottle that will find its way to my holiday parties for its unique profile and gorgeous feel on the palate. (95 points)

Ruinart Champagne Brut Rosé NV – The nose was highly expressive, showing white cherry and apple with sweet floral tones. On the palate, its bubbles soothed the senses, while tart berry played a sweet and sour act on the tongue. It was staying and firm on the finish with tart apple and citrus rind. A beautiful Champagne Rose. (92 points)

Krug Champagne Rose NV – A beautiful expression with Pinot fruit in front, showing minerals at first with hints of cherry and masses of floral notes. On the palate, it was slightly angular yet smoothed out quickly as its brisk acidity made the mouth water. White cherry, inner floral tones and minerals stayed present throughout, yet it was on the finish where I was truly impressed, as the most beautiful expression of cherry skin seemed to last for well over a minute. (93 points)

Jacquesson (3 of 4)Jacquesson & Fils Champagne Cuvée No. 737 – The nose showed leesy floral tones, roasted almond, saline minerals and a hint of copper penny. On the palate, it showed green apple fruit and minerals with clenched textures, which fleshed out nicely the longer I held it. Long with mineral-laden stone fruits on the finish. (90 points)

2002 Ruinart Champagne Dom Ruinart Blanc de Blancs – The nose was rich with springtime aromas of wild grasses, hay, flower petals and a hint of honey. On the palate, it was a textural synergy of aggressive bubbles turning to smooth, palate-soothing flavors of apple, tart citrus and inner floral tones that last throughout the long finish. With time in the bottle, it gained momentum and became more luxurious on the palate. This was a truly wonderful experience, and I can’t wait to see what it may become with some time in the cellar. (94 points)

2004 Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Champagne Brut Vintage Reserve2004 Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Champagne Brut Vintage Reserve (Gold Label) – The nose was nutty with notes of pear and moist minerals wafting up through its effervescence. It entered the palate tight and firm yet fleshed out quickly as the mouth watered, adding notes of dried apple and minerals which carried on through the finish. (92 points)

2004 Dom Perignon Vintage Champagne2004 Moët & Chandon Champagne Cuvée Dom Pérignon – A spellbinding Champagne from the second it was poured into the glass. The expressive nose showed stone fruits and minerals with a hint of smoke, which seemed to draw me in closer. On the palate, it touched on all the senses, as a wave of smooth bubbles flowed effortlessly and then released rich flavors of ripe pear and tart citrus. The finish was elegant with hints of citrus and roasted nuts. (96 points)

2004 Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Champagne Brut La Grande Dame – The highly expressive nose showed young peach, pastry dough, hints of white cherry and minerals. On the palate, it was rich yet vibrant with stone fruits and mineral laden stone. It slowly faded to a close yet left my mouth watering. It was absolutely stunning. (93 points)

2006 Moët & Chandon Champagne Grand Vintage Brut2006 Moët & Chandon Champagne Grand Vintage Brut – A beautiful wine whose bouquet jumped from the glass with intense fruit, as a mix of apricot and lemon peel were met by floral notes, field grass and a hint of smoke. On the palate, it was rich, smooth, and soothing to the senses with a finale of sour apple and inner floral sweetness. (93 points)

Article and Tasting Notes by; Eric Guido

Riesling From the Rock: Weingut Keller

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20141210_154029 2Truly two of the greatest values in 2013 German Riesling are the Keller Von Der Fels and -RR-, which fall only slightly short of their higher-profile (and much more expensive) siblings from the Rheinhessen. Klaus-Peter Keller is considered a pioneer of dry Riesling, producing what is repeatedly hailed as the top Grosses Gewachs in each vintage. Abtserde, Hubacker and Morstein are proudly emblazoned across Keller’s labels; they are wines of precision, yet they take many years to reveal their charms.

After a summer of diving deep into German Riesling, it was a 2011 Keller Nierstein Riesling trocken which truly moved me. Imagine my dismay when I learned that this wine is not imported. However, this put me on a hunt to better understand the wines of this iconic producer.  

What did I find? Intense, pulsating wines of power and verve, with their razor-like focus on the palate–like a bullet train–which stops suddenly short, only to blossom into an explosion of mineral-tinged fruit. Keller has truly mastered their craft. Unlike most German producers, who still judge quality on a level of ripeness alone, Keller has become a pioneer in the categories of Trocken and Grosses Gewachs, setting their priorities on the vineyard and the gapes. These are serious bottles of wine that stand head and shoulders above the competition.

KirchspielThe Von Der Fels excites the palate with its mineral-tinged, pulsating acidity. It’s dry to the bone and intense with layers of depth. Whereas the -RR- is all about balance. The -RR-, which contains a trace amount of residual sugar (which is completely undetectable), shows so much balance and poise; it’s like a bomb aching to explode. The -RR- is a really special bottle, coming from a tiny parcel of red earth and limestone within the Kirchspiel vineyard.  Both of these are beautiful for their textural intensity and purity of fruit. Honestly, it’s hard to pick a favorite.

When you consider that the price of these wines are half that of Keller’s single-vineyard bottles, the choice becomes clear.

keller RR crop2013 Keller Riesling Von der Fels Rheinhessen – The nose is lively and fresh, showing young peach and red apple complemented by smoke, minerals and a hint of wet slate. It splashes against the palate with a wave of intense tart citrus, yet quickly fleshes out, turning to tangerine, ripe melon, flower petal and minerals. The mouth waters throughout the finish leaving notes of orange peel, spice and gorgeous inner floral tones. (92 points)

2013 Weingut Keller Riesling -RR- – The Keller RR is another incredibly young wine with serious potential and an intensity that’s just looking to explode. The highly expressive nose showed lime and green apple, wet slate, exotic spices with deep floral tones and, with time, hints of earth and undergrowth. Rich yet restrained by its youthful tension, with intense citrus and saline minerals which seemed to saturated the senses. A bitter hint on the finish was quickly washed clean, as this wine’s vibrant acidity forced the mouth to water, showing a lasting note of lemon peel and inner florals. (93 points)

Article and Tasting Notes by: Eric Guido

Give The Gift of Wine for The Holidays

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red glassThe Holidays are here, and who wouldn’t like to get a bottle of great wine as a gift?

For me, it’s pretty easy to pick out a bottle, as I spend my entire year tasting wines, thinking up recipes, cooking for guests and pairing wines with their meals. All of these things provide me with the feedback I need to know what my clients like. What’s more, this year has been full of new experiences for me. My work with Morrell Wine Company has opened my eyes to new regions and wines I had never thought to try, and I’m happy to be sharing many of them with you now.

Champs GiftsWhen the time came to create this list, I wanted to make sure that I could touch on a gift for every kind of wine lover. You can find something here for the beginner, the adventurer, the enthusiast, The Francophile, the hedonist and the collector. I also wanted to focus on value versus relative value. I love bargains on great wines, but I also love wines that drink great but cost less than what I’d expect to pay.

The fact is, wine lovers want wine as gifts, (I know I do) but giving wine as a gift can be a minefield full of letdowns. So I hope to take a lot of the guesswork out of it for you. Each of the wines below are available now, and this list can help you find that great bottle in time for the Holidays.


And so, on to the wines:

The Beginner (Just getting started and brimming with anticipation)

Domaine Costal (2 of 1) editChianti Classico has come a long way, and it’s an easy bridge wine for the beginner because of its name recognition. However, there’s a big difference between the pizza pallor wine of yesteryear and this recommendation. The 2011 Felsina Chianti Classico ($23) is a fantastic wine for the money. This is a Chianti which will thrill the newbie and enthusiast alike.

A great Chablis is a captivating and detailed wine, which is perfect with a variety of foods. However, good Chablis can cost a pretty penny. Imagine how happy I was when I stumbled upon this. The 2013 Domaine Costal Chablis Les Truffières ($33) is a fantastic wine at an unbelievable price. If you told me it cost twice as much, I’d still recommend it.

Franz Hitzberger 2011The Enthusiast (Just can’t get enough and loves the details)

There’s no better way to please the enthusiasts than with a wine steeped in details, and Riesling is a great grape to get lost in. The 2011 Franz Hirtzberger Riesling Smaragd Singerriedel ($89) was one of my highest-scoring wines of the year and an amazing relative value. This Austrian beauty set me off on a hunt to understand this region better.

There’s nothing like reading one of the back labels on a Ridge Zinfandel. This winery has been a favorite of mine for years now, with some of the best Zins coming out of California. Don’t look for over-the-top here; these are about elegance and details. They also do great in the cellar. Show someone what Zinfandel is truly capable of with the 2012 Ridge Vineyards Zinfandel Geyserville ($40).

Vajra_Freisa_Kye_2010The Adventurer (Walking the wild side and often misunderstood)

If obscurity is their thing, then the 2010 G.D. Vajra Langhe Freisa Kyè ($44) will do the trick. This little-known cousin of Nebbiolo makes wild, alpine-styled wines. However, G.D. Vajra has taken it to another level entirely. Not to mention, with the critical acclaim this wine has been receiving, it won’t be long before its tiny production disappears.

If you know someone who loves crisp, acid-driven white wine with a mineral kick, then you must consider the 2011 F.X. Pichler Gruner Veltliner Durnsteiner Liebenberg Smaragd ($65). Gruner Veltliner is gaining in popularity, yet still remains relatively obscure. It’s amazing how good these are and how few people know about them. This is certainly a wine to meditate to as it opens up in the glass.

2006 Moët & Chandon Champagne Grand Vintage BrutVintage Champagne (Because it wouldn’t be the Holidays without a little bubbly)

At $74, this must be one of the best values in vintage Champagne. Next to some pretty stiff competition, the 2006 Moet & Chandon Grand Vintage Brut Champagne ($74) wowed me at a recent tasting.

In many ways, this was the year that I truly fell in love with Champagne, and one of the eye-opening experiences for me was the 2004 Dom Ruinart Blanc de Blancs ($129). In the 2004 vintage, this champagne is to die for. Drink it now for sheer enjoyment, or watch it age for decades in the cellar.

jonata 2010The Hedonist (There’s nothing wrong with liquid pleasure)

When you consider the competition, the 2007 Tommaso Bussola Amarone della Valpolicella TB ($125) is a top-shelf wine at an amazing price. This Amarone is in the league with Quintarelli and Dal Forno yet costs a fraction of the price. Amarone makes for an amazing gift, and is also a prefect wine for celebrations.

This wine may not be for the faint of heart, but it certainly fits the category of liquid pleasure. While I didn’t score it 97 points, like the Wine Advocate, you have to give credit where it’s due. If ripe and racy Syrah is your thing, then the 2010 Jonata La Sangre de Jonata Syrah ($129) will fit the bill.

gconternobarolo2008The Collector (Put them in the cellar; this wine lover is in it for the long haul)

Talk about relative value, and a wine you could cellar for decades. The 2004 La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva 904 Rioja ($52) is the perfect gift for the collector, enthusiast and adventurer alike. Rioja remains a category which doesn’t receive half the respect it deserves, and you benefit from it by not having to pay a premium. These can be opened now with a long decant, or you can put them away for the long haul.

While everyone is looking to 2010 Barolo, I can’t help but look back at 2008. The 2010 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Cascina Francia is selling for almost $250 (in the rare occasions that it pops up), yet the 2008 (another classic vintage) sells for much less. If you are looking for the perfect gift for that collector in your life, this is your wine: 2008 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Cascina Francia ($175).

Pape Clement Pessac Leognan 2009 (1 of 1) editThe Francophile (Some people say it all ends with Burgundy; why not skip ahead?)

It’s very easy to spend a lot of money to please the Burgundy lover, but this one won’t break the bank. Michel Magnien has a portfolio of high-end Grand cru Burgundy, but you don’t need to go to the top for a great experience. The 2011 Michel Magnien Morey St. Denis 1er Cru Les Chaffots ($69) really impressed me recently, as my notes included the statement “utterly gorgeous!”

Great Bordeaux is never cheap, but if you’re willing to do a little homework, you can find some wonderful gems at very good prices. The 2009 Château Pape Clément ($175) is a perfect example. At a recent Cabernet tasting, this was the wine that stopped everyone in their tracks. At $175, this may not be a wine you open often, but for the true collector of Bordeaux, this is a great wine for the money. It’s something I’d love to find under the Christmas tree.

Vietti Castiglione Vietti 2010The Italophile (If their heart is in Italy, then these are sure to impress)

One of the best values in Italian wine right now are the entry-level Barolo of the top producers. You simply can’t go wrong here. The 2010 Vietti Barolo Castiglione ($49) is a classic in the making. All the critics agree, and this wine has my seal of approval as well. If you could only buy one Barolo from the 2010 vintage, this should be it.

I’m certainly not the first person to sing praises about this wine, and I won’t be the last. The 2010 Fontodi Chianti Classico Riserva Vigna Del Sorbo ($89) is one of the up-and-coming stars in Tuscany. While so many Italophiles were looking to Brunello for great Sangiovese, they missed the fact that some of the best that Tuscany had to offer was right in Chianti Classico. This wine has been getting better and better with every vintage, and in 2010, it’s simply stunning. It also happens to be a great relative value.

glassToo afraid to buy wine for your wine lover?

Don’t worry, you’re not alone. I understand that it can be intimidating to buy a bottle of wine for someone who spends most of their free time obsessing over it. However, the perfect gift may be right under your nose. Zalto glasses have gained tremendous popularity over the last couple of years, and I myself have joined its following of devotees. Zalto is one of the most elegant glasses you will ever hold in your hand. Each one seems as light as a feather, yet the real attraction is how perfectly they allow the bouquet of each wine sing true. If you’re really unsure, go for the Zalto Universal Glass ($60). However, if you know your gift recipient well, the Bordeaux ($62), Burgundy ($64) or White wine ($58) glasses may be the best way to go.

Article and Tasting Notes by: Eric Guido

Holiday Spirit with Morrell Wine: The 2014 Tree Lighting Party

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Tree 2  (1 of 1)It’s funny to think that after spending my entire life in New York City, I’ve never attended a Rockefeller Center tree lighting. Tourists come from all around the world to witness events like this. In fact, there were some waiting on line the night before, and just so they could get up close for the best views of the event. This part of town can be almost impossible to traverse from the beginning of December through January 1st, literally to the point that when you work in the area, you avoid leaving the office at all costs. Yet in the end, we do ourselves a disservice by not taking in the Holiday festivities which are taking place right at our doorstep. I’ve been guilty of it my entire life—up until this year.

CEO Jeremy Noye Welcoming guests with a 6L Veuve, 1972 bicentenial bottling

CEO Jeremy Noye Welcoming guests with a 6L Veuve, 1972 bicentenial bottling

Morrell Wine Company’s private tree lighting party was the event which kept me at the epicenter of Holiday activities in NYC this December 3rd. Just one look at the wine list was reassurance enough that I’d made the right choice to attend. The wines consisted of top-aged Bordeaux, Burgundy, and Champagne, along with a who’s who of younger wines from the Southern Rhone to the New World with Italy in-between (the full list can be found below). The food was provided by our own Morrell Wine Bar, who outdid themselves; I’m still dreaming of the brined roast turkey with shaved Brussels sprouts and bacon. All of this from one of the best seats in the house, the storefront of Morrell Wine, which looks out across Rockefeller Center.

Tree Lighting Party 4 (food)The experience was well worth it for those brave souls who trekked through the maze of metal dividers, police and the repeated ID checks. Once we were safely inside the Morrell Wine store, the celebration began, and all worries were left at the door. There was no counting down to the lighting ceremony or even thoughts of what was going on outside. I had heard that Mariah Carey, Idina Menzel and Lady Gaga were there, but I don’t think anyone inside paid it any mind. On this night, it was about reconnecting with old friends, clients, and family over some of the best wine being poured in New York City.

Tree Lighting Party 2 (guests)As the tree was about to be lit, with thousands of people piled up to catch a glimpse of the tree, our party moved outside. Yet it quickly returned to full swing once pictures and videos were taken. Many new relationships were formed, and I’m sure no one will soon forget. It was an evening to remember.

Tree Lighting Party (environs)With the celebration going strong until 11pm, it was hard to taste everything, and getting a complete tasting note was difficult. However, below are some of the notes I was able to take, originally written on a series of paper napkins throughout the evening. Enjoy!

Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey Meursault 1er Cru Genevrieres 20082008 Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey Meursault 1er Cru Genevrieres – Rich yet wonderfully fresh. The nose showed amazing mineral and saline notes with smoky flint, peach skins and crushed seashells. Simply gorgeous and almost meaty in its texture, showing inner floral tones, lemon zest, roasted nut, and minerals. Its brisk acidity quickly refreshed the palate, leaving hints of mineral-tinged citrus notes in its wake. (94 points)

2001 Domaine Perrot-Minot Nuits St. Georges La Richemone Vieilles Vignes – The nose was exuberant and rich, almost pulling you in with dark fruits. Savory herbs, a hint of roasted meat and minerals. Still youthful on the palate with dark red fruit, which was round yet fresh, followed by soil and mineral tones. The finish showed tremendous depth with dried berry, dusty spice, soil and herbs. It just seemed to go on and on with a youthful tug at the senses. (93 points)

Michael Shef of Morrell Wine

Michael Shef of Morrell Wine

2003 Roberto Voerzio Barbera d’Alba Riserva Pozzo dell’Annunziata – Unapologetically modern and ripe yet incredibly enjoyable all the same, the Voerzio Riserva Pozzo dell’Annunziata seemed to leap from the glass with intense floral perfumes, dusty spice, ripe cherry and strawberry, dark chocolate and a grounding note of undergrowth. On the palate, it showed rich textures made lively by zesty acidity with flavors of spiced cherry and savory herbs. The finish was fresh, as Barbera should be, with black cherry lingering long. (93 points)

2009 Domaine Marquis d'Angerville Volnay 1er Cru Champans2009 Domaine Marquis d’Angerville Volnay 1er Cru Champans – At first closed and reluctant on the nose, yet quickly opened up in the glass to reveal fresh red berry fruit and herbs, beautiful floral tones and dusty sweet spice. It seemed the longer this sat in the glass, the richer and darker it turned. On the palate, it showed mineral stone, crushed red berry and spice tones, in a finessed yet silky expression, which was almost haunting in its appeal. The finish was dark with hints of structure tugging at the senses with lingering dried raspberry fruit. Truly stunning. (94 points)

Tree Lighting Party 2 (decanter)2008 Lodovico Antinori Tenuta di Biserno ‘Lodovico’ Toscan – The Lodovico was stunning and a true classic in the making. The nose was dark yet elegant, with wild herbs and minerals up front, yet quickly opened in the glass to reveal red berries, dried flowers, charred meat, and the slightest hint of oak. On the palate, it was rich yet youthfully firm, with one of the most enjoyable velvety textures, which enveloped the experience from start to finish. Dark red fruits, hints of sage and dark chocolate saturated the senses yet were balanced by lively acidity. The finish seemed to clench the palate with noble tannin, slightly drying the fruit yet providing much pleasure. This was a drop-dead gorgeous wine. (96 points)

Tree Lighting Party handoff2009 Kutch McDougall Ranch Pinot Noir Russian River Valley – The McDougall Ranch presented a finessed and fruity nose with enticing exotic notes, showing ripe red berry, spearmint, tangerine and spice. On the palate, it was silky and rich, yet balanced perfectly with spine-tingling acidity which kept the fruit lively and refreshing. Staying true to form, the finish turned slightly darker with a sweet spice note which lingered long. This a beautiful new world Pinot and really shows the potential of the Sonoma coast. Also a great price. (94 points)

Tree Lighting Party (younger reds)2012 Clos des Papes Chateauneuf-du-Pape – The nose was surprisingly open and even fruity with ripe wild berry, plum, mountain herbs, and a hint of new cedar. On the palate, it was fresh and focused with raspberry, blackberry fruit, and the slightest hint of citrus. It turned richer and deeper with time in the glass and finished with dark fruits, licorice and herbs. This is so enjoyable to drink now that it will be hard to keep your hands off. (92 points)

2012 Caymus Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Napa – Large-scaled and rich on the nose with toasty brioche, blackberry, currant and milk chocolate. On the palate, velvety textures ushered in dark fruits, spice, coco, licorice and cherry liquor. The finish was long with saturating black fruits and a linger hint of hard candy. (90 points)

2005 Domaine Perrot-Minot Chambertin Grand Cru Clos De Beze Vieilles VignesThe Wine List:

Deutz Amour De Deutz Blanc De Blancs Champagne 3L 1999
Veuve Clicquot Bicentenaire Brut Champagne 1772/1972 NV 6L NV

Bonneau du Martray Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru 1.5L 2011
Bouchard Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru 1.5L 2011
Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey Meursault 1er Cru Genevrieres 3L 2008

Red Burgundy
Domaine Marquis d’Angerville Volnay 1er Cru Champans 2009
A Lignier Morey St Denis 1er Cru Cuvee Romain Lignier 1.5L 2007
Pousse D’Or Corton 1er Cru Clos du Roi 1.5L 2006
Domaine Perrot-Minot Chambertin Grand Cru Clos De Beze Vieilles Vignes 1.5L 2005
Domaine Perrot-Minot Nuits St. Georges La Richemone Vieilles Vignes 1.5L 2001

Tree Lighting Party (older reds)Bordeaux
Chateau La Fleur-Pétrus 1998
Chateau Latour à Pomerol 1998
Chateau La Mission Haut Brion 1994
La Mission Haut Brion Pessac Leognan 1.5L 2006

Clos des Papes Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2012

Lodovico Antinori Tenuta di Biserno ‘Lodovico’ Toscana 1.5L 2008
Casanova di Neri Brunello di Montalcino Cerretalto 1.5L 2007
Bodegas Emilio Moro Ribera del Duero Malleolus de Valderramiro 2004
Roberto Voerzio Barbera d’Alba Riserva Pozzo dell’Annunziata 1.5L 2003

Caymus (1 of 3)California
Caymus Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Napa 3L 2012
Kutch McDougall Ranch Pinot Noir Russian River Valley 1.5L 2009
Rusty Staub Le Grand Orange 1.5L 1992

Article and Tasting Notes by: Eric Guido

Nebbiolo Beyond Barolo and Barbaresco

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cavallotto7 (1)2010 Barolo is driving me broke! In years past, I’d usually have no less than three cases of Barolo in the cellar by now. Unfortunately, with the average 20% increase on my typical value-buys, and my beloved single vineyard wines up about 50% or more, I’ve been forced to cut back in a big way. So where does this leave the Nebbiolo lover? You could turn to Barbaresco, but even there the prices are starting to creep up. So why don’t we look outside of Barolo and Barbaresco for our Nebbiolo fix…? Do I hear silence? Why, because you once tried an Alto Piedmonte wine that came off as too light, acidic or just plain disinteresting? I think we’ve all been there before, but I am telling you now that it’s time to take a second look at Nebbiolo outside of Barolo, and I’ll tell you why.

There are a few things to consider here.

cavallotto1First, the newfound popularity of Barolo and Barbaresco has a lot to do with a renewed emphasis on cleanliness and quality. For the most part, the days of 50-year-old rotting oak barrels in the cellar are gone. The modernist movement—which has lost nearly all of its steam–did one very good thing for the wines of Barolo and Barbaresco: it showed even the most traditional producers that a better Barolo could be made through well-manicured vineyards and maintained cellars. However, this exact same revolution has taken place in the vineyards and cellars throughout the entire region. So, when you buy a Ghemme or Gattinara, it’s no longer just the Alpine-inspired light and wirery Nebbiolo you may have once encountered.

flipWhich brings me to my next point: global warming. One of the most typical conversations I have come across these days are winemakers talking about the effect of global warming on their vineyards. For the longest time, these conversations were very positive. However, lately, they’ve taken a less optimistic turn. Long ago, the best vineyards in Barolo were designated by where the snow melted first, and much of this had to do with full southern exposures. It was in these locations where Nebbiolo would obtain perfect ripeness for making Barolo. However, this is not always the case anymore. We’ve seen a pretty even mix of warm and cool years over the last decade; and now, when one of those warmer vintages come along, those once-storied, south-facing slopes are now becoming too warm for the Nebbiolo grape. You can see this first hand in the rise in popularity of high-altitude, single-vineyard Barolo like Vajra’s Bricco delle Viole or Burlotto’s Monvigliero. The cooler climate makes for a more classic wine.

169916How this applies to designations like Langhe Nebbiolo, Roero, Gattinara and Ghemme is that the vineyards which were once considered inferior due to how difficult it was to achieve ripeness are now able to achieve perfect ripeness. Langhe Nebbiolo is a great example, as these vines are usually found within the growing areas of Barolo and Barbaresco, yet planted on the slopes with poor exposure.

nebbiolo-1Lastly, it’s simply the science of how markets move. 25 years ago, when Barolo was cheap by today’s standards, the production of Gattinara and Ghemme were snatched up by devoted Nebbiolo enthusiasts. Now, many of these wines are still kicking, and when placed blind into a tasting of vintage Barolo and Barbaresco, they can often fool a lot of tasters. These have always been classic wines with serious aging potential; but as the popularity of Barolo soared, many producers took notice of what the markets were looking for. Today, they have created a marriage of their alpine roots and feminine framework, coupled with an elegance which is in large part due to the points listed above.

In the end, it’s a good time to be exploring Nebbiolo outside of Barolo and Barbaresco. I had a fantastic time tasting through these wines, and have added a number of them to my cellar. The fact is that there are wines here that easily rival some of the best Barolo I’ve tasted. Oh yeah, I may have forgotten to mention the price. These wines range from $19 – $59, and that $59 bottle is worth every penny.

terracedMy first pick doesn’t even come from Piedmont; instead it’s from the Lombardy region where you’ll find the Valtellina. The Valtellina is an amazing wine region all of its own, with a cuisine inspired by its close proximity to Switzerland. These wines come from some of the most steeply-terraced vineyards on earth, where helicopters are often used to move grapes from the vineyard to the winery.  These water-starved, weathered soils produce intense and inspiring examples of Nebbiolo. What amazed me here was the quality-price-ratio of this wine. Nino Negri produces a range of serious Nebbiolo (the 5 Stelle is always one of my top wines year after year), but it’s their Valtellina Superiore which provides an early drinking Nebbiolo that’s so likable, and gulpable, that you may find yourself adding this to your list of house wines.

quadrio20102010 Nino Negri Valtellina Superiore Quadrio – The nose was dark and spicy with black cherry, clove, blueberry skins, undergrowth, and a hint of dry fall leaves. It was silky on the palate with juicy, acid driven textures, giving way to notes of blackberry, cherry, cedar and spice. The floral finish showed tart red fruit complemented by youthful tannin. This can be enjoyed now for its exuberant bouquet and juicy round fruit, yet will hold in the cellar for a number of years. (90 points)

398166I’ve sung the praises of Cavallotto Barolo, and now it’s time to talk about the incredible value of their Langhe Nebbiolo. This is a wine which comes from the same vineyard as their flagship Barolo, yet from the less ideal exposures. From there, it’s treated to an 18-30-day maceration and then moved to large botti for 15-24 months. When you consider the source and ageing, you realize that this is a baby Barolo.

2011 Cavallotto Langhe Nebbiolo – The nose was rich and dark, yet still fresh and layered with dark cherry, rosemary, moist soil, cinnamon and dusty potpourri. The notes of dark, dusty earth added great complexity to the ripe and forward fruit. On the palate, it was like velvet in its weight and texture. Fleshing out across the senses, it showed dark red fruit and licorice with a hefty dose of tart acidity, making the cheeks pucker toward the close. The lasting finish showed dried cherry, cinnamon a hint of molasses and a touch of heat. (91 points)

correggiaroero2008Matteo Correggia has become synonymous with the Roero, being one of the first producers to make a quality wine from this area. The Roero, which is across the Tanaro River from Barolo and Barbaresco, is still a relatively new designation but many believe it may be the next frontier for Nebbiolo.   Although Correggia uses new barrique, it is done in a truly stylish manner which recalls some of the best modern Barolo coming out of Piedmont. What’s more, as much as this wine could age for an easy decade, it can also be enjoyed now with a moderate decant—plus the price is amazing for this level of quality.

2008 Matteo Correggia Roero Riserva Ròche d’Ampsèj – The nose was almost savory, while showing telltale alpine characteristics with tart berry, plum, cracked pepper, cherry tobacco, hints of menthol and mountain herbs. It was surprisingly rich and round on the palate, yet with a dried spice character giving way to cranberry, sweet spice, hints of orange peel and tobacco. Saturating the palate throughout the finish, the fruit seemed to dry and intensify, adding balsamic notes while youthful tannin tugged at the senses. The 2008 Matteo Correggia Roero Riserva Ròche d’Ampsèj was open for two hours before it truly began to sing. This is beautiful and surprisingly juicy and open for the patient taster now, however it should also reward a decade in the cellar. (93 points)

cantalupo2006-3Heading up to the North of Piedmont, at the foot of the Alps, we find two of my favorite categories outside of Barolo and Barbaresco, and that’s Ghemme and Gattinara. Here, the Nebbiolo grapes take on the name “Spanna,” where a small number of producers have been making age-worthy, world-class wines for many decades. The two below are a perfect example, and they contrast each other beautifully. In all honesty, they have both been added to my cellar. In the case of the Cantalupo Ghemme, it’s for the haunting aromatics which seem to be constantly morphing in the glass. It’s a wine built on its bouquet, yet it still paints a perfectly balanced picture for the palate as well. In my opinion, this is the best value of all the wines I’ve listed here.

2006 Antichi Vigneti di Cantalupo Ghemme Anno Primo – The Anno Primo was hard to put down, as it showed a beautiful, expressive bouquet of dried flowers, cherry tobacco, cedar, mint and floral undergrowth. On the palate, it was vibrant and fresh with tart cherry, cranberry, minty herbs, and a hint brown stem. Wonderfully youthful with ripe tannin on the finish, along with notes of dried cherry, plum and spice. This is simply gorgeous, and it’s a wine that will find its way into my cellar. (93 Points)

antoniolosanfrancesco2009Then there’s Antoniolo, a house that has been perfecting single-vineyard Gattinara for decades now. Frankly, this wine stands shoulder-to-shoulder with some of the best Barolo and Barbaresco has to offer, yet the price remains very fair. This is 100% Nebbiolo, put through the same aging regiment as Barolo. It’s a wine that thrills you the first night, wows you on the second, and then makes you ask “how is this possible” on the third. Put it in your cellar and open it ten years down the road for the best results—yet this can be enjoyed now by the patient taster.

2009 Antoniolo Gattinara San Francesco – The nose was rich with dried spices and dark cherry up front. Floral notes, menthol, cedar, dried leaves and tobacco formed in the glass over time. It was velvety yet firm, as it caressed the palate with intense dark, red fruit and balsamic tones made elegant by weighty textures and ripe tannin. There’s a power and potential here which is just begging to be released. Truly satisfying, yet youthful throughout the finish, as the fruit turned to spiced cranberry with tannin clinging to the cheek. A gorgeous wine. (94+ points)

So, after all of this, I would hope that I’ve at least tempted you to delve into the category of Nebbiolo that’s not Barolo or Barbaresco. In the end, tasting for yourself is the best way to know, and any of these offerings will be a great place to start. Take my word for it, you will not be disappointed.

Article and Tasting Notes by: Eric Guido