Tagged with 'Jordan Carrier Everything Wine'

Summer Saga V - The Cult Of White Burgundy

Our Summer Saga continues with some white Burgundies that I’m rather astonishingly able to offer. If you know these houses and how the wine biz works in this province, you’ll know that it’s highly improbable that I got my hands on these in the first place. These are micro-produced, cult labels that inspire mania amongst Burgundy-heads for various reasons – be it an established legend or a rising star on the vanguard of Burgundy production (or both), collectors around the world mud-wrestle each other to get their hands on these proto-unicorns. We begin with the elephant in the room:

Maison Leroy. Yes, I got some, which logically means that there must also be a Santa Claus. Leroy hasn’t shipped to Vancouver in 5 years and we don’t know when we’ll see it next: the Madame herself chooses which cities will be awarded tiny allocations of her small production each year. You may remember Madame Lalou Bize-Leroy as the wizened, ethereal She-Druid from Netflix’s A Year In Burgundy, where she was presented as the ancient, let-us-see-what-wines-we-can-make-with-songs counterpoint to Christophe Perrot-Minot’s clinical, lab-based approach, but I feel that the documentary undersold her killer instincts for quality and business acumen – she is the largest shareholder of DRC (Domaine de la Romanee-Conti, which she co-manages with Aubert de Villaine, more on him below) and Leroy is second only to DRC in quality and price. This is literally some of the most famous Chardonnay on earth.
I have:

Maison Leroy Meursault 2001, 3 bottles available, $1,039.98
Maison Leroy Montagny 2015, 12 bottles available, $229.98
Maison Leroy Bourgogne Blanc 2016, 6 bottles available, $161.98

Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey. The Spielberg of White Burgundy. Pierre-Yves and his wife Caroline (whose own label, also made with Pierre-Yves, is similarly burning up the charts) are the scions of two prominent Burgundy lineages, but when they joined forces just over a decade ago their modern approach to cellar management rocketed them to the top of wine lists around the world. PYCM is not afraid of barrels, but his avoidance of batonnage keeps the textures bright, like lightning in a bottle. He is Stalin in the vineyards and Col. Klink in the cellar, using higher pressure pressing and eschewing fining and filtration. These wines are as hard to get and keep as Leroy, but the prices are a tad kinder. I have:

PYCM Pernand-Vergelesses “Les Belles Filles” 2017, 12 bottles available, $79.98
PYCM Bourgogne Blanc 2017, 12 bottles available, $49.98

Domaine de Villaine. Can a white grape be a black sheep? It’s probably best to ask Aligoté, the floral, silky “Third Grape” of Burgundy that accounts for less than 10% of all white wine production there. Like an orphan in a Dickens novel, Aligoté lives in the cracks, planted only in the lesser areas where Queen Chardonnay deigns not to dwell….except… The appellation where it does get love and respect is Bouzeron, the AOC where Aligoté is not only allowed but required. Aubert de Villaine, the other half of DRC, lives in Bouzeron and grows Aligoté Doré there (rather than the ubiquitous workhorse Aligoté Vert), and it was he who pushed for the creation of the Bouzeron AOC 20 years ago. His Bouzeron is a fleshy, fat, ageable White Beast showing white flowers, stone fruits and a mineral, almost saline finish. Delicious now but Aubert recommends a further 10 years nap.
Domaine de Villaine Bouzeron 2017, 6 bottles available, $77.98

Bouard-Bonnefoy. I know I’ve dropped a lot of Awesome-Bombs already, but I’m truthfully most excited about offering these 6 1er Cru Chassagnes because 1) I know this is a winery that we’ll be talking a LOT about over the next decade, and 2) this as close as we can come to isolating the elusive Terroir Molecule. The house is the marriage of Chassagne-Montrachet scion Carine Bonnefoy and her husband Fabrice Bouard, a former bodyguard of French officials. They press grapes with a hand crank, they cork and label by hand on a table in the back, the grapes are farmed without pesticides or herbicides and fermented with indigenous yeasts. The only way you can tell what century you’re in is by the cellar’s electric light, this is wine from the age of dragons.

And this offering is 6 Chardonnays from the same village, same vintage and same producer, all vinified the same way. The only variable is vineyard location, and the differences are profound. If you ever doubted the importance of place in fine wine, you need to experience these wines next to each other to see how soil composition, altitude and climate – even in incremental shifts – can affect so thoroughly what happens in your glass. I have 6 Premier Crus:

Bouard-Bonnefoy Chassagne-Montachet 1er Cru ‘en Remilly’ 2017, 8 bottles available, $133.98 Uphill with moderate slope, facing south, 280-290 meters altitude with shallow stony clay soil and limestone bedrock. Lots of pear, fresh zest and spice.

Bouard-Bonnefoy Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru ‘La Maltroie’ 2017, 5 bottles available, $133.98 Located in the heart of the village, ‘Maltroie’ offers a perfect snapshot of Chassagne’s savory, delicate character: candied lemons, roasted almonds, herbs.

Bouard-Bonnefoy Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru 'Chevenottes' 2017, 10 bottles available, $133.98 A smooth, fruity Burgundian Chardonnay. The vineyard ‘Chenevottes’ has deeper, more fertile soils, which results in a wine with a more honeyed concentration and silky texture.

Bouard-Bonnefoy Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru 'Macherelles' 2017, 8 bottles available, $133.98 A refined Chassagne, one that combines a lacy delicacy with layered, concentrated flavors. ‘Macherelles’ is a wonderful example of Chassagne white Burgundy, poetic and profound.

Bouard-Bonnefoy Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru ‘Les Vergers’ 2017, 11 bottles available, $133.98 Located near Saint-Aubin and vines are planted on a very stony hillside with an easterly exposure. Aromas of exotic fruits, vanilla and toasted nuts

Bouard-Bonnefoy Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru 'Morgeot Les Petit Clos' 2017, 6 bottles available, $133.98 ‘Petit Clos’ is a small, walled plot within the larger ‘Morgeot’ vineyard, and one of its finer terroirs. An unusual vein of blue clay here gives fruit from 60-year-old Chardonnay vines a plush, savory texture.

The Saga continues next week, until then, Happy Drinking!!

Unsinkable Drinkables

Let’s take a break this week from the Summer Saga of collectibles and do some drinking. If you’re like me you’ve got a collection of Untouchables (wines that won’t be ready for years) or Poundables (cheap wines to divert your thirsty friends and family away from the Untouchables), but very few Drinkables, those premium wines that drink deliciously now, but don’t cost so much that you feel the need to vet the folks you’re drinking with. I can help with this. We begin:

Jean-Marc Burgaud Morgon Côte du Puy 2017, Beaujolais, France. An absolutely ridiculous value from a region already famous for ridiculous value. Cru Beaujolais remains the “smart person’s Burgundy” because the quality, methods and ethics are identical, only the grape variety and prices diverge. The Côte du Puy cru in the village of Morgon, with its granite-laced soils, is known for growing super bold Gamay with firm structure, and Jean-Marc and Christine Burgaud – winemakers since 1989 – basically just crush and bottle it after a short stay in concrete. Farmed by hand and horse without chemicals, one could reasonably expect this brilliant Morgon to smell like a barn, but instead it’s like vaping a corsage, gorgeous jasmine and violets surround plums and crushed strawberries, electrified by currants, orange peel and hints of quinine. The body matches the tannins, both are considerable. This is Patio Tonic, hungry and ready for anything. Pounce. 96+ points James Suckling, 4 cases available, $44.98 +tax

Sartori Marani 2016, Veronese Bianco, Italy. Meet the unofficial White Amarone. The generally exuberant Andrea Sartori speaks in hushed tones when he talks about his grandmother, the Matriarch of the Sartori family and the inspiration for this uniquely bold white wine. 100% Garganega grapes harvested in the Soave DOC, left to dry for a month and a half before crush, then given a half-year’s on-lees aging before a partial oak treatment, Marani – like the woman who inspired it – shows a delicate exterior and a strong, immovable interior. Stone fruits, honey and crushed rocks on the nose, a firm core and a finish that persists well into the next sip. I can’t find any points for this but I don’t care, you should grab some Marani before I drink it all. 3 6-packs left, $39.98 +tax

Alvarez de Toledo Mencia 2015, Bierzo, Spain. I don’t feature it often, so for those readers saying “Bierzo Whatzo?” I offer a brief primer: Bierzo is a dry, mountainous, slate-speckled region just northwest of Portugal that makes firm, bold wines out of Mencia, a medium-structured grape comparable to Cabernet Franc. Many cheap Bierzos can be like smelling dirt whilst chewing bark, but the higher-altitude, old-vine wines like this gem from Alvarez de Toledo (average vine age: 60 years), are lush, generous affairs. Blueberries and blackberries with grilled herbs and gravel, a rather round centre in context, good acidity on the landing, the tannins are formidable but well-balanced – this is modern Bierzo, into making new friends. Great for the steak off your grill or the ensuing conversations. 97+ points Decanter, 3 cases available, $39.98 +tax

Terrunyo Cabernet Sauvignon 2015, Pirque, Maipo, Chile. Calling Terrunyo the “Baby Don Melchor” isn’t really accurate because it’s from a different vineyard at a different altitude (on the bank of the Maipo river), but it is made by the same team (Concha Y Toro) in the same cellars as that Icon of Chile, so it’s maybe a cousin? Whatever the nickname, this is brilliant Cab, grown in the elite Las Terrazas block of their vineyard in the Pirque appellation, brimming with freshly sharpened pencil and cassis, blackberry and leather, followed by cocoa nibs and walnuts on the long finish. This should age classically, but it’s rather scrumptious now, so don’t. 93 points Wine Spectator, 3 6-packs available, $54.98 +tax

Lar de Paula Reserva 2012 Rioja, Spain. A firecracker modern Tempranillo from Rioja Alavesa, the lower altitude, hotter sub-region responsible for many of Rioja’s most innovative wines (it’s also responsible for making wines that drink like Dr. Pepper For Grown Ups, but I would never do that to you, this one is awesome). When the oenologist Meruelo family transplanted from Ribera del Duero to Rioja 40 years ago, their dream was to make wine from ancient vines, and after founding Herdad de Baroja in the 80s, Fernando Meruelo began slowly acquiring old vineyards in the Alavesa, which were cheaper at the time. Destiny led the Meruelos to start Lar de Paula a few years ago, and this Reserva is built from nearly century-old Tempranillo vines, spending 2 years in French and American oak (and the rest in bottle). Tobacco, dark fruits and cedar on the nose, a full, rich palate and hot finish. Unlike many Riojas this doesn’t need food, but it wouldn’t say no… 94+ points James Suckling, 4 6-packs available, $44.99 +tax

I’ll be pouring the Jean-Marc Burgaud, the Sartori Marani, and the Terrunyo this Saturday in the River District Vintage Room at 3pm, should you need a tad more convincing (and if indeed I have some left).

Until next time, Happy Drinking!!

Summer Saga III

Our Summer Saga continues with some new and long-awaited Cabernet Sauvignon/Cabernet Franc-based wines from all over the whole wide world.

CALIFORNIA – NAPA

Dominus 2015. No need to wait, this 2015 is already a legend. The Moueix family (they of the Bordelais unicorn Chateau Petrus) bought into the small Napanook vineyard in Yountville around the same time that the Rothschilds started Opus One, and though Opus has reflected the Mondavi partnership (and the inherent To Kalon vineyard) in its relative lushness, Dominus has become the region’s stately French Embassy, like a Californian portal to the Médoc. Built like the Washington Monument pelted with blackberries, 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Petit Verdot, 5% Cabernet Franc. 2015 is the tallest of the tent poles in Napa’s golden run of 2012-2016, the vintage’s extra midsection making the wine a little more immediately approachable, but the stately thing to do would be to give it a decade’s nap. 100 points Robert Parker, 100 points Jeb Dunnuck, 98 points James Suckling, 2 wooden 6-packs available, $469.99 +tax ** 

Grgich Hills Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2015. Mike Grgich has accomplished many things in his incredibly long and storied life – including a short dishwashing stint in Vancouver on his journey between native Croatia and Napa – but it’s likely that he’ll best be remembered for making the Chardonnay that beat the French in the Paris Tasting of 1976. He started Grgich Hills shortly after leaving Chateau Montelena, and was an early champion of organic, non-interventionist winemaking in California, back in an era where pesticides were considered a vitamin. When I met Mr. Grgich at his winery in 2014 – he was 91 at the time – he offered me some wine in exchange for my wife (I declined). Although Mike is no longer the head winemaker (a job now held by his nephew Ivo Jeramaz), his fingerprints are all over this 2015 Cab, it is as floral and herbaceous as it is fruit-packed, with blackberries and violets taking centre stage. Ever the humanist, Grgich’s wines drink (awesomely) young, they age terrifically (I have a signed 2010 at home) and although most wineries now practice his methods, no one has quite matched his style or spirit. 96 points Decanter, 2 6-packs available, $110.98 +tax

Ashes and Diamonds Grand Vin No. 2 2015. What do you get when you combine the scion of Darioush, the winemaker of Larkmead and the oenologist of Eisele and Altagracia? Not what you think, actually. Whilst one could reasonably expect an incendiary Glycerine-grenade, Ashes and Diamonds is a throwback to the Napa wines of yore, echoing an era when the red wines of the valley could actually make French Judges mistake them for French wines. Built from Cabernet Franc and Merlot grown in their own Oak Knoll vineyard, Grand Vin No. 2 is reserved, complex, and civilized, the fruit is matched by earth, there are wisps of cinnamon and fresh portabella mushroom, spicy anise on the finish – all these flavours are present but not obvious, just like a Saint-Émillon, you have to put some work in. A&D is an unlikely cult-wine given how un-loud it is, but the buzz is booming none the less, very little enters the province because very little is made. Positioning themselves as a kind of Anti-Parker, A&D is not submitted for ratings. 6 bottles available, $154.98 +tax

Frank Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2014. Smells like a Danish and drinks like a hug. Former Disney exec Richard Frank bought the old Tudor-style house on Winston Hill in Rutherford in the early 90s to get away from L.A. from time to time, the fact that there was a vineyard on the property was incidental to him – until he moved in and started fielding calls from dozens of Napa wineries all trying to buy his fruit. Turns out that the estate was part of the original Larkmead winery from the 19th century, and it didn’t take long for Richard to start bottling his own juice under his family label. Frank Cab is a pleasure-forward affair, with candied cherries, rich espresso, vanilla bean and cassis. The thick body is the real story here, overflowing its tannic beltline like a muffin-top after Thanksgiving. Will age a decade but so will you, so drink now and be very happy. 3 6-packs available, $87.98 +tax

DuMol Cabernet Sauvignon 2016. Enjoy a glass of Premium California Unobtanium. Adam Smith’s Uber-Cult winery Du Mol is mostly consumed with producing Sonoma Pinots and Chards that desperate collectors run each other over for in order to assume their allocations. Accordingly, this Napa-grown 2016 Cab - the third bottling he’s ever done – is available only to their wine-club members in the US. Minerality sings lead, here, over lower layers of cocoa powder and violets. The nose suggests a rocky ride but the landing is smooth and creamy. As graceful as their Pinots, as deep as a double-bass, and as forbidden to US consumers as Ketchup Chips. 93 points Wine Spectator, 6 bottles available, $175.98 +tax

CALIFORNIA – PASO ROBLES

Austin Hope Cabernet Sauvignon 2016. I was standing at the back of the classroom during our recent tasting with Austin Hope when we got around to this Cab, and I watched about a dozen guests get up from their seats, one by one, to trade in whatever previous wines they were holding and grab this one. It just tastes so instantly like Yes. Probably the best value I have in a blockbuster Cal Cab, full of Wagnerian bombast and girth, with sweaty ripe blackberries fanning themselves with cinnamon bark. Not sure if this is my last batch for this year, but I fear it may be. 96 points Wine Enthusiast, 6 6-packs available, $69.99 +tax

Viña Robles Cabernet Sauvignon 2016. Can’t keep this one on the shelf. Even though Viña Robles is owned by a couple of Swiss guys, they sell so much wine locally that we pretty much have to beg them to send any to BC (incidentally, Everything Wine has the exclusive on this). Once upon a time Hans Nef was importing Napa wines into Europe, and was tiring of the rising costs when his friend Other-Hans (Hans-Rudolf Michel) turned him onto Paso and the terrific value therein. They partnered up to start Viña Robles and life got busier. Sporting a smidge of Petit Verdot for structure, this bonkers Cab was aged almost 2 years in a mix of French and Hungarian barrels, and shows tasty lil’ blueberries (a Paso hallmark) with chalk and cloves. 95 points – Gold Medal – Best In Show - Los Angeles International Wine Competition, 3 cases available, $49.98

BRITISH COLUMBIA

Blind Creek Collective “Consensus” 2015, Cawston. The new vintage of BC’s boldest Meritage is also its last, making this gorgeous 2015 all the more collectable. The Similkameen’s Blind Creek vineyard, due to a gap in the mountains on the south ridge of the valley, gets an hour more evening sun than nearly any other vineyard in the Similkameen or the Okanagan, making it one of the best sites in BC for ripening Cabernet Sauvignon, blended here with rich Merlot from the same plot. The “Collective” was bought out by original partner Road 13, which was itself purchased my Mission Hill, but the Blind Creek lot wasn’t part of that acquisition, leaving the future unclear for this premier BC terroir. I grabbed the last available boxes of this future lost legend, I encourage you to do the same. 6 6-packs available, $59.98 +tax

ARGENTINA

El Enemigo “Gran Enemigo” Cabernet Franc 2013, Gualtallary, Mendoza. Makes a credible claim to Argentina’s First Growth. I can’t recall the last time I’ve seen a 100 point wine at this price. Ripe, fresh, and structured for the ages, this is the crowning achievement of this boutique wing of the storied Catena family, and beats a new alternative path forward for fine Mendoza wine that doesn’t depend on Malbec. If a Chinon and a Pomerol had a baby, and that baby was born a full-fledged Ninja, you’d have Gran Enemigo. Pulls off that rare trick of wielding the power of an angry Roman God without being overly heavy or backwards – those afraid of the dreaded green Greek Salad aromas (pyrazines) in unripe Cab Francs need not worry, this Ninja is full grown.  100 points Robert Parker, 4 wooden 6-packs available, $141.98 +tax

Until next time, Happy Drinking!

Summer Saga II - Bella Italia

Our Summer Saga continues with must-have wines, today featuring that nebulous term “Italian Wine”.

Saying that you like “Italian Wine” is like saying that you like “plants”: for the statement to mean anything a bit more specificity is required. Italy has been a unified country for less time than Canada has, and although there are several differences between here and Edmonton, at least the buildings are roughly the same shape. Driving between regions in Italy – each with their own autonomous histories - will result in dramatic changes of dialect, architecture, cuisine and, of course, wine. So, let’s throw some darts at a map and explore those differences, starting today with:

SICILY - As brave Wine Explorers from all over the world slowly and cautiously explore the untouched alien planet of Sicily, one indigenous grape variety in particular has been vaulted into the spotlight: Nerello Mascalese. It’s hard not to admire the fierce loyalty that Nerello shows to the volcano that birthed it – it makes brilliantly perfumed, elegant sculptures high up on Mt. Etna, but pretty much bugaboo everywhere else. Somewhat like Pinot Noir on MDMA, the bold wild strawberry and cinnamon notes pull you by the nose into a unicorn rainbow, which you discover is actually the Great Gatsby one the wine hits your tongue. Modern classics from ancient vineyards.

Pietradolce Vigna Barbagali 2014, Etna Rosso. From the 100-year-old Barbagali vines on the northern slopes at 900 metres – these vines give forth grapes like my grandpa gave hugs: rarely and with conditions. The grapes they do produce are intensely concentrated and somewhat resentful, only a nearly 2-year stay in French Barriques (with a light toast) could calm the beast down to get to this wonderful place. Floral notes and electric red fruit with licorice, menthol and vanilla – that’s just the nose – flow into a deep river of awesome – this drinks closer to a Cahors than the usual Pinot comparisons. Finishes with orange zest and a wisp of white heat. 97+ points Robert Parker, 2 wooden 6-packs available, $115.99 +tax

Terre Nere San Lorenzo 2016, Etna Rosso. This was the label that got me into this grape, I remember trying it at a downtown tasting and I’m pretty sure that everyone saw the light bulb turn on above me. Like watching a movie about Burgundy with the colour settings turned to red and the language settings turned to Strawberry. Geologically speaking, the Contrada San Lorenzo (Contrada is the local word for Cru) is one of the rarest terroirs in the world – a window to pre-history, of sorts. Contemporary Etna is a volcano built on the ruins of older volcanoes, one of which was Ellittico, meaning “The Elliptical”.  As the eruptive centre moved away from Ellittico about 15,000 years ago the cone collapsed on itself, and its volcanic soils blended with various other soils, except in two spots. Caldera and San Lorenzo retain pure Ellittico volcanic soils, not found anywhere else on earth. Velvety rich tannins follow an elegant, fruit-rich deployment of flowers, herbs and crushed strawberries. Your bulb with go on too. #9 – Wine Spectator Top 100 of 2018, 95 points Robert Parker, 4 6-packs available, $85.98 +tax

PIEDMONT

Pelissero “The Long Now” 2015, Langhe. An unorthodox blend of 50/50 Nebbiolo/Barbera. Google the philosophical concept “The Long Now” if you want to spend the subsequent 20 minutes staring into space like I did. Only half of the Cascina Tolino vineyard falls within the Barbaresco delineations, which made Giorgio Pelissero very mad, but since shouting didn’t turn those grapes into Barbaresco, he decided to blend them with Barbera under the larger Langhe designation as a kind of protest. The resulting elixir was a hey-your-chocolate-got-in-my-peanut-butter kind of eureka, because this blend has taken off with critics and collectors big time, and it’s my clear favourite out of all his wines. The Barbera fills the holes that the frame-minded Nebbiolo creates, and the mouth-feel is so satisfying that it’s kind of surprising that no one really does this blend much. Blackberry, vanilla and dark cherries on the nose, a surprisingly expanding mid-palate and a rich, persistent finish of balanced tannin and minerals, Long Now is an accidental classic– much more delicious than important. 95 points Vinous, 95 points Decanter, 3 6-packs available, $63.98 +tax

Giuseppe Cortese Rabaja 1998, Barbaresco. A killer find from the Rabaja cru in Barbaresco, where Giuseppe Cortese makes the bulk of his wines from (well, his kids do most of it now). The Cortese winery is a largely traditional affair, the fermentation is accomplished by simply waiting, the various sizes of barrels used on every wine serve more as aging vessels than flavour generators, and the longevity is, well, long. This 21-year-old tonic is straight from the winery’s cellars, and the structure is still pretty much intact, but the nose is teeming with stories – licorice, soft spices, dried cherries, burnt orange peel. A real treat – right place, right time. 12 bottles available, $154.98 +tax

Until next time, Happy Drinking!

Summer Saga I - Bella Toscana

Over the next several weeks I’ll be releasing collections of incredible wines: exciting new discoveries, historical icons, and buzzy exclusives – sometimes all rolled into one! These offers will be comprehensive and well-populated, and as such will read a tad longer, but since life often slows down a bit in summer, a bit of wine reading may be welcome (especially if you’re drinking alongside, clink!). I’ll be offering wines from all over the world at several price points, so there will definitely be something that you want on these pages, read to the end and don’t miss an episode!!

Indeed, this summer will long be remembered for its sheer epic-ness of wine emails. Future troubadours shall sing its story to wide-eyed, disbelieving wine drinkers for decades to come: Lo, ‘tis the Summer Saga of 2019. We begin in Tuscany.

Tenuta Sette Ponti Oreno 2016, Toscana IGT. The now-legendary Supertuscan vintage of 2015 is experiencing a shorter time in the sun than expected, now that the shadow of the as-or-more-legendary 2016 vintage is creeping towards its lawn chair. Trading in its sharpened fangs for a little more girth, Sette Ponti’s flagship Bordeaux blend may be fatter and richer in 2016, but it still needs to hibernate for a bit until it no longer wants to eat you. 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 50% Merlot and 10% Petit Verdot, with dark currents, lavender and licorice on the nose and a platoon of angry Tuscan boars on the palate. Stunning after 5 more years, James Suckling calls Oreno the “Ch. Latour of Tuscany” (it placed #5 on his Italian Top 100 last year), and this is the best version I’ve seen since 2010. 99 points James Suckling, 94 points Vinous, 94 points Robert Parker, 4 wooden 6-packs available, $99.99 +tax

Fontodi Flaccianello della Pieve 2015, Colli Toscana Centrale IGT. The nice folks in Chianti had to invent the Colli Toscana Centrale designation for wines like this because the term Overperforming Chianti made everyone else look bad. Accordingly, Flaccianello is farmed in the famed Conca d’Oro (“Golden Shell”) near Panzano in Chianti Classico, but the yield they take from the vineyard is so low, it runs afoul of Chianti’s rules. Low yield means higher concentration, and Flaccianello is a much thicker sauce than its geographical contemporaries despite being made from Sangiovese just like everyone down the street. Dark cherries rule the fortress with licorice spears and vanilla shields, the mid-palate is abnormally round and the finish is elegant and persistent. If the Manetti family keeps topping themselves like this year after year, everyone’s gonna run out of points. 98 points Robert Parker, 97 points James Suckling, 96 points Wine Spectator, 96 points Decanter, 12 bottles available, $150.98 +tax

Bibi Graetz Testamatta 2015, Toscana IGT. Where to begin with Bibi Graetz? The artist-turned-winemaker still paints his own labels, and in contrast to all those wine-is-made-in-the-vineyard producers, Bibi is more than content to have is brash, unconventional wines reflect his considerable personality (the term “Testa-Matta” – literally “Crazy-Head”, means “Strong Personality”). This 100% Sangiovese, accordingly, drinks like street art – the loudness and brightness that command your attention overshadow the subtle sensibilities that must be looked for to be found. The body is huge, so you may not notice the beautiful, elegant landing on the finish. The dark fruit is intense on the nose, so you may overlook the soft toasted spices that surround it. Bibi staggered his harvest (8 times!!!) to layer his tannins and acids perfectly – indeed, beneath the Steve Vai guitar solo lurks a nearly flawless structure. Picasso had to learn to draw correctly so he could draw wrong. Perhaps the illusion in Crazy-Head is that it’s not so crazy after all. 99 points James Suckling, 2 wooden 6-packs available, $189.98 +tax

Fontodi Vigna del Sorbo 2015, Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG. To call this statuesque Chianti “Fontodi’s traditional answer to its contemporary Flaccianello” overlooks the fact that – despite operating within the DOCG classification - Vigna del Sorbo spends 24 months in new French oak and is a Chianti so modern it’s practically an app. The Sangiovese grapes from the organic Sorbo vineyard (again in the Conca d’Oro) built this castle, an impressive structure with a large mid-palate and a nose of dark cherries baking in the sun on a hot stone. Rosewater and cloves close off the finish – this is a Gran Selezione that you only have to bury for 2 years, not 10. #60 – Wine Spectator Top 100 of 2018, 97 points James Suckling, 96+ points Robert Parker, 95 points Wine Spectator, 12 bottles available, $106.98 +tax

Castell’In Villa 2009/2010, Chianti Classico Riserva. Nothing modern about this operation, headed by the indefatigable Coralia Pignatelli della Leonessa in the hot, hot Castelnuovo Berardenga at the very southern tip of Chianti Classico. Indigenous fermentations in huge, open-top Botti and spending several years in bottle before coming to market – I can imagine them arguing amongst themselves about whether it was “cheating” to use new-fangled technology like pointed sticks. Whilst one could reasonably expect that such an old school method would produce Dirt Chowder, the wine itself is a gosh-darn revelation – gorgeously ripe fruit, bursting with energy and body and minerals – here be hidden treasure. Although the flavours aren’t similar, this wine reminds me of Chateauneuf’s Domaine Pegau in ethic and spirit: the earthen, traditional notes are more than balanced by an overabundance of fruit and happiness. Put this wine on your radar, it is a planet. I have a case each of 2009 (93 Vinous) and 2010 (94 Vinous) and that’s it, folks. Pounce now or forever wish you pounced. $75.98 +tax

Argiano Solengo 2015, Toscana IGT. I blind tasted this as Tignanello because a) it’s more focused and linear than a Cab/Petit Verdot blend usually is, and b) I am not good. Solengo is proof that you can staff your way to victory, the modest Brunello house hired Sebastiano Rosa (Lafite, Sassicaia) as G.M. and Dr. Giacomo Tachis (Sassicaia, Tignanello, Solaia) as Oenologist. Grown in the warmer southern third of the Montalcino region (I can attest to a 3C increase compared to the north side of the mountain), Solengo shoots for Bordeaux by way of Saint-Julien – picked earlier for peak brightness, it wants to make friends with future you, not you. Cassis and dried blackberries jump happily up your nose, followed by a sensation that the sun is shining up at your chin. Incredible energy, here, around a medium-to-full bodied mid-palate, and the finish is smoky, mineral and a tad hot. Fine tannins and a sneaking sense that you’re looking at a great store through the windows but the store’s not quite open yet. 97 points James Suckling, 95 points Robert Parker, 2 6-packs available, $107.98 +tax

Until next time, Happy Drinking!!


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