Monday, October 26, 2009

2004 Cims de Porrera Priorat Catalonia Spain

Cims de Porrera

A few years ago, in Avril 2005, I had the privileged (quite a few years in a row) to spend a few days in Spain's most recognized wine regions, but this year more particularly Priorat (also known as Priorato) to visit some of the most exclusive wineries and talented winemakers of Catalonia.

My old boss, Justin (a Spanish wine aficionado) and myself, a wine buyer and wine lover working for a retail store specialized in Spanish wine, were welcome pretty much everywhere with warm welcomes and able to enjoy some private tastings with the winemakers on older and current vintages but also tasting wine at the barrel to evaluate the next vintage, which happened to be the extraordinary 2004 (this year we also went to Rioja and Ribera del Duero to also taste at the Barrel...What a trip and what a promising vintage!).

Our journey thought out the mountainous and rocky steep terraced slopes of Priorat, a little enclave in the mountains located about 130 kilometers south-west of Barcelona, brought us to some of the most well known wineries like: Clos Mogador, Alvaro Palacios, Mas Doix, Vall Llach, Mas d'en Gil, and of course the unmissable Mas Martinet.

Mas Martinet was established by Josep Lluis Pérez, one of the prominent figures of Priorat and more especially, the leading winemaker of one of the five pioneer families who re-discovered the area and its potential in the late 1980s and rapidly elevated the fame of this region by producing world-class wines from very old vines.

Mas Martinet is now even more famous since Sarah Pérez, Josep Lluís daughter, took over the property and handled the vinification and winemaking. She produces gorgeous wines that are generous, full, robust yet elegant, racy and almost feminine in a very balance way with lot of layers and nuances; definitely charming, lingering and age worthy Priorat. A "must" try.

Priorat has evolved over the past 20 years. It is now much more open to the public and experienced a renaissance with hotels, Bed & Breakfast, gites and restaurants mushrooming slowly without impairing the rustic and jolliness aspect of the region and its incredible landscape.

We had dinner at Sarah's restaurant, the "Irreductibles" (like in Asterix & Obelix the famous French comic book series created by Goscinny and Uderzo), a delectable fusion restaurant opened in 2004, mixing traditional Spanish and Catalan specialties with a flair of Asian culture and other influences from other countries.

During the Dinner, Josep Lluís Pérez, an oenology professor and an unconditional searcher, spent a great deal of time explaining his last research about Hydrometry and new irrigation systems in the vineyards. Sarah Pérez couldn't stay and left just after the aperitif but it was a pleasure to have her with us for a little while.

The one who put a smile on our faces for the entire dinner was the jovial Adría Pérez, the son of Josep Lluís and brother of Sarah. He made a big impression when he arrived in his custom made "bolide", a flashing car mixing retro and new features in a stylish way. Unmissable, especially on the small curvy road of Priorat, you know who he is right away.

Adría topping one of his barrels inside one the old concrete tanks at Cims de Porrera.

Adría is now in charge of the old cooperative of Porrera, one of the village in Priorat. In 1992
the Pérez family began managing the local cooperative in Porrera. However, in 1996, Josep Lluís Pérez told the members of this former cooperative that he would buy their entire production at a good price; in exchange he would improve viticultural and vinification practices.

Winemaking seems to be a family's talent going from generation to the next, because Adría is doing a great job. It is quite fascinating to realize that instead of using the old concrete tanks that were available to vinify and age the wine, they have been opened and they are now filled with oak barrels...Yes, you understood well, at least it was like this when I last visited it, the concrete tanks next to each other that used to welcome wines are now open and form somewhat like a long corridor passing through small rooms where now resides multiple oak barrels (in each room) where Adría crafts with passion two wines: Cims de Porrera "Classic" and Solanes, the 2nd wine.

Last produced in 2001, Adría Pérez only produces Cims de Porrera Classic only in the finest years. The wine is made from the oldest Carineña (Carignan) vines, producing very low yield, planted on steep rocky slopes at 400-600 meters of altitude (hence the name "Cims" which means Summits in Spanish) surrounding the village of Porrera, south Catalonia (Spain).

2004 Cims de Porrera Classic Priorat Catalonia Spain
Suggested retail price $88-$95
Imported / Distributed by Folio in NYC

A blend of 90% Carineña (Carignan) and 10% Garnacha (Grenache), the 2004 Cims de Porrera Classic is a long-awaited reward for those who truly appreciate exceptional Priorat wines.

Already attractive in the glass this wine has a deep, intense ruby hue. The nose exposes aromas of back berry, Cassis, dark cherry and oak notes mixed with intense stony minerality, liquorice, almost leather, spice and roasted coffee hints. The concentrated and expanding palate follows with the same type of flavors, adding in complexity by the seconds. The finish is juicy, full of fruit and soft, chewy and present and young yet integrated tannins. A delightful and substantial wine to enjoy with grilled steak, a rack of lamb or a roasted suckling pig (like in the banquet of Asterix's village at the end of each book!).

Thank you Josep Lluis, Sarah and Adría Pérez for the formidable wines that you produce which enhance my lunch or dinner when I drink them, but also thanks for being such an inspiration to other innovative winemakers (in Spain and elsewhere). Last time my colleague Justin did have the chance to ride in Adría's car, how lucky! I hope that Adría will still have his car at my next visit....

Although I didn't talk so much about Sarah's wines, they are a "must" try too. Cims de Porrera and Mas Martinet are my two favorite Priorat wines, with Vall Llach and Clos Mogador. More recently I also came across a small, well crafted and affordable Priorat wine called "La Nita" (the 2005 and 2006 vintage were really good).


LeDom du Vin

Info and pictures partly taken from the importer website at
You can buy the wine at the store at
You can also use to find it if you do not leave in new York

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

2007 Cantine Colosi Sicilia Rosso Giammoro Sicily Italy

2007 Cantine Colosi Rosso Sicilia Giammoro Sicily Italy
Suggested retail price $9-$11
Imported / Distributed bu VIAS imports in NYC

Cantine Colosi is a winery located in the village of Giammoro located west of Messina, on the North eastern shore of Sicily. However, their farm also covers seven hectares in Salina (a small island in the Eolian Archipelago), five of which are already planted with vines, located at Gramignazzi in the Borough of Malfa.

This area is recognized as one of the best in the island both for its exposure and for the physical-chemical nature of the volcanic soil which is particularly suitable for vine cultivation. The establishment of the vineyard, made exceedingly difficult by the morphology of the soil was carried out in terraces by restoring the old dry-stone walls; ‘Guyot’ pruning is carried out by leaving only a few buds to yield because during the hottest months, due to the impossibility of watering, plants undergo really hard times.

Piero Colosi, the winemaker, has perfected the art of producing wines with the local indigenous grape varieties and he has been well known for 2 wines in particular: Rosso made with Nero d’Avola and Primitivo, and Bianco made with Inzolia and Catarratto. For more meditative versions the estate is vested in Zibibbo, the Moscato clone from Pantelleria that has a sweeter, nuttier richness and makes excellent dessert wines. The Malvasia comes from the Salina Island and is an ambrosial delight of floral and mineral aromas with a great freshness.

Made from 100% Nero d’Avola, Colosi Tinto 2007 is a great, rich and generous everyday wine from Sicily. It has a ruby color with an expressive nose, quite intense with complex aromas of plum and dark cherries. Dry, medium bodied and well balanced, the palate is fairly dense and earthy with ripe fruit flavors mixed with hints of spice. The overall profile of the wine is pleasant, friendly and versatile. Pair it with simple pasta dish, beef, roasted or grilled red meats and cheese.


LeDom du Vin

Info taken from the importer website at

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

2007 Domaine Le Pas de l'Escalette "Les Clapas" Rouge Coteaux du Languedoc France

Domaine Le Pas de L’Escalette

Le Pas de l’Escalette is a young Domaine owned by Julien Zernotte & Delphine Rousseau. It is located near Poujols, a little village situated northwest of Montpellier and south of the National Park of the Cévennes (Hérault).

In 2002, while searching for some new Terroir(s) to establish a vineyard, Julien and Delphine passed by Pégairolles-de-L’Escalette, a little “Hameau” (hamlet) nestled in the gentle rolling hills of the “Pas de L’Escalette”, on the emblematic path between the south of the Larzac plateau and the Mediterranean sea. They fall in love with the area and its magical feel, and despite the stony, hot and arid land, they took the challenge of creating a Domaine.

Julien, with his degrees in viticulture and oenology (as well as a track record of producing outstanding wines in the Loire appellation of Menetou-Salon), and his wife Delphine, have built the domaine from small parcels of old-vine Grenache, Carignan, Syrah, and old plantings of Alicante, Aramon, Carignan Blanc, and Terret Bourret.

Their Domaine is growing. They recently bought some vines in the "Vallée de Lauroux" (somewhere west between Pégairolles et Poujols, not too far from the Domaine), planted with 15 years old Grenache Noir, some old Cinsault, two parcels of Syrah, some olive trees and a nice "Mazet" (name for a small country house).

Surrounded by small dry limestone-calcareous stone walls called “Clapas”, the 10 hectares of vineyards are planted in terraces carved into the rocky soil of steep limestone hillsides, located at 350 meters above sea level in the southern foothills of the Larzac plateau. On the calcareous stone heaps of the plateau, they work the soils in the most natural way possible, with Organic leaning towards Biodynamic methods and immense respect for the environment, and more especially for the diverse indigenous wild herbs, flowers and garrigues.

If we divided their entire vineyard in two, half of the parcels are east facing so enjoy the rising sun, the rest face west benefiting from the setting sun. Complementing the ideal exposure of the vines, the stony soils provide complexity and depth, but also contribute to the richly ripe fruit by redistributing the heat of the day during the night, and help to restrain yields, resulting in wonderful concentration of flavors.

The grapes are hand harvested and transported to the winery in small plastic baskets to be more easily hand sorted and destemmed. Fermentation take place in tronconic shaped oak vat (in a truncated cone shape). The wines are then aged partly in oak barrels and partly in bigger oak vats. Unless the vintage requires it, Malolactic fermentation isn't always done to keep the maximum of freshness.

They are just about to finish their new cellar where the 2009 vintage will be the first vintage to be vinified and aged.

Their philosophy: The exposure of the vineyards on terraces, the altitude, the depth of the clay-calcareous soil, the traditional grape varieties used and the temperate climate, represent the perfect factors and conditions to produce great wines.

They produce 5 wines:

  • “Le Grand Pas” is their main wine and the primary reason for this adventure. It is a beautiful, rich and age worthy red wine blending harmoniously the silkiness and richness of the Grenache with the freshness of the Carignan and the finesse of the Syrah.
  • “Ze Rozé” is self explanatory: made from old Syrah and Cinsault, it is a fresh and simple rosé for everyday drinking under the shadow of a fig tree or an oak tree during a picnic, as an aperitif or even with a light summer meal with salad, fish, chicken and cheese.
  • “Les Clapas” Blanc, an unusual blend of two forgotten grape varieties: Carignan Blanc & Terret Bourret (one of Languedoc’s oldest grape varieties, also known as Terrain and Terret Gris), delivering great freshness and complexity due to the age of the vines and their location. Goat cheese is a “must have” with it.
  • “Le Premier Pas” is a “blink of an eye” to the first step of their son, Jules. It is an easy going, friendly and versatile red to drink for any occasion. It is a blend of all the grape varieties from the Domaine, and its vitality makes it the perfect everyday wine.

And of course, our wine of today: “Les Clapas” Rouge

2007 Domaine le Pas de L’escalette “Les Clapas” Rouge
Coteaux du Languedoc France

Suggested retail price $20-$24
Importer / Distributor Sussex wine Merchants / Petit Pois

In short for the vinification process: the hand harvested grapes were totally de-stemmed and de-stalked. Then macerated in vats for 30 days. The alcoholic fermentation occured in 50 hl oak casks with natural yeasts. Regular draining and circulation of lees. Malolactic fermentation occurred in wood and the wine was then aged for ten months half in oak vats and half in oak conical casks.

The old Carignan vines (in Gobelet training system: meaning roughly untouched and unpruned, it looks like a a small round vine bush just a few inches of the ground cover with small stones) are the soul of this wine, they bring the earthiness and the freshness. The opulence and richness come from the Grenache. The old Cinsault and the Syrah respectively bring the aromas of flowers and wild red and dark berry fruit. Overall, the Meridional profile of this wine accentuates the characteristics of these Languedoc grape varieties.

A blend of 35% Grenache, 35% Carignan, 20% Syrah and 10% Cinsault, the resulting wine is quite amazingly attractive: balanced, focus, earthy, medium bodied yet complex, dense without being heavy and well structured by present yet integrated tannins. The robe is dark ruby red yet of medium intensity. The nose is quite expressive, clean and floral with bright red and dark berry aromas intermingled with earth, mineral and spice. The palate follows the same path with the same type of flavors in a complex, expanding, bright, vibrant and focus way, leading toward the lingering finish. Still a bit young with great ageing potential, we didn't decant it but opened it at least 30-45 minutes before drinking it. What a lovely wine!

As I always say when I buy a wine: “A good wine always calls for another glass!”, well this wine has my approbation to be on the shelf of the store. No problem. I instantly loved it when I first tried it. Last Sunday, I brought it for the Lunch at a friend’s place and it showed beautifully. We enjoyed it with “Carré d’Agneau à la Provençale et Purée de Pomme de Terre a l’Ancienne” (baked Rack of Lamb with onion, shallots and herbs in olive oil and served with traditional buttered mashed potatoes). It was a great combination of flavors.


LeDom du Vin

Pictures taken from and Info mostly translated from the winery website at , where you will also find great pictures of Pas de L’Escalette hills, vineyards and surroundings.

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Monday, October 19, 2009

1991 Domaine Billard-Gonnet Pommard 1er cru “Les Bertins”

We only have 1 bottle in stock of the 1991 Domaine Billard-Gonnet Pommard 1er cru “Les Bertins” at $49.99 and I’m hesitating between trying to sell it or just open it to taste it.

Established in 1766, the Domaine Billard-Gonnet has been passed down through the generations from father to son. Over the last centuries, the domaine slowly acquired portions of vineyards. Thus, in addition to the Pommard village appellation wine that they produce, Domaine Billard-Gonnet also crafts wines from patch of vines planted respectively in 8 of the 28 most recognized "climats" (name locally attributed to a delimited area like a parcel or a vineyard) classified as Premier Crus of Pommard (listed below).

  • Pommard
  • Pommard 1er Cru "Les Rugiens" (one of the most well-known 1er Cru)
  • Pommard 1er Cru "Les Bertins"
  • Pommard 1er Cru "Les Poutures"
  • Pommard 1er Cru "Les Champonnieres"
  • Pommard 1er Cru "Clos de Verger"
  • Pommard 1er Cru "Les Pezerolles"
  • Pommard 1er Cru "Les Jarollieres"
  • Pommard 1er Cru "Les Charmots"
Unfortunately, nothing in 1er Cru "Les Epenots" which is also one of the best "climats" of Pommard and consequently happen to be one of my favorite.

Although, the main grape variety used for the wine production in Pommard is evidently Pinot Noir 9like in the rest of Burgundy for all red wines), Pinot Gris (also called Pinot Beurot) and Pinot Liébault are also used in tiny quantity in the non 1er Cru and generic wines. The AOC Pommard only produces red wines, no whites at all.

The quality of the soil in the diverse vineyards and the age of the vines only allow for very low yielding and limited production yet insure concentration, complexity and depth. Vinification and ageing process are done in the most traditional way. The grapes are carefully hand selected and fermented in temperature controlled open oak vats. Once the fermentation is done, the wine is put into small oak barrels for 18 months (or longer if necessary).

Although, I didn’t try it, I can’t imagine this wine to be alive anymore. Surely it will be an interesting experience to open it and demonstrate if this wine has survive (for so long), especially when 1991 vintage wasn't as good as some of the previous vintage.

On release, the 1991s red Burgundy possessed fine fruit, medium-bodied profile, bright acidity, firm tannins, and a slight "resinous" streak through the middle that made them fairly unenjoyable to pull corks on over their first couple of years of life. Their austere and somewhat rustic attitude evolved after about 3-4 years in the bottle. Although they never reached the richness and length of the 1990 vintage, once the tannins were a bit more integrated, the fruit came back to life and the same unfriendly 91s were suddenly opening up and drinking beautifully about a decade after bottling, with the secondary and tertiary aromas of maturing Burgundy beginning to emanate from the glass. 1991 red Burgundy wines were considerated as “sleepers” coming right after the 1990 vintage, but I'm not so sure if this particular wine from Billard-Gonnet was one of them or not.

It has been kept in the temperature controlled room at “Heights Chateau” for at least the last 5 years or more. Collectors and amateurs may find an interest to buy it and try it; or if we can sell it, we may end up open it and drink amongst us at the store.

I’m open to any comments on this particular wine, if you could help me find out how does it taste.


LeDom du Vin,

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2004 Betts & Scholl Hermitage Rouge Northern Rhône France

2004 Betts & Scholl Hermitage Rouge Northern Rhône France
Suggested retail price $72-$78
Importer / Distributor Polaner Selections in NYC

Betts & Scholl is a partnership between Master Sommelier Richard Betts and Dennis Scholl. Together, they have forged relationships with star growers and winemakers around the world to produce wines that they like to drink. With a preference for elegant, complex, balanced wines with great perfume and finesse, and more especially characteristic to their terroir of origin. Their first releases from Australia’s Barossa Valley have focused on Grenache, with subsequent wines made from Riesling and have just released new projects from California and the Northern Rhone focused on Syrah.

This beautiful expression of Hermitage comes from one of the most special spots on earth, and has been realized this through working with one of the region's most notable and celebrated wine producing families. The contemporary artwork on our label was created by Mark Grotjahn, an internationally renowned artist who lives and works in Los Angeles, California.

The 2004 Betts & Scholl Hermitage rouge is a blend of 95% Syrah blended with a touch Roussanne and Marsanne. The robe is bright ruby red, of medium intensity, with garnet reflects.
The nose is quite intense and attractive with freshly crushed wild red and dark berry, stone minerality, floral notes and spice. The palate is rich and dense yet of medium intensity, somewhat elegant and earthy, offering plenty of red fruit flavors intermingled with earthy, floral and spicy notes. The lingering finish is evidently calling for another glass of this well crafted Syrah based wine. overall, the acidity and the mineral keep it in focus and the tannins framing the mid-palate and the finish remind us how age worthy some of this Northern Rhône wine can be. to drink now after decanting or to keep for another few years.


LeDom du Vin,

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2001 Batasiolo Barolo Vigneto Corda della Briccolina Piedmont Italy

2001 Batasiolo Barolo Vigneto Corda della Briccolina Piedmont Italy
Suggested retail price $95-$105
Importer / Distributor Boisset Family Estates

This wine is produced in limited quantities from a single vineyard of 4 acre called “Corda della Briccolina” planted in the village of Serralunga d’Alba, Piedmont. It was aged in small French oak barrels, making it the only Barolo Cru of Batasiolo aged in French oak. The steep south-facing terrain and a soil rich in limestone and calcium carbonate makes this area highly suited for producing well-structured, full-bodied and decidedly long lasting wines with intense color and persistence.

Although Batasiolo is, in my opinion, a slightly more modern style than some of the cult traditionalist out there, the resulting wine is quite exceptional with generous fruit. Moreover, the fantastic 2001 vintage makes it even more complex.

Made from 100% Nebbiolo in its subvarieties (clones like Michet and Lampia), the Corda Briccolina 2001 Barolo has an intense garnet red color of medium to good intensity. The nose exposes notes of ripe dark fruit, spice, cinnamon and earth intermingled with oak hints. The palate is rich, dense and well balanced yet young with dry tannins that needs a bit of time. The finish is lingering quite nicely with persistent fruit flavors, touch of oak and spice notes. Quite lovely. A keeper.


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2001 Batasiolo Barolo Cerequio Piedmont Italy

2001 Batasiolo Barolo Cerequio Piedmont Italy

Suggested retail price $80-$90
Importer / Distributor Boisset Family Estates

This excellent 2001 Barolo comes from a single-vineyard called “Cerequio” planted in La Morra, a little village next to Barolo, with an excellent ageing capacity. It is considered one of the most historical vineyards for the production of Barolo wine, which has also being called “The Petrus” of Piedmont. The wine was aged for 2 years in big Slovenian oak barrels and remained for a further 8-10 months in the bottle before release as a refinement period.

The resulting wine is superb, with an intense red garnet color. The nose exposes ethereal, rose petal and spice aromas with hints of tobacco, mint and chocolate. The palate is balanced, rich and elegant with rich plum flavors and a long silky finish. Pair it with roasted meat and aged cheeses.


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For more info visit the importer website at

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2004 Arzuaga Reserva Ribeira del Duero Spain

2004 Arzuaga Reserva Ribeira del Duero Spain
Suggested retail price $52-$58
Importer / Distributor Noble House Wines

Founded in 1980 by Don Florentino Arzuaga when he acquired a piece of land in the heart of Ribera del Duero in a town called Quintanilla de Onesimo. The property is now known as “Finca La Planta”. It has a farm with deers and other wild animals. And the gargantuan building encompasses an hotel, a spa and the winery itself surrounded by vineyards.

From 1982 to 1985 the first vines were planted, and in 1993 the first bottlings were marketed internationally under the Arzuaga label. In 1995, winemaker Juan Carlos Martínez tookover at Arzuaga after woking closely with winemaking legend Mariano García. Arzuaga produces five wines from 150 hectares of their own vineyards, consisting primarily of the varietals Tempranillo (Tinto Fino), Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot.

Owned by the Arzuaga Navarro, Azienda Arzuagua is a traditionalist, Terroir oriented and organically farmed winery neighboring Vega Sicilia and producing earthy, intense and aged worthy Ribera del Duero. Ignacio Arzuaga, the current director, is a great guy that met many times in New York and a few times at the winery. His wines are like him: big, earthy and generous with nuances and depth and a good sense of humor. The wines are made by a skilled and passionate young winemaker named Pascal Oscar Navarro. The 2004 Reserva is surely one of their most accomplished wines of this decade.

The resulting wine is deep dark red in color, smooth and complex on the nose offering both dark and red cherry aromas as well as a woodiness. It is rich on the palate with present yet integrated tannins and still retains its fresh pure fruit characteristics complementing its rich, dense and earthy palate. Still very young and promising, keep it for a little while or decant to better appreciate it.


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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

2008 Bodega Bernabeleva "Camino de Navaherreros" San Martin de Valdeglesias Vinos de Madrid DO Spain

Bernabeleva "Camino de Navaherreros"

A few days ago, we received a wine that I didn't know and that I special ordered for a customer. Due to the fact that I pride myself as a professional and skilled wine buyer who know and tasted most of the wines in the store and beyond, I had to taste this wine.

You see, tasting every wine that I buy for the store is important for me, but more especially for my customers. Moreover, I need to admit that I do have tremendous difficulties to sell a wine that I never tasted, because of lack of knowledge, passion and conviction.

I can talk about the region, the grape(s), the vintage and give an approximate profile of how it should or will roughly taste, but I can't lie or invent something about a wine. Anyway, I'm a really bad liar and people will immediately realize that I'm full of it if I was lying to them (for anything). Thus, I rather not lie and taste the wine, which is much more fun and enjoyable and will allow me to be truthful about the wine (and suggest the right wines to my customers in the end).

Moreover, it is important for the reputation of the store, but also for the consistency and the quality of the wines that we carefully and meticulously selected then bought to feature on the shelves. Customers rely on us to do a good job and we do not want to disappoint them.

So, I brought this little Garnacha based Spanish wine at home to taste it with my wife and was pleasantly surprised.

Bodega Bernabeleva San Martín de Valdeglesias
Vinos de Madrid DO Spain

First, I need to say, the label is quite attractive: kind of pale, pastel turquoise-green-blue, modern style, simple and sober yet well designed and eye-catching.

Bodega Bernabeleva is located in San Martín de Valdeiglesias, a little village lying about 72 kilometers (45 miles) west of Madrid, part of the "Vinos de Madrid" DO (Denominación de Origen).

As one drives west from the capital city, the terrain quickly becomes rugged and mountainous, the air cooler, and one begins to see signs of an earlier era: houses and estates with older architecture in scarce remote villages, sculpted stones and rustic landscape where vines seem to be the only aspect of nature that has been tamed by men.

Bodega Bernavelda's story started here, on the eastern edge of Spain’s Sierra de Gredos mountains, when a renowned Madrid doctor named Vincente Alvarez-Villamil purchased a piece of land in 1923.

The site, which at that time was a full day’s travel from Madrid, spoke of its Celtic past, with ancient bears carved from boulders to mark forests dedicated to the hunt goddess. Hence the reason why Vicente named the estate "Bernabeleva" which means "the bear's forest". The logo representing a celtic woman carrying a glass on a bear's back was probably inspired by the ancient history of the area but also somewhat by the following picture of Vicente's daughter, Luisa, sitting atop of a stone carved bear.

Despite its ancient history, Vicente believed that the land had great Terroir and was a special place to plant the noble Garnacha grape (Grenache), a place whose wines might exhibit profound character and exciting varietal character. Eager to exploit the potential of his land, he started to plant some Garnacha vines in 1926, but his dream was stop 10 years later with the Spanish civil war which devastated the country in 1936. He held on strong on his land and the vines for the next opportunity to fulfill his dream.

The opportunity finally arrived in 2006 when two of Vincente’s great-grandchildren, Juan Diez Bulnes and Santiago Matallana Bulnes, vowed to fulfill their ancestor’s dream. The estate’s vineyards were now 80-years-old, and there were other Garnacha vineyards to purchase from neighboring properties as well. Rejecting current fashions in Spanish wine which favored heavily extracted fruit flavors and new oak barrels ageing, the cousins resolved to make wines of purity and expressiveness that were in harmony with the beauty of their ancestral land.

Juan and Santiago’s ambitions were well supported by the terroir. The vineyards are more than a half mile above sea level, with warm days but cool nights, and vines planted on poor, sandy soils. The resulting wines have ample ripeness, but also astounding bouyancy and freshness.

The cousins wanted, above all, to protect the unique personality of their estate, and they hired consultant Raúl Pérez, a master of cool-climate winemaking, to help them develop the project.

Just as important, they hired as full-time manager a young Catalan named Marc Isart Pinos. Marc’s devotion to demanding viticulture and to non-interventionist winemaking have served the cousins’ vision well.

Their regime emphasizes long fermentations, and minimal handling. Wines are aged in barrels of different sizes, but very little new wood is used so as not to mask the glorious aromatics.

2008 Bodega Bernabeleva "Camino de Navaherreros" San Martín de Valdeglesias
Vinos de Madrid DO Spain
Suggested retail price $11-$15
Imported by The Rare Wine Co. in CA and distributed by ....

First, I need to say, the label is quite attractive and easy to spot on the shelf: kind of pale, pastel turquoise-green-blue, modern style, simple and sober yet well designed and eye-catching, with great texture and a distinctive logo (Bravo! to the person that came out with such an ingenious label, Marketing-wise, it is a fine example of simplicity and efficiency).

Camino de Navaherreros is one of 5 Garnacha based wines that they produce at Bodega Bernabeleva. It was fermented and raised in large neutral wood to avoid influencing and parting the varietal character and the Terroir oriented profile. The resulting wine is quite intense, explosive and fresh, especially for a wine with 15% of alcohol.

In the glass, it has a clear, light and bright ruby color of medium to light intensity (definitely lighter and less dark than a lot of Garnacha that I've been tasting lately). The nose is fresh, clean and quite expressive with bright red and dark cherry with mineral, touch of spices and earth combined with floral notes. The clean, fresh palate is definitely brighter and higher in acidity than any Garnacha I've tasted lately (I know I'm repeating myself, but It was such a nice surprise). I usually love the intense, riper fruit and almost milk chocolate-like attitude of certain Garnacha, but I need to admit that "Camino de Navaherreros" is an intriguing and inviting, much more versatile Garnacha. The mid-palate expresses the difference in temperature between the hot days and the cool nights, combining nicely ripe red fruit with high acidity, mineral and spices in a juicy way. The lingering finish is quite smooth and crisp with present yet fairly integrated tannins.

The overall profile of the 2008 Bernabeleva "Camino de Navaherreros" Old Vines Garnacha is nice, juicy, light to medium bodied, quite smooth yet racy, much more traditional and authentic of this uniqueTerroir, and far from other Garnacha from Navarra, Priorat and Montsant that are usually (in many cases) overly extracted and hugely oaked. I loved the fresh, earthy, somewhat rustic and old world oriented attitude of this wine. A must try in my opinion. Definitely not your everyday wine, but certainly food friendly.


LeDom du Vin

The winery website is under construction, therefore I took portions of the text and all the pictures from the importer website at (an importer which, by the way, has a great portfolio). Click on the following link to go directly to Bodega Bernabeleva page at

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Tuesday, October 6, 2009

2007 Domaine des Terres Falmet Cinsault Vin de Pays d'Oc Languedoc France

Domaine des Terres Falmet Cinsault Vin de Pays d'Oc Languedoc France

I do not know why I never wrote a post about this wine before, because it has always been one of my favorites on the shelves. I discovered it a few years ago when the importer, Patrick Allen and his wife Connie (founders of United Estates Wine Imports), came at the store where I used to work and introduced me to this incredible gems. I fell in love with it for 2 reasons:
  • 1st: because I though that it was a lovely red wine, quite juicy, with good acidity, a touch rustic with some tannins toward the end, but overall really enjoyable and definitely food friendly, and more especially not overripe or overdone like some Languedoc wines can be (sometimes).
  • 2nd: because, this nice wine is made with 100% Cinsault which is definitely not a common thing to see or taste, and I was really intrigued and surprised to find such a rare and distinctive wine that good at this price (under $15).

Cinsault (also spelled Cinsaut) is a red grape variety, whose heat tolerance and productivity make it very important in the Languedoc-Roussillon region, where it excels when blended with Grenache and Carignan, but also in Algeria, Morocco, Lebanon, South Africa and California.

As part of a classic Languedoc-Roussillon blend, Cinsault brings juiciness, brightness, structure and tannins while Grenache bears most of the fruit, softness, opulence and the aromatics, and Carignan complements the texture, the roundness and also some of the features through out the flavors in the palate.

Although, it is said that Cinsault originated from the Hérault district, near Beziers, in the Saint-Chinian region to be more precise, it may have been imported a long time ago from the middle-east, where it is still widely cultivated. As an example, Cinsault has always been one of the main components in the blend of Château Musar (see my previous post on Château Musar).

Cinsault has many synonyms, one of them (and probably the most confusing) is called "Oeillade" and is sold as a table grape, although it is different from the ancient and "true" Oeillade which is no longer cultivated.

In South Africa, it was known and bred as "Hermitage", hence the name of its famous cross created in 1925: South Africa's pride "Pinotage", a cross between Pinot Noir and Hermitage (Cinsault). After Languedoc-Roussillon, South Africa is somewhat the 2nd house of Cinsault.

Until about 5 or 10 years ago, Cinsault bottled on its own was nearly unseen and for most producers quite unthinkable. However, better technology and multiple experiences but also soil studies and partly global warming (I obviously mean: increase of temperature and longer ripening season), combined with skilled winemaking techniques, allow us to find more interesting wines made from grape varieties that were only believed to be small part of a blend or even sometimes nearly instinct. And trust me, this kind of wine really triggers my attention and interest.

In the store, I proudly bought quite a few wines made with grapes that were nearly instinct or only part of a blend before, here is a few very interesting examples that you should taste:

  • Domaine de Monpertuis Counoise Vin de Pays du Gard: I also fell in love with this wine a few years ago when I first tasted it with my rep from Rosenthal. Roughly, about 15 to 20 years ago, Counoise was one of the 13 authorized grape varieties used in the blend of red Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Slowly, it was less and less used and was nearly instinct for lack of interest from most southern Rhône producers.... Most, except a few, like Domaine de Monpertuis (and a few more) who decided to revive it, replant it and bottle it on its own. They did the right things. Since then, Monpertuis Counoise has been one of my flagship wine in the store (for this one again, I do not know why I never wrote a post about it, may be because I always talk about it, at least 1 or twice a day, and I suggest it so much that I though that I already wrote something about it.....anyhow...)
  • CVNE Contino Graciano and Santiago Ijalba Graciano: two great, earthy red wines made with this red grape variety called Graciano that has always been blended with Tempranillo in the Rioja region predominantly. Here again, due to daring and talented winemakers who believed in the Graciano grape, but also due to the cited above reasons, we can now find Graciano bottled on its own (see my previous post on Contino where I described in further details my experience with the wines of Contino and my meeting with the master winemaker behind them: Jesus Madrazo).

Cinsault is now a part of the list of these ancient grape varieties that were put aside for a while and nearly forgotten for some, which are now experiencing a renaissance and expressing the true characteristics and unique flavors of their Terroir of origin.

2007 Domaine des Terres Falmet Cinsault Vin de Pays d'Oc Languedoc France

Suggested retail price $10-$13

Imported by United Estates Wine Imports and Distributed David Bowler in NYC

Domaine des Terres Falmet was established in 1996, in the little village of Cebazan, located southeast of Saint-Chinian (north of Narbonne and west of Beziers). The Domaine encompasses 25 hectares of contiguous vineyard plots planted on hillside with excellent sun exposure.

The young and talented Yves Falmet, owner and winemaker, produces this well crafted Cinsault from vines that are more than 50 years old planted on very rocky, clay-limestone soil, so the resulting wine combines, character, length and depth with juicy fruit, mineral and good tannic structure. Moreover, with no filtration or no fining, this wine didn't lose any of its personality or varietal character.

I loved the previous vintage, and think the 2007 Terres Falmet Cinsault follows the same profile, attitude and charm. The robe is clean, bright ruby red with light intensity. The nose is quite expressive and inviting, Garrigues-like with freshly crushed wild red and dark berries aromas, touch floral, earthy and mineral. Overall light to medium bodied, the palate is quite lush with darker berries flavors than the nose, like blackberry, ripe dark cherry and blueberry, nicely lifted by a great acidity which adds balance, freshness and juiciness, especially in the mid-palate. Calling for another glass, the lingering finish is dry and earthy, a touch spicy, with present yet integrated, soft tannins.

Food friendly and an easy drinking, this intriguing and attractive little wine offers a complexity not often found in wines in this category. Pair it with grilled lamb Chops and veggetable Mediterranean dish like Ratatouille. You can serve it both room temperature or even slightly chilled, it has been flying off the shelves this summer.

Due to the consistency and harmony of the last two vintages, Domaine des Terres Falmet and Yves Falmet deserve that interested amateurs and connoisseurs keep an open eye on this estate and its wines. Yves also produces an other beautiful wine produced in AOC Saint-Chinian, called: "L'Ivresse des Cîmes" (which could be translated by the "Dizziness of the Summits", just the name speaks for itself).


LeDom du Vin

You can also find more info about this wine on the importer website at

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Sunday, October 4, 2009

2008 Alto Tierruca Sauvignon Blanc Chile

2008 Alto Tierruca Sauvignon Blanc Reserva Chile
Suggested retail price $7-$9
Imported / Distributed by Monsieur Touton in NYC

I couldn't find much information about it and Monsieur Touton the Importer / Distributor doesn't seem to have any website. However, as always, I will find more info even if I have to phone the winery (it wouldn't be the first time that I'm doing such a crazy thing).

However, to get back to the wine, I love this little wine. It is a quaffer, quite simple yet attractive and balanced, fresh and juicy. At roughly $8 dollars on the shelf, it is a steal!

In the glass, it shows an extremely clear, pale yellow color with low intensity and discreet slightly green reflects. On the nose, the Alto Tierruca Sauvignon Blanc Reserva offers floral notes, like white blossom, and mineral intermingled with citrus peel, peach and lemon grass aromas. The palate is clean, fresh and simple yet balanced, nicely expanding and focus til the end.

I personnally think that this wine is a perfect crowd pleaser. Love it.

Enjoy each sip of it as an aperitif or with appetizers, hors d'oeuvres, fresh cucumber and feta salads, goat cheese, grilled fish and asian cuisine.


LeDom du Vin

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Saturday, October 3, 2009

Earthy reds for Fall's feelings

Earthy reds for Fall's feelings

Fall evokes the changing colors and multiple shades of the leaves in the forest; the mushrooms and truffles hunts; the warmer cloths and the scent of burning logs in the fireplace; lazy Sundays under the blanket reading a book or watching a classic, while the stew is cooking. All of these comfort our hearts and prepare us for the up-and-coming winter season. Fall also calls for earthier food and wines with fuller mouth-feel, richer fruit and more Terroir-oriented savors. Made with atypical and indigenous red grapes from three wine regions aside of the beaten path, the following wines encompass all of the above cited fall’s feelings, sensations and flavors in a bottle.

2007 Kanonkop “Kadette” Stellenbosch South Africa

Suggested retail price $11-$13

Imported / Distributed by Lauber Imports in NYC

Kanonkop is one of the well known wineries of Stellenbosch. Their Bordeaux-like style, blend and structure greatly appeal to most customers and usually please the connoisseurs. The adepts of South African red wines often compare their wines to some of the best Bordeaux yet at a more attractive price.

Kadette is Kanonkop’s second label, yet like the first label it presents very enjoyable fruit, a generous palate and a lovely balance. A blend of approximately 50% Pinotage, South Africa’s pride, blended with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc, this wine was matured in Bordeaux size (225 liters - French Nevers forest) barrels for up to 16 months. The resulting wine offers rich, structured and juicy ripe red and dark berry flavors with hints of oak, spices and earth. The lingering finish presents some dry yet very integrated tannins. Pair it with a grilled steak or even venison and game.

2003 Chateau Peyros Madiran Vieilles Vignes Southwest of France

Suggested retail price $15-$18

Imported / Distributed by Baron Francois in NYC

Chateau Peyros is the southernmost property of the Madiran Appellation. It takes its name from a local Gascony word which means "rocky location" or "stony place". Its location combines exceptional Terroir and ideal growing conditions. The main objective of Chateau Peyros is to apply the most natural and adapted wine making methods to their vineyard and cellar to protect the earth and its Biodiversity and to maximize the quality of their wines. Most of their wines are not filtered to avoid imparting taste and flavors, therefore any natural deposits and slight sedimentation in the bottle are a guarantee of the wine's authenticity and truthful, unique expression. A light decantation is suggested to fully appreciate this Tannat based wine.

Typical of the infamously hot 2003 vintage, the full bodied and opulent Chateau Peyros is a blend of 60% Tannat, Madiran’s indigenous grape (which slowly became the national grape of Uruguay), and 40% Cabernet Franc, both from 40-plus year-old vines. Deep purple in the glass, the initial aromas of dark plum, blackberry and cedar unfold to reveal layers of peppermint and coffee. Fully ripe dark fruit and black berry flavors coat the palate along with notes of bitter chocolate and spices, sustained by a generous acidity and firm yet fairly integrated tannins into a long, structured finish. An earthy, slightly rustic red to be enjoyed with hearty fare: think roast beef, lamb and game.

2004 Le Combal Cahors Southwest of France

Suggested retail price $17-$20

Imported / Distributed by Metro Wine in NYC

Although more recognized than Madiran, Cahors remains one of the lesser known small wine regions of the southwest of France (that people do not venture easily to taste). However, Cahors produces great Malbec based wines that were the initial inspiration for what is now the fame and pride of Argentina. Big, concentrated, tannic and earthy, they usually need time and decant to fully deliver their character and personality.

The 2004 Le Combal is very dark and deep purple color. The Bordeaux-like nose is clean, dry, earthy and smoky. The palate is rich, with enjoyable dark wild berry flavors, minerality and forest floor notes intermingled with hints of roasted coffee, mushroom and spice. Firmly textured yet with a great juicy mouth- feel, this wine has a finish that is slightly tannic and a touch rustic, yet it tastes really good. Beside, a piece of semi-hard flavorful cheese or a slice of roasted meat should ease some of the slight angularities. Like the Madiran, this Cahors is an earthy, peasant’s like, wintry drink after a hard a day braving the unfriendly weather and the other complications of the day.

Overall, The Kanonkop Kadette is a friendly, versatile wine to enjoy with or without food. However, both the Madiran and the cahors will warm you up nicely when paired with southwest of France specialties like a "Cassoulet de Castelnaudary" or "Saucisses Lentilles de Toulouse" or "Magret de Canard" from the Landes.


LeDom du Vin

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