Archive for March, 2011

The Country Vintner Trade Show Tasting

March 23, 2011

This is a big month for distributor portfolio tastings.  Most wine growers are able to get away from their vineyards for a few days since a lot of the hard work is done, or in a waiting stage.  Most of the wines are resting in tank or in barrel and will be bottled come springtime.

The Country Vintner is one of the larger wholesale wine distributors here in Virginia representing about every wine producing wine region in the world.  They have a huge 170,000 square foot, temperature controlled (this is important) distribution center located in Ashland and a pretty huge 20,000 square foot center down in Florida.

Being in about every market, grocery store and restaurant here in Richmond they do deal with a lot of mass produced plonk.  They are however (with their deep pockets and heavy influence) able to bring in many of the elite and distinguished wine producers from many classic wine growing regions.

The industry only tasting (I was invited to sneek in) was held at the ever popular Boathouse Restaurant right here in Richmond.  It was packed.  Many people were bussed in from Virginia Beach and Charlottesville, it seemed most were in fact not part of the industry at all lending the function to feel as though it was a high class frat party.  I overheard one person telling Muffi Guilbert of Mas de Daumas Gassac that they didn’t like white wine. Another told Julia Gazaniol of Château de Parenchère they didn’t like Merlot.

There were quite a few beautiful wines to taste though.  The Country Vintner always opens a few sexy bottles from their portfolio, this time they included a 2005, Giacomo Conterno Barolo, and a 2007, Zind-humbrecht Gewurztraminer Clos Windsbuhl.

Not a fan of Billecart-Salmon but the Brut Rose was lovely.

My favorites were the wines of Isole e Olena.  The 2008 Chianti Classico will make you rethink your opinion of Chianti.  The 2006 Cepparello is one of the finest expressions of Sangiovese you will ever encounter.  Gorgeous.  They also produce a fascinating Chardonnay and a Syrah which accurately reflect the soil of Tuscany.  

Luca de Marchi was on hand pouring wines of Isole e Olena.  Along with his father Paolo they recently reclaimed their families estate Proprieta’ Sperino which is located  in Lessona, near Gattinara, above Barolo.  Think about elegant Nebbiolo wrapped in silk, mated with Gevrey-Chambertin and you can imagine what these wines taste like.

Alessandria Ciacci of Azienda Agraria Mocali represents early approachable Brunello di Montalcino and olive oil.  They also make value based wines from vineyards located south in Morellino di Scansano.  Very easy to drink.

Phillippe Blanck of Domaine Paul Blanck is a producer from Alsace new to the Country Vintner book.  The wines were classic examples, pure and focussed.  The 2007, Gewurtraminer’ Altenbourg stood out nicely as well as the baby 2007, Riesling Grand Cru ‘ Schlossberg.

Vittore Alessandria of Fratelli Alessandria has high quality and fair priced Barolo from Monforte and probably the coolest wine of the day the 2009 Verduno Pelaverga.  Light and spicy, very versatile with all types of cuisine.

Fattoria La Gerla makes powerful, structured, long lived Brunello di Montalcino and early enjoyable Rosso di Montalcino.  They also produce a modern style “Birba” from French oak barriqued Sangiovese.

Guiseppe Vajra of Azienda Agricola G.D. Vajra blends modern wine making with responsible vineyard stewardship to produce a wide variety of fascinating wines.  The 2009, Langhe Bianco “Petracine” is made from 100% Riesling and is meant for long aging, a noble wine that can translate the place from where it comes.  The 2006, Barola “Albe” is value priced and can be consumed early. It is always lovely.  Vajra also acquired the Luigi Baudana estate in Seralunga back in 2006 and now produces wines there with the estates original name.  The hills of Seralunga are known to produce the richest of all the wines of Barolo.

The tasting all in all was a nice showing with some great estates present.  These environments aren’t really the best way to evaluate wine.  Especially after mouth drying Bordeaux and mouth drying Barolo and mouth drying Brunello…It is a great way though to meet the people behind the wines and hear about the traditions involved in their farming and production.

Wine of the Week-Drink This Wine!

March 9, 2011

Marcillac! “Cuvée Vieilles Vignes” Domaine du Cros 2006

Here is a wine that tastes like no other and cannot be imitated.

Tougher than a cowboy and just as polite.  

Marcillac is the name of the place and lies in Southwest France a little bit below Bordeaux and west of the Cotes du Rhone.  The soil is red clay heavy in iron oxide, and boy you can taste it.  The predominant grape that is planted here is  Fer Servadou, or known locally as Mansois.  Fer translates into iron, did I mention you can taste it?  The summers are long and hot thanks to the Mediterranean influence, the winters though can be brutally cold.  The best sites for grapes come from sloping and terraced hillsides that look south.  The area gained AOC status in 1990 and only allows red and pink wines.

Domaine du Cros led by Philippe Teulier has been producing wine for four generations and has grown to become one of the largest independent growers in the region.  By largest meaning 25 hectares, about 60 acres, bottle production is around 7000 cases.  Pretty small compared to the local wine cooperative.  The Cuvée Vieilles Vignes (which means old vines, 80 year old vines!) is aged a year and half in old large chestnut barrels before release to soften its animal character.  It has big, bloody structure, ripe red, savory, peppery fruit and a beautiful balance.  Recommended to be drunk within 3-5 years but supposedly can last up to 10.  I say if you have a bottle, drink it now, if you have 2 bottles, drink one now and one tomorrow.  It is gorgeous.

I had it with a simple meal of Italian sausage from Belmont Butchery (so it is Italian sausage, still works, actually it is Italian style sausage made right here in Richmond from Virginia pigs so it can be called Richmond sausage) browned with a little butter, onion, garlic, rosemary, beans and some reduced red wine.  

$16, imported by Wine Traditions

Languedoc Roussillon: Naturally!

March 8, 2011

Today’s guest post comes from French Ambassador, Pierre Souillard.  Pierre is dedicated to the preservation of authentic cassoulet, the hunting of truffles and the consumption of local wine.  He lives with his family in the fortified town of Carcassonne.

In the constellation of French appellations there is a particularly heterogeneous area between Provence and the Pyrenees :

Languedoc Roussillon

As large as the state of Massachusetts, this space has no less than 18 delineated A.O.C.’s, it is also supposedly the first area of wine production in France, with evidence of grape vines having existed before human inhabitants.  Adorned with a long reputation of industrial wine, the Languedoc Roussillon also takes a great share on the taste buds of lovers of quality wines.

Many winemakers come from all over the country to buy vineyards in the Languedoc, for the price of land is much less than that of such esteemed regions as Burgundy, Bordeaux or Champagne for example. With great expertise and passion, these migrant winemakers  have contributed greatly to the quality of wines, creating envy and emulation among local winemakers. Result today? You can find in wine shops exceptional bottles at reasonable prices.

And what of natural wines you’ll ask me? They take a increasingly important share in the market, especially in relation to organic wines. The process of wine is often more qualitative than ethical in natural wines, despite the limited added of sulfur. Many natural winemakers choose to not show the organic label on their bottle (in France it’s an green acronym “AB”). So, the average consumer who is skeptical of “hippie wines” (helped propagated by fear mongering industrial wine lobbyists) will easily consume a natural wine without knowing it is also organic. Honest wines from dedicated growers are not always included with other organic wines that cater to a specific audience; the activist.

In a future post we will go to discover the wines of the Minervois, where natural wines are plentiful. In the meantime you can go to the website of the winemaker Franco-American Ryan O’Connell. Real ambassador for the wines of Languedoc Roussillon, Ryan O’Connell has recently spent several days at the “House of the Languedoc Roussillon region of New York” (10 East 53rd Street) to showcase local wines.

Good thirst and see you soon!

The following good wines from the Languedoc Roussillon are available right here in Richmond…

2006 Domaine Leon Barral “Cuvee Jadis” (Faugeres) $40, Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant

2009 Chateau Saint Martin’s Coteaux du Languedoc Blanc (Coteaux du Languedoc) $13, Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant

2009 Domaine Le Roc des Anges (Côtes du Roussillon-Villages) $22, Potomac Selections

2008 Clot de l’Oum, Caramany (Côtes du Roussillon-Villages) $20, Potomac Selections

2006 Chateau d’Oupi, Minervois (Minervois) $15, Louis/Dressner Selections

2009 Chateau d’Oupia, Les Heretiques (Vin de Pays l’Herault) $10, Louis/Dressner Selections

“The Italian Way” Class at Ellwood’s Cafe

March 4, 2011

Here is a good idea, food and wine together!

“If it grows together, it goes together,”

someone said that somewhere.

Ellwood Thompson has a solid, well thought out little wine program so I expect there to be some very fine examples of wine from Italy.

From their website…

The Italian Way

Posted by admin on Mar 07, 2011
Community Classroom Classes


Monday, March 7th 6PM – 7PM


Ellwood’s Cafe


Dave Jones


Welcome to where it all began. In this class, the flavors of Italy will be explored while we visit and discover the tastes of some of the countries most famous regions. Expect wine and cheese pairings based on region and climate.





Register and pay for class

There is limited seating/availability for all classes and events and you must purchase your ticket ahead of time. Either stop by the store’s customer service desk or register and pay online.

Tasting Tonight at River City Cellars

March 4, 2011

Head on over to River City Cellars in Carytown for a sampling of Italian wines. Here is their line up…


Garofoli 2009 Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico-Le Marche
Grotta del Sole NV Gragnano della Penisola Sorrentina-Campania
Farro 2009 Piedirosso Per’e Palummo Campi Flegrei-Campania
Vallevo 2008 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo-Abruzzo
Terra Elima 2009 Nero d’Avola Sicilia IGT-Sicily

Be nice and buy something, after all the tasting is free.

Marcel Lapierre

March 3, 2011

May he rest in peace.  He helped rescue  Beaujolais from the candied banana flavored concoctions of  George Duboeuf and other releasers of Beaujolais nouveau.  His wines are seriously structured and beautifully haunting.  If they are not sold out by now you should be able to find these wines at River City Cellars, Elwood Thompsons and J Emerson Fine Wine and Cheese.

07 Morgon “Cuvée Lapierre” , $42

09 Morgon, $23

09 Vin de Pays des Gaules, $15

imported by Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant

How to pronounce German Wine!

March 1, 2011

From   ( doy-chuh-vine )

Questions for Richmond Wine Culture

March 1, 2011

What do you mean by natural wine?  Made by hippy’s?

No, not hippy’s, think more along the lines of families with deep traditional ties to their land and culture. The term “natural” can be subjective and not necessarily regulated but for the most part it means that grapes are grown with little to no chemical pesticides and little to no manipulation by technology in the actual wine making stage. Sometimes you will see labels that claim the grapes were grown organically but it does not always mean the wine made from those grapes weren’t spoofilated by acidification, industrial yeasts, micro-oxygenation, reverse osmosis, oak chips, chaptalization, de-alchoholization…

Aren’t natural wines expensive?

No. You can find honest, delicious wines in all price ranges from all over the world, especially Southwest France.  Good wines are “made” in vineyards and wine cellars that have been around for generations as opposed to brand new high-tech million dollar wineries that have been built on expensive  real estate.  This blog will direct you to several examples for sale in wine shops and restaurants around the city.

How do I know if I am buying or drinking an honest wine?

Hopefully the label can tell you, France has their A.O.C., Italy has their D.O.C.G., Spain has their D.O., Germany has their V.D.P.  Not really a guarantee of quality but it is a starting point.  These label designations mean specific grapes were grown in specific areas by specific means.   Look for who grew the grapes and who put them in the bottle.  Also get to know who the importer is, leave it to these experts to wade through the oceans of wine in the world to find the good stuff.   Of course your local wine shop should be able to point out what’s what.   More on this in the future.

What about ‘Wholefoods’ and ‘Trader Joes’, they sell all-natural wine don’t they?

Don’t get me started, more on this in the future as well.