Archive for September, 2011

So Long Joe Dressner, Thanks For Everything

September 19, 2011

By now you probably have heard that Joe Dressner passed away after a long fight with brain cancer.  Of course you know Joe is responsible for Louis/Dressner Selections, an importer that brings in natural wines from small, independent vignerons throughout the world.  Most of the wines that have been discussed on this blog are in fact Louis/Dressner wines.  They are quite special, Joe Dressner was special, he will be missed.

Thankfully the culture of wine, especially his kinds of wines will carry on.  To salute the man I had to check in a few of my favorite wines from his portfolio.Here are a couple of wines from the most northern part of Italy, Trentino-Alto Adige.  The area butts up against Austria and Switzerland and is surrounded by the Rhaetian Alps and the Dolomite mountains.  The region has only been part of Italy since the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian empire after World War 1 and is split into two different cultural areas.  Italian speaking Trentino in the south more associates themselves with Italian heritage, the food is similar to what you would find in the Veneto, a lot of polenta and pasta with an even more heavy emphasis on butter and cream.  You will also find wild game, mushrooms and salt-cured beef.  The German speaking northern Alto Adige (Südtirol as the locals know it) has a more Austrian background, you will find wurst, cabbage, rye bread and buckwheat noodles and of course their greatest contribution Speck.

The Nusserhof estate, run by Elda & Heinrich Nusser, exists on 2.5 hectares within the city of Bolzano.  The steep and difficult to work vineyards are situated in an unusually warm area.  The wines produced have a ripe and concentrated character due to low yields from healthy, organically grown grapes.

(2007) Heinrich Mayr Nusserhof Blatterle. $25.

Blatterle is an indigenous varietal that was nearly extinct (who is knocking down doors to drink Blatterle?).  Traditionally it was made into a sweet dessert wine, this example is bone dry.  The wine is labeled as Vino da Tavola.  By Italian law the vintage can’t be shown but it is identified by the last two digits of the lot number, look for the L07.  By all accounts this wine should have been consumed a few years ago but I was curious to see how it was holding up.  Surprisingly it had a lot of creamy richness to it, not much going on aromatically but the wine picked up a lot of weight in it’s time in the bottle.  The usual apple and pear fruit profile has dropped off and transformed into a salty, mineral thing.  Still very enjoyable, and very different.

2005 Heinrich Mayr Nusserhof Lagrein Riserva. $35.

Lagrein is also an indigenous grape of semi-ancient origins and generally has a clumsy, woodsy tannic structure along with low acidity. Not the case with Nusserhof’s.  The Lagrein Riserva was showing nicely.  It is round and rich, bright and savory, like the oily essence of fresh espresso mixed with black, inky fruit.  This is a wine for mountain men.  Evidently this wine can age magnificently, the bottle I opened was just getting started.  One whiff of its chocolatey, earthy and fresh herbed bouquet you will be in love.“Weingut” is German for wine farm.  Wine labels from Alto Adige are mostly in German.

 Check your back labels for importer information.  If you see the “Louis/Dressner” name it means the wine is going to be something special and unique.  Thank you Joe Dressner for bringing these types of wines to all of us.

“The Natural Wine Movement is not a movement with a leader, credo and principles. If you think there is a Natural Wine Movement sweeping the world, triumphantly slaying industrial wineries and taking no hostages, then you are one delusional wine drinker. The Natural Wine Movement thinks that you might want to lessen your alcohol consumption for a few months.”

Joe Dressner, 2010

SP68 is for….

September 15, 2011


Jock itch, psoriasis, ringworm?




Sunburn, suntan?




All natural accompaniment to octopus and squid?  Or any other creature from the sea with olive oil and perhaps rosemary?  Shit, even pork products?

Named after a highway in Sicily.  A blend of Albanello and delicious Zibibbo.  Super floral, smells like Alsace and tastes like the sea.  The new vintage is available right here in lovely Richmond.  Freak out your friends, serve them this wine.

2010 Occhipinti SP68 IGT Sicilia Bianco, $24.  Imported by Louis/Dressner Selections

Tasting Report With The American Civil War Center at Historic Tredegar: The Sparkling Wines of Emilia-Romagna!

September 6, 2011

We all love Emilia-Romagna in Central Italy.  We love and lust over the possibility of owning a Ferrari or Lamborghini.  Our favorite cheese is Parmigiano-Reggiano, our second being Grana Padano.   We can’t get enough Prosciutto di Parma or Mortadella.  We insist on only the finest, aged Balsamic vinegar to drizzle over roasted butternut squash.  We love Lasagna.

What we love most of all are the sparkling wines of this region.  There is nothing more magical then the pairing of fatty foods with these bubbly brutes.  Emilia-Romagna is Italy’s heartland and the center of the gastronomic universe.  Aside from Lambrusco, Emilia-Romagna does not have many press friendly, famous, superstar wines, meaning one can find great value, and great surprise from off the beaten path growers.

For this tasting Richmond Wine Culture is joined by The American Civil War Center at Historic Tredegar.  Tredegar is located right here in Richmond down by the James River and is the nation’s first museum to interpret the Civil War from Union, Confederate, and African American perspectives.

The first 2 wines come from Cà de Noci, a property run by two brothers intent on continuing the thousand year old legacy of working with indigenous grapes and crafting wines that taste of the region.  Their farm sits up against a walnut forest (Noci means walnuts) and has just 5 hectares devoted to vines planted on rocky limestone soil.  “Querciole” is 100% Spergola, which in the old days was confused with Sauvignon Blanc and has a naturally high acidity level making it ideal for sparkling wine production. “Sottobosco” a blend of three different red grapes: Malbo Gentile, Lambrusco Maestri and Lambrusco Grasparossa.  These particular clones can resist the humid growing conditions in the area and are able to flourish without the use of pesticides and chemicals.  The wine is labeled as simple table wine because it does not grow within any of the delineated DOC Lambrusco Zones.

Richmond Wine Culture:  “I love this bottling of “Querciole”, it has a natural secondary fermentation that takes place within the bottle giving it a dancing frizzante characteristic.  The aromas are fascinating, something like orange peal and wheat.  In the mouth I get plenty of salty fruit and sprightly zing.  Perfect for cleansing the palate for that next bite of cured meat.”

The American Civil War Center at Historic Tredegar:   “Upon entering the newly constructed pavilion, visitors begin their tour with “What Caused the Civil War?” an interactive film which orients your visit. As you continue through the exhibit, enjoy rotating artifacts, detailed timelines, unique hands-on activities, additional films, and more. Continue to move into the War years (1861-1865) and finish with the post-war “Legacies” section which helps to put our world today into perspective.”

Richmond Wine Culture:  “The “Sottobosco” for me is the most exciting of the two, like the “Querciole” it gets its bubbles from a natural secondary  fermentation.  People tend to think sparkling reds from this region are sweet and syrupy, not this wine!  It is tannic and chalky, superb with rich cream sauces and cured pork neck.  Definitely a little strange.”

The American Civil War Center at Historic Tredegar: “In 1860-1861, the United States split apart. How did we get to that point?  Why did the Southern states leave the Union?  Was war inevitable?  What were the combatants fighting about?  You can explore these and other questions at the Center and learn what motivated Unionists, Confederates, and African Americans.”
Camillo Donati is a third generation wine grower located right outside of Parma.  Malvasia is an ancient varietal historically associated with the Mediterranean but now can be found throughout Italy.  Camillo produces both sweet and dry versions.  All the wines are fermented on their skins without temperature control or added yeasts or any form of acidification.  The Malvasia Secco also has a secondary fermentation naturally in the bottle without the addition of any sugar.  The bottle is closed with a crown cap and will throw off a lot of sediment.

Richmond Wine Culture:  “I am really taken by this example of Malvasia Secco.  It has a very unusual orange color, like a hefeweizen or an IPA, even some kind of cider.  Kind of smells similar to beer as well.  There is plenty of bitter almond notes to go with the coriander laced fruit.  It is almost painfully dry.  This bottle screams for grilled sausages and fried dough.

The American Civil War Center at Historic Tredegar: “The Center is a place to learn about the Civil War—its causes, its course, and its legacies. It is a place where the people who decided America’s future tell their stories. Here, all of the main stories—Union, Confederate, and African American— get significant space together for the first time. By understanding these three perspectives on a subject that is still divisive almost a century and a half later, we can begin to see the war differently—as a shared national heritage.”

Alberto Tedeschi makes only one wine from one grape, Pignoletto.  Alberto farms just 2 hectares of land by hand, too small to bother using a tractor.  No fertilizers, chemicals or any other nonsense are used in the vineyard.  The grapes are fermented in open vats and then the finished, dry wine is transferred to large wooden barrels to mature and rest on its lees for 15 months before bottling.  Theses wines with their big structure can evidently age for years.

Richmond Wine Culture:  “Alberto Tedeschi has produced an exciting and racy wine.  The color is golden, the nose is complex almost overwhelming with big time rosemary, sage and dried fruits.  The mouthfeel is rich and opulent but is very fresh and cleansing.  The aromatics circulate within the back of the throat.  This is relatively inexpensive compared to other sparkling wines meaning it could be hard to find if it wasn’t a little strange.  Another great bottle for the table, I love that it also has a crown cap. ”

The American Civil War Center at Historic Tredegar: “What effects do you think the war continues to have on America? We hope that you will visit the American Civil War Center to learn more about how the Civil War and its aftermath shaped our country today. The Center provides a framework for thinking about the impact of the war on us today. We encourage you to think about these issues, learn about them, and discuss them with others.”

2008 Cà de Noci Vino di Tavola Sottobosco Frizzante. $20. Imported by Louis/Dressner Selections

2007 Cà de Noci Vino di Tavola Querciole Frizzante. $30. Imported by Louis/Dressner Selections

2008 Donati Camillo Malvasia Secco dell’Emilia IGT. $25. Imported by Louis/Dressner Selections

2008 Alberto Tedeschi IGT Emilia Spungola Bellaria.  $25. Imported by Louis/Dressner Selections

All available in the Richmond area!