This week’s Peter’s Pick is a pair of wines from my fellow Sommelier and Author Raj Parr’s Oregon project with famed winemaker Sashi Moorman; Evening Land Seven Springs Vineyard.
Since its inception, Seven Springs has been dry-farmed. The vineyard is LIVE™ certified and was converted to biodynamic viticulture in 2007.
Seven Springs is planted overwhelmingly to Pinot Noir, followed by Chardonnay, and Gamay. The oldest own-rooted blocks of Pinot Noir and Gamay are a testament to, and daily reminder of, Oregon’s incredible history and potential. Benchmark Oregon producers have long sourced fruit from Seven Springs and the wines from this vineyard are the most decorated and award-winning wines in Oregon’s history.
“We are, first and foremost, faithful stewards of the historic Seven Springs vineyard, planted by Oregon wine pioneer Al MacDonald in 1984. On this dramatic east-facing slope, in the iron-rich and rocky, volcanic soils of the Eola-Amity Hills, Al MacDonald undertook what would become one of Oregon’s most recognized vineyards. Nestled against a forest of Douglas fir with views eastward to Mt. Hood and Mt. Jefferson, it is immediately evident to any visitor why Al chose this site.”
– Rajat Parr, Sashi Moorman, & Ben DiCristina – Evening Land Vineyards
2016 Evening Land Seven Springs Vineyard Chardonnay: The Seven Springs Chardonnay underwent a very gentle whole cluster press before being racked to French oak barrels for fermentation. The wine remained in barrel, roughly 30% of which was new, for 12 months before being racked to tank. The wine completed élevage in tank for another 6 months before bottling. This is a gorgeous Chardonnay, with floral apple blossom and pear aromas, merging into a full, broad palate feel with hazelnut and lemon curd notes. This has depth and breadth, with a mineral length on the finish. This is one of the best Chardonnays I have tasted from the New World.
2016 Evening Land Seven Springs Vineyard Pinot Noir: The Seven Springs Pinot Noir comes from the oldest own-rooted blocks of Pinot Noir at the vineyard. Planted in 1984, these Pommard and Wadenswil clones thrive in iron-rich, volcanic Jory soils. These 30-year-old vines are harvested by hand, the grapes hand sorted, and roughly 75% of the fruit was destemmed. Gentle punchdowns were employed throughout the fermentation to encourage a soft extraction of tannins and the wine was aged in 30% new French oak for 16 months. The 2014 Seven Springs Pinot Noir was bottled without fining or filtering. Dark, spicy berry fruit emerges from the glass, with an enticing hint of sweet spices. The palate is full and deep with black cherry fruit framed by sweet tarragon notes and that
My Peter’s Picks for this week are the extraordinary wines of Chateau Carbonnieux from the great 2015 vintage. The origins of this estate date back to 1234, and the Chateau was included in the Grand Cru Classification of Graves in 1959. The wines of this estate, both white and red, are among only six crus of the nine thousand estates of Bordeaux to bear this Classification. The estate farms sustainably and organically.
2015 Chateau Carbonnieux Pessac-Leognan Grand Cru Classé de Graves Blanc
The Garonne gravel found in the Pessac-Léognan Appellation certainly produces the best dry white wines in the Bordeaux region. This wine is a classic example of the genre. Made from 80% Semillon and 20% Sauvignon Blanc, this is a winner from the get-go, with lemon curd and vanilla aromas leading into a round, supple yet vibrant mouthfeel. Flavors dance across the palate, and the wine has both weight and brightness. Layers of melon, fig, and vanilla mingle with grapefruit and lime citrus. This terrific white can be drunk with incredible pleasure today or cellared for a decade or more.
2015 Chateau Carbonnieux Pessac-Leognan Grand Cru Classé de Graves
Thomas Jefferson visited the Chateau in 1786, and was so impressed by the red wine that he mentioned it in his diary. It is hard not to overdo my appreciation of this wine. It is a saturated ruby/purple, with a complex nose of blackcurrant, plum, mocha, fresh sawdust (love that smell!), sweet tobacco, and vanilla. The palate focuses on soft, chewy ripe fruit backed by smooth, ripe tannins. This is elegant and supple, smooth and refined. Outstanding wine in every respect. A blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, and 5% Petit Verdot.
2015: The magic of “5”
Bordeaux remembers the mythical 1945, 55, 75 or more recently 85, 95 and 2005.
A perfect weather along the vegetative cycle allows 2015 to follow the ten-year legend for the marvelous vintages produced in years ending in “5"
-Peter Neptune, Master Sommelier
This week’s Peter’s Pick focuses on Darms Lane, a boutique producer located in the Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley. The vineyard was first planted in 1983, and the grapes were sold as Crighton Hall Vineyard grapes. The entire estate was acquired in 2002 by one of the partners, Larry Bump. The first Estate Grown wines were released in 2005. Today Darms Lane produces a total of 3,000 cases of wine. I tasted a few of their wines last week and thought that the Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon were outstanding examples of Napa Valley wines at very attractive price points.
2016 Oak Knoll District Chardonnay: Attractive aromas of white peach, pear, brioche, and lemon zest. The palate is full-bodied and round, with vibrant citrus and tree fruit and a nice touch of vanilla from the judicious use of one quarter new oak. This lovely Chardonnay was barrel fermented and aged. Only 70 barrels were produced.
2014 Bon Passe Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon: this has classic notes of black cherry and blackberry surrounded by cedar and cocoa, leading into a round, lush mouthfeel with those dusty Oak Knoll tannins framing the cassis and berry flavors. The wine saw 50% new oak and it shows as graham cracker crust and notes of chocolate. This Cabernet Sauvignon has a real sense of place and is a must for fans of this noble grape. Only 24 barrels were produced.
I spoke at a tasting event and dinner at the beautiful Meadow Club in Fairfax, CA last Monday, April 1st. We featured wines from New Zealand and Australia.
We started off with a casual reception, pouring wines for the arriving guests. We featured a wonderful selection of wines, including a Tasmanian Sparkling Rosé from Jansz, which was a huge hit; Neudorf Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, classic grapefruit and passion fruit flavors; Pikes Clare Valley Riesling, a dry Riesling in every wat that won over many new fans; Vasse Felix Premier Chardonnay from the Margaret River region of Western Australia, which demonstrated a cool Old World vive; The Ceres Central Otago Pinot Noir, vibrant and delicious; Jim Barry “The Cover Drive” Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon, spot on for the style; Wirra Wirra McLaren Vale Shiraz, big, juicy, and friendly; and perhaps the hit of the tasting the Yalumba Bush Vine Barossa Valley Grenache, which surprised a lot of the tasters with its precision and focus, as well as undeniable drinkability.
We then sat down for an amazing dinner prepared by the chef of the club, Emmanuel Jamotte, who has been there for more than 25 years.
We started with an Australian Barramundi filet, over a vanilla sauce with veggies. What a preparation! One if the best fish dishes I have had in recent memory. I paired it with Ceres Central Otago Pinot Gris and Clearview Estate Reserve Chardonnay. Both wines were terrific – the Reserve Chardonnay lived up to its name in every way – but the Ceres Pinot Gris was just perfect with the fish. I have always felt that Pinot Gris is actually the best white wine style produced in NZ, and this wine had it all – body, palate weight, creaminess, yellow apple and pear fruit – what a wine! I was very gratified to see that this wine, and the Big Sky Pinot Noir, received the most orders at the end of the evening.
The next course was a perfectly prepared Cassoulet. I paired it with the Big Sky Martinborough Pinot Noir. Perfect pairing, with the Big Sky matching brilliantly with the duck confit, every bite begging for a sip. This is a really nice bottle of Pinot Noir, with vivid red fruit and perfect balance.
The main course featured a double cut of rack of lamb, exact medium rare, with a side of crazy good truffled potatoes gratin. We brought out the big guns – two of the top examples of Cabernet/Shiraz blends from the Barossa Valley of South Australia. This was a tough one to call – and sales proved it as we sold an equal amount of both wines. The Henschke Keyneton Estate “Euphonium” is a blend of Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot. It is both elegant and concentrated, with tremendous presence on the palate. The Yalumba “Signature” is roughly 50/50 Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz, and it is a powerful wine with a lot of weight and grip. They both paired perfectly with the lamb and for me it would be a toss-up as to which was the top wine.
To finish a perfect evening we had a lemon cheesecake, and, just because we could, we paired it with a “stickie”, the Yalumba Museum Muscat. Aussie stickies are a national treasure and one of that country’s vinous gifts to the world. Really a dessert on its own, this sweet wine (243 grams per liter of residual sugar!!!) bombards the senses with a complex melange of caramel, toffee and chocolate.
Thank you to Jack Grehan, the GM of the Meadow Club and his staff for putting together such a wonderful dinner. Cheers!
I want to draw your attention to one of the great wines of Italy, considered to be at the same level of recognition and collectability as Masseto and Messorio, Sassicaia and Solaia. The wine is D’Alceo, a blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Petite Verdot, from Castello dei Rampolla.
Castello dei Rampolla, owned by the Di Napoli family since 1739, is managed today by the brother and sister team Maurizia and Luca. They have farmed the entire estate biodynamically since 1994. The vines for D’Alceo were planted in 1993 and are bush trained, with very low yields.
Luca says that with this D’Alceo he attempts “powerful balance”, and that pretty succinctly sums it up. The 2009 is drop-dead gorgeous, with remarkable purity of fruit and a mouthfeel that has to be experienced to be believed.
There is a lovely floral/violet note surrounding the black cherry and plum fruit, with accents of mint, licorice and Italian herbs. As I said, it is on the palate where the wine really sings, and the finish seems to last forever.
We were able to source a special allocation of the 2009 vintage to offer at an attractive and competitive price, exclusively for DouxVin subscribers. With ten years of age the wine is showing all of the depth and breadth you would expect and is just entering its window of drinkability.
-Peter Neptune, Master Sommelier
Pricing $495/3-Pack - tax and delivery included
This is a wine that can be consumed now and for the next 20 years. It would be a welcome, and in my opinion, necessary, addition to any serious wine cellar.
This wine is a revelation. I tasted it last week at a Tuscan wine dinner that I presented, and, while I have had past vintages of the wine, this was the first time that I tasted the 2017. I first visited the estate around 12 years ago. Owned for centuries by the Venerosi Pesciolini family, Tenuta Ghizzano is a beautiful 350 hectare property near the coast of Tuscany devoted to farming cereals, olives, and grapevines. The entire estate is certified Organic and the grapes are grown Biodynamically. The 2017 Bianco is a blend of Vermentino, Trebbiano, and Malvasia. The Trebbiano and Malvasia saw a brief maceration on the skins, drawing out a lovely golden color. The nose is super expressive of almond blossom, golden apple, pear, and dried herbs. It is on the palate that this wine really shines. The mouthfeel is simply gorgeous, with a full, generous texture that envelops the palate. It is both refined and expressive, with tree fruit flavors framed by dried honey and almond. This is a stunning white wine of purity and depth that belies its price point. Buy by the case at this price!
-Peter Neptune, Master Sommelier
My pick this week is a wonderful Pinot Noir from the Brittan Vineyard, located in the McMinnville AVA of the Willamette Valley of Oregon. The Brittan vineyard is comprised of roughly 28 acres of hillside vineyard on fractured basalt soils. The Gestalt block is a tiny section of southwest-facing vines that bear the brunt of the wind that comes in from the Van Duzer Corridor, resulting in small, concentrated berries, and a yield of only 1 ton per acre. I tasted this wine for the first time last week and it was a revelation. A medium ruby in color, the wine has expressive aromas of black raspberry and plum, with truffle, dried sage and anise. It is on the palate that this Pinot Noir really expresses itself, with deep fruit and a distinct volcanic minerality, enveloped by a gorgeous, velvet mouthfeel and very fine-grained tannins. This is at once intellectual and sensual. A truly outstanding wine that is drinking perfectly now and will cellar for up to 10 years. Only 370 cases produced. Congratulations to winemaker Robert Brittan for this great effort.
DouxVin Wine Strategies presented a Best of Italy Wine Dinner at Old Vine Kitchen and Bar last Tuesday (March 12), and the sold out event was a huge success. I presented and spoke about 10 wines spanning the length of the Italian peninsula, with accompanying cuisine by Chef Mark McDonald.
The highlights included a beautiful seafood salad with the best octopus I have had outside of Italy, with a flight of white wines that ranged from Monchiero Carbone Arneis to the great Terlano Pinot Bianco Vorberg, always a favorite of mine. The next dish was a deceptively simple Tuscan bean preparation, that, accompanied by a La Pederzana Lambrusco Puntamora 2007, might have been the hit of the evening. For good measure we also poured the 2013 Fossacolle Brunello di Montalcino which provided a full-bodied counterpoint to the dish.
Braised short rib in Barolo wine was next up, with a flight of red wines that included an outstanding 2011 Mastroberardino Taurasi Reserva, the always crowd-pleasing 2014 Orma Toscana, and of course a Barolo, the 2014 Ceretto. That Mastroberardino just might have won the round.
A cheese plate including teleggio and pecorino romano was accompanied by the 2012 Secondo Marco Recioto della Valpolicella, a beautifully sweet wine with incredible depth and length. A great way to end an epic evening of Italian food and wine.
Thanks to Chef Mark McDonald, co-owner Kate Perry, and their amazing staff for helping to make this a wonderful evening.
We are looking forward to another great dinner at Old Vine Kitchen and Bar on April 9th, where I will present 10 wines that I call “The New California.” (Reserve your place)
The Finger Lakes region of New York State is, without question, the premier growing area in the United States for the noble Riesling grape. Forge Cellars' first vintage was in 2011, and they have amassed a litany of positive press since then, making the Top 100 List of Wine Spectator last year with their Riesling Classique (Winemaker Louis Barruol had the distinction of landing two wines in the Top 100 – the Forge Riesling at #31 and his Ch. de St. Cosme Gigondas at #5!)
Forge Cellars is made up of three like-minded and passionate friends with a common goal: to grow grapes and handcraft wines of interest and value that perfectly balance minerality, aromatics and fruit to reflect the exceptional Finger Lakes terroir. Each vintage is viewed as an opportunity to express the region — to reflect its soils, its cool climate and hillside lake terroirs.
Forge Cellars represents everything I and DouxVin love about wine – family owned estates, meticulous winegrowing and winemaking; organic farming and every single aspect is performed by hand – harvesting, sorting, pressing…everything.
The winery produces three Dry Rieslings. The Classique is their most important wine, and speaks of the terroir of East Seneca Lake, the style of Forge and the pure expression of each vintage. The Single Vineyard wine is a selection of a specific barrel lot where the vintage and the vineyard come together to express something special. The Les Allies is the result of meticulous barrel selection, where individual wines have evolved under natural, slow fermentation to reveal a unique personality and character.
2016 Forge Cellars Riesling Classique: bright medium gold. Lime zest, peach and fresh pear aromas segue to beautifully crisp, clean palate that focuses on ripe lime and mandarin flavors. This is indeed dry, with a refreshing minerality and lots of back-end depth. An outstanding Riesling that would pair well with Asian flavors and smoked salmon or trout.
2015 Forge Cellars Riesling Sawmill Creek Vineyard: only 100 cases produced of this terroir-driven wine. Medium gold, this has notes of dried honey and hazelnuts, with apricot and lime on the palate. Again, absolutely dry, with a rich mouthfeel framing steely minerality. This would pair well with fish dishes like trout or swordfish.
2015 Forge Cellars Riesling Les Allies: bright gold, with yellow highlights. This has notes of golden apple and tangerine, with an nice almond blossom overtone. This is brilliantly focused, with lime and tangerine flavors and a hint of nectarine. Again, bone dry, and that racy minerality lasts throughout the long finish.
These wines are stunning examples of Dry Riesling made with meticulous care. They are eminently drinkable today and will reward 3-5 years of cellaring, where their complexity and depth will emerge even further.
Having recently been the invigilator at a number of wine exams for both the Court of Mater Sommeliers and the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET), I have noticed that in the blind tasting section of the exams that many students continue to make a crucial error. They take one sniff of the sample, decide that they know what the wine is, then proceed to create a tasting note for the fictional wine in their head, usually missing key components of the wine that are in the glass.
One of the hardest things about blind tasting is to ignore this tendency. It is important to explore the wine with a clear, unbiased approach that lets you identify the key components in a wine’s aroma and structure to help you come to a deductive conclusion as to what the wine could be.
I think that this approach is also important to the wine consumer. We all have a tendency to see a wine superficially, almost imposing upon a wine the qualities that we expect it to have. One of the great joys of wine is the exploration and discovery of different aromas, flavors, textures and styles, from potentially thousands of different grape varieties and sources.
Keeping an open mind will take you down paths that you perhaps never thought you would go – and you may end up finding that you were stuck in a “wine rut” and that there is a way to get out of it – by freeing your mind and letting wine speak to you.
Have a question for our Master Somm? Write Peter: Peter@DouxVin.com