Once upon a time in Chateauneuf-du-Pape, there was a castle that the pope lived in. In the 14th century a castle was built on the hill over the village. This was during the Avignon Papacy when the Pope(s) lived in Avignon rather than Rome. Why? Because French King Philip IV finagled the election of a Frenchman, Clement V to the papacy. This new pope was not too popular in Rome and moved to Avignon. The castle (now in ruins) was built for his successor Pope John XXII. The next seven Popes in Avignon did not live in the castle. Over the objections of the French cardinals, Pope Gregory XI had just moved the papacy back to Rome but died shortly after his return. After the Great Schism of the Catholic church in 1378 the antipope Clement VII moved back to the castle for his own protection. This was the beginning of a four decade period when there were two Popes - one in Rome and one in Avignon, which was very confusing for many Catholics - especially in France and Italy! Although Avignon belonged to the papacy - it was in France, and the influence of the King of France, that supplanted the pope’s influence. In the eyes of many the Avignon papacy was blamed for all kinds of misfortune and bad luck - the War of Religion, the Black Death, crop failures and subsequent mass starvation, devil worship, etc… At the time of the French Revolution, remains of the castle were sold off to multiple buyers and most of the stone was used for building in the village. Only the tower of the Donjon was preserved. During the Second World War the Donjon was used as an observation post by the occupying German army. When the Germans were in retreat they tried to destroy the Donjon with dynamite and almost succeeded, though part of the south tower exists to this day. 95% of the wine produced in Chateauneuf-du-Pape is red. It can include 13 different grape varieties but is mostly grenache. I enjoy this wine, especially when it has about 10 - 20 years of bottle age. They are not "hip" wines; they are high in alcohol and low in acid, and I think they are undeniably delicious wines to enjoy. We have a great collection of mature, ready to drink and enjoy wines currently in stock. These are decadent and hedonistic wines, maybe just as decadent and hedonistic as the antipope!
“Brezza remains one of Piedmont’s great undiscovered gems. The estate’s Barolos, made in a rigorously traditional style, show tons of vintage and vineyard character in the classic, mid-weight style that is the signature of traditionally- made Barolos.” –Antonio Galloni If Brezza remains undiscovered, it's in part because until the middle part of the last decade the wines did not live up to their potential. But then the current owner, Enzo, took over and guess where he learned to make wine? Across the street with his cousin Bartolo Mascarello! Located in the center of the village of Barolo, since their founding in 1885 Brezza has owned and operated their winery and vineyards for four generations. The vineyards are now certified organic, but they haven't stopped there: in many ways, their farming practices all center around the general improvement of the vineyards year after year. All grapes are hand-harvested from up to seventy-year-old vines, they make their own composts, and they even use lightweight tractors to reduce the use of fossil fuels and avoid soil compaction. The wines are fermented naturally in large-format Slavonian oak, and are neither filtered nor refined. With bright, fresh fruit and firm, smooth tannins, one of the best things about the 2013 vintage in Barolo is that you can drink them now or store them for awhile. The growing season in 2013 was a bit cooler, which resulted in very elegant and refined, incredibly well-balanced wines. Brezza's, which comprises fruit from Monforte, Novello, and Barolo proper, is no exception. Winemakers themselves have compared the 2013 vintage to recent greats such as 2010, 2008, and 1999. The 2013s from Brezza are no exception, and we're happy to carry them. Brezza, Barolo, 2013 - $41.99
Every time you open a good bottle of wine it's an opportunity to travel, usually to that special place where the grapes were grown and the wine was made. But sometimes the wine will take you on a trip through time. There are a few estates that haven't changed for decades. But not many—López de Heredia comes to mind, and Lafarge in Volnay. When you taste their wines, you experience something ancient and beautiful. Time travel. In the case of the Merkelbachs, that time is the 1950s. Nothing has changed since then: for all those decades the same two brothers have made wines from the same terroirs, over and over again, using the same ancient methods on their beautiful, old, ungrafted vines. They started young and are both around 80 years old today. Like López and Lafarge, the wines are extraordinarily good. They have to be for the project to survive so long, working this way. We say nearly timeless because, of course, the wines also reflect their vintage. And where 2015 is concerned, we don't have to tell you how good a thing that is. We are so happy to have two of their Auslesen, both excellent, and quite different one from another: Merkelbach, Riesling Auslese Ürziger Würzgarten “Urglück”#9 , 2015 This is an intensely beautiful example of fruity Mosel Riesling, oozing with passionfruit and peach, but also a dizzying array of spices, smoke, and fresh herbs. Really long, elegant finish that is simply astounding for the price. Merkelbach, Riesling Auslese Kinheimer Rosenberg #5, 2015 While the Urgluck puts its fruity foot forward, the Rosenberg is all about rocks and minerals, with a good dollop of flowers and peaches balancing things out. Again, the price is pretty crazy considering the obvious quality of this wine.
What is Sauvignon Blanc? It is a white wine grape variety. It's "home" is in the Loire Valley, but it is one of the French grapes, like Chardonnay, that has become a widely planted and widely consumed "international" grape variety. As many consumers decided that Chardonnay was too "oaky and buttery", many of them moved to Sauvignon Blanc, which is typically crisper, more fruit forward, and more herbaceous. Where is it grown? The most famous Sauvignon Blancs continue to be produced in the Loire Valley, mostly in the AOCs of Sancerre and Pouilly Fume. It also make popular varietal wines in California, South Africa, Chile and New Zealand, and to a lesser extent Austria, Northern Italy and Australia. There are other, lesser-known pockets of Sauvignon Blanc production in various corners of the world. Burgundy has its own Sauvignon Blanc AOC in Saint Bris. The Germans (especially in the Pfalz) and the Spanish (especially in Rueda) have been known to produce examples. The other very important wine region for Sauvignon Blanc is Bordeaux and in fact many think that it's the grape's original home (although more recent DNA and etymological evidence points us back towards the Loire Valley). Sauvignon Blanc occasionally makes a varietal wine in Bordeaux, but is most often blended with other varieties, usually Semillon. This includes the famous sweet wines of Sauternes and Barsac, which are just about the only sweet wines made from Sauvignon Blanc anywhere in the world (though we have come across other examples...) Similar blends (dry) are also produced in the Margaret River region of Western Australia. Is it related to Cabernet Sauvignon? Yes! The name is no coincidence. Cabernet Sauvignon is a cross (which occurred naturally) between Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc. That's quite a family! You can detect the family resemblance in the natural herbaceousness of all three grapes. All have a high level of pyrazines (short for methoxypyrazines), which is a molecule that you also find in bell peppers, and gives these wines their "green" notes. All the high-pyrazine grapes originate in and around Bordeaux (in addition to Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon, you have high levels in Malbec, Carmenere and Merlot; Sauvignon Blanc is the only white wine in this group!). What is Fume Blanc? It's a marketing name for Sauvignon Blanc that someone came up with in California back in the 1970s. It was popularized by Robert Mondavi's varietal bottling. What are the greatest examples of Sauvignon Blanc? Although the Southern Hemisphere produces plenty of cheerful, fruity examples of Sauvignon Blanc, the world's greatest examples still come from the grapes' original homes in the Loire Valley and Bordeaux. The greatest Sauvignon Blancs made today include Dagueneau's Pouilly Fumes, and the top Sancerres from the likes of Vatan, Cotat, Boulay, Labaille or Vacheron. But my own personal favorite Sauvignon Blanc is actually from Bordeaux: The Pavillon Blanc du Chateaux Margaux. It's a very unique wine, as the vast majority of the 100% Sauvignon Blancs from Bordeaux are straightforward and inexpensive, and almost all the luxury whites are blended with Semillon and often other grapes. But Chateau Margaux has been doing it this way for hundreds of years, and the wine they make with Sauvignon Blanc is extremely special (and very expensive)! California is also trying with top examples from the likes of Araujo, Larkmead, Peter Michael and Spottswoode. I have not yet come across examples that have convinced me that these are worth the high prices, but I confess that I have not tried very many. What about more affordable Sauvignon Blanc? Start with Sancerre! It is really incredible how many artisanal Sancerres can be had here in the U.S. for under $30. Don't confuse these wines with the industrial Sancerre that you find in so many bistros, both here and in France. Try the Cuvee Chavignol from Bailly-Reverdy ($23.99) or the Lucien Crochet Croix du Roy ($27.99). You should also try a bottle of Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc ($29.99), the wine that put New Zealand on the map. This is full-on Southern Hemisphere Sauvignon Blanc, with an emphasis on berry fruit rather than the lime and mineral flavors more common in the Loire. And then for a slightly different take, try Dipoli's Sauvignon Blanc ($29.99) from Northern Italy, where there is actually a small but important tradition of making fairly "serious" Sauvignon Blanc with aging potential. As of this writing, the 2012 is the current release, and it is drinking great!