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February 2015

January 2015

Bodegas Ponce Clos Lojen

Bodegas Ponce was started by Juan Antonio and his father in 2005 when he was only 23.  Juan Antonio's family had owned vineyards in the DO of Manchuela going back generations, but they hadn't ever made the wines themselves.  Bodegas Ponce has in a short time established a reputation as the top producer of Manchuela's native grape: Bobal.  Ponce farms biodynamically, ferments with natural yeasts from the grapes skins, and doesn't fine or filter the wines.  For more in depth info check out this other blog post: Bodegas Ponce

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Aroma: Once's Clos Lojen has a forceful aroma and right off the bat I can smell grilled meat, wood smoke, and ripe blackberries.  I can actually smell some of those flavors just on opening the bottle!  The smoke and grill aromas give balance to the ripe sunny fruit aromas that are here but don't over whelm them.  Clos Lojen has an aroma that's interesting, inviting, and complicated: both bright and smoky at the same time.

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Palate: the Clos Lojen is substantial red wine.  It fills your mouth with dense tight black cherry and brambly spice.  There's fresh fruit right up front, but then the mid palate kind of diverges into two distinct complementary flavors: deep dark dense fruit and that prickly wood smoke.  There's almost a bit of a milk chocolaty texture and creaminess hiding in there, not the sweetness, but the smooth earthiness.  Then the finish gets tied back together with tannins that dry the wine out, focus it, and pull those different flavors back into one experience. 

Ponce's Clos Lojen is both delicious and unique.  It's medium bodied and will work great with hearty rustic red meat dishes.  Clos Lojen may only be Ponce's entry level wine, but it's a very satisfying and memorable wine for under $15.  Clos Lojen is available at Rosemont on Brighton Ave, Rosemont in Yarmouth, Aurora Provisions, The Farm Stand, and Maine and Loire


Pyramid Valley Cowley Family Vineyard Pinot Noir

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Vintage: 2010

Pyramid Valley is one of the most passionate, well respected, principled wineries in NZ.  Located in North Canterbury, Pyramid Valley makes brilliant wines from their own home vineyards, but also has long term contracts with several family growers.  The Pyramid Valley Cowely Pinot is part of the Grower's Collection and comes from the Cowley family vineyard in Marlborough.   Mike and Claudia Weersing established Pyarmid Valley in 2000, but it was a long almost obsessive road to North Canterbury NZ.  The road started in California, went to Europe, then all over the world hunting for the perfect land to grow Pinot Noir, and finally ended in the hills of North Cnterbury on New Zealand's south island with Pyramid Valley. 

For more read Joe Appel's excellent article here: Search for Perfect Soil leads to Magic

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Aroma: dark, rich, woodsey; this smells like very serious developed Pinot Noir.  Pyramid Valley's Cowley is great substantial Pinot Noir: there's delicious raspberry as well as a spicy woodsey character and overall it smells rich and developed.  The Cowley Pinot's aroma   There are no green unripe fruit or leafy aromas which can be off putting and are common in Marlborough Pinot.  The closest other type of Pinot I could compare it to is a Pommard, but just from smelling the wine it's clearly a unique expression of the grape.  The Cowley smells like serious, deep, developed, and powerful Pinot with pure fruit and just a hint of smoke. 

Taste: The Cowley is bright and lively, but also jammy.  It seems substantial and has a thick kind of texture for Pinot with a woodsey mid-palate and just a barest hint of bitterness that's great for how it reels balances the fruit.  The finish has a nice softer raspberry preserve kind of flavor to it.  The fruit is so rich and developed and more specifically tastes of fresh raspberry and strawberry.  Something about the character of Pyramid Valley's Cowley is very autumnal to me.  This Pinot just smells and tastes like autumn: like the rich sweet roast vegetables and poultry I want to eat.  Clear, crisp, defined, juicy, a bit smoky, Pyramid Valley's Cowley is a rich and unusually substantial Pinot.  It's delicious and the perfect thing for a beef stew.

Pyramid Valley's Cowely Pinot is available for about $34 at Rosemont's Brighton Ave and Yarmouth locations, Bow St Market, and the Blue Hill Wine Shop.


Farmers Dinner at Vinland

On Thursday the 8th of January, their one year anniversary, Vinland closed to the public and threw a private dinner for all the farmers that supply them.  Chef David Levi had been trying to think of a good way to celebrate the anniversary and instead of some big pay event he settled on the private dinner to thank all the farmers that supported Vinland.  What better way to celebrate than with a straightforward party and no financial motivation.  Plus, when your restaurant uses no ingredients that aren't locally sourced and organic, you really depend on local farmers to come through for you with the things you need.

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Not being a farmer I felt a little out of place and unworthy of the appreciation due the farmers, but that was completely outweighed by how flattered I was and happy to be a part of such a fun and generous  event.  I sat at the bar with Evan Mills, the butcher from Rosemont, who supplies Vinland with most all their meat. 

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Of all the special dinners I've attended with famous wine makers and chefs from around the world this made me the happiest.  Farming for the most part is gritty and unglamorous but it's hard working great farmers that are responsible for Maine's nationally famous food scene.  Seeing so many of those farmers having a good time together experiencing the end result of where their labor was pretty moving for me.  I wanted to show my appreciation in a small way as well so I brought along some bottles of a totally natural wild fermented sparkling wine from the Loire: Jean Pierre Robinot's Fetembulles.  I walked around, chatted with people, and poured the Fetembulles for everyone mid way through the dinner.  The wine sparked fun conversations and was well received.  The evening left me really happy to be in Portland Maine doing what I do.


Andrea Calek Babiole

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Vintage: I have it on good authority that this bottle is 2012, mostly.

Andrea Calek has gotten a fair amount of attention, and based on the three wines I just tasted from him he deserves it.  What I know of Andrea Calek is primarily hearsay, but it makes for a good story so I'm ok with it.  If you want to read more than my questionable stories click here: Andrea Calek

Calek first came to France when he deserted the Czechoslovak army in the 80's.  His mother reported him to the French authorities as a bum though so he was deported.  Eventually he made his way back to France and in the course of his wanderings he came onto the wines of Guy Breton, a legendary natural wine maker in Beaujolais.  The wines inspired him and he was sucked into making wine.  He began working with Gerard Oustric at Le Mazel in the Ardeche and eventually bought several hectares which he farms and lives in a small trailer.  Calek is an extremely natural wine maker using no sulfur or any intervention in the winery.  He blends and bottles based on feel and taste, releasing wines when he thinks they're ready, but never to a set plan.

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Aroma: There's a pretty cherry and raspberry fruit aroma to the Babiole, not super ripe nor light: just clear and present.  The Babiole's aroma is way more nuanced than just fruit though, I can also smell licorice and a floral aroma that's somewhere between roses and lilacs.  Woven through all the fruit and floral of the Babiole there's also a spicy woodsey kind of aroma that makes me think of a mature forest of maples and oaks somewhere in southern New England in the late summer or autumn.  Yeah, that sounds wine geekily specific, but coming from Downeast I know what spruce smells like and I know what pine smells like.  The Babiole does not smell like either of those kinds of forests.  It's an interesting, nuanced, layered aroma that's not as extroverted as many Rhones.  The aroma is very pretty, but also thought provoking.

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Taste: Well, when I first opened the Babiole it was very focused, cut, clear, and almost similar to some kind of northern red Burgundy in it's lively refreshing energeticness. 

Now it is not that.  In the space of a bout an hour being open the wine has opened and has this soft raspberry fruit flavor that you taste as soon as you drink the wine and then just smoothly builds through the mid palate, crescendos, and then lingers on through the long finish where it kind of morphs into raspberry.  There is a clearness and a suppleness to the Babiole.  It tastes like that raspberry fruit is at a higher tone stretched over the rest of the wine's structural flavors.  There's a woodseyness on the mid palate that's a lower kind of level than the raspberry and then tannin, in balance with the wine's body, comes in on the finish.  There's a relaxed kind of lithe, light on it's feet feel to the Babiole.  It's opened up and changed from how it was at first, but it's still a very thirst quenching mouth full.

The Babiole is so new it's not available anywhere yet.  Look for it to start appearing about a week from now, particularly at Portland's new wine shop: Maine and Loire.  I speculate it will cost something like about $25