My first day or so in Sicily didn't teach me much. I was excited to exit the plane and see Etna right up ahead in the distance, but I quickly discovered that there is no pedestrian exit from the airport. I don't know how I got out, but it involved an ancient one car wide tunnel, abandoned industrial areas, an Italian ghetto, and a lot of dead ends. I learned that side walks just aren't Italian and that Sicily has a lot of ornery wild dogs: Randazzu I think.
Finally today I made it to Solicchiata up above Etna and visited Frabk Cornelissen. More on his domain later.
Caneva da Nani is a small 6 hectare operation up in the Valdobiaddene zone of Prosecco. Valdobiaddene is the highest altitude part of Prosecco and is considered to make the most expressive wines in the broader Prosecco area. Caneva da Nani is made by the Canello family in the village of Guia. They work naturally and this is an old heritage style of Prosecco that used to be popular locally but went out of style. The Col Fondo style is sparkling wine that finishes fermenting in the bottle and so still has it's natural yeast and sediment that gives it more depth. Col Fondo translates literally as "with the bottom" meaning that the wine still has all the sediment and live yeast in the bottle. This wine is named after the Canello family's older father who's nickname is Nani and a Caneva is a local term for a good shady place to drink wine.
The Caneva da Nani is dangerously delicious to drink.
Aroma: the Caneva da Nani has a really pretty inviting aroma of white rose, soft peach, and a bit of honey dew melon. Beguiling is the perfect word for this.
Taste: mmm, this is really smooth. The effervescence is finer than most Prosecco I've had. the bubbles are very small and it's harsh at all. The fruit is kind of soft ripe green apple, delicate ripe melon, and some soft not sweet peach. The finish just slowly fades away leaving just a hint of the dry yeastiness. This is delicious, fun, and so thirst quenching. This is a great autumn sparkling wine.
The Caneva da Nani is just under $20 and is available at Aurora Provisions and Maine and Loire.
The best holiday of the year (if you love food and wine) is upon us! Here are some traditional and not so traditional ideas that we’re excited about. We'll be posting more specific and in depth posts about these over the coming weeks but here's a preview of the wines we're excited to celebrate Thanksgiving with
Poco a Poco Pinot Noir 2014 (approximately $28)
Luke Bass grew up in his family’s vineyard, Porter Bass, 9 miles from the ocean in Russian River. His parents bought the estate abandoned, converted to biodynamics, and literally brought it back to life. This Pinot Noir is ripe but also energetic and refreshing; the balance is some of the best I’ve seen from CA. Available at Aurora Provisions, Vic and Whit's, Maine and Loire, Rosemont Yarmouth, and Local Market
Joseph Cattin Pinot Blanc 2013 (approximately $16)
Mouth watering Alsace 1-2 of crisp acidity and then ripe tropical-ish fruit and a hint of sweetness. Great with turkey, pork, or meaty white fish. Available at Bow St, Cumberland Food Stop, Tess Market, State Street in Bangor, and Bootlegger's in Topsham.
Famille Laurent Saint Pourçain Tradition Pinot Noir/Gamay 2014 (approximately $15)
This is an old favorite and such a great value. Elegant texture, juicy, gamey, and lively all at once. Available at Weatherbird, Rayr, the Rosemonts, Market Basket, Oak Hill Beverage, the Farm Stand, Black Sheep Wine, the Cheese Iron, Maine Beer and Bev, Black Tie, Bow St, State Street Wines, RSVP, Jess's, and Whole Foods.
4 Kilos "motor américa" 2014 (approximately $25)
100% Callet made with zero sulfur on the island of Mallorca in the Med. That’s not why you should care though. You should care about this because it’s the most delicious thing I’ve drunk in months. Texture like a cote de Beaune, but with more mineral saltiness and dry dusty character. Lighter in body, but mouth watering.
Cerro La Barca Vegas Altas Tempranillo Tinto 2014 (approximately $15)
Fun, bright, exuberant, sunny medium bodied Tempranillo. This has just the right amount of pepper and slight tannin to work with turkey, gravy, stuffing, but also not so much that it would overwhelm roast vegetables. Available at Maine and Loire, Meridians, Maine Meat, Rayr, the Cheese Iron, Bow St, New Morning, and Store Ampersand.
Caneva da Nani el vin col fondo Pet Nat (approximately $18)
Pet Nats have blown up in the past year with coverage in the NY Times, Gourmet, Food and Wine, etc. This pet nat wine from the Prosecco region is refreshing, fun, zippy, alive: all the things that Pet Nats are famous for.
Marenas Mediacapa (approximately $20)
This is zero sulfur skin fermented dry Pedro Ximenez. It’s relaxed in character and very smooth, but also in it’s way very robust. The acidity isn’t strong with this one, but there is so much flavor, texture, and mouthfeel that you can drink this with all kinds of strongly flavored foods and not worry about the wine conflicting. Available at Rosemont, Miane and Loire, the Cheese Iron, and Lois's Natural Foods.
Domaine de Bel Air Bourgueil 2012 (approximately $16)
It’s hard to pick just one Cabernet Franc to feature for Thanksgiving. Pretty much any one of our Loire Cab Francs would be great, but the Bel Air is a more developed and dense expression that has some good age on it at this point. Available at Rosemont, State street Wines, New Morning, and RSVP.
bel Air, Bourgueil, Joseph Cattin, maine wine, Mallorca wine, Marenas, Mediacapa, Motor America, natural wine, Pinot Blanc, Poco a Poco, Portland maine, tempranillo, Thanksgiving Wine, Turkey, what to drink with Thanksgiving, what to drink with turkey
Tami is made by Arianna Occhipinti in Vittoria Sicily, near the south west coast, across the island from Syracuse. Arianna Occhipinti began leaning about wine when she was a teenager, studied wine making in university, but dropped out because she disagreed with the industrial methods of her professors. Click here to see a great video of her: Arianna on wine farming. She started with 1 hectare of vines that she leased at 21 and slowly, through hard manual work in the vineyards, attention to detail in the winery, and the support of her family and friends became an internationally recognized wine maker known for impeccably balanced and energetic wines made along natural principles. Arianna makes wines both under her own name (Occhipinti) and under the Tami label. Arriana started making the Tami wines after she had already gained fame for her Occhipinti wines. The idea was to make delicious straight forward natural wines that weren't expensive and use the organic grapes from a friend's vineyard to help the local area. As you can see from the video Arriana is a woman with a purpose and is all in. It's impossible not to appreciate her commitment.
Aroma: I smell lots of dark, black cherry, and dried cooked berries in the winter from the Tami. I want to be clear that it doesn't smell over powering or too heavy, but it is very juicy and ripe smelling. The Tami Nero d'Avola smells warm and comforting with all of it's ripe fruit flavors. There is just so much black berry and cherry to the is Nero d'Avola. Hiding behind all that fruit there is also a little woodsey smoky whiff too. The Tami smells ripe and vivid with out crossing the line into candied or stewed; it smells like a lot of delicious fun.
Palate: The Tami Nero has more acidity than the nose lets on. It's a vivid, energetic, refreshing medium bodied red with very clear and elegant tannin. True to Arianna's style this is a focused and pure Nero d'Avola. It opens with those ripe raspberry and pretty well sticks with raspberry flavors right through the whole palate.
Arianna's Tami Nero d'Avola is delicious and a steal at about $19. The only problem is that she doesn't make much (it's labor intensive after all) and even less comes into the country. I snagged the last 10 cases out of NY. Arianna's Tami Nero d'Avola is currently available at Rosemont on Munjoy Hill, Rosemont on Brighton, Rosemont on Commercial St, Maine and Loire, Sawyer's Specialties, and Bow St Market.
Sui Generis is latin for "unique". The Sui Generis series of wines are made by Martin Texier, son of the legendary natural wine maker Eric Texier. The Anahi cuvee is made from 100% Marsanne, organically farmed, hand harvested, hand fermented, and with no sulfur used any where in the process. Martin seems to make the Anahi as a demonstration and exploration of what can be accomplished in spite of using no sulfur to stabilize or preserve the wine. I highly recommend this in depth interview with Martin that gives a much better understanding of the double edged sword that sulfur is in wine making: Martin Texier Anahi.
Aroma: The Anahi has a beguiling aroma. It's not leap out of the glass vivid and crisp like a modern Sauvignon Blanc, but it's got rich and interesting aromas of ripe pear, honey, baking apples, some fresh grass, and just a hint of pickled ginger. Texier's Anahi, true to the Sui Generis name, has a very unique and engaging aroma.
Palate: Rich mouth feel. Something in the Anahi's taste actually reminds me of the apple taste of Calvados. The texture is rich and sits in the mouth. There is a hint of gingery seeming spice to the finish; it's different and subtly adds an extra dimension to the wine. The Anahi has a giving character to it and some how tastes full of sun. The personality seems is deep, mellow, band relaxed. Their isn't so much acidity, but the palate is very long, evolving, and there's a mineral salty quality on the finish that's delicious.
The more I drink this the more I like it. I drank it over 3 days and surprisingly it just got better and better. Accepted wisdom is that natural wines fade quickly once their open, but with this wine Martin Texier sticks a cork screw right through that myth. Martin Texier took a risk making this; it's a science experiment! How can you not love a science experiment that's so passionate, so delicious, and so satisfying! The Anahi retails for under $20 at Maine and Loire on Washington Ave.
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.
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.
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
Bugey is a lesser know appellation in eastern France formed by a group of low hills at the southern edge of the geographic formation that creates the Jura. Distance wise Bugey is closer to Savoie so Bugey sometimes gets lumped in with it, but Bugey really has it's own character separate from the other near by wine regions. Bugey has been known for making sparkling wines that were popular in Lyon and formerly in Paris, but they have slowly faded from France's national consciousness and aren't so common any more. A quick fact is that in the 19th century there were 7000 hectares of vines in Bugey, now there are 500.
Franck Peillot is the fifth generation of his family to make wine on their 6 hectares of land outside the town of Montagnieu. This is a blend of Altesse, Chardonnay, and some Mondeuse (a red grape) that Franck often actually co-ferments with the Chardonnay. Franck tries to do his fermentation using the natural yeasts on the grapes and is successful about 90% of the time. He adds a very small amount of sulfur at pressing, and then another small amount to stabilise at bottling; it still ends up being magnitudes less than a normal wine. Read more about Franck and Bugey here on the excellent Wine Terroirs Blog.
Aroma: Peillot's Bugey has a fresh lively and pleasant aroma of lemon zest, peach, fresh white grapefruit, some toast, and a ripe apple aroma that seems like golden delicious to me. It smells fun, focused, and energetic.
Taste: There's a focus to Franck's Bugey that is similar to good non vintage Champagne, but not quite as sharp. His Bugey opens with a dry edgey effervescence first, but then on the mid palate there's a fresh pineapple flavor that pops up before subsiding back into more of a rich, gentle, palate enveloping toasty creaminess. This sparkling wine is dry, but it's not as bone cuttingly dry as many mass produced Champagnes can be. It feels like it's not quite as highly pressurized as Champagne and that must help it seem a bit softer. At the same time the Bugey is so much more balanced and integrated than any Prosecco I've ever had.
Franck Peillot has made a delicious, fun loving, and very elegant sparkling wine that costs about half the price of Champagne, plus it's hand made to boot, unlike most cheap Champagne. This is priced in the mid $20s and is available at Browne Trading, Flock and Vine, Rosemont on Brighton Ave, Aurora Provisions, the Cheese Iron, The Farm Stand, and the Bier Cellar.
I'm tickled pink to have added another Lebanese winery to the Devenish portfolio! Chateau Ksara is my new addition to Chateau St Thomas. Ksara, according to their website, is the oldest continuously operating winery in Lebanon. I say oldest continuously operating because Lebanon has been the site of wine making since....the dawn of history? before recorded history? A long time. Most recently Lebanon was a French colony and the French did what they always do: they planted vines. Ksara was originally started by Jesuit monks in 1857, but is now owned by a local family.
Ksara and Lebanese wine making in general happens in the Bekaa valley. The Bekaa isn't far from the Mediterranean, but it's in the Lebanese mountains and is over 3,000' above sea level. So the summers are hot and sunny and dry, but the winters are surprisingly cold, wet, and snowy. That seasonal variation helps to make more serious wines than you'd expect considering the distance from the equator.
Aroma: Nice juicy aroma of plums, prunes, blueberries and just a touch of smoke. The Prieure has a hearty robust and very inviting aroma. It smells very much like a southern French red blend, just a little bit rustic and with a ripeness to the fruit that makes me imagine hot direct sun.
Palate: Rich and juicy and spicy too. Definitely some cooked blueberries on the finish. The Prieure is juicy and lush but also dense and mouth filling. There's cranberry, cherry, all that jazz. behind the forward fruit is a nice dry earthy quality on the mid palate followed by substantial enough tannins to draw the wine out. And then there's this cool raspberry-ish flavor that lingers on after the finish.
Ksara's le Prieure is a delicious and accessible table wine that's similar to a Provencal wine but with something different that's hard for me to put my finger on. It's a little "drier". Any way, the Prieure rocks and is about $11 at Rosemont Munjoy Hill, Rosemont Commercial St, The Farm Stand in South Portland, State St Wine Cellar in Bangor, and the Blue Hill Wine Shop.
Jean Pla makes this Grenache in the French Catalan area of Maury where he grew up. Maury is/was famous for producing dense, lush, desert wines. In the past decade those sweet fortified wines have gone out of favor with the wine drinking public and many fantastic old vineyards were left with few buyers for their wines. Jean saw an opportunity to snag some of those very high quality concentrated grapes and make a dense, juicy, Mediterranean Grenache table wine from them. As vines age they produce fewer grapes, but the fruit is more concentrated. The vines that produced the Passion Grenache vary in age between 40 and 90 years old.
Aroma: Lots of fruit. Mostly dark stewed fruit: cooked cherries and blueberries. A bit brambley and woodsey too. It smells dark, lush, and kind of....sleepy? That's the best word I have for it. It some how makes me think of a hot Mediterranean afternoon, so hot it's drowsey and everyone is taking a long lunch break.
Palate: The Passion Grenache is surprisingly smooth and lush textured. Surprising because it's a big powerhouse of a wine with very deep, dark, dense cherry and blackberry fruit. It's only just noticeably tannic and it comes across more as a chewy sensation than anything aggressive and dry. There's a dark earthy savory taste on the finish that, to me, is similar to unsweetened chocolate as well as just the right amount of Grenache pepperiness.
The Passion Grenache is about $13 and available at Rosemont on Brighton, Rosemont Commercial St, Higgin's Beach Market, Flock and Vine, Old Port Wine Merchant, and Vic and Whit's
Oyster River Wine Growers is located in Warren, up in Maine's mid coast area. Establishing a winery in Maine was a gutsy move. Not many people have attempted it so there's no real established knowledge or road map of how to go about it. Never the less, Brian Smith and Allie Willenbrink decided to make the leap into wine making and vineyard ownership.
Brian got interested in wine making when he took a job at a winery in VT and was passionate enough to move to CA and study wine making at Fresno State. After graduating he and Allie moved to Maine and took up residence in an old farm house in Warren to raise a family. They've planted a few acres of vines (that they work with a horse and plow) but they haven't started producing in earnest yet and the fruit for their grape wines is bought in upstate NY. This cider however comes from locally grown apples that Brian meticulously selects to give him the right mix of acidity, sugar, and tannin.
The Hoboken Station is more of a wine like cider, more similar to the dry ciders of Normandy France and Asturias Spain than to the sweeter lower alcohol versions that are popular in the UK.
Aroma: Oyster River's cider has an elegant, delicate, perfumed kind of an aroma. There's soft white wild flowers, a bit of toast, and some golden raisiny smells. There's also just a whiff of honey; not in a sweet way, but like floral wild clover honey. It smells like spring fields and wild flowers in bloom. And hay!
Palate: Elegant, soft, and with just a hint of spritz to it. Oyster River's cider doesn't have too much fruit and it's certainly not sweet. What it is is very clean and refreshing! The appley fruit that it does have is pretty and relaxed, not too tart, although there is a bit of a cool lemon zest thing going on too.
This is a really hand made wine; Oyster Rive doesn't filter the cider, doesn't add any sulfites to it, and ferments it with the natural yeast on the skins. The Hoboken Cider has a golden and slightly cloudy color and it's about as real and honest a farm product as these things get. Overall it's a delicious and refreshing wine of a cider. At 9% alcohol and with no sulfur you can quaff jugs and still feel fine, or at least I can. Also, it's fantastic with grilled cheeses.
The Hoboken Station Cider is about $12 and available at so many places I'd need another paragraph. Most small wine shops should have it.