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October 2011

September 2011

Comelli Soffumbergo 2008

This is one of the new wines that I'm getting from my friend Warren and his new company: Peter Warren Selections.  This red blend comes from a very small family vineyard in Friuli; a small area in the north east of Italy, near the border with Slovenia.  Friuli is primarily known for their lovely aromatic white wines, but they produce some exciting high elevation reds as well. 

Grapes: Refosco, Pignolo, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon

This has a really interesting aroma that's really smoky with out really being gamey.  It's a sort of dark, elegant, smoky/earthy aroma; very warming and comforting.  I pick up some ceder, bacon fat, blackcherry, cigar box, and definitely some aromatic fresh ground coffee. 

On the palate this is so sleek and refined in texture, but delicious that it's hard not to polish the glass right off!  The fruit is bright and has fresh acidity.  It's a lush, layered, dark cherry flavor with underlying baking spice and cassis.  The fruit is intense and the acidity and tannin hold it together well, but it's not an aggressive wine.  The texture is oh so smooth, almost velvety, and suave.  Medium bodied and an excellent autumn wine! It's a really unique blend of the intensity of Cabernet with the foresty/smokiness of Refosco and some of the lushness of Merlot!

ok, now that that's done I can finally just drink this!


Available at the Rosemont Market on Munjoy Hill, the Freeport Cheese and Wine Shop and Trattoria Athena in Brunswick

Henry Varnay and Grilled Cheese; a perfect Autumn Food Pairing!

This morning I was talking to Brendon about the wines in an upcoming tasting and he asked me what food I would pair with the Henry Varney sparkling wine.  I thought for a second and then it just hit me: grilled cheese sandwitch with fresh apple!  We talked about it and it sounded so good in my head that I resolved to have this meal for myself that very evening.  I picked up some local bread, a fresh Maine Macintosh, a wedge of Comte cows milk cheese, and a bottle of the Varnay and got to work.


It was such an easy, simple meal to prepare, but so good!  I did the sandwiches in a cast iron skillet on low heat to give the cheese time to melt with out burning the honey that I added.  That's right, I added raw honey to the sandwiches as well.  It was a killer combo.  Though simple; the combination of toasted bread, melted cheese, fresh sweet apple, and aromatic honey was fantastic.  And the Henry Varnay was a perfect complement. 


The Varnay is made from Ugni Blanc grapes in the central Loire.  It's a smooth and slightly toasty sparkling wine with some nice ripe apple flavors up front and a clean, rich finish.  The flavors are integrated and it drinks like a much nicer wine than $12.  I think it's rare to find a really complete, enjoyable sparkling wine like this for these prices.  The medium effervescence and easy ripe apple flavors were a perfect complement to the grilled cheese sandwich. 


You can grab yourself a bottle of Varnay for about $12 at any of the Rosemonts, The Oh No cafe, Bow St Market, and Provisions in Freeport.  The Comte, local apples, and bread are pretty easy to come by; most any cheese shop will have these. 


Devenish Email Newsletter 9.21.11

Greetings Wine Enthusiasts, Aficionados, and Imbibers,

"This is my favorite time of year!" I said to myself as I drove down the highway appreciating the clean crisp light of the end of summer and the gold tinge it lent to the still lush grasses and trees. But my inner dialog immediately kicked in and answered in my head "You say that about every season!". Well, my inner dialog has a point; I find things to appreciate at each time of year. Wine plays into that. I just wasn't in the mood for Chateauneuf du Pape and other big smoky, gamey, reds all through the summer. Now that the nights are a little cooler and drier, a little crisper, coming back to some of these deep, contemplative reds is like meeting up with a good friend who's been away for months.  I'm working on a list of autumn wines that I'll have out soon, but also take a look at all the new wines I have listed below. Many of them are particularly suited to the autumn.

Now that summer has ended and Devenish isn't totally devoted to delivering Pinot Grigio we're getting back to the more exciting parts of this job, like hosting cool wine events!  Devenish has been so busy I don't even know where to start!  I guess I'll start with our involvement in the Portland Museum of Art's fund raiser auction last Saturday and our involvement in the 20 Mile meal coming up on October 2nd.  I love the PMA and Devenish has done a lot of work with them over the years.  If you were there at the auction you probably drank some of our Henry Varney sparkling wine and you may also have bid on the private wine tasting and consultation with me that was auctioned off.  I'm really looking forward to the 20 mile meal too.  Cultivating Community is a great cause and it's an opportunity for me to eat a lot of great food made by fantastic local chefs from very local ingredients.  If that sounds good to you check out this link: and I'll see you at the 20 mile meal in Cape Elizabeth!  In other news Devenish has picked up a really gorgeous, authentic new Italian portfolio.  I'll send a whole other email about the wines and their provenance later, but there are some events with the wines below.  Now, on to the events:


Thursday September 22
Wine Flight at Havana
This Thursday I'll be at Havana South from 6-8pm pouring ten wines from Italy.  A lot of these will be from the new portfolio of my friend Warren Fraser.  The theme is the other 95% of Italian wine that's not from Tuscany and Piedmont.  For no really good reason (ok, Brunello, ok Barolo.....alright there are a few good reasons) Tuscany and Piedmont get all the attention.  So I'm showing ten gorgeous, authentic, unique Italian wines from the rest of Italy.  $10 for 10 wines and platters of food, stop by any time between 6-8.

Saturday October 1st
Bow St Freeport Wine Tasting
Brendon Pringle will be pulling out some of his favorite autumn wines for a tasting at Bow St on October 1st.  If you're in the area stop by and check it out.

Tuesday October 4th at 6pm
Wine Appreciation seminar at Back St Bistro
I'll be doing a wine seminar at Back St Bistro in the very beginning of October.  We're going to taste through 6 wines, paired with food and run through some tips and tricks that will improve your enjoyment of wine.  The wines will come from around the world and cover some of the predominant grape varieties.  It will be a fun, casual time with food and some cool wines to taste.  $20 per person, call
(207) 725-4060 for reservations.

Thursday October 6th
Downeast Beverage tasting
October 6th Brendon will be hosting a tasting at Downeast Beverage.  We don't have a clear plan for this yet, but Brendon always talks Downeast Beverage into doing some cool wines.  And it's so conveniently located!

Harvest on the Harbor

This October will be the fifth year that the Convention and Visitors Bureau has held the Harvest on the Harbor festival.   Celebrating Portland as a food and wine destination is something Devenish is on board with 100%; however, at times in the past I've felt that the festival has missed some of the very local and colloquial things that make the Portland food community great.  I could complain and mope, but that's not really my thing, and anyway, Devenish Wines is an involved part of the Portland food scene has a responsibility to be involved and do it's part to improve things.  So we are!  This year I'm hosting a serious of dinners and a large wine tasting to coincide with Harvest on the Harbor and broaden it's reach.  Hopefully these events will draw some of the attendees out into the community and expose them to more of Portland.  Here's a run down:

Tuesday October 18th
Cotes du Rhone dinner at the Eastender

On Tuesday night of the 18th I'm hosting a four course dinner at the Eastender.  Doing all Cotes du Rhone might sound boring to you; well, all I can say is you should have your hearing checked.  Cotes du Rhone is a huge appellation that incorporates many other finer AOCs.  So the Cotes du Rhones we'll be showcasing here come from wineries located in totally different regions and will include: Chateauneuf du Pape, Gigondas, and Vacqueyras.  As inspired by the 20 mile meal (which they are participating in) all the food will come from within 20 miles of Portland.  And it's only $45 per person!  Call 879-7669 for reservations.

Wednesday October 19th
Dominio do Bibei dinner at Bresca

Dominio do Bibei is one of the most exciting wineries in Spain right now.  They're in Galicia and grow heritage grape varieties on Roman terraces.  The winery is sending us six bottles each of several extremely limited bottling of grape varieties that are nearly extinct and never seen outside the region.  Krista at Bresca is super excited and is getting a smoker just for this dinner.  And I'm going to stage short puppet shows in between courses and introduce the wines through Socratic dialog between puppets.  This will be so awesome it might kill me.  Five courses and $75 per person.  Call Bresca at 7721004

Thursday October 20th
Hatzidakis wine dinner at Trattoria Athena

I love Trattoria Athena; I've had some really fantastic food there.  You can taste just how passionate about the cuisine the two chefs are!  I've got Josh Lavis, the importer of the Hatzidakis winery coming to Maine for this dinner.  Hatzidakis is a tiny winery on the isle of Santorini and really a back breaking labor of love by Haridimos Hatzidakis.  Here's a link to a more in depth article: Mind Blowing Greek White.  To sumarize though, Harry makes lush, rich, very complex white and red wines from heritage grapes grown in wind swept volcanic sand.  His winery is a cave/hut that he rebuilt himself.  The wines are amazing.  The food here is amazing.  This will be a really good time.  Five courses and $65 per person.  Call (207) 721-0700

Sunday October 23rd
Rising Stars 20/20 Charity Wine Tasting at the Falmouth Sea Grill

And to round out the Harvest on the Harbor weekend I'm resurecting the 20/20 charity wine tastings!  I'm working with John Dietz from Easterly, Scot Hudson from National, and the lovely Tabitha Blake from Crush Distributors to pull this off.  The Falmouth Sea Grill has just been totally renovated so we are taking advantage of their beautiful space over looking the water to hold an killer wine tasting.  $20 gets you in the door to taste 20 wines.  This time around we're all just pulling out our favorite unknown wines; the stuff that all of us love, but that no one knows exists yet.  This will be an opportunity to taste the wines that we think will become popular in the next couple years.  And the money all goes to Mensk.  Mensk is a local non profit that focuses on empowering creativity and building community.  They're involved in public art and creative events.  Check out the website for more info on them.

As you can see I've been busy.  And will continue to be so!

New Wines:

Midsummer Cellars Fowler Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2008
Old school, brooding, powerful Cab.  336 cases made and under $30.  They don't get much better than this

Baudouin Champagne Prestige NV
A grower produced Champagne that's 100% Pinot Noir for less than that mass produced Veuve Cliquot swill!

Hippodrome Ventoux Rouge 2009
Grenache based, biodynamic, smooth and excellently balanced medium bodied red.

Amizade Mencia 2010
Super bright and vibrant Mencia from Galicia for $20.  Really fun wine!

Malot Roero Arneis 2009
This Italian white is great for autumn.  It's a little fuller and under it's green apple and wild flowers it's got some hints of nuts and the woods.

Dewey Kelley Pinot Noir 2007
A very limited production (600 cases) hand made OR Pinot.  This is smoky, earthy, and enticingly smooth.

Ned Swain
Devenish Wines
207 939 3052

2002 Lamartine Cahors Cuvee Particular (something awesome you can't have)


I'd been holding on to this bottle of 2002 Cuvee Particular Cahors for a few years, waiting to see where it would go.  Lamartine is a great, old winery in the south western French appellation of Cahors.  2002 wasn't a very good year, but I had faith in them and this wine so I held on to it.  Last week one of my friends stopped over to discuss some business and on a whim I decided to pop this open.  It was gorgeous!  Very dark fruit, very deliberate and focused wine, but with a smooth, refined texture that I'm sure the age helped with.  Definitely a lot of currant and black raspberry fruit and still substantial tannins to this.  The tannins were a serious primary component of the wine, but they were pretty polished and not overly aggressive.  The balance was great and I'm very impressed that this came from such a maligned vintage.  It just goes to show you that you shouldn't believe everything you read, particularly about wine.  Great wine makers can make great wine even in off years.  Not always, but you shouldn't ever just write a whole vintage off.


This was the last bottle I had.  Oh well.  I'll lay down some 2007.

Midsummer Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Fowler Vineyard 2008


Midsummer cellars is a small, well, tiny winery in St Helena CA that only produces single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignons.  The Fowler vineyard is one of the three vineyards that they source fruit from; in this vintage just enough to make 336 cases.  The winery is a 500 square foot building on there property. 

I really enjoy this wine.  This is old school Cabernet with the structure and power that put CA Cabernet on the map decades ago.  I get aromas of Cassis, chocolate, cedar, and black cherries.  On the palate this thing is a powerhouse.  It takes a half hour or so to start opening up and then it is this deliberate, dense, almost brooding Cabernet.  The vineyard is at 1100' above sealevel, exposing the vines to more wind, resulting in thicker skins and more tannins; it shows.  This wine has serious acid and tannic structure to back up it's tightly focused currant and blackcherry fruit.  I pick out touches of chocolate and cedar in the mid palate, following through on the promise of the aroma. 

So this is a brilliant hand made, single vineyard Cab, made by Rollie Heitz, a guy who knows a thing or two about making amazing Cabernet due to his back ground.  And this is under $30 retail!  Once again I feel like I'm actually doing a worthwhile service by bringing this stellar wine to market for far less than it should sell for based on my tasting of it.  This is at the Aurora Provisions, Rosemont Munjoy Hill (and the other Rosemonts as soon as I deliver it), And the Freeport Cheese and Wine Shop as of Friday.

Update: since last week pretty much everyone that tried this has been wowed and bought it, so it is now available at Provisions in Freeport, Downeast Beverage, Old Port Wine Merchant, all the Rosemonts, and Browne Trading as well.  It's such an impressive Cabernet!

Baudouin Champagne NV Brut Prestige


NV, Approximately 4-5 year old blended Champagne

I'm sorry to admit I don't know much about this wine's provenance.  I haven't received much info from the importer and even though I've translated the winery's whole website, that can't make up for websites complete and utter lack of info in the first place.  This is a gorgeous, rich, powerful Champagne and well worth your time.

Here's what I do know:  Baudouin is a small grower producer intimately involved in farming his grapes and expressing his vineyards character.  This is completely different from all the big houses such as Veuve Cliquot which just buy all the grapes they can, from most anywhere, and are more driven by marketing than passion or sense of land. 

Grape: 100% Pinot Noir

I really enjoy this Champagne and think it's a fantastic value!  I think that due to being 100% Pinot Noir the wine is richer than I anticipate from Champagne.  It has some of the toast and dry edge that Champagne is famous for, but it's balanced by ripe citrus, hints of lemon, coconut, and pineapple.  The fruit even borders on slightly strawberry, although the wine has no color to it.  It really fills the palate and has a meaty texture that reminds me of the white fleshy center of a ripe strawberry. 

This is a far more expressive, characterful Champagne, as I would expect based on it coming from one small vineyard.  It has the crisp structure that drives Champagne, but it has more presence and really fills your mouth with a rich creamy quality that's far more enjoyable than the lean, aggressive big industrial houses. 

I've been too busy to show this around much; I've just been drinking it myself.  But I have managed to mention it to the Browne Trading and the Freeport Cheese and Wine shop, The Rosemont Markets, Aurora Provisions, as well as the Blue Hill Wine Shop and Vic and Whit's.  They retail this for about $42!  I garauntee that a bottle will improve your day.

Dominio do Bibei Wine Dinner at Bresca Wednesday October 19th

I don't really know where to start here.  Bresca?  I love Bresca.  Dominio do Bibei?  I love Dominio do Bibei.  Puppet theater?  Yup, that too.  Anyway, here's the deal.  Dominio do Bibei is a fantastic, really exciting, passion driven little winery in the rocky hills of Ribeira Sacra Galicia.  I won't really let myself go over this; plenty of other people have.  You can read some of their quotes here:

Dominio do Bibei

Jancis Robinson

Arnold Waldstein

Video with one of the owners

Krista and I are doing a five course dinner with the wines of Dominio do Bibei.  Not only will we have the Lalama, but also their single varietal Brancellao and Mouraton.  These are indigenous grape varieties that are extremely rare even in Galicia.  I've never had a pure Brancellao or Mouraton.  And only six bottles of each are coming into Maine.  Krista is really excited and is setting up a smoker in her parking lot to cook for this!

That all sounds amazing, right?  Well here's the icing on the cake: instead of just me getting up and talking about these wines....I'm going to stage puppet shows in between courses.  Yes, I am going to describe and introduce the wines using a pair of puppets conducting a Socratic dialog.

$75 per person for five courses with wine.  And puppets.  Call 207 7721004 to make reservations.

Cotes du Rhone Wine Dinner at the Eastender Tuesday October 18th

Meg and Jo thinking about the wine dinner.

It's a simple, unassuming name: Cotes du Rhone.  It's also misleading.  The Cotes du Rhone appellation covers a vast region including many more prestigious appellations.  Think Cornas, Chateauneuf du Pape, Vacqueyras, and Lirac.  All these more sought after (and pricier) regions are allowed to produce wines labeled Cotes du Rhone.  Some act as second labels and excellent values that still express all the unique character of their particular terroirs. 

So to demonstrate this I am hosting a four course dinner at the Eastender!  Mitch and Meg are putting together a menu to showcase the white Cotes du Rhone, and red Cotes du Rhone from producers in Chateauneuf du Pape, Vacqueyras, and Gigondas.

Cost is just $45, call 207-879-7669 for reservations