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March 2018

Easter Wines 2018

It's officially Spring!  Now we get as much sun as we do in late September...just not as much heat.  But the days are longer and before long the weather may even be pleasant outside!  That's worth celebrating.  I love celebrating with food and wine and Easter's coming so I put together a list of the wines I'm excited about!


Frank Cornelissen Contadino 2016

The 2016 Contadino is here and it's excellent.  It's fruit driven, ripe jammy black cherry and raspberry, but smoky and charry like a smoldering campfire.  It pulls off being fun and vivacious and friendly but also brooding and powerful at the same time.  Basically it tastes exactly like Mount Etna: amazing and beautiful but it might erupt and destroy everything and anyone.  This is riper than the 2015 but not as heavy as the 2014.  It's great but extremely limited.  Contadino is just north of $30 and available at Maine and Loire, RSVP, Rosemont, Bow St Portland, Maine Street Meats, The Clown Lois's Natural Foods, The Farm Stand, and Meridians.


Grand Rouviere Cotes de Provence Rose 2017 

Rouviere is a perennial favorite rose of mine.  It's a 5th generation family winery way down in Provence on the border with Bandol.  This is the best vintage I've ever tasted!  I didn't expect that because it was a hot year, but somehow the Leydier family made a really gorgeous dry elegant rose with lovely giving flowery aromas that just somehow smell like the Mediterranean summer.  The acidity and salinity that underpin the wine's ripe fruit are brilliant and really make the wine notable.  Rouviere is around $17 and available at RSVP, Whole Foods, Farm Stand, Bow St Portland, Oak Hill Beverage, LeRoux, Browne Trading, Store Ampersand, and the Lighthouse in Augusta.


Podere Saliceto Albone Lambrusco

Saliceto is a little tiny operation outside Modena.  This is Lambrusco Salamino naturally fermented by a pair of brothers in law.  It's so juicy and fun and frothy!  This is real full on dry red wine with juicy fresh black raspberry fruit but not really tannins to speak of.  The effervescence (it's fizzy sort of like a beer) gives the wine a whole different dimension though and makes it fantastic with all kinds of food because the fizz primes and cleans your palate.  This will be great with roast pork!  The Albone is around $17 and at RSVP, Sheepscot General Store, the Farm Stand, Bow St Portland, Bootlegger's in Topsham, Maine St Meats, Friendly Discount Beverage, and Tess Market in Brunswick.


Hand Work Tempranillo 2017

Organic Tempranillo from the fantastic Bodegas Ponce in Manchuela.  And it's in a Litre bottle!  This is fresh young energetic Tempranillo that has just the right amount of rusticness.  The fruit is that classic juicy bright cherry and blueberry that young Tempranillo often has but it's offset with this touch of spice and wildness.  It's medium bodied, thirst quenching and easy to drink but interesting at the same time.  This is a great medium bodied red to cut through the fat of pork or the saltiness of ham.  Hand Work Tempranillo is around $14 and available at Good Tern Coop, Maine and Loire, Bow St in Freeport, Mane Street Meats, and Morning Glory in Brunswick.


Furlani Antico Frizzante

Matteo Furlani is really really good at making clean focused intense wines that are totally natural.  The naturalness comes out in his wines as a vivid energetic precision; not as any kind of funky or earthy character.  Some credit for that has to go to his location way up above Trentino in the foot hills of the Alps.  It's cold there.  That's an understatement, but he really uses it to his advantage by doing natural cold stabilizations in the winter.  The cold temperatures help him to control and naturally slow things down resulting in spectacularly balanced crisp vividly aromatic wines.  This fizzy bottle fermented wine is 100% Nosiola, a famously aromatic and respected grape from the high Dolomites.  The Furlani Antico is avalable at Mane and Loire.


Poco a Poco Pinot Noir Russian River Valley 2015

Poco a Poco is the second label of Porter Bass.  Luke Bass grew up here in the vineyard as his parents reinvigorated the vineyard and transitioned to biodynamics.  Somehow he pulls of this Pinot Noir that is seamlessly integrated and polished but still has the ripe fruit and friendly warmth that make the best CA wines delicious.  This is classic perfect Sonoma Pinot.  Poco a Poco is around $28 and available at Local Market Brunswick, Sawyer's Market in SW Harbor, The Rosemont Market's, and the Farm Stand.


Alpamanta Natal Malbec

Andrej Razomovsky came from eastern Europe originally as a journalist to AR but fell in love with wine making and put down roots, as he tells it, where the road literally ends in far south Mendoza.  His Malbec is concentrated and ripe, but it has more acid and tannin to it.  It tastes like it comes from a slightly cooler place in that in that it's more harmonious in how it's balanced and has a bit of a cool angular structure.  The Alpamanta good be mistaken for a very good ripe Bordeaux I think, and that's why it's such a good spring Easter wine.  This would shine with lamb!  The Natal is around $16 and is available at Now You're Cooking, the Rosemont Markets, Oak Hill Beverage, RSVP, Good Tern Coop, and John Edwards Market in Ellsworth.


Pomagrana Conca de Barbera


Conca de Barbera is a lesser known DO down in southern Catalonia.  Or at least it's lesser known here in the States because most wine people think Americans just want Spanish wines that are big high alcohol rootin tootin red blooded wines you can chase your Wild Turkey with.  Conca de Barbera is not that.  Trepat is a lighter red grape sort of akin to Gamay, but I would say lighter, at least in Fredi Torres' hands.  Some people actually call this wine a rose.  I don't think it is.  But I would recommend drinking it with a chill.  It pairs great with lamb, ham, hot dogs, and yard games.  

Grape: Trepat

Aroma: Raspberry, strawberry, cranberry, lots of fresh red fruit.  Fredi's Pomagrana is a pretty and cool smelling wine.  Fruity but dark and berry smelling; also not super ripe candy or cooked or dried fruit.  The Pomagrana is driven by fresh tart just barely ripe berry fruit aromas.  Also, it's a tiny bit woodsey smelling.

Taste: Fresh juicy thirst quenching!  It's only 11% alcohol.  More fresh strawberry and raspberry and cherry on the palate.  This Conca de Barbera is all rather tart berry fruit, which is great in this context.  The Trepat is bright and fresh and fun and has a sort of an edgy cut to the personality of the flavors.  It's all fresh lively fruit, not heavy sweet candied or anything like that.  This is fun party wine.  The flavors are all balanced and integrated too, it's not unbalanced like some natural wines in this price range.

Approximately $16.  But almost no one even knows I have this yet.  We'll be rolling it out for Fredi's visit to Maine on Friday.  We'll be doing a tasting at Maine and Loire from 3-5 and then a tasting at Vessel and Vine in Brunswick from 5:30-7


Fredi Torres Priorat Classic


Gadzooks!  This Priorat is.....pretty!  But, but, but Priorat isn't supposed to be pretty!?  All the classic book studying I've done on Priorat has taught me that Priorat wine is must be deep, inky, stewed, and alcoholic to be worth a second sniff!  What is this!?!

Well, it's not your father's Priorat.  This is Fredi Torres' 2016 Grenache, Carignan, Syrah, and Macbeu.  Fredi works hard to make wines that are fresher and more drinkable; this Priorat is outstanding proof positive that such wines are possible, even in Priorat.  Fredi originally came from Galicia but has worked all over Spain.  He kind of cut his teeth working on a couple wineries in and around the Priorat/southern Catalonia area before getting the resources to strike out on his own.  He now makes wine under several different projects in Priorat, Montsant, and also back home in Galicia.  Maybe that cool climate thirst quenching Mencia was an influence on him; his Priorats and Montsant wines are certainly unusually well balanced.  

Aroma: Lots of ripe cherry. juicy ripe smelling red fruit aroma.  Pomegranit too.  Ripe but doesn't smell too hot.  The alcohol heat smell isn't there.  almost a sort of strawberry too!  

Taste: lush, dense, smooth ripe fruit.  It's not too big and it's not sticky or cloying.  Juicy and fruit forward but fun.  There's a taste of the granite on the finish.  a hard tightly wound almost brittle feeling quality that reminds me of Gamay or Mencia grown on granite.  definitely got some extraction.  Very grapey and vivid.  Really nice!  Really lively fun different expression of Priorat.



Contadino 2016


2016 Contadino!  Hooray!  This is from Frank Cornelissen up on top of mount Etna in Sicily.  Frank is an amazing guy who I met many years ago in a little BYOB German restaurant.  He was totally exhausted and very calmly told me all about how Etna is one of the greatest wine terroirs on earth and he will make wine that tastes like liquid volcanic rock and he will do it with no additives or chemical manipulation of the wine.  Then a couple winters later I flew to Sicily and ran across the east side of the Island, ran over Mount Etna, and stayed with him for a weekend.  It was amazing.  Etna is an amazing place that can grow just about anything depending on where you are on the mountain.  It's like some kind of magical garden of Eden except it's a volcano that might erupt and wipe everything out at any moment.  So here's what I think if the 2016 Contadino


Aroma: There's a lot of fruit; a lot of ripe cherry and dark raspberry in the aroma.  It's a little jammy, a little spicy wild aromatic herb, and a little smoky.  But that smoky character isn't tar and it isn't tobacco.  the smoke aroma is more like blackened charred wood or hard wood charcoal-not really the smell of those charcoal briquettes.  The 16 Contadino smells ripe and tropical and somehow sort of like a seared piece of beef.  But maybe that's because I eat so much beef.  If I adjust my perspective and think of other cuisines the Contadino also has a recognizable soy sort of an aroma to it.  Just like Mount Etna it's powerful, lovely and giving, and brooding all at once.


Taste: It's lovely and juicy, juicy in a very drinkable way.  There's cooked cherries and cranberries.  That taste of char and smoke is here on the palate as well as in the aroma.  It's rich, but not heavy and the tannins aren't aggressive, in fact the tannins aren't a super big part of the wine. The 16 Contadino is more driven by it's fruit, the volcanic minerality, and acidity.  There're tannins of course but they kind of take a back seat.  Cherries and cranberries slow roasted over a wood fire is what I keep coming back to.  


I really enjoy this vintage.  It has more power than the 2015 and more precision and vivacity than the 2014.  I liked 2014 a lot but it was a heavier higher alcohol wine and it tasted like it.  It's really cool to see that Frank is still evolving and that the wines are clear expressions of the climate and place that vary year to year.


The Contadino will be some where around $30 retail.  I don't know yet who's picking it up so if you want some go to your favorite wine shop and special order it now.

Grand Rouviere Cotes de Provence Rose

Here it is!  2017 Grand Rouviere Rose!


Grand Rouviere is made by the Leydier family on their large old estate in southern Provence.  Their vineyards actually border the Bandol appellation, so this really is the epicenter of dry french rose.  This is about 70% Cinsault and 30% Grenache.  The Leydiers farm sustainably and actually harvest over night in order to get the grapes into the winery as cool as possible which helps maintain the aromatics.  This is a perennial favorite rose of mine!

Aroma: The Rouviere has a lovely powerful aroma of watermelon, peach, nectarine, raspberry.  This is a really pretty inviting aroma.  I'm super impressed and kind of surprised actually by how really truly beautiful this aroma is.  There's also this cool slight garrigue (that's the smell of local wild aromatic herbs that grow like weeds there) of thyme and lavender.  

Taste: The Rouviere on the palate is fresh, lively, and has great acidity.  It's pretty but it has substantial body and a meaty quality that sneaks up on you.  It's actually a way stronger rose than you realize.  The fruit is very pretty and it's there through out with raspberry cranberry and watermelon.  The minerality on the mid pallet wakes you up and get's your taste buds really going, then that slightly fat meaty finish comes in and mellows the wine all out.  It's so good!  The Rouviere rose would be awesome for shell fish, lighter white fish, salads, salmon, roast or grilled chicken....there's a lot of things you could do food wise with this! 



Hand Work Tempranillo

Hand Work is a project by T Edward wines in NY and Bodegas Ponce in Manchuela Spain.  Ponce is a fantastic winery making kick ass engaging compelling wines from the Bobal grape.  They work naturally and are masters at working with nature instead of trying to master it through chemicals.  So as i understand T Edward wanted to find a natural Tempranillo somewhere that would be day to day affordable and deliciously easy to drink.  They were having a hard time finding anything like that, but at some point in talking to Ponce they realized the winery had spare capacity and even though they weren't making a wine like that they had the capacity to.  So together they found some organically farmed Tempranillo that met their standards and Bodegas Ponce took on the project of making a thirst quenching inexpensive completely natural Tempranillo.  


Hand Work is the result.  It's juicy, fresh, has a lovely floral aroma, comes in 1 litre bottles, and costs under $15

Vintage: 2017

Aroma: The Hand Work has that classic Tempranillo blueberry and cherry fruit.  It's fresh, ripe, and inviting; vivid in how it really smells of ripe blueberries and cherries.  The Hand Work also has a little it of an undercurrent of perfumey lilac to the aroma too.  

Taste: Wow!  It's....grapey!  Yes, I have finally broken down and described a wine as grapey.  I apologize.  But it is.  Hand Work Tempranillo has this vivid juicy blue sort of fruit that really legitimately is grapey.  There's a bit of young tannin to the finish as well that makes the wine a bit more rustic and way more fun than if it was just a simple fruit bomb.  The young acidity also really makes the wine more fun, energetic, and thirst quenching.  Those structural characteristics help make the Hand Work interesting and fun, it's still overall a fruit driven red wine.  And that's great! The balance of those tastes works out quite well and makes the wine fun and easy to drink but at the same time vivid and characterful.  


The Hand Work is for sale at the Blue Hill Wine Shop, Good Tern Co-op in Rockland, Maine and Loire, Maine St Meats Rockport, and New Morning in Biddeford


Oscar Olmos Princesa Jumilla Monastrell



Vintage: 2015

I haven't found much info on the Oscar Olmos Monastrell, but I can connect a few dots just from tasting it.  Jumilla is an interesting place down to the south of Catalonia close to the Mediterranean coast of Spain.  The elevation is pretty high though, ranging from about 400m above sea level up to around 800m.  Oscar Olmos is up around 800m.   For some reason Jumilla escaped the Phyloxera scourge back in the 1800s and was only affected by the bug in 1989, so many vines are still ungrafted, including the vines of Oscar Olmos. So this is ungrafted Monastrell vines at about 800m of elevation; that's high enough elevation that it's not too affected by the ocean here.  This is naturally farmed and fermented with wild yeast.

Aroma: dark chewy brambly black berry and root beer. There are some black cherry cola and dark chocolate flavors in the background but it's a really fruit driven dark juicy red.  


The Oscar Olmos is a big ol juicy mouth full of wine!  The tannins are relaxed though.  There's a fair amount of dark almost brooding spiciness in the finish but all the fresh fruit up front makes the wine come across your palate as juicy and not really as rough or rustic.  This is very fun to drink and satisfying!  This has nothing geographically in common with one of my old favorites: the Petit Jo, but it really reminds me of that wine.  Surprisingly for Monastrell, the Olmos has bright acidity as well.  That offsets the dark lush fruit, perks the wine up, and increases it's deliciousness by a factor of 3!  In fact, when I first tasted the wine I thought it might be a partial carbonic maceration.  I don't really think so now that I've gotten to know the wine better, but it does have a little of that playful racy character that I associate with carbonic.


 The Oscar Olmos is a pretty great value and retails in the mid teens.  The only down side is that there are just about 20 cases coming to Maine.

Daniel Ramos Kapi Albillo Real


Daniel Ramos was born in Australia of Spanish parents and, as he describes it, grew up between the two countries.  As he grew up Daniel became interested in wine and worked at wineries in both countries: seeing very different approaches to wine making traditions and technology.  Ramos ended up back in Spain and worked various jobs across the country, until he discovered the Sierra de Gredos up on the plateau about 90 minutes outside of Madrid.  In the Sierra de Gredos Daniel found extremely old native versions of Grenache and Albillo on granite and schist soils.  The wine was virtually unknown outside the region but the old vines and climate were inspiring so Daniel put down roots. 

Daniel has started to garner international attention for his beuatifully deep super old vine Grenaches, but I'm in love with this white made from Albillo.  I can't find any info about it online so I'm just going to wing this.

The color is a golden straw kind of yellow and it's not completely clear.  I wouldn't call it cloudy, but it's clear that this wine is unfiltered and unfined, and it looks like probably zero sulfur added.  I would also guess that the Albillo Real spends a bit of time on the skins after the grapes are pressed.  It may only be a few days but the broad texture and hint of tannin make it seem that way.  Don't start thinking full on Qvevri Georgian orange wine, it's nowhere near that orange; it's unique, beautiful and super interesting to drink as is.


Grape: Albillo

Aroma: Oh lovely tropical fruit!  There's a lot of fresh orange here on the nose!  Also lilies and lemons.  It's a beautiful expressive aroma. I also smell a bit of dried hay or dried grass there too.  

Palate: Rich lush mouthful of wine but with nice acidity, some salt, and tannin that sticks in your mouth and broadans the wine.  This is delicious!  The orange and cooked citrus up from and then a pithy zesty taste on the midpalate.  There's a hint of food inthe finish too; some kind of brioche kind of taste.  lingers very long.  This is absolutely excellent full bodied but very lively living wine.  So good with so many foods. 


Currently  available at Maine and Loire