The Most Exciting Wines for the Holidays!!!
Here we are! We have made it to the holidays! The end of this year is in sight; Christmas, Hanukkah, the Solstice are all right around the corner. Without further ado here's the list of wines I am particularly excited about and promoting for Christmas.
Cantina Sociale di Gattinara 2011
How crazy is it that the current vintage of this wine is 2011!? This Nebbiolo from Gattinara, up in high Piedmont, spends 2 years in Slovenian oak botti, then 1 year in cement tank, and a further 6 months in bottle....minimum. The aroma of this is fantastic! Really just stops me in my tracks. Roses, rose petals, crushed tart wild cherries, and little hints of black currant, licorice, and dark chocolate.....or like all those things got baked together into the best smelling pie in the world. Nebbiolo sometimes gets called the wine of kings and drinking this I see why. So so polished and suave and serious and deep. There's a bit of a cola or sasparilla flavor in the mid palate: a dark amaro kind of flavor that's both familiar and surprising. It's enchanting. There's a salty component on the midpalate and the comforting flavor of bittersweet chocolate. This is spectacular. So good, floral, and powerful all at once that it's heady. I aspire to have depths and poise like this!
It's ridiculous that this perfect 9 year old Nebbiolo is priced in the mid $20s. The flavors that wine develops with age can't be recreated through any other chemical sleight of hand. It takes time to let all the flavors and structure really mellow and come together. As they say "time is money"...maybe they don't have that saying in Gattinara? I don't know why else a #wine that is so interesting, beautiful, and meditative would be priced at a fraction of what a similar Barolo would go for. Gattinara is an old DOCG in Alto Piemonte, but today there are only 12 producers left. Cantina Sociale is a 112 year old coop winery that was formed to empower small local growers. 35 families are a part of it today and together they farm a whopping...8 hectares. They work very traditionally and naturally and make only 2000 cases per year of all their wines combined.
This generally retails around or just under $40 and you can find it at The Cheese Shop of Portland, Monte's Fine Foods, Bath Natural Market, Maine and Loire, Now You're Cooking, Bow St Beverage, Wine Wise, Via Vecchia, Bow St Freeport, Meridians, and the Blue Hill Wine Shop
Matteo Furlani Antico (pet nat Nosiola)
This prickly, fizzy, juicy wine is so alive, delicious, and unique: it makes me think Matteo Furlani is some kind of wizard. Then you go visit his tiny winery up on the barren slopes of the Alps up above the tree line looking down on the city of Trento and you're convinced he's got some kind of magic! The flavor is lemon and pineapple at the start, but then a more savory fizz comes in on the mid palate. The finish turns salty and zesty with a rich white pineapple and papaya flavors! the Antico has a lovely aroma of ripe pineapple and toasted nuts...which makes sense because Nosiola the grape is named after hazelnuts. I can definitely smell a little bit of melon and ripe papaya as well.
Matteo is the current custodian of his family plots high in the Dolomites; he is a fourth generation winemaker. After studying agronomy, not winemaking (he learned that from his father and grandfather) Matteo set his sights on working his land in the most natural of ways. Chemicals were never a part of what Matteo's predecessors used to tend the vines yet Matteo took an even more rigorous approach, incorporating biodynamic preparations and methodologies in the vineyards today.
Antico usually retails around $30 and you can find it at Ada's Kitchen Portland, Monte's Fine Foods, Maine and Loire, Sheepscot General Store, and Brooklin General Store
Domaine Dinocheau Malbec
Malbec from the Loire! Malbec is actually a traditional grape in the central Loire, it just usually doesn't leave the local area. This wine has big, dense, inky fruit but there's that good old Loire acidity that demands you take the wine seriously. Big and ripe but with gravel deep down in it's soul that you can taste in the angular crunch of the mid-palate. The lush fruit continues across your palate but turns a bit fresher and peppery before the finish refocuses with tannins that are...not shy. The tannins aren't aggressive or harsh or out of place, just right what a big lush dark Malbec needs: confident and serious. The aroma smells like exactly what the wine is: juicy friendly blackberry and blackcherry with underlying cola and wintergreen.
Located on the slopes of Cher in Touraine in the Loire Valley, Vignoble Dinocheau was founded by the great-great-great grandfather of Laurence and Fabien Dinocheau. Laurence and Fabien took over the estate in 2006 and it now covers 13 hectares in both Chenonceaux and Touraine AOPs. They aim for minimal intervention in the vineyard, practice sustainable farming, and use natural yeast fermentations.
Laurence Dinocheau's Cot generally retails for about $23 at Best Wines in Hancock, Meridians, Vic and Whit's, Vessel and Vine, and Anju.
Absentee Wine Co Balou
This Syrah hits you with bright sunny blackberry fruit right off, but then the mid-palate turns all dark and spicy. This is a red with serious presence. It has this delicious black cherry fruit going on so you think you're drinking a fun gregarious red but this wine lingggggeerrrsssss. This is a very serious wine masquerading as a party animal.
Balou is made by Avi Deixler out in Point Reyes CA. He does just about everything himself. He uses no additives. He ferments in old used oak barrels that he laboriously grinds clean on the inside with an angle grinder. In my opinion these are some of the most exciting wines coming out of CA!
Balou retails for just over $30 and you can find it at Maine and Loire
Partida Creus MUZ Vermouth
Partida Creus MUZ: old school authentic Vermouth made by Antonella and Massimo in Penedes Spain. This is all the holiday season flavors rolled up and packed into a brilliant looking litre bottle. The aroma is super impressive and dynamic ginger, cardamom, orange peel, candied cherry, blood orange, sandle wood....it goes on and on. On the palate it is quite juicy and a vivid balance of zippy acidity, ripe fruit, and aromatic spices. Fresh cherry and rasberry up front with lively acidity is followed by some salt and dark blood orange, then more of the aromatic slices come in and it's like a whole Christmas feast of flavors!
Antonella and Massimo were architects in Piedmont Italy who relocated to Spain for work. In the early 2000s they decided to move to the country for a slower pace of life...and what better thing to do in the Spanish countryside than make wine? They started ferreting out abandoned little old vineyards and convincing the locals to rent land to them. Now they make some of the most exciting natural wines in Penedes including this Vermouth along the lines of an old recipe from the Carpano family.
You can find this lovely litre bottle for about $35 at Montes Fine Foods, Rosemont Market, Maine and Loire, The Wine Seller, The Cheese Shop of Portland, Bow St Beverage, Vessel and Vine, and Blue Hill Wine Shop.
Podere Sanguineto Vino Nobile di Montepulciano
This is, in my opinion, one of the greatest classic Sangiovese wines of Tuscany. Dora Forsoni has farmed these 6 ha of blood red soil for her entire life. She owns 50 ha but feels these 6 are all out of that 50 ha that are worth farming. She works very naturally because that's how she was taught and her family had always worked. This is primarily local versions of Sangiovese locally called Prugnolo Gentile. This is deep and dark, but elegant and the complex flavors are beautifully interwoven. Blackberry and cherry up front but then salt and black pepper come in and the finish has an amazing amaro burnt orange peel quality to it. This is powerful and has that resilient Tuscan earthiness, but it's also elegant and has delicacy! This is a dream of a Sangiovese.
Dora's beautiful Sangiovese retails for about $40 and you can find it at Monte's Fine Foods, Stompers, Solo Cucina, Maine and Loire, Solo Italiano, and The Cheese Shop of Portland
Jurtschitsch Mon Blanc
Wow, the aromatics of this wine are gorgeous: beautiful fresh wildflowers... a little bit of lavender? Definitely ripe pear and lilacs!
On the palate this is gorgeous. At first the wine opens with some lemony citrusy-it's zingy, then it builds into a mid palate of riper citrus with the addition of some cool subtle spice like the heat from a poblano pepper. The finish adds a beautiful floral sort of white rose and zippy lime zest. It slowly slowly fades away. Under it all, holding all those pretty flavors together is this hidden back bone of salinity that gives the wine strength cohesion and wonderful tasty mouth feel. this is like no other Austrian wine I've tasted. This wine is a rock star.
Mon Blanc is a blend of Riesling, Grüner Veltliner, Gelber Muskateller and Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc). The juice gets about two weeks of skin contact, spontaneous fermentation in open-top wooden vats, aging is in 600L old oak barrel, and the wine is bottled unfined and unfiltered with just a touch of SO2.
Current wine makers Alwin and Stef are leaders of the natural wine movement in the Kamptal. It’s unique because their winery, Jurtschitsch, is one of the oldest, largest, and most prestigious in the region. When Alwin and Stef started working in 2006, they insisted with Alwin’s father and uncles on converting all the vineyards to organic viticulture. In the vineyards, they are continually improving how they work: replanting more densely, using whey to treat for mildew instead of using copper sulphate, and working with new pruning methods. All the vineyards are certified organic and protecting biodiversity has always been a priority. Jurtschitsch explains that, “The more life you have in the vineyard, the more stable the entire system is.” Wild life is abundant in the Jurtschitsch vineyards, with many fruit trees, grass, garlic, wildflowers and butterflies dancing amongst the vines.
Mon Blanc retails for about $26 at Bow St Beverage, Lincolnville General Store, Sheepscot General Store, treats, Good Tern, and More and Co
Moretti Omero Terre Di Giano Rosso
Moretti Omero the wine Co. was started by Omero Moretti in 1992 on his parents land in the tiny hamlet of Giano in Umbria. Omero is a real hands on old school farmer who can't help tinkering and trying to improve all the things he works with. It just so happened that these are some of the highest elevation sites in the Montefalco DOC, resulting in powerful but vivid and lively wines that have become the yard stick that I compare all other wines from this area to.
The Terre di Giano has a rich aroma of juicy dark cherry, black berry, and some cedar/cigar box. It's a strong fruity aroma that's extroverted and spicy.
And it tastes the same on the palate! Lush ripe raspberry and cherry followed quickly by black pepper, cedar, dry robust tannin, and more black pepper. This is a substantial rustic red that's not shy! It's not heavy and it is well balanced. It's strong though and isn't afraid to let you know. This vintage is now 75% Ciliegiolo and 25% Sangiovese where previous vintages were heavier on Sangiovese and included Merlot and Sagrantino as well. Ciliegiolo is a derivation of the Italian word for cherries and this wine lives up to that reputation!
Terre di Giano retails for about $18 at Rosemont Market, Thistle Pig, 44 North, Blue Hill Wine Shop, Lincolnville General Store, Treats, Vic and Whit's, Meridians, Vessel and Vine, Sheepscot General, Natural Living Center, Wine Wise, Solo Cucina, The Vault, and Tinder Hearth
This will be an odd holiday season, but at least it will be odd for us all! On the one hand the knowledge that we won't be able to travel and celebrate together is hard. We're coming up on the coldest darkest part of the year and we are all going to be more isolated as we face it.
It does feel like an accomplishment for those of us that have made it this far. The year is almost over and that feels like a turning point. We may not be able to have normal celebrations with people who matter to us, but we can still reach out and let people know that they're loved and appreciated. This is a good time to consciously try to focus on the positive things in our lives and to be thankful for them. I know that may sound condescending to some people out there: people who have had to close businesses or lay off employees who felt like family members. I acknowledge that. I don't want to down play anyone's suffering. Even if all you've got to look back on in 2020 is pain and struggles; at least you're here and able to look back. Trying to look for the positive things in our lives is valuable if for no other reason than it's a prompt to thank people for how they've helped us.
I know I have a lot to be thankful for. Devenish wines has been fortunate, but what's contributed to our resilience more than anything else is the support of you, our customers. Thank you. This has been a painful year and it's going to be a difficult start to 2021 as well. As I've been saying since the start of the pandemic: I'm going to keep celebrating the things I love and looking forwards to better days.