wine

Jean Pla Passion Grenache

Vintage: 2010

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.

20140712_212936

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 Winegrowers Hoboken Station Cider

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.  

  20140329_184411

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. 

20140329_184420

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.

20140329_184441

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.


Murinais Crozes Hermitage 2010

Northern Rhone Syrahs are borderline mythical for their brawny but elegant and complicated depths; also for their rarity and price.  The northern Rhone just doesn't have a whole lot of vineyard land and the vineyards they do have are often horribly steep and rocky.  Crozes Hermitage is the one exception.  Located at the northern end of the river valley, it's where the land starts to open out and level off.  Part of the appellation includes the dangerously steep hill sides, but the majority of Crozes Hermitage is out on the sandier plains where vineyard work is easier and the wines are softer tasting.  Those softer and simpler wines from the flats have given Crozes Hermitage a slightly compromised image as not necessarily a true Northern Rhone wine, but if you look you can find some outstanding wines from the hilly edge of the appellation.

20140128_224253

Murinais is an old family operation (fifth generation) that primarily farms grapes and then sells them to other producers.  However, the current proprietor, Luc Tardy, started keeping the grapes from several old vine plots on the edge of the border with Hermitage.  He makes very little wine each year and the farming is his primary business, but this is real authentic north Rhone Syrah from the steep rocky terrain that made the wines famous!

Varietal: Syrah

Aroma: This wine smells dark.  Dark blackberry, cooked cherries, and blueberries are my first impression from the aroma.  There's a savory food smell too, I think it's a slight hint of soy sauce and roasted meat.  This Crozes Hermitage also has just a faint hint of something a little bit nutty, kind of like raw almonds.

Palate: Lush and mouth filling.  The fruit is dark and dense feeling.  The different flavors are pretty tightly packed together and don't give up too much right at first; blackberry, dark cherry, and dried blueberry are right up front, but the mid palate has a flavour that's also just a bit chocolaty.  The Murinais is a big wine, but elegant.  There's good acidity to give it more vibrancy, and there's substantial tannin that grabs on to you a bit roughly at the end, but the texture is so smooth and suave.  This wine is smooth and voluptuous, but also has a rough side that makes it more exciting.  Syrah, in my opinion, is one of the sexiest of grapes, particularly the northern Rhone and Central Coast CA examples that pull of hedonism and refinement at the same time.

The Murinais is available at the Rosemont on Commercial St, Aurora Provisions, and Rosemont on Munjoy Hill for about $25.  Rather a bargain for serious north Rhone Syrah in time for Valentine's.


J. Heinrich Blaufrankisch

20131125_194301

Vintage: 2012

Gruner Veltliner is to Austria what Malbec is to Argentina.  Gruner is what people think of when they think Austria, but not all of Austria is Gruner country.  Over in the far east, at the tail that sticks over through the mountains towards Hungary, the climate is totally different.  Here in Burgenland the climate is warmer, the soils denser, and the seasons longer.  The region around the town of Deutschkreutz is sheltered by mountains on three sides and perfect for producing full red wines, as J Heinrich demonstrates here.

The Heinrich family has been here in the vicinity of the town of Deutschkreutz for over 300 years.  Silvia Heinrich started working at the winery in 2002 when she came back from studying wine making in college.   She took over full ownership in 2010 and is determined to produce excellent wines that are classic expressions of this area that is known as "Blaufrankisch land".

20131125_194311

Aroma: The J Heinrich has a fruit driven aroma that's mostly fresh crushed raspberries, but also with some darker blackberry qualities too.  It's pretty powerful and aromatic.  Already from the aroma I can tell this is not a stereotypically light Austrian red.  If you dig a bit deeper the Heinrich Blaufrankisch has some more aromas hiding behind all the ripe fruit; licorice and pink peppercorns!  It's a very inviting aroma.

Palate: This is a big mouth full of ripe black fruit!  Serious blackberry and dark ripe cherries fill your mouth here, but the texture is impressively smooth and elegant considering what a punch of fruit this Blaufrankisch packs.  There's not too much tannin, but the finish lingers in a nice refined kind of way.  There is just the right amount of acidity to make this Blaufrankisch bright and lively, but not too zingy or noticeably acidic.  This is a medium to almost full bodied Blaufrankisch that is so rich and lively that it seems like it's practically jumping out of the bottle.  

This may be Silvia's basic Blaufrankisch, but it's delicious.  The Heinrich Blaufrankisch shows nice balance and elegance while still maintaining it's excitement and verve.  Blaufrankisch isn't a well known grape, but based on what J Heinrich has done with it you should try to get better acquainted with it.  Also, this will be a fantastic and refreshing counterpoint to Turkey!  The J Heinrich Blaufernakisch retails for about $17 and is available at Aurora Provisions, Browne Trading, Rosemont on Brighton, Rising Tide Market in Damariscotta, and Tess's Market in Brunswick


Famille Laurent Saint Pourcain 2012

I have always loved this wine.  I loved the last vintage: the 2011, but it was a bit of a departure from the wine's usual elegance and poise.   Famille Laurent's Saint Pourcain is always a blend of Pinot Noir and Gamay, but the 2011 seemed heavier on the Gamay than usual and the wine was more rustic and gamey.  The 2012 is back to being more Pinot Noir based.  The 2012 Saint Pourcain is still kind of earthy and minerally, but there's more fruit, more elegance, and more balance.  

20131111_230023
I know, this bottle is 2011.  Trust me, 2012 is here and in the shops now.

Saint Pourcain is a small appelation at the head waters of the Loire in France's Massif Central.  It's technically the Loire valley, but geographically it's pretty close to Burgundy and Beaujolais, hence the Gamay and Pinot Noir together.  The Laurent family has been here for over 5 generations now and while they don't have partiularly large vineyard holdings (under 30 acres) they've broken their vineyards into over 20 plots that they farm individually.  

This wine is a stupendous value.  Every vintage the Laurent's Saint Pourcain has fantastic poise, vitality, racy minerality, and supple fruit.  This is the best value for Pinot Noir I've ever found.

Aroma: Lots of really vivid juicy cherry.  There's also some raspberry and a bit of bright cranberry.  The Saint Pourcain's aroma isn't overly fruity though; there's also a whiff of ceder wood, thyme, and maybe a just the ghost of animal fur.  

Taste: Fresh and vibrant and dancing.  This vintage of the Saint Pourcain has smooth black raspberry and cranberry fruit backed up with an energetic minerality.  The Famille Laurent Saint Pourcain is bright and vivid, but also smooth and relaxed at the same time.  

This is under $15 and available widely.  Most shops Devenish does business have this; it's that good.


Gaspare Buscemi ViNero

Gaspare Buscemi got into the wine making business as a consultant when he was just 20 years old. That was in 1959 and he's now in his 70s.  Back in his early days the wine industry in Italy was primarily focused on mass producing large volumes of wine at very low prices; that was where Gaspare started out, but it didn't take too long for him to make up his mind that wine should be more special and unique than that.  He was part of the first wave of young wine makers to rebel against the green revolution in wine making and turn their backs on higher and higher yields enabled by higher and higher use of pesticides and additives in the winery.

Gaspare traveled all over Italy as a consultant wine maker, but settled back in Collio Friuli to start buying his own vineyards and beginning to craft wines in his own personal way.  Buscemi has adopted many practices from biodynamic farming and tries to craft his wines naturally with out any manipulation in the cellar.

20131110_221058

ViNero is a proprietary blend that varies year to year depending on the weather and harvest.  Gaspare never reveals what the blend is, but there must be some Merlot and Refosco; very likely some Cabernet Franc as well.

Aroma: The ViNero has an inviting and relaxed aroma of roses and some fresh strawberries.  It's definitely more of a floral smell than fruit driven.  It's a bright, fresh, perfumed kind of smell that makes me think of bright spring flowers.  It's very inviting and invigorating smelling, not serious, intimidating, or brawny. 

20131110_221110
There was just wine in that glass, I swear!

Taste: Buscemi's ViNero is nice and fresh with bright acidity and a smooth texture.  ViNero is lighter in body and while it may be natural wine making it doesn't seem dirty at all; the flavors are bright and pure.  Very clear fresh raspberry is the primary fruit I get.  There are some tannins, but they're very much in the back ground.  Buscemi's ViNero is delicious, thirst quenching, and very refreshing.  The ViNero seems to really shine after it's had a bit of time to breathe and open up.  If you try this, open it a bit early.  

Buscemi's ViNero is available at Aurora Provisions and the Rosemont Markets for about $15


Kabaj Rebula 2010

Jean Michel Morel was born in Paris, grew up in Bordeaux, worked in Italy, and then married a girl from Slovenia and went to work at her family's winery.  It's enough for several life times, really, and that's before you start talking about his time at a Georgian monastery learning about their thousand years old tradition of making wines in huge clay amphora.  But Jean Michel has finally settled on this life of running a tiny and terribly unique winery just over the border from Italy in the Slovenian town of Brda.  He and the winery: Kabaj have quite a story.  I'm not going to get into all the other stuff here; I'll just focus on this awesome Rebula (Ribolla Gialla).

20131110_222657

The Kabaj Rebula isn't what you expect.  Even if you have no experience with Slovenian whites, still, check your basic wine expectations at the door.  Jean Michel presses his Rebula grapes and then lets them sit, fermenting, on their skins for a month.  That's crazy.  In this day and age where people expect whites to rival grapefruit for crispness and have completely transparent flavors as well as color, this is a whole other animal.  That month on the skins gives the wine totally different flavors as well as a rich orange/browne color.  Kabaj's Rebula falls into the "orange wine" category, although it's more of just a delicious wine and not as crazy as many that have defined the orange wine category. 

20131110_222629
It's not the light.  The wine really is that color.

Aroma: Cinnamon, ginger, lemon grass, creme brulee, sandal wood, acacia.  The Rebula is such an interesting wine! The aroma is so deep.  There are all kinds of aromas that you just don't ever expect in white wine, and yet it's totally integrated and smells delicious!  Like a rich, hearty, American Thanksgiving.

Taste: I definitely get a some cooked ginger, but there are a lot of other flavors such as vanilla.  This wine doesn't have a whole lot of acidity because of it's year spent aging in a neutral French barrels, yet it doesn't taste like that's a deficiency.  This has a very long taste sensation that just keeps changing and evolving.  The Rebula has the weight and texture to completely dominate my palate and yet it's still fun tasting; certainly not too heavy.

Kabaj Rebula is available at Browne Trading, the Rosemont on Munjoy Hill, Hugo's, RSVP, and Caiola's.  It retails for about $25.


Daruvar Grasevina 2011

Oddly, I can't find much information on this winery anywhere.  It's located in the town of Daruvar in the east Croatian region of Slavonia.  The climate is continental and there are geothermal springs here that make the town a tourist destination.  Grasevina is a very productive grape variety.  Back when they were under the Soviet yoke Grasevina was over produced and and watered down into a characterless cheap wine, like much else.  Now, using green harvesting and aggressively controlling yields wines like this are starting to really show what the Grasevina grape can do.

The first thing I notice is that the Daruvar Grasevina has a particularly deep and golden color (at least for a young white wine).  Actually, the first thing is what a tall and thin bottle it comes in!

20131029_210508

Aroma: The first aroma of the Grasevina that hits my nose is a fresh light ginger smell; not cooked or candied and not too overpowering, but a nice prickly little ginger.  The defining aromas are of white flowers, lemon zest, and white grape.  Yes, I'm describing a wine as smelling like white grapes, it happens sometimes.  There's also a seductive fresh hay smell that you notice after you get around the lemon and grapes.  And then just as you think you're done smelling it I smell fresh butter: really nice fresh creamy butter.  The aroma isn't very powerful, but it has plenty going on and is really nice!

20131029_210440

Taste: Hmmm, there's a really cool, tasty, and familiar fruit right up front that's hard to pin down.  Really fresh champagne mango; that's shat I'm going with.  It's bright and there's nice acidity, but the fruit is pretty rich, plus the wine has a good full mouth filling texture.  After the fresh fruit up front the taste transitions into more racy qualities with a slightly pithy puckery lip smacking chewy quality.  And then, surprisingly, the finish goes back to fresh not totally ripe champagne mango and that beautiful fruit with a hint of meatiness.  

This is a really tasty interesting white that has the body and stuffing to stand up to serious food.  Food like baked chicken, roast haddock, halibut, even sword fish, and......turkey.  Yeah, I said it.  Available by the glass at Henry and Marty's and retail at Oh No Cafe, Rosemont on Munjoy hill, RSVP, and Aurora Provisions for $14.99


Eugenio Rosi Riflessi Rose

One of the things I love about wine is that it regularly forces me to re-evaluate my expectations and knowledge about it.  Case in point: rose is a great drink in the summer, but once the air get's cooler and the days shorter that's it, right?  NO.  There are plenty of varied roses out there that are made for autumn, winter, and spring drinking.

20131107_122411

This Rose from Eugenio Rosi in Trentino is one of them.  Eugenio started out in wine making working for other companies, but his exactingly high standards kept pushing him forward and eventually he decided he had to create is own winery and have total control.  He bought and leased varies small plots around Valagrona and produced his first vintage in 1997.  All farming and wine making is, in his words, "normal".  Rosi doesn't believe natural wine making and farming should be viewed as an oddity or fad, since it's the way all wine was made long ago.  Semantics aside, yes, all his farming and wine making is natural.  He adds a little bit of sulfur at bottling to stabilise the wine but that's it.  In fact, he's so hands on that his barrel aged reds are aged in cherry wood barrels that he makes himself from his own timber!

20131107_122351(1)

Aroma: Eugenio Rosi's rose has an exuberant and pure aroma that draws me in.  Bright fresh home made cranberry sauce is the first thing I smell, but there's also a soft aroma of juniper right along with the fruit.  That slightly spicy foresty aroma gives the Riflessi more spring in the aroma but don't get the wrong idea with cranberry aromas, the wine isn't fresh to the point of being sharp.  There's also and aroma of ripe fresh strawberry; really ripe meaty strawberry and some blackcherry too.  The Riflessi's aroma is a great combo of fresh vivid aromas of ripe lush seeming fruit.

Taste: Rosi's rose lights up the palate with fresh strawberry and cranberry right at first, but then settles down into a mid palate that is more rounded, relaxed, and supple.  It really rolls over your palate with fruit that's bright and vibrant tasting, but a texture and character that's more thoughtful and restrained.  I really like this approach and complexity of the wine.  The mid palate has a fleshiness that's the fleshiness of fresh juicy strawberries.  Finally, the wine lingers with a finish that's lush and relaxed with just a hint of a woodsiness.  This wine actually kind of makes what I normally drink seem clumsy.  

Available at Browne Trading for about $27


Piantate Lunghe Rosso Conero 2010

Rosso Conero is a small DOC on the east coast of Italy in the state of the Marche.  Rosso Conero the DOC is the land surrounding the extinct volcano of Monte Conero right on the Adriatic.  A lot of the Marche is kind of flat and then out of nowhere, right on the ocean, you have this extinct volcano with totally different soils!  

20130925_230700

I actually wrote about this wine a couple years back and this 2010 vintage is rather different from the 2007 I originally wrote about.  Here's a link to the previous article if you'd like to check it out: 2007 Rosso Conero

Piantate Lunghe is a project created by three friends to try to revive their family's old vineyards.   Amedeo Giutsini conceived the idea and then approached his two friends Roberto and Guido Mazzoni.  Together they now have about 12 hectares of vineyards within 2000 meters of the Adriatic, but at an elevation of over a 1000 ft above sea level.  The vineyard is a mix of dry clay and calcareous soil that slopes south away from the Monte Conero towards the water.

Varietal: 100% Montepulciano.

Vintage: 2010

I don't know when this wine was released, but I just got the 2010 and it seems like the winery usually holds the wines for a long time.  Considering how powerful and deep it is it would make sense that Piantate Lunghe would hold it a while to mellow.

Aroma: The 2010 Piantate Lunghe brings the funk.  It's a dark, rich, funky smelling wine.  This Rosso Conero's aroma is more rich loamy earth than dry sunny soil that Italian wines often have.  The first impression of the Piantate Lunghe smells like freshly turned farm fields to me, but hiding behind that funk is some serious blackberry fruit as well as a whiff of smoke and grilled meat; maybe even some roasting coffee as well.  There's a whiff of wood smoke that is so fitting for this time of year (Autumn).

Palate: The Piantate Lunghe is a fuller bodied red that's dark, deep, and expansive.  Some how it tastes rustically volcanic and dark, but also lush and smooth in texture.  Something about the earthy and volcanic flavors combine with the soft texture and fullness to make me think of really smooth and fine leather as a metaphor for this Rosso Conero.  I've never had another Montepulciano like this.  There's all kinds of serious dark fruit up front, but I really love the lively minerally mid palate that hints at having even more details to give up if this wine had a bit more age.  

The Piantate Lunghe Rosso Conero is one of the best Montepulcianos I've had.  It's reason for existing seems to be to as a companion to rich fatty braised meats and root vegetables.  You can pick it up at either of the Portland Rosemont Markets, Vic and Whit's in Saco, 40 Paper, or Aurora Provisions.  It retails for about $20