Dr Heidemanns Dry Riesling 2016

Pale yellow or straw. Looks like a lightweight riesling…until you take a lungful of the aroma. Then it’s POW!

Tangerine juice, tangerine zest to begin, which implies either too sweet or too zesty, but it’s neither. That’s the effect of (I guess at this point) acids and minerality. Truly mouth-watering.

However the sweet aromas are counteracted, there are additional complex notes here. Some secondary citrus, perhaps sweet grapefruit, which is not really sweet at all. That actually makes sense.

Also, as a kind of overarching reflection of the fruit was a nutty character too. Hazelnuts, perhaps, and they’re fractionally roasted to make them nice and oily. Fruit and nuts go so well together, it’s easy to overlook the fact that they’re BOTH there. Really, who thinks of nut aromatics from a liquid made from fermented grapes? It’s wild.

On the palate I found slightly unripe peaches, ditto nectarines, juuuuuust juicy enough. Oh, it’s just a great, subtle mouthful of wine, not too anything, not too little of anything else. Nothing one could identify as sweet, just delicious fruit, acids and secondary mineral notes. The latter are (as you’d expect) slate-y in character, but almost to the point of wanting to lick the rock. Think of rain on hot slate, it’s quite the evocative experience.

It’s worth quoting the producer’s own notes:

The Dr. Heidemanns-Bergweiler Estate has 12 ha (~30 acres) of Riesling vineyards in the steeply-sloped Middle-Mosel area. More than 75% of our vineyards are marked as „Steillage“. The vineyard soils are mostly Devon slate residual soils with varying parts of topsoil and mineral stone. The slate gives our wines a delicate and cool minerality which is typical for a Moselle Riesling. The combination of cool climate, slate and Riesling makes our wines unique.
The DRY RIESLING from Dr. Heidemanns-Bergweiler has a refreshing and irrepressible aroma that exudes significant power, emerging with the bouquet of violets when exposed to air. The taste is marked by a distinctive acidity. It is an ideal partner for any kind of fish. Try it with Dover sole or pike.

 

Crikey, that’s perfect. Irrepressible aroma…(that) exudes significant power and cool minerality.

 

$14.99

St Amant Zinfandel Old Vine Lodi

With the enormous rains and snow pack melting its way to the sea, the drought must be a good memory to lose. Presumably there was a drought in the Lodi area in the last few years; let’s assume so.

The thing about stressors is the release once they’re alleviated. Grape vines – so I understand- are the same as humans, in that they celebrate when the bad times end and the good times resume. I wonder if there’s a PhD awaiting that line of inquiry.

I think it’s useful to think of plants as living creatures, to the point of anthropomorphism. We see a bottle of wine and take it at face value; a bottle of liquid. What we fail to see is that it’s a living product, one that can spoil, and while not alive, is alive with instilled character that will change over time.

The point of that is to recognize the complexity of the interface between chemistry and biology, a glass of which is a nice example, one we we can enjoy without knowing what’s going on beneath the surface.

That’s what I mean about vines and humans; the vine has given us this amazing product that morphs with time, exposure to air and even within the consumer, and yet we view it as a kind of one-dimensional buzz-agent. It is so much more.

Anyway, for pure enjoyment, this Lodi Zin is a great choice. Complex nose of fruit mince bathed in brandy lead to a big smooth mouthful of mixed dried fruit, vanilla with a crisp acid finish. Lush, layered, full and yet so simple. It’s a kind of quantum wine.

$19.99

Sobon Zinfandel Old Vines 2014

Ah, Amador County, the epicenter of Zinfandel nation. The history of wine in this area is that of California itself, which adds a nice piquancy to any bottle.

Here’s a blend from three vineyards, which augurs well. Or not. Any time a winemaker makes a point of saying something, they’re doing so with a point. Is the intent to even out the quality? Is the average of some poor and some great fruit meant to be some kind of advantage? Along with so much of winemaking, the veil of obfuscation is well and truly in place.

It’s a business like any other, and they’re into making money and surviving like anyone else. Fortunately, there’s no reason this wine won’t sell. We can characterize it as a fruity, classic zinfandel with muted spice.

The nose begins with hot, dark juicy fruit, mellowing to sweet licorice. (Which is an enormously attractive profile, IMO.) On the palate are smooth, juicy black fruits – blackberry and plum with perhaps some raspberry – in a vanilla envelope. Oak makes a cameo.

The finish is of very mild tannins, medium acids and subtle oak; short and clean.

That’s it. Fresh and delicious.

$11.99

Gattavecchi Vernaccia di San Gimignano 2016

Oh my. This bottle was in my fridge for about four months, and now I can’t for the life of me figure out what I was thinking. It’s delicious!

First, the grape: vernaccia. Here’s a very nice summary from the Chicago Tribune.

The writer is spot on with his description. Wet white flowers. Beautiful aromas of summer fruit, particularly juuuuust ripe pears, green apples, and the flesh of nectarines close to the stone. In fact, the stone fruit theme is consistent, but not of juicy fruit, but rather in the way of pre-ripe fruit when the aromas are there, but not the sloppiness. A nice tightness inhabits the glass.

The bottle claims it to be pleasantly assertive and penetrating, which is about right. I’d reduce that by about 15%.

On the palate I found a wonderfully balanced mouthfeel of those snappy fruits, just right acids and the dry almond flesh that matches so well with food. I want to be careful to note that the almond element is not bitter; rather it spreads from the center of the tongue to the outside of the mouth, like a kind of savory blanket on which to create a picnic.

Actually, it’s better than that. The rich, dry almond-feel floats on smooth, creamy acids. It’s really quite a thing.

Again, the bottle claims bitter almonds, but there’s no hint of bitterness.

$14.99

Anakena Pinot Noir Tama Vineyards 2013

If grapes are grown at altitude, you’d expect them to be different from those grown lower in the atmosphere. Think of yourself flying from Houston to Denver; when you arrive, you’d be wise avoiding the step machine for a few days.

Less oxygen, increased solar intensity, and the often forgotten (much) lower humidity are the three big variables. If you’re a grape vine, you’ll adapt to such changes, but it should come as no surprise that when I eventually become wine, I might be distinctive.

So it is with this Chilean glass. Notably not fruity, interestingly dry, subtly peppery, there’s a clear link between Burgundy and this place far, far away. It’s an earthy place, too. Shorn of excess, we find a technically excellent variation of classic pinot.

$12.99

Caleo Primitivo Salento 2015

A first; my first Primitivo. And what a great experience. She’s from Puglia, an immigrant, completely legal and with much to recommend her.

First, a nose of baked dark fruits, new shoe leather, some clove, even a little vanilla, some nice cedar, too. Not exactly distinct, but different enough to know she’s her own person. Liquid, I mean. Somewhere between a New World merlot and syrah.

Lovely dark cherry colour; full bodied. Hey, this is adding up to something.

On the palate, very nice but not overwhelming fruits. Dry. Cherry. Sweet, ripe plum. Seamless transition from fruit to (controlled) acids and mild, mild tannins.

So, so fruitful to drink. And all for…

$9.29 Ridiculously cheap.

Excelsior Chardonnay 2016

Since 1859, or so says the equine heraldry on the label, and I believe it. Learning your vines, your land and your markets takes a long time, and whomever keeps the knowledge of these elements at Excelsior clearly knows their stuff.

This is from their own tasting notes for the prior vintage:

This crisp, mouthwatering bottling is a blend of Excelsior’s three best Chardonnay blocks. It displays lively flavors of green apple, citrus, and pineapple on a full, creamy palate. Traces of peach, orange blossom and delicate toasty notes combine with a mineral edge to round out this…(wine)

Ahhhh, yup. Key words here are lively (which we might upgrade to zingy) and delicate toasty oak which I’d amp down to nuanced toasty oak. Refreshing is an overworked word in wine, but in this case it’s accurate.

There’s some whisper that something like 3%^ of this bottle contains viognier, which has done it no harm. (Sarcasm. I like the idea.)

A first class glass, super value for the money. Nothing more need be said.

$9.99. Incredible.

Reserve des Vignerons Saumur Champigny 2014

This Loire Valley cabernet franc poured darkly from the bottle, but any implied malevolence failed to arrived.

What did arrive was a quite wonderful wine combining fruity and savory elements. The guide-books were right; decanting is a definite plus, and I imagine more so with a young example such as this.

I noted a panoply of aromas from my glass including some dried strawberry, other, brighter red fruits and earthy dry forestness. Think of it as an earth and its bounty combined, like pulling vegetables straight from the ground.

Delicious juicy acids create a breezy, leafy feel, and while others criticize this wine for being lightweight, I rather like it. Complexity and satisfaction do not demand density nor viscosity.

I’m falling in love with this thing simply because there’s a meal in every glass. Olive tapenade made an appearance, with the accompanying oily/salty satisfaction. Notably, the minerality seemed overshadowed by the sheer bounty of vegetative rather than rocky flavors, no doubt helped by those supple acids.

Tannins? Not so much. They exist and are distinct; they simply fit in without fanfare. But with a smorgasbord like this, I don’t know who’d quibble. There’s a really nice chalky note in the finish too.

I keep going back to find new things from the glass. Is that oregano? Oh, for sure. More oxygen wakes this thing up big time. Some roasted root vegetables? And through all that, never once does one lose the fruit.

$12.99

 

La Vuelta Unoaked Chardonnay 2015

There are no free lunches, Hortense, as much as we’re promised them. Nope. But there are unicorns, for sure; of that I am certain.

I think I might be drinking a glass of such a thing right now. It’s a straightforward glass of Argentinian chardonnay, unoaked. Ripe apples, apple juice, vanilla, tangerine fill out the aromas. On the palate a ripe fruit almost umami-like quality of mouthfeel and richness close the circle.

Let’s call it a natural creaminess, and not take it too far.

No, there’s not a lot of nuance or layering here. Close your eyes, and you can see mountains, gauchos and beautiful grape vines stretching across the pampas. Plump, ripe chardonnay grapes just itching to be crushed an fermented.

As the glass warmed, a desirable note of honey emerged, too. Mmmmm. With that warmth came the earthiness I expected from wines of Mendoza. It’s as if the earth hitches a ride with the wine, to remind us of its provenance: I am proudly Argentinian, and we want you to taste it.

$8.99

Luquet Macon Villages Condemine 2015

From the blurb on the bottle, five generations of Luquets have been making this wine, and more power to them. Wine’s allure is at least partly because of its links to the past, a collective memory that goes beyond last night. The ancient Romans drank wine; I drink wine; therefore I might have been a Roman.

That’s silly on many levels. Romans breathed air and waged war and built aqueducts, but we don’t daydream about those. Consumption of wine implies sophistication. Who wouldn’t want to associate with that, as well as togas? Togas are awesome.

Ahem. So yes, the knowledge of vineyard, weather, vine, fermentation and maturation is something that gains patina with time. It’s what makes Old World wine old world wine, and therefore different from New World wine. In a modern universe of the consumer driving style, the Old World wins hands down in my mind. Consumers often know nothing.

But if they did know something, they’d buy this wine. A glass of this is a glass of history. It’s also a glass of geography. And it happens to be a glass of delicious wine. You might find a nose of salted nuts, petroleum and simple chardonnay aromatics.

After that, look for bright citrus and fresh-cut Granny Smith apples, minerals, flowers, and a creamy saltiness that gives way to deliciously oily acids. Contradiction in terms? Okay. You win. Now taste the wine.

$16.99