Calcareous Twisted Paso Zinfandel 2014

The following is from the “sales tools” part of the Calcereous website:

The Zinfandel used for Twisted Paso came from two different picking dates. This allows for picking fruit based on different preferred characteristics. The early pick is based on the presence of lively acid, while the second pick supplies the weight and deep color one wants in a proper Zinfandel. Each pick was fermented in separate 3 ton open top stainless tanks with thrice daily punch downs. The big ripe year allowed for extended time on skins reaching 24 days before pressing off. After pressing, the two wines were blended together and aged for 9 months in American oak barrels, 25% of which was new.

Now there’s a window into the dark art of winemaking; the choice of fruit to fulfill a destiny.

Let’s contemplate this for a moment. I adore the word “weight” especially when we’re talking about zinfandel, because a benchmark zinfandel should feel weighty – like an aging businessman driving a Cadillac. Or being driven around in a Cadillac. It’s all beautifully tailored suits and cigar smoke; working lunches with seven courses and brandy. Fusty but solid.

Criticism of wine – or anything we consume for that matter – is easy. What’s productive is contrasting the competing pressures of intent, quality, relationship to the standard, and price. We’re essentially looking for some delicious union of our palate and that of the producer.

This is why in all matters the winners are those who appeal to the masses. Seth Godin is right that the mass market is dying, but more quickly in some areas than others. Wine is one of those others.

Anyway. Let the folks who made this thing have the last word. I didn’t get the pepper, but all else is accurate.

The beautiful dark ruby color gives evidence of a dense, yet lively wine. The nose is an intriguing blend of tart bing cherry and rich boysenberry pie aromas. The mouth feel continues this trend of opposites with wonderful acid balancing, full-bodied flavors of blackberry, licorice and pepper. The finish is rich, yet clean, offering a hint of American oak vanilla.

$23.99

Mauro Sebaste Langhe Bianco Centobricchi 2015

White wine fills a little sister role to her older, more successful and characterful red. Always runner up, secondary, more milquetoast, even a little dreary, she learns to live in the shadow of Miss Red (Sr).

In that funny way that the universe has of turning stuff upside down, all this self-deprecation leaves whites to do their own thing. Low expectation is easy to live up (or down) to.

Which is why wines like this beauty slip so easily through the cordon of papparazzi waiting for the superstar Bordeaux and Burgundies; everyone’s looking in the other direction.

The nose on this instantly made me do an aromatic double-take. What? What the heck is that? What’s going on here? This is a viogner, right?

It is a viognier, and what a package. I had to go back to read just what a classic viogner looks, smells and tastes like to remind me, and then it hit: Wow. This is what a classic viognier should be. All the others are fine, but pretenders. Here’s the real deal.

This highlights a pretty good principle of learning about wine; that one should start with standards – the best examples of – specific grape types and acknowledged down-the-middle producers to learn the benchmarks. Then we can branch out to variations knowing how they vary from the start.

Frankly, I’m not sure if this is a benchmark viognier. For a start it’s from Italy. Then, it’s from Barolo country. (See, there’s that Big Sis Red thing again.) And yet there’s that WOW nose of low-key honeysuckle, beeswax and apricot.

From there there’s an intellectual, low-acid, full-feeling of apricot stone and stainless steel. Bingo: viognier. But viognier that’s been raised to work hard, look good, do her best and discover that there’s a whole world of admirers for just such a delicious young lady.

Forget about your older sister. What are you doing Saturday night?

$24.99

Saladini Pilastri Rosso Piceno 2015

Ah, yes. A nose of  dark dry fruits, mild earthiness,  and dark savoury licorice gave way to a mouthfeel of balanced dark fruit, dry, mild acids and balanced tannins. Short finish, no rough edges.

Doesn’t tell you much, does it? That could describe any number of red wines, from primitivo to weird Californian blends from Livermore. And yet there is an enormous difference between this sangiovese and montepulciano blend and anything new world. How much of that is the fact that I can see on the label that it’s from Italy is an interesting point of conjecture.

What I can describe is the secondary flavours of dried herbs, vanilla and dry potourri. Then there’s the distinctive dry tannins of the sangiovese – easy to say when I can already know, of course, but still, the profile is there.

My point is that the granularity of smell and taste is much finer than the words we have to describe them…at least the words in my vocabulary. Accuracy of description might always be wanting until we find new words to use.

$9.99

Pietro Vernaccia di San Gimignano 2016

Terrific article here about Vernaccia di San Gimignano.

Of all the fascinating tid-bits, one that stuck with me was the shrimpy size of the vernaccia planting; 1,700 acres. Oh, and there’s the Wow! There’s something worth remembering! fact that the Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOC was the first one proclaimed in 1966.

Ah, 1966, the year the first SR-71 entered service at Beale. Steely-Eyed missile men indeed.

Luxuriating in a glass of a volutuous Italian white like this can do nothing but expand one’s view of life. Hill towns, cobbled streets, the passeggiata – the very best of Italian life oozes out of the glass. I forgot Ferraris; a cardinal error.

From the oily hazelnut and pineapple nose to the just-right acidity and full mouthfeel, this VdiSG feels just right. True to the grape and without pretence, here’s a gift for your inner Tuscan. It’s a gift for your checking account too: consider the Californian crap you’d buy for that money.

$10.99

Leone D’Oro Vino Nobile Montepulciano 2011

Where were you in the (northern) summer of 2011?

Can you remember? Wine is a time capsule if you’re prepared to stretch the idea. Here’s a bottled message from – in this case – six years ago, a message encapsulating an agricultural moment in time.

Sangiovese is the bedrock of Italian reds, a position bolstered by the name of this wine, Vino Nobile. The name isn’t hyperbolic from either an historic or a wine-drinker’s point of view. From the off, I found a powerful dark fruit nose, hot fruit stew, new leather, dry rose petals  and mild licorice. Oh, and some vanilla.

Perhaps the way to think about this astonishing breadth of aromas is as vino bandwidth. You know, the volume of useful data available to the terminal (us) via the conduit (the glass) from the server (the bottle) thanks to the content provider (the winemaker).

Whatever. With air came a rounding of the tannins and a more savory herb character, including something I think was oregano.

$19.99

Tierre di Talamo Vento Vermentino 2015

Grapes have many Kryptonites until they’re fermented and bottled. Wine, too has enemies, but only one frenemy: oxygen. Winemakers spend a lot of time preventing it from touching their wine once they’re done making it, but when you and I open the bottle, air is our friend.

When I opened this bottle of Italian white and poured a glass, the full-bodied nature of the beast was obvious. What happened next was a kind of wine disconnect, with a number of seemingly non-related qualities living in the same glass. It was a jumbled whole in the same way as a jigsaw picture puzzle; you know there’s a bigger concept, but only the pieces are visible.

Most notable was the bitter-ish finish. From the nose, a big-oil citrus melange of tangerine zest and pink grapefruit lived within a phenolic dormitory. That theme continued to the palate with the pith of various citrus fruits, unripe tangerine, sea salt and oceanic minerals. The finish was distinctive.

After 24 hours, an enormous change occurred. The nose took on an almost pineapple-y ripe fruit character, the mouthfeel was progressive from citrus fruit through minerals and a salty undertone to a lasting, clean, salty finish.

Astonishing.

$14.99

Donnachiara Aglianico Irpinia 2013

I was told this thing was going to be good, and they were right. Yet again the way that one species – vitus vinifera – acts as the basis for such wildly different wines is astonishing. And that idea barely addresses the way in which mere fermented grape juice expresses such evocative aromas and tastes. That’s why we like it so much.

As my first aglianico, I was a little trepidatious. I wasn’t sure that I was in the mood for a full-bodied, high acid, high tannin, medium to medium-plus alcohol glass of wine. The miracle is that despite that being a reasonably accurate description, she didn’t read that way. At all.

Perhaps that’s the charm of aglianico – a kind of sneaky deception that draws you in with a distinctive nose and more-ish mouthfeel.

In any case the aromas are of dusty old shoes, black fruit, cured meat, smoked pork fat, green peppercorns, which describes a kind of savoury platter resting on a sturdy fruit table. That’s about right. It’s interesting and charming and charming, just like a good smorgasbord should be.

On the palate there is no big tannic attack, no alcohol heat, and no acid melt-up. If anything the fruit feels fresh and lively, acids just right and a kind of wonderment at how that trick played out.

Satisfaction is a squirrelly emotion to nail down, but that’s the way this wine affected me.

The next day the dark, ever so slightly sour cherry flavours came to the fore. Still the lovely charcuterie and dusty nose, but wow, the fruit here is wonderful. Smooth as a magic carpet. Quite something.

$19.99