WELCOME BACK: MATTEO CORREGGIA ROERO ROSSO 2016

This was one of our favorite under-the-radar labels from back in the 90s when Corregia was part of the ‘new school’ Italian troupe under the Marco di Grazia banner. Corregia’s wines always had an engaging warmth and suppleness supported by ample dark fruits, gentle acidity and ripe tannins. He was thrust into winemaking at an early age when his father passed away in the ’80s, and he himself was killed in a vineyard accident in 2001. In between, he decided to bottle his own wine and developed a very captivating, generous style that won a lot of friends

A lot of his new school Barolista associates at the time, who created a bit of a sensation with using modern oak regimens in their winemaking, developed big reputations in the press. Corregia made his bones with more modest appellations like Roero, Barberas and Nebbiolos from sandier terroirs. After his death, the winery understandably lost some of its mojo, and we went quite a while without seeing much of the label here. Being presented the wine recently rekindled our interest in this lCorreggia and brought back memories as it is the same kind of honest, generous, palate caressing, bright red that we recall from the days of yore.

It is still a family affair with son Giovanni working with long-time winemaker Luca Rostagno, and mom, Ornella, handling the business and hosting. There are no secrets here. This is 100% Nebbiolo from a sandy parcel surrounded by a forest. All is harvested by hand and the finished wine sees six months in big barrels. We couldn’t find a review more recent on the Roero than 2012. But Correggia was never a media darling, especially given the high-profile folks he was associated with, just a guy who made juicy wines people enjoyed drinking.

The wine is the important thing and Correggia’s style was then, and is again, pleasing and comfortable with a supple core of dark cherry fruit augmented with floral notes and brown spice notes. The Matteo Correggia Roero Rosso 2016 is a wine to drink with gusto and, while you can get contemplative if you want to, that clearly isn’t the point here. Glad to have them back, and the vintage probably played right into the house style. Some folks out there don’t take wines labeled ‘rosso’ seriously. We say ‘respect the Rosso’.

YET ANOTHER KILLER 2016 CHIANTI VALUE: CASTELLO DI VOLPAIA

Castello di Volpaia has been on our radar for a long time.  We have, at one time or another, sold their black label Riserva, and specialty bottlings Coltasala and Balifico.  But we can’t remember a time the ‘regular’ Castello di Volpaia Chianti Classico turned in a performance like this.  Hey, this is a good house that has a solid track record and an occasional ‘home run’ (their 2015 Riserva was #3 on Wine Sectator’s Top 100 last year…of course it had been sold out for months).

But an exceptional vintage like 2016 has the power to lift the level of all wines great and small and put this ‘little’ wine into a special place.   The Castello di Volpaia Chianti Classico  is usually a pretty good utilitarian choice, but this time around this 2016 is touching another level.  As we have explained a few times, the scores for this wine are typically going to be influenced lower by the fact that there are a number of upper tier selections from the same house for scribes to review.  But the fact that everybody gave this wine a nice ‘number,’ and even nicer comments, speaks volumes.

For our part, we’ll say that the rounder texture, lift, and darker fruit component, as well as the easy-to-swallow price ($17.98), made this a must.  Here are quick hits on the critic’s words,

Antonio Galloni, Vinous Media : “The 2016 Chianti Classico is all class. Fresh, floral and beautifully lifted, the 2016 offers a terrific expression of the estate in its mid-weight personality. All the elements meld together in this effortless, classy wine from the family. The 2016 is quite accessible today, but it also has enough brightness to age nicely for a number of years. What a pretty wine it is… 91 Points”

Monica Larner, robertparker.com: “Showing ripe fruit and rich intensity, the 2016 Chianti Classico (made with 90% Sangiovese and 10% Merlot) would pair nicely next to pasta with extra cheese grated on top. This wine is bright and fruit-forward with the fresh acidity to cut though the fat in cheese, butter or cream. The tight and focused nature of the wine’s sharp berry flavors would also make a perfect contrast to the natural sweetness in those ingredients. This is always a great food wine, but this vintage is even better poised to match your favorite Italian dishes…90+ points!”

James Suckling: “Aromas of cherries, dried strawberries and red plums. Medium to full body, round and ripe tannins and a nice, fresh finish. Drink now….92 points.”

Decanter Magazine: “…Merlot is included to make it more approachable, but it still has the potential to age. Red berries and earth notes reveal themselves slowly, with perfumed violet nuances showing up on the palate. Firm but refined tannins hold it all together, and the finish lingers with appetizing  minerality…91 points”

Another superb ‘go-to’ from Chianti in 2016…enough said.

A ‘WILD’ BUY ON GREYWACKE’S 94 POINT SAUVIGNON ‘WILD’ 2016

We can recall nearly four decades ago when we started selling a then unheard of Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand called Cloudy Bay.   It subsequently went on to establish quite a following for itself as well as spearhead the expansion of New Zealand wines in the U.S..  Some years later as we introduced a new Kiwi producer called Greywacke, named for the course-grained sandstone that made up the soils, we took great pains to make the connection between owner Kevin Judd and Cloudy Bay where he was winemaker for some two decades.

How times have changed.  We don’t think it would be unreasonable to suggest that, in serious wine circles, Greywacke currently enjoyed a stature equal to and probably greater than the iconic Cloudy Bay.  That’s what can happen when someone like Kevin can produce thrilling wines in a variety of varietals over the course of many vintages.  As usual, we have a variety of selections from this New Zealand superstar.  But today’s focus is on one wine in particular.

Greywacke produces two different Sauvignon Blancs.  Their ‘regular’ bottling is by no means ‘regular’, various versions of the Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc having enjoyed a consistent flow of media kudos.  There is also one that they refer to as Greywacke ‘Wild’ Sauvignon, which varies from the ‘regular’ by virtue of the fact that its fermentation is performed with entirely the natural yeasts that come on the grapes.   The fermentation typically happens a little slower and takes a little longer than with the industrial yeasts, but the results can be spectacular.

Such is the case with the Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc Wild Marlborough 2016. A rather complex, layered offering showing, it offers a whiff of the expected grapefruit and lime along with less ‘traditional’ flavors of dried stone fruits, pistachios, and a little fleck of honey.  The palate feel is a little more tactile that most Sauvignons and the wine itself impresses, though the little extra bottle age may certainly have been a contributor as well.

It was a critic’s choice as well, pulling down some rather impressive scores for the category.  The new ‘hard line’ Wine Spectator surprised with a 93 point score and notes, “Just gorgeous, this is vibrant, fragrant and generous, with honeysuckle, Key lime, lemongrass and fresh ginger notes that mingle with grapefruit and pear flavors. Impressive for the intensity, showing a smooth body, refreshing acidity and long, lingering finish.” It is clearly all of those things.

For us it was one of the most compelling Sauvignons we have tasted in quite a while.  James Suckling clearly liked it as much as we did with a 94 point score and comments, “his has all the complexity seen in great white wines with plenty of savory influence. Grilled nuts adorn biscuity and flinty lemon and grapefruit pith. The palate has punchy dried-peach and lemon flavors, as well as an appealing, very succulent and carefully layered texture. Drink now. Screw cap.”

What is perhaps a little bit of a surprise is that we picked this up as something of an end of vintage special and, as an added bonus, can whack a bit off the $32 list price as well…while it lasts.

A GENTLEMEN’S COTES DU RHONE

You can’t stop Bernard Magrez, you can only hope to contain him.  The guy built a formidable business, sold it and started buying Bordeaux chateaux.  He owns four Grand Cru classes in Bordeaux including the jewel, Pape Clement, as well as several other properties in the region.  But that wasn’t enough, so he now has a world-wide enterprise that includes efforts from Napa Valley, Spain, Portugal, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and Morocco, as well as other areas of France.

His enterprises have been very successful because he has a good eye for terroirs and has Michel Rolland on his speed dial.  Perhaps the most significant aspect that ‘all things Magrez’ seem to have is a well measured, supple, engaging profile that one can count on in everything they produce. Bernard realized a long time ago that people liked to drink smooth, fruit driven, supple wines and that style has been the common theme through all of his wines no matter where in his far flung portfolio they come from.

He also had the vision to market his wines under one important branding umbrella.  He goes about marketing his juice more like Louis Vuitton sells designer goods than the typical corporate alcohol purveyor.  He made sure that his name on the bottle meant something and the Magrez has come to be synonymous polished, integrated, elegant wines emphasizing sleek, tender fruit and well integrated, ripe structure.  We have even kind of coined the verb ‘to Magrez’, meaning to take something vinous and refine it to an exceptional degree.

Apparently in need of a new conquest, Bernard took his talents to the Rhone Valley and ‘Magrezzed’ a couple of parcels of Grenache and Syrah into a Cotes du Rhone Villages that can play to a crowd of folks wearing Ferragamo shoes and Hermes ties.  We’re pretty sure there has to be some credit given to the marvelous 2016 vintage.  The quality of the fruit matters even to a magician like Magrez and, as we and others have said repeatedly, 2016 is something special in that regard.  But the level of integration and harmony to this wine, particularly given the sometimes more rustic origins of the Cotes du Rhone, are definitely a consistent and significant part of the ‘house style’ of Magrez.

The Bernard Magrez Mon Cotes du Rhone Villages 2016 is the first go-round we have seen in the Rhone for them, and we have been dealing directly with the company for some years now (which also helps us save on the price as we direct import it).  The Magrez stamp here is unmistakable.  Plush, sleek, fresh and smooth, Magrez even puts ‘mon’ (French for ‘my’) in the name, further putting his personal touch on it.  This is the ‘Magrez experience’ and, believe us, it works as well in this part of the world as everywhere else.

The nose billows subtly integrated notes of plum, violet, mulberry, and an insistent minerality.  As it enters the palate, it is sweet, supple, expansive, harmonious, and beautifully proportioned.  The descriptors and texture are curiously closer to a weighty, mid-range Burgundy than your typical, chewy “Cotes du Rhone”, but that is the Magrez way.  As such, it is also a consummate value at a mere $14, definitely a wine that plays above its station.

Magrez is pretty tight-lipped about sourcing or winemaking, preferring that the results speak for themselves.  That it does that eloquently now, and likely will five years from now.  There were few scraps of commentary, though this piece from James Suckling makes the point quite well.  “Attractive aromas of plums and dark berries with hints of violets and burnt orange. Medium body, lightly dusty tannins and a juicy, flavorful finish. A satisfying and delicious Rhone red. Drink now. 92 Points!” 

“Satisfying and delicious”, indeed. This is a classic example of why one of our chief operating philosophies is to seek out ‘little wines’ from top flight producers.  Such folks simply have higher standards and work at an elite level on everything they do.  They don’t know any other way, and the results show.  Bernard Magrez is certainly one of those people.  Supplies are finite so make your move early.

IT’S ROSSO TIME: LISINI ROSSO DI MONTALCINO

As you have probably gathered if you have read enough of our rants, 2016 has been a generally very good vintage in Europe and ‘lights out’ in certain regions like Bordeaux and the southern Rhone.  Tuscany is one of those ‘lights out’ areas as our tastings have shown.  We have had spectacular Chiantis and the market is anxiously awaiting the big dogs from Piedmont, Bolgheri, etc.   As an adjunct to the highly anticipated Brunellos coming two years down the road, we have come across the most remarkable crop of Rosso di Montalcinos we can recall from the 2016 vintage, and they are here now.

Yeah, we are fully aware that we are fighting convention.  A lot of consumers don’t take Rossos seriously, like they are some unwanted stepchild or byproduct.  Believe what you want, we’ve had a number of Rossos in 2016 that are better than the Brunellos are most years, and ceretainly more appealing.

It is simply a function of the 2016 vintage.  In Tuscany, the reds have brighter profiles and more flesh, taking them quite literally to another level.  If you tried any of the Collosorbo Rosso 2016 we featured a while back, you already know what we are talking about.  Now our toughest decision is figuring out which ones to put one the floor out of the uncanny number of outstanding examples we have encountered.

Even being as picky as we are being, Lisini is definitely one of the stars.  Lisini is a highly regarded house in the first place, and has been for a long time.   But while the scribes rush to present their opinions on all of the top-line Brunellos, the Rossos are largely ignored.  In 2016 that would be  a mistake.  This wine has all the trappings of a big time Brunello with a rich, layered fruit core, emerging aromatics of confectionary cherry, mineral and anise, and well integrated, ripe tannins.  You literally couldn’t design them any better.

The texture is perhaps the most noticeable difference with the 2016 Rossos vis a vis other vintages of Rosso or even Brunello.  The wines are round and seamless from front to back, with surprisingly tender edges for their relative youth all as a function of this unique year where the wines are at once plush and light on their feet.  There are vineyards designated for Rosso at Lisini, all from the same missal material as the Brunello.  There can also be some declassified Brunello juice in the mix though, in such an exceptional vintage, we doubt much got selected out.

It’s not like the Lisini Rosso di Montalcino 2016 needed more.  It’s pretty loaded, though it will differ from the ‘big dog’ by virtue of its accessibility.  We’ve never tasted Rossos like these.  They are friendlier than the 2010s and fresher than the 2007s, and in our minds perform a couple of notches higher than either.  Given the sourcing and vintage, this is a very classy wine for the modest fare of $24.98.  The only issue is that some of your friends may not be suitably impressed by something that says ‘rosso’ on it, until they taste it that is.

THE RETURN OF GIBBS: SINGLE VINEYARD, ESTATE NAPA CAB UNDER $25

You never mind retelling a good story, especially one that has a happy ending.  8Such is the saga of Gibbs Cabernet.  There’s always a need for a well-made version of Americas’s favorite varietal (Cabernet Sauvignon) that doesn’t cost “an arm and a leg,” the search for really good Cabs at fair prices is ongoing.  Since Cabernet is still kind of a big deal here in California, we were pretty sure we found the value Cabernet ‘holy grail’ back in 2014 when we rolled out the 2010 Gibbs Obsidian Block Cabernet Sauvignon.  Estate grown on a vineyard near Saint Helena, a quality, pure, varietally honest effort, that had definite Napa terroir and style points to boot, seemed too good to be true.

We rode that horse for several vintages simply because we could.  I mean, why not?  It was pretty much everything you could ask for in a Napa Cab at this price.   The story itself deserves a quick refresher.  The Handlys, Susan (formerly Carpenter) and Craig, met at a label design company in Napa called Colonna-Farrell.   After moving to Saint Helena in 1977, owner and winemaker Craig Handly began working as a label designer with, a notorious design studio with a history that is closely tied to the success of Napa Valley’s wine industry..

Before finding himself involved in the production of wine, Craig began a design and photography firm, Handly/Hansen, which produced materials for wineries including Beringer, Kendall-Jackson, Robert Craig, Karl-Lawrence, and Elyse. Later, Susan and Craig began their own stationary company, which started to lose ground at the turn of the century thanks to the wide acceptance of e-mail communication. It was then Craig made his foray into wine production by starting yet another company, Terroir Napa Valley.

With a focus on the staple crop of Napa Valley, Cabernet Sauvignon, Terroir Napa Valley focused largely on producing single-vineyard wines that exhibit the qualities of the vineyard site. As fate had  it, Dr. Lewis Carpenter (Susan’s father), who farmed his vineyards in St. Helena for more than a half century, passed away. Craig Handly, his son-in-law, is now farming those choice St. Helena vineyards.   Those well situated vines, acquired long before the real estate craziness that is Napa today, are the source for the Gibbs Cabernet.

For whatever reason, the 2015 Gibbs didn’t make the cut after 4 out of five vintages previously.  But the 2016 is brighter and deeper and stands out in its field the way that the 2010 did back when we discovered the winery in the first place.  The Gibbs Cabernet Sauvignon Three Clones Napa Valley 2016 is 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Merlot and 7% Petite Verdot that spends 8 months in French Oak.  It is 100% estate bottled, something virtually no Napa Cabs in this price range can say.  The ‘Three Clones’ moniker is a reference to the three different clones of Cabernet (6, 15, and 337) that are the heart of this engaging estate blend..

In the glass, the nose jumps forth loaded with spicy red and black fruits.  On the palate, all of the promise of the nose is delivered with the fruit character persistent from the cool black fruit core to the more jubilant, redder fruit center to the wine at large, with plenty volume to the flavors delivered.   If someone told you this cost $50, you’d taste the wine and look at the (single vineyard) Napa Appellation, and have no reason to question anything.  The kicker here is it is less than half that ($25)! Same as it ever was, this is one of the pre-eminent deals  on Napa Valley Cabernet.

 If you’re looking for the ‘hook’, there aren’t any scores or reviews on this one.  It seems this remarkable little wine is still under the radar, which is better for those of us that still just enjoy drinking a good Cabernet and don’t care about the media, particularly if the price is right.  We understand that it might be difficult to comprehend a well made, unpresuming, delicious Cabernet, from prime Napa Valley dirt, for under $25.  But it is certainly the kind of ‘adjustment’ one should be able make.  With only 1600 cases produced, the impact on the market at large will be pretty minimal.  But the possibilities for those ‘in the know’ is a whole different matter.  Good hunting.

 

 

 

TASTY ‘HOUSE’ RHONES FROM FERRATION

We sell all manner of wines great and small, and everything we present here we believe has a good reason to be here.  We can launch a treatise on virtually any vinous subject, but don’t think we always should.  A quiet word or two should be sufficient or some wines, and just because we didn’t generate a tome doen’t mean we didn’t like it.  If we didn’t like it, we wouldn’t buy it at all.  With that in mind here are a few words on the newly released Cotes du Rhones from Ferraton.

There are two key things to know.  First, Ferraton is an accomplished house with a long history dating back to 1946.  Second is Michel Chapoutier, who started working with the property to convert to organic and ultimately biodynamic viticulture starting in 1998, and buying the place outright in 2004.  With Chapoutier at the helm, things are definitely on the upswing.   These are both outstanding value performers at their modest fares and both come from excellent vintages for their respective hues.

The Ferraton Cotes du Rhone Samorens Rouge 2016, a half and half blend of Grenache and Syrah that is brought up in concrete, shows an ample, supple core of berry fruit laced with spice and floral notes.  Jeb Dunnuck calls it “… Rounded, sexy and even voluptuous, with terrific purity in its black raspberry, violet and incense aromatics, this medium to full-bodied beauty has no hard edges, silky tannin and a great finish…90-92 points’

Perhaps even more of a surprise, because the southern Rhone isn’t necessarily known for crisp, engaging whites, is the  Ferraton Cotes du Rhone Samorens Blanc 2017A blend of Roussanne, Viognier and Clairette, all done in stainless steel to retain the freshness, it shows lovely, subtle tones of citrus and yellow stone fruits.  Again from Dunnuck, “…It’s fresh, vibrant, and crisp, yet has plenty of heft in its peach, tangerine, and citrus aromas and flavors. With bright acidity, outstanding balance, and a great finish, drink it over the coming 2-3 years…91 points.”  Both play well for their $10.98 tabs and are in a likeable, easy drinking style for the category.

PICARO: RIBERA GONE ‘ROGUE’

We go out of our way to taste as many things as we can.  But for us Spain is a particular penchant.  We taste a lot of remarkable wines in the course of our research, as well as the usual percentage of clunkers and other offerings that are getting a lot of critical attention that we simply don’t ‘get’.   Ribera del Duero is seen as a more ‘serious’ appellation with the neighborhood harboring such heavyweights as Vega Sicilia, Hacienda del Monasterio, Pingus, and Pesquera.   There are plenty of discussions about ‘old school’ and ‘new school’, but one of the wines that lit our fire from a discovery perspective last year didn’t seem part of any school.

Jorge Monzon and Elizabeth Rodero founded the winery only in 2010 after Jorge spent years selling his produce to ‘several high profile neighbors’.  They have definitely separated themselves from the pack in a very good way and we can only marvel at their successful new approach and how Aguila takes such a stylistic diversion and makes you wonder why more people haven’t done this.

The wines are the brainchild of Dominio di Aguila, and he labels them ‘Picaro del Aguila’, the term Picaro making reference to someone as a ‘rascal’ or a ‘rogue’.  The playful nature of the program belies how serious these folks are about what they do and the clarity and purpose of their vision.  The winemaking is purposeful and innovative, but ultimately all of the serious winemaking goes to produce wines that are, ultimately, ‘fun to drink’

We first profiled Domino del Aguila last year with the tasty and rather eye-opening 2015 version. The ‘recipe’, if you will, relies heavily on the appropriate clone of Tempranillo.  But he has chosen some rather unusual bedfellows for this part of the world including Grenache, Bobal, a varietal we associate more with Valencia to the southeast, and Albillo, the rare, indigenous white of the Ribera.  Put them all together (del Aguila actually co-ferments them) and what do you get.  As we described the 2015, you get a Ribera with its ‘party hat’ on.  The 2015 went on to get 92+ points and a small novelette from Advocate’s Luis Guttierrez.

The 2016 walks the same line, scored higher and is clearly an even more complete effort.   There’s plenty of richness here, but there is also a lift to the flavors that is unlike anything else we have tasted from the area, probably due to the inclusion of the white grapes in the fermentation a la Cote Roties in the northern Rhone.  Gushing mulberry and cassis flavors abound but there’s a streak that is like a marinated black cherry and more expressive floral elements to the aromatics that announce this is no garden variety Ribera.

The viticulture and winemaking here are more than serious.  The vines, somewhere north of 50-years-old, are farmed organically/biodynamically,  The grapes are trodden by foot before being put in French oak for malo-lactic fermentation and a sojourn in wood (though there is no obvious wood in the flavors).  The vineyards here are north-facing, which give the wine a little cooler profile to begin with and affords the grapes a little more hang time.  The fruit  notes have a certain ‘wild’ character, a more lifted personality that doesn’t sit heavy on the palate, and an effusive spiciness.  The Dominio del Aguila Picaro Ribera del Duero Vinas Viejas 2016 is a gregarious, slippery, tasty and, yes, fun beverage.

Advocate’s Gutierrez went off again, “The youngest of the released wines I tasted is a red—the 2016 Pícaro del Águila Tinto. It is from what they consider to be one of the best and freshest vintages in recent times. This is produced with the vines from the warmer parts of La Aguilera, a cold place to start with (and in a cooler year). The old vines are planted with a mix that is dominated by Tempranillo but also contains some 5% other grapes. All the grapes are picked and fermented together with full clusters and natural yeasts in concrete and stainless steel vats. It matured in oak barrels for 13 months.

“This is fragrant, expressive, open, aromatic and really attractive. The palate is really balanced, with great freshness, fine tannins and a very pleasant mouthfeel—supple, balanced and with great depth. This is the best version of this bottling so far…”   Juicy, well-meshed (it was quite engaging on day two as well), well-priced and versatile, all done in a style all its own, the eagle (aguila is Spanish for ‘eagle) has landed.

 

 

COLLOSORBO ROSSO DI MONTALCINO 2016

There are many ways to approach wine.  You can buy at the top, or you can buy on the cheap.  There’s nothing wrong with either approach depending on one’s expectations.  For us, it is always about finding the best juice for the best price.  That sounds easy enough, but opportunities are not always there.  Pricing is, of course, the principal issue.  But getting the better wines greatly depends on vintages as well.  As we have maintained for years, finding the little wines from serious producers is always a higher percentage play as a rule.  But those elite producers obviously have greater upside potential on all of their wines when Nature cooperates.

Again, as we may have mentioned, there are few vintages in Tuscany that compare to 2016.  Chiantis?  A number of ‘best ever’ performances from a variety of producers.  Brunello? Folks will be anxiously awaiting the 2016s, but they are two years away.  We’ve have seen a number of thrilling ‘little’ wines from the ‘big boys’ in Bolgheri.    But poor little Rosso di Montacino, essentially declassified Brunello in many cases, is still pretty much under the radar.

In short, Nature smiled on Sangiovese in 2016 and we have come across some crazy good Rossos that perform well above their station.  Admittedly prices for Rossos can be all over the board. But given the vintage, one should take a good, hard look at the category.  The Collosorbo Rosso di Montalcino 2016 is one of those exciting finds by virtue of both price and performance.

While every Brunello producer’s Rosso story is a little different, this one doesn’t have a lot of twists and turns.  This wine comes from the same vineyards as the Brunello and is hand harvested into small baskets, pressed softly into temperature controlled stainless steel before a sojourn in Slavonian and French barrels for about a year.   That’s the way they do it all the time, but the results in 2016 reached new heights based on our experience with Collosorbo and we have had some pretty good runs with this bottling in the past (the 2010 comes to mind).

What’s the secret? No secret. Consistent producer, excellent harvest, not rocket science.  This is about fruit…pure, generous, rather ample Sangiovese fruit that wears its terroir for all to see yet can be appreciated simply for its outgoing, well-stuffed, rather gushing demeanor.  It plays dark cherry, some earth and anise in the mix, shows surprising size for a ‘simple’ Rosso and the flashes the kind of polish to suggest higher aspirations in this wine.  The Collosorbo Rosso 2016 played as nicely with a steak as with a plate of pasta because of its gregarious fruit core and bright flavors.  It was engaging from the first sip.

It got some pretty serious ink for a ‘little’ wine as well.  Monica Larner of Wine Advocate comments, “The 2016 Rosso di Montalcino opens to a bright ruby color with purple highlights. The wine is youthful and bright in personality with a full load of plump cherry and ripe blackberry. You also get hints of spice, crushed mineral and balsam herb to round off the bouquet. The mouth feel is rich, generous and nicely structured. This is an excellent value buy…90 points.”

James Suckling kicked it up a notch, “Offers more concentration on the nose with mostly notes of blackberry pie, plum cake and even some Christmas pudding. On the palate, the fruit is melded beautifully with chewy yet tight tannins and taut acidity. Great stuff for what it is. Drink now… 93 Points.”

This ‘best ever’ effort exceeds previous efforts for this series from a review perspective, but shares an important number with the 2010…the price.  Thanks to a variety of factors that worked in concert here, $19.98 will buy you a pretty spectacular bottle of Rosso that doesn’t play like your ordinary ‘second wine’.

An exceptional ‘go-to’ while it lasts.

GREAT BURGUNDY VALUE ‘IN DISGUISE’

There are two parts to this story, the most important being a delicious, well-priced bottle of Pinot Noir from older vines.  The house of  Maison Bertrand Amboise is a well-respected source for red and white Burgundy with a particularly important association with the villages of Nuits-St.-George and an elevated reputation for that appellation since the early 90s.

The domaine itself dates back to the late 18th century. Bertrand took control of the estate in 1988 after the death of Martin’s (Bertrand’s wife) father and has never looked back. Today Bertrand’s son, Francois, manages the vineyards (w/Bertrand) & daughter, Ludivine, manages the commercial aspects of the domaine; allowing Bertrand to concentrate on the winemaking.

Low yields and ripe skins allow for long, slow fermentations on the skins, sometimes 3+ weeks, which is why these wines have more color than most and a sweeter impression of the tannins.  All cuvees are 100% destemmed.  The Victor Fagon Bourgogne Rouge 2016 exhibits a lovely blue fruit note in the peripheral flavors as a result of that ‘ripe skin’ process.  It is particularly evident in the case of a 2016, a good vintage but one that didn’t always show that ‘next level’ ripeness.  This wine actually shares textural and flavor elements that are a bit more pandering like a 2015 red Burgundy, but a brightness more associated with the vintage of record.

The juice comes from vines that average 50 years old located in Premeaux-Prissey, the southern part of Nuits-St-Goerges.  Raised in 2-5 year old barrels, it is rather dark in color for a Burgundy with upfront, powerful blackberry fruit in the nose, refined tannins, and loads of darker fruits across the palate with aspects of soil and oak spice.   It’s a surprisingly good effort for the fare, and, like we said, shares as much with a 2015 as 2016 stylistically.  This would have been an email but people have already been nibbling on it to the point where our ‘par’ quantities were below necessary levels.  We wrote this so a few more folks got the ‘411’ before it disappears.

Why are we talking about Bertrand Amboise and Victor Fagon in such a casual, back and forth manner? We know it’s a little confusing, with the wine’s moniker different from the estate notes.  This happens occasionally in the world of wine.  Sometimes a producer is linked with an importer who may not be doing everything the producer would like.  But the producers have legal/contractual restraints as to what they can market under their own brand.  This is one of those cases, and this is a great ‘workaround’ for such cases.

The name on the label represents Francois’s son “Victor” and “Guy-Crescent Fagon”, doctor to Louis XIV and important benefactor to the wines of Nuits Saint Georges.  Victor Fagon is an amalgam of the two names for marketing purposes.  In the end, it’s the wine that matters, and this one delivers.