LAUREL PRIORAT SHINES AGAIN

Sometimes it is interesting to go back to the beginning.  In 1988 Daphne Glorian, at the time employed by an English Master of Wine in his Paris office, decided to spend her life’s savings on 17 terraces of hillside vines just outside the village of Gratallops.  Newly minted friends René Barbier and Alvaro Palacios encouraged her and together with Carles Pastrana and Jose Luis Perez, they pooled their talents and resources to make a new style of wine in a region rich in history but that had only really produced sturdy wine for the local markets.  In 1989 the modern Priorat was born.

Fast forward to today, and Clos Erasmus is considered one of the elite producers of the Priorat.   Their body of work is impressive and includes 98 (twice), 99 (three times) and 100 (twice) point efforts as reviewed by Robert Parker. The problem with Clos Erasmus through the years has definitely not been quality, but quantity.  There has been precious little to go around. Old vine Grenache, Carignane and a little Cabernet fruit make magic in Priorat in the right hands, and Daphne, along with her current super-star winemaker, the diminutive, dreadlocked Ester Nin are at the top of their game. 

These rustic hillsides produce wines of great power and character, yet in Ester’s hands also retain a surprising elegance.  Bordeaux had something like a three century head start on these folks and one has to appreciate how far Priorat has come in a mere three decades.  Like Bordeaux, particularly things like Chateau Margaux’s Pavillion Rouge or Lafite’s Carruades, Laurel is a ‘second’ wine comprised of the younger vines on the property, plus some declassified Clos Erasmus.  It is also another poster child for our mantra of buying little wines from the very best producers because they have better fruit, more talent, greater commitment and higher standards.  As with the first growth sourced examples we cited earlier, It is a ‘second’ wine only relative to its exalted sibling. 

Bottled unfiltered and unfined, the wine has a little bit of a wild side which gives it an exotic element, but it is absolutely packed with character and screams of its class and breeding.  We have followed Erasmus since the 90s and have tasted most of the offerings of Laurel along the way.  It seems like they are working at a higher level these days, which is saying a lot. The 2016 Clos I Terrases Priorat Laurel is once again a sensational effort and arguably worthy of ‘best yet’ considerations.  Laurel has always been impressive but it seems Ester is refining her touch. The vintage didn’t hurt either.

The Laurel 2016 shows fruit flavors of currant and black cherry, plus notes of coffee, cocoa and that insistent minerality from the llicorella (yic-o-raya) black slate soils makes Priorat a very special place for grapes.  It is aromatic, inviting, layered and remarkably engaging.  It delivers plenty even if you aren’t feeling cerebral and just want to relate to it on a purely hedonistic level.   If you need some numbers, this second wine received 93 points or better in every vintage since 2004 save one (2010, curiously enough the only vintage reviewed by Neal Martin during a very short stint as Advocate’s Spanish reviewer).   All the numbers aren’t in yet, but Jeb Dunnuck opened the topic with a 95 point review.

Dunnuck’s narrative makes the point, “The 2016 Laurel is sensational stuff and, in truth, matches several older vintages of the grand vin (Clos Erasmus) in quality. A blend of 80% Grenache, 15% Syrah, and the rest Cabernet Sauvignon, aged 16 months in a mix of oak, concrete, and amphora, this deep purple-colored beauty offers up a fresh, vibrant bouquet of blueberries, crisp plums, violets, and spring flowers. Possessing full-bodied richness, beautiful depth of fruit and richness, and a fresh, elegant style, it’s a brilliant wine that’s going to evolve gracefully for 10-15 years.”

Is there such a thing as a ‘blue chip’ second wine?  We think so. 

HIDDEN CAB STEAL

Talk about hiding in plain sight, this particular offer has us scratching our heads. In a world where Cabernet is king, and Napa Valley is the center of the Cabernet universe, why on earth would you market a Cabernet as Provenance Deadeye Napa Valley Red Wine 2016? The front label doesn’t even say that, or anything else. There is simply an artist’s rendering of something that loosely resembles a rifle sight or crosshairs zeroing in on some sort of target. While we had a good ‘what were these people thinking’ chuckle, the wine inside was anything but a joke.

This surprising complex Napa Valley ‘red’ is in fact 96% Cabernet Sauvignon (well into the realm where it could be labeled varietally) that sees 21 months in barrel! It has a real almost-old-school feel to it, and reminds us of some great Napa Cabs from the mid-90’s as Napa was just entering its cult period and things hadn’t gotten too ‘out of hand’ yet. Dark red and black fruit, something that could be described as “Rutherford dust” (though we have no idea where in Napa it came from), wonderful balance and a dense, juicy, rather polished palate, we expect most folks that are fans of Napa Cab will love the juice!

There’s the ‘rub’ and the advantage. Finding competent Napa Cabernet for under $50-60 is no easy task these days. Looking at the bottle, however, you would have no idea that this was Cabernet, and not some goofy proprietary kitchen sink blend vying to be the next ‘Prisoner’. The beauty is that neither will anyone else unless they read something about it somewhere (though there isn’t much). Apparently, this is the first release so few have seen Deadeye at all. Good vintage, fine effort, a delicious Cab for a modest fare and almost ‘witness protection’ anonymity, it’s a great deal as it is and there is no guarantee that the next one will hit the mark the way this one does.

STILL UNDER THE RADAR SPANISH GEMS

This particular traditional Rioja house has been a part of our set for at least fifteen years as well as being one of the prime grabbers for home ‘research’. You may not have heard of it under its formal name Ramon de Ayala Lete e Hijos Vina Santurnia Rioja. You quite possibly haven’t heard of it at all. We simply call it Vina Santurina. We have consistently carried one or more of the Crianza, Reserva, and Grand Reserva bottlings for a long time.

You likely haven’t read about it either unless you are one of those rare folks that reads archived wine review magazines. We have not been able to find anything more recently than 3 years ago in the Wine Spectator and, mind you, these weren’t the 100-pointers, usually grabbing high 80s to low 90s scores from the critics when they were mentioned at all. At this point you might be wondering why we are talking about them.

The simple story is that, while these are not the wine version of ‘super models’, they are character-filled, honest, classically rendered wines that deliver every time at prices that are pretty easy to swallow. Familiar notes of plum, cranberry, spice, leather, and vanilla play at every level. While they have that engaging Rioja muskiness and dusty note to the finish, they tend to be riper, more substantial, and fuller-bodied than your garden variety Rioja.

These folks are traditional to the core, as in organic farming (unless some seriously bad weather dictates otherwise) and even some foot-trodding in the cellar. The wines exude great authenticity will still delivering an ample blast of fruit. The Viña Santurnia Rioja Crianza 2016is a plumper-than-normal version of this wine. It is their best crianza we can recall. We usually play the reserva and gran reserva bottlings but this plays at that level qualitatively this time around. Plenty of dark cherry and red plum with notes of spice, coffee, sweet earth and vanilla. Made from 100% Tempranillo from vines planted between 1986 and 1998, sourced from both Rioja Alta and Rioja Alavesa, it is a lot of wine for the dinero and accessible now though there is no hurry.

Given the producer and vintage, the performance of the crianza wasn’t as big a surprise as this one. While 2008 isn’t necessarily considered an epic vintage, we have had a lot of very successful wines. But few have shown the plushness, roundness and flesh of this one. The Viña Santurnia Rioja Gran Reserva 2008 from a character standpoint is the reasonable upgrade from the delicious crianza, though more refined, resolved, better balanced, and classier. It is one of the better 2008s we can recall, and as you know we deal with a lot of bodegas. It’s the classic Spanish bargain of a high quality red with bottle age for under $30. This one is a blend of Tempranillo 90%, Mazuelo 5% and Graciano 5% that sees the traditional 24 months in a mixture of French and American oak.

We have been selling these wines for a long time as we said. But more importantly they are regular visitors to our own table as we appreciate quality and value as much as anyone. The wine media doesn’t tell you everything and some labels get overlooked simply because they don’t come from from some high profile, big budget importer. However these deliver where it counts, in your glass.

MEURSAULT’S NEXT BIG THING?

The relatively new importer that brings in this exciting Meursault domaine states that he believes this is the first time the wine has been in the country.  We cannot speak to that but can tell you this is our first go-round with this house and what a find it appears to be!  The domaine is centered in the village of Meursault and current winemaker/grower Francois Buisson represents the fifth generation at the helm of this estate comprised of a mere 8 acres of vines spread across 14 different appellations.

The style of winemaking here is based on what the vintage delivers.  There is no specific ‘stamp’ the winemaker feels must be present stylistically but rather they guide the wine to achieve what Nature has given it through minimal intervention.  Francois is sensitive to the vineyard and the ecosystem.  They plow rather than use herbicides and, while they might use a synthetic product in the case of some specific vineyard issue, are generally organic in treatments and harvest everything by hand. 

These wines have classic Meursault character of high-toned minerality, hazelnut, dried honey and crème brulee in the nose to varying degrees.  To us that is the signature of the appellation.   Stylistically these all come in towards the racier end of the spectrum with plenty of sleek fruit sitting atop refined acidity, plenty of energy and deceptive extract.

The Buisson-Battault Bourgogne Blanc 2016 shows its colors out of the gate.  The fruit is sourced from the Les Clous Perrons and les Magnys lieu-dits. The vine age ranges from 15-65 years of age and the wine is aged 1 year in barrel, 10% of which is new oak.  As Bourgognes actually sourced from Meursault terroir go, you can pay a lot for something from a Coche Dury or Roulot.  This one delivers that identifiably classic profile and, at $29.98, is a relative bargain for the juice inside the bottle.

The Buisson-Battault Meursault Vieilles Vignes 2016 comes from two lieu dits, Les Malpoiriers and Les Pellans, that are on opposite sides of the village of Meursault.  They weren’t kidding about the ‘old vines’ (vieilles vgines) as these were planted in 1930 and 1935.  The nose is a classic tapestry of brioche, honey, buttered toast and toffee, and all of that presents itself on the palate in a rich-but-lifted fruit component of apple and quince, with an elegant cut of salinity to the finish.  We have tasted a lot of Meusaults that, while they have the correct terroir notes and mouthfeel up front, don’t finish with sufficient flourish.  This one absolutely seals the deal in an expressive but harmonious way.

This Premier Cru vineyard has been the source of a number of favorites of ours over the years.  For some reason the Goutte d’Or wines come across as particularly and gloriously ‘Meursault-y’.  The Buisson-Battault Meursault 1er Cru Goutte d’Or 2016 came from a variety of plots within the vineyards, some owned by the domaine and others controlled through metayage for a total of five hectares, a sizeable piece in a vineyard this size.  The plantings range over a period (1955 – 1968 – 1974 – 2005) and everything is, of course, harvested by hand and put in French oak for 12 months, 25% new.  This one has it all and, again, the price is justified given the performance.  We have identified more than a few houses that went on to be a really big deal and, given this impressive first encounter, these guys may well be one of those.

TASTY, SUB-$15 CABERNET

Wines like this really test our communication skills. So many times whether or not someone might be interested in a wine we are offering can hinge on a single word. As merchants, it is to our advantage to be as honest as we can and convey as much information about a wine’s profile and value to consumers and explain what we saw in it to bring it in. This wine came in primarily because it answered one of the great dilemmas on our time…delicious Cabernet for under $20.

The search for Cabernet values can take us some pretty far-flung locales, in this case the Gilgal Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 comes from the Upper Galilee mountain range. Sitting atop the mountain range, the innovatively designed winery is committed to revitalizing the region’s rich history of winemaking. Over 2,000 years ago, these mountains, among Israel’s highest at more than 1,000 meters above sea level, was a choice location for the cultivation of quality grapevines.

Gilgal has an American winemaker, California-born and UC Davis educated Victor Schoenfeld, who has occupied the post as head winemaker for Golan Heights Winery, makers of Yarden and Mount Herman as well, for some 28 years. The area is warm enough to ripen grapes, but also has the cooler evenings to help preserve a wine’ freshness. This is a generally competent producer that makes a lot of solid wines but has the occasional hits. This Cabernet is one of those that stood out of the lineup.

If you want to profile the flavors, think ripe blackcurrant and a plush texture reminiscent of a warmer vintage in California, with a round mouthfeel and just enough acidity for brightness. We sure as heck can’t do a Cabernet like this for this kind of price here at home, so in that regard this is potentially an important find. Apparently, 2016 in the Golan Heights was one of the shortest harvests on record and there were no weather ‘events’ during the growing season to create issues. Maybe next year won’t be as easy, but we concern ourselves with the here and now with respect to go-to Cabernet candidates.

In the end, the only question was the winery telling us we shouldn’t say the ‘K’ word (kosher). Why not? We have been told that before but we don’t see the argument. We bought the Gilgal because we thought it was quite a performer for the fare and good value Cab isn’t easy to find. We wouldn’t buy something we didn’t like because it was ‘kosher’ any more than we would do that because something was ‘organic’ or ‘natural’. Quite the contrary, we see that fact that it serves the Kosher need as an added utility bonus for a tasty, low-priced, 100% varietal Cab that saw 12 months in oak and sells for under $15.

ROCHIOLI DIRT, ROCHIOLI WINEMAKER, NEED WE SAY MORE

“Castalia is a legendary spring on Mount Parnassas in Ancient Greece favored by Apollo.  Its waters bestowed upon those who drank from its fountain the gifts of poetry and inspiration…”

The above quote is from the back label of this hidden gem of a Pinot, but the connection with Greece ends with the name. It did, however, seem as good a place as any to start a story with a rather close connection to one of California’s legendary producers.  We are always looking for the next remarkable find and, because of our apparently ‘unusual’ (so we are told) open door policy, sometimes the ‘next big thing’ simply walks in the door.

Now in all fairness, the ‘next big thing’ might be a little strong. It’s certainly not a question of quality as this is a screamer of a wine. But Terry Bering’s wine may never be ‘the next big thing’ simply because there isn’t enough of it and he doesn’t bother to court the media.  But there is certainly enough pedigree and experience behind this label-you-likely-never-heard-of to give it the kind of immediate credibility afforded few labels in today’s highly competitive market.

Let’s start with the vineyard designation on this lovely, precise, layered Pinot Noir.  The Burgundians had centuries to figure out the best places to grow Pinot Noir.  While California was definitely late to that party, we are definitely getting it figured out.  The Russian River is one of the premier, if not the premier spot for Pinot here in the golden state.  If this was like Burgundy, and there were Grand Crus, the Rochioli Vineyard would certainly be among of them.  This Pinot comes from that venerable property.

Getting Rochioli fruit is no easy task either.  It’s like those ‘friends and family’ arrangements…your name is Rochioli or you have been working with their fruit since long before they were recognized as one of the elite sites for Pinot (a la Williams-Selyem and Gary Farrell).  It’s a short list.  How did Terry Bering get on such an exclusive list?  He knows people. 

What people?  Well, the Rochiolis.  Terry has been winemaker at Rochioli for about a quarter century.  Talk about an insider, here’s a guy with intimate knowledge of the entire estate.  According to his notes, he has been making this Castalia label since 1992 and over that time has built the volume of this Pinot Noir up to a whopping…300 cases in 2016.  The core of the Castalia Pinot Noir Rochioli Vineyard Russian River Valley 2016 is from the Flad and Riverblock vineyards planted in the late 80s to the West Block clone, and the balance from three other vineyards on the property planted with 777,115 and 667 clones. This Pinot spent 15 months in 100% French oak, 25% new.

Given the extremely limited production and the fact that Terry has a ‘day job’, Castalia didn’t get very far in the ‘distribution chain’.  He decided to make the trek to SoCal a few years back (we started with the 2013) and actually physically dropped those first cases here himself. 

This is a special effort, but most folks could figure that out without tasting it.  It’s Rochioli Pinot made by Rochioli’s winemaker in what has already proven to be a grand vintage for Pinot Noir.  It’s not rocket science. We can tell you this is fabulous juice with classic Russian River spice (clove, cinnamon) beautifully woven with intense cherry and red currant and touches of vanilla. This is a classy, refined, exceptional Pinot that bears an incredible resemblance to those collectible Rochioli Pinots because it’s the same guy making it from the same hallowed vineyards.

Would we call this great California Pinot? Absolutely, and you know we’re pretty careful with our superlatives!  Give it a few minutes to unfold and you’ll see how all of the elements evolve in the glass.  We’d rather drink this than a lot of those blowsy, overoaked ‘mailing list’ Pinots from some of those other ‘famous’ wineries that cost a lot more.  Will Calstalia get a big score?  Not likely as few people even see it.  That also helps keep the prices reasonable and we have a special offer on this 2016 to boot (click here). There are still a few bottles of the Castalia Pinot Noir Rochioli 2015 as well.

ROCKIN’ RASTEAU FROM AN OLD FRIEND

Every so often we stop and think about just how many wines have come through these doors in the last 37 years. Many labels are gone, many new ones are popping up all the time here, and new (or maybe just unfamiliar) names are making their way here from distant shores because the world is far more accessible these days. Every day it seems there’s a lot more information to digest, so much so that we forget some of the grand labels we used to sell. Sometimes we catch a break.

As we were going through some open market offers in Europe, we ran across an offer for a Winex favorite from years past, Domaine de la Soumade in Rasteau. “Hey, we know those folks,” we said, “they used to make pretty impressive juice. Wonder what they are up to these days, and why no one is bringing them in.” Our research showed us two things. The wines were supposedly imported by someone in New York, but there was no New York outlet offering the wine for sale. Even now, wine searcher only shows four people that have the wine in the U.S., again none in New York.

We also noted that Domaine de la Soumade’s 2016s received the highest reviews that they ever had, and this is an accomplished producer. Our course was clear. We were big fans of Rasteau long before they received the official A.O.C. upgrade (with the 2010 vintage), and Soumade was among the crème of the appellation.

Domaine la Soumade was established by André Roméro in 1979. Since 1990 the whole production has been bottled at the domain. In 1996 when his son Frédéric Roméro had earned his BEPA Diploma in viticulture and oenology, he returned to the domain to join his father. These days André is dialing it back, essentially semi-retired, and the reins are now in Frédéric’s capable hands. The domain covers 27 hectares, one of which is Gigondas and the rest is situated in Rasteau. They make nine different wines including four selections of Rasteau. The trend here is to use larger foudres (really big barrels) with the idea of keeping the star of the show, the super ripe Grenache, as fresh and bright as possible.

This domaine has always played above their appellation, but the 2016s are another level. The reviews are more akin to top Chateauneufs, but the prices certainly are not. The star of today’s offer is the Domaine la Soumade Rasteau Cuvee Prestige 2016 made from 70% Grenache Noir, 20% Syrah, and 10% Mourvèdre harvested from 30-50 year-old vines. It is done 50% in 4000-liter wooden barrels (those are the foudres) and 50% in concrete for 18 months. They do get a little help from a friend, the talented Stephane Derenencourt who is mostly associated with Bordeaux but is clearly comfortable letting the Rhone be the Rhone.

The results speak for themselves and we could enlarge on our ‘stop and smell the Grenache’ but the scribes provided more than enough print for the quantities we have. Joe Czerwinski of Wine Advocate offers, “…it starts with aromas of crushed stone and ripe black fruits. Full-bodied and richly concentrated, it picks up hints of cocoa and garrigue on the long, dusty finish…94 points.”

That is the highest Wine Advocate score ever for this illustrious bottling.

Jeb Dunnuck raises the bar a little more, “A rock star in the vintage, the 2016 Rasteau Cuvée Prestige offers more cedary garrigue, graphite, earth, and chocolate-laced dark fruits. It’s big, rich, beautifully concentrated, with a medium to full-bodied mouthfeel, and will have 10-15 years of prime drinking…95 points.”

That is the highest Jeb Dunnuck score ever for this illustrious bottling.

Getting the picture?

Rasteau as an appellation offers some of the prettiest reds in the region, with plenty of weight but a bit more elegance and tenderness, and a little less rusticity. We have ours and you can rest assured we are going to enjoy getting reacquainted with these wines (We have the 2016 Confiance as well). You need to get yours. Brilliant stuff!

A ‘POTENTE’ DEAL FROM PRIORAT’S NEIGHBOR

One of our greatest beefs about most of the ‘value’ wines out on the marketplace these days, besides the obvious inconsistencies and marginal quality, is the absence of ‘soul’. By the time all of the blending of appellations, wood staving, dilution because of high production in the vineyards, and using additives and/or residual sugar to cover that up is done, what you have can be legally called wine. But it is usually an amorphous glob of fruit with little personality or grace.

If you have wondered why we often go far off the beaten path to find exciting wines to drink, it is because such places are typically unfettered by the influences of ‘control groups’ and ‘market surveys’. They make what the land gives them and, if they have the skills, offer up some of the more compelling and character-filled beverages out there. Apparently, Eva Lopez is of the same mind. She founded a company called Cuvee that is working in Spain to find “… vines, trustworthy wineries and wines that respect terroir, fruit, traditional winemaking and of course exceptional value.” While that slogan sounds like a lot of things you might hear out in the marketplace, the results we have seen are clearly are out of the ordinary.

For this surprisingly pure, authoritative mouthful, she hooked up with a locally owned, accomplished cooperative located south of Priorat called Celler de Capcanes. We have sold wines from Capçanes before, perhaps the most recognizable being Mas Donis (from nearby Tarragona) and Costers de Gravet (from Monsant). They know their business in an area that has been producing wines since the Middle Ages but whose most recognizable appellation, Priorat, was only designated in 1989.

Montsant’s official history is even shorter having achieved its designation only in 2001. Priorat is best known for powerful wines grown in rugged, high altitude, naturally low-yielding vineyards covered with a black shale called llicorella (yi-kor-ra ya). Montsant, carved from the broader Tarragona appellation, shares many of those characteristics…the naturally low yields, higher altitude (even a little higher than Priorat), and that unique llicorella terroir. In general, they differ from Priorat by not being as unyielding in their youth and considerably less expensive, both extreme positives.

The Cellar Capçanes Montsant Potente 2016 (potente literally means powerful/potent in Spanish) comes from a unique spot of vines up to 50 years old in Capçanes’ highest vineyards. The blend is of classic regional varietals Garnacha and Carignan (called Samso around these parts), along with Cabernet and Merlot. The grapes are hand harvested, destemmed, and macerated in cement tanks then aged nine months in oak (from new to 5-yr-old barrels).

The resulting wine is quite ‘potente’, particularly for the price. To say that even this jaded Spanish wine-pioneering crowd was blown away would be an understatement. This is not just another face in the crowd. Pure, expressive notes of wild red and black berries that taste like fruit not candy, competing notes of spice and savory, and an underpinning described as ‘crushed rock’ which alludes to the influence of that local slate all buttress this uplifting juice with plenty of stuffing and an abundance of soul.

We are not alone in our enthusiasm for this character-filled beverage. Josh Raynolds of Vinous Media writes, “Bright violet color. Spice-accented red/blue fruits on the nose, along with a suave floral overtone. Lively and incisive on the palate, offering mineral-inflected boysenberry and raspberry flavors that show a Pinot-like light touch. Silky tannins add subtle grip to the finish, which leaves a zesty red berry note behind…90 points.”

From James Suckling, “Very attractive nose of black cherries, sage and chocolate. Ripe and generous with nice, warm tannins that fill out the full body very nicely. Long and very harmonious finish. Drink or hold…93 points”

Given that this wine comes in through the most aggressive importer we work with, and a finger or two in the markup pie are skipped, means we can offer this tasty, versatile Montsant for a song at $9.98. Montsant is still kind of under the radar, though we have been fans of the region for a long time. You will likely never have a better opportunity to find out why.

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.