• Sneak Peek Into the December Explorer Club Box


    Explorer Club Case – December 17, 2015

    Zingara Prosecco, Treviso, Italy, NV, $16.99

    Long ago, tribes of people known as gypsies wandered the earth searching out new towns to explore, new people to meet and new skills to acquire. In Italy, they were known as “Zingara.” The Zingara wines are selections by Uva Imports, a group focused on the discovery of the best wines from every region, small village and obscure vineyard throughout Italy. These wines represent great values from small, lesser-known producers.

    Technical notes: Unavailable.

    Tasting Notes: A fresh, zippy and dry Prosecco with notes of cool, crisp citrus fruit, white peach and lime zest. A perfect holiday party aperitif, sure to please a crowd.

    Los Cupages de Mestres Rosé Reserva Especial Cava, Spain, NV, $23.99

    Mestres first documents as vine growers and négociant are dated from 1312. The first documents as vine growers and owners dated from 1607 showing the vineyard: “Heretat Mas Coquet”. In the 1600’s they build the actual winery in San Sadurni d’Anoia, Penedes, Spain, which was finish in 1861. They produced their first sparkling wine in 1925, and opened their first bottle to celebrate Christmas in 1928.

    Mestres family was the first producer to register the word CAVA, in 1959, aiming to inform the consumer that this was a sparkling wine aged in a cellar, using the words “wines made in cave” (vins de cava).

    They have always used the traditional grapes of their terroir: Xarel.lo, Parellada and Macabeu, all of them hand harvest on their own 74 acres of vineyards, situated at 690 feet above sea level, some of the oldest vineyards in the area.

    To protect their patrimony, no insecticides or herbicides are used at the vineyard and pruning is carried out to reduce their vigor, therefore producing grapes of greater ripeness and intensity.

    Today, they still use traditional methods taught by their ancestors including, long aging in caves, the youngest of their wines, aged 24 months in the cave, so all of the wines in their cellar are Reserva or Gran Reserva. 

    Wines are left to be full and rich and age completely - the wines undergo a natural stabilization process during their long aging, so that the crystals which form can then be “dégorge” along with the yeasts. That is why 100% of their production is aged using cork, and for all bottles riddling and dégorge is done by hand one-by-one, to ensure the highest quality.

    Nothing has changed at Mestres since they produced their first Cava bottle, and you can taste the respect for their terroir and authenticity in their wines. 

    Technical notes: 50% Trepat, 30% Monastrell and 20% Pinot Noir with extended aging on the lees, a minimum of 30 months. All aging and second fermentation under real cork. All riddling and disgorging is also done by hand. Residual sugar less than 9 g/l. ABV: 12%.

    Tasting Notes: Red fruits, floral notes and spices. Bright raspberry color. Perfect for popping on Christmas Eve! The palate is structured, fruity and complex with good balanced sugars and acidity.

    Domaine d’Arton, “Les Hauts d’Arton” Cotes de

    Gascogne IGP 2014, $7.99

    On the hilly heights surrounding Lectoure, a historical city built by the Romans that slopes down to the Pyrenees, the estate of Arton extends across 40 hectares (100 acres). The vineyards are rooted deeply in the cool, well-drained chalky-clay subsoil known in the area as “Peyrusquet.” The domaine offers a great range of native vintages such as Colombard, Sauvignon, Gros Manseng, and Petit Manseng for the white wines, and Merlot, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon for the reds. (The Ugni Blanc variety is kept for the exclusive production of the unique Chateau d’Arton Haut Armagnac AOC brandies.) The wines from the cellars of the Domaine d’Arton benefit from advanced technologies and techniques, which, added to the team’s traditional knowledge and skills, grant all Arton wines the special qualities of subtlety, personality, and elegance.

    Technical notes: Les Hauts d’Arton is a traditional table wine made from Colombard 70%, Sauvignon Blanc 20%, and Gros Mansang 10% grown in Lectoure, France (1 hour from Toulouse, 1.5 hours from Bordeaux).

    Tasting Notes: Fine and delicate nose, with aromas of box tree and citrus. Fresh and flavorful, with well-balanced acidity. Pair with grilled fish, seafood, poultry, white meat, pasta.


    Albert Bichot Macon-Villages 2013, Bourgogne, France, $12.99

    Albert Bichot owns four estates in Burgundy and produces excellent estate wines, but also operates as a négociant, producing many high-quality wines from purchased fruit. Under the direction of Alain Serveau, chief winemaker, teams of vineyard managers oversee viticulture while cellar masters supervise vinification and ageing. The result is a broad portfolio of well-made wines representing excellent values from all over Burgundy.

    This wine comes from a vineyard located in the Mâconnais region, in southern Burgundy. The soil is composed of clay and sandstone on limestone bedrock which accounts for the minerality often found in the wines of this appellation.

    Technical notes: 100% Chardonnay vinified in temperature-controlled stainless steel vats. The vinification in vats preserves freshness and the fruity and floral characteristics of the chardonnay. Achieved with selected or indigenous yeasts but not aromatic; alcoholic fermentation lasts from 5 to 6 weeks. Ageing is essentially carried-out in steel vats to preserve freshness and the fruity and floral characteristics. In addition, a touch of French oak is added in order to give the wine a discreet and well-blended woodiness.

    Tasting Notes: This Mâcon Villages has a lovely pale straw yellow robe. The nose exhales beautiful acacia and honeysuckle floral notes on a slightly mineral background. The mouth is lively, fruity and floral with a refreshing finale. With a meal, this white Mâcon village will beautifully match shellfish, seafood and white meats. Savour it with scallops with hazelnut, creamed chicken or with stuffed peppers. As for cheese, we suggest dry cheese such as gruyere or goudas.


    Anne Amie Vineyards Pinot Gris 2014, Willamette Valley, Oregon, $18.99

    Located in the rolling hills of the Yamhill-Carlton District and on the steep hillsides of the Chehalem Mountains, Anne Amie produces Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris wines of outstanding quality, as well as a little Muller Thurgau and an old vine estate Riesling. They strive to create wines inspired by Burgundy and Alsace, but uniquely Oregonian in style. Their philosophy is minimalist and natural. The farming practices are Live Certified Sustainable, and they are working toward carbon neutral certification with the state of Oregon. Small fermentations on indigenous yeasts are the norm. A younger winery, they have 120 acres planted, but most of it isn’t in production yet. Therefore they are still buying much of their fruit.

    Technical notes: 100% Pinot Gris from Twelve Oaks Estate, Anne Amie Estate, Van Duzer and Le Beau (all in Willamette. Whole cluster pressed in temperature controlled stainless steel fermenters. Cold fermented for maximum varietal character. 15% of the grapes were fermented in neutral oak at 55 degrees and aged on the lees for four months, for texture and richness. The combined wine was briefly aged in 25% new French oak. ABV: 13.4%.

    Tasting Notes: Feminine yet substantial, structured yet elegant, delightfully complex with silky folds of apples, pear, peach, jasmine, straw and white tea.


    Rezzadore “Tai Rosso,” Monte Oseliera, Veneto IGT, Italy, $18.50

    Until 2007 its name was Tocai Rosso (Red Tocai). By law it had to be renamed Tai to differentiate it from the Hungarian Tocai wine which, as a pure coincidence, bore the same original name. Today it is therefore known as Tai Rosso (Red Tai), while the Tai produced in Barbarano, Vicenza, and surrounding municipalities, is called Barbarano.

    The origin of the vine, in the absence of sure documents, is still shrouded in mystery. However, rumor has it that Tai is it the oldest vine of the Veneto area. In past centuries the bishops of Vicenza, lords of Barbarano, when going to Avignon-France as guests, would have received the vine as a gift thus bringing to Vicenza grapes from Provence and the Vaucluse. Interestingly, the vine has the same genetic nature of Cannonau and Grenache. Tai Rosso is undoubtedly the most important and well-known grape variety of the Colli Berici.

    Set in a 20-hectare estate, deep among the green slopes of the Berici Hills, close to Pisana Rock, overlooking the Po valley, stands an 18th century villa named after the Rezzadore family, who have been making wine here for many generations.

    Technical notes: 100% Tai Rosso (Grenache?). ABV: 12%.

    Tasting Notes: Do not mistake this wine for a rosé. The light color is belied by a firm tannic structure and rich complexity. Pungent herbs, bitter root flavors and autumnal wood smoke dominate, but the palate is pleasantly balanced with wild red berries. The wine is traditionally served for the entire meal, but the ideal pairing is with refined charcuterie, prosciutto crudo, intense pasta and rice dishes, baccalà mantecato, polenta e baccalà alla vicentina, quail, pheasant and duck, as well as medium aged cheeses.


    De Paolo Pinot Noir 2014, Veneto IGT, Italy, $13.50

    Cantine Sacchetto was founded by the late Sisto Sacchetto in the early 20s. The change into a modernly run and structured Azienda did not start until the 1980s under the vigilance of Filiberto Sacchetto. Today, Filiberto and his son Paolo still handle the selection of the wines and follow the winemaking process.

    The recently modernized facility is capable of producing large quantities of wine, respecting the tradition and implementing the most advanced technology to achieve a high quality product. All varieties are cold fermented in stainless steel to preserve the freshness of the fruit. As an added guarantee of freshness, the wines are kept in refrigerated tanks until the time an order arrives. The wines are then bottled and left in bottles for a few weeks and finally shipped to their final destination. This extra step stretches the freshness of the vintage and is very important for wines of this type, which are meant to be consumed young and loaded with fruity character.

    De Paolo Pinot is an inexpensive Pinot Noir of good quality- which is not an easy thing to come by. It’s the perfect wine for keeping on hand in case company arrives unexpectedly, or if you need something to drink with your leftovers. Easy, quaffable, drinks well with just about everything. Everybody needs a wine like this in the rotation.

    Technical notes: 100% Pinot Noir from the Veneto, Northern Italy.

    Tasting Notes: Fresh and juicy with coffee and a hint of pipe tobacco.


    Commanderie de Peyrassol “La Croix Peyrassol” 2014, Maures IGP, South of France, $18.99

    The name of the estate is the first indication of its long, illustrious past. Located in the heart of Provence, near routes traveled by Crusaders in the early Middle Ages, the Commanderie de Peyrassol was founded by the Knights of Templar who were dedicated to protecting the Crusaders en route to, and in, the Holy Land. The first recorded harvest took place in 1256 and winemaking has continued uninterrupted throughout the centuries. When the Templars were brought down in 1311 by the King of France, who was nervous of their power and jealous of their wealth, the Knights of Malta became the fortunate owners of the Commanderie. They remained in control, flawlessly maintaining the vineyards until the French Revolution, when it was taken over by the State.

    The Rigord family purchased the estate in 1870; but, it was not until 1977 when Francoise Rigord, wife of Yves, decided to bottle and market the wines of the estate.  Madame Rigord abandoned her successful career in public relations to study oenology and take on the responsibility of making all of Commanderie de Peyrassol's wines.  The first vintage bottled for sale to the public was1981. 

    Francoise continued to produce ground-breaking wines for the next two decades, elevating the reputation of the Cotes de Provence in all three colors: white, red and rosé.  Her book, “La Dame de Peyrassol”, relating her experiences as one of the rare women in the forefront of the wine trade has received enthusiastic praise.  
    In 2001, the Rigord family sold the property to Philippe Austruy who has aggressively invested in this exceptional property, modernizing the cellars and expanding the holdings.  His nephew, Alban Cacaret, is responsible for the daily operations of the domaine.

    The “Commanderie”, now known as Chateau Peyrassol, is located in the hills of the "arriére pays", or backcountry, of the Var, north of St. Tropez and Hyères between the villages of Le Luc and Flassans-sur-Issole. The estate controls 850 hectares and is surrounded by 165 hectares of Mediterranean forest.  Eighty (80) hectares are planted to vineyards which are cultivated on dry, rocky clay and limestone based soil. When Francoise Rigord took over, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon were added to the Grenache and Cinsault already grown at the estate. The Rolle (a/k/a Vermentino) and Ugni Blanc are the principal white grape varieties, supplemented by Semillon and Clairette.  Peyrassol is rigorously maintained pursuant to organic principles in full respect of the surrounding environment and the delicate balance of the local Mediterranean ecosystem.   No synthetic fertilizers or pesticides or fungicides are used in the vineyards. Organic foliar sprays are used to help prevent chlorosis (nutrient deficiencies) and sheep manure is the only fertilizer used after the planting. The age of the vines, the rocky terrain, and the hot, dry climate establish conditions that severely restrict yields. As a consequence, harvest levels average between 25 and 40 hectoliters per hectare depending on the vineyard and grape variety.

    Technical notes: This cuvée is crafted specifically for presentation in the United States and is the result of a close collaboration between Rosenthal Wine Merchants (importer) and the team at Peyrassol. The blend varies depending on the particular conditions of the vintage but normally is composed of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah in varying proportions. Approximately 12,000 bottles per year are bottled for the US market.

    Tasting Notes: Highlights of fresh wild berry fruits of the region, married to a firm minerality that provides structure and discipline.


    Yannick Pelletier “l’Oiselet” 2011, St. Chinian, Languedoc, France, $19.99

    Yannick Pelletier's estate currently consists of 10 ha in the Saint Chinian AOC that he has been working with since January 2004. He currently grows four varietals: Syrah (15%), Mourvedre (5%), Grenache (50%), Cinsault (16%) and Carignan (14%), and has recently acquired 0.5 ha of 50 year old Terret Blanc vines which he plans on vinifying by 2011. The parcels are relatively distant from each other which lets him take advantage of many different types of terroirs: 65% schist, 23% clay and limestone and 12% round stones. The youngest vines are 15, the oldest 70. The vines are in their third year of conversion to organic agriculture.

    For the most part Yannick does goblet pruning in the vines, which applies to the Grenache, Carignan and CInsault. The Syrah is trained in Cordon de Royat, and normally he leaves six to eight spurs with one bud each.

    The soil is worked with one or two plowingss and a possible hoeing by hand. He fertilizes the soil with an organic compost; about 500 to 1500 kilos per hectare. Yannick and his team do as much of the work as they can manually, for what he describes as two reasons: the work is more thorough than if done mechanically, and also avoids the passage of tractors which pack down the soil.

    Pelletier's property is relatively small; about half the size of the average estate in his area. In his own words: "This would allow me to mechanize all the work and not employ anybody. If I did this, however, the wine wouldn't be made as well and wouldn't taste the same. You need one person for pruning, two people for debudding, six for the harvest and four to sort the grapes, not to mention the occasional help of friends and family."

    To protect the foliage, he uses contact treatments, copper and sulphur, that don't penetrate the plant and therefore are not present in the grape. Debudding, or green pruning, is the most important work done in the spring. It entails eliminating non fruit-bearing shoots (called gourmands, or suckers) or those which grew in the wrong spot, especially in the center of the vine. This allows air to circulate through the plant, control yields and concentrate the sap for the best shoots.

    Pelletier's guiding principle in the winemaking process is to preserve the integrity of the grapes and wine: manual sorting of the grapes, use of gravity (yes!), indigenous yeasts… If the grapes are clean, pure, healthy and of good quality, he sees no reason to alter them with chemicals or oenology.

    Yannick's wines are made, aged and bottled without sulfites. They are not fined or filtered and should be stocked in a room or cellar that does not exceed 18 C (64.4 F).

    Yannick Pelletier in his vines.

    Technical notes: L'Oiselet is a blend of Cinsault (1/3), Grenache (1/3) and Carignan (1/3) grown on St. Chinian Schist. The Cinsault is destemmend and macerated for 15 days, while the other two varieties macerate from three weeks to a month. It is aged for 18 months in cement vats. Though ready to drink now, the wine can easily age 5-6 years.

    Tasting Notes: Deep, brambly red fruits and garrigue. Gamey and rustic with intense herbal aromatics such as sage, lavender and wood smoke. A bittersweet, pungent and nutty finish.


    Envinate “T. Amarela” 2013 Parcela Valdemedel, Extremadura, Spain, $29.99

    Envínate (Wine Yourself) is the brainchild of 4 friends, winemakers Roberto Santana, Alfonso Torrente, Laura Ramos, and José Martínez.  This gang of 4 formed back in 2005 while studying enology at the University of Miguel Hernandez in Alicante.  Upon graduation, they formed a winemaking consultancy, which evolved into Envínate, a project that focuses on exploring distinctive parcels mainly in the Atlantic-inflected  regions of Ribeira Sacra and the Canary Islands.  Their collective aim is to make profoundly pure and authentic wines that express the terruño of each parcel in a clear and concise manner.  To this end, no chemicals are used in any of the Envínate vineyards, all parcels are picked by hand, the grapes are foot-trodden, and the wines are fermented exclusively with wild yeasts, with a varying proportion of whole grape clusters included. For aging, the wines are raised in old barrels and sulfur is only added at bottling, if needed. The results are some of the most exciting and honest wines being produced in Spain today.

    Technical notes: “T. Amarela” = Tinto Amarela is the Spanish name for the Portuguese grape Trincadeira. Parcela Valdemedel is the name of the vineyard site, whic faces north, and sits at 500 meters elevation in the village of Alange in the province of Badajoz, Extremadura.  The soil here is composed of limestone and the climate is harshly continental with the high elevation playing a major role in the end wine.  The grapes are foot-trodden in small plastic tubs, and fermentation begins with wild yeasts, with a short maceration of 8 days. Malolactic fermentation happens spontaneously in used 500 liter French oak barrels, where the wine will stay without racking for 11 months.  100 – 6 packs produced

    Tasting Notes: Parcela Valdemedel is a beautiful vino tinto with notes of black and red fruits, aromatic herbs, and wet-stone minerality, with a freshness and vivacity rarely seen in red wines grown this far south.  A revelation in Extremadura!


    Misfit Wine Co. “Cycle Buff Beauty” 2013 Limited Edition Shiraz-Malbec, South Australia, $18.99

    Misfits Wine Co. is a collaboration between three wine industry professionals in Australia and the U.S. who have decidedly gone rogue, dismissing all traditions and conventions (which, I hear, is pretty easy to do in South Australia). With a focus on “doing whatever it takes to make the best product possible” (read: making wines that taste really good), this trio of bohemian renegades have no time to be criticized for, say, blending a Rhone varietal with a Bordeaux varietal… as in this case.

    That said- you’ve gotta know the rules to break them right (aka, “you’ve gotta fight for your right to party”), and these guys are true professionals who know how to stage a proper rebellion.

    From the winery: “It wasn’t that long ago that Syrah (Hermitage) was sneaking itself into Bordeaux as the Bordelais had a love affinity for Syrah. Swap a few barrels and accidently do some blending! Fast forward to modern day Australia though and you have scantily clad ladies running away from a crazed biker gang. Malbec and Shiraz is just the beginning of the madness. The story on the back label does much better justice.”

    Technical notes: Shiraz 90% (two sites in McLaren Vale & one in Clare Valley) - Malbec 10% (single vineyard in Clare Valley). 10 months in French barrique (20% new). 2000 cases produced.

    Tasting Notes: Dark red. Aromas of blueberry, boysenberry and woodsmoke, with a subtle floral note in the background. Offers intense cherry, blue fruit liqueur and spicecake flavors that become sweeter as the wine opens in the glass, picking up a peppery nuance along the way. Shows very good depth and a hint of jamminess on the long, supple finish, which is framed by smooth, fully absorbed tannins. A real fruit bomb in an attractive way, but it also has the structure to support its flamboyant berry character.


    Mas Igneus “Barranc Dels Closos” 2012, Priorat, Spain, $25.99

    Mas Igneus is one of the most recent wineries in the Priorat area and the first to produce organic wines. 1997 was the first vintage released by Mas Igneus, with a production of around 13,000 bottles. Mas Igneus is already establishing itself among the most well respected names in the region. The vineyards are located near a gorge, or barranc in the Catalan language, in the Priorat DO of northeastern Spain. They are certified organic by the organization CCPAE.

    Technical notes: 40% Carignan, 60% Garnacha fermented in stainless steel then aged in previously-used French Allier barrels for 3 months. ABV: 13.5%.

    Tasting Notes: Aromas of licorice and sweet red berries fill the nose. Lush in style and full-bodied. Pairs well with cream-based pasta dishes.


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