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Cru Krewe

Cru Krewe – July 2017

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Pinot Envy

Pinot Noir: everyone’s favorite grape variety next to Cabernet Sauvignon. Its bright red fruity aromas and flavors, low tannin profile, paired with a little French oak and you have a crowd-pleasing red begging for any scenario. Pinot Noir is the chameleon of wines in that you can pair it with an array of food including salmon or duck or enjoy on its own! The one downfall: unattractive price point. Luckily for you, this wine of month is focusing on other varieties related to this noble grape that also come at a more everyday-drinking price tag.

Egly-Ouriet Brut- Ambonnay, Champagne
Egly Ouriet has around twelve hectares of vineyards, the majority of which lie in Ambonnay, mainly planted with Pinot Noir as well as some parcels in the Grand Cru villages of Bouzy and Verzenay. This unique sparkling of 100{8a779485a35888273496f0b72dc634490a1f8dcc316116b0257b1d61f66eee22} Pinot Meunier comes their Premier Cru village in Vrigny which uses over 75 year old vines. This exciting house is biodynamically influenced and producing cuvées of the very highest quality. The yield is kept very low and the natural vinification process largely takes place in oak “barriques”. Dosage is also very low across the entire range and the natural processes ensure low levels of sulphur. Add to this mix the single vineyard and lieu-dit cuvées and the result is truly stunning Champagnes. Testament to what can be achieved by a great Récoltant. Qualitatively, these wines are not for the faint of heart. However you refer to your Champagne’s they are undoubtedly in a category of their own. This is of course no accident, for fourth generation winemaker, Francis believes deeply that complexity and structure comes not only from perfect fruit, but also from extended lees aging. This belief is felt throughout his lineup, with most of his wines undergoing a minimum of 48 months on the lees with some cuvees being aged for 100+ months! As Francis puts it, this is critical for expressing the terroir of his wines, lending the wines that much sought after vinous quality.
“The NV Brut Les Vignes de Vrigny 1er Cru, Egly-Ouriet’s 100{8a779485a35888273496f0b72dc634490a1f8dcc316116b0257b1d61f66eee22} Meunier, is bright, focused and quite expressive. Dried orchard fruit, hazelnut, dried flowers, mint and chamomile. Classy and resonant through to the finish, the Vignes de Vrigny is striking. All the elements are impeccably balanced.”– 92 pts Antonio Galloni

Grange Aux Belles Pineau d’Aunis- Loire Valley, France
Pineau d’Aunis, also known as Chenin Noir is a red French wine grape variety that is grown primarily in the Loire Valley around Anjou and Touraine.Both Pinot and Pineau come from the French word for “pine” because the bunches of grapes supposedly looked like pine cones to those who were naming them.
La Grange Aux Belles was created by Marc Houtin in 2004 – a classic story of a new career, first looking for vineyards in the Languedoc then finding 9 hectares in Anjou, inspired by Leon Barral in the south and Patrick Baudoin in the Loire. The estate has Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pineau d’Aunis, Gamay, Grolleau and Chenin Blanc, farmed organically of course, using herbal infusions against mildew and vinified with minimal SO2. Short macerations are practised here, with minimal extraction, seeking light-bodied aromatic wines, low in tannins and alcohol. This comes as a welcome alternative to the tannic, high-acid reds that have been common in Anjou.
In the glass: floral, black rasberry, white pepper, plum and strawberry liqueur. The palate is bright with cool black and red berries, slight spice followed by a mineral-laced, refreshing finish!

Cru Krewe – June 2017

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Loire Valley

In June, we travel to my favorite wine growing region in all of France! You’ll find the Loire River Valley situated about 2 hours drive south of Paris. The region is next to many of France’s most famous drink regions: it’s directly north of Cognac, south of Normandy (cider!), and west of Burgundy. The Loire, as a whole, is very diverse in wine styles, in climate, in geography, and in geology. For this reason, it can be divided into three primary growing areas:
1. Lower Loire: Pays Nantais
Landscape: The majority of the vineyards are found on the flat, south facing banks of the Loire, Sèvre, and Maine Rivers. The Atlantic Ocean is very close, from 6–60 miles (10–96 km) to the west, so the climate is maritime with cold, damp, stormy winters, cool cloudy springs, warm humid summers, and often blustery falls. Sounds a bit like Seattle, WA.
Soil: The soils in Pays Nantais are predominantly volcanic (igneous) with top-soils of porous gneiss (granite-like rock). So, this means vineyards have good drainage, which is ideal for the wet climate.

2. Middle Loire: Anjou, Saumur, and Touraine
Landscape: The blustery and damp maritime weather is tempered as you move inland. The seasons are more defined and the climate is more hospitable.

Soil: The soil types are as numerous as the varieties of grapes. There are four main sub-regions:
• Anjou: around the city of Angers
• Layon: a sweet wine region located along the Layon River, encompassed by Anjou
• Saumur
• Touraine: Around the city of Tours

3. Upper Loire: Centre
The Upper (or Central/Centre) Loire is the smallest region, but it’s home to the most famous Loire appellations–Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé. The Sauvignon Blanc from these two areas are emulated throughout the wine world.
In many ways, this area has more in common with the Burgundy region of Chablis, than with the rest of the Loire Valley. The climate is what can be called semi-continental with big differences in the daytime and nighttime temperatures (the diurnal swing). Frost is always a concern during spring and fog engulfs the valley in the fall.
Centre is closest to the source of the Loire River in the Massif Central Mountains and the majority of the vineyards are found along the river where they take advantage of its temperature moderating influence. The soils vary quite a bit with three distinct soil types, all found atop a base of Kimmeridgian Limestone, (the same as Chablis, parts of Champagne, and the white cliffs of Dover).

Now for the stars!

Domaine Philippe Tessier “Le Point du Jour”- Pinot Noir/Gamay

Certified organic since 1998, the estate covers 22 hectares and produces Cour-Cheverny, from Romorantin, as well as Cheverny from Gamay, Pinot Noir and Côt for the reds, and Sauvignon Blanc with Chardonnay and Orbois for the whites. The estate maintains living soils with diverse flora and fauna; harvesting is by hand and fermentations are with wild yeasts with no addition of sulfur.
This Cheverny rouge is equal parts Gamay and Pinot Noir grown on clay/limestone soils. The wine shows lovely aromas of tart cherry, raspberry, and cinnamon with violet and citrus. There is a lovely mélange of cherry, black raspberry, and strawberry on the palate that is light and lively but with good depth. Serve chilled with charcuterie, grilled meats, and mild cheeses – great on a summer picnic or cookout!

Bernard Baudry “Les Granges”- Cabernet Franc

Bernard Baudry is unquestionably one of Chinon’s most outstanding producers. Not only does he have the talent to make delicious and consistent wines, vintage to vintage, but he is also fortunate enough to have vineyard land that showcases many of the varied soil types of the appellation. After completing his studies at the viticultural school in Beaune, Bernard returned to the Loire Valley to consult in Tours. By 1975, he had purchased his first two hectares of land in Cravant-les-Coteaux, a village from which almost half of the production of A.O.C. Chinon is sourced. “Les Granges” is produced from gravel and sandy soils and from 40-year-old vines. Animated red fruits swirl around a dense core of blck fruits. Red and purple floral perfume abounds accompanied by some green herbs to add to Cab Franc’s rustic nature. Not Rougeard but at a fraction of the price, it’s a classic, stand-up example for Chinon rouge.

Eric Chevalier “Clos de la Butte”- Melon de Bourgogne

Éric Chevalier is a rising star in the Nantais of the Loire Valley. For ten years, he sourced fruit for a large négociant in the Touraine. In 2005, he decided to return to his hometown of Saint-Philbert de Grandlieu, just southwest of Nantes, and ended up taking over the family domaine, Domaine de l’Aujardière, the next year. His father, a talented vigneron who did not bottle much of his wines and was well-known as a high-quality source of bulk wine, had stopped working the vineyards and the vines were either going to have to be pulled up and replanted, or sold. Éric was anything but enthusiastic. Little by little his passion grew, and today he is proud to be the fourth generation to farm the domaine. He is also proud to be bottling more and more of the family’s production himself. Éric sustainably farms twenty-five hectares of vines, producing wines of great character and finesse. He found his future in his family’s past. What makes this Muscadet a Freaky Friday contender is its richness and savoury, oxidative power. Partly attributable to the 50-year-old vines – producing Melon de Bourgogne grapes with a great knack of showing minerality and place. Partly the nine months on lees with regular stirring – imparting masses of complexity, along with trademark notes of citrus pith, subtle stone fruit and oceanic minerality. A downright compelling Muscadet.

Cru Krewe – May 2017

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Bordeaux!

Where to begin when discussing Bordeaux?  That is tough question to answer.  Let’s start with a few basics.  Bordeaux is the world’s most famous wine-producing region (Sorry Burgundy or Napa!).  It produces age-worthy white, red and sweet wines.  What other region can claim as much?  None.

What are the wines produced in Bordeaux?  A quick look at the geography and terroir of western France will give us some context.  Bordeaux is a port city on the Gironde River.  Upstream are two important tributaries: the Garonne and Dordogne Rivers.  These waterways play an important factor in three ways: mediating the cool temperatures found at the 45th parallel, increasing humidity (instrumental in grape rot which produces the king of dessert wines, Sauternes) and serving as informal boundaries between Bordeaux’s many sub-regions.

Generally, the region is split into ‘left bank’ and ‘right bank’: Medoc and Graves on the west (or ‘left bank’ of the Gironde River), St. Emilion and Pomerol on the east (or ‘right bank’ of the Gironde).  Between these two is Entre-Deux-Mers (‘between the two seas’).

Most of the famous communes exist on the gravelly highlands of the left bank: Margaux, Pauillac, St-Julien, Pauillac, and St Estephe.

Bordeaux is most famous for producing Cabernet Sauvignon, but it’s most widely planted grape is Merlot.  Merlot dominates on the right bank, where wetter, cooler soils make it difficult for Cabernet Sauvignon to ripen (Cabernet Sauvignon loves heat – witness Napa Valley!)  Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot also grown here and play supporting roles in a traditional blend.  A red Bordeaux is almost always a blend Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.  The wines age in oak barrels.  Typical aromas and flavors are cassis, plum, pencil lead, cedar, and violets.  The reds can be quite tannic and structured.

Bordeaux’s white and sweet wines are based on Sauvignon Blanc & Semillon.  There is also a very small percentage of Muscadelle produced but it is never more than a bit player.  Dry white wines are predominantly Sauvignon Blanc blended with some Semillon.  Typical aromas for the whites are lemon curd, gooseberry, white flowers, honey, and fresh herbs.  The sweet wines are usually Semillon-based, as it is greatly affected by botrytis, or noble rot, which dehydrates grapes, concentrates the grapes’ sugars, and adds an exotic spicy, honeyed character to a Sauternes or Barsac.

That’s a lot information, I know.  What is important to take away is that Bordeaux produces great wines of all different types, price points, and styles.  We have chosen a few examples this month to get you started, minus the dessert wine.  We are pouring a great Sauternes in the Wine Bar, please stop in and have a taste!

MOULIN D’ISSAN 2014 (Bordeaux Superior) – RED

 Grapes: 90{8a779485a35888273496f0b72dc634490a1f8dcc316116b0257b1d61f66eee22} Merlot, 10{8a779485a35888273496f0b72dc634490a1f8dcc316116b0257b1d61f66eee22} Cabernet Sauvignon

Aging: Mix of new & used French oak

Farming: Sustainable

Chateau d’Issan is one of the oldest wine producing properties in the Medoc as well as in all of Bordeaux. In 1152, the wine produced by what we know of as Chateau d’Issan today, was served for the royal wedding between Eleanor of Aquitaine and King Henri II!

Moulin d’Issan originates in the chateau’s Bordeaux Supérieur AOC plots, very close to the Gironde Estuary and right across the street from its’ famed Margaux vineyards. The soil there is mainly clayey limestone (marl) and particularly suited to Merlot (very unique in the Medoc where Cabernet Sauvignon is king).  The ruins of a 17th century windmill, which gave this wine its name, are in the middle of the vineyard.

 Look for: Plum & cassis fruit with hints of graphite, cedar, cocoa, smoke & spice.  Full mid-palette with smooth but present tannins on the finish.  Perfect with red meat, game dishes, or as an everyday sipper for those of us who like big & bold reds.

$20 / Bottle

 

CHATEAU DE GIRONVILLE 2012 (Haut-Medoc) – RED

 Grapes: 50{8a779485a35888273496f0b72dc634490a1f8dcc316116b0257b1d61f66eee22} Cabernet Sauvignon, 30{8a779485a35888273496f0b72dc634490a1f8dcc316116b0257b1d61f66eee22} Merlot , 20{8a779485a35888273496f0b72dc634490a1f8dcc316116b0257b1d61f66eee22} Petit Verdot

Aging: 12 months in a mix of new & used French oak

Farming: Sustainable

The creation of Chateau de Gironville dates back to the very late 1800’s.  During the early 1900’s, the vineyard belonged to the mayor of Bordeaux. In the late 1920’s, at the height of the depression, the estate fell into a state of disrepair. Most of the vines were removed in 1929, so other crops and trees could be planted, as that would be more profitable than making wine!  1987 marked the rebirth of Chateau de Gironville.  The Mercier brothers and Remy Fouin planted the vineyard and returned Chateau de Gironville to a working vineyard and chateau.  Current owners, the Mulliez family, have owned the estate since 2004 – Isabelle heads up the operation while raising 5 children!

The vineyard is located in the commune of Macau in the Haut Medoc appellation, not far from the southern tip of Margaux. This area is known for making open, approachable wines that can be enjoyed upon release.

Look for: a juicy, fruit-driven wine with lots of dark currant & dark cherry with licorice & sweet spice flourishes.  Quite full yet very drinkable, the wine is great by itself or with red meats from the grill.

$20 / Bottle

 

CHATEAU GRAVILLE-LACOSTE 2015 (Graves) – White

Grapes: 75{8a779485a35888273496f0b72dc634490a1f8dcc316116b0257b1d61f66eee22} Semillon, 20{8a779485a35888273496f0b72dc634490a1f8dcc316116b0257b1d61f66eee22} Sauvignon Blanc, 5{8a779485a35888273496f0b72dc634490a1f8dcc316116b0257b1d61f66eee22} Muscadelle

Aging: All stainless steel for 6 months

Farming: Sustainable

Hervé Dubourdieu’s easy charm and modest disposition are complemented by his focus and ferocious perfectionism. He prefers to keep to himself, spending most of his time in his vineyards in the Sauternes and Graves appellations. Durbourdieu produces wines from 3 appellations across Bordeaux: Roûmieu-Lacoste, situated in Haut Barsac, originates from his mother’s side of the family, dating back to 1890, Château Graville-Lacoste in Graves and Château Ducasse in Bordeaux Blanc.

This month’s wine, Graville-Lacoste, is located in Graves.  40 to 50 year-old vines are grown clay/limestone soils.  Somewhat atypically (you know how we do it at Cru Cellars!), the blend is based on Semillon.  Sauvignon Blanc plays a supporting role.

Look for: Pure & lively stone fruit, citrus zest, stony minerality & subtle hints of fresh-cut grass.  Medium-bodied & very refreshing.  Perfect as an apertif or with mild cheeses or seafood.

$20 / Bottle

 

Cru Krewe – April 2017

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“Spring Has Sprung!”

In Florida we get two seasons: hot and hotter. But there is a brief moment of weather-sanctity between the two where one might enjoy a refreshing beverage on the porch without fear of heat exhaustion. It is in that interlude I want these wines to bloom and be apart of. April focuses on the lighter to medium-bodied wines that display freshness and brightness while also showcasing a new importer of natural wines in Florida, City Beautiful. This company shares the same passion as Cru in supporting small-production, family-owned, organic wineries that possess an approach to wine-making that is extremely low-intervention.

Borell-Diehll Pinot Noir, Pfalz, Germany

In 1990 Annette Borell and Thomas Diehl married and created Borell-Diehl by joining their families’ three wineries into one. Starting with a total of 5 hectares, they have since expanded to 33 hectares of vineyards, all within 5km of Hainfeld, about 1/2 hour drive from Deidesheim. Their holdings are a complex geology of loess, limestone, red sandstone, with deposits of minerally muschelkalk (limestone) in some sites.

Annette and Thomas’ oldest son George is now poised to take over leadership at the estate. Having staged at important addresses like Rebholz (Pfalz) Wittmann (Rheinhessen), and Von Volxem (Saar), as well as an internship in New Zealand in 2016, he will continue the winery’s focus on quality wines of extraordinary value. The wine is exquisitely fruity, silken textured, dry Spatburgunder from the sunny Pfalz. Hand-harvested from estate-owned sites, tank-fermented and aged in large, neutral (3+yrs old) French oak barrels. This is Pinot in a modern, easy style with modest alcohol, fresh cherry themed fruit and a lip-smacking finish.

Benjamin Taillandier Grenache, Cinsault, Carignan, Languedoc, France

In 2007, winemaker Benjamin Taillandier settled in his family’s hometown of Caunes-Minnervois, which sits between the ancient city of Carcassone and The Montagne Noir. He purchased 5.7ha of Grenache Noir, Syrah, Cinsault, Terret Gris and began working it organically, eventually converting all of it over to biodynamics.  Each year he added a plot to his estate and now he works 9.5 ha all by hand and now fully Ecocert certified. He also runs a terrific wine bar downtown called Cantine du Curé which is open during the summer tourist season. Benjamin feels that many of the wines in the Minnervois AOC are too concentrated and alcoholic, and works hard to make wines that, while full flavored, are lighter, fresher and lower in alcohol than most average wines from the Languedoc. Indeed, there is a level of liveliness in this wines that you seldom see in the wines of the region, Benjamin is  happily introducing people to the concept of Minnervois “vin de soif”.

Weingut Jurtsitsch Gruner Veltliner, Kamptal, Austria

Alwin Jurtschitsch and his wife, Stefanie Hasselbach (of Gunderloch fame in the Rheinhessen). Alwin and Stef are leaders in the natural wine movement in the Kamptal. It’s a unique story because they happen to have the oldest winery in the area, dating back to the 16th century. In 2006 they rented out some of their land to focus their attention on quality rather than quantity and converted all vineyards to organic. Their “house style”, which you will find in this months Gruner Veltliner, is all about preserving freshness and elegance rather than power. After taking over the domain from Alwin’s three uncles the winery’s philosophy underwent a change, “Our wine style became more ‘polarising‘, characterised by the idea of terroirs without compromise” says Stephanie. They only use spontaneous fermentations and work without any additions, aside from minimal sulfur. The entry level wines are made in stainless steel, but all of the single-vineyard Erste Lagen wines are aged in large oak foudres. The wines shine in multi-faceted elegance, offering drinking pleasure at highest level without being baroque and heavy. This Gruner shows intense aromas of fruit and blossoms, it is fresh and spicy, at the same time complex and mouth-filling with a lively acidity. What we like to call a “porch pounder”!



 

Cru Krewe – March 2017

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Introduction

This month’s wines from Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyard in the Finger Lakes, upstate New York are wines that I have long admired and enjoyed.  Recently, the wines became available in the Tampa market and I jumped at the opportunity to showcase them for you.  My first exposure to Wiemer came while I was working in various wine programs in New York City.  I met and tasted with Oskar Bynke, current co-owner/estate manager/head of marketing and immediately fell in love with the Rieslings.  The purity and aromatic complexity these wines possessed was revelation, especially considering I am German Riesling fanatic!

Hermann Wiemer is a pioneering figure in the history of New York wine.  Wiemer was born to make wine – his mother’s family had over 300 years of winemaking experience in the Mosel, and his father was responsible for restoring vines in that region after World War II. Hermann grew up learning to graft vines by hand with his father before attending prestigious German winemaking and viticultural institutions. When Hermann moved to New York he discovered that the western shore of Seneca Lake was quite similar to the cool climate and gravelly soils of the Mosel. Using his grafting skills, Wiemer planted one of the first successful vinifera vineyards on Seneca Lake in 1976.  This ran in parallel to the fine wine revolution in California that exploded after Steven Spurrier’s legendary ‘Judgement of Paris’ tasting (where California Chardonnays and Cabernets faired well in a blind tasting against classics from Bordeaux and Burgundy).

Hermann retired in 2007, leaving selling the winery to agronomist Oskar Bynke and Wiemer’s right hand man, Fred Merwarth.  The Finger Lakes are not an easy place to grow grapes: the winters are brutally cold, spring frosts are common, and the summers are humid and often rainy.  Both Oskar and Fred are committed to continuing Hermann’s vision based on meticulous, precise vineyard management and winemaking.  Oskar says,

“Our future plan for the winery is to elevate the quality. Although we are one of the oldest in the Finger Lakes, we are very young compared to the other regions of the world. We are still working on our plantings, viticulture, and vinification methods. The winery has a history of being very agriculturally driven, in the sense that we have little intervention in the winery. Instead, we focus on the quality of the fruit. We continue to review the potential of our sites with better management. We use an organic spray program with no herbicides and no pesticides, and we will try to grasp the powers that are out of our control-flirting with Steiner (the father of biodynamic farming) a small bit… The goal is not only to make very high quality wines, but also to elevate the wines of the whole region by spearheading the Finger Lakes as the premier Riesling terroir of the country ….it is in pursuit of Hermann’s determined philosophy that we combine the best of old-world viticulture practices with sustainable modern techniques in our nursery, vineyard, and winemaking and ensure that our wines embody the finest expression of our vineyards”.

Oskar sums up concisely why we love Wiemer wines: they are authentic, handmade, environmentally responsible, and most of all, delicious!

Dry Riesling 2015

100{8a779485a35888273496f0b72dc634490a1f8dcc316116b0257b1d61f66eee22} Riesling

Whole cluster pressed.  No fining or filtration.

The Dry Riesling is rapidly becoming the signature wine for Wiemer.  It is a blend of 3 single vineyards: HJW, Magdalena and Josef.  On the nose, the Riesling has aromas of green apple and yellow peach, as well as hints of minerality and fresh cut flowers.  The palate shows dense nectarine, white peach, orange peel, marmalade, and apricot skin.  It becomes more tropical with air.  Don’t be afraid to decant it!   This wine is extremely versatile at the table – all kinds of spicy food, seafood, and chicken just to a name a few.

From the Wine Enthusiast, “Smoke and slate extend from nose to finish on this intensely mineral dry Riesling. On the palate, flavors of pristine white grapefruit and waxy lemons penetrate deeply, finishing long with a bracing crush of lime and salt.”

Cabernet Franc 2015

100{8a779485a35888273496f0b72dc634490a1f8dcc316116b0257b1d61f66eee22} Cabernet Franc

Ages 8 months in old, used, neutral oak barrels.  No fining or filtration.
Ideally suited to cool climate growing, Cabernet Franc is quickly gaining a reputation as a principal red wine grape in the Finger Lakes where long, brisk autumns allow for slow ripening. The palate is generous and round, marked by vivacious berry flavors, along with savory earth notes and a bit of structure. Firm tannins grip the tongue, then soften at the finish.

Kelli White, New York State wine critic for Vinous, on the Cab Franc: “A lovely wine, if a bit of a departure from the Finger Lakes “norm.” While many FLX Cabernet Francs are spicy and savory, this wine is far more ripe and polished. This is evident even in the color, a richer ruby than is typically seen. The nose offers scents of red apples, dried leaves, roses and sweet soil. The palate is lifted and fresh but with a good density of fruit for such a middleweight wine. The tannins are present but chalky and fine. Overall, a wine of great finesse and breeding.”

Field Blend 2013

40{8a779485a35888273496f0b72dc634490a1f8dcc316116b0257b1d61f66eee22} Cabernet Franc, 25{8a779485a35888273496f0b72dc634490a1f8dcc316116b0257b1d61f66eee22} Merlot, 25{8a779485a35888273496f0b72dc634490a1f8dcc316116b0257b1d61f66eee22} Cabernet Sauvignon, 5{8a779485a35888273496f0b72dc634490a1f8dcc316116b0257b1d61f66eee22} Pinot Noir, 5{8a779485a35888273496f0b72dc634490a1f8dcc316116b0257b1d61f66eee22} Lemberger

Ages 15 months in used, neutral oak barrels.  No fining or filtration.

This balanced, well-structured table wine shows mellow tannins and ripe fruit ahead of a peppery finish.  Black currant, black cherry, red currant, red cherry, plum and a hint of nectarine on the nose of this ruby-colored blend.  The palate is fruit-forward, medium bodied with medium acidity kicking at the finish.  Ideal for a weeknight sipper or with lighter meat-based dishes.

Cru Krewe – January 2017

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Welcome to Cru Cellars’ Tour of Sicilian Wines

Sicily is a great place to be in the world of wine.  After millennia of bulk wine production (which was often sent north to Piedmont or Burgundy to enrich lightly-colored & flavored wines in bad vintages), fine wine production has exploded in the last 20 years focused indigenous varieties & styles that emphasize freshness & complexity.

Sicily is a complex place to produce wine.  There are vast differences in climate, rainfall, soil types & grape varieties depending on which part of the island at which you are looking.  We are going to focus on 3 regions: Vittoria in the south, Mount Etna in the east & the central, interior highlands near Palermo.

Red – Planeta Cerasuolo di Vittoria 2014 (DOCG)

  • Grapes: 60{8a779485a35888273496f0b72dc634490a1f8dcc316116b0257b1d61f66eee22} Nero d’Avola 40{8a779485a35888273496f0b72dc634490a1f8dcc316116b0257b1d61f66eee22} Frappato
  • Sustainably farmed
  • Stainless steel fermented & aged

Cerasuolo di Vittoria, situated near the town Vittoria near Ragusa on the south-eastern coast, is a blend of indigenous varieties Nero d’Avola & Frappato.  The name is derived from ‘Cerasa’ – cherry in Sicilian dialect.  Nero d’Avola is a bold grape that adds body, texture & spicy, gamey dark fruits.  Frappato is much lighter – adding grapey fruit & floral lift.  Cerasuolo di Vittoria is an appellation of the highest order in the Italian wine hierarchy, Denominazione di Origine e Garantita (DOCG).  Planeta is one of the legendary names of modern Sicilian winemaking.  Their Cerasuolo is from two vineyards near Dorilli (between the Mediterranean Sea & the Iblean mountains) dominated by unique mix of red sand & limestone soils.

“Deep red. Sweet, spicy aromas of red cherry, licorice, coffee and marzipan, complicated by minerals and tobacco. At once plump and juicy, sweet and poised, conveying an impressive delicacy to its floral red fruit and stone flavors. The seductive floral tones repeat on the silky finish. A knockout Cerasuolo di Vittoria.”   91 Vinous

White – Tasca d’Almerita ‘Leone d’Almerita’ 2015 (IGT)

  • Grapes: 47{8a779485a35888273496f0b72dc634490a1f8dcc316116b0257b1d61f66eee22} Catarratto 22{8a779485a35888273496f0b72dc634490a1f8dcc316116b0257b1d61f66eee22} Pinot Bianco 20{8a779485a35888273496f0b72dc634490a1f8dcc316116b0257b1d61f66eee22} Sauvignon Blanc 11{8a779485a35888273496f0b72dc634490a1f8dcc316116b0257b1d61f66eee22} Traminer
  • Sustainably farmed
  • Stainless steel fermented & aged

‘Leone’ is sui generis – a white blend created by the classic Sicilian winery Tasca d’Almerita that blends Catarratto (indigenous to Sicily) with a mixture of international varieties.  The grapes are grown on clay & sandy loam soils at high elevation – up to 2800 feet above sea level!

“Pale straw. Floral and herbal accents complement the aromas of green apple and stone fruits on the subtle nose. Smooth and open-knit, offering lemony orchard fruit flavors and a suggestion of ginger. Finishes bright and classically dry, displaying lingering white flower and Oriental spice notes.”  90 Vinous

Red – Tenuta della Terre Nere Etna Rosso 2015

  • Grapes: 98{8a779485a35888273496f0b72dc634490a1f8dcc316116b0257b1d61f66eee22} Nerello Mascalese 2{8a779485a35888273496f0b72dc634490a1f8dcc316116b0257b1d61f66eee22} Nerello Cappucio
  • Organically farmed
  • Aged 18 months in oak barrels, 20{8a779485a35888273496f0b72dc634490a1f8dcc316116b0257b1d61f66eee22} new

Now, we travel to Mt. Etna in eastern Sicily.  Grapes have grown on the slopes of this active volcano for centuries.  A legacy of volcanic eruptions has left deposits of rocky volcanic soils, the sort of easily draining, nutrient-poor earth that is so conducive to fine wine production.

Marco de Grazia, owner of Terre Nere, decided Etna was where he would make his wine, after a long career importing Barolos and Brunellos to the United States.  The 100{8a779485a35888273496f0b72dc634490a1f8dcc316116b0257b1d61f66eee22} organic Terre Nere vineyards are located at extremely high altitudes, ranging from 2100-2900 feet above sea level. The weather at such high altitudes – hot, direct sunlight but cool shade and cold nights – makes the wines of Etna extraordinarily elegant and a real rival to those classic, age-worthy wines from Piedmont and Tuscany.

Cru Krewe – December 2016

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Celebration Wines!

Tis the season everyone! It’s that time of year where we act on our good conscience and give back to those in need. December I am ALL about giving you what you need; bubbles and red blends! In both clubs you will find Daniel Brunier, a standout Southern Rhone producer whose old vine Grenache-heavy blends will pair great with any holiday meal. For all those California red blend lovers I give you a sexy and smooth wine known as The Pessimist from Dauo Vineyards and finally, for my sparkling lovers, I gift you the Champagne Lallier and Patrick Piuze from Chablis. Happy Holidays!!

Daniel Brunier Pigeoulet

Fans of Chateauneuf du Pape but cringe at the price tag? This is a great wine at more than half the price! The Brunier brothers are fourth generation wine makers from the Southern Rhone Valley who are continuing the legacy of their fathers by showing off the unique terroir this region has to offer. Mostly Grenache with a little Syrah, Carignan, and Cinsault the Pigeoulet comes from twenty-five year old vines sourced from Cotes du Rhone and Ventoux (SE Rhone Valley) and showcases the different terroirs of the Brunier holdings. The grapes are harvested by hand to ensure only the best grapes go into the juice, and destemmed to provide pure fruit flavor.

Dauo Vienyards The Pessimist

Here is the wine everyone wants from Cru Cellars and we are finally giving it to you! We find ourselves in Paso Robles with another set of brothers. Daniel and George Daou own this high elevation vineyard estate where their primary focus is on Bordeaux varietals and also Zinfandel and Rhone blends. The vineyards are mostly made up of calcareous, limestone soils and influenced by the cool night and sunny days which provides the perfect remedy for a well-balanced wine. The Pessimist is a blend of all your favorites including Syrah, Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Grenache, and just a touch of Mourvedre. Will every swirl you will find aromas of seductive dark fruits, including ripe blackberry, boysenberry, and vanilla.

Patrick Piuze Val de Mer Non Dose

Winemaker Patrick Piuze has an interesting story. Born in Quebec Patrick started traveling the world in pursuit of his wine career. In 2000 he left Canada for the last time and moved to Burgundy. After working at Leflaive, Brocard, and Verget Piuze started his own winery in 2008. He made the decision early on to not produce his own fruit and rather purchase from the best climats across Chablis. Patrick’s latest project is Val de Mer, which loosely means “Valley of the Sea” and also brings us to our wine here. These wines focus on the ripeness of the fruit while maintaining the distinct Kimmeridgien that can only be Chablis. This sparkler is bone dry, toasty yeast notes, and a firm finish!

Cru Krewe – November 2016

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Holiday Wines

Welcome to November Wine of Month!  We’ve been searching over the last couple of months for the perfect complements to the Holiday season – suitable for the table and for simply enjoying a glass.  We’ve found an interesting take on an American red (Zinfandel), a fresh, energetic example of a classic European red (Tempranillo), and a surprising white grape from a region you wouldn’t normally expect (Viognier).  Don’t worry about pairing these wines with specific dishes.  Just pop the cork and let the celebration begin!

Cline Sonoma Estate Viognier 2015

Cline at Cru Cellars?  You mean that brand you see on the shelves everywhere?  That’s correct but you will not find this wine anywhere else.  Viognier is an aromatic white grape that produces wines with lush, silky texture.  Its traditional home is in the northern Rhone Valley (France) but has found a new home in Cline’s cool-climate Sonoma Coast and Carneros vineyards.  Cold nights and morning fog allow the grapes to ripen slowly providing aromatic complexity, freshness and crisp acidity.  Lots of afternoon sunshine adds just the right amount richness and body.  We taste apricot and other orchard fruits with hints of orange blossom and citrus. $19.99

Tomàs Cusiné Llebre Tempranillo 2013

The winery Tomàs Cusiné is in the highest elevation vineyards in Catalunya, eastern Spain.  This is rugged, mountainous terrain where the grapes grow in calcareous/gravel soils amongst oak trees, pines, and juniper.  Tempranillo is the age-worthy red grape most often seen in Rioja and Ribera del Duero.  There is a small amount of Garnacha, Carignan, and Syrah blended into the Tempranillo.  The grapes are farmed organically and hand-harvested.  Josh Raynolds from Vinous loves the wine, “Bright violet color. Fresh red fruit scents are complicated by suggestions of candied flowers and allspice, with a hint of cola in the background.  Sweet and silky on the palate, offering juicy raspberry and cherry flavors that firm up slowly on the back half. Shows good energy and thrust on the finish, which is firmed by smooth, slow-building tannins.”

$19.99

 

Neyers Vineyards Vista Luna Vineyard, Borden Ranch Zinfandel 2015

Neyers Vineyards is one of our favorite California producers.  Bruce Neyers has had a long career working with French wine importer Kermit Lynch.  That experience has had an undeniable influence the wines.  Neyers farms organically, harvests by hand, and uses minimal intervention in the winery.  Borden Ranch is a tiny Sierra Foothills AVA in an outcropping of hard rock – mostly quartz and granite.  This rocky base serves to reduce vigor in the vines, and provides a host of mineral components that reveal themselves in the finished wine.  Borden Ranch’s cool climate (due to brisk westerly winds) produces low alcohol, highly aromatic, fresh Zinfandel.  Only wild yeasts are used in the fermentation.  The wine rests in large, used oak barrels to soften the texture without masking the true Zinfandel aromas and flavors of blackberry and pepper with dusty tannins at the finish.

$24.99

Cru Krewe – October 2016

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SpOoOoky Surprise in the Glass

 

Coca I Fitó ‘Jaspi Negre, Spain

This blend of Grenache, Carignan, Cabernet and Syrah comes from old vines from vineyards with different mineral compositions in the DO Montsant of Northeast Spain, made by Toni and Miquel Coca I Fitó. Aged for a short time in French and American oak barrels (3 to 4 months) after spending a year in underground cement vats, the wine is full of ripe fruit and spice with smooth, velvety tannins. Pleasant yet powerful, it’s a versatile delight with food.

Agricola Cuvelier Atanea Pinot Noir, Chile

Ask me for my favorite Pinot Noir under $20 and it’s guaranteed to be this Atanea from Chile. Established in 2009, Agricola Cuvelier aims at producing and promoting great natural wines that showcase the terroir rather than cover up faults with sulfites, yeast strands, or excessive oak.

Weingut Lackner-Tinnacher Sauvignon Blanc, Austria

From a family that has been making wine in Austria for 240 years comes this Sauvignon Blanc that is full of ripe gooseberry and smoky spice. It is complex and concentrated with a cutting acidity that balances out a palate of lychee and star fruit that extends over a long finish. Refreshing and exotic. Your new replacement for New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc!

Cru Krewe – September 2016

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Southern France!

CHÂTEAU FONTANÈS ROUGE (Languedoc Pic Saint Loup) 

  • 40{8a779485a35888273496f0b72dc634490a1f8dcc316116b0257b1d61f66eee22} Syrah, 20{8a779485a35888273496f0b72dc634490a1f8dcc316116b0257b1d61f66eee22} Grenache, 20{8a779485a35888273496f0b72dc634490a1f8dcc316116b0257b1d61f66eee22} Mourvèdre, 10{8a779485a35888273496f0b72dc634490a1f8dcc316116b0257b1d61f66eee22} Cinsault, 10{8a779485a35888273496f0b72dc634490a1f8dcc316116b0257b1d61f66eee22} Carignan
  • Biodynamic farming
  • Wine is aged in stainless steel and demi-muidbarrels for 6 months to one year
  • Hand-harvested and all fruit is de-stemmed
  • Natural yeast fermentation lasts 2 weeks

Cyriaque Rozier, the highly acclaimed winemaker and vineyard manager at Château La Roque, makes his own wine under the label Château Fontanès in Pic St-Loup in the Languedoc region of southern France.  Pic Saint-Loup is a 2100 ft.  mountain made of limestone and clay about 20 miles inland from the Mediterranean. The combination of high elevation and limestone soils add freshness and finesse to the Fontanes wines.  A charming man with a strong sense of vocation and relentless drive, Cyriaque often works sixteen-hour days between the two domaines. He first started his domaine in 2003.  He has taken to farming biodynamically, a task that forgoes the shortcuts that most vignerons have at their disposal today in favor of producing organic grapes in a rich, healthy soil.  This wine expresses raw terroir.  It offers lots of minerality in its violet, black cherry, pepper and crushed flower-like bouquet in addition to juicy red fruits and silky tannins.


NOVELLUM BLANC (Cotes Catalanes)

  • 100{8a779485a35888273496f0b72dc634490a1f8dcc316116b0257b1d61f66eee22} Chardonnay
  • Organic farming
  • Aged 3 months in stainless steel on Viognier lees, followed by 3 months in barrel
  • Hand harvested

This is one of the best values in Chardonnay we’ve tasted.  It is a collaborative effort from superstar importer Eric Solomon and Domaine Lafage.  Lafage is located where the Pyrenees mountains and Mediterranean Sea intersect – near the French border with Spain.  Jean-Marc and Eliane Lafage farm 160 hectares organically.  Some of their vineyards are situated a few kilometers from the Mediterranean, while others can be found in the foothills of the Pyrenees. This range of sites allows them to make both refreshing whites as well as concentrated reds.  Jeb Dunnuck, from the Wine Advocate, writes, “Tasting like it cost three times the price, it offers lots of orchard fruits, white peach, honeysuckle and a hint of vanilla to go with a medium to full-bodied, crisp, yet still textured and mouth-filling style on the palate.”  We like the crisp acids on the finish that make it a perfect weeknight sipper or with your favorite vegetarian dishes.


CHÂTEAU MASSAIC CUVEE SENTINELLE ROUGE (Minervois)

  • Approximately 67{8a779485a35888273496f0b72dc634490a1f8dcc316116b0257b1d61f66eee22} Syrah, 33{8a779485a35888273496f0b72dc634490a1f8dcc316116b0257b1d61f66eee22} Carignan
  • Certified organic farming
  • Hand harvested
  • Aged in tank for 9 to 12 months

The Chateau Massiac has a long history that dates back to the Roman Empire when this area was colonized by the Romans using the nearby Mediterranean port (30 kilometers) of Narbonne as an access point. In the 17th Century, two brothers from Massiac in the Auvergne region traversed the area in service to the King of Spain and eventually settled at this spot situated almost precisely halfway between the clock towers of the villages of Azille and Rieux Minervois. During the French Revolution, the “chateau” was burned to the ground.

The domaine lies at the extreme south of the Massif Centrale, effectively in the gently sloping foothills that lead to the Mediterranean coast which is not terribly distant. The subsoils are essentially limestone and clay with silex and marble infusions, all of which was formed during the Lutecian geologic era. This soil has particularly good drainage which accounts for the superior concentration that Massiac achieves in its wines. As well, the site is exposed both the winds that sweep north from the Mediterranean and the cooling northwest wind coming from the mountains known as Le Cers which consistently dries the vineyard and makes it less vulnerable to the maladies of the vine.

The “Sentinelle” cuvée is the more precocious of the two reds produced at Massiac. The tannins are more supple and the fruit a touch “sweeter”, more forward and less rustic than its companion. Fermentation and elevage are in tank. The wine is bottled within a year of the harvest. The blend is usually two-thirds Syrah and one-third Carignan.