(click on each name for more information)
Pierini e Brugi (Region: Maremma): The organic farm Pierini & Brugi is located on top of a hill, rightly called “Belvedere”, from where you can have a complete view over the most wild and striking places in Tuscany’s Maremma. The farm produces wine, olive oil, saffron and spelt and all these products are organically grown. The vineyards are located in the "Montecucco" denomination and, although that may not sound familiar, its northern neighbor is the very prestigious Montalcino denomination where Brunellos are produced.
Almadi (Region: Verona): Artisanal producer of Amarone, Valpolicella Ripasso, Corvina, and Garganega sourced from family-owned vineyards that have been farmed for over 100 years. The deep rich flavors of their wines are from the very mineral rich soils in the Lake Garda area.
Tre Fattori (Region: Piedmont): The name literally means "three factors" but "fattore" also means "farm manager" in Italian. As all of our producers are great farmers first, the great Nebbiolo fruit grown by the three families who jointly make the "Tre Fattori" wines then results in exquisite and fully flavored Barolos and Barbarescos. I suspect that the families keep their best fruit for their own wines before selling the rest of their grapes to more "famous" producers.
Cantine Russo Taurasi (Region: Avellino): A family estate in the middle of the prestigious Taurasi appellation in Avellino which produces rich and fully flavored Aglianicos, Fianos, and Falanghinas. What I love about the Russo Taurasi wines is that they let the grapes each year tell them what "styles" of wines to produce. The result is very fresh tasting wines with remarkable flavor profiles and a huge number of food pairing ideas.
Vigne Chigi (Region: Campania - Terre del Volturno): Vigne Chigi is in Northern Campania about ten miles north of Capua and about 30 miles north of Naples. Unique to the area are three very obscure, ancient, and very interesting grape varietals which are Pallagrello Bianco, Pallagrello Nero, and Casavecchia. Despite the similar sounding names, Pallagrello Bianco and Pallagrello Nero share no genetic traits at all but the Pallagrello name comes from what had been a tradition of drying the grapes on straw (paglia) mats before pressing into wine. The wines today are made without drying the grapes as both varietals are already very fully flavored. Casavecchia has even deeper and richer flavors in my opinion which makes this very small area in which these three grapes are grown a very interesting area to find unique wines.
De Falco Vini (Region: Campania - Vesuvio): What is very enjoyable about what I do are the fun discoveries along the way. For various reasons, I focus on vineyard areas with a lot of "minerality" (from soils with high mineral content from volcanic activity, granite, limestone, and slate) as I find wines from those areas more refreshing to drink, with more fresh fruit flavors, and also much more complementary with food and so in southern Italy it was natural to look for producers with vineyards on Mount Vesuvius. My search led to tastings around Naples at four wineries and all frankly had good wines but I was particularly struck by the quality and expressiveness of the De Falco Vini wines.
Menicucci (Region: Abruzzo): In 1970, Antonio Menicucci planted his first grapes in Ortona, Italy. Three generations later the Menicucci legacy continues. Menicucci produces a variety of organic hand-crafted wines that are striking for their expressiveness, fresh fruit flavors, good balance, and being very food friendly. Located in the region of Abruzzo, which is far better known for its robust red wines made from the Montepulciano d'Abruzzo varietal, I was particularly impressed by the impressive freshness of their white wines. There is also a fun and interesting dark Rose made in the region from Montepulciano d'Abruzzo grapes which is called Cerasuolo d'Abruzzo.
Feudi di Guagnano (Region: Salento): Feudi di Guagnano is dedicated to making world class wines from the indigenous grape varieties of Negroamaro and Primitivo grown in Apulia in southern Italy. In 2002 the three grandsons of the original growers realized that the rich and deep flavors from both grapes could be made into outstanding aging-worthy wines that could be as interesting as more prominent Italian wines such as Barolos and Brunellos.
Torre Quarto (Region: Puglia – Cerignola): Torre Quarto has an interesting history as in 1847, a French Duke who was traveling through Italy, Duke de la Rochefoucauld, recognized that the area where Torre Quarto is now located as capable of producing very high quality wines. Although I don't know what caught the Duke's eye, it was immediately apparent from walking through the vineyards, that are on rolling hills between Cerignola and the Adriatic Sea, that there is significant volcanic minerality in the soil. My following tasting session at the estate was even more of a positive surprise with the freshness and expressiveness of all the wines that I tasted.
Cantine Teanum (Region: Puglia – San Severo): An essential part of what I do is selecting wines at each property (instead of going to trade shows to play "let's make a deal!") and although part of my overall due diligence, there are also delightful surprises along the way. In my search for expressive examples of native grape varietals, I identified Cantine Teanum in Northern Puglia as a possibly interesting producer in an area where the main native red grape is the very tannic Nero di Troia. Working with such a grape requires both great insight and artistry in a wine maker and a fun surprise was finding that in Donato Giuliani at the cantina. Every wine that I tasted was a true expression of the native varietals and the local terroir with its high minerality from its volcanic soils.
Villa Puri (Region: Lazio - Lago Bolsena): Villa Puri is an ongoing family enterprise of a family that originally settled on the north side of Lago Bolsena (about 80 miles north of Rome) over 500 years ago. The current patriarch of the family's heritage, Vittorio Puri, has transitioned all farming operations to being organic and all wines are fermented with only naturally occurring yeasts. Between the exceptional farming and natural fermentation, I found the Villa Puri wines to be very expressive and interesting. Adding to the qualities and characteristics of the wines is the volcanic soil around Lago Bolsena which was created from the collapsed caldera of a very large ancient volcano.
De' Notari (Region: Lazio - Colli Albani): De' Notari is the "artisanal" wine division of Cantine San Marco, which is a very successful and respected wine producer in the Colli Albani hills about 15 miles south of Rome. While that may sound quite close to a major metropolitan area, somehow most major cities in Europe have avoided the ever spreading suburban sprawl that is so common in the U.S. that gobbles up as much nearby land as possible. In any case, the Colli Albani is probably much more suitable for viticulture than for housing developments as it is rolling hills that are the remains of a massive ancient volcano. And so, in my ever present search for minerally wines, I am very happy to have found this very interesting producer so close to Rome.
Valpanera (Region: Friuli Venezia Giulia): Azienda Agricola Valpanera is primarily focused on making world class wines from a local red grape (Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso) which has similar flavor profile to Cabernet Franc. But, there is also a delightful surprise from its growing region - which is that very refreshing, mineral driven, and very well balanced wines can be produced from many different varietals and so I've selected of variety of "every day" wines from Valpanera in addition to an initial selection of one of their Refosco wines.
Roque Colombe (Region: Chateauneuf du Pape): Beautifully situated vineyards slightly northeast of the village (and directly south of the vineyards of Chateau Rayas) which produce very elegant and perfectly balanced Chateauneuf du Papes. The expressiveness and elegance of their wines is from a broad variety of soil types in the vineyards which include sandy soils, sandstone, terraces of river stones, marls, limestone, and "safres" - a locally unique terroir of compacted sand which adds balance and minerality to their wines.
Domaine des Capes (Region: Gigondas): The Daniel family has grown grapes in the area since 1753. Their Gigondas vineyards are located in my favorite part of the appellation in the upper valley between the "capes" of the two Dentelles de Montmirail that are above the village. The rockier soils in this area are full of minerals which produce the rich deep flavors in their wines.
Domaine de la Cheneraie (Region: Beaumes de Venise): Perfectly located south facing vineyards above the village produce an incredibly rich wine. The Domaine's name is from the truffle oaks that once bordered the vineyards (chene means oak in French). Although there are not truffles in the wine, there is a little "something extra" as on my first tasting I recognized the Cote Rotie hints and then verified that they do add some Viognier to the blend each year.
Passe Colline (Region: Ventoux): Very delightful vineyards in the Ventoux appellation which produce very food friendly, perfectly balanced, and minerally "GSM" red blends (Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre).
Legende des Toques Cotes du Rhone (Region: Southern Rhone): An interesting consortium of leading "cusiniers" of France choose the blend for this very food friendly Cotes du Rhone each year.
Heritage Cotes du Rhone (Region: Southern Rhone): All of our wines are wonderful expressions of their local "terroir" but this goes further with expressing the long traditions and heritage of the Southern Rhone. This is a special "cuvee" produced each year by a collaboration of family vignerons whose vineyards are mainly on the minerally slopes of the Dentelles de Montmirail. The result is a rich, deeply flavored, and food friendly wine that follows the traditions of local wines that have been enjoyed for centuries in this area.
Domaine Pierre Ravaut (Region: Burgundy): This was another fun and unexpected surprise as I didn't originally intend to import any wines from Burgundy given how many Burgundy wines are exported to the U.S. But, I love visiting Burgundy and so I planned to spend the night in Aloxe-Corton while on my way from Alsace to the Southern Rhone. On my way to dinner in Ladoix, I also noticed the sign of a local vigneron (Pierre Ravaut) on the wall of his Domaine and then also saw some of his wines offered by the glass at the local restaurant I selected that night. All of the Ravaut wines I tasted that night were really well made (and delicious too!) and so I visited the Domaine the next morning. The reality of Burgundy, however, is that there is also a pretty limited supply of wine. Pierre seemed amused at my attempts to speak French, however, and enjoyed talking about wine and so he graciously offered to let me import some of his wines.
Vignoble Angst (Region: Chablis): Vignerons are unfortunately full of angst each year about their vignobles (the places where those noble grapes are grown!), particularly in Chablis with its annual bouts with the two G-forces of gelee (frost) and grele (hail). This is an example of double Angst, however, with the talented team of Antoine & Celine Angst producing beautifully balanced and expressive wines such as their Premier Cru Cote de Jouan, AOC Chablis, and a Bourgogne Blanc each year.
Domaine de l'Oriel (Region: Alsace): This Domaine has vineyards in three of the more prominent Alsatian Grand Cru sites (Sommerberg, Brand, and Florimont) that are in a valley to the west of Colmar. Their very minerally and crisp Grand Cru Rieslings are heavenly and the Domaine also produces very good Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Silvaner, and the local specialty Edelzwicker each year.
Chateau Moulin Rouge (Region: Bordeaux - Haut Medoc): This mid-peninsula "left bank" chateau produces beautifully balanced, supple, and food friendly Bordeaux blends each year.
Chateau La Mothe du Barry (Region: Bordeaux - Entre Deux Mers): The very talented and meticulous vigneron Joel Duffau produces very fully flavored and perfectly balanced Bordeaux blends each year from his organically farmed vineyards that have been owned by his family for over 300 years. Located only six miles from St. Emilion, this Chateau is producing top quality "right bank" wines each year but which are great values at only a fraction of typical St. Emilion prices.
Maison Lorgeril (Region: Languedoc): The Lorgeril's have been a prominent wine producing family in the Languedoc since 1620. Now under the leadership of Nicolas de Lorgeril, the family's careful development of their estates in Languedoc and Roussillon have resulted in producing wines from six premier regions within Languedoc. With their long heritage in the region, the family has also been careful stewards of their various terroirs through sustainable agriculture and observing organic principles as far as possible in region that does have its challenges during the growing season. The careful stewardship has been recognized with the awarding of HVE Level 3 certification (Haute Valeur Environnementale) which has high standards for biodiversity conservation, plant protection strategy, management of fertilizer use, and management of water.
Chateau Ponzac (Region: Cahors): Beautiful hilltop vineyards west of Cahors produce one of the most pure expressions of Malbec that I have ever tasted. The very creative viticulturalist and vigneron team of Matthieu and Virginie Molinie blend their separately vinified parcels of Malbec each year into wines that you can enjoy either "maintenant" or well into the future.
Vignerons du Quercy (Region: Coteaux de Quercy): This is very interesting area about 20 miles south of Cahors where its limestone plateau is a great place for growing Cabernet Franc. Other Bordeaux varietals can also be used in each year's blends but overall this area provides a very interesting expression of Cabernet Franc and I've selected two reds and also a very delightful rose.
Southwest France (Regions: Cahors and Gaillac): I've selected two very good Malbecs that are produced by a consortium of Cahors area vignerons from their older "vieilles vignes" vineyards, a white wine from Gaillac, L'Infini, that is made from an indigenous local white grape from the region (Loin de l'Oeil), and a fun red blend that is made from seven local indigenous grapes.
Chateau de Brissac (Region: Loire/Brissac): I selected a special cuvee from this producer that is one of the most interesting Loire Valley Cabernet Francs that I have ever tasted. Rich with minerals and balanced with perfect tannins, this is a very food friendly wine.
Famille Mahieu (Region: Loire/Vouvray): I've selected a delightful and very food friendly "demi-sec" Vouvray from this producer whose family has been farming their mineral rich Vouvray vineyards for over 200 years.
Vinas del Jaro (Region: Ribera del Duero): From my research I knew that this estate was "very near" a "very prestigious" producer in the Ribera del Duero but, as it turns out, vineyards of the "other" producer are actually adjoining the Vinas del Jaro vineyards. These vineyards are of course in the "golden mile" of Ribera del Duero vineyards on a perfectly situated south facing hill which adds a huge amount of depth and complexity to their wines. While on one hand this estate does produce the traditional range of Spanish wines (Joven, Crianza, Reserva, and Gran Reserva), effectively all of the wines benefit from the overall "Grand Cru" location of where the estate is located. Within the estate, there is also a "single vineyard" site (Chafandin) that has quite a history as the 2003 "Reserva" wine sourced entirely from this parcel was awarded the "Champion Red Wine" prize in 2006 during the very prestigious London International Wine Challenge. The estate's Gran Reserva wine, Sed de Cana, is only made in truly exceptional years from a special selection of grapes from the same Chafandin parcel.
Cal Grau (Region: Priorat): Anyone who has ever visited the Priorat would wonder why anyone would be crazy enough to attempt to grow grapes there given the crazy quilt topography of almost vertical canyons between randomly occurring hills and rock outcroppings. But, when you taste the amazing Garnarcha and Carinena blends that are produced from the broken slate "licorella" terroir and have your taste buds filled with refreshing flavors and minerality, you will understand why wine is produced here. The Cal Grau vineyards also occupy a prime south facing site high in the hills just below the northern ridge which is the boundary between the Priorat and Monsant. Across the vineyard site are 26 parcels that are all vinified separately and then masterfully blended into the estate's two wines, Le Petite Agnes and Clos Badaceli.
Cingles Blaus (Region: Montsant): The "blue cliffs" of Montsant (from the slate in the area) are a significant contributor to the full flavors of Montsant wines. The Cingles Blaus wines, of which I selected a white, a rose, a Joven, and a Reserva, show the talents of the winemaker in fully understanding the potential of the wonderful grapes grown in this terrain. The Cingles Blaus wines also share more of the characteristics of Priorat wines as they are from the north side of Montsant which is much more similar to the broken slate of the Priorat than the alluvial river valley that is on the south side of Montsant.
Cuatro Rayas (Region: Rueda): Cuatro Rayas has been a long-time leader in improving viticulture and producing top quality wines in the Spanish region of Rueda. Although Spain in general is much better known for red wines, the traditional varietal in Rueda is the expressive and aromatic white grape Verdejo. Adding to the expressive characteristics of Verdejo is the geology in the region where there are significant deposits of both limestone and iron is the very stony and otherwise nutrient poor soils.
La Purisima (Region: Yecla): In my search for Monastrell, I found La Purisima. Is this an allegory, or a badly written sentence, or just another of my wUst jokes ever? But the wines from here are no joke as Yecla, in southeast Spain just slightly inland from Valencia, is known for its very expressive Monastrell grapes. For those not familiar with Monastrell, that is the Spanish name for Mourvedre that is better known as part of the "GSM" blends from the Southern Rhone. The Yecla Monastrells, however, have even more deeper flavors from the rocky soils and harsh growing conditions of the region (if there was a PETA-like organization focusing on grape vines, they would head first to Yecla!). La Purisima is also the "good guy" in town given that 60 percent of Yecla wine production is controlled by just two other producers. I've selected a very interesting range of five Monastrells from La Purisima to show the range of wines that can be made from this very wonderful grape.
Jochen Clemens (Region: Mosel): My nickname for Jochen Clemens is "the Alchemist" from the magic he creates out of his small batch fermenters that produce some of the most fully flavored Mosel wines that I have ever tasted. With vineyards in the prime central Mosel area between Bernkastel and Piesport, Jochen's vineyards also have their own very attractive characteristics as well.
Corvers Kauter (Region: Rheingau): Corvers Kauter produces possibly the most "precise" wines that I have ever tasted. Dr. Corvers apparently understands the complete potential of every parcel and then creates amazing expressiveness in all of his wines. This is also quite a find as Dr. Corvers was originally was very polite in letting me know that "he has no wine" as each year's production is largely allocated to private clients. We then started talking about wine, however, and he decided to open some bottles. What I tasted was so impressive that I am now importing 12 of his wines, including multiple Pinot Noirs that are the equivalent of the most prestigious Grand Cru sites in Burgundy.
Ernst Bretz (Region: Rheinhessen): In each country from where I import wines I try to find a "local winery" that the local population looks to as their ongoing source of high quality every day drinking wines. In Germany I found a great local winery in the middle of the Rheinhessen that has been in the village of Bechtolsheim for over 300 years. That is Weingut Ernst Bretz from where I have selected six fun and refreshing wines - including two sparkling wines.
Georg Mosbacher (Region: Pfalz): The Mosbacher estate in Forst producers deeply flavored and precisely made Rieslings, Weissburgunders, and Pinot Noirs that fully express the powerful wines that can be made in the Pfalz wine region. My initial selection from this producer is of three Rieslings, a Weissburgunder, and a "Special Cuvee" Pinot Noir that show the very talented wine making skills of the husband and wife winemaking team.
Philipp Kuhn (Region: Pfalz): I normally only select one producer from each region as I prefer to not have "competition" in my portfolio but I also selected Philipp Kuhn in Pfalz due to the quality of the wines and to show how expressive Riesling can be in different terroirs. Although only 20 miles from my other Pfalz producer the wines have completely different flavor profiles but are still also very food friendly.
St. Antony (Region: Rheinhessen): The St. Antony vineyards are in the prestigious "Roter Hang" section of the Rheinhessen that is know for the deeply flavored and mineral rich wines from the iron enriched (the Roter, or Red part of the name) clay soils that have made other producers such as Keller being world famous. Our initial selection is of three of their wines and I will look to add more once I've created more awareness about their wonderful wines.
Weingut Ziereisen (Region: Baden): The Ziereisen family winery is a prime example of many things that I look for at all of my suppliers. First of all, they are farmers first...which was immediately seen in their "wine shop" where far more space was allocated to displaying their extensive array of great looking produce than to displaying their wines. Secondly, the family respects the heritage of their land which also includes an extended family spanning four generations currently being involved in their operations. Thirdly, there is an amazing focus on producing the best wines possible as Hanspeter Ziereisen combines his encyclopedic knowledge of his vineyards with his extremely creative and meticulous winemaking skills to make wonderfully expressive Pinot Noirs, Weissburgunders, and Grauburgunders. It is a fun place to visit too while tasting wine in the open courtyard of their family home. But Hanspeter then also showed his focus and commitment to what is most important as after graciously and patiently letting me taste a lot of his wines, he then said "well, it is time for me to go back to work" and he got up, walked over to a tractor, and headed back to his very hilly vineyards.
Vinska Klet Ferdinand (Region: Brda): Vinska Klet Ferdinand is in the unique Brda region, nestled between the Adriatic Sea, the European Alps and the Italian Friuli, where rolling hills are warmed by the Mediterranean sun during the day and cooled by Alpine breezes at night. The proprietor, Matjaz Cetrtic, is the consummate wine professional applying his meticulous attention to detail to all aspects of production from his vineyards to his wine making where bringing out the full flavors of his grapes is his ultimate goal.