(click on each name for more information)
Pierini e Brugi (Region: Tuscany - Maremma): The organic farm Pierini & Brugi is located on top of a hill called “Belvedere”, from where you can have a complete view over one 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: Campania - Taurasi): 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.
Torre Mora (Region: Sicily - Etna): From reading local Italian wine blogs there were almost mythical mentions of a brilliant winemaker with some amazing vineyards near Rovittello. But, in a world where almost everything is on the internet, was there any mention anywhere of even an address? And so, in my travels, I set out to find Torre Mora. I first drove back and forth through Rovittello twice without seeing even a hint of anything. But, when I was almost ready to give up I saw a rough hand painted sign that said "Torre Mora" on the right side of the road. Always up for an adventure, I drove in to find the very intriguing Beppe who is the winemaker and estate manager. In the two Torre Mora wines selected, a 100% Carricante Etna Bianco and a 100% Nerello Mascalese Etna Rossto, I feel that Beppe's brilliance has fully expressed both varietals and the terrain where the grapes are grown.
Terre di Giurfo (Region: Sicily - Vittoria): In my search for outstanding vineyard locations in each region, that led me to Terre di Giurfo in the Sicilian region of Vittoria, which is in the southeastern corner of Sicily and is centered around the city of Vittoria. But, the vineyards around the city, and which account for most of the production in the region, are on flat, dusty, and what can be very hot farmland as opposed to parts of the region with more hills further away from the city. At Terre di Giurfo, which is in rolling hills about five miles northeast of Mazzarrone and which is about 15 miles north of Vittoria, I found wines that had more freshness and expressiveness than other wines that I had tasted in the area.
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.
Le Pigole (Region: Abruzzo): Le Pigole is a "local wine" that is produced by one of the leading independent vineyard owners in Abruzzo. The producer sells most of his fruit each year to internationally known Abruzzo wineries whose Montepulciano d'Abruzzo wines sell for $25 to $30 a bottle in the US. This cuvee is made for the producer's local friends who own restaurants and I discovered it one night in a restaurant in Pescara. As opposed to a lot of the heavily tannic wines that are a tradition in the area, this very food friendly wine is made in a much more approachable style.
Feudi di Guagnano (Region: Puglia - 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!"). Although such visits are 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.
The Vinum (Region: Abruzzo and Tuscany): The Vinum is an interesting project of an inspired young winemaker, Roberto Dragani, whose original family roots are in Abruzzo and whose vineyards are farmed organically. I originally selected the wine of very interesting local white grape from Abruzzo (Cococciola) that is produced in his family vineyards. Roberto's family also has vineyards in Tuscany and Piemonte and so he produces wines from those regions as well. A second selection from The Vinum is a delightful and expressive Chianti.
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 next to the vineyards of Chateau Rayas) which produce very elegant and perfectly balanced Chateauneuf du Pape. 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 in the highest vineyard location above the village produce a very expressive and minerally 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 beautiful and perfectly situated "mountain" vineyards in the Ventoux appellation which produce very food friendly, perfectly balanced, and minerally red, white, and rose blends.
Legende des Toques Cotes du Rhone (Region: Southern Rhone): An interesting consortium of small growers and the leading "cusiniers" of Southern France choose the blend for this very food friendly Cotes du Rhone each year. The cuisiniers (Toques!) use the wine as the house red in their restaurants and I have been delighting palates in California for three vintages now with this wine that has more versatility with food pairings than any wine in the portfolio.
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.
Terrasse Pavée (Region: Southern Rhone): Terrasse Pavée is a small producer located in the ancient village of Séguret which is located about five miles north of Gigondas in the foothills of the Dentelles de Montmirail. The village is known for its clay and limestone soils which result in very expressive and distinctive wines. My initial selection from the producer is a Cotes du Rhone Villages rouge which I thought was a remarkable example of the terroir.
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, Petit Chablis, a Bourgogne Blanc, and an Aligote each year.
Vignobles Bodillard (Region: Beaujolais): My search for a possible Beaujolais supplier took quite a while to sort through wineries that were not making interesting wines and which all pretty much tasted the same and then finding the delightful and expressive wines of Renaud Bodillard in Villie-Morgon. The winery has smaller parcels of vines in seven villages in the northern part of Beaujolais and the individual parcels had been selected for their potential expressiveness from the granite and schist soils that can be found in the hills in the area. Renaud is now in the fifth generation of the family that started the Domaine and he continues the tradition of always producing authentic wines.
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. The Domaine is located in the charming small village of Niedermorschwihr where Albert Boxler is also located and whose Grand Cru Rieslings sell for twice as much as the Oriel wines from the same vineyards.
Chateau Moulin Rouge (Region: Bordeaux - Haut Medoc): This mid-peninsula "left bank" chateau produces beautifully balanced, supple, and food friendly Bordeaux blends each year. The location is in a prime area between Margaux and Saint-Julien and the Chateau produces very expressive fruit each year from its organically farmed vineyards.
Chateau La Mothe du Barry (Region: Bordeaux - Entre Deux Mers): The very talented and meticulous vigneron Joel Duffau produces very expresive and perfectly balanced wines 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.
Domaine Fabrice Gasnier (Region: Loire - Chinon): In the Chinon appellation in the central Loire, I found the very expressive and nuanced wines of Fabrice Gasnier. The Gasnier wines all had the common characteristic of being very drinkable and enjoyable and made in ways where the Cabernet Franc tannins were perfectly balanced with the fruit and not the most dominant characteristic. Everything that I also found at the winery is state of the art starting with Biodynamic farming and continuing into the spotless state of the art cellar. In addition to the two Cab Francs that I have initially selected, the Domaine also produces a small amount of "Chinon Blanc" (Chenin Blanc) and I selected a delightful example of that as well.
Domaine de Rocheville (Region: Loire - Samur-Champigny): Domaine de Rocheville is a relatively new estate in the Saumur-Champigny appellation that was founded in 2004 by Philippe Porche to fulfill his dream of creating expressive and environmentally conscious wines. The estate is certified as organic and has spectacular hilltop vineyards in Parnay, which is about five miles east of Saumur. The location is particularly beneficial for high quality viticulture as the weather is moderated by the cooling winds from the Loire River which is about one-half mile to the north and protection from the Fontevraud forest to the southeast. The expressive and high quality fruit each year is then carefully vinified according to characteristics of each parcel and that year's harvest and always with as little intervention as possible.
Domaine de Bel Air (Region: Loire - Pouilly sur Loire): In my search for interesting native varietals, I found an excellent and very minerally Chasselas from this producer in the Upper Loire. The village of Pouilly sur Loire is not as well known as the town of Sancerre which is about five miles to the northwest and on the opposite side of the river but, in my opinion produces, the village produces better wines from its better vineyard locations on the north side of the Loire. Aside from Chasselas, however, Sauvignon Blanc is by far the dominant varietal in the area and I have also selected an excellent (and very small production) Pouilly Fume from this producer.
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.
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 des Adouzes (Region: Languedoc - Faugere): The Chateau is located in the small village of Roquessels, a few minutes drive from the village of Faugeres. The rocky terrain around Roquessels is also considered the best vineyard location in the Faugeres appelation as the vineyards are in a natural bowl that contains significant deposits of schist. The wind patterns in this area also provides cooling winds to mitigate the summer heat and to maintain healthy vines and the freshness of the fruit. Another attribute of the Chateau des Adouzes wines are the age of the vines. All of the vines are at least 70 years of age and most are over 90 years old. The age of the vines is part of the terroir as well as they produce rich concentrated fruit that create the remarkable expressiveness in the Adouzes wines.
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 a very interesting area about 20 miles south of Cahors where its limestone plateau is a great place for growing Cabernet Franc. Other Bordeaux varietals and local varietals such as Tannat 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 that highlight the interesting terroir.
Southwest France (Regions: Cahors and Gaillac): I've selected two very good Cahors Malbecs that are produced by a consortium of vignerons from their older "vieilles vignes" vineyards, a white wine from Gaillac 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.
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): Cingles Blaus means "blue cliffs" in Catalan and describes the sheer cliffs of blue slate in the area which 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.
Las Moradas de San Martin (Region: Sierra de Gredos/DO Madrid): The vineyards of Las Moradas may be the largest single contiguous estate of old vine Garnacha vineyards in the Sierra de Gredos as the estate was assembled in the mid-1990s from 26 small parcels that had previously been abandoned. The estate is about two miles from San Martin de Valdeiglesias on the top of a "hill" (at an elevation of around 3,000 feet) with perfect sun exposure all day long (most Sierra de Gredos vineyards face east and only get morning sun). Across the estate there are vines ranging in age from 40 years to over 100 years old.
Garganta de Aguila (Region: Sierra de Gredos/DO Cebreros): In my search for authentic wines that express the heritage of a region, I have added a second Sierra de Gredos producer that is near Cebreros at the northern end of the Sierra de Gredos. This is even more wild and difficult to farm terrain that is also at around 3,000 feet of elevation and which consists of small parcels of 100 year old Garnacha vines. As with the central part of the Sierra de Gredos, the soils are decomposed granite which provide an exceptional depth and expression to old vine Garnacha.
Vinedos de Yaso (Region: Toro): The Toro region of Spain is part of Castilla y Leon, the vast part of Spain northwest of Madrid and which is bisected by the Duero River. Toro is also along the Duero River and is about 80 miles west of the heart of the Ribera del Duero and about 40 miles west of Valladolid. Aside from the waters of the Duero, this is also a very dry and harsh part of Spain with hot summers and cold winters. Those conditions have resulted in the reputation of Toro as being a producer of "big and bold" wines given the heat during the growing season. In my own search for interesting and expressive wines, however, I have found a very interesting producer in Yaso. Their skilled farming on over 20 parcels in the region with vines ranging from 15 years of age to over 120 years of age on a wide range of local soil types, results in wines of more nuance, balance, and expressiveness than the typical big and bold wines of the region.
Estevez Bodegas (Region: Bierzo): Although my main focus is to find the most authentic and expressive producers of native varietals all around Europe, I also have a strong respect for the heritage of each region and the commitment of families who have persevered to continue their viticultural activities. A supreme example of the latter is the mere existence of Bodegas Estevez over what is now four generations of twists and turns, along with unfortunately a long period of turmoil in Spain. Their full story is on their separate page but their great-grandfather Ramon had to immigrate to Brazil to find work but sent home his savings to maintain the family's vineyards. His son Antonio was forced to escape from Bierzo during the Spanish Civil War shortly before he would have been arrested and he then immigrated to Mexico. Antonio's son Helios, who even after also immigrating to Mexico to meet his exiled father, continued the family's ownership of its vineyards and he was also a prolific poet. The fourth generation which is led by Helios's son, Helio, along with his siblings Carlos, Nandy, and Laura, then made the decision around 20 years ago to transition from selling the grapes from their vineyards each year into making wine.
Bodegas Tampesta (Region: Leon): With my focus on native varietals in each country and region in Europe, it was fun to add both Prieto Picudo and Albarin to the portfolio from the region of Leon in Spain. The Leon wine region is about 200 miles north-northwest of Madrid within the vast region in Spain that is named Castilla y Leon. Bodegas Tampesta is also similar to the family run wineries that I work with all over Europe in that they have a strong dedication to maintaining the heritage of viticulture in their area and to produce very high quality and expressive wines from native varietals.
Abadia de Tortoreos (Region: Rias Baixas): The father and son team of Enrique and Jose Felix produce wines on micro-parcels in the Minho Valley that have been family owned for over 100 years. Their respect for their land also results in respecting the natural expression of their grapes in producing what is known and respected in the region as an Albarino de Autor - a pure and natural expression of Albarino. In addition to a 100 percent Albarino, I also selected a fun and authentic blend that includes Albarino and other native grapes of the area which are Treixadura and Loureiro. The vineyards are in Setados, a small area near As Neves in what is known as the Condado de Tea subzone, which is known for very minerally and precise wines.
Adegas Sameiras (Region: Ribeiro): The Romans first introduced viticulture in Ribeiro when they recognized the great conditions for growing wine grapes. The region's traditions then evolved with a wine industry based on small plots around each village and most of the wine being consumed locally. Antonio Cajide, the proprietor of Adegas Sameiras, is a superb example of such traditions and his skills and artistry are another example of why we focus only on producers with estate grown fruit. Antonio farms around 14 acres in total in seven parcels where the minerality is a mixture of granite and schist along with some amount of quartz.
Celler Arrufi (Region: Terra Alta):Terra Alta is an interesting region in the northeast of Spain in Catalonia. The region is not as well known as the adjacent regions of the Priorat or Montsant but for those in the know, the combination of its higher elevation (Terra Alta!) and its mix of clay, sandy soils, and limestone can result in very expressive wines. In my search for wines that the locals love to drink in each region, that led me to Celler Arrufi in Batea. Celler Arrufi is a family project of Esteve Arrufi (whose family has long had vineyards in the area), his wife Sol, and their two sons, Francesc and Esteve Jr. The project was founded on the principles organically certified vineyards, naturally fermented and minimal intervention wines, and also vegan wines and some wines with no added sulfites.
Ca N'Estruc (Region: Penedes): This estate has a very long history as it is still owned by the descendants of the original founder (who had the last name of Estruch) who first farmed on the property in 1574. Ca N'Estruc also has a spectacular setting for vineyards with a perfect south facing orientation and the dramatic mountain of Montserrat to the north which creates a great microclimate for sheltering the vineyards. The mountain protects the vineyards from cold winds from the north and moderates the overall temperatures throughout the growing season. The result is very fresh tasting and expressive wines that also benefit from the high minerality in the soils from limestone and gravel.
Enate (Region: Somontano): The Enate wines from Somontano in Aragon may appear to be a bit of an exception for me given the overall focus on native varietals in each region all through Europe but Somontano has an interesting history. Although there are still very small amounts of native varietals such as Moristel and Parraleta grown in the region, "French" varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Chardonnay were introduced to the region by French vignerons in the late 18th century after their vineyards in France had been devastated by phylloxera. And so, with a long history of such varietals in the region, and their very interesting expressiveness in the foothills of the Pyrenees and the additional minerality added by such a location, I have added what my appear to be some "non-native" varietals from Somontano to the portfolio in addition to a delightful Tempranillo as well.
Ramon Reula (Region: Aragon): In my ongoing search to find interesting and different expressions of each grape varietal based on the terroir of each region I had an interesting "unexpected" find in the Unexpected Garnacha produced by the Ramon Reula family in Aragon. The Unexpected part of the name is based on their family's project to find very old abandoned parcels of vines throughout the region and each find is pretty much unexpected in the vast landscape of Aragon. In my initial tastings of wines from their family's project, all the wines I tasted were very expressive and well made but I decided to start with the Garnacha first and hopefully add more of their wines in the future.
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 in 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 three 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, Grauburgunders, and the local specialty Gutedel, which is also know as Chasselas in nearby Switzerland.
Weingut Muller (Region: Kremstal, Austria):In my ongoing search for very popular and high quality "local wineries" in each region, Weingut Muller was a delightful find. In addition to meeting a very nice family which has had vineyards in the Kremstal area for generations, I also found an extremely impressive and very modern state of the art winery that was effectively not even noticeable behind a street front of old buildings in the small village of Krustetten. The Muller family founded their winery in 1936 with the purchase of just one vineyard in the area and their astute knowledge of the local vineyards have now resulted in owning many prime vineyard parcels in the area, including vineyard sites originally planted between 600 and 800 years ago.
Tassilo (Region: Wachau, Austria): The Tassilo wnes are from the ancient vineyards of an Abbey in the Wachau that was founded in the year 777 by Duke Tassilo III. The Abbey records indicate that the vineyards were first planted in the year 893. The sites chosen for the vineyards at the time, which are still the same vineyards now, show insights and knowledge about viticulture that are still important today as a particularly barren and rocky site was chosen that also had a beneficial micro-climate near the Danube. The characteristics of the site produce a striking minerality, precision, and complexity to the wines which I immediately noticed with each wine during my initial visit.
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.