Tuesday, September 10, 2013

We're Moving (again...)

Yes, we're moving this blog again.  

Last time, it wasn't so pretty, many tears were shed, there was mass hysteria, and many unholy things happened.  This time, we're pretty sure we got it right.  Pretty sure.

In any case, please redirect yourself to our blog's new home: http://vinotas-selections.com/blog/

I should also mention that we have rebuilt our website, so while you're there take a little stroll around it at http://vinotas-selections.com and let us know what you think.  Or not.

Doesn't matter to me, I'm just gonna pop a bottle of Perlette and watch the container ships arrive with our wines.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Italians are Coming!

Well, you knew it had to happen eventually.  I always try to keep an open mind, and more importantly, an open palate, so I'm always on the lookout for something interestingly different but good and affordable.  Which means, of course, that I taste a lot of crap and really abuse my tongue for my customers.  But, alas, such is my lot in life...

For some time now I've been seeking Italian wines, but between business development at home and herding my French and Spanish winemakers, I had not really had time to focus on that search.  So I jumped at the opportunity to taste some Chiantis when a local trade tasting took place.  And lo and behold, I found what I was looking for: a small farmer Organic Chianti.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the Italians are coming!

Located in Cavriglia, between Florence and Arezzo, the Tenuta San Jacopo winery was in a state of disrepair, its old vine Sangiovese, Canaiolo and Trebbiano vines lying uncared for, until 2002.  Then three wine-loving brothers from Milan purchased the property and set about restoring it to its former glory.  

Stefano Balzanelli (the long-haired guy up top) manages the property, set in rolling dry hills between Florence and Arezzo.  This mid-sized property is planted to 38 ha (93.9 acres) of vines, with another 20 ha to old olive groves.  Portions of the vineyards were replanted after the purchase, while the older, healthier vines were tended to and brought up to modern standards.  Certified Organic methods are used to take care of the land, the vines, and the grapes.  These are then hand-harvested in small baskets, then sorted again at the winery and destalked before going into stainless or wood fermentation tanks (depending on the cuvee).  The end results are lovely, earthy old-school renditions of Chianti.  No over-ripe or over-oaked fruit here!

We are proud to add the Tenuta San Jacopo wines to the Vinotas family, and we’re sure you’ll be very pleasantly surprised with them as well.  Stefano’s Poggio ai Grilli Chianti is lively, aromatic and refined while at the same time rustic, very Italian in so many ways.  Bright, fresh red cherry fruit is complemented by earthy minerality and a wonderful lift, with a long finish.  This is truly an old school Chianti.

I am so excited that I could start singing "When the Moon Hits Your Eye..." but I'm not sure that's appropriate.  In any case, the wine is outstanding, it's Organic, and it will retail under $20 too.
PS: As usual, more pictures can be found HERE

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Gaillac? Gaillac!

Well, let no one say that we've been lazy this year.  It's been NUTS.  To quote the great philosopher Mel Brooks, "Nuts!  N-V-T-S nuts!"  The first 8 months of this year have been spent doing business development, keeping our current customers happy, and juggling tastings of samples sent from Europe.

Speaking of which, now that the August slow-down is here, I have some time to talk about someone I met while in France earlier this year.  I had heard about some interesting winemaking going on in the Gaillac region of France, which is northeast of Toulouse, in the Southwest part of the country (see below).

Truth be told, I was a tad surprised.  This was a region better-known for making cheap jug and box wines from international varieties.  But, my sources insisted that no, something unique was going on here.  Some folks were shepherding the local indigenous grapes like Braucol, Duras, Loin de L'oeil, Prunelart, and making wildly good wines in the process.  Yeah, I never heard of them either, so don't feel so bad.

So after much back and forth, I ended up meeting with several producers from the AOC.  One in particular stood out: Nicolas Lebrun (that's him at the top of the page), who runs l'Enclos des Braves.  Quiet, unassuming, and rather shy, Nicolas poured me his white Gourmand Sec (a blend of Loin de l’Oeil and Sauvignon Blanc), which was perfumey, minerally and crisp and really deliciously different.  Intrigued, we kept tasting through his lineup, until by the end I was convinced I had found a winner.  His Gourmand Rouge, an assemblage of Duras, Gamay and Braucol was like liquid dark velvet, with a crystal minerality that lasted for a ridiculously long time.

After having worked at other wineries for over 12 years, in 2005 Nicolas found the plot he was looking for: L’Enclos des Braves.  This small hilly 6 ha (14.82 acres) vineyard was topped with limestone-rich soils and a thick layer of clay, perfect for drainage.  The vines were all 20 to 35 years old, and Nicolas took to them like a father to his kids.

Treating them in accordance with Biodynamic principles, he uses only indigenous yeasts, manually harvests everything, and adds barely any SO2 at bottling.  Like children, he lets the wines take their time.  To put it mildly, he is making beautifully wild and soulful wines with these local grapes.

I was blown away by the quality of his wine, but to make sure I wasn't wine-goggling them, I had our star winemaker from Azay-le-Rideau, Pascal Pibaleau, try them.  He was floored as well, so I knew I'd found a winner.  Just to make sure, I retasted some samples at our offices in NYC and our team fell over themselves in happiness.  One even said, "I want to wrap myself up in this wine."  OK, a tad hyperbolic, but you get the idea.  A few calls, emails, telegraphs and smoke signals later, and we were in business.

So, I am proud to introduce our newest winery, l'Enclos des Braves.  Biodynamic, small farmer, lost in the wilderness, and making some killer juice from old vines of stuff that would have disappeared without his support.  His wines will be available in Fall 2013, arriving early September, and heading to several different markets, I'm happy to say.  Look for the label above, and you won't be disappointed.  

Especially as it's sure to retail under $20.
PS: Come see more pics at our Facebook Fan page, www.facebook.com/Vinotas

Monday, June 10, 2013

Loire & More

The Chateau in Angers (in warmer times)
I've been swamped with work since I got back from France in late February, so this post is a tad late.  Apologies, as usual, and all that.  In any case, the rest of the trip went smashingly well.  Aside from a super nasty bug that sidelined me for most of the Loire shows (no Dive this year, sniff sniff), my time in France was super productive (and delicious!).

While in Angers (a beautiful city, I might add), I met up with Jean-Pascal Aubron, our Muscadet producer, who says Bonjour!, as well as Pascal Pibaleau (he was just everywhere this year).  I retasted Pascal's INSANELY good 2012 Gamay, from vines planted in 1964, which underwent 18 days of carbonic maceration (he likes to take things low and slow, looking for depth and quality, not a quicky wham bam thank you Ma'am).  Guess what, Gamay's arriving in late June/early July, so get your palates ready!

Catherine & Didier Tripoz getting all impish
There were some amazingly good meals, some great wines as usual, and visits to producers in Champange and Burgundy (sadly, nothing new from the Cotes de Nuits to report yet, but I keep trying!).  While in Burgundy, I did manage to revisit Catherine & Didier Tripoz, who make our lovely Macon Charnay Clos des Tournons.  The 9 ha walled-in plot is composed of 12 parcels of varying ages, and boy did we get geeky: we tasted each one and it was fascinating to see what they did even when handled in the same manner.  Didier hand-picks each parcel and vinifies each separately since they're differing ages.  Each one offers something unique, so Didier assembles them only once they've done their own fermentations (in steel and cement tanks - no oak here!).

After a short relaxing stay in Paris, it was back to NYC and back to the grind (or I guess the press in this case).  Our business has exploded in the past 24 months, so it was time to tend to things.  I'd have much preferred staying in the vineyards of Europe, but alas someone has to import and sell them here.  And that someone is me (well, I'm one of the someones doing it, but you get the idea). But I still LOVE this job, even if it's super difficult somedays.

Things have gotten crazy.  As of June 2013 we're in 11 states, and pushing hard to grow.  New Orleans has been one of our biggest surprises and biggest markets, we're working with an amazingly awesome team call Uncorked.  Great people, great food, great fun every time I've been down there.  Vermont is also turning into a nice change of pace, and Maine has begun picking up.  It's been a tough slog, there's a lot of competition (especially in NY, it seems like a new importer/distributor is popping up every day - I know of some stores dealing with 65 wholesalers), but the US is thirsty for more.

Which brings me to the next news: we've picked up some great new producers, so look for some new labels in Fall.  One of them is a small Biodynamic producer from the Gaillac region of Southwest France, northeast of Toulouse.  You'll meet Nicolas Lebrun doing some crazy work in his fields, working with indigenous grapes like Duras, Braucol (Fer Servadou), Loin de l'Oeil (white) and Prunelart.  The wines are big and dark and velvety but beautifully balanced with sparkling minerality and long long finishes.  I had a bottle of his basic Gourmand Sec Rouge (Duras, Braucol) that took 7 days before it faded.  This stuff ROCKS.

Look for this label in Fall, coming to a store near you (hopefully!)
Best of all, I am pretty sure this will retail around $16-17, and will be perfect for the cooler weather or BBQs in summer 2014.  I am so excited about his wines it's not even funny.  And I'm getting just as excited for our other new wine, as we're branching out from France and Spain to... Italy!  Ciao Italia!  We found a lovely small farmer Organic Chianti, which again should retail under $20.  More details to come, but we keep looking for new small Organic or Biodynamic producers to import and get to a store near you.

Frankly I haven't been this energized in a while, and planning for Fall and the future is taking up all my time.  If you can't tell, I am really jazzed for what's to come.  Heck, we even hired a COO (granted, I'm cheating a tad, it's my wife, but she is quite the slave driver), as well as a part-time salesperson for the NY market.  AND we're talking to another salesperson.  I guess it's a testament to the quality of our wines that folks are coming to me and asking to rep our wines.

Which is why I've let this blog slide a bit, shamefully.  Once again, I apologize.  Next time you see me, feel free to berate me and if I have an open bottle I'll pour you an extra-large glass of wine.  I promise to do to a better job at this.  Plus I forgot how much I loved writing, though there's no telling if you enjoy reading this.

In any case, more to come, soon...

Monday, March 11, 2013

Make Mine a Minervois Part Deux

Anne-Marie & Roland in the cellar (thus the dark pic, apologies)

When I’m in France for the trade shows, I usually use the train system.  It’s pretty clean, comfortable, fast, shockingly efficient (except when it’s not – say for example when the national railroad, SNCF, is on strike), not too expensive, and drops you off in the middle of cities.  No need for cars and all their attendant expenses.  It’s also great when traveling into the countryside of the Languedoc, which is quite vast and still relatively under-developed.   Heck, when you land at Charles de Gaulle, you don’t even have to go into Paris to take the TGV, there’s one at the airport (which was surprisingly clean and well-organized on this trip, very un-French-like, frankly).

I left Montpellier and headed south along the coast to Narbonne, from where I took a smaller regional train to a town called Lezignac (go ahead and Google it, I’ll wait).  It’s small, but I was going to a smaller village, Castelnau d’Aude (Google THAT, with its 300 inhabitants!).  I was met at the little station (very quaint) by my newest Minervois winemaker, Roland Coustal of Domaine Terres Georges.

He picked me up in a beat-up old van with a wooden pallet in the back and mud caked on the insides.  The interior smelled of wine.  Love it!

Anne-Marie & Roland contemplative in their vineyards (and better lighting)

We drove the 15 minutes to the domaine, which is in the center of Castelnau d’Aude, down a VERY narrow street (I swore we’d bang the walls, but made it through miraculously each time).  Here, Roland and Anne-Marie had built a gîte, a small apartment, on top of their barn.  The décor was very pretty and I’d happily spend a few more nights there if I could. 

We drove the 15 minutes to the domaine, which is in the center of Castelnau d’Aude, down a VERY narrow street (I swore we’d bang the walls, but made it through miraculously each time).  Here, Roland and Anne-Marie had built a gîte, a small apartment, on top of their barn.  The décor was very pretty and I’d happily spend a few more nights there if I could. 

Comfy & quiet bed

But this was my first visit and so I wanted to check things out for myself, including the vineyards and back-vintages.  Roland and Anne-Marie took over the domaine from her family, after her father fell ill and died in 1998.  After several years of cleaning up the winery and ripping out poorly-performing vines, their first vintage was in 2001.

In fact, I had the opportunity to try a vertical of the Quintessence, one of their higher-end wines, which from 2001 to 2008 was 100% old-vine Syrah.  In 2009, Roland added 20% Grenache, and the rest is history.  The wines in general are alive and marked by a surprising freshness, minerality and acidity, shocking when you consider where they are (temperatures regularly reach over 95F in summer for long periods).  And I’m not just talking about this wine but all their wines.  They truly are wines that reflect their source and their terroir.  But more on that later.

80% 60+ year old Syrah, 20% 65+ year old Grenache

We spent the first day in the vines, something I never get tired of.  They have 12 hectares (29.65 acres) scattered among 24 different plots, with some seriously dense planting (4800-5500 vines/hectare).  Yields are low but manageable, in the 30 hectoliter/hectare (I’m tired, you do the math if you want the US numbers) range.  There’s lots of old vines (Syrah, Carignan, Grenache, Mourvèdre), and no new oak, but several wines do see some time in 2-, 3- and 4- year old casks to let them soften and round off a tad (Quintessence and Racine, I’m looking at you).

Gnarly 60+ year old Carignan

The soils are for the most part dry limestone, with stones thrown randomly around the vineyards.  One planting is actually on top of a the ruins of an ancient Roman village, so it’s not unusual to see pottery shards showing up after a rain (I saw some myself) – pretty cool.

Roman pottery in the vines

 Roland is fanatical about keeping his vineyards clean and healthy.  He believes that there should be an integrated approach to maintaining his vines, that using just one method isn't enough.  So while they're not technically certified Organic, they do practice Organic viticulture and follow those principles.  So there's grass between the rows, there's no chemical interference, and he encourages the growth of good insects and animals to help keep his lands alive.  In fact, while walking through the vineyards, we came across something I'd never seen before, a bird's nest nestled comfortably in the crook of a vine.  Roland was giddy with happiness, saying "This shows to me that things are alive and healthy."  You be the judge:

Nest in the vines

I've seen my fair share of vines and vineyards and can sometimes get cynical, but even I thought that was pretty damn cool.  We also visited his chai, where the wines are made, both in cement and stainless steel tanks to maintain their purituy, as you can see below.

Cement tanks

After a lovely lunch cooked over vine cuttings, Roland brought up a bunch of Quintessence, going back to the very first vintage, 2001.  OK, it's not that long ago by Burgundian standards, but for a new winery to be making wines that last 12+ years is pretty impressive.  

Quintessence Vertical 2001-2011

 I won't bore you with each wine's tasting note, but I can say that overall the wines were really beautiful expressions of their terroir and their constituent grapes.  I will be honest and say I wasn't sure what to expect, so I was really genuinely shocked and impressed at the quality visible here.  These were gorgeous!  Granted, they're using 60+ year old Syrah and Grenache, but I think the fact that these were so lovely shows off Roland's winemaking skills.  

Roland is a superstar, and a great person too, and it's a real pleasure to be importing Terre Georges' wines into the US.

Friday, February 08, 2013

On the Road Again...

Rows and rows and rows of wine...

Once more the wheel turns and I find myself in France for a few weeks for the wine trade shows.  First up: Millesime Bio, in Montpellier, in the South of France.  Yeah, there are worse places to be in late January, let’s be honest. 

This show is dedicated to Organic and Biodynamic wines, with a few Natural wines thrown in for good (and mostly stinky) measure.  There are small winemakers (like my Azay-le-Rideau producer, Pascal Pibaleau), and huge corporate coops showing their wares for 3 days.  Thousands of professional alcoholics wine buyers come from all over the world to sniff, swirl and spit.  It’s a grand old time, with the few good restaurants and wine bars in Montpellier packed to the gills with wine pros.

This year, there were more “Off” shows than ever before (6 at last count), with many showcasing only Natural wines or smaller, independent producers.  What’s an “Off” you ask?  No, it has nothing to do with insect repellent.  “Offs” are smaller side shows, usually taking place in old monasteries, castles or ruins, where folks who can’t (or won’t) pay the main show’s fees can pour their wares.  They are great venues for meeting new, up and coming winemakers and meet some old favorites who are now eschewing the big show.  They’re also much more informal, meaning there’s less spitting, more sloshing, and way more singing and dancing between the tables.

Most of these Offs were focusing on Natural wines, which is the new “it” thing in the world of wine geekery.  Made with minimal intervention, these wines can be startlingly alive when they’re good.  But when they’re not, well, you better like drinking, say, rotten meat.  And, since these wines have no added SO2, they are inherently unstable, so shipping has to be handled as gently as possible.  If I sound cynical about them, it’s because I’ve tasted a LOT of them, and too many use the term “natural” as an excuse to make a flawed wine.

That said, I do appreciate the spirit of innovation and invention which drives these winemakers, who are passionate about the land, the environment and their terroirs.  And while I did taste some complete shitshows, I found some interesting things, both at the main show and at the Offs.

Pascal stands at attention at his table

As I mentioned previously (were you paying attention?), I also managed to meet up with Pascal Pibaleau, my Azay-le-Rideau producer, and retaste his great wines.  In fact, I may bring in a new one, a Gamay that was outstanding and should retail in the $19-20 range.  That stuff was so good I had to stop myself from drinking it all.  His sparkling Rose, made from Cab Franc and Grolleau, was delicious, and as much as I wanted to stay there and just drink his wines, I needed to go meet some folks.

What’s a wine trade show like?  Well, lots and lots of tables, bottles and glasses, with folks trying to get your attention, and many dying to meet US importers.  Despite the Euro’s strength (grrrrrr….), the US is still their main export target.  China is an important market, but mainly for high-volume, low-cost crap (having tasted what goes out there, I can use the technical term “crap” with a fair amount of confidence).  The smell of wine is almost overwhelming when you arrive, but you get used to it and get on with your work.

Lunchtime is served in a huge hall, but unlike trade shows in the US (I went to a few in a previous life), the food here is, well, really relatively damn good.  There’s some great salad, stinky cheeses, and well-made main courses.  Of course, this is all in the context of a trade show: feeding several thousand hungry and sometimes slightly inebriated wine buyers can’t be easy, so making sure you don’t start a riot with bad food is pretty impressive.

Herve and Sylvie Sauvaire looking a tad shell-shocked

I was lucky to also meet up with another of my producers, Hervé Sauvaire and his lovely wife, Sylvie.  While they do practice Organic viticulture, their domaine is not certified, so they were there to see some friends (and me!).  Frankly, for all intents and purposes, they are Organic, as they don’t use any chemicals or weird shit on their land.  They have one of the oldest wineries in the South (it was a dowry in the early 1600s), so they’ve had some time to figure things out and make sure they maintain the health of their terroirs.

All in all, it was a good show, I found a few interesting things (if they work out, we might be branching out, stay tuned…) and met some great folks.  To me, the highlight was seeing Pascal and Hervé, because as important as the wines are, at the end of the day it’s all about the people.

Millesime Bio done with, I headed south on the put-put train to the Minervois, there to visit last year’s discovery, Domaine Terres Georges, in Castelnau d’Aude.  Their wines are starting to get some serious traction in the US, so this was a visit I was really looking forward to.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

2012 State of the Wine Biz

And so another year bites the dust.  It's been 12 months of ups and downs, both personally and professionally.  More ups, I'm happy to say, with lots of good wines, some great bottles, and of course some duds.  I've also met some terrific folks, had some amazing meals, and traveled to some great new places (I'm looking at you New Orleans and Chicago).  In fact I was so busy that I didn't have the time/energy/superpowers necessary to update this blog as much as I wanted to.

All in all, it's been a banner year, and 2013 is looking even better.  Looking back and forward, I've had some time to think about the current state of the wine business, and there's both good and bad news.  

The bad: it's still frustrating to represent small-grower wines when people instinctively reach for the big brands.  Now, I don't blame them, the marketing dollars mean that those names are always at the front of their brains when they're in the wine store.  But it would be nice (and not just for me but for all small importers) if more people were more adventurous.  The good: the number of folks willing to try new wines is growing by leaps and bounds, so there's something positive to say about the situation.  They're also realizing that wine isn't meant to be just a cocktail but is meant to compliment and add to a meal with friends and family.

Most frustratingly, the wine business is still full of large-scale brands made by coops and factories instead of the small farmers we try to support.  They and their distributors aren't afraid to take a loss to maintain market share, which makes it difficult for small guys like me to compete.  Not impossible, just harder than it should be.  I know, I know, every single small business owner probably says the same thing.  So be it.

2012 also seems to have been the year of the Natural Wine.  There were lots of debates about what they were (there is no official definition aside from "un-manipulated", which itself can be left open to interpretation).  What was left unsaid, frankly, and I might get some flack for this, but who cares, and is the Natural Wine movement's dirty little secret, is exactly that: too many of these wines taste like dirt, with rotten meat and poopy notes.  Basically, many of these wines are undrinkable by all but a small geeky crowd.  Most civilians who try some of these science experiments will never want to touch a bottle again.  In short, there's way too much bad "natural" wine out there using the term as a marketing and selling tool instead of focusing on increasing the quality of their products.  I'm not saying all natural wines are bad, but quality needs to improve a lot more before they become more popular.  Here's hoping to that in 2013 as many of these wines can be interesting and wonderfully alive when they're good.

Critics also seemed to be losing ground to the virtual cloud of tasters represented by social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc...), forums (like Wine Berserkers) and aggregator sites (like CellarTracker).  The most traditional site, The Wine Advocate, was sold to a small group of Asian investors, meaning that Robert Parker, the uber-critic for decades, is heading into the twilight of his career.  But these are mainly frequented by the more hard-core wine geeks, whereas the general public still constantly asks what scores wines have gotten.  Again, I don't blame them, it's a symptom of the mystery that still surrounds wine.  

Speaking of which, I'm glad to report that the US is opening its palate at a dizzying pace.  My travels this year within the country have shown me that, despite what I wrote above, a larger number of people are thirsty for more than just the big brands.  They're genuinely curious and interested in trying new things.  This helps to de-mystify this wonderful beverage we call wine.  The more people start experimenting with new wines, new grapes, new vineyards and new countries, the better it is for everyone.

Perhaps I'm an optimist, but I really do see some great things coming in 2013.  Not just for me (though it is my blog so I could be excused for just focusing on myself, which I assure you I won't do, dear Reader).  But for the whole wine-drinking world.  More higher-quality wines at better prices from more places, some of them coming to our shores for the 1st time.  

It's been said before, but there has never been a better time to be drinking and exploring the wide world of wine than now.

Cheers and Happy and Healthy New Year!
Stay Thirsty!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Make mine a Minervois

The Minervois is an appellation that I just adore.  It’s absolutely wild and gorgeous, and the best wines showcase this terroir.  The better examples have a certain spiciness and minerality that you don’t always find in the region.  However, too many are jammy and flabby or are trying to respond to what they think are “market tastes”.  And, granted, it is HOT around these parts.

So when I met Anne-Marie Coustal and her husband Roland (isn’t that a cool name too?) at a local tasting held in an ancient abbey, I found myself going back several times to their stand.  Their wines were alive and had a certain nervosité (a nervous energy), as they say in French.  Turns out there’s a reason why: they are hand-making wine using old-fashioned traditional methods on some very, very rough and uneven soils.

 The Coustals took over the winery from Anne-Marie’s parents in 2001, just before her father, Georges, the winery’s namesake, passed.  They farm 12 hectares (29.65 acres) in small, stony plots between Tourouzelle and Castelnau d’Aude.  Their vines, aged between 10 and 60 years old, are densely planted (4500-5500/ha) in some wild terrain, surrounded by guarrigue and woodland.  Sustainable agriculture while leaning organic is the preferred practice in their rocky plots, and everything is manually harvested with berry triage to ensure the quality and health of the grapes.  The temperature-controlled fermentation is slow, varying between 22 and 35 days depending on the cuvee and the vintage.  Unfiltered, unfined, their AOC wines are gorgeous, spicy, well-balanced, medium- bodied reds from Syrah, Grenache, Carignan , and Mourvèdre.  This is a true family affair, one to pay attention to.

The first wine to arrive, their Et Cetera (see label at top- 40% Grenache, 40% Carignan, 20% Syrah) is a bright yet dark juicy-fruited wine with some red berry notes dancing on a medium-bodied frame with a core of minerality, that ends in a long, succulent finish.  A stunner at this price point, that’s for certain.

It's a real honor to be importing these wines.  My customers quickly recognized their quality, and so they've just gone off to Chicago and New Orleans, as well as NY and NJ, so we might be on to something here.  Seeing that makes me giddy, and not just for the business side.  I love finding little gems like this.  If you try this wine, please let me know what you think.

And thanks for your support!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Introducing Terre du Sol Wines

Pretty label, right?

If you've been reading this blog (and I mean, who hasn't, right?), you know I don't pick up new wines that often.  Heck, after 4 years of doing this, I only have 14 French wineries and 1 Spanish winery.  Of course, things come and go, but I'm old-school and believe in cultivating long-term relationships with my growers.  This, to me, is the best way to maintain and guarantee high quality.

So when I add a new winery, it's cause for celebration.  Well, this year, we've added 2 new ones, a Minervois that I'll talk about in another blog posting (this also gives me the incentive to write another post) and a lovely light-bodied wine from the edge of the Mediterranean.  So, first, let's talk about Terre du Sol, from the Languedoc-Roussillon.

I don't usually go in for wines like this, but I was shocked at the quality and the price points involved.  For legal reasons, I can't identify the parties involved, but one of our best winemakers has been consulting for other wineries for years.  When one of their clients made something special, my phone rang and I was told to head over to the winery post-haste.  I jumped and grabbed the first train heading south out of Montpellier.  I arrived to find a table full of samples awaiting me…

After a long morning of tasting (woe is me, right?), I was convinced we’d found something truly special here: some excellent wines at excellent prices.  They were well-made, with beautiful fruit and  minerality, really nicely balanced.  And, frankly, the label was very pretty (I know, I know, but we all know that marketing counts a lot).

Seriously, no one should ever be disappointed when they open a bottle at these prices.  I mean, there has to be a way for quality to co-exist with value in this type of wine.  And so with our winemaker’s experience and advice, there’s a certainty of excellence. 

“Terre du Sol” means Land of the Sun in the local dialect.  Grapes for these wines are grown on stony soils at the edge of the Mediterranean and bask in the sun year-round.  Delicious and easy to drink, they follow my philosophy of trusting small family winemakers to make affordably delicious wines.  They really are like sunshine in your glass (sorry for being corny but it's true!).

I am starting with Le Roujal, a blend of unoaked Syrah, Grenache, Carignan and a drop of Merlot that is full of bright but dark fruits, with a medium body, some meaty notes, and a mid-length finish.  Talk about the perfect Fall/Winter wine, this just screams sunshine and a light mood, something in need during the dark cold months ahead of us.

So look for this label in your local fine wine establishment, the cases are hitting the streets just now.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Vinotas Selections in the News!

Well, sort of.

Disclaimer: utterly shameless self-promotional plugging ahead, be warned.

As you can imagine, it always makes me happy to see my hard work rewarded, and not just by sales (though of course that's the best, I'll admit).  I love seeing the smiling face of someone discovering one of our wines and realizing that those from small growers have a particular character, a soul, a certain je ne sais quoi to them.  But I also love getting some recognition in the press (hey, I'm only human, after all).

So it was a pleasure to chat with Simone Gubar from the Columbia Business School alumni magazine, who was doing a lovely article on people following their passions.  Wine being a passion of mine, as you might know by now.  We chatted a bit on the phone, and what came out was a very nice article detailing my efforts in trying to find and preserve small family wineries.

You can read it here:

What do you think?