Posts Filed Under wine review

Blanc de Blancs, In The Nude (Jacques Lassaigne Recent Releases)

Vinted on September 16, 2015 binned in crowd pleaser wines, elegant wines, on the road, wine review
Emmanuel Lassaigne

Emmanuel Lassaigne, measuring booze levels during press

If you’re in the bubbly business in the Aube (the southern region in France’s Champagne-Ardenne), then you have to make peace with the fact that, compared with the popular Épernay and Ay to the north, you’re basically the red-headed stepchild of Champagne.

Unless you’re Emmanuel Lassaigne, who crafts the bubbly at Champagne Jacques Lassaigne.

In that case, you unabashedly make wine from vineyards in Montgueux, which, being technically a chalky outcrop of the Côte des Bars in the Aube, might be considered the red-headed stepchild of the red-headed stepchild. Emmanuel Lassaigne’s purpose in life seems to be to birth a modern Montgueux Champagne naked and screaming into the world wine market.

Calling Lassaigne’s Champagnes “high acid” would be like calling the blood from Alien “mildly corrosive.” But they might be the purest expression of place available from the Aube: all Chardonnay, all from one area, mostly all zero dosage, all disgorged by hand, all eschewing quality “ranges,” all treated with as little sulfur as possible, and all adored by the way-too-cool-in-its-own-mind cadre of hip sommeliers on both coasts of the USA.

MOG jacques lassaigne

“Material other than grapes” during press at Jacques Lassaigne

“Here,” Lassaigne told me, “we try to do ‘wine’ before we do ‘Champagne.’ We don’t take any security. It’s a choice of life. Challenging is very interesting, and doing the same thing is always boring. We’re always at the edge…”

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On The Fine Art Of Not Giving A Sh*t (Wiegner Etna Recent Releases)

Vinted on September 10, 2015 binned in crowd pleaser wines, on the road, overachiever wines, wine review
Peter Wiegner

The wily Peter Wiegner

Viewing the volcanic rock strewn about the foothills of the still-active Mt. Etna volcano, one would be forgiven for imagining that it must take a crazy person to want to farm anything there.

After meeting the wily and eccentric Peter Wiegner, the paterfamilias of Etna’s Wiegner Winery, and his huge Tibetan Mastiff patrolling the grounds for the leftover crumbs of gourmet fare, one is positively certain that it takes at least a mildly crazy person to want to farm there.

Along with son Marco and consultant Michele Bean, the Prussian-born, Swiss-nationalized, and now Etna-dwelling Wiegner has white hair and expressive eyes, all as wild as the combination of deadly-seriousness and comic lack of diplomacy behind them. He basically says whatever is on his mind, with very little operating filter, and dresses like he is farming on the side of a volcano (which he is). That Wiegner Winery crafts such vibrant wines might be a function of fine food and fine wine being about the only things that Peter Wiegner seems to hold truly sacred.

Wiegner mastiff

“You gonna finish that?”

“But it’s not my concern,” was a popular phrase with him when I met him, which he often uttered immediately after a semi-disparaging remark about himself, his wine, or his competitors’ wines. The impression Wiegner gives is of someone who loves to cook, deeply loves Etna wines, loves sharing his opinions, and doesn’t give a shit about the rest of it. I basically loved him instantly…

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How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love Carricante (Highlights From Sicilia En Primeur 2015)

Sicilia en Primeur 2015 Etna

Message to Etna: No devastating explosions while I’m visiting, ok?

It’s somewhat ironic, as I kick off a series of posts about my press jaunt to Sicily earlier this year, that the wine region I often cite as a source of reasonably-priced wines made from international varieties will now be compressed into a highlight reel focusing primarily on one indigenous variety.

But hey, we gotta keep it real, so my take on the 2015 Sicilia en Primeur event (in its twelfth year, showcasing the wares of some of the island’s best producers) will orbit like a satellite around my new-found vinous luuuurv, the Carricante grape.

Much more from my Sicily jaunt is coming (and there’s been a teaser of sorts published last month via one of my final Answers.com pieces) but today is a cross-cut from the walk-around tasting at en Primeur, with my takes on some of the juice that I found particularly intriguing.

Sicilia en Primeur 2015 Etna

Sicily is entering an interesting time (interesting in both the American and British senses of the word).

It continues to produce a fairly substantial amount of wine, though plantings have decreased by about fifty percent in just over fifteen years (a combination of economic realities and a renewed quality focus). There might never be a better time for Sicily to try to capitalize on its entrenched U.S. market opportunities (hello? how many Italian restaurants are there in Manhattan alone?), with the 2014 vintage being hailed as “la vendemmia perfetta.” There’s serious potential there, if they can get ti together and get some of these wines into the mouths of importers/buyers/consumers. But since we’re talking about Italian politics here, there’s certainly a non-zero chance that they’ll squander it.

Speaking of the wines, best that we get to those before I get myself into trouble (and/or before this all starts reading like the lyrics to a Soronprfbs song)

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Sweet Niblets! (2010 Anakota Helena Montana Vineyard Cabernet)

Vinted on August 5, 2015 binned in kick-ass wines, on the road, wine review
Helena Montana

Sweet Niblets! Helena Montana (image: Jackson Family Wines)

The gravelly, sandy soils of the Helena Montana vineyard sit about 950 feet above sea level in Knights Valley. It’s where we’ll be wrapping up the recent spate of California coverage her on 1WD (…and all the Europhiles rejoiced…).

When I visited said vineyard, I resisted the urge to shout “Sweet Niblets!” – which, I think we can both agree, was a substantial act of maturity on my part.

After tasting (twice) the results of that vineyard’s vines, in what, in my view, might be the best Cabernet Sauvignon yet produced from Knights Valley, I damn nearly went the “Sweet niblets!” route again (for the second tasting, held at home with a review sample, I’ll admit that the phrase might have escaped my lips… just once… ok, twice… whatever, just shut up about it!).

Of course, it makes perfect sense that former Armagnac guy Pierre Seillan crafted the wine that is on today’s 1WD radar, right? No?

Fine… it might make a bit more sense when we recall that Seillan is the guy behind Jackson Family Wine’s Château Lassègue in Saint-Émilion (for more on that, check out some previous coverage). Better? Ok, good.

Of course, why a seemingly sane Frenchman such as Pierre Seillan would move to the U.S. from France is a matter of debate; according to His wife Monique and their daughter Helene, Pierre was inticed by the combination of soil diversities in Knights Valley, and the freedom enjoyed within American winemaking regulations (compared to the more restrictive versions in his homeland).

In any case, fans of Knights Valley Cab ought to be glad he made the relocation…

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