Broc Cellars, Love White 2015 – $19.99
(90% Marsanne, 7% Roussanne, 3% Viognier; Berkeley, California)
“Broc Cellars fits hardly anybody’s idea of a California winery. You won’t see any cellars, for one thing, or anything remotely pastoral, like a vineyard. The cellars are a warehouse, on a corner in an industrial district here in Berkeley. Across one street is a cement plant. Across another is a motorcycle-repair shop. The melody of passing freight trains plays every once in a while.” – New York Times
The hallmarks of Broc Cellars’ winemaking are lower alcohol, less over-ripe grapes, organic viticulture, little or no new oak, and the use of lesser-known grape varieties. This lovely white Rhone blend of mostly Marsanne with Roussanne and Viognier has delicate, refreshing fruit aromas and flavors of white peach, yellow citrus, and white flowers.
Sineann, Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2014 – $19.99
(100% Sauvignon Blanc; Marlborough, New Zealand)
Oregon winery Sineann sells a New Zealand wine under its label. What? Well, it turns out that owner/winemaker Peter Rosback loves New Zealand and travels there every spring to supervise the harvest and craft this ethereal white wine of uncommon grace and elegance. The website credits this to the special care the fruit receives; it’s a “rare, hand-harvested New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.” Peter confirms this is indeed the key to this wines special character: “Very few New Zealand wines are hand-harvested.” Delicate handling of the grapes translates into a delicate, ethereal wine.
Broc Cellars, Love Red 2015 – $19.99
(65% Carignan, 20% Valdigue, 15% Syrah; Berkeley, California)
Harvested from dry-farmed, head-pruned vines, this mostly field blend is a true artisan wine. Winemaker Chris Brockway believes in restraint. That shows in his use of 5-ton, open-top wood fermenters, natural yeasts, and spontaneous malolactic fermentation. Also in that this wine is a relatively restrained 13% alcohol. This “Love Red” may resemble a fine Beaujolais in its body and freshness, but it is most certainly a Rhone blend. I love its delicate fruit aromas and soft flavors of blackberry and black cherry with whispers of a savory note.
Ampeleia, Costa Toscano Rosso UnLitro 2015 – $19.99
(Grenache, Mourvèdre, Carignan, Alicante Bouschet; Tuscany, Italy)
This wine had me first sight for its awesome squat liter bottle. Then the taste wowed me too. Elisabetta Foradori, famous for her work with the Teraldego grape in Alto Adige, is one of Italy’s superstar winemakers. She joined with two friends, Giovanni Podini and Thomas Widmann, to develop Ampeleia: a completely unique project in the Maremma region of Tuscany. Farmed biodynamically, it focuses “on the synergy between mankind and nature, producing fresh and elegant, silky wines.” Making a wine from Rhone grape varieties is unusual for Tuscany, but Elisabetta is known for doing the unusual. And, of course, it is served at Lampo.
Chateau Cambon, Beaujolais “Le Cambon” 2015 – $24.99
(100% Gamay; Beaujolais, France)
Beaujolais and Riesling are the secret pleasures of many of us in the wine business. Real Beaujolais, not Nouveau or the grocery store bottlings, offers real drinking pleasure. Beaujolais are great food wines, but because of the two earlier-referenced wines, it gets no respect. That’s why my personal tasting group is named “The Gamay Society,” we taste wines that get no respect. Gamay is the grape of Beaujolais, and is often called Gamay Beaujolais. This “Le Cambon” is a special cuvee that is only made in the best vintages, like 2015. (You will be hearing a lot more about this “miracle vintage.”) All Cambon’s wines are vinified with natural yeasts, bottled without filtration, and have only a tiny dose of sulfur added at bottling. Dark raspberry and black cherry aromas make me impatient to savor its dark raspberry and blueberry flavors. A couple of sips and I’m hankering for a sausage, or a roasted portabello.
Campi Valerio, “Opalia” 2011 – $19.99
(100% Tintilia; Molise, Italy)
The Tintilia grape was new to me when I first tasted this inky and robust red. Now we’ve become fast friends. I love its deeper, darker, richer, fuller character. Pairs great with all manner of dark meats and game, anything with mushrooms, and was excellent with my new favorite lentil stew. It is not related to the Tintilia de Rota of Spain’s Andalucia and Canary Islands. The central Italian region of Molise has made a specialty of its Tintilia. They even have a Tintilia DOC. Deep and dark, it shows saturated blackberry aromas with dark spice notes and hints of anise. The evident tannins are ripe and soft, and give it a full, robust mouthfeel.