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The terroirs of Barolo and Barbaresco have been endlessly examined and explored by wine drinkers seeking out different expression of Nebbiolo; however, the wines of Roero just to the north seem to have a bit of a hazy image. It is a region composed of steep slopes of soils that are largely sandy and well draining. Nebbiolo grown here gives wines that are more delicate in texture and earlier maturing than their neighbors to the south, even when they are no less refined. Unfortunately, many of the Roero wines that I have tasted seem to regard this freshness as a deficit in the wine instead of one of the greatest assets of Nebbiolo from the region. The distinct aroma that the wines can show is often clouded by new oak or muddled by over-extraction rather than celebrated.
The wines of Azienda Agricola Chiesa Carlo show none of this insecurity, embracing the unique terroir of the region and producing real wines of character. The estate has been around since the mid-1700s and is currently headed by Carlo Chiesa. The farm is truly a family affair with multiple generations working daily on various crops that are cultivated in polyculture to support diversity on the property. The steep, mostly south-eastern facing slopes are largely planted to Nebbiolo and Arneis, and the vines are worked without chemical intervention. As the property has never changed hands they can say with definite knowledge that the soil has never been treated with chemical fertilizers, herbicides, or pesticides. A similarly rigorous approach is used in the cellar, where wines are made utilizing only native yeasts, and are raised in a combination of large old barrels and steel tanks.
The results are wines that speak clearly to me as something special. The Nebbiolos are noticeably fresher than many others from the region with bright acidity that have a distinct perfume in the glass. They are immensely enjoyable now and could certainly stand a few more years in the cellar. The Arneis is a real treat, a grape that went from nearly extinct to ubiquitous in a generation. The Roero is the ancestral homeland of Arneis and the region where it can produce its most alluring wines, at least under the stewardship of a careful hand like the Chiesa family. In contrast to so many Arneis wines, Chiesa ferments theirs without the use of cultured yeast, spurning manufactured flavors in favor of the natural aromatics of one of Piedmont's most misunderstood varieties.
For the third year running we are very proud to carry the wines of Chiesa. Join us in welcoming Daniele and Davide, representatives of the youngest generation of the Chiesa family, to the store for a tasting on Friday, November 3rd, from 5 to 7 pm. Andy Paynter
Chiesa’s Arneis comes from a parcel of old vines that were planted in the early 1960s in sandy soil on a steep south-eastern exposure. The grapes are hand harvested, very gently pressed to avoid over-extraction, and fermented with ambient yeast in stainless steel. The wine shows a gold straw hue in the glass with rich notes of spiced pears, white peach, mandarin orange with pleasant hints of chlorophyll and a just a touch of almond flowers on the nose. The wine is full bodied, with a soft creamy texture brightened by focused acidity, drawing a delicate balance of ripe fruit without being perfumed or cloying. I think it would suit soft cheeses or rich egg dishes especially well, but Arneis can be paired widely; try it with everything from light vegetable dishes to pork chops or grilled chicken. Of course, Arneis is a pleasure to drink all on its own. Andy Paynter
The Langhe Nebbiolo from Chiesa is a wine that shows lovely characteristic Nebbiolo perfume with softer edges than many other Langhe reds: frankly it is a wine that makes me smile. Produced from a plot of vines planted between 1998 and 2004 on slopes of sandy soil the grapes are hand harvested, fermented in steel with a submerged cap for 12 days, and then raised in steel tank for 6 months to preserve the varietal character of the wine. The nose is quite aromatic and smells of fruity cherries with the scents of violets, dusty earth, and a slight pepper spice coming through. There is a bit of weight on the palate with slightly tacky tannins but overall it is refreshing with great acidity and a lifted taste of orange zest on the finish. Neither high-toned nor too heavy, it straddles a stylistic middle ground and is no less tasty for it. I paired the wine with a simple charcuterie plate but it would be well suited to everything from meatier cuts of fish, chicken and pork dishes, soft cheese, or vegetarian pastas. The 2015 Langhe would be a perfect fit for the Thanksgiving table as well, especially suited to a glazed ham or brussels sprouts with pancetta. Andy Paynter
The Nebbiolo Manascarda from Chiesa exemplifies the qualities I love most in Roero Nebbiolo: it is highly aromatic with an uncommon delicacy on the palate. Produced from 50-65 year old vines planted in sandy soil with a steep eastern exposure, the grapes are fermented with a submerged cap for 20 days followed by a year in old, large botti. The nose is simply seductive; Ripe sour cherries, orange zest, and roses are layered over more autumnal notes of porcini mushrooms and fresh fallen leaves. Medium body with very fine tannins the palate is defined by fresh acidity and bright red fruits with a slightly mineral finish. This is an ethereal expression of Nebbiolo, almost as much fun to swirl and smell as it is to drink. Try it with lighter food like grilled fish, poached chicken, fresh pasta dishes, or to lift through denser dishes like risotto or pan-seared pork chops. Andy Paynter