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'Flama Roja' comes from the Bichi estate vineyard in Tecate, Mexico which is farmed biodynamically with no irrigation. Bichi is working hard to make put Mexican wine on the global stage and insistent that the wines be made as traditionally and naturally as possible working hand in hand with organic farmers in the region, and employing local craftsmen for the concrete tijana's used during fermentation. This bottling comes from young vines planted in 2004 and is a blend of Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Nebbiolo. You might think these three varieties would create something heavy and intensely tannic, but this is actually elegant and medium-bodied.
(Was $34.99) Noel Téllez works with a field blend from the San Antonio de la Minas vineyard in Baja at 1,066ft elevation close to the ocean of as yet unknown varieties. These are 69 year-old, gnarled vines that are farmed organically, without irrigation, and the grapes are hand-harvested and destemmed. The wine finishes fermentation in bottle with no SO2 added.This pet-nat is left just slightly off-dry making it juicy and luscious on the palate with notes of red candied apple, fresh raspberry, and strawberry preserves. The perfect aperitif!
(Was $34.99) There's a bit of mystery with some of the Bichi wines as they have yet to identify the grape variety/s growing in the San Antonio de la Minas Vineyard (some think it might be Dolcetto,others think it's more likely Cariñena because of its natural acidity), the other mystery is how it has taken us so long to appreciate Mexican wine! Based in Tecate, the Téllez family founded Bichi in 2012 farming abandoned vineyards and working with other neighboring growers who are also farming organically. The high elevation of the San Antonio de la Minas vineyard and its proximity to the Pacific Ocean help temper the warm Mexican climate. The 'Rosa del Peru' is made with hand-harvested, de-stemmed grapes, fermented in steel and then bottled as is with no filtration or SO2 added. This is a perfect fall rosé, a bit savory with good structure!
Jean-Marc Roulot brings his incredible experience in Burgundy to the southern hemisphere with this stunning collaboration with Piero Incisa della Rocchetta at Bodega Chacra. The Chardonnay for the Chacra bottling comes from 40 year-old vines grown on river stones covered with crushed white calcareous rock and this wine is the perfect medium for displaying the unique terroir of Rio Negro. The grapes are picked in the early morning and pressed immediately into vertical steel tanks and aged in a combination of 20% concrete eggs, 15% stainless steel tanks and 20% used French oak barrels for ten months. This bottle is immediately transporting with the scent of the wax seal made from the beeswax of the hives situated throughout the vineyard. Upon opening the nose is subtle, but with time and air, blossoms with notes of fresh chamomile and honeysuckle, white peach skin, crème fraîche, and wet stone. The palate highlights minerality and vibrancy; clean, fresh, powdery texture invoking the calcareous soil, with plenty of refreshing acidity tempered by the partial oak aging. Though I thoroughly enjoyed this bottle young, the balance and structure warrant cellaring for 5-10 years, if you can be so patient. Michelle DeWyngaert
Sin Azufre began as an experiment to see what would happen if you made a wine without any intervention; no temperature control, no pH readings and adjustments, and without the use of any sulfur. The result is a wine that feels "alive," that vibrates with energy and purity. Chacra was already doing conscientious work in the vineyard (farming biodynamically, encouraging biodiversity, etc) so it was a natural progression to attempt to make a wine as "naturally" as possible. This year's Sin Azufre, 100% Pinot Noir from their estate vineyard plot planted in 1955, is clean, expressive, and distinctly savory. The grapes are fermented in alternating layers of whole cluster and destemmed fruit, foot-crushed, and aged in a mixture of cement, neutral oak, and some steel. Bright red fruits mingle with notes of rosemary and soy sauce, a balance of umami and salinity that gives this wine a real sense of place. The palate is bright and lifted with soft, silky tannins. Despite the absence of sulfur as a preservative, this bottle held up for several days after opening. Michelle DeWyngaert
One of our favorite, and great value, skin-contact wines is back! Sourced from 100 year old Moscatel d'Alexandria vines, this is a fun, juicy skin-contact wine from the natural winemakers of Cacique Maravilla. These vines are farmed without any agrochemicals or irrigation, and very little plowing. The wines are equally unfussed with; no additives, fining, filtering, or sulfur added, just a pure expression of the vineyard. Approximately 25% of the grapes were affected by botrytis, which was embraced and adds a honeyed spice note to the wine. The skins are left to macerate for 2-3 weeks giving the wine a touch of grippy tannins, and an abundance of flavor.
The 'pipa' in pipeño refers to an old Chilean tradition of making large batches of wine in open-top barrels and then distributing this wine by the jug-full, right from the barrel, throughout the neighborhood; a wine of, and for the community. With País vines at least 250 years old, winemaker Manuel Moraga Gutierrez continues the legacy of his ancestors. He uses a short maceration to keep this wine juicy and supremely drinkable.
The fruit for this bottling comes from 50 year-old vines grown in the stony soils of Barreal in San Juan. The wine is fermented to complete dryness and though it sees five days of skin contact, the wine still shows plenty of varietal character with bold tropical and floral aromatics, and just a hint of tannin on the palate. There is a surprising dichotomy of lightness in the wine matched equally with juicy roundness. On the nose is a bouquet of lillies and aromatic flowers with starfruit and juicy peach rings (in the best way), and the palate is bursting with ripe yellow peach, tangerine, and signature stony finish from the Cara Sur vineyards. Michelle DeWyngaert
A family affair with two brothers at the helm creating classic examples of Mendoza's most famous grape varieties. This Malbec bottling is made from organically farmed grapes from La Consulta, Luján de Cujo, and Medrano. The grapes are fermented with three daily pumpovers to build color and extraction, and then aged for 10 months in American oak to soften the texture before being bottled unfined and unfiltered.
Santa Cruz de Coya comes from a truly special and very old vineyard of Pais in Bío Bío, very isolated and tucked into the mountains. These old vines are short and bush trained, planted on quartz and granite soils, and immersed in the ecosystem of the valley. The particularities of the location (the microclimate, its isolation, the completeness of the ecosystem) preclude the need for sulfur or copper treatments in the vineyard, allowing for a more-than-organic method of farming. Interestingly, the strong local yeasts (perhaps emboldened by the natural farming) also lead to a faster fermentation. Of the 2019 red wines from Roberto Henriquez, this is probably the most serious and the most elegant, with abundant structure and fine tannins. The nose shows red fruits, garrigue, stone, and a certain savory character; the palate is long, balanced, and medium-bodied, with raspberry and blackberry, delicate herbal spice, and a very mineral finish. Don't be afraid to decant this, or to hold onto a few bottles for opening in five years. One of the finest demonstrations of what Pais is capable of, I think.
From an historic vineyard of extremely old (200+ year old) vines of Pais near Santa Juana, in the Bío Bío valley. This is likely one of the oldest vineyard sites in Chile, planted on sedimentary red clays and old volcanic soils. It is also the lightest of Roberto Henriquez’s red wines in 2019, clocking in at roughly 11.5% alcohol due to the slow-ripening character of the area. Tierra de las Pumas shows fresh purple florals and blueberries on the nose, with a deep echo of herbs and earth behind. The palate is bright and refreshing, with a broad mineral seam behind small red berries and orange zest and very delicate tannins.
From a block of co-planted old vines (there are also varieties of Torrontes and Moscatel Rosado, and I’m very much looking forward to bottlings of those) on Itata’s granitic soils, the Corinto Super Estrella is 100% Corinto or Chasselas. Corinto is the first variety to be harvested here, and Roberto Henriquez leaves it longer on its skins than his other wines. If there is a wine that convinced me that Roberto is doing something uniquely exciting in Itata and Bío Bío, this is the wine. Delicate herbal aromatics mingle with white peach, Bosc pear, salt and stone on the nose, while the finely tuned palate shows bright acidity and similar fruit notes with white strawberries and fennel. But what really sticks with me is the minerality here – just explosive granitic power: somehow simultaneously cool and spicy, it endures on the palate long after wine is gone. This was outstanding with Chinese food last week, from bok choy to fried anchovies, but I imagine it would be truly versatile at the table. Unlike any expression of Chasselas that I have encountered, but certainly none the worse for that! 11.5% alcohol, bottled only in magnum. Ben Fletcher
The fruit for Rivera del Notro Blanco comes from Roberto Henriquez’s neighbor, Cesar Henriquez, and a few other neighbors. Roberto manages the farming at all of the plots, and the youngest vines are around a hundred years old. This is a blend of Moscatel, Semillon, and Corinto, made like the other white wines from Roberto: the grapes were destemmed then allowed to naturally ferment with their skins in tanks, with the skin-contact lasting the duration of the fermentation. Compared to the two Semillon wines from Roberto, Rivera del Notro certainly shows a bit more like Muscat aromatically, with notes of ripe orange, grape, and white pepper, but the palate is quite refined, with the skin-contact lending an appealing structure, and plenty of minerality balances notes of orange, peach, and pear.
Pedro Parra is champion of terroir. After getting a PhD in the subject and consulting for some of biggest names in wine-making worldwide, he began this project with his family in their homeland, Itata, Chile. The 'Imaginador' is a unique Cinsault from 70-80 year old head-trained vines, but because of the more than 200 year history of this vineyard, there are smatterings of Muscat, Semillon, Carignan, and País planted throughout that make their way into the blend. Pedro purposefully sought out pockets of granite for the vineyards he works with because of the structure it gives to the wines. The grapes are aged in stainless steel and cement tanks for one year, then rest for eight months in bottle before release. Notes of black cherry, sage, raspberry puree, and dark, crushed rocks on the nose, and on the palate are gentle, barely there tannins with great concentration of flavor. Michelle DeWyngaert
Way up at 3,215 ft elevation is the picturesque Tikal estate in the famed Vista Flores area of the Uco Valley. The vineyards are organic and biodynamic certified and entirely ungrafted. Though this is a blend of 60% and 40% Syrah, lovers of classic Mendoza Malbec will find much to enjoy. Luscious, ripe blackberry, cassis, and plum preserves are balanced with more savory notes of black pepper, cedar, and a little cured meat. The wine is aged for 8 months in 20% new oak (mostly French, with some American barrels used), and 80% neutral barrels, giving it just a kiss of baking spice and vanilla. Michelle DeWyngaert
100% Carignan from 60+ year-old vines in the Maule Valley, grown on granite with organic practices and no irrigation. The grapes are fermented in and aged for four months in cement vats to maintain the freshness and purity of the fruit.
"Pipeno" actually translates to barrel, but in this case it refers to an old tradition of making large barrels of juicy, quaffable wine for everyday drinking, and this wine is a perfect example. The blend is 80% Pais and 20% Carignane from 120-year-old vines. Though the climate is very warm in Maule, the Humbolt Currant helps maintain acidity and keeps the fruit from over-ripening. The País is destemmed with a traditional zaranda, and the Carignan is left whole-cluster. Together the wine is aged briefly in concrete before bottlling.