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WINE REVIEWS


Togni Rebaioli Martina Vino Rosato

★★★

Italy, $30

This is certainly the most unusual rosé I’ve ever tasted, and definitely one of the most beguiling. It is made from erbanno, an obscure grape that, according to the importer, is only grown in this one vineyard in Lombardy. Because there is no official designation for the wine, it cannot be vintage dated, but the code L ERB17 on the bottle tells you all you really need to know. And it’s delicious, so don’t just think of it as a one-off opportunity to check another grape variety off your spit-bucket list. The color is a bright reddish-orange, and the aroma suggests ripe strawberries, orange peel and mulling spice. The flavors also tend toward the citrusy side, as if you were sipping in an orange grove. Do not drink this straight from the refrigerator! It is best consumed at slightly cooler than room temp. In fact, I left the open bottle on my kitchen counter and enjoyed the wine over two days that way. ABV: 13 percent.

Chateau Moulinat 2015

★★★

Bordeaux, $14

Textbook Bordeaux, offering the traditional “pencil” graphite aromas over scents of plum, cherry and blackcurrant. And the wine kept getting better over a few days, suggesting it will last for several years in your cellar, and will reward decanting if you can’t wait. Sustainably farmed, it is packaged in a traditional wooden box for a case. ABV: 13 percent.

Distributed by Le Storie: Available in the District at A. Litteri, Ace Beverage, Cordial Fine Wine & Spirits, DCanter. Available in Virginia at Arrowine and Cheese in Arlington; Chain Bridge Cellars in McLean; Corks & Kegs; J. Emerson Fine Wines & Cheese, Once Upon a Vine (MacArthur Avenue, Stratford Hills) and Union Market in Richmond; Department of Beer and Wine in Alexandria; Grape + Bean (Old Town Alexandria, Rosemont); Tastings of Charlottesville and Wine Warehouse in Charlottesville; Vino Market in Midlothian.

Sorelle Bronca Brut Prosecco Superiore

★★★

Italy, $20

Most prosecco is simply pleasant; a nice palate cleanser to start a meal on a festive note. This one is simply delicious, with crunchy green apple flavors, plus melons and Mandarin oranges. It is unusually complex for a prosecco, too, revealing herbs and spices as it warms in the glass. ABV: 11 percent.

Distributed by Le Storie: Available in the District at A. Litteri. Available in Virginia at Arrowine and Cheese in Arlington, Chain Bridge Cellars in McLean, Department of Beer and Wine and Planet Wine & Gourmet in Alexandria, Grape + Bean (Old Town, Rosemont), Oakton Wine Shop, Tastings of Charlottesville and Wine Guild of Charlottesville, Union Market in Richmond, Vino Market in Midlothian.

Antiquum Farm Juel Pinot Noir

★★★

Willamette Valley, Ore., $45

Oregon pinot noir is my comfort wine; I turn to it when I’m feeling down and need reassurance. Yet the Antiquum Farm made me feel like Luke Skywalker entering the cave and encountering Darth Vader. It seemed to challenge my entire perspective. Earth, wind and fire — all the elements are here. Far from comforting, this is a challenging, thrilling, compelling wine. Open it two hours before dinner and have more wines on hand, because you will want to savor this as it evolves. Leave some for tomorrow: The conversation will be entirely different. ABV: 14.3 percent.

Distributed by Le Storie: Available in the District at Ace Beverage. Available in Virginia at Department of Beer and Wine, Grape + Bean (Old Town, Rosemont), and Planet Wine & Gourmet in Alexandria, Vino Market in Midlothian; on the list at Rowland Fine Dining and Shagbark in Richmond, Wild Ginger in Midlothian.

Torre a Cona Chianti Colli Fiorentini 2016

★★★

Tuscany, Italy, $16

Here’s a chianti to stock up on. The blend is 90 percent sangiovese, Tuscany’s landmark red grape, and 10 percent colorino, a minor Tuscan grape that has been eclipsed as wineries splash international varieties such as cabernet sauvignon into their blends. This wine is modern, in that it shows depth and extraction that suggest techniques of macerating the grapes on the skins, but, well, never mind — it’s delicious. Sangiovese’s flavors of dried cherries and cocoa powder are here, with an impressive depth and length. Enjoy this with just about anything you would think suggests red wine. Alcohol by volume: 14 percent.

Balgera Rosso di Valtellina 1999

★★★

Lombardy, Italy, $30

You read that right: This current release is a 1999 vintage nebbiolo from northern Lombardy. It was aged for 16 years in 100-liter barrels made from Slovenian oak. The wine has developed beautifully, offering a full spice rack of cloves, nutmeg, dried plums and cherries. At $30, it’s a steal for a fully mature nebbiolo. Alcohol by volume: 12 percent.

Distributed by Le Storie: Available in the District at A. Litteri, MacArthur Beverages. Available in Virginia at Camden’s Dogtown Market and J. Emerson Fine Wines & Cheese in Richmond, Chain Bridge Cellars in McLean, Department of Beer and Wine and Planet Wine & Gourmet in Alexandria, Grape + Bean (Old Town Alexandria, Rosemont), Oakton Wine Shop in Oakton, Tastings of Charlottesville, Vino Market in Midlothian; on the list at Brasserie Saison in Charlottesville, Saison and Wild Ginger in Richmond.

La Capuccina Vespolina Colline Novaresi 2015

★★★

Piemonte, Italy, $26

Vespolina is a red grape that produces a light, aromatic and expressive wine. The La Capuccina is the antithesis of the inky, brawny and powerful modern ideal of a red wine. Instead, it floats across your palate like the scent of a rose bush on the other side of a garden wall. Alcohol by volume: 13 percent.

Distributed by Le Storie: Available in Virginia at Chain Bridge Cellars in McLean, Crystal City Wine Shop, Grape + Bean (Old Town Alexandria, Rosemont), Oakton Wine Shop in Oakton, Tastings of Charlottesville, Union Market in Richmond, Vino Market in Midlothian; on the list at Rowland in Richmond.

Sono Montenidoli "Il Garrulo" Chianti Colli Senesi 2015

★★★

Tuscany, Italy, $23

This is an old-style traditional Chianti, including the white grapes Trebbiano Gentile and Malvasia del Chianti, as well as red grapes Canaiolo and Sangiovese. Yet the wine seems modern in style, with intense fruit and depth. Its flavors unfold over several hours, rewarding advance planning and a decanter. Alcohol by volume: 14 percent.

Imported and distributed by Le Storie: Available in the District at Ace Beverage, Cordial Craft Wine, Beer & Spirits (Union Market), Wardman Wines, Weygandt Wines; on the list at Lupo Verde, San Lorenzo. Available in Virginia at Chain Bridge Cellars in McLean, Grape + Bean (Old Town, Rosemont), J. Emerson Fine Wines & Cheese in Richmond, Unwined (Alexandria, Belleview), Vino Market in Midlothian; on the list at Tavola in Charlottesville.

FEATURED ARTICLES


Does vintage matter? Bordeaux proves that it does, even for a $14 bottle.

"...Most of these [wines] are from an area of Bordeaux called Entre-Deux-Mers. That translates as “Between Two Seas,” but it really refers to the Garonne and Dordogne rivers, which twist their way through the region before combining north of Bordeaux city to form the Gironde and flow to the Atlantic. Reds from here are usually labeled simply Bordeaux, and in average years they can be quite straightforward. In years such as 2015 and 2016, they can be exceptional...

Take Chateau Moulinat 2015, for example, a lovely, easy drinking wine that combines the textbook aromas and flavors of Bordeaux — blackcurrant, plums and pencil shavings — with lively acidity that helps the wine improve over several hours or days...."


Boutique wines: How to find and acquire them

"When I wrote about San Francisco Chronicle wine editor Jon Bonné and his new book, The New California Wine, I lamented that the wineries Bonné extolled tended to be small, with limited production and even more limited availability. Even before that Feb. 5 column appeared, I began hearing hints that those and similar wines, although elusive and difficult to find, might yet be attainable by those willing to make the effort and pay the price to seek them out. It seemed as though I was being introduced to a clandestine supply network of boutique wines. 'Psst, buddy: I know where you can get the good stuff!'

Larger distributors (and with market consolidation, distributors get fewer and larger) tend to avoid small wineries that don’t produce enough wine to reach their markets. Small producers shy away from larger distributors because they don’t want to get lost among the more familiar names in the distributors’ extensive portfolios. Those producers look for other outlets, such as direct-to-consumer sales or small distributors that cater to niche but highly interested markets..."

"My first 'dealer' was John Grimsley, he and [his business partner] founded the Richmond distribution company in 2008 to focus on boutique wineries in California, Oregon and Washington. They also import from several wineries, mostly in Italy. They built their portfolio in part through introductions by their winemaker clients: 'I know who’s making some good stuff.'

'They know we are looking for higher acid, freshness, low oak, balanced, complex wines,' Grimsley says.

Their clients include Headhunter Wine, in Berkeley, Calif., a project of Virginia natives Brian and Sarah Grzybowski. Headhunter makes only two wines, producing a total of 126 cases — what Grimsley calls a 'nano-winery.' its 2012 albariño from Paso Robles is a lovely debut vintage.

Knez Winery produces stellar chardonnay and pinot noir from Mendocino County’s Anderson Valley, an established region that seems to have hit a high-quality growth spurt in recent vintages. Farther up the coast, Arterberry Maresh [in Oregon] and Thurston Wolfe lead the pack for Washington. Refreshingly, Grimsley and [his business partner] don’t chase only the higher-end wines headed for restaurants; they also look for good-value wines that fit their preferred style, though limited distribution means you might have to do some searching to find them at retail."