- The Underground Wine Letter - https://www.undergroundwineletter.com -


Featuring Wines From Argentina, California, Chile, France, Georgia,  Germany, and Hungary


I have written several articles featuring the great red and white wines of Argentina, Malbec and Torrontes. Both of these represent some of the greatest wine bargains in the world. (To see my latest article click here) [1] Below is a note on two recently arrived Torrontes. They are terrific wines and great values.

Famatina Valley La Rioja

Despite this wine’s origins, it was bottled in Graton, California. The wine is brought to California in containers and bottled to save on shipping costs. It just goes to show that you learn something every day! But this has nothing to do with how good the wine is. It’s delicious! But, it might have something to do with the retail price. It’s cheap! So there you go… What are you waiting for?



2010 La Yunta Torrontes Famatina Valley La Rioja.
Light yellow in color this Torrontes has a gorgeous perfume of lichee nut with floral and citrus accents. It is rounded and luscious with tropical fruit and floral nuances and a lovely citrus tinged finish. This wine is simply delicious and really shines when served ice cold – Outstanding.    $9.99    Best Buy   SWG Imports, Bend, OR3-yellow-stars



This Torrontes comes from the Salta region of Argentina. On the back label Susana Balbo says: Crios means offspring and refers both to my children and my label of wines that display loveable fruit flavors and excellent balance….And no oak – just a lot of motherly attention. So with an introduction like that, this wine surely will get some attention!

Wines 10.15 (2)

2010 Crios Torrontes Salta.
Light yellow in color this wine has a deep mineral tinged, floral, citrus perfume with a faint exotic nuance. Floral flavors are accented by a faintly exotic nuance and a tinge of mineral and citrus. Balanced with a luscious texture and a crisp, citrus tinged finish, this Torrontes really deserves your attention – Outstanding.   $10.89    Best Buy   Vine Connections, Sausalito, CA 3-yellow-stars




Chanin Wine Company


Chanin Wine Company is a new venture founded by Gavin Chanin and housed in the winery facility with Au Bon Climat and Qupe in the Santa Maria Valley. (To read my article on the three wineries click here [2]) As I said in my earlier article, “Gavin Chanin is a talented, serious and hard working young lad. He is also very fortunate to have been able to start his career under the tutelage of two of California’s best vintners. His bottles are literally works of art as each bears a painting done by Gavin Chanin the artist. The wines are lovely to look at and lovely to drink.” Below is a note on another of his delicious Chardonnays.


2009 Chanin Wine Company Chardonnay Los Alamos Vineyard Santa Barbara County.
Light yellow gold in color with a lovely perfume that is faintly floral with an exotic tinge and hints of citrus and spice, this Chardonnay exudes finesse and elegance. It has gorgeous fruit and is very pure with peach and citrus tinged fruit accented by a floral citrus nuances and a faint exotic undertone. The finish is long and has a nice underlying crispness. This is a really gorgeous Chardonnay – Outstanding.   $30   Best Buy3-yellow-stars


Hanzell Vineyards

Logo.gif Hanzell

In 1948 Ambassador James D. Zellerbach acquired 200 acres in the Mayacamas Mountains of Sonoma. The vision was to produce wines that would rival the great wines of Burgundy. The first six acres were planted in 1953 to the Burgundian varietals Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. These plantings are now the oldest continuously producing Chardonnay and Pinot Noir vines in America. In 1956 a small gravity fed winery was built based on the 12th century press house at Clos de Vougeot in the heart of Burgundy. Brad Webb was hired that year as the winemaker. Mr. Zellerbach’s instructions were very clear: “Produce wines equal to the finest in the world.”

The name Hanzell was a contraction of Mrs. Hana Zellerbach’s name. The first vintage was 1957 and in the late 1950s total production was around 700 cases a year. Hanzell was a pioneer in the utilization of winemaking techniques that are widespread now, but unusual in those days. These included stainless steel fermenters and the exclusive use of French oak barrels for aging. In 1965, after the death of Ambassador Zellerbach, the winery was sold. In 1973, Brad Webb hired Bob Sessions as winemaker. Bob continued the tradition and over a period of three decades produced many memorable wines. In 1975 the winery was sold to the de Brye family who continue as the owners today. In 1976 another 30 acres of vineyard were added. Today the estate has grown to 42 acres which produce some 6.000 cases annually (75% Chardonnay and 24% Pinot Noir). The historic winemaking practices today are under the direction of winemaker Michael McNeill.

01-01.jpg Hanzell

The Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs produced by Hanzell are very long lived. Both really need several years of bottle age after they are released and can evolve over decades. The history of this property is unique as is the history of producing consistently wonderful Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. This period now spans over 50 years and that too is remarkable. Recently, I paid a visit to the winery and tasted a few wines. First, I tasted some 2010 barrel samples of separate lots of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Wines made from different parts of the vineyard are kept separately until bottling. New wood is about 1/3 for the Chardonnay and ½ for the Pinot Noir. I tasted Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs from 12 and 35 year old vines. Some were in new wood and others in old barrels. So it is impossible to speak about the 2010 wines. However, what I can say is that the barrel samples I tasted were most impressive. This is not surprising given the consistent record of quality at Hanzell.  In 2007 Hanzell created a new label called Sebella for wines made from young vines. Also, in 2007 they made the first ever bottlings of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from the original old vine vineyards planted in 1953. These Ambassador’s 1953 Vineyard bottlings will only be produced in the most exceptional years and are sold in limited quantities direct from the winery.

Listed below are my tasting notes on the most recent releases. All the wines were decanted 2 hours before tasting. This is essential with young Hanzell wines. And, the estate wines could have used even a longer time in the decanter. They will benefit from additional age, especially the Pinot Noir.



2009 Hanzell Vineyards Chardonnay Sebella.
This is a lovely lighter styled, crisp Chardonnay. It is light yellow in color and has a lovely perfume that is floral with hints of citrus and green apple with a kiss of spice.The wine has flavors of citrus, green apple, and a tinge of spice with a slight floral undertone on the palate. It is well balanced with a nice crisp finish – Highly Recommended Plus.   $36  2-n-half-yellow-stars


HZ-Chardonnay_web_sized_2.jpg Hanzell

2009 Hanzell Vineyards Chardonnay Estate.
With a light yellow gold color this wine has a gorgeous floral perfume with peach, apricot, and spice nuances. It has stunning fruit with lots of flavor and is balanced with a long crisp finish. This Chardonnay is delicious to drink now and should evolve over a decade or more – Outstanding Plus.   $753-n-half-yellow-stars


2009 Hanzell Vineyards Pinot Noir Estate.
Even with 2 hours in a decanter this Pinot Noir was still a bit closed. It will require some years to show its true potential. The wine has a deep color and a lovely floral, berry perfume with hints of spice. There is an abundance of berry fruit and the wine is rich and round. Just now it is showing a bit of tannin which should integrate beautifully with time. Patience is required here, but it should be well rewarded – Highly Recommended/Outstanding Potential.   $95 2-parentheses-stars


These Hanzell estate Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs are wines to buy and age. They have a history and track record of improving over a long period of time. The younger vines Sebella bottlings are for more immediate consumption. Hanzell has a wine club oriented to the purchase of different quantities of wine up to one case of each. There are substantial discounts to members and many other benefits including the opportunity to buy the limited production Ambassador’s 1953 Vineyard bottlings. You can get all the details by going to www.hanzellvineyards.com [3].



Qupe Winery

As I said in my article The Holy Trinity of Wineries ( [2]Click here [2] to read the article), Bob Lindquist makes some of the best and most age worthy wines in California.(Go to the website for more information or to buy wine – including older wines – or to join the wine club www.qupe.com [4].) The Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard is in the Edna Valley area of San Luis Obispo. Here there is a cool climate which results in a long growing season that produces wines with naturally high acidity. The forty acre vineyard was planted on rolling hillsides in 2005. The planted grape varieties are Grenache, Syrah, Pinot Noir, Tempranillo, Albarino, and Marsanne. The first vintage was 2008. Below are notes on two new 2009 releases.

2009 Qupe Winery Grenache Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard Edna Valley.
With a deep color this wine this wine has a lovely berry perfume with hints of juniper and an underlying floral spiciness. It is rounded and supple with lovely berry fruit accented by a faint spiciness – Highly Recommended Plus.    $35   2-n-half-yellow-stars


2009 Qupe Winery Syrah Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard Edna Valley.
Medium dark in color this wine has a lovely blackberry perfume with a faint cigar box nuance. It has lots of supple fruit accented by a faint smoky, spicy nuance. This is a lovely elegant rendition of Syrah with flavor and finesse – Highly Recommended Plus.   $35  2-n-half-yellow-stars


No question these are lovely balanced wines. As the vines age, I would expect the wines to become even better. And I would also hope that Bob will do some proprietary blends given the diversity of varieties that are planted. In fact, just to explore that a bit, I did a 50/50 blend of these two wines. (Remember I am The Blending Man. Click here [5]to read a recent article).  It was really delicious and a bit softer and even more complex than either of the individual wines. This is vinous food for thought.


Robert Craig Winery


Robert Craig has some three decades of experience in dealing with Napa Valley mountain vineyards. He started his own winery in 1992 and produced his first wine in 1995. I have been tasting and reviewing the wines since the beginning. And, even more important, I have been cellaring and drinking the wines over that same period. Wines still in my cellar from the decade of the 1990s are delicious today and show every indication that they will continue to be gorgeous wines for many years to come. Robert Craig is a very consistent producer of first rate Cabernet Sauvignon. And, over the years, they have maintained the house style which is for balanced wines that can be drunk young or kept for decades. In a time when so many California Cabernets are over the top (to see my article on this subject click here [6]), these are Cabernets that have complexity, depth, and balance which is what I look for in wines. If this is also what you are looking for, then you really should try Robert Craig Cabernets. These two recent releases are outstanding examples. To learn more about Robert Craig and join the Cabernet Club for discounts on wine purchases, special offers and events go to www.robertcraigwine.com [7] .

Robert Craig Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2008

2008 Robert Craig Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain Napa Valley.
This 2008 Cabernet from the 9.75 acre estate vineyard at the top of Howell Mountain is blended with 2% Petit Verdot. The production was 1000 cases. With a dark color and a deeply nuanced perfume of blackberry, cedar, spice, and vanilla, this wine is rounded, lush and supple yet has structure and balance. Very flavorful with blackberry and plum fruit accented by nuances of cocoa, cedar and a touch of spice, this is a really lovely Cabernet of early appeal, yet it has the structure for long term aging – Outstanding.     $80 3-yellow-stars

Robert Craig MT Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon 2008


2008 Robert Craig Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Mt. Veeder Napa Valley.
Robert Craig got his start by planting vineyards on Mt. Veeder. I too was an early fan of wines from this area and remain so today. Interestingly, the late legendary home wine maker, Norman Mini (I will have an article on his wines soon), long ago felt that this was one of the very best sites in the Napa Valley. This 2008 is blended with 12% Merlot and 3% Malbec. The production was 846 cases. This is a gorgeous wine that should be a cellar treasure in a decade or two. With a dark color it has a stunning perfume of cassis with an exotic nuance and hints of cedar and spice. There is a myriad of fruit flavors accented by cedar and spice and the wine has depth, lots of flavor, and great structure. All it needs is time – Outstanding Plus.     $ 70 3-n-half-yellow-stars




Toad Hollow Vineyards

This Sonoma winery is now nearly 20 years old. It was established in 1994 as a collaboration of two old friends, recently retired at that time. The Toad Hollow motto is to make fine wines at affordable prices. Last year I reviewed the outstanding 2009 rose called Eye of the Toad. (To see my note click here [8]) This inspired me to try more of their wines. And, while Toad Hollow presents a whimsical side with their label and wine names, the wine in the bottle is serious and really good. Moreover, they also live up to their motto of affordable prices. Here are notes on four new releases including three now with user friendly screw caps. If fine wine at affordable prices appeals to you as much as it does to me, these are wines for you to try. (For more on the story of Toad Hollow (including the very clever chronicle) and to join their wine club go to www.toadhollow.com [9])

Wines 10.15 (15)

2010 Toad Hollow Vineyards Dry Rosé of Pinot Noir “Eye of the Toad” Carneros Region Sonoma County.
What a delicious and fruity rosé. With only 11% alcohol it oozes with lovely flavors. The color is reddish pink and the wine has a gorgeous floral perfume with hints of strawberry and raspberry. The flavors echo the perfume with strawberry and raspberry fruit accented by a faint floral note. And, the finish is nice and crisp!  This is sooooo easy to drink. Bravo! The Eye of the Toad rules – Outstanding.   $12.99   Best Buy  3-yellow-stars


2010 Toad Hollow Vineyards Unoaked Chardonnay Mendocino and Sonoma Counties.
This is a lovely wine that is really refreshing. It is light yellow in color with a lovely perfume showing subtle hints of melon and apple. The wine is light, tasty and has lovely fruit and a nice balanced crispness. Melon, apple, pear and citrus flavors are accented by a faint floral undertone. No overpowering flavors. No Vanilla. No Spice. No Butter. No Caramel. How nice is that? This is just a tasty, unpretentious, easy to drink wine – Highly Recommended.   $14.99 2-yellow-stars


2009 Toad Hollow Vineyards “Eric’s the Red” California.
Merlot from Sonoma is a major part of this blend. But, there is also plenty of other stuff in here that is sourced from other part of the state. How about Cabernet Sauvignon? Some Zinfandel, Syrah, and Petite Sirah? And, then there’s Tannat and Souzao to round out the blend. Unusual, but tasty, this wine is named for the legendary Viking as well as for Eric Thorson who is part of the management team. The wine has a deep color and a lovely plummy perfume with a touch of cedar and spice. It is robust and flavorful with lovely fruit showing tinges of spice and and a faint floral undertone – Highly Recommended. $14.99  2-yellow-stars


2009 Toad Hollow Vineyards Pinot Noir Goldie’s Vineyard Russian River Valley.
This is a lovely fruit driven Pinot Noir that is very attractive and has great charm and early appeal. It has a deep color and a lovely perfume of berries and cherries with a nice floral tinge. The wine has lots of fruit and is balanced with a nice floral and spice complexity – Highly Recommended.  $18.99 2-yellow-stars




Uvaggio is the brainchild of two guys who launched this brand to make wine from Italian varietal grapes and sell them at affordable prices. The word Uvaggio is Italian for blend of grapes. Here’s what they have to say about their mission:

• Wine should be fun.

• Part of that fun is trying something different.

• Wine should complement a meal, not replace it.

• One need not have to take out a loan to buy a case.

• If you like our wine, open another bottle.  Enjoy something new!


AMAZING! I wonder if we have the same DNA? This sounds like a page out of the UNDERGROUND! `You can check them out at www.uvaggio.com [10]

From Lodi this is a unique and delicious Rosé. It is made from mostly from Barbera and Primitivo grapes with a small amount of Vermentino. There cannot be too many people out there who have even heard of such a thing. That’s good I guess. The wine is terrific and a real bargain.

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2010 Uvaggio Rosato Lodi.
Light red in color this wine has a stunning perfume of plums and cherries. It is brimming with fruit. Strawberry and cherry fruit is intermingled with hints of watermelon and a faint floral nuance. The lush fruit is beautifully balanced by a crisp acidity and the finish is long and crisp – Outstanding.   $11.99  Best Buy3-yellow-stars



Polkura is a relatively new venture that came about as a vision by two friends from Chile. In 1998 they met in the South of France and tasted a Mediterranean style Syrah. That sealed the deal. They returned to Chile with the idea of finding a vineyard to make world class wine. They immediately began looking for the ideal site. In 2002, they found a property in the Marchique area of the Western end of the Colchagua Valley. They felt that this property was ideal. It was situated in mountainous terrain on Polkura hill and had 4 distinct types of soil. Also, it was located only 30 miles from the ocean and had a Mediterranean type climate. They planted some 30 acres of vines. The vines are mostly Syrah, but also with some Malbec and Sauvignon Blanc. Their first vintage of Syrah was in 2004. The most recent releases are reviewed below. All the wines benefit greatly by decanting several hours before serving. The Polkura wines are imported by Wine Markets International, Plainview, NY

Wines 10.15 (1)

2008 Polkura Syrah Colchagua Valley.
This is the most backward of the Polkura wines tasted. It is very dark in color and has a deep perfume of blackberry fruit with floral, cedar, and smoky nuances. It is flavorful with rich fruit and tannins that need some time to soften – Recommended/Highly Recommended Potential.    $25   1-parentheses-star



2008 Polkura Syrah Block g+i Colchagua Valley.
This wine is made from grapes grown in blocks g and i which are South facing. The first year for this wine was 2007. This 2008 is more closed than the 2007. That could be a good indication of the evolution of this wine. Very dark in color this Syrah has deep perfume of plums with hints of cedar and a faint smokiness. It has lots of rich blackberry and plum fruit with faint hints of spice and cedar. The wine is very rich and pure with a good underlying backbone. All it needs is some time – Highly Recommended/Outstanding Potential.   $ 45   2-parentheses-stars



2008 Polkura Malbec Colchagua Valley.
The small plot of Malbec was blended with the Syrah in previous vintages. However, in 2008 a fire threatened to destroy the vineyard, but the vineyard was saved. The vineyard’s survival was an omen to the owners that the wine should be bottled separately. This is a really nice Malbec. It is very dark in color and has a deep perfume of cedar and spice intertwined with plums and blackberries. It is rich and round with heaps of fruit and layers of flavor showing a myriad of fruits, spice, and cedar – Outstanding.   $25   3-yellow-stars

2007 Polkura Syrah Block g+i Colchagua Valley.
This is a gorgeous rich Syrah. It has a very dark color and a deep perfume of blackberry and plum with hints of cedar and spice and a faint smokiness. There is a lot of richness and flavor. The wine is well crafted and has lush fruit accented by cedar, spice, and a faint smokiness – Outstanding Plus.   $45  3-n-half-yellow-stars



Potel Aviron


This is a négociant house run by Stephane Aviron. Stephane works with growers throughout the year and selects only old vine vineyards farmed by top growers in the best locations. The individual barrels are selected to be bottled under the Potel Aviron label. All wines are labeled “Vieilles Vignes” old vines with the vines being at least 40 years of age. These 2009s represent great value. The Potel Aviron wines are imported by Frederick Wildman & Sons, New York, NY

2009 Potel Aviron Fleurie Vieilles Vignes.
Sourced from two old vineyard parcel averaging over 50 years of age, this Beaujolais has a deep color and a lovely floral perfume with hints of raspberry. It is lovely, very fruity, and has a floral complexity with a nice crisp finish – Highly Recommended.  $172-yellow-stars


2009 Potel Aviron Julienas Vieilles Vignes.
This wine is sourced from two parcels of vines averaging over 50 years old. It has a dark color and a deep berry perfume with a faint smokiness. Balanced with lovely fruit and flavor this is a very nice and attractively priced Beaujolais – Highly Recommended. $15  2-yellow-stars


2009 Potel Aviron Morgon Cote du Py Vieilles Vignes.
This Beaujolais is made from grapes grown on old vines situated on the slopes of an inactive volcano. The wine is dark in color and has a gorgeous fruity perfume of plums and berries. It is supple and rich with loads of fruit accented by faint cedar, earth, and spice nuances. There is a firm underlying structure that should enable this wine to age for an extended period – Outstanding.    $17   Best Buy 3-yellow-stars


Wines 10.15 (14)

2009 Potel Aviron Moulin à Vent Vieilles Vignes.
This is a limited production wine made from four separate parts of the vineyard with vines averaging 65 years of age and some over 100 years of age. It is a deep brooding Beaujolais. The color is dark and the wine has an intense perfume of blackberry fruit with a faint floral nuance. It is rich, intensely fruity, and has a lot of depth. It will be most interesting to follow the evolution of this very well endowed Moulin à Vent – Outstanding.  $17  Best Buy  3-yellow-stars


Domaine Follin-Arbelet

Wow! These are impressive wines. I don’t often make wine comparisons because I think most of them are stupid and nothing but marketing hype. But, at the risk of being called stupid (and, believe me, I have been called worse), I would like to say a few things about Domaine Follin-Arbelet. First, I know virtually nothing about this producer other than what is written here. Second, this is the first time I have ever tasted Follin-Arbelet wines. But, this is exactly the same position I was in way back in 1980 when I first tasted the fabulous 1978 wines of the late, great Henri Jayer (the retrospective of this tasting will be published soon.) And, yes I know it is way too early to make that comparison, but I do note a similarity. The Follin-Arbelet wines are very pure, balanced, and have complexity as well as a large dose of the elusive, and hard to define, delicious factor. And, of course there is a white wine in the Follin-Arbelet stable, whereas Henri Jayer did not make a white wine. So that question is moot. At any rate, following is the background on the Domaine taken directly from the Kermit Lynch (the importer) website. (I only looked at this after tasting the wines. It is 100% more than I knew about Henri Jayer until after we went to visit him in 1981.)  I might add one final note.  Kermit Lynch was one of three importers to first bring in the 1978 Henri Jayer wines.  And, he is now importing the wines of  Domaine Follin-Arbelet!


Still waters run deep with Franck Follin-Arbelet. He may seem quiet and unassuming, but the intensity of his wines speaks louder than words. Having grown up in Burgundy’s famous Côte d’Or, he was always attracted to viticulture, but his family’s vines were all rented out to métayeurs (share croppers), and they did not make their own wine. Instead, he gravitated towards Geology, a field that gave him an expertise in soil. His wife, Christine, comes from the famous Latour family, and her father, André Masson (once the régisseur at the Hospices de Beaune), had his own vines. In 1990, when the opportunity came to join André’s domaine in Aloxe-Corton, Franck jumped at the chance, giving up one noble career in terroir to take on another. In 1993, André retired and Franck took over the direction of the domaine.


Franck and Christine are fortunate to farm one village wine, four premier crus, and four grand crus in Aloxe-Corton (their hometown), Pernand-Vergelesses, and Vosne-Romanée. Pedigreed land such as this demands much of its stewards, so Franck farms sustainably without synthetic fertlizers or weed killers, working the soils regularly to aerate them and keep them healthy. Their winery and cellars are as picturesque as they are practical—said to be the deepest in their village. In traditional Burgundian homes of this time (1764), the family lives on the second and third floors, above a first floor winery and deep cellars below. This kind of depth makes the cellars colder and more humid than most, two key components in crafting age-worthy wines. Vinifications are in the old-school style, fermenting slowly in open-top wooden vats, using only indigenous yeasts, and the wines are bottled in all of their unadultered glory, unfined and unfiltered. Both pure and intense, they are deep with stony freshness, explosive with bright fruit, and framed with balanced structure.


When asked what inspires him the most, Franck responded, “wine that represents its terroir and a job well done.” Simply put; not so simply executed—but tasting the wines of Domaine Follin-Arbelet is not only inspirational—it is a revelation.

As a Burgundy lover, you should check out these wines! The 08s tasted are delicious as are the stunning 2009s. The wines of Domaine Follin-Arbelet are imported by Kermit Lynch Wine Selections, Berkeley, CA

2008 Domaine Follin-Arbelet Aloxe-Corton.
With a deep color this Burgundy has a gorgeous berry perfume with a hint of spice. It has very pure fruit accented by the faintest hint of spice and is well crafted and really tasty – Highly Recommended.   $47.70  2-yellow-stars


2008 Domaine Follin-Arbelet Aloxe-Corton Clos Du Chapitre 1er Cru.
This is a delicious Burgundy. It has a deep color and a lovely floral perfume with hints of berries and plums and a faint hint of spice. Supple and rounded with very pure fruit accented by a touch of spice this is a gorgeous wine  – Outstanding.   $62.10 3-yellow-stars


2008 Domaine Follin-Arbelet Aloxe-Corton Les Vercuts 1er Cru.
This wine has a deep color and a great perfume showing berry fruit with a faint exotic nuance and a hint of spice. The wine is brimming with fruit yet complex flavors and elegance are wrapped together to create a beautiful Burgundy that is easy to love – Outstanding.  $62.103-yellow-stars

2009 Domaine Follin-Arbelet Aloxe Corton.
This Burgundy has a deep color and a lovely berry perfume with a tinge of spice. It has very pure fruit and is balanced and really tasty – Highly Recommended.   $51.30  2-yellow-stars


2009 Domaine Follin-Arbelet Pernand Vergelesses Les Fichots.
With a deep color this Burgundy has a gorgeous perfume of berry fruit with a very faint floral spice note. It has loads of fruit with great purity, style, and balance. Cherry and berry flavors have a tinge of spice and there is a nice underlying crispness that adds to the wines appeal. This is delicious – Outstanding.   $45.90 Best Buy   3-yellow-stars


2009 Domaine Follin-Arbelet Corton Grand Cru.
This Corton has a deep color and a lovely berry perfume with floral notes and a hint of spice. The fruit is very pure and the wine is very approachable. Yet there is structure and depth that argue for a long rest in the cellar – Outstanding.   $98.10  3-yellow-stars


2009 Domaine Follin-Arbelet Corton Bressandes Grand Cru.
With a deep color the perfume of this wine seems to jump out of the glass. There is a myriad of fruits with floral notes, hints of spice, and a faint exotic nuance. This is a Burgundy with lots of rich pure fruit and a seamless structure. It is long on the palate and absolutely delicious – Outstanding Plus.   $100.80  3-n-half-yellow-stars


2009 Domaine Follin-Arbelet Romanée Saint Vivant Grand Cru.
With a deep color this Romanée Saint Vivant has a gorgeous perfume that is brimming with cherry fruit and exotic, floral nuances. It is balanced and flavorful with an intensity of cherry fruit accented by a floral, faintly exotic nuance. Balanced and stunningly pure and complex with great fruit and structure, this is a Burgundy for the next 10-20 years – absolutely delicious – Exceptional.  $359.10  4-yellow-stars


2009 Domaine Follin Arbelet Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru.
Light yellow in color this wine has a gorgeous perfume with mineral, peach, and citrus nuances. With great intensity and elegance, it has  great flavors of peach, citrus, mineral, and a faint floral undertone. This is a really delicious, stylistic Corton Charlemagne that should have a long life ahead if you can resist it’s early charm – Outstanding Plus.  $133.20   3-n-half-yellow-stars



Domaine Pierre Guillemont

The Guillemont family has been producing wines in Savigny Les Beaune for eight generations. The wines exhibit elegance and balance and have very long aging potential. The 2009s are stunning and represent great value in Burgundy. The wines of Domaine Pierre Guillemont are imported by Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant, Berkeley, CA


2009 Domaine Pierre Guillemont Savigny Les Beaune Les Grands Picotins.
This wine is made from grapes grown on a small plot of about 2 acres with vines averaging 50 years of age. It has a lovely color and a gorgeous floral perfume with hints of cherry and spice. It is elegant and has lovely cherry fruit with floral and spice nuances. This is a lovely Burgundy with a lot of purity and finesse, yet it is very flavorful – Outstanding.   $28.80  Best Buy  3-yellow-stars


2009 Domaine Pierre Guillemont Savigny Les Beaune Serpentieres 1er Cru.
This is the largest vineyard in the Domaine with a surface area of about 4 acres. The vines here average 40 years of age. The wine has a deep color and exhibits a gorgeous perfume of berries with floral nuances and a touch of spice. It has lot of very pure fruit that is accented by floral undertone and a kiss of spice. Elegant and refined, this is a delicious Burgundy – Outstanding.   $35.10  Best Buy 3-yellow-stars


2009 Domaine Pierre Guillemont Savigny Les Beaune Jarrons 1er Cru.
This is a really delicious Burgundy that is made from grapes grown on vines that average 50 years old. Unfortunately, their vineyard holding is only about 2/3 of an acre and production is limited. The color is deep and the wine exhibits a stunning perfume of rose petals and cherries with a tinge of spice. It is elegant with a lot of finesse and charm, yet is intensely fruity and very flavorful with complexity and depth. It is hard to resist now, but should age gracefully for decades – Outstanding Plus.  $35.10  Best Buy3-n-half-yellow-stars

Domaine Jean Marc Vincent

Anne-Marie and Jean-Marc Vincent inherited most of their vines from Jean-Marc’s grandfather. The wine operation is a family affair with Anne-Marie splitting their time between the vineyards and the cellars. Their holdings are scattered in 11 different vineyard sites mostly around the village of Santenay in the Southern Cote de Beaune. The holdings are small with most plots less than one acre. The wines, therefore, are made in very small quantities. But, there is no question about the purity and quality of the wines. They are very special and are a cut above what one would expect from wines made in this area. In that regard, they share a similarity to the wines of J. F. Coche Dury who is a master in producing outstanding wine even from lesser sites.


2009 Domaine Jean-Marc Vincent Auxey-Duresses Blanc Les Hautes.
This vineyard holding is one of the largest in the Domaine with a surface area of about 2 ½ acres. The vines here are 20 and 55 years of age. This is a stunning wine. It is light yellow in color and has a gorgeous perfume with floral, spice, citrus, mineral, and tropical nuances. There is a real purity of fruit here that is accented by hints of citrus and minerals with a faint floral and spice undertone. This is, in a word, delicious – Outstanding.    $38.70 3-yellow-stars


2009 Domaine Jean-Marc Vincent Bourgogne Blanc.
This is a very refined and well crafted Bourgogne Blanc. It is light yellow in color and has a subtle perfume of peach and citrus with a floral undertone. These flavors carry through on the palate and are followed by a nice crisp finish – Highly Recommended. $26.10 2-yellow-stars

2009 Domaine Jean-Marc Vincent Santenay Blanc Le Beaurepaire 1er Cru.
Light yellow in color this is a wine that is elegant and balanced. It exhibits a wonderful perfume of citrus, spice, peach, and mineral with a faint exotic nuance. The fruit is very pure and refined and the flavors are beautifully integrated. This is simply gorgeous – Outstanding.    $43.20  3-yellow-stars


2009 Domaine Jean-Marc Vincent Santenay Les Gravieres 1er Cru.
With a deep color this wine has a gorgeous perfume of rose petals and berries with a hint of spice. It is very elegant with a wonderful purity of fruit accented by floral and spice nuances and a faint exotic undertone – Outstanding.   $43.20 3-yellow-stars




Domaine Compte Abbatucci

Here’s what I said about this producer in my last review (Click here [11] to read the entire article). I first wrote about wines from this producer in Distinctive New Wines articles dated September 13, 2010 and October 1, 2010. Domaine Compte Abbatucci is located in Ajaccio, the capital of Corsica. The vineyards consist of ancient indigenous Corsican varietals. Biodynamic farming practices are used. The wines are made in a very traditional manner and none of the wines are aged in wood. The wines are very pure, balanced, and very flavorful. Annual production is 5,000 cases. If you are not familiar with this producer I would strongly advise you to give the wines a try. Today they are under the radar, but I think that they will become much more well known as the years go by. The wines are imported by Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant, Berkeley, CA


Recently several new cuvées were imported. They are really unusual. Since they are made from ancient varietal grapes that are not covered under the laws of the specific area, they are not allowed to be named for the vineyard sites and are simply labeled Vin de Table. And, although they are from the 2009 and 2010 vintages they are not entitled to that designation either. Hence there is no vintage. But, all that aside, they are stunning wines – unique and delicious! Here is the background taken from the importer’s website (with minor editing) followed by my notes on the wines.

The Domaine Comte Abbatucci Collection wines all come from a single parcel planted by Antoine Abbatucci in the early 1960’s. At the time, Antoine (Jean-Charles’s father) was president of the Chamber of Agriculture in Corsica, and noticed that the subsistence farming lifestyle of the mountain villages was rapidly disappearing as the villagers left the countryside for the coastal towns. Several villages farmed old vines of indigenous varietals that were left abandoned as the population left. To save these varietals from extinction, Abbatucci took cuttings of each threatened vineyard he came across and planted the cuttings on his estate near Ajaccio, in a single plot of granite soil. By 1962, eighteen different varieties had been planted. More recently, Jean-Charles has begun propagating the vines using selection massale on his own estate, as well as supplying cuttings to other vignerons all over Corsica. He blends these native grapes from the original plot planted in the 1960’s together into different cuvées, each one named after an ancestor(except for the Barbarossa and Carcojolu which are named for the grape varietal). All the cuvées have exceptionally low yields to produce a mere 1,500 bottles.


Domaine Compte Abbatucci Cuvée Collection Blanc “General de la Revolution: Jean-Charles Abbatucci.”
This wine is made from six ancient wine varietals. So here they are with Corsican spellings: 25% Carcajolu Biancu, 25% Paga Debbiti, 20% Riminese, 15% Rossola Brandica, 10% Biancone, and 5% Vermentino. OK, now that you’ve got that down (and. by all means, please feel free to contact me if you spot an error), here’s my note on the wine: Light yellow color with a gorgeous and complex perfume with citrus, spice, guava and a faint tinge of minerality this is a wine that delivers. It is crisp yet rounded and flavorful with lots of nuances – melon, lemon, lime, spice, guava. It’s all there. So let’s hear it for these old, but, thankfully, not forgotten varieties that have produced this beautiful baby – Outstanding Plus.   $67.50       3-n-half-yellow-stars



Domaine Compte Abbatucci Cuvée Collection Rouge “Minstre Imperial : Jacques-Pierre-Charles Abbatucci.”
Here we go again. All together now count to seven – 22% Sciacarellu, 18% Niellucciu, 15% Carcajolu-Neru, 15% Montaneccia, 12% Morescono, 10% Morescola, and 8% Aleatico – that’s the blend. This one is really unique. It has a deep color and a high toned perfume of berries and cherries with floral herbal and spice nuances. It has lots of zesty fruit that really sings. It is pure and flavorful with a tinge of earthiness and spice. And, remember that I did say that it is unique – Outstanding.    $67.50    3-yellow-stars




Domaine Compte Abbatucci Vin de France Cuvee Collection Blanc “BR.”
This wine is made exclusively from the Barbarossa grape variety. The exact origin of the grape is not known, but it has been grown in Corsica for some 800 years. Light yellow gold in color the wine has a lovely perfume with hints of apricot and peach and faint almond and floral nuances. It is rounded and lush with hints of almond, apricot, and honey with a long crisp finish – Outstanding.   $49.50     3-yellow-stars


Domaine Compte Abbatucci Vin de France Cuvée Collection Rouge “CN.”
This wine is made exclusively from the ancient grape variety Carcajola-Neru. It is delicious. With a deep color the wine has a lovely perfume with berry and cherry fruit intermingled with a faintly herbal and floral undertone. It is round, lush and supple with loads of fruit and a tinge of spice and minerality – Outstanding.    $67.50   3-yellow-stars


2010 Abel Clement Rosé Cotes du Rhone.
Light salmon pink in color this rose has a lovely floral perfume with hints of raspberry. It is rounded and very flavorful with hints of cherry and a floral under tone. Balanced and very easy to drink this is a really tasty rosé and a great bargain – Highly Recommended Plus.   $8.99  Best Buy  Grape Expectations, Richmond, CA 2-n-half-yellow-stars



Catherine and Pierre Breton

In my last review here’s what I had to say (To read the article click here [12])

Catherine and Pierre Breton are descendants of families that they say have been in the area since “the mists of time.” They started their domaine in 1982 and farm just under 30 acres of land mostly in the areas of Bourgueil and Chinon. By some coincidence, the Cabernet Franc grape grown in the Loire Valley is known as Breton. The Bretons make wines for easy consumption that represent the typicity of the appellations and also wines that are made from individual parcels. These latter wines are capable of decades of aging. These are “Under The Radar Wines” of great purity and flavor. They are especially good in a warm year like 2009. The wines of Domaine Catherine and Pierre Breton are imported by Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant, Berkeley, CA


2009 Catherine and Pierre Breton Bourgueil Clos Senechal.
Dark in color this wine has a deep perfume of blackberry fruit with faint herbal and spice nuances. It has lots of tart dark cherry fruit that is accented by a faint hint of spice. Full and rich this Bourgueil is balanced and very flavorful – Outstanding.   $28.80      3-yellow-stars




2009 Catherine and Pierre Breton Bourgueil Nuits d’ Ivresse.
With a dark color this wine has a floral berry perfume with herbal nuances. It is fruity and rounded yet has good backbone. The fruit is accented by hints of spice and a faintly briary undertone – Highly Recommended.   $28.80 2-yellow-stars



Domaine Couly-Dutheil


Baptiste Dutheil established this estate in 1921, which was then developed by René Couly, who married Madeleine Dutheil. The family-owned operation has over 200 acres of vineyards in the eastern part of Chinon along the Vienne River. This wine is made using the Rosé de Saignée method. Cabernet Franc is the red grape grown in Chinon and is used to make this terrific 2010 Rosé.


2010 Domaine Couly-Dutheil Chinon Rosé.
ight red in color with a faint golden hue this rosé has a stunning cherry fruit perfume that is accented by a floral nuance. It has heaps of luscious cherry fruit flavors accented by a faint hint of spice. Rounded and flavorful the wine has a lot of charm and is balanced by a nice crispness on the finish. This is an irresistible and delicious rosé – Outstanding.   $10.99   Best Buy    Frank-Lin International, San Jose, CA 3-yellow-stars



To find value, look under the radar. This is something I have long advocated. It’s the old turning over rocks theory. In the wine world it’s called pulling corks or twisting caps. The point is to take a vinous trip to parts unknown. And, yes, it’s something I often do. Here’s yet another one. Ever hear of Cheverny? Probably not! If that is the case, then there is no time like the present to make a new wine friend. Although grapes have been grown here for a very long time, it is a relatively new appellation. Located in the middle of the Loire Valley in France, the grapes grown here are Sauvignon Blanc, Sauvignon Gris, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, and Arbois for the whites. And Pinot Noir, Gamay, Cabernet Franc, and Malbec are grown for the red wines and roses. So, unlike many other areas in France, there is quite a palate here from which to choose.


And if you thought Cheverny was under the radar, how about Cour Cheverny? This is a tiny appellation within Touraine that totals only about 125 acres. And the only grape grown here is Romorantin. These vines are believed to have been brought to this area by Francis I in the 16th century! Is that obscure enough for you? I hope so. Because, never fear, you are about to hear of why you should get familiar with Cour Cheverny.

Domaine Philippe Tessier

Philippe Tessier is very grower and producer located in Cheverny. His wines are well crafted, balanced, and delicious. They are also very affordable. This is an awesome combination that may not keep this Domaine under the radar for too much longer. So my advice is to get ‘em while you can! The wines of Domaine Philippe Tessier are selected by Thomas Calder and imported by Richmond Wine Imports, Richmond, CA

2009 Domaine Philippe Tessier Cheverny Rouge Le Point du Jour.
This is a gorgeous wine. It is made from grapes grown on 40 year old Pinot Noir vines with the addition of some Gamay. With a deep color the wine has a lovely dark cherry perfume with a floral undertone. It is soft, rounded and supple with lots of fruit showing a faint spiciness – Outstanding.  $11.99  Best Buy  3-yellow-stars


2010 Domaine Philippe Tessier Cheverny Rouge.
This wine is a blend of Gamay, Pinot Noir, and Cot (Malbec). It has a deep color and a lovely perfume of strawberries and raspberries. It is lush, rounded, and supple with heaps of strawberry and raspberry fruit. This is a really tasty wine that is very easy to drink – Outstanding.   $ 14.99  Best Buy   3-yellow-stars


2010 Domaine Philippe Tessier Cheverny Rose.
Pale salmon pink in color with a faint golden hue this wine has a subtle floral perfume. It is light and crisp with a restrained fruitiness. The flavors hint of peach with a faint floral citrus nuance. This rose is quite a contrast to the intense fruitness of the red wines from this domaine – Highly Recommended.   $14.99 2-yellow-stars



2009 Domaine Philippe Tessier Cheverny Sauvignon DeDe .
Hello! This totally under the radar wine is a stunner. It is a poster child for my definition of yin and yang which I love in all things that are consumable. So if this appeals to you, jump all over this one. The wine is light yellow gold in color and a sunning perfume of exotic fruit and melon with a faint citrus note. The delicious grapefruit and guava flavors are lush and rounded, but with a jolt of acidity on the finish. This is positively astounding and is really great with spicy Asian dishes – Outstanding Plus.  $22.99  Best Buy  3-n-half-yellow-stars



2009 Domaine Philippe Tessier Cour Cheverny Blanc.
This wine is made from grapes that are grown on very old Romorantin vines that are 60-85 years old. It is light yellow in color and has a lovely perfume with floral nuances and hints of citrus and almond. On the palate the flavors hint of citrus and almond with a faint touch of spice. This is a very elegant and flavorful wine with lovely fruit and a nice crispness – Outstanding.  $14.99  Best Buy  3-yellow-stars



Chateau d’Epiré


I have been following and drinking wine from this estate for a very long time. Kermit Lynch imports the wine and has a special cuvée made for him each year. It is consistently spectacular and a great value. I loved the 2009 last year and the 2010 while racier is no less stunning

Below is an introduction to this Chateau. It is taken directly from the Kermit Lynch website (www.kermitlynch.com [13] ) where you can find lots of great wines and a wealth of information.

One of the oldest and most celebrated domaines in Savennières, Chateau d’Epiré is rich in history, not only for its fabulous architectural rendition of the Petit Trianon of Versailles, but most especially for its exquisite wines. Savennières is situated just southwest of Angers, on the north bank of the Loire River. Vines have been cultivated there since the time of the Romans. The Plantagenet dynasty allowed for the first exports of the wine to be sent to Great Britian in the 11th century. The domaine itself has been in the Bizard family continuously since the 17th century. The most recent owners and caretakers of the land are Monsieur and Madame Luc Bizard. They own eleven hectares, nine of which are entirely dedicated to the cultivation of Pineau de la Loire, known today as Chenin Blanc. The château is exquisite, but the pièce de résistance is their winery, formerly a Romanesque chapel, which is from the 12th century. Truly a blessed wine!


Despite the beauty and timelessness of the building structures, it is the vineyard for which the domaine is best known. The Savennières from Epiré is regarded as Grand Cru. The domaine works primarily three parcels: La Croix Picot, Le Parc, and Le Hu-Boyau. It is the latter that sits just above another famous vineyard, La Coulée de Serrant. The soils here are rich, and the microclimate is ideal. Southern and south-eastern sun exposure brings ripeness to the grapes, while the proximity to the Loire River keeps the temperatures moderate. The subsoils are comprised of sandstone and schist, and the top soil is a beautiful blue slatey schist that covers the vineyard floors, lending nerve and firmness.


Now doesn’t that make you want to pay a visit to Chateau l’Epiré? And, hopefully, after you read my tasting notes below, you will want to buy the wine. I can only say that the 2010s are, once again, spectacular! Don’t miss them, especially the Cuvée Spéciale!!


2010 Chateau d’ Epiré Saviennères Grand Cru.
This wine is more forward than the Cuvée Spéciale. It is light yellow in color with a lovely floral perfume showing mineral and pear nuances. The wine has lovely fruit with hints of pear and exotic fruit. It is rounded, but with a nice underlying crispness showing faint hints of mineral and citrus – Outstanding.   $17.95  Best Buy 3-yellow-stars


2010 Chateau d’ Epiré Saviennères Grand Cru  Cuvée Spéciale.
This wine is blended by Kermit Lynch from grapes grown on 90 year old vines located in the best part of the vineyard. The wine is bottled without fining or filtering. Pale yellow in color this wine has a stunning perfume of minerals, citrus, and hints of pineapple. Crisp and racy it is stunningly complex with a mineral tone underlying the citrus fruit. There is also an intriguing hint of pineapple which should become more expressive as the wine ages. And, age it will. This is a wine that can be kept for a very, very long time – Exceptional.  $27.00  Best Buy  4-yellow-stars



Wine from Georgia? No I am not talking about the peach state. I am talking about Georgia the country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia. And I’ll bet that most of you have never had a wine from Georgia. But get ready. Georgia has some 500 different wine grape varietals and probably none that you know. So, based on what is happening in other parts of the world with the introduction of unusual grape varieties, it seems likely that we will see more wines from Georgia in the future. Here’s a start. Now only about 499 to go!

2008 Schuchmann Saperavi Kaheti Georgia.
The name Saperavi means dye and is so named for the characteristic dark color. Saperavi is also the most important wine of the region.This Saperavi is a very fruity and flavorful wine. It is dark in color and has a lovely plummy perfume with faint floral, spice tinges. It has lots of fruit hinting of plum and blackberry and is flavorful and rounded with a firm underlying structure – Highly Recommended.  $12.99   Daquopa Brands, Redmond, WA 2-yellow-stars


2005 Schuchmann Saperavi Vinoterra Kaheti Georgia.
This wine was made by fermenting the grapes in a clay pot that is buried in the ground. This is a technique that has been used in the region for some 1000 years. After fermentation, the wine is removed, separated from the solids, and aged for 24 months in wood before bottling. The wine is dark in color and has a plummy perfume with tinges of earthiness and tobacco. It is rich and round with plumy fruit and complex flavors hinting of earth, spice, and tobacco – Highly Recommended.    $25.99    Daquopa Brands, Redmond, WA 2-yellow-stars


I don’t ever remember having a German rosé. So maybe this is a first for me. That’s good because this one is delicious.

2010 Schnaitmann Rosé Evoe Wurttemberg
This is a lovely and unusual rosé made with 80% Pinot Noir and 20% Trollinger. It is pale salmon pink in color and has a lovely floral perfume with hints of cherries. On the palate the wine has subtle nuances of cherries and citrus with a  faint spiciness. With a very slight petillance, this rosé  is very crisp and tasty in a finesseful style – Outstanding.   $18.99   Cellars International, San Marcos, CA   3-yellow-stars





Wine has existed in Hungary since the Roman times. But, no one is around anymore to know much about that. What we do know is that in the last 100 years or so the wine industry in Hungary was devastated. First, a terrible plague of phylloxera destroyed many of the vines in the latter half of the 19th century. And, second communism in the next century resulted in a major deterioration in the quality of the wines. But, since the country was liberated, quality has been on the rise. Below are two delicious fruity wines that are made in a relatively dry style from different varieties of ancient grapes.


2009 Patricius Tokaji Sarga Muskotaly.
Sarga Muskotaly is one of ancient Hungarian grape varieties grown in Tokaji. It translates in English to Golden Muscat. The wine is pale yellow in color and it has an intense floral perfume with faint hint of spice and citrus. It has really lovely fruit that is floral with hints of spice, citrus, and almond. The finish is crisp with just a touch of balanced sweetness – Outstanding.    $17.99   Blue Danube Wine Company, Los Altos Hills, CA  3-yellow-stars



2009 Bott Pince Tokaji Harslevelu Hatari.
Hatari is a vineyard that is situated on the south facing slopes overlooking Erdobeny. Because of the rocky terrain and steep slopes as well as the age of the 40 year old vines, yields are very low. Harslevelu is another of the ancient Hungarian grape varieties that is grown in Tokaji. The growing conditions were ideal in 2009, but yields were low and only 47 cases of this wine were made.Light yellow gold in color the wine has a lovely intensely floral perfume with hints of peaches. It is supple and lush with loads of fruit – peaches, pears and citrus – with floral accents and a touch of minerality. The finish is crisp with just a hint of sweetness –  Outstanding.   $27.99   Blue Danube Wine Company, Los Altos Hills, CA  3-yellow-stars

Well, that’s it for now. Fall is here and here are a lot of wines from all over the globe to fall into. Bon Degustation!