It’s been a busy few weeks for us LUSHes and we are loaded with new stuff for you to try! Here is a primer on some – by no means all – of them. Stay tuned for updates about upcoming wines and distillates. We will be posting here every week – promise!
2007, Nusserhof Sudtirol Lagrein Riserva, Alto Adige, Italy
The label, with its mix of German and Italian, already gives you an idea of this wine’s fascinating background. This wines hails from the Northern confines of Italy, a region nestled in the Alps, at the intersection of the Swiss and Austrian borders. It is known as Alto Adige in Italian, and Sudtirol in German – the language spoken in this region of what is technically still Italy is primarily German, rather than Italian, and most everything there, including this label, is bilingual.
Lagrein is one of the main red grapes grown in Alto Adige, along with Pinot Noir. Unlike Pinot however, Lagrein is almost exclusively grown in this region, and it is as multifaceted a grape as its environment. A good example will have the transparency, purity and silky tannins of pinot, along with the deeper fruit and slightly more brooding tones of a Northern Rhone Syrah. With age, it acquires a hint of gaminess which will also be familiar to Syrah lovers.
The producer here is Heinrich Mayr, from the Nusserhof winery, whose south-facing slopes offer ideal exposure for growing Lagrein. The wine is fermented using wild yeasts, and this Riserva sees no new oak, so what you get here is a very pure and traditional expression of Ladrein from Northern Italy. This will be a joy for those of you who like fuller bodied Pinot, or anyone curious about discovering a new wine region and its traditions!
2009 Napolini Rosso dei Monti, Umbria, Italy
A newcomer to our beloved 10$ rack, we believe this will be your go to mid-spring grilling wine! From a winery that has been in the same family from generations, the farming is bo0th traditional and respectful of the environment. A cornucopia of local (Sangiovese, Sagrantino…) and european (merlot) varieties are blended and fermented together to make this wine, which sits for a year in stainless steel before bottling. This is deep and spicy from extended maceration with the skins, but not so much as to be heavy or too tannic. On the contrary, the texture is just peppery and a little rustic, and there is good acidity to keep things fresh and food friendly. This will do wonders with beefy and chewy cuts like hanger or NY strip. $10
NV Cattin Brut Cremant d’Alsace, Alsace, France
This is a Domaine that was founded in 1720 as a general purpose farm which also made wine, and became entirely dedicated to wine in the 1850s. The Maison Cattin became really famous, when one of the Cattin brothers, Joseph, opened in the early 20th century an Alsatian restaurant in Paris called la Cigogne, where his family’s wine took a prominent place on the list. The restaurant was a huge success, and as rich parisians and foreigners flocked to La Cigogne, the popularity of the Cattin wines started growing.
The winery has been growing since, reaching the size of 123 acres in the eighties with holdings in some of the best vineyards of the Alsace region. They make wine from all of the traditional varieties of the region, from riesling and sylvaner to pinot noir and pinot blanc. This Cremant is 100% hand harvested pinot blanc from a variety of parcels owned by domaine Cattin. It is fermented in stainless steal, then bottled and goes through a second fermentation in bottle. The wine is aged for at least a year in bottle before it’s sent to your table. This has the weight and fruitiness of pinot blanc, and low acidity. Ideal for aperitif or daytime drinking. $16.50
2010 Poderi Sette Terre, Pecorino, Terre di Chieti, Italy
First let make clear that the Pecorino involved here is not a cheese, but a grape variety. Sheep have always had a tendency to munch on the grape, and its name comes from the Italian word for sheep, pecora. Done.
This is a variety that went through a near-death experience. Pecorino had almost gone extinct thirty years ago, when global, critic-pleasing, money-making varieties slowly started to uprooting acres and acres of traditional grapes from the terroirs where they were supposed to grow. Thankfully it is now in the midst of a resurgence, and pecorino is actually growing.. This is probably because of the grapes delicious, as well as its tendency to naturally produce low yields and grapes which are naturally resistant to mildew. This is a lighter, fresh wine with a lively acidity and a minerally, almost salty finish. Amazing with fresher, softer goat cheeses. $10
2011 Tami Grillo, Sicily, Italy
Another wine, white this time, from Arianna Occhipinti’s negociant label, Tami. We all know the Nero d’Avola, and this is a white that is made along the same lines: a 100% native sicilian grape variety, left to ferment on its own, with very little sulfur added, only at bottling. This wine has the richness and the ripe aromatics of a warmer climate white, while retaining the acidity and minerality to make it feel incredibly fresh. There’s a peachy note to the nose, alongside some pretty stunning floral aromatics that are balanced by a really delicious savory and minerally streak – think ever-so-slightly-dirty martini, with a sprinkle of sea salt. $17.75
2006 Roger Belland, Santenay-Beauregard 1er Cru, Burgundy, France
Pinot noir from one of the most feminine and elegant – and not completely out of reach to non-millionaires – appellations in Burgundy. Santenay produces both red and white wines that are known for their versatility: in the cellar, they’re delicious and generous right off the starting blocks, with suave tannins and very pretty and delineated aromas, but they’re known to have enough structure to mature and develop classic mature Burgundy notes of wet earth while retaining the acidity and the fruit to keep them fresh. Versatility at the dinner table too of course: this will pair gorgeously with pretty much anything (make it fancy though, there are only a few thousands bottles produced from Belland’s tiny holdings in the appellation), but somehow squab or duck, or even a good old roast chicken seem ideal. The Belland domaine has been in the family for 6 generations and this particular bottling is made in very small quantities. 30% of the grapes are not destemmed before crushing, which will add a certain amount of structure and help the wine age better. It also sees a bit of new wood after fermentation, but by now the wood has integrated and doesn’t feel like a separate element. The Domaine says this should reach peak drinking at 8 years of age. It is 7 now, and drinking beautifully already! $40
2010 Pinot Noir, Starr Ridge Vineyard, Davis Family Vineyards, Russian River Valley, CA
There’s a lot that could be said about Guy Davis and his wines, single vineyard Pinots, Chardonnays and Syrahs from the Russian River Valley. They’re made with love in very small batches. I have recently come across this testimonial, from someone who goes by the name Mindy T in Chicago wine circles:
“a super cool wine from a super cool man, Guy Davis. This is called 2010 Starr Ridge and was given 93 points by Parker. The Starr Ridge Vineyard is owned by Guy’s friend and is the warmest of his PN sites, being north of the transition where the Russian River turns west toward the Pacific Ocean….lush, juicy dark cherry, mint, flowers and the coolest spices that float from the glass. This is a Pinot that can age but is delicious at the moment.” $48.50
Petal and Thorn, Imbue
Our trusted source Mindy T says “this might be the coolest thing on the face of earth.” What else is there to add? Well, quite a bit, actually.
The base wine of this beauty is an Oregon Pinot Gris, which was reinforced to 18% by adding a brandy distilled from the same wine. The wine is then macerated with a mix of ten dried botanicals, sourced from organic producers when possible. The idea behind this poetically named wine is to find a balance between the sweetness and acidity of a tokaji or a Sauternes, and the herbal, medicinal bitterness of an amaro. Pour over a few ice cubes for aperitif. $34.50
2009 Ben Marco Expresivo, Mendoza, Argentina
There’s just a lot going on here. This is Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon, peppered with a hint of Syrah and framed by a touch of Tannat and Petit Verdot, all grown on the high perched vineyards of Mendoza. This is a Bordeaux blend taken on an Argentine honeymoon. The average age of these vines is a whopping 42 years, which allows the perfectly farmed fruit to express an earthy sense of place on top of the warm cherry and cocoa note. To add some spice and structure to this already luscious experience, this wine has seen extended aging in all new French oak. This makes Ben Marco a great candidate for the cellar or the decanter – in any case, it calls for steak, the bloodier the better. $21
2011 Antxiola, Getariako Txakolina, Basque Country, Spain
Don’t let yourself be intimidated by all the Xs and the consonants, this is drinking wine in its purest form, tart, fizzy liquid stones to be guzzled in large quantities. A light effervescence and low alcohol levels (9-10%) make this the mineraly Basque cousin of Portuguese Vinho Verde. Getariako Txakolina is a rather new appellation for what is a very old Basque wine – officially recognized as a DO in 1989, when Txakoli was if not extinct mostly forgotten and home made. This is a perfect Spring sipper, and will work perfectly in most places where Riesling is called for duty. $18