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Friday, March 31, 2017

A Tour Of Sicily

 

Happy Friday, Joe Canal’s Wine Fans!

Last year, we put together an absolutely killer mixed case of French wines, some of which were very limited and never made it to our shelves. Every once in a while, we get our hands on a few wines that are truly special, but are also in relatively short supply. I simply couldn’t pass these up, and we now have a stellar 12 bottle mixed case of Sicilian wines available for 11 lucky wine drinkers.


 Let me give you the run down. First off, all of these wines are the result of sustainable, organic or biodynamic production. (Get used to hearing those 3 words, folks.) These are very small production wines, and are very unique. Those of you that aren’t familiar with wines from this Mediterranean region, get ready to fall in love. I’ve been on quite the Sicilian kick for the past few weeks, and it doesn’t seem to be ending anytime soon. The 12 bottles in this case are the best of our current lineup. There are a few more coming in that we just tasted. Don’t worry. These will be on the shelves soon.

Winemaker, Arianna Occhipinti is a total rock star in my book. Her wines are all a true expression of her love and respect for the terroir where her wines are produced. Occhipinti is located in Vittoria, in the southwest corner of Sicily. Her first wine was produced in 2004, and in 2005, her wines became internationally distributed. Her love definitely comes across in a big way when drinking her wines. We were able to get our hands on a case of 2 of her wines, and we jumped on it.

Il Frappato Terre Siciliane I.G.T. 2014


Frappato is commonly used as a blending grape, and I don’t know of many, if any wines made from it flying solo. It’s origins are that of a “peasant grape”, but this is no peasant wine. This Frappato comes from 40 year olds vines, and is made using only the indigenous yeast. “bitter, bloody and elegant” are the words she uses to describe this wine, and she considers this wine to be the one that most resembles her brave, original and rebellious nature.

Look for wild raspberry and blueberry, a hint of licorice, and absolutely none of the barnyard funk that’s so often associates with “natural wines” in this style. Her wines are classified I.G.T. as she doesn’t always like to age her wines in oak as long as is required by the authorities to have it classified as D.O.C.

Siccagno Nero D’Avola Terre Siciliane I.G.T. 2014


Siccagno is what the the people of Sicily call Nero D’Avola. This wine is fresh, fruity, wild and elegant. Once again, this wine is all naturally produced. Look for big, bright red fruit flavor, with sweet and earthy tannins. Some of you may with to decant this one for a short time, but I really love seeing how a wine evolves in the glass as I’m drinking it. Personally, I’d dive right in.

Marco De Bartoli Rosso de Marco Pignatello 2014


Pignatello, also known as Perricone, is another indigenous varietal to Sicily. De Bartoli is based in Marsala, in southern Sicily. This wine has plenty of fruit flavors, but some savory overtones as well. This wine is medium bodied, very soft, full of brambly fruit, a wonderful nose, and hints of herbs and sundried tomato. Organically produced. This is the only red Marco De Bartoli produces. The rest of his wines are Grappa, Marsala, and white wines.

Firriato Le Sabbie Dell’Etna Bianco D.O.C. 2015


From the volcanic folds marking the land of Castiglione di Sicilia, the vineyard creates a landscape of charming beauty. Etna is a triumph of nature, where vines have been companions to black lava stone and lemon-yellow broom. This wine bears witness to the land in which it is produced, captivating with the dazzling beauty of its colour and the clarity of the varietal aromas of the ripe white flesh of pears and peaches. The elegant tangy palate is the overriding taste distinguishing this blend of Carricante and Catarratto, made even more emblematic by its persistent freshness.

Passopisciaro Scinniri Rosso I.G.T. 2014


This wine is a blend of Nerello Mascalese, Cesanese, and Petit Verdot. Medium bodied from vineyards on the north side of Mount Etna. This wine is concentrated, yet elegant. Delicate, but meaty. This is one of the wines that really started my whole obsession with Sicilian wines. Hopefully, it will start yours as well.

Tenuta Delle Terre Nere Etna Rosso D.O.C. 2015


Made from very fine Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio from low yielding vineyards (35 Hl. Per hectar), both young and old.

The grapes are macerated until the end of fermentation. The wine then continues its life in wood until bottled roughly one year after harvest. Even young it is a distinguished wine. Fresh, fragrant, beautifully slender and with a fine grip, it has a natural polish, a stage presence, as it were. And, in aging, as its weave gathers into rich complexity, it is a wine for gentlemen. It is an aristocratically liberal wine: enjoy it with whatever food you wish, as long as its properly cooked.

Graci Etna Rosso 2014


This wine scored a 93 point score in Wine Enthusiast. "This fragrant red offers alluring scents of rose, red berry and cake spice. The radiant, structured palate is endowed with finesse, offering ripe black cherry, raspberry, licorice and flinty mineral. Firm, refined tannins and bright acidity provide the framework. Drink 2020 through 2025." - Kerin O'Keefe, Aug 2016

100% Nerello Mascalese.

Agricola Altomonte Antonino, Palizzi Rosso 2014


This wine is the only one in this lineup that comes from the mainland of Italy. It’s from Calabria, which is the “toe” of Italy. This wine is so good, that we had to make an exception. A blend of Nerello Mascalese and Nero D’Avola, and organic/sustainably produced.

A wine that exudes aromas of ripe red fruit, especially plum and cherry, in a gorgeous balance of structure and acidity. Tart red berries, earth tones of forest floor and rusticity. Rich in flavors, not heavy in the mouth, but explosive with spice and brazen but integrated tannins. Long and lingering. 
Great with braised meats and hard, salty cheeses.

The last 4 wines are from Tenuta Rapitala. Check out our blog post about them here.

Tenuta Rapitalà, Hugonis Cabernet Sauvignon 2009


Although the importer states that this is Cabernet Sauvignon only, there is a bit of Nero D’Avola blended in as well.

Deep red color, full and complex bouquet with definite varietal notes, very well structured, abundant tannins and a long and lingering aftertaste.

Tenuta Rapitalà, Sicilia Syrah Nadir 2014


Intense ruby-red color with damask-violet tints. Generous bouquet with touches of ripe fruit and the typical spices of this grape variety, with attractive hints of vanilla. The flavor is full and delicate, with soft and elegant tannins. A balanced marriage between the depth of this product and the uniqueness of this exceptional terroir.

I’ve gotten so many customers hooked on this one, that’s it’s difficult to keep on the shelves.

Tenuta Rapitalà, Sicilia Nuhar 2013


Bright, ruby-red color and a bouquet with strong aromas of dried and syrup fruits. The palate is warm and full with a balanced acidity and elegant tannins. The finish is long and lingering and at this point, we discover again the classic aromas of a Pinot Noir ripened by the hot, Sicilian sun.

This is a blend of Pinot Nero (Pinot Noir) and Nero D’Avola

Tenuta Rapitalà, Terre Siciliane Chardonnay Grand Cru 2015


100% Chardonnay. Aged in barriques, this Sicilian Chardonnay is dominated by wood. It opens with aromas of oak extract, toast, vanilla and butterscotch that all carry over to the warm palate alongside warm notes of lemon drop, yellow apple skin, walnut.

I hope that you enjoy this selection of wines as much as I do. Only 11 of these cases are available. Wait. Make that 10. One of them is going to my house.

If purchased separately, this wine lineup would run you close to $400. Special price for this limited offering, only $309.99. Once they’re gone, they’re gone.

Cheers! -Bob 

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Wines from Long Island, New York

I'll be the first person to admit that I've developed a rather eclectic wine palate over the past several years. I'm lucky to work in a place where trying new things are encouraged, and as a team, our wine department has come a long way as far as offering unique selections from small wineries. My personal interests in certain wines shift from time to time, and I'm always looking for something new to recommend to our customers. I've got to say that I've recommended some pretty obscure bottles, and for me that's the fun. The more obscure, the better.

So, can someone please tell me why everyone looks at me like I have 2 heads every time I mention wines from Long Island? "Long Island wines? Really?!!" Yes. Really. And boy are they good!
Many of our customer are familiar with wines from the Finger Lakes area of upstate New York, and some of them are excellent. Long Island is a completely different climate, so we suggest, for now, forgetting everything you think you might expect from these selections, and just go with it.

Allow me to introduce you to 2 new wines (new to us, anyway) from Wölffer Estate. These just landed at our Fire Road location on Wednesday, and have already sparked some interest. I don't necessarily recommend always judging a wine by it's label, but they did do a pretty nice job. I would also like to mention that Wölffer Estate is 100% sustainable with their entire production, which should make you feel good, not just when you drink them, but also the next day.

Wölffer Estate Chardonnay 2014



100% Chardonnay.

REGION:
Appellation: Long Island. Produced and bottled in Sagaponack, New York.
Under the meticulous care of Winemaker/Partner Roman Roth and Vineyard Manager Rich Pisacano, our vineyard encompasses 55 acres of sustainably farmed vines. Our unique combination of Bridgehampton loam soil and ocean breezes from the Atlantic, only 2.6 miles away, provide Bordeaux-like conditions, perfect to achieve the balance of ripeness and acidity of Wölffer's signature style: European elegance paired with the distinct typicity of Long Island terroir. When grapes are sourced outside our vineyard, they must meet rigorous Wölffer quality standards.


WINEMAKER’S NOTES:
Bright gold in color, this Chardonnay has fantastic aromas of ripe peach and apricot topped with a cream. The mouth-feel is zaftig with beautiful play between the pure, ripe fruit, sun-drenched and concentrated berry flavors and elegant acidity. The finish is long with creamy lees, plush alcohol and lingering stone-fruit flavors. A very versatile, food-friendly wine with great aging potential.

Winery direct price, $19. About $15/bottle from Joe Canal's!

Wölffer Estate Cabernet Franc 2014



75% Cabernet Franc, 22% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Sauvignon

Appellation:
Long Island, New York. Produced and bottled in Sagaponack, New York.
Under the meticulous care of Winemaker/Partner Roman Roth and Vineyard Manager Rich Pisacano, our vineyard encompasses 55 acres of sustainably farmed vines. Our unique combination of Bridgehampton loam soil and ocean breezes from the Atlantic, only 2.6 miles away, provide Bordeaux-like conditions, perfect to achieve the balance of ripeness and acidity of Wölffer's signature style: European elegance paired with the distinct typicity of Long Island terroir. When grapes are sourced outside our vineyard, they must meet rigorous Wölffer quality standards.


Winemaker's Notes:
Dark red almost black in color. Wonderful aromas of cassis, prunes, red cherry, and toasted sandalwood fill the glass. The mouth-feel is full, but not heavy, with lots of fruit, more cherry, blueberry, and ripe plums. Well balanced by ripe tannins, a beautiful acidity and classic crushed stone minerality. The finish is elegant and long with lovely toasted oak notes and dark chocolate. We are very proud of this Estate Cabernet Franc.

Winery direct price, $24. About $20/bottle from Joe Canal's!

We haven't yet tasted their entire lineup, but were first introduced to their wines at the end of last summer. We've already gotten quite a few requests for their Summer in a Bottle Rosé. Don't worry. It will be here soon.

Another Long Island winery worth mentioning for sure is Shinn Estate. This producer really cares about the environment, their carbon footprint, and are using biodynamic farming practices to ensure that their wines are made in a way that respects nature. We're totally cool with that!

Shinn Estate Vineyards 2014 Estate Merlot



Let me give you a heads up before you try this one. This is no California Merlot. The climate in Long Island is more similar to parts of Bordeaux than anyplace else. Trust me. That's a good thing.

Our Signature Merlot shows aromas of sweet spices, toasted herbs and minerals while expressing classic flavors of black cherry, chocolate, coffee and vanilla. We recommend drinking our Merlot upon release though it will age well and continue to evolve for 5-7 years.

Winery direct price, $26. About $16 from Joe Canal's!

Shinn Estate Vineyards Robert Schreiber Vineyard Riesling 2014



Look for more of a drier, more elegant style, than an overtly sweet Finger Lakes style. Fans of whites from Alsace, France are going to just love this one! Elegant, with plenty of ripe white peach and nectarine, with a lingering, almost tingly mineral finish. Recommend taking this one out to pair with something spicy. This wine will nail it!

This wine is already sold out at the winery. We have just over a case of this left. About $16 at Joe Canal's!

We also just tasted Shinn Estate's red blend. I thought it was terrific. Anyone interested, just say the word, and I'll have it on the shelf in no time.

If you enjoyed reading this, think about how much better it would have been if you were drinking any of these 4 great picks. I hope you'll stop in and check these out.

Cheers! -Bob

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Wines of Elio Grasso, Monforte d’Alba, Italy

Bob Miller - Wine Director for Joe Canal's, and Winemaker, Gianluca Grasso (June, 2015)

There are a few winemakers that I would consider to be heavy hitters. Gianluca Grasso, and before him, his Father, Elio Grasso were pretty high up on that list. They make some of the finest single varietal wines in Piedmont, Italy, and I'm very proud to say that we've got at least some of them on the shelves here at Joe Canal's. The wines of Elio Grasso were some of the first wines in this style that I tried, and they made such an impression on me, that I'm not sure if I would feel entirely comfortable working at a store that didn't have at least a couple of their wines available. Lucky for me, I'm the guy that orders them, so no worries, other than there are times that they're simply not available. All great wines are made in finite quantities, and sometimes the wait for the next vintage can be a long one.

I had the privilege of meeting Gianluca on one of his visits to the states about 2 years ago, and for me, it was like meeting a rock star. There's nothing like tasting wines with the winemaker standing in front of you. I'm not really known for pulling any punches when critiquing wines, but I already loved these wines, so having him there to describe more in depth about each particular wine, each different vintage, to share his thoughts, was an absolute treat.

Let's talk about the wines, shall we?

Langhe Chardonnay Educato 2015

This new vintage just arrived at our Fire Road store this afternoon, and we weren't sure until just yesterday if it wouldn't be pushed back until next week, as it just landed in New York on Monday. I already have a few regular customers hooked on this one, and I ordered a few extra cases just to be sure we don't run out for a while.
The reason for the name "Educato" is that Chardonnay isn't originally indigenous to northern Italy, but they thought it would work very well in their terroir, and it turns out, they were absolutely right. This one is a winner!



Municipality of production: Monforte d’Alba
Grape: Chardonnay
First vintage: 1990
Number of bottles produced each year: 7,000
Vineyard area under vine: one hectare
Aspect and height above sea level: southeast-facing, 400-450 meters
Soil type: moderately loose-packed, slightly sandy, limestone-based
Vine training system and planting density: Modified Casarsa-trained at 4,500 vines per hectare
Average age of productive vines: 30 years
Harvest period and method: first 10 days of September, manual harvest

The vinification procedure for Langhe Chardonnay "Educato" involves alcoholic fermentation in french oak barriques. After completing malolactic fermentation, the Chardonnay "Educato", mature in barriques of french oak for 7 months. Bottling takes place in April-May.

Dolcetto d’Alba dei Grassi 2015

We just tasted the new vintage of this one a few weeks ago, and we're happy that it's back on the shelves at our Fire Road location.



Municipality of production: Monforte d’Alba
Grape: Dolcetto
First vintage: 1980
Number of bottles produced each year: 20,000
Vineyard area under vine: 3.2 hectares
Aspect and height above sea level: southeast-facing, 280 meters
Soil type: moderately loose-packed, clay and limestone-based
Vine training system and planting density: Guyot-trained at 4,500 vines per hectare
Average age of productive vines: 30 years
Harvest period and method: second and third 10 days of September, manual harvest

The vinification procedure for Dolcetto d'Alba dei Grassi involves alcoholic fermentation in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks, with daily pumping over. After malolactic fermentation, the wine stays in stainless steel untill bottling in April-May

Barolo Gavarini Chiniera 2010

Don't be in a rush to drink this one. Although it's very approachable now, according to the winemaker, the 2010 vintage can handle laying down for a few more years. We actually sold out of the 2011 vintage a while ago, and that was the "drink it now" vintage, according to Gianluca Grasso.



Municipality of production: Monforte d’Alba
Grape: Nebbiolo
First vintage: 1978
Number of bottles produced each year: 14,000
Vineyard area under vine: 3 hectares
Aspect and height above sea level: south-facing, 350-400 meters
Soil type: moderately loose-packed, slightly sandy, limestone-based
Vine training system and planting density: Guyot-trained at 4,500 vines per hectare
Average age of productive vines: 30 years
Harvest period and method: second 10 days of October, manual harvest

The vinification procedure for Barolo Gavarini Chiniera involves alcoholic fermentation in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks, with daily pumping over. After completing malolactic fermentation, the wine matures in 25-hectolitre barrels of Slavonian oak. Bottling normally takes place in August. The Barolo Gavarini Chiniera then stays in the binning cellar for 8-10 months before release.

Barolo Ginestra Casa Maté

Same deal as the Chiniera as far a how long you can hold onto it, but slightly different expression from the micro-climate in a different single vineyard. I still can't make up my mind which one is my favorite, but it's a great lesson in terroir drinking these side by side. Their old world, almost Burgundian approach is very evident in all of their wines.



Municipality of production: Monforte d’Alba
Grape: Nebbiolo
First vintage: 1978
Number of bottles produced each year: 14,000
Vineyard area under vine: 3 hectares
Aspect and height above sea level: south-facing, 300-350 meters
Soil type: moderately loose-packed, slightly clayey, limestone-based
Vine training system and planting density: Guyot-trained at 4,500 vines per hectare
Average age of productive vines: 40 years
Harvest period and method: second 10 days of October, manual harvest

The vinification procedure for Barolo Ginestra Casa Maté involves alcoholic fermentation in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks, with daily pumping over. After completing malolactic fermentation, the wine matures in 25-hectolitre barrels of Slavonian oak. Bottling normally takes place in August. The Barolo Ginestra Casa Maté then stays in the binning cellar for 8-10 months before release.
As if these wines don't already make you feel good enough already, you'll feel better knowing that the Grasso estate adheres to very strict organic farming practices. Stop in to grab your bottles. These won't disappoint you one bit.

Cheers! -Bob