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Nicoletta Bocca: Terroir Mastery and Fantastic Wines from Langhe

Thursday, November 17, 2016 2:24:59 PM America/Los_Angeles

Nicoletta Bocca has been the driving force at San Fereolo since she acquired the property in 1992, during which time she has mastered the terroir of her Valdibà subzone and completed the conversion to certified biodynamic (Demeter). This estate is considered to be among the greatest references for the terroir of Dogliani, which is located immediately south of Barolo in the Langhe. The Dogliani DOCG is home to some of the greatest Dolcetto vineyards in the Piemonte, and this appellation accounts for the majority of the estate’s 12 hectares under vine.

At San Fereolo the oldest Dolcetto vines were planted in 1936, while the youngest date back to 1978. The finest sources are destined for the flagship “San Fereolo” cuvée. In addition to the Dolcetto holdings, San Fereolo has several important parcels of Barbera, which are assembled with a touch of Nebbiolo for a Langhe Rosso cuvée known as “Austri.”

In both cases, with regards to Dolctto and Barbera, Nicoletta Bocca finds greatness in wine grapes others would dismiss as secondary.  She has the vision and patience to age her wines for an extended period of time in the bottle, effectively negating all assumptions that these are varieties that cannot age- to the contrary, they can (and do) reach extraordinary heights- perhaps rivaling some of the great Nebbiolo-based wines of Barolo and Barbaresco.

Austri Langhe Rosso $29.98 [301076]

While much of the Piemonte eagerly pushes the greatest wines to market as soon as they are in bottle, “Austri” is one of two cuvées from San Fereolo that offer a patient alternative. A study in terroir, cépage, and evolution, we were stunned by the beautiful consistency when we first tasted through a vertical of this wine. Generally 95% Barbera and 5% Nebbiolo, this ranks among the greatest expressions of Barbera you may ever experience. Nicoletta treats the wine with a high degree of respect, allowing it to evolve through 3 years of elevage in large, neutral oak, followed by another 3 to 4 years in bottle.

San Fereolo Dogliani $29.95 [301754]

The most important wine of the estate, the Dolcetto for the top wine is sourced from parcels found in prime positions, as well as the oldest vines of the estate. The 7-year wait from harvest to release reflects the importance of the “San Fereolo” to Nicoletta, who carefully tends the wine through its 3 years in large barrel before a 3-4 year hibernation in the bottle cellar. Our spring 2015 tasting of each vintage from 2001 to 2008 revealed a consistent vein of dense, warm fruit, which spoke of the Langhe source. Fresh mineral notes, mint, licorice and savory elements permeated each expression, while a lively freshness was alive in every wine, including the 14-year old 2001 vintage.

Comments | Posted By Toby Sharp

Italian Dreams: Traveling to Castello di Meleto

Friday, October 7, 2016 4:11:13 PM America/Los_Angeles

Castello di Meleto 1
Italian Dreams: Traveling to Castello di Meleto

by Beate Martin

During a recent family trip to Italy, we visited the charming Castello di Meleto estate, located in Tuscany between the ancient cities of Siena and Florence. The place looks like something out of a fairy tale. My seven-year-old daughter insisted that there must be a princess living somewhere in the castle. We were greeted by Gabrielle with a wonderfully refreshing sparkling Rosé, which immediately perked us up after a three hour car drive.

Castello di Meleto 2The castle, which once belonged to the Benedictine monks of the Coltibuono Abbey, dates back to 12th Century. It is located at the heart of the estate and is surrounded by Meleto’s wonderful vineyards. We were invited to a private tour of the vineyards and the castle by the sales and marketing director, Michele Contartese. Following this was an amazing wine tasting and wonderful lunch at the Meleto estate.

One of our favorite wines at the tasting was the single vineyard Chianti Classico Riserva 2012Vigna Casi” (100% Sangiovese). It is super rich with lots of fresh cherry and berry fruit, chocolate notes and fine, round tannins. Rich yet refreshing! This is a great wine to pair with many classic fall dishes such as long-cooked meats and stews. It was awarded 90 Points by Wine Advocate and 91 Points by James Suckling.

Another favorite was the 2011 Borgaio Rosso Toscano, made from 70% Sangiovese with 30% Merlot, a delicious red with lots of fresh sweet berry fruit, excellent acidity, round tannins and a lush mouthfeel. It is the ideal partner for classic Italian dishes such as pasta with marinara and/or meatballs, and pizza. A real gem for under $10! Both wines are available at our store.

Castello di Meleto 3We want to express a special thank you to Michele, Gabrielle and the welcoming Meleto staff that made our visit so magical and informative.

If you are looking for an enchanted, charming place to relax and to enjoy great wines look no further. Just one more tip-- Don’t forget your swim suit! The Estate has two amazing swimming pools overlooking the rolling Tuscan hills. It is the perfect way to cool off under the Tuscan sun.

For more information regarding Castello di Meleto visit their website http://www.castellomeleto.it

Comments | Posted By Toby Sharp

Paso Robles in Springtime!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016 12:13:33 PM America/Los_Angeles

By Dan Williams, North American Wine Buyer
With a little help from the internet...

Paso Robles

Ahh...the return to Paso Robles for one of my favorite events in the wine industry! Hospice du Rhône is an organization that focuses on growers, producers, and wines made from the 22 varieties grown in their “motherland” of the Rhône Valley of France. If you’ve ever heard of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Condrieu, Hermitage, or Côtes-du Rhône, then you are already familiar with these grapes, including Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Viognier, Roussanne, Grenache Blanc and many others. The Hospice du Rhône grand tasting allowed the trade and consumers alike to taste some of the most prestigious wines produced in the world from these grapes, from regions such as France, California, Washington, Spain and Australia.

This annual event took a hiatus from the town of Paso Robles for several years, but April of 2016 would mark the triumphant return of the several-days-long Hospice du Rhône event and the organization’s grand tasting on the final day of the festival. In the past, we could taste the upcoming releases from Saxum Vineyard, several 100-point wines from Clos St. Jean, chat with Christophe Barron and taste his Cayuse, then speak to the “new kids” taking the region by storm. One year, these kids ended up being Scott and Viquel Hawley from Torrin; a winery whose high-scoring wines are one of the hardest to get out of Paso. If we hadn’t gone to this tasting, there’s a good chance we might not be able to get their wines! Basically, we knew this had the makings of the best “working” trip of 2016! As soon as word was released of this event’s return and tickets made available for purchase, our French wine buyer and myself bought our tickets that very day.

Honestly, Paso Robles is the perfect spot for this tasting. While red wine blends are produced throughout California, it seems that nowhere do they make them as superbly as they do in Paso Robles. The highest rated wines from the region are blends of these Rhône varieties, and despite their already enormous appeal and quality, they keep getting better and better every year!

Ok...so let’s talk a little bit about Paso Robles a.k.a El Paso de Robles, a.k.a. “The Pass of the Oaks.” This American Viticultural Appellation (AVA) is home to more than 180 wineries and 26,000 vineyard acres focusing on premium wine production. Located in California’s Central Coast Super AVA, it is the fastest growing region in the state. The distinct microclimates and diverse soils, combined with warm days and cool nights, make growing conditions ideal for producing more than 40 wine varietals from Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot to Syrah, Viognier, Roussanne and Zinfandel.

Paso Robles Wine Country is centrally located between San Francisco and Los Angeles along Highway 101 in San Luis Obispo County. The Paso Robles AVA’s western boundary is just six miles from the Pacific Ocean, and the AVA sits on the inland side of the Santa Lucia coastal mountains and north of the Cuesta Grade. This large, diverse appellation is comprised of a number of distinctive grape growing regions generally characterized by rolling hills east of the Salinas River and steeper hillsides, cut by small canyons, west of the Salinas River. The major geographical features of the area are the Santa Lucia Range, the Salinas River Valley and the Templeton Gap.

Epoch Concrete Tanks
Concrete Tanks at Epoch...

Sometimes referred as the wild west of California, outlaws often made their way to Paso Robles for “down time” to lead a “more quiet” part of their lives…such as Frank & Jessie James. While Cabernet Sauvignon remains the leading variety for the Paso Robles appellation, accounting for 38 percent of the region’s planted wine grape acreage, the Rhône varieties are the region's shining stars. From 1973 to 1977, Gary Eberle and Cliff Giacobine planted 700 acres, including the first modern commercial acreage of Syrah in the state and established Estrella River Winery.

Since the early 1990s, Paso Robles wines have proven consistent gold medal winners and have been featured regularly in the top rankings of national and international wine reviews. A milestone in the worldwide recognition of Paso Robles Wine Country as a premier wine region came in 2000 when JUSTIN Vineyards & Winery’s Bordeaux-style ISOSCELES was named one of the top 10 wines in the world by the Wine Spectator. That status was only recently surpassed by Saxum’s 2007 James Berry Vineyard red blend that earned the #1 spot on that list.

Paso Robles is geologically different from other California wine growing regions. Although the region has over 45 soil series, the truly unique feature about Paso Robles AVA soils is the predominance of desirable calcareous soils found throughout the region that are not typical of California’s other viticultural areas. Due to geologic uplift, calcareous shale is plentiful in Paso Robles’ west-side hills, where dense, clay-based soils combine with relatively plentiful rainfall to make it possible for some vines to be dry-farmed without supplemental irrigation. More granular forms of broken down calcareous shale is found on the eastern hills and valley of the AVA. On both sides of the Salinas River, gently rolling hills are covered with sandy, loamy soils.

The proximity of the Pacific Ocean, orientation of numerous canyons and valleys, and varying elevations produce many different distinct microclimates in the Paso Robles AVA. The area benefits from the largest swing between high daytime and low nighttime temperatures of any region in California as a result of the cool marine air that flows east through the Templeton Gap. Daytime high temperatures in the summer typically fall between 85 and 105 degrees Fahrenheit, but nighttime low temperatures usually can drop by 40 to 50 degrees, cooled by a marine layer that moves over the region in the mid to late afternoon. This diurnal fluctuation is considered a key by winemakers and wine grape growers to attain the intense varietal character displayed in wine grapes from the area.

Below are just some of the highlight wineries that we visited while on our trip. Feel free to stop by any/all of these gems, and let them know you heard about them from your friends at Hi-Time!

Halter Ranch

Over the course of the weekend we made several visits to Halter Ranch. This vineyard and winery is one of the most stunning I’ve ever come across in the Paso Robles region, and their friendly staff always made us feel like “one of the gang”! Their estate vineyard sits amidst a 1000-acre ranch on Adelaida Road on the west side of Paso Robles. The vineyard was initiated in 1996 and has since been expanded to its present 280 acres, while the majority of the remaining 720 acres are left native. The vines occupy the steepest, most south-facing slopes on the property, which reach an elevation of 1,750 feet and provide excellent water drainage and sun exposure. These slopes are also rich in limestone, a feature of many of the world’s finest vineyards.


Halter Ranch’s emphasis on quality in the vineyard is complemented by their commitment to environmentally responsible grape-growing practices. Farming sustainably means relying whenever possible on organic methods of fertilization, weed removal, pest control and mildew protection. In 2008 Halter Ranch achieved the SIP Certification (Sustainability in Practice), a rigorous, third party review which certifies their commitment to sustainable practices. They have 19 grape varieties (mostly Bordeaux and Rhone varieties ) planted in 77 separate vineyard blocks delineated primarily based on soil types, which range from calcareous to clay loam with shale and sandstone deposits. The combination of our well-drained soils, low-yielding clones and high-density plantings (which force the vines to compete for water and nutrients), results in small crops of intensely flavored fruit, the prerequisite for making superb wines. In particular, the standout wines for us were their Rose ($17.95, #228190), Grenache Blanc ($23.95, #228130), and of course, their flagship Cabernet-blend, The Ancestor ($43.95, #228140).

While Paso Robles generally is a warm growing region, vineyards on the west side of Highway 101 enjoy a markedly cooler climate due to their proximity to the Pacific Ocean and its cooling breezes. This ensures our grapes ripen slowly and evenly, developing ripe, concentrated fruit flavors while retaining healthy levels of acidity. Because Halter Ranch receives adequate winter rainfall, the need for irrigation during the growing season is minimal, ensuring small berry and cluster sizes, which also promote full flavor development.

McPrice Myers

 

What is there to say about McPrice Myers that we haven’t already said before? This guy got into wine when he was working at a boutique grocery store down here in Orange County, and fell in love with wine so much that he decided to leave SoCal and head up to SloCal (San Luis Obispo) to learn how to make wine. In the years since, he has gained the reputation for being one of the most knowledgeable winemakers in Paso. On top of that, he has this knack for finding out the latest and best vineyards before anybody else in the region!

Mac has recently focused on tweaking and fine-tuning his entry-level wines. We got a preview of them last year just as they were getting ready to be bottled. Now that they are released, these are some of the best value wines we feel are coming out of the region! His Right Hand Man Syrah sells for only $19.95 (#202270), yet tastes comparable to others that sell for $30 or higher! His High on the Hog Grenache for $23.95 (#241050) is comparable to some of the best modern-styled wines coming out of Spain’s Priorat area, and his Pound for Pound Zinfandel ($29.95, #202220) is, as the name implies, pound for pound one of our favorite Zins in our store!

 

Alta Colina

Bob Tillman went from working with high-end computers to working with grapes. For years he looked for the right property-- when this property became available, he jumped on it! Spanish for “high hill”, Alta Colina is now regarded as one of the best vineyards for Grenache and Mourvedre, and Bob has become a mentor for many of the up-and-coming winemakers in Paso Robles!

Maggie Tilman

But Alta Colina is a family affair, as his daughter Maggie (pictured above) does the sales and marketing of the family’s wines. I had heard Maggie’s name a few times while asking winemakers “who am I not visiting that I really should?” They told me that the Alta Colina wines were fantastic, and that Maggie was one of the most bad ass women in the region, she really knows her stuff, she’s amazingly cool, down to earth, and just fun to hang around! In between Paso trips, Maggie gave me a call and came to our store. I’ll tell you right now, those rumors were true as the day is long! So this time around, I felt we just had to stop by her family’s property and see what they were doing.

From the top of the property you get practically a 360 degree view of the warm Adelaida District, and see just how dramatic the vineyard is. Grapes are planted on many of the steepest slopes on the property, and they have no problem changing farming techniques for even the smallest section of their vineyards if they feel it will improve the overall quality of the grapes and the resulting wine. After spending the morning with Maggie, it was back down the hill to their tasting room to sample the finished wines. I’ll tell you right now, these wines may be big, flavorful, and hedonistic, but they do not lack balance! As stand-alone varietals, their 2012 Mourvedre for $47.95 (#200460) and 2012 Grenache for $49.95 (#200160) are some of my favorites out of Paso!

Brian Benson

Brian Benson

This year, one of the biggest stars of the tasting was Brian Benson, whose wines have garnered quite the reviews from the likes of Wine Spectator. I was pretty happy to finally get a chance to taste his wines, as some of his wines are made in quantities fewer than 100 cases and I’ve read about them for several years. To me, the true shining star of his superb lineup was his GSM blend from the Caliza Vineyard ($54.95, #202300). A blend of 60% Grenache, 30% Syrah, and 10% Mourvedre, this rich, full-bodied, yet lively wines showed intense cherry, raspberry, plum, soy, grilled meat, white pepper spice, a hint of scorched earth, and velvety tannin. In fact...I think I might take this with me the next time I go to my favorite steak house!

Comments | Posted By Toby Sharp

Cognac Louis Jolliet: Special Offer

Wednesday, July 20, 2016 1:48:25 PM America/Los_Angeles


We have a special offer on Louis Jolliet Cognacs good through Monday, August 8th.

We are offering two different coupon codes that will save you $5 on a bottle of VSOP and $10 on the XO.

About
This beautiful cognac was made in honor of Louis Jolliet, a French Canadian explorer whose multiple explorations were instrumental in the establishment of North America. Among his several expeditions, his discovery of the upper Mississippi River in 1673 was most certainly his greatest achievement. Jolliet's strong character, boundless thirst for adventure and perseverance in pushing his limits and discovering new lands is perfectly expressed in this fine and exclusive cognac.

VSOP $43.99 [108426] Regularly $49.99 750ml
Color: copper with light amber hues
Nose: Light floral notes of vine flower and lime tea, followed by candied fruits (grape, citrus, pear, plum…), finally leading into sweet notes of vanilla and hot pastry
Palate: Round and well balanced with a lot of candied fruits, spicy vanilla, almonds and spices
Coupon: LJVSOP ($5 off per bottle)

XO $79.99 [108427] Regularly $109.99
Color: Mahogany
Nose: Floral notes at entry with supple notes of dark tea and lime tea, quickly leading into aromas dried fruits (raisin, apricot, prune…), vanilla, toffee and oak wood.
Palate: Round, long and well balanced with plenty of candied fruits right away (apricot, apple, pear, prune…), then followed by notes of vanilla, toffee, almonds and gourmet crème brulee. Silky and long finish.
Coupon: LJXO ($10 off per bottle)

Comments | Posted By Toby Sharp

This Week at the Wine Bar

Wednesday, June 22, 2016 1:08:35 PM America/Los_Angeles

wine glass with with swirling wine

Here is what's going on this week at the Wine Bar: Thursday, June  23rd, Friday, June 24th and Saturday, June 24th (2016).

Thurs. June 23rd, 4:30-8:30 p.m., $30.: BROWN BAG 90+ POINT WINES!
We will have a selection of wines rated 90 points or above and we will taste them blind. Test your palate and check your scores against the big wine critics!  If you are taking any Somm classes (or thinking about it), these kinds of tastings are invaluable in teaching your palate to look for taste-based 'waypoints' on the world wine map.

Fri. June 24th, 4:30-8:30 p.m., $30: ALIANE WINES - TOUR DE FRANCE!
Aliane Wines has built a reputation for discovering and representing a thoughtful selection of some of the best independent vintners and family-owned, premium estates in France. With special guest Aline Thiébault!  We always have fun and great wine when Aline is here.

Sat. June 24th, 2-8:30 p.m., $30: BURGUNDY - BLANC ET ROUGE!
Featuring: Bouchard Père et Fils and William Fevre.

 

Hi-Time Wine Cellars Wine Bar Wine MachinesSELF SERVE WINE MACHINES

With our wine machines you will need to 'charge' a card (add money to a 'wine credit card' provided by us) in order to use the wine machines.  You will be able to choose between three different sizes/price ranges (taste, half-glass, full glass) from 16 different wines.

We change out the lineup twice a month (so wines are subject to change).  That said, here is the current lineup (as of 6/22)-- I am listing the wines from right to left.  The machine on the far right has the price-friendly, 'everyday' wines (like our wine of the month).  As we move to the left, the prices go up with some rarer wines featured on the far left.

#1 (Far Right Machine; #2 is to the left, etc.)
a. 2012 Chateau Boyard St. Emilion
b. 2013 Antica Masseria di Sigillo Primitivo di Manduria
c. 2013 Ryder Estate Pinot Noir Central Coast CA
d. 2014 Tenet "The Pundit" Syrah Columbia Valley WA

#2
a. 2012 Prunatelli Canaiolo Bianco Tuscany
b. 2015 Mas de Cadenet Grenache Rosé Provence
c. 2014 Paul Pernot Bourgogne Chardonnay
d. 2013 Bailiwick Vermentino California

#3
a. 2012 Lyndenhurst Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley
b. 2011 Almaroja Pirita Juan Garcia Arribes
c. 2014 Jacky Blot La Butte Cabernet France Loire Valley
d. 2012 Sandrone Nebbiolo Piemonte

#4
a. 2013 Quinta do Vesuvio Vintage Port Douro
b. 2010 Clos Figueres Grenache Blend Priorat
c. 2011 Abreu Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley
d. 2012 Clos d'Ora Minervois Gérard Bertrand Rhône Blend

Comments | Posted By Toby Sharp

DOMAINE DE LA TAILLE AUX LOUPS

Thursday, June 2, 2016 11:42:38 AM America/Los_Angeles

Loire Valley winemaker Jacky Blot
DOMAINE DE LA TAILLE AUX LOUPS

by Gary Faust

For the first time in Southern California, we are able to offer the wines of a true superstar from the Loire Valley. Jacky Blot (pronounced Blo) of Domaine de la Taille aux Loups has revolutionized winemaking in the region and is credited with taking Chenin Blanc to unprecedented heights of quality. He also makes an incredible Cabernet Franc and refreshing sparkling wine. The distributor literally begged for an allocation which could be offered to select retailers in Southern California and we are thrilled to have these wines. We have long been fans of wine from the Loire Valley, which are renowned for their ability to pair with a variety of foods. The wines of Domaine de la Taille aux Loups take it to another level with their texture, body and rich fruit profile. You’ve never had wine from the Loire Valley like these.

What makes these wines so special? Jacky Blot had the drive and vision to make improvements in the vineyard and in the cellar. Up until now, farmers in this region of unpredictable weather routinely picked their grapes very early, fearing storms would ruin their crops and wash away all their profits. These insufficiently ripened grapes cause winemakers to chaptalize (add cane sugar) to the grape must before fermentation. As a result, some wines show a lack of balance, with searing acidity and substantial residual sugar. Blot picks his grapes much later than others, believing he can produce grapes with perfect phenolic ripeness and balance. This takes courage, knowing he could lose most of his crop in years experiencing poor weather prior to harvest.

The soil is a mix of stony limestone and clay that allows for perfect ripening of the Chenin Blanc grapes. Blot cultivates his vineyards organically with complete respect for the natural environment, but eschews any certification. As the vine rows are plowed, the roots descend ever deeper into the limestone bedrock. This, combined with severe pruning to keep yields exceptionally low and late season leaf-stripping enhances the concentration and complexity of the wines. Harvest is carried out by hand, as late as possible, in successive passes through the vineyards, with a sorting table placed at the end of each row to eliminate unsuitable grapes.

Blot has meticulously analyzed the native yeasts in his vineyards and carefully uses them to ensure consistent fermentations while increasing the complexity of the wines. After pressing, the wines ferment in barrels that have been crafted for the domaine in Burgundy from Allier and Troncais oak, with regular batonage and two rackings. None of the wines undergo malolactic fermentation, thus preserving acidity and enhancing their freshness. He then patiently ferments his wines to dryness.

Jacky Blot keeps his barrels, which have varying degrees of toast, for up to 10 years. When new, they are used for the long-aged wines such as Clos de la Brettonniere. After 3 years, they are used for the elevage of the spring bottlings and after 5-6 years, Blot uses them for the fermentation of the base wine for his Sparkling cuvées.

Domaine de la Taille aux Loups has vineyards in Vouvray and Montlouis, which is located on the southern bank of the Loire, opposite Vouvray. Blot, originally a Loire wine broker by profession, acquired about 8 hectares of 50-75 year old vines in 1989. These prized, ancient parcels belonged to families that could no longer continue to cultivate the vines and entrusted them to Blot and his team. The estate now comprises 25 hectares in Montlouis and Vouvray. The core of the domaine lies in the Montlouis sur Loire appellation, on a plateau overlooking the Loire and Cher Rivers.

Blot acquired 14 hectares planted to Cabernet Franc in Bourgueil at Domaine de la Butte in 2002. The depth of color, intensity and perfectly ripened fruit set this apart. Simply put, this is the best Cabernet Franc we have ever had from the Loire Valley, period-end of story.

Although some of his vineyards are in the better-known appellation of Vouvray, Jackie Blot has always bottled his wines across the river in Montlouis Sur Loire. Producers in the Loire, jealous of his success got together and passed a law in an attempt to hurt his sales. The new law stated only wine bottled in Vouvray could be labeled Vouvray even if the grapes were grown there. The new law, dubbed the “Jacky Blot Law” led Jacky to label his famous Brettoniere as a generic Vin de France in large letters.

Why aren’t these wines better known on the West Coast? No one in California previously had access to or knowledge of these wines. They simply didn’t make it out here with most of the supply limited to fine restaurants in Europe as well as some well-regarded eateries on the East Coast. Well-travelled oenophiles such as Orange County Master Sommelier Peter Neptune have been well aware of these wines for years and previously had to source small allocations from niche importers.

At a recent off-site tasting featuring numerous French producers, Hi-Time wine staff returned to the store and all they could talk about were these wines. We quickly brought them into the store and had a tasting which featured several wines from Domaine de la Taille aux Loups and Domaine de la Butte. The wines were a huge hit with our customers who snapped up every bottle of our first allocation.

We've just re-upped and now have a limited amount of each of the wines mentioned in this email/blog. Amazingly affordable for wines of such quality, this is one you don’t want to miss.

Supplies are limited. When they’re gone they’re gone!

Jacky Blot sparkling Chenin BlancTAILLE AUX LOUPS BRUT PETILLANT TRIPLE ZERO 750ml $20.98 [377561]
Triple Zero is a lightly sparkling wine and one of Jacky Blot's most striking creations. Triple Zero is what he describes as “...above all a natural wine that happens to have some bubbles.” The story of how it's made is interesting in its own right, and also for how it illustrates Blot’s dedication to quality and originality. Exceptionally for a sparkling wine, the Triple Zero begins with fully ripe Chenin Blanc grapes from low-yielding, 50+-year-old vines in the Montlouis appellation. There is no chaptalization; this is the first of the three ZEROS. The grapes are all harvested by hand. Any fruit insufficiently ripe (i.e., under 12 degrees natural sugar) or showing any sign of rot is eliminated. The grapes are gently pressed in a pneumatic press and the two-stage fermentation begins slowly in barriques with only native yeasts. Blot bottles the wine after about 3 months, when the fermentation in barrel has proceeded to the point where the natural sugars have almost fully fermented and only about 14 grams per litre of sugar remain. It then finishes fermenting in bottle; the delicate bubbles develop in these bottles while resting on their sides, or sur latte. At this phase, Blot adds no liqueur de tirage, or sugar syrup, as is common in Champagne; this is the second of the three ZEROS. Just as the Triple Zero is made in traditional method with two fermentations in bottle, it is also clarified and finished in the traditional way before the final corking. This procedure is necessary to remove the yeast deposit that develops in the bottles as the wine rests on its lees after the second fermentation for about 15 months. The traditional procedure of gently shaking and tipping the bottles upside down (remuage) to move the yeast cells closer to the cork is done mechanically, in large crates called gyropalettes, which were invented and are widely used in Champagne. After two to three weeks, when the sediment has collected entirely in the neck of bottle, the bottle cap is removed and the pressure blows out the sediment; this is called dégorgement, or, literally, de-necking. At this moment, the Triple Zero is topped up with a small amount of the wine itself. And at this last stage before final bottling, Blot adds no liqueur d’expedition or dosage of sugar-rich juice, as is commonly done; this is the third of three ZEROS. The result is an unfiltered, naturally-made sparkling wine with unsurpassed elegance, purity and expression of fresh, soft citrus and pear flavors. The Domaine de la Taille aux Loups Montlouis Triple Zero is ideal on its own, as an aperitif and it accompanies a wide variety of foods and fruit-based desserts. This sparkling wine has slight petillance with fine bubbles. Very aromatic on the nose, like walking through an orchard with notes of peach, pear and quince. Dry (brut) with bright acidity and fine minerality. The fruit is nicely ripened, again with peaches, pear, quince, and notions of lemon and pastry dough. This would be a great wine even without the bubbles.

Jacky Blot Chenin BlancLA TAILLE AUX LOUPS 2014 BRETONNIERE VIN DE FRANCE 750ml $29.99 [345502]
Bretonniere comes from a 3 hectare monopole vineyard in Vouvray. This single, south-east facing block is on the first slopes overlooking the Loire. The soil is an ideal mix of deep clay over limestone subsoil and the vines average 45 years of age. Blot prunes severely to limit the number of bunches of grapes, thereby assuring that the Bretonniere fruit has the concentration he is looking for, with a yield of only 25 hectolitres per hectare. The grapes are hand-harvested in the second passage through the vineyard in mid-October and then selected on a sorting table.

After a gentle pneumatic pressing, fermentation begins with only the native yeasts and no chaptalization.  Blot ferments the Bretonniere for 6 months entirely in barriques, which are 25% each new and one to three years old. Fermentation proceeds very slowly, and Blot does not add yeasts to advance the process. The wine is aged on its lees for six more months in barrel, and is bottled in November. The Taille aux Loups Bretonniere combines remarkable density and richness with vivacity deriving from the wine’s minerality and focused acidity. It can be enjoyed young for the accessible fruit – especially if decanted – or aged for many years which will bring out the nuances of a great Chenin Blanc from a top site in Vouvray. Medium gold in color. Aromas of baked apple, exotic fruit, peach, quince, acacia blossom, chamomile and crème fraiche greet the nose. On the palate, this wine is dry, full-bodied with medium plus acidity and flavors of baked apple, bruised peach, pear, and pineapple. Wonderfully long finish. This is slightly richer than the Clos Michet.

 

Jacky Blot Chenin BlancDOMAINE DE LA TAILLE AUX LOUPS 2014 MONTLOUIS SUR LOIRE CLOS MICHET 750ml
$26.99 [345492]

Launched in 2009, the Montlouis Clos Michet is one of Jacky Blot’s Montlouis wines. Blot acquired these sites, located south of his original holding and closer to the Cher River, in late 2010. The Clos Michet comes from three west- and south-west exposed parcels of 40-60 year old vines with a clay-sand topsoil over limestone subsoil. The vines are severely pruned to assure the Clos Michet fruit has the concentration he is looking for. The grapes are hand-harvested in the 2nd passage through the vineyard in mid-October and then selected on a sorting table. After a gentle pneumatic pressing, fermentation begins with only the native yeasts and no chaptalization. 

Blot ferments the Clos Michet for 6 months entirely in barriques, which are 25% each new and one to three years old. Fermentation proceeds very slowly, and Blot does not add yeasts to advance the process. The wine is aged on its lees for six more months in barrel, and is bottled in November. The Clos Michet combines remarkable aromatic complexity with bright, expressive, mineral-inflected citrus fruit. It can be enjoyed young – especially if decanted – or aged for many years which will bring out the nuances of a great dry Chenin Blanc. Medium gold in color with good viscosity. Aromas of apple, peach, quince, beeswax, acacia blossom and chamomile greet the nose. This wine is dry and full-bodied with crisp acidity. Flavors of golden apple, peach, pear, and beeswax with a squeeze of citrus. Fantastically complex with a lingering finish.

 

 

Jacky Blot Cabernet FrancDOMAINE DE LA BUTTE 2014 BOURGUEIL MI-PENTE 750ml $32.99 [322262]
It is often difficult to ripen Cabernet Franc and red grapes in general this far north. Mi-Pente is sourced from a particular plot of land with warm stony soils that absorb and reflect heat back to the vines, helping to ripen the grapes. The 50-90-year-old-vines have very low yields of ¾ ton per acre. The wine is aged for 18 months in used oak barrels. One look at this wine told us this was unlike any Loire Valley Cabernet Franc we’ve ever tasted. The depth of color is noticeably more pronounced than what we’re used to. Despite this, it is recognizable as the variety, but is not as green or herbaceous as we typically encounter from this region which often struggles to ripen red grapes.

Medium purple with brilliant ruby reflections and staining of the tears. Very expressive on the nose with violet florals, red fruit, sage, coastal scrub, earth and forest floor. On the palate, this wine is dry and full-bodied with medium plus acidity and silky integrated tannins. The fruit is plush and with ripe flavors of cherry, red plum and red currants along with sage and forest floor. Gorgeous mouthfeel, tremendous depth of fruit and an amazingly long finish.

Comments | Posted By Toby Sharp

Nugan Estate: Awesome Aussie Wines!

Wednesday, June 1, 2016 11:22:00 AM America/Los_Angeles

King Valley
 by Tobin Sharp

Nugan Estate is a premium producer of estate grown wine based in Griffith, New South Wales, Australia.

It is part of the Nugan Group, which was founded in 1940 on fruit and vegetable packing and expanded in the 1970s into juice production – later becoming one of the largest exporters of niche juice products to Asia. In 1993 Nugan Group further diversified its operations planting vineyards and selling fruit under contract. From there, winemaking was a natural progression.

Today Nugan Estate owns 590 hectares of vineyards in Australia’s finest wine growing regions of Riverina, King Valley and McLaren Vale – making it the 18th largest vineyard holders in Australia. In addition, Nugan Estate sources premium quality grape from the renowned Coonawarra region.

Family operated by Michelle, Matthew and Tiffany Nugan, Nugan Estate is one of Australia’s Top 20 Wine Exporters and is complemented by a premium wine portfolio, extra virgin olive oil and the award winning Griffith restaurant, Michelin.

Matt Nugan visited our shop not too long ago
on a promo tour and, lucky for us, brought his wines along for us to sample. Impressed would be an understatement when it comes to our reaction on the quality of his family wines and their more-than-fair (downright bargain!) pricing. Stunned? That might be it. The wines were fantastic, showcasing Aussie terroir and the amount of sunshine they get (Beautiful ripe fruit? Yes, please!). In American parlance, a clear home run-- in Aussie, an easy "sixer" (in cricket terms, of course!).
 
Nugan EstateNugan Estate 2012 Riverina "Drover's Hut" Chardonnay $14.95 [378098]
Easy-drinking, balanced, clean Chardonnay. The nose shows tropical fruits, orchard fruits, sweet brown spices and a touch of lemon grass. Great viscosity on the palate with flavors of more stone fruits, mango, white peach, lots of Fuji apple, and a touch of minerality in the finish. Enjoy with or without food-- pairs perfectly with sunny days and easy company.

ANTONIO GALLONI 90 POINTS
- "Light yellow. Ripe nectarine, melon and tangerine on the fragrant nose and in the mouth. In a lush, open-knit style, with a jolt of bracing acidity adding lift and focus. Picks up a stony, almost Chablis-like hint of minerality on the finish, which lingers with very good tenacity and focus."
 
 nugan estateNugan Estate 2013 Riverina "Stomper's" Cabernet Sauvignon $14.95 [381848]
Cherry fruit fills the nose as touches of olive tapenade, black licorice and ripe rapsberry fill in the gaps, all surmounted by a layer of mint and hint of tobacco-- enticing and fairly complex for this price niveau. The palate is lush and loaded with cherries and raspberries but not cloying. Savory touches of forest floor, spice box and black pepper add to the ripe red fruits. The finish is clean and uplifting as bracing acidity and brisk tannins keep it looking up. A great warm weather red, keep a few bottles of "Stomper's" handy when the grill comes out and the company arrives.
 
ANTONIO GALLONI 90 POINTS - "Brilliant ruby. Fresh, spice-tinged dark berries and cherry on the nose, with notes of floral oils and cured tobacco adding complexity. Bright cherry and blackcurrant flavors show good depth as well as vivacity, with a jolt of black pepper adding spicy bite. Finishes floral and gently sweet, leaving a hint of candied rose behind."
 
nuganNugan Estate 2012 Coonawarra "Alcira Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon $21.98 [378428]
Eucalyptus and mint, two classic descriptors for the Aussie terroir, are clearly in the nose as hints of pencil le
ad and fennel are surmounted by dark red fruits, jammy raspberry and cassis: beautiful, rich and deep. The tannins in this "Alcira" Cab are fine and silky, uplifting broad flavors of dark cherries, cassis and cacao. A pinch of spice and earth lead to a long, smooth finish with, again, lasting deep, dark red fruits.
 
Nugan EstateNugan Estate 2012 Riverina "Scruffy's" Shiraz $14.95 [378497]
Concentrated raspberry and boysenberry fruit fill the nose, almost a jammy, fruit-leather version, as bits of red licorice, mint, cherry cola and herbal woodiness create a fine supporting cast of scents. In the mouth, fresh fruits reign, sweet berries, cherries and raspberries; light herbals, black tea and incense weave their way between the sweet fruit, adding depth and richness. Easy to quaff, perfectly delightful, great for Spring and Summer.
 
ANTONIO GALLONI 90 POINTS - "Dark purple. Spicy blackcurrant and cherry aromas are complemented by Asian spices and floral oils. Lively and precise on the palate, offering gently sweet, incisive dark fruit flavors and a hint of spicecake. Finishes on a gentle tannic note, with very good clarity and an echo of candied flowers."
 
Nugan EstateNugan Estate 2013 Alfredo "Second Pass" Shiraz $19.95 [381882]
The "Second Pass" Shiraz is sourced from the Nugan family’s premium vineyards in Australia. After fermentation, the wine was pressed onto the pomace and yeast lees of our premium “Alfredo” Dry Grape Shiraz adding to the wines’ intensity, á la the Ripasso style found in Italy's Valpolicella region. Thereafter, the wine was matured in French and American oak for 12 months resulting in a wine of concentration and quality.
Dark berries, mint leaf and herbal wood fills the nose as more scents reverberate: black licorice, strawberry tea, mixed brown spices, dark perfumed florals. Sweet fruit buoyed by lush tannins start on the palate with more layers growing with each sip: cherries and berries meet breakfast tea and violet petals, rhubarb, tobacco, dark chocolate and brown earth. Sweet, rich, complex. The tannins and excellent acidity keep it aloft and light on the palate even with all its richness of flavor. Great with grilled meats (from lamb to cow) and game, strong hard cheeses.
 
ANTONIO GALLONI 92 POINTS - "Inky purple. Heady, expansive aromas of dark fruit liqueur, potpourri and incense, with a hint of smoky minerality adding vivacity. Offers juicy, penetrating cherry and dark berry flavors and an exotic floral pastille quality that builds in the glass. Shows excellent clarity and thrust on the finish, with silky tannins coming in late."
Comments | Posted By Toby Sharp

The Sip Awards

Thursday, May 19, 2016 4:07:00 PM America/Los_Angeles

SPIRITS TASTING EVENT - THE SIP AWARDS

Sun, May 22 at 1:00 PM, Newport Beach, CA

Join us for our annual Spirits Tasting at Hyatt Newport Beach, CA. Taste and evaluate over 30+ spirits from all over the world while enjoying the beautiful Newport Beach venue. In a blind tasting, do you think you have what it takes to spot your favorite alcohol brands?

*Categories include: Vodka, Gin, Tequila, Mezcal, Whiskey, Scotch, Cognac, Bourbon, Liqueurs, Moonshine, Infused Spirits, Mixers, and many others.

Some of the exciting aspects of the event:

  • Over 30+ beverage samples to evaluate in a blind tasting
  • Learn how to effectively taste fine spirits from Professor Neat
  • Appetizers and beverages will be served
  • Many chances to win prizes and gifts throughout the event
  • Social Media wall and contests
  • DJ Mike Soltani and professional photographers
  • A very fun and unique experience

*** 20% off of ticket prices with this code: HITIME20

For more info and to purchase tickets, please visit the below link:

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/spirits-tasting-sip-awards-tickets-24354345503

Comments | Posted By HiTimeBlog

South Africa Food & Wine Safari: Success!

Thursday, May 19, 2016 4:01:00 PM America/Los_Angeles

South Africa! Our wine and food "safari" earlier this month (Sat. May 14th) featuring Buitenverwachting, Excelsior, Morgenster & Raats, with authentic braai (bbq) from Perky's South African Food & Catering, was a huge success! Pictures from the event are located here: http://www.c3lt.com/Hi-Time/South-Africa-Wine-Food-Safari/

Comments | Posted By HiTimeBlog

Nugan Estate: Awesome Australian Wines!

Thursday, May 19, 2016 12:50:00 PM America/Los_Angeles

by Tobin Sharp

Nugan Estate is a premium producer of estate grown wine based in Griffith, New South Wales, Australia. It is part of the Nugan Group, which was founded in 1940 on fruit and vegetable packing and expanded in the 1970s into juice production – later becoming one of the largest exporters of niche juice products to Asia. In 1993 Nugan Group further diversified its operations planting vineyards and selling fruit under contract. From there, winemaking was a natural progression. Today Nugan Estate owns 590 hectares of vineyards in Australia’s finest wine growing regions of Riverina, King Valley and McLaren Vale – making it the 18th largest vineyard holders in Australia. In addition, Nugan Estate sources premium quality grape from the renowned Coonawarra region. Family operated by Michelle, Matthew and Tiffany Nugan, Nugan Estate is one of Australia’s Top 20 Wine Exporters and is complemented by a premium wine portfolio, extra virgin olive oil and the award winning Griffith restaurant, Michelin. Matt Nugan visited our shop not too long ago on a promo tour and, lucky for us, brought his wines along for us to sample. Impressed would be an understatement when it comes to our reaction on the quality of his family wines and their more-than-fair (downright bargain!) pricing. Stunned? That might be it. The wines were fantastic, showcasing Aussie terroir and the amount of sunshine they get (Beautiful ripe fruit? Yes, please!). In American parlance, a clear home run-- in Aussie, an easy "sixer" (in cricket terms, of course!).

Nugan Estate 2012 Riverina "Drover's Hut" Chardonnay $14.95 [378098] Easy-drinking, balanced, clean Chardonnay. The nose shows tropical fruits, orchard fruits, sweet brown spices and a touch of lemon grass. Great viscosity on the palate with flavors of more stone fruits, mango, white peach, lots of Fuji apple, and a touch of minerality in the finish. Enjoy with or without food-- pairs perfectly with sunny days and easy company.

ANTONIO GALLONI 90 POINTS - "Light yellow. Ripe nectarine, melon and tangerine on the fragrant nose and in the mouth. In a lush, open-knit style, with a jolt of bracing acidity adding lift and focus. Picks up a stony, almost Chablis-like hint of minerality on the finish, which lingers with very good tenacity and focus."

Nugan Estate 2013 Riverina "Stomper's" Cabernet Sauvignon $14.95 [381848] Cherry fruit fills the nose as touches of olive tapenade, black licorice and ripe rapsberry fill in the gaps, all surmounted by a layer of mint and hint of tobacco-- enticing and fairly complex for this price niveau. The palate is lush and loaded with cherries and raspberries but not cloying. Savory touches of forest floor, spice box and black pepper add to the ripe red fruits. The finish is clean and uplifting as bracing acidity and brisk tannins keep it looking up. A great warm weather red, keep a few bottles of "Stomper's" handy when the grill comes out and the company arrives. ANTONIO GALLONI 90 POINTS - "Brilliant ruby. Fresh, spice-tinged dark berries and cherry on the nose, with notes of floral oils and cured tobacco adding complexity. Bright cherry and blackcurrant flavors show good depth as well as vivacity, with a jolt of black pepper adding spicy bite. Finishes floral and gently sweet, leaving a hint of candied rose behind."

Nugan Estate 2012 Coonawarra "Alcira Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon $21.98 [378428]

Eucalyptus and mint, two classic descriptors for the Aussie terroir, are clearly in the nose as hints of pencil lead and fennel are surmounted by dark red fruits, jammy raspberry and cassis: beautiful, rich and deep. The tannins in this "Alcira" Cab are fine and silky, uplifting broad flavors of dark cherries, cassis and cacao. A pinch of spice and earth lead to a long, smooth finish with, again, lasting deep, dark red fruits.

Nugan Estate 2012 Riverina "Scruffy's" Shiraz $14.95 [378497] Concentrated raspberry and boysenberry fruit fill the nose, almost a jammy, fruit-leather version, as bits of red licorice, mint, cherry cola and herbal woodiness create a fine supporting cast of scents. In the mouth, fresh fruits reign, sweet berries, cherries and raspberries; light herbals, black tea and incense weave their way between the sweet fruit, adding depth and richness. Easy to quaff, perfectly delightful, great for Spring and Summer. ANTONIO GALLONI 90 POINTS - "Dark purple. Spicy blackcurrant and cherry aromas are complemented by Asian spices and floral oils. Lively and precise on the palate, offering gently sweet, incisive dark fruit flavors and a hint of spicecake. Finishes on a gentle tannic note, with very good clarity and an echo of candied flowers."

Nugan Estate 2013 Alfredo "Second Pass" Shiraz $19.95 [381882] The "Second Pass" Shiraz is sourced from the Nugan family’s premium vineyards in Australia. After fermentation, the wine was pressed onto the pomace and yeast lees of our premium “Alfredo” Dry Grape Shiraz adding to the wines’ intensity, á la the Ripasso style found in Italy's Valpolicella region. Thereafter, the wine was matured in French and American oak for 12 months resulting in a wine of concentration and quality. Dark berries, mint leaf and herbal wood fills the nose as more scents reverberate: black licorice, strawberry tea, mixed brown spices, dark perfumed florals. Sweet fruit buoyed by lush tannins start on the palate with more layers growing with each sip: cherries and berries meet breakfast tea and violet petals, rhubarb, tobacco, dark chocolate and brown earth. Sweet, rich, complex. The tannins and excellent acidity keep it aloft and light on the palate even with all its richness of flavor. Great with grilled meats (from lamb to cow) and game, strong hard cheeses. ANTONIO GALLONI 92 POINTS - "Inky purple. Heady, expansive aromas of dark fruit liqueur, potpourri and incense, with a hint of smoky minerality adding vivacity. Offers juicy, penetrating cherry and dark berry flavors and an exotic floral pastille quality that builds in the glass. Shows excellent clarity and thrust on the finish, with silky tannins coming in late."

Comments | Posted By HiTimeBlog

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