“If you want to start an argument in the wine world – and believe me, it’s not hard to do – all you have to do is mention the word terroir.”…..  Eric Asimov, The New York Times

If every place was the same, they would be no need to travel, but it would be very crowded here.  Or would it be there?  Terroir is a French term and it refers to the specificity of place. Terroir Includes all those environmental conditions that lend themselves toward making a wine with a different flavor nuance. The soil, climate, topography – really all and every of the environmental factors that contribute to the vine’s production.  That is why the French (and others) do not name wine after the grape, but rather its place of origin.  The grape we know as Sauvignon Blanc may be labeled, if French, as Sancerre, Graves, Pouilly Fume, Pessac-Leognan, Entre-Deux-Mere … well, you get the point.

When it comes to Albarino, let’s assume that if Spain is the capital of wine for you, Rias Baixas is the capital of Albarino.  It is from that sense of place, unlike any other on the planet, that defines Albarino: a white wine that is crisp, is born for summer’s enjoyment, is food friendly, and may be compared to Sauvignon Blanc, but is different – of course – because it is a different grape and makes a different wine.  Albarino is so well received, that while not an officially recognized “international;” grape, it is made worldwide.  The best, however, always has and remains being that made from Rias Biaxis on Spain’s NW coast.

The Galician coast is exposed to the Atlantic Ocean and benefits from a cool maritime climate. Summer daytime temperatures (24 degrees C) average 74 degrees F.  Winters are mild. The whole of the region is known as “Green Spain” because conditions are cooler and wetter than otherwise in Spain, resembling Ireland with its rocky coasts and hillsides covered in green.  The best-known wines of Galicia come from Rias Baixas, a single D.O. broken up into five non-contiguous areas.  Soil throughout Rias Baixas is granite bedrock and alluvial topsoil with concentrations of sand, silt and mineral providing for excellent drainage.  Mild temperatures throughout summer allow grapes to ripen slowly assuring a wine that retains acidity and makes Albarino extremely food friendly.

I’ve enjoyed the Albarino of Rias Baixas for decades and would have to work very hard at finding one that wasn’t a “4-Star Value”.  Today, I re-tasted an Altos de Torona’s “Triple 3”, called such because it is a blend of Albarino, Loureiro and Caino Blanco.  Altos comes from the sub-D.O. of Rosal in the south of Rias Baixas and is located adjacent to where the Minho River meets the

Atlantic.  Vineyards are located 6.2 miles from the ocean and 2.1 miles from the river and on terraced vineyards planted on the slope of Mount Galelo about mid-point at 200-350 meters (656-1148 feet) above sea level. This well thought out location protects the vines from the mists and excess moisture of the valley floor while also sheltering them from the extreme cold at the summit.  With a southerly aspect, vines absorb excellent sunshine, while ripening slowly and developing phenolic character (otherwise known as “yummy flavonoids”).                                                                                                  

When it comes to yummy flavonoids, this Albarino based blend excels in both taste and value.  Deep lemon in the glass, the nose is enticing and complex:  You’ll put off immediately tasting the wine just to continue to enjoy its aromas. Honeysuckle, lemon crème (as in a meringue pie) orange peel, lychee, and an undertone of lavender.

The texture is creamy. Citrus is initially soft but builds intensity throughout while never becoming awkward. This is a refined and graceful approach with everything in balance.  On the palate, expect to enjoy a mélange of apricot, lychee, and pineapple.  A dry wine, yet creamy and rich, it finishes cleanly. Tasting it again over a span of two hours, I enjoyed added notes of orange as the wine warmed in the glass. Notes of dried green tea. And most surprising: banana!  The finish is medium to medium plus. 

There’s the saying, “If it grows together, it goes together.”  And in Galicia, sea food rules.  I paired this wine with Spanish cheeses and olives.  Grilled vegetables are an excellent companion.  A platter of shellfish with grilled oranges went excellently.  Before you consider that splurging on shellfish would kill the budget, consider the ARP for this wine is just $13-$14.  Then consider the care that went into site selection for these Albarino wines of Rias Baixas.  It’s an opportunity to enjoy the best of the varietal at budget friendly pricing: a gift of terroir.

……………. Jim

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TECH SPECS and etcetera:
(Bodegas) Altos De Torona                   (Spanish)                                
Varietals:          Albarino (85%), Caino Blanco (10%) Loureita (5%)
Caino contributes citrus freshness to the blend along with mineral notes, tropical flavors and good structure. Loureiro offers aromas of orange and acacia blossom. Each varietal is harvested separately and matured over their lees, after fermentation, for 120 days (which explains the wine’s texture).
ALC:   13%
Imported By: Vinaio Imports, LTD., (Bronx, NY)                                           


“The moments of happiness we enjoy take us by surprise. It is not that we seize them, but that they seize us.”   …….   Ashley Montagu

Pouring wine has its upside.  For one, I need to taste the wines I’m sampling before I serve them.  But the best moments come in my tasting one of those wines that I would likely and otherwise never make the acquaintance of.  This happened recently when I was pouring four Ava Grace wines: A Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, a Rose and a Red Blend.  Ava Grace Vineyards also produces Chardonnay and Merlot.  The four I poured were all soft, easy drinking and made for the American palate. The Rose and Red Blend were fruit forward, but not offensively so.  And the Red Blend offered an interesting and enticing mortar-mashed mix of brown spice.

Of those, I most liked the Sauvignon Blanc.  And that was a surprise because I generally don’t prefer Sauvignon Blanc produced domestically.  Those that I do invariably end up being high end, sometimes difficult to find and always expensive.

At an ARP of $8, this Ava Grace is embarrassingly inexpensive.  And the surprise continues.

What do you conclude about a wine when several of the people tasting it say they like the label because it is so beautiful?  And, worse, the back label is almost all “happy talk” with references to “The beautiful word AVA means life and we believe in wine that promises Grace in every glass.”  Then there’s: “…integrity, beauty and soul, so what you taste inspires happiness and serenity. Be grateful, be graceful, and taste the beauty.”  I hate happy talk.  As Joe Friday used to say in “Dragnet”, “Just the facts.”   But then there’s the web site.  Could be some hope there.  How is it vinified? How long?  Most of it I can now guess and get pretty close, but I prefer dealing in facts, not almost/pseudo/alternative facts.  And a winery’s website is straight – as they say - from the horse’s mouth and so can be trusted.  Except it too was all “happy talk.”  I hate happy talk!  There just has to be much in my DNA that makes me want to dislike this wine.

Except the wine itself.  Disregarding the happy talk and the “How cute is that” label, the wine is good.  Surprisingly good.  For you lovers of grapefruit and grass, it is not like a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.  And it has nowhere near the minerality of a Sancerre.  But it also is not a substitute for sugar syrup, nor is it lopsided in taste or offering a taste so weak one wonders why one bothered?  (All which is a problem I encounter with some domestics). This is California juice, for sure, but to my palate there’s a respect paid to old world beliefs. 
 In fairness to the front label, it does refer to “Citrus, Floral, Refined” and it is the word “Refined” that best exemplifies what I intended by saying “old world beliefs.”  There is a cornucopia of both aromas and tastes in this wine, but overall, each is delicate.  It’s a stew with diced vegetables and protein, not large chewy chunks, and it doesn’t present anything out of balance. You will be able to discern all the elements you expect in Sauvignon Blanc but the surprise comes in appreciating the harmony of these hints melding together. In fact, it was done so well, I couldn’t help but like this wine.

 No wonder Wine Enthusiast said it was a “Best Buy” and Wine Spectator said it was a “Great Value.”   Let me repeat:  the ARP is $8.   For me, the nose was fresh, subtle and finessed with cooked herbs, lime crème, and then becoming more pungent with quince.  On the palate: creamy lime, tart apple, kiwi, quince; greener than an Albarino but with (for me) no grapefruit, though some gooseberry.  It’s soft and flavorful and has melon notes. There’s tropical fruit, though again as a mélange. Acidity is minimal, though it finishes crisply. Others pick up peach and grapefruit on the palate. It seems to be a wine with everything but tasting – as though looking – through your bride’s wedding veil. The mystery is still there. And that’s the surprise and, for me, the pleasantry.

It will not replace Sancerre in my racks (We all have our preferences) but I can see myself getting more bottles of AVA Grace Sauvignon Blanc.  Enjoy it as you would any other.  Reward yourself with a glass picnic-side or ending the day as the sun goes down. Live Gracefully! (there goes that “happy talk” again). And, for Jane and Bill, this is your Sauvignon Blanc for the Yacht Club.

…………….. Jim
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AVA Grace Vineyards
Livermore & Ripon CA.

ALC:                       13.5%
Ph:                           3.7
TA:                          6.7 g/L
RS:                          3.7 g/L
Material refers to “California’s Central Coast AVA”.  The label, however, identifies “California” as its appellation.



“I guess when there is room to improve, and where there is the desire to improve, improvement comes.”….  David McNeill

But some recoveries, in the minds of those not injured, take longer than expected.  Then again, consumers were injured buying over produced Soave. So too were the producers who remained committed to making quality Soave throughout the responding consumer drought.

Soave is produced in Veneto (in NE) Italy and made from the Garganega grape.  Prior to 1931, it was commonly referred to as “Petit Chablis,” so popular was the wine within Italy. As Italian wine became more commonly available in the U.S., people liked it.  A white wine, it has a Viognier-like body and offers white stone-fruit and wildflower to the nose. Apple, some pear and hints of almond and nectarine greet the palate.  Easy drinking.  Clean with mouthwatering acidity, it entertains with an enjoyable see-saw of fruit sweetness opposing citrus lightened with floral notes.  What’s not to like?  A perfectly enjoyable, reasonably priced wine suitable for moving from the patio table to the dinner table.

In the 1960s, production of Soave could not meet demand.  Italy’s response was to expand the zone from its original (Classico) 4200 hectares (4200 acres) to 7,000 hectares (17,297 acres).  Instead of the sloping vineyards near Verona with volcanic and limestone soils, lowland areas with alluvial soils and some plots adjoining busy roads were included in the new growing area.  With the majority of production being the responsibility of large cooperatives, growers were incentivized by volume instead of quality.  Toward that end, Trebbiano Toscano, a grape vine producing bland grapes but in abundant quantity, was used to drive up tonnage. 
Ignore the "Blue Hue" on this
label's color. My computer
is having a snit and I didn't
say anything to her to justify it!

 And consumers lost interest.

And then they discovered Pinot Grigio.

By the 1990s, it became obvious that if Soave was going to remain, improvements needed to be made. They were. From 1998 to 2001, the Consorzio studied all aspects of the growing area and defined 51 distinctive crus. In the process, a quality pyramid was established with Soave Superiore DOGC on the top, Classico DOC in the middle and then Soave DOC).  Yields were restricted and minimum alcohol levels established. Further, Trebbiano Toscano would no longer be allowed in the blend. Today, Soave must contain at least 70% Garganega.  Trebbiano di Soave (a.k.a. Verdicchio), Pinot Bianco and Chardonnay may constitute 30%. Other grapes may also be used but even combined may not exceed 5% of the blend.

Top end, quality producers continued to produce the delicious, floral, fruity Soave of memory, some from single vineyards, but consumers, even today, associate it with cheap wine made from a massive output.  It definitely suffers from an image problem.  Too bad: the grape deserves better.  Today’s wine of writing is a DOC, modestly priced and a value.  In fact, because of the image problem, most Soave continues to be value priced though not the same wine as that deserving the scorn of yesteryears.

Suavia Soave is from the Classico (originally delineated) region.  It is a DOC, not DOCG, wine.  As such, it’s in the middle of the pyramid and offers excellent value on top of value.   Pair it with pork and fowl. It goes excellently with Baccala alla Vincentia or shrimp in a simple olive oil & lemon juice sauce or clams with lemon and pepper. Try it with chicken breasts stuffed with pesto and curd cheese. Or just enjoy a glass by itself on the deck or patio after the day’s end when chores have been accomplished and you should reward yourself.  With an ARP of $14., (w/o S&H), there’s room to spend on the meal.

This wine is 100% Garganega, allowing you the bonus of learning the unblended varietal’s character.  Expect notes of apple and pear that carry onto the palate along with subtle notes of almond and white peach.  Its texture (thanks to aging on the lees) is rich and coating. It finishes with a cleansing minerality. Notes of jasmine and tropical fruit but balanced by lemon zest acidity. A whispered hint of herb.  Everything you want in a quaffable yet complex wine is in the glass.  No wonder the Italians loved it.  And we should reconsider these improvements and this wine. It is an inexpensive experiment.

…………….. Jim
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Grapes:                                100% Garganega
Harvesting:                          Manual
Fermentation:                      Steel Vat, 14 Days
Temp:                                  15-18C (59-64.4F)
Malo?                                  Yes, But Only On A Small Portion (% Unknown)
Maturation:                         5 Months On The Lees
Filtration:                            1 Membrane Only
ALC:                                   12.5%
TA:                                      5.5g/L
Ph:                                       3.24
Yield:                                   4 Tons Per Acre (10 allowed)
Year Vineyard Planted:       1960
First Vintage:                      1983
Soil:                                     Calcareous and Volcanic
Wine Enthusiast:                 88 Points
James Suckling:                  92 Points
Suavia Soave Classico
Imported By:                       Winebow, Inc (NY, NY)


“Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”  ….. George Bernard Shaw

The bottle is in the common shape of that used for Pinot Noir.  But what’s inside the bottle is anything but common. Spatburgunder is what is known as Pinot Noir in Germany, that country so well known for its white wines, particularly Riesling.  It’s too cold in Germany to grow red wine grapes, or so a common mis-assumption goes which may explain why non-German people don’t shop for it.

O.K., that’s a generalization.  But it’s pretty much a fact too.  Here’s another: Germans reportedly enjoy the highest per-capita consumption of Sparkling Wine.  And Germany is the world’s third largest producer of Sparkling Wine after France and Italy.  So yes, that means Germany produces more Sparkling Wine (where it is known as Sekt) than even Spain produces its famous Cava and Germany is three places ahead of the U.S. in Sparkling Wine production.   But then, grapes used in Germany for premium Sparkling Wine are mostly Riesling, Pinot Blanc (Weissburgunder), Pinot Gris (Grauburgunder) and (surprise) Pinot Noir!  And these grapes do well in carefully selected sites with attention to exposure and taking full advantage of any element of moderation. 

Baden (in SW Germany near the border with France) is an area well known for producing Spatburgunder. It is the largest of Germany’s 13 wine growing areas (though only a small amount is dedicated to viniculture) and is comprised of two unconnected segments along the east side of the Rhine and three small subareas along Lake Constance. It follows Rheinhessen and Pfalz in vineyard acreage.  Moderation of temperatures is provided by the river, lakes and steep slopes that take full advantage of the sun’s warming influence.
Ahr, on the other hand (and the source of this bottle), is one of the most northern regions and among the smallest with just over 1,300 acres planted.  In the past, Pinot Noir from this area was often somewhat sweet and made from late-picked grapes.  That changed in Germany’s red wine renaissance of 1995-2000.  Today, expect fully fermented, dry, oak-aged wins of good complexity and reflecting a sense of place. Growers in Ahr take full advantage of the areas’ micro-climates.  Slopes on either side of the Ahr river can reach 980 feet with the best slopes facing south-east on soil of slate, basalt and greywacke clay.  Sunlight is captured by these steep slopes, reflected by the river and warmth retained by the black soil.  At between 50-51 degrees latitude, viniculture here requires such attention to detail and (to my palate) produces wine sharing the affinity of the varietal but with a unique personality.

Opened and poured, the wine’s nose was dusty plum and black fruit with some “funk”.  Taste was soft, mostly black cherry with gentled notes of black pepper. Light ruby in the glass, indicative of cool climate.  Light tannins – no surprise – it’s Pinot Noir.  In a way,  it reminded me of a cru-Beaujolais but I’m always looking for comparisons so that could just be me.  Allowing the wine more air opened its fruit.  Still black cherry but now lightened with tart cranberry.  Floral notes – lavender – mixed with spice.  I played between tasting and sniffing, red fruit beginning to develop on the palate. The wine was elegant. Finessed. A fine marriage of fruit to savory in a medium finish wine.

If you, like so many of us, look past Germany when considering a Pinot Noir, perhaps it’s time to change your mind.

…………………….. Jim

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The temperate zones at 20-50 degrees latitude, north or south of the equator, are considered suitable for viniculture.  Ahr, at 50-51 degrees is a challenging region and one that imparts what I appreciate as a unique character in the hands of a talented winemaker.

Werner Nakel was chosen winemaker of the year (2004) in the Gaulty-Millau. In 2008, “Decanter Magazine” awarded him the International Trophy for Pinot Noir and stated, “It’s a fantastic achievement for Germany to win this trophy. Imagine it – they have beaten Burgundy, New Zealand and Oregon, all acknowledged Pinot regions of the world.”  In 2011, “Fallstaff” (Austria’s leading wine publication) chose him for their highest award.

92 points Wine Enthusiast
Weingut Mayer-Nakel

ALC:                       13%
Imported By:           Cellars International Inc. (San Marcos CA)
ARP:                      NOTE: Be advised this makes no sense.  2014 $22,  2015 $30,  2016 $14.  And I saw a quote from a reputable dealer at $56.50 for the 2014, none of which include S&H.  I bought it locally at Binny’s for $32.99.

Paired this wine with brats and a red cabbage
that I made along with a German potato salad.
But you can pair this Pinot as you would normally.


“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we're curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths” ….  Walt Disney

Bear with me, please, while we go through this exercise.  I’m going to name a country and ask that you respond with a wine associated with that country.  Don’t think about it.  Just respond with the first thought that comes to mind. There are no wrong answers because there are several correct answers to each inquiry and each response (whatever it is) will be correct.  So don’t get nervous about it.  Hopefully, this will be fun.

Here we go:
1)      Red wine, Spain
2)      Italy
3)      Germany
4)      Portugal
5)      France
6)      The U.S.
7)      Sparkling Wine

How did you answer? May I guess? (I’ll be wrong too, there’s a lot more of you than there are me).
1)      ollinarpmeT
2)      itnaihC
3)      gnilseiR
4)      troP
5)      xuaedroB
6)      dnelB deR
7)      ngiapmahC

O.K., the answers assumed are written backwards so as not to spoil the exercise by tipping you off as to my assumption.  Obviously, each country produces several wines and each country has several regions. You may have said “Rioja” (a region) for #1, for example.  You may have said something else.  In fact, as for Italy, Chianti (#2) is most often a blend of varietals, even when made within the Classicio DOCG.  There are a lot of variables in this mini-exercise, so before you send me “hate mail,” consider the point.

If I asked you to associate a wine with Austria, what would you say.

Many wouldn’t say anything.

Too bad.  

As Riesling is to Germany, Gruner Veltliner is to Austria. But somehow, the message didn’t get out.

Riesling is a grape.  Gruner Veltliner is a grape and they are different.  Germany and Austria are also different countries. As for the grape, Jancis Robinson (The Oxford Companion to Wine) says “Gruner Veltliner can produce wines which can combine perfume and substance. The wine is typically dry, full-bodied, peppery or spicy, and with time in the bottle can start to taste positively Burgundian.” 

There was no time in the bottle for this 2016 Stadt Krems 2016.  What there was, however, was an amazing flux of coincidence.  I invited myself to a visit with my brother while he was recuperating at home from a medical procedure.  He had some skinless brats made with mushroom and Swiss cheese at the ready. I pickled some organic, rainbow radishes, made red cabbage and procured German-style potato salad from a local (German) deli. He suggested a Gruner Veltliner. I brought one along (and a Spatburgunder – more on that later).   Putting away my Gruner in his wine refrigerator, I couldn’t help but notice he had the same wine also at the ready and chilled.  My brother is not a certified wine snob.  And I don’t like to think I’m a snob, though certified.  So the lesson to appreciate is that of Pliny the Elder (who 2000 years ago) was correct when he said, “The best wine is that which taste good to thine own palate.”

The Stadt Gruner certainly did that for each us and a guest.  And, at $13.99 (Binny’s Beverage Depot) I consider it a value. Consider Gruner as an alternative to Albarino. It goes great with seafood (Snapper).  Its bright acidity makes it food friendly with so many foods. Pair it with smoked ham.  Go safe with “Wiener Schnitzel,” which is basically another version of breaded veal.  Play it against chicken breast with rosemary and thyme. Have to have a wine with cheese? Consider Camembert. Or bring a bottle to your favorite BYOB Asian food restaurant, though if ordering spicy – stay with a sweeter Riesling (Spatlese).  If it matters, know too that it’s one of the few wines that will do well against artichokes and asparagus.
As for this bottle, (91 points Wine Enthusiast), I enjoyed grass (not fresh cut) on the nose with hints (for me) of pineapple and fresh cut apple. Creamy lime and faint lemon on the palate. Green herbs. Cleansing acidity. White pepper hints.  Lean and concentrated but balanced expertly.  This is a varietal you need to explore if you too are to open new paths as Disney recommended.   If you claim to enjoy wine, you need to tastes grapes, after all, because it is grape that becomes the best wine.   And perhaps this is a grape you haven’t explored yet.  If so, I’m happy to have been of help.    

…………… Jim
(The official language in both countries is German and there is shared history. But they are different countries.  So don’t get all technical on me. This is not a history blog).

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Color:                 Deep Lemon Green in the glass
Imported By;      Winebow Inc. (NY., NY)
Produced BY:     Weingut Stadt Krems GrmbH
Varietal:               100% Gruner Veltliner
Region:                 Niederoesterreich, Austria
Fermentation:       17 Days, Stainless, 65 F
Fining:                  None
Aging:                   4 Months
Additional             2 Months Bottle
ALC:                    12.5%
RS:                       3.2 g/L
Acidity:                6.7 g/L
SO2                      126.0 mg/L

Grapes are hand harvested at September’s end. 
Weingut Stadt Krems was founded in 1452, but managed (since July 2003) by Fritz Miesbauer.  

Note: Look for Gruner Veltliner from the DACs of Austria from Wachau, Kamptal and Kremstal, Wagram and Weinvertal.  Kremstal is a DAC designation, which can only use specified grape varieties considered the most outstanding and most typical of the delineated region


“The only stupid question is the question that is never asked.” Ramon Bautista

Occasionally, when I’ve poured wine, people have asked if I had any Pinot Grigio from Italy.  That’s been especially amusing when all that was on the sample table were reds.  Perhaps they thought a bottle might be obscured in an ice bucket (that was also obscured).  But regardless, I always recommended Kris.  It’s a “go-to” bottle here at “Mizer Manor” and another in my mini-series of recommended value wines.

Kris’ label has always struck me as strange.  But perhaps that is effective and its purpose.  It does standout.  Beneath the name “Kris” is a green hand print holding …. (are they) grapes (?).  Next to that is a red lipstick imprint and a gold circle.  The back-label states that “Kris Pinot Grigio’s flavor is as vibrant as its label suggests.”  Things like this make me happy I’m not in marketing. But I’ll give ‘em that the wine is vibrant.

Kris doesn’t sound Italian.  And its label is not styled in a traditional or classic Italian design. But it’s 100% Pinot Grigio and 100% from the Della Venezie region of Northeast Italy and you can’t get more Italian than that.  What you also get is a delicious Pinot Grigio that, at an ARP of $12) costs about half the price of a better-known brand.

Its nose is medium, more creamy than sharp and offers kiwi, creamed lime, floral notes (acacia) and a gentle note of mint (?).  On the palate, the lime carries on in a smooth and rounded style with interesting notes of jasmine tea and honeyed almonds.  Lemon marries lime in the mélange along with crisp apple rounded with a subtle suggestion of pear.  Other tasters enjoyed tangerine and apricot.

“Grigio” in Italian means “gray,” (attributed to the grape’s skin color). In the glass, however, the wine shows as brilliant light-lemon with a green cast.  It’s a perfect Pinot Grigio for your next picnic, lunch on the deck or summer get together.  But It’s also a wine that travels nicely from the picnic to the dining room table for more formal meals.  And I found it locally at $9.99 which should make you feel even better if you’re the one charged with buying the wine.
Quality & Character Is
Consistent From Vintage
To Vintage

Its acidity makes it food friendly with a wide variety of dishes. Creamy mushroom risotto is a natural as is any pasta in a white (or cheese) sauce (try a white cheese lasagna or Spaghetti Carbonera).  Lighter and more causally, enjoy it with a light lunch of tuna salad and fruit.  Tossed green salads?  Sure! Chicken breasts wrapped in prosciutto and stuffed with basil pesto from the garden.  Or go with your instincts and make a chicken or any style of fish piccata. Then again, it’s fine on the deck by itself at day’s end watching the sun go down.


Ramon Bautista didn’t just say it. He believed it, and he was right.  Were it not for people asking me to recommend a value Pinot Grigio from Italy, I’d not have a reason for explaining why I’ve been enjoying this brand for many years.   Thanks, Ramon and thanks to those with questions at sample tastings.  And now, if you enjoy this recommendation, you can lift a glass to Ramon too.

Alla nostra!
……………………. Jim

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The wine is 100% Pinot Grigio but blended from the three permitted della Venezie’s regions to yield a finished wine with an expressive flavor profile.  Veneto berries provide the delicate floral notes and almond finish. From the SW facing slopes of Montagna in Alto Adige, the sunny exposure contributes fresh citrus and notes of pear.  The Mulinat estate in Friuli (soil is well drained and gravelly) produces low yielding fruit of good concentration.

Country:              Italy
Region:                Veneto        
Sub-Region         Venezie
Elevations:          330-1320 Feet
Classification:     IGT
ALC:                   12.5%
Closure:              Twist Off
Imported By:      Winebow Inc. (NY, NY)
Rating:                87 Points, Wine Enthusiast. Which Also Rated It a “Best Buy”


“Mystery creates wonder and wonder is the basis of man's desire to understand” Neil Armstrong

In the hands of a master, simple clay becomes a work of art.  And we are left to wonder and appreciate and ponder upon how it was accomplished.  Gilles Baumann with the help of his daughter, Laurie, are masters of humble grapes.  Blending Columbard, Ugni Blanc and Gros Manseng they include some Sauvignon Blanc and create a white wine (Domaine Des Cassagnoles) of distinction.  It is summertime in a glass. And it all happens in Southwest France, an under-appreciated region, which perhaps accounts for its “Mizerly” pricing.  It is my summer value of the year and should be considered my “insider tip” for 2018.

Columbard is the offspring of Chenin Blanc and Gouais Blanc and is used almost exclusively as a blending grape.  It’s relatively neutral in character, not important in the making of table wine and used in the production of cognac and Armagnac. It is noted for its acidity and used all too often in the production, domestically,  of “jug wine.”  Ugni Blanc is better known as Trebbiano in Italy. While it offers fruity and citrusy aromas, it too is noted for its acidity. Gros Manseng can add some flavorful notes, notably apricot and quince, but is noted for its acidity also.  Add in Sauvignon Blanc and you might conclude this wine was acidic enough to leech the enamel off your teeth.

It’s not.

And the plot builds:

In a blind taste, you would be forgiven for guessing this wine to be Sauvignon Blanc.  Less minerality than a Sancerre.  Less grapefruit and grass than a Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, but Sauvignon Blanc from somewhere.  South Africa?  No, that’s not it.  But Sauvignon Blanc nonetheless. Yet Sauvignon Blanc comprises the smallest percentage of the blend.  Columard could be (depending upon the character of each vintage and the winemaker’s decision) as much as 40-50%, Ugni Blanc (30%) and Gros Manseng (20-25%).  So assuming each vintage is comprised of the upside of typical, the blend is already at 105%.  At the lower end, the percentage left for Sauvignon Blanc is only 10%. 

The mystery then is how all these acidic, somewhat neutral grapes come to make such a delicious wine? One with a clean mineral edge.  Crisp and zesty, but not overly sharp or acidic, it’s balanced with unripe white peach on the palate.  The lime is creamily subdued and rounded as in a lime meringue pie.  Lemon, green apple, white flowers, tangerine and green herbs greet the nose and carry on to the palate. Grassy notes and grapefruit are detected on the palate also but so classically French: in balance with the fruit, working harmoniously in a textured symphony, each note contributing to the whole of the experience.  A hint of pineapple offset by unsweet kiwi.

Quaffable, but offering complexity uncommon for these grapes, one is left to wonder how it was accomplished.  I first experienced this wine by tasting the last of what was on the shelves from the 2016 vintage.  So impressed was I that I ordered a case. But the 16s were to be no more. I approved an order for a case of the 2017. With an average retail price if $9.99, the risk was small – made even less so by the retailer selling it at just $7.29 a bottle.  Inexpensive wine can be good.  And good wine is always good, though not always inexpensive. But very good wine that is inexpensive is always a joyous find.  I’m very glad I found this one and I’m happy to share it with you.

………………. Jim
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ALC:                     12%
Closure:                Twist Off
Wine:                    White Blend
Grapes estate grown, each variety vinified separately. Small skin maceration for the Columbard and Gros Manseng.  Pneumatic pressing, cold stabilization, fermentation at 18c (64.4F). Aging in tank until bottled.

Baumann’s Cassagnoles is a consistent Medaille D’Or winner in Eauze (the local competition) and Paris, as well as three star and Coup de Coeur in Guide Hachette.

Estate grown and bottled from their Lutte raisonnée farmed vines, certified by Haute Valeur Environnementale (HVE).

Imported by:      WEYGANDT-METZLER
My belle-souer (sister-in-law)  has access to the best brats on the
planet as the meat comes from her farm and the brats are
 made from a local packing house.  The Domaine Des
Cassagnoles is so food-friendly it cleanses the palate from
 many different dishes (here, the swiss cheese in the brats)
and accompanies the diner as would a favorite re-born hero at your table.

Eating light for summer?  Tuna salad is a childhood comfort food like warm tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich is in the winter, except I wasn't drinking white wine when I was seven. . A perfect foil to the mayonnaise is the Domaine Des Cassagnoles.

You may not agree (after all, all palates are personal and correct for the persons owning them), but I "practice what I preach" and, for me, this wine is case-worthy.


“Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life”.  Omar Khayyam

PERHAPS THE BEST RECOMMENDATION I’LL EVER MAKE Is that you don’t let summer expire before trying this wine (“Celita’s Vino Blanco) from Fenn Valley Vineyards.  The winery’s own literature refers to it as being modeled after Portugal’s Vinho Verde, though I somewhat disagree with the comparison.  Like Vinho Verde, Celita’s Vino Blanco is young wine.  Like Vinho Verde, it is crisp and tangy fresh, light and refreshing.  Like many a Vinho Verde, Fenn Valley’s “Celita’s Vino Blanco” is slightly spritzy.  And like Vinho Verde from the Minho region in northwest Portugal (the coolest and wettest region in Portugal), growing conditions in Fennville (a sub-ava within the Lake Michigan shore AVA) shares some similarities. Fennville too is advantaged by its proximity to a large body of water as is the Minho region in Portugal.  But you won’t find a drop of Alvarinho, Arinto, Avesso, Azal, Batoca, Loueiro or any of the other grapes permitted in the production of Vinho Verde.  What you’ll find is Seyval.  And I like it better.  And I’ve had gallons and gallons of Seyval over the years.  But what Fenn Valley does with it in this rendition is amazing.

Apparently, I’m late catching on to this.  Celita’sVino Verde from Fenn Valley Vineyards won Silver at the 2015 Indy International Wine Competition.  Where have I been?  Maybe wrapped up in stodgy traditionalism.  The wine comes in cans, after all.  And Seyval is a French-American hybrid, not of the vitis vinifera prestige.  Then again, it’s what’s in the glass (or in this case: the can) that counts. I’ve already said it’s crisp and tangy fresh, light and refreshing.  Let me add that the nose is light and offers a hint of green herb.  On the palate, expect to enjoy refreshing lemon-lime and just a whisper of pear that balances and softens it all.  And it’s made even more refreshing with a gentle touch of carbonation.

I panel tested this wine with three other tasters. People liked that it was available in aluminum cans.  Chills quickly. Lightweight. No breakage. Perfect at the boat yard or pool (where glass may not be permitted) or at summer outdoor concerts and picnics.  Convenient in the cooler. Recyclable. Another taster particularly enjoyed the slight effervescence in the wine.  I poured my contents into a glass (said I was a stodgy traditionalist) but even I could appreciate the convenience of having it available in cans.  Another appreciated that it was dry but not drying; instead crisp and light and a perfect summer wine.

Less grassy than Sauvignon Blanc, people compare Seyval to Chenin Blanc, Chablis and even unoaked Chardonnay.  Among the other statements I keep repeating here is that I’ve had gallons and gallons of Seyval over the decades.  Comparisons can be misleading.  Seyval can be made dry to dessert sweet and as a sparkling wine also.  Different producers make different styles.  You may enjoy one over the other. 

FennValley’s style (for Celita’s Vino Blanco) is unique and eminently enjoyable for me.   In the winery’s own literature, they state it “is a fun wine, not to be taken seriously.”  I would (again) disagree. Poured in a glass, I defy anyone to know it came from a can or deny the wine credit on its own.   Grapes are intentionally picked about two weeks early of ripeness making for juice that becomes wine with exquisite acidity in cool climate Michigan yet is balanced and delightful.  Then again, sometimes just really good is just that: really good with no apology necessary. There are moments, as Omar Khayyam suggests, that need simply to be enjoyed. These moments that are your life.  A wine that doesn’t require you to abandon all else and ponder deeply upon producing a treatise for your Master of Wine post nominal.  Just fun.  This wine is that.  Don’t be embarrassed for liking it, because you will.

…………… Jim

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Fenn Valley Vineyards
6130 122nd Ave, Fennville, MI 49408 

ALC:     10.5% (11.75%)
TA:          7g/L
pH           3.16
R.S.         1.22% (12.2 g/L)                              

PRICE: $14.99 for a 4-pack of cans
$9 for a 750 ml bottle (still wine)