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Château de Brézé has a long and storied history, first being mentioned in texts in 1068, lauded by King René of Anjou in the 15th century and served at all the royal courts. In 1957, when the AOC of Saumur Champigny was established, the owner of Château de Brézé refused to be part of the appellation, saying that his estate's vineyards were the best and deserved an appellation all their own. And he was probably right. Unfortunately, the wines from those exceptional vineyards were terrible. Lucky for us, the winery sold in 2009 to Le Comte de Colbert, who recruited Arnaud Lambert from nearby Domaine de Saint Just to make the wine. He changed the vineyards over to organic farming and began producing truly stellar wines worthy of their source. The 2012 Château de Brézé Clos David is all estate-grown Chenin Blanc raised in stainless steel to preserve freshness. It has the slightly-oxidized note of a great White Burgundy and a lovely richness that allows it to pair with a variety of foods.

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Entries in Eric Asimov (3)


Wine of the Week: 2009 Antichi Vinai Petra Lava Rosato

Why does mid-winter need to feel like banishment to Siberia? Sure shoveling is tedious, and the sub-zero temperatures along the East Coast are causing ice crystals to form on the end of your perpetually running nose, but there are warm fires to snuggle near and children laughing as they make angels in the snow. Winter's chill is a state of mind that can be thawed, if just a bit, by a shift in thinking.

Now I know you're thinking that I'm delusional, or that I'm gloating because the weather here in Southern California is, well, let's just say "mild." But honestly, my sunny disposition comes not from the bright blue skies outside my window, but from the eloquent petals of prose proffered by Eric Asimov in his Monday New York Times post about winter rosés, A Rosé Can Bloom in Winter, Too.

Like most wine drinkers, I consume more hearty reds when the weather is cold. But I don't eat braised short ribs or rich red sauce pastas every night. I like to roast chickens and root vegetables, and enjoy a dried cherry and gruyere-stuffed pork chop every now and then, neither of which require a red wine that feels like a cozy chenille blanket. I like wines with bright fruit, minerality, herbaceousness, delicate tannins and plenty of acidity no matter what the season, and the pale garnet of a substantial rosé in the middle of a snow flurry can be like a SAD lamp for your palate.

So, in the spirit of Asimov's post, I'm ditching the last of my holiday gluttony-inspired Digestivo posts for a Wine of the Week that doesn't need a backyard barbecue to show it's stuff. The 2009 Antichi Vinai Petra Lava Rosato ($19.99) is anything but a frivolous, pool-side sipper. A blend of what the Sicilians call I Nerelli--Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio--grown on the northern slope of Mt. Etna, this rosé is intense and structured. Its aromas lean toward cranberry and cherry, with hints of hibiscus, all of which carry over to a full palate balanced by juicy acidity and earthy volcanic minerality. I'm going to drink this with the aforementioned stuffed pork chop tonight, and buy an extra bottle for Sunday's fresh, farmers' market roast chicken.

Leah Greenstein


Wine Wednesday: Oh Mylord!

It's been months since New York Times' wine writer Eric Asimov publicly suggested that Bordeaux was becoming irrelevant among the next generation of wine drinkers. Pricing themselves into obsolescence, as it were. And while I don't entirely disagree -- I'll likely never be able to afford a first or second growth Bordeaux unless something catastrophic happens in the wine market -- I don't really care that much. And it's not because I think Bordeaux is irrelevant, it's that those pricey, classified wines represent just a small percentage of what's made in Bordeaux. To overlook the more affordable wines of the region, which Asimov acknowledged in a later article titled the "Soulful Side of Bordeaux," is just as much a sin as over-valuing the others.

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Winery to Watch: Guímaro 

If you’ve never heard of Sober, a teeny town carved into the slate and granite cliffs above the River Sil in the Ribeira Sacra DO, in the Spanish province of Galacia, you’re not alone. With a population placed somewhere between nine and 2,900, few people in Galicia are even aware of its existence. But despite its diminutive size, 35-year-old grower, winemaker and Sober-native Pedro Rodríguez Pérez is making a big impact on the wine world. He farms his family’s seven hectares—divided among 15 separate plots tottering on slopes that plunge toward the river like the Hahnenkamm—of Mencía, Godello, Caino Tinto and Treixadura by hand. And he makes wines under the Guímaro label that the New York Times has called, “light-bodied, juicy…with a welcome earthy touch.”

Grapes have been grown in Ribeira Sacra for more than 2,000 years. They were first planted by the Romans as they traipsed across Europe, and were later cultivated by intrepid monks and locals. And it’s no wonder. The region’s hot days, remarkably cool nights and stony soils are ideal for viticulture. But working this land is backbreaking, literally, with growers having to haul their harvest up the steep slopes on their backs, and few young people over the last century felt compelled to continue. Vineyards were abandoned. Terraces crumbled.

Fortunately, the budding interest in Spanish wines beyond Rioja over the past 15 years has led to a surge of interest in the vineyards and wines of Ribeira Sacra. An inspired Rodríguez Pérez returned to Sober after law school to rebuild his family’s terraced vineyards. His mission: to make distinctive wines that spoke of the remote, stony hillsides he calls home.

“There are two kinds of winemakers,” he told Eric Asimov of the New York Times, “those who want to make money and those who want to make wine.” Rodríguez Pérez makes wine. And Guímaro is, without a doubt, a winery to watch.

We currently carry two of the four Guímaro wines. The 2008 Guímaro Mencía Ribeira Sacra ($14.99) is a great place to start if you’ve never had Mencía. It is lighter and softer than the better known iterations grown in Bierzo to the east, with snappy cool-climate acidity, bright red and black fruit and a slate-y mineral vein that runs through from nose to palate. The 2008 is raised entirely in tank, which keeps the wine refreshingly vibrant and food-friendly.

We also have the 2007 Guímaro “B1P” Mencía Ribeira Sacra ($39.99), a sultry yet serious wine that might just woo Rhône wine drinkers away from France. This whole cluster Mencía is fermented in open top foudres, and impresses immediately with its smoky, peppered plum nose. Denser than the the entry level version of the wine, the B1P has hints of herbs and even more concentrated minerality to complement its black fruit.

Leah Greenstein