April 28, 2017
Historical documents mention the vineyards of this tiny appellation as early as the 11th century and the sparkling wines were a favorite of Queen Victoria in the mid 1800s. The “Royal Seyssel” label (originally called “Royal Carte Bleue”), was established in 1901 by the Varichon and Clerc families; unfortunately this property fell into the wrong hands in the 1990s (it was purchased by a large negociant) and quality suffered. In 2007 they closed the winery entirely, but held on the rights to the name in hopes of using that name to market their other sparkling wines. Now that just doesn’t seem right…Enter Seyssel locals Gérard and Catherine Lambert, who teamed up with Olivier Varichon, great-grandson of the founder, to buy back the Royal Seyssel label. Since 2008 they’ve been making this humble sparkling wine, using the same methods as in Champagne. The Petit Royal is 70% Molette and 30% Altesse from 10-25 year old vines grown on clay and limestone. It’s left on its lees for two years before disgorgement, and though not vintage dated, the wines produced here are all single vintage. This wine is light, lively, fruity, floral and elegant. It’ll get you through many a brunch and celebration.
Montemelino Rosé 2016, DOC Colli del Trasimeno, Umbria
We got to meet Sabina and Pier of Montemelino recently and taste through some of their wines and olive oils from this tiny and obscure wine zone in northern Umbria. There are fewer than a dozen producers in this area, and most are focused on international varieties. Montemelino is a 10 hectare farm, with 4 hectares under vine, planted to Grechetto for the whites and Sangiovese, Ciliegiolo, and Gamay for the reds. Don’t get too excited Gamay lovers, it’s “Gamay di Trasimeno”, which is actually Grenache. Why do they have to confuse us like this? Because it’s fun! Farming here is all organic, grapes are hand-harvested, and naturally fermented and aged in large slavonian oak barrels that rest both under the farm house and in a tiny chapel on the property.
This fresh and delicious rose is a blend of Ciliegiolo and Gamay di Trasimeno. There’s lots of red fruit and snappy acidity; it’ll pair nicely with fish, veggies, or a warm evening breeze.
Viña Zorzal Garnacha 2015, Navarra, Spain
Antonio Sanz has been in the wine industry pretty much his entire life. In 1989 he was making wine in Navarra, where he established Viña Zorzal. In 2007 his sons took over and expanded the project. We’ve been working with the Graciano and Grenache Blanc for quite some time; we’ve semi-recently added the Grenache and figured it was time to crack it open at a tasting. This wine is from roughly 100 year old bush vines, farmed organically, and hand-harvested. It’s juicy, dark, pure-fruit brilliance, for super cheap!
D. Ventura Viña Caneiro Ribeira Sacra 2012, Spain
D. Ventura is located on the steep slopes of Ribeira Sacra (sacred banks; so-named for all the churches and monasteries that line the river). It is the project of Ramón Losada and his family. They farm organically and use wild yeast in their fermentations; this wine is from old Mencia vines grown on the slate soil (known as losa) slopes of the river.
Viña Caneiro is fermented in stainless steel and then left on the lees for 9 months. It has depth and is full of cassis, cherries, black pepper, licorice, and mineral precision and fine-grained tannins on the finish.