Pinot Grigio that Challenges Conventional Wisdom

Poor Pinot Grigio: When crafted with care and attention to detail, and from fruit that hasn’t been overcropped, it has the potential to be stunning. The problem is that, over the years, it’s become synonymous with insipid, mass-produced plonk that rarely rises to the level of interesting, much less inspiring.

But all hope is not lost. Producers like Silvio Jermann, Cantina Terlan and Elena Walch, among others, are not just challenging what has unfortunately become received Pinot Grigio wisdom, but they are doing so with style and substance to spare, crafting bottlings that are utterly delicious.

I recently received samples of two standouts from Elena Walch, and recommend them strongly: They’re not only delicious on their own terms, but they also just may change your perception of Pinot Grigio in general.

Elena Walch Pinot Grigio 2013, Alto Adige
Bright aromas of hard apple and Seckel pear are framed with a distinct minerality and a hint of lime and lemon. On the palate, this is bracing, with slate-like minerality joining fresh squeezed lime and a hint of lemon verbena, and the finish speaks of slate, granite, springtime flowers, and citrus. Vivid, brisk, and detailed. Drink now - 2016.

Elena Walch Pinot Grigio “Castel Ringberg” 2012, Alto Adige

Almost white-Rhone-like on the nose, with wax, apricots, heady stone fruits and a subtle sense of spice, as well as a background note of warm mineral. On the palate, this has weight-giving depth to its lemon-juice-brightened flavors of hard apricot and peach, crunchy apple, and a touch of honey on the finish. Layered and elegant with muscle pulsing through it. Drink now - 2018+.


A Cognac-Cask Reposado from Herradura

Like most things in life, too much of a good thing can all too easily devolve into being…well, a bad thing. Remember the dark days when the quality of a Chardonnay was, in the popular imagination, inextricably tied to the amount of oak it had been subjected to? That unfortunate decade when overripe fruit was ritually flogged into some sense of perceived submission at the hands of overzealous winemakers responding to the overwhelming (yet inexplicable) yearning for a beverage that tasted more like a liquefied popsicle stick than wine?

Yeah, I’ve tried to blot it all out of my mind, too.

But what does all of this have to do with the tequila under consideration today? Nothing, thankfully. Because just like wine, spirits, too, can find themselves thoroughly overwhelmed by wood, losing most of the character that made them so special in the first place.

This tequila, however—part of Herradura’s excellent “Collectión de la Casa”—gets it just right, and could easily serve as an example for other producers who dream of spicing things up with their spirit but don’t want to jump the proverbial shark.

Which is something that Herradura doesn’t have to worry about: The deft touch exhibited here is calibrated finely enough that the tequila itself is still the driving force behind each sip; the oak simply helps it all along, imparting even more character, and an unexpected twist, on a spirit that you may not have thought needed the extra Cognac-cask prod, but that absolutely benefits from it.

Tequila Herradura Colección de la Casa “Cognac Cask Finish” Reposado Reserva 2013

Aromas of caramel and green herbs, all edged with a hint of clove and a subtle whiff of saffron, lead to butterscotch, pepper, and apricot mingling with crème brûlée and a lingering note of cedar. Well-crafted, and a nice addition to any tequila collection.


Wine Review: Reuling Vineyard Chardonnay 2012

Last year, I had the great good fortune to meet Tim and Jackie Reuling, owners of one of the most lauded vineyard in the entire state of California and source of some of the most profound Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays the Golden State has to offer. They are a passionate, charming couple, generous and supremely friendly, and over the years, their vineyard has supplied grapes for legendary producers like Aubert, Peter Michael, and more. Now, with winemaker Matt Taylor, they are producing their own wines.

I was recently sent a sample of their inaugural release Chardonnay 2012, a wine that I tasted before it had been bottled and that was so profound I immediately signed up for their mailing list (something I rarely do) in order to have access to a few bottles. And in all honestly, I have to admit I was a bit nervous about tasting the wine now that it had been bottled: The barrel sample was so profound that I had spent the intervening year and a half building it up in my mind. How, I wondered, would the finished product live up to that?

Turns out I had nothing to worry about: It’s just as delicious as I remembered—even more so. I’m already thirsty for next year’s release.

Reuling Vineyard Chardonnay 2012
Sonoma Coast, California

Fabulously complex aromas of warm buttermilk biscuits, lemon clotted cream, melon, acacia, orange blossom, and a hint of white licorice lead to a palate bursting with lemon-tinged honey, dulce de leche, and vanilla pod, all zipped up the middle with excellent minerality, lemon verbena, and lime. The finish of this bright yet rich wine hints at a subtle sense of spiciness, and lingers for a remarkably long time. What a phenomenal balance of power and finesse. Drink now - 2022+.


Wine Review: Caro 2010

Caviar and Champagne. Vodka and pickled gherkins. Dolce and Gabbana: Some pairs are just meant to work well together. Now, we can add to that pantheon the ingenious partnership of the Catena family and Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite), which is responsible for the excellent—and excellently priced—Caro 2010, a Mendoza blend of 60% Malbec and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon that, at around $60, represents exactly the sort of wine you could open up to create a special occasion just by virtue of treating yourself to it, or lay down for a decade and a half to see how it evolves. With a wine like this, in fact, I’d simply recommend picking up half a case or so and popping the cork from a bottle every few years: Doing so promises to be both instructive and deeply pleasurable.

Caro 2010
Mendoza, Argentina

This grabs your attention right off the bat, with aromas of ripe berries, leather, tobacco, warm baking spices, and smoky toast. These turn to taut, spice-tinged flavors of allspice, mace, nutmeg, fresh cinnamon stick, black licorice, spice cake, dark-cherry liqueur, currants, and slightly browned toast on the finish, all of it structured and beautifully balanced. Savory and ripe, and with hints of lavender on the finish, this is impeccably postured and powerful, and boasts a real sense of elegance: A Victorian novel of a wine. Drink 2016 - 2028.