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Wines Off The Beaten Track

Bodega Chacra is located in the Río Negro Valley of northern Patagonia, 620 miles south of Buenos Aires, an area that for the most part produces basic reds. Río Negro shares the same latitude with most of New Zealand. In 2004, Piero Incisa della Rochhetta, whose family owns Tenuta San Guido, the producer of Sassacia, purchased the first of Bodega Chacra’s vineyards, Treinta y Dos, a small, abandoned vineyard planted in 1932. This vineyard of gnarled Pinot Noir vines was planted on its own rootstock. The vineyard’s porous soils are dominated by coarse alluvial pebbles and significant limestone content. Piero Incisa has discovered and bought two other old wine Pinot Noir vineyards which are the source of two Bodega Chacra single-vineyard wines beginning with the 2006 vintage. The first, from a vineyard planted in 1955 called Cinquenta y Cinco, and the second, from vines planted in 1967 called Sesanta y Sete. A fourth wine, reviewed here, named Barda, is produced from declassified components of the single vineyard wines as well as wine from a recently planted 10-acre vineyard on the original property. Farming is organic and Demeter certified biodynamic. In 2005, a new winery was constructed at the site of the 1932 vineyard. The inaugural releases came in 2006. The winemaker is renowned Danish-South African vintner Hans Vinding-Djers. The wines are fermented with indigenous yeasts in small cement tanks with some lots undergoing carbonic maceration. The wines are exported to the United States by Kobrand. For the full story, consult an article written by Natalie Guinovart, CWE, DWS, titled “Bodega Chacra,” in the Sommelier Journal, March 15, 2011.


2009 Bodega Chacra Barda Patagonia Argentina Pinot Noir

14.0% alc., 4,657 cases, $31. · Moderate garnet color in the glass. Lovely aromas of black cherries, raisin and rose petals. Black cherry essence with a dusting of firm tannins and an underpinning of savory mushroom flavors. Silky in the mouth with an appealing earthiness and minerality finishing with some persistence. Very unique and unlike any California Pinot Noir I have had. Better the next day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. Very good.


Briceland Vineyards. I recently wrote a feature on Briceland Vineyards and its winemaker Joe Collins (www.princeofpinot.com/article/1012/). He is crafting about 1500 cases annually of superlative wines at reasonable prices from an area in California that is largely ignored by the wine cognoscenti. More than half of the dozens of wines Briceland has entered in prestigious wine competitions have won significant awards. Joe has over 35 years of winemaking and winegrowing experience. In 1990 and 1991, he was the individual Grand Champion at the California Wine Tasting Championships. Heard enough? The wines are ridiculously inexpensive considering the quality. The winery’s website presence at www.bricelandvineyards.com is minimal so to obtain the wines, get on the phone (707-923-2429) or e-mail assistant winemaker Andrew Morris at andrew@bricelandvineyards.com. You should try these wines. It is time we celebrate the honest, special wines from small wineries that never receive the press that the hi-profile producers garner.


2009 Briceland Vineyards Elk Prarie Vineyard Humboldt County Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., 125 cases, $27. · Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. Bright aromas of black cherries, blueberries, sandalwood, forest floor and vanillin increasing in appeal over time in the glass. Complex and nuanced, with flavors of raspberries, ripe strawberries, cherries, baking spice, cinnamon, and sassafras. Strikes a chord on the mid palate, elegantly soft in texture, finishing with modest but pleasing intensity. There is plenty going on in this chameleon of a wine which changes constantly in the glass. Outstanding.

2010 Briceland Vineyards Spirit Canyon Vineyard Mendocino County Arneis

Table wine, $17. Arneis is often called the “white Nebbiolo.” This Italian grape was discovered sparsely interplanted with Nebbiolo grapes in the Italian Piedmont region. Some say because the grape ripens earlier than black Nebbiolo, it was offered to marauding bees plaguing the vineyards. Recently the grape has found its way to California where it is planted along the Russian River south of Ukiah by Glenn McGourty at his Spirit Canyon Vineyard. · Pale straw color with a hint of peach shade in the glass. Aromas of green apple, baked pear and marzipan. Light to medium-weighted and creamy on the palate with flavors of green apple, pear, apricot and a slightly grassy, nutty note. An easy drinking wine that would be an ideal aperitif or the perfect accompaniment to shellfish. Surprise your friends! Very good.

2010 Briceland Vineyards Lolonis Vineyard Mendocino County Chardonnay

Table wine, $21. Crafted from certified organically grown grapes. · Pale straw color in the glass. Fresh aromas of rocky stream, lemon curd and buttered brioche. Slightly creamy on the palate with restrained but satisfying flavors of pears, white peach and citrus complimented by subtle oak. Flows off the back of the palate like a silk sheet in retreat. Beautifully crafted.



Other wines.


2008 Rippon Vineyard Hotere White Wine Lake Wanaka Central Otago Osteiner

11.0% alc., $14, screw cap. Osteiner is a variety born of Riesling and Sylvaner, planted at Rippon since the earliest days. Imported by Station Imports, Colorado Springs, Colorado. · Very pale straw color in the glass. Aromas of petrol (not a defect) and old book. Delicate flavors of tropical citrus, lemon and white peach with a noticeable petrol presence. A unique wine with tight, vibrant acidity, soft and light in the mouth, with a very dry finish. Would be excellent with white fish or shellfish. Good (+).

2009 Jus Soli Winery Bennett Valley Sonoma County Pinot Noir

13.6% alc., 75 cases, $30. This Santa Rosa, California producer’s name is derived from the Latin, “Law of the Soil.” Gold Medal winner at the 2011 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. · Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. Shy aromas of berry jam on toast, berry cobbler, seasoned oak and leaf. Pleasing flavors of raspberry coulis and strawberries with subtle accents of savory herbs, vanilla and red cherry Life Savers. A lighter, elegant wine with supple tannins that is easy to like. Very good.

2008 Matanzas Creek Winery Bennett Valley Sonoma County Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., $24. Matanzas Creek has been quietly producing Pinot Noir for many years. · Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. Darker berries and cherries, modestly oaked, are offered in a medium intensity style with soft tannins and a sour cherry finish. More oak-driven the next day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. Drink now. Decent.

1999 Kalin Cellars Cuvee DD Sonoma County Pinot Noir

13.0% alc., $45. The current Pinot Noir release from Kalin Cellars. The fruit is sourced from the Demostene Ranch in Alexander Valley, the oldest Pinot Noir planting in that region. · Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass with mild bricking of the rim. Aromas of oiled wood, spice, pipe smoke and soy sauce. Dark, redder fruits with secondary age related flavors of bacon fat, soy sauce, oak, mushroom and cassis. Moderate intensity with a crisp, juicy finish. Holds up nicely in the glass over time despite its age. Will thoroughly please old wine lovers and really shows off the umami flavors that old Kalin Pinot Noir is known for. Very good.

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