Luis Rodríguez

Luis Rodriguez walking around his vines. (photo from Jose Pastor Selections)

To begin to understand and appreciate the wines of Luís Rodriguez, we first have to talk about Ribeiro, the oldest appellation in Spain, and among the most historic vine-growing regions in Europe. The sun-dried sweet wines of Ribeiro graced the royal tables of England and Spain throughout the 16th and 17th centuries, and it is documented that Ribeiro was the first wine brought to the US, at the hands of Christopher Columbus. The style of wine produced here set formed the basis for subsequent successful wine production and exportation from the Canary Islands and Andalusia. As was the case in all but a few major European wine-producing regions, the deadly combination of war and vine disease in the early 20th century devastated the production of high-quality wine, and brought the volume-minded planting of ill-fitting southern Spanish grapes, like palomino and garnacha tintorera (alicante bouschet).

Rodriguez began his journey of rediscovering the native varieties of the region in 1988, when he took over a vineyard belonging to his uncle Martín. He has slowly accumulated roughly 5 hectares over the last 25 years, replanting the high-yielding varieties with the native treixadura, lado, albariño, and torrontes for the whites, and brançellao, caiño longo, caiño redondo, and ferrol for the reds. It’s worth noting that Rodriguez’s attention to red wine production is particularly unique, as 80% of the region’s production is devoted to white. The majority of his vines are planted along the extremely steep south-facing slopes of the municipality of Arnoia, where the soils consist of decomposed granite and sandy topsoil.

We feel very lucky to have any of these wines in the shop, as the entire state was allocated around 300 bottles, split among five different cuvées:

tornaViña de Martin Os Pasás $40
From a blend of mostly treixadura with lado, albariño, and torrontes, vine age 10-25 years old, planted on steep granite hillsides in the town of Arnoia. Fermented with native yeasts in steel vat and raised in vat on the lees for 10-12 months. It is a fresh light to medium-bodied vino blanco with beautiful structure and subtle flavors of citrus, honey, and seashell minerality. A lovely wine to pair with roast chicken, fresh seafood, cheeses, and delicate earthy dishes.

Viña de Martin Escolma $70
From the lowest yielding old vines, composed of mostly treixadura, planted on steep granite hillsides. Escolma means “selection” in Gallego. This top cuvée is only produced in excellent vintages, it was wild yeast fermented in a variety of sizes of French oak barrels, raised on the lees for 12 months, and further aged in the bottle for 36 months. Escolma is a very complex and age-worthy medium-bodied white with a lovely balance between structured, lush quince fruit, and vivid mineral flavors. A noble wine to pair with lobster, crab, rich sauces, game, and pork dishes.

A Torna Dos Pasás $40
40% brançellao, and roughly equal parts caiño redondo, caiño longo, and ferrol, vine age 10-20 years old, grown on steep south-facing granite hillsides in the town of Arnoia, Galicia. A Torna dos Pasas was fermented with native yeasts in steel vat, and raised in used 300 liter French oak barrels for 12 months. It is a fresh, aromatic, and medium-bodied red with lush and spicy flavors of red fruits, pepper, and purple flowers. A delicious wine to pair with pork dishes, spicy foods, game, and rich fish dishes, like tuna and swordfish.

A Torna Dos Pasás Escolma $70
From a field blend of the lowest yielding old vines planted on steep south-facing granite hillsides in Arnoia. Escolma means “selection” in Gallego. This top cuvée is only produced in excellent vintages, it was wild yeast fermented in barrel, raised in a mix of new and old 300 liter French oak barrels for a minimum of 12 months, and further aged in the bottle for 36 months. Escolma is a very complex and age-worthy medium-bodied red with a balance between structured, wild red fruit, leather, spices, and earthy mineral flavors. A noble wine to pair with game, roasted meats, rich stews and braises, and pork dishes.

BOJONANZA 2

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Grab your gamay gloves and buckle up your Bojo-belt, as due to popular demand (and staff-wide obsession), Bo-jo-nanza is back! Simply, these are the wines we want to drink all the time, and especially to pair with the bountiful harvest at the end of the New England growing season. Here are a couple of reminders about our beloved Crus Beaujolais:

  • Beaujolais extends far beyond the November marketing blitz known as Beaujolais Nouveau into the occasionally transcendent realm of Burgundy.
  • There are ten villages or Crus recognized in Beaujolais to produce distinctive red wines, all made entirely from the gamay grape variety.
  • Gamay was exiled from the Côte D’Or of Burgundy by the Duke of Burgundy at the end of the 14th century for being “a very bad and disloyal plant”.
  • Gamay is better suited to the hard, granitic soils of Beaujolais than the softer limestone soils of the Côte D’Or.
  • Beaujolais is among the easiest of red wines to pair with food, as demonstrated by their ubiquity on restaurant wine lists.
  • If you enjoy pinot noir, or any red wine that emphasizes balance and elegance over power and impact, you will likely enjoy Beaujolais.

This year we’ve pared down the package to a very manageable six wines from six different producers, each from a different one of the ten village Crus. They are each available individually, or if you’d like to really explore the region (or just have a killer party), we’re offering a special discount on the purchase of a bottle of each wine.

Click on the image for a larger version.

Bo-jo-nanza! $100
over 20% off!
A bottle of each of the wines described below. Travel village by village at your own pace through the entire region of Beaujolais; or, gather a group of friends and open them all at once to share the ultimate Cru Beaujolais experience!

2013 Damien Collonge Chiroubles “L’Aurore des Côtes” $18
The vineyards of Chiroubles are higher in elevation than most in Beaujolais, typically producing wines that emphasize levity, floral aromas, and youthful drink-ability. Fabien Collonge is part of the new generation of winemakers in Beaujolais, though he follows in the footsteps of generations of winemaking in his own family. From his modest estate, Collonge produces just this one wine from his family’s vineyards.

2013 Jean-Marc Burgaud Régnié “Vallières” $17
Régnié is the youngest Beaujolais Cru, created in 1988, the year before Jean-Marc Burgaud established his domaine in Morgon. Grown in sandy and stony soil, this wine is characterized by its youthful, charming fruity aromas, and supple, round texture.

2012 Domaine des Terres Dorées Fleurie $27
Superstar vigneron Jean-Paul Brun relies on native yeast and Burgundian winemaking techniques to make the truest expression of the limestone pierres dorée (golden stones) of Beaujolais, after which his family estate is named. The wines of Fleurie offer the more effortless, elegant side of gamay, with more emphatic floral aromas.

2012 Maison P-U-R Morgon “Côte du Py” $25
Maison P-U-R is a small négociant started by two friends, Florian Looze and Cyril Alonzo.  The initials of their label stand for “Production, Unique, Rebelle”, three words that represent their philosophy and approach to winemaking. Côte du Py is a famous hillside vineyard just to the north of the village of Morgon known for producing some of the region’s most powerful and age-worthy wines.

2011 Domaine les Roches Bleues Côte de Brouilly $20
Romans planted vineyards along the southern slopes of Mont Brouilly before anywhere else in Beaujolais. The blue and green stony soils are a complex mix of schist and diorite (rock composition between gabbro and granite). We find this version from a family estate with generations of knowledge and experience as it has just started to come into maturity, leaving behind its purple robe of youth to reveal the deep minerality within.

2010 Domaine de Colette Moulin à Vent $20
Jacky Gauthier farms 14 hectares of vineyards scattered throughout Beaujolais using natural methods. We featured his delicate Régnié in last year’s Bo-jo-nanza, and this year have chosen his Moulin à Vent, which is grown in manganese-rich granitic soils.

COS

Sicily’s sun is rising in the wine world, due in large part to Az. Agr. COS, who, over the past 30 years, have co-authored a grand new chapter in the island’s rich viticultural history. With the dedication to expressing the island’s unique terroir, COS and other like-minded producers have spearheaded the steep uphill battle to reverse numerous systemic issues that have held Sicily back in the past.

With its long growing seasons and dry, sun-drenched climate, Sicily is a paradise for wine grapes, with the potential to produce voluptuous whites and big, burly reds, deep in color and high in alcohol. Mainland growers have historically looked to Sicily for grapes that would add color and tannin to weaker wines.  Britain capitalized on Marsala production in the 18th century, and in the 19th, French merchants depended on Sicily to help bolster falling domestic production during the blight of phylloxera. A tragic side-effect of these vibrant export markets, and one whose effects continue to the present, is that the island’s wine industry has emphasized producing the maximum quantity of bulk grapes over the highest quality of bottled wine.

Compounding this unfortunate and shortsighted notion was the plight of the island’s poverty-stricken working class. When the large, feudal land holdings were broken up and distributed among the sharecroppers, another problem arose. Those farmers had the knowledge and skills to grow the grapes, but lacked the resources to establish winemaking facilities, thus the growing bulk export market. The phylloxera epidemic finally hit Sicily in the 1880’s, truly wiping out production over great swaths of island vineyards.

The cooperative movement began in Italy out of the ashes of phylloxera toward the end of the 19th century. The coop structure allowed small farmers to join forces, sharing the costs and profits of production to become more competitive. When supply began to outweigh demand, cooperatives found support in government subsidies. In some cases even into the 1980’s, subsidies paid for excess grapes or distilled juice, compelling cooperatives to continue to over-produce, rather than investing in the long-term projects needed to break the cycle.

It was in this climate of runaway plonk wine production in the late 1970’s that three friends, Giambattista Cilia, Giusto Occhipinti, and Cerio Strano, met and founded Azienda Agricola COS (see what they did there?). The trio at COS found themselves at the center of a small wave of growers who wanted to see dramatic changes in Sicily’s industry. Their goals with COS were to recreate the viticultural traditions of their families, and to help foster a new dialogue for Sicilian wines in the market. The friends purchased a four hectare property from Celia’s family in the town of Bastonaca, and made their first vintage of just 1400 bottles in 1980.  A few years into the project, Strano left and returned to school, and was replaced at COS by his sister Pinuccia. In 1995, Pinuccia sold her part to Giambattista and Giusto, who continue operations today. They now farm 20 hectares, and produce 9 different wines.

Since its inception, the winery has been both forward-thinking and respectful of tradition in its philosophies and practices. COS was quick to adopt organic and biodynamic practices in the late 1980’s, and was instrumental in helping to establish the Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOCG in their region, the only DOCG in Sicily. They remain open to experimentation and continue to amend their approach in winemaking. They were among the first to purchase French barriques for aging, a direction they quickly abandoned in favor of concrete. In 2000, they were again among the first on the island to experiment with vinification in large 400L Greek amphorae, which they continue to use for some wines, despite regulations that prohibit the use of these containers at the DOCG level.

At COS, we are not interested in representing our land by cabernet or merlot, but by grapes that, for centuries, have represented our territory. Producers should not necessarily follow what the market is asking for, as the market tends to homogenize. Wine is life and for this reason, diversity. – Giusto Occhipinti

Tomorrow night’s lineup (10/10):

2012 Terre Siciliane IGP “RamÌ”
Made with equal parts inzolia and grecanico, skin macerated for ten days and aged in cement for nine months before bottling, this white is balanced, with equal parts fruit-driven freshness and serious structure.

2013 Terre Siciliane IGP Frappato
100% frappato fermented in cement and aged in bottle for a year before release. Full of bright strawberry fruit, with a cheerful, elegant finish.

2013 Terre Siciliane “Nero di Lupo”
100% nero d’avola named after the same single vineyard. Fermented in concrete, aged 18-24 months.  Elegant and warm with dark cherry fruit and a touch of earthy spice.

2011 Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOCG
40% frappato and 60% nero d’avola, made in concrete and aged 18-24 months. These two grapes compliment each other beautifully, and the result is a sultry red with bright fruit and quiet body.