Araldica ‘Albera’ Barbera d’Asti 2013


Smooth and well balanced, a consistently fantastic value from a cooperative in Piedmont.

Winery: The Araldica Group is a cooperative located in the Monferrato hills in Piedmont, northwest Italy. Founded in 1954 by a small group of growers, today it is headed by winemaker Claudio Manera and consists of 200 members cultivating 900 hectares of vineyards. They are renowned for high quality, affordable Barbera, and concentrating on native grapes such as Nebbiolo, Dolcetto, Cortese and Ameis. ‘Alberta’ is the ancient name for the Barbera grape.

Philosophy: To craft wines that are “both understandable and accessible. Quite simply, wine for drinking and enjoying.”

Tasting Notes: Dark garnet in colour with aromas of dark berries, toasted oak and hints of earthy hay barn. Glossy blackberry and red currant flavours are supported by cigar box spice and earth notes, whilst black peppercorn along with hints of dark chocolate and smoke comprise the pleasantly dry finish.

100% Barbera
Barbera d’Asti
Bottled by Aralica Castelvero S.C.A.
14% Alcohol
Enjoy now thru 2016

Joel Gott & Dave Phinney ‘Shatter’ Grenache Vin de Pays des Cotes Catalanes 2012


Brand: Shatter is a collaboration between legendary winemakers Dave Phinney and Joel Gott along with Trinchero Family Estates. Progressive winemaker David Swift Phinney, founded the acclaimed Orin Swift Cellars in 1998 [Orin is his father’s middle name and Swift is his mother’s maiden name.] Today the company has grown into an international brand that includes 300 acres in southwest France along with projects in Spain, Italy, Corsica, Argentina and other locations. However, his mission still remains a small, “passionate team of friends and family dedicated to making great wine”.

Joel Gott is a 5th generation west coast winemaker that began crafting renowned Zinfandels in 1996. His wines are noted for their remarkable value together with his use of high-end California fruit, and fantastic structure and balance. Striving to craft quality wine under $20, in addition to his acclaimed Joel Gott Wines, he is also the man behind the hugely successful ‘Three Thieves’ brand.

Winemaking: Interestingly, the name Shatter refers to a few different components of the wine. First, it is a nod to the extreme viticulture conditions found in the Maury region of the Roussillon in southern France. Second, it refers to the phenomenon in which grape clusters fail to develop all their berries after flowering. Generally, this is considered to be one of the hazards of grape growing in the area, but Phinney and Gott embrace it; stating, “It actually decreases yield and intensifies the wines.” And finally, it is a reflection of the black schist soils that resemble shards of broken black glass. The label with its original photo of broken glass further anchors and emphasis these features.

Tasting Notes: Dark red-violet in colour with aromas of dark berries, vanilla and cozy campfire. An engaging density [verbatim from my notes] accentuated by rich layers of black cherry, blackberry and hints of sweet herbs, meanwhile silky tannins, black cherry, chocolate ganache and toasty spices comprise the lengthy finish.
[Watch out for that 15+% alcohol, it quietly sneaks up on you.]

100% Grenache
Vin de Pays des Cotes Catalanes
Imported and Bottled by Fracture, St Helena, Napa County CA
15.6% Alcohol
Enjoy now thru 2018

Rated 92 points by the Wine Advocate

Paul Mas ‘Côte Mas’ Aurore Rosé 2014


Estate: For over 100 years, the Mas family has been tending to vines and crafting wine at Château de Conas located in the Coteaux de Languedoc, along the Mediterranean coast. After the French revolution, the estate was broken up leaving only the family residence and 68 acres of land. In 2000, 4th generation winemaker Jean-Claude took over and under his direction, the estate has expanded to include 440 acres of vineyards, including Domaines de Nicole and Les Tannes and Astruc and a progressive winery. Jean-Claude also contracts with 80 small family growers that bring an impressive 2000 additional acres under the Mas Domaine. Known for his progressive approach to modern winemaking, raising the perception of Languedoc wines worldwide, his creativity and sense of humour, Jean-Claude has had many accolades bestowed on him; including ‘Winery of the Year’ by The Guardian and Top 30 ‘Winemakers of Tomorrow’ France’s L’Express magazine.

Philosophy: Striving to craft superior wines with a “New World Flair”, Jean-Claude’s mission is to “create a moment of pure pleasure” with every bottle.

Winemaking: Passionate about the environment, Jean-Claude employs Agriculture Raisonne farming methods and takes it steps further by only using organic fertilizers and adapting the 100 acre Les Tannes estate to all organic farming. The same eco-friendly farming methods and emphasis on respecting the environment are applied to all of the vineyards he contracts with.

Tasting Notes: Coral in colour with aromas of strawberry, melon and rain-washed minerals. Light and fruity with good acidity, along with a pleasant, slightly bitter note on the crisp finish which boosts the overall refreshing character.

Pairing Suggestions From the Winery: Light dishes, salads or on its own as an aperitif.

Grenache 50%, Cinsault 30%, Syrah 20%
Pays d’Oc
Bottled by Paul Mas
13% Alcohol
Enjoy now thru 2016

Tenuta di Biserno: Blends Spotlighting Cabernet Franc from an Iconic Tuscan Family [Kobrand Tour d’Italia Part 2]


A quiet moment at the Tenuta di Biserno table before the tasting began.

I was delighted to attend the 4th annual Kobrand ‘Tour d’Italia’, featuring wines and regions from up and coming to renowned from their exclusive Italian wine portfolio. Kobrand is a family owned importing company founded in 1944, it serves as the exclusive agent for many fine European wines and additionally owns many of the brands in its portfolio. The tasting was held in the stunningly beautiful Bowery Hotel in NYC, and was a fantastic opportunity to speak directly with distinguished winemakers representing many regions of Italy, from the north to Tuscany to Sicily. Many producers brought new releases and assembled vertical tastings of some of their best vintages and labels. With so many exceptional wines, it was difficult not trying them all [although I did give it my best attempt in the couple of hours that I had!]

The Biserno Estate is located in the hills of Bibbona in Upper Maremma, western Tuscany. The Maremma is divided into 3 distinct winemaking regions, Upper, Central and Southern. The Upper Maremma is recognized as the “premium” district, due in part to the cooling influence of the sea, its unique microclimate and terrior.

Founded as a joint venture by Marchese Lodovico Antinori [yes, that Antinori family] in 1995, Tenuta di Biserno is a “passion project” that includes his brother Marchese Piero Antinori [the President of renowned Antinori Wines] and consulting winemaker Michel Roland. The estate produces three wines: Lodovico [only in the best vintages], Biserno and Il Pino di Biserno. The estate is known for their interesting blends, notably using larger amounts of Cabernet Franc. The vineyards are farmed organically, although like many other Italian family estates, they are not certified.


Tenuta di Biserno ‘Il Pino di Biserno’ Toscana IGT 2012
Described as a “new project”, 75% of the wine was aged for 12 months in new and second use French oak barriques, the reminder aged in stainless steel. Lively and fun, cherry, blackberry and spice layers culminate in lingering subtle oak and vanilla notes. Tannins are firm yet silky smooth, this will drink fantastically over the next 10 years +.
Blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot
14% Alcohol
$ 40 [average price]
Rated 92 points by Wine Spectator

‘Biserno’ is the 1st label and flagship wine of the estate, crafted from the very best Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot grapes. It was a rare opportunity to taste the acclaimed 2007 vintage, especially considering that it is no longer available on the regular market.

Tenuta di Biserno ‘Biserno’ Toscana IGT 2007
Aged for 17 months in French oak barriques, a big, meaty Tuscan Red with an elegant edge. Overlapping plush layers of berries, peppery spice and oak are echoed in the lengthy, dry finish of soft oak and fruit elements.
Drinking now and for 10-15 years more.
15% Alcohol
$ No longer available

Tenuta di Biserno ‘Biserno’ Toscana IGT 2010
Aged 16 months in 60% new French oak barriques and the rest in one year old barrels, further aged for 12 months in the bottle before release. Woodsy, earthy elements provide the backbone to velvety blackberry and cherry notes, whilst firm tannins, black peppercorn and traces of a gravelly minerality elongate the wonderfully dry finish. Each refined, well balanced sip keeps you reaching for more.
Enjoy over the next 15-20 years
14.5% Alcohol
$120 [average price]
Rated 94 points by Wine Enthusiast
Rated 93 points by Wine Spectator



Media Event Sponsored by Kobrand

Charles Smith Vino Volo Barbera 2013


Winery: Renowned, self-taught pioneer winemaker Charles Smith is the founder and winemaker behind Charles Smith Family wines. His “kick ass attitude and bold packaging has earned the moniker ‘rock star’ of Washington State Syrah”. With his multitude of labels [K Vintners, Wines of Substance, Sixto, Charles & Charles, Secco and Vino] he is able to offer a wide variety of wines varying in cost from budget friendly boxed wine to highly rated, single vineyard Syrahs in the $100 range. Within all of his labels, Smith strives to craft wines that “are full of flavor, balanced, and true to place of origin”. Vino was “Italian inspired and locally produced” in Washington State.

Philosophy: “Everyone says, “Let’s go grab a glass of vino!” – so we wanted to help make the decision a bit easier when choosing a wine.”

Winemaking: Vino Barbera is make exclusively for Vino Volo, a chain of wine bars around the country and in many large airports, specializing in wine flights and educational tasting graphs. Grapes were sourced from Northridge Vineyard in the Wahluke Slope of the Columbia Valley appellation of south-central Washington State.

Tasting Notes: Red-violet in colour with bright aromas of strawberry and raspberry along with hints of baking spices. Direct and delightfully simple with vibrant blackberry and raspberry flavours complimented by woodsy elements and hints of dark chocolate on the dry finish. Clean fruit flavours and an acidic backbone make this fantastic for sipping on its own, and also a good companion to a wide variety of dishes. [It was fantastic with bbq tempeh and mac n cheese.]

Barbera [I could not verify varietal percentage.]
Wahluke Slope
Produced and Bottled by The Charles Smith Family
13.5% Alcohol
Enjoy now thru 2016