Posts Tagged ‘cabernet sauvignon’

Bordeaux 2010 begins at Château Malartic- Lagravière

Over the river, through the woods, and across a roundabout is how myself and team K&L arrived in Bordeaux not too long ago.  The occasion? The Union des Grand Cru des Bordeaux was holding its annual en primeur week, where wine professionals and press from around the world descend upon the region to taste the newest vintage before the wine or prices are released.

From April 5-7th, tastings were held throughout the region and included the communes of Graves,  Pessac-Leognan, Listrac-Medoc, Haut-Medoc, Margaux, Pauillac, Saint-Estèphe, Sauternes & Barsac, Saint-Emilion and Pomerol. As you can already imagine, a lot of young, full-bodied 2010 Bordeaux was going to be tasted. And we were ready for it!

Bordeaux 2010: I will be filling you in on some of the highlights of this amazing, once in a lifetime trip. It was my first time to Bordeaux, and I am grateful to have been invited to participate with and learn from the best (this is a shout out to Clyde B. and Ralph S.).

Here is my tweet on the 2010 vintage: Bold, rich fruit, with a rich mid-palate. Ripe, yet tannic structure with impressive acidity. Built for the long haul. Prices will be off the hook for classed growths.

Let the tasting begin!

Our first stop was at Château Malartic-Lagravière, located in the commune of Pessac-Léognan.  Just beyond the magnificent chateau and estate vineyards, the tasting hall was in full swing with paticipants lining up to sign in and grab their i.d. badges.

Once inside, the best of Graves and Pessac-Leognan were in attendance.  At this first tasting I had the opportunity to taste approximately 40+ wines from throughout the region.

The vineyards of Château Malartic-Lagravière

Domaine de Chevalier, Château La Louviere, Château Haut-Bailly; these were several of my top picks for the region in 2010.  In the next few days and fresh off the press, K&L Wine Merchants  will release its annual Bordeaux vintage and tasting report which will include a detailed vintage report as well as tasting notes on the hundreds of wines that were tasted throughout this trip. I will be sure to include a link when it becomes available!

Hospitality by Barry Flanagan at Chateau Smith Haut-Lafitte

After knocking out this first tasting, our stomachs were grumbling. One cannot live on wine alone! So we hopped back into our 8 person passenger van and high-tailed it over to Château Smith Haut-Lafitte.

Displayed amongst the vines and throughout the estate are wonderfully evocative sculptures from artists around the world.  The gigantic rabbit/hare seen above and named “Hospitality” is the work of Welsh sculptor Barry Flanagan.

Clyde Beffa a.k.a. the MWB contemplating a stay at Les Sources de Caudalie..

In addition to a world winery, the grounds are home to Les Sources de Caudalie, a first class spa and retreat.  Les Sources also boasts two delicious dining venues. La Grand’Vigne, which presents the ultimate in fine dining spa cuisine, and La Table du Lavoir, a more casual bistro style restaurant where Clyde had reserved a table for lunch that day.

Enjoying a break in the action @ La Table du Lavoir

Clyde, Kerri, Mark, Alison sat down to casual an oh so civilized lunch before heading back out for a second round of tasting that afternoon.

And what to drink with such a delicious lunch? (I ordered the beef carpaccio with vegetables and hazelnut and the sea bream a la plancha). How about a bottle each of 2006 Château Malartic-Lagravière Blanc and 2007 Smith Haut Lafitte Rouge?

Believe it or not, our group tried to keep our lunch and wine consumption on the light side as a) we had to drive to our next destination b) there was indeed some great wine to be tasted, and we needed to be “on point” to do so. Our plan was to meet up with a second group of K&L folk who had just arrived from Paris.

We finished lunch with a delicious lemon tart, a couple of canelé. I fortified myself with a shot of espresso and then we were off to an afternoon of tastings at Château Pape Clement and Château Haut-Brion.

For more photos of lunch at La Table du Lavoir, please check out Les Photos on the right hand side bar.


More to come from Bordeaux 2010!


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The original gangsta: Dunn Vineyards

When I first asked my colleague Mike Jordan, our domestic wine specialist at K&L, for advice regarding whom I should visit up on Howell Mountain, Dunn Vineyards were the first words out of MJs mouth.

Along with Philip Togni across the way on Spring Mountain, MJ described Dunn as an “old school” family run winery that year in year out produces ageworthy and distinct wines that totally reflect the soils and environment from which they come.

No two vintages taste or age alike, and experiencing wines from Dunn is more akin to tasting through a retrospective of grand red burgundy (an exercise in vintage variation and terroir) than many Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.

Mike Dunn, Susan, Mumu and Randy Dunn

Mike, Susan and I were met by Randy and Mike Dunn for a tour of the vineyards, winery and a retrospective tasting of cabernet sauvignon. Randy Dunn, who is also a UC Davis alum (1975), established the winery in 1979 with is wife Lori. 30 years later, Dunn Vineyards is very much a family affair, with son Mike coming on as cellar master and the assistant winemaker.

In 2003 Mike Dunn and his wife Kara also started their own project, Retro Cellars, which features petite sirah grown on the volcanic soils of Howell Mountain.

Enter at your own risk!

But before we dipped into the winery cave (literally, as you’ll see), Mike took us on a quick tour of the vineyards, located just a stone’s throw from the cellar door. Perhaps more effective than a no trespassing sign, this vineyard mascot (wild boar anyone?) captured my attention!

Way up and above the fogline: the vineyards of Dunn

In 1981 Dunn released it’s first vintage, which amounted to 660 cases of 100% Howell Mountain cabernet sauvignon. A year later, the winery released its first Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Today, Dunn farms 24 acres of cabernet sauvignon vineyards and an additional 6 acres of several other varietals, including these petite sirah vines shown above.

Currently Dunn produces around 2500 cases of Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon and 1500 cases of Napa Valley bottling, which includes up to 15% cabernet sauvignon from the Napa Valley floor.

The Napa Valley Cabernet is generally considered more user friendly and approachable sooner than the more structured and tanninc 100% Howell Mountain bottling. However both wines can definitely stand several years in the cellar and then some before they really hit their stride.

Red wax for the Dunn Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvigon

Although both wines are robed in a no nonsense, no frill sash like label, the most obvious way to tell them apart is by their respective closures. The Napa Valley bottling is finished with a foil seal, while the Howell Mountain bottling is finished in red wax.  Mike provided us with a quick demo of how the waxing is done. When it’s time to wax the new release of Howell Mountain cabernet, about 100 cases worth (1200 bottles) can be hand dipped a day.


step into the Dunn wine portal..

Next we were off to Dunn’s winery cave, which was completed in 1989 and is used for wine storage and elevage. This cave, along with numerous others like it found on Howell Mountain, provide excellent natural temperature and humidity control for wine.

Dunn’s elevage regime includes approximately 75% new French oak every vintage, and over a period of 30 months. Ageing these bottles in a conventional above ground and temperature controlled cellar for 2.5 years would cost a small fortune in heating/cooling bills.

The ultimate earthwork at Dunn

At the end of the long cellar corridor, I spotted what appeared to be a relic of or portal to an ancient world. Mesopotamia? The Mayan Empire? This formidable relief was also seeping some type of primordial looking ooze.  Turns out, this end of the line marked the point where the enormous drill bit used to carve out these cave stopped and pulled out. Stumbling upon this dramatic earthwork is one of the coolest things I have ever seen at a winery.

After a tour of the vineyards and cellar, it was now time to taste some wine! Randy Dunn led us through the tasting and provided additional commentary on each wine. Additional wine tasting notes for each wine are available on the Dunn website too.

True to the varietal, this young 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon exhibits lots of deep, rich blackcurrant and blackberry fruit, along with notes of bittersweet chocolate and mineral notes. Full bodied and fairly tannic,  with a rich and lush mid palate that finishes with formidable tannins, I would give the wine a 3 year head start before opening.  Then try it with grilled steak or pork roast. 13.9% abv.

Bump up the structure and intensity one notch and you’ll arrive at the 2007 Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon. Along with black berried fruits, a distinct earthy minerality prevails, along with toasty nuances courtesy of barrel ageing in French oak. The tannins here are a bit more strident as well, providing the opportunity to age this mountain wine a good 5-7 years before enjoying. 13.9% abv.

Ah, now we’re talking! Open and let this 1997 take in a bit of air and stretch its vinous legs so to speak. Medium + bodied, this 13+ year old red is growing up just fine. Dried berry fruits, notes of violets, crushed autumn leaves and toasted nuts are still supported by a good spine of acidity and a fine tannic structure. 13.0% abv.

At 23+ years of age, this stately and mature Howell Mountain red is drinking beautifully.

The dark blackcurrant fruits of the young 2007 have over time given way to deep and spicy red fruit nuances. Dried hibiscus flowers, along with light dash of cedar make for a Howell Mountain red that exudes finesse and elegance. I would try this with some sort of game bird..perhaps squab or pigeon? What a lovely wine! 13.0% abv.

Many thanks to Randy and Mike Dunn for the tour and tasting of one of Howell Mountain’s true originals!

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Team K&L: Melissa, Mumu, Susan & (Theo)bromine

By the time Susan and I wrapped up our visit at O’Shaughnessy, lunch was calling..as was our friend Melissa, who was to meet us down the mountain in St. Helena. Melissa, who also works at K&L Wine Merchants, was up for the day visiting several wineries too.

After a quick lunch “in town”, the 3 of us headed back up Deer Park Road for our afternoon appointment at Ladera Vineyards.

After our initial photo op in front of the winery, we were greeted by Jerry Baker, Ladera’s Vice President of Sales and Marketing. Jerry’s 30+ years in the wine business, including 15+ here in Napa definitely qualified him as a resource and authority on the wines and history of Napa Valley.

The chai of Nouveau Medoc Vineyard: est. 1886

Speaking of history, this particular winery certainly has an illustrious one.  In 1877, two Frenchmen, Jean Brun and Jean V. Chaix, found themselves enchanted with the land and potential of Howell Mountain.  Brun & Chaix quickly set about planting Bordeaux varietals and named their winery Nouveau Medoc Vineyard. With approximately 115 acres under vine, Brun & Chaix became California’s 13th licensed winery.

Yes, the engraved stone above reads: 1886.. the year that the beautiful stone winery of Brun & Chaix was completed. By California / Napa Valley standards this domaine definitely qualifies as “Old School”.

A 19th century gravity flow winery in action

An Italian stonesman by the name of Frank Guigni, along with a team of Chinese workers (most of whom had immigrated to California during the state’s gold rush of the mid 19th century) built the Brun & Chaix winery with rock from a quarry located on Howell Mountain.

The sweat, determination and ingenuity that went in to completing the stone structure is very evident as we toured the building.  Not only are the stone walls a formidable 30 inches thick, (how’s that for sweat and determination) but the entire winery was constructed such that the entire winemaking process would utilize gravity flow.

More specifically, grapes would arrive by horse on the top level of the building. Vinification would take place on the second, or middle floor, and ageing would take place on the lower or first floor.  At every step of the winemaking process, the wine would naturally flow downwards to the next level, thereby avoiding the use of pumps to transfer wine from one vessel to another. Not only was this less damaging to the wine, but gravity flow also proved to more cost effective.

Same as it ever was: The Ladera chai in the 21st Century

Fast forward to 1980, when the property (which endured a tumultuous 100 years of social, viticultural and political history) was purchased by Francis and Francoise DeWavrin. As former owners of Bordeaux’s Chateau La Mission Haut-Brion, the DeWavrin’s knew a thing or two about wine.

They renamed the property Chateau Woltner, replanted much of the acreage, this time including Chardonnay, and released their first vintage in 1985. When the DeWavrin’s decided to retire at the turn of the century, the domaine was sold to it’s present day owners, Pat and Anne Stotesbery.


Under this new ownership, the Stotesbery’s made several significant changes. First, the chardonnay vines were replaced with traditional Bordeaux varietals, most of which included cabernet sauvignon, along with merlot, petit verdot and malbec.

Second, the Stotesbery’s decided to both preserve and continue the tradition of the Howell Mountain property by giving the original Jean & Chaix cellar a complete renovation.  Today the building as been rightfully restored to its former magnificence, and looks pretty much just as it did 100+ years ago.

Third property was to be re-named Ladera, which translates to hillside or slope..naturally in reference to the topography of Howell Mountain itself.


Enlightened with this detailed history of the winery,  it was now time to taste some wine! Jerry took us through a selection of Ladera’s current releases.

First, Ladera’s 2009 Howell Mountain Sauvignon Blanc, which is grown on several of the cooler sites on the property, where red varietals such as cabernet sauvignon, merlot and petit verdot will not ripe adequately.

However these cooler sites are perfect for the production of crisp and brisk whites like this SB. Ladera practices about 15% barrel fermentation (the rest in stainless steel) in order to impart a bit of mid-palate richness to the wine.

Grapefruit, a bit of green melon and a hint of vanilla spice make this a great choice for folks in want of a crisp white that is not as stridently mineral or grassy as a Sancerre of New Zealand SB. $25

Next, Ladera’s entrée du gamme, or entry level so to speak, is their 2007 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Although comprised of 100% estate grown fruit, the vineyard sources include the property’s Howell Mountain (57%) as well as their Lone Mountain (43%) vineyard down at the foot of Mt. Veeder.

Lots of rich dark berried fruits and plum shine here, along with hints of dark chocolate and spice. Fine, ripe tannins and only a modest amount of noticeable oak make this cuvee ideal for enjoyment now and over the next 4-5 years. At under $40 a bottle, I think that it represents on the top values in Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. .not trying to be too big for its britches (not over ripe, over oaked), just a delicious and balanced representation of Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.



Ladera’s two flagship wines come from two distinct locations at opposite ends of the Napa Valley. Tasted together, they represent a great exercise in the subtle differences that location or terroir will often impart to a finished wine.

The 2006 Ladera Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon comes from volcanic rich soils grown on gently sloping hillsides at an elevation of 1,600-1,800 feet above sea level. As they vineyards sit well above the fog line, the growing season is (relative to Napa Valley floor) a relatively long one. Fruit for the 2006 was harvested between late September and the first of November.

Ladera’s rendition of Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon is big, deep and full-bodied. Described as such, I still found it to possess a fine elegance..perhaps even gracefulness about it.  Dark berried fruits, black tea, dried lavender and a very fine mineral note running through the wine are for me characteristics point to a mountain wine grown on igneous soils like volcanic or granitic rock. (like the northern Rhone). $70.

In contrast, the 2006 Ladera Lone Canyon Cabernet Sauvignon hails from a steep vineyard site approximately 15 miles south Howell Mountain. Here, largely sedimentary soils composed of clay and loam provide the backdrop for Lone Canyon’s 75 acres of vineyards. In addition, the steep vineyards lie at an elevation of 1,100 feet above seal level.

Bigger, broader and a bit brawnier than its Howell Mountain cousin is how I would describe the 2006 Lone Canyon. In addition to blackberries and plums galore, there’s a dried fig nuance to this wine as well. In addition, it’s structure is definitely more rough and tumble.  The texture/mouthfeel is not as refined as the Howell Mountain, and the tannins are more strident to boot. $65

I would suggest hanging on to both of these wines for several years before enjoying them. I suspect that at point the subtle differences that I picked up will be even more evident and enjoyable..hopefully with a beautiful herb grilled steak or roasted leg of lamb!

Thanks to Jerry Baker and Ladera Vineyards for the great tour and tasting!

NEXT: A visit to Dunn Vineyards


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Roberto de la Mota leads us through the Mendel lineup

After our tour of the winery, our group sat down to a comprehensive tasting with Roberto de la Mota, the  head winemaker and partner of Mendel. As we tasted through both current and soon to be bottled selections, Roberto explained the vinification and elevage process for each wine.

Sometimes I can't read my own handwriting..

Lots of questions. Lots of note taking. I have outlined more specifics on each cuvee, and have also included brief tasting notes for each vintage below:


Varietal: Semillon

Vineyard region: Uco Valley

Sub region: Altamira-La Consulta

Elevation: 3330 ft-1000m 

Average vine age: 60 years

Rootstock: ungrafted 

Harvest method: Hand harvested 

Vinification: whole cluster press; 88% stainless steel, 12% barrel fermentation; no ML

Elevage: 10 months in 100% new French oak

Alcohol: 13.6%

Case production: 300

2009 Mendel Semillon:

Medium bodied and dry, with notes of lemon, chervil and tarragon. Buttered pear and subtle toast notes and countered with vibrant acidity. A substantial white that still manages to be crisp and refreshing. Really impressive on its own or perhaps with baked halibut or some other rich white fish entrée.

Varietal: Malbec

Vineyard region: Lujan de Cuyo / Mayor Drummond

Elevation: 3280 ft-1000m 

Average vine age: 80 years

Rootstock: ungrafted 

Harvest method: Hand harvested 

Vinification: stainless steel fermentation; no delestage, manual pigeage daily

Elevage: 12 months in 40% new French barriques, 60% second use barrique

Fining: egg white 

Filtration: no 

Alcohol: 14%

Case production: 5500


2007 Mendel Malbec:

 Medium+ bodied..damson plum, violets, bittersweet chocolate, smoky tea notes. The medium ripe tannins supple and make this malbec a really delicious choice to pair with grilled meats or a hearty mushroom based vegetarian dish.

 2008 Mendel Malbec:

 Not available in the US..similar floral, plum and blueberry notes, albeit a bit more awkward and not as integrated as the 2007. Tannins a bit more gritty. To be expected. This should be really tasting in a year or two.

Varietals: 70% Malbec, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon

Vineyard region: Lujan de Cuyo / Mayor Drummond

Elevation: 3280 ft-1000m

Average vine age: 80+ years

Rootstock: ungrafted

Harvest method: Hand harvested

Vinification: stainless steel fermentation; no delestage, manual pigeage daily

Elevage: 16 months in 100% new French barriques (mostly Taransaud)

Fining: egg white

Filtration: no

Alcohol: 14%

Case production: 3500 cases (6 pack)

2006 Mendel Unus:

 Amazing, amazing bouquet of plum, dried cherries, sassafras, cedar and spicebox. Medium ++ bodied, with luxurious and deep red berry fruits on the palate, and grounded with subtle nuances of oolong tea. Silky, fine medium tannins. Good acidity and great length to this super elegant red. Filet Mignon?

 2007 Mendel Unus:

 Not yet released..Big, and more muscle-bound right now than the 2006, but showing terrific intensity and deep, beautiful rich fruit. This should be dazzling in a few years. Let’s see what happens.

Varietal: 100% Malbec

Vineyard region: Altamira-La Consulta

Elevation: 4000 ft-1200m

Average vine age: 60 years

Rootstock: ungrafted

Harvest method: Hand harvested

Vinification: stainless steel fermentation; no delestage, manual pigeage daily

Elevage: 18 months total: 12 months in 100% new Taransaud barriques, then 50% of the wine racked to 100% new barriques for 6 months.

Fining: egg white

Filtration: no

Alcohol: 14.1%

Case production: 400 cases

2008 Mendel Finca Remota:

 Not yet released. Dark, liquid purple color. Medium ++ bodied with primary fruit notes of blueberry, plum and violet floramatics. Mouthfeel tastes like touching velvet. Although the oak regimen on this malbec is quite hefty, at this tasting the fruit has managed to handle it perfectly..this is not tasting “oaky”. Medium+ tannins and medium acidity. Thick and luxurious.

 coming up: Vamos a comer!

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Birgitta Togni and Mumu tasting on a cold winter morning..

After a tour of the vineyards and winery, Birgitta Togni led me through a tasting of various cuvees and vintages as she and Lisa described winemaking practices at the domaine.

All of the hand-harvested grapes, which are generally picked with sugar levels at around 25 brix, are brought into the winery and de-stemmed. After a 3 day cold soak, the must is inoculated and the fermentation will commence in stainless steel tanks, with temperatures reaching a warm 85-90 degrees Fahrenheit. Fermentation generally takes between 10-12 days, with 2 daily pump overs (done by hand of course).

The barrel room @ Philip Togni

When fermentation is complete, the wine is pressed, and then racked several times off its gross lees before being placed into French oak barriques (Nadalie, Taransaud) for a period of 20 months.  Malo-lactic fermentation takes place in barrel, rather than in tank, as the Tognis believe that in that manner the wine flavors become more integrated. The press wine and free run juices are always aged separately, only to be re-blended just prior to bottling.  The wines are never filtered or fined. 

The lineup..

Here is list of the wines that I tasted with Birgitta Togni:


2007 Philip Togni Tanbark Hill Cabernet Sauvignon            $40

 2006 Philip Togni Tanbark Hill Cabernet Sauvignon            $52

 The Tanbark Hill cuvee is produced from a single plot of younger vines on the domaine. Both the 2006 and the 2007 vintages are composed of 100% free-run Cabernet Sauvignon. With its softer and more supple structure, this elegant red does not require as extensive ageing as the Cabernet lineup below.  


2007 Philip Togni Cabernet Sauvignon                   $90

 2005 Philip Togni Cabernet Sauvignon                   $95

 The vineyard source and winemaking have been discussed above.


1999 Philip Togni Cabernet Sauvignon –Library Release   $115      

1998 Philip Togni Cabernet Sauvignon –Library Release   $130     

 1991 Philip Togni Cabernet Sauvignon –Library Release   $250

 The Tognis also hold back a portion of their annual production and release such wines 10+ years down the road. On this particular day I had the good fortune to taste the three vintages above. Suffice to say that these wines have stood the test of time magnificently. In particular the 1991 was an absolute treasure. The more primary black currant fruit notes characteristic of ripe cabernet sauvignon have taken one step back to reveal nuances of black tea, dried herbs and cigar box.

Just  as we finished tasting our last still red wine, Philip Togni dropped in just in time to introduce us to perhaps the most unusual dessert wine currently being produced in California..

Ca' Togni..inspired by South Africa's Constantia

 2004 Philip Togni Ca’ Togni Sweet Wine  (375ml)             $55

Ca’ Togni is something truly special. Inspired by Constantia, the famous dessert wine from South Africa produced during the 18-19th centuries, this sweet red wine made from Black Hamburgh is harvested late in the season when the grapes have begun to shrivel and sugars become especially concentrated. This process is also known as “passerillage”.  At 14.2% abv, it  is wonderful lightly chilled and on its own at end a great meal, or it can be accompanied with chocolate truffles and a selection of blue and aged cheeses. Annually, only about 1 barrel of this unusual wine is produced.

What a fantastic way to top off our visit and tour of Spring Mountain. We will certainly be back up in these parts again soon..perhaps later in the spring (Stuart Smith recommends a picnic in the vineyards overlooking the valley)!

Good bye Spring Mountain..Next stop..Argentina!!


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Sly & the Family Stone says: (Togni is a..) FAMILY AFFAIR

Sly & the Family Stone sings..It's a (Philip Togni) Family Affair

The final stop on our Spring Mountain road trip brings us to Philip Togni Vineyard. This 25 acre domaine is discreetly tucked away from Spring Mountain Road. No signage alerts the visitor to this family owned and operated enterprise. After successfully locating the unmarked gate and entrance to the winery, Scott and I were warmly greeted by Lisa Togni. She proceeded to take us on a tour of the winery, before introducing us to her parents, Philip and Birgitta.

A view of the vineyards at Philip Togni

A view of the Philip Togni vineyards @ 2000ft above sea level

Up here at 1900-2000 feet elevation, Philip and Birgitta Togni planted their first Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon vines in 1981. Their first harvest occurred in 1983. Since then, the Togni’s have focused their energies towards the exclusive cultivation of Bordeaux red wine varietals. More specifically, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.

Due to the vulnerability to phylloxera, the vineyards were re-planted in the early nineties. Today, the Togni vineyards are established over approximately 10 acres comprised of 20 separate blocks, all of which are dry farmed and hand harvested. The vineyards are comprised of the following:

 80% Cabernet Sauvignon

15% Merlot

3% Cabernet France

2%  Petit Verdot

 The total annual case production hovers at around 1500-2000. 50% of this is sold directly to clients via the domaine. 35% can be found in select restaurants and retail establishments. The remaining 15% makes its way abroad to countries like Germany and Japan.

"Sir" Philip Togni

Having studied under Emile Peynaud, while earning the Diplôme National d’Oenologie at the University of Bordeaux, Mr. Togni’s formative winemaking years are deeply rooted in France and traditional winemaking techniques. Philip also worked as the assistant Régisseur or manager at the venerable Château Lascombes. It is during this period that he developed a particular affinity and appreciation for the elegant and ageworthy wines of Margaux.  In addition to great Bordeaux, Mr. Togni also maintains a predilection for fine Italian wines from the Piedmonte.

Scott and Birgitta Togni

Philip Togni Vineyard is truly a small and tightly knit operation. Birgitta Togni is in charge of the vineyards throughout the growing season. Only at harvest will the domaine take on an additional 6-7 individuals. An exception to this family run enterprise is the indispensable Salvador Sanchez, whom we met on our visit.  Salvador can, and does do just about anything at the domaine. On this day he was busy sanitizing barrels old school style..

Salvador Sanchez at Philip Togni

Sulfur prep..

Philip and Birgitta’s daughter Lisa, whom you met at the beginning of this post, is also an integral piece to the Togni puzzle. In addition to living, breathing and drinking all that is wine for over 2 decades, Lisa has gained valuable experience over the years by working harvests at Chateau Leoville-Barton and in Australia. Lisa also holds a Masters degree in business administration with an emphasis in the wine trade. She is poised to take over the domaine within the next several years. When Philip and Birgitta are ready to turn over the reigns, it appears that this small domaine will remain in extremely capable hands.

The next generation -Lisa Togni

In my next post, I’ll cover my tasting and conversation with Birgitta Togni!

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As promised, below you’ll find a list of  wines that Scott and I tasted with John Guilliams not too long ago. If you had the chance to read my earlier posts on Spring Mountain and Guilliams Vineyards, then you already know just how these wines are made and the specific terroir from which they derive.


2005 Guilliams Spring Mountain Merlot

2006 Guilliams Spring Mountain Cabernet Franc

2005 Guilliams Spring Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon

2005 Guilliams Spring Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon “Reserve”

1992 Guilliams Spring Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon

I will spare you (and myself)  the cherry, berry tasting notes and instead mention that the common thread that I found in these wines was that they possessed a quietude or sense of calm to them…kind of like someone who is so comfortable “in their own skin” and with who they are that they can just be.

These wines don’t need to impress you with excessive amounts of ripe fruit, alcohol, glycerin or oak. Instead, they just seamlessly slip into where they are needed most (i.e. with your next filet mignon, pot roast or grilled game bird) and discreetly take the occasion to a higher level. More like a great conversationalist than a braggadocio, the Guilliams wines greatly impressed me with their elegance and Zen-like calm.

The art of being -Guilliams 1992 Spring Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon

Next up:  Smith Madrone and Curlie!

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