Susan Balbo

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We feature two of Susana Balbo’s wines, the Susana Balbo “Crios” Torrontes and the Susana Balbo Late Harvest Torrontes. Torrontes is a delightful grape variety almost exclusively grown in Argentina and has been one of that country’s best kept secrets until Susana exploited its potential
About Susana Balbo:
In a country dominated by male winemakers, Susana Balbo stands out not only for her gender, but for her incredible skill and experience. She has been making wine since she earned her enology degree in 1981, and she has probably produced a wider variety of wines than any other winemaker in Argentina. Susana was the first Argentine winemaker to be hired as a consultant to make wine outside of Argentina. She has made wine in Australia, California, Chile, France, Italy, South Africa, and Spain, and she spends a month each year in a different wine region of the world studying with local winemakers and growers.

Some of her labels feature figurines from a silver Huarpe Indian necklace that Susana owns. The figures represent women’s reproductive role as the connection between the past, present, and future. She considers her role as winemaker to be the connection between the vineyards (past), the winemaking (present), and the finished wines (future). -from the importer

About her wines:
Susana Balbo helped create the modern style of Torrontes during her time working in the vineyards and wineries of Cafayate. Torrontes has become so popular it is now being extensively planted in Mendoza to meet demand. It produces a medium body wine that when vinified dry  has good crisp acidity and beautiful aromas ranging from white flower and honeysuckle to lemon and orange rind as well white peach in some instances. Think Viognier or Chenin Blanc. As a dessert wine it develops rich yet fresh ovetones of honey and apricot preserves.

We carry the Crios Torrontes in a dry style , the Late Harvest Torrontes in a dessert style and a dry  Rosé of Malbec.

Saturday Tasting Archive: The Line for Saturday July 28 Ted’s excellent wines from Australia, France & Italy

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The theme this week is….totally excellent wines with our consultant from one of the very fine wine distributors we associate with. We will feature wines from Australia, France and Italy. We have a killer Brunello to top everything off but first we have a dry Riesling from 100 year old vines, a rosé taste off between Aix en Provence and Cotes du Rhone, then new Aussie and French reds. It will be a great line up.

Dandelion Vineyards Wonderland of the Eden Valley Riesling 2009
Dandelion Vineyards Wonderland of the Eden Valley Riesling 2009

96 Points – Australian Wine Companion, 2012 Edition
“Colour: Pristine pale straw with almost fluorescent green tinges. Nose: Bursting fruit freshness, with invigorating, intense smells of lime skin, citrus blossom, green apple, ripe guavas and cinnamon spice. Palate: Opens with crisp and crunchy fruit flavours lime sorbet, stone-fruit , including apricot as well as classic mandarin citrus on the mid palate, developing into rich lemon meringue tart-like flavour but still with a refreshing steely minerality, balanced with racy, slate-like acidity.” -James Halliday

“Pristine pale straw with almost fluorescent green tinges. Bursting fruit freshness, with invigorating, intense smells of lime skin, citrus blossom, green apple, ripe guavas and cinnamon spice. Opens with crisp and crunchy fruit flavours lime sorbet, stone-fruit , including apricot as well as classic mandarin citrus on the mid palate, developing into rich lemon meringue tart-like flavour but still with a refreshing steely minerality, balanced with racy, slate-like acidity.” -The Winery

Commanderie de la Bargemone Coteaux d’Aix en Provence Rose 2011

90 Points – International Wine Cellar, July/August 2012
“Pale salmon skin color. Mineral-accented aromas of red berries and tangerine, with a spicy overtone. Dry, focused and brisk, offering tangy strawberry and blood orange flavors and a bracing jolt of dusty minerals. Closes racy and long, with resonating minerality and a hint of candied red berries.” -Josh Raynolds

89 Points – Rhone Report
“Always lightly color and racy, the 2011 Commanderie de la Bargemone Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence Rose is no exception and delivers a sweet bouquet of wild strawberries, green herbs, and mineral to go with a balanced, lightly textured mouth feel, juicy, almost tangy acidity, and a dry, clean finish. Straight up delicious and a perfect quaffer for a hot summer day, this should be enjoyed over the coming summer months.” -JD

Domaine de la Mordoree Cotes du Rhone Rose la Dame Rousse 2011

92 Points – Wine Advocate, June 2012
“And speaking of a Cotes du Rhone appellation, the 2011 Mordoree La Dame Rousse Rose (40% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 15% Cinsault and the rest Carignan and Mourvedre) is gorgeous. A surprisingly full-bodied rose offering up notes of rose petals intermixed with hints of orange rind, sweet black cherries, licorice and earth, this is a big, rich, pure and intense rose to drink over the next several years.” -Robert Parker

Chateau de Pena Cuvee de Pena VDP des Pyrenees Orientales 2009

90 Points – Wine Advocate, June 2011
“The as usual Carignan-based red 2009 Cuvee de Pena is simply the finest of its illustrious bargain-priced breed that I have tasted (and I go back 20 years with this cuvee and its predecessor), which also makes it a mind-boggling value! Clean and polished, concentrated but unexaggerated, this delivers sweet fruit with soil and soul. Ripe cherry, black raspberry, and purple plum are shadowed by their distilled counterparts in a high-toned nose and practically gush on the palate. Pungent, resinous herbs, smoky black tea, toasted pecan, brown spices, and crushed stone all serve for aromatic and gustatory interest, leading to a brightly juicy yet deeply rich finish. Buy it by the case…” -David Schildknecht

Dandelion Vineyards Lion’s Tooth of the McLaren Vale Shiraz Riesling 2009

91 Points – International Wine Cellar, July/August 2012
“(97% shiraz and 3% riesling): Inky purple. Sexy, oak-spiced aromas of blueberry, cherry-cola and floral oils. Lush and broad on the palate, offering hefty black and blue fruit preserve flavors that are lifted by gentle acidity. Notes of vanilla and mocha linger on the impressively long, spicy finish.” -Josh Raynolds

Le Ragnaie Brunello di Montalcino 2005

93 Points – Wine Advocate, April 2010
“The 2005 Brunello di Montalcino captures an attractive middle ground between modern and traditional styles. Sweet scents of oak lead to ripe, succulent cherries, sweet roses, licorice, tar and smoke as this deceptively mid-weight, firm Brunello opens up in the glass. Waves of flavor continue to develop in the glass, balancing the tannins with great class. The only thing that seems a touch out of balance is the oak, but bottle age should help. This is a captivating effort from proprietor Riccardo Campinoti. I can hardly wait to see what future vintages bring. The 2005 Brunello was made exclusively from the estate’s holdings at Le Ragnaie, close to Poggio Antico, and among the highest-elevation vineyards in Montalcino. Anticipated maturity: 2012-2022.” -Antonio Galloni

91 Points – International Wine Cellar, July 2010
“Bright medium red. Highly perfumed nose is textbook sangiovese from the southeastern portion of Montalcino, displaying pretty redcurrant, sour red cherry and floral aromas along with a hint of sexy vanillin oak. Enters bright and fresh, with flavors of sweet spices, tobacco and earth and some obvious sweet oak. Impeccably balanced and long on the aftertaste. Though owner Riccardo Campinoti also owns a vineyard called Petroso and other vines in the Castelnuovo dell’Abate area, this ’05 Brunello is made only with grapes from the Le Ragnaie vineyard, as the grapes of Petroso suffered from rot, and he hadn’t yet bought the vines in Castelnuovo in 2005.” -Ian D’Agata

Wine kegs or bullet proof box wine?

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Some winebars bistros and restaurants, locally, in the city and out east are offering wines “on tap” served from “eco-kegs”. They are good quality wines at good prices by the glass or carafe served from good old fashioned barrels, skipping the whole cork and bottle routine . Well not exactly old fashioned, I’m talking about small (20 liter) stainless steel barrels that hold about 2 cases (24 bottles) worth of wine and are served through a modern tap system (similar to draft beer) that keeps the wine fresh and good to the last drop. The empty keg is sent back and refilled at the winery. This is an old concept, updated to better meet consumers needs. There is little question that the modern version of the traditional wine barrel beats wines in bottles as a cost effective means to consistently deliver a fresh glass of wine at the bar. But people associate barrels with the large oak casks used for fermenting and aging and even transporting wines that date back to the palm-wood wine casks Herodotus wrote of. Or they remember the cheap  5 liter bag-in-a-box wine.  Traditions hold fast in the wine world and tradtionally “good” wine comes in bottles with corks. “cheap plonk” comes in bottles with screw tops or worse in a 5 liter box with a little spigot.  Screw tops are slowly overcoming the “cheap wine” image but it’s taken years for them to be accepted despite the fact that they are the answer to bad corks. Will wine from modern kegs be accepted?
Here are a  couple of local restaurants with wine on tap: Verace in Islip lists six wines from “eco-kegs”, Raphael  Sauvignon Blanc and Merlot from Long Island, Riesling from the Finger Lakes and Italian selections.  H2O in Smithtown offers a similar mix of local and Italian wines.

Here are a  couple the of many city restaurants with wine on tap: Artisanal fromagerie, bistro and wine bar on Park near 32nd lists a nice California Pinot Noir, German Riesling and Finger Lakes Chardonnay and the John Dory Oyster Bar at the Ace Hotel, 29th and Broadway features Channing Daughters from Long Island as well as French, Italian and Chilean offerings. There are many more places in the city and the east end serving keg wine than here in the middle of Long Island.

So what are the big advantages of keg wine? The keg is suited to the quotidian pour. Good,  everyday wines will show their best served from such a system because the wine is “farm fresh” if you will. You won’t find (nor should you) Grand cru Burgs or 1st growth Bordeaux but rather good American varietals and a selection of imports that sell for $8-$13 a glass. Neither the top nor the bottom of the wine hierarchy.  For consumers the great benefit is a consistently fresh glass of wine in pristine condition, you never get the last tired pour from the bottom of the bottle. For the bar or restaurant, the kegs are green in that it’s easier to refill a keg than to recycle the equivalent number of bottles, it also occupies less space and is lighter than the equivalent amount of bottled wine. There is also  very little waste and no spoilage. From management’s point of view, once the system is set up it is easy, no bottles to stock, open or discard, just pull the tap and pour.
Who provides this service? Well some wineries do their own kegging, this is a great way for local wineries to connect with consumers and that’s why we see some wines from Long Island and the Finger Lakes  in kegs.  Locally, Paumanok, Channing Daughters, Raphael and Jamesport are a few of the wineries that have a keg exchange program with some restaurants and bars. There are also third party keg purveyors. Gotham Project based in New York and N2 (the chemical symbol for diatomic nitrogen) in California are two outfits that provide bars and restaurants with a selection of keg wines as well as setting up and servicing the tap systems.
what’s the reaction?  As I said traditions die hard but as long as consumers buy, restaurants will sell and when the benefits become apparent the trend will spread. The top wines or wines that need cellaring to mature will not be put in kegs just as you won’t ever see a bottle of  Dom Perignon sealed with a bottle cap. That leaves the vast majority of the world’s wine which is best served as fresh as possible and exposed to as little oxygen as possible. I would love to see the 2012 Beaujolais Nouveau in a keg this year, it is made for kegging. I’ll keep you posted.

Still got whiskey to taste: Karl left the bottles on Saturday

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We’ ve got whiskey left to taste from last weekend’s fun, in case you couldn’t make come by and ask for a taste

Profile of Walter Hansel and the Walter Hansel vineyards and winery

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Stephen Hansel, proprietor of 

Walter Hansel Vineyards

Walter Hansel was a lifelong wine enthusiast who had the vision to plant his estate’s original 250 vines in 1978. Today, Stephen, Walter’s son, has taken up where his father left off, pursuing his vision of producing world-class Burgundian-styled Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, all from the Russian River Valley.  Steve Hansel’s friend, famed winemaker Tom Rochioli, helped him in the early stages of his wine education by inviting him to work a couple of harvests at the Rochioli vineyards. Steve performed his first solo attempt in 1996 out of his garage.  At Walter Hansel Winery, the emphasis is on low yields (a miniscule range from 1.5 to 2.7 tons/acre) for greater complexity. Since all their grapes are grown on their own property, they can exercise strict control in the vineyards, which are planted with 5 Pinot and 5 Chardonnay clones. Each clone was chosen for its specific acid and flavor variations.
All of Steve’s fruit is hand-harvested, and it is re-examined again at the winery. Hansel makes an average of 9 total passes through each vineyard. Each pass is time consuming and expensive but Stephen feels the vine rewards him with more concentrated flavors.
The winery uses only natural yeast during fermentation. Fining and filtration are minimal. The Pinots are held on the lees without racking for 12 months. The Chardonnays are whole cluster fermented and gently pressed to extract the juice. The cooperage varies from year-to-year, cuvée-to-cuvée, but none of the wine is aged on entirely new oak. One- and two-year-old barrels are always employed.

-From the distributor

We have the excellent 2009 Walter Hansel Cahill Lane Russian River Chardonnay at Mora’s Fine Wines

2009 Walter Hansel Cahill Lane Russian River Chardonnay


The Cahill Lane vineyard sits adjacent to Stephen Hansel’s house in the Russian River Valley. It is planted on a north-facing slope that offers great opportunity for slow, even ripening of the fruit. A combination of three derivatives of the Wente clone are used in this cuvée.

In comparison to Hansel’s other Chardonnays, this wine shows the most pronounced minerality.

Robert Parker writes: “This is a source for very fine Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs at some of the most realistic prices to be found in Northern California.”

Country United States
Region California
Appellation Russian River Valley
Color White
Still / Sparkling Still
Bottle Size Full Bottle (750 ml)
Varieties 100% Chardonnay

Avanthia rosé 2011 is in

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Avanthia rosé is 100% Mencia from Valdeorras (Galicia, Esapaña) one of our fattest and juiciest rosés, very limited production and on sale at our best price in honor of summer.

Micro distilling: shaking up the spirit world one whiskey at a time

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Micro distilling or craft distilling follows in the footsteps of craft brewing and is a movement among spirit producers that want to make uncompromisingly high quality spirits. Some producers yearn for the good old days and strive to make a spirits (e.g. gin, rum, vodka, whiskey) in a very traditional styles. My favorites are the Bourbon and rye whiskeys. The distiller has total control of the process from grain selection to the distillation of small batches in pot stills to the aging and bottling. Thus they recreate whiskeys as they were made two hundred years ago, it is how it used to be done when businesses operated on a more human scale. Think made to order handmade shoes or a hand stitched shirt. The style of the product as well as the level of quality just can’t be matched in a mega distillery that spills more product in an hour than a microdistiller produces in a whole year.

On the flip side some of these new artisans produce totally new spirits that have never been made before. The factors controlled by the distiller include: smoking or not smoking grains, choice of grains, additional flavors,  distillation parameters, type of aging container, aging period, final blending and bottling, and by adjusting these factors or departing entirely conventions, new twists on established styles of spirits are possible. Here are a few of the players in the brave new world of spirits.

Smooth Ambler Spirits Greenbrier County, West Virginia

Partners Tag Galyean and John Little broke ground in 2009 for their traditional distillery tucked away in the Appalachian hills of West Virginia. They are a true grain-to-glass distillery striving for making the best traditional spirits possible. Our spirits are produced with talent and skill informed by hundreds of years of distilling excellence and are guided by the desire to acquire the purest and best ingredients, to do the best with them one slow step at a time, and shepherd the process from when the grain arrives at the back of our distillery to when the ice clinks in the well-deserved glass in front of you.” -Smooth Ambler Spirits They make: Bourbon, white whiskey, gin and  vodka,  please visit

Balcones Distillery Waco Texas

Founded by Chip Tate and Stephen Germer around 2008, it was named after the Balcones fault line in Texas with the idea of making a regional “Texas style” whiskey, whatever that means. I’m sure this style will evolve over time. They began as home brewers of beer which is a natural precursor to whiskey, they themselves “believe that you begin being a good whiskey distiller by brewing good beer”, essentially the base of whiskey. The Balcones guys  tweak everything, from the base ingredients used, the grain smoking process and they go so far as to customize the individual parts of their stills (condensers, heat exchangers, etc…) to produce different results. This is a cutting edge operation creating fine spirits with a  regional identity. They make: mesquite smoked corn whiskey, single malt whiskey, whiskey made from honey, mission figs and turbinado sugar please visit

Corsair Distilling Nashville Tennessee & Bowling Green Kentucky

Established in 2010 when Corsair’s Nashville Tennessee location was licensed as a distillery and brewery, apparently the brewery part is to produce the mash for their whiskies though they do promote regional microbrews in the Corsair Taproom in the same building. These guys really think outside the box with their spirit offerings and use all sorts of exotic flavorings and treatments. They maintain very high quality standards despite the weirdness of their products. They are not gimmicks like all the flavored garbage you find on the market these days. Corsair is pushing the flavor envelope using the highest quality ingredients and techniques. We will be sampling their triple smoked malt whiskey at an upcoming tasting. They make: triple smoked malt whiskey, white (rye) whiskey, absinthe, gin, vodka and  spiced rum to name a few, please visit them at

Great Lakes Distillery Milwaukee Wisconsin

This microdistiller from Wisconsin has a broad range of exotic spirits like Corsair. We will be tasting their Kinnickinnic whiskey this weekend.  The name is from the Ojibwe word meaning “that which is mixed” referring the Indian practice of mixing tobacco with other plant materials. The Kinnickinnic whiskey is a blend of very fine Bourbon whiskey with a malt whiskey made of malted barley. It has won gold medals at worldwide spirits competition in Denver and San Francisco.  Please visit They also make: absinthe, brandies, gin, rum, vodkas and whiskeys, as well some experimental stuff, I guess you call that nano-distilling.

Don’t miss our tasting of whiskeys from all of these distillers Saturday July 21 starting at bout 3 or 3:30 pm at Mora’s Fine Wine and Spirits, free to all 21 and over.

Saturday July 21 2012: a rare spirits tasting: American whiskies with Karl DuHoffmann

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Spirits maven and educator Karl DuHoffmann will join us for a guided tasting of the most cutting edge American whiskies on the market, we’ll have Bourbon from Smooth Ambler and some wild stuff from the Balcones distillery in Texas. This tasting will is hot so don’t miss it. Saturday July 21st, at the shop, at 3.

Here’s the line up:

Smooth Ambler Yearling Small Batch Bourbon Whiskey 92 Proof 375mL

“Our handmade, limited release double-pot distilled bourbon comes from a unique mash of corn, wheat, and barley. Rich and remarkably smooth taste is assured with small cask aging in our own West Virginia rick house. Naturally sweet with caramel and butterscotch aromas and subtle notes of grain, wood, and tobacco.” -The Distillery

Smooth Ambler Old Scout Straight Bourbon Whiskey 99 Proof

“5 and 6 year old barrels with a high rye content of 36%, this fine whiskey has exceptional taste and smoothness. Non chill filtered, non carbon filtered. A robust 99 proof, it’s strong, but deliciously drinkable like all of Smooth Ambler’s offerings. Bold, sweet-spicy flavors with subtle apple, cherry and tobacco aroma.” -The Distillery

“bright mix of soft cinnamon candy, spearmint, eucalyptus, sweet almond extract, juicy fruit gum, and punchy rye and oak” -Jason Pyle, Sour Mash Manifesto

Great Lakes Distillery Kinnickinnic Whiskey 86 Proof

“Kinnickinnic Whiskey is a blend of Straight Kentucky Bourbon sourced from one of Americas finest distilleries and an unaged Malt whiskey produced at Great Lakes Distillery. The result is a truly unique and delicious spirit. Kinnickinnic is a Native American word that means, ‘what is mixed’. The light amber color hints of what’s to come: slightly dusty aromas of buttery nut brittle, brown spices, mocha and toasted oatmeal are met with flavors of dried fruit, mocha and pink pepper. Kinnickinnic is spectacular neat, with a few ice cubes or is great mixed too!” -The Distillery

Corsair Triple Smoke American Whisky 80 Proof

“Made from three different types of smoked barley; one smoked with cherrywood, the other smoked with peat and the third smoked with beechwood, this single malt was pot distilled and then barreled in new charred oak barrels. Unusual aromas of smoked turkey jerky, toasted date bread, salty roasted nuts, bacon and chocolate with hints of smoke lead to nuanced flavors of fruit, toffee and peat. The finish is long and persistent with notes of almond brittle, smoke and peppery spices.” -Martin Scott Wines

93 Points – Beverage Testing Institute, February 2010
“Unusual aromas of smoked turkey jerky, toasted date bread, salty roasted nuts and bacon chocolate follow through on a round, supple entry to a dry-yet-fruity medium-full body with hints of iodine, smoked peat, and toffee. Finishes with a long, herbal and grassy, almond brittle, smoke, and peppery spice fade. A very unique and fun smoked bourbon that is extremely tasty and reminiscent of a moderately peaty Islay Scotch whisky like Bruicchladdich.”

Balcones Distilling Texas Single Malt Whisky 105.4 Proof

“Our Single Malt Whiskey is handcrafted in small batches in our own copper pot stills. Non-chill filtered, no artificial coloring, barrel aged, inspired by Scottish methods. Tasting Notes: Hints of pralines, vanilla and brown sugar open up into ripe pear, curacao orange and rum soaked raising finishing with warm salted butter. To be enjoyed by Scotch and Bourbon drinkers alike. Our unique aging process encourages a maturation that is surprisingly balanced and smooth for such a young whisky…young whisky with an old soul. Best enjoyed neat or with a little cool water.” -The Distillery

Balcones Distillery Rumble 94 Proof

“At the Balcones Distillery in Waco, TX, proprietor and head distiller Chip Tate marries innovation with traditional distillation methods to create premium, artisanal spirits that pay homage to America’s whiskey tradition. His passion for handcrafted spirits is evidenced by his attention to detail. ‘By building our own condensers, wash stills, heat exchangers, hot liquor tank, etc. we were able to build exactly the equipment we wanted to use to make spirits. We became extremely familiar with the tools of our trade. The equipment itself is one more level of the distilling process that we get to craft with our own hands,’ says Tate. After careful inspection and approval of every stage of the production process, Chip and his team hand-dip each bottle of Balcones with wax as a seal of their approval.

“(94º) Made from Texas wildflower honey, mission figs and turbinado sugar, Rumble is aged in small oak barrels. Aromas of sweet fruit, baking spices, jasmine, flowers and herbs are repeated on the palate which also features notes of oak, rye, citrus and slight hints of sweet tea and rosemary. The lingering finish presents notes of spice, honey, leather and mint.” -Martin Scott Wines

Saturday Tasting Archive: The Line up for Saturday July 14th – 6 wines from 6 countries

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have wine will travel

As always we’ll have a great time with Paul from Opici and this great line up of wines, plus our extra credit selection!

Sherwood Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2011 See details

Sherwood Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2011

87 Points – Wine Advocate, October 2011
“The 2011 Sauvignon Blanc gives intense gooseberry and green mango aromas with some under-ripe pineapple, fresh pears and a slight floral lift. Medium bodied and elegantly fruited though with good mid-palate concentration, it is well balanced with refreshing acidity and finishes long. Drink it now to 2014.” -Lisa Perrotti-Bro

Domaine Philippe Portier Quincy Cuvee des Victoires 2010

90 Points – Wine Spectator, May 2012
“This stylish white features a nice straw edge running through the core of gooseberry, wet stone and honeysuckle flavors. The pretty finish lingers. Drink now. 800 cases imported.” -James Molesworth 

“Produced from the Cuvee des Victoires parcel — for which it is named — this Quincy is a single-vineyard wine. The juice is fermented and aged on its lees in stainless steel tanks to produce an elegant, well-balanced white wine with intense aromatics of spring florals and citrus fruits. Enjoy this wine in its youth as an aperitif or pai

Carpineto Dogajolo Rosato 2011

“This wine comes from grapes selected from Central Tuscany; Dogajolo Rosato is an elegant and structured product with fruity and vivacious floral aromas. These characteristics are the hallmark of a young innovative wine that is also easy to drink. Pale pink with elegant bright fuchsia tones. Floral characteristics, particularly rose, myrtle and grape flowers; hints of fruity fragrances like apple, currants and sour cherry. Broad and fresh on the palate with complex fruity aromas that end with a clean finish. Excellent aperitif and hors d’oeuvre wine. Distinctive accompaniment for mild meats, peppered dishes and cheese, excellent companion to grilled fish.” -The Winery

Caliterra Cabernet Sauvignon Tributo Single Vineyard Colchagua 2008

91 Points – Wine Advocate, December 2010
“Smoke, pencil lead, black cherry; Structured, balanced, savory, 2-3 years aging potential.” -Jay Miller 

90 Points – Wine Enthusiast, December 2010
“Dusty, sweet, dark-fruited and properly herbal, this is a Cabernet that very much fits the Chilean blueprint of what the variety should smell and taste like. Creamy and full, with bold berry, herb and vanilla flavors, and then with a lush, dense finish. Drink now through 2012.” -Michael Schachner

Whitehall Lane Merlot 2008

90 Points – Wine Enthusiast, November 2011
“Does just what Merlot is supposed to, deliver a ripe, seductive red wine in a velvety texture. Feels so soft and drink-me-now in the mouth, with waves of blackberries, cherries, red currants, licorice and mocha.” -Steve Heimoff 

89 Points – Wine Spectator, November 2011
“Focused and well-built, with red currant and tomato leaf aromas and sleek cherry and toasty spice flavors that finish with ripe, full tannins. Drink now through 2015. 8,950 cases made.” -Tim Fish

Bodegas El Nido Clio 2009 See details

Bodegas El Nido Clio 2009

Rating and review for previous vintage:

94 Points – Wine Advocate, June 2011
“The 2008 Clio is made up of 70% old vine Monastrell sourced from a vineyard planted in 1944 and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon from a vineyard planted in 1979. The alcoholic fermentation is in oak followed by malolactic fermentation in new barrels and aging for 24 months in new French and American oak. A glass-coating opaque purple color, it exhibits an expressive nose of pain grille, underbrush, brier, mineral, blueberry, and blackberry fruit leading to a plush, opulent wine with great density, savory flavors, and a lengthy finish. In spite of its size, it is surprisingly light on its feet and can be approached now. However, it will evolve for 3-4 years and offer prime drinking from 2014 to 2023. Bodegas El Nido is a project of the Gil family of Jumilla with the winemaking overseen by the veteran vigneron Chris Ringland of New Zealand.” -Jay Miller

Raising Arizona (grapes) with Maynard James Keenan

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caduceus cellars logo

The rise of Caduceus Cellars and Merkin Vineyards wines. Most of what I attribute to Keenan in this post are from the Caduceus website, the rest I guessed at. I don’t know him or his music but I know a bit about wine.

Mr. Keenan is an (anti) celebrity vigneron who is as passionate about and committed to  the the art of wine as he is to the art of music and is breaking new ground in the vicinity of Cornville Arizona (south of Flagstaff and west of Sedona) under semi desert conditions. While  busy Jesuits did plant vines a long time ago, the present day state of Arizona wine production has been heavily influenced by this man.  Keenan is a musician, (Tool, Perfect Circle, Puscifer)  loves wine,  lives in the region and was struck by what he considered potentially prime vineyard  conditions. He trusted his intuition and devoted his time, talent and treasure to creating vineyards, a winery and ultimately, wine that uniquely expresses the Arizona terroir. This “baby stepping” stranger in a strange land created “templates” for his wines inspired by existing models from Cote Rotie, Australia and Tuscany, for starters.  I’m sure the Tempranillo and Garnacha he’s playing with now will accompany some great ideas borrowed from Spain and then of course tweaked into something uniquely Keenan.

His first effort “Primer Paso” Spanish for “first step” was from his first vintage, 2004, with a  Syrah or Shiraz base made with Australia and Cote Rotie in mind.
The goal is to evolve a unique Arizona style of wine. in practice juice has been partially sourced from Arizona with some from California and more recently New Mexico (anyone for a little Gruet bubbly?) with the intention to achieve a 100% Arizona identity in the future.  As Keenan says he is striving for wine that reflects his sensibilities as well as those of the source (Arizona). His musical art is described as “thick, dense, rich, complex, engaging, emotional and spiritual”. He describes the spirit of  Arizona exactly the same way (thick, dense, rich, complex, engaging, emotional and spiritual)  and wants that same vibe to come across in the wine he makes. In my limited experience tasting some of the Caduceus upper tier, Nagual de la Naga for one gives me that feeling, it is a wine of contemplation. Anyone, outside of Jerome Arizona will have very limited experience tasting his wines as they are produced in exceedingly small quantities at present. I read he does hold tastings at some Whole Foods out near him and does some tastings, bottle signing now and then. this link takes you to info on the Jerome AZ tasting room, in case you happen to be in the area.

It’s not hard to guess that Keenan is a fan of Brunellos, Chateauneuf du Pape and Super Tuscans, just taste his top tier wines.  It’s also apparent that he wants to develop wines with terroir and to use oak judiciously, as a subtle framework rather than a 2×4 to the head. He is  very involved with the viticulture, tweaking plantings, vineyard layouts, canopy management, et, al. so his grapes can “be all they can be”.  Must have gotten that idea from his army days. Finally, very few of his wines are straight varietals. He’s very hands on  in blending  which gives a wine balance, complexity and dimension. The atypical blends are Chupacabra (The shape shifter) and Shinola which has Sangiovese, Refosco, Primitivo and Dolcetto! one of the more traditionally styled wines is the Primer Paso, mostly Syrah with a little white Malvasia in the as you see in French Cote Rotie.
Keenan envisioned several wine “templates” as a starting point rather than a blueprint. “Template” reminds me of “cookie cutter” so it is not too accurate. They are the archetypes for the specific wines, the spirit and motivation. Most  of what I attribute to Keenan in this post these are taken from the notes on the Caduceus website There is lots of annoying animation but the content is good, right from the heart, of Maynard James Keenan.

Nagual de la Naga:
Not sure what the name means, has something to do with Don Juan and the Yaquis and spirit guides. Here is Keenan’s description. “1990 Sassacaia, 1990 Masseto, I’d be thrilled to live in the immense shadow of the wine from this region of my 1st love, Tuscany.  She has a spell cast over me.  She taunts me like the Sirens.  I believe it’s the dance between the Sangiovese and the Cab. Sav.  The beef and cherries.  This template is by far the biggest guess.  No one in this area has attempted Sangiovese that I am aware of .  There is no physical evidence to suggest that we will be able to pull off the NAGA.  The Kundalini  Serpent.  The Mountain Goddess.  Only the educated guess based on terroir and some faith in our intuition.  I’m hoping that over time we will have Arizona fruit that even remotely resembles the alchemy that emanates from this magic place.”

Primer Paso:
The name means “first step” and it was his first crush and first wine, his first venture into the unknown of Arizona. Here’s what Keenan says about the nature of this wine.  “Penfold’s Grange, Torbreck’s Runrig.  These are just a couple of the heavy wood influenced, bold fruit, aromatic, tannic Australian reds that inspired me to pursue this endeavor.  But rather than try to mimic these established wines and  live in their shadow, I chose to pursue a slightly different path.  Primer paso is a Shiraz.  No doubt.  But with a secret.  Well it was a secret.  With the Primer I’ve tried to tone down the sledgehammer of sweet American wood present in most of the big Aussie Shiraz’s and add the perfect amount of Arizona White wine to take it’s place.  The goal is to have the floral nose of a Viognier or Malvasia,  the body of a big aussie Shiraz, with a finish that combines the two.  A jasmine nasturnium salad,  followed by a hearty prime rib. And for desert? An espresso with fresh peach cobbler.  Behold… my “First Step”.

This wine is named for a  mythical beast  (literally “goat sucker”) that attacks livestock and sucks their blood. In the real world they are probably mangy coyotes but in the world of myth and legend they are strange creatures of unknown origin. Here is what Keenan says about the wine.  “The Trickster, The Shape Shifter. The ever elusive shadow who mutates with the sun and moon.  One year a Dragon, another a Snake.  This is our Mystery blend.  Think forest, not trees.  Think weather, not rain.  Stare and the Chupacabra, who dwells in your heart and not in your head, will vanish.  Only a true Alchemist can draw holy blood from a stone, and the Chupacabra is his opus,  his phoenix his cherub, his child.”
These are just three of many releases but the production of these wines are miniscule, between 250 to 500  cases of each wine

Until about  a year ago we received small allotments of all of these but now the winery sells it exclusively and ships nationwide. However, Mora’s is getting some of the Spring 2012 release, and we also carry the Arizona Stronghold label which is all sourced from Arizona. Our miniscule allocation of Caduceus and Chupacabra is due by the end of July so check in with us in a few weeks.  Here is what we are receiving from the Spring release, keep checking our site or call us if you want any of these wines.

Mora’s Fine Wines
LIMITED OFFERING –  Due “Summer” 2012
Name: 2010  Nagual de la Naga, Bonita Springs Vineyard, Graham County, AZ  $52.99
Varietals:  46% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Merlot, 23% Sangiovese & 8% Tempranillo
Elevation:  42-4600ft
Aging:  12-14 Months in New & Neutral French Oak
Soil:  Alluvial Fans with Sandy Loam
Cases Produced:  260
Winemaker:  M J Keenan/Tim White
Tasting Notes:  A Dusty Hue of Red Plums, Red Licorice with Subtle Hints of Oak & Plump Tannins

Name:  2010 Anubis, Bonita Springs Vineyard, Graham County, AZ  $47.99
Varietals:  80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Petite Sirah co/fermented with Malvasia Bianca & 8% Syrah
Elevation:  42-4600ft
Aging:  12-18 Months in New & Neutral French Oak
Soil:  Alluvial Fans with Sandy Loam
Cases Produced:  340
Winemaker:  M J Keenan
Tasting Notes:   Honeyed, Toffee, Cherried Leather in a Cone of Oak

Name:  2011 Shinola, Luna Rosa Vineyard, Luna County, New Mexico  $29.99
Varietals:  25% Sangiovese, 25% Dolcetto, 25% Refosco, 25% Primitivo
Aging:  10-12 Months in New & Neutral French Oak
Cases Produced:  250
Winemaker:  M J Keenan
Tasting Notes:  Ruby in Color.  An Array of Red Fruits with a Dusty, Oaky back drop hits the nose right away. The Red Fruits play Delicately with the Fine Grained Tannins, Sweet Spice and Rich Leather.

Name:  2011 Chupacabra   Shapeshifter, California  $26.99
Varietals:  42% Petite Sirah, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Syrah, 8% Viognier
Aging:  Neutral Oak
Cases Produced:  500
Winemaker:  M J Keenan/Greg Stokes
Tasting Notes:  A Purple Hued, Moca covered Pomegranate with Black Plums and Black Raspberries, Focused Coarse Tannins
round out a Medium Finish.

Caduceus Cellars and Vineyards, general information
158 MAIN STREET, JEROME, AZ 86331 | MAIL: P.O. BOX 905, JEROME, AZ 86331

Important links.  winery website, funky annoying flash but good mission statements and stuff on the spirit of each wine.    2012 press release on the new wines  Arizona Stronghold Vineyards website