New Year’s Eve, 2017

During 2017, I tasted a medley of good wines that did not fit into one of my weekly themed columns. They are well made and range from good-value drinking to collectables. So, as we say farewell to 2017, we can say hello and “good buy” to these  worthy bottles.

Everyone loves a bargain, which forms the business model of Della Terra Winery Direct. Founder Brian Larky skips the national importer level of America’s three-tier distribution system, allowing distributors to buy directly from the producer and saving an average of 20 to 25% markups on every bottle. That he distributes only high-quality Italian wineries, he brings good value to your table.

Marco Felluga is one of Italy’s great white-wine producers. From his vineyards in the Collio appellation of the Friuli-Venezia-Giulia region in the northeast, comes the delicious 2016 Marco Felluga Mongris Pinot Grigio. Pear, floral and lemon scents are instantly pleasing and grab your attention. And ripe, pear flavor and a citrus-like acidity give this pinot grigio memorable length. A good value at $16 to $20. 89 points. 

From the center of Italy comes the 2015 Poliziano Lohsa Morellino di Scansano. Poliziano was founded in 1961 by Dino Carletti in Tuscany’s famed Vino Nobile di Montepulciano appellation. His son Federico has expanded into Maremma, Tuscany’s seaside wine area, where he produces the savory Lohsa wine from Poliziano’s 67 acre Morellino di Scansano vineyard.

The mildly spicy, cherry and strawberry nose and red-fruit flavors are delightful. Integrated tannins create a soft, round mouthfeel, giving the 2015 Lohsa a luscious finish. And the $14 to $17 price tag adds to the appeal. 89 points.

Because Castello di Gabbiano, in the Chianti Classico region is owned by Australian wine conglomerate Treasury Wine Estates, you might not have a high expectation for this wine. But the 2015 Castello di Gabbiano Dark Knight Toscana, a cabernet sauvignon-merlot-sangiovese blend, surprises. The black-cherry aroma, and tasty black-flavored fruit has a Bordeaux mouthfeel with an underbelly of sangiovese acidity. It was enjoyable with a wild mushroom pizza at Marta restaurant in Manhattan’s “NoMad” neighborhood. Attractively priced at $12 to $17. 89 points.

Castello di Volpaia, a Chianti Classico producer, always has a place in my cellar. I started drinking Volpaia’s elegant wines and met its cosmopolitan owner, Giovannella Stianti, in the late 1970s. Today the winery is run by her two millennial-generation children Federica and Nicolo.

Last summer, Federica was in Manhattan for the annual tasting tour of Wilson Daniel’s (their importer/distributor) Italian portfolio. The 2015 Castello di Volpaia Chianti Classico floats Chianti’s classic scents: soy (Italians refer to it as balsamic) and roses, and streams cranberry and cherry flavors across the palate. Its minerality and sangiovese’s acidity bring balance and length. The $14 to $20 price brings smiles. 91 points.

The 2011 Castello di Volpaia Coltassala Chianti Classico Riserva is a superb wine from an outstanding vintage. Its translucent color defies today’s Tuscan fashion of making dark, blackish-colored wines, and its soy, cherry and tobacco aromas are wonderful. Add the tasty black-cherry-flavored fruit with firm, but not aggressive tannins, and you have a wine that will age for years. If you can resist the 2011 Coltassala’s magnetic pull, cellar this wine for four or five years, then enjoy its complexity for another decade. Not easy to find, but fairly priced at $52 to $68. 94 points.

Discovering new Champagnes is my idea of a great day. So, it was in September when I met Sophie Couvreur the CEO of Champagne et Villages as she poured the 2012 Demiere-Ansiot Blanc de Blanc Grand Cru. It’s made from chardonnay vines planted between 1970 and 1975 in the Grand Cru villages Oger and Le Mesnil, and bursting with irresistible pear and crème brulee aromas and flavors. Delicious white fruit flavors and minerality are carried on an elegant body that swirls around the palate with endless pleasure.

Also in the Champagne et Villages portfolio (and easier to find) is the excellent nonvintage Jose Dhondt Blanc de Blanc. My first tasting of Dhondt Champagne was a half-bottle in a Paris restaurant about five or six years ago. My tasting in September rekindled my desire for this well-made wine.

The current nonvintage Blanc de Blanc is made primarily from chardonnay grapes of the 2014 vintage. Intensely perfumed with apple, pear and floral aromas, its full body is built on rich, ripe apple and pears flavors with a current of fresh citrus-like acidity, giving the wine balance and length.

As Nicolas Demiere farms slightly more than eight acres and produces a mere 2,000 cases a year, it’s difficult to find, but worth the search. Expect to pay about $50 to $60. 95 points.

Last January, I reported on the inaugural 2014 Nicolas Jay Pinot Noir Willamette Valley. The partnership of Jean-Nicolas Meo of Burgundy’s prestigious Meo-Camuzet winery and former music executive Jay Boberg, has produced an even better 2015 Nicolas Jay Pinot Noir Willamette Valley.

The 2015 rendition is much more Burgundian in style. A translucent cherry color, and peppery, cranberry and cherry aromas are delightful introductions, a medium body captures the Burgundian sense of weightlessness while releasing delicious black-cherry, strawberry and cranberry fruit flavors with harmonious tannins and acidity. And the 13% alcohol is welcome, too. Retail pricing is $54 to $65. 92 points. 

With the tasting business complete for 2017, I look forward to sharing 2018’s bottles with you. Forget “Dry January”: There’s more to come!

 Photos by John Foy