Friday, March 20, 2020

A Virtual Toast of Sagrantino on Sunday, March 22nd. Its a Way to Stay Together by Philip S. Kampe

On Sunday, March 22nd, at 2:30pm EST (7:30pm Italian time) a Virtual Toast, in order to enjoy a moment of unity between the Consorzio Tutela Vini Montefalco and the complicated world we are encountering, will take place online.

Together, we will be able to uncork a bottle of Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG with the Mayor of Montefalco, the honorable, Luigi Titta and the President of Umbria, Donatella  Tesei.

Filippo Antonelli, President of the Consorzio Tutela Vini Montefalco, said, “Conviviality, union, meetings, are the words which better characterize the real strength of our wines.”

The Virtual Tasting was created in order to recreate, even though only virtually, a real union, a real convivial moment among people hoping that real life will be established, again, as soon as possible. The Consorzio agrees that we have been forced to change our way of living. With a Virtual Toast, we want to give hope to the wine sector, its producers, its importers, its distributors and to the consumers around the world.

To join in the Virtual Toast, join the Facebook page that was highlighted in the photos above. The ‘Splash Mob’ is a splash of Sagrantino online. The Consorzio link is:

Also, you can post photos of you and your bottles of Sagrantino by using the hashtag- #sagrantinosplashbomb

It seems like a good idea to link people internationally, even though distant, by uncorking a bottle of Sagrantino DOCG.

I plan to uncork a bottle of Montefalco DOCG and will toast the Consorzio and our wonderful friends from Umbria, Fausto Proietti and Patricia Falasca, who introduced me to Sagrantino in 1998.

We are all in this together!

Philip S. Kampe

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Select ‘Hess Select’ For Variety and Value by Philip S. Kampe

When a neighbor gives you $60 to buy American wines, what do you do.

First, you must understand their palate. Secondly, you must learn about their favorite grape varieties. And thirdly, you must learn what wine regions of the world they prefer. Of course, there are so many more questions to ask, but, with the Coronavirus and lack of supplies at retail shops, the choices will be less. I thought three questions were enough, on this occasion.

My neighbor is in his 90’s and does not have a wine lovers palate. So, with his instructions for U.S. wines and whatever you think I would like, the task became quite easy.

In the past, we did sample Hess Select wines at a local wine tasting event. He liked everything he sampled and bought some bottles afterwards. That was twelve years ago, when he was still in his 70’s. At 90, his memory is not as sharp as it was years ago.

In essence, my task May be easier if I could recreate the wine tasting of years ago.

On Saturday afternoon, I went to my local wine shop, the best one in the Berkshires, and was surprised and a bit alarmed that they were conducting their weekly wine and cheese tastings. Guess the Coronavirus news hasn’t reached western Massachusetts, yet?

Anyway, I wanted to get in and out quickly.
With $60 in hand, I picked up four bottles of wine for my neighbor. All four were Hess Select. With another $60, this time, my money, I bought the same four bottles. ($61.95 total plus no sales tax on alcohol in Massachusetts)

This is what I bought:
Hess Select Rose 2019 ($13)
Hess Select Pinot Gris 2019 ($13)
Hess Select Pinot Noir 2018 ($18)
Hess Select Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 ($18)

I delivered the wines. My neighbor was happy and I was curious to sample the wines on my own.
The 2019 Rose was 100% Pinot Noir. It was a really vibrant pink. The color lured you in. The first thing I noticed was its crisp, bright acidity that lit up the raspberry, red cherry and stone fruit balanced layers that made up this wine.

Contrast the Rose, made from Pinot Noir to the 2018 Pinot Noir from Hess Select. Its an impossible task. The Pinot Noir was very earthy, dry and spicy. Pinots are hard to master, as illustrated in the movie, ‘Sideways.’ Hess Select did a masterful job with this 2018.

The Hess Select Pinot Gris 2019 was full of pineapple, orange, lemon peel, peach, green apple and pear. The light mineral finish supported its freshness and dryness. Its a fair value for its price.

Finally, I saved the 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon for my final bottle to sample. If you like oak, vanilla, tobacco, blackberry, dark plum, cherry, raspberry and spice, then this is your wine. The 2019 is a great value. Its velvety texture , firm tannins and deep flavors are worth the price of admission.

Task completed.

Philip S. Kampe

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Lo Corb Wine on the Doorstep by Philip S. Kampe

My WhatsAp pings three times. There is a message with photos.

Its from our landlord of our AitB&B in Tarragona, Spain.

Its a message, then two photos. One photo shows a bottle of wine on the doorstep-our doorstep.The other photo is a plot where grapes grow.

I reply to the message, only learning that our landlord, Albert, is also a winemaker and has land in the Corb Valley. He says he has a hectare, about two and a half acres. He focuses on the Grenache variety, with a small area for Samso.

The wine he left for me is 85% Grenache and 15% Samso. It is a 2011, aged 12 months in French oak. The winery only makes 2000 bottles. And one is for us to sample.

It didn’t take too long for me to chill the bottle for a short time to 16C (59F). In the meantime, I learned about the Corb Valley. This is what I learned.

The Corb Valley, where the vineyard is, is a valley that has the river Corb flowing through it. Winds, known as the Marinada flow freely. It is an agricultural hotbed with olive and almond trees, grains , thyme and St. John’s wort.

The terrain, at least at the vineyard is slate. Castles, old churches and dry stone walls abound. It is an area where hiking is the best way to explore.

The vineyard is nestled in-between the landscape. Other crafts people exist in this environment. Besides wine, craft beer, artisanal cheese and honey are just a few of the spotlights.

Back to the 2011 Lo Corb DOC.
The wine has 14.5% abv, is aged for 12 months,  as I mentioned previously in French oak. The color is deep red, The bouquet is of the forest, with pine and dark fruit present. On the palate, which was a bit dry, soft tannins abound. I found it smooth, lush and rich with a lingering eucalyptus finish.

Albert and his wife, the owners of Lo Corb should be proud of their contribution to the wine world.  Its a World Class wine, one that should get Decanters sign of approval.

Philip S. Kampe

Friday, March 6, 2020

Joan Ignasi Domenech, Spain’s “Father of Grenache “ by Philip S. Kampe

                               The Domenech Family-Joan Ignasi, Edgar and Rita

Its no wonder that at my last visit to Vinyes Domenech, located close to Capcanes, Priorat (DO Montsant), nearly ten years ago, was one of the most memorable vineyard visits in my lifetime.

During that visit, Joan Ignasi Domenech poured a glass of  White Grenache  for me, The wine, RIta, was named in honor of his lovely wife, Rita, who is the backbone of the family operation.

Today, he poured a glass of Rita, which we consumed with Rita and son, Edgar. We discussed how far he has come during the past ten years. In a true philosophical manner, Joan Ignasi Domenech said, ‘ I know less now, then when we started this vineyard in 2002..’We smiled, knowing his progress from  an environmental guru to winemaker was on the fast track.

Domenech wines are out of the ordinary. Each wine-especially the Grenache focused wines are like a Broadway production. Each one is a hit, starring Grenache Peluda (hairy Grenache), Grenache and White Grenache  as headliners and Carignan and Samso as understudies.

Vinyes Domenech is located in the middle of a protected natural forest,  about 1500 feet (450 meters) high, in-between the mountains, La Serra de Llaberia and Montalt and only six miles (10km) from the Mediterranean Sea.

The drive to the vineyard, which has 90 parcels, spread out in 150 acres (60 hectares) was through forests of pine trees, holly bushes and herbaceous undergrowth. With nature and the environment as priorities, Vinyes Domenech embodies biodiversity with organic, sustainable farming.

Grenache is Joan Ignasi Domenech’s obsession.

Joan and son, Edgar, boasted about the diversity of soil types on each parcel- the result of diversity  is our objective- Grenache that expresses what each parcel represents, its microclimate, its herbaceous landscape, the altitude and its topography.

To achieve these goals, which is scientific in nature, the vinification process comes at the end of the winemaking process. With this in mind, we try to achieve wines that mirror the landscape.

After a long dissertation on the soils that make up the 90 parcels, Edgar explained that some soils are limestone with carbon build-up following periods of glacial meltdown, other soils have undergone a process of de-carbonation, while other parcels are rich in clay and chalk and others are made of eroded material from mountain slopes.

With its soil complexity and hard work, Joan Ignasi Domenech talks about Grenache in these words: “There is no greater praise for Grenache than to allow it to express its elegance, its landscape and its origins, ultimately, its geography.” It’s easy to acknowledge  that Grenache is his life.

The Domenech family comes from nearby Falset.

As mentioned earlier, they purchased the vineyard in 2002. The vineyard is one of the oldest in Capcanes, supporting old Grenache vines that thrive in the diverse soil that benefits from the unique microclimates that surround the vineyard.

The vineyard is away from civilization.

Its this peaceful, natural environment, sustainable, organic practices matter.

The Grenache wines from Vinyes Domenech and its various shades of red clay are richer, deeper in color and extremely aromatic than other Grenache producers. Many natural herbs that grow in the vineyard, transfer their flavors to the wines, adding complexity to both the aroma and to the palate.

Joan explained that the temperature variations accounted for the soft, juicy, velvety tannins that make up his Grenache varieties. The juice is gravity fed and when irrigation is necessary during the hot summers, stored rainwater is used. Its stored in something that looks like a swimming pool. Rainfall is scarce. The microclimate favors slower ripening (October harvest) and maximum expression for the Grenache variety.  Deep roots attract the flavors and aromas of the wild herbs that grow freely and are mulched  on the property, as well as the numerous olive and almond trees that dot the property.

The vineyard follows the lunar calendar. Organic viticulture prevails. Natural resources reduce environmental impact.  Vinyes Domenech is in tune with nature and the environment. The wines are the proof of Joan Ignasi Domenech’s obsession.

Why not try these recommended wines from Vinyes Domenech:

Teixar (100% Grenache Peluda) 70 year old vines,15% abv, Calcareous soil
Furvus (90% Grenache, 10% Merlot) 40 year old vines, 15% abv, Calcerous soil
Boig Per Tu  (Grenache Tinta, Grenache Peluda, Samso) 15% abv, Calcerous-Claygilos
Ban all Del Bosc (La Grenache, Grenache Peluda, Carignan) 14.5% abv, Four different soils
Rita (White Grenache) 14.5% abv, (100% small grain White Grenache) Three different soils
Ban all Del Bosc Blanc (100% White Grenache) Clay-Calcareous
Vinyes Velles De Samso (100% Samso) 14% abv, Calcareous clay and red clay
Vi D’Amfora Natura (100% Grenache) 15% abv, Calcareous clay
Empelts (100% Grenache Peluda) 15% abv, Calciferous clay
Vinyes Velles De Macabeu (100% Macabeu)
Roast De Mitjanit (100% Grenache Peluda) 14.5% abv,  Calcareous clay
Vi Dolc Natural De Garnatxa (100% Grenache)

If you are as intrigued about the Grenache grape as Joan Ignasi Domenech, schedule a visit to the vineyard. It will be a memorable visit, one to remember for a lifetime, like I did. You can contact them at:
Telephone +34 932 118 893
Address: Cami del Collet, 1
43776 Capcanes

Its easy to see from  this photograph, the soil composition and the old Grenache vines that make up the parcels at Vines Domenech.

Philip S. Kampe

Monday, March 2, 2020

A Catalonian Pic Nic at Finca Viladellops with Marcello Desvalls by Philip S. Kampe


Its funny how life is.

My wife, Maria, and I are on holiday in Catalonia (Spain). We came specifically to partake in the Carnival Celebration at the seaside resort town of Sitges, an hour plus from Barcelona.

On our first night in town, we watched the colorful floats of revelers for hours. With jet lag and an appetite, we’ve decided  to take a break from the action and find a restaurant.

Tapas and wine was on our mind. We walked along the beachfront and spotted a restaurant named ‘Pic Nic.’

We entered.

On the menu at ‘Pic Nic’ were both tapas and wine.

The wine list contained many wines and grape varieties we were unfamiliar with. Our curiosity and love of indigenous varieties brought us to the Xarel-lo grape. The wine we chose, Finca Vildellops Xarel-lo was produced by a Catalonian vineyard that we were unfamiliar with, Viladellops,

After a small discussion with our server, we chose the pricier aged (2016) bottle of finca Viladellops Xarel-lo ($26) and bypassed  the first level Viladellops Xarel-lo at $16. A few minutes later, our tapas reached the table at the same time as the white wine.

When poured, the wine had a golden color, similar to an aged wine of ten to twenty years. On the palate, the wine was fresh, crisp and balanced with perfect acidity. The presence of saline on the palate and the nose  attracted my attention. Was the vineyard on the sea or just miles away? The dominance of the saline made me curious.

We finished the bottle and the tapas, knowing that we would come back the next day to try another selection of of finca Viladellops at the ‘Pic Nic’ restaurant.

Needless to say, we returned to ‘Pic Nic,’ ordered a bottle of finca Viladellops red wine, a mix of Grenache, Carignan, Syrah and Merlot ($17). The first taste found saline alive  on my mid-palate and in my nose.  That was very unusual for a red blend.

Next stop, research this vineyard, finca Viladellops and try to schedule a visit.

Fast forward three days.
We visited their website: and scheduled a visit with owner Marcello Desvalls. The Premium visit is 40euro and an intensive visit, for 150euro, is with the owner. I had to learn about the saline and a visit with Mr. Desvalls would solve my worries.

As luck would have it, one of our Catalonian wine friends volunteered to drive us to the vineyard, which is located, by the way, only ten miles (15km) from the Mediterranean Sea (clue #1).

We arrived, met Marcello Desvalls and immediately got into his Jeep and drove to one of the vineyard plots,  where he stopped, we got out of the car and he said, ‘look at the soil.’ We did and within a few seconds, I found a half dozen oyster shells. He smiled and said, ‘here is your saline.’
The clay is full of high levels of carbon and sediment from the sea that once existed where the vineyard is today.

Problem solved.

Marcello went on to say the vineyards hills are made of calcareous soil that is full of marine fossils. And that’s when he began to tell us about the history of the vineyard and why his wines character begins with the terroir paired with local grape varieties,.

Viladellops focuses on Grenache (red) and Xarel-lo (white). All the wines are organic.

The winery is located in the natural park, Massis del Garraf, within a short distance of the Olerdola Castle in Penedes, Catalonia.

Historically, the vineyard of 150 acres (60 hectares) has been in the family since 1877. The estate is 1000 acres (400 hectares) in size.

Marcello took over the vineyard in 1999. He is passionate about the property and his family’s place in history, ‘The Desvalls and Catalonia,’ is an exhibit on the property that follows the history of Catalonia through a family archive that consists of 4,529 parchments dating back to 981 A.D.

Marcello Desvalls respects the land and sustainability. His legacy is Finca Viladellops. He shared
the wines from finca Viladellops with us and without doubt, his wines show the passion and sustainability that is his creed. Yes, saline exists in his wines, as well as terroir.

Search out his wines, like I did.
Close to a 100,000 bottles are produced yearly.
Seven wines are in the market or can be purchased directly online.
The wines that were sampled were:
Turo de les abelles
L.D. Ancestral
Finca Viladellops Xarel lo XXX
Finca Viladellops Negre
Viladellops Xarel-lo
Viladellops Garnatxa

After spending five hours with Marcello Desvalls, we could spend a week detailing his stories about wine, his family history and why he chose this path. Instead, I’ll leave it to up to you to meet him and learn about his passion.

You never know what happens when you order a bottle of wine in a restaurant. This is what happened to us when we visited the ‘Pic Nic’ restaurant in Sitges, Spain.

Finca Viladellops-Cellar Gran. Viladellops
08734 Olerdola
(+34) 93 81 8188371

                                                    Marine fossils create saline
                                                       Marcello Desvalls

Better To Stay with the DAO, if you have Long Term Goals by Philip S. Kampe

Several years ago on a European jaunt I had the possibility to visit the DAO region in Portugal. The memories of that visit linger today and were heightened by a recent dinner and wine tasting I attended at the ‘chic’ private dining room at the Crown Shy restaurant in the Wall Street area of lower Manhattan.

The way the stock has been reacting to the Coronavirus only makes it more certain to put your money into the wines from the DAO region.  Where is the DAO? Think central Portugal. It is a mountainous region with lots of rainfall in the winter and warm, dry summers. Vineyards are planted on mostly sandy, well drained soil on top of granite.

The DAO region became a DOC in 1990.  Originally the region produced bulk wine, hence the switch over to focused wines took several years, resulting in the DOC (Denominacao of Origem Controlada).

With the prestigious DOC as a backbone to growth, the region has elevated its winemaking status to ‘elite’ status. Some of the recent wines that have I have samples and has brought the DAO, with its indigenous grapes, many used as blends, into contention with wines from France, Spain and Italy include:

Quinta das Maia’s Tintoretto Jean DOC 2018 (100% Jane) 13.4%

Jaime de Almeida Barron’s Quinta das Camelias Tintoretto Reserva DOC 2015 (Jaen, Alfrocheiro and Touriga-National 13.3%

Borges Touriga National DOC 2017. (100%Touriga-Nacionel) 12.5%

Julia Kemper Wines Blanc des Noirs ‘Vinhas Selecionadas’ DOC 2018  (100% Touriga-Nacional) 12.7%

Pedra Cancela Selecao do Enologo Tinto DOC 2016. (Touriga-Nacional, Alfrocheiro and Tinta Roriz) 13%

Pedra Cancela Reserva Tinto DOC 2016 (Touriga-Nacional, Alfrocheiro and Tinta Roriz) 13.5%

Casa da Passarella ‘O Fugitivo Vinhas Centenarias’ Tinto DOC 2015. (Touriga-Nacional, Baga, Avarelhao, Tinta Pinheira, Jaen, Alfrocheiro and Tinta Carvalha) 13.5%

Quinta dos Roques Encruzado DOC 2018. (100% Encruzado) 13%

Pedra Cancela ‘Vinha da Fidaiga’ Encruzado DOC 2018. (100% Encruzado) 13%

Soliton Encruzado DOC 2017. (90% Encruzado and 10% Malvasia-Fina) 13.5%

Quinta do Mondego Mondeco Branco DOC 2018  (60% Encruzado and 40% Gouveio) 13.2%

What strikes me about these wines, which are a very small representation from the DAO, is the high quality of the wines paired with reasonable price points.

Stylistically, many of the whites, as stated earlier, were similar in taste to the wines from Burgundy, while the reds can be compared to the soft, tannic reds from Burgundy. Native grapes, especially the white grape, Encruzado, and the classic red grape, Touriga-Nacional, have helped put this region on alert to the wine lovers and sommeliers of the world.

Both traditional and modern wine making techniques exist in the DAO, thus making the region the perfect alternative for style and value.

Philip S. Kampe

How Hungarian Cabernet Franc Changed My Life by Philip S. Kampe

My Dad was known to his friends as ‘Cab Franc.’ You see, his name was really Joseph and all of his social time with visiting frien...