Friday, April 27, 2018

Antica, Napa's Extradorinary Wines from The World's Oldest, Active, Producer, Antinori by Philip S. Kampe

                                                            Glenn Salva

Our best friends live in Umbria. Umbria is adjacent to Tuscany. The land is both provinces have similarities to the Napa Valley, where Piero Antinori decided to extend his brand-Antinori, the oldest active winery in the world-to make Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnays in a fashion that traces his ancestry.

In 1993, he purchased 600 acres (225 hectares), at 1,800 feet (500 meters) to begin his journey to create ‘classic Antinori wines’ in an area that fits his credentials, according to Glenn Salva (see photo), his estate manager. Since then, he has added considerable acreage and has involved his daughters into the family business.

Mr. Salva explained that the alluvial and volcanic soils on the mountainside (1500-1800 feet) mimic what the family estates in Italy have accomplished for centuries, that being, vines that grow on mountain hillsides that are married to volcanic soils.

The results are astounding.

If you get the opportunity to sample or purchase the wines that I was privileged to taste with Glenn Salva-the 2016 Antica Chardonnay and the 2014 Antica Cabernet Sauvignon, you would have a sleepless night-dreaming about the classic nuisances both wines have.

14% abv didn’t slow down the 2016 Antica Antinori Family Estate Napa Chardonnay. Elegant, yet big in style, this intense California Chardonnay, from Antinori, is a mixed bag-the flavors focus on maple drenched pears and movie theater  milk duds, combining for a sweet, yet  tart, tangy finish. This wine is unique, not California style and not a classic white burgundy. Thats what makes it interesting and an obvious buy.

The 2014 Antica Cabernet Sauvignon is a well structured, balanced wine that was full of stylish elegance, focusing on a balance of  spicy blackcurrant riding on top of a bed of anise. Totally full-bodied with rich tannins and acceptable acidity, this vintage, with its long finish, certainly can be cellared for a dozen years.

Mr. Antinori and his family and team at the vineyard know how to make wine. This, certainly, is the oldest family in the world in the wine business. Who would know better?

Philip S. Kampe


Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Lucien Albrecht Wines from Alsace Are Underpriced by Philip S. Kampe

            Lucien Albrecht Wines from Alsace are Underpriced...

I have long been a fan of the sparkling wines from Lucien Albrecht. The ‘Cremant D’Alsace’ has been a real ‘got to’ wine of mine for get-togethers, parties and celebrations. At close to twenty dollars a bottle, my cellar has always been stocked with both the Cremant D’Alsace Brut and Rose, which is my true favorite.

One of the thrills of my life occurred last week when I had the opportunity to meet Lucien Albrecht’s winemaker, Jerome Keller.

Jerome Keller, the name behind the brand sat next to me at a luncheon for four and was so humbled to learn that his Cremant was at the top of my list for both quality and value. He knew he didn’t have to sell me on his wines because he knew that I knew the products inside and out.

What I didn’t know was that Jerome Keller produced a line of Lucien Albrecht wines, that represent what Alsace is all about, Pinot Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer. All vines are harvested by hand-a true trademark of Maison Lucien Albrecht.

Before sampling the wines, Mr. Keller explained that to produce wines at this level, he and his team must follow the grape from the birth on the vine until the varietal is picked and begins the process of fermentation. With cutting edge equipment and advanced winemaking skills, Jerome Keller executes what Lucien Albrecht wines are all about.

The journey began in 1425 when Romanus Albrecht started the winery. Eight generations have followed in the same footsteps.

In 1971 the first Cremant was produced by the family and in 1976, the methode traditionnelle was adopted. That means that the same method of making Champagne was adopted for all Cremants, which put them in the same league as Champagne and Spanish Cava. Double fermentation and aging creates Cremant’s profile.

The Brut is made from 100% Pinot Blanc grapes and was recently awarded four gold medals, giving Maison Lucien Albrecht more gold medals than any other Cremant producer in France.

The Lucien Albrecht Cremant d’Alsace Brut Rose is made from Pinot Noir grapes. It has a second fermentation in the bottle, then stays on the lees for nine months before being disgorged. The small bubbles circle the rim of the glass when poured, illustrating a well made wine. Red, exotic fruit prevails, rhubarb and red current bring out brightness to this salmon colored show stealer.

The 2016 Pinot Blanc Cuvee Balthazar ($17) was the first of the new series of wines, for me, that I sampled with winemaker Jerome Keller. The wine was pale yellow in color, fresh and supple with hints of apricots and sunflower seeds. Smooth and stylish on the palate, a great wine that could be used as both an aperitif and a food wine.
The 2016 Riesling Reserve ($16) jumped out of the bottle like a rocket. Balanced, yet not contained, the intensity and persistence of the wine’s acidity gave life to its citrus notes. Don’t get me wrong, it is overpowering in a good way. Riesling is the dominant grape in Alsace and this interpretation is special and stylized by winemaker, Jerome Keller.

The 2016 Pinot Gris Cuvee Romanus ($20), named after Romanus Albrecht, the wineries founder. The clay and limestone support the 100% Pinot Gris grape to dance on your palate. Distinctive flavors of orange spice, earth, chalk and honey are abundantly blended with a creamy smokiness that elevates with each sip.

The 2016 Gewurztraminer Reserve ($20) is a wine that I could drink everyday. The wine is very lively, like sunshine in a bottle. The faint spiciness and acidity of this medium bodied wine highlights the semi-sweet flavor of passion fruit and pineapple.

Alsace is an appellation in France that has been part of France and Germany throughout history. My family is from there. The region feels isolated and historically has followed centuries old traditions and maintained its own culture, a combination of both countries. Most of the wines (90% white) from Alsace come in the traditional tall, mostly green glass bottles.

Visit Alsace by visiting

                                                Winemaker Jerome Keller

Philip S. Kampe

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Malbec World Day is April 17th. Let's Celebrate Worldwide! by Philip S. Kampe


Malbec World Day 2018

Choose your favorite Holiday in April 2018.

April 1 April Fool’s Day
April 1 Easter Sunday
April 8 Greek Easter
April 17  Malbec World Day

I guess that you know where I am going with this. To me, even though April Fool’s Day is my Birthday, as a #Winelover and journalist, the most important holiday in April, each and every year, is always on April 17th, Malbec World Day.

How did this day happen?
Historically. President Domingo Faustino Sarmiento of Argentina was on his personal mission in 1853 to transform Argentina’s wine industry. He asked Michel Aime Pouget, a soil expert from France, to bring over new vines for the winegrowers to experiment with. Malbec was one of the new varietals. Ten years later France underwent a phylloxera plague that wiped out the varietal  in the Rhone Valley. Malbec cherished in Argentina. In the 1990’s, years after France’s 1956 freeze, that wiped out the majority of France’s Malbec vineyards, Argentina positioned Malbec as its rising star and declared that on April 17th, “Malbec World Day” would be celebrated throughout the world.

To celebrate “Malbec World Day”, starting in 2011, Wines of Argentina has been responsible for branding the event.

To celebrate the event, I have chosen two iconic Malbec varietals that represent the day.  Amalaya 2016 Malbec
13.9% abv
85% Malbec  10% Tannat  10% Verdot
25% of the wine is aged 8 months in French Oak
The palate is really alive with this Malbec. Lots of vanilla, spice and cherries and raspberries make up this balanced tannic wine. ($15)
The vines grow at high altitude in a dry climate with rocky and sandy soil. The Calchaqui Valley in northern Argentina (Salta) has vineyards growing at 5,700 feet. This is one of them.

Colome 2015 Estate Malbec
14.9% alcohol
100% Malbec
Aged 15 months in French oak and 6 months in the bottle
In the Upper Calchaqui Valley in the Salta region, these grapes are the highest in elevation Malbec grapes in the world. At 7,400 feet, the environment lends both complexity and weight to grapes that are sustainably farmed.
Rich tannins and acidity paired with over the top dark fruit mixed with spices make this wine a truly complex giant. ($25)

Enough said- Let’s Celebrate “World Malbec Day” on April 17th and toast the purple grape with the rest of the World that Celebrates this Worldwide Event.

Philip S. Kampe 

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Wild Yeast Wines Are In by Philip S. Kampe

The other day I attended a WILD YEAST wine tasting- a collaborative group of natural wine and even beer and cider small, regional importers who wanted to show their wares to the trade. Since I am employed as a wine scout- a person who seeks wines for retail shops, my journalistic hat was taken off so I could find and suggest wines to the shops that I scout for.

Wines at this event featured all wild fermented organic or biodynamic grapes that did not have sterile filtration or fining. What I found was that these wines were very alive and represent the terroir they come from.

Grapes that made up the wines, some international, but, many were indigenous varietals from a spectrum of European and North and South American countries. Importers that are members of the Wild Yeast Wine Group include: Eklektikon, Maritime Republic Imports, Brazos Imports, Artisanal Cellars and Steep Hill Imports. Add Purity Wine from California and La Garagista from Vermont to the list-as producers.

Of the fifty or so wines that were sampled, I will focus on two wines or grapes that stole the show for me. Both wines were from Greece and both wines were named for the grapes used to make the wines.

The first wine used the Savatiano grape-the most planted grape in Greece and known worldwide as the grape ‘Retsina’ is made from. Savatiano, as I was taught, is a very hardy grape, more resistant than most grapes to drought and disease. Central Greece, where it is grown gets very hot and remains dry for months upon end. Savatiano appears to enjoy the arid conditions.

The grape when vinified takes on different shades of yellow. The one I sampled contained no sulfites and was unfiltered and straw colored. Eklektikon imports the wine, a 2017. The wine I sampled was very woodsy with huge overtones of hazelnuts. It was unlike any wine I had sampled before. It lost its classic Retsina pine and tar flavor and was transformed to a luscious wine unfamiliar to the hundreds of thousands I had sampled during the course of my lifetime. This wine must be served cold-as when I was leaving and tasted the wine at room temperature, my palate was not as intrigued.

The second grape and name of the second wine is Roditis- a grape that is linked to a pink-red grape clone (see photo) and is found throughout Greece. Often the grape is blended with the drier Savatiano grape to produce Retsina.

Roditis is best suited for higher altitudes, where the terroir-driven grape can thrive and turn into a superstar. Roditis wines at their best are full-bodied and complex. The one I sampled was pink in color-attributed to the grapes color and was citrus like in flavor. I am sure the wine was unfiltered. It had a very earthy, yeasty quality and, to me, exhibited what the Wild Yeast movement is all about-fermented wines from organic or biodynamic grapes, without sterile filtrations or fining.

Philip S. Kampe 

Ignore the Name and Try this Wine: “B I T C H,” the Wine by Philip S. Kampe

You can’t help noticing the bottle on the shelf. With a pink neck and bold black label emphasizing  the word, “BITCH,” it’s had to ...