Sassarini Sciacchetra 2017 – Cinque Terre, Italy

A refreshing nose, with light autumn fruits and a hint of vanilla.  Caramel, pears, and apples hit immediately, with a clean light feel.  Clear, tawny coloring.  Zero tannin, but nice acid.  Fresh clean acid on the nose throughout.  Finishes clean and light with a nice lingering flavor of cider and that caramel warmth.  This is the 50th anniversary bottling from Sassarini and was the last bottle they had at Il Borgo di Campi’s restaurant, near Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre.  This Italian traditional dessert wine is rarely found outside of Cinque Terre because it’s made to be drunk soon after production – a laborious process that includes drying white grapes like bosco and vermentino before fermentation.

  • Rating: Impressive
  • Name: Sassarini Sciaccehtra 2017
  • Winery: Cantina Sassarini
  • Region: Cinque Terre
  • Country: Italy
  • Varietals: Unlabeled
  • Price: $50
  • Where to Buy: Il Borgo di Campi Restaurant

Herdade de Rocim 2017 – Alentejo, Portugal

A mixed berry with moss and leaves on the nose.  Dank and autumnal.  Soft, simple red berries on the front palate with immediate tannin.  The finish is taut, almost too tight, with a vegetal note.  At least at first tasting, at $20 it’s a bit to one-note and light to buy again.

  • Rating: Meh
  • Name: Alicante Bouschet 2017
  • Winery: Herdade de Rocim
  • Region: Alentejo
  • Country: Portugal
  • Varietals: Alicante Bouschet
  • Price: $20
  • Where to Buy: com

Kensington, MD Barbera Rosé – 2017

This is my long-awaited Barbera rosé. It’s bitter-sweet to be drinking this, because it’s the last wine that my vines produced at my previous home in Kensington before we moved three blocks down the road. Unfortunately, the vines were already too well-established to uproot and transfer to our new home, but the buyers were generous in allowing me to care for the vines and harvest the grapes in the final two months of their production for 2017 (and they’ve continued to care for and tend to the vines since our departure – thank goodness).

Simply stated, I’m really proud of this wine. It’s now my third vintage from these vines, and I believe the best yet. With the first two, I produced a traditional fruity red; typical personality for the barbera varietal. With this one though, being my last vintage for these vines, I decided to go a different route. Thanks to TJ Flemming at Rocklands Farm and Winery in Potomac MD, I was encouraged to try out a rosé. This vintage is a beautiful light and bright pink, with strawberry and grassy flavors. It has absolutely bone dry and leaves you wanting more and more. Unfortunately, there are only 12 bottles in existence. Get them while they last! I believe this wine will be exceptional in 2020.

·         Rating: Impressive (but biased)

·         Name: NLE Rosé

·         Winery: 4124 Warner

·         Region: Kensington, MD

·         Country: USA

·         Varietals: Barbera

·         Price: Priceless

ArmAs – Aragatsotn, Armenia

So, anyone heard of Armenian wines? If not, you will soon. I was in Yerevan for a recent work trip and happened to be visiting a bunch of agricultural sites, many of which were growing grapes. This country’s soils are so well-suited for orchards, particularly grapes, because of their volcanic or bouldery geology. All are very well-drained and the climate affords them enough sunlight and water stress to push them to the max. The grapes have traditionally been used to make exceptional cognac, but now the farmers are waking up to the fact that they have excellent conditions to grow world class table wines. This is not unlike the Spanish epiphany of the late 1990s or the Portuguese awakening of the early-mid 200os.

Now to the wine: it is ripe, tight, and spicy. Its native grapes reminded me of the Norton varietal here in the mid-Atlantic USA; very bold and very unique. I reckon that this will be drinking well for years to come. Sheridan, be thankful that I got a bottle for you too…

·         Rating: Impressive

·         Name: Karmrahyut Dry Red Wine

·         Winery: ArmAs

·         Region: Aragatsotn Province

·         Country: Armenia

·         Varietals: Karmrahyut, Areni, Kakhet, Meghrabuyr

·         Price: $12

Quinta dos Corvos – 20-year-old Porto Branco

Sheridan snagged this Port during his last trip to the Iberian Peninsula, which means he’s been saving this for us to drink together now for roughly a year. It was well worth the wait. Not all too common here in the USA, this White Port is so rich and supple, somehow displaying both sweet and savory characteristics simultaneously. Its high viscosity makes it almost meaty, but it is so deliciously floral, fruity, and mildly sweet that it could drank as an aperitif or a dessert wine. I could have drunk the whole bottle, and probably would have had Sheridan not also been pouring a Vintage Port from the same producer that same evening

  • Rating:  Impressive
  • Name: Branco – 20 years old
  • Winery: Quinta dos Corvos
  • Region: Porto
  • Country: Portugal
  • Varietals: Undisclosed
  • Price: (ask Sheridan)
  • Where to Buy: Unfortunately, only in Portugal at the moment

Prazo de Roriz – Douro, Portugal

This young beauty starts with a refreshing blueberry and blackberry bouquet.  Violets and crushed flowers lead into a fast, berry-heavy start with tinges of vanilla.  Very nice.  The fruit rolls in with some slatey tannins – not too much – to bring it to a tight, luscious finish.  A very pleasant wine, medium bodied and delicious.  I expected less and got a lot.

  • Rating: Impressive
  • Name: Prazo de Roriz
  • Winery: Prats and Symington
  • Region: Douro
  • Country: Portugal
  • Varietals:
  • Price: $17
  • Where to Buy: wine.com

Quimera 2011 – Mendoza, Argentina

A deep, rich beauty that will make you fall in love with Argentina all over again, from one of her finest wine houses.  A blend of Bordeaux grapes that really shows off all the classic flavors:  dense vanilla and tobacco notes, red fruit and white pepper.  Well-structured with nice tannins that will hold her for years to come, but she’s ready to drink today if you’d like.  The French oak, in a mix of new and one year old, keeps the oak nice and mellow – not overpowering like many California and Washington wines.  I always trust Achaval Ferrer, but was nonetheless impressed by this offering.

  • Rating: Impressive
  • Name: Quimera 2011
  • Winery: Achaval Ferrer
  • Region: Mendoza
  • Country: Argentina
  • Varietals: 38% Malbec, 26% Cabernet Franc, 23% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Petit Verdot
  • Price: ~$32
  • Where to Buy: Connecticut Ave. Wine & Liquor

Peloro – Faro, Italy

Fresh flowers and moss on the nose.  Yep.  Fresh and mossy.  A light bodied red fruit explosion sneaks up on the front end, with a hint of vanilla.  Some pleasant green tannins bring this one to an abrupt close, and a lingering hit of that same freshness as it fades out to warm tannins.

  • Rating: Everyday Red
  • Name: Peloro Terre Siciliane Rosso 2014
  • Winery: Le Casematte SRL
  • Region: Faro (Sicily)
  • Country: Italy
  • Varietals: 70% Nerella Mascalese, 30% Nocera
  • Price: $21
  • Where to Buy: S&R Liquors

Shardana 2010 – Sardinia, Italy

Dank, dark, and rusty on the front end, like some old shipwreck pulled up out of the sea.  Nice tannins, leather, and some hints of vanilla.  This is a tough beauty.  Prunes and dark, black fruit.  A tight finish from not inconsequential tannins.  Excellent with seafood and fennel.

  • Rating: Impressive
  • Name: Shardana 2010
  • Winery: Neil Empson and Santadi
  • Region: Valle de Porto Pino, Sardinia
  • Country: Italy
  • Varietals: 85% Carignano, 15% Shiraz
  • Price: $28
  • Where to Buy:   Litteri

Sheridan Vineyard Boss Block – Yakima Valley, Washington

A very American wine – too much oak that obscures the grape and the terroir.  Tastes like cherry vanilla ice cream.  Yes, that’s crazy talk.  Drops off at the end with cola flavors and a dark cocoa, chewy tobacco finish.  Pleasant, but not my cup of tea.  At this price point I probably won’t be buying this again – or anything from this group, but have a hard time waiving people off it.  If you like this style of wine – heavily oaked obsessive single-grape varietal wine, you’ll enjoy this wine.  I bought this for reasons that should be obvious and it reminds me of something Georges dos Santos of Antic Wines said to me the first time I met him regarding Washington wine:  “it’s good that they like it.”  Again, it’s a question of style and this just isn’t mine, regardless of the name.

  • Rating: Meh, for stylistic reasons
  • Name: Boss Block 2014
  • Winery: Sheridan Vineyard
  • Region: Yakima Valley
  • Country: Washington, USA
  • Varietals: Cabernet Franc
  • Price: $35-50
  • Where to Buy: Total Wine