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Forge Cellars, Seneca Lake (Finger Lakes, New York) Chardonnay Caywood Vineyard 2021 ($28)
 After producing some of the Finger Lakes’ best Riesling for over a decade, Forge Cellars maked their first Chardonnay.  The fruit is sourced from 50+ year old Caywood Vineyard vines.  Located on the eastern side of Seneca Lake, the area is locally called the “banana belt” because it is noticeably warmer than anywhere else in the area.  As temperatures cool, Seneca Lake’s deep reservoir acts like a heat sump, giving off warmth and extending the growing season.  The longer season, in turn, enables further ripening of the fruit — a key for Forge Cellars as they are usually the last winery to harvest in the region.  Forge’s light-handed approach, including the use of neutral oak, provides an old-world styled wine that focuses on the fruit, acidity, and integration.  Knowing the winemaking team at Forge, their Chardonnay will only get better as they methodically improve their winemaking vintage after vintage.     
90 Vince Simmon


Posted by Michael Franz on March 22, 2023 at 6:34 PM

From Hinterland to Emerging Epicenter: Spain’s Remarkable Bierzo Region

I’m writing this while returning from three days of intensive tasting in Bierzo, which is also to say that I’m winding up a seven-day trip.  No kidding.  Bierzo is so remote that it is taking me longer to get there and back than the span I could enjoy tasting in the region, and that’s timed from the East Coast of the USA to Bierzo, which is on the western side of Spain, which is among the most westerly of all European countries.

To say that Bierzo is a remote wine region is indisputably true but also trivial, because Bierzo’s wines are so superb that they make the journey worth the effort—regardless of the rigors involved.  This was my third visit to Bierzo, and if I were invited back next week, after I’d finished my laundry and caught a bit of sleep, I’d turn around and go back.

The best reds made in Bierzo from the Mencía grape variety can measure up to any reds made from anything, anywhere.  Moreover, in the years since I first visited Bierzo in 2007, the best whites made from the Godello grape variety have risen from mere curiosities, even within the region, to contenders for the title of Spain’s best white table wines.

I could certainly understand if you dismissed such high praise as overly excited verbiage from someone freshly returned from an enjoyable trip.  However, the fact is that I’m writing this in a cramped Economy seat on an airplane during the fourth of four transit days—a sufficiently inglorious situation to encourage sober assessment even if my portion of the plane wasn’t occupied by a passenger with a truly astonishing case of flatulence.

Bierzo wines are every bit as good as I’ve claimed here, and though you may not have direct experience to corroborate my glowing account, you’ll find that tasting is believing once you get your chance.  That may require some time and effort if you don’t live in a major metropolitan area, as the wines aren’t plentiful and aren’t yet widely distributed in the USA.  Yet the expansion of direct shipping has made direct tasting experience vastly easier than it was not long ago, and I’ll follow up this blog posting with so many tasting notes on Wine Review Online that almost everyone reading these lines will have a fighting chance with a bit of effort.

“Effort” is an appropriate word for emphasis in relation to Bierzo, where the best vineyard plots are often small, isolated, and so steeply inclined that simply stepping into the loose slate soil is a life-risking proposition.  Just as there’s nothing easy about getting to Bierzo, there’s nothing easy about viticulture within the region, and likewise nothing easy about getting the wines out to world markets to gain the attention they deserve.

To underline that point, I’d like to paraphrase a reflection offered by a vintner over dinner a couple of nights ago.  I won’t attribute what follows to the speaker by name, as I’m working from memory and a hastily scribbled note, and also because I can’t check the quote from my present location at 35,000 feet of altitude.  Moreover, there’s a chance that others in Bierzo might not take kindly to a resident’s musing to a journalist about the region’s supremely challenging remoteness at a time when Bierzo is enjoying its first little taste of limelight.

My dinner companion made a striking statement, and it came “out of the blue,” as none of us at the table were talking about the Camino de Santiago.  For centuries, this “Way of St. James” has been the most famous route for pilgrims in Christendom, bringing a steady stream of hardy and presumably pious hikers across northern Spain to Santiago de Compostela, where the remains of the Saint are purportedly interred all the way on the Atlantic coast.  A “steady stream” is hardly a throng, and pilgrims aren’t likely to trumpet the virtues of wines they enjoyed as the most meaningful aspect of a hike that is much more about piety and pain than pleasure.  But those facts make the statement all the more striking, so I’ll close with it, paraphrasing as best I can:

If it were not for the Camino passing through Bierzo, we’d have nothing, and really be nowhere.  Surrounded by mountains, there’s only one way in and one way out, basically along the river Sil.  Back when the Romans ruled the region, they only made wine here because it was too difficult to transport wine in from areas where they could make it more easily.  When the Moors controlled Iberia, they concluded that Bierzo wasn’t worth the trouble, and simply abandoned it.  When the monastic orders arrived, reviving viticulture and winemaking in Bierzo, they came here only because they were safe in the area, and that was only because nobody would bother to attack them here.  Seriously, if not for the Camino, nobody would even know this place exists.

Everything I know about the history of Bierzo—and Spain more broadly—suggests that my tablemate had this exactly right.  Looking ahead, though, I’d offer an observation that runs slightly to the contrary.  The day is fast approaching when Bierzo will be known by hundreds of thousands of people who know nothing about the Camino, and who are aware only the distinctiveness and deliciousness of the region’s wines.  And once that day has arrived, curious wine pilgrims will possibly outnumber their religious counterparts, however difficult the journey. 

By the way, the journey isn’t all that bad, though planes and trains are useless.  Just rent a car at the Madrid airport and make the four-hour drive, stopping for an espresso every hour, so that you don't fall asleep and run off the road after flying all night (as I nearly did about five times).

Dr. Michael
This Issue's Reviews
Don't Miss Maison Latour's 2020 Burgundies
Michael Apstein

March 29, 2023: Founded in 1797 and still family owned and operated, Maison Louis Latour is one of Burgundy's top producers. In addition to their own 120 acres of vineyards (over half of which are Grand Cru, making them the largest owner of Grand Cru vineyards in Burgundy) they are one of Burgundy's best négociants as well. Latour's style of winemaking, firm rather than flamboyant, is a perfect fit for the fleshy wines the hot 2020 vintage produced. Latour has always favored well-structured wines that take time to open and reveal themselves. Their winemaking style changed when the 11th generation of the family, Louis-Fabrice Latour, took over in 1999. He extended the maceration just slightly to achieve a touch more intensity. Even with the change, Latour's reds, while a bit deeper, are still not flashy and voluptuous, but rather restrained and elegant. So, the extra ripeness of the 2020 vintage is a perfect fit for their winemaking philosophy.
What I've Been Drinking Lately: 2009 and 2010 Louis Latour Burgundies in Retrospect
John Anderson

March 29, 2023: My friend and colleague at Wine Review Online Michael Apstein is, I know, writing about the 2020 vintage in Burgundy, and, specifically, about the 2020 wines from Maison Louis Latour, so I thought it might be useful for me to weigh-in on two near-mature vintages of the Latour wines. Two Thousand Nine and Two Thousand Ten turned out to be one of the great twin vintages in the vinous history of Burgundy, in which, most unusually, the reds and whites proved in both cases to be extremely good, if not outstanding. I well remember having tasted both reds and whites from 2009 and 2010 when they were young and just coming to market at a series of Wine & Spirits magazine blind tastings. We all knew by then that '09 was a great vintage for the reds and a slightly lesser vintage for the whites; and that the '10 whites were, by almost all accounts, splendid. The great surprise was how good, how very good the reds proved to be in 2010.
Wine With
WINE WITH…Spaghetti Pure & Simple

March 8, 2023: I find myself gravitating towards simpler food, fewer meat-oriented menus, and in general focusing more on simplicity rather than complexity. Simple pasta, for example, is something I've been craving recently. What my palate longs for instead is simple, spaghetti-type pasta, but I want the noodles to be sauced with nothing more, really, than a drizzle of olive oil. Perhaps I'll garnish this simple dish with something raw, and green, and crunchy.
On My Table
Subtle Sauvignon Blanc and Powerful Cabernet
Mary Ewing-Mulligan

March 8, 2023: The property today known as Titus Vineyards can trace its wine history back to 1841 and has been continuously farmed for more than 150 years. Dr. Lee Titus, a radiologist, purchased the land in 1968 and soon began farming the vineyard. As the old vineyards were replanted, Dr. Titus focused on the five classic Bordeaux varieties. Brothers Eric and Phillip Titus today run the family property; Stephen Cruzan became winemaker in 2015 with a resume that included work at several notable Napa Valley properties. I had not tasted the Titus Vineyards wines in several years, and welcomed the opportunity to sample three 2019 reds and the 2021 Sauvignon Blanc.