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HEITZ CELLAR
Sure, Heitz is world famous for its phenomenal single-vineyard Napa Cabernets costing $50-$120 a bottle.  But they still make their delightfully exotic, enchanting Napa Valley red wine called Grignolino.

In Italy's Piemonte the Grignolino grape has fallen out of favor in the Langhe region.  Many producers used to make wine from that grape, but they make a lot more money producing darker colored wines from Dolcetto and Barbera, so those are more prominent these days.

Grignolino still is easily found close to Asti, especially in the Monferrato hills.

The wine is typically light in color, fairly acidic and tart, so it's a great partner early in a multi-course meal where it's paired with salumi.  It's acidity cuts the fat in Prosciutto and salami.

But there are some other red grapes in the region and Brachetto is often found being made by some of the wineries who dabble in Barbera and Grignolino.  You might find dry wine made from Brachetto, but more readily available are sweet, fruity, fizzy Brachetto wines.

The floral and brown spice notes in Heitz Grignolino would suggest that theirs is probably not precisely Grignolino, but Brachetto.
I've shared this wine with a number of Piemontese winemakers and they agree this is probably Brachetto.

Now, dial back the calendar to the 1960s.  Joe Heitz bought a little wine cellar in St. Helena from a guy named Leon Brendel who produced but one wine.  And, in fact, it was known as Brendel's "Only One."    
Brendel's vineyard surrounded the little winery he had, just south of Louis Martini's winery.  

Heitz became famous for his magnificent wines, Cabernet Sauvignon being the specialty of the house.  But Joe Heitz' kids still make Grignolino...or wine that's called Grignolino.  

It's a delightful dry red, much smoother than Cabernet and lighter bodied, too.  

We understand that this wine will no longer be produced...Heitz will either use the fruit for its RosÚ wine or create a new label for the red...it's not yet clear.

We can relay a mildly amusing story about a fellow who was searching for this wine.

He ambled in to the shop and said "I'm from Benicia, California.  I once had a curious red wine from Napa.  It's not Gewurztraminer, but it's sort of like Gewurztraminer.  I had it a decade ago and ever since, I've been looking for it.  I go into every liquor store I see and ask about this and nobody knows what I'm talking about and they don't have this wine.  They've never heard of it.  Do you have any idea what I'm looking for?"

We said "Probably the wine you've been looking for is this one right over here."  And we showed him a stack of cases of Heitz Grignolino.  
The poor fellow nearly wet his pants.

"Oh my gawd!  That's the wine!  That's exactly the wine!  I can't believe it!! You have it.  I've been looking for this for ten years!"

We asked how many bottles he wanted, thinking maybe he'd buy a case.  

"I'll take one bottle." the guy responded.

We were shocked by this.  "One bottle! Let me gets this straight...you live 50 miles from here.  You've been looking for this wine for 10 years and haven't found it.  You've been torturing liquor store clerks who have no clue about the product you're requesting.  You finally find it and you're going to buy ALL OF ONE BOTTLE?"

"Okay...you're right," he responded.  "I'll take two!"

Now his associate, another rocket scientist apparently, decided he should buy some wine, too.

"What might you have that would be good for a hot tub?"

We suggested a terrific Riesling with a price-tag of $7.99 on it.

The fellow shrieked when he saw the price.  "$7.99!!!  No, that's too much!"

Without missing a beat and in our best deadpan we replied, "Oh sorry sir.  I thought you wanted a nice wine to drink while you were soaking in a hot tub.  I didn't realize you wanted something to fill the hot tub!"

Currently in stock:  Heitz Napa Grignolino (list $27) SALE $24.99



 


Croatia's island of Korcula is highlighted with the red arrows on this map...it's about 150 east of the coast of Italy.  But it's a world away in terms of wine.

 


TORETA 2020 POSIP  $21.99

There's a remarkably interesting range of wines being made in the former Yugoslavia.  

We periodically have requests for wines from Slovenia and Croatia and for years these wines were simply "not ready for prime time."  
At least, we can say that based on the few wines which had managed to find their way to California.

A local fellow was intent on getting out of his Silicon Valley gig and wanted to import wines.  And he brought in a handful of really good wines and a bunch of wines we simply could not recommend.  The curious thing is the guy managed to find a market for wines we evaluated as "sketchy" and those which were well-made and worthy of comparison to good California, French, Italian, etc., were proving difficult for him to sell!

He's since retired and we are delighted to say the crew who took over the company are more passionate about wine, but even better, they are importing wines which DO compete with the rest of the wine world.  

We've now had  a couple of vintages of wine from the Toreta winery.  The place was founded in the late 1990s, though the family of winemaker Frano Banicevic has several generations of winemaking history.
 
You'll need a ferry boat ride from Dalmatia to get to this place.  The island of Korcula has less than 16,000 residents, scattered over 108 square miles.  

Happily it's not Cabernet and Chardonnay which makes Korcula famous for its wines.  Toreta is viewed as a reference point for a wine made of the Posip grape.   With the 2019 we had their basic bottling, but tasting two versions from the 2020 vintage, we selected the more upscale bottling.

Korcula reportedly had 4000 hectares of vineyards in the late 1800s, but these days that number is much smaller...just 450 hectares!

The fruit is hand-harvested and the grapes are crushed and left with the skins for a few hours.  No, it's not an "orange wine," but Frano Banicevic is looking for the maximum character he can get.  They allow the indigenous yeast to ferment the juice, but if it's a bit sluggish, they will add a measure of a cultured yeast to insure the wine goes completely dry.

There's a mildly stony note here and the wine is medium bodied.  Though this batch sees maybe 20% of the wine being matured in Slavonian oak, you won't find any overt woodsy element.  One person described it as reminiscent of Chablis, but we don't find that flinty note here.

It's a good cocktail white and you can easily pair this with a variety of seafood dishes.



 

 

 

 




 




 

 

 







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