We’ve gone through many vintages of the wines of Sonho Lusitano Vinhos and even had owner Richard Mayson host a dinner party here in Birmingham a few years ago. After 12 harvests, this Portuguese project has come to an end but the team are proud to have helped to put the sub-region of Portalegre on the map. While we await the next chapter for Richard Mayson, his winemaker and partner Rui Reguinga, and the estate of Quinta do Centro, we are offering the last of their production at a significant price reduction. These are not wines at the end of life. On the contrary, they are presently in an ideal drinking window.
As a distinguished wine writer and author of five books on Portuguese wine, the British-born Richard Mayson has championed Portugal as a treasure trove of varied terroir and indigenous grapes with world-class potential. He fell in love with Portugal in 1979 when he worked for a summer at a restaurant in Algarve. As early as 1989 he had identified the under-the-radar Portalegre sub-region in the Alentejo in the south as an ideal breeding ground for great wine: The high altitude of the Serra de São Mamede mountain range, the moderate climate, and the stony soil all promised to produce excellent wines.
With the goal of producing wines firmly rooted in the local terroir, Richard purchased the Quinta do Centro vineyard in 2005 and created Sonho Lusitano (Lusitanian Dream) with winemaker and consultant Rui Reguinga. Rui hails from the central province of Ribatejo and began his winemaking career in 1991 working at the local co-operative in Portalegre. After working with well-known winemaker João Portugal Ramos he established his own wine consultancy business where he advises a number of leading properties, mainly in the southern half of Portugal.
Quinta do Centro is located on the slopes of Serra de São Mamede at around 1,600 to 1,800 feet above sea level. The property lies on the edge of the São Mamede Natural Park where it spans a shallow valley where the soils are poor, full of granite, and generally well drained. It is an estate with a bright future, indeed.
Special prices based on purchase of 6-pack (mix-and-match)
~$18 “Pedra Basta” (Alentejano 2013) Original Price: $25
Drinking at its peak, “Pedra Basta” (Enough Stone) is a blend of Trincadeira, Arragonez (aka Tempranillo) and Alicante Bouschet in roughly equal proportions with a small quantity of Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine is aged in new and second year barrels for 12 to 18 months before bottling. Richard Mayson’s own tasting notes declare, “the tannins are good, broad and ripe and the wine is characterised by the freshness which is our hallmark here in the Serra de São Mamede.”
~$31 “Pedra Y Alma” (Alentejano 2013) Original Price: $45
“Pedra Y Alma” (Stone and Soul) is Sonho Lusitano Vinhos reserve wine produced only in the best years and from the oldest vines on the property. It is a blend of Trincadeira, Arragonez, Alicante Bouschet, and Grand Noir that is aged for two years in new French oak barriques. The 2013 vintage saw a late harvest that began in searing heat and ended in rain. It was a highly successful year for Trincadeira and the estate picked the old vine fruit just before the weather broke at the end of September. It is a tight-knit but generous and well-balanced red that will keep on giving.
Gevrey-Chambertin is one of the most recognized appellations in Burgundy for good reason. At the commune level, these can be immensely satisfying Pinot Noir-based wines, substantial, dark-hued, infused with assertive fruit and heady aromatics. The distinction of Gevrey-Chambertin becomes unmistakable in the Premier Cru and Grand Cru vineyards. There you find the muscularity and structure that sets this appellation apart from all others.
Fourth-generation winemaker Dominique Gallois took over the family vineyards from his father in 1989. The small domaine is around 10 acres, the bulk of which is centered in Gevrey-Chambertin. The Gallois cellars were constructed by Dominique’s great grandfather, Guillaume Bizot, in 1901. They are reputed to be some of the coldest in the region, which helps to create wines of great depth and longevity.
Cultivation and winemaking are aimed at producing wines that are pure and speak of their unique terroir. In the vineyards, the domain has adapted a lutte raisonée (reasoned struggle) approach that includes plowing to force the roots deep and minimal use of herbicides or pesticides. Harvesting and sorting are all done by hand. In the cellar, only indigenous yeasts transform the fruit into wine. The wines are aged in oak barrels from the Allier region, with care to ensure that the portion of new oak, which varies depending on the vineyard parcels, does not dominate the wine’s aromas.
2016 was no parade for producers in Burgundy. A frost blanket and recurring mildew plagued growers throughout the season. Despite these issues, the Côte d’Or has once again provided an outstanding, classic vintage featuring some hauntingly beautiful red wines.
Special prices based on purchase of 6-pack (mix-and-match)
~$67 Gevrey-Chambertin (2016)
A true taste of the appellation, the wine is a blend from 10 climats situated around the village of Gevrey-Chambertin including En Songe, En Jouise, En Billard, En Dérée, Croix des Champs, Sylvie, La Justice, Charreux, and two parcels of the clos surrounding the Gallois home. Average age of vines from these parcels is around fifty years. 800 cases annual production.
$117 “La Combe Aux Moines” (Gevrey-Chambertin, Premier Cru 2016)
One of Gallois’ most sought after offerings, the “La Combe Aux Moines” Premier Cru vineyard is comprised of shallow clay-limestone on slabs of rock, with very little topsoil. The vines, planted in 1954, are on steep slopes at around 1,000 feet in elevation that are ideally exposed to morning sunshine. Yields from this parcel are naturally low and the ideal climat helps ripen the fruit to perfection. 200 cases annual production.
$225 Charmes-Chambertin (Grand Cru 2016)
Seriously old vines planted in 1910 from a climat that produces some of the most powerful and elegant expressions of Pinot Noir on earth. Gallois’ tiny 0.7 acre parcel is near the border of the Grand Cru Griotte-Chambertin and Dominique claims this wine has all of “the elegance of Charmes, the power of Chambertin and the roundness of Griotte.” These are vineyards composed of thin and poor clay-limestone soils that are littered with small stones, marls, and iron. It’s a landscape where Pinot Noir vines thrive. 133 cases annual production.
Ask us about our selection of previous vintages (2005-2015) from Domaine Dominique Gallois.
Although published in 1990 and out-of-print, Burton Anderson’s The Wine Atlas of Italy still offers some of the most insightful observations on Italian wine to be found anywhere. Almost 30 years ago his take on Azienda Agricola Comincioli was that they were an “unsung producer of some of the most consistently impressive” wines in Riviera del Garda — an agricultural zone on the glacial morainic slopes of Lake Garda, known mainly to locals and the cosmopolitan crowd of tourists that flock to this region, one of Italy’s most breathtakingly beautiful. Not much has changed for Comincioli since Burton wrote those words. They are still producing some of the most charming wines in the northeast of Italy to little fanfare from mainstream wine pundits. The good news for wine lovers is that these charming wines are a superb value.
Along with his wife Elisabetta, and sons Roberto and Andrea, 13th generation farmer Gianfranco Comincioli presides over 34 acres of vineyard and 64 acres of olive groves. Indeed, it is for the amazing (if somewhat controversial) olive oils for which Comincioli is most well-known. But the wines are made with the same painstaking care as the oil — soaked in a philosophy based on an unwavering respect for traditions and the environment. Gianfranco and family are dedicated to not only preserving their region’s indigenous grape varieties but to use them to produce wines of the utmost quality.
The farm lies in the Valtènesi sub-zone, the most venerated of the district. Valtènesi is distinguished by superior exposure to the sun and moderating breezes from the lake. For context, Comincioli’s vineyards are almost directly across the lake from Valpolicella, where Italy’s famous Amarone is produced. In fact, many of the same techniques for producing Valpolicella are used at Comincioli.
Harvesting the fruit takes place exclusively by hand, using small crates to avoid stress and prevent squashing of the grapes. Hand-sorting is done to remove any inferior fruit. There are four harvests in a single vintage. The first harvest, from the oldest vines, is directed at grapes destined for raisining (drying the grapes before vinification to concentrate the fruit’s sugars and flavors). Subsequent harvests are done on the basis of ripeness, the age of the vines, and the altitude of the vineyard. Work in the cellar is just as meticulous, with concerted effort to avoid any unwanted oxidative effects. The result is a group of unique wines that express both sense of place and purity.
Special prices based on purchase of 6-pack (mix-and-match)
~$22 Comincioli “Riviera” (Riviera del Garda DOC 2014) RED
Drinking at its peak right now, the 2014 cuvée “Riviera” is based on a little over half the native Groppello variety with the remainder a blend of Sangiovese, Marzemino, and Barbera. The wine is aged in stainless steel tanks and oak casks. Full of juicy red and black berries with intoxicating floral and spice aromatics, it’s reminiscent of the Valpolicella Ripasso from the other side of Lake Garda but with a vibe all its own. It’s ideal balance will pair beautifully with most classic Italian pasta dishes.
~$38 Comincioli “Gropél” (Riviera del Garda DOC 2015) RED
A celebration of the native grape variety Groppello rounded out with very small amounts of Sangiovese, Marzemino, and Barbera. A portion of the wine is made in the “appassimento” style of drying the grapes before vinification to concentrate the fruit’s sugars and flavors. It is then aged in stainless steel tanks and oak casks. “Gropél” is a unique red wine that delivers the weight, textures, and concentration of ripe fruit that Amarone lovers cherish, with the aromatics and flavors exclusive of Valtènesi.
~$24 Comincioli “Perlì” (Vino Bianco 2017) WHITE
The only reason this elegant white is declassified into the humble status of Vino Bianco is because Gianfranco has produced it using only the local indigenous varieties of Trebbiano Valtènesi and Erbamat, both grapes that are not allowed under DOC regulations but were introduced from obscurity into the Comincioli vineyards 30 years ago. One sip of its concentrated fruit and bracing minerality is enough to prove its bona fides as a wine of distinction and longevity. All the citrus, floral, and autumn meadow aromatics will curl your eyebrows. It’s style and grace are reminiscent of the best in Lugana, on the southern shore of Lake Garda. Certainly fans of Sancerre will be impressed.
~$58 Comincioli “Suler” (Riviera del Garda DOC 2011) RED
Valpolicella is on the other side of Lake Garda from Comincioli and is world famous for the production of Amarone in the “appassimento” style. This regional style is uniquely conveyed in the cuvée “Suler.” A mix of Sangiovese, Marzemino, Groppello, and Barbera grapes from Comincioli’s oldest vineyards (40 to 90 years old) are placed in shallow, ventilated crates for a period of 20-30 days before vinification. After extensive aging in stainless steel tanks, oak casks, and finally in the bottle, “Suler” delivers full-bodied elegance.
One of the most exciting producers in Rioja right now, we’ve always adored the wines from brothers Arturo and Kike de Miguel Blanco, third generation viticulturalists that produce wine for Artuke Bodegas y Viñedos. It seems that each new vintage highlights just how much growth and improvement can be accomplished when your singular focus is creating wines of freshness and purity that speak of place. Not only are the wines getting better, these new vintages have elegantly updated packaging to match.
With less than 55 total acres of vineyards distributed over 32 different plots, Artuke is most certainly a family affair. Their father still helps with vineyard maintenance, and their mother will have a plate of food at the ready for family members and visitors alike. Yet it is these two young men that have completely refocused the family winery to cultivate small vineyard plots in and around their village of Ábalos in the high elevation foothills of the Cantabrian Mountains.
Although the brothers are already working somewhat outside the established regulations of Rioja, their wines clearly reveal the characteristics of the Alavesa sub-zone, the northernmost and smallest of the three Rioja sub-zones, where the cooling influence of the Atlantic Ocean meets the warmer interior. This unique climate has the effect of ripening Tempranillo grapes with slightly thinner skins, yielding wines with superb fruit and freshness.
All prices based on the purchase of six or more bottles (mix and match).
~$14 “Artuke” (Rioja, 2018)
“Artuke” is made with the carbonic maceration method, a wine-making technique used to enhance aromatics and produce luscious, fresh, fruity wines preferred by Basques in the northern sub-zone of Alavesa. It is a blend of mainly Tempranillo grapes with about 5% of the white grape, Viura, from vineyards in the village of Baños de Ebro. The wine is fermented and aged in concrete for close to six months before bottling. It smells like a four-berry pie. This mouth-watering red wine takes a relatively deep chill which makes it a versatile pairing with all types of food: tuna, pretty much anything made with zucchini, fried chicken, gooey cheese sandwiches, pizza, etc…
~$22 “Pies Negros” (Rioja, 2017)
A blend of mostly Tempranillo with a small amount of Graciano from vines as old as 95 years, from vineyards in the village of Ábalos. Pies Negros means Black Feet, a reference to the archaic method of crushing the grapes using one’s feet. Fermented with indigenous yeasts, most of the wine matured in 500-liter oak barrels for one year, with about one-quarter kept in concrete. The wine is especially pretty on the nose with a heady floral scent wrapped around candied fruit and cinnamon. A medium-bodied sip is generous and swells through the midpalate to finish with a touch of earth. A fantastic value that would pair beautifully with kibbeh nayeh.
Welcome to The Champagne Society
Congratulations! In the coming months you will be drinking some of the best Champagne and sparkling wines known to humanity.
As a member of The Champagne Society, you’re in a select community of like-minded folks that appreciate the exceptional in wine and in life. Meet and mingle at dinners and events at hip local venues that are arranged exclusively for The Champagne Society.
All selected wines are from passionate grower/producers or small houses that are deeply connected to the particularities of each of their vine parcels and believe that wine is made in the vineyard first. Many of these wines are highly allocated and we quite often only have access to a few cases of a particular cuvée. The Champagne Society will enjoy wines that quite often aren’t available in any other wine shop in Michigan.
As a member of The Champagne Society you’ll receive the following benefits:
If you’re interested in joining the Champagne Society please give us a call at 248-398-0030 or email email@example.com