Michel Rolland has been called “The Flying Winemaker.” The Bordeaux-based oenologist consults for more than 80 estates and in 13 countries around the world. When he’s not boarding planes to another far-flung wine region, you may find him riding a horse surveying his vineyards in Argentina.
Rolland is a partner with four Bordeaux familiars in Clos de los Siete, seven estates located on 2000 acres in Argentina’s Uco Valley Mendoza at the foothills of the Andes. Here, temperatures vary widely from day to night which helps produce wines with high tannins and concentrated color. The pebble and clay soils help drain the melting snow coming from the Andes, while the vineyards’ south to southwest locations soak up the sun.
All of Clos de los Siete wines are Malbec blends known for their refined style, ageability, and value. All are priced under $20/bottle. They are imported by Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits are the number one Malbec blend from the Argentina in the U.S.A.
Recently we sat down with Michel to taste of a few of the wines, including a 2015, 2011 and 2006. All were well-structured and less fruit intensive than many Argentine Malbecs. What struck us about the 2006, and even the 2011, was how well the wines aged.
Rolland said 2011 was a tough year since many of the vineyards were destroyed by hailstorms. Yields were low but overall, the vintage was good with strong aging potential. He noted that the 2011 was the first vintage to use a little Cabernet Franc in the blend. The younger 2015 was from a cooler year and showed ripe fresh fruit. The 2006, a warmer year, showed the wine’s ageability and potential to enjoy for perhaps another four years. Info: www.closdelossiete.com
For anyone who aspires to build a brand that embraces the culinary lifestyle from all sides and seasons, look no further than Food52. The brainchild of journalists and authors, Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, Food52 has amassed a devoted community of culinary enthusiasts who engage and share recipes and appoint their kitchens with carefully curated products. And with the mission of “eating thoughtfully and living joyfully,” visualized in stunning photography and video shots, it’s no surprise that Food52 has hit two million followers on Instagram alone.
We first came to know Hesser when she worked as a reporter and food editor at The New York Times, where her The Essential New York Times Cookbook was a NYT bestseller. One of her “star” moments was playing herself in Nora Ephron’s movie, “Julie and Julia.” She’s also the author of Cooking for Mr. Latte: A Food Lover’s Courtship, with Recipes and The Cook and the Gardener, and several Food52 cookbooks, including her newest (with co-author, Merrill) A New Way to Dinner.
The story behind the creation of Food 52 in 2009 is a case study in a successful digital enterprise that took foresight and calculate risk. The co-founders parlayed a cookbook advance into a successful destination website which has grown substantially to become an experiential experience. Hesser has been named one of the 50 most influential women in food by Gourmet, created the Twitter app Plodt, and served on President Obama’s Commission on White House Fellowships.
September 27: Alain Dominique Perrin, owner of Chateau Lagrézette hosted a dinner at Le Bernardin to celebrate his 30-year collaboration with oenologist, Michel Rolland. It was an evening of toasts between friends.
Recalls Michel, “In 1988, after a brief telephone conversation with Alain Dominique Perrin, then President of Cartier, I went to Château Lagrézette in Cahors. We drove through the vineyards in a convertible car – one that had belonged to Brigitte Bardot. That was classy! The vineyards were less so… the vigor of the vines suggested an over abundant harvest. Alain told me then: “I do not have a cellar; my wine is made at the cooperative. I would like you to oversee the production.
“This was a first for me: to consult for a private client with wines vinified in a “kolkhoz”! I quickly discovered the drawbacks of the cooperative system and immediately warned Alain that my intervention would be useless: “I can’t perform miracles!” Not being a man to take no for an answer, he told me: “I promise you a beautiful Lagrézette winery in just a few years”. The construction of a state-of-the-art gravitational cellar was completed in 1992. A rigorous selection policy was applied, and two vintages were born, Le Pigeonnier and Cuvée Dame Honneur – which became flagships of the appellation.”
The wisp of a fresh sea breeze and the soft scent of wildflowers and Mediterranean brush remind me of a recent trip to Sardegna just before summer crowds of tourists flooded the island and just in time to taste some newly released wines. My trip was an immersion experience to learn about Vermentino, a light-skinned white grape that produces vibrant citrusy high-acid wines that make you salivate for a plate of fresh shellfish or just-caught, lightly grilled branzino with fresh herbs.
Vermentino is also cultivated in Corsica, where it’s called Vermentinu and in parts of Languedoc-Roussillon, where it’s called Rolle. In Liguria, it’s known as Pigato, and in Piedmont, it’s called Favorita. In Hungary it is related to Furmint. Recently I even tasted a Vermentino from Australia.
Seventy percent of Italy’s Vermentino is from Sardegna, where its production is strictly regulated to assure the highest quality wines. The characteristics of Vermentino wines vary slightly by appellation, thanks to different soils and vineyard elevations. All the wines I tasted reminded me somewhat of a Loire Valley Sancerre but with a tad more, albeit pleasant, salinity.
Vermentino is cultivated throughout Sardegna, but the wines of Vermentino de Gallura DOCG in the region of Olbia to the north of the island are considered the jewels in the crown. Here, the soil is more granite and limestone which lends a flinty character to the wines.
To the south in Vermentino di Sardegna DOC the soils are more calcareous (clay, chalk) . Tasting these wines, I detected a much more floral and herbaceous character, much like the Mediterranean wildflowers I kept smelling throughout my trip.
Vermentino wines should be served chilled, but not too cold. Given their Mediterranean provenance, they pair beautifully with seafood. Fatty tuna, octopus, langoustines and sea bream are just a few of the seafood dishes I enjoyed during my stay in Cagliari.
A special thank you to the agriculture marketing agency LAORE, who organized the trip. We all had the chance to taste a range of wines Vermentino wines from the north (Gallura and Alghero) and to the south around Cagliari, a bustling seaport and popular tourist destination. We met with dozens of producers at organizing tastings and meals. I found their local pride was as captivating as the wines.
Sadly, there was not enough time to visit Sardegna’s world-classes beaches and take a dip in the sea or tour its many archeological ruins (we did visit one). That’s another trip, and I look forward to returning and exploring this beautiful island more extensively.
Meanwhile, I will savor the memory of the sea breeze, sun and wildflowers when I order a glass of Vermentino.
In this edition of The Connected Table SIPS! Donatella Muscianese, Agenzia Laore Sardegna, discusses key growing areas and styles of Vermentino: DOCG Vermentino di Gallura.
Vermentino di Gallura DOCG
Surrau This winery mays sparkling and still Vermentino. Try Sciala Vermentino di Gallura DOCG Superiore which is aged one year, (ID Beverage)
Cantina Tani (Monti, Gallura) Family owned winery. Mother is a chef in the family winery restaurant Try Taerra 2008 (Importer: Artisan Wines)
Tenute Olbios. I really like this winery’s selections, especially the no dosage sparkling Vermentino called Bisso.
Vermentino di Sardinia DOC
Argiolas – Founded by wine legend Antonio Argiolas in 1906, the winery is now run by his granddaughters and celebrates 80 years in 2018. Try Costamolina. (Winebow).
Antonella Corda – Vintner Antonella Corda is a granddaughter of Antonio Argiolas who decided to create her own namesake label. Try Antonella Corda Vermentino di Sardegna.
Cantina Auduraya -The word “auduraya” means “nobility of the soul.” This lively winery hosted a tasting of delicious local Argiolas cheeses as well as their wines which include other native varieties like Monica, Bovale, Nuragus and, of course Cannonnau and Vermentino. Try: Auduraya Vermentino.
Cantina Santa Maria La Palma – Located in Alghero, this cantina is the largest producer of Vermentino in Sardegna. This winery produces a few Vermentino wines. Its bestseller is Aragosta (“lobster). I was partial to Vermentino Blu. Another interesting wine is Akènta is a sparkling Vermentino that is ‘cellared’ deep in the sea in the Porto Conte Natural Park. (MS Walker Imports and Bacchus Imports).
Sella & Mosca – Sella & Mosca is an expansive winery that produces wines from several native varietals, including a significant amount of Torbato, a white varietal, and Nasco, which produces a sweeter wine. Try: Sella & Mosca Monteoro Vermentino de Gallura Superiore. (Palm Bay Imports)
Cantina Trexenta -All the wines tasted were exceptional. in addition to Vermentino, Cantina Trexenta produces wines from the indigenous Monica, Nuragus and Cannanou varietals. Try Contissa Vermentino di Sardegna.