WITWIB? Balzac, Me & Montepulciano: A Brief Encounter

  Welcome to binNotes | a wine blog. WITWIB?

Balzac, Me & Montepulciano – ‘The Tuscan Wines of Montepulciano Come to Seattle’

by L.M. Archer, FWS

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It was a brief encounter. Flirtations always are. Mind you, it wasn’t cheating. Burgundy has my heart. But a bit of every wine region I visit touches my soul, including Tuscany. So when Balzac Communications proferred an invite for binNotes to Taste the Tuscan Wines of Montepulciano at the ultra-lux Hotel Ballard Rooftop Olympic Pavilion recently, a little voice inside me said “Assolutamente!”  Something about Italians and their passione gets me ever time.

Many things about Montepulciano that afternoon reminded binNotes of Burgundy. Some did not.


When it comes to wine making, Tuscany likes to complicate things – just like Burgundy!  Case in point:  Vino Nobile di Montepulciano is NOT the same as Montepulciano d’Abruzzo wine, made from the Montepulciano grape in central eastern Italy’s Abruzzo region.

No. Vino Nobile di Montepulciano is a wine made from at least 70% sangiovese clone prugnolo gentile (literally translated meaning ‘little prune’) with local Tuscan varietals such as canaiolo, malvasia and trebbiano rounding out the balance.

Like Burgundy’s pinot noir, sangiovese is a finicky, clone-prone diva of the vineyard. It can ripen unevenly, depending upon sun and rain variations. Wine growers and wine makers of both varietals must possess an inordinate level of patience, understanding and devotion.

Both wine regions share a penchants for limestone ridges and abundant meso-climates, though Montepulciano’s may rise a bit higher under somewhat sunnier skies.


Like Burgundy, Montepulciano enjoys rarified social status.

Burgundy boasts royal rootstock, including the Dukes of Burgundy and  Hospices de Beaune, location of the world’s most famous annual wine auction.

Montepulciano, meaning ‘mountain of politics,‘ bedazzled popes, poets and patriarchs for centuries, earning the sobriquet  “The Pearl of the 16th Century.” Today, Montepulciano serves as a Tuscan cultural, agricultural and tourist touchstone.


The wines of Burgundy and Montepulciano share patrician wine rankings as well.

Like Burgundy’s esteemed Premier and Grand Crus, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) notates wines of exceptional quality. Awarded this status in 1980, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG must age wines at least two years, three years for riservas.

Many wine aficionados complain that Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG suffers from excessive hype – delivering tired, thin, astringent wine resembling a jet-lagged supermodel with acid-reflux, rather than a voluptuous opera star. However, a quick binNotes’ lip-smack of an offered Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG revealed wine with a deep garnet robe, red fruit and dark cherry notes, balanced tannins, and lingering finish.

As with Burgundy, not everyone can afford rock-star status wines. While Burgundy offers regional and village-level wines for real people with real lives, Montepulciano offers these alternatives:

Rosso di Montepulciano DOC

Rosso di Montepulciano DOC ( Denominazione di Origine Controllataresemble Burgundy’s regional and village level wines - younger, softer, and typically from younger vines, with shorter aging requirements.

Vin Santo di Montepulciano DOC

Vin Santo, meaning ‘holy wine,’ traditionally appeared at Mass and celebrations. Today, Vin Santo di Montepulciano DOC  enjoys a secular place at the table, typically with dessert or postprandial.

Note: Some wine professionals argue that Vin Santo di Montepulciano DOC deserves the same DOCG status as Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG. What do you think? Leave your comments below.


binNotes left ‘The Tuscan Wines of Montepulciano’ blushing, but still devoted to Burgundy. Bourgogne toujours…ma avremo sempre Montepulciano! Ciao et santé!

For more on Montepulciano, check out this cool Rick Steves video:

Video: Courtesy http://www.ricksteves.com

Thank you:

Balzac Communications and Marketing

The Hotel Ballard


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Copyrighted 2012-2014. All rights reserved. All still photos courtesy the author.

Terroirist Tuesday

 Welcome to binNotes’ Terroirist Tuesday.

by L.M. Archer, FWS

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Welcome to binNotes’ Terroirist Tuesday binNotes is out of pocket this week.

Enjoy binNotes Guest Post: The Good Life France: Burgundy – France’s Most Seductive Wine Region

Don’t Miss out! Underground Cellars: Sonoma Winecation #Giveaway


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Copyrighted 2012-2014. All rights reserved. All images ©2014 Courtesy the author.

UndergroundCellar | Sonoma Winecation

 Welcome to binNotes | a wine blog.

by L.M. Archer, FWS

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Remember binNotes’ 2013 recurring fan-shout out  feature #WW ?

Well, today binNotes takes it for a #FF spin, with a special cameo appearance by:


I love winecations. I really love an all-expenses paid winecation. Which has yet to happen. But… Underground Cellar’s Sonoma Winecation giveaway offers just that – a chance to wine an all-inclusive uber-lux getaway for four (4) to Sonoma’s wine region, including airfare, dinners, VIP winemaker experiences, and a weekend stay at Villa Terra Nova Wine Country Retreat.

Jeffrey Shaw, wunderkind  founder and CEO of Underground Cellars -  the hip, ahead-of-the-curve, only-one-of-its-kind  reverse discount upgrade wine site in Napa and Sonoma county -  chatted with binNotes recently the event, and how they do what they do.

bN: Why a ‘Sonoma Getaway’ giveaway?

JS:  ” Underground Cellars has enjoyed huge success as a start-up wine upgrade wine site. We wanted to share the success to wine lovers by offering a giveaway getaway to our backyard, the Sonoma wine region.”

bN: Your site’s growth has been explosive - why the loyal following?

JS: “For several years now, wineries have looked to ‘flash’ sites to sell their excess and overstocked wine, but at a huge cost — bastardization of their brand, reputation, and pricing structure… There is a better way for wineries to quickly sell their wine without sacrificing their brand and future pricing structure.  All they have to do is ditch the discounts and replace them with upgrades! Our members get that.

And the wineries that work with us here at Underground Cellar offer up wines they’re proud to pour - not ones that have been sitting around an un-temperature controlled wine distribution warehouse for two or three years. Our members  appreciate this committment to quality.”

bN: How did you come up with the Sonoma Getaway prizes? They’re really cool.

JS: “Underground Cellars enjoys established relationships with a lot of boutique Napa and Sonoma wine makers. Thanks to these relationships, and buzz from our loyal Underground Cellar members,  we’ve been able to attract support from  local legends like the girl and the fig, Iron Horse Vineyards, and Villa Terra Nova. They’ve been super excited to participate in the promotion, which is great!”

bN: One final question…It’s raining here in Seattle…what’s the weather like right now in Sonoma? 

JS: “Sunny. Warm – in the low 80′s. I’m going to get my mail right now, and it’s beautiful.”

Nice. Find out more about how to enter to win Underground Cellars winecation and bask in some of that Sonoma sunshine here.


NOTE: binNotes asked Brand Director  Brian Gallagher about contest entrant data collection. Underground Cellar doesn’t spam. Contest entrants can ‘unsubscribe’ at any time.

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Copyrighted 2012-2014. All rights reserved.

Thank you:

Brian Gallagher, Partnership | Brand Director, UndergroundCellar

Jeffrey Shaw, CEO | Founder, UndergroundCellar

Published: The Good Life France – Burgundy Wine Region

 Welcome to binNotes | a wine blog

by L.M. Archer, FWS

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It’s Official!

 My featured guest blog on Burgundy’s Wine Region is now published in The Good Life France.

Read it here.



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Janine Marsh – The Good Life France

Copyrighted 2012-2014. All rights reserved.

Terroirist Tuesday: Terroirs & Signatures de Bourgogne 2014

 Welcome to binNotes’ Terroirist Tuesday.Today’s Topic:  Terroirs & Signatures de Bourgogne 2014

by L.M. Archer, FWS

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binNotes recently braved the omni-present Seattle rain to bask in the warm glow of  BIVB’s Terroirs & Signatures de Bourgogne Trade Tasting at UrbanFeast | The Foundry.

I had to blink. Twice. At the event entrance stood none other than ‘Le Renard de Bourgogne,’ Jean-Pierre Renard, legendary BIVB instructor par excellence of the French Wine Society 2013 Bourgogne Master Level Immersion Program. The man forgets more about Burgundy by breakfast than most people hope to know about the region in a lifetime. Shock and introductions aside,  I quickly asked Jean-Pierre for a quick synopsis of the way to maneuver through the event.

His recommendation: complete a nearby series of four tastings at each of four tables, culminating in a blind tasting of four wines, one from each table.  Jean-Pierre also mentioned something about filling out a blind tasting ballot form at the end for a chance to win a prize…but I was too busy enjoying the exceptional Regional, Village, Premier and Grand Crus tastings to take note, or notes. Oh, well. Bon chance to the winner.

An old axiom about Burgundy’s wines goes: It’s all about the terroir. And the producer.  Beyond the blind tasting beamed the bright lights of the trade tasting tables. Here, twenty-five Burgundy producers poured their best 2011 and 2012 vintages, each designed to showcase the ‘terroirs’ and ‘signatures’ of Burgundy. Some other vintages gamboled among the newer ones. Interestingly, most of the wine makers with whom I spoke espouse organic farming, and others investing in upgrades to biodynamic farming.

In binNotes’ opinion, three (3) producers surpassed the others at this event with their panache, passion and precision. These three included:

I. Bertrand Ody of M. Joseph Burrier | Château de Beauregard

Wines tasted:

1. Mâcon-Fuissé, 2012 – J. Burrier (Regional wine. 80% stainless/20% oak.)

2. Saint-Véran, En Faux, 2011, Château de Beauregard (80% stainless/20% oak.)

3. Pouilly-Fuissé, 2012, Château de Beauregard

4. Pouilly-Fuissé, Vers Cras, 2010, Château de Beauregard (11 mos. oak/30 new.)

5. Pouilly-Fuissé, Vignes Blanches, 2009, Château de Beauregard (11 mos. oak/30 new.)

6. Pouilly-Fuissé, Grand Beauregard, 2008, Château de Beauregard

Impressions: These wines pour fresh, clean, pristine. A discreet but discernible difference between the oaked Ch. de Beauregard and the 80% stainless regional and village wines. I found the oak protocols impart varying hints of almond to the wine. NOTE: The owner produces 20,000 cs/yr. and sells 50% of his wines to restaurants in France.)

II. Mdm. Anne Parent of Domaine Parent.

Wines Tasted:

1. Corton Grand Cru, 2011. Delicate. Parcel is midslope limestone.

2. Monthélie, 2011 –  Herbacious.

3. Pommard 1er Cru, Les Poutures, 2011. Mdm. Parent calls this ‘The Skater.’ Lively.

4. Pommard 1er Cru, Les Chaponnières, 2011. Red clay, spice, 75 yr. old vines. A wine of power and intensity.

5. Pommard 1er Cru, Les Epenots, 2011. Up for Grand Cru status. Considered one of Pommard’s two greatest 1er Crus (The other: Les Rugiens, also up for Grand Cru status.)

6. Ladoix 1er Cru, La Corvée, 2011.  The soils here transition from Côte de Nuits to Côte de Beaune.

BONUS: Pommard 1er Cru, Les Epenots, 2002, Magnum. Those infamous Pommard  tannins let loose a bit.

Impressions: Don’t mess with Madame Anne Parent, or her wines.  Unflinching. Uncompromising. A force of nature. (NOTE: See video below for more on Mdm. Anne Parent and her influential role in Pommard’s bid for Grand Cru status.)

III. Romain Taupenot of Domaine Taupenot-Merme.

Wine tasted:

1. Gevrey-Chambertin, 2011. Napoleon’s favorite wine for a reason.

2. Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru, Bel Air, 2011. Great 1er cru real estate in the higher slopes above Clos de Bèze.

3. Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru, 2011. Considered one of two top 1er Crus in Nuits-Saint-Georges (the other is Les Vaucrains.)

4. Corton Rognet Grand Cru, 2011. On the Aloxe-Corton side of Ladoix.

5. Mazoyeres-Chambertin Grand Cru, 2011. Often labeled as Charmes-Chambertin; some say possesses less finesse than Charmes-Chambertin. I found no such issues with this wine.

BONUS: Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru, 1998. (Served on 1st Class United Emirate.) A wine worthy of its designation. Charming.

Impressions: Discretion, elegance, finesse. Pale robe, delicate aromas, silky tannins, lingering finish. Again, indicative of how the wine and wine maker mirror one another’s temperament.

Event complete, I felt like Cinderella at the end of the ball, except my coach was a SmartCar, not a pumpkin. And instead of a glass slipper, I had only a wine glass to recall the magic of Burgundy.


The  formidable Mdm. Anne Parent expounds upon Pommard’s Grand Cru efforts:

Video: Courtesy http://www.bergmans-bourgogne.com

 Parlez-vous français? Écouter ici pour Jean-Pierre Renard, virtuose dégustateur and ‘Le papa de ProDégustation®:



Bertrand Ody, Maison Joseph Burrier | Chateau de Beauregard

Mdm. Anne Parent, Domaine Parent

Romain Taupenot, Domaine Taupenot-Merme

Le Renard de Bourgogne


NOTE:  For those of you trying to access binNotes guest blog for The Good Life France  -  it goes live tomorrow –  I’ll post the link as soon as it’s up!

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Copyrighted 2012-2014. All rights reserved. All images ©2014 Courtesy the author.

WITWIB? #BourgogneWA !

 Welcome to binNotes | a wine blog. WITWIB?

The Bourgogne Wine Tour – Seattle

by L.M. Archer, FWS

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Today binNotes tastes through twenty five of Burgundy’s most prestigious producers in town for the Bourgogne Wine Board (BIVB)  Terroirs & Signatures de Bourgogne  trade tasting …will keep you posted on the details next Terroirist Tuesday.



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Copyrighted 2012-2014. All rights reserved.

Winemaker Wednesday: Tudal Winery – Napa, CA.

Welcome to binNotes new monthly series: Winemaker Wednesday. Today’s winemaker: Tudal Winery – Napa, CA.

by L.M. Archer, FWS

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Baseball legend Joe DiMaggio’s onfield ritual rarely varied: he always ran from outfield to touch second base before heading back into the dugout. ‘Joltin’ Joe’s’ off-field rituals rarely varied, too – including his annual pilgrimage to Tudal Winery for a taste of his favorite ‘cult cabs.’

Recently, binNotes sat down with owner Felicia Lett Tudal at Purple Wine Cafe and Bar | Bellevue  to discuss Tudal Winery’s unique heritage in Napa Valley.

I. History

The story of Tudal Winery begins and ends with dirt.

At the end of World War II, Navy vet Arnold “Lucky” Tudal lived up to his nickname when he married into Alma Cerruti’s Alameda, CA. family business – truck farming.

In 1979, Arnold and Alma ‘retired’ from the produce business to a quiet ten-acre ranch on a former walnut orchard near St. Helena, CA.

Napa neighbor Louis P. Martini of Louis M. Martini Winery fame admired Tudal’s plot of land, advising him “You grow Cabs, and I’ll buy them.”
Luck struck again when Tudal took Martini up on the suggestion. In 1979, Tudal Winery sold its first commercial wine. One of Tudal Winery’s earliest and most ardent fans: Joe DiMaggio.

In 2001, Arnold’s son John and his wife Felicia Fett Tudal took over the winery, forming Tudal Wine Group, and attracting a strong core team of vineyard and business specialists.

II. Team Tudal

Today’s Tudal Winery team includes winemaker Ron Vuylsteke, whose family owns famed Oak Knoll Winery in Oregon,  and consulting winemakers Kurt Venge and Rudy Zuidema. Vuylsteke learned his craft under the likes of wine hall-of-famers André Tchelistcheff, Christian Moueix of Chateau Pétrus and Dominus, and Dan Duckhorn. Zuidema earned his time at bat through stints in Australia with Ben Riggs of  Wirra Wirra Winery,  and back home with Napa greats Dennis Johns of St. Clement Vineyards and White Cottage Rand, and James Hall of Patz and Hall.

Rudy Zuidema explains what makes Tudal Winery different from Napa’s other 500-plus wineries:
“…There’s a rustic soul that is in the core of the fruit that comes out of the old vine vineyards that is the only reason I’m at Tudal. You don’t taste profession and polish. You cannot buy history and legacy.”

With his team in place, John branched out. Following Arnold Tudal’s death in 2006, John created a second label honoring Alma Tudal’s father – Cerruti Cellars. John broke protocol again by opening Cerruti Cellars’ tasting room in Oakland’s hip urban Jack London Square, far from upscale Napa Valley –  and attracting an entirely new generation of wine lovers to his family’s wine.

Today, Matt Tudal Fidge represents the fourth generation of wine makers at Tudal Winery as assistant wine maker, helping with production from some of California’s oldest vines. Moreover, Tudal Winery’s deep roots in the community provide sourcing for enviable high-quality fruit used in non-estate wines. These vineyards include Bauciagalupi Vineyard in Russian River Valley and Gibson Vineyard in Carneros for Pinot Noir, Maldonado Vineyard in Napa Valley for Chardonnay, Carpernter Ranch Vineyard in St. Helena for  old vine Sauvignon Blanc, and The Clift Vineyard for Cabernet Sauvignon.

II. Tudal Wines: 4 Generations, 3 Wine Series, 2 Wine Labels, 1  Heritage

Tudal Wine Group represents four generations of wine makers offering wine drinkers three wine series from two labels, all sharing one unique heritage. These wines include:

1. Winery Icon Series: Cerruti Cellars value wines, featuring unique heritage ‘icon’ labels. Production: ~25,000 cases annually.

  • 2011 Tractor Shed Red, CA. $15
  • 2012 Honker Blanc, Napa Valley  $14
  • 2010 Flat Bed Zinfandel, CA. $15
  • 2010 Rag Top Red, CA. $18

2. Vineyard Series: Tudal Family limited production world-class wines. Limited Production.

  • 2012 Tudal Family Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley $19
  • 2011 Tudal Family Salvador’s Selection Chardonnay $23
  • 2010 50/50 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley & Sonoma $28
  • 2010 Tudal Family Napa Valley Cuvée $24
  • 2011 Tudal Family Gibson Valley Vineyard Pinot Noir, Sonoma $40
  • 2010 Tudal Family Clift vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley $65
  • 2009 Tudal Family Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon $55

3. Signature Series: Tudal Family Estate Old Vine Cabernet Sauvignon. Highly coveted. Limited production.

  • 2009 Tudal Family Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley $85
  • 2009 Tudal Family Legacy Lot Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley $115

Note: You’ll need to contact the winery to determine availability of the small production Vineyard and Signature series. Prices listed are SRP.

Tasting Notes:
At the end of our interview, it was time to taste. This time, the wines did all the talking.

The following pours graciously provided by Tudal Winery.

2012 Tudal Family Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley
Appellation: St. Helena, Napa Valley
Composition: 100% Sauvignon Blanc
Vineyards: Various
Barrel Aging: Stainless
Alcohol: 14.2%
Pale straw yellow color, light body, balanced, aromas of white flowers, grapefruit, and herbaceous backnotes.
Note: Some calcium tartrate settlement present at the base of the bottle, which did not impact flavor.

2011 Tudal Family Salvador’s Selection Chardonnay
Stainless Steel Fermented
Alcohol: 14.2%
Golden color, pear, citrus aromas with backnotes of spice and nut, medium body.

2010 Flat Bed Zinfandel, CA.
Appellation: Sonoma County
Composition: 100% Zinfandel
Vineyards: Geyserville
Oak Regimen: various age oak barrels
Barrel Aging: 12-18 months
Alcohol: 14.5%
Purpled dark red color, aromas of dried fruit, cocoa and clove. Medium body, soft tannins, good balance and lightly lingering finish.

2010 Baci’s Bin 32 Red Blend:
Blend: 60% Sangiovese / 20% Cabernet Sauvignon / 7% Petit Sirah / 6.5% Zinfandel / 6.5% Merlot
Barrels: Neutral Oak
Barrel Aging: 15 months
Alcohol: 14.0%
Deep purple-red hue, dark fruit,vegetative,slightly woody notes,full-bodied, smooth tannins,long finish.

Sadly, binNotes did not get to try Tudal Winery’s Pinot Noir.

For more on Tudal Winery, enjoy this video interview with The Wine Down:

Video: Courtesy Wine Down.

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Copyrighted 2012-2014. All Rights Reserved.

Thank you:

Felicia Lett Tudal, Proprietor – Tudal Wine Group

Rudy Zuidema, Consulting Winemaker – Tudal Wine Group

Chris Horn – Wine Director, Purple Wine Cafe and Bar

Carl Giavanti

Alan Goldfarb