Posted by Gabe on February 23, 2014
A few weeks back I was at the Australia Today Trade Show in New York City. While there, I had the opportunity to sample a wide array of wines coming out of Australia. Most of them were current releases, in a few cases there were some older vintages being showcased during a sit down seminar. Most obvious when tasting a wide swath of Aussie releases is the diversity and breadth of the offerings. This is true both in terms of grape varietals and style of finished wines. If overripe Shiraz is your only image of Australian wine, you’re in for a stunning and pleasant surprise. There are wines of all shapes and sizes being made in Australia. Here’s a look at a couple of selections from the event that really stood out.
Running With Bulls 2012 Tempranillo – This wine from the Barossa Valley and it sells for around $17. Aromas of violets and plum leap from the effusive nose of this wine. Cherry characteristics lead a grab bag of warming red fruits and spices on the plate of the Running With Bulls Tempranillo. The finish is above average in length and persistent. Red fruits continue along with bits of earth and leather. This is a well balanced wine that will excel with hard cheeses and pretty much anything that comes off of your grill. It’s a solid example of Tempranillo that shows how adaptable this varietal can be to a region like the Barossa Valley which is so different from its more native Rioja.
St Hallett Old Block 2010 Shiraz - This Barossa Valley Shiraz sells for around $80. This Shiraz shows off a deep, dark hue that is stunning in the glass. Violets and spice lead a welcoming nose. The palate is succulent and juicy. It’s layered with black plum, black raspberry, and cassis. Minerals and earth lead a dense, structured finish that has great length and depth. Black fruits continue their prominence along with pepper and bits of dusty cocoa. This is a classic example of Shiraz; it’s loaded with bold, fruity flavor. Pair it with equally bold, full flavored foods.
Peter Lehmann 1999 Stonewell Shiraz – This Shiraz is a library selection and as such isn’t widely available anymore. However it is more than worth mentioning because it showcases the ability of Australian wines in general and Shiraz in particular to age well under the right conditions. Those conditions of course include the right vintages as well as stylistic choices made when picking grapes and producing the wine. A bit of chocolate sauce leads the nose here along with Kirsch Liqueur. The palate is studded with a seemingly endless array of cherry characteristics, both red and black. At 15 years old there are still loads of fruit here and it shows itself off in a rich, powerful way. It’s muscular and shows off earth that goes alongside the fruit, but it’s also controlled in intensity. All of these elements continue through the persistent finish. It would be a brilliant match for pasta with Wild Boar Ragu, or Pot Roast to name a couple of options.
Shadow Chaser 2012 Grenache – This Grenache is from McLaren Vale and it sells for around $15. The fruit came from two vineyards with over 40 years of age on each. After fermentation it was aged entirely in stainless steel tanks prior to bottling. Raspberry, and strawberry aromas fill the nose of this wine. These red fruits continue through the palate where they’re joined by bits of red cherry and a copious amount of spices. Cinnamon, clove and black pepper are all in evidence. Rhubarb, sour cherries and glycerin notes all emerge in the finish which has above average length for the price category. Grenache can make some of the food friendliest wines in the world. This example certainly fits that bill. It’ll pair with a wide array foods and it’s a terrific value as well.
These wines represent a tiny window into some of the great things being done in Australia today. The breadth and variety is very impressive. There are offerings at every conceivable price point coming out of Australia that represent solid or better values. If you haven’t had any Australian wines in awhile, now is a good time to dive back in, we’re seeing greater diversity on US shelves than ever before.
Posted in Australia, Grenache, Syrah/Shiraz, Tempranillo | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Gabe on September 30, 2013
What comes to mind when I mention Spain; Rioja perhaps? And when I bring up Sparkling Wine, Champagne or Prosecco? There’s a lot more to Spain than Rioja and much more in the category of Sparking Wine. Most every wine growing country has a Sparkling Wine tradition of some kind. Spain has an excellent one with a long history making Cava. I recently tasted the wines of Vallformosa at Corkbuzz Wine Studio in Manhattan. Corkbuzz is a terrific place to attend a wine event. The space is welcoming, the servers super helpful and the food absolutely delicious. We went through 4 courses of small bites paired with Different Cava’s and was a place I plan to return to so I can taste more of their food and dive into their excellent wine list. Vallformosa is currently in it’s 5th generation making Cava. We tasted through a number of their current releases, here’s a look at the two that stood out the most for me.
The Vallformosa Classic Brut (NV) was produced from fruit sourced in the Cava D.O. of Penedes Spain. This offering blends together Xarel-lo (40%), Macabeo (30%), and Parallada (30%). Primary fermentation took place in stainless steel followed by secondary fermentation in bottle using the traditional method. Aging took place over a year. 12,000 cases of this Cava were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $16.99. Apple and toasted almond aromas are apparent on the nose of this Cava. The palate shows off continued orchard fruit in the form of green apple, wisps of lemon zest and sufficient acidity to think keeps a little zippy. The fruit flavors are joined by a gentle kiss of crème fraiche on the finish which has good length. This is a refreshing wine that is delicious on its own and with food. It’s a Classic Brut in style and also a classic example of Cava.
The Vallformosa Origen Brut Rosado was produced from fruit sourced in the Cava D.O. of Penedes Spain. This selection is a blend of Garnacha (90%) and Monastrell. Primary fermentation took place in temperature controlled stainless steel; Secondary fermentation followed in bottle using the traditional method. Aging took place over 12 months. 150,000 6 bottle cases were produced and this wine has a suggested retail price of $19.99. Bright berry aromas leap from the nose of this Rosado. The palate is intense and fruity with depth and layers to spare. Cherry, raspberry and subtle bits of strawberry are all present. These flavors all carry through the persistent finish, along with a nice dollop of creaminess and pepper spice. This Cava paired well with the array of different foods that Corkbuzz Wine Studio had laid in front of us, but it was particularly inspired alongside pork belly.
If you find yourself in Manhattan, Corkbuzz Wine Studio is a spot you’ll want to check out, they offer a lot and they do it quite well. They’re a wine bar, but really so much more than that title implies. When you’re looking for Sparkling Wine to pair with your meal or celebrate an occasion the Cava’s from Vallformosa are ones you should consider. They’re well priced and offer excellent value for the quality they offer. The wines above each pair well with food, but the Rosado in particular is a stunning match with a truly wide array of flavors and textures. It would be an excellent choice to serve at Thanksgiving as it would undoubtedly marry well with the myriad of flavors found on that Holiday’s typically diverse table.
Posted in Cava, Grenache, Macabeo, Mourvedre, Parallada, Sparkling Wine, Xarel-lo | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Gabe on September 26, 2013
The Rioja region of Spain is bet known for wines based on Tempranillo. Often these are single varietal wines, other times they have small amounts of indigenous local varieties blended in as well. Campo Viejo is a winery that falls right into that description. They make a number of Tempranillo based wines in different tiers within the Spanish wine aging laws. Now they have added the first ever Garnacha to their portfolio. Here’s a look at it.
The Campo Viejo 2012 Garnacha is an inaugural release for this well known, widely distributed winery based in the Rioja region of Spain. This release is made entirely of Garnacha sourced at their vineyards in the Alfaro and Aldeanueva sections of Rioja Baja. Fermentation took place in temperature controlled stainless steel vats. Aging in French oak barrels took place over 4 months. This wine is available all over the country and has a suggested retail price of $12.00. Violets and dark, heady fruit aromas emerge from the nose of this 2012 Garnacha. A gentle wisp of vanilla bean is present as well. The palate is studded with plum, blueberry and raspberry flavors. Spices such as pepper and clove are present as well and lead to the finish which shows off rhubarb and strawberry as well as tiny bits of anise seed. The finish has solid length for the price range.
Pinot Noir gets a ton of play as a food friendly wine that pairs with a wide array of cuisines, and that reputation is often deserved. Garnacha doesn’t get as much attention for this, but it deserves it. Well made, wines based on this varietal are just as food friendly if not more so in some cases. This example from Campo Viejo is well priced for everyday consumption and a solid choice to keep a case or so of around as a house wine.
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Posted by Gabe on September 12, 2013
European wine can be intimidating to wine drinkers for a variety of reasons. Those with an interest in wine but who aren’t total geeks about it don’t necessarily know the nuances of labeling and what might be in a particular bottle due to it generally listing region as opposed to varietal content. Stylistically many old world wines are often subtler than their new world counterparts and it can take time for palates to come around to the layered charms of those often elegant offerings. In contrast to all of that Domaines Paul Mas from the Languedoc region of France has some releases that are labeled in such a way that even the budding wine lover can easily discern contents. Additionally they are making wines that bridge the gap in style between the old and new worlds. Here’s a look at three of their current releases.
The Paul Mas 2011 Estate Pinot Noir is a single vineyard effort. All of the fruit for this wine came from their St. Hilaire Vineyard located in the Languedoc Region. This offering is 100% Pinot Noir. After maceration the fruit was fermented in a temperature controlled environment for approximately 9 days. Aging took place over 6 months in stainless steel, followed by 2 months in bottle prior to release. This wine has a suggested retail price of $14. Aromas of Strawberry and red cherry fill the nose of this Pinot Noir along with secondary characteristics such as mushroom. Those red fruit characteristics carry through the palate which is towards the more substantial side for Pinot Noir. Minerals, spice and earth are all in strong evidence on the finish which has good length. Medium tannins and zippy acidity lend to a nice backbone and structure here. This is a Pinot from the old world that shows off new world flavors while still being proportionate.
The Paul Mas 2011 Estate Malbec is a single vineyard wine. All of the fruit for this selection was sourced at the Gardemiel Vineyard. This is a 100% varietal offering. This wine is available throughout the country and has a suggested retail price of $14. This Malbec has a really lifted nose with super expressive aromatics. Floral characteristics and deep, dark plum are both part of the equation. The palate is fruit driven but elegant and quite proportionate. Dark fruit flavors abound and are joined by a copious amount of spice. The finish is generous and velvety in nature with continued lush fruits and bits of earth as well. Firm acidity keeps things in check here. Soft tannins help this go down easy. This is a very expressive example of Malbec loaded with layers of fruit. This wine will pair well with roasted meats and hard cheeses to name a few good partners.
The Chateau Paul Mas 2011 Clos de Savignac was produced from fruit sourced at a single vineyard within Languedoc. This offering blends together Mourvèdre (50%), Syrah (30%), and Grenache (20%). This selection has a suggested retail price of $27. Aromas of violets and white pepper lead the nose of this blend. Blackberry and blueberry play key roles on the palate with black raspberry present as well. Black cherry and rhubarb characteristics emerge on the finish along with leather, espresso and baker’s chocolate. Firm, chewy tannins and acidity are present here. This blend of three classic varieties has substantial depth of palate and generous length and overall complexity for its price point. In its youth this wine will pair best with substantial foods.
This is a distinct trio of wines from a couple of different tiers in the Domaines Paul Mas line that shares some similarities. Each of the wines is balanced and proportionate. These are grapes that have thrived in France for years but the style here tilts towards the new world while not quite tipping all the way over. They’re eminently drinkable, food friendly and well priced for the quality they represent. Both the Pinot Noir and the Malbec are delicious now and will drink well for the next several years. The Clos de Savignac is a touch on the young side right now. Decanting it for an hour or so is recommended for immediate consumption. However patience will be rewarded. Lay it down for 5 or so years and it will be even more expressive and lovely. These wines are well worth seeking out. In particular if you’re drinking a lot of new world wines and are looking for a bridge back to the old world, these will get you there rather deliciously.
Posted in Grenache, Malbec, Mourvedre, Pinot Noir, Syrah/Shiraz, Wine | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Gabe on July 12, 2013
Hecht & Bannier was founded in 2002 by Gregory Hecht and Francois Bannier. They set themselves up in the style of traditional French Negociants with a goal of creating reference point releases in each region they produce wines from. The latest additions to their portfolio are a couple of wines from Provence. Here’s a look at them.
The Hecht & Bannier Côtes de Provence 2012 Rosé was produced from a blend of Grenache (45%), Cinsault (40%) and Syrah (15%). The grapes utilized were sourced at a variety of vineyards, some in the foothills of Montagne Sainte-Victorie and others high altitude vineyards of Haute-Provence. The fruit was picked overnight during cooler hours to assure the preservation of freshness. This wine has a suggested retail price of $18. The light salmon hue of this offering is both beautiful and immediately striking. Engaging floral characteristics emerge from the nose. The palate is fruity, spice, dry, lithe and absolutely lovely. Cherry, strawberry, bits of orange zest and white pepper are all in play from the first sip through the above average finish. This wine goes down easily and it also has the depth and complexity to keep things interesting. It’s really a super appealing wine that you’re going to want to buy a few bottles of as they disappear quick once they’re open.
The Hecht & Bannier 2009 Bandol was produced from a blend of Mourvèdre (80%), Grenache (10%) and Cinsault (10%). After harvesting and fermentation the wine spent 20 months aging in large oak foudre; an additional six months in cement vats followed prior to bottling. This red blend has a suggested retail price of $38. Blackberry, toast and vanilla bean aromas fill the nose of this 2009 red blend. The palate is big and burly, loaded with brawny red and black fruit flavors like blueberry and rhubarb. Spices such as nutmeg and black pepper are present as well as an undercurrent of minerals. Espresso notes and bits of baker’s chocolate emerge on the finish which has excellent length. Leathery tannins and firm acidity are part of this wine’s solid structure. This will pair well with full flavored foods. For best results decent this offering for about 90 minutes so it can express all of its charms.
These wines from Hecht & Bannier represent both solid values which provide plenty of drinking pleasure. Equally as important they’re also fine and genuine representatives of Provence.
Posted in Blends, Cinsault, Grenache, Mourvedre, Rosé, Syrah/Shiraz, Wine | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Gabe on June 6, 2013
Pinot Noir gets a lot of play as a food friendly grape that pairs with all sorts of cuisine; and often that is the case. Wines based on Garnacha (Grenache) are frequently just as suited to pairing with all sorts of food. Additionally the entry level price for getting delicious Garnacha is lower than that for Pinot Noir which can be a bit sketchy in the value category. Today I’ll look at a Garnacha that it perfectly suited for everyday drinking for a number of reasons.
The Real Compania de Vinos 2011 Garnacha was produced using fruit sourced in central Spain. The vines had an average of 20 to 50 years of age on them. This wine is 100% varietal. All of the fruit was hand harvested and sorted. Fermentation took place in stainless steel over 12 days. 12,000 cases of this offering were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $9.99.
Cherry and subtle vanilla bean aromas lead a booming and friendly nose loaded with charm. Red and black berry fruits dominate the palate with hints of jam poking through along with touches of spice. The big flavors that mark the palate continue through the finish along with black and white pepper, earth and black tea elements. This Garnacha is absolutely primed to pair with food. It’ll work all summer with just about anything you pull of your grill as one example. For the money this wine has good depth and concentration. It’s a really nice value for under $10, and it’ll please a whole lot of people, so it’s definitely one to consider if you’re headed to a picnic or BBQ.
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Posted by Gabe on April 22, 2013
Common perception holds that Rosé’s don’t age well. Sometimes common beliefs are totally wrong and in other cases they become foregone conclusions for a good reason. In the case of Rosé’s longevity the truth is not 100% either of those things. Reality is that very few Rosés are built to age well. Some will hang around and be quite tasty for a couple of years but most go south after that. I’m the sort of person who is perfectly content drinking good, dry Rosé in the middle of winter, so I’m a fan. When the opportunity popped up to taste several vintages of Rosé from Chêne Bleu out of both standard bottle and magnum for some vintages over a meal, how could I resist?
Chêne Bleu is a project that began 20 years back. The husband and wife team of Nicole & Xavier Rolet began restoration of a property in the Southern Rhone that had been lying dormant for many, many years. Their work included restitution of the vineyards which are now farmed sustainably as well as the estate house itself. It was a massive undertaking and took years from start to fruition of their first vintage. They make several other wines such as Viognier, two Red Rhone blends and a White Rhone Blend, but Rosé represents the lion’s share of their production.
The current release is the Chêne Bleu 2012 Rosé. This vintage it was produced from a blend of Grenache (60%), Syrah (35%), and Cinsault (5%). Prior to 2011, they weren’t using Cinsault in this wine yet. The Grenache and Syrah vines utilized have 40 and 30 years of age on them respectively. This wine which was produced using entirely natural methods and finished in screw-cap has a suggested retail price of $28. It’s also available in large format bottles. The Chêne Bleu Rosé has a lovely pale, pink hue, just the sort of color that comes to mind when I daydream about deliciously dry Rosé. This wine has a big nose loaded with gentle red fruit aromas; strawberry and bits of Bing cherry are both in evidence. The palate is gentle and layered with boatloads of flavor. Ref berry flavors dominate with citrus and hints of stone fruit taking part as well. There is crisp acidity and tons of spice such as white pepper and cardamom on a finish that is long and persistent. This wine is absolutely delicious all by itself; however it’s also well suited to pair with a fairly wide array of foods.
A couple things are of particular note having had the chance to taste vintages as far back as the 2007. One is the overriding fact that these wines age well for at least a 5 year period. Another is that the ones poured out of Magnum had some similarities. I found them both to show off a bit more spice and a couple of extra hints of sour fruit on the finish. Unlike the 750 ml bottles, the magnums were finished in cork. Regardless both we quite tasty, but the subtle differences are worth mentioning and looking for if you have a chance to drink them out of different formats
Across the board the Chêne Bleu wines are well made, proportionate offerings that are built to accompany food. Any of them would be welcome on my table at anytime, however I have a special place in my heart for Rosé and now I have a new one to drink regularly. If you love good dry Rosé you should make a special effort to obtain the Chêne Bleu. If for some crazy reason you don’t already love Rosé this could be the wine to turn you. They say every true wine lover eventually falls head over heels for Rose; so why wait, get some Chêne Bleu now.
Posted in Cinsault, Grenache, Rosé, Syrah/Shiraz, Wine | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Gabe on July 3, 2012
Rosé is one of the things in the wine world that I most enjoy about summer. Theoretically they taste just as good in cooler months. However to my lips, when the temperature rises, well made Rosé is even more delicious and tempting. Part of their appeal is their versatility with food. Their refreshing nature and the fact that they feature some of the characteristics of both red and white wines all lend to what makes them cherished by many wine lovers. Today I’ll look at a quartet of current Rosés from California producers.
First up is the Pedroncelli 2011 Dry Rosé of Zinfandel. This Rosé is produced from fruit sourced in the winery’s home appellation of Dry Creek Valley. It’s a 100% varietal wine. Pedroncelli has been making Rosé since the 1950’s. Fermentation took place in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. This wine saw no oak treatment. Just fewer than 1,000 cases were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $11. Aromas of strawberry and raspberry emerge from the welcoming nose of this Rosé. Cherry flavors dominate the palate along with hints of white pepper. Vanilla, and continuing juicy red fruit flavors continue on the crisp and refreshing finish. This a lovely dry Rosé of Zinfandel with some perceived sweetness from all the engaging fruit flavors. This is an excellent choice for a picnic.
Next up is Clayhouse Wines 2011 Adobe Pink. This wine was produced from fruit sourced at the winery’s Red Cedar Vineyard located at the outskirts of Paso Robles. It’s a blend of Mourvedre (38%), Grenache Noir (37%), and Syrah (25%). Harvesting, crushing and processing of the grapes was handled as white varietals would be. Following fermentation in stainless steel, 25% of the wine spent 2 months in neutral oak. 600 cases of this selection were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $14. Bright red fruit aromas and hints of citrus are apparent on the nose of this wine. Strawberry, cherry and bits of vanilla bean are apparent through the palate. This wine is incredibly fruity and juicy with just a touch of sweetness to round things out. Raspberry and continued cherry flavors close things out with bits of spice weaving in and out. This Rosé works particularly well ice cold.
Today’s third wine is the Cornerstone Cellars 2011 Stepping Stone Corallina Syrah Rosé. The fruit for this wine was sourced in the Oak Knoll appellation within Napa Valley. This offering was produced entirely from Syrah. Fermentation took place in temperature controlled stainless steel followed by 5 months of aging in neutral French oak. 455 cases of the Corallina were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $20. The Corallina Rosé from Cornerstone opens with a highly engaging and deeply perfumed nose. Red and black cherries are joined by a crush of spices including vanilla bean. The palate is loaded with continued red fruit characteristics including strawberries, cherries, hints of green herbs and a crush of spices led by nutmeg and white pepper. This wine is crisp, dry and refreshing. The finish shows off wisps of sour red fruits and a touch of crème fraiche. This is an very nice example of Rosé from Napa Valley and it will be an excellent partner to a wide array of summer foods.
Today’s final wine is the V. Sattui Winery 2011 North Coast Rosato. This wine is a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Carignane. Fermentation took place with select yeast in temperature controlled stainless steel. This Rosé is available directly from the winery for $21.75. The first thing you’ll notice about the V. Sattui Rosé is that it has a slightly darker hue than the average. Made up of classic varietals the nose of this wine leaps from the glass with rich, red fruit aromas. Strawberry, red plum and a hint of red apple are apparent on the palate along with a bit of quince. Bright cherry, red raspberry, black and white pepper are all part of the finish which shows off the impression of sweetness due to all the engaging fruit flavors. This wine has a bit more heft than the other Rosé’s above and thus will stand up to some more substantial foods. Anything off of the grill will work perfectly.
This quartet of Rosé’s should keep your taste buds lit up all summer long. Whether you’re looking for a refreshing glass of wine to enjoy on your deck or something to pair with the foods of summer, I urge you to enjoy some Rosé this summer.
Posted in Carignane, Grenache, Mourvedre, Rosé, Syrah/Shiraz, Wine, Zinfandel | 1 Comment »
Posted by Gabe on August 12, 2011
Grenache is a varietal that in my opinion should be even more popular than it is. When it’s well made it can often pair with a wide array of foods. This engaging red is also often fun to drink on its own. In its homeland of Spain it’s known as Garnacha and is one of the most important red varietals. Today I’ll look at a widely available, budget priced offering from Tapeña.
The Tapeña 2009 Garnacha was produced from fruit sourced in the Tierra de Castilla region of Spain. This selection is 100% Garnacha. It has a suggested retail price of $9.99.
This 2009 Garnacha has a heady nose that’s studded with ripe berry fruit aromas and an undercurrent of spices. Both ripe and dried dark berry fruit flavors play off of each other through the palate along with tongue tingling spices such as black pepper and nutmeg. Sour cherries, wild strawberry, rhubarb and vanilla bean flavors all emerge on the finish which shows reasonable length. This wine has soft tannins and firm acidity.
As is typical of Garnacha this offering is made to pair with food. Beef sliders topped with caramelized onions and blue cheese would be an inspired match. On the other end of the spectrum dark chocolate would also work well. In any case at less than $10 this wine is a really nice value. If you’re already a fan of Spanish Garnacha, here’s another example to try. On the other hand, if you’re new to this varietal this is a fine Garnacha to start with.
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Posted by Gabe on July 18, 2011
The El Coto de Rioja 2010 Rioja Rosado was produced using fruit sourced at estate vineyards. El Coto which was founded in 1975 has 500 hectares under vine. This offering is a 50/50 blend of Garancha and Tempranillo. This wine sits on the skin for 48 hours followed by cold fermentation. This offering has a suggested retail price of $10.
Aromas of strawberry, cherry and watermelon burst from the nose of this 2010 Rosé. The palate is exceptionally juicy and vibrant; it’s loaded with fresh red fruits. Strawberry, cherry, raspberry and watermelon are all present. Rhubarb and sweet black cherry flavors emerge on the finish as well as white pepper. This wine is incredibly refreshing and will pair well with an incredibly wide array of foods. It’s also delicious on its own.
When it comes to Rosés for summer 2011, this example from El Coto in Rioja is going to be hard to beat for the money. If you look around you can easily find this wine for less than $10. For that price it offers lots of value. The fresh fruit flavors are sure to be crowd pleasing and the refreshing nature of this wine, which is supported by racy acidity, makes it a great bet for outdoor entertaining. Just yesterday I attended a party where I was asked to bring the wine. I brought a full case of this very Rosé and everyone was quite happy. One partygoer told me that she normally only drank Pinot Grigio but that this wine has convinced her to try other things. It only takes one terrific Rosé to convert the non-believers. Try the El Coto it may do the same for you.
Posted in Grenache, Rosé, Tempranillo, Wine | Leave a Comment »