Bernard L. Rhodes, M.D. 1920-2008
Barney Rhodes died on March 31, 2008. Leaving us, the couple known as “The Rhodes” in the Napa Valley have passed into history. Part of what created the wine community of Napa Valley, Ivabelle and Bernard Rhodes, for more than forty years, taught, tasted, and appreciated much of what are now considered the “grand crus” of Napa Valley. Both in wine and food, they were formidable, yet appreciating and appreciated by whomever came in contact with them. In wine circles, even in England, if you knew the Rhodes, you were in.
Bernard Rhodes in particular was consulted for his palate. A formidable taster, when and if he gave his nod to a wine, the producer knew he was on the right track. If Bernard bought the wine, its reputation and that of the producer was established. A good number of wineries and producers in Napa Valley would not be there if it were not for “The Rhodes.” They were the sparks that ignited and inflamed passions for wine in California.
I am greatly indebted to them for the forty years of tasting experiences we have shared-- marvelous old vintages (sometimes a number of times,) wonderful food, and the sheer pleasure of their company in many countries.
Ave Atque Vale.
Noceto Tuitti I Giorni Nutz 2006 Wine
Noceto is the name of a wine estate in Amador County’s Shenandoah Valley owned by Jim and Suzy Gullet. Its name means “walnut orchard” since a walnut orchard was pulled out to plant grapes. It is also practically a single variety winery; its focus on sangiovese. I think Noceto produces a top class example of the varietal.
Just recently, at a tasting in Amador County of wines from an appellation just to the east of Shenandoah Valley, Fiddletown, I tasted this delicious red wine blend which was entered as a sangiovese barbera blend. The majority of the grapes had to come from Fiddletown. Thus, most of the sangiovese and all of the barbera comes from that appellation. Fiddletown is slightly higher in altitude than Amador’s Shenandoah Valley and consequently grapes have a slightly higher acidity. The brilliant taste of barbera with the fuller character of sangiovese produces a scented, crisp flavored red wine without a lot of alcohol and tannin but with the fruitiness that encourages it to be served cool (cold), especially during the summer. This is a wonderful barbeque or grilled meat wine. It is a revelation! Its name, “Tutti I Giorni” means every day. “Nutz,” well, you get the point!
Amador County is renown for its zinfandel. Other varieties, barbera at the top, can produce lovely wines in the region. Rhone varieties, other Italian varieties, and some new ones from other countries, have broadened the viticultural palette of the County and for the better.
Two Splendid Greek Wines: Semeli Rose 2007
and Katogi-Strofilia Xinomavro
Yes, I know, you don’t drink rose because it’s sweet. Humbug! Semeli 2007 is a delicious rose that could pass as a light red wine to be served cold. Produced at Semeli Estate at Nemea in Greece’s Peloponnese from the agiorgitiko variety, it is named for the mother of Dionysus. Grown at Koutsi at 700 meters, it only has a regional appellation--that of Corinth, the closest famous city. Semeli Rose 2007 has excellent color with a light purple tone; great fragrancy, excellent acidity and a fragrant flavor with the follow through of a light red. It is shockingly good.
Xinomavro (kseenó-mahvro) looks like an unpronounceable word. It means “sour-black.” It is also one of the two most important authocthonous red varietals of Greece. The other is agiorgitiko or St. George. Naoussa is the major red appellation of Greek Macedonia, produced from xinomavro. Most of the time, xinomavro produces a tough red, that can be impressive. The Katogi-Stofilia version is charming, sui-generis in that it shows the more elegant side of the variety. Rather than being black in color, it is a good color, not inky; scented with a scented flavor follow through; mature tasting, rounded, not all sharp edges; an austere, flavorful, delicious glass of wine. This version is one of the best balanced Naoussa I’ve tasted.
We are offering two vintages, 2004 and 2005. The 2004 is what I tasted originally and liked. The 2005 is equally delicious, perhaps just a bit fruitier. Both are well worth your attention.