Noah C wrote: ↑December 27th, 2020, 10:08 pm
Just a few more thoughts- Check out Eyrie
from Oregon. They have some really interesting stuff like Chasselas (white varietal from Switzerland) and a still red out of 100% Pinot Meunier. I had a 1989 Cellar Release Chardonnay this year for my birthday that was out of this world. A 30 year old Oregon Chardonnay seems pretty "off the beaten path" to me!
Old Oregon Chardonnay sounds quite off the beaten path; I had a month or two ago a 25-yo Chardonnay from Arizona that was outrageously good, managed to beat all my expectations! However, I wouldn't call Chasselas pretty interesting. It might be interesting since so very little has been planted outside Switzerland, but the variety tends to be fairly neutral and invariably low in acidity, producing rather dull, flabby and soft whites. I've had wines young and old, from big co-ops to esteemed quality producers and never had a wine that would've been particularly interesting. Chappaz Fendant has been the best thus far, but even then I'd rather buy any other Chappaz wine.
Peter Lauer makes ridiculously long aged sparkling Riesling. Had a 1984 Reserve Sekt disgorged in 2017 that was very interesting.
These are definitely esoteric and off the beaten path, but less often that successful. I've had that 1984 and a few other vintages as well, but most often they've been quite funky and dull with aromas of decomposing old wood, wool socks, some reductive stink and so forth. And the 1984 had also some rather unpleasant notes of vegetal greenness as well.
As mentioned before, Italy has lots of interested esoteric varietals. A favorite recent discovery of mine is Pelaverga. The version I had is from Fratelli Alessandria, and it makes a wonderful light Beaujolais-ish type wine that is highly recommended.
Pelaverga is one of my favorite Piedmontese red varieties. Never particularly challenging, but always downright delicious. Fratelli Alessandria makes great wines, but I think the best ones come from Burlotto. They do need a few years of age though - I've tasted some recent releases and they've been so primary they feel like candied cheap wines. A year or two tends to be enough for them to drop that sweetish primary fruit.
Fabio Gea makes some wild stuff out of Barbaresco. The varietals he uses are not weird (nebbiolo, barbera, dolcetto), but his methods are way out there, and his wines (even Nebbiolo) are typically meant to be drunk fresh and young. His wines are delicious and I really like them. Weird wild stuff!
I've had a few Fabio Gea wines and to me they've tasted like he is trying to make Priorat out of Nebbiolo. Super-huge, monolithic, overripe and clocking at 15% in alcohol. I probably need to taste some cooler vintages, because I haven't been particularly impressed nor do I understand the hype. The wines I've tasted (which have been, admittedly, from warmer vintages 2009 and 2011) have been nothing I like.
Bouzy Rouge are still red wines, typically made from 100% Pinot Noir, in Champagne. I've only had one- a 2007 by Jean Vesselle, that was lovely. Cool climate Pinot at its best. Mine was 13 years old and was in the perfect window.
Coteaux Champenois reds are quite pedestrian stuff, since so many producers make them nowadays. They do age remarkably well though - this year in a tasting I tasted a Paul Bara Coteaux Champenois Pinot Noir 2002 blind, but I was the only one who thought the wine was over 10 years old (I guessed 2008) - everybody else thought it was much younger! Truly a testament to how well these light and fresh red wines can age.
If you want something more off the beaten path, Herbert Beaufort makes a Bouzy Blanc - i.e. a still white Chardonnay from the village known for their Pinot Noir! Terrific stuff, reminds me of a wel-made Cru Chablis.
I don't think Chateau Simone from the tiny Provence appellation of Palette is necessarily officially "off the beaten path", but I had their blanc for the first time this year, and many of the flavors are very unusual and quite unlike anything I've ever tasted before. I thought it was delicious.
Palette is so small that probably it could classify as off the beaten path, although Simone is by far the largest producer out there. They make wonderful red wines and really impressive, wonderfully ageworthy rosé wines (that tend to require some breathing after opening a bottle). However, I've tasted quite a bit of their white wines, and while they are fascinating, I think they often are a bit too dull and flabby - they tend to be quite high in alcohol and relatively low in acidity. A short while ago we had a Palette Blanc tasting where we had two verticals of Palette Blancs side-by-side: Chateau Simone 2017-2012 vs. Henri Bonnaud Quintessence 2017-2011. With every vintage Bonnaud Quintessence was as good or better. So if you like Simone's white, do check out Bonnaud's Quintessence if you can - it's made in a similar style (although Simone has a more esoteric blend of white varieties in the mix) but is lower in alcohol, higher in acidity and ages more gracefully. The best vintages really seem wines built for the long run.
A surprise winner for me this year was Brick and Mortar Vin Rubis a mixture of approximately 50/50 Pinot Noir and Chardonnay that works surprisingly well.
This is a new name to me, gotta keep my eyes open.
Finally, not sure how attainable this might be, but give aged Barbera a try. I was lucky enough to purchase a bottle of 1967 Bersano Barbera d'Asti Conti della Cremosina Riserva Speciale. I never thought of Barbera as a varietal that ages well, and this wine died within a few hours of opening, but it had a brief and blindingly glorious peak that is, thus far for me, truly unique.
Aged Barbera is a crapshoot. It's true that people don't think that Barbera can age, while I've had a good handful of old wines that have been just wonderful. Nevertheless, for each good old Barbera I've had a few that have been completely in pieces. And I've also had many younger (but not young) Barberas that have started to feel already quite old and tired, so obviously not all Barberas are made to age. I guess I should stash some of my Scarpa Barberas away, because those are very old-school and can age like crazy (for example their La Bogliona bottling is normally released at the age of 6-7 years).