Friday, February 6, 2009

Wine Traditions

Ed Addiss, owner of the import company Wine Traditions, based in Falls Church, Virginia, stopped in Philly last week to conduct a seminar at Tria Fermentation School. I sat in on class, welcoming the chance to catch up with an old friend and business associate and to taste a few of the current releases from his portfolio.

Ed’s book dabbles in Bordeaux, mostly with a handful of Cru Artisan estates. He also works with a neat handful of producers in Burgundy, primarily in the Yonne Department. He’s even stepped, somewhat begrudgingly, into the Rhône recently, nudged there by the demands of market competition. The heart and soul of his work, though, is split between two areas: Beaujolais and Southwest France.

Mr. Addiss in repose after a well executed class.

On this night, Ed focused solely on the wines of Southwest France, pouring selections that demonstrated the typicity of their AOCs and represented the workhorse entry in each winery’s lineup. There was a time when I sold all of these wines but, alas, that time passed a couple of years back. I’ve also written many of them up here in the past. So, in more than one respect, it was a real pleasure to check back in with them.

The Mauzac-dominated non-vintage Blanquette de Limoux “Le Berceau” from Domaine des Martinolles got things started. A very fresh bottling, brimming with apple fruit, waxy aromas and invigorating texture.

In previous experiences with “Mission La Caminade,” the second wine of Château la Caminade in Cahors, I’d found it to be a little on the rustic (bordering on dirty) side. The 2006 version, in welcome contrast, is showing nicely. Pepper and tanned leather on the nose lead to a medium bodied, gently gripping palate of dried blackberry and raspberry fruit. It’s definitely a solid, quaffable bistro wine.

If there’s a wine I most miss having conveniently at hand, it’s the Marcillac “Lo Sang del Païs” from Philippe Teulier’s Domaine du Cros. It’s made from Fer Servadou (the locals call it Mansois), a vine that joins Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon in the Carmenet family. Ed sometimes describes Marcillac as “Cabernet Franc Sauvage” and as a “nosey wine.” Both descriptions seem perfectly apt. The 2007 is a tad lighter than in most years but is still packed with brambly fruit and the aromas of blood, iron and pepper that so clearly mark its scents.

The most pleasant surprise of the lineup, largely because it’s a wine I’d never really thought much of, was Château Bellevue la Forêt’s Fronton (formerly Côtes du Frontonnais). The estate’s basic red offering in 2005 was much cleaner and deeper than I could recall from past vintages. Charming nose of licorice and fennel seed. It’s 50% Négrette blended with varying proportions of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Gamay – low acid but with just enough grip to support its framework.

Ed's slide show featured some picturesque shots of the farms in his portfulio.

I thought Ed’s last minute decision to throw a white in to the middle of a red-dominated lineup was inspired. A good way to refresh and re-kick the palate. I knew as soon as it hit my mouth that Camin Larredya’s 2007 Jurançon Sec “À L’Esguit” was more generous and honeyed than in past vintages. It was also stunningly good, tasting initially of melon rind and full of grippy acids. It didn’t take much coaxing to find aromas and flavors of honey, lavender, rosemary, orange peel, apple skin…. Ed confirmed that Larredya have stepped up the concentration of their wines, aiming for business with starred restaurants. Oh yeah, it’s a blend of Gros Manseng and the thicker skinned Petit Manseng.

The flow quickly shifted back to red, with the last two dry wines of the night being the tough customers in the crowd.

My first glass of Madiran “Reflet du Terroir” from Château Laffitte-Teston was corked. The second was sound but still showing some musty, damp earth oriented flavors. Very, very tight, redolent of struck iron and macerated bay leaves. Definitely in need of a roast leg of lamb and plenty of air. 80% Tannat with 10% each of Cabernets Franc and Sauvignon.

The 2005 edition of “Ohitza,” the entry level Irouléguy rouge from Domaine Brana wasn’t much more giving. If you’ve found Loire Cabernet Franc to be vegetal, you really need to drink this wine in its youth to put things into perspective. This is wild, mountain grown Cab Franc, far from tempered by the Tannat and Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend. Skeletal and stalky but with a temptingly spicy core of sinewy red fruit.

We headed back to Jurançon for the finale, served up via Camin Larredya’s 2005 Jurançon “Au Capcèu.” An absolutely delicious finale it was. This is late harvested Petit Manseng. Minty and viscerally herbaceous, it sent waves of fig and clover honey pumping across the palate with a well honed edge of acidity keeping it frisky.

* * *

After Ed's wines more or less disappeared from the Philadelphia area market a couple of years back, they have begun to reappear at a choice handful of restaurants around town, including Tinto, Tria and Royal Tavern. They’re now being cleared into PA via The Wine Merchant, Ltd., and I’m also happy for Ed that some of the core products from the Wine Traditions portfolio are now available at Chambers Street Wines in New York City. They’re characterful wines that deserve a broader audience than they’ve historically reached. And the Wine Traditions marque is one that should be added to your list of trusted importers – see the name on a back label, buy the wine… and enjoy the exploration.

A quick bite to eat and a glass of Drie Fonteinen Oude Kriek at Tria's Rittenhouse location put a nice finishing touch on the evening, just as snow began to blanket the streets in downtown Philly.


TWG said...

Names from the past, can't find these wines in Southern NJ anymore. I have a bottle of the sweet 2001 Ch. Larredya and a 2002 Caminade in my cellar that I should open.

The Bloggers @ 67 Wine said...

I love the blog, and in fact we have two of the wines mentioned in the post- The fronton, and the ohitza; so its also available on the upper west side- though chambers is a great store . .

David McDuff said...

Much of Ed's portfolio should be available, theoretically at least, through the PLCB's SLO program. Some of the wines are also available at Laurent Chapuis' Central NJ shop, The Princeton Corkscrew.

I'm guessing the '02 Cahors you're holding is the "Commanderie" bottling rather than "La Mission." If that's the case, both it and the Larredya should have plenty of life left in them.

Thanks for the kind words. Glad to hear you're carrying a couple of Ed's wines. I'll try to stop by for a visit the next time I'm in your neighborhood.

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