Wine Journeyman and Buyer for The Alice and The Looking Glass in Omaha
First things first, the wines of Bel Air Marquis d’Aligre or “BAMA”, as they are affectionately known, are not for everyone. They are essentially relics of a bygone era, made by a man who has largely resisted change over the last 74 years. Yes, that’s right, Jean-Pierre has been making the wine at BAMA since 1950. While nearly everyone around him has adopted whatever technology or technique that is trending, Jean-Pierre has held fast to his tradition. Before I get into the tasting notes, it’s worth sharing that opening a bottle of BAMA is a wild trip. A spirit walk of sorts. There are periods when you think the wine is fading and then minutes later, it’s a whirling dervish. It transformed every 20 minutes so be ready for the ride of your life.
Popped and poured; consumed over two days. Remarkable throughout. In the glass, the wine is a deep garnet color moving towards a rust color rim; slightly hazy with a near opaque, translucent core. Medium viscosity with light staining of the tears and some signs of fine sediment. On the nose, the wine is vinous showing notes of desiccated cherries, currants, rhubarb, prunes, pomegranate, tobacco, cedar box, a well-conditioned horse saddle, an old library, espresso, roasted Brussels sprouts and damp earth. On the palate, the wine is dry with medium(+?) tannins and medium+ acid. Confirming the notes from the nose. The finish is seriously 5 minutes long; it’s got the elegance of Margaux with an unctuous texture. Truly remarkable. A veritable abyss of complexity. Drink now with patience but honestly, I’m not even sure a wine like this ever dies so I wouldn’t be concerned about holding these for another couple decades. Special thanks to @Lyle Fass for the assist. — 5 days ago
Popped and poured; consumed over two days. Solid on the pop and pour but best on Day 2. The 2018 “Judge Family Vineyard” pours a deep ruby/purpleish color with medium+ viscosity and significant staining of the tears. On the nose, the wine is developing with fresh, dark brambles, blueberries, lavender, black pepper, some herb encrusted salami, slate-like minerals, and soft baking spices. On the palate, the wine is dry with medium+ tannin and medium+ acid. Confirming the notes from the nose. The finish is long, tart and full of love. There is that wonderful texture too; something that I have come to expect from Christopher Tynan. The 2018 is amongst the most elegant versions of the Judge Family Vineyard Syrahs that I can recall. A very pretty expression indeed. Drink now with patience and through 2035. — 11 days ago
Popped and poured the 2021 Grenache “Santa Clara County” pours a brilliant ruby color with a transparent core and a slightly watery rim. Medium viscosity with no staining of the tears. On the nose, the wine is developing with fresh, crunchy red fruits: raspberries, strawberries, Bing cherry, red flowers, cola nut, and soft baking spices. On the palate, the wine is dry with medium+ tannins and medium+ acid. Confirming the notes from the nose. The finish is medium+ and loaded with minerals. So fresh. So pure. Drink now and over the next 10+ years — 11 days ago
Popped and poured; consumed over several hours. The 2021 “Contra Costa County” pours a deep ruby with a nearly opaque core; medium viscosity with light staining of the tears. On the nose, the wine is developing with notes of brambles, strawberries, blueberries, dusty books, purple flowers, crushed gravel and the softest of baking spices. On the palate, the wine is dry with medium+ tannins and medium+ acid. Confirming the notes from the nose. The finish is long, tart and grippy. Having some experience pairing Sandlands RTW’s with various meals, I can state with some confidence that the Lodi versions are better designed for lighter fare while the Contra Costa County versions are designed for heartier meals. Drink now with patience and through 2033. — 5 days ago
Popped and poured; enjoyed over the course of several hours. “Austri” from San Fereolo is a remarkable example of Barbera from an area in Piemonte most famous for wine made from the Dolcetto grape. The 2004 vintage pours a deep, garnet color moving towards a slightly orange rim with moderate staining of the tears. Medium+ viscosity with some light signs of sediment and light staining of the tears. The nose is nothing short of extraordinary. The wine is vinous with notes of black cherry, blackberry, spiced meat, mushrooms, saffron, dried green herbs, anise, conditioned leather, red and purple flowers, and crushed gravel. On the palate, the wine is dry with medium(-?) tannins and medium(+?) acid. Confirming the notes on the nose. The finish is forever long; tart and multi-layered. A wine of impeccable texture. Pure class and should be considered a benchmark. Drink now but well-stored bottles should have the legs to hang in there for at least another 3-5 years. — 11 days ago
Poured into a decanter to remove some sediment and to be fair, needed about 30min of air stretch its legs. The 1994 Reserve “Morisoli Vineyard” pours a deep ruby color moving towards a garnet rim with a near opaque core. Medium viscosity with some moderate staining and signs of fine sediment. On the nose, the wine is vinous with powerful notes of desiccated black and red fruits: brambles, black cherry, currants, tobacco, leather, cedar box, organic earth, and warm spices. On the palate, the wine is dry with medium tannins and medium+(?) acid. The tannins are completely integrated now; almost silky. Confirming the notes on the nose however it comes across much more youthful; bright and full of vigor! The finish was long and handsome. This is in a really great spot right now; fully mature and holding fast. To be frank, the nose was ready to go the moment the cork was pulled but the palate needed a moment to catch up; a bit coiled so folks who have these should allow for a little patience. A beautiful wine and a reminder what exercising some restraint can do (this came in under 14% abv). Drink now. — 16 days ago
Popped and poured; enjoyed over the course of several hours. The 2021 "Amador County" pours a slightly hazy, pale straw color with medium viscosity. On the nose the wine is developing with notes of lemons, chamomile, lanolin, lime blossom, and ferrous minerals. On the palate, the wine is dry with medium++ acid. Confirming the notes on the nose. The finish is long and loaded with minerals. Balanced and ever so fresh. This was a killer accompaniment with our Friendsgiving lunch in the office and worked well with turkey. Drinking now through 2031. Only two 500L puncheons produced. — 7 days ago
Popped and poured; enjoyed over the course of a few hours. The 2016 Lapideus was made using whole cluster Trebbiano Spoletino from old vines grown in a slightly cooler climate than “Arboreus”. This vintage of Lapideus saw a 24-day maceration and rested on its lees without temperature control for 149 days. This special ambrosia pours a slightly turbid, deep golden color. Funky fresh with a melange of dried apricots, dried mango, some membrillo and some dried orange. Bracing acidity but everything is very much in balance! A very compelling body and lovely finish that is, all in all, quite becoming. This is in a great spot and I would say drink now though there isn’t a huge rush either. Mother Nature didn’t do Giampiero any favors in 2016 and as a result, production was seriously low; only 798 bottles were made. Selfishly, I’m very happy he put in the effort. Bottle No. 517. — 8 days ago
Popped and poured; consumed over a 4-day period. Best on Day 3 and 4. Day 1 and 2 were so primary that I didn’t pour myself more than just a small glass. By Day 3 and 4, while still primary, it had uncoiled enough to properly enjoy…and there is a lot to appreciate.
In the glass, the 2019 “Maus Vineyard” pours a deep ruby color with an electric magenta rim; medium viscosity with moderate staining of the tears and signs of some slight sediment. On the nose, the wine is developing with concentrated notes of black currants, blackberry pie, tobacco, third wave espresso, a touch of varnish (some VA or EA?) but not overwhelming, and very faint warm spices. On the palate, the wine is dry with medium+ tannins and medium++ acid. Confirming the notes from the nose. The finish is long and has remarkable freshness.
Having enjoyed Ketan Mody’s BETA wines for a handful of years, I can say with a high degree of confidence that nobody is making wines like this in Napa/Sonoma. They’re like the singular wines of Tenuta San Leonardo from Trentino Alto Adige but lacking the pyrazines (thanks to the CA ripeness) and yet, this weighs in at a modest 13.4% abv. These wines are special and the best is yet to come. Drink from 2025-2039 — 11 days ago