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Wine Club Newsletter - March 2017

Olek Bondonio: Winemaker Star on the Rise

One of our Two-Rouge wines this month is a Dolcetto d’Alba produced by Olek Bondonio. Olek is a young winemaker in Piedmont, but already a bit of a darling for his laid back, good nature, wordly outlook and general good-times demeanor. He makes wine mostly with neutral vessels, ferments naturally, shows a more relaxed, vibrant, at times earlier access version of wines from the region, but not without requisite tension and vitality. They are truly great wines, and at such a high level of drinkability.

Born and raised in Torino Olek Bondonio would spend many of his winters in the mountains, and in the summer the Bondonio family would retreat to a farmhouse known as “La Berchialla” in the commune of Barbaresco, Piemonte.

The farmhouse happens to be perched above the renowned Cru vineyard of Roncagliette.  Olek fell in love with both the mountains and the vineyards, and in his younger days enjoyed a successful career as a pro snowboarder in Italy.  His focus shifted to his love of wine when it became apparent that he would inherit La Berchialla.  

In 1993 Olek graduated with a degree in enology, but knew that the diploma was not enough.  He needed hands on experience.  His love of board sports took him to Australia where at the time the wine scene and the surf were exploding. 

Olek began working both hemispheres. He would complete a harvest in Australia then move to Bordeaux, then back to Australia or New Zealand.  Then back again to Bordeaux.  The experience has certainly molded him into the winemaker he is today.  Olek’s ability to combine traditional and modern practices in the winery and vineyard are unrivaled by most we have seen.  

In 2005 Olek claimed La Berchialla and produced his first vintage totaling just 2000 bottles.  The wines immediately reached a cult status.  Though production has increased the wines are still limited, and often sell out almost immediately upon release. 

Bottles are very difficult to find, even in the Langhe.  This is especially true of the Roncagliette Barbaresco being that Olek is the only producer to bottle this single vineyard cru under its name (Gaja’s bottling is named “Sorì Tildin”). 

Olek’s philosophy, like many others, is that great wine is made in the vineyard.  This being said, few winemakers spend as much time in their vines as Olek.  Having just 3.5 hectares to farm Olek is a one-man crew in the vineyard. His crest of a modern tractor on his bottles makes his point very well known. 

Olek single handily does all of the vineyard management, which is organic with the implementation of biodynamic principles and practices.  The idea is to grow the best quality fruit possible, crush, and just be there to make sure nothing goes wrong.  

2015 Château L’Orangerie, Bordeaux Blanc

Growing Region: Entre-Deux-Mers, France
Varietal Composition: 80% Sauvignon Blanc, 20% Sémillon
Fermentation: Stainless Steel & Used French Oak
Alcohol Content: 12%
Suggested Retail: $20.00
WineSellar Club Price: $16.19

Broad Strokes:                
L 'Orangerie is a room in the Château where in the 18th and 19th centuries the Icard family stored orange and lemon trees during long and cold winters. At the time, orange trees were a sign of prestige for the countryside ‘bourgeoisie’. When Jean-Christophe Icard took over the family winery almost thirty years ago, he decided to change the name from Jardinet to Château l’Orangerie as a legacy of his childhood memories.

Château l'Orangerie is located 30 miles from Bordeaux, in the Entre-deux-mers (between-two-seas) region. The vineyard benefits from the influence of two important rivers, Dordogne and Garonne.

My favorite bottle for white wine, a clear one. Would be nice if it had a screw cap, but this is from Bordeaux after all . . . harrumph! The wine has a golden straw hue, and shows good viscosity holding to the inside of the wine glass.

Clean and expressive nose of lemon, white peach, tangerine, mineral, chalk and straightforward Sauvignon Blanc fruit. Some of the honey, waxy character comes from the Sémillon grapes.

Medium in weight, it has a clean, balanced feeling all the while coating the palate with a mildly creamy sensation that is edged by lively, zesty acid. The overall sensation leaves your mouth watering.

Ripe lemon, white peach, tangerine, a bit of apricot. White grapefruit, white flowers, hints of vanilla, mineral and chalk. Sauvignon Blanc fruit, but not grassy or herbal as some may be. Floral, honeysuckle, ripe red apple, notes of ginger, Lychee nut, Mandarin orange, coconut and persimmon.

Serving Suggestions:
This wine is very versatile. It’s a wine that can be consumed aperitif style, with or without food or appetizers. However, it excels with little bites and nibbles as much as it does with white fish dishes. It just keeps giving and giving as you keep drinking it!

2010 Château Lafon

Growing Region: Listrac-Médoc, Bordeaux, France
Varietal Composition: 55% Merlot, 45% Cabernet Sauvignon
Fermentation: Three-year old French Oak
Alcohol Content: 13.5%
Suggested Retail: $25.00
WineSellar Club Price: $22.49

Broad Strokes:                
It’s not often we get an opportunity to have a nicely aged Bordeaux in our WineSellar Club, but here it is!

From the Chateau:  “Château Lafon, in the Listrac-Médoc Cru Bourgeois appellation, is one of the oldest vineyards in the commune, owes its reputation to a great winegrower of the last century, Mr. Dominique Douat: in the 7th edition of "Bordeaux et ses Vins" (1908). Edouard Féret noted a production of 50 tons of red wine, and in his commentary, added: "Well-cared for in the most perfect way, it produces a very fine, full-bodied and colored wine, ranked among the best in the region."

GREAT, easy to read label conveys the name and identity perfectly! I love the simplicity of it, and the readability of the label. Also, nice touch adding the 2013 Gold Medallion for the Brussels Concours Mondial for excellence. The wine is very viscous, like big clear oil dripping down the inside of the bowl. It is dark and blackish at the core, and brilliant magenta on the rim.

With aged wines comes bouquet. Solid whiffs of black currant, dark berry, kirsch, cedar, vanilla, black and white pepper, wood, smoke, spice, and roasted nuts, especially peanuts. Smooth and even, and a good dose of fresh herbs, especially tarragon.

This has some nice age on it, but still is firm and holding well. The bottle age gives it some softness where the tannins and youthful acids used to be. It is still rich, full, lively and long, with elegance, power, and a fleshy feel.

Check the nose for your flavor profiles, as it translates directly. I also added boysenberry, black cherry, dark chocolate, strawberry and pomegranate fruit. Bay leaf!

Serving Suggestions:
This wine is near reaching its plateau in regards to aging. That means it is not going to spoil any time soon, but it will not drastically improve with more time in the bottle. It will hold on to this position for a few more years, so we can enjoy this nicely aged Bordeaux wine with red meat dishes, perhaps prepared with mushroom sauces and truffle.

2015 Dolcetto d’Alba, Olek Bondonio

Growing Region: Alba, Piemonte, Italy
Varietal Composition: 100% Dolcetto
Fermentation: Barrels and Steel Tanks, Unfiltered
Alcohol Content: 13.5%
Suggested Retail: $35.00
WineSellar Club Price: $29.69

Broad Strokes:                
Our cover story in “The Wonderful World of Wine” discusses Olek further. Here are some notes from the winery.

Olek Bondonio begun making wine here just a few years ago in an old farmhouse ‘La Berchialla’ which had been in the family for 200 years.

He used to visit the farmhouse each summer, studying the vineyard workers with intent. A seed was sown and after conquering Italy as a snowboarder, he turned his mind to wine, working in the Langhe, and also abroad, before returning home to tend to his family’s magical patch of dirt.

Olek is lucky enough to work with some of the very best sites in Piemonte and does everything he can to make sure each wine speaks of this wonderful place.

Vineyard work is fantastic, with a real attention-to-detail borne from doing everything himself, while his winemaking exhibits a patience beyond his years.

I really love the artwork on the label. It speaks to the philosophy of the winemaker’s holistic, natural approach to making wines in a simple yet thoughtful fashion. The wine is very dark in color, with some purple Welch’s Grape Juice coloring on the rim. Oily, viscous, dripping curtains down the bowl.

Fresh and fruit-forward impressions, you get the essence of what a fine Dolcetto d’Alba is all about. Deep, dark fruit, vibrant, black cherry, hints of licorice and fresh herbs, the aromatics are quite bold and pleasing.

Full, mouth-filling fruit is rich and feeling thick, almost like a micro-sifted tomato juice texture. Think texture, not flavor on that one. Nicely weighted, having some velvet feel, chunky, with some drying tannins and a slightly astringent finish. Begging for food.

Boysenberry pie, with the dough and pie crust all in. Biscuit, toasted nuts, licorice, raspberry, olives, black pepper, root beer, and of course, lead pencil.

Serving Suggestions:
So much fun this wine! It will range from pizza to sophisticated pasta dishes, especially Bolognese sauces. Wild boar, venison, and goat cheese. Not for long-term aging, enjoy NOW!

2009 Ciairossa, “Pergolaia”, Toscana

Growing Region: Tuscany, Italy
Varietal Composition: 25% Cabernet Franc, 21% Merlot, 19% Sangiovese, 18% Cabernet, Sauvignon, 8% Petit Verdot, 6% Syrah, 3% Alicante
Fermentation: 18 Months in 30% New French Barrels
Alcohol Content: 14%
Suggested Retail: $42.00
WineSellar Club Price: $35.99

Broad Strokes:                
From the Winery:
“Situated on the Tuscan coast in the Val di Cecina, lies an area of silent, natural beauty surrounded by its vineyards. The estate is planted to a spectrum of varieties from which four wines are produced: Caiarossa, the principal wine in which Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Sangiovese usually constitute the majority of the blend.”

The wine has received impressive scores of 92 points James Suckling, 90 points Wine Spectator, 90 points Vinous, and 90 Points Cellar Tracker.

Pronounced purr-go-lie-ahh.
Good-looking label, easy to read, the overall package is clean and definitive, if not somewhat standard looking. The wine is very dark in the center, and has a brilliant magenta rim, defying its years of age.

This is the third wine this month that has a complex “bouquet” mostly because of the years of age the wine has on it. With blackberry and rose petal on the nose, you start to get the notion that this is something special, and it is! Hot stones and mineral notes back up the fruit, with some chestnut, black walnut and mahogany tones as well. I also found a touch of smoke and ginger beer as well.

Silky, seductive texture rolls smoothly around your palate, seemingly seamlessly. (Say that 5 times in a row!)

Bright dark cherry, blackberry, hazelnut, chestnut, vanilla, lead pencil, lavender, plum, prune, date, licorice, mineral and stones, and spices like cinnamon and nutmeg.

Serving Suggestions:
For me, this is what wine is all about. It is so special you just feel privileged to be alive and enjoying this fantastic beverage. Cellar 6-12 bottles for another 10 years.

2011 Badia di Morrona, “N’Antia”, Toscana Rosso

Growing Region: Tuscany, Italy
Varietal Composition: 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc, 5% Petit Verdot
Fermentation: 15 Months in French Barrels
Alcohol Content: 14.5%
Suggested Retail: $42.00
WineSellar Club Price: $35.99

Broad Strokes:                
The Badia di Morrona is leading a Renaissance of wine production in this little-known area southeast of Pisa and southwest of Florence. Here, winemaker Corrado dal Piaz blends the flavors of complex Bordeaux varietals and softens it with of supple Merlot.

From the Winery:
In Tuscany, thanks to the incomparable soils with which the region is endowed, grape varieties such as Cabernet, Syrah, and Merlot also find a hospitable environment and give wines of much character and personality. No science fiction-type of equipment is involved, the cellars contain only that which is strictly necessary and is utilized merely to draw forth the maximum which the soil has managed to transmit to the grapes.

I think it is a gorgeous label with embossing of the Family Crest as well on the name of the estate. The other font is small and hard to read, but the label comes off as classy, and makes one want to know more about the wine. The wine itself is very dark at the core, nearly black, and red ruby around the rim.

With a few years of aging, from 2011, both in wood barrels and the bottle, we now get to enjoy a complex bouquet that evolves and provokes thoughts as air opens it up. You may notice sweet wood and dark berry fruit, with a hint of eucalyptus, mint, charcoal, chestnut and Marion berry. Touch of balsamic, tobacco and vanilla as well.

Full bodied and smooth, the wine possesses top-notch structure and character. Smooth, yet rich, some tannins still persist, gently lacing the deep fruit and providing us with a mouth-watering sensation as it coats your palate for a long, lovely finish.

Deep, dark black and blue fruits have a dusting of age on them, as the wine holds back its glory for the first 30 minutes or so. Then you get the nice wood, sweet vanilla, eucalyptus, some tree bark, balsamic and tobacco. Elegant and wonderful, power and class.

Serving Suggestions:
Ready now, and will hold for another 15 years. Lasagna, pasta, big meat dishes. Cellar it.

Blood Orange Panna Cotta

Here’s a fun recipe from our days at Laurel Court Restaurant & Bar Masterchef Loren Altman will be serving her version of this at our Tuscan Wine Dinner

Yields approx. 10 aluminum cups


  • 2 cups Whole Milk
  • 1 cup Cream
  • 1 cup Blood Orange Juice
  • 1 cup Granulated Sugar
  • 2 each Vanilla Beans, Split
  • Zest of 4 Blood Oranges
  • ¼ cup Water Plus 2 Tablespoons
  • 4 teaspoons Powdered Gelatin
  • 2 oz. Grand Marnier


  1. Bring milk, cream, Blood orange juice, sugar, vanilla and zest to boil in saucepan
  2. Remove from heat. 
  3. Soften gelatin in water, stir into cream & orange juice mixture. 
  4. Pour into aluminum cups and let set for at least 6 hours.

Top with one or more:

  • Fresh strawberry
  • Blood orange slices
  • Fresh berries
  • Sliced, roasted almonds

The WineSellar & Brasserie, 2017.


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