By: Joel ~
WoW November 2019 Highlights
The Holiday Season is rapidly arriving. So is our annual Champagne tasting on December 6. To that end, this month we are featuring several of our favorite bubbles, many of which will be in the tasting, in addition to classics like Dom Perignon.
We also have a number of wonderful new arrivals to sate you taste buds for holiday feasting, gifting and above all, enjoyable drinking with friends and family. Let’s get to it!
Real Rock Star Wines from Arizona-Seriously!
Introducing Caduceus and Merkin Vineyards
2018 Merkin Vineyards Chupacabra Rhone blend, Willcox, AZ $26.50
2015 Caduceus ‘Nagual de la Nada’, Eliphante Block red, Yavapai County AZ $52.50
We have tried to get Rock Star/genius musician Maynard James Keenan’s (Tool, Pucifer) wines for years, and finally, at last, they are available in limited quantities again in WA. Keenan still plays music, but he is now after almost 15 years a committed vigneron in Northern Arizona’s Verde Valley near Jerome, as well as in Willcox, southern AZ. If you want to see a great ‘origin’ story which illuminates his passionate pursuit of wine quality echoing that of his music career, I recommend the excellent documentary film Blood into Wine.
These wines are growing on sparse soils, at high elevation between 3500-5000’ in both locations, under desert conditions. Some of his vines were planted 35 years ago in the area! Merkin comes from the Al Buhl Memorial Vineyard at 4300’, and is Syrah-focused Rhone blend with bright fruit flavors, spicy bouquet and quite delicious now.
Nagual de la Nada (the Sorcerer (shape-shifter? Welcomed?) could refer to Keenan himself, or the distinctive blend of this wine from his high altitude vineyard near Jerome, mainly Sangiovese, then equal parts Cabernet, Aglianico and Sagrantino; very unique Italian varieties that lend strong savory, dark fruit and earthy flavors to this now, near-mature wine. If you are interested in other Caduceus wines, there are some others available; give us a shout-Let’s rock!
Chateauneuf du Pape’s most famous producer ! Chateau de Beaucastel
2017 Coudelet de Beaucastel Côtes du Rhone $33.50
2017 Chat. De Beaucastel Chateauneuf du Pape $94.50
Beaucastel comes into existence around 1549, when a Pierre de Beaucastel bought a ‘barn with a plot of land extending to 52 saumées at Coudoulet’. A later descendant was appointed Captain of the town of Courthezon in the late 17th Century by none other than King Louis XIV-his letter, signed by Colbert is still located at the Chateau. The estate and its great wines have been in the Perrin family for over a century now, and they have turned Beaucastel into a model fine-tuned estate, farmed biodynamically/organic and making wines that are in some ways, the envy of the region for their consistence, density of flavors, and age-worthiness. This could be especially true in 2017, since poor fruit set knocked back production of mainstay variety Grenache by up to 50%. But Beaucastel has never been a proponent of Grenache-dominant CdP, favoring Mourvedre and Syrah, and almost unique among producers, using all 13 permitted varieties in the appellation in the blend. This vintage only contains 30% Grenache! The result is deeper than usual color, rich black fruit and savory flavors, lots of concentration and velvety texture.
Coudelet de Beaucastel, the ‘baby’ Chateauneuf du Pape, comes from a 75 acre parcel of land just opposite the main vineyard, virtually the same geology, marine sediments covered in the famous Galets Roulés, river cobblestones washed down from the Alps. They take in heat during the day and reflect it back to the vines at night, especially beneficial in the spring growing season. Here again, a low amount of Grenache combined with 70% Mourvedre, Cinsault and Syrah makes this nearly as concentrated and distinctive as the flagship wine across the Autoroute! These are limited in availability, great in quality and unique in personality!
Annual Champagne Offer
Anticipation is the operative word every year at this time! We love bubbles, adore champagne and Fall is when producers and importers offer us the best prices of the year to celebrate the holidays, enjoy with festive meals and welcome the New Year.
At our champagne tasting on December 6 ($55/person, reservation required), we will feature several of these wines. All of these wines, whether from favored growers like Marc Hebrart and Lallier or one of the Grandes Marques houses like Charles Heidsieck, have received stellar reviews consistently( 90 points +). What we admire is the sheer diversity of style between them and which makes champagne not JUST a glass of bubbles, but distinctive and delicious wines in their own right. Here’s a list of some of our favorites that will arrive within the next three weeks, before Thanksgiving.
Lallier Zero Dosage Grand Cru Brut $57.50
Lallier Grand Rosé Brut Grand Cru 59.50
Lallier Grand Cru Vintage Brut ’02 76.50
Marc Hebrart Brut Selection NV 59.50/31.50-375ml
Marc Hebrart Mes Favorites Vieilles Vignes Brut NV 78.50
Gaston Chiquet Brut Tradition Brut NV 46.00
Gaston Chiquet Carte d’Or Vintage Brut ’08 66.50
Chartogne Taillet Cuvée Saint Anne Brut NV 57.75
Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve MV 51.75
Paul Dethune Brut Grand Cru NV 49.50
Margaine Brut Rosé NV 59.85
Delamotte Brut Vintage Blanc des Blancs ’08 78.50
Camille Saves Brut 1er Cru NV 48.50
Baron Fuente Brut Vintage ’10 42.50
Moutard Brut Vintage ’02 59.95
Alain Bailly Brut Rosé 26.75
Festive Featured Wines
Beaujolais 2018 $17.50
In the hamlet of Le Breuil, deep in the southern Beaujolais and perched above a narrow creek, the Domaine Dupeuble has been running almost continuously since 1512. The name of the domaine has changed just three times in its history. Based in the southern Beaujolais area more noted for cheap, industrial Nouveau wines, domaine Dupeuble are very quality conscious and make absolutely slurping-good wines.
The vineyards, planted primarily to Gamay, face Southeast, South, and Southwest, and about two thirds of the property is on granite-based soil, the best for making more structured Cru-level worthy wines. The grapes are harvested manually from 50-100 year old vines and vinified completely without SO2. The wines are not chaptalized, filtered, or degassed and only natural yeasts are used for the fermentation. This is one of the richest, delicious classic Beaujolais we have enjoyed in recent memory; versatile, vibrant and delicious.
2017 Luciano Sandrone Dolcetto d’Alba $23.50
Luciano Sandrone is one of Piedmont’s finest Barolo producers, and a long time friend. About a month ago his lovely daughter Barbara was in town to taste their new releases, include the stellar 2015 Baroli. But what really captivated our attention, especially for this time of year, was their deliciously juicy, rich flavored dark-fruited Dolcetto, sourced from key vineyards at higher elevation in the Barolo communes of Monforte d’Alba and Novello. The beautiful deep scarlet color, strong dark cherry-plum and slightly earthy fruit flavors will provide the perfect foil to just about any festive meat or poultry you serve. Some people equate Dolcetto with Beaujolais. While both styles are fruit-driven and joyously drinkable, Dolcetto offers a bolder profile and depth. Why not serve both this wine and the Dupeuble at your next dinner and discover for yourself! Either way, you drink well.
Mark Ryan’s new white wine honors his daughters (Lu & Oly) with whimsical beautiful labels. At $28.50, it’s also a solid value for this truly sumptuous, rich yet vibrantly flavored blend from the great Olsen Vineyard near Prosser. Here’s a wine with enough richness to satisfy the red meat fans, yet fresh enough for those white wine drinkers seeking complexity. Very floral, peachy/nectarine bouquet with a hint of vanilla cinnamon oak on finish adding spiciness. Very balanced fresh flavors; good acidity, well defined fruit. Chardonnay enlivens the Viognier’s richness. Delicious!
2015 Chateau La Tour de Mons, Margaux : Fine Bordeaux- reasonable price $53.75
The Excellent 2015 vintage in Bordeaux shined especially well in the commune of Margaux. Partly due to the warm early summer and quite dry September, and partly due to a larger percent of Merlot which thrives in the warmth, La Tour de Mons and its neighbors produced decidedly fleshier wines balanced by solid fruit, ripe tannins and freshness than in some previous years. Château La Tour de Mons is a rare single block 118 acre vineyard, surrounded by a wall and located in the northern part of the Margaux appellation near the banks of the Garonne, as are all the very best Médoc Crus. The origins of the château date back to the 13th century and many generations have been involved. Its ‘terroir’ in addition to the gravel benches where Cabernets thrive, also has a notable acreage of Merlot (56%) planted on limestone and clay. Since 1990 under new owners who have poured a lot of Euros into improvements, cutting yields and doing more stringent harvesting, La Tour de Mons has been on a real upswing in quality. Deep crimson, rich black cherry, currant and smoky aromas (aged 12 months in 40% new French oak barrels) truly reflect classic Merlot-Cabernet character. Medium bodied, this drinks very well now—especially if partnered with a fine prime rib roast or lamb! Of course, you could keep this for at least a decade to soften and gain further layers of flavor, too!
2018 Patricia Green Cellars Reserve Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley $28.50
What better wine for a holiday feast combining a multitude of flavors, richness spices than fine Pinot Noir? Soft and fruity enough to go with turkey, earthy enough and velvety to mesh with rich beef, and low in tannins with the round sweet cherry fruit of Pinot that can take on sweet potatoes or a Bolognese sauced pasta. Patricia Green Cellars Winemaker/owner Jim Anderson claims this is one of the richest vintages he has done in 20 years. We agree. Savory, ripe, deep yet compulsively drinkable, this delicious blend of fruit from over 15 vineyards continues to be our ‘benchmark’ Oregon Pinot Noir for quality, intensity, balance and fair price.
2017 Fabre et Montmayou Malbec Reserva Mendoza Malbec: $16.25
Hervé Joyaux Fabre, owner and winemaker of Fabre et Montmayou, was born in Bordeaux, France, to a family of wine merchants. When he arrived in Argentina in the early 90’s looking for opportunities to invest in vineyards and start a winery, Hervé was impressed by the potential for Malbec in Mendoza.
As a true visionary, he bought very old Malbec vineyards in the higher altitude, famed Vistalba/ Lujan de Cuyo zone, planted in 1908, and built the Fabre Montmayou winery with real boutique style and essence.
Since we first tasted Fabre’s wines in the early 2000’s we have been most impressed with their depth of flavor, lack of excess ripeness and well balanced character. This new vintage of his flagship wine is a beauty! Long maceration, aging in French oak barrels for up to a year and moderate yields yielded this dark, purple ruby wine. It shows (us) a classic Malbec earthy, dark berry (mulberry)/anise bouquet. Nicely structured, full flavored without being over-extracted it exudes terrific ripe fruit with some licorice/cedar /graphite flavors on the finish. Riper than Cahors, but with some of that classic French Malbec wine's mineral notes adding a delicious savory note. Excellent.
2016 Falesco Vitiano Rosso, Umbria, Sangiovese, cabernet & merlot $12.50
For the last five years the Cotarella brothers of Falesco have managed to make an even better wine each successive vintage. Renzo Cotarella heads up Antinori in his ‘day job’-not a bad gig! Especially when you think of all the great wines like Tignanello he is responsible for. Brother Riccardo is one of Italy’s greatest consulting winemakers, even worldwide, and takes care of the day to day at Falesco, the family property in Umbria. The stellar 2016 vintage in Central Italy no doubt has a lot to do with this wine’s vibrant fruit and richer depth of flavors. We cannot recommend this affordable wine strongly enough! The wine is a wonderful marriage of color, solid weight, lots of fruit and deeper texture than any previous version of this wine that we can remember, yet eminently drinkable now. Perhaps this is due to the vineyard now being over 25 years old. Whatever the case, this is one to buy by the case for daily enjoyment.
2017 Gorman ‘The Devil Makes Three’ Cabernet, Columbia Valley $16.75
Far be it for us to be surprised by anything our friend Chris Gorman does, BUT…we were surprised when he walked the door with this brand new “Devil” of a wine. The Surprise was the price, just 16.75. Gorman has never been shy about wanting a good price for his decadent, full flavored wines, which fully deserve their reputation. But this wine? Talk about value for money! Chris is offering this mainly to restaurants and wine bars (like us) who want something that can be poured by the glass and offers lots of flavors for a moderate price. The Devil makes Three certainly rises to the occasion. Cabernet with about 10% Syrah, it shows Gorman richness in a tasty well balanced, ripe berry fruited, light tannin and spicy vein to enjoy today. Take advantage of it now—it won’t last long.
Johannes Leitz 2016 Riesling Trocken, Eins Zwei Dry '3', Rheingau Riesling $19.75
To quote Johannes Leitz, a master of Rheingau Riesling: “We harvested the grapes for the EINS-ZWEI-DRY at the end of the last week in September 2016 and directly pressed to tank. We harvest the grapes for the EINS-ZWEI-DRY (Drei= 3 in German!!) at least at a Spätlese level, to achieve the best balance between delicious fruit, a bare hint of sweetness and crisp acidity.” The grapes come from top sites in the fine vineyards of great villages like Geisenheim, Hattenheim and Erbach, where loess-based soils (like in eastern Washington) yield wines with high extract. Indeed, this wine is barely off-dry, with light platinum green straw color. Classy Rheingau appley bouquet leads to ripe, solid flavors. Shows good extract, firm acid; hint of spice apple. Stylish and lengthy, this balanced wine suits not only holiday meals, especially turkey, but also will beautifully complement lightly spicy Asian-fusion dishes.