6 for $120-Something – October 19th, 2012

Hello and Happy Friday!

It’s an exciting time to be in the wine business.  From early October through November, tens of thousands of new wines pour into Chicago from all over the world.

What that means to you is that one can expect lots of new and exciting arrivals, as well as some good deals as distributors look to make room for new inventory by slashing prices on previous vintages.

Today’s 6 for $120-Something Sampler highlights this trend.  Some exciting new arrivals, as well as some wines that I have featured in the store in the past, but am now offering at a reduced price.  This is an exciting group of wines!

If you aren’t familiar with the 6 for $120-Something Sampler, let me explain.

Each month I put together two different monthly samplers at Perman Wine Selections.

I began with the 6 for $60-Something Sampler which offers six different bottles of wine from around the world, that cost average right around $10 a bottle.  The scope of these wines can be limiting due to simple fact that it can be difficult to source great wines at this particular price point.

To address this, I created the 6 for $120-Something Sampler as an answer.  This sampler, six different bottles cost averaging at around a $20, offers more limited production wines, and to be quite honest, wines that have a higher degree of complexity than those on the less expensive sampler.

Keep in mind the 6 for $120-Something Sampler is an excellent gift, whether it be for clients, as a hostess gift, or just to say thank you. If you are giving it as a gift, give me some notice and I’ll print out some gift-formatted descriptions to include with it.

Without further ado, I give you this month’s 6 for $120-Something Sampler!

Have a great weekend,




2010 Graci Etna Rosso
Are you bored of Sangiovese and Nebbiolo?

These are certainly two of Italy’s most noble red grapes, yet there is a whole world of interesting and unique grapes in the large landscape of Italian varietals.

Sicily has gained much notoriety in the last few years, and in particular the Etna region has emerged with some of Italy’s most interesting and unique red and white wines.  This was highlighted in February of this year when Eric Asimov wrote an in depth article about Etna.

I’ve seen a serious student of the Etna wines for several years now, and have had a chance to taste a broad range of producers.

Among the best producers that I have experienced is that of the Graci estate.  Owned by Alberto Graci, and started in 2004, the three vineyards of Graci are based around the area of Passopisciaro.

Nerello Mascalese is the main red grape of the area although Nerello Cappuccio is often used for blending.  What makes Etna so special is that it has the sunshine of Sicily yet with moderating weather from the elevation.  The volcanic soil is also an important factor in the aroma and flavor of the wine.  You can also add to the list that much of the vines are on their original rootstock, creating wines that are deep and complex.

The 2010 Graci Etna Rosso is made entirely of the Nerello Mascalese grape, fermented and rested in stainless steel tank.  It is aromatically-explosive with big red berry notes, and lots of herbs and earth overtones.  A silky and soft texture, glides cross the palate, with a repetition of red fruits and herbs.  This is not a “lollipop”-style of Etna, rather blending elegance with earth with the distinct terroir of the region.

Definitely not a cocktail wine, meant to be enjoyed with food, preferably dishes like porchetta or herb crusted rack of lamb.  A fascinating and delicious wine!
$27.00 BTL. / $324.00 CASE

2008 Olivier Hillaire Châteauneuf-du-Pape
Those of you who follow and drink wines from the Southern Rhône may have already put an asterisk next to the 2008 vintage.

This was an unusual growing season for this notably warm climate.  Rain and cooler weather were consistent through the Spring and Summer. There was a very slow maturation period, and lots of crop had to be dropped.  It never really warmed up to a great degree, but also wasn’t a disaster at the end as the winds from the mistral worked their magic.

Overall, when you talk to producers, they mention that while it was a lot of work to make good wine in this vintage, they were able to make good drinking wines.  They may not be long-aging, and may not have the usual intensity, but most were happy with the work they did.

The wine press was having none of it.  The majority panned the vintage and as a result, wineries, importers and wholesalers got aggressive to move the wines through the market.

The good news in all of this is that you, as a consumer, is the beneficiary of a wine press that loves to overgeneralize.

Olivier Hillaire is a very good producer of Châteauneuf-du-Pape.  If you have never heard of him that may have to do with the fact that he only works 5 hectares of vines, and that his domaine didn’t exist till 2006.  It was then that he was able to rent the vines from his retiring ex-father-in-law.

He makes two different Châteauneuf-du-Pape, this bottling is a blend of primarily Grenache, with a little Syrah, Mourvèdre and Cinsault rounding out the blend.

This is a very good bottle of wine, with classic notes of kirsch, tea leaf, and spice.  While it is lightly colored, it does have good impact on the palate, and finishes with a long, bright and complex finish.

It is getting to be Cassoulet season, and this is a great wine to pair with that classic, hearty dish!

Half the price of what it normally retails for, if you are a fan of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, this is a really smart buy.
$23.00 BTL. / $276.00 CASE – NORMALLY $47.00 / BTL.


2008 Cappellano Dolcetto d’Alba “Gabutti”
Minchia!  Cappellano is THE cult Piemonte producer that you may or may not heard of.  If you rely on scores or reviews to purchase wine, then you will definitely not know the producer because the late, great Teobaldo Cappellano refused to sample journalists as he thought numerical scores did a great disservice to the understanding of wine.

If you have heard of Cappellano that is because you may know they own some of the greatest terroir of the region. They own part of the famed Gabutti vineyard in Serralunga d’Alba, and from it make a Dolcetto, Barbera, and a couple of Baroli.  They are also very famous for their great Barolo Chinato, of which they were the creators of the style.

When you have a great Barolo vineyard such as Gabutti, it is impossible to just make simple Dolcetto.  This is elevated stuff!  Sure it is the table grape of Piemonte, and yes it is meant to drink for the most part in its earlier stages, but that doesn’t mean this baby ain’t complex!

I love the 2008 version from Cappellano.  It is classic stuff, with bright cherry notes mingling with earthy, licorice and spice notes.  The reason why it is a table grape is that it works so well with most of the classic Piemonte dishes, such as carne cruda, pastas, and braises.

As this recently changed importers, it is being offered at a ridiculously low price.  I only got enough to offer in the sampler, so I will take requests for extra but only fill those orders if there is leftover after the sampler is finished.

2009 Domaine La Madura “Grand Vin” Blanc
If you met Cyril and Nadia Bourgne, then you would know that this is the type of producer that you would want to support!

After years of being cellar master at Château de Fieuzal in Pessac-Léognan, Cyril and his wife Nadia returned to his roots in the Languedoc region of the South of France.  They purchased an estate that had vineyards planted with local Rhône varietals, but also Sauvignon Blanc, which is not native to the region.  With Cyril having worked for so many years with the grape in Bordeaux, and his belief that these were very good Sauvignon Blanc vines, he continued to make two white wine from these grapes.

He makes an unoaked version labelled “Classic” and this version, which is fermented and aged in small French oak barrels, 50% new, and 50% second use.

This is a really beautiful wine that truly out-Bordeaux’s most White Bordeaux.  It has continued to get better since I first began carrying it over a year ago.  It offers really pretty aromatics of citrus, pineapple skin, and spice.  There is a sense of weight on the palate that never feels too heavy, but gives it presence.  It finishes long and continues to get more complex with each day.

A wine like this has particular serving suggestions.  First, make sure you don’t serve it too cold.  If refrigerating, make sure you give it 15-20 minutes to come back to temperature.  I also believe that decanting for that period of time is helpful.  You also want to make sure you match it with the right food.  It can handle richness such as cow’s milk cheeses and even foie gras torchon.  It also works with oilier fishes such as mackerel.  If going with meat, veal is an excellent match.

This is not going to be like 99% of the Sauvignon Blancs you’ve tried in the past, but that is what is so great about it.  You can drink this now, or hold on to it for 2-4 more years.  I’ve lowered the price by a couple dollars so that I could offer it in this sampler.  You need to try this!
$25.00 BTL. / $150.00 SIX-PACK CASE – NORMALLY $28.00 / BTL.


2007 Laffitte-Teston Madiran “Vieilles Vignes”
Yes, there is a very French feel to this month’s sampler.  Maybe it’s the rain that makes me think of Paris, or maybe it’s the change in temperature that makes me crave classic French bistro fare.

It doesn’t get any more French than this wine from Southern Gascony in the Southwest corner of France.  I have a theory that this wine is what all French wine tasted like 40 years ago.

This super-classic bistro wine is made from the humble Tannat grape variety.  You don’t find that varietal in too many places in the world, although some of you Perman  Wine Selections devotees might have seen it come from Uruguay.

Classic Madiran such as this is made from the relatively rustic, thick skinned Tannat.  Historically it sees a long maceration period and is meant to have a few years of bottle age on it before consumption.

This example comes from one of the best Madiran producers, a producer I’ve worked with for many years named Laffitte-Teston.  For this cuvée, Jean-Marc Laffitte uses 70 year-old Tannat vines from limestone and clay vineyards along the left back of the River Adour.  A 21-day maceration gives the wine great structure and longevity.  Aging in oak, helps give it the oxygen it needs.

With a little bottle age on it, this wine is beginning to show great, although I would give it a little time in a decanter or big glasses if possible.  Brooding, dark fruits, pepper and tobacco spice can be found on the nose and palate.  Structured, with medium-body and a dusting of tannins this is not the type of wine you just have a glass of while watching television.

Dust off your favorite Julia cookbook or one of my all-time favorite books called “Country Cooking of France” by Anne Willan and make a soulful, rustic French country dish and uncork a bottle of this Madiran!

Get in the DeLorean because your going to be transported back 40 years ago to France!
$18.00 BTL. / $216.00 CASE



2008 Viña Sastre “Flavus” Vino de Mesa
Thought you had tried everything from Viña Sastre?  Yes, it’s true, ever since I got back from my trip to Spain in September, and my visit with Jesus Sastre, I’ve been spreading the gospel about his wines.

On my visit, we had a chance to walk through some of the vineyards.  In one of the vineyards, interspersed between the old-vine Tempranillo are 70 year-old Jaén vines.  Never heard of this grape, neither had I. Sastre believes it is related to the Palomino grape found in Southern Spain in Jerez.

Jesus had never really done anything with the old-vines as he was a red wine producer, and what was he going to do with this tiny amount of white grapes?  His friend, Gerardo Mendez, one of Spain’s greatest Albariño producers, offered assistance in order to make Flavus.  Being that Jaén is not a permitted varietal in Ribera del Duero, the wine is simply labelled Vino de Mesa.

When I returned from my trip, I realized that there may still be some of the 2008 Flavus at the local distributor.  It seemed to me in my tastings in Spain, that an extra year in bottle would bring out a lot of complexity.  So I gave the 2008 a try for the first time in more than a year.

All I can say is wow! This is a super-cool (a scientific term) white wine!  It has still retained many of the citrus qualities that had made it oh so refreshing before, but also is loaded with subtle mineral nuances, herbs and a long, almost briny finish.  This is a wine that has clearly evolved in a good way, and will most likely continue to do so.  But why wait?

Time to shuck some oysters, and grab a glass of Flavus!
$15.00 BTL. / $180.00 case – NORMALLY $20.00 / BTL.

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