A quick reminder that I will be traveling to Oregon on Thursday morning. I will have a couple of good friends, who happen to be very wine savvy, watching the store for me while I’m gone. The store will have the following abbreviated hours:
Thursday, January 14th – 4pm till 8 pm
Friday, January 15th – Closed
Saturday, January 16th – 1 pm – 8 pm
Monday, January 18th – Closed
Tuesday, January 19th – 4 pm – 8 pm
Wednesday, January 20th – 5:30 pm – 9 pm – Back in the store as soon as I land.
I will report back with all of my discoveries. In the meantime, I will be checking and trying to answer e-mails while I am gone. So if you have wine emergencies, please let me know!
2005 MARCEL DEISS “ENGELGARTEN”
Tough food parings – check. Wines with amazing layers of complexity – check. Wines that just taste good every sip of the bottle – check again.
The fact is the white wines of Alsace rarely get their due respect these days. I can list plenty of reasons why this may be, but towards the top of the list would be the fact that there is a lot of confusion about the amazing array of flavors that different bottles from the region will show.
Marcel Deiss has for a long time been known as one of the top winemakers of the region, as well as one of its free thinkers. He too realized the complications of the regions wines, and a few years back he began to bottle field blends from specific Premier Cru and Grand Cru vineyard sites. The thought process is that no matter what varietal is planted in the particular vineyard, it will show site specificity first and then the grape second.
Farming at the estate has been organic for over twenty years, and biodynamic since 1997. While yields across Alsace can be too high, Deiss crops his grapes half of the average yields of his neighbors, and even more on certain wines. To say great care goes into making these wines is an understatement.
Engelgarten is a Premier Cru rated vineyard situated just south of the village of Bergheim. Deiss refers to the soil composition as a “magnificent Graves area.” With its gravelly soil and excellent drainage this vineyard excels in the production of Riesling. Deiss also has Pinot Gris, Muscat and Pinot Noir planted in Engelgarten, and it is a blend of these that makes up this wine.
I tasted the wine last week and was once again reminded about how truly special the Deiss wines are. In ’05 this wine carries a hint of sweetness on the tip of the tongue which will disappear with a couple years bottle aging or when paired with food.
“The 2005 Engelgarten offers a ripe nose of apple jelly, orange liqueur, and jellied red fruits. Lush and liqueur-like – indeed, quite dramatically rich – but underlain with sufficient springs of acidity and chalky mineral substrate that its sweetness never gains the upper hand in a long finish, this should improve for at least 5-7 years. 91 Points, David Schildknecht, The Wine Advocate.”
$38.99 BTL. / $467.88 CASE – SPECIAL OFFER AVAILABLE – CONTACT CRAIG
2006 BLACK SHEEP FINDS “GENUINE RISK” CABERNET SAUVIGNON
I’m often tested when it comes to finding good value California Cabernet that is not “factory made.” Let’s face it, if you are going to buy an under $20 Cabernet from Napa Valley, chances are it will have been made in giant quantities, and there is also the probability that it will be engineered by a team of winemakers to fit into a flavor profile deemed enjoyable by the general public.
Yet Cabernet Sauvignon from California doesn’t just have to come from Napa right? There are other regions these days that are able to make hand made Cabernet Sauvignon at prices made for daily consumption.
This great discovery is from Peter Hunken and Amy Christine of Black Sheep Finds. Two wines are produced from California, a delicious Syrah value ($16.99 – also available) and their “Genuine Risk” Cabernet Sauvignon.
This is sourced fruit from a vineyard in the Santa Ynez Valley, east of Santa Barbara. The area of Happy Canyon use to be primarily horse and cattle grazing country, and in the last few years, vineyards have become more prominent. Hillside slopes are planted to multiple varieties, and “Genuine Risk” is a blend of 87% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Merlot, and 2% Petite Verdot. It is aged in barrel for 12 months.
Rich, fruit forward nose with a mix of red and black berry fruits and a hint of mint and spice. Medium bodied, with lush fruit, cocoa notes, and fresh cracked pepper. Despite its weight this remains fresh and easy to enjoy. This is also the type of Cabernet that will work well with food, as its oak or tannins aren’t dominant.
So you see it is still possible to have a 750 case production Cabernet from California selling for under $20 and made by real people with great soul! You are going to really enjoy this!
$18.99 BTL. / $227.88 CASE
2004 DOMAINE DE LA BONGRAN VIRÉ CLESSÉ “CUVÉE E.J. THEVENET”
White Burgundy fans, very exciting stuff is going on in the Mâconnais. This region was for a long time in the shadows of the northerly appellations of Meursault and Puligny-Montrachet, but thanks to some very dedicated growers such as Jean Thévenet of Domaine de la Bongran, wine fans may actually opt to look south first!
The Domaine de la Bongran estate is very old dating back to the 15th century. Jean and his son Gauthier look over the 15 hectares of Chardonnay vines meticulously. The vines are located on the Quintaine hills, very stony soils loaded with marl and limestone.
High yields and poor farming practices used to be the norm in the region, and still are unfortunately present today. The Thévenet’s only harvest at very low yields and only organically. Yet what really makes this estate different is the fact that they prefer to pick grapes very late in the season, often times with some botrytis on the vine. The wines slowly ferment with indigenous yeasts, sometimes this process last a year or even two. The wines are bottle aged and sold later than most, all for the express purpose of giving the drinker the opportunity to enjoy it in the right moment.
The ’04 “Cuvée EJ Thévenet” is an absolutely exotic and fascinating white wine with gorgeous aromatics combining ripe quince, pear, honey and mushroom. The wine on the palate is rich yet delicate, with waves of citrus fruit, spice and a building finish. This is delicious right now, but it will be interesting to see it evolve over a few years. Forget your pre-conceived notions about the wines of the Mâconnais, because this wine is as interesting of a Chardonnay as anything from
France that I have tasted in the last year. Drink now through 2014+.
$45.99 BTL. / $551.88 CASE
2005 TENUTA ARNULFO “COSTA DI BUSSIA” BAROLO
There are always generalizations that I make when talking about wine. One thing often said around the shop is that really good Barolo values start in the $45-$55 range. Now here comes the exception.
Located in Piedmont, Tenuta Arnulfo is a high quality producer that owns three separate estates. “Costa di Bussia” is the flagship winery of the group, with some estate vineyards founded in 1874. Many people lump producers of the region into either the traditional or the modern camp. Yet Tenuta Arnulfo is a hybrid, with a foot in both. Stainless steel tanks are used in vinification here, a nod to the modern. Maceration is also relatively short at 10 days. Yet the winery isn’t looking for extracted fruit, nor are they aging the wine in small new French oak. Instead the ’05 Barolo was aged for 26 months in large 3000 liter casks.
Their ’05 Barolo offers unheard of quality for the money in the famed region. Part of this is due to the fact that they are directly imported, and maybe part in the fact that they are relatively undiscovered. For any fan of Barolo, this amazing value is a must. Classic Nebbiolo notes of licorice, cherry, and leather on the nose lead in to a structured mouth full of red and black fruits, spice and fine tannins. This is powerful yet also wonderfully drinkable now. Barolo is one of the great food wines of the world, and it may be time to break out your favorite adaptation of beef braised in Barolo, for an ultimate winter treat! Drink now though 2015.
You won’t find a better Barolo value than this!
$33.99 BTL. / $407.88 CASE
2007 QUINTA DO NOVAL VINTAGE PORT
The world is excited about the ’07 Vintage Ports that are now being released and I can see why. A universal opinion of the greatness of a vintage is rarely seen among Port houses, but with the ’07 vintage, producers themselves are very excited.
The growing season was relatively cool, and very long, with perfect conditions toward the end ensuring for optimal ripeness. Another major reason producers were excited was that for the first time they didn’t have to buy the neutral grain spirit used to stop fermentation from the Portuguese government. My feeling is that this will lead to a huge variance in the quality of Ports, and help to produce Ports with balance that have never been tasted before.
Of all the famed Port houses, Quinta do Noval is a personal favorite. Located in the Upper Douro in the Pinhão Valley, its history dates back to 1715. What separates Quinta do Noval from some of the other Port houses are it prime vineyards in the valley. The house also enjoyed a resurgence in quality first under its old owner, António José da Silva, and now under the ownership of AXA Millésime, a large French insurance company. The sum of this resurgence includes a new winery, a huge replanting of part of the vineyards along with restoration of terraces, temperature controlled storage areas, and much more. Tradition still reigns in production methods, but the improvements in the last two decades have put Quinta do Noval at the top of the quality producers of the Douro.
This is a very exciting vintage, which you can certainly enjoy for its youthful exuberance, or age it in your cellar through 2040.
“Black ruby-purple color, one of the darkest colors of the vintage. Super ripe, high-pitched, rather brooding aromas of black and red berries, bitter chocolate, flowers and spices. Hugely rich, sweet and mouth filling yet at the same time savory, with uncanny verve for such a thick, silky wine; darker in character than the Silval. This saturates every millimeter of the palate with black fruit and spice flavors. Is any other 2007 this dense, deep and ripe? A wine of great intensity and persistence. 96 Points, Stephen Tanzer, International Wine Cellar.”
$83.99 BTL. / $1007.88 CASE
2006 FERRER BOBET PRIORAT “SELECCIÓ ESPECIAL”
Priorat deserves a place in the cellar of any wine lover. Priorat is an old growing region located in the province of Tarragona, southwest of Barcelona. Historically Grenache and Carignan are the most important varietals, with grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, and others permitted in the blends.
Having traveled to this region a few times, the general sense one gets while winding through the mountains along its treacherous curvy roads, is that you are clearly in a Mediterranean climate. Olive, almond and fruit trees dot the landscape, and fresh thyme and lavender poke their way through the dry, crumbled black slate known locally as llicorella. As the sun shines down late into the day the realization of how difficult it must be for the grapes to survive, let alone provide for graceful wines permeates.
The coolest sites in Priorat are the best for grape growing, and the best producers recognize the fragile nature of producing balanced wines. One producer that I know understands this fully is that of Ferrer Bobet. In 2002 two friends, Sergi Ferrer-Salat and Raül Bobet began to embark on the fulfillment of a dream. Purchasing vineyards, building a state of the art winery, they released their first wines, the 2005 vintage in 2008.
Having personally tasted dozens of producers over the past few years, visited many estates in the region, I can say wholeheartedly that these are some of the most exciting wines being made in the region.
Two wines are produced at Ferrer Bobet, with the top wine called Selecció Especial. This is a very special wine for the cellar. The inaugural release, 2005, is a blend of 85% Carignan, 10% Grenache and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. The Carignan vines are around 100-years old, leading to a wildly complex wine. I was one of the few who had the pleasure to taste this last week, and it was a no-brainer to put it in this week’s collector’s corner.
Really beautiful yet primary aromatics of red berries, red licorice, wild thyme and cocoa powder. Impressive palate presence with bright, high-toned red and black berries, an underlying mineral tone, soft tannins and a long finish with good balancing acidity. Delicious now although the oak is somewhat present. Give this a few years and drink it at its peak from 2014-2020.
$76.99 BTL. / $461.94 SIX-PACK CASE