NV Va Piano, Bruno’s Blend II — One of the highlights of Bear’s Thanksgiving visit to Walla Walla last year was meeting Father Bruno Segatta, a painter and former assistant dean at Gonzaga for 23 years. For the past few years, Father Bruno has offered assistance to needy Third World families by selling his paintings. His former student Justin Wylie of Va Piano Vineyards made this lively, ready-to-drink blend of Syrah, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon to provide financial support for Bruno’s charitable endeavors. Full-bodied and packed with dark fruit flavors, this wine pairs well with hearty beef stew, grilled lamb, and beef tenderloin with gorgonzola glaze. It’s $23.00 and extremely limited, due to the 2004 freeze in Walla Walla.
2005 Strele, Soave – Since the Soave region of northwestern Italy has gotten a reputation for producing bland, industrial white wines, I was very surprised when I tasted this outstanding gem unearthed by our friend Matt Mabus. While most producers dilute the tasty grape Garganega with large amounts of the bland Trebbiano, this wine is 100% Garganega. Balanced and full-bodied, with subtle citrus flavors, it would complement traditional Venetian dishes like sea bass, cured ham, and vegetable minestrone soup. It’s $15.00, and we can get a bit more.
2005 Tamarack Cellars, Cabernet Franc – Our friend Ron Coleman has come up with another winner here, a standout wine in a lineup of seven terrific new releases. Based at the Walla Walla Airport, Tamarack Cellars wines are always lively, fun, and great accompaniment to grilled meats. This is Ron’s favorite wine, almost all Cab Franc, with a little Merlot added for smoothness. It has lots of ripe red plum and bright cherry fruit and is very food-friendly and full bodied with sweet tannins and a hint of chocolate cherries. It’s a good value at $25.00, and still in good supply.
2005 Chateau L’Ermitage, Costieres de Nimes – This lovely Rhone Valley white, a blend of Rousanne, Marsanne, and Viognier, really stood out among the other inexpensive wines we tasted this month for its terrific tropical and peach flavors, wonderful aromas, and food-friendly crispness. Michel and Jerome Castillon’s chateau is in an old 11th century abbey, and they make all their wines from their own 400 hectare estate. Enjoy the wine with a nice chicken salad on the deck on the first day of spring! It’s only $9.75, and we can get quite a bit more.
2005 Writer’s Block, Syrah Lake County – Here’s a wine where reading the label, while entertaining, reveals little about the wine, which is made by Quincy Steele, Jed Steele’s son, at their winery in Kelseyville. Aged in about 30% new oak, this Syrah is delightfully soft and restrained, with nice aromas and flavors of coffee, dark fruits and tobacco. Try it with a plate of pasta, winter stew, or your favorite game. It’s $15.00, and there is a reasonable amount available.
2005 Bodegues J. Belda Ponsalet Monastrell Jove 2005 – Here’s another fun quaffer for your spring garden party! Young winemaker Daniel Belda makes this fresh, fruity Monastrell on his family’s estate just outside Valencia on Spain’s Mediterranean coast. “Jove” is the Catalan word for young, which means the wine has been released without the aging in oak characteristic of crianzas or reservas. Lighter and softer than most Monastrells from southern Spain, it’s just $7.00, limited in availability, and would go well with roast pork or rosemary chicken.