Collector’s Club – June 2008

2007 Waters, Viognier — We’ve featured Jamie Brown’s wines in our clubs a number of times over the years, usually in the Washington Club. We’ve always loved his reds, both from his days with James Leigh Cellars, and more recently, with his new home, Waters Winery. This is Jamie’s second year producing Viognier, his first foray into white wine, and we were totally smitten at first sip. It has the inviting fruit of Viognier, with a great backbone of acidity and freshness at the same time. Serve it cold, as a classy summer sipper, or at cellar temperature, where it will really show off its complexity and pair well with food. This one is completely sold out at the winery, but we might be able to get a bit more into the shop. It’s $22 and ready to enjoy on its own, with appetizers, or other light fare.

2004 Alma Negra, Bonarda-Malbec — This line is named Alma Negra (“dark soul”) to honor the “unexplored depths of beauty in the shadows of our souls;” the dark, mysterious side of beauty. And this wine definitely has a dark side—dark fruit, that is. It’s seductive and beguiling with lots of cherry and spice, and a bit of new oak. The blend is 60% Bonarda and 40% Malbec. It’s pretty limited in production and we were able to get just enough for the club, at $22. Pair with hearty stews, grilled meat.

2004 Craggy Range, Te Kahu Red — “Te Kahu” is a native Maori word meaning “the cloak,” describing the mists that settle in the valley around the Craggy Range winery in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand. All Craggy Range wines are single-vineyard and this one is sourced from the Gimblett Gravels, a district that is unusually warm and dry for New Zealand and surprisingly well suited to growing Bordeaux varietals, such as in this blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Master of Wine Steve Smith, winemaker at Craggy Range, is on nearly every short list of top influential people in world of wine. First class winemaker—first class terroir; you can’t go wrong. We love the complexity in this wine, though it’s still a bit tight. Decanting and time help soften it and bring out its layered flavors, but a year or two in bottle (the winery suggests 7 to 10 years!) would really mellow this one out. We can probably get more, at $23. It cries out for food, especially red meats or other substantial dishes.

2006 Château Graville-Lacoste, Graves Blanc — In simple terms, white Bordeaux combines the rich, depth of Semillion with the crisp acidity of Sauvignon Blanc. But the result is rarely simple. In fact, like this one, the result can be stunningly complex and inviting. Château Graville-Lacoste dates back to 1802 and is located in Graves, south of the city of Bordeaux. Winemaker Hervé Dubourdieu also produces sweet wines (in Barsac, just south of Graves) and he blends some of the Semillon from his Barsac vines into his dry Graves wines, giving them an enticing richness and texture that makes them unique among most Bordeaux whites. At $18 we sold an entire case of this one at our Thursday tasting but we hope to be able to keep it in stock. Graves whites, with their crisp minerality, go especially well with shellfish or with cheeses or appetizers. Or enjoy with a sunset. Ready to drink anytime.

2005 Santa Martina, Toscana Rosso — Here’s a tasty little Italian blend, 40% Sangiovese, 20% Merlot, 20% Cabernet and 20% Syrah, from the Maremma region of Tuscany. The family has centuries of winemaking tradition behind it, though this wine is relatively modern in style. Father and son, Ambrogio and Giovanni Folonari, also have a local connection: they are the same Folonaris who create the Saggi Italian blend for the Longshadows project in Walla Walla. A completely different animal, this one’s also a fraction of the cost, at $9.75. Smooth and full-bodied, with a bit of earthiness and spice, this wine, they say, is a “product of tradition and innovation; a marriage of cultures.” Have it anytime. With Italian food.

2006 Crow Canyon, Syrah — This wine flew out the door at our Thursday night club tasting. There are two reasons for this: one, it’s a full-bodied, tasty, well-made Syrah and, two, it’s only six freakin’ dollars! What’s not to love? Of course, we don’t just shop price—every wine we bring in has to justify itself on every level, even more so club wines. And this one is no exception. It hails from San Martin, south of San Francisco and delivers a lot of flavor at a sweet price. This is one to enjoy soon, on its own, or with just about anything. It should be in good supply for a while.