Collector’s Club – October 2008

2006 Lost River, Nebbiolo — This label is becoming a familiar face in our Collector’s Club. We’ve featured winemaker John Morgan’s Merlot-based Cedarosa and, last November, we presented his first Nebbiolo. We loved it then, and find this second vintage even more delightful. It has the classic tar and violet flavors of the Nebbiolo grape, but manages to be delicate and soft at the same time, without the powerhouse tannins of a Piedmontese Nebbiolo. Plus, this one is ready to drink now. Enjoy it with game, pork, or rustic mushroom dishes. Even though John produced more of this vintage, only six cases came to Seattle—all to West Seattle Cellars, and most of it into the club, at $22—so when it’s gone, it’s gone.

2005 Inama, Carmenère Più — Today most people associate Carmenère with Argentina or Chile, where it produces wines of great color and depth. Originally, though, Carmenère was one of the official blending grapes in Bordeaux, until it was almost entirely wiped out by phylloxera in the mid-1800s. This Carmenère, however, hails from northern Italy, from Inama Azienda Agricola, a relatively young estate in the heart of the Veneto. Più, Italian for “more,” refers to the addition of Merlot and Raboso Veronese (a local variety sought for its acidity and solid tannins). The result is a wine with lots of big, dark fruit, firm tannins, and a nice finish. It could use another year or two to develop, or decanting if you wish to enjoy it now. It’s still in good supply, at $17, and would be great with salami, strong cheeses or pizza.

2006 Bastianich, Tocai Friulano — Joe Bastianich’s life is all about food and wine. His mother is chef Lidia Bastianich, cookbook author and long-time TV cooking show host. Together with her and chef Mario Batali, he owns numerous Italian restaurants in New York and beyond. Somehow he manages to fit winemaking into the mix and we are big fans of his wines. This white is made from Tocai Friulano, a widely planted grape in the Friuli region of northeast Italy. It is no relation to either the sweet Tokaji from Hungary or to Tokay d’Alsace, which is made from Pinot Gris. To eliminate all this confusion, the wine laws have been changed and this is the last vintage that will allow the word “Tocai” on the label. Collector’s item? You be the judge. As for the wine, it is wonderfully aromatic, with an intriguing hint of nuttiness. It would be perfect with fish, prosciutto, veal or even Asian cuisine. We bought up the all of the remaining bottles in Seattle and we have a bit left, at $18. It’s ready to enjoy now.

2005 Jean Pierre Gaussen, Vin de Pays du Mont-Caume — This wine comes from the Bandol AOC in Provence where Mourvèdre is the dominant grape. The warm Mediterranean climate here is perfect to ripen this grape reliably and this “baby Bandol,” from Jean Pierre Gaussen, is a great example of what Mourvèdre can become. It’s full of spicy, earthy flavors, yet rich and full-bodied, and its modest 13% alcohol level makes it very approachable. It was showing great at our Thursday tasting, but it would benefit from a bit more time in the bottle. It is $17 and there is still some available. Provençal foods are famed for bringing out the best in the local wines. Try it with aioli, bouillabaisse, ratatouille, or tapenade.

2007 Domaine de Pouy, Côtes de Gascogne — We’ve featured this wine in the club before, but it’s such a refreshingly light and aromatic wine that we couldn’t resist sharing the new vintage. The Grassa family has been making wine since 1912, in the foothills of the Pyrenees, about two hours southwest of Bordeaux. Winemaker Yves Grassa is known as a rulebreaker, incorporating those crazy, technologically advanced techniques into his winemaking. But the results speak for themselves. His Côtes de Gascogne, a blend of Ugni Blanc (aka Trebbiano in Italy) and Colombard, is light, well-balanced and, at only 10.5% alcohol, very, very easy to enjoy, with appetizers, seafood, chicken or just as an aperitif. Drink it now, or over the next year. It is still in good supply at $11.

2007 Domaines Astruc, Carignan — d’Astruc is located in the Languedoc region, south of Carcassonne. At one time Carignan was one of the most planted varietals in France. It was not the most respected grape however, and much of it has been uprooted to make way for less difficult varieties. But Carignan from old vines, grown in sufficiently warm climates can show great complexity and character. This one comes from 60-year-old vines, planted in the shelter of the Pyrenees and influenced by both Atlantic and Mediterranean breezes. It was very popular at our Thursday tasting, for its spicy, rustic flavor, and for its value, as it clocks in at only $9.75. It’s in good supply and ready to drink now, with bean stew, game, or hearty peasant food.