Collector’s Club – December 2008

2006 Naches Heights Vineyard, Two Dancers — We’ve been big fans of Naches Heights Vineyard wines ever since owner Phil Cline first poured them for us a few years back. We love how the high elevation of his vineyards produces such expressive wines. In fact, this unique site is slated to become Washington’s tenth appellation sometime in 2009. But enough background. Phil recently tasted us on his first red blend, this “Two Dancers,” 80 percent Tempranillo and 20 percent Syrah, and we were blown away by its flavor and true varietal character. This is a tasty bottle of wine, for $19.75, to enjoy with spaghetti, red meat, or any tomato dishes. Popular at the club tasting it is drinking well now but if you can wait, it will develop even more over the next six months to a year. We can probably get more.

2006 Antonio Sanguinetti, Caruso — Antonio Sanguineti’s wines are quite familiar to our club members. For this wine, named after the famed tenor, Caruso, winemaker and opera-lover Sanguineti brought together three of his winemaking friends from far-flung reaches of Italy to produce a unique “super-Italian” blend. Giuseppe Lonardi in the north, Alessandro Bocci in Tuscany, and Giuseppe Martorana in Sicily, (familiar shop names themselves) have each contributed to this blend of Corvina, Rondinella, Nero d’Avola, Sangiovese and Syrah (full details on the bottle). Sound wacky? Small Vineyards calls it a “baby Amarone” meets “baby Super Tuscan” meets Sicilian Nero d’Avola. It could use a bit of time for the flavors to knit together or you can decant it, as we did at the club tasting, and enjoy it now, with Italian fare (of course) or whatever your creativity dictates. It’s $18 and in very limited supply.

2006 Compagnia di Ermes, Cesanese di Olevano Romano — We first introduced this uncommon wine in last year’s club, and it’s still as fun to drink as it is to say (“chay-za-NAY-zay”). Cesanese is an indigenous grape in the Lazio region of Italy, best known as home to the capital city of Rome. Winemaker Mariano Mampieri believes that this grape can be the Pinot Noir of central Italy, though it produces a much more robust wine, for sure. Cesanese is known for its flavor of spicy peppers and notes of currants and figs, perfect for hearty Italian pasta, meat dishes, or Mediterranean fare. This wine is still only $14, and can be enjoyed now or over the next few years. It should be available for a while.

2007 Martorana, Insolia — When we featured this wine in the December 2007 club, Insolia was another unfamiliar grape to most of us. But customers have kept asking for more, so we know this one is the hit we expected. You may recall the story of Sicilian winemaker Giuseppe Martorana from previous notes, detailing how, as the local police officer, he is able to make wine on his own terms, in an area where the Mafia often dictates practice. The results speak for themselves. Martorana’s Insolia, a grape grown primarily in Sicily, is full-bodied and aromatic, with great acidity—perfect for fish, fowl or fettuccini. Although only 275 cases were made it should be in decent supply for a while, at $16.

2006 Casa de la Ermita, Viognier — The second white in the club this month is a Viognier from the Jumilla region in southeastern Spain. The winery is relatively young, founded in 1999, but the family has a long history in local agriculture. The grapes for this wine are grown at relatively high elevation (around 2200 feet) ensuring excellent levels of acidity for this crisp, clean Viognier. This is a versatile wine, to enjoy soon (it’s not really built for aging) with fish, seafood, salads, cheese or fried foods. We bought up all that was left so, at $9.75, when it’s gone, it’s gone.

2005 Château Val Joanis, Côtes du Luberon — To finish off this month’s club, we include this Syrah Grenache blend from the Côtes du Luberon. There seems to be no end to the supply of great values from the south of France, and this wine is yet one more delicious example. Château Val Joanis is located east of Avignon in the southern Rhône Valley (on the site of an ancient Roman villa, no less!). It’s a big, powerhouse of a wine, but very approachable now, with lots of dark fruit and spicy white pepper. It’s $19.75 and would be a great addition to a holiday meal, or to pair with lamb, chicken or cassoulet.