Collector’s Club – February 2009

2004 Domaine Les Pallières, Gigondas — Take a Gigondas family with a winemaking history dating back over 500 years, add a stellar Châteauneuf-du-Pape producer, and you get Domaine Les Pallières today. The estate was in decline when the Brunier family, of Vieux Télégraph fame, bought it in 1998, together with importer Kermit Lynch. They revitalized the historic estate and are once again producing outstanding Gigondas. This one is mostly Grenache, with Syrah, Mourvèdre and Cinsault, and it exudes dark cherry, soft tannins, and toasty garrigue. It is drinking well now, though it would benefit from another year or two in bottle, and could easily age for up to 15 years. We got a great deal on the last few cases in town and offer it in the club at $29.75. Enjoy it with fowl (especially duck) or lamb with provençal herbs.

2005 Yellow Hawk Cellar, Walla Walla Valley, Sangiovese — Winemaker Tim Sampson focuses on Italian varietals at his Walla Walla winery, Yellow Hawk Cellar. We have always thought that it is with his Sangiovese that he really shines, and for the 2005 vintage he has really outdone himself. Made from all Walla Walla fruit, this one has a wonderfully earthy nose and is remarkably Italian in style, even with 10% Syrah and a dash of Cabernet Sauvignon blended in. Luckily for us, Tim always manages to keep his wines reasonably priced, and this one is only $18.25. It’s in good supply and, while drinking well now, it could age for four to five years. As Tim suggests on the label, this one is a perfect match for tomato-based dishes, cheeses, roasted vegetables, or meat.

2005 Sinfarosa, Zinfandel — While the Sangiovese above is a Washington wine made from an Italian grape, this one is an Italian wine, made from a Californian grape. Isn’t Zinfandel the same as Primitivo? you ask. Well, as Gregory Perrucci explained when he poured this wine for us recently, he actually took Zinfandel rootstock from Ridge’s Geyserville Vineyard, in California, back to Puglia to plant in the native soil there. Perrucci is the founder of Accademia del Racemi, a project created to study the indigenous grapes and soils in Puglia and to help local growers and producers improve and promote the local wines. The Accademia is also the only non-American member of ZAP (Zinfandel Advocates and Producers) in California. Enjoy a taste of Puglia with this trans-continental wine, paired with sausages, grilled meat, or pasta. It’s $19.25 and should be in good supply.

2007 Westrey, Pinot Gris — Mention Oregon wine, and the first thing that no doubt comes to mind is Pinot Noir. This reputation is well earned, but Oregon also produces some fine Pinot Gris, case in point, this fine example from Westrey Wine Company. Amy Wesselman and David Autrey began Westry (get it?) in 1993. And now, these two former philosophy majors from Reed College produce a line-up of lovely, stylish wines at their winery in McMinnville. Their Pinot Gris is full of soft, pretty fruit, with a pleasant weight on the palate, and a long finish. Perfect for rich foods, like lobster or scallops, or even with spicy or strongly flavored fare. It’s $16 and should be in good supply for a while.

2006 Durigutti, Bonarda — We’ve enjoyed the Durigutti Malbec on our shelf for some time now, so we were excited to try the Bonarda from this same winery, run by brothers Pablo and Héctor Durigutti. We were even more excited when we found that this big, dark, spicy red wine was only $11. There is still some confusion over Bonarda: it is very similar to the Dolcetto grape of Italy’s Piedmont region, and several Italian wines use Bonarda in their names. In any case, in Argentina, Bonarda has long been almost as widely planted as Malbec and, though once used mostly as a blending grape, it makes a rich, satisfying wine on its own. This one’s ready to drink now, with pasta, earthy risotto, or meat dishes.

2006 Reserve St. Martin, Chardonnay — Here’s a recession buster for sure: a Chardonnay from the south of France that is smooth and balanced, rich and aromatic, and will set you back a mere $9. What’s not to love? It hails from Les Vignerons du Val d’Orbieu, an association of small producers in the Languedoc-Roussillon region, created to enable its member winemakers to produce their unique wines and, regardless of the size of production, get them into the marketplace. Reserve St. Martin is one of their flagship wines and was a huge hit at our Thursday tasting. We hope you enjoy this one as much as we do.