Collector’s Club – March 2009

2006 Abeja, Cabernet Sauvignon — If you need a reminder of just how highly we regard Abeja wines, just look back through past club notes: we’ve featured their Cab in the Collector’s Club every spring for the past four years (since their third vintage). And even though this one is still young (winemaker John Abbott says it will be at its best in three years, lasting a further ten or so) it was showing beautifully at our Thursday tasting. To our surprise and delight, John dropped in that night (when we were pouring this wine and his equally gorgeous Chardonnay) and stayed to chat for the evening. Once again we were reminded that, in addition to being hands-down one of the best winemakers in Washington, he is also one of the nicest in the biz. His 2006 Cab is $43.75 and is very limited. If you’d like more, let us know as soon. John’s suggested food pairings: ginger-beef salad or grilled pork chop with a root vegetable gratin.

2006 Michele Chiarlo, Barbera d’Asti — We seem to be in the midst of a wine tour of Italy—in January we featured two Sangiovese-based Tuscan wines, and last month we took you to the southern heel of Italy, with a Zinfandel (Primitivo). This month we head north, with this Barbera from Piedmont. It is 100% Barbera, a red grape with great acidity, but very low tannin that produces excellent food wines in this region of Italy, especially near the towns of Alba and, as in this one, Asti. According to the winemaker, Michele Chiarlo, 2006 was an excellent year for his vines, producing wines of intense color and aromas and extraordinary balance. At $13, this one is an excellent match for meat or poultry. It’s in good supply and ready to be enjoyed now, or over the next few years.

2007 Château Mayne-Vieil, Fronsac — Fronsac is a red wine appellation in Bordeaux, on the right bank of the Dordogne River. It is a beautiful region with a rich history and Château Mayne-Vieil is one of the leading properties, dating back to the sixteenth century. The right bank wines of Bordeaux are predominantly Merlot-based. This one has 10% Cabernet Franc blended in, adding structure and grip to the rich Merlot. Even though this wine is a 2003, it still has plenty of tannins and could age for another five years or so though, given a bit of air, it is drinking well now. We bought up all that was left of this one, at $14.75 and we have a bit left. Enjoy it with beef, lamb, game, or strong cheeses.

2004 Château La Condamine Bertrand, Clairette du Languedoc — Lesson One: Clairette is not to be confused with Claret, a term originally used by the English to refer to red Bordeaux wines. Clairette, or more accurately, Clairette Blanche, is a white grape variety commonly grown in southern France. (Advanced course: Clairette Ronde is a local name for the grape Ugni Blanc; and the grape Bourbelanc has several common names that incorporate the term Clairette). But all of this is way more complex than this uncomplicated, yet flavorful offering from Condamine Bertrand. It is dry and refreshing, with soft floral notes and pleasant body, perfect for seafood, chicken or tapas and ready to be enjoyed now. We bought up all that was left and were able to offer it in the club at $12. We have some left, but when it’s gone, it’s gone.

2006 Mano a Mano, La Mancha — Looking for a yummy, full-bodied quaffer to pair with your mid-week pasta or pizza? Try this Tempranillo from La Mancha, in the heart of Spain. La Mancha is yet another region long known for mass-produced, rather mediocre wines. But all that is left of that era is an outdated reputation and, lucky for us, great prices. This old-vine Tempranillo, grown in premium vineyards, is a case in point. It offers lots of dark fruit and great depth and complexity, all for a mere $8. It is the personal project of Spanish wine importer Jorge Ordoñez, right down to the label, which was designed by his children. It’s ready to enjoy any time and should be in good supply for a while.

2006 Savanha, Steen (Chenin Blanc) — Our second white this month is a Chenin Blanc from the Stellenbosch wine district, in the Western Cape of South Africa. This Chenin Blanc (a grape locally known as Steen) is made in all stainless steel, resulting in a fresh, crisp wine with soft, tropical fruit and a pleasant finish. Best now, or over the next few years, it would be great with tapas, cheese, or pasta and is in good supply at $9.75. It was popular at our tasting: there was much lively debate over which of the white wines was the best—as far as we could tell, both had an equal number of ardent fans. Judge for yourself!