Specialty Club – March 2009

2005 Capichera, Assajé
Sardinian wine in the Specialty Club? And 100% Carignano? Have we lost our minds? Well, no. This wine came to our attention from the good folks at the late, lamented Beato wine bar here in West Seattle, where it was the centerpiece of a wonderful flight of Sardinian wines. Almost every week in the fall, customers would come into the shop looking for the wine that had made their dinner so memorable. Upon hearing that it cost $60 per bottle, they would calmly order two bottles or more without blinking. Finally, we were able to try a bottle at Christmas and, after uttering many exclamations of pure pleasure, we ordered it for this club. It turns out that Capichera is one of Sardinia’s most prized wineries. Founded about 100 years ago in the Gallura region at the northern tip of Sardinia, the estate consists of Mediterranean scrubland, where the granite soil is molded by harsh northwest winds, a climate not unlike the fabled Priorat region of Spain. It’s a perfect climate for Carignan to develop into an elegant, spicy wine, intense and aromatic, ready to drink, with a long finish. Vinified in stainless steel vats to retain its high natural acidity, Assajé is a great match for stuffed pasta, goat cheese, and stewed and grilled meats, especially goat (Sardinia’s other major agricultural product). We have a bit more in the shop and, much to our surprise, we can still get more.

2007 Abeja, Chardonnay
Quite simply, this is the most interesting and complex white wine from the state of Washington we have ever tasted. The grapes are sourced from two star vineyards: Celilo in the Columbia Gorge, known for high acidity, and Conner Lee Vineyard, renowned for its minerality. John Abbott uses traditional Burgundian techniques to make the wine, notably barrel fermentation in larger, tight-grained French oak casks (half new, half one-year old), complete malolactic fermentation and aging sur lie. As a result, this Chardonnay is rich and full-bodied, yet it retains bright acidity. As we learned at our Thursday night tasting, at this point in the wine’s evolution the acidity can be a bit distracting on the sides of your tongue, so John recommends holding the wine for a couple of years. For food pairings, he recommends steamer clams, fish, chicken, pumpkin soup and even eggs scrambled with feta cheese and chives. It costs $38 and is in good supply, at least for the next month or so.

To our surprise and delight, John dropped in at the Thursday night tasting when we were pouring this wine and his equally gorgeous Cabernet 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.