2006 K Vintners, Motor City Kitty, Syrah — Ahh, Detroit. The Motor City. Motown. Cars. Bailouts. What’s it all got to do with wine? Who knows—this is K Vintners, from Charles Smith, man of mystery. And this wine is all Syrah and all Washington. The fruit is sourced from the Stoneridge Vineyard on the Wahluke Slope, the same vineyard Charles used for his highly-limited Heart, Skull, and Old Bones Syrahs (at over three times the price). This one is lush and hedonistic. It will scratch your couch, jump up on the counter and eat your fish dinner, then nuzzle your neck and purr til you succumb to its charms and love it all the more. Charles usually makes only two barrels of the M.C.K., reserved for visitors to his winery, but the 2006 vintage was so good, he bottled a bit more (4 barrels, about 100 cases). At $31 a bottle, it’s ready to drink now, but could develop for another year or two. What to drink it with? How about Coney dogs!
2007 Kyra, Dolcetto — Washington is well known for producing excellent Cabernet, Syrah, and Merlot, familiar grapes all. But locals have a great pioneering spirit, and there will always be plenty of viticultural experimenting. One result: the discovery that Italian varietals also do quite well here. Washington produces great Sangiovese, Barbera, and even Nebbiolo. And we were excited to discover this tasty Dolcetto from Kyra Wines, in Moses Lake. Owners Kyra and Bruce Baerlocher planted Dolcetto in their Purple Sage Vineyard on the Wahluke Slope, intending to blend it with their Sangiovese. But the first vintage came in with so much character they decided to release it on its own, as a single varietal. It’s full of dark, complex fruit and, like a good Dolcetto, it is light and easy to drink. Perfect for pasta, pizza or mushroom ravioli. It’s drinking well now, or could hold for a year or two, and is in decent supply, at $18.
2007 Domaine des Cassagnoles, Gros Manseng, Reserve Selection — The Cardeillac family has been producing wine in Cassagnoles, in the heart of Gascony, for several centuries. Gilles Baumann and Janine Cardeillac Baumann took over the family farm in 1974, back when the vineyards were producing primarily Armagnac, and quickly began to expand and diversify. They now produce a wide variety of wines, all from estate fruit. One is this white, from the Basque grape, Gros Manseng. Not exactly a household name, but more common than some of the other local varieties, such as Arrufiat, Camaralet and Petit Courbu. Crisp and minerally, yet rich and smooth, it’s ready to drink now, chilled, as an aperitif, or with goat cheese, fois gras, or fish dishes. A very versatile wine, at $13, it’s perfect for summer and in good supply.
2005 Domaine Sainte-Eugénie, Corbières — Domaine Sainte-Eugénie is located in the heart of the Corbières appellation, in the foothills of the Pyrénées, within shouting distance of the Mediterranean. The winery basks in the warm, sunny, dry climate of the Languedoc, as it has for about 800 years, its vineyards planted in the surrounding clay and chalk soils. Their Corbières Rouge is a blend of about 60% Carignan (from vines over 60 years old), with Grenache and Syrah (on 25- to 45-year-old vines). This wine is made from all free-run juice, a process that uses no pressing or crushing, yielding less juice, but typically a higher quality and less tannic wine. It’s a lot of wine for $13. Complex and clean, with velvety fruit and a smooth mouth feel, this one’s ready to enjoy now, with French country fare or Mediterranean cuisine. Or pizza.
2006 St. Hallett, Gamekeeper’s Reserve Blend, Shiraz–Grenache — What? More Syrah? Yes, but they’re all such different expressions of the grape we decided to go for it and call it a theme. This wine is from St. Hallett, in Australia, a winery dedicated to producing wines that are quintessentially Barossa in style. Their Gamekeeper’s Reserve is 72% Shiraz, 22% Grenache with a bit of the Portuguese grape, Touriga National, which adds a floral and spice finish to this vibrant, powerful wine. The winery uses no oak aging, but gives the wine extended lees contact, which imparts a rich texture and earthiness. It’s best drunk young and, at $12, it’s a great party wine, or accompaniment for a barbeque, antipasti, smoked meat, game or even duck.
2007 Cantina Tollo, Chardonnay, Terre di Chieti — Wine cooperatives (ventures owned jointly by their members, allowing them to pool winemaking and marketing resources) have never been our first choice as a source for quality wines. But sometimes it’s best not to be too dogmatic, lest one overlook that wonderful exception to the rule. Case in point: the highly-respected Abruzzi cooperative, Cantina Tollo. Even on a large scale, with 1200 partners, they manage to balance innovation with centuries-old traditions, producing well-made, varietally correct wines. In 1999 they became the first cooperative ever to win the coveted VinItaly Grand Award. Their Terre di Chieti Chardonnay is medium bodied, with nice ripe fruit on the nose and is perfect for pasta, fish or meat dishes, or with mature cheeses. It’s $9 and in good supply.