2005 Parmi, L’Esperit de Porerra Priorat
While the Priorat is the most exclusive and elegant wine region in Spain, we have rarely been able to offer its top wines in this club. The wines from Clos Martinet or Cims de Porerra, to name the two best, are both too expensive and just too limited for the club. So we were overjoyed to find that our good friends at Small Vineyards have found a new winery that can make wines at the same level of quality as the elite winemakers of the region. The young Italian owners of Parmi have hired Christian Patat, a highly respected enologist from the Friuli, to bring a north Italian perspective to the winemaking and the care of their century-old vineyards. Here in the steep Porerra, the heart of the Priorat, the soil is thick, flaky schist, literally packed with iron and minerals. With the heavy marine influence, blistering days and cool nights, this moonscape is suitable only for grapes, not even grass. The Garnacha and Carinena grapes are picked individually, not in bunches, and then fermented in French oak and aged in a clean, modern winery. The result is a wine of searing intensity, with an amazing nose of iron and flowers, robust, earthy and elegant. Its high acidity makes it a great match with rich foods: duck or game fowl comes to mind. Production was only 300 cases, so supply is extremely limited. A relative bargain for the Priorat at $60, it will continue to evolve for at least another five to ten years.
2005 Qupe, Roussanne “Bien Nacido Hillside Estate”
While we have consistently enjoyed Qupe’s Syrahs, we were stunned when we tasted this incredible Roussanne. The thick-skinned Roussanne grape is notoriously difficult to work with in the winery, and the previous California bottlings we have tried were flabby and lacked acidity. With the help of Jim Clendenen from the neighboring Au Bon Climat, owner Bob Lindquist planted in 1997 a special five-acre site within their Bien Nacido Vineyard with the Beaucastel clone of Roussanne. The west-facing hillside gets plenty of sun during the day, ensuring enough ripeness for the grapes in the normally quite cool Santa Maria Valley. As you might expect from Jim’s participation, the vineyard is farmed according to biodynamic principles. The wine underwent malolactic fermentation, was aged on its lees for a full twelve months, and was then returned to once-used French oak barrels for another four months before release. Not surprisingly the wine is very rich yet also quite clean and pure; it explodes with minerals, honey, nuts, citrus and floral notes. Enjoy it now with roast blackfish with capers and tarragon, or follow Bob’s recommendation to cellar it for up to ten years. It costs only $35 and we can still get a little bit more.