Collector’s Club – October 2009

2008 Buty Winery, Sémillon, Sauvignon and Muscadelle — When we’re asked what our favorite winery in Washington is (?!?), we find it impossible to pick just one, but without a doubt, Buty is always on the short list. Vintage after vintage, winemaker Caleb Foster and his wife, Nina Buty Foster, produce some of the most elegant, balanced, sophisticated, yet approachable wines in the state. They have been making a Bordeaux-style white blend since 1991. The crisp Sauvignon and aromatic Sémillon naturally compliment each other, and the addition of Muscadelle perfects the perfume. Caleb carefully vinifies each of the grapes in this blend separately to derive the optimum texture and aroma. The result: a wine with a lovely floral nose, creamy texture and crisp, clean palate, ageable for up to 10 years. (Caleb notes that the wines may show tartrate crystals if refrigerated, but believes that their white wines taste superior when produced with minimal manipulation.) This one is $25 and perfect for seafood or, as Caleb and Nina suggest: mushroom-filled ravioli and Thanksgiving fare, such as turkey and root vegetable dishes.

2006 Ehlers Estate, Merlot — As they say, You Gotta Have Heart. And heart is something Ehlers Estate is passionate about. This Napa winery is owned by the Leducq Foundation, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to funding international cardiovascular research (note the heart embraced in the “E” on the label). Ehlers produces a small portfolio of exceptional wines, all from their estate vineyards, which are cultivated using organic and biodynamic practices, and 100 percent of the profits go to support the foundation. We featured their 2005 Meritage in the February, 2008 club. This month we’re pleased to present their Merlot, an enticing, rich, and balanced wine, with just the right blend of fine tannins and silky texture. Although it is listed at $45 on the winery’s website, we were able to put it in the club at a not-so-heart-stopping $29.75. It is drinking well now, or could certainly be cellared for two to three years, then enjoyed with a nice fall meal.

NV Va Piano Vineyards, Bruno’s Blend V — You’ve seen Bruno before. This wine is made by Justin Wylie, of Walla Walla’s Va Piano Vineyards, and is dedicated to his former art teacher, Father Bruno Segatta. Like the IV (the wines are non-vintage) Bruno’s Blend V is predominately Syrah, sourced from some of the top Washington vineyards, and it bursts with red fruits and cherry, backed by good minerality and balanced acidity. Perfect for sharing over a meal of pasta Bolognese, lamb chops, or beef stew with your friends around the table. We have found that this wine tends to benefit from a bit of time in the bottle, so you might consider saving it for a winter meal. The price has remained the same as last year, $23, and a portion of the proceeds goes to support Father Bruno’s humanitarian work around the world.

2007 Ventana Vineyards, Gold Stripe Chardonnay — Ventana produces wines from their estate vineyard in the Arroyo Seco AVA in Salinas Valley, just inland from Monterey. Here, the cool breezes off the ocean drift in from Monterey Bay, moderating the climate and prolonging the growing season, allowing the grapes to develop more concentrated flavors and better acidity. We found their Gold Stripe Chardonnay to be a lovely, affordable ($15) California Chard that isn’t overly oaked, and shows a good balance of lively, tropical fruit, and richness. Very food friendly. Try it with crab, a scallop risotto, or an apple-spiced pork roast.

2008 Domaine du Couron, Marselan — This is the third year we’ve featured this wine in our Collector’s Club, but we’re guessing no one out there is collecting a vertical of Marselan. It’s just too easy to enjoy while it’s young, and it’s not an ager anyway. But we’re delighted that it’s been such a hit. Marselan, a cross between Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache (not a blend), is grown in only a handful of vineyards in the world, mostly in the Languedoc region. This one is from the Côteaux de l’Ardèche in the Rhône region and the new vintage is still only $11. It has nice body and fruit from the Cabernet side of the family, with a rustic earthiness that makes it a very versatile food wine. It’s ready to drink now and would be a great partner for rustic food, meat dishes, or appetizers.

NV Fossi Rosso, Vino da Tavola Rosso — One look at this wine, and you know its home is in a little taverna, somewhere on the back roads of Italy, or on your table, with a casual meal of spaghetti, lasagna, or a homemade pizza. It looks like it’s from another time or place, where wine was simply meant to be quaffed and shared with good friends. No pondering or pontificating necessary. To note that it is medium-bodied, with a nice, spicy nose, good ripe fruit, and balanced acidity, seems to be overthinking it. It’s simply a good, affordable (only $7) vino da tavola, that we were able to get a fair amount of and loved for its unassuming charm, and pure enjoyability. It’s ready to drink anytime, and we have more, but when it’s gone, it’s gone.