2003 La Perla Del Priorat, Clos les Fites — La Perla Del Priorat is one of Priorat’s oldest wineries, founded in the 15th century by Carthusian monks. This hot region in northeast Spain is one of the few places known for producing first class wines from the Grenache (Garnacha in Spain) grape. This one is a blend of Garnacha, Cariñena and Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine is matured in new and used oak, then aged another 24 months in the bottle. The wood on the nose is well integrated and mellows out with time (we recommend decanting, or letting it breathe for an hour or two before serving). This is a complex, intense, and powerful wine and a rare bargain at $29.75. We bought up all that remained of this vintage, so there is none left in the market. It’s drinking well now (it was a big hit at our club tasting) but could age another five to ten years. Enjoy it with Mediterranean fare, like paella, tapas, or any game dishes.
2007 Gerhard Gutzler, Spätburgunder, Blanc de Noir — Do not adjust your sets! Yes, this wine does say Spätburgunder on the label, and yes, that is German for Pinot Noir. So why is this wine white? When grapes are fermented without any skin contact, no color is imparted to the wine. Case in point: Pinot Noir is one of the three major grapes in Champagne, which is typically white. This intriguing wine comes to us from Gerhard Gutzler, a German rising star who became a Master of Viticulture at the tender age of 20. This wine not surprisingly raised some eyebrows at our club tasting, but was popular for its beguiling, floral notes and plush body. Great with sausages, crab salad, vegetable dishes, or Asian food, this is not just a wine-geek wine, although it is undeniably a conversation starter. It’s $21 and is ready to drink now.
2008 Cucao, Carmenere — The Cucao winery is located in the Casablanca Valley, the heart of Chilean winemaking. In this relatively dry region, sea breezes help moderate the temperature, and allow slow, even ripening in the vineyards, perfect for producing wines with great finesse and aroma. Cucao is led by South America’s pioneering biodynamic producer, Alvaro Espinoza, who works exclusively with growers who farm organically, or as naturally as possible. This Carmenere is ripe and luscious, lively on the palate, spicy on the nose, and just tannic enough to make it a perfect partner for glazed chicken, spare ribs, or roast lamb. “Cucao” is the name of a South American bird known to bring good luck. Lucky for us, it’s only $12.25, ready to drink now and in good supply.
2007 Les Aphillanthes, Vin de Pays de Vaucluse — Ah, we can never resist a good southern French wine. Domaine les Aphillanthes is located in the village of Travaillan, just northwest of Gigondas. For years, proprietor Daniel Boulle sold his carefully tended, superb quality fruit to the local cooperative. But he was finally convinced to bottle his wine on its own, and critical acclaim soon followed. One of the reasons for his success is that he sees himself as a vigneron first, then a winemaker. He believes in minimal intervention in the winery and he has recently introduced biodynamic practices into his vineyard as well, inspired, not by the practices of other biodynamic producers, but by the success he found using natural medical practices with his family. This juicy, earthy, vin de pays, a blend of Syrah, Merlot, and Grenache, is his entry level wine, at $14. Enjoy it over the next year with your favorite fall comfort food.
2007 Strong Arms, Shiraz — The last two wines are new vintages of wines we’ve featured before. We liked them then, and we like them now, plus we want to give club members a chance to see how wines can differ from vintage to vintage. R Wines, producer of the Strong Arms Shiraz, was founded by Dan Philips (of Marquis Phillips fame) and Chris Ringland to produce wines that are stylish, compelling, and “peerlessly delicious.” This Shiraz is made from McLaren Vale, Riverland, and Barossa Valley fruit and is easy drinking, yet modest — not a word that comes to mind with many Aussie Shirazes. Still only $9.75, it is in good supply and we’ll try to keep it in the bins, where it’s easy to grab for parties or to take home as a warm evening sipper. The cool label is created by Los Angeles artist Mel Kadel, who does a series of six different labels for each vintage.
2008 Gerald and Philibert Talmard, Mâcon-Uchizy — For some people, the mere mention of Chardonnay sends them running for the door (or the reds). Which is sad because it is a grape that can be made in a myriad of styles—from huge, rich offerings that can really only be enjoyed on their own, to some of the world’s most sublime food wines. This 100% unoaked Chard is from the southern Burgundy region of Maçon not far from the legendary wine villages of Puligny-Montrachet and Meursault, whose Chardonnays are otherworldly, with astronomic prices to match. But this Macon has stayed at $12 for last three vintages and has become a solid store favorite over the years. Lovely, crisp, and clean, with great minerality and pretty flavors of orchard fruit, it’s ready to enjoy now, with quiche, spring rolls, creamy fish dishes, or mushroom risotto. Notice how it opens up and evolves over time once you’ve opened it.