2008 Hospices de Saumur, Clos Cristal — Antoine Cristal was the first winemaker in the Loire Valley’s Saumur region to vinify red wines. Before he died in 1931, he donated his prime Cabernet Franc vineyard, Clos Cristal, to the Hospices de Saumur, and profits from the wines continue to support the institution. Cristal developed a unique method of growing grapes: he built two miles of walls running east-west in his vineyard and planted grapes along them. Vines on the north side are trained to grow through holes in the walls to the south side, where the absorbed heat of the stone helps the fruit ripen fully. The resulting wines are beautiful and expressive with soft herbs and fine tannins. The 2008 vintage is a beautiful example. It is $25 and still young—give it at least two or three years to develop. Then enjoy it slightly chilled, with cheeses or with pork or chicken dishes.
2006 Brian Carter Cellars, Abracadabra — There are a handful of wines in our Northwest blends section that are so good and so popular we try never to be without them. When we first tasted the Abracadabra several years ago, it went straight to that list. No surprise really, given that it comes from the maestro of blending, Brian Carter, whose higher end wines are simply some of the best around. This one, his table wine, is no mere kitchen sink. The fruit comes from the same vineyard sources (Brian says he overbuys everything for maximum flexibility) and is aged in the same barrels as his premium wines and the resulting blend is always polished and delightful. With its rich flavors and lush dark fruit, the Abracadabra is ready to drink now, and could accompany a wide range of foods, or it would make a great gift or party wine. Magically, it’s still only $19.75.
2008 Martorana, Insolia — Next, we have a trio of Small Vineyards direct import wines. We tasted them earlier in the year and picked which ones to have shipped over for our clubs. They are all new vintages of familiar faces that have been big hits in the past. The first is the Insolia, from Giuseppe Martorana. Everyone remembers his story: he’s the police chief in his town on the island of Sicily. A popular wine when we first brought it in, the new vintage is even more complex and beguiling. Insolia is grown primarily in Sicily and is as fresh and aromatic as a Mediterranean sea breeze. Perfect for almost any seafood dish, or try it with duck. It’s $16 and in fairly limited supply.
2007 Compagnia di Ermes, Cesanese — A relative rarity when we first featured it in the club back in 2007, Cesanese (pronounced “chay-za-NAY-zay”) is now a familiar face in our Italian section which, until this one came along, had never seen a wine from the Lazio region (home to the capitol city of Rome). Like previous vintages, this one is robust and spicy, with notes of dried fruit— perfect for hearty fare, like spaghetti Bolognese, game, or peppery meat dishes. The Cesanese is still only $14, and in good supply. It is drinking well now or it could age for a few years.
2006 Fattoria di Bibbiani, Treggiaia — This rustic red was extremely popular when we first brought it in a year ago, both for its earthy, smoky, food-friendly charm, and for its value (still only $9.75). It hails from a breathtaking Tuscan hilltop estate that dates back 13 centuries. The current family has been producing wine there for over 150 years, always with a focus on local indigenous grapes, including a clone of Sangiovese that grows only on their property. The Treggiaia is predominantly Sangiovese, with a dollop of Cabernet and Canaiolo for good measure. Give it a bit of air, and a good pizza, lasagna, or meatballs. This, too, is in good supply for now.
2008 Quinta de Cabriz, Encruzado — When we first tasted this wine last spring, we knew immediately that we wanted to put it in the club, but alas, the unpredictability of international shipping kept this one out of reach. Well it finally came into port this month, and we can at last present it to our club members. This Portuguese wine is 100% Encruzado, a somewhat obscure white grape grown mainly in the Dão region of northern Portugal. It is fruity and aromatic, with a wonderful sense of freshness and a perfect balance of body and crispness. It’s an excellent food wine, especially for seafood, Mediterranean fare, or appetizers, or satisfying just on its own. We think it was worth the wait and, at only $12, it is a very easy wine to enjoy. It’s in good supply for now.