Specialty Club – March 2010

2005 Klein Constantia, Vin de Constance
We can’t think of very much to add to the lovely pamphlet that comes inside the Vin de Constance box, which gives you the whole history of the estate and the wine Constantia. I will point out the grapes Frontignac, Pontac, and Muscadel are clones of Muscat, and that Steen is the South African term for Chenin Blanc. And, as a historian, I can verify that this was by far the most famous wine of the eighteenth and early nineteenth century. What we can add is how this grape came to be selected for the club. The night before Bear’s memorial services, we had a little party at the shop. As we began to run out of wine in the wee hours, I went down to my cellar, accompanied by several eager acolytes, and pulled out a bottle of the 1999 vintage of the Vin de Constance. This wine was the highlight of the party, most aptly described as “ambrosia” by the assembled multitudes, who then began to arm-wrestle over the last bottle of the 2004 vintage in the shop. The next week we were then overjoyed to discover that 8 cases of the 2005 came to Seattle and we could indeed get enough for the club. (Only 8 bottles of the 2004 made it here.) You don’t need to wait ten years, as we did with the 1999, but it certainly won’t hurt if you are looking for ambrosia. It costs $54.50 and we can still get more.

2007 Croatto, Merlot
Fans of high-end Italian wine will certainly recognize the winemaker, Enzo Pontoni, who makes most of his wines under the label Miani. Wine writers regularly use terms like “legend” and “one-man garagiste” and “reclusive cult figure” to describe Enzo, who took over his father’s tiny four-hectare estate in the Friuli hills in 1999 after his father’s death. Trained as an engineer, he concentrates on making tiny amounts of rich, decadent, full-bodied and complex wines that are nearly impossible to obtain. He puts all his resources into highly-detailed and precise organic viticulture; his cellars are shockingly modest and old-fashioned. This wine comes from a neighboring estate, densely planted under Enzo’s direction on its own ungrafted rootstock to, in his words, “taste the dirt unfiltered,” (Not grafting the vines onto American rootstocks leaves the vines vulnerable to the louse phylloxera.) The result is a pure and intense wine, and only $39.75 since it is not made under the Miani label. The wine could definitely use another three years in your cellar and would be perfect with cured salami and Appenzeller cheese. The three six packs of this Merlot that we received were destined for Italian cult wine fans on the East Coast but accidentally delivered to our friends at Small Vineyards in Alki. Thanks, Tristan! We do have just a few bottles left.