Specialty Club – April 2010

2006 Quinto do Crasto, Douro Reserva
Bear always felt that the high-end Portuguese dry table wines were underrated, both in terms of general quality and particularly for their aging ability. About five years ago, he was able to snag for this club 18 bottles of Quinto do Crasto’s spectacular 2001 Touriga Nacional, a wine that will age easily 20 years or more. This wine is their reserve “field blend,” which consists of Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo), Tinta Barocca and a host of other native varietals. It has all the ingredients for a truly great wine: a single vineyard, rated as one of the very best in the region, old vines, very limited yields, and artisanal winemaking, which includes crushing the grapes by foot. Complex, intense, powerful and rich, the wine is very pleasant although a bit tannic when young, but it could continue to develop from five to fifteen years in your cellar. It is quite reasonable at $45, a great match for any meat dish, and, although usually limited, currently in pretty good supply.

2007 Lioco, Michaud Chardonnay
The Chalone appellation is truly one of the most unusual wine-growing areas in California. It’s located on a unique geological formation called the Gavilan benchland, where the soil is rich in both limestone and decomposed granite. It’s a very dry area, with giant temperature swings of 60 degrees in the summer, hot days and cool nights in the shadow of the Pinnacles National Monument. It’s heaven for growing Chardonnay, so it’s no surprise that the Chalone Vineyard Chard won third place in the famous Judgment of Paris tasting in 1976. This wine is not made by the now big and commercial Chalone Wine Group, but by a small farmer, Michael Michaud, from his own organic vineyard. Michael made only 180 cases, and it is brought to us courtesy of Lioco, founded by Matt Licklider of North Berkeley Imports (importer of fine French and Italian wines) and Kevin O’Conner, wine director at Spago-Beverly Hills. The grapes are hand-sorted, then fermented in stainless steel tanks, using native yeasts and spontaneous malolactic fermentation, and then aged on its lees for four months. The result? Judge for yourself, but we think this is one of the most unusual (and tasty) California Chards ever to cross our doorway. It’s $47.25, lovely with roasted herb chicken or any of the food pairings on the label, and still available in small amounts.