2007 Chatter Creek, Cabernet Franc, Alder Ridge Vineyard — This wine is made by one of Bear’s long-time tasting buddies, Gordy Rawson. Gordy founded Chatter Creek in 1996, with a goal of producing hand-crafted wines in the classic European style. Gordy uses no new oak on his wines so that the nuances of the fruit and the terroir can shine through. He styles all of his wines to be food-friendly: well-balanced and never overpowering. There are a handful of Washington winemakers producing single-vineyard Cabernet Francs, with exciting results. Gordy’s Alder Ridge offering, only $19.75, is very well-structured and inviting, with a nose of violets and black cherries. He suggests drinking it any time over the next five to seven years, paired with salmon, pork tenderloin, or even salad. Only 30 cases left.
2007 Praxis Cellars, Lagrein — Lagrein, believed to be an offspring of Teroldego and Pinot Noir, is indigenous to the Trentino region of northern Italy. This is one of the first Lagreins we’ve seen from the U.S., and it is made by Bill Arbois at his Sonoma winery, Praxis Cellars. Bill fell in love with Lagrein on a trip to Italy, but upon his return, found only one vineyard growing the grape. He now makes his Lagrein from that vineyard, seven miles inland from the coast, in Santa Maria, and he is (perhaps not surprisingly) the largest producer of Lagrein in the U.S. The wine has beautiful aromas of crushed black pepper and plums, and is pleasantly light on the palate. It’s a very versatile food wine, great with both hearty and lighter fare. It is also a great Thanksgiving wine! It’s $19.50, ready to drink now, and in decent supply.
2007 Buil & Giné, Nosis Verdejo — A while back, we were invited to a fabulous tasting of wines from two great Spanish producers. Sadly, one of the producers couldn’t make it due to the Iceland volcano, but in his absence we got to sample his Nosis Verdejo. Its lush, clean freshness was a delight. The wine is 100% Verdejo, from 35-year-old vines grown on terraces above the Duero River, in northern Spain. It is fermented in stainless steel, so no there is no oak around to interfere with the light texture, lovely aromatics, and balanced softness of the wine. This $16 white is very versatile, perfect for foods with any sort of citrus-y sauce (chicken with mango salsa?), ceviche, or as an aperitif, as we enjoyed it on a lovely spring day at the Corson Building in Georgetown. It’s drinking beautifully now.
2009 Martina Prieto Pariente, Sauvignon Blanc — In a rare move, both of the whites in this month’s club come from Spain’s Rueda region, but in contrast to the soft Verdejo above, this one is a crisp, clean Sauvignon Blanc. It comes to us via Small Vineyards, from young Spanish winemaker Martina Prieto whose Verdejo we featured in the club last June. Martina comes from a talented winemaking family: her mother produces what is according to many, the best white wine in Spain, at their family estate, José Pariente. Martina’s wines are striking for their bracing crispness and bright aromatics, difficult to achieve in such a hot climate. To do so, she harvests during the long cool nights, and cold ferments her wines, thus locking in their amazing complexity and finesse. Very labor intensive for a wine that comes to us at only $16. This one would be perfect with shellfish, pasta salad, or a good book on the deck in the sun.
2008 Domaine de Châteaumar, Cuvée Bastien, Côtes du Rhône — Bourgeois Family Selections is like Small Vineyards for French wines. They import wines from small family estates that adhere to organic, sustainable, and/or bio-dynamic practices. Domaine de Châteaumar, a father-son operation for generations, is located about six miles from Orange, in the heart of the Côtes du Rhône. Their Cuvée Bastien is a Grenache-Syrah blend, grown on chalky clay soil covered with galets, the classic pudding stones of Châteauneuf du Pape, and aged in concrete tanks. It is made from declassified Châteauneauf du Pape fruit, and shows all the elegant ripeness and richness you’d expect from the real deal. But at a jaw-dropping $15. Enjoy it as you would any Rhône: with lamb, poultry, grilled meats, or cassoulet.
2007 Coralook, Shiraz — Coralook is one of four labels from Australia’s Yabby Lake, on the Mornington Peninsula, south of Melbourne. Yabby Lake owns vineyards throughout the region and their goal is to craft wines with a genuine sense of identity and place. Chief winemaker, Tom Carson, grew up stomping grapes in Heathcote and, after several stints working with wine in France (in Burgundy and Champagne), he continues to make wine there today. He feels that the 2007 Coralook Shiraz truly expresses the affinity between the Shiraz grape and the Heathcote region. It is packed with flavors of dark berries and fruit leather, but has a subtle complexity as well, perhaps an influence of the winemaker’s experience in France. It’s $15, and great for an outdoor barbeque this summer.