2007 Edmonds St. John, That Old Black Magic — Steve Edmunds and Cornelia St. John began their Berkeley winery in 1985, seeking to make terroir-driven, food-friendly wines that wouldn’t get lost in the flood of big, oaky California Cabs and Chards. They keep their production small, in order to focus on the specific vineyard influence of each wine. This one is a Syrah/Grenache blend, aged in neutral (25-year-old!) barrels so that nothing overshadows the flavor of the fruit and the terroir. Impressively, upon tasting one of Edmonds’ wines, Domaine Tempier’s François Peyraud declared, “La terre parle!” We think the earth speaks in his Old Black Magic, too, with its complex, powerful aromas and flavors. It is $19.75 and, while ageable, is ready now. Its spicy peppercorn flavors make it a great match for grilled meat.
2003 Domaine Karydas, Naoussa — To many, ‘Greek wine’ means one thing: Retsina. But this mountainous Mediterranean country, with its strong maritime influence, has a long, rich history of viticulture, a wealth of amazing vineyard sites, and over 300 indigenous grape varieties. One of them is Xinomavro, (Greek for “acid black”), a late-ripening grape that thrives in cool, high-elevation sites such as those of Karydas, located in Naoussa in the Macedonian region of Greece. Karydas is a father-son winery that makes about 1200 cases a year of one wine: this $23, 100% Xinomavro. Often compared to Nebbiolo, Xinomavro produces powerful, well-structured wines, with good acid and tannic structure. This one is definitely ageworthy but can be enjoyed now with hearty meat dishes, strong cheeses, or anything Greek.
2006 Poderi Elia, Barbera d’Alba — If it’s summer, it’s time for the parade of Small Vineyards’ direct imports. These are wines that are previewed here in Seattle in March, and then imported in the amounts pre-ordered. So we present to you, over the next few months, some of our favorites. Poderi Elia, from the northern Italian region of Piedmont, is a familiar face on our shelves. Made by Federico Stella, this wine is classically-styled, and grown on 90-year-old vines. Yet it has a freshness and softness that makes it very approachable and easy to enjoy. It is 100% Barbera d’Alba, a grape that has virtually no tannins. Give your Pinot Noir a rest some night, and try this wine with a nice poached salmon. It is $16, ready now, and in limited supply.
2009 Perazzeta, Sara Rosé — What a treat it was to have winemaker Alessandro Bocci in the shop at our recent Italian tasting. The man behind the Perazzeta wines, each one lovingly named after his family members, is one of the sweetest, most endearing people we’ve met—even with the language barrier. Like several of his wines, this one is named after his daughter, Sara, who assists him in his winemaking, but this is his first Rosé. As it turns out, Alessandro was able to procure a small plot of prime vineyard land in Montalcino, a dream come true for him, but the fruit is still too young to make Brunello. In the meantime, he is making this lovely 100% Sangiovese Rosé from those grapes. It shows some of the boldness that will develop as the vines mature, but it is soft and rich and perfect for appetizers, shrimp dishes, or crispy chicken. It is $13 and, as only 400 cases were produced, in limited supply.
2008 Philippe Tessier, Cheverny Blanc — The Loire region of France is a treasure trove of great white wines, from the steely, minerally Sancerres in the east, to the crisp Muscadets, of the Atlantic coast. In between, another important appellation is Cheverny, which produces light-bodied reds as well as some seriously complex and rich whites. Case in point: this 85% Sauvignon Blanc, 15% Chardonnay blend from Philippe Tessier. The domaine was founded in 1960, and Philippe took over from his father in 1988. Tessier is now certified organic, and Philippe harvests each parcel by hand, vinifies using only natural yeasts, and ages the wines on their lees as long as possible for maximum richness and complexity. At $18, this is a sophisticated wine, perfect for elegant seafood dishes or enjoyed as an aperitif.
2009 Uriondo, Txakolina — Txakolina (‘chako leena’) comes from northern Spain’s Basque country where there are three growing regions for the wine. This one comes from the Bizkaiko Txakolina appellation and is made by Uriondo, a small, family winery founded in 1987 near Bilbao. This wine is made from the indigenous grapes, Ondarrabi Zuri, Mune Mahatsa, and Txori Mahatsa, grown on the family’s 2.5-hectare estate. As is typical, this Txakolina is light and crisp, with citrus and green apple flavors, and a hint of effervescence from the natural carbonation. And only $14. Completely unpretentious, it is a no-brainer for tapas or any kind of seafood, with its hint of saltiness from the strong Atlantic influence. Txakolina is meant to be drunk while young and fresh. What are you waiting for?