Specialty Club – December 2010

2008 Vinoterra, Selektion Saperavi
Longtime members of this club will no doubt remember that we have been unafraid to feature “exotic” wines in this club, as long as they are elite wines by world standards. Bear selected a heavily oaked Chardonnay from Slovenia and a Greek red containing grapes mentioned in Homer, not to mention his championing such distinctive (and controversial) wine makers as Paolo Meroi and Didier Dagueneau. We have tried to follow in his footsteps in ferreting out unique wines, such as the Klein Constantia dessert wine from South Africa and last month’s heavenly Pinot Noir from an obscure region in New Zealand. Over the past couple of years, we have been exploring the wines of Georgia with the help of importer Keith Johnsen, of Daqopa Brands, holding an annual Georgian tasting and even putting a couple of Georgians in our Collectors Club. And here, finally, is a world class wine made from Georgia’s main red grape, Saperavi, by the top Georgian winemaker, Gogi Dakishvilli.

Gogi is the third generation of winemakers in his family and, although formally trained in enology in Kiev and Odessa, he values most highly the traditions of his family and country. Saperavi is a very dark and thick-skinned grape with violet flesh, and so it naturally produces red wines of deep color. Made from grapes hand selected from 40-50 year old vines, this wine was fermented for 20 days in a qvevri, a clay pot buried in the earth. Primary and malolactic fermentation was performed by natural yeast, and the wine was unfined and unfiltered and saw no oak at all. It’s medium-bodied with high acid and low alcohol (only 13%), making it a good food wine, particularly for spicy lamb dishes, and giving it excellent cellaring potential for another five to ten years. Tasting of berries and herbal tea, it’s supple and beautifully balanced with flavors that recall old world Syrahs and the low-alcohol Zinfandels of the 1970s. Gogi made only 125 cases, and we were able to secure one of the seven cases that came to Seattle. It’s $60, and we have a couple of bottles left.

2009 Lo Triolet, Valle d’Aosta Pinot Gris
For the second consecutive year, we are proud to include in this club the wonderful Lo Triolet Pinot Gris of Marco Martin, one of Italy’s most promising young winemakers. The previous vintage won three glasses from the Gambero Rosso, the most reliable guide to Italian wine, and we have no doubt the 2009 will be rated just as highly. Every year, it is one of the top wines from the Vallee d’Aoste, Italy’s smallest wine region, in the extreme northwest, bordering France and Switzerland. Think Alps and you can imagine the steep, rocky terrain here, where winemaking has been described as nothing short of heroic. The Lo Triolet estate is located deep in the Introd Mountains, not far from where the Pope spends his summer holidays. The wine has lovely minerality, hints of lemon zest and tropical fruits, and a nice, long finish. It would pair perfectly with creamy seafood and pasta dishes. It’s a little less expensive than last year, only $29.75, drinking beautifully now and, as a direct import from Small Vineyards, very limited. We also have quite a bit left of the 2008 Pinot Gris, which would be a great addition to anyone’s holiday table.