Collector’s Club – January 2011

2009 Eugenio Bocchino, “Tom” — “Tom” hails from Small Vineyards producer, Eugenio Bocchino, who makes his wines in the Langhe hills of Piedmont, assisted only by his wife, Cinzia, and their three dachshunds. A true garagiste, he makes tiny amounts of wine from his 5.5 hectares of vines; mostly Nebbiolo-based reds, but he also makes a limited amount of this delightful blend of Barbera and Merlot. Neither a traditionalist, nor a fan of too much technology, Eugenio seems to have his own unique style, achieving exceptional finesse and richness in his wines (he says it is “the land’s style”). “Tom” combines the Barbera’ focus, with the velvety texture of the Merlot for an immediately enjoyable, food-friendly red that comes in at $19.75. It’s a wonderful wine for beef or lamb, or a mushroom risotto with white truffle oil.

2009 Martorana, Insolia — When we first put Giuseppe Martorana’s Insolia in the Collector’s Club, in December, 2007, it was a relatively unfamiliar grape, even to us. We loved it for its fresh, aromatic allure, and it has continued to entice us: this is the fourth year in a row we’ve featured it in the club (and it is still only $16!). Martorana (the local cop, who also makes the Nero d’Avola in last month’s club), grows his Insolia on his beautiful property on the sun-drenched coast of southwest Sicily. Insolia from Sicily (it is also grown in Tuscany) typically has good acidity and a hint of saltiness that cries out for seafood, though it is also a fine match for pasta or poultry. This one is quite elegant and a bit lighter and more delicate than previous vintages. Martorana made only 275 cases and we have a bit left.

2009 Podere Ciona, Montegrossoli — Podere Ciona is one of the smallest estates in the Small Vineyards portfolio and, as we’ve mentioned before, the place where the concept of their company was first conceived. On their four-hectare estate in Montegrossi, in Chianti Classico, the Gatteschi family has a view for miles, of forests, castles, and vineyards. Their Montegrossoli (meaning mountain of big sun) is a “baby Super Tuscan” style wine that comes in at a nice $14. It’s all Sangiovese and has bright, Chianti-like aromas, ripe, spicy fruit, and a crisp, long finish. The winery suggests pairing it with pasta, fish, red or white meat, or any traditional Tuscan fare.

2009 Naches Heights Vineyard, “Two Dancers” — Phil Cline is the force behind Naches Heights Vineyard. A salt-of-the-earth kind of guy, he is unafraid to take chances, thus he chose one of the highest elevation sites in the state for his vineyards, believing it would provide excellent growing conditions his grapes. He was right, and his wines are renowned for their crisp, clean flavors and food-friendliness. We put his 2006 Two Dancers in the December, 2008 club. That vintage was an 80/20 blend of Tempranillo and Syrah. Phil’s 2009 version is 75% Syrah and 25% Cabernet Franc, sourced from Yakima Valley’s Washington Good Earth Vineyard. It is a dark, spicy offering, with lingering notes of blackberry and cherry. It’s ready to drink now and Phil suggests pairing it with “protein:” like spicy ribs or barbecue. It’s $18.

2009 Domaine Camp Galhan, Le Malivert — Domaine Camp Galhan has been making wine in the Languedoc region since the early 1900s. Until recently, they sold all of their fruit to the local cooperative but today, under the direction of son, Lionel, the winery produces some of the best wine in the region. This example is a blend of aromatic Sauvignon Blanc, Roussanne, which adds soft, stone fruit flavors, and Chardonnay, all grown in their Malivert Vineyard. It is unoaked, but lees aging adds richness to this bright, fresh, subtly floral wine. The importer wrote: “It is almost like Lionel was able to capture a perfect spring day and put it in a bottle.” It is $14.50 and very food friendly. We should be able to get more.

2009 Bodegas Triton, Avante Mencia — It’s been hard to track down much information on this producer, but there’s nothing elusive about the flavor of this wine. It is made from Mencia (pronounced “menthia” locally), a Spanish grape grown primarily in northwest Spain. Once thought of as capable of producing only simple, light-bodied wines, more and more producers are using fruit from older, low-yielding sites, and producing wines with robust complexity and concentration. This Mencia has a rustic, earthy nose, and loads of spicy, brambly notes that would be great with grilled lamb, juicy burgers, or roasted vegetables. It was the talk of the tasting and, at $19.75, is ready to drink anytime.