Collector’s Club – April 2011

2007 René Rostaing, Syrah, “Les Lézardes” — You can’t swing a cat in the shop without hitting a Rhône wine. But most are from the south; we have far fewer wines from the northern Rhône, primarily because they tend to be far more expensive. So when we found this affordable Syrah from Côte Rôtie (literally, “roasted slope”), we knew we had to squeeze it into this month’s club. It is made by René Rostaing, one of Côte Rôtie’s finest producers and owner of some of the most coveted vineyards in the region. The fruit for this wine, while not technically Côte Rôtie, comes from parcels on the northern edge of the appellation. Rostaing is a classicist—eschewing big, “Australian-style” Syrahs, and limiting his use of oak. His “Les Lézardes” is expressive, concentrated and savory, but in need of some aging to fully develop and soften. Up to five years if you can wait, or you could shorten that some, with a good decanting. It is $29.75 and deserves your favorite lamb or duck recipe.

2008 Lioco, Indica Red Wine — Matt Licklider and Kevin O’Connor (the “li” and the “oco” of Lioco) make some of the most classically Old World-styled wines in California. When we poured one of their Chardonnays at a tasting, customers could not believe it was a U.S. wine. This month we present their Indica Red, a blend of old-vine Carignan, Mourvèdre, and Petite Sirah, from dry-farmed benchland vineyards in Mendocino’s Redwood Valley. In this cool site, the grapes ripen slowly and develop excellent concentration. The combination of low yields and old vine fruit makes this a typical Lioco wine: complex and earthy, and very Old World in profile, more reminiscent of a wine from Roussillon. Its dark fruit and spice would go great with lamb burgers, carnitas, or, if you’re feeling adventurous, cassoulet. It is $18.75.

2007 Fattoria le Pupille, Morellino di Scansano — The Maremma region lies on Tuscany’s southern coast. Here the climate is warmer, and the soil more acidic than in Chianti, and Sangiovese (known locally as Morellino) ripens earlier and is more savory. Morellino di Scansano is perhaps the purest expression of this wine region and award-winning winemaker Elisabetta Geppetti, of Fattoria le Pupille, is one of its most ardent proponents, having made wine here for over 25 years. Her 2007 Morellino has a bit of Alicante (adding herbal notes), and Malvasia Nera (to soften the young tannins). Only $11, it is spicy and bright with rustic red fruit flavors, and ready to drink now. Elisabetta suggests fish cooked with tomatoes (a local tradition), or “Caldaro,” a fish soup with onions and garlic similar to bouillabaisse. Or how about pizza?

2008 Apaltagua, Envero Carmenère/Cabernet — Carmenère, a once important grape in Bordeaux, has found great success in its adopted home of Chile, where it matures and ripens much more reliably than it did back home in France. And with the vast improvements in Chilean winemaking in recent years, it just gets better and better. This mostly Carmenère blend (with a dollop of Cabernet) comes from Apaltagua, a 60-hectare estate in the Apalta region in the center of the Colchaugua Valley. The Mediterranean-style climate here, with its cold winters and warm, dry summers, is perfect for growing red grapes such as Carmenère. Made from 60-year-old vines, this wine is complex and rich, with a firm, but gentle tannin grip. It is $15 and perfect for meat dishes, pasta, or pizza.

2009 Bodegas Beira Aral, Arava Albarino — Albariño is a white grape grown most commonly in the Rias Baixas region on the Atlantic coast of Spain. This one, from Small Vineyards’ relatively new Iberian portfolio, is lovingly made by Thierry de Francisco and Pepe Alvarez. Their older-vine grapes grow on a steep, stony, granite slope, using a unique and complex trellising system that produces a lower yield, resulting in a denser, more complex wine. That, plus partial malolactic fermentation and lees aging adds a further richness to this aromatic, mineral-laden wine. You can almost taste the wet granite underlying the fresh, stone fruit flavors. At $19.75, it is a wonderful and food-friendly alternative to Chardonnay.

2009 Michel Delhommeau, Cuvée St. Vincent, Muscadet — Muscadet is a region at the western end of the Loire Valley, where the river empties into the Atlantic. The wine of the same name is made from the grape Melon de Bourgogne. Michel and Nathalie Delhommeau’s 28 hectare-estate lies in the subregion, Muscadet de Sèvre et Maine, named after the two rivers that flow through it. The sur lie designation requires that the wines are aged sur lie (with extend lees contact) which imparts more richness and complexity. The Delhommeau’s vines grow on the harsh rock known as gabbro that dominates their estate. This wine is light and pretty, with great length and minerality. Remarkably, it is only $9.75 and, like any Muscadet worth its salt, it would be perfect with oysters or other shellfish. Enjoy it within the year.