Collector’s Club – May 2011

2006 Basel Cellars, Inspired — Basel Cellars is housed in one of the most stunning facilities in the state: a 13,000-square-foot mansion on a hilltop in Walla Walla. Trey Busch, the original winemaker, put the winery on the map as more than just a pretty face. Trey has since left for his own endeavors, but Justin Basel, who trained with him, is doing an admirable job at carrying on the high standards we’ve come to expect from this winery. One of the hallmark Basel wines has been the Inspired (“Inspir-Red”), a Merlot/Cabernet Franc Bordeaux-style blend. As in years past, the 2006 vintage is big, dark, and aromatic, with plenty of power and warmth. What has changed is the price: formerly $39.75, it is now only $29.75. As it already has some bottle age, it is drinking well now, and begs for a nice juicy steak or roast.

2009 Domaine Vigneau-Chevreau, Vouvray Cuvée Silex — Vouvray is Chenin Blanc and, some would say, Chenin Blanc is Vouvray. Grown on the flinty, chalky soils (known as silex) in the Touraine district in the central Loire Valley, the best Vouvrays are fresh and minerally, with honeyed, floral overtones. The Vigneau-Chevreau family have been farming here since 1875, increasingly using organic and bio-dynamic practices. They grow one variety on their 69-acre estate: Chenin Blanc, from which they produce sparkling, sweet, semi-sweet, and dry (sec) wines. This lovely Vouvray sec is expressive and aromatic. Some find it has a slight hint of sweetness, but with its ample acidity, it is barely noticeable. It would be perfect for chicken dishes, or with an array of artisanal cheeses. It is $19.75.

2008 Château de Corneilla, Côtes du Roussillon — Having recently added wines from the Iberian peninsula to their mostly Italian portfolio, Small Vineyards is now bringing in a handful of French wines, selected with their careful focus on small, family-owned properties. And if all of them are as tasty as this red blend from the Côtes du Roussillon, then that is a good move. This wine is made by Jonquères d’Oriola, in a small, Catalan village in the Pyrenees, not far from the Spanish border, and close to the Mediterranean. It is a blend of 30% each, Syrah, Grenache, and Carignan, with 10% Mourvèdre, and it jumps right out with soft, dark fruit from the Syrah, and gentle spice and bright red fruit tones from the Grenache and Carignan. At $12, it’s an easy choice for lamb burgers, or a hearty soup.

2009 Huber, Hugo Red — In the December club we featured a sparkling Rosé made by Austrian pro soccer player-turned-winemaker, Markus Huber. Markus now heads his family winery, which dates back more than 200 years in Austria’s Traisental region. He created his Hugo line to offer high quality at everyday prices and this month we present his Hugo Red, at a budget-friendly $14. As much as we love our Grüner Veltliners, we’re excited to introduce you to the less familiar world of Austrian reds. This one is 80% Zweigelt (a cross between Blaufränkisch, aka Lemberger, and St. Laurent, a Pinot relative) and 20% Blaufränkisch. It is unoaked and very bright and fruity, with a bit of spice and straight-ahead fresh flavor. Very versatile, it would be great with anything from smoked meats, to pizza or pasta.

2007 Chatter Creek, Barbera — Gordy Rawson has done it again. In June, when we put his Cab Franc in the club, he signed every single bottle for us! And when he delivered this Barbera … he’d signed 60 more bottles! That may attest to what a generous man he is, but it’s what’s in the bottle that counts, and this one delivers. In order to emphasize the inherent flavors of the fruit and the terroir, Gordy uses no new oak in his wines, which are always food friendly and extremely well balanced. His 2007 Barbera is a beautiful New World interpretation of this low tannin, high acid northern Italian grape. A big hit at our club tasting, it is smooth, velvety and loaded with dark fruit flavor. Though just released, it is drinking beautifully now. We can get more, at $19.75, although it is technically winery only. Thanks, Gordy, for sharing it with us! (Our bottle had an exciting amount of sediment at the bottom. Don’t be alarmed—just pour gently at the end.)

2009 Sitios de Bodega, Con Class, Rueda Blanco — This bright, fresh blend of Verdejo (60%), Viura (25%), and Sauvignon Blanc (15%) comes from the Rueda region of northern Spain. Here, sixth generation winemaker Ricardo Sanz runs Sitios de Bodega. The Sanz family has been at the forefront of much of the innovation in Rueda. They produced one of the first non-oxidized white wines in the region, where the whites were historically produced in a maderized, sherry-like style, and they were among the first to incorporate organic viticulture. They harvest all of their grapes at night, to lock in freshness, and then age their wines in tanks on the lees to add texture and body. This blend displays a refreshing, zippy vibrancy, balanced by a nice fullness and length. It’s $13.50 and perfect for a sunny day on the deck.