2009 Thomas Labaille, Sancerre “Les Monts Damnés” —The Sancerre appellation lies in the eastern end of the Loire Valley, on ancient Kimmeridgian limestone soil which gives the wines from this region their amazing racy, flinty quality. Thomas Labaille is one of the top producers in the Chavignol sub-section of this region, still producing traditional, old-style Sancerre, from Sauvignon Blanc grown on his Monts Damnés site—a plot so steep it can only be worked by hand, hence the name, “the damn mountains.” But the excellent exposure and drainage here produces complex wines that are lean and minerally, with just enough richness and depth, from lees aging, to make them sensational food wines. Try it with shellfish, or goat cheese. We’ve featured the last five vintages of this wine in the club. It is $28.
2008 Salida, Tempranillo — When we think of Doug McCrea, the first thing that comes to mind are his finely-crafted, flavorful, Rhône-style wines. Now, in what he sees as a natural progression, he has begun producing wines from Spanish grapes (of course, the Rhône grapes Grenache and Mourvedre are actually of Iberian origin). When Doug received a ton of Tempranillo grapes back in 2006 he thought, nothing ventured, nothing gained, and made two barrels of what turned out to be a spectacular wine. And just like that, his new label, Salida, was born. This Tempranillo, the flagship wine of his Salida line, is soft, smooth, and warm, with earthy flavors of dried fruit and spice. Doug plans to keep this brand select and limited to just a few hundred cases but we were very lucky to be able to get enough of it to put in our club, at $25. You probably won’t see this wine around much, so enjoy!
2008 Château d’Or et de Gueules, “Les Cimels” Costières de Nîmes — Château d’Or et de Gueules was started by Diane de Puymorin in 1998 in the southern French Costières de Nîmes region. The name comes from the colors of her family crest: gold (or) and red (gueules, in old French). Her vineyards lie on exposed slopes covered with the same round stones (galets roulés) as those found in Châteauneuf du Pape and her wines are known for their elegance and finesse. Her “Les Cimels” is half Syrah, and a quarter each Carignan and Grenache, and is full and supple, and very approachable. In 2008, she did not make her more select and more expensive “Trassegum” because the fruit did not meet her exacting standards, so she declassified it and blended it into this wine. The result? An exceptionally complex and concentrated Les Cimels this vintage. And, at $15, you can enjoy it anytime! (Diane also owns Domaine de la Petite Cassagne, from which we get one of our most popular French Rosés.)
2009 Colome Amalaya, Malbec — The label says: Esperanza Por un Milagro (hope for a miracle). And while you’re waiting, you can enjoy this delicious Malbec from the Salta region in northwestern Argentina. Blended with Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Tannat (the grape from which we get the word, tannin) it is intense, vibrant, and full of ripe fruit, but not over-the-top. The grapes come from high-altitude vineyards in the Calchaqui Valley, where the intense sun during the day is followed by extremely cool nights, which helps retain their amazing acidity and concentration. It is a lot of wine for $14, and is ready to drink now, with grilled meats, such as game or duck, hearty comfort foods, or a variety of cheeses.
NV Elvio Tintero, Grangia — How can you not like a grape called Favorita? It is a white grape grown primarily in northern Italy’s Piedmont region, and DNA profiling has shown it to be identical to Vermentino and Pigato. Lineage aside, this non-vintage Favorita comes from Elvio Tintero, whose estate is located around 12 kilometers southeast of Barbaresco. The vineyards lie on the steep, beautiful hills around the small village of Mango, where the Tintero family has been tending vines for three generations. Their Grangia, made with Moscato added for extra aromatics, is a perfect summer wine: light and fresh, with a touch of spritz — kind of like a sophisticated Vinho Verde. And it’s just about as affordable, at only $11. It is great on its own, as an aperitif, or with food, especially seafood or antipasti.
2009 Villa des Anges, Cabernet Sauvignon — Here’s a super value Cabernet from the Languedoc region in southern France. It comes from Espitalet des Anges, a domaine situated on the ruins of an ancient Roman villa. The estate is owned by Jaqueline Menard de Ginestous, and is made with the help of the very talented Jeff Carrel, who also has a hand in the tasty Puydeval wines which often grace our shelves. Using grapes grown on ancient alluvial clay and limestone soil northwest of Beziers, Jeff and Jaqueline have crafted a well-structured Cabernet with amazing freshness, texture, and concentration. And somehow it is only $11. This one is ready to drink now, and often, with just about anything.