Specialty Club – June 2011

2007 Chateau La Nerthe, Châteauneuf-du-Pape
Since the Richard family took over this great estate in 1985, they have succeeded in making La Nerthe one of the very top producers in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Even Robert Parker is a big fan, although their wines are light years away from the high-priced, overripe, “Parkerized” Châteauneuf-du-Papes far too common to the 2007 vintage. In fact, winemaker Alain Dugas decided not to make their flagship “Cuvee des Cadettes” in such a hot year, putting those grapes in their regular cuvee. The blend is 48% Grenache, 28% Syrah, and 14% Mourvedre; 62% was aged in barrels, the rest spent time in large wood foudres before blending. It’s an amazingly classic Châteauneuf for such a hot vintage, with a highly aromatic nose redolent of berries, herbs and flowers, lots of dark fruit, and a velvety texture. Bear always regretted that he couldn’t get more of this wonderful wine for his own cellar, and we’re glad that a recent change in distribution has made it more available, although only 35 cases came to Seattle. Enjoy this wine with Thanksgiving dinner or with any fantastic grilled meat course. We’d recommend cellaring it for three to five years, although it will continue to develop for at least another five years beyond that. It is only $60, a great value in comparison with its peers in quality: Vieux Telegraphe ($85), Beaucastel, Clos des Papes or Pegau (which are all $110).

2009 Lionel Bussy, Chablis 1er Cru, Vaillons
For our white wine this month, we are glad to include yet another traditional producer that is returning to our market after a hiatus. Lionel Bussy is a tiny producer, too small to be reviewed by the top Burgundy critics, but his wines are just flat out delicious. The Vaillons vineyard is one of the top sites in Chablis, and the best Vaillons vineyard wines have good acidity and a firm minerally backbone. With hints of lemons and wild greens on the nose, this is a classic Chablis, featuring its trademark flintiness on the palate. Try it with crab cakes. It’s $35 and we can get more.