2010 Domaine Lafond, Lirac Blanc — Jean-Pierre Lafond, along with his son, Pascal, produces beautiful wines in three of the top appellations in southern France: Tavel, Lirac, and Châteauneuf-du-Pape. For those of you who love Rhône reds (isn’t that everyone?) here’s a chance to enjoy a delightfully versatile and satisfying white from the region. This Lirac blanc is half Grenache Blanc, plus Roussanne and Viognier. It is lively and fresh, with lovely floral notes and a tantalizing richness that makes it perfect as a pre-meal aperitif, or with any kind of fish or shellfish. It was a big hit at our tasting and, at $19.75, it is ready to enjoy now, or over the next three years.
2008 Descendientes de José Palacios, Pétalos del Bierzo — Alvaro Palacios is recognized worldwide for his stunning Priorat wines. But in 1998, he teamed up with his nephew, Ricardo Perez, fresh from enology studies and training in Bordeaux, to pursue his dream of producing wines in Bierzo. They found a perfect site, with steep hillsides, poor soils, excellent exposure, and old Mencia vines, and dedicated their new winery to José Palacio, Alvaro’s father and Ricardo’s grandfather. Their rich, inviting Pétalos del Bierzo Mencia is sourced from 40 to 90-year-old vines, and made for immediate appeal, although it has the structure to age for two to three more years. It has a spicy, inviting rusticity that would pair perfectly with pork chops or lamb. It’s $22.
2009 Bonny Doon, Contra — One of our most popular Thursday tastings in recent memory was earlier this month, when we featured Rhône-style wines from Bonny Doon Vineyard. This wine mostly falls into that category, being about half Carignane, followed by Grenache and Mourvèdre. But then it gets a bit, well, contra: with a bit of Petite Sirah, Zinfandel, and Syrah added to the mix. Not completely orthodox, but then, winemaker Randall Grahm is not a strictly conventional guy. His Contra is basically a field blend, full of the earthiness of the old vine Carignane, tempered by the lush softness of the blending grapes. It’s an easy-drinking quaffer, in a hearty, fruity, and kind of spicy way, and is $15. For further fun and edification, read the back label!
2008 Poderi Elia, Barbera d’Asti — Federico Stella is one talented and meticulous winemaker, sparing no trouble or expense to make his world-class Piedmont wines: he experimented with over 30 combinations of French oak before settling on the formula to use in his winery! And he continues to nurture the very old Barbera vines on his estate (which many would tear out in favor of more profitable grapes), because they produce amazing wines. Always looking for ways to improve, Frederico never loses sight of tradition. His Barbera d’Asti, at $16, is classically styled; with soft tannins, and hints of cranberries. Try it with porcini mushroom risotto and truffle oil.
2010 Terre Margaritelli, Pietramala — Terre Margaritelli is one of the newest members of the Small Vineyards family. Winemaker Stefano Rossini grows a wide variety of grapes on his organic estate in Umbria (Small Vineyards calls it a “botanical wonderland”) where his goal is to produce the most inventive and exciting biodynamic wines possible. His Pietramala, an evocative blend of Trebbiano and Grechetto, is just making its US debut. It is crisp and bright, with just enough aromatics and body to make it perfect for antipasti or calamari. It’s $14.
2009 Domaine Grosbois, Chinon “La Cuisine de Ma Mère” — Before Nicolas Grosbois took over his family’s estate in the Loire Valley’s Chinon region, he spent a number of years working at wineries around the globe, including Oregon’s Adelsheim and Shea vineyards. But the road led him back to where he started, with a renewed desire to make the Cabernet Francs his birthplace is known for. The unique local soils in his village produce particularly silky, rich wines, and his are known for their aromatics and expressiveness. This wine is as charming as its label, and full of spicy, peppery fruit. If you close your eyes you could be in a Parisian bistro (but for only $16). Try it with Rillons de Tours or Rillettes, two quintessential pork-based dishes from the area.