2005 Clos de Brusquières, Châteauneuf-du-Pape — This tiny, ultra-traditional estate produces just one wine, and in very limited quantities at that. Owner Claude Courtil learned everything he knows about winemaking from his uncle Henri Bonneau, one of the most revered producers in the region. They share a deep commitment to natural winemaking: working the vineyards by hand, aging the wines in cement and large foudres, and bottling without intrusive fining and filtration. This blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre, from the excellent 2005 vintage, is complex and spicy, with dark fruit, great depth, and a smooth, silky texture. Our local distributor got only 50 cases of this wine, and most of it went to restaurants, but we managed to grab five cases. It is $29.75, an amazing price for any Ch. du Pape, but especially for one of this caliber. Drinking well now, it would be perfect for Thanksgiving dinner.
2009 Domaine Sainte-Eugenie, La Réserve Corbières — The Ste-Eugenie Rosé has long been a shop favorite, and we’ve enjoyed their red, too. So we were excited to discover their stunning “La Reserve” Corbières recently when importer Bobby Kacher was in town. The estate is located in the district of Fontfroide (“the sweet spot of Corbières”) in the dry, sunny foothills of the Pyrénées, near the Mediterranean coast. The winemaker is a former Meursault producer and La Réserve is his top wine, a blend of old vine Carignan, Grenache and Syrah, aged in neutral oak. It is complex and richly textured, with loads of elegant dark fruit. At $18, it’s a bit higher than many Corbières, but totally worth the splurge. The winery suggests enjoying it with beef Wellington, or roast game, such as goose or capon.
2009 Viña Errázuriz, Wild Ferment Chardonnay — Viña Errázuriz was founded in 1870 in the Valle de Aconcagua region of Chile, about 65 miles north of Santiago. The high-elevation vineyards, with their mild, rainy winters, hot, dry summers, and moderating maritime breezes off the Pacific, are an ideal place to grow cool climate grapes, such as Chardonnay. This wine is made from their best parcels, with each lot allowed to ferment naturally, on its native yeasts. The wild ferment process creates distinctive flavors and adds complexity to the wine, about a third of which undergoes malolactic fermentation giving it further creaminess and concentration. This wine sees some oak and is quite elegant, with a slightly toasty, earthy flavor. It is $19.75 and ready to enjoy now, perhaps with swordfish or Pacific Rim dishes.
2010 L’Ecole No 41, Chenin Blanc — L’Ecole No 41 has lost the whimsical schoolhouse label and gone for a bit more serious look. But that’s all that’s changed. The third oldest winery in the Walla Walla Valley (founded in 1983), L’Ecole has been producing this old-vine, Vouvray-style Chenin Blanc since 1987, when it was a favorite of their founding winemaker, Jean Ferguson. Twenty-three years later, L’Ecole continues to be one of the few wineries around that makes a serious effort with this underappreciated grape. Their 2010 vintage, $15, is fresh and pretty, with white stone fruit, honeysuckle aromas, and a soft, minerally finish. There was some botrytis in the fruit at harvest, which gives the wine a sense of richness and an off-dry feel, which becomes more pronounced when the wine is less chilled.
2009 Bodegas Ercavio, Tempranillo Roble, Más Que Vinos — This estate grew out of a “flying winemaker” project started by three Spanish winemaking friends, which took them to consult at wineries all over Spain. But in 1999 they decided to launch their own winery in Dosbarrios, the hometown of one of the partners. They recognized the great potential of the vineyards in this village, in the province of Toledo in central Spain, and set out to renovate an old family winery. Their goal: to produce top quality wines from the indigenous grapes. This 100% Tempranillo, known locally as Cencibel, is fermented in stainless steel, with malolactic fermentation done in traditional tinajas (clay amphora). It has loads of dark, lush fruit and firm tannins, and is a great value at $12. Ready to drink now, it’s perfect for pork or lamb dishes.
2008 Chono, Cabernet Sauvignon, Riserva — In the late 18th century, winemakers brought vine cuttings from Bordeaux to Chile’s Maipo Valley, where they thrived in the alluvial soils of the high-altitude vineyards, aided by the moderating influence of the nearby Andes. No surprise then, that the Chono winemaking team chose to locate their winery here, where they could produce wines expressive of the region and the varietal character of each grape. Their Cabernet is well balanced, with ample body, but with a welcome sense of restraint that keeps it from becoming overly juicy. It is $12 and has a soft grip, a delicate touch of oak, and a hint of spice. An interesting note, when Chono winemaker Álvaro Espinoza, one the most respected and innovative winemakers in Chile, was asked what wines he liked to drink (besides his own), he named those of Viña Errázuriz (as in the Chardonnay above) among his favorites.