Collector’s Club – December 2011

2009 Dumas Station, Cow Catcher Red — When bad weather ruins our plans, we get pretty annoyed. But for a winemaker it can mean the loss of an entire year’s income. In 2009 an October freeze in eastern Washington cut the growing season short. When it came time to harvest, Dumas Station’s Jay DeWitt found that much of his fruit did not met his exacting standards, so he made the difficult decision to not produce any of his flagship wines that year—an expensive move, but important to preserve the integrity of his label. Instead, he put all of the best juice he had into his table wine. As a result, the 2009 Cow Catcher Red, a Bordeaux blend with a touch of Syrah, is truly a standout. And, as the only wine he produced that year, it more than justifies the slightly higher cost of $24. Deep, rich, and complex, it develops forever in the glass. It even tastes great the second day! It is elegant and beautifully knit together and could pair with any special meal, or with burgers, as Jay suggested when he did a tasting in our shop recently.

2009 Monte Tondo, Valpolicella — The Monte Tondo estate has been producing wines for three generations, in the hills of Soave, not far from Verona. And the folks at Small Vineyards, who import the wine, think that winemakers Gino and Marta Magnabosco are making some of the most exciting and vibrant wines in all of the Veneto. This Valpolicella is made in a “baby Amarone” style: the grapes are dried for about a month before pressing, providing a hefty dose of intensity and concentration. It has loads of dark fruit and spice notes, but still manages to come in at only 13% alcohol, making it very food friendly. Small Vineyards suggests pairing it with pork roast, or ragu with rabbit. It is $18.

2010 Sikelia, Nero d’Avola — Sikelia is the ancient Greek name for Sicily, which is where this wine hails from. This Nero d’Avola, the island’s most important varietal, is sourced from two sites: one coastal, adding bold lushness, and one located at higher elevation, providing the high tones of mountain fruit. It also contains a bit of Syrah, and the combined effect is a very tasty and inviting $11 wine that is ready to enjoy any time. It is actually made by our Small Vineyards friend Giuseppi Martorana (you remember—the local winemaking chief of police), but it is transported to Tuscany for bottling. This keeps the costs much lower, but since it falls outside the strict definition of a Small Vineyards wine, it is imported under their sister company, Largo Wines. Same small, trusted growers, excellent value.

2007 Belezos, Rioja Crianza — This wine comes to us via our friends at Casa Ventura Imports, in Bellingham, who never cease to find excellent Spanish wines (and olive oil!) for our shelves. It is made by Bodegas Zugober, an estate founded in 1987, in the northern Spanish region of Rioja Alavesa, by Eduardo Gomez and Isabel Bernardo, two young enologists who come from families with long winemaking traditions. Their small winery has a limited production, and focuses on innovation, modern technology, and utmost quality. Their Rioja Crianza is very elegant and aromatic. Mostly Tempranillo, with a touch of Mazuelo and Graciano, it is full-bodied and smooth, with just the right balance of fruit, spice, and earth. At $18 it is ready to enjoy now or over the next seven or eight years and would complement any hearty meal.

2007 Bott-Geyl, Pinot d’Alsace, Métiss — Our two whites this month represent a sort of matched set: two representations of Pinot Gris from two very different places. First, Alsace. The estate of Bott-Geyl has been producing wine for many years, but it has really come into its own under the watch of Jean-Christophe Bott-Geyl, a rising star of Alsace winemaking. His passion for expressing terroir in his wines led him first to organic, and then biodynamic farming. His Métiss (blend) is a ‘family reunion’ of Pinots: Blanc, Gris, Auxerrois, and Noir (the black sheep?), all grown on the schist, limestone, and gneiss soil in his vineyards. Jean-Christophe strives for bright, clean fruit flavors in his winemaking, and his use of indigenous yeasts, and extended lees aging adds texture and complexity. This Pinot blend is a beautiful expression of those qualities, with elegance and depth, balanced by a fresh, bracing minerality. It is $17.

2010 Naches Heights Vineyards, Pinot Gris — Next we have a Pinot Gris from Phil Cline, one of our favorite Washington grape growers. He poured this delightful wine when he was in for our October Saturday tasting. Phil’s family farmed in eastern Washington for nearly 70 years, but he shook things up a bit when he decided to plant grapes on the site that is now Naches Heights Vineyard. With its rich, volcanic soil, it is one of the highest elevation vineyards in the state and some questioned his plan. But what was once dubbed “Phil’s Folly” turned out to be an excellent site for grapes, especially whites, which tend to be rather Alsatian in style, but still Washington at heart. This food-friendly $13 Pinot Gris is full of pear, citrus, and spice and is ready to drink now on its own, or with appetizers, chicken, or pasta.