2009 Le Clos du Caillou, Côtes du Rhône, Vielles Vignes, Cuvée Unique – We selected this wine to pour at our recent North Berkeley Imports tasting after trying it with the winemaker himself, Bruno Gaspard. Only 30 people braved the snow and ice to come to our tasting that night, yet we sold an entire case of the wine, with orders for more—an affirmation of our own thoughts: this is an amazing Côtes du Rhône! In fact, if it weren’t for a fluke of politics this would be Châteauneuf du Pape. The vineyard for this wine is essentially the same as that for Gaspard’s Châteauneufs, in soil, climate, and fruit, but it happens to be just across the road from the official designation. As a result, it is an absolute steal at only $25. Gaspard’s old vine Côtes du Rhônes are typically lush and complex, but 2009 is said to be one of his “sexier, more approachable blends to date.” We were blown away by this wine. It’s gorgeous now, though it could certainly age four to five years, and it would complement any special meal.
2009 Catena, Cabernet Sauvignon — The Catena family has grown vines on the slopes of the Andes, in Mendoza, for over 100 years, ever since Italian transplant Nicola Catena planted his first Malbec in 1902. Since that time, the family has meticulously researched the soils and microclimates of their different high-altitude vineyard sites, to find the ideal location for each of their selected clones. Fruit for this Cabernet Sauvignon is sourced from three of those sites, to produce a wine of amazing concentration and character: getting black fruit and ripe tannins from La Pirámide (3100 feet); aromatics and spice from Domingo (3700 feet); and minerality from Adrianna (a stunning 4856 feet elevation). It is an intense wine, that truly benefits from decanting and is possibly even better the second day. Usually $21, we were able to put it in the club at $19.75. This calls for a good steak, or other hearty fare.
2008 Fanti, Sassomagno, Sant’Antimo — The Tuscan town of Montalcino is known for one thing: their powerful, long-lived Brunellos, made from Sangiovese Grosso. Lesser known is the local DOC of Sant’Antimo, named after a beautiful church in Montalcino. The DOC was established in 1996 and, though it covers roughly the same territory as Brunello, it is less strict, allowing winemakers to include a wider variety of grapes in their wines. Case in point: this $14 blend of Sangiovese and Merlot. The estate, which has belonged to the Fanti family since the beginning of the 18th century, produces a wonderful range of Brunellos. But the newer DOC allows them to make simpler, more affordable wines such as this one: smooth, approachable, ready to drink, and perfect for pizza, lasagne, or just about any meat dish.
2008 Familia Solana, Toro — This is another hit from a recent tasting, specifically, our showcase of Spanish wines from Bellingham’s Casa Ventura. They import a wonderful selection of wines, but this one is particularly special in that the Familia Solana line is a personal project of Basilio Rodriquez, Casa Ventura’s president and founder. From Toro, it is a delicious blend of Tinta de Toro (Tempranillo) and century-old Garnacha. This was quite a crowd-pleaser at the tasting, for its ripe, dark fruit and spices and rustic complexity. Perfect for red meat, lamb, or paella. It is $14 and ready to drink now, or over the next three to four years. Each bottle features a charming old photo of Basilio’s Spanish family on the label.
2010 Martina Prieto, Sauvignon Blanc — Martina Prieto is a young, rising star in Spain’s Rueda region. She comes from a talented winemaking family: according to the Michelin guide, her mother makes the best white wine in Spain, under their estate name: José Pariente. But Martina’s wines easily stand on their own merit. We featured her 2009 Sauvignon Blanc in the June, 2010 club, and this one is every bit as bracing and aromatic. To achieve this in the hot Rueda region, she harvests during the long, cool nights, and cold ferments, locking in the complexity and finesse of the fruit. This one is $16, drinking perfectly now, and would be great with shellfish, pasta salad, or pork loin.
2010 Steele, Shooting Star, Aligote — Jed Steele, of Steele Wines, has been making wine in Lake County, California for over 40 years. Under his Shooting Star label, he produces every day-style wines as well as wines from lesser-known grapes, such as this one, Aligoté — the other white grape of Burgundy. As it is not grown much in California, the fruit for this wine is sourced from the Newhouse Vineyard, near Sunnyside, Washington where, surprisingly, two acres of Aligoté were planted in the 1970s. Jed is one of a handful of winemakers with access to this fruit, and his barrel-fermented Aligoté is delightfully clean and inviting, with a wonderful balance of fruit and acidity. With just a hint of floral notes, it is a perfect for seafood or chicken dishes. It is $14 and drinking perfectly now. (Fun fact: Aligoté is the quintessential white used in Kir, an aperitif made by adding one to two tablespoons of Cassis to a glass of chilled wine.)