2009 Viña Ventisquero, “Grey,” Carménère — We tasted this wine back in early February and were so wowed, we wanted to put it in the very next club. But we weren’t the only fans, and the entire shipment sold out before we could get any. Well, another shipment has just arrived, and our rep made sure to snag some for us so here it is: a meticulously made Carménère from a single vineyard block of carefully tended vines. Winemaker Felipe Tosso, who once considered careers as a tennis pro, or classical guitarist, chose instead to devote his life to winemaking, Now he creates superb wines like this one: dark, smooth, and spicy, with a long finish. It opens up forever (the first time we’d tasted it the bottle had been open for a day and it was killer!) so do give it a chance to show its stuff! Originally a $30 wine, it’s now only $22 and is perfect for hearty fare.
2008 Steele, Old Vine Zinfandel — Jed Steele has been making wine in California for over 40 years and, while he produces a dizzying array of wines, under a number of labels, his total production is relatively small. This old vine Zin comes from the Pacini Vineyard, in the foothills of Mayacamas Mountains, in Mendocino County. Because of the rolling topography, the fruit ripens unevenly, so Jed has to harvest in small lots over the course of several weeks. He ferments and ages these lots separately, blending just before bottling and declassifying any juice that doesn’t measure up. Only the best for this wine, and it shows. It is full of flavor, but not hot or fat (and it’s only 13.5% alcohol!) Dry farming adds intensity and aromatics, and the spicy, brambly flavors make it a great partner for roasted meats, barbecue, or rib steak. It’s $19 and tastes great now.
2009 Roccafiore, Fiorfiore, Grechetto di Todi — Todi is a medieval hill town near our sister city of Perugia, in the central Italian region of Umbria. The white grape, Grechetto, has a long history here, and is probably best known as one of the key grapes in Orvieto. In this wine, however, Grechetto stands on its own. Fermented in stainless steel, and aged for 12 months in oak, it is very elegant; rich and round, with a balancing backbone of minerality and acidity and a long, pleasant, finish. It is $19 and is drinking perfectly now. It has the weight and complexity to pair with poultry, or vegetable-based dishes, but would also be nice with fish or soft cheeses.
2010 Cantele, Negroamaro — The winemaking history of the Cantele family began up north, in Bologna, but eventually led them to the volcanic, boot heel region of Puglia where, today, a whole family tree full of Canteles devote themselves to their family wine business. They are based on the hot, stony, Salento peninsula, where they produce, among other things, this dark, nuanced Negroamaro. Aged in stainless steel, it has the classic Negroamaro profile, rustic and earthy, with spicy complexity. It is $11.50 and is ready to drink now, though it will continue to evolve and mellow over the next two to three years. Perfect for Mediterranean cuisine, pasta, or soft, aged cheeses.
2010 Borie de Maurel, Esprit d’Automne — This is the “people’s choice” wine: we poured it at our recent Small Vineyards tasting and it was so popular, we just had to put it in the club. From a relatively young estate in the Minervois region of southwest France, the “spirit of autumn” is a blend of Syrah, Grenache, and Carignan, grown at about 1000 feet elevation, on limestone and clay soil. It has aromas of olives, and spice, with lots of dark red fruit, and rich earthiness. It is a very versatile wine, perfect for roasted pork-loin or beet salad. The winery suggests pairing it with spring broad beans and has a yummy recipe (with bacon, of course) on their website. It is $14 and is quite limited, only available in this market.
2010 Herdade do Esparão, Reserva Branco — Last month we featured a red from Portugal’s Alentejo region; this month we present this white, from the same region. Australian native, David Baverstock, Portugal’s winemaker of the year in 2000, leads the production team at Esporão, and his estate has helped put the Alentejo region, historically more known for its cork production, on the winemaking map. Made from native grapes, Antão Vaz, Arinto, and Roupeiro, this $18 wine has intensity and body, balanced by firm acidity, coming off a bit like a nice Old World Chardonnay. It is perfect for seared scallops, cod fritters, or even duck.