2010 Iago’s Wine, Chardakhi, Chinuri — Iago Bitarishvili has been making wine in the Georgian wine region of Kartli for over 50 years. He steadfastly adheres to traditional winemaking methods and his was the first winery in Georgia to be certified organic. He produces wine from just one grape: the indigenous, Chinuri, and he produces a mere 3000 bottles a year. Iago ferments his wines for three to six months in 300-year-old clay amphorae (kvevri), in two styles: one with skin contact and one without. This is the skin contact version and we were totally blown away by it. It is richly textured, complex, and layered, with flavors of honeyed spice, stone, and dried fruit. It is reminiscent of a Rhône white, but with tell-tale exotic amphora notes. It is $17 and would be perfect with chicken or pork dishes.
2011 Viña Reboreda, Ribeiro Blanco — This white blend comes from Spain’s northwestern Ribeiro region, in Galicia, just across the Miño River from Portugal’s Vinho Verde region. It is 40% Treixadura, with 20% each Torrontés, Godello, and Palomino. Treixadura, which adds warmth, balance, and aromatics, is the most important white grape in this region. It is also often blended into the light, refreshing Vinho Verdes from across the border, but this one is much softer and aromatic. DNA testing has shown that the distinctively flavored Galician Torrontés grown here is unrelated to the grape of the same name from South America. Typical of white wines from this region, this one is crisp and refreshing, with inviting aromatics and complexity. Perfect for fish and shellfish dishes. It is $12.
2010 Barboursville Vineyards, Cabernet Franc Reserve — First things first: this wine is from Virginia! Barboursville Vineyards was founded by seventh-generation Italian winegrower Gianni Zonin in, ironically, the Piedmont region of Virginia. The vineyards were planted in 1976 on a 900-acre, 18th century plantation (against the advice of government officials and bankers to plant tobacco). The original estate house was designed for the Barbour family by Thomas Jefferson. Barboursville is now a highly respected winery, and this elegant, characterful Cabernet Franc is blended from a selection of clones from Bordeaux and the Loire. It is loaded with spice, dark fruit, and bright tannins and, at $25, is ready to drink now with, as they suggest, braised veal roast, duck, or roasted lamb with rosemary and garlic over polenta. The recent San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition (which Bear used to judge for) awarded 22 medals to Virginia wines, with the 2008 Barboursville Cab Franc Reserve winning Best in Class. Who knew?!
2010 Casale della Ioria, Cesanese del Piglio, Camp Novo — Italy’s Lazio region, home to the capital city of Rome, has never been known for its viticulture, but that is changing thanks in no small part to the grape, Cesanese. Cesanese del Piglio is the first wine in the region to be approved for DOCG classification, though it took until 2008. Paolo Perinelli has been meticulously growing and producing the grape for decades at his family-run estate, Casale della Ioria, located in a small hilltop town, about 30 miles southeast of Rome. His Cesanese is grown in the local clay-based soil, at around 1200 feet elevation. It has a warm and inviting nose, and is soft, full bodied and full of dark red fruit and spice. Perfect for pasta, meat dishes, or roasted vegetables. It’s $16 and ready to drink anytime.
2007 Stephenson Cellars, “No Name” Red — When winemaker Dave Stephenson did a tasting in the shop last year, he brought along a mystery wine. One with no name. No label, in fact. It was fun and tasty but when we ran out, we assumed that was the end of it. Dave has a long history in the Washington wine world. He worked alongside the likes of Christophe Baron (of Cayuse fame), Charlie Hoppes, and Mike Januik in the early days, and he is currently head winemaker at Walla Walla’s Otis Kenyon. And under his own label, Stephenson Cellars, he makes tiny amounts of some pretty spectacular wines, especially Syrahs. We kept getting requests for that no-name red, so when we heard Dave still had some, we grabbed it for the club. Mostly Syrah, and all from 2007, it is $15. And nameless.
2010 Domaine des Escaravailles, Côtes du Rhône, Les Antimagnes — We put the 2004 vintage of this wine in our May, 2007 club, and we were delighted when our rep brought this new vintage in for us to try. The property, in the village of Rasteau, was dubbed Domaine des Escaravailles (escaravailles is the word for scarab beetle in the local Occitan dialect) to describe the hooded, black-robed monks who appeared to resemble little beetles as they scurried around the hilltop monasteries in centuries past. Still 70% Grenache and 30% Syrah, this wine has a wonderfully inviting nose, and loads of Provençal herbs, spice, and garrigue. Perfect for lamb, pork, or whatever you’re cooking for Thanksgiving! It is $18.