Collector’s Club – December 2012

2003 Bodega Turner, Deux Femmes Blanc — This is an amazing wine that will have to remain shrouded in a bit of mystery. It was made by a prominent Walla Walla winemaker as part of what was planned to be a highly anticipated personal project. But life changed, as can happen, and the wines were never released. They have been stored (impeccably) all this time and just recently, a winemaker friend of ours was given permission to sell them to a few select places. We were excited and, we’ll admit, a bit apprehensive, to try a 2003 Washington white blend (Sauv Blanc and Semillon), but we were blown away. Not only had it stood the test of time beautifully, but it was simply stunning; nuanced and complex.
It was originally slated to be much higher but given the circumstances, we are able to put it in the club at $15. We recommend you enjoy it relatively soon, and raise a toast to life’s unexpected twists and turns.

2009 Nieto, Don Nicanor Malbec — Malbec is always a great wine to pair with the foods of winter, like grilled and roasted meats, game, and hearty stews. This one comes from Bodegas Nieto Senetiner, an Argentinean estate in the northern Mendoza subregion of Luján de Cuyo. Established in 1888, it is one of the oldest wineries in this region and they own what is considered to be one of Argentina’s great heritage vineyards. Their Don Nicanor Malbec is made from grapes grown in their high-altitude vineyards in Agrelo. This one is dark and intense (someone suggested there must be some India ink in the blend!) with flavors of plums and spice. It was a big hit at our tasting, at $19. Perfect to pair with those warming winter meals.

2010 Chapoutier, Bila-Haut Occultum Lapidem — We put the 2009 Bila-Haut in our March club, and this new vintage is garnering even more attention. Highly-regarded Rhône producer, Michel Chapoutier, is known as a “scout for soil.” This wine comes from a site he found in the Roussillon region of southeast France, with rocky soils consisting of schist, gneiss, and clay from the Devonian and Kimmeridgian periods. He established his estate, Bila-Haut, there to produce wines that express the essence of this unique local terroir. His Occultum Lapidem, or “hidden gem,” is a Syrah, Grenache, Carignan blend, full of rich garrigue and spice notes from the Syrah, with weight and complexity added by the Grenache and Carignan. At once both rustic and elegant, it is lovely already, but definitely opens up with air or decanting and will develop even more with some bottle age. It is $28 and perfect for lamb or cassoulet.

2011 Domaine Courtois, La Source, Côtes du Rhône Blanc — It’s no secret that we’re huge fans of Rhône reds, which often find their way into this club. But the whites from this area are equally compelling and versatile. This white Rhône is a blend of Clairette, Grenache Blanc, Marsanne, and Roussanne from the village of Vinsobres in the southern Rhône, about 20 miles northeast of Châteauneuf du Pape. It comes from a family-owned estate, dating back several generations. Their 15- to 20-year old vines grow in silty, clay soils in an area protected from the cold mistral wines by the foothills to the east. Vinsobres received appellation status for its red wines in 2005, but the whites are also delightful. This one is soft and pretty, with excellent minerality, perfect for chicken, seafood, or with goat cheese. It is $13.

2010 Saviah Cellars, Cabernet Sauvignon — We’ve always loved the wines of Walla Walla winemaker, Rich Funk. He began his winery in 2000, with a love of wine, a background in chemistry and microbiology, and a keen interest in soil science. Add to that, his enormous talent and access to excellent vineyard sources, and it’s no wonder he has made such consistently good wines over the years. His wines are marked by great aromatics, deft fruit flavors, and judicious use of oak. The cool 2010 growing season allowed fruit to ripen slowly, with excellent balance of acidity and ripeness. And Rich took full advantage of nature’s gift in producing this elegant, spicy, complex Cab. As it is still young, give it time to open up (or some bottle age). At our tasting, we poured a bottle that we’d opened the day before, and it was fabulous! It’s $19.75 now but we hear it will go up to $29.75 in the new year, so if you want more, stock up soon!

2011 La Quercia, Aglianico — The La Quercia estate lies in Italy’s Abruzzo region, where they produce a delicious and affordable Montepulciano, a popular staple in our under-$10 bin. Winemaker Antonio Lamona also owns a vineyard plot in the southern Puglia region, where he grows Aglianico, a difficult grape that happens to thrive in volcanic soils such as those found in Italy’s boot heel. Aglianico is known for its flavors of ripe plum and white pepper and this one displays Lamona’s signature combination of power and finesse, with controlled tannins. The folks at Small Vineyards recommend pairing it with seared ahi tuna with plum sauce, grilled polenta cakes, or cioppino. It is $13.