2008 Weninger, Kékfrankos — This is a Hungarian wine made from the grape Kékfrankos. But it is not as far out as it sounds. Kékfrankos is the Hungarian equivalent of Blaufränkisch (aka Lemberger), and it comes from the small village of Balf, near the Austrian border. Balf lies in Hungary’s Sopron region, at the southern end of Lake Neusiedl, much of which is located in one of Austria’s best red wine regions, Burgenland. Winemaker Franz Reinhard Weninger grew up in central Burgenland, on his family’s wine estate. But his father happened to own several prime, centuries-old vineyards in Balf, and in 2000, Franz decided to carry on his father’s project there and focus on producing Kékfrankos, which he now grows organically and biodynamically. His wines get their soft spiciness from the local slate and schist soils, and are balanced by wonderful acidity and complexity. This one is $18 and would be great with roast beef, or perhaps goulash.
2010 Fall Line, Tempranillo — We are long-time fans of Tim Sorenson’s meticulously crafted, elegant and ageworthy wines. Year after year, his wines showcase the unique characteristics of place, in his single-vineyard Bordeaux-style blends; or varietal, in his sophisticated Cabs, blended from different vineyard sites. Last year he reached beyond Bordeaux grapes and produced his first single-varietal, single-vineyard wine from Tempranillo, which we featured in the club. Well, he’s done it again! No longer dubbed El Otro (“the other one”), it is still made from 100% Boushey Vineyard fruit. Tim’s interpretation of this Spanish grape is silky, nuanced, spicy, and full of dark fruit, bramble, and juicy acidity. It is $25 and Tim made only 115 cases, so it is pretty limited. Enjoy it with a nice, hearty winter meal.
2010 Le Pigeoulet des Brunier, VdP de Vaucluse — The history of the Brunier family in France’s southern Rhône region dates back to 1898, when Hippolyte Brunier planted his first vines there. Today, his two grandsons farm some of the best parcels in Châteauneuf du Pape, and their holdings include such illustrious names as Vieux Télégraph and Les Pallières. Their Pigeoulet comes from two of the family’s parcels: one on the east bank of the Rhône with terroir nearly identical to that of Châteauneuf du Pape, and the other on the lower slopes of Mont Ventoux. It is a blend of 80% Grenache, 10% Syrah, and 5% each Carignan and Cinsault. At $19, it is fresh and fruity, with complex flavors of red and black fruits, and a touch of black pepper. Great now, or over the next five to seven years, with grilled meats or roasted vegetables.
2009 Fattoria Bibbiani, Treggiaia — This Small Vineyards import is a popular hit, year after year. It comes from a family estate in the hilltop town of Bibbiani, by the banks of the Arno, about 20 kilometers west of Firenze. Records of winemaking here go back 13 centuries and the family of Luigi Donato (affectionately known as “Il Professore”) has owned the estate for 150 years. They focus on wines unique to the region, such as the rare grape Pulignano, a clone of Sangiovese that only grows on their hill. Their Treggiaia is Sangiovese based, with a touch of Canaiolo and Cabernet Sauvignon. Its bright fruit, food-friendly acidity and inviting mouth feel make it perfect for simple, everyday foods, like pasta and fresh pizza. They make less than 1000 cases of this wine, which is $11 and ready to enjoy anytime.
2011 Bodegas Naia, “Naia” Verdejo — This refreshing, vibrant white comes from the Rueda region of Spain, on the banks of the Duero River. It is 100% Verdejo, an indigenous grape that grows well in the hot, arid region thanks to its relatively thick skin. Bodegas Naia was founded in 2002 in La Seca, the most important growing sub-region in Rueda, with a goal of creating superb white wines, with a particular focus on their old-vine Verdejo. This one sees some aging in new French oak, which adds body and complexity to this crisp, citrusy wine. It’s $15 and, with its focused minerality and long finish, it’s perfect for any kind of seafood, like a nice ceviche, or your favorite sushi.
2010 Catena, Chardonnay — 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 grapes there 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. Their Chardonnay is always a hit at our tastings, even among die-hard red-only drinkers and ABCs (“anything but Chard”). It is a blend of fruit from three of their family vineyards: La Piramide, which provides honeyed, tropical notes; Adrianna, a cooler site, adding floral tones and steely minerality; and Domingo, giving notes of dried fruits, citrus, and a crisp finish. With its superb balance, concentration, and varietal character, it is an amazing value at $19.75. Wonderful now or over the next three to four years, with seafood, chicken, or pork chops.