2010 Clos Cristal, Saumur-Champigny — We featured the 2008 Clos Cristal back in 2009. As we wrote then, Antoine Cristal was the first winemaker in the Loire Valley’s Saumur region to vinify red wines and, before he died, he donated his prime Cabernet Franc vineyard (Clos Cristal) to the Hospices de Saumur so that the profits from the wines could support the work of the institution. You may recall his unique planting method: he built two miles of walls running east-west in the vineyard and planted his grapes along the north side. He trained the vines to grow through holes in the walls to the warm south side where the absorbed heat of the wall helps them ripen fully, with none of the green flavors Loire Cab Francs can sometimes have. This one is complex and expressive, with soft herb flavors and fine tannins, but needs a bit of time or decanting (there’s a bit of sediment). It is $25 and great for cheeses or white meat dishes.
2011 Pepin-Condé, Elgin Pinot Noir — Stark-Condé makes handcrafted wines from grapes grown on their estate in the unique terroir of the Jonkershoek Valley in Stellenbosch, South Africa. With a total production of less than 3000 cases a year, they are one of South Africa’s few true boutique wineries and winemaker José Condé practices meticulous, traditional viticulture in crafting all of his wines, such as hand-basket pressing and small-batch fermenting. In his Pepin Condé line of wines, he explores vineyards outside their valley, and this Pinot comes from a mix of Dijon clones grown in the cooler Elgin region. It is a very elegant, feminine wine, with delicate red fruits and a touch of spice. This wine has always been sold only in their tasting room and in local restaurants, but this year they shipped one pallet to one of our local distributors and we are excited to be able to put it in the club. Not available anywhere else in the U.S., it is $15 and would be wonderful with grilled fish. Alas, we sold out at the tasting and may not be able to get any more.
2006 Bodegas Beronia, Rioja Riserva —This winery was named in honor of the Berones, a warrior people who inhabited the Rioja region in the third century BC and called their land Beronia. Bodegas Beronia was founded in 1973 with a commitment to produce wines that express the character of the local terroir. Since then, their amazing aged wines have garnered quite the attention, with their Reserva and Gran Reserva listed in the Wine Spectator’s Top 100 list three years in a row. And this wine was recently voted ‘Best Rioja’ in the Sommelier Challenge International Wine Competition. Mostly Tempranillo, with a bit of Mazuelo and Graciano, it is smooth and soft, with a bit of wild fruit and spice—perfect for roast beef or lamb. It is $19 and is drinking well now, but has the depth and structure to age another five to ten years.
2011 Domaine Billard, Hautes Côtes de Beaune — Domaine Billard owns vineyards throughout the Côtes de Beaune, with the bulk of them in the Hautes Côtes de Beaune. Their La Justice vineyard has chalky, well-drained soil, and excellent exposure. The estate was recently passed down to son Jérôme, who is placing more emphasis on organic farming principles, low yields, and hand harvesting. And while his father sold his wine to the local cooperative, Jérôme now bottles all of their production at their estate. His elegant Hautes Côtes de Beaune Blanc is 100% Chardonnay, sees some oak, and is aged on the lees for ten months, giving the wine its lovely richness and depth. Its soft, food-friendly acidity adds structure and balance. Perfect for salmon, it is $19.75 and, while delicious now, it will also develop with age.
2011 Domaine de Cassagnoles, Gros Manseng, Reserve Sélection — Here’s another wine we’ve seen before, in the May 2009 club when we featured the 2007 vintage. It is made by the Cardeillac family, who have been making wine in the heart of Gascony, France, for several centuries. Once focused primarily on Armagnac, they now produce a wide variety of still wines, all from their estate fruit. One of those is this delicious white made from the Basque grape, Gros Manseng. An excellent value at $12, it is full and rich, with aromas of stone fruits, and balanced by fresh minerality. It’s ready to drink now, with fish dishes, or with appetizers such as goat cheese or paté.
2011 Tomero, Cabernet Sauvignon — In Argentina’s Mendoza region, the tomero is traditionally the person in charge of the vineyard water supply. With his expert knowledge of the land and the climate, the tomero sees that all of the farmers get their fair share of this precious commodity. This winery, located in the upper Uco Valley, is named after that indispensable figure in vineyard. Their Cabernet is aged mostly in stainless steel tanks, with 20% seeing eight months in French oak, allowing the dark, complex fruit flavors to shine through. Very inviting and softly spicy, it is great with or without food and is just as tasty the second day, if it lasts that long! It is $13 and was a big hit at our recent Latin American tasting.