2011 Albet i Noya, Xarel-lo — If you’ve ever had a glass of Cava, Spain’s great contribution to the world of sparkling wines, then you’ve no doubt had Xarel-lo, one of the main grapes in most Cava blends. Xarel-lo is most commonly grown in Spain’s northeastern Penedès region and as a still wine, it can be quite aromatic and powerful. Albet i Noya is one of Spain’s leading organic wine producers and their estate is located in a favorable microclimate, with lower than average rainfall, on the slopes of the Ordal mountain range. The region’s mix of sand and clay soil provides excellent acidity and this Xarel-lo is refreshing and vibrant, with great minerality and hints of tropical fruit. It is $14 and ready to drink now or over the next several years. A very versatile food wine, especially with light pasta dishes, chicken, or fish.
2008 Château du Grand Caumont, Impatience Corbières — We poured this wine at a French tasting a while back and it was such a hit it gets a “people’s choice” spot in this month’s club. It hails from the Lézignon-Corbières region in the Languedoc-Roussillon, still the source of some of France’s best value, and more innovative wines. Bordering the Mediterranean, it is a warm, dry region, with mild winters. Château du Grand Caumont has about 100 hectares of vineyards, planted on rugged, stony, terraced slopes. Their “Impatience” is a rich, complex blend of old vine Carignan (over 50 years old), Syrah, and Grenache, aged in a combination of French oak and stainless steel. It is $18, ready to drink anytime and, with its concentrated, yet elegant flavors of dark fruit and spice, it’s a great match for game dishes, stews, or grilled meats.
2012 Côtes de Ciel, Viognier —Viognier is most famous as the grape in Condrieu, a seductive, heady and usually very pricy wine from the northern Rhône. Grown elsewhere in the world, it produces wines that range from fat and highly perfumed, to more lean and restrained styles. Here in Washington Jim Holmes, owner of Red Mountain’s Ciel du Cheval Vineyard, planted some of the state’s first Viognier in 1994 in his now iconic vineyard. Fast forward several decades and now his son, Richard, who helped plant that original Viognier, has just released the first vintage from his own winery, made with the assistance of the ultra-talented Charlie Hoppes as consulting winemaker. The long growing season of the 2012 vintage allowed this Viognier to develop wonderful flavors and excellent minerality. At $18, it would pair nicely with shellfish, chowder, or mushroom risotto.
2010 Va Piano, Bruno’s Cabernet — We have featured Va Piano’s Bruno’s Blend numerous times over the years. It is named in honor of Father Bruno Segatta, an Italian artist and teacher whose life of compassion greatly influenced winemaker Justin Wylie during his college days. The “Blend” has been replaced with this Cabernet, made with10% Merlot, plus a dash of Cab Franc, Malbec, and Petit Verdot, all sourced from very old and established Washington vineyards. Justin has always strived to grow and source the best fruit possible and to attain the utmost balance in all of his wines. His Bruno’s Cab is medium-bodied, with bright fruit flavor and notes of spice, smoke, and earth. Justin notes, “Foodies will love the acid profile in this wine.” It is $19.75 and, always inspired by Father Bruno’s charitable life, Justin continues to give a portion of the profits from this wine to charity.
2009 Viña Ventisquero, Queulat Carménère — Last May we featured the “Grey” Carménère from this winery—a smooth and spicy single-vineyard, single-block wine. We recently had a chance to taste through more of the winery’s line-up and also loved this Carménère from their Queulat line, which takes its name from southern Chile’s most spectacular hanging glacier (ventisquero is Spanish for glacier). The Queulat wines are all gran reserva, from single-vineyard estate fruit. A bit more affordable than the “Grey” at only $15, this Carménère still packs plenty of sophisticated, complex flavors of red and black fruits, spice, coffee, and chocolate. Enjoy this peppery wine with lamb or grilled meats, spicy tacos, or Indian food.
2011 Terre Nera, Etna Rosso — This wine is a blend of Nerello Mascalese, an important Sicilian red grape, and Nerello Cappuccio, a near relative more commonly used in blending. The grapes are grown in volcanic soil on the slopes of Mt. Etna at 2100 to 2900 feet above sea level. These are some of the highest-elevation red grape vineyards in the Old World and the hot, direct sun during the day, combined with cool nights, produces wines with remarkable finesse—never hot or overripe. And the rocky, volcanic, nutrient-poor soil there is perfect for growing nuanced, complex fruit. It needs plenty of time to open up though: we decanted it at our tasting, and it took another hour or two for it to really show its delicacy and character. So don’t rush it! It is $16.50 and great for white or red meat dishes, strong cheeses, or pasta.