2011 Domaine Grand Veneur, Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc, La Fontaine
Once in a while, we get lucky. When one and only one case of this incredibly highly rated wine (95 points from Robert Parker) arrived at the local distributor, one of the bottles had a flawed label, apparently since another bottle of wine in the shipment had broken and leaked on it. Our intrepid rep immediately grabbed the damaged bottle as a sample and brought it to us. Some may criticize the limitations of Parker’s palate, but in this case we whole-heartedly agreed with him and immediately ordered the rest of the case for this club. The Grand Veneur estate was founded in 1826 but, until recently, had been more well known for the variety of their negociant based wines under the Alain Jaume label than the quality of their top cuvees. However, in the past ten years, the skills of Alain’s sons Sebastian and Christophe have elevated Grand Veneur to one of the true rising stars of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. As you might expect for one of Parker’s favorite wineries, the reds are quite hefty and powerful. However, this single vineyard white, made entirely from Roussanne is, at 300 cases produced, the most limited wine they make, and the best of their wines we’ve tasted so far. It’s a full-bodied, rich wine with soft floral aromas, good acidity, superb purity, and an elegant, honeyed mouth feel. Enjoy it now, with fish dishes, foie gras, white meats, or soft cheeses, or follow Parker’s recommendation to cellar it for another three to four years. It certainly is comparable to the great white Rhone wines of 2007-2008, which are drinking so beautifully now. (And we still have available the 2007 Vieux Donjon Châteauneuf-du-Pape, the 2007 Mordorée Lirac, and the 2008 Vieux Télégraphe.) The Grand Veneur was $60 and of course we got just enough for the club.
2005 Bodega del Palacio de los Frontaura y Victoria, Toro Reserva
Not unlike Grand Veneur, Frontaura is one of the most interesting up and coming wineries in its region. While the winery and tasting room are located in Toro, the estate consists of 450 acres of vines, not just in Toro but also in Ribera del Duero and other parts of the Spanish province of Castilla and Leon. Frontaura’s wines are so diverse that they are one of the few European wineries around whom we can build an entire Thursday night tasting, as we did back in April. This wine was clearly the star of that tasting, and on the front label you can read the extensive notes from winemaker Juan Martin-Hinojal to get a pretty full picture of the flavor profile. We can add that the elegance of the wine is at least partly due to the fact that it’s aged in French oak, imparting spicy and savory flavors, rather than the more powerful American oak barrels usually used in Toro. French oak is a particularly good choice to tame the local clone of Tempranillo, Tinta de Toro, which is known for its thick skin, small berries, dark color, massive tannins, and high alcohol content. The wine is a great match with most pork dishes, from grilled chops and Serrano ham to a cured or fresh roast. For a traditional Spanish pairing, try lamb, whose earthy flavor makes a delicious partner to the intense, black-fruited Frontaura Reserva. While it’s drinking well now, it could still develop for a few years in the cellar. It’s $39.75 and in very limited supply; we put aside enough for the club right after the tasting.