2010 Le Clos du Caillou, Côte-du-Rhône, Vielles Vignes Cuvée Unique — In 1936, when the boundaries of Châteauneuf-du-Pape were being delineated, for some reason the proprietor of Le Clos du Caillou refused to let the authorities visit his domain. As a result, today the bulk of their property remains technically Côtes du Rhône, although it abuts and is surrounded on several sides by Châteauneuf-du-Pape vineyards. The good news for us is that their vineyards are Côtes-du-Rhône in name only: they are essentially identical in terroir and exposition to their more coveted neighbor, but their wines are a fraction of the cost, in this case, $26. The 2010 vintage in the Rhône tended to produce very concentrated, powerful wines and this Grenache, Syrah, Carignan, and Mourvèdre blend is rich and silky, with a bit of peppery spice. A big hit at a recent tasting, it would be a perfect accompaniment to a fine Thanksgiving meal.
2010 Creta, Roble — Creta is a joint venture of importer Eric Solomon and winemaker Isaac Fernández. Isaac is a nephew of the legendary Mariano Garcia (winemaker at the renowned Vega Sicilia for 30 years), and is part of the winemaking team at his uncle’s current venture, Mauro. The name Creta (chalk) refers to the chalky soil in this region that gives the wines here their signature sense of place. Isaac says his goal with Creta is to make well-priced wines of the utmost quality that are expressive of the vintage, the vineyard, and the fruit. This 100% Tempranillo comes from a 70-year-old vineyard which, at 2700 feet, is one of the highest in Ribera del Duero. Aged four months in French and American oak, it is rich and supple, with notes of dark red fruit and chocolate. It’s been in demand ever since we poured it at a recent Spanish tasting and, at only $15, it’s an amazing value for a Ribera del Duero. Enjoy it over the next four to five years.
2012 Tre Monti, Vigna Rocca, Albana di Romagna — The white grape Albana from Italy’s Emilia Romagna region was awarded DOCG status in 1987, “amid much incredulity” notes Jancis Robinson. The surprise was no doubt due to the fact that the grape is typically rather unexciting on its own. But there’s nothing typical about this Albana. Its rich, dark color suggests the wine might be very intense or even oxidized, yet the nose is quite elegant with delicate white fruit notes. And on the palate it is fresh and invitingly complex. Fruit for this wine is sourced from vineyards in Forlì, where the influence of the nearby Adriatic Sea produces lean, layered wines with good minerality. These characteristics really shine through in this unoaked wine. It is $17.50 and would be excellent with fried seafood or fish soup, risotto, roast poultry, or veal.
2012 L’Ecole No 41, Chenin Blanc — Founded in 1983, l’Ecole No 41 is the third oldest winery in the Walla Walla Valley. They have been producing their old-vine Vouvray-style Chenin Blanc since 1987, even though it remained a rather underappreciated grape for much of that time. We’ve seen renewed interest in the grape recently (two of the four whites from the new Waitsburg Cellars are Chenin). The 2010 l’Ecole Chenin which we featured in our October, 2011 club was quite rich and plush, thanks to a bit of botrytis in the fruit. But the relatively mild 2012 growing season produced a Chenin with natural freshness and vibrancy. Slow fermentation in stainless steel added rich, fruity flavors. Still only $15, it has expressive aromas and a soft, minerally finish. Perfect with rich fish or cream-based chicken dishes. Or Asian fare.
2005 Cedergreen, Thuja — We’ve always loved Kevin Cedergreen’s wines. His award-winning Sauv Blancs are perfect with oysters. And his Thuja, a Merlot/Cabernet blend, is a longtime shop favorite. When Kevin brought his new releases by for us to try recently he also had an older vintage on hand: his 2005 Thuja. He’s now onto the 2008 vintage but we found this wine wearing its age beautifully. Fresh and full, it seems to be at its peak, with inviting flavors of dark red fruit and a deft balance of depth and grip. Kevin sourced the fruit for his 2005 Thuja from several top vineyards, including Conner Lee, Klipsun, and Wahluke Slope, and the excellent pedigree shows. What you won’t find is a high price. Originally $28, we were able to put it in the club at $18. Enjoy it in the next year or so, with just about anything.
2012 Cono Sur, Reserva Especial, Cabernet Sauvignon — This Chilean winery takes its name from its location, in South America’s Southern Cone (cono sur). The winery was founded in 1993 with a goal of creating expressive and innovative wines from this region and a commitment to environmentally friendly practices. Their Reserva Especial Cab is sourced from high altitude vineyards in the Maipo Valley, one of Chile’s most traditional and top-rated regions, and one especially suited to growing Cabernet. This wine has a splash of Carmenere, Syrah, Merlot, and Malbec blended in, and the result is a robust and elegant wine, with loads of ripe red fruit and sweet spice flavors. At $13 it would be perfect with ribs, pork, or a beef stew.