Collector’s Club – December 2013

2011 Domaine Roche, Cairanne — Cairanne is one of the best of the Côtes du Rhône villages and one that is generally believed qualified for promotion to its own appellation status (putting it on a par with Gigondas or Vacqueyras). This blend of 70% Grenache and 30% Syrah is a good example of why that is. It is produced by Romain Roche, a very talented up-and-coming young producer in the region. His family had always sold all of the fruit from their historic domain to the local co-op (where his father served as president for many years). But after extensive oenological studies in France and abroad, Romain returned to his roots, inherited 15 hectares of 40- to 100-year-old vines, and began producing his own wines. He clearly knows what he is doing! Aged in concrete and barrique, his Cairanne is rich, full-bodied, and delicious. Enjoy over the next two to three years with lamb, roast chicken, or cassoulet. $17

2011 Hedges, Cuvée Marcel Dupont Syrah — Hedges was founded by local boy Tom Hedges and his French wife, Anne-Marie Liégeois, originally from Champagne. They planted vineyards on Yakima Valley’s Red Mountain in 1991, and were instrumental in getting AVA status for the now-coveted wine region. To them, wine is all about place, in this case, obviously, Red Mountain. This wine is sourced from Les Gosses Vineyard, planted just northeast of their main vineyard, at slightly higher elevation. They created it to be an American-style Côte Rôtie, referring to the northern Rhône region known for its seriously intense Syrahs. The moniker, Descendants Liégeois-Dupont, honors both sides of Anne-Marie’s family, and she dedicates this cuvée to her grandfather, Marcel Dupont. We loved the earthy, spicy quality of this soft, but well-structured Syrah which, while delicious now, could age for a decade or more. Enjoy with roast lamb. $28

2008 Casa Contini, Biferno Riserva —This Small Vineyards direct import has long been a shop favorite, when we can get it. It hails from the obscure central Italian region of Molise, and is sourced from a spectacular site which has been owned for three generations by the Botter family. This wine, made by Alessandro Botter, is a blend of 80% Montepulciano and 20% Aglianico, with a miniscule average yield of one bottle per plant, and it is aged in large, neutral oak barrels for 18 months—all pretty amazing, given the price. It is smooth, smoky, and aromatic, and perfect for pot roast, chicken with wild rice, salumi, or grilled sausages. $11

2012 Palamà, Arcangelo Negroamaro — The Palamà family, originally of Greek origin, settled in Italy about two thousand years ago, and they have been making wine ever since. The current family vineyard was founded in 1936 in Puglia on the Salento Peninsula, by Arcangelo Palamà, and it is to him that this wine is dedicated. The wines are now made by Arcangelo’s son Ninì, who is committed to the highest quality “everyday” wines possible, made from some of the lowest yields in the appellation on his small estate. This 100% Negroamaro is powerful yet expressive and elegant, with layers of dark, spicy aromas and flavors. Grown and produced near the sea, Palamà wines go as well with seafood as they do heartier meat dishes. You could enjoy this one with seared ahi tuna, Puttanesca pasta, or grilled polenta. $11

2012 Eyrie Vineyards, Pinot Gris — Eyrie was founded in 1966 by David Lett (“Papa Pinot”), who planted the first Pinot Noir grapes in the Willamette Valley and went on to put Oregon on the international wine map when his 1975 Pinot outshone most of its rivals in several high-profile wine competitions in France. David passed away in 2008 and his winery is now in the very capable hands of his son Jason, who continues the family legacy. Though known for their Pinot Noir, Eyrie also set the standard for Pinot Gris in Oregon, having planted the first Pinot Gris in the U.S., and taking it to great heights from there. All of their wines are made from estate-grown fruit using natural practices and minimal intervention and they are characterized by their pure, varietal flavors and expression of place. Their old vine fruit imparts ripe flavors and aromas and lovely texture to this Pinot Gris—perfect on its own, or to pair with salads, chicken dishes, or seafood. $18

2012 Bodegas As Laxas, Albariño — Albariño comes mostly from the Rias Baixas region of northwest Spain, on the Atlantic coast. This is one of the rainiest regions in Spain and the vines here are generally trellised about five feet off the ground so that the wind can circulate under the vines, fending off potential mildew and rot. Bodegas As Laxas has been making wine here since 1862 and it was one of the first wineries to be awarded the status of D.O. Rias Baixas. They are located on a historic estate with their terraced vineyards overlooking the Miño River. The average age of the vines for this Albariño is 25 years and, like all good Albariños, it is fresh and aromatic, combining a brisk citrusy quality with an underlying stoniness. Our rep said it was a big hit with grilled sardines over arugula, with caper relish. $17