Collector’s Club – January 2014

2008 Edi Simcic, Duet — The Simcic family has been producing wine for several generations in Goriska Brda, Slovenia, a location that is now just 500 yards from Italy’s Friulian border. When the Communists took control in 1948, the family was forced to sell almost all of their fruit to the state, a nearly fatal setback for the winery. But after Slovenia won its independence, undaunted, and determined, they refocused their efforts on their winemaking and Edi Simcic is now considered one of Slovenia’s top producers. His Duet is mostly Merlot, with ten percent each Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. Importer Small Vineyards describes it as “bold, stirring, and compelling.” With its amazing structure and complex and assertive flavors, it is definitely not “your grandmother’s Merlot.” It is drinking well now, but could age another two to five years. Once opened, it continues to evolve in the bottle, tasting beautifully the second and even the third day. Small Vineyards suggests pairing it with pork roast, steak Florentine, or wild mushroom risotto. $27.25

2012 La Cartuja, Priorat — The Priorat region is one of the most prestigious in Spain. Its wines, based on Garnacha (Grenache) and Cariñena (Carignan), are known for their power and intensity (and typically, high price and need to age). One of the characteristic features of Priorat wines comes from the stony, volcanic soil known as llicorella, which imparts a unique mineral identity, nearly as important as the flavor of the grapes themselves. La Cartuja was founded in 2007 with the goal of capturing that identity in wines that are approachable young, not overly alcoholic, and most importantly, affordable. This Garnacha/Carineña blend, made from organically-grown estate fruit and aged in oak for just six months, is fresh and expressive with solid minerality. It’s ready to drink now with barbequed beef brisket, Cuban roast chicken, or pork. $15

2010 Altos Las Hormigas, Terroir Malbec — This winery, named for the hormigas, or ants, which were rampant in the fields when they first began to plant their vineyards back in 1996, has always been a go-to winery for solid, tasty Argentinean wines. They produce several tiers, one of which is the Terroir series, sourced exclusively from their high-elevation Valle de Uco vineyards. The fruit, is grown at elevations above 900 meters on stony soils with good drainage which imparts complex aromatics, solid fruit flavors and subtle spice. This one is just plain tasty and enjoyable: ready to drink anytime, with or without food. (By the way, they protected those ants because they were there first and they epitomize patience and hard work!) $15

2009 Spice Route, Chakalaka — Centuries ago, ancient mariners risked their lives rounding the Cape of Good Hope in their quest for exotic spices. It was their nerve and dash, Spice Route founder Charles Back says, that inspired him to start his winery in 1997. He had already established the highly successful Fairview winery, but he wanted to “go where the terroir is,” and he found Swartland, on the Cape’s west coast, a perfect location to plant the warm-climate red grapes of the south of France and Italy. He chose to cultivate unirrigated bush vines, with their low yields for the intense terroir-driven wines they produce. This one is named for a local spicy relish known as Chakalaka. A mostly Rhône-inspired blend it is, like its eponymous relish, a fusion of bold, savory flavors: robust, rich, smoky, and spicy. Try it with pulled pork. $19.75

2012 Cousiño-Macul, Isidora Sauvignon Gris — Founded in 1856, Cousiño-Macul is still run by the original founding family, now in its sixth generation. In the mid-19th century, the family imported vines from the Graves region of Bordeaux, including Sauvignon Gris. A close relative of Sauvignon Blanc, Sauv Gris proved to adapt well to the Maipo Valley region. Its pinkish skin imparts a bit more color and complexity, and a richer texture than Sauv Blanc. This wine shows the elegance and well-balanced acidity typical of Cousiño-Macul whites. With aromas of citrus and soft spice, it is perfect for salads or seafood, especially crab. It is named for the wife of the founder’s son, Luis Cousiño. When he died suddenly at the age of 38, Isidora ably took over the family’s winemaking business helping to ensure its continued success. $17

2012 CVNE, Monopole Rioja Blanco — Cune (actually CVNE: Compañia Vinicola del Norte de España, or Northern Spanish Wine Company) was founded in 1879 by two brothers who loved the wines of France and Alsace and wanted to produce wines of similar quality back home in Spain. The company is still managed by their direct descendants, and it has three wineries, all in the Rioja region. Cune is one of these, and it is one of the few Rioja wineries known for both its excellent red and white wines. Their Monopole is 100 percent Viura (aka Macabeo, the predominant white grape in Rioja), grown in the cooler Rioja Alta subzone. We put the 2008 Monopole in a previous club and, like that version, this one is fresh and aromatic, smooth and pretty. A great partner for appetizers, fish, or most seafood dishes. $12