Collector’s Club – February 2014

2011 ANIMALE, Dolcetto — With an annual production of barely 200 cases a year, ANIMALE is truly a micro winery. Winemaker Matt Gubitosa makes those wines in the basement of his home in Ballard, sourcing fruit from select vineyards around the state. Armed with two degrees in geology, he has an especially keen understanding of vineyard dynamics, enabling him to select the best fruit possible to achieve the complexity he seeks in his wines. The 2011 vintage was the coolest in many years, producing refreshing and well-balanced wines with lower alcohol levels. This is ANIMALE’s third vintage of Dolcetto, a soft, low-acid grape from northern Italy, and Matt feels it is his most Italian-esqe version yet. Like the 2010, which we put in the club last April, the fruit for this one comes from the Wahluke Slope, near Mattawa, and he made a mere 24 cases. It has deep cherry aromas and flavors, and a soft lingering finish. Perfect for any Italian fare. $25

2012 Domaine Pral, Morgon, Les Charmes — You may have noticed that we never jump on the annual Beaujolais Nouveau bandwagon that flogs barely-fermented wine to the eager public (and provides a source of quick cash to the producers). Rather, we cherish the wines from the ten named crus of this region, located south of Burgundy, where the light-bodied reds are always 100% Gamay. Of the ten crus, Morgon is known for producing some of the richest, and longest-lived wines. This one is sourced from 30- to 40-year-old vines planted on granite soils and aged in older French oak barrels for up to ten months. Domaine Pral is a small, family-owned estate and their “Les Charmes” is fruity and aromatic, with the bacon and pepper notes characteristic of Morgon. Certainly not a powerhouse wine, its delicate flavors and aromas evolve as it opens up, and it would pair well with hearty meat dishes (like Boeuf Bourguignon) or softly spicy fare. $17

2011 Domaine la Rocalière, Lirac Blanc — The Lirac appellation lies in the southern Rhône, just across the river from Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Domaine la Rocalière is a family-run winery, now run by the two daughters of the original founder who together oversee their 55 hectares of vineyards, mostly in Lirac and nearby Tavel. Séverine Lemoine works with great care and style to bring out the best of their terroir in each of her wines and, after years of sustainable farming practices, they officially converted to organic agriculture in 2010. Her Lirac Blanc, a blend of 80% Grenache Blanc and 20% Clairette, is delicate and fresh, with elegant flavors and aromas and a rich mouth feel. It would make a lovely aperitif, or partner for seafood dishes, especially those with a light cream sauce. (Her Tavel Rosé is also delightful, when we have it.) $16

2012 Espelt, Old Vines Garnacha —This 100% Garnacha comes from the Empordà-Costa Brava region in Spain’s northeast corner, where the Pyrenees meet the Mediterranean Sea. The Espelt family has been growing grapes here for years, but it was not until 2000 that they began to produce their own wines. Their vines, planted on high-elevation slate and granite soils, average over 90 years in age and are farmed organically. This wine is a custom cuvée for importer Eric Solomon. It is made in collaboration with Jean-Marc Lafage, a highly sought-after winemaker, whose own estate is located in the Roussillon, just across the French border from Espelt. This wine is smooth and full-bodied, with complex, dark fruit flavors. It’s ready to enjoy now or over the next three to four years with meat or pasta dishes, or Manchego cheese. $12

2012 Domaine Bordenave, Souvenirs d’Enfance, Jurançon Sec — Domaine Bordenave is one of the oldest properties in the Jurançon region of southwest France, just north of the Pyrenees. The family-run estate has been passed down through the generations since 1676. Their 12 hectares of vineyards lie in clay and silt soils on south- and west-facing slopes in the village of Monein, where the grapes Gros Manseng and Petit Manseng flourish. Jurançon produces both a sweet wine (usually from Petit Manseng) and a dry version made, as this one is, from Gros Manseng. This wine is fresh and clean, and loaded with floral and citrus notes. It’s ready to drink now or over the next four or five years and, with its bright acidity, it is perfect for seafood, shellfish (oysters anyone?), or with appetizers, especially if they involve goat cheese. $17

2009 Curto, Nero d’Avola “Eloro” — Here’s another wine from a family that has been growing grapes since 1670, in this case, in the sunny southeastern tip of Sicily. The Eloro DOC has long been prided as a source of excellent Nero d’Avola, grown on the local limestone and tufo soil. This one comes from a producer committed to reflecting the true character of the grape and the terroir in all of their wines. A big hit at a recent Italian tasting (and again at our club tasting), this bright, fruity 100% Nero d’Avola is full bodied and earthy, with a touch of cocoa. Perfect for grilled meats or the caponata dishes of Sicily. Their label says all are “most welcome to visit us on the sunny and hospitable island of Sicily.” We’ll drink to that! $16