Specialty Club – February 2014

2011 Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe, Châteauneuf du Pape
It’s hard to believe, but this may be the very first time we’ve ever gotten enough of this iconic red Châteauneuf du Pape to put it in this club, although we have selected some of their white wines, and have also put their other reds from Gigondas and the Ventoux into our Collector’s Club. The Brunier family’s winery, founded in 1898, derives its name from an old telegraph station that stood on the Plateau de la Crau, now considered the most elite vineyard site in the area. The wines are made in partnership by the brothers Frédéric and Daniel Brunier, the fourth winemaking generation in the family. Their expressed goal is to find, in the words of their importer, Kermit Lynch, “a harmony between aromatic complexity, tannic structure, and richness,” and their fame is a tribute to their making this goal year after year.

The 2011 vintage may be one of their most interesting and complex ever. The blend (65% Grenache from 70-year-old vines, 15% each Mourvedre and Syrah, and 5% other local varieties) is very similar to other years. There’s no doubt it’s a powerful wine, with strong aromas of blackberry and cherry, and lots of lush dark fruits caressing your taste buds. There’s also substantial minerality and spiciness, the usual herbal, garrigue aromas, and the characteristic brambly pepper notes of wines grown in the stony soil of la Crau. Where experts differ is whether the wine is ready to drink (per Robert Parker) or should be held for at least two or three years, which is the position we would take. In any case, there’s no disagreement that it will continue to develop for another 10-12 years in your cellar. Although the price is usually $85, we were able to get it for the club for $80 and we still have a bit more available at that price after the club allocation.

2012 Maison Bleue, Jaja, Columbia Valley White Wine
It’s totally fitting that we should pick a white wine from Maison Bleue to complement the Vieux Télégraphe in the club, since Jon Martinez is one of the best Washington winemakers working primarily with the grapes of the Rhone Valley. For those of you new to the winery, owner-winemaker Jon Martinez started out as a dentist in Kansas City, but soon found himself studying enology at Virginia Tech, UC Davis, and Washington State University. He made an immediate impression on wine writers here in Washington with his very first vintage, when his 2008 Grenache and 2009 Marsanne garnered high scores and critical acclaim. Since 2009, he has been making this smooth blend of white Rhone varietals, usually dominated by the creamy notes of Marsanne and made mostly from the grapes of the renowned Boushey Vineyard in the Yakima Valley. The name “Jaja” comes from southern French slang for an everyday wine. This is the kind of white that is very popular with red wine drinkers – aromatic, full bodied, ready to drink, with a very fine mouth feel and long finish. Its citrus aromas are complemented by rich flavors of stone fruits and honey, with food-friendly mineral notes. Jon recommends pairing it with poultry, pork, seafood, mildly spicy foods and soft, fully-ripened cheeses. It’s usually $29.75, but has been reduced to $19.75 to clear the way for the next vintage and we have a tiny bit more available.