Collector’s Club – September 2014

13ème Année, Domaine Jean Royer, le Petit Roy — For decades this estate in Châteauneuf-du-Pape rented out their vines and sold their fruit to négociants. But in 1986 Jean-Marie Royer set out to reclaim the vineyards and rebuild the domaine. Today he oversees 12 acres of vineyards and produces several highly-regarded Châteauneuf-du-Pape cuvées. He is also known for this delightful table wine. As a Vin de France, it does not carry a vintage designation, although there is a big hint (“13ème année”). And while there is no appellation indicated, it is predominantly Grenache, sourced from his Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Côtes du Rhône vineyards, all vinified in the same way and with the same care as his top cuvées. Smooth, inviting, and very easy to drink, the dark plum flavors evolve forever in the glass and it’s even better the second day. Enjoy it anytime over the next few years. $19.75

2007 Zuazo Gaston, Rioja Riserva — For a while, one of the most popular Spanish red wines in our under-$10 bins was a seven-dollar Rioja from Zuazo Gaston. They’ve made some changes and no longer offer that one, but when a representative from the winery stopped in recently to pour us some of their other wines, we discovered that the quality definitely did not stop there! Zuazo Gaston owns 52 acres of vines in Spain’s northern Rioja region. Their 2007 Reserva, 90% Tempranillo, with 5% each Mazuelo and Graciano, is aged 20 months in new French and American oak and is rich and spicy with lingering dark fruit flavors. The oak is well integrated and adds a gentle grip to the wine that makes it perfect for roasts, game dishes, or hard cheeses. With seven years of age, it’s ready to enjoy now. $24

2013 Edi Simčič, Rebula Rubikon — Located just meters over the Italian border in Slovenia, Edi Simčič makes amazingly intriguing and complex wines, and has been called the finest winemaker in Eastern Europe (and one of the best in all of Europe). One of the most important grapes in this region is Rebula, aka Ribolla Gialla, often used for simpler, everyday wines. But Simčič uses older vines and careful grape selection to show the more complex side of Rebula, with minimal use of oak to allow the character of the fruit to shine through. And it has character in spades — with fresh, minerally flavors, a rich, round mouthfeel (thanks to prolonged lees aging), and a finish that goes on and on. Perfect for grilled zucchini salad, roast chicken with fresh herbs, polenta, or almond-crusted halibut. $19.75

2011 Casa Contini, Brindisi Riserva — This is a brand new wine from this Small Vineyards producer, although their Biferno, a Montepulciano/Aglianico blend, has long been a shop favorite. Casa Contini is located in the obscure region of Molise in southern Italy, but they also source fruit from other locations.This new offering is a blend of 80% Negroamaro, with 10% each Malvasia Nera and Sangiovese, aged for two years in 50-hectoliter oak barrels. It has lush, inviting aromas with hints of vanilla, and is smooth and delicious on the palate with dark fruit flavors and exotic spice notes. An amazing value for a reserve-level wine! Enjoy it with a wide variety of foods, from pasta or risotto, to heavier meat dishes. $12

NV Tertulia, Redd Brand Malbec — This wine is made by Tertulia Cellars, a Walla Walla winery that takes its name from a Spanish word meaning “a social gathering of friends.” Which is where they believe a great bottle of wine should be enjoyed. We’ve seen a handful of good Malbecs from Washington over the years, but rarely at such an affordable price. When we first considered putting this one in the club we wondered if it was too good to be true. And on first opening the bottle it was, to be honest, quite decent but a bit shy. So we left the cork out and came back to it at the end of the day and boy, was that a good idea! By then it had opened up and was full of dark, peppery, brambly berry flavors that made us sit up and take notice. So we say, make sure you let it breathe, then enjoy it with, as the label says, anything from steak and potatoes to a culinary masterpiece. Oh, and with a gathering of friends! $16

2013 Alaia, Verdejo — At our very popular tasting recently of “Spanish-speaking wines” (wines from Spanish-speaking countries, that is), the Alaia Verdejo was the runaway favorite wine of the night and we decided pretty quickly to put it in the club. Great plan, until we learned that that was the end of the 2011 vintage and the distributor was on to the 2013. Luckily we found that this wine, from the Castilla y León region of northern Spain’s central plateau, is pretty darn consistent. Like the 2011, it is bright and fresh, with an underlying richness and balance that is indicative of good Verdejo and makes it a great wine for salads, fish, or paella. (Speaking of names, Alaia comes from the Basque word for joyful.) $11