Collector’s Club – January 2015

2010 Tranche, Barbera — Tranche is the sister label of Corliss, producer of some of the top wines in the state. With their Tranche line, they explore varietals and styles beyond the focused scope of the Corliss line, with a goal of capturing the unique character of these diverse grapes when grown in Washington terroir. Of course, with the Corliss connections, they have access to some of the state’s best fruit and this wine, made from the northern Italian grape Barbara, is sourced from vineyards in the Red Mountain, Wahluke Slope, and Columbia Valley AVAs. The cooler temperatures that prevailed in 2010 enhanced the bright cherry and plum flavors of this low-tannin, high-acid grape. Fresh and fragrant, with red fruit flavors and notes of spice and earth, this is an easy, yet elegant food wine for any occasion. $25

2013 Thomas Labaille, Sancerre “Les Monts Damnés” — We’ve featured this wine numerous times in the club. It is from Sancerre, an appellation in the eastern reaches of the Loire Valley, known for its racy, flinty, focused Sauvignon Blancs, grown on the ancient Kimmeridgian limestone soils. Thomas Labaille is a top producer based in Chavignol (a town also famous for its goat cheese) who still makes traditional, old-style Sancerre from his vineyard site, Monts Damnés—a plot too steep for any sort of mechanized work, hence the name the “damn mountains.” But the excellent exposure and drainage on his site produces complex wines that are clean and precise, with a hint of richness (from lees aging), grace, and elegance. Always perfect with any sort of shellfish or goat cheese (from Chavignol, of course). $27

2011 Domaine R. Dubois & Fils, Hautes-Côtes de Nuits, Pinot Noir — The history of grape growing in the Dubois family, based near Nuits-Saint-Georges in Burgundy, dates back to the 1600s. They expanded their vineyard holdings over the centuries and now have about 21 hectares of vines in 21 different appellations in Burgundy. Today siblings Béatrice and Raphaël Dubois head the domaine. They follow sustainable practices in the vineyards and in the winery, avoiding the use of pesticides and herbicides and doing much of the vineyard work by hand. This Pinot, from a small plot in the hills above the Côte de Nuits, is elegant, nuanced, and expressive of the local terroir in its complex aromas of flowers and red fruit and a touch of wild game. Originally a $25 wine, it is plenty tasty now and would be great with grilled or roasted red meats, game, or, as the winery suggests, chili con carne. $18

2013 La Quercia, Aglianico — La Quercia is a small estate in Italy’s Abruzzo region, situated on a windy hillside overlooking the Adriatic Sea. While his father also grew grapes, winemaker Antonio Lamona was the first in the family to bottle wine from their fruit. He produces a Montepulciano from their estate that is a perennial shop favorite. But we also love his Aglianico, a rather difficult grape that thrives in the volcanic soils of Italy’s boot heel region of Puglia, where La Quercia owns a single vineyard plot. Their Aglianico shows the grape’s characteristic flavors of ripe plum and white pepper and is deliciously smooth and tasty, deftly combining both power and finesse. Small Vineyards suggests pairing it with seared Ahi tuna with plum sauce, grilled polenta cakes, or Cioppino. $13

2009 Casa Contini, Biferno Riserva — Here is another shop favorite from Small Vineyards. It comes from Casa Contini, located in the obscure central Italian region of Molise, where the Botter family have owned a spectacular vineyard site for three generations. One of the wines they source from that site is this 80% Montepulicano/20% Aglianico blend that is produced with an unbelievably small yield of one bottle per plant! It is then aged 18 months in barrel and 6 months in bottle before release. This one, from the 2009 vintage, is smooth, rich, and utterly approachable, with notes of smoky dark fruit, chestnuts, and pepper. A perfect accompaniment for pork, pot roast, rotisserie chicken, or grilled sausages, and an amazing value! $12

2012 Château Coujan, Cuvée Bois Jolie Blanc — This lovely white blend of 51% Grenache Blanc, 37% Roussanne, and 12% Rolle comes from the St. Chinian appellation of southern France’s Languedoc region. The winery has been in the Guy family since 1868. In 1990 François Guy, highly respected for his dedication to improving the quality of St. Chinian wines, passed the reins to his daughter Florence who now heads the estate. Their vineyards are located on sandy, gravelly hillsides of fossilized coral that were once part of an atoll in the Helvetian Sea. The unique site offers excellent drainage and allows the vines to develop deep roots, contributing nuanced minerality to the wines. This blend, which sees some oak, is rich, layered and complex. Perfect for fish in white sauce or scallops. $15