Collector’s Club – March 2015

2012 Owen Roe, Ex Umbris Syrah — David O’Reilly makes wines in both Oregon and Washington under the Owen Roe, Sharecropper’s, and Corvidae labels, but the stars are the Owen Roe line. They are named for Owen Roe O’Neill, a 17th century Irish patriot who, like O’Reilly, was originally from County Cavan, Ireland. This wine takes its name from the motto “Ex umbris et imaginibus in veritatem,” or “From shadows and images into truth.” David first produced it in 2002 after a wildfire burned through the hillsides surrounding the vineyard. It was intended to be a one-time bottling, reflecting the influence of smoke and ash in the Syrah grapes. But popular demand has led him to continue to produce the wine, which still somehow manages to maintain a hint of smokiness. Sourced from several excellent vineyards in the Columbia and Yakima valleys, this latest incarnation is smooth and textured, bursting with bold flavors of dark fruit and chocolate. Enjoy it now or over the next three to four years. $29

2011 Domaine du Grangeon, Chatus — We have to admit that we’d never heard of this grape until our distributor suggested pouring it at a recent tasting. Chatus (the “s” is silent) is found only in the Ardèche region of France, which lies between the vineyards of the northern and southern Rhône valley, and it is extremely rare, even there. This estate is the only independent producer of 100% Chatus (some co-ops make wine from the grape). But as the label notes, even they make only a few thousand bottles each vintage. A relative of the Italian grape Nebbiolo, it produces gorgeous, well-structured wines with dark fruit, earth, and licorice flavors. As the importer writes, “The depth and complexity are exhilarating: it is dense and full of mystery.” It is also very ageworthy, though plenty delicious young. It was a big hit at our tasting (some people bought extra bottles to stash away long term). Perfect for lamb or poultry. $25

2009 Barinas, Selección Monastrell — When Basi Rodruguez, founder of Bellingham-based Spanish wine importer Casa Ventura, poured this wine at a tasting in February, it was the star of the show. No surprise, really, as this 100% Monastrell (aka Mourvèdre in France) is rich, layered, and powerful, but very accessible and uncomplicated—easy to enjoy any time. It comes from the southeastern region of Jumilla, which is believed to be the birthplace of the grape (sorry, France!) and is produced from vines averaging 40- to 45-years old. Barinas is the name of a small village in the Murcia region, near Jumilla. The wonderful label art was created especially for Casa Ventura by a talented Bellingham artist. $16

2013 Talamonti, Trabocchetto Pecorino — The fishing net motif on this label gives you a clue about this wine’s origin. It comes from central Italy’s east coast Abruzzo region, near the Adriatic Sea with its abundant seafood. A big hit at our Italian tasting in January, this wine is 100% Pecorino, a white grape that is making a comeback in its native Marche and Abruzzo regions. Grown on the stony, calcareous soils near the village of Loreto Aprutino, this one has aromas and flavors of white fruit and ripe pear, backed by refreshing acidity that makes it perfect for grilled fish, tempura, or oysters. The wine takes its name from the fishing nets historically used in the region, the “trabocchetto.” $15

2012 Bodegas Abanico, Las Collinas del Ebro, Garnatxa Blanca — We don’t usually put under-$10 wines in this club but this one was too good to pass up, and allowed us to include some higher-end wines this month. The wine is 100% Garnatxa Blanca, the white form of Grenache, rendered here in the Catalan spelling. It comes from Terra Alta (literally “high land”), the highest DO in Catalonia in northeast Spain. This region, currently lobbying for independence from Spain, is not new to strife: the label depicts one of many bloody battle scenes from the Spanish Civil War. Near the Mediterranean, the climate here is extreme, with cold, dry winters and hot summers. Old-vine fruit from the high-altitude vineyards produces a vibrant, hearty wine with good acidity and white peach flavors. A great wine for tapas. $9.75

2013 Caparzo, Sangiovese Toscana — The historic estate of Caparzo is the only Brunello di Montalcino producer lucky enough to own vineyards on all five sides of the hill of Montalcino. This allows them to draw the best fruit from each particular vintage. Current owner Elisabetta Gnudi Angelini, who owns several other estates, is credited with breathing new life into the winery after a period of decline. In addition to her highly-acclaimed Brunellos, she produces several simpler, more value-oriented wines. One of those is this Sangiovese (with 5% each Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Alicante), sourced from several of Angelini’s estates. Fresh, juicy, mouth-filling, and just plain tasty, it is ready to enjoy now, or over the next couple of years with, (duh) most any Italian fare. $11