Collector’s Club – April 2015

2012 Hightower Cellars, Murray Cabernet Sauvignon — The delightful Tim and Kelly Hightower were in the shop recently for one of our Saturday tastings. They began their winery in 1997 with the philosophy, “Get the best grapes and don’t screw them up.” To that end, they were lucky enough to purchase an excellent site high on Yakima’s coveted Red Mountain, and began planting their estate vineyard in 2004. They also source from several other top vineyards on Red Mountain and in the Walla Walla AVA. As for “not screwing up?” Well, their wines are widely acclaimed for their elegance, depth, and complexity and they have long been favorites of ours. Their Murray line is more affordable, but equally well-crafted and this Cab was a big hit at our tasting. With some Cab Franc, Petit Verdot, and Merlot blended in, it is rich and delicious, with bright cherry flavors. Ready to drink anytime. $19.75

2013 Vignoble Guillaume, Franche-Comté Pinot Noir — The Franche-Comté region of northeast France, bordering Switzerland, was once part of the Kingdom of Burgundy, but separated in the 15th Century (and renamed “free county”). Here, the Guillaume family owns one of the largest vine nurseries in the world, with clones from some of the top vineyards and domains in France. And when they began their own winery, about 50 years ago, they were able to use those coveted vines. As Franche-Comté is cooler and more mountainous than Burgundy, wines from this region are typically fresh and clean with wonderful minerality. This Pinot is quite light in color and pleasantly low in alcohol—a perfect food wine. It would pair well with your favorite root vegetable dish, or perhaps a nice Coq au Vin. $17

2012 Domaine de Couron, Côtes du Rhône, Cuvée Marie Dubois Syrah — We have long loved the wines from this small, family-run estate located north of Avignon in France’s Ardèche region, which lies between the northern and southern portions of the Rhône valley. They produce the “Little Canyon” wine, a staple in our under-$10 bins, as well as the ever-popular Marselan. When the importer was here for a tasting recently, he poured this 100% Syrah, from a parcel planted in 1946. Not surprising, it, too, was a big crowd-pleaser. Delicious and easy-drinking, it is full of dark fruit flavors, with toasty notes of coffee and spice. They made only 225 cases and it is ready to enjoy anytime over the next two or three years with the sorts of dishes you’d pair with any Rhône: lamb, duck, poultry, or even a nice steak. $16

2012 Lodmell Cellars, Sauvignon Blanc — The Lodmell family history as Walla Walla area wheat farmers dates back to 1880. Several generations later, in 1995, they planted their first 15 acres of grapes and they now farm 30 acres of estate vineyards on the lower Snake River—hence the snake image on their label. Their Sauvignon Blanc follows a trend we’ve seen recently, using a bit of oak on a grape typically fermented in stainless steel. This one is sourced from Spring Creek Vineyard where, at 1200 feet elevation, the fruit ripens slowly, retaining good acidity. Twelve months aging in neutral French oak brings added richness and complexity to the inherent crispness of the grape, resulting in a very enticing Sauv Blanc with loads of character. It could pair well with seafood, chicken, or pork dishes. $16

2012 Klinker Brick Winery, TranZind —California’s Lodi appellation, located east of San Francisco, is an excellent viticultural site, with its Mediterranean climate and sandy, alluvial soils. And it has some of the oldest Zinfandel vines in the country. Steve and Lori Felten are the fifth generation of their family to grow fruit here, first watermelons, and later, grapes. Today they own and manage 15 different blocks of Zinfandel, ranging in age from 40 to 120 years old. And while Klinker Brick is primarily known for their bold, 100% old-vine Zins, they also produce this fun blend of 75% Zinfandel, blended with Petite Sirah, Syrah, and a bit of Cab Sauv. Smooth, dark, and rich with a touch of spice and chocolate, it’s a great any-time sipper, when you want the fun flavor of a Zin but a bit less of the powerful punch. $15

2011 Sartarelli, Verdicchio Tralivio — Verdicchio is the classic white wine from the Marche region of central Italy, near the Adriatic coast. The Sartarelli estate, striving to produce the best Verdicchio possible, isolated select antique clones from their older vineyards to create wines that are subtle and nuanced yet still convey the traditional characteristics of this indigenous grape. Their Tralivio is sourced from carefully selected fruit from their oldest vineyards. They use no oak, allowing the purity of that fruit to shine through. The result is an elegant wine, with the balanced, vibrant acidity and almond notes that characterize the best Verdicchio. It would pair well with sushi or grilled fish, but also has the complexity to stand up to Pottachio, a local braised chicken (or rabbit) dish, or tagliatelle with black truffles. $18