Specialty Club – April 2015

2013 Hamilton Russell Vineyards, Pinot Noir
You might be surprised to know that one of our favorite wineries producing both Pinot Noir and Chardonnay outside of France is in South Africa. Or perhaps you wouldn’t be surprised because we’ve featured both of their flagship wines in this club in the past and you may well have enjoyed them by now. So you might recall that Hamilton Russell was founded in 1975 in the cool, maritime Walker Bay region, southeast of Cape Town. The winery is the southernmost wine estate in South Africa and the closest to the sea, and their focus is on terroir-driven Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. After conducting extensive research throughout their estate in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, they identified 52 hectares of stony, clay-rich soil, perfect for producing wine with the unique, expressive style they were after. With small yields and high demand throughout the world, their wines are always in limited supply and we’re happy when we can get enough to put in the club. They age their Pinot Noir for ten months in large oak barrels, a combination of new and used, and it tends to be characterized by dark spice and savory “primal” notes. The excellent 2013 growing season produced rich, generous wines that really display those complex fruit flavors. We found this one to be beautifully nuanced with endlessly layered aromatics. One reviewer claimed that it could almost be mistaken for a Vosne-Romanée. We’ll let you be the judge. But unlike a coveted Burgundy from the Côte de Nuits, this Pinot will only set you back $47. And while lovely now, it will continue to develop over the next five years or so. Consider pairing it with lamb, poultry, or even filet mignon.

2010 Marie-Paule Dumazet, Condrieu Côte Fournet
Condrieu is a tiny appellation (a mere 98 hectares) in the northern Rhône, just south of the northernmost Côte Rôtie. It gets its name from the fact that the river makes a sharp bend here, hence: coin de ruisseau, or “corner of the brook.” This geographic feature provides a distinctly different aspect to the vineyards as well as the soils here, making this small area perfect for growing Viognier—a small patch of white grapes surrounded by a sea of mostly Syrah-based appellations. Here, the steep, south-facing slopes are planted exclusively to Viognier and they produce powerful, aromatic, sensual, and highly sought after wines. However, given the miniscule size of the growing region, the steep terraces, and the fact that Viognier is a finicky grape to grow and vinify well, it is quite limited and typically very expensive. Which is why we were delighted to find this one, at only $56—an excellent value for a top Condrieu. This is partly due to the fact that it is very much ready to drink now (Condrieu is not meant for aging). This one comes from Marie-Paule Dumazet whose husband, Pierre, has been called an “artist of Viognier.” Their Côte Fournet is a vineyard planted in 1930 in hard, granite soils at the southern end of the Condrieu appellation. The site is said to produce some of the region’s most powerful, concentrated, and intense wines. Dumazet wines go through full malolactic fermentation, use extended battonage (lees stirring), and see more oak than most (they use a combination of tank and cask). The result is a wonderfully rich and lavish wine, with notes of white fruit, honeysuckle, and crushed stone. This one is ready to enjoy now, with lobster, broiled halibut, or just by its delicious self.