Collector’s Club – December 2018

2017 Thomas-Labaille, “Les Monts Damnés” Sancerre — Sancerre, in France’s eastern Loire Valley, is revered for its racy, flinty Sauvignon Blancs grown on the local ancient Kimmeridgian limestone soil. One of the top producers in the region is Thomas-Labaille, based in Chavignol (also known for its goat cheese). They produce stunning Sancerre, and our favorite is always their “Les Monts Damnés,” sourced from their plot in what is arguably Sancerre’s greatest vineyard. It gets its name, “the damn mountains,” from the fact that it is too steep for any sort of mechanization and all work must be done painstakingly by hand. But they persevere because the site produces such amazingly complex wines. This one is clean and focused, with beautiful grace and elegance, and a bit of round richness. Perfect with shellfish or goat cheese (from Chavignol, of course). It is very limited, though, and our allocation never hangs around very long. $27

2016 Giuseppe Lonardi, “Bepi” Rosso Veronese — Veneto winemaker Giuseppi Lonardi is known for his Amarones and for his flagship wine, Privilegia. He recently debuted Bepi, his first new wine in 20 years (“Bepi” is Giuseppe’s nickname). The wine is basically a “baby Privilegia” and is a blend of 75% Corvina (the predominant grape in Valpolicella and Amarone) with 25% Rondinella, aged in oak for about one year. Corvina tends to produce fresh, bright, medium-bodied wines, with flavors of cherry and almonds. Bepi is smooth and inviting, with bold fruit flavors and “the mysterious, alluring flavors of his native Corvina varietal.” A quick decant helps open it up. Great with salumi, rich stews, or your favorite pizza. $19.75

2017 Monte Tondo, Soave Brut — Monte Tondo has been producing wine for three generations in the northern Italian hills of Soave, not far from Verona. The folks at Small Vineyards, who import their wines, think that winemakers Gino Magnabosco and his daughter Marta are making some of the most exciting and vibrant wines in all of the Veneto. In particular, they feel the estate has become the standard-bearer for high quality Soave, the Italian white wine based on the Garganega grape. Monte Tondo is also one of only about six producers in the region making a sparkling Soave, and theirs is expressive and complex, with great depth and elegance. We don’t often include bubblies in this club, but the holiday season is a perfect time to do so and this is a perfect one to have on hand to enjoy anytime, with or without food. $19

2012 Herdade do Esporão, Reserva Tinto — Esporão is based in the Alentejo region of southeast Portugal. The history of the site dates back centuries, but the first vintage of what is now Esporão was released in 1985. David Baverstock has been the head winemaker at Esporão for over 20 years. Originally from Australia, since relocating to Portugal he has become a highly influential figure in Portuguese wine production. This wine is a blend of Alicante Bouschet, Aragonez (aka Tempranillo), Trincadeira, and Cab Sauv from estate-grown fruit, aged 12 months in American and French oak. It is rich and ripe, with complex flavors of dark fruit, spice, and a touch of toasty vanilla. Each year they choose a different artist to design the label for this wine. This vintage features a work by vintage plastic artist Alberto Carneiro. $18

2017 Domaine de l’Amauve, Vaucluse — This small, ten-hectare winery is based in the lovely little village of Séguret, next to Gigondas in the Côtes du Rhône. Owners Christian and Monique Voeux brought their wines to the shop a few years back for us to try and we’re happy to be able to put one in the club this month. Christian is a highly regarded winemaker in the region and has worked at a number of estates in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. He practices sustainable and organic viticulture. His Vaucluse is sourced from stony, clay-limestone terraced vineyards on the left bank of the Rhône River, with a warm, dry Mediterranean climate. It is a savory, aromatic blend of 80% Grenache and 20% Syrah, with inviting notes of red and black fruit, black pepper, and licorice and a nice long finish. Enjoy it now or over the next two or three years with charcuterie, grilled or roasted meats, or with Provençal fare such as ratatouille. $12

2015 Seven Sinners, Petite Sirah, Old Vines “The Ransom” — Seven Sinners is one of a number of small, handcrafted California wineries that are under the umbrella of Nine North Wine Company. Their “Ransom” Petite Sirah is sourced from Lodi, in California’s Central Valley. Specifically, it comes from the Mokelumne River AVA, where winegrowing dates back to the mid-1800s. The climate here is Mediterranean, with warm days and cool nights, and the soil is deep loam, covered in places with large stones similar to those in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. This rich, full-bodied Petite Sirah has soft, spicy undertones and notes of dark fruit and chocolate. Its opulence is nicely balanced by its moderate alcohol level (13.9%) making it great with food, or on its own. Enjoy now or over the next few years. $16