Collector’s Club – November 2019

2018 Monte Tondo, Garganega Frizzante — 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, especially their Soaves, based on the Garganega grape. They are one of only about six producers in the region making a sparkling Soave, and they also produce this semi-sparkler (frizzante) version of the grape. It is light, fresh and playfully fizzy, with enchanting notes of citrus and white fruit and only 12% alcohol. A great wine to have on hand around the holidays. $12

2017 Giocato, GIO Chardonnay — The Simčič family has been producing wine for generations in Goriška Brda, Slovenia, a location that up until the end of World War II was part of Italy. (Today their winery is just 500 yards from the eastern Italian border of Friuli.) Due to political upheavals, the winery faced a number of setbacks over the years, and at one time was forced to sell nearly all of their fruit to the Communist-controlled government, a nearly fatal setback. But the family eventually returned, undaunted, to winemaking and are now considered one of Slovenia’s top producers. They say, “When you taste our wines, you are tasting a bit of freedom.” In addition to their higher end wines, they produce a more affordable line under the Giocato label. Partially aged on lees and in barrel, this Chard is crisp and fresh, with lush texture and notes of green apple and baked pear. Enjoy it with salmon cakes, chicken, or creamy pasta dishes. $16

2017 Isenhower Cellars, i-Label, Cabernet Franc — When Brett and Denise Isenhower founded their Walla Walla winery in 1999, they were the valley’s 23rd winery. Their recently created “i-label” series features single varietal wines made with the same care and attention and top fruit sources as their higher-end offerings, but at a super budget-friendly price. Cab Franc is an important blending grape in Bordeaux and is bottled as a single varietal in the Loire Valley. It has also proven to grow and ripen very reliably in our climate. This one is sourced from several excellent vineyards: Olsen Ranch near Prosser, Dineen in the Rattlesnake Hills, Eritage, and Vista Montagna. It is a smooth, savory wine with dark fruit flavors and a bit of spice. Enjoy over the next five or six years with roasted vegetables, pork, chicken, or hearty soups. $19.75

2016 Casa de Illana, Tres de Cinco Crianza — The estate of Finca Buenavista was given to the Illana family by Felipe IV in 1626 in gratitude for their loyalty to the crown. Located in the DO Ribera del Júcar, in Castilla-La Mancha, in central Spain, it is still in the same family and today is run by Javier Prosper (also president of the DO) and his wife Carolina Hernández who is in charge of winemaking. “Tres de Cinco” was originally a blend of three (“tres”) varieties out of the five (“cinco”) they grew. They still use the name but the current blend is 36% Petit Verdot, 28% Syrah, 20% Cab Sauv, and 16% Bobal, grown in pebble-strewn soil that provides insulation and reflects warmth to the ripening fruit. The wine is full and well structured, with ripe, dark fruit flavors, notes of spice, and a touch of balsamic. Great with grilled meat, lamb, or pasta. $17

2018 La Puerta, Malbec Clásico — From the La Rioja province in northwestern Argentina, this Malbec is sourced from vineyards planted at over 3,000 feet in the Famatina Valley, between the Famatina and Velasco mountain ranges in the foothills of the Andes. The ancient soils, hot, dry days and cool nights, and scarce rainfall, provide excellent ripening conditions for grapes. La Puerta has 150 hectares of vineyards, planted on land once inhabited by the indigenous people of La Rioja, the Diaguitas, who believed that the puma represented wisdom, strength, and intelligence. To honor that heritage and culture, La Puerta uses the puma in their logo. Their Malbec, aged six months in French and American oak, is dark and juicy, with savory notes of ripe plums and hints of mocha and vanilla. Great with meat dishes or other hearty fare. $12

2017 Au Bon Climat, Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir — Jim Clendenen founded Au Bon Climat in 1982 after a “junior year abroad” in Europe inspired him to abandon his planned career in law and turn his focus to winemaking. Since then he has earned an international reputation, especially for his Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays. He sources fruit from some of the top vineyards in California’s Central Coast, including his own Le Bon Climat, and the legendary Bien Nacido Vineyard. This Pinot is sourced from eight vineyard sites, including those two, and is aged for ten months in ten percent new French oak barrels. It is plush and deep, with complex notes of red and black fruit and savory spice. It is a great food wine, and the winery suggests enjoying it with lamb, salmon, spicy Indian fare, or “all-American sandwiches.” $25