2017 Domaine Courbis, Cornas Champelrose, $54
Winery info: This northern Rhône winery has roots dating back to the 16th century. Today the estate is headed by brothers Dominique and Laurent Courbis and is based in the southernmost part of Saint-Joseph, on the border with Cornas. They have 35 hectares of vines, eight of which are in Cornas, a region known for its dense, concentrated, spicy Syrahs. Dominique and Laurent’s wines are especially noted for their purity and their ability to convey the gravelly, mineral character of Cornas terroir.
Grapes: 100% Syrah from a combination of very old vines, planted in 1919, and fruit from a younger parcel. Aged about 16 months in new and used barrels.
Vineyard: Their vineyards in Cornas, planted on south- and east-facing slopes with granite sand soil.
Flavor Profile: This smooth, medium-bodied Syrah is typical of the Courbis house style, with intense aromatics and wonderful depth and length. It is spicy and savory with red current and plum flavors and undertones of briar and damp earth, white pepper, and crushed stone.
Availability: It is still in fairly good supply.
Drinkability: Delicious now, or over the next decade.
Food Pairing: The winery notes that the fruit, fine tannins, and hint of pepper in this wine make it a great pairing for rack of lamb with rosemary and garlic.
2018 Planeta, Chardonnay, $42
Winery info: The Planeta family has been involved in agriculture in Sicily for five centuries. Diego Planeta, born in Palermo in 1940, completed the current winery in 1985, and went on to become a key figure in modern Sicilian winemaking, working tirelessly both for the success of his family winery, and to revitalize and promote Sicilian viticulture in general. His efforts were instrumental in helping gain international respect for Sicilian wines. Sadly, he passed away in September at the age of 80, but his estate continues and today they have six properties throughout the region, each with a distinct terroir and planted with grapes that best reflect their origins. One of the first wines they launched with their new winery was Chardonnay, highlighting their desire to demonstrate the ability of this and other international grape varieties to thrive in Sicilan soils.
Grapes: 100% Chardonnay, fermented and aged in 225-liter French oak, 50% new, for ten months.
Vineyard: From their estate vineyards in the Menfi DOC: Ulmo (around 800 feet elevation, planted in 1985) and Maroccoli (around 1,350 feet elevation, planted in 1999). Each has its own distinct aspect and micro-climate, varying from deep, pebbly soil, at lower elevations, to more chalky soils higher up.
Flavor Profile: This is a beautiful, complex expression of Chardonnay with loads of character. It is full and rich, without feeling weighty and perfectly balanced by fresh, underlying acidity. It has notes of orchard fruit, nuts, a hint of toasty oak, and a very long finish.
Availability: It is in good supply at the moment.
Drinkability: Anytime, now or over the next three to four years.
Food Pairing: Rich seafood dishes, such as black cod, halibut, or clams, especially with preparations using olives. The winery suggests pairing it with roast veal with mushrooms.