Featured Wines From The Newsletter

 
 

Champagne & Sparkling Deals

Pierre Gimonnet et Fils Blanc de Blancs 1er Cru NV
Retail: $57      December price: $45.99     

A titan of Champagne’s Côte des Blancs region, Didier Gimonnet makes incredibly pure, focused “aerial” Champagnes and his wines are a delicious benchmark for Champagne lovers. With a family grape growing history that dates to 1750, he is blessed with an abundance of old vines and his transparent winemaking style allows the individual terroirs to shine through lending his wines a deep nuanced complexity. 

Nominally a blend of five vintages (already impressive for a basic NV), what makes this special is that the wine from say, 2012 , is not only 2012 juice, it is the finished blend from 2012; that in turn was a blend of five previous vintages and so on and so on. So five vintages in this bottle is really a mind-boggling array of multiple vintages going back years. No wonder it’s so complex.  A go-to shop favorite for years, this current NV seems somehow even better. His longtime importer Terry Theise apparently agrees writing “Didier’s wines are markedly superb [this year] even by his standards. What more can be asked of a Blanc de Blancs Champagne than this?” 

Indeed, what more? Electrifying the palate with a chalky minerality and crunchy tangerine acidity, the floral jasmine aromatics turn to pie crust and salted buttered toast, flavors that melt on the the tiny-bubble-strewn palate before lifting off with an airy lemon-scented kiss. It grabs your attention with its precision and cut then confidently steps back, letting the flavors sparkle, shine and gently fade, leaving an impression of harmony and grace.     

Marc Hébrart Cuvée de Réserve 1er Cru Brut NV
Retail: $52       December price: $44.99      

If you prefer the sumptuous full-flavored generosity of Pinot Noir-driven Champagne, then this Hébrart is your ticket to Happytown. 82% Pinot from top Premier Cru sites across the Vallée de la Marne (and 18% Chardonnay), this has a big friendly personality offering a warm red apple richness with an orange dreamsicle hedonism. The texture is creamy soft and supple, and the pillowy bubbles carry accents of ginger, candied lemon and toasted brioche to all the hidden corners of your palate. As much as I’d love to wax rhapsodic onto the next page, this loving description by Hébrart’s importer says it all: “This is the most precise articulation of PN you’ll ever taste in Champagne, and this is a glorious edition of this (absurdly) “basic” NV. The fruit is ample yet weightless, the flavors are written in calligraphy yet not “precious,” and this ostensibly ordinary material occupies an ether, until it returns with a spider-fine yet Pinot-earthy finish.” For an importer who is justly proud of all his growers, that is high praise indeed.                           

Roederer Estate Brut Anderson Valley NV
Retail: $26.99     Dec. price: $23.99  

There’s no mistaking the French sensibility at Roederer’s California Estate and the current non-vintage bottling is a masterstroke of melding French sophistication with a more hedonistic California vibe. Vinous and expressive, this offers a rich creamy mouthfeel with detailed accents of sea salt, brioche and baking spice circling the red apple fruit, all balanced by a vein of lemony acidity that carries the flavors on through a long finish. Toasty and luscious one sip, regal and vibrant the next, this delivers the best of both worlds at a let’s-drink-another-bottle price.  

Domaine du Petit Coteau Vouvray NV
Dec. price: $17.99   

Sometimes a wine is so immediately appealing and just “tasty” that I neglect to take further notes. Caught up in the sheer pleasure of the creamy flavors dancing upon my palate my mind wanders; memories, future plans, daydreams...all involving a wine like this of course. That was our first impression of this happy-go-lucky charmer and on second pass (in a blind tasting), it again easily won us over. 100% Chenin Blanc from a 40-year old organic vineyard, it offers a pleasing genial party-time vibe on the surface with enough pops of complexity to keep the palate engaged. Floral and exuberant, its flavors of peach, apricot and lemon curd stride across the lushly textured palate. A savory undercurrent brings anise, fennel and fresh herb aromatics to shake up the fruit party while a toasted hazelnut spiciness lingers on the gentle finish. 

+ & + Cava Brut Seleccion NV
Dec. price: $11.50  

This stylish sparkler bested the blind tasting competition by offering a clean classy profile with plenty of richness and complexity. Notes of baked apple, caramelized fennel and a light gingery earthiness gave this a depth and breadth uncommon for the price range, while the playful fruitiness made it a pleasure to drink. A blend of traditional Spanish varietals used for sparkling (Parellada, Xarello, and Macabeo) from a family estate that specializes in Cava, this offers a refinement more often found in higher-priced bubblies without sacrificing flavor pizzazz.  

Holiday Fun

La Fortuna Brunello di Montalcino 2007    
$54.99/$43.99 by the case
It’s always fun to drink, share or gift a wine at the one-decade mark, especially when it’s a beautiful bottle of Brunello from a good vintage. Fortuna’s importer is here in Portland and when given the chance they happily will raid their cellars for older vintages. We’ve been quietly selling this off the shelf recently but December is a time when a bottle like this really shines. Muscular and fruit-driven when young, this has developed into something more much more elegant and classy. The texture is silky and flowing while the aromatic complexity is alone a treat. Delicate notes of clove, cinnamon and anise lead to Morello cherry and dried black plum fruit on the palate. The finish is supple and caressing trailing aromas of cured tobacco and the Tuscan countryside.  

Chateau Haut-Bernat Puisseguin-Saint-Emilion 2010
$24.99/$19.99 by the case

A shelf favorite since we poured it at a tasting in late spring, we are down to last call on this class act. 2010 was one of the best vintages of the past decade and almost anything under $50 is long gone. Haut Bernat is a small family-owned estate that held onto their wine until it arrived direct from their cellars via a Bordeaux import specialist. Although still showing some youthful power and marked by the richness of the 2010 vintage, this has started to turn the corner revealing more developed secondary flavors that make mature Bordeaux something unique and special. Medium-bodied and texturally yielding, the black cherry and red plum flavors hang on the palate accented by a dusty haze of Asian spice, crushed graphite and a clay-like earthiness. This would pair nicely with many a traditional Christmas dinner and other savory-flavored winter dishes. Or, throw some in the cellar and enjoy for years to come; this is just starting to impress.

Westrey Pinot Noir Oracle Vineyard Dundee Hills  2012
$29.99/$23.99 by the case

There’s a little left of this single vineyard gem from the great 2012 vintage and thanks to a few years in bottle, it offers a wonderfully developed profile, starting off savory and dense but opening to a layered complexity with time in the glass. Oracle Vineyard sits at a prime spot high in the Dundee Hills; a portion of the vineyard was planted in 1977 and this bottling showcases that terroir beautifully. At first the fruit is dark and mellow while notes of pepper, clove and tobacco take center stage. As it opens, the fruit turns more high-toned and red, all tangy bing cherry and rhubarb, before finishing with a mild brambly earthiness.  
 

More Winners Perfect for the Holidays

Carlton Cellars Estate Pinot Noir Yamhill-Carlton 2011
$19.99/$15.99 by the case   Originally $35
Here’s a small step back in time, a throwback to a cooler vintage for Oregon with precise persistent flavors to match, especially compared to the ripeness of recent vintages. Fine-boned and elegant, the sweet red cherry fruit is pure and mellow, backed by detailed notes of dried cranberry, black tea, menthol and Asian spice. The texture is gentle, round and supple with a hint of tannin that melts away on the lingering finish. With its pale garnet color and savory secondary flavors it could mistaken for Burgundy or even a Loire Valley red, nicely aged and ready for the table. This would shine paired with salmon, chanterelles and roasted root vegetables as well as a variety of typical autumn dishes. Or of course, a quiet glass alone by the fire. 

Sineann Pinot Gris Wy’east Vineyard 2013  
$12.99/$10.40 by the case   
Here’s a great local Pinot Gris deal to enjoy through the holidays from a winery known for its big reds. The fruit here comes from Wy’east Vineyard, a beautiful patch of earth located south of Hood River. Surrounded by pear and apple orchards and in the shadow of a looming Mount Hood, this pocket of glacial moraine soil sits at 1600 feet elevation giving this a different profile than a typical Willamette Valley Gris. A minerally crisp bite alternates with a dappled texture as flavors of red apple and ripe pear stay lively across the palate.

Catena Malbec Mendoza 2015   
$19.99/$15.99 by the case   
This new vintage caught our attention as one of the classier Argentine wines of the year. With impeccable balance and an old world structure this offers a glimpse of the high quality of Catena’s high-scoring expensive bottlings and is a huge step up from your basic $10 Malbec. The blackberry and boysenberry fruit is elegant and long on the palate surrounded by notes of toasted bread, woodsmoke and leafy savory spice. Maybe not an expected pick for Thanksgiving but given how rich, complex and flavorful it is, I don’t think anyone will mind.  

Julian Haart Riesling 1000L Mosel 2016  
$19.99/$15.99 by the case   
We taste many, many wines- sometimes a blessing, some days a curse- and it’s always a treat when a previously unknown wine gets the collective eyebrow raise; whoa, what’s this? Julian’s wines may be little known due to tiny production and his young age but won’t stay that way for long. A rising superstar in the Mosel, Julian apprenticed with Egon Muller and Klaus Peter Keller, which the importer likens to “learning to draw under da Vinci and Picasso”, and his skill shows clearly even in this, a cast-off of sorts. 1000L refers to the size of the traditional Mosel barrel and this wine comes from barrels (or Fuders) that Julian didn’t think good enough for his main bottlings. The importer buys the whole Fuder, giving us a thrilling wine at a great price. Decidedly dry, crackling fresh and front loaded with mouthwatering aromatics, the fruit is vivacious and layered, ripping through notes of lime, Asian pear, green apple and caramelized fennel, all accompanied byaure a swirl of floral fresh herb and minerally slate. Pull that cork and let the little trapped sulfur blow off, then enjoy the show.

Owen Roe Abbot’s Table 2016
$19.99/$15.99 by the case

In this season of giving thanks and gathering around tables with friends and family, we’re happy to see this old friend. Not only does the name and story suit the season, this new vintage is deliciously inspired, calling to mind the daring varietal blends of the first vintages of Abbot’s Table. Comprised of Zinfandel, Sangiovese, Blaufrankisch and Malbec, it offers a range of flavors that are distinct and separate before melting into one lively expressive whole. Silky smooth yet punchy, the fruit runs from crushed mixed berries, wild concentrated blues, smoky cherry and plum with an overall peppery spice. Satisfyingly rich and distinct in character, it also happens to be extremely easy to drink, a trait that should please everyone at the table. 

Terres Dorées Beaujolais L’Ancien 2015
$17.99/$14.40 by the case   

Despite the simple “Beaujolais” appellation, this longtime favorite outshines even many higher priced cru-level bottlings. At our 2015 Beaujolais tasting last spring it sure was a charmer- fresh and aromatic with a lovely supple texture and pure fruit flavors, perfect for the summer. Tasting it again recently showed it to have changed, almost with the seasons, and gotten perhaps even better. The fruit is blacker and more mellow with a smoky earthy tilt that now makes it an excellent choice for late fall and your Thanksgiving table. Winemaker Jean-Paul Brun makes traditional style Beaujolais: indigenous yeasts, lower alcohol, minimum addition of sulfur at bottling to keep the wine fresh tasting and as the importer says “headache-free”.  The vines are 80+ years old, amazing for a wine this price, and they clearly make this wine something special.
 

Hot Fall Wines Still Available

Olabarri Rioja Gran Reserva 2007
$23.99/$19.20 by the case   Regularly $30  
Time to say wow again; last October we offered the 2004 vintage and wow, was that a hit. It sold out much too quickly but happily this 2007 is a more than worthy successor. Offering all the same aged Rioja character that made the 2004 so special yet with a little more richness and power, this clearly stands out from the crowd. The nose is complex and deep with dried floral and brown spice cayenne notes as well as a woodsy stone cellar air. The texture is caressing and smooth as the dark red and blue fruits stay gently sappy across the palate, gliding into fruit-encased tannins on the finish. Ten years old and still vibrant and quietly intense, this is a highlight of the season.  

Walter Scott Chardonnay La Combe Verte 2016
$27.99 retail, $22.40 by the case

The past two vintages proved that Walter Scott is making some of the best Chardonnay in Oregon and here is more proof. Youthful and racy but boasting that incredible Walter Scott texture you hoped for, the nose is lemony with a nutty edge and flashes of creamed honey and waxy notes. Crisp green apple is accented by dried oregano and fresh spearmint, and with air the texture gets better and better: supple and smooth and long on the palate but with great underlying acidity. As always there's minimal intervention in the cellar: native yeast fermentation, 20% new wood and minimal lees stirring. Fruit sourcing includes some of the best including X Novo, Vojtilla, Clos des Oiseaux, Freedom Hill and Sojourner. 

Walter Scott Pinot Noir La Combe Verte 2016
$27.99 retail, $22.40 by the case

Many would be hard pressed to guess this as Oregon Pinot - it tastes so European but then again, it tastes very much like...Walter Scott. Cutting no corners for their introductory bottling, this is dense and layered with complex flavors just like their single vineyard wines. Plus like the Chardonnay above, it has a silky pretty texture that hides the power and structure underneath. Savory and wild in aroma, there are airy hints of sweet strawberry and dark blueberry before a more leathery, spicy savory personality emerges. There's plenty of dark cherry and black plum fruit on the palate that balances perfectly with the other flavors. I can't wait to see how this tastes tomorrow and the next day. Already opening up nicely but there's so much promise for the future: decant if drinking now now or cellar for up to five years. 15% whole cluster, all native yeast, 30% new oak for 10 months and mostly Eola-Amity Hills vineyards.

De Forville Nebbiolo d’Alba 2014
$21.99/$17.60 by the case
De Forville produces beautiful Barbaresco and a Langhe Nebbiolo, but the vines for this special cuvée are located in the commune of San Rocco d’Elvio, perched on a hilltop in between the Barbaresco and Barolo zones. Importer Neal Rosenthal refers to this (somewhat jokingly) as De Forville’s Barolo as its structure and fruit profile leans more Barolo than Barbaresco. Whichever way it leans, it tastes delicious. Dark, spicy and roundly textured with classic Nebbiolo aromatics of roses and damp earth, the black cherry flavors are crunchy and lively, drawn out across the palate and lingering on the finish. Traditional in style but really sexy (two descriptions that are usually mutually exclusive), this struck us as charmingly versatile, equally suited to a chilly Juneuary night or served slightly chilled al fresco on a properly warm July evening.          

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