Featured Wines From The Newsletter
Wines for Winter
La Bastide Blanche Bandol 2015
$24.99/$19.99 by the case Regularly $30
Here’s an excellent start to 2018: a powerhouse southern French red from a great vintage at a yes, please price. Bandol is a tiny appellation and fishing village that sits just east of Marseille right on the sun-drenched Mediterranean. The reds must be a minimum 50% Mourvèdre - although most producers use more, filling out with Grenache, Cinsault and/or Syrah - so these wines are almost always hearty, meaty and dense, perfect for winter. This version is clearly marked by the warm 2015 vintage and provides an accessible entry point into what is sometimes seen as a forbidding region. The first sip offers a deep pool of macerated mixed berries, juicy and aromatic with an appealing graham cracker toastiness. Mourvèdre’s true character takes over mid-palate as notes of cured black olive, herbes de Provence and roasted meats flavor a mouth-coating richness before rumbling on to a muscular barnyard-tinged finish. This would be delicious with grilled rosemary-covered lamb, peppery steaks or my wintertime favorite, north African lamb stew.
Crociani Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva 2012
$23.99/$19.20 by the case
There’s something about this wine, something at once elusive and solid, that made it one of our best-selling Tuscan reds over the past several months. The local importer had sold out but lucky us that the winery accidentally re-shipped more of the same vintage. Quietly confident and traditional in style, it’s quintessentially Tuscan with a wealth of flavors and aromatic complexity, subtle yet pure. The black cherry fruit is mellow and provides a steady backdrop for the other flavors to rest on. Notes of forest floor and dried porcini roll into fennel and oregano; seductive warm wood overtones caress the palate before dropping into a gentle multi-dimensional finish. This would shine alongside a long-simmered Bolognese or wild mushroom ravioli, something mellow and savory, woodsy and warm.
Rich Table Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2016
$18.99/$15.20 by the case
A brand new wine from vintner Andrew Rich that took off during the holidays, this is young, luscious and juicy and tastes like a nicer Cab than the price suggests. For a guy who mostly avoided working with Cab Sauv over the past twenty-odd years, he sure did a good job! 85% Cabernet Sauvignon with 15% Syrah, this offers loads of big blackberry fruit in a polished everyone’s-a-winner! style. Flashes of brighter marionberry/raspberry balance the richness before ending with just enough tannic grip to give it some punch.
Tommaso Bussola Valpolicella Ripasso Ca’ del Laito 2015
$21.99/$17.60 by the case
This was a real treat to re-taste during December’s mini ice storm, warming our insides and making us long for a bowl of wild boar ragu shared with friends gathered round the fire. Ripasso is a style of wine related to Amarone - for brevity’s sake think of it as halfway to an Amarone - and its typically rich heady flavors are a wonderful antidote to the winter chills. While some Ripasso-style wines offer little more than concentrated fruity jam flavors, Bussola is a master of the region and this has plenty of complexity and liveliness to balance its plush luxurious texture. The raisined cherry fruit is balanced by a bright zing of fresh raspberry while nuggets of complementary flavors are layered in: candy store aromas of red licorice and chocolate truffle, dried leafy notes of sage and tobacco and an alluring yet hard to describe kiss of dusty smoky funk.
Palacio de Canedo Bierzo Maceracion 2015
$18.99/$15.20 by case
While the other wines described above mostly satisfy based on their winter-appropriate richness, this Spanish red charmed us for the opposite reason. Bierzo is a lesser-known appellation in Spain’s northwest corner where almost all the red produced comes from the varietal Mencia. A majority of the Bierzo reds available in Portland showcase Mencia’s more wild side: meaty and savory with an iron-y minerality. This bottling, sourced from organic vines grown on steep chalky slatey hillsides, offers something different. Made using carbonic maceration, a method most closely associated with Beaujolais, this highlights Mencia’s more refined elegant side: lovely floral aromatics, crunchy clean berry fruit and silky tannins, all underpinned by a fine minerality. Fennel, violets and wild strawberry open to a boysenberry, dark plum juiciness and the texture is buoyant supple and vibrant. Early feedback gives this a thumbs up with paella and pork tenderloin or simply on its own.
Domaine d’Henri Petit Chablis 2016
$20.99/$16.80 by the case
2016 was a nightmare growing season in Chablis. A series of destructive weather events - frost, hail and heavy rain - reduced yields 50% on average making it the worst harvest since the 1950s. But thanks to a hot late summer and fall, vignerons ended up being very happy with the wine that was made, and after tasting this we can see why. Aromatically expressive, the biscuity buttered crostini richness is punctuated by an oyster shell saline minerality and smoky gunflint spiciness. This yin-yang balance continues on the palate where mellow poached pear and apple compote flavors are shot through with bursts of Meyer lemon and prickly white pepper. The texture is dappled and layered, a nice surprise for Chablis this young, and the finish trails off with gentle notes of lemon curd.
December Winners Still Available
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.
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.
GWB Newsletters Archive
Here are current and back-issues of the Great Wine Buys Newsletter to help you print out the month or find a wine from past issues.