Favorite Featured Wines From The Newsletter

 
 

Concussive Ramblings...

El Corazon Pistolero! Walla Walla Valley 2013
$34.99/$27.99 by the case
Vividly displaying the Art of the Winemaker, this new arrival is a blend of all six original Bordeaux varietals. Deliciously integrated and seamless, this is super smooth yet jazzy, packed with flavor yet light on its feet. In other words, firmly in the vein of why the El Corazon wines are irresistible catnip for Walla Walla wine fans. Drawing a little something from each varietal, the broad cascades of mixed dark berry coulis flavors are edged with notes of dark chocolate and toasted oak while a tobacco-y cayenne pepper spiciness hangs in the background and lingers on the finish. And those six original Bordeaux varietals? Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Carmenère.

Pernot Belicard Bourgogne Blanc 2014                      
$24.99/$19.99 by the case

A relatively new domaine with old vineyards, Pernot Belicard is the marriage between Philippe Pernot (grandson of Puligny rock star Paul Pernot) and his wife’s family the Belicards whose have prime vineyard holdings in Meursault, Puligny and beyond. Philippe learned winemaking from his talented grandfather and his skill shows. This delivers great value for the money and drinks like a delicious marriage between Puligny and Meursault: the nutty richness of the fruit echoes Meursault while a punchy minerally Puligny precision adds focus and cut. The nose is lemony and lightly toasted, very pretty and inviting, while the palate offers ripe red apple and a creamy texture, ending with a nice touch of fresh green herb.

Montaribaldi Barbaresco “Palazzina” 2012
$23.99/$19.20 by the case
Single vineyard Barbaresco for under $25? That’s worth taking a look at. Like the ever-popular Reverdito Barolo, this is imported directly to Portland and offers such great value and Nebbiolo character for the money. Traditional and elegant in style, this is full of classically layered Piedmont flavors: dark smoky cherry, raspberry spice, loamy earth, savory herb and a touch of tar. It's medium to full-bodied but with a clean, lighter touch that makes it very engaging on the palate. A hint of oak adds depth but clearly the star here is Nebbiolo’s personality: lightly gripping tannins, a vein of rocky minerality and a swirl of perfumed aromatics, violet and rosy.              

Frédéric Esmonin Bourgogne Rouge “Les Genévrières” 2015                 
$22.99/$18.40 by the case
A relatively new domaine with old vineyards, Pernot Belicard is the marriage between Philippe Pernot (grandson of Puligny rock star Paul Pernot) and his wife’s family the Belicards whose have prime vineyard holdings in Meursault, Puligny and beyond. Philippe learned winemaking from his talented grandfather and his skill shows. This delivers great value for the money and drinks like a delicious marriage between Puligny and Meursault: the nutty richness of the fruit echoes Meursault while a punchy minerally Puligny precision adds focus and cut. The nose is lemony and lightly toasted, very pretty and inviting, while the palate offers ripe red apple and a creamy texture, ending with a nice touch of fresh green herb.

Pravis Pinot Grigio “Polin” 2015
$15.99/$12.80 by the case
Curious about so-called orange wines but reluctant to take the $30+ plunge to try one? This isn’t a full-blown orange style (it’s light copper) but a step in that direction and besides being a worthy drinker on its own, it’s a way to see if the orange style appeals to you. Orange wines are made with white varietals and get some color from lengthy skin contact. Unlike regular white wines, they’re left to macerate with the skins for weeks or longer and consequently gain color, structure, tannin and a variety of flavors. This Polin bottling from Pravis sits on the skins for a shorter time, long enough to gain additional flavor and body but not long enough to get too dark, tannic or funky. Goldilocks might call it “just right” on the orange scale. Clearly present floral aromatics roll into pear and honeyed lemon on the palate. The medium-bodied creamy texture is balanced by bright acidity and a spine of minerality (thanks Dolomites!) A classic lively Grigio but with more depth and richness, this is an excellent choice as the cold weather lingers into spring.

 

Strike Up the Smock Shop Band

Nate Ready, Master Sommelier turned winemaker/farmer, is an explorer out to unearth the heart and soul of wine from mere grape clusters. Years working in wine retail then top restaurants like French Laundry and Frasca provided tasting experiences that generated loads of ideas - and achievement of one of the highest wine sommelier certifications.

Working at wineries in Italy and Napa came next, before Nate arrived in Oregon in 2009 to become winemaker Maggie Harrison's major domo at Antica Terra in Dundee. Multiple vintages in the cellar and "learning Maggie's tricks" taught him how to make those ideas finally blossom. He and partner China Tresemer have since realized their dream by transforming an older winery in Hood River into Hiyu Wine Farm, full of animals, orchards and 14 acres of vineyards.

Nate lets wines mature in barrel for several years, seeking to transform pure fruit flavors into something more complex. Influenced by those years of tasting, he takes an Italian approach to winemaking that prizes creative exploration and individual expression. Whites see "super-gentle long pressings,” reds get long whole-cluster macerations and sulfur is not added until bottling so fruit keeps evolving. "Being a bit older has thankfully brought me a lot of varied experience and perspective" Nate says, "and I think it shows in the wines."

Smock Shop Band White Wine 2014                    
$29.99/$24.99 by the case
Inspired by French winemaking legends such as Marcel Deiss and Jean-François Ganevant, this blend of 90% Chardonnay and 10% Pinot Gris is darker yellow in color, richly-textured and is full of deep flavors and layered complexity. No surprise Nate calls it "a bit hedonistic." After being slowly whole-cluster pressed over 24 hours, it spent two years on the lees in used barrels, which added a nutty yeastiness. The aromatics are rich and full of tree blossom and classic Chardonnay spice; a sip brings lemon custard, Asian pear, tropical notes, green herbs and  a hit of caramel. There's so much happening, but it's well balanced and harmonious - and yes, very European in style. Fascinating and delicious..

Smock Shop Band Pinot Noir 2014                      
$29.99/$24.99 by the case
The Italian influence is clear in this personality-filled Pinot Noir that underwent gentle pigéage and a "Nebbiolo-type fermentation" with whole berry clusters macerated for 35 days, "retaining flavors that would normally get pressed out," before spending two years in barrel. Medium-dark red in color, there’s a gorgeous nose with hints of iris, sandalwood, nuts and anise - hmmm, like Nebbiolo. The palate delivers dense dark cherry and raspberry fruit, smoke, savory herbs and botanicals. The texture is subtly dense and nicely chewy, while remaining smooth and juicy into the long finish. This is an excellent wine representing a unique exploration into Oregon Pinot.

Smock Shop Band Red Wine 2014               
$44.99/$36 by the case
A Rhône-inspired blend of 55% Syrah and 45% Grenache from a leased plot east of Lyle that was left entirely whole cluster and sat for 70 days on the skins. The result is dark in color, aroma and flavor - and high in impact. There's a wildness to the nose that leads to flavors of dark plum, cherry and blackberry interlaced with earth, savory herbs, smokiness, light tobacco and nuts. There's a weighty richness, but nice lift that adds a freshness to keep the party rolling. Clearly ready to become better with age, it kept opening up as it sat in the glass. This one is for you lovers of Northern Rhônes or bold Mediterranean French reds.
         

Hot Wines From February
Still Available

Monte Zovo Amarone della Valpolicella 2011
$33.99/$26.99 by the case   

Monte Zovo Valpolicella Ripasso 2013
$17.99/$14.40 by the case   

When it comes to full-flavored wintertime Italian reds, Amarone is right up there at the top. Made by drying the grapes for several months before fermentation, the resulting wine is heady, concentrated and full-bodied since much of the grapes’ water content has evaporated. Of course this extra work and liquid loss costs money which makes the Monte Zovo a nice opportunity. Made by an organic family winery and imported directly to Portland, this delivers classic Amarone flavors in a somewhat more medium-bodied style thanks to the winery’s higher elevation vineyards. Soft dark plum and dried black cherry fruit mingles with notes of bitter chocolate, licorice and old wood, lightly funky in a good old world way.

Also a great value is their Ripasso, a sort of halfway-to-Amarone bottling, that offers similar flavors in a more easy-going open-knit style. Ripe but balanced with pretty rosy and cinnamon aromatics and complex layers of dried fruits (cherry, currant, blackberry) and savory spices on the palate.

Olga Raffault Chinon Les Picasses 2010                    
$23.99/$19.20 by the case   
One of our favorite go-to old world reds this past fall, it was sold out but more just became available, news that’s worth sharing. Olga Raffault is for many the benchmark for Chinon. Very traditional, the farming is organic and grapes are hand-harvested with minimal intervention in the cellar: no added yeasts, neutral oak barrels and very little sulfur added at bottling. On one hand the wines offer a pure distillation of Loire Valley Cabernet Franc, on the other they have an imprint all their own. Legendary for their age-worthiness, the occasional library releases are snapped up immediately. We recently had the 1985 and 1989 in the shop but not for long; I heard the ’85 was amazing. Although worth exploring not matter what the vintage, this 2010 is one of the best in the last decade. Classy, refined and confident, it is perfumed and expressive with a buoyant freshness, just the right counterpoint to its of-the-earth flavors. On the palate red mingles with black, from pomegranate and red currant to black plum. Although peppery and savory with whiffs of tobacco, its personality is clean and precise, unmuddled yet complex.                     

Ostertag Sylvaner Vieilles Vignes Alsace 2015
$20.99/$16.80 by the case
Although winter wine drinking is dominated by reds, some dishes (or moods) cry out for white and this is where Alsatian whites shine. Typically fuller-bodied with light earthy/mineral notes, they pair well with richer (and spicy) dishes and provide a satisfying fleshiness. The varietal Sylvaner is an underdog of Alsace and not much seen in the US, but in the right hands it offers plenty to like and Andre Ostertag has the right hands. Biodynamic for almost twenty years and a leader in the natural wine movement in France, every wine he makes is done with seriousness and intention. This new arrival from the celebrated 2015 vintage sparkles with personality; its slightly exotic aromatics offer a green fruit freshness, brown spice hints and light smokiness. The texture is creamy, peachy and seamless with a burst of tangerine on the finish that keeps the flavors humming along. Interesting yet easily quaffed, this is a welcome alternative to yet another Pinot Gris; pair with Indian food or a variety of pork and onion dishes and watch it shine.

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 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.

 

June 2016

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March 2016

January/February 2016

December 2015

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Aug/Sept 2015

July 2015

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April 2015