Featured Wines From The Newsletter

 
 

OUR WINNING BRACKET

Selvapiana Villa Petrognano Pomino 2013
$20.99/$16.80 by case

The clear favorite at a recent Saturday Super Tuscan tasting, this has lots going on, from the dried fruit leafy aromatics to the smoky, lightly chewy finish. 60% Sangiovese and 20% each Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, it shows flashes of Tuscany, then Bordeaux then Tuscany again, keeping the palate engaged. Very expressive and broad in texture, the flavors are well integrated, offering sweet black cherry and spicy dark plum fruit wedded to savory, almost meaty forest floor umami notes. Showing the quality of the 2013 vintage, it’s medium-bodied but dense with flavor, hearty yet smooth. Although Selvapiana is in Chianti’s Rufina area, they farm and produce this wine for their friends at the Villa Petrognano, a thirteen acre estate in the nearby historic Pomino DOC, located on the border of Tuscany and Emilia Romagna at the foothills of the Apennines.

Château Blaignan Médoc Cru Bourgeois 2012
$15.99/$12.80 by the case

Researching options to replenish our Bordeaux shelf in January we hit upon this, an older vintage bargain that Laurelhurst Market had been rolling through as one of their go-to glass pours. Although Blaignan claims to be one of the oldest estates in the northern Médoc (14th century) this is a decidedly 21st century wine. Juicy and seductive in style, it delivers classic Bordeaux flavors wrapped in a plump, fruit-filled supple package. After almost six years in bottle, the flavors have melded and the texture softened creating a generous, classy and complex whole. Dominated slightly by Cabernet Sauvignon, the flavors lean that way with ripe black cherry and blackcurrant flavors surrounded by touches of tobacco, cigar box and spicy herb.

Domaine des Roches Neuves Saumur-Champigny 2016
$23.99/$19.20 by the case

Once a for-those-in-the-know winemaker for Loire Valley Cabernet Franc fans, Thierry Germain’s star shines ever so brightly these days; his importer Kermit Lynch calls him “one of the greatest examples of high achievement in biodynamic vine growing in France... producing some of the most exciting wines in the Loire Valley today.” In addition to biodynamic farming, all fermentation is natural with no sulfur added during aging and no new wood in the cellar. By these methods Thierry hopes to capture purity, finesse, clarity and precision in his wines, admirable goals that are evident here, an excellent introduction to his style.

The detailed focused flavors appear effortless and natural, unfolding across the palate with a reassuring confidence. From the initial burst of warm summer strawberries on the nose to the crunchy, minerally finish there’s some subtle flavor popping out. Menthol rosy blond tobacco notes fade into dark Italian plum, riding a wave of fine yet tightly woven tannins. The texture is layered with a juicy Gamay-like openness married to a denser fertile earth richness, a focal point on the canvas that the other flavors surround.

Sangouard Guyot Mâcon-Vergisson La Roche 2017
$17.99 or $14.40 by the case

Imported directly by a fair-dealing Burgundy addict, the Sangouard Guyot wines have long been some of our favorite, gotta-have value white Burgs. We recently tasted a line-up of the just-arrived 2017s and this gem stood out as a favorite. Offering an ideal blend of minerality and pure fruit (an elusive goal at this price) it was creamier and much more complex than the basic bottling and more open-knit and approachable now than the more expensive cuvées. In a transparent vintage like 2017 it showcases the character of its terroir, a tiny 1.25 acre plot of land on the rock of Vergisson (hence the name La Roche) right on the border with Pouilly-Fuissé. Due to its location, similar soil and aspect, it is often called Pouilly-Fuissé’s little brother.

Cameron Giovanni Pinot Bianco 2018
$15.99/$12.80 by the case

A harbinger of spring and a favorite local white until it disappears mid-summer, we’re always happy to see this. The quality of the fruit is crazy for the price: all from Abbey Ridge vineyard, mostly Pinot Blanc with about 20% old vine Chardonnay thrown in because, well, it was there. The 2018 boasts a riper, rounder profile than the 2017 yet with plenty of balancing zestiness. John Paul explained that while 2018 summer days were hot, nights were quite cool which kept the acidity. So, he let the fruit hang loner than usual giving it that fleshy feel. Flavors of white peach, pear and melon loll about on the palate before being whisked away by a spritz of lemony acidity.

Walter Scott 2017s Are Here

Hearing Ken Pahlow talk about his 2017s is an impressive master class in the many minute decisions he makes, balanced by the humble recognition that he’s fortunate to get fruit from some of the Valley’s best vineyards. His thoughtfulness is exhilarating, yet is merely a guiding hand in successfully allowing the personality of each vineyard to shine. Here are three favorites, many others to explore mentioned below.

Sojourner Pinot Noir Eola-Amity Hill 2017
$54.99 or $43.99 by the case

A lovely and seductive expression of Ken’s winemaking and the Eola-Amity AVA, this offers high-toned aromatics of rosy bramble and Asian spice while nuggets of red berry and black cherry roll about the layered palate. Supple yet powerful, polished yet intense and minerally, this drinks well now but will age gracefully.

Sequitur Pinot Noir Ribbon Ridge 2017
$54.99 or $43.99 by the case — LIMITED
Perched near the top of Ribbon Ridge right next to Beaux Frères’ Upper Terrace, Sequitur has over fifteen clones carefully selected, planted and farmed by Mike Etzel. Some of the most exciting fruit in the Valley, Ken makes it shine. Savory spice, punchy summer red fruits and a complex, serious finish.

Cuvée Anne Chardonnay Willamette Valley 2017
$39.99 or $31.99 by the case

A stunning white Burgundy look-alike that takes the detailed nuance of the single vineyards, mixes them together and presents itself as a delicious icon of thoughtful blending. While the single vineyards clearly convey their individual terroirs, this offers a balanced of complexity and drinkability; of fruit, acidity and minerality; of power and grace. Cool stone and citrus aromatics lead to a pulsing green freshness on the palate, a ricochet of flavors that linger on the long yet crisp finish.

Take 20% off a mixed case of any Walter Scott wines. Other single vineyards available: Seven Springs, Justice, Freedom Hill, Temperance Hill, X Novo and Dubay.

Past Favorites Still Available

Scott Paul Pinot Noir Chehalem Mountains Azana 2014
$22.99/$18.40 by the case   Regularly $60
For those who can't quit the Scott Paul discounted Pinot Noir habit, it's last call. The winery has officially announced it is ceasing operation and most inventory is depleted. If you enjoyed the La Paulée 2013 and 2014 bargains, here's one last deal to ride, their flagship Chehalem Mountains bottling, just reduced in price (still $60 at winery). "Broad and spicy, open-textured and appealing, showing balletic balance and featuring black cherry, rose petal and white pepper character that glides into a long and inviting finish. Drink now through 2024." 92 points, Wine Spectator. 

Scott Paul La Paulée Pinot Noir 2013
$17.99/$14.40 by the case    Originally $40

The Pinot Noir deal of the summer, here's a chance to save over 50% on a nicely aged, beautifully balanced bottling that even at its original price was deemed a "great value" by Neal Martin in Parker's Wine Advocate. With new owners, a new winemaker and several vintages of inventory, this popular Carlton winery has said "come raid the cellar" and we are happy to oblige. Made by winemaker Kelly Fox, this offers a lovely bouquet of spiced cola, floral underbrush and bright red fruit. Medium-bodied and supple throughout, you can sense that time in the bottle has softened the edges and layered the flavors; strawberry mixes with pie cherry, the black tea notes are laced with cinnamon and the finish trails wisps of brambly rose petal spice. "Best La Paulée yet" says the winery; maybe so, and at this price it's worth finding out.

Crowley Chardonnay Willamette Valley 2017
$24.99/$19.99 by the case    
Despite only making two Chard bottlings, Tyson Crowley is known as one of several leading winemakers in Oregon's Chardonnay renaissance. Burgundy-inspired yes, but proud to capture a sense of place, namely the Four Winds vineyard located on the edge of the Coast Range. Although this is labeled Willamette Valley, it is all declassified Four Winds fruit and once again is a standout value. Like previous vintages this 2017 is clearly marked by the shallow soils and cool exposure of the vineyard giving this textural tension and a stony intensity. Aromatically awash in fresh lemon and hints of brown spice, the palate brings electric flavors of crisp green apple and subtle herb notes before softening gently and lingering on the finish. Like white Burgundy? Try this.  

Rotllan Torra Priorat 2014
$18.99/$15.20 by the case

Finally, our most popular great value Priorat is back in stock and it was worth the wait. This 2014 showcases everything that customers love about the region: dark smoky fruit, big rolling waves of flavor, soft and mouthfilling in texture with an underlying minerally persistence. An almost equal blend of Grenache, Carignan and Cabernet Sauvignon, it is accessible yet real, in part thanks to a few years in bottle, something the Spanish excel at. You get a sense of the region's famous black slate soils and sun-drenched vines as aromatics of damp graphite give way to plenty of sunny cocoa-dusted black fruit flavors. A direct import customer favorite here for years, this is worth checking out. 

Soos Creek Artist Series 14 Columbia Valley 2014
$21.99/$17.60 by the case - Regularly $30
Established in 1989, Soos Creek is a Washington pioneer whose big bold flavors helped set a style course for many wineries that have followed. Still just producing around 2000 cases per vintage, Soos Creek has retained a folksy, under-the-radar profile despite receiving high scores from critics and sourcing fruit from some of WA best vineyards. Winemaker David Larsen strongly believes in classic Bordeaux-style blends from a mix of vineyards: more balance, more complexity. 

This 2014 is 62% Cabernet Sauvignon and 38% Cabernet Franc from Champoux, Dineen, Elephant Mt. and Weinbau vineyards. An abundant vintage gave the winery much more fruit than usual in 2014, hence the deal. 92 points from critic Stephen Tanzer: "Captivating aromas of blackberry, cassis, licorice, violet, leather and minerals; the Cabernet Franc lift is obvious here. Sweet, fine-grained and broad, with its plush dark berry fruit accented by a mineral quality. Finishes velvety and broad, with sweet, building tannins and clinging flavors of purple fruits and violet." Yum!

Hecht & Bannier Minervois 2013
$17.99/$14.40 by the case
Talk about wintertime reds, this sensual southern French is pungent and alive with flavor, a pointed contrast to the cold stillness of the season. The nose is awash in a floral savory haze, meaty and warming while the palate offers dense layers of dried fruit and secondary developed flavors. Mostly Syrah with 20% grenache and 10% carignan, there’s a bass note powerful deepness but after five years in the bottle, the tannins have softened and overall this is mellowing into a complex mix, like a long-simmered sauce. Nuggets of black currant, cherry and blueberry mingle with notes of licorice, sage and exotic Asian spices. We tasted this three different times over the last few months; each time we were surprised just how cool this is for the money.

Crociani Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2015
$21.99/$17.60 by case

Quintessentially Tuscan, this direct-import red transports your palate to the picturesque Tuscan hill town of Montepulciano and the 14th century cellars where it’s made. A customer favorite these past few years, it exudes a quiet confidence and when tasted in a group of peers stands out as more interesting, more complete, more satisfying. Marked by the warmth of the 2015 vintage, this is expressive and open-knit with a friendly juiciness that is immediately appealing without masking the traditional Tuscan background flavors. Notes of damp forest floor, caramelized fennel and a pine needle spiciness mix with black cherry and plum fruit while a smoky clay earthiness pulls up on the lightly chewy finish. So good without seeming to try too hard, this would pair nicely with similarly modest winter comfort dishes: pasta Bolognese, Ribollita soup or your favorite pizza.

Carlton Cellars Estate Pinot Noir Yamhill-Carlton 2012   $23.99/$19.20 by the caseThe 2011 was a real favorite here last year. Released after many years in bottle, it reflected the cool growing season with a fine-boned elegant structure and savory secondary flavors to complement the gentle fruit. Still available, this 2012 is a delicious follow-up. Although with a more generous fruit profile than the 2011, there is still plenty of black tea chai spice notes lurking at the edges, adding dimension and depth. Plump yet snappy, there’s a crisp cool strawberry/cherry vibe, like eating chilled fruit on a warm summer day and a light earthy dustiness that subtly suggests that fruit is freshly picked. With air the fruit gets darker and lightly smoky before fading away gently on the finish. While recent vintages are fun for their youthful forward personalities, this is a nice change of pace: mellowed yet vibrant, its complexity replacing power yet with plenty of life left.   

Croatia’s Dalmation Coast

These unfamiliar wines offer a whole new tasting experience for most Americans, including me. That said, I was able to explore this region many years ago when the country was called Yugoslavia (barely). I even took a ferry alone to Hvar (mentioned below), a beautiful island off the coast. Beautiful much of the time, but in a cold February just months before the breakup of the country and civil war, it was bereft of outsiders and quite desolate. Still, it was a beautiful rugged region and it’s exciting to have these wines here in Portland.

Along with Greece, coastal Croatia has some of the oldest wine history in Europe. Dalmatia is roughly the stretch of Adriatic coast between Dubrovnik, the Peljesac Peninsula and the area around Primosten and Sibenik. The climate is Mediterranean: dry hot summers, mild winters. Much of the soil in the mountainous hilly terrain is rocky, red brown clay with limestone below.

Bura Plavac 2017
$18.99/$15.20 by the case
Plavac Mali is Croatia's second most planted varietal and the dominant red in Dalmatia. Typically full-flavored and sturdy, they generally show compact dark fruit flavors such as black cherry, currant and blackberry along with spicy Mediterranean herbal notes and often earthy minerally tannins. This bottling comes from an organic inland vineyard on the Peljesac Peninsula, a cooler site compared to the coast, giving it a fresh, vibrant youthful personality. Lighter bodied with livelier aromatics, this is a lovely shoulder season red as we roll into spring. 

Pilizota Plavina 2016
$17.99/$14.40 by case
An underrated coastal red varietal that is overshadowed by better-known and usually heartier varietals such as Plavac Mali and Babic, Plavina can offer the elegance of Pinot Noir with pretty, spicy aromatics gentle fruit tones and lively acidity. This one comes from vineyards near the town of Sibenik, warm by day, cool at night and constantly windy. Aromatic and evocative, the mixed red berry fruit is touched by briary savory notes and a dusty clay earthiness, flavors that linger and echo on the discreet yet long finish.   

Zlatan Posip 2015
$23.99/$19.20 by the case
Posip is an indigenous Croatian varietal that dates to the 4th century BC (!) and today is the most important and popular white in Dalmatia. This comes from an organic vineyard on the sunny southern side of the island of Hvar, "vineyards with a sea view" as the winemaker says. With a deep golden color, it offers a creamy fleshy texture balanced by enough acidity to keep it fresh and bright. Flavors of apricot and peach provide the sunny richness while salty minerally anise notes lend it a zesty bite. A perfect match for a just-caught grilled fish lunch overlooking the Adriatic or...riding out the last of the winter weather in the Pacific Northwest. 

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