Featured Wines From The Newsletter
Enrico Serafino Barolo 2013
$29.99 $23.99 by case
A serious, age-worthy Barolo for $30, why thank you! A local distributor looking to clear warehouse space offered a deal we couldn’t pass up. Serafino was founded in 1878 and makes traditional style reds and this certainly is one. Showcasing the power, complexity and longevity of Nebbiolo, this changed dramatically over two days. When first opened it was bright and red-fruited with a swirl of woodsy, rosy aromatics and classic Nebbiolo tangy acidity. As it opened more flavors emerged: cured tobacco, concentrated cherry, cocoa and leather. The next day, the caterpillar turned into a butterfly: dense and grippy, the black plum and berry flavors were joined by umami-like mushroom aromatics and a licorice spiciness. A lot of fun for not much more than a basic Nebbiolo, this is great for stocking the cellar or hearty winter dishes, just make sure to decant and watch that butterfly fly.
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.
Mucyn Crozes-Hermitage 2016
$21.99/$17.60 by the case
Here’s a beautiful, affordable example of pure, unadulterated Syrah from the northern Rhône, its traditional homeland. Unmuddled by hot growing conditions, heavy oak usage or having been blended with other varietals, this shows Syrah in all its fresh, naked glory: fragrant and effusive, the pretty lavender, menthol and violet notes hint at a marijuana-like pungency before turning toward the fruit, a macerated mash of mixed berries that are both sweet and tangy before finishing with a gentle peppery bite. Medium-bodied and smooth yet edged with an old world rusticity, this is joyfully drinkable now and for years to come, showing that 2016 is a vintage to love in both the southern Rhône and the north.
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.
Burlotto Pelaverga 2017
$20.99 by the bottle – Limited Availability
The 2017 arrived during the holiday rush; for those of you who were looking forward to the new vintage, it’s here! An obscure red varietal native to Italy's Piedmont region, Pelaverga had almost disappeared by the 1970s, replaced by more popular and easier to sell Barbera, Nebbiolo and even Dolcetto. Elisa Burlotto's father called her crazy when she asked to plant a section of the family vineyard with Pelaverga in 1972. Luckily, he himself had a bit of the "crazy" and gave his blessing to the project. Now all these years later, Burlotto has to allocate this wine and what comes to Portland sells out quickly. Despite having a much warmer growing season, the 2017 is stylistically similar to the charming 2016.
Medium-bodied and aromatically expressive, it mixes the complexity of Nebbiolo with the drinkable accessibility of Barbera. The nose offers floral rose petal, fresh thyme and sweet leaf tobacco while the palate delivers a refreshing raspberry cherry kick. A versatile food wine, it is supple and inviting with an underlying intensity, allowing it to pair with a variety of dishes.
Holiday Bubbles Still Available
Diebolt Vallois Blanc de Blancs NV
$49.99 per bottle
An Audrey Hepburn of Champagne, this 100% Chardonnay is as beguiling as they come - sexy yet demure, sprightly yet regal and possessing a nonchalant confidence that seems to say ‘of course I’m delicious, what did you expect?’ Actually, it was what we did expect but still, such poise and elegance can elicit a thrill of surprise no matter how much one expects it. We have known and loved Diebolt for years but between lapses of availability and a national importer’s higher prices it became lost in the wilderness. Now imported directly to Pdx, not only is it one of the most captivating Blanc de Blancs, it is easily one of the best values as well.
The majority of their vineyards are located in the Grand Cru village of Cramant and neighboring village of Cuis, whose chalky soils are the perfect terroir for lacy, mineral-driven Chardonnay, like this one. The nose is so pretty and complex with aromatics of fresh herb, lemon meringue and a light ginger yeast spiciness. The fruit on the palate is gentle and harmonious yet rich, with soft pear and crisp apple flavors floating on a focused beam of impossibly tiny bubbles. Beautifully composed throughout, the finish brings notes of earth, salt and stone before entering a long slow fade, like fairy music as you drift away to dreamland.
Perseval Farge Cuvée de Pinots 1er Cru Brut NV
$54.99 per bottle
A 50/50 blend of Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, this is a stylistic opposite of the Diebolt Vallois and a rare Blanc de Noirs treat. Rich and sumptuous on the palate, this offers a winey, savory red-fruited personality that is as appealing as it is unexpected. A warm rosy aromatic haze of toasted hazelnuts, dried autumn leaves and cinnamon-spiced apple cider leads to cherry and red apple on the palate before gliding into a dry biscuity finish. Winemaking decisions enhanced the generous fruit profile - 48 months lees aging and the addition of 40% reserve wine add layers of depth and complexity, as well as a creamy integrated texture.
A tiny estate at only 10 acres, Perseval is decidedly non-interventionist (aka natural). Vineyards are organic (certification pending) and sulfur addition is remarkably low at just 1/5 the average for Champagne. As a result, this has an invigorating freshness and pulsing energy, a wonderful counterpoint to its rich burnished flavors.
Domaine Carneros Brut 2014
$32.99 per bottle
A benchmark for good Californian bubbly, this newly-released 2014 just landed a 93 point review in the Wine Spectator, its highest rating ever for this bottling. Founded by Champagne Taittinger in 1987, their pursuit of excellence continues by adapting in the vineyards and staying the course in the cellar. Eileen Crane has been head winemaker since the beginning, offering remarkable consistency and experience. Despite this solidity the winery is a leader in sustainability, with the largest array of solar panels of any winery in the world and a new estate bottling made with 100% organic grapes. This mix of experience and dynamism apparently can be bottled, for it shows up in this wine. Jazzy and lively yet refined and deliberate, there’s a California-esque richness of fruit balanced by complex notes of fresh fennel, baking spice, buttered toast and zesty lemon curd. The bubbles are elegant yet bouncy as they carry the tangled flavors toward the dry, steely finish.
Lambert de Seyssel Petit Royal NV
$18.99 per bottle
Unique and distinctive, this Kermit Lynch import from the mountainous Savoie region is a fun treat offering cartwheels of flavor to mull over as you sit by the fire or watch rain drip from the rafters. Full flavored and vaguely autumnal, it fits the wintry season well with its warm woodsy personality and rich dappled texture. Although off the beaten path for most wine drinkers, the tiny Seyssel appellation has a tradition of sparkling wine dating to the 19th century, supplying neighboring spa towns with non-soapy bubbles for their guests. The blend of 70% Molette and 30% Altesse, two indigenous varietals, gives the wine its distinctive flavor profile. Flinty, smoky and savory to start, those aromas recede as the ripe fruit flavors take over, a mix of poached pear and warm apple cider with side notes of brown bread and toffee. A winter citrus zestiness keeps it lively and bouncy finishing with an Alpine air crispness.
Past Favorites Still Available
Scott Paul La Paulée Pinot Noir 2013 and 2014
$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.
Colene Clemens Pinot Noir Dopp Creek 2016
$25.99/$20.80 by the case
While the 2015 version is now sold out (thanks to a 95 point review and #7 spot on the Wine Spectator’s Top 100) this 2016 is an incredible follow-up. Tasting like a much more expensive wine, it is sexy, vibrant and complete; the flavors, texture and aromatics are firing on all cylinders. For holiday gifts, December drinking and beyond, this is a joy of the season. Tangy raspberry shades to black cherry while a swirl of baking spice and potpourri aromas linger across the palate, polished and smooth. Fresh and alive, the underlying acidity carries the richness across the palate at the perfect rate, allowing the flavors to unfold and bloom before whisking them on to the gently grippy finish.
Seven Hills Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2015
$24.99/$19.99 by case
Walla Walla’s Seven Hills Winery has been so good and consistent since its founding in 1988 and this new vintage is a delicious reminder. Their trademark style is on display here – perfumed and aromatic, well-proportioned and balanced, with enough structure to carry the succulent fruit. That fruit runs red with dried cherry and ripe marionberry shifting to blackberry near the finish, all brightened by a lively lemony edge. With rose and mint aromatics to start and graham cracker maple notes on the finish, this is like Christmas dinner in a bottle, just waiting to be opened.
Roland Lavantureux Chablis 2016
$23.99/$19.20 by the case Regularly $32
We’re big fans of this Kermit Lynch producer and definitely of the 2016 vintage. We’re even bigger fans of the holiday price drop so when we’re setting out our holiday platters of Dungeness crab and Hama Hama oysters, we know this will be on the table as well. One of the old guard in Kermit Lynch’s portfolio, Lavantureux has been farming and vinifying classic style Chablis since 1978. Coming from 30 year old vines planted on clay and Kimmeridgian limestone, you catch a taste of that ancient oyster shell-laden seabed, saline and minerally, before the white fruit flavors kick in. It’s a lovely combination, this almost spearminty coolness matched to the pure, just-picked quality of the fruit. The lemon/lime notes race into crisp apple and Asian pear while toasted nut and baking bread notes ride out the finish.
Owen Roe Cabernet Sauvignon Yakima 2014
$29.99/$23.99 by the case Regularly $42
Welcome fall with this stellar deal from our friends at Owen Roe, a serious yet accessible Cabernet from some of Yakima’s best vineyards including DuBrul and Red Willow. Conceived as a bottling in 2012 to showcase the diversity Yakima Valley offers and also be a stepping stone to their single-vineyard Cabs, this quickly became a customer favorite. Now as they roll into the terrific 2014 vintage, a limited-time price break is sure to make it even more popular. Rich and powerful with lovely expressive aromatics, the currant and black cherry fruit is joined by a haze of complex aromas: cola and cocoa, smoky basil and a Christmastime potpourri spiciness. The texture is supple yet firm, wonderfully balanced for a wine to drink now or cellar, as a rounded caramel softness gives way to lightly chewy tannins on the finish.
JL Chave Sélection Côtes du Rhône Mon Coeur 2015
$20.99/$16.80 by the case
A legendary Rhône family, Chave winemakers have been father to son since 1481, an astounding feat of consistency. The current winemaking generation, father Gérard and son Jean-Louis, are renowned for their attention to detail and rigorous blending prowess; Chave is the undisputed king of Hermitage and arguably the best domaine in the northern Rhône. JL Chave Sélections is their négociant label, made with purchased fruit in a more accessible style and price range. With long-term fruit contracts and serious winemaking, this line has always offered great value but the 2015 is the best in recent memory. Roughly equal parts Grenache and Syrah from villages of the southern Rhône, this is no simple country red, rather a serious layered wine that while delightful now will continue to improve for years. The fruit runs dark and strappy, blackberry and ripe plum, and the texture is taut and muscled. Notes of lavender, cured black olive and anise make it unmistakably southern French while trails of smoky black peppercorn cry out for hearty fall dishes.
Olabarri Rioja Gran Reserva 2007
$21.99/$17.60 by the case Regularly $30
Two years ago we landed the 2004 and customers loved it. The 2007 was a worthy successor and when offered the price break again we couldn’t resist. 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.
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.