Favorite Featured Wines From The Newsletter

 
 

Total Eclipse of the Heart

Planeta Cerasuolo di Vittoria 2014  
$18.99/$15.20 by the case

This summertime Sicilian red favorite was a hit at a spring tasting and is a perfect pick for warm weather. A blend of Nero d’Avola and Frappato, two very different varietals, this derives its complexity and tension from this oddfellows pairing. Nero d’Avola is almost always dark, robust and masculine while Frappato is the opposite: aromatic, fresh and elegant with high-toned red fruit notes that crackle above the beefier black fruit notes of the Nero. Planeta is a wine star of Sicily and this has long been one of their more popular bottlings. The purity of fruit is confident yet casual and the mix of red flavors (strawberry, red licorice) and black is a seesaw that keeps the palate engaged. Inspired (or should I say forced) by the recent hot weather, I served this chilled at an outdoor dinner party with caponota and crostini; that didn’t last long... 

Les Terres Blanches Anjou Demon 2015   
$17.99/$14.40 by the case

Is this Loire Valley Cabernet Franc an angel or demon? Depends on one’s palate but for us, we’re going the celestial route. Terres Blanches is located in the southern Loire in a region called Oiron quite far from the river. The husband/wife team of Benoit and Céline Blet are doing it the old-fashioned, now modern way: biodynamic farming, all native yeast fermentation and neutral oak aging. The resulting wines offer purity, freshness and distinctive flavors, like beautifully enunciated French. This red is right for the season, medium-bodied and alive with classic Franc aromas of black tea, tobacco and clove-y spice accenting the black plum fruit. Although the fruit seems plenty ripe for a Loire red, there’s a backbone of acidity that enlivens the palate and suggests a light chill may make it even tastier. 

Can Feixes Penedes Blanco 2016
$14.99/$11.99 by the case
This is one of those wines most people see and wonder “what the heck is that?” Then after tasting it, they say: “I still don’t know what it is but I sure like it!” A blend of Parellada, Macabeo, Chardonnay and Malvasia de Sitges from a region just west of Barcelona, it’s racy and dry but satisfyingly fleshy around the middle- a bite of summer white peach crossed with prickly lime zest. The nose offers a range of citrus, from Meyer lemon to tangerine, while notes of gunflint, chalk and white pepper linger on the snappy finish. The winery sits on gravelly slopes near the tree line and the high elevation and mountainous terrain give this a more northern European feel than a Spanish coastal white. Time moves slowly here; vineyards have been planted here since the 1400s yet the family produces an average of only 6000 cases a year.

Burlotto Pelaverga 2016
$20.99/$16.80 by the case
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. The 2016 arrives next week so check it out while you can. Light to medium-bodied, it’s extremely expressive aromatically, mixing 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.

Ascheri Barolo 2012
$32.99/$26.40 by the case
Looking ahead to the cooler weather of fall or want a bargain to add to the cellar? We ended up with a little more of this high-scoring Barolo so despite Barolo and August weather being a questionable marriage, this is worth mentioning. 94 points from the Wine Spectator who sez "Licorice, cherry and tar notes mark this intense, chewy red, packed with sweet fruit midpalate that offsets the dense, dusty tannins. Shows fine integration and length, with the aftertaste echoing licorice, cherry, tar and mineral details. Best from 2019 through 2035.” I can’t vouch though for that 2035 drinking target...

Christophe Thorigny Vouvray Sec 2014   
$17.99/$14.40 by the case
If you’re sitting on the bank of the Loire river after visiting one of the region’s famous chateaux, this is what you should have in your glass. Just what Vouvray should be, this is gentle and pleasing in texture with light fragrant peachy notes balanced by a lemon freshness and delicate green herbs. Neither too cuttingly dry nor viscid, this glides across the palate at just the right speed and weight. One of our favorite matches for salmon, chicken tarragon salad or just basking in the path of totality.  

 

Small Vineyards Italian Direct-Imports

La Quercia Montepulciano d'Abruzzo Riserva 2013  
$20.99/$16.80 by the case
Wildly popular the last two vintages, this full-throated and multi-layered red is a huge step up from a typical Montepulciano. Like all good wines the quality starts in the vineyards with 40+ year old vines, strictly organic farming and very low yields. 2013 was a warm vintage in Abruzzo and this still-youthful red is packed with flavor. A huge extrovert, the mass of brooding dark plum and blackberry fruit is shaded overall with pastoral images and aromas - floral iris, wet loamy soil, crushed rosemary and smoked meats - while milk chocolate flavors soften the grippy finish.

Marchetti "Later Harvest" Verdicchio 2016  
$15.99/$12.80 by the case
Still deliciously unique and one of the most popular Direct Import wines each summer. 2016 looks to be a balanced, classic vintage after the warmth of 2015 and this shows more nuance and focus than the full-frontal attack of the 2015. There's still plenty of luscious peach and honeyed pear to feast on, and as usual these flavors are perfectly balanced by a concentrated stone fruit acidity. Intense and layered, the mouthwatering aromatics melt into a wave of rolling white fruits as notes of baking spice, dried mango and bitter orange zest hang on the persistent finish.

Bocelli Tenor Red Toscana 2015    
$15.99/$12.80 by the case
A dynamic Super Tuscan made by opera tenor Andrea Bocelli’s brother at their ancestral family estate, this offers an old world/new world tension that kept it interesting glass after glass. 1/3 each Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, first impression showed this to be juicy and bright, offering lovely pure flavors of fresh cherries and ripe red plum with a supple inviting texture. With air and time this shifted dramatically becoming fuller-bodied and more powerful. Layers of flavor opened up revealing lush blackberry, dried cranberry and kirsch - dense fruit flavors interspersed with notes of savory spice, cured salumi and forest floor. Alternately pretty then brawny, open-knit or teasingly coy, this was a fun few minutes of tasting.

Palama Arcangelo Rosato Salento 2016
$13.50/$10.80 by the case
100% Negroamaro from the bottom of Italy's heel, this has beautiful strawberry aromatics that shift to raspberry on the palate. Gentle yet lively in texture, there’s an earthy minerality, hinting at tobacco and Asian spice before ending with a zesty lemony lift. A lot of rosés out there could easily be swapped one for another with little notice; this one is refreshingly different, vinous yet vibrant, summery crisp but full of flavor.


Hot Wines From Summer Still Available

Burle Gigondas Les Fouilles 2014 
$18.99/$15.20 by the case   Originally $30
A crazy good deal for Gigondas and for fans of traditionally styled long-lived southern Rhône reds, one to buy by the case. The Burle wines have been a cornerstone of our Rhône section since the late 1990’s but this new, different bottling just showed up last year. Les Fouilles is a 50 year-old one hectare vineyard, located in the Dentelles mountains above the village of Gigondas, planted equally with Grenache & Syrah. It’s classic Burle in style but given its mountain provenance and higher percentage of Syrah, it may be even more Burle-like than their other wines. Old school and funky in a good way, this is chewy and mouthfilling with all kinds of wild flavors packed in. Beyond its sturdy black fruit and overall barnyard aura, there’s balsamic and beef blood, new leather and wild thyme, made fragrant by the warm sun. This would pair nicely now with grilled lamb and rosemary but make sure to save some for the fall; this will be a very welcome companion once the weather again turns cool and wet.  

Hundred Suns Pinot Noir Old Eight Cut Willamette Valley 2015     $27.99/$22.40 by the case   
One of the most exciting new labels to recently appear and already a customer favorite, this is the inaugural release from former Beaux Frères winemaker Grant Coulter, aided by his trusty sidekick Renee Saint-Amour. These guys are starting off right, clearly over-delivering quality for the price, making it one of the most talked-about wines over the past two months. Grant crafted stunning wines his last few years at Beaux Frères and his skill at maximizing flavor while retaining elegance is obvious from the first sip. Bold yet balanced, this is saturated with flavor but elegant and bright as the lively acidity carries the complex flavors across the palate. The fruit leans red- raspberry, strawberry and pomegranate - while the background is alive with more secondary earth and spice aromas, courtesy of 50% whole cluster fermentation. Vineyard sourcing? Three vineyards, all of them top flight and distinctive, each bringing something worthy to the mix: Sequitur and Flanerie in Ribbon Ridge and Jessie James in Eola-Amity Hills. With such an auspicious beginning we’re already looking forward to next vintage.  

Cottonwood Raya Jade Syrah Yakima Valley 2011 
$15.99/$12.80 by the case
Continuing to move at a snail’s pace, Cottonwood has just released their 2011 Syrah and happily it was worth the wait. Thanks to five years in bottle and the long cool growing season of 2011, this offers a complexity and old world feel that makes it drink like a more expensive wine. The highlight here is the Syrah spice factor, from anise and cinnamon to peppery clove. The dark plum and dried currant fruit is mellow yet intense, lingering on the palate until the savory, black olive finish. 100% Crawford Vineyard fruit, same source since their first vintage in 2002.

Cazas Novas Vinho Verde 2015
$13.99/$11.20 by the case
Summer and Vinho Verde are a wine match made in Dionysian heaven but sometimes the flippant airy nature of most of these wines leaves me wanting more. Enter the three man team of Cazas Novas. The family’s estate vineyards are among the last in the appellation before entering the red wine-producing region of the Douro's Baixo Corgo. This inland area is warmer than most of the rest of the appellation and the resulting wines are broader, richer and more mouthfilling than expected. For not much more money than a basic step-up-from-water version, this blend of Avesso and Loureiro offers great texture and balance with plenty of refreshing acidity and aromatic minerality.

Moulin de Gassac Guilhem Rosé 2016   
$14.99/$11.99 by the case
Better than the über popular 2015? It just may be. Again an early favorite this spring and summer, the 2016 is just so expressive and alive with a crackling fresh intensity and lovely floral aromatics. The light strawberry and crushed red berry fruit glide effortlesslyacross the palate, carried along by a steely, almost lemony vein of acidity. Focused and racy yet airy and long on the palate, this just seems to capture so many of the best things about summertime rosé drinking. 50% each Syrah and Carignan from organic vineyards outside the Mediterranean town of Montpellier.   

Cameron Pinot Noir Dundee Hills 2015
$25.99/$20.80 by the case   
A favorite year after year and how can it not be? A blend of Abbey Ridge and Clos Electrique, Cameron’s top two vineyards, this is such a lot of wine for the money - especially if you can age it a few years to coax out even more complexity. The warmth of the 2015 vintage makes it bigger and richer than the 2014 but there’s still plenty of layers of flavor to explore. Roughly 70% Abbey Ridge and 30% Clos Electrique, it shows the high toned floral dark red cherry quality typical of Abbey paired with the more animale, savory meatiness of Clos. After pouring it at our Memorial Day Friday night tasting, I drank a bottle over two days; it just got better and better.

Abeja Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2014  
$54.99/$44 by the case  
Another northwest favorite that just arrived, this is a gorgeous Cab and true to the Abeja style: supple and flowing, silky and caressing, saturated with flavor but elegantly so. The nose is charming with vanilla crème and baking spice aromas while the fruit flavors are balanced right in the middle: red plum to black cherry and dark blueberry, just hinting at blackberry. Well-knit with refined tannins, it finishes with a light savory dustiness, a perfect complement to the richly expressive fruit. 

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.          

Tyrus Evan Claret Ciel du Cheval 2015
$17.99/$14.40 by case    Normally $36
This time last year our switchboard was lighting up with excitement as we rolled through case after case of the 2012 vintage. Whether you fondly remember the wine or this is new to you, here’s one last chance to play as 2015 is the final vintage. Tyrus Evan is a side label of Ken Wright Cellars, designated for non-Pinot reds, and is made at the winery in Carlton with the same attention to detail as their single vineyard Pinot Noir. Ciel du Cheval, considered among Washington’s elite vineyards, is located in the tiny Red Mountain AVA. Historically Washington's warmest growing area, wines from here are almost always dark, richly flavored and full-bodied. The soil is unique as well, typically giving the wines a distinct minerality.

This 2015, while youthful and restless, clearly shows the pedigree of winemaker and vineyard. Jazzy and initially light on its feet, the flavors seem dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon leaning red with cherry, cassis and raspberry floral notes. With air and time in the glass, the fruit gets fuller and darker shading into rich ripe blackberry while distinct flavors emerge, from vanilla and lightly toasted oak to oregano and eucalyptus. Decant, drink over two days or pile it in the cellar for the future- whichever you choose, this is a deal worth taking advantage of.

Tenuta Monolo Bramaterra Riservas 2001 and 1996
Bramaterra, a small appellation in the north of Piedmont, received DOC status in 1979 thanks to the tireless effort of Umberto Gilodi, the owner of Tenuta Monolo. Because of his role in creating the DOC, he decided to never sell his wine to avoid any conflict of interest. Now after his passing, several vintages of this legendary Piedmont red are available directly from Italy. These two excellent vintages were among our favorites, powerful in personality yet elegant in presentation. 

The 2001 is remarkably youthful tasting with still grippy tannins, licorice peppery spice and robust red cherry fruit.
The 1996 is just hitting its stride with rosy savory aromatics and dusty cherry fruit that shades from darker to bright.

All farming was organic (uncommon in the area for many years) and fermentation was in large wooden botti with native yeasts. The vineyards were a mix of 60% Nebbiolo, 20% Croatina, 10% Vespolina, and 10% Uva Rara. For fans of Piedmont or aged old world reds in general, this is an amazing opportunity to taste history.

$52.99/$42.40 by the case. Limited, arrives in August. Order and pre-payment required

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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

April 2016

March 2016