Featured Wines From The Newsletter

 
 

The Unredacted Mueller Report

Château Haut-Bergey Pessac-Léognan 2007
$29.99/$23.99 by the case

Father’s Day, graduation gift, or any special occasion that calls for a classy I-pulled-this-from-my-cellar bottle, here it is. A blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Merlot from the gravelly clay soils south of Bordeaux city, this is integrated and complex, a special 11+ year old treat that is drinking beautifully now yet will continue to age gracefully. 2007 was an overlooked vintage for Bordeaux – lost between the past excitement of ’05 and ’06 with the great ‘09s on their way - but time has proven that the best-made wines are now outstanding values, obtainable directly from the winery’s cold cellars at bargain prices. Even upon release this was a winner, with Parker hailing it as a “generous sleeper of the vintage” and calling Haut-Bergey a “constant over-achiever”; the more restrained Decanter Magazine dubbed it a “very stylish wine” in its 93-point review. Its overall profile is dark and mellow with as much emphasis on earth, mineral and spice as there is on the fruit. Plum and black cherry flavors are joined by aromatics of graphite, charred stone, licorice, cigar box and fleeting Asian spices, all wrapped together in a silky elegant package.

Cameron Pinot Noir Dundee Hills 2017
$29.99/$23.99 by the case

One of the most anticipated Pinot releases of the year has arrived and even though we knew it would be good, just how good this is still surprised us. As always a blend of Cameron's two top vineyards Clos Electrique and Abbey Ridge, the combination of two almost competing flavor profiles gives this dimension and tension as the complex mix of flavors bounce around the palate. There's the pretty side - perfumed strawberry and black cherry; the wild side - an animal sauvage quality with iron-y dirt and spicy licorice; and the textural side which may be the most compelling of all - smooth and creamy yet taut and stretchy. Despite the saturation of flavors, it's remarkably fresh and bouncy on the palate and the flavors are persistent through the long finish. Intensity and light tannins promise a long life but given how sexy and open-knit it already is, it may be hard to wait.

Burle Gigondas 2016
$23.99/$19.20 by the case

Is this really a Burle Gigondas? Could the excellence of the 2016 vintage so transform this typically burly rustic brawler of a red into something so polished and poised? Whether vintage conditions or winemaking, something did and wow does it work. Smooth, layered and downright elegant for Burle, this still offers a classic southern Rhône snapshot of aromas and flavors- wild thyme and marjoram, a basket of strawberries and blackberries warmed in the sun, a bowl of cured black olives beside a homemade saucisson sanglier. On the palate the fruit runs black to blue and the complement of savory peppery anis notes all but scream southern Rhône. There’s a Gigondas growl clearly buried in there, it’s just smothered in love polish.

Hillcrest Vineyard Tempranillo Umpqua Valley 2012
$18.99/$15.20 by the case

This stood out to use for several reasons- a non-Pinot Oregon red to explore from the under-represented south; an excellent pairing for summer grilling from steak to sausages to BBQ; an authentic interpretation of Spain’s classic varietal and above all, it simply delivers a lot for the money. You may be unfamiliar with Hillcrest but don’t tell them that; they are Oregon’s oldest estate winery and claim to be the birthplace of Oregon Pinot Noir. Although Oregon wine is usually now equated with Willamette Valley, Hillcrest does predate them all. Made in homage to the wines of Spain’s Ribera del Duero region, this is dense dark and powerful, helped I am sure by the addition of 20% Cabernet Sauvignon. The black plum and dried cherry fruit is encircled by a halo of smoky cedary incense perfume finishing with a meaty white pepper spiciness.

Sino da Romaneira Douro 2012
$18.99/$15.20 by the case

Portuguese wines are a hot category lately; as word spreads of dreamy vacations spent there and the amazing value these wines offer it seems everyone is now curious about this long overlooked country. Although the under $15 section gets most of the attention, this surprise best seller has recently outpaced everything. A clear step up in quality from a good basic Douro red, this shows unexpected finesse, depth and complexity, helped by its many years in bottle and mix of four traditional Douro varietals. The nose suggests a rustic feel with notes of dried flowers, earthy red berries and blond tobacco but the palate delivers a much fresher jazzier profile. With good lift and balance, the range of red fruit flavors - ripe strawberry to tangy raspberry to darker cherry - are carried along a vein of surprisingly citrus-like acidity before finishing creamy and smooth.

Galantin Bandol Rosé 2018
$19.99/$15.99 by the case

A customer favorite last year until it sold out (too soon) and already an early favorite this year, you should know this before it's gone. Its amazing price for Bandol is a good selling point but given its aromatic complexity and persistence on the palate, its appellation is almost an afterthought. A mix of 50% Mourvèdre, 30% Cinsault and 20% Grenache, it's a blend that works well with each varietal clearly contributing to the whole. The aromatics set you clearly in Mediterranean Provence- floral dried herb notes range from cool menthol, lavender and fennel to that other "herb", a mild Mary Jane pungency. On the palate the fruit is taut and distant, dried cherry and red berry shot through with a saline raciness. The finish is peppery and minerally crisp, full of personality.

Past Favorites Still Available

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

A lovely and seductive expression of Ken Pahlow’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.

Walter Scott 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.

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. 

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. 

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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