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Put This in Your World Cup

Smith & Hook Cabernet Sauvignon 2012
$19.99/$15.99 by case
In the spirit of July 4th, summer barbecues and chants of "U.S.A.!" heard at the World Cup, we offer this example of a style that America does best: bold, brash, in your face and addictively tasty. Smith & Hook set up shop on a pair of former ranches (horse and cattle) back in 1980; still family-owned and relatively small by Cali standards, the quality is high and the prices more than fair. 2012 was apparently a banner year across the Central Coast region, a fact quickly grasped once you see the color and take a sip; subtle it is not. Bursting with fat red rose aromatics and mouthwatering jolly rancher notes, there's intensity from start to finish: hickory smoke, vanilla, and toasty oak flavors all delivered on a lush river of black cherry and ripe blackberry compote ending in a dappled pool of fruit-encased tannins.

Domaine des Malandes Chablis 2012
$21.99/$17.60 by the case
And now for something completely different...While the US may hold the edge on big bold reds, the magic of a classically made Chablis is inimitable. Customers loved the 2010 version of this and we poured this new arrival at last month's Chablis tasting. While all the wines showed well, this captured the youthful electric profile of Chablis at a drink now-later-again-repeat price. A mix of ten different vineyards scattered across the Chablis appellation, this draws from a range of micro-terroirs giving it both a classic Chablis personality and subtle complexity. 2012 was a ripe vintage for many Chablis producers but longtime winemaker Lyne Marchive (since 1972!) purposely picked early in order to retain acidity and minerality, and boy, is there plenty of both. Lemon, lime and stone with interludes of fleshy pear, green apple and salty biscuits, this races on and on before finishing dry and snappy.

Berthet-Rayne Cairanne Vieilles Vignes 2011
$17.99/$14.40 by the case
While I'm blathering on about my favorite French wines I of course have to roll down south to the storybook collection of clifftop villages east of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, several of which are classified as Côtes du Rhône-Villages. Tiny Cairanne isn't so dramatic tourist-wise but is highly regarded for the elegant wines its vineyards produce. Berthet-Rayne is an old-school producer and this bottling tastes as if from an earlier era (55 year-old organic vines with no oak influence certainly helps). Redolent of wild fragrant herbes de Provence, lavender and warm violets, this is appealingly rustic and traditional in its restraint and honest simplicity. Medium-bodied and silky textured, gently chewy tannins lurk just beneath the fruit adding structure and lift. Like a good slow-cooked stew, the mix of flavors are harmonious and complementary: mature red/blue fruits, a trace of charcoal, savory herb, a dash of cinnamon...time to throw some rosemary lamb kebabs on the grill!

Eugène Carrel Savoie Rosé 2013
$12.50/$10 by the case
A quiet favorite around here each summer, this comes straight from France's Savoie region where the vineyards ride up into the foothills of the Alps. A delicate light-hearted charmer that makes me dream of a languorous picnic atop an Alpine meadow, this blend of Gamay and local varietal Mondeuse offers a different pink experience than those from the south. Highly floral and expressive, this is bright, brisk and tangy with nectarine and wild strawberry flavors riding on a lightly chalky vein of acidity. Light and refreshing but full of personality, this is a tasty way to explore the many shades of pink.

Oro de Castilla Verdejo Rueda 2012
$14.99/$11.99 by the case
The Rueda region produces some of Spain's best white wines yet remains under the radar for most American drinkers. If there is one wine to try to best appreciate the region's charm, this is it. Called "a textbook Verdejo (the main varietal here)" by critic Josh Raynolds and deemed the "best example" of Rueda Verdejo by the Spanish Wine Academy, this offers a whole lot of flavor, complexity and refreshment at a great price. The fruit comes from vines that are among the oldest in the region planted in high-elevation limestone-soil vineyards that are covered in river stones. Think this wine will have some minerality? Well it does! And beautifully pure aromatics that introduce a counterpoint to balance that lively acidity: hints of pear, starfruit and mango make a succulent fruit salad, flavors that dance across the palate.

Small Vineyards Italians
Here they are! The summer direct import container offerings are our most popular Small Vineyards wines of the year. Tom Kelly and friends work with tiny estates, mostly family-run and many organic, who produce wines full of personality. Twice a year we directly import wines whose production is too small to carry year-round. An e-mail offer went out in March, but we ordered extras of our favorites so everyone can enjoy our favorite selections.

Palama Arcangelo Primitivo 2012
$14.99/$11.99 by the case
Maybe the most popular red two years ago with tons of return buyers, the next vintage missed the boat last summer, but it's here now. While the 2010 was positively pretty for Primitivo and the 2011 more brooding, the 2012 sits somewhere in between: it offers the plush bright elegance of the 2010 mixed with an underlying dark intensity. Juicy red berry aromatics jump from the glass while darker fruit flavors and baking spice notes dance on the palate. Polished, supple and deliciously drinkable, there's a glimpse of Primitivo's wild side on the finish as black pepper, woodsy bramble and gently gripping tannins emerge behind the veil of fruit.

Perezzeta Erio 2012
$15.99/$12.75 by the case
Cheaper than the bombshell 2011 and just as good, what's not to like? Modern in style, this seamlessly delivers flavor intensity, complexity and remarkably a sense of place; even though half the wine is made from non-traditional varietals, it still tastes Tuscan. Although it would be easy to get lost in superlatives (very dark color, powerfully fragrant) its charm lies in the wealth of subtle flavors surrounding the core of plush berry fruit, flavors that add dimension and nuance that elevate this well beyond just a richly fruity wine. Red licorice and light herb, a walk in the woods with Turkish tobacco, purple flowers and silky tannins.

Marchetti "Later Harvest" Verdicchio 2013
$17.99/$14.40 by the case
Still a customer hit, still deliciously unique. The 2013 is less opulent than the 2012 and has the more lively balanced vibe of the 2011. Like that vintage, this shows a striking clarity and freshness in addition to its trademark layered richness. The ripe melon and honeyed pear fruit is again creamy and fleshy but is brought alive by a nervy beam of acidity - zesty and persistent - that electrifies the palate. The brown spice notes seem spicier, the flinty minerality more apparent and lingering dried mango adds yet another flavor dimension to this already exciting wine.

La Quercia Montepulciano d'Abruzzo Riserva 2010
$20.99/$16.80 by the case
Traditionally-styled and serious, this is a world away from the mass-produced stuff of the same name. Like all good wines the quality starts in the vineyards with 40+ year old vines, strictly organic farming and very low yields: 1 plant = about 2/3 of a bottle. Aged one year in Slavonian oak followed by a year in stainless, the wine has character and depth as well as an open-knit developed personality. Dark cherry and ripe plum fruit is dusted lightly with earthy cocoa notes and light smoky meaty notes peek out before jumbling all together on the chewy finish. Substantial and multi-layered, this shows how good Montepulciano can be.

Contini Brindisi Riserva 2011
$11.99/$9.60 by the case
A Case of the Month choice, this Negroamaro-dominant red from Puglia offers an elegance and prettiness not commonly associated with that region. The flavors are still southern Italian: sun-drenched and concentrated, there's a heady wash of dried plum and ripe blackberry accented with dark licorice, cured tobacco and exotic spice notes. The beauty here is that those seemingly rustic flavors have been tamed by two years in barrel (and more time in bottle) resulting in a smooth texture that finishes soft and mellow. $11.99

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