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Chartogne-Taillet Sainte Anne Brut NV
Retail: $52 | Dec. price: $42.99
The suspense was almost unbearable. Out of the many possible favorites we had included in our blind tasting, we all were wondering: which one is wine E? The one that inspired a stream of adjectives, the one that kept changing in the glass, the one that if you let the bubbles die down and tasted truly blind you might not know if it was red or white. Despite rocketing to Champagne stardom at a young age, Alexander Chartogne keeps pushing to make better, more interesting wines and despite our longtime recognition of their quality, we were still amazed at how good this, wine E, is.

His importer describes it succinctly: his "pick of the 2011-based NVs... it's a sensory parade and seriously powerful..." Sensory parade is right; the nose is layered and complex offering the leesy yeast notes of freshly baked bread, baking spice and an earthy wholesomeness. The sense of richness continues on the palate where bass note flavors of ripe red apple, caramel and even cognac give the palate plenty to ponder. Dry and serious one sip, sumptuous and flowing the next, expressive, spicy, red-fruited... oh enough with the adjectives already, let's just drink it!

A. Margaine Cuvée Le Brut Premier Cru NV
Retail: $50 | Dec. price: $42.99
While our infatuation with the Chartogne-Taillet unfolded slowly as the adjectives piled up, the Margaine was love at first sight (or sip in this case, again we were tasting blind). With the most captivating nose of the line-up, this has the sexy come-hither mix of zesty liveliness and succulent creaminess that makes most people exclaim "I love Champagne!"

Also highly expressive, this 90% Chardonnay beauty is sung in a higher key than the Chartogne, as the electric jolt of lemon lime chalkiness softens into light hazelnut and ripe pear. And oh, the bubbles...pillowy soft yet taut, they are present enough to hold the flavors on the palate but gentle enough that they tickle every tiny taste bud. Another longtime grower favorite, this cuvée shows that Margaine is still worth getting excited about. As Terry Theise, that voracious explorer of Champagne, puts it, "when this wine's on form, it is about the most wistful, exquisitely white-flowery crushed chalky Champagne I know".

Franck Besson Blanc de Noirs 2012
Retail: $22 | Dec. price: $19.99
An exciting discovery in our quest for the best holiday sparkle, this 100% Gamay from Beaujolais is fun, full of flavor and a delicious detour off the beaten bubbly path. Crafted with creative intention and care (Franck and his wife do almost all the work themselves, farming 60 year-old organic vines, hand-harvesting, hand-riddling), its ebullient flavor profile seems to convey the spirit of this hands-on approach. The aromatics are confident and appealing - vanilla cream soda, tangerine zest and playful candy-necklace notes that change to red cherry fruit mid-palate, followed by white peach and lemon. The finish is dry and pleasantly toothsome, offering flavors reminiscent of anise-flecked shortbread cookies. This cool-kid crowd pleaser with its creamy caressing mouthfeel and sappy yet zesty flavors is one of the best $20 bottle of bubbles out there.

De Chanceny Crémant de Loire NV
Retail: $16 | Dec. price: $14.99
Classy and subtly impressive, this was a clear and immediate favorite in the mid-priced blind tasting, showing flavor complexity, poise, balance and tiny bubbles that stayed fresh and lively glass after glass. Frankly surprised by the wealth of flavors, one look at the blend helped explain why: 70% Chenin Blanc, 15% Cabernet Franc and 15% Chardonnay. These three distinct varietals contribute precise flavors that are woven into its creamy elegant texture where the fruit and mineral notes are beautifully balanced; light herb and white pepper aromatics turn to Asian pear and Meyer lemon on the palate, joined by an underpinning of buttered toast and graphite. Like a string of lights, these flavors vibrate along the palate (thanks to Kevin for that poetic visual), slowly echoing away on the clean gentle finish.

Gran Moments Cava Brut NV
Dec. price: $8.99
Tasting this price range blind is always a roll of the dice. There is usually at least one awful wine along with several ho-hum hard-to-take-notes-on yawners. (At least the awful wines provide some comic relief.) But then there are the good surprises (wine A or B or whatever) that rise well above the mediocrity. Who would have guessed that behind its simple label this wine had so much to offer? A direct-to-Portland import that is a popular glass pour around town (with good reason), this delivers all one could ask for in an inexpensive sparkler and then some. The nose is full of candied spice, ginger ale and toasted brioche while the palate offers big Chardonnay-like flavors and the finish is light and refreshing. Dry and lively yet with plenty of flavor, this is an amazing value, perfect for all moments, grand or otherwise.  

Holiday Happiness

La Fortuna Brunello di Montalcino 2004
$54.99/$43.99 by the case
We love finding special offerings this time of year, so we were thrilled to get more of this. Plucked straight from the winery's cold cellars by a local importer, this ten year-old Tuscan red is singing right now. Displaying a vivid freshness given its age, there is still evidence of Fortuna's richer style in its generosity of fruit, and the myriad subtle complexities are a joy to contemplate. The nose is initially all roses, brandy-soaked cherries and golden tobacco but shifts direction as it opens. The fruit turns to wild berry and black plum while the aromatics stay fragrant with woodsy Christmas spice and damp underbrush. The texture is silky then soft before gentle tannins unfurl on the finish. All in all, a fun treat to share with family and friends while reflecting on ten years gone by.

Ayres Pinot Noir Perspective Ribbon Ridge 2010
$29.99/$23.99 by the case

It's no secret that the 2012 vintage in Oregon was a stunner which means many usual favorites have already come and gone. Happily we still have a little of this outstanding value so let's spread some holiday joy before it too disappears. A three-vineyard blend from the prestigious Ribbon Ridge appellation, this is impressive to start and just gets better from there. Well-respected wine critic Josh Raynolds rated this up there with some of the best names in the valley calling it "intensely perfumed, fleshy and seamless, silky and suave". One of the stars of the vintage with a down-to-earth price.

Reverdito Barolo 2010
$23.99/$19.20 case
For the Italian wine lover on your list, you can't go wrong with Barolo; the king of wines, the wine of kings, Barolo sits at the pinnacle of the Italian wine world, typically with prices to match, but not this beauty. Easily the best Barolo deal in town, this is imported directly from a small family winery based in La Morra and this 2010 might be the best yet. Dark and spicy, the black cherry fruit is studded with classic Nebbiolo accents of red licorice, leather, and pipe tobacco yet is relatively accessible even now. Drink some now, save a bunch for later, one for gifts, one for yourself...

Tamarack Cellars Firehouse Red 2012
$17.50/$14 by the case
Need a crowd-pleasing approachable northwest red for a holiday party? A rock-solid affordable gift? This bottle makes it easy. A multi-varietal blend whose style depends on the vintage (and of course blend), this 2012 is the best since the terrific 2008. Recently named Best Red Blend in the State under $20 in the 2014 Seattle Magazine Awards, it beat out some stiff competition, and after a glass you'll see why. Dominated by Cab Sauv, Syrah and Merlot (with splashes of nine other varietals), this delivers a burst of joyful red berry and black cherry fruit that is lush yet lively on the palate while dark spicy notes of licorice and cola dance in the background. 40% new oak aging adds a satisfying toasty component without being obtrusive and the finish is supple and bright.

Please Note...

Park & Pick-Up: Park at the Plaid Pantry and we'll bring your wine to you.
Or find a spot nearby and drive up to the front of the shop and we'll load your wine in for you.

New Year's Closure:
We will be closed from January 1 - January 6 and will re-open on Wednesday, January 7.
 

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