Champagne & Sparkling
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
A. Margaine Cuvée Le Brut Premier Cru
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
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
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
$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
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.
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.
Follow Us on Facebook & Twitter,
Get Special E-Mail Offers and News
The world of wine moves ever faster as new arrivals, deals, sales and
more quickly come and go. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter so you can
stay informed and not miss a thing.
Like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/GreatWineBuys
We're on Twitter at @GreatWineBuy (Yes, there is no "s")
We also regularly email out special offers on allocated wines and
discounted presales, so even if you receive the printed newsletter, you
should sign up for our emails as well. Email us at
we'll add you to the list. Or you can call the shop at 503-287-2897.
about wines we’ve covered in the past?
Click here to see previous months’
musings, reviews and comments.