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Owen Roe Yakima Red 2012
$27.99/$22.40 by the case
Over the last several months we have been reveling in the 2011 Yakima Red, said to be the final vintage of this longtime favorite. We were sad to see it go but happy to take advantage of the 30% price drop. Then mid-December unexpectedly and without ceremony the winery dropped off a sample of 2012. Huh? Turns out the new direction isn't exactly fixed yet so they decided to bottle this one "last" time. No big surprise, after tasting it we're thrilled that they did. Quite different than the 2011, almost a third of this is Cabernet Sauvignon (the 2011 didn't have any); that added Cab coupled with the generosity of the 2012 vintage gives this a full-throttle richness and intensity that is hard to resist. Very expressive from the start, the floral iris rolls into sweet blueberry and blackberry with sparks of vanilla, espresso and toasty oak. Balanced and smooth, it's full-flavored yet amazingly light on its feet. Quite a swan song for its final vintage. Really final? Let's hope not.

J. Albin Pinot Noir Laurel Vineyard 2009
$20.99/$16.80 by the case | Regular price $30
Funny coincidence: similar story, different wine, but hey, a deal like this we shan't pass by. Due to a label/winery name lawsuit we recently offered the 2008 at a great price. Assuming it was a one-time deal we bought all we could. Mixed in with the last batch of 2008 was, surprise...2009! Cool! 2009 was a warm ripe vintage, an excellent foil for John Albin's elegant style. While this is certainly softer, richer and less earthy than the 2008, its bright cheery vibrancy and subtle complexity doesn't suggest a hot vintage. That's because Laurel Vineyard sits high up in the Chehalem Mountains (at 1100 feet it is the highest in the appellation) and this cooler site helped moderate the summer's heat. The result is a balanced, appealing lively Pinot that blends a smooth layer of cushiony cherry fruit above with a high-toned electric vibe underneath. Once again, this is a great opportunity to pick up an older vintage at a terrific price.

Podere Capaccia Chianti Classico 2007
$13.50/$10.80 by the case
And now for the last unexpected déjà vu-type offer, but again one we are happy to have. The winery offered their 2006 Super Tuscan at a reduced price this summer, a well-aged traditionally-styled red that sold out quickly. Apparently the winery cleaning continues with this timely deal. While still old world in style, this is darker, denser and more layered than the 2006, offering a comforting heartiness to match the season's wintry weather. The nose alone is plenty compelling: developed and complex like a long-simmering sauce, the aromatics crackle with brown spices, dried leaves, spiced plum cake and old wood. On the palate the complexity continues where woodsy forest floor and tangy cranberry notes roll into a dark cocoa and black plum softness. The finish pulls it all together with a nicely rustic chewy edge. With so much going on at this price, Italian fans should definitely check this bargain out.

Domaine des Demoiselles Côtes du Roussillon 2010
$14.99/$11.99 by the case
Demoiselles is a such pretty name for a winery and in this far southern corner of France close to the Spanish border there's substance behind the prettiness: the name refers to the women and young girls who for ten generations have made wine at this property. That's an amazing continuity in historically patriarchal France. The current winemaker, Isabelle Raoux, proudly continues this tradition. A blend of 60% Grenache, 20% Syrah and 20% Carignan, this initially displays an open-knit easy-going bounty of sweet strawberry and cherry fruit reminiscent of many southern Rhône reds. After some air however, the Roussillon-grown Carignan and Syrah seem to take over. Floral violet and cigar tobacco aromas emerge and on the palate the fruit turns darker and more powerful with notes of wet earth, beef blood and wild herbs. Polished and pretty upfront, dark and deep beyond, this ought to warm the belly on a cold winter night.

White Wine Ramblings

Clotilde Davenne Bourgogne Blanc 2013
$16.99/$13.60 by the case
Since mid-summer we've run through a succession of $20-range white Burgundy. When one sold out, we would find another until it was gone and so on. Obviously the purity of Chardonnay unencumbered by oak or buttery heaviness has many fans. Our last favorite sold out mid-December so thank the wine gods this came along.

The winery is located in Chablis and although labeled Bourgogne Blanc, it is Chablis in all but name. The fruit comes from a vineyard right in front of the winery but since that parcel isn't recorded on official maps the wine cannot legally be credited as Chablis. Madame Davenne could most likely win a petition to have it added but in her mind the three hundred case production isn't worth the bureaucratic hassle. The point of all that? This is a heck of a bargain. I poured a glass for JB without showing the bottle. He took a sip and asked "is this Chablis?" Ha! Not quite but yes... Stony and crisp, cool and confident, when the golden liquid hits the palate the mouth starts a-watering: lime zest and lemon cream burst forth followed by just-ripe white peach with hints of smoky minerality on the clean finish.

Domaine de La Laidière Bandol Blanc 2012
$16.99/$13.60 by the case
Oh to be relaxing on France's sunny Mediterranean coast right now, eating bouillabaisse and drinking its frequent accompaniment, white Bandol. Sadly no beach trips in the immediate future, but at least I can drink the wine. Not seen very often in the US and certainly not at this price (regular price is $25), this is a tasty exploration off the beaten path. Famous for its burly Mourvèdre-dominated reds, the tiny appellation of Bandol sits right on the sea east of Marseilles. White production greatly trails behind red and rosé but when good the whites can be just as compelling, offering an appealing combination of richness (thanks the the warm climate) and a brisk saline seaside quality. This bottle certainly has both, offering fleshy tropical notes of papaya, dried mango and ripe honeydew that are balanced by fresh-cut herbs, lemon meringue pie and a salty minerally kick on the finish. Similar to many Côtes du Rhône whites and reminiscent even of some Alsatians, this has a satisfying fullness of flavor and personality that makes it a welcome winter companion.

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