Late Summer Wines and Arrivals of New, Limited-Release Craft Beers.
Thursday, August 16:
Seven Hills Riesling, Columbia Valley 2010- $12.99/btl ($10.40 by case or mixed case): We met the proprietor of Seven Hills, Casey McClellan, back in the early 1990s, when he was still the town dentist in bustling Milton-Freewater, Oregon and a fledgling grapegrower and vigneron in his spare time. Well, the intervening years have seen Casey's winery become one of the consensus critical darlings of the wine press and the Seven Hills AVA become perhaps the US' finest for Bordeaux grape varieties. And if that weren't enough to fill a day of work, Casey has maintained his relationships with several top Columbia Valley Riesling growers, and he consistently turns one of the best bottlings from this variety that can be found for just north of ten bucks. We're always impressed with the crisp acidity, aroma of Queen Anne cherries and superior concentration from this offering, and the 2010 version does not disappoint. We can't think of a better refreshment for the hot, humid, langourous days of late summer.
Matchbook Tempranillo, Dunnigan Hills- Lake County 2008- $15.99/btl ($12.79 by case or mixed case): We remain baffled as to why more California growers don't take up cultivation of grape varieties that seem tailor-made for dry, warm, consistently-sunny conditions. Perhaps the holy grail of producing a New World equivalent of great Bordeaux or Burgundy remains too tempting- and distracting- for your average California grower. On the other hand, we have a small (but growing) group of vintners who are making their mark by taking honest stock of their vineyards and microclimates to select grape varieties that will yield more interesting, transparent and distinctive wines. One of the most striking examples we've tasted lately is the Dunnigan Hills Tempranillo from Lake County pioneers, the Giguere family. We were knocked out by how accurately this wine expresses all the vanilla, licorice, sandalwood and leathery qualities of the noble grape of Rioja...yet still manages to express a warmth and directness that can only be California. What's not in doubt here is that you can pair it with any foods that would be complemented by the best Riojas; the only difference is that this gem will only set you back a little under $13 when bought by the case.
Friday, August 17:
Vino Bianco "Grangia", Elvio Tintero NV- $11.99/btl ($9.60 by case or mixed case): If we had to designate a "house wine" here at JWS, this would probably be it: a totally sui generis, slightly fizzy, dry blend of Piemontese Arneis, Favorita, Moscato and Chardonnay that adds up to a big package of happy. However, the genius of Tintero lies in the fact that in his hands, fun wines are somehow never frivolous; instead, they are as honest an expression of Piemonte as Almondo's Arneis or Brovia's Barolos. You can feel confident serving his wines with finger foods or with haute cuisine. Best of all, at well under $10 when purchased by the case, the Grangia also represents of our most serious values!
Bardolino "La Fontane", Corte Gardoni 2011- $13.99/btl ($11.20 by case or mixed case): Gianni Piccoli, proprietor of Corte Gardoni, is in the small, select group of our very favorite winegrowers. Even though his metier is working the humble Veneto appellations of Custoza and Bardolino, the wines he fashions from these areas are nothing less than spectacular. In his hands, these wines rise from the level of tourist plonk (which is the knock on virtually every wine from this region) to world-class. Not surprisingly, Gianni has spent a good deal of his life collecting and drinking the great wines of Burgundy, so his approach to the Corvina grape is more informed by the standards of Jobard and Raveneau than the rather lax local DOC edicts. In 2011, Piccoli's "Fontane" cuvee drinks like a vibrant, electric cru Beaujolais...and is simply the finest Bardolino we've ever tasted. Not surprisingly, even though this is a moderately-priced wine, we are sure to run out quickly.
Saturday, August 18:
Anjou Blanc "Terres de Gres", Chateau de Bois-Brincon 2010- $19.99/btl ($15.99 by case or mixed case): Over the years, Chenin Blanc has gotten a bad rap. Most of this is the fault of scores of New World growers planting the variety in soils that are too rich, in climates that are too warm. Perhaps more than any other white grape we know, Chenin is about struggle: struggle to ripen, struggle to thrive in poor soil and, ultimately, struggle to express more than primary fruit flavors. Nowhere else does this grape reach the heights the way it does in the cool, limestone-rich Loire Valley: here, in appellations such as Anjou, Chenin is all nerve, minerality and a complex tangle of melon, acacia and wet stones...with a structure and body reminiscent of top white Burgundy. In the case of Bois-Brincon's 2010, we can also add "food friendly" to the Chenin checklist, as the possibilities are legion for this elegant wine of impeccable breed. If you've ever wondered why we endlessly flack the wines of the Loire, don't miss this chance to taste a prime example of exactly why we do it.
Beaujolais-Villages "Or Rouge", Cheveau 2010- $14.99/btl ($11.99 by case or mixed case): We'll spare you our standard rant against the ocean of miserable wines that issue annually from the Beaujolais and cut to the chase on this exciting, fresh, alive new vintage from Michel Cheveau. Simply put, this is a benchmark example of just what a top Villages-level cuvee should be in a legendary vintage such as 2010: dark, rich, firm, aromatic and suffused with a blackcherry zing and taut acidity. While the weather is still hot, it can benefit from a 15-minute dunk in ice...but in no way does that mean this is a light, frivolous or insubstantial wine. When Gamay is done right, it deserves to stand as one of the great reds of Burgundy, and Cheveau's 2010 is exactly that. We would also interject that wines like this are a great rebuttal to the argument that the only good Burgundy is expensive Burgundy.
Tsunami of Beer!
Mark your calendars for this Friday evening. That's when we'll take delivery of these once-a-year treats:
Brenna Wine Queue
Brenna is in a state of depressed disbelief this week, as we had to inform her that consuming mass quantities of Red Bull, Bloody Mary mix and pickles does not constitute a balanced diet. Fortunately, we all know that the cornerstone of a healthy diet is great wine, so we're consoling her with the following:
Toscana Rosso "Badiola", Mazzei 2007- 418.99
Wedell Pinot Noir, Santa Rita Hills 2007- $45.99
Vdp d'Oc Cabernet Sauvignon "Traverses de Fontanes", Rozier 2010- $13.99
Coteaux du Giennois, Domaine de Villargeau 2011- $17.99
Chateau Vieux Chaigneau, Lalande de Pomerol 2009- $19.99
Red Tail Ridge "Sans Oak" Chardonnay, Seneca Lake 2011- $11.99