Surprises from Argentina, Feniherb and value-priced Sonoma Coast Chardonnay!
Thursday, February 16:
Torrontes, Hermanos de Domingo Molina, Salta/Valle de Cafayate 2011- $16.99/btl ($13.60 by case or mixed case): For years, we've been searching for wines from Argentina that represent a sort of "next step" in quality, sophistication and refinement. We've certainly not been disappointed with the best growers in Mendoza, the Uco Valley or Patagonia, but (as in all popular wine regions) the forces of industrial farming and factory-mentality winemaking have definitely invaded these popular appellations. So, we were thrilled to be introduced this week to the wines of the Valle de Cafayate, in the province of Salta. With vineyards situated at 5,000-7,500 feet in altitude (placing them among the highest altitude vineyards in the world!), we're pretty sure that no kind of mass-production winery can ever be established here. However, pioneers such as the Domingo brothers have become expert in fashioning wines of incredible intensity and precision, such as this outstanding Torrontes. If you're tiring of the often flabby, semi-sweet and unfocused examples of this grape that are flooding the warehouse stores, you must try this wine: it has the acidity of the finest German Riesling, a purity of flavor that has become our ideal of exactly what Torrontes should taste like and a weight on the palate of a much more expensive wine. This one has our highest recommendation!
Malbec-Tannat, Hermanos de Domingo Molina, Salta/Valle de Cafayate 2010- $16.99/btl ($13.60 by case or mixed case): Not surprisingly, we were also stunned by the Domingo brothers' flagship red, a Tannat-Malbec blend that is anything but your usual cloying, jammy bomb of fruit and alcohol. Instead, the long, cool Cafayate growing season (averaging 340 days of sunshine per year!) has coaxed a degree of finesse and complexity from these grapes that one rarely encounters even in the best Cahors or Madiran, the ancestral homes of Malbec and Tannat. For certain, this is a wine of massive scale and richness...yet it manages to pull off the almost impossible feat of combining that massive scale with complexity, structure and refinement. Again, we can't urge you enough to experience at least a bottle of this extraordinary new wine!
Friday, February 17:
Saarburger Riesling Feinherb, Zilliken 2009- $19.99/btl ($15.99 by case or mixed case): Today, it's back to Germany and, to our taste, the world's finest Riesling appellation, the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer. And since we're here, why not sample a terrific Feinherb (a term loosely used by a few German growers to indicate a wine that has just a hint of sweetness, like a halbtrocken)? Hanno Zilliken's 2009 Saarburger is a lesson in why Riesling is the most terroir-transparent of all grapes; along with terrific ripeness and ample acidity, you'll find here a tell-tale "dusty" quality specific to the Saarburg vineyard. Just to think: all this richness, structure, elegance and precision is seamlessly intertwined in a bottle that is only 10.5% alcohol and costs roughly half the price of other European wines of equal pedigree. Outstanding!
Jelu Pinot Noir, Patagonia 2009- $12.99/btl ($10.40 by case or mixed case): We often like to tell our clients that if you look for vineyards further south than Patagonia, you're swimming with penguins. And, when you're thinking of cool climate wines, Pinot Noir is a natural starting point. Many of you discovered how well Patagonia is suited to Pinot with Jelu's 2008; we've just received the 2009, and the good news is that the rhubarb, mulberry and spice flavors and aromas are here again...and in spades! If you thought Argentina could only succeed with thick-skinned, heat-loving red varieties, think again; this is our best value in Pinot Noir- from anywhere on the planet- for under $15!
Saturday, February 18:
Clos Julien Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast 2009- $13.99/btl ($11.20 by case or mixed case): After unearthing the 2009 Alondra in January, we figured it would be a long time before we found another first-rate California Chardonay value. We were wrong. Clos Julien's '09 is a worthy companion, and many of you who like the toasty, nutty, buttery side of Chardonnay may even prefer this one to the Alondra. Naturally, the cool, foggy Sonoma coast keeps this wine from exhibiting the hot, boozy characteristics of the more famous inland regions (which we won't name here). We can't think of a better wine to have right now with half a roast chicken, some mustard, sea salt and rosemary.
Ribera del Duero Reserva, Torre de Golban 2005- $19.99/btl ($15.99 by case or mixed case): This may be the best wine in the store to pair with braised short ribs, so if you're shopping about for an inky, dusky, spicy Tempranillo with a little bottle age, search no further. Bodegas Atalaya de Golban is one of the newcomers to the Duero, but this Reserva offering (by law, it must be aged for at least three years, with one of those years in cask) is pure old-school in its jet-black color and sumptuous texture. There aren't too many wines of serious pedigree on the planet from the 2005 vintage that can be had for under twenty bucks, and we think you'll agree that this one tops the list!
Another Big Beer Release Week!
One of the great byproducts of our continued and growing interest in craft and specialty beers is that we get better and bigger allocations of some truly wonderful- and rare- beers. This week brings a slew of brews with serious geek cred. Here they are; and, as always, be forewarned that quantities are limited:
Dogfish Head Namaste 750ML (Witbier with orange slices, coriander and lemongrass)
Epic Spiral Jetty 22 oz (one of the best IPAs of the aggressive variety)
Epic Hopulent 22 oz (take Spiral Jetty and double it!)
Great Divide Yeti 22 oz (superb Imperial Stout)
Great Divide Espresso Oak Aged Yeti (Yeti, jacked on coffee and barrel aged!)
Great Divide Nomad 12 oz/6 pk (one of the best US Pilsners you'll ever taste)
New Holland Dragon's Milk 22 oz (oak aged Stout)
Stone Old Guardian 22 oz (one of the world's great Barleywine Ales)
Brenna's Wine Queue
Remember the old cereal commercial on TV where the kids in it kept saying, "give it to Mikey; he'll eat anything"? Well, when it comes to the fermentation sciences, Brenna is our version of Mikey. To her, no Riesling is too transparent, no Furmint too sweet, no Geuze too cheesy, no old Rioja too oxidative. For a relative newcomer to wine, her palate is ambitious...and, it matches that of many of our best clients. We've noticed some of you asking her what she's trying next, so it seems useful to post the wines on her "to do" list here from time to time. Here, in no particular order, is her latest list:
Crozes-Hermitage, Domaine Combier 2010- $29.99
Dolcetto di Dogliani "San Luigi", Pecchenino 2010- $18.99
Rioja Blanco "Gravonia", Lopez de Heredia 2002- $24.99
Nebbiolo d'Alba "Valmaggione", Brovia 2008- $29.99
St. Veran- Vieilles Vignes, Domaine Corsin 2010- $21.99
Riesling Semi-Dry "Maria Schneider", von Buhl (Pfalz) 2010- $17.99
Cassis Blanc, Domaine de Bagnol, Genovesi 2009- $23.99
Cot-a-Cot, Noella Morantin 2010- $29.99