New wines that drink a "step up" from their price tags!

Thursday, February 23:

Thomas Henry Syrah, California 2010- $11.99/btl ($9.60 by case or mixed case): With rare exception, we are not terribly thrilled by most California Syrah. Contrary to popular perception, it's really a grape suited to cooler climates, and in warmer regions, it tends to overripen quickly and veer toward the high-alcohol/jammy/black pepper end of the spectrum. However, we never stop searching and tasting, and our persistence has paid off this time with an unlikely discovery: a balanced, European-style Syrah that's bottled under the second label of Meadowcroft in Sonoma. You get all the smoke, spice and dark fruit qualities of, say, a really good Cote Roannaise...with impeccable, refreshing balance and a price tag that is, quite frankly, one of the great bargains we've seen this year. Best to squirrel away a few bottles now and break them out for your first backyard grill this spring!

St Veran "Vieilles Vignes", Corsin 2010- $21.99/btl ($17.60 by case or mixed case): The wines of France's Maconnais region are the embodiment of the concept of "hit-or-miss". The usual examples are pretty much overpriced plonk (think of the oceans of bland Pouilly-Fuisse you see in almost every store), yet every appellation within the Maconnais features a handful of conscientious growers who manage to consistently give us some of the best Chardonnay values from anywhere in the world. And, on a consistent basis, we rate the wines of brothers Gilles and Jean-Jacques Corsin at the top of the Maconnais ladder. Their 2010 old vines St Veran is a primer on just how great these wines can be, showing old-vine intensity, excellent weight and richness on the palate (without the excessive use of oak!) and a sort of "baked bones" quality in the nose that characterizes the greatest wines of this region. A case or mixed case purchase of this gem brings it well under $20...a pittance to pay for one of the regal white wines of Burgundy!

Friday, February 24:

We're in for a real treat today, so mark your calendars! Our friends at IPO Offerings and importer JD Headrick have arranged for Nathalie Safran of Louis de Grenelle in the Saumur and Michel Gedrier of Domaine des Huards in Cheverny to visit and sample some of their exquisite Loire Valley wines. De Grenelle specializes in sparkling Saumur, and we'll have both their Chenin-based Cremant and Rose open for tasting. Domaine des Huards vinifies a range of ultra-traditional whites and reds from Cheverny and Cour-Cheverny, including a rare bottling of Cour-Cheverny based on Romorantin and an excellent red Cheverny that mixes Pinot Noir and Gamay in a bottling that should grace many tables this Easter. Be sure to stop by and experience some of the most distinctive, food-friendly- and affordable- wines you'll taste this year!

Saturday, February 25:

Dolcetto d'Alba, Massolino 2010- $18.99/btl ($15.20 by case or mixed case): Regular clients of JWS are subjected to frequent and aggressive harangues on the topic of the greatness of Dolcetto. Whether it be an example from Asti, Alba or Dogliani, this grape is the embodiment of the ability to balance mutually-exclusive qualities within a single bottle. It is simultaneously: full-bodied, yet almost weightless; tart, yet not astringent or tannic; and, pleasingly grapy, without being simple or carbonic. We expected Massolino's 2010, from the sandy, well-drained soils of the Serralunga (home to some of the greatest Barolo), to be a tour-de-force, and we've not been disappointed! In a region full of excellent Dolcetto growers, their version is a real standout in this superb vintage. We also still have a handful of bottles of their plump 2009 (also $18.99/btl), so you might want to grab one before they're gone.

Luminesce "Seven Hills", L'Ecole #41, Walla Walla, WA 2009- $19.99/btl ($15.99 by case or mixed case): One of our guilty pleasures here in the store is watching customers examine this bottle, trying to figure out what the heck's inside. Now that the novelty's worn off, we figure it's only fair (and really smart) to open it up and show off its contents. Of course, those contents happen to be one of the most singular, exotic and flat-out wonderful Bordeaux-style dry whites made anywhere outside the Gironde Valley. To break it all down, L'Ecole #41 is one of Washington's great small wineries, having been among the first in the state to demonstrate the potential for both red and white Bordeaux grape varieties. The Seven Hills AVA, in the Walla Walla Valley, just happens to yield some of Washington's best Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc; and, the Luminesce bottling features a 2/3 Semillon, 1/3 Sauvignon mix. The Semillon contributes an almost unctuous quality, while the Sauvignon provides structure and refreshing acidity. We like to think of this wine as what the result would be if the owners of Chateau Margaux or Haut-Brion were set loose in Washington and tasked with the mission of reproducing one of their legendary white bottlings, at a fraction of the price. 

Crazy Good Beer

We're looking forward to the end of this week, as there are some long-awaited European treasures arriving. It goes without saying that these are sui generis offerings that are brewed in microscopic quantities:

Harviestoun Old Engine Oil "Engineer's Reserve" (Scotland, 330ml)- hoppy, fruity, chocolate-y good! Calling this simply an English Porter is the height of understatement.

La Trappe Isid'or (Belgian Pale Ale, 330ml)- Slightly sweet, but expertly counterbalanced with hops grown right at the brewery. Happy ale, for happy people!

To Ol Final Frontier (Denmark/Double IPA, 330ml)- What happens when a bunch of Danes make a 9% ABV, ultra-hopped malt bomb of an American-styled double IPA? Yum!!!

De Dolle Stille Nacht (Belgian Strong Pale Ale, 330ml)- We've created legions of fans for De Dolle's Oerbier and Aerbier. This is a big jump in flavor, intensity and ABV (close to 12%!), while retaining the signature De Dolle refined style.

Mikkeller/Three Floyds/De Proef Boogoop (Belgian Buckwheat Wine Ale, 750ml)- Leave it to the mad genius, Mikkeller, to replace barley on the grain bill with buckwheat and fashioning a massively-hopped, ageworthy ale. Yet another release in the ongoing collaboration with Indiana's legendary Three Floyds.

Brenna's Wine Queue

Brenna gets quite the gustatory workout this week, as we ratchet up the intensity with several challenging wines of impeccable pedigree. Rest assured, these are not wines you'll see Snooki quaffing at the corner boite:

Bourgeuil "La Dilettante", Catherine & Pierre Breton 2010- $29.99
Roero Arneis, Vietti 2010- $23.99
Langhe Nebbiolo "Perbacco", Vietti 2008- $24.99
Chianti Classico, Castell'in Villa 2008- $23.99
Ribera del Duero, Dominio de Atatuta 2008- $34.99
Arbois Chardonnay, Puffeney 2007- $21.99
Tocai Friulano, Millbrook, Hudson River, NY 2010- $15.99