August 2023 Newsletter Wines


Colli di Catone Frascati 2021 - $15 


For all the fuss the Romans made over wine in the days of empire, there is curiously little fanfare surrounding wine that comes from the city of Rome today. There’s no particularly good reason for this other than that history has an off-putting sense of humor, but we think that Roman wine deserves just a little bit more attention today. Antonio Pulcini certainly thinks so. His estate in the hills south of Rome has been famous for wine since the days of the Roman empire, and he lives the life of a winemaking hermit, immune to market forces. He keeps his crops impossibly small, in order to make wines with the intensity and weight they deserve. Where Frascati is normally light and insubstantial, the Colli di Catone has intensity and minerality that would be at home in the Loire or Campania. Antonio’s favorite grape is Malvasia Puntinata, which he considers Lazio’s premier variety. In his Frascati, he blends it with 30% Trebbiano and 30% Malvasia di Candia. Aromas of linden blossom, orange blossom, acacia, candied ginger, apple, tangerine, lime, kiwi, and smoky soil come in rapid succession. The palate is fresh and medium bodied, with vivid, textural orchard fruit notes like apple and pear with salt and stony earth and yellow rose petals. The finish is decidedly floral, and the wine is just the ticket for Caprese salads or curried chicken.



Disznoko Tokaji Dry Furmint 2021 - $17 


Disznoko Dulo, a vineyard in southern Tokaji, was first recorded in 1413 as a superior site for grape growing. Three centuries later all of Tokaji was officially classified, and most of what is today Disznoko’s vineyard was classified as first growth. After the fall of the communist regime, this was one of the first estates to be revived with an influx of French capital. In an effort to reacquaint themselves with their terroir, Disznoko started making dry Tokaji, a wine that gets to the market much faster than the sweet wine Tokaji was historically known for. Thus, as a means to an end, a radical new style of wine was born. Dry Tokaji ripens with an outrageous amount of acid and voluminous complexity. Even this entry tier wine gives us pause with everything that’s going on inside. The nose shows green apple, white peach, lemon zest, gooseberry, chamomile and lavender, all powerfully expressed. The palate is surprisingly full bodied with lemon curd, apple, white cherry, and honeycomb notes all dancing to the tune of searing bright acidity. The finish lingers with touches of kiwi and smoky soil. This wine is an incredible value from a region finding its grand cru roots.


Ayres Chehalem Mountains Gamay 2022 - $23 


Brad and Kathleen McLeroy arrived in Oregon in the year 2000, chasing the dream of making Pinot Noir in the Willamette Valley. After selling their wine shop in Kansas City, they arrived in Portland in a Subaru with a list of numbers to call. Brad caught on at Domaine Drouhin, and worked his way up to Cellar master. Meanwhile, the McLeroys found a property on the southeastern face of Ribbon Ridge and began planting vines. By 2006, they were ready for Brad to leave Drouhin and commit full time to Ayres. Somewhere along the way, Brad began buying Gamay on the side, and quietly started making one of Oregon’s best, a persuasive argument that there is not yet enough Gamay in the Willamette Valley. Brad gets these grapes from the Palimpsest vineyard in the Chehalem Mountains, which always shows a touch of earth. The Ayres Gamay starts with aromas of black raspberry, blood orange, rhubarb, white pepper and clay. The palate shows sharp black cherry and ripe blackberry notes over sun-warmed underbrush and dried herbs, all framed by stringent tannins and illuminated by fresh acidity. This is classic Gamay in that it offers a crunchy-textured mouthful of fruit, but if you slow down, there’s much more to see.


Bodegas Torremoron Ribera del Duero 2021 - $18


In the village of Quintanamanvirgo, there are about 100 residents. 85 of them work at Bodegas Torremoron, and the rest work at the local bar. Wine here is the lifeblood of the community, and everyone is connected to the work of the winery. Torremoron’s vineyards live in the heart of Ribeira del Duero with it’s classic high desert climate barely moderated by the Duero river to the south. The vines are more than a century old and look the part, gnarled and twisted bush vines that yield small, concentrated crops. While Ribeira del Duero is rightly famous for brooding, dense wines that need time in the cellar, Bodegas Torremoron’s wines are made very much by and for the people. Fermented and aged in stainless steel, this Tempranillo offers plenty of power and structure, but it’s for tonight’s barbecue or roasted duck rather than a spot in the cellar. The nose begins with blackberries, blackcurrants, and black raspberries cooked into a compote, dashed with orange juice, and set in pie crust with additional accents of sun-baked earth and slate. The palate is full and lush textured, with deep black fruits and a dash of orange mixed with clay and dried herbs. This wine has four square tannis that build over the course of the meal, so pair the wine with sturdy food. 


Arnaud Lambert Vin de France Les Parcelles Chenin Blanc 2022 - $20

If you’ve been reading this newsletter for a while, Arnaud Lambert’s Chenin Blanc is a familiar wine. His wines in the heart of Saumur are elevating the reputation of the region’s vineyards, so that names like Breze are gaining currency in the wider wine market. Lambert’s Chenins reliably show that Chenin-blanc pairing of clarity and complexity that makes the grape so irresistible. This Vin de France is a new bottling for the winery, a blend of his own plot in Saint-Cyr en Bourg with a friend’s vineyard a stone’s throw outside the Saumur zone. As always with Lambert’s wines, the grapes are biodynamically farmed. The nose of Les Parcelles blooms with classic Chenin notes of linden blossom, ripe pear galette, green apple and beeswax. The palate is tense with acidity and a tactile, lightly creamy texture that shows off some light lees stirring. There are flavors of crisp apples, gooseberry, golden raspberries, and a whiff of dusty tuffeau soil. An easy choice for poultry, hare, or fish under citrusy sauces, we don’t explicitly recommend aging this one, but there’s no particular hurry to finish it all over the course of the next two or three years.


Angelique Leon Chinon Rose 2022 - $16


Earth and pepper spice are not usually the first notes we look for in delicate and cheerful rose wines. Such is the contradiction at the heart of Chinon Rose, where the cold climate lends itself so well to making rose, and the Cabernet Franc grape produces enough acidity for the job but along with the delicate, fresh-edged frame and light pink color we get those inescapable Cabernet Franc flavors; pure clay and rough cracked black pepper. There’s rhubarb in here too, golden raspberries and cranberry gelee and lemon zest. The palate is bouncy, full of life and zest and flavors of clay and red berries and dried sage that never quite sit still. Chinon Rose is never quite the wine we expect, but it never fails to charm us with precocious complexity and a certain stubborn streak, that even a fresh rose intended for sunny picnics and light, green leafy meals is still earthy and complex enough for a fireside chat. Angelique Leon is one of Chinon’s leading lights among organic, natural producers, and she knows that when making a wine this sure of itself, it’s best to stay out of the way.



Domaine du Cros Marcillac Lo Sang del Pais 2021 - $17


 In the newsletter we are often excited to introduce new wines from new places, to pull the curtain a little wider on the endless variety that wine offers. Sometimes though, we like nothing more than to welcome back old friends. Domaine du Cros Marcillac has been appearing on a regular schedule in this newsletter for as long as anyone here can remember. This is because even now, with winemakers all over the world are bushwhacking in the wild to rediscover long forgotten vineyards, there’s still nothing quite like this cheerfully inexpensive Fer Servadou from a remote appellation atop France’s Massif Central. Marcillac is out of the way even in Southwest France where “Out of the way forgotten appellation” is nearly a regional trademark, but this wine brought to us by the brothers Eric and Joel Durand since 1991 is a yearly revelation. In the 2021 edition we find deep black damp soil, tar, and underbrush with blackcurrant, blackberry and finger-staining black cherries. The palate brings inky dark fruits with a touch of clay and pepper. The acidity is taut and the tannins are chunky and firm, the stone foundation of a well built house. For food pairing, look for homespun fare from the southwest of France.



Arregi Getariako Txakolina 2022 - $18


The chemistry of wine is very complicated. The interplay of sugar, alcohol, acid, and phenols in any given fermenter produces thousands of distinct reactions to produce a beverage with dozens – in extreme cases hundreds – of distinct flavors and aromas in a single glass. It can be overwhelming even for seasoned wine professionals, which is why if you look in our wine cupboards you often find that Basque delight, Txakoli from Getaria. In Basque country, wine is generally served into a simple water glass with none of the pomp reserved for Pinot Noir or fine Bordeaux. When D. Alejandro Arregui Mendizábal started making wine in 1995, he wasn’t trying to write an opus, only quench some thirsty palates in restaurants on the Kaleas of San Sebastian. Over time his estate has grown and his sons have joined the operation, but the wine is still pretty simple. Aromas of limes and green apple and spring blossoms in a summer meadow with the salty sea nearby. The palate is salty and lemony and pure and fresh, with a hint of creaminess that builds towards the lip smacking finish. Low in alcohol, high in our esteem, and perfect for pintxos.


Quinta de Porrais Douro Branco 2021 $12


This delicious white blend of Rabigato and Codega de Larinho is so different from Port that it is hard to remember sometimes that these wines come from the same region. The difference between the famous vineyards at the river’s edge where red grapes are grown for heavy fortified wine and the vineyards on the plateau above the rim of the valley couldn’t be any starker. Where Quinta de Porrais’ vineyards are, there is no protection from the wind. The river is too far away to help much in tempering the heat of the summer or the cold winter storms. It’s a dry place, and vines have to dig deep into the shale and granite soil to find water. These turn out to be the perfect conditions to produce fresh, vivid and mineral driven white wine. This Douro Branco has a stunningly spicy nose up front, with white pepper, orange, lemon, rose potpourri, and salt crusted gravel. The palate is full bodied but buoyant with acidity, with accents of lemon, apple, and orange and that mineral scent never far behind. For anyone who loves great Gruner Veltliner or the spice of Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi, there’s a lot to love in this deceptively simple wine.



Giuseppe Nada Langhe Nebbiolo 2020 - $17


There are few Nebbiolos available for less than $20 anymore. It’s a tricky grape to work with, like Pinot Noir it can be a real pain in the pruning shears during the growing season. It’s also a grape that can reach incredible heights, so it demands a high price on the market. Yet here we have the Nada Giuseppe Langhe Nebbiolo from a property that’s been in the Nada family for 120 years and remains just 6 hectares, all within Barbaresco’s borders. The farming is done organically and all the red wines are fermented with native yeast – a nerve-testing practice that generally makes wine more expensive. Giuseppe’s son Enrico does the winemaking, and blends this Langhe Nebbiolo from the Marcarini and Casot Crus in the village of Trieso. It’s made in a seamless, delicate style, with aromas of anise, tar, ceder, cherry cordial, strawberry, orange peel and cinnamon that lead into a broad yet balanced palate defined by red cherry and orange peel and a rim of chalky tannins. The finish is paved with fruit, crushed leaves, and fennel seed. This wine belongs next to a cheese board or some sort of roast pork. Stock up before someone realizes it should cost twice as much. 


Chateau de Cugat Bordeaux Superieur 2016 - $18


It has been a long time since a Bordeaux has really surprised us as much as this 2016 edition of Chateau de Cugat. To be frank, Bordeaux Superieur can be pretty bland. 60-80 million bottles each year, or about 12% of all Bordeaux comes under this appellation, and most of them are serviceable or reliable, rather than inspired. When Benoit Meyer inherited the 500 year old Chateau in the 1990s, he wondered if he could raise the level of the estate, noting it had soil very similar to that of nearby Pomerol. With a little extra care and attention the wines started to show depth and elegance that you generally have to pay $40 or $50 to find in Bordeaux. This might be Chateau de Cugat’s entry tier wine, but in the brilliant 2016 vintage it positively glows. The nose offers rich tilled earth, blackcurrant, black plum, and the aromas of a farm at harvest time: tobacco leaf, tomato patch, leather boots, bay leaf, burnt orange peel, cinnamon and rhubarb. The palate shows deeply etched black plum and blackberry, with peppercorn spice and a drop of orange oil. There’s chalky tannins here and surprisingly fresh acidity before a finish that comes with a hint of barrel spice and a heap of black fruit. Summer squash and steak off the grill is our vote for pairing.



Pecchenino Dogliani San Luigi 2021 - $21


Dolcetto is generally considered the least of Piedmont’s three main red grapes, trailing behind Nebbiolo and Barbera in quality, price, and esteem. In the villages surrounding the commune of Dogliani, that scheme is turned around, and Dolcetto is the most important variety. There is a theory that Dolcetto originated in this southernmost corner of the Langhe, but whether that’s true or not, it does seem most comfortable here. Dogliani Dolcetto tends to have a little more depth and elegance than usual – perhaps because here Dolcetto gets the choice plots of land that other parts of Piedmont reserve for Nebbiolo. The Pecchenino family has been farming here for generations, and their Dogliani San Luigi is intended to be the everyday sipper, aged in stainless steel to preserve the purity of the fruit. The wine starts with Dolcetto’s classic pop of juicy black cherry, with blackberry, rhubarb, lavender and tomato leaf accents. Strong, drying tannins hold up the palate with intense acidity, pepper, dry soil, and fresh cranberry tart flavors. This is a wine made with meals in mind, lamb, baked pasta with a bechamel sauce, or risotto.



Castro Ventosa Bierzo Valtuille 2019 - $20


Raul Perez is an icon in Bierzo. His Ultreia wines set the standard for what Mencia can achieve in the right hands. Before he started piling up Winemaker of the Year awards and changing the face of Spanish wine, Raul was a young winemaker working for the family estate in his home village of Valtuille de Abajo. Founded in 1752, Castro Ventosa’s traditions run deep. So deep that Raul Perez had to leave the family business to become an international superstar before quietly returning in the 2010s to make the wine and train his son Gabriel and nephew Cesar Marquez in his style of making Mencia. The vineyards that produce this wine are up to a century old, planted in the sand and slate on the slopes of the valley, and with a fresh eye on technique that focuses on handling the grapes as gently as possible and preserving the purity of fruit and minerality, this humble Mencia produces an incredibly rich aromatic spectrum, spanning from blackberry, cherry, and blood orange to sage, tarragon, underbrush and baking spice. The palate balances considerable weight and velvety tannins with charmingly brisk acidity that deftly juggles black fruits, black pepper, and granite edged soil notes. The finish echoes with exotic spices and orange peel and a clean burst of acidity.



J Mourat Collection Vin de France Rose 2022 - $17


The Fiefs Vendeens is best known for two things. In 1793, it was the center of a short, sharp rebellion when the French Revolutionary government began to conscript soldiers, and its  coastline was the center of France’s world-leading salt industry until the mid-nineteenth century. Tucked in among the wheat fields, salt marshes, and cow pastures, there are also a few vineyards, like those of the Mourat family, a winery dating back to 1974, when Jean Mourat sold his family’s three generation-old wine merchant business to start making wine. The Fiefs Vendeens is just south of Muscadet, but here it’s a little warmer and sunnier, so the Cabernet Franc, Gamay, and Pinot Noir grapes in this Rose do well here. The wine smells a bit like pink lemonade, with Maraschino cherry and a note of the slate and schist soils of the region. Dancing light on the palate, there’s flavors of fresh red cherries, watermelon, lemon and kiwi, with a dash of salt. It’s an easy choice for late summer barbecues, crunchy salads with radishes in them, and picnics at the park. 


Tenuta di Tavignano Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore Villa Torre 2022 - $17


The eastern mid-slope of the Apennines is cut at regular intervals by river valleys that create natural wind tunnels, channeling air from the mountains to the Adriatic sea, a natural flow of fresh wind that creates ideal, even tempered conditions for growing grapes. In the middle ages the most prominent of these valleys were peppered with castles to protect the city of Ancona from invasion. Today those castles are known mostly for a little green grape that became nearly synonymous with the area, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi. Tenuta di Tavignano occupies one of the best quarters of the region, a high elevation site called “The balcony of the Marche” with great views across the landscape, and their entire estate is devoted to organic, regenerative farming. The Villa Torre bottling is a perfect example of this refreshing, balanced, peppery, green tinted wine. Aromas of peach, lime, and tangerine are accented with fresh rosemary, sage, and white pepper. The palate offers more citrus fruit with a note of mango with sun dried herbs that gather on the finish with a crisp zesting of granite minerals and a salty rim. This is a versatile food wine, but it’s at its best with seafood.