March 2024 Newsletter

Cantine Borghi Chianti Campobello 2021 $15


San Casciano in Val de Pesa is the northernmost quarter of Chianti, generally home to some of the easiest, most quaffable Chianti in the Classico zone. As you drive down the valley towards the village of San Casciano, Cantine Borghi appears on the left among a forest of tall stainless steel fermenters. It’s not the most bucolic scene in Chianti, but their Campobello cuvee is a love letter to Tuscany. This wine fills our head with winding dusty lanes, cypress trees and ancient farmhouses glowing in the afternoon sunshine. In short, this is as classic as Chianti gets, and a stunningly complex wine. Made from the classic Chianti recipe of Sangiovese with splashes of Canaiolo, Trebbiano and Malvasia, there are aromas of black cherry and raspberry tart accented with sage, rose petal, rosemary, black soil, and bouillon with a touch of vanilla spice. The palate offers depth, with dusty tannins, ripe berries, baker’s chocolate and an earthy lilt that lingers on the finish. There’s enough acidity here for classic red sauce dishes, and impressive weight and structure without too much alcohol. 


Domaine des Enfants Cotes Catalanes Le Jouet 2020 $20


The Domaine des Enfants was founded in 2006 as a realization of a childhood dream by Swiss born Marcel Bühler and soon after joined in 2010 by Native Oregonian Carrie Sumner. Together they farm 25 hectares of vineyard around the town of Maury in France’s southernmost wine region of Roussillon. It is hot here, the soil is unyielding stone with little organic matter to offer crops. Water is rare, yet there has sprouted here a cadre of hardy viticulteurs dedicated to making wine in a very old way, without chemical fertilizers or purchased yeast, and with as little intervention as possible. Le Jouet is one playful result of this work. A blend of four parts Grenache, four parts “hairy Grenache” or Lladoner Pelut, and one part each Carignan and Syrah, the wine skips joyfully through the nose, with blackberry and dried black cherry, marly clay, and savory, dried green herbs. Full bodied but not exactly heavy, there’s layers of inky black fruit and tarry earth, rosemary and truffle salt. This wine is a delight, easy to drink with hearty fare or by itself, and anything but simple.


Château de la Selve Petite Selve Rouge 2022 $18


We’ve tasted two vintages of this wine now, and we’ve featured it in our newsletter twice. We don’t exactly know how Jean-Regis and Magdeleine Chazallon pack so much vigor and spirit into their wines, but if you ask them, you’ll get an earful about the Ardeche, their chosen home, a wild country northwest of the Rhone, where vineyards are sparsely planted among national parks where hiking and rafting are more common activities than farming. Their vineyard is a naturally tended garden, high in elevation, growing Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, and Cinsault (among others) that blend together into something vivid and sharp and livelier than the usual. Aromas in the Petite Selve range from strawberry compote to cherry so ripe it stains your fingers, with touches of black pepper, orange oil, and ginger. The palate is rich, deep and filling like cherry jam, black raspberry, with a whisper of soil guided by fresh acidity and tannins that build slowly but surely on the finish. Serve this wine with a duck, a polenta, or a home-brewed burger.


Cameron Dundee Hills Pinot Blanc Giovanni 2023 $19


John Paul and his Cameron winery are pillars of the Willamette Valley, making fabulous Pinot Noir and Chardonnay that sets a standard for the region. But John also has a soft spot for Pinot Blanc, and with a stylistic nod towards the rich, zesty, and gregarious wines of Italy’s Friuli region, he makes some of the most exciting Pinot Blanc available, from anywhere. On the nose, there’s classic Pinot Blanc notes of Pear, yellow peach, acacia blossom, fresh grated ginger and nutmeg. The palate is decidedly full bodied and packs a flavor punch of pears and peaches that fall off the tree into your hand, oranges, crushed granite and a homemade lemon curd pie, complete with crust. This is a loud wine, but in the end it’s a perfectly balanced wine that leaves the palate refreshed and ready for all the crab you got to go with it.


Alessandro Rivetto Langhe Rosso 2021 $19


Alessandro Rivetto’s wine is new to Portland, but we have a feeling it will stick around for a while if this delicious Langhe Rosso is any indication. The winery has passed down through the Rivetto family for generations, making a range of classic, nuanced wines from Piedmont’s holy trinity of Nebbiolo, Barbera, and Dolcetto. 2021 in Italy is shaping up to be an exciting vintage, and winemaker Alessandro Bonelli knocked it out of the park with this blend of Nebbiolo, Barbera, and Merlot. The wine was fermented cold to preserve the intense berry flavors, and aged in a mix of steel and oak calibrated for balance. Aromas of fresh pressed black cherries and raspberries. Orange peel, rosemary, and limestone clay earth. The palate is even tempered, full and filled with intense cherry and raspberry, herbs and chalky soil mixed with gentle yet firm tannins that build towards the finish where a touch of cocoa lingers. A versatile charmer adept at matching a wide range of foods, we still can’t help recommending something with mushrooms for best results.


Fontanassa Gavi Cà Adua 2022 $20


Marco and Roberto Gemme run the Fontanassa estate in Gavi from an old farmhouse dating to the 16th century. Their grandfather purchased the estate in 1921, and for most of the next sixty years the family sold their grapes off to other wineries, but when the brothers took over the estate they determined to give winemaking a try. We are living in a better world because of that, because Fontanassa – and in particular this cheerful and fresh Cà Adua bottling – is among the finest Gavi we’ve had. Famous for centuries as the perfect pairing for Genoa’s seafood bounty just over the mountain pass, this edition of the wine offers a delicate nose of lime and lemon blossoms, green apple, and pineapple with hints of lavender and szechuan peppercorn. Lean and crisp and bright on the palate, there’s waves of acidity, fresh but not sharp and filled with spring floral notes. Put this wine next to flaky white fish, octopus, clams, or shrimp. 


Elian da Ros Côtes du Marmandais Le Vignoble d’Élian 2018 Normally $24, Now $18


The wine regions of Southwest France are a diverse lot. Their one unifying characteristic is that they are all not Bordeaux, from the slopes of the Pyrenees to the village of Cocumont in the Côtes du Marmandais just a five minute drive from the border with Bordeaux. The French government still pays growers here to pull their vines out of the ground, so when Elian Da Ros elected to start a winery in 1998 there was not much of a script to follow. The Marmandais offers growers a mixed palette of Bordeaux varieties, grapes imported from other regions, and local curiosities. Elian works with all of them, but for this bottling he blends 50% Cabernet Franc with 30% Merlot and 20% Syrah. The result is a wine that has all the grace, depth, and structure of Bordeaux, but with a warmer aspect. Aromas of blackberry and raspberry compete with notes of charcoal-smoked meat, roasted bell pepper, clay and wildflowers. The palate is full and set with finely carved, sturdy tannins, suffused with ripe dark berries, baker’s chocolate, pepper, earth and oak spices. Elian says: “In the Southwest, we have to make wines twice as good at half the price…” and we think he’s succeeded with this one.


Chateau Pajzos Tokaij Furmint 2021 $14


1991 was an interesting time to be in Hungary. The collapse of the Soviet bloc saw tens of  millions of people with the task of rebuilding their society. In this context, reviving wine traditions was not a particularly important part of the process, but there are interesting stories to tell nonetheless. Two Frenchmen from Pomerol, Jean-Michael Arcaute and Jean-Louis Laborde, knew their history, and knew the glories of Tokaji, the once-world famous appellation and birthplace of Botrytized wine. Many French wineries would go on to invest in Tokaji, but Jean-Michel and Jean-Louis were first. They purchased Chateau Pajzos and set to work making quality wine there for the first time in generations. Sweet wines may have been the North Star that brought them here, but this dry Tokaji has benefitted from the work too. There are few grapes as crisp, clean-cut, and as full of mineral intensity as Furmint, and this inexpensive wine has it all. Aromas of peach and apple, pear blossom, white pepper and flint, flavors of apple and lemon and basalt-infused soil. The wine is vivid and clear and finishes with a refreshing snap. Great for year-round use alongside seafood and airfood, or simple charcuterie plates.


CVNE Ribera del Duero Selección de Fincas 2020 $18


The Compañía de Vinícola del Norte de España is one of the most trusted names in Rioja, producing a range of Tempranillo of every shape and size, from elegant and refreshing to rich and ageworthy. It was only a matter of time that they would try their hands at Tempranillo’s second home, the Ribeira del Duero. It’s a little warmer by the banks of the Duero River than in Rioja, and this wine is therefore bolder, but CVNE’s old school signature is still here. Not intended for age, the Selección de Fincas was only aged in barrel for a few months before bottling, so the fruit is most apparent. Black cherry cordial and strawberry fruit leather notes together with notes of pipe smoke, cinnamon toast, baker’s chocolate, and a dash of balsamic. On the palate the wine is heavy, with substantial tannins etched with black berries and cherries, with tarry earth and cinnamon that last through the finish. This wine is a sturdy companion for barbecued steaks, longplayed stews, and dishes with a smoky flair. 


Mustilli Sannio Aglianico 2021 $20


The Mustilli family has been in the Sannio region of Campania since the 16th century. Best known in winemaking circles as the first people to bottle a pure Falanghina in the 1970s, the Mustilli domaine is run today by the sisters Anna Chiara and Paola. Vineyards are farmed organically, and the wines are treated with a light touch – no new oak, and relatively low alcohols, to make wines with the best balance. This edition of the Aglianico strikes a compelling balance, with both the spice and strong soil signature this grape always offers, and a rare sort of freshness and aromatic complexity thanks to the lack of oak signature. Aromas of raspberry, tangerine, smoky basalt, cinnamon, turmeric and black pepper lead into a quaffable palate of fresh red berries and iron-rich soil with a touch of citrus on the finish. Medium bodied, with chalky tannins and acidity that keeps the fruit fresh and clear throughout. This is a charming pair for cheese plates and powerfully seasoned meats. 


Aphros Vinho Verde Branco Loureiro 2022 $20


Vasco Croft grew up in Lisbon, but spent his summers in the Lima region of Vinho Verde at a family owned farm. A lifelong interest in biodynamics informed his work when he took over the property in 2004, but it wasn’t until a chance bottle of wine shared with a Buddhist monk – whose name, sadly, we do not know – that Vasco turned his thoughts to wine. Aphros is among the first Biodynamic wineries in the rainy Vinho Verde region, and makes red and white wines that rise head and shoulders above the “traditional” big brand, spritzy style Vinho Verdes that fill the shelves at grocery stores. This wine is made from one of northern Portugal’s most important varieties, Loureiro. Aromas of kiss melon, lemongrass, lime, honeysuckle, and acacia fill out an unmistakable nose that could only have come from Vinho Verde. The palate is clean cut but more substantial than expected – thanks to three months stirring on the lees – with plenty of lemon, lime and pear fruit alongside spring flowers and salty minerality. Ideally served with seafood, but this is a wine that would be at home in nearly any setting. 


Bisci Verdicchio di Matelica 2022 $17


It’s sad but true that Verdicchio is one wine that often gets overlooked in Italy, especially Verdicchio from Matelica, the high elevation valley in the heart of the Apennines. Here, the grapes retain all their acidity through Orion’s harvest season, yielding a brighter – sometimes nearly whiplash-inducing – acidity than the Verdicchios of Jesi. Giuseppe Bisci is one of the most important producers of the region whose wines have won repeated Tre Bicchieri awards since he and winemaker Aroldo Billelli turned the page into the winery’s modern, more quality focused era in the 1990s. True to the name, this is a steely wine, with plenty of fuel to fight fire with fire when considering food pairing. It has aromas of orange and lemon verbena, apricot, no leaf clover and white pepper. The palate is full throttle, with Verdicchio’s trademark blend of weight and acidity that rides the lighting. Citrusy notes of all shapes and sizes come through with touches of pepper and salt. This wine would pair perfectly with all sorts of seafood and roasted chicken dishes, but at the end of the day nothing else matters beyond this, Bischi’s Verdicchio is awesome.