June 2024 Newsletter Wines

 This Month's Theme is about the kitchen. Specifically, what you're doing in the kitchen when you choose one of these wines for a meal. The following wines are grouped into three sets: those best paired with dishes cooked on the stove, wines best enjoyed with oven cooked meals, and wines for fresh foods.

 

The following four are best for stove-top meals

 

Domaine du Pas Saint Martin Saumur Blanc La Pierre Frite 2023 $21

 

Science has not yet found a way to produce an edible pear tart that generates its own electric current. Until some Michelin starred chef manages that feat, we will have to make do with great Chenin Blanc like this one. Domaine du Pas Saint Martin is the work of Laurent Charrier, whose grandfather had the good sense to own vineyards in some of the best parts of Saumur and Anjou. Laurent immediately turned the vineyards to organic farming, and credits the quality of his wines to the biodiversity in his vineyards and surrounding countryside. He has a gentle winemaking touch, leaving the wine to settle on the lees and sort itself out before bottling without malolactic fermentation. This results in Chenin Blanc with razor sharp fruit notes of lime, pear, kiss melon, fresh peach, waxy honeycomb and chamomile, but no trace of lactic aromas like whipped cream or brioche. The palate is tense and riveting, creamy textured and tastes like biting a peach right off the tree, with dashes of white pepper and lime blossom lingering on the finish. Serve this powerfully flavored wine with pan seared fish fresh from the market, with creamy pastas or polentas, or even a mildly spiced stir fry. 

 

 

Lilliano Chianti Classico Ruspoli 2021 $20

 

In wine industry jargon, this Chianti is a “red-and-white-checkerboard-tablecloth” type wine, something lifted right off the table of the iconic Italian bistro. These wines are often maligned, but the secret to these wines is that they are often really good, simply made but diligently crafted wines as hearty and complex as far more expensive Tuscan wines. Curiously for such a pleasantly rustic wine, it was Princess Eleonora Ruspoli Berlingieri who began making wine at her estate in 1958. The winery’s owners today still live in the Ruspoli Palace on Piazza Ruspoli in the heart of Rome, but they spare no expense at the winery, fit out with the latest technology, and the vineyards are on some of the best soil in the Chianti Classico zone, with a strong limestone component to preserve acidity in the grapes. Aged in a mix of concrete and French oak, the wine offers distinct aromas of food: brisket or pulled pork, along with rich black cherry, tomato leaf, tobacco, oregano, suede, and blackberry jam. The palate is crunchy with black cherry, italian seasoning, and a touch of dates and orange oil on the finish. Perfectly medium bodied and perfectly tuned for pastas from everyday spaghetti to bolognese, and generous cuts of meat. 

 

 

Kir-Yianni Naoussa Cuvee Villages 2020 $21

 

This is the story of coming home. For generations, the Boutari family was one of the most important winemaking families in Greece. Their main claim to fame was bringing Santorini’s Assyrtiko to the world, but the origins of what is today called Boutari Wine Group are in the north, in Naoussa, Greek Macedonia. In the 1990s, Yiannis Boutaris left the group to return home to the 40 hectare Xinomavro vineyard he helped plant. He had notions for this grape that the mass-market Boutari brand couldn’t accommodate. At the end of the 20th century, this grape was a local curiosity, but Xinomavro from Naoussa had once been southern Europe’s finest wine, the best available throughout the Ottoman Era. Yiannis, and now his son Stellios, are reclaiming that heritage. This “Cuvee Villages” is their entry-tier wine, and a brilliant example of the grape’s potential. Stupendously complex aromas of fresh blackberry, lowbush blueberry, fig jam, olive tapenade, charcoal cinnamon, cumin and orange oil lead to a Nebbiolo-like palate of raspberry, cherry, and tarry earth, juicy through the mid-palate with a finishing grip of tannin. Suitable for herb crusted lamb or pork, Loukaniko sausage over polenta, or Thessaloniki-style soutzoukakia.

 

 

Malat Kremstal Gruner Veltliner Furth 2021 $21

 

Some wines speak to us in unexpected ways, prompting memories or thoughts of great novels, movies, or TV shows. There is a scene in The Wheel of Time when things look particularly dark for our heroes, when the healer Nynaeve al’Meara bursts with incandescent light. waves of The One Power that heals her mortally wounded comrade. This Gruner Veltliner tastes kind of like that, bursting with waves of apple and lemon pith and electric acid and stony minerality in the form of sunbeams. Just like Nynaeve, there is more to this wine than meets the eye, notes of white pepper and quince and key lime come through on the nose, filling the airtime between sips with spice and fruit. This wine’s source of power is (probably) not the mythical, force-like One Power, but the particular soil the vines grow on, a thin layer of loose soil over pure bedrock, so the vines have to work hard to reach the water table. Their hard work pays off in the intensity they impart to the wine, an effortless textural depth without sacrificing a jot of acidity. Michael Malat largely stays out of the way, farming organically and uses cool and slow ferments for maximum intensity of flavor. Serve this classic Gruner with stovetop dishes like Schnitzel, pan seared trout, and vegetable dishes featuring asparagus.

 

The following four wines are best for oven cooked meals

 

Domaine des Schistes Cotes Catalanes Illico 2022 $14

 

In the village of Estagel in the heart of Roussillon wine country, the Sires family owns Domaine des Schistes, 50 hectares of vines, mostly trained in the iconic, gnarled gobelet method. The domaine was founded in 1906 but spent many years in the lean and chaotic middle of the 20th century selling grapes to the local cooperative. In 1989 Jacques and Nadine Sires left the cooperative to try making their own wine. Today, their wines come in a variety of shapes and styles – each vintage they individually ferment as many as 80 plots destined to stand alone or blend together – but their Illico range is the entry tier, intended to be “fresh and easy-drinking wines, to be drunk with youth and crunch.” This blend consists of the old favorites Cinsault and Carignan, blended with a relative newcomer called Marselan, favored for its ability to thrive in dry climates. The wine offers flavors of black cherry fruit leather, leathery leather, smoky soil, tar,  and lavender. The palate is surprisingly deft, with enough acidity – thanks Marselan! – to support flavors of fresh cherry over a range of savory garrigue notes, sage, rosemary and smoked meat. A gorgeous pair for quiche or oven roasted lamb.

 

 

Chateau Combel-la-Serre Cahors Le Pur Fruit du Causse 2021 $17

 

Cahors today is flipping the old script and making some of the most elegant, aromatically complex wines in Southwest France. The change we’ve seen in the last decade is that growers are returning to the highlands, the limestone Causses of the southern half of the appellation. From the 14th century to the 19th century, it was the elegant Malbec from these plateaus that made it one of France’s most famous wines. Only when phylloxera and repeated frosts came between the 1880s and 1960s that the region fell into obscurity, vineyards on the plateaus were abandoned in favor of the clay and gravel riverbanks where wines grow dense and dark and brooding. Julien Ilbert is one of a group of young vignerons who are looking to turn back time. Julien’s winery stands on three bedrock principles, strictly organic farming, strictly 100% Malbec, and an emphasis on elegance over power. This is still, however, an earthy wine, with aromas of iron, black pepper and bramble, blackcurrant and plum and lilac that lead to a velvety palate with quick-twitch tannins, gently yet firmly carrying flavors of earth and black fruit through the finish, which lingers with fresh brambly fruit and spice. This is a wine made for cassoulet.

 

Brezza Dolcetto d’Alba 2022 $16

Brezza is in its fourth generation, a well established Barolo house with properties all across the Barolo denomination and the larger Alba region. It is refreshing – literally in the case of this great value Dolcetto – that the family has stood by three founding principles since 1910. Organic farming, long and slow and cool macerations at harvest, and aging in neutral mediums like large old barrels, concrete, or steel. This particular wine never touched an oak barrel, and captured every ounce of the 2021 vintage’s sappy freshness. Over the course of seven cold days on the skins, it developed a core of firm yet elegant tannins and dewey fresh black cherry aromas, accented with marly clay soil, sage, and oregano. This is a Dolcetto from an older time, quaffable and fresh, but still possessing complex notes on the palate – a little tea leaf here, cracked pepper there, and a finish that lingers with elements of red berries and dried herbs. For best results pair this wine with pizza that has mushrooms on it. 

 

Domaine Léon Boesch Alsace Pinot Blanc La Cabane 2022 $19

Alsatian wine carries within itself the spirit of spring. The persistent lilt of blossoming trees is one of the most consistent notes in these wines, whatever the variety. Domaine Léon Boesch, established by the family in 1640, captures this scent in all their wines, but the humble Pinot Blanc might be the purest example of all. Pinot Blanc is something of a chameleon, apt to blend into its surroundings more than Pinot Gris or Riesling. The Boesch family farms biodynamically and leaves their wines mostly alone while fermenting and aging in large, old oak barrels, so this La Cabane cuvée is filled with the gentle scents of Alsace: pears and flowers, crisp melon and granitic minerality. The palate is energetic and crisp, yet full and velvety textured, filled with flavors of apples, pears, and lemon blossoms. The best part of this wine is versatility: Perfect for a casserole with spring vegetables, a quiche, or a roast chicken stuffed with herbs.

 

The following four dishes work well with fresh cuisine

 

Stift Göttweig Messwein Rose 2022 $21

 

Throughout the middle ages, no one knew how to throw parties like monks. This isn’t really in the history textbook, but one sip of this Austrian rose grown, vinified, and bottled by monks leaves us with no alternative conclusion. In the vineyards abutting the monastic complex of Stift Göttweig in sunny Kremstal, they’ve been perfecting a thrilling blend of Pinot Noir and Zweigelt for almost a thousand years. “Messwein” means “Mass Wine”, and can carry that label only when the local bishop deems it is good enough – or when the local bishop has enough guests coming to an upcoming barbecue. Whatever the origin, there are few rosés from anywhere that offer so much zesty fruit and reliably crisp panache as this one. Misty aromas of white pepper, white strawberry, lavender, lemon peel, and granitic mineral echoes promise relief on a hot day, and the palate delivers with juicy Rainier cherry and yellow raspberries bouncing along to an extended A-major chord of acidity and citrus zest falling like spring blossoms on a windy day. Serve at church picnics (or other sorts of picnics) with fresh charcuterie boards, fruit salads, and cold dishes flavored with basil.

 

 

Collestefano Verdicchio di Matelica 2022 $19

 

The Valle Camertina in Italy is stunning. It is a pocket of field, pasture, and vineyard tucked into a fold of the Apennine mountains around the town of Camerino. It is a pocket of agricultural paradise surrounded on four sides by gently rugged mountains. The Marchionni family settled here in the late 1970s to make wine, and in 1998, Fabio Marchionni made his first vintage. After more than twenty five years, he’s mastered the art of making Matelica’s particular sort of Verdicchio. Higher in elevation and more influenced by mountains than the sea, Matelica strikes a different pose than the Verdicchios dei Castelli di Jesi. Here, the wines are generally zestier, less creamy in texture and with a stronger sense of minerality. Collestefano is usually among the  finest of the region, and in 2022 Fabio and family smashed it. Aromas of apricot gelee, orange, rosemary, sage, white rose and white pepper dance and mingle before the palate hit like a freight train full of orange, Mayer lemon, and salty minerals. True to Verdicchio’s form, this wine is outrageously full bodied, singing with acidity, and leaves the palate painted orange, filled with fresh fruits and salt. Verdicchio is famously versatile to pair with food, but this one feels like a picnic wine to us. Try cold salads with strong flavors.

 

 

Mokoroa Getariako Txakolina 2022 $17

 

Txakoli from the valley of Getaria is a perfect wine. In a field as subjective as wine, what does that mean? It can’t mean that it will be everyone’s favorite wine all the time, because Txakoli remains – and likely always will – an inexpensive, thrilling crisp white. It can’t be the highest scoring wine in the world because it’s simply not in those conversations. Instead, Txakoli is simply itself, all the time. It is not like anything else, it doesn’t aspire to be Chardonnay or Chenin Blanc or even Albarino, but in the restaurants of San Sebastien or Bilbao, or a country taverna below Mount Txindoki, Txakoli captures the essence of the place perfectly. No Txakoli we know of is more perfect than Mokoroa. Bubbling bright aromas of apple, lime blossom, lemon curd, and sea breeze come before a palate of lemon, lime, acacia blossoms and sea water. This is about as aged as this wine is intended to be, though the extra few months gives it a touch of textural creaminess that insulates us from the sparky acidity. Perfect, but not that complicated, pair this wine with tinned fish, olives and croquetas.

 

 

Tenuta di Tavignano Lacrima di Morro d'Alba 2022 $21

 

Anyone who has had more than thirty seconds of conversation with this reviewer knows that I am from Maine, so when I say a wine smells of wild Maine blueberries, I’m not just throwing a dart at a flavor chart. It is a savory kind of blueberry, more intense and spicier than the high bush sort. It grows in an ankle-high thicket next to wintergreen, sweetfern and chamomile. It grows out of a cleft in the bare granite on the side of a mountain. Since you’re hiking that mountain, you have a Genoa style cured salami with pepper on it in your bag along with a slice of candied orange peel, and this wine smells a bit like that too, I am sure that Tenuta di Tavignano’s manager Ondine de la Feld would describe this sturdy, heady Lacrima di Morra d’Alba with a decidedly more Italian-inspired menu. She would mention the conversion of the entire estate to organic farming, and the thought and care they put into sustainability. She would mention violet aromas, intense fruit, and the notes of marley clay earth that run like a ribbon through the nose, the palate, and the finish, supported by a robust chalky tannic backbone. And though our chosen aromas hail from different countries, I think that Ondine and I would agree that a charcuterie board or a powerfully flavored salty cheese is a good pairing.

 

The Winemaker's Barrel: Marcus Goodfellow

Marcus Goodfellow is exactly what his name implies, a good fellow, and we're happy to report he's also a very good winemaker (a far less common last name). Marcus's wines have been a favorite at L&E for many years. Like all the best winemakers, Marcus works with the grapes to express the individuality of site and vintage, rather than through them, as if 'overcoming' challenges. The result is impressive diversity in his wines, which are all, more than any single note, clearly expressed.

 

Willamette Valley Chardonnay Vin Soif 2023 $26

Yamhill Carlton Chardonnay 2021 $33

Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 2021 $26

Durant Vineyard Pinot Noir 2022 $49