The Roussillon region once had a stronger reputation for making fortified wines than for 'table wines'. In times when lighter more elegant wines were prized by the French and much of the wine consumers of the world, the red wines of Roussillon were considered too strong in alcohol and thickly extracted due to the warm and dry climate. After a time of transition the region is gaining a new-found reputation for the quality of table wines, but in most cases it has been at the expense of the fortified wines. Mas Amiel is among the few producers to maintain the production of both quality fortified wines off their estate in Maury as well as add/develop production of great table wines. The region uses the popular Rhone/Mediterranean varieties like Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, etc., and like the Rhone the diversity found from blend to blend and site to site is seemingly endless.
Vertigo represents the estate's entry level wine and uses the youngest parcels from the property, for this vintage just Grenache and Syrah but at times can add Carignan. No oak is used, seeing only tank and concrete vats until bottling, to produce a rich and immediately accessible wine that shows off the liveliness and complexity the region can achieve. Huge immediate nose of blackberry, currants and fresh asphalt (meant as a compliment), with no signs of heat or booziness that historically plagued many Roussillon wines. The choice of using no oak really shows through on the palate as the grapes already have plenty natural tannin and texture, allowing the dark fruit to show through with plenty of energy and little astringency. As the wine opens up over several hours the aromas become more intense and the flavors get deeper and richer, but it never verges into the fruity or sweeter tones. A very modern style of wine, but one that will encourage many people to to the Roussillon to go out and pursue more of the same.
For those of you that do not confine your Valentine's Day romance to just one night, or your lives make midweek date night impossible, you still need a bottle of quality bubbles. Prosecco has overcome a lot of misconceptions over the last decades, in many ways of its own doing by over-marketing the 'brand' image and mass appeal at the expense of quality. Recent laws have made it easier for smaller quality conscious producers like Adami to distance themselves from the masses, helping them improve their standing as one of the world's great sparkling wine regions and increasingly exceptional source of values. Unlike Champagne (and Cava to a certain extent), Prosecco is almost always at its best when fresh, as the climate and grapes generally do not create much natural acidity. By bottling smaller batches several times a year, the juice is kept protected in tanks from oxygen until absolutely necessary, and each order shipped across the world is at its absolutely freshest. Consumers are getting the best quality Prosecco now that they ever could, and there are more producers out there doing it right.
Super lively from the first pour with a big bloom of carbonation and lingering lace of bubbles on the surface, the aroma are full of white flowers and citrus skins, an almost perfect capturing of Spring in a glass (or at least the Spring-like weather today). The carbonation is softer on the palate than a Champagne, which often makes the wines taste fruitier and 'sweeter' than they really are, but the full texture really allows the apple and fruit to penetrate all across your mouth, and the fine skin tannins bring a pleasant delicate dryness to the finish. Serving this with a deeper chill also adds to the overall dryness, but can knock down some of the beautiful aromas, so you may want to play around with it to find the 'sweet spot' for you. While the multiple disgorgements each year can make it difficult to give the wine a consistent 'score', multiple recent releases over the last few years have gotten in the 89-91 range from both Vinous and Wine Advocate, if that makes anyone feel better.
CVNE is one of the oldest and most important producers in Rioja by any and all measurements. Established in 1879, the Compañía Vinícola del Norte del España (Northern Spanish Wine Company, also dubbed 'Cune' in many English speaking markets) was among the very first Spanish wineries to focus on modern standards of quality, and are still owned by descendants of the establishing families. Over many decades they have cultivated several properties that developed a broad array of groundbreaking wines, pioneering many innovations in vineyard and winery technology while still maintaining a foothold in the traditional character of Rioja. The company operates 4 separate wineries which oversee their own vineyards and cultivate their own wines, most of which have been continuously overseen and produced by CVNE since their inception. Vina Real was established nearly 100 years ago and focuses on making wines from the Rioja Alavesa region. Their wines have generally been considered more 'modern' in character for the CVNE portfolio, but only by comparison to the staunch traditional presence of the other historic wines in their portfolio.
A traditional makeup of primarily Tempranillo with the balance comprised of a varying ratio of Garnacha, Graciano, and Mazuelo, this Crianza is immediately more interesting that the top bottling from most wineries. Loads of currants and dark briary fruit come forth quickly mixed with distinct Rioja dirt and dust. On the palate the texture is as first polished, almost Burgundian, with the more persistent tannins showing up only at the finish, allowing the dark fruit and almost balsamic savory tones to show through. As part of the Vina Real line this wine has some of the sharper edges buffed off it so that it has a more immediate drinking character to it, but tasting the wine as it opens up leaves little doubt it can also be cellared for a longer haul.
Walla Walla based Sleight Of Hand Cellars has made a strong reputation over the last decade for crafting high quality reds from premium vineyards across the state, as well as ingratiating themselves into various pop- and counter-culture realms thanks to well placed appearances on TV shows and rock star stages. It can be hard for even a successful winery like this to sell through a lineup of just high end wines, even when receiving great press. So like many other smaller wineries, they have a 'second label' that allows them to create less expensive wines that sell through quicker without doing any perceived 'damage' to the reputation of the more expensive wines. These wines are often wines of opportunity, finding fruit on the cheap from a good source that has more fruit than expected, and so can be very mercurial in the blends of grapes. But the standard for quality still has to be met, so if you trust in the talent of the winemaking team you ride the ride, and are almost always met with a phenomenal value like this one.
The term 'Red Wine' is a constant on this label, but Cabernet Sauvignon is generally the backbone of the blend, and this year's version is a high enough percentage that it could have been labeled as a Cab had they chosen. Deep saturated purple in the glass with rich aromas of black fruits, cassis and graphite, and just a slight pop of extra perfume from the Cabernet Franc in the blend. The palate is quintessential Washington State Cab, delivering a saturated dark fruit explosion with surprisingly silky tannins and a bit of grip on the finish helped on by the Malbec. Fans of a more elegant style may prefer a Californian Cab or a Bordeaux, but you would be hard pressed to find ANYTHING from those regions that deliver the goods the way this does for the price. If you are already a Washington State wine fan, then you've hit the jackpot.
The Best of the Best.
We offering free tastings on these wines in the store every Thursday and Friday, and a 10% discount off the retail price through the duration of the day. Come on by and give them a try!