Custom made bottlings can be a double edged sword. They can be tasty treats, often good values, but can vary dramatically from vintage to vintage, especially if the wine isn't sourced from the same vineyards each year. The beauty of estate or smaller grower producers is that you get the wines from the same vineyards made with the same hands year after year, building consistency and reputation. Some of the better importers have been most capable of bucking that trend, usually by working with dependable wineries to help them build something reliable. European Cellars/Eric Solomon is one of the masters of this concept, and Bastide Miraflors is one of their more exemplary bottlings. Since its inception, the wine has always been built the same way; a blend of mostly Syrah with some older vine Grenache from the same sites in the Roussillon, with the blend aged in a mix of large oak demi-muids and concrete tanks. The subtle variances of vintages will of course make the character of the wine a bit different from year to year, but it would be hard to find many wines in this style that have been as consistently delicious. Deep ruby color with lots of cool dark fruits, blackberry and cola notes off the nose that get warmer and spicier as it opens up. The minimal use of oak allows the natural fragrance of the fruit to show through, and on the palate there is only the fine slightly dusty tannins; lots of surprisingly bright berry, but nothing heavy or extracted feeling, unexpectedly easy drinking for a region that has a reputation for making more oversized wines. A wine most every Rhone varietal fan should give a try!
The 2020 vintage in the Willamette Valley was a double whammy of difficulty for pretty much every winery. Not only was the Covid pandemic making work in the vineyards difficult and tourism/sales nearly impossible, the wildfire outbreak around Labor Day threatened pretty much all of the year's Pinot Noir harvest with smoke contamination if not outright vine damage. Even in the best of times it would have been difficult to get vineyards harvested and processed quickly in such an emergency situation, but the added layer of Covid precautions made it all but impossible. Many wineries did the best they could with whatever early harvest fruit they got, more than a few scrapped the whole vintage and sold whatever could be acceptable off as bulk, and almost nobody made any single vineyard wines that are the showpieces of of Oregon wine. Thankfully the region has benefited from two MUCH less dramatic and relatively problem free seasons, and our favorites are back to creating great stuff at all price points. Inspired by the Bauhaus artist Paul Klee, this wine from selected family owned properties in and around the Yamhill-Carlton area is routinely a first choice by staff for value out of Oregon. Cool, classic dark fruits on the nose with lots of restrained black cherry and hints of soy or pepper, a change of pace from some of the hotter recent vintages that put out a headier fruit aroma. The longer growing season also shows up on the palate with persistent fine tannins behind the dark fruits, giving some almost Burgundian style structure all the way through the finish. Patience is needed here, but well rewarded over several hours as the aromas get more floral and spicier and the fruit on the palate deepens. A wine that shows there will be a lot of the '22 vintage in people's cellars for years to come.
By its nature, Gewurztraminer is a tricky grape to grow and takes more minimum effort than others to make a healthy harvest. This makes it harder to find good value versions, especially if you like a drier style. It's easier to play up the perfumed character or the grape by leaving in the natural sweetness, plus sugar in wine is like spackle on a damaged wall, evening out rough edges and hiding problems or imperfections. Banyan has been a favorite for many vintages as it manages to do both those difficult things very, very well. Winemaker Kenny Likitprakong has always built this wine to honor his Thai heritage and marry with the cuisine, and is just a delight year after year. Classic and immediately identifiable Gewurztraminer perfume of wildflowers, juicy pear and white fruits, and a bit of spicy magnolia blossom. Without the sweetness behind it, many of the notes are cooler especially right out of the fridge, almost minty. On the palate the texture is juicy but not cloying at all, very clean white fruit all over and a touch of pear skin type tannin to the finish. A stone cold necessity to have in the fridge for midweek takeout Asian food, even the next day leftovers.
There are a few examples in the wine world of 'single owner' appellations or districts, mostly in cases of smaller and unique properties. Chateau Grillet is perhaps the most famous, a small 25 acre amphitheater in the Northern Rhone surrounded by the Condrieu appellation, yet given it's own status early on in the drawing and designating of these designations (before realizing how complicated it would get to let so many of these micro-sites get their own appellations and stopped). Gravina has sort of come to this distinction by accident. This Puglian region was originally drawn as any other to cover as many producers that wanted to use it in this rural mountainous area inland from Bari. But the impoverished area had very few independent wineries, mostly growers that sold to the local co-operative. In 1991 the Botromagno family winery merged with the co-op, essentially becoming the one winery in Gravina, and this the only wine using the Gravina DOC. Hopefully that will change based on the quality of this one, as the promise is quite outstanding. A blend of Greco and Malvasia, two hearty white grapes that can handle the heat of the region, the nose right on the first pour is full of white flowers and citrus peel, gaining melon and tropical fruit tones as it opens up. The palate is round and softer on acidity in a bit of a Chardonnay sort of way, but naturally with no oak or buttery notes at all, just the texture of the grapes themselves. No sweetness at all either, actually finishes with some green apple skin or grapefruit type tartness behind the lovely melon and fruit, leaving your palate salivating. An excellent pairing with richer seafood dishes, and just a great wine to mix in for people looking to find wines outside the norm.
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!