Wine

[DEFCON] Is This Nebbiolo, or Is This Just Fantasy?

Posted on Dec, 26. 2013 by

Categories: Wine

Inline image 2It’s been quite a long time since we broke out the DEFCON label. For the unaccustomed, DEFCON is the designation that we reserve for only the very best deals – those wines that not only are amazing in their own rite, but also have an extraordinary “QPR” (Quality:Price Ratio). In the Guild’s 6 years of operation, there have been only a small handful of wines deserving of the honor, and today, we’ve got another.

One thing you should know here up front: this wine was recommended to me by a wine repwho doesn’t rep this wine. As you can imagine, there’s a strong (and eminently understandable) propensity for bias towards ones own portfolio in the wholesale biz; as such, it’s pretty rare (once you branch out from the “big names” that have near-universal appeal) for a wine rep to call me and tell me to try another company’s product. So you can see why, right off the bat, I was intrigued.

Now, as for this wine, while I feel like screaming “DEFCONNNNN!” might should suffice, I’ll tell you a li’l bit about her. Nebbiolo: the famous Piedmontese varietal that makes up such world-class wines as Barolo and Barbaresco. Unfortunately, those world-class wines often come with world-class price tags. If you can afford to drink great Barolo every night, well, color me jealous, but for the rest of us, most Barolos and Barbarescos worth mentioning aren’t everyday wines. Which is why today’s DEFCON wine is so welcome in my wine rack…

When I first stuck my nose into a glass of the Renato Ratti Ochetti Nebbiolo, it screamed Barolo! to me. How is this stuff under $20? It defies all logic and reason. Pietro Ratti (Renato’s son) is a well-known and regarded fixture in Roero, and makes some truly world-class Barolos. The estate has been producing wine, in fact, since the 15th century – by the monks at the Abbey of Annunziata (the estate’s home) originally. Renato took over in the 60s, modernized some winemaking techniques (while respecting the traditions that matter), and set the estate on a course for greatness. As the Wine Advocate puts it, “you can always count on Pietro Ratti for a fine bottle of wine. He is one of the most consistent and bankable producers in La Morra especially for those who enjoy the softer and more sensual side of Barolo.” If based on nothing more than this Nebbiolo alone, I couldn’t agree more.

While I hesitate to throw around “baby” monikers (i.e. “baby-Barolo”) too often, I would not be surprised or disappointed to pay over $30 for this wine as a Barolo. Up front, there’s power and expressivity in spades; it leaps out of the glass at you, without hesitation or a need to “open up”. Lots of ripe red and black fruit, wisps of herbs, chocolate, tobacco and pencil lead surround a very classic, earthy core; meanwhile, the palate is an incredible concentration of flavors and depth, giving you more than you could want while never being muddy or jumbled. I suppose that’s got much to do with the soft-but-well-placed acidity and tannins that buttress the rest of the wine and provide impeccable balance. It may not have the brusqueness, the massive tannins, or the brute force that many of the “in dire need of 10 years in your cellar just to be approachable” Barolos and Barbarescos do, but that’s to its credit: you can lay your Barolos down and forget about them, and drink a few cases of this stuff in the meantime. It’s drinking that well now, and might develop even more in the next 3-5 years, but you don’t need to age it.

I can confidently say that the Ochetti is one of our great finds of the year: a tour de force in the sub-$20 wine market, giving you so much for so little, and positively exuding what Will calls “craveability”. Also, DEFCON, baby!

Ready, set, GO!

2011 Renato Ratti Ochetti Nebbiolo
Member Price: [private_member] Grand Cru: $18.13 • Premier Cru: $18.96[/private_member]
Retail Price: ~$24.00

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Location, Location, Location

Posted on Dec, 04. 2013 by

Categories: Wine

Three rivers actually flow through Bordeaux – the smaller Dordogne and Garonne come together like a long, snaking Y to form the much larger Gironde, which defines the famed Left and Right banks, homes of a large number of the world’s most expensive and fabulous wines.

Today we offer you two Bordeaux Blanc – one over-achiever from a lesser known region, one under-priced rising star from a more famed neighborhood:

Interestingly, the land above the convergence and between the two rivers is home to a vast production of largely anonymous producers who label their wines simplyBordeaux.  Entre-Deux-Mers is the appellation’s name — literally “between two seas” — and is home to a vast expanse of rolling hills and vines and beautiful chateau from which families have been producing producing wine for generations.  Chateau de Fontenille is just such a house, producing wine since the 13th century.  New owners in 1989 replanted the vineyards and renovated the cellars — since then, Fontenille has been producing noteworthy wines at eyebrow-raising prices.  Today’s Entre-Deux-Mers Grand Bordeaux Blanc 2012 shows very pure, luscious, white peach and Meyer lemon with enough acidity to keep it honest (and interesting) for just $10+.   This wine is great as an aperitif or served with ‘leaner’ preparations of seafood.

Chateau Fontenille Entre-Deux-Mers Blanc 2012
Member Price: [private_member] Grand Cru: $10.26 • Premier Cru: $10.73[/private_member]
Retail Price: $~14

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Across the Garonne, we have the appellation of Pessac-Leognan – home of Chateau Haut-Brion, La Mission Haut-Brion, Pape Clement, Smith Haut Lafitte, and on and on … — but also home to quite a few houses producing great wines at dramatically lower prices.  Today’s selection:  Chateau Bois-Martin BordeauxBlanc – a wine we regard as one of the top values in white Bordeaux every year.  Clean, cold wet stone was my first impression of the aroma (very promising, and logical considering the gravelly terroir of Pessac-Leognan).  Almost immediately, there is intense lemon-lime citrus, with almost medicinal intensity.  The palate reflects that same tightly-wound mineral and citrus intensity, combined with a little white peach.  Mouth-watering acidity and white-pepper spice through the finish really require the foil of rich seafood to show full-well.  I served it to my bride with seared scallops and sautéed mushrooms on Sunday evening and that worked very well.  I would like to drink this a year from now – outdoors, with plenty of raw oysters and the smell of dried leaves and wood-smoke in the air.

Chateau Bois-Martin Pessac-Leognan Blanc 2011
Member Price: [private_member] Grand Cru: $17.78 • Premier Cru: $18.58[/private_member]
Retail Price: $~25

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It’s Champagne Season, Part 1

It’s Champagne Season, Part 1

Posted on Nov, 27. 2013 by

Categories: Wine

Well, Thanksgiving is literally right around the corner. Christmas and New Years will then follow. It all happens so fast, and as cliche as it may be it is truly my favorite time of year.

This is the time for feasting and wine. This is the time for Champagne!!!

Of course many of us try to make the argument that any time is the time for Champagne. It’s true, Champagne should not be saved for only special occasions, it is fun, it is delicious, it is refreshing and it can turn around a crappy day in a heart beat.

Every year I try to find a handful of affordable Champagnes to offer out to the group for those who believe this and like to have a couple good ones in their artillery to complete a scene or make an ordinary evening special.

I have been working hard and have found a few small grower Champagnes with tons of individuality and style, unarguably forward and distinct flavor and rich finesse. Also, and importantly, at a price point for opening with some regularity.

Today I want to talk about the Andre Clouet, Brut a Bouzy. Grand Reserve MV (multi vintage). This Champagne is made from 100% Pinot Noir in one of my favorite Grand Cru villages Bouzy. This is a return to the full biscuity-style Champagnes that always make me think of the Belle Epoch. They are glorious wines, Baroque in both flavor and mouthfeel.

The Clouet vineyards are handled organically. Much of the production is sold off to Big House Champagnes but Andre Clouet saves the best fruit for his own bottling. The wine spends 6 years on the lees giving it that full rich mouth feel and weighty presence.

This is an unbelievable Champagne that will stand up to any meal. It would make for a tremendous start to Thanksgiving, and what you hide from your family you can enjoy through the feast by yourself.

I highly recommend this Champagne. Even non Champagne drinkers will stand in awe of its utter deliciousness and what has become my favorite virtue in wine and food,craveability!

Andre Clouet ‘Brut a Bouzy’ Grand Reserve Champagne MV
Member Price: [private_member] Grand Cru: $36.66 • Premier Cru: $38.33[/private_member]
Retail Price: ~$50.00
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Two Thanksgiving Picks (“Affordable Edition”)

Two Thanksgiving Picks (“Affordable Edition”)

Posted on Nov, 27. 2013 by

Categories: Wine

Before you know it, The Feast will be upon us. And you do not want to be caught with your pants down when it comes to what to drink with your Thanksgiving meal. So, I’ve got for you a couple selections (one red, one white) that are eminently versatile and adaptive for any variation of dishes, and (of course) outperform their price point by a mile:

2012 Avantis Estate White: You might remember this little sub-$10 gem from earlier this year – it’s one of those wines that seems to get lost in the shuffle of other flashier wines (perhaps the price causes people to not take it as seriously as they should?), but every time I go back and try it, I am yet again astounded at how good it is, how interesting it is, how expressive it is. It’s Viognier (which can be great or awful), it’s Greek (which can be great or awful), and it’s in a blue bottle (which can be great or awful). This is great wine. It’s got a spicy herbal punch up front like Muscat or Gewurtz; that leads to juicy fruit like lychee and passionfruit. It’s got a touch of richness on the palate, but there’s plenty of acidity to balance everything out nicely and give you a tremendously refreshing palate experience. A tremendous value anytime of the year, but it begs for the panoply of flavors that a holiday meal offers.

2012 Avantis Estate White
Member Price: [private_member] Grand Cru: $8.80 • Premier Cru: $9.20 [/private_member]
Retail Price: $12.00

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2012 Domaine Vincent Dureuil-Janthial Bourgogne Passetoutgrain [typ. retail: ~$18.50; Grand Cru: $13.56; Premier Cru: $14.18]: That’s a mouthful, to be sure, but so is the wine. I love this producer…their wines (while often a little pricier) have a real stoicism and attention to traditional details and styles that I really identify with (duh). I’d never had their Passetoutgrain before last week, but I was an instant fan (especially at this price point). Passetoutgrain is a relatively rare oddity in Burgundy – it’s an “AOC” wine, but the AOC covers all of Burgundy, and instead of the typical single-varietal wines that are mandated in most of the region, Passetoutgrain is a blend, typically of Pinot Noir and Gamay (with other stuff like Chard, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris occasionally thrown in there). The Gamay, in this case, adds a bright juicy fruit character and a bit of brambly woodsy depth that is often lost of Pinot-only Bourgogne. It’s also very expressive and even a bit masculine (which is not altogether common for these cuvees), and I chalk that up to the producer. It’s been years, honestly, since a rep brought me any Passetoutgrains, and I couldn’t be happier to find this stuff. Both Will and I were all over it, and with a price under $15, I think it’s one of the steals of the season. Stock up, because you’ll want more as soon as you try it. I know I do.

2012 Domaine Vincent Dureuil-Janthial Bourgogne Passetoutgrain
Member Price: [private_member] Grand Cru: $13.56 • Premier Cru: $14.18[/private_member]
Retail Price: $18.50

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A Perfect Italian Summer White

A Perfect Italian Summer White

Posted on Jul, 31. 2012 by

Categories: Wine

I’ll be perfectly honest with you — my love affair with Italian white wines continues to blossom.  In the past when I’ve come across things like Soave and Pinot Grigio I’ve been super-excited about, we’ve launched offers that have turned out to be hugely popular.  Today we’re going to introduce another varietal, this time one native to the Campania region in southwest Italy that produces some very interesting white wines — this grape is called Falanghina.  The typical flavor profile wines made from this varietal is ripe fruit in the peach/lemon/pineapple realm with good acidity — compared to the sleeker whites from NE Italy (Friuli, Alto Adige) these are more ripe and “tropical,” in a similar way that Chardonnay from Southern California differs from that of Carneros.

The 2011 Cantina Taburno Falanghina is a very typical example of excellent Falanghina.  Produced by a consortium of growers in the Benevento region in Campania, Cantina Taburno has developed an outstanding reputation for value.  Antionio Galloni’s recent quotes on the winery include notes like “Cantina del Taburno is an excellent source for well-priced wines from Campania,” and “This gorgeous set of wines from Cantina del Taburno offer remarkable value.

Galloni has not yet reviewed the 2011 Falanghina, but his scores of the prior two vintages were just below the magical 90.  That said, Michael Davis and I opened a bottle the other night and were quite pleased — this following is my tasting note:

Nose of high-toned lemon and a hint of banana.  On the palate, gobs of sweet tropical fruit — peach, lemon and banana, but lots of acidity keeps things focused and some classy minerality comes through on the surprisingly long finish. Excellent…

Among several wines tasted that night we were incredibly impressed with this one, and given the price/value thought that it would be a no-brainer offer that the membership would love.  This will be a fun white to coolly sip through the rest of the summer heat, and a perfect fit for lighter dishes and fishes that appeal to us during these warm months…

2011 Cantina Taburno Falanghina, Campania, Italy
Member Price: [private_member] Grand Cru: $12.46 • Premier Cru: $13.03 [/private_member]
Retail Price: $16.49

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Bacon fat & babies

Bacon fat & babies

Posted on Jul, 31. 2012 by

Categories: Wine

I’d punch a baby before I’d drink most Australian Shiraz. Sure, there are some good ones, but a lot of it tastes like Robitussin. The good news is France’s Northern Rhone Valley makes magic out of the same wiley grape, Syrah….and babies go largely unpummeled.

Today, I bring you Syrah the way it should be. The nose has the black pepper so often found in Syrah, but it doesn’t end there. Bacon fat, herbs, and some floral notes add thought provoking layers of aromas. Picture yourself sitting in the courtyard of a stone french farmhouse. The heady smells from the kitchen mix with wild flowers. This is that place in a glass.

On the palatte tart cherry grabs you first, followed by a fascinating undercurrent of smoked meat, herbs and black pepper. This is not a sipping wine. It needs food to shine. If you plan on doing any grilling this summer you’ve found a great pairing. But first, give it an hour of air and put it in the fridge for 30 minutes before serving.

Proper cellar temperature really gives it a lift. Treat it with respect and it will reward you. This is not a simple wine. Great food wines rarely are.

Suggested Pairings:
Cured Meats, Grilled Sausages, Burgers or Veggies and of course Hard Cheeses.

2009 Ferraton, Croze Hermitage La Matiniere
Member Price: [private_member] Grand Cru: $14.66 • Premier Cru: $15.33 [/private_member]
Retail Price: $19.99

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Unbelievable Molly Dooker

Unbelievable Molly Dooker

Posted on Jul, 31. 2012 by

Categories: Wine

My subject line can’t state it any clearer. These prices from our distributor, which we are passing along to you with this offer, are unbelievable for these fantastic wines. These are volume prices. If we don’t hit the minimum required for these prices, first, shame on you!, second, we’ll recalculate prices and ask if you want to continue with the purchase. For those of you familiar with Molly Dooker, jump to the link below where you’ll find pricing and some selected ratings. For those of you not familiar with these wines, read on:

While there are more wines than I’ll highlight here, I’ll give you three of my favorites, plus one incredible bargain.

2010 Molly Dooker The Maitre’D
Member Price: [private_member] Grand Cru: $17.59 • Premier Cru: $18.39 [/private_member]
Retail Price: $35.99
This is a 90-point Cabernet Sauvignon, available at less than twenty dollars! We tried this at our Fifth Wednesday tasting back in February. Even at that price, five-and-a-half dollars higher, it was the star of the show. We couldn’t get pricing this good then, but you have it now. From Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate: ‘Very deep garnet-purple colored, the 2010 The Maitre’d Cabernet Sauvignon has notes of creme de cassis and black cherry preserves with a hint of mocha and a touch of hung meat. Full-bodied, the palate fills the mouth with warm berry and savory flavors supported by crisp acid and a medium level of fine grained tannins, finishing long. Drink it now 2017.’ – 90 pts, Lisa Perrotti-Brown, www.erobertparker.com
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2010 Molly DookerTwo Left Feet
Member Price: [private_member] Grand Cru: $17.59 • Premier Cru: $18.39 [/private_member]
Retail Price: $35.99
This Shiraz-Cab-Merlot blend starts with a big fruit impact, but the structure remains. It finishes well and the blend of berries with vanilla and oak make this a wine to savor. From Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate: A blend of 72% Shiraz, 12% Cabernet Sauvignon and 16% Merlot, the 2010 Two Left Feet has a deep garnet-purple color and a slightly closed nose of black currant cordial, mulberries, espresso and tree bark with a whiff of bacon. Full-bodied, ripe, rich and spicy in the mouth, it has a good foundation of crisp acid and a medium level of silky tannins, finishing long. Drinking nicely now, it should keep to 2017+. 90 pts, Lisa Perrotti-Brown,www.erobertparker.com
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2010 Molly Dooker Carnival of LoveMember Price: [private_member] Grand Cru: $54.99 • Premier Cru: $57.49 [/private_member]
Retail Price: $109.99
I couldn’t believe this price when I saw it. This was the clean-up wine of that Fifth Wednesday, and was ten bucks more expensive than this. A single-vineyard Shiraz, this wine starts with fruits, mostly berry, and is layered on the palate and has a long finish. This is a wine that probably isn’t completely ready to drink now, but with sufficient decanting, you can enjoy your first bottle now and your other bottles over the next ten-plus years: From Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate: ‘Produced of 100% Shiraz from a single vineyard, the 2010 Carnival of Love was aged in American oak, 97% new. Very deep purple-black in color, it is intensely scented of blueberry preserves, creme de cassis and warm black cherries with an undercurrent of baking spices, licorice, mocha, vanilla, toast and eucalyptus. Very full and densely packed with warm blackberry and spice flavors on the palate, it has a solid structure of medium to firm velvety tannins and very crisp acid, giving way to a very long finish. Still quite tight and primary, it should drink best 2014 to 2023+’. – 95 points, Lisa Perrotti-Brown, www.erobertparker.com
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Lastly, I’m throwing this one out there for those of you who will really enjoy a single-vineyard, classic Shiraz. You know who you are:

2010 Molly Dooker Velvet Glove
Member Price: [private_member] Grand Cru: $109.99 • Premier Cru: $114.99 [/private_member]
Retail Price: $177-200
You may recall from this time last summer the producers lost $1,000,000 worth of this wine in a dockside accident. Yet there’s still enough to pass along this offer. Deep red, this is a classic expression of Shiraz. From Wine Advocate: ‘Coming from row selection within a single vineyard, the 2010 Velvet Glove was matured in American oak, 97% new. Very deep garnet-black, it offers very pure, pronounced notes of ripe cassis and blackberries with underlying nuances of cedar, anise, hung meat, black tea and violets. Full bodied, very ripe and with layers of generous fruit, the opulence is well supported with a medium to high level of fine-grained tannins and crisp acid. It finishes very long. It should be at its best 2014 to 2024+. Unfortunately because of an accident at the warehouse during which about 1/3 of the production was destroyed, there are only 1012 cases’. – 97 points, Lisa Perrotti-Brown, www.erobertparker.com
Buy Now!

I’m thrilled to be able to bring this offer to you. I know where I’m stocking up, and I invite you to join me.
The Triumphant Return of Yet Another Guild Favorite

The Triumphant Return of Yet Another Guild Favorite

Posted on Jul, 31. 2012 by

Categories: Wine

We’ve not been around for that long, but I feel like we’ve definitely found a nice rhythm with a familiar handful of wines…and bringing back new vintages of old favorites (provided they live up to the old standards, of course) is something that brings us a sense of excitement and satisfaction…much like building a vertical in your cellar. It’s not often, because estates sometimes fall off the map or just go in different directions than what we’re interested in bringing to the table, but when it does happen (as with the Mondesir), it just feels right.

Cue the 2011 Familia Mayol Malbec. We offered the previous vintage last August, and it was understandably a huge hit (with many coming back for refills). Well, we’re always on the lookout for good Malbec…but, to be honest, it’s not easy. There’s no shortage of South American Malbec, as it seems to be the easiest varietal to get to produce passable juice in large quantities down there. We’re looking for something more, though: a more pure expression of the grape, without fanfare, too much adulteration, and certainly nothing that breaks the bank (because, in South American wine tradition, oftentimes the more it costs, the more extracted, alcoholic and opulent it is).

Will originally wrote the offer for the 2010, and I loved that wine, but somehow never really got to spend enough time with it. The 2011 brought it all back home for me, though. It’s undeniably Malbec, but there’s something else that screams “northern Rhone Syrah” flitting around the periphery. It’s a meaty wine at its core, a lot to chew on, a lot to savor (spicy cigar box, stewed cherries, and faint autumn smoke), but it’s almost like this is cool-climate fruit (and it’s not…this comes from a frickin’ desert!) That aforementioned ripe center is draped with a restrained, cool sleekness…and that’s what really sells this wine for me. Anyone who’s had steely blueberry-laden CôteRôtie knows what I mean. And what else…it finishes with a perfect punch of acid and lingering earthiness. 

As Will said last year (see the original 2010 offer below; we both independently came to “cool climate fruit” in two separate vintages, for what that’s worth), this is a model of consistency, focusing on a particular (particularly intriguing and enjoyable) style, and doing that style well, for a steal. Fans of Malbec need look no further; fans of restrained, composed, yet expressive everyday reds also should pay close attention.

From the first time around:

Heirloom tomatoes with feta, fresh herbs and steamed green black eyed peas. Chicken roasted with garlic and herbs over a small fire. Slow cooked pork, spiced and lightly smoked. Young summer squashes sauteed in butter with fresh thyme. The final mowings. The cool breezes on a hot dry day with the whir of cicadas chanting in the air. It is August and these are a few of my favorite things.

I am drinking Malbec because I found a Malbec that is fantastic for these things. We have featured Argentianian producer Familia Mayol many times here at the Guild as they continuously produce wine at every level that is both exciting and new. The 2010 Malbec has been loaded with juice from the top vine holdings of the estate and is one of the finer everyday priced Malbecs I have come across.  

There is a firm but easy tannin to the wine with cleanly expressed varietal fruit. Mature structure and bright fruit tones evoke an almost Mediterranean style with a cooler climate clarity. Old world in style, which is to say the fruit is in no way overdone and the focus overall seems to be pointed towards nuance and charm, words seldom used for the great black grape. All of this and lacking nothing in power, this is a food friendly Malbec that is drinking perfectly right now, something to be gulped on its own on outdoor porches and an inspiration to grill many wonderful things. 

Gather together with some friends and make certain you have had your fill of all the flavors of summer, fresh ripe tomatoes, fresh light goats cheeses, mozzerellas and fetas. Grilled fishes, roasted chickens, fresh herbs, loads of the freshest olive oils and garlic and plenty of top quality grilled steaks. And above all make sure you have the right wine, in almost any case it will be this Malbec. 

An exciting new find from a consistent Estate.

2011 Familia Mayol Single Vineyard Malbec
Member Price: [private_member] Grand Cru: $12.65 • Premier Cru: $13.23 [/private_member]
Retail Price: $17.25

Buy Now!

We Told You So!

We Told You So!

Posted on Jul, 31. 2012 by

Categories: Wine

A new slate of reviews from Robert Parker was published last week, and with it came a great review (that we anticipated) on a wine we originally offered back in February — the 2008 Tenuta Monteti Caburnio.  Antonio Galloni simply raved about the wine and gave it an impressive 92 point score:

The 2008 Caburnio is one of the very best wines from Tuscany in its price range. Espresso, mocha, sweet grilled herbs and plums wrap around the palate in this deep, inviting wine. Hints of licorice, crushed flowers, tobacco and new leather add complexity on the striking, nuanced finish. Caburnio is 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Alicante-Bouschet and 20% Merlot aged partly in oak and partly in steel. 92 points. Anticipated maturity: 2012-2018.

Tenuta Monteti remains arguably the single finest source for reasonably priced wines in Maremma.

I’ve posted the meat of the original offer below with all the details, but the take-aways are as follows:

  • Italian Cabernet-based blend with Alicante and Merlot
  • Very consistent each vintage in terms of flavor profile and quality level
  • 2007 is still drinking great, and I loved the one bottle of 08 I recently tried
  • The price remains ridiculously low (mid-teens) for the quality delivered
  • We warned you to buy before the sexy press came out, and now it’s here

With all that said, we were shocked to find out that this wine is STILL IN STOCK (for now, given the press), so we’re re-offering it to provide those who missed it a chance to get one of our top values of the year, and those who’ve worked through their original purchase to buy some more.  PLEASE ACT QUICKLY as there’s no telling now long their stock will last…

2008 Tenuta Monteti Toscana Caburnio, Tuscany, Italy
Member Price: [private_member] Grand Cru: $14.66 • Premier Cru: $15.33 [/private_member]
Retail Price: $18.00

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I’d leave my wife for this Cote du Rhone blanc.

I’d leave my wife for this Cote du Rhone blanc.

Posted on Jul, 31. 2012 by

Categories: Wine

GOOD GAWD! A white Cote du Rhone has me shrieking like James Brown. Yep…a WHITE Cote du Rhone. Famous for their great reds, the Southern Rhone Valley also puts out a small number of terrific whites. Unfortunately, most of them don’t leave France because the producers like to drink them over the long hot summers.

The moment I stuck my nose in the glass I was transported back to a little French candy shop in Provence. The smell of honey, fresh flowers and dried fruit was like a big hug from Grandma. On the palate this wine really delivers. It starts with luxuriously ripe pear, melon and mango and finishes with a lip smacking citrus and grapefruit. Perfectly balanced. I want another sip, another bite, another kiss…er…sorry. Got carried away there.

It’s no surprise I love this wine. Saint Cosme makes some of the world’s most respected Chateuneuf-du-Pape and the Barruol family has been at it since 1570. That’s not a typo. To get a wine with this pedigree for way under $20 is a major coup. Do not dawdle.

The blend is Roussanne, Viognier, Marsanne and Picpoul de Pinet. The result is “get me another glass please”. Pro Tip: Buy more than you think you’ll need. You’ll find this bottle empties fast. 

Suggested Pairings:
Chicken, Fish, Cream Sauces, Mushroom Pastas and Hard Cheeses.

2011 Saint Cosme, Côtes du Rhône Blanc
Member Price: [private_member] Grand Cru: $14.66 • Premier Cru: $15.33 [/private_member]
Retail Price: $19.99

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You might not thank me today, but you will thank me, and thank me often

You might not thank me today, but you will thank me, and thank me often

Posted on Jul, 31. 2012 by

Categories: Wine

I hope everyone enjoyed the 4th of July as much as we did. While it’s a scorcher here,  I checked what the weather’s been like out in the Pacific Northwest. While it’s been warm for there, it’s nothing like it’s been here, and what I’ve noticed are the warm days and the cool nights, perfect conditions for the Pinot Noir that marks the Willamette Valley and Oregon’s primary contribution to the world’s wine scene.

One of the great things about the Guild is that we can buy wines to drink right away, and wines to enjoy months or even years from now. With that, I present a selection of wines from St. Innocent, one of Oregon’s top producers. You may remember last fall when our distributor brought in a handful of wines from St. Innocent and poured them for us. Fantastic wines that not enough of you took advantage of, if you ask me. If you missed out, here’s your chance, the spring allotment is just in!

Audrey & I discovered St. Innocent back in 2005, when Guild Member & co-founder Chris Doran recommended Mark Vlossak’s wines to us on our trip to Oregon, and we enjoy coming back to them year after year. While there’s a slew to choose from, allow me to spotlight just a few:

-2010 St Innocent Pinot Noir Villages Cuvee
Member Price: [private_member] Grand Cru: $21.99 • Premier Cru: $22.99 [/private_member]
Retail Price: $30.00
This bottling, blended from six sites throughout the Willamette Valley, is a great entry into Oregon Pinots. Fresh fruit, striking acidity and a firm backbone make this a wine to enjoy now with some decanting or in a few years after cellaring.
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-2010 St Innocent Pinot Gris Vitae SpringsMember Price: [private_member] Grand Cru: $16.13 • Premier Cru: $16.89 [/private_member]
Retail Price: $22.00
Unlike the pinot noirs, this Alsatian-style Pinot Gris is ready for drinking now. Eight months of on-lees aging in stainless steel tanks make for a ripe, texturally rich pinot gris, perfect for summertime’s lighter fare.
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-2010 St Innocent Shea Vineyard Pinot Noir
Member Price: [private_member] Grand Cru: $36.66 • Premier Cru: $38.33 [/private_member]
Retail Price: $50.00
This is the stuff, right here. I can drink this any where, any time. Winemakers throughout Oregon fight to get their allocations from Shea Vineyard. 35 miles southwest of Portland, these blocks of vines have a southern exposure, perfect for capturing the sun during the day and grabbing the cooling breezes at night. Aged 16 months in 35% new French Oak, this wine can sit in your cellar for the next 10-15 years without a problem (assuming you have a generator just for your cellar, you do have a cellar generator don’t you? Or maybe just a passive cellar), or you can enjoy it now with some serious decanting. Either way, this is a wine screaming to be enjoyed with family and friends, who will thank you for sharing it, just as you will thank me for recommending it. And if you’re not sure of it, because, hey, that’s a big number from the Guild, St. Innocent produces it in half bottles, just enough to whet your appetite for more. (See the order form for details.)
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These are just a few of the offerings available to us. If you see the form and have questions about any of the wines, shoot me a note and I’ll fill you in.

Sibling Rivalry in Bordeaux

Sibling Rivalry in Bordeaux

Posted on Jul, 31. 2012 by

Categories: Wine

I was going to start this missive with the tale of a friend who recently bought $15,000 in 2010 Bordeaux futures for his son, but frankly, I’m just looking for something fantastic and sub-$30 for a special Saturday night.

Good news is I found it.

Les Hauts de Pontet-Canet 2007 is the second wine of Chateau Pontet-Canet, located right next door to Chateau Mouton-Rothschild in Bordeaux’s Pauillac commune, where Cabernet Sauvignon grows in the massive gravel deposit that is the Left bank of the Gironde.  Les Hauts is the “little brother” to the Grand Vin like Eli Manning is to Peyton — a little smaller, maybe a little less flash, but nothing says sibling rivalry like ‘little brother’ with a couple of Superbowl rings.

Dignified and seriously dark red, with black cherry and licorice at the start, tempered by a healthy dose of good French oak and showing a dark sweet fruit compote with cedar, toast, soy and bittersweet chocolate on the mid-palate and finish. Tightly wound at first, but opens and rounds out beautifully with time in the glass.  This is gorgeous, Old-World-meets-New Cabernet Sauvignon, full-bodied with the alcohol nicely in check.  Youthful but polished acids and fine, long tannins will provide versatility at table now and for years to come.

60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, the rest Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.  100% classic, modern Bordeaux.

We didn’t see any professional ratings as of yet, but the 2007 Grand Vin was 91- 94 points from Parker and one of the “Wines of the Vintage”, and while this is not the Grand Vin, I think you’ll agree its cut from the same cloth, has the added benefit of drinkable now and it won’t break the bank – which is, in my estimation, the perfect purpose for Bordeaux estates’ “second labels”.

This is a quality over quantity recommendation.  Buy one and try it — there’s a good supply at our distributor’s warehouse so should be available through the Summer.

Les Hauts de Pontet-Canet 2007
Member Price: [private_member] Grand Cru: $30.70 • Premier Cru: $32.10 [/private_member]
Retail Price: $42.00

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The Heroic Return of our Best-Selling Wine Offer Ever

The Heroic Return of our Best-Selling Wine Offer Ever

Posted on Jul, 31. 2012 by

Categories: Wine

Pop quiz, hotshot: can you name the last DEFCON wine we offered? Yeah, me either. It’s that rare. 

We see a lot of great wines, with a scant few worthy of the DEFCON label, but this is one that holds a special place in Guild history as “the best-selling offer ever”. The first time we offered the Chateau Mondesir, it was the vaunted 2005 Bordeaux vintage. “Vintage of the Century!”, they cried, leaving the less breathless among us to wonder what happened to 2000. In any case, the ’05s were amazing, and nothing since has compared…but then the 2009 Bordeaux vintage came in and we were wowed all over again. We tasted a score of 09s, and offered plenty of them out to you all, but this is what you would call a classic case of ‘the straggler that overtakes the frontrunner’. 

As I said, the 2005 vintage of this wine was the best selling wine in our history – with roughly half of the members we have now, we roared through about 50 cases of this stuff! People tried it, immediately understood, and returned to the well for more (that includes me!) Well, I have tried intermediate vintages since then, and while they all were quality, nothing really reached that original level of quality and depth of the 2005 until now. This is a return to the glory of 2005, with all the depth, the balance, the “vastly outpacing its cost” of the original. It’s what I’ve been waiting for (not least because I’m running dangerously low on my 2005 Mondesir).

The best news? I do believe inflation alone has outpaced the price of this wine. Over the course of 5 vintages, its cost has gone up a whopping $1. Yes, it’s now all of [private_member] Grand Cru: $12.65 • Premier Cru: $13.22 [/private_member]pass it up at your own risk. According to the distributor, just like with the 2005s, the 2009 is disappearing very quickly; jump on it now while you still can, because it won’t be here in a few months when you’re stocking up for winter.

Here’s our notes from the original 2005 offer:

Well, I did it: I pulled out the rare and sacred ‘DEFCON’ label for this offer and I, as well as the entire board, feel that this offer is worth it. We have only offered 2 other ‘DEFCON’ wines in the three years that we have been open, so I hope you all understand the gravity of this label.
It was a difficult choice to make this time because the wine we bring to you today is a wine that we have already offered back in March. Not only that, but this is a wine we have kept in stock regularly since we first offered it in March, and one that many members have already purchased or heard us rave about. So why this formal second offer?
The momentum on this wine has been growing and growing. Those who have purchased a bottle or so have been coming back and buying more and more, the Board member discussion on this wine has peeked at comments like, “the best wine for the price we have ever offered” and “This would be a deal at $18 a bottle, cost”. I personally am on my 5th case of the wine and have just placed an order for 5 more, Rives just put in an order for 6 cases of the wine, Kevin has just reordered, Evan has just reordered and just as I went to place these orders I am told by the distributor that they are on their last palate of the wine.
This has happened so many times before and usually I do not catch it until it is too late. The praise and enjoyment of this wine has worked itself up into a fury from those who have gotten into it, and just as that fury culminates, the wine will be out – and there’s no telling when we will next see a wine at $12 that as many people rave about or enjoy. There certainly has not been one yet in the three years we have been doing this, and few in the ten years I have been in the wine business.
So this DEFCON is a warning and an alert that the 2005 Chateau Mondesir, Premieres Cote de Blaye is going to be sold out soon. As Guild members you all see the value in spending upfront to save over the course of the year, and in that light I want to tell you that this is a wine to go 3-5 cases deep on, to keep in your cellar, to have for your next party, to give away at the Holidays, but most of all to have a great $12 wine that you can drink and enjoy every time you open it throughout the entire winter (unless, like me, 3 cases might get you to Christmas if you supplement with other wines heavily).
The price on this wine has been raised by $1 per bottle but I talked the rep into giving us one last shot at it at the old price seen below. This will be the last time. Also we can not emphasize enough that you can not have too much 2005 Bordeaux at any price level, but especially when the wine is this good at this price. Of all recent “epic vintages” this is the one that has stood out as offering the finest quality across the board and in a region so many people can agree on stylistically.
I’ve included my original notes below. These notes, in my way, are written in the spirit of trying not to oversell a wine. I try as often as possible not to be too hyperbolic as much as I enjoy a wine, so that when it really matters I can draw on my hyperbole and you all may know the difference. So, I evoke my hyperbole now; this is a wine to buy by the truckload! No joke!
If you like Cabernet, Merlot, Malbec, Cab Franc and most especially, good Bordeaux, then you WILL love this wine… 


Hello Everyone,

Ben Martin from Elite wines came by late last week with a stunning Bordeaux at a really good price. Premier Cotes de Blaye is the best of the regions taking the name of the town of Blaye and is a really great area to find deals in Bordeaux. Often these wines can be a bit astringent with the greenness of the younger vines one so often encounters in this area but every so often you come across a gem and in a good vintage everything can come together to make for quite a delicious Bordeaux at quite a stunning price.

“Blaye is a fortified town on the north bank of the Gironde estuary just opposite Margaux in the Bordeaux region which has been exporting wine much longer than the famous Medoc across the water. Today it lends its name to several of the Bordeaux Cotes appellations…Today by far the most important wine produced here is robust red from the Premieres Cotes de Blaye, made on 4500 ha of vineyard, mainly from Merlot grapes supplemented by Cabernet Sauvignon” -Jancis

This particular Blaye is from Chateau Mondesir a relative of Mondesir-Gazin but with the same wine maker. Made up of Merlot and Malbec and taking the best from each grape the Mondesir is extremely full bodied with nice ripe chewy tannins. The fruit is dark berries and cocoa but again those tannins are what really drew me to this wine. There was real substance here and for the price this would be a great Bordeaux to drink over the next 5 years. Those who like their Bordeaux a little softer and smoother will want to give it 3 years anyway or at least an hour or two of decanting.

As a serious wine this Bordeaux trumps any of the inexpensive Bordeaux we have tried or offered since fall and I recommend to anyone who has enjoyed the five or six under $15 Bordeaux to give this one a try. It is a drink by the case steal.

 

2009 Chateau Mondesir, Premieres Cote de Blaye
Member Price: [private_member] Grand Cru: $12.65 • Premier Cru: $13.22 [/private_member]
Retail Price: $17.25

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Our House Sancerre, She’s Back!

Our House Sancerre, She’s Back!

Posted on Jul, 31. 2012 by

Categories: Wine

I’ll make this short, because I fully understand that we have inundated you with Sauvignon Blanc this spring. The Patianna, the Cottat, the Bourgeois, all great wines. This one’s a throwback, though…a wine that we have been superfans of since our inception, one that I cannot turn my back on. Doubly so after tasting a brand new bottle of the 2011 this afternoon, so refreshing in the unwelcome afternoon heat and humidity.

The 2011 Cherrier Sancerre. It needs little introduction. Some of the finest Sauvignon Blanc on the planet, and you Guilders have bought enough of it in the past to know that much…but, admittedly, no two vintages are the same. So: 2011. I’ve loved all my 2011 Sancerre, but this…this makes my toes curl, baby! It has less plushness than in previous vintages, and that has been replaced with a succinct, pure citrus component—lime, to be exact. The acid is just so pristine and in your face, much like fresh lime juice, but softened considerably by a touch of richness in the center. All of this wineplay leaves an air of excitement on your palate, and that’s what Sancerre should be about. And, as with our Apremont from a couple weeks ago, this wine is just magnificent when young! Okay, enough of this; here’s my original Cherrier notes from a few years back:

  • The Cherriers have been making classic Sauvignon Blanc near Verdigny since 1927 (the brothers Francois and Jean-Marie are third-generation winegrowers here), and their wines have long been a no-brainer for me. I still have a bottle or two of the ’06 Blanc in my cellar, and it’s aging nicely…but the 2008 Blanc is something else entirely. Often, classically-styled Sancerres are offputting for a lot of people, because they don’t really have any ripeness up front, they lack a soft approachableness (yes, I just made up that word) when young, and they’re often built for food pairing. And while Cherrier does make classic, pure Sauv Blanc, it’s always had a more approachable face to it than many others at this age. The 2008 Blanc, though, has been consistently slaying me with its mix of classic Loire flint and new-world-ey plush attractiveness. It’s got bright, pleasant acid, but it’s never too much—always walking that knife’s edge between bracing and soft. But it’s still Cherrier—still pureSauv Blanc, with all of the haunting soul, the wet chalk and fresh air and lemons, without being haughty or unapproachable. It’s pristine and beautiful; the fact that Dionysos has it on (deep) discount is even more reason to love it. Sancerre this cheap is rare; great Sancerre at this price is but a myth. Here’s your Sasquatch.

If you haven’t saturated your wine racks with Sauvignon Blanc yet, now’s your chance to seal the deal!

2011 Francois et Jean-Marie Cherrier Sancerre Blanc “Les Chailloux” Cuvee Vielles Vignes
Member Price: [private_member] Grand Cru: $15.76 • Premier Cru: $16.48 [/private_member]
Retail Price: $22.00

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Parallel Paths: The Classic Reds of La Rioja Alta

Parallel Paths: The Classic Reds of La Rioja Alta

Posted on Jul, 31. 2012 by

Categories: Wine

As Spain has gone from “big wine drinker but not big wine exporter” to “one of the hottest wine producers on the international market” in the past 15 years or so, it’s been fascinating to watch the stylistic evolution of various subregions and producers. Some producers have fully embraced the broad-stroke “international palate” of drink-now unctuousness and accessibility, while a select few have remained steadfast in the ways of old (growing traditional wines that reflect both generations of hands worked to the bone and the unique terroir of their homeland). As you might expect, we seek out the latter whenever possible.

Rioja is perhaps the most well-known red producer of Spain to outsiders, and with good reason: it often produces wines of power, stoicism and brooding depth. What most don’t know is that there are several regions within ‘La Rioja’, producing rather unique styles of wine. Rioja Baja has a very Mediterranean climate and produces perhaps the most familiar Riojas: jammy, rich reds with low acidity and a big punch. The other two subregions, Rioja Alavesa and Rioja Alta, do not see the kind of ripeness of Baja, and thus typically produce wines with much more expressiveness, balance and classicity.

La Rioja Alta (taking its name from its subregion) is the old guard, a house in production since 1890, farming some of the most hallowed ground in one of the oldest recognized wine-producing regions in the world. This is not a position to be taken lightly.  In fact, it appears to be the basic framework of their decision-making.  The longevity of the house and traditional style of the wines is a welcome reminder of good stewardship — a thing done well and carefully tended, to be handed down through the generations. With this very long view, and the massive storage cellar it requires, there is no pressure to create wines to be sold immediately after bottling.  After all, when you’ve been making wine for 120 hundred years, something in the cellar will always be drinking well, which means in the most basic sense, you can always play for time, allowing barrel and bottle age to reveal the true character of the wine.

This is rare, and to be celebrated – this is La Rioja Alta.

We tasted three of their current releases, side by side, and were astounded that these wines are not only available to us with such provenance and age, but also at prices that defy all known convention. These are three brothers, of different eras but aging side by side, and their parallel paths are compelling to drink in – coming from the same estate, the same basic styles of winemaking, but from different sites, different growing seasons, and different blending choices. You owe it to yourself to get at least one of each of these:

  • 2005 Rioja Vina Alberdi [$16.83-Grand Cru,  $17.63-Premier Cru] – the house’s basic rendition of Tempranillo from Rioja:  robust, still muscular, balancing a very Old World style with vibrant fruit and the youthful edges of American oak.  There’s an electricity to it, as it shows off its youth, without being nervy or anxious.  Just more energy than one would expect, crafted in an expert manner.  This wine takes me back to a long sliver of a bar in 1990s New York called ‘Enya’ where on Tuesday nights, traditional Spanish Flamenco dancers stomped and clapped amongst the tightly packed bohemian crowd, mesmerized by guitar and long skirts and boot heels — the whole affair coming to crescendo in one sudden unforgettable flourish of jet black hair and red carnations.

Dark red. Redcurrant, dried cherry and vanillin oak on the nose, with a smoky mineral quality in the background. Lively red fruit and rose pastille flavors are complemented by sweet vanilla bean and cola nuances. The oakiness fades away on the long finish, which is juicy, expansive and seamless. This wine’s lively acidity makes it refreshing and easy to drink now, but it really deserves patience.” 90 points Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar 

Member Price: [private_member] Grand Cru: $16.83 • Premier Cru: $17.63 [/private_member]
Retail Price: $22.99

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  • 2001 Rioja Vina Ardanza Reserva Especial – “Reserva Especial” and “Gran Reserva” are, like vintage Porto or Champagne, relatively rare designations in Rioja – even more so at the hands of La Rioja Alta. To wit: the 2001 Reserva Especial is only the third time, ever, that the house has issued this crowning label; the last time this wine was made was in 1973! Suffice it to say that you’re getting something very special here. Tempranillo and Garnacha aged in what is perceptibly slightly finer American oak.  Gorgeous fruit on the nose, tempered nicely by vanilla and baking spices, with a dark, brooding palate of berries, chocolates and peppered spice.  Eleven years after vintage, still young, still showing the tannic structure and bite that belies its long future development.  There is unreal depth after it has time to breath, showing off a brightness and brooding darkness at the same time. Full-bodied in the same way Ali was a heavyweight; a showoff, but never without the pedigree to back it all up. You really must drink some of this to understand what genius this estate (and region) is capable of.

“The current release is the 2001 Reserva Especial, a deeply colored wine with a lovely perfume of cinnamon, lavender, incense, balsamic, and black cherry. Medium-bodied, velvety-textured, and already complex, it will continue to evolve for another 5-10 years and offer a drinking window extending from 2016 to 2036. For those seeking immediate gratification, it has the virtue of being approachable now.” The Wine Advocate, 94 Points 

“Deep red. Sexy, intensely perfumed bouquet of ripe raspberry and cherry with suggestions of potpourri, sandalwood and vanilla. Shows more power and darker fruits on the palate, picking up a touch of singed plum that adds a serious quality to the sweet black raspberry and cherry flavors without costing the wine any of its vibrancy. The long, sweet finish hangs on with very good tenacity.” Stephen Tanzer, 92 Points

Member Price: [private_member] Grand Cru: $26.39 • Premier Cru: $27.59 [/private_member]
Retail Price: $35.99

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  • 1998 Rioja Gran Reserva 904 [39.59-Grand Cru,  $41.39-Premier Cru] – Simply having a wine with this kind of (graceful) age available to us 14 years later, I consider to be a privilege. Soft, subtle and with an understated elegance;  clearly at peak and showing a beautiful, dense tapestry of secondary and tertiary aromas and flavors melding seamlessly with acids and tannin.  Fascinatingly light-bodied and elegant, with a touch of raisiny sap, and brickish signs of pristine age.  The wine oozes old-world ruggedness, red rocks and hot sun and sparse underbrush, all background players to the gnarly old Tempranillo vines just effortlessly doing what they were meant to do.  I would imagine that this wine flows when a prized daughter of La Rioja Alta marries well.

“Beautiful cigar box, orange peel, clove and rose aromas draw you into this mature, supple red, which shows pronounced acidity and dried citrus, tobacco and spice flavors. A bit lean, a reflection of the vintage, but a lovely example of the traditional style. Drink now.” Wine Spectator, 90 Points

Member Price: [private_member] Grand Cru: $39.59 • Premier Cru: $41.39 [/private_member]
Retail Price: $48.50