Kathy’s Pick: 2017 Pascal Jolivet Sancere Rosé, $22.00

One of my favorite rosés year after year and the 2017 vintage does not disappoint. One hundred percent Pinot Noir from France’s Loire Valley, it is pale salmon pink in color with a subtle nose of fresh berries. On the palate the wine is delicate and elegant with layers of herb, strawberry and a clean, crisp finish. The Jolivet family has been in the wine business since 1926, but it was another 60 years before a good friend of Pascal (then in Champagne sales) convinced him to set up his own wine brand under his own name. Pascal soon established himself as a talented winemaker, opting for a natural style using indigenous yeast. He built a winery in the Champanois style with which he was so familiar. Today, he owns some 340 acres of vineyard farmed organically using biodynamic techniques.

“Crafting a wine is a great outlet to become creative, a kind of art that asks us to listen to mother nature to better perceive and understand her messages. Magic happens while grapes are transformed into juice, then into wine and gives back to the terroir its nobility.” –Pascal Jolivet
 

David’s Pick: 2015 Etienne Courtois Quartz VDP Sologne, $30.00

The first thing I like about this wine is the low alcohol content (11.1 percent abv). The second thing I like is the light and lovely aromas of floral rose petal and orange blossom with a hint of spice. The third thing is the bright palate with its lively citrus and apple flavors, along with some hazelnut and saline touches of mineral. That it is also a “natural” wine will peak the interest of some. That it is such a well-made, impeccably balanced natural wine impresses me more. The wine is 100 percent Sauvignon Blanc, farmed biodynamically by father and son Claude and Etienne Coutois (though they do not consider themselves biodynamic growers).

No chemicals ever come into the vineyard, the grapes are hand harvested and fermented by indigenous yeasts—this is natural winemaking at its best where the purity of the grape and the terroir shine through unencumbered by additives or technological manipulation. A truly outstanding white wine.

Genny’s Pick: 2014 Kontos Cellars Merlot, $37.00

Wow. This Merlot from Washington is delicious! I usually gravitate towards the big bold Tempranillos and Cabs, however from the first taste, the Kontos had me. Fresh red plums, bing cherries, raspberries, red currant, licorice, dark chocolate, vanilla and toasted cedar.  

Very easy drinking for a decent bodied Merlot. Kontos is a small production winery (2800 cases) that primarily focuses on ultra premium Bordeaux varieties grown in the Walla Walla Valley. A dragonfly graces their label, which for the family is a symbol of change and a representation of life’s journey. Apparently, from the moment they began thinking about using the dragonfly as the winery’s predominant image, they were inundated with them. Dragonflies would be in the barrel room while they were topping off wine. They would find them in the middle of wheat harvest, 10 miles away from any reliable water source. Dragonflies seemed to come out of nowhere, wherever it was that they were, and so inevitably found their way onto the Kontos label. Great story; great wine.
 

Bob’s Pick: 2013 La Grange Des Combes Saint-Chinian-Roquebrun Rouge, $20.00

This wine, from Saint-Chinian-Roquebrun, a sub-region of the Languedoc in southern France, is, as is the want there, a blend of Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvedre.  Recently we have been getting in a number of these SGM blends from a bit further north, from the hills of the Rhône River that are either Chateaunuef du Pape wanna-bes (big and briary and leathery) or light and juicy (Pinot Noirish). This wine, however, is true to its more southern designate. It is muscular without being pumped up, and delicate enough to flash with class—kind of like a jazz dancer. A great balanced wine, it shows blackberry, dark cherry and roasted plum notes with a mid-palate complement of fresh turned garden, peppercorn and tarragon. Perfect with red or white meat off the summer grill. Oh yeah, one of those glossy wine magazines (I think it was Rhine Spectator?) rated it at 91 points.  Not bad, but I give it 93. 

Bruce’s Pick: 2014 Mongeard-Mugneret Bourgogne Hautes Côtes de Nuits, “Les Dames Huguettes,” $26.00

The more 2014 red Burgs that I taste, the more I am impressed by this somewhat under-the-radar vintage. While 2015 got all the hype, its predecessor is certainly not a vintage to overlook. It’s all about elegance (as opposed to power), with 2014 displaying nuance, purity and transparency. 

Wines accessible in their youth, but with the balance to insure good mid-term ageability. This Mongeard-Mugneret Bourgogne from a five acre parcel (“Les Dames Hugettes”), above the main villages of the Côte, is a very approachable example that shows hints of the best facets of the vintage. It is a medium-bodied wine with a balanced softness that caresses the palate. I hate the generic term “smooth,” but that accurately describes the impression of this wine. We have carried the wines from this producer for nearly two decades, and if this near entry level example is any evidence of his success in 2014, the entire range of Mongeard-Mugneret is well worth seeking out. 

Barry’s Pick: De Stefani Col Fondo Rosé, $20.00

Located between the Alps and the Adriatic Sea, the vineyards for this 100 percent Raboso rosé (a red variety native to the area) are farmed with organic and Biodynamic principles, and the wine never has sulfur added during vinification. The Col Fondo in the name refers to a winemaking style where a still wine is bottled before fermentation ends, trapping the CO2 that is a by-product of fermentation in the bottle.

This process produces a wine that Italians refer to as Frizzante, not as much bubbles as the Champagne Method, but still enough to put a smile on your face. This technique also produces a drier style than the Proseccos that are also from this part of the Veneto. Because there is no disgorgement, there is a light deposit of sediment in the bottle (Col Fondo translates to “on the yeasts”). It is up to you how to handle this. I like mine cloudy so I gently spin it around a little before drinking. If this is not your style, just don’t shake it up, and it will pour clear. I also recommend letting the first glass hang out for a minute or two to let the reductive notes blow off.

The wine has a pretty peach color and is very soft and pleasant on both the nose and the palate with flavors of white flowers, white peach, Meyer lemon and toasty notes from the yeast. The versatility of this wine is mind-boggling. It works great as an aperitif, with almost any food imaginable or for just toasting. Cheers!
 

Barry’s Pick: 2013 Sainte Croix Magneric, $23.00

Made from 48 percent old vine Carignan, 32 percent old vine Grenache and 20 percent Syrah, all hailing from the higher elevations of Corbieres, this wine is very expressive and unique to its terroir. The vines have been certified organic since 2008, and the utmost care is taken to preserve the character bestowed on the grapes from the varying soil compositions found in the vineyard. The grapes are hand harvested in 40 kilogram containers to avoid crushing, and only the yeasts found on the skins are used for fermentation. The finished product has a dark red color bordering on purple. It is very aromatic with mineral, herb, plum and a pungent grapiness that I find very attractive and enticing. On the palate, it is medium bodied with great balance of fruit and acid. The wine comes across juicy with brambly notes of spice, some tangy plum and some meat and an earthiness to top it all off. There is unfortunately only a few bottles to go around, so get this one soon before it disappears!

Bob’s Pick: 2015 Joseph Drouhin, Macon-Village, $15.99

First off, this wine is Chardonnay. Most of Europe recognizes wine by the region of origin (rather than by grape variety) and the primary white wine grape of the Macon in Burgundy is Chardonnay. (Sometimes it is just that simple!) Second, Chardonnay is one of the most malleable grapes made into wine. What that means is that whatever you do to it as a winemaker, whatever additions or manipulations you put it through, they will have a profound effect on the wine. This is why, when Chardonnay is fermented and/or aged in new French oak barrels, you’ll recognize that woody, spicy, sweet note that wasn’t part of the grape to begin with. This Chardonnay from Joseph Drouhin doesn’t get the California over-oaked treatment. Fermented in stainless steel and glass lined cement tanks, then aged in stainless steel, the wine presents that wonderful quality of Chardonnay, the ability to be both crisp and round at the same time. The delicate lemon acidity up front that softens to green apple and white flowers, doesn’t overpower the wine’s delicate limestone minerality. This is a wonderful, and wonderfully affordable example of what Chardonnay, under minimal manipulation, tastes like. Great with cheeses, seafood, even tomato based seafood pastas. Plus, it makes a great patio cocktail.