Gerard Raphet, based in the village of Morey Saint Denis in the heart of Burgundy, has been a staff and customer favorite for many years. He is said to be a farmer first, but he happens to farm some very well-located plots in some of Burgundy’s greatest Grand Cru vineyards. He is a man of few words and he doesn’t really care what wine writers and wine critics have to say. He only cares about making his wines in a style that he likes to drink. The good news, it’s a style we like to drink too. His entry level Bourgogne shows his heart and passion every bit as much as his lofty Grand Crus. It’s a wine that we buy and sell in quantity every year, but this year (2015) is special. It is a fabulous year for red Burgundy and this is the best rendition of this wine that I have ever tasted. Raphet’s wines are always “pretty” but this is also more serious: crystalline red berry fruit on the hauntingly pure palate, but with a subtle sense of the soil. This could be nothing other than Burgundy. I’ve got my half case, so don’t hesitate. This vintage will disappear fast!
Oregon Chardonnay is a wine category that I feel has been flying under the radar for far too long. I have had a number of really good examples of these wines over the last few years, including last summer when I attended Oregon Pinot Camp. The winemaker for Haden Fig, Erin Nuccio, is also the winemaker for one of my favorite Oregon producers, Evesham Wood. His 2015 Willamette Valley Chardonnay is a serious wine for $20.00. Hailing from vineyards that are dry farmed, and fermented and aged in 100% French oak (only 10% new), this wine has a rich, nutty nose reminiscent of caramel Granny Smith apples. The palate is sharper and leaner than the nose suggests, consisting of mineral and citrus notes as well. Only 250 cases produced so get some!
While I’m drinking mostly rosés and whites during the summer, sometimes you just have to have a red wine. A juicy burger or a flat iron steak fresh off the Barbie—gotta have red, but a big Cab, Zin or Syrah is out of the question. For a summer red, you need something fresh and fruit forward, low in alcohol and with the light tannins that allow it to be served with a chill. This Post Flirtation Red fits all three criteria. Crafted by talented California natural winemaker Martha Stoumen, it’s a lively blend of 65 percent Carignan and 35 Zinfandel. The intense aromas spotlight creamy berry and spicy cherry fruit. The flavors are silky smooth offering sweet rhubarb and raspberry, with very soft tannins that add a little grip to the finish. At a modest 11.3 percent alcohol, this is a quaffable choice for your summer barbecue.
So, I have been writing up a “Rosé Dictionary” which is composed of details regarding all of the rosés we carry—varietal composition, region, alcohol content, tasting notes, etc. Considering this, I was feeling a bit “roséd-out;” however, I came across this beauty from Les Baux de Provence and it rises above all the others! First of all, consider what goes into it: Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinsault, Mourvedre, & Syrah. I expected it to be a complex rosé and I was right. Its fragrance was like raspberries and oranges at the same time. The flavor was silky and elegant in style: raspberry and tangerine flavors that sparkle with minerality, and then a lingering lavender finish. I can imagine drinking it alongside a seafood stew or an olive and garlic tapenade. Can you believe all that from a rosé? Get some; I certainly did!
Divit and I discovered this wine at the North Berkeley Import tasting in San Francisco a few months back. Immediately upon tasting, we both knew we had found a wine that we had to have in the shop. This was my first experience with this particular appellation and I was very impressed. Maranges is the furthest south of the Côte de Beaune appellations in the Bourgogne region of France. The reds are comprised of Pinot Noir. Though rare, up to 15 percent of Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc or Pinot Gris can be used as accessory grapes. 2015 is said to be a fantastic red vintage in Burgundy, and from my experiences thus far I greatly concur. After taking a bottle home and having it with my dinner (which included fresh Morel mushrooms I picked with Divit and Bill Elbring of North Berkeley Imports) I realized it was even better than I originally thought, making it a truly outstanding value. Brothers Guy and Jean-Yves Sarrazin (the family’s roots in the region reach back as far as the 1700s) avoid the use of herbicides and pesticides, a technique locally referred to as “lutte raisonee,” and hand harvest the grapes, fermenting them on indigenous yeasts in temp controlled cement tanks before ageing them in new and used oak barrels. The result is a wine with beautiful ruby red color and flavors and aromas of cherry, violet, pomegranate and spice. The wine is svelte and tart with well-balanced fruit and acidity—it was extremely hard to keep my hands off the bottle. The best-valued red Burgundy from 2015 I’ve tried yet, I highly recommend it to anyone who likes wine. Cheers!
A unique mix of red and white grapes (50/50 Hondarribi Beltza and Hondarribi Zuri) from Spain’s Basque country, it’s the perfect antidote against the summer heat. Pours a faint salmon pink with just the barest hint of miniscule bubbles. The nose is rather reserved, offering soft citrus and rhubarb. A bit closed on the palate at first as well, but as it opens up, you get tart strawberry and mandarin orange with crisp citrus on the finish. The perfect patio sipper as well a great food wine. Think shellfish, Asian cuisine, fish tacos—you get the idea.
I’ll start by saying this is a fun and interesting wine for summer. It’s meant to be chilled just a few degrees below cellar temperature and drunk young, like right now. The wine is produced by Martha Stoumen, and is comprised of 65 percent Carignan from Mendocino County and 35 percent Zinfandel from Contra Costa County. The grapes are harvested earlier than normal, so the wine is relatively low in alcohol—only 11.3 percent. Stainless steel aging for six months helps to keep the acidity high and the fruit flavors very fresh. The nose shows bright raspberry, a touch of orange zest, with a nice floral lift. In the mouth this wine is very vibrant and again shows raspberry, a bit of cherry, baking spices and a bit of pepper. I know that it’s rosé season, but if you are looking for something with a bit more weight, but still drinkable on a summer evening, give this one a try. You won’t be disappointed!
I did not have a definite pick in mind for June, but this time, the wine picked me. I was moving a large cart packed full of cases of wine, and I accidentally cut a corner too close, barely tapped a stack of wine, and one single bottle of Monte Oton Garnacha fell to the hard concrete floor and cracked-open. The result was an immediate rush of aromas flooding the shop—red fruits, and a little spice. I remembered that this particular wine had a history of selling quite well and I’d always wondered what the mystique was surrounding its popularity. The answer to this question was forming a growing, garnet-colored puddle in the middle of the shop’s floor. I tasted this wine officially the next day and immediately vowed to make it my June write-up! It’s $9.99 price is a modest one for such an excellent and immediately drinkable wine. Garnacha grapes are thin-skinned, making the resulting wine low in tannins and acidity. The result is a lovely, fruit-forward table wine that reminds us why some of the more famous Rhône-style Garnacha (Grenache) based wines such as Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Lirac are so popular.