Selections for February 2017

We’re lucky to bring this to you

2014 VALL LLACH ‘Embruix’ – Priorat, Spain

This tends to receive 90 or so points from the more credible critics every year, and the same folks tend to list it as a “$27” wine.  As you can see by scrolling down, your membership numbers have enabled a deal to bring it to you for less.

Long a Wine Steward favorite, ‘Embruix’ is the epitome of Priorat for a lower-than-typical price.  Priorat got expensive about fifteen years ago as it burst onto the scene and immediately seduced the worldly wine buyer with its international styling.  Besides effective marketing, the lofty pricing is more validated by how desperately difficult it is to tend a grapevine in this region.  Priorat is but an hour-and-a-half’s drive from mild-climated, cosmopolitan Barcelona – and a half a world away in weather and topography.  Historically, only the poor would farm here in this extremely inconvenient, hot and steep-terrained place.  Everything in Priorat happens on an incline, including the scraggly old Grenache and Carignan plantings whose roots deeply traverse the cracks of infertile slate in search of a modicum of sustaining moisture.

The heat insures ripeness, expressed by Grenache with framboise and by Carignan with a deeper, chocolate earthiness.  The blue-grey slate known as ‘llicorella’ delivers a paradoxical ‘coolness’ to the scent and palate, and a very apparent mineral effect encouraging your visit to the grill for a lamb or pork project.  It is not unusual for ‘international’ varieties to be invited into Priorat, at least as minor supporting roles.  Such is the case with ‘Embruix’ (‘bewitching’ in Catalan):  42% Garnatxa (Grenache), 24% Carinyena (Carignan), 22% Merlot, and 12% Syrah. 

Together, this quartet sings red flowers, damp rocks, kirsch, and sweet earth to the nose.  Juicy red fruit plus the dissonance of unavoidable acids and tannins are the message for the mouth.  As we said before, you’ll want to grill some juicy form of protein to go with this wine.  Without that you may be in for a rather puckery experience.  With the meat, you’ll see how food and wine pairings are meant to make each better than it would be alone.

You’ll be seeing a lot of 2015 from us!

2015 DOMAINE NOTRE DAME des PALLIÈRES ‘l’Olivet’ – Sablet Cotes du Rhone Villages, France

More than just a good red wine, this first of the French ‘15’s is symbolic, emblematic, and prophetic.  Nearly all wines “French” will be more delicious than those from other recent vintages:  This little Rhone red is just the start of what’s sure to be a long and flavorful provision from TWS.

In 2012 my daughter and I spent three nights at a good hotel in Gigondas.  On one of those mornings I woke up, tied on my running shoes, and ran to Sablet and back.  Sure, I run the very occasional half marathon, but these two wine villages just east of Chateauneuf-du-Pape aren’t very far apart.  And yet, these three just-mentioned places are all represented in separate bottlings by Notre Dame and several other producers.  Such a maker might also head three miles west for grapes from Rasteau, and southeast to Vacqueyras for yet another village bottling.       

We say “Burgundy” parenthetically since some writers include Beaujolais in that region while others do not.  Well, I would:  Beaujolais is a southern extension of that place geographically and stylistically, and my approach to this wine includes a Pinot Noir-style glass and an anticipation of delicacy and graceful profundity.  ‘Sounds like “Burgundy” to me!!

I tasted this wine in October and immediately declared it a wine club wine, hoping we’d see it before Thansgiving so you’d appropriately enjoy it with your turkey dinner.  Shipments from France were delayed and it has only now arrived – just in time for your January rotisserie chicken or sausage dinner!

The Beaujolais sub-region of Burgundy (sorry, naysayers!) has a tiered wine quality system somewhat like the Rhone Valley to the south.  The basic product is “Beaujolais,” with “Beaujolais-Villages” denoting a theoretical quality uptick.  Then there’s the better stuffe, identified by neighborhood (Cru) names.  There are ten such Crus in Beaujolais and I will now try my hand at remembering them all without consulting Wikipedia:

Cotes du Brouilly, Brouilly, St Amour, Julienas, Fleurie, Chiroubles, Regnie, Morgon, Moulin-au-Vent . . . Damn!  - I’m forgetting one, so to Wikipedia I go . . . Ah yes, the rarely-seen Chénas!  Why all these names?  Because each one of these little neighborhoods has the ability to project a slightly different image of the Gamay grape, depending on soil and exposure to the sun and so on.  A Beaujolais geek (I aspire to be one but have a long way to go) would want to perceive these regionally-distinct images.  So what’s different about Chiroubles?  It’s the highest in elevation and possesses granitic soils (as do several others).

From what I’ve seen, Beaujolais is just as much about quality of vintage, and producer as it is about place, and that’s why we don’t presume.  We TASTE, and we really liked THIS:  I love the significant body of this selection.  You can feel the granite construction or revel in the cherry fragrance or forget about the diagnosis and pull out that roast chicken from the oven and get to work.