How does the saying go, "one person's trash is another person's treasure"? A lot can be said for attending a wine distributor "close out" tasting. The thought of the word "close out" brings to mind images of a room filled with old bottles of dark yellow Sauvignon Blanc, four vintages back of Rose and the odd ball grape varietals that may have been in the "in" but quickly faded. It's like a wine yard sale that you have to meticulously comb through to find the gems hidden among the, well....for lack of better words yeah the junk. But even in "junk" there's unique gems worth rescuing from obscurity.
On one such distributor "close out" tasting we were able to find a lot less "junk" and much more wines that needed to be given another chance. Maybe we should title this "Rescue Wines" instead. Cue the Sarah McLauchlan music. So what exactly is a "close out" tasting? It's a chance for the distributor to clean house of wines that aren't moving fast enough, end of vintages, obscure varietals, last year's Rose, etc at substantial savings that we as retailers and restaurants pass on to the consumer. During this trip we were able to find more value oriented wines that were unique in their own way and represented great value. Without giving you the sales pitch of "this wine use to sell for $100, but now can be yours for only $10" yeah some of these wines sold in the vicinity of $25 to $30 somewhere out there and now they're at a steal for us to explore and continue our wine education and tasting experience without breaking the bank. We were able to scoop up some small lots that won't be around once the last bottle leaves the building.
First up from South Africa, The Curator White Blend by A.A. Badenhorst known for some phenomenal wines out of Swartland. Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay and Viognier all come together to form this white wine with beautiful body and fragrant minerality. Don't know why this wine was here because it was showing very well. Every varietal component comes through and showcases it's character.
Another great South African wine producer, Neil Ellis, not necessarily a unique wine, but simply a great everyday red. Shiraz gets a bad rap sometimes with memories of years ago of over extracted fruit bomb kangaroo wine. It's safe to go back into the Shiraz waters again. The Sincerely Shiraz is a call back to it's Rhone Syrah style heritage. A little fruit, hint of smoke, finessed oak all come together in one nice bottle of everyday red.
Now here's where it gets interesting. When was the last time you had a Grenache from Russian River Valley within Sonoma? Right, me too. Definitely not the earthy fruit of Gigondas or Chateauneuf, but a really a nice interpretation from California.
The Noble Tree Grenache was just sitting there. Maybe it's because we associate the Russian River with great Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays that we overlook the other varietals, but this varietal has some qualities worth exploring.
I've been on a Charbono/Bonarda kick lately. We introduced the Argentina version of this varietal in last month's Wine of the Month bag with good feedback. The Summers Charbono iteration in Napa specifically Calistoga. , again as with the Noble Tree above, how many growers are producing a 100% Charbono? Not too many to my knowledge and I say that because we are in CT. If you happen to be out in Cali wine country then you'll probably stumble across other smaller vineyards growing this varietal with as good of results as the Summers. So why is this being closed out? Read the above along with not enough recognition. Does that all equal a wine worthy of being disregarded? No, quite the contrary. Explore more Charnbono in it's many forms from all over the wine producing world especially where it originated from in Piedmont Italy and the Savoie in France,
Saving the best for last... The Fattoria Melini la Selvanella Chianti Classico Riserva 2007 is a great example of a wine that has entered the end of it's life cycle with grace and beauty. This is an opportunity to buy in on a wine that has age and is drinking good. It is not in it's prime. This is not a wine you're going to continue to age or wait for that special occasion. Today is that special occasion and this wine wants to show you what it has left which is quite elegant if you understand or want to understand the Sangiovese Grosso varietal along with the aging requirements associated with Chianti Classico Riserva. They are built for distance similar to Brunello and as they get on in years they transform into something else of appreciation. The La Selvanella vineyard, one of the best crus in the Classico area, consists of 123 acres planted entirely to Sangiovese Grosso within the commune of Radda, halfway between Panzano and Volpaia. There is not much of this left. I placed a call this morning to find out what maybe left and there was none except for what we own here. We tried this three times throughout the tasting with the same conclusion that this was properly stored and was showing phenomenal signs of proper aging. Those of you that took some home this weekend can attest to that. Drink and enjoy the work it took to make this wine and appreciate what the wine maker intended for this to become.