A white and a red... but more than that... THE red... and THE white... read on... you'll see...
Milbrandt Cabernet Sauvignon Traditions 2009 – Reg. $15.99 - deal to follow – 90 pts Wine Spectator – I haven’t been this excited about a Cabernet sub $20 in a while… not since the Louis Martini Napa Cabernet back in January of 2011.
Yes, this is THAT good.
Truth is, I’ve been looking ever since then for the NEXT big thing in Cab. And I’ve offered some seriously super wines at great deals. But this one stands out from the pack. I popped it from my stash of samples last week and was immediately impressed. I couldn’t remember the pricing, but thought it was around $25 reg. / maybe $20 on sale.
Then I found the sheet with the pricing on it…
Uh… uh… gulp. Yee… wait for it… HAW!
So what’s the big deal? Why so special?
It all starts in the vineyards… brothers Butch and Jerry Milbrandt moved to eastern Washington with their parents back in 1954 and have been working the land ever since. In 1997, the brothers added grapes to their repertoire, hoping to take advantage of the burgeoning demand for Washington State wines. Did they ever! Ten years later, after witnessing the impressive scores going to wineries that had been purchasing their grapes, they decided to join in and start their own winery.
I love this quote from Butch… “It was the first time in our agricultural lives we had the ability to control the end use of our farm products. When you can taste and enjoy the fruit that you worked so hard to grow, well, that’s what good farming is all about."
“Okay… so incredible juice, cool background story, good press, price, etc… what about the wine, Todd?!?”
Sorry… like I said, I’m pretty over-the-moon excited about this stuff…
77% Cabernet Sauvignon , 15% Merlot, 6% Malbec, 2% Petit Verdot. A pretty classic Bordeaux blend – with the blenders adding added dimension and balancing acidity to the King Cab…
What I find particularly compelling is the way in which the wine mimics Bordeaux in some of its underpinnings…not just the fruit, but the way the wine tastes. There’s more than simply fruit going on here. Of course, the fruit is pretty killer – loaded with black currants, cherries and plums, along with a decadent hint of dark chocolate. But there’s more going on. A la Bordeaux, there are hints of wild herbs, tobacco, mint and eucalyptus. Just hints, mind you, because that fruit keeps charging ahead, but those hints of earth and wildness add a depth and complexity rarely seen at this price point, rarer still by a Cabernet Sauvignon. Finish? Smooth… with just enough oomph to keep the flavors lingering until your patience gives way and you dive in for another sip (or gulp…).
Food thoughts? Steak, burgers, lamb are naturals. The trick is to get a little creative folks.. stuff the burgers with some blue cheese... slather the lamb with a balsamic reduction... load up the steak with cracked peppercorns - both green and black... But the tannins are so smooth and the fruit so prevalent on this wine that you can also "drop down" to pork or chicken, so long as you add some sturdier elements, like olives, tapenade, blue cheese, etc.
How long will it last? If you mean our supply… I dunno… the weekend, maybe? Into next week? I’ve asked for clarification, but we’ve been given more than one bad answer lately…
In terms of aging… I think this is best drunk over the next 2-3 years… so load up!
Lawson’s Dry Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2011 (New Zealand) –reg. $17.99 - The “other” Sauvignon… did you know Sauvignon Blanc is actually one of the parents of the sturdy Cabernet Sauvignon? That’s your wine-geek trivia for the week, folks…
Anyway, this time of year, I think a little straightforward New Zealand Sauv Blanc is in order. Still immensely popular, Kiwi SB is better than ever! Trust us, we’ve blind tasted over 25 examples twice in the past year and the Lawson’s has finished tops or tied both times! Last year, you may recall, it was featured in our white wine Case of the Year. One of the region’s pioneers, it’s nice to see the old-timer is still clicking on all cylinders, and rise above the pack with their 2011 offering.
What sets this wine apart is the depth and array of flavors that arise from the blending of seven different vineyards, and three times as many harvest passes! Yep, the grapes are harvested at three different intervals in each vineyard – early to capture bright acidity and zingy citrus fruit, again to develop round melon notes, and later still to pick up exotic tropical notes. It’s hard work, but worth it!
Exotic, tropical notes of passionfruit and lemongrass blend seamlessly with fleshy mango and melon flavors, all underscored by zingy lemon and lime darts. More rich and fleshy than the competition, the creamy texture makes this a joy for porch quaffing, but more than capable of pairing with a wide range of foods. Let goat cheese and tomatoes, fresh from the market, make the base for your pairing… on their own, tossed with bread, oil and a little vinegar, or as a topping for grilled fish… just a thought…
This vivid, intense white delivers bright, refreshing flavors of peach, tangerine and ruby grapefruit, with a fleshy texture. Spice notes mark the tangy finish.
SO, grab a case of Cab… or 6 and 6… or 8 and 4… or 9 and 3… whatever you want and you’ll pay a paltry $12.63 for the Cabernet and $14.21 for the Sauvignon Blanc. (Oh, by the by… that beats the best price in the country for the Sauvignon Blanc online… and only off by a handful of coins on the Cab... I love excercising my muscles so early in the 'morn!)
Grab six mixed and I’ll knock 15% off. If you have a Club Bag, we’ll make it 20%...
Our recent direct container from Italian importer Dalla Terra was a smashing success, with a couple of hundred cases moving in and out of the store, and made a lot of folks happy with the best prices in the country on most of the wines.
We’ve got this one last little goodie to offer out, which I ordered back in February without sampling, but based on a little Wine Guy intuition and educated guesswork. From a superstar Brunello producer, a great vintage in Tuscany, and a review of a barrel sample that referring to its “gorgeous juiciness and richness,” this sure sounded like a winner.
We cracked a bottle this past weekend to confirm, and based off the response from Brent and Mike B., maybe I should have ordered more! This fits the profile I am always on the hunt for: unmistakably Tuscan yet with a ripeness of fruit and structure to make a Cab-lover happy.
In stock now, please reply to order.
Casanova di Neri Rosso di Casanova di Neri 2009 - $15.98 – matches Best Price on wine-searcher.com – (88-90) pts Wine Advocate
Inky dark in color for Tuscan juice, with aromas of fresh black currants, cedar, graphite, and tobacco, I likely would have guessed they are blending in some Bordeaux varietals here. But instead it is 90% Sangiovese grown in the Montalcino zone, with 10% of the indigenous Colorino blended in, a traditional blending grape that adds color and a soft, juicy quality to balance with the Sangiovese.
The palate has gorgeous and generous fruit, more currant and black cherries and raspberries, and while opulent, shows more classically Tuscan in that it is only medium-plus in body, with dried savory notes, a distinct earthy quality, Italian herbs, and black tea rounding out the secondary flavors.
Casanova di Neri is known for their modern-style Brunello wines, made by renowned oenologist Carlo Ferrini, and they completed a cellar renovation in 2005, with a brand-new facility built into the hillside, fed by gravity and with all the latest technology. The result here is a clean, pure, rich yet fresh and elegant wine, which is more accessible than many similar wines from Montalcino.
This showed great promise right away, but really started hitting its stride after being opened for an hour. I paired it with a macaroni Bolognese, and think it would be equally great with some grilled Italian sausages.
[Michael] Getting hot out there, almost to the point where my glasses are fogging up going back and forth from the air-conditioned store and the sweltering parking lot. Stepping out this morning, I was elated to see our distributor pull in with the new vintage of a favorite crisp, clean, and crushable white. I’m dropping a bottle in the chiller to enjoy as soon as 7 o’clock rolls around…
Kirchmayr Gruner Veltliner Kamptal 2011 – $14.99 net –- In Stock Now
Want to talk about explosive aromatics? Here you go, absolutely bursting with floral peach blossoms, jasmine, anise, and honeysuckle – my notes read “Crazy Big Aromas” with all sorts of stars and plus signs around this wine – and ripe green apple, peach, and apricot fruit. Also concentrated lime zest and a chalky mineral component come through on the nose, expressing a complexity you usually have to pay a premium for in the top Gruner Veltiners.
This is “trocken,” or dry, even for Gruner, and altogether more serious than its humble price tag. Dried peach and apricot fruit come out on the palate, which is lush, creamy, and broad. This sees oak aging, but only large 1000L barrels, enough to add depth but not take away from the bright, beaming acidity and mineral component.
Wild, native yeasts and six months contact with the fine lees augment the rich, textural component to the wine. All the gorgeous aromatics, crisp acidity, citrus and orchard fruit, and breathtaking minerality we love in Austrian juice, fleshed out in a style that is just as fit for cool Autumn nights as casual afternoon sipping.
OK, just why is this so delicious for the money, you ask? With this vintage, Kirschmayr has managed to snag fruit from some of the absolute best vineyards in the Kamptal, like Heiligenstein, Lamm, and Stangl, and are putting it in this regular Kamptal label.
Huh? Yeah, not exactly household names around here, but think of it the same way we’ve managed to find declassified Chateauneuf in Cotes du Rhone bottlings, or wines like NoCo Pinot Noir that are sourced from the finest sites in Sonoma that sell for a song under a separate label.
Nowhere in Austria is the effect of terroir as pronounced as in Kamptal. Its vineyards are located on steep south-facing terraces with a healthy amount of loess in the soil and burning sunshine. That silty, sandstone-rich earthy, and exposition, make for wines with a singular combination of pronounced minerality and ripe, energetic fruit.
In stock now in Chapel Hill. Arriving Friday in Hillsborough.
Thirsty Thursday Tasting – Barolo Superstar Vajra – Chapel Hill store, Thursday May 31st, 2012. 5-7pm. Free. – Riesling, Baby Barolo, and Pinot Noir, all in one tasting, from one dearly-loved producer…talk about a sommelier’s dream come true! I met Giusseppe Vajra again on my return trip to Piemonte this month, and remain convinced as ever that they are truly an amazing family making perhaps the finest range of wines in the region. We always sell a ton of their Barolo, but they make many other wines, including small quantities of Riesling and Pinot Noir, rare for the region and truly incredible.
Partly a recap of my recent visit, partly a sneak preview of Summer of Riesling, this is a lineup that is near and dear to me, hope you can make it out to sample some super-cool juice!
All wines will be 15% off for the tasting:
Vajra Langhe Bianco (Riesling) 2009 – reg. $44.99 – 90 pts Wine Advocate
Vajra Langhe Rosso 2009 – reg. $14.99
Vajra Langhe Nebbiolo 2010 - reg. $25.99
Vajra Langhe Rosso PN Q497 2009 – reg. $28.99
Vajra Moscato 2010 – reg. $20.99 - 90 pts Int’l Wine Cellar
Fresh on the heels of our sell-out dinner, we have a special offer for everyone on the wines from Stephen Black – aka Father Christmas – winemaker for Small Gully. I love it when good reviews happen to good people. Over the years, we’ve been lucky enough to form relationships with a number of great winemakers. But Stephen Black holds a special place in our hearts. Many of you have met Stephen at Corks for Kids – he’s the lovely gentleman with the gray beard – “Father Christmas” he is often referred to.
Stephen was quite ill a year or so ago, and we were extremely concerned for him. Well, he’s bounced back and I am ecstatic to report we are receiving a new batch of some of our old favorites.
Normally, I would offer these out one at a time… but Stephen has been garnering even more press…the Wine Spectator apparently requested a label picture for the 2007 Formula Shiraz… which usually means a killer review to follow. Which means the wine will sell out fast!
We’re placing an order Friday that will likely be our one and only shot at the stuff… so fill out your cellar now and enjoy till the next vintage…
These will arrive at the end of next week. Please hit reply to order. Please specify which wines you want.
2007 Small Gully The Formula Robert’s Shiraz – Sale $13.59 net - no minimum order!
90 pts Wine Advocate
That’s right, 2007 is the new vintage! (We offered 2006 in March and it sold out in a month!!!) As always, I find the most compelling aspect of Stephen's wines to be the age... while most wineries are delivering us 2010 and even 2011, this puppy has four+ years of age on it! That has allowed for the intense fruit to soften and secondary notes to develop. Instead of simply a fistful of blackberry fruit, we've got a potpourri of flavors, including subtle nuances of spice, flowers, and wild herbs. Chicken, pork or veggies off the grill are still a great option, but you can easily step up to some steaks as well. My current fav is hanger steak, liberally sprinkled with salt and loads of fresh, cracked Tellicherry black pepper...Gulp…
“Deep garnet-brick colored, the 2007 The Formula Robert’s Shiraz gives mature notes of leather, tobacco and stewed tea over dried cranberries, fruit cake and coffee. Rich, densely packed and full-bodied in the mouth, the voluptuous fruit is well-balanced by crisp acid and rounded tannins, finishing long and spicy.”WA
2007 Concoction Grenache (49%) Shiraz (44%) Mourvedre (7%) – Sale $17.99 net
91 pts Wine Advocate
Personally, I find the GSM blends out of Australia to be particularly seductive… Grenache is just so completely hedonistic and marries with Shiraz so perfectly… “Well, uh... no duh, Todd… what do you think they’ve been doing in Chateauneuf du Pape, Gigondas, etc, and the rest of the Rhone and Southern France for the past thousand years or so?”
The added bottle age certainly has rounded out all the edges on this beauty, but the acidity is so wonderfully crisp the wine offers plenty of vim and vigor! Burger time... but not just your standard deal, please… get some ground bison… spice up the mix… coriander, cumin, fresh herbs, whatever tickles your fancy… grill over hardwood charcoal… hmm… a little cheese if you’re not watching your waistline… and, my new favorite, Sir Kensington’s Scooping Ketchup! Golly… I am feeling hungry… and thirsty…
“ Deep garnet-brick colored, the 2007 Mr Black’s Concoction GSM gives a wonderfully complex and mature nose of fruits of the forest compote, dried mulberries and Chinese dried plum over potpourri, baking spices, lavender and preserved mandarin peel. Full-bodied, rich and opulent in the mouth, it has lots of spice and dried berry flavor layers supported by crisp acid and silky tannins. The finish is long, with just a touch of heat coming through. Drinking beautifully now, it should keep to 2016+.”
NOTE: THE WINE BELOW IS A RE-OFFER OF THE SAME WINE WE SOLD IN FEBRUARY. SAME VINTAGE. SAME DELICIOUS WINE!!!
2008 Small Gully The Formula Cabernet Shiraz – Sale $13.59 net - no minimum order
91 pts Wine Advocate
Again, age has allowed for the intense fruit to soften and secondary notes to develop. Instead of simply a fistful of blackberry fruit, we've got a potpourri of flavors, including subtle nuances of spice, flowers, and wild herbs. There’s still plenty of oomph in there, thanks to the Cab, so I’m thinking steak… naturally. Of course, other red meats will work – venison, lamb – and braised dishes would be delish as well, like stew or short ribs. Gulp…
Oh… and just how good is this relative to the market? Of all the Australian reds from 2008, 2009 and 2010, there have only been five rated 91 points or higher that have sold for under $15! This is the only one still available! Like I said, I love it when good reviews happen to good people!
“Blended of 51% Cabernet Sauvignon and 49% Shiraz, the 2008 The Formula Cabernet Shiraz displays a deep garnet color with a slight hint of brick and notes of kirsch, potpourri, blueberry preserves and licorice, plus hints of dark chocolate and hazelnuts. Very concentrated and full-bodied in the mouth, it gives an abundance of ripe, spicy, nutty flavors nicely offset by lively acid and a medium level of grainy tannins, finishing long. Drink this one now to 2017.”
I start craving Sancerre once springtime starts to heat up, and we’ve been on the hunt lately to find some killer juice. We tasted eight new releases side-by-side last week, and I am happy to say we’ve found a winner, from local importer Thomas Meunier.
Not sure why so many Frenchies call Carrboro home, but if gets us sweet pricing on artisan juice, se la vie!
Arriving Friday, here’s my pick for Sancerre to kick off the season!
Gerard Fiou Sancerre 2010 - $21.99 net – Bold and pungent, this boasts extravagant aromas of guava and white peach, elderflower, chive, and limezest, as well as the classic flinty quality, coming from Sancerre’s unique Silex soil.
There’s a depth and power behind this one that made it stand out from the crowd, with a delightful combination of citrus and tropical fruits married to a strong mineral component. I discovered the yields are ridiculously low for Sauvignon Blanc, from 35+ year old vines, farmed organically, with aggressive green harvesting – cutting away fruit to concentrate the remaining – and leaf thinning, harvested and sorted by hand.
What all this means is they are maximizing the quality and potency of the fruit, making difficult and expensive choices where so many others might choose simply to go for quantity and let the name “Sancerre” on the label sell itself.
This certainly has a complexity I don’t often find in Sancerre at this price, with a prickling, refreshing, tingling acidity running underneath the bold fruits, complimented by a hint of creaminess, the result of lees-stirring for 6 months after being fermented in stainless steel.
Fiou’s vineyards are all planted in Sancerre’s silex soil, one of the three main types found in the region. Besides having a higher proportion of flint, which comes across on the nose - a trait I dearly love in Sancerre- the silex rocks also allow optimum maturity and ripeness, storing the daytime heat and redelivering it at night.
One trait I noticed in tasting through so many 2010’s is that they are displaying more classic mineral qualities and with a more racy structure, compared the more voluptuous ‘09’s. Here we combine a classic vintage’s elegance with the boldness of a small producer committed to using incomparable fruit to translate his special terroir.