Wednesday, July 22, 2009

At any given moment, a wine professional can have a new favorite appear before them. We get to taste the juice of the world - good, bad and indifferent and every once in a while it’s good to pause and take stock of what speaks to you and compile it into a list - sort of an ultimate wine list that functions as a snapshot of your palate on a given day. As always, there are wines that you love for a time and they fall out of favor for whatever reason - vintage changes, price changes or a finer example comes to the fore. Therefore the Hot 100, is an ever changing thing and a fine exercise to keep your wine mind vigorous.

To keep things rational, there are no wines above the $50 mark and plenty of weight is given to value for your dollar. I have personally tasted, recommended and sold every one of these selections.

It begins with a salvo of twelve…

GF’s perfect case of reds – fifteen dollars or less

2005 Bodegas Benegas Don Tiburcio $14.99 – This Argie blend utilizing all five Bordeaux varietals utterly blew away the field in our under $15 blind tasteoff, besting 180 wines. No wine has ever finished in first by such a large margin. I gave it a monster score in the blind and sales have skyrocketed with no signs of abatement. Another indication of the awakening Argentine giant!!!

2006 Villa Malacari Rosso Conero $14.99 – Who knew Montepulciano could taste like this? This one hails from sandy limestone vineyards in Marche and has oodles of intensity and character. The flavor profile has dark cherries, spice, herbs, licorice and underbrush.

2007 Nicodemi Montepulciano d’Abruzzo $14.99 – Who knew Montepulciano d’Abruzzo could taste like this. Apparently Teremo is THE emerging sub-region for Monty of the highest quality and this bottling is the showcase. Darkly elegant, spicy and textural wine with a juniper infused blueberry quality that really pops upon your sensibilities. Clearly a producer to watch in the near future.

2006 Torre Quarto Don Marcello Rosso Puglia $12.99 – While most Puglian wines are more “rustic” than this bottling, the Don Marcello delivers what tastes to me like a far more expensive wine. The indigenous Uva di Troia is the base plus Sangiovese, Montepulciano, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot - a very clever and unique blend. The vineyards are from around Cerignola (the land of my favorite olives).

2005 O’Leary Walker Blue Cutting Road Cabernet Merlot $14.99 – Another wine that won convincingly in one of our blind tasteoffs, “BCR” just might be my favorite Aussie wine pound for pound and dollar for dollar. Flavors of blueberry, spice and cedar from maturation in French oak - mouthfilling stuff with perfect acidity and tannic balance… continues to sell at a frightening clip so I am NOT alone!!!

2004 Rondan Rioja Crianza $13.99 – The 2001 was a living legend at Suburban and the supply was strong for years. Finally the vintage depleted and was followed by the equally fine 2004. Good Rioja is subtly persistent and midweight by definition and Rondan’s 2004 Crianza is the best we’ve ever found in this pricepoint.

2007 El Castro de Valtuille Bierzo Mencia Joven $14.99 – If you had said Mencia or Bierzo to a wine pro ten years ago you would have been met with a blank stare. This region has emerged quickly and is supplying us with beautiful old vine Mencia and its balanced and spicy dark fruited wines that evoke a hypothetical flavor blend between Burgundy and Chinon or Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc. This example from Raul Perez Castro Ventosa is shockingly delicious and complete.

2007 Clos La Coutale Cahors $13.99 – This Kermit Lynch workhorse is arguably the best known, and most widely distributed, Cahors. It has always been good stuff but the 2007 is THE GOODS! A blend of 80% Malbec and 20% Merlot, the 2007 Coutale is deep in color and has ripe and silky tannins and a 30 second plus finish.

2005 Chateau La Baume Costieres de Nimes $12.99 – The Andreoletti’s make only one wine and they make quite a lot of it. From their estate and vineyards that are littered with ancient statuary and unearthed fountains, they assemble a spicy midweight and perfectly balanced red that incorporates Carignan, Syrah and Grenache. This is a super versatile red that worked with all the divergent foods at a luncheon at their tasting room.

2007 Les Hauts du Colombier Vacqueyras Cuvee Centenaire $14.99 - The 2006 was a prime mover and with the faerie dust of the 2007 Rhone magic upon it, this Vacqueyras has gone to the next level. At any speed, 15 bucks is a silly price for Vacqueyras. Rich earthy and spicy and Grenache driven, this will easily trump most CDRs in the pricepoint.

2008 Domaine de La Patience Merlot Vin de Pay du Gard $13.99 - Who says Merlot is passé and lackluster? A rich and complex but not oaky at all Merlot from the deep South of France. Organic and Bio-dynamic wine that has wonderful flavors of blueberry, plum, licorice and spice and some splendid earth below it all… a revelatory bottle to say the least.

NV Petit Crau Vin de Table Francois $11.99 – From Rhone negoce Patrick Lesec, the non-vintage Petit Crau is a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre sourced mostly from the 2007 vintage (about 20% of the juice is from 2006). Delicious and satisfying midweek Pizza wine that is hard to put down.

- George Feaver, Wine Director

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