Cellar Notes Spring 2020
Cellar notes Spring 2020
This went to press just before COVID-19 brought us all into our homes to stop the spread. We trust you are healthy, together we will defeat this virus.
Spring has officially sprung. Flowers and trees are budding out, frogs and birds are starting to sing, wineries are starting to prune like gang busters and release season is upon us. This year, we have the added drama of the tariffs on imports from Europe. It appears that for now, the catastrophic 100% tariff of doom on all food and wine coming from the EU is on hold, but we are still dealing with the 25% levied on most French, Spanish and German wines last October. All of this is having the trickle down economic effect on the vast majority of daily drinker priced wines from these countries coming in during the spring and summer of this year. The greatest impact which people will see right away is in rose wines. Many importers either did not order them, waited until after the tariff war to see what shook out, or only ordered what the brave folks would commit to in advance. Expect fewer imported pink wines, for the most part arriving later and more expensive that last year. The Euro has taken a beating as of late, but not enough to offset these increases. Needless to say, we are looking hard at rose from places like South America, New Zealand, South Africa and closer to home to take up the slack.
It looks like we have made it through winter mostly unscathed. There was some frost damage in Walla Walla early in the season, and some torrential rains, but I am not hearing any horror stories from the vineyards. We have few more weeks of finger crossing to get through, so bearing some freak storm in the near future, we should have the makings for a good vintage. All of that rain filled most of the coffers and the snow pack is looking good, so it looks like no water issues this year…so far.
There is lots of talk in the news about a ‘glut’ of wine in California. Most of this is true, but not really related to the wines most of you who read this are buying on a regular basis. So no, don’t expect wine prices to drop across the board on wines from our southern neighbors. Yes, we may see some brands go on sale, which normally don’t and yes, there may be some closeouts from folks moving to more current vintages. Most important in this discussion is to remind folks to get on our email list. When these deals happen, this is how we let folks know about them. Often these specials will be gone within hours (or minutes in some cases), and we do three emails per week. If you are not on the list, do so now.
Inside this edition of the newsletter, you will see the usual values you come to expect, plus the announcement for the latest wines in the ded.reckoning program. We have the return of the ‘Crab Wine’, plus the first ever southern Rhone style blend we have ever done in the ded.reckoning program. There is still time to join either the ‘club ded’ wine club, which gets you the first notice on these wines and guarantees you the absolute best price, or the ‘book of the ded’ mailing list, which also gives you some advance notice of the upcoming wines (though not as early as ‘club ded’), and a pre-release price offer as well (again, not quite as good as ‘club ded’).
Happy spring! Bring on the flowers and the return of the attack swallows on my front porch.
Doug, Will, Laura, Sandy, Dena, Alicia and Theodore (repatriated from Bulgaria)
ded.reckoning Columbia Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2019 $14.99
The annual return of the ‘crab wine’, made by Sean Boyd of Sightglass Cellars is about to arrive. This wine never makes it through the summer months before selling out, so please plan accordingly. As much as we wanted to, we just couldn’t stretch the production up for 2019. Maybe next year. This year, it is 100% Artz Vineyard from Red Mountain, and it is again done with 100% stainless steel aging. Sean’s trademark bright acidity with a citrus and green apple profile, and a long, lemon zest laden finish. Designed for spring and summer sipping and the glorious seafood of this region, it is perfect with our local shellfish and crab. The pre-orders and pre- release sales to club members took a large portion of the production, and with only 112 cases produced, this will not hang around long.
ded.reckoning No. 16 ‘Chateauneuf du Lola’ Olson Vineyard 2016 $34.99
This is the first ever Southern Rhone style wine in the ded.reckoning program and oh what a wine it is. 75% Grenache, 20% Syrah and 5% Cinsault, all from the Olson vineyard in Yakima. Morgan Lee made this wine utilizing the traditional, old world method of wild yeast fermentation. A dead ringer for a Chateauneuf du Pape, it has the grilled and smoked meat component of southern France, combined with the gorgeous raspberry, cherry and cassis notes of Washington, with a dash of cracked black pepper and hints of lavender, dried rose buds and rosemary. Stunning wine and extremely limited. Morgan is one of the hottest winemakers in the state, and still one of the least well known. We have yet to taste a wine from him which we didn’t buy. I see a future collectable here. Only 80 cases produced.
Fattoria di Basciano Chianti Rufina 2017 was $17.99, now $12.99
Chianti is one of the most famous wines in the world for good reason. It is easy to pair with foods, is pretty much a crowd pleaser in terms of style, and it sounds so darn Italian when you say it. This is a scrumptious version from the appellation of Chianti Rufina, which we got a screaming deal on.
You may remember the 2016 vintage of this wine from last fall. It scored a ‘91’ from the Wine Spectator and we kind of went crazy on it with an email, until it was sold out. Well, this is the 2017 vintage and we all like this one even better. No press on this one yet, but this is what the review of the 2016 said. I could pretty much cut and paste it for what the 2017 tastes like, except this vintage has a bit more of a polished feel to it:
“A vibrant core of black cherry, black currant, cedar and tobacco flavors is framed by refined, if dusty, tannins in this red. In need of a bit of polishing in the bottle. Shows fine length. Drink now through 2025.”
This is a bit more expensive than we normally run in the newsletter, but unfortunately, this is the new reality. We got a deal on this wine, to bring the cost way down, and there is no new tariff on Italian wines, but you will see French prices creeping up in the coming months as well. The tariffs from last fall have arrived.
Castano Monastrell ‘Yecla’ 2018 was $11.99, now $8.99
Yecla is one of the three DOs in Murcia that makes a range of wines based on the Monastrell (Mouredre) grape from rosé to rich and powerful reds through to fortified dessert wines. Castaño makes all these types of wines but their calling card is their vibrant and juicy version of the variety simply called ‘Monastrell’. wine Made from younger vines on the property ranging in age from 30–60 years old. Here the soils are high in limestone and the roughly 2500 foot elevation ensures plenty of freshness in the finished wines. The Monastrell is all harvested by hand, fermented with 25-30% whole clusters in stainless steel tanks with a short maceration and aged in concrete for 4-6 months before bottling. A bit darker and more brooding than previous vintages, but still brimming with acid, making for a very lively drink. It is really interesting to see the vastly different takes that the grapes of the southern Rhone take on in different climates. Compare this to the and new ded.reckoning for a fascinating comparison tasting. All grapes which do spectacularly well in France, Spain and Washington, but just express themselves very differently in each climate.
MAN Family Wines Ou Kalant Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 $8.99
In case you have not yet figured it out, I am a devout sucker for the wines of South Africa. MAN is one of those brands which keeps popping up time and time again in the shop and Tyrrel Myburgh has even been here for tastings before. The name is not some sexist rant, but rather the initials of the first names of the wives of the principals. When I visited the winery in 2013, I was struck not only by the beauty of the surroundings, but also by how damn nice everyone was. Add in delicious wines at fantastic pricing and it is easy to see why we keep coming back to them. We were recently tasting Cabernet at the daily drinker price point for the store and this was one of about a dozen considered. When tasted against the other wines from California, Chile, Argentina and even others from South Africa, this one sailed to the front of the pack. Chocolate, coffee, dark berry fruit and firm tannin. This wine is way more complex than the price would indicate. It is a bargain and a half.
Bernier Chardonnay ‘Loire Valley’ 2018 regular price, $14.99, now $10.99
The Loire Valley is arguably home to the finest Sauvignon Blancs in the world, but that is not the only thing grown there. Pinot Noir and Cab Franc come to mind, but don’t forget Chardonnay. The Couillard family bought the old Chateau de la Ragotiere in 1978 and makes a variety of wines in the Loire, the most popular of which is this wine. As geographically, the Loire is just a hop, skip and a jump from Chablis, this also seemed like a good spot for Chardonnay, so they planted 42 acres in 1987. The rest, they say, is history. This has the feel of a cross between a Chardonnay from Macon, crossed with a Petit Chablis. Very bright and crisp, with notes of lime zest, lemon pie, Bartlett pears, and just a whiff of chalk or limestone, not unlike the smell when a sun dried oyster shell is broken. Even at the original price, we sell the heck out of this. Luckily, this wine hit these shores before the tariffs hit. At our newsletter price, this is a total no-brainer. We likely will not see this price again for some time, if ever again. Grab it now, while you can.