Summertime Wine from America and France

This week we will sample a variety of wine from America (California, Oregon and Washington State) and France (Loire Valley and Rhone Valley); two white, one rose and three red made from grape varieties including Riesling, Pinot Gris, Grolleau/Gamay blend (Rose), Pinot Noir, and two Grenache-based blends (California and Rhone Valley).

These wines are all artisanally made and not sold in chain grocery stores; a few are new, and the others are new vintages of some old favorites. The French wines are imported by Rosenthal Wine Merchant (who is probably my favorite importer and wine “guru”- other than Matt!). The Hotel Capstone will provide a bounty of delicious hors d’oeuvres to sample with the wine. See you this Thursday!


Anne Amie Vineyards– “Pinot reigns supreme at Anne Amie Vineyards with Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc forming the heart of our production. Complementing the pinot family is Old-Vine Estate Riesling and Müller Thurgau, planted in 1979.As with all great wines, ours start in the vineyards. We are fortunate to have some of Oregon’s best sites, all of which are Salmon Safe and LIVE certified.  Our estate vineyards, along with those we purchase from, receive only the minimal required treatments and yields are dramatically reduced in order to give fruit with great depth and complexity.

Our estate vineyards are located in the rolling hills of the Yamhill-Carlton District and on the steep hillsides of the Chehalem Mountains, both nestled in Oregon’s verdant Willamette Valley. Our LIVE certified winery is located on our Yamhill-Carlton property, a few miles from both Lafayette and Carlton, Oregon.”

Anne Amie Pinot Gris 2012– Willamette Valley, Oregon. Vineyards: Anne Amie Estate 14.3%, Chateau LeBeau 6%, Kraemer 16.7%, Quail’s Run 17.8%, Twelve Oaks Estate 45.2%. “Our Willamette Valley Pinot gris is an elegant expression of this versatile varietal. Intensely aromatic powdery floral notes give way to a palate of Asian pear, Meyer lemon and rose petal. Balanced and crisp, this wine is a great match for many dishes from chicken paella or moules-frites to pork roast. Aroma: apricot, magnolia, Kaffir lime, gardenia, tangerine, white peach, jasmine. Flavor: Asian pear, gala apples, white peach, kiwi, Kaffir lime. Food pairings: roast chicken, mussels, apple glazed pork chop, grilled squash, pan seared trout.” $18.99

Anne Amie Cuvee A Pinot Noir 2011– Willamette Valley, Oregon. Vineyards: Rainbow Ridge 52.7%, Anne Amie Estate 5.1%, Alloro 10.9%, Twelve Oaks Estate 26.9%, Zena Crown 4.4%. Aged 10 months in French oak, 20.3% new, 13% 1 year, 66.7% neutral. “Aroma: red cherry, raspberry, strawberry, vanilla, baking spices, cedar, forest floor, sandalwood. Flavor: red cherry, cranberry, raspberry, forest floor, spice box. Finish: long, smooth, great acidity, silky tannins. Food Pairings: salmon, burgers, roast game hen, venison, roasted squash, oyster stuffing, onion tart, margarita pizza, arugula based salads.” “A vineyard is made up of many microclimates that produce wines with different characteristics and our blends reflect that diversity.  Each vineyard block is carefully matched to a suited barrel.  Our Cuvée A Pinot Noir is a selection of our most forward and charming barrels of Pinot noir, blended in a style meant to capture their bright, fresh flavors and aromas.” $22.99


Robert Parker’s impression of Charles Smith– “Charles Smith’s large persona and long-haired visage have become so iconic (the latter now featured on eastern Washington billboards) that I’m forced to remind myself it was barely more than a decade ago that this ex rock band manager and wine geek, encouraged by Christophe Baron, moved to Walla Walla with, as Smith is fond of telling, “$5,000 and an Astro van” to start K Vintners. Smith appears to have mellowed a bit since I first met him in 2003; what’s more, his wines – while still boldly-flavored and flamboyant – have not attempted to keep pace in brashness with some of his more extreme (if always eye-catching) label art, but – on the contrary – in the best instances strike me as having become more nuanced and soulful. Smith and his articulate young winemaker, Andrew Latta, had no trouble convincing me of either their mastery of multiple wine media (but above all Syrah) or their determination to take fame in stride and keep striving to make their wines ever more distinctively delicious and engaging, as among other things, their 2011s I tasted from barrel already compellingly demonstrate. I was inspired by their self-deprecatingly self-described “working cellar” in a district of Walla Walla whose borderline squalor was rather shockingly brought home to us in the course of my visit. Bare-bones; low-tech; and quite clearly lived- not just worked in, this is a building where only people who value the quality and integrity of their wine above anything else would spend winemakers’ hours…”

“In 2006, Charles Smith created Charles Smith Wines: The Modernist Project, which centers around the trend that most people generally consume wine without delay. The intent is to create wines to be enjoyed now, but with typicity of variety (Merlot that tastes like Merlot) and true to the place of origin. The wines are full of flavor, balanced, and approachable.”

Charles Smith Kung Fu Girl Riesling 2012– Evergreen Vineyard, Columbia Valley, Washington. 100% Riesling. “So f***in’ sexy! This wine kicks ass with tons of complexity, showing notes of white peach, Linden leaves and slate. Lovely focused acidity, finishing very long with mandarin orange and lots of minerality. Grab the chop sticks, crack a bottle….this will make you happy.” Pairing suggestions: Delicious, spicy curries, Thai food or Chinese-style BBQ. $12.99


Bonny Doon Vineyard is a winery based in the city of Santa Cruz in the central coast of California. It was started by Randall Grahm in 1983. Bonny Doon was amongst the first Californian wineries to embrace Rhone varietals, giving Randall Graham the nickname “The Rhone Ranger“. The winery is known for its nontraditional labels, including illustrations by Ralph Steadman, Bascove, Grady McFerrin, and Gary Taxali. In recent years, the winery has embraced some slightly obscure Italian varieties, screwcaps, and biodynamic production.

Bonny Doon Vineyard Clos de Gilroy Grenache 2012– Central Coast, California. Unoaked Grenache blended with a small amount of Syrah and Mourvedre. “The strawberry-rhubarbity of grenache is complemented by a delicate note of kirsch from cinsault and the spicy catch of syrah’s white pepper. Brilliant mulberry in color, the wine is intensely aromatic, with notes of strawberry, raspberry, pepper, and wild herbs. Supple and medium-bodied with fairly lush tannins, the dominant flavors on the palate are of red fruits: red currant, kirsch, and strawberry-rhubarb. Fruity and spicy but fully dry, this wine is the perfect foil for all manner of grilled meat or vegetables, roasted poultry, the aïoli platter (naturellement), and anything prepared al fresco—especially when anointed with olive oil.”

“Bonny Doon Vineyard’s winemaking practice is exceptionally light-handed, with minimal intervention and manipulation. We created the 2011 Clos de Gilroy from hand-harvested grapes deriving from nine Central Coast vineyards. The fruit was carefully sorted, gently de-stemmed, and cold soaked to enhance flavor and color extraction, and each lot was fermented separately. Extended maceration and fermentation took place under slow, cool conditions, and the lots were carefully blended to ensure a harmonious balance in the resultant wine.” $18.99


The French wines are imported by Rosenthal Wine Merchant. RWM was founded in the mid-1970’s by Neal Rosenthal and his wife Kerry Madigan. They import wine (and specialty food products) mainly from France and Northern Italy from family-owned and operated producers who grow their own grapes in an organic fashion, and produce and bottle their limited-release, estate wines in a traditional, artisinal manner. Most importantly they are committed to representing wines/products that display a sense of terroir, or sense of place.

Neal states on his website: “There is a fine line between making necessary refinements to a fundamental process and turning priorities on end. There is little mystery to the crafting of fine wine. At the core, one must start with the proper vineyard site and excellent viticultural practices. We had wonderful mentors who taught us early in our career that:
1) 90% of the ultimate wine is created in the vineyard; and,
2) the role of the winemaker is to let the wine make itself (“laissez le vin de se faire”).”

Rosenthal Wine Merchant is a favorite importer of mine because of his dedication to traditionally produced, small-production wines that are not available everywhere. There are few people such as him in this business and I am always happy to drink and represent his wines in our stores.

“The Chateau Soucherie may be the most physically beautiful property of all the domaines with which we work.  The house itself is a unique architectural gem that sits on a rise overlooking the vineyards that snake down towards the Layon river.  My first visit at the estate was in early 1982, a frigid, damp day that I will remember forever.  I was exploring the truly verdant slopes and valleys of the Layon region, intensely “green” no matter the season, in search of that special regional version of Chenin Blanc that, at its best, can be one of the most compelling of wines.  My research led me to Soucherie and I was greeted by the ebullient presence of the proprietaire, Pierre-Yves Tijou.  On that cold day, with the winter chill surging through the earth and cement floor of the chai installing itself deep in my bones, the warmth and graciousness and simple good cheer of Monsieur Tijou leavened the frost and coddled the body.  Thirty years later we remain friends.”

Chateau Soucherie Rose de Loire 2012– Loire Valley, France. “This dry, mineral-driven Rosé is produced from Grolleau (70%) and Gamay (30%).  The vines are planted to clay, sandstone and schist soils.  The wine is a product of the direct press method of vinification and the elevage is in cuve with bottling occurring usually in April of the spring following harvest.  We purchase approximately 7800 bottles for the US market.” $18.99

“The Domaine du Gour de Chaulé, situated in the heart of the village of Gigondas, was founded in 1900 by Eugene Bonfils, the great-grandfather of the current proprietor, Stephanie Fumoso. All the wine produced at the estate was sold in bulk to negociants until 1970 when Madame Rolande Beaumet, Eugene’s daughter and the grandmother of Stéphanie, began to bottle a small percentage of the estate’s wine for sale to private clients. Madame Beaumet’s daughter, Aline Bonfils, ascended to the head of the domaine in the early 1980s and it was under the direction of Aline that the tradition of estate bottling expanded significantly.   We arrived at her doorstep virtually at that same moment and, from that day, we became the exclusive representative in the USA of the Domaine du Gour de Chaulé, purchasing increasingly more important quantities of this classic version of Gigondas.”

Domaine du Gour de Chaule Cotes du Rhone 2011– Southern Rhone Valley, France. “A small amount of Cotes du Rhone is produced from the vineyards owned by the estate in the communes of Vacqueyras and Violes.  As with the more noble Gigondas, this cuvée is based almost exclusively on the Grenache grape (approximately 90% of the blend annually).  It is vinified in a fashion similar to the Gigondas except that the elevage is less long.  This is to say that there is an extended cuvaison with stems included, malolactic is done in cuve and the wine sees a brief stay in large foudres before being bottled eighteen months after harvest without fining or filtration.  We purchase the overwhelming majority of this wine for sale in the USA (approximately 2400 bottles per annum).” $20.99

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