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WINES OF THE MONTH

RED:

2016 Domaine de la Côte Valréas Côtes du Rhône Villages

Rhône, France · $14.99 | Sale $10.99

The Côtes du Rhône Villages appellation consists of a group of villages that are considered to have the potential to produce wines superior to the basic Côtes du Rhône. Valréas is considered one of the finest villages of the appellation and this is where the Domaine de la Côte is located. The consulting winemaker is Philippe Cambie. Cambie is one of the most influential consultants in the Rhône Valley and has a bevy of highly esteemed estates as his clients from both Châteauneuf-du-Pape and surrounding regions. In 2010 he was named Oenologist of the Year by Robert Parker. This blend of equal amounts Grenache and Syrah from the great 2016 vintage features flavors of red and black berries with Mediterranean spices and a touch of earthiness from the Syrah. The depth of flavor here is outstanding for the price.

WHITE:

2014 Lou Coucardié Blanc

Costières de Nîmes, France · $19.99 | Sale $12.99

Michel Gassier is one of the great names in organic farming and natural wines. His estate is located in Costières de Nîmes at the southern edge of the Rhône Valley in southern France. Located on the Mediterranean, vineyards in the area are considered some of the oldest in France dating back to the time of Julius Caesar and before. Gassier is the leading proponent of organic farming in the region and uses minimal sulfur only at bottling, not during fermentation as is commonly done with more commercial wines. We are fortunate to have been able to get his 2014 Lou Coucardié Blanc at a phenomenal price. It is a blend of 50% Roussanne, 30% Grenache Blanc and 20% Viognier that is aged in large neutral oak barrels. Unlike some southern Rhône whites the emphasis here is not on voluptuous fruit but on minerality and structure. “Tasting like a top flight Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc with its buttered citrus, citrus oil, white flowers and apple blossom aromas and flavors, it’s medium-bodied, has bright acidity and a tight, fresh profile. Michel is unquestionably one of the most driven, hardworking and talented vignerons out there.

91+ Points | Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate

UNITED STATES:

ST. INNOCENT WINERY

We met Mark Vlossak, the founder and owner of St. Innocent Winery, many years ago. He is a winemaker dedicated to terroir. He wants each of his wines to reflect the area in which it is grown and to have as little winemaking intervention as possible. Consequently, his wines have purity of fruit, good acidity and unique character which sets them apart from the crowd. Mark was just recently at Coaltrain and we had the opportunity to taste three pinots and his Freedom Hill Chardonnay. We were impressed as we always are when we taste his wines:

2015 St. Innocent Shea Vineyard Pinot Noir

Willamette Valley, Oregon · $54.99 | Sale $49.99

This 2015 Pinot Noir from Shea vineyard was beautiful and not subdued. It is a wonderfully integrated, voluptuous, yet elegant Pinot, which Mark considers to be the most complex and detailed wine he makes. We loved it!

94 Points | Wine Enthusiast

93 Points | Wine & Spirits Magazine

2017 St. Innocent Freedom Hill Chardonnay

Willamette Valley, Oregon · $39.99 | Sale $34.99

If you haven’t tried Oregon Chardonnay, you should and you should start with this one. We attended a seminar at the Taste of Vail two years ago where Mark Vlossak was on the panel, and we fell in love with his Chardonnay. Dare we say it? It’s more Burgundian in texture and style. Well balanced, not over oaked, with a charming peach and mango aspect that pulls you in. This wine has a racy richness that clearly differentiates it from “normal” Chardonnays. It would be a great match with fish tacos and mango salsa, grilled tuna pasta or a margherita pizza. We highly recommend it!

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2018 Dancing Crow Sauvignon Blanc

Lake County, CA · $18.99 | Sale $15.99

Londoner Tony Cartlidge came to the states in 1979, met Glen Browne and together they created Cartlidge & Browne Wines, a quite successful négociant wine business. They sourced their best Sauvignon Blanc fruit from the Dancing Crow vineyard in Lake County, and when the vineyard came up for sale in 2011, Tony sold Cartlidge & Browne and created Dancing Crow Vineyards. The cooler climate in Lake County is perfect for Sauvignon Blanc. The aim here is to emphasize the aromatics and minerality over the fruit; in the style of Sancerre. Aromas of citrus blossom, honeysuckle and fresh green apple, accented by flavors of white peach, Bartlett pear and flinty, lemongrass notes, all wrapped up by a bright, lingering finish.

90 Points | Wine Enthusiast

2017 Fess Parker Chardonnay

Santa Barbara County, CA · $17.99 | Sale $15.99

For a generation of Americans, the name Fess Parker meant much more than wine; he was a beloved actor known for playing the roles of Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone on television. When we invited Fess Parker to visit us at the store in the early 90s after a visit to his winery in Los Olivos, we arrived the morning of his appointment to find a line of customers around the parking lot waiting to meet the legend! Fess Parker is gone, but his children carry on his legacy with wines like the 2017 Chardonnay. This will appeal to the fan who likes some oak and butter in their Chardonnay; it has a weight that gives depth to the tropical fruit and mineral on the palate.

2015 LeNez Pinot Noir

Yamhill Carlton, OR · $28.99 | Sale $25.99

In 1999, Steve Lutz’s father-in-law (Len) helped finance the purchase of a steep barren hillside outside of Yamhill, Oregon. Here the soil was very poor, but the angle of the slope was perfect. Among their neighbors were such esteemed Oregon producers as Beaux Frères, Soter and Shea Vineyard. They planted 21 acres of Pinot Noir, and by 2005 they were off and running. They only produce Pinot Noir; premium bottlings under the Lenné Estate label and LeNez (The Nose). Total production is less than 2,000 cases. This is a true hands-on boutique operation. The poor soil produces grapes with small berries, which results in wine of unusual concentration, marked by flavors of dark fruit and mocha. “Pinot Noirs from Lenné Estate are among the finest I have had from the Yamhill-Carlton district."

-The Pinot File

2017 A.P. Vin Rosella's Vineyard Pinot Noir

Santa Lucia Highlands, CA · $49.99 | Sale $33.99

In 2003, Andrew P. Vingiello turned his passion for California Pinot Noir into a career when he released his first wine, 150 cases of Pinot Noir from the esteemed Gary’s Vineyard in the Santa Lucia Highlands. Under the mentorship of Brian Loring of Loring Vinyards, who has taught several young winemakers the ropes, his production and reputation rose and he came to be regarded as one of the young lions of California Pinot Noir. This was always a small operation with limited releases of wine from only the finest vineyards. Unfortunately, due to issues that have yet fully surfaced, he has decided to retire from the wine business. We have managed to secure a few cases of his Rosella’s Vineyard bottling (normally $49.99) from the 2017 vintage, his last. His Rosella’s bottling was always one of his best getting high scores from many critics. This is a fruit forward Pinot Noir but not sacrificing balance and acidity with subtle hints of white pepper, hibiscus and strawberry. It is enjoyable now, with decanting or opening 1-2 hours ahead of time. However it can continue to evolve with short term cellaring. This is premium California Pinot Noir at a not premium price.

Compare it with the Loring Rosella’s, also available at $48.99.'

2018 Sineann Red Table Wine

Oregon · $19.99 | Sale $16.99

In 1994, Peter Rosbeck launched Sineann with David O'Reilly, who eventually moved on to start Owen Roe. Based in the Willamette Valley in Oregon, he initially specialized in Pinot Noir, but his unending curiosity and passion led him to search out old vineyards throughout the Pacific Northwest. He now makes over two dozen wines including a bevy of wonderful Pinot Noirs, a Zinfandel from a resurrected hundred-year-old vineyard along the Columbia River, and a Grüner Veltliner, among others. Peter takes the remains of barrels from many of his bottlings and blends them into his Red Table Wine. The blend varies from year to year, but is always a tremendous value. The 2018 is a unique blend of Pinot Noir, Zinfandel and Merlot, with a dash of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. This is a tremendous value for a wine of real character and personality. The Pinot Noir adds a smoky nuance to the excellent earthy bouquet. There is good concentration on the palate with flavors of blueberries and plums, and hints of espresso and baking spice. As Peter Rosbeck has said, “If you can find a cheaper wine that’s better, buy it!”

2017 Illusion Red Blend

Lodi, CA · $14.99 | Sale $12.99

The Zinfandel vines that grow on this family estate were some of the first to be planted in Lodi. Giacomo Peirano took cuttings from his family farm in Genoa and brought them, along with his new bride, to plant one of the first vineyards in this part of California. Five generations later, the Peirano family continues to produce wines of place and character, hand-harvesting a myriad of varietals in addition to the original Zin. For Illusion Red Blend, the winemaker individually ferments Zin, Merlot, Petite Syrah and Cab, and then experiments with various blends before choosing the final bottling. Fruity without being sappy, clear notes of red and black fruits and a finish of soft tannins offer drinking pleasure now or later.

2018 Bonny Doon Le Cigare Volant Cuvée Oumuamua

Monterey, CA · $22.99 | Sale $19.99

Randall Graham of Bonny Doon Vineyard has been one of the great characters of the wine world for almost 40 years - from his amusing labels to his often hilarious rants, many collected in a most entertaining book Been Doon So Long. He established his reputation in 1986 with the release of Le Cigare Volant, an homage to the wines of the southern Rhône, and named after an odd 1954 by-law prohibiting UFOs (flying cigars) from landing in the vineyards of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Tired of the business aspects of the wine industry, he has just sold the brand to a wine-centric venture capital firm. One of their first moves has been to create a more affordable Le Cigare Volant. Randall Graham is still the winemaker and the wine, now called Le Cigare Volant, Cuvée Oumuamua, is a blend of 52% Grenache, 35% Cinsault and 13% Syrah. “Aromas of plum, cracked pepper, crumpled carnations and dried mint lead into a bright, refreshing palate of hibiscus, anise and a curry-like spice.”

93 Points | Wine Enthusiast

2016 Rutherford Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon

Napa, CA · $24.99 | Sale $19.99

Year in and year out, Rutherford Ranch produces some of the best value Cabernet Sauvignons in Napa Valley. Owned by the Zaninovich family, the estate sits on the site of one of the original Napa estates in Rutherford with a 100-year-old olive grove and several premium Cabernet vineyards. Napa has had a string of extraordinary vintages over the last several years, and 2016 is no exception. The wine is 85% Cabernet Sauvignon with smaller amounts of Malbec, Merlot, Petite Sirah and Petite Verdot, and is aged for 12 months in French and American oak. However, it is not $50+ like many of its peers. “Vibrant fresh cassis and blackberry complemented by wonderful wood smoke aromas. Rich yet smooth and supple with purple flower intensity and a lovely lingering finish.”

90 Points | Decanter

FRANCE:

2017 Laroche Chardonnay

Bourgogne · $21.99 | Sale $18.99

Since 1850, Domaine Laroche has been one of the most esteemed producers of Chablis, known for its classic style emphasizing steely minerality over lush fruit. As the Domaine’s reputation has soared, so to have the prices. Fortunately, their basic Bourgogne Blanc reflects the house style in a more affordable package. The fruit is sourced from premium vineyards in the Mâconnais in southern Burgundy, where organic principles are used and the wine is made in the same refreshing style as their Chablis - with no oak, whatsoever. The wine is fermented and aged in stainless steel. The 2017 vintage in Burgundy was the finest in several years for white wines resulting in a crisp, minerally Chardonnay reflective of one of Burgundy’s great producers without the great price tag.

WHITE RHÔNE:

The Rhône Valley is second only to Bordeaux in size and is arguably the oldest wine producing region in France. With warmer temperatures than most of the rest of France, the region is known for its robust reds. Although only 6% of total production there are some interesting white wines made there as well. The primary white grapes are Marsanne and Roussanne which are usually blended to