Midweek VinopolPick 8-21-18

In Today’s Newsletter:

El Enemigo’s Emerging Voice
Phelps’ Insignia at Fantastic Pricing
Staff Pick – Southern Rhone Restraint
Excellence through Adversity: Artuke’s Flagship Rioja
Hot Wines of the Week
Old School and Elegant: the Rayas of Bordeaux
The Many, Many Deals of the August Sale

El Enemigo

A Powerful New Voice in Argentina

What if we told you that the longtime winemaker for Catena had his own project?  That he wanted to push the limits of what was possible for Argentine wine? That somehow, despite this, the wines remain under the radar and undervalued?  If you’re searching for the pinnacle of South American wine, look no further—these are the wines you need to be buying next.

Alejandro Vigil is the winemaker for El Enemigo, his winery named for the struggle against complacency, and was the winemaker at Catena for 17 years. He’s also one of the foremost experts on vineyard soils and as you’d expect, the vineyards used for sourcing the El Enemigo wines are some of the finest in Argentina, farmed for his specifications.  The terroir for these wines is nothing short of world class.

Winemaking talent and exceptional vineyards will take you to the top of the pyramid, but what really makes these wines special is the blending on the flagship bottlings.  Vigil’s partner in the project is Adrianna Catena, who has a PhD in history, and the focus of these wines is to work in the same sorts of blends as the immigrants to Argentina that planted these exceptional vineyards.  As a result, don’t expect all Malbec, all the time—these are more reminiscent of fine Bordeaux than the Argentine trophy wines we’re used to.

Across the range, these reds have immense power and concentration, but with an edge of minerality that keeps them rooted in the classical.  We’re continually impressed by how deftly balanced the oak usage is here (some Napa Cabernet producers could take note) and how lengthy the finishes are on these wines.  No matter which way you look at it, Vigil has established himself as the name to watch in Argentina and anyone interested in these wines should snap them up as fast as they can.

In Stock Now:

The wine that the estate is best known for, in a fantastic vintage.
Bodega Aleanna ‘Gran Enemigo’, Mendoza, Argentina 2012 750ML ($79.95) $66 special
Wine Advocate 95 points “The 2012 El Gran Enemigo is a blend of some 40% Malbec, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% each Cabernet Franc and Merlot, quite a different blend from the 2011 vintage, but also all from Gualtallary in the Uco Valley. The idea for this blend is to only use grapes from limestone soils, always a blend, while the single vineyard from Gualtallary is basically a varietal Cabernet Franc. 2012 was a little cooler than 2011, but there’s a lot more Malbec here, and there are less herbal aromas and more floral tones. There’s hardly any oak in these wines now; they are aged in used, well-seasoned, neutral oak barrels and then transferred to cement vats. It feels purer, more defined, aromatic and subtle. This is really superb, with incredible citric acidity that makes you salivate. It keeps changing in the glass, one minute giving more herbal notes, the following minute turning floral, spicier, growing in the glass and developing new nuances. This is an impressive, age-worthy blend, with the telltale chalky tannins and a supple finish. ”

Warmer and riper than the 2012, this is a blockbuster
Bodega Aleanna ‘Gran Enemigo’, Mendoza, Argentina 2013 750ML ($69.95) $59 special
James Suckling 95 points “Very tight and beautiful wine with blackberry, blueberry and hints of tobacco, spice, and black tea. Full body, dense and powerful. Energy and intensity to this. A blend of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot, and malbec.”

This is the lowest listed price in the USA today!
Put this up against almost any St. Emilion.
Bodega Aleanna ‘Gran Enemigo’ Chacayes Single Vineyard Cabernet Franc, Tunuyan, Argentina 2013 750ML ($99.95) $89 special
James Suckling 97 points “This is crazy and deep with such an incredible depth of fruit and character. Full body, layered and dense. Yet energetic and vibrant. Focused and precise. Love. Drink in 2020.”

This is the lowest listed price in the USA today!
“almost made me fall from my chair”
Bodega Aleanna ‘Gran Enemigo’ Gualtallary Single Vineyard Cabernet Franc, Tupungato, Argentina 2012 750ML ($119.95) $99 special
Wine Advocate 98+ points “The nose of the 2012 Gran Enemigo Gualtallary Single Vineyard almost made me fall from my chair. It is the expression of elegance and austerity coupled with strong minerality. It is mostly Cabernet Franc from a very chalky vineyard in Gualtallary at 1,430 meters altitude that fermented together with a small percentage of Malbec. In 2012 they fine tuned the élevage and fermentation, which was in rolling 500-liter barrels that were new in 2006 (so by then quite neutral), where the wine was kept for one more year and then transferred to 1,000-liter egg-shaped cement vats for one further year. This reminded me of my favorite Bordeaux, Lafleur, because of the elegance, the refinement of the tannins and length. It has citric, effervescent acidity that makes you salivate. Winemaker and Owner Alejandro Vigil has done a very strict selection of the soils in the field, and only kept the very center of the vineyard where the high density (12,000 plants per hectare) generates a lot of competition, because the plants from the borders have more space in the sides, which means in 2012 he could only fill 1,800 bottles. Awesome, and ultra fresh for a vintage like 2012. Bravo!”

Compare this to almost anything from Napa at this price…no contest.
Bodega Aleanna ‘Gran Enemigo’ Gualtallary Single Vineyard Cabernet Franc, Tupungato, Argentina 2013 750ML ($119.95) $99 special
James Suckling 99 points “This is a fabulous wine with blackberry, dark mushroom, blueberry and white pepper character. Full body, fine tannins and fantastic depth and length. Goes on for minutes. A magnificent red. Beautiful encore to the superb 2012. Drink or hold.”

This is the lowest listed price in the USA today!


Arriving Friday

Phelps Insignia

At Fantastic Pricing

Only 12 bottles available!
Joseph Phelps Vineyards Insignia, Napa Valley 2014 750ML ($249.95) $189 pre-arrival special
Wine Advocate 97+ points
“Composed of 87% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Petit Verdot, 2% Malbec and 2% Cabernet Franc coming from six vineyards and reared for 24 months in 100% new French oak, the 2014 Insignia Proprietary Red Wine has a deep garnet-purple color and nose of crushed blackberries and fresh blackcurrants with touches of cigar box, sandalwood, dried lavender, beef drippings and mocha plus a waft of wild thyme. Medium to full-bodied and incredibly elegant and fine in the mouth, the lively fruit is well structured by grainy tannins and seamless acid, finishing long and earthy. 14,500 cases were made.”
James Suckling 97 points “The blackberry, dark-chocolate and walnut aromas are persuasive. Full body, a dense and fruity center palate and beautiful depth and intensity. The tannin texture is exceptional. Great wine. Drink in 2020 and onwards.”
This is the lowest listed price on the West Coast!
The average price nationally is $224


Staff Pick

Restraint in the Southern Rhone?

Montfaucon’s Traditional Take

I’ll confess that I’m a bit of a Southern Rhone skeptic these days—I came of age drinking wines from the region when alcohols (and points) were lower.  While I get the appeal of the maxed-out, fruit bomb pointy wines coming out of Chateauneuf and the like today, I find myself with a bit of nostalgia for the slightly toned down, earthy wines I first cut my teeth on.

It was a fun surprise, then, to taste the wines that Montfaucon is making from Lirac, Chateaunuef and surrounding.  These wines aren’t shy, but they have an elegance to them that’s decidedly old school.  These are Rhone wines that are built for the table and the cellar—they’ll excel with both food and age (though are pretty tasty on their own).  They’re based in Lirac, an overlooked AOC I love (which is just across the river from CdP), which seems telling.  If you’re on the hunt for wines with classic Southern Rhone fruit, but not too much of it, look no further.

In Stock Now:

Chateau de Montfaucon Baron Louis Lirac 2014 750ML ($24.95) $19 special
Wine Spectator 91 points “Stylish, with a perfumed mix of raspberry, cassis, bergamot, rooibos tea and mineral notes. Offers a long, silky finish. Shows lots of charm. Drink now through 2021. 3,450 cases made.”

This is the lowest listed price in the USA today!

Baron de Montfaucon Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Rhone 2014 750ML ($39.95) $33 special
Wine Spectator 89 points “This has a lovely, silky feel along the edges, while the core of dark plum and boysenberry fruit notes stretches out through the anise- and shiso leaf-tinged finish. Drink now through 2022.”

This is the lowest listed price on the West Coast!

Baron de Montfaucon Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Rhone 2015 750ML ($49.95) $39 special
Wine Spectator 91 points “Youthfully taut, with singed alder and cedar notes framing the core of red currant and cherry fruit paste flavors. Light savory and sanguine accents emerge steadily through the finish. A light echo of brick dust at the end keeps this in the old-school camp. Best from 2018 through 2025. 490 cases made.”


Artuke “Finca de los Locas” Rioja

Excellence through Adversity

This is the lowest listed price in the USA today!

Hot Wines of the Week

One of the most exciting whites in California.
Massican Annia White, Napa Valley2017 750ML ($39.95) $33 special
“A complex and inviting white, showing intricate nuances of roasting almonds, matcha, honeysuckle and orange zest flavors, mingling with supple, juicy Asian pear, tangerine and ripe melon notes. The smooth texture and thread of acidity just add to the appeal. Ribolla Gialla, Tocai Friulano and Chardonnay.”
Winery note “Grapes: ribolla gialla – 55%, tocai friulano – 39%, chardonnay – 6%. The 2017 vintage in napa will always be remembered because of the wildfires that began on the evening of Sunday, October 8. We are very fortunate that not only were all our grapes harvested before the fires broke out but also that our vineyards were spared from harm; however, we cannot say that for all our neighbors who have been impacted by this tragedy. Our ANNIA in this vintage shows the quiet side of her persona an opportunity to remain thoughtful and thankful for all the good graces we receive not only this year but every year.”

Classics are that way for a reason.
Felsina Berardenga Chianti Classico DOCG, Tuscany 2015 750ML ($27.95) $24 special
Felsina Berardenga Chianti Classico DOCG, Tuscany 2015 1.5L ($59.95) $49 special
Antonio Galloni 92 points “A stunning, spatial wine, the 2015 Chianti Classico Berardenga is a wine to buy by the case and savor over the next 20 or so years. All the natural richness of the 2015 vintage comes through in a creamy, voluptuous Chianti Classico that hits all the right notes.”
Monica Larner – Wine Advocate 92 points “The 2015 Chianti Classico Berardenga is a tight and elegant wine with bright berry notes followed by mineral tones of clay and chalky soil. You really taste those Castelnuovo Berardenga signatures here on the bouquet. The finish carries forward with grace, elegance and determination.”
Wine Spectator 92 points “Dense yet rich, this red offers black cherry, earth and graphite aromas and flavors. Needs a year or two to find balance, yet the lingering, tobacco-inflected finish and refined tannins indicate the potential here. Best from 2019 through 2028.”

Big, rich Chardonnay in the August Sale!
Orin Swift Mannequin, California 2015 750ML ($34.95) Was $21.90, Now $18 August Clearance Price
Case-12 Orin Swift Mannequin, California 2015 750ML ($359.95) Was $279, Now $199 August Clearance Price (that’s only $16.58/bottle!)
Winery Note
“Bursting aromatics of honeydew, honeysuckle and ripe peach are complemented by a hint of jasmine, pineapple and cream. With lots of weight and viscosity, the full-bodied palate brims with ripe stone fruit, wet stone and a touch of sweet Meyer lemon. The fleshy, golden mid-palate evolves into a pointed, textured finish that closes with lots of minerality.”

This was the lowest listed price in the USA today,
Now it’s even lower!
The next best price is $24.90
Mignon is making stellar stuff.
Christophe Mignon Brut Nature Pur Meunier, Champagne NV 750ML ($59.95) Was $49, Now $39 Clearance Price
Grapelive 94 points “Of Champagne’s new generation of natural/biodynamic winegrowers, Christophe Mignon is one of my favorite grower producers. His latest Brut Nature is a gorgeous sparkler. It comes from a blend of 2013 and 2014 vintages with no dosage. Christophe Mignon is an absolute Pinot Meunier specialist. He comes from a long line of family farmers in the Le-Mesnil-le-Huttier area….[This] terroir suits the Meunier and allows for complex ripe flavors, which makes it easier for him to use almost non dosage on all of his dry offerings. These are beautiful and detailed Champagnes with finesse, elegance and yeasty brioche notes that are not severe in style. They are wonderfully pleasing examples and show Pinot Meunier at its finest. Mignon is guided by holistic farming and follows the lunar cycle in working the vines and in the cellar, [and] he ferments in temperature controlled epoxy lined vats. Each terroir parcel is vinified separately at each sites’ perfect ripeness in a fermentation that lasts up to 30 days. This Brut Nature [was] aged 24 months in bottle, raised with lees, and as mentioned with no dosage. This… 100% Pinot Meunier and is drinking great right now with lovely white flowers, subtle red berry aromas and toasty notes along with layers of lemon, golden figs, hazelnut and white cherry elements all lifted by vital acidity and a luxurious, but vigorous mousse that delivers a divine textural or vinous mouth feel and lingering finish. This is brilliant grower fizz [has] a perfectly balanced sense of density/body and vibrancy. It finishes with a grip of dry extract making this an enthusiast all Meunier bubbly that is sublime with cuisine, but also opulent and easy to love on its own. Very impressive again from Christophe Mignon.”
Antonio Galloni 93 points “The NV Brut Nature Blanc de Noirs Pur Meunier is a fabulous wine that captures the essence of Christophe Mignon’s style. Rich and resonant on the palate, the Pur Meunier exudes creaminess. This is an especially weighty expression of Meunier, and yet all the elements are very nicely balanced. Red fruit, dried pear, smoke, menthol and hazelnut notes slowly open up in the glass adding further shades of nuance. Expressive mineral notes extend the finish while providing an attractive counterpoint to the dense, pliant fruit. The current release is a blend of equal parts 2014 and 2013. Mignon’s Pur Meunier is one of the most distinctive wines being made in Champagne today. Don’t miss it. Disgorged: March 2017 and bottled with no dosage.”

This is the lowest listed price in the USA today!
The average price is $52
“One of the great wines of the vintage!”
Selbach-Oster ‘Schmitt’ Zeltinger Schlossberg Riesling, Mosel 2014 750ML ($59.95) Was $41.90, Now $36 August Clearance Price
Grapelive 95+ points “The brilliant and exotic Schmitt comes from the steep slate hill above the church, set back from the Mosel. There is great southern exposure here and it less affected by noble rot, a big plus in 2014.  It allowed this rich and lush wine to remain crystalline and focused. This is one of the great wines of the vintage! Johannes Selbach’s top wines are not Trocken/Grosses Gewachs, but are single block wines from Cru sites. They are also heavy weighted, dense and medium sweet, but it is not about the sugar: it is all about the terroir and overall balance. These are wines of hedonism, power, textural pleasure and vitality, especially the Schmitt in 2014. It explores the boundaries of perfection in a fantastically difficult vintage. The was a savage thinning of the crop and a tiny window to get the grapes in to make this masterpiece from the old vines at Zeltinger Schlossberg. It is truly amazing with all the problems and heartbreak endured here that a wine of this quality and gorgeous detail managed to happen at all. Somehow this block come through and made one of the most glorious Riesling wines of the year. The 2014 Schmitt by Selbach-Oster starts with a sweet perfume. This wine shows white roses, dripping jasmine, hints of gardenia and tropical essences that lead to a full bodied, Auslese weight palate with apricot, green apple, lime and mango fruits leading the way along with a mix of spicy mineral and flinty stones, briny sea shore notes, soft honey decadence, creamy verbena and sweet peach flesh. The finish carries over the core of fruit and richness, but there is a burst of dynamic acidity and vibrancy. This is not a flabby wine and you are left with a dreamy/haunting impression with lingering tangerine sorbet, crushed stone and wet steeliness. This is fabulous Riesling and one you’ll want in the cellar. This has 100 Point potential and it will also drink well young. It already has poise and elegance, but should last two or three decades! Don’t be afraid of its sugar levels, it drinks like a lavish Grand Cru Corton-Charlemagne and is a spectacular wine from Selbach-Oster!”

This was the lowest listed price in the USA today,
Now it’s even lower!
The next best price is $43.99
The average price is $50


The Rayas of Bordeaux

The Elegant, Old- School Margaux

Of Bel-Air Marquis d’Aligre

Jacques Perrin

 “Jean-Pierre Boyer’s energy belies the fact that he is about to turn eighty-five – nothing unusual there. Many winemakers work until they are physically incapable. What is remarkable is that Jean-Pierre is embarking upon his 68th vintage at the same property. That is not a typo. Sixty-eight vintages. Think about that for a moment.… Even more astonishing is that his modus operandi, his tenets and practices, remained unaltered from his first day to this. It is forgotten Bordeaux made corporeal and if you don’t believe me, then I guarantee you will by the time you finish reading this article….

“The vines. Wow. I have visited most of the major vineyards in Bordeaux and never encountered any like these. “I have vines that are over 100-years old, maybe dating back to the 1870s on their own roots,” Boyer tells me, vanquishing the idea that the only Gallic vines on their original roots lie chez Bollinger. Winemakers often boast about the age of their vines, exaggerating and adding a few years. Inspecting these veterans close-up, they must constitute not just some of the oldest in Bordeaux, but in France.

“….To my left are Jean-Pierre’s barrels. Forget your endless rows of bespoke François Frères or Cadus. There are eight, well, seven and a half barrels in total. I am not sure of their age but they have seen a few vintages for sure. Behind are stacks of unlabeled bottles, not because they remain unsold, but because Jean-Pierre does not sell en primeur and hold vintages back until he is ready to put them into market….

“Each side of the [vat] room is dominated by terraces of large cement vats that have clearly fermented Bel-Air Marquis d’Aligre since time immemorial, so dark and gloomy grey they seem to absorb light. He switches on a rudimentary electric bulb so that I can see them better and then turns them off because he does not want to waste electricity. Underneath each vat are large format bottles tilted at 45° and a handful of demi-jeans in wicker baskets. These are not a library stock of ancient bottles but Jean-Pierre’s only means of manually topping up the vats. Presumably he tilts a ladder against the vat, hoists up what looks like rehoboams and pours them in from the top. That’s your maceration. The wines spend two or three years in these cement vats, a similar approach to Château Gillette in Sauternes.” – Neal Martin, Vinous

In Stock Now:

A totally unique expression of Bordeaux with a Burgundian aesthetic, drinking well now.
Chateau Bel Air Marquis d’Aligre, Margaux 1995 750ML ($99.95) $79 special
Neal Martin – Vinous 91 points “The 1995 Bel-Air Marquis d’Aligre has an exquisite, gentle, almost Burgundy-like bouquet with wonderful purity and delineation. This is a mixture of red and black fruit, developing pressed violet aromas that direct you back to Margaux. The palate is medium-bodied with a structured entry, a fine line of acidity, black fruit mixed with iodine and sea salt that leads to a linear, Pauillac-like finish. This is a very fine Margaux that is ageing gracefully at 23-years of age. Tasted at the Bel-Air Marquis d’Aligre dinner.”

One of the best vintages this unique estate has produced.
Chateau Bel Air Marquis d’Aligre, Margaux 2000 750ML ($119.95) $99 special
Neal Martin – Vinous 93 points “The 2000 Bel-Air Marquis d’Aligre is like the 1986 on the nose: backward and broody, demanding coaxing from the glass. There are moss-like, undergrowth scents, a touch of morels emerging with time and then, after an hour, the nose blossoms and finds its groove. The fruit belatedly surfaces and you find yourself bewitched by the bouquet. The palate is medium-bodied with fine tannin. This is not a complex millennial Margaux however there is a beguiling sense of effortless class and poise that plenty of its Margaux colleagues crave. Towards the finish there are subtle notes of tobacco and terracotta that lend another layer of complexity. I just love this wine – one of the best vintages from Jean-Pierre Boyer. Tasted at the Bel-Air Marquis d’Aligre dinner.”


The Many, Many Deals

Of the August Clearance Sale

August may be winding down, but our August Sale isn’t!  Take a look at these highlights and check out the full list of wines afterwards!

This is what Italian Pinot Grigio aspires to.
Jermann Pinot Grigio Venezia Giulia IGT, Friuli Venezia Giulia 2015 750ML ($27.95) Was $21.90, Now $18 August Clearance Price
James Suckling 92 points “I like the aromas of sliced pears with hints of stones. Medium body, a dense center palate and flavors of pear skin and light cream. Fruity finish. Screw cap. Drink now.”
Wine Enthusiast 90 points “Aromas of white peach, flint and hint of banana carry over to the round, ripe palate along with green apple and a note of juicy tangerine. Fresh acidity brightens the creamy flavors and leads to a bright, clean finish.”

This is the lowest listed price on the West Coast!
The average price nationally is $23
A more elegant take on Rio Sordo, this is a knockout.
Cascina delle Rose Barbaresco Rio Sordo, Barbaresco DOCG 2014 1.5L ($149.95) Was $119, Now $99 Clearance Price
Wine Spectator 95 points “A lively version, displaying cherry, plum, licorice, spice and subtle tar flavors. Taut and balanced, exuding a mineral element on the long finish. Really elegant overall. Best from 2021 through 2035. ”
Winery note “Barbaresco Rio Sordo was born through a severe selection in a vineyard of Nebbiolo grapes. The   immediate characteristics are its complexity and deepness accompanied with elegance and finesse. The colour is garnet red with slight orange flecks.  The taste is intense and persistent and its intriguing perfume as slight hint of wild fruit, spicy with sensations of leather and pepper. It combines perfectly with important red meats dishes, roasts, mature cheeses.””

This is the lowest listed price for a magnum in the USA today!
Weingut Hiedler Kittsmanberg Gruner Veltliner Reserve Erste OTW Lage, Kamptal 2016 750ML ($44.95) Was $36, Now $27 August Clearance Price
Wine Enthusiast 93 points “The first whiff of this wine, with its concentrated hit of pear peel and citrus pith, spells pleasure. The palate adds a softening, enriching touch of creamy yeast as a backdrop to the rich, fruit-driven flavors: pear, fern, sage and Meyer lemon. The finish is lasting and moreish.”
Terry Theise note “It’s always been the blue-eyed child in a family of brown eyes, a kind of neo-classical structure with Delphic columns and strong muscular lines. This vintage is also stern and serious and powerful, nettle-y and peppery, but right now it’s all yin, and I’m waiting to see if a sweet fruit develops.”

This is the only listing in the USA today!

Only 24 bottles available!
Weingut Hiedler Loess Gruner Veltliner, Kamptal 2016 750ML ($21.95) Was $18, Now $14 August Clearance Price
Wine Spectator 92 points “A ripe style, this delivers apricot, peach and floral aromas and flavors on a creamy texture, picking up touches of lentil and celery root as citrusy acidity brings this into focus on the long finish. Drink now through 2024.”
James Suckling 90 points “A crisp and citrusy wine with plenty of depth. A little more freshness at the weighty finish would see a higher score. Drink or hold. ”
Terry Theise note “Among the starter-GVs I offer, this one is the creamiest, and I’d suggest it for the taster who isn’t sure he “likes Veltliner.” The ’16 is charming and fluid, lentilly and savory, not as opulent as the ’15 but much richer than the ’14.”

This is the lowest listed price in the USA today!
The average price is $17
Only 12 bottles available!
Schloss Gobelsburg Lamm Gruner Veltliner Reserve Erste OTW Lage, Kamptal 2016 750ML ($69.95) Was $59, Now $44 Clearance Price
James Suckling 96 points “This smells like being in a room full of drying herbs and flowers. Rich and creamy from the high ripeness but with a freshness that’s discrete yet ever present. At no point on this wine’s long glide across the palate does it seem the least bit fat or heavy. Drink now.”

This is the lowest listed price in the USA today!
The next best price is $58.99
The average price is $65
Only 18 bottles available!
Schloss Gobelsburg Heiligenstein Riesling Reserve Erste OTW Lage, Kamptal 2016 750ML ($69.95) Was $59, Now $44 Clearance Price
James Suckling 96 points “This is still quite yeasty, but in a rather attractive way. Behind that yeasty creaminess, which will fade somewhat with time, is a great wine that is deep, firm and complex. The finish expands like a concertina until the minerality envelops you. Drink now.”
Wine Enthusiast 94 points “An aromatic cloud of orange and lemon zest rises from the glass. With air, the citrus notions become more heady and intense. They perform the same trick on the palate, shimmering in an aromatic array of bergamot, lemon, tangerine and orange. There’s a vein of freshness, unforced concentration and the promise of a long future ahead. Drink 2020–2030.”

This was the lowest listed price in the USA today,
Now it’s even lower!
The next best price is $62.83
Want to see all of the wines in our August Clearance Sale? Here you go:

Thanks for reading!