The fact these three wines rose to the top of an epically long list of compelling wines place them in a class of their own. One is from Sierra Foothills vineyards and a small young Berkeley, California winery while the other two are firmly ensconced in their old Barbaresco and Vouvray regions. A bonus to last month’s wine discoveries are their service to this month’s holidays. The remarkably flexible and food friendly 2009 Huet Clos du Bourg Sec is for serious chenin blanc fans needing something something white to work with the tapestry of flavors that traditionally confound holiday table pairings. The 2003 Roagna Paje and 2009 Donkey and Goat Four Thirteen will work remarkably well with turkeys or any savory sides with taste of smoke or Provencal herbs. All of these wines will take a little advance planning to acquire, so if Thanksgiving is your target, act now.
(***1/2 $30) 2009 Donkey and Goat Four Thirteen, El Dorado, California
A few cases of A Donkey and Goat’s limited distribution rosé and assorted red wines made their way into the shop a friend of mine has been managing and he stuck a bunch of them in my cart. A lot has been written about proprietors Jared and Tracey Brandt. First how they blew off their tech careers in 2001 and headed to France where they learned from Eric Texier’s also relatively new (for Europe) experiences with natural and originally conceived wines around Burgundy, Italy, and finally the northern and southern Rhone regions. Secondly, how they brought that knowledge back to their Berkeley garage with fruit from El Dorado, Mendocino, and Monterey Counties to produce natural wines with all the usual, and then some, elements of natural winemaking thought to support a departure from the more formulaic recipe winemaking approaches that created a reputation for overripe and high alcohol wines many California winemakers honestly earned in the 90’s.
This blend of syrah, mourvèdre, grenache, and counoise was my favorite of the three A Donkey & Goat wines I tasted so far. Rich black cherry fruit, bright and vibrant color, a depth of fruit that gives bursts of flavor while exercising reasonable restraint, saddle and smokey aromas, all finally cloaked in earthy tones that remind you of the southern Rhone, without question. It’s a remarkable wine from California and at $30 is one of the more sensational California values I have come across. These are small production wines, and the title link will take you to Wine Searcher and a few locations claiming to have inventory in New York. Better yet, join A Donkey & Goat’s mailing list and secure a steady stream of the Brandt’s work.
($55 ****1/2) 2003 RoagnaPaje Barbaresco
Mind blowing Barbaresco that I drank with a hamburger, but it’s no hamburger wine. Among the most glorious Barbaresco experiences you could imagine, this Paje Vineyard production is the entry level label from Roagna. Sweet fruit, menthol and mint, licorice and herbs waft from the glass. Silky sweet nebbiolo is presented with soft tannins to create the most gracefully styled wine you could want. It is an other worldly drinking experience that I can not say enough about. I would be honored to be served this wine with my turkey prepared with sage and rosemary and butter, all tucked between the skin and meat. Drooling just thinking about it.
**** $32 2009 Huet Clos du Bourg (Sec), Vouvray
I think the reason I love chenin over all most other white wines is its ability to wrap characteristic varietal acidity with residual sugars. Let’s face it, who doesn’t like sweet? And when you disguise the sweet so you can experience dry or savory, all the better. This was my favorite wine in last month’s blind chenin blanc tasting. The “sec” notation is real, but the sugar is anything but missing. And, that’s why I like it for Thanksgiving. Savory and sweet, no matter, this wine will stand up to all. Citrus, lemony, apply, and stony elements fill your nose. Great harmony involving its shadow of residual sugar creates a classy chenin that will make you salivate in case your mother’s turkey turns dry. I can not recommend this wine enough and am hard pressed imagining too many white wines for $32 that will provide as much stunning drinking pleasure.
Enjoy all three and good November drinking.