Friday Sips

Join Us for Friday Sips!


Today, Friday August 2, 3:30 - 6:30

Come celebrate Bryan's 15th year anniversary as Wine Director of The Cellar Door by tasting 4 selections (different vintages of course) from 4 producers that were featured on some of the very first Weekly Hot Sheets back in 1998. There is much to say about then and now that’s written below, so happy reading and if you pop in, it'll be happy drinking!

$16.99 BTL./$203.88 CASE

From Northern Puglia and more specifically, the sub-region of Castel del Monte, and since it was first introduced it to me back pre-Cellar Door days, it has consistently been in my drinking rotation. You must remember in those days, the majority of Southern Italian wines, especially Puglia, were often prune-soaked alcohol bombs that mostly from the southern portion of the region made from Primitivo or Negroamaro grapes.

Times have certainly changed throughout the growing regions south of Rome, but even back then, Northern Puglia’s wines were something of an embryonic, enigmatic beast and honestly were the first introduction to the Nero di Troia grape for most of us. Moving ahead 15 years, we see a few more producers from this area and while still not a household name, the wines are very individual, unabashed Italian and offer good quality/price rapport. Hearty like other Southern Italian red wines, there is a unique and pleasant smokiness that permeates throughout. Crushed berry, licorice and spicy earth compliment the smokiness nicely and carry over into a texture that possesses plenty of generosity along with spirited tanginess. Seemingly, the denizens of Northern Puglia pair this wine with spicy, tomato-based lamb dishes, you should do the same!! We featured the 1995 back in August of 1998, you don’t want to know the price we sold it at :-).

$21.99 BTL./$263.88 CASE

From day one when I first started at The Cellar Door, there has always been an affinity for ABC wines: anything but Chardonnay. From 1998 through to current day, Karen has always agreed on this statement, but here have always been two exceptions, one, hyphenated Chardonnay (White Burgundy, Cameron Chardonnay Clos-Electrique, Chablis-Les Clos) and two, giving it up to the renowned wines from Jermann on all levels.

The first thing you’ll be compelled to ask about Jermann’s Chardonnay will be, is it buttery like California? Is it French in style? Answer simply is that Jermann is Jermann. One of the icons who put Italian white wines on the map, Silvio Jermann has been doing his profound thing since the mid 70s. These wines have always been fabulous and looking back 15+ years of selling this wine, Silvio continues to want to strive to be better and probably the most noticeable item is the amount of palate coverage that his wines have while still being very discreet. Besides working with Ribolla, Tocai Friulano, Pinot Bianco, and other local varietals, Silvio Jermann has been doing wonders with Chardonnay since the 1980 vintage so there certainly is a track record. Very pretty, restrained aromas of green apples, flowers, and engaging flint tones, the 2010 is dry, refreshingly relaxed, yet impeccably detailed and provocative in the mouth. No oak to interfere, just waves of stony flavors supported by a fine core of fruit. If names like Ribolla and Tocai Friulano have scared you away from Jermann before, then we urge you to try this legendary producer's Chardonnay. Drink it with fresh crab or grilled monkfish, you’ll come back thanking us for it! From my second-ever Hot Sheet on August 10, 1998, we offered the 1995 vintage of Jermann’s Chardonnay and sold it for $19.99, not too much of an increase over time.

$17.99 BTL./$215.88 CASE

The joys of having a draconian, inefficient Liquor Control Board while living in Pittsburgh meant that we’d rarely see the wines from the Alary Brothers. When we did get them we loved them. After relocating to Portland in 1994, it surprised me that they were available here in decent quantity, especially at that time because much of Cotes-du-Rhone for most of the US meant non-descript negociant juice or crap co-op plonk. Fast forward to 2003, visiting the Domaine, traveling with two other colleagues and being hosted by Francois Alary, the three of us were virtually throwing elbows, generally cursing in two languages and acting up with excitement. Francois was laughing right along and referred to us Les Trois Stoo-gez. Seriously, we understood and had passion for what these guys do and the doors really opened up, actually blew off of their hinges, with Francois showing us older vintages to prove the aging mettle of their outstanding wines. Looking back on 15 years through the annals of all of our writings, I’ve been most fortunate and proud to share these wines with Cellar Door friends for the entire time I’ve been hunting and pecking on the keyboard.

There are more upscale Cuvees at Oratoire and we always have much love and feature those, but this time, and actually from my very first Sheet, I decided to feature their Cotes-du-Rhone. Unlike the small production, spendier Cru Cuvees, the Oratoire Cotes-du-Rhone has no Mourvedre in the blend, instead it’s 80% Grenache & 20% Syrah. From the estate’s foothill vineyards in Cairanne, this wine is cropped at the same level that a Premier Cru Burgundy would be and comes from 30+ year old vines. Vintage 2011 brings forth pronounced exotic spice, sandalwood, lavender, smoke, Italian plum and pepper on the nose followed by a substantial texture that is dry, pure, concentrated and red. The finish is firm, palate-staining, revealing plenty of hot-rock aspects. As you’ll see if you come by today to taste, it’s drinking exquisitely now and we suggest pairing it with grilled-anything over the next 3-4 years. Rhône wines have always been important to me here at The Cellar Door before and beyond, and this producer merits attention from any lover of Chateauneuf, Gigondas, etc. If you want to know more about the single cuvees, their quality and pricing, shoot me an e-mail, they are available. We originally offered the 1996 vintage of this wine in week 4 of August 1998 and ran it at $12.50. Even then this wine was Cotes-du-Rhone with much more. Thankfully, some good things just never change.

$39.99 BTL./$479.88 CASE

Here’s the crazy thing, back in August 1998 I offered the 1990 vintage of this particular wine and sold it for $17.50! True as it was back then, this is a Rioja for committed, old-school Rioja aficionados and is one that critics usually ignored because they lacked the super-jammy, heavy-duty oak treatment that was so in vogue at the time. Guess what, 15 years later and this venerable, devout traditionalist hasn’t changed one bit. The only thing that’s different now is that certain critics have figured it out, consumers who really gravitate to this style and those who want to go on a real food and wine adventure.

The Lopez de Heredia family are incredibly nice folks and it was a thrill to see Neal Martin of the Wine Advocate wax poetic about this particular Rioja Reserva last year and drop a 95 point score. I’m in total agreement with his sentiment: "The 2001 Vina Tondonia Reserva is bridled with a lovely nose of decayed red fruit, fireside hearth, a touch of mulberry and small red cherry. The palate is medium-bodied with fine tannins, crisp red fruits (wild strawberry and cranberry) with a sharp, vibrant, tense, tannic finish that has immense precision. There is a slight saline note lingering in the mouth after the wine has (regretfully) departed. Drink now-2030+. I have adored, indeed occasionally worshiped, the wines of Lopez de Heredia for many years, so I am not ashamed to admit that visiting both their vineyard and their winery was a pilgrimage. Founded by Rafael Lopez de Heredia y Landeta in 1877, it has withstood the tide of corporatization and homogeneity, and epitomizes timeless, artisan winemaking in their own individual, almost solipsistic manner. - 95 POINTS - THE WINE ADVOCATE."