December ’21 Bargain Club

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December 2021 Bargain Wine Club
Greenhough Nelson Sauvignon blanc River Garden – Organic
Domitia Picpoul de Pinet – Organic
Vullien Mondeuse – Organic

Miloca Samsó (Carignan)  – Organic following Natural Practices
Di Majo Norante Aglianico Contado Riserva – Organic
Sobon Zinfandel Rocky Top (practicing Organic)

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Greenhough Nelson Sauvignon blanc River Garden – Organic

With a restraint that is typical of Nelson, this Sauvignon is more ‘Loire’ than ‘Marlborough’ in style. It was made 95% in tank and 5% in seasoned oak barrels to give more creamy palate weight. There’s white fruit on the nose then nectarine notes on the palate with some citrus too. Poised and balanced.

Fragrant green citrus leaf aromas, delicate lime, and fresh herbs. The wine is medium-light on the palate with crisp pear, nectarine, and grapefruit flavors. A bright line of balanced acidity provides crunch and appealing freshness.

Over thirty years ago Andrew & Jenny Greenhough left Auckland city to follow their winemaking dream in a rural corner of Nelson, encouragingly named “”Hope””. A small pioneer vineyard and winery become home and their journey began. The learning curve was steep and progress rapid. Demand for the wines grew, production expanded and export markets developed.

In 2008 they committed to organics with full certification three years later. “Hope is now home, and we want to protect the land that has tested, inspired and rewarded us. When nature thrives, so do we. The next vintage is always on the horizon, inspiring and testing us. Over thirty years on our craft remains as exciting and dynamic as ever.”


domitia Picpoul de Pinet – Organic 

We’ve carried Picpoul de Pinet since opening day, and consider it to be a staple white wine for its bracingly refreshing taste profile, its ability to go with many foods, and attractive price point.   Along with Muscadet, Picpoul de Pinet is one of the great white wines where you can still pick up world-class exemplars for under $15!  

One of only two exclusively white wine AOCs in the Côteaux de Languedoc, Picpoul de Pinet overlooks the salt water lagoon of the Bassin de Thau, where oysters and mussels are farmed.

(Picpoul is an old Provençal word for lip-sting, or more accurately lip-smacking). Most of the Picpoul imported to the USA is made in co-ops and doesn’t have much sense of place.    

The wine is somewhat of an anomaly -estate Picpoul – as the lion’s share of the wines from this AOC are produced in the cooperatives. The wine shows surprising complexity with notes of spring flowers and a streak of minerality that provide a beautiful framework. Because the wine finishes with such clean and bracing acidity, the rich mid-palate of melon and stone fruit is a delightful surprise. 

This wine is a classic example of why Picpoul is known as the  “Muscadet of Languedoc.”

Intriguing, briny mineral notes in both the nose and mouth provide the perfect backdrop for fish and shellfish. Some melon and citrus flavors keep you coming back for more and the crisp acidity assures that your palate does not tire from this zesty wine.

The soil is limestone and gravel, and the higher elevation and proximity to the cool sea breezes make for a wine with excellent freshness. Picked in the early hours of the morning, the grapes are then fermented by the Daumas Gassac team in stainless steel tanks and left on their lees for 3-5 months.

As a wine-growing district, Languedoc-Roussillon has had to struggle somewhat. However, the area’s reputation as a mass producer of simple bulk wines is beginning to wash off and the district seems to be producing one brilliant wine after the next.

It’s a perfect foil for oysters, other seafood, and fish. It’s also a great aperitif wine. 

vullien mondeuse

Vullien Mondeuse (Organic)

The eastern French region of the Savoie is one of the most exciting wine regions on the planet, and it’s near the top of my must-see places to go once we can get on airplanes and visit other countries again.  

Savoie is blessed —a cool mountain climate on a warming planet, and about as idyllic a place to grow and make wine as one could ask for.  Known more for skiing and other outdoor pursuits, the Savoie is not so well known as a wine-producing area, though within the area known as the Combe de Savoie, there are a handful of the best producers.  

With little-known grape varieties such as Jacquère, Mondeuse, and Altesse nestling alongside Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Gamay, the world of Savoie wines begs to be explored. I was astonished at the quality of Jean Vullien’s wines, especially when compared to most other producers in the area.

How were they producing such high-quality, clean, and fresh wines when so many others clearly couldn’t? It transpired that Jean Vullien learned viticulture in his native Bordeaux and his two sons, David and Olivier graduated from renowned wine college, La Viti in Beaune.  

The region’s best come from a boomerang-shaped string of hillside villages between Grenoble and Albertville (site of the 1992 Winter Olympics) called the Combe de Savoie (Combe is a word of Celtic origin meaning a sharp, deep valley). Jean Vullien and his two sons, David and Olivier, tend 69 acres on the Combe in the villages of Chignin, Montmélian, Arbin, St-Jean de la Porte, and their hometown of Fréterive.  

The Domain’s holdings include all of the region’s indigenous grape varieties, as well as strategically-placed parcels of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The wines range from a crisp, lemon and mineral Jacquère-based white that British wine author Andrew Jefford would categorize as “Muscadet of the Alps” to complex floral and spiced reds made from Mondeuse. In recent years, David and Olivier have also earned a reputation for their excellent Méthode Traditionelle sparkling wines.  Though the Vulliens have been making wine for 40 years, the family is perhaps best known as a leader in another segment of the wine industry.

Since 1890, Vullien Pépinière Viticole (vine nursery) has been supplying young vines to growers throughout France. In fact, they were the source for about 25% of the Chardonnay planted in Chablis after the ravages of phylloxera.  

Climatically, the Savoie is more challenged than many other wine producing areas of France, hence the different native grape varieties. Jacquere, which is widely available, drinks like a dry Sauvignon Blanc and is superb with shellfish and seafood. Gamay, which is the principal variety of Beaujolais, is comfortable in this slightly cooler climate too. They are succulent, light and full of fruit with the Gamay Rose airing more on the side of a dry rose. Both work extremely well with Savioe dishes such as raclette, tartiflette, tarte flambee (flammekueche) and cheese fondues. 

Their Mondeuse bottling is a winner- grown on the dark Jurassic limestone and black marl soils of Savoie. The grapes come from 16 acres of sustainably farmed vines, including parcels in the crus of St-Jean-de-la-Porte and Arbin. All grapes are de-stemmed and after fermentation, the wine is aged in 100% French oak barrels for 12 months.

The resultant wine is wonderfully complex with bright floral and spice notes to complement the fresh red and black fruit flavors. Pair with chili or a hearty beef stew.  Mondeuse is the mountain cousin of Northern Rhône Syrah—literally, in the sense that DNA analysis has linked it to Syrah, and figuratively, in that it drinks like the prettier, wilder, barefoot version bedecked in Alpine wildflowers.

This 2019 is not merely a tangy, smoky, lip-smacking joy to drink now but is a sneakily complex wine that will likely age nicely over the short term.  The Vullien family holdings include 16 acres of Mondeuse in St Jean de la Porte and Arbin—the only two crus within Savoie that produce exclusively red wine from Mondeuse in a region otherwise dominated by whites.

2018 montsant miloca carinena


Miloca Samsó (Carignan)  – Organic following Natural Practices

Winemaker Josep-Maria Vendrell is in his thirties, but he already has a lot of experience under his belt, having spent several years as assistant winemaker in the Capçanes cooperative in Montsant.  

His family owns 40+ acres, 17 of vines around the village of Marca in Montsant, not far from Falset.  He keeps the best old-vine lots of grapes and sells the rest off in bulk to Miguel Torres.  

The trend in this area is to produce formulaic wines that show very little character other than the new oak that the popular winemaker-consultants in the area insist will please the journalists.  

This young man is already bucking that trend, for he knows that the terroir (teruño in Spanish) of his area and very old vine (50-80 years) Garnacha and Cariñena are worth showing through in his wine. He is a winemaker to watch that strikes us as already being at the top of his game after only a few vintages on his own.  

Vendrell’s vineyards are farmed organically without synthetic fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides.  They are continuously plowed not only for weed management but to encourage deep root growth.  By doing this, the grapes will inevitably show the underlying character of the terroir but also be more resistant to drought.  His winery is perfectly suited to his artisan stature.  It is modern, but manageable by one person.  With the help of his father and an old family friend in the vineyards, this is truly hand-made wine that undergoes minimal handling in the cellars and leaps out of the glass once released from its bottle.

Josep-Maria Vendrell produces very little of this intriguing red wine produced from 100% old vine Carignan (or Samsó in the local Catalan language). A deep purple color belies this vibrant wine that is both rich and fresh. It’s viscous texture braced by almost crisp acidity and gritty mouth feel make this a stunning high-class “country” wine. -Importer  Organically cultivated,  Miloca Montsant hails from 50-80 year old Carignan vines and boasts seamlessly integrated notes of cherry, chocolate, sappy tannins, smoked meat and pepper.


Di Majo Norante Aglianico Contado Riserva – Organic

Founded in 1968, the Di Majo estate cultivates more than 200 acres under vine. In order to ensure consistent, high-quality production for all the estate’s wines, Alessio Di Majo hired renowned oenologist Riccardo Cotarella as a consultant. In addition to producing quality wine at an outstanding value, the Di Majo family is dedicated to practicing environmentally sound agriculture.

The Di Majo Norante winery sits on the estate of the Marquis Norante of Santa Cristina in the region of Molise, along the Adriatic Sea between Puglia and Abruzzo. The cultivation of vines in this area dates back to 500 BC, when the region was inhabited by two pre-Roman civilizations, the Sanniti and the Osci. The estate has been dedicated to growing vines since the 1800s. In the 1960s a modern cantina was constructed and vines were replanted in the Ramitello area.

The Contado Riserva is made from 100% Aglianico grapes grown in the southeastern region of Molise. The grapes are hand-harvested in late October and undergo an extended period of maceration to build incredible concentration and flavor. After fermentation in stainless steel, the wine is matured in a combination of stainless steel and barriques for eighteen months, resulting in a layered, complex wine. 

92 points, James Suckling: Aromas of blue fruit and wet earth with a hint of lavender. Medium to full body, firm and silky tannins and a long, flavorful finish.

91 points, Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate: Of the many value reds offered by this estate, the 2015 Aglianico del Molise Riserva Contado is my favorite. The wine delivers the power and density that is attributed to this fabulous red grape, followed by warm-vintage aromas that are exuberant and generous. You get black cherry and blackberry preserves followed by light baking spice. This is a full-bodied wine that achieves careful balance.

rocky top

Sobon Zinfandel Rocky Top (practicing Organic)

Sobon Zinfandel Rocky Top is made by the Sobon family in Amador County.  The winery was founded when the Sobon’s purchased the old d’Agostini (designated a State Historic Landmark), and started producing deep structured wines using sustainable and organic farming methods.  

We’ve carried Rocky Top for fifteen or so years, and really like its bold flavors and brambly fruit.  Produced entirely from Sobon’s organically farmed estate old vine vineyards in the Shenandoah Valley, these special vines yield intensely concentrated Zin full of ripe blackberry and cherry fruit aromas and flavors, with hints of chocolate and that classic Amador spiciness. It is a perfect match for roasts, steak, and rich sauces, and will complement aged, full-flavored cheeses.

From one of the few remaining blocks of pre-prohibition era Zinfandel on the Estate, this ridge-top vineyard of cobble loam gives us a full-bodied wine of great depth, structure, and character. Aged 18 months in small French & American Oak barrels, 30% new Tasting Notes: Notes of summer berries, licorice, and a woodsy earthiness with hints of white pepper and allspice. Heady aromatics lead to a rich, long, lingering finish.

The Sobon Estate winery started in 1989 when Leon and Shirley Sobon bought each other a second winery for their 30th wedding anniversary present. They purchased the historic D’Agostini Winery, one of the oldest in the state. This winery has been designated as California State Historic Landmark #762. This site was chosen not only for its historical winery but also for its vineyards and vineyard land.

The old vine Zinfandel was retained, and the other vineyards replanted with the best varieties and clones. The Sobon Estate label launched the estate line of wines for the Sobon Family — the best wines from their own grapes. Over the years, Leon garnered many National and International awards for Sobon Estate and Shenandoah Vineyards wines. Both family label wines are distributed nationally, as well as internationally in Canada, Switzerland, and Hong Kong. Leon is widely recognized as a leader in the wine industry and has actively participated in many industry boards and committees. He is also sought after as a judge for many prestigious wine-tasting competitions. Today … the winemaking and business aspects continue to be a family affair. Shirley is the Finance & Gallery Manager while Leon contributes his years of winemaking knowledge to every vintage. Sons Paul, Robert, and Son-in-Law Tom Quinn continue the family tradition that began all those years ago.

91% Zinfandel, 9% Carignan.  “Full aromas of ripe black fruit, cooked cherry, and hints of toasty smoke. Round and full on the palate, with blackberry, plum and cinnamon, over a peppery spice.  Balanced, rich finish ending on a dark chocolate note.”- Sante Magazine



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