The Everyday Dozen

April 27, 2020

We know our business is not going to save the world.
But we’d like to help brighten as many moments as we can.

We plan to continue offering you deals over the next months with our overstocked goodies that were originally destined for our restaurant customers. We can’t keep them forever and our growers always have another pile of wines ready for us once we’re through with the ones we have. While we have hundreds of excellent wines, this short list has some classics that you might be familiar with.

As you choose your dozen bottles, or meet the $300 minimum, to get our 20% discount, these wines will help you build your order. They are more in the middle-of-the-road style, and universal enough for just about anyone searching for a lot of pleasure and intellectual stimulation out of the same bottle.

The Sorgente Prosecco project was born out of the mutual desire for The Source and a special undisclosed estate (sorry I can’t specify who) to work together on this Prosecco wines. The proximity of these vineyards to the Alps and the Adriatic Sea brings an ideal temperature characterized by large diurnal swings from day to night. As you may know, this is crucial for a proper Prosecco to remain true to form (bright, fresh, minerally) and function (pleasure over intellect, although both are strong here.) Limestone and clay are that magical mix of soils that impart many of the world’s great wines with interesting x-factors. Yeah, it’s still Prosecco, but it’s a good one. And it’s been noticed by some of the best restaurants in New York, California and Illinois where it’s poured by the glass. (The dosage level between the two wines is 12g/l for the Extra Dry and 5g/l for the Brut, which means that the Brut will be the drier of the two.)

The Château de Brézé Crémant de Loire is another wine in our collection that over-delivers for the price, especially when considering the exhausting effort made to craft such an inexpensive sparkler from one of the Loire Valley’s greatest terroirs, Brézé. This now famous commune in Saumur is known for its laser-sharp Chenin Blanc wines, and fresh, bright and extremely age-worthy Cabernet Franc. The blend here is about 75% Chenin Blanc with the rest Chardonnay; the latter is used to soften up, add body and round out the edges of the extremely tense character of the Chenin grown in the coldest sites of this already frigid hill.

Our next gem comes from the Wachau, Austria’s most celebrated wine region. It’s hard to dispute the Mittelbach Federspiel Grüner Veltliner as likely the top value wine in this region from stellar winegrowers. What’s more is that it comes from some of the region’s most revered terroirs, like Loibenberg, Kellerberg and Steinriegl. So why is the price much more than fair? The grapes come from mostly young vines from a set of recently purchased vineyards for Weingut Tegernseerhof, the producer of this wine. Martin Mittelbach, the winegrower, wanted to observe how these new wines performed for some years in the cellar to determine what sections would go into his top wines, and what should go into his entry-level wines. For now, it’s all in one cuvée and it’s classic Mittelbach style: crystalline, energized and pure.

Emmanuelle Mellot’s Sauvignon from the Loire Valley is grown not too far from Sancerre, her hometown and the location of her family’s historic domaine, Alphonse Mellot. However, this wine is made by one of her close friends (who asked to remain anonymous) in support of Emmanuelle’s negociant project, which focuses on satellite appellations close to Sancerre. To keep the wine straight and easy to drink, but still loaded with the unmistakable mark of Loire Valley Sauvignon, the natural fermentation and the aging takes place exclusively in stainless steel tanks. While it’s indeed marked by the region’s classic characteristics of citrus fruits, mineral elements and freshness, it’s a gentle and easily accessible Sauvignon Blanc.

Arnaud Lambert’s Saumur Blanc “Clos de Midi” is our top selling single white wine to restaurants for by-the-glass programs. We usually struggle to keep it in stock, but the coronavirus has changed that, at least for now… Once you’ve had it, it’s easy to imagine why somm culture can’t get enough. For an experience that combines an immense amount of intellectual stimulation and pleasure, it’s hard to get a more complete white wine than this for the price. It comes from one of the colder sites on the now famous Brézé hill, and with Arnaud’s soft touch there is a fine balance between tension and generosity.

It’s never easy to pick a favorite wine, especially if you’ve made it a habit of drinking well with Europe’s best wine regions. That said, we can’t say which rosé in our collection tops our list, but if we were to choose the most complex and energized, it would probably be François Crochet’s Sancerre Rosé made entirely of Pinot Noir. A textbook example of finely wrought Sancerre rosé, this is hard to keep your hands off, but keep in mind that it will age effortlessly for numerous years. (Tip: Don’t believe the myth about the ageability of rosé; especially Pinot Noir rosés from northern France. They are often even better the year following their release.) A short maceration on the skins here typically laces the wine’s charming but deeply layered nose with the essence of elegant green citrus, sweet pink rose, passion fruit, and fresh green herbs. This wine gets top honors if you need a little extra complexity and tension in your rosé.

Another wine that has reigned supreme for many restaurants we work with is Arnaud Lambert’s Saumur-Champigny “Les Terres Rouges.” It was and still remains one of our top sellers since we first began importing wine ten years ago. The vineyards that make up this lip-smackingly good wine are from Saumur-Champigny’s most southern commune, Saint-Cyr-en-Bourg, which makes it one of the coldest areas of the appellation. The fragrant dark earth notes of Cabernet Franc may give the sensation of grapes grown in black soils with wet forest moss, grass and bramble. Its name translates to “the red earth,” but it’s grown on light brown clay with alluvial sands atop a bed of stark white tuffeau limestone. The naturally cool harvest conditions of Saumur, the clay and limestone soils, and a life spent in stainless steel tanks renders this medium-bodied wine an absolutely refreshing red quaffer.

Of course we have to have Beaujolais on this list! The young Chardigny boys are fast on their way to stardom and they’ve already caught the attention of a few French “natural wine” luminaries, like their southerly neighbor in Fleurie, Jean-Louis Dutraive, and over in the Jura, Jean-François Ganevat, who both have signed on to buy some of their beautiful, organically farmed fruit. The Chardigny Saint-Amour “a la Folie” leads with a punch of charming bright and full red fruit, freshly cut sweet green herbs and warm earthiness. The cellar aging takes place in a mix of concrete, stainless steel, and neutral oak barrels, which keeps the wine full of life. If a wine could indeed exemplify “love” in a bottle, this Saint-Amour may be it.

From the moment the Pas de L’Escalette “Les Petit Pas” concept was created, the intention was to be a charmer from the getgo and not taken too seriously—hence the full color pinkish red label with neon green footprints. It’s a multi-parcel blend of limestone terroirs with 40% Grenache, 40% Syrah and 20% Carignan. It’s bottled the spring that follows its harvest to keep it lively and bright. It’s perfect for warm weather because even though it’s a red wine, with a little chill it loses nothing but doesn’t feel heavy under the sun. During fermentation they use a sort of soft infusion technique instead of the typical but stronger extraction methods (pigeage, pumpover, etc.) This renders a wine that bursts with fresh red and crunchy purple fruits.

Not only does the Russo family’s organically-run cantina make fabulously good “price-sensitive” wines, they produce superb hazelnuts and many other delicious edibles, but their preserves get my full attention, especially the apricot jam. The Crotin Barbera d’Asti has been a constant favorite of many of our top Italian restaurants and others with Italian influenced cooking. It comes from likely the coldest section of Asti—quite close to Turin—which was the first area to be abandoned after WWII (because it had a train station while many other areas further south didn’t!) and one of the last to be replanted since. It’s a wine that showcases the classic qualities of Barbera, Piedmont’s most widely planted red grape. It’s fresh and textured with soft tannins and mouth-watering wild fruit qualities. Think of those Italian cooking nights without the need to hold the wine so precious; just let it lift your spirit and raise your glass to the brave of Italy trying to save their greatest treasures—nonna e nonno—who still gift our world with the ancient secrets of their splendid culture.

After living in Campania for a year, I’ve become crazy for Aglianico (and the Amalfi Coast’s indigenous white grapes and their unapologetically upfront and friendly nature and perfection with salty fish and seafood). Madonna delle Grazie’s “Messer Oto” Aglianico del Vulture, is a charmer too, and perhaps the cantina’s most versatile wine with potential to appeal to a broad range of drinkers. It maintains impressive aromas and freshness, while allowing its natural earthiness, beautiful red and dark fruits and an ethereal nose filled with smells of Italian herbs to freely move about the glass. It’s named after a fountain in Venosa, from where you can see these vineyards off in the distance. Paolo Latorraca, the winegrower, commented that the wine should be easy to drink, like you’re drinking from a fountain. Yes, it’s like that.

So we end on another truly high note in an ensemble of wines overloaded with talent and modest prices. Poderi Colla’s Nebbiolo d’Alba is no ordinary Nebbiolo d’Alba. It sits on a hillside just across the road from Barbaresco vineyards on nearly the same dirt: sandy limestone marls. This estate in Colla’s stable of three estates, known as Drago, has a quiet, legendary history; so much so that it inspired Bepe Colla, one of Barolo and Barbaresco’s legendary vignoli, to bet on it and make it the family cantina’s home base. The Collas stop at nothing short of treating it with the same reverence in the cellar as they do their Bussia Barolo and Roncaglie Barbaresco. It’s made just the same (in large, old wooden botte) and aged for the same requirement as a Barbaresco—two years before bottling with more than nine months in wood; in this case, the wine is aged for a full year in wood. This is serious juice, and if you want to keep your budget straight and drink special wines on a regular basis at good prices, it’s a must.