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The 234th edition of our New Arrivals and Returning Favorites features a handful of fantastic Portuguese and Spanish wines, a dueling duo of whites from Santorini, and a few wines that we feel compelled to highlight, as they reach the end of stock.
From Spain, our highlight is on the new arrivals from Diego Losada, our friend and the force behind the La Senda wines from Bierzo.
" Diego Losada started La Senda in the early 2010s, bottling his first wine in the 2013 vintage from 3 parcels that he recuperated. Now, his work has grown to roughly 15 parcels throughout the Bierzo appellation. Since the beginning, the focus of the project has been on organics, low-intervention winemaking, and respect for the natural environment. His rented plots are remote, low-yielding, and feature old-vines of the region’s classic varieties: Mencía, Alicante Bouschet (or Garnacha Tintorera), Trousseau (or Bastardo), Palomino, and Doña Blanca. Further, his focus on careful but transparent winemaking processes in the cellar allows the drinker to taste the soils, climate, vintage character, and varietal identity in each wine. Diego ferments and ages all of the wines in concrete or neutral barrels and does not add sulfur or other additives." (Ben Fletcher)
We also received an allocation of wines from Casa Aurora, a special Galician project from winemaker Germán Blanco. Named after his grandmother, the wines celebrate the Bierzo region, and are made from old, untrained vineyards of Mencia, Trousseau, Garnacha Tintorera, Godello and Dona Blanca.
From Portugal, we have a lineup from Pedro Marques in Torres Vedras, outside of Lisbon.
Vale da Capucha is a small estate in the Torres Vedras DOC, within the Lisboa wine region, about 10km from the Atlantic Ocean (approximately 45 minutes northwest from Lisbon). Here, the passionate Pedro Marques has been busy replanting indigenous grapes and converting his family's estate to organic and biodynamic farming. In the cellar, winemaking is all low SO2, with occasional no sulfur bottlings. The vineyards are situated on a fault of Kimmeridgian limestone, with some clay, and they lend a linear mineral character to the wines. Pedro's work is impressive and his commitment to the Lisboa region and it's history is noteworthy. The region isn't well known even in Portugal, so his efforts will hopefully pay off and gain the area some recognition. Maybe he'll even convince some neighbors to pursue the organic/biodynamic route! (We originally learned about Pedro from Eric Texier, who has been an enthusiastic supporter of Pedro's project, and a fan of the wines!)
Summer may be officially over but Chambers just got a stash of aged Assyrtiko from Santorini, Greece, guaranteed to put summer's sunny glow back on your face! From one of the oldest continually run family wineries in Greece, this is the insider's Santorini producer the locals know about on the eastern end of the island. For lovers of Domaine Sigalas and Hadzidakis Assyrtiko, but not of their ever skyrocketing prices!
Fun fact: the family also dug deep into the rock to create the Koutsoyannopoulos Wine Museum, which occupies a natural cave. The only one of its kind in Greece, the museum shows the history of wine making on the island dating back to the 1600s. Preserving Santorini's wine in the glass and culturally, that's pretty cool!
Koutsoyannopoulos 2013 Santorini Assyrtiko $28.99
A super elegant, lithe rendition. Initially subdued upon opening, it really opened up within an hour to offer up notes of lime, wet rocks and sea spray. Featuring racy acidity and intense minerality on a medium body, the wine is structured with a long, persistent finish. I found it to be an excellent pairing for icy shellfish; oyster happy hour anyone?
Verdict: Catherine Deneuve in Bunuel's "Belle de Jour"
Koutsoyannopoulos 2014 Santorini Assyrtiko $28.99
A voluptuous, sunny rendition. Right out of the gate, the wine kisses you with ripe juicy peach and apricot flavors hinting at mango, even as the island’s stony character comes through, leaving behind the scent of sea air. Equally mineral with vibrant acidity, it finishes with a fuller bodied, powerful structure begging for roasted fish or white meats; grilled lobster anyone?
Verdict: Brigitte Bardot in the 60s music video for song "Harley Davidson"
Conclusion: Tasted side by side, the penultimate blonde in the bottle smackdown. I recommend getting them both and deciding for yourself!
Why Do We Still Have These Wines?
We lost an invoice - this is really the last 36 bottles of Jo Landron's lovely 2018 Muscadet "Les Houx" - price goes up for the 2019. Franck Pascal is one of the great, unknown, natural winemakers of France - his Jonc Blanc 2018 Vin de France "Racine" is a fantastic deep and complex glass of wine, 22 bottles left. Serge Hondet's Domaine Tinou has been organic since 1964! His 2019 Jurancon Sec is superb, and only $19.99....12 btls left.
A blend of Godello, Doña Blanca, Palomino, and Malvasia, In A Gadda Da Vida is Diego Losada's only white wine. Diego ferments this wine in open top used french oak barrels, and the grapes macerate on their skins for 90 days in Frenh oak and chestnut barrels. Aging is in used French and Slovenian oak barrels. A fascinating white, with fleshy texture from the skin contact, and salty, waxy character. No fining, filtering, or added SO2.
This is a peculiar wine that originally happened by accident, but pleased Diego enough that he has now made it intentionally! A blend of Palomino and Dona Blanca from a clay and limestone site, the grapes spend a few days on the skins in a used barrel that was previously used for a red wine. As the wine ages in this barrel, it absorbs some of the pigment, and ends up looking like a Rosé! Hence the name, 'Une Rose de Blancs.' As with his other wines, it's bottled without filtration or any addition of sulfur. There's a hint of wild red berries on the nose, with stone fruits on the palate -EL
Vindemiatrix is Diego Losada’s most affordable and approachable wine, from 7 plots of mostly Mencia on Bierzo’s valley floor (around 500m above sea level). Soils are mostly clay and limestone, and vinification follows Diego's low-intervention approach: hand-harvesting, fermentation and brief maceration in concrete tanks, and then 7 months of resting in the same vessels, and finally racking into bottles. An incredible value from one of the most exciting winemakers in Bierzo! Ben Fletcher
El Aqueronte is a single vineyard red, mostly Mencía (80%), with 20% Grand Noir, a grape that is most likely a cross between Aramon and Petit Bouschet. This area’s soils are mostly clay, but here, at the top of the hill, there is a substantial portion of limestone mixed in. This is the driest and most remote of the vineyards that Diego Losada works with and one of the oldest, with vines averaging 70-90 years. As with his other wines, Diego bottles without fining or filtering, and there is no sulfur added to wines. El Aqueronte shows notes of dark berries, anise, fresh earth amid other herbal and spice notes. Recently arrived to the US, we recommend letting the wine rest in bottle and drinking in 2022.
Germán Blanco spent three years restoring this .5 hectare site, planted mainly to 40-100 year-old Garnacha Tintorera and Palomino (with small amounts of Mencia, Garnacha, and Godello) on iron-rich red clay and stony soils situated at 820 meters on a south-facing slope rising above the valley floor. Valle del Rio 2014 is a luxurious single vineyard expression calling forth the image of fresh mountain herbs growing in a thick patch of ripe blackberries.
A blend of Garnacha Tintorera, Palomino, Trousseau, Garnacha, and Mencia, from vineyards that range from 800-1000 meters in altitude. Grapes are de-stemmed and fermentation and aging is in a combination of tanks, amphorae, and cement eggs. A lovely, light bodied red, with subtle tannic structure, and bright red floral aromatics.
La Vendañona comes from a single, formerly abandoned high altitude plot of 100 to 110 year-old Mencía on iron-rich clay soils. There is a touch of delicate oak spice here, which complements the dark, savory, character of this expression of Mencía very well. The texture is silky and dense, but medium-bodied, with integrated, dusty tannins that frame the notes of game, blackberry, and plum nicely. I think that this would be a good candidate for medium-term aging, but it's so appealing and gastronomic now it may be very hard to wait! Ben Fletcher
Fernao Pires, Arinto, and 10-15% other regional grape varieties, from the Lisboa region. Medium weight, with a hint of rubber on the nose. Once it breathes, more of the salinity from the Fernao Pires and Arinto show up aromatically.
This is a special wine (not just because it's called "Especial!"), a solera that Pedro started in 2013 and has been adding to since then. A blend of mostly Arinto, Alvarinho, and Fernao Pires, with some skin contact. There's lovely structure in the mid-palate, with bright salinity, and slightly oxidative finish. A very cool wine. -EL
A field blend of indigenous varieties: mostly Rabigato, with Arinto and Gouveio. From the upper Douro Valley (Douro Superior), the warmest and the driest Douro sub-region. Altitudes are 500-600 meters with schist soils. Practicing organic and biodynamic, hand harvested, fermentation with indigenous yeast only. Aged in used French oak barrels for 9 months on the lees. With a bright gold appearance, the nose shows aromas of ripe melon and pear, white flowers and wet stones. In the mouth the wine displays great volume and fresh acidity along with flavors of citrus, pear, melon, honey and slightly bitter almond. For lovers of ripe Chenin or white Rhônes. The lees and oak aging give the wine a round body and structure that would make it an excellent partner to light meats as well as richer seafood dishes. Giselle Hamburg
1984 is a faithful expression of Bierzo Mencía from 3 organically farmed plots of old vines (around 60 years old) at around 650m in elevation in the appellation’s southwest. These are some of the highest elevation vines in the Bierzo appellation: the climate here is somewhat humid, and the soils are dominated by quartz, iron and slate rather than the clays of the valley floor. The grapes for the 2020 were partially destemmed, and allowed to ferment and macerate on their skins for 7-8 days before being pressed into old French oak barrels for 8 months to rest. The finished wine was bottled without fining or filtering, and there was no sulfur employed in the winemaking. 1984 shows the terrific tension between power and delicacy that Bierzo wines can embody: the nose is enticing and friendly with black and red fruits and earth while the palate is all cherry and black raspberry framed with brisk acidity, gently structuring tannins, and notes of black tea, bergamot, and clove. Really lovely and an incredible bargain. -Ben Fletcher
La Barbacana is a special vineyard of old vines (100+ years), and this red is 100% Alicante Bouschet (Garnacha Tintorera) in 2019. Diego Losada speaks of this parcel reverentially. It is isolated: deep in the remote southwestern mountains of Bierzo, almost in Galicia, next to an old 13th century ruin and an ancient Roman mine. But it is also unique for its elevation: at 650m, and for the mineral deposits, with lots of quartz, iron and slate, but also deposits of gold below the surface that prompted the Romans to mine the area in the first place. In terms of cellar work, La Barbacana is treated similarly to the other wines: hand harvested, partially destemmed, macerated on the skins in chestnut vats for 2-4 days, then rested for 12 months in chestnut barrels before bottling without fining, filtering, or any additions. On opening, the nose shows earthy, meaty, spicy character against abundant red cherry and overripe strawberry notes. The palate is deeply mineral and earthy with tannins that recall dusty leather and ample acidity enveloping delicate, pure red fruit notes. A serious wine, and definitely a young wine, which should age well for 3-5 years. -Ben Fletcher
Gouveio is a grape found mostly in the Dao and Alentejo in Portugal, and known as Godello in Spain. The 2017 was the first vintage we had at Chambers, and was surely a memorable wine, but the 2018 is even more impressive. Stone fruit and chiseled stones on the palate, with viscosity and a hint of Riesling-like petrol on the nose. It definitely will stand as one of the very best Gouveio/Godello wines we've ever tried. -EL
This is a white that is unmistakably influenced by the Atlantic, and the Lisboa region. Mostly Fernao Pires, with some Arinto as well. Both grapes give a salty and mineral character, which is on full display here. A perfect introduction to Pedro's wines, and a uniquely Portuguese white.
This is a blend of Tinto Roriz, Touriga Nacional, and Syrah. Very tasty, with dark, blackberry and blueberry fruit, and silky tannins.
A blend of Arinto and Fernao Pires, this wine shows its Atlantic influence, with salinity and good acidity. It also reminiscent of a White Burgundy on the mid-palate, with viscosity from some aging on the lees.
A funky-fresh rosé Pet-Nat of Touriga Nacional , Syrah, and Tinta Barocca, from vineyards outside of Lisbon. Charming and juicy, with a wild raspberry profile, but still light and lithe. The bubbles are very fine. -EL
Muxagat is an estate in the Douro, run by Susana Lopes and Ana Sofia Silva, with the guidance of the famed Luis Seabra. This is 100% Tinta Barroca, a local grape from the Douro, grown on granite and schist soils. Grapes are pressed in traditional cement lagars, and the wine is aged in cement, with no use of oak. On the nose, there is pleasant blackberry fruit, with elegant, leathery tannin on the palate. Subtle cocoa and menthol notes carry the mid-palate, and the finish is marked by fine mineral length. -EL
Summer may be officially over but Chambers just got a stash of aged Assyrtiko from Santorini Greece guaranteed to put summer's sunny glow back on your face! From one of the oldest continually run family wineries in Greece, this is the insider's Santorini producer the locals know about on the eastern end of the island. For lovers of Domaine Sigalas and Hadzidakis Assyrtiko, but not of their ever skyrocketing prices! Fun fact: the family also dug deep into the rock to create the only one of its kind in Greece, the Koutsoyannopoulos Wine Museum which occupies a natural cave. The museum shows the history of wine making on the island dating back to the 1600s. Preserving Santorini's wine culture in the glass and culturally, that's pretty cool!
Chenin Blanc from a single 4 ha organically-farmed (certified) parcel in Montlouis. 35+year-old vines in clay and silex over chalk. Fermented in a combination of used barrels and foudre. There’s no lack of “it’s not-cheap-but…” notes on here. (I’m probably guilty of writing a couple myself.) But this is more of a “don’t-be-put-off-by-the-price” situations. Montlouis. Certified organic. Ripe, but fresh; easygoing, but focused. More stone fruit and green tea than wool and wax, but definitely holding a fine mineral core beneath a facade of agreeable fruit. Pleasing, but substantive; oh-so-delicious. I can’t argue with the sage words of our friend Pascaline: "Chenin, Chenin, Chenin!" what a lovely bottle! Highly recommended. John McIlwain
(Last of the 2018 vintage!) Jo Landron's 2018 "Les Houx" (formerly known as "Hermine D'Or") is from a great parcel of thin sandy clay soils, rich with silica, quartz and iron, over a bedrock of gneiss and clay. Kept on the lees for 12 months. Normally one of the most scintillating and mineral of Muscadets, the 2018 is slightly riper and rounder but remains essentially a mouthful of terroir. The wine shows lovely aromas of ripe pear, stone and anise that open nicely with aeration. The palate is round and mineral, framed in firm acidity with ripe white fruits, citrus, stone and licorice and there's a nice mineral kick in the finish. Delicious now, this will develop nicely over the next few years, and will accompany oysters and grilled seafood, from flounder to monkfish, roast chicken and mild cheeses. David Lillie
Isabelle and Franck Pascal make this beautiful natural wine (formerly known as "Classik") from Cabernet and Merlot grown on their Biodynamic estate near Felines, in Bergerac. The wine is aged sur-lie 12 months in barrel, and is bottled without filtration or added sulfur. The color is a dark red/black; the wine shows bright, vivid aromas of ripe cassis and boysenberry liqueur with earth, musk, violet and graphite. The palate is lush, ripe and vibrant with blackberry, cassis, prune, chocolate, earth, stone and licorice lifted by firm, cool acidity that continues in the long, bright and sapid finish. Wow, delicious! Serve with grilled pork or beef, a daube Provençal, strong cheeses and charcuterie or cellar for 5 to 8 years. David Lillie
Domaine Tinou's Jurançon Sec will please wine lovers who enjoy bone dry Riesling from the Rheinhessen or the Wachau. Same tension, same weight, just a little variation on the aromatics. Made from 85% Gros Manseng and 15% "Lauzet," a rare variety with only a few hectares still in production. The wine shows a very pale gold color with subtle aromas of pear and apple with more exotic fruits emerging and hints of hay, stone and white pepper. The palate is fairly dense and sapid with spiced pear and mineral flavors, raw almond, citrus and hay. It seems delicate and powerful at the same time, with nice length and firm acidity. Serve with full-flavored fish and shellfish dishes, chicken, pork and mountain cheeses. Lovely wine. David Lillie