Michael Bray

{standaloneHead}Michael Bray{/standaloneHead}

One of my favorite things to do when I travel is to visit other wine stores. If I’m out of state, it’s not uncommon to find producers and sometimes prices that are simply not available in New Jersey. If I’m in New Jersey, however, it’s a “dive” down the wine aisle to see what (wine) treasures I may score.

In most cases, in state, I’m looking for an older vintage from a world class producer. It may be that I see something buried behind a younger vintage of the same wine, or physically at the bottom of a “closeout” bin, or it’s one remaining bottle in the reserve room. But the real treasure trove can be found when a store has a surplus of inventory.

I was reminded of this on a recent visit to Downbeach Liquors in Margate City, New Jersey. I was pleasantly surprised to find several of my favorite producers, many of which we at Passion Vines have been sold out of for quite some time. These wines represent a dynamite opportunity to experience great value in older vintages from awesome producers:

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1. 2004 Isole e Olena Syrah Toscana ($47): This estate was purchased in the 1950s by the De Marchi family and today is run by Paolo de Marchi, third generation; 100 percent Syrah that will illustrate the great aging qualities of this unsung grape in Italy.

2. 2006 Fontodi Chianti Classico ($39): Located in the heart of Chianti Classico, Fontodi is an icon for Italian wine. Some of Italy’s most famous terroir; 100 percent Sangiovese, aged 18 percent months. My top pick of this group because the current vintage is 2012.

3. 2006 Fontodi Pinot Nero ($65): Another unsung grape of Italy, this wine is 100 percent Pinot Nero (bka, Pinot Noir). Italy most always will provide the ability to age (it’s all about the terroir), and I am so curious to see what will happen here. Current vintage is 2014.

4. 2001 Fontodi Sryah ($65): Once again, same producer but 100 percent Syrah. Only other price I see in the country is $100 per bottle. Boy, would I love to sit this side-by-side with the Isole e Olena Syrah. FYI, current vintage is 2014. Yes, that’s an additional 13 years of aging!(tncms-asset)e520ddce-6bc1-11e7-93e3-00163ec2aa77(/tncms-asset)

5. 2006 Braida Barbera d’ Asti Mone Bruna ($25): Hello Piedmont! My favorite region and one of my Top 3 producers; 100 percent Barbera from the appellation of Barbera d’Asti. Typically, ripe cherry and small red fruits, but what will 11 years of aging do!? For the price, please try this!

6. 2004 Yves Cuilleron Cotie Rotie Bassenon ($59): Northern Rhone, France. The estate dates back to the 1920s and has matured into a category leader in Rhone Valley; 90 percent Syrah and 10 percent Viognier. This wine begs for some hearty meat and grilled vegetables.

7. 2004 Yves Cuilleron Cotie Rotie Madiniere ($59): First produced in 1994, this wine is 100 percent Syrah. The wine is named after a small stream located near the vineyard. Current vintage is 2015 and you’ll quickly fall in love with Rhone terroir.

In addition, I am compelled to tell you I also saw a 2001 La Spinetta Barolo Vigneto Campe, 2006 Castello Romitorio Rosso di Montalcino and a 2005 Poggio al Sole Casasila Toscana.

I know these wines don’t necessary pass for “Tuesday’s pizza wine” — but if you’re like me, you love a good deal when it presents itself. Remember, a great value doesn’t always mean inexpensive, and I am confident in telling you that these wines represent great value! As always, please let me know what you think at michael@passionvines.com.

But perhaps most importantly, no matter where you are, when in doubt ask the restauranteur and or wine shop: “what do you have of great value from an older vintage?” If anyone is in the business for the right reasons they will jump at the opportunity for you to have a remarkable (wine) experience! That’s what it’s all about!

Cheers!!

Michael Bray is founder of Passion Vines Wine & Spirit Co. in Somers Point and Egg Harbor Township.

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