It's July, and it's the month we recognize the official birth of the United States. We recognize that we are a country built on people who have come to this land from many other countries. So this month we do a salute to 8 different countries, past and present, through wine.
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In our trip around the world we begin with the premier grape of South Africa: Chenin Blanc. This extremely versatile grape accounts for 18% of total acreage, and is made into just about any style you can imagine. As such, many regions have some amount of Chenin Blanc growth, but for this month we will be looking to the Southwest region of Swartland; a relatively new area with a particular focus on more savory examples of the grape. The 2019 Storm Point, named after the ‘Cape of Storms’ moniker once bestowed upon the ‘Cape of Good Hope’ showcases this focus extremely well. It pours a clear pale straw with light yellow hues. The nose is wonderfully fresh, with notes of florals, citrus zest, and salinity. The palate follows suit with restrained stone fruit notes and elderflower. This is all contained within a light, crisp texture with bright acidity; likely the result of the winemaker’s choice to avoid malolactic fermentation. The salinity and nuance of this wine makes it an ideal candidate for clean, grilled seafood and shellfish.
With the more well-known wine regions of the world, we made an effort to bring in varietals off of the beaten path; case and point, New Zealand Pinot Gris. Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay compose the bulk of white varietal growth in NZ by a wide margin, but the same characteristics that make it such a haven for fragrant, bright Sauvignon Blanc make it a haven for Pinot Gris as well. Wairarapa, located on the most Southern point of the North island, displays the cooler climate characteristics of the South island, which makes for an extremely fragrant version of this Burgundy mutation. This Pinot Gris pours a pale straw with light green hues, exploding with notes of melon, ripe pear, and grapefruit. The palate yields a plethora of tropical fruits accented by lively acidity and minerality. The fruit in this wine makes it an ideal candidate for Thai cuisine or even sushi!
We know Portugal for the production of fortified wines such as Port and Madeira along with the almost innumerable grapes that go into their production, but many of these grapes are also used to produce long-lived, well-structured dry wines. Coming from the Lisboa ‘Vinho Regional’, the PAXIS “Bulldog” is a largely equal blend of Touriga Nacional (too-REE-ga nah-syo-NAHL), Touriga Franca (too-REE-ga f-RAN-ka) and Tinto Roriz (tin-toh ror-ij); the latter of which is a local iteration of Tempranillo. This wine does an excellent job of showing the potential of these grapes in a fresher, untouched context. The 2013 vintage pours a rich garnet with purple hues. Time has not muted a rich bouquet of fresh cherries and raspberries accented by savory spice. The tannins have smoothed into a velvety consistency, surrounding a core of rich dark blue and black berries with noted minerality. This wine is in its optimal window, so pair it with grilled red meats and hearty vegetables like asparagus.
Often known for Malbec and Torrontes, Argentina boasts an impressive selection of grape varieties used in the production of fine wine. Not far behind in Malbec in the red department, is Bonarda. Believe or not, there is a solid chance that you have already experienced this grape, as it has become popular for blending in a multitude of large-production red blends, generally under the name of Charbono. The minds behind this rendition, Hector and Pablo Durigutti, were key figures in the establishment of Argentina as the top producer of high quality Malbec, and have since shifted their focus to a holistic catalogue of grape varieties in their eponymous catalog in order to further the winegrowing profile of Argentina. Drawing from some of the highest quality subregions of Mendoza and San Juan, this Bonarda is an excellent example of the grape's potential. It pours a rich purple color with blue hues, yielding lush blue fruits accented by notes of five spice and cinnamon. Rich notes of black cherry and plum are woven seamlessly with mocha and mint, creating a nuanced and decadent wine. This wine screams for a plate of short ribs or venison.
With regards to wine production and distribution, Turkey is relatively self-contained, with much of the resulting wine remaining within its borders (Something that will likely change as its wine laws become more integrated with the EU standards). Kavaklidere has been one of the lone forces bringing Turkish wine to the masses, with a massive portfolio of different lines utilizing both non-indingenous and native grapes. One of the latter is Narince ( Nair-inj-uh), one of the more prominent white varieties. The 2018 vintage of their Ancyra line pours a brilliant light yellow with white hues. The nose yields bright notes of mandarin, peach, and fragrant florals. The palate will reward lovers of Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay lovers alike, with fresh peach, Meyer lemon cut by zingy acidity and minerality. The Ancrya line is named after the latin term for anchor or Ankyra, so use this to “anchor” a dish of meaty octopus or grilled chicken.
Though generally not thought of as the European king/queen of cold-climate Pinot Noir, Germany has rapidly gained a reputation for producing focused, savory, and approachable renditions. They generally fall into a lighter category, sharing many characteristics with those produced in New Zealand and the most savory examples from Oregon. The advantage Germany’s renditions have over these is an established and notoriously rigorous classification system, which puts the AOC and DOC systems of France and Italy respectively to shame. This system is why Germany is seen as one of the more consistent quality wine-producing regions in the world, and this wine displays that perfectly. The ‘Daily August’ pours a medium ruby with light purple hues. The nose explodes with notes of dried cherry and currant accented by ‘green’ notes of red pepper and earth. The palate is a luscious exercise in ripeness balanced with structure, with ripe cherry and cola notes balanced by well-integrated tannins and balanced acidity, resulting in a complex red that you can enjoy during any time of the year. Pair this with a savory dish focused on various mushrooms.
As the Texas wine scene continues to develop its standing among the winegrowing scene in the US, it is becoming clear which grape varieties work well within the state’s climate and geography. Mourvedre, a grape notorious for its late ripening and budding tendencies, works extremely well in this unforgiving climate, and many winemakers have taken notice. There is a developing plethora of styles ranging from austere examples resembling something closer to red Burgundy to rich, ripe roses layered with notes of bubblegum and cotton candy. A recent addition to this pool is the ‘Texoir’ line developed by Lost High Plains, whose goal is to display the potential of single-varietal, hot-climate wines from the Texas High Plains AVA. The 2018 Mourvedre pours a dark ruby to purple color with a nose filled with reduced blue fruits, earth, and smokiness. The palate is intensely focused and ever-evolving, beginning with a core of plum and blackberry, and eventually evolving into a finish of mocha and smoky wood notes; all enrobed in well-integrated tannins. This is an unmistakably rich wine that can be enjoyed now or 3 years from now with rich braised lamb or beef dishes.
First, can we talk about how cool it is you are about to enjoy a wine that has aged beautifully since 2007? Back to the wine; WAY down on the list of varieties grown in Spain are the grapes of Bordeaux. Despite this, many of the highest quality wines of Spain use Bordeaux varieties to balance with Tempranillo; perhaps most notably in the fabled Vega-Sicilia portfolio. Many wineries have continued this trend by producing blends composed completely of these varieties, including the Los Aljibes, which uses a blend of equal parts Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc aged for 12 months in a combination of American and French oak. It pours a lovely garnet with purple/red hues. Ripe cherry, raspberry, and red plum are woven with cinnamon and five spice on the nose. The palate is rich and full-bodied with lush red and blue fruit accented by bittersweet chocolate, granite, and oak. Time has softened the velvety tannins and acidity, leaving a complex, impeccably balanced wine to accompany ribeye or venison.
So come join us this month and taste through all of these wines.
Gold club members can add-on the Platinum tasting for only $10 a person.
For those who are not club members, you can still join us for tasting. The Gold Club Tasting may be purchased for $15 a person, and the Platinum Club is available at $20 a person. If you are feeling adventurous, you may try all 8 wines for $30.