Finding quality Riesling from Germany that won’t break the bank is becoming more and more difficult. Like any other region, however, the key lies in looking beyond the most well-known areas. While you might not be able to find that super-value in the Mosel, going to a larger appellation like the Rheingau can yield affordable and delicious examples. The J. Baumer is one such example, offering varietal notes of orchard fruit, honey, and petrol. The palate is zesty, with high acid and a slight sweetness intermingling with peach, citrus, and honeycrisp apple. While spicy Asian cuisine is the traditional pairing, this would also pair deliciously with Al Pastor tacos or Butter Chicken.
Montecucco is a relatively new DOC located in South-Central Tuscany that is predicted to be an important factor in Tuscan wine production in the coming years. Known primarily for affordable, but delicious renditions of Sangiovese, it is also known as one of the higher-quality areas for Vermentino production. Wines made from Vermentino have sometimes had a reputation for being overly-austere and somewhat dull, but ColleMassari’s ‘Melacce’ completely bucks that rend. A delicate-looking wine, it offers aromas of finger lime, tart tropical fruit, and pleasantly green notes. The palate is light-bodied, with zippy acidity enveloping tart stone and citrus cut with salinity. It might not *quite* be pool weather yet, but I’m sure some of you will persevere. Bring this bottle with you.
Many, if not all of you, are familiar with Lodi Zinfandel. It is one of the most well-respected Zin-producing regions in California and has no shortage of large producers that have filled grocery store shelves with affordable, quality examples. So instead of lecturing about the region, we’re just going to appreciate how good this wine is. Unlike many Zin’s at this price range, oak is not a huge factor on the palate and nose, which allows for all of the grape’s fruit glory to shine through. Aromas of blueberry, black pepper, and bramble jump from the glass. The palate is rich and velvety with an impressive purity of fruit cut with hints of sweet spice. This isn’t a complex wine, but it doesn’t need to be; because it’s delicious.
There is an old adage that isn’t universally true for any grape, but can generally describe shopping for certain varieties: “There’s good x, there’s cheap x, but there’s no cheap, good x”. While this has applied to wines such as Sangiovese and Pinot Noir, it’s beginning to reach over into the world of Cabernet. As such, we’re glad to have found an affordable bottle of Cab’ that any of us here at Steve’s would be happy to pair with a weekday meal. The Hayes Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is sourced from up and down the Central Coast and offers surprising balance for a Cab’ at this price point. The nose offers aromas of cassis, plum, vanilla, and earth, followed by varietal flavors of blue and black fruits with moderate tannin and acidity. This is an easy-drinker that would go well with any weekday red meat-based meal.
Some of the world’s most beloved wines are the result of dedicated winemakers saving obscure varieties from extinction. You probably know these stories concerning grapes like Zinfandel and Pinotage, but you might not be aware of one of Northern Italy’s comeback wines: Arneis. Arneis is a white variety grown and vinified in the Roero region of Piedmont and comprises what many consider the highest quality white wines from Piedmont. What was once a grape on the brink of extinction, Arneis was saved by winemakers such as Alfredo Currado (Vietti) and others who saw the potential of the grape. Marcarini’s example is picture perfect, with aromas of ripe orchard and stone fruits cut with aromatic honey and spice. The palate is light-bodied with restrained acidity, showcasing similar fruit, salinity, and nut flavors. Pair this with pasta carbonara or your next roast turkey-based meal.
You probably don’t think ‘white blend’ when you think of Oakville. However, there are meteorological features of Oakville, namely the large diurnal shifts and consistent fog, that can yield success for rich, viscous white wines. POP 300 is a proprietary blend of Chardonnay and white Rhone varieties aged in a combination of stainless steel and French oak. The nose offers aromas of lemongrass and other herbs, hints of oak and vanilla, and a medley of tart orchard fruit. The palate is medium-plus-bodied with restrained acidity with comparatively richer flavors of ripe apple, pineapple, and vanilla cut with fresh herbs and hints of citrus. This is a peculiar wine that could go with a medley of richer seafood dishes or as a substitute for richer styles of chardonnay with bold lobster dishes.
While there are pioneering figures in California viticulture that are familiar to many wine enthusiasts (Robert Mondavi, Chuck Wagner, Merry Edwards, etc.), there are contributors that fly under the radar. Among these are the members of the ‘Rhone Rangers’, winemakers and viticulturists who were responsible for cultivating and propagating Rhone varieties (Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, etc.) across California. Bill Easton participated by bringing them to the Sierra Foothills and making eccentric blends and varietal bottlings. The Tete-a-Tete label is bottled under the Domaine de la Terre Rouge line, and focuses on an assemblage (blend) of pre-fermented base wines that are then aged in barrel for extensive periods of time. This wine resembles a well-aged Cotes du Rhone Village or comparable appellation more than a California GSM. The wine pours a ruby color with garnet hues and slight bricking. The nose offers aromas of blue fruit, game, and underbrush. The palate offers pure boysenberry and blueberry accented by a plethora of spicy, savory flavors that make it incredibly complex for the price point. Though this has the heft to pair with heavy red meats, pairing with rich, creamy cheeses or dry-rubbed BBQ would be just as successful.
It has been FAR too long since we have featured a South African wine on the wine club; particularly one that is not Pinotage. While the oft-maligned grape is historically the most significant in South African viticulture, it is important to note that most of the quality red wines from South African revolve around Cabernet Sauvignon or Shiraz. This is not just because these grapes are universally popular, but because examples from SA offer characteristics not found anywhere else in the world due to the unique climate and meteorological characteristics of SA (Namely the ‘Cape Doctor’). This blend of Shiraz, Mourvèdre, and Viognier is an excellent example, offering aromas of plum, baking spice, fruit cake, and cherry. The palate is considerably more savory, offering varietal notes of olive and peppered meat while still carrying rich cherry and well-integrated tannins. This is unequivocally a ribeye wine.