When creating a list designed to be user-friendly and approachable, it is difficult to make the list “balanced”. While some might thoroughly enjoy a tasting composed of rich, extracted red wines, there are many that want some iota of grace thrown in: Enter Pinot. Both the Gold and Platinum lists this month feature Pinot’s designed to break up the monotony that can sometimes come from a ‘red-only’ tasting. Joliesse’s take is user-friendly, with aromas of cherry sauce, vanilla, and aromatic baking spice. The palate features soft tannins and medium acid with straightforward, but well done, red fruits throughout.
Food wines are always important, but they are crucial during the holiday season. Though an ambiguous term, ‘food-friendly’ wines are usually termed as such due to tannin and acid playing an elevated role in the flavor profile of the wine. This typically allows the wine to enhance certain characteristics of certain foods and vice-versa. This term can also be used in somewhat of a derogatory sense, for wines that need food to hide flaws. You will find all the prior and none of the latter here with the ‘Augusta’. This Rhone blend from the Roussillon is vibrant, with aromas of dried herbs de Provence, and tart red berries. The palate is medium bodied, with drying tannin and mouth-watering acidity, with Black cherry and tart plum accented by black pepper and a subtle earthiness.
Perhaps no other variety in the New World sparks discussion about the effect of ‘terroir’ quite like Zinfandel. Ask anyone, and you will have differing opinions on which regions makes the best; from Dry Creek (my personal favorite) to Lodi to Mendocino and back. However, true Zin lovers know that Amador County makes some of the most unique and delicious examples in the state. Terra D’Oro (Literally Land of Gold) embraces all the savory accents the Amador terroir can offer to Zin. This rich, ruby-hued wine gives off aromas of macerated raspberry, cigar wrapper, and an intense sunbaked earthiness. The palate offers medium, spicy tannins and low acidity. The rich red fruits from the nose carry through with hints of dark chocolate, bramble, and sweet baking spice.
It wouldn’t be December at Steve’s Wine Bar without a rich, extracted ‘kitchen-sink’ blend. It has been quite some time since we featured Peirano at the bar, so we are happy to bring them back in via the ‘Sea Enchantress’. This eclectic blend of Petite Sirah, Zinfandel, Tempranillo, and Syrah pours a rich purple color with blue and black hues. The nose offers sweet blueberry, pipe tobacco, tar, and cassis. The palate features RIPE blue and black fruits with hints of dark chocolate and anise.
Never has the name of a wine been so on theme for Steve’s (ask your waiter for more on that); and it also turns out it’s good! The knockout Willamette Valley PN’s keep coming for Steve’s, with this month’s edition coming from EIEIO. This EXTREMELY small-production winery is among the most cultish and well-respected among Burgundy and Pinot hounds. Though this is their ‘entry-level’ wine, it still shows off what makes Oregon Pinot Noir unique. The wine pours a pale ruby color and offers aromas of potting soil, rhubarb, and bing cherry. The palate offers slight woody tannin and quaffable acidity enveloping bright red fruits, aromatic potpourri, and slight boysenberry notes.
Nestled within the hubbub of Barbera and Nebbiolo, there is Dolcetto; reliably being one of Piedmonts hidden treasures. Combining the structure of Nebbiolo-based wines with readily available fruits has always been the calling card, and G.D Vajra’s example follows this faithfully while introducing some of their ingenuity. This completely unoaked rendition offers bright aromas of red and blue berries, fresh herbs, and star anise. The palate offers medium, drying tannin, medium-high acidity and a plethora of mulberry and plum.
We cannot have a big red month without Australia’s primary (wine) contribution to the world; beautiful, ripe, powerful Shiraz. While Shiraz is susceptible to being flabby and hot, Hewitson’s ‘Ned & Henry’ is a masterclass in balance. It offers aromas of plum, licorice, toffee, black pepper, and grilled meat. The palate is full bodied, with well-integrated tannins and restrained acidity supporting a plush, luxurious combination of sweet black and blue fruits.
Putting a Napa Cab on the list is not quite the slam dunk a lot of people make it out to be. Napa Valley is such a saturated area in terms of Cabernet production, that there’s a lot of very expensive wines with varying levels of quality. Knowing where to start can be difficult. Thankfully, that’s what you have your friendly neighborhood wine bar for! Galerie wines are portraits of place, showcasing the dramatically different features of Northern California’s most prized winegrowing appellations. Napa Valley is well known for its abundant sunshine and rich, fruit-forward wines. Knights Valley at the base of Mt. St. Helena to the north has even cooler temperatures, and volcanic soils that produce slower-ripening fruit with distinctive minerality. Spring Mountain is perched high on the steeply terraced slopes of the Mayacamas Mountains along the western edge of Napa Valley, where marine layer influence brings cooler days and warmer nights than on the valley floor. The name refers to the French painters' method of painting outdoors (en plein air), which developed around the same time as Napa's first European-style vineyards in the 1800s. Fruit from vineyards with diverse soil types brings complexity and depth to the finished wine, which shows rich black fruit, spice and floral notes with a firm tannin structure and balanced acidity.
*-Baby Big Dog, you may take one of these as part of your club and one of the other non-Big-Dog wines.