Note: The September Wine Dinner, a five-course meal crafted by Chef Gabriela from Cheese and Salsa, Jack’s Tavern, and several other culinary businesses, is paired with eight wines. The savory courses have two wine pairings, and the order of the wines for our club tasting varies from the wine dinner. Recipes will be available for you to recreate the menu! See the menu below.
The grape sounds German, and it translates to “spicy grape.” The winery sounds German, too, at least in part: the married founders wanted to honor their heritage, thus naming it after towns in Italy and Germany. Now one of the oldest wineries in Texas, with four locations throughout the state, Messina Hof’s mission is “based on the three cornerstones of family, tradition, and romance.” With son Vincent at the helm as winemaker, Messina Hof seeks to make premium wine and offer exceptional experiences. This ‘Artist Series’ Gewürztraminer lives up to all that the grape is known for—floral aromas, tropical fruit, ginger, and lychee with a light, slightly golden hue and a medium body. It will pair nicely with Chef Gabriela’s first course, Sopa Izamal, a squash blossom and plantain soup.
Château Famaey began its story in the early 2000s when two Belgian friends, Luc Luyckx and Marc Van Antwerpen, were, in their words, “taken hostage by wine” in South-Central France, an area known for producing “the black wine of Cahors” (i.e., Malbec). Now family-run, Maarten Luyckx is the “Maître de Chai,” or cellar master, for Luc and Marc’s successful venture. Their Malbecs have been award-winning, and their use of organic and sustainable practices is of note. This Rosé of Malbec retains some of the grape’s fruity character but with elegance and higher acidity. Cranberry and strawberry meld with citrus notes to produce a wine that is refreshing and will complement many dishes. While a white wine might be a logical choice for a Peruvian Ceviche, this Malbec Rosé will bring out the fresh and zingy flavors of the second course on Chef Gabriela’s lineup.
One of the largest areas by available acreage in California but one of the smallest in terms of production, the Sierra Foothills AVA lies in the eastern part of the state in Amador County. Bill Easton, one of the original ‘Rhône Rangers’ and recipient of a lifetime achievement award for his contributions to the industry, began crafting wine in the 1980s, championing Rhône varieties. He firmly believes in extended bottle aging to create tertiary flavors, a practice the French call ‘élevage.’ The Terre Rouge Vin Gris, a rosé blend of—you guessed it!—Rhône grapes (Mourvèdre and Grenache co-fermented with Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, and Viognier) is a study in sophistication and makes nice companion as the second wine to the Sopa Izamal course.
A third-generation winemaker, Susie Bynum specializes in creating handcrafted, small lot, ultra-premium wines. She sources her grapes from sustainably-farmed vineyards in the Russian River Valley, an area her father, Davis Bynum, made famous with his successful viticultural ventures. Continuing the family tradition, Susie Bynum has found her own formula of wine wizardry through Burgundy-style grapes. This age-worthy Pinot Noir is terroir-driven, as it is produced in a cool climate area usually shrouded in early morning fog due to its proximity to the Pacific Ocean. Tart red fruits, plum, earth, cola, and cinnamon dominate the palate. It will brighten many dishes (Thanksgiving is around the corner!), but we have paired it with Chef Gabriela’s fourth course, Mackerel Wellington.
It’s been a minute since we had a Zinfandel on the club, and that could be fully attributed to the hundred degree temps we have had for months (but for those of you reading these notes in late September, it might be that there is a fall coolness in the air!). An offshoot of Scotto Cellars, the Silver Peak line connotes luxury and quality, all with an affordable price point. This Zin, a medium-bodied luscious libation that also has a touch of Barbera, will provide you all the jammy and velvety red and black fruits you have been craving. Dark cherry, raspberry, and blackberry envelop the palate with a rich but not overwhelming oaky spice. While Zin is normally associated with heavier dishes like barbecue and stews, it is being poured as the second wine for course four, a Mackerel Wellington, as it will hold up to the indulgent puff pastry.
Barbera is a wine of contradictions—it can be both light(ish) and intense, fruity and earthy, acidic and woodsy, but it is just as much of a wine for Tuesday night as it is a Saturday night. Nebbiolo, Piedmont’s flashier red variety, usually hogs the conversation, but Barbera deserves some attention. For a bit of trivia, it is the third most planted grape in Italy behind Sangiovese and Montepuciano. The nose on Barbera can be very floral, and this Marchesi entices us with violet notes. The palate offers maraschino cherry, dates, figs, and chocolate. It would be a delicious accompaniment to many foods (Barbera and pizza is heaven!). On Chef Gabriela’s menu, the Marchesi is the first wine poured with course 3, Inverted Meatballs.
Ribera del Duero, a top wine-producing region of Spain, is in Castilla y León, which lies in the northwest of the country. Ninety-five percent of the vines here are devoted to Tinto del País, or what we know as Tempranillo (trivia alert—Tempranillo is derived from the Spanish word for “early” as it is an early-ripening grape). The level of aging for this wine is determined by the “Crianza” category (which loosely translates to “bringing up”). A Spanish Crianza Red must be aged at least two years, of which six months is required to be barrel aged. Thus, there will be several tertiary aromas in this wine as it has been aged in the bottle at this point for a lengthy time. Blackcurrant, blueberry, and mocha tease your tastebuds, and then notes of smoke, cracked pepper, and baking spice linger on the finish. The Áster is a powerful wine to conclude the Inverted Meatballs course.
Murcia, a state in southeast Spain, champions a certain red grape that doesn’t always get a ton of attention: Monastrell (what we call Mourvèdre). Three small DOs (Denominacións de Origen) in Murcia are particularly known for tannic, richly-colored reds: Bullas, Yecla, and Jumilla. The Gil Family Estates—useless fact warning—is a sponsor of the 2023 Latin Grammy Awards; as viticulturalists, the brand focuses on robust reds throughout Spain. Producer Juan Gil has crafted a red blend from 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Monastrell, and 10% Syrah, all grown in Jumilla. When tasted, dark fruits of blackberry and black cherry emerge first, rounded out by chocolate and smoke. And while it is an admittedly controversial choice to pair with Ceviche, Chef Gabriela’s second course, the Juan Gil Red Blend will measure up to the vegetal cilantro and habanero notes that shine alongside the seafood.
While wine drinkers have varied—sometimes polarizing—opinions about Riesling, it is truly one of the most versatile grapes in the world because it can pair with a myriad of international cuisines, and it can, of course, run the gamut from very dry to sweet. Interestingly, some German brands have begun putting a “sweet” meter on the back of their bottles to ward off confusion. The Bauer Haus Riesling, a semisweet wine, has higher acidity, and brings a conversation-worthy nose with its floral and faint petrol aromas (very common in German Rieslings). When tasted, citrus, apricots and honey are at the forefront. The Bauer Haus complements Chef Suzanne’s Orange Cake with Dark Chocolate Mousse.
An interesting and refreshing Spanish white, Verdejo is a wonderful alternative to New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. While it can be expressed as a fuller-bodied wine if aged in oak, the Neleman Verdejo is crisp, fruity, and light. Winemaker Derrick Neleman’s motto is to “inspire and nurture the human spirit with all its wondrous glory and variety” with his wine, and the tropical flavors of pineapple and mango along with green apple and a lime note coalesce in the glass. Vegan, organic, and aged in stainless steel, the fruit is left to shine on its own. The Verdejo is the first wine to serve with Chef Sezanne’s Eggplant Caponata with Pecorino Crisp.
While a sparkling red may not be at the top of everyone’s list, we ask that you give this lovely Lambrusco a chance. Lambrusco styles range from very fruity and bright to tannic and full-bodied. This wine, somewhere in the middle, is an August thirst-quencher (and porch pounder). With gentle bubbles and an intense ruby hue, the Cantini di Sorbara Lambrusco delights with tart red fruits, Italian herbs, and candied orange peel. It is a wine that gives a nod to the past (remember Riunite?) while embracing modernity and pleasing many wine drinkers. It also enhances the Eggplant Caponata and serves as a good transition to the next course.
Pinot Nero (Noir) is one of the red international varieties that has had commercial success in Italy, a country known for having hundreds of indigenous grapes. While it is a complex and difficult grape to cultivate, when done well, Pinot Noir is a treasure, with or without food. The Italo Cescon Pinot, named for the patriarch and winemaker of the family, gives off red fruit vibes, from cherry to boysenberry to red currant and cranberry. Italian herbs and clove round out a satisfying finish. The bottle is a showpiece as well, with its tied cane and ribbon, a practice the family started in the 1950s. This wine is an elegant initial accompaniment to Chef Suzanne’s Tomato Sorbet with Mozzarella Mousse.
Fattoria Poggio Alloro Chianti – Tuscany – IT (Gold)
Idyllic Tuscany with its rolling hills and cypress trees…and to add to the mystique, picture a charming farmhouse (with rooms to rent!) and bay laurel bushes all over the grounds, emitting a fragrant herby scent in the sun-soaked countryside. Yes, we are enticing you to go visit Fattoria Poggio Alloro, which is near San Gimignano, an area well-known for the white wine Vernaccia. In addition to hospitality, Fattoria Poggio Alloro crafts a tasty Chianti. Primarily made with Sangiovese—but also with the indigenous grapes of Canaiolo, Colorino, and Ciliegiolo—this Chianti is medium-bodied with the flavor profile of crushed violets, cherry, and red licorice, along with some earthy notes and spice, making it an excellent conclusion to the Tomato Sorbet.
We recently had a Cabernet Franc (yep, Cheryl is partial) from Argentina, so it’s interesting to have the same variety from its birthplace, France. While Cab Franc thrives in Bordeaux, it is also a staple of Saumur, in the Loire Valley. Saumur’s warm summers and cold winters allow a full expression of the grape’s peppery and flinty flavors. Furthermore, on the palette, notes of plum, cherry, and black pepper emerge. Perfumed, juicy, and expressive, the Arnaud Lambert is a fantastic wine for late summer, fall, winter, and—yes—spring (did you forget Cheryl loves Cab Franc?). Arnaud Lambert considers himself a “Loire Artisan” whose goal is to craft wines with purity and precision, and a glass should accompany your first bites of Chef Suzanne’s Octopus Carpaccio and Potato Puree.
Zestos’ Garnacha is cultivated in the high elevation vineyards of San Martin Valdeiglesias, northwest of Madrid. The vines, grown in sandy and granite soil, are around 80 years old, and the result of old vines is luscious, highly concentrated, lower-yield fruit. The Zestos Garnacha grapes are perfectly ripe at harvest and impart floral and mineral-driven flavors. The winemakers strive to preserve that fruitiness by aging the wine in stainless and cement. A vivid ruby hue, the wine offers notes of blackberry, cherry, white pepper, and earth. The Zestos label includes a logo that says “Vinos Regionales – Respeto y Tradición,” a commitment to preserving old-world practices. The Zestos Garnacha is a unique merging of history in an up-and-coming wine region. It can best be enjoyed as the opening wine for Chef Suzanne’s Seared Lamb and Farro Salad course.
While this is the second Sangiovese on the lineup (and the fourth Italian wine!), it is certainly an interesting experiment to compare the two Tuscan reds. The Banfi uses the Governo technique, an ancient winemaking method which, in the 14th century, helped to stabilize high acid wines like Sangiovese during fermentation. In modern times, an added benefit to “Governo” is that a wine becomes a bit more luxurious and jammy by contributing partially withered grapes to the fermenting wine. Banfi may be a well-known name, but it is a young winery (at just 45 years old!) seeking to create a “stil novo” (new style). Floral on the nose, the wine evolves into maraschino cherry, raspberry jam, and black plum with a savory finish with a touch of spice. It is a nice way to finish the Octopus Carpaccio course.
An “up-and-coming” viticulture area for the past 30 or so years, the Judean Hills are a mountain range that extends up to 3,280 feet surrounding the city of Jerusalem. Despite the newer press, according to Catherine Todd of Forbes Magazine, “Old terraces carved into the rock and ancient limestone wine presses hint towards winemaking that goes back for thousands of years.” The region forms a paradox of modern winemaking techniques and traditional practices, like certifying wine as Kosher. The climate, conducive for grape growing with its warm summers and cold winters, produces fruity but earthy Cabernet. The Zion ‘Capital’ Cab wraps you up in blueberry, blackberry, and plummy goodness and then finishes with a bit of savory herb and spice. A satisfying conclusion to the Seared Lamb and Potato course, it is also a perfect way to end the August Platinum lineup.
Crisp, refreshing, tingly…July begs for a Prosecco. The San Martino winery is housed between the hills of Valdobbiadene, near the Piave River, and Conegliano, both areas famous for producing Italy’s sparkling delight, Prosecco. Generally lighter and fruitier than Champagne and Cava, Prosecco has broken sales records in the past several years. This brut wine, made with the Glera variety, retains the slightest hint of residual sugar to balance its zingy acidity. It is also a “millesimato,” which means it is a vintaged wine, only crafted in the best years. Also of note is its shapely, beveled, and dark bottle, which would impress any fan of spumante wine. Scents of white flowers plus green apple, citrus and tangerine notes are abundant. While Prosecco and sparkling wines in general go with many different foods, especially fried foods, we suggest going in a more elegant route with your favorite fish dish or sushi, like the Endless Love roll from Sushi Café.
Vignoble de Reveur ‘Pierres Sauvages’ White – Alsace AOC – FR (Platinum)
A triple threat of Pinots, the ‘Pierres Sauvages’ is certainly a wine that you will ponder, even after leaving the tasting. Pinot Blanc and Gris are color mutations of the Pinot Noir variety, producing white wines. The winemakers chose a longer maceration, leaving the juice in contact with the skins and seeds (although the Pinot Noir was left on a shorter time), and they aged the wine on the lees for a year; both techniques contribute to more complexity and body. This blend exhibits interesting aromas of honeysuckle, subtle citrus, dried golden raisins, and yellow apple with a touch of salinity. While a classic Alsatian wine pairing is foie gras, you could grab something a bit less expensive, like the Gobi Manchurian appetizer from Sangam Indian Restaurant.
Maddelena Rosé – Paso Robles AVA – CA (Gold)
July is the perfect temperature for rosé, and the Maddelena will surely hit the spot! Maddelena falls under the umbrella of Riboli Family Wines, the four-generation family that operates the famous San Antonio Winery in California, which was awarded “Winery of the Year” by Wine Spectator in 2018. Sourced predominately from Grenache, with a touch of Syrah and Primitivo (also known as Zinfandel in Italy), this wine boasts zippy acidity and tangy fruits. Strawberry, watermelon, white peach, and hints of rose flower infuse both the nose and the palate. Rosés go with so many cuisines, but a delightful pairing would be the Chicken Florentine from Fera’s Italian. Or if at a picnic or poolside, try it with chicken salad.
Alta Marfa ‘Super TX’ Tempranillo – Texas Davis Mountains AVA – TX (Platinum)
When you think of Marfa, you might think of a bustling art scene and the Prada permanent sculpture installation that people Instagram on their way to the next big Texas town (three hours away…). But in true reinvention mode, the city has given birth to its first boutique winery, Alta Marfa. Embracing natural viticulture, Alta Marfa’s mission is to “make any drinker feel welcome, excited, and interested” about wine, whether a novice or a connoisseur. The ‘Super TX’ is 100% “Deluxe Tempranillo” sourced from multiple soil types and from three distinct regions of the state. It boasts juicy black currants, black cherry, and subtle spices. An interesting and enjoyable pairing with this wine would be the BBQ Brisket Taco at Rusty Taco.
In addition to having a fantastic name, the Domaine du Grand Belly estate is steeped in history. The original farmhouse was built by Italian charcoal makers who supplied Pope Clement V with all his carbon-based needs at his palace in Avignon, about 10 miles away. Currently, the estate is a sought-after wine resort and can be rented out for weddings and other celebrations (talk about an upgrade from coal!). The Domaine specializes in Côtes du Rhône, which is typically a red blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre (but could have up to 12 other grapes). In this case, it is an S-G-M, consisting of 50% Syrah, 40% Grenache, and 10% Mourvèdre. Bursting with red fruits, garrigue, and spice, this wine is easy-drinking and smooth. Game is the traditional pairing for a Côtes du Rhône, but the Smoky Mountain pulled pork sandwich platter from Juicy Pig Barbecue will do the trick!
Bodegas Añadas developed the “Care” line to showcase the city of Cariñena, in Aragon, which the ancient Romans nicknamed "Care.” The winemakers also pledge that their passion for vinification aligns with the English word “care,” so this wine is full of double entendre! Seeking to become the pioneers of Garnacha in Spain, the Tinto Sobre Lías is predominantly Garnacha with some Syrah. The Garnacha variety is drought- and wind-resistant, both constant concerns in Aragon, and delivers juicy, fruity wine. The Tinto evokes black and red fruits, from black cherry to plum, and finishes with mocha and spice. While this Spanish red would partner well with any grilled meats, stews, or casseroles, for something more nontraditional, try it with the Lamb Souvlakis from Feta’s Food truck, usually situated in front of Oak Street Draft House.
A winery devoted to the Pacific Northwest, Cedar + Salmon seeks to highlight the terroir of the second (WA) and fifth largest (OR) producing states of wine in the nation. In this case, southeastern Washington is the star. Mostly Bordeaux-style, this wine is blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Grenache, and Cabernet Franc. The varieties work together to produce big fruit, floral and herby aromas, plus silky tannins. Wild dark fruits, including black cherry and blackberry, are palpable, along with violet, allspice, and hazelnut. Despite the not-so-subtle salmon messaging of the brand, heaven on earth could be achieved with a glass of this red blend with the Smoked Wagyu Short Ribs from the Bartonville Store and Jeter’s Meat Shop. Yes, it’s a bit of a drive, but it’s a sensory experience!
Many people ask about the differences in Syrah and Shiraz, and while there may not be one perfect summation, in general, Shiraz connotes a warmer climate, riper fruit, fuller body, and higher alcohol as opposed to Syrah, which can be a little leaner and more elegant. Australia brilliantly co-opted the grape from France (and certainly other wine regions) and turned Shiraz into its signature red wine. McLaren Vale just so happens to fall in South Australia, with its Mediterranean climate and sunny weather. The ‘Red Silk,’ produced from family-owned Oliverhill, is fuller-bodied, plush, and jammy, and comes in at a whopping 15.3% ABV! Luscious dark red and black fruits as well as cola and vanilla coalesce into a pleasant, if not hot, wine. The Ka-Pow spicy beef entrée at Andaman Thai Restaurant would partner nicely with the ‘Red Silk.’
June weather begs for a cool, crisp porch pounder, and the Nortico Alvarinho will assuage you! Positioned on the southern banks of the Minho River in far north Vinho Verde region, Galicia, Spain is just on the other side of the river. In the Minho region, the towns of Monção and Melgaço, solely devoted to the Alvarinho varietal, are like a walk back in time as ruins of medieval castles are dotted throughout the area. Using centuries’ old techniques, Alvarinho vines are planted in small granite plots (pergolas) known as “jardins” because they look like tiny gardens of grapey goodness. Interestingly, the Nortico allows the grapes to shine without the addition of aeration (i.e., carbon dioxide) as is the case with so many other Vinho Verdes. What you experience is lime, yellow apple, peach, and saline minerality with a clean finish. While the Portuguese love to accompany an Alvarinho with cornbread and butter, we suggest trying the Bermuda Barracuda fish tacos from Killer’s Tacos.
The world can be split into Chardonnay lovers and “ABC” fiends—Anything But Chardonnay. Chardonnay is the winemaker’s dream grape because it is neutral in nature, and winemakers are free to experiment and influence the grape however they see fit. While we at Steve’s have recently offered more lean, steely, and mineral options, this Chard is not that. It is truly what a big California Chard is supposed to be; it will please the Chard diehards and, although it may not recruit the “ABC’s,” it does its best to entice. Prominent notes of pear, tropical fruits, apricot, and nectarine are enveloped with vanilla, caramel, and yes, butter. The 14-month sur lies aging gives the wine a creamy feel. You just have to pair this wine with something creamy and delicious, like the Blackened Chicken Alfredo from Frilly’s Seafood Bayou Kitchen.
While Serbia may not be the first location you think of when it comes to wine, this unique offering really showcases the Balkans. Sfera comes from the Serbian word for “sphere,” referring to the round concrete vessel that is used in much of Bikicki’s winemaking process, and the “noir” is comprised of Pinot Noir and Black Muscat. Don’t let the name muscat deter you—this is a dry wine that really empowers the red and black fruits to sing. A low-intervention wine that uses native yeasts and used barrique aging, Sfera Noir is truly delightful and has surprisingly high alcohol (at 14.5%!). Subtle notes of rose mixed with cherry, plum, cranberry, and blackberry are rounded out with a touch of spice. Try it with the Harvest Bowl from Soulgood Vegan Café.
Larry Levin, winemaker for Block Nine, is a champion of Pinot Noir. Block Nine is just one of his many ventures, as he has had a hand in leading other well-known brands such as Quintessa, Franciscan, Mount Veeder, and Estancia, as well as projects in several states as well as Argentina. He calls himself a “vine to wine” consultant, and his experience with viticulture is evident when tasting this Pinot Noir. Well-balanced and unintimidating, it will entice white and bold red drinkers because of its accessibility and approachability. Floral aromas are complemented by red fruits, black tea, and spice on the palate. Pinot offers so many great pairings, but partnering this one with the Mesquite-Grilled Salmon from Prairie House will certainly prove tasty.
The Zuccardi Winery is having a moment. After planting their first vines in in Mendoza in 1963, the family has not only ensconced itself in Argentina, but in the world. Robert Parker has awarded three of their wines with 100 points, and Wine Enthusiast magazine has labeled them as “Best Winery in the New World” AND inducted them into the Best Vineyards’ Hall of Fame (bet you didn’t know that was a thing!). With a young research and development team, Sebastián Zuccardi has created the ideal winemaking vessel for them, a concrete vat with a long, tapered neck, “the element that makes it possible to work more naturally with the grape juices and wines.” He eschews oak aging and long maceration periods, wanting the fruit to speak for itself with minimal intervention. Through innovation and terroir-driven viticulture, Zuccardi has produced this Q Cabernet Franc (Q for quality!), with its gorgeous cherry, raspberry, cassis, and violet flavors. Almost any grilled or smoked meat would work well with Cab Franc, but for fun, treat yourself to the Smoked Shiner Pork Loin at Greenhouse and mix a little Argentina with your Texas.
Few Texas winemakers have fought for Texas wine to be seen as legitimate more than William “Bill” Blackmon and Chris Brundrett. Since 2017, they have pushed for legislation similar to California’s; the goal being when you experience a Texas wine, the grapes should actually be from Texas. In 2021, a compromise bill was passed (they didn’t get their 100%er): if a label specifies one of eight Texas AVAs, 85% minimum must come from that AVA (similar to the EU’s laws), and if a label designates a vineyard, at least 95% must originate from the stated vineyard. William Chris proudly displays the “Grown in Texas” logo on their bottles, and this ‘Skeleton Key’ Cab showcases High Plains fruit. It has some quintessential Cab notes: black cherry, cassis, subtle green bell pepper, and baking spices and would definitely be complemented with BBQ or something like the Ranch Hand burger from The Dive Bar and Restaurant.
The Flor d’Penalva Tinto is a lovely red blend of three grapes: Touriga Nacional, Tinto Roriz (also known as Tempranillo), and Tinta Pinheira, usually used for blending. Touriga Nacional is most often associated as the primary variety used in Ports, so all three of these combined coalesces into a richly-hued, tannic, full-bodied red. Notes of violet, plum, forest fruits, and earth prevail, and the Flor de Penalva is satisfying and quaffable. While a rustic Portuguese recommendation would pair this wine with grilled lamb hearts, I say let’s go in a different direction with some Thai food. The Beef Mas-Sa-Mun Curry dish at Thai Square will whet your appetite.
While we have enjoyed Piattelli before at the bar, it is always fun to entice with a smooth and bold red, especially at the end of a tasting. Piattelli is led by female winemaker Valeria Antolin, who has been with Piattelli since its inception, worked her way up the ranks. Piattelli wines, highly rated in Wine Spectator, sources grapes for this wine from old vines in Luján de Cuyo and the Uco Valley. The ‘Trinita’ is a blend of Malbec, Cabernet, and Merlot, and evokes a luscious black currant flavor bomb, with plummy, cherry, and mocha notes along with spice from 24 months of oak and bottle aging. The braised short rib plate from our friends at The Chestnut Tree would be a wonderful accompaniment to the ’Trinita.’
In order when tasting all 8 wines.
Who hasn’t heard of Caymus? Well, this elegant and light-bodied gem is crafted by Jenny Wagner, daughter of pioneer Chuck, as part of the Emmolo brand. Wagner named the line “Emmolo” in tribute to her maternal lineage so that her mother’s maiden name could live on in perpetuity. Sauvignon Blanc is a perfect warm weather wine, and this gorgeous treat offers floral notes of honeysuckle and lemon blossom as well as stone fruit and melon. There is a kick of electric acidity but with a balance of minerality and tanginess. Wagner prides this wine on not being overly green, as so many Sauvignon Blancs can be. This wine needs something equally light and refreshing, like the grilled fish of the day at Hoochie’s.
While we have welcomed Bill Stoller’s wines into the bar before (Chemistry and Chehalem are two all-time favorites), we are thrilled to share the Dundee Hills Rosé, a glorious springtime wine, made from Pinot Noir. The Stoller name is synonymous with environmental and social good deeds within Oregon, and the brand also makes some pretty lovely grape juice! Dundee Hills, known as the location where grapes were first planted in Willamette, is also the most densely planted AVA in the area. This Rosé entices with its orange blossom and dried rose petals, and citrus zest on the nose and enlivens your tastebuds with strawberry, nectarine, grapefruit, and white tea. It would be a refreshing accompaniment to the Lacy Salad, an amalgam of good things, from Barley & Board.
Locked in between the Indian and South Atlantic oceans, Stellenbosch has a maritime climate. Hence, winemakers Xander Grier and Nathan Valentine named their label “Salt Rock” to denote the coastal influence on their wines (and yes, this is a follow-up to the Salt Rock Pét Nat from last month). According to the winemakers, the El Niño phenomenon began just as the wine started fermenting. This ‘El Niño’ uses Cinsault, a minor Rhône fresh and fruity variety best known as one of the parents of South Africa’s Pinotage. It uses minimal intervention and is a big brother to—you guessed it—the Salt Rock 'La Niña,’ derived from Sauvignon Blanc (maybe a future club wine?). Subtle floral notes of lavender plus raspberry, cranberry, and cherry dominate along with touches of white pepper and smoke. Try it with the vegetable korma plate at Sangham Indian Restaurant.
Heed James Rahn’s wise words: “Wine does not need to be draped in the mystique in which it is often clothed even though sometimes it merits magical status.” He insists that wine should be delicious, and his Gamay Noir certainly is! Sommelier James Rahn plunged into the world of winemaking with his desire to make wine more accessible and fun. He chooses to showcase 100% varietal grapes and not make blends. This Gamay Noir is light, approachable, and exhibits perfumed notes of peony and iris along with a touch of earthiness. Red fruits erupt in the nose and mouth, including cherry, cranberry, raspberry, red currant. Gamay pairs wonderfully with lighter grilled meats (there’s a reason Gamay is so popular at Thanksgiving!), but it is also an ideal partner for a charcuterie board from our friends at Ten:One Artisanal Cheese Shop.
Back-to-back Gamays, both in an Old World style, should be an interesting and fun comparison this month! There is a long history of winemaking in the Bouchard family, dating back to 1750 when Joseph Bouchard committed to being a wine broker instead of working in the fabric business, the family’s original trade. The Bouchard name has extensive roots in Burgundy and Beaujolais, and the portfolio of wine releases since the 18th century is staggering. This Gamay sings of essential Beaujolais, celebrating the pink granite soils and earthy terroir that make up Beaujolais-Villages. Aromas of rose and red fruits and, once imbibed, notes of strawberry and cherry are plentiful, mixed with savory minerality. A creamy poultry dish such as the stuffed chicken breast, along with its buttery mashed potatoes and fresh veggie of the day, from Houlihan’s, would be a pleasant pairing.
Montepulciano is a grape and a place, but the grape is never grown in the place (thanks, Italy!). Sanvito Montepulciano is grown in the region of Abruzzo, which borders the Adriatic Sea. Unlike the predominant grape of Italy, Sangiovese (which is grown in the town of Montepulciano!), the Monte grape is a bit more deeply colored, savory, and earthy. By the way, Montepulciano is Italy’s second most planted grape, and it is also often confused with another Sangiovese-based wine known as Vino Nobile di Montalcino (thanks, Italy!). The Sanvito offers up notes off violet, sour cherry, red plum, boysenberry (a sort of raspberry-blackberry hybrid), and dried Italian herbs. There may not be a better sensory experience than pairing this wine with your favorite pie from Zalat Pizza.
Legend has it that the term Merlot comes from merle, the French word for blackbird, a reference to its dark-hued berries. This McIntyre Merlot, from the region of Arroyo Seco in the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA, is grown in what is considered a ‘Goldilocks’ microclimate as the vines are not subjected to the Salinas Valley winds that other nearby vineyards suffer from, and the grapes are able to ripen fully in intense sunlight (it’s “just right”!). The experience of this wine is lush, juicy, and well-balanced, from the notes of iris, an earthy, spicy flower to blackberry, cassis, espresso bean, cocoa, and dried herbs. This wine would benefit from an equally compelling food pairing, something with dark meat, like the Steak Taco platter at Loco Café.
Circling back to Caymus and Suisan Valley, Jenny Wagner can also blow our minds with a complex blend of Zinfandel and Petite Sirah, humorously titled ‘The Walking Fool.’ The name is an homage to Jenny’s great-great grandfather who, despite losing four children, remained upbeat and humble throughout his life (and yes, he walked a lot). The wine’s spirit flower is the heliotrope, which emits a vanilla-cherry scent along with marzipan and licorice. ‘The Walking Fool’ bursts with red fruits galore: raspberry, cranberry, cherry, and strawberry. But it is the secondary and tertiary notes that abound, from cigar box to mocha to leather. The wine is juicy and decadent and begs for a hand-cut steak, like the Buffalo Ribeye, from Queenie’s.
When people consider Vinho Verde, they usually think of a unique style of zesty wine associated with the northernmost region of Portugal (technically, it is named after the physical location itself, not the wine). The Minho and the Lima flow through the area (also named the same as nearby locations—yikes!), and verdant hillsides abound throughout Vinho Verde. Geography lesson aside, this wine spotlights the indigenous grapes of Loureiro, Trajadura, Pedernã, and Alvarinho. Pale straw-green in hue and slightly effervescent, there are aromas and flavors of lemon, verbena, gooseberry, and grapefruit. An order of Baja shrimp tacos from Rusty Taco would complement this easy-drinking white from Portugal.
Highly rated by James Suckling, the Olema Sauvignon Blanc is both quintessential and unique. Olema’s goal is to feature well-known regions like the Loire and Sonoma which produce solid varieties without sticker shock. They market their wines as suitable for both everyday imbibing and special occasions, and the Sauvignon Blanc does not disappoint! Teeming with zippy acidity, the wine is aged in stainless steel to maintain the aromatic quality of the grape. On the nose, citrus, and jasmine emerge upfront, culminating in a balance of lemon-lime-kumquat goodness on the palate. Sauvignon Blanc can withstand an equally high-acid partner in cuisine, like the Insalata Caprese from Giuseppe’s.
It’s a love story for the ages: in 1908, founder Giovanni Cielo became smitten with a small estate overlooking the castles of Romeo and Juliet in the Veneto region near Verona and Vicenza. Three generations later, the Cielo family has grown the business into a success story. Displaying love for their community, the Cielo family gives to the charitable organization winetowater.org with every bottle purchase. The Rosso, a proprietary red blend, is a lighter, fruit-driven red, with an ABV of 14%. With medium tannins and medium acidity, the Rosso pops with red fruits: red currant, raspberry, and red cherry delight the senses, with additional notes of violet, mushroom, and walnut on the finish. Enjoy this red blend with the Meat Me pizza from Crooked Crust.
It’s an oversimplification to say the French know a little something about wine. Bordeaux, off of France’s Atlantic coast, encompasses over 50 appellations and crafts 65 different wine styles. The Gironde Estuary, north of the city, has created the concept of “left bank” and “right bank” wine. This blend consisting of 90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon is decidedly “right bank.” The Merlot contributes blueberry, plum, black cherry, and mint, while the Cab balances the vintage by adding a bit more body, tannin, tobacco, and spice. A Bordeaux blend is as classic as a wine lover can get for a bolder red. Sip this wine with an entrée of Chicken Biryani from Green Zatar Mediterranean Cuisine.
Husband and wife Francesco and Pauline head up Tenuta Foresto, a vineyard set in the idyllic Asti hills. They farm in Nizza Monferrato, a UNESCO heritage site, in Piedmont. This 100% Barbera is unfined, unfiltered, and aged in both cement and old oak as the winemakers prize holistic and organic practices. In fact, they promote Raw Wine fairs, which are two-day events where hundreds of like-minded grape-growers, vintners, and wine lovers get together to showcase low-intervention, biodynamic, and natural wines (the next fair is in Los Angeles on April 23-24!). Delicate wild red cherry, strawberry, and herbal notes permeate ‘La Ideale.’ On the palate, flavors of blackberry jam, plum, violet, and rosemary abound. While Barbera easily marries with Italian food, experience ‘La Ideale’ with a GreenHouse’s seasonal salad, a tangy mix of greens, goat cheese, cherries, walnuts, and roasted sweet potatoes.
Elizabeth Rose is part of a family-run empire that also includes Oakville and Ghost Block. The namesake is a reference to managing partner and grape grower Andrew Hoxsey’s eldest daughter (her husband is the winemaker, so they really keep the business in the family!). Cooled by the San Pablo Bay, the vineyards are swathed in generous sunlight, resulting in balanced, ripe fruit. The ‘Chockablock,’ a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Malbec, is certified organic and aged in neutral oak for 12 months. On the nose, the wine offers a bouquet of strawberry, red cherry, rose, and violet. Once tasted, the ‘Chockablock’ expands into a dark fruity delight with hints of vanilla, cedar, and mocha. If you’re wanting some soul food to enjoy with this wine, order a chopped beef sandwich combo from Clara’s Kitchen, and smile as you imbibe.
Following up the huge success of December’s the ‘Bishop’ Shiraz (Svetlana and Matt’s choice) comes the ‘Wallace,’ a Shiraz and Grenache blend from Barossa Valley. These two varieties naturally complement each other: Shiraz brings power and body while Grenache, a workhorse of a grape, adds softness and juicy fruit. The ‘Wallace’ is named after Colin Glaetzer’s wife, whose ancestors hail from Fife, Scotland; thus, the Celtic cross, thistle, and knot on the label are an homage to her Celtic roots. The Shiraz is matured in old oak barrels for 16 months, but to preserve the structure of old vine Barossa Grenache, oak contact is avoided. Red fruits from the Grenache dominate the nose, rounded out by licorice, star anise and smoke from the Shiraz. Bright red cherry and red plum give way to blackberry, currant, and black pepper on the palate. Chargrilled veggies are a perfect pairing for the ‘Wallace,’ so swing by Café Brazil and try it with their Southwest vegan burger.
People love their Paso Robles wines, and this one in particular has an environmental and philanthropist twist: as of the writing of these notes, 32,727 trees have been planted in a partnership between Vina Robles and a non-profit with the goal of preserving the planet. Vina Robles specializes in Rhone and Bordeaux varieties due to proximity to the Santa Lucia Mountains, which trap heat during the afternoons, resulting in ample sunshine in the vineyards and ripe, juicy fruit. ‘The Arborist,’ so named for a horticultural magician who saved the tree featured on the label, is a unique blend of Syrah, Petite Sirah, Grenache, and Tannat. The wine is aged for 18 months in small- and large-format French, Hungarian, and American oak to smooth out the tannins. Notes of blackberry, black plum, strawberry, mocha, black pepper, and cedar dominate the palate. Pair this with something as equally decadent, a black and blue ribeye from Cartwright’s Ranch House.
What needs to be said about a bonus club wine...Okay maybe a little. Tenuta Santome is a family-run estate with experience in viticulture stretching back to the 70’s. The fruit for this wine is sourced from Grave di Papadopoli, a small island consisting almost entirely of vineyards in the middle of the Piave river. Leaning towards the sweeter end of Extra Dry, the nose offers bright, piercing aromas of orchard and tropical fruits. The palate is fresh and zippy, with the residual sugar meshing well with the abundance of sweet fruits. This might not be your ‘fried chicken and bubbly’ beverage, but it would go deliciously as an aperitif or with Linnybird cupcakes with your Valentines date.
Regarding Friuli, Jancis Robinson commented “every nation of wine consumers treasures most what it finds most difficult to produce”. Whether it’s austere red wines, or some of the world’s most desirable orange and dessert wines, Friuli has become a niche source of the most cerebral wines in Italy. At the forefront, however, are aromatic varietal wines made of both international and indigenous varieties (A rarity for much of Italy). Fantinel, a relatively new winery in the region, has embraced this fully, with bottlings of seemingly every white variety suited to the region. Their Sauvignon (alternative name for Sauvignon Blanc) is reminiscent of an example from Chile or South Africa, with aromas of bell pepper, honey dew melon, and fresh cut grass. The electric acidity gives way to subtle flavors of citrus and stone, making for an excellent pairing with some raw seafood. Try it with the Sun Rise Roll at I Love Sushi.
We’ve visited Torrontes multiple times over the past couple of months, but they have almost exclusively come from Mendoza. Despite being the most famous and productive region in Argentina, it is not considered the premium site for Torrontes; enter Salta. Located near the very north of the country, Salta sits at the foot of the Northwest Andes, and features high elevation vineyards that make for some of the more elegant, floral expressions of Malbec Argentina has to offer and arguably the highest quality Torrontes overall. Piatelli’s winemaking exploits are split evenly between Mendoza and Salta, with the latter being overseen by Alejandro Nesman. Their Torrontes is considerably different than other renditions we have featured, spending some time in oak to round out Torronte’s quintessential lean and electric nature. The result is a beautifully complex, but approachable wine, with aromas of sea salt, tart tropical fruits, and hints of fresh herbs. The palate is full and fruit-driven with varietal notes of flowers and honey, making an excellent pairing with a simple salad of walnuts, arugula, goat cheese, and cranberry dressing.
It’s been a hot minute since we have looked at Turkish wine here in the bar. Depending on your school of thought, Turkish wine could be considered New World or drastically Old World, as the first commercial winery was established in mid 1920’s, but the region itself potentially has viticultural history dating back to 11,000 BC. The Aegean Region accounts for roughly half of total production and leans equally on indigenous and international varieties. The Selendi ‘Beyoba’ is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Shiraz that equally embraces both the Old and New aspects of Turkish wine. The nose is very savory, with tomato leaf, sour cherry, earth, and hints of iron shining through. The palate, on the other hand, is rich and extracted, with penetrating red fruit accented with slight sweet oak-driven notes of vanilla. This is an easy-drinking red that would go well at your next outdoor gathering (whenever that happens), with a smattering of robust cheeses and jams from the folks at 10:1.
We’ve featured Grenache from virtually every significant growing region multiple times over, but we’ve yet to hit some of the demonstrable “if you know you know” sites: enter Montsant. Famously dubbed by Jancis Robinson as “half-priced Priorat”, Montsant features much of the same geographical, meteorological, and varietal characteristics without the price tag of its more famous neighbor. Vinyes Domenech is a boutique producer that has only been around 2002, but is already turning out both traditional varietal wines and blends of popular varieties. The ‘Sotabosc’ (Catalan for underbrush) is a blend primarily consisting of Garnacha with Samso (Catalan for Carignan). Much like its namesake, the wine offers intense aromas of garrigue accented with pure maraschino cherry. The palate is grippy, but resolves into a layered, complex profile of red berries, spice, black fruits, and floral accents. This is a showstopper of a red needs something equally rich and complex; pick up some Chile Verde Empanadas from Boca 31 and go to town!
The Rose was a test run; now it’s time for the real fun! Like the LYB rose, the red is designed to be drank in large quantities among friends, or perhaps a date? Made of 100% Sangiovese, the LYB truly envelops the ‘So Fresh’ inspiration, using carbonic maceration to create a comparatively high-toned and juicy version. The deeply-hued wine offers aromas of fresh cherry, subtle herbs, and the quintessential plum character you get from carbonic maceration. The palate is zippy with a hint of tart acidity and virtually no tannin, leading to bright bing cherry and raspberry. This is a wine to chug among good company but could also go beautifully with the Turkey Bob or Bohemian at LSA.
Saint-Amour? Valentines? C’mon y’all, it made TOO much sense. Our next stop on Brian’s mandatory tour of the Beaujolais Cru’s is Saint-Amour. Unlike our recent stops in Brouilly and the general Beaujolais AOC, Saint-Amour is located towards the very top of Beaujolais, and generally produces comparatively elegant wines compared to its southern neighbors, while still featuring much of the same terroir and meteorological features that make the 10 cru’s so special. Domaine des Fonds is a relatively new property, but the father and son team of Florent and Andre Berrod have already made waves with their bottlings. The nose offers a complex nose of violets, tart red currant, blackberry, and hints of earthiness. The palate offers a similar fruit profile with mouthwatering acidity and fine-grained tannins. Cru Beaujolais is a versatile pairing wine, but we think the profile of the DDF would sing well alongside a Gyro wrap from Gyro 360.
Overlooking the Dry Creek Valley is Rockpile, an oddball of an AVA containing some of the most desirable Zinfandel plantings in the state, with virtually no immediate wineries to capitalize on them. This is likely due to the widely varying gradients in elevation, which coincidentally make for ideal vineyard conditions. As such, many noted Zinfandel producers in other parts of Sonoma such as Ridge, Seghesio, and Turley source from Rockpile for various premium bottlings. The Flight Wine Company extends this philosophy across all their products, sourcing from various appellations before vinting them at a central location. Their Rockpile Zinfandel is style-appropriate, with aromas of blueberry and blackberry cut with the quintessential bramble of Zin’. The palate showcases the potential of the high elevation vineyards of Rockpile, with fine-grained tannins enveloping the aforementioned fruit, dark chocolate, and hints of pipe tobacco. No frills with this, grab a cheeseburger from Rooster’s and go to town.
The Minimo is another creation from Lucca Hodgkinson (La Brisas) that snuck into the bar around the holidays and since picked up steam among regulars. This blend of Malbec, Syrah, and Carmenere is sourced from the Colchagua Valley of Chile, a low-altitude growing region near the Pacific that benefits from a significant maritime influence. First, elephant in the room, this is a Malbec FROM Chile, which is rare, but not unheard of. In theory, the poor granitic and other volcanic soils that provide ideal growing conditions for other Bordeaux varieties makes it as dreamy a place as any to grow Malbec; which is reflected in the Minimo. Following two years each in oak and bottle, the nose offers complex tertiary aromas of leather and tobacco with hints of plum and blueberry. The palate is much more generous, with a fine-grained grip surrounding rich, ripe blue and black fruits. This is a date night wine through and through, so throw a couple of filets in the pan and go to town.
P.S: I hope this last list from me reads like a love letter (ha) from me to y’all. The last 3-plus years have been transformational for me, and that doesn’t happen without y’all’s support and enthusiasm. I hope to see all of you around in this new adventure; and that this is not a farewell, but a see ya’ around.
- Brian McGoldrick, Your Insufferable Neighborhood Wine Geek.
False Bay ‘Slow’ Chenin Blanc- WO Coastal Region- South Africa
Though reds from South Africa have peppered the wine club these last two months, the country’s most planted variety is none other than a white grape: Chenin Blanc! Not only is Chenin, or Steen, the country’s most important variety, there is no country in the world that produces more. Much like other famous Chenin-producing regions like the Loire Valley, there are many different styles of Chenin made across South Africa. False Bay’s ‘Slow’ represents one of the more popular styles; being an offensively drinkable summer wine that showcases the maritime influence of the Atlantic Ocean. The ‘Slow’ name refers to winemaker Nadia Barnard’s philosophy of using indigenous yeasts found in the vineyard as opposed to inoculation via a ‘package’ yeast. This extends the fermentation process considerably, but it’s generally associated with high-quality viticulture. The nose offers interesting aromas of fresh herbs, salinity, yeast, and citrus zest. The palate is considerably fleshier, with ripe orchard and citrus fruits accented with melon and tea tree. Try a bottle of this with your next sushi take out from Komodo Loco.
LunaGaia ‘Mandricardo’ Catarratto- Terre Siciliene IGP- Sicily
The world of biodynamic wine is esoteric and confusing to wine professionals, much less to consumers. While many wineries and regions use biodynamic vineyard practices, rarely do you see wine officially certified, via the Demeter Association, as biodynamic. To obtain this, a rigorous list of guidelines must be followed at every step of the winemaking process. This can take a significant amount of time and money, which often dissuades producers from seeking certification. However, as the public conscious begins to understand the environmental impacts of wine making, there seem to be more and more producers seeking out biodynamic certification. LunaGaia is a collaboration between Lunaria and BioGaia expressly for that purpose. Their Catarratto, an indigenous Sicilian variety, showcases some of the fun, wild characteristics of biodynamic wine. The nose offers a complex nose of golden raisin, sour plum, jasmine, and hints of saison-like notes. The palate is fairly rich with lower acid and a fleshy apple and spice profile. This wine is a fun, interesting introduction into the world of biodynamic wine, and would go beautifully with an open-faced po boy from Hoochies.
FUSO Filippo Cassano ‘Calx’ Primitivo- Puglia IGT-Italy
Once thought to be a genetic predecessor of Zinfandel, there is a growing consensus that Primitivo and Zinfandel are one and the same. Despite this, you can usually tell them apart based on the terroir they’re produced in and the practices used. The FUSO line focuses on lighter, warm weather-friendly expressions of various varieties from various regions and terroir. The result is a deliciously juicy red that can be enjoyed multiple bottles over. The nose offers a medley of sweet cherry, blueberry, and bramble accented with floral notes. The palate is slightly less than medium-bodied, with mouthwatering acidity accenting juicy and tart blue/blackberry. This belongs alongside a slab of brisket from any of the many delicious BBQ joints in Denton.
Closilo Kiere Cabernet Sauvignon- Robertson WO- South Africa
We have had such a successful run of South African reds on the club, I figured we would continue until our luck runs dry. This month we are focusing on the Closilo ‘Kiere’ Cabernet Sauvignon. Robertson is located in the Breede River Valley and represents some of the warmer terroir in the valley. Multiple red varieties are gaining traction here due to the combination of hot summers and slight maritime influence from the Indian Ocean. The ‘Kiere’ showcases the influence of both well, with a nose full of black currant, underbrush, and aromatic spice. The palate is concentrated, though medium-bodied with tart blue and black fruits accented with hints of vanilla and green peppercorn. Try this with a lamb gyro from Gyro 360!
For the first time in centuries (okay like two years), we have a white Burgundy on the club! Saint-Veran is one of the largest sub regions in the Maconnais, and it is among the many sub regions there known for excellent, affordable Chardonnay. Though perhaps not as famous as its neighbor Pouilly-Fuisse, St.-Veran still makes excellent Chardonnay characterized by subtle fruit, balanced acidity, and prevalent mineral accents. Being the first wine Deux Roches ever made, their ‘Tradition’ bottling adheres to the style to a ‘T’. The nose offers delicate aromas of flowers, a fresh mineral character, and a hint of cream (likely from some malolactic fermentation). The palate is notedly richer than the nose, with balanced acidity and a hint of creaminess accenting flavors of apple and quince accented by subtle floral notes. This wine screams for goat cheese and dried meats. Take a bottle of this with your next charcuterie board from 10:1 or the Howelling Pickle!
Barbera is the viticultural backbone of Piedmont, with a multitude of regions dedicated to making different expressions of this variety. Despite this, Ascheri does not source their ‘Fontanelle’ label from Asti, Alba or any of the more niche Barbara-focused regions, but rather Langhe. You have probably seen this name place designation in your local wine store, but rarely on a bottle of Barbera. In fact, the larger Langhe region encompasses Piedmont’s most famous appellations of Barolo and Barbaresco, which have NOTHING to do with Barbera. So what happens when a storied 19th-century producer makes a Barbera in unfamiliar lands: something delicious! This wine offers aromas synonymous with the variety, but turned up to ‘11’, with blueberry and plum jam accented with deep, earthy herb notes. The palate is weighty for Barbera, but still offers nice acidity with soft tannins enveloping rich red and blue fruits. Even when in a richer state, this variety is known for it compatibility with tomato-based dishes; try it with some take out from Graffiti on the square!
With the NBA playoffs in full swing, we have witnessed a number of ‘super teams’ over the years comprised of transcendental talent making an unlikely alliance to create something awesome. What about winemaking super teams though? Maison les Alexandrins is a collaborative effort between some of the most accomplished winemakers and viticulturists in Northern Rhone with the goal of making a wide range of terroir-driven wines. Among their featured appellations is Crozes-Hermitage, a fairly large regions along the Rhone river that focuses on fleshy, peppery renditions of Syrah (sometimes blended with Marsanne or Roussanne). This rendition offers an incredibly indicative nose of ruddy red fruits, black pepper, and hints of smoked meat. The palate offers a medium + body with low acid and velvety, oak-driven tannins complimenting a plump profile of red and black fruits accented with spice and peppercorn. You can sit on this bottle for another year or two OR opt for a peppercorn-encrusted filet.
B.Wise Vineyards ‘Wisdom’- Moon Mountain District of Sonoma Valley AVA- California
Moon Mountain? Sounds like a set piece from an action movie. In actuality, it’s a relatively small appellation tucked in Sonoma Valley that has not quite blown up yet. Among the few producers making use of this region is B.Wise, an estate started by Brion and Ronda Wise with the intent of pioneering winemaking in the region. Among an impressively lengthy catalog is their ‘Wisdom’ Red Blend, which seems to be an answer to the ever growing popularity of ‘kitchen sink’ style blends across virtually every winegrowing region in California. This blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Tannat is made with immediate enjoyment in mind. On the nose is a rich plethora of red and blue fruits accented with rich vanilla and oak. The palate is equally as rich and viscous, with sweet oak tannins interwoven among blueberry, cassis, and hints of chocolate and spice. This wine would go beautifully with a sticky, rich plate of ribs.
Once upon a time, there was a solid chance that if you picked up a bottle of ‘Sauvignon Blanc’ from Chile, you were likely drinking a field blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Sauvignon Vert which, despite the name, is a completely different variety. These wines were often intensely ‘green’ and painted an unglamorous picture of Chilean white wine. Fast-forward to today, and now Sauvignon Blanc bottlings are truly varietal and offer incredibly zesty and chuggable wines. The Prisma offers aromas of kaffir lime, lemon, fresh cut herbs and a wet rock. The palate is incredibly refreshing with loads of citrus and mineral notes that make an incredible pairing with simple fish dishes with a squeeze of lemon.
While Albarino can be made in a zippy, austere style, many underestimate the potential for the grape to made into a richer, riper style that will make many a Chardonnay and white Rhone blend drinker happy. The ‘Ka’ offers aromas of banana, pear, and hints of spice. The palate is slightly more zippy with hints of citrus, but still offers juicy apple and quince notes. This is a great alternative to other richer white wines to pair with richer seafood or poultry dishes.
Though we have visited the ‘cool kid’ region of Mt. Etna and its unique varieties in recent club selections, Nero D’Avola still reigns supreme in terms of acreage in Sicily. Sicily accounts for nearly 98% of all Nero D’Avola in the world, and can be made in a wide range of styles including soft fruity blends with Frappato, or spicy dry reds with rich dark fruit and pepper-driven profiles. The Colosi is an example of the latter but showcases Nero’s ability to be an incredible red for the warmer months. The wine opens up with aromas of dried meat, raspberry, and chocolate-covered cherry. The palate is peppery, with moderate tannins and acidity enveloping dark cherry and sweet raspberry. Its an approachable red that works as well with burgers as it does Bolognese.
While Chante Cigale might be best known for their powerful Chateauneuf-du-Pape (Ask about the white we have in stock 😉), they understand the importance of having an awesome entry-level label. The Cicada is sourced from a variety of appellations and terroirs, but is made in a Cotes-du-Rhone-style. The nose offers blue and black fruit, sweet floral notes, and hints of chocolate. The palate is dense with moderate tannin, low acid, and a plethora of crème de cassis and blackberry. This straightforward red would go well with a rich red meat-based meal.
After a few disastrous vintages, Sancerre has bounced back into prime form. This region is generally considered to be the pinnacle for dry, varietal (non-blended) Sauvignon Blanc and has served as the inspiration for countless winemakers in virtually every winemaking region. Though Michel Armand is based in Pay Nantais, their Sancerre is spot on. Aromas of ripe snow pea, finger lime, and tart stone fruit give way to a sleek palate with electric acidity enveloping restrained citrus and stone fruit with hints of river rock. This wine is extremely versatile food-wise, but might go best with simple sushi dishes.
Back to Greek wine we go, with what is likely Greece’s most famous variety: Assyrtiko. Multiple wine scholars point to Assyrtiko as Greece’s first variety to gain an international foothold thanks in part to its unmistakable varietal character. Though it’s most famously from the island of Santorini, the ‘Plano’ is sourced from the Drama PGI, which encompasses the Northeastern corner of Macedonia. Despite the ‘nontraditional’ origin, this is ALL Assyrtiko. The nose offers a pleasant mix of white flowers, spice, and ocean spray. The palate displays the characteristic acidity of Assyrtiko complemented by a creamy texture enveloping green pear, quince, and saline notes. This wines screams uncompromisingly for oysters.
Bordeaux. It’s a word that permeates the minds of novice and experienced wine fans alike. When we think of this region, we likely think of the fantasy wines from Pauillac or Pomerol that would likely involve emptying one or more bank accounts to acquire. However, like many of the ‘luxury’ regions of the world, there are a plethora of affordable wines from Bordeaux that showcase why it’s so highly regarded. This blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon is sourced primarily from the Entre-Deux-Mers, which could be viewed as the ‘value’ area of Bordeaux. This wine spent most of its aging period in stainless steel before being transferred to 225-liter neutral barriques. The result is a wine that showcases the approachable fruit characteristics and lovely terroir-driven notes without covering it with harsh oak tannin and flavor. The nose offers deeply perfumed notes of black currant, crunch blue fruit and hints of black pepper. The palate displays moderate acid and tannin, with crème de cassis, some spicy oak, coffee, and hints of bakers chocolate. This might not be QUITE as rich a ribeye wine as you are used to, but we guarantee you will be happy with the pairing.
It’s not often we get a wine that has such an impressive mythos that (almost) overshadows the wine itself. The Three Ladies is the very first ‘Cape Blend’ which is a unique style of red from South Africa that requires at least 33% Pinotage blended among other red varieties. Given the tumultuous history of Pinotage, this was an innovative (and brave) move. Additionally, this wine holds the honor of being among the select James Bond-approved drinks given its presence in the Bond novel Carte Blanche. Beyond being an icon of the country, this wine is an excellent representation of the modern style of South African winemaking. After 27 months in 10% new French oak, the nose offers baked plum, tart fruit, and deep smoky herbs. The palate is RICH with crème de cassis, valnilla, blueberry, mull spice enveloped by high, but resolved, tannins. Though steak is the first thought, I could imagine this being a rich pairing to something savory or sweet that’s chocolate-based.
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.