Join us for a trip through New Zealand and Australia with 8 different wines from the region.
Australia, the land of surfing, kangaroos, and Christmas barbie (barbeque) and New Zealand, known for its wool and sailing prowess as two time winners of the America’s Cup, are also home to some of the world’s best vineyards. Despite the friendly rivalry between these two southern hemisphere countries they can both boast of an increasingly more prominent role in producing some of the world’s finest wines.
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The one and only, NZ Sauvignon Blanc has been, and continues to be, among the fastest growing wines in the US market. This is primarily based on its combination of value mixed with characteristics of some of the world’s luxury Sauvignon Blancs like those found in Bordeaux and Sancerre. That being said, it has suffered from oversaturation, with many examples doubling down on ripe, uncharacteristically one-dimensional version of the grape. Babich is a true throwback, focusing on delicate aromas and clean, bright flavors. The wine offers aromas of gooseberry, grapefruit, and mango cut with hop-like herbal notes. The palate is light bodied with high acidity, mixing juicy citrus and stone fruits with clean minerality. This is unequivocally a grilled seafood wine but would also find success with light charcuterie.
Made from fruit sourced in South Australia, unoaked and fruit forward in style. Though not entirely sourced from here, the ‘Third Generation’ brings much of its crop from this region. The wine pours a medium gold color with white hues, offering aromas of vanilla, honeycrisp apple, pineapple, and fresh-cut herbs. The palate is medium-bodied with medium acid laced among ripe pear, kiwi, and green apple notes. This would go with a plethora of seafood dishes, from sushi to seared snapper.
One of the pervading unsung gems in the world of Pinot Noir, New Zealand is responsible for some of the most delicate and nuanced current examples of the variety. Largely planted to the cooler regions on the South Island, Pinot planted in this region benefits from largely temperate weather mixed with ample sun exposure and the protection the Southern Alps provide from winds that blow in form the West. The Orchard Lane is a style-specific version of NZ Pinot, and displays typical characteristics. The wine pours a delicate pale ruby hue with pink hues, offering aromas of bing cherry, rhubarb, potting soil, and spice box. The palate displays a medium-minus body with medium plus acidity, blending fresh juicy red fruits with a balanced astringent medley of cedar and cinnamon. This is an extremely delicate red, and is a prime candidate for salmon-based dishes.
Though not quite as famous as it’s counterparts in McLaren Vale or Barossa Valley, Langhorne Creek has merit all its own when it comes to style-appropriate Australian Shiraz. The oppressively hot and dry climate suits Shiraz well with its hardy nature and high amount of anthocyanin (The compound that gives red wine a purple tint when exposed to sun). Heartland’s example displays all of the quintessential notes of AU shiraz sans the sky-high ABV. The wine pours a medium purple with ruby hues, and offers a medley of black cherry, blackberry, and cassis cut with pronounced earthiness, peppercorn, and bramble. The palate is medium-plus bodied with medium acidity. A plethora of blackberry jam is accented by notes of cinnamon and black pepper. You could certainly pair this with steak, but it might be more advisable to go with venison in this instance.
We have served warm climate NZ Pinot Gris at the bar before, but this is the first time we have had Marlborough Pinot Gris in some time. Huia’s example displays an Old World hands-off approach, using native yeasts and no fining prior to bottling. This wine pours a light gold, with aromas of white blossoms and brown pear, which leads into a delicate palate of peach, mandarin orange, and spice box. This is an exquisitely aromatic and delicate wine that would work best with a medley of spiced nuts and cheeses.
While GSM’s can be found in every imaginable appellation at this point, Australia, in my humble opinion, is on the shortlist of regions you should look out for. Everything points to success, especially when in one of the cooler regions, as that is necessary to bring structure to what can otherwise be a flabby, over extracted mess. Tellurian’s example might be slightly lighter-bodied than you would expect, but it is a style-appropriate example of what the region can offer. This blend of Grenache, Shiraz, and Mourvedre pours a medium ruby with plum hues, and offers aromas of various red fruits grounded by earth and herbal notes. The palate is medium-bodied, with medium acid accenting plum, tart cherry and strawberry. This is very much the requisite BBQ wine on the list.
There are not many names in viticulture more synonymous with larger-than-life, hedonistic wines than Mollydooker. Famous for their “Marquis Fruit Weight” measurement (mindset?) system, Mollydooker is famous for their massive ABV reds, which often translate into decadent, delicious wines named after various Avatars (The Boxer, The Blue-Eyed Boy, Carnival of Love, etc.). ‘The Scooter’ is no exception, offering a massive rendition of Merlot while incorporating the style-appropriate characteristics found in cooler climates. This wine pours a medium ruby with purple hues, and offers aromas of blackberry, plum, and herbs de Provence. The palate is full-bodied with a surprising amount of structure, balancing fresh tea leaf and black pepper against a medley of blue and black fruits. As I’ve mentioned in the past, Merlot has become my new favorite steak wine, so that is what I would go with here.
Seeing that this is an Australia-focused month, it would not be right that we did not visit what is largely considered to be its preeminent growing region. Barossa Valley displays a Mediterranean climate, which lends itself to high-quality new world-style Syrah production. This wine reflects the up and coming Shiraz vineyards of the Barossa, rather than the battle hardened old vines that make up the core of our other cuvées. But like all Torbreck wines, Woodcutter’s Shiraz receives the very best viticultural and winemaking treatment. Fruit is sourced from hand-harvested and hand-tended, low-yielding vines, then open fermented and gently basket pressed before ageing on fine lees for 12 months in large format seasoned barrels and foudres. Although this wine is constantly praised for its succulence and richness, there is also a complexity and texture.
Located 1250 miles southeast of Australia across the Tasman Sea, New Zealand is comprised of two main landmasses (North Island and South Island) and numerous small islands. The latitude and position of the islands and their distance from any land mass provide moderate to cool but variable maritime climate. The central ranges of mountains that run through the length of both main islands generate marked contrasts between higher rainfall, cloudy, windward west and the milder, sunnier, leeward side.
Most of the vineyards in the North Island are located on the eastern side of the mountains where there’s a drier, sunnier climate. The South Island possesses about two thirds of the vineyard area, with the Marlborough area alone growing 52% of the country’s vines.
Sauvignon Blanc, the country’s best-known variety, makes up nearly 40 percent of New Zealand’s 60,000 acres of producing vineyards, as well as 78 percent of its exports to the United States. Practically all of the best Sauvignons come from Marlborough, a region on the northeastern tip of the South Island. The vast majority of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is fermented in stainless steel tanks at very cool temperatures, which preserves maximum vibrancy and highlights freshness. However, a growing number of estates are making small lots of Sauvignon fermented at least partially in oak barrels, some of which are new. Although styles vary according to vintner preferences and vineyard location, Marlborough Sauvignons tend to be especially crisp, aromatic and food-friendly, with baseline flavors of tart lime and grapefruit, along with grass, fresh herbs and crushed stone. Some wines have tropical guava and passion fruit character, and riper versions can feature peach and apricot.
Recently New Zealand Pinot Noir is grabbing a lot of attention. It’s the second most widely planted variety in New Zealand, with 11,000 acres currently in production. In general, New Zealand Pinot Noirs have more affinity with the wines of Burgundy than those of California. Cooler growing conditions impart bright acidity and taut tannins, and the wines show a wide range of lively fruit flavors, including berries, plum and cherry, with the better versions often featuring intense spiciness as well as crushed stone and mineral accents. Nearly all of the top bottlings come from three regions: Central Otago, in the southern third of the South Island; Marlborough; and Martinborough, near the southern tip of the North Island. Red wines other than Pinot Noir deliver mixed results. The most promising variety is Syrah, which, along with Cabernet and Merlot, does best in Hawkes Bay.
Australia produces an amazingly diverse range of wines, from mass-market wines to dessert-style nectars that wow you with their richness and refinement. Recent export figures place Australia as the fourth largest exporter of wine, selling to more than 100 countries around the world. With more than 2,000 wineries spread across a landmass that’s nearly the size of the United States.
A wide range of climatic conditions, from the cool highlands of Tasmania to the hot and arid Murray Valley provides many opportunities for producing distinctive wines from premium European cultivars. Viticulture is concentrated principally in the southeastern portion of the continent, with some vineyards located in the southwest and the island state of Tasmania.
South Australia produces about 50 percent of Australia’s wine. The area includes both high-profile appellations and vast interior vineyards that make more anonymous bottlings. The warm region of Barossa Valley typically makes rich, dark, full-bodied Shiraz and is gaining a reputation for Grenache as well. Nearby Eden Valley is a bit cooler and is one of the best spots for Riesling. Clare Valley, a charming string of hills north of Barossa, also makes some of the very best Riesling, along with delicious Shiraz, and McLaren Vale, to the south, produces distinctive Grenache and Shiraz. Coonawarra, where Cabernet does particularly well, is the best known of the cluster of cooler regions near the border with Victoria that includes Padthaway and Wrattonbully.
Victoria, with 15 percent of Australia’s vineyards, contains some of the coolest appellations in the country. Located near Melbourne, the regions of Yarra Valley, Macedon and Mornington Peninsula make some high-profile Chardonnays and, increasingly, Pinot Noirs. Central Victoria, closer to the hot interior of Australia, does better with Shiraz. The other prime zone for Australian wine is Western Australia. Although it makes only 4 percent of Australia’s wine, several of the country’s best Chardonnays come from the coastal region of Margaret River. The vineyards of New South Wales, including Hunter Valley, owe much of their popularity to their proximity to Sydney. The wines generally do not compare favorably to those of South Australia, Victoria or Western Australia. The southern island of Tasmania is gaining a reputation for Pinot Noir and sparkling wine.
Have you ever had something described to as “greater than the sum of its parts”? I’m not sure if there’s a wine I’ve tried that better embodies that than the ‘Protocolo’. This is a blend of Macabeo (Primary grape in Cava) and Airen (Grape used primarily for brandy); which are grapes with an inherently “cheap” reputation. However, combined they are a lovely, floral, and tropical white with no end of porch-pounding potential. The pale straw colors give way to a nose filled with aromas of banana, peach, and slightly herbal notes. The palate has a surprising weight while still maintaining balanced acidity. The banana and peach notes carry through with slight aloe notes on the back end.
Generally speaking, white wines are overlooked in the grand scheme of Spanish wine in the United States market. Even within this decreased scope, Verdejo is niche, finding virtually all of its acreage in Rueda. This is Spain’s answer, among many, to Sauvignon Blanc, Muscadet/Melon de Bourgogne, and Gruner Veltliner. It is often characterized by bright notes of lime and other citrus essence cut with ripe, spicy fennel notes. This rendition by famed vintner Marques de Riscal is very style-appropriate, with aromas of lime, orange peel, peach, and ripe crunchy vegetal notes. The palate is light bodied with racy acidity, combining the aforementioned citrus with fennel, aniseed, and fresh cut grass. Probably the best analogy I have seen for Verdejo is that it is the “lime” to your fish taco dish. This is to say that if your dish is benefitted by the presence of lime, it will benefit from the presence of Verdejo.
Monastrell…. what is that again? It’s one of the many aliases of our favorite blending grape: Mourvèdre! While Mourvèdre grown in other Old Word regions like France (Bandol anyone?) tend to be decidedly meaty and savory, Monastrell grown within the comparatively warm region of Alicante blends these meaty aspects with decadent fruit. Even odder is the demonstrably lighter style that the ‘Mo’ demonstrates, more reminiscent of certain crus of Beaujolais. Aged exclusively in steel to soften Monastrell’s inherently fierce tannins and other phenolic compounds, this pours a purple with violet hues. The nose offers some of the meatiness, smoke, and graphite you would expect while supplemented by additional aromas of violets and blueberries. The palate yields a full body, juicy acidity and fine-grained tannins enveloping blue fruits, white pepper, and concentrated floral components. Try this with a rich pork tenderloin or even braised lamb.
An appellation typically known for whites; this Cabernet Sauvignon displays atypical New World characteristics. It pours a medium ruby with purple hues, offering aromas of cherry, plum, cassis, vanilla, and cedar box. The palate is medium-plus, with balanced acidity and soft, woody tannins complementing macerated red fruits. While an eligible steak wine, this is likely better served with something that benefits from its new world flair, such as short ribs or lamb.
Albarino on the Platinum List? What gives? First off, ouch; second off, what if I told you Albarino can be as complex and structured as any other heralded Old-World white? Enter the ‘Vicius’ Albarino. This avant-garde take on this traditionally lean grape utilizes oak-aging to draw out tertiary notes from the grape. The nose offers bready, yeasty notes supplemented by apricot and salinity. The palate is slick and oily, substituting the typical acidity for increased tertiary notes of wood, snow pea, and citrus. This is an off-the-wall, but delicious white that would be suitable with richer sea food.
We are all likely familiar with the Rioja DOCa, but we are all going to get very familiar with its primary competition. Ribera del Duero represents the muscular yin to Rioja’s yang, offering rich, extracted, and structured reds more influenced by New World winemaking practices. For a fresher, young example, the ‘Hito’ displays all of these characteristics in stride. Unlike other notable preparations of Tempranillo, this example substitutes aromas of strawberry and leather for rich cherry, fig, and tobacco aromas. The palate is full-bodied, with fresh acidity and supple tannins accented rich globs of red fruit, earth and baking spice. This wine screams tri-tip (prepared CA-style) and demands to be at your next BBQ.
One of the most commercially and critically acclaimed estates in all of Spain, Marques de Riscal is responsible for saturating the market with some of the most consistently high-quality Rioja available. This is done in spite of massive production, with the RR in particular accounting for upwards of 300,00 cases per year. 2015 was a particularly hot and dry year in Rioja, yielding higher than normal alcohol levels and wines with particular ripeness and velvety tannins. Pouring a rich ruby color with garnet streaks, this wine offers dried cherry, strawberry, dried tobacco, and leather on the nose. The palate is full-bodied, with fresh acidity and supple, velvety tannins. The red fruits are concentrated and spicy, accented by hints of vanilla and black pepper. This a textbook example of Rioja and would go exceptionally well with ham or roasted pork dishes.
Continuing along our tour of Ribera, we come to a richer, aged example. The ‘Seleccion Especial’ contains mostly Tempranillo in addition to Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, and Petit Verdot. Following a rigorous oak program in a combination of French and American oak, the wine pours a rich, opaque ruby with purple hues. Muddled blue and black fruits dominate the nose while being accented by streaks of vanilla, iron, bramble, and anise. The palate is very full-bodied, with bracing acidity and chewy, lengthy tannins. This is all to balance the massive plethora of fresh blue fruits and vanilla. This wine has amazing length and can be enjoyed now or allowed to develop for an additional two to three years in the cellar.
1-Petite Sauvage 2019 Sauvignon Blanc- Touraine AOC-France Video
A relatively well-known Loire white, this example offers a baby step into what many consider to be the apex of Sauvignon Blanc (Sancerre). Pouring a delicate pale straw hue, the nose offers citrus, herbs, and the quintessential minerality associated with Loire. The palate is light-bodied with zippy acidity, full of ripe citrus and vegetal notes with slight granite-driven earthiness. As you might expect, pair this with shrimp and you are in for a treat.
2-Bonpas 2018 ‘Legende de Bonpas’ Luberon-Luberon AOC- France Video
At the very Southeastern portion of the Rhone valley lies the Luberon region, which showcases a more Mediterranean climate in comparison to the rest of Rhone. As such, harvest takes place relatively late, yielding fragrant, ripe wines. The ‘Legende de Bonpas’ is a blend of Grenache Blanc, Vermentino, Clairette and Bourboulenc; representing key, but somewhat niche varietals in Rhone. This wine pours a medium yellow with white hues. The nose offers stone and tropical fruits accented by delicate floral notes. The palate is light-bodied with restrained acidity, and features ripe, but tasteful stone fruit and floral notes. This screams oysters or other shellfish.
3-Cave de Vignerons de Saumur 2018 ‘Les Pouches’- Saumur AOC- France Video
Like our example from a couple of months ago, this Loire Cabernet Franc comes from the Saumur region, which serves as both one of many dry red and white hubs within Loire but also as the primary source for grapes for use in Cremant de Loire. The ‘Les Pouches’ is a more daily-drinker friendly version of this style. It pours a gorgeous deep ruby hue, with earthy and savory bell pepper notes dancing around fragrant raspberry and cherry aromas. The body is full, with soft tannins and lively acidity. The same ripe fruits remain, now accented by earth, savory spice, and black pepper. This is an excellent BBQ wine, and would even be a candidate for an excellent chilled red.
4-Chateau Bonnet 2016 Rouge- Bordeaux AOC- France Video
When you think Bordeaux, particularly red Bordeaux, you might think of bouts between wine critics, absurdly expensive bottles, and waiting decades to try a wine. The reality is, however, that there are plenty of accessible wines from this region; and they are more than worth trying. Many of these use grapes from all over or from the higher-production areas of Southern Bordeaux. Chateau Bonnet utilizes the prior, being an equal blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. This sees no oak, and comes across as a fresh, green representation of the region at large. The wine pours a medium ruby with deep purple hues. The nose offers a blend of ripe strawberry, some slight herbaceous notes, anise, and licorice notes. The texture is medium-bodied with medium acid and softer, woody tannins. The fruit on the palate is fresh and tart, supplemented by slight peppery notes. Try this with a lighter red meat or heavier seafood like salmon.
5-Laurent Chardigny 2018 Bourgogne- Bourgogne AOC- France Video
Like Bordeaux, Burgundy is often associated with hilariously expensive wines and wine fraud (Sour Grapes anyone?) Additionally, much of the Burgundy available in the US is brought to market by negociants (companies or buyers who label bottles of wine made by smaller producers) which has added to a pervasive stigma when it comes to buying more affordable examples. However, some producers are able to directly export delicious, affordable examples such as Laurent Chardigny. With grapes (Pinot Noir) sourced near the legendary vineyards Nuits-Saints-George and Gevrey Chambertin, this red offers quality aspects of wines orders of magnitude more expensive. This wine pours a dark ruby with brighter red hues, and offers aromas of red berries, earth, tea leaves, and wet stone. The palate is medium-bodied with woody tannins and medium acidity- offering rich, fresh cherry and plum notes supplemented by fine minerality and spice. This wine screams for game like venison, bison, or quail.
6-Domaine La Manarine 2018 Cotes du Rhone Rouge-Cotes du Rhone AOC- France Video
Cotes du Rhone has been featured on many of our recent lists; as such, you might be concerned about burnout- but you shouldn’t be. The amount of variety contained just within Cotes du Rhone is absurd, with near endless amounts of permissible grape varieties and varying terroirs. Domaine La Manarine’s vineyards rest on a key geological contributor to Southern Rhone’s terroir- smooth, large limestone pebbles called ‘galets’, which assist in expedited drainage and retention of heat during the night and the dreaded ‘mistral’ winds that regularly devastate Rhone and Provence. One of the results? Their scrumptious Cotes du Rhone Rogue. This wine is made of 100% Grenache, and utilizes absolutely no oak, but still results in a rich, ripe treat. This wine pours a dark ruby with nearly no transparency. The nose offers delicious raspberry, plum, sweet baking spice, and rose hips. The palate is heavy-bodied, with sweet tannins and balanced acid. These ripe fruit notes continue through the palate with slight earthy notes that bring balance to the whole package. Try this with lamb, venison, or maybe a hearty red meat-driven stew.
7-Mas des Volques Duches d’Uzes ‘Volcae’- Duches d’Uzes AOC-France Video
From winemaker Nicolas Souchon and consultant Phillipe Cambie, the Volcae is a vision of a Chateauneuf du Pape-style blend in an unorthodox appellation. Duches d’Uzes is a relatively new AOC (2013) located in Southern Rhone towards the Western side. Unlike much of Southern Rhone, this region largely avoids the Mistral winds and experiences a more Mediterranean climate. Additionally, there is increased use of ‘Mediterranean’ varietals such as Carignan. This blend of Syrah, Grenache, and Carignan, provides both the tertiary notes of Rhone with the fruit you would expect from a warmer climate. The nose offers red and black fruits, espresso, and hints of tar. The palate is richly-full bodied with firm tannins and balanced acid, while offering rich plum and blueberry notes, dark chocolate, and granite-driven minerality. Like many rich reds, steak is likely the way to go, but something earthier like a mushroom-driven dish would also work well.
8-Chateau Cap L’Ousteau 2015 Haut Medoc- Haut Medoc AOC-France Video
The second of our featured Bordeaux wines for the month, this comes Haut-Medoc, south of all of it’s more famous neighbors in Margaux. Unlike its neighbors, Haut-Medoc-based chateaus are generally more adventurous in their use of Bordeaux varieties, and often incorporate all or most of the five* into their wines, like our example. This wine is mostly composed of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, but also imparts significant portions of Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. This wine pours a deep ruby with slight maroon hues, indicating age. The nose is complex, with wonderful tertiary notes of oak, black pepper, and bell pepper accented by blue and black fruits. The body is full, with medium plus tannins and acid balancing between ripe fruits and savory espresso and spice notes. This is a complex drink, and needs something with a ton of umami to effectively compliment it.
This month we are presenting three wines on each club level. For our club members, if you desire to do your usual tasting for two people, please call ahead to schedule your tasting. And as usual, when you have completed your tasting, you are able to choose two bottles of your favorite wines from the club to take home with you. Of course you can always purchase more at your club discount. :-)
IF you would like to skip your tasting this month, you are able to take one of each of the three wines on your club level. We hope the extra bottle of wine will be a nice substitute for those who are unable to do their January tasting.
For the Gold Club wines, we have an Italian Pinot Grigio, a Malbec from Mendoza Argentina, and a Cabernet from Lodi, CA. When choosing to take the three bottle option, you will receive one of each of these wines for your club.
For the Platinum Club wines, we have a California Chardonnay, a Napa Cabernet, and a Rutherford, CA Red Blend. Like the Gold Club, if the deicsion is to skip the tasting this month, you will receive one of each of these Platinum level wines to take as your club wines.
So, with out further delay, here are your wines for the January Club:
Pinot Gris, likely many white varieties, enjoys an internationally-recognized profile and is found in virtually every winegrowing region in the world. With this pervasive nature comes a variety of renditions that change drastically depending on the climate and physical location of the growing site. While Alto Adige might be the most famous region for Pinot Gris (Grigio) in Italy, there are multiple regions that showcase it, including the larger Triveneto region. The Luchi Pinot Grigio is sourced from multiple plots in the area, giving it the IGT designation, but its proximity to the Adriatic Sea and the resultant Mediterranean climate make for a widely-acclaimed version of the ubiquitous grape. Pouring a delicate pale straw color, this wine offers aromas of citrus zest, salinity, and slight herbaceousness, while offering a delicate palate of lemongrass, lemon, kiwi, and hints of minerality. Much less robust than its Alto Adige counterparts, this is a wine deserved of the most delicate of seafood.
After a string of cooler, rain-wrought vintages in the mid-2010’s, Mendoza has experienced a string of stable, excellent growing years turning out delicious wines. Larger producers/importers of Malbec into the US have saturated the market with huge, heavily-oaked versions of the grape; but it has the potential to be much more graceful than that. The ALH is an excellent, affordable example of this style- as it showcases the potential of Malbec sans oak. It pours a lively violet-red color with purple hues and offers notes of plum, subtle savory baking spice, and mint. It is medium-bodied with medium acidity, offering floral but juicy red berries and plums accented by granite, black pepper, and cedar. Though this could go well with steak, grilled veggies with a heavy umami characteristic such as asparagus, eggplant, and mushrooms would be best.
You know it, you love it; it’s Lapis Luna. This Lodi-appellated Cab is a love letter to fans of rich, ripe, succulent California Cabs. Following 10 months in a blend of new and neutral French oak, this wine pours a dark ruby with purple hues, offering aromas of macerated red and blue berries, plum, vanilla, and sweet baking spice. The tannins on this one are soft and velvety, making for a Cab that showcases its ripe, juicy fruit profile accented by tertiary notes of subtle cinnamon and vanilla.
One of the true standouts in California Chardonnay - Neyers has consistently blended Old and New World features into its regularly-acclaimed wines. This wine incorporates native yeasts, French Oak and 100% malolactic fermentation. The result is a Chardonnay that pours a medium gold color with white, shimmering hues- offering luscious green pear, green apple, citrus zest, and subtle vanilla and cream notes. The palate is medium bodied with medium-plus acidity, offering pear, quince and rich herb notes to round out the palate. This with rich pork or lobster-based dishes would be amazing.
The Durant & Booth 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon is an exercise in decadence, being a 20-month-aged Cabernet Sauvignon during one of the hottest vintages in recent memory. The result is a rich, hyperbolic Cab with small amounts of Petit Verdot and Merlot. The wine pours a rich, dark ruby with violet hues- offering aromas of reduced cherry, currant, and raspberry. The palate is heavy-bodied with medium tannins and restrained acidity offering globs of bittersweet chocolate, vanilla, and a plethora of ripe red fruits. This is a huge wine, and needs a rich, red meat-based dish to counter.
Originating from Rutherford, an area long celebrated for its exceptional terroir and dusty tannins, this wine embodies many of the hallmarks that you find in Rutherford Cabernet. Scintillating aromas of fresh blackberries, tart red currants, cocoa powder and vanilla spice. The palate is dense, rich and powerful with a beautiful combination of bright red fruit characteristics that perfectly intertwine with deep black fruits including blueberry compote, crushed black raspberries, ripe red plum, baking spices and bittersweet chocolate. Intense and penetrating, this wine displays concentrated, powerful fruit with a gorgeous center core that finishes with a long, focused finish and slightly dusty tannins. Predominately Cabernet, heightened with Merlot and Cabernet Franc. A perfect wine to snuggle up next to a fire and enjoy with your friends.
January Wine Club wines will be availabe through February 5th for Tasting. To take advantage of the three bottle pick up, please make sure you stop in before February 5th. After that date we will be back to delivering the normal two bottles for the month.
Argentina is first and foremost known for its love of Malbec and its status as its leading global producer. So it only makes sense that if the mountainous, valley-laden terroir of Argentina is amenable to Malbec, then other Bordeaux varieties would thrive there all the same; including Cabernet Sauvignon. The grapes used in the Black Cabra label come from some of the most commercially and critically successful vineyards in Mendoza; responsible for brands such as Tapiz and Zolo. Following an extended cold-soak maceration to extract the rich shades of ruby popular in Argentinian reds, the juice is aged in French oak for 8 months, resulting in an approachable, style-appropriate version of Argentina Cabernet. The wine pours a rich ruby color with purple hues and minor rim variation; offering aromas of dark red and blue fruits accented by granite and black pepper. The palate is full-bodied with well-integrated tannins, offering crunchy dark cherry and blue fruit notes supplemented by cassis and vanilla. There will be a number of steak wines on this list, so alternatives are needed. Think a rich, spicy beef stew that plays well with the fruitiness and structure of this wine.
Though Bordeaux is most prominently known for its producers listed under the 1855 Classification such as the first growths of Château Mouton Rothschild and Chateau Haut-Brion, there are a plethora of lower-designated producers making wines that demonstrate some of the key features of Bordeaux-based wines at a significantly-friendlier price point; with Mission ‘St. Vincent’ among them. This a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon sourced primarily from Entre-Deux-Mers, an area of Bordeaux primarily known for dry whites and a universal focus on all Bordeaux varieties. This blend is aged in a combination of stainless steel and oak to maintain acid and freshness. This wine pours a medium ruby with purple hues, offering notes of fresh, acidic red and blue fruits laced with toasty wood and vanilla. The palate is full-bodied with appropriate overall structure, offering a mixture of red and blue fruits, herbaceousness, and slight hints of spice.
When we think of Australia, we think of Shiraz; and when we think of Shiraz, we think of dry, hot, sunny regions like Barossa that yield massively fruity and powerful wines respected the world over (Think Grange, Carnival of Love, etc.). Lesser known are the ‘cold-climate’ regions of Australia, particularly when it comes to red varieties. Victoria contains acclaimed sub-regions known for Australia’s lesser known wine gems, like the Muscat a Petit Grains-based dessert wines of Rutherglen. Shiraz, however, has a small, but respected place here as cold-climate variations are created. Mount Langi Ghiran specializes in these unique iterations of Australian Shiraz, and the ‘Billi Billi’ is no exception. This wine pours a garnet hue; lighter in contrast to its counterparts in Barossa, offering aromas of cherry, black plum, and blackberry accented by notes of violet and black pepper. The palate offers medium, but well-integrated tannins accented with lip-smacking acidity; all enveloping a core of blue and black fruits. Pair this with braised meats in order to create a dichotomy of controlled and hedonistic richness.
The result of Rich Salvestrin’s vision for an accessible, but overachieving California red, ‘The Cult’ is a blend of primarily Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Petite Sirah sourced from Lodi. The deep ruby color offers aromas of black cherry, vanilla, cigar smoke, and bittersweet chocolate. Globs of milk chocolate and raspberry make up the palate, with sweet tannins and a lengthy, complex finish rounding the experience out. This is a versatile food wine that could easily go with a multitude of cuisines.
Does the name of this winery look familiar? It should! We featured Chateau Nozieres’ base Cahors on the Gold Club back in June and it was a smash hit! As such, we decided to feature one of their premier products on the Platinum list, and wow, is this a stunner! As a quick recap, Cahors is the original champion of Malbec, with its ‘black wines’ dating back to the 16th century. All Cahors must be at least 85% Malbec, with Merlot and Tannat being the only legal options for blending. The ‘Ambroise de L’Her’ is 90% Malbec and 10% Merlot, and goes through 14 months of aging in French Oak. The nose is INTENSE, with crunchy black fruits cut with coffee, hints of vanilla and herbs. This wine is immensely structured, offering dense tannins and bright acidity around a core of plum and blackberry. If there is any wine that could be singled out on this list as ‘steak-friendly’, it is undoubtedly this. Pair with a ribeye and enjoy!
If you have ever asked Brian about Zin, you have likely heard him drone on about how it differs drastically from area to area; wishing the whole way he would stop talking. Some point during these monologues, you have likely heard that Napa-sourced Zin’s are generally more structured in comparison to its various counterparts; which is true! Oakville is quickly becoming a favorite, with Michael Pozzan’s version being an excellent style-appropriate example. This Zin sees an impressive 18 months in a combination of French and American Oak, yielding a decadent, dark ruby hue. The nose offers plush raspberry, hints of stone fruit, and pungent black peppercorn. The palate is very full-bodied, with supple, sweet tannins and toasty oak accenting reduced raspberry, juicy cherry, and milk chocolate. I’ll say it once, I’ll say it again: Zin and BBQ is beautiful, and this pairing will serve you well!
For the first time since last year, we have a bonafide ‘old vine’ blend in SWB! This is a blend from winemaker Katie Carter of Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Alicante Bouschet, and Carignan sourced from some of the most respected appellations in CA for all of these varieties. This blend is aged 15 months in a combination of Hungarian and American oak. This pours an inviting blend of ruby and purple, offering aromas of boysenberry, raspberry, black-tea and spicy mesquite. The palate is predictably rich and full-bodied, with Petite Sirah’s quintessentially dusty tannins showing through, along with macerated raspberry, black pepper, and bramble. This is an upscale, juiced version of the ‘old vine’ style, and shows its increased nuance and care in spades.
J. Lohr?!? Hear us out! This is a restaurant-only offering from Paso Robles giant J. Lohr, but one that goes much beyond its reputation as grocery wine producer. This blend takes everything unique to Paso and recklessly turns it up to 11, offering a wine deserving of its namesake. This blend of Cabernet, Petite Sirah, Syrah, and Malbec is aged for 18 months in a combination of French and American Oak. The look is decadently ruby, completely opaque in quality. The nose offers a combination of fruitcake, bright cherry, and vanilla supplemented by subtle spice. The palate is rich, creamy, and full-bodied with velvety tannins and balanced acidity. There is a decadent core of mocha, vanilla, and fruit that deftly rides the line between acceptable and overkill, offering one of the most decadent reds I have seen here in my time at Steve’s. Food pairings? You need something ridiculously decadent to stand up to this; think braised short ribs.
Starting the gold list off with a nerdy bang is the ‘El Tuerto’ Blanco. This wine is made of 100% Tempranillo Blanco. This, unlike other ‘white’ red wines like white pinot noir (which is just regular Pinot Noir that has been vinified white), is an actual white clone of Tempranillo-A completely different grape. SO COOL! This wine only sees stainless steel, leaving us a pure representation of this rare variety. It pours a light-medium yellow with green hues. The nose offers a plethora of mineral notes, stone fruits, and with a slight leafiness. The palate is truly unique with subtle notes of peach and kumquat cut by slate, vegetal hints, and zippy acidity. This would be an awesome accompaniment to any number of delicious cheeses and charcuterie you serve before your Thanksgiving meal.
Sometimes, sticking with the classics is the right call. As such, we have put a California Chardonnay on the list for the first time in months; we simply cannot deny how well it sits at the Thanksgiving table. Long revered as one of California’s best kept secrets, Sean Minor is now a multi-AVA force, producing wines ranging all over the California Coast. It presents as a light golden straw hue and displays aromas of apple, pear, tropical citrus and pineapple with subtle notes of cardamom cinnamon and vanilla spice. This elegant chardonnay charms wine lovers with flavors of baked green apple, lemon curd, warm pineapple, with a hint of cardamom and vanilla. All of which integrates well with a touch of minerality and a medium body mouth feel which evolve into a full and lengthy finish. This is a super-versatile wine food-wise, but would likely be best with stuffing, crumbly, salty cheeses, and pumpkin pie.
As one of the key appellations in the introduction of Rhone varietals to the US and the ‘Rhone-Ranger’ movement, Paso has been known for its decidedly-new world takes on grapes like Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvèdre. Less famous, but equally delicious are their takes on grapes like Marsanne, Roussanne, and Viognier. Eschewing the powerhouse styles of Condrieu and other French regions, Viognier from Paso Robles is much more immediately approachable; opting for lush tropical fruits and perfume-driven wines. The HHV Viognier is no exception, offering plush pineapple and peach aromas and featuring a creamy texture (aged partially sur lie) enveloping a lush combination of citrus and tropical fruits. Pair this wine with a spicy mango and cashew nut salad, or a glazed apricot tart.
Last month’s notes talked at length about the organization of Cotes-du-Rhone in the Rhone wine economy, so I will keep it brief here. This blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre comes from the Cotes-du-Rhone region of Southern Rhone, which accounts for 60% of wine
production in the entirety of Rhone. Only aged briefly in oak, this is a very fresh and pure version of the style, pouring a medium ruby with slight purple hues. The nose offers loads of cherry puree accented by slight hints of earth. The palate is focused, with cherry accented by orange peel present above all, accented by a light-woodiness, lip-smacking acidity and soft tannins. This is an awesome candidate to replace Pinot as your turkey wine this year.
Now loved for its unique, but approachable flavor profile, Pinotage was once looked down upon as a crude, mismanaged commercial variety. A hybrid of Pinot Noir and Cinsault, the grape displays heaps of tannin, tons of anthocyanin( the stuff that turns grape skins and the resulting wine purple), and resilience to most weather conditions. The aforementioned mismanagement resulted in acetobacter-infested and over-extracted wines, that smelled like nail polish remover and tasted like burnt tar. Thankfully, this reputation is long behind the grape, and it is now thriving; producing delicious wines such as this one. This pours a heavy purple color with slight magenta hues. The nose offers thick globs of blackberry and blueberry accented by pipe tobacco and slight tar notes. The palate offers rich blue fruits, sweet tannins, and restrained acidity, making a perfect pairing for turkey, cranberry sauce, or even a fruit-based dessert!
The little brother/sister of Elk Cove, Pike Road focuses on multi-AVA and single vineyard expressions of Oregon Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris. You have likely heard me talk about the pseudo-Burgundian nature of Oregonian Pinot Noir, and I believe Pike Road’s products encompass this beautifully with a compromise between the huge fruit of other New-World Pinots and the structure/earthy elements of Old World examples. With the 2018 vintage being a particular warm one, the nose explodes with a plethora of red berries and potting soil. The palate is laden with black currant, black cherry, sweet oak, and baking spices enveloped with a full body with medium acid. This is the first of many worthy turkey wines you will find on the platinum list.
The second of two Pinots, this is definitely the demonstrably more ‘new-world’ of the two. As someone who has tasted multiple vintages of this wine, this is the boldest rendition yet. This Monterey-sourced Pinot gracefully combines the nuanced tea and spice notes associated with Monterey and SLH versions and combines them with the heft and richness of Pinots found in Anderson Valley. It pours a dense ruby color with purple hues, offering inviting aromas of muddled cherry, plum, and sweet baking spice. The palate is comparatively heavy-bodied for even a new world Pinot, boasting a hefty 14.5% ABV with balanced acidity. This all encompasses rich black cherry, fruit leather, clove, and violet notes. This is definitely turkey wine, but could also go well with spiced desserts like pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce.
Monferrato? Yes, there are regions other than Asti and Alba where Barbera is plentifully grown. As Northern Italy’s quintessential daily drinker wine, Barbera is generally known for its lighter body, low tannin, high acid, and approachable fruitiness; particularly those from Monferrato. Scarpetta’s example completely eschews this, opting for a comparatively heavy-oaked style. This wine pours a medium blend of purple and ruby, with magenta hues. The nose offers notes of earth, hay, and a bouquet of cherry and raspberry. The palate is medium bodied with soft tannins, high acid, and reduced red and blue fruits accented by slight hints of vanilla, earth, and savory spice. Barbera is one of many Pinot alternatives for Thanksgiving, and an unorthodox pick, for an unorthodox year.
Where the heck is Gattinara? What the heck is Spanna? Why am I drinking this? It’s in Piedmont, it's the local vernacular for Nebbiolo, and because it is amazing! When we think Nebbiolo, we likely think of Barolo and Barbaresco; Piedmont’s contribution to the wide-world of collector reds. The issue with these wines is that they are almost never drink-ready until years down the line due to their rock-hard tannins and blazing acidity. It is worth the wait, but practically, most of us don’t have the space nor patience for such endeavors; but Gattinara has you covered! These wines, also 100% Nebbiolo, are generally much more approachable out of the bottle, but scratch all of the itches every Nebbiolo fan loves. This wine pours a medium ruby with noted orange hues and bricking. The nose is extremely complex, with violets, earth, and tart red fruits. The palate follows this trend, with ripe red fruits intertwined with veins of granite, oak, and anise notes. The tannins are formidable, but are balanced out by zippy acidity and a medium body. If you are having something more formidable than turkey this year or are looking for something that adds additional savoriness and complexity to your meal, consider this delicious, niche take on a legendary variety from a legendary region.
This month we are looking at wines, and more specifically unique varietals, in which we either have a small representation of that varietal, or we currently do not offer at all in the bar.
Not a club member? You may also order a tasting for you to enjoy. We will pour you 2 ounces of each wine to enjoy.
Call ahead to have your tasting prepared for you to pick up at Steve's Wine Bar - 940-514-1852
Most wine-drinkers, at some point in their lives, have likely had a bottle of Côtes du Rhône they found at a grocery or box store. What does it mean? And why are there such huge price-differences for bottles that look identical? Like many confusing wine terms, there are layers of meaning with the Côtes du Rhône label. It’s a region, or group of regions, in Southern Rhone that operate on different levels of classification (Côtes du Rhône, Côtes du Rhône Villages, and Côtes du Rhône Village (Named)). The bottom level accounts for roughly 50% of wine production for the entire Rhone Valley, and are generally red blends based on Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre (Hence the origin of the GSM label). Though white blends are often found in the more exclusive crus in Rhone, you can find some awesome values in the Côtes du Rhône level, such as the Domaine La Lyre! This easy-drinking white is a blend of Grenache Blanc, Ugni Blanc (the primary grape in cognac), and Viognier. It pours a pale yellow with green hue, offering notes of green pear, lemon, and citrus peel mixed with floral notes on the nose. The palate is juicy, fruity, and fresh, enveloped in a light-medium texture with pleasant acidity. This will go well with grilled seafood, or white meats with a creamy aspect.
Fun fact: Did you know that Carmenere is technically a minor Bordeaux variety, sitting in the same crowd as Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot? Many of the currently planted vines in Chile were thought to be Merlot until they were genetically tested in the mid-20th century, revealing them to be the long-forgotten Carmenere. Speaking of Carmenere, it has been a MINUTE since we have featured one here at the wine bar, so we have brought a fun, approachable version for everyone to enjoy! The Root 1 Carmenere pours a rich ruby with noted purple hues. The nose offers quintessential notes of wet earth, leather, and hints of fruit. The nose is subverted by the palate; offering a fresh, plush medley of blue and red fruits accented by vanilla, black pepper, and a host of other spices. The combination of savory nose, plush palate, and supple tannins suggests something rich in umami, like a dish centered around mushrooms, pancetta, or bacon.
Vina Chocolan is a familiar sight at Steve’s, as we have featured a number of their Carmeneres in addition to a few of their red blends. This time, we are featuring their Merlot, which perfectly exemplifies how the Chilean terroir influences Bordeaux varieties. This Merlot is blended with small percentages of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, and is aged in 33% new French oak. This is likely a more savory version of Merlot in comparison to other New World examples. The nose offers notes of plum, baking spice, and cassis cut with slightly spicy notes of oak. The palate is fresh, juicy, and accented by surprisingly bright acidity and supple tannins. This is very versatile as a food wine, and should go with a plethora of earthy dishes (think mushroom risotto).
Woah. Three Chilean bottles in a row? Yup. The stars aligned for a Chile-Centric gold tasting; and what an opportunity to see just how varied the viticultural scene is! While generally, and falsely, seen as a ‘cheap’ wine region, Chile has rapidly become a haven for lovers of intensely-juicy, fruit-forward reds; from their take on traditional Bordeaux to their embrace and enhancement of the least known Bordeaux variety, Carmenere! The Toro de Piedra is no different, bringing two notoriously bold varieties together in a well-woven package. This roughly equal blend of the two is aged for 12 months in a combination of French and American oak. It pours a striking ruby with purple hues. The nose offers a decadent blend of cherry, raspberry, coffee grounds, and black pepper. The palate is supported by a heavy body, encompassing a core of fresh, juicy red fruits accented by notes of vanilla and nutmeg. Though steak would be served well by this wine, you might find it most at home with BBQ.
When you think of the primary varieties of Burgundy you likely think of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, maybe Gamay? But Aligoté is the one you will get to know this month. Generally treated as a cheap alternative to Chardonnay or used as an affordable blending grape in Crémant de Bourgogne, it displays a sleek, mineral-driven palate that has made it a cult favorite of Old World white-lovers. Rarely seen outside of Burgundy, it has found a home in the vineyards of renowned California Burgundy savant Jim Clendenen. This wine is unmistakably new world, with a medium gold color with white hues. 10 months in French Oak has imparted scents of cream, vanilla, and tropical fruits. The palate is laden with ripe apples, melon, and other rich tree fruits. To say this will just appeal to Chardonnay lovers would be doing it a disservice, this is a phenomenal wine for all to enjoy.
It’s taken some time, but we finally have Loire Cab Franc in, and your resident wine nerd is ecstatic! Not only that, but this one comes from some of the most sought-after land in the entire region. Most of the wines from this region are grown on a hill covered in limestone and sand, resembling something closer to Champagne than Sancere. The results are elegant wines, including nuanced reds such as this. This wine pours a striking cherry red. The nose offers notes of tart cherry, plum, with whiffs of black pepper and herbs. The palate featured plush plum and berry notes, with pronounced crushed-earth minerality and subtle tannins that give way to striking acidity. Though one could appreciate the complexity and excellence of this wine on its own, it would also go well with pork chops or a rich stew-like dish such as goulash.
The bar’s love for the Merlots of Washington is no secret at this point, as we have featured a plethora of stellar examples from North America’s own ‘Little Bordeaux.’ Continuing that trend, we bring you Milbrandt’s Estate Merlot, a Washington staple that eschews certain traditional aspects of Washington reds for something more approachable. Undergoing 26 months in primarily American oak, this ruby/purple colored wine offers aromas of vanilla, mocha, and cinnamon; backed by a plethora of red fruits. The palate offers rich layers of blue fruit, cassis, and the same vanilla accents, with chewy tannins and balanced acidity. This is the quintessential steak wine for the month.
Often overlooked for other Italian collector reds, Amarone della Valpolicella, or just ‘Amarone’, is among the most uniquely-produced wines for the world. Given the opportunity, we had to bring it in. Amarones are typically blends driven by Corvina, arguably the most important varietal in all of Veneto. Post harvest, the grapes are laid to dry on either small mats or boxes where the grapes slightly shrink and take on a raisin-esque appearance. This helps remove moisture and concentrates the phenolic compounds, including tannin, and flavors of the grape before they go through an extensive oak program ( 3 years in this instance!). The results are powerful, intense wines high in alcohol that are the true litmus test for ‘bold’ wine lovers. Our example pours a rich garnet with bricking on the outside. The nose offers rich aromas of baked earth, asian spices, and intense black fruit. The palate truly embraces the ‘macerated cherry’ note, with subtle notes of spirits, red fruit, savory spices, and underlying vanilla from the oak. This is a bold, intense wine, and deserves something of equal richness; think foie gras, duck, or braised red meats.
Talk about a grape that gets a bad rap. Gewurztraminer has been tragically lumped into the ‘ I don’t drink sweet wine’ category, and it’s a shame. Thankfully, we have an example from its most famous home, Alsace, to show what this grape is truly capable of! Not so much sweet, as off-dry, Alsatian Gewurztraminer is famous for mineral/acid-driven profiles with fruit notes of lychee, peach, and asian pear. There is truly nothing like it. This example by Gustave Lorentz is a fantastic example, and is featured as a sort of ‘bonus’ wine for the month. Whether you have this in between your tastings, after the whole thing, or as its own experience, I implore you to give this phenomenal wine a chance.
* Platinum Club Members - please taste your white wine (#5) first and then the Gold Club white (#1) for your tasting order.
The “Blind-Tasting Challenge” is back for September. In the past when we have done this, it has always been very well-received. It’s a fun exercise in allowing your senses do the decision making rather than the label, region, or varietal, to pick your favorite wines.
This month we are doing the Old World VS New World.
We have four wines on each club. Both clubs have a mix of old world and new world wines. Your challenge is to pick which wines are from which world.
We have 4 varietals on each club: Pinot Grigio/Gris, Chardonnay, Garnacha/Grenache, and Cabernet.
Platinum Club members of course will taste all 8 wines. You will have the chance to not only choose which of your four wines are old or new world, but you will be able to compare the varietal on which is old or new world.
Gold Club members have four different wines to taste and pick which is which. If you would like to take on the varietal challenge as well, you can add on the platinum tasting for just $10 a person.
When you pick up your tasting, we will give you a sheet to use to select if the wine is old world or new world. Return that when you come in to pick up your bottles and you can see how well you did.
NOT A CLUB MEMBER? Join today online and come and be part of the challenge. Or you can also simply purchase a tasting for you to pick up and enjoy at home or on our patio. Gold Club Tastings are $15 a person, Platinum Club Tastings are $20 a person, OR do both for $30 a person. You can stop in and ask to purchase a tasting to-go, or have the server help get you signed up for the club.
We look forward to having you join us in this challenge and look forward to seeing you soon!
Among the most respected regions in the world of cold-climate Chardonnay, Chablis produces maybe the hyperbolic examples of the style. This section of Burgundy is responsible for producing clean, lean versions of Chardonnay that stand in stark contrast to the heavily-oaked, rich examples produced here in the US. This is a quintessential example of the style. On the nose, look for aromas of lemon peel, crisp green apple, and flinty minerality. On the palate, see if you find the vein of salinity intertwined within the crisp tree fruit character supplemented by notable acidity and minerality.
Argentina is probably not the first place you would think of when it comes to Chardonnay. It is far from the most-planted white variety in the country, and rarely finds its way to the US market unless it is distributed by larger brands or one connected to a prominent domestic brand (Think Felino of the Paul Hobbs portfolio). This is not to speak ill of its quality, however, as Argentinian Chardonnay is a treat and will appeal to fans of other new world styles. In this example look for aromas of baked apple, ripe pear, and butter, with notes of vanilla, creme brulee, and ripe tree and stone fruits on the palate.
Italian Pinot Grigio is most often sourced from the Northeastern region of Alto Adige; one of Italy’s cooler climates that turns out crisp, mineral-driven interpretations. When sourced from a hotter region such as Tuscany, however, Pinot Gris usually displays a fruitier, riper character. In this example look for aromas of apricot and melon and notes of pear, stone fruit, honey, and cream on the palate.
Anderson Valley is known as one of the premier areas for Pinot Noir and Sparkling Wines in California, housing the wineries of many Champagne’s most prominent houses such as Louis Roederer’s (Cristal, Champagne Deutz) Roederer Estate and Scharffenberger. It would make sense then that cool-climate friendly grapes such as Pinot Gris would thrive in this cool, coastal climate. Take note of the aromas of stone and citrus fruits mixed with fresh lemongrass and the palate laden with lime zest, apricot, pear and subtle notes of beeswax supplemented by well-integrated acidity and minerality.
When we think of Rhone Varietals from California, we generally think of the regions that housed the initial ‘Rhone Rangers’ effort such as Santa Barbara (Bonny Doon, etc) and Paso Robles (Tablas Creek, etc.). They have found their way all over the state, as there are plantings of Grenache from the South Coast AVA’s all the way to Lake County. This example is from the larger Sierra Foothills region; an area primarily known for Zinfandel, but one that is expanding its wine repertoire. In this example look for aromas of nutmeg, cinnamon, and star anise playing with robust dark red fruits. On the palate, look for rich black cherry, blueberry, vanilla, and spicy smoky mesquite.
Standing in stark contrast to the Grenaches of Rhone and even the New World, Spanish Garnacha is like if wine was a ‘warm blanket.’ Due to its Mediterranean climate, Garnacha’s tend to display heightened notes of tertiary notes such as spices and oak influence. They can be manipulated greatly during the winemaking process, and use a wide variety of oak programs to yield different levels of richness or approachability. In this example, look for notes of five spice and reduced raspberry on the nose, with notes of rich plum, baking spices, and vanilla supplemented by firm tannins and lip-smacking acidity.
IIf you have had Italian Cabernet Sauvignon, it likely has been sourced from Tuscany, which has built its reputation with its approachable and legendary Super Tuscan blends. However, the variety is planted in select amounts all over Italy, with one of the more recent and prominent examples being Puglia. This region is located on the ‘heel’ of the boot that is Italy, and experiences a warm, Oceanic climate. This weather makes for reds with restrained tannins, moderate acidity, and fresh, lively fruit flavors. In this example, look for notes of black cherry, raspberry, and spicebox notes such as anise, and cinnamon on both the nose and palate.
We have long loved Cabs from this Central Coast region of California. The status of Cabernet Sauvignon from Paso Robles has seen a meteoric rise in popularity in recent years, and can be found just about everywhere at a wide variety of price points. Cab’s from this area are often excellent examples of how very hot climates interact with late-ripening varieties. In this example, look for aromas of macerated blueberries, reduced black cherries, and black peppercorn and notes of dark red fruits, five-spice, and rich vanilla on the palate.
We find ourselves in another month of business to-go here at Steve's Wine Bar. As we have done over the last three months, we have been sending our monthly wine tastings with our club members to enjoy at home and then pick their favorite wine from their tasting. This month we decided to create a menu that pairs with each of these wines you will be enjoying. You may want to craft your meal at home with our recipe's for a four course meal, or pick up a meal from our partner this month, Chestnut Tree on the Square. Our friend Suzanne Johnson will be putting together the meals for you take home and simply pop in the oven to finish the process in your kitchen. You will then be able to taste your wines with each course to make your decision on your favorite wines.
The process is simple; you will see we have once again 4 wines on each club level. Each course will pair with the corresponding menu item.
You may request the recipes for these items by email at email@example.com. Call the Chestnut Tree, or order online, ahead of time, and they will prepare the meal to pick up in advance of you stopping by Steve's to pick up your tasting.
Riesling outside of France and Germany (and recently Australia) has earned a pervasive, but unfair, reputation as overly ripe and sweet. This could not be further from the truth, as many winegrowing regions from Washington to Oregon to New York are producing balanced, complex versions of this oft-misunderstood grape. An excellent example of this is Januik’s 2017 Bacchus Vineyard Riesling. It pours a light to medium gold color with white hues. The nose is complex, offering honeycrisp apple, peach, and bready notes with the slightest hint of petrol. The palate is layered with notes of ginger, honey, apple, apricot, and sleek minerality. This is easily enjoyable now, but has the acidity and structure to lay down for a year or two.
From the eternally versatile appellations of Languedoc, this vin gris displays some of the hallmark characteristics of ‘blush’-style wines from the regions and the grapes that compose them. A blend of Grenache, Cinsault, Carignan,This wine pours a pale pink/pale copper with shimmering white hues. The nose offers a whimsical blend of red berries, minerality, and the slightest hint of cotton candy. The palate offers a slightly-heavier-than light body enveloping fresh cherry, raspberry, and pomegranate cut by sleek minerality and zingy acidity.
Oregon has firmly established itself as the New World benchmark for cold climate Pinot Noir; a title that stretches across all price points. Among the newer entries into the winegrowing scene in the Willamette Valley is Portlandia, a multi-AVA-focused (Dundee Hills, Mcminnville, and Yamhill-Carlton) winery with an emphasis on Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris. Their 2018 is a lovely combination of Oregon’s quintessential fruit profiles and an approachability akin to the heavier-bodied pinots of Napa and Sonoma. It pours a rich ruby with subtle purple hues. The nose is a rich medley of red fruits including raspberry, black cherry, and rhubarb. The palate offers these fruits cut with subtle notes of five-spice and earthiness woven within a lush body with balanced acidity.
An underdog in the seemingly endless list of food-friendly Italian wines, Montepulciano is often overlooked for its Sangiovese-based counterparts. This is in spite of the fact that it is the second highest planted red grape in Italy. It most often finds its home in Abruzzo, a sizable region East of Rome that runs along the Adriatic coastline. This particular version goes through a rigorous vinification process before release; aging in oak and bottle. It pours a rich ruby with garnet hues and offers a nose of bittersweet chocolate, plum, dried cherry, and vanilla. The palate is rich with notes of plum, tart cherry, and slight hints of savory spice. The tannins are soft and well-integrated and the acidity prevents the overall rich profile from becoming too heavy.
Old World-purists rejoice! Burgundy has reached the wine club! This rendition comes from the premier cru of Vaillons, located near the actual town of Chablis. This uber-savory rendition of Chardonnay will challenge the way you think of the grape. It pours a light gold with green hues. The nose offers a crisp combination of pear, apple, and slight vegetal tinges (Think hay or lemongrass). The palate offers the quintessential slate-like minerality associated with Chablis that cuts through a juicy core of stone fruit and citrus; all accented by bright acidity.
After a brief hiatus, Provence is back on the wine list. Pandemic or not, this region still reigns supreme in rose production; attracting the attention and investment of movie stars and musicians alike. Mirabeau en Provence’s ‘ Classic’ version embraces the beautiful simplicity that has made this region famous. The 2019 vintage pours a brilliant pink color with white hues, offering notes of cherry, raspberry, and tart red currant on the nose cut by a subtle smokiness. The palate doubles down on the cherry and other red fruits with hints of minerality and blowing acidity.
It seems somewhat of a misnomer to call any part of California practically ‘cold-climate’, but the Pinots and Chardonnays from Southern Sonoma and Napa would beg to differ. Pinot from the Russian River Valley AVA and its sub-AVA’s in particular are among the most critically acclaimed in the world of cold-climate Pinot Noir. Sebastopol Hill’s (located towards the southern end of the region) 2017 vintage of their RRV-sourced Pinot Noir embraces the requisite characteristics wholeheartedly. The wine pours a beautiful ruby to pale ruby, and offers notes of bing cherry, fresh vanilla, and savory leather. The palate offers a core of red fruit accented by orange peel, cola, and savory herbaceousness. This is all brought into balance by subtle minerality, balanced acidity, and silky tannins.
Paso Robles has long been one of the more heralded regions for Zinfandel growth in CA (Makes sense as it is the region’s heritage grape!). Though the market focus of the region may currently be on rich, ripe Cabernets, the Zin’s have character and prestige all their own. Opolo’s 2018 ‘Mountain’ Zinfandel displays the balance of power and nuance that has come to characterize Zinfandels from the central coast. This wine pours an inviting ruby color with rich purple hues. The nose offers rich blue and dark red fruits accented by floral notes, black pepper, and subtle mesquite. The palate is HUGE, with the fruit retained from the nose accented and perfumed by the 15.5 ABV while still offering subtle woody and peppery notes. The tannins are silky-smooth and the acidity holds everything in balance.
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.