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.
Chardonnay is often put on a dichotomy between New World and Old World with little room in between. New World renditions are generally associated with increased usage of new oak and malolactic fermentation resulting in ripe wines, while Old World versions are generally associated with high acid, less fruit, and less oak and ‘malo’. However, it’s important to remember that many of these aspects are influenced more by the winemaker than where the wine is from; take the Vignobles Vella for example. This wine hailing from Languedoc (Southern France) pours a medium yellow with gold hues, offering aromas of banana peel, butter, tea, and some sweet baking spice. The palate is medium bodied with flavors of pineapple and eucalyptus candy, making for an excellent pairing with richer seafood or chicken kiev.
When you think of Greek wine, what comes to mind? For many, its exclusively sweet wines, or maybe the eternally odd, but loveable, Retsina. However, there are a collection of delicious indigenous varieties that are starting to make a more consistent appearance in the US market. The ‘Zoe’ line from Domaine Skouras is designed with accessibility in mind, with wines that are made in an unadulterated style that emphasizes regional and varietal character. The ‘Zoe’ white blend is 60% Roditis and 40% Moscofilero. It does not see any oak, VERY little skin contact, and slight lees aging. This wine pours a very pale straw (almost water-like) and offers delicate aromas of flowers, musk, honey, and restrained orchard fruit. The palate offers zippy acidity, sweet citrus fruits, and fresh herbs. This wine screams for a salad with soft cheeses and fruit.
As we discussed in November, Carignan is an impressively difficult grape to cultivate and vinify into acceptable varietal wine. It has a history as turbulent as any other variety and is still recovering in the eyes of the consumers. Thankfully, there are producers dedicated to exploring the potential of this variety. This wine is sourced from 50-year-old vines and sees no oak. The nose offers a complex blend of dried herbs and tart blue/black fruit. The palate enters sweet, but quickly reveals the quintessential tannins of Carignan mixed in with macerated black fruits. Though not quite weighty enough for rich red meats, this wine would go beautifully with pork tenderloin served with caramelized brussels sprouts.
There is no such thing as too much Cotes du Rhone in a wine bar. As such, we are bringing in yet another delicious rendition from the region that keeps on giving. This 50/50 blend of Grenache and Syrah is as traditional as traditional gets for CDR; with no oak and grapes harvested at their ripest for a wine that showcases purity of fruit. The nose offers aromas of garrigue, chocolate, and red fruits. This continues through the palate while offering well-integrated tannins and a characteristic richness. Pair this with your next lamb-based meal or a heart Bolognese.
You have likely heard the staff throw around the term “porch-pounder” with reckless abandon. While it’s true that this title is completely subjective (if you can pound Amarone, more power to you) few wines embrace the notion of “porch-pounder” than Txakolina. Generally made from Hondarrabi Zuri, Txakolina (or Txakoli) is an appellation in the Basque County famous for wines made in a fresh style that emphasizes high acidity, a slight effervescence, and tart citrus and orchard fruit flavors. Ganeta’s rendition embraces all these characteristics and more, making it an ideal standalone white or a pairing for fish tacos.
If you all remember, we featured a delectable red from this producer a couple months ago. While Etna Rosso is arguably the most well known of the broad appellations produced on the eponymous volcano, there are also delicious white wines abound. The Etna Bianco from Terre Nere, much like the Etna Rosso, personifies the regions to a ‘T’. This blend of Carricante, Cataratto, Grecanico, and Minnella is sourced from vines ranging from 5 to 80 years and is made in a way to emphasize the impressive freshness of the style. The nose offers fresh primary aromas of citrus and tart tropical fruits with hints of salinity and minerality. The palate has zippy acidity with juicy Meyer lemon and quince accented again with salinity. The freshness of this wine demands crudo or that it be respected as an aperitif.
There a reason the biggest names in California Zinfandel call the Dry Creek Valley their home; it’s a land renowned for over 100 years of the best Zin’ in the state. This AVA tucked in North Central Sonoma County combines the quintessential heat of Sonoma with coastal influence from Lake Sonoma to create rich Zin’s with profiles balanced between opulent and savory. Jigar’s 2017 release sees 10 months in 25% new French Oak, which adds an additional degree of richness to what already a monster of a wine. The nose offers red and black fruit with additional aromas of humidor and sweet baking spice. The mouthfeel is luscious, with well-integrated oak tannins enveloping flavors of blueberry and sweet raspberry. The richness of this wine and its tightrope between ripe and smoky makes it an ideal candidate for BBQ.
What could possibly outclass a Zinfandel in terms of weight and richness? Well, it takes the combination of Syrah, Petite Sirah, and a rich viticultural pedigree. Though relatively young, Bootleg Wine Works has featured the talents of multiple winemakers with history at major CA producers such as Hall, Clos du Val, and many others. The Prequel sources fruit from all over Sonoma County and is made in a quintessentially California style. This impenetrably purple wine offers aromas of black pepper, tar, blueberry, and crème de cassis. The palate offers rich oak-driven tannins with full-length flavors of blue and black fruits cut with rich vanilla, sweet tobacco, and baking spice. There is no hunk of red meat too rich for this wine.
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