The broader ‘Sud-Ouest’ has been one of the most eclectic and underappreciated wine regions in France. Despite being of comparable to most other significant wine regions, the sheer amount of variation between appellations transcends grape varieties and extends to styles, terroir, and culture. Among the more approachable and common IGP’s you will see is the Cotes de Gascogne, a large swath of land surrounding the city of Auch. At one point, this region was predominantly occupied with Armagnac production, but now uses some of the Armagnac varieties (Ugni Blanc, Colombard, etc.) to make easy-drinking, crisp white wine. Guillaman’s ‘Les Pierres Blanches’ is no exception, being an unoaked blend of Colombard and Sauvignon Blanc. Fans of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc might feel a touch of déjà vu drinking this as aromas of wet rock, grapefruit, and hints of passionfruit arise from the glass. However, this is lacking in NZ’s (in)famous pyrazines and boasts hints of floral notes that add complexity to the familiar combo of citrus fruit and acidity. As a bonafide porch-pounder, raw fish is an excellent accompaniment, and the tuna carpaccio that finds its way onto Chestnut Tree’s menu occasionally is an excellent pairing.
When we have featured Spanish white wines in the past, we have generally featured examples from Galicia, where the climate favors the production of high-acid, austere wines. However, white wines are made in the overwhelmingly warm parts of Spain as well, albeit with different results. The Prado Rey Blanco is an excellent example, sourcing Verdejo and Albarin (Not to be confused with Albarino) from around Castilla y Leon and taking a richer approach. Following 5 months in concrete and oak each, this wine gives off complex aromas of apple, vanilla, flowers, and subtle baking spice. The palate is creamy in comparison to Rueda Verdejo we have offered in the past, with a combination of peach, apple, and pear supplemented with the aforementioned spice. This would go well with cream-based dishes, such as the wildly creative Rasta Pasta up at Graffiti.
If you were a member of the club this past month, you likely were introduced to Argentinian Pinot Noir; a product of the region of Patagonia slowly but surely making its way into US markets. Though Patagonia doesn’t produce anywhere near the amount of wine that Mendoza does (Roughly 75% of the total production), it does have the benefit of a moderating influence from the Antarctic, leading to a haven for many white varieties, and early-ripening red varieties like Pinot Noir. As a result, more and more producers from other significant wine regions are flocking to buy land to get in on the action. The Humberto Canale estate, however, has been cultivating vineyards in the area since 1909 and is now in the fifth generation of ownership. Their estate Pinot Noir is an excellent reflection of that experience, showing off the cool climate, but intense capabilities of the region. The wine opens with aromas of crunchy red berries, orange zest, and earth. The palate is medium-bodied, with light dusty tannins and mouthwatering acidity, and features the same chewy red fruits as the nose. Rich, toasty pork or lamb dishes are the pairing to go with here, but earthy vegetable dishes could go just as well, such as the falafel at Gyro 360.
Sometimes, the title of a wine tells you all you need to know. Red winemaking in Barossa is often a battle to maintain a semblance of structure as the oppressively hot temperatures ripen the grapes to comical levels. What would happen if you leaned into that ripeness a little? Well, this wine might tell you! The ‘Ink’ Cabernet Sauvignon is sourced from the incomparable Barossa Valley, where this wine has been forged into an extracted powerhouse. Aromas of cassis, fruitcake, and eucalyptus give way to a rich, viscous texture of vanilla, blueberry, and various baking spices that would make an excellent pairing for the melt in your mouth Thai Curry Pot Pie at Taan Eatery.
While Southern Rhone might not have the reputation for powerhouse whites that it’s cousin to the North does, there are producers making massive renditions of some of your favorite white Rhone varieties. Enter Mas de Volques, who longtime club members will be familiar with as a super team of both talented young winemakers and veterans from Chateauneuf du Pape. They benefit from the location and terroir of Duche D’Uzes, which is one of the most southerly, and warm, appellations of the Southern Rhone Valley. In the fashion of the latter, the Alba Dolia is a massive blend of Rousanne and Viognier that gives off aromas of apricot, pineapple, beeswax, and vanilla. The palate is rich and creamy, with explosive tropical and stone fruit notes cut with hints of vanilla. This wine needs something equally rich, think the fried oyster mushroom sandwich from Insurgent!
For such a tumultuous history, Carmenere has its perfect home in the Central Valley of Chile. Once a bonafide grape of Bordeaux, Carmenere was virtually wiped out by phylloxera in the late 19th century and was thought lost until the late 20th century, when Jean Michel Boursiquot determined that what was once called merlot chileno, was Carmenere. Since then, it is has been the signature variety of Chile, and has played an important role in creating a unique viticultural identity for the country. Vicente Aresti Astica founded the estate in 1951, and it has since been known for its faithful renditions of Chile’s signature variety. The nose offers the quintessential notes of bell pepper, black pepper, and tart plum. The palate offers dusty tannins and medium acidity, with flavors of strawberry and plum cut with notes of cacao and subtle herbs. The structure and savory nature of this wine makes it an ideal pairing for a variety of cheeses, would benefit from a visit to Justin at Ten:One Artisan Cheese.
You already know the deal, Malbec is kind of a big thing in Argentina. Across virtually every appellation, Malbec is the primary or one of the primary red varieties. Chief among them is Mendoza, with the subregions of Lujan de Cuyo, San Juan, and their delineations in particular. Agrelo is a subregion of the prior, offering some of the high elevation terroir (over 1000 ft above sea level on average) that makes some of Argentina’s most collectible wines. Though most Bordeaux varieties would, and do, succeed here, the huge diurnal shifts and moderating influence of the high elevations prevents Malbec from learning to much into its hedonistic, mocha-ish tendencies. The La Madrid is an exceptional example, offering aromas of plum, ground coffee, and violet. The palate might be comparatively light to some of the more retail-heavy brands from Mendoza, but the fine grained tannins, balanced acidity, and balanced dance between red and black fruits make for an incredible result. Try this with a Jackie Mays burger next time you see them!
A ‘big dog’ returns, and with it a strikingly balanced, but hedonistic Shiraz. Named for former winemaker Stuart Blackwell, the Blackwell Shiraz manages to dodge the aforementioned pitfalls of winemaking in Barossa and emerges as an amazingly complex rendition. Despite spending a considerable amount of time in American Oak, the nose offers a complex bouquet of flowers, bakers chocolate, blackberry, and black pepper. Though this wine could cruise for another decade, the blackberry, spruce, and milk chocolate dance around the palate surrounded by fine grained tannins and surprising acidity. Though this could work with some sticky BBQ, this is one of the few Barossa Shiraz’s that has the grace and complexity to match well with a high end cut of ribeye or filet.
One of the great quaffable whites of the world, Picpoul de Pinet is often left lonely and forgotten on the bottle shelf of wine stores. Whether it’s a lack of advocacy or a lack of pushing by the employees, there are many a Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris drinker that would rabidly enjoy some Picpoul. First off, some clarification, the grape in this bottle is Picpoul Blanc, while the region(appellation) itself is labeled Picpoul de Pinet, housed on the Southern coast of Languedoc. The Beauvignac estate is part of a cooperative that accounts for over a third of the total appellation. Though this sounds somewhat insidious on paper, cooperatives are a necessary part of European viticulture that results in many otherwise unknown regions making it to outside markets. This is a wine tailor-made for our current weather, with aromas of lemon zest and sea salt followed by a deliciously simple palate of citrus and neutral fruits accented with zippy acidity and noted mineral character. This would go beautifully with the caprese salad over at Graffiti on the square.
We have featured multiple roses from Navarra, but we’re traveling further south to Carinena for this next one. Carinena isn’t particularly known for rose, but rather for being a relatively ancient wine region with documented recognition going back to the Roman Empire. Bodegas CARE is a relatively young producer, but one focused on bolstering the reputation of this oft-forgotten region and giving back to its community. For instance, a percentage of the revenue generated from the Solidarity goes to a local breast cancer foundation! As for the wine itself, this is a straight-forward, delicious blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Tempranillo that offers aromas of cotton candy, strawberries and cream cut with hints of blue fruit. The palate is light bodied and features restrained acidity and a hint of tannin providing context to a forward palate of red and blue berries. Rose goes extremely well with light fried foods, and as such would go well with the ’Fun Guys’ from our friends over at Komodo Loco.
Bonarda, Douce Noir, Charbono. No matter where this variety grows, it’s always a second fiddle; albeit a glorious one. In this case, we are looking at Bonarda from Argentina. Very much the foil to its richer, more famous neighbor in Malbec, Bonarda is often made in a dry, fresh, fruity style that rewards early drinking and pairing with a myriad of foods. Caligiore’s single vineyard bottling embraces this, a short maceration, and carefully monitored time in neutral oak to produce a brambly, food-friendly bottling. Aromas of flowers, plum, and tart cherry lead to a palate featuring rustic tannins, dark red fruits, and accents of bittersweet chocolate and tobacco. Despite its “lightweight” chemistry, this wine features the concentration and weight you would want when pairing with any of the BBQ offerings from neighbors over at Rooster’s.
What if I told you there’s MASSIVE red wines out there to go with your BBQ that A. are not from the New World and B. do not use a lick of oak? Enter, again, the Southern Rhone. We’ve featured Cotes du Rhone so many times on the club that I’m not going to get too into detail about the region, just know that it’s one of the warmest wine-growing regions in France responsible for its largest red wines. Let’s talk about the producer instead and how cool this wine is. Domaine de la Guicharde was founded in 1988 by Arnaud and Isabelle Guicharde and was later sold to Didier Perreol in 2020. Now run by winemaker Lawrence Goudal, the Guicharde estate is Demeter-certified(biodynamic) and focuses on a small portfolio of Cotes du Rhone. The Cuvee ‘Genest’ is their top cuvee, sourced from the Massif d’Uchaux, one of the 95 villages allowed to be named on bottlings of Cotes du Rhone Village. This site is located near the top of the Vaucluse department, and features some of the oldest vines of the estate, with the 30-year-old Grenache vines and 50-year-old Syrah vines being the focal point of the cuvee. Predominantly Grenache with Syrah, the wine sees no oak but instead a lengthy maceration with little intervention followed by 18 months in stainless steel and bottle. As with many CDR’s, the fruit is the absolute focal point, with aromas of black fruits, garrigue, and hints of bramble. The palate is densely tannic with an unmistakably-Rhone core of blue and black berries. This needs something sticky and toothsome, such as some St. Louis-style ribs from The Juicy Pig.
While it is often the butt of many jokes from wine professionals and enjoyers alike, there is no doubting the potential for Chardonnay in the cooler regions of California. Among these promising regions is Los Carneros, shared between Napa and Sonoma and one of the closer regions to the cooling influence of the San Pablo Bay. While it would be disingenuous to compare Carneros as a cool region to something like Burgundy, it has the ingredients to be an excellent home for Chardonnay. Poseidon’s bottling is a richer style but one that blends the cool-climate tendencies of Los Carneros with richness-inducing winemaking techniques used throughout Napa. Aged in 20% new French Oak and put through *some* malolactic fermentation, the wine offers aromas of cream, sweet apple, cinnamon, and hints of tropical fruit. The palate has a rich creamy texture but offers enough acidity to keep it lively as pineapple, pear, apple, and toast dance around the palate. This wine could go with many dishes, but not so adeptly as it would with a platter of crawfish from Hoochie’s.
Brian has apparently been in an Argentina mood lately, but he’s saved the best for last. Though nothing is threatening to unseat Malbec as the peak variety, Pinot Noir has been quietly, quickly gaining ground. This is doubly so in regions outside of Mendoza, where Malbec struggles to ripen in the way that leads to the big, bodacious styles Argentina is known for. For example, in Rio Negro, there are winemakers making Pinot that would make Willamette and Burgundy blush. With a yearly average temperature of roughly 68 degrees Fahrenheit, Pinot THRIVES here, and winemakers like Fabian Valenzuela have taken notice. Their 2020 bottling features an inviting bouquet of allspice, roses, strawberry, and cherry. This is followed by a palate featuring fine-grained tannins and mouthwatering acidity, all-encompassing bright red berries, earth, and subtle baking spice. This is an absolute knockout of a wine and would go beautifully with some mushroom and ricotta crostini from our friends at Chestnut Tree.
When you think of Oregon viticulture, you might think of Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Chardonnay exclusively. While these occupy the vast majority of acreage, there is an ever-growing presence of Riesling, Cab Franc, Gamay, Tempranillo, and most notably, Rhone varieties. One of the hubs for this is Applegate Valley, located within the larger Rogue Valley in Southern Oregon. Applegate Valley is considerably warmer and less rainy than Willamette, making it an ideal environment for Bordeaux and Rhone Varieties; the latter of which in particular. The Druid Fluid, named for the bottles symbol paying homage to their biodynamic vineyards, is a proprietary bottling of various Rhone varieties that, by their own admission, is made in an old-school Cotes du Rhone style, meaning youthful drinking and plenty of fruit. The nose screams of the quality of its fruit with both the ruddy characters of the Grenache and Syrah showing through with hints of more tart black fruits from the Mourvèdre offering balance. The tannins are ripe and balanced, with a refreshingly juicy texture focusing again on the fruit with hints of garrigue and black pepper appearing in the background. This is a winner with both simple rustic red meat-based meals and more complex game-based dishes alike. Grab some takeout from LSA Burgers OR Barley & Board for an object lesson.
Tucked in the very Northwest Italy, beyond the foggy river lands of Piedmont, lies the Valle d’Aosta, one of the smallest and most eclectic wine regions in the country. Located near the borders to both Italy and Switzerland, Valle d’Aosta grows more traditional Italian and international varieties (Nebbiolo, Chardonnay.) but also features some that are completely their own. Anselmet’s ‘La Touche’ Rouge is chock-full of these indigenous varieties, including Petit Rouge, Furmin, Cornalin, and Mayolet. These grapes are often blended with each other to create savory, but fruit-driven wines that pair with a large variety of foods that are found in the inter-cultural makeup that is the Valle d’Aosta. Anselmet’s rendition offers aromas of red and black fruits with a pleasant, savory herbaceousness. The palate features a similar fruit profile with rustic tannins and enough acidity to keep the whole package from feeling ‘weighty’. Something rich and earthy would help the fruit of this wine shine, so a dish of steak and mushrooms from any one of our local fine dining restaurants would be an awesome pick.