Called the ‘Spanish Sauvignon Blanc,’ Verdejo is the signature grape of Rueda, a region of Castilla y León in northern Spain. Legend is that the Moors brought the grape to Spain about 1000 years ago, and the grape has thrived in Spain ever since. A perfect warm-weather wine, Verdejo is bright, crisp, and fruity, similar in body to a Sauvignon Blanc. A splendid food pairing for Verdejo is any dish with lime in it, which brings out both a citrus and an herbaceous note (fish tacos, anyone?). The Verdejo we are featuring at Steve’s this August, Neleman Verdejo, is actually sourced from Valencia, which is in the southeastern part of Spain. According to winemaker Derrick Neleman, you will earn “karma points” for choosing this 100% organic and vegan wine. The Verdejo label features a man riding a unicycle in a nod to Neleman’s Dutch heritage (there are 23 million bicycles in The Netherlands, in case you were wondering!). Come on over to Steve’s during these 100-degree temps and ask for a glass of Verdejo to quench your thirst and appease your desire to try something new!
While wine drinkers have varied—sometimes polarizing—opinions about Riesling, it is truly one of the most versatile grapes in the world because it can pair with a myriad of international cuisines, and it can, of course, run the gamut from very dry to sweet. Interestingly, some German brands have begun putting a “sweet” meter on the back of their bottles to ward off confusion. The Bauer Haus Riesling, a semisweet wine, has higher acidity, and brings a conversation-worthy nose with its floral and faint petrol aromas (very common in German Rieslings). When tasted, citrus, apricots and honey are at the forefront. The Bauer Haus complements Chef Suzanne’s Orange Cake with Dark Chocolate Mousse.
An interesting and refreshing Spanish white, Verdejo is a wonderful alternative to New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. While it can be expressed as a fuller-bodied wine if aged in oak, the Neleman Verdejo is crisp, fruity, and light. Winemaker Derrick Neleman’s motto is to “inspire and nurture the human spirit with all its wondrous glory and variety” with his wine, and the tropical flavors of pineapple and mango along with green apple and a lime note coalesce in the glass. Vegan, organic, and aged in stainless steel, the fruit is left to shine on its own. The Verdejo is the first wine to serve with Chef Sezanne’s Eggplant Caponata with Pecorino Crisp.
While a sparkling red may not be at the top of everyone’s list, we ask that you give this lovely Lambrusco a chance. Lambrusco styles range from very fruity and bright to tannic and full-bodied. This wine, somewhere in the middle, is an August thirst-quencher (and porch pounder). With gentle bubbles and an intense ruby hue, the Cantini di Sorbara Lambrusco delights with tart red fruits, Italian herbs, and candied orange peel. It is a wine that gives a nod to the past (remember Riunite?) while embracing modernity and pleasing many wine drinkers. It also enhances the Eggplant Caponata and serves as a good transition to the next course.
Pinot Nero (Noir) is one of the red international varieties that has had commercial success in Italy, a country known for having hundreds of indigenous grapes. While it is a complex and difficult grape to cultivate, when done well, Pinot Noir is a treasure, with or without food. The Italo Cescon Pinot, named for the patriarch and winemaker of the family, gives off red fruit vibes, from cherry to boysenberry to red currant and cranberry. Italian herbs and clove round out a satisfying finish. The bottle is a showpiece as well, with its tied cane and ribbon, a practice the family started in the 1950s. This wine is an elegant initial accompaniment to Chef Suzanne’s Tomato Sorbet with Mozzarella Mousse.
Fattoria Poggio Alloro Chianti – Tuscany – IT (Gold)
Idyllic Tuscany with its rolling hills and cypress trees…and to add to the mystique, picture a charming farmhouse (with rooms to rent!) and bay laurel bushes all over the grounds, emitting a fragrant herby scent in the sun-soaked countryside. Yes, we are enticing you to go visit Fattoria Poggio Alloro, which is near San Gimignano, an area well-known for the white wine Vernaccia. In addition to hospitality, Fattoria Poggio Alloro crafts a tasty Chianti. Primarily made with Sangiovese—but also with the indigenous grapes of Canaiolo, Colorino, and Ciliegiolo—this Chianti is medium-bodied with the flavor profile of crushed violets, cherry, and red licorice, along with some earthy notes and spice, making it an excellent conclusion to the Tomato Sorbet.
We recently had a Cabernet Franc (yep, Cheryl is partial) from Argentina, so it’s interesting to have the same variety from its birthplace, France. While Cab Franc thrives in Bordeaux, it is also a staple of Saumur, in the Loire Valley. Saumur’s warm summers and cold winters allow a full expression of the grape’s peppery and flinty flavors. Furthermore, on the palette, notes of plum, cherry, and black pepper emerge. Perfumed, juicy, and expressive, the Arnaud Lambert is a fantastic wine for late summer, fall, winter, and—yes—spring (did you forget Cheryl loves Cab Franc?). Arnaud Lambert considers himself a “Loire Artisan” whose goal is to craft wines with purity and precision, and a glass should accompany your first bites of Chef Suzanne’s Octopus Carpaccio and Potato Puree.
Zestos’ Garnacha is cultivated in the high elevation vineyards of San Martin Valdeiglesias, northwest of Madrid. The vines, grown in sandy and granite soil, are around 80 years old, and the result of old vines is luscious, highly concentrated, lower-yield fruit. The Zestos Garnacha grapes are perfectly ripe at harvest and impart floral and mineral-driven flavors. The winemakers strive to preserve that fruitiness by aging the wine in stainless and cement. A vivid ruby hue, the wine offers notes of blackberry, cherry, white pepper, and earth. The Zestos label includes a logo that says “Vinos Regionales – Respeto y Tradición,” a commitment to preserving old-world practices. The Zestos Garnacha is a unique merging of history in an up-and-coming wine region. It can best be enjoyed as the opening wine for Chef Suzanne’s Seared Lamb and Farro Salad course.
While this is the second Sangiovese on the lineup (and the fourth Italian wine!), it is certainly an interesting experiment to compare the two Tuscan reds. The Banfi uses the Governo technique, an ancient winemaking method which, in the 14th century, helped to stabilize high acid wines like Sangiovese during fermentation. In modern times, an added benefit to “Governo” is that a wine becomes a bit more luxurious and jammy by contributing partially withered grapes to the fermenting wine. Banfi may be a well-known name, but it is a young winery (at just 45 years old!) seeking to create a “stil novo” (new style). Floral on the nose, the wine evolves into maraschino cherry, raspberry jam, and black plum with a savory finish with a touch of spice. It is a nice way to finish the Octopus Carpaccio course.
An “up-and-coming” viticulture area for the past 30 or so years, the Judean Hills are a mountain range that extends up to 3,280 feet surrounding the city of Jerusalem. Despite the newer press, according to Catherine Todd of Forbes Magazine, “Old terraces carved into the rock and ancient limestone wine presses hint towards winemaking that goes back for thousands of years.” The region forms a paradox of modern winemaking techniques and traditional practices, like certifying wine as Kosher. The climate, conducive for grape growing with its warm summers and cold winters, produces fruity but earthy Cabernet. The Zion ‘Capital’ Cab wraps you up in blueberry, blackberry, and plummy goodness and then finishes with a bit of savory herb and spice. A satisfying conclusion to the Seared Lamb and Potato course, it is also a perfect way to end the August Platinum lineup.