Do you like Sauvignon Blanc, Gruner Veltliner, or Muscadet? Do you wish the wines were more bone-dry and had some more weight flavor and body-wise to them? Look no further than Friulano from Fiuli Colli Orientali. This DOC is located in Friuli-Venezia Giula, a large northeastern Italian growing region that borders the Veneto region, Slovenia, and Austria. This region generally displays a mild Mediterranean climate with a cool influence from the Alps to the north. This screams for both structured white wines and lighter styles of red wine. The styles displayed here are varied, from bone-dry whites to plush Bordeaux-based wines (see the Bortoluzzi Cabernet Franc) to the rich dessert wines of the Colli Orientali del Friuli Picolit DOCG (Which gets a shoutout in the Sopranos!). So, what can you expect from the Vinsintini? The wine displays a light yellow/ pale straw color. The nose is complex and savory, with almond, apple skin, and white flowers. The palate displays zippy acidity, subtle stone and citrus fruits with herbaceous and almond accents. While you might think to pair this with lean white meat or delicate fish, try pairing this wine’s high acid with cured meats and salty pork!
Even when thinking explicitly of popular white varieties in Washington, Pinot Gris probably does not come immediately to mind. To be fair, the typical portrayal of Washington doesn’t display the typical climate associated with Pinot Gris. However, the rainy, green pastures on the West of the Cascades are a far cry from the generally sunny and dry valleys on the East (Where virtually all of the wine production for the state occurs). In fact, comparisons could be drawn between Columbia Valley and what is likely the premier non-Italian Pinot Gris-growing region, Alsace. Though the Nine Hats displays some fundamental differences from Alsatian Pinot Gris, it does display the potential for Pinot Gris going forward in Columbia Valley. This wine pours a light straw to light yellow with some light white hues. The nose offers an intense combination of flowers, wet stone, and tart orchard fruits. The palate is less intense, with soft honey crisp apple and green pear cut with some honey. If there’s a “light” wine on the list, it’s this one, and would go best with some charcuterie or sashimi.
Recently, we’ve been bringing in lighter renditions of Australian reds in order to display the versatility of various regions. It’s time to get back to the rich stuff, if only briefly. This is a partially-barrel fermented rendition that experiences roughly 18 months in American oak following fermentation. The Mrs. Q Shiraz is a faithful version of the style, pouring a rich purple color with blue and black hues. The nose is intensely rich, with macerated red and blue fruits, black pepper, and sweet baking spice. The palate is heavy with much of the same fruit characteristics being enveloped by rich sweet tannins and hints of chocolate and coffee.
Although they are genetically identical, Primitivo is generally associated with lighter, more structured wines while Zinfandel is known for the being the posterchild for hedonistically rich wines. In this case, we have an instance of mistaken identity, as the Retro is a decidedly new world rendition of Primitivo. This wine pours a medium ruby color with purple hues, offering aromas of raspberry, bramble, vanilla, and pipe tobacco. The palate is rich, with soft tannins enveloping soft, juicy red fruits and sweet baking spice.
We all know about Sancerre, which is arguably the most famous region in the Upper Loire and the Loire Valley itself. For the most part, Sancerre is going to be the primary representative for the Loire Valley in the US market. However, it isn’t the only phenomenal Sauvignon Blanc-based wine from Loire you should be paying attention to: cue Pouilly-Fume. As Sancerre’s proverbial little sibling, Pouilly-Fume is generally produced in a rounder, softer style. This provides a great backdrop for certain winemaking techniques that result in a richer, more new world product; such as malolactic fermentation. Domaine Chavet’s Pouilly-Fume is a great example of how ‘malo’ can benefit Sauvignon Blanc. This wine pours a pale yellow color, offering aromas of citrus, light stone fruit, and ripe vegetal notes. The palate is light-plus bodied, with a slightly creamy texture and (comparatively) lower acidity enveloping stone and citrus fruits.
Though this might be the lightest red on the platinum club, it’s only by comparison. This is quaffable, but rich take on the classic GSM formula from Southern Rhone. In this case, a majority of Syrah is blended with Grenache, Mourvedre, Cinsault, and multiple white Rhone varieties. A rich ruby color belies bright aromas of raspberry, vanilla, and black pepper. The palate is medium-bodied, with medium tannins and medium acidity accenting notes of bright cherry and plum cut with black pepper, grilled meat, and sweet baking spice. Inquire with your server about the story behind the label!
A bit of an oddity and a first for SWB, we have a DOC ‘Super Tuscan’! What is likely one of the most ambiguous terms in wine originated in the 1970’s when high-quality, typically Bordeaux variety-based, wines were not eligible for classification under the Chianti DOC. This ended up resulting in the creation of the Bolgheri DOC in 1983 and the famed Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT) category in 1992. Both of these appellations/categories were created to allow for these ‘Super Tuscans’ to have a denomination greater than the base vino. Grattomacco’s rendition is very style-appropriate, being composed of a majority of Cabernet Sauvignon with Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Sangiovese. This wine pours a medium ruby color with garnet hues. The nose offers fresh herbs, graphite, and tart red fruit. The palate offers a medium + body, medium dusty tannins, and medium acidity. The flavor profiles offers ripe red fruits, balsamic reduction, and savory baking spice.
‘Kitchen Sink’ blends have been an unstoppable New World phenomenon ever since Dave Phinney unveiled the Prisoner in the early 2000’s under the Orin Swift line. Due to over-saturation, many of these blends are susceptible to manipulation and a complete lack of balance. The Chronology, conceptualized by famed Burgundy producer and portfolio savant Jean Charles Boisset, is an excellent example of the potential these types of wines display. This is a true ‘blend’, with Petite Sirah occupying the majority, followed by Syrah, Merlot, Grenache, Malbec, Carignan, Mourvedre, Mission…and Petit Verdot. Despite the relatively little oak this wine sees, the color is representative of Petite Sirah, with a near impenetrable dark ruby with purple hues. The nose offers reduced figs, mocha, cherry-berry flavors and blackberry bramble. The palate is rich, but balanced with soft tannins and surprisingly quaffable acidity. The fruit is the star of the show here, shining brightly through with cedar box and dark chocolate.
Domaine de Sahari Vin Gris- Beni M’Tir, Meknes-Fes, Morocco
We’re starting this club off with a bang: Moroccan wine. French colonization was the primary catalyst for Moroccan viticulture, but the country’s independence in the mid-20th century gave way to an influx of influences from other prominent regions. This is a blend of Grenache and Cinsault, but one that more resembles Spanish Garnacha Rosado, in taste, than any prominent rose-producing region in France. This wine pours a pale pink/ pale copper color, which is indicative of the vin gris style. The nose offers citrus peel, white flowers, and tart neutral fruit flavors such as cantaloupe. The palate offers subtle stone and citrus fruit, high acidity, and a surprisingly full body for the style. This is a quintessential grilled veggie or raw seafood wine.
Montinore Estate Borealis NV- Willamette Valley AVA- Oregon
When you think of Oregonian white wine, you likely think of Burgundy-adjacent Chardonnay or richer styles of Pinot Gris. However, much like some other cool climate growing areas, off-dry whites can be an immense success. The Borealis is a blend of Muller-Thurgau, Riesling, Gewurztraminer, and Pinot Gris. Don’t be dissuaded by the NV designation; this is done intentionally to yearn different levels of ripeness and intensity from each individual grape. This is certainly an off-dry wine, but the level of expression from step to step is amazing. The nose offers a plethora of tropical fruits, lychee, peach, and the slightest hint of petrol. The palate has a fun, slightly oily texture, showcasing mouthwatering acidity and deliciously ripe fruit. Pair this with your next Thai meal or anything with a noted level of spice.
Lulumi Pinot Noir- Pays d’Oc IGP- France
When you think of the Languedoc, you likely think of spicy red blends made from Cinsault, Carignan, and Syrah; but probably not Pinot Noir. Pinot’s ubiquity is not limited just to Burgundy, as notable plantings can be found virtually anywhere outside of Bordeaux (And that’s just in France). This version is the epitome of easy-going, with aromas of brambly red fruit, earth, and potpourri. The palate displays light, spicy tannins, quaffable acidity, and a restrained medley of red berries. This is incredible versatile in terms of food and could even be the accompaniment to heavy seafood-based fare.
Pizarras de Otero Mencia- Bierzo D.O.-Spain
Spain might be the poster child for underappreciated, mostly indigenous, varieties. Chief among the red varieties might be Mencia, which can be compared to other medium-bodied aromatic reds like Pinot Noir and more delicate Cabernet Franc. Generally, Mencia showcases juicy, tart red and black fruit intermixed with earthy and spicy aromas. The Pizarras de Otero is very style-appropriate, pouring a medium ruby color and offering aromas bursting with juicy red and black fruits cut with anise. The palate is medium-bodied with mildly-gripping tannins and balanced acidity, which again accentuates the juicy fruit on the palate. This is an extremely versatile food wine and could be paired with just about anything.
Il Borro ‘Lamelle’- IGT Toscana- Italy
Frankly, I had not had a Tuscan Chardonnay that wowed me until this one; and did it ever wow me. The Lamelle, completely unoaked, strikes the perfect balance between Chablis-esque structure and focus and the beautiful fruit found in new world examples. The nose is clean and fragant, with green apple, citrus oil, and a slight flinty character. The palate shows off mouthwatering acidity cutting through a surprising amount of fruit for this style of Chardonnay. If you are a California Chardonnay-lover looking for an introduction into the wide, intimidating world of Burgundy, this is an excellent steppingstone.
Pedernales Viognier Reserve- Texas High Plains AVA- Texas
Viognier, unlike some of the other notable white varieties, can thrive in warm climate growing regions. Though some of the most noted Viognier-growing regions like Condrieu and Chateau-Grillet suffer from adverse conditions such as the Mistral, they rely on warm summers in order to facilitate optimal ripeness. Though no one will be mistaking the Pedernales for its Northern Rhone companions, the Pedernales shows off the grape’s potential for richness and affinity for warm climates. This is made with richness in mind, as some amount of new French oak is used. The nose offers subtle orchard fruits cut with citrus peel, beeswax, and aromatic floral notes. The palate is quintessential Viognier, with a creamy mouthfeel and comparatively lower acidity enveloping ripe, spice-accented tropical and orchard fruit.
Tenuta della Terre Nerre Etna Rosso- Etna Rosso DOC- Sicily
Though not necessarily an unknown wine for the region, Sicily as a wine-producing region remains a fairly large enigma in the US market. One of the gems of Sicily, well-known among those in the profession, is Etna; a small viticultural region (On an active volcano!!!) producing incredible red and white wines. The reds are made primarily from a grape called Nerello Mascalese; whose closest analog would be an incredibly savory Pinot Noir. This wine pours a medium red color with some garnet hues. The nose offers aromas of tart red berries, dried herbs, and a slight hint of ash (variety-typical for Nerello Mascalese). The palate is medium-bodied, with woody tannins and zippy acidity accenting a mixture of fresh and dried red fruits. High-acid red wine pairs with equally acidic foods, so a tomato-based dish would be excellent with this.
Stella Bella Shiraz- Margaret River- Australia
Shiraz from Australia? What’s weird about that? When we think about the premier Syrah-producing regions in Australia, we likely think of South Australian regions like Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale, or maybe some of the areas in the Limestone Coast. We probably don’t think of a region that is most well known for Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. Margaret River is the westernmost wine growing region in Australia, and as such experiences the most maritime influence of any region. This is a characteristic that makes for unique expressions of Australian Shiraz, which the Stella Bella displays extremely well. This wine looks the part, with a deep ruby color with purple hues. The nose offers plum, red currant, black cherry, licorice, and hints of oak via baking spice and cedar box. The palate is medium-bodied, with light-plus acid and medium tannin. The fruit profile is fresher than you would expect from Australian Shiraz, with bright plum, cherry, and orange peel notes. The finish is toasty and lengthy. This is a much more quaffable style of Shiraz for Australia and dispels the notion that Australian is only known for massive, alcoholic expressions of various red varieties.