Can I just say how excited I am to have a Barbera on the Platinum Club this month? Barbera is the third most-planted grape in Italy, after Sangiovese and Montepulciano, and it is a great Tuesday (and Saturday) night wine. There is a saying in Piedmont that Nebbiolo (think Barolo or Barbaresco) is what every Italian wants to drink, but the bottle they grab instead is Barbera. And that is because Barbera is medium-bodied, high in acid, low in tannins, but is dripping in red fruits like maraschino cherries, strawberries, and raspberries. The Marchesi Incisa della Rocchetta ‘Valmorena’ Barbera on the September Club is also rounded out by luscious figs, dates, and chocolate. A meaty dish with mushroom sauce or an herb-crusted steak would be fantastic with this Barbera. We think it will become your Tuesday night wine, too!
Note: The September Wine Dinner, a five-course meal crafted by Chef Gabriela from Cheese and Salsa, Jack’s Tavern, and several other culinary businesses, is paired with eight wines. The savory courses have two wine pairings, and the order of the wines for our club tasting varies from the wine dinner. Recipes will be available for you to recreate the menu! See the menu below.
The grape sounds German, and it translates to “spicy grape.” The winery sounds German, too, at least in part: the married founders wanted to honor their heritage, thus naming it after towns in Italy and Germany. Now one of the oldest wineries in Texas, with four locations throughout the state, Messina Hof’s mission is “based on the three cornerstones of family, tradition, and romance.” With son Vincent at the helm as winemaker, Messina Hof seeks to make premium wine and offer exceptional experiences. This ‘Artist Series’ Gewürztraminer lives up to all that the grape is known for—floral aromas, tropical fruit, ginger, and lychee with a light, slightly golden hue and a medium body. It will pair nicely with Chef Gabriela’s first course, Sopa Izamal, a squash blossom and plantain soup.
Château Famaey began its story in the early 2000s when two Belgian friends, Luc Luyckx and Marc Van Antwerpen, were, in their words, “taken hostage by wine” in South-Central France, an area known for producing “the black wine of Cahors” (i.e., Malbec). Now family-run, Maarten Luyckx is the “Maître de Chai,” or cellar master, for Luc and Marc’s successful venture. Their Malbecs have been award-winning, and their use of organic and sustainable practices is of note. This Rosé of Malbec retains some of the grape’s fruity character but with elegance and higher acidity. Cranberry and strawberry meld with citrus notes to produce a wine that is refreshing and will complement many dishes. While a white wine might be a logical choice for a Peruvian Ceviche, this Malbec Rosé will bring out the fresh and zingy flavors of the second course on Chef Gabriela’s lineup.
One of the largest areas by available acreage in California but one of the smallest in terms of production, the Sierra Foothills AVA lies in the eastern part of the state in Amador County. Bill Easton, one of the original ‘Rhône Rangers’ and recipient of a lifetime achievement award for his contributions to the industry, began crafting wine in the 1980s, championing Rhône varieties. He firmly believes in extended bottle aging to create tertiary flavors, a practice the French call ‘élevage.’ The Terre Rouge Vin Gris, a rosé blend of—you guessed it!—Rhône grapes (Mourvèdre and Grenache co-fermented with Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, and Viognier) is a study in sophistication and makes nice companion as the second wine to the Sopa Izamal course.
A third-generation winemaker, Susie Bynum specializes in creating handcrafted, small lot, ultra-premium wines. She sources her grapes from sustainably-farmed vineyards in the Russian River Valley, an area her father, Davis Bynum, made famous with his successful viticultural ventures. Continuing the family tradition, Susie Bynum has found her own formula of wine wizardry through Burgundy-style grapes. This age-worthy Pinot Noir is terroir-driven, as it is produced in a cool climate area usually shrouded in early morning fog due to its proximity to the Pacific Ocean. Tart red fruits, plum, earth, cola, and cinnamon dominate the palate. It will brighten many dishes (Thanksgiving is around the corner!), but we have paired it with Chef Gabriela’s fourth course, Mackerel Wellington.
It’s been a minute since we had a Zinfandel on the club, and that could be fully attributed to the hundred degree temps we have had for months (but for those of you reading these notes in late September, it might be that there is a fall coolness in the air!). An offshoot of Scotto Cellars, the Silver Peak line connotes luxury and quality, all with an affordable price point. This Zin, a medium-bodied luscious libation that also has a touch of Barbera, will provide you all the jammy and velvety red and black fruits you have been craving. Dark cherry, raspberry, and blackberry envelop the palate with a rich but not overwhelming oaky spice. While Zin is normally associated with heavier dishes like barbecue and stews, it is being poured as the second wine for course four, a Mackerel Wellington, as it will hold up to the indulgent puff pastry.
Barbera is a wine of contradictions—it can be both light(ish) and intense, fruity and earthy, acidic and woodsy, but it is just as much of a wine for Tuesday night as it is a Saturday night. Nebbiolo, Piedmont’s flashier red variety, usually hogs the conversation, but Barbera deserves some attention. For a bit of trivia, it is the third most planted grape in Italy behind Sangiovese and Montepuciano. The nose on Barbera can be very floral, and this Marchesi entices us with violet notes. The palate offers maraschino cherry, dates, figs, and chocolate. It would be a delicious accompaniment to many foods (Barbera and pizza is heaven!). On Chef Gabriela’s menu, the Marchesi is the first wine poured with course 3, Inverted Meatballs.
Ribera del Duero, a top wine-producing region of Spain, is in Castilla y León, which lies in the northwest of the country. Ninety-five percent of the vines here are devoted to Tinto del País, or what we know as Tempranillo (trivia alert—Tempranillo is derived from the Spanish word for “early” as it is an early-ripening grape). The level of aging for this wine is determined by the “Crianza” category (which loosely translates to “bringing up”). A Spanish Crianza Red must be aged at least two years, of which six months is required to be barrel aged. Thus, there will be several tertiary aromas in this wine as it has been aged in the bottle at this point for a lengthy time. Blackcurrant, blueberry, and mocha tease your tastebuds, and then notes of smoke, cracked pepper, and baking spice linger on the finish. The Áster is a powerful wine to conclude the Inverted Meatballs course.
Murcia, a state in southeast Spain, champions a certain red grape that doesn’t always get a ton of attention: Monastrell (what we call Mourvèdre). Three small DOs (Denominacións de Origen) in Murcia are particularly known for tannic, richly-colored reds: Bullas, Yecla, and Jumilla. The Gil Family Estates—useless fact warning—is a sponsor of the 2023 Latin Grammy Awards; as viticulturalists, the brand focuses on robust reds throughout Spain. Producer Juan Gil has crafted a red blend from 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Monastrell, and 10% Syrah, all grown in Jumilla. When tasted, dark fruits of blackberry and black cherry emerge first, rounded out by chocolate and smoke. And while it is an admittedly controversial choice to pair with Ceviche, Chef Gabriela’s second course, the Juan Gil Red Blend will measure up to the vegetal cilantro and habanero notes that shine alongside the seafood.