If you are familiar with Tokaj, it is likely due to the unparalleled ‘Tokaji Azsu’ and ‘Tokaji Esszencia’ dessert wines produced here. Also known without bias as “the kings of wine”, these two wines are among the most treasured botrytized wines in the world along the likes of Bordeaux’s Sauternes and the Mosel’s Trockenbeerenauslese’s. However, Tokaj has more to offer behind heavenly nectars, including dry wines using the same varieties as their namesake treasure. Chateau Pajzos’ rendition of a dry Furmint (the main variety in Tokaji Azsu) is supplemented with small amounts of Harslevelu and Yellow Muscat. Aromas of nectarine, peach, apricot, and subtle honeyed nuts create an inviting nose, leading to a quaffable palate of the same fruits accented with bright acidity and a touch of residual sugar. This wine could serve as a slightly sweeter alternative to Sauvignon Blanc to pair with the Chicken Goat Salad at Barley & Board.
A Sicilian varietal Syrah is a bit of an odd find, as indigenous varieties like Nero D’Avola, Nerello Mascalese, and Nerello Cappuccio are at the forefront of dry red wine production. However, the dry, hot summers of Sicily provide excellent ripening conditions for Syrah, with mild winters offering little of the dangers one would find in some other prominent Syrah-producing regions like Rhone and South Africa. Meaning “hope” in Arabic, Musita’s ‘Amal’ label pays historical homage to the Moors and Saracens of Sicily who ruled over the region during the bulk of the 9th century. Eschewing the big, inky archetypes of Syrah, the ‘Amal’ is decidedly austere, with tart red berries, peppery black fruits mixed with spice, incense, and earth on the nose and palate. Though Syrah generally is associated with rich, red-meat driven dishes, the comparative delicacy of the ‘Amal’ calls for something a little lighter, but equally spiced, such as the Meze platter from Feta’s.
Grant Burge’s wines have been a recent, and extremely successful, phenomenon for us recently, so we figured we should keep the good times rolling. The fruit for this wine is sourced from both Barossa Valley and the Limestone Coast, both extremely prolific areas for the production of red wine. While we have discussed the Barossa Valley at length on the club, the Limestone Coast has not been represented thus far here at Steve’s. Famous for its terra rossa soils, the Limestone Coast and its’ inherent appellations are arguably the premium growing region for Bordeaux varieties in Australia. It only makes sense then that the ‘League of Three’ would incorporate some of that with the hedonistically rich fruit found in Barossa. The result is a dense, juicy Merlot with aromas of plum, cassis, mocha, and vanilla. The palate is on the softer side, with fine-grained tannins and low acidity giving way to the gratuitous fruit from the nose. The richness and slightly sweet fruit profile lends this wine towards rich, hearty stews and braised or smoked red meats, like those found at Juicy Pig!
We have shown on the club why Languedoc is king in terms of value-driven wine regions, visiting Corbieres and various Pay D’Oc bottlings in the process. Minervois is another famed region of the Languedoc, known for supple blends of Syrah, Grenache, Carignan among others. Though not quite as storied or established as other producers in the region, Domaine de L’Ostal has plenty of pedigree, being founded by Jean-Michel Cazes, owner of the elite second-growth Chateau Lynch-Bages out of Pauillac. The ‘Estibals’ label showcases Cazes’ vision for his Languedoc estate beautifully, with a purity of fruit and unmistakable terroir. This blend of Syrah, Grenache, Carignan is aged partially in oak (30% of the Syrah sees 12 months), but otherwise is developed in stainless steel. The nose offers aromas of cooked raspberry and black currant with hints of herbs de Provence. The palate is richly tannic, with a plethora of bruleed cherry, plum, and cassis to back it up. Something hearty and rustic would go well with this, such as the Psychedelic Burger over at LSA (Add bacon!!!).
It’s been a while…but ‘Pet Nat’ is back on the club! For the uninitiated, petillant naturel’ is one of many wines made via the methode ancestrale. Unlike methode traditionelle (AKA the Champagne method), wines made in the ‘ancestral method’ are bottled prior to the conclusion of the primary fermentation. This results in a lightly sparkling (3-4 atmospheres of pressure vs. the traditional 5-6) wine often left with sediment in the bottle, as ‘pet nats’ are almost never disgorged. Hailing from the South Island of New Zealand, the Naturalist Blanc cepage consists of Sauvignon Blanc and Rousanne. Though sparkling Sauvignon Blanc might sound like a bit much in terms of acidity, Rousanne’s warm, rounding presence brings the necessary body and richness to balance everything out. The nose offers fresh aromas of lime, apple, and hints of fresh herbs, the palate offers a soft mousse with bright acidity enveloping bright citrus and orchard fruit flavors. Though bubbly and fried chicken is a classic pairing, the citrusy nature of this wine might go best with something equally zippy and crispy, like the Elote Totchos over at Komodo Loco.
Eternally underappreciated, Zweigelt returns to the lineup at Steve’s just in time for the holidays. Though Hungarian in origin, Zweigelt, a cross between St. Laurent and Blaufrankisch, is the most planted red variety in Austria and has become synonymous with Austrian red wine. This time, we’re featuring Judith Beck, a biodynamic winemaker whose eponymous label celebrates everything and anything Austria. Her Zweigelt showcases everything amazing about the variety, embracing both it potential for juicy fruit and smoky rusticity. The nose offers sour cherry, blackberry, bramble, and hints of bittersweet chocolate. The palate is juicy, showcasing the aforementioned red and black fruits accented with star anise, cacao, and hints of smoke. This screams for heavily spiced poultry with rich accents, such as the blackened chicken sandwich over at Boca 31.
There’s not much that needs to be said about Barossa Valley Shiraz at this point; it’s REALLY good. The combination of ancient vines, variations between fertile and poor soils, and abundance of sunlight are great for Syrah. We have featured the Glaetzer family’s wines at multiple points throughout the years here at Steve’s but decided to return to a wine we haven’t stocked in two years: the ‘Bishop’. Somewhat of an entry level label for the eponymous Glaetzer line, the Bishop is sourced from mostly younger vines (around 30 years in age) and sees less time in oak in comparison to some of their other wines. This does nothing to diminish the hedonistic richness of the wine however, as this deep purple-hued wine demonstrates aromas of crème de cassis, mocha, and hints of sweet spice. The palate features an abundance of blue and black fruits balanced out by the rustic tannin. Though this might seem like a shoo-in for steak, try some eggplant as alternative; particularly how it’s featured at Insurgent!
In the running for the most “black sheep”-ish region of all time, Irancy is an AOC located just South of Chablis known for making very un-“Burgundy”-like Burgundy. Only permitted to make red wine, Irancy, like most of Burgundy, specializes in Pinot Noir while also growing a small amount of Cesar. Unlike many red wines made across Burgundy, however, Irancy is known for being extracted, tannic, and uncharacteristically fruit driven. David Renaud’s rendition doubles down on these characteristics, opting for tank fermentation and aging to preserve the aforementioned fruit. This wine pours a deep ruby with purple hues, offering aromas of spicy bramble, earth, and tart strawberry and raspberry. The palate is rich, blending rich dark red berries with earth within the frame of considerable tannin and moderate acidity. Generally, ruining good Pinot Noir with beef is sacrilegious in our opinion, but this wine has the stuffing to go beautifully with it. Try this wine with Cheese & Salsa’s Shirley Tacos!