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.
As I have spent my time chatting with you all about wine from countless regions around the world, I have often been asked my opinion on Texan wines. I often shout out well-made wines while acknowledging my lack of knowledge on the subject. However, I would be remiss if I didn’t admit that I until recently, like MANY ‘industry folk’ I interact with, harbor a generally condescending attitude towards Texas wine in general. This is not the only region that I feel gets this treatment; but it is rare that disdain is shared “across the bar” between professional and customer like this over a particular region.
Over the Independence Day weekend, the Steve’s crew took a trip down to Fredericksburg to unwind and visit some wineries at the recommendation of Shawn Croft, the Marketing Director for Pedernales Cellars, fierce Texas wine advocate, and longtime friend of Steve’s Wine Bar. I was excited to finally see the land and meet the people firsthand.
Impressions: It certainly looks like a wine region down there! Small communities scattered among a vast space with a concentration of wineries, tasting rooms, and vineyards along a collection of roads. It really was no different than what you might expect in another comparably sized region in California (save for Mars-like appearance you tend to get in Texas.)
Regarding the wines: in short, they were pretty great! Were some experiences notably better than others? Yeah. Were some wines abjectly bad? Yeah. But in all, there were stylistic differences and quirks from producer to producer that made the whole experience intriguing, educational, and eclectic - three things I would argue are essential to a successful trip to any wine country. To clarify further, there were more than a couple wines that this pretentious nerd TRULY enjoyed.
However, what struck me most as a wine enjoyer AND wine professional was the community. The first night we visited, we had a special experience at Vinovium, a local winery/ negociant wine bar/ local hangout spot. We were hosted by Shawn, his lovely family, and Daniel, the somm/VP. These folk and the staff shared a delicious homemade meal while trying a variety of Texas wines, each sincere with intention and a focus on quality and individuality.
As the night went on, I chatted with Shawn and Andy regarding mundane wine industry talk such as distribution and the like. We eventually came to the topic of advocating for Texas wine. This is generally the point where I point the difficulty of advertising Texas wines to folks that have not tried and have no reason to explore them. However, instead of advocating for the quality of the wine like one might expect, the conversation centered around the community, and how much buy-in from wine establishments means to it. This is not to say that they thought the quality of the wines should be eschewed in favor of the community, but rather that the support of the community, local economy, and producers should be considered considerably more than they currently are.
I can only speak for myself, but I haven’t considered those things while talking about Texas wines and potentially bringing them to y’all. Furthermore, I have not heard sommeliers, distribution representatives, or other industry folk address those things when they are trying to sell Texas wine. The more I thought about, the more hypocritical this seemed. We consider these kinds of things all the time when talking about other regions and wines; whether it be certain philosophies of winemaking, traditions surrounding a certain wine, or other things that don’t necessarily impact the tangible product. What if we (professionals, consumers, advocates, etc.) took that same approach with TX wine, and celebrate these products from fellow Texans looking to enrich their community and customers with their product.
To be clear, I’m not saying you should feel pressured to buy some wine (TX or otherwise) solely because you’re benefiting the community. Rather, the next time you decide to try something new and novel; give that High Plains Malvasia a try. Next time your server is really hyped about this pet nat’ for a hot summer’s day, try it! And next time you are scoffing at Texas wine on the shelf of your local restaurant, wine shop, or wine bar *wink wink*, think about WHY you are blowing it off. Is it because you have tried that wine and can confirm it’s not your thing, or is it because it’s from Texas?
Thanks for coming to my Ted Talk.
Wine Professional, 1st-Time Hill Country Visitor, Unbearable Snob… and Budding TX Wine Advocate.
P.S: We want to thank everyone who made our trip special and possible; including Sandy Roads Vineyards, William Chris Vineyards, Pedernales Cellars, Siboney Cellars, Vinovium, Crowson Winery, and our tour guide/homie-extraordinaire Shawn Croft.
DENTON, Texas -- The streets are quiet on the Denton Square, normally bustling during this Thursday lunch hour, and most businesses are operating on limited hours due to COVID-19, which has affected musicians and small business owners alike.
Marked by red framed doors and windows on a near empty Industrial Street is Steve’s Wine Bar, doing the same to limit the spread of novel virus COVID-19 and allowing only to-go orders of their selections of beer, wine, and cigars. On a normal night, glasses clinking and the smooth sounds of jazz would ring through the air. It’s a hotspot for jazz. Now, it’s dark inside, as it’s not yet open, dimly illuminated by the light falling through the windows.
At the back, a silver-haired man clad in khaki shorts and a light blue shirt arranges the patio seating. He’s the namesake of Steve's Wine Bar, Steve Severance. Before COVID-19 forced gatherings in public places to be reduced significantly or stopped completely, Steve had booked performances up until May for the bar. Though concerts can no longer be held with a live audience, Steve and his wife, Karen Severance, still find ways to accommodate the new changes and offer some sense of normalcy to customers and performers.
“I actually made an offer, just kind of a general public offer, to people out there if they’re looking for a piano to play on,” Steve said. “And they want to practice or play while we’re open, they’re more than welcome to do so.” Steve said there were no takers at the time, but wouldn’t mind having someone playing as customers come in to pick up their to-go orders.
Since then, Steve’s Wine Bar has streamed a couple of musicians playing live on Facebook. Karen, who Steve calls the face of Steve’s Wine Bar, said social distancing and not being able to sit and talk with customers has been hard for them since they’re sociable people.
“We’re like ‘that’s to-go, you can’t stay here.’ They want to stay and talk. We had a woman yesterday who just lost her sister, and I gave her a glass to-go,” Karen said. “She just wanted to talk a little bit, so keeping our distance, we let her talk. It's really hard on her because she’s not able to be around anybody.”
Staff have also had to deal with the effects of COVID-19, adhering to social distancing and limiting the amount of people in one space. Therefore, only one employee a day is scheduled to come in for a shift. For some of these employees, this is their sole source of income, and COVID-19 has brought unforeseen circumstances.
“We base everything on, not so much the wine, but coming in to enjoy your company, your friends, so that’s what makes it difficult,” Karen said. “I feel really bad for our staff. For them, we’re hoping that maybe we could come back and work out something if we
could get one of the loans that are available to us so that way we could take care of them in this time.”
Before the declared pandemic caused by coronavirus, Steve had a 12 hour workday that he spent the first half tending to the business’s social media page and website and other tasks related to the bar. The other half was spent servicing the bar and interacting with patrons. “I’m always working on something for the wine bar,” Steve said. “My day just kind of flows from about 8 or 9 in the morning until the time I get home about midnight. The morning is spent at home.”
But when Steve isn’t working on something for the wine bar, he’s playing his trumpet. Steve said he prefers big band jazz, and it has been in his life from an early age. He got his degree in music performance and really enjoys big band jazz, which brought him to L.A. after college. “That's kinda the background on jazz is I grew up with it by listening to lots of big bands,” Steve said. “Buddy Rich, Woody Herman, you name it.”
Steve is also plays trumpet for the First United Methodist Church in Denton with a group called Mosaic, which has been together 4 years and he sometimes has the band play at the wine bar. “I play at the First United Methodist Church, 9:45 service is called the Mosaic Service, and we’ve got a 13-piece band,” Steve said. “It’s got 6 horns in it, and I play trumpet. We do a fun variety of music that is written specifically for the band that we do at church. Then we also do other fun things, funk and blues, and lots of mixed stuff.”
Jeffry Eckels, a full time musician and friend of the Severances, met Steve around when the bar first opened in 2016, is another part of the Mosaic ensemble. Before COVID-19, they’d perform every Sunday. Prior to that, during their encounter in 2016, Steve saw Eckels playing at a coffee shop on Wednesday nights and wanted him on board as a jazz bassist at the wine bar. “The gentleman I knew who was performing every Wednesday night at a coffee shop, called the White House, when they shut down, he lost his Wednesday night gig,” Steve said. “When I approached him and said, ‘hey, i’m opening a wine bar, would you like to move your gig from there over to my place?’ that kind of kickstarted the idea of some jazz.”
Eckles describes Steve’s trumpet playing happily, remarking on his humbleness when it comes to trumpet. He said Steve is an incredible trumpet player and performer but won’t admit it. In regard to performing together, Eckels said he was discussing options for live streaming with Steve at the wine bar and giving the people something to enjoy. “We’re in the process of fixing, in fact, you beat me to the punch, I was gonna call him this morning trying to figure out the best way to get audio into the video and we’re thinking about doing the “COVID Sessions,” Eckels said. “We physically distance, of course. But he’s got a beautiful grand piano there. Maybe a duo or a trio and Steve and the engineer and we stream live from there.”
There are many musicians who want to play at the bar, and it has been a go-to spot for many UNT jazz professors. With a welcoming, familial atmosphere where locals flock, Eckels has described the bar as “Denton’s ‘Cheers." With the role Steve and Karen play in contributing to Denton’s noteworthy music scene, giving musicians a platform to perform is still important. While the music scene has gone quiet in Denton, as has much of the life here, jazz still finds a way at Steve’s Wine Bar.
Steve has always been a dreamer. In the future, he hopes to spice up the Denton Jazz scene even more, maybe introducing new events. Like many other small businesses in the area, he’s got big plans he wants to put into motion. “I’d love to come up with a little Industrial Street Jazz Fest,” Steve said. “I think that'd be a lot of fun.”
Jeffrey Eckles passed away in July of 2020. We all miss him very much. He was the driving force behind the musical experience people now have when visiting Steve's Wine Bar. Some of the most incredible music happens during the live performances and customers are always amazed at the talent and music they see and hear while enjoying their evening at Steve's.
The Mosaic Service continues at FUMC but is now at 9am.
Steve's Wine Bar is still hosting live music on a weekly basis. The schedule of events can be found on their webiste under Events or on their Facebook Events page.
At this point in time, Argentina is known primarily for rich renditions of Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon with the occasional Pinot Noir or Chardonnay appearing on grocery store shelves. While red varieties dominate the total acreage, you might be surprised to hear that none of the famous white international varieties top the white list. At the very top are the three most common varieties with the Torrontes label: specifically, Torrontes Riojano, Torrontes Sanjuanino, and Torrontes Mendocino. Despite the identical forename, these are three distinct varieties that share a similar aromatic nature. T. Riojano is the most planted, most highly looked upon, and just happens to be the variety in the ‘La Oveja’. Aromas of violets, rose petals, and geraniums explode out of the glass, with some underlying citrus and stone fruit. On the palate, these fruits shine more with the floral notes playing more of a supporting role. Torrontes is one of the world’s most polarizing wines, with many likening its flavors to soap, but for those that love this quirky combo of fruit and flowers, we recommend grabbing some pad thai or a shrimp stir fry from our old neighbors over at Andamans.
Among many, Savoie is one of the central regions of the ‘natty’ wine zeitgeist. Tucked to the very East of France, Savoie viticultural history could truly be considered ancient, with confirmed winemaking activity in the 11th century and sparse evidence suggesting activity by the Gauls in the first! Among their interesting indigenous varieties, there are some mildly international ones, like Gamay! The father and son winemaking team at Ravier designed this wine to be approachable, while still standing out in character from some of the more famous rose-producing communes in France. Made of 100% Gamay sourced from 30–50-year-old vines, this wine goes through batonnage and 3-6 months on the lees depending on the quality of the grapes. The aromas of this pink drink are inviting, with bright strawberry and hints of sweet citrus, with an underlying note of flint. The palate is light, but creamy with balanced acidity accenting red fruits, minerality, and a slight flowery herbaceousness. The Ravier’s heavily recommend lighter salads and cheese dishes, and we cannot think of better candidates than our friends over at 10:1 Artisan Cheese.
It has been a SECOND since we had a Chilean red wine on the wine club: enter Chono! Named for the indigenous and nomadic Chono people of Southern Chile, this producer, spearheaded by Alvaro Espinoza and Juan Carlos Faundez, vinifies different wines from many of the most notable appellations in Chile. Their Chono red blend is sourced from the Maule Valley, which also happens to be where the project itself started. Maule Valley is one of the oldest and most significant growing regions in Chile, housed in the Southern portion of the Central Valley. While many of Chile’s primary varieties thrive here, it is 50-year-old + plantings of Carignan that have captivated winemakers as of late. This eclectic blend of Carignan, Syrah, and Cabernet Franc displays everything you could want in a summer red. The nose offers pepper-laden raspberry, plum, and black cherry accented with hints of earth. The palate is medium-bodied, with rustic tannins and moderate acidity underlying a savory, red fruit-driven profile. A cellar-temp glass of this with a hearty plate of Gyro Fries from Gyro 360 is the umami bomb we all need.
The ‘Villages’ surname is something you might have seen on a bottle of French, often with an increased price tag. Why the jump? Many subregions among many of the larger French growing regions (Burgundy, Beaujolais, Rhone, etc.) have ‘Villages’ within certain appellations that indicate a more focused area of growth. A good analogy might be the difference between a wine from Sonoma County and one from Russian River Valley (A region within Sonoma). This is particularly analogous to Cotes du Rhone, as it is a vast and disjointed region that covers much of the Southern Rhone Valley. A bottle labeled as a ‘Village’ wine is simply one from a particular legally recognized subregion of Cotes du Rhone. If you were worried that this would drastically alter the CDR formula, rest assured that this is the big, extracted red you know and love. A blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre, the ‘Croix de Bonpas’ goes through a lengthy maceration to extract the color and quintessential phenolic compounds the region is known for. This dark ruby wine smells of cherries, chocolate, black pepper, and hints of lavender. The palate is lush and full, with medium tannins and gobs of dark red and black fruit. Though this could go well with a fatty piece of steak, going for something more of the bistro ‘persuasion’ would go equally as well. Order some polenta fries to go from our friends at Chestnut Tree.
There are winemaking projects that sprout up that seem particularly risky given what the new endeavor is trying to do in a certain region compared to what has been done traditionally. While these might be Brian’s favorite type of winery (nerd), it takes some pretty neat wines for these wineries to succeed long term. Ovum is a quintessential example of when these go right! Founded by Ksenija and John House, Ovum only use white varieties, but makes an eclectic range including roses, whites, and orange wines. King among their products is Big Salt, a phenomenal blend of Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Muscat, Sauvignon Blanc, and some proprietary varieties. It is hard to imagine a white that is more fun than this to drink, with aromas of lychee, petrol, flowers, and ripe stone fruit translating to the palate outlined by mouthwatering acidity and hints of salinity (get it?). Pair this with a platter of butter chicken or some Banh Mi fries from our friends at the Pickled Carrot!
The first of two killer Spanish reds on the Platinum list, we make our first stop in Galicia. We have featured Galician whites several times, but reds are more of a rarity here. Much of Spain’s growing regions tend to oscillate between warm/hot continental and Mediterranean, but Galicia (or ‘Green Spain’ as its affectionately known) is the closest thing Spain has to a true maritime climate. Naturally, white varieties thrive here in comparison to other regions in Spain, but there are a handful of interesting red varieties that call this region home: Enter Mencia! Grown exclusively in Bierzo, Mencia is often known being made into comparatively light, acidic, and fresh wines in relation to their Tempranillo counterparts. Ladeiras do Xil is a contemporary producer having started in 2002 but has quickly risen to prominence as one of the most respected champions of Mencia. Their Gabo do Xil Tinto might be their entry-level rendition, but it is a wonderful example, nonetheless. A blend of Mencia and Merenzao (more commonly known to the wine world as Trosseau) sourced from the Valdeorras region of Galicia, the nose offers bright, crunchy red fruit with hints of savory herbs. The palate offers rustic, but approachable tannin, with quaffable acidity and the same ripe red berry medley. This with an arugula and mushroom pizza from our friends at Mellow Mushroom or with a red meat-based pasta at Graffiti would be right at home.
If you want rich, leathery, fruit-driven reds, you go to Rioja. If you want something with a little bit more structure, nuance, and staying power, you go to Ribera. Located to the South of Rioja, cut by the Duero River, Ribera might not be the *legally* highest-rated region in Spain, but it might as well be, because their wines are priced like it (and for good reason). High-elevation vineyards dot the landscape, creating ample opportunity to infuse much needed structure into the sometimes-flabby Tempranillo (or Tinto del Pais as it’s known there). Prado Rey’s version follows this formula, coming from vineyards half-a-mile up, and spending 24 months total in a combination of various French oak barrels. The result is a firm, but approachable red, with aromas of ripe strawberry, black cherry, cedar box, and hints of balsamic reduction. The palate offers prominent tannins that soften with time in the glass, moderate acidity and ripe red and black fruits. This Tempranillo drinks more like a Cab’ than you may expect and needs a hunk of red meat… BUT pair this with the Psychedelic over at LSA and experience some magic.
By this point, it is likely that you have had the opportunity to try the ‘Wild Thing’ Zinfandel we feature on our By-The-Glass list. Should you have had the (mis)fortune of Brian serving said glass, you have heard the term ‘Godmother of Zinfandel’ thrown out. Turns out she is good at other grapes too! The Coquille Rouge is a Rhone-ish blend of Mourvèdre, Carignan, Petite Sirah, Grenache, and Alicante Bouschet sourced from multiple vineyards on the Central and North Coasts. Following a lengthy maceration and 15 months in a combination of American and French oak, this wine oozes excellence without pretention. The nose offers a rich medley of black cherry and blueberry coulee, with accents of bramble, new leather, and vanilla from the oak. The palate is nothing short of luxurious, with a creamy texture and soft tannins intermingling with the fruit to create something truly hedonistic. Grab a platter of BBQ from Juicy Pig, a bottle of this, and indulge.
Join us on June 28th for an awesome tasting of Alsatian wines from Domaine Specht!
We will have Alia from A&B Imports leading the tasting and taking us through the history and winemaking style of the Domaine.
On the tasting docket we have Domaine Specht's:
-Riesling Mandelberg Grand Cru
-Pinot Noir Cuvee Charles Amelie
The tasting will be $35 per person for non-club members and $25 per person for club members.
It's going to be an awesome lineup led by one of the most well respected wine professionals in the DFW area. We hope you can join!
False Bay ‘Slow’ Chenin Blanc- WO Coastal Region- South Africa
Though reds from South Africa have peppered the wine club these last two months, the country’s most planted variety is none other than a white grape: Chenin Blanc! Not only is Chenin, or Steen, the country’s most important variety, there is no country in the world that produces more. Much like other famous Chenin-producing regions like the Loire Valley, there are many different styles of Chenin made across South Africa. False Bay’s ‘Slow’ represents one of the more popular styles; being an offensively drinkable summer wine that showcases the maritime influence of the Atlantic Ocean. The ‘Slow’ name refers to winemaker Nadia Barnard’s philosophy of using indigenous yeasts found in the vineyard as opposed to inoculation via a ‘package’ yeast. This extends the fermentation process considerably, but it’s generally associated with high-quality viticulture. The nose offers interesting aromas of fresh herbs, salinity, yeast, and citrus zest. The palate is considerably fleshier, with ripe orchard and citrus fruits accented with melon and tea tree. Try a bottle of this with your next sushi take out from Komodo Loco.
LunaGaia ‘Mandricardo’ Catarratto- Terre Siciliene IGP- Sicily
The world of biodynamic wine is esoteric and confusing to wine professionals, much less to consumers. While many wineries and regions use biodynamic vineyard practices, rarely do you see wine officially certified, via the Demeter Association, as biodynamic. To obtain this, a rigorous list of guidelines must be followed at every step of the winemaking process. This can take a significant amount of time and money, which often dissuades producers from seeking certification. However, as the public conscious begins to understand the environmental impacts of wine making, there seem to be more and more producers seeking out biodynamic certification. LunaGaia is a collaboration between Lunaria and BioGaia expressly for that purpose. Their Catarratto, an indigenous Sicilian variety, showcases some of the fun, wild characteristics of biodynamic wine. The nose offers a complex nose of golden raisin, sour plum, jasmine, and hints of saison-like notes. The palate is fairly rich with lower acid and a fleshy apple and spice profile. This wine is a fun, interesting introduction into the world of biodynamic wine, and would go beautifully with an open-faced po boy from Hoochies.
FUSO Filippo Cassano ‘Calx’ Primitivo- Puglia IGT-Italy
Once thought to be a genetic predecessor of Zinfandel, there is a growing consensus that Primitivo and Zinfandel are one and the same. Despite this, you can usually tell them apart based on the terroir they’re produced in and the practices used. The FUSO line focuses on lighter, warm weather-friendly expressions of various varieties from various regions and terroir. The result is a deliciously juicy red that can be enjoyed multiple bottles over. The nose offers a medley of sweet cherry, blueberry, and bramble accented with floral notes. The palate is slightly less than medium-bodied, with mouthwatering acidity accenting juicy and tart blue/blackberry. This belongs alongside a slab of brisket from any of the many delicious BBQ joints in Denton.
Closilo Kiere Cabernet Sauvignon- Robertson WO- South Africa
We have had such a successful run of South African reds on the club, I figured we would continue until our luck runs dry. This month we are focusing on the Closilo ‘Kiere’ Cabernet Sauvignon. Robertson is located in the Breede River Valley and represents some of the warmer terroir in the valley. Multiple red varieties are gaining traction here due to the combination of hot summers and slight maritime influence from the Indian Ocean. The ‘Kiere’ showcases the influence of both well, with a nose full of black currant, underbrush, and aromatic spice. The palate is concentrated, though medium-bodied with tart blue and black fruits accented with hints of vanilla and green peppercorn. Try this with a lamb gyro from Gyro 360!
For the first time in centuries (okay like two years), we have a white Burgundy on the club! Saint-Veran is one of the largest sub regions in the Maconnais, and it is among the many sub regions there known for excellent, affordable Chardonnay. Though perhaps not as famous as its neighbor Pouilly-Fuisse, St.-Veran still makes excellent Chardonnay characterized by subtle fruit, balanced acidity, and prevalent mineral accents. Being the first wine Deux Roches ever made, their ‘Tradition’ bottling adheres to the style to a ‘T’. The nose offers delicate aromas of flowers, a fresh mineral character, and a hint of cream (likely from some malolactic fermentation). The palate is notedly richer than the nose, with balanced acidity and a hint of creaminess accenting flavors of apple and quince accented by subtle floral notes. This wine screams for goat cheese and dried meats. Take a bottle of this with your next charcuterie board from 10:1 or the Howelling Pickle!
Barbera is the viticultural backbone of Piedmont, with a multitude of regions dedicated to making different expressions of this variety. Despite this, Ascheri does not source their ‘Fontanelle’ label from Asti, Alba or any of the more niche Barbara-focused regions, but rather Langhe. You have probably seen this name place designation in your local wine store, but rarely on a bottle of Barbera. In fact, the larger Langhe region encompasses Piedmont’s most famous appellations of Barolo and Barbaresco, which have NOTHING to do with Barbera. So what happens when a storied 19th-century producer makes a Barbera in unfamiliar lands: something delicious! This wine offers aromas synonymous with the variety, but turned up to ‘11’, with blueberry and plum jam accented with deep, earthy herb notes. The palate is weighty for Barbera, but still offers nice acidity with soft tannins enveloping rich red and blue fruits. Even when in a richer state, this variety is known for it compatibility with tomato-based dishes; try it with some take out from Graffiti on the square!
With the NBA playoffs in full swing, we have witnessed a number of ‘super teams’ over the years comprised of transcendental talent making an unlikely alliance to create something awesome. What about winemaking super teams though? Maison les Alexandrins is a collaborative effort between some of the most accomplished winemakers and viticulturists in Northern Rhone with the goal of making a wide range of terroir-driven wines. Among their featured appellations is Crozes-Hermitage, a fairly large regions along the Rhone river that focuses on fleshy, peppery renditions of Syrah (sometimes blended with Marsanne or Roussanne). This rendition offers an incredibly indicative nose of ruddy red fruits, black pepper, and hints of smoked meat. The palate offers a medium + body with low acid and velvety, oak-driven tannins complimenting a plump profile of red and black fruits accented with spice and peppercorn. You can sit on this bottle for another year or two OR opt for a peppercorn-encrusted filet.
B.Wise Vineyards ‘Wisdom’- Moon Mountain District of Sonoma Valley AVA- California
Moon Mountain? Sounds like a set piece from an action movie. In actuality, it’s a relatively small appellation tucked in Sonoma Valley that has not quite blown up yet. Among the few producers making use of this region is B.Wise, an estate started by Brion and Ronda Wise with the intent of pioneering winemaking in the region. Among an impressively lengthy catalog is their ‘Wisdom’ Red Blend, which seems to be an answer to the ever growing popularity of ‘kitchen sink’ style blends across virtually every winegrowing region in California. This blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Tannat is made with immediate enjoyment in mind. On the nose is a rich plethora of red and blue fruits accented with rich vanilla and oak. The palate is equally as rich and viscous, with sweet oak tannins interwoven among blueberry, cassis, and hints of chocolate and spice. This wine would go beautifully with a sticky, rich plate of ribs.
Tucked in the eastern Navarran subzone of Baja Montana, the small town of San Martin de Unx houses Bodegas San Martin. Like many producers in Navarra, they are major proprietors of Garnacha rosado, and do the tradition proud with their rendition. The ‘Flor de Unx’ (Flower of Unx) is a beautifully pink Grenache rose that stands up to the best of them. The nose offers rich, tart red berries, orange zest, and floral notes. The palate is richer than you might expect of a rose (with even a hint of tannin) and correlates with a rich, red fruit-based profile that is sure to be not only an effective porch pounder but also an excellent food rose. Try this with oily fish-based dishes or roasted poultry.
A collaborative effort between the Chehalem and Stoller estates, the Chemistry line is designed to be in the traditional styles of Oregon ‘Burgundy.’ The Chardonnay is comparably light to more modern styles, with aromas of lemon zest, earl grey tea, and tart orchard fruit. The palate displays mouthwatering acidity with hints of baking spice, sweet citrus, and crunchy apple. Per their admission, this is an olive branch to the ‘ABC’ (Anything But Chardonnay) drinkers but would well regardless with a simple fish or poultry dish with a lemon-based vinaigrette.
There is not a more unfairly slandered wine region than Beaujolais. To be fair, this is somewhat the region’s fault, as their most profitable product, Beaujolais Nouveau, is not often considered a wine of high quality and generally only drank around Thanksgiving. Furthermore, the true gems of Beaujolais, its 10 crus, are hard to find if you don’t know where to look. I am so incredibly excited to have a general-appellated Beaujolais from a historically ‘bad’ region that highlights what makes traditionally made Beaujolais so great. A cuvee made from younger vines (15-20 years), this wine sees maceration, fermentation, and aging in concrete tanks. The nose offers aromas of strawberry fruit leather, cherry, and some gamey-ness. The palate embodies the porch-pounding style to the extreme, with higher acid and soft tannins enveloping bright red fruit flavors accented with floral notes. This is a summer red through and through and would go beautifully with BBQ chicken.
We loved Warwick so much we had to give them another month on our club. Much like the ‘Three Ladies’ last month, the ‘First Lady’ pays homage to the vital role women have played in developing the winery into one of the more internationally recognized SA estates. The First Lady refers to former winemaker Norma Ratcliffe, who is recognized as the ‘First Lady’ of South African wine given her many contributions to the industry at large in addition to progress for women in the South African wine industry. The wine itself represents the traditional style of Cabernet from the Cape. The nose is a blend of savory smoky notes mixed with dried red and blue fruits. The palate displays moderate tannin and acidity which accentuates an overall juicy character. The notes of tart currant and earth make this a killer wine with venison or lamb.
When you see Provence on a bottle, you might be expecting a light, uncomplicated porch-pounder. We’d say you haven’t had the right one, but its hard to fault anyone for feeling this given the representations of Provence you find in mass retail. However, the ‘promised land of pink’ has many a hidden gem lying within. This month we will be exploring its most ‘serious’ appellation, Bandol. Tucked in the very South of the larger region of Provence, Bandol is a relatively low production region that focuses on red and rose wines based on Mourvèdre (delicious white wines of Clairette, Bourboulenc, and Ugni Blanc are also made to less fanfare). In addition to being one of the very few regions that focuses on Mourvèdre, Bandol also has the distinction of producing some of the only roses in the world that can stand up to age; something that can be attributed to the robust nature of Mourvèdre itself. Chateau Croix D’Allons sticks to making one wine per color, per vintage with an emphasis on traditional, terroir-driven examples. Their rose is a blend of Mourvèdre, Grenache, and Cinsault, and offers aromas of apricot, juicy citrus, and red berries. The palate is rich but has quintessential rose acidity along with a hint of tannin. The structure envelops strawberry jam and blood orange notes, making this a rose to pair with comparatively heartier fare.
‘Super Tuscan’ usually evokes thoughts of a massive wine with tannins that can only be approached after years of aging. Occasionally, however, you find a wine that bucks that trend in favor of being an everyday drinker and even a porch pounder. Ventisei Vino is a new producer making wines under the Toscana IGT and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG that focuses on approachable wines made via biodynamic practices. The Rosso is primarily based on Sangiovese Grosso, with splashes of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The wine is made via partial carbonic maceration followed by fermentation in stainless steel. The result is a medium ruby-hued wine with aromas of tart cherry, strawberry, and dried oregano. The palate displays soft tannins with zippy acidity enveloping tart red and blue fruits accented by a subtle earthiness. This will turn your perception of Super-Tuscans on its head and should be enjoyed with BBQ and roasted game.
Remember how we mentioned those 10 Beaujolais ‘Crus’ earlier? Time to talk about one of them. Brouilly is located near the Southern end of a strip of land in the heart of Northern Beaujolais that makes up all the various crus. Much like the crus of Burgundy, each is known for a slightly different take on the same variety; with Gamay being the focus in this case. Like many of Beaujolais’ crus, much of Brouilly’s most respected vineyards lie on granite-based soils, which are often cited as the driving force behind the difference in quality between Gamay from Southern and Northern Beaujolais. Additionally, Roches Bleues, in reference to their name (Blue Rocks) also heavily relies on granitic soils and blue schist for their desired character. Les Trois Loups, which refers to the three wolves on the label, is a young-ish vine cuvee designed for both early drinkability and age worthiness. Going through both carbonic maceration, stainless steel, AND oak, the nose offers licorice, plum, earth, and citrus zest. The palate is medium bodied with exceptionally soft tannins and a juicy acidic quality, with rich red fruits dominating the palate interspersed among hints of mushroom and tea. As far as Beaujolais goes, this is hearty, and could easily stand up to a fatty burger with portobello mushrooms.
Last month, we explored Entre-deux-Mers, so let’s explore one of the banks! Canon-Fronsac is a small appellation located within the larger Fronsac on the right bank. As you might know, the right bank is focused primarily on Merlot, which makes up 100% of this wine. Though not a physical ‘chateau’ per se, Moulin bottles wines from both Fronsac and Canon-Fronsac and focuses on easy-drinking renditions that don’t need the typical pre-requisite time to settle. This wine sees a year in used barriques to avoid too much of the ‘new oak’ influence. The nose offers plum and blackberry with hints of cold brew and mocha. The palate is full bodied with woody tannins and restrained acidity, which accent the rich blue and black fruit, subtle baking spice, and chocolate notes. It is our wine director’s (nerd’s) humble opinion that Merlot is a superior wine to Cabernet Sauvignon for filet mignon and we guarantee that if you try this pairing you will agree!
*Shoutout to our very own Cheryl for the TRANSCENDENT name suggestion.
Please take a moment and log on to https://bestofdenton.com/#//
If you don't see Steve's Wine Bar listed in a category you feel we should be considered, please write us in. Some of the areas I see that we should be considered are:
Thanks in advance for doing this. Here's to another successful Best of Denton election!
For the month of April, we are featuring 5 wines from our friends at Opolo. We have these wines available by the glass and by the bottle through April. We will be tracking the sales of our Opolo products and for those who come in and enjoy these wines, we will be entering their names into a drawing for a Magnum of Summit Zinfandel.
Opolo’s estate vineyards were established in 1995, with sites on both the west and east side of Paso Robles. The topographically diverse, coastal landscape of the westside vineyards provides for an intense and unique flavor profile. The heat and dryness of the east side vineyard make it an ideal microclimate for growing Bordeaux varietals. Home to a wide range of varietals, the estate vineyards help allow the team at Opolo to create many unique single varietals as well as award winning blends.
Most important in making high quality wine is starting with high quality grapes. Opolo’s vineyard team carefully monitors each lot of grapes throughout the season in order to produce the highest quality fruit possible. From taking leaf, petiole, and soil samples, to monitoring water uptake in the vines, all aspects of viticulture is carefully notated and examined with the intent of producing only high quality fruit for our winery. The entire Opolo production team works together every year to provide the best quality product possible.
"At Opolo we believe a strong, cooperative relationship with the land and our environment is crucial. We practice sustainable methods in both the winery and vineyard operations in order to preserve our environment, water and local wildlife. Opolo is a “SIP” Certified operation as well as certified organic by “CCOF” in our 64 acre walnut orchard. We continue to be great stewards of the land and invite you to come to our vineyards and see our operations!"
Opolo Vineyards has a long established reputation of growing and producing award winning wines in Paso Robles, California. With nearly 300 acres of vines on the east and west side of Paso Robles, Opolo Vineyards is privy to a wide range in climate, soil and growing potential—allowing extensive range of varietals to flourish. This variety combined with the passion behind the brand has made Opolo a favorite of wine enthusiasts everywhere.
We will be rotating the wines by the glass. We have started the month with the Opolo Sparkling and the Cabernet.
We will host a party/tasting event the evening of April 26th. Jeff Faber will be in town to party with us and personally do the drawing for the Magnum of wine. You will not need to be present to wine the Magnum. We will have other giveaways that night which you will need to be present for those prizes. Reservations can be made here: Opolo-Tasting-Event
A proud native of Chicago, IL. Jeff Faber grew up on the North Side of the city and moved to California in 1993. He spent many years in Broadcasting working behind the microphone for CBS and ABC radio before launching his own start-up company. Like so many people whose breath is taken away when they visit the California Central Coast, Jeff fell in love with the area and quickly learned that almost everyone you know either owns or a winery or an olive oil ranch.
"The most beautiful part about this area is how willing everyone is to share their knowledge of their craft. You work a few harvests, turn off your cell phones and lose yourself in the magic. You literally feel yourself decompress. What compelled Jeff to give up his company and start working for Opolo was that he wanted to learn the business from the ground up. “I literally knew very little about wine and wanted to stomp grapes, pour yeast into the tanks, experiment with blends, see the effect dry farming has on the flavor of grapes, etc"…At Opolo, they encourage you to do everything which is the very best way to learn a skill set.
For the past 14 years, Jeff has been the National Spokesperson for Opolo, meeting people in city after city acting as a full-time “palate hunter” and helping folks have fun and learn a little more about themselves and of course, wine!