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.
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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!
Once upon a time, there was a solid chance that if you picked up a bottle of ‘Sauvignon Blanc’ from Chile, you were likely drinking a field blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Sauvignon Vert which, despite the name, is a completely different variety. These wines were often intensely ‘green’ and painted an unglamorous picture of Chilean white wine. Fast-forward to today, and now Sauvignon Blanc bottlings are truly varietal and offer incredibly zesty and chuggable wines. The Prisma offers aromas of kaffir lime, lemon, fresh cut herbs and a wet rock. The palate is incredibly refreshing with loads of citrus and mineral notes that make an incredible pairing with simple fish dishes with a squeeze of lemon.
While Albarino can be made in a zippy, austere style, many underestimate the potential for the grape to made into a richer, riper style that will make many a Chardonnay and white Rhone blend drinker happy. The ‘Ka’ offers aromas of banana, pear, and hints of spice. The palate is slightly more zippy with hints of citrus, but still offers juicy apple and quince notes. This is a great alternative to other richer white wines to pair with richer seafood or poultry dishes.
Though we have visited the ‘cool kid’ region of Mt. Etna and its unique varieties in recent club selections, Nero D’Avola still reigns supreme in terms of acreage in Sicily. Sicily accounts for nearly 98% of all Nero D’Avola in the world, and can be made in a wide range of styles including soft fruity blends with Frappato, or spicy dry reds with rich dark fruit and pepper-driven profiles. The Colosi is an example of the latter but showcases Nero’s ability to be an incredible red for the warmer months. The wine opens up with aromas of dried meat, raspberry, and chocolate-covered cherry. The palate is peppery, with moderate tannins and acidity enveloping dark cherry and sweet raspberry. Its an approachable red that works as well with burgers as it does Bolognese.
While Chante Cigale might be best known for their powerful Chateauneuf-du-Pape (Ask about the white we have in stock 😉), they understand the importance of having an awesome entry-level label. The Cicada is sourced from a variety of appellations and terroirs, but is made in a Cotes-du-Rhone-style. The nose offers blue and black fruit, sweet floral notes, and hints of chocolate. The palate is dense with moderate tannin, low acid, and a plethora of crème de cassis and blackberry. This straightforward red would go well with a rich red meat-based meal.
After a few disastrous vintages, Sancerre has bounced back into prime form. This region is generally considered to be the pinnacle for dry, varietal (non-blended) Sauvignon Blanc and has served as the inspiration for countless winemakers in virtually every winemaking region. Though Michel Armand is based in Pay Nantais, their Sancerre is spot on. Aromas of ripe snow pea, finger lime, and tart stone fruit give way to a sleek palate with electric acidity enveloping restrained citrus and stone fruit with hints of river rock. This wine is extremely versatile food-wise, but might go best with simple sushi dishes.
Back to Greek wine we go, with what is likely Greece’s most famous variety: Assyrtiko. Multiple wine scholars point to Assyrtiko as Greece’s first variety to gain an international foothold thanks in part to its unmistakable varietal character. Though it’s most famously from the island of Santorini, the ‘Plano’ is sourced from the Drama PGI, which encompasses the Northeastern corner of Macedonia. Despite the ‘nontraditional’ origin, this is ALL Assyrtiko. The nose offers a pleasant mix of white flowers, spice, and ocean spray. The palate displays the characteristic acidity of Assyrtiko complemented by a creamy texture enveloping green pear, quince, and saline notes. This wines screams uncompromisingly for oysters.
Bordeaux. It’s a word that permeates the minds of novice and experienced wine fans alike. When we think of this region, we likely think of the fantasy wines from Pauillac or Pomerol that would likely involve emptying one or more bank accounts to acquire. However, like many of the ‘luxury’ regions of the world, there are a plethora of affordable wines from Bordeaux that showcase why it’s so highly regarded. This blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon is sourced primarily from the Entre-Deux-Mers, which could be viewed as the ‘value’ area of Bordeaux. This wine spent most of its aging period in stainless steel before being transferred to 225-liter neutral barriques. The result is a wine that showcases the approachable fruit characteristics and lovely terroir-driven notes without covering it with harsh oak tannin and flavor. The nose offers deeply perfumed notes of black currant, crunch blue fruit and hints of black pepper. The palate displays moderate acid and tannin, with crème de cassis, some spicy oak, coffee, and hints of bakers chocolate. This might not be QUITE as rich a ribeye wine as you are used to, but we guarantee you will be happy with the pairing.
It’s not often we get a wine that has such an impressive mythos that (almost) overshadows the wine itself. The Three Ladies is the very first ‘Cape Blend’ which is a unique style of red from South Africa that requires at least 33% Pinotage blended among other red varieties. Given the tumultuous history of Pinotage, this was an innovative (and brave) move. Additionally, this wine holds the honor of being among the select James Bond-approved drinks given its presence in the Bond novel Carte Blanche. Beyond being an icon of the country, this wine is an excellent representation of the modern style of South African winemaking. After 27 months in 10% new French oak, the nose offers baked plum, tart fruit, and deep smoky herbs. The palate is RICH with crème de cassis, valnilla, blueberry, mull spice enveloped by high, but resolved, tannins. Though steak is the first thought, I could imagine this being a rich pairing to something savory or sweet that’s chocolate-based.
Finding quality Riesling from Germany that won’t break the bank is becoming more and more difficult. Like any other region, however, the key lies in looking beyond the most well-known areas. While you might not be able to find that super-value in the Mosel, going to a larger appellation like the Rheingau can yield affordable and delicious examples. The J. Baumer is one such example, offering varietal notes of orchard fruit, honey, and petrol. The palate is zesty, with high acid and a slight sweetness intermingling with peach, citrus, and honeycrisp apple. While spicy Asian cuisine is the traditional pairing, this would also pair deliciously with Al Pastor tacos or Butter Chicken.
Montecucco is a relatively new DOC located in South-Central Tuscany that is predicted to be an important factor in Tuscan wine production in the coming years. Known primarily for affordable, but delicious renditions of Sangiovese, it is also known as one of the higher-quality areas for Vermentino production. Wines made from Vermentino have sometimes had a reputation for being overly-austere and somewhat dull, but ColleMassari’s ‘Melacce’ completely bucks that rend. A delicate-looking wine, it offers aromas of finger lime, tart tropical fruit, and pleasantly green notes. The palate is light-bodied, with zippy acidity enveloping tart stone and citrus cut with salinity. It might not *quite* be pool weather yet, but I’m sure some of you will persevere. Bring this bottle with you.
Many, if not all of you, are familiar with Lodi Zinfandel. It is one of the most well-respected Zin-producing regions in California and has no shortage of large producers that have filled grocery store shelves with affordable, quality examples. So instead of lecturing about the region, we’re just going to appreciate how good this wine is. Unlike many Zin’s at this price range, oak is not a huge factor on the palate and nose, which allows for all of the grape’s fruit glory to shine through. Aromas of blueberry, black pepper, and bramble jump from the glass. The palate is rich and velvety with an impressive purity of fruit cut with hints of sweet spice. This isn’t a complex wine, but it doesn’t need to be; because it’s delicious.
There is an old adage that isn’t universally true for any grape, but can generally describe shopping for certain varieties: “There’s good x, there’s cheap x, but there’s no cheap, good x”. While this has applied to wines such as Sangiovese and Pinot Noir, it’s beginning to reach over into the world of Cabernet. As such, we’re glad to have found an affordable bottle of Cab’ that any of us here at Steve’s would be happy to pair with a weekday meal. The Hayes Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is sourced from up and down the Central Coast and offers surprising balance for a Cab’ at this price point. The nose offers aromas of cassis, plum, vanilla, and earth, followed by varietal flavors of blue and black fruits with moderate tannin and acidity. This is an easy-drinker that would go well with any weekday red meat-based meal.
Some of the world’s most beloved wines are the result of dedicated winemakers saving obscure varieties from extinction. You probably know these stories concerning grapes like Zinfandel and Pinotage, but you might not be aware of one of Northern Italy’s comeback wines: Arneis. Arneis is a white variety grown and vinified in the Roero region of Piedmont and comprises what many consider the highest quality white wines from Piedmont. What was once a grape on the brink of extinction, Arneis was saved by winemakers such as Alfredo Currado (Vietti) and others who saw the potential of the grape. Marcarini’s example is picture perfect, with aromas of ripe orchard and stone fruits cut with aromatic honey and spice. The palate is light-bodied with restrained acidity, showcasing similar fruit, salinity, and nut flavors. Pair this with pasta carbonara or your next roast turkey-based meal.
You probably don’t think ‘white blend’ when you think of Oakville. However, there are meteorological features of Oakville, namely the large diurnal shifts and consistent fog, that can yield success for rich, viscous white wines. POP 300 is a proprietary blend of Chardonnay and white Rhone varieties aged in a combination of stainless steel and French oak. The nose offers aromas of lemongrass and other herbs, hints of oak and vanilla, and a medley of tart orchard fruit. The palate is medium-plus-bodied with restrained acidity with comparatively richer flavors of ripe apple, pineapple, and vanilla cut with fresh herbs and hints of citrus. This is a peculiar wine that could go with a medley of richer seafood dishes or as a substitute for richer styles of chardonnay with bold lobster dishes.
While there are pioneering figures in California viticulture that are familiar to many wine enthusiasts (Robert Mondavi, Chuck Wagner, Merry Edwards, etc.), there are contributors that fly under the radar. Among these are the members of the ‘Rhone Rangers’, winemakers and viticulturists who were responsible for cultivating and propagating Rhone varieties (Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, etc.) across California. Bill Easton participated by bringing them to the Sierra Foothills and making eccentric blends and varietal bottlings. The Tete-a-Tete label is bottled under the Domaine de la Terre Rouge line, and focuses on an assemblage (blend) of pre-fermented base wines that are then aged in barrel for extensive periods of time. This wine resembles a well-aged Cotes du Rhone Village or comparable appellation more than a California GSM. The wine pours a ruby color with garnet hues and slight bricking. The nose offers aromas of blue fruit, game, and underbrush. The palate offers pure boysenberry and blueberry accented by a plethora of spicy, savory flavors that make it incredibly complex for the price point. Though this has the heft to pair with heavy red meats, pairing with rich, creamy cheeses or dry-rubbed BBQ would be just as successful.
It has been FAR too long since we have featured a South African wine on the wine club; particularly one that is not Pinotage. While the oft-maligned grape is historically the most significant in South African viticulture, it is important to note that most of the quality red wines from South African revolve around Cabernet Sauvignon or Shiraz. This is not just because these grapes are universally popular, but because examples from SA offer characteristics not found anywhere else in the world due to the unique climate and meteorological characteristics of SA (Namely the ‘Cape Doctor’). This blend of Shiraz, Mourvèdre, and Viognier is an excellent example, offering aromas of plum, baking spice, fruit cake, and cherry. The palate is considerably more savory, offering varietal notes of olive and peppered meat while still carrying rich cherry and well-integrated tannins. This is unequivocally a ribeye wine.
Chardonnay is often put on a dichotomy between New World and Old World with little room in between. New World renditions are generally associated with increased usage of new oak and malolactic fermentation resulting in ripe wines, while Old World versions are generally associated with high acid, less fruit, and less oak and ‘malo’. However, it’s important to remember that many of these aspects are influenced more by the winemaker than where the wine is from; take the Vignobles Vella for example. This wine hailing from Languedoc (Southern France) pours a medium yellow with gold hues, offering aromas of banana peel, butter, tea, and some sweet baking spice. The palate is medium bodied with flavors of pineapple and eucalyptus candy, making for an excellent pairing with richer seafood or chicken kiev.
When you think of Greek wine, what comes to mind? For many, its exclusively sweet wines, or maybe the eternally odd, but loveable, Retsina. However, there are a collection of delicious indigenous varieties that are starting to make a more consistent appearance in the US market. The ‘Zoe’ line from Domaine Skouras is designed with accessibility in mind, with wines that are made in an unadulterated style that emphasizes regional and varietal character. The ‘Zoe’ white blend is 60% Roditis and 40% Moscofilero. It does not see any oak, VERY little skin contact, and slight lees aging. This wine pours a very pale straw (almost water-like) and offers delicate aromas of flowers, musk, honey, and restrained orchard fruit. The palate offers zippy acidity, sweet citrus fruits, and fresh herbs. This wine screams for a salad with soft cheeses and fruit.
As we discussed in November, Carignan is an impressively difficult grape to cultivate and vinify into acceptable varietal wine. It has a history as turbulent as any other variety and is still recovering in the eyes of the consumers. Thankfully, there are producers dedicated to exploring the potential of this variety. This wine is sourced from 50-year-old vines and sees no oak. The nose offers a complex blend of dried herbs and tart blue/black fruit. The palate enters sweet, but quickly reveals the quintessential tannins of Carignan mixed in with macerated black fruits. Though not quite weighty enough for rich red meats, this wine would go beautifully with pork tenderloin served with caramelized brussels sprouts.
There is no such thing as too much Cotes du Rhone in a wine bar. As such, we are bringing in yet another delicious rendition from the region that keeps on giving. This 50/50 blend of Grenache and Syrah is as traditional as traditional gets for CDR; with no oak and grapes harvested at their ripest for a wine that showcases purity of fruit. The nose offers aromas of garrigue, chocolate, and red fruits. This continues through the palate while offering well-integrated tannins and a characteristic richness. Pair this with your next lamb-based meal or a heart Bolognese.
You have likely heard the staff throw around the term “porch-pounder” with reckless abandon. While it’s true that this title is completely subjective (if you can pound Amarone, more power to you) few wines embrace the notion of “porch-pounder” than Txakolina. Generally made from Hondarrabi Zuri, Txakolina (or Txakoli) is an appellation in the Basque County famous for wines made in a fresh style that emphasizes high acidity, a slight effervescence, and tart citrus and orchard fruit flavors. Ganeta’s rendition embraces all these characteristics and more, making it an ideal standalone white or a pairing for fish tacos.
If you all remember, we featured a delectable red from this producer a couple months ago. While Etna Rosso is arguably the most well known of the broad appellations produced on the eponymous volcano, there are also delicious white wines abound. The Etna Bianco from Terre Nere, much like the Etna Rosso, personifies the regions to a ‘T’. This blend of Carricante, Cataratto, Grecanico, and Minnella is sourced from vines ranging from 5 to 80 years and is made in a way to emphasize the impressive freshness of the style. The nose offers fresh primary aromas of citrus and tart tropical fruits with hints of salinity and minerality. The palate has zippy acidity with juicy Meyer lemon and quince accented again with salinity. The freshness of this wine demands crudo or that it be respected as an aperitif.
There a reason the biggest names in California Zinfandel call the Dry Creek Valley their home; it’s a land renowned for over 100 years of the best Zin’ in the state. This AVA tucked in North Central Sonoma County combines the quintessential heat of Sonoma with coastal influence from Lake Sonoma to create rich Zin’s with profiles balanced between opulent and savory. Jigar’s 2017 release sees 10 months in 25% new French Oak, which adds an additional degree of richness to what already a monster of a wine. The nose offers red and black fruit with additional aromas of humidor and sweet baking spice. The mouthfeel is luscious, with well-integrated oak tannins enveloping flavors of blueberry and sweet raspberry. The richness of this wine and its tightrope between ripe and smoky makes it an ideal candidate for BBQ.
What could possibly outclass a Zinfandel in terms of weight and richness? Well, it takes the combination of Syrah, Petite Sirah, and a rich viticultural pedigree. Though relatively young, Bootleg Wine Works has featured the talents of multiple winemakers with history at major CA producers such as Hall, Clos du Val, and many others. The Prequel sources fruit from all over Sonoma County and is made in a quintessentially California style. This impenetrably purple wine offers aromas of black pepper, tar, blueberry, and crème de cassis. The palate offers rich oak-driven tannins with full-length flavors of blue and black fruits cut with rich vanilla, sweet tobacco, and baking spice. There is no hunk of red meat too rich for this wine.
We will be open as usual on Saturday. We have a killer band playing that night, so take a moment and visit our website to learn more and reserve your seats!
Red wine makes up the vast majority of production in Tuscany, with white wine (dry or sweet) making up a tiny fraction. Furthermore, many white varieties grown in Tuscany have a reputation for being inexpensive, middling quality grapes such as Trebbiano Toscana and Malvasia. However, there is one Tuscan appellation producing white wines that holds a significant place in both Tuscany and Italy at large. Vernaccia di San Gimignano is a dry white wine made of Vernaccia that holds the distinction of being the very first DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) wine in Italy and the only DOCG dedicated to white wine in Tuscany. More than a historically interesting wine, Vernaccia di San Gimignano is simply an interesting wine in the context of Tuscany. For such a warm growing region, Toscolo’s rendition is strikingly cool climate in nature. The nose offers pleasantly green notes of fresh lemongrass and citrus and the palate offers zippy acidity supplementing gentle tart citrus and stonefruit cut by delicious minerality.
For many, knowledge of white wine from the Loire Valley stops at Sancerre and Pouilly-Fume. Just as much love should go the remaining standouts, particularly dry Chenin Blanc from Saumur. Even entry-level examples such as this offer delicious complexity and food-pairing versatility. This is a minimalist approach using multiple soil types, no oak, and noted sur lie (on lees) aging. The nose offers peach, beeswax, lemongrass, and slight salinity. The palate offers bright acidity with a light, but creamy texture supporting ripe orchard and stone fruits.
If you have been a customer of Steve’s for some time, you have likely heard one of us claim that Languedoc is the “value region to end all value regions”. There are more reasons for this that can be listed, but know that if you enjoy Bordeaux and Rhone variety-based wines at fantastic price, the Languedoc as a whole is your region; particularly the Corbieres and Minervois AOC’s. Chateau de Caraguilhes has been making wines in the Corbieres since the late 50’s, and the Cochon Volant series is their entry-level take on a Corbieres red. This blend of Grenache, Carignan, and Syrah offers aromas of red and black fruits cut with earth and herbs de Provence. The palate offers some grip, restratined acidity and bright, spicy red fruit flavors.
Alright, what does gros rouge qui tache mean? Literally: Big Red That Stains- intrigued yet? This roughly half-half blend of Alicante Bouschet and Syrah from Languedoc delivers exactly that. Though Syrah is certainly big and inky on its own, it cannot hold a candle to Alicante Bouschet, which is one of the few vitis vinifera grapes with red flesh (also known as a teinturier). These two together result in an impossibly dark and inky wine with some balance to it! The nose is fairly savory, with black pepper and bramble-laden black fruits. The palate offers surprisingly restrained tannin, which allows for delicious cherry, plum, and blackberry to shine.
Alexana Pinot Gris- Willamette Valley AVA-OR
Though Oregon is currently more well-known for Chardonnay when it comes to white wine, Pinot Gris used to be king and is still one of the best things that Oregon has to offer. For an area so well known for its pseudo-Burgundian characteristics, it only makes sense that the Pinot Gris would be delicious. Alexana’s example is notedly decadent, using a substantial amount of both neutral and new French oak in addition to 4 months of sur lie aging. These add a richness to both the nose and palate, with aromas of granny smith, honey, and herbs supplementing a clean, steely palate with hints of orchard and citrus fruits. This wine is screaming for crab with drawn butter.
If anyone had delicious kitchen-sink white blend from Northwestern Italy on their January bingo card, they’re lying. This peculiar blend of Chardonnay, Muscat, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, and Muller-Thurgau comes from the Valle d'Aosta, a region in Northwestern Italy that, like many successful wine regions, benefits from a rain shadow formed by the neighboring Alps. This results in warm, dry summers, cooler (but still dry) winters and diurnal shifts abound! The Anselmet winemaking tradition in the Valle d’Aosta stretches back to the 16th century, with the family being noted for their innovations in winemaking. This blend offers a complex, but restrained nose with orchard fruits, noted minerality, and a bready character. The palate offers luscious honey crisp apple, thyme, sleek minerality, and high acidity.
Natural wine can be a bit of a contentious topic in the wine industry. On one hand, many champion low-intervention wine in the name of ecological responsibility and to minimize the addition of sulfites. On the other hand, many point out that sulfites help maintain the quality of wine long-term and that wine faults such as ‘brett’ and volatile acidity should not be tolerated. However, one argument stands above all: is the wine good? In the case of the Dido, the answer is a resounding yes. This blend of Garnacha, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot is a delicious wine with an extremely involved production process. Winemakers Sara Perez and Barbier age this blend in a combination of concrete tanks, neutral oak, and amphora (clay pots). The result is a bold, extracted wine with aromas of earth, bittersweet chocolate, and garrigue-tinged plum. The palate offers balanced tannins and acidity with refreshingly juicy red and blue fruits.
Bias out of the way, Brian might or might not have fallen in love with this winery while visiting over the holidays. Though the Cuvee la Bec is Beckman’s ‘entry level’ wine, it more than stands tall among their amazing catalogue of Rhone-based wines from the general Santa Barbara region. With crop sourced from one of the warmer regions of Santa Barbara County, this blend of Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, and Counoise is rich, ripe and crowd-friendly. The nose offers peppercorn, black cherry, chocolate, and hints of vanilla. The tannins are silky and well-integrated, supplementing rich macerated red and blue fruits. This is quintessential steak wine and something to sip on as we enter allegedly cold weather.
When creating a list designed to be user-friendly and approachable, it is difficult to make the list “balanced”. While some might thoroughly enjoy a tasting composed of rich, extracted red wines, there are many that want some iota of grace thrown in: Enter Pinot. Both the Gold and Platinum lists this month feature Pinot’s designed to break up the monotony that can sometimes come from a ‘red-only’ tasting. Joliesse’s take is user-friendly, with aromas of cherry sauce, vanilla, and aromatic baking spice. The palate features soft tannins and medium acid with straightforward, but well done, red fruits throughout.
Food wines are always important, but they are crucial during the holiday season. Though an ambiguous term, ‘food-friendly’ wines are usually termed as such due to tannin and acid playing an elevated role in the flavor profile of the wine. This typically allows the wine to enhance certain characteristics of certain foods and vice-versa. This term can also be used in somewhat of a derogatory sense, for wines that need food to hide flaws. You will find all the prior and none of the latter here with the ‘Augusta’. This Rhone blend from the Roussillon is vibrant, with aromas of dried herbs de Provence, and tart red berries. The palate is medium bodied, with drying tannin and mouth-watering acidity, with Black cherry and tart plum accented by black pepper and a subtle earthiness.
Perhaps no other variety in the New World sparks discussion about the effect of ‘terroir’ quite like Zinfandel. Ask anyone, and you will have differing opinions on which regions makes the best; from Dry Creek (my personal favorite) to Lodi to Mendocino and back. However, true Zin lovers know that Amador County makes some of the most unique and delicious examples in the state. Terra D’Oro (Literally Land of Gold) embraces all the savory accents the Amador terroir can offer to Zin. This rich, ruby-hued wine gives off aromas of macerated raspberry, cigar wrapper, and an intense sunbaked earthiness. The palate offers medium, spicy tannins and low acidity. The rich red fruits from the nose carry through with hints of dark chocolate, bramble, and sweet baking spice.
It wouldn’t be December at Steve’s Wine Bar without a rich, extracted ‘kitchen-sink’ blend. It has been quite some time since we featured Peirano at the bar, so we are happy to bring them back in via the ‘Sea Enchantress’. This eclectic blend of Petite Sirah, Zinfandel, Tempranillo, and Syrah pours a rich purple color with blue and black hues. The nose offers sweet blueberry, pipe tobacco, tar, and cassis. The palate features RIPE blue and black fruits with hints of dark chocolate and anise.
Never has the name of a wine been so on theme for Steve’s (ask your waiter for more on that); and it also turns out it’s good! The knockout Willamette Valley PN’s keep coming for Steve’s, with this month’s edition coming from EIEIO. This EXTREMELY small-production winery is among the most cultish and well-respected among Burgundy and Pinot hounds. Though this is their ‘entry-level’ wine, it still shows off what makes Oregon Pinot Noir unique. The wine pours a pale ruby color and offers aromas of potting soil, rhubarb, and bing cherry. The palate offers slight woody tannin and quaffable acidity enveloping bright red fruits, aromatic potpourri, and slight boysenberry notes.
Nestled within the hubbub of Barbera and Nebbiolo, there is Dolcetto; reliably being one of Piedmonts hidden treasures. Combining the structure of Nebbiolo-based wines with readily available fruits has always been the calling card, and G.D Vajra’s example follows this faithfully while introducing some of their ingenuity. This completely unoaked rendition offers bright aromas of red and blue berries, fresh herbs, and star anise. The palate offers medium, drying tannin, medium-high acidity and a plethora of mulberry and plum.
We cannot have a big red month without Australia’s primary (wine) contribution to the world; beautiful, ripe, powerful Shiraz. While Shiraz is susceptible to being flabby and hot, Hewitson’s ‘Ned & Henry’ is a masterclass in balance. It offers aromas of plum, licorice, toffee, black pepper, and grilled meat. The palate is full bodied, with well-integrated tannins and restrained acidity supporting a plush, luxurious combination of sweet black and blue fruits.
Putting a Napa Cab on the list is not quite the slam dunk a lot of people make it out to be. Napa Valley is such a saturated area in terms of Cabernet production, that there’s a lot of very expensive wines with varying levels of quality. Knowing where to start can be difficult. Thankfully, that’s what you have your friendly neighborhood wine bar for! Galerie wines are portraits of place, showcasing the dramatically different features of Northern California’s most prized winegrowing appellations. Napa Valley is well known for its abundant sunshine and rich, fruit-forward wines. Knights Valley at the base of Mt. St. Helena to the north has even cooler temperatures, and volcanic soils that produce slower-ripening fruit with distinctive minerality. Spring Mountain is perched high on the steeply terraced slopes of the Mayacamas Mountains along the western edge of Napa Valley, where marine layer influence brings cooler days and warmer nights than on the valley floor. The name refers to the French painters' method of painting outdoors (en plein air), which developed around the same time as Napa's first European-style vineyards in the 1800s. Fruit from vineyards with diverse soil types brings complexity and depth to the finished wine, which shows rich black fruit, spice and floral notes with a firm tannin structure and balanced acidity.
*-Baby Big Dog, you may take one of these as part of your club and one of the other non-Big-Dog wines.
When you’re starting out the day of Thanksgiving, there is a hilarious amount of preparation to do; mostly involving food. At some point, you might want something to sip on, but not something that will put you out of commission. Crisp, refreshing Gruner Veltliner, particularly THIS Gruner, is an excellent candidate. This is a landwein (country wine) from the Osterriech, which encompasses three of the four Austrian quality wine regions. Despite its “lower” standing, this has all the fun varietal notes you expect from Gruner, starting with a pale straw color with pale yellow hues. The nose offers lively notes of citrus, green apple, white pepper, and snow pea. The palate features a light body, high acidity, and a little bit of leftover SO2. Notes of lime and peppercorn bounce off the palate, making this a crisp wine to enjoy while preparing for the big feast.
You’ve had Grenache Noir (Or just Grenache). You have probably Grenache Blanc in a blend, you might have even had a variety-labeled Grenache Blanc, but have you had Grenache Blanc (Garnacha Blanca in this case) from its original home? It’s true; even though France (particularly the Languedoc and Rhone) accounts for most Grenache Blanc plantings now, it is a Spanish variety (or clone if you prefer to look at it that way). Like it’s red counterpart, Garnacha Blanca thrives in continental wine climates, like Navarra, and tends to ripen with plenty of sugar; which leads to moderate-plus to high levels of alcohol. In this case, we are dealing with a “light” version, but one that delivers all the same. The wine pours a light yellow, and offers aromas of citrus, pear, and tart stone fruit. The palate displays a light + body, with high acidity and a slightly creamy texture. Lemon, peach, and bread-y notes dominate the palate. Try this with creamy cheeses and bright salads to try out contrasting and complementing pairings respectively.
Like Rioja, Navarra’s climate supports delicious, food-friendly versions of Tempranillo and other red varieties. Though we generally think Tempranillo as a wine that reacts favorably to lots of oak and time in bottle, you can also find fresher, quaffable versions. The ‘Ars in Vitro’ is an excellent example of that, displaying a medium ruby color with some garnet hues. Aromas of strawberry, red pepper, and cinnamon compose the aromatic profile, with the 10% of Merlot offering some tart plum and floral notes. The palate displays a medium body, with light tannins, and medium + acidity. The bright ripe strawberry on the nose dominates the palate while being supported by pleasantly green notes of black peppercorn. Try this as a Turkey wine alternative or with some roasted ham.
Carignan, like many varieties, sees most of its action as a blending variety. Whether it’s in the Southern Rhone under Carignan, in an old vine field blend in Lodi under Carignane, or in Rioja under Mazuelo, Carignan is a true 6th man in the world of wine. However, true to the analogy, Carignan has had issues standing on its own as a varietal wine. It generally displays high yields, intense tannins, and abundant phenolic compounds, which makes it tricky to work with. There are ways around this such as carbonic maceration, but that brings up its own issues regarding complexity and quality. Undaunted, the winemakers at Domaine La Manarine, an amazing winery located in the Southern Rhone Valley, have come through with an excellent example. This wine pours an intense ruby color with purple hues. The nose offers red and blue fruit, black pepper, and cured meat. The palate is full bodied with medium + tannin and medium acidity. The palate is full of ripe, opulent fruits accented with intense savory baking spices. This is a quintessential food wine and should be paired with the richest meats you have the table.
This is the first of two wines we will be featuring from the Cherry House line. Though we generally try to avoid featuring two wines from the same producer on the same list, sometimes a producer just fits the theme so well that we cannot help ourselves. The Cherry House white is modeled after Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc which is, albeit less popular, modeled after the same model of richness laid out by their red counterparts. This wine is a 50/50 blend of Clairette and Grenache Blanc, with the Clairette going through 100% malolactic fermentation and time in 10% new French Oak and the Grenache Blanc through partial malolactic fermentation and time in neutral oak. The result is an opulent, but balanced delight. The wine pours a medium gold color. The nose offers baked apple, Bosc pear, and spicy and sweet oak-derived notes. The palate features a medium – body, and medium acidity. Big ripe pear and other orchard fruits explode onto the palate with a balanced richness brought on by the oak. If you are feeling white but need something to stand up to the richer fare on the Thanksgiving table, this is the choice.
I am generally apprehensive about bringing Burgundy (white, red, or anything in between) into the bar. It can be a difficult region to understand, and great examples across the various appellations can often be prohibitively expensive. However, it’s a treat when we can expose everyone to the truly great wine regions of the world without annihilating their wallet, and I am happy to report that this wine does just that. As 2018 was an uncharacteristically warm year across Burgundy, the wines are showing incredibly out of the bottle and can be enjoyed as soon as it’s in the glass. The Dubreuil Hautes-Cotes de Beaune comes a village within a larger region (Cotes de Beaune) more well known for it’s Chardonnay, but this is quintessential Burgundy Pinot Noir. The wine pours a pale ruby color, and offers aromas of black tea, bing cherry, star anise, and hints of cola. The palate is medium - bodied, with silky tannins and medium + acidity. The bright red fruits continue to the palate and get riper and riper as the wine finishes. This is as “turkey wine” as wine gets, so stock up!
As Pinot Noir is generally considered to be the apex of “turkey wine”, it seemed only fitting that our marquee wine for the club be a special Pinot. Martin Woods is Willamette Valley producer that specializes in single vineyard Pinot Noir in addition to limited bottlings of varieties that are not commonly planted in Oregon (Cabernet Franc, Gamay, Gruner Veltliner, etc.). The Havlin Vineyard is located towards in the Van Duzer Corridor AVA (established in 2019) and is among the latest ripening vineyards that Martin Woods sources from. This provides stress on the vines, which leads to structure-driven cool climate PN. This wine pours a medium ruby color, and offers aromas of cherry, boysenberry, and rhubarb accented by fragrant potpourri notes. The palate displays a medium body with medium acidity and gorgeously seamless tannin. The fruit and spice notes on the nose continue to the palate and develop as the wine aerates, which makes for an unequivocally exquisite-feeling wine. This wine will elevate anything on the table and is a can’t-miss bottle.
To round out our main list, we return to Cherry House, who happens to have an excellent red modeled in the Chateauneuf-du-Pape style. This is a blend of Grenache, Carignan, and Mourvèdre that sees time in neutral oak, opting to let the fruit shine. This wine pours a rich ruby color with purple hues. The nose features dark chocolate, rich red fruits, savory baking spice, and slightly smoky notes. The palate is full-bodied, with medium + tannins and lower acidity. Rich, ripe red fruits are accented by star anise and floral notes, making this an excellent pairing for the heaviest Thanksgiving fare.
The bonus wine tradition returns! We all need something sweet and fun to enjoy with desserts and to appeal to those in the family that prefer their wine on the sweeter side. For those purposes, we brought in an excellent, off the beaten path wine from Lombardy. Sangue di Giuda, also known literally as "Blood of Judas" or more simply Blood Wine, is a DOC and wine sourced from the Oltrepo Pavese region in Pavia, which is one of the largest production regions of domestically consumed Italian wines. This wine is most often a blend of Barbera, Croatina, and Rara Uva, and goes through the partial fermentation method used in the production of other sweet wines such as Moscato d’Asti. The result is an easy-drinking, semi-sweet, aromatic frizzante red that can be paired with dessert or enjoyed with an aperitif. This wine pours a ruby color with purple hues and offers aromas of cherry, plum, bubblegum, and banana. The bubbles on the palate are soft and fun, with juicy red fruits and licorice. This is the perfect end to a large wine tasting OR a large meal.