What needs to be said about a bonus club wine...Okay maybe a little. Tenuta Santome is a family-run estate with experience in viticulture stretching back to the 70’s. The fruit for this wine is sourced from Grave di Papadopoli, a small island consisting almost entirely of vineyards in the middle of the Piave river. Leaning towards the sweeter end of Extra Dry, the nose offers bright, piercing aromas of orchard and tropical fruits. The palate is fresh and zippy, with the residual sugar meshing well with the abundance of sweet fruits. This might not be your ‘fried chicken and bubbly’ beverage, but it would go deliciously as an aperitif or with Linnybird cupcakes with your Valentines date.
Regarding Friuli, Jancis Robinson commented “every nation of wine consumers treasures most what it finds most difficult to produce”. Whether it’s austere red wines, or some of the world’s most desirable orange and dessert wines, Friuli has become a niche source of the most cerebral wines in Italy. At the forefront, however, are aromatic varietal wines made of both international and indigenous varieties (A rarity for much of Italy). Fantinel, a relatively new winery in the region, has embraced this fully, with bottlings of seemingly every white variety suited to the region. Their Sauvignon (alternative name for Sauvignon Blanc) is reminiscent of an example from Chile or South Africa, with aromas of bell pepper, honey dew melon, and fresh cut grass. The electric acidity gives way to subtle flavors of citrus and stone, making for an excellent pairing with some raw seafood. Try it with the Sun Rise Roll at I Love Sushi.
We’ve visited Torrontes multiple times over the past couple of months, but they have almost exclusively come from Mendoza. Despite being the most famous and productive region in Argentina, it is not considered the premium site for Torrontes; enter Salta. Located near the very north of the country, Salta sits at the foot of the Northwest Andes, and features high elevation vineyards that make for some of the more elegant, floral expressions of Malbec Argentina has to offer and arguably the highest quality Torrontes overall. Piatelli’s winemaking exploits are split evenly between Mendoza and Salta, with the latter being overseen by Alejandro Nesman. Their Torrontes is considerably different than other renditions we have featured, spending some time in oak to round out Torronte’s quintessential lean and electric nature. The result is a beautifully complex, but approachable wine, with aromas of sea salt, tart tropical fruits, and hints of fresh herbs. The palate is full and fruit-driven with varietal notes of flowers and honey, making an excellent pairing with a simple salad of walnuts, arugula, goat cheese, and cranberry dressing.
It’s been a hot minute since we have looked at Turkish wine here in the bar. Depending on your school of thought, Turkish wine could be considered New World or drastically Old World, as the first commercial winery was established in mid 1920’s, but the region itself potentially has viticultural history dating back to 11,000 BC. The Aegean Region accounts for roughly half of total production and leans equally on indigenous and international varieties. The Selendi ‘Beyoba’ is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Shiraz that equally embraces both the Old and New aspects of Turkish wine. The nose is very savory, with tomato leaf, sour cherry, earth, and hints of iron shining through. The palate, on the other hand, is rich and extracted, with penetrating red fruit accented with slight sweet oak-driven notes of vanilla. This is an easy-drinking red that would go well at your next outdoor gathering (whenever that happens), with a smattering of robust cheeses and jams from the folks at 10:1.
We’ve featured Grenache from virtually every significant growing region multiple times over, but we’ve yet to hit some of the demonstrable “if you know you know” sites: enter Montsant. Famously dubbed by Jancis Robinson as “half-priced Priorat”, Montsant features much of the same geographical, meteorological, and varietal characteristics without the price tag of its more famous neighbor. Vinyes Domenech is a boutique producer that has only been around 2002, but is already turning out both traditional varietal wines and blends of popular varieties. The ‘Sotabosc’ (Catalan for underbrush) is a blend primarily consisting of Garnacha with Samso (Catalan for Carignan). Much like its namesake, the wine offers intense aromas of garrigue accented with pure maraschino cherry. The palate is grippy, but resolves into a layered, complex profile of red berries, spice, black fruits, and floral accents. This is a showstopper of a red needs something equally rich and complex; pick up some Chile Verde Empanadas from Boca 31 and go to town!
The Rose was a test run; now it’s time for the real fun! Like the LYB rose, the red is designed to be drank in large quantities among friends, or perhaps a date? Made of 100% Sangiovese, the LYB truly envelops the ‘So Fresh’ inspiration, using carbonic maceration to create a comparatively high-toned and juicy version. The deeply-hued wine offers aromas of fresh cherry, subtle herbs, and the quintessential plum character you get from carbonic maceration. The palate is zippy with a hint of tart acidity and virtually no tannin, leading to bright bing cherry and raspberry. This is a wine to chug among good company but could also go beautifully with the Turkey Bob or Bohemian at LSA.
Saint-Amour? Valentines? C’mon y’all, it made TOO much sense. Our next stop on Brian’s mandatory tour of the Beaujolais Cru’s is Saint-Amour. Unlike our recent stops in Brouilly and the general Beaujolais AOC, Saint-Amour is located towards the very top of Beaujolais, and generally produces comparatively elegant wines compared to its southern neighbors, while still featuring much of the same terroir and meteorological features that make the 10 cru’s so special. Domaine des Fonds is a relatively new property, but the father and son team of Florent and Andre Berrod have already made waves with their bottlings. The nose offers a complex nose of violets, tart red currant, blackberry, and hints of earthiness. The palate offers a similar fruit profile with mouthwatering acidity and fine-grained tannins. Cru Beaujolais is a versatile pairing wine, but we think the profile of the DDF would sing well alongside a Gyro wrap from Gyro 360.
Overlooking the Dry Creek Valley is Rockpile, an oddball of an AVA containing some of the most desirable Zinfandel plantings in the state, with virtually no immediate wineries to capitalize on them. This is likely due to the widely varying gradients in elevation, which coincidentally make for ideal vineyard conditions. As such, many noted Zinfandel producers in other parts of Sonoma such as Ridge, Seghesio, and Turley source from Rockpile for various premium bottlings. The Flight Wine Company extends this philosophy across all their products, sourcing from various appellations before vinting them at a central location. Their Rockpile Zinfandel is style-appropriate, with aromas of blueberry and blackberry cut with the quintessential bramble of Zin’. The palate showcases the potential of the high elevation vineyards of Rockpile, with fine-grained tannins enveloping the aforementioned fruit, dark chocolate, and hints of pipe tobacco. No frills with this, grab a cheeseburger from Rooster’s and go to town.
The Minimo is another creation from Lucca Hodgkinson (La Brisas) that snuck into the bar around the holidays and since picked up steam among regulars. This blend of Malbec, Syrah, and Carmenere is sourced from the Colchagua Valley of Chile, a low-altitude growing region near the Pacific that benefits from a significant maritime influence. First, elephant in the room, this is a Malbec FROM Chile, which is rare, but not unheard of. In theory, the poor granitic and other volcanic soils that provide ideal growing conditions for other Bordeaux varieties makes it as dreamy a place as any to grow Malbec; which is reflected in the Minimo. Following two years each in oak and bottle, the nose offers complex tertiary aromas of leather and tobacco with hints of plum and blueberry. The palate is much more generous, with a fine-grained grip surrounding rich, ripe blue and black fruits. This is a date night wine through and through, so throw a couple of filets in the pan and go to town.
P.S: I hope this last list from me reads like a love letter (ha) from me to y’all. The last 3-plus years have been transformational for me, and that doesn’t happen without y’all’s support and enthusiasm. I hope to see all of you around in this new adventure; and that this is not a farewell, but a see ya’ around.
- Brian McGoldrick, Your Insufferable Neighborhood Wine Geek.
Once considered one of the ‘in’ wines for wine professionals, Austrian Gruner has become more universally known, but still remains a relatively rare sight in wine establishments. This is largely due to Austria still being a comparatively small exporter, but current data trends show this slowly but surely changing for the better. The result is more crowd-friendly wines that eschew the esoteric branding historically embraced by Austria and Germany. BioKult is one such example, focusing on Austria’s primary red and white varieties (Zweigelt and Gruner Veltliner respectively) sourced from a variety of terroirs. A winemaking cooperative, BioKult utilizes the contributions of multiple growers and estates for one winemaking team. With regards to their Gruner, the result is a classic style. The nose offers aromas of quince, tart citrus, quince, and white pepper. The palate is somewhat ripe for Gruner, but offers the classic greenness and high acidity that personifies the grape. Though this wine might seem like a shoe-in for seafood, try it instead with some lightly-fried meats ala schnitzel, maybe like the fried chicken sandwich that sometimes graces the menu of Insurgent.
Keeping with the cooperative operation theme, we have Alliance Loire; an organization of seven vineyards from around the Loire Valley united to export the wines of small growers. The Les Lys is a quintessential expression of dry Vouvray (Chenin Blanc), with aromas of wool, wax, stone fruits, and a hint of sweet citrus. The palate displays the quintessentially high acidity possible with Chenin Blanc with stone fruit and mineral notes reminiscent of Riesling. In case you did not know, we have a new Indian restaurant in town, Namaste Denton! Vouvray and Butter Chicken is one of life’s great pleasures, and I suggest you go try it for yourself!
Greek red wines, particularly dry renditions, are difficult finds in the US. Beyond Greece not exporting as much as their old world counterparts, there is a reliance on indigenous varieties, whose acreage is dwarfed by international varieties. As such, it is not uncommon now to see indigenous varieties blended with international varieties in order to both ease and encourage exporting to new world markets. Ktimas Brintziki takes immense pride in both the propagation of Greek wine to larger markets and the fact that they are leading the charge in green wine production in Greece (a relatively new conversation). The ‘Melios’ is an interesting blend of Merlot and Mavrodaphne, a variety historically used in sweet wine. The nose offers red and black fruits, dried meat, earth, and dried herbs. The palate is friendly, with juicy red fruits, soft tannins, and quaffable acidity. This is a versatile red that would easily pair with a Jackie Mays burger.
A straight-forward wine with a LOT of pedigree behind it. Zolo utilizes multiple sites throughout Mendoza for mostly traditional Argentinean bottlings. Founded in 2003, it is run by Patricia Ortiz, generally regarded as one of the most important women in Argentina when it comes to wine. As if that was not enough, the winemaking team is lead by Fabian Valenzuela, a former winemaker at Catena, and Jean Claude Berrouet, former head winemaker at Chateau Petrus for 44 vintages. Their ‘Signature’ Red is a blend of Merlot, Bonarda, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Malbec. The nose offers aromas baked red fruits, licorice, and dark chocolate. The palate offers very fine-grained tannins with a medley of red and black fruits. The approachability of this wine screams for a lazy Sunday with a board of Manchego and sharp cheddar from Ten:One.
From the makers of ‘La Cuadrilla’ (you know, the wine y’all have been devouring for the past 3 months), we have another quirky, delicious wine from Ruben Solorzano and company from their ‘So Fresh’ series. This series is centered around quaffable wines meant to be drank in large quantities among many friends. The cepage for the rose is 80% Grenache, 10% Syrah, 10% Mourvedre, and is aged in stainless steel. Aromas of fresh strawberry and stone fruit lead to a palate of tart red berries, quince, high acid with some creaminess to balance it all out. I generally recommend fried veggies with rose, but lets make a new resolution; in 2023, rose goes with fried cheese curds (baby steps) from Cheese & Salsa.
If this month’s list has seemed too friendly, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered; enter Domaine Colin. Located in Touraine in the central Loire, the Coteaux du Vendomois AOC is the last bastion of one of Loire’s historical indigenous varieties; Pineau d’Aunis. Long eschewed for Cabernet Franc, Pineau d’Aunis is similar to Cab Franc in the sense that it makes red fruit and green-driven wines that display impressive complexity and food versatility. Domaine Colin has long been a vanguard of Pineau d’Aunis, being involved in its production since the beginning of the 20th century, also engaging in organic viticulture, manual harvesting, and general minimal intervention. The nose offers aromas of high-toned red berries, pleasant black pepper and dried herbs, and hints of earthiness. The palate is very fresh, with tart strawberry accented with subtle oak and black peppercorn. They are currently undergoing renovations, but our friends at Chestnut Tree are masters at Provencal-inspired cuisine that would go beautifully with this wine.
Some of the best values in wine result from producers going outside of their native terroir to experiment with other winegrowing regions. Some of the most famous examples of this include Opus One, Domaine Drouhin, Clos Apalta, and many more. This month, we feature Marlborough Pinot Noir made by the Henri Bourgeois family, which has been making a plethora of wines across the Loire Valley for 10 generations. Their New Zealand winery, Clos Henri, specializes in the country’s primary red and white variety, Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc respectively, from various regions and terroir. The ‘Petit Clos’ offers Burgundian aromas of aromatic red fruits encompassed by spicy underbrush. The palate is more traditional for NZ, with soft tannins and mouthwatering acidity accenting dark red berries, earth, and black tea. The slight weight and noted acid makes this a candidate for rich renditions of sushi or sashimi such as the Komodo Tower or Snap Dragons from Komodo Loco.
Beckmen, first & foremost, is known for their renditions of the major Rhone varieties like Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvedre; particularly from their cooler Los Olivos vineyards. However, the warmer vineyards in Santa Ynez Valley are equally suited for the production of Bordeaux varieties; namely Cab’! While the Beckmen family was first royalty in the world of music (founders of Roland), they have since achieved similar fame in the Santa Barbara wine scene and beyond. Their Cabernet Sauvignon, much like their previously featured ‘Cuvee le Bec’, showcases the typical richness of warm climate new world Cabernet Sauvignon, with aromas of cassis, blackberry, and hints of oak. Beckmen’s deftness for balanced wines comes through the palate with similar fruit notes accented with pleasant espresso and tobacco. Try this with a steak with currant or berry reduction.
If you are familiar with Tokaj, it is likely due to the unparalleled ‘Tokaji Azsu’ and ‘Tokaji Esszencia’ dessert wines produced here. Also known without bias as “the kings of wine”, these two wines are among the most treasured botrytized wines in the world along the likes of Bordeaux’s Sauternes and the Mosel’s Trockenbeerenauslese’s. However, Tokaj has more to offer behind heavenly nectars, including dry wines using the same varieties as their namesake treasure. Chateau Pajzos’ rendition of a dry Furmint (the main variety in Tokaji Azsu) is supplemented with small amounts of Harslevelu and Yellow Muscat. Aromas of nectarine, peach, apricot, and subtle honeyed nuts create an inviting nose, leading to a quaffable palate of the same fruits accented with bright acidity and a touch of residual sugar. This wine could serve as a slightly sweeter alternative to Sauvignon Blanc to pair with the Chicken Goat Salad at Barley & Board.
A Sicilian varietal Syrah is a bit of an odd find, as indigenous varieties like Nero D’Avola, Nerello Mascalese, and Nerello Cappuccio are at the forefront of dry red wine production. However, the dry, hot summers of Sicily provide excellent ripening conditions for Syrah, with mild winters offering little of the dangers one would find in some other prominent Syrah-producing regions like Rhone and South Africa. Meaning “hope” in Arabic, Musita’s ‘Amal’ label pays historical homage to the Moors and Saracens of Sicily who ruled over the region during the bulk of the 9th century. Eschewing the big, inky archetypes of Syrah, the ‘Amal’ is decidedly austere, with tart red berries, peppery black fruits mixed with spice, incense, and earth on the nose and palate. Though Syrah generally is associated with rich, red-meat driven dishes, the comparative delicacy of the ‘Amal’ calls for something a little lighter, but equally spiced, such as the Meze platter from Feta’s.
Grant Burge’s wines have been a recent, and extremely successful, phenomenon for us recently, so we figured we should keep the good times rolling. The fruit for this wine is sourced from both Barossa Valley and the Limestone Coast, both extremely prolific areas for the production of red wine. While we have discussed the Barossa Valley at length on the club, the Limestone Coast has not been represented thus far here at Steve’s. Famous for its terra rossa soils, the Limestone Coast and its’ inherent appellations are arguably the premium growing region for Bordeaux varieties in Australia. It only makes sense then that the ‘League of Three’ would incorporate some of that with the hedonistically rich fruit found in Barossa. The result is a dense, juicy Merlot with aromas of plum, cassis, mocha, and vanilla. The palate is on the softer side, with fine-grained tannins and low acidity giving way to the gratuitous fruit from the nose. The richness and slightly sweet fruit profile lends this wine towards rich, hearty stews and braised or smoked red meats, like those found at Juicy Pig!
We have shown on the club why Languedoc is king in terms of value-driven wine regions, visiting Corbieres and various Pay D’Oc bottlings in the process. Minervois is another famed region of the Languedoc, known for supple blends of Syrah, Grenache, Carignan among others. Though not quite as storied or established as other producers in the region, Domaine de L’Ostal has plenty of pedigree, being founded by Jean-Michel Cazes, owner of the elite second-growth Chateau Lynch-Bages out of Pauillac. The ‘Estibals’ label showcases Cazes’ vision for his Languedoc estate beautifully, with a purity of fruit and unmistakable terroir. This blend of Syrah, Grenache, Carignan is aged partially in oak (30% of the Syrah sees 12 months), but otherwise is developed in stainless steel. The nose offers aromas of cooked raspberry and black currant with hints of herbs de Provence. The palate is richly tannic, with a plethora of bruleed cherry, plum, and cassis to back it up. Something hearty and rustic would go well with this, such as the Psychedelic Burger over at LSA (Add bacon!!!).
It’s been a while…but ‘Pet Nat’ is back on the club! For the uninitiated, petillant naturel’ is one of many wines made via the methode ancestrale. Unlike methode traditionelle (AKA the Champagne method), wines made in the ‘ancestral method’ are bottled prior to the conclusion of the primary fermentation. This results in a lightly sparkling (3-4 atmospheres of pressure vs. the traditional 5-6) wine often left with sediment in the bottle, as ‘pet nats’ are almost never disgorged. Hailing from the South Island of New Zealand, the Naturalist Blanc cepage consists of Sauvignon Blanc and Rousanne. Though sparkling Sauvignon Blanc might sound like a bit much in terms of acidity, Rousanne’s warm, rounding presence brings the necessary body and richness to balance everything out. The nose offers fresh aromas of lime, apple, and hints of fresh herbs, the palate offers a soft mousse with bright acidity enveloping bright citrus and orchard fruit flavors. Though bubbly and fried chicken is a classic pairing, the citrusy nature of this wine might go best with something equally zippy and crispy, like the Elote Totchos over at Komodo Loco.
Eternally underappreciated, Zweigelt returns to the lineup at Steve’s just in time for the holidays. Though Hungarian in origin, Zweigelt, a cross between St. Laurent and Blaufrankisch, is the most planted red variety in Austria and has become synonymous with Austrian red wine. This time, we’re featuring Judith Beck, a biodynamic winemaker whose eponymous label celebrates everything and anything Austria. Her Zweigelt showcases everything amazing about the variety, embracing both it potential for juicy fruit and smoky rusticity. The nose offers sour cherry, blackberry, bramble, and hints of bittersweet chocolate. The palate is juicy, showcasing the aforementioned red and black fruits accented with star anise, cacao, and hints of smoke. This screams for heavily spiced poultry with rich accents, such as the blackened chicken sandwich over at Boca 31.
There’s not much that needs to be said about Barossa Valley Shiraz at this point; it’s REALLY good. The combination of ancient vines, variations between fertile and poor soils, and abundance of sunlight are great for Syrah. We have featured the Glaetzer family’s wines at multiple points throughout the years here at Steve’s but decided to return to a wine we haven’t stocked in two years: the ‘Bishop’. Somewhat of an entry level label for the eponymous Glaetzer line, the Bishop is sourced from mostly younger vines (around 30 years in age) and sees less time in oak in comparison to some of their other wines. This does nothing to diminish the hedonistic richness of the wine however, as this deep purple-hued wine demonstrates aromas of crème de cassis, mocha, and hints of sweet spice. The palate features an abundance of blue and black fruits balanced out by the rustic tannin. Though this might seem like a shoo-in for steak, try some eggplant as alternative; particularly how it’s featured at Insurgent!
In the running for the most “black sheep”-ish region of all time, Irancy is an AOC located just South of Chablis known for making very un-“Burgundy”-like Burgundy. Only permitted to make red wine, Irancy, like most of Burgundy, specializes in Pinot Noir while also growing a small amount of Cesar. Unlike many red wines made across Burgundy, however, Irancy is known for being extracted, tannic, and uncharacteristically fruit driven. David Renaud’s rendition doubles down on these characteristics, opting for tank fermentation and aging to preserve the aforementioned fruit. This wine pours a deep ruby with purple hues, offering aromas of spicy bramble, earth, and tart strawberry and raspberry. The palate is rich, blending rich dark red berries with earth within the frame of considerable tannin and moderate acidity. Generally, ruining good Pinot Noir with beef is sacrilegious in our opinion, but this wine has the stuffing to go beautifully with it. Try this wine with Cheese & Salsa’s Shirley Tacos!
We've featured Torrontes AND Caligiore recently on the club, so let's put them together. The 'Grazioso' is Caligiore's take on the polarizing Argentinian variety. Like the Bonarda we featured from Caligiore, the fruit for this wine is sourced from high-elevation vineyards; from the eastward town of Lavalle in this case. This is a very style-specific rendition, with as little exposure to oxygen as possible to maintain the delicate aromatics of the grape. The nose offers a fragrant blend of geranium, tart peach, and citrus oil. The palate offers a slight creaminess, with juicy stone and citrus fruit leading to a steely finish. This wine would do best as an aperitif but could also enhance a dish centered around goat cheese.
New to the club is a constantly underrated, but generally admired style of wine: Vinho Verde. Located in the Minho province of Portugal, the Vinho Verde DOC is the largest Portugese appellations in terms of size and production. Though you might think the name refers to the slightly green-ish tint of white Vinho Verde, it actually refers to how the wine should be drunk in their youth or "green-ness". Vinho Verde can be made in white, rose, and red renditions with a plethora of different varieties. The Arca Nova is made from a combination of Touriga Nacional and Espadeiro, both indigenous varieties that can be found all over Portugal. The nose offers fresh red berries cut with hints of sweet citrus. The palate features a subtle effervescence, with high acidity accenting bright strawberry and raspberry notes. Like the previous wine, this wine is excellent for an aperitif, but could also excel alongside the Ozmo noodles up at Graffiti Pasta. Maybe get a couple portions for your Thanksgiving table!
We have visited MANY of the different appellations in our favorite peninsula/ wine-utopia, but we admittedly have not touched on one of its most notable island gems. Enter Sardinia! This island in the Mediterranean is an autonomous territory of Italy, but one that gets lumped into the larger 'Denominazione di Origine Controllata' system. Though a plethora of different red varieties are planted here, Cannonau (AKA Grenache) occupies most of the space and attention. Unlike the Grenache of Southern France or Northeastern Spain, Cannonau is typically savory with an emphasis on earthy, meaty flavors in lieu of the fleshy fruit of its counterparts. That being said, Zanatta's 'Salana' opts for a softer, brighter style that should sit well at the Thanksgiving table. The nose offers tart cherry accented with dried herbs and hints of black pepper. The palate is medium-bodied, with fine-grained tannins and a medley of red and slightly black fruits interlaced with subtle anise and cedar box notes. Given the lighter style, this is an excellent alternative to pair with whatever game 'feathered or furred' you have at your table.
Petit Verdot: Simultaneously a grape many have heard of, but few can describe. If you fall into this camp, you're not alone, as there are no areas in the viticultural world that specialize in varietal Petit Verdot. Instead, it is relegated to being one of the *minor* grapes of Bordeaux; supplementing Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. This is not helped by it's late-ripening nature, which relegates to the warmest wine regions OR the most patient of winemakers: enter Ricardo Cruz and the rest of the Korta team. With fruit sourced from a small DO in the Southern portion of the Curico Valley, their GR Petit Verdot sees both pre and post-fermentation maceration in addition to a year in French and American oak. The nose offers a dense, complex bouquet of black pepper, sage, violets, and plum. The palate offers present, but balanced tannins and vanilla-tinged black cherry, plum sauce, and chocolate notes. The dense, decadent nature of this wine lends itself to decadent, earthy, and umami flavors; think mushroom cassoulet.
Long before Ken Wright became the king of single vineyard Pinot Noir in the Willamette Valley, he founded Panther Creek as his first venture into the state he would be synonymous with. Though he has since sold the winery, it is still known for being a pioneering producer of Oregon's most important varieties: including Pinot Gris. Though the grape does not command the same adoration as its other Burgundian brethren, the right winemaker and terroir can turn it into something special. Panther Creek's rendition is decidedly Alsatian, with aromas of honey suckle, tropical fruit, and hints of sweet apple. The palate is slightly creamy, with moderate acidity giving way to flavors of fleshy orchard and tropical fruits. Though this would generally be a can't-miss pairing with Komodo Loco, this would also be an excellent pairing for the charcuterie boards you'll OBVIOUSLY set up before the big meal (hit up Ten:One for that).
There is something magical about a style-appropriate Willamette Pinot sat on the Thanksgiving table. This is virtually all that Chehalem does; make delicious, delicate Pinot Noir in their namesake AVA. Despite a string of challenging vintages throughout the Willamette Valley due to wind and fire threats, Katie Santora and her team have managed churn out delicious vintage after delicious vintage, and the 2020 Chehalem Mountain is no exception. The nose offers aromas of black tea, crunchy red berries, forest floor, and hints of oak. The palate is silky, featuring fine-grained tannins and snappy acidity leading to a palate of cranberry, rhubarb, and hints of potpourri. This would pair well with most things around the table, but most effectively with the main attraction: Turkey.
We've covered Sancerre and Sancerre Rose, so let's move onto the last wine of the region: Sancerre Rouge. Arguably one of the more niche renditions of French Pinot Noir, Sancerre Rouge makes up the smallest proportion of productions of the three styles of wine produced in the region. Despite the relatively small variation in terroir and climate across Sancerre, Sancerre Rouge can vary greatly in style depending on the stylistic preferences of the winemaker. The Dezat estate can trace its lineage in the region back to the 16th century, and is often regarding as a respected overall producer and a champion for Sancerre Rouge. The wine has a notedly dark ruby hue, with aromas of slight cola, peppercorn, and earth. The palate is rich, with medium tannins and crunchy red fruits accented with oak-driven notes of spice, with a lengthy spicy finish. Pinot is generally known as the preeminent turkey wine, but this could also stand up to pork and lamb dishes with aggressive, umami-driven seasoning.
Though Southern Rhone's many red wines (CDnP, Cotes du Rhone, Gigondas) are ubiquitous in the minds, palates, and aisles of the American market, Northern Rhone is considerably less so. This is due to a number of factors,namely that the overall style of wine (red or white) produced in the Northern Rhone is considerably less user-friendly than its neighbors to the South. For starters, the kitchen-sink style of the South is eschewed for varietal bottlings, with only 1 red grape (Syrah) and 3 white grape (Marsanne, Rousanne, Viognier) allowed total across the whole region. Additionally, the Northern Rhone Valley is much cooler, and utilizes many of river-lining hills to plant high-ish-elevation vines. The overall result is peppery, structured reds and minerally, long-lived whites. Vincent Paris embraces said red style with gusto with his ‘Les Cotes’ St-Joseph. The nose offers savory, rustic aromas of hay, black pepper, and bacon fat. The palate is comparatively juicy and complex, with rich red and black fruits with a plethora of savory spices and earthy accents. This is the definitely the wine to pair with whatever red meat you are featuring on your table.
In a sea of affordable porch pounders, Muscadet stands tall as one of the benchmarks. Located in Pays Nantais, the Westernmost wine region of the Loire Valley, it is made of a variety called Melon de Bourgogne. Despite the name, Melon is associated exclusively with the Loire Valley. Without any intervention, Melon can produce light, somewhat boring white wines without much in the way of complexity. However, Muscadet is almost always produced with significant sur lie aging (aging on the dead yeast particles), which adds weight, complexity, and richness. The result is still light and lively, with aromas of lime, calcium, tart apple, and brioche. The palate displays zippy acidity, a light body with a touch of creaminess, and refreshing flavors of citrus and salt. Muscadet is often associated with oysters, so we would recommend visiting Hoochies; bottle of Muscadet in hand.
Cinsault and the lightly-hued pink stuff go hand in hand at this point. Whether it’s Provence, Costiere de Nimes, South Africa, the Central Coast, or Texas, Cinsault is a major player in many a rose producer’s repertoire. Though you might not see a ton of Chilean roses in the market, Cinsault plays a significant part as well, particularly in the cooler, more Southerly portions such as the Bio Bio Valley. Muscat, however, is a bit of a weird one. Even in small amounts, Muscat (Moscato, Zibibbo, etc.) is noticeable; offering an intense floral, honeyed, and “grape-y” component to any blend. Winemaker Luca Hodgkinson thought the combination of bright red berries, cotton candy, and a slight spicy green-ness would combine well with these Muscat-y flavors. Turns out he was right! The Brisas rose is made of 90% Cinsault and 10% Muscat of Alexandria (Also known as Zibibbo in the famous dessert wines of Sicily). The result is a showy and bright expression of rose, with aromas of flowers, sweet cherry, and hints of bubble gum. The palate displays zippy acidity with a slightly creamy body, with the aromas following through on the palate. You know that we recommend rose with fried veggies, and this is no different. In this case, might we recommend the fried squash blossoms you can find from time to time at Osteria il Muro?
Another Tempranillo? Garnacha? Nah, Bobal. This sneaky variety is the second most planted red variety in Spain, but is often relegated to bulk wine or grape concentrate, save for the DO of Manchuela. Located within the larger Castilla la Mancha province, Manchuela is the only region dedicated to creating elevated expressions of Bobal. Bodega Altolandon, albeit located closer to Valencia, specializes in eclectic blends and off-beat varietal wines made in an ecologically friendly way, and as such are low-intervention in their approach. The Rayuelo is aged in large French barriques for 8 months and is then aged in bottle until release. The result is a complex and savory red that puts one of Spain’s best-kept secrets in a delicious light. The nose offers dried red fruits, rich licorice, baker’s chocolate cut with notes of new leather and tobacco. Spicy tannins envelop plum and cherry sauce cut with spicy tobacco and black pepper. The age and complexity of this wine makes it difficult to pair, but the balance of creamy and umami-driven notes from Chestnut Tree’s Caponata & Burrata Crostini would do the trick.
Since it’s October, we figured a Halloween-friendly wine would be in order. Though the ‘appassimento’ technique of partially-drying grapes prior to fermentation is most often associated with the wines of Veneto, there’s nothing stopping the process from being used elsewhere. The Corte Fiore is a proprietary blend of Puglia varieties that goes through appassimento prior to fermentation. The result is a rich, ruddy red that showcases aromas of leather, milk chocolate, and maraschino cherry. The palate is rich and viscous with globs of dark chocolate, vanilla, black pepper, and cherry and blueberry coulis. Though this could go well with sticky BBQ, a chocolate, coconut and rye cookie from Demeter’s Kitchen would also do the trick.
Y’all know and LOVE Sancerre- the pinnacle expression of Sauvignon Blanc from the Eastern Loire that has served as the archetype and continued inspiration for some of the world’s most popular white wines. But did you know that there are Pinot Noir-based wines (red and rose) also made in Sancerre? Though in terms of production they lag FAR behind their white counterparts, these expressions of Pinot offer an interesting look into how the minimalist winemaking philosophies of Sancerre translate. Jean-Marc and Mathieu are a father-son team that focus on various bottlings of white Sancerre and small productions of both red and rose Sancerre. None of their wines see oak, as they instead opt for various degrees of lees-aging to add richness and complexity. Their rose offers aromas of tart cherry, fresh peach, and hints of slate. The palate is light with a slight creaminess, electric acidity, and a plethora of tart red berries. Though I’ve leaned into the “rose and fried stuff” pairings recently, this rose is complex enough to go with more “serious” fare. Next time Insurgent is around with their salmon, couscous, and tomato/peach salad, give the Crochet a shot.
It’s been a second, but back to Bordeaux we go. This time around, we are on the Right Bank, land of Merlot and lottery-priced bottles (Hey Petrus). The wines are typically blends of predominantly Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. Haut-Piquat is found in Lussac-St.-Emilion; one of the satellite regions for the more famous, and pricy, St.-Emilion. The Chateau run by winemaker Riviere Jean Pierre was established in 1850, and focuses on a small portfolio with wide exportation. The estate cuvee sees time in 20% new French oak and an overall combination of oak, vat, and bottle aging. Time in the glass unveils aromas of ripe plum, baked bread, and spices. This follows through on the palate, with a rich, sumptuous mouthfeel supplemented by rich, but balanced blue and black fruit. As I have mentioned in the past, Merlot is the superior ribeye wine, and should be paired with wherever they are sold.
It’s impossible to rattle off the great producers of Santa Barbara without mentioning the cult behemoth that is the talented team at Stolpman Vineyards. Founded by Tom Stolpman, the winery is now run in tandem between his children and Ruben Solorzano, the winemaker behind the magic. Stolpman is known for an eclectic portfolio ranging from ‘serious’ bottlings of terroir-specific Syrah to light-hearted bottlings with fun stories behind them (Read up on their ‘GDG’ for a hilarious example). The La Cuadrilla is no different, with the intent of the line to celebrate the various workers that make Stolpman go. Eventually, this blend that was reserved for the workers themselves is now distributed nationally with all profits made from the wine going directly to Ruben Solorzano and the rest of the vineyard crew. The 21’ vintage is a blend of Syrah, Grenache, and Sangiovese that is fermented both whole-cluster and destemmed; followed by time in large oak vats for a brief time. The nose offers a warm, complex profile of black tea, cherry, plum, bakers’ chocolate, and espresso. The palate is rich, but comparatively soft featuring many of the same notes as the nose with some added spice from the oak. This is a complex wine meant to be enjoyed simply in the company of friends; but it would positively kill with the sweet, sour, slightly spicy Banh Mi Fries from the Pickled Carrot.
Italian viticulture is full of ‘unorthodox’ winemaking methods; many of which result in some of Italy’s truly quintessential wines. Veneto, and Valpolicella in particular, is a hotbed for these, with many of the region’s most significant wines employing techniques such as appassimento or, in the case of this month’s wine, Ripasso. Ripasso is a sort of secondary fermentation which involves a finished Valpolicella blend of Corvina and Rondinella (with some Corvinone or Molinara potentially) being fermented again on the used lees of an Amarone or Recioto della Valpolicella. This fermentation generally results in the base wine taking on more alcohol, more “dried” and “reduced” flavors, and more body. The Torre Mastio Valpolicella Ripasso is a rich and complex version, offering aromas of dried cherry, orange marmalade, cinnamon, and leather. The palate is equally rich, with fine-grained tannins and moderate acidity accenting a plethora of juicy fruits cut with a myriad of spices. Something red meat-focused with plenty of spice and not a TON of fat would be an excellent pairing. Hannah’s Steak-au-Poivre was surely made for this wine.
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.
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!