In order when tasting all 8 wines.
Who hasn’t heard of Caymus? Well, this elegant and light-bodied gem is crafted by Jenny Wagner, daughter of pioneer Chuck, as part of the Emmolo brand. Wagner named the line “Emmolo” in tribute to her maternal lineage so that her mother’s maiden name could live on in perpetuity. Sauvignon Blanc is a perfect warm weather wine, and this gorgeous treat offers floral notes of honeysuckle and lemon blossom as well as stone fruit and melon. There is a kick of electric acidity but with a balance of minerality and tanginess. Wagner prides this wine on not being overly green, as so many Sauvignon Blancs can be. This wine needs something equally light and refreshing, like the grilled fish of the day at Hoochie’s.
While we have welcomed Bill Stoller’s wines into the bar before (Chemistry and Chehalem are two all-time favorites), we are thrilled to share the Dundee Hills Rosé, a glorious springtime wine, made from Pinot Noir. The Stoller name is synonymous with environmental and social good deeds within Oregon, and the brand also makes some pretty lovely grape juice! Dundee Hills, known as the location where grapes were first planted in Willamette, is also the most densely planted AVA in the area. This Rosé entices with its orange blossom and dried rose petals, and citrus zest on the nose and enlivens your tastebuds with strawberry, nectarine, grapefruit, and white tea. It would be a refreshing accompaniment to the Lacy Salad, an amalgam of good things, from Barley & Board.
Locked in between the Indian and South Atlantic oceans, Stellenbosch has a maritime climate. Hence, winemakers Xander Grier and Nathan Valentine named their label “Salt Rock” to denote the coastal influence on their wines (and yes, this is a follow-up to the Salt Rock Pét Nat from last month). According to the winemakers, the El Niño phenomenon began just as the wine started fermenting. This ‘El Niño’ uses Cinsault, a minor Rhône fresh and fruity variety best known as one of the parents of South Africa’s Pinotage. It uses minimal intervention and is a big brother to—you guessed it—the Salt Rock 'La Niña,’ derived from Sauvignon Blanc (maybe a future club wine?). Subtle floral notes of lavender plus raspberry, cranberry, and cherry dominate along with touches of white pepper and smoke. Try it with the vegetable korma plate at Sangham Indian Restaurant.
Heed James Rahn’s wise words: “Wine does not need to be draped in the mystique in which it is often clothed even though sometimes it merits magical status.” He insists that wine should be delicious, and his Gamay Noir certainly is! Sommelier James Rahn plunged into the world of winemaking with his desire to make wine more accessible and fun. He chooses to showcase 100% varietal grapes and not make blends. This Gamay Noir is light, approachable, and exhibits perfumed notes of peony and iris along with a touch of earthiness. Red fruits erupt in the nose and mouth, including cherry, cranberry, raspberry, red currant. Gamay pairs wonderfully with lighter grilled meats (there’s a reason Gamay is so popular at Thanksgiving!), but it is also an ideal partner for a charcuterie board from our friends at Ten:One Artisanal Cheese Shop.
Back-to-back Gamays, both in an Old World style, should be an interesting and fun comparison this month! There is a long history of winemaking in the Bouchard family, dating back to 1750 when Joseph Bouchard committed to being a wine broker instead of working in the fabric business, the family’s original trade. The Bouchard name has extensive roots in Burgundy and Beaujolais, and the portfolio of wine releases since the 18th century is staggering. This Gamay sings of essential Beaujolais, celebrating the pink granite soils and earthy terroir that make up Beaujolais-Villages. Aromas of rose and red fruits and, once imbibed, notes of strawberry and cherry are plentiful, mixed with savory minerality. A creamy poultry dish such as the stuffed chicken breast, along with its buttery mashed potatoes and fresh veggie of the day, from Houlihan’s, would be a pleasant pairing.
Montepulciano is a grape and a place, but the grape is never grown in the place (thanks, Italy!). Sanvito Montepulciano is grown in the region of Abruzzo, which borders the Adriatic Sea. Unlike the predominant grape of Italy, Sangiovese (which is grown in the town of Montepulciano!), the Monte grape is a bit more deeply colored, savory, and earthy. By the way, Montepulciano is Italy’s second most planted grape, and it is also often confused with another Sangiovese-based wine known as Vino Nobile di Montalcino (thanks, Italy!). The Sanvito offers up notes off violet, sour cherry, red plum, boysenberry (a sort of raspberry-blackberry hybrid), and dried Italian herbs. There may not be a better sensory experience than pairing this wine with your favorite pie from Zalat Pizza.
Legend has it that the term Merlot comes from merle, the French word for blackbird, a reference to its dark-hued berries. This McIntyre Merlot, from the region of Arroyo Seco in the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA, is grown in what is considered a ‘Goldilocks’ microclimate as the vines are not subjected to the Salinas Valley winds that other nearby vineyards suffer from, and the grapes are able to ripen fully in intense sunlight (it’s “just right”!). The experience of this wine is lush, juicy, and well-balanced, from the notes of iris, an earthy, spicy flower to blackberry, cassis, espresso bean, cocoa, and dried herbs. This wine would benefit from an equally compelling food pairing, something with dark meat, like the Steak Taco platter at Loco Café.
Circling back to Caymus and Suisan Valley, Jenny Wagner can also blow our minds with a complex blend of Zinfandel and Petite Sirah, humorously titled ‘The Walking Fool.’ The name is an homage to Jenny’s great-great grandfather who, despite losing four children, remained upbeat and humble throughout his life (and yes, he walked a lot). The wine’s spirit flower is the heliotrope, which emits a vanilla-cherry scent along with marzipan and licorice. ‘The Walking Fool’ bursts with red fruits galore: raspberry, cranberry, cherry, and strawberry. But it is the secondary and tertiary notes that abound, from cigar box to mocha to leather. The wine is juicy and decadent and begs for a hand-cut steak, like the Buffalo Ribeye, from Queenie’s.