A Special Start with our Sparkling Wine of the day.
Vespa ‘Il Bruno’ Primitivo Salento – Puglia, IT (Gold)
Gorgeous beaches are abundant on the limestone peninsula that makes up Salento in Puglia, but there are also 11,000 hectares of vineyards that make up the area, including Vespa Winery, in western Puglia. Riccardo Cotarella, the winemaker known as the “mago”—or wizard—is so named because he was instrumental in the Italian wine renaissance during the 1990s and early 2000s. Traditionally, Primitivo has been used as a blending grape, but renewed interest occurred when it was discovered to be genetically identical to Zinfandel. The Primitivo grape thrives in Puglia, and it is often a softer version of what is found in New World styles. The ‘Il Bruno’ invites you with tart red fruits along with spicy pepper and a velvety mouthfeel. A charcuterie plate from our friends at Ten:One Artisan Cheese would be an enticing pairing.
Chono Cabernet Sauvignon – Maipo Valley – CH (Gold)
The name ‘Chono’ may ring a bell as we experienced the Chono Red Blend on the Club about 18 months ago. The name refers to the indigenous nomadic tribe who inhabited the archipelago in Chilean Patagonia. Charles Darwin described the Chono as ‘intrepid pioneers,’ and the Chono brand, in homage to the past, believes that their viticulturalists and winemakers exhibit similar qualities, searching Chile’s best vineyards to create the most promising wine offerings. Each of Chono’s wines are sourced from single vineyards, which conveys their dedication to planting the best grapes in the most optimal locations. The Chono is a robust and rustic expression of Cabernet, showcasing cherry, strawberry, cassis, mint, and dark chocolate. Your choice of kebabs from Green Zatar would comprise a most complementary culinary experience.
Calçada Estates ‘Lago’ Cerqueira Tinto – Douro Valley – POR (Gold)
The Douro River has fostered wine production for more than 2,000 years. In 2001, it was demarcated as a UNESCO World Heritage site. While the region is certainly beautiful, the primary reason for its UNESCO recognition is due to the positive human influence on the shaping of the landscape. Spectacular terraces are cut into the valley, and the crystal-clear water reflects the changing colors of the vines throughout each season. Of course, this area is world-renowned for Port, but those same grapes can be produced into a nonfortified wine like the ‘Lago.’ Tinto Roriz (Tempranillo), Tinta Franca, Tinta Barroca, and Touriga Nacional constitute this wine, an inky and vigorous red blend. The initial red and black fruits are met with rich notes of bittersweet chocolate, coffee, and dried herbs. Burgers seem like a no-brainer coupling for this approachable wine, so order your favorite jumbo from Burger Time Machine and get after it!
Château Cordet Margaux – Margaux – FR (Baby Big Dog)
We have had a number of Bordeaux blends on the Club, and they are all delicious. Most are from either Entres-deux-Mers, the area between the Left and Right Bank, or from the Right Bank proper. Both regions make amazing wine, but the grapes are usually a little more Merlot- or Cabernet-Franc heavy (and not dominated by the world’s most famous red, Cabernet Sauvignon). But not this time! We present a Left-Bank Bordeaux from Margaux, an appellation in the Haut-Médoc, which lies about 15 minutes north of the city of Bordeaux. Comprised of a majority of Cab, the wine also has 25% Merlot 6% Cabernet Franc, and 4% Petit Verdot. Yes, this is our third Cabernet-focused wine on the lineup, and yes, it is luscious and age-worthy. Its seductive floral aromas of lilac and acacia flower invite you to take a taste, and then flavors of dark cherry, black currant, pepper, and leather command your attention. Innumerable dishes can be paired with the Château Cordet, but the wood-fired sirloin from Green House sure sounds delightful.
Wines are in order when tasting all 8 wines.
A perfect wine to start off Turkey Day festivities, Sauvignon Blanc is crisp, dry, and an excellent accompaniment to veggies. Famous in the Loire Valley of France and Chile, New Zealand reinvented Sauvignon Blanc in the 1980s, taking the world by storm. The grape thrives in cooler climates and, on the island terrain, takes on an aromatic and tropical character. It is extremely common to hear the term “grassy” as well—Sauv Blanc can smell like freshly mown grass, an appealing quality! Currently, Sauvignon Blanc makes up 85% of the wine exports from New Zealand. The quintessential Giesen hits the spot with mouth-watering acidity and flavors of passionfruit, pineapple, key lime, and freshly cut herbs. This wine is an easy match-up for crudités and salads as well as green bean casserole in the Thanksgiving Day lineup.
On the name alone, this wine would be a conversation starter. But then the taste takes that experience to a whole new level! Ministry of the Vinterior is a brand from negociant-turned-winemakers Elijah Pfister and Chris Nickolopoulos. Having worked in the industry for decades, they were gifted some surplus premium juice in 2009, during the recession. MOV was born, and their 2008 Cabernet was a huge success. Their bold claim of this Pinot is that “it’s the only wine the populace ever needs.” Layered and complex, it hits you with bright cherries, orange peel, and apricot along with aromas of violets and fig leaf rounded out by vanilla and caramel. Pinot Noir is, of course, the perfect Thanksgiving wine and would pair with multiple dishes, but anything on the creamier or fiery side, like spiced butternut squash, would be heavenly.
With eye-catching branding and a compelling story, Les Jamelles is a line of classic varieties that are grown in the Pays d’Oc, which covers the southern areas of France. Winemaker Catherine Delaunay uses her Burgundian pedigree to create superb and tasty wines along with husband Laurent. Working for a short time in California, they fell in love with the Languedoc-Roussillon regions and started their label in 1995. This Pinot Noir displays a bit more body and spice than some—it conveys the red berries of cherry, raspberry, and plum complemented by hints of toasty oak and vanilla. It is approachable and quaffable with almost any Thanksgiving course, but it seems illogical not to serve it with it with jammy, velvety cranberry sauce.
François de Monval, wine merchant, and Florent Girou, winemaker, decided to partner together to form ‘Les Équilibristes,’ which means tightrope walkers. Their goal is to shake up the traditional ways of viticulture, thus freeing themselves from old practices and habits so that they can craft some of the most vibrant and unique wine of their careers. The ‘Hirsute’ (roughly translated to shaggy) Rouge is a blend of Cabernet Franc (50%), Cabernet Sauvignon (25%), and Merlot (25%) cultivated in Bergerac, about 60 miles east of Bordeaux. Made with organic farming, this wine is a fascinating study in what grapes with minimal intervention can do. Aromas of cranberry, cherry, and blackberry awaken the senses, giving way to earth and bell pepper at the mid-palate. This wine is a tightrope walk in sophistication and natural oenology and would complement cornbread dressing with jalapeño peppers.
Leakey is a tiny community northwest of San Antonio in the beautiful Texas Hill Country (in 2021, only 445 people lived there!). In the past, Leaky was known more for pecan farming than grape growing until Tim Leach decided to grow Rhône varieties in Frio Canyon in 2008. The vineyard has been expanding their reach; they are currently constructing a 10,000 square foot underground cave built into the side of a hill, which will be the largest in Texas. Frio Canyon’s goal is to “produce superior red wines from Texas,” and this proprietary red blend is certainly a crowd-pleaser. Abundant in red and black fruits, the wine offers raspberries, candied cherries, and plum with five spice and tarragon on the finish. While it could hold up to various meats and game, it would shine next to fire-roasted root vegetables.
Grenache is the star of southern France, especially in Chateauneuf and Maury. For this selection, winemaker Jeff Carrel uses grapes from Maury, a sleepy town in the Mediterranean, near the border of Spain. The area has bitterly cold winters, exceedingly hot summers, and little rainfall. The soil, a combination of granite and schist, makes for difficult terrain (but is great for grape-growing!). This no doubt imparts an earthy quality to ‘Le Grenache Dans Le Peau,’ or Grenache Under My Skin. While mostly Grenache tempered with 20% Syrah, this wine seduces with dark fruits and spice. On the front are black cherries and dark plums. Raisins, spice, and an earthy quality hit the palate on the finish. This wine has been recognized with multiple accolades, including Wine Pleasures “50 Great Red Wines of the World” in 2023. A gorgeous pairing with any meat dish, it would also stand up to potatoes au gratin as mature cheeses love this wine.
Usually relegated to a blending grape, Petit Verdot originated in Bordeaux but has found its way to warm environs. The name means “little green,” which refers to the grape’s difficulty in reaching full phenolic ripeness (and its compact grape size). It is now being cultivated in Australia, Spain, Italy, California, Washington, Texas, and—yes—Chile. A richly-hued variety, Petit Verdot offers tannin for days but with balanced acidity and body. Korta chose one of the most prominent locations for Petit Verdot: the renowned Sagrada Familia Valley in Curicó Valley. The Korta ‘Barrel Selection’ Petit Verdot uses the best grapes from the region to create a wine that is full of flavor. It opens with floral aromas of lilac and violet, ascends with dark fruits, and then crescendos with chocolate, vanilla, and sage, leaving a lasting impression. Game and lamb would stand up to this wine, but so would the lovely main course, turkey with plentiful herbs and spices.
While we’ve seen an uptick in celebrities backing spirits brands lately, it was inevitable that a football player would turn to wine. Charles Woodson, Heisman Trophy winner, played for the Oakland Raiders and Green Bay Packers for a total of 18 seasons. Woodson fell in love with wine when he went to training camp in Napa Valley early in his career. He explains: “The name ‘Intercept’ is a nod to my career, but also a reminder that during every moment of your life, the possibilities are wide open. You just have to go get it.” And go for it, we shall with this delectable blend of Zinfandel, Syrah, Petite Sirah, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Mourvèdre. It has notes of blackberry preserves, sweet tobacco, savory herbs, and caramelized sugar along with fine-grained tannins and a spice-filled, lengthy finish. It’s the right wine for football and for the holidays. Pair it with your favorite meat and cheese appetizer.
Note: The October Wine Dinner, a five-course meal crafted by Denton celebrity chef Lanky is paired with eight wines. The first and last course have one wine pairing, and the other courses have two wine pairings; the order of the wines for our club tasting varies from the wine dinner. “Oui-Haw” refers to Lanky’s use of French techniques combined with bold Texas, Mexican, and Spanish flavors. Recipes will be available for you to recreate the menu!
(Listed in Tasting Order)
Sémillon is not the most common of white varieties. In fact, it is most often paired with scene-stealing Sauvignon Blanc throughout Bordeaux and Australia. This is because Sémillon can add substance and texture to the clean and herbaceous Sauv Blanc. However, Sémillon deserves our attention, and the ‘Fleur Moelleux’ allows the grape to take center stage. This Bordeaux Blanc is 100% Sémillon, which is the base for another famous dessert wine, Sauternes (this is not that!). Balanced, with some sweetness, notes of green apple, peach, guava, and honeysuckle dance around the palate. It is an excellent accompaniment to Chef Lanky’s final course, a Peach Sorbet with ancho chili whipped cream.
Famoso is an obscure grape (yes, it does translate to “famous”) native to the northeastern region of Italy. Nearly obliterated by phylloxera in the late 19th century, only two rows of the grape remained until it was rediscovered in the late 1900’s. While only a small amount is currently planted in Romagna (around 30 acres), the four generations of winemakers at Poderi dal Nespoli made it their mission to highlight and revitalize Famoso. Highly aromatic and with a chalky-but-pleasant texture, this wine evokes tropical fruits, pear, and stone fruits. The label reads “Be a star,” and this wine is sure to sparkle with its captivating and seductive flavors. It is a nice partner to Chef Lanky’s take on Elote, a sweet cornbread with jalapeño jam, corn butter, and cotija cheese.
Adama is a compelling line from the Western Cape in South Africa, championing both Black-owned and female-fronted winemaking. The ‘Her’ line from Adama takes their mission a step further by donating 2% of profits towards young black women’s post-secondary education. Pinotage, South Africa’s signature grape, is a cross of Pinot Noir and Cinsault, and it can be a very full-bodied wine. It is exciting to taste South Africa’s signature grape done in such a juicy, fruity way; not as heavy as some Pinotage renditions, the Adama summons red and black fruits, including strawberries, dark cherries, and figs, along with licorice and spice notes. In this instance, it would match marvelously with many foods (including Thanksgiving dinner!), but in this case, it serves as the first wine with Chef Lanky’s Smoked Salmon Tartare course.
Yes, you read that correctly: Peru is an up-and-coming area for viticulture. It is also the home of the oldest winery in all of South America, Tacama, dating back to 1540 when Spainard Francisco de Carabantes began growing grapes in Valle de Ica, nearly 200 miles south of modern-day Lima. Peru is usually known for Pisco, affectionately known as its ‘brandy grape,’ but international varieties are becoming more popular. This Selección Especial showcases Carménère, a Bordeaux grape with which Chile has had immense success. Carménère can be vegetal and peppery, but the notes on this wine are more refined and subtle; ripe cranberries, raspberries and plum intermingle with spice. It is an excellent food wine, and paired with Chef Lanky’s Potatas Bravo, which also includes chorizo, asparagus, and Manchego cheese, it is a delight.
If ever you are in the Hill Country, Pedernales has one of the most astonishing views around, and the wine is pretty spectacular as well. The ‘Six Generations’ named in the title refer to the legacy of the Kuhlken family, rooted in Texas since 1883. This wine spotlights Pedernales’ signature style, Rhône and Spanish grapes, as a blend consisting of 76% Mourvèdre, 8% Grenache, 8% Merlot, 4% Graciano, and 4% Carignan. These warm-weather grapes thrive in the Texas climate and result in smoky, peppery flavors that will work with many local cuisines. The wine also contributes dark fruit such as blackberry, plum, and blueberry, and the bramble notes (basically the leafy, twiggy parts of a plant or bush) are prominent. The ‘Six Generations’ Red Blend is the second wine in Chef Lanky’s potato course, making the chorizo a showpiece of the dish.
Bordeaux often conjures up images of multimillion dollar châteaux run by stuffy, upper crust vignerons who have caves and cellars covered by cobwebs and dust (or is that just me?!). Mary Taylor, négociante and wine importer, believes that wines should not break the bank but should exemplify the place where the grapes are grown. Her mission is to highlight small Europeans producers who are cultivating lovely wines that—in her words—their friends and neighbors can actually afford. Winemaker Jean Marc Barthez has crafted this Bordeaux Blend of 50% Merlot and equal parts Cabernet Sauvignon and Cab Franc that is both approachable and elegant. More refreshing than a typical Bordeaux, it offers blackberry, black cherry, earth, and graphite. It is a fascinating second wine with Chef Lanky’s second course, Smoked Salmon Tartare alongside a celery, apple, and radish salad.
The Luján de Cuyo region of Mendoza was recognized in 1993 as Argentina’s first named appellation, and it is home to the Alto Agrelo vineyard, which sits at an elevation of 3500 feet above sea level. Here is where winemaker Juan Pablo Murgia lovingly (devotedly?) nurtures the grapes that go into the Devoción Malbec. The line is so named because it “is rooted in our respect for Mendoza’s terroir, the environment, and ecological balance.” Using certified organic grapes is one way that Murgia stays true to their mission. But the flavor is all luxury: chocolate-covered cherries, blueberry compote, spearmint, mineral, and spice abound, and the inky purple hue of the wine is eye-catching. The powerful fruity character and full body make it a perfect initial pour to accompany Chef Lanky’s fourth course, Chicken Mole Risotto.
The Peirano ‘Heritage Collection’ line is a nod to a storied history that began when Giacomo Peirano came to California from Genoa, Italy, during the Gold Rush. Not hitting it big, he pivoted, opened up a mercantile, and awaited for his bride-to-be to travel to America. She brought along Primitivo (Italian Zinfandel) cuttings with her, which Giacomo planted in Lodi, and a thriving career in viticulture was born. Peirano diversified his varieties, moving beyond only Zinfandel, and now the brand grows Italian, French, and Spanish grapes. And this wine, luscious and mouth-filling Petite Sirah, is a wonderful conclusion to the tasting. The palate zings with ripe blueberries, blackberries, and plums and is rounded out by dark chocolate on the finish. It measures up beautifully as the second wine for Chicken Mole Risotto, the final savory course in Chef Lanky’s menu.
Can I just say how excited I am to have a Barbera on the Platinum Club this month? Barbera is the third most-planted grape in Italy, after Sangiovese and Montepulciano, and it is a great Tuesday (and Saturday) night wine. There is a saying in Piedmont that Nebbiolo (think Barolo or Barbaresco) is what every Italian wants to drink, but the bottle they grab instead is Barbera. And that is because Barbera is medium-bodied, high in acid, low in tannins, but is dripping in red fruits like maraschino cherries, strawberries, and raspberries. The Marchesi Incisa della Rocchetta ‘Valmorena’ Barbera on the September Club is also rounded out by luscious figs, dates, and chocolate. A meaty dish with mushroom sauce or an herb-crusted steak would be fantastic with this Barbera. We think it will become your Tuesday night wine, too!
Note: The September Wine Dinner, a five-course meal crafted by Chef Gabriela from Cheese and Salsa, Jack’s Tavern, and several other culinary businesses, is paired with eight wines. The savory courses have two wine pairings, and the order of the wines for our club tasting varies from the wine dinner. Recipes will be available for you to recreate the menu! See the menu below.
The grape sounds German, and it translates to “spicy grape.” The winery sounds German, too, at least in part: the married founders wanted to honor their heritage, thus naming it after towns in Italy and Germany. Now one of the oldest wineries in Texas, with four locations throughout the state, Messina Hof’s mission is “based on the three cornerstones of family, tradition, and romance.” With son Vincent at the helm as winemaker, Messina Hof seeks to make premium wine and offer exceptional experiences. This ‘Artist Series’ Gewürztraminer lives up to all that the grape is known for—floral aromas, tropical fruit, ginger, and lychee with a light, slightly golden hue and a medium body. It will pair nicely with Chef Gabriela’s first course, Sopa Izamal, a squash blossom and plantain soup.
Château Famaey began its story in the early 2000s when two Belgian friends, Luc Luyckx and Marc Van Antwerpen, were, in their words, “taken hostage by wine” in South-Central France, an area known for producing “the black wine of Cahors” (i.e., Malbec). Now family-run, Maarten Luyckx is the “Maître de Chai,” or cellar master, for Luc and Marc’s successful venture. Their Malbecs have been award-winning, and their use of organic and sustainable practices is of note. This Rosé of Malbec retains some of the grape’s fruity character but with elegance and higher acidity. Cranberry and strawberry meld with citrus notes to produce a wine that is refreshing and will complement many dishes. While a white wine might be a logical choice for a Peruvian Ceviche, this Malbec Rosé will bring out the fresh and zingy flavors of the second course on Chef Gabriela’s lineup.
One of the largest areas by available acreage in California but one of the smallest in terms of production, the Sierra Foothills AVA lies in the eastern part of the state in Amador County. Bill Easton, one of the original ‘Rhône Rangers’ and recipient of a lifetime achievement award for his contributions to the industry, began crafting wine in the 1980s, championing Rhône varieties. He firmly believes in extended bottle aging to create tertiary flavors, a practice the French call ‘élevage.’ The Terre Rouge Vin Gris, a rosé blend of—you guessed it!—Rhône grapes (Mourvèdre and Grenache co-fermented with Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, and Viognier) is a study in sophistication and makes nice companion as the second wine to the Sopa Izamal course.
A third-generation winemaker, Susie Bynum specializes in creating handcrafted, small lot, ultra-premium wines. She sources her grapes from sustainably-farmed vineyards in the Russian River Valley, an area her father, Davis Bynum, made famous with his successful viticultural ventures. Continuing the family tradition, Susie Bynum has found her own formula of wine wizardry through Burgundy-style grapes. This age-worthy Pinot Noir is terroir-driven, as it is produced in a cool climate area usually shrouded in early morning fog due to its proximity to the Pacific Ocean. Tart red fruits, plum, earth, cola, and cinnamon dominate the palate. It will brighten many dishes (Thanksgiving is around the corner!), but we have paired it with Chef Gabriela’s fourth course, Mackerel Wellington.
It’s been a minute since we had a Zinfandel on the club, and that could be fully attributed to the hundred degree temps we have had for months (but for those of you reading these notes in late September, it might be that there is a fall coolness in the air!). An offshoot of Scotto Cellars, the Silver Peak line connotes luxury and quality, all with an affordable price point. This Zin, a medium-bodied luscious libation that also has a touch of Barbera, will provide you all the jammy and velvety red and black fruits you have been craving. Dark cherry, raspberry, and blackberry envelop the palate with a rich but not overwhelming oaky spice. While Zin is normally associated with heavier dishes like barbecue and stews, it is being poured as the second wine for course four, a Mackerel Wellington, as it will hold up to the indulgent puff pastry.
Barbera is a wine of contradictions—it can be both light(ish) and intense, fruity and earthy, acidic and woodsy, but it is just as much of a wine for Tuesday night as it is a Saturday night. Nebbiolo, Piedmont’s flashier red variety, usually hogs the conversation, but Barbera deserves some attention. For a bit of trivia, it is the third most planted grape in Italy behind Sangiovese and Montepuciano. The nose on Barbera can be very floral, and this Marchesi entices us with violet notes. The palate offers maraschino cherry, dates, figs, and chocolate. It would be a delicious accompaniment to many foods (Barbera and pizza is heaven!). On Chef Gabriela’s menu, the Marchesi is the first wine poured with course 3, Inverted Meatballs.
Ribera del Duero, a top wine-producing region of Spain, is in Castilla y León, which lies in the northwest of the country. Ninety-five percent of the vines here are devoted to Tinto del País, or what we know as Tempranillo (trivia alert—Tempranillo is derived from the Spanish word for “early” as it is an early-ripening grape). The level of aging for this wine is determined by the “Crianza” category (which loosely translates to “bringing up”). A Spanish Crianza Red must be aged at least two years, of which six months is required to be barrel aged. Thus, there will be several tertiary aromas in this wine as it has been aged in the bottle at this point for a lengthy time. Blackcurrant, blueberry, and mocha tease your tastebuds, and then notes of smoke, cracked pepper, and baking spice linger on the finish. The Áster is a powerful wine to conclude the Inverted Meatballs course.
Murcia, a state in southeast Spain, champions a certain red grape that doesn’t always get a ton of attention: Monastrell (what we call Mourvèdre). Three small DOs (Denominacións de Origen) in Murcia are particularly known for tannic, richly-colored reds: Bullas, Yecla, and Jumilla. The Gil Family Estates—useless fact warning—is a sponsor of the 2023 Latin Grammy Awards; as viticulturalists, the brand focuses on robust reds throughout Spain. Producer Juan Gil has crafted a red blend from 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Monastrell, and 10% Syrah, all grown in Jumilla. When tasted, dark fruits of blackberry and black cherry emerge first, rounded out by chocolate and smoke. And while it is an admittedly controversial choice to pair with Ceviche, Chef Gabriela’s second course, the Juan Gil Red Blend will measure up to the vegetal cilantro and habanero notes that shine alongside the seafood.
Called the ‘Spanish Sauvignon Blanc,’ Verdejo is the signature grape of Rueda, a region of Castilla y León in northern Spain. Legend is that the Moors brought the grape to Spain about 1000 years ago, and the grape has thrived in Spain ever since. A perfect warm-weather wine, Verdejo is bright, crisp, and fruity, similar in body to a Sauvignon Blanc. A splendid food pairing for Verdejo is any dish with lime in it, which brings out both a citrus and an herbaceous note (fish tacos, anyone?). The Verdejo we are featuring at Steve’s this August, Neleman Verdejo, is actually sourced from Valencia, which is in the southeastern part of Spain. According to winemaker Derrick Neleman, you will earn “karma points” for choosing this 100% organic and vegan wine. The Verdejo label features a man riding a unicycle in a nod to Neleman’s Dutch heritage (there are 23 million bicycles in The Netherlands, in case you were wondering!). Come on over to Steve’s during these 100-degree temps and ask for a glass of Verdejo to quench your thirst and appease your desire to try something new!
While wine drinkers have varied—sometimes polarizing—opinions about Riesling, it is truly one of the most versatile grapes in the world because it can pair with a myriad of international cuisines, and it can, of course, run the gamut from very dry to sweet. Interestingly, some German brands have begun putting a “sweet” meter on the back of their bottles to ward off confusion. The Bauer Haus Riesling, a semisweet wine, has higher acidity, and brings a conversation-worthy nose with its floral and faint petrol aromas (very common in German Rieslings). When tasted, citrus, apricots and honey are at the forefront. The Bauer Haus complements Chef Suzanne’s Orange Cake with Dark Chocolate Mousse.
An interesting and refreshing Spanish white, Verdejo is a wonderful alternative to New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. While it can be expressed as a fuller-bodied wine if aged in oak, the Neleman Verdejo is crisp, fruity, and light. Winemaker Derrick Neleman’s motto is to “inspire and nurture the human spirit with all its wondrous glory and variety” with his wine, and the tropical flavors of pineapple and mango along with green apple and a lime note coalesce in the glass. Vegan, organic, and aged in stainless steel, the fruit is left to shine on its own. The Verdejo is the first wine to serve with Chef Sezanne’s Eggplant Caponata with Pecorino Crisp.
While a sparkling red may not be at the top of everyone’s list, we ask that you give this lovely Lambrusco a chance. Lambrusco styles range from very fruity and bright to tannic and full-bodied. This wine, somewhere in the middle, is an August thirst-quencher (and porch pounder). With gentle bubbles and an intense ruby hue, the Cantini di Sorbara Lambrusco delights with tart red fruits, Italian herbs, and candied orange peel. It is a wine that gives a nod to the past (remember Riunite?) while embracing modernity and pleasing many wine drinkers. It also enhances the Eggplant Caponata and serves as a good transition to the next course.
Pinot Nero (Noir) is one of the red international varieties that has had commercial success in Italy, a country known for having hundreds of indigenous grapes. While it is a complex and difficult grape to cultivate, when done well, Pinot Noir is a treasure, with or without food. The Italo Cescon Pinot, named for the patriarch and winemaker of the family, gives off red fruit vibes, from cherry to boysenberry to red currant and cranberry. Italian herbs and clove round out a satisfying finish. The bottle is a showpiece as well, with its tied cane and ribbon, a practice the family started in the 1950s. This wine is an elegant initial accompaniment to Chef Suzanne’s Tomato Sorbet with Mozzarella Mousse.
Fattoria Poggio Alloro Chianti – Tuscany – IT (Gold)
Idyllic Tuscany with its rolling hills and cypress trees…and to add to the mystique, picture a charming farmhouse (with rooms to rent!) and bay laurel bushes all over the grounds, emitting a fragrant herby scent in the sun-soaked countryside. Yes, we are enticing you to go visit Fattoria Poggio Alloro, which is near San Gimignano, an area well-known for the white wine Vernaccia. In addition to hospitality, Fattoria Poggio Alloro crafts a tasty Chianti. Primarily made with Sangiovese—but also with the indigenous grapes of Canaiolo, Colorino, and Ciliegiolo—this Chianti is medium-bodied with the flavor profile of crushed violets, cherry, and red licorice, along with some earthy notes and spice, making it an excellent conclusion to the Tomato Sorbet.
We recently had a Cabernet Franc (yep, Cheryl is partial) from Argentina, so it’s interesting to have the same variety from its birthplace, France. While Cab Franc thrives in Bordeaux, it is also a staple of Saumur, in the Loire Valley. Saumur’s warm summers and cold winters allow a full expression of the grape’s peppery and flinty flavors. Furthermore, on the palette, notes of plum, cherry, and black pepper emerge. Perfumed, juicy, and expressive, the Arnaud Lambert is a fantastic wine for late summer, fall, winter, and—yes—spring (did you forget Cheryl loves Cab Franc?). Arnaud Lambert considers himself a “Loire Artisan” whose goal is to craft wines with purity and precision, and a glass should accompany your first bites of Chef Suzanne’s Octopus Carpaccio and Potato Puree.
Zestos’ Garnacha is cultivated in the high elevation vineyards of San Martin Valdeiglesias, northwest of Madrid. The vines, grown in sandy and granite soil, are around 80 years old, and the result of old vines is luscious, highly concentrated, lower-yield fruit. The Zestos Garnacha grapes are perfectly ripe at harvest and impart floral and mineral-driven flavors. The winemakers strive to preserve that fruitiness by aging the wine in stainless and cement. A vivid ruby hue, the wine offers notes of blackberry, cherry, white pepper, and earth. The Zestos label includes a logo that says “Vinos Regionales – Respeto y Tradición,” a commitment to preserving old-world practices. The Zestos Garnacha is a unique merging of history in an up-and-coming wine region. It can best be enjoyed as the opening wine for Chef Suzanne’s Seared Lamb and Farro Salad course.
While this is the second Sangiovese on the lineup (and the fourth Italian wine!), it is certainly an interesting experiment to compare the two Tuscan reds. The Banfi uses the Governo technique, an ancient winemaking method which, in the 14th century, helped to stabilize high acid wines like Sangiovese during fermentation. In modern times, an added benefit to “Governo” is that a wine becomes a bit more luxurious and jammy by contributing partially withered grapes to the fermenting wine. Banfi may be a well-known name, but it is a young winery (at just 45 years old!) seeking to create a “stil novo” (new style). Floral on the nose, the wine evolves into maraschino cherry, raspberry jam, and black plum with a savory finish with a touch of spice. It is a nice way to finish the Octopus Carpaccio course.
An “up-and-coming” viticulture area for the past 30 or so years, the Judean Hills are a mountain range that extends up to 3,280 feet surrounding the city of Jerusalem. Despite the newer press, according to Catherine Todd of Forbes Magazine, “Old terraces carved into the rock and ancient limestone wine presses hint towards winemaking that goes back for thousands of years.” The region forms a paradox of modern winemaking techniques and traditional practices, like certifying wine as Kosher. The climate, conducive for grape growing with its warm summers and cold winters, produces fruity but earthy Cabernet. The Zion ‘Capital’ Cab wraps you up in blueberry, blackberry, and plummy goodness and then finishes with a bit of savory herb and spice. A satisfying conclusion to the Seared Lamb and Potato course, it is also a perfect way to end the August Platinum lineup.
Crisp, refreshing, tingly…July begs for a Prosecco. The San Martino winery is housed between the hills of Valdobbiadene, near the Piave River, and Conegliano, both areas famous for producing Italy’s sparkling delight, Prosecco. Generally lighter and fruitier than Champagne and Cava, Prosecco has broken sales records in the past several years. This brut wine, made with the Glera variety, retains the slightest hint of residual sugar to balance its zingy acidity. It is also a “millesimato,” which means it is a vintaged wine, only crafted in the best years. Also of note is its shapely, beveled, and dark bottle, which would impress any fan of spumante wine. Scents of white flowers plus green apple, citrus and tangerine notes are abundant. While Prosecco and sparkling wines in general go with many different foods, especially fried foods, we suggest going in a more elegant route with your favorite fish dish or sushi, like the Endless Love roll from Sushi Café.
Vignoble de Reveur ‘Pierres Sauvages’ White – Alsace AOC – FR (Platinum)
A triple threat of Pinots, the ‘Pierres Sauvages’ is certainly a wine that you will ponder, even after leaving the tasting. Pinot Blanc and Gris are color mutations of the Pinot Noir variety, producing white wines. The winemakers chose a longer maceration, leaving the juice in contact with the skins and seeds (although the Pinot Noir was left on a shorter time), and they aged the wine on the lees for a year; both techniques contribute to more complexity and body. This blend exhibits interesting aromas of honeysuckle, subtle citrus, dried golden raisins, and yellow apple with a touch of salinity. While a classic Alsatian wine pairing is foie gras, you could grab something a bit less expensive, like the Gobi Manchurian appetizer from Sangam Indian Restaurant.
Maddelena Rosé – Paso Robles AVA – CA (Gold)
July is the perfect temperature for rosé, and the Maddelena will surely hit the spot! Maddelena falls under the umbrella of Riboli Family Wines, the four-generation family that operates the famous San Antonio Winery in California, which was awarded “Winery of the Year” by Wine Spectator in 2018. Sourced predominately from Grenache, with a touch of Syrah and Primitivo (also known as Zinfandel in Italy), this wine boasts zippy acidity and tangy fruits. Strawberry, watermelon, white peach, and hints of rose flower infuse both the nose and the palate. Rosés go with so many cuisines, but a delightful pairing would be the Chicken Florentine from Fera’s Italian. Or if at a picnic or poolside, try it with chicken salad.
Alta Marfa ‘Super TX’ Tempranillo – Texas Davis Mountains AVA – TX (Platinum)
When you think of Marfa, you might think of a bustling art scene and the Prada permanent sculpture installation that people Instagram on their way to the next big Texas town (three hours away…). But in true reinvention mode, the city has given birth to its first boutique winery, Alta Marfa. Embracing natural viticulture, Alta Marfa’s mission is to “make any drinker feel welcome, excited, and interested” about wine, whether a novice or a connoisseur. The ‘Super TX’ is 100% “Deluxe Tempranillo” sourced from multiple soil types and from three distinct regions of the state. It boasts juicy black currants, black cherry, and subtle spices. An interesting and enjoyable pairing with this wine would be the BBQ Brisket Taco at Rusty Taco.
In addition to having a fantastic name, the Domaine du Grand Belly estate is steeped in history. The original farmhouse was built by Italian charcoal makers who supplied Pope Clement V with all his carbon-based needs at his palace in Avignon, about 10 miles away. Currently, the estate is a sought-after wine resort and can be rented out for weddings and other celebrations (talk about an upgrade from coal!). The Domaine specializes in Côtes du Rhône, which is typically a red blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre (but could have up to 12 other grapes). In this case, it is an S-G-M, consisting of 50% Syrah, 40% Grenache, and 10% Mourvèdre. Bursting with red fruits, garrigue, and spice, this wine is easy-drinking and smooth. Game is the traditional pairing for a Côtes du Rhône, but the Smoky Mountain pulled pork sandwich platter from Juicy Pig Barbecue will do the trick!
Bodegas Añadas developed the “Care” line to showcase the city of Cariñena, in Aragon, which the ancient Romans nicknamed "Care.” The winemakers also pledge that their passion for vinification aligns with the English word “care,” so this wine is full of double entendre! Seeking to become the pioneers of Garnacha in Spain, the Tinto Sobre Lías is predominantly Garnacha with some Syrah. The Garnacha variety is drought- and wind-resistant, both constant concerns in Aragon, and delivers juicy, fruity wine. The Tinto evokes black and red fruits, from black cherry to plum, and finishes with mocha and spice. While this Spanish red would partner well with any grilled meats, stews, or casseroles, for something more nontraditional, try it with the Lamb Souvlakis from Feta’s Food truck, usually situated in front of Oak Street Draft House.
A winery devoted to the Pacific Northwest, Cedar + Salmon seeks to highlight the terroir of the second (WA) and fifth largest (OR) producing states of wine in the nation. In this case, southeastern Washington is the star. Mostly Bordeaux-style, this wine is blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Grenache, and Cabernet Franc. The varieties work together to produce big fruit, floral and herby aromas, plus silky tannins. Wild dark fruits, including black cherry and blackberry, are palpable, along with violet, allspice, and hazelnut. Despite the not-so-subtle salmon messaging of the brand, heaven on earth could be achieved with a glass of this red blend with the Smoked Wagyu Short Ribs from the Bartonville Store and Jeter’s Meat Shop. Yes, it’s a bit of a drive, but it’s a sensory experience!
Many people ask about the differences in Syrah and Shiraz, and while there may not be one perfect summation, in general, Shiraz connotes a warmer climate, riper fruit, fuller body, and higher alcohol as opposed to Syrah, which can be a little leaner and more elegant. Australia brilliantly co-opted the grape from France (and certainly other wine regions) and turned Shiraz into its signature red wine. McLaren Vale just so happens to fall in South Australia, with its Mediterranean climate and sunny weather. The ‘Red Silk,’ produced from family-owned Oliverhill, is fuller-bodied, plush, and jammy, and comes in at a whopping 15.3% ABV! Luscious dark red and black fruits as well as cola and vanilla coalesce into a pleasant, if not hot, wine. The Ka-Pow spicy beef entrée at Andaman Thai Restaurant would partner nicely with the ‘Red Silk.’
June weather begs for a cool, crisp porch pounder, and the Nortico Alvarinho will assuage you! Positioned on the southern banks of the Minho River in far north Vinho Verde region, Galicia, Spain is just on the other side of the river. In the Minho region, the towns of Monção and Melgaço, solely devoted to the Alvarinho varietal, are like a walk back in time as ruins of medieval castles are dotted throughout the area. Using centuries’ old techniques, Alvarinho vines are planted in small granite plots (pergolas) known as “jardins” because they look like tiny gardens of grapey goodness. Interestingly, the Nortico allows the grapes to shine without the addition of aeration (i.e., carbon dioxide) as is the case with so many other Vinho Verdes. What you experience is lime, yellow apple, peach, and saline minerality with a clean finish. While the Portuguese love to accompany an Alvarinho with cornbread and butter, we suggest trying the Bermuda Barracuda fish tacos from Killer’s Tacos.
The world can be split into Chardonnay lovers and “ABC” fiends—Anything But Chardonnay. Chardonnay is the winemaker’s dream grape because it is neutral in nature, and winemakers are free to experiment and influence the grape however they see fit. While we at Steve’s have recently offered more lean, steely, and mineral options, this Chard is not that. It is truly what a big California Chard is supposed to be; it will please the Chard diehards and, although it may not recruit the “ABC’s,” it does its best to entice. Prominent notes of pear, tropical fruits, apricot, and nectarine are enveloped with vanilla, caramel, and yes, butter. The 14-month sur lies aging gives the wine a creamy feel. You just have to pair this wine with something creamy and delicious, like the Blackened Chicken Alfredo from Frilly’s Seafood Bayou Kitchen.
While Serbia may not be the first location you think of when it comes to wine, this unique offering really showcases the Balkans. Sfera comes from the Serbian word for “sphere,” referring to the round concrete vessel that is used in much of Bikicki’s winemaking process, and the “noir” is comprised of Pinot Noir and Black Muscat. Don’t let the name muscat deter you—this is a dry wine that really empowers the red and black fruits to sing. A low-intervention wine that uses native yeasts and used barrique aging, Sfera Noir is truly delightful and has surprisingly high alcohol (at 14.5%!). Subtle notes of rose mixed with cherry, plum, cranberry, and blackberry are rounded out with a touch of spice. Try it with the Harvest Bowl from Soulgood Vegan Café.
Larry Levin, winemaker for Block Nine, is a champion of Pinot Noir. Block Nine is just one of his many ventures, as he has had a hand in leading other well-known brands such as Quintessa, Franciscan, Mount Veeder, and Estancia, as well as projects in several states as well as Argentina. He calls himself a “vine to wine” consultant, and his experience with viticulture is evident when tasting this Pinot Noir. Well-balanced and unintimidating, it will entice white and bold red drinkers because of its accessibility and approachability. Floral aromas are complemented by red fruits, black tea, and spice on the palate. Pinot offers so many great pairings, but partnering this one with the Mesquite-Grilled Salmon from Prairie House will certainly prove tasty.
The Zuccardi Winery is having a moment. After planting their first vines in in Mendoza in 1963, the family has not only ensconced itself in Argentina, but in the world. Robert Parker has awarded three of their wines with 100 points, and Wine Enthusiast magazine has labeled them as “Best Winery in the New World” AND inducted them into the Best Vineyards’ Hall of Fame (bet you didn’t know that was a thing!). With a young research and development team, Sebastián Zuccardi has created the ideal winemaking vessel for them, a concrete vat with a long, tapered neck, “the element that makes it possible to work more naturally with the grape juices and wines.” He eschews oak aging and long maceration periods, wanting the fruit to speak for itself with minimal intervention. Through innovation and terroir-driven viticulture, Zuccardi has produced this Q Cabernet Franc (Q for quality!), with its gorgeous cherry, raspberry, cassis, and violet flavors. Almost any grilled or smoked meat would work well with Cab Franc, but for fun, treat yourself to the Smoked Shiner Pork Loin at Greenhouse and mix a little Argentina with your Texas.
Few Texas winemakers have fought for Texas wine to be seen as legitimate more than William “Bill” Blackmon and Chris Brundrett. Since 2017, they have pushed for legislation similar to California’s; the goal being when you experience a Texas wine, the grapes should actually be from Texas. In 2021, a compromise bill was passed (they didn’t get their 100%er): if a label specifies one of eight Texas AVAs, 85% minimum must come from that AVA (similar to the EU’s laws), and if a label designates a vineyard, at least 95% must originate from the stated vineyard. William Chris proudly displays the “Grown in Texas” logo on their bottles, and this ‘Skeleton Key’ Cab showcases High Plains fruit. It has some quintessential Cab notes: black cherry, cassis, subtle green bell pepper, and baking spices and would definitely be complemented with BBQ or something like the Ranch Hand burger from The Dive Bar and Restaurant.
The Flor d’Penalva Tinto is a lovely red blend of three grapes: Touriga Nacional, Tinto Roriz (also known as Tempranillo), and Tinta Pinheira, usually used for blending. Touriga Nacional is most often associated as the primary variety used in Ports, so all three of these combined coalesces into a richly-hued, tannic, full-bodied red. Notes of violet, plum, forest fruits, and earth prevail, and the Flor de Penalva is satisfying and quaffable. While a rustic Portuguese recommendation would pair this wine with grilled lamb hearts, I say let’s go in a different direction with some Thai food. The Beef Mas-Sa-Mun Curry dish at Thai Square will whet your appetite.
While we have enjoyed Piattelli before at the bar, it is always fun to entice with a smooth and bold red, especially at the end of a tasting. Piattelli is led by female winemaker Valeria Antolin, who has been with Piattelli since its inception, worked her way up the ranks. Piattelli wines, highly rated in Wine Spectator, sources grapes for this wine from old vines in Luján de Cuyo and the Uco Valley. The ‘Trinita’ is a blend of Malbec, Cabernet, and Merlot, and evokes a luscious black currant flavor bomb, with plummy, cherry, and mocha notes along with spice from 24 months of oak and bottle aging. The braised short rib plate from our friends at The Chestnut Tree would be a wonderful accompaniment to the ’Trinita.’
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.