Sancerre is best known by far for the production of Sauvignon Blanc over Pinot Noir, so much so that many would be surprised that as much as 20% of the region is planted to Pinot Noir (thinking that number would seem quite high). In truth, the second most compelling wine from Sancerre is usually the Rose based on Pinot Noir more-so than the reds. So to find a full blooded Pinot Noir from Sancerre that is not only quite good but an excellent value is stunning, especially as most consumers continue to fight the battle of finding Bourgogne styled Pinots without spending Bourgogne prices. Blended with some fruit from just outside the appellation keeps this wine from being called a Sancerre Rouge, but the minerality behind the fruit is indication of where it's from. A nice dark color for a Pinot Noir and it shows off nice darker cherry tones and red fruits on the nose. The chalky minerality give the palate a bit of a stronger tannin feel at first but evolves into something softer and quite elegant, keeping the dark fruits on the nose polished and pleasing on the palate. Fans of the French style of Pinot Noir should be all over giving this a try.
As the school season looms on the horizon for parents, students and teachers alike, we can still steal a bit more Summer in our glass with a classic Rose from Tavel. Despite being surrounded by famous red wine regions like Chateauneuf-du-Pape and Lirac, Tavel is the only AOC in the Rhone that is 100% dedicated to making Rose since it was established in 1936. Not coincidentally, that was the same year this family owned estate was established, making them particularly influential, as well as being one of the longest standing producers in the Kermit Lynch Imports portfolio. This is a Rose that has been influencing generations of wine drinkers, long before Bradgelina or Drew Barrymore caught wind of it and made it hip, and continues to make one of the best versions you can find for the money. While some Rhone and Provence Roses are made from lesser quality or younger vine sites, Trinquevedel has very well established vines in some of the choicest soils of Tavel, allowing the flesh and character to show through.
Though it is fairly ruby colored in the glass, this isn't heavy on Grenache as one would expect from Rhone Rose, which would make for a lower acid wine with lots of soft cherry tones. Tavel allows a maximum of 60%, but this bottling is a fairly broad blend that includes Cinsault, Mourvedre and Syrah as well as the white grape Clairette. The nose is cool strawberry with hints of Provence herbs and refreshing white fruits, and an impressively full texture on the palate that is both rich and vibrant at the same time, providing a long lingering finish of dried fruit skins. A great wine with Mediterranean seafood dishes, cool soups, and backyard sipping.
INSIDER'S PICK: 2015 PATRICIA GREEN CELLARS SAUVIGNON BLANC WILLAMETTE VALLEY (Vinous/Josh Raynolds 90points) $24.99
Patricia Green is one of the most influential winemakers in Oregon, having been involved in the industry since the late 80s, and one of the first female winemakers in the state when she took over her first vintage in 1992. Since breaking out and establishing her own label along with business partner Jim Anderson, the Patty Green label has been a consistent source of quality with their excellent variety of vineyard designated Pinot Noirs. White wines have been less of a focus, as the white wine scene in Oregon has been more Quixotic over the years. Pinos Gris is one of the more popular grapes there, but most of the plantings are made for wines that are a bit more basic than what the winery is looking for. The Chardonnay scene is improving as more wineries are moving to use the right clones in the right places, but there still aren't nearly as many quality sources for Chardonnay as there are for Pinot Noir. The one grape variety they have worked with consistently has been Sauvignon Blanc, which they were among the first to plant on their estate vineyard in 2000. In the time since they have encouraged other sites to plant the grape and have found sources that pass their high standards and can incorporate into their program. They now feature both an Estate bottling from their oldest parcel and this blend of Estate and locally sourced fruit, which by itself is superior to most winery's best efforts.
Pale pale gold and pouring with just the slightest pinpricks of CO2 bubbles that disappear immediately, the aromatics are clearly Loire inspired with almost salty lime and white citrus aromas with some spice and lemongrass emerging with time.Bright and juicy on the palate with an almost ginger-y spice to the tart citrus flavors is exceptionally refreshing and brings lots of subtle complexity across the finish. There isn't the chalky cut of minerality on the palate in the manner of a Sancerre, but the style and level of complexity is definitely in that league. A great food wine for pairing with citrus influenced white fish and seafood dishes, especially something that may have a Pan-American or Pacific Rim spice influence.
A bit bigger and bolder wine than we usually do during the oppressive heat of Summer, but a chance to feature a great deal on wines like this have to get showcased when they happen. Plus there appears to be a cool-down on the horizon this weekend, so there's a possibility you can enjoy this wine without being drenched in sweat. Domaine des Bosquets is one of the poster children of the Gigondas appellation, showing how this 'lesser' address can easily match and often exceed the quality of their more famous neighbor Chateaunuef-du-Pape. Fewer estates in Gigondas bottled their own wines than CNDP did historically, so the reputation for distinction took longer to build in the public's eye. Bosquets was purchased by the Brechet family in 1987 and established the property and their 65 acres as a standard bearer. With the exception of two tiny single parcel wines and a small amount of Rose, this is the focus of the estate, built from Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, and Cinsault, just like many of the big name wines down by the Pope's castle. But few if any of them can match what you're getting from this wine for the money.
From a more restrained vintage than has been the case in recent years, the aromas start out with just as much ripe red berry and raspberry as it does savory herbs and underbrush, more of a traditional profile. Plenty of complexity to be had, just not as much of the opulent and obvious warm fruits smacking you in the face. Loads of dark fruit and rich texture on the palate as well, surprisingly lush and silky as well considering the youth and savory flavor profile. Letting the wine open up more brings out a lot more of the red fruits and sweetens the palate a fair bit, but it isn't needed to soften out the tannins and texture, which also help to bring out the game and Provencal herbs through the finish. A great option for a little finer cut of meat coming off the grill this weekend, or one to stash away and savor in the cooler indoor months.
Not all Rose wines are created equally, especially in Virginia. Many are made just to satisfy the demand for a trend, leaving a bit of sugar behind just to distract from the blase quality of mediocre grapes and make it somewhat palatable. Grapes that are good enough to make decent Rose are usually needed to make more of the red wines, so there never seems to be enough of the good stuff to last through the Summer. One of the reasons we like what Early Mountain is doing with their rose program is they take it seriously from the very beginning of the growing season, designating blocks of vines to go into the wine and preparing it all the way through harvest. These blocks are harvested earlier than the rest of the harvest to retain acidity and pull out the refreshing lower alcohol character that makes the best Provencal wines so desirable. No afterthought assembly here.
Primarily a Merlot base, this year's creation has a strong influence from Syrah (a rarely planted grape in VA) and touches of Cabernet Franc and Malbec. Beautiful pale salmon color in the glass, the aromas capture the refreshingly dried side of cherries and strawberries, with a nice pop of fresh herbs and rainwater. The palate is straight out of the Provence textbook as well, mouthfilling and quenching at the same time with lots of tingly acidity and clean light fruit. This has no interest in being a fruity cocktail wine, but a perfect brunch or snacking wine with ceviche or light cheeses as well as cool salmon or chicken dishes.
On some of our hottest days of the year, few among us will be thinking about drinking Port over the next few weeks. The famous fortified wine has been the most significant product from the Douro River valley for centuries, but the demand has decreased greatly in the last few decades. To survive, more wineries are having to make wines for all seasons, and the development of more everyday white and red wines has blossomed. The new-found diversity is great for the adventurous consumer, as it brings lesser known grapes and flavors to the table for generally outstanding prices. The Passadouro vineyard has roots back to the famous Niepoort Port house (at one point featured as its own single Quinta bottling), now exemplify the positive changes of the Douro and providing a full portfolio of whites and reds at various prices that deliver the goods.
Built from local grapes varieties Rabigato and Códega do Larinho, the first pour shows lots of lime and green citrus aromas, a bit of cool mint and rainwater, with every signpost pointing towards the wine being completely refreshing. The first sip absolutely follows through with juicy quenching flavors that follow the aromas, nicely rounded on the palate thanks to some extra aging on the lees, bright and tart on the finish with world class levels of nerve that makes you salivate with an almost Pavlovian lack of control. The complexity builds as it gets warmer, but a wine this good won't be in the glass very long to let that happen. A great addition to the everyday rotation and perfect for light seafood dishes.
For the last Insider's Pick of this year's anniversary we decided to break out a rarity. A bit of a unicorn, actually, but definitely not priced how wines of this quality and scarcity usually would. Bernard Baudry is on the very short list of great Chinon producers, along with Philippe Alliet and Charles Joguet, helping to elevate the reputation of the region for over 40 years. Cabernet Franc is the focus grape by far here, with barely 5% planted to the other noble grape in this part of the Loire, Chenin Blanc. The style here, when done at all, is always dry, mirroring the Savennieres style further down the river. Baudry is one of the very few top producers to even make a Chenin Blanc, much less bother to feature plantings in a top vineyard, but the result is stunning.
From the first pour the rich, oily aromas of cool white fruits and Spring flowers come forth, and a constantly changing array of melon and citrus come forward as it opens up. Never fruity or tropical, but lots of intensity. The palate is equally complex and exciting, juicy and mouth-filling at first with lots of quince and pear, then quickly getting drier and racy showing off lots of mouthwatering lime, natural acidity and pulpy white fruit. While this may not be everyone's ideal cocktail wine, it would be amazing with a variety of citrus prepared dishes, from seafood to poultry, even standing up to pork.
We're offering free tastings as usual, this Thursday June 29th and Friday June 30th, 2016, and a 10% discount off the retail price of $28.99 for the Chinon Blanc through the duration of the day. Stop by between 12 Noon and 7:30pm for a free taste, and bring home some incredible wine.
INSIDER'S PICK: 2014 HALCON VINEYARDS PINOT NOIR MENDOCINO OPPENLANDER VINEYARD (Wine Advocate 93points) $31.99
Anyone that has driven along the Californian coastline -or sat in silence through a friend's or family member's thousands of pictures from their last trip (a little editing would be nice!)- can tell you how much the climate and landscape changes from mile to mile. Most wine fans are familiar with those variations in the more famous growing areas of Sonoma like Russian River Valley and the Sonoma Coast, as they are a much easier journey from the main population areas around San Pablo Bay. Further North the growing potential of Mendocino is just starting to be scratched outside of the Anderson Valley, and while the region may be too remote to become a tourist destination, the grape quality mandates that wine producers continue exploring. The Oppenlander vineyards is 20 acres of vines sitting on a family farm just 10 miles in from the ocean, uniquely planted to French Dijon clones on their own roots. This was a risky endeavor 20 years ago when they started because 'own rooted' vines are more susceptible to phylloxera and other potential diseases, but through their isolated situation and careful organic farming the vineyard is healthy and among the most sought after sources in Mendocino.
Deep ruby color in the glass, the aromas are big yet restrained, reflecting the cool climate of the vineyard with notes of dark earth and cola behind the briary black fruits, avoiding the bigger boozier profile many of the sweeter Pinot Noirs can show.The palate is equally vibrant and dark, hinting at some tart blackberry skin tannin behind the cool complex dark fruit with very little oak or jammy extracted texture getting in the way of the natural deliciousness. Yes, the farm is also famous for making blackberry jam, but absolutely NONE of it will be found in the wine!
One thing we enjoy about wines here is being able to present unique wines from around the world. We like to use the word 'identity' when we can, a wine that has a true sense of place. No contrived marketing, no focus group that tells what the wine SHOULD taste like, no desire to make a wine just so it appeals to as wide a population as possible. At the other end of the spectrum is a wine like this, built from a single older vine site in the Catalonian town of Pinell de Brai, and the blend of grapes comes from how the vineyard is planted. In the case of a producer like Mendall, there is the added distinct individuality in each wine from using the native yeasts from each vineyard to accomplish the fermentation instead of commercial yeasts. All this results in layers and layers of signature, distinctive flavors that provide a wine that is completely its own.
We will also be the first ones to admit, this individuality may not rub everyone the right way. The aromatics are dark with lots of plum and currants, a lot more savory than sweet in profile with notes of wild game and sun baked clay. There is also the suggestion of a yeasty note that comes with many wines that do native yeast fermentation, almost citrusy, but it does evolve away as the wine opens up and the dark fruits build. The mouthfeel is massive and chewy, lots of tannin and unfiltered texture which really drives the gamey flavors across the palate. It is definitely not a 'pop and go' wine for the evening; we have thrown part of the wine into a decanter today already, and anticipate this showing well all the way through the weekend. Many may prefer some wines with more immediate gratification, but those looking for a truly unique experience to stash in the cellar or play with over a weekend will enjoy this rare gem.
Dry Rose has been an immense part of the winemaking culture across Europe, especially over the last century. France in particular has created a large part of its industry around the wine, with many techniques perfected in the Provence/ Languedoc/Rhone regions that have become standards around the world. Many Americans tend to think that pink=sweet, and unfortunately an overwhelming number of wineries perpetuate that reputation, even the more 'serious' wineries. Thankfully more and more small independent wineries are applying the techniques of the great dry Rose producers to their own creations, and the quality and volume of pink juice is improving every vintage. Stolpman Vineyards is one of the more innovative producers in Santa Barbara's Ballard Canyon AVA, with a diversity of mostly Rhone varieties on their property planted in blocks of experimental methods to create a broad spectrum of wines. Their rose over the last decade+ has evolved using different grapes and techniques, settling in the last few years on being exclusively Grenache off their estate, with a few tweaks in the formula each year to improve and adapt to each growing season.
An extremely pale salmon color in the glass, especially for a Grenache based rose which usually get more cherry in color, all thanks to Stolpman harvesting specific blocks early to keep the color very low and acidity high. They also do a carbonic, or whole grape cluster, fermentation that creates more color and aroma without adding tannin, and blend that back in to create a final color they are happy with. The aroma is straight of of Provence with a perfume of fresh strawberry and watermelon with a touch of tart citrus peel. There is plenty of body behind the light refreshing fruit on the palate (and the surprisingly low 11%abv) that gives the pale fruits lots of juiciness, and the tingly acidity makes the finish light and lively. Fans of great French Rose should not turn up their noses at this wine, as they would likely be hard pressed to pick it out of a blind tasting as an outlier. Kudos to Stolpman!
The Best of the Best.
We offering free tastings on these wines in the store every Thursday and Friday, and a 10% discount off the retail price through the duration of the day. Come on by and give them a try!