It can be difficult to find an 'everyday' version of Nebbiolo, even from the Piedmont where it is the most noble of grapes. The problem is part reputation and part genetics; the reputation for greatness tends to have it planted in the best growing sites destined to make the best wines year after year, and its genetics make it a tricky grape to grow, 'needing' an optimum site. Barbera and Dolcetto perform far better in those lesser sites, so their wines make up the large portion of everyday drinkers. The region of Roero in the northern portion of Alba doesn't have the premium reputation for their red wines of Barolo and Barbaresco just South of them across the Tanaro River. In fact their reputation with the white varietal Arneis is more renown, having the DOC designation for the reds coming significantly after the whites. The quality here is sneaky excellent, especially when you consider this is close to the top end of the price point for Roero. Fratelli Rabino is a long standing producer in the region with vineyards in several of the premium districts of Roero. Their Roero DOC wine is built to be more Barbaresco-esque with more aging in new barrels, while this Nebbiolo d'Alba is one of the best 'drink now' versions of Nebbiolo we've come across. Aged and assembled in larger multi-use barrels only, the aromatics are so fresh, almost flowery, covered in dried red fruits and tobacco leaf with notes of almost citrus peel at the finish. It doesn't need decanting much to get rolling, but it does continue to get prettier over several hours. The palate is mostly dry dusty fruit and cedar tones that get redder and fuller over time, which really shows off Nebbiolo's super-fine grit tannins on the finish. An elegant pairing with meaty, mushroomy dishes that don't need the pomp and circumstance of a higher end wine.
White Rhone wines are in less demand than they used to be, and have been losing acreage in much of the region to be planted to more popular red varieties. A shame, for when you find a nice one they can really add good complexity and diversity to your white wine drinking repertoire. The wines are generally blends just like the red ones, and the different combinations of partners and percentages allow for endless possibilities. Clairette is a workhorse grape here (along with Grenache Blanc) that makes up a good chunk of the blend to make it a value, while Roussanne and Marsanne provide a bit of exotic character you usually don't find in wines at this range. Clean and unoaked aromas of white flowers, tea and a touch of citrus peel pop from the glass, catching your attention without being heavy or overpowering. The palate has a great unctuous feel to it while still having lots of zest and brightness, almost creamy and citrusy at the same time and finishing with a note of melon rind. This type of wine matches very well with Mediterranean vegetable and fish preparations, oily but not heavy dishes.
Cabernet Sauvignon grown in Virginia is 'tricky' (using that term with as much kindness as possible), with our widely varying seasonal conditions year after year making it incredibly difficult to feature. Where Cabernet Franc and Merlot can be more forgiving and consistent in tougher years, Cab Sauv can vary wildly in what it offers, and it's very hard to invest that time/money/energy when you don't know what you are going to get. There are some spots where it IS successful (often very small ones), so when we can find them we will champion them. For Jump Mountain over in Rockbridge Baths, that spot is the sunny South/Southwest facing slope of their vineyard. Nice dark color in the glass with a Bordeaux-style nose of currants, cranberry and pencil lead without a strong presence of oak and a slight pepperiness. On the palate the fruit is bright with some dried cherry skin character and very fine tannins for a Cab Sauv, finishing savory with a touch of a tomato water note. A very tasty no-nonsense Cabernet Sauvignon, and a very solid price to boot!
Italy is a constant source of unique grape varieties to experience, with every region having their own catalog of wines native to them. Even if a grape seemingly gets the 'popularity bump' of getting featured in a new part of the world it may not become a name that's recognized by most consumers. Grignolino is such a grape, very much a secondary citizen in its native Piedmont. It's a very unique grape in that the skin is fairly pale in color, yet it makes a fairly tannic wine due to the high number of seed pips inside (the name Grignolino comes from the local term for seed pips). The grape has some fans in various parts of the world, among the most famous is Napa Valley icon Heitz Cellars who have done a Rose/pale Red from the grape for many years, yet it has never really caught on all that broadly. A shame when there can be such lovely quality in wines such as this. Surprisingly deep-for-a-Grignolino ruby color, the nose is full of dried berry and citrus notes, almost mouth-watering just by aromas alone. There is a bit of a gaminess there as well that often lends the grape to be compared to Gamay from Beaujolais, but the citrus tone brings a distinct fire. The palate is where Grignolino gets very sneaky, starting out light with crunchy dried berries then getting persistently drier until finishing downright dusty. Fans of a higher toned, more acid driven wine definitely need to give this a try, ideal to match with salumi or meat dishes that have a strong salty component (think capers or anchovies).
INSIDER'S PICK: 2020 ESK VALLEY CABERNET SAUVIGNON/ MERLOT/MALBEC GIMBLETT GRAVELS HAWKES BAY $22.99
Most of the attention for New Zealand wines is on the Marlborough region and the South island, as it is the region that produces the most volume and gets to most consumer's eyes. The North island has a completely different set of geographic and environmental conditions, and while you don't see the volume of production the quality is definitely worth pursuing. The warmer overall climate helps the island do well with many red grapes, especially the Bordeaux varietals. One area in Hawkes Bay has become particularly noteworthy over the years because its well-draining rocky soil mimics what is found in Graves and much of Bordeaux's famous Right Bank. The Gimblett Gravels sits along the Ngaruroro River, with much of the exposed gravely features recently exposed by floods within the last 200 years. This type of soil is ideal for consistently ripening Cabernet Sauvignon, and is the backbone for many great wines in this area. Inky color (you don't even realize until you pour a little bit out that the bottle is completely clear) with immediate aromas of cool dark fruits and tobacco or eucalyptus, even a bit minty, definitely more of an Old School character. The palate is surprisingly silky at first, with some of the Cab Sauv tannins showing up more towards the finish, and the blacker fruits from the Malbec show up nicely as well, but the wine overall is surprisingly elegant, even restrained, and shows off a very Bordeaux-like alcohol balance. A bit youthful with some potential to age and evolve, fans of Old World wines will be surprised what the Gravels has to offer.
NV RUBUS BLANC DE BLANC BRUT-$10.99
NV CHAMPAGNE TROUILLARD 'EXTRA SELECTION' BRUT-$37.99
NV ROLAND CHAMPION CHAMPAGNE GRAND CRU BLANC DE BLANC 'ECLAT DE CRAIE'-$42.99
2020 PATRICIA RAQUIN BOURGOGNE PINOT NOIR-$24.99
We wanted to end the year on a high note, and since it's been a few years since we have been able to do a tasting in the lead-up to New year's Eve, we wanted to do it right. So we have our good friend Bob Widdows from the Winchester based importer Kysela Pere et Fils in the store today to pour you some of their wines that will more than get you into the celebratory spirit. Three sparkling wines and one newly arrived red Burgundy (for those that just aren't in the mood for bubbles) will be available to taste today and tomorrow, and all four will take the Insider's Pick 10% discount on both days. Not pictured, and not available for tasting but eligible for the 10% discount, is the 2016 Rolland Champion Blanc de Blanc Grand Cru 'Special Club' ($74.99) while supplies last. If you are looking for something a little more distinctive and unique for your celebration, please ask Bob for all the details about this special wine. Hope to see you here, and if not have a safe and wonderful New Years!
INSIDER'S PICK SPECIAL w/BROCK KAPPERS OF WINEBOW 1-5pm 2021 YALUMBA 'Y SERIES' VIOGNIER SOUTH AUSTRALIA-$14.99 2021 BARBOURSVILLE VINEYARDS CHARDONNAY VIRGINIA-$17.99 2021 G.D. VAJRA VINO ROSATO 'ROSA BELLA' ITALY-$21.99 2020 TURLEY WINE CELLARS OLD V
We wanted to do something a little more special for our last Insider's Pick before Christmas, especially since it's been far too many years since we've been able to do one. Also figured you may need a little bit of extra motivation to get out in this dreary weather. So we invited our long time friend Brock Kappers from Winebow imports to break out a nice selection for a Thursday tasting that would usually be reserved for Saturday. All four wines are available for the Insider's Pick discount, so you have your choice of what you want to take home, and they will all be available or tasting (and discounts) on Friday as well. Brock won't be here tomorrow, unfortunately, so if you want the pleasure of his company while tasting wines today is your day. Hope to see you here!
Though they've only been making wines since 2008, Birichino (pronouonced 'biri-kino', Italian for being mischievous) has made a sizeable impact on the Californian wine scene as one of the best names to know for 'hands-off' winemaking. Their initial focus surprisingly was Malvasia, creating uniquely floral yet dry examples of the grape that few were even attempting, and shortly thereafter finding vineyards to source for making equally unique reds. Their methodology- native yeasts for fermentation, neutral oak, use of whole clusters for both reds and whites- generally creates more of a European/Old World style with less alcohol and extracted character, but adds vibrancy and a distinct racy freshness that has won over many many fans. The bulk of fruit for their St Georges series of wines comes from the Besson Vineyard, a family farm first planted by Italian bootleggers at the turn of the 1900's, and exists merely yards below the southern boundary of the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA. For the Pinot Noir they source some additional fruit from nearby vineyards in the Chalone AVA and Lime Kiln Valley, with all the fruit handled to the same care as their home vineyard. The resulting wine is definitively Californian, but runs contrary to the stereotype of what Cali Pinot tends to be. Zigs where it usually zags, snappy instead of sappy, a flurry of punches instead of a knockout swing. The nose is full of dark cherry and cool cola with no heady tones or sweetness, with some citrus notes as it opens up more and more. The palate is where the wine either makes it or breaks it for Pinot fans; crunchy, tart red fruits with very fine and light earthy tannins, finishing with a mouthwateringly citrus and blood orange note. If you like it jammy, this won't be your, well, jam. If you like it lithe and racy, you will be in love.
For the last few hundred years the Douro River valley's has been almost exclusively known for it's production of Port, deservedly recognized as one of the world's great fortified wines. Recent decades have seen a continuous decrease in the demand for these types of wines; speculation, but many see it as a general move away from the sweetness and high alcohol in the wine, as well as the perceived 'need' to age them. Many wineries have converted more of their harvest to making regular unfortified table wines, and has helped Portugal emerge recently as a strong source for value wines. It's also spurred a lot of new wave winemakers to explore and embrace the region's history beyond fortified wines, finding forgotten terroirs and elevating them in brand new ways. Luis Seabra is one of the leaders in this movement, described by wine writer Eric Asimov as 'making some of Portugal's most compelling wines, both red and white'. His wines are similar to our favorite old vine Zinfandel producers in California, in that they embrace the whole of the vineyards and all the varietals that may be planted in these older mixed sites instead of cherry picking certain grapes. The Xisto Ilimito bottling is his entry level to his single site 'Cru' wines, a blend from three subzones in the Douro all planted on schist soils and featuring seven different native varietals that, other than Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo), will not be familiar to anyone. This wine breaks a lot of preconceptions about Douro wines, especially the ones of them being heavy and alcoholic. Dark with lots of tarry, briary black fruits on the nose at first, it's young and tight and takes some swirling or even decanting to coax out the floral, almost citrusy side. The palate is earthy with very fine drying tannins, very energetic and minerally, taking some extra time open for the fruit to show up as much as it does on the nose. This has shown the ability to evolve for more than a few years into an exotic, savory and uniquely complex red, and would want a pretty hearty meal and some decanting to show it off now.
The Insider's Pick wine will be available to taste Thursday and Friday and gets a 10% discount during the tasting. Come on by and taste some delicious wine!
In most growing areas, Pinot Blanc tends to be more of a workhorse grape than a superstar. It pops up across much of Europe (called Pinot Bianco or Weissburgunder in some countries) and makes clean, bright wines with nice acidity if not a lot of intensity or aromatics. The term 'quiet' gets applied to their wines with some frequency, sort of a damning with faint praise. In the right hands, with a bit of love and extra labor, it can make wine that rivals its more famous vineyard mates of Riesling and Pinot Gris. One producer we have, Cantina Terlano from the Alto Adige in Italy, makes some of the very best versions of the grape, so our standard here is high, and we have to say this is probably the best domestic version we have had the chance to taste. The big necessity with Pinot Blanc is to give it time to age on the skins and pulp, as well as bottling it with minimal filtration to eek out every last bit of flavor and texture the grape has to give. It takes time, and for most basic wines it may not be worth the effort, but here the rewards are oh so worthwhile. Light gold in the glass with a cool minerality to the nose with some white almond notes, and some surprisingly pretty floral and white peach showing as it opens up. Those 'quiet' characteristics are definitely getting louder here. The palate has wonderful texture, juicy and racy at the same time with lots of quince and peach pulp and a light dose of skin tannin to the dry and crystal clean finish. At its best with lighter white fish/river fish dishes, but that sur lie texture can definitely help it hold its own versus pork or poultry dishes that aren't too aggressively spiced.
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!