One of the great aspects of wine is its ability to show the character of its surroundings. The French have a term for this (as they do everything wine related), called 'terroir', and it covers all the different aspects of a vineyard's environment. Soil, sun exposure, temperature, and all the seasonal nuances throughout the year all go in to making the wines taste the way they do. This wine from the Languedoc region of Minervois is a perfect example, especially for those that drink Cotes du Rhone frequently. Even though the grapes used here in the blends are exactly the same, in this case just Grenache and Syrah, pretty much every Minervois wine we've come across has a distinct..... wildness to it. Over the years the quality from the smaller producers has been improving greatly, so if you enjoy that wilder side there are excellent values to be found.
Inky purple in the glass, the Minervois wild side is immediately noticeable in the first whiff, full of black raspberries, road tar (in a good way), and lots of black savory spice. The palate is hearty and dark, but not nearly as fruit forward as the aromas would first indicate, showing lots of blueberry skin and currant flavors, and a briary dried herb finish that brings a lot of savory flavors out. This is an ideal wine for grilling as it plays off the charred aspects of both meats and vegetables, has big flavor but isn't thick or heavy, and is priced to pull out any day of the week this summer.
California Chardonnay may seem like an easy no-brainer wine to pour for an Insider's Pick. As we are prone to do here at Wine Warehouse, there is always a prejudice to break or an old trope that needs to be looked at anew, and Cali Chard is as primed to be examined as any place in the world. Most of the Californian image is the 'New World' style of lush, creamy and buttery style Chardonnay that comes from barrel and malolactic fermentation. And there are many fantastic wines that come from that mold, to be sure. But it has also become an easy default to make all Chardonnay taste the same, too much of 'the same' that there is often a lack of identity. Unoaked Chardonnay is a 4 letter word to some, but it's because the juice usually done in that style is the lowest quality and made as cheaply as possible. High quality juice from quality vineyards have more than enough natural flavor and texture to show off without any sort of boost from aging in barrels, and more great examples are appearing every season.
Lioco began over a decade ago out of experiences between the two founders working at the famous Spago's restaurant in Beverly Hills, and has evolved into a leader in this movement towards more natural, food-centric wines. The base for this Chardonnay is a selection of organic and biodynamic growers in Sonoma County, but a large portion of the fruit is based in the Russian River Valley. Loads of lemon curd on the nose from the first pour, with an underlying zest of green and white fruits and hints of wet chalk aromas. The texture on the palate is round from the extensive time aged on the grape lees, which is time consuming and hardly ever done with less expensive Chardonnay, but brings out the magnificent natural fruit on the palate usually lost behind the oak barrel. Completely dry and loaded with melon pulp and lime zest, fine acidity that brings out a mouth-watering sensation across the finish. A delicious match with fleshier and more complex fish dishes and citrus based poultry.
The estimated damages to the wine crops were recently announced from the frost and freeze issues that plagued France and much of Europe in March/April. Bordeaux alone is expected to loose more than $2B in either diminished or outright lost vineyard production, which may only be slightly mitigated if whatever surviving grapes end up producing great quality. If it's a cool difficult summer, the vintage could be a complete disaster. Also the damage done this year can have a profound effect on the way the flowering happens next year, so the potential is there for two straight years of significantly reduced quantity coming from Bordeaux. For fans of the region there are a couple of silver linings to this significantly dark gray cloud: 1) the hype cycle of proclaiming 'The Vintage Of The Century!' every 3 or 4 years will be on hiatus, and 2) it makes this a good time to backfill with some more ready to drink wines from some overlooked vintages.
This Chateau sits to the East of Bordeaux, which is primarily Merlot and/or Cabernet Franc growing country, but their estate has a substantial planting of Cabernet Sauvignon and its presence is immediately noticed in the wine. Dark cassis and gravely red fruits come out on the nose and develops an almost meaty nose as it opens up. The palate is equally dark and rich, yet surprisingly supple without a strong tannic feel except on the lingering finish. The flavors are far from showing any evolved character, but the texture is starting to show an easier, more approachable stage. Wines like this stashed in the cellar will make the potential two year supply lull from Bordeaux that much easier to overcome.
It isn't often that we get to celebrate a matriarchy winery. Throughout history in pretty much every wine producing country, the mantle of winemaker or vineyard manager has passed from father to son. Family vineyards would often pass to daughters as inheritance or as a wedding dowry, but were usually be subsumed by the male family name. So it is rare to have a female run winery where the mother is 1st generation winemaker and decision maker, and the daughter is poised to take over in the future. Helma Muller-Grossmann began running the small domaine in 1986, and daughter Marlies recently joined her to help with marketing/distribution in 2009, with an eye to take over for her mother if/when she ever decides to slow down. They have even been leading members of "11 Frauen & Ihre Weine" (11 Women & Their Wine), which helps support other females in the Austrian wine industry. Aside from being made by women, the wines are exceptional. Their Gruner Veltliner was part of our Select Six last month, and now with the Riesling in play we are looking forward to even more possibilities from them.
Many people have a bias against Riesling that it is a) too sweet, or b) too austere when done in a dry manner. This wine simultaneously destroys both preconceptions. Beautiful aromas of cool white orchard fruits with racy notes of lime and wintergreen oil; perhaps the slightest hint of the unique 'petrol' aroma many drier Riesings can have, but quickly vanishes with air. On the palate the texture is round and juicy, but without a shred of sweetness to be found anywhere. The flavors are all limes and a mix of tart apples, with a lengthy citrus skin and crunchy apple texture that gives it a snappy dry finish. An extremely versatile food wine (the ladies recommend curried chicken with rice or Arctic Char), but the food choices are almost limitless.
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!