Virginia is in a constant state of inventing and re-inventing its wine industry, constantly working to figure out what works consistently in our unique environment. Vidal Blanc is a hybrid grape variety that has tended to be a workhorse in Virginia as it has good durability to both heat and moist weather, and they tend to have higher volume of production per vine. The 'easy' route for the grape is to make semi-sweet to desert level wines and not really push the limit on experimentation, but thankfully some wineries like Early Mountain are looking beyond the norm. Inspired by the more bistro-styled and 'natural' wine makers, their 'Young Wine' series looks to make lower weight wines with less alcohol and up-front sweetness, and have pulled those characters from Vidal Blanc in surprisingly tasty fashion.
Light peach and pear aromas with hints of cooling citrus zest and wet stones call to mind some of the dry Chenin Blancs from the Loire, with no signs of any cloying sweetness anywhere on the radar. The palate is quenching and wet, plenty of fresh acidity present but gets amped up when it's fresh out of the refrigerator that brings out the white fruit and lemon juice tones. Nowhere from start to finish does the typical Vidal Blanc character show up, so nobody can be blase about saying they've had this before from someone else. This is a very individual wine from a Virginia producer that is beginning to show a broader spectrum of what our industry is capable of producing.
One of the lessons we love to teach our customers when we get the chance is there are SO many white wine styles available from Italy that exist beyond the mass marketed Pinot Grigios and Soaves. The country has so many cultures and climates that run throughout the peninsula, providing wines and wine styles almost as diverse as the reds. The Alto Adige is part of the Veneto region in general, but was a part of Austria-Hungary until after World War I and much of that cultural influence still remains. The family and township names have a distinctly Bavarian tone, and the winemaking reflects that as well. Pinot Grigio is important here, but the real diversity of Alto Adige shows in the success with varieties like Gewurztraminer, Riesling, and Pinot Bianco. Outside of Alsace and Germany, no other region has as much focus on using those grapes, and consumers often forget how tasty they can be. Kellerei Kaltern (also referred to as Cantina Kaltern from time to time) is a smaller yet discrimination co-operative producer that has always had several wines our store, simply because the value they deliver is unbeatable from the region. This bottling is a tier up from their 'everyday' wines, but the quality step up is immense.
Sometimes Pinot Blanc/Pinot Bianco is thought of as a 'neutral' smelling variety, but from the first pour this has loads of juicy pear and white fleshed fruits on the aroma, as well as cooling mint tones that reflect the alpine environment of the vineyards. The palate has a great richness and round texture without any hint of sweetness, thanks to a small portion of the wine being aged in large multi-use barrels. No barrel flavors or buttery creaminess as people often associate with 'barrel aging', just an oxygen-rich vessel that takes a bit of the harder edges off without loosing the natural flavors of the grape.A hint of tannin on the finish from the skins and soft spring-water like acidity keep the fruit fresh and inviting throughout, making this a perfect warm weather sipping wine with a nice chill on it, or substantial enough for all sorts of lighter to mid-weight dishes.
This is the sister wine to the Cava in this month's Select Six, and along with a Solera-style sweet wine we carry, the three tell a compelling story of a unique grape. Roughly 99% of the Cava produced comes from the part of the region to the South of Barcelona, but the district of Alella is a small island of Cava production just to the North and along the coast. Over the last few centuries that isolation has allowed the vines to essentially self-pollinate, and their version of the Xarel-Lo grape has evolved into its own distinct strain, here called Pansa Blanca. It is the same concept behind the wines in Montalcino being made from their own form of Sangiovese, the same evolution of plant traits. The differences in appearance are subtle; the way the clusters sit on the vine, slight thickness of the skin. But the flavors are noticeable, and when grass-roots wineries like Marfil combine the grape with native yeasts and the influences from the nearby coastline, the resulting wines are true standouts.
If you are looking for another wine as a frame of reference, think Muscadet from the Loire, especially the older vine single vineyard bottlings. Bright light gold in the glass with immediate coastal sea spray and seashell aromas with tones of citrus and green skinned apples. The palate is absolutely stuffed with similar flavors on an impressive texture that fills the mouth, almost coating with its unfiltered richness yet finishing quite clean and racy. The older vines and meticulous care making the wine show through in the overall presence, an unexpected and unique pleasure for the more adventurous wine fans, simply because you will be hard pressed to find another one. Ideal for anything seafood related, the brinier the better, and capable of standing up to all but the most extreme of preparations.
Roses from anywhere in the world are great to have in the house at this time of the year. Light and perfectly refreshing for the hot weather, but as diverse in flavor as the red grapes that get used to make them. Provence is the best known region in France for Roses, but the style is made throughout the country using the local grapes. Sancerre in the Loire is mostly known for Sauvignon Blanc, but also has splashes of Pinot Noir planted as well and is more often made as a Rose than a full on red wine. The cool climate and chalky soils bring a vibrant minerality and wet rock style freshness to the silky soft Pinot Noir texture and red fruits that give the wines incredible life. Unfortunately a stretch of difficult crops the last few years has made them a bit rare and tend to disappear faster than others.
Delicate salmon color in the glass, very Provencal looking, but more complex and subtle aromas of dried cherries and earthy herbs. The palate is where the Sancerre origins really show through, with a mouthwateringly tart acidity brightening the round watermelon and strawberry fruits, giving your entire mouth a wet rainshower of soft fruits. The perfect example of a wine being both delicate and delicious.
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!