To start with, yest this is THE least mysterious wine label in creation, leaving absolutely no doubt what grape is in the bottle. No parsing through appellation info or artistic interpretation, just what's in the bottle and who brought it to you. The graphics department got the week off when this wine was conceived. Field Recordings is another wine project similar to the Union Sacre wines we featured in last week's Insider Pick, born from a young Californian eager to make wines from unique and/or forgotten plots of vines. We have carried many wines from this viticulturist by day/winemaker by night over the last several years, including his impressive Alloy wines available in 500ml cans, which shows the level of innovation and outside-the-box thinking that's happening at these types of wine projects. Most would think a wine from Paso Robles would fall in to the typical warm climate style of wine the region is known for; ripe, forward and aggressive with lots of modern hallmarks like higher natural alcohol and prominent barrel usage. And while there is ABSOLUTELY nothing wrong with that style of wine, it's nice to know variety exists for those that may want something a little different now and again.
The Loire's influence is immediately noticed, with the wine weighing in at under 13%abv and the use of only neutral oak barrels allowing the cranberry and fresh red fruits and natural perfume of Cabernet Franc to shine through. On the palate there is plenty of natural weight thanks to being bottled with little filtration, and it pulls out more red fruit and warmth to the flavors as it opens up, even developing some cinnamon and clove spice tones. There is just enough flesh to this to make the Californian roots noticeable, but not obviously so. This is a surprisingly adept wine that will be making a LOT of appearances on Thanksgiving and holiday dinner tables as it ticks all the boxes for a food friendly wine with all sorts of side dishes and sauces.
Ages and ages ago, I was lucky enough to attend a tasting at a winery based in the Russian River Valley and taste through a lineup of prestigious Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs with their winemakers. A lot of the discussion was about the cool climates most of the vineyards sat in, the enduring fog and coastal winds that kept these pockets of land much cooler than what most people experience in the cities on the valley floor. Being a fan of Alsatian wines and having traveled there even further in the past, I asked if they or anyone around them grew Riesling or Gewurztraminer. Eyes lit up and grew wide, and for several minutes the discussion of 'How great would THAT be?', magically trading some of the best Chardonnay vines for Riesling. The sad truth is, as much quality as these wines would possess, there is just much more money to be made growing Chardonnay and Pinot in most places, at least in the scale it usually takes to make it commercially. But winemakers REALLY want to make it! Dry Riesling is GREAT! The Union Sacre wine project is a collaboration of two friends that met while working at several Southern California wineries (Herman Story, Sans Liege, and others), and now that the idea of 'side project' wines is growing in popularity they decided to make wines that other winemakers WANT to make but just haven't; fans of dry Gewurztraminer will definitely want to give that bottling a try as well, though it will likely make it into a future Insider's Pick as well.
Immediate aromas of white stone fruits from the first pour, perhaps the slightest hints of the classic 'petrol' scent that dry Rieslings seem to have in common from all over the world. As it opens up there are more pears and white flowers that start to join in the party. In the mouth the acidity brings out a lot more apple and citrus skin than found in the nose, giving the juicy palate lots of zest and bright tartness. Lots of nuance and subtle herb flavors underneath the fruit as well; if this was Alsace, and there were hundreds of acres around this parcel planted to Riesling, this would be part of the vineyard's 'terroir' that would give it a unique signature from those around. In this case, it just is what it is; a tasty dry Riesling and an extremely fair price.
With an Indian Summer that just won't quit, it's probably a good idea to keep on the lookout for more white wines that work well in the transition from the warmer to cooler months. Something with a little more body and flesh to it, not necessarily needing to be refreshing as its primary purpose, but still with flavor and intrigue. Vermentino is absolutely one of those grapes. Popular throughout the Italian and French Mediterranean coasts (known in France as Rolle), it is most identified in Italy by the extreme coastal North region of Liguria and the Southern island of Sardinia. About halfway or so in between lies the region of Maremma, which represents the coastline of Tuscany and is often forgotten as a wine growing region when compared to its more metropolitan neighbors inland neat Florence and Siena. The region is warmer than Tuscany, providing wines with a bit more fruit than those from the interior, yet because they aren't part of the historic tourist pathways the wines are relatively undiscovered. Tasting wines like this should help remedy that.
Warming golden in color, the first aromas are equally warming with rich Mediterranean citrus and pear skins, as well as a hint of cooling mint in the background. The complexity on the nose is truly almost that of a masterful mixed cocktail where there is absolutely no sign of the alcohol. The palate is round and very smooth, filled with citrus and pear skin tannins that leave a long spicy finish. This is a great wine to work in with fish or poultry dishes that have bold, spicy flavors, Tex-Mex, strong chowders, and the like.
Fall is starting to take full hold in Virginia, leaves are changing, long sleeve shirts are getting into the everyday rotation, and events like Thanksgiving are slowly starting to loom out on the horizon. For many decades the release of Beaujolais Nouveau around that same time was an integral part of the holiday season, and while there are still good ones to be found the size and impact of the occasion just isn't what it used to be. Part of it is the overall lack of diversity and complexity you can create within such a short time from harvest to release, it's hard to get anything more distinctive than 'good' or 'bad' out of them. Plus they re inherently fragile, rarely worth keeping much into the next harvest, so most people don't want to have any extras on hand. Thankfully many wineries are learning to roll with the punches and are starting to produce wines like this that straddle the fun qualities of Nouveau and the need to make a wine that lives better in the rest of the world. Marcel Lapierre is part of the legendary Kermit Lynch 'Gang Of Four' that helped spearhead the evolution of Beaujolais from near obscurity in the 80s and 90s, and this wine comes from younger vines in their Morgon vineyards. Because of the way this wine is made it can't be labeled as either Beaujolais Nouveau or even Beaujolais, but it's 100% Gamay fruit from very noble soils. Think of it as 'Nouveau Plus' or 'Nouveau 2.0'.
The wine is bottled in late Winter/early Spring without filtration or fining, so the color is that of a full on youthful Beaujolais, deep translucent burgundy instead of the vivid hi-def violet of Nouveau. Yet the aromas lean towards the very youthful fruits, fresh cranberries and cherry skin with a smack of strawberry leaves. All natural fermentation here so none of that manufactured bubble gum that Nouveau is all too often known for. The mouthfeel is juicy, full and savory with lots of earth coming through behind the drier fruits, a lot less of the meaty tones and higher tones acidity that good Beaujolais has, and an easy straightforward finish. This is also a treat for those that like a more 'natural' wine as it is bottles with very little SO2, but because of the way it is made is still a lot more stable than a Nouveau. A great wine for the Beaujolais novice, of for splashing around on a fall evening.
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!