Most people don't think about drinking high quality Loureiro. Most people don't think about the Loureiro grape ever, if we're honest. It's history in Portugal has largely been as a blending partner to make the classic Vinho Verde wine with the slight bit of fizz, rarely ever featured on its own with the name on the label. In recent decades there has been an increased movement to push the quality levels in wines across Portugal and elevate the reputation of the regions across the country, something the Portugal Boutique Winery project has taken to heart. Billing themselves as a 'micro-cooperative', they explore the country so source authentic older vineyards that feature native varietals, with the ideal of making the best exprssion of th grape possible. Sourced from two sites (one with schist and clay soils, the other with gravel) within a few miles of the ocean, the first aroma is intensely coastal with a mix of fresh lime and salty sea spray, with a hint of white citrus and flowers at the end. The palate is quenching with juicy lime and sour apple, oddly both mouthfilling AND light on its feet at the same time, finishing tart with another hint of the salinity. It's very much a Portuguese version of Muscadet from France, not just in the style and being extremely seafood friendly, but that they were both areas and varietals that nobody thought were worth the effort to make a 'better' wine than the ordinary. Until someone did.
With October being Virginia Wine Month, we wanted to spend at least one Insider's pick on one of the best wineries in the state. If you were to make a list of Virginia wineries that have consistently been at the very top level of quality in the state since the 1990s, it would be impossible to not have Linden on it. The constant presence of Jim Law and consistent mindset of the team in the vineyards and the cellars have genuinely helped to set the standard the rest of the state strives to reach. Their Hardscrabble Chardonnay and Red are iconic bottlings, and their quality extends throughout their entire lineup. This is probably their most whimsical wine; the term 'wabi sabi' is the name of a Japanese style that embraces the imperfect or incomplete, and the wine (also built to work with Asian cuisine) is blended lot by lot each year, changing the blend and the winemaking to best suit each vintage. Primarily Vidal Blanc and Viognier with decent chunks of Semillon and Petit Manseng, this is rich and floral but not nearly as much sweetness as one would first think. The first whiff is honeyed beeswax and pops of Viognier's white flowers, and with the evident richness in the glass you expect the first hit on your palate to be sugary. Far from it; apple and pear skin, crunchy white fruit, lots of mouthwatering acidity, great complexity through the finish. Excellent food partner with dishes featuring soy, ginger and some heat, can even stand up to beef with its richness.
Abruzzi has been an important wine growing region for Italy since Etruscan times, mostly known for volume production based around regional co-operatives. Quantity was more of the priority than quality, which is probably a factor in the workhorse Montepulciano grape (not to be confused with the Tuscan city of the same name) is not as well known or regarded outside the area. That focus has shifted over the last few decades, and while there is still oceans of the jug wines out there, producers like Valle Reale looking to make higher quality wines are having great success. Made from organic vineyards within one of Italy's most beautiful national park areas, this shows a significant step up from the everyday versions, with a deep color and lots of plum and currant on the nose with some Italian herbal notes. The palate has less acidity than your typical Tuscan Sangiovese based wine, but a lot of the flavors land the same, and being aged in concrete lets a lot of the naturally dusty earthy tannins show through quite nicely. A nice dinner wine that drinks bigger than it's price point.
All too often, wine labels and names are 'brands', words and images built for the exterior of the bottle that have nothing to do with what's inside. True family vineyards and wineries connect the two, place meaning on the name so that it represents the wine inside. Ten Sisters comes from the King family farm in Marlborough purchased after World War II and planted to vines about 40 years later. The wines are named after the ten daughters in the family (with one son mixed in), one of whom has moved and lived in the Central Virginia area, so we know it isn't a marketing gimmick. Just this Sauvignon Blanc and a Pinot Noir come from their property, so their wines have a real identity and quality to them. Rich citrus and white fruits on the nose with a hint of jalapeno skin- not heat, just herbal and savory green notes. The palate is very round and plush with lots of fresh cut pear and quince notes but stays well away from any sweetness with fine acidity and a touch of grape skin/pepper skin tannin to the finish. Deliciously food friendly style that can stand up to some of the more herbal or savory poultry/pork/seafood dishes around.
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!