One of our all time favorite people in the wine industry (anywhere in the world, not just Virginia) is Lovingston winemaker Riaan Rossouw. In the season of Thanksgiving he is a person we are thankful for, bringing his passion and unique attitude towards wine and the world, giving us the privilege of selling and describing his wines to our customers. This Insider's Pick represents his most public face, the winery he has been with since its first day and helped the Puckett family grow. On Saturday we will have Riaan in the store to pour and discuss-at GREAT length- his personal label, 'R'. These small batch wines allow him to test theories and push the limits of Virginia winemaking, with much of the small scale successes translating into the production of the larger scale Lovingston wines. These are all wines that exemplify the character and potential of Virginia winemaking; not when they're forced to try and be 'like California', 'like France', or 'like Australia', but simply allowed to be themselves. Today/tomorrow and Saturday are days that Virginia wines will really strut their stuff.
On first pour, there may be a bit of sludge or sediment at the cork, especially when the wine sees time in cooler storage as it is prone to be around here during the Fall and Winter months. If you are not familiar with minimally filtered wines, DO NOT PANIC! These super-fine particles are a sign the wine has been left alone as much as possible before bottling, which allows the wine to retain a better level of texture and fullness in the mouth (without having to replace it with sugar). It requires patience, but it makes for a much more flavorful and nuanced wine. This also sees aging in only neutral multi-use barrels, so all the natural character of the Merlot grape shines through, with loads of cool cherry and old leather on the nose that gains spice and sweeter red berries as it opens up. The palate is extremely polished and silky, with just a fine natural tannin and a pop of natural acidity that brings some earthy tones to the soft fruit and tart cherry skin flavors. Flavorful but not pounding you over the head with intensity or oak, This is an excellent option for pouring for friends and family, with and around the Thanksgiving meal, especially for those that live outside the state. If they are the adventurous sort, perhaps try them on the 'R' wines as well...
For Thanksgiving, people will often look to pull out the 'big guns' to drink in celebration with their family, the most exciting and usually most expensive wines. The problem you can run into is that those wines are often built to age for a fairly long time, so if you aren't pulling one from out of the cellar you may be buying a wine that just isn't ready to drink right now. Classic favorites like Bordeaux, California Cabernet Sauvignon and Brunello di Montalcino are built for the long haul with lots of strong tannins and oak barrel aging, so in their youth those astringent characters will really dominate and can overwhelm all but the heartiest of meals. To serve with the meal itself, a safer bet is to do a more basic version of those favorites that use the same grapes and winemaking expertise, yet don't need a decade or more to round into form. A Rosso di Montalcino like this one, for example, uses the exact same grape variety as a Brunello and grown in the same privileged sites, just with less time aging in barrel and bottle before release. These are built for the purpose of drinking in the short term, allowing you to age the Brunellos until they are ready.
This small and fairly newly formed house has been under the radar for most Montalcino fans, but as Vinous writer Ian d'Agata recently wrote 'I cannot think of too many estates in Montalcino whose wines have improved more over the last 10 years'. A lovely deep ruby color in the glass, the aromas are dark and classic for Montalcino, full of savory tobacco leaf, black cherry and dusty earth. There may be the slightest touch of oak aromas, but they sit well back of the grape's natural character, giving it a lot of naked complexity. The palate is equally approachable for the variety, with lots of up front dark dried fruit and more tobacco tones, with the polished tannins only appearing on the finish where they have a long and lingering dustiness. This wine absolutely opens up and evolves over time and with decanting, picking up notes of sweeter fruits and potpourri, but the improvement can be marked by the hour or half hour as opposed to by the 3-4 hour blocks of time needed for a younger Brunello. The perfect Tuscan wine to actually serve with the diversity of a Thanksgiving dinner table, or to pop during an impromptu nosh while grazing the leftovers.
INSIDER'S PICK: 2018 JOHAN VINEYARDS 'FARMLANDS' PINOT NOIR VAN DUZER CORRIDOR $23.99
The Van Duzer Corridor is a newly developed AVA (American Viticultural Area) in the Willamette Valley. Do we really need another one, you may say, especially when it seems so many of the boundary lines are drawn arbitrarily at best and politically/financially at worst (gerrymandering, sadly, exists in the wine world as well). In this case, the new area absolutely makes sense based on the geography and how it affects the way grapes ripen. The viticultural area is a small part of the larger Van Duzer Wind Gap, a low lying channel in the mountains that allows wind and weather systems to move through the mountains without being blocked and altered going over them. Where the corridor empties into the Willamette Valley sees a significant increase in steady winds throughout the year, keeping the daily air temperatures down in the vineyards by as much as 8-10 degrees per day. The valley rises as you travel North from the Van Duzer, which dampens the effect significantly. Vineyards here tend to ripen at a slower rate than the rest of the Willamette, giving wineries the option of picking earlier for more vibrant acid driven wines or letting the grapes hang longer for deeper, darker flavors. In cases like this, the better wineries balance the best of both aspects into one distinct package that truly show something different from the rest of the region.
Built from all estate grown and Biodynamic certified vineyards, this isn't just a great value for an eco-conscious consumer, this is a great value for an Oregon Pinot Noir. Full stop. Dark and youthful in color, the nose just absolutely reeks with subtlety. Currants, black cherry skins abound, but also shows underlying notes of herbs and pepper, even hints of citrus that come from the wine's natural acidity. On the palate the winery's naturalist approach shows through with an unfiltered texture allowing the savory red fruits to shine through without feeling thin or lacking in oomph. The natural yeasts also show a different level of complexity as well, slightly tart in places, more succulent and food related than sweeter berry, and the longer the wine is open the more diverse the profile becomes. An early contender for the wine you HAVE to get for Thanksgiving this year, especially if you prefer the legs and thighs of the bird or are doing a more unique game bird for the big meal.
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!