INSIDER'S PICK: NV JACKY BLOS/TAILLE AUX LOUPS 'TRIPLE ZERO' MONTLOUIS PETILLANT $26.99
When it comes to the very best, top end of the sparkling wine genre, Champagne is still the undefeated/undisputed king. When you want to splurge on greatness there is nothing finer. But there are a lot more choices out there in the world that make really enjoyable sparkling wines of their own distinction, and can be quite exciting values. This store favorite is a prime example, sourced from the Montlouis region just across the Loire river from Vouvray. Like its more famous neighbor Montlouis is best noted for Chenin Blanc based wines, but only a few producers are able to produce the dazzling array of dry to sweet wines that many Vouvray houses can, and not nearly the volume to make it a household name. When they hit the mark, though, you can score a huge win as the wines really over-achieve.
The name 'Triple Zero' refers to the three different times during the traditional sparkling wine process (chaptalization, 'liqueur de tirage', and dosage) that sugars can be added in to have the wine finish at its desired level of dryness. Taille Aux Loups uses grapes with so much natural ripeness at harvest that for this wine they don't need to add anything back at any point, and still have the wine finish completely dry. The nose is full of juicy pears and white fruits as well as that rich honeycomb note that good Chenin usually carries, as well as that dusty note that comes with carbonation. The texture in the mouth is extra full due to the natural ripeness of the grapes, allowing the acidity and carbonation to perk up all the white fruits and give them more peach and nectarine brightness. Some sparkling wines with the Brut designation will feel lean, astringent, and lacking, but this delivers all the impact and texture of a lot of true Champagnes as nearly double the price. A classy way to ring in the New year without having to blow out the budget.
INSIDER'S PICK: NV SORELLE BRONCA BRUT PROSECCO VALDOBBIADENE SUPERIORE $19.99
The image of Prosecco has been taking a bit of a hit in recent years, diminished by over-marketed high volume brands in a race to the bottom where the prettiest bottle for the least amount of money wins. If you really want to call that winning. So many of these brands have dragged the perceived arithmetic mean of what Prosecco is down so much, people often automatically dismiss the style as being too sweet and fruity. Which is why we strive to educate, even this late in the year, when there are brilliant wines that deserve our attention. Prosecco can and should be vibrant, complex and satisfying, and easily capable of being as dry and vibrant as a fine French Cremant from Alsace, Loire, or Limoux. Houses like Sorelle Bronca are true artisans, sitting on stacks of Gambero Rosso 3 Biccieri awards (essentially the Italian version of Wine Spectator) for both red and white wines, with their bubbles being truly eye-opening.
Brightly carbonated with a fairly persistent fluffy head when first poured, the fresh apples and white flower aromas burst quickly from the glass, almost heady with the impressions of Spring time warmth. In the mouth the flavors continue to be bright and fresh, and with the carbonation at its strongest has a vibrant apple tone. As it sits in the glass the peach and stone fruit flavors come out more, giving a richer, juicier flavor to the brightly tart finish. This is a fantastic party wine that's easy to enjoy, and a perfect match for a brunch, light enough for mid-afternoon sipping and ideal with fresh fruits and lighter dishes.
Some of our favorite wine finds over the last few years have been coming from the smaller Californian wineries that have been scouring the Golden State for forgotten vineyards in lesser known appellations, and applying some newfound love to make eye-catching wines. A lot of these wines take more of a lesson from European winemaking than what much of the 'Californian style' is known for; less aggressive new oak, more natural acidity and savory tones to the fruit, and often more restrained alcohol levels. This small husband and wife run winery has only been a full time project since the 2013 vintage, but early word of mouth through their dedicated mailing list customers has allowed them to grow their production to the point they can finally send a few morsels our way. One of their most noted wines has been, surprisingly, their Tempranillos, especially the single site bottling from Shake Ridge Ranch in the Amador Foothills. A healthy amount of Shake Ridge fruit goes in to this, as well as a smattering of juice from other parcels nearby. They also include a small portion of Graciano, which is a traditional component in classic Rioja but is rarely planted away from Spain. The resulting wine is one of the most Rioja-esque wines you will find away from the homeland, while still showing off plenty of Californian charm.
The aromas are mostly dark fruit skins and anise with hints of dark spice and strawberry, without much sweet red fruit showing thanks to a healthy portion of whole cluster fermentation (which includes the grape stems, a process more often done with Pinot Noir). With some time open the fruit and spice get warmer in tone, and even develop some subtle citrus tones. The palate is dark and tannic, a bit closed in the first hour or so, but rewards time with increasingly showy dark cherry and spice behind the walnut textured tannins and bright acidity. This never gets into the 'juicy' realm, but traditional Rioja never does either, and with a bit of patience this shows a lot of the flair found at those great old estates. Throw this in a decanter this Winter and enjoy where this one will take you.
We love finding great 'new' wineries from the well established and traditional wine regions of the world. Just when you think it's all been discovered and mined out to within an inch of its life, something surprising and refreshing comes along. Keeps us excited and on our toes. Sometimes the change that brings them to the forefront comes with new ownership, or a new generation of the family takes over and tries a new direction. Other times it's just fortune that strikes, and with an unpolished gem just sitting there the right people meet up to make the wines end up in our presence. In this case, this well established castle/hotel/historic grounds just outside Florence just needed a nudge from the right importer, who just happens to be based here in Virginia to our immense benefit. Lo and behold, a delicious new Chianti offering that delivers the goods for an outstanding price.
Everything about this wine is what you would draw up as the prototype for good 'everyday' Chianti without trying to build something needing cellaring. Youthful ruby in color but not dense looking in the glass, the nose is pure Tuscany with loads of savory currants and dark cherry fruit, followed by dark flowers and wild herbs. Every swirl of the glass brings out a more subtle note with a brief pop of prominence, with little bits of sage, thyme, and anise showing through. The mouthfeel is full for a Chianti of this price point, touches of cedary notes but mostly natural tannins that give the wine lots of dry texture. The lengthy finish is full of dried fruit and sandalwood, which does soften some as it opens up and brings out some more of the softer red fruits, but stays fairly stern and structured. This is a GREAT food wine for the cooler weather, usable any place you would also do a Bordeaux or a California Cab, but want to try something with an Italian flair.
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!