Experimentation in the wine world usually happens using small steps and small amounts of wines. You can't make bold changes with the bulk of your production for fear of the financial disaster should something go wrong. This is why most of the more avant-garde trends in winemaking evolve from regions that have excess volume (France, Spain, Italy) and can spare the odd 500 case production without batting an eyelash, or from forgotten vineyards of less desired grapes (Chile, Argentina, California) that nobody was using anyway. Virginia has neither of these situations, with most wineries struggling to find enough mature and quality vineyards to get them from one vintage to the next. Most experiments happen in 1-2 barrel lots (R Wines, Lightwell Survey) if at all. Which is why Early Mountain's 'Young Wine' series is such a breath of fresh air, building both the white and red offering in a 'bistro' style using more naturalist styles of wine making. It would be very easy to make a Vidal Blanc in the slightly sweet mode that most wineries put forward, but this provides a whole new direction for a grape that actually does quite well in our climate.
A bright gold color in the glass, but if you look closely at the wine in the bottle there is the slightest of haze to the wine from being left unfiltered and only the slightest of clarification. This is one of the more natural/non-intervention styles of winemaking employed here that helps give the wine more texture without having to leave in residual sugar or age it in barrels. The melon and pear fruit aromas get a pop of cool citrus that freshens them up considerably, almost hinting at the zestiness of a Sauvignon Blanc. On the palate the texture is clean and quenching with the fruit leaning into the drier more melon rind profile as well as a pear skin and slightly herbal finish. This is not your typical safe and simple Virginia wine, but a successful version of a bistro style wine that you will be hard pressed to find done as well on domestic soil. Pop and enjoy with all kinds of light cheeses, snacks, and small plate dishes.
Post Memorial Day is 'officially' when Rose drinking season gets into full swing, as the majority of the really interesting and unique wines from around the world have made it to our shores or out of the wineries, had time to rest properly after bottling or travel, and truly show their stuff. Year in and year out, this is our time to help re-educate the public about the enjoyment and diversity of DRY Rose wines, and this long time classic from importer Kermit Lynch is always Exhibit A. The wine is made from a unique and sparsely planted mutation/clone of Grenache called Grenache Gris, known for having an extremely pale skin with very little pigment. Many wineries in the Languedoc that have it planted will just blend it in with other Grenache based wines, but the historic Domaine de Fontsainte have used the grape's lightness to its advantage in their Rose. Even with a long time soaking on the skin equivalent with the process to make a red wine, the juice barely picks up a pinkish tint, the classic salmon color of Provencal Rose but with a lot more texture. After you taste it, you will wonder why more wineries haven't picked up on this idea.
The vibrant salmon color in the glass gives off quick aromas of dried strawberry and cherry skin, but time open gives off more peach and stone fruits as well as some light savory herbs. The palate is where this wine becomes more obviously different, with a rich mouthfilling texture and finely grained tannins to match the bright acidity and juicy watermelon flavors. The aromas and flavors make the wine quenching, while the texture gives it substance and the ability to stand toe to toe with a broader array of dishes that would usually crush the thin spirit of many Provencal roses. Do this with all the classic Summer dishes you would expect a Rose to match with, and include savory pork or poultry into the plans as well.
We will readily admit to having an inherent bias towards a certain style of Sauvignon Blanc here at Wine Warehouse. The sheer number and diversity of producers in the Loire section of the store, as well as the choices of cooler climate/minerally soil producers in the California section give the not-so subtle hint that we like our Sauv Blanc on the clean and racy side. This isn't to say we don't like the more round, richer and more barrel influenced style as well, it just has to be something we get really excited about. Capture Wines has one that does just that, mixing several vineyard sources in Sonoma County to get the right combination of rich fruit and vibrant citrus from higher elevation sites. Aging the wines on the lees gives the wine a full texture without needing too much time in barrel, which just serves to further polish the edges into a round seamless final product.
An almost perfectly clear pale yellow in the glass, the first aromas are cool gooseberries and light citrus, but with air (and a bit of warmth if you've just pulled it out of the fridge) the richer leesy aromas start to appear, giving more creamy lemon curd, pears and white fruit pulp. The palate is at first extremely polished with lots of rich pulpy fruit, but as it sits on the palate gets more grapeskin and melon rind tannins, and grows into a fairly zesty finish. This has lots of back porch and meal time possibilities.for the warm weather ahead
For those that follow basketball, the phrase 'Trust the Process' (copyright pending per Joel Embiid) was coined in Philadelphia to try and give the fans confidence in the team building process management had implemented. Some wineries you have to learn to 'trust the process' as well, believe in the winery and what they do from vintage to vintage is going to be for the best wine possible. Fans of Donkey & Goat Winery have learned to trust their process as one of the best producers of natural wines in America over the last 15 years, and the entry level bottling 'The Gadabout' is the poster child for showing trust. Each year the blend and vineyard sources can change depending on access and quality of the vintage, and they build it to give everyone a more cost effective look into what their wines are all about. Usually the base grapes are white Rhone varieties (Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, Marsanne) but additions and subtractions can happen from year to year. The only constant is their use of organic/Biodynamic grapes, native yeasts for fermentation, and as little sulfur as possible.
On the first pop of the cork, the classic 'naturalist' cider tones show through fairly strong, but a few swirls of the glass quickly bring out the more pithy white fruits, melon skins and rich lemon tones. The texture on the palate is plenty rich and full, and the fruits are SUPER zesty, loaded with tangy orange and mouthwatering citrus skins. The sour cidery component that most natural wines carry is evident but does not dominate the vinous character, showing through mostly on the lengthy finish. The longer the wine stays open, the more intense the white fruit tones grow and evolve, genuinely a wine that can improve in the fridge for a couple days thanks to the higher acidity and the skin contact during fermentation. A unique exploration of the natural wine movement, and super tasty for the money.
Many wine drinkers, even long time savvy consumers, get caught in the mistaken old adage that Riesling always makes a sweeter wine. ANY grape variety, red or white, can make a sweeter wine if the maker chooses to. Some are just more adept at it than others, and some are better at disguising their residual sugars and making the taster think the wine is not sweet (we're looking at YOU, Chardonnay!). Riesling suffers from a large glut of less expensive versions from Germany in the market that form a lot of drinker's opinions early on, as well as excellent high quality ones at various sweetness levels. But somehow the driest versions do not register on people's consciousness the same way. Alsace is home to an extremely broad selection of dry white wines from many varieties, and the Rieslings are among the best dry wines in France, full stop. When we got to taste through several wines in the Kreydenweiss lineup recently, we were struck by the absence of any sugary tones throughout his wines, yet were still rich and in balance with the acidity. This is the sort of white wine that should get ALL consumers excited.
The Andlau bottling is named after the town around which the vineyards are based, and is blended from several parcels farmed Biodynamically. Though it is their most 'basic' wine, there is nothing simple about it at all. Zesty, almost cider-y apple and cool citrus aromas that develop over time as the classic initial whiff of petrol blows off, as well as a deeper mineral and fleshier apple character. The palate is immediately full and quenching, with mouthwatering salinity and citrus skin texture. Flavors are not quick to arrive, so some time open or even decanting will help things along, but your patience will be rewarded with fleshy, almost creamy baked apple notes and increasingly lengthy mineral and stone fruit character that keep your palate salivating minutes after drinking. All of this and without a single sugary impression to be found, as dry and textured as a Chablis (and more flavorful too). This is a spectacular match with fattier seafood dishes (acidity helps to cut through without overpowering) as well as foods with an Asian influence but not hot/spicy.
If this label looks familiar, we featured the Smithereens Red Blend about 2 months ago. Having just brought in the equally tasty white wine counterpart, we felt it deserves equal billing. To recap from before, El Dorado County is the heart of the California Gold Rush, one of the major historical influences to westward expansion and European immigration in the mid-1800s. The Skinner family established one of the first wineries and distilleries in 1861 and ran a fairly large operation for many years, but faded into an obscure fragment of history until 2006 when a branch of the family picked up the rights to the name and 'rediscovered' the vineyards. Their vineyards focus on Rhone varieties, capitalizing on the dramatic elevation changes along the Sierra Foothills to grow grapes in a variety of conditions to develop great complexity and subtlety in their many blends.
The winery's Smithereens series pays tribute to the miners of the Gold Rush using dynamite to blast out gold deposits (not the 80s band of the same name), and is built to be their more basic Cotes du Rhone style wines. This blend focuses on the four most noteworthy white varieties in the Rhone, featuring Roussanne, Marsanne, Viognier and Grenache Blanc in varying ratios based on the vintage. As with the best wines from the Rhone, the blend shows harmony between the four varieties without any one taking an overly prominent position. A touch of the tropical perfume from the Viognier is checked down by the mineral and zesty citrus flower notes of the Roussanne, and the round texture of those varieties are given freshness by the acidity and citrus skin character of the Marsanne and Grenache Blanc. Those that do not like a buttery wine but still want a white wine with some body and complexity should run to try this, a great pairing with more intense seafood and rich pork dishes.
It looks like we have officially put the threat of near-freezing temps behind us for the season (fingers crossed), and can break into the white wine selections for the Insider's Pick with real gusto. This is also the time you start to see the fresh and fun new arrivals from the last year's harvest, which promise to become the 'next big thing' for you to enjoy over the summer. Or it's the return of an old friend that sold out in the fall or winter, so it's time to check back in and remind yourself why you enjoyed it in the first place. Many people find the famously light carbonation of a Vinho Verde from Portugal to be their go-to style this time of year, so much so that the 'Petillant' style is gaining popularity with winemakers in other parts of the world, especially with those that follow a more naturalistic style of winemaking. Avinyo is an artisan Cava producer in Penedes, Spain (a region that already knows a thing or two about putting bubbles in a wine), making what we enthusiastically refer to as 'a Vinho Verde on steroids'. Intrigued? Let us explain.
Pouring with a bit of frothy foam and tiny bubbles that largely disappear within the first minute, the aroma is huge with sweet flowers, pears and tropical fruit thanks to the Muscat used. While most Vinho Verde have a light perfume, this absolutely leaps from the glass. As it opens up the initial perfume becomes drier with the arrival of zesty lime and white citrus fruit notes. The palate is drier still, almost completely bone dry in fact, with lots more zesty citrus and an almost dusty grapeskin character that extends long into the finish thanks to the light prickliness of the remaining carbonation on the palate. It is so dry it almost doesn't even match up with the initial floral aromas, which makes for great interplay between the senses. It also impacts differently as the temperature changes, with the aromas much more subdued right out of the fridge and more steely/zesty on the palate, and vice versa as it sits. A great picnic wine because of the lower alcohol, perfect for light snacks and back porch sipping.
There are likely thousands of wine making grape varieties out in the world, the majority of which are not known by name by even the most astute wine drinkers. Most are local curiosities, grapes that have history with a population but little chance of being appropriated for mass production. In many cases that's just fine, as the wines produced are merely OK or growing the vines are more difficult than need be, so it's no great loss that their names are but a footnote in history. But there are just as many varieties that deserve to be better known, and we love to champion them when we find them. Italy is not surprisingly a treasure trove of hidden gems such as this one from Campania near Naples. The featured grape here is Sciascinoso, barely familiar even to locals as there are less than 1000 acres total planted. The skins have lots of color and tannin to them, so it is almost never featured solo, faring better in blends like this when partnered with the juicier Aglianico grape. The extra time in bottle has also brought much needed polish and elegance, taming the chunky tannins both wines can show in their youth and showing off impressive secondary characters that would never appear when first bottled.
Dark in color but showing the distinctive dusty brick tones of age at the corners, the aromas are amazingly complex and ever changing; dusty cherries, powerful incense, dark flowers, hints of sweet currants and gamey meats. This is one where the pleasure is just as much about smelling the wine as tasting it. The palate is more to the high toned red fruits and minerally cranberry tones, with tannins that are super fine but persistent, like a piece of polishing grade sandpaper that shows off an almost citrusy blood orange character to the finish. A great match for Easter lamb, but could also show very well with more exotic Middle East/Far East spice treatments for meat dishes.
The Corbieres region in the Sud of France has always been the high volume 'bread basket' of French wine, with a low emphasis on quality over quantity. Most wine drinker s in America barely register with the name of any producers from the region, save for maybe Domaine de Fontsainte which has been brought in by noted importer Kermit Lynch for 40 years. After that, the reaction is '?????'. In some cases it's the lack of enough quality estates to really bring the public consciousness around from the wealth of producers from the Rhone and more acclaimed areas of the Languedoc. But even when really good ones appear, their choice of Carignan as the featured grape just doesn't seem to catch hold with our population. The grape has a naturally gamey, savory side that can be a bit off-putting to those that prefer juicier and more fruit-forward flavors, and definitely wants food as an accompaniment versus being sipped as a cocktail. More people need to taste the wines from producers like Chateau Lastours that get it all just right, not only with high quality grapes and vineyards to work with but allowing a little more cellar time before release to soften the rougher edges of Carignan into a more exciting wine.
Deep in color, the aromas are straight our of central casting for a bistro in Montpellier or Narbonne, bursting with currant, dark cocoa, and savory roasted meats. The bit of bottle age also pulls out a more subtle perfume in the background than usually found from the region, almost a sweet floweriness behind the animal tones. The palate is super impressive for a Corbieres, silky and polished with more cocoa and tangy black fruits from the nose, only hinting at the more gamey side in the background and on the iron/bloody finish. This is the perfect wine with rustic Mediterranean foods with lots of salty meats, olives and roasted character to it.
Spring has officially arrived, with the opening day of Major League Baseball today and the explosion of flowering trees blooming everywhere. Another aspect of Spring, at least in our part of Virginia, is the inability to pick your wardrobe for the day, with frost conditions in the morning switching to shorts and t-shirts by noon. Basically it means that EVERY wine option is available right now, from light whites to roses to heavy reds. Whatever mood strikes you, the weather won't restrict your choice of wine. It's still weeks away from the dreaded 'triple H' of central Virginia weather (hazy, hot, and humid) so a full throated Californian Cabernet is definitely in play. This estate located in the southern foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains has had an on again/off again relationship with the Virginia market, but has been on our radar here since visiting over 20 years ago. A nice spread of varietal wines from their 150 acres of estate grown, sustainably farmed/vegan friendly vineyards, and this is our favorite thus far.
A rarity in Californian Cabs, this is not only a strong value but shows remarkable restraint in structure, avoiding the fruitier and extracted character so often found in this price range. Deep cassis and earthy black skinned fruits on the nose, showing more soil and black walnut elements as it opens up. The texture in the mouth is impressively rich showing more dark fruits and dusty cocoa tones, and not a shred of sweetness to be found. This isn't to say it's austere either, as the tannins are super fine and polished for a Cab, allowing the dark dusty fruit to linger on the finish in as very Old School manner. A delicious option for the dinner table, and a brand you will likely see more of in the future around the store.
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!