Let’s get weird: Sattler St. Laurent, 2012 Austria

Let’s give the weirdos some love this week, y’all.

First of all, let’s have a round of applause for some of my favorite weird characters from various movies. If you don’t know who any of them are, I really pity you… Especially if you’ve never seen Wet Hot American Summer.

photo (21)So yes, this is a weird little grape. What’s weird about it? Well, definitely not the taste. Mostly the name. Yes, the St. Laurent is in fact the name of the grape! I can’t help but wonder, perhaps somewhat glibly, what they were thinking when they named the grape St. Laurent. From my not-terribly-extensive-Googling-okay-so-sue-me, the conclusion seems to be that it was named that after St. Lawrence Day, which is celebrated by Europeans (what a cheeky bunch they are!) on August 10th, which is when or around this grape usually ripens.

The cat finds this bottle highly suspect.

The cat finds this bottle highly suspect.

But maybe that’s just my American sensitivities that are confounded by the name of the grape. And I don’t dislike it, per say; I just think it’s odd. But, there’s a zillion grape names out there that are nothing if not odd: remember the Bukettraube? Vranec? Just to name a couple.

But onward we go to our weirdo celebration! And now that we’ve actually past the weird part, we can get to how fantastic this wine is! And that’s really the challenge with a weird grape name- encouraging people to not be scared of the unfamiliar! Sometimes that takes a while. *sigh*

I found some really colorful ways to describe St. Laurent on the good old interwebs: Terry Theise calls it “Pinot Noir with a touch of ‘sauvage'” in one of his catalogues. John Schreiner says, “it comes across as a Pinot Noir wearing hiking boots.” (source is a great article found here). The Pinot Noir comparisons are no coincidence, as it IS actually genetically related to Pinot Noir. Here’s what I think: yes to both of those quotes. Suffice to say, I would definitely recommend this wine to people that are fond of Pinot Noir. It drinks like a old-world style Pinot, but with a bit more flesh on its bones. The skin on St. Laurent is darker, and the wine definitely reflects that. A deep, pretty shade of eggplanty-purple, the nose is generous and forthcoming. Notes of creamy vanilla swirl about after some initial blue fruits, black cherry, blackberry, violets, cherry cough drops, and a touch of evergreen. The palate is richer than it’s 13% alcohol reflects and uber-smooth. It finishes with a tang of red plums and redcurrants. Really tasty.

photo (23)

St. Laurent is apparently one of the widest planted grapes in the Czech Republic and other parts of Eastern Europe. And there’s some in Canada and New Zealand, too. Are there any crazy wahoos in Oregon growing this grape? Inquiring minds want to know! It wouldn’t shock me, logistically, except that I don’t know much about what it takes to grow a new grape somewhere. Seems like that might be tricky.

So give this one a try if you’re looking for a cool new discovery this week! You’ll find it at the wine sale this Saturday, March 22nd from 12-2, if you remain unconvinced of it’s merit. If nothing else, you can commit some of this to memory and show off to a friend or two the next time you’re in a wine store or a wine bar. Like… Cellar on Greene. Since you definitely will not find this wine as a glass pour anywhere else in Columbia. Yep, we excel at the strange on our corner of Greene Street.

I should also mention that this wine sells for $17 a bottle! So try it! Get weird!

Berger Zweigelt, 2010 Austria

Heh?  Zwei-what??  ZweiGELT!  here’s the best phonetic pronunciation guide I could invent- “Tsvye-gelt.”  But I promise not to make fun of you if you say “Zwy-gelt”.  Or you could get straight to the point and just say “gimmee the weird red with the bottle top!”

So what the heck IS Zweigelt?  Well, it’s Austrian for one.  It is, as I like to call them, a wine baby-  It was created as a cross between Blaufrankisch and St. Laurent (HA!  like those are ANY easier to remember!  way to go, Austria!).  I kid Austria.  I love Austrian wine!  Anyway, Zweigelt is Austria’s most planted red varietal.  It was created in 1922 by Dr. Friedrich Zweigelt.  I swear it’s true- I couldn’t make this up if I tried.  That just seems like something you would say because you actually had no idea who made it- an Austrian grape called Zweigelt?  Sure!  A dude named Friedrich invented it!  And people would believe you, because they all saw The Sound of Music and there was a kid named Friedrich, and HE was Austrian.  Can’t you just picture these two drinking Zweigelt?

So rugged and sexy.  Kind of like this wine.  Overall, it is a light-bodied wine, but it’s very sturdy, which is what makes me say it’s rugged.  If you’re searching for a point of reference for this one (ie something familiar to compare it to), I’d liken it to a Pinot Noir, at least in body and appearance.  Visually, and on first whiff, it is deceptively big-seeming- dark colored, and with a spicy, peppery nose and additional aromas of dark fruits- blackberries, plums, and pomegranate.  But once you taste it, the 12.5% alcohol content is obvious- its light, buoyant, and tart mouthfeel and high acidity is just plain lip-smacking!

Now that Fall is officially here, there is no time like the present to try this wine!  It’s really a perfect match for fall foods- roasted root veggies will pick up it’s earthy tones.  Anything with mushrooms will be winning.  And I personally think it beckons for cheese- any kind of sharp, pungent cheese.  Which is also an ideal match if you happen to make this a 3:30 wine (more about that here)- which is a perfectly logical idea, considering that it’s low in alcohol.  So what if it’s a 1 liter bottle?

But back to Dr. Friedrich Zweigelt for a minute.  I’ve decided (after accidentally drinking a full glass of this wine while typing) that he is like a  WW1- era Colonel William Stryker-meets-wine:  “In creating this cultivar, Fritz Zweigelt was looking for prolific grape-bearing, good deep colour, and resistance to disease. And Zweigelt is indeed  resistant to frost, drought, and to various ailments of the vine, but by crossing Blauf with SL, Dr Z came up with a grape that tastes like neither” (source).

Granted, Fritz here doesn’t have a secret desire to destroy all grapes the way Stryker wanted to destroy all mutants.  But let’s still liken the Berger Zweigelt to Wolverine.  Just for fun.  Okay, just so I can google some pictures of him.

Amazing how we’ve gone from Captain Von Trapp to Colonel Stryker and Wolverine in the span of one blog entry that is supposed to be about wine.  And we have this quiet overcast day and a bottle of Berger Zweigelt to thank!  So thank you, Berger.  I applaud you.  I applaud your versatility, uniqueness and coolness.  Thank you for starting my Saturday so beautifully.

Okay, I had best shut up now or who knows where we will end up next.  Try the Berger by-the-glass at Cellar on Greene, or take a bottle home for $14!  Happy weekend everyone!

Wines of the Week!

I’m a little ADD this week… I just couldn’t decide on one wine.  So I picked two.  On the one hand, I am loving this most recent Gruner Veltliner from Cobenzl- but considering that it’s fall and how long we here in SC have waited for cooler weather, I know people are itching for red wine.  But the fact remains this Gruner is awesome.  And on the other hand, the Ramon Bilbao Crianza has been flying outta here the past two weeks and it’s freaking awesome, too!  Here they is:

Weingut Cobenzl Gruner Veltliner, 2009 Austria.  I’ve been looking at Weingut Cobenzl’s website and drooling for the better part of 30 minutes… BEAUTIFUL, beautiful, beautiful…

It’s just dawned on me that I allowed the entire hot, brutal summer to pass me by without writing about a Gruner Veltliner.  This is an abomination of the highest proportion.  But better late than never, I suppose- and while Gruner is a perfect summer wine, it has fantastic versatility, so it’s definitely not strictly a summer wine.  Gruner is something of a trendy grape, especially over the last 3-4 years.  When I started waiting tables at Solstice (gah!  almost 5 years ago) we were the only restaurant in Columbia to serve a Gruner by the glass.  It had recently hit the Charleston wine scene and was developing it’s cult status as a cool grape.  As a testament to it’s coolness, The Shop Tart LOVES Gruner.  And she is mad cool.  Check out a spot she filmed this summer at Cellar where she tastes a Gruner! 

This particular Gruner really is one of the best I’ve had this year.  It offers a touch more elegance while maintaining it’s Gruner characteristics of pure minerality, spice, stone fruits, and notes of apple, quince, and citrus.  Exceptionally clean and almost virginal.  Despite it’s youthful personality, it also possesses a nice stylistic degree of maturity and a longer finish that is a testament to some kick-ass winemakin’!  You can find this wine by the glass at Cellar, and you can also take a bottle home for $15!

Ramon Bilbao Crianza, 2006 Rioja is now added to my “I’m a sucker for a good Tempranillo” list.  I suppose I should be less predictable, but I. Just. Can’t. HELP IT!  Tempranillo is amazing.  There very few grapes that, in my opinion, can offer such a consistently drinkable everyday wine for $10-12!  Try to think of one.  And not just drinkable- like GOOD drinkable, not something you would open when someone stopped by just to be nice- something you would actually look forward to opening, and would look for excuses to open.  Actually- Garnacha is a pretty consistant everyday drinker, too… okay, you got me.  I got myself.  Ahh, whatever… on to the wine!  A bright, deep cherry red, aromas of black beries, balsamic, licorice, tobacco, vanilla and smoke leap outta the glass.  A perfect acidic balance really allows this wine to stand on it’s own two feet.  14 months in American Oak make it hearty and ready for cooler weather, but the oak manages to be perfectly integrated and not hit-you-over-the-head, which I am not a fan of.    Oh, did I mention that this bottle retails for $12??!  Yes, it does.  You can also grab a glass of it at Cellar for the forseeable future– in fact, it would taste pretty fantastic with our new Panzanella-Proscuitto Salad… this wine and cured meats are a match made in heaven…

Ramon Bilbao also won a Winery of the Year award in 2009, although I’m a little unclear as to who the award was from… but as an added bonus, the guy all the way to the right in this photo of them receiving the award is pretty hot: 

And on that note, I sign off for today.  Happy drinkin’ and thanks for reading!