Thirty Oregon Wines in Thirty Days, Day 12!

THE VIOGNIER COMETH!

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Penner Ash Viognier, 2013 Willmette Valley. I’ve been looking forward to writing about this wine for a while! And it wasn’t just this tweet from Penner Ash that made me do it…

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The crown Lynn refers to is the crown I “won” at a blending seminar at OPC. And yes, I still have it. But no, I didn’t wear it. Not this day, at least.

I’ve liked this wine since I first met it! Which was probably the 2012 vintage. This wine was available in distribution in South Carolina (albeit, not a lot) and it definitely made a few friends at a wine dinner or two held by the distributor. We used to joke that a lot of people didn’t necessarily know how to pronounce it, but they liked it. Ie: “Hey, that Vee-OG-nee is really good!” As we would say in South Carolina, bless their hearts.

Vee-OWN-yay, or sometimes VEE-uhn-yay are the two ways I’ve heard Viognier pronounced. I lean towards the former and truth be told I don’t know if one’s more correct than the other. I’ve heard pros say it both ways. But I digress…

This is such a fun Oregon grape! Viognier is a grape that originates in France, but I’ve had versions from a lotta places; both the Rhone and Southern France, California, Washington, Virginia (yes, really! and it’s GOOD- check out Breaux Vineyards if you don’t believe me), Australia and probably a few more that are escaping me. Michel Chapoutier’s “Matilda” Viognier was a recent Aussie favorite. Freakin’ great.

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Oregon’s Viognier does best in the slightly warmer regions down South. The stats on the 2013 Penner Ash indicate just that. For being 100% stainless steel, this wine has a supremely luscious texture and medium-viscosity. Abundant with notes of perfumey jasmine, ripe pears, lemon curd, mango, cantaloupe and lychee. If you’ve never smelled a lychee… well, they’re tropical, but mellow. They’re pretty delicious, actually. The thing I like about this Viognier is that it has a big personality, but it is well-balanced and not over-the-top. Sometimes I dislike Viognier, when it veers into the too perfumey arena. Where I feel like I’m at a bridge tournament in a room full of old ladies. No one wants that. This wine is graceful and a real palate-pleaser. The slight amount of residual sugar make it really appealing to a lot of palates. I’d be willing to bet that this wine would charm the pants off a lot of people in a tasting room lineup.

I purchased this wine at the Penner Ash tasting room for $30, which I drive by every day. I love being neighbors with Penner Ash! The day I was there, I took this lovely shot- it was an unreal day, plus it was Friday AND payday. Holla!

Amaze.

Amaze.

Well, happy Monday friends! And hope you swing by Penner Ash soon! Their Riesling is great too, as far as whites go. But you’d not soon be disappointed in the Pinot Noir lineup, either. My neighborhood rocks!

 

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Thirty Oregon Wines in Thirty Days, Days 8, 9 & 10: Chard Party!

Earlier in the week I had the idea for this Chardonnay party and I’ve barely been able to contain myself. I only had to wait for my roommates to be back in town to complete the idea; fortunately they were agreeable. I’m providing the wine, and they’re providing the crab. It’s a pretty good deal for everyone. So the wines we’re drinking are as follows:

Haden Fig Chardonnay, 13 Willamette Valley

Belle Pente Chardonnay, 09 Willamette, Yamhill-Carlton, Belle Pente Vineyard

Domaine Serene “Etoile” Chardonnay, 10 Willamette, Dundee Hills

Its a Chard Party!

Its a Chard Party!

It would’ve been a travesty to open all three of these for just me, so I had to wait until I had people to share them with! The Haden Fig I picked up at Roth’s for $14.99, the Belle Pente was given to me as a gift last Summer (I believe the individual bottle cost is $30, but they occasionally do particular case specials at Belle), and to be honest, I have no idea how I acquired the Domaine Serene. I think someone gave it to me. Its retail cost is around $70. I’ve been saving it for a while now. So thats why I’m breaking the “repeat grapes allowed only once” rule: a special occasion! So there will be three Chards in my Thirty Oregon Wines project, mmmkay? Don’t care? Didn’t think so.

I sort of included an extra Chard on purpose- I want everyone to be as excited as I am about the Oregon Chardonnay Symposium coming up on March 15th!! I didn’t really discover Oregon Chard until I came to OPC in June of 2013. The following Spring I remember seeing posts about the Symposium from my then home in SC and seriously considering getting on a plane and coming here for 48 hours JUST to go to it.

That should cue you in to something: I. Freaking. Love. Oregon. Chardonnay. What else do I like? Crab. Lots of crab. So that’s what we’re doing tonight. I severely apologize if you end up hangry/jealous/hating me at the end of this post.

So these are three very different wines from three price ranges and three areas of the Willamette Valley. Haden Fig is a relatively small producer located in the Eola-Amity Hills. The owner was the winemaker at Evesham Wood for many years before launching the Haden Fig label in 2008. I used to sell a bit of the Haden Pinot Noir in SC, but it was only scantily available. It did develop a small fan base in Columbia, mostly because it was good, but also because people loved the owl on the bottle. I gotta say, I love that owl, too. So how excited was I to see this lil guy at the grocery store?! And for such a reasonable price!

Belle Pente and I have a long history. It was actually one of Brian’s Pinots that *first* made me think to myself- “hey, I like Oregon Pinot Noir.” This was back in roughly 2008, when I first started managing at the restaurant. Bossman let me pick a bottle for staff training a few times a week, and it had to have been his ’07 Willamette Valley, maybe ’06, that I picked. I wish my memory was that good, unfortunately it ain’t. But it stuck with me. Then I was fortunate enough to spend a bit of time with Brian, Jill, their daughter and their dog Peanut at OPC in 2013, and decided they were the nicest people alive. And here we are in 2015, and I live 5 minutes from their winery. In fact, I dropped in on Jill just yesterday because I had to get a picture of the sunset…

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I mean, come on. I can’t even.

Their Estate Chard comes from a small two-acre parcel that faces southwest, planted in 1999. Usually between 300-400 cases a year are made. Brian dabbles with using Oregon oak now and then, something that is relatively unexplored in Oregon; however, I can’t speak to how much/if any was used in this wine. According to a few sources, Oregon oak can be very aggressive and wily. But used sparingly, carefully? Hmmmm…. Only time will tell.

The Domaine Serene is sort of the “crown jewel” of this party. $70 definitely isn’t chump change for most people, but when I had this bottle a in 2013, it was an eye-opener. Mostly because I couldn’t believe how freaking good it was. More on that later. Lets get to individual tasting notes…

Do you heart this owl? I do.

Do you heart this owl? I do.

So this little guy sits at just 150 cases made, from two vineyard sites in the Eola-Amity Hills. For the price, I’m pretty impressed with it. I can easily see it as a restaurant glass pour- if I went to a restaurant and paid $9 a glass for it, I’d be happy. Bright, streamlined and linear, it cuts right to the chase with honeydew, golden apple, lots of citrus, and a hint of toast. It showcases the nice acidity and energy that Oregon Chardonnay in general personifies. It hits a nice note and finishes quietly.

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The Belle Pente has a very outgoing nose, and the three of us concede that this particular bottle is the most charming of the three. The warmth of 2009 is definitely at play here; the oak is clearly defined yet not overpowering. Touches of warm vanilla, honeyed pears, peaches, orange blossom, and prickly pineapple. The oaking in this wine is intriguing; its supportive, yet also at times steals the show. Not on every sip, but every couple sips I get a very enigmatic spice component as well. I may be biased, but I’m in total support of this bottle and think its a perfect segue for California Chard whores who need to see the grape in a not-so-slutty way. Pardon my language there, but I can’t help it.

RIDIC.

RIDIC.

So… hmm.. what can I say about this wine? It’s nuts. Worth every penny. I can’t back down from that opinion. The wine is insane. Its as pure as Snow White. Its as balanced as an Olympic athlete on a balance beam, with enough muscle to support its frame. Chisled and Chablis-like, it opens with a nose of bright lime zest, wet stone, white flowers and green apple. A vague creamy indication lingers in the background, an indicator of things to come. The mid-palate absolutely blooms with vanilla- but not in-your-face vanilla; like delicate, integrated vanilla. And texture! Oh, texture. It pierces just a little, but caresses. I really can’t even. This wine is drinking like a dream right now, with 5 years in bottle, yet I really think it’ll age for at least a decade.

Did I mention Crab?

YES.

YES.

Crab and Chardonnay are, at this moment in my life, my top pairing. The buttery texture of Oregon Dungeness crab, combined with the texture and minerality of Oregon Chard are literally a match made in heaven. It has to be experienced to be believed. It defies explanation.

So, what should you take from this long and over-explanatory post about Oregon Chardonnay? You need it! Oregon is on the precipice of absolute world-class Chardonnay production, and that “secret” is pretty much out, to a lot of people. But not all the way. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again; Pinot Noir put Oregon on the map, Chardonnay is going to keep it there. It’s the next big thing. And I think you need it. Now. And some Dungeness crab. Just do it.

Cheers to days 8, 9 & 10! Thanks for reading and there’s more wine to come!

This Week’s Whites to Watch Out For!

It finally feels like we better strap in and enjoy the ride folks- Summer is almost here! Spring was sort of a temptress this year, no? Warm. Cold. Warm. Cold. And the last few days have been downright Summery. Complete with a forecast full of rain and… no accumulation. So what better time than to preview a few fun exciting new whites?

mmm.. WHITES

mmm.. WHITES

 

Folk Machine Tocai Friulano, 13 California, Mendocino. Retail $15. 

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OKAY OKAY- so THIS one is hands-down one of the coolest whites I’ve had this year! For a lot of reasons, some nerdier than others. I’ll get into that in a bit, but first I must regale you with details about how delicious this stuff is! If you’re after a flowery-citrus-bomb that’ll leave you feeling like you licked a grapefruit peel, this one might not be your jam. Because it is a study in understated, if you will. It’s an effortless little wine, made from a cool grape that you don’t see a lot of in California, and dollar for dollar, it absolutely owns some of it’s closest “competitors”, style-wise. Yes, I’m speaking of the “New California” category. But anyway, let us first get back to the wine itself: this wine has an irresistible freshness straight out of the bottle. I hesitate to call it “petillant”, but there’s definitely a touch of fizz on this wine when you first crack it. It’s a lean and fresh palate that you’ll find when you sip this guy. Slightly saline with green hints. Think an underripe pear, green grapes straight outta the fridge, lime pit, and fresh herbs. The nose is not terribly forthcoming, but that’s just kinda how it rolls. It hits the thirst-quenching note quite precisely, and the finish is dry and a bit chalky. This wine is like Vinho Verde’s slightly more evolved cousin, in my opinion. Meant to be taken just a bit more seriously than your average poolside-crusher, but still falls into the everyday category. Would be genius with a fresh tomato salad with plenty of herbage and some tangy goat cheese. This wine was written up by The New California Wine author Jon Bonne in SFGate. Check it out!

 

Anne Amie “Cuvee A” Muller-Thurgau, 2012 Oregon, Willamette. Retail $16.

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So if you’ve been reading this blog for some time, you’ll remember that I’ve written about this wine before. But… it’s just SO. DURN. GOOD. And this is a new vintage! I can’t resist a revisit. Especially since I have been to Oregon and Anne Amie Vineyards since the last time I wrote about this wine, so my appreciation has only deepened. I’ll skip the part where I explain to you what Muller-Thurgau is in great detail; suffice to say, it’s a grape you should be drinking. It originated in Germany but has found a happy home in Oregon’s cool Willamette Valley. And you can call it MULL-er, or MEW-ler, depending on your mood. I go with MULL-er because I find the alternative awkward. I may be remiss in that, but I am okay with the consequences. I have heard pros say it both ways. So there.

It goes without saying that this wine has been delicious and consistent every year that I’ve tasted it, and this one is no exception. It’s aromas are downright intoxicating. Sweet honeydew melon, honeysuckle, peaches and fresh spring flowers. The palate offers a touch of tartness (green apple, lime) and minerality. But it finishes up with an oh-so-silky mouthfeel that will make you squeeeeee. I can’t think of a more perfect wine for Pad Thai (yeah, probably even the kind you can get at Food Lion), a Spicy Tuna Roll &/or a Shrimp Summer Roll with sweet thai chile sauce! (I gotta pause and drool now….) LOVE. IT. You need it in your mouth.

 

Vina Tobia Blanco, 12 Spain, Rioja. Retail $14. 

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Yet another funsie! I love a good, zippy Spanish white. If you’ve been in an Albarino phase, let this one be your next fling! It is a blend of 50% Viura, 20% Verdejo, 10% Malvasia, 10% Tempranillo Blanco and 10% Sauvignon Blanc. Note: there will be a quiz. You may or may not be familiar with many of those, but Verdejo and Viura are fairly common in the world of Spanish whites and you may have had them before. An energetic and vibrant white, it has a rounder texture than an Albarino typically does, but all the lovely bright citrus flavors you probably love. You’ll also find some exciting hints of pineapple, passionfruit and and a touch of nuttiness. The finish is fresh and clean, but with the aforementioned touch of texture and “waxiness”. Kind of an odd word, but it will make more sense once you try it.

…And try it you will! Or can, at least, at TOMORROW’S Wine Sale! All these babies will be open for the tasting from 12-2. I picked three off-beat wines today for a reason- my new catch phrase at the wine sales is going to be “TRY SOMETHING NEW!” Cause I love y’all mean it, but sometimes I feel as though I sell the same wines to the same people every week. We gotta shake it up! Try new stuff! That’s what we’re here for.

Come visit tomorrow, have a great, wine-filled weekend, and thanks for reading! 

 

 

Goin’ Goin’, Back Back, to Oregon!

Sometimes inspiration is hard to find, friends. 

That’s a lesson I’ve repeatedly learned throughout the course of writing this blog. It’s really easy to fall into the rabbit hole of non-creativity and lack of motivation (for me) when it comes to writing. It’s almost like when you put off doing a specific task for a few weeks, even though you know you’ll feel great once you do it. Then one day? You wake up and just FEEL like doing it! It’s miraculous. Like today!

It also helps to have a friend tell you: “WTF? You’re not blogging! You suck.” She meant that with love, honestly.

#OregonNerd

#OregonNerd

The OTHER thing that helps is having two wines arrive a day apart from each other that are SO marvelously Oregon that they inspire you beyond words. And that happened this week! You’ll definitely want to check these out at the Wine Sale tomorrow, March 1st from 12-2. Yeah, I know there’s Mardi Gras stuff going on tomorrow, but there’s plenty of time to do both, mmmkay?

First up is the brand-spanking new vintage of Walnut City Wineworks Pinot Gris, 2013 Willamette Valley. What is it about a really nicely balanced and well-priced Oregon Pinot Gris? When they hit the nail on the head, they’re just the ultimate go-to wine. But some of them speak to me more than others- usually I look for an ultra thirst-quenching bite on the finish, and I like fun accents of florality. Is that a word? Maybe. Plus I LOVE their label art:

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So this is an effortless little drinker that is everything it should be; crisp, clean and fragrant with notes of kiwi, lime zest, white flowers (gardenias, maybe) and something vaguely soapy and lovely. I like the slight addition of tropical fruit flavors, which you could pick up nicely with whatever you choose to dine on- a tropical fruit salsa? Atop a salad with goat cheese and even some grilled salmon? Oh, I do think I just planned a meal for you… how easy was that? This wine retails for $15, and you can also find it on Cellar on Greene’s by-the-glass list for the time being!

Next up is definitely my favorite 2012 Willamette Pinot that I’ve had in a minute- Left Coast Cellars “Cali’s Cuvee”. I believe this wine is relatively new to South Carolina (I might be wrong on that, but at the very least I had never had nor seen it until just before the holidays). Lemee tellya, this stuff is perfect. I’ll always support the merits of 2011 Oregon Pinots- I embrace the light, cooler vintages as much as a warmer one like 2012. But coming off of 2011, this wine is such a welcome change! It really captures fullness and ripeness without sacrificing the overall “cool” nature of Oregon Pinot Noir in general. It has a nice depth of color- and offers more of the blue fruit spectrum- blueberry, black cherries; as opposed to the lean cranberry/pomegranate palate. The finish is undeniably sexy- warm and soft, with lingering vanilla and French oak. A touch of strawberries n’ cream, almost. But not like a nasty strawberries n’ cream candy bar- like actual fresh strawberries with a mound of freshly whipped cream on top. Did I mention that I had the best strawberries of my *life* last summer in Oregon? I thought I knew strawberries. They were life-changing.

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But back to the wine: hints of Asian five spice and a touch of clove are flirtatious and fun. This wine won a Double Gold at the Oregon Wine Awards for it’s 2011 vintage. I literally cannot get enough of it. The other thing I’ll say about this wine is that our staff at Cellar LOVES it. I take pride in this, because they, at the ripe ages of around 23-26, actually DO know a killer wine when they taste one. They might not be able to tell you exactly why (yet), but they know it’s good. I like that. It’s that you-can’t-quite-pinpoint-why kind of love. Like when you meet a person and you KNOW you instantly like them, even though you don’t know every single thing about them yet. Evidently I’ve had too much wine before lunch, so I will quit my rambling right about now.

BUT the BEST part of this wine? It’s freaking $22! That, my friends, is an absolute steal for such a high-quality Willamette Valley Pinot Noir. I insist you try it.

Also, here’s a screenshot of yet another source of inspiration that got me pumped to write about wine today. And don’t you judge my station list… Sometimes one needs Mariah Carey Radio.

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That’s all I got for today- see y’all at the WINE SALE TOMORROW! 

 

A big fat BUBBLE post!

Is it me, or has this been the absolute fastest November-December in the history of the world?  It seems like it was just October and I was saying to myself, “the holidays will be here soon”, and now they’re over.  I don’t tend to perseverate too much over the timing of Thanksgiving and Christmas, but really?  They were that close together?  It just seems wrong.  But there’s no use dwelling; at this point we just need to strap in and be ready.  And now it’s just up to NEW YEARS EVE and then we’re into 2014!  So what better time than now to talk about some recent arrivals of a BUBBLY nature?!  You know it!

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they can be yours, too.

BUBBLES.  My all-time favorite thing to open on a whim, at any time of day, for no reason at all.  To celebrate nothing.  Or everything.  Or somewhere in between.  But considering that it’s a holiday, you have an excellent reason.  I’ll highlight a few from all price ranges….

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Clara C “Fiori” Brut Rose, NV Italy ($13) The Clara C is as close to a perfect little pink bubbly as I can imagine.  It is light, fresh and offers up crispness and a touch of pretty red fruit and vanilla.  This one, of course, is ideal if you have a lot of people coming over.  The bottle is classy and it looks and tastes like it cost way more!  Side note- it has a sibling that is decidedly NOT pink, but still delicious.

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Sokol Blosser “Evolution” Sparkling, NV Oregon ($21)  The Evolution Bubbly is another favorite- I fell in love with this wine back in June when I visited the winery, and at the time it was winery-only.  At this point I confess to being a total Oregon Wine Nerd, thanks to said trip to Pinot Camp- however, this wine really is the jam- AND it’s from Oregon, which is awesome.  It is a blend of (up to) nine undisclosed Oregon white grapes.  I was told it’s based in Muller-Thurgau (holla!), but you can figure there’s probably some Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, maybe even Viognier or Pinot Blanc in there, too.  I sort of relish in not knowing, and I suggest you do the same.  Anyhow– you should drink this because it has brilliant clarity, precision and tastes like heaven.  Green apples, tart citrus zest, a light floral background and brilliant acidity are artfully blended.  Get on it.  And at $21, it’s in an excellent “treat yourself” price range, in my opinion.  Truth be told, I plan to make a mimosa out of this on New Years Day.  Because- well, New Years.

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Louis Grenelle Brut Rose, NV France, Loire ($18)  OHHHH heavens, you need this.  One of my absolute favorites. (hmm… that word seems to be coming up a lot…).  But really, this stuff is the BOMB.  I posted about it’s white sister a year or so ago, and I love both of them- but the pink one holds a special place in my heart.  It is made from Cabernet Franc- and if you’ve never had a sparkling Cabernet Franc, you really must.   With this bubbly, you get gorgeous notes of strawberry and cranberry, hints of fresh flowers, and the MOST clean and zippy finish you’ve ever experienced.  Zippy being a technical term for that fleeting “lift” that we love so much in a sparkling wine.  Bubbles and acid.  Magic, I tell you.

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Domaine Carneros by Taittinger Brut, 09 California  ($19).  An absolute steal of a California sparkler!  This guy has impeccable balance- bright flavors of citrus, golden apples and raisins and lime zest are met with a touch of yeast, honeycomb and toasty-ness.  I drank some of this alongside a giant bowl of buttered popcorn, and I was transported to a very happy place.  Crunchy things with a bit of salt are fantastic with sparkling wine- and add in that toasty quality with the buttery popcorn?!  Oh, lord have mercy!

And now for a few high-rollers... In my opinion, if I’m going to shell out $40 or more for a bottle of anything, let alone Champagne, it better be good.  And not just good because celebrities on TV drink it, or because it has a shiny ad in Wine Spectator or excellent marketing- like it has to be GOOD WINE.  So here are a few that I would GLADLY spend my money on and drink with relish:

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A. Margaine Cuvee Traditionelle, NV France, Premier Cru ($42) and Aubry Brut, NV France ($42).  Since I am spoiled and DO get to taste a lot of Champagne, I can honestly say that I don’t taste Champagne the way I do other wines- when I really love a Champagne, I FREAKING love it and want to marry it.  If I just like it and think it’s fine or even excellent- I usually forget about it the next day.  These two have been staples on our shelves for years, and both come from what I think to be the best importer of Champagnes in the US- Michael Skurnik.  The Margaine is made from mostly Chardonnay and a touch of Pinot Noir; the Aubry is an interesting blend of 45% Pinot Meunier, 25% Chard, 25% Pinot Noir, and the rest small weird varietals that I’ve never heard of.  So why these?  All I can really say is, they both have that touch of “magic” that you can’t quite put your finger on.  Therefore I’ll not go into massive detail- stylistically, they’re a fresh, lean, taut and energetic style that I’m quite drawn to.  They both taste tremendous and you should get one.  Coincidentally, they both also got 92 Points from Robert Parker.  

Last, the Pierre Gimonnet “Paradoxe” Brut, 2006 France, Premier Cru ($65).  This is the big sexy.  A richer style that is sheer indulgence.  Also imported by Michael Skurnik, and also 92 points rated by Robert Parker.  Made from about 2/3 Pinot Noir and the rest Chardonnay, it is more broad-shouldered and bustier than the last two.  Ripe red berries, hints of spice, smoke and cherry pits; it is deep, layered and expressive.  A real treat.  Go for it.

Hope everyone’s enjoyed this trip down bubble lane and HAPPY 2014!

All aforementioned bottles are available for purchase at Cellar on Greene.

new wines for Friday that are Fabulous and Fun!

It’s FRIDAY, and that means it’s high time we chatted about some new juice.  Well, technically any day of the week is perfect for that, but today’s the day.  These three puppies are really, truly fantastic and individualistic.  They truly each deserve a post of their own, but multi-wine posts are a little easier to pull off on a Friday afternoon.  So let’s take a peek…

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A total of five grapes and three countries!  One grape of which you probably have never heard of.  One brand-new to SC Pinot Noir.  And one freaking excellent Malbec blend from a forgotten place for Malbec- France!  Eeek, what fun!

First up is one of my favorite finds of the last few weeks: Cederberg Bukettraube, 2012 South Africa:

Buke-what?  Buke-who?

Buke-what? Buke-who?

When I first met this wine, I knew we would be fast friends.  I’m widely known as a weird white wine nerd, so it wasn’t exactly a shock that I took a liking to this one.  However, just cause you weird, don’t mean you good- but this one is!  To me, when I first smelled it, it reminded me of a really pretty Vouvray.  Which, when you consider that South Africa does really well with Chenin Blanc, isn’t too far of a stretch.  However, this Bukettraube (buke–rhymes with nuke–uh-traube) is not related to Chenin, as far as I could Google.  Apparently it is a grape of German origin.  It is a cross of Silvaner and Schiavia.  Not much else to be found on this one, but you shouldn’t be phased by that.  There’s only so much background info we really need.  What we do need to know is how incredibly TASTY it is!

An incredibly aromatic wine, it bursts with smells that are similar to a Muscat; ripe apricot, lychee, rose petals, peaches and prickly pineapple.  Nice floral accents set it off, the mouthfeel is soft and plush but not overbearing, and the finish clenches with a nice pop of citrus zest.  Truly a gorgeous and unique wine.  Who will like it?  Well, probably other white wine nerds like me.  But if you like Riesling, Chenin Blanc or even a Sauvignon Blanc (minus a little citrus), you will want to give this one a try.  It would be to DIE with spicy cuisine.  The 2010 vintage of this wine got a little press; 90 Points form Steven Tanzer and 89 points from Wine Enthusiast.  I’d not be shocked if this one earned itself a rating, too, so keep your eyes peeled.  Or don’t, if you don’t care.  This wine is a ridiculous value at $13 retail!

What’s next?  A personal fave.  Omero Cellars Pinot Noir, 2011 Willamette Valley, Oregon.  I actually had this wine prior to my trip to Oregon in June and was quite tickled by it.  My appreciation grew after the trip, where I tasted approximately 10,000 (okay, slight exaggeration) Oregon Pinot Noirs.  We just picked up this wine as a by-the-glass pour last week (hat tip- only the second account in SC to do such…).

serious Oregon juice.

serious Oregon juice.

So why do I like this particular one?  Well, an Oregon Pinot that is artfully made tends to really stand out.  When that wine offers what I perceive to be a great value, they stand out even more.  This is the first distribution vintage for this winery; they are very small and only 1500 cases of this 2011 were made.  It’s everything Oregon Pinot Noir should be: bright acidity, a nice mix of ripe red fruit on the forefront, followed by some sour cherry, pomegranate, wild strawberry and raspberry.  There is a nice softness and a flowery suggestion in the finish, and a touch of mild vanilla.  This wine tastes freaking phenomenal the second day after opening!  In and of itself, this is an indicator that this wine is a great candidate for a bit of time in the Cellar.  For a cooler vintage like 2011, this is a great quality for a wine to have.  The winemakers are pretty legit, making it their goal to express the true nature of Willamette’s climate and soil.  Their winery is located in the Ribbon Ridge AVA of Willamette, which is where the majority of this fruit is sourced.  This wine is currently available for tasting purposes and as a glass pour!  It’s retail cost is a modest $24.  (Side note: their single Ribbon Ridge Pinot Noir is exemplary, too).  You will not find this on any other wine list in Columbia- BOO-YAH!

What’s the last thing on my mind today?  A little Frenchie!  From one of my favorite regions in France, Cahors.  Cahors is relatively close to the Bordeaux region.  Malbec is a grape that is considered a true Bordeaux varietal, but it is often seen in Cahors as a single varietal, or in this case used in a cool blend of 80% Malbec with a splash of Merlot and Tannat:

mmmmmm.

mmmmmm.

Chateau de Gaudou, 2011 retails for a sweet $15.  It is as close to a perfect house French red as you could find.  In my mind, approach this wine as 1.) a great value French red and then 2.) as a Malbec.  It will not taste like the Argentinian Malbec you had last week.  Sure, there are some definitive grape characteristics that are similar, but they’re treated much differently in each country.  I like both, but I find Cahors Malbecs to have density, color and depth that are quite striking.  A deep purple, almost black color, it has a whopper of a nose of blackberry liqueur, blackcurrant, toasty oak, black cherries, violets, and undertones of roasted sage and thyme.  Some higher notes of red raspberry are found if you search for them, too.  The mouthfeel is smooth with a little bite of tannin that makes it great with food.  Grilled or roasted game.  Maybe a beef or lamb tartare to make the mineral content pop a bit.  It’s quite versatile and great on it’s own.  This wine is also currently a glass pour at Cellar, so should you desire a taste, just stop on in!  Or have a glass with your next dinner!

Thanks for reading and HAPPY DRINKIN!

Penner-Ash Riesling, 11 Oregon, Willamette

It’s BANANAS how good this stuff is!

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Please, oh please don’t disregard this post if you think you don’t like Riesling.  You will break my Riesling-loving heart if you do.  Did you know that most wine-loving people have a deep preoccupation with Riesling?  We do.  There are lots of reasons, some of which I will touch on today.  Bossman and I have tried for several years to put a pep in people’s step about Riesling.  Unfortunately, most of the time it has been wasted effort.  Riesling flights, Riesling pairings, Riesling weeks… always, there will be a handful of people who love it, and the rest largely ignore it.  *woe are we*

Consider this, in case you still think it’s just us: the Summer of Riesling was started in 2008, and went national in 2011.  It’s a pretty awesome campaign, and a lot of fantastic restaurants and wine shops around the US participate.  This Summer I’m having my own Summer of Riesling, and it begins and ends with the Penner-Ash!  If I can get YOU to buy this, or at least have a glass or two at Cellar, I will have won.  Why now?  Well, I am still fresh and doe-eyed over my amazing trip to Oregon Pinot Camp, it’s hot as hades (aka perfect Riesling weather), and this was one of the wines (and wineries) I totally fell for on the trip.  And the reason you’re hearing about it today is that we just put it on by-the-glass at Cellar! We are definitely the only restaurant in SC to be pouring this wine by the glass, and it is also our first-ever Willamette Riesling!  that is reason enough to celebrate…

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I’m already feeling wordy today, so I’m gonna get straight to the point before I babble on too long;  this shit is bananas. The first thing you need to know about this wine is that is is gorgeously dry.  This is an excellent way for it to be.  Willamette, as many of us know, is a cool climate.  Cool climates mean (among other things) acidity.  Riesling is naturally high in acid, and also offers some of the most exciting, vibrant aromas your nose could ever encounter.  This wine is focused, pure and happy to be alive.  A bright nose of tangerine, fresh lime zest, apricots, honeydew melon, honeysuckle and a touch of something soapy and clean will greet you.  A little touch of petrol is hiding in there too.  The body is a nice combination of lightening-quick acidity and a silky mouthfeel.  The minerality on the finish stays with you for quite a bit…

Which leads me to one of the BEST reasons to love Riesling– minerality and acid mean FOOD!  Riesling and food are meant to be togther.  What kind of food?  So many kinds!  Your options are not limited- that’s yet another BEST reason to like Riesling- versatility!  One of my all-time favorite combinations is Riesling with Thai cuisine.  The power of a dish that has a bit of spice and a high-acid white with nice fruit such as this = mind-blowing. The “prickle” that many Rieslings offer also makes it a great match for fried items (don’t act like you too good for fried food).  What else?  Sushi.  Shellfish.  Indian Curries.  BBQ.  Grilled fruit that you throw on a fresh green salad.  There are several menu items this week at Cellar that beg for this wine- Torched Beef Shoulder Tataki with ponzu, cukes, pineapple, sriracha, lime and cilantro; Sockeye Salmon with thai chile glaze and pineapple salsa, and the Gorgonzola Stuffed Peach Salad.  Speaking of Gorgonzola- this wine, in addition to being a pleasant afternoon or dinner sipper would make a marvelous palate-cleanser with a cheese plate for dessert.  A nice strong Blue cheese with a bit a honey and a sip of this?  BOOM.  that’s it.

Another reason why you must try this wine: for lack of better words, because I’m telling you to.  I would love for you to really “get” why I’m pushing Willamette Valley whites, and this is a good way to get it.  Plus, Riesling is only the beginning!  Viognier, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Gewurztraminer, Muller-Thurgau… Pinot Noir put Oregon on the map, but whites are doing some amazing things to help keep it there.  Trust me.

Here are a few pictures of Penner-Ash, this wine’s home:

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This wine is available for retail purchase ($24) as well as by-the-glass at Cellar!  Drink up, at just over 300 cases made, it won’t last forever!  And I’m putting a decent dent in it pretty much every night…