Thirty Oregon Wines in Thirty Days, Day 18!

For the last two months, I have been driving by Carlo & Julian almost every day and seeing a sign that said “Closed.” I did start to wonder if they were ever open. This almost added to the intrigue, as it was obvious that its a tiny place. As luck would have it, my roommate happened to drive by on Saturday and noticed the sign said OPEN. We hustled on over, needless to say. Part of me thought by the time we got there it’d be closed.

But it wasn’t! We noticed a high volume of cars, and in turn, people, as we walked in. What a cozy spot. Its almost the epitome of Carlton; a tiny driveway, chickens and cats meandering about, a tasting room filled with pallets of wine that you know doubles as a winemaking facility. No frills, but very inviting and non-fussy.

Oregon Albariño- Wha?

Oregon Albariño- Wha?

We had actually stumbled into a Tempranillo tasting, we soon found out. The event was probably publicized to the mailing list, but we just got lucky. The owner and winemaker Felix was tasting about 8 different vintages of Tempranillo and two vintages of a blend called Six Grapes. The Tempranillos were wildly fluctuating in character, but all had maintained posterity and reflected the vintage. My favorite wine I had that day was one that was unfortunately sold out- the 2009 Six Grapes. Alas, I had to just enjoy it and then let it go. But I was curious about the Albariño that was listed as available and decided to give it a whirl. I have seen maybe 3-4 other Oregon Albariño around and had been meaning to check one out.

Does it get better than this on a rainy Saturday?

Does it get better than this on a rainy Saturday?

While Felix bottles a lot of Estate fruit, these Albariño grapes come from some nice folks named Ray and Sandra Ethell near Hubbard, OR. I had never heard of Hubbard, so I had to look it up; but it is very close to Woodburn, almost directly east of Carlton. This vineyard contains the first commercial planted Albariño vines in the Willamette Valley, which is sort of a fun fact! So now we can add it to the list of Spanish varietals grown in Oregon.

Always a high acid, super citrusy grape, this is no exception. The nose is all gooseberry, a touch of lees, some light floral accents, and a touch of peach that is almost hidden. In a warmer year like 2012, I can see more tropical fruit probably fleshing out these grapes a bit, but this year is all about the acid. This was such a soggy weekend that this wine makes me dream of a warm Summer evening and some fresh ceviche. Acid-on-acid is a delicate balance, but I think if you threw a sweet fruit salsa in there to marry them, it’d be on time. This wine could also probably cut through something with a higher fat content, or maybe a tangy goat cheese.

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In summation, this is a tasty little wine, but prepare your palate to be wow’d by acid. It is a cool-climate wine, no doubt. The bottle doesn’t state how much of this wine was made, but it probably wasn’t much. Carlo & Julian is having a Malbec tasting in a few weeks and I’ll definitely be there! I recommend a stop. Go for it.

This wine was purchased at the winery for $22. Cheers!

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WattsUp Rosé, 13 Spain, Rioja

A beautiful girl with no makeup on.

MMM.

That’s the best imagery that I can conjure up to describe this wine. You know, that beauty who’s fresh from the beach, maybe a little freckled or pink in the cheeks from a day in the sun. No muss, no fuss, yet lovely and carefree. No frills. But picture-perfect.

So, I like this juice. Could you tell? I like it for a few reasons. First of all, it tastes delicious. Clean, crisp, lightly floral, just the right amount of red berry fruit highlights and a touch of fresh watermelon. It’s elegant in it’s simplicity. Isn’t that what we want in a Summer thirst-quencher/beach-mate?

Second, I like the package. It sticks with it’s intended theme of “TAKE ME TO THE BEACH!” Simple and fun to look at. And doesn’t that picture make you want to go to the beach? I mean, I do- and with my pale skin, the charms of the beach are sometimes lost on me.

photo 4 (7)Third, this wine has some star power. And I admit, I’m charmed by it. Here’s the story: the wine was brought about by a rad photographer named Ben Watts. Somehow he became entrenched with the fellas at Wine Awesomeness. (Speaking of which, I’m going to need to hear the whole story there soon, mmkay guys?). All these bros apparently have a deep love of Pink Wine (three cheers for men who drink pink! teehee). So the first vintage of WattsUp was released last year and got quite a bit of press- check out the GQ article, Food Republic article, and Hamptons Magazine article from last year. And here we are in li’ ol’ Columbia SC, and we get to drink the stuff! How cool is that?

 

And while we’re on the subject of Wine Awesomeness, you should pop over and check out a few of the Wine Education blog posts I’ve written for them. I think they’re pretty neat!

But back to the wine, because that’s why you’re here. What I love about it, and why I believe it to be a successful wine, is that it picks one thing and does it well. By that I mean, the intention was to have a wine that is an easy-going, refreshing quaff that you can party with all Summer. And that is precisely what it is. Plus it’s an excellent value! You can sip on a glass for $7 at Cellar on Greene where it’s currently by-the-glass. But tomorrow would be a great time to come stock up on a few bottles before July 4th at our Big Ol’ Wine Sale & Tasting! Seriously, 12-2 tomorrow (June 28th), be there or be stranded without the coolest wine of the Summer for July 4th. We’re also going all out and marking down a lot of reserve bottles in a “Summer cleaning” sort of endeavor. DO IT!

Are you not so much a beach-goer? Have no fear. This wine is also perfect for this:

Don't act like this isn't what you're doing right now.

Don’t act like this isn’t what you’re doing right now.

Did I air out your dirty little secret? Drinking wine and Facebooking? It’s okay. We all need to decompress. So I suggest keeping a permanent bottle of this little guy in your fridge all Summer to give you an assist. That’s all I got for today. Come see me tomorrow at the wine sale!

 

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! 

 

 

Recent obsessions, condensed…

So, as I’ve stated before, sometimes I allow weeks to lapse without writing a proper post.  And while this is partially because it can be extremely challenging to set aside the proper time slot, it’s also because I have a HUGE problem with indecisiveness!  This is because I simply love so many wines that I can’t choose just one.  And a lot of times, I choose one, then another one shows up that I love just as much, and I’m thrown into a quandary of the worst sort.  And by then it’s Friday, and once Friday happens, I just give up.  Woe is me, too much good wine.  

All of that is a way of introducing you to not one, not two, not three, but FOUR fantastic wines that I’ve been loving lately!  Let’s start with the bubbles, because it’s before noon as I write this, and only bubbles are proper before noon:

Argyle Brut, 2009 Willamette Valley. $24

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This is a fun one, because there aren’t a *ton* of sparklers from Willamette Valley.  I’m racking my brain right now trying to think of some, but I’m coming up blank.  My suspicion is that many Willamette wineries make Sparkling, but don’t make a lot of it, and maybe only have it available at the winery.  Yet another reason why I need to visit Willamette ASAP!

I like this wine because it’s true to it’s roots; once you taste it, there’s absolutely no doubt that it’s a Willamette Valley wine.  They didn’t try to make it taste like anything other than what it should.  It shines a crystal-clear straw color, and cute tiny bubbles rise up from the bottom of the glass like they’s supposed to.  This is a Methode Champenoise wine, which means the bubbles are created in the bottle, making them, in most people’s eyes, preferable.  Made from 59% Pinot Noir and 41% Chardonnay, its light and clean, with a fresh palate of pears, green apples, a hint of almonds, light citrus, floral notes of honeysuckle and… something vaguely soapy, which I really like.  At just 12.5% alcohol, it drinks easily and frighteningly quickly.  A nice slap of minerality really lifts the finish to another dimension.  Fantastic.  At $24, it’s a great price range for a gift- and to boot, $24 is a bit less than what you might find it for elsewhere.

Next up!

Hugel “Gentil” Gewurtraminer/Muscat/Sylvaner/Riesling/Pinot Gris/etc etc, 2010 France, Alsace  $15

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Truly, I should have posted about this wine around Thanksgiving, but – duh- I didn’t.  Which is to say, that I’ve been marveling at this wine’s awesomeness for weeks.  I think it is absolutely gorgeous.  In fact, I don’t know if I’ve had an Alsatian white that I liked quite as much as this before.  It’s balance and texture are truly sublime.  “Gentil” is a term for a traditional blending of Alsatian grapes, so I gather.  It’s sort of a serendipitous name, in my modern American mind, because one of the first words that comes to mind when I think of this wine is gentle.  It is gentle and effortless, smooth and silky, refined and elegant.  Hugel et Fils is family owned and boasts over twelve generations of winemaking.  A nice tropical and floral nose is prominent, with aromas of kumquat, pineapple, lemon zest and lavender.  All of which are well-integrated and not in your face; gentle.  The palate is mouth-coating and has a touch of the oily-ness that is often found in Alsatian whites.  Calling something oily sounds disgusting, but it’s actually very pleasant- in this wine in particular, it feels like the wine is gently caressing your mouth.  Whoah.  Sorry, that got a little froo-froo sounding.  But it’s actually true!  The finish is tart, a bit dry, and thirst-quenching.  Really an exceptional value at just $15.

Onto the reds!

Decendientes de J. Palacios “Petalos” Mencia, 2010 Spain, Bierzo  $22 

photo 2 (14)

“Well helloooooo, lover!”  That’ what you should be saying to this wine.  First of all, I love the packaging on this bottle.  It’s just plain pretty.  Simple, pretty, and memorable.  This wine is my jam, y’all.  And it’s actually a lot of people’s jam, because it got a spot on Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of 2012, and a 93-point rating.  Mad props.  This wine has scored well most of the past few years, and it remains as delicious and consistant as ever.  So let’s start with the grape- Mencia!  Never heard of it?  I’m not surprised, although you might want to commit it to memory, because there are a lot of good ones out there, and it’s currently experiencing a bit of “trending” in the wine world.  Think of Mencia as a love child between a Tempranillo and maybe an earthy, cool grape like Carignan or Syrah.  It’s deceptively dark in color, a deep purple- the body is packed with fruit, but it is not weighed down in the slightest.  It’s what I like to call a drinker.  One of my more creative titles for a wine, I know.  But as I’ve elaborated before, a drinker is a wine that, upon completion of first sip, leaves your mouth with such a perfect acidic “quench” that you’d have to be straight-up cray not to desire another sip.  Or bottle.

So a beautiful nose of rose petals and violets will greet you, followed by a plush, plummy palate of red fruits, blackberry, and a perfect amount of fresh herbs- thyme and sage, mainly- plus a touch of peppercorn.  And again, the finish has such great lift, you’re gonna want to drink lots n’ lots.  Would be a great pairing for a roasted gamey meat- lamb?  Or- my personal love- a charcuterie plate filled with bountiful amounts of cured ham, sausage, and lots of cheeeeeeese.

One more!  And then I sign off…

Orin Swift “Locations F-1”, 2011 France  $22

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We’ve been sellin’ the bejeezus outta this wine for a few weeks!  The middle child in the “Locations” line by Orin Swift winemaker Dave Phinney, this is the French sibling.  As indicated by the giant letter F on the bottle.  The trio will be completed in Spring of 2013 with an Italian “I” family member (are you seeing a pattern emerging here?).  The idea behind this project is to blend fruit from major wine regions (aka locations) in each country.  So this wine here is a blend of Grenache from Roussillon, Syrah from the Rhone, and various unspecified Bordeaux varietals.  To me, it drinks like a Cotes du Rhone but with a nice creamy addition of vanilla and a bit of oak, and more fruit-forward.  It’s bright, fun, and remarkably easy to drink.  A sensible, straight-forward, yet playful wine that just begs to be drunk now.  It’s a great price point as well- most of the Orin Swift California wines are more in the high $30’s -$40’s, so at $22 it’s just a notch into the “treat yourself” territory.  But there won’t be any next-day “why did I open that” regret!  In fact, the next day you’ll probably want to buy another one.

Well, I started this at 11:30, and now it’s 3:30.   Along the way, I have tasted 17 additional wines from various distributors.  So that has been my day.  Jealous yet?  You should be.  My job rocks.

I’m formulating a “Best Wines of 2012” post for next week, and that will likely be all you hear from me this year.  ALL the wines listed in this post will be open this week either by the glass, or at Saturday’s tasting from 12-2!  So, please stop in and grab a taste or two or four!

Orin Swift “Locations E-1”, 2011 Spain

Okay, kiddos.  This post comes to you today from a sunny, beautiful Columbia, SC- AKA the Center of the College Football Universe.

Most of you that live in Columbia will probably not even read this until tomorrow, at the soonest.  Because your life has, of course, been put on pause until the conclusion of the USC-UGA game this evening.  I get it.  But I am for want of things to do this afternoon, as I am not one of those individuals who gets Football Fever.  I occasionally like install shock and fear in folks around here by telling them there is no such thing as College football in New England.  Horrifying, yes; but 100% true.  It’s like telling them there’s no Santa Claus.  In any case, I do have a vested interest in seeing the Cocks win tonight.  Mostly because I hate hearing my coworkers whine and pout if they lose.  That and I find most Georgia fans I’ve encountered to be a bit abrasive. (sorry, Lane. not you.).  But Bulldogs are cute.  That’s all I got.

So let us move on to a topic that can unite even  one of?? the biggest rivalries in the SEC- WINE! (we are in the SEC, right? I don’t really know.  I just remember someone saying “welcome to the SEC, Missouri.” or maybe it was Kentucky. Like I said, I don’t care about this stuff).  I’ll stick to what I like, which is WINE!!  Especially brand-new wine from Orin Swift winemaker Dave Phinney!

a study in simplicity, this package is.

Direct and to the point, the large capital letter E announces this wine’s company.  Functional, non-glamorous, yet appealing to the eye; I like it.  It reminds me of those bumperstickers that people put on their cars with the insider abbreviations for particular vacation spots.  For some reason, I like this bottle, yet I hate those stickers.  Like, if YOU were cool enough, YOU’D know what OBX stood for, and you’d go there!  But we won’t dwell on that.

Locations is a blend of three grapes from three of the most prominent growing regions in Spain; Grenache from Priorat, Tempranillo from Rioja, and Carignan from Ribera del Duero.  Despite some Googling, I can’t seem to find a breakdown of percentages.  I doubt it’s an even three way split, but stranger things have happened.  Now, I am a total slut for Spanish wine.  If I had to choose one country’s wine to drink for the rest of my life, it’d be Spain.  I would shed a tear for Rose from Southern France, but I’d get over it.  So maybe I’m predisposed to liking this wine, in which case I’m biased.  But I also have good taste, so you’ll have to take a gamble if you believe me when I tell you this wine is DELICIOUS.  It’s one of those wines I like to call “a drinker.”

specs.

Yes, all wines are drinkers, technically.  But the ones I call official “drinkers” have to have a specific characteristic- they have to leave your mouth feeling lighter OR as light as it was when you started drinking it.  In other words, it can’t weigh you down.  It can’t coat your mouth.  All you should feel after you sip it is a pleasant little tingle, AKA a lightening sensation.  Often it can make you want to smack your tongue against the roof of your mouth.  We could also call this the correct amount of acid, if we wanted to be technical.

But let’s get back to how it tastes, before I get too wordy.  I’ve actually consumed about a glass of this while writing.  So I’m an expert.  A very ripe and luscious nose of blackberry, black cherry, plums, blackberry liqueur, a hint of fresh sage and maybe juniper arrive in your olfactory glands ceremoniously.  The palate, as I said before, is zesty and bright with nice acid and a good balance of fruit.  Savory, robust and lip smackin’.  Structured, with a nice weight and again- very drinkable.  As is evidenced by me crushing a glass while sitting around at 2 in the afternoon.

In closing, I would say this; remember that this is a Spanish wine in addition to it being an Orin Swift wine.  For me, it is a nice venture into Spain from winemaker Dave Phinney- it IS an Orin Swift wine, because I (as should you) would have 100% confidence in buying it untasted, as I would know I’d be getting high quality wine, with precise, experienced and focused winemaking.  But these be Spanish grapes, not ‘Merican.  So if you buy it thinking it’s going to taste like The Prisoner, it won’t.  But you SHOULD buy it because it’s GOOD and because you love wine.  Also?  It’s only $22!  That’s a major win for this wine, and I’m really glad to see such a friendly price-tag on it.  A touch over your everyday price, but not so much that you’ll want to hoard it and feel bad for opening it.

Now here’s the kicker- this wine is in somewhat limited supply.  So I’d suggest stopping in and grabbing a bottle sooner rather than later.  Or, if you’re a transplant like me, come in tonight and have a glass- because in all likelihood, it will only be on by-the-glass until Tuesday of next week, the 9th.

get you some!

***Also!!  A special announcement for SPANISH WINE-LOVERS, if you’ve made it this far, about a way-awesome tasting we have Wednesday, October 10th from 5-7!!  Four brand-new Spanish reds from Well-Oiled Wine Company!  I was literally blown to pieces over these wines, and the PRICES are stunning.  None of them retail for more than $15.  And they’re all kick-ass.  Absolutely fantastic.  We’ll be trying the Pieza “El Coll” Garnacha, Gran Familia Rioja, Anciano 5 Year Tempranillo, and LAN Crianza Rioja.  I’m trying to talk Ricky into making some Spanish-style food to go along with them, too!  Put it on that calendar!

And okay, fine- after a glass of wine, I can say it- GO COCKS!!!

Sometimes I can’t choose just one…

A true story for you, on this Saturday. Most weeks I start out with the intention of picking a wine and writing about it.  Duh.  But if one were to review my blogging history, you’d see that I hardly ever post back-to-back weeks; there’s usually a spell of a week or two where I am silent.  And here’s the reason why: I have too many choices.  I like too many wines.  Many of them, like these three, I like SO much that I spend a chunk of time bound by indecision, struggling to come up with one unifying or decisive factor that will dictate which wine I will write about.

And then all of a sudden it’s Friday, and I have written nothing.  And I feel guilty.  And resolve to do better next week.  And sometimes that is successful, and sometimes it’s not.  Such is the human condition.  Many writers probably know the feeling of wanting to write, but when you sit down to do it, the words don’t come. Words are fickle creatures, and you can’t force them.  Even when they are not incredibly profound, and all you want to do is blather about wine and impart a bit of silliness along the way.

But today the stars seem to be aligned, and once I elected to just narrow it down to three wines, my brain seemed to cooperate and here I sit, ready to rock it out.  These three wines are simply stunning!  They are perfection.  They are three wines that once open, it’s literally impossible not to keep drinking them. So on with the show…

Muga Rose of Garnacha/Viura/Tempranillo, 11 Spain, Rioja.  Retails for $13.

look how frosty and delicious this looks.

Okay, so here’s the thing about Muga Rose: IT’S FAB.  This is such an elegant little wine with a microscopic little pricetag, and it’s almost unfair.  So if you’re new to Rose, and you still think they’re sweet- this wine begs to differ.  It is delightfully dry, with perfect acidity, and yet a soft mouthfeel that caresses the ever-lovin’-shizzle out of your tongue.  The nose is flowery and zesty.  When it first hits your mouth (especially if it’s a touch too cold), you might think it tastes like nothing.  But the mid-palate really explodes with pretty flavors of cherry, watermelon, wild strawberry, rhubarb and an ultra-clean, citrusy finish that makes your mouth water.  There’s a touch of strawberries-and-cream on the end, too that round out this wine’s finesse.  A lovely expression of a Grenache Rose- many of the ones I’ve had tend to be in-your-face in the fruit content- maybe it’s the addition of Viura (a white grape) that make this one super-perfect.  2011 was a hot, dry year in Rioja- perfect for Grenache.  It really shows.  Drink up!

Antonio Sanguineti Vermentino, 2011 Italy, Tuscany.  Retails for $14. 

Next up: a little gem of a white wine from the Small Vineyards portfolio, an awesome collection of wines, mostly from Italy.  Small Vineyards imports wine that meet certain criteria: they must be hand-harvested, from a family-owned estate, and earth-friendly.  A pretty high standard in the sea of mass produced wines that we swim in.  I was fortunate to attend a tasting this past March in Charleston, SC where they presented many of their wines.  Duly impressed, I was.  This wine in particular really seemed to “sing”!  When you consider the standard of quality, and the fact that this is only an 800-case produced wine, it’s $14 pricetag really seems unreal.  But it IS real!

So this is a very classic Tuscan white; Vermentino likes sun, so it has a very lively, up-front personality.  It is fresh and light, with a buoyant and fun palate of pineapple, white flowers, honeysuckle, apricots and citrus zest.  The finish is crisp and lean.  This wine’s true appeal, to me, is that it seems very “alive”- a strange thing to think about, but it’s perkiness and silky texture really stand out, and it seems happy to exist.  Call me cray, but it’s true.  You’ll just have to come taste it.

Finally, a red: Tortarossa “Red Cake” Super Tuscan, 2010 Italy, Tuscany.  Retails for $16.

I lurrrrv this label.

This is another wine from the Small Vineyards portfolio.  This wine stood out to me upon first taste (and still does) because it’s a perfect melding of old and new-world styles.  The category of “Super Tuscan” is not officially recognized as a “thing” by Italian wine standards, so it is something of a rebel category.  Piero Antinori was the first to fly in the face of DOC regulations, and aimed to make a “Chianti-style” wine that ignored the need for convention, and incorporated Cabernet Sauvignon into the (now famous) Tignanello bottling.  The Tortarossa is a blend of 50% Sangiovese, 20% Merlot, 20% Cabernet and 10% Syrah.  It drinks like a dream- warm, ripe and very precise and focused. Dark black fruits dominate- blackberry, blackcurrant, and subtle integration of vanilla and oak.  The punch of the Syrah is nicely pronounced- adding depth, color and body- making it a touch more appealing to the New World palate- yet maintaining it’s Italian roots.  A nice balance of acid make it a great food wine- but I’ve found it to be a perfect solo sipper as well.  Also, I love the packaging.  It’s whimsical and accessible.

Well I do hope you’ve enjoyed being introduced to these three- they’re all currently By-The-Glass at Cellar on Greene, which means they’re open at all times, should you require a taste or two.  Cheers!

Carmen Rodriguez Carodorum “Issos” Tempranillo, 07 Spain, Toro

Yes, I know, it’s Summa-time, and this is a big, nasty Red Wine.  So uncharacteristic of me, given my long-standing obsession with pink and white wine.  But sometimes, folks, you have to break the mold, and this is one such occasion.  A wine so good, that I will still drink it when it’s 90+ degrees outside.  Okay, maybe after I cool down with a glass of Rose, but STILL; I will drink it.  Happily.

So here’s a little background on the Bodegas Carmen Rodriguez wines, per my own accord.  I occasionally buy wine on www.wtso.com (which you should check out, they’ve been known to have some cool deals), and this wine’s big (like, REAL big) sister- the Carodorum Seleccion Especial, 2006 vintage, was on WTSO for something like $35.  As I was feeling indulgent that day, and I am a sucker for a big, nasty Spanish wine, I bought three, untasted.  The box arrived at Cellar and I ripped it open unceremoniously, and even though it was the morning (let’s be honest- when has that ever stopped me?), I opened a bottle. It was one of the more memorable wine moments of my life.  I stood, somewhat dumbfounded, on the verge of comprehending that this was an incredibly special and amazing wine- but had no one to bounce my thoughts off of.  So I mostly just stood there saying “holy shit” to myself over and over.  A good customer whose palate I trust came in a while later and tried it, and agreed that it was a phenomenon.  A force to be reckoned with.

That is all well and good, but we’re still talking about the Big Sister- fast forward to NOW!  I was delighted to discover just two weeks ago that our tiny little hippie friends at Sour Grapes Wine, located in Asheville NC, carry the Carmen Rodriguez wines!  AND was even more delighted to discover that there was a baby sister, the Issos, available!  It may not sound that exciting, but this was pretty much the high point of my week that week.

This wine hails from a hot little pocket of Spain called Toro- located just west of the Portugese border:

Toro has long, hot summers (sound familiar??) and Tempranillo (aka Tinta de Toro) is the primary red grape grown there.  Reds from Toro are generally potent, dense, and pack a lot of character.  Issos is no exception!  She is rich and exotic, and delights the senses with notes of espresso, blackberry liqueur, anise, balsam/cedar, and a touch of vanilla.  The palate is not weighty; the acid really grabs hold and it finishes with a punch of dark fruit, leather and graphite.  And a little smoke.  Day-um, y’all.  I’m serious; this wine is rockin’.  If you’re used to lighter reds, it might be a bit much for you, as the tannins are fairly present- but if you’re, y’know- into that– this is right up your alley.  It’d be amazing with anything off the grill, maybe a spicy-espresso-rubbed steak?  Now you’re talkin.  Merguez sausage?  (one of my favorite things on the planet) HELLS yeah.  Bring. It. On.

I like to imagine that this is what this wine would look like, personified.  Maybe it’s just me:

*le sigh*  A girl can dream.  Until then, we have the wine.  I urge you to come sample a glass (it’s by the glass for the foreseeable future), or take a bottle home for $18.  Also- if you’re feeling muy especial– we do have exactly three bottles of the 2007 Seleccion Especial available for purchase, too, at $48. Oh, and I almost forgot- Issos got a lovely little 89 point rating from Robert Parker- Big Sis got a 92.  Happy drinkin’ peoples!  Til next time…