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…

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Vaughn Duffy Rose, 12 Sonoma

So this is a new thing for me, and I feel like a bit of a celebrity.

In the spirit of full disclosure, this wine was received as a sample from one of my Twitter followers, @wineclubguy, aka Mark Aseltine.  Turns out, upon inspection, that he is a co-founder of Uncorked Ventures, a site that in addition to having several convenient wine club options, offers pretty neat lookin’ wine gift baskets.

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#goesgreatwith… Sriracha?

So this is a Rose of 65% Pinot Noir and 35% Syrah from Sonoma County.  I’m fairly certain that @wineclubguy saw one of my many tweets about my love for Rose, and that was how this sample bottle ended up in my life.  Did a little research, and I’m pretty impressed with some of the buzz about this wine.  Evidently not a lot of it makes it out of California (not too surprising given that it’s just 600 cases made). Sarah Vaughn and Matt Duffy were named  on a list of Seven Winemakers to Watch in 2012 by the Insider’s Guide to San Francisco in 2012.  Their 2010 Rose of Pinot was listed as the San Francisco Chronicle’s Top 100 Wines of 2011.  There are also some impressive scores for several of their Pinot Noirs- here is where I got this info- worth checking out.  Could they be the next members of the “new school” of California winemakers?  Matthiasson, Lioco, Arnot-Roberts?  Perhaps.

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So a bit more about the wine, as I’m trying to keep this post short n’ sweet; it’s a pretty delicious little quaff, and price-wise ($17 is looking like average retail), it is very decent for a small-production, boutique-y Cali Rose.  I would pay it.  It has a bright nose of freshly grated orange peel, wild strawberry, watermelon and tropical fruit.  Nice acid is combined with a juicy mouthfeel, and a nice thirst quenching, easy-going palate.  They describe it on their website as a porch sipper, and it’s pretty darn hard to argue with that.  Who doesn’t need a porch-sipper?  Or in my case, a couch-sipper?  A Monday night watching Jurassic Park-sipper?  (this movie is fantastic by the way.  don’t even argue with me.)

Truth be told, I’m pretty impressed with the quality of this wine, and I can only assume it is representative of the wines available through Uncorked Ventures (note- this wine was included in their “Explorations” wine club shipment). Since I am super-spoiled and hardly ever have to purchase wine in a retail capacity, I’d say my trust-factor isn’t terribly high on internet wine purchases.  But this might have earned my trust, and in my opinion that’s about 75% of the battle.  Kudos, fellas.

I don’t think I’ll be making the switch to big-time-online-wine-reviewer anytime soon, but this was a fun departure from my norm.

Grochau Cellars RED, 2010 Columbia Valley

WARNING: this juice is seriously delicious.

As you may recall, one of my absolute favorite things to do (and something I suspect I’m pretty good at) is finding wines that represent truly incredible values.  This wine is spectacular because it is just that, and more…

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1.) it is an excellent price point of $17.

2.) $17 for a Columbia Valley Red wine, especially of good quality, is somewhat astonishing.

3.) add 1 and 2 together and THEN add in that this wine is very small-production.  what do you have? a tremendous value.

4.) GROW-shaw.  I had to write that down and say it about 15 times to myself before I remembered.

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So, more about this wine; it is a blend of 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc.  Like the Guild White (here), it is labeled as being from the Columbia Valley- the fun thing about the Columbia Valley is that most of it is in Washington State, but part of it is in Oregon.  So the grapes in this bottle are from the Columbia Valley, but you don’t get to know what specific percentages are from each individual state.  Kind of a fun way to make wine, in my opinion.  John Grochau has been making this particular bottling for several years, and every year the blend is different.  He also makes some pretty stellar Pinot Noir- check ’em out.

So moving on to more fun descriptive details about this wine and why you’ll like it!  It has a perfect alcohol content at 14.5%, giving it a great balance of fruit that has a little density, but not so fat as to knock you on your ass.  It makes a great sipper.  There are some beautiful ultra-smooth notes of blackberry, cassis, mocha and a subtle hint of brighter red fruits that really lift the palate up.  The most standout characteristic of this wine is definitely its effortless grace, smoothness and length- especially when you (once again) consider it’s pricetag.  It makes a great Summer red, too, as it is not tooooo rich- just a pleasant medium body.  I personally can’t usually fathom Red in the Summer months; but this one I can do.  The other great thing about this wine is its versatility- it is juicy enough to be good with a Wednesday Burger night, but could definitely stand up to a more luxurious Ribeye or other form of pick-your-poison carnivorous indulgence.  You could even lighten it up and do grilled Pork Tenderloin with a variation of a berry vinaigrette over mixed greens.  Or even Tuna the same way.  It covers all the right ground for you to pick up what it’s puttin’ down in all categories!

Here’s another good tidbit: this wine is currently by the glass at Cellar, AND will be at tomorrow’s (June 1st) WINE SALE from 12-2pm.  and I’ll go ahead and tell ya- tomorrow’s sale list is looking impressive.  Lots of new goodies!

NoCo Pinot Noir, 2010 California, Chalone

“One of these things is not like the others…”

“one of these things just doesn’t belong…”

“…can you tell me which thing is not like the others, by the time I finish my song?”

Doesn’t everyone remember that song from Sesame Street?  As a child of the 80’s, I often find myself spontaneously remembering songs from Sesame Street and parroting them out at random times.  (exhibit B: “one!  two!…. AH-AH-AH!!”)  The only KEY to this time is that this wine definitely DOES BELONG!  But it’s not like the others!  And by others, I mean so many other California Pinot Noirs out there in the market.  And for this, I applaud it.  And love it.

So the NoCo label is owned by two hella’ cool dudes that also own LIOCO wines.  I’ve written about their Sonoma Coast Chardonnay (remains gorgeous with every vintage) and their microscopically produced (and alas- not to be made again) Pinot Blanc in past posts.  Without going in to too much detail, they focus on site-specific, non-interventionalist winemaking- AKA, they like to let the grapes be themselves and reflect from whence they come, rather than trying to make them into something else.  You could also call that terroir, if you wanted to be fancy.

Back to my point; here’s why I like this wine, in a nutshell: it’s unique AND delicious!  It’s bright, radiant and really pops more than most Cali Pinots I taste in an average week, or month.  It is sort of a palate/mind-expander.  This is crucial, in my opinion, if you’re gonna be a wine nerd.  You have to periodically taste things that stretch and expand your palate’s ability to recognize flavors.  I believe there’s some science behind that, actually.  Remember how when you were a kid you hated beets? (or insert some other food you hated as a kid).  And then one day you tried them when you were in your 20’s and you realized they were delicious?  It’s because your taste buds mature, and become more responsive to different tastes as you get older.  Same is true of wine.  When you first start drinking reds, you might find too much tannin to be, literally, offensive to your taste buds.  But just keep drinkin’, folks.  As your buds get used to tannins, they won’t offend as much.  Then you’ll start to like them.  Of course, it’s always possible that you just don’t like some things, and never will- but the important thing is to keep trying!  Plus, it’s fun.

But let’s move back to the wine itself.  It has a very bright, tangy and pronounced palate of pomegranate, redcurrant, sour cherry, black tea, five spice, rhubarb, orange peel, and a touch of flintiness and cherry pits.  Finishes with a push of minerality, a bit of soft fruit, girly flowers, and a pleasant ZING of acid- it’s low in alcohol at just 13.5%.  It’s a truly fantastic representation of the Chalone AVA- which is a unique little spot.  High in elevation, with soil rich with limestone and granite, the grapey grapes come of age in low humidity and intense bouts of unfiltered sunlight.  This really comes across in this wine, because there is a definitive quality of purity and unrestrained clarity in this juice.  I would even go so far as to say this wine is verging on the precipice of genius, and at the forefront of what it means to make wine and appreciate wine.  Feel free to disagree with me; but I gave that a lot of thought and I stand by it.

This juice is currently by the glass at Cellar, or you can stop in and buy a bottle to take home for $21.  I also heard Noah over at Sam’s Fine Wine & Spirits in Lexington is holding onto some, if you’re from that side of town.  Oh, and this wine also got 89 Points from Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar!  Woop woop!  Get you some!

Oh and go Gamecocks.  or whatever.  I’m over it.

Goin’ back to Cali, to Cali…

First of all, a big THANKS to Seth Long of Seler d’or Wine Consulting/Blog-writin’ for including me as a guest blogger in his “29 Days of Chardonnay” collaborative effort!  There were some truly inspired posts about the wondrous little grape known as Chardonnay, and I’m glad to have been a part.  For anyone that didn’t read my post, check it out!  I was a little intimidated by all the mad knowledge being dropped by some serious heavy-hitters in the Wine World, so I went with a pretty jovial and interactive post, and I was pretty happy with how it came out.  So by all means, read it!

In honor of the 29 Days of Chardonnay, I wanted to share an awesome Chard we poured recently, and still have in stock.  We also got in a brand new Petite Sirah that I just HAVE to share.  So this has turned into a post about California.  Good old Cali!

funny name, good wine.

So let us begin with the Stuhlmuller Vineyards Chardonnay, 2009 Alexander Valley.  This is by far one of my favorite California Chards I’ve had in a loooog while.  A beautiful bright lemony color, it literally be glimmerin’ and shinin’ in the glass.  Incredibly clear and clean, just looking at it pretty much makes you want to drink it.  Pretty, warm aromas of meyer lemon and other fun fruits like figs, pineapple, kiwi and minerally hints are just gorgeous.  Flavors of green apple, citrus and lemon blossom are beautifully and expressively layered.  Are you an “oakaphobe?”  Try this!!  It’s made with just French oak, only 8% of which was new (the newer the oak, the more of its oakiness it imparts).  Normal retail on this guy is $22.  But if you’re reading this, and you come pick up a bottle (or two or four… til’ they’re gone) at Cellar THIS WEEK ONLY- you can have it for $19.  You just have to tell us you read this!  Wine Enthusiast gave it 91 points and Robert Parker gave it 89!  I actually didn’t know that until I sat down to write this.  Props!

Next up is the Ballentine “Fig Tree Vineyard” Petite Sirah, 2008 St. Helena.  A bit of background on how I came about this wine; from time to time, I have to suffer through different wine companies Portfolio Shows.  I believe I’ve mentioned these before.  So basically there’s a big room, or several rooms, full of open bottles of wine in allllll price ranges, and I have to go through and taste them.  It’s really the absolute worst part of my job.  I mean, open wine and a room full of wine people?  Terrible.  So I came upon this wine at the very end of a long afternoon of wine tasting, and was completely struck by how good it was AND how reasonable it was in price.  This after tasting some serious heavy-hitters.  Also, a ton of our regulars adore Petite Sirah- so I was stoked to find a new one to share.  True to form, this wine was a favorite at it’s first wine sale appearance two weeks ago, and its currently a by-the-glass pour as well!  So you can come taste it any old time you want.  But beware- it’s only 1050 cases produced, so that means it very well could go bye-bye at some point, if we keep selling it at this rate!

Speaking of 1050 cases produced, that is another crucial point- a small-production California wine for this price is pretty unheard of (we’re selling it retail for $20!).  Now lets move on to how it tastes!  A whopper of a palate- big notes of boysenberries, blackberry liqueur, blueberries, a tight core of spice and purple-teeth-inducing density.  It’ll be worth having purple teeth to drink this guy up.  Meaty and manly, yet with soft edges, remarkable smoothness, and no flabbiness.  Nice hints of black pepper, sage, vanilla and caramel.  A truly delicious bottle of wine.  A dream come true for your next rainy day beef stew, roasted lamb or big ‘ol steak.  Enjoy this now while we still have these chilly nights!

Hope you enjoyed this Cali post, I’m gonna wrap it up for today.  I’m jetting off to Vegas on Thursday, so if you follow me on twitter, be prepared to hear about all the ridiculous wine I’ll be drinkin’!

Gen 5 Chardonnay, 2010 Lodi

It’s been a minute since I had a Cali Chard that I really flipped over.  Introducing… the Gen 5 Chardonnay from Lodi!

Nowadays, I feel that I’ve picked up on a slight stigma against Chardonnay, especially those from California.  Almost like it’s uncool to like it.  It still sells well, but the millenial generation, specifically, tends to perceive it as being lame.  Their Aunts and Grandmas love Chardonnay, and they’ve had one too many poor, manipulated, over-oaked, cheap Chards at an art opening or gathering that chances are came out of a jug.  Truly, if I had to name one grape of which there is entirely *too much* of poor quality in existance, it would be Chardonnay.  I don’t often want to spit wine out… but I’ve had a couple Chards in the past that I’d sooner take a razor blade to my tounge than drink again.

Okay, those were some harsh words.  But much like the Chamisal Stainless Chardonnay that I wrote about back in the wee early days of this blog, I really, really LOVE  a good Chardonnay at a good price point.  So, in comes the Gen 5!  I really think this is one of the cleanest, purest, most poignant Chards I’ve had in a long while.  It is focused and perky, with bright notes of kiwi, guava, pineapple, prickly pear and (now that its warmed up just a bit) a little hint of vanilla bean.  Check out its crystalline, clear coloring  (okay, I was just dying to use the word crystalline):

Well, the picture doesn’t do it a ton of justice, but it really is a beautifully clean and clear wine.  Maybe it’s because Gen 5 is a certified Sustainable winery?  Perhaps.  I would love this wine even if I didn’t know that about it, but it’s always awesome to hear that a winery is committed to planet Earth-friendly farming and policies.  Lodi actually has it’s own set of “Rules” and standards for Sustainability.  Yet another reason I need to visit that part of California- the Lodi area seems like a community with a sense of togetherness.  Pretty cool.

So what’s the best part of this wine?  Well, it only costs $13!  How’s about that.  This speaks volumes about this wines awesomeness, because I find that wines labelled as Sustainable are often over-priced.  They could probably sell it for $15 and no one would question it.  Sustainable?  Sure, I’ll pay $15!  Actaully, it’s definitely worth $15.  But how nice that it’s $13!  You can try it at the Wine Sale, TOMORROW!  Saturday, August 27th from 12-2 at Cellar on Greene.

 

 

Young’s Barbera, 2006 California

Well, I was all set to declare Summer 2011 to be the Summer of Rose this week, and dive right in to a Rose.  I had one all picked out.  Okay, so maybe I declared last summer the Summer of Rose.  But in my mind, EVERY summer should be the Summer of Rose.  That is, until I saw the forecast.  Rain, rain, rain.  Cold, cold, cold.  These things do not indicate good Rose drinking weather.  So I perseverated about one last Big Red to write about this week.  Which was difficult, because I was reeeeeeeeally in the mood for whites and roses.  But after three straight days of rain, I’m singing a different tune. 

Actually, I don’t know why I didn’t write about this one sooner, considering how popular it’s been at the last few wine sales!  The craze started over the winter with their Petite Sirah.  We sold it out- case after case.  Then we sold out the Syrah.  Now we’ve moved on to the Barbera, and it’s holding steady for us for the moment.  We even decided to put it on by the glass this week!  The Young’s wines really seem to hit the nail on the head for many of our wine shoppers and drinkers as far as value is concerned- this bottle retails for just $12, and it’s formidable size make it a whopper of a deal.   

It’s the epitome of juicy!  A nice combo of dark and red fruits like plums, pomegranates and blackberries, with nice complex notes of kirsch liqueur and light spices.  Barbera is not known for having a ton of tannin, so I’m impressed that all this fruitiness is so potent after 5 years in the bottle.  This is a perfect wine to keep around for entertaining- Burger night, Pizza night, dancing to Michael Jackson: the Experience night… pretty much anything goes with this wine. 

Another reason I love this wine- the label art!  It’s pretty and feminine yet somewhat sultry.  Check out the artist’s website here!  We’ll have this wine on by the glass as long as it lasts, so you can grab a taste the next time you’re in our corner of Five Points!