Kato Sauvignon Blanc ($12.50)
Marlborough, New Zealand
From the producer:
"Kato Sauvignon Blanc is sourced from Marlborough, New Zealand, the premier New World growing region for this varietal. The vineyards are located in the Awatere Valley, where coastal influences protect the fruit from sharp morning frosts. The Kato logo is a representation of three intertwined whale tails and was inspired by the Cook Strait, which separates the North and South Islands of New Zealand and is a migration route for humpback whales. As a wine company dedicated to sustainable principles in the vineyard we are also concerned with the protection of all natural environments, including the ocean and the creatures in it.
Kato, which means 'to harvest' in New Zealand's native Maori, is sourced from the cool, stony vineyards of the famed Marlborough region from which some of the world's most renowned Sauvignon Blancs are born. Exhibiting zesty and aromatic notes of melon, passionfruit and citrus, Kato Sauvignon Blanc is well balanced, vibrant in flavor, persistent in finish and perfect for everyday enjoyment with seafood, pasta, white meats and salads."
While I thoroughly enjoy New Zealand Sauv Blancs, some of them are too acidic and grapefruity for me. Kato is a wonderful exception as it balances the citrus with melon and peach undertones. This is one of my favorites from Marlborough, and a great wine to enjoy on a warm day.
Zestos Garnacha ($10.99)
From the importer:
"If you love wines of tension that exhibit purity and finesse, you will find Zestos old Vine Garnacha to be your new love. Zestos shows the complexity of a wine three times its price. In the words of Robert M. Parker, Jr, the most influential wine critic in the world, Zestos is 'a staggering value,' he also claims that Zestos is 'an unbelievable wine for the price.'
Zestos old vine is produced from Garnacha vines that were planted in 1950 in the high elevation vineyards of San Martin Valdeiglesias - northwest of Madrid. Today San Martin produces among the most floral and mineral Garnachas in all of Spain. The older the vines the better the wine. Old vines do not over produce. As a result the vines yield fully ripened grapes. Perfectly ripened grapes make wines that improve with time. Zestos means basket in Spanish. Not too many years ago, baskets like the ones depicted on the label were use to transport grapes from the vineyard to the wineries. Madrid has recently become the center of one of the most interesting and innovative wine regions on the Iberian Peninsula. For example, 90% of Vinos de Madrid DO wines are made from organically grown grapes. The outskirts of this storied royal city are filled with old vines Garnacha situated in high elevation vineyards that have been planted in ideal soils. Madrid is a sort of 'great unknown' that is now just freshly discovered. Most consumers are unaware that Madrid makes wine and because Vinos de Madrid is not yet 'on the radar' of wine consumers, it is a great source of incredible values today.
Zestos has such a pleasing aspect and texture and such fresh, succulent red and dark berry aromas and fruit; it's a perfect introduction to Spanish wine. Put it next to any casual foods you care to: pizza, Panini sandwiches, pulled pork sliders, fajitas, cheese quesadillas, and pastrami and corned beef sandwiches. This is an “easy quaffer” wine, as well. If you don't have any aged manchego or aged Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese handy, just pour some in your glass and enjoy!
Vivid ruby. Lively red and dark berry aromas show good clarity and a touch of candied flowers. Supple and seamless in texture, offering juicy black raspberry and cherry flavors given spine by a gentle mineral nuance. Finishes fruity and broad, with a touch of white pepper adding lift and cut."
Garnacha is a versatile grape, in that it is used for blending, as in the Rhone and Provencal wines (known there as Grenache) and it can be made into a varietal wine, as it is here. The juiciness and smoothness of Spanish Garnachas make them easy to drink, and this one, vinified in stainless steel and cement, is a great everyday wine. The cement allows for micro-oxidation (like oak barrels do), so it has a little body, but there is nothing but the true flavor expression of the grape. This wine comes from Ole Imports, whose wines are some of my very favorites from Spain.
Qupe Central Coast Syrah ($19.99)
Central Coast, California
From the producer:
"Here at Qupé, our wines focus on quality, character, and balance. We specialize in Rhône-style wines from the Bien Nacido Vineyard in Santa Maria, that is farmed sustainable, the Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard in the Edna Valley, farmed biodynamically, and the Ibarra-Young Vineyard in Los Olivos, farmed organically. Bob Lindquist's exacting standards and never-resting-on-laurels attitude, allows Qupé to continually be cutting edge and a benchmark other wineries aspire to.
Qupé (pronounced kyoo-pay') is the Chumash Indian word for California poppy. The Chumash are native to California's Central Coast and Channel Islands; the California poppy is our state flower. Bob Lindquist added the accent to the word Qupé and gave it the pronunciation.
This wine is 98% Syrah from vineyards in both Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo Counties, with the other 2% divided among Grenache, Mourvedre and Tempranillo. This 2013 is 63% from cool climate vineyards in Santa Barbara County and Edna Valley, and 37% from warmer climate Paso Robles. The vineyards are: Bien Nacido in the Santa Maria Valley 42%; French Camp in Paso Robles 35%; Sawyer Lindquist in Edna Valley 11%; Chabot in Santa Barbara County; Ibarra-Young in the new Los Olivos District AVA 4%; and Carriage in Paso Robles 2%.
2013 was an outstanding vintage, warmer than 2012 but much cooler than 2014 or 2015. Much like 2012 in the sense that we had great quality and a decent crop level. It was the second year of the drought so we had virtually no rain during the growing season.
All of the lots were fermented separately using traditional techniques. Aging was done in neutral French oak barrels for a minimum of 18 months. The wine was lightly fined with egg whites to soften the tannins and bring the fruit into focus.
This is the style of Central Coast Syrah that I try to make each vintage…cool climate components for spice, freshness, acidity and lower alcohol, and warm climate components for the forward fruit and value that it brings to the final blend. Because the wine is nicely balanced it will age well. However, we are now putting our Central Coast Syrah under screw cap for easy access, so I recommend drinking it and saving your cellar space for our Santa Barbara and single vineyard Syrahs!"
Syrah is one of my favorite wines, but Qupé is new to me as of last week. Nonetheless, I have totally fallen for its wonderful balance of fruit and spice, its smoothness and drinkability, and its softened tannins. This is a beautiful wine from a conscientious and talented winemaker.
Montinore Gewurztraminer ($17.99)
Willamette Valley, Oregon
From the producer:
"This is a wonderfully forward, floral wine in our traditional dry style, making for a crisp wine that pairs beautifully with food. Straw gold color introduces an intense aroma of pomelo and rose water with hints of kaffir lime leaf and a palate bursting with tropical notes and powdered ginger. The finish is dry and bright, leaving the impression of fresh citrus."
This Gewurztraminer has a nice bright freshness compared to some of its Alsatian cousins, which tend to be a little heavier on the palate. The acidity balances out the fruit, and the floral notes give the wine a fine complexity. This is a dry wine that will pair nicely with white meat, salads, roasted vegetables, and ham.
Couillaud Gamay Rosé ($10.99)
Loire Valley, France
Gamay is the grape best known for making Beaujolais, so it's a little different to find it as a varietal Rosé, but am I happy to have stumbled across this gem! It's from the Loire Valley in Northern France, so the style is a little juicier than what you get in Provence or Languedoc. There's a lot of fruit on the palate, but the light freshness keeps it vibrant and easy to drink. This would pair well with salads or ham, or you can enjoy it as an aperitif.
Charmet Beaujolais "Moulin la Blanche" ($19.50)
From the producer:
***LOOSELY translated by me***
"The soil in the area is full of shale, and that imparts intensity and roundness on the palate. This broad and generous cuvée accompanies meat and game, and possesses good potential for aging."
Most Beaujolais are fresh, with cranberry notes and should be enjoyed young. This wine is slightly different, in that it has a little earth to it, and can take some aging. I much prefer this style, which is light enough for to drink in the warmer seasons, but can still stand up to heftier meals. This would pair well with pork, ham, or lamb.
Casar Alphabet Albariño ($11.99)
Rías Baixas (Galicia), Spain
From the producer:
"A predominant fruity wine, clear and very direct, it perfectly combines citric aromas with an attractive base of ripe apple and memories of aromatic herbs. Predominant on the palate a pleasant acidity that carries a fresh liveliness. It demonstrates a good structure, with a dense and creamy sensation that provides a final balance and largeness, expanding varietal sensation."
Albariño isn't on everyone's radar yet, but it should be. Spanish wines in general have grown in popularity in the U.S. over the past several years, but it seems as if the reds get more attention. The style of Albariño is light and mineral, often with a floral or citrus tone. This particular Albariño has slightly more body than usual, perhaps due to its slight age. It also has a creaminess that keeps the acidity in balance. A very pleasant and easy drinking wine, good alone, with vegetables, or seafood.
Lieti Conversari ($14.99)
Lake Garda, Italy
From the producer:
"Shows a golden yellow color, very bright, sharply clear, dominates by its visual cleanliness in spectacular fashion, presenting intact in all its forms, even on rotation of the glass. Medium-bodied, medium density of the fruit, the grape is shown with dense and compact glyceride arches.
The nose is a symphony of scents, clean and undamaged: honey, rosehip, cinnamon, nutmeg, black elderberry, are the dominant aromas of this wine. Closes with a tail slightly spicy, marron glacé and tobacco leaf, with an impact of freshness, and with a hint of sweet mineral, which rises to the nose nicely.
In the mouth is like a silk cloth, cool, pleasurable that grabs the mouth with sensations of ripe grapes and Tunisian mango. round There is a strong equilibrium (sweet, salty, sour, bitter), so the integrity of the fruit that shows no sensation that is extraneous to the grape either in the mouth or on the nose. Great, great harmony."
This is the kind of wine that I imagined selling when this store was merely a dream: organic, off-beat grape (Manzoni Bianco), kind of geeky, and absolutely delicious. The nose on this wine is amazing! I detect honey and flowers, and even on the finish I get a little note of beeswax. It's medium bodied, smooth, and elegant.
Can Maurisset Priorat ($19.99)
From the producer:
"Priorat is a valley surrounded by a large mountain range that makes it almost impossible for clouds to penetrate into the valley to give water. This has the effect that we have a warmer summer and a colder winter than in other areas of Spain.
45% Garnacha, 45% Carignan, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon
Aged 9 months in new French oak
Very intense cherry red color. Deploying in the nose a range of citrus and fresh tones, red ripe fruit, vanilla, tobacco. On the palate it has a creamy sensation, sweet, fruity and deep.
This is a wonderful example of a Priorat wine. It is bold, but smooth, with a depth of fruitiness that is perfectly restrained by a firm tannin. The oak aging imparts a silkiness that makes this very easy to drink. I prefer this on its own, or with a nice dry-cured ham and some Manchego.
Tenuta di Collosorbo Le Due Gemme ($15.99)
From the producer:
"Sant’Antimo, born from Sangiovese grapes, blended with French varieties as Syrah, Cabernet Souvignon and Merlot. It’s a fresh fruity wine, with a good structure but even softness, it blends the warm international style with the typical flavours of our terroir.
Grape variety: 70% Sangiovese, 20% Syrah , 5% Merlot; 5% Cabernet-Sauvignon.
Aging: all varieties are aged for about 10 months in small French oaken barriques. After blending the wine is aged in the bottle for 4-6 months."
You may have heard of Brunello di Montalcino, one of Italy's best-known and most expensive wines. By regulation it must be 100% Sangiovese--great for Brunello makers, but what about someone who wants to make a delicious everyday wine using other kinds of grapes for blending? They get their own designation, of course! Sant'Antimo, while necessarily made in Montalcino, allows for flexibility in winemaking. Le Due Gemme is an earthy, rustic, robust blend that will have you yearning for a trip to Tuscany. You get the best of all worlds with this wine: fruit grown in a renowned area at an affordable price.
Cantine Collesole Montefalco Sagrantino ($24.99)
From the producer:
"WINE-MAKING fermentation on stainless steel tanks and maceration for 3 weeks
MATURATION in oak barriques for 12 months and in stainless steel tanks for 24 months
ruby red intense
perfumes of cherry, blackberry and wood with a vigorous, balanced and structured taste; it should be served with red meat and aged cheeses"
Sagrantino is a grape I only discovered in the last year when tasting this wine. It's not particularly well-known in the U.S., but it should be. It is indigenous to Italy, and it produces a very dark wine, with deep, rich fruit flavors and an underlying earthiness. There is quite a firm tannin, and by regulation this style of wine must be aged for at least 30 months, 12 of which must be in oak, so it has excellent aging potential. We will be pouring a 2010, which drinks beautifully now, but could easily cellar for 5-10 more years. As far as I'm concerned, this is Italy's best kept secret.
Lori, from 90+ Cellars, will be here to pour five wines. I'm not going to include detailed tasting notes this time, but the best thing about wines from 90+ is that they are excellent examples of their respective styles. If you haven't tried one of these types of wine, this is your opportunity to see what they are like. We will taste:
Here is what makes 90+ Cellars special (from their website):
"It all started in the spring of 2009. Armed with a copy of the latest Wine Spectator, founder Kevin Mehra set out on a mission to bring higher quality wine to the market for a better price. He started calling wineries with a history of high ratings to ask if they had extra wine for sale. Some told him to get lost, but in the end, he found a handful of wineries that liked his concept. The plan was simple: we put their wine in our bottle, and sell it for less.
But why would wineries want to do that?
You may recall that the economy wasn’t in the best shape in 2009. Demand for wines priced more than $20 a bottle had plummeted and inventories were piling up. Rather than discount their wine and erode the value of their brand, we found that wineries were willing to part with a certain percentage of their production for a reduced price.
It was a win/win scenario. Wineries got to sell more wine, and consumers got access to better wine at lower prices.
The landscape has changed quite a bit since we launched; but our mission and our ability to offer great wine has not. With our head wine buyer, Brett Vankoski, at the helm we continue to seek out the best opportunities in the market and turn those into great values in the bottle for you. We do this because we love great wine, and we know you do too.
…life is too short to drink bad wine. That’s why there is 90+ Cellars."