Von Donabaum Grüner Veltliner ($13.50)
From the producer:
"Volker Donabaum, the founder of Volker Wines, has been in the wine industry practically since birth. He grew up on the Donabaum family estate in the Wachau in Austria, where the family has been making wine since 1833. Volker worked several harvests in Austria before working as an assistant winemaker in California, France, Italy, New Zealand, Australia, Oregon and Canada. In 2012, Volker moved to New York City, where he imports and distributes wines from around the world, including his Volker Wines.
Grüner Veltliner von Donabaum 2016 comes from a 25 year-old single vineyard in the Austrian village of Röschitz, which is located about 1 hour north of Vienna. The hand-picked and hand-sorted grapes are destemmed before crushing, and, after a cool fermentation in stainless steel, the wine rests for 3 months on its fine lees."
Grüner Veltliner mostly comes from Austria, and is a great alternative to either Sauvignon Blanc or Picpoul. This one is very dry with green apple on the nose and stony lemon on the palate, undercut by white floral notes. It is a zesty and refreshing wine that is perfect as an aperitif. I was lucky enough to meet Volker, whose wine I am pleased to support.
Scarbolo Il Ramato Pinot Grigio ($19.99)
From the producer:
"Since the birth of the winery, Scarbolo’s philosophy has been very clear: contribute to a wine culture surpassing easy generalizations and fast trends that don’t belong to the world of farming. They have consciously invested in the Grave area of Friuli that for a long time has been considered only capable of ‘quantity’ wines, despite its amazing soil characteristics.
Valter Scarbolo inherited a passion for the vine from his father’s interest in viticulture. They planted their first vineyards in the 80s, in their hometown of Lauzacco. Lauzacco is located in Friuli on the right bank of the river Torre, just south of the Colli Orientali. The Scarbolo family puts immense effort into the vineyards in order to produce structured and elegant wines that represent the distinct characteristics of their native land. Their philosophy includes densely planting the vines and rigorously implementing sustainability practices to help preserve the ecosystem.
Made in the Friulian “Ramato” style, this wine is bright copper in color, with a nose exhibiting apple, wildberries and fresh citrus. Generous and fresh but with a lasting finish."
You know that thin, nearly clear, one-note Pinot Grigio that's mass-produced? This is not that. This is, aesthetically, an "orange wine," which refers to the color that comes from elongated skin contact during the maceration process. While some orange wines can be a little funky, this one retains its freshness, mellowed slightly by lees aging, which also gives it a little richness on the palate. This is an elegant and interesting wine that will give you a new perspective on Pinot Grigio.
Schiopetto Malvasia ($19.99)
From the producer:
"Malvasia Istriana is one of the historic varietals of the hills of Friuli. It grows well in poor soil of marl composition with hot and sunny exposition where the grapes are left for a lengthy maturation. They are then picked by hand, pressed at low temperatures. This is followed by a static decantation in absence of sulphur dioxide and the vinification and ageing take place in stainless steel for 8 months. The wine thus obtained is rich and complex but at the same time fragrant and aromatic.
Bright straw yellow with golden touches.
Fresh and round balance marine aromas that are perfectly balanced with scents of flowers and sweet fruits.
Creamy, rich and warm. Sweet flavors are matched by a refreshing palate with a clean high acidity finish.
Food pairings: Perfect with apetizers and first dishes, both with fish
This is one of the many Italian indigenous grapes with which I've become slightly obsessed. I'm especially keen to have more people taste Italian whites that aren't as well known as the standards. There is so much elegant and complex white wine, and this is certainly an example of that.
POE Pinot Nouveau 2017 ($24.99)
Monterey County, California
From the producer:
"Samantha Sheehan founded POE in 2009 after being inspired by the wines she tasted in Burgundy and Champagne. The goal is not to replicate Burgundy, but rather create alluring, vineyard specific, age-worthy wines revealing the beautiful terroir of California. There is minimal intervention, judicious use of sulfur, and never any additives.
Our Pinot Nouveau is made in the style of Beaujolais Nouveau, and is an homage to the wonderful idea of celebrating the new vintage. We hand harvest the grapes from a vineyard in Salinas, not far from the ocean. We place the whole clusters into a portable fermentor and seal the lid for seven weeks. In absence of oxygen, the grapes undergo carbonic fermentation and malolactic at the same time. We then press the grapes and go to barrel for one week. We then hand bottle without any sulfur as the wine is to be consumed within the next two to three months. The resulting wine is delicate and fruity. Beautiful notes of wild strawberry, it is simply delicious."
Samantha Sheehan is a dynamite winemaker, and the "nouveau" style of Pinot Noir is her own invention. While this is meant to be drunk young, over the year in the bottle it picks up a lovely underlying earthiness that is unlike any other Pinot I've had. This wine is made without using added sulfites, which gave me some concern about shelf-life, but because the winemaking is so well done, this can take some bottle age without negative effects (to read about what sufites are and what they do in wine, please see my blog post here).
JB Neufeld Yakima Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 ($39.99)
Yakima Valley, Washington
From the producer:
"JB Neufeld produced its first vintage in 2008. The winery is the only of its kind in Washington, focusing exclusively on Cabernet Sauvignon within the Yakima Valley AVA. The winery was created by the husband and wife team, Justin and Brooke Neufeld. The goal of the brand is to not only showcase the diversity of the terroir found in the valley through its vineyard designate bottlings, but to use that diversity to build a more complex and balanced Cabernet Sauvignon by blending sites as well.
The Yakima Valley AVA has the most diverse terroir of all the AVAs in Washington. All the vineyards are located on south facing slopes created by a series of ridges that are oriented West to East, which is a geological anomaly unique to eastern Washington.
JB Neufeld's focus is to preserve not only the qualities of the wine, but also the place and time from which they were made. They aim to build a Cabernet Sauvignon that possesses multiple layers of complexity that reveal themselves as the wine opens up in the glass. JB Neufeld achieves this by having a winemaking style that is dedicated, thoughtful and precise to the terroir of their valley.
The nose opens with ripe huckleberry, black currants, and blackberry jam, supported by a backdrop of fennel and basil. Balanced on the palate with ripe tannins and well-integrated acidity. Finishes bright and clean with vibrant fruit.
91% Cabernet Sauvignon 9% Cabernet Franc
Aging: 23 months in 64% new French oak and 36% in neutral French oak Production: 6,000 bottles per year"
I'd had some good Washington Cab before tasting this, but JB Neufeld is in another league entirely. This wine is as bold as a Napa Cab with its own profile that, to me, makes it more compelling. The winemaker, Justin, has visited my shop, and he was a joy to talk to about his technique and approach to his wines. This is the entry level offering, and it drinks like a dream. Especially if you aren't familiar with Washington Cabs, try this!
Compania de Vinos del Atlantico Gordo 2014 ($14.99)
From the producer:
"Gordo is Patrick Mata's affectionate way of calling his father, Jose Mata. For almost four generations, Patrick's family produced wine in Malaga, Montilla, Sanlucar, Rioja and other Spanish regions. These wines were sold in many countries, including the US, before and after prohibition. During the 60s, the demand of Malaga wines suffered greatly, which ultimately resulted in the Mata winery closing its doors in 1972. The wine Gordo pays tribute to the Mata winemaking heritage and, specifically, to Patrick's father. The Gordo label is a replica of one of the family labels from the late 1800s. Today, after a few decades, Patrick and Alberto through Vinos Atlantico are resurrecting their family heritage and producing wines in many regions throughout the Iberian Peninsula, including this rich yet elegant blend of Monastrell and Cabernet from the southeast of Spain.
WHAT MAKES THIS WINE UNIQUE?: A personal wine that pays tribute to Patrick's father. Produced from dry farmed vineyards. Vines are tended in chalk soil at 713 m (2,339 ft) elevation. This type of soil and the elevation result in wines that exhibit greater freshness with lifted flavors.
GRAPE: 70% Monastrell, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon. Vines planted since 1970. Tended in chalk and limestone soil at 713 m (2,339 ft) elevation.
PAIRING SUGGESTIONS: Try Gordo with blue cheese, stews, spicy chili and similar hearty dishes. This wine has the heft on the palate and spice to pair well with BBQ with serious heat, pulled pork sliders and “five alarm” BBQ chicken wings.
VINIFICATION AND AGEING: Harvest takes place in the cool, early morning hours. The best bunches are selected and undergo a gentle crush. Whole clusters with stems undergo maceration at a cool temperature (59 F). Each grape variety is fermented separately. After fermentation, the skins and stems are kept together in a post-fermentation extended maceration for seven days. Malolactic fermentation occurs in stainless steel tanks. After ageing for three months in oak barrels that are two years old, the Monastrell and Cabernet are blended. The wine is bottled after one month in the tanks."
This is the new vintage, which I have not yet tried. That said, Gordo is one of the first Spanish wines I ever tried, and I fell in love with it. Monastrell is a grape typical to the southeast and often vinified as a varietal wine. Here it is blended with a little Cabernet, and the balance is just right. I think that the two varietals are vinified and aged separately before blending gives the wine a more complex character. This is a great cross-over wine for people who tend to drink California Cabs.
A Portela Mencia 2014 ($17.99)
From the producer:
"A unique wine produced with the rare Mencía grape (pronounced Men-THEE-ah). Mencía only grows in northwest Spain. In this case, A Portela comes from Valdeorras, which is one of the most inland wine regions of Galicia. During Roman times Valdeorras was known for its gold, hence its name, the valley of Gold. The vines are tended in granite and slate soil. The high elevation of this precious small part of Galicia produces Mencía grapes that are different from other Galician wine regions, flavors tend to be more uplifted, more floral, brighter, and very pretty! A Portela is all unoaked to emphasize the purity and delicate flavors and aromas of this grape. It is produced from estate-owned grapes that are organically grown. A Portela signifies the doorstep to heaven. It is also the name of the high elevation hill of 5 hectares (12 acres) located in the town of Larouco (province of Ourense), where the Mencía vines that make this profound mineral wine come from. A Portela is a joint venture between the Sharon family and CVA.
WHAT MAKES THIS WINE UNIQUE? This wine is a superb value made from estate owned organically grown grapes. All the grapes come from the specific high elevation site of A Portela. A Portela is a joint venture between the Sharon family and CVA. The Sharon family possesses the largest holdings of vineyard land in the Valdeorras appellation. A Portela is made with the best 20% of the vineyard land of the Sharon family. The mineral character of A Portela gives the wine a special identity.
GRAPE: 100% Mencia. Vines planted from 1976 - 1990. Tended in clay, granite and slate soil from 500 - 700 m (1,640 - 2,625 ft) elevation. This is a vegan wine.
PAIRING SUGGESTIONS: Herb-roasted chicken, pork loin or even salmon would be divine. And some sautéed mushrooms...
VINIFICATION AND AGEING: After harvest, the skins mix with the unfermented juice for five days at 45F. This pre-fermentation “cold soak” enhances the wines aromas, color and flavor. Once fermentation has taken place, the skins spend another 10 days in tanks to extract all beneficial colors and tannins. The wine is aged 7 months in stainless steel to emphasize the pure, young flavor of the Mencía grape.
LOCATION, SOIL, CLIMATE: The vineyards are located in the autonomous region of Galicia, in far northwestern Celtic Spain, within the Valdeorras DO (Zone 1) in Valdeorras district and within Ourense province. The vineyards are in the mountain town of Larouco, at 500 meters (1,640 ft) elevation. The soil is composed of slate and granite topsoil with a thin clay subsoil. This soil profile is poor in organic matter and the vines yield 2.5 kg (about 6 pounds) of grapes per vine, compared to the average of 7.5 kg (around 17 pounds) per vine in Valdeorras. The surface of the granite and slate soil is warmed by sunlight during the day and provides heat to the roots, which encourages the grapes to continue ripening during the cool nights. Lower yields result in more concentrated grapes providing more intense aromas and flavors in the wines. The area's climate has an average temperature from April-October of 64.4F, among the lowest average temperatures in Spain, with 32 inches of yearly rainfall. Being one of the lowest levels of precipitation in the region helps prevent overnight frost. The cool temperatures of this Atlantic-influenced climate (Zone 1) provide a longer ripening period, which results in bright wines with great aromatic expression.
TASTING NOTES: A pure Mencia that exhibits aromas reminiscent of dried flowers and sliced strawberries. The palate is loaded with upfront fruit, plenty of fine tannins, a good backbone of acidity and a clean finish."
My mom recently returned from a walking trip in this area of Spain, and she found Mencia everywhere she went, though in the States it's a fairly esoteric varietal. This wine is a lovely example of the style, has earned high ratings, and is perfect as we transition from summer to fall. On the lighter side of medium-bodied, it features bright red fruit and a mild acidity. This is definitely a wine that I prefer to pair with food.
Inama Soave Classico ($15.99)
From the producer:
"Light yellow colour. Elegant nose of sweet field flowers: camomile, elderflower, iris. Mineral on the palate with sweet almond on the finish.
RECOMMENDED COMBINATION: Risotto and white fish, raw fish, salads."
Soave is a style of dry white wine from Veneto in northeastern Italy. It is 100% Garganega, which the Romans introduced to the area, and which is closely related to Greca, a Sicilian grape. The wine is aromatic, with floral overtones, and though not as crisp as Pinot Grigio, it is much more delicate. Fermentation and aging take place in stainless steel, so there is no oakiness, but malolactic fermentation gives the wine an elegant smoothness. This is one of the lesser known Italian wines that I hope more people will discover.
Yola Mezcal ($44.99)
From the producer:
"Our Mezcal is handcrafted, distilled on our namesake farm, bottled by women, with a recipe passed down from Yola's grandfather.
In 1971, Luis Jimenez purchased a Mezcal farm in San Juan del Rio, Oaxaca.
Today, we still honor his original recipe, abiding by the 300-year-old method of traditional Mezcal making.
We are dedicated to promoting the economic independence of the women of Oaxaca."
Have you tried Mezcal? It's made from espadin agave (rather than the blue agave of Tequila) and the hearts of the plant are smoked, which imparts a very particular flavor. Some people really like that, and others find it too strong, but this Mezcal is ripely fruit-forward enough to win over just about everyone. This is a women-owned company that is empowering its women workforce, while producing a high-end product in a sustainable way. To say that this hits every note for me is an understatement: in short, Yola is swoon-worthy.
High Rock Distilling Pepper Shine ($33.99)
Ballston Spa, New York
High Rock Distilling has closed up shop, which is a real shame, because they were doing some pretty great stuff with un-aged corn whiskey. I have just under a dozen bottles left of their Pepper Shine, and it's some of the last stock available anywhere. This product was made using a corn whiskey base infused with 6 varieties of hot peppers. The result is savory, vegetal, and spicy, and it makes just about the best Bloody Mary you'll ever have! It's versatile for other cocktails, too, such as margaritas or even a spicy martini. I highly recommend giving this a taste!