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.