One day in the near future, there will be an article in a wine magazine or maybe even in a national newspaper that reads the following: “World Class Idaho Sauvignon Blanc wins international wine competition.” That’s how much I think the potential for Hat Ranch’s Snake River Valley Sauvignon Blanc is. The aroma is immediately arresting—both citrusy and grassy—along with a wonderful acerbic quality that is all its own. After being impressed with the aroma, the first sip is vivacious and animated—like that first time you try lemonade—however, this is more complex. The lemon/lime notes are wrapped in mango-like tropical fruit swirls, glittering with minerality. The next time you are lucky enough to catch some fresh Idaho trout, grill it outside and have it with a salad, a bottle of Hat Ranch Sauvignon Blanc, and toast your glasses to a major player in the future of great Idaho wines.
The G.D. Vajra Langhe Rosso is an excellent value from a great winery in Italy's Piedmont region. The winery bottled its first vintage in 1978 and continues to work with all the major grapes (Nebbiolo, Barbera, Dolcetto, and a few others) from the region of Piedmont. The Langhe Rosso is mainly a blend of those three grapes, with small amounts of Freisa, Albarossa, and Pinot Noir added. The 2015 vintage saw slightly warmer temperatures than normal in the Piedmont region, thus producing more fruit forward, approachable wines. The Nebbiolo grape is a thicker skinned variety, and produces some of the most age worthy wines in the world, due to its high tannins (Barolo and Barbarescos). That grape, being only one piece of the puzzle here, still gives the wine great tannic structure, but not so much that it will pull the enamel off your teeth! The Barbera and Dolcetto help to round out the wine with dark fruit and balanced acidity. The nose shows that dark fruit and spice with a light floral lift. On the palate, the wine is very well balanced with great acidity supporting the rich fruit, spice and a little tobacco. This is a great food wine and will pair well with pastas and red meats.
Graciano is thought to be native to the Rioja region of Spain. The vines are low yielding and susceptible to mildew, so there are not as many vineyards that devote a lot of acreage to the variety. But recently there has been more interest in cultivating Graciano and producing 100 percent varietal wines. One of my favorites is from a Washington winery, Idilico. They produce a 100 percent Graciano that is rich with structure, firm tannins and ripe, dark fruit. However, as that one retails for $27.00, the Rio Madre is a great alternative for everyday consumption. Here is what Vinous wrote about it: "Brilliant violet color. Intensely perfumed dark berry and floral pastille scents, along with suggestions of anise, violet and pipe tobacco. Sweet and expansive on the palate, offering sappy black and blue fruit flavors that put on weight with air. Shows very good energy and power on the long, gently tannic finish, leaving behind notes of blueberry and peppery spices. 90 Pts."
Hermitage in the northern Rhône is arguably the most famous appellation in the world for the Syrah grape. Problem is they're mostly priced north of a Benjamin. There is, however, a larger region (Crozes-Hermitage) surrounding this epicenter that is of similar climate and soil, and yields Syrah-based wines that are more user friendly, both in the pocket book and on the palate. Yes, they are more approachable at an earlier age and perhaps lighter in style than their big brothers, but they still can exhibit the pure, taut style that the granitic soils of the northern Rhône are famous for. My pick shows hints of the bacon fat and blood/iron commonly described in these wines, but in an elegant, refined style that finishes seamlessly on the palate. At only 13 percent alcohol this is a far cry from the high-octane fruit bombs that you often encounter from this grape in other wine regions. For my money, this refined, food-friendly style of Syrah offers more value and more importantly, more pleasure.
A high-alcohol fortified wine in the middle of a summer heat wave? Okay, I am drinking mostly rosé and white wine, with a few light reds, but at the end of the evening, I still enjoy a glass of port with a piece of dark chocolate. The LBV here stands for Late Bottled Vintage. True vintage port is only produced in years that are declared as such. The decision is made two years after the harvest, and if a vintage is declared, it then goes into bottle where it slowly ages. LBVs are also from a single vintage, but they spend from four to six years in cask, allowing them to mellow and to be ready to drink upon release. However, not all LBVs are the same. Some are cold-stabilized and filtered and topped with a cap like you find on Tawnies. They are meant to be opened within a few years of bottling. Others are unfiltered and cork finished. They drink beautifully once bottled, but can age well, evolving over some 10 or 15 years. This Menéres is in that later category, and while all LBVs are among the best values in ruby port, this one is an exceptional bargain. It opens with aromas of caramel, chocolate, cherry and candied plum. The flavors are silky smooth with creamy chocolate and ripe berry that linger nicely on the long finish. We were so impressed we decided to buy in and stack it (I bought a case for myself—it’s that good.)
Not only is this nice, crisp, South African wine sustainably farmed, but Indaba is also the cornerstone of a philanthropic movement to bring early childhood education to those most in need in their Cape Winelands community. Considering that my education and background is in the early childhood field, that fact alone appealed to me. This almost clear colored Chenin Blanc opens with a fragrant green apple and honeysuckle bouquet. On the palate, it is medium bodied, well balanced and easy to drink. The flavor profile offers gentle green apple with nicely integrated, mild minerality. I also detected hints of lemongrass. The finish is dry, and its flavors quietly fade away. This is a very versatile and food friendly Chenin. I paired it with a chicken dish from the grill, with roasted cherry tomatoes and peppers. A great value.
I was anxiously waiting for the new vintage of this to come in and it finally arrived. It’s been one of my favorites for the last few vintages, and this one does not disappoint. A blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Riesling, it has notes of crisp Meyer lemon and melon flavors accented by lime zest and ruby grapefruit notes. A hint of honeysuckle comes through on the sturdy finish. Dry, bright and refreshing, it’s the perfect patio wine for the summer.
Plenty has been said about the 2014 vintage for white Burgundy. The word most used to describe the vintage is classic. I’m having a hard time staying away from any white Burgundy from the 2014 vintage, so when I saw this one come through the door, I figured why not write it up. The wine is produced by Chateau-Fuisse, which dates back to 1604, and has been in the Vincent family for five generations. Chateau-Fuisse specializes in white Burgundy with over 100 acres of vineyards in southern Burgundy, spread across five appellations (Pouilly-Fuisse, Saint-Veran, Macon-Villages, Bourgogne-Blanc, and Julienas). The Tete de Cru is blended from approximately 20 different vineyard sites in Pouilly-Fuisse, with the Chardonnay vines averaging 30 years in age. The wine is aged 40 percent in stainless steel tanks and 60 percent oak barrels, 25 percent of which are new. On the nose, the wine shows notes of lemon and a bit of minerality. On the palate, it has wonderful texture, supported by great acidity, and continues to show lemon, lemon curd, chalky minerality and just a touch of oak and spice. This wine has great structure and will continue to develop for many more years. A great value from a great vintage!