Thanksgiving is coming up soon and I have a great bottle of wine to put on the dinner table, one that will go with the bird and all the fixin’s that come along with it. This wine is produced by Steve Matthiasson from Matthiasson Family Vineyards. At first glance it would appear that it is from Austria because of the clear one liter bottle with no punt and a crown cap; however, it is actually from the great state of California. To be exact, the Barbera, Aglianico and Montepulciano grapes that make up this wine come from the Windmill Vineyard in the Dunnigan Hills AVA. The wine is fermented in stainless steel tanks at cool temperatures, and then aged in neutral barrels with no sulfur added and no filtration. The Tendu Red has a light ruby color and portrays aromas of cherry, strawberry and pomegranate. On the palate it is fresh and lively with tart cherry and cranberry followed by a nice hit of spice on the finish. With an alcohol level of just 11.7 percent, this will pair wonderfully with just about anything you throw at it. Also, I’m sure that the extra wine in the one liter bottle will help it go a little further once Aunt Betty figures out how delicious it is. Cheers and Happy Thanksgiving!
Here at the wine shop we sell an awful lot of Grüner Veltliner. This crisp, clean, Austrian white is perfect for sipping, drinking or glugging. Most of them even come in a full liter bottle, not the more typical 750. What could be easier? Curiosity started nagging at me though, curiosity about Grüners with more dignity, Grüners from estates or single vineyards, Grüners that, with food, make a meal. Found one! This wine is precise and clean with a generous richness that is detailed and fine. It offers subtly gorgeous floral and fruit aromas with hints of fennel and grass. Good rounded depth, typical of the vintage. I’ll still sip, drink, and gulp those easy Grüners, but (as usual) I’m really happy I went exploring.
With Thanksgiving coming up soon, I was looking at the different Pinot Noirs that we carry around the wine shop, when I remembered the Left Coast Cellars. I have enjoyed the last two vintages of their White Pinot, and this 2016 is even better. Yes, it is a Pinot Noir, just with very little skin contact, so it is a beautiful, pale salmon color. Still a good wine to go with the traditional turkey dinner, it has flavors of Rainier cherry, peach and poached pear. Rich and broad, it offers bright, balancing acidity on the palate, with a lingering mineral finish. Try something different this year and surprise the relatives.
You can take the boy out of Burgundy, but you can’t take the Burgundy out of the boy. That’s right, I recently returned from my almost annual trip to Burgundy, and much to my delight found several new 2015 Burgundies (both red and white) had arrived in the store while I was gone. Since I had been there during the 2015 harvest, I knew how absolutely ideal the weather was that year. There had been some vineyards, mainly in the south, that suffered the ravages of hail earlier in the summer, but I witnessed the grapes being brought in throughout the harvest under trouble-free sunshine. Fast forward to my return home this year. No, I was not tired of tasting Burgundy, so I was compelled to try some of our new arrivals. The one that caught my eye and my interest first was this Remoissenet Bourgogne. I knew this was a vintage, like the high tide, that raises all boats. As often in such rare vintages, it is the lower tier wines that benefit the most. This wine proved that adage with its beautiful ruby hues and explosive nose of perfectly ripe red fruits, but it was on the palate where the biggest impression was made. The plush, round fruit caressed with a softness and purity that seemed weightless, but immensely flavorful at the same time. I was happy to see the promise I had anticipated, as I watched the perfect grapes being plucked from some of my favorite vines anywhere, fulfilled.
This is the third vintage of Saintayme I have tried and I am always amazed that this is 100 percent Merlot. It is a substantial wine that I would swear has to have some Petite Verdot or Cabernet in the mix. That is the case in Bordeaux; Merlot is not a wimpy wine. Big, broad, dark berry fruit with enough tannic grip in the back to allow for a few years of aging, though you could drink it now with a hearty meal. This is a lot of wine for the money. Buy several bottles to drink over the next 3 to 5 years.
Upon first glance, Split Rail’s newest red blend “Swamp Donkey” stands out with its imaginative label that features “Snake River Valley” prominently on the front. The adorable donkey wearing “Wellington” boots that suggest it may have been trotting through a quagmire or a puddle-strewn marshland. That’s what I thought when I first looked at it, but then I spoke with Split Rail’s Jed Glavin and he explained to me that “swamp donkey” refers to a person who walks around in trenches, as in messy wine cellars. I might add that if you look up “Swamp Donkey,” you will also get several other colorful, colloquial meanings that definitely have nothing to do with wine. The wine itself, according to Mr. Glavin is a “baby GSM,” mostly Mourvèdre with a little Grenache, Syrah and a few additional red varieties. I was lucky enough to try the Swamp Donkey and it is a great red blend! It tastes kind of like a cross between a Bordeaux blend and a Southern Rhône—slightly fruit-forward with berry accents on the finish—similar in style to Split Rail’s incredibly popular Laser Fox Cinsault. I really like their newest creation and I can see it going really well with barbecue, burgers, or even a steak. It is flavorful enough to drink on its own as well, but definitely decant this one or let it stand open a few hours before pouring to maximize the ample flavor profile. I am not BS-ing you, so the Wellington boots are not actually necessary: Swamp Donkey is a really great wine!
As the weather gets cooler, I am still drinking white wines, but I'm moving toward the more full-bodied styles. This Chardonnay has good weight to it, but as it was fermented in stainless steel, it's fresh and has a lively crispness to it. Here is what the Wine Enthusiast said about this delicious wine: “Fermented entirely in stainless steel, this wine nonetheless offers an oak-like body and warmth of vanilla and Baked Alaska, ripe and grippy flavors around a tightness of texture. A pretty note of honeysuckle provides a more delicate sense of elegance. 90 Pts”
Our old friend Fred Magnien has hit it out of the park with this delicious Chardonnay. Tons of floral green apple fruit and crisp minerality with an easy to drink style that makes it my new house Chardonnay this fall. You have to try this beauty that’s sourced from multiple sites in the Côtes de Or.