They’re exotic, intriguing, and unusual: Recommendations from area experts.
I’ve been in the beverage industry for 40-plus years, and I am still excited, intrigued and learning. Every vintage is unique and challenging, offering a whole new learning process every year.
The basic science of converting sugar to alcohol has remained the same, but flavor profiles have changed. Yeast strains, rootstock, varietal clone selection, canopy management, soils, weather and farming techniques all come into play. The artistic creation of wine is done through the winemaker’s idea of what he wants to express in the fruit he receives.
Janice Robinson, in her book Wine Grapes, lists 1,368 varietals known to be produced as wine. No, I haven’t tasted them all, but I will continue to make a valiant effort to do so.
While I can’t list and explain all, I will attempt to provide insight into some of these grapes and their fermentation styles. I’ll wrap up with some thoughts for your holidays—ideas from me and my State Line colleagues.
Cowan Cellars Ribolla Gialla 2012—$29.99. This is a medium-bodied, straw-colored wine with hints of apricots and honey. It has good structure and is well balanced with a white pepper finish. There are only two vineyards in California currently growing this grape.
Also from owner/winemaker Jim Cowan is ISA—$24.99. It is 100 percent Sauvignon Blanc fermented with extended skin contact, leaving a golden orange color. Its brightness and minerality give way to a tangerine rind component with a lasting herbal basil finish. If you want wines with personality and quality at a reasonable price, try Cowan Cellars.
Stony Hill Winery Chardonnay 2010 – $44.99. This is not your typical California fruit bomb. It’s lean, bright and delicate. Located high up on the northeast slope of Spring Mountain on the Bale Lane side, the McCreas have farmed this fruit for more than 50 years. Dry farmed, eco-friendly fruit is crafted by Mike Chelini, winemaker for decades, into an elegant and age-worthy wine. Minimum skin contact, neutral barrels inoculated with Montrachet yeast and no malolactic fermentation keeps the fruit clean, with great acidity, preserving the citrus and mineral expressions of Chardonnay. This is the finest example of Chardonnay in North America, rivaling anything from Burgundy.
Dashe Cellars old vine Carignane Evangelho Vineyards 2014 – $29.99. From Contra Costa, Calif., fruit from 125-year-old vines is planted on its own root stock and dry farmed. The grape is usually blended with Zinfandel and Petite Syrah. Exotic spices with cassis, pomegranate, and mineral flavors burst on your palate. It’s vibrant with balanced, lush flavors of black cherry and strawberry. There were a whopping 159 cases made and Mike Dashe gave me five.
Neyers Mourvedre Evangelho Vineyard 2010 – $39.99. This is grown on the same property as the Dashe Carignane . Bruce Neyers and his wife, Barbara, are from Wilmington, graduates of Mount Pleasant High School and the University of Delaware. Bruce began his career in the Napa Valley in 1972 with stints at Mayacamas and Joseph Phelps before beginning his venture at Neyers. Mourvedre planted here is also more than 120 years old. Its exotic, rich, black currant fruits add great complexity to this wine, which is fermented in used French oak for a year and bottled without fining or filtration. It shows earthy, gamey notes with soft structured fruit flavors, perfumed blackberries with exotic ginger and herbal flavors.
Here are some more picks for your holidays from the State Line Staff, starting with mine:
Andrew Will Champoux 2010 – $39.99. This is a traditional Bordeaux blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Red and black fruits are very pronounced here. Cassis, blackberries, blueberries with hints of cedar and tobacco intertwine with earthy, dark spices and cocoa. Champoux Vineyard is located in the Horse Heaven Hills appellation of Washington State.
Ramey Wine Cellars 2012 Chardonnay Woolsey Road – $69.99. David Ramey is an icon in the California wine industry, famous for his ability to create a seamless balance of fruit and flavors in his wine. He has worked for such greats as Matanzas Creek, Dominus and Chalk Hill Winery. The 2012 vintage was a long yet moderate, ideal growing season and is considered a great vintage. It is aged sur lie, on the dead yeast cells, for 18 months in one-third new oak with no filtering. Rich and delicate with citrus, lemon, and pear flavors, this wine is bright with lots of complexity. It’s rich and has good acidity, helping to prolong the flavors.
Iron Horse Brut Rose – $49.99. A bright rose color from extra skin contact during fermentation, this mostly Pinot Noir gives a rich, creamy texture, finishing dry with light, delicate bubbles. It’s a perfect sparkling wine for your festive holidays, especially the New Year.
Joe Buchter’s Selections:
Domaine Nerantzi 2012 Pentapolis, Greece – $19.99. Forty percent Malagouzia, 30 percent Assyrtiko, 30 percent Asprouda Serron, Pentapolis takes its name from five city states that existed in Greece circa 5500 B.C., long before the vines were planted for this wine. Though the grapes may be unfamiliar, the easiest thing to compare it to would be a full-bodied Chardonnay. The wine’s richness and weight make it stand up tall alongside all sorts of holiday meals.
Red: Azienda Agricola Foradori 2012 Teroldego – $24.99. Elisabetta Foradori is a winemaker dedicated to tradition, the environment, and the betterment of her wines through hard work in the vineyard. To grow her Teroldego, a grape that is most easily comparable to Pinot Noir, she uses a holistic approach to vineyard management called biodynamic farming.
Sparkling: J-M Seleque Brut Rose – $44.99. As a gift, as a celebratory bottle, or as a pair for your holiday meals, J-M Seleque is a hip grower champagne that one can afford. This dry rose delivers smaller production and more unique wine year to year than the grand marques, which are designed to be identical industrial products.
Rick Ostrand’s Selections:
Wigle Walkabout Pennsylvania Organic Apple Whiskey – $69.99 (750 ml). This product from Pittsburgh’s micro distiller Wigle is made from barrel-aged wheat and rye whisky that is brought proof by the addition of apple cider, which is sourced from an organic farm and is a blend of five local varieties of apples. Add a splash of Fernet Branca and a dash of apple-cinnamon bitters for a cocktail to take the autumn chill away.
Vapor Distillery Pumpkin King Cordial – $34.99 (750 ml), $19.99 (375 ml). This Colorado distillery cordial is made with roasted Baby Bear Pie Pumpkins that are pureed and blended with clove, nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger with a bit of pure cane sugar. The result a less sweet, well balanced pumpkin cordial that is the best we have ever sold. It’s bottled at 60 proof, so it mixes well with ginger beer or apple cider and can also be added to a cafe latte or eggnog.
Robert Murray’s Selections:
This time of year, Brewers from around the world put their best foot forward with their delicious Christmas Ales. Two excellent examples of these styles are Troegs Brewery Mad Elf from Pennsylvania and Belgium’s St. Bernardus Christmas Ale.
Mad Elf is a cheerful ruby red creation reminiscent of ripened cherries, raw honey and cocoa with notes of cinnamon, clove and allspice.
St. Bernardus Christmas Ale, at 10 percent ABV is characterized by its fruity aromas and deep, dark color. A creamy thick head leads to a full-bodied and velvety taste.
And finally, from the staff at State Line Liquors, we wish all a safe and Happy Holiday Season!