We tend to get comfortable with our favorite libations, only realizing it when dining out and ordering a cocktail or when shopping at your favorite wine store and heading to the same wine section you previously went. I am often guilty of this, ordering a vodka and soda or a glass of Chardonnay at a bar or heading directly to the Pinot Noir or Chardonnay section of a wine store. Lately I have been trying to branch out, both with the varietal I am drinking and the region it is from. We are lucky to have so many incredible wines made in every part of the country and the world available to us, the key is to find them. Here are a few selections to consider if you are in the mood to break out of the norm and try something a little different. A few selections were sent for editorial consideration.
Vineyards in Chile span over such a vast area and various altitudes that it is surprising how different the wine from one part of the country can taste from another, and though different the wines are often delicious. De Martino Legado Reserva Chardonnay from the Limari Valley is a luscious and complex surprise from the country. Filled with bright and fresh citrus fruit and green apples with structure and balanced acidity. Carmenere to Chile is like Malbec to Argentina, it is their signature grape. Filled with black fruit, dried peppers and earthy notes the grape pairs well with the hearty, meat focused diet in the country. Casa Silva does a nice job with this in their Reserva Carmenere from the Colchagua Valley, really highlighting the pepper and smoke notes in the wine.
Often when we think of Italian red wine our mind immediately goes to the traditional Chianti Classico or a Super-Tuscan, but throughout the diverse country wines are made to highlight the terroir, celebrating the land they have come from. Recently, while traveling in the Piedmont region as a guest of Ricossa winery, I sampled several classic varieties that I hadn’t had in a while including the juicy and easy to drink Ricossa Barbera d’Asti. Filled with ripe cherry, blackberry and raspberry flavors with layers of minerality from the limestone and clay soils the grapes are grown in, with distinct acidity, a characteristic of the variety.
Another Italian wine to look for is the Primitivo from Feudi di San Marzano in the Puglia region of Italy. Perhaps best known for their San Marzano tomatoes and fragrant olive oil from the region, their wine making history spans for centuries. Though decades ago the area was better known for their bulk wine, recent years have shown improvements with key indigenous grapes like their Primitivo, also known throughout the world as Zinfandel. This one grabs you with a punch of bright berry flavors with black pepper, licorice and slight herbal notes.
Rose is always a go to wine for summertime, but I like it year round as the flavors can vary from super light pink that the color is barely there, light and aromatic wines to vibrant fuchsia and coral colored wines with big fruit and spice aromas and beautiful options are coming from all over the world and in every grape variety, with those from France being some of the best. I was at a wine bar in Walnut Creek, CA recently and enjoyed their Rose flight which included wines from Languedoc, France, Murcia, Spain and Carneros, CA. The Carneros “Vin Gris” Rose of Pinot Noir from Stemmler was actually the favorite. Only 250 cases of this special wine are made from estate grown, sustainably farmed fruit. Filled with orange blossom and tangerine notes with juicy red grapefruit, lemon and ripe orange flavors on the palate.
California’s Central Coast ranges from north of LA to south of San Francisco, encompassing the wine regions of Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and more. The whole area benefits from coastal breezes, fog filled mornings with warm days and cool night. It is really a winemakers dream climate, which makes sense that more and more wineries are popping up throughout the region to take advantage of the climate and land prices that aren’t quite as steep as that of their Napa Valley friends to the north. Though not new on the wine scene Justin Winery and Vineyards prides itself on their Bordeaux style reds, in particular their Isosceles, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc which ages for 24 months in French oak and, though delicious and lush when young, the lengthy finish and hearty tannins indicate a long aging ability. I recently tried their 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon. Though still young, this wine is elegant and nicely balanced, filled with black plum, black cherry and blackberry with hints of spice throughout.
Washington state is fast becoming known for their expressive and elegant red wines, mostly made in Walla Walla. However, Woodinville, just 45 minutes outside of Seattle, is growing into a dynamic wine community of almost 100 wineries, fueled by Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery and Estates (it is their headquarters), making wine from outside the box varieties not always seen elsewhere in the state, particularly with white wines. Erocia Riesling under the Ste. Michelle umbrella of wines, is the Riesling for people who don’t think they like Riesling as it is an incredibly light, dry and crisp white wine with good acidity and stone fruit flavors from vineyards throughout Columbia Valley. DeLille Cellars focuses on Rhone style varieties, creating a floral filled, aromatic Roussanne white wine on their Doyenne label from fruit grown in the Red Mountain region of Washington. Crisp and silky filled with ripe melon, honey and citrus notes. Amavi Semmilon takes Washington to Bordeaux, as the grape benefits from the mineral rich soil of the state and producing a wine filled with meyer lemon, honeysuckle and fresh figs.
A few Texas wines have stood out as well, including the McPherson Cellars Roussanne Reserve and Sangiovese Reserve. The McPherson’s have been making wine in Texas for over 40 years and their wine shows the dedication the family has to making solid wine from varieties that work well in the Texas heat. Their Roussanne is filled with both floral and herb garden notes with balanced citrus and mineral notes. Only 230 cases of their Reserve Sangiovese are made from wine that has aged in French oak barrels for 16 months. Fresh berry flavors fill this wine with layers of spice, oak and earth. The Vermentino and Trebbiano from Duchman Family Winery show how good unconventional varieties can be. The Vermentino, filled with white flower aromas and grapefruit, lemon and lime flavors, pairs perfectly with light summer salads or baked white fish, as does the Trebbiano, filled with tropical mango, banana and pineapple with good acidity and balance. Or, enjoy either throughout these hot summer days as they are an ideal refresher.