Explore International Wines from New and Old World Sources

January 20th, 2015

The focus of my column has always been on Washington wine – and with good reason. Our state produces all the essentials a wine enthusiast could ask for: white wines ranging from crisp, vibrant riesling to full-bodied chardonnay and a wide array of red wines from velvety merlot to big, bold cabernet sauvignon.

But even if all your taste-preference bases are covered by Washington wineries, you’d be foolish not to enjoy wines from other parts of the United States and around the world.

Old World wine-producing countries of France, Spain, and Italy and New World sources such as South Africa, Australia, Chile, and Argentina offer an immense variety of styles to complement and contrast anything from Washington in your on-hand wine supply.

nullToday I’ll give you several international recommendations I’ve recently enjoyed that make great choices for wineophiles looking to venture outside the Pacific Northwest.

Borgo M 2013 Pinot Grigio (about $12) – This refreshing Italian white has a lightly floral and fruity aroma with plenty of crisp citrus flavors and a lemon-drop finish. It pairs well with manila clams in butter broth and is currently on the menu at Keenan’s at the Pier Restaurant in Bellingham.

Montes Twins 2012 Malbec/Cabernet Sauvignon (about $15) – This 50/50 blend is sourced from the Colchagua Valley in Chile. It’s loaded with dark berry, plum, and black currant fruits followed by a layer of even darker bittersweet chocolate and espresso. The soft finish makes it instantly enjoyable and a pleasure to taste.

Bodegas Beronia Rioja Reserva 2008 (about $19) – This beautiful Spanish red is comprised almost entirely of tempranillo and its opening cherry flavors are accentuated with subtle clove and cinnamon spice. The lingering, complex finish suggests caramel and hazelnut with a dusting of cocoa powder. It pairs nicely with a variety of tapas from octopus to linguiça.

nullKaiken 2012 Ultra Malbec (about $24) – Another excellent Chilean malbec, this one is filled with reserved blueberry and blackberry flavors and underscored with an earthy, mineral-like quality and supple tannins. The 14.5-percent alcohol content comes off as slightly hot; a quibble quickly tempered by the dollop of vanilla bean on the finish.

Antonelli San Marco 2010 Montefalco Rosso and Arnaldo-Caprai 2012 Montefalco Rosso (between $19 to $25 each) – Montefalco is a subdivision within central Italy’s Umbria region and known for its big, heady red wines.

Both of these wines have a sangiovese base and 15-percent sagrantino. The Antonelli also blends in cabernet sauvignon and merlot and its cherry, red plum, and toasted oak profile is perfectly balanced with grippy tannins.

The Arnaldo-Caprai is finished with just a bit of merlot. It’s a touch lighter in body, with red currant and berry flavors, firm tannins and a pleasant splash of green tea on the finish.

Guidelines for Serving Wines at Thanksgiving That Will Keep the Holiday Stress-Free

November 25th, 2014

Serving wines with Thanksgiving dinner? Just follow a few simple guidelines and the selection process can be as stress-free as opening a can of cranberry jelly.

First and foremost, offer variety. I harp on this every year, but you can hardly go wrong if you use this as a starting point. With a variety of wines at the table, say, a sweet or off-dry and a dry white, and perhaps a light to medium-bodied red, you’ll cover all your bases.

Second, don’t fret over precise food and wine pairings. A traditional Thanksgiving dinner usually isn’t heavy on the seasonings and spices. That makes more wines easily adaptable to the basics of turkey, potatoes and gravy, and stuffing you’re likely to serve.

Third, ask others what they like. Don’t assume that just because you’re a big fan of chardonnay, others will be too. Here again, variety is the key.

Finally, don’t be too skimpy on cost. A bargain wine or two? No problem. Every wine at the table under $10? Come on, it’s Thanksgiving! Splurge a bit and use this as an opportunity to show off your wine-buying prowess to family and friends.

In keeping with the variety theme, I’d like to offer some European wine recommendations from France, Italy, and Spain that should be a welcome addition to your Thanksgiving Day meal.

nullLa Gioiosa Non-Vintage Prosecco DOC Treviso Spumante (about $11) – An outstanding sparkling wine for starters, this tasty Prosecco features luscious ripe pear and honeydew melon flavors with a creamy texture that hints at lemon custard. Guaranteed to be a crowd-pleaser with its faintly sweet finish.

Domaine du Tariquet Classic (about $11) – This refreshing, four-varietal white wine blend offers citrusy and herbaceous aromas and flavors while the finish is clean and green and reminiscent of a vinho verde. It makes a nice pairing with seafood, shellfish or oyster stuffing.

Marchesi de Frescobaldi 2010 Nipozzano Riserva (about $19) – This incredibly well-priced, sangiovese-based Chianti is a great example of how practical it is to serve a red wine for Thanksgiving. Hints of licorice and spicy cherry on the nose, bright red currant and cranberry flavors on the palate, and supple tannins on the finish combine to provide a great compliment to dark meat.

Bodegas Shaya ‘Habis’ 2010 Old Vines Verdejo (about $26) – From Spain’s Rueda region, this stunning white wine opens with aromas of fresh peach and green herbs. Generous tropical and stone fruits fill the glass with a gentle kiss of ruby red grapefruit on the finish. My only quibble: it’s so good you may not want to share it with anyone else.

Damilano 2010 ‘Lecinquevigne’ Barolo DOCG (about $35) – This nicely complex nebbiolo is both elegant and muscular with floral aromas of rose and violet, red cherry flavors, and a splash of green tea on the finish. Grippy tannins are softened with a bit of aeration and decanting or easily complemented with an after-dinner cigar.

Stemmari Offers Pinot Grigio and Intriguing White Blend

September 28th, 2014

nullOriginating in Sicily, Italy, Stemmari Winery has a couple of white wines I recently tried for you to consider.

Their 2013 Pinot Grigio (about $10) has some nice, true-to-the varietal flavors of lemon and white peach, and good acidity that lends itself to the wine’s crisp finish.

The wine should pair well with a variety of seafood and shellfish dishes and it’s also reasonably priced.

The 2012 Dalila (about $14) is a blend of 80% Grillo and 20% Viognier.

There’s definitely a tropical note here, some very gentle citrus flavors, and a distinctive trace of spearmint on the finish.

Not unpleasant, and certainly an intriguing combination.

Pinot Grigio

May 31st, 2014

nullDouble Blind 2013 (about $15) – This Italian Pinot Grigio falls squarely in the medium-bodied white wine category, so if you don’t like your pinots too lean or too heavy-handed this wine will make an excellent choice.

Green melon, lemon/lime and Granny Smith apple flavors fill the glass, with a borderline creamy note to the otherwise crisp, bright finish. Perfect with a light salad of fresh greens or pasta.

Broaden Your Wine Tasting Horizons With Choices From Europe, South Africa

January 7th, 2014

I’ve always tried to use my column as an opportunity to feature Washington wines and, rest assured, I’ll to continue to do so.

But it’s also a good idea to let down your provincial guard once in a while and venture out into the rest of the world of wine.

nullAs we start off the New Year, this is a great time to resolve to explore wines from other countries. While doing this, I encourage you to compare and contrast styles between Washington wineries and the rest of the world, find some new favorites, and above all, have fun.

Italy is a great place to start because many Italian wines are made in a food-friendly, light to medium-bodied style.

A perfect example is the Frescobaldi Morellino di Scansano 2010 Pietraregia Riserva (about $25). This sangiovese-centered blend is filled with bright red fruits of plum, currant, pie cherry and cranberry with mild accents of white pepper and spice. The finish carries a touch of tannic grip, allowing it to pair perfectly with pasta or chicken prepared with a tomato-based sauce.

For an exquisite Italian white, consider the Frescobaldi 2012 Pomino Bianco (about $18). A blend of chardonnay and pinot bianco, it opens with lovely aromas of allspice and honeysuckle, generous flavors of Golden Delicious apple and green pear & an elegant, slightly creamy finish.

South African wines have improved markedly over the past decade or so. You may already be familiar with the country’s popular pinotage grape, a cousin of pinot noir, but there are a number of other solid wines to choose from this part of the world as well.

nullThe more I tasted the Mulderbosch Vineyards 2009 Faithful Hound (about $19), the more I enjoyed it. This five-varietal Bordeaux blend consists primarily of cabernet sauvignon and merlot, but the small amount of cabernet franc really comes through on the nose and palate with its herby, earthy qualities. There’s also a good measure of spicy blackberry to taste, along with a lengthy finish of dried black cherry.

The Mulderbosch 2011 Chenin Blanc (about $14) is another tasty and refreshing choice that is quite affordable. Filled with tropical and citrus fruit flavors, there’s also a note of field flowers and faintly sweet clover that starts at the bouquet and carries through to the finishing taste.

One more well-priced choice, this one from Portugal, is the Herdade de Gâmbia 2011 Red Wine. This three-varietal blend is comprised of touriga (traditionally used in Port wines), syrah and aragonez (tempranillo). Sassy and slightly spicy, it’s filled with bright red fruits along with an underlying touch of minerality. I picked up a bottle at Bellingham’s Seifert and Jones Wine Merchants for only $12.

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