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.

Spanish Wines Flavorful and Diverse

October 21st, 2008

If you’ve yet to try any wines from Spain I encourage you to do so. Most of Spain’s vineyards are located in the country’s warmer regions, meaning the wines produced there are generally big, bold and flavorful. These wines beg to be paired with food, but they’re also extremely enjoyable when served on their own.

And don’t be fooled into thinking that good Spanish wines are limited to a handful of reds. The range of styles and variety of Spanish wines is surprisingly diverse, with something certain to please even the most finicky wine drinker.

For instance, the Lagar do Castelo 2007 Albariño (about $14) is a well-priced white wine that blew me away with its flavors and complexity. The intoxicating aroma suggests fresh nectarine, with a combination of stone fruit, citrus and savory flavors that lead to a dry, yet lingering finish.

Also noteworthy is the Agustí Torelló Mata 2005 Brut Reserva (about $19), another great example of Cava, the sparkling wine of Spain. Extremely fine bubbles lift the aromas of baked apple and toast from the glass, while the wine displays a clean, mineral taste with traces of melon and a bone-dry finish. Ideal as an aperitif or with shellfish.

nullA couple of red wine recommendations include the Pinuaga 2006 Tempranillo (about $15) from the Castilla region of Spain. With a lovely floral nose, slightly smoky notes and firm tannins, this wine will pair well with tomato-based sauces or paella.

And the Solpost 2005 Montsant (about $24) is a huge, yet elegant blend of Grenache, Carignan, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Flavors of berry, plum and dried fruit predominate, with black pepper and a touch of oak on the finish.

Look for these wines at the Fairhaven Market Haggen, or ask for them by name in the wine section of your favorite grocer and they can be special ordered for you.

Sauvignon Blanc

October 2nd, 2008

2008 Santa Rita 120 (about $8): Santa Rita does it again! This amazing Chilean white wine will leave you wanting more. All the classic components are here…lovely aroma, ample citrus and melon flavors and a sassy splash of acidity. Serve it chilled with a side of raw oysters, light seafood, or pasta with heavy cream sauce.

Priorat

May 30th, 2008

nullRotllan Torra 2001 Reserva (about $35): An incredible red wine from Spain. It begins with a beautiful, dark color and aromas of chocolate and cocoa. The flavors are rich and concentrated, with a burst of chocolate hitting you up front followed by a dry finish of black cherry and dark currant. This might best be described as biting into a chocolate-covered cherry…without the sugar.

Available in Bellingham, Washington at the Temple Bar, located at 306 West Champion Street. Price listed is for the 750 ml bottle, but it’s also available by the glass for $9. An outstanding, must-try wine!

Spanish Wines Gaining in Popularity and Availability

February 24th, 2008

Opening a bottle of Spanish wine is sometimes a bit like being Forrest Gump with a box of chocolates – you never know what you’re going to find inside.

But if you’re hesitant about giving wines from Spain a try let me assure you that there are some exceptional choices available locally. Spanish wines also come in a myriad of flavors and styles and there’s the potential for much greater variety than what you might find among domestic wines. To put thing in perspective – Spain is home to almost 150 wine producing grape varietals while in Washington State the bulk of our wine production comes from less than 30.

nullCava, the sparkling wine of Spain, makes a great choice to serve when guests arrive. Try the Augusti Torello Aliguer Cava Brut Vintage 2004 (pictured at left, about $12) for starters. Made primarily from the macabeo grape and two other white varietals, it’s slightly yeasty with hints of apple and citrus and a crisp, bone-dry finish.

For another refreshing change of pace, the Lagar de Castelo 2006 Albariño (about $14) is an incredible white wine. It has a gentle floral aroma, beautiful honeydew melon and lime flavors, well-balanced acidity and a bit of herbaceousness. Serve it well chilled with salads, seafood or shellfish.

The Casa de Illana 2006 Tradición (about $12) is both an outstanding red wine and an outstanding value. This blend of bobal, tempranillo and syrah is loaded with cherry and berry flavors, followed by touches of licorice and sweet oak. Although it’s a fairly big wine with good structure, the fruit component and softness on the finish really shine through.

You’ll find these wines at local wine shops and grocers, and if not in stock they can be special ordered for you.

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