WHAT A WINE GEEK DRINKS: PART II

By Maggie Walters

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Here's my second round of tasty wines that are off the beaten path and well worth discovering. As promised in my first What a Wine Geek Drinks blog post, I have listed a grower's Champagne because I can NOT get enough bubbles in my life. Go ahead -- dive in and try something new, there's some great stuff out there waiting to be found. Cheers!  


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Gaston Chiquet
40% Pinot Meunier, 35% Chardonnay and 25% Pinot Noir
Brut Champagne Tradition
NV Champagne, France

One of the buzz phrases in the wine geek world right now is "Growers Champagne". These bottles can be distinguished from other Champagnes by the terms: Proprietaire Recolant or Récoltant-Manipulant. So, what does that mean, exactly?  And how does it differ from other Champagnes? These delicious bottles of bubbly are indeed from the famous Champagne region of France, but unlike the big wineries like Moet&Chandon and Veuve Clicquot, who buy their grapes from different growers and winemakers (sometimes in the thousands); these guys grow, produce, and age all of their own wine from their own plot of land. It's kind of a big deal to find a farmer who isn't selling their grapes to someone who will pay big bucks for them. Think of it as the purest expression in "terroir." Instead of the grapes coming from several different vineyard sites, they only come from one. Some somms compare this to a single barrel bourbon, you're making the expression of a single barrel which sets it apart from others. This wine is delicious and bready like a biscuit, with notes of dried apricot and citrus, and it finishes with a note of minerality. This is not your typical Champagne!! 


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Txomin Etxamiz
Grape:  Hondarrabi Zuri
2015 Txakolina Rosé
Basque Country, Spain

Hello, Basque Country wine! The fact that we're seeing this in Arkansas is amazing, mainly because these peeps consume about 80% of what they make, leaving a mere 20% of their wine for the rest of the world to fight over. Txakoli  (pronounced chock-oh-lee) is a refreshing low alcohol, high acid white wine that showcases minerality, salinity, and a bit of spritziness. If you order a bottle at a restaurant in Basque, you'll receive top notch pouring service with the bottle being poured at the optimal distance from your glass to activate its bubbles. This wine goes, unsurprisingly, well with seafood (because it grows right off the ocean), cured meats, and hard cheeses. Oh, and Spanish tapas! Drink this all night long with friends and never ending trays of meats, cheeses, and tapas for a perfect party!


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K Vintners
Art Den Hoed Vineyard
2014 Viognier
Yakima Valley, Washington

90 points, Wine Spectator

Here's a white grape that does not get the attention it deserves: Viognier! Viognier is a great grape to know if you love a full bodied white wine, but aren't particularly fond of an opulent oak and butter profile. Its fullness allows it to hold up to foods where lighter whites just get overpowered and blown away. This single vineyard wine hails from the Yakima Valley in Washington State, where it is complimented by its warm days and cool nights. This is not an easy grape to grow; it's prone to powdery mildew, but because the growing season in Washington is so dry, this grape is able to shine. I'm generally not much of a point chaser. If a wine I like is rated highly, great. If not, fine. The guy who makes these wines is kind of a big deal in the scoring world, though. Charles Smith (the winemaker) has more 90+ point rated wines than any other winemaker out there. He's gotta know what he's doing, right?? You can expect notes of pear, honey dew melon, lemon and bees wax. This is definitely a wine that frequents my house! 


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Bluegray Priorat
OROWINES Bodegas
2014, 45% Garnacha, 30% Carinena, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon

Oh Priorat! What a history rich sub-region in Spain found within Catalunya with old, old vines and a soil type called llicorella that is the star of this region. With Priorat producing wine since the 12th century and showcasing the oldest known soil of Catalunya dating back to the Palaeozoic era, you could say this region has "old roots". If you're a Châteauneuf-du-Pape lover, good news! This region also specializes in complex, Grenache dominant blends at a fraction of the Grenache cost. A great rule of thumb for pairings is "What grows together, goes together," so we're talking heavy roasted meats like lamb and big stews like paella for traditional pairings. It's got a great undertone of black pepper, so when you're cooking, throw some fresh cracked black pepper in and you've got a great bridge of flavors happening. It's getting to be that time of year where heavier reds are the go-to glass at the end of the day, and this one definitely hits the spot! This wine is the perfect balance of rich dark fruit, black pepper, herbs, toasty oak, and spice.    

 

All sizes and vintages are in stock at the time of publication. In the event advertised vintages sell out, substitute vintages may be offered at the same price. Products and prices are subject to change.

WHAT A WINE GEEK DRINKS

By Maggie Walters

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I think it's pretty evident by now that I love wines off the beaten path. I like to swim against the flow and I love sharing my finds with anyone who is interested. Maybe it's my farming roots, but I love a good story from vineyard to bottle too! I wanted to share some wines that I think are "geek worthy" and not necessarily with a budget in mind (if you want to check out my budget picks check out Vol. 1, Vol. 2 and Vol 3).   

I know I'm not the only one who seeks out these not-so-well-known wines, and sometimes they can be hard to find.  Here are a few wines you should check out that are hidden amongst the other bottles that really stand out!


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Onward
Petillant Naturel
2016 Sparkling Malvasia Bianca
Suisun Valley, California

In the wine world these are referred to affectionately as "pét nats". These are all the rage in the blogger and wine magazine community, and I always try to get my hands on one when I travel outside of state, but now we have one in our market! 
What makes it different from other wines is the method of carbonation. It's sparkling, but not like a Champagne. Champagne gets its bubbles from two fermentations; pét nat (which translates to naturally sparkling), on the other hand, only goes through one. Yeast from the singular fermentation is kept in-bottle and carbonation is trapped in-bottle with a crown cap. This is actually how sparkling wine was made back in the day before the Champagne method was ever discovered. So it's super old school and is coming back into style. Leaving the yeast in-bottle makes the wine a little cloudy, earthy and funky. This, in combination with the Malvasia grape (an Italian white grape) that expresses some of the most aromatic floral notes, creates this almost jasmine tea aroma. Give it a try, it will be unlike any sparkling wine you've experienced before (unless you're already on the bandwagon like I am!) 


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Llopart
Rosé Brut Reserva
2013 Cava Sparkling Wine
Catalunya, Spain

First off--yes, I am writing about two sparkling wines. It took some real restraint to not write about a third (there will be a grower's Champagne featured in my next blog), but that is neither here nor there, lets talk Cava! Cava is a sparkling wine from Spain. Most of its production comes from a region called Catalunya, located just on the other side of the Pyrenees Mountains that share residence with both Spain and France. I think there is so much value to be had with wines from this part of the world. This one in particular really mixed it up with the grape varieties! Traditionally, Cava is made with three grapes: Xarello, Parellada, and Macabeo. This Rosé Cava is made from a completely different blend of Monastrell (which is Spanish for Mourvèdre), Garnacha, and Pinot Noir. I love trying wines with Mourvèdre in the mix. I find that it adds another layer of complexity with the addition of an earthy undertone, quite nice in this wine, with the red fruit profile presented from the other two red grapes! 


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Domane Wachau
Terrassen Federspiel
2015 Gruner Veltliner
Wachau, Austria  

I feel like Austria is a country that doesn't get enough attention for its wines. They make red and white wines in serious and soft styles, and carry very sophisticated names with them like Blaufränkisch and Zweigelt. Their #1 grape variety in production and prestige is Gruner Veltliner... "Gruner" for short in the wine world. This is a high acid white wine that's great to have on hand for nibbles and dinner. I think cool climate high acid white wines are miracle workers with the most difficult of food pairings (even Asian and Indian food). Wachau is a very prestigious area in Austria for Gruner (a sub region of Neiderösterreich) and is grown on steep south facing slopes that require hand picking. Talk about some serious TLC! You get both fruit and minerality with this grape, the best of both worlds! 


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Seven Hills
Seven Hills Vineyard
2014 Merlot
Walla Walla Valley, Washington

92 points, Cellar Selection – Wine Enthusiast

Oh, Washington state red wines!! Definitely something that is very close to me, both at heart and on the dinner table, but not so popular in our market (at least not yet!) In Arkansas we LOVE us some Napa Cabs! Seriously! We are the top consuming Napa Cab market in the entire US (we don't mess around with our red wines). I think Washington is the next frontier to be discovered. They make big delicious reds like Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah that are layered in complexity and are just as age worthy (I have a couple bottles of this Merlot laying down in the bottom of my closet that I'm trying to forget about for the next 10 years). These wines cost about $50 but drink like $200. If you're just starting a cellar or are continually adding to a well established cellar, this is a wine worth checking out! Coming from Walla Walla (it's so nice they say it twice), winemaker Casey McClellan has been tilling these fields since he planted the vines with his father in 1988. This specific site that they chose in Walla Walla is called Red Mountain, and is the smallest, warmest and most renowned vineyard site in the state of Washington. The potential for world class wines out of this region is being recognized, written and talked about in the wine community  (which is good to get the name out but eventually will drive the prices up). So discover this region and grab you some bottles before the price gets too high! 


I hope that this has been interesting and has inspired you to try something new and different! There are so many wines out there worth discovering, it's my passion to uncover some of them for you! 


Cheers! 

All sizes and vintages are in stock at the time of publication. In the event advertised vintages sell out, substitute vintages may be offered at the same price. Products and prices are subject to change.

TEXSOM TAKEAWAYS

By Aaron and Maggie Walters

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A few weeks ago, we were fortunate enough to be able to travel to Dallas for a 3-day, full immersion into the world of wine called Texsom. The days were filled with seminars given by the elite in the industry: master sommeliers, masters of wine, wimemakers, importers, brand ambassadors and everything in between! Scattered throughout the day, between seminars and after, were some 30 tables of wines from all over the world to taste and learn about. It was sensory overload in the best of ways! It taught us a great deal about many facets of the wine world. We're going to share with you some of the highlights, in our eyes, of our weekend. 

Fortified wines are pretty freaking cool

We felt like we had a pretty good understanding of fortified wines before Texsom. Wrong! We had the most rudimentary understanding of fortified wines. Sherry and Port are not just something that grandma drinks at Christmas. There are some amazing, not so well known, sometimes hard to find fortified wines in the world. Sherry ranges from a salty tart and lemony style called Fino--a great appetizer--to a viscous, sweet, complex style from grapes grown in soil that's hard and cracked like dinosaur skin, then slowly sun dried on straw mats. Forget about ruby and tawny port--what about white port?? So much harder to make, but the effort is well rewarded in the glass. Who knew a sweet wine could be elegant, floral, and last almost a century?? There are so many styles of laborious, hard-to-make wines that some somms dedicate their whole career to them, and dinner tables can easily be filled with them from starter to dessert. 

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You will never get a definitive answer for a question in the wine world

We had the opportunity to sit in on a five person master somm and winemaker panel discussion on what authenticity means in the wine world. The discussion was very heated, educational, eye-opening, and amusing. On one end of the spectrum was the opinion of a natural winemaker who thinks that wine should go back to its roots; pick some grapes, crush them, let the yeast on the skins ferment the juice, separate the juice and skins, maybe throw the wine in some oak to let it age a bit, and voila--wine. On the other end was a modern winemaker who thinks authenticity is a style that's true to oneself; don't go with the cookie- cutter style that's getting Robert Parker points left and right, but don't just look at wine as something to sit and forget. If you want to control every step of how wine is made, mix up the style and make it something that's a personal expression of you, go for it.  Ultimately, it's up to an individual to define what matters. Every aspect in the wine world is subjective.

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The era of wine pretension is starting to fade away

Good news! Gone are the days when three piece suits were mandatory for geeking out on wine! There were a few people rocking out the full garb, but they were few and far between. The main M.O. was a pair of jeans, chucks, a graphic tee of your favorite sci-fi film and a blazer; by the end of the night, even the blazer was gone. This definitely translated to a more relaxed environment for learning and sharing about wine. The most sought-after wines at the grand tasting weren't the 100 point award winners, they were the unknown and the undiscovered. We had the opportunity to try wines from Texas; a Japanese sparkling wine made with a native grape called Koshu; and a delicious, Assyrtiko grape made, intensely floral white wine from Greece. People were still fighting over samples of Penfold's Grange (wink, wink) but the theme was "variety is the spice of life." Mainstream and off the beaten path wines can all be enjoyed, sought after and interesting. 

The wine world is so much bigger than it appears

We always tell people that you can spend your whole life studying wine and trying to get a grasp on what's going on, and never learn it all. That statement was solidified tenfold at Texsom. When you meet one person whose career is specializing in natural wine production; a professional in fortified wine production; an authority on Italian wines; another on Spanish wines, and they can all talk about wine until the cows come home--it really sinks in, there is so much to learn! It's a great way to appreciate wine and the people of wine more. Someone is responsible for importing that delicious Italian wine that you're enjoying with your dinner tonight, and someone else is responsible for swimming against the flow and putting everything on the line to make a different style of wine that you're really excited about. Six degrees of separation can be applied to the wine world with a producer, and we're all linked one way or another. Consumers are what keeps the wine industry alive, and everyone else plays a role in getting a wine from the winery to a rack on the wine shop shelf. It's a very involved process that's extremely intertwined with all parts of the industry.  

Hopefully, this was a fun read. We had a great experience and are always willing to share our takeaways with you! Please don't hesitate to ask us any question you may have! 

Cheers,

Aaron and Maggie Walters