By Maggie Walters
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!
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!!
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!
Art Den Hoed Vineyard
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!
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.