Archive | Croatia RSS feed for this section

Aromatic Whites Put Spring In Your Sip

15 Apr

Photo: q8 via flickr

Spring is in the air — literally.  A couple of weeks ago, as the season was just beginning to take hold, I got very sick.  The culprit?  Pollen.  Outside my house, the shop where I work, in every parking lot and on every curbside was pollen, piled upon itself until it resembled yellow snowdrifts.  The arrival of Spring can be an assault on the olfactory sense, but it’s this most aromatic time of year that makes perhaps the strongest argument for being a seasonal wine drinker, someone who matches the wines that they drink to the seasons.

We are all guilty, occasionally or often, of reaching for our perennial favorite wines without regard for the weather, dinner companion, or food pairing.  This is not a crime.  We like what we like.  However, there are certain events that seem to warrant a wine choice to match — birthdays, anniversaries, picnics, etc.  I believe Spring is one of these occasions, too.  When gray and rainy winter finally gives way to daffodils and poppies and birdsong and sunshine our senses are awakened and refreshed.  It’s a great time to expand your sipping horizons with a few unusual, aromatic whites, which as a category, offers the perfect pairing with Spring’s vibrant bouquet.  Go ahead, take a chance on one of these:

(Prices are approximate.  Importer’s name is in parentheses where applicable.)

2009 Bedrock Wine Co. Compagni Portis Vineyard Heirloom White, Sonoma County, CA, $20

A truly unique and unusual field blend of Gewürztraminer, Riesling, Trousseau Gris, Berger, and some others, this wine is bursting with spicy floral notes.  Don’t let the blend of grapes scare you, this is not a sweet wine.  Rather, it is crisp (due to vinification in stainless steel), devoid of residual sugar, and has a beautifully silky texture.

2008 Patricius Tokaji Furmint, Hungary, $18 (Blue Danube Wine Company)

Tokaji?  Isn’t that a dessert wine?  Well, yes, but not in this case.  Tokaji is the name given to wines that come from the region of Tokaj-Hegyalja in Hungary.  The grape variety is Furmint, which can be made sweet or dry.  We’re dealing with the latter in this wine that is a super-fragrant fruit basket.  It’s redolent of fresh pear, lime, mango, and a little peach all sprinkled with a touch of spicy cinnamon.  Mouthwatering.

2008 Luis Pato Maria Gomes, Bairrada, Portugal, $16 (Vinos Unico)

Sounds like a person, but Maria Gomes is actually a grape variety, albeit one most have never heard of.  Sort of like Grüner Veltliner crossed with Muscadet, it has both a peppery, mineral streak and a creamy lemon-grapefruit quality that is at once crisp, refreshing, and complex.  Delish with fish.

2009 Crios de Susana Balbo Torrontes, Cafayate, Argentina, $12 (Vine Connections)

This wine is so floral, you’d swear you just stuck your nose in a bouquet of fresh lavender and not a wine glass.  On top of that, there are flavors like peach, Bartlett pear, and tangerine.  And, it’s all backed by great acidity, which makes the wine feel very fresh and light.  Almost no grape is quite as perfect a fit with Springtime as Torrontes.

2008 Coronica Malvasia, Istria, Croatia, $20 (Blue Danube Wine Company)

From a part of Croatia that is characterized by its colorful green hillsides, spotted here and there with blossoms and olive trees, this wine says, “go outside and roll around in the grass.”  Round and soft with aromas and flavors of peach blossom and apricot, this wine is light, but manages to have a pleasant (but not heavy) creamy texture at the same time.  Like Spanish Albariño with an Eastern European accent.

Advertisements

Ms. Drinkwell’s Top 5: Shoulder Season Wines

13 Oct

boarding-bass-shiraz_1Welcome to shoulder season, that moment between the lows and the highs.  It’s a term used almost exclusively by the travel industry, but I don’t see why it can’t also be used in the context of wine.  In fact, it seems to fit quite nicely given that the wine industry is also a cyclical one with (usually) predictable high and low periods.  Wine sales are traditionally at their lowest during the summer months and peak during the November and December holiday season, which means that now, in October, we’re in the lull.

What’s so great about shoulder season is that it makes you think differently.  Ever dream of Christmas in Hawaii?  So does everybody else.  It’s as common as going into a wine store on New Year’s Eve and declaring that you want a bottle of Champagne.  Everybody wants Zinfandel and Pinot Noir on Thanksgiving and Beaujolais Nouveau on the third Thursday in November.  They want big, impressive (but not too expensive this year) California reds to wow friends or clients during the month of December.  In wine and in travel, it seems that everybody wants the same thing at the same time, often dictated by the weather or the holidays.  But, what if, as now, there is not discernable weather pattern to guide you, no big holiday to prepare for?  What do you drink?  And where in the world do you go to find it?

Below are five shoulder season suggestions from wine roads less traveled that are both budget friendly (all under $20) and perfect for milder weather.  Welcome to the delicious in-between!
* Importer, where applicable, and approximate retail price in parentheses.

2008 Quinto do Alqueve, Ribatejo, Portugal (Robert Kacher Selections, $12)

quinto do alqueve

So many Rhône varieties, so little time… and so much money.  I’m often disappointed by white Rhône because for all its heady aroma, it’s often flabby and overpriced.  This Portugese pour made from Fernão Pires is from the Ribatejo region, which lies about 40 miles north of Lisbon.  A superior stunt double for the French stuff in terms of quality and price, it offers a nose redolent of dried apricot and linden blossom.   It’s chiffon-soft mouthfeel is at first ripe with pineapple and mango but finishes a squeeze of meyer lemon juice to give it just the right amout of zip.

2008 Cor Cellars Alba Cor, Columbia Gorge, WA ($17)

Alba Cor

Not only is the Columbia River Gorge (the natural border between Oregon and Washinton), well,  gorgeous, it also produces some mighty fine wine, like this 52% Pinot Gris, 48% Gewürztraminer blend.  It’s lychee and rose petal aromas give way to full bodied flavors of clementine and dried nectarine that are stopped just short of sweetness by a backbone of mouthwatering acidity.

2007 Domaine de la Pepière La Pépiè Côt, VdP de Jardin, France (Louis/Dressner Selections, $16)

50_274_274_pepiecot1

A Malbec by any other name would never taste like this.  Marc Ollivier’s very natural (only natural yeasts, no sterile filtration) Malbec, which goes by the alias Côt in the Loire Valley, is an elegant take on the variety.  One you’d never expect if your only experience has been in the form of brawny Argentine versions or even the inky, earthy offerings of Cahors.  No, here in the Garden of France Malbec is treated delicately and the finished product is a nearly clear garnet stunner that’s much more elegant than its drunken chicken label might imply.  Each pour brims with black raspberries, bing cherries, and violets.  Can’t get much lovelier than that.

2008 Palmina Dolcetto, Santa Barbara County, CA ($16.50)

palmina dolcetto

I admit that I have not traditionally been a fan of the Cal-Ital movement, primarily because I have found time and time again that Cali wines labeled as Sangiovese or Barbera are more or less unrecognizable as their stated varieties.  They have no character.  Thankfully, there are a handful of producers like Palmina, who are dedicated to upping the ante in the Cal-Ital game and are doing so with integrity and offering good quality at fair prices.  During shoulder season I like their Dolcetto, a friendly, easygoing wine filled with spicy cherry, rhubarb, and plum flavors that shows the characteristic Italian brightness (i.e. the acidity hasn’t gone down the tubes in favor of squeezing out extra gooey fruit).  Tasty and true.

2006 Bibich Riserva, North Dalmatia, Croatia (Blue Danube Wine Co., $18)

Bibich

This blend of three grapes — Lasin, Plavina, and Babic — drinks like a lusty, dusty spiced Dry Creek Zin poured into a lithe dancer’s body.  There’s a lot of muscle here but it’s lean, meaning this wine’s berry spiced intensity is discovered slowly, one sip at a time, not in a single knock out punch.  A perfect red to ease you into heartier glasses come winter.