“Any moment might be our last. Everything is more beautiful because we're doomed. You will never be lovelier than you are now. We will never be here again.”
― Homer, The Iliad
You are doubtless expecting another deeply knowledgable, deftly presented educational newsletter. Well, April Fools! This month we are featuring wines made from grapes with which I am perfectly unfamiliar and cannot even pronounce from regions with which I have never crossed palates. However, perhaps because I competed in the Classical Olympics and was captain of my high school quiz bowl team, I can say that I have a strong feel for, or connection to, the idea of these wines, even though they are all Greek to me! While I know next to nothing about specific Greek varietals or the characteristics of the areas in which they are grown, I am intimately familiar the with wine induced ecstatic states associated with the followers of Dionysus, the ancient Greek god of Wine, and therefore feel tangentially qualified to tackle the subject. Being a wine crazed woman finally pays off.
Let’s get to knowing what it is we don’t know, shall we? My first dive into information about modern Greek wines revealed that Greece produces copious amounts of lovely and unpronounceable whites. This wasn’t very helpful to me - all of our picks this month are reds! Perhaps another trip to Greece will be in order this summer... But for now, our first Big House wine is the 2014 Papargyriou Le Roi de Montagnes Cab/Mavrodafne/Touriga Nacional from Corinthia. I am using my usual “producer, grape, region” order of presenting the wine, so that translates to Papargyriou as the producer, Le Roi de Montages as the title of the wine, followed by the grapes it is made from (Cabernet Sauvignon, Mavrodafne and Touriga Nacional) and the region it is from, Corinthia. The bulk of this wine is Cabernet Sauvignon, a decidedly non Greek grape, but to make up for that, it tastes nothing like a Cab. Tasting it blind (which I essentially did, as the label was in Greek) I would/did not come close to guessing Cab. Natural born cheat that I am, I did see the shape of the bottle, which was decidedly not Bordeaux-y and that may have influenced my impressions. Which were, “Damn. That’s good. What the hell is it?” It’s Greek. Winemaker Yannis Papargyriou is the second generation to tend these vines. The philosophy here is very much in keeping with Pour House ideals. This is a winemaker who is interested in exploring - exploring varietals, terroir, winemaking techniques. Because of this willingness to take risks, I imagine some of his bottlings might be oddballs, but this one is absolutely beautiful! He is truly pushing Greek wines into the consciousness of the world.
There are many flavors and textures dancing around in this wine (I had the opportunity to taste it a second time), ripe fruit notes, flowers, herbs, fresh tilled earth, a perfect glass of Greece. It is totally age worthy, but you can drink it today if you like! I advise savoring it over the course of several hours. It will pair very well with lamb or some other meat rubbed with herbs on the grill, a burnt offering pleasing to both the gods and man.
Our second Big House pick is the 2013 Aivalis Nemea Agiorgitiko from Nemea. The grape here is Agiorgitiko (translation, St. George’s grape), from the Nemea region. The rich, deep red of this wine is attributed to the fact that the vines are grown in soil soaked by the blood of the Nimean lion that Heracles slew millennia ago (labor #1!). I like it! I think this is one of the things that I love so much about wine, it is so intertwined with our human history and mythology, religion, politics and science all combining in the glass. It is endlessly inspiring and thought provoking for me. Especially when I have had a glass or two.
Agiorgitiko is one of the most widely planted red grapes in Greece and it is the only grape allowed in the Nemea PDO (the Greek regional classification system, similar to the AOC of France or IGT in Italy). Back to our specific wine, winemaker Christos Aivalis practices biodynamic farming techniques in his vineyards and this particular bottle was created by his son, Sotiris, recently returned from studying in Burgundy. This wine itself is soft and balanced, with may layers of spice (from black pepper to clove), plummy fruit and slightly burnt toast-ies. Same food pairing recommendation as the Le Roi, but you could try pairing it with a mild yellow cheese as well.
Onwards to the Poor House picks, leading with the 2013 Aidarini Merlot/Xenomavro from the Slopes of Paiko. Xenomavro is the second (or first, I couldn’t find a definitive stat) most widely grown red grape in Greece. And this grape is a very different animal than the agiorgitiko from the preceding paragraph - light, acidic and savory are the descriptives I came across most often. Which probably explains blending with merlot, a rich, round fruity varietal much more familiar to New World palates.
After some fairly time consuming surfing, I came up with almost nada on this wine. This is all I found, from the website of the importer: “The Aidarini family has been making wines since the early 19th century! Christos Aidarini is ably assisted by the Burgundian trained Mike Michaelides. Very little of the production of this fine estate makes it’s way out of Greece. They can be found in some of the finest Greek restaurants in the world such as Mavromatis in Paris.” And at the Pour House in Truckee! Yep, that’s it. But I can give our my tasting impressions - light bodied, dark fruits, bitter chocolate and tea. So, a food wine. I’m thinking charcuterie, cheese, olives, all consumed in the orchard on a summer’s day. The orchard in my mind. Yum.
Our final wine of the month! The 2012 Vriniotis Iama (means “Cheers”) Red Vradiano/Syrah Evia. So, our fourth wine is a blend of a forth indigenous Greek grape blended with yet another French grape, from another different region. I think we should spend more time in Greece in the future, there seems to be a lot to explore! So, Vradiano. Ummm. ??? Again, very little on the intra-webs. But I did learn that the winemaker, Konstantinos Vriniotis decided to revive this grape, which had been disappearing even in the Greek Isles. His grapes (planted by his ancestors in the 1850s) are organically farmed and the wine is fermented in barrel and on the lees (meaning unfiltered, which means there are spent yeast shells floating around. It adds a lovely, interesting richness).
The name of the wine means “Cheers” and it is a great little glass to raise, while our first April snowstorm arrives. Take a sip, feel the gentle breezes of Aegean, and remember your youth, “like that star of the waning summer who beyond all stars rises bathed in the ocean stream to glitter in brilliance.”
― Homer, The Iliad
I hope you enjoy your wine journey!
The Pour House
10075 Jibboom St.
Truckee, CA 96161
Mawwiage. Mawwiage is what bwings us togethew today. Mawwiage, that bwessed awwangement, that dweam within a dweam. And wove, twue wove, wiww fowwow you fowevah and evah… So tweasuwe youw wove.
-Impressive Clergyman, The Princess Bride
Yes, do treasure your love. When I am feeling anxious and overwhelmed (kinda like now), and pictures of kittens fail, my love is there to keep me going. If you are feeling anxious and overwhelmed yourself, please know that you are welcome at the Pour House. We have love to spare and share, not to mention wine. And cheese, for the really tough cases.
We do try to build the February wines around love, in honor of St. Valentine and Black History and heart health awareness. This month was no different and it started with the discovery of the 2015 Broc Cellars Love Red, an old vine Carignan/Valdiguie/Syrah blend from Green Valley, CA. Winemaker Chris Brockway has a great inclusive vision that I love. He is all for creating wines that speak of their place, preferably a place that most others would consider marginal, hence Green Valley (wedged between east Napa and south west Suisun). Not only is the place weird, so are the grapes - Valdiguie, anyone? It’s part of a field blend that even the vineyard owner was unsure of.
So, how does a winemaker let the grapes speak? Mostly, by getting out of the way. These grapes are organically grown and Chris lets the natural yeasts spark fermentation. Most wineries nowadays use commercial strains of inoculated yeast and bacteria to control the fermentation process. He doesn’t add enzymes or powdered tannins -you have no idea what you don’t know about winemaking, it’s amazing. This wine also went through a naturally occurring malolactic fermentation, something many of us associate with California chardonnay. Malolactic fermentation means that the malic acid (like in green apples) naturally present in the grapes changes to lactic acid (like in milk). This process can be spontaneous or it can be induced or it can be imitated. It’s what give the butter to buttery chards. Anyhow, judging from the super fresh acidity kicking in this wine, it NEEDED a malolactic fermentation. It would have been razor sharp without it, I suspect.
So check out the finished product. Fresh, pretty, a little dirty, complicated. It is certainly a wine that I would like to get to know better, and could possibly fall in love with. BTW, this is a Poor House pick! I usually lead with the Big House picks, but this month I decided to bring you on the same road we traveled, and it happened to begin with this wine.
So let’s wrap up the Poor House. Our second poor pick is the 2014 Thierry Navarre Le Laouzil Saint Chinian. This is a wine that I tasted and loved immediately. It is a carignan, cinsault, grenache, syrah blend from the St. Chinian AOC in south western France. It is a savory, slightly animal sipper, with just the right amount of Brett for me. I was even more charmed when I read on the winery’s info sheet, translated from the French, that this is a wine to “share around the table with fiends.” You know who you are. Break out the Cards Against Humanity and plan the Alpaca Lips.
OK. On to the Big House and back to Broc Cellars! Our lead wine for the Big House is the 2014 Broc Cellars Eagle Point Ranch Counoise from Mendocino. Varietals that make you go “Hmmmm”. This Brockway character sounds like someone I’d like to have dinner with. Counoise, from Mendocino, aged in German oak casks in a cellar in Berkley. This is clearly someone who charts his own path and has an affinity for the oddballs in the world. Same philosophy and techniques that created the Love Red, are on display in the Eagle Point Ranch Counoise. This wine is, again, complicated - more savory than fruity, nice perky acidity, some peppery spice notes as well. Unique. And the label is beautiful, reminiscent of the wintry landscape outside my window this very moment.
Our final wine this month is the 2013 Cambis Carnet de Voyage St Chinian. Yup, St. Chinian again. A syrah, grenache, carignan blend, this wine, according to winemaker Annick Perolari, was created as an “ode to discovery and travel.” I am going to use exact quotes from the info sheet that I have because it is a fun translation: “We think we have succeeded in making the taster of this wine travel while drinking it...In mouth, the start is melted and followed by nice black mature fruits aromas and cocoa notes.” Count me in! It may mot be appropriate for fiends, but who can resist melted black mature fruits?
All of the wines this month will pair well with exactly the foods you are craving with all the snow - savory stews, roasted meats or veggies, cheesy gratins with fennel or rosemary.
That’s it for this month. Take care of yourself and show yourself some love. Happy February!
Big House Picks
2014 Broc Cellars Eagle Point Ranch Cuonoise Mendocino California
2013 Cambis Carnet de Voyage St Chinian
Poor House Picks
2015 Broc Cellars Love Red Old Vine Carignane Valdiguie Syrah Green Valley California
2014 Thierry Navarre Le Laouzil Saint Chinian
Enjoy your wines,
“Give me wine to wash me clean of the weather-stains of cares”
―Ralph Waldo Emerson
If you are anything like me, you are very ready to wipe the slate clean and start 2017 with clarity, consciousness and resolve. And massive amounts of snow, of course.
To help you achieve those goals (or whatever goals you may have ended up with) we are supplying you with a few solid bottles of red wine from Washington State (verses a Washington state of mind, which is really what I am drinking to forget). Washington State is a great wine region to explore, unburdened by history or high real estate prices. Winemakers there are free to explore varietals that would bankrupt a California winery overnight - grapes like Roussane, Reisling and Albarino. At the same time, the classics over perform. A reasonable price point can find world class, beautiful wines that are more familiar, and much easier on the budget than their California counterparts.
Wines like the 2014 Double Canyon Horse Heaven Hills Cabernet Sauvignon. Horse Heaven Hills is a special locale that seems to combine many aspects of exceptional wine regions from around the globe - very close to the same latitude as Bordeaux, France, with the hot days and cold nights of Spain, the well drained, wind swept soil of Provence, the isolation (and wind) that allows them to grow grapes on their original rootstock (VERY rare) like Chile and Argentina. It is unique among the unique. Think about this wine while you are tasting it - it has the quintessential Washington State character, silky, supple loam (like fresh tilled earth - not forest). For this newsletter, I am not going to pick the wine apart for more specific flavor notes. Just enjoy the big picture. Taste it, think “Washington”, and you’ll be good.
Our second Big House pick is the 2014 Tamarack Cellars Wahluke Slope Cabernet Franc. Again, the terroir in south central Washington is pretty perfect for growing wine grapes. Gravelly well drained soil, dry, long, hot days and cool nights concentrate the fruit wonderfully. The Wahluke Slope is a huge growing area and about 20% of Washington States grapes are grown here. It is recognized as producing particularly fine Cab Francs, of which our wine club pick is one. Classic Cab Franc, with some green leafy notes and (again) that core of Washington loam.
Our Pour House picks mirror the Big House. We start with the 2011 Chatter Creek Cabernet Franc. “Classic-Elegant-Balanced” are the works the winery uses to describe their wines, and to be honest, I cannot improve upon that! You will note that the vintage on this wine is 2011, so it has a little age on it. Classic Washington earth, highlighted with elegant Cab Franc fruit, balanced by French oak tannins. This is a yummy treat for mid winter beef stew kind of nights! Confession: I had this wine for breakfast with ham and eggs yesterday after shoveling water for an hour or so and it was perfect. What I won’t do in the cause of my wine club.
Our final wine this month is the 2014 Stone Cap Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. The name Stone Cap comes from the typical, wind blown barren tops of the hills in the Columbia Valley. Similar to the Ice Cap on the top of Mt. Lincoln on Tuesday. Good times! All that light, porous soil, blown down into the valley, perfect for planting vines in. Stone Cap produces wines of great value, you will often find them on our $10 wall. Their Cab doesn’t disappoint! It is a robust and spicy red, with the Washington core of earth winding through it. Daily winter drinking at it’s best.
That’s a wrap!
2014 Tamarack Cellars Wahluke Slope Cabernet Franc
2014 Double Canyon Horse Heaven Hills Cabernet Sauvignon
2014 Stone Cap Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
2011 Chatter Creek Cab Franc
Shona: You’re a dream who’s trying to save us?
Santa: Shona, sweetheart, I’m Santa Claus. I think you just defined me!
-2014 Dr. Who Last Christmas
Here’s to keeping the dream alive.
Perhaps because it is so hard to maintain a spiritual equanimity in the face of the material onslaught that is an American Christmas, many of us find ourselves unbound from the constraints of culinary society that bind us for the other 11 months of the year. We find ourselves indulging in such dainties as peppermint eggnog, holiday spice bacon and caramel soaked cheesy rum balls. Protected by the funk of holiday gluttony, I feel we can safely offer the third rail of the wine world, a (gasp) Port.
Yes, I know that everybody hates sweet wine. And yes, Port is a legitimately sweet wine. And yet...it is almost blasphemous to put a Gummi Santa into one’s mouth but spurn the balm of this classic, thoughtful, complex, eminently civilized libation. We humbly request that you approach this wine with an open heart and an open mind as well as an open mouth. Because Port is awesome. Instead of choosing between another glass of wine and dessert, port offers you a twofer. They say it can’t be done, but port is the rare opportunity to both have your cake and eat it too. You can be sweetly buzzed. Or, caution to the wind, you can fully indulge your gustatory fantasies because port is the all time best wine to pair with chocolate. OR, you can even pair it with...dinner.
Port is so awesome that it deserves at least another paragraph or two of love and understanding. Here’s a little perspective: Wine has been flowing through the Douro valley hills for at least 2000 years and the first recorded shipment of wine with the name Port was in 1678. The vineyards of Port in the Douro Valley of Portugal were the first vineyards in the world to be legally demarcated and recognized. This was in 1756. Twenty years before our country even existed. Many of the oldest vineyards are today classified as World Heritage sites.
The grapes that go into a bottle of Port belong to that class of grapes designated as obscure: Tinta Barroca, Tinta Cão, Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo), Touriga Francesa, and Touriga Nacional. They are most often blended across vintages and they are fortified, which means the winemaker adds a neutral grape spirit (we would say brandy, they would say aguardente) before fermentation is complete. This does two things of note - it allows a good amount of residual sugar to remain in the wine while simultaneously adding a good punch of alcohol. Port is strong stuff, usually averaging 18% to 20%. Unless you are a captain in the British navy, use caution. Both the sugar and the alcohol serve to preserve the intensely fruity character of the bottle. A little dab will do you and Port can sit open on your counter for weeks and continue to delight.
Finally, a few more focused serving suggestions. Fonseca - one of the oldest and most respected Port houses - specifically recommends pairing the 2008 LBV (the Big House pick) with a blue veined cheese, of which we have a wide selection at the Pour House. The Bin 27 (the Poor House pick) is perfect with a variety of cheese or dark chocolate but Fonseca suggests a mind blowing match of raspberry macaroons. Cracking walnuts by the fire with Stilton and Port is one of my very favorite winter night pastimes. Recommended reading on such a night - Patrick O’Brien’s Master and Commander. Honestly, a better escape does not exist.
Our second picks for both clubs are in many superficial ways on the opposite end of the wine continuum from Port but in essentials, they are the same - so much thought and ingenuity has gone into the creation of both!
The holiday season is just not festive without sparkling wine and we have two fabulous choices on tap for you this month - the NV Hubert Meyer Cremant d’Alsace for the Big House and the NV Tarantus Cava for the Poor House. Both of these sparklers are made in the method Champagnoise, but neither is from Champagne. A few things sparkling wine has in common with Port wine: blending (of grapes and years), adding a little extra something (in the case of port, alcohol, and in the case of method Champagnoise wines, sugar) and both are traditionally celebratory. And both pair well with a wide variety of cheese or dessert or can function as an aperitif or digestif. It just goes on and on! Let’s suffice to say that these are wines for all occasions, whether you are guest, host or hermit. Recommended reading with sparkling wine: Jane Austin’s Sense and Sensibility. The clink of glasses as the quartet tunes before the dancers line up to join in the waltz is the perfect accompaniment to your escapist glass of bubbles.
I believe that I have rambled on enough for one newsletter. There is always more to learn, so stop and chat when you come in to pick up your wines!
NV Hubert Meyer Cremant d’Alsace
2008 Fonseca LBV
NV Tarantas Macabeo Xarello Parellada Cava Spain
Fonseca Bin 27 Port