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Red Mountain AVA

Back when I was growing up in Richland, Washington, Red Mountain was a place where we high school kids would occasionally drive out to for a kegger. It was also where I got my parents’ car stuck in the desert trying to find said kegger. Who knew that a 1983 Volvo sedan wasn’t an off-road vehicle?

Today, Red Mountain is home to some of the top vineyards and wineries in the state of Washington . . . and some might argue the country.

Kiona vineyard
View of Kiona Vineyards – some of the first planted in the AVA

Red Mountain produces powerful, structured, intensely flavorful and tannic wines. Often with a big price tag to match. This might have to do with the fact that the cost of doing business in the area has increased exponentially from its inception. Back when the “pioneers” of the area, Jim Holmes and John Williams, bought land to try their hands at viticulture, they were able to purchase at around $200/acre. Fast forward almost 40 years – at a land auction a few years ago, the price point was over $12K/acre. And some prized acres have sold at over $30K/acre.

Ah, if only I’d spent my allowance money during the 1980s and 90s on real estate instead of clothes at Jay Jacobs. 😉

Red Mountain AVA has an incredible following with loyal (sometimes bordering on rabid) fans. My customers tend to go gaga over Red Mountain wines – they like a bold, in-your-face, red wine. But even though it’s located around the corner from where I grew up, and I DO have an affinity for the area, it doesn’t produce my favorite Washington wines. Unlike my customers, I don’t like to be slapped upside the head by my wine. I prefer something more subtle, with less heat and ripeness (Walla Walla Valley and Horse Heaven Hills come to mind).

Nonetheless, I’m proud of this AVA and the fact that its recognized by wine lovers outside the borders of Washington. And I’m looking forward to drinking the Red Mountain wines that are tucked away in my cellar . . . in a couple decades when they’ve had a chance to mellow out and mature. They’ll be 25+ years old by then, and no longer the loud and aggressive teenagers driving around boldly looking for the kegger.

Here’s the outline on Red Mountain.

Niederösterreich

Of all the things I thought I’d find during my first visit to New Orleans a couple weeks ago, one of the most awesome and unique wine bars certainly wasn’t one of them. Bacchanal in the Ninth Ward  was truly a memorable experience. Combination retail store, restaurant, outdoor courtyard/jazz bar – with one of the most exciting, wine nerdy selections of wines I’ve ever seen.

Me in Bacchanal
Kid in a candy store!

Bacchanal’s retail store was full of bottles from all over the globe – but the focus was definitely Old World. I didn’t notice anything overly expensive, most of these gems were under $30.   And their glass pours – Pinotage! Who glass pours Pinotage??! And Jacquére! Even this corkdork couldn’t remember WTF that grape was all about (FTR – it’s found mostly in Savoie and produces fairly neutral, dry white wines).

Hubs wanted a Rosé (and who am I to argue with a man who loves to drink pink?!), so I grabbed this bottle from Bacchanal’s well stocked cooler:Loimer Rose

I recognized Loimer as a producer I’d tried before.  The wine was 90% Zweigelt, 10% Pinot Noir. “I love Zweigelt!” I exclaimed to the guy ringing up our purchase, who immediately gave me a disbelieving look. “I’ve never had anyone tell me that before” he said.  Probably true, although I’m sipping on some Zweigelt right now as I write this and am totally digging it.

The Rosé was a perfect start to the evening. Light and fruity, but with some savory notes. Paired deliciously with the giganto cheese board we put together. We also went through a bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau and a sparkling Txakolina that eve. And sampled our neighbor table’s Argentinian Pinot Noir.

So many unique regions and varietals under one roof, and a very unpretentious and adventurous environment.  Why don’t we have something like this where I live??!

The reason I decided to focus on Niederösterreich is because of that delicious bottle of Rosé.  At the time, I could not for the life of me remember much about this region from my WSET studies, but the bottle was memorable. As was the entire eve. 🙂  If you’re ever in New Orleans, check out Bacchanal Wine.

Here’s the outline on Niederösterreich: (and I’ll probably drill down into the specific DACs and other regions at some point in the future).

 

Santorini PDO

I’m not sure exactly what made me want to sit down and take a closer look at Santorini, except that it’s an area that I really don’t know all that much about – but would love to. Greek wines do seem to be enjoying a bit of a buzz right now, as many wine enthusiasts look for something “new” and different . . . although Greek wines are hardly new, they’ve been around since the 1600s – BC!

Santorini vines
Some of these “kouloura” trained vines could be hundreds of years old!

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find a large selection of Greek wines in the Seattle suburbs. My store doesn’t carry any (which IMO is ridiculous) and the big box stores were limited as well. I definitely want to expand my palate with other wines from this region – like Mavrotragano (aka “black crunchy”) or Aidani which is supposed to be almost “Viognier-like.”  Looks like I’ll be needing to make a trip to some boutique Seattle cellars in the near future. 🙂

The wine I was able to find was an enjoyable white acid bomb, but I know there’s better representation of the area out there somewhere.

Greek Wine Cellars 2016 Assyrtiko, Santorini. 13% abv. Subtle aromas of citrus, chalk and underripe pear. Light bodied with high acidity and flavors of lemon zest, minerality and an almost herbal/green finish. My teeth were thoroughly squeaky after finishing this wine!

I’ll continue my quest to find some awesome Greek wines, but until then – here’s my outline on Santorini.

Pinot Blanc

After several wine-related excursions to the Walla Walla area, I finally had the chance to eat at Brasserie Four last month. I’ve been wanting to try this place for years because of their focus on French wine and food – two things I love. 🙂 And honestly, even when I’m tasting in one of my favorite wine regions (which Walla Walla is), it’s always nice to give my palate a break from drinking those wines.  Although, I don’t recall feeling that way when I visited Champagne . . .  but I digress.

Brasserie Four doesn’t have a traditional wine list, what they DO have is a large retail selection in the back of the restaurant where you can pick out your bottle(s). After spending several minutes perusing the shelves and cooler, we grabbed an Alsatian Pinot Blanc to start, and a Morgon to have with dinner.

Brasserie Four
Brasserie Four’s amazing wine selection!

The Morgon was earthy and funky, with dirty cherries and a black minerality to it. Super interesting, and paired amazingly well with my Beef Bourguignon. The Alsatian Pinot Blanc was . . . well, all I really recall was that it was apple-y. :-/  It was perfectly pleasant to sip on before dinner with our cheese board, but frankly it was underwhelming.

Pinot Blanc is probably my least favorite member of the Pinot family. Unlike its relatives with their complexity and wide range – cranberries to fall leaves for Pinot Noir, minerality to citrus for Pinot Gris – Pinot Blanc often to me just tastes like adult apple juice. Not that that’s a BAD thing, it’s just very one-note and boring. It’s a very meh wine. Pinot Blanc

I’d love to try one that knocked my socks off, or just made one come loose a little bit. But thus far, I haven’t. Granted, I’ve been limited to Pinot Blancs from Oregon and Alsace, and maybe an unmemorable Pinot Bianco from Italy.

I’m not adverse to continuing my quest, but after researching this varietal – there does seem to be a rather general consensus that the grape is not all that thrilling. In fact, Jancis Robinson calls it “useful, rather than exciting.”  Here’s a bit more on Pinot Blanc.

Morgon AOC

I tasted my first Beaujolais Cru while in my French Wine Scholar class a few years ago.  As a Pinot Noir fan, especially the earthy/dirty/funky kind, these Crus were right up my alley. I was smitten!

Morgon

They’re complex and interesting – and generally won’t break the bank. Depending on the specific Cru, flavors can range from peach, apricot and flowers, to spice and meaty undertones.  And these wines are drinkable year-round.  Delicious, and can even take a slight chill during the toasty summer months, and downright perfect for the upcoming holiday season.  Beaujolais Crus are excellent “default wines” that can go with everything from an outdoor BBQ to a Thanksgiving table.

The only issue I have with them is that they’re somewhat challenging to find. Although, with the recent support and buzz from sommeliers, that might (hopefully) be changing soon.

Each of the ten Crus has its own personality – Fleurie is aromatic and floral, Moulin-a-Vent is usually fuller bodied and age-worthy, while Morgon tends have ripe cherry fruit flavors and silky tannins.  And it’s my favorite of the Crus 🙂 which is why I started my Beaujolais section with it – here’s the outline for Morgon.

Soave

I recently found out that my first WSET Diploma Unit classes won’t be starting until May, 2018. This is totally fine, as it gives me plenty of time to prep . . . but maybe too much time. I can’t see immersing myself solely in all things viti and vini for six months.

I’ve decided I need something else to occupy my brain during this time as well – so I’m going to register for the Italian Wine Scholar certification thru the Wine Scholar Guild.

Italian wine scholar

I’m definitely not as confident about Italian wines as I am about French. I don’t drink a lot of Italian wines and when we visited the country in 2010, I was just beginning to have an interest in wine beyond California and Washington. If I’m going to successful in the WSET Diploma, I need to have a better grasp on Italian wine regions, the DOC/DOCG system, and all those obscure grapes that you don’t see much of outside of Italy!

So, I’ll likely be putting together several outlines in the upcoming months that are Italy-centric. I’m also going to try and teach an “Intro to Italy” class at my store sometime early next year . . . because I learn something best if I’m actually having to TEACH it to someone else. 🙂

I wouldn’t call Soave (or the grape it’s made from – Garganega) “obscure”, but it’s definitely not found much (if at all!) outside of Italy.  I’ve had some good Soave, but have yet to drink one that rocks my world.  Here’s the outline on Soave.