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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.

Chinon AOC

I love historical fiction, it’s one of my favorite reading genres. I recently finished “The Nightingale” by Kristin Hannah which is about two sisters’ lives during WWII.  The novel takes place in several different regions of France – from Paris to the Pyranees.

Nightingale

One of the story’s main settings is the fictional village of Carriveau. The village is supposed to be located somewhere in the Loire Valley – which in our nonfiction world is sometimes referred to as “The Garden of France.” (In ‘The Nightingale’ the eldest sister’s farm is, somewhat cheesily, named “Le Jardin.”)

Even though wine isn’t frequently mentioned in the novel, while reading it I couldn’t help but envision vineyards of Cabernet Franc and Chenin Blanc, and villagers downing glasses of Vouvray and Chinon at local cafes. At least, until the Nazi occupation of the area. :-/

Chinon vineyard
Exactly how I envisioned “Le Jardin”

Carriveau does not exist, so I decided to pick a location as close to this fictional village as I could for my next outline.  I chose Chinon – located just southwest of the city of Tours (which plays a major part in one of the sister’s lives).

I often find Chinon to be an easygoing, medium bodied wine with crazy aromatics that remind me of my Grammy. Seriously, it’s like someone spilled a dash of her rosewater perfume into the wine. I get that aroma almost every time, and it makes my heart happy.

Here’s the outline on Chinon.

Pinotage

Poor Pinotage. Despite being the offspring of one of the most elegant and revered grapes in the world (Pinot Noir), it has had an uphill battle pretty much since its inception less than a century ago.

After its creation by crossing Pinot Noir with Cinsault, the grape was largely ignored – its home country had much bigger issues to deal with than the wine industry. Once apartheid finally ended, and trade sanctions were removed, many wine producers focused on high volume/low quality Pinotage wines that flooded the market – frequently smelling like paint. :-/ Pinotage has been trying to overcome that reputation for several years now . . . and might finally be making some strides.

I’ve had limited exposure to Pinotage, but I must admit – I rather like it. It stands out from the mass of “Bordeaux style blends” that are overly prevalent in many markets. The fruit isn’t ripe and jammy, but more charred and smoked. Like you left black cherry skewers on the barbeque for too long.

Pinotage

Despite its uniqueness, not many consumers are keen about its often distinct aromas of burnt rubber and tar. When I smell Pinotage, I’m taken back to circa 1979 when I used to ride my banana seated bike past my crush’s house all the time. One day, my corduroy pants got caught in the spokes and I crashed right in front of his house. Pinotage reminds me of the hour I laid there in the street (ok, it was probably only ten minutes until his sister came outside to help me) and all I smelled was rubber and asphalt, and a hint of sweaty embarrassment. :-/

Compared to most major grape varieties, Pinotage is still in its infancy. Others have had hundreds of years to work out their kinks and improve. As more critics start to accept Pinotage, and even promote it (just look at how many “Give Pinotage a Chance!” articles have come out recently!), I’m optimistic that this grape will find its place in the wine world.

Until then, here’s the Pinotage outline.