Wines for The Adventuresome
|We like discovering new
wines...interesting and unusual wines made from grape varieties that are
a bit "off the beaten path."
Most stores selling wine stick to wines for which there's already a
demand, so they don't have to "show & sell."
Most places, further, don't even make an effort to guide consumers to
good, soulful wines. It's easier, frankly, to simply post a
numerical score and let folks fend for themselves.
One chain of stores even has its own wine guru who bestows 90 point
scores on wines.
What a sick way to buy or sell wine!
Given that most critics use "Cabernet Sauvignon" as a
yardstick, how can they possibly taste and appreciate a wine made of
Charbono, Tocai Friulano or Zweigelt?
Well, if you can break away from the mainstream, I promise that you'll
find some really interesting wines and, frequently, good values, too.
- Bill Frick has
been making interesting wines since the mid-1970s. He was a young
hippy back then and today he's, well, an old hippy.
And he makes some "hip" wines.
We were delighted to taste a Mendocino Carignane recently. This is from
the 2005 vintage. The vineyard was planted in the 1890s and it's a
head-pruned, dry-farmed vineyard. The old-timers liked Carignane for its
vigor. High yields meant more wine.
When the vines get old, though, they don't produce much of a crop, but the
quality becomes much more interesting. One old-timer I knew back in the
late 1970s told me Carignane could produce a wine of greater nobility than
Cabernet Sauvignon if it was cultivated properly. Well, I'm still not sure
about that, but I have tasted some nice Carignane wines this past year.
Frick's 2007 is a medium-bodied red wine. It has some brambly notes
reminiscent of Zinfandel with some red fruit tones, too. We find a bit of
wood in this vintage...
- Currently in stock: FRICK 2007 Mendocino CARIGNANE $19.99
- DOMAINE BERTHOMIEU
2007 MADIRAN $19.99
- From South-western France, we have a couple of exceptional wines from
Didier Barre's Domaine Berthomieu.
These are made from interesting and, to Californians, unusual grape
His Madiran is called "Cuvée Charles de Batz," a blend of 90%
Tannat and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. If you like big, deep Cabernets,
put a bottle of this on the dinner table!
- DOMAINE ILARRIA 2010 IROULEGUY $17.99
- The vineyard
land in this south-west appellation struck me as rather rugged, perched on
steep hills and worked by rugged individuals. I suppose it's little
wonder, then, that the wines of the Irouleguy area are some of the most
"sturdy" in France and they're a galaxy apart from today's modern,
internationally-styled wines so prevalent thanks to point-counting
You're in the Pyrénées and Basque Country when visiting producers of
Irouleguy. The language is different, the people are wonderfully
different and the wines, thank goodness, are different.
Domaine Ilarria is owned by Peio Espil, one of the top vintners in the
region, not that there are hundreds. In fact, most of the wine of the
appellation is made by the local growers' cooperative. Most of the
production from the region stays at home...only 10% is exported. But
then, when you think about it, not many foreigners probably have a palate to
appreciate this sort of wine. They make a rosé, for example, which is
screamingly dry and tart.
Here's a wine based on the Tannat grape that's "tempered" with
Cabernet Franc (yikes!), so it pairs well with red meats, duck, etc.
The word "austere" comes to mind as a good descriptor. I
like the 2009 from Ilarria. It's big, moderately herbal and I found
the Cabernet Franc to give much of the aroma in this wine. If you're a
fan of Madiran and Cahors wines from the Southwest, you might consider
trying a bottle of Irouleguy.
American wine geeks visiting the Ilarria cellar.
Peio Espil in explains cultivating Tannat and Cabernet vines in Basque
Country. The vines, just 6 miles from the Spanish border, are
cultivated organically because Espil says the indigenous yeast on the
grapes is 'stronger' or more capable of a complete fermentation.
Yields are rather small in an effort to maximize quality.
A current vintage of Ilarria...
Here's an antique bottle of Irouleguy...a 1928!
The Godello grape is another one of those particular varieties that few
wine drinkers know.
Its homeland is in Spain's Galicia and Bierzo regions (well west of Rioja,
A bit more prominent on wine lists and store shelves are wines made of the
Albariño grape. This comes from many of the coastal areas of
western Spain. The Godello seems to be entrenched a bit farther
inland in the sub-regions of Valdeorras, Ribeira Sacra and Monterrei.
The Benaza winery is located in Monterrei and this little region sits
close to the borders of Spain and Portugal.
The little purple area on the map above highlights Monterrei.
- Benaza, like many of their neighbors, blends Godello with some of the
other odd varieties from the area. As a result, this wine is
approximately 80% Godello with a bit of Dona Blanca &
Treixadura. The wine is fermented in stainless steel and left on the
spent yeast for a short period of time (around 2 months, or so).
We like the fruit notes and the stony tones of this dry white. It
seems like it shows nice crisp melon and apple-like fruit and there's an
underlying minerality. The alcohol is low by California standards
and the wine is a delight with seafood.
Currently in stock: BENAZA 2010 GODELLO $14.99