In the new year, break out eclectic wines
Varietals from different parts of the world expand your palate
The best part of a rainy holiday is evenings in the kitchen. Darkness envelops everything outside the window; the cold, steady rain discourages even a dash to the garden for a handful of herbs. But the very contrast of warmth, light, and sounds of the radio in the house heighten the anticipation of opening that bottle of wine to mark the start of the evening. Alone or in company, small sips between caramelizing onions put you on a course for enjoyment.
We consumed several bottles over the break between Christmas and New Year. I list them chronologically — as in the order in which we drank them.
Bluemont Vineyard, 2018 Viognier, “The Goat.” 14 percent ABV or alcohol by volume, good acidity. Viogniers are known for their floral aromas and this wine from the Blue Ridge Mountains in Northern Virginia didn’t disappoint. Notes of apricots and stone fruit, hint of oak. A first for me from the Old Dominion and a pleasure.
Chaberton Estate Winery, 2018 Bacchus. As I’ve written before, you’d expect Bacchus to be a red grape, but it’s white. This estate-grown wine from the Fraser Valley in British Columbia, Canada, was delectable with notes of lychee, citrus, and honey. On the sweetness scale, it falls between off-dry and dry. Very accessible wine that pairs well with strong cheeses and spicy foods.
Hidden Bench Vineyard and Winery, 2014 Pinot Noir. This wine comes from the Beamsville Bench, a subappellation of the Niagara Escarpment in Ontario, Canada, which produces some of the best wine in Canada. Given the climate, it is not surprising that this wine has a high level of acidity, which, since I had aged the wine several years, had mellowed well. The grapes are hand picked, the wine is fermented using natural, indigenous yeasts, and it is unfiltered. Because of its high acidity, it pairs well with Asian food, unlike many of the bold and fruity Pinots that come from hotter climes.
Conestabile della Staffa Case Sparse Rosso 2018. This natural red wine from the Umbria region in Central Italy is a blend of 70 percent Sangiovese and 30 percent Ciliegiolo, a red blending grape. With an alcohol level of only 12 percent, it is light and drinkable.
Gingko Forest Winery, 2014 Malbec from the Wahluke Slope AVA in Washington State. Being new to Washington State wines, I was curious about the land that supports these vineyards. Finding nothing on the winery’s website to quench the inquiry I found, to my surprise, a tiny nugget of information on the back label of the wine bottle. The Wahluke Slope AVA was a wet, swampy region millions of years ago. It was discovered in the 1950s as a petrified forest of Gingko trees. The latter grow best on well-drained sandy soils. It is easy to see, then, how grapevines, stressed from the deprivation of nutrients, produce flavorful berries and delicious wines. We picked aromas of cherry, blackberry, raspberry, and a hint of smoke. Age had softened the tannins and acid.
Brunello di Montalcino 2012, Canalicchio di Sopra. We enjoyed this wine, although perhaps not as much as the critics claimed they did. Made entirely from Sangiovese grapes, it paired well with mushroom fricassee and a chickpea stew – a wonderful holiday-wind-down menu. Aroma of black cherry, dark fruit, wet forest floor. Like so many of the wines that we had over the holidays, age had softened the tannins. This wine can be aged many more years.
If you’re the sort of wine lover who sticks to his or her Pinot Noir or Cabernet Sauvignon — all too common in California — try something different this year. Think of the many new aromas that will tickle your nose.
Featured picture: Shutterstock.