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Monday, January 9, 2012

Out of the Ordinary

Let’s just say I have a really hard time for settling for “ordinary” - things that are mainstream just don’t appeal as much to me as things that are less-than-common do, especially in terms of wine.  So this past year, I started making an effort to hunt down some off-the-beaten-path wines, to keep it as exciting as it’s always been, and to better educate my palate.  And one of my New Year’s resolutions is to continue to seek out these unique wines and keep on learning - but it’s also important to me to introduce these finds to others in the hopes of helping them find wines that are especially interesting to them and have that “wow” factor that I’m always searching for.

Domaine Le Serp - Madiran, South West France

Some exciting finds for me this year include finally tasting a few wines from the Finger Lakes, particularly from Shaw Vineyard, which were very impressive.  Other finds have come from around the US - I tried some wines from Virginia this year, including some good surprises and some disappointments as well.  But the majority of my exciting new discoveries came from Italy and France, and a few more from other regions.  And sampling lots of different Champagnes has proven to be fascinating as well.

Shaw Vineyard Pinot Noir - Finger Lakes, New York

Probably the region I’ve been giving the most attention to within the past few months is South West France, and I’ve realized just how much I enjoy Tannat, as well as discovering my preference for earthy French Malbec over those from Argentina - and I’m sure it’s no secret to my readers and Twitter friends that I was absolutely blown away by late harvest Petit Manseng.  The Petit Manseng I had the privilege of trying at my first Guild of Sommeliers tasting event this past year, and it’s the only wine that I actually “drank” at any tasting this year.  Yes, it’s that amazing.  And for a Sauternes lover such as myself, it’s a great find at a fraction of the cost of a Sauternes.  I’ve tried so many unique wines from South West France this year and I can’t wait to find more of them - they possess something so different and so mysterious, and I’m so drawn to them.

Celliers Contemporains Cinsault Rose - Languedoc-Roussillon

Other wines from France that were unique and left a lasting impression on me include a dry rose Cinsault from Languedoc-Roussillon that’s probably my current “go-to” dry rose for the warmer months, a Mondeuse from Savoie that’s so elegant and light and lovely, and a funky blend of Chardonnay and Savagnin from Arbois that pretty much left me smiling but scratching my head.

Bugey Mataret Mondeuse - Savoie

Tissot Selection Blanc - Arbois, Jura

As for Champagnes, I tried a lot of them this year, but the two that left the most lasting impressions (and were radically different from each other) were the Philipponnat Brut Royale Reserve, a big, “viney” Champagne, and the Demi-Sec by Laurent Perrier, that has just the right amount of natural sweetness laced into its clean characteristics.

Philipponnat Brut Royale Reserve - Champagne

Demi-Sec Laurent Perrier - Champagne

It’s also no secret that I spent quite a bit of time trying to locate a good German Sekt, but this year, my parents brought me a bottle that they found while on vacation, and the Deinhard Lila Riesling Sekt was just what I had been looking for.

Deinhard Lila Riesling Sekt

A dessert wine that I had never tried but tasted a few months ago is the “Alcyone” from Uruguay, the first wine from Uruguay that I’ve ever had - what makes that wine interesting is that it’s a late harvest and so it tasted nothing like any Tannat I’ve had before.  It’s fantastic and worth trying.

Vinedo de los Vientos “Alcyone” Late Harvest Tannat - Uruguay

And I can’t forget an Austrian Roter Veltliner that’s lovely, fruity, clean, and while it may be from the same area as Gruner Veltliner, the wine was very different from Gruner and very much has its own identity, and I could not have predicted how much I’d enjoy it.

Leth Roter Veltliner

Italian wines are special to me as they pair so well with the style and flavors of my cooking at home, and after spending plenty of time focusing on whites like Pinot Grigio and Cortese di Gavi, and reds like Barolo, Barbaresco, Chianti, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, and Sicilian reds like Nero d’Avola and Nerello Mascalese, my attention turned toward Dolcetto d’Alba and some fascinating whites from Northern Italy.  I’ve decided that Dolcetto is one of the best choices for pairing with traditional Italian cuisine, and after trying both aged and young Dolcetto, I like it very much.  As far as the unique whites go, Erbaluce di Caluso from Piemonte and Petite Arvine from Valle d’Aoste were the wines we had on Christmas Eve with the Feast of the Seven Fishes.  Food-friendly, crisp, and complex, these Italian whites were a revelation and I’m so happy to have tried them.

Pio Cesare Dolcetto d’Alba - Piemonte

Grosjean Petite Arvine - Valle d’Aoste and Ferrando La Torrazza Erbaluce di Caluso - Piemonte

And today, I looked in my wine racks and noticed that aside from a bottle of the Uruguayan late harvest Tannat and a few more bottles of unique French red wines, I couldn’t find any more “oddballs,” so it’s time for me to get back to the wine shop.  And perhaps one of my best discoveries in the past year is the newest wine shop in town - Lake Side Emotions Wine Boutique.  People ask me where I manage to find so many wonderful and unique bottles, and my answer is usually Lake Side Emotions.  I’m so pleased to have a local place to go, to find wines that are from so many unusual regions and made of unusual grapes - not to mention how much fun I have every time I go into that wine shop.
I’m looking forward to another year of wine discoveries and I’m so happy to be able to share them with family, friends, and readers.

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