As we move toward late Spring/early Summer, we’re still drinking red wines as well as moving into the whites and rosés that sing of summer. Here are two that fit the season well – not overly rich and heavy, but well balanced. Both are wines that offer value to the restaurant and the consumer as the price points are modest ($10 retail range) and both are well made and a good fit for every day drinking.
GNARLY HEAD Malbec – Grown in Argentina (Mendoza) in vineyards located in the high eastern foothills of the Andes Mountains, the wine offers a nose of dark berries – think blueberry and blackberry. The 2016 vintage saw what its winemakers call an “outstanding harvest” with bold, juicy concentrated fruit. It’s a big wine for a small price, 13.5 percent ABV, and somewhat like Argentinian Zinfandels in style. The name is for the gnarly vines of the grapes that twist around. This particular harvest was deemed “outstanding, exciting and somewhat unexpected.” It’s a nice surprise for a relatively inexpensive bottle to offer such depth of flavor. Visit www.gnarlyhead.com.
SMOKING LOON – This Cabernet Sauvignon is a product of Chile, imported and bottled by Smoking Loon Winery in Napa, CA. Rich and savory, it’s well balanced with notes of blueberry, dried cherry, and a hint of nuts, black raspberry, red currant and notes of vanilla and even coconut. It’s aged in American oak and is 13.5 percent ABV. Check it out at www.smokingloon.com.
Our wine this week is Donelan‘s Syrah, Walker Vine Hill 2010 from California’s Russian River Valley. Actually, we are sure this wine has been sold out for some time as it’s been residing in our wine rack for four years or so, waiting for a moment when we needed something really special.
Donelan’s slogan is “Wine is a journey…not a destination.” This beautiful red pays tribute to its Russian River region and Gold Ridge loam soils. Beautifully structured, deeply concentrated, this Syrah had limited production – 14 barrels, 350 cases. We consider ourselves extremely fortunate to have the bottle on our rack.
The most recent last vintage of the Walker Vine Hill Syrah is 2013. With a similarly rich nose, it draws the wine drinker in, offering “velvety tannins and a long, full finish.” It draws on the best traits of prior vintages, such as the purity of the 2010, spice of 2011 and structure of 2012.
The Donelan family has a small boutique winery that focuses on quality and that pursuit has been and continues to be its journey. The wines from this northern California producer have been compared with the great wines of France. Syrah is a major focus, along with Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, three blends (including a rosé) and Vigonier. The goal is always to “discover only the very best of every place.” We urge you to take a look!
The founder of Josh Cellars, a California winery, Joseph Carr, notes that other wine growers he considers friends helped “handcraft” the first vintage of the winery, made just for each other. This Cabernet is, he says, “true to that first wine we made” in that it’s expressive and bold and yet smooth and approachable.
Approachability is important to this winemaker who says he makes this wine for his customers and their families.
It’s 13.5 percent ABV and $1 of this and all the winery’s vintages goes to the National Volunteer Fire Council to support volunteer firemen. His dad was one and to date, he’s raised more than $300,000.
This wine, from California’s premium wine growing regions, is rich in dark fruits, currents, clove and oak with hints of roasted almonds, vanilla and hazelnuts, Carr notes. You’ll appreciate its structure and firm tannins. Go to www. Joshcellars.com.
Victor, CA is a tiny place – home to Victor Vineyards, east of Lodi. Ask the 290 residents why the rooster crossed the road and they’re quick to let you know it was a bird that preferred wine over water and would cross the highway at harvest time to get to the vineyard!
The Lawson Ranch Chardonnay, 2012, Lodi offers notes of pear, peach, and apple with hints of toasted oak and vanilla. It’s crisp, fruity and delicious. Follow that rooster if you’re in town! It will steer you right.
The grapes are grown along the Mokelumne River. Owner Robert Lawson, who’s been in the area 50-plus years, dreamed of owning a winery and in 993 he purchased 90 acres in the Mokelumne River AVA, now know as Lawson Vineyard. After successfully building a reputation for supplying grapes to some of the best wineries around the country, he purchased the historic Victor Fruit Growers Company location in 1999. Today, he lives his dream of making his own vines.
Intensely dark and rich in black fruit flavors, Cakebread Cellars 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon is the result of uneven winter and spring weather conditions (the vintner called the growing season a seesaw) that reduced the grape crop but at the same time, led to concentrated flavors of black cherry, black currant and pepper. That summer’s warm days and cool nights presented ideal conditions for full maturation. The wine is made with 81 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, seven percent Merlot and Cabernet Franc, four percent Petit Verdot and one percent Malbec. The result is a well-balanced wine with elegance, vibrant fruit flavors, good tannins and a long finish. Go to www.cakebread.com.