Graham Beck Western Cape Chardonnay-Pinot Noir Brut, South Africa $15
One of the wealthiest individuals in South Africa, Graham Beck (1929-2010) was an entrepreneur, winegrower, stud farmer, and philanthropist. His eponymous winery continues to make top Cape sparkling wines by the Cap Classique (Champagne) method. This Brut was aged 18 months on its bottle lees, allowing original fruity and floral aromas to carry forth on the nose before its toasty-doughy lees autolysis character really blossoms in the mouth. It emulates Champagne both in varietal makeup and in character at a fraction of the price. A lovely brunch choice with Eggs Benedict.
Sileni Estates 2015 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc Cellar Selection, New Zealand $13
In 1997, Sir Graeme Avery, a publisher of medical books, founded Sileni Estates at Hawkes Bay on the North Island, naming it for satyr companions of wine god Dionysus. The winery’s South Island estate in cool, sunny Marlborough yields its Sauvignon Blanc wines. This 2015 features engaging aromatics of pink grapefruit and mango. The palate offers ideal balance of fruit sweetness and tangy fruit acidity. I suggest asparagus with hollandaise sauce.
Cantina Tramin 2014 Alto Adige Pinot Grigio, Italy $15
Before WWI, Italy’s bi-lingual Alto Adige region was called Sud Tirol, part of the Austrian empire. In 1889, Christian Schrott, rector of Tramin (Termano), founded a cooperative of winegrowers that is today the 290-member strong Cantina Tramin. Tramin is the birthplace of Traminer, ancestor of Gewurztraminer. It thrives here today, as does popular Pinot Grigio. High-altitude Alto Adige delivers a particularly spirited rendition of each, the Cantina’s Pinot Grigio featuring brilliant, pure, concentrated varietal character and juicy fruit acidity. Shrimp with orzo risotto will prove tempting.
Domaine Gerald Talmard 2014 Macon-Chardonnay, France $16
In 1971, brothers Paul and Phil Talmard bought a 100-acre, 17th-century Maconnais winegrowing property and began selling their wine to the local cooperative. In 1978 they undertook estate-bottling. After 2000, the brothers split their domaine between heirs. Son Gerald’s 50 acres lie around the thousand-year-old village of Chardonnay, birthplace of the so-named grape variety. Unwooded, Gerald’s “Chardonnay de Chardonnay” is a laser-sharp take, with classic aromas of apple and citrus supported by lees-aging doughiness. Full bodied and full textured, it will make a hearty companion to sage-rubbed Poulet de Bresse baked in Romertopf.
Hugl-Wimmer 2015 Niederosterreich Gruner Veltliner Hugleweine, Austria $15 Liter
Hugl-Wimmer is the result of a 2013 merger of two family wineries. It’s now run by a handsome young couple, Sylvia (nee Wimmer) and Martin Hugl. Their estate lies in eastern Weinviertal (Wine Quarter), northeast of Vienna, close by the Czech and Slovakia borders. Hugl’s “Gruner,” the land’s signature varietal, comes across uncomplicated, easy drinking, and decidedly modest priced in liter bottle. Here’s the anticipated apple-legume aromatic set and the flavor of a juicy, early apple variety. Its full acidity and texture beg for food. My mouth’s watering for some Habitant Pea Soup with croutons.
Dr. Loosen 2014 Mosel Riesling Dr. L. Dry, Germany $15
Americans just can’t seem to adjust to the concept of dry Riesling. Though it’s been the rage in Germany for years, postwar WWII American generations grew to love Riesling in the sweet style of the period, and the affection is slow to wane. Brilliant entrepreneur Ernie Loosen, who has exceeded the reach of his family’s Mittel Mosel estate to build a world wine empire, perceives a small but growing interest in dry Riesling here, so he’s bottled a dry version of his best-selling “Dr. L.” It’s truly dry, and not fruity, featuring slatey minerality and brisk acidity that will welcome Truite au Bleu.
Penya 2015 Cotes Catalanes Rosé, France $9
Rosés are hot, and as everyone’s getting on the bandwagon, choices seem to be reaching the saturation point. This one’s no johnny-come-lately; it’s been pleasing my clientele for years. Of 96% Grenache and 4% Syrah, it comes from the village and cooperative Cases de Penya, in France’s Roussillon region 30 miles north of the Spanish border, where Catalan is still spoken. This dry wine exudes aromas and flavors of strawberry, raspberry, and white pepper. It’s sure to grace a French paella. While we’re accustomed to Spanish paella, the original word, paelle, is old French for “pan.”
Fabre Montmayou 2013 Mendoza Malbec Reserva, Argentina $15
Herve Joyaux Fabre, born in Bordeaux to a wine-negociant family, emigrated to Argentina in the early 1990s and bought a high-altitude 37-acre plot of Malbec vines planted in 1908 on original rootstock. From this site, fermented by native yeasts and aged 40% in French oak barrels for a year, the 2013 boasts barrel-aged Malbec’s full color, intense aromas of cherry, currant, and brown spices, and rich, primary fruit-creme taste and texture backed by melted tannins. Serve with flame-broiled skirt steak and chimichurri sauce.
Echeverria 2013 Central Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Propuesta, Chile $12
The Echeverria family came to Chile from Basque Spain in the 1750s to plant wine grapes north of Santiago. Today, the family vineyards are 120 miles south, in Curico Valley. Dynamic, globe-trotting Roberto Echeverria and his four children run this 160-acre estate, exporting their wines to 40 countries. Propuesta (proposal) is Roberto’s new take on Cabernet Sauvignon: a wine for early enjoyment rather than cellaring. Though aged a spell in new French oak barrels, it comes across fruity rather than oaky, the blackberry and black currant aromatics prominent, pure, and charming. This requests something equally uncomplicated, say burgers on the deck.
Charles & Charles 2014 Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon-Syrah Post No. 35, Washington $12
From rock-band manager to self-taught winemaker, Charles Smith’s career has been a wild and crazy ride. His K Vintners/Charles Smith Washington winery is daring, resourceful, and fast-growing. Team him with New York hipster and wine innovator Charles Bieler (Three Thieves), and you have one energetic team of wine conceivers/makers. Their Cabernet-Syrah blend (75/25) honors the local American Legion Post. It sports cool-climate blue and black fruit, including plum and black cherry. Thyme, espresso, and warm spices complete the picture. I’d enjoy this with a well-peppered lamb stew.
Parker Station 2014 Central Coast Pinot Noir, California $13
No, it’s not wine guru Robert Parker; rather, Fess Parker of Davy Crockett fame. From Texas, Fess couldn’t do anything small, so what started out modest grew to a 700-acre spread that is today owned and managed by his children, Eli and Ashley. Its high-production, bread-and-butter wine, Parker Station, comes from beyond the family’s vineyards: 60% from Monterey, 31% from Santa Barbara, and 9% from San Luis Obispo counties. Oh, this has that bright 2014 fruit elegance of coastal valleys plus a sweet bing cherry warmth and light oak toastiness. Great acid/sweet balance too, and for absence of tannins an easy choice with grilled salmon.
Barossa Valley Estate 2013 Barossa Valley GSM, Australia $17
What’s more Australian than a Barossa Valley red wine? Lush, boisterous, bountiful, and mouthfilling, it will not be denied. BVE is a relative newcomer here, established 1985, yet it has already made its mark for red wines that are not only Barossa abundant but also structured, well tailored. That classic Chateauneuf du Pape varietal trio, Grenache, Shiraz, and Mourvedre (GSM), loves Barossa. Aromatically, Grenache offers strawberry, Shiraz black raspberry, and Mourvedre violets. Twelve months’ aging in French oak barrels has added a woody-spicy patina to this rendition. I’d match it with roasted guinea fowl seasoned with herbs de Provence.
Sierra Cantabria 2011 Rioja Crianza, Spain $13
“Only” four generations along, Sierra Cantabria is a Rioja modernist versus traditonalist. It cultivates 250 acres of its own vines, all in the highest sector of Rioja Alta, at 1500 to 1750 feet, and its wines reflect the sort of refinement this setting bestows. The Crianza is aged 14 months in 2-3-year-old American and French oak barrels which impart subtle oak spice accents rather than a blast of new wood. 100% Tempranillo, it features an intriguing, complex range of raspberry, cherry, smoked meat, cola, and Chinese five-spice mix aromatics. Enjoy with braised lamb shanks seasoned with smoked paprika.
Leone De Castris 2012 Salice Salentino Maiana, Italy $13
Founded by a Spanish duke in 1665, Leone de Castris makes wines solely from its home region, Puglia, the heel of Italy’s boot. In 1943, it was the first Italian winery to bottle and export a rosé wine. Puglia’s leading red-wine denominazione, Salice Salentino, is also one of the oldest, established in 1939. Of 90% Negroamaro and 10% Malvasia Nera, aged 6 months on large oak cooperage, 2013 Maiana boasts an elevated perfume, a huge array of aromatic pleasures that emphasize sweet black fruits and spices. Rich, and full of flavor and texture, it invites pasta with ragu sauce.
Sandeman Fino Sherry Don Superior, Spain $16
Sandeman’s black “Don” image is one of the wine world’s most recognized. It was designed in 1928 by a Scotsman, who took an assumed French name because French graphic art was all the rage at the time. Sandeman has presence in both Oporto (Port) and Jerez (Sherry). At Jerez, it makes a dry, classic Fino of Palomino grapes grown in its own vineyards. The wine is aged five years in partially filled barrels under a film of flor yeast, whereupon it has earned an aroma of chalk, green almond, and green olives, a wisp of salty sea breeze, and wet stone and citrus peel taste. Ideal for a tapas layout of almonds, olives, chorizo, and deep-fried seafood.