Sunday, March 23, 2014

Que Syrah - Maison Nicolas Perrin Syrah Viognier Non-Vintage

This is another wonderful Syrah that really gives you an idea of the complexity that this grape can achieve in the soils of Southern France. This everyday winner is a joint venture of two of the most famous families of the region, the Jaboulets of the Northern Rhone and the Perrins of the Southern Rhone and Chateau Beaucastel fame. These are multi-generational wine families who clearly know what they are doing. I wrote up another great everyday Syrah from Domaine de Chateaumar recently. It's a pleasure to have a couple of Syrahs like these to turn to for a Wednesday night bottle. You really get to smell and taste what a $50 Cote Rotie might be like and thus get an inkling as to just how special this grape can be. You very rarely get aromas and flavors like this from new world Syrah. The Viognier, a white grape of course, is a partner to only about 3% and contributes to the aromatics. It's a common blend in Cote Rotie and has been for a long time.

This is a non-vintage bottling which means there is juice from more than one vintage in the blend. Like the Domaine de Chateaumar, this Syrah may be more defined by it's aromas than it's flavors. Those aromas are very soil driven and defined by typical Syrah elements of garrigue (a spice and soil component), black olive, pepper and blackberry fruit. It's got good concentration and medium-bodied dark berry flavors still dominated by the terroir. If anything, this wine could use a bit more fruit on the palate, although more did emerge as it aired. The grapes for this very interesting wine come from the village of St. Joseph, another Northern Rhone appellation where Syrah is the star. This $9.99 everyday winner is imported by Vineyard Brands and will pair nicely with a leg of lamb or burgers on the grill. Cheers.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

California's Greatest Everyday White? Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc/Viognier 2012

Pine Ridge Vineyards is one of those vaunted Napa Wineries that has done so much so right since it's founding in 1978. They're certainly best known for their Cabernet Sauvignon bottlings, which have always been made in a style that chooses elegance and grace over power. I was fortunate to have a few bottles of their 1994 Stag's Leap Cab, the last of which I only recently drank. They were delicious wines.

But the only wine that Pine Ridge produces in the under $15 category is a wonderful little white wine that almost nobody knows about. It's an absolutely delicious blend of 80% Chenin Blanc and 20% Viognier. In retail shops here on the east coast, it sits in the section usually called "other whites". It's a section that sees few visitors as most shoppers head right for the Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc sections. And even the folks that visit this section rarely give this wine a shot. It's a lonely bottle for sure.

I certainly can't claim the discovery either. Major critics like Robert Parker have been trumpeting the virtues of this great little wine for a decade or more - but you always had to pay for his advice.

This lovely white is very aromatic with up front scents of ripe pear, melon and a tropical note of mango. It's got a fairly lush medium-bodied mouth feel with the pear and melon flavors supported by notes of orange peel and lime. It finishes long with zesty acidity that makes it very crisp and refreshing. This fantastic everyday white is vinified in stainless steel and sees no wood whatsoever. And at $10.99, it's an excellent value. I tasted the 2012 but I would not be concerned with vintage - this wine is delicious year after year. We served this wonderful wine with some grilled chicken wings that I marinated in peanut oil, soy sauce, lime juice, Chinese 5 spice powder and chili. Bottoms up!