wine

Athenee Imports & New Wines of Greece

20160423_144056

Rocky, steep slope of Robola at high elevation on the island of Cephalonia

Esquin Wine Buyer Jeff Fournier recently took a two-week trip to Greece with Athenee Imports to gain more in-depth knowledge on one of the world’s most ancient wine regions. Here’s some of what he found.

***

I was impressed with the diversity of climate and terrain. Many people think of Greece and imagine white beaches and bright blue waters but there is a lot more to this beautiful country. More than half of Greece is mountains and I drove and wound thru a lot of them. But let’s start with my first stop. After flying into Athens and a walk up to the Acropolis we headed for the island of Crete the next day.

20160529_160215

Slate from Karavitakis Vineyard

Crete is the southern most of the islands and the largest. We feasted on fish soup, sea urchin and octopus, and drank wines from the Karavitakis Winery. We had a Malvasia Aromatica, A Vidiano & Assyrtiko blend, and The Little Prince, which can be found here at Esquin which is 65% Viana and 35% Vidano for around $12. All of these wines had bright acidity with lemon-lime zest and of course the savory richness in the Assyrtiko. Check out these pictures of the slate in my hand and the rocky soils that provide the bright acidity in these wines.

The next day took us to the far north and the town of Drama. We visited cool-climate vineyards close to the Albanian border and the Pavlidiis Winery, which sits in a valley surround by mountains that was once a lake. Old boat anchors have been found in the hills. The vineyards are planted to Agiorgitiko, Tempranillo and Syrah for reds and Assyrtiko, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc for whites. We have a couple here at Esquin and the wines tend to be sophisticated and elegant with a modern flare.

Next stop, and one of my favorites, was the northern town of Naoussa and biodynamic producer Thymiopoulos Winery. The vineyards are cultivated biodynamic and are certificated organic. The soils have dark-green granite, light green schist and lime stone with cover crops of wild chamomile, clover, grass and wild roses. These mountain vines are 50 years old see pictures below. Xinomavro is the focus here and Thymiopoulos’ could be a good ringer in a Nebbiolo blind tasting. This is a very small winery that uses only wild yeast fermentation, no inoculation. Check out the Young Vines Wine in the store now at $17.99.

20160418_101857

Old vines and cover crops in Thymiopoulos’ vineyard

20160418_102812

Light green schist and cover crops in Thymiopoulos’ vineyards

20160531_161157

Mercouri Estate Foloi

Another one of my favorites is the Mercouri Estate, on the western coast of the Peloponnese, near ancient Olympia. Mercouri has a section of 140 year old Refosco vines in front of the winery. There are three wines currently here in the store you may recognize: the Foloi Label, always a favorite, blended with 90% Roditis and 10% Viognier for complexity. Check out the Domaine Mercouri and the Mercouri Cava. Both are blended with around 80% Refosco and 20% Mavrodaphne. Ask me about them next time you are in the store.

Next, a ferry ride to the island of Cephalonia and some fabulous Robola grown at high elevation on steep slopes from the Gentilini Winery. We have the Cellar Selection here in the store. This wine has citrus dry white flowers, thyme and herbs with chamomile. Check out these pictures of the rocky soils, wild thyme.

20160423_142844

Wild thyme in the Robola vineyards of Cephalonia

 

20160529_160054

Pumice stones from Santorini

Last but not least, everyone’s favorite the island of Santorini. The eruption that created Santorini was the second largest known on the planet, only to Krakatoa, and created a tsunami estimated between 150 to 500 ft. that destroyed Crete, and some believe caused the destruction of Atlantis, if it actually existed. Volcanic soils filled with pumice stones give these wines bright acidity. After a scary plain landing because of the wind, I now realize why the grapes are grown close to the ground. The method of coiling the vines is called Koulura, a technique I have never seen before and unique to Santorini.

 

I visited two brilliant wineries. First, Estate Argyros – we have two wines in the store right now, which are the Atlantis red and white. For $21, the red is 90% Mandilria and 10% Mavrotragano. It is fruity with good tannin and spice. The white is Aidani and Athiri, it is bright with lemon blossom and great with seafood. My favorite is the Aidani, a rare indigenous variety with tropical notes scented herbs and flowers but very dry. I hope to have it in the store soon.

Next off to the Gaia Winery. We carry the Thalassitis Assyrtiko, beautifully rich and complex with tropical fruit and alittle spice at $29.99. My favorite, the wild ferment Assyrtiko has more complex layers of fruit, spice and earthly minerals for $33.99. Gaia also makes a good Retsina that is 100% Roditis with a delicate balance of the pine resin that goes great with garlic sauce. And for red, we carry the Agiorgitiko, good fruit nice peppery notes, a little like Sangiovese but not as tannic and with more spice at $23.99.

Look me up next time you’re in the store and looking for Greek wines, I’ll be happy to talk with you!

-Jeff Fournier, Wine Buyer.

Standard
Italy, Lacrima, Marche

Azienda Agricola Mario Lucchetti

lucchetti1

In the world of wine that at times seems overwhelming in its complexity from the number of varietals, ever-changing rules, new and evolving appellations, wine styles, trends and so on, Italy may pose the greatest challenge. Spend some time unlocking some of its mysteries, however, and you’ll be endlessly rewarded.

Marche

A case in point is the relatively obscure grape named Lacrima, an indigenous varietal of the Marche region of Italy’s eastern coast. Lacrima translates as ‘tears’, the moniker supposedly earned by the variety’s tendency to release droplets of juice through the thin skin of fully ripe grapes when they inevitably rupture. It is almost entirely found in the DOC Lacrima di Morro d’Alba and owes much to local producer Mario Lucchetti, who played a pivotal role in its survival and modern day renaissance.

Azienda Agricola Mario Lucchetti is the third-generation estate that he helms alongside son Paolo, daughter-in-law Tiziana and acclaimed winemaking consultant Alberto Mazzoni. It now produces four separate iterations of Lacrima, including ultra small quantities of a highly sought after Amarone-styled example, as well as a Verdicchio on 34 acres that Mario began planting in the early 1980s.

We were able to sit and taste through the current vintage of Mario Lucchetti wines with Paolo and Tiziana a couple of months back prior to their release. It feels like we’ve been waiting a lifetime for these wines to arrive – that’s how much we enjoyed them.

paolo and tiziana

Paolo and Tiziana Lucchetti

As we quizzed them on farming and winemaking techniques, the pair repeatedly stressed the hands-on, small scale approach they take in every aspect of production, from employing hand harvesting to ensure optimum selection to using only organic treatments and forbidding the use of chemical herbicides and pesticides altogether. They use nothing but ambient yeasts and renounce the use of oak, or other grapes for that matter, in order to showcase 100% Lacrima at it’s unmasked best. This is worth noting in a DOC which allows blending of up to 15% of Montepulciano or Verdicchio to help round out a vintage.

Light to medium-bodied, Lucchetti’s reds are perfect summertime wines that will pair nicely with lighter fare, outdoors on one of Seattle’s warmer afternoons, perhaps with a slight chill on them. And don’t be fooled – these wines do have some aging potential (3-6 years). They’re also priced fantastically, so don’t be shy about grabbing a bottle or three next time you’re in the store. Give them a shot and let us know what you think!

Standard
Cabernet Franc, France, loire

Domaine de la Pépière ‘Cuvee Granit’ VdP Loire ’14

PepiereThis little gem was recently brought to our attention, and wow – what a find. Domaine de la Pépière is in the Muscadet country in Nantes, in the western part of the Loire. Now, Muscadet is known for its white wines but here’s to hoping this lovely little red gets other vignerons in the area thinking outside the box a bit.

Cuvée Granit is a blend of Cab Sauvignon, Côt (aka Malbec), and Cab Franc on a vineyard with south-western exposure that is strewn with granite – hence the name. The other red vines are still relatively young, but the Cab Franc vines clock in at an impressive (for the area at least) 40+ years old.

Incredibly bright and focused, both on the nose and the palate, the wine showed off fresh notes of raspberry, cranberry, white pepper and pomegranate with enough darker, riper fruits on the finish to keep you interested coming back for more. Lots of minerality, as would be expected considering the soil, with a touch of smokiness and a hint of roasted peppers.

There’s clear structure to the wine and given time, this will settle down from its youthful pep into a very versatile food wine for the summer months. Serve this at cellar temperature when the weather warms back up and you’ll be the hit of the party.

Standard
rosé, Uncategorized

Do you drink pink?

IMAG3674Normally, we would feel like we were just settling in to summer… but it seems like every year, our summer starts a little earlier.  Whether its the anticipation of  fresh rosé arriving, or the weather changing sooner (like a June summer!  What?) or the anticipation of vacations! Either way, we are seeing an increase in people that drink pink every year and we are thrilled.  Rosé isn’t what it used to be.  It’s not your grandma’s jug in the fridge (not that there’s anything wrong with that Grandma! <wink>).  We see rosé coming from all over the world now and at many different price levels. So the two questions we hear all the time are…does price matter and is darker really sweeter?

Here’s the thing. Don’t be afraid of affordable wine! Sure. Price CAN matter. But as with anything, you can find a great wine to fit your budget. And when the occasion allows itself, you can surely find one to spoil your palate.  We are firm believers in quality to price ratio.  And we truly believe you can find an affordable every day Rosé and you can find that incredible pale Tavel you keep hearing about, and splurging on it…is ok!

‘Its dark! It must be sweet!”. We’ve heard this countless times and sure. Some of the dark rosé’s are sweeter. But its not always the rule. If you aren’t sure, check the alcohol level…the color comes from skin contact, so its not always a sure fire way to know. Look for a rosé over 12%…

But.  When in doubt…ask us!  That’s what we are here for!  And we love talking about wine!

Here are a few favorite’s this season:

Esquin Exclsive: 2014 Clos Alivu Rosé, Corsica ~ $18.99/bottle

Hot Seller: 2014 La Spinetta Rosato, Italy ~ $19.99/bottle

Fresh off the boat!: 2014 Serpolet  Rosé, France ~ $12.99/bottle (this sexy little bottle come in…well, just that!  a little bottle!  375ml available for only $9.99! 

Esquin’s Rhapsody of Rosé Sampler: 6 bottles to try! only $59.99

 

Standard
food, wine

Three Views on Wine With Oysters

Wine With OystersEveryone has a thought on what to choose when it comes to wine with oysters. I feel that you can’t go wrong with white wines that hit all points on the crisp/dry/well-chilled mark. And bubbles are always welcome to the party. But we all have our favorites.

I’m going to go with the 2010 Pepiere Muscadet Clos des Briords.  A lovely, single-vineyard old-vine Muscadet from France’s Loire Valley. This wine was born to be consumed with bivalves. It’s a got a bit more richness and texture than your average Muscadet. And you can get it in magnums! What’s not to love about that? For bubbles, I’m sticking to the Loire and recommending any high-quality Cremant or sparkling wine from that region.

As the European wine buyer here at Esquin, I hope you can forgive me for showing my French bias. But in the interest of highlighting local wines to go with local oysters, I have consulted two bastions of Pacific Northwest wine for their two cents’ (two half shells’?) worth:

  • Clive Pursehouse of the Northwest Wine Anthem: “For Oregon wines that match up well with your favorite shellfish acid is king, and some of the beautiful dry Rieslings from Oregon’s Willamette Valley certainly fit the bill.  You don’t have to go far into the Valley to come across some beautiful cool climate Rieslings with some of the acidity, balance, and zest to properly pair with oysters. You’ll find wonderful examples in the northern end in Chehalem Mountain or Yamhill-Carlton. One example is the Trisaetum Coast Range Vineyard Dry Riesling; it delivers with zesty spice and green apple tartness.  Brilliant acidity brings this Riesling to a beautiful crescendo.”
  • Sean Sullivan of the Washington Wine Report: “The 2010 vintage in Washington saw the type of cool conditions and high acid that leads to fantastic white wines, and particularly wines that go with oysters. Two of my favorites from the 2010 vintage are the Cadaretta SBS and Guardian Cellars Angel Sauvignon Blanc. The 2010 Cadaretta SBS–a blend of 75% Sauvignon Blanc and 25% Semillon–has a full, rounded feel, with white grapefruit flavors and tart, mouthwatering acidity. Guardian Cellar’s 2010 Angel Sauvignon Blanc is barrel-fermented, giving the wine a textured feel to balance it’s racy acidity. Both simply should not be consumed without an oyster shell in hand.”

So what is your pick for oysters? I’m always looking for a new wine to enjoy with oysters. And if it requires more research by the dozen, so be it.

wine with oystersThanks to Taylor Shellfish Farms in the Melrose Market and my host Jon Rowley for providing the oysters and the inspiration. (Well, oysters for me. Clive and Sean, I owe you a dozen. Each.) View the winners from Taylor Shellfish’s oyster wine competition.

Standard
wine

Our Fall Sampler is Here!

Fall leaves

We’ve selected an eclectic, interesting, and tasty roster of a dozen wines for our ever-popular sampler. Take a look at our selections below with tasting notes and food pairings. Pick up a case today!

Buried Cane Pinot Grigio (Washington)

Zesty and vibrant, with floral and tropical aromas, followed by peach and lemon fruit flavors. A note of pear and spice adds complexity. Enjoy with grilled lemon prawns.

Arabella Sauvignon Blanc (South Africa)

Complex green grassy nose with passion fruit, guava and pear aromas. Gooseberry and tropical flavors on a full, rich palate with a long sweet-fruited finish. Delicious with fresh cheeses or sugar snap salad.

Domaine Maby Cotes du Rhone Blanc “Variations” (France)

Primarily Grenache Blanc blended with Picpoul and Clairette. White flower and bright peach scents start you off. The palate is a medley of tropical and pitted fruit flavors finishing with a delicious crispness. Try this with white fish topped with mango sauce.

Viano Chardonnay (California)

A nicely balanced, gently oaked Chardonnay from Contra Costa County. Ripe notes of apple, pear and allspice lead to a beautiful mouthful of fruit where tropical flavors emerge. All nicely accented with toast and cream. Serve with rosemary orange roast chicken.

Fiefs Les d’Anglars Cahors Malbec (France)

From the home of Malbec, where it is produced to reflect the true dark essence of the grape. This wine has fruity aromas of blackberries joining harmoniously with the mocha tannins. Fantastic served with beef pot roast.

Los Ailos Syrah Tannat (Argentina)

The addition of Tannat to this blend adds texture to the bright Syrah fruit. The wine is lush with deep berry, black pepper spice and subtle herb. The tremendous depth of this wine make it a great accompaniment to smoked meats, rich red sauces and savory beef dishes.

Cardiff Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon (California)

This Cali Cab will draw you in with aromas of blackberry cobbler. The palate continues with plum, vanilla and allspice. Serve this with a top loin of beef or a savory lamb stew.

Ch. St. Louis la Pedrix Costieres de Nimes (France)

A tasty blend of Carignan, Syrah, Grenache, Cinsault, and Mourvèdre. Ripe, fresh fruit scents lead you to mouthfilling flavors of ripe raspberry and plum with subtle smoky notes. Serve with sirloin burgers.

La Radela Tempranillo (Spain)

A dark ruby colored delight from the famed wine region of Rioja. Cherries, raspberries, minerals and earth combine to perfection. Elegantly intense and intriguingly complex. Try this paired with herbed roast pork tenderloin.

JP Azeitão Tinto Red (Portugal)

A fruity modern-styled blend of Castelao, Aragonez and Syrah. Intense aromas of black cherry, damson, spicy licorice and subtle smoky notes. Robust and flavorful with forest berries and delicious texture. This would be great with roast beef.

Zolo Malbec (Argentina)

Malbec with a deep purple color, with a high intensity of black fruits, raspberries, and violets. Spices play on the palate of fruit, combining with sweet earth and plum. The rich and spicy character of this wine make it a great match for BBQ Ribs.

Stella Montepulciano d’Abruzzo (Italy)

Serve up your favorite recipe of lasagna with this red. Black cherry aromas are highlighted by dark chocolate and soft leather notes. The palate has a traditional rustic style, with true Italian texture running through the dark fruit flavors.

Standard
France, red wine, wine

Powerhouse Cotes du Rhone

Andezon Cotes du RhoneCotes du Rhone has been a go-to wine for me for years. It’s always an inexpensive, safe bet. There’s a lot of good examples I try regularly, but what does it take to stand out from the pack? Well, you’ve got to have some serious sizzle. I found it in the 2010 Andezon Cotes du Rhone.

The first thing that caught my attention about the Andezon (after realizing that it did not actually say Amazon) was the blend. Most Cotes du Rhones tend to be very Grenache-intensive. The Andezon,  however, is almost exclusively Syrah. (90% if you must know.) It reminds me of another favorite Cotes du Rhone, the Saint Cosme, which is an all-Syrah standout.

This is a big, brawny red. It doesn’t get it’s muscle from oak, though. The Andezon is fermented old-school, in concrete tanks. It’s delicious on it’s own but if you wondering what goes best with this delicious red, I’d say pair this bruiser with a bacon cheeseburger. Or anything you can eat with one hand so as not to obstruct a clear path to your glass.

Standard