Seems like all anyone wants to talk about is The Heat, and it sure does seem to have settled in with a vengeance. This weekend is also the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year and the official first day of summer, but also the change toward shorter days to come. Granted, it’s a long time from now until the Autumnal Equinox on September 23, but I like to think I can feel a subtle shift. The sun has reached its most northerly point on my early morning Eastern horizon, as if to say, “Enough...time for a rest.”
And Sunday is Father’s Day, when we remember fathers past and present. For me, it’s a time of recollection and reflection...on my own father, who died over 20 years ago when he was two years younger than I am now; on my one biological son, with whom I’ve had an often problematic and now tremendously rewarding relationship; on the other “children” for whom I continue gladly to serve in the role of “Pops”; and on the fathers of my growing brood of grandchildren, young (to me) men who are just discovering the great joys and challenges of fatherhood. Being a mature man lovingly involved in the upraising of children is, to me, one of the most rewarding things one of my gender can engage in. Sunday I salute all fathers everywhere, whether cruising comfortably on the successes of their offspring or wondering how in the world they’re ever going to be able to rise to the task. And, of course, I’ll drink a toast!
James the Wine Guy
Introducing Les Pendleton Books
Last weekend a couple walked into the store and introduced themselves as Les and Suzie Pendleton. Les is an author (among other things) in New Bern, NC, and when he and Suzie aren’t offering Sunset Cruises they’re looking for venues in which to place Les’ fiction. They had found Wine & Words…& Gourmet online and decided we would be the one place in town they’d like to set up their display. I immediately agreed and they went out to their car and brought back a handsome display rack and two copies of each of Les’ seven titles. You can read all about Les and his books at the Les Pendleton website, or come in and browse. The books are all what Les calls “beach reads”: His writing style conveys the influence of his career in motion pictures. Many people share their impression that reading his novels feels as if you are watching the characters come to life on the silver screen. Actual locations in coastal North Carolina are featured in many of his books. His writing spans a wide array of genres from action adventure, romance, historical fiction, suspense-filled mysteries and autobiographies. Les spends every free moment with his family and friends sailing in Pamlico Sound and the Atlantic Coast.
New Beers for Dad and the Solstice
Tröegs Hopback Amber (Hershey, PA)
“HopBack Amber Ale gets its unique name and taste from the hopback vessel in our brewhouse. Packed full of whole flower hops, each batch circulates through the vessel, creating a fresh hoppy aroma, spicy taste and rich caramel note that defines our signature Amber Ale.” 6% ABV
Tröegs Jovial Belgian-Style Dubbel Ale (Hershey, PA)
Our “Certified Cicerone” Amanda Webb gave me a sample of this one. I liked the 375ml bottle (½ a wine bottle) and the cork and cage closure that makes me think of sparkling wine. I let it warm up a bit from its refrigerator temperature (recommended 50°-55°) and poured it into a wine glass. Rich aroma and yeasty head, followed by a mouthful of flavor. I’ve dubbed this one a “wine drinker’s beer.” Mighty mellow on a warm afternoon in the A/C. 7% ABV
Wines for Dads
If the Dad in your life is a wine drinker, you’ll want to get him something special for Father’s Day. Friday we’ll be tasting some wines that I think have that character of something out of the ordinary...just like Dad. We’ll be tasting Friday from 4 until 8:00 (Music in the Streets) and sharing what’s left all day Saturday. Naturally, we’ll put your prize in a nice gift bag so it will look like you planned ahead. Of course you did!
Chateau Recougne Blanc (Fronsac, Bordeaux, France) Everyday Price $13.50
Nice to get Dad a white Bordeaux wine that doesn’t deplete the piggy bank. Chateau Recougne (you Francophones can probably do better...but we say “ruh-COON-yuh”) has produced wine for more than 400 years. Its name is said to have come from King Henri IV in the early 17th century, in “recognition” of the quality of its wine. The estate today is owned by Xavier and Marc Milhade, who are the third and fourth generation of winegrowers, respectively. The wine is a crisp, unoaked blend of approximately 80% Sauvignon Blanc and 20% Semillon, the classic white blend of Bordeaux. The grapes come from vineyards that are located in the right-bank Bordeaux commune of Fronsac, near the edge of the appellation and only about 2 1/2 miles from Lalande-de-Pomerol. The wine is fermented in cool-temperature stainless steel tanks then aged on the lees. Great with some fresh crab or shrimp.
Valckenberg Castell Silvaner Trocken 2013 (Franken, Germany) Regular Price $20.65/ Feature Price $17.55
This is one of those dry whites that has an air of mystery because it’s made with a grape that is not widely known in America. It’s not quite Sauvignon Blanc, not quite Dry Riesling. It’s made with the Silvaner (sihl-VAHN-ner) grape. First recorded at Castell in 1659, Silvaner (with an 'i' to distinguish it from “Sylvaner” in Alsace) reached a peak in the 1960s-1970s, being grown in 30% of German vineyards. However, overproduction during the Liebfraumilch craze of the 1970’s ruined its reputation, and it has since retreated to its stronghold in Franconia (Franken). Here, on the best chalky Muschelkalk terroir along the Main River (pictured), it can produce wines that can compete with the best German Rieslings. These powerful wines are considered very food-friendly and are often described as having an "earthy" palate. Don’t let the comparison with Riesling fool you. This one is labeled “Trocken” - dry. My taste finds it to be very bright with good acidity.
Southern Right Sauvignon Blanc (Walker Bay, South Africa) Regular Price $21.30/ Feature Price $18.10
If Dad likes Sauvignon Blanc, best get him a great one. This bright and crisp Sauvignon Blanc is named for the Southern Right Whale that calves and mates in Walker Bay in the southern hemisphere’s winter months (June-September). Walker Bay is a wine-producing area on the south coast of the Western Cape, 60 miles from Cape Town. Its maritime climate is one of the coolest in South Africa, so the region is held in high regard for the Burgundian-styled Pinot Noir and Chardonnay that is made here, along with fresh, flinty Sauvignon Blanc. The region’s most notable vineyards are found in the valleys that run in an east-west direction from the coast. Proximity to the ocean means that the vineyards enjoy long, sunny summers that are cooled by the ocean breezes that come from the southeast. The Antarctic Benguela current from the nearby Atlantic Ocean ensures these breezes are cold enough to refresh the grapes during the ripening season. This has the effect of slowing the ripening process, allowing the grapes to develop concentrated flavors while retaining acidity. The wine is tart but without notes of lime or grapefruit or grass that can sometimes be annoying and jarring if not well balanced.
Atalaya Laya (Almansa, Spain) Everyday Price $12.75
We start the reds with another one that’s very nice and also very budget friendly. It’s from Bodegas Atalaya, high in the hills (2600 feet) of Almansa, at eastern edge of the Castilla-La Mancha region of central Spain, the largest wine grape growing area on the planet. It’s a blend of 70% Garnacha Tintorera and 30% Monastrell, aged for 4 months in French oak. The wine is dark and rich and smooth, with something on the finish that reminds me of the dusty street of an ancient Spanish village right after a light summer rain. And if you can afford it (and Dad is worth it) you could upgrade to Laya’s big brother, La Atalaya ($21.30).
Corley Family Monticello Estate Merlot (Oak Knoll District, Napa, California) Regular Price $28.35/ Feature Price $24.10
The Corley family came to Napa in 1969 and made their name with big Napa Cabs. Their Monticello Merlot is a treasure of great California family winemaking, and is definitely not one of those cheap California Merlots that has flooded the grocery store market. This is a blend of 88% Merlot with 12% Cabernet Franc. Winemaker Chris Corley tells how the wine was made: “The grapes were hand-picked and hand-sorted prior to tank fermentation from our estate vineyard. The grapes were fermented in a stainless steel tank with a selected yeast strain. We drained and pressed the wine shortly before dryness. Malolactic fermentation took place in barrel. The wine was aged in French oak barrels for 26 months prior to bottling.” This is wine of distinction for a wine drinking Dad of the same.
Catena Malbec (Mendoza, Argentina) Regular Price $28.85/ Feature Price $24.52
Catena Malbec is a benchmark for this style. The last eight vintages have received 90 Points or better from a wide array of wine critics. For this vintage Wine Enthusiast gave 91 Points and wrote: “This is quintessential Argentine Malbec.” Wine Spectator gave 90 Points and wrote: “The powerful finish is filled with sanguine details.” (whatever that means) The grapes are from 4 vineyards at different altitudes, and the grapes are harvested at different times to assure their readiness. The wine is made with natural yeasts, then aged in oak barrels for 12 to 14 months. This is a wine that is smooth and big hearted...just like Dad.
Mulderbosch Faithful Hound 2012 (Stellenbosch, South Africa) Regular Price $29.28/ Feature Price $24.96
When we Featured Mulderbosch’s Cabernet Sauvignon rosé, we noted that the Cabernet grapes are grown and picked just for that lighter style. I wanted to pair it with a Mulderbosch full bodied Cab, but found that this wine, named for the winemaker’s dog, who stuck around the vineyard long after his master died, is that full-bodied wine. It’s a Bordeaux-style blend that varies from vintage to vintage. This one is 39% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Cabernet Franc, 16% Merlot, 14% Malbec, and 9% Petit Verdot. After rigorous selection of all five Bordeaux varieties from some of the finest vineyards in the Cape, the grapes are sorted before de-stemming. The fermentation process is initiated by naturally occurring yeast, and finished by a selected strain, added during the course of fermentation. This is followed by 18 months aging in French oak barrels. A rich, complex wine that’s sure to satisfy any Dad...even if he’s neither.
Ferreira Tawny Port (Porto, Portugal) Regular Price $18.75/Feature Price 15.94
I got the idea for including this wine after I found a 2006 Wine Enthusiast article titled Tawny Port Plays it Cool. We usually think of Port as a wintertime, fireplace sipping wine. But Tawny, the port that is aged in oak barrels, is actually served quite often chilled or on ice in the steamy summers of its native Portugal. Made by the A.A. Ferreira winery, the only Port wine company founded by Douro natives (most Port houses are British) this one is aged only 3 years but gets its rich flavor by the use of much smaller oak barrels than the traditional “pipes.” At 19.5% alcohol this is not a wine you want to use to slake your summer thirst, but if you pour it in a glass over crushed ice, add a bit of soda water if you like, and garnish with a slice of lemon for a “Tawny Crush,” you might have something you and Dad could enjoy together.
From The Cellar Selections
Of course, if you really want to treat a serious wine drinking Dad, you might have a look at our “Cellar Selections.” Here are a few wines that are currently resting in that climate-controlled region:
Chateau Moutinot 2011 (Saint Estèphe, Bordeaux, France) - $39.50
Stolpman La Cuadrilla 2012 (Santa Ynez Valley, California) - $31.35
Talbott Sleepy Hollow Pinot Noir 2012 (Santa Lucia Highlands, California) - $60.15
Avignonesi Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2011 - $42.65
Toro Albalá Gran Reserva 1985 Pedro Ximenez Sherry, 375 ml - $44.00
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