Reconnecting with Old Friends

old friends.jpg

This column is usually about new items or wines that fit a particular theme. This week, I’d like to revisit some old friends that we haven’t Featured for a while. The Feature price is 15% off the Regular price.
Fire Road Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough, New Zealand) Regular Price $14.50/ Feature Price $12.33
I haven’t been able to find any information about damage to the New Zealand wine country from the recent earthquake, but I know it can’t be good, particularly since this is their harvest time. We do have plenty of this wine right now, so I’m sure our Kiwi friends would appreciate your support.
Originally reviewed in “New Wines from the Austral Zones” - June 2010
New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc has been winning new fans for years. We’ve carried some great ones. But a sort of arms race has developed with these wines, as they try to outdo each other in just how extremely Kiwi they can be. For instance, one of the refreshing notes that make NZ Sauvignon Blanc a great pairing with salads and vegetables is “herbaceous”...a scent of fresh vegetation. If you push that scent, you get “grassy,” considered a good thing in these New Zealand wines. But some of them started to smell like a glass of new mown lawn. Mix that with lime, gooseberry, kiwi (and the ever popular “cat pee”) and you’ve got a wine that’s so extreme it only appeals to cult fans. That’s why I like this Fire Road. It’s fresh and herbaceous, with tangy notes of lime...but it’s not at all extreme. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if this became a customer favorite. It will pair very well with summer seafood, salads and fresh vegetables. And it has enough fruit that it’s very fine for drinking on the front porch.

The wine is from Marlborough, a region that is on the northern end of the south island. This is the main New Zealand winemaking region, representing Fire RoadFire Road62% of the country’s wine production (mostly Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir). The bottle label has what looks like a streak of fire char across it, a tribute to the great fire of Boxing Day 2000 that destroyed livestock and thousands of acres of vineyards. The courageous people of the town that is now known as Fire Road fought the blaze with garden hoses, buckets and shovels. The vines have been replanted, and we reap the benefit.
Bodegas Naia Las Brisas (Rueda, Spain) Regular Price $14.15/ Feature Price $12.03
I was surprised that a search of the Wine & Words website turned up a number of references to this wineLas BrisasLas Brisas but no real description. We first brought it in when we were having difficulty getting our original selection of Rueda Verdejo, the Basa from Telmo Rodriquez. The “replacement” caught on so fast that it was soon one of our best-selling whites. Talk about old friends that have been neglected! Now we give it the spotlight it deserves. I did write about Verdejo and Rueda in the past:
The wine is from Rueda (rue-AY-duh), a region on the south bank of the Ebro River about 150 km northwest of Madrid. The Rueda DO, established in 1980, exists mostly for the purpose of supporting its indigenous grape, Verdejo (vair-DAY-hoe). The Verdejo grape is said to have originated in North Africa and been brought to the Rueda region in the 11th Century by Mozarabs, Iberian Christians who lived under Moorish rule. For centuries the Verdejo grape was used to make an oxidized sherry type wine, but in the 1980’s sophisticated winemakers started blending it with Sauvignon Blanc and Viura/Macabeo, another Spanish grape, to make bright, crisp whites like Basa and our other Rueda selection, Las Brisas. (There’s one of the mentions I mentioned.)
The combination of the Verdejo (50%) with 25% each of Sauvignon Blanc and Viura (Macabeo) gives the wine a nicely balance combination of luscious, ripe fruit and crisp, steely acidity that make it both a fine accompaniment to seafood and salads and a much appreciated summer quaffer for porch or deck. I expect this wine to be popular all summer again this year. You’ve got a chance to get a jump on the season.
Pacific Rim Chenin Blanc (Columbia Valley, Washington) Regular Price $12.85/ Feature Price $10.93
Pacific Rim Chenin BlancPacific Rim Chenin BlancOriginally reviewed in “All American” - July 2008
Pacific Winemakers is a group of Bonny Doon expats who up and moved to the Pacific Northwest to produce their beloved Dry Riesling. Winemaker Nicolas Quille claims to be a Riesling fanatic, but he has room in his heart for this lovely Chenin Blanc, a grape that grows very nicely in Washington’s cooler climate. The juice is fermented in stainless steel tanks (no oak, no malolactic) and has just a bit of residual sugar to balance the slight natural bitterness of Chenin (look for the grapefruit rind finish). I usually ignore back label descriptions of flavors. They’re mostly hype. But this one is right on the money: "an eruption of floral notes and flavors of pear, key lime and crème brulèe." Delicious on its own or paired with seafood or spicy Asian cuisine.
Boekenhoutskloof "The Wolftrap" (Western Cape, South Africa) Regular Price $14.50/ Feature Price $12.33
WolftrapWolftrapOrignally reviewed in “New from Spain and South Africa” - March 2010”
The Boekenhoutskloof farm was founded in 1776 in the Franschoek valley by French Hugenots (Franschoek means something like "French corner"), so it's not surprising that the Franschoek valley is the center of French-style winemaking in the Western Cape region. It's hotter than neighboring (and better known) Stellenbosch, more like the Southern Rhone. It also has more rainfall than other areas of the Cape and a wide range of soils. As for the Boekenhoutskloof moniker: First, it's pronounced "Book-n-Howeds-kloof." Second, it means "valley of the Boekenhout"... which I have on website authority is a beech-like tree of the area that is used in the local furniture making industry. So now you know. As far as ordering this wine at Back Bay Cafe or asking for it in our store, we'll just use the more pronounceable "Wolftrap."

That name has a story, as well. Seems the early French settlers built a wolftrap to protect their sheep from harm. It appears to have worked. No wolves have ever damaged anyone...or been caught in the trap. Maybe those French Protestants brought their lupaphobia with them from the old country along with their winemaking skills.

There's nothing to be afraid of in this well-made wine. It's a Rhone-style blend of predominantly Syrah & Mourvedre with just a smidgen of oak-fermented Viognier to add some silky, flowery notes on the finish. Mostly the flavor is meaty and smoky, with notes of dark red fruits (it's hard to believe there's no Pinotage in this blend). It's a perfect pairing for the season's grilled meats. Be sure to try it.
Budini Malbec (Mendoza, Argentina) Regular Price $14.95/ Feature Price $12.63
Mendoza vineyardMendoza vineyard
Here’s another one that seems to have been around forever...and that I’ve never blogged about on our website. Oh, well. If you haven’t yet discovered Malbec from Mendoza, and if you’re a meat-eater, here’s your chance. Argentines are the greatest per-capita consumers of beef in the world, and they make this wine to go with their 3-pound steaks. If you like a big, inky purple wine, try this one.
Lamole di Lamole Chianti Classico (Tuscany, Italy) Regular Price $23.00/ Feature Price $19.55
This wine has been our “go to” premium Chianti for several years. It’s another one I’m surprised we’ve never Featured. I guess that’s because people ask, “Do you have a really good Chianti?” and we offer this one.
The designation “Chianti Classico” means that the wine is from the heart of Lamole di Lamole ChiantiLamole di Lamole Chiantithe Chianti district in Tuscany, between Florence and Siena. And it’s also at least 75% Sangiovese, that can be blended with small amounts of Canaiolo, Trebbiano and Malvasia (the producers are very secretive about what the exact percentages are in each vintage). All this means you get a classic Italian red wine that really shines at the table. And if you buy it while we’re Featuring it, you get a great price as well!