Some Springtime Holiday Treats

California Spring vineyards

Springtime is for new beginnings and celebrations.  We have religious celebrations like Easter and Passover, family get-togethers for weddings and Mother's Day, and new taste treats with spring veggies and fresh herbs.  There's always room for great wines.
Roth Estate Alexander Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2010 (Sonoma County, California) Regular Price $18.25/ Feature Price $15.52
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how Americans were flocking to Sauvignon Blanc as a wine that has the same variety of styles as, but a greater degree of food friendliness than, the ever-present Chardonnay. I made that statement as I was trying to introduce premium California-style Sauv Blanc to our stores in the form of the Louis Mel Sauvignon Blanc from Livermore’s Wente Family Estate. That wine has stayed out of stock, but we’ve been rescued by our intrepid Sarah Stewart, who has brought us this new one from the Roth Estate in Sonoma County’s Alexander Valley.
The Roth family started making wines in 2000 with the goal of doing Cabernet Sauvignon in the elegant style of Bordeaux, rather than the powerhouse style of Napa or Paso Robles. They succeeded very well in the Alexander Valley, a region only an hour’s drive north of San Francisco that has a micro-climate that combines long, hot days with nights that are cooled by fog that creeps through Petaluma Gap. This large range of day/night temperatures characterizes many of the world’s great wine-growing regions, including Bordeaux.
If you’ve been paying attention, you already know that white Bordeaux wines are predominantly Sauvignon Blanc, with a little Semillon added for aromatics and soft mouth feel. Well, that’s exactly what the Roths did when they released their first Sauvignon Blanc with the 2009 vintage. It came out so well that they, of course, went for it again in 2010, only to run into a vintage that “will go down in history as being one of the most extreme and difficult in California” (Roth website). They continue, “The vintage began with a cold spring and early season rains, followed by persistent fog that would remain until late morning or early afternoon. In mid-August, the cool summer was then hit with record-high temperatures, that peaked at 116 degrees Fahrenheit. This heat was devastating for many varieties, yet Sauvignon Blanc fared well. In general, the cooler temperatures resulted in longer hangtime for Sauvignon Blanc, which produced complex concentrated flavors, yet bright acidity.” An excellent description of this wine. It is 98% Sauvignon Blanc with 2% Viognier (which does the same trick as Semillon in white Bordeaux). It is lush and rich in the mouth, but with a bright finish that gives notes of lime and grapefruit. Doesn’t this sound like a great wine to go with seafood? I believe this will become one of our most popular wines to pair with our local shrimp, crab and finny things, but it will be equally at home on the deck or dock. A summer treat with California finesse.

Domaine Pascal Renaud Saint-Véran (Burgundy, France) Regular Price $21.95/ Feature Price $18.66
We first Featured this wine almost a year ago when the above-mentioned Sarah went “Four for Four” in one of our tastings.  I needed another elegant dinner white for this week’s group, so I decided to pull this one back out. Sarah wrote to me, “So glad you are re-featuring the St Veran, one of my favs!”  It should be yours, as well.
Last may I wrote:
For our Featured white, we turn to my favorite style of Chardonnay wine, from the Burgundy area of France. This one is from the appellation of Saint-Véran (san vay-RAHN) in the southern half of the Maconnais sub-region of Burgundy. The zone covered by the appellation is divided roughly into two islands, separated north from south by the vineyards of the Pouilly-Fuissé appellation. The award winning family team of Pascal and Mireille Renaud produce wonderful wines from several small parcels of vineyard in and around the Pouilly-Fuissé region. The whites of this region are usually considered to run in quality from the top-rated Pouilly-Fuissé, through the mid-range Saint-Véran, down to the less expensive and less focused Macon-Villages. The Renauds make them all. We have carried their lovely Macon-Villages for some time, and now we step up to the somewhat more sophisticated Saint-Véran. Pascal Renaud comes from an old established family of wine growers in Pouilly. His estate covers 25 acres in the villages of Pouilly, Solutre and Davaye. Within their new cuverie (the French term for the building where fermentation takes place), built about five years ago, they work predominately with stainless steel and large German barrels. This is done to maintain brightness and freshness of the fruit and the purity in the expression of the terroir without gumming up the works with a lot of oak.

All Saint-Véran wines are made exclusively from the Chardonnay grape variety and are traditionally dry in style, yet more full-bodied than other white Burgundies. This is partially because the climate in this region is slightly warmer than most of Burgundy and partially because the soils are chalk rather than the flinty limestone of more northerly Chablis. This wine is an elegant white dinner wine. It pairs well with anything you'd want to serve with a classy white. This should become one of your go-to standards when you want a great bottle of white wine at a price that doesn't break the bank.

Castle Rock Willamette Valley Pinot Noir (Oregon) Regular $14.65/ Feature Price $12.46
When you’re looking to serve a wine that goes with a family feast, you can’t do much better than Pinot Noir. I can’t afford any of the classic Grand Cru Pinot Noirs of Burgundy, but I have become quite a fan of the rich, Burgundian Pinots of Oregon’s Willamette Valley, like Adelsheim and King Estate. Unfortunately for us budget wine drinkers, a lot of other people have discovered the Willamette Valley, as well, and the prices for the best estates are rising fast and high. Fortunately for us budget wine drinkers, as I’ve noted before, we’ve got August Briggs and the crew from Castle Rock to bring us a great deal.
    Like all Castle Rock labels, this one says “Cellared and Bottled by Castle Rock Winery, Calistoga, CA.” Castle Rock didn’t grow the grapes...maybe King Estate did. Who knows? What I know is that as soon as I saw a Willamette Valley Pinot Noir from Castle Rock, I wanted to taste it. And as soon as I tasted it (and heard the price), I wanted to introduce it to you.
This is 100% Pinot Noir that is 100% grown in the Willamette Valley. At 13.5% alcohol, it has the mid-body and finesse to pair with all your special meals. A holiday weekend get-together would be a great time to bring a bottle of this wine and show people that you (with a little help from your Wine & Words store) know about Pinot Noir...and you know about bargains.

Chocolate Box Sparkling Shiraz (Barossa Valley, Australia) Regular Price $27.50/ Feature Price $23.38
Finally, a real treat. Sarah brought us a sample of this wine thinking that it might be good for Easter or Mother’s Day. Well, Mother’s Day is still a couple of weeks away and I couldn’t wait.
We’ve had sparkling Shiraz before, and it can be a hard sell. An Australian tradition at Christmas, this wine just seems like a cute gimmick to some “serious” wine drinkers. Add the “Chocolate Box” moniker and it seems even harder to take seriously. But take my word for it, this wine is “dee-lish”!
Australia’s Barossa Valley is known for its rich premium Shiraz wines. These are not the easy-drinking, cheap “fruit bombs” Australia has flooded our market with. These are elegant and full-bodied, known for their ripe berry flavors combined with hints of dark chocolate and coffee. Add small-batch fermentation, a bit of oak aging, and bubbles and “Voila!”...Chocolate Box Sparkling Shiraz from Rocland Estates.
     This wine would go well with Easter Sunday Brunch (in fact, I’ll be offering it by the glass at Back Bay Cafe), or start a festive meal with red bubbly and cheese and ripe fruit, or take a bottle to a someone special, pop the cork, and feel the love. This is one yummy wine treat!