It has been three and a half years since we hired Mary Mehlich away from her position as our Sales Rep for The Country Vintner and had her start as Manager of Wine & Words...& Gourmet. She has been a great addition. I’ve come to rely on her not only as an employee, but as a collaborator and, indeed, as a friend. It seems fitting that, in her last weekend as “the wine gal” in Washington, we let her take the lead. So she is introducing four new (for us) wines in Washington. She deserves to take a bow to a round of hearty applause.
Moulin de Gassac "Guilhem Blanc" (VDP de l'Herault, Languedoc, France) Regular $12.20/ Feature $10.37
We’ll start with a wine that Mary tasted on her own some weeks ago. She’s been hounding me to bring it in. Well, here it is. I’m sure she’ll show it with grace and elán. This is one of those amazing bargains we continue to get from France’s Languedoc region, in the southwest of the country. Daumas Gassac, the estate of the Guibert de la Vaissière family, is generally regarded as the Languedoc's greatest wine, perhaps the only truly world-class wine the region has to offer. But we know that the “lesser” wines from this great region are affordable and eminently drinkable, as well. In addition to the famous grand vin, the family oversees a negoçiant operation, producing a range of wines under the Moulin de Gassac label. These are generally good, straightforward expressions of the varietals and blends used and represent very good value. This one is a blend of 50% Sauvignon Blanc, 30% Grenache Blanc, and 20% Clairette. It’s very crisp and clean and would be a great pre-dinner drink to whet the appetite. We’ve still got some warm weather ahead of us that would create some lovely drops on the side of a well-chilled glass of this great French bargain.
Brandborg Gewurztraminer (Umpqua, Oregon) Regular $21.95/ Feature $18.66
Gewurztraminer has always been a difficult sell in our stores. I guess the first hurdle is how to pronounce the name. Even “guh-VERTS-truh-MEEN-er” isn’t a whole lot of help. Then there’s the fact that some Gewurztraminer wines from Alsace are too sweet, and some cheap ones are frankly, weird and nasty. But when this wine is well-made, it is one of the finer pleasures of wine-drinking. So I was dee-lighted when I tasted this one from the Brandborg Winery in Oregon. It’s worth learning how to pronounce the name of the grape...or you can just call it "Brandborg."
The Brandborg Winery is a new one to me, so I visited their website. I like the fact that its home page displays this quote from Albert Einstein: Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler..... True about winemaking; true about life in general.
Terry and Sue Brandborg met at a wine tasting in 1998. Terry was already making wine outside of San Francisco, and they found they shared a passion for Pinot Noir and other cool climate grapes. In July 2001, they bought their property in Elkton, Oregon, in the coastal mountains, 25 miles from the ocean, at an elevation of 750 to 1150 feet. They chose it because it is perfect Pinot Noir country. But that terroir is also just right for Gewurztraminer. Lucky us.
Wines with appreciable levels of acidity, like Riesling, Chenin Blanc and Gewurztraminer need at least a little bit of residual sugar for balance. This wine has just the right amount of sweetness (Residual Sugar 2.38% – about the same as the Columbia Valley Riesling) to make it taste pleasantly dry, instead of too sour. It’s also not too strongly floral like some Gewurztraminer.
Eric Asimov and his crew at The NY Times decided in June 2010 to try to find some good American Gewurztraminers. He admitted that this wine is not very common outside of its original home in Alsace, France, but he likes the wine when well made. They only found 9 wines they could recommend, and the number one selection was the 2007 from Brandborg. He wrote:
Oregon is not known for gewürztraminer, nor is it known for the Umpqua Valley, a region south of the Willamette Valley with a climate apparently cool enough for good gewürztraminer. I wish we had found more wines like our No. 1 bottle, the 2007 Brandborg, rich, floral and pink-hued with just enough residual sugar to give the wine flesh.
I’m always glad when Eric agrees with me. Try this wine yourself and see if you don’t agree with all of us. After all, you’re the judge who counts.
Heavyweight Red (Lodi, California) Regular $13.99/ Feature $11.89
When Sarah brought this wine to taste, I have to admit I was put off by the label. Actually it's labels plural, because each wine in the series comes with three different labels of...historic bare-knuckled boxers? OK, I’ll try anything, especially when Sarah says it’s worth a try. It was delicious! A rich blend of 76% Cab Sauvignon, 14% Syrah, 10% Zinfandel that reminds me of the Gnarly Head Cab that’s from the same region. It’s made by ADS, a family-run operation based in Walnut Creek, about 20 miles east of Oakland. It’s a family with a lot of winemaking history that starts when Dominic Scotto emigrates from Italy to New York in 1903. While he was working as a ship’s caulker, he made wine on the side and his sons sold it in 5 gallon jugs they carried around the streets of the Lower East Side in a wagon. This is a big, tasty red that’s sure to please...whether you like fighters on the label or not. Silver Medal 2010 West Coast Wine Competition - Gold Medal 2010 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition
ChocoNoir (Willy Wonka’s Russian River Valley Plant) Regular $15.00/ Feature $12.75
This one’s just for fun...but it’s good, clean, elegant fun. It’s a blend of a rich California Pinot Noir with creamy, dark chocolate. You can drink it on the rocks or straight up, put it in coffee or pour it over ice cream. Heck, you could bathe in it. It’s 15% alcohol and even though I’m more of a wine guy than a chocolate guy, when I tasted it I found it right yummy. A great send-off for a sweet Wine Gal.