Three Cheers for the Red, White & Blue
As you know, Chef Yvonne and I are an international couple, she from London, UK and I from Chicago, USA. We’re even bi-lingual, speaking both English and American. So it makes sense that when the commemoration of America’s independence from Britain rolls around, we celebrate “English/American Friendship Week” by displaying both the Stars & Stripes and the Union Jack. No, that amalgam of red, white and blue stripes you see in the window is not the Confederate Battle Flag that has been so much in the news, though we once had a person come into the store and warn that “they’ll burn the place down” when he saw it. The Union Jack is a combination of the English cross of St. George (the red cross on white background), the Scottish cross of St. Andrew (the white “X” on blue background), and the Irish cross of St. Patrick (the red “X” on white background). To us, the two flags are a symbol of our personal union, as well as the great friendship that now exists between former “enemies.” All is forgiven, though we are still “divided by a common language.”
And ever since we have been in the food business, we have have also used this Independence Day holiday to cheer for the red wine, white wine and blue cheese. I hope you’ll join us. We’ll be tasting “All-American Wines” (and Featuring Great Hill Blue cheese from Buzzard’s Bay, Massachusetts - the cradle of the Revolution) Friday from 3:00 until 7:00. And we’ll be open Saturday, July 4 at 10:00, closing early at 3:00. Hurrah!
James the Wine Guy
Chef Yvonne’s Birthday Party
And don’t forget that next weekend is Chef Yvonne’s Birthday Party. Join us Friday evening from 4 until 7, and bring some snacks to share with your fellow wine tasters. Yvonne has already given me a list of her Favorites (they might be yours, as well) that we’ll be tasting at the revel. Let us know if you’ll be there and what you’re planning to bring.
New Beers (red, white...and hops)
Rogue American Amber (Ashland, OR)
5.3% ABV “A perfect embodiment of an American Amber Ale.” - World Beer Championship Judges Beer Advocate – 90 Pts
Natty Greene’s Freedom IPA (Greensboro, NC)
6.5% ABV Big and bold…it’s all about the hops.
Dogfish Head Namaste (Milton, DE)
4.8% ABV Made with dried organic orange slices, fresh-cut lemongrass & a bit of coriander, this Belgian-style white beer is a great thirst quencher.
Gruet Brut (Albuquerque, NM) Regular Price $22.50/ Feature Price $19.12
If you know your history, you know we couldn’t have escaped from British rule without the help of our much bigger friend (and Britain’s enemy) from across the pond - France. What you may not know is that while our ambassadors Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson were in France to secure aid, they also discovered the joys of French wine. Here the Gruet family of Champagne, France have brought that French winemaking to the American Southwest. They brought the equipment from home for making sparkling wine in the bottle by the methode Champenoise. And they grow the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir that go into this dry bubbly blend in their vineyards at 4,000’ altitude above the New Mexico desert. A great toast to our French supporters.
Shelton Bin 17 Unoaked Chardonnay (Yadkin Valley, North Carolina) Everyday Price $13.15
Shelton was the first NC winery we carried. That was more than 10 years ago when we and they were just starting out. Every six weeks or so we trucked out to the Yadkin Valley to meet producers, taste wine, and load the old Dodge Caravan with cases for the Belhaven store. It’s been a long time since we made that trip. Some of the producers we liked, like West Bend, are now out of business. Others, like Rag Apple Lassie, do a much better job of selling directly from their winery than producing for distribution. So for the past couple of years we’ve been satisfied with carrying some Shelton wines that are distributed by our friends at Tryon at a price that allows us to offer them to you reasonably. This unoaked Chard is the most popular of that selection. I’ve also restocked Shelton’s Estate (oaked) Chard, Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc. North Carolina winemaking is making a big name for itself, and though we only carry a few NC wines in the store, we always recommend you plan a wine tour and see what’s going on. You can get all the info you need at ncwine.org.
Pine Ridge Chenin Viognier (Clarksburg/Lodi, California) Regular Price $20.00/ Feature Price $17.00
Most of the wine grapes grown in America came from France, and Chenin Blanc and Viognier are a couple of the treats. As winemaker Michael Beaulac points out on his website, in France Chenin Blanc and Viognier are grown on opposite sides of the country and are never blended. In California, no surprise, they take a more adventurous approach. The Chenin Blanc for this blend is grown in Clarksburg, in the Sacramento River Delta, where the grapes experience hot days and cool nights like they do in their original Loire Valley home. This terroir helps them develop lush, ripe flavors. The Viognier is grown in Lodi on soil that contains large stones like those found in the Rhone Valley, the French home of that grape. Then they are perfectly blended to yield a white wine that has good fruit plus a bright and crisp minerality.
King Estate Acrobat Rosé of Pinot Noir (Oregon) Regular Price $16.95/ Feature Price $14.41
Oregon’s King Estate is a dominant player in Pacific Northwest winemaking. Besides having the largest certified organic vineyards in the world, they have also branched out to make Acrobat wines with grapes purchased from their Oregon neighbors, and North by Northwest (NxNW) wines from grapes grown in eastern Washington. This is the first rosé of Pinot Noir we’ve carried and it remains a customer favorite. Drink it on its own or pair it with grilled seafood or chicken. It’s hard to beat.
NEW King Estate NxNW Red Blend (Horse Heaven Hills, Walla Walla Valley, Washington) Regular Price $18.75/ Feature Price $15.94
North by Northwest (NxNW) wines are made by King Estate from inland grape growing appellations of the Columbia River Basin of Oregon and Washington. King’s winemakers have developed strong, creative relationships with growers and fellow winemakers along the Columbia River and throughout the northwest viticultural region, leading to this innovative project. This is the second vintage of this red blend of Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc. I declined to carry the first try, as it was thin and unremarkable. Well, second time’s a charm, thanks to King Estate’s long experience and a vintage that was a perfect expression of eastern Washington’s growing conditions - a late spring and cool early summer, followed by warm and dry conditions through mid-October, allowing the grapes to ripen to perfection. This wine is perfect for drinking on its own, and its moderate 13.5% alcohol and juicy tannins make it a wonderful partner for something from the summertime grill. Wine Enthusiast - 90 Points “Best Buy”
NEW Marietta Old Vine Red Lot 62 (California) Regular Price $18.75/ Feature Price $15.94
I think Zinfandel is the quintessential California red, and I’ve always liked this non-vintage Zin-dominant blend from Marietta Cellars. Each blend, which can contain wines from various vintages and vineyards, is given a “Lot” number. The first one we offered was Lot 47...almost ten years ago. This is a proprietary blend of Zinfandel, Carignane, Petite Sirah, Syrah, and a few other varietals grown on Marietta’s properties in Sonoma and Mendocino Counties. San Francisco Chronicle writer Jon Bonné captures the appeal in his 2013 book, The New California Wine: "It's immediately evident how much Old Vine Red trumps mass-market competitors that cost only a couple bucks less. It tastes like classic old-fashioned California table red, robust in that Zinfandel way, but a far cry from the generic and sugary confections against which it competes." And Robert Parker of The Wine Advocate chimes in with: “One of the finest value-priced wines in the United States.” Come in and see for yourself.
NEW 2012 Milbrandt Traditions Merlot (Columbia Valley, Washington) Regular Price $21.30/ Feature Price $18.10
In 1997, brothers Butch and Jerry Milbrandt planted their first vines in the Eastern Washington AVAs (American Viticultural Areas) of the Columbia Valley and Wahluke Slope. This would have been a huge leap of faith for anyone else, as the area is a remote, windswept high desert dotted with sagebrush and tumbleweeds. But the Milbrandt family had been farming the area since the 1950’s, and they believed the area’s low rainfall, moderate temperatures and sandy soil were an excellent terroir for wine grapes. This blend of 89% Merlot, 8% Malbec, and 3% Petit Verdot is a lot like the much-missed Charles Smith Velvet Devil Merlot that’s made in the same region. It’s round, rich and complex, with just the right notes of French and American oak barrel aging.
Tobin James Notorious Cab (Paso Robles, California) Regular Price $27.50/ Feature Price $23.38
Finally, a wine that has become an “old favorite” for our annual All-American wines roundup. Tobin (Toby) James’ story is typically American. He
grew up on a vineyard in Indiana, worked in a wine shop in Cincinnati and knew at the age of 18 that he would own a winery. He apprenticed at the Estrella River Winery (Napa), eventually being hired on full time and becoming their cellar master. From there, he headed to Eberle Winery (Paso Robles) to eventually make their wines with Gary Eberle. When Peachy Canyon started, the owner needed a winemaker. A deal was struck so that Toby would become the founding winemaker and also have the opportunity to continue making Tobin James Cellars' wine at the same facility. The very first wine Toby made (the 1985 "Blue Moon" Zin) won a spot on the coveted "top 100" wines of the year with the Wine Spectator.
The thing I like best about Tobin James wines is that they are all a single varietal (“Made in the Shade” Merlot, “Ballistic” Zin), from ripe Paso grapes that are heavily extracted to bring out the deep, rich taste of the fruit. It’s an American style that’s meant to be enjoyed with a slab of meat from the grill and the sound of the kids playing in the pool to the tune of Springsteen’s “Born in the USA.” Add a night of fireworks and...is this a great country, or what?