Dean's List: April 2019
As could be expected, I’ve tasted through quite a few wines this past month – and I think I’ve been pretty lucky in that I’ve found far more diamonds than cubic zirconias. Although not every wine made the grade this time around, here are a few that shined more brightly than the rest:
Out of the Park Sparkling Shiraz
$17.43 at Dreadnought Wines
What’s a little shine without some sparkle to accompany? It’s rare that I open a bottle in a classroom or with friends and everyone has something positive to say about it, but this is one of those wines each and every time. There’s a little bit of a novelty factor since not everyone has had a sparkling red wine and, frankly, many people don’t even know they exist. And that, my friends, is a bit of a shame, especially when examples like this are out there. This fresh and fun fizz is chock full of purple and black fruits, spices like clove and nutmeg, and a hint of soft tannin to keep things structured. This is an enjoyable sip on its own, but match this with grilled meats for a novel twist on your BBQ pairings.
Domaine de la Bégude Bandol Rouge
$39.58 ad Dreadnought Wines
Boy, is this a treat. Bandol isn’t the first French wine region that probably comes to mind for most, but it’s generally known for its meaty, brooding, and sometimes chewy reds and its weighty, full-throated rosés made from the Mourvèdre grape. This wine, which is also dominated by the Mourvèdre grape (with 10% Grenache blended in), definitely delivers a savory, meaty note along with earth and dark fruits on the nose, but where it distinguishes itself from other Bandol reds is on the palate, which sees a real freshness and levity due to the higher-altitude vineyards that supply the fruit for this wine. It probably doesn’t hurt that the Tari family who makes this wine made a name for themselves at Bordeaux’s Château Giscours, a third growth situated in Margaux. Their expertise and finesse are masterfully showcased by this world-class red, so if you’re a fan of bolder reds that won’t fatigue the palate, this wine’s for you.
$46.43 at Dreadnought Wines
An excellent Pinot noir has the uncanny ability to more or less put you under its spell, and I am so, so thrilled that this one is now available to you all here in Pennsylvania. Kevin Grant, the winemaker, established a name for himself at the world-famous Hamilton Russell Vineyards cellar located just down the road from his current (breathtaking) digs in the Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge of South Africa’s Cape South Coast (you can whale watch from the shore during part of the year). New World Pinots can often feel a little too fruit-forward for my taste, but this wine does an excellent job channeling the more primal and savory side of the grape. Don’t get me wrong – there’s still fruit here in the form of cherry pit, plum, and blood orange rind – but it’s the elements of singed cinnamon sticks, campfire ash, black tea, and cured meat that really elevate this wine to a whole ‘nother level. It’s impossible to resist constantly swirling this wine in the glass to uncover more of its charms as it opens up and reveals all of its intriguing (and downright delicious) layers. This is a wine for contemplation, conversation, and captivation – especially if you happen to enjoy it with duck breast or a warmly-spiced lamb curry.
Henschke Innes Vineyard Pinot Gris
$37.99 + tax via PLCB (073299)
This is a wine I came across during a blind tasting, and I fell in love with this symphony of smoky spiced pears, white pepper, flowers, and honey. The wine can seem a little bit austere at first – not a bad thing, in my book – but it really opens up with some time in the glass to deliver what you’d expect and want out of a Pinot gris. The wine doesn’t see any oak treatment, so there’s a crisp and focused edge to this wine thanks to its upbringing in steel tanks and vines planted at around 1,300 feet in elevation. I’ve noticed that their Julius Riesling from the Eden Valley also speaks with a very sharp, stoic tone, so I’m beginning to think Henschke whites across the board might be speaking a language I like. Pair with roast pork tenderloin or shellfish and you just might be singing Henschke’s praises, too.