DEAN'S LIST: March 2019
When you’ve got a title like Dean of Drinking, there are certain expectations that come along with it. One such expectation -- and one that’s overdue, if I’m honest -- is a Dean’s List of some sort, and I’m happy to say that we’re kicking that off with this first edition!
The Dean’s List is designed to be a space where I highlight some of my favorite wines that I’ve come across each month, offering you a little window into what I’m tasting, where I’m tasting it, and why I think it deserves some attention. The wines run the gamut in terms of style, price, and provenance, and I hope the Dean’s List will inspire you to embrace curiosity as you explore the vast world of wine with me. With that said, let’s take a peek at which wines made the grade in this past month!
Parés Baltà Indigena Garnatxa Tinto 2016 Penedés, Spain
You know that feeling you get when reconnecting with an old friend? That’s what it was like tasting this wine again last week for the first time in several months. This 100% Garnatxa (Grenache, if you’re nasty…or in France) from the Penedès region in northern Spain is one of the real gems in the Dreadnought Wines portfolio. Parés Baltà makes good wines across the board, and although their Cavas (rightfully) get most of the attention, this red is consistently excellent. It’s a wine I think of as a ‘tweener’ that can appeal to a lot of people; the tannins are approachable and the wine is fruit-forward enough to please fans of lighter red wines like Pinot noir, but it’s also got a meaty, savory quality that will likely resonate with fans of bolder reds like Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. Think wild raspberry, dark cherry, plum, pepper, smoked meat, dried herbs, and purple flowers all wrapped up in one delightful mouthful. Pair this with succulent grilled meats and veggies for best results.
$20.53 at Dreadnought Wines
Camino Africana Old Vine Single Vineyard Chenin Blanc 2016 Stellenbosch, South Africa
The Chicago Bears finally made their return to the playoffs, and that was cause for celebration – and anxiety, of course. To calm my nerves, I took a peek in my cellar and grabbed this bottle that I’d picked up over Christmas while doing my shopping in Chicago. My friends know that I will bring a wine suitcase with me many times when I travel, and each trip to Chicago comes with an obligatory stop at Binny’s to find wines that I can’t easily obtain here in Pittsburgh – including this beauty of a wine from David Finlayson. Chenin is my favorite white grape, and an expression like this demonstrates exactly why I adore it: mouth-filling full body with a slightly oily, waxy texture; notes of juicy pineapple, honey, brown spice, orange blossom, and yellow apple; carefully integrated oak; and enough acidity to keep this nimble on the palate. The vines for this Chenin were planted in 1947 & 1961 in Stellenbosch, South Africa, on the Kaapzicht farm, and this wine gives you the kind of flavor depth and concentration that only old vines can bring. Quantities of this wine are tiny, but you should do yourself a favor and seek this out. Perhaps you can even enjoy it with a Thai red or pineapple curry.
Periodic availability via PLCB
Francesco Boschis Vigna dei Prey Dolcetto di Dogliani 2014 Piedmont, Italy
Dolcetto is, along with Barbera, typically thought of as something to drink while you wait for your Barolos and Barbarescos to mature. Those other Piemontese wines often get the spotlight, but this Dolcetto deserves more thoughtful consideration than most. It’s got everything we like about Dolcettos in the way of juicy black fruits and moderate acidity levels, but the tannins in this wine are even more pronounced than you’d expect. It’s also got a decidedly herbaceous note to it to accompany the ripe, sweet fruits, which gives a welcome added complexity to the wine. Dolcettos are generally employed in casual circumstances with something like charcuterie or a pizza, but this particular bottle can stand up to more weighty table companions, too. It looks like wine.com, as of writing, is out of the 2014, but the 2015 is available in Pennsylvania.
$22.99 at wine.com
Gueneau Les Griottes Sancerre 2017 Loire, France
Sauvignon blanc is immensely popular with wine drinkers, but it seems that New Zealand has stolen a little bit of the spotlight from France these days. While I can certainly appreciate the tropical fruit flavors and bombastic aromas that come from places like Marlborough, I recently re-tasted this Sauvignon blanc from Sancerre in the Loire Valley during a fundraiser we held for PERSAD Center and was reminded of its brilliance. You still get some of the classic herbaceous, grassy notes that Sauvignon blanc can provide, but the minerality of this wine is front and center. It’s refreshing like a cold stream running over smooth stones, and it’s like you can taste that very scene with every sip – while adding in notes of grapefruit, lime, and elderflower. A marvelous bottling by a small Sancerre producer who also does a smashing job with her Pinot noir and rose!
$30.59 at Dreadnought Wines