While it isn’t a safe bet that all “pinot” wines are great wines, one can certainly extoll the virtues of well-made Pinot Noir and its mutant clone offspring Pinot Grigio. Since the movie Sideways, Pinot Noir really hasn’t been quite the same, with so many of us yearning for its complexities and more rarified nuances. Pinot Grigio, too, has enjoyed a continuing surge in popularity, demonstrating an expansive range in flavor dependent on where it is grown. Despite its Italian name, Pinot Grigio’s viticultural history lies in Burgundy just like Pinot Noir where it was known as Pinot Gris. These days New World winemakers embrace both varietals like long-lost friends, coaxing new attributes that indeed give a new twist to these old-world wines. What wonderful wines to experience as we face spring head-on with thoughts of summer’s heat looming around the corner.
Banshee 2011 Pinot Noir, Sonoma County
Described as a Pinot Noir that “speaks to our Burgundian sensibilities,” this vintage of Banshee’s comes from a cooler-than-usual vintage in Sonoma for 2011. A wine that benefits from decanting or aerating, it presents as a lovely ruby elixir with a noticeable cherry influence even on the nose. The palate finds a jammy mix of sweet and tangy cherries mixed with strawberry, rosehips and plum. Silty tannins introduce a depth that enriches the wine throughout an evening of sipping. This is an accessible, yet rich and powerful wine that will only improve with aging. Pair it with some garlicky rosemary chicken fresh off the grill or Portobello mushrooms stuffed Italian herbs ands sausage.
Charles Smith 2011 ‘Vino’ Pinot Grigio, Columbia Valley, Washington
Known for his flamboyant winemaking style, Charles Smith continues his reputation with this bold Pinot Grigio. This is not your typical Washington state white wine. It evokes cut summer grass and brings forth clear flavors of nectarine, honeysuckle, summer melons, and white anise with keen mineral undertones. Its acidity adds enjoyable complexity as well. This is a crisp, refreshing wine whose minerality will help it stand up to the summer heat. The perfect brunch or appetizer wine, it pairs perfectly with a cooling salmon mousse, a zippy shrimp diavolo or a citrusy grilled chicken Caesar salad.
It includes the official start of spring, but the weather rarely feels like spring has sprung despite new birds chirping, the daffodils and crocus dotting our lawns and the calendar saying that winter should be over. We hunch over on cold, windy, sleety days, wondering when the sun will shine and warm us again. It’s a tough adjustment as we’re eager to put away the rich wool sweaters and bring on the sandals and short sleeves.
Fortunately, Hinsdale Wine Cellars and its Inspired Wine Club will help ease you into the real essence of spring this month. A meaty Argentine red and an engaging Spanish rosé are just the things to help you say, “Adios” Winter and “Bienvenida” Spring.
Luca 2010 ‘Laborde Double Select’ Syrah, Mendoza
This 100% Syrah is a lavish, dark purple wine that emanates the ripe earthy scent of a spring forest trail thawing from a winter’s freeze. The brainchild of Laura Catena (who Sean met on his wine trip to Argentina in 2009), this wine was the beginning of an artisanal movement in Mendoza. It is a lush, juicy wine made from Rhone-originated, 80+ year-old Syrah vines and is reminiscent of cigars, leather and smoked meat. Look for blackberry jamminess with hints of tea, black pepper and maybe rhubarb with a nice long finish. This is the perfect wine for your first grilled steak of the season or to ward off the final winter chills alongside a well-seasoned rabbit and chanterelle mushroom stew.
Alpha Zeta 2011 Rosato of Corvina
Rosé is the perfect sipper as the weather warms up, and this 100% Corvina wine has a refreshing fruitiness and acidity typically associated with this varietal. Unpretentious and accessible, it is a wonderfully dry, zesty wine that begins with a nose of ripe red fruits. It finds balance with a delicate structure and a vibrant finish. Like its Provencal counterparts, it pairs marvelously with a lamb-infused couscous Royale, but it is equally showcased with seared Yellowfin Tuna or even a handful of ripe olives.
Ah, February. If you weren’t such a short month, you would make winter feel like an eternity. Sure, the mornings provide earlier pinkish tinges from the rising sun and our commutes home are not as dark as just a few weeks ago. Yet, the days still have that dark cast, accompanied by chilly winds, snow and ice. Clearly the only cure for this time of year is sunshine. We could hop a plane to Miami, California or even go all the way to the southern hemisphere, but sometimes one just doesn’t have the time for all that travel. So, this month, Hinsdale Wine Cellars offers its wine club members inspiration and sunshine in a bottle. This month’s featured wines hail from Argentina, where its hot and heady sunshine produces amazingly flavorful wines and grapes. One sip of these wines, and you will be transported to the pampas. Astride your faithful steed, you can head to a smoky parilla grill for skirt steak with parsley-rich chimichurri sauce and of course, a robust red wine that can help melt away those winter blues.
2009 Lamadrid Cabernet Sauvignon, Agrelo, Mendoza, Argentina
Much like the sun-aged leather of a gaucho’s saddle, this wine is dark and rich with layers of aroma and flavor that build its depth and complexity. Like all Lamadrid wines, it comes from grapes that are sustainably farmed and hand harvested from 37-year old vines. According to Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate, which awarded the wine 90 points, the aromas evoke “Asian spices, incense, cassis, tobacco and violets.” Its smokiness lends to that spicy feel, making this robust wine also a luscious, smooth one with balanced tannins and a velvety finish. It is utterly quaffable on its own or marries perfectly with a Valentine’s Day pepper-crusted filet mignon.
2009 Lamadrid Bonarda, Agrelo, Mendoza, Argentina
To describe this Bonarda as merely “fruit forward” and “jammy” short-sells the depth that make this accessible wine such a satisfying one. Also awarded 90 points by Wine Advocate, it was described having a “nose of underbrush, mineral, plum, mulberry, and violets.” Allow this wine to breathe and one fully exposes its layers of flavor. It is an elegant, yet robust wine with a long finishNot unlike its rustic origins, it carries hints of earthiness, but with delicate acidity and tannins. It is as sophisticated a partner to a platter of soft cheeses as it is to a rosemary-infused veal roast.