June is a month for the birds.
At least when it comes to the Inspired Wine Club whose selections come from a new project and dear friends of mine who created Napa Valley’s Aviary Vineyards. They explain the origin of the vineyard’s bird-friendly name like this: “Like an aviary full of exotic birds that capture one beautifully united experience, we imagine our wines to be a collection of vineyards and grapes that combine so that the whole is more than the sum of its parts.”
With the modest goal of creating a perfect glass of wine that shows off its perfection no matter the vintage, the founders work with a collection of nearly a dozen vineyards and then develop wines that literally transport you… As they say, “from the first sip the wine should impress, relax your shoulders, and make you smile. Now you can start to breathe.”
2011 Aviary Cabernet Sauvignon
Augmented with 8% Merlot and 4% Petit Syrah, this Cab is a deep jewel-y garnet offering scents of berry, plum and fresh cigar box with a hint of zippy pepper. On the palate, one meets plum, currant and black tea flavors. Barrel-aged for nine months, this wine epitomizes elegance. Its lower alcohol and softer tannins define and lend structure while also offering an accessible style. A great sipper, but equally fitting with your next grilled rib eye steak!
2012 Aviary Chardonnay
Barrel aged for five months, this wine represents a notable vintage that benefited from a warmer spring that produced not only large quantity but also great quality Chardonnay. This is a rich, balanced wine that entices with its pungent nose of pear, banana, vanilla and toasted oak. Followed by orchard-fresh flavors of apricot, apple, pear and banana, this wine is not a weighted-down, overly oaky Chardonnay, but rather a bright refreshment perfect as the weather warms. Sparkling acidity complements a well-rounded viscosity, making for a wine that is quite drinkable now but also able to age. Another great sipper for out on the porch swing, but also pairs well with grilled chicken or a risotto primavera.
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.