From County Lines Magazine’s September 2013 issue….
Reprinted September 2013
The Unusual Suspects
Four high-quality wines that you might but shouldn’t miss
Walk into any wine store these days and you’re faced with an unbelievable sea of wines—the result of the world-wide fascination with all things of the vine. So how do you make a sound buying decision when you’re looking for a celebratory bottle, an accompaniment to a special meal, or just a great wine to enjoy at home?
Eric Asimov, wine critic for The New York Times, has a great suggestion in his book How to Love Wine: “The single most important thing one can do if one wants good bottles with dinner is to make friends with a smart salesperson at a good wine shop. Let them help you.” I couldn’t agree more! As a salesperson with 30 years of experience who aspires to be smart about wine, I do my best to know the wines my store carries, the best values, where the deals are and what’s hot in the wine world today.
Good wine salespeople spend hours reading about and tasting wines so they can help you make better buying decisions. Of course they know what’s popular, but they also know about under-the-radar wines, or, as I like to call them, the “unusual suspects”! These are high-quality wines that might not be as recognizable as the usual suspects—such as chardonnay and cabernet—but are every bit as good. They also provide good value because they’re not as well-recognized.
In the spirit of the unusual suspects, I’ll offer four suggestions I think you’ll enjoy.
The first white wine—Benton-Lane Pinot Gris, 2011 ($16.99)—hails from the Willamette Valley in Oregon. The grape variety is pinot gris, better known as pinot grigio. But don’t confuse this wine with those thin, watery and over-cropped pinot grigios forced on you this summer.
Steve and Carol Girard run the Benton- Lane winery, named for the two counties in which their vineyards lie. The Girards owned a very successful winery in the Napa Valley but moved to the Willamette Valley to make pinot noir, which is their main focus. But I really love this pinot gris. The wine has aromas and flavors of honeysuckle, pear and white peach. It’s crisp and refreshing with lively acidity, perfect with seafood, especially shellfish and sushi, and fresh salads.
The second white wine comes from Marlborough, New Zealand—Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc, 2011 ($17.99). Marlborough took the wine world by storm 30 years ago when it began producing sauvignon blancs unlike those from anywhere else—zingy and crisp with aromas of grapefruit.
The region has many pioneering winemakers, but none more important than Kevin Judd, who managed the first 25 vintages at Marlborough’s Cloudy Bay winery. In 2009 he left to establish his own label, Greywacke. The 2011 savignon blanc represents Judd’s third vintage there, and it’s a real beauty. The wine is deliciously aromatic with intense aromas of grapefruit, lemon, and hints of minerality, followed by juicy acidity and a lingering, crisp finish. Perfect as an aperitif or with seafood.
And, Judd is one of the world’s best wine photographers. I’ve been mesmerized by his beautiful vineyard scenes. Grab a bottle of Greywacke, and enjoy it as you look at his incredible portfolio at KevinJudd.co.nz.
Grenache is a wonderful red grape that thrives in the Languedoc-Roussillon region along France’s southern coast. American wine makers Joel Gott and David Phinney collaborated to make the delicious wine, Shatter Grenache, Vin de Pays des Cotes Catalanes, 2011 ($29.99). The grapes are grown in gravelly hillside vineyards, where the vines struggle to produce a minuscule amount of very small, incredibly concentrated grapes.
This wine is purely for people who like concentration and intensity. Intense red and dark fruits marry with spice and just a touch of heat. I found the wine evolved and softened a bit a few hours after opening, although it still showed plenty of punch the next day. This is not usually my style of wine, but I was compelled to keep tasting it. And as I did, it really grew on me.
The last wine—Terrabianca Campaccio, 2008 ($28.99)—from the Tuscan hillsides of Italy, leans more toward elegance than power. It’s known as a “Super Tuscan” because its winemakers colored outside the lines, using grape varieties not traditionally grown in the region. Terrabianca created this blend of 70 percent sangiovese with 30 percent cabernet sauvignon.
I find the wine rich and elegant with berry fruits, mocha and hints of toasty oak. The moderate alcohol (13.5 percent) helps the wine pair beautifully with food. For under $30, this wine really delivers in my quality-to-price ratio!
So the next time you’re shopping for wine, ask to speak with the wine specialists and find out what they have recommend as “under the radar.” Cheers! ♦
Bob Trimble is the wine specialist at the Fine Wine & Good Spirits Premium Collection at the Pennsylvania State Store in King of Prussia. The wines he’s recommended are available throughout Chester County and the Western Main Line. To feed his 30-year passion for wine, Bob has traveled extensively through the world’s great wine regions. Career highlights include a “Best of Philly” award for Best Wine Class and conducting tastings for the Congressional Wine Caucus on Capital Hill.