Thursday, June 24, 2010

Obsure CA Grapes for Adventure Seekers in New York

I have noticed a few articles recently about the so-called 'obscure' grape varietals being produced in California. The San Jose Mercury News ran a story called "On Wine: Vintners who champion obscure grape varieties" and a blog post by Steve Heimoff "Obscure varieties a hard sell" soon followed.

We are always interested in obscure (and I agree with Heimoff that we need to find an alternative word) grape varieties at the store because, well, when you are in NYC and devoting more than 95% of your shelf space to California wines it's nice to have something different to offer up to your customers every once in a while.

When these unique wines are priced right we really don't have much trouble selling them; in fact it seems that New Yorkers are craving something interesting and are willing to try just about anything (we're still talking about wine, right?!). We'd like to think
that some of that adventurous spirit is due to the fact that our customers trust us after various successful recommendations of more noted grapes such as Chardonnay, Cabernet, and Pinot Noir. Regardless, we have found success traveling down the dark and dubious road of obscure grapes. In fact, it's worth noting that last time we checked our best selling red wine was a Petite Sirah (not exactly one of the 'majors') and our best selling white a California Pinot Grigio.

So we say keep 'em coming California! Here are a few of our current favorites:

2009 Lee Family Farm Verdelho Silvaspoons Vineyard Lodi ($18.99) - Lee Family Farm wines come from the Morgan Family and this nod to the old-world varietal from Portugal is spot-on; crisp, herbaceous, and endlessly refreshing.

2008 Mahoney Vermentino Las Brisas Vineyard Carneros ($18.99) - We are big fans of the Mahoney wines and rumor has it they made this wine in homage to their cousins in Italy. We're sure the 'cugini' would be impressed with this flavorful, peachy, citrusy white that bears close resemblance to the Ligurian version.

2009 Curran Wines Camp 4 Grenache Blanc Santa Ynez Valley ($29.99). In a word, delicious! Who knew Grenache Blanc had so much to offer the palate? Pineapple, apricot, elegantly silky texture, and fresh acidity. A staff favorite for sure!

2007 Matthiasson Proprietary White Oak Knoll ($38.99) - We've been lucky enough to taste a few vintages of this stunning white wine from Steve & Jill Matthiasson. Every one of the obscure grapes in this blend complement the Sauvignon Blanc, resulting in a beautifully balanced final product (47% Sauvignon blanc, 31% Ribolla gialla, 19% Semillon, and 3% Tocai friulano.)

2007 Vinum Cellars PETS Petite Sirah Clarksburg ($15.99) - Our best selling red as mentioned previously. The bold label draws 'em in and the wine keeps 'em coming back. Super smooth and zesty with bold blueberry and boysenberry flavors.

2008 Donkey & Goat The Prospector Mourvedre El Dorado ($26.99) - Since when do you see 100% Mourvedre from California? Since Donkey & Goat's proprietors found it too good to blend into anything else in 2008. Only 56 cases of this wine are made and it's filled with bright berries, spice, and cola. A real treat!.Speaking of California Mourvedre, the 2005 Kenneth Volk Mourvedre from Lime Kiln Valley ($29.99) is also tops in our book with riper fruit and a velvety mouthfeel.

2007 Seghesio Sangiovese Alexander Valley ($28.99) -
From the oldest grower of Sangiovese in California, this hits home with the Chianti crowd -- only it's better than most -- in our humble opinion of course. Great fruit and structure and a sense of savory Italian elegance.

2001 Clendenen Family Vineyards Nebbiolo Santa Maria Valley ($38.99) - Oh, we had our doubts about California Nebbiolo. Until we tasted this gem from Jim Clendenen that truly represents the best characteristics of the great Barolos and Barbarescos including the floral notes or roses and violets, dark fruit, earth, and endless complexity. It doesn't hurt that it's less expensive and more readily drinkable than most Barolos.

We're looking forward to bringing in some more obscure stuff, most notably the Massican Wines. Massican fought to have the TTB recognize Ribolla gialla in California and their white blends will have you thanking them for that. In the meantime, be adventurous. Step outside of that Chardonnay box every now and again. You won't be disappointed. Cheers!

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