The highlight of my day at SOMM Wines: educating guests. Whether we taste a new varietal, examine a preference for certain regions, or learn about a new culture, it's all encompassing. Wine is an expression of one's life. Past, present, and future. Wine tasting and the collection of knowledge over the years is exactly the same. Where I started in the wine industry 15 years ago and where I sit now are two very different places. One a starving novice. The other with history to share. Please enjoy reading about some of the more rare and unique wines available at SOMM Wines. Each has my guests asking, "What is this and where does it come from?"
1. Chateau Musar White, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon 2014- $69.99
Before his passing in 2015, I had the distinct pleasure to dine with the esteemed owner/winemaker Serge Hochar in Las Vegas. I could dedicate this entire blog to his quirkiness alone, but it was his laid-back approach to the wine business that converted me into a Musar follower. He spoke five languages but never with the pomp and circumstance you would expect from Decanter Magazine's FIRST "Man of the Year,"1984. Instead, he would say, "I know less and less about wine every day." He was a formidable force; even during civil war, with bombs dropping from the skies, Hochar produced and distributed his wines to worldwide fame, only missing the 1976 vintage due to a power outage.
He preached his whites drink larger than his reds. I can attest to this. I tasted as far back as the early 1970's and the tannins in these white wines about took the enamel off my teeth...in a good way. Made from the indigenous varietals Obaideh and Merwah, and aged for seven years before release, the 2014 vintage is exactly as I remember: creamy, rich, almost dripping with honey, citrus, and melon. It's bone-dry yet Sauternes-ish. I will dissect it for hours. This wine will age beautifully for decades.
2. Zidarich, Malvazija, Venezia Giulia 2016- $39.99
Orange wine lovers unite! This Malvazija from Northern Italy encompasses all that we love in a long skin-contact wine. It has body, tannin, structure, and years to age similar to the wine discussed above. Zidarich has been a pioneer in the skin game. In the cellar, he uses an old basket press and keeps the white wines in contact with their skins for a few weeks during spontaneous fermentation. Slovenian barrels round out the wines before bottling without fining or filtration. These wines are unabashedly mineral driven, complex, and laid to rest for two years before release. Notes of lemon rind, stone fruit, riverbed, and salinity gain power over the years. I suggest refraining from opening for 2-5 years after bottling.
3. Garciarevalo, "Casamaro," Verdejo, Rueda, Spain 2020- $22.99
When I hear the birds singing above our patio, I always think they are chirping "verrrrrdejo, verrrrrdejo!" I'm pretty sure that is not what is really happening, but it makes me smile none the less.
This Verdejo (varietal) from Rueda (region) in Spain tastes of stone fruit delight. Think of all the fruit flavors not usually represented in wines:
apricot, peach, mango. This patio pleaser reminds our guests that no two wines, or fruits, are alike. It finishes with cleansing acidity, thanks to the diurnal shift in temperatures in the area. The average vine age ranges from 15-145 years old and is raised in bush format. Organic, vegan, and unoaked, this wine brings back memories of that peach cobbler grandma used to make on special occasions. Enjoy this summer and beyond!
4. Vina Marty, Carmenere, Valle Central, Chile 2019
SPICY! I have been called a thing or two over the years, but I revel in the idea that personality brings flavor! Personality and work history! The owner of Vina Marty, Pascal Marty, cut his teeth in the wine business working with giants like Baron Philippe de Rothschild, and Mondavi at Opus One. After a tenor at Almaviva in Chile, he knew he had found the perfect soil to set his own roots. South America.
This wine is subtle in its strength. Soft black fruits on the forward build with notes of tea leaf and tobacco. The oak is well integrated with a hint of structure. It is both immediately pleasing and pulls you in for another taste.
Slightly spicy, but who are we kidding? That's what makes it intoxicating.
5. Couly-Dutheil," Clos de L'Olive," Chinon, France 2014- $48.99
Wine writer, educator, and superhero Jancis Robinson knows more about wine and has tasted more incredible bottles than I can ever hope to experience. When she wrote in 2020 Couly-Dutheil is the Cabernet Franc vintner of her choice... I am at attention. What separates Couly from the pack... other than it's a story of two cousins marrying to begin a winery? Late harvest. One of the ways a Chinon/Loire Valley Cabernet Franc can go wrong is the herbaciousness, green notes that can overpower the fruit and perfume of the grape. Arnaud Couly remedies this problem by picking later than any of his neighbors, sometimes as late as mid-October! The sought-after pencil shavings and ripe sweet fruit bursts from the glass followed by the slight funkiness you love about Chinon.
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