It is that wonderful time of the year, when the snow blowers are running on high, the thermostats have to be adjusted and water pipes have to be monitored. It is also the time of the month when I got an email that I could go and pick up the January selections from the Fine Wine Source in Livonia. As I am sure you can imagine, it doesn’t take much goading to have me visit a wine shop, and because I get excited about something new, I refuse to read what the wines are, until I get them home. I mean if I were a wine shop owner and I offered monthly club selections, I would try to pick out a couple of affordable wines that deliver a bang for the buck and would introduce new areas and/or grapes that maybe people don’t immediately reach for. I mean when one goes into a wine shop, the wines that seem to have the most shelf space are Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, because the public by and large know those two grapes. I would also try to include one “Old World” and one “New World” and probably use the Judgement of Paris for that demarcation line.
The first wine out of the bag, fulfilled the “Old World” requirement and the unusual grape and region. The Agricole Vallone Versante Negroamaro Salento IGT Puglia 2015, accomplished two of the goals very handily. Here is a wine from Italy, but not from an area that would be readily identified by most of the populace, as it isn’t a villa in Tuscany, but actually an old “castle” edifice in Puglia which is in the “heel” part of Italy. The most common appellation from the area is Salento IGT, as it covers the most area and allows for the most variety and allows the wineries to do as they fancy. There are over fifty different grapes that have found themselves already allowed, and all colors and styles, but mostly traditional rustic charming wines, and the local grapes hold more dominance compared to the big names like Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. Negroamaro is a dark-skinned grape whose name if you translate it, means black and bitter, but actually the grape has a high sugar count and the grape is very drought-resistant. I think the bitter may arrive from the natural spice tastes that one encounters that remind some of the older elixirs of herbs that were prevalent in another period of history. The tasting notes are that this is a wine that does not have to be sipped, because it has milder tannins, but is robust and should be enjoyed with pastas and pizzas and even boar.
The other wine is from the “New World” and features a grape that some consider the grape of California, but research has proven that it is originally from Italy or wait maybe Croatia. The Foxglove Zinfandel 2015 from Paso Robles is actually the value label of Varner Wine. While technically a Zinfandel, this wine has twenty percent Petite Sirah. The average age of the vines used are twenty-five years and the grapes are actually destemmed prior to pressing and the wine is aged in Stainless Steel. Varner Wine is dedicated to their Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines that they produce on their estate. The Foxglove label produces Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon from the Central Coast, as well as the Zinfandel from Paso Robles to the tune of about twenty-five-thousand cases of wine. This is a classic interpretation of a California Zinfandel so it promises to be jammy and fruit forward and bold. This is a wine that will also pair well with pizzas and pastas, but also grilled and smoked meals of hearty meats. I have never tried it, but I know plenty of friends that enjoy a good Zinfandel with chocolate cake.