Let’s discuss a grape this week whose wines are great for hearty, winter weather menus. Today it’s being grown around the world, so there’s a wide range of options for prices and styles…….
Rosa update…..Rosa di Rosa, the lightly sweet, semi-sparkling red wine that we found on our trips to Italy, arrived last week, along with its sister wine, Rosa di Bianca. This is the fourth 700-case container that we’ve brought over from Italy in the past 13 months—and we’ve run out three times during that period! “Grazie” to you Italy travelers that got me back into the wine business. A few cases of dry Sparkling Malvasia and dry Sparkling Chardonnay, under the Quattro Valli label (“Four Valleys” in English), are here already–same price as Rosa.
Try a new wine this week!
You may have tasted malbec even if you’ve never heard the name before. A small amount of its red wine is sometimes blended into France’s famous Bordeaux. Like the other red Bordeaux grapes (cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc and petit verdot), malbec can be used in the popular California blends labeled meritage.
Malbec typically is deep in color and hearty in flavor. Two places where malbec plays the starring role are 1) in the steeply-pitched vineyards surrounding the medieval village of Cahors in southwestern France, and 2) in Argentina, where it found a home in the shadow of the Andes Mountains around the town of Mendoza. The dry weather conditions in each place contribute to concentrated flavors and deep color (making it a perfect accompaniment to Argentina’s famous grass-fed beef).
Now Malbec is being grown around the world. In Washington State’s Columbia Valley, and its tributaries like the Yakima, the arid climate is very similar to that of Mendoza. The Argentine vineyards are irrigated from melting snows, and the Washington vineyards are irrigated from the rivers. There’s never an untimely rain in either place, so there’s less variation from one vintage to the next.
Ron Bunnell, a former head winemaker for Chateau Ste. Michelle, makes has released a malbec under his RiverAerie label (a riveraerie is an eagle’s nest). It has the depth and concentration that make malbec so good with beef and hearty winter menus, but in a fruit-centered New World style that doesn’t have the earthiness found in wines from some of that grape’s other homes.
It retails for around $20 per bottle.