Each month we educate and diversify your palate with a lineup of different wines. We want to expose you to new things. With bottles this month from Washington, Arizona, and Massachusetts, we quite nearly made it to all four corners of the United States. Alas, we didn't try anything from... Florida? (Florida wine is a thing, by the way, but not a thing that we're really familiar with.) September's lineup is nicely balanced with two whites, two reds, and a bottle of rum for dessert. Enjoy!
2014 Grace Lane Riesling (Yakima Valley, Washington)
Why we chose it: We called this wine "Centurion Riesling" in our notes because I tasted it in the American Express Centurion Lounge at the Dallas / Fort Worth International Airport (DFW), which we reviewed in last week's Is the AMEX Centurion Lounge worth it? At Dallas - Fort Worth, resoundingly yes! The Grace Lane Riesling makes our list because we were so happy to find such a pleasant wine on the complimentary bar menu at an airport lounge. It was something we might have ordered ourselves if the food pairing was right. Moderately gold in color, the nose is cool, refreshing, almost sprightly with touches of tropical fruit. The palate offered a nice sweet balance that worked nicely with the southwestern food being served up that evening. It was zesty in the mouth, with notes of pineapple and peach.
What to look for: We figure this bottle retails in the $12(ish) range, which would make it a good contender for a house white. Washington State is an excellent source of well done Rieslings that avoid the sugary sweet trap of their cousins from elsewhere in the world, yet are less austere and thus more approachable than much of what you find in Germany. Try experimenting with Washington Rieslings in this price range to see what works for you.
2013 The Prisoner Wine Company "Blindfold" (California)
Why we chose it: Blindfold is one of our perennial favorites. Meghan and I drank it on our anniversary, having kept it in a wooden box given to us by Kathleen (of How to Get a Second Date with Kathleen fame). From the same folks who bring you creepily-labeled "The Prisoner" red wine each fall, Blindfold pours from a bottle featuring an equally creepy label. But it's so delicious! The nose manages to be woody, grassy, and floral (a really odd trio), and I picked up some buttered popcorn notes (though Meghan did not). It's extremely creamy and oaky, slightly grassy in the finish. The creaminess of the wine made this a beautiful pairing with the sharpness of the Manchego Cheese we drank it with, accompanied by Pan Catalana, of course. This white blend is interesting in that its component grape varietals are sourced from various vineyards in California, so we can't ascribe a single appellation (geographic source) to it.
What to look for: There is no substitute, but we've seen Blindfold in shops all over the country. Happy hunting!
2015 Arizona Stronghold Vineyards Grenache (Cochise County, Arizona)
Why we chose it: WTF traveled to Arizona in search of this one, who together with others from the Arizona Stronghold Vineyards lineup will feature in its own post in the nearish future. The grapes are actually grown in Cochise County, in the far southeast corner of the state along its border with New Mexico to the east and Mexico to the south, but the winery and tasting room call the town of Cottonwood home (about two hours north of Phoenix... so nowhere near the vineyard itself). Further investigation reveals this to be a somewhat typical setup for Arizona winemaking. In any case, the Grenache is a very light color in the glass, but offered up a killer nose. The hotter climate has produced a higher alcohol content that, at 14.9 ABV, makes this thing a real zinger. Stronghold produced but three barrels of the 2015 vintage, which is overall a hot, fun red with delightful bright cherries. It almost felt like a high octane Burgundy!
What to look for: Again, it's so unique that we'd be hard pressed to recommend alternatives. Sadly, Arizona Stronghold is holding all online orders at the moment because they don't want to risk shipping their wine through the frightfully hot temperatures of the Arizona desert. Check back, though, and order in to try at home.
2007 Anakota Cabernet Sauvignon Helena Montana Vineyard (Sonoma County, California)
Why we chose it: We've been on quite a streak recently, finding an evening each of the last three months to visit our friends at the Chimichurri Grill in midtown Manhattan, and sharing a bottle of big bold read each time. This month's entry entry is the Anakota Cabernet Sauvignon and its woody yet supple nose laced with beautiful cedar notes. Candlelight shines beautifully through this wine, refracting from the other end of the glass in striking translucent red. It's lighter bodied, with some cranberry notes reminiscent of a Pinot Noir. There's even a little sweetness at the end, sweet dark cherry we'd say, balanced out by a hint of smokiness. We, of course, drank with a steak.
What to look for: Anakota occupies the rather voluminous territory of compellingly good California Cabs in the $60 - $100 retail range. Give it a look if you're playing at this level on special occasions, and don't ever hesitate to explore all the segment has to offer while bookmarking your favorites in your mind to come back to later.
South Hollow Spirits Twenty Boat Amber Rum (Cape Cod, Massachusetts)
Why we chose it: It's a bit of a bonus bottle this month, a dessert spirit you might say, but we couldn't not mention the lovely Twenty Boat Spiced Rum that we reviewed with its brothers in our recent post Distilling exceptional craft Rum and Gin at South Hollow Spirits in North Truro, Cape Cod, MA. Here's what we said there:
Unique both because it is the only of the three spirits that ages in wood barrels and because it is the only one that does not steep with a blend of spices or botanicals, the Twenty Boat Amber Rum looks like a desert wine in the glass thanks to the pale amber coloring that the barrel imparts. Many will be tempted to make a cocktail here, but this one is meant equally to be sipped on its own. It's reminiscent in large part of a whisky, though distinguished by flavors of molasses, maple, honey, and hickory syrup. We'd sit and drink it neat, though would also be tempted to try it as a Manhattan.
What to look for: As small batch distilling grows and gets more creative, look for these artfully crafted rums to enter into a market hitherto dominated by the likes of bourbon. We hope you'll vote with your purchase when you find these, because they'll surely add more wonderful texture to the tapestry of American distilling (and winemaking, and brewing, etc).