We celebrate Drink Wine Day this Saturday, February 18. The origin of this seems to be National Drink Wine Day in the United States, but we're going to join our Australian friends at Travelling Corkscrew in taking this thing global. We celebrated this day last year with three wines from three very different parts of the globe, and do likewise this year with a white, red, and rosé from Australia's Strathbogie Ranges, Spain's Toro, and the state of Arizona in the American southwest. We love this lineup because we've either tried each bottle personally with the winemaker, or have visited the winery ourselves. Truly, this is a global trio that we put a lot of care into assembling.
2011 Fowles Wine "Are you game?" Sauvignon Blanc (Strathbogie Ranges, Australia)
We've loved Fowles Wine for several years, and really need to write more about their great wine. We met Matt and Luise Fowles several years ago when they shared their Ladies who Shoot their Lunch and Are you Game? wines at a small food and wine pairing dinner. A conscious desire to produce food wines -- specifically those that pair well with the likes of wild game and the fish you've caught -- drives the wine making ethos here. We've paired their Ladies Shiraz with West Virginia venison, and love their whites with all manner of seafood. They recommend drinking the Are you Game Sauvignon Blanc with trout (the state fish of West Virginia, to re-establish that coincidental connection) for a pairing we can certainly get behind.
As for the wine itself… we opened this up to a big expressive nose that throws banana and vanilla cake notes. The mouthfeel is fuller and rounder than stereotypical Sauvignon Blanc, with a little bit in the front followed by great citrus and a lemon zest quality throughout. There is, interestingly, a tiny bit of slate and petrol that reminded us more of a Riesling than a Sauv Blanc. This wine is really lively, and certainly fun to pair with fish.
2015 Arizona Stronghold Rosé (Arizona, USA)
Arizona is not a state that the passing wine drinker would likely associate with winemaking, but in fact is home to a thriving community of growers and producers of which Arizona Stronghold in the town of Cottonwood is most certainly a leader. I made the two hour drive north from Phoenix last year to find a small town so rich in its winemaking that there are three tasting rooms inside of the single block on which Stronghold sits. 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 Cottonwood home... nowhere near the vineyard itself. Further investigation reveals this to be a somewhat typical setup for Arizona winemaking where the grapes are grown quite far from the population centers. I absolutely love that 100% of their wine is produced from Arizona grapes, the first vintage of which came out in 2007. These folks are innovative blenders of different grapes and styles. Their connection with history and character of their home state is deep, meaningful, and authentic.
There's a lot happening in their 2015 Rosé. Start with the blend of French Colombard (58%), Malvasia Bianca (20%), Grenache (12%), Chenin Blanc (8%), and Malbec (6%). This isn't a blend you've had before. The wine is very dark, almost a a straight up red in the glass. Strawberry notes are pretty typical of a rose, but there is something darker, stonier fruit happening here. It's cool, but dry, overall quite an interesting bottle that I'd certainly go back to any day.
2013 Bodegas y Viñedos Maurodos Prima (Toro, Spain)
We wrote last month about the stunning San Román wines after visiting the winery in Spain's Toro region, and included the headliner San Román wine in our Top 5 February lineup. We need to bring their Prima wine to the fore because, at $20 to $25 per bottle this is a big delicious wine that vastly exceeds its price point. Prima comes from hearty vines that have penetrated the clay to reach the water table in a region that offers minimal rain, very dry summer sun, and less water in the soil. Indeed, typical soil in Toro is less nutrient rich relative to other regions, so though the overall production is less than (say) Ribera del Duero, the wine that does result is the distinctly bold yield of high quality vines. We arrived in late October, about three weeks after the end of a 2016 harvest whose wet spring followed by dry summer we expect to produce an excellent vintage.
A blend of 90% Tinta de Toro and 10% Garnacha, Prima is the cousin of the higher end San Román (indeed, "Prima" means "cousin"). Though younger and less expensive, it is equally amazing in its own class. More fruit forward with notes of cherry -- yet still a bit woody -- it is bright and expressive, like freshly cut wood rather than smoldering smoke. Though its freshness reminds us of the forest in springtime, we found Prima to be quite appealing in winter. It's a bit less bold than the San Román, but also less aggressively tannic. We first tried this in the barrel room at the winery, and enjoyed it again at home as a wonderful pair with balsamic and garlic aioli on our balsamic onion burgers. Also consider drinking with semi-sweet baking dark chocolate, which brings out incredible spice notes in this great wine.