I recently read an article making a case for why you should not be afraid of ordering wines made with grapes that you may have not heard of, or produced in countries that aren’t considered “mainstream” for wine. With over 10,000 varieties of grapes, and wine production in almost every country, chances are there are some gems out there that you’ve never heard of, let alone had an opportunity to try. When you’re at a restaurant or just walking through the aisles of your favorite liquor store, roll the dice once in a while and grab a bottle of something new to you!

Recently, I had an absolute gem from Croatia named “Little Blue” after the grape’s appearance. Interestingly, Croatia is an expert in wine making. Wine production has been attributed to the ancient Greek settlers, arriving on the Croatian coast in the 5th century BC. In other words, Croatians have been making juice a lot longer than we have in the states.

“Little Blue”, 2014 by Zlatan Otok Vineyards from Dalmatia, Croatia which is on the islands and the Dalmatian coast, local grape varying microclimates, and the rather harsh nature of the vineyards, leads to some highly individual wines and some of Croatia's best known. Little Blue is made with 100% Plavac Mali (Plah-vatz mah-lee) which is a cross between Crljenak Kaštelanski (Zinfandel) & Dobričić grapes – indigenous to Croatia.

This charming and super affordable wine has notes of black raspberry, tobacco, white pepper, smoke, dried fruit, and a hint of prune. Little Blue is a fun light-hearted wine which will be my 2017 #SummerJam for sure! Retailing for around $13, you can try something new for a bargain!

Sláinte! TCW
I recently conducted a private wine tasting which allowed me to meet some really cool people, eat a fair helping of charcuterie, and share some delicious bottles of wine with them.  The evening was fantastic and after some discussion about Pinot Noir with my new friend, Kristin, she gifted me a super cool bottle which I’ve not had – shocking, I know. I could not wait to open this.

Mueller Pinot Noir“Emily’s Cuvee”, 2013 is a stunning expression of what Russian River Valley can do with Pinot Noir. Named “Emily” because the fruit arrived the same day their daughter, Emily, was born in 1994 (their first vintage). Wine Spectator rated it 90 points but I’d give it a bit more. I was lucky to have experienced this as only 434 cases were made.  This had supple aromas of bing cherry, black cherry, orange marmalade (which was totally cool!), vanilla extract, and some earthiness. The flavors were complex with cherries, blueberries, and strawberries. Oak had some presence, as if you knew it is there, hanging out, but it was not overbearing at all. This Pinot had a TON going on and evolved wonderfully over time in the glass.

I really appreciate and enjoy the fact that I get to work in the wine industry. Not only is it my passion, but it provides an opportunity to learn something new each day. Even more than that, I LOVE the fact that I get to meet people and gain new experiences. Wine is delicious on its own, but it is even more delectable and often more memorable when shared with friends.

Sláinte! TCW 
Dave Phinney, a visionary winemaker, was having a conversation with a friend at an airport in France in 2010. He was talking about how interesting and fun it would be to make wine without the strict regional regulations that France has.  As he was parting ways with his friend he noticed that iconic black and white “F” sticker on the bumper of a taxi cab and then he had an epiphany. What if he made wines from all over the world that pays homage to the country, while being creative with blending and/or how it’s done? “LocationsWine” was soon born.
Dave Phinney developed a team of some of the best people and years later developed many different regional wines that are not only affordable but delicious! Tasting through Locations is a fun way to explore regions from around the world.
I’ve had several of these wines but recently opened up 3 of them which reminded me why I love them so much!
F5 – French Rosé Wine: Sourced from the south of France and is 100% Grenache. The wine opened up with aromas of floral notes, stone fruit, and sour cherry. Upon tasting there is this alluring creaminess about it with notes of peaches, cantaloupe, watermelon and some balanced minerality.  It was light and refreshing and perfect for the day I was tasting it on.
Additionally, I enjoyed their “I – Italian Red Wine”, and “P4 – Portuguese Red Wine”, both of which were interesting blends and tasty.

So if you don’t have your passport ready for your trip around the world just yet, have some fun with these location wines that Dave has elegantly put together for around $20 a bottle. 
Sláinte! TCW
St. Patrick’s Day is quickly approaching and being an “Irish Wino” beer isn’t my drink of choice. So what do I generally pair with the typical corned beef and cabbage? Beaujolais. Of course I generally like to step it up a notch so nothing less than a Cru Beaujolais will do.
There are 10 areas of Cru Beaujolais (Burgundy, France) and one of my long time favorites is Fleurie. Fleurie is fairly central and the elegance and seduction that comes through in the wine from this area is remarkable.

One of my favorite Cru Beaujolais from Fleurie is Domaine Lucien Lardy “Les Roches” (the one I am enjoying right now is a 2014). It was named after the pink granite rocks showing on the sandy soil of the Fleurie appellation. This racy little wine has gorgeous aromas of ripe raspberries and blackberries with flavors of strawberry fields forever, and a hint of cherry followed by a fleshy and juicy body with soft tannins. If the aromas don’t seduce you enough, the finish will, lasting for a long time. You could drink this through 2019 and since it retails for around $20, it’s an affordable luxury.

Cru Beaujolais from Fleurie is often served on the cooler side. It pairs well with red meat, poultry, grilled salmon, soft cheeses, and one of my personal favorites…a well-stocked charcuterie board! In honor of St. Patty’s Day, try a bottle with your corned beef and cabbage and enjoy the month dedicated to shamrocks and shenanigans! 

Sláinte! TCW
Typically people gravitate toward American, French, Italian and Spanish wines when selecting their grape of choice. Those wines are everywhere and of course, there is so much to love about them. Portuguese wine, on the other hand, is not a natural “go-to” wine for most. Some would guess it is because the grapes are difficult to pronounce or identify and there is not that much of a selection at your local retail wine shop. There is, however, a huge value found in Portugal wines. What makes them unique is that although you can get value with wines from other countries, it’s usually because those bottles are from select areas within those countries verses Portugal wines where the value is fairly consistent throughout the country. I’ve opened a couple of bottles recently that really reminded me of this fact.

Aveleda Follies, 2013 from D.O. Bairrada (SRP $11): This is a blend of 70% Touriga Nacional and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon -  aged in French oak for 12 months then another year in the bottle. What an easy drinker! This has notes of mushrooms, berry, oak and vanilla. This has some really nice and easy red fruits; it’s soft on the palate, and overall fun to drink!

Dona Ermelinda Reserva, 2013 from D.O. Palmela (SRP $18): This interesting blend is of 70% Castelao, 10% Touriga Nacional, 10% Syrah and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon - aged in French oak for 12 months then another 8 months in the bottle. This has aromas of dark fruits, spiced fruit cake, and smoke. The palate follows through with more dark fruits, structure and noticeable but soft tannins. It has a long lasting almost mouth smacking finish. It’s delicious, but needs air to really open up. This is a bottle that would be even better over time, save it to drink sometime before 2023. 

Sláinte! TCW  

In the Windy City, weather is generally part of everyday discussion. How does it change so drastically in a day? How is it that 55 degrees can warrant shorts in the winter but a snowsuit in the summer? Dean Martin wasn’t kidding when he sang Baby, It’s Cold Outside during this time of year! When I’m this cold, I need a big bold red to warm up my bones and in this case some premium Malbec from Argentina will fit the bill.

Salentein Reserve Malbec, 2014: This was aged for 12 months in French oak barrels then another 6 months in the bottle before they release it. I loved the aromas of dark fruits, dark chocolate, spice cake, clove and dried fruit. The flavors were incredibly soft and balanced with prune, leather, vanilla and tobacco. SRP of $19

Salentine Primum Malbec, 2013: This sexy wine was aged a total of 19 months in French oak barrels then another 12 months in the bottle before being released. Wow! This has aromas of super robust and bursting dark fruits – juicy blackberries, plums and vanilla. Upon tasting, I noted ripe and balanced sweet black fruits that carried though a certain power and elegance that I’ve not had in a while. Honestly speaking, this was one of the best wines I’ve had in quite some time. I could not get enough of this and yes, it made me feel warm and fuzzy inside. SRP of $65 – don’t let that scare you, sometimes you just need to treat yo’ self!
Sláinte! TCW
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