Under the Table Wines
We love picking interesting, exciting wines every month for our Under the Table members. If you want more information about this year’s wines or ideas of what foods to pair with them, the details below are here to help.
When you think about German wine (if you think about it at all), your mind most likely turns to Riesling and little else. On a freezing cold day in February, I tasted a delightful German white made from the Chasselas grape. I ordered some right then and there with August wine club in mind because the wine just smelled like summer to me. I then hunted around for an equally interesting red wine and happily stumbled upon a lovable Pinot Noir for you. Prost!
Red: 2015 Gryphon Crest Pinot Noir, Baden, Germany
This wine shows many of the characteristics of cool climate Pinot that we love. It’s gently spicy with the slightest hint of an earthy woodiness and plenty of red fruit notes. Serve it with something a bit spicy, such as ribs or barbecue brisket, or something a touch earthy, such as mushroom and farro salad.
White: 2016 Ziereisen “Heugumber” Chasselas, Baden, Germany
Known for its bright acidity, Chasselas is not grown much outside of Switzerland and other alpine wine regions. This easy-to-like wine has floral aromatics that lead to notes of yellow apple and minerals on the palate. It will shine with gooey cheeses, like brie or triple creme, or lentil & apple dal.
Rosé #1 (1/Month & 2/month): 2018 Gaspard Rosé, Loire, France
I first tasted the Gaspard Rosé a couple vintages ago while visiting a fantastic natural wine shop in L.A. (check out Lou’s if you’re ever in CA), and I hounded our distributor to start carrying this wine. It took a little while, but this rosé of Pinot d’Aunis, Cabernet Franc, and Gamay is finally here. The wine starts out fruity with notes of candied raspberry and lemon, but then those Loire Valley minerals kick in to keep it crisp on the finish. Pair with sushi or all the tomatoes you can eat.
Rosé #2 (2/month only): 2018 Populis Rosé, Mendocino, California
The folks at Populis want people to fall in love with natural wine not because it’s trendy but because it’s delicious. This unfiltered rosé of Carignan has a pleasing texture and notes of wild red berries. I just want to go raspberry picking with a glass of this wine in my hand. If that’s not available to you, this rosé can handle heartier food, so go for something robust and grilled.
For our July red & white, we’re featuring wines from a lovely winery that we recently visited on a family trip to Le Marche, Italy. We’ve known and enjoyed Lucchetti wines for a while, but we really fell in love with everything that they do when we got to see it in person. From the owner teaching his nephew how to make wine to the scent of jasmine permeating the vineyards, it was a perfect visit that we want to keep revisiting in our minds. We just had to share their delightful organic wines with you.
Red: 2018 Lucchetti Lacrima di Morro d’Alba
Lacrima, which translates to tears in English, got its name from its thin skin appearing to weep slightly when the grape is ripe. It’s an uncommon grape that exhibits some unusual characteristics. This wine is incredibly aromatic, and you’ll be wondering whether you’re picking up notes of boysenberry, blueberry, or some of that aforementioned jasmine. There’s a lot of fruit here, but lingering tannins and some light acidity keep it all in check. Pair this wine with something spicy, be it soppressata on your pizza or chorizo & shrimp tostadas.
White: 2018 Lucchetti Verdicchio di Castelli dei Jesi
In Le Marche, Verdicchio is the vital grape for most wineries. The grape can be made into light, easy-drinking wines or more complex, age-worthy ones. Lucchetti makes a version that is both approachable and nuanced. The ripeness of the fruit and weighty mouthfeel make this wine easy to sip. Notes of citrus, ripe pear, flowers, and nuts will give you plenty to ponder, if that’s your mood. The fruitiness of the wine goes well with semi-soft cheeses, such as Fontina or young Gouda. The wine is also lovely with a summer veggie stir-fry or orange chicken.
Rosé #1 (1/Month & 2/month): 2018 Serra Lori Rosato Isola dei Nuraghi, Sardegna, Italy
I didn’t visit Sardinia on my recent trip to Italy, but I have enjoyed the wines of Argiolas here at home for quite a while. However, I only recently discovered this delicious, fruity rosé. The wine is a blend of the main Sardinian red, Cannonau (aka Grenache), and Monica, Carignano (aka Carignan) and Bovale Sardo. This rosé has a little heft to it, so it’s a great fit for burgers or lamb chops on the grill.
Rosé #2 (2/month only): 2018 Kruger Rumpf Pinot Noir Rosé, Nahe, Germany
On a bitterly cold day this past February, I tasted a number of stellar German wines, including this rosé from Kruger Rumpf. I picked it then to be able to share with you now because it tasted like summertime in a bottle. The wine is round in the mouth and easy to like. Notes of red cherry, watermelon, and orange peel had me envisioning grilled pork tenderloin with a big glass of this rosé alongside.
This month, we’re hoping that you’ll fall in love with the wines of Jean Francois Mérieau the same way that we have. Located in the Touraine area of the Loire Valley (France), Mérieau follows fairly old-school practices in his winemaking. The results are organic wines that have bright fruit & acidity, which is often the calling card of Touraine.
Red: 2017 Jean Francois Mérieau Le Bois Jacou [Gamay]
As the weather warms up, we try to find light-bodied reds that taste great with a slight chill on them. This 100% Gamay is all that and more. Mérieau uses carbonic maceration for part of the wine, which gives this lovely red a tingly, fresh mouthfeel. You can taste the rocky soil of the Loire Valley along with bright red & black fruit. Stick it on some ice, grill up some flank steak, and have a great summer night. The wine is also delightful with soft, fresh cheeses, so don’t forget about it when Concerts on the Square begins later this month.
White:2017 Jean Francois Mérieau L’arpent des Vaudons [Sauvignon Blanc]
Sauvignon Blanc from Touraine might not be as famous as its other Loire Valley counterparts (Sancerre, anyone?), but it deserves a permanent place in your wine rotation. The grapes for this wine come from a single vineyard, which is pretty rare in the under $20 range. The wine strikes a delicious balance between minerals, fruit, and acidity. The palate is complex, though the wine is light & easy to like. Few food pairings work as well as chèvre and Loire Valley Sauv Blanc, so get your hands on some great goat cheese if you can. Otherwise, enjoy with shrimp tacos or asparagus of pretty much any kind.
Under the Rosé Table
It’s all about France this month for our Under the Rosé Table. We recently discovered J Mourat and knew we had to share these wines with you. They’re an organic winery located in the Languedoc region of France — a part of the country known for good value wines.
(1/Month & 2/month): 2018 J Mourat Collection val de Loire Rosé
Collection is a blend of Pinot Noir, Gamay, and Cabernet Franc. It’s soft and round on the palate with notes of ripe strawberry and red cherry. When we first tasted it, we thought “oh, that’s a wine we could drink all summer long.” We hope you agree. Enjoy with roasted chicken or a wide variety of cheeses.
(2/month only): 2018 J Mourat Rosée de Jardin
Also from J Mourat, the Rosée de Jardin is 100% Pinot Noir. It has the brightness often found in Pinot Noir rosés with a weightiness common to wines from this region. If you’re so inclined, you can do a side-by-side comparison of 2 rosés from the same winery. Enjoy this wine with early summer vegetables tossed in your favorite vinaigrette.
Red: 2014 Duxoup Charbono, Napa, California
Let’s start with how to pronounce the name of the winery: it’s Duck Soup. Owners Deborah & Andrew Cutter are, in addition to being Marx Brothers fans, skilled winemakers who love the land and grapes of this single vineyard. They make a range of food-friendly reds in Napa Valley, all of which are under $25. Pretty special, I’d say. This month’s wine is their fresh & bright Charbono, which is an ancient grape that’s fallen into obscurity. It has intense black fruit aromas, but the wine is soft on the palate. It’s a great porch drinking red, be it with an antipasti platter, cheese board, or sausages on the grill.
White: 2017 Scotto Verdelho, Lodi, California
The Scotto family traces its winemaking roots back to Italy where their ancestors may or may not have made wine in their bathtub. These days, the family produces a wide variety of wines, and we’ve found their Scotto line to be consistently good values. When we tasted this unique white, we knew it was just the right kind of special for you. The grape is Verdelho, which is normally used to make Madeira dessert wine. The wine smells like almonds, but the palate bursts with mouthwatering citrus flavors. It’s a weighty white wine that shines with foods like trout almandine, hazelnut-crusted pork tenderloin, or lemony pasta.
Rosé #1 (1/Month & 2/month): 2018 Scotto Dry Sangiovese Rosé, LodI, California
To kick off our Under the Rosé Table season, we’re featuring a delightful rosé from California. We enjoy the Scotto wines so much that we picked both a white and a rosé from them. This wine is green certified according to the thoughtful standards of LODI Rules. We like the feel-good nature of this single vineyard rosé of Sangiovese, but we also like the way it tastes. It’s tingly & bright with red cherry and raspberry notes. It wakes up the palate and would be right at home with pizza topped with spicy sausage or with a washed rind cheese.
Rosé #2 (2/month only): 2018 Morisfarms Rosamundi, Tuscany, Italy
For the second rosé this month, we thought it’d be fun for you to try a rosé of the same grape as the first wine. We’re big fans of Morisfarms, and this year’s rosé tastes as pretty as it looks. In years past, they produced a weighty rosé, but they’re going for a lighter, leaner style now. The wine is crisp with flavors of red plum and tart raspberry. It is at its best with equally light and delicate flavors, such as a spinach salad with strawberries or tempura vegetables.
Red: 2015 Skouras Saint George [Aghiorghitiko], peloponnese, Greece
After studying winemaking in Burgundy, France, George Skouras returned home to Greece and founded his eponymous winery in 1986. Skouras grows a wide array of indigenous varietals that are a great introduction to the beauty of Peloponnesian wine. Aghiorgitiko translates to the “grape of St. George” and is sometimes referred to as St. George (as it is on the Skouras label). It’s a versatile grape that is used in red blends or on its own for rosé or red. This wine has mouthwatering acidity and a long finish with notes of tart blackberry and spice. This lively red is at its best with food: grilled lamb chops, pizza with roasted peppers & salami, or black bean chili.
WHITE: 2017 Gai’a Monograph Moschofilero, peloponnese, Greece
A relatively new winery, Gai'a was founded in the early 1990s with the intention of honoring Mother Earth (hence the name). They focus on indigenous varietals, wanting to show off the elegance of grapes that people around the world might not know. When we tasted this wine, we knew we had to share it with you as a beautiful example of the important Greek white Moschofilero. This light white has floral aromatics, a touch of minerality, and delicate citrus notes. Use this wine as an excuse to roast a whole fish, mix up some tzatziki, and have a Mediterranean dinner party. Or just enjoy it on the porch on the first truly warm day of the spring.
This month, we feature wines from an organic winery in Cape Town, South Africa. With their dedication to the people in their community and the land itself, Lubanzi sets an example for how to run a business with soul. Particularly during women’s history month, we like to highlight women involved in the life cycle of wine. We first chose Lubanzi because they have a woman winemaker, but we now can’t help but talk about their good vibes, tasty wine, and unusual twist-off cork. If you have a minute, we encourage you to read more about their story & practices.
Red: 2016 Lubanzi red blend
With loads of black fruit notes, this red blend is the best kind of crowdpleaser. It has enough tannins and acidity to keep the fruit in check and just enough weight on the palate to keep it interesting for most red drinkers. The blend is primarily Shiraz with Cinsault, Grenache, and Mourvèdre. The fruitiness in the wine calls out for roasted lamb with a blackberry sauce or mole negro.
White: 2018 Lubanzi Chenin Blanc
Chenin Blanc is the most widely planted grape in South Africa (and one of the grapes we love introducing to people). At Lubanzi, they go for the lean, dry side of Chenin. This crisp wine will make your mouth water with its lemon and salt notes. Let the wine warm up just a touch to fully enjoy the layers of flavors: herbs, citrus, green fruit, minerals. Enjoy the zestiness of this wine with fish tacos (don’t forget the avocado) or sushi. Or, play up the fruitiness with a salad of greens & apples or pears.
Red: 2015 Herdade do Rocim Touriga Nacional, Alentejo, Portugal
Known for its cork trees more than anything else, the Alentejo region in the southern part of Portugal is worth your attention. The wine culture is growing here, and there are lots of stunning values to be found. Herdade do Rocim, like other wineries in the area, wants to show off the fruit and complexity that their grapes can offer. Touriga Nacional is one of many indigenous varietals used to make Port, but here you can taste the purity of this varietal. Bold and silky, the wine has layers of purple & blue fruit flavors. There’s acidity balancing the big flavors and lingering tannins—it’s what you want in a cold weather red. Pair this wine with food that’s equally bold, whether it’s blue cheese or roasted duck with plum sauce.
White: 2016 Vinha de Lage hiatus Alvarinho, Minho, Portugal
Since the 17th century, the Sottomayor family has been making wine in the Minho region of northern Portugal. They created the Hiatus label to expand the reach of their wines throughout the world. Owned by a Madison resident who works in conjunction with her aunt, Hiatus showcases the fresh vibrancy of Portuguese whites. Their Alvarinho (aka Albariño) is just as at home in the cold winter months as it will be in summer. The wine has good weight, bracing acidity, and layers of tree fruit and floral notes. Roast some pork chops with an apricot glaze or drizzle honey over triple crème and call it a night.
Red: 2016 Pico Maccario Lavignone Barbera d’Asti, Piedmont, Italy
South of Asti, the Maccario brothers founded their winery thirty years ago. For generations their family had sold the grapes they grew, but the brothers decided to start making wine from their grapes instead. They’ve become specialists in stunning Barbera. Their Lavignone Barbera d’Asti is perennially one of our favorite Piedmontese reds, and this vintage shows you why. With a bold black cherry note and supple mouthfeel, this lighter-bodied red is easy to like while still being interesting and complex. With a wine this friendly, you can serve just about any food, but we highly recommend pairing this wine with roasted chicken with mushrooms or with a variety of Italian cheeses for a fun wine & cheese night.
White: 2016 Castello ColleMassari Melacce Vermentino, Tuscany, Italy
Owned by a brother and sister duo, Castello ColleMassari produced its first vintage in 2000. They built a four-story winery that uses gravity rather than electricity to do most of the work for them. For their Vermentino & Vermentino blends, they use the Melacce label, which gets its name from the Melacce River that flows through one of their properties. This Vermentino is made from certified organic grapes and shows off the exciting characteristics of the varietal. The wine is aromatic and round with notes of herbs, green apple, and lemon. With more heft than many whites, it’s a good white wine for the colder months. Serve with a whole roasted fish or a salty hard cheese, such as Pecorino Toscano.