At Louie's Wine Dive, we do more than serve great wine, we learn about great wines every day. We do this through conversation – with winemakers, with each other, and most importantly, with our guests. We hope that the articles here will continue the discussion and help demystify the world of wine.
Learn about wine grape varieties and the regions around the world where they grow best.
The history of winemaking is also the history of trying to find the words to describe the amazing variety of flavors, aromas, and sensations in every wine glass.
Wine and food are the perfect combination – they both elevate the other and open up new possibilities for enjoying a good time with friends and family.
While the quaint villages of the area may appear sleepy, the Sonoma Coast is, in fact, a very prodigious grape-growing area that's well known for the high quality of its wine. The proximity of the Pacific Ocean ensures that warm days are cooled by ocean breezes, providing optimal grape growing conditions. The size of the area, some 250 miles long, creates a wide diversity of soil and elevations, contributing to the unique character of the region's wines.
In the 2013 Ballard Lane Pinot Noir, fragrances of red currant, strawberry shortcake and Portobello mushroom dominate the nose. The fruit was night harvested and crushed, 100% destemmed, within hours to maintain quality. The must was cold soaked for 72 hours to produce better color, aromatics, flavor and tannin extraction. Dishes with morels or other wild mushrooms, roasted or grilled lobster and roasted or grilled steak will pair excellently.
If Colchagua Valley is the Bordeaux of Chile, Leyda is the Burgundy, or more accurately, the Sonoma coast of Chile. Cool ocean breezes caused from the Humboldt current and morning fog keep the vines at steady cool temperatures. Before 1990, the region was known for wheat and barley. Larger wineries, looking to take advantage of the ideal cooler climate and infertile soil, built water pipelines to bring in irrigation from the Maipo River. Now, vineyards dot the rolling hills on the ocean side of the mountains.
Boya translates to buoy. This is a perfect name for a vineyard overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The winemaker picks the fruit early from young vines for the Boya Pinot Noir. This keeps all the strawberry and cherry flavors bright and alive. With fall upon us, whip up some French onion soup (courtesy of Miss Julia Child’s recipe), mushroom flatbread, pumpkin soup or your favorite salmon dish.
Every month we try to throw in a wine that has a high "coolness" factor. We bet this bottle is seriously unlike anything rolling around in your cellar. The winemaker could only squeeze out 5,437 bottles from these old gnarled vines. Estimates say they were probably planted in the 1940s! The winemaker? Well, he's a rockstar and a romantic. David Marcel arrived in Chile as a fresh faced University of Montpellier grad and fell wildly in love with both the land and his Chileño bride. He makes wine from some of the country’s oldest heritage País (Mission) and Carignan vines.
So what is Carignan? Carignan was the most planted grape in France until Merlot took over at the end of the twentieth century. It's called by many names (Carignane, Mazuelo, Cariñena, Samso) and grown across the world’s wine regions. It's a big, acidic, tannic grape that can produce a hefty amount of fruit per vine if grown in the hottest wine regions. In the south of France, it is used as a blending grape in Cotes-du-Rhône to add acid to sometimes over ripe years. In Catalonia and Rioja, it is used to give nuance to Garnacha. In Sardinia, it grows on squat little bushes and bakes in the sun.
Our choice of the 2016 Vina Maitia Carignan was driven by the wildness of this wine. We were taken aback by the fennel, eucalyptus and Fernet flavors. We think this will pair with duck breast with braised cherries and smoked brisket but we would love to hear what you put with this showstopper.
About 140 kilometers (87 miles) south of Chile's capital at the southernmost portion of the Rapel D.O. lies the Colchagua (coal-chag-wha) Valley. This is where big wine comes from. The region is known for muscley and expressive reds, but also produces renowned Sauvignon Blanc. In 1935, the Viu-Manent family founded their company selling other producers' wine. In 1966, the dream of making their own wine was realized when they purchased the first of the family's three vineyards. Like others in the region, they are devoted to preserving the land with organic and sustainable farming practices.
So now that you have all that in your brain, let's talk Sauvignon Blanc in general. Sauvignon Blanc was born in Bordeaux, where it will never reach the same ripeness as a warm region so it's blended with the floral Semillon to mellow out all the tartness. Most wine drinkers are familiar with the grapefruit bombs of Marlborough, New Zealand (Think Kim Crawford or Cloudy Bay). The Kiwis are famous for giant gooseberry laden green juice. Loire, France has regions devoted to gentle, minerally versions of the grape. (Sancerre is amongst the most touted for excellence world over.) Our very own Napa Valley makes bold Sauv Blanc known for mostly tropical flavors of pineapple and papaya.
Chilean Sauvignon Blanc is often the Goldilocks version. It has white peach as well as fresh mown grass, papaya and bell pepper, tart yellow apple and wild flowers. You will be walking on the sunny side of the street when you pair the 2018 Viu Manent Reserva Sauvignon Blanc with late summer salads, avocado toast, heirloom tomatoes drizzled with vinaigrette, shrimp ceviche and roasted eggplant and zucchini.
Our story begins in 1892 when the Bouchon Family moved from St. Emilion, Bordeaux to the Colchagua Valley and began working in wine production in the area for five generations. In 1992 the family began production of its own label. You know we love a sustainable vineyard and this producer is certified sustainable. They even employ their own strict code of safety and ethics. All of the wines go through a company tasting panel and held to the highest standards. The Casa Silva Cabernet Saugvinon is made from the finest sites in the portfolio.
Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile are usually Herculean in body. Intense flavors of jalapeño tango with cassis and dusty brambly blackberries. Flashes of black pepper and cinnamon will linger long after your sip is finished. As the second largest producer of the grape (behind France, of course), Chile is adept at giving the juice a sharp modern edgy style.
Drink this with your boldest fare. Don't shy away from lamb, wild boar or a simply grilled porterhouse rubbed with a generous amount of salt and fresh-cracked pepper.
David Paxton, the renowned viticulturist, established his family-owned wine company in 1979 and released the first wine under his name in 2000. Paxton wines showcase the very best the McLaren Vale appellation has to offer. Vineyard sites are all biodynamically farmed, and winemaker and vineyard manager alike strive to create wines of perfect balance sourced from myriad of carefully tended blocks throughout the valley. These are the kinds of nerds we love. They use healthy soil, composting, canopy plucking and pruning and low yield vines to keep the land healthy for generations to come.
Cabernet Sauvignon comes in a close second in production to Shiraz in Australia. The Mediterranean climate and ocean breezes create big fruity fearless wines. The 2018 Paxton Vineyards 'The Vale' Cabernet Sauvignon is layered with smashed raspberries, sweet pipe tobacco and dried oregano. This wine is charming now and will age gracefully for another decade. A roasted lamb leg or sausage on the barbie would be flawless pairings.
So you can’t bring glass to the pool? Camping or hiking, and don’t want to lug heavy bottles around? Headed to watch a little Shakespeare in the Park with a picnic? Check out the next evolution in packaging, wine in a can. Each can holds two glasses so they are single serving size. They are recyclable so the carbon footprint is small. We are tickled pink to bring you something new(-ish).
Speaking of making the world a better place, once upon a time, way back in 2014, two American exchange students in South Africa went hiking, met a dog, hung out with locals and fell in love with the people and wine. Fast forward to 2016, they created Lubanzi to connect the good ole USA with South African wine and culture. They work with small co-ops and independent producers to create innovative and socially responsible(and bodaciously delicious) wine. But wait, these guys didn’t stop there! After producing great wine in slick packaging, they decided to give even more to the community. They are partnered with The Pebble Project to create meaningful social impact.
We are proud to introduce you to this bold Rhône-style blend from the Lubanzi family made where the mountains meet the ocean in W.O. Coastal Region. This 2018 Lubani Red is dark and zippy with mounds of blackcurrant and mulberries dipped in chocolate. You should grab a burger fresh off the charcoal grill in one hand and a can of this wine in the other to enjoy it to its fullest.
In Australia there is one grape that shows dominance over all others, the famed Shiraz. Point of fact: Shiraz accounts for almost a third of the vines on the continent. Armed with these tidbits of knowledge, we knew we couldn't leave this bruiser out of a study of the Southern side of the globe.
Grant Burge is a producer that was founded at the height of all things Aussie cool in 1988. (We were Aussie obsessed back then: Chain restaurants with steaks and deep fried Bloomin’ Onions, A shirtless man with big hat and even bigger knife, purple hairspray for "scrunching" your curls, Kylie Minogue's version of Locomotion, Olivia Newton-John getting physical, Foster's being "Australian for beer")
There is nothing subtle or demure about this 2016 Barossa Ink Shiraz. It really is so dark you could write with it. The bottle comes with a warning not to wear light clothing and drink this because it stains. That's the whole point of Australian Shiraz; bold opulent juice. Better make sure your food is full in flavor with this bottle. It would be great with slow-roasted ribs, somebody's mom's ragu, or a big meat pie.
Fun fact: Backsberg, the winemakers of our 2019 Backsberg Pinotage Rosé this month, are also producers of Kosher wine. Pinotage was created especially for SA in the 1920s. It tastes of burning rubber and sadness. It is actually lovely in this pink version with all that grit and tannin softened.
At the beginning of the last century, C.L. Back arrived in South Africa as a Lithuanian refugee. After a stint as a dock worker and a butcher, he bought a farm. By the 20s he was growing grapes, producing wine and selling in bulk to the KWV or shipping it to England. The land passed to Sydney, then to Michael and now his son Simon is on board. The business has shed the piggery, the grains, and peach orchards, but remains very much a "family farm." The land is certified carbon neutral and sustainably farmed.
Pinotage is a grape bred in the 20s specifically for South Africa by the mad scientist Abraham Perold. A cross between Cinsaut and Pinot Noir, the grape is closer in body and flavor to a jammy Shiraz than a dainty Pinot Noir. This grape variety is incredibly inky and full of tar and red pepper when produced as a red wine. The Backsberg Pinotage Rosé is a fetching rosé that has softer notes of Ruby Red grapefruit and ripe strawberries, preferring to leave the bracing tannins to its red counterpart. This juice is delightful with fresh cheese, Chakalaka, and crusty bread.
No one can claim that the Aussies don't have fun. When we first read the word "Mollydooker" on this wine bottle, we knew we were in for a treat.
2016 was Mollydooker's biggest vintage to date, with a total 1,437 tons of grapes crushed and into barrel. The very first pick that year was this McLaren Vale Verdelho, in the third week of February. The last time their Verdelho stood alone in The Violinist (rather than being used in blends) was in 2013, so it was exciting to see its return in 2016. The ferments were well behaved and finished off beautifully in barrel, allowing early oak integration and added complexity in the wines. The grapes were grown on the Gemtree vineyard in McLaren Vale.
The 2016 Mollydooker 'The Violinist' Verdelho sets off with a fragrant nose reminiscent of tropical fruits that is supported by a generous mouthfeel. Its lemon and lime zest adds an initial crispness to the palate that slowly fades to leave you with an imprint of its creamy mouthfeel. Ripe pineapple and lychee flavors develop and intertwine with fresh citrus elements. Careful oak use has added to the wine's complexity with hints of vanilla and spice to help tantalise the tastebuds. You'll find good matches with shellfish, oysters, spicy foods, and Asian dishes.
And yes, mollydooker is a real word – we looked it up! Apparently, it's old-timey slang for a left-handed person and both the founders of the winery are lefties. That feels like a good place to say goodbye to Australia month here in Des Moines, so g'day mate!
But don't just take our word for it! Take notes and follow along with our tasting guide to start picking out details of the wines you love. Or come in to chat with our sommeliers at any Louie's Wine Dive restaurant.
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