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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Wednesday's Wines: California, Maryland and Uruguay

At a recent wine dinner one of the guests asked me what my favorite style of wine is. My response: new and different wines. Yes, I purchase more California wines than I probably should, but I really love tasting wine from new places and interesting cultivars. I did a pretty good job of that goal this past week.
Sterling Vineyards 2013 Heritage

California is America's wine country. That is just a fact. Most of the wine produced in the U.S. hails from sunny California. There is some terrific wine, and some not so terrific wine. The most recent wine I had from California, unfortunately, trends toward the latter end of that spectrum. The Sterling Vineyards Vintner's Collection 2013 Meritage (13.5% abv, Sample $14) left a bad taste in my mouth. No, really, it tasted a bit chemically, fishy and altogether unpleasant. It tasted like a $6 bottle of plonk - it actually shows up on wine-searcher for $6.99-$7.99. There is the requisite mocha and dark fruit flavors that come with a blend of  Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot, but not a whole lot of other redeeming qualities.

Bodega Garson 2013 Tannat
On the other hand, the Bodega Garzón 2013 Tannat (14.5% abv, Sample $20) from Uruguay is a delicious wine. Garzón is owned by Argentine billionaire Alejandro Bulgheroni, whom I pegged as responsible for the Cameron Hughes Private Reserve wines made at Harlan Estate in the Napa Valley. I wasn't overly impressed by those wines, but this Tannat from Uruguay is truly tasty and perfect for Cabernet Sauvignon lovers. Tannat is perhaps Uruguay's signature grape despite its southwestern French heritage as the main grape in the Madiran region. This wine is powerful yet elegant. The deeply colored Tannat reveals the red and black fruit aromas you would expect in a Cabernet and accompanied by scents chocolate and tobacco. It is smooth on the palate with silky tannins – firm but not overwhelming – adding structure to the cherry, raspberry and mocha flavors. It paired well with our strip steak – which interestingly enough was also from Uruguay. I would expect this wine to hold up for a several years and impress those interested in Napa Cabernet and off-the-beaten path varieties alike.

Old Westminster 2014 Albariño
Finally, the Old Westminster Winery 2014 Two Vineyards Albariño (12% abv, Sample $28) is a lovely wine that other Maryland producers might want to consider looking at. Three years ago at the Drink Local Wine conference in Baltimore an Albariño from Black Ankle Vineyards opened my eyes to what this Iberian grape can do on the east coast of the U.S. Black Ankle and Old Westminster are about 10 miles apart just south of Westminster, MD not too far from Baltimore. You're not going to confuse it with a Spanish Albariño, but this wine comes across more like a blend between Rhône and Rías Baixas. It is crips yet rich. There is a good amount of citrus and tropical fruit flavors present along with a bit of spice. This is a tasty and unique wine.

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