Not a ton of notable things came across my desk this week (sorry guys), but there were a couple items that I felt warranted a mention. Its hard, because I actually had the opportunity to taste quite a few things - some were OK, but as is often the case - a lot was not. So, just a short list this go round, which is probably just fine since most of you are watching or recovering from the Super Bowl (I am writing this Sunday afternoon, not game-time, quite yet).
The two best items I tasted were from France - the 2014 Jean-Paul Brun Terres Doree Moulin a Vent (aka Beaujolais pretty much at the top of the game), and the 2018 Yves Cuilleron Syrah Les Vignes d'a Cote (aka Syrah from the Northern Rhone).
The Moulin a Vent (which means windmill and is a reference to the windmill in Moulin a Vent, but also to the fact that the region happens to be quite windy) is just a superb example of Gamay. This is a Cru that has vineyards at elevation and on granitic soils - two perfect combinations for making elegant and delicious wine with deep concentration. I decanted, which was a good call, due to the fact that it is a little fuller and at first the nose is a bit closed. BUT, on the palate the wine is super elegant and smooth, lower alcohol and acidity make it simply glide across the palate. The bottle goes down quick so be careful
The Syrah is produced by Yves Cuilleron, who took over his family's domaine in 1988, and has lead the charge in the northern Rhone for Syrah-based wines for years. I actually had the pleasure of dining in a restaurant in Ampuis that is partly owned by Yves - while he was there for lunch - this was last March with my traveling companions to the Rhone and Burgundy (yeah, these two guys to the right - it was a lot of fun). This particular Syrah is basically the entry level of the range, but it is quite good - better than most in fact. Deep, and a little brooding - the Syrah opens to black fruits and some spice, but kind of holds its own as a bigger, blacker version of what would basically be Cotes du Rhone level/priced wines. There is an elegant streak of acidity through the middle that provides lift to the wine, and this is what makes it a great choice for meat, poultry and anything that has some fat and sauce.
In a completely different direction from the reds above, the other thing that hit my desk this week was a couple of new wines from Ted Diamantes - owner of Diamond Wine Imports. These are Assyrtiko, which is a beautiful and well regarded white wine, most often from Santorini in Greece. Both wines tasted were from the 2018 vintage, but the Alexakis is a Cretian wine, while the Santo Winery is from Santorini.
It is easy to see, when tasting side-by-side, why Santorini is the preferred region of origin. Not to take away from the Alexakis - it is a smooth and easy drinking wine with a complex approach and finish - but the Santorini wine shows higher tones of acidity and balance. Alexakis Assyrtiko was a bit broader in the middle and had weight similar to Chardonnay. The Santo Winery Assyrtiko glides across the palate with a balanced and fresh acid structure that carries the mineral / saline fruit, gracefully.
If you are not familiar with Assyrtiko or with Greek wine in general, now is a great time to check them out. Very good values (although prices are creeping up on Santorini wines), with more and more selections available each season. Lots of letters and a few challenging names - but the wines are worth seeking out - they work with food very well.