You know that feeling where you start to feel fatigued for no reason, and that yearning to see new sights and try new things begins to whine and gnaw at your stomach like a dog with a bone?
That was me, almost three weeks ago now, prior to my trip to northern Washington. Not only did I make the time to visit friends and family whom I dearly missed (and already miss all over again), I also explored new areas and – of course – tried a few new wines along the way.
While most of my focus fell on Washington state (gotta stay local), I did find a gem or two that I had never seen elsewhere and couldn’t resist purchasing out of sheer curiosity.
Wanna hear my thoughts on my top sips of the week? It wasn’t easy to narrow it down to just two, but maybe a few honorable mentions will feature into later posts.
TOP PICK: Livin’ Right Wines: 2019 RF-19 Mourvedre, Columbia Valley, Washington
This clear, deep purple wine made by winemaker Derek DesVoigne came strongly recommended by a local wine merchant, and I suppose it helped that it was the last bottle in the store, too! Mourvedre isn’t too widely found as a single varietal, let alone in Washington, so I was intrigued to see how it compared to other bottles I had sampled.
With medium plus intensity aromas of blueberry, cocoa, black plum, forest floor, and a distinct meatiness, and equally intense flavors that both match and add cedar, black pepper, and even more black fruits to the mix, this wine went down smoothly with ultrafine tannins, a full body, and a finish which seemed to go on forever. Medium acidity and alcohol levels kept everything in a harmonious balance; I finished my glass quickly after that first tentative sip!
While still a young wine, it has already begun to develop with hints of bottle age. I rate it at excellent quality, and a bargain at less than $30 per bottle.
UNUSUAL FIND: Qvevri Mildiani: 2015 Kisi, Kakheti, Georgia
While I did discuss orange wines a little bit in a previous post, this one comes straight from the source of the style: Georgia currently holds the title of “birthplace of wine,” insofar as scholars have been able to track the history of the beverage.
Qvevri Mildiani uses a locally indigenous grape called Kisi, known for high aromatics and largely grown in the Kakheti region of the country of Georgia, where travelers and enthusiasts alike can find more than 55,000 hectares of vines planted. Of these, over 70% can be found in Kakheti.
Making traditional orange wine begins with qvevri, large clay urns such as the one pictured on the label. These are made by master crafters and then buried underground, filled with whole grape clusters and sealed for a period of time to ferment — this one had six months. Unlike modern winemaking methods that call for pressing the juice and removing white wine skins prior to fermentation, orange wines gain their color, additional flavors, as well as tannins from fermenting the entire grape.
Note: another term from qvevri could be the Greek word “amphora,” but the shape, size, and use of these vessels differ. Want to read more? Check out this article.
I’ll start by stating that this wine threw me through a complete loop. I have little experience with orange wines, and so many of my usual strategies for assessment really couldn’t apply. Further, I had to really think about what I was smelling and tasting for a longer period than I normally do.
A wine of companionable silence, meant for contemplation as well as good food.
The color is a clear, medium amber, like a lager that’s gone flat (what? Even if I don’t drink beer, I know what it looks like!). Some may find it off-putting, as it is unusual, but the aromas drew me in immediately.
Aromas of the Qvevri Mildiani included dried white flowers, orange peel, mint, apricots, almonds, and honey at medium intensity. The palate followed, with additional notes of wood and black tea; these fell at medium intensity as well.
Completely dry, with high acid and equally high (but tight) tannins, medium alcohol and a full body, the wine fell into excellent balance, had a long but oily-textured finish, and showed widespread complexity that spanned from florals to fruits to earthiness and spice.
With over five years in bottle, this wine deeply surprised and impressed me. It stands at very good quality now, but it should be drunk soon in order to enjoy it at its fullest. Any further ageing would diminish the intensity of its flavor profile.
I’ll be honest in saying that I’m not too sure how to pair the Qvevri Mildiani with food. While I enjoyed my experience of sipping it with good company and with some cheese, crackers and locally-smoked salmon, my gut says that it might work best with similar, simple fare. No fuss, no mess, and nothing beyond delicate in flavor so as to not overpower the wine. Perhaps later/younger vintages would carry sufficient intensity for stronger culinary pairings?
Should you happen upon a bottle of the 2015 Qvevri Mildiani, snap it up! We were able to find it purely by chance, and under $20, in a local wine shop.
So many wines tasted, but these two made the top cut for the week! Who knows, I might slide in another mention or two during the rest of the series.
As always, thanks for reading! I can’t wait to post more of the results of my adventures, and with the farmer’s market starting up again, you can bet there will be more food experiments soon. See you then.