Organically good: Orleans Hill Viognier

Time for a stroll down amnesia lane!

Do you remember the individually wrapped Super Bubble Green Apple Gum from the 70′s? Perhaps the photo at the bottom right will jog the old memory. As a kid I was a bit of a fanatic for it, so I was a little surprised (if not nostalgic) after tasting the 2011 Orleans Hill Viognier.

For the ABC crowd (Anything But Chardonnay), Viognier is a great substitute as it avoids all that oak and circumstance. The Orleans Hill starts off with a soft honey bouquet rather than all that vanilla and butterscotch that an oafish California Chardonnay tugs around.

But, it’s the semi-sweet green apple and honeydew melon flavors that really separate it from the pack and leave you wondering what that familiar, childhood flavor is.

From California, Orleans Hill is made from organically grown grapes and vegan friendly. And just like the Super Bubble… it may not come in a pack, but it is available by the case.

The new “it” wine…while it lasts

“Well, hello!!!”… That’s the very pleasant, very familiar reception you’ll receive after just one whiff, indeed one taste, of the 2010 DeLoach Russian River Valley Zinfandel. Your tongue will promptly thank you and then beg for another sample of this very tantalizing vixen. The DeLoach is a powerfully enticing Zin showing off an aromatic allure of brown sugar, warm cinnamon and trademark Zinfandel spiciness.

Pour a little of its black cherry goodness into the mix and you’re holding a glass of one of the best Zinfandel’s to rattle your wine rack in about five years. With some very special pricing that I hear is out there, you should be able to claim what was a $20 bottle for under $15. If I were buying a case this year for Fall BBQ’s and tailgating, THIS would be IT.

My interview with Fran Kysela

Recently, I had a question-and-answer session with wine importer Fran Kysela, of Kysela Pere et Fils, Ltd.

Kysela was a finalist last year for Wine Enthusiast’s Importer of the Year Award. The nomination was the beginning of what would be a watershed year for his business. In addition to opening his 73,000-square-foot warehouse in Winchester, Va., Kysela also reached a significant sales benchmark by the end of 2011. After only 17 years in business, Kysela Pere et Fils had booked more than a quarter of a billion dollars in sales. And he foresees a positive trend for U.S. imports in the near future.

What wine trends do you see for the rest of 2012 and into the next year or two?

Kysela: Trends: value red wines globally. California will be producing more and more blends to keep prices from rising and to fill their distribution pipelines. Regardless, imports are projected to increase their market share by 3 % in the next 18 months.

What are you drinking tonight? What would you pair it with?

Kysela: The 2009 Aticus, Rioja with some grilled chicken and vegetables……delicious!

What is your favorite wine country to travel to and explore?

Kysela: Lately South Africa for the wine values and Cape Malay’s food and scenery.

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* The photo is of Fran Kyslea with Guido Accordini feasting after a big day at Vinitaly.

Hail Caesar!

When it comes to wine, Italian Dolcetto stands out as one of those rare misnomers. Literally translated as “little sweet one,” Dolcetto hails from the northwestern Italian region of Piemonte. It is a blacker, juicy wine that may be lighter in body but is far from being dolce.

The 2007 Pio Cesare Dolcetto from the border town of Alba makes you wonder why more Dolcettos aren’t made available in the Old South. A blueberry component and an attractive “come back for more” attribute impressively enhance a fresh bouquet of violets and crushed berry fruit. Hitting a flawless stride at five years of age, this Dolcetto is in peak performance and should be gobbled up promptly.

In the know with the 2011 Penya Rosé

Late summer is an ideal time to pick up a few bottles of Rosé. With fall now only a little more than five weeks away, many retailers are reluctant to inventory them into the cold weather months. That means solid discounts for the consumer from bottle one.

This week I grabbed a bottle of the 2011 Penya Rosé to retry. Comprised of 60% Grenache and 40% Syrah, the Penya remains a price-friendly favorite of mine from the 2011 vintage in southern France. Imported by the value-savvy Hand Picked Selections, Penya displays a nice pink poppy color with flavors of cherry and watermelon. Enjoy with the last yields from your summer garden!

Codice Tinto: Code for pretty damn good!

Anyone remember that fantastically spicy seafood paella that Cha Chas use to serve back in the Kenny Siao days? Think large fresh prawns, savory Spanish sausage and big, fat ridiculously fluffy rice. Tonight I was drinking, what would have been, some very complimentary Tempranillo. The 2009 Codice Tinto ($10-$12) is 100% Spanish Tempranillo, with sweet and spicy oak notes, a hint of vanilla and enough succulent fruit to do the cha cha with any plate of piquant paella. The Codice is inventoried only once per year in Knoxville, so seek it out soon.

Hard Cider is ‘sessionably’ on the rise

The adult beverage market in the U.S. has a new player on the block, and it might not be what you would expect. In fact if you had posed the same question just a few years ago, most beverage marketing firms, and in particular beer enthusiasts, probably wouldn’t have predicted that hard cider would have become the upstart that it has.

This year alone, the domestic cider market is on track to eclipse $50 million in sales. Now that’s a lot of apples. Luckily for Knoxville, that spike in popularity was seen well in advance by Chris Morton, owner of Bearden Beer Market. Morton started introducing new ciders to the market shortly after opening BBM in 2010. His sales signal a near double digit growth for hard cider in 2012 and notes that the percentage growth for cider nationally is catching up to that of craft beer.

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Prosecco & herbed cocktails

Herbed cocktails continue to rise in popularity and last night I was attempting to recreate a concoction I had earlier this spring at a Dogwood Arts event.

The aperitif was predominantly Prosecco based, but had a fresh blackberry and either a sprig of thyme or rosemary added. It was spot-on delicious and refreshing without being too odd or pretentious. Kudos to Mr. Perkins (with Dogwood Arts) for the originality.

When mixing a wine based cocktail, its truly best to use something affordable. Since so many other flavors are coming to the party, you don’t want a shouting match overshadowing an expensive bubbly. A solid Italian Prosecco, like Riondo, or even a nice Spanish Cava are safe and solid go-tos. Check out some other great Prosecco inspired cocktails at Bubbly Girl.