June Domestic Wine: 2008 Domaine de la Terre Rouge ‘Tête-à-Tête’, Sierra Foothills, CALIFORNIA

Domaine de la Terre Rouge, which specializes in single-site Syrahs from some of the highest altitude vineyards in California, has released their own version of a self-styled ‘fun and easy drinking’ wine.  Tête-à-Tête is a blend of Côte-Rôtie classics (it’s 34% Grenache, 34% Mourvèdre, and 32% Syrah), but blended from the estate’s younger vines and barrel lots showing plenty of sweet, forward fruit.  With this particular grape trio, that means lots of dark summer flavors; boysenberry, black cherry, blackberry and currant— the style, say, of a top-end Côtes-du-Rhône Villages.

History of Rhone Reds and Their Relation to Domaine de la Terre Rouge: According to the Rhone Rangers, there are twenty-two traditional varieties grown in France’s Rhone Valley in eastern France. Twelve of these grapes are planted in the United States including the best-known Syrah and Viognier, plus Mourvedre, Grenache, Carignane, Roussanne, Marsanne and Petite Sirah. Some lesser known Rhone varietals grown in the United States are Counoise, Cinsault, Grenache Blanc and Picpoul. California has over 4000 acres of Rhone varietal grapes planted of which almost half is Syrah.

Examples of Rhone varietals include the popular Syrah, Viognier and Mourvedre. Syrah (also known as Shiraz in Australia and South Africa) is the major Rhone varietal in the United States. Syrah is a sturdy grape in the vineyard and tends to deliver dark fruits and white pepper. Viognier, the most popular white Rhone, is probably the worlds least widely planted premium grape. In the vineyard the yields are low, as is the acid. It is temperamental in the winery, but well-made Viognier delivers an exquisite, exotic bouquet of apricots, pears tropical fruits and floral. Mourvedre is a grape found in many areas, called Monastrell in Spain and Mataro in Portugal. It is often used as a blending wine, producing good acid and some astringency with blackberry aromas and flavors.

Varietals: 34% Grenache, 34% Mourvèdre, and 32% Syrah

Alcohol: 14.5% by volume

Tasting Notes: This wine is a true over achiever! Great mouth feel and texture that is eminently enjoyable everyday. The 2008 has a deep boysenberry fruit, with smoky, meaty, and gamey flavors that emphasize their terroir.

Food Pairings: The wine pairs well with grilled meats and barbeque. Throw a steak on the grill and enjoy with a glass of this wine!

Jim Lutfy’s thoughts: “Earthy and rustic, with cedary smoky flavors. A wine that has a history…one of the most affordable and best tasting Rhone blends coming out of California. The wine has a roasted, meaty mid-palate, with a long savory lip-smacking finish!”-JL

June Imported Wine: 2011 Love Over Money ‘Evolúció’ Furmint, Tokaj, HUNGARY

Love Over Money is a collection of wines from different areas and countries that were selected by Boutique Wine Collection for their exceptional quality and value. The brand was developed to offer customers a product they know they can trust for its quality and value. Love Over Money is to display the authenticity of a wine, region and varietal, a true reflection of the origin while being uncomplicated. Boutique Wine Collection works closely with each producer, whom have been selected for their high standard and strong track record to offer wines that are representative of where they come from and are value orientated.

Love Over Money is to experiment with wines that often are perceived as alternative or different, while being assured that what is inside the bottle can be trusted.

History of Furmint and its Relation to Love Over Money: At the end of the 19th century, Hungary like all other European wine growing countries, was singularly affected by the Phylloxera epidemic which brought radical changes in the way viticulture was practiced. The abundant grape varieties found in the traditional vineyards, where multiple varieties would grow together and make up the blends of Eger and Tokaj wines, were replaced with single varietal vineyards, reducing grape selections to a few varietals. Blaufränkisch and Bordeaux varieties were planted in red wine growing areas, Furmint, Muscat and Hárslevelű in the Tokaj region therefore reducing the indigenous grape selection. During the Communist period (late 1940s to 1989) quantity was favored over quality and Zweigelt often replaced Kadarka as it is easier to grow and vinify. Prices were set by the state and quantity was key. Over cropping, pasteurization and industrial production dominated until 1989 with the fall of the U.S.S.R. Political change brought new challenges and Hungary had no other option but to turn its exports to the West, meaning that Hungary had to adjust by offering more sophisticated products to new and emerging markets (i.e. Love Over Money). This is how Hungary changed focus, giving most of its attention to quality improvement and innovation, in order to compete and measure up to other West European wine producing countries.

Varietals: 100% Furmint

Alcohol: 12.5% by volume

Tasting Notes: The wine is a pretty light straw color, with aromas of green apple which lead to a crisp, clean, mineral character. The fruit is mouth-filling with an underlying hint of spice and a broad finish with good acidity.

Food Pairings: The rich acidity combined with the fruitiness of this wine makes that it is easy to pair with rich fish based dishes, creamy chicken or even with slightly spicy recipes. Also a great pairing with cheese!

Jim Lutfy’s thoughts: “Rich, vibrant, layers of complex flavor. The wine has great orange peel flavors but is balanced by acidity…almost electric! Awesome mouth feel. A great summertime sipper!”-JL