March 2016 Wine & Cheese Club: Great First Impressions

This month we feature blends that immediately grabbed our attention. Don’t get us wrong- we like ALL of the wines we feature in the club, but these are wines that are just plain fun and “easy to get.” Consider this Spring Break for wine club…This month, we cast aside lessons in geography and composition and just drink some good wine. Don’t forget that Easter is in March this year: these wines will be good crowd-pleasing selections for your gathering.

There are several exciting events taking place in April- you’ll want to get these on your calendars soon. The first two events will sell out quickly, and you definitely won’t want to miss the third!

  1. Stars Over Valpo Sunday April 3rd 6:00pm, Duessenberg Recital Hall
  2. This is the annual benefit concert for WVLP 103.1FM. Megan and Chris, along with many other local performing musicians, will lend their talents to this very popular line up of the best of the region! Go to to reserve your tickets.
  3. Chocolate Walk April 9th 12:00-4:00pm, Downtown Valparaiso.  The 2nd annual downtown Chocolate Walk. Tickets are very limited and go on sale starting March 7th. This event was a huge hit last year. Go to to learn more and purchase tickets.
  4. OWM Wine Tasting Saturday, April 30th 11:00-3:00, Old World Market.  Can you believe it? Spring is just around the corner and it’s time to start up our wine tastings again! As always, we’ll feature about 15 wines as well as food samples inside the store. It’s free, and there’s no need to RSVP. Tell all your friends!

Everyone gets: Ghostrider “Ungrafted” Red, Lodi 2014
Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, Syrah and Zinfandel.

Red blends are nothing new- winemakers from Bordeaux, the Rhone, and elsewhere have been doing it for centuries. But when people come in saying they like red blends, they usually mean something like this. It is certainly fruit-forward, but not sweet. The use of 100% French Oak gives it the unmistakable vanilla component in the profile. Rich and satisfying, this is definitely a crowd-pleasing blend that doesn’t require serious contemplation or historical context to enjoy.

Winemaker Lary Levin spent 17 years at Dry Creek Vineyards, then travelled the world making wine for several years before returning to California and starting Ghostrider.

Cheese Pairing: Marieke Gouda Belegen, aged 4-6 months
Norwegian cheesemaker Marieke Penterman brings traditional techniques to this Wisconscin-made gouda. Made from raw cow’s milk and aged on Dutch pine planks, this cheese is mellow and nutty. Much like the wine we’re pairing it with, it’s versatile and crowd-pleasing. In a way, the cheese gives this wine a little more structure while retaining its own characteristics.

Red club only: Poggio al Moro by by Enrico Santini, Bolgheri (Tuscany) 2009
Sangiovese 30%, Cabernet Sauvignon 30%, Syrah 10%, Merlot 30%

For a long time, Chianti and Chianti Classico were the premiere wines from Tuscany. The wines, named for the sub-regions where they were made, are made from the grape Sangiovese. Their production is also highly regulated (for better or worse) by the Italian government to ensure standards of production and quality. As a winemaker, having that stamp of approval and the Chianti designation on your bottle meant you could command higher prices and sell your wine more easily, due to the fame of the region. But in the past few decades, winemakers have increasingly eschewed the regulations and created a category of wines called “Super Tuscans.” Their claim is that they can make even better wines than tradition and regulations dictate, and they are willing to strike out on their own without the safety net of a DOC or DOCG designation. These wines generally include some Sangiovese, but also include Bordeaux varietals (usually Cabernet, Merlot, Cab Franc) and sometimes Syrah. The results are exciting, and the style truly rides the line between Old and New World.

You could make the comparison to black and white versus color photography. Traditional winemakers in Tuscany’s sub regions enjoy the challenge and tradition of a single varietal, like some photographers consider b&w the “serious” art form. The makers of Super Tuscans are like those who work in color, adding this extra dimension to their expressive arsenal.

We admit that we have a soft spot for Super Tuscans. In a field of favorites, this one stands out for simple appeal as well as distinctiveness. We got a toasted grains/waffle element, as well as blueberry. It’s bold and assertive, rich and velvety- but not tannic. I think “really tasty” might be the technical winespeak for this bottle!

Cheese Pairing: Parrano
The folks who make Parrano call it the “Dutch cheese that thinks it’s Italian,” making it a great companion for an Italian wine that steals from the French! Despite the identity crisis, this is a mature cheese that can blend gracefully within a variety of settings. It is technically a gouda-style cheese, although it is a bit saltier and assertive than a typical gouda. We find this to be a great all-around red wine pairing. It has aspects of both parmesan and cheddar, both of which are often good red wine partners.

White Wine: Hugo Rose Sparkling, Austria N/V (non-vintaged)
Zweiglet/Pinot Noir

Rose season is nearly upon us! We also have a real soft spot for rose sparkling wine, and this full, creamy selection made of Zweigelt and Pinot Noir is perhaps the best value we’ve had, at around $16/bottle.  It’s nuanced and creamy, dry but fruit-driven. At only 11.5%ABV, it has a food-friendly acidity and great minerality to boot.

Markus Huber manages his family’s 200+ year-old operation, and he is part of a movement of young Austrian winemakers taking the reins and accelerating the country’s worldwide visibility in the fine wine industry. This wine is harvested from small single vineyards in the Traisental, just a little bit west of Vienna.

Cheese Pairing: Delice de Bourgogne
This pairing reunites a relative from the land it left. The Hugo Rose contains Pinot Noir.  This triple crème brie is from Burgundy, Pinot Noir’s motherland. The French have a way with food and wine pairings, and generally if you keep to the food and drink of a single region you can’t go wrong. In this way, these two get along equally well, with the extra bonus of some bubbles to keep the palate fresh.

Med assistants