This offer is available from Friday, July 1st at 3:00 pm to Sunday, July 3rd at 3:00 pm.
If the offer is still on, you’ll see the order form at the bottom of this page. Completed forms are sent to Solo Vino Wine Shop in St. Paul, MN, for final fulfillment (shipping is available).
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Welcome to July! Fire up the grill!
There is nothing more satisfying than having a glass in hand while the smell of the grill is in the air. I’m a diehard charcoal guy, and the more my clothes can smell of the smoke, the better. And I’ll grill anything and everything!
Red wines for enjoying in the summer with grilled fare are a special lot indeed. These wines have a spicy edge, with firm acidity and a refreshing personality (even the fullest-bodied wine listed here, the zinfandel).
The most important hint
Serve all of these colder than you think you should.
I like to throw grilling reds into the fridge for about 1.5 to 2 hours ahead of popping the cork. Seem like too much? Trust me on this. When tasting these wines to select them, our house was set to 74 degrees, much too warm for wines that have been sitting on the counter for a few days. After two hours in the fridge, most of the wines were at about 60 degrees, and they were wonderful indeed. Chilling them down a bit focused the acids, brought out more of the punchy fruit we were seeking, and made for some seriously enjoyable juice.
No time to chill down your reds? Throw an ice cube in the glass! Don’t hesitate to do this. It’s your wine, and therefore your money. Enjoy the wines as best you can. Hint: toss a bag of grapes in the freezer and have them at the ready. It’s an easy and fun way to chill down a glass without watering it down at all.
Onward to this week’s wines!
Two personalities of Malbec: IQUE and LLAMA
We can’t talk about grilling without thinking about Argentina, the land of red meat! And when we think of Argentina, we obviously think of Malbec.
What many wine consumers don’t know is that Malbec from Argentina can fall into two simple to understand groups: those made with young vines (let’s say under 15 years old), and those made with old vines (often 40+ years old). Malbec, like Zinfandel and Grenache, tends to concentrate flavors and make deeper flavors with older vine age. But unlike Zinfandel, we can’t make a blanket statement at old-vine wines are better than young-vine wines. There’s a time and place for both when it comes to Malbec!
That’s why this little offer is so neat. Two wines, both outstanding, but totally different in style. If you want a mini-class on Malbec, this is it. The Enrique Foster “IQUE” Malbec is from younger vines, is concrete and stainless steel tank-fermented and aged, and is as bright and fresh as can be. It’s a delicious bottle of wine to have with simple grilled fare, from hamburgers to brats. The other is the Llama Malbec, coming from older vines and aged with some oak involved. It’s darker, richer, more textural, and phenomenal (this is the best Malbec at this price I’ve had all year).
Especially if you’re having friends or family over, get a bit of each and do a poll. I can pretty much guarantee a 50/50 split when you ask which one people liked more. And that’s just plain fun.
The best Zinfandel bang-for-the-buck in 2022
I have always loved the Pedroncelli family. They are the last of the old Italian families to still own and operate their winery in northern Sonoma County (check out the timeline on their website … just incredible!).
But I have to admit I didn’t always like their wines. When Jim and John Pedroncelli were in charge of the winemaking, they brought the same ideas and styles they had in the 1950s and 1960s to wines made in the 2000s. The wines were always pretty good, but there were better ones out there.
John Pedroncelli passed away in 2015, after 67 vintages. What a legacy! This made for a moment of change, and the Pedroncelli family brought in who I consider one of the best winemakers in the state: Montese Reece. Now Pedroncelli is 70% woman-owned, plus a female winemaker superstar. Boom!
This wine? Classic Zin through and through. Those of you that remember the Seghesio Sonoma zins of the mid-2000s will groove on this. Loads of blackberry fruit with a fresh layer of pepper and graphite aromas. A full-bodied, strong, powerful wine that makes a statement. It’s a big gun (15.5% ABV) but dances with detail. Serious wine to have with a ribeye or porterhouse fresh off the grill.
The insider’s secret: Blaufränkisch (also known as Lemberger)
If you’re not familiar with Blaufränkisch, welcome to what may be your new favorite grape.
It’s a central European variety that is very important in Austria. How to describe it? If Zinfandel and Syrah had a love child, with a touch of Pinot Noir thrown in, you’d have Blaufränkisch. It’s a late-ripening variety, typically offering layers of smoky black fruit aromas, mellow pepperiness, and a long finish with good acidity.
I’ve never (and I mean never) had someone say something bad about a Blaufränkisch that I poured for them. It’s a wonderful wine for pleasing a crowd of demanding wine drinkers while also offering up something most people have never experienced.
The Prieler Blaufränkisch is sourced from 9 different parcels in Schützen that are dominated by limestone, mica schist, and portions of slate. Fermented in stainless steel before being racked into used barrels. The winemaker notes: “It shows a lovely Vino Nobile aroma, round, barky, rugged but not rustic, focused but analog; it has warmth but also shape and outline, and a really articulate pepperiness.” Oh my this is good.
And then something super cool, rare, and way underpriced: Kiona Lemberger. Lemberger is a synonym for Blaufränkisch and was part of the early wave of vine plantings in Washington State as their wine industry began to take shape in the 70s and 80s. But it fell out of favor, partially because if you hear Lemberger you might think of stinky cheese. As Merlot and Cabernet became dominant nobody cared anymore about Lemberger.
Nobody, that is, except the amazing folks at Kiona. They are one of my favorite Washington wineries, and they own significant acreage in one of the smallest and highest quality AVAs in the country: Red Mountain. To understand the history and pride they take in this wine I suggest you read this page on their website.
From that article:
For decades the narrative surrounding Lemberger boiled down to, “this wine is pretty good for something with such a terrible name.” It’s an oenological back-handed compliment akin to saying, “You’re smart for a [INSERT]” or, “That shirt makes you look so skinny!”
Yes, the name is different. Yes, the grape is unfamiliar. Indeed, the aural similarity to an unaffiliated aromatically-maligned cheese is uncanny. BUT. We’re producing a unique, highly drinkable, affordable, easy-to-pair red wine in one of the world’s premier grape-growing areas. If one of the industry’s most successful wines over the last decade can have a drawing of a chained-up guy in shackles on the front label, surely we can have a wine with the name of the easy-to-pronounce grape on the front.
Ultimate wine for burgers: Zweigelt (in a 1L bottle)
There’s a bit of an Austrian theme going on here, and that’s with intention. Blaufränkisch is incredible. Another grape, St. Laurent, is equally intriguing. And in 1922 Dr. Zweigelt cross-pollinated Blaufränkisch and St. Laurent and developed what is now the number one red grape in Austria.
If there’s a punchy, fun, bright, lively, frisky, and energizing red wine that is made by the wine gods themselves to go with awesome hamburgers, this is it. But I’ve also found an interesting combination that I’m totally grooving on right now: Zweigelt with Mexican cuisine and flavors.
It’s one of my new favorite things. Tacos, chimichangas, burritos, anything with an abundance of cumin, anything with a little spicy heat … Zweigelt is my go-to. Light to medium-bodied, loads of raspberry and cherry aromas, firm acidity … it’s got everything!
And it’s in a one-liter bottle, which is like getting 33% more for free. In terms of fighting inflation, this is a great pick.
Pratsch is a relatively small, 20-hectare estate comprised of 13 single vineyards in the Niederosterreich region (Lower Austria) all maintained under organic certification for over 10 years by the Pratsch family, Wilhelm and Anneliese, and their son, Stefan. Organic wine growing to them is more than just the elimination of pesticides, fungicides, and artificial fertilizers, but rather part of a larger, holistic philosophy of dedication to the land and the quality of the wines. They also make a killer Gruner Veltliner if you happen upon it.
The sommelier’s darling: Cru Beaujolais
Lastly, we can’t talk about red wines for summer grilling without talking about top-notch Cru Beaujolais. Is there a better red grape for summer drinking than Gamay? Many sommeliers would say it’s the best there is.
And NOW is the moment to buy this.
You’ve heard me talk about this before, but the combination of supply-chain issues along with inflation is going to make the price of wines like this shoot up fast when new product arrives stateside. Basically, what you get here is an opportunity to time travel to pre-pandemic days of cheap gas and low-interest rates.
The Twin Cities has seen the arrival of dozens of great Cru Beaujolais in the last ten years (coinciding with the rise of our fine-dining culture and sommelier community), so there is no great lack of wine in this category. What sets this one apart is the direct shipping relationship that brings it to our state (I may be wrong, but I’m pretty sure Roche-Guillon is only available in Minnesota … take that, fancy-pants New Yorkers!), along with being a single parcel wine from the Cru of Fleurie. The wines of Fleurie are some of the best of Beaujolais, typically showing delicacy, detail, and elegance from the pink granite soils.
This wine is ideal with grilled veggies, pork, and poultry.
If there is one wine to buy, it’s the Kiona Lemberger. All of these wines are good, of course, but that one stands out in terms of story, distinctiveness, and delicousness.
If you’re curious about the Lemberger you may also want to buy the Blaufränkisch for a fun side-by-side comparison.
And speaking of side-by-side comparisons, the Malbecs can’t be beat.
If you’re a fan of big steaks and bold flavors don’t miss the Zinfandel.
And if you’re a fan of detail and elegance, jump on the Beaujolais.
No matter what you choose, any of these wines are guaranteed to go great with grilled fare all summer long. Just don’t forget rule number one: chill them down a bit.
Thank you, everyone! Please spread the word about our Friday offers!
Sommelier, founder of Twin Cities Wine Education
This offer has closed. Thank you for your interest.