ArmAs – Aragatsotn, Armenia

So, anyone heard of Armenian wines? If not, you will soon. I was in Yerevan for a recent work trip and happened to be visiting a bunch of agricultural sites, many of which were growing grapes. This country’s soils are so well-suited for orchards, particularly grapes, because of their volcanic or bouldery geology. All are very well-drained and the climate affords them enough sunlight and water stress to push them to the max. The grapes have traditionally been used to make exceptional cognac, but now the farmers are waking up to the fact that they have excellent conditions to grow world class table wines. This is not unlike the Spanish epiphany of the late 1990s or the Portuguese awakening of the early-mid 200os.

Now to the wine: it is ripe, tight, and spicy. Its native grapes reminded me of the Norton varietal here in the mid-Atlantic USA; very bold and very unique. I reckon that this will be drinking well for years to come. Sheridan, be thankful that I got a bottle for you too…

·         Rating: Impressive

·         Name: Karmrahyut Dry Red Wine

·         Winery: ArmAs

·         Region: Aragatsotn Province

·         Country: Armenia

·         Varietals: Karmrahyut, Areni, Kakhet, Meghrabuyr

·         Price: $12

Lyric 2012 Pinot Noir – Santa Barbara, CA

img_8557I’m not a fan of the California wine makers who try to make every red grape they produce into an in-your-face, high alchohol, meaty, power-hungry Cabernet Sauvignon. And I find it particularly off-putting when they do this to Pinot Noir, which is such a delicate varietal.

That being noted, this Pinot from Etude is perhaps the one exception. First things first, do not buy this wine if you are hoping to drink what is supposed to be a Pinot Noir. It is much more full-bodied and lucious than a Pinot, but it stops before over-reaching into Cabernet territory. It has a spicy earthiness that tastes more like a Zinfandel to me, but maintains its softness like a Pinot should.

I am quite partial to the wines of Santa Barbara, so I’m not surprised that this Pinot in disguise hits the mark for me. Overall verdict = impressive.

  • Rating: Impressive
  • Name: Lyric 2012 Pinot Noir
  • Winery: Etude
  • Region: Santa Barbara 
  • Country: USA
  • Varietals: Pinot Noir
  • Price: $14-$20
  • Where to Buy: N/A

Alanda Tinto 2011 – Galicia, Spain

IMG_6394-0Sheridan and I shared this the afternoon that we crushed the first vintage of our “estate” Barbera, proudly grown in Kensington, MD – more on that in a later post.

This one was subtle and refreshingly fruity with plums and berry fruits. It only had a hint of oak, which made the sense of place shine through. The wine and the three varietals that define it, Mencia, Bastardo, and Garnacha Tintorera, were grown in Galicia, Spain, which boarders Northern Portugal (no wonder this was a hit with the two of us). Not sure how much it goes for or how the heck to buy it here…Sheridan, any thoughts to offer on this?

  • Rating: Everyday Whites
  • Name: Alanda Tinto 2011
  • Winery: Quinta da Muradella
  • Region: Galicia 
  • Country: Spain
  • Varietals: 65% Mencia, 30% Bastardo, 5% Garnacha Tintorera
  • Price: N/A
  • Where to Buy: N/A

Domaine Paul Autard 2013 Côtes du Rhône – Rhone, France

IMG_5237I love Rhône varietals, but I honestly don’t drink a lot of Côtes du Rhône wines. Inspired by a recent podcast of the 3 Wine Guys devoted to grenache/garnacha, I decided to start my get-to-know-better exploration of these coveted French beauties. This wine really set a high bar, even though it’s not a Châteauneuf-du-Pape. The nose explodes with fruit and flowers straight out of the bottle. I honestly could have just smelled this baby for 20 minutes without tasting it. But I was a little rushed, so I dove right in. Multiple layers on this. Dried cherries, tobacco, spiced plums, with a gorgeous finish that lingers for at least 10-15 seconds. Light oak – just enough and not too much. Picked it up at Chevy Chase Supermarket for $18. Extremely recommended. A-

  • Rating: Impressive
  • Name:  Côtes du Rhône 2013
  • Winery: Domaine Paul Autard
  • Region: Rhone
  • Country: French
  • Varietals: 85% Grenache, 15% Syrah
  • Price: $18
  • Where to Buy: Chevy Chase Supermarket, 8531 Connecticut Ave, Chevy Chase, MD 20815