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Morgan Winery, Arroyo Seco (Monterey County, California) Albariño 2021 ($24)
 Albariño continues to make inroads in the Golden State, with more and more locations coming on line each year.  Morgan has been producing this offering for a few vintages now, and vine maturity is becoming evident.  The choice of a little new oak aging in the mix shows another facet of what the variety can do, here adding a creamy texture at palate entry without sacrificing the fresh character you would expect.  Nectarine, Meyer lemon, pear and wet stone are the main players, with a touch of lime zest in the finish adding lift and length.  Nice!       
91 Rich Cook


Posted by Miranda Franco on August 11, 2022 at 10:51 AM

The Perfect Summer Sipper: Txakolina

With temperatures soaring across the country, you’ll need a cold drink to lull you out of your heat-induced stupor.  Look no further than Txakolina (pronounced chock-oh-lee-nah) an effervescent, incredibly crisp, refreshing wine that can cut through the hottest summer days.  Txakolina (also called Txakoli or Chacoli) by no means is exclusively a seasonal drink; however, it's hard to deny that it is an ideal wine to enjoy on a summer terrace.  The Basque region's answer to Vinho Verde, most Txakoli wines have relatively low alcohol (typically 10-11 percent), making them perfectly refreshing for hot summer days.  A hint of salinity and ample acidity also make these wines perfect for social drinking over shared plates on a warm afternoon.

Txakolina is the traditional wine of the Basque region in northern Spain.  Until recently, most Txakoli wine was consumed within the region.  It was only in 1989 that the Basque town of Getaria was given its Denominación de Origen (DO), with the Bizkaiko Txakolina DO created in 1994 and a third tiny appellation, Arabako Txakolina DO created in 2001.  These three distinct subregions make differing styles of the uniquely Basque delight.  The good news is that you don't have to travel to Spain to get your hands on a bottle, because many beautiful examples of this wine have started to pop up across the U.S.  

As Txakolina is becoming more and more popular in the United States, so too are events featuring this iconic wine.  To toast the summer season, I recently attended Maxwell Park’s (a brilliant wine bar with two locations in Washington, D.C.) Txakoli Fest, where I had the opportunity to try notable Txakolinas and chat with Mike Aloi, DC Account Manager for Free Run Wine Merchants, to discuss the appeal of Txakolina.  

Miranda Franco (MF): "Where should one begin their exploration of Txakoli wine?"

Mike Aloi (MA): "You should be able to ask for Txakoli at any good Spanish restaurant, and it is increasingly available at seafood restaurants with serious wine lists.  I love Txakoli and oysters.  One of the most iconic producers is Ameztoi, a 5th-generation family estate in Getaria.  These carefully made wines, iconic for their brightness and signature spritz, are easily the most recognized brand of Txakoli in the United States."

MF: "What can someone tasting Txakoli for the first time expect from it?"

MA: "Txakoli is in one word: FRESH.  Coming from the cool, coastal vineyards of Spain’s Basque Country along the Cantabrian coast, these wines are always light, bright, saline, and bursting with notes of citrus zest.  Often bottled with a little bit of fizz, they are the perfect aperitif meant to be served alongside the tapas and pintxos.  The tapas bar-lined streets of San Sebastian are practically flowing with Txakoli to wash down salty snacks like olives, anchovies, chorizo, and Marcona almonds."

MF: "What do you love most about Txakoli?"
MA: "Above all else, it is joyous and refreshing.  I generally gravitate towards high acid, low alcohol wines - especially in summer.  These wines are also extremely versatile on their own and with food.  Most importantly, they are meant to be shared.  These wines go down easy – by the bottle or passed in a communal drinking vessel called a porron (look it up – it’s as fun as it looks).  These wines are just plain fun."

MF: "Why did Free Run Wine Merchants decide to work with Txakoli?"

MA: "We are lucky to have De Maison Selections as one of our import partners, and they are the undisputed kings of Txakoli in the US.  They are a boutique importer of wines from Spain and France that just casually has four different Txakoli producers in their portfolio.  That’s a commitment to a region, style, and wine-drinking culture."

"Beyond Ameztoi there are a couple of other producers I’d love to call out."

"Arotmaña ‘Xarmant – from steeper slopes further inland in the mountains of the Basque country, these wines – who’s name means “charming” in Basque – are certainly that.  A little more fruit-forward and with a bit less acid and residual carbonation – these make a great entry point to Txakoli, especially for lovers of Riesling or Chenin Blanc.  It also comes in a beautiful 250ml can that is ideal for the beach, the pool, or the park."

"Doniene Gorrondona – Perched on the precipitous green cliff above the Bay of Biscay in the seaside village of Bakio, near Bilbao, Doniene Gorrondona is making some of the most singular and interesting wines in the region.  Helmed by female winemaker Itziar Insausti, Gorrondona is pushing the conversation forward regarding what the region can produce.  Yes, they make a light and refreshing entry-level Taxkoli but also a few very special single vineyard white Txakolina with more power and structure than a drink like Chablis.  Truly a delight."

"They are famous for never giving up on red or “tinto” Txakoli and are home to some of the oldest parcels of pre-phylloxera Hondarrabi Beltza (Cabernet Franc) vines in the region.  It is easy to draw parallels between her red and the best wines of regions like Chinon in France’s Loire Valley.  They also have a distillery on-site at the winery where they make Orujo (Spanish Grappa) from the pomace (seeds and skins) left over from the winemaking.  They are making a couple of really cool liqueurs from this brandy base.  One with herbs and spices similar to an amaro and another with seaweed from the nearby coastline that tasted unlike anything I had ever had."

Dr. Michael
This Issue's Reviews
Red Wines of Provence and Notable Rosés
Michael Apstein

August 10, 2022: Rosé naturally comes to mind when thinking of the wines from Provence. But I'm here to tell you that at least one appellation in the region, Les Baux de Provence, makes terrific reds. They also make excellent rosés. Yes, you read that correctly. As someone who has not been swept away by the tsunami of pink wine, I actually find that many of the rosés from Les Baux de Provence are distinctive. Anne Poniatowski, who with her sister, Caroline Missoffe, are in charge of the venerable Mas de la Dame estate, puts the rosés of the region into perspective, 'We (the producers within the appellation) wanted a rosé that was a wine, not just an aperitif.'
Striking Wines from California's Volcanic Lake County
Rebecca Murphy

August 10, 2022: The wine country of Lake County is located in the California coastal range, north of Napa and Sonoma and east of Mendocino County. 'It is a geographic, geological oddity created by volcanic activity that is still going on underground. At 4,300 feet, Mount Konocti towers over Clear Lake, which is second largest body of fresh water in the state.' This was among the interesting facts emerging from a seminar hosted by Jim Gordon of Wine Enthusiast earlier this year. Volcanic wines have become a hot topic in the wine world. Canada's first Master Sommelier, John Szabo, who wrote Volcanic Wines: Salt, Grit and Power was also among the speakers. Peter Molnar, co-founder of Obsidian Wine Company, and Joy Merrilees, Vice President of Production at Shannon Family of Wines, provided first-hand accounts of the challenges and joys of making wines grown in volcanic soils.
Wine With
WINE WITH…Steak on a Bed of Buttered Corn

July 20, 2022: Most of us have a pretty clear idea of what we consider the perfect steak. In general, Americans tend to like their steak big, and they tend to like it grilled over charcoal. I am usually happy with a smaller steak, and I like it somewhat thinner. My ideal steak is usually seasoned with nothing more than salt and pepper, and it is quickly seared in a very hot and heavy cast iron skillet. If the wine you're going to pour with that steak is special that might be even more reason to let the steak's natural flavors shine through.
On My Table
Five Takes on Tuscan Sangiovese
Mary Ewing-Mulligan

August 11, 2022: Tuscany is a remarkable wine region. Although most of its red wines are based on the Sangiovese grape - with notable exceptions along the coast - the variety among them is almost endless. Even within a single DOCG appellation such as Chianti Classico, the wines, always 80 to 100 percent Sangiovese, vary from commune to commune and from producer to producer. A case in point is my recent tasting of five Tuscan Sangiovese wines from a single importer, Dalla Terra Winery Direct. This company specializes in family-owned Italian estates and, thanks to its particular distribution model that eliminates the middleman, the wines are all very well priced at retail. More than ranking each wine against the other in terms of quality, I found myself characterizing the wines stylistically to highlight their unique faces. Sassy, pretty, polished, age-worthy or solid and complete: Even this mini selection of Tuscan reds proves what pleasures await an exploration of Sangiovese in Tuscany.