Vin Hunter, here again to bring you some of the most compelling wines you will ever taste. My job is to travel the world in search of wines that will give you thrills and chills, and just be an absolute joy to drink. After all, if you don’t really enjoy a bottle of wine, what’s the point?
The following selections have been dubbed “Raucous Reds” by yours truly because, while they all have distinctly different flavor profiles, they share a commonality. They’re mouth-filling, textured gems that will take your palate on a joyride. As you ponder how in the world the artistic winemakers coax so much flavor out of, let’s face it — grape juice - — remind yourself how much fun it is to really get into a great wine. It is my pleasure to do my part to make that happen.
2002 Dry Creek Vineyard – Beeson Ranch Zinfandel
Nothing in the wine world is as profound a sight as an ancient Zinfandel vineyard. Gnarled 100-year-old vines barely hanging on still manage to produce incredibly intense fruit. It’s a true testimonial to the tenacity of the old vine Zinfandel vineyards in California. The Beeson Ranch in Sonoma’s Dry Creek Valley may look like it’s on its last leg, but that’s how it has looked for the last 50 years. There’s not much of this hallowed Zin to go around, so don’t miss this effusive berry-flavored, rustic wine. It has the power and grace that only a century of wisdom can create. If this vineyard could talk, it would say, “Please don’t kick my vines.” Then it would ask you to pair the wine with grilled pepper steak. You should listen to your elders! $31.99
2001 Markham Vineyard Petite Sirah
At last, a sense of closure when you try to recall the biggest, baddest wine you’ve ever had. One taste of this monster and your taste buds will hyperventilate (heard them say that in Cali) with the joy of experiencing such intense beauty. There’s only a precious few acres of old-vine Petite Sirah left in Napa Valley, and the Markham boys have rights to most of it. Luckily, they know how to treat monumental juice such as this. Its aromas will remind you of plump, ripe berries on a hot summer day. Your first sip will reveal that berry-ish character, and then, BOOM! A concentrated mass of fruit and barrel flavors (think maple syrup and wood smoke) explodes in your mouth. Don’t even ask how I convinced the folks at Markham to part with a few cases of this special wine. $29.99
2003 Domaine Louis Geoffrey Chateauneuf-du-Pape
The 2003 vintage in France will be remembered as one of the hottest in history. The freakishly unusual growing season was like a summer on steroids for vineyards. They produced grapes of such ultra-ripeness that many vignerons were forced to proclaim the vintage as “California-like!” Once they got over all this, some great wines were made that were indeed “California-like” but still possessed their French sense of style. One of the most fun reds I’ve had all year hails from the Rhone Valley. Although this Chateauneuf-du-Pape appellation usually produces big and dense wines that require some patience for them to open up and become softer, this explosive Grenache-based wine is ready to roll now. It starts with huge raspberry aromas and flavors and then complex notes of pepper, licorice and spice round things out. Even thinking about cellaring this Rhone fruit-bomb is a moot point. You won’t be able to keep your hands off of it. $27.99 (Save $5.00)
2003 St. Joseph Vineyard Reserve Pinot Noir
Who would’a thunk that Pinot Noir would become one of the hottest and most sought-after red wines all because of a movie? Moreover, who would have believed that Pinot Noir might just become a superstar for our fair region, causing the rest of the wine world to take notice? Regardless of where you are, just trying to grow Pinot Noir is a bit wacky. The grape is a notorious heartbreaker, demanding utmost attention in the vineyard and an almost perfect growing season. Even when those things happen, every step of the winemaking process must be monitored to keep the Pinot happy. All the trouble is worth it if the stubborn grape yields one of the world’s great red wines. This delicious effort is made just east of Cleveland in Thompson by the talented grower/winemaker Art Pietrzyk at his St. Joseph Vineyard winery. It’s a winner of many national awards, including the prestigious gold medal at the Tasters Guild International. Extremely fruity with Bing cherry and strawberry characteristics on the nose, it has flavors that show the same coupled with hints of chocolate and spice. This vibrant wine will remind you that we live in a world-class grape-growing region. This is certainly not your father’s Ohio wine. $19.99 (Save $5.00)
2002 Castello Di Corbara – Lago Di Corbara
Here’s your chance to latch on to a wine made by one of Italy’s great winemakers. Sometimes called “the next Gaja,” Franco Bernabei has become one of the world’s most influential personalities in the wine world. His trademark is to have no trademark at all, letting the terroir and variety show in the wine before the stamp of the winemaker. Incredibly, this complex and layered blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese from southern Umbria can be had for a song. If you’ve been around long enough to recall wines that once were affordable and now command a second mortgage, you’ll appreciate this insider’s tip. Grab some before this one is priced out of sight, too. $15.99 (Save $4.00)
2002 Duxoup Syrah
Made by the affable husband and wife team of Andy and Deb Cutter at their tiny operation in Sonoma County, this is a fun and delicious way to get your daily dose of Syrah. While the Cutters’ winery may be modest, their ambition is not. They source incredible grapes of great pedigree from their Dry Creek Valley neighbors and produce a Syrah that is silky, fruity and easy to enjoy. In a word not often used in the wine world to my liking, Andy and Deb describe this wine as “yummy.” If black fruits, black pepper and mocha notes packed on a smooth frame could simply be boiled down to a one word description, heck, I think “yummy” is perfect! $15.99