One of my favorite things about the world of wine is the sheer volume and variety of what is available. I love that you can tour any part of the world and learn about the area’s history, geography, climate and culinary influences all through a few sips. I’ve never been to Uruguay, Turkey or the volcanic Mt. Etna, but I now know a great deal about those places because of Wine Buyer Sam Hovland at East End Wines.
East End Wines, on Rosewood Avenue just across from Hillside Farmacy, is an affordable place to experiment with new wines. The shop targets an average retail price of $18 per bottle and hosts free weekly wine tastings to introduce their customers to new offerings. (You definitely want to sign up for that email list.) They also host wine classes where you can learn in depth about your favorite vino.
I recently attended a Uruguayan wine tasting at the shop and it prompted me to ask Sam to take me on a tour of some of the other unusual wines they have on their shelves.
The Mile High Vineyard. Torrontes is the flagship white wine of Argentina and has become increasingly popular in the U.S., but it is unusual to find a wine made from grapes grown over a mile above sea level. The Laborum Single Vineyard Torrontes 2013 El Porvenir de Cafayette has the peach and honeysuckle flavors you might expect from this varietal, but because the temperature drops 40-50 degrees when the sun goes down, it also has an uncharacteristic acidity.
“This wine has racy acidity, while you still get that stone fruit and floral character without it coming out as overly sweet or soft,” says Hovland. “It’s pretty easy to enjoy.” This refreshing white from the Salta region retails for $18.
A dry Hungarian. Hungary is known for it’s sweet wines from the Tokaji (prounced to-keye) region northeast of Budapest, but the East End Wines team prefers the quality dry and sparkling wines. The Royal Tokaji Furmint Sec 2011 is dry, sleek, light and citrusy white that retails for $17.
“This wine would pair well with a roasted chicken stuffed with sliced up orange and fennel or a whole range of earthy eastern European or Italian vegetable dishes that,” says Hovland.
A volcanic rosé. There are few places as precarious to grow grapes as on the side of Mt. Etna, an active volcano in Catania, Italy on the island of Sicily. But Frank Cornelissen is not known for shying away from challenges. Not only is his vineyard on a volcano, but he practices organic winemaking and refuses to use sulfur as a preservative, creating wines that are literally alive in the bottle.
The F. Cornelissen Susucaru 6 Rosé is a blend of 80% red grapes and 20% white grapes, from several varietals native to Sicily like the Nerello Mascalese, Malvasia and Cattaratto. The bottle is full of sediment and looks more like a lava lamp than a fine wine.
“This wine is weird,” says Hovland. “It is very tangy and has a still alive spritz. One bottle may be fizzy and one may be more still, but they are fun and worth trying.” This delightful pink volcano in the bottle retails for $30.
A Turkish Delight. Turkey is known more for its cuisine than its wine, but the vineyards in the Central Anatolia region on the banks of the Euphrates, are producing notable wines that are considered rising values. Made with native Turkish grapes Öküzgözü and Boğazkere, the Kavaklidere – Selection Kirmizi 2010 has intense dried plum and sweet spice aromas and is elegantly powerful and full-bodied on the palate.
“This blend is from interesting varietals that you don’t see that often,” says Hovland. “It comes off like a bit more ripe Bordeaux type of blend and is very versatile as a food wine.” The elegant Turkish red sells for $20.
When you stock your wine rack for the holidays, mix it up and explore a little. The folks at East End Wines are great sherpas for the journey!