Get Off! (dry) was the theme for this edition of Wine Blogging Wednesdays. I had already decided to go with a Crèmant from Alsace or California and call it a day. Instead, it took a long holiday weekend in Southern California to find the perfect off-dry wine. Serendipity is my friend.
Whenever I fly down south to visit with my friends in Los Angeles I know they'll be a lot of animated conversation, shopping, browsing, eating, drinking and dining out. Wine shopping is also a big part of the festivities.
In fact, a couple hours after arriving in Sherman Oaks, I was picked up by Monsieur R. who had taken the afternoon off to drive me around town to one of his favorite wine shops (Wine House and Twenty Twenty Wine Merchants are the other two), a nearby Nordstrom (he is a clothes horse) only to end the tour at Bristol Farms in Pasadena for some food and wine shopping (they stock Château Pétrus in their wine case, sheesh!) before dinner (Mexican, from Tony's, yay!)
It was while perusing the aisles at Topline Wines and Spirits in Glendale that it occurred to me to ask one of the most knowledgeable and funny wine merchants a-n-y-w-h-e-r-e for a wine recommendation for this WBW.
It was Mike, the manager of this family owned business (his family, in operation for over 25 years) who a few years ago had sold me a great vintage of Château d'Yquem at a very good price, a bottle that still sits in my small cellar waiting for the perfect day to drink up. If there was a chance to clone a wine guy, I would clone him.
When you talk to this Mr. M you can perceive immediately that the wine feedback and tips he mouths off are honest and take no prisoners, that there is no bs or misguided snobbery about them.
You get the sense that this loud and boisterous oenophile is passionate about the grape and his job, that he tries more wines than you and I could ever wish to taste, says what he thinks and rather than selling you the most expensive or trendy bottle of wine he has in stock, he wants you to walk away with the best bottle--regardless of price--you'll want to drink and will enjoy drinking.
And if you happen to know what you want to drink, he'll find you the best bottle and best value for your money. So I told Mike a bit about what we were doing today. Virtual tasting, off-dry themed, moderate price ok, just not too expensive. I'd take a look at his suggestions and pick one of the bottles. Great.
After walking around the shop with me, pointing at a bottle here and there all of a sudden, with eyes wide open, he grabbed a certain bottling from a winery I had never heard of before and a varietal it had never ocurred to me to try until that afternoon.
"This is it! This is the wine you want for your tasting. Great wine, small family owned vineyard, lovely and crisp, definitely off-dry, price is great. Take it. I know you'll love it."
Rancho Sisquoc's website describes their 2004 Sylvaner as a very unique wine with luscious flavors of peaches and tropical fruits, a real treat for anyone wanting to try something different.
Originally from Austria, Sylvaner has been, for the most part, associated with German and Alsatian wines. Its delicate, gentle and floral bouquet is something that I, after falling seriously head over heels for its lovely character and feel, now think to be absolutely underrated.
According to Wines Northwest Sylvaner makes for acidic, light bodied, tingly, racy and youthful wines. So its no surprise that Rancho Sisquoc's Sylvaner was totally up my alley. Very refreshing and very easy to drink with a higher acidity on the palate than your average Riesling or Gewürztraminer --two of my favorite wines, especially if botrytized (late harvest)-- with beautiful floral aromas of stone fruit and a light crisp finish.
Over the 4th of July weekend in Los Angeles, I managed to pair it with most everything under the sun. From grilled salmon and chicken, light Mexican fare, my warm roasted roasted beet, red onion and fig salad, a gorgeous tri-color heirloom tomato salad (pale yellow, deep plum and Kelly green) to a bowl of chilled fresh strawberries and cherries for dessert. It never lost is perky character even when stored in the fridge, quaffed 95% of the juice over the long weekend.
It's so lovely it made me regret that in my desire for traveling as light as possible I had opted to pick only one bottle rather than schlep a few or even a case with me back to Seattle and in case I found any other gems somewhere else (which I did, of course!).
So early this morning I called the winery in Santa Barbara to see if there was any distribution of this beauty in Seattle only to be told "no, just California, it is such a small release". It was then that I called Mike and placed an order for a case. It should arrive around this time next week. ;-)
Topline is a very busy store with fabulous service, a fantastic selection and nicely discounted offerings but their business not really intended for mail order or the web (they do not even have email and are not keen on being mobbed with phone orders either). I guess I got lucky that Mike remembered me from Thursday and agreed to mail me the case.
This style of wine is meant to be drunk when fairly young. If you live in LA and are looking to find that something different, a white wine to cool your bones on one of those too hot for this Seattleite So. California summer days, stop by to see Mike and get your own bottle of this Sylvaner. Or better yet, buy as many bottles as you can find --before they are gone, as I was told there are only a couple cases left--, refrigerate and make them your summer white. It is that good.
Santa Barbara County
Santa Barbara, California
522 cases produced
$14.00 per bottle
Originally discovered in Austria, Sylvaner is the French name for this eastern European variety known in Germany as Silvaner. Within France’s Alsace Region, it was until recently, the most widely planted grape varietal. Although not nearly as perfumed or sweet as Riesling or Gewurztraminer, the other key varietals grown in the Alsace Region, this wonderful wine exhibits luscious pear and fig flavors with an aromatic nose. Rancho Sisquoc Sylvaner is blended with 15% Riesling and is a delightfully clean and crisp wine with a lingering sweetness of spice and mineral.
If you have never heard of Sylvaner before, it is probably because Rancho Sisquoc is currently the only winery in California producing this unique wine. Open the bottle and enjoy a glass, then refrigerate the rest of the bottle, occasionally sampling it to experience how the fruits come to life as the wine oxidizes over 24 to 48 hours.
Source: The Wine Gift Club
Pork Tenderloin paired w/Rancho Sisquoc Sylvaner
Rancho Sisquoc Sylvaner at Berman's
In Washington State, Bainbridge Island Winery used to make a Madeleine Sylvaner (which along with Madeleine Angevine is a relative of the Sylvaner grape). That fruit is now part of their Ferryboat White, an medium sweet wine (2.5% residual sugar) that has become the winery's most popular and largest release wine (547 cases).
Their Müller-Thurgau (a cross between Riesling and Sylvaner) made in the traditional (off-dry) style with the perfect balance of residual sugar (1.5%, 11% Alcohol) and crispness would have also been a great local option for this tasting.
In Seattle you can find Bainbridge Island Winery wines for sale at Whole Foods in Ravenna, Ballard Market in Ballard, Pike & Western at the market, at the Bainbridge Farmers Market on Saturdays and of course, at the winery (which also has its own tasting room) just a quick and beautiful ferry ride away, across the city in Bainbridge Island.