All day, every day, the Lushes have been searching and exploring…challenging our palates to expand as we try new grapes, regions, producers, and styles. We have discovered what we adore, what we LOVE and what do not care for. And, we discovered that our tastes have evolved, twisted, turned, and ended up in new places, the same places, and places we never imagined we would go. As a staff, we have a very eclectic, bizarre, and sometimes frightening taste in all things fermented.
Set to task, dedicated to choosing our very most favoritest wines, we set a very strict set of criteria…we want outrageous quality for the cash, of course, but we also require craft winemaking, juice that speaks of where it comes from and that inexplicable, intangible, expression of something extraordinary.Our staff picks of the year are titillating, intellectual stimulating, and definitely remarkable…unforgettable, even. So, we are memorializing our favorites of the year in this year end rewind.
So, without further ado, the LUSH Wines of the Year, 2011. Ha. No, silly, you have to come to the tasting to get a sneak peek and a secret sip…
Sundays with LUSH: Staff Picks
2010 Umathum Traminer, Burgenland, Austria – Traminer Rouge/Traminer
Umumumumumummmmm. I heart this wine because it smells sweet like flowers but has really nice acidity. I could smell it for days! It would be delish with the Zingerman’s Lincoln log, Pantaleo, or Capriole Juliana. Yum cheese! Yum snax! Yum Traminer! $30.00
Jess H. –
2004 Rolly Gassmann, Alsace, France – Gewurztraminer
Hooray! Gewurztraminer! I love you. (and, apparently, so does Kim…).
Oh, velvety sweetness in a bottle. You are a thick, super rich, almost over-the-top wine with a perfumed nose of lychee and spice. And, I appreciate you for you…including your insane amount of residual sugar. Rolly-Gassmann is a Domaine like none other and their unique style of winemaking immediately draws me in. Why? Unique how? Well, I think its a kind of shameless uniqueness. I like wine that makes no apologies for itself. Beautiful sweet fruit. Rose petal perfume with touches of orange blossom. Wonderfully luscious, marmalade-y sweetness. All sound a bit seductive? It should. A little too rich and hedonistic? Without a doubt. This wine is complicated, though not entirely complex. It is focused, but soft around the edges (like yours truly…wink wink). Rolly-Gassmann produces wines that are considered to be “small masterpieces” with very good definition. And, I couldn’t agree more. So, let’s drink this delightful little work-of-art and remember like Mae West said “too much of a good thing is wonderful”!!!! $57.00
AmByth Estate, Paso Robles, California – Tempranillo/Sangiovese
As anyone who works in the wine industry can appreciate, I am often asked about my favorite wine. Oh, impossible question! Okay, I’ll wax poetic over the wonder that can be a bottle of Mosel Riesling, or the inherent sexiness of that Loire Chenin Blanc. These are wines I know I like. But, sometimes the best wine is wine that has the ability to do two things: 1) Change your mind (Think you don’t like Chardonnay? Enter Burgundy…Think you hate Australian Shiraz? Enter 2006 Nashwauk), and 2) Offer you a taste experience you haven’t yet had. My pick this year is a tribute to the latter. Mere months ago I tasted the 2007 Ambyth Estate Tempranillo- Sangiovese, the first time such a blend has graced my palate. What. a. treat. And produced biodynamically in Paso Robles, California to top it off! Without question, one of the standout wines of my year.
Thackery Pleiades XX, California – Sangiovese/Viognier/Mourvedre/Syrah/Pinot Noir
Iconic winemaker, Sean Thackrey has made 20 or more vintages of the non-vintage Pleiades, named for the star cluster. Thackrey’s unconventional and unique style emphasizes wine making methods from ancient texts as he allows his grapes to sit and rest in the warmth as the first winemakers did. He blends varietals such as Sangiovese, Viognier, Mourvedre, Syrah and Pinot Noir (and sometimes Barbera and Carignan) from his Bolinas backyard to create the most delicious and aromatic wines. Each year he creates a wonderful and different blend. The Pleiades XX shows layers of huckleberry and strawberry intertwined with eucalyptus and spice laden. It’s earthy, savory, complex and voluptuous. Grab a bottle and drink it slowly. Enjoy the way the wine evolves over a few hours. Save a sip or two for breakfast. What a true pleasure! $35.00
Shinn Estate, Long Island, New York, Merlot
Oh…my…gawd…What a wonderful wine. Located on the North Fork of Long Island (aka Lawng Guyland) as well as only an hour away from where i grew up, Shinn Estate produces one of the best Merlots out there, at least I think so. But before we get into all that, let’s talk a little first…or I’ll talk and you guys will listen (what did you expect i’m a Long Island girl).
Long Island is shaped like a fish. Queens and Brooklyn at the head, Farmingdale where i grew up almost in the center, Seinfeld just next door, Billy Joel and Teddy Roosevelt 20 minutes north, and then all those NYC types who spend their summers out east in the Hampton’s on the South Fork or the bottom tail fin. Growing up I was only a 20 minute drive to the Ocean, a 45 minute drive to NYC, and an hour drive to Montauk.
Long Island is also packed with history. Having a mom who is a living historian/re-enactor I was surrounded by it, history that is. I grew up knowing an actual Rosie the Riveter and numerous Women Air =force Service Pilots. Having one of the most trafficked and influential airports during WWII, pretty much in my backyard helped too. Charles Lindbergh took off for his flight in the spirit of St. Louis at Mitchel Field. Teddy Roosevelt’s summer house, and wildlife preserve is a quick and wonderful drive to the North Shore. The gold coast is filled with old Mansions of the Rockefeller’s, and the Guggenheim’s, which is also where the Great Gatsby took place.
So now that you almost forgot about the guidos that have seemed to over shadow what a wonderful place Long Island is let’s talk about wine 🙂
Shinn Estate is located on the north tail fin of Long Island. Glacially formed soil brings a rich but slightly rocky quality to the soil. A quick hop to the Long island sound is great for the soil, as well as bagels and pizza. The vines grow deep into the soil seeking out the nutrients they need. The vineyard is farmed sustainably and naturally. Gentle tannins, red plum fruit and a soft nose of vanilla, coffee and chocolate, oy vey. $32.00
2009 Clautiere 2 Cocky Sisters, Paso Robles, California – Grenache/Syrah/Zinfandel/Counoise
Don’t have a Boo this winter? Winter girlfriend 2011-12 didn’t come through?
Broken promises, failed dreams, not a problem… time to settle. Like these two sisters, Terry and Claudine know how to have fun and take life with a grain of spice. Known for their zany parties full of costume, wigs, and astrological boastings, the duo has utilized leftover wine from their more expensive bottles and made this delicious medium-bodied blend. With a surprising spiciness, this blend has enough bite to make it a bit mean without breaking your bank. Sure, drink it with food, it pairs great with a pork chop but don’t feel bad about eating it with a Hot Pocket or better yet, all by itself, by yourself. The notes of thick plums, dark cherries, and a whiff of black pepper are perfect to share with a friend or just in your mumu.
NV Brochelle Stimulus, Paso Robles, California – Zinfandel
This is a full, fruity and fabulous zinfandel from Paso Robles- it’s silky and luscious! In 1998, Brock and Michelle created Brochelle, a combination of their hard work, dedication and vision to create amazing wines through their impeccable attention to detail. Delightful…We enjoy wines on the $10 cart too! $10.00
2007 Twisted Oak ‘The Spaniard’, Calaveras County, California – Tempranillo/Garnacha/Graciano
I was first drawn to this wine because of my love for the movie “The Princess Bride,”which it is named after, but what really made this wine one of my favorites was the super intense layers of flavors I tasted in this Rioja style blend. Aged in new French oak, new American oak and two year old French oak, the Tempanillo and Garnacha pick up lovely notes of vanilla, sandlewood, anise and nutmeg. Then Graciano is blended, adding dark berry flavors and a lively fruitiness. Strong tannins and a long velvety finish are only part of what make the wine makers claim, “You’ll need six fingers to hold the glass.”
The notes of baking spices make me think of egg nog and a cozy fireplace, perfect for this time of year. This is also a fantastic food wine. Pair it with a holiday roast and everyone at the dinner table will exclaim, “INCONCIEVABLE!!!”
Brouwery Huyghe, Delirium Noel, Belgium – Strong Golden Ale
Several Marches ago, I rode alone from Amsterdam to Paris, through sleet, wind and Belgium, on a used, three-speed Dutch city bike that resembled an aging mule. The longest morning of my trip saw me through the Belgian countryside, past towns with names like Londerzeel, Buggenhout, and Dendermonde. Later that morning, I passed a house no larger than a shack, with a full-size passenger jet and a statue of Liberty in the crackling driveway, no other buildings in sight.
Fifteen kilometers from Ghent, where I had planned to stop for lunch, bright orange signs informed me (in Flemish) that the next few kilometers were under construction, and I needed to retreat ten kilometers for the closest detour. This seemed difficult, and it was already getting dark, so I broke into the construction site and walked my bike over the muddy rocks. (It was Easter Sunday, so the site was abandoned.)
Finally the road work ended, and I gratefully got back on my bike, hungry and thirsty and not even halfway to the day’s final destination. In what still felt like the middle of nowhere, I looked up and saw a huge brick wall painted brightly, dominated by a pink elephant: Brouwery Huyghe said the building, and the elephant said Delirium Tremens. I stepped inside — they were inexplicably open on the holiday — traded my stories for a beer, and then downed it like a gallon of water. Amused, they gave me another.
It’s not my favorite beer we stock (that would be New Belgium’s La Folie, which is both a brown ale *and* a sour ale, and is better even than it sounds) but it was tastier that day than anything in the world. $13.75
Small’s Gin, Ransom Spirits, Sheridan, Oregon $34
Hi I’m Jenna and I am the snack lady at LUSH West Town, or as i like to be called, the snack tyrant. I come from a food background as a line cook for many years, so this wine/beer/ spirits thing is pretty new to me. But I know what I like and this girl likes her gin. There’s something about the juniper-scented spirit that reminds me of my favorite time of year….now!! You can pretty much find me drinking a gin gimlet at several watering holes around the city all year round. Small’s gin is basically the epitome of the type of spirit you’d expect to find here at Lush: made by a small, independent producer, small batch, natural ingredients, and yummy! The distillers at Ransom Spirits are obsessed with utilizing the methods used in the early 20th century directly before prohibition. And as an additional component to the traditional flavor profile, they add local Oregon raspberries during the distillation process to complement the juniper and cardamom that is so pronounced. Small’s is so pure and crisp that it is great to drink on its own on the rocks, or shaken with a little rose’s lime juice and served up in a fancy schmancy martini glass. Also, here is a recipe for a little something i like to call the gin zebra (created during my stint over at Green Zebra many moons ago). It combines my two loves, gin and bubbles. Spanks! $34.00
1 oz gin (Small’s!)
1/2 oz lime juice
1/4 oz elderflower liquer
Shake and pour into a flute
top with a dry sparkling white