Updated Friday, February 22, 2013 at 01:01 PM
IT'S ALWAYS a joy to come across wines that plow new ground and open up commercial opportunities previously unknown. Here are updates on three such ventures:
Tre Nova debuts Nebbaro
Last March I wrote about some unique wines being made by Gino Cuneo, sold under the Tre Nova label. These are done in the appassimento style, an Italian technique that requires drying the grapes before fermenting them, which Cuneo does on racks in his workshop. He also makes more typical, dry red wines from Washington vineyards planted to Italian varieties such as barbera, nebbiolo and sangiovese.
Tre Nova's most recent releases include the debut of Nebbaro — a blend of barbera and nebbiolo sourced from a pair of Horse Heaven Hills vineyards. A little high-toned in the nose, this wine smoothes out in the glass, with pretty fruit flavors of raspberry and Bing cherry. It sells for $20.
Also in the current lineup is a 2009 Tre Nova Ripasso Red Wine ($20), with barbera, sangiovese and nebbiolo grapes in the blend. Half were air-dried for three months; the sangiovese was fermented conventionally, then blended in. The result is a dry, slightly nutty red, with tart flavors suggesting fruit leather.
The chocolate craze continues
About a year ago, just ahead of Valentine's Day, I tasted a dozen chocolate wines and, to my own astonishment, found some of them delightful. Precept's Chocolate Shop Red was a Pick of the Week. I recalled that the first chocolate wine I ever tasted was at Shallon winery in Astoria about 20 years ago. Last summer, while visiting a friend in nearby Naselle, I had the pleasure of stopping in at Shallon and chatting with owner Paul van der Veldt. Now well into his 80s, Van der Veldt is no less enthusiastic about his unusual wines, some of which are based on fermented whey.
The past year has brought further additions to the chocolate-wine universe. The Chocolate Shop family now includes a Sparkling Chocolate Red Wine, a Chocolate Mint wine, and a Chocolate Strawberry wine. In addition, Precept makes an Almond Roca Cream wine for Brown & Haley.
I don't suppose the end is yet in sight for this trend. Just look at flavored vodkas, with such curiosities as Big Dill pickle-flavored vodka, Wave Chocolate-covered Pretzel vodka and Whip Cream flavored vodka. (I leave those to you to explore on your own.)
Adelsheim is full of surprises
A final shout-out goes to Oregon's Adelsheim winery. Among the founders of the modern-day Oregon wine industry, Adelsheim continues to pioneer new wines and styles. I am especially fond of their auxerrois, an Alsatian grape producing vivid, mineral-driven whites. And now they may add syrah to the list of surprising successes. The 2009 Adelsheim Syrah ($45), grown in their estate vineyard, expresses an elegant, refined, restrained style quite different from the three-ring-circus syrahs made in the Columbia Valley.
Pick of the week
Waterbrook 2010 Late Harvest Semillon Ice Wine; $15/375ml
HANKERING FOR something sweetly decadent? This honey-drenched ice wine matches its luscious mix of pear, peach and apricot fruit to the gorgeous, super-sweet flavors of grapes frozen on the vine. Yum! (Distributed by Southern)