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A Vine Apart
Michael Austin | Photo: Courtesy of Chateau Montelena Winery | February 14, 2014
Amazing wines don’t always come from the most obvious places or people.
No matter how much one knows about vino, the wine world always has more delightful surprises. This spring, take a fresh look at some wineries—and the people behind them—that even aficionados may have overlooked. They won’t soon be forgotten.
It would be rare to beat the French at the wine game and even more rare to win at their most coveted tradition: methode champenoise. Because the term is protected, like Champagne itself, the folks at Ferrari in the Trento D.O.C. region of Italy use the term metodo classico for their exquisite blanc de blancs. The bottom line is, they make sparkling wine the same way the finest producers in Champagne do, and they do it just as well—or, as many would say, better. $120, Eataly, 43 E. Ohio St., 312.521.8700
2009 Chateau Montelena Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
Most associate Chateau Montelena with its award-winning chardonnay—the wine that proved to the French in the 1976 Judgment of Paris that California could turn out wines every bit as good as France’s. Well, actually, better than France’s, since the Montelena Chardonnay bested all white Burgundy challengers. But Montelena also produces a praiseworthy cabernet sauvignon full of red fruit, licorice, toasty oak and spice. The long, supple finish creates a dilemma: Luxuriate in those lingering flavors or take another sip? $125, Vin Chicago, 1825 N. Elston Ave., 773.489.4050
2010 Casa Lapostolle Clos Apalta
What happens when the French take their wine knowledge to the New World? In the case of Casa Lapostolle in the picturesque Colchagua Valley of Chile, the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts. The breathtakingly stylish winery’s Clos Apalta is a blend consisting mostly of carménère, the pride of Chile, aided by cabernet sauvignon and a splash of merlot. This 100 percent organic wine offers luscious dark fruits and vanilla, along with some balancing black pepper spice. $90, Plum Market, 1233 N. Wells St., 312.229.1400
2011 Flor de Pingus
Rioja gets all the attention, but the wine region just up the road, Ribera del Duero, uses the very same grape, tempranillo, and gives rioja a serious run for its dinero. Few Ribera del Duero wineries illustrate this more than Dominio de Pingus. Founded in the mid-1990s by winemaker Peter Sisseck, a native of Denmark, Pingus relies on old vines for its unique character. Expect a feminine wine with power, combining concentrated dark fruits and wood notes with spicy black pepper. $100, Binny’s Beverage Depot, 213 W. Grand Ave., 312.332.0012