Just as oranges don’t grow in Eveleth and corn doesn’t grow in Las Vegas, grapes shouldn’t be grown where they can’t be at their best. Pinot noir doesn’t do well in hot weather and zinfandel shuns cool. Cabernet sauvignon thrives on mountains while chardonnay prefers big green valleys. This month I have picked wines from locations in the United States that do a particularly good job growing a certain grape. Try these and taste what I am talking about.
This month's wines are available at Ken and Norm's Liquors, 4801 Chicago Ave., Mpls., 612-822-0030, kenandnorms.com
Concannon Petite Sirah 2005 (Livermore Valley, California), $10.99
This grape was brought to California by the Concannon family and has since been lost to the Rhone Valley. Affordable, full bodied, and dense—you can barely see any light through it—it has a deep blueberry fruit and oaky backbone. (Petite sirah is not related to syrah or shiraz, which are the same grape.)
Torii Mor Pinot Noir 2006 (Dundee, Oregon), $29.99
This is world-class pinot, complex and balanced between dark cherry fruit, layers of spice, and an earthy finish. Oregon is the perfect place for this finicky grape. It’s a treat for your lamb chops or grilled salmon.
Paul Dolan Zinfandel 2006 (Mendocino/Amador, California), $15.99
Zinfandel has been a mainstay in California for more than a century. Mendocino and Amador Counties, with their hot days and warm nights, are mecca for this full-flavored grape that packs a peppery punch. Braised short ribs would be just right with a sip of this organically grown wine.
Jacuzzi Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 (Sonoma, California), $16.99
You hear an awful lot about cabernet from Napa, but in my humble opinion Sonoma cabernets seem more subtle and approachable at a younger age, and can be found at a lower price point. This wine has big blackberry fruit with vanilla and oak to round it out. It’s a lot of wine for the money, and it will pair perfectly with your favorite steak.
Northstar Merlot 2005 (Columbia Valley, Washington), $38.99
80% merlot, 17% cabernet sauvignon, 3% petite verdot
Merlot is arguably the greatest grape in the world, but it has been the victim of vintner abuse on these shores. It has produced some of the finest Bordeaux ever made, but much of the domestic product has been dispiriting, damaging the grape’s reputation. This outstanding merlot would be double the price if it were from Napa or Sonoma. Enjoy it on a special occasion or cellar it for a few years while you wait for one.