White Wine of the Week | White Wine Reviews

Whites and bubblies you can grab in the Twin Cities for under $15. Expect a new wine to be revealed each Thursday(ish).

Portuga Vinho Branco, Rosé & Red Wines

Cost: Average price $11

Where buy now: Solo Vino, Zipp’s Liquors, South Lyndale

Grapes: Vinho branco: Arinto, Ferñao Pires and Vital. Rose: Castelão and Camarate. Red: Castelão, Touriga Franca, Cabernet, Syrah

Region: Portugal

Vintage: 2013

What do you know about Portuguese wine? Scratch that, what do you know about Portugal? Admittedly, I’m quite ignorant in the Portuguese department. I only saw one travel program on Portugal and it mainly focused on the Azores islands off the mainland: Portugal Azores
Now that’s a bucket list item!

Well, I’ll leave it up to you to do your own Portuguese exploring. I’m not going to get all Rick Steves on your ass. What I will do is let you in on the Portuguese wine exploration I’ve been doing as of late.

It all began when a friend and I went to a Portuguese wine dinner at Cafe Ena some time back. I remember that each of the wines we tasted (which are too many for me to remember – seriously, I couldn’t keep track.) all tasted wonderful. It had that unique ‘terroir’ taste to them. Now, it could also have been the dreamy Mediterranean wine makers pouring and explaining their wines that had me enchanted, but I’d like to think I was mainly judging from my upper lips.

But where could I find more of these wines around town? Well, I’m delighted this line of wines from Portuga have made it across the Atlantic to the local scene. Without hesitation, I tried the white, rose and red. All of them are bang-for-buck Savvy Lush picks, I knew I couldn’t write about just one.

Like a typical tasting, let’s go from light to dark. I’m going to list the grape varietals but I’m not going to attempt to give a pronunciation key. Have you tried to speak Portuguese? It’s a tougher language than you might think. I believe it’s a cross between Spanish and French. (To my ears, it sounds like Barcelona accented Spanish, but only when the tongue is held firmly between the index finger and thumb.)

Portuga Vinho Branco (aka Vinho Verde)

Portuga Vinho Branco
Portuga Vinho Branco

This is patio wine pure and simple. What do I mean by that? I mean with it’s lower alcohol content, and chilled temperature, you could sip this all day long on the patio. (No one has to know how ripped you are, and it may help you tolerate that yippy neighbor dog.) It’s bright with a slight hint of effervescence. It smells fresh, a bit grassy, a bit citrusy and a bit rounded- an easy pairing with Summer foods. I’ll boldly assert that it pairs well with an asparagus frittata.

Portuga Rosé

Portuga Rosé
Portuga Rosé

I mean c’mon. It’s a rosé. I’ve only met two rosé’s in my life that I balked at, ever. This is not one of them. This is a wonderful blend of Castelão and Camarate. No oak flavor, just easy to drink with crisp minerals dancing around the tart strawberry deliciousness. Drink it alone, or with, well, ANYTHING.

Portuga Red

Portuga Red
Portuga Red

A blend of Portuguese Castelão, Touriga Franca, Cab & Syrah. Hell yes, this is yummifull! Red berry fun, light vanilla & spice. It’s smooth & medium bodied. Soft tannins but enough to give this wine some heft. If you like Zin, give this a try. Great with BBQ, grilled mushrooms, or what I had, garlic bread (and not even the good homemade stuff, I’m talking the $1.99 Coles garlic bread from the freezer aisle. You know, red packaging with loaves that bake up all buttery, salty & greasy?)

So you see, I’ve literally-ish drank the Portuguese kool-aid and I’m in on its seduction. These wines are right in my wheelhouse: delicious daily drinking on a dime. I hope I’ve persuaded you to give one if not all of the Portuga wines a taste. If I were a true hipster, I might say “Portugal is the new Spain”. However, it might be more fun to say it whilst holding your tongue.

Mionetto Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore

Cost: $11.59

Where buy now: Costco

Grapes: Prosecco

Region: Italy

Vintage: N/V

Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore

New Savvy Lush mantra: When in doubt, drink bubbles.

In keeping with my recent Italian theme, let’s talk Prosecco. Prosecco, the sparkling white wine that hails from my motherland, Italy. I love it’s versatility. Drink it when you want to celebrate, drink it on a Summer afternoon, drink it on a cold Winter’s night and drink it when you don’t know what else to drink. Need to bring a hostess gift? Bring Prosecco. Want to freshen up the palate? Drink Prosecco. Out with your Boss and want to impress? Order a glass of Prosecco.

Bottom line: when in doubt, drink bubbles.

To round out my Costco “mini-series”, I proudly bring you Mionetto’s “Valdobbiadene” Prosecco Superiore D.O.C.G. Wowza, that’s a mouthful! [That’s what she said?] Who cares how to pronounce it, you just gotta drink it. But if you don’t want to sound like a total buffoon, it’s .

Prosecco hails from the North Eastern Region of Italy, known as Friuli-Venezia Giulia. (free-OO-lee vehn-ETZ-yah Julia.)The region that borders Austria and Slovenia is where these grapes thrive. Prosecco is named from the village Prosecco near this region’s capital, Trieste. (tree-ESS-teh) You know famed chef, Lidia Bastianich? You guessed it, from Trieste. Enough about the geography lesson, wanna learn up go here: http://www.mionettousa.com/whyprosecco.php/Mionetto

Let’s get down to the what, where, why and how.

What: This particular prosecco, Valdobbiadene Superiore D.O.C.G., is some special hooch. It’s at the top of the food chain when it comes to Proseccos.

Where: Single vineyard grapes picked from a very small area known as the “Prosecco grape zone” between the towns of Conegliano & Valdobbiadene. That special area where only Prosecco D.O.C.G. can be labeled.

Why: This stuff is delicious! We’re talking 100% Prosecco; no half-assed mish-mash. This is a fresh and clean sparkler with green apple and light citrus aromas. Now for my douchey moment: I detect jasmine flower. Not all-up-in-your-face, Avon soap jasmine reek, but rather jasmine from afar. Not to sound like an ass, but I say this because I’ve experienced subtle wafts of jasmine first hand in Italy. The flavor is green apple, light citrus and stone fruit. It has a more rounded mouthfeel for a sparkler, too. If you or someone you know digs on Moscato, stretch the palate with this guy. Plus, you won’t get a headache drinking it. Need more reason? Clearly you’re a jerk.

How: Prosecco grapes are pressed into juice and fermented into still (not bubbly) wine. That wine then nestles into stainless steel tanks where it bathes in yeast for a couple months, creating a natural second fermentation. The longer it sits during this process, the more expensive the wine. This wine spends about 2 months in pressurized tanks before being bottled. That’s a relatively short amount of time, which is reflected in the price. Whereas most of your super-duper fancy pants Champagnes [read: pricey] sit for years and command a pretty penny, this beauty may be my first case investment in some time.

At Costco you can spring for Mionetto’s “Target” brand for $9 and change. BUT, for a measly two dollars more, you can upgrade to the Superiore. Two dollars! I’m not trying to clear you out of house and home, here, but, c’mon! You’ve already “saved” money on that giant aquatic toy, the 7,500 ct. generic Advil (a Savvy favorite) and 137 oz. vat of spinach and artichoke dip. Don’t get cheap now.

In fact, buy two- one for you and one for that future occasion when you can’t quite figure out what to drink. Now, you’ll never be in doubt.

Arcturos Sur Lie Chardonnay

Cost: Average price $17

Where buy now: Solo Vino – $15.99, Byerly’s, Zipp’s, Thomas Liquor

Grapes: 100% Chardonnay

Region: Old Mission Peninsula, Michigan

Vintage: 2011

Arcturos Sur Lie Chardonnay

Thanksgiving will soon be here- our time to give thanks for all the riches in our lives. Of course it also means retailers will be forcing sales, deals, and fake holiday cheer down your throat. You likely have plans to see family and friends; some you want to see and, well, a few you kinda don’t. Tis’ the season, right?

What do I love best about Thanksgiving? Why the Thanksgiving feast, silly! A juicy, succulent bird adorned with all the fixings. It’s heavy and warm like a down comforter. And just like a down comforter, it’s dead weight downright paralyzes you. Really, you’ve no choice but employ wine to help cut through all that “stick to your ribs” fare. (Not to mention to help deal with your annoying cousins who won’t discipline their children leaving you to quell their sugar laden spastic behaviors.) Or that drunk uncle that starts singing hymns before crying and then later passing out.

But I digress.

I have the perfect regional wine, from Michigan to be exact- a Chardonnay that’ll knock your socks on your ass: Arcturos Sur Lie Chardonnay from Black Star Farms Vineyards. Black Star Farms has vineyards on both the Old Mission and Leelanau Peninsulas, this is the second Michigan wine from the same area that’s impressed me. Earlier this year, I deemed L.Mawby Vineyard’s Sex as perfect V-day wine http://bit.ly/Xy47T9/L Mawby Sex Yes, Michigan. Home of Gerald Ford, Kid Rock and a city actually named “Colon”.

What’s going on in Northern Michigan? Let me tell you. The Old Mission and Leelanau Peninsulas are located on the Earth’s 45th Parallel. This means it’s smack dab in the middle of the North Pole and the Equator. Other famous wine regions on that Parallel include: Alsace, Bordeaux and Burgundy. Hmmm, imagine that? Awesome juice coming from France lies on the same 45th Parallel as that of Old Mission & Leelanau Counties. Plus, this area is surrounded by Lake Michigan, creating it’s own micro-climate. This not only influences temperature and precipitation, but also, it has it’s own unique terroir going on. Yes, Michigan. http://www.wineriesofoldmission.com/local/upload/file/WOMP-Broch-2013.pdf /Old Mission Wine Map

I was introduced to this wine from our old pal Rodney at Byerly’s Minnetonka, by way of this great lil’ bro/sis duo, Oeno Distribution. I met Anthony (brother) who made me aware of L. Mawby’s Sex. BTW, he’s a saucy little spitfire, so I encourage you to follow Oeno Distribution on Facebook and make it to a tasting near you. Anyways, when I heard this wine came from Oeno, I knew it had to be good.

Rodney poured me a glass of this pale golden nectar. Before I even finished the sample, I was reaching for a bottle to put in my basket. For real. That is not an exaggeration.

Arcturos Sur Lie is an unoaked Chardonnay. Fermented in stainless steel tanks, you’re getting a medium bodied wine with notes of apple, pineapple and citrus fruits. Earlier, I mentioned this area has it’s own terroir. Simply tasting this wine made me realize that. It has a nice expression of steely minerality and fruit that just seem to say “Welcome to Michigan”. [It does NOT say “Welcome to Colon”, thankfully.]

This is a versatile white wine and a great pairing with your Thanksgiving Day feast. That medium body will hold up to those mashed potatoes and gravy. The crisp citrus notes will pair well with that all natural, free-range, organic, Andrea Boccelli-serenaded-whilst-being-slaughtered turkey. Plus, how many of your family members have tried a Michigan wine? Blow away their expectations with this Arcturos Sur Lie Chardonnay. You’ll truly be enjoying the best of the Midwest, savoring and appreciating all of life’s riches.

That is, until you pass out.