Category Archives: sauvignon blanc

Greek wines make a splash in Chicago

City Winery noshes for Greek wines
City Winery noshes for Greek wines

Remember retsina from the 60s and 70s? It was the only name most Americans associated with Greek wines back then – and it wasn’t usually a pleasant link. But this year, the Wines of Greece brought a collection of winemakers and wines to City WInery in Chicago’s West Loop that dramatically changed a lot of people’s opinions about Greek winemaking.

For one thing, Greek winemakers have picked up on many trends in global winemaking – and have even begun growing and blending with classic grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Their wines tend to be fresh and acidic, but many are making wines that hold up well to aging even as long as a decade. What a difference a few years can make.
In terms of white wines, our favorite new grape from Greece is Assyrtiko. Lovely and so flexible in terms of the types of wines that can be made from it, many delicious with no other blend, but many others beautiful with various combinations of Chardonnay or Sauvignon blanc and other grapes indigenous to Greece

In the red category, a favorite new Greek grape is Agiorgitiko (ah-jor-git-ee-ko). Be sure to pronounce it correctly – as one of the reps explained to someone who asked, if Americans can learn to pronounce Gewurtztraminer, they can learn to pronounce Greek grape names! This grape, too, makes some lovely wines on its own or in blends with indigenous Greek grapes like Kydonitsa, Moschofilero and Xinomavro.

City Winery spread for Greek wines
City Winery spread for Greek wines

We were more than pleasantly surprised at the quality of the wines at this event. It was a unique  educational opportunity to experience the viniculure of a country that has not previously been known for fine wines. Since my daughter lived in Greece for almost a year while on her world tour back in the late 90s, it’s an extra special  pleasure to see how far the country has come in creating delicious wines. You’ll need to consult with your wine vendor or Binny’s to see about getting particular wines through the importers. Here are a few that stood out at the tasting:

Tsantali Rapsani Reserve Red 2012. ***** This vineyard is in northern Greece, near Italian vineyards that grow Barolo. Grapes: Xinomavro, Krassato, Stavroto. Imported by Fantis Imports, Inc.

Domaine Costa Lazaridi Amethystos White 2016. ***** Grapes: Sauvignon Blanc, Assyrtiko. Serve this 5-star lovely with seafood or grilled fish. Imported by Nestor Imports, Inc.

Argyros Estate Atlantis White 2016. ***** Grapes: Assyrtiko, Ahtiri, Aidani. This blend contains 90% Assyrtiko yet takes on just the right subtleties with the small addition of 5% of each of the other grapes. Imported by Athenee Importers.

Wine Art Estate Idisma Drios Assyrtiko 2016. ***** Grapes: Assyrtiko only. Compare this to a dry Riesling and enjoy the same ways.

Lantides Winery Nemea Lantides 2012. ***** Grapes: Agiorgitiko only. This wine can be aged up to 10 years. It’s excellent for an aperitif. The winery grows 60-70% of its own grapes and buys the rest from trusted sources. Imported by Dionysos Imports.

Greek Wine Cellars GWC Santorini 2016. ***** Grapes: Assyrtiko only. Grown from really earthy old vines. Volcanic soils and the nightly sea mist mineralize this wine. Imported by Fotis & Son Imports.

Domaine Hatzimichalis Estate Hatzimichalis Lefkos White 2016. **** Grapes: Sauvignon Blanc, Malagousia, Robota. This vineyard is located one hour north of Athens. Serve this white with grilled chicken, fresh salads or pork. Imported by Fantis Imports.

Bairaktaris Winery Old Monolithos Red 2012. **** Grapes: Agiorgitiko only. This wine is the epitome of old-world winemaking and the commitment to making wines that taste of their place. Pair with pork, steak, burger, or aged yellow cheese.


Dreaming Tree – Wines you’ll love that love the earth

Dreaeming Tree Chardonnay
Dreaeming Tree Chardonnay

Dreaming Tree is a winery that loves the environment as much as it loves making wine. Not only are their wines  delicious values at well under $20, but they’re also bottled in lightweight bottles that are manufactured with clean-burning natural gas. Labels are made with 100% recycled paper, using black ink printing—which means  no bleach is used and fewer toxins and heavy metals are released into the earth. And, get this, even Dreaming Tree’s corks are recyclable. All of which are good reasons to try these wines, but then there’s the taste! Below are tasting notes on some of their most popular vintages. Think green. Think delicious. Think value.

Oh, and if you’re into music, the guy behind the wines is also the guy in front of the Dave Matthews Band. And he partnered up for Dreaming Tree with New Zealand native Sean McKenzie – winemaker par excellence for his entire lifetime. Their goal is to make wines that preserve the true terroir and style of California’s fabulous growing regions.
And now the Band’s professional chef, Fiona Bohane, creates recipes that pair with the wines and use local ingredients everywhere they travel. Check out some of the cool recipes here.
Dreaming Tree Crush 2014. Blended of California’s finest varieties, this red wine gives you raspberry jam and vanilla oak characters on the nose. The flavors remind you of juicy mixed berries, and the wine’s tannins are full, yet soft and approachable. A robust red wine that goes great with spicy foods like barbecue ribs, Vietnamese-style pork sandwiches, or vegetarian stuffed poblano peppers. Worth every penny. SRP ~$15
Dreaming Tree Sauvignon Blanc 2015. Lovely California-style SV, meaning its grapefruit zing is moderate and mellow as opposed to sharp. Winemaker notes: “fresh and juicy with tropical fruit aromas of passion fruit and kiwi. Finishing crisp and clean with hints of grapefruit and zesty lime.” Delicious as an aperitif, or serve it with fish, seafood or zesty Mexican food. ¡Olé! SRP ~$15
And then there’s Dreaming Tree Chardonnay – delicious with grilled seafood, goat cheese, herb-roasted chicken, or fruit/ricotta/arugula salad. And their luscious, award-winning Dreaming Tree Cabernet Sauvignon – aromas of berries, cherries and cassis, wraped in toasted caramel with soft, mouth-filling tannins. Try it with grilled flank steak, ribs or vegetable kebobs.
Environmentally conscious, sustainably grown, delicious wines at affordable prices and a good story to tell about them. Just in time for Mom, Dad or Grad gifts. Available at Walgreens, Target and lots of other locations around Chicago.

Sauvignon blancs so good you may switch from red wine


Goldwater sauvignon blancI’m a fair weather fan. I’m not proud, but that’s how it is. For example, for many decades my last memory of getting excited about baseball was when the Chicago White Sox won the pennant in 1959 (okay, I’m old).

However, I am open-minded. Like a few years later, ahem, in 1995 I was taken to my first baseball game in forever at the then-brand-new stadium of the Cleveland Indians. Within 4 plays-including a super-powered at-bat and an incredible spinning, on-the-fly catch-and-fire to first base – I was on my feet yelling to my companion: “Oh, my God, this isn’t how they played baseball last time I watched!”

Along those lines, I used to think I didn’t much like white wines. The words “sauvignon blanc” pretty much made my mind go blank. I spent many years in comfortable ignorance. But it’s been a long time since I tested white wines, and things seem to have gotten a lot more sophisticated since I last paid attention.

Below are my comments on a few Pasternak Wine Importers selections I tried recently (the notes denote “how much this wine makes my mouth sing!”) and one of Lot18’s sauvignon blancs:

  • Morro Bay (Split Oak Estates) 2009, California. Light, crisp, bright and dry. Delicious served with rich, double-cream D’aufinois cheese (like Brie with pepper). Winemaker says vanilla and pineapple, and here’s the rest.

My verdict: Sensuous and sexy ♪ ♪ ♪

  • La Petite Perriere 2011, France. Dry, rich, well-blended with perfume-y fruit notes, almost oaky like a chardonnay. Winemaker says ripe exotic fruits, refreshing and complex, and here’s the rest.

My verdict: Makes me feel rich ♪ ♪ ♪

  • Goldwater Sauvignon Blanc 2010, New Zealand. Creamy, soft white, a bit less astringent than some sauvignon blancs. Gentle and flavorful. I could easily drink this every summer afternoon and convince myself the rest of the tasks on my agenda don’t matter. Winemaker says rich, ripe fruits and crisp feel, and here’s the rest.

My verdict: Dangerously drinkable ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪

  • Jaja Sauvignon Blanc 2010, France. Crisp, pleasant, light. Winemaker says flowers and blackcurrants and zesty, and here’s the rest.

My verdict: Very nice edition of SB ♪ ♪ ♪

  • Los Vascos 2011, Chile. Smooth, rounded, full-bodied, great with food. Tastes good even with sweet ‘n’ sour dishes. No kidding-I drank it with a meal that included pickled beets and vinegar-dressed slaw! A winner. Winemaker says fruit, spices and persistent, and here’s the rest.

My verdict: Luscious, companionable, easy to drink. ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪

  • Lafite Reserve Speciale Bordeaux Blanc 2010, France. Very smooth and rich. Blend of Semillon and Sauvignon grapes yields rounder flavor. Winemaker says vivacious, full and balanced, and here’s the rest.

My verdict: Gentle and drinkable. A nice introduction to sauvignon blanc for newbies. ♪ ♪ ♪

  • Merlin’s Barrow Sauvignon Blanc 2009, Marlborough, New Zealand. Crisp, light, drinkable. Good with light and/or spicy foods. Winemaker says star-bright, green-hued wine leaps from the glass with passion fruit, grapefruit and pineapple perfumes and here’s the rest. (As of this writing the half-case sale on this link is expired, but look for the winemaker’s notes lower on the page).

My verdict: Crisp and delicious alone or with foods. ♪ ♪ ♪