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The bottles that we're wild about right now!

Fringe Regions and Unexpected Varietals

As a wine buyer, one of the more exciting aspects of my job is consistently hunting for "THE next best thing." This involves constant research into what products are newly available to the market, as well as trust and great relationships with wine reps who know your interests and tastes. Best case scenario: you discover a new favorite that is a fantastic value. Here are some things I'm currently obsessed about:

Rosé of Niellucciu/Grenache, Domaine Casa Rossa, Ile de Beauté, Corsica, FR ($10 / $40)

While the island of Corsica is a French territory, many of their winemaking traditions and varietals are Italian in origin. Wines here are typically made by co-ops, small farmers that band together and share a facility. Niellucciu, the leading grape in the northern area of Corsica, is genetically identical to Sangiovese. This particular rosé is a crowd-pleaser, showcasing white flowers, peaches, delicate red fruit, with fantastic acidity on the palate.

Clairette/Roussanne, Jean-Luc Colombo "Les Abeilles," Cotes du Rhone, FR ($12 / $48)

Since most people associate the Rhone valley with red wines, their white wines are often overlooked. It's a shame because these wines (typically blends in the Southern Rhone) are incredibly food friendly, aromatic, and complex. Clairette is considered to be one of the most popular varietals for white wine production in the Rhone, expressing itself as fresh, floral, and mineral with orchard fruit notes and lime. However, it shows best when paired with another varietal like Roussanne, which adds honeysuckle, apricot, and herbal tea notes to the wine.

Valdiguie, J. Lohr "Wildflower," Arroyo Seco, Monterey, CA ($11 / $44)

In the springtime my favorite category is a session wine: an easy-drinking, lower-alcohol red wine I can drink with a slight chill. Enter Valdiguie, the varietal you've probably encountered before in a California Zinfandel Blend but didn't know it at the time. In this particular bottling, this wine is made in a similar manner to Gamay from Beaujolais — in fact, until 1980 it was referred to as Napa Gamay until genetic analysis proved that it was, in fact, the southern French varietal of Valdiguie. Fresh, light, and bursting with fruit punch notes, this wine does just as well as a sipper as it does being paired with food (think our Duck Confit or Palmetto Squab with Cassoulet).

Tannat, Bodega Garzon, Uruguay ($13 / $52)

Originally from Madiran, France, Tannat usually makes powerful wines with big body and formidable tannins, unless these grapes happen to be grown in Uruguay. A Basque gentleman named Pascual Harriague is credited with introducing the grape to Uruguay in the 19th century. The Uruguay version of Tannat has smooth, integrated tannins, darker black and purple fruit, and a really pleasant, supple body. From a health standpoint, it also has a much higher levels of antioxidants than most other grapes! As if you needed another excuse to drink this wine.

Next time you're at the restaurant be sure to ask one of our wine professionals for guidance — there's always something new on the list. Cheers!

— Andres Contreras, Wine Director, The Establishment

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