I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — rosés are hard for me. Oftentimes, the popular rosés found in grocery stores tend to appeal to the mass market — cloyingly fruit forward to the point of a high perceived sweetness. But the Greek grapes used for this rosé were pretty much made for rosé. Added bonus? Seasoned winemaker Robert Rex is the master mind behind this wine. So while the wine may present a much “too” pink color and an extremely fragrant nose, rest-assured that this is a dry wine that even picky pink drinkers like myself can enjoy. (Double extra bonus points: California residents can find this bottle of Georgos Wines at your local Whole Foods.)
When we think of Greek wine, we often think “Old World.” We can’t help it — the phrase “the drink of the gods” directly points to the mythos of this culture. But Georgos Zanganas had a different thought. When he came to Sonoma he immediately fell in love with its bucolic beauty — who could blame him? What he didn’t love, however, was the obvious lack of Greek wine varietals available to him. So he asked himself, why not combine his history and culture with his new California life. And so it is that Georgos Wine was created — old world grapes blended with new world grapes; old world winemaking tradition combined with new world techniques; old ideas revitalized and re-defined to meet the modern wine drinking world.
About the Wine: The name ITHAKA is named after an ancient Greek island, said to have once ruled by Odysseus, the legendary Greek king of ITHAKA (and a hero of Homer’s epic poem the Odyssey). The name is a nod to the noble grape of Sonoma — Cabernet Sauvignon — with which the wine is made.
The Georgós Wine 2014 ITHAKA is made from a combination of 15% Agiorgitiko grapes — sourced from and produced in Greece — and 85% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes sourced from Sonoma County . All grapes are hand-picked, hand-sorted, and gently pressed. While the Agiorgitiko was picked and produced in Greece, the final blend was created in Sonoma, California. The wine aged in combination French (55%), Hungarian (20%), and American (25%) oak barrels (35% new).
Flavor Profile: Open the bottle of the Georgós Wine 2014 ITHAKA and breathe in the aromas of plump blueberries — skins and all — along with a very light background of a kind of gamey umami. On the pour this Greek wine is very sanguine: a rich, ruby-red on the pour. It settles into the glass quite dark, with an impenetrable maroon center that fades out toward a dusty rouge, which fades out even further to a rose petal pink at the ultimate perimeter.
Initial aromas are actually quite floral from the glass, reminiscent of roses still hanging on the bush. You can still smell that bit of gamey umaminess along with the dust of dried tree bark — any berries as well as acidity linger quite delicately in the back. So swirl and awaken the raspberries, cranberries, vanilla essence, blood orange zest and hints of nutmeg.
The palate is quite soft with plush, cotton-like tannins. The acidity is present but maintains a calm and level presence from start to finish. Dominant flavors are of eucalyptus tree bark, raspberries, cranberries, raw cacao, hint of anise, dessert-like spices, and a finish reminiscent of candied cinnamon.
What was most pleasantly surprising to me was how well rounded, balanced, and light this Cabernet Sauvignon-based wine was.
Food Pairing: I paired the Georgós Wine 2014 Penelope’s Spell with a herb-crusted lamb rack, golden beetroot and goats cheese salad, and a green pea purée. The earthy sweetness of the beetroot brought out a bit of the earthy, somewhat soily elements that were hidden behind some of the fruit notes in the wine, yet simultaneously highlighted the brightness of the cranberry notes. The lamb, with its thready texture and innate juiciness, brought forward some of that hidden umami initially sensed on the nose, as well as brought forward some darker fruit flavors (like plum and currants) not originally defined on the palate when sipping the wine on its own.
More Info: I received the Georgós Wine 2014 Penelope’s Spell as a sample for review. (Cheers Alexa!) Retail: Currently Unavailable. For more in formation about Georgós Wine and to purchase available wines directly, please visit the Georgós Wine website.
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I don’t have a great way to introduce this wine, but I will say that Halcón’s 2015 Cerise Vineyards Pinot Noir is the perfect way to conclude this brief featured series on the winery. Like all the wines I’ve tasted from Halcón, this Pinot Noir is beautifully nuanced — in this case so much so that words (almost) escape me. One thing you should know is that if this wine intrigues you as much as it does me, you’ll want to grab a bottle ASAP — this is Halcón’s first and only vintage using fruit from Cerise Vineyards, as it has since been sold to Kosta Browne.
My first experience with Halcón Vineyards was a taste of their estate Syrah — the great Rhône grape produced in the classic Côte-Rôtie style is what Halcón has built its reputation on. So enamored was I by this Syrah that I am saving it for a week-long series on California Rhônes as a prime example of what our great state can do with these grapes from my favorite region of the wine Motherland. (Sorry, folks, you’ll have to wait a bit longer to hear more…)
I mention this because, having spoken to a lot of Rhône winemakers from various California regions, I’ve heard one comment quite a bit. And that is that many Pinot Noir producers are, in fact, intrigued by Syrah: with its broad style-spectrum, highly dependent on terroir, it is often referred to as the “Winemakers Grape,” highly mis-understood by consumers, but the passion of many a wine-producer. In this case, Paul Gordon has flipped that switch the other way — a passionate Rhône producer who’s taken on the “Winemaker’s Headache Grape.”
If a vineyard could “hide,” I believe it would do so in the tallest mountain tops in an over-looked AVA. Halcón Vineyards is located in the Mendocino appellation of Yorkville Highlands, overlooking the Anderson Valley at its 2,500-foot peak. It is, in fact, one of the highest vineyards in California. And while Mendocino, and certainly Anderson Valley, have a strong reputation for Pinot Noir production, due to its proximity to the Pacific Ocean and the constantly cool temperatures, this high-altitude vineyard’s terroir is most reminiscent of France’s Northern Rhône region. And so it is that among the classic Rhône grapes Syrah, Mourvèdre, and Grenache, that Halcón Vineyards grows exquisite Petite Sirah, producing one of the most refined wines of this varietal I’ve had.