Wine Finds Among The Fishes

wine corks

Last night’s Aqua Vino fundraiser for the Georgia Aquarium’s Correll Center for Aquatic Animal Health (got all that?) was a great excuse to sample a wide variety of wine from around the world, all for a good cause. While I didn’t come close to tasting even half of the wines available, there were a few things that stood out. First, kudos to the organizers for having a great selection of Georgia wines. Montaluce, Wolf Mountain, Three Sisters, BlackStock, Habersham, and Yonah Mountain were all there pouring.

Wolf Mountain

Was it a coincidence that they were next to the Georgia swamp area of the aquarium? Just like the Georgia swamp exhibit, the Georgia wines might not have been the biggest names (or whales) in the house, but they made a great showing. A new one to me was Yonah Mountain‘s Traminette. Traminette is a gewurtzraminer hybrid grape, and for this bottling, Yonah Mountain sourced the fruit from the Finger Lakes region of New York, where winemaker Joe Smith grew up. So now we have a Georgia winery, producing a seldom seen hybrid varietal wine, sourcing from the Finger Lakes, with a winemaker who hails from that region as well. They win bonus points just for the audacity of it. And you know what? It was excellent. Great acidity, lovely floral notes on the nose, good balance and depth, a pleasant amount of residual sugar.

The other two discoveries that stood out for me hailed from California and Spain.


From California, the Hess Family has a relatively new label called Sequana, which is dedicated to single vineyard, California pinot noir. Winemaker James MacPhail was brought on as a pinot noir specialist, and, based on the two wines being sampled, is turning out some really nice, nuanced wines. The wines on offer were a Santa Lucia Highlands Sarmento Vineyard (from outside Monterey) and one from the famed Dutton Ranch in the Russian River Green Valley area. These aren’t cheap wines, priced around $30 – $40, but for single vineyard pinots from these areas, they do represent a pretty good deal. The Sarmento Vineyard pinot was my personal favorite, with floral notes and dark spices topping off a bright cherry backbone.

Dinastia Vivanco
The view over the vines from Dinastia Vivanco in Rioja, Spain.

From Spain, Dinastia Vivanco is a winemaker whose magnificent wine museum is a must-stop for any visitor to Rioja. It is full of history, knowledge, and beauty. And now, for the first time, their wines are being imported to the US. Their current reserve release is the 2004 Reserva, which is 90% tempranillo. It has seen almost two and a half years in oak, followed by more than two years of bottle aging in the winery’s cellars. A quick check online shows it priced around $20, a great deal for a reserve Rioja with just enough age to be interesting, and this one can easily go another 10 to 20 years. Hopefully this will be showing up on local wine store shelves.

Finally, a taste of the 2006 Trimbach Gewurtztraminer reminded me how good and distinctive Alsatian Gewurtztraminer is. Thick, spicy, lightly honeyed tropical fruit. Gorgeous. Enough to send your mind off to a faraway place where graceful creatures drift through clear waters…

Georgia Aquarium

Full Disclosure: my attendance at this event was on a complimentary media pass

Comments welcome, y'all!