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Gateway Wine for Spirits Lovers

Article originally posted by The Tasting Alliance

As a wine and spirits educator, I have a passion for helping students discover new aromas and flavors, while teaching about the traditions and dynamism of the world of alcoholic beverages. I love demystifying these drinks and combatting preconceived notions. Interestingly, however, I’ve also noticed there isn’t much crossover between the two categories: folks are either wine enthusiasts OR spirits lovers and there isn’t much blending of the two.

As I tell my students there is a wine for every human, and there is a spirit for every human. Now let’s explore some award-winning wines for those who predominantly enjoy spirits.

If you like vodka…

…then grab a glass of Chardonnay. Vodka devotees, especially those who enjoy their spirit in cocktails, favor more clean, neutral flavors that take a back seat to their flavorful mixer counterparts. Chardonnay tends to be neutral and restrained and even more so if coming from cooler climates such as Burgundy, France or the Russian River Valley in Sonoma, California. Because of Chardonnay’s subtle inherent qualities, wines made from this grape tend to do well with oak aging and malolactic fermentation as it gives the wine more complexity. For a chardonnay that is fresh, crisp with some viscosity, just like a premium vodka, try 2020 La Storia Chardonnay. From the Russian River Valley, this award-winning wine is generous and rich with aromas and flavors of tropical fruits, stone fruit, and apples.

If you like tequila or gin…

…then enjoy a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. Unaged or blanco tequilas showcase the vegetal and spicy qualities of the blue agave unadulterated by oak. Gin, a clear spirit distilled from grains, is flavored with a variety of botanicals dominated by juniper. These spirits tend to have more green, grassy, and, gin particularly, piney notes. Sauvignon Blanc, especially those from Marlborough, New Zealand are known for their bright grassy and citrus characteristics. For a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc that exemplifies this style, savor award-winning 2020 Whitehaven Sauvignon Blanc. This wine displays intense aromas of lemongrass, fresh-snipped greens, and stone fruit with structure, elegance, and a clean finish.

If you like mezcal…

.…then savor a Pinot Noir. Mezcal is one of the most complex and expressive spirits on the planet. The inherent qualities of the agaves distilled to make the beverage combined with the smokiness derived from the cooking of the agave hearts with wood give mezcal a versatility and ephemerality that can only be compared to the most noble of grapes: Pinot Noir. This Burgundian varietal is renowned for its ability to express terroir, while exuding a multitude of complex fruit and earth flavors. Take your palate from the sierra of Oaxaca and discover the Santa Rita Hills of California’s Pacific coast with El Pino Club’s 2019 Sea Floored Pinot Noir. Experience bright aromas of red rose petals, damp leaves, and a structured, silky palate with flavors of earth, slate, tea, and spices. The 15 months of French oak aging will remind you of subtle smoke you love from your mezcal.

If you like rum…

…then pour yourself some Zinfandel. Rum is another diverse spirit, like vodka, that lacks global production regulations except that it must be derived from some sugar base, like cane. Dark rum drinkers will find this style has more complexity than white rums due to oak barrel aging. Flavors such as brown sugar, tropical fruit, and baking spice are prevalent and best enjoyed sipped. Similarly, Zinfandel showcases sweet and spicy aromas and flavors such as jam, blueberry, cranberry along with black pepper and licorice. Although a light-bodied wine like Pinot, Zinfandel can be bold with a smoky tobacco finish, tannins, and firm structure. Discover award-winning 2019 V. Sattui Winery Pilgrim Vineyard Old Vine Zinfandel from Lodi, California for a subtly powerful and complex wine expressing black-fruit flavors, baking spices, and vanilla with a velvety soft finish.

If you like bourbon…

…then a big, bold Cab is right up your alley. Considered America’s native spirit, Bourbon, is a whiskey distilled from a grain mixture that is at least 51% corn. It has a distinctly sweet flavor, but also elements of smokiness due to the required charred oak aging process. Bourbon is delicious, complex, and bold which also perfectly describes the quintessential California Cab. A full-bodied red wine with dark fruit flavors and savory tastes from black pepper to bell pepper, Cab is often oaked to soften the tannins of this thick-skinned grape. Discover award-winning 2018 Brecon Estate Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, from Paso Robles, California for an intense wine with black fruit and caramel aromas and flavors. Oak aging has softened tannins but not too much as to remove the character from this bold, distinctly American wine.



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