Everyone loves a great Napa Cab or Sauvignon Blanc from Sancerre, but lately, our LEYE Wine Directors have their sights on off-the-beaten-path wine regions. We take an inside look at the wine regions that are on the rise, from gorges that straddle states, grapes hailing from the Canary Islands, varietals from our northern neighbors in Canada, and more!
Finger Lakes, New York
Kevin Bratt, Wine Director of Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab, has been crazy about this upstate region for over a decade! Cabernet Franc rules this region – and happens to be one of Kevin’s favorite varietals – and is easy drinking, fruit forward and just a great everyday wine.
Virginia Piedmont, Virginia
Steve Tindle of Shaw’s Crab House loves the Virginia Piedmont region because of its unique microclimate of humid summers that are not normaly suitable for grape growing. The Viognier and Cabernet Franc from Barboursville located in the southwest mountains are particularly impressive.being a cool growing region in an otherwise hot humid climate which is normally not suitable for grape growing
Lake County, California
Richard Hanauer of RPM Italian and RPM Steak jaunts north of Napa to Lake County’s Clear Lake where strong vignerons like Claude Koeberle and Philippe Melka are making wine in separate AVAs that take advantage of the warm days and cooler nights. And, the value of the region is astronomical in comparison to wines from the famous surrounding areas.
Hood River, Oregon
Ryan Arnold, Wine Director of Ema, Aba, Beatrix, Summer House Santa Monica, il Porcellino, Stella Barra Pizzeria, M Street Kitchen, Hub 51, has a growing passion for this northwest region that includes part of the Columbia Gorge and straddles Washington and Oregon. Smaller in comparison with less than 90 wineries in the region, it veers away from the expected Oregon Pinot Noir and offers Rhone-style varietals like Syrah and Grenache.
Kevin does not shy away from wines from our northern neighbors, from the wildly popular icewine from Inniskillin in the Niagara Peninsula to the wide array of unique varietals from Okanagan Valley of B.C. In particular, Kevin loves the fresh and lively Norman Hardie Chardonnay from Prince Edward County because of its aromatic notes of lime and citrus, it’s a perfect Chardonnay alongside oysters.
The Canary Islands
Ryan loves the extremity and ruggedness of the Canary Islands, located just off the coast of the northwest coast of Africa and on old volcanic islands, it’s not exactly what you’d think as lush terrain for growing grapes. With varietals like Listan Negro, the reds are crisp and acidic, mimicking Gamay, while the roses tend to be paler.
Steve is intrigued by this southern coastal region of Great Britain, which is becoming a go-to for great sparkling wines that use the traditional Champagne method, focusing on Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier grapes. The soils are nearly identical to those of Champagne and with the warmer climates in current years, Sussex is producing sparkling comparable to Champagne
Ghemme & Gattinara, Italy
When looking for unique Italian wines, Richard likes to head northeast towards the Lombardi border in the Ghemme and Gattinara regions. These regions are on opposite sides of the Seisa river and display characteristics similar to Barolo – structure, earthy, rustic – but often at a fraction of the price.
Want to explore unique finds from Italy? Check out il Porcellino’s La Nascosta wine list, a secret stash!