The farther away you get from downtown Saratoga, the crustier the wine stores become—it happens in a matter of a mile or two. When traveling through upstate New York, fear most wine stores that appear to be sharing strip mall space with a Stewart’s Shop. Unless you’re buying gin, these stores are formulaically awful. Although I believe they are all independently owned, you can’t escape the Soviet-esque feel that’s daring you to feel any degree of passion or excitement while browsing. If you’re lucky, you’ll get the price tag scraped off with a razor blade.
But, I know a wine store that slipped through the cracks. I don’t go there often because it’s a couple miles outside of town, but when I do, it’s always a success. On the surface it’s an unlikely place for a serious wine store. Get some undies at Target, a case of ketchup at BJ’s, a styrofoam make-a-wreath at A.C. Moore, and an ’03 Numanthia from the Grapevine.
Actually, I had been at the Home Depot getting deck screws and couldn’t resist a spin around the Grapevine’s racks. It had been at least two months since my last visit. I was in my work clothes and looking particularly haggard that day, but not a minute after I walked through the door, a salesman I recognized was turning up the bottles he recalled as being new since my last visit. He spent a few minutes working every rack as I browsed. Impressive. I avoided entering the small temperature and humidity controlled room where the treasures lie—these are lean times. Penfolds Grange? Pick your year.
I chose this Riondo Pianello Rosso. Under $15, no rating yet, and a buzz of a serious value.
Intense color, very polished, energetic garnet tones—not what I might expect from the Corvina grape, which tends to produce lighter-bodied, generally more transparent wines. Creamy strawberry and raspberry, decisively smooth. Strongly reminiscent of Pinotage (Carey agrees); again, likely a departure characteristically for this grape, with a nose of intense, sweet fruit, strong herbals and subtle smokey rubber undertones. Black pepper and chalk on the tail of a long finish—expressive and explosive. Juicy, like that of a splittingly ripe blackberry, fierce in flavor but watery and unfortified in texture.
This wine will evoke strong reactions. I can almost hear the bickering on CellarTracker. It will be enjoyed by many and hated on by the most vocal—but it’s affordable and different, so it’s best we don’t get too worked up. Pick up a bottle and let me know.