September’s Wine Club

Hidden Trackers and WTFs (Wine Tasting Friends) –

BBQ season has finally come to Phoenix! And the “no wearing white after Labor Day” rule is closely followed here as we head outside to enjoy the sun, socialize, and use that grill!  Fire up the range, get some mesquite ready, let the marinading begin – and be sure to have the BBQ wine progression ready. This is prime time to showcase the refined wine experience we have been working on this summer from the confines of our air conditioned homes – the grape way of life that wine is all about!

During The Craig’s recent trip to Germany, he dined with Dr. Rowald Hepp of Schloss Vollrads Winery. In a post-dinner chat, Dr. Hepp asked, “If you could drink any bottle of wine in the world, what would it be?” After pondering the question for a moment, The Craig’s reply was that wine is of the experience and moment. It can be good or bad. And that will lead to conversation on how good or bad the bottle might be. There wasn’t a favorite bottle or a desire for one specific bottle that The Craig could name. Instead, it’s a desire for wine to enhance an experience or a moment of the occasion. Wine is social!

After hearing The Craig’s response, Dr. Hepp was silent for a few moments. He then said with a soft smile that he had never heard this answer from anyone, but that he held the same feeling for the meaning of wine. He then went to his cellar and brought back a bottle of 1988 Domderhant Wernerfches Hochheimer Holle Riesling Spatlese halbtrocken. He said that this vintage was “not the best,” but the year was of a great memory and importance to him. It was the year that Dr. Hepp and his wife were married. He proceeded to open the bottle and pour tastes. He and his guests quickly made note of the wine (which was balanced, drinkable, amazing) and continued on to conversations about the memories built during that time in Dr. Hepp’s life. It was as if they were looking at a photograph that prompted a rush of memories and moments in time. That evening, like many others, was formed from wine, but was not about wine. The evening was about conversations on how the wine was paired with the cuisine and how those pairings reminded the group of other memories. It was a social evening – a Tuesday night (literally) that was meant for a group of people to meet and have dinner.

So get out there and enjoy the BBQ season. And as you put thought into what you are going to eat, be sure to put the same thought into the wine or beer you will be drinking. As family and friends come over, before they get to the food, they get to the beverage selection. And why not start the conversation there?! Find that $10-$15 bottle of wine that is going to make your guests ask what it is they are drinking. And you can share and start the stories as to why.

Remember, if a picture can say a thousand words, wine can make a thousand stories come to life!

Yep…we’re on glass number two.

And on to the wines of September…

Peter Zemmer Lagrein Raut 2012, Alto Adige
Italian Red Alert! We have not had an Italian red in the club until now. One might first think, “OK, so what’s the name of the Chianti? Or is it a Super Tuscan?” But we went deep on this one!  Yes, the grape is called “Lagrein.”  Ever heard of it? That’s OK, that’s why you have us to bring it to you! Peter Zemmer is a fourth generation winemaker in Alto Adige, Italy. The family winery was started in 1928 and has recently modernized its sustainability by deriving its energy from solar panels. This region is the northernmost growing region in Italy, sharing a border with Austria. Alto Adige is known for producing some of the most elegant Pinot Grigio in the world, as well as for a handful of other varietals. Lagrein is perhaps the most talked about red varietal from Alto Adige, though Pinot Noir could give it a run for this recognition. Although Lagrein is considered “often talked about” from Alto Adige, it is not a common varietal to stumble upon. The best indication of Lagrein’s origin points to the Trentino Valley where the varietal was likely discovered growing along the Lagrina River. DNA analysis shows that Lagrein was born from a cross of Syrah and Teroldego. The profile of this wine is unique. The color is very dark and rich, yet the palate shows light, spicy notes that are fresh and balanced. A nice balance of acid and fruit makes this a great food wine – and a great conversation starter!

Copain “Tous Ensemble” Chardonnay 2014, Anderson Valley
Hello California, how is Anderson Valley doing?  Actually, can “Tous Ensemble” vineyard come out to play? And come out to play it will in this great offering of single vineyard Chardonnay. Copain got its start back in 1999 and the party hasn’t stopped. The philosophy of Wells Gutherie (owner/winemaker) was influenced by his time in Europe, and perhaps conversations and memories derived from wine. The winery brings a European style of wine making to the forefront of California’s wine industry.  Copain showcases this style beautifully with this Burgundian-style Chardonnay.  Fermented in both stainless steel and neutral oak, this elegant wine drops notes of green apple and citrus on your palate. Only about 3,700 cases made.

Enjoy these BBQ season kickoff wines!

Cheers,

Craig & Danielle

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August’s Wine Club

August’s club selections are in!

The Olympics are here. Brazil is all the rage. The headlines read, “Hidden Track Bottle Shop Brings Home the Gold with August’s Selections!”

We are very excited to offer you these wines, and here’s why: Many vintages ago, there was a small cult winery called Sans Liege that rippled rumors of grapeness throughout the world of wine. As the roots of these rumors grew stronger, so did the canopy of its tales of wine. A storied row was planted, and many followed, for this row was one that would ferment a revolution – a revolution that would incite an understanding of the “Hidden Track.” The perfect example of an expression of passion that can only be found from a patience of palate. The palate that follows a different row…a row outside the mainstream.

Whoa…let us take another sip…

We found this amazing producer years ago and have been members of their wine club. We had to be. The wine was great. It was scarcely known. It was not the norm.

Sans Liege was founded by Curt and Kara Schalchlin. They wanted to bring emphasis to Rhône varietals in California’s central coast. Sourcing fruit from a handful of great vineyard sites, they were able to create a unique cult following for their wines. A true journey of starting with a small vision of quality and letting it grow organically, the Schalchlins grew an amazing wine club and continued their growth by allocating certain wines to distributors. The Sans Liege name became a name that was discussed by strangers in wine bars, or distributors trying to one up each other by claiming they had just received an allocation of Counoise from the Sans Liege wine club. Sans Liege grew into Hall of Fame status, providing Curt with opportunities to create another label, Groundwork. Groundwork is more of a varietal focused project, while Sans Liege is more proficient in blends.

Curt Schalchlin is responsible for making August’s selections possible, having signed off on the deal to bring them to you. With that, we are very happy to present Groundwork Viognier and Groundwork Grenache for Hidden Track Bottle Shop’s August wine club. Thanks, Curt!

Groundwork Viognier 2014
Only 400 cases produced of this beauty, sourced from a few select vineyards in Santa Barbara County. We have to quote Curt’s description of this wine to give you the best example of what you are getting into: “Like stepping from a springfed mountain lake into an ancient citrus orchard, the 2014 Groundwork Viognier is the perfect accompaniment to any summer moment: snapped orange skin, chalk dust, New York Seltzer Lemon Lime, fennel seed, clean linens and whetstone. Elegant, refined and fresh.”

Groundwork Grenache 2014
Just about 900 cases made. Grenache (aka Garnacha) has been one of the best received varietals from our club. (Remember the Fagus? We know you do – you’re still talking about it and asking for more!) So when this example of Grenache was tasted, we giggled a little and agreed that the club would be very happy with it. This wine is what Fall in AZ is all about. Light yet complex. Balanced acid, fruit, and what is that…a bit of tannin? This wine would enhance a variety of food, but it could also be paired with another glass, a monsoon sunset, a Sunday-funday, or any day that ends in “y.”

Enjoy these wines. Enjoy this winery! Enjoy some Hidden Tracks!

Cheers,

Craig & Danielle

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July’s Wine Club

July’s club selections are here!

wine-beer-store-phoenix-july-wine-club-craggy-fogAnd with that, Hidden Track Bottle Shop has turned a year old! July 1st marked our first year of operation, and wow have we had fun. Meeting all of you has been amazing and we must say thank you for letting us share our enjoyment of wine and beer with all of you!

July also marks Hidden Track Bottle Shop’s “The Hits” Wine Club having well over 200 wine club members! And the club is getting some industry attention. More and more wineries and suppliers are contacting us to offer deals for the club, which is exactly what we hoped would happen! It’s always nice to be able to offer two bottles of wine that would normally cost $40, $50, or $60, for just $25.

When you stop in to pick up this month’s selections, be sure to check out the chalkboard for a list of the top 10 wines from our first year. We have top AZ wines and top beer lists posted, too.

We’d like to also share a couple of our favorite quotes from the first year:
1. “I broke up with a guy because he ordered a White Zin.”
2. “I’ve got friends in Merlot places.”
3. “This wine tastes a little splingy.”
4. “I pair my wine with wine.”
5. “Wow, you really are hidden.”
6. “I can’t drink wine at restaurants anymore because it’s not as good as what I get here.”
7. “You don’t have any vodka?”
8. “I would like to sign up for the Wine Club.”
9. “Where are your Rieslings?” (Thank you, Somm: Into the Bottle!)
10. “My Malbec brings all the boys to the yard.”

There are many more, and there will be many more to come – you’re a clever group!

So let’s talk July Club –

The Roman Empire… Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be that kind of story! But as you know, the Romans were once at the center of civilization. And that civilization was fueled by a bio-diesel better known as “wine.” As the Romans expanded their empire, the territories they moved into were supplied by an infrastructure of military outposts. These outposts were key in holding supplies for the military so that they were not solely dependent upon rations coming from Rome. And by rations, we primarily mean wine. Wine was considered a form of currency, and part of a soldier’s compensation was one liter of wine per day. During times of conflict, the ration increased.

This is where it gets interesting. Some astute Romans were using their abacuses and figured out that it would cost Rome less to have the Church plant and maintain vineyards at various outposts. Of course, while they were at it, the Church could also spread the word of God to all the barbarians that Rome was trying to conquer. But really, money talks – and the military needed wine.

When the Romans reached an area called Germania, they set up an outpost in what would become the oldest city in Germany, Trier. This outpost became one of the largest and most important holdings for the Romans. It also became a distinct area for wine production as it sits within the Mosel Valley in Germany.

The Mosel Valley would develop its wine footprint around a varietal called Riesling, one of the most misunderstood varietals on the planet, and also considered one of the noblest varietals on the planet. The reason for the latter is that the Mosel Valley provides an amazing opportunity for grapes to struggle. From a variety of different colored slate, cool temperatures, and extremely steep slopes that the vineyards are panted within, the Mosel is a list of checked boxes for grape excellence.

All of these elements allow for one of the most transparent varietals in the world to display a beautiful balance of acid and natural sugars, which in turn create a wine that allows itself to enhance its flavors and enhance the flavors of most everything else near it, AKA your food. Yep, Riesling is arguably the best wine to pair with your food. We challenge you to prove us wrong!

And July’s selections are:

Markus Molitor Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Riesling Spatlese 2011
It’s not as hard to pronounce as it looks – we’ll tell you how to say it when you stop in! Markus Molitor is a badass German winemaker. He took over his family’s business when he was 20 and never looked back. He also never became part of the VDP because, well, he didn’t have to. He sources and produces primarily single vineyard Rieslings with an all-natural winemaking method. Even the yeast used is the natural yeast found on the grapes in the vineyards. Pair this wine with a spicy Thai dish and you will understand what food pairing is all about!

Craggy Range Te Kahu Red Blend 2011
This beautiful, silky smooth Bordeaux-style blend comes from the land of the Kiwi – New Zealand! The North Island to be more precise. Much of what people know about New Zealand wines revolve around Sauvignon Blanc from the Marlborough region of the South Island. However, many more varietals and great wines come from this mystical country. “Te Kahu” means “the cloak” in Maori (the indigenous culture of New Zealand). It refers to the mist or fog that rolls over the vineyard, creating that blanket of opportunity for temperatures to embrace and nurture the grapes. This single vineyard selection is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Malbec. Enjoy it in a glass…or with a hearty steak.

Cheers, and see you soon!

Craig & Danielle

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June’s Wine Club

June’s club selections are here!

Hidden Trackers –

Can we start out by saying that “Hidden Trackers” is becoming more of a defined culture? Each and every month that we sit down to discuss what we want to find and share with our wine community, we feel a need to discuss how amazing it is that you, the “Hidden Trackers,” are so open and willing to learn, experience, and share in a passion that we have. Thank you for the inspirational grapetatude!

June is here, and what the temperature happened that first weekend? (Thank goodness for Rosé!) As we kick off the triple digits, we found a few selections to fit both the refreshing “cool me down but get me a drink now” sort of wine and the “yeah its 115 degrees out but my A/C is set at 68” type of wine.

So on to an interesting varietal that is possibly used in place of water in some parts of the world, Pinot Grigio… What? …Stop making that noise. Get back here and keep reading. (You’re at work and you don’t want to read that TPS report anyway). Have you had PG? Of course you have. Who hasn’t? But have you had high elevation, cool climate, could-be-Italy-or-Austria Pinot Grigio? Those of you who have, thank you for the sigh of relief. Those of you who have not, get ready for our favorite PG quote so far: “I could drink this PG!”

Alto Adige is one of our favorite Italian regions. Why? History, climate, and elevation. Alto Adige is located in the northernmost part of Italy and a bit east. It borders Austria and Switzerland (currently). This region is Italian with very heavy Austrian/German influence. Think prosciutto sausage with pasta krut. Italian romance with German ingenuity. We say yes to these wine partnerships!

This region is mainly known for two varietals – Pinot Grigio and Schiava (a bit of Lagrein as well). Schiava is a red varietal that is very aromatic and hard to find in the US. Pinot Grigio is much more accessible in the US and thrives with versatility from this region. And as we have said before, Alto Adige is ripe with elevation, which means the vines aren’t lazy and they produce varietal characteristics that are typically more complex than vines from a valley floor.

And the June selections are…

Dürer-Weg Pinot Grigio (Alto Adige, Italy)
Sounds Italian, doesn’t it? The fact that this winery predates 1900 explains why the name Dürer-Weg is a proper fit. We don’t need to talk about how often the border changed in these parts. But we do need to bring up that the name “Dürer-Weg” encompasses the historical and cultural influences of the area. Dürer-Weg is in reference to a journey that led a German Renaissance artist to the region. This selection comes from vineyards in the Salorno region, which runs east of the River Adige. Manual harvesting is a must here as there are steep inclines in the vineyards. This harvest was also left on lees for about six months. “Lees” are the dead yeast cells left in wine after fermentation. Aging on lees can add different textures and flavors to a wine. In this case, you will find a nice creamy texture with subtle notes of spice. Enjoy this wine without the negative bias of “cheap, watered down Pinot Grigio” and you will be pleasantly surprised!

Casas Del Bosque Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon (Maipo, Chile)
This was a selection that came to us via a phone call from the owner of a local distributor.
Distributor: “I have a wine that you might be interested in.”
Hidden Track: “We hear that every day.”
Distributor: “It scored 94 points.”
Hidden Track: “Points don’t make the world turn.”
Distributor: “I can offer you a deal for your wine club.”
Hidden Track: “How soon can we try it?”

Once we sampled this selection, it quickly bumped out a Napa producer for June’s red! Not to mention this was also not available in AZ until this month. Oops, we found another one. This wine way over delivers for the price. If this Cab came from Napa, you could count on paying over $50/bottle. Dark, rich extraction without any overdone jamminess. Integrated tannins. Mocha, dark berry fruit, layered, intense, soft. Oh yeah, and it scored 94 points without lining any pockets in exchange. It’s not clear how much more of this wine we’ll be able to get, so if you drink it and like it and decide you want more… Don’t wait.

Cheers, and see you soon!

Craig & Danielle

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May’s Wine Club

May Wine Club Selections Are Here!

wine-beer-store-phoenix-may-wine-club-tokaraHidden Track Wine Club Members –

We found out that many of you were very fond of the Brian Benson Kandy Red from last month, so let us start out with… Glad you liked it! And when you get a chance, check out some of his other selections in the shop. We brought in Tryst, Rapid Roy, and Neapolitan Pussycat! Pretty fun labels as well.

So this month was a fun one for us and has led to a couple of firsts (again!). One is that this month showcases two wines that are sealed with a screw cap, or “Stelvin” closure. Another first is that we found a killer wine from South Africa!

Wait… Did we say “screw cap”? Why yes, we did. The screw cap is becoming increasingly popular with winemakers around the world, and it’s an option that we tend to prefer more and more. The quality of the wine is not impacted by a screw cap, rather it is further protected by eliminating the damage that cork enclosures can introduce, such as oxidation and cork taint. And since most wine produced is made to be consumed within five years, the screw cap is an excellent way to ensure that when you purchase your favorite wine and take it home, you’re less likely to find disappointing flaws!

We actually have another first for this month’s selections. However, we see this one as a “meant to be,” as we have showcased a few varietals of like manner, e.g. Viognier and a Roussanne – both noble white varietals from the Rhône Valley. Both delivered great feedback, and therefore more presence in the shop. So when we came across a Marsanne, we were very intrigued. Marsanne is, depending on who you ask, the second or third most notable white Rhône varietal. Typically blended with Roussanne to deliver a romantic alternative to a Chardonnay, or a wine pairing that is often stared at after a first sip because it is that interesting! What we are trying to say is, get to know the Rhône varietals and let us help you have fun doing it!

And this month’s selections are:

Cass Winery Marsanne
Get it while you can as they only make 400 cases of this each vintage! Cass is a beautiful vineyard/winery located close to the Templeton Gap, which is a bit southeast of Paso Robles. The vineyard sits up a little higher in elevation than much of Paso. (Remember what we say about elevation!) Cass concentrates mostly on Rhône varietals and, in our opinion, they crush it with the Marsanne! Enjoy this big white wine with a sunset or for Sunday brunch!

Tokara Shiraz

We have been fortunate enough to wonder around Australia, sipping beautiful Shiraz while kangaroos hopped about in vineyards… Which would be a show stopper in most conversations about interesting experiences in vineyards. Until you see pictures of Tokara Vineyard located in Stellenbosch, South Africa. When we met a representative of the winery, we were very impressed with the wine and thanked him for not bringing us a Pinotage (ask us and we will fill you in). And as we started talking about the wines, we asked about the way the vineyard faced. So the rep said that he had some pictures and could show us. We soon forgot our questions as he showed us the “common” visitors to the vineyard. Lions, baboons, warthogs, leopards… Sorry kangaroos, not as cool as a lion! This winery is one of the most scenically beautiful wineries we have ever seen, and hope to one day visit in person! Please enjoy their Shiraz, and take note of the distinct difference between this version and what Australia has to offer.

Cheers, and see you soon!

Danielle & Craig

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HTBS Gets National Media Coverage On ABC’s The List!

HTBS Gets National Media Coverage On ABC’s The List!

Hidden Track’s great wines at affordable prices gained some national media attention yesterday!
Check out our spot on ABC’s The List!

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