Let me start this post by stating that there are many wonderful things about wine. However, one of my very favorite qualities about the nectar of the gods is that each one is a little different. Two Pinot Noirs grown right next to one another can have different flavors based on how the soil was treated, when the grapes were harvested, how they were handled, how they were aged, and the list goes on. These variations can be tasted any time you open a bottle, but they are particularly noticeable when you sample small production wines, especially if they’re organic, natural or biodynamic.
Why is this? Large production wine labels deal in consistency. Aunt Suzie who asks every restaurant for Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay (America’s number-one selling chardonnay, by the way) sticks with it because it tastes the same every time and it tastes fairly consistent from year to year. This is because the winemakers at Kendall-Jackson don’t produce wine from single vineyards. In fact, Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay is produced using chardonnay grapes from vineyards in four different regions in California. From year to year, different amounts of juice from different places is blended to achieve the same, consistent flavor. Then the wine is aged in a combination of French and American oak, again with a focus on creating a dependable flavor fans know and love. Not only is this method reliable, it makes it easy to fulfill a high level of demand.
Small production winemakers are different. They are generally in the industry not to get rich, but to share their passion and style with the world. Produced on more intimate properties in smaller regions, these wines are often created specifically to highlight the differences in the land, in the climate, and to show off the individual style of the winemaker. There is plenty to admire about large- and small-production wine, but if you really want to learn about wine, the small production options can make for a fun tasting adventure.
Sub Rosato Specializes in Small Production, Natural, Biodynamic and Organic Wines
So, where can you sample wines like this? Several places around town, but one that just happens to specialize in these types of wines is Sub Rosa’s Saturday and Sunday night alter ego Sub Rosato. The pairing is perfect: just as Sub Rosa co-owners Evrim and Evin Dogu are known for preserving the timeless craft of bread and pastry making with organic, regional and heirloom hand-milled grains, at Sub Rosato Virginia Samsel selects wines that showcase the process and care that goes into winemaking.
Every other weekend Samsel draws the wine list herself. You’ll find four 4-oz. pours for $6 per glass and four for $10 per glass. In addition, there’s usually one third-tier option that might include a flight from a single producer, a special magnum for the night, or some other off-the-beaten-path treat. This weekend will feature a flight of three different California Mourvedres. While people usually think of California wines as big, bold and oaky, these are more terroir-driven and European in style.
The wines change weekly, but to give you an idea, on my visit I tasted Dirler-Cade Cremant d’Alsace, a biodynamic sparkling blend of Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Auxerrois with bright, refreshing mineral notes and hints of yeast and apples. I also sipped Leccia Patrimonio Rose, a blend of Niellucciu (what Sangiovese is called in Corsica, yes wine is hard!) and Grenache from Corsica with pomegranate and strawberry flavors that faded into an herbal, mineral-filled finish. Last, I went with a Virginia favorite, Rosemont unfiltered rose with deeper, richer notes of strawberry, raspberry and roses.
The menu also includes artisan sodas, amaros, and small plates for snacking on while you imbibe. Of course, I stuck to wines during my visit, but a friend happened to order the Indi Strawberry Tonic and I am now obsessed with finding it to have at my house. Bright strawberry flavors combined with elderberry juice and bitterness from the tonic, creating a beverage I really, really want to mix with gin for a fabulous yet simple cocktail.
As stated, Sub Roasto only pops up every other weekend, so you’ve got two more chances to hit it this month—this weekend July 15th and 16th, then July 29th and 30th, and two in August—the 13th and 14th and the 26th and 27th. For updates on weekly features, follow the Sub Rosato Facebook page or Instagram account.