Small Bites

Summer in a glass

With all the talk about beer around these parts lately, we figured that it might be time to take a break and think about wine for a moment. Asheville is home to a host of great wine shops and bars, staffed with knowledgeable people who know that wine is meant to be fun, not snooty.
Also — as if you didn't know — the hot weather is already here, and that means that it's time for lighter, fresher wines. Sure, cabernets have their place, especially with a nice, rare steak. When it's time to kick back on the porch, though, a meaty red can be a bit overwhelming.
Xpress visited three downtown Asheville wine markets to get the scoop on the best wines for the season.

Vino Vino: From left to right are Santé partners Terry Ayoub, Carla Baden, Scott Thompson – partner Robert Bullock is missing. Photos by Jonathan Welch

Vino Vinho!

Carla Baden of Santé wine bar at the Grove Arcade recommends a fresh, nearly effervescent Vinho Verde for the dog days of summer.  Currently on the by-the-glass list at the wine bar is a Vinho Verde from Minho, Portugal called Praia. It's also available by the bottle for only $10.50.

"This wine is delicious, and the family that produces it — the Guedes family — has been at it for more than three centuries and their chops show up here," says Baden. She adds that the Atlantic climate and the granitic soil are the main factors that give Vinho Verde — literally "young wine" — the characteristics that make it the perfect summer sipper. It has a crisp, citrusy profile, with just a touch of salinity, "and just enough acidity to make it sing."

What's more? Vinho Verde is quite low in alcohol. "You can keep drinking it and not spend a night in jail," Baden jokes. She mentions that Vinho Verde should be bottled when it's ordered by the distributor, and not a moment before.

Santé is now hosting a Sunday-afternoon wine tasting, says Baden. From 4 until 6 p.m., oenophiles can sample any 10 wines that the bar is pouring by the glass — for only $10. Baden says that, for the faint of heart, the bar is happy to offer five tastes for $5 (not including tax or gratuity). "It's a great way to spend a lazy summer Sunday afternoon, and a great way to decide which wine to buy retail, take home and enjoy with dinner," she says.

Santé's patio is now open for summer sipping. The wine bar is located in the Grove Arcade in downtown Asheville, right next to Thai Basil. For more information, visit santewinebar.com, or call 254-8188.

Wine with Real Stones

For summer, the WeinHaus's wine consultant, Derek Rubio, recommends Real Stones '07, a white Bordeaux that retails for $10.99 a bottle. "It's predominantly Sauvignon Blanc," he says. "So, it's light, crisp and a good value for the quality. He also recommends the Commanderie de la Bargemon, a pretty, light-colored rosé from Provence. "It's crisp, light and dry — a real food wine." This rosé retails for only $8.79 a bottle.

Owner Hunt Mallett likes a Loire Valley Chenin Blanc — the Saumur Blanc Réserve des Vignerons. "It's very crisp and light — it tastes like a Sauvignon Blanc, but it's actually a Chenin Blanc. It's a real favorite. It's from the Loire Valley. It's just a nice, beautiful, summertime kind of wine." What's more, Mallett adds, the grapes are grown in Saumer, which is a sister city to Asheville. A bottle costs only $8.99.

Say cheese: Sante Wine Bar has a few munchies to go along with their selection of wines.

The Weinhaus, says Mallett, routinely hosts in-house wine tastings. "Every last Friday of every night, we host our Friday Night Flights," he says. "That's where have four wines, some food and have people in after work but before the evening events downtown." The shop serves a European-style spread of hors d'oeuvres as an accompaniment. The Friday, June 25 tasting will feature light summer reds, and the July 30 tasting will feature rosés. The tastings are held between 5:30 and 7:30 p.m. Cost is $10 for four tasting pours and food. Find a favorite? Purchase a full pour for an additional $5.

The Weinhaus is located at 86 Patton Avenue in downtown Asheville. For more information, visit weinhause.com, or call 254-6453.

A rosé is a rosé?

Ah, the poor misunderstood rosé. Associated with ladies sipping white Zinfandel with pinkies extended, considered to be inferior far too often. However, ask owner of the Asheville Wine Market, Eberharde K. Heide, what his favorite summertime sipper is, and he will immediately say, "rosé!"  He also says that his market carries "the best selection of French rosés in town."

Why are French rosés, as he claims, so hard to beat? Because, Heide says of the French, "They originated it. They're the best (rosés) in the market we've tasted, and they continue to be." In particular, he recommends the 2009 la Petite Cassagne for only $9.99.
The Asheville Wine Market hosts frequent wine tasting events. On Friday, June 25 at 7 p.m., the market will feature an exploration of Bordeaux — "elegant white and red wines at affordable prices." $25 per person includes a sampling of the regions wines, as well as bread and cheese. The Asheville Wine Market is located at 65 Biltmore Ave. For more information, visit ashevillewine.com, or call 253-0060.

Extra pour

Speaking of misunderstood grapes, the 2004 movie Sideways really hurt the reputation of Merlot for a while. On Monday, June 28th, the Wine Studio of Asheville will show a movie that has nothing but love for the grape.  The Charlotte Street wine shop will host "Merlove: A Documentary about Merlot Wine." Samples of five merlot wines from around the world will be offered, "expressing the true diversity of the varietal." The cost of this event is $15.

The Wine Studio is located at 169 Charlotte St. in Asheville. For more information, visit winestudioasheville.com or call 255-5955.

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