TELEPORTING TO OZ AND BACK: HANGING OUT WITH RONNIE SANDERS OF VINE STREET IMPORTS FOR SOME GREAT FOOD, GREAT WINES AND GREAT CONVERSATION

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(pictures courtesy Russell Glass)

Last week, M. and I met up with Russell Glass from River City Distributing and Ronnie Sanders of Vine Street Imports for dinner at my go-to restaurant, Virgil’s Café in Bellevue (which is just down the street from the store).  Vine Street Imports is a very cool, very unique importer of Australian and New Zealand wines (and now, Italian, Spanish, German, and even Armenian wines), and I have been a big fan for a long time.  They are currently moving over into Russell’s house from another distributor, and it was an opportunity for Ronnie to visit what I personally hope to be his biggest supporting retail here in the Midwest.

We went through 12 wines, which these days, doesn’t even scratch the surface of Ronnie’s amazing portfolio, but it definitely gave M. an idea of what this importer is up to, and hopefully demonstrated to both of us that Australian wine is definitely making a very STRONG comeback.

Dandelion Riesling “Wonderland of the Eden” Eden Valley 2011.  Grade=Outstanding.  This bright, lovely, dry white wine is light-bodied with hints of green apple, lime zest, mint and slight petrol undertones.

Pyren Shiraz “Broken Quartz” Pyrennes 2010.  Grade=Outstanding.  Blue fruits and mint sprigs in the nose, followed by notes of black cherries and blueberries, cinnamon, nutmeg, and a touch of hickory smoke.

Pyren Cabernet Sauvignon “Broken Quartz” Pyrennes 2010.  Grade=Outstanding.  Black and blue berry fruits, eucalyptus, sage and mineral notes, this full-bodied red is still somewhat closed, only slightly revealing its pleasurable personality.

Zonte’s Footsteps Cabernet Sauvignon “Avalon Tree” 2010.  Grade=Outstanding+.  I was really surprised by this wine – there has been a complete revolution of self at Zonte’s Footsteps.  This medium-to-full-bodied red shows off a lot of dark fruits and mints, baking spices, mesquite and earth.  Very nice.

Dandelion Shiraz “Lionheart of the Barossa” Barossa Valley 2010.  Grade=Amazing.  This sexy beast is a real home run with all its blueberry pie, root beer float, baked rhubarb and spice box characters.  Juicy and jammy without being completely obnoxious, it is a full-bodied wonder.

First Drop Half & Half Shiraz-Monastrell 2010.  Grade=Outstanding+.  On coolness along this wine kicks ass, but this one-of-a-kind blending of 50% Barossa Shiraz and 50% Monastrell from Spain gives you an internationally-flavored red wine demonstrating minty-blueberry nuances from the Shiraz, and smoky dark fruits and earth from the Monastrell (Mourvedre, or Mataro if it were from Oz).

First Drop 2% Barossa Valley 2009.  Grade=Amazing.  Co-fermented with 2% Tempranillo (hence the name), this robust, multilayered Shiraz has elements of ruby red fruits, Blackstrap molasses and gingerbread poking through a core of red raspberry and blueberry notes and finishing up its prominent, full-bodied presence with a touch of wild berries and Chinese Five Spice.

Samuel’s Gorge Grenache Cadenzia 2009.  Grade=Outstanding.  Medium-bodied with red berries, white pepper, plum, mint and cocoa components, it comes across soft but finishes strong.

Alpha Box & Dice “Enigma” Barbera-Cabernet Sauvignon 2009.  Grade=Amazing.  I love it when you can find an Italian grape variety from somewhere you never expect and it turns out to be awesome!  This 80% Barbera/20% Cabernet Sauvignon blend displays crushed red flowers, raspberry and pomegranate notes and splashes of spice box and root beer along with a firm grip of tannins.

Alpha Box & Dice “Blood of Jupiter” Sangiovese-Cabernet Sauvignon 2007.  Grade=Amazing.  Another kick-ass “Ital-Aussie” red with lots of depth and complexity amidst the party of red and black currants, anise, black cherries, tobacco and spices.

Holme Shiraz Mt. Benson 2009.  Grade=Outstanding+.  A lot of grip going on here, with its full-bodied presence on the palate and demonstrative notes of red and blue fruits, black pepper and spice.

Rusden Shiraz “Black Guts” Barossa Valley 2009.  Grade=Amazing.  This is quite an expressive, full-bodied Shiraz with a lot of aromas of blood orange and red currants, and explosive flavors of raspberry, cranberry, red tea, cloves, cinnamon and coffee berry.  Absolutely delicious!

As always, chef Matt Buschle did not disappoint, as I discovered my new favorite dish, the Pontaine au Poivre, which is simply French fries covered with slow-roasted beef, Gruyere cheese and carmelized onions.  The conversation drifted between the wines, movies, and music all night, and there wasn’t a bad wine in the lot.

Thanks to Russell and Ronnie for a very cool evening, and we at PS are really looking forward to rocking these wines off the shelves.

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