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Wine of the Week: Quivira, 2012 Elusive Rhone Red, Dry Creek Valley Sonoma County

Is it a stretch to call a portobello burger, sandwiched between a brioche bun, an “umami burger”? Not when it’s in your mouth and you’re savoring it.

The Japanese term “umami” can be translated as “savory,” according to Merriam-Webster. It is produced by several amino acids and nucleotides. A portobello, rich in umami, found its match in our recent Press Democrat Portobello Burger Tasting. In a line-up of wines, the best suitor was the Quivira, 2012 Elusive Rhone Red, Dry Creek Valley Sonoma County at $34. This red is weighted to grenache and it’s that high-toned red fruit, coupled with crisp acid, that gave it the edge as the most debonair match.

Quivira winegrower Hugh Chappelle said his Rhone red fared well because of the umami factor.

“What’s particularly distinctive about portobello mushrooms is that umami element, the fact that they deliver those savory, earthy flavors,” Chappelle said. “The Elusive offers a lot of fruit forward notes, yet has a solid structured backbone and together those play off very well against the umami components of the portobellos.”

The Rhone blend is 65 percent grenache, 20 percent syrah and 15 percent mourvedre.

“What the uninitiated may not know about Rhone red blends is that the combination of grenache, mourvedre, and syrah is not a new or recent idea,” Chappelle said. “It is actually quite ancient. These varieties evolved together over thousands of years in southern France’s Rhone Valley. Over time, they’ve been shown to have an amazing synergy for blending with each other where each variety brings something complementary to the final wine.”

Grenache gives the blend its bright fruit, mourvedre provides the structure, while syrah peppers it with spice.

“The most gratifying part is blending,” Chappelle said. “When you taste the varietals and the barrels individually, you start to get a sense of how the wine is going to turn out in the end. Blending a group of barrels seems to have an exponential improvement on the wine. This process is the same for the varietal wines we make, but with the Elusive blend we have more of a blank canvas to start with.”

With competition fierce and mainstream brands getting a lot of play, Chappelle said Quivira keeps its Rhone varietals in high demand by competing with quality.

“Quality wines will always be in demand,” Chappelle said. “Working with the best lots from each varietal and melding them together gives us this great example of an exceptional bottle of wine.”

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