Exotic comes in every shape and size -- from cars to animals, fruits to fabric. As well, many grape varieties are just unusual enough to be considered exotic -- so much out there to mix and play with.
No doubt, some are more exotic than others, but like life, all should be deliciously enjoyed if not evocatively experienced. I wasn't that familiar with some of them, so I packed up my curiosity and went to explore the Exotic Wine Festival sponsored by Wine World and Teatro Zinzani (complete with a 6-foot-7 yodeling dominatrix, but that's another column). Exotic, erotic or just plain weird; I decided to begin my journey with Bellevue.
A Bellevue blonde is hardly exotic, but made from 100% Marsanne, may just make her interesting. Sam the winemaker poured me a taste of this golden juice. Then, in Sam fashion, posed the idea "you're blond, do you live in Bellevue?"
Really Sam? I am actually one of those "Seattle" dramatic types who would rather die than claim a suburban ZIP code. I see the 520 as simply a means to get to Woodinville, and then I forgot to be offended. Pandora Cellars Bellevue Blonde is in barrel now and headed for bottle in the next few weeks. Is she exotic? Let's just say she has the chutzpah to pick up her expensive handbag and her favorite pair of shoes and head out the door to shake the world up. She is bodacious with relatively smooth curves and a bit of stubble here and there. She's a slow build up to a finish that POPS! "TA DAH!"
On the redder side of exotic, Pandora Cellars 2009 Connor's Blend is an entirely different animal. It's equal parts Petit Verdot and Malbec with a dash of Cabernet Sauvignon that ruffles it up. A ribbon of spice and midnight swirl through the goodness of dark cherry and blueberry, while even tannins switch and swap in a conjecture of a good time not yet had by all. Exotic? Well, no. But it is a sexy blend that cocktails the wine up just enough to be sipped naked in a hot tub with strangers.
Speaking of naked, throw in a white threesome and try forbidden on for size. Three is a magic number, and there's something exotic about threesomes (I'm told). Patterson Cellars 2010 Forbidden White unleashes a tangle of Chardonnay, Viognier and Siegerrebe. These forbidden fruits throw a tropical stream of bright citrus and a splash of fresh pineapple into a creamy supple richness. Like the hippy-chic made from a rib who eats the apple despite being told not to, like that apple, this wine earns the right to be forbidden -- and so it is bequeathed.
Similarly (but different), Stina's Cellars 2010 Siegerrebe is the result of a rousing between Mr. Gewuerztraminer and Ms. Madeline Angevine, who lost their senses at a mind-blowing party. The result is a Siegerrebe that keeps it pure and simple. Exotic, like a peacock, a plume of ripe peach explodes into a feathery wisp of fury. Fruity on the outside does not necessarily reveal the layers of ripe tomato, apricot and paprika!
Speaking of layers, Bunnell Family Cellar 2009 Petit Bec is an exotic taste of moody juice. This wine shows nights in white pepper satin blended with the ultimate heart of darkness. Bands of leather and smoke entwine with dark fruit and blackberry. Structured like an Arabian horse, it wears veils of melted chocolate with grace and anticipation.
On the whiter side, Bunnell Family Cellar 2010 Boushey Vineyard Fraiche, is a perfected balance of lemon trees rustling in the breezy ocean air. Salt and citrus show up prominently in an exotic mixture of light, fresh zest. Rhone varieties Marsanne, Roussanne, Grenache Blanc and Picpoul (a new one for me) left the feeling of a refreshing lemony dessert.
Refreshed or reinvented, enter Tempranillo. Considered unusual in times gone by, it's a bit blase in the category of interesting. But Upland Estates rejuvenates this notion by turning up the volume on its Snipes Mountain 2009 Tempranillo. Exotic? Leave me alone with a tall, sexy Spaniard, and I'm certain to be persuaded! This wine blends the sultry of tango with the booming beat of club dancing. Creamy vanilla creases and crimps in and around a chocolate cherry jubilee. It's dark and smooth and luscious with a finish that erupts into freshly torn rose petals and swollen black plums. Striking and beautiful.
After that, we need a fire hose of bubbles, which are exotic to a point that's really unmatchable. Bubble baths, bubble tea, bubble wrap; these are just a few places bubbles can take you. For a safari in a bottle, Treveri Cellars throws caution to the wind and untethers a sparkling Gewuerztraminer. This wine sparkles with bold starfruit and drippy elderberry, which unfurls into a thrashing of fresh, crisp white sheets. No doubt it finishes with a wide satin ribbon around the edges.
Sounds like an opportunity for a little love and squalor, so enter Love & Squalor 2009 Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley. Admittedly, Pinot Noir does not strike me as exotic, however this one is unusual. It's light like a deep rose, while bringing forward bright cherry, red fruit and soft tannins. It leaves the feeling that something just occurred in your mouth that was neither explosive nor mind numbing. Something subtle, something interesting, something resembling the point when a boy's voice changes. Awkwardly enchanting.
So what gets the big exotic wine award? I'm going to go with the Wind Rose Cellars 2010 Dolcetto. Replace that Spaniard with a sexy Italian and we've got a sizzling Dolcetto in the making. A spray of chocolate, red fruit and raspberry blast along a steely path, edgy enough to cut through the natural, silky tannins. The hills are alive with this wine, which heads toward a long, intense finish.
Long and intense and exotic, oh my! Three of my favorite words that pertain to ... well ... wine of course! Cheers!
With sass and attitude, TERI CITTERMAN is a Seattle dweller and an eager wine enthusiast. She is the author of the latest edition of Best Places to Kiss in the Northwest and the Northwest Wine Journal. She writes An Urban Sip Wine Blog at anurbansip.com.