Jay’s Picks for September: Leo Hillinger Small Hill Red and Gaia Estate Thalassitis

Leo Hillinger Small Hill Red and Gaia Estate Thalassitis

Leo Hillinger Small Hill Red
Leo Hillinger
Small Hill Red 2011

Here in the US, the wines of Austria are not as well-known as those of western Europe. While many Austrian red wines can be spicy, high in acidity and very light bodied, Leo Hillinger’s Small Hill Red offers a different style. This somewhat unusual blend of Merlot, Pinot Noir and Saint Laurent breaks the typical mold of Austrian reds by offering a fleshier wine with more pronounced fruit with notes of chocolate and tobacco. Pinot Noir and Saint Laurent are cousins, showing earth tones and red fruits, while the Merlot adds dark, lush fruit and tannins.  I picked this wine for September because it has the fruit that I think is agreeable for hot weather but body that makes it perfect for cooler evenings, just like our weather this month.  This is a perfect inexpensive wine to try if you like Rhone or Languedoc wines or perhaps blended California wines.  Pairs well with grilled meat or Pork and Spaetzles if that’s your thing.

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Gaia Estate Thalassitis
Gaia Estate
Thalassitis 2011

It is no secret that we are fans of Assyrtiko here at Millesima.  By all accounts a rare variety, only grown on the volcanic island of Santorini. When consumed young and fresh, there is a great lemon-inflected citrus note with a slight briney quality and tons of minerality.  Seriously get out the fish and bivalves for this one.  Another thing that is interesting about Assyrtiko is that it has great aging potential.  As it ages, the acidity and citrus back off and almond and tropical fruit flavors begin to come out.  You can have entirely different experiences with the same Assyrtiko over the span of years. And it’s possible that the grapevines on Santorini are the oldest living vines in the world because new vines are propagated by burying portions of existing vines, in effect regenerating the same vine again and again – a process that has gone on for literally thousands of years. Thalassitis was the first Assyrtiko that we brought in two years ago – it’s a wine that proves consistently great vintage to vintage and has a tendency to make a big impression on people whether new wine drinkers or seasoned “wine geeks.”

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