Almost Famous

Master Sommelier George Miliotes’s Wines to Watch for 2012.



As one of just 180 Master Sommeliers in the world, George Miliotes has to be on trend. In his role as beverage director at Seasons 52 (with 18 locations in 11 states), Miliotes oversees all aspects of the restaurant chain’s wine and beverage program. Here is his wine forecast, with nine hot styles to watch for in the coming months.

VINHO VERDE

No wine is more perfect for summer than Vinho Verde from Portugal. It is light, crisp, slightly bubbly, fruity (but not quite sweet) and usually under $10 retail. It is great to drink with most appetizers and spicy food, and due to its lower alcohol level, it’s great out by the pool.

CRASTO RED

The perfect partner to Vinho Verde is the Crasto Red from Quinta do Crasto in the Douro region of Portugal. Using varieties that are usually reserved for Port (Tinta Roriz, Tinta Barroca, Touriga Franca and Tourga Nacional) this medium-bodied red is silky smooth. While one would expect a highly alcoholic and heavy red from the Port-producing area of Portugal, I am always impressed by this wine’s restraint. It is my secret weapon when pairing red wine with a wide range of foods.

ORANGE WINE

No, we’re not talking about wine from oranges. This is a wine category in which white grapes are vinified like red wine. The extended skin contact before and/or during fermentation gives these usually white wines an orange color and a flavor that is neither like a white nor a red. What makes them even more incredible is this isn’t a new process, but a return to how many white wines were made centuries ago.

SLOVENIA

Most of us know Slovenia is in Eastern Europe, but few realize it borders Northeastern Italy and is one of the most blessed areas in the world for making wine. It might not be a household name as a winemaking region, but Slovenia has produced a Merlot that defines awesomeness. Anna’s Merlot is made for Season’s 52 by Edi and Aleks Simcic, some of the most cutting-edge winemakers in Slovenia. Look for the Slovenian specialty of Rebolla (known in Italy as Ribolla Gialla), which is my next hot variety.

MAURITSON

I have always believed that wines reflect the personality of their makers. Clay Mauritson is a sixth-generation wine grower in Sonoma, played linebacker for the Oregon Ducks and is one of the most personable young winemakers in California. Like him, his wines are big and forward, yet warm and welcoming and speak of Sonoma. Look for his Sonoma Cabernet or Rockpile (what a great name) Zinfandels.

REGIONAL WINES

As foods go “local,” so do wines, made by small, but passionate producers throughout the country. For example, we offer wines from Arizona Stronghold in our Phoenix restaurant. (Cool side-note: Maynard James Keenan, lead singer for the band Tool, owns the winery.) Who knew you could make aromatic and balanced wines in Arizona? Look for wine made from Florida blueberries produced by Keel & Curley winery in Plant City, (near Tampa) and Viognier from Virginia’s Rappahannock Cellars.

UNOAKED WHITES

As America’s curiosity about wine continues to grow, guests continue to branch out from Chardonnay, and unoaked whites are ruling the day, including wines like the aromatic Torrontés from Argentina and the crisp Verdejo from Spain. You can find both at fair prices, and they are delicious with seafood and white meats.

GARNACHA FROM SPAIN

Spain is fertile ground for great reds at bargain prices. While Tempranillo is still the king of the Spanish reds, I am currently infatuated with Garnacha. Its rich, red-fruit flavors and smooth tannins make it perfect for American diners. I especially like it with red meats off the grill.

MOSCATO

If orange juice could be wine, it would be Moscato. This wine is white-hot, and as we move away from simple white Zinfandel, Moscato is the perfect wine to help us bridge to other new varieties. Zinfandel-king Joel Peterson makes Ravenswood Moscato exclusively for Seasons 52, but there are many other good examples at all price ranges.

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