In lieu of a restaurant review for this issue, I’m starting a series on the Utah wine brokerages and the people who bring wines into the state. I’ll start with three smaller companies but in time, I’ll showcase all the companies that serve Utah’s wine stores. I’m beginning this series with Bottleneck Wines, P. R. Grisley Wines and Wild West Wines.
Scott Cunningham is the owner and creator of Bottleneck Wines. Scott, still a young man, started as an entrepreneur right out of high school. He opened a coffee shop in Boise, Idaho, and in just a few years his business acumen had brought him a measure of success rarely awarded to guys at such a young age. After he sold his coffee business, he decided to wait tables in nice restaurants just for fun, with the goal in mind of learning about the service of wine. Soon, Scott learned that as a waiter, he could raise his tip considerably by suggesting wines to go the specific menu items. Inadvertently, he developed a discerning palate of his own and eventually acquired a pretty snazzy education as a certified sommelier.
Scott is tall, friendly and VGL — really — and in no time garnered a position for a wine brokerage company as its Utah sales manager. Of course, being very successful at his job, Scott had schmoozed his way into the hearts and minds of both his clients and the California wineries he was representing. He also knew he had picked up more knowledge and connections than he was being paid for, so, after multiple attempts to get a raise from his employers, he started his own business and brought some wineries along with him.
Scott’s wine portfolio is always expanding and I have a hard time keeping up will all the wine he brings into Utah. He sells A to Z Wineworks from Oregon, Cartlidge & Browne from California, Mitolo from Australia, and many more.
Here are three Bottleneck wines you should try:
• A to Z Pinot Noir ’08: This wine is just delicious and is made in a beautiful Burgundy style — light yet full of flavor and silky. I think this wine has plenty of acidity which makes it all the better to pair with foods like roasted pork and chicken. It is also classy enough to be served as an opener at a cocktail party. It costs around $18.
• L’Oustal Blanc – Naick Rouge: Bottleneck also brings in this obscure little Carignane from the South of France. This red wine is the product of a “ghost” vineyard which fell into the hands of an unsuspecting couple who lived in Paris. They inherited the beleaguered property from a relative and left their urban lives to become winemakers. Naick is soft and creamy and quite light. You may think it’s not very interesting at first, but as it lingers and opens you’ll discover the smooth, elegance of a finely made Carignane. It costs around $23.
• Bergevin Lane, Columbia Valley Cabernet: This comes from a winery in the great Northwest which owned by a lesbian married couple. The two make exceptional wines and their Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the supple, easy drinking, lighter wines Washington is famous for. If you haven’t had a Washington State Cabernet, you need to support these members of our community and try this wine, which costs around $25.
Peter, or Pierre, Grisley is a Millcreek Prince from an old Salt Lake family. Semi-retired from the family Machine Tooling business on 300 West, Peter wanted to get into wine because he loves it and because he wanted to form a new business that would be viable and exciting for his whole family, some of whom are involved in the business like Peter’s son Michael, who serves as his sales rep. Peter is one of Utah’s few wine importers, which means that he can bring in products directly from wineries in other countries. He has also recently started bottling wines in Spain under the label of Grisley-Rodriguez. Although Peter’s forte is Spanish wines, he also has new contacts in Bordeaux and Burgundy and in Portugal — in fact, a fine feather is his cap is that he now represents Lustau Sherries.
Three Grisley wines you should know about are:
• A new Portuguese Vinho Verde by Quinta Gomariz which is a frizzante — a wine that is full of sparkle, lime zest and luscious melon tones. This is an exceptional bargain at $10 and better than the two Vinho Verdes which have been carried by the state in the past.
• Under the same label, he has a gorgeous Portuguese rose, similar to the orangeish Muga Rioja rose. It’s crisp, clean, balanced and perfect for spring and summer.
• Peter also brings in a very nice and drinkable Bordeaux from the Cotes de Castillon. Chat. Monbadon is a great introduction to an affordable Bordeaux at around $14.
Ron Shelby is a member of our community and the current representative of Wild West Wines. In past years, Ron worked for the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control at the downtown Metro Wine Store. He too has a great palate and shares my ability to pair food with wine. He has been a featured speaker at the wine tasting club QVinum and is also an excellent cook.
Here are three of the wines that Ron represents.
• New Age is a popular but special order wine from Argentina. It is a sparkling cocktail wine which is best served over ice and with a squeeze of lime. This type of wine is all the rage in Buenos Aires and is on the sweet side. Many have said it also has aphrodisiac qualities!
• Los Vascos Cabernet is a consistent bargain and perennial favorite from Chile. Many people who love Cabs buy it by the case. At around $11, its value is often hidden.
• Simonsieg is a winery from South Africa which exports many wines to the U.S., but one that is very interesting to me is a sparkling rose which is a blend of Pinotage and Pinot Noir. If you don’t know, Pinotage is a hybrid grape only grown in South Africa. Generally, it is not meant to make rose or sparkling wine, but it’s still very nice. Its cost is around $20.
In the next issue, I’ll introduce you to three more wine reps in Utah.