Gordon Alexander of Terroir Wines shares his favorite sips for the winter season
Massachusetts wine merchant Gordon Alexander has been working with fine wines for more than three decades, and in 2018 he launched Terroir Wines with business partner Sheri Carl. Aptly named, the company is “dedicated to the principle that place matters”. Together, they source and import wines from all over the world, looking for small winegrowers who cherish their land and respect the concept of terroir.
Of French origin, the term terroir is deeply rooted in a reverence for the literal and figurative meaning of place. It is the convergence of the natural environment in which a particular wine is produced, with the almost religious belief in the characteristic taste, aroma and nuance imparted to a wine by its surroundings. Essentially, It’s the taste of land.
Last November, I met Gordon at Gloucester’s Savor Wine & Cheese, and had the chance to speak soul when it comes to wine. Our conversation danced with the concept of terroir as it relates to truth and intent in winemaking.
Vins de Terroir has a small and growing distribution presence on the North Shore. As we settle into a more contemplative state on the fringes of hibernation, what better companions than a selection of four red gems, ours for reflection on the importance of place.
+ 2018 Carol Shelton Zinfandel, Mendocino, CA $22
Carol Shelton, a passionate winemaker in California, “mastered Zinfandel Zen since 1978”. The first producer in Terroir Wine’s portfolio, “it continues to set the benchmark for integrity in its winemaking,” says Alexander. “She was also top of her class at UC Davis, the first to graduate with a women’s degree. Her Wild Thing Zinfandel, from an organic vineyard in Mendocino, has lovely spicy berries, crisp acidity to keep it refreshing and “clever use of oak”.
Fine Wines and Spirits of Leary, Newburyport 202 Merrimac St., 978-462-4451; Variety of Lela, Topsfield, 51 Main St., 978-561-1877; Savor the Wine and Cheese, Gloucester, 76 Prospect St., 978-282-1455
+ 2016 Château Benitey Merlot and Cabernet Franc, Saint-Émilion, Bordeaux, France $35
The Gironde river runs through the Bordeaux region in southwestern France and is joined by the Dordogne river. To simplify, the south of the Dordogne is considered the left bank, where Cabernet Sauvignon dominates, due to the gravelly soil. To the north of the Dordogne and Gironde is considered the Right Bank, where Merlot holds court due to its love of clay. Cabernet Franc plays matchmaker with one or other of the dominant grape varieties and grows throughout Bordeaux with Petit Verdot and Malbec. We talk about power and muscle from the Left Bank, and softer, more flexible styles from the Right Bank, as is the case with this Château Benitey 2016. Merlot makes up the bulk of the blend, with a hint of structure with a touch of cabernet franc. “An absolutely classic Saint-Émilion! It’s lush, round and plump, with a hint of chocolate and just a touch of that Bordeaux chalk.
Coastal Greengrocer, Ipswich, 51 Market St., 978-356-8500; Community Package Store, South Hamilton, 45 Bay Rd., 978-468-1386; Savor the Wine and Cheese, Gloucester, 76 Prospect St., 978-282-1455
+ 2017 Michael Shaps Petit Verdot, Virginia, USA $30
Originally from Virginia, Michael Shaps studied winemaking in Burgundy in the 1990s before returning to the United States to found Michael Shaps Wine Works. He also owns a winery in Burgundy, Maison Shaps, working with local winemakers. “Michael is a great guy with a great story and a truly French perspective on American wine making. And it’s hard to find more American than vineyards just below Thomas Jefferson. His Petit Verdot is lush and complex with notes of blueberry, cocoa and cherry compote, but still taut with just enough tension to hold the weight.
Leary’s Fine Wines and Spirits, Newburyport, 202 Merrimac St., 978-462-4451; Savor the Wine and Cheese, Gloucester, 76 Prospect St., 978-282-1455
+ 2019 Shilda Winery Saperavi, Kakheti, Georgia $14
A recent partnership with Massachusetts-based Georgian importer Kosta Chernikov has brought the purity of Eastern Europe to the Terroir Wines portfolio. Shilda’s Saperavi is a bright, juicy, thirst-quenching and drinkable expression of a native Georgia red grape variety. “This wine is designed to show the purity of the grape rather than the influence of the winemaker. It is fermented in stainless steel, bottled quickly and with minimal aging in tank. Think of it as the analogue of Beaujolais for Georgia.
Savor the Wine and Cheese, Gloucester, 76 Prospect St., 978-282-1455