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Don't Be Shy About Trying Our Rare Varietals

By Justin Lord, Summit House General Manager
As a former lead sommelier at Per Se in Manhattan, I've been around wines for many, many years and discovered rare varietals from all over the world. As the years roll on, however, I continue to uncover wines made from grapes I've never heard of, or from locales not known as world-class producing regions despite having been in the business for decades, if not centuries.
The world of wine is a lifelong learning experience for me; so frankly, it's bound to be fully overwhelming to you, the consumer.
There are plenty of well-known labels you can rely on to suit your palate, and they are readily available in many New Jersey restaurants and wine shops. That's a good thing, but it only scratches the surface of oenology -- the study of wines. Summit House was created with the notion that we'd not only serve delicious food and drink, but we'd also help educate guests who are interested in learning more.
Want to try a grape you've never had before? Looking to pair the perfect wine with your raw bar or house-made pasta order? Just ask. We are here to help, any time you visit Summit House. Below are some lesser-known labels now available on the Summit House wine list. Take a look and give them a try next time you're in. 

Királyudvar, Tokaji Furmint, Sec, Hungary 2013, $65
This estate is steeped in history but would have fallen to the wayside if not purchased and revitalized in 1997. The new owners repurchased all their original land holdings and did something unique. In 2005, they released a dry version of their white wine. While this Hungarian region is known worldwide for their sweet dessert wines, no one ever thought to try it dry….until Kiralyudvar pushed the envelope a bit.

Hatzidakis, Aidani, "Cuvee No. 15," Santorini 2015, $75
Aidani is an almost unknown variety from the Aegean sea. Hatzidakis’s vineyards are over 1,000 feet above sea level and farmed organically. This wine is fermented on its skin for a touch of time to extract color and flavor. It also gives a richer mouthfeel to the wine. It's then aged in stainless steel to preserve freshness, and it has great texture and an intensity of yellow fruits (Peach/Apricot/Honey).

Ameztoi, Hondarribi Zuri/Beltza, "Rubentis," Getariako Txakolina, Basque, Spain 2016, $58
This rosé is made in a unique way. Ameztoi (Ah-MEZ-toy) actually vinifies 50% white grapes (Zuri) and 50% red grapes (Beltza). Most rosé is made solely from red grapes with limited skin contact. This unique version highlights the fresh melon and lime flavors inherent in the Hondarribi variety. It is from Northern Spain, right on the coast south of Great Britain. Shellfish and seafood is king and this wine can hang with both, more than adequately.

Foley Estate Vineyards, Charbono, Napa Valley 2014, $97
This is one of the rarest varietals in America right now. There is believed to be only 70 acres of Charbono in existence, half of which is planted in Napa Valley. This is the varietal that got Robert Foley into winemaking when he sampled it from a cask at Inglenook in 1969. It is ripe, ruby and rare. Smooth tannins with a subtle tang of acidity. 

Zýme, Oseleta, "Oz," Veneto 2009, $176
From the Italian provincial town of Verona. Oz (“O” for Oseleta and “Z” for Zýme’) is one of the only 100% Oseleta production wines coming from Venezia. This varietal is often used as a blending grape, usually not exceeding 20% of a blend, but Zýme begs to differ. The wine is full, smooth and deep purple in the glass. It can accompany a wide variety of meat dishes but does best with grilled items.

Mastroberardino, Aglianico, "Radici," Taurasi, Riserva, Campania, Italy 1998, $188
Founded in 1878, Mastroberardino is the Jewel of Campania in Southern Italy. They have been farming and making wine pretty much the same way for the past 10 generations. Their “Radici” bottling is a perfect example of the age ability of Aglianico. Usually I describe a young one as having zinfandel-like characteristics, but when there is age on them they take on a cedar spice similar to an aged Bordeaux. This bottling was aged in cask for over three years and then in bottle at the estate until its library release last year.