Some wines are effortlessly cool, from start to finish, from backstory to bottle. This is one of those wines.
Pheasant’s Tears is the name given to the wine-making production of two seemingly at-odds men in the remote Georgian villages of Sighnaghi and Bodbiskhevi, respectively, in the Caucasus Mountains. The first is John Wuderman V, an artist who used to call Baltimore home before transferring to complete his MFA at the Surikov Institute of Art in Moscow. By chance, while painting a pastoral scene of vines and grapes in scenic Georgia, he ran into Gela Patalishvili, a vigneron whose family has been making wine the traditional Georgian way for eight generations. They quickly bonded over a rustic meal and set to work on their new joint venture.
Yes, you read that right — Patalishvili’s family has been making wine for EIGHT generations. The history of wine in Georgia and other countries near the Black Sea is exceedingly long, dating back to the very beginnings of civilization. Given such time for the winemakers to hone their craft, you’d expect many of the wines coming out of the country — many of which are for the first time available in the U.S. — to be, at minimum, distinct and polished, if not quite tasty.
Pheasant’s Tears Rkatsiteli bottling fits all of those descriptions, and we in the U.S. should be thankful that Russian import restrictions on Georgian wine tightened in 2006. While it meant hardship and significant marketing changes for native winemakers, it also meant that they had to look overseas to sell their wares. Today, we’re reaping the bounty of the Russians evidently putting politics over good taste. (How silly, if you ask me — good taste should dictate politics!)
Traditional Georgian winemaking practices dictate that the juice of native grapes (of which there are hundreds of varieties!!) is aged in underground beeswax-lined tanks called qvevri. In the case of “amber” or “orange” wines like this Rkatsiteli (one of those native grape varietals), the grapes macerate with the skins on for a set period of time, which contributes a burnished copper color to the wine as well as tannic character. At first pour, it’s effusively fragrant with notes of grilled peach, roasted almond, fresh hay, campfire smoke and floral bouquets. In the mouth, it’s full and round, with excellent minerality and a distinct savoriness that stands up to even big and bold food flavors. Citrus acidity cuts through fats while traces of stone fruit, garam masala spice, green sandalwood and honeyed nuts elegantly complement shellfish dishes especially, like seared scallops with honey-soy sauce, burnt walnuts and curried cauliflower. Fantastic value.
Wine Lines Rating: 91