Sophora Cuvee Sparkling Dry Rose, New Zealand $15
52% Chardonnay and 48% Pinot Noir from Gisborne and Hawkes Bay on the North Island. There’s no denying the red fruit component, strawberry-like pink pinot fruit flavor, and welcome dryness of this versatile bubbly that features both celebration and mealtime applications. Try pairing with Hawaiian pizza.
Broadbent 2015 Weinland Gruner Veltliner, Austria $15 Liter
Son of English wine writer, educator, auctioneer Michael Broadbent, Bartholomew Broadbent, based in San Francisco, has developed a thriving portfolio of wine imports and, lately, a private label of his own. His signature Gruner Veltliner is different from the competition’s. There’s none of the usual legume character. Classic apple aromatics, for sure, plus much more, including lime and peach. Its sweet and smooth approach is countered by fabulous acid etch, great textural spiel. Delightful with cold poached salmon.
Ccv Eguisheim 2015 Alsace Pinot Blanc Wolfberger, France $15
Founded in 1902, the Cave Cooperative Vinicole at Eguisheim in Haut Rhin is representative of its genre. Alsace’s cooperatives make wines fully as fine as the region’s leading estates and negociants. Here, Pinot Blanc is a noble variety. Well, this one is full and aromatic in sunny 2015. Expressive, expansive; the usual apples, plus more fruits this vintage. On the palate it sports a big flash of fruit, and fabulous texture. Perfect for Quiche Lorraine.
Cesari 2015 Venezie Pinot Grigio Duetorri, Italy $11
This three-generation enterprise, founded by Gerardo Cesari in 1936, was one of Italy’s first to export its wines to all five continents. While Amarone is its flagship wine, the Cesari range is impressive throughout, right down to the modest-priced Duetorri (Two Towers) labels. My, this is snappy, spicy, vivacious Pinot Grigio, sporting cedar airs, citrus savors, and full texture and vitality. Just right for pasta carbonara.
Villa Maria 2016 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc Private Bin, New Zealand $14
Founded in 1961 by George Fistonich (lately knighted for his pioneering efforts) Villa Maria is New Zealand’s leading wine-award estate. First 2016 to market, this boasts super expressions of gooseberry and passion fruit; so pure, concentrated, lasting. This blows me away. Never had one quite this fresh before. Total newness. No waitin’, no hesitatin’! Wow wine. Imagine a salad featuring grilled stone fruit and goat cheese, and you’ll discover this wine’s soul mate.
Grayson Cellars 2015 California Chardonnay Lot 11, California $10
Family owned, Grayson Cellars is proud to have Larry Levin as its winemaker. Larry was head winemaker at Dry Creek vineyard for seventeen years and for Icon Estates (Franciscan, Quintessa) for nine years after. His 2015 Chardonnay was awarded a 981/00 rating at the California State Fair Wine Competition. It features a bright and delightful apple aroma of the crisp, crunchy Granny Smith sort. The palate builds to a caramel apple crescendo and highlights of wood toast and demerara sugar, leading to an off-dry finish. I can see the high rating. Goes well with guacamole.
Rudi Wiest 2014 Mosel Riesling, Germany $12
Ace German-wine importer Rudi Wiest began his endeavor in 1978, first featuring solely Rieslings of top estates, then adding his eponymous range. After noted Middle-Mosel winegrower Robert Eymael selected wines for this concept, he and Rudi put together the final blend. It’s clear and cool and true 2014, a good and dry dinner wine nose. The palate shows enticing riesling peach and tangerine flavors. This has a versatile sweetness level workable in both mealtime and all-occasion settings. Ideal with Vietnamese Caramel Shrimp.
Pietra Santa 2014 Central Coast Pinot Noir Route 152, California $11
Tuscan-trained winemaker Alessio Carli lends an Italian touch to French-varietal wines from this property in the Gabilan Range 25 miles east of Monterey Bay. This cuvee is formed of three Dijon clones. 90% from the core estate, 10% from its Dunn Ranch vineyard outside the Cienega AVA. It spent 10 months in French oak barrels, 20% new. The aroma is sweet and nutty, a cherry-nut sundae treat with California fruitiness and Euro form. It’s a bold and powerful pinot at 14.2%. I suggest seared duck breast with cherry sauce.
La Playa Estate 2013 Colchagua Valley Carmenere, Chile $9
Vina La Playa (the beach) has vineyards on the west slopes of Colchagua Valley, called Chile’s “Napa Valley,” where significant diurnal temperature swings contribute both ripeness and acidity to its grapes. Alluring aromas of sweet and racy berry and cherry, plus light, spicy oak. The palate contributes snappy bramble fruit, really great acidity for food, and just the right measure of oak. Calls for sauteed chicken with green olives and capers.
E. Guigal 2012 Cotes du Rhone, France $15
The three-generation Guigal empire was started by Etienne in 1946, while working for northern Rhone winemaker Vidal-Fleury, a firm it would later acquire. Today, it has an impressive portfolio of southern Rhone wines also. I find this 2012 its best Cotes du Rhone ever. Oh, deep, dark, romantic, padded, and satiny, with syrah a significant player. The palate offers multi-colored cracked peppercorns and garrigue (Provencal airs). Enjoy with lamb stew on a chilly winter’s eve.
Bodega Pulenta 2015 Agrelo - Lujan De Cuyo Malbec La Flor, Argentina $13
Bodega Pulenta was founded in 2002 by the third generation of an Italian immigrant family to make wine in Argentina. Its high-altitude vineyards (3500 feet) west of Mendoza deliver Malbec wines of great freshness and lift. Say, this 2015 really sings as always! It features great elegance to accompany its power and concentration. On the palate I find a rich and bright harmony of fruit cremes and pastilles that go on and on. I suggest grilled chicken thighs with a hoisin sauce glaze.
Bodegas Volver 2014 Alicante Monastrell Tarima, Spain $8
Ace importer Ordonez is a co-owner of Bodegas Volver. Monastrell, a grape variety known in France as Mourvedre, loves a warm growing season; it finds such in southeast Spain’s Alicante zone. Thanks to its high-altitude origins (2000-2500 feet) and a cool vintage, this 2014 sports bright, fresh aromas of boysenberry and anise. The palate adds cola, baking spices, and bulb flowers, and great acid lift. Excellent with blood sausage and fava beans.
Botter 2015 Veneto Gran Passione, Italy $15
Veneto’s most respected red wine, Amarone supplied the inspiration for a growing cadre of rossos that incorporate dried grapes in the winemaking process: appassimento wines. This one’s of 60% Merlot and 40% Corvina. Sunny 2015 supports incredible power and lushness here, short of a raisined nature. If there’s any sense of dried fruit, it’s cherry rather than grape. With balancing acidity for longevity and food, everything reminds me of a young Amarone except the price. Pair with venison and cumberland sauce.
Man Family 2013 Coastal Region Syrah Skaapveld, South Africa $10
The name is feminine rather than masculine, an acronym for the wives of the founders: Marie, Anette, and Nicky. Skaapveld stands for sheep pastures interspersed with MAN’s syrah vineyards. This 2013 consists of 95% Syrah, 5% Grenache, Mourvedre, Cinsault., spending fifteen months in seasoned oak. It’s a sweet-fruited New World syrah, very pure, appealing, and typical of an Agter-Paarl region, frank and revealing red. The other varieties add attractive, complicating touches. Mellow, suave, all fruit all the time, this will support Malaccan Devil’s Curry.
Cockburn’s Ruby Porto, Portugal $15
In 2010, Cockburn’s joined the elite portfolio of Symington Family Estates (includes Taylor, Fonseca, Dow’s, Warre’s, Graham’s). Its signature wine is called Special Reserve, a sort of “super ruby,” leaving this one a genuine, young and fruity Ruby Port without pretensions: a sweet treat with grip, body, power, seductiveness. Everything a Ruby should be, it shows beautiful balance of sweetness, acidity, and strength. One of the best of its genre. Serve with a flourless chocolate cake.