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Tasters Guild Announces the Medal Winners of its
31st Annual International Wine Judging


Tasters Guild International, a Wine and Food Appreciation Society based in Grand Rapids, Michigan with administrative offices in Washington D.C., has announced the results of its Thirty-first Annual International Wine Judging held May 1-4, 2018.

Twenty-three experienced judges from around the country completed over 1,400 evaluations of wine from 9 countries and 30 states/provinces. The judging panels were comprised of a carefully selected mix of retailers, winemakers, wine writers, restaurateurs, wine educators and experienced consumers. As part of the total wine evaluation process, nearly 35% of the wines entered were randomly chosen for reevaluation to verify the accuracy and fairness of medal consideration.

Of special interest this year was the superior quality of the entered wines, which led to many judges’ comments such as; "An outstanding array of vinifera, hybrid, labrusca and fruit other than grape wines.” “We experienced some exceptionally good proprietary blends.” “The quality of wine was excellent from the 2016 and 2017 vintages.” “Wineries are excelling in processing the best fruit possible from their region and narrowing down varieties to produce superb signature wines for the consuming public to experience.”

"By sponsoring this wine judging event, it is the objective of Tasters Guild to give the consumer a
reference point in choosing quality wine values," explains Tasters Guild President, Joe Borrello. "Tasters Guild recommends any wine judging results or tasting evaluations be used only as an informational guide for consumers in establishing personal preferences. However, with our reevaluation procedure, we take extra precaution to appraise the wines as accurately as possible."

TASTERS GUILD is a society of wine and food lovers which recently associated with the American Wine Society and now consists of over one hundred and twenty chapters throughout the country that provide active and ongoing wine and food events for over 7,000 wine consuming members.

A complete database search of medal winners from the judging is available on the Tasters Guild website at For printed copies of the medal results or specific breakout reports and for Guild information and/or interviews, contact:

Joe Borrello, President

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.

Graham Beck Western Cape Chardonnay-Pinot Noir Brut, South Africa $15
One of the wealthiest individuals in South Africa, Graham Beck (1929-2010) was an entrepreneur, winegrower, stud farmer, and philanthropist. His eponymous winery continues to make top Cape sparkling wines by the Cap Classique (Champagne) method. This Brut was aged 18 months on its bottle lees, allowing original fruity and floral aromas to carry forth on the nose before its toasty-doughy lees autolysis character really blossoms in the mouth. It emulates Champagne both in varietal makeup and in character at a fraction of the price. A lovely brunch choice with Eggs Benedict.

Sileni Estates 2015 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc Cellar Selection, New Zealand $13
In 1997, Sir Graeme Avery, a publisher of medical books, founded Sileni Estates at Hawkes Bay on the North Island, naming it for satyr companions of wine god Dionysus. The winery’s South Island estate in cool, sunny Marlborough yields its Sauvignon Blanc wines. This 2015 features engaging aromatics of pink grapefruit and mango. The palate offers ideal balance of fruit sweetness and tangy fruit acidity. I suggest asparagus with hollandaise sauce.

Cantina Tramin 2014 Alto Adige Pinot Grigio, Italy $15
Before WWI, Italy’s bi-lingual Alto Adige region was called Sud Tirol, part of the Austrian empire. In 1889, Christian Schrott, rector of Tramin (Termano), founded a cooperative of winegrowers that is today the 290-member strong Cantina Tramin. Tramin is the birthplace of Traminer, ancestor of Gewurztraminer. It thrives here today, as does popular Pinot Grigio. High-altitude Alto Adige delivers a particularly spirited rendition of each, the Cantina’s Pinot Grigio featuring brilliant, pure, concentrated varietal character and juicy fruit acidity. Shrimp with orzo risotto will prove tempting.

Domaine Gerald Talmard 2014 Macon-Chardonnay, France $16
In 1971, brothers Paul and Phil Talmard bought a 100-acre, 17th-century Maconnais winegrowing property and began selling their wine to the local cooperative. In 1978 they undertook estate-bottling. After 2000, the brothers split their domaine between heirs. Son Gerald’s 50 acres lie around the thousand-year-old village of Chardonnay, birthplace of the so-named grape variety. Unwooded, Gerald’s “Chardonnay de Chardonnay” is a laser-sharp take, with classic aromas of apple and citrus supported by lees-aging doughiness. Full bodied and full textured, it will make a hearty companion to sage-rubbed Poulet de Bresse baked in Romertopf.

Hugl-Wimmer 2015 Niederosterreich Gruner Veltliner Hugleweine, Austria $15 Liter
Hugl-Wimmer is the result of a 2013 merger of two family wineries. It’s now run by a handsome young couple, Sylvia (nee Wimmer) and Martin Hugl. Their estate lies in eastern Weinviertal (Wine Quarter), northeast of Vienna, close by the Czech and Slovakia borders. Hugl’s “Gruner,” the land’s signature varietal, comes across uncomplicated, easy drinking, and decidedly modest priced in liter bottle. Here’s the anticipated apple-legume aromatic set and the flavor of a juicy, early apple variety. Its full acidity and texture beg for food. My mouth’s watering for some Habitant Pea Soup with croutons.

Dr. Loosen 2014 Mosel Riesling Dr. L. Dry, Germany $15
Americans just can’t seem to adjust to the concept of dry Riesling. Though it’s been the rage in Germany for years, postwar WWII American generations grew to love Riesling in the sweet style of the period, and the affection is slow to wane. Brilliant entrepreneur Ernie Loosen, who has exceeded the reach of his family’s Mittel Mosel estate to build a world wine empire, perceives a small but growing interest in dry Riesling here, so he’s bottled a dry version of his best-selling “Dr. L.” It’s truly dry, and not fruity, featuring slatey minerality and brisk acidity that will welcome Truite au Bleu.

Penya 2015 Cotes Catalanes Rosé, France $9
Rosés are hot, and as everyone’s getting on the bandwagon, choices seem to be reaching the saturation point. This one’s no johnny-come-lately; it’s been pleasing my clientele for years. Of 96% Grenache and 4% Syrah, it comes from the village and cooperative Cases de Penya, in France’s Roussillon region 30 miles north of the Spanish border, where Catalan is still spoken. This dry wine exudes aromas and flavors of strawberry, raspberry, and white pepper. It’s sure to grace a French paella. While we’re accustomed to Spanish paella, the original word, paelle, is old French for “pan.”

Fabre Montmayou 2013 Mendoza Malbec Reserva, Argentina $15
Herve Joyaux Fabre, born in Bordeaux to a wine-negociant family, emigrated to Argentina in the early 1990s and bought a high-altitude 37-acre plot of Malbec vines planted in 1908 on original rootstock. From this site, fermented by native yeasts and aged 40% in French oak barrels for a year, the 2013 boasts barrel-aged Malbec’s full color, intense aromas of cherry, currant, and brown spices, and rich, primary fruit-creme taste and texture backed by melted tannins. Serve with flame-broiled skirt steak and chimichurri sauce.

Echeverria 2013 Central Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Propuesta, Chile $12
The Echeverria family came to Chile from Basque Spain in the 1750s to plant wine grapes north of Santiago. Today, the family vineyards are 120 miles south, in Curico Valley. Dynamic, globe-trotting Roberto Echeverria and his four children run this 160-acre estate, exporting their wines to 40 countries. Propuesta (proposal) is Roberto’s new take on Cabernet Sauvignon: a wine for early enjoyment rather than cellaring. Though aged a spell in new French oak barrels, it comes across fruity rather than oaky, the blackberry and black currant aromatics prominent, pure, and charming. This requests something equally uncomplicated, say burgers on the deck.

Charles & Charles 2014 Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon-Syrah Post No. 35, Washington $12
From rock-band manager to self-taught winemaker, Charles Smith’s career has been a wild and crazy ride. His K Vintners/Charles Smith Washington winery is daring, resourceful, and fast-growing. Team him with New York hipster and wine innovator Charles Bieler (Three Thieves), and you have one energetic team of wine conceivers/makers. Their Cabernet-Syrah blend (75/25) honors the local American Legion Post. It sports cool-climate blue and black fruit, including plum and black cherry. Thyme, espresso, and warm spices complete the picture. I’d enjoy this with a well-peppered lamb stew.

Parker Station 2014 Central Coast Pinot Noir, California $13
No, it’s not wine guru Robert Parker; rather, Fess Parker of Davy Crockett fame. From Texas, Fess couldn’t do anything small, so what started out modest grew to a 700-acre spread that is today owned and managed by his children, Eli and Ashley. Its high-production, bread-and-butter wine, Parker Station, comes from beyond the family’s vineyards: 60% from Monterey, 31% from Santa Barbara, and 9% from San Luis Obispo counties. Oh, this has that bright 2014 fruit elegance of coastal valleys plus a sweet bing cherry warmth and light oak toastiness. Great acid/sweet balance too, and for absence of tannins an easy choice with grilled salmon.

Barossa Valley Estate 2013 Barossa Valley GSM, Australia $17
What’s more Australian than a Barossa Valley red wine? Lush, boisterous, bountiful, and mouthfilling, it will not be denied. BVE is a relative newcomer here, established 1985, yet it has already made its mark for red wines that are not only Barossa abundant but also structured, well tailored. That classic Chateauneuf du Pape varietal trio, Grenache, Shiraz, and Mourvedre (GSM), loves Barossa. Aromatically, Grenache offers strawberry, Shiraz black raspberry, and Mourvedre violets. Twelve months’ aging in French oak barrels has added a woody-spicy patina to this rendition. I’d match it with roasted guinea fowl seasoned with herbs de Provence.

Sierra Cantabria 2011 Rioja Crianza, Spain $13
“Only” four generations along, Sierra Cantabria is a Rioja modernist versus traditonalist. It cultivates 250 acres of its own vines, all in the highest sector of Rioja Alta, at 1500 to 1750 feet, and its wines reflect the sort of refinement this setting bestows. The Crianza is aged 14 months in 2-3-year-old American and French oak barrels which impart subtle oak spice accents rather than a blast of new wood. 100% Tempranillo, it features an intriguing, complex range of raspberry, cherry, smoked meat, cola, and Chinese five-spice mix aromatics. Enjoy with braised lamb shanks seasoned with smoked paprika.

Leone De Castris 2012 Salice Salentino Maiana, Italy $13
Founded by a Spanish duke in 1665, Leone de Castris makes wines solely from its home region, Puglia, the heel of Italy’s boot. In 1943, it was the first Italian winery to bottle and export a rosé wine. Puglia’s leading red-wine denominazione, Salice Salentino, is also one of the oldest, established in 1939. Of 90% Negroamaro and 10% Malvasia Nera, aged 6 months on large oak cooperage, 2013 Maiana boasts an elevated perfume, a huge array of aromatic pleasures that emphasize sweet black fruits and spices. Rich, and full of flavor and texture, it invites pasta with ragu sauce.

Sandeman Fino Sherry Don Superior, Spain $16
Sandeman’s black “Don” image is one of the wine world’s most recognized. It was designed in 1928 by a Scotsman, who took an assumed French name because French graphic art was all the rage at the time. Sandeman has presence in both Oporto (Port) and Jerez (Sherry). At Jerez, it makes a dry, classic Fino of Palomino grapes grown in its own vineyards. The wine is aged five years in partially filled barrels under a film of flor yeast, whereupon it has earned an aroma of chalk, green almond, and green olives, a wisp of salty sea breeze, and wet stone and citrus peel taste. Ideal for a tapas layout of almonds, olives, chorizo, and deep-fried seafood.

In the center of northwest Italy’s Piemonte zone, at 1500 feet, 18th century Borgo Maragliano grows 200 acres of Chardonnay, Moscato, and Brachetto in highly calcareous soil and subsoil. The land is so limey that if the winery’s water softener fails, its pipes clog up in two days. As in France’s Champagne and Burgundy regions, Chardonnay thrives in this kind of earth. The estate’s delightful sparkling Chardonnay is tank-fermented and aged to emphasis the original fruit, as the fruit-salad aroma of this creamy, frothy, soft brut demonstrates. The winemaker suggests serving it with a warm hors d’oeuvre of vegetables and puff pastry.

Southeast of Vienna, bounded on the east by the long, shallow Lake Neusiedl, Burgenland is part of region the Romans called Pannonia, a zone in the heart of the European continent that is blessed with 2000 hours of sunshine per annum. Here the Hoepler family farms 115 acres of vines and makes a range of red, rose, and white wines of which 70% are exported. Every 10th bottle of Austrian wine shipped to the US comes from Hoepler. That may grow higher given the price-quality advantage of its new Pannonica White. Of Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay, and Gruner Veltliner, it offers aromas and flavors of warm hay, apricot, rose, lime, and a bushel-full of aromatic apple varieties. This dry, tender, juicy treat will delight with Wiener Schnitzel.

Defined by the Cortese grape variety, Gavi is Piemonte’s leading dry white wine. Stefano Massone cultivates 15 acres of the cru (vineyard) Masera on calcareous soil in the warmer, southeast sector of this denominazione, where vines are over 35 years old. His Gavi is redolent of Cortese’s attractive green aromatics: pungent green fruits like apple, pear, and lime, and green herbs, particularly sage. Stony soil and deep roots contributed decided minerality to the wine, which makes it a great foil for creamy risotto dishes.

The Other Guys’, Don Sebastiani and sons, sure have a good time developing whimsical wine brands the likes of Hey Mambo, Moobuzz, Pennywise, and Plungerhead. Their latest, The White Knight, is designed to “save the world from the tyranny of Chardonnay.” Sure enough, it offers up the likes of Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc, Prosecco, and Pinot Grigio, the last from those balmy lands of Lodi, where grape varieties ripen to exaggerated varietal expressions This 2014 boasts lemon custard, honeysuckle, almond, and vanilla, the likes of which you’ll never find in a Venezie Pinot Grigio. It’s all about good fun, and certainly rich enough for Lobster Newberg.

As sales of its signature brandy Armagnac slumped during the 20th Century’s waning years, Gascony’s winemakers turned to make table wines from grapes once destined for its unique stills. Most of the region’s brandy grapes are white, including Colombard, Sauvignon Blanc, Ugni Blanc, and Gros Manseng, so it’s no surprise that dry white wines are its forte. Colombard, once widely planted in California and the basis of its “Chablis” jug wines, and the popular Sauvignon Blanc are 50-50 partners in this 2014 of Domaine de Menard, a family-owned, 200-acre estate. Its flashy, neon-pink-citrus aromatics just dazzle, as does its mouth-watering acidity, a complement for the yin-yang of Bayonne ham and melon.

Hay Maker is the second label of New Zealand’s Mud House Wines, whose founding couple sailed the world before discovering and falling in love with South Island’s Marlborough country. In 1996, they planted vineyards and build a home from the native earth. Today there are four families involved in this ever-growing venture that has lately introduced Hay Maker, a contender for “best buy” in NZ Sauvignon Blancs. It’s bursting with gooseberry and grapefruit, a sweet-tart taste adventure with suggestions of guava and nettle. Stick to the Pacific Rim and serve with a Thai green chicken curry.

Nik Weis is third-generation owner of the venerable St. Urbans-Hof winegrowing estate at Leiwen in the Mittel Mosel. His wines are made in minimalist fashion solely of Riesling sourced from old vines growing on steep, slate-covered hillsides. Weis forms his modest-priced Urban Riesling from neighbors’ grapes as well as his own. This 2014 is the embodiment of his winegrowing philosophies. Pure, slate-saturated, unmanipulated, it conveys the essence of its origins, and it positively tingles the nostrils and dazzles the palate with its display of mineral saturation and appley Riesling goodness. Sure to brighten up Tandoori chicken.

In 1987, Daniel Boulle inherited 25-acre Domaine Les Aphillanthes and has since added another 70 acres to the spread, converting all to organic, biodynamic viticulture. Like Nik Weis, he supports minimal intervention in the winery: no oak, no filtration, no pumping. Let the wines’ terroir do the talking. Boulle’s rose is founded on Cinsault, augmented by Grenache, Counoise, and Mourvedre. It’s been a staple of my rose portfolio for years, proving a trouper in warm and cold months alike because it certainly improves in bottle through fall and endures into winter to enhance a hearty cassoulet. Rose - It’s not just for June anymore.

Root:1 is a joint venture between Chilean winery Vina Ventisquero and its American importer Winebow. Its name refers to the vines growing on their original rootstock thanks to Chile’s natural barriers to the devastating vine-root louse phylloxera. Cabernet Sauvignon is the brand’s flagship; Root:1 is the largest-selling imported $10-$15 Cabernet in America. Little wonder; this product of ungrafted vines is a textbook lesson in the varietal, a wine of black currant confiture concentration, with airs of mint leaf. Its makers suggest serving the wine with spicy meat dishes like ginger beef or peppercorn tenderloin.

In Salta’s high desert, a mile above the Calchaqui Valley floor, growing conditions are hardly conducive to bountiful harvests, so farmers once made offerings “in hope for a miracle,” the meaning of Amalaya in the local language. Swiss water magnate Donald Hess has made significant vineyard investments in this northern Argentine zone, some of his vines planted above 10,000 feet. The extreme conditions produce grapes of astonishing flavor concentration. This Malbec cuvee, which incorporates 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Syrah, offers intense black cherry, tar, and licorice aromas and flavors, augmented by savory oak seasonings suggestive of potpourri. Go for asado with chimichurri.

It’s not easy finding an Oregon Pinot Noir for under $20, much less one that reflects the qualities of a great vintage and of careful craftsmanship. Windy Bay’s 2012 was sourced from four sub-appellations of Willamette Valley. Prior to fermentation, the uncrushed grapes were cold-soaked for 4 days to extract fine aromatics and “melt” tannins. Then the must was fermented 10 days at 80 degrees, primarily in oak. Following upbringing in French oak barrels, it emerged a wonder of black cherry, cola, baking spice, and toasty oak aromas enhanced by flavors of rose petal, sweet cherry, and Darjeeling tea, leading me to recommend Sichuan’s famous tea smoked duck recipe.

While wine touring in South Africa, be sure to book at least a night at the Val du Charron guesthouse in beautiful Wellington Valley north of Capetown. Settled in 1699 by French Huguenots, it was originally named Valley of the Wagonmakers (Charron), the last stop of trekkers headed for the Cape’s interior. Aphaea is a lone, majestic tree on the estate, colorfully illustrated in mosaic fashion on this wine’s label. Aphaea consists of Syrah, Mourvedre, Grenache, and Tinta Barocca, offering an astonishing range of berry aromatics, including blackberry, raspberry, strawberry, and blueberry, plus peppercorn, cedar, and chocolate. Enjoy it with a dry-rubbed, grilled ribeye steak.

Tempranillo, under its various guises, is Spain’s leading red grape variety and the backbone of northern Spain’s great red wines of Rioja, Ribera del Duero, and Toro. It’s widely planted too on the vast plain of La Mancha in south-central Spain, where it accounts for a warmer, riper sort of experience, uninspiring if overcropped. At Venta Morales in eastern La Mancha, poor soils and old vines give yields of only two tons of fruit per acre, the foundation of a wine that paints a picture of warm-climate Tempranillo at its best, for a song of a price. You’ll want at least a case at your next pig roast.

With Napa Valley vineyard land selling for north of $200,000 an acre, it’s a wonder you can still find a wine under this AVA for $10 a bottle! It’s made by a pair hot-shot Veneto expatriates who left their home (named Ca’ Momi) to start up a California venture in 2006. Today they offer a proud range of top Napa Valley varietal and reserve wines, even sparkling wines. Plus this bargain-priced rosso blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Merlot, and Petite Sirah. Cabernet blackberry and Zinfandel raspberry cremes are prominent, and there’s even a smoky toasty aura of wood char. Go to the website and download Ca’ Momi’s Coda alla Vaccinara (oxtail) recipe for a perfect match.

Founded in 1895 by Vallilis Kourtakis, the first person in Greece to obtain a diploma in oenology, Kourtaki winery was projected into the 20th century by his son Dimitri, a wine-marketing genius, and is today headed by his grandson, who holds a winemaking degree from the University of Dijon, in Burgundy. Prominent in Kourtaki’s full range of Greece’s top wines is its Muscat from the eastern Aegean isle of Samos. Of the “petits grains” variety of Muscat, the foundation of Italy’s Moscato d’Asti and France’s vins doux natural, Samos Muscat was a favorite of British poet Lord Byron. Featuring honey, dried apricot, and orange peel aromatics, Kourtaki’s is an intense, sweet, and warming dessert-wine classic to serve with baklava.

In 1984, Champagne native Gilbert Gruet planted Pinot Noir and Chardonnay at elevation 4,300 feet near Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. His children relocated, founded the Gruet winery in Albuquerque, and in 1987 made its first sparkling wines, Champagne-method, of course. Following two years’ aging on the bottle lees, the inaugural vintage was released to rave reviews. Today, Gruet sells 125,000 cases in 48 states, its Blanc de Noirs, a Wine Spectator Top 100 honoree. This features aromas and flavors of apples and pears in cream, and warm pie crust. Serve at brunch with a western omelet.

2015 marks Erath Winery’s 50th anniversary. In 1965, Dick Erath planted Dundee Hills’ first wine grapes. Thirty years later, he added Pinot Gris to the portfolio. I love Oregon Pinot Gris. It sits comfortably between crisp, appley Pinot Grigios of northeast Italy and the dense, weighty versions of Alsace. Erath’s 2013 is scented of green apple, melon, Meyer lemon, and crème brulee. From a cool vintage, it’s crisp and mouthwatering on the palate. Invites sole sautéed in butter.

Like South Africa’s Pinotage, Carmenere is the signature of its winegrowing land, Chile. A native of Bordeaux, it’s just an afterthought there now. Long mistaken for Merlot in Chile, it’s now planted in its own devoted vineyards, on original rootstock. When not over-cropped, Carmenere can produce a “Super-Merlot” like this barrel-aged reserva, abundant in both berry jam and charry oak aromas and flavors. Will surely flatter braised duck breast with cherry sauce.

A South African cross of Pinot Noir and Cinsault first propagated in the 1930s, Pinotage has become the Cape’s signature grape variety. MAN’s is a bargain-priced representative that suggests both the Pinot side of its parentage in its bright cherry and tea aroma and its Cinsault Mediterranean warmth. Some Pinotages steer toward coffee aromas, others game. This one is all about varietal fruit character. Serve with grilled hanger steak.

I love Columbia Valley Riesling for its high-pitched aromatics and racy acidity. Hogue’s Late Harvest has been a personal favorite since soon after the winery’s founding in 1982, when Mike and Gary Hogue decided to add wine grapes to their considerable agricultural endeavors. Redolent of peach-apricot, honeysuckle, and citrus blossoms, the 2013 carries significant sweetness plus good acid foil. Just the thing for poached pears.

Clifford Bay marks the eastern entrance to the Cook Strait. This eponymous winery sources its grapes from both nearby Wairau Valley in northern Marlborough and from Awatere Valley in the zone’s south to compose a distinctive and complex Sauvignon Blanc representative. The 2014 is a juice bomb featuring insistent, irresistible aromas and flavors of lime, grapefruit, mango, and passion fruit. A natural for Goan fish curry.

Since introducing Santa Margherita in the late 1970s, Tony Terlato has proved a masterful creator of brands. One of his latest is The Federalist, featuring American currency images on its labels, this Lodi Zinfandel that of the $1 bill, George Washington. Lodi, core of the Sacramento Delta region east of San Francisco Bay boasts many of California’s oldest Zinfandel vineyards. The 2013 contributes fine structure to contain Lodi’s sweet, jammy fruit core. Deep black raspberry zinfandel essence. Racy, peppery, zesty, well textured. Full concentration of oak and fruit. Exotic aura. Perfumed. A real 3D Lodi zin experience. Very flavorful. Body and texture in spades. Ready for bacon - blue cheese burgers.

Chianti Classico is one of the most recognizable place names in wine-dom. This hilly, 10 x 25 mile central Tuscan DOCG zone stretches between Florence in the north and Siena in the south, once rival city-states. Sangiovese is the informing grape variety. Le Chiantigiane, a consortium of many growers, enjoys economy of scale that enables it to offer a Chianti Classico at an unbeatable price. Full, concentrated, almost tarry. Some barrel time evident. Bright berry flair. Wow! Acid, grip, material, glycerol. Gives and gives. And lasts. Slow-roasted saddle of rabbit, please.

The irrepressible comic genius Randall Grahm started his vinous journey in search of Pinot Noir’s Holy Grail. Then, steered off course, he became California’s original Rhone Ranger. “Flying cigars” allegedly sighted over Chateauneuf du Pape in the mid 1950s gave Randall inspiration for his red and rose “Vins de Cigare,” each made up of a potpourri of Rhone Valley grape varieties. Redolent of strawberry, peach, and bergamot, this pale rose would be just the ticket for ceviche.

The Brits say: “The first duty of a Port is to be red.” Nonetheless, the Symington family makes, and is apt to drink in summer, a white rendition. This is not blanc de noirs; there ARE quality white grape varieties grown in the Douro. White fruits, nuts, wood exotica. Good and full and strong and nutty. Perfectly balanced. Musky. A complex of orange notions: pulp, peel, marmalade. Fine balance of sweetness and strength. Try with a twist of lemon and splash of tonic alongside a bowl of fresh grapes.

I taste a lot of under $10 California Chardonnnays over the course of a year of trade shows and wine judgings. While standards are high and values abound, only a handful roll my socks up and down. Like Happy Camper’s whimsical label: truncated Air Stream and empty director’s chair before a lovely vista. Crisp, cool, coastal. Pleasing apple and citrus aromas. Some malo creaminess. Vanilla crème sensation, not likely from oak. Good acid. Halbtrocken style. The website recommends roast chicken with creamy risotto. Spot on.

I remember this sack-cloth-wrapped bottle from years ago. I’m glad it’s back in the market. Once the sack had a practical purpose, same as a Chianti fiasco’s straw casing. Wet it down, and evaporation cooled the contents for field workers’ lunch-time repasts. Today’s Siglo, a crianza aged a year each in barrel and bottle, is much more sophisticated than its former iteration. Rioja Alta contributes black fruit, Alavesa red fruit, and Baja jammy fruit, all married seamlessly to barrel nuances. Time for a pig roast!

Robert Oatley is one of Australia’s 50 richest. He started his fortune as a New Guinea coffee and cocoa exporter, then invested it in winegrowing, founding Rosemount Estates, which he developed into one of Australia’s leading brands. Divested of Rosemount, he created two “retirement” projects, Robert Oatley and Wild Oats, the grapes all sourced from premium appellations. The Shiraz at hand bears the Oatley signatures of ripe black fruit, peppercorn, and toasty oak character. You know you want BBQ baby-back ribs to complement this full-bodied wine.

In the gravelly soils of France’s Loire Maritime grows a white grape variety named Muscadet. Called Melon in Burgundy, it was transplanted here in the early 1700s after a terrible winter wiped out extant varieties. Muscadet’s most important growing zone lies about the Loire tributaries Sevre and Maine. The wine is dry, and rarely oaky. Aging on its fermentation lees supplies extra character to its understated profile. Usually consumed young, Muscadet nonetheless ages famously. Beauregard’s conveys classic aromas and flavors of green fruits and moist undergrowth. Ideal with steamed mussels in an herbed broth.

Pecorino is an increasingly popular varietal of central Italy’s Adriatic regions because, like Viognier and Albarino, it has the attractive stone-fruit and flower aromas associated with sweet wines yet is finished dry. It shares its name with Italy’s famous sheep’s milk cheese. The brand name plays on this. A sheep’s bray is “baa” to us, “pehh” to Italians. Great cool fruit aromas of peach, nectarine, lime peel. Lots of textural tingle in the nostrils. Full flavor and racy texture. Bright and balanced. Pecorino glycerol meets its astringent foil. Serve with white pizza. Pecorino the cheese of choice, naturally!