Pagos De Galir Godello Valdeorras 2017 ($19). From the Galicia region of Spain better known for its production of albarino, this white wine is produced in all stainless steel and aged on the lees for 5 months. Rich and ripe peach notes with a hint of citrus and some floral notes. Bracing acidity makes this a perfect match for seafood and chicken dishes.
· Frescobaldi Chianti Classico DOCG Tenuta Perano 2015 ($29). Classic, well-made Chianti Classico from Frescobaldi, this wine is very grapey with dried cherry and berry notes and a hint of wood. Great for red-sauced Italian fare.
· Dry Creek Vineyards Fume Blanc Sonoma County 2018 ($16). A pretty style of sauvignon blanc that doesn’t assault the sense with a blast of grapefruit and herbs. Melon and fig dominate in a very smooth expression in the mouth with some citrus notes. Very easy and pleasant to drink even all by itself.
Bootleg Prequel Red Blend Sonoma County 2015 ($35). Another winner from Jackson Family wines, this is a modern-style blend of 85 percent syrah and 15 percent petite sirah. Blueberry, blackberry and black pepper elements make up this outdoor barbeque friendly red wine.
Mullan Road Cellars Columbia Valley Red Wine 2016 ($45). Named after John Mullan, who built a road to connect Montana to Washington state in 1860, this Columbia Valley blend captures the spirit of winemakers willing to take chances. Except in this case, it’s not much of a chance to take when the genius behind the wine is Dennis Cakebread of Cakebread Cellars. It is Cakebread’s first venture out of Napa Valley and he has the assistance of local winemaker Aryn Morrell. A blend of cabernet sauvignon (51 percent), merlot and cabernet franc, it is a wine that will make you thirst for a second and third glass. Black currant, raspberry and rosemary aromas are chased by cherry and plum flavors with a touch of oak. Fine tannins portend good things to come for those who are patient enough to hold this complex and delicious wine.
· Artezin Zinfandel Mendocino County 2017 ($16). If you want to taste what zinfandel is all about, try this wine that the producer calls a zinny zin. We couldn’t have said it better ourselves even on our best day of wordsmithing. It is 85 percent zinfandel with 15 percent petite sirah and aged in 1- to 2-year-old French oak barrels. Ripe blackberry and raspberry notes dominate with accents of cinnamon and pepper. Unctuous and long lasting in the mouth.
· McIntyre L”Homme Qui Ris Methode Champenoise Sparkling Wine Santa Lucia Highlands N/V ($42). This is an amazingly good sparkling wine from a region not known for producing world-class sparklers. It is 100 percent pinot noir and aged on the lees “en tirage” for four years prior to disgorgement. The wonderfully complex wine exhibits baked apple toast and citrus and floral notes in the nose and mouth. Very satisfying long finish. A must try for sparkling wine aficionados.
· Masseria Altemura Sasseo Primitivo IGT Salento 2016 ($18). This is an amazing, powerful wine for the price. Primitivo is a kissing cousin of zinfandel and displays elements of blueberry and blackberry fruit with ample acidity and palate cleansing tannins. Perfect for barbecues or winter red meat dishes.
· The Federalist Honest Red Blend Northern Coast 2016 ($22). A delicious blend of merlot (55 percent) and zinfandel, and a splash of cabernet sauvignon. The softer merlot and more aggressive zinfandel balance out to create a pleasant mouth-filling experience. Smooth but mouth filling big fruited red wine.
Wrath Syrah Monterey San Saba Vineyard 2016 ($39). In a blind tasting this is a dead ringer for a good vintage Crozes Hermitage from the Northern Rhone. Blackberry and very ripe strawberry notes with leather accents this would pair well with heavy winter red meat stews and roasts.
· La Crema Pinot Noir Russian River Valley 2016 ($40). La Crema does it again with a benchmark setting pinot noir from the on fire Russian River Valley. Bright cherry notes with prominent spicy accents especially cinnamon. Very food friendly and balanced and a mouth filling experience.
Ruffino Riserva Ducale Oro Chianti Classico 2014 ($35). Floral and cherry aromas with a hint of clove. Plum and spice flavors join fine tannins and hints of mocha.
Casillero del Diablo Reserva Privada Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 ($20). This reasonably priced cabernet from Maipo alley, Chile, offers a lot of body for the money. Ripe plum and cherry notes with fine tannins and a velvet mouthfeel.
Dutcher Crossing Taylor Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 ($50). The additional bottle age helps to tame this giant win with ripe blackberry and raspberry flavors.
Newton Unfiltered Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 ($59). Red fruit combines with oak-inspired vanilla and chocolate notes to make a terrific, firm cabernet sauvignon from Napa Valley. Newton makes great and consistent cabernet sauvignon across the board. This is one of the more reasonably priced versions.
Lassègue Saint-Emilion Grand Cru 2011 ($65). Additional bottle age rounds off this well-balanced and hedonistic Bordeaux blend of merlot (62 percent), cabernet franc (30 percent) and cabernet sauvignon (8 percent). Floral aromas with ripe blackberry flavors with mineral and herbal notes.
Tenuta Regaleali Bianco Sicily 2018 ($15). We loved the refreshing and unique flavors of this blend of inzolia, grecanico, catarratto and chardonnay. Crisp acidity makes it a great foil for warmer temperatures.
Prophecy Rose Vin de France 2017 ($15). This wine is a great way to start a holiday party. It is a blend that is dominated by grenache and cinsault. Prophecy makes wines from around the world and this cherry-dominated French rose is perfectly balanced.
Champagne Palmer & Co. Rose Reserve N/V ($75-$85). This is a very light, delicate style of Champagne with a pale salmon hue. Citrus and apple notes dominate with a hint of strawberry, an alluring yeasty nose. The pink color comes red wine from a 35-year-old solera.
Dutcher Crossing Bacigalupi Zinfandel 2016 ($17). We liked this firm but reasonably complex zinfandel from the Russian River Valley. Generous raspberry and black cherry aromas mingle with blackberry and cherry flavors with oak-inspired hints of spice and vanilla. Excellent finish.
· Cakebread Cellars Two Creeks Vineyards Pinot Noir 2017 ($45). We always think of chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon when we think of Cakebread Cellars, but this pinot noir got us to thinking again. Floral and cherry aromas give way to opulent raspberry and strawberry flavors and fine, supple tannins. Delicious and long in the finish.
Long Meadow Ranch Anderson Valley Pinot Noir 2016 ($40). Medium bodied, this pinot noir makes for a good complement to summer fare, such as salmon, grilled burgers or chicken. Classic varietal flavors with a hint of forest floor on the nose.
Trapiche Medalla Malbec 2016 ($25). This is more complex and serious than your usual Argentine malbec. Intensely purple in color with generous notes of ripe plums and cherries with a taste of raisins and spicy oak nuances.
Benziger Family Winery Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 ($55). This is part of a new line by Benziger that uses grapes from organically farmed vineyards that uses crop rotation, tillage and natural composts instead of synthetic chemicals. Complex, ripe dark fruit and a hint of mocha. Very delicious and approachable.
DeLille Cellars Chaleur Blanc 2017 ($35). We loved this delicious blend of semillon and sauvignon blanc from Columbia Valley. It is the combination of grapes that makes white Bordeaux so famous but rarely adopted by American wine producers. The semillon blunts the bracing acidity and pungent grassy flavors of most sauvignon blancs. The Chaleur Blanc is fermented sur lie in French oak barrels to round off the flavors and provide a rich texture. Stone fruit and citrus aromas mingle with lemon curd, tropical fruit and mango flavors.
Double Diamond Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 ($70). A collaboration between Fred Schrader and Schrader Cellars, this full-bodied cabernet sauvignon is impressive for its tannin structure and classic Napa Valley flavors of dark cherries and black currants. Blended with just a bit of merlot, it is a wine that can be enjoyed now with grilled steak or set aside for a few years.
Balletto Pinot Gris 2018 ($20). We enjoyed the lush peach and citrus flavors in this simple but delicious wine from the Russian River Valley.
Chehalem Pinot Gris 2018 ($20). We were very impressed with this fresh and delicious pinot gris from the Willamette Valley. From the Chehalem Mountain AVA, the wine offers ripe pear and floral aromas with stone fruit and pear flavors.
· Pagos de Galir Godello 2017 ($17). You all need to drink more godello. From the Valdeorras region of Spain, godello is similar in style to chardonnay with a smooth, delicious texture but a different profile. Floral and fruity with notes of apples and white peaches with a dash of raisins and lime.
Cantos de Valpiedra 2013 ($15). This is a very rich and delicious tempranillo from Rioja that coats the mouth with black cherry and plum flavors. A touch of vanilla and spice from the 24 months in spends in American and French oak barrels.
· Eberle Cotes-du-Robles 2017 ($30). We enjoyed this youthful blend of grenache, syrah, mourvedre and durif – common grapes found in France’s Cotes-du-Rhone wines. This version from California’s Paso Robles region has pure fruit flavors redolent of plums and raspberries.
· Gamble Family Vineyards “Heartblock” Sauvignon Blanc 2015 ($90). It’s rare to see a sauvignon blanc at this price, but Tom Gamble takes the grape variety to a new level. It is more complex and concentrated than your average sauvignon blanc.
· Our Daily Cab California Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 ($12). If you object to sulfites, a preservative, in your wine, then try this tasty treat. Simple but loaded with upfront, ripe plum flavors and vanilla.
Cigar Old Vine Zinfandel 2017 ($20). A little petite sirah, cabernet sauvignon and petit verdot give this old-vine zin depth and character. Classic, ripe dark berry flavors with hints of vanilla, mocha and spice.
· Journey Chardonnay 2016 ($85). A flagship wine of Matanzas Creek Winery, Journey draws grapes from four blocks of Alexander Mountain Estate vineyards. Elegant in style it has the right amount of acidity and oak to keep the rich peach and pear flavors in check. This is an incredible wine.
· Sarah’s Vineyard Santa Clara Valley Chardonnay 2017 ($24). This is a decently priced chardonnay with forward apple and peach flavors with oak-inspired vanilla and coconut notes.
Hahn Family SLH Pinot Noir 2017 ($30). Sourcing its grapes from four vineyards, this well priced pinot noir has strawberry and cherry notes with a forest floor and pepper finish.
· Four Virtues Monterey Pinot Noir 2017 ($25). A decent value in the crowded and expensive pinot noir category, this delicious wine exudes aromas of dried rosemary and plums followed by black cherry and strawberry flavors.
· Fortress Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 ($20). This blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot and malbec is medium-bodied and simple but ripe in dark fruit with notes of blueberry, blackberry and vanilla.
Le Volte Dell ‘Ornellaia Toscana IGT 2015 ($32). The little brother of Frescobaldi’s uber-expensive super Tuscan Ornellaia, this offering gives your taste buds a hint of greatness. Made up of 67 percent merlot, 20 percent cabernet sauvignon, and 13 percent sangiovese, this wine features ripe fruit scents and flavors of cherry and plum in a rich, round ready to drink wine.
· Cusumano Nero D’Avola Sicily 2017 ($12). This all stainless steel aged red wine is a great value for everyday drinking. Fresh berry notes dominate this refreshing wine.
· Cedar + Salmon Red Wine Blend Walla Walla 2016 ($25). Merlot and petit verdot is blended with cabernet sauvignon to produce a medium body, rich wine with jammy blackberry flavors and a hint of vanilla.
· Sosie Pinot Noir Spring Hill Vineyard 2015 ($43). Intense strawberry aromas with red fruit and plum flavors, earth and a dash of spice.
Effort Center of Effort Pinot Noir Edna Valley 2016 ($30). Edna Valley is part of the Central Coast appellation in California, and has California’s longest growing season. Increasingly known for high quality pinot noir this offering from Effort is no exception. Effort displays plum and berry notes, great texture and length.
· Talley Estate Pinot Noir Arroyo Grande Valley 2015 ($33). Non-filtered and aged in French oak (30 percent new). It is a bold pinot noir expressing strawberry and cranberry notes with some spicy elements. A joy to drink.
· Dry Creek Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Dry Creek Valley 2016 ($29). This fairly priced cabernet sauvignon is representative of the wines from Dry Creek Vineyards. Classic cherry and cassis nose and flavors in an unobtrusive oak frame. An added bonus is the extensive amount of information contained on the back label which lists types of grapes utilized with percentages as well vineyard sources, oak treatment, brix at harvest and vineyard yields in tons per acre.
MacRostie Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2016 ($34). This medium-body pinot noir has generous red berry aromas and strawberry, cranberry flavors.
· Jackson Estate Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 ($40). The warmer temperatures in Alexander Valley produce riper and often more alcoholic cabernets. This version is blended wIth petit verdot, merlot, cabernet franc and malbec. Dark berry and currant flavors with a hint of mocha and vanilla.
· Pfendler Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2015 ($45). This juicy and delicious pinot noir from Sonoma County has a floral nose and red cherry flavors.
Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve California Pinot Noir 2016 ($17). Typical of Kendall-Jackson this is a well-made, balanced wine that is reasonably priced for pinot noir. Bright fruit character with red cherry and strawberry flavors and an underlying earthy note. Hint of vanilla.
· Gamble Family Vineyards Paramount Red Wine 2015 ($90). Tom Gamble’s flagship wine, this Bordeaux-like blend is dense and delicious with good complexity, black cherry and licorice aromas, dark fruit flavors and a hint of clove. Fine tannins and long finish.
· Cuvaison Methode Beton Sauvignon Blanc 2017 ($35). This may go down as the most unique sauvignon blanc we’ve tasted. Winemaker Steve Rogstad ferments and ages a special lot of estate-grown Carneros grapes in a concrete (Beton) egg. The egg allows the lees to stay suspended to develop a richer texture. Mango and pineapple notes with a dash of thyme.
· Famille Perrin La Gille Gigondas 2015 ($28). The producers of Chateau Beaucastel now has a gigondas. A blend of 80 percent grenache and 20 percent syrah, the 2015 is soft, approachable and luxurious with opulent raspberry and anise flavors, rosemary herb aromas and soft tannins. It may not be chateauneuf du pape, but it’s a lot less money and delicious to drink now.
Alpha Estate Axia Red PGI Fiorina 2015 ($21). A well-priced, even blend of xinomavro and syrah. Bright berry fruit notes with enticing spice elements lead to a long smooth finish.
Cantine-Feudi di San Marzano Sessantanni Primitvo Di Manduria DOP Old Vines Puglia 2015 ($39). A bold muscular wine crafted from 60-year-old bush vines. Primitivo and zinfandel are very closely related clones of their parent crljenak kastelanski from Croatia. This primitivo is a monster (in a good way) and reminded us a full throttle California petite sirah. Blueberr
Cambria Estate Winery Julia’s Vineyard Pinot Noir 2015 ($25). It’s hard to find a decent pinot noir at this price, but every year Cambria manages to do make one. Simple, ripe blackberry and cherry fruit flavors with a dash of spice.
· The Prisoner Napa Valley Red Wine 2017 ($47). Even though production of this wine has ramped up under the ownership of (Const ellaton), it continues to sell well. A blend of zinfandel, cabernet sauvignon, petite sirah, syrah and charbono, it has very ripe and juicy black fruit flavors with evident oak-infused hints of chocolate and vanilla.
· Kim Crawford New Zealand Chardonnay 2017 ($17). New Zealand isn’t known for its chrdonnay, but we occasionally come across one that stands out. The climate and soil here create a unique flavor profile that includes stone fruit and butterscotch with a hint of herbs and lemon.
· Cuvaison Brut Rose Methode Champenoise 2015 ($50). We loved the vibrant, bold fruit flavors of this blend of chardonnay and pinot noir. It is aged for two years on the lees. Strawberry and cherry notes.
· Domaine Bousquet Ameri 2015 ($36). This is a delicious, well-structured blend of malbec, cabenet sauvignon, syrah and merlot. Floral, plum aromas with ripe, raisiny dark fruit flavors and a hint of black pepper. Only 500 cases made of this wine.
· Gehricke Los Carneros Pinot Noir 2015 ($32). A good value for a pinot noir, this wine has ripe and luscious cherry flavors a dash of plum and cloves.
Paranga Red Kir Yianni Macedonia 2016 ($18). Macedonia is located in Northern Greece where this blend of syrah and merlot meets the indigenous xinomavro. Plum and cherry elements with cinnamon and pepper notes dominate this very good medium bodied red wine.
· Beronia Crianza 2015 ($15). This Rioja blend of tempranillo, garnacha and mazuelo is a great value. Herbal aromas with cherry and blueberry notes with a hint of vanilla and chocolate from the American oak.
· Flora Springs Merlot 2016 ($35). Few wineries like Flora Springs have stuck with merlot because of waning sales. Thank heavens, it did. A perennial success, this merlot offers up generous floral aromas, ripe black cherry and blueberry flavors and oak-inspired hints of spice and chocolate.
· Skouras Megas Oenos PGI Peloponnese 2013 ($30). This is a big full-throttle, ripe-fruit, and oak-driven red wine. The blend is 80 percent aghiorghitiko (also known as St. George) and 20 percent cabernet sauvignon. Blackberries and cedar notes propel this wine into a mouth filling drinking experience. Pair with a prime barbecued steak to maximize pleasure.
· Brancott Estate Letter Series T Pinot Noir 2016 ($35). This Marlborough pinot noir has classic New Zealand character with youthful cherry flavor, medium body and a hint of spice. In the pinot noir category, it’s a good price.
· FEL Ferrington Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir 2016 ($65). Vintner Cliff Lede founded FEL Wines in 2014 and his pinot noirs have had his magic dust ever since. This single-vineyard stunner has generous floral aromas and black cherry and spice flavors. Smooth and delicious, it is sold direct-to-consumer from its web site.
· Calera Central Coast Pinot Noir 2016 ($30). Blending grapes from several Central Coast regions, Calera has created a decently priced pinot noir with good length and simplicity. Pure cherry and strawberry flavors with a hint of pepper.
· Raeburn Winery Pinot Noir Russian River Valley 2016 ($25). We are already fans of Raeburn’s chardonnay, so we were pleased to see that their pinot noir matches if not exceeds the chardonnay in quality. Raspberry and cherry notes are pleasantly matched with spice and vanilla notes. Very easy to drink.
· MacPhail Wines The Flier Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast 2016 ($50). This is a big style pinot noir that is jumping out of the glass with berry, cherry tastes and smells. Some smoke notes add an element of intrigue to this impressive mouthful of pinot noir.
· Arrowood Cabernet Sauvignon Knights Valley 2014 ($35). This is a well-priced high quality cabernet sauvignon. Plenty of very expressive cherry/plum notes with a hint of mocha. A great package for the price.
· Eberle Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Vineyard Selection 2016 ($25). We tasted this Paso Robles cab in a flight of considerably more expensive wines and it held its own. A great value, it has a medium body with forward blackberry and black cherry flavors, herbal aromatics, a dash of chocolate and smooth tannins.
· Prophecy Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2017 ($11). This sauvignon blanc is true to its New Zealand profile with grassy, grapefruit flavors, but they are not as aggressive as many sauvignon blancs from this region. Crisp acidity.
· Klinker Brick 1850 Degrees Red Wine 2015 ($20). From a legendary Lodi producer known for its old-vine zinfandel, this splendid blend of cabernet sauvignon, petite sirah and zinfandel is delicious. Forward, ripe fruit character redolent of raspberry jam and plums, it is dark in color (thanks to petite sirah) and dense. Hints of licorice and cinnamon make it a special quaff.
· Lük Gamay Noir 2016 ($30). Known more for its light wines of France’s Beaujolais region, gamay noir (aka gamay) makes for a delicious wine. It’s a lighter version of pinot noir but silkier. This version from the Willamette Valley has incredible purity. Black cherries, long in the finish and impossible to stop at one glass.
· Sidecar Off the Wagon Claret 2016 ($25). Carmenere, a common grape in Chile, comprises 35 percent of this blend and provides a unique profile to this Oregon wine. Cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and malbec make up the rest of the blend. Mouth-filling wine with dark fruit flavors and quaffability.
· Bonterra Organic Vineyards The McNab 2014 ($50). Bonterra is one of the vineyards featured in the now-showig Amazon Prime docu-series, “It Starts with Wine.” Noted for its long-standing commitment to organic farming, Bonterra’s wines are excellent across the board. This blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, petite sirah, cabernet franc and malbec is loaded with beguiling aromas and mouth-filling raspberry and cassis flavors. It’s cousin, “The Butler” ($50) is a generous and tasty blend of syrah, petite sirah, grenache and viognier. Two great wines that can be enjoyed now.
· Vietti Roero Arneis 2017 ($23). We were impressed with the delicious qualities of this top-drawer arneis from Italy’s Piedmont region. This is a grape variety worth exploring from a family producer that is five generations deep. Its producer, Alfredo Currado is credited for bringing back this local varietal in the Roero region. General floral aromas with stainless-steel purity and loads of melon and citrus flavors.