My friend Kathy arrived ready to roll, quite literally rolling two pieces of luggage as she exited the terminal. Her arrival to Ft. Myers, Florida from Boston was prompted by her thirst for some vitamin D. Following a year-plus of lockdown, she was primed and more than ready for a few splashes. The first splash was a pour from a bottle of Angels & Cowboys Sonoma County 2020 Rosé. This barely pink-toned grenache-based rosé, sourced from one of my favorite vineyard spots in California: Russian River and Dry Creek Valleys, is modestly priced at $15.99.
One sip and I was transported to my time living in Northern California and driving along the Russian River for wine tastings in Dry Creek Valley. This is a stellar region for rosé production, especially when said rosé is made with grenache grapes. But wait, there’s more. A touch of syrah, carignan and pinot noir adds finesse to the final product.
Another sip transported me to the French Riviera, where rosé wine tastes much like this Angels & Cowboys version. A slight hint of citrus and ripened strawberries on the nose led to a palate of delicate-infusion of pulverized sweet-tart candy and pixie sticks, but with a soft mouthfeel. And just like that I was transported to joyful childhood memories of filling a brown bag with penny candy.
The only thing better than this rosé would be its sister sparkling version, a Brut Rosé made in the traditional Champagne method (secondary fermentation in the bottle for fine bubbles). Kathy and I toasted to being fully vaccinated as we cozied into the wicker rattan furniture on the screen-covered lanai in her second home, a.k.a. snowbird escape. Front and center was the heated pool, which served as our centerpiece; we jumped in for a splash soon enough.
Angels & Cowboys Brut Rosé paired nicely with the act of two friends catching up and enjoying some overdue fun in the sun. At $24 a bottle, this bubbly is one to keep in the wine refrigerator for moments like this, when a plate of artisanal cheeses from Brent, TheCheeseGuy.com is all that we want for dinner.
One bite of Ghost Pepper Jack vegetarian cheese would have brought Kathy to her knees, but she had seen the wrapper and decided to test out a nibble. “Once you get past the initial heat, it’s delicious,” she said, but stopped after a few bites. I opted for the Viney Sheep aged over 9 months in red wine, made from the milk of grass-fed sheep of Italy. This was one of the best cheeses I’ve ever tasted and I’m happy to share it’s lactose-free.
This sparkling rosé is an iconic blend of pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot meunier, sourced from Mendocino and Sonoma counties (Sonoma pinot noir rocks my world!) from vintages 2012 to 2018. It’s bouquet of bright fruit and crisp minerality led to tastes of licorice and watermelon in the lightest taste.
This spring, Ondine Chattan, head winemaker for Share a Splash Wine co., released a Cannonball Chardonnay from grapes sourced from Coastal California vineyards. Share a Splash was started in 2006 as Cannonball Wine Company. At the helm, Yoav Gilat’s vision was to create the best $20 California Cabernet. The company expanded to a portfolio that includes Cannonball, ELEVEN by Cannonball, Angels & Cowboys, New Zealand’s Astrolabe Wines and High Dive Napa Valley.
I opened a bottle of Ondine’s Cannonball Chardonnay (2019) and wondered about the label of a boy crouched in the cannonball position above waves. How does this relate to a chardonnay? Well, one has to have dexterity and balance and exhibit a fearless persona to be able to perfect the summer splash of a cannonball from a pool’s diving board. This chardonnay happens to exhibit an uninhibited spirit of liveliness that begins with its fun twist-off, easy to open cap. The bouquet is like a first kiss — of oak — and leads to a stone fruit with a slight pineapple finish. You’ll be craving a lemon meringue pie once you taste this, so you should probably make the pie before opening a bottle. ($15.99)
From Promising Young Woman to Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, here are 5 picks to sip while watching the Academy Awards. If wine could win an Oscar, all of these would be winners:
Promising Young Woman
Elouan Wines 2020 Rosé ($19.99) – Strawberries and roses on the nose of this light and simple salmon Rosé of Oregon could be considered a revenge wine, one that Carey Mulligan as a Promising Young Woman would sip. On the palate, a retaliation of strawberry surge mingles in a mix of ripened raspberries that prompted me to grab a container of berries to enjoy later.
Spearheading an environmentally conscious effort, Elouan Wines is a partner of Trees for the Future, and through the “Enjoy a Bottle, Plant a Tree” initiative, Elouan and Trees for the Future have planted more than half a million trees together.With every bottle or glass of Elouan Wines sold through May 31, a tree will be planted through Trees for the Future’s program with farmers across the globe.
Chêne Bleu 2015 Aliot ($54) Although it’s promoted as a medium-bodied white, I’d say this is a full-bodied white with a bite even Anthony Hopkins would enjoy. This Chêne Bleu Alio is more of a shoulder season white with a blend of Roussane, White Grenache, and Marsanne, and aged in old and new French oak barrels for 8 months.
It’s as powerful as the acting career of Anthony Hopkins, beginning with its bouquet of simmered peaches and roasted almonds that lead to a big finish of dried apricot and pineapple on the palate. The pairing suggestions for this wine seem about right: salmon, game, poultry, rabbit, pate and hard cheeses. I enjoyed with rotisserie chicken and vegetables. This wine is a keeper and can lay down for 5-6 years.
One Night in Miami
Malene 2020 Rosé ($22) leads the charge as the workhorse of Malene wines. I discovered the Malene magical rosé last summer, on a hotter-than-Miami day in California. Refreshing and vibrant, the 2020 central coast California vintage of pink drips strawberry, which isn’t exactly what I tasted last year. My palate preferred the peony, white grapefruit, peachiness of the 2019, so if you can scoop up any 2019 bottles, I highly recommend! The 2020 is lovely, too, but is more strawberry forward, so if you like this, by all means, enjoy!
I can imagine Director Regina King sipping on this crisp rosé during the filming of this Oscar-nominated film. The struggle is real in the film and for this 2020 vintage that created new meaning for the term “dry” January. There was no significant rainfall until March, and added to this historic year were wildfires, which led to some grapes with smoke taint – and ultimately dropped from the vines. The best grapes were saved to make this rose-gold expressive and exotic rosé. Kudos to the winemaker, New Zealand native Fintan du Fresne (Fin), whose passion to make rosé started during time spent with many of the great rosé houses of Provence, this rosé exudes the ideal French-style with lovely California Coast influences.
Like watching the incredible film, Mank, 2020 wasn’t a complete bust, especially when you factor in a bottle of Reserva Casillero del Diablo Rosé ($11.99). Crafted from French varietals, this medium-bodied Chilean rosé begins with a bouquet of crisp and cool raspberries. On the palate it’s a burst of fresh-picked strawberries with a bit of spice in the finish – perfect to pair with a summer salad. Care to take it up a notch to a Mank level of a spirited, boozy treat? Check out this recipe for Frozé del Diablo Popsicles.
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Böen 2019 Pinot Noir ($24.99) Ba-da-bing! Cherries, that is. And Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom dresses she wore to cover her bodacious figure reminds me of this big, Burgundian-style wine – personality, plus! Like Ma Rainey, this pinot noir is a bit gravelly, but refined, and Böen draws its profile from the varied coastal winegrowing areas of California’s most sought-after cool-climate appellations. Pinot Noir must be harvested early and during optimal growing conditions. Temperamental as these grapes are, this vintage packs a wallop of ripe Bing cherry, cocoa and red blackberry (marionberry) with a rich and balanced palate and a bright acidity that leads into a long, smooth finish Ma Rainey would surely enjoy.
Australia’s first grapevines were planted in 1788 in Farm Cove, today’s Sydney Botanical Gardens. This was pre-phylloxera (late 19th century), and because Australia vineyards weren’t affected by the deadly louse that wiped out vineyards around the world’s premier wine regions (Chile, the country of Georgia, and the Mosel region of Germany weren’t affected, either), the wines are considered Old World.
In a virtual tasting hosted by San Francisco Wine School, with special guests from Australia that included famed Aussie winemaker, Corrina Wright, and winemaker Dean Hewitson, thanks to AustralianWineDiscovered.com, 11 wines were tasted by over 100 virtual guests, including myself. Over 1,500 mini bottles were shipped to approximately a dozen states. I happily share my top 5 favorites:
#1 – During my last visit to McLaren Vale and the Barossa Valley, I fell in love with the grenache wines of these regions. True to form, my absolute favorite sip during this virtual evening was the 2016 Edgar Schild “Reserve” Grenache, Barossa Valley ($26). The family behind the winery is a story you’ll want to follow online. This old vine was planted in 1916 and reflects a warmer vintage that works for me! The wine aged for over a year in new and old French barrels and presents as dark ruby with opulent dark and red fruit notes leading to slight tannin structure of the same berries on the palate.
#2 – One of my favorite white varietals is semillon, and the 2019 Tyrrell’s Semillon, Hunter Valley ($27) was truly exceptional. Grown in sandy loam soils and a short time on lees before bottling, this minerally-forward wine is a delicious and perfect representation of semillon. Aromas of cut grass and lemon lead the way to a palate with… wait, was that dried ginger on the finish? Amazing.
#3 – OK, so I’m partial to semillon Down Under, apparently. And this one was even better than the last. The 2018 David Franz “Long Gully” Semillon, Barossa Valley ($29), is a showstopper. The grapes hail from ancient vines (134 year’s old!) dry grown in sandy loam. This bright straw-colored wine exhibited a weighty, rich mouthfeel and was so wonderfully greeted on my palate – as refreshing as a perfectly made lemon meringue pie.
#4 – It would be blasphemous to leave out a Shiraz recommendation. Thankfully, there was one crimson selection I enjoyed, right down to the finish with notes of sage and allspice. This was a 2017 Langmeil “Orphan Bank” Shiraz, Barossa Valley ($65). The name “orphan” is due to the vine’s history, as explained on the Langmeil website: “Ten rows of Shiraz planted pre-1860 were saved from the developer’s bulldozer and replanted alongside the original Langmeil vineyard on the banks of the North Para River. We called these ten rows the “Orphans”, but after 150 years they have a new home.” Drink this wine and you’re tasting history.
#5 – Blended wines can be tricky, but this 2015 John Duval “Plexus” Shiraz-Grenache-Mourvedre, Barossa Valley ($80) was poured from a magnum and delighted my senses as the final pour of the tasting. It was a textbook red blend of the old days, exhibiting the full spectrum of bright red licorice to dark berries and plum on the palate, finishing with baking spices.
Charlene Peters, a.k.a. Sip Tripper, enjoys sharing wine reviews and her discovery of wine destinations. Sign up for her e-newsletter on www.spavalous.com and receive travel inspiration, wine recommendations, and more tips related to travel, food, wine, and wellness. Be sure to order a copy of her book, “Travel Makes Me Hungry: Tales of tastes & indigenous recipes to share” available on Amazon.
Even before I’d watched Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy on CNN, I was invited to a virtual tasting of Emilia-Romagna wines. Alas, my shipment didn’t arrive in time for the scheduled event. But, like so many Zoom events, a link of the recording was sent to me post-event. It all worked out well because, as it turns out, the wines I received were completely different from what Daniele Cernilli, a.k.a. Doctor Wine, showcased in the virtual tasting.
Be that as it may, I’m simply glad I had the chance to taste wines from an Italian wine region I love so dearly!
Geographically speaking, the wines are from Romagna, from North to South. And several are designated Superiore, which is just what it seems. Wines labeled as such benefit in quality from longer aging, less production by hectares, and offer a fuller body.
On a recent cross country road trip, I arrived with two bottles in-hand to my Italian-American friends in Tucson, Arizona, as they were hosting me for dinner. One, a 2019 I Diavoli Le Rocche Malatestiane Romagna Sangiovese Superiore, priced at less than $20 a bottle, has a label design of colorful hand-drawn bats. This wine is produced in the hills of Rimini, from vineyards located between the clay soils of San Clemente and the chalky soils near Gemmano – near a natural bat habitat referred to as “devils that live in a cave.” It’s an easy-drinking medium-bodied wine, telltale of its year spent in stainless steel, and bursting in bright red raspberry, licorice flavor. We enjoyed both wines with a plate of rigatoni and red sauce with sausage, but we especially fell for the Fattoria.
It was 1970 when the Sangiovese reserve Vigna delle Lepri (translation: vineyard of the hares) was first produced in Romagna from a clone named “Biondi Santi” or Sangiovese Grosso. The 2014 Fattoria Paradiso Bertinoro Vigna delle Lepri Sangiovese Riserva exhibited complex, dark ruby lusciousness in layers of red berry jam, violets and a hint of pipe tobacco or cigar, with the slightest mocha. This 100% Sangiovese Grosso was vinified in steel and aged at least 4 years in large oak barrels before bottling and laying down for a year before shelved for purchase. From time of purchase, this bottle can be cellared for 30-plus years and best enjoyed with braised meats, game, grilled red meats, chocolate and fine cheeses.
Next, I opened a bottle of delicate, impressive white wine: A 2019 I Croppi Albana Secco produced by Celli. I cannot recall ever tasting an Albana grape, one I learned was the first to get the DOCG seal in 1987. This golden yellow nectar was all that and then some, with grapes that grew in the good life of a soil mixture of clay and a bit of limestone. From there, the grapes were fermented in stainless steel tanks. This is an excellent wine to enjoy with noodles, grilled fish or poultry. Priced less than $20/bottle.
Back to reds, a 2018 Notturno Sangiovese DOC Predappio of Drei Dona was aged in wooden casks for 6 to 8 months. Sangiovese accounts for 80% of grapes grown in this Romagna region. This wine had a bit too much acidity for my palate, but I could’ve been thrown off by the finish of balsamic vinegar.
Watching Stanley Tucci in Emilia Romagna was a thrill, especially since I’ve made a few trips there and he visited at least one stop I made in Modena, to tour the museum and barrel rooms of the oldest balsamic vinegar producer, Giuseppe Giusti. My published story on balsamic vinegar may be accessed HERE.
By the time I opened the next white wine, I was immersed in warm Florida weather and eager to sip on what turned out to be an all-time favorite Italian white wine: a 2019 Fattoria Zerbina Bianco di Ceparano DOC Albana Secco of Romagna. Might I say, WOW! This is the quintessential summer sip for 2021. Bright gold with a fresh citrus bouquet, and on the palate, a cornucopia of refreshing grapefruit and a bit of lemon citrus. It is the perfect pairing for salads, grilled or fried fish, asparagus (!) and chips and onion dip, my favorite by the pool. Less than $20/bottle, this is a wine worth stocking for summer.
Finally, the weather cooled a bit (70s), and it began to rain. Watching Stanley Tucci passionately consuming the best pasta in the world prompted me to purchase homemade pasta at the local farmers market here in Fort Myers, Florida. And with this pasta, I pretended I was in Rimini with Tucci, and I opened my last bottle of Romagna wine, a 2018 Noelia Ricci Godenza Sangiovese Predappio, located at the foot of the Tuscan-Romagnolo Appenino of a once war-torn Forli. These large sangiovese grapes ferment for six months in steel; 8 months in bottle.
I must note that the missing link in Tucci’s CNN show is the pairing of wines with the 20 food regions of Italy he’s showcasing. If only he’d reach out to me, I’d happily co-host and speak on behalf of the wines. But I digress.
Noelia Ricci is the woman behind the wine’s success and has a fascination with the land’s animals of the past. Each label represents an animal once found on the land. For this bottle of Predappio, an illustration of a monkey is interpreted as a wine with its feet firmly planted in its land. The wine is representative of its vineyard of mostly sandstone, which attributes to its lovely bouquet and approachable taste. It’s not the most complex wine I’ve tasted, but it’s a perfect pick for an everyday red table wine. Raspberry forward, clean and bright.
Embracing a welcome change of pace to drinking heavy cabernets this winter, here are some full-bodied white wines to sip while winter finishes its course.
Sun Wine Kisi Qvevri Dry Amber
It’s no surprise that the country of Georgia is experiencing a wine boom in the U.S. The fact that Georgia is one of the oldest winemaking regions in the world came to light five years ago, when archeologists discovered qvevri (pronounced “kway-vree”), traditional clay vessels used in winemaking. Inside the qvevri were grape seeds dating to 6,000 BCE. UNESCO was so amazed by the longevity of these ancient clay jars that they included qvevri on its Intangible Cultural Heritage list in 2013.
A bottle of 2019 Kisi Qvevri, a dry amber wine, offers a luscious mouthfeel. This is a rare grape varietal of Georgia, made in a traditional clay vessel, a qvevri, skins-on to create a full-bodied “orange” wine. Deep citrus notes and hints of black tea on the finish. Bottle price: $22
Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve 2018 Chardonnay
If a wine could taste like slipping on a classic little black dress, this golden wine would be the perfect fit. It has remained the cream of the crop of Chardonnay’s for over 25 years, and this year, especially, it’s best enjoyed with a favorite companion during an indoor picnic.
Behind the making of this wine, whole grape clusters were pressed to retain the fresh fruit qualities and the fruit was sur lie aged with monthly battonage (lees stirring) to create a Kendall-Jackson signature velvety texture and creamy flavor.
Its silky texture delivers powerful and seductive tropical notes of pineapple, mango and papaya and aromas of vanilla, honey and toasted oak. If this wine were a celebrity, it would be Meryl Streep, simply due to its versatility to act as a lovely accompaniment to winter squash, creamy pasta dishes and pork loin. Bottle price: $17
2018 Rkatsiteli Qvevri Dry Amber Wine
In traditional unfiltered qvevri style, Rkatsiteli, which literally translates to “red stem,” is made of Georgian grape seeds whose history dates back to 3000 BC. This sumptuous wine is “orange” and offers a ripe citrus bouquet and sweeping, complex palate of dried orange peel, sweet tea, stone fruits and a lingering finish of caramel. Bottle price: $20
2019 Banfi La Pettegola Vermentino of Toscana IGT
Central Italy vermentino grapes make this choice a nice change of pace to a traditional sauvignon blanc. Its crisp bouquet of fresh-cut bouquet leads to a palate of grapefruit and pineapple, a bit of honey, with a lemon-citrus lingering finish. Enjoy with a salmon taco. Bottle price: $19.99
2019 Banfi Principessa Gavia Gavi DOCG
Its bouquet is more subtle than its taste, which lends to a full-on intensity of fruitiness and a tingle telltale of a slight secondary fermentation. The story behind the label will lend to a tingly sensation: Princess Gavia’s love story is the stuff of legends. In the 6th century, Gavia fell in love with a soldier. Their marriage was forbidden by her father, Clodimir, King of the Franks, so they ran away, eloped, and settled in northwestern Italy in the Gavi region of Novi Ligure, which was surrounded by vineyards. This is a wine best served as an aperitif with seafood hors d’oeuvres. Bottle price: $19.99
In this year of the pivot and discovering a new you, do you dare to be different? If so, winter whites are a good start.
Charlene Peters, a.k.a. Sip Tripper, reviews wines, travels the world and authored a book of her culinary travels, titled “Travel Makes Me Hungry: Tales of indigenous tastes & recipes to share,” available on Amazon.
Wines of Portugal is asking everyone to unite in a Toast to 2021 with a glass of Portuguese wine in-hand while enjoying the music of Fado singer, Gisela João.
But first, the wines.
Portuguese winemakers are blending masters, and once I sipped my first glass of 2017 Quintas de Borba DOC Alentejo, I happily concur. Kudos to Oscar Gato for creating this silky vinho tinto in a masterful blend of Aragonez, Alicante Bouschet and Syrah.
Aragonez is a grape used in making wine similar to Spain’s Tempranillo or Italy’s Sangiovese. It lends to the blend’s inky, full body and aromatic attributes of black fruits and coffee. The Alicante Bouschet has roots in France (Languedoc, Provence, Cognac) and tastes a lot like grenache, which makes perfect sense when you factor in the syrah as the third blend. This is a blend that fits like the glass slipper on Cinderella. The per bottle price is under $10, yet its sips are worthy of a princess.
The next Portugal wine I tasted was a 2011 Reserva Dão DOC Quinta da Ponte Pedrinha. This vinho tinto is presented in the shape of a pinot noir bottle, but it’s taste is a blend of old vine grapes: Touriga-Nacional – considered Portugal’s finest grape of the Dão region, Alfrocheiro for its deep color, Tinta-Roriz, which is another name for Aragonez (see above) – and extended time in French oak barrels.
Its bouquet of cocoa and ripe fruit leads to a medium, dark berried smooth and attractive wine, perfect with grilled meats. Price is approximately $42 per bottle.
In an effort to honor the resilience to the barriers of 2020, Wines of Portugal is offering two Portuguese jewels: Wine and Culture.
“We want to challenge people, all around the world to relax for an hour, and watch a performance of our beloved Fado singer Gisela João. 2020 was not an easy year and we want to pay tribute to all our producers and to the global wine industry in general, by offering them this uniting cultural moment. And the moment will be all the better with a glass of Portuguese wine in hand of course!” says Frederico Falcão, President of Wines of Portugal.
Much like Portugal has its indigenous grape varieties, the country also has its indigenous music: Fado, which is a Portuguese musical heritage that can be traced back to the 1820s and was granted World Heritage status by UNESCO. Fado, just like wine, is a huge symbol of the Portuguese identity.
On my first day of tasting, a 2015 French Domaine Saint Gayan Gigondas Cuvée was sent to me. A Rhone red wine priced at $27.99 a bottle. Complex and elegant, this wine is at the top of my list for a favorite tasting.
On the second day of tasting, a delightful 2018 Vignoble Ducourt – Château Briot, priced at $13 a bottle was uncorked. What? A value-priced Bordeaux? Why, yes. This garnet blend of cabernet sauvignon and merlot is a light-medium bodied drink-alone Bordeaux perfect when paired with a cheese plate and tapas. It’s not the boldest of Bordeaux’s but that’s a good thing for those who want to keep things light.
My third day of tasting was at the beautiful indoor/outdoor tasting room at Hamel Family Wines in Sonoma Valley, where a bold and structured 2012 Hamel Family Ranch stole the show. Priced at $200 a bottle, this cabernet sauvignon brought forth a bouquet of violets and deep, dark berries mixed with cedar and coffee – black, no cream. The on-site chef, Clinton Huntsman, served up a savory roll of pressed rabbit sausage with a wine-soaked prune in the middle, on a bed of potato puree. The pairing was as divine as this wine.
Day four surprised me with a semi-sweet Stella Rosa Golden Honey Peach wine made with Italian countryside grapes. Talk about shaking things up a bit. With a slice of pumpkin pie. You can Stellabrate this honey and peach forward wine for $12/bottle. And yes, it is not a red, but it’s a dark honey.
On the fifth day of tasting, my palate sang to me once I sipped a 2016 Muriel Fincas de la Villa Crianza of Rioja ($14). Of course, I paired this wine with tapas. Blueberry and toasted coconut mixed with oak… it works!
On my sixth day of wine tasting, a taste of 2016 BRION Cabernet Sauvignon spoke to me. And it was during an outdoor tasting at this new Napa winery on the border of Yountville and showcasing its Yountville AVA. I must share that upon arrival, I was greeted with a flute of Dom Perignon – telltale of the sophistication and hospitality of this winery. And the wines… wow. This particular 2016 BRION Cabernet Sauvignon was made with grapes grown on its Oakville Ranch Vineyard slopes with its red-orange volcanic soils that contribute to the vines’ low water retention, which makes the fruit denser and with deep berry notes. Its earthy bouquet is mingled with tobacco, leather, and mocha. At $225 a bottle, it had better be good, right? Well, it is. Seriously. Kudos to winemaker Mark Herold. This is an approachable wine with potential to gain in its complexity if cellared for another 5 years or so.
Day number seven was spent at home, as I tasted a 2010 Muriel Viñas Viejas Gran Reserva Rioja ($30). Ah, tempranillo. How do I love thee rustic berries of Spain… so much so my thoughts were dominated with visions of visiting and sipping my way through Spain. I’ll get there eventually, just not today. So I’ll travel through this taste and be happy in place.
On my eighth day of tasting, the wine that spoke to me was a 2017 San Simeon Pinot Noir of Monterey – Estate Reserve ($22). Noteworthy is that the Riboli Family was named American Winery of the Year in 2018, courtesy of Wine Enthusiast. I’ve heard good things grow in the Santa Lucia Highlands, and now I know this to be true. Raspberries dominate the palate, and that works for me.
My ninth day of tasting brought me Down Under to the Barossa Valley, a place I’ve actually visited – but not at this winery… yet. This 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon label belongs to 3-Rings and is priced at a reasonable $19.99 a bottle. It’s closure is a screwcap, typical of Australian wines – yes, even the reds. And this is the deepest of deep red, almost black! Twenty-five days of maceration will do this. All I wanted was a BBQ dinner with this wine.
Day number 10 showcased Paso Robles, one of my favorite California wine destinations, with a Maddalena 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon ($18) that rocked my palate! Berries, please meet mocha and toast with a drizzle of caramel. This is another label of the Riboli Family and it prompted me to dig out my crockpot to make beef stew.
On my 11th day of wine tasting, I headed to Argentina. Ok, I didn’t actually visit (but I want to!), but my palate traveled to Bodegas Bianchi for a taste of its 2019 Malbec, harvested in March 2019 and bottled in August that same year. This Oasis Sur Malbec is deeply violet in color, packing a bouquet of plums, figs and deep blackberries. It’s a fruity $15.99 bottle of Malbec magic.
My final day, the 12th day of tasting, surprised and delighted me with a… dare I say… Costco wine? Yes, Kirkland Signature Reserva 2015 Bodegas Muriel, L.L. Rioja was my most surprising find. At $6.99 a bottle, say what? Like a ruby slipper on your palate. Balanced velvet. If you don’t believe me, try it yourself.
Charlene Peters is a wine writer who regularly visits wineries around the world and reviews wines from her home in the Napa Valley. She is author of “Travel Makes Me Hungry: Tales of tastes & indigenous recipes to share” available on Amazon and touted as the perfect holiday gift to give during a time when travel is safest when brought to the dining room table.
Say what you will about tradition and how disappointed we are this Thanksgiving. Yes, once again, the 2020 theme of having to “pivot” rears its ugly head, reminding us of the “new now” – a deadly threat in gathering of extended family and friends. Let’s count our blessings, though, and focus on the wonderful tradition that remains — the release of Beaujolais Nouveau!
Under French law, the wine is set to be released at 12:01 a.m. on November 19, weeks after harvest. Every third week of November, like clockwork, we can count on this bottled gamay. Grown in the most southern wine growing region in Burgundy, France, there’s an outlier region called Beaujolais, where the wine is quite different in regard to production and climate. In fact, Beaujolais is referred to as its own appellation that produces these light, dry grapes that are a cross between a pinot noir and the ancient white gouais grape.
In a non-Covid-19 ravaged world, Beaujolais Nouveau Day is typically marked in France on the third Thursday in November with fireworks, music and festivals to celebrate the first wine of the season.
When you pick up your bottles of Beaujolais Nouveau, be sure to look for label artist Maeve Croghan’s “Russet Vines” on the Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau 2020 bottles (featured image). Keep in mind that it’s meant to be consumed immediately — within a month, preferably, and it will not have a high tannin structure or acidity, but will be fruity in both aroma and taste. Its tart cranberry overtones make it a perfect pairing for Thanksgiving dinner – even if you’re a table of one.
The producer most familiar to those who open a bottle or two of Beaujolais Nouveau each November is Les Vins Georges Dubœuf. But did you know Les Vins Georges Dubœf produces more structured wines? Try a few bottles of Villages and Moulin-A-Vent and you’ll be sure to up your game with Thanksgiving dinner. Beaujolais-Villages is not the same thing as Nouveau, but it is made from the remaining production to produce a darker, richer and more full-bodied wine – and can be stored longer than Nouveau.
Take a listen to what Romain Teyteau, North America export director at Les Vins Georges Dubœf, has to say about Beaujolais wines:
I look forward to tasting the soon-to-be-released Beaujolais Nouveau, but in the meantime, I’m sipping a 2018 Domaine des Rosiers Moulin-A-Vent produced by Georges Duboeuf and rated 93 James Suckling points, and a 2018 Domaine De La Vigne Romaine Moulin-A-Vent — both pour a garnet gamay of exquisite silk on the palate. Enjoy these deeper, full-bodied wines with beef stew, duck confit, Portobello mushroom dishes, spicy dishes and fine, matured cheeses.
As you celebrate with a bottle of Georges Duboeuf, toast to Georges, who passed away in January 2020 at the age of 86. And be sure to check out THIS LINK for upcoming virtual Beaujolais Nouveau events.
If you’d like to learn more about Georges Duboeuf wines, click HERE.
During uncertain times, there is one thing for certain – white wines pair well with summertime. In honor of National White Wine Day, here are six selections to enjoy on or off the rocks, as recommended.
#1 – In a nod to 1950s Paris, Le Goût d’Autrefois Blanc Limé, a Vignoble Ducourt Bordeaux refresher with lemon, lime grapefruit, sauvignon blanc, semillon and bubbles, is the only one of these wines where ice cubes are preferred. This slightly bubbled spritzer is the perfect gateway wine for newbies or for those who prefer a light wine with low alcohol (8%).
$17 for each impressively designed bottle with retro hinged closure.
#2 – Better known for its production of premier pinot noir, the Willamette Valley in Oregon offers an exotic cedar + salmon 2018 pinot gris to sip throughout summer and beyond. During peach harvest time, this wine’s stone fruit aromas call to the season. Like a ripe peach, each sip of this pinot gris is refreshing and rich with exotic fruit flavors that include kiwi and guava. Chill before serving with grilled white fish or roasted chicken and veggies, but please… leave out the ice cubes.
#3 – Vranken-Pommery recently launched a single vineyard Louis Pommery Carneros Chardonnay 2019, and you will definitely want to sip on this beyond summer – without adding ice. By all means, however, chill before sipping. You’ll notice an expressive palate of creamy honey, attributed to the slight malolactic fermentation, and cantaloupe, and maybe even a touch of almond paste. Best served with blue cheeses or any creamy cheeses, and dessert of crème brulee.
#4 – New Age Sweet Wine is a versatile wine to drink on its own, on the rocks – YES! – or mixed as a cocktail. I am typically not a fan of sweet wines – other than port – but I drank my glass on its own, sans ice – and it was quite pleasant on a warmer than usual day. Made with Argentinian grapes: 90% Torrontes and 10% Sauvignon Blanc, try on ice with a slice of lime or splash of gin and slice of grapefruit to change things up a bit. Pair with Indian, Thai, Chinese or Japanese dishes.
#5 – Georges Duboeuf Pouilly-Fuissé 2018 Chardonnay is a French wine that deserves the royal treatment – so please do not add ice! Serve chilled as an aperitif or with lobster, cured salmon toasts, or cheeses. Better yet, set the bottle aside as it ages well. In typical French style, expect notes of acacia flowers with balanced minerality and… a finish of chestnut! Oh yes. Quality counts.
#6 – Last, but certainly not least, is another Georges Duboeuf, but this time a brilliant pale gold Mâcon-Villages 2018 Chardonnay. The complexity in this wine offers loads of citrus… think lemony, and a nutty bouquet mixed with white flowers typical of France. This is a summer fresh white wine that is lovely when chilled, but please do not add ice.
With so many rosé wines on the market, and in demand especially throughout summertime, it’s important to note each rosé varies on a wide spectrum, from salmon-pink Provencal rosés to full-bodied rosé of cabernet sauvignon.
Most rosé wines are made using the process of short maceration – fermenting wine is drained from the skins after a short period of time – typically a few hours, and then moved to stainless steel tanks to continue fermentation in the process of white wine, temperature-speaking. Other winemakers blend red and white wines to create rosé, but this is not typical – or permitted in Europe.
As rosé wines go, it’s a personal preference, and my palate is undeniably Provencal style. But around the globe, if the terroir permits vineyards to grow Provencal grapes, I’m happy to taste. And I’m ready to report I’ve tasted 15 amazing bottles of rosé from all over the world and happy to share my thoughts with you.
My rosé roundup has been a labor of love for me throughout SiP days, where I’ve been “sip tripping in place” while sheltering in place.
2019 Malene Rosé, Central Coast, California $22 Sip Tripper rating: GOAT
Why? Because it encompasses all that I love in a rosé: 48% Grenache, 23% Mourvedre, 12% Rolle and 17% Cinsault.
Visually, this is a medium pink rosé offering a light bouquet and notes of peach, a tinge of white grapefruit and a favorite of mine: peony. On the palate, a perfect expression of a fresh-picked strawberry with a smidgen of nectarine leads to a crisp finish of clean, crisp acidity.
Grenache, the black grape variety, needs a warm climate to ripen well, and its red-fruit flavors attribute to the summertime sip’s success. The growing region in the Central Coast of California is as close to the terroir of Provence as one can get, which is why this rosé is a favorite of mine! www.MaleneWines.com
2019 Herdade de São Miguel Colheita Seleccionada Rosé $14.99 Sip Tripper rating: AWESOME
Why? Because this salmony-pink blend wow’d my palate. It’s in a class unto itself due to the use of a few grapes specific to the terroir of Alentejano in Portugal: 50% Touriga Nacional, 30% Syrah and 20% Aragonez.
By the way, this wine has a cork stopper, regardless of its value pricing – hey, it hails from the land of cork forests! Why not? I do, however, recommend that once you open a bottle, plan to consume in one sitting with a friend, as it loses its complexity by next day. Best enjoyed with sushi, fresh fish, seafood and salads. www.quintessentialwines.com
2019 Tablas Creek Vineyard, Dianthus, Paso Robles, California $30 Sip Tripper Rating: Success is Southern Rhône cuttings grown in California
2018 Rosé, The Wolftrap, South Africa $14 Sip Tripper Rating: Great Value Quintessential Rosé
The trap was set once I read the label for this blend of cinsault (69%), syrah (21%) and grenache (10%). Immediately, I unscrewed the cap and poured half the bottle into an ice cube tray so I could make frozé to share with my neighbor on a hot day in late spring. I threw in about 4 chunks of frozen pineapple, about one cup of sliced strawberries that sat overnight in the fridge in some water, and added the frozé cubes, aa half tray of plain ice cubes and a quarter bottle of The Wolftrap.
The end result was a refreshing version of a slushie in all its rosé perfection. The next day, I poured the remaining bottle to enjoy without the slush effect. There’s a softness on the palate that I enjoy from South Africa wines, and I would declare this bottle to be well-crafted and a best value summer sip! www.vineyardbrands.com
2018 Marqués de Cáceres excellens, Rioja $11 Sip Tripper Rating: Amazing Value — top of my list for rosés
Wine varietals of Rioja have always held a special place in my palate, so when I discovered this Spanish blend of 60% Garnacha tinta and 40% Tempranillo, I was pleased as pink. And this pink is pleasing, believe me. If you could taste what the lightest pink would be, excellens is it. It’s a lovely expression of Spanish grapes softened with bright acidity and freshness.
Crafted with 100% pinot noir grown on French terroir of Domaine Delaporte, this rosé leaves a lasting impression of the palate — a pristine expression of the Domaine’s 15-year-old grapevines and its limestone soil.
The grapes are 100% hand-picked and pressed straight away without any maceration (skin soaking time), which accounts for the feather light pink color, and following six months aging on lees.
A young Sancerre rosé typically offers raspberry and wild peach aromas, and this is no exception. The full palate of raspberries and crisp cool acidity and finish of citrus almost calls for a dollop of whipped cream. Drink within two years of bottling and enjoy on hot summer nights. www.VineyardBrands.com
2018 Studio by Miraval $14.99 Sip Tripper Rating: Lightest rosé ever tasted
It’s irrelevant that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie own the chateau and vineyard. They may be divorced, but they parented a new label with their brand, Miraval. Studio by Miraval, like the estate rosé, has been made in partnership with the Perrin family of Château de Beaucastel. And it’s good. Really good.
This rosé from southeast of France carries the appellation “Les Vins de Méditerranée Indication Géographique Protégée”. Its blend of Cinsault, Grenache, Rolle, and Tibouren grapes grown on soil influenced by the sea sprays and the proximity of the Mediterranean Sea attributes to the Frenchness of this very pale rosé. On first inspection, the watered down pink wine indicates barely a flavor, but wow, it packs a bright red fruit punch infused with white flowers and a squeeze of citrus. www.VineyardBrands.com
Louis Pommery Rosé Brut Sparkling Wine, California $26.99 Sip Tripper Rating: Vivacious, Elegant Sparkling Rosé
The coolness of the Pacific Ocean and the heat of the hinterland of the California vineyards are met with French tradition and exceptional wine-making to create this masterpiece of elegance. Well balanced, this brut rosé features a bouquet of delicate red berries with a hint of citrus, all wrapped in pastry.
Winemaker Thierry Gasco, former Champagne Pommery cellar master for 25 years, crafted this sparkling wine with 76% Chardonnay grapes and 24% Pinot Noir — via methode champenoise, with fermentation in the bottle and aging on the lees.
2019 Lucas & Lewellen Rosé of Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara, California $19.99 Sip Tripper Rating: Pleasant
Why? While I’m not a fan of rosé made with pinot noir… unless it’s sparkling, this light pink, light-bodied semi-dry wine is made by a family winery and was pleasant. My palate didn’t embrace this wine fully – perhaps due to the fact that there’s a small percentage of viognier – my least favorite varietal. This rosé paired well with my Japanese vegetable fritters served over white rice and edamame. The bouquet of blossoms was especially pleasing, as is the acidity. www.quintessentialwines.com
2017 The Clambake limited edition Rosé of Mendocino, California $19 Sip Tripper Rating: Philanthropically delicious!
First, let me say that with every case of wine you order, Clambake will send two complimentary bottles of wine to your healthcare worker of choice to thank them for their service.
I opened my bottle of old-vine carignan rosé as a self-described “not a huge fan of carignan,” but the deep color alone bedazzled my senses to open my mind. Dry-farmed and head-trained at Zaina-Sargentini Family Vineyard, these grapes produced a wine with notes of ripened cherries, limestone and candied grapefruit that paired well with my special treat of mail-ordered lobster tails. www.ripelifewines.com
2019 Bricoleur, Flying by the Seat of our Pants $27 Sip Tripper Rating: Pleasant/Acceptable
I tasted and played with the bottle app, dragged the tip of my phone over the label’s target and received all the info I wanted to learn about this light, fresh, acidic rosé of grenache from grapes harvested in the Fountaingrove District in Sonoma County.
Admittedly, this wine really doesn’t taste like a Provence rosé, but it has much of the same light, fresh, acidic qualities, and the color is barely a tint of the lightest pink rose petal. I taste more peach on the palate than watermelon or strawberry, but every taster has his/her opinion. https://russianrivervalley.org/vineyards/bricoleur-vineyards
2019 Bricoleur, Rosé of Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley $32 Sip Tripper Rating: Splendid/Elegant
Typically, I’m not a fan of rosé made of pinot noir unless it has bubbles. But anything from the Russian River of Sonoma County dispels set notions. Is this the greatest California growing region? Perhaps. A light raspberry with tint of orange and perfection in acidity. This is a winner and worth the price per bottle. https://russianrivervalley.org/vineyards/bricoleur-vineyards
2019 Reserve Côtes du Rhône, Famille Perrin, France $14.99 Sip Tripper Rating: Elegant / What is expected of a rosé
The quintessential rosé blend of cinsault, grenache, mourvede and syrah, this ballet-pink summer sip offers a fresh strawberry bouquet and crisp palate of light red berries and grapefruit finish. Background of interest: The Perrin Family has owned Chateau de Beaucastel since 1909 with five generations involved in the Southern Rhône Valley vineyard. www.vineyardbrands.com
2018 Goose Bay Pinot Noir Rosé, New Zealand $28 Sip Tripper Rating: Atypical and potent
This is an in-your-face burst of strawberries rosé. If you are not a fan of the ballet-pink version of rosé and want more of a fruit candy flavored wine, this is the one for you.
With grapes grown on New Zealand’s South Island on Goose Bay, I would expect nothing more than a vastly different taste. It’s worth noting that this is a vegan wine, and is Kosher for Passover. And if you’re curious about life on a kibbutz winery, novices and oenophiles alike can explore all this and more with Kosherwine.com’s free Live-Streamed Wine Events, presented in partnership with the Israeli Wine Producers Association (IWPA), now through July 5.
2018 The Daily August Rheingau Rosé, August Kesseler, Germany $35.99 Sip Tripper Rating: Unimpressed
Why? Because my first sip was a bit fizzy, and this isn’t a sparkling rosé of pinot noir. Wine Enthusiast gave this wine a 91-point rating and suggested to “drink now”. I agree with the vibrant flavors, but something was amiss and my bottle seems to have begun a secondary fermentation other wine reviewers interpret as “zesty” – but it’s a bottling flaw (carbon dioxide was trapped during bottling). www.vineyardbrands.com