Casa Benasal Elegant 2016 $14.99
This lovely Spanish wine has an immensely dark, tooth staining, purple color. It’s so unusual for a three year old wine to have such a newly made color. One would think this means greater aging potential. It was full bodied, rich,well balanced, with nice flavors of cherry and plum. It lived up ti its name “elegant”. Went well with lamb burgers. Rated 94 points by James Suckling, a contributor to the Wine Spectator.
Davis Bynum Chardonnay River West Vineyard 2016 $15.99
Tasted this at Island Times with a distributor representative and purchased a bottle. At home, with dinner, I found it to be very full bodied with great chardonnay flavor and the unique style of Russian River. Crisp and citrusy at the outset, it evolves in the mouth to a well structured and lush finish balanced with a rich creaminess. It was fermented in French oak, underwent malolactic fermentation, and sur-lie aging. Great wine for the price.
Domaine Gueguen Bourgogne 2018 $15.99
This wine was recommended to me by Mark at ABC Fine Wine in Venice. He had recently visited the property and met with the winemaker owners, Celine and Frederic. He commented that Frederic’s hands gave evidence of working the soil since he had just returned from the vineyard. Talk about hands on.
I haven’t had Chablis in quite a while. Although this wine is labeled Bourgogne, the winery is located in Chablis and most of their vineyards are in Chablis. Chardonnay is the preeminant white grape in Burgundy but the Chablis style is different from the cote’s de Beaune and cote’s de Nuit. It tends to be on flinty side with crispness and minerality. It certainly is a far cry from the buttery ripeness of California chardonnay. It was extremely enjoyable. It expressed a nice greenish gold color (it was still young) but also a wonderful balance of citrus and apple flavors with a roundness and mouth feel that belied it’s affordable price. There is a big debate in Chablis about barrel aging or stainless steel aging. I did not detect any oak influence so it was probably stainless steel aged.This is a great match for summer dining with rich seafood or poultry.
Their website is very interesting and indicates that the vineyards are sustainable.
Ivory & Burt Chardonnay Lodi, CA 2016 $13.00
Very pleasant. Well balanced, clean, crisp taste. Hints of oak and tropical fruit. Vibrant and rich. Sustainably farmed. Nice accompaniment to baked Halibut.
Ferrari-Carano Pinot Grigio 2017 $14.00
A little expensive for a Pinot Grigio, but it has a lot of style and character. Made by the winery that produces the best Fume Blanc in the country (U.S.A.), this has some of the same characteristics. Often Pinot Grigio is overly sweet but this wine has only the slightest taste of sweetness. It is well balanced with a smooth finish. A great choice for fish or chicken dishes.
Bodegas Montecillo Rioja 2015 $10.00
What to have with Pizza? Beer is best but often I will have a nice Chianti or Sangiovese. This night neither was available so I settled for a Rioja. Tempranillo is the dominant grape of the Rioja region in Spain, and crianza means red. In the past this wine was light and unassuming. Now it is dark and rich with good complexity but does not overpower the pizza. An excellent wine at the price and a good selection for variety in your wine cellar.
Columbia Crest H3 Merlot $13.00
Columbia Crest is the most recognized and awarded winery in Washington State. It dominates the $10.00-$20.00 price range. The H3 stands for Horse Heaven Hills, a very high quality growing area. Merlot is my choice to accompany lamb and this more than filled the bill. Full and rich, with great body and complexity. Balanced very well with the lamb shank and mushroom risotto.
Caparzo Toscana Sangiovese 2016 $10.00
I found this wine at Publix and can’t get enough of it. For the price it’s an amazing wine. It’s full bodied with deep color, unusual for Sangiovese, with a wonderful black berry character. I am dubious about any wine I have not tasted because there is so much plonk available. If it’s an imported wine, I look for the negociant or importer. This wine was imported by Vineyard Brands, Th a most reputable importer, formerly from Chester, VT., run by Robert Haas.
Great accompaniment to Osso Bucco
Ferrari- Carano Fume Blanc 2017 $11.00
This was Christmas dinner. Lobster Risotto with saffron and asparagus. Chardonnay might have been more appropriate, but I had that with lobsters Christmas Eve. Fume Blanc (sauvignon blanc) is often called the poor man’s Chardonnay and it certainly held up to and enhanced the the richness of the lobster and risotto. To me this is the sauvignon blanc to measure all others by.
By the way, some of the best lobster I have ever had is available at Lotsa Lobster in Sarasota. Not cheap mind you, but worth the price. They will steam it for you, but I prefer to do it myself. I bought a great pot at Target and use the Jacques Pepin method. I purchased three lobsters, so I cooked all three Christmas Eve, but saved one for Chtistmas day. I used the lobster bodies to make bisque and mixed the meat into the risotto. Wonderful.
Col di Sasso 2016 $9.99
The name infers “Stony Hill’. It’s a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese. Sangiovese is the dominant grape of Tuscany in Italy and is the preeminent grape of Chianti. This is not a heavy wine but more on the delicate side. With Cabernet Sauvignon, the Sangiovese takes on a richer body without losing its delicate cherry character,. Banfi produces this wine and it’s the most consistent quality Italian producer along with Antinori. I have found it most applicable to tomato based meals but last night it paired well with Osso Bucco. $9.99
Rodney Strong Merlot 2014 $11.00
This was a gift from a friend but I thought it might go well with lamb chops. Initial taste was harsh and overbearing. It seemed the alcohol (14%) dominated. As the meal progressed, it became softer with obvious fruit and richness of body. Acceptable but not a favorite. Rodney Strong was an actual individual who was a song and dance man in the 1950’s. After he passed away, his winery and name were sold.
Ferrari-Carano Chardonnay 2016 $19.99
Having spent twenty-four years representing Ferrari-Carano, I am very familiar with this wine. Produced and bottled by the winery in Healdsburg, California, it shows multiple layers of citrus flavors wrapped in a complex blanket of oak induced structure. The acidity is high enough to cut though the dill butter sauce and rich oily character of salmon while not overpowering the risotto and squash. A big, rich wine that develops body and complexity during the meal. $19.00
Carmen-Stevens Shiraz 2017 South Africa
I have never been a fan of mail order wine clubs. The general scheme is to purchase lots of wine in the open market, attach a label and sell the wine as a low production unique opportunity. Most of these wines I have tasted are average at best and most are inferior. However, a friend brought me a bottle of this the other night and I was impressed. He purchased it through Naked Wines, a mail order plan with a different twist. Naked Wines asks the consumer to commit to a monthly contribution which they use to fund an aspiring or small wine producer. Most of these are families who could not otherwise acquire the capital to start a winery, sort of a “Go Fund Me” for winemakers. For this commitment ,the subscribers get a variety of wines shipped to them.
I have not had South African wines for a while because the dominant grape was Pinotage which was not particularly enticing. Also their labor practices were questionable even after apartheid. However, I was impressed by this wine. Shiraz is the Australian name for Syrah, the most prominent grape in the Rhone Valley of France. It is one of the most affordable of French wines. The Australians like to make this wine big, bold, and ready to drink. Picture a steak on the grill and a glass of Shiraz. Carmen-Stevens is a vivacious lady who makes this Shiraz in a balance of Australian richness and French elegance. She was the first black lady to become a winemaker in South Africa. It has a nice deep purple color (it’s only a year and a half old), with a nice fruity complexity. It’s very balanced black cherry flavor, matches with a nice complexity and good body. The finish is smooth and enjoyable.
Most Syrahs exhibit a peppery spicy character but this does not. Not a fault, just worth noting. Great value at $8.99 to members.
Josh Cellars Chardonnay 2016 $11.00
Josh is my favorite wine producer under $15. This Chardonnay is typical of their style with moderate body, nuanced flavors, and balanced mouth feel. Enjoyed it with swordfish and it did not disappoint. It had just enough acidity to match and integrate the lemon butter sauce as well as the richness of the fish. App. $12.00.