Summertime Sippers for the Serious & Semi-Serious Wine Crowd

The prolonged. blistering heat wave here in the Napa-Sonoma area pushed

 many of us into re-thinking about the best wine to beat the sizzling summer heat.

Anyone paying attention to trends would immediately suggest Rose wines since pink wines are being touted by everyone, everywhere,  Or so it seems.

Nest up on the trendy charts would likely be a craft brew, a tangy IPA comes to mind.

Though personally delighted to see the new excitement around Rose wines and a major fan of IPAs,  I’m looking at a long hot spell and the possibility of this being a recurring pattern (yes, I’m thinking climate change.). So, I’m interested in a long-term solution.

Besides, so far in my experience many Roses now playing to rave reviews are hardly cheap as in over $20  for a summer sipper and not always as dry as advertised.

The goal is a summer sipper. No need for a 94 point blockbuster Rose which, I believe, is an oxymoron. Whispering Angle may be a “hot” seller, but it is really not worth 20 bucks.

Honestly, you might be better off buying a cheap Pinot Noir, adding an ice-cube or two, and a twist of lemon for a more satisfying experience.

So, returning to white wines and to finally get to the main point: Sauvignon Blanc is the obvious choice. The best are fresh, zesty, medium-with (not syrupy or ponderous like typical Chardonnay), offer a range of tropical fruit and, the clincher, they can stand up to a big chilling.

Lately, I’ve enjoyed several fine Albarinos which are another good choice for many of the same reasons.

But what makes me stand behind Sauvignon as the ideal summer sipper is its availability and, best of all, so many outstanding examples are priced below $20.

If you are with me, the easiest online shopping if you don’t want to work up a sweat is to open www.wine.com where you will find hundreds of Sauvignons offered. In the under $20 category, it lists 463.

Many wines are discounted and wine.com always has some added incentives. Currently, first time buyers get $20 off an order of $100. Usually there’s a shipping deal on a case, sometimes on 6 bottles,

In my recent tasting experiences, In the under $20 bracket, Chile dominates with New Zealand a strong second.

Okay, sure, we should try to Buy American. But, frankly, the low-end Sauvignons from the likes of Murphy-Goode, Joel Gott, Dark Horse, Geyser Peak are disappointingly bland and zest-less.

There are many other bland brands without a soul.

For lively, zesty, true to type Sauvignons, check out those from Chile’s   cooler regions: Casablanca, Limari, and Leyda.

My personal favorite turns out to be one of the least expensive, 20 Santa Carolina Reserva which offers all of the fresh tropical fruit you’d expect in a fine wine with the bonus of rich, smooth texture and good acidity. Santa Rita offers several Sauvignons, and the cheapest, the “120” is hard to beat at $6.99.

Matetic is another Chilean winery with several fine Sauvignons well worth your attention. Look for the Matetic “Corralillo”  or the Leyda Valley Sauvignon

From New Zealand, you can’t go wrong with Sauvignons from Brancott, Villa Maria, Gissen and The Crossings.

Many of you might be wondering, “What about Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc?” Well, it is everywhere…in every supermarket, in every wine shop,mega-store, and in every corner liquor store.

No need to look for Kim online.

Here are my top -12 recommended Summer Sipping Sauvignon Blancs:

 

 

 

 

 

 

2016 Santa Carolina Reserva, Leyda Valley, Chile $9.99

2016 Matetic EQ Coastal, Chile  $16.99

2016 Santa Rita Reserva, Casablanca, Chile $9.99

2016 Vina Leyda Sauvignon Blanc, Leyda Valley $16.99

2015 Gissen NZ Marlborough, $11.99

2014 Château La Verriere Blanc, Bordeaux $13.99

2016 Santa Rita, Reserva, Chile $9.99

2016 Dry Creek Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, $16.99

2016 Villa Maria Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc $12.99

2015 Ferrari-Carano Fume Blanc,  $13.99

2016 Spy Valley Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, $14.99

2016 La Playa Estate Sauvignon Blanc, Colchagua, Chile $7.99

All are available from www.wine.com and I have no relationship with this website.

Thank Your Mom for these Wines

Today’s outstanding online deal:

Two High-end Wines from a first-class winery, with free shipping from:
TESTAROSSA WINERY * 300A COLLEGE AVE, LOS GATOS, CA 95031

 408.354.6150 * www.testarossa.com

“This year, give the mothers in your life what they really want- a bottle of Testarossa’s award winning Chardonnay or Pinot Noir, like the
Wine Enthusiast Editor’s Choice 2015 Sta. Rita Hills Chardonnay
or the 94 point 2014 La Rinconada Vineyard Pinot Noir!

We know it can be hard to live far from Mom on this special day, so we will include shipping with all orders placed before May 10th.

Just use code WELOVEMOM at checkout to save!”

 

Insider Tips on Buying Bordeaux

The best Bordeaux tasted recently is the 2015 Chateau Corbin from Montagne St. Emilion. So good I bought another, and if I published scores, it would get a 92-93.

Oh, and the price was $12.95 at Trader Joe’s.

No, this wasn’t a total surprise.  I lived part-time in Bordeaux from 2000-2010, return frequently, and tasted many wines when there last September-early October.

The fact is that there has never been a better time in recent memory to check out and stock up on Bordeaux red wines. And not just the famous, high-priced stuff; you can find authentic, beautiful Bordeaux for under $25.

Here are five reasons why every red wine lover should be focusing on Bordeaux now for good wines at great prices. We are also offering five buying tips to help you stay focused on value.

Recent vintages, 2014 and 2015, are of consistent high quality across the board, from the least expensive appellations to the fabled names.

The strong dollar versus the Euro (thanks Brexit) is playing to our advantage. (And, no Donald, you cant take credit for that.)

Bordeaux needs to be reasonably priced  to regain its market share after 3 mediocre vintages (2011, 2012, & 2013) that allowed Cabernet and Merlot from California, Washington, and South America to come on strong. Actually, 2012 wasn’t that bad.

Now that China’s brief romance with high-priced, legendary chateaux is over, Bordeaux winemakers have experienced the wake-up call, come back down to earth and are re-focusing efforts on making the best Bordeaux wines which feature balance, subtlety, harmony, and elegance.

The 2016 vintage, still in oak is being touted at greater than 2015, and the pressure of a third consecutive fine vintage will motivate the wine trade to bomb out the remaining 2014s to make room for the 2015s.

So how to take advantage of the present situation?

First, get re-acquainted with how things work in Bordeaux. A quick review would be helpful to get a feel for the interplay of multiple grape varieties, the existence of numerous sub-regions and tiny appellations, and the background of the classification systems.

Hint: go to www.winesearcher.com, click on France and then on Bordeaux. Or for a shorter review, go to http://www.wine.com.

Then, ram dump the stuff about the 1855 Classification and the St. Emilion classification system. And don’t pay too much attention to the high scores and hype from Parker and The Wine Spectator.

To me, James Suckling and The Wine Enthusiast Magazine are much more reliable, if you need a guide.

Third, understand that vintage ratings are all weather-related. Bordeaux is a large region but the weather conditions are generally shared in all. When the spring weather favors a good crop, and when the summer weeks are dry and warm but not too hot, and when the harvest conditions are favorable, these conditions hold true for the entire region.

Fourth, therefore, in good to excellent vintages, like 2014 and 2015, look to less prestigious appellations which enjoy the same conditions. They often are the neighbors of a famous chateau. In St. Emilion, for example, check out wines from Montagne St. Emilion or from Castillon which is on the eastern slope as you head out of St. Emilion.

Fifth, in these less prestigious appellations, look for wines made by a real chateau-owner. Wines from co-ops and private labels from negociants are less likely to offer authentic Bordeaux.

Best Bordeaux Buys at www.wine.com

2014 Chateau Cap de Faugeres, Castillon $16.99

2014 Chateau Clement Pichon, Haut Medoc $19.99

2014 Chateau de France, Pessac-Leognan  $24.99

2015 Chateau Fourcas Dupre, Listrac-Medoc, $15.99

2015 Chateau Lanessan, Haut Medoc, $16.99

Best Buys from www.getwineonline.com

2014 Chateau de Parenchere Bordeaux Superieur, $13.99

2014 Chateau Hyot Cotes de Castillon $13.99

One from http://www.wineexpress.com

2014 Chateau La Grange Clinet Grande Reserve, Cotes de Bordeaux

14.95 by the case

New Upgrades, Downgrades: Online Wine Retailers

 

Upgrade                    www.cinderellawine.com

Cindy, operated by the Wine Library, has vastly improved its selections this quarter. Always offering free shipping on six, it has gotten out of its ho-hum rut and is now selecting some excellent wines rarely seen online. For example:

2013 World’s End  Rebel’ Reserve Chardonnay, Napa. $19.99

2013 Kangarilla Road Cabernet Sauvignon Mclaren Vale, $15.99

2013 Bello Megahertz Cabernet Sauvignon, $17.77

2013 Lone Birch Chardonnay, Washington, $9.99

However, this site still occasionally over-hypes an unknown, unproven, over-priced wine.

Upgrade                  www.cawineclub.com

The California wine club, one of the oldest, really caught fire with its special March sales. Not only were the wines priced to sell but they were also from real wineries. The $1 per case shipping offer was the clincher. Try these:

2013 Wither Hills Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough,NZ  $9.25

2015 Pedroncelli Chardonnay, Dry Creek Valley, $11.99

2012 Zaca Mesa Z-Blanc, Santa Ynez Valley $11.99

2012 Highway 20 Zinfandel, Sierra Foothills $11.99

2014 Rabbit Ridge, Tuscan Style Red, Paso Robles $12.99

Upgrade          www.wineexpress.com

After offering a string of over-priced wines such as the Buena Vista, Coppola King Kong, and Black Stallion Cabernets, this site recently redeemed itself by adding some excellent deals to the mix.

It hit the bullseye with The 2015 Redgate Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley for $15 and followed with the 2014 San Pedro Single Vineyard Maipo Valley Cab for $15.

The selection of 2015 Chianti Colli Senesi 2015 Fattoria Del Cerro $10.95 by the case reaffirmed the feeling that this site is worth checking every day.

That is if it continues to ferret out real deals

Downgrade         www.wineaccess.com

Even when offering authentic wines or good deals, this site is totally annoying. The write-ups ramble through elaborate Parker or Galloni reviews, detailed vintage assessments, and usually stray far off the main avenue by dropping names of famous people, restaurants, chefs and hotels in the wine country.

It is obvious they know every VIP in the wine world and can always get a table at the French Laundry.

The so-called narratives easily earn them the Kellyanne Conway award. But it is all far less amusing. They just seem to pile on the irrelevant information, facts, and experiences that have no direct connection to the wine being offered.

Here’s a  recent example of this disconnect:

“We’ve known Phil Titus for 25 years, his marine biologist brother Eric for a decade. The story of Lee Titus — Phil and Eric’s father, who moved to California from Minnesota just after the Depression — is a piece of St. Helena folklore. As Lee attended medical school, his future wife, Ruth Traverso, the daughter of Italian parents, was living in San Francisco’s North Beach. During family October vacations in Napa Valley, the Traversos returned to their Piedmontese roots, helping friends harvest their vineyards in Calistoga. Years later, when Ruth and Lee married, both husband and wife were bitten by the wine bug.”

And Btw, when visiting with Phil, they stayed at the Meadowood and ate fried calamari and Mary’s Chicken.

Downgrade       www.firstleafclub.com

Despite the great background and contacts, this club has not improved since coming on the scene with great fanfare and advertising support.

It asks the same silly questions to establish your preferences, and is still offering the same wines for the most part.

Somehow the private customizing algorithms end up suggesting a couple of Malbecs and ordinary Sauvignon Blancs.

To date, I’ve not seen one wine that is unusual and a super deal.

The 3 bottle trial package remains worthwhile.

 

The Cheap Bastard’s Personal Wine Shopper

 

Amidst endless hype and blather that dominates the world of online wine sellers, one offer this week stood far above the crowd. Nothing wrong with tasty wines at rock bottom prices, is there?

Ten money-saving wine deals are offered until March 31 by the California Wine club…www.cawineclub.com.

These wines are deeply discounted and this current offer includes $1 shipping on half, full or mixed cases. 

Each wine I’ve selected from about 100 listed on the site is a great value for its type, including a $40 Napa Cabernet better than most $100 Cabs.

Insider Info: This is one of the oldest and most reliable clubs that in my experience delivers on time with no hassles.

Most wines are made from small, family owned wineries.

My  Ten Picks (free of course):

2013 Wither Hills Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough,NZ  $9.25

2015 Pedroncelli Chardonnay, Dry Creek Valley, $11.99

2012 Zaca Mesa Z-Blanc, Santa Ynez Valley $11.99

2012 Highway 20 Zinfandel, Sierra Foothills $11.99

2014 Rabbit Ridge, Tuscan Style Red, Paso Robles $12.99

2014 Clos LaChance Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Central Coast $12.99

2014 Lucas & Lewellen Cabernet Franc, Estate Santa Barbara $13.99

2012 Groom Shiraz, Barossa Valley, $20.00

2012 Stolpman Syrah, Ballard Canyon $29.00

2012 Bacio Divino Cellars, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley $40

 

Five Fab February First Wine Deals

Serious Merlot

Looking for delicious, serious Merlot at an amazing price, then www.invino.com is selling the 2013 Esterlina Merlot Cole Ranch for $14.95.

This website recently bought the entire bottled inventory of Esterlina. This 2013 Merlot is from the cool, high elevation Cole Ranch site in Mendocino and consequently is a well-knit age-worthy version, not an over-ripe fruit-bomb. Original price was $45.

Classic Chardonnay

Chardonnay lovers should head directly to http://www.wiredforwine.com

which has the fantastic 2014 Nyers Chardonnay, Carneros District.You

rarely see this wines online, and the price is $19.97. That’s a real deal.

Oregon Pinot Noir Bargain

Best suggestion for exploring the much talked about 2014 Pinot Noirs from Oregon without spending way too much is to look at www.northwest-wine.com.

One of the best deals going these day is the 2014 Arterberry Maresh Pinot, Dundee Hills. Price is $24.95 a bottle.

All Purpose Malbec

Looking for a great value red wine to enjoy as your personal house wine, then shop Argentinian Malbecs at www.wine.com. My favorite is the 2015 Amalaya Malbec ($13.99). It is richer and more exciting than most, thanks to a dollop of Tannat and Syrah.

The 2015 Trivento Reserva Malbec ($10.00) offers more typical character, if you prefer to play it safe.

Curious about Cult Wines

Two remarkable cult wines are offered by http://www.vivino.com. The first is the 2013 Hanzell Chardonnay, the true Chardonnay pioneer in California. For a little history, Hanzell was the first boutique, cult winery and served as the model. Limited quantities are offered at $54.99 a bottle.

A newer cult winery, Napa Valley’s Alpha Omega, is also featured at vivino. The 2011 Napa Valley Cabernet is yours to try at $69.99. Yes, that’s a discounted price…get over it!

 

The Other Cabernet

 

As a big fan of Cabernet Franc, this unusual selection caught my eye. If you are unfamiliar with this grape variety and like to explore new wine possibilities, Kermit Lynch, the highly respected West Coast importer and wine merchant, is offering this tempting, somewhat obscure Anjou Rouge. And to further entice us, he is including shipping on 3 bottles or more until January 31st.

2015 Chateau D’Epire, “CLOS DE LA CERISAIE,” Anjou, $17.95, from kermitlynch.com

Reasonably well-informed people associate Anjou with lovely pears, Chenin Blanc or Rose wines. Cabernet Franc, however, is linked with Chinon and Bourgueil. But there are a few reds from Anjou, and this one was bottled unfined and unfiltered. And the vintage is excellent.  Given its impressive background, this is a Cab Franc to try, and by my definition,  the price is close enough to be deemed a bargain.