As someone who writes about wine and who also works for a winery, I have multitudinous bottles of wine at my house. It can get overwhelming, albeit in a very, very good way. But what this enviable “predicament” means is that I rarely buy wine. When I do, it’s a pretty epic bottle of juice. Like Preston Barbera.
Read more: Wine review: 2014 Preston Barbera Dry Creek Valley
This year, the Lodi Wine Region hosted the Wine Blogger’s Conference and several hundred bloggers enjoyed some unique fruit of their vines. Sure, there were still overly extracted, high alcohol Zins and Cabs to be had (or not), but I uncovered some pretty incredible small lot, teensy production non Zins that seriously reignited the wine geek in me. Below are some of the best Lodi wines I found.
Read more: Is Lodi the next frontier for wine geeks? The best Lodi wines I’ve tasted
Rosés are my “thing” in summer (well, anytime, actually) but great wines aren’t just going to land in my lap — research is needed. And foresight, since the best Sonoma County rosé wines sell out quickly. I already missed the window at some wineries, like Cartographe Wines in Healdsburg, but maybe I can glom on to someone else’s forethought to buy some of theirs? Here’s hoping! On my journey to find the tastiest Sonoma County rosés, I did not want for incredibly fruit-forward, bone dry, well-balanced pink stuff in my ‘hood. I tasted my way through eight or so wineries (I could have gone to a lot more but I ran out of space in my wine racks and wallet) and uncovered many summer-worthy finds. But here’s the rub… you generally won’t find any of these on wine shelves, except maybe around Sonoma County, so you’ll need to order direct from the source.
Read more: Exploring the best damn Sonoma County rosé wines
It ain’t easy being the underdog. When you have Chianti and Brunello as your big brothers and Super Tuscans as your sophisticated sister, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano has to do a lot to get attention. Add to that some pretty tough Italian regulations about growing, blending and a helluva long name, it’s been a tough marketing road for this small, 76-producer, sub-region of Tuscany. But they’re making a delicious go of it with Sangiovese as the king pin. Established in 1966, the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOC (Demonimazione di Origine Controllata) is comprised of 3,100 planted acres in the southeastern section of Tuscany, about 65 kilometers south of Siena. But grapes and wine have been in this region for millennia, with documents proving vineyards dating back to 790 AD. In 1980, the region was awarded a G on the DOC (Demonimazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita), making them among the elite wine growing regions in Italy. This year marks their 50th anniversary of being recognized with quality Italian wine.
Read more: The new (old) wines of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano
I still remember when I set eyes on Oregon’s wine country, Willamette Valley. It smelled of perfumey Pinot Noir… wafting up through the vineyards, wineries and through my hotel window. It was harvest of 2007 and I fell in love. With Oregon Pinot Noir. The love continues to this day. Willamette (rhymes with “dammit”) Valley is the main grape-growing area and one of the first wine regions (AVA) established in Oregon. It’s about an hour south of Portland, straddling the mountainous coastline. A major reason for Willamette’s success is the vast temperature fluctuations during the spring and summer growing season, allowing the fruit to develop acids — a crucial element in creating complexity in wine, especially Pinot. Over the years, distinct winegrowing regions have emerged and now the state has 17 AVAs that wineries often indicate on the bottle to educate customers. But many keep Willamette Valley on the label because they’re likely blends of several AVAs.
Read more: Impressive Oregon Pinot Noir
So the cupboard of your wine and food family and friends are already stuffed to the ceiling with glasses, random gadgets, and other sometimes-drawer-filling items. Maybe you seek something a little out of the ordinary yet perhaps a little useful for your friends and family? Check these unique wine and food lover gift ideas:
Read more: Unique wine and food lover gift ideas
It’s turkey time again and let the wine buying begin. Wine enhances any meal, but especially this one. Sharing a bottle, sharing memories and sharing stories about the year that just passed are always better over a glass of vino. Since everyone’s table looks different across the country, I’ve always preached that people should just drink what they like during The Big Meal. But, should you want some guidance, here are a few Thanksgiving wine tips as well as recipes to get you started.
Read more: Thanksgiving wine tips and recipes
Every summer, I grow my own tomatoes. Giddily and enthusiastically. Almost to a fault. I receive my heirloom seed catalog each winter, earmark the hell out of it and plant new varieties each year — starting the seedlings indoors during February for a late April outdoor planting. Watching them grow (quite impatiently, I might add) is a uniquely geeky pleasure since I know what comes to fruition after all the loving nurturing. The harvest! If you follow me on Instagram, you won’t really see pictures of my pets or family… but red, yellow, and green heirloom tomatoes.
Read more: Awesomely easy heirloom tomato salsa recipe
The Rhone Rangers, a group of wine producers who have a passion for Rhône grape varietals, spreads the gospel of grapes like Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, Viognier, Roussanne and Marsanne… all descendants of France’s Rhône Valley that grow quite happily in areas around California. Especially Paso Robles in the south-central area of the state where the intense heat coaxes these grapes into a ripening groove. Rhone Rangers holds regular tasting events across the country to introduce wine lovers to the beauty of these often overlooked yet sublime varietals. If you see one in your town, run to get tickets.
Read more: Wine reviews: Four Rhone style wines rocking my world
It was called “Black Wine” for years – the Malbec wine from Cahors in France’s Southwest region. The British were the main consumers of this rich, unctuous and tannic drink until the root louse phylloxera decimated the vineyards in the late 1800’s. 100 years later, after replanting with terroir in mind, the Cahors wine producers awakened to a different Malbec world far from their shores, in Argentina. They realized they were late to an already raging party. Undaunted by the competition, Cahors wine producers now feel it’s the Golden Age of Cahors and better late than never to reclaim Malbec’s French birthright.
Read more: French Malbec and wines of Cahors: The original