Although I unfortunately missed the witticisms during the #AlbarinoDay on Twitter May 9th, I eagerly consumed the quips from my fellow bloggers post haste. Albarino [al-bah-REEN-nyo], a finicky, aromatic white grape, is grown primarily in the small, green, lush region on the northwestern coast of Spain, Rías Biaxas [REE-ahse BYEE-shash]. The grapes here practically drown in over 50 inches of rain a year. In order to avoid rot, the fruit is hung far above the wet ground, using granite support posts, rather than wood, to support the vine canopies. Rías Biaxas only produces whites and Albarino is the primary grape, which deliciously complements the area’s primary cuisine, seafood. The flavor and style is similar to New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc mixed with the creamy fuller-bodiedness of Chardonnay, and it smells and tastes like a fruit salad of green apples, pears and citrus.
Read more: Underappreciated yet joyous Albarino wines: The best tweets from #AlbarinoDay
Oberon’s winemaker Tony Coltrin grew up in Napa Valley, which makes him ideal to create a Cabernet Sauvignon crafted from many different vineyards around the area. He sources grapes from all over the valley, from the esteemed Howell Mountain wine district to Stag’s Leap (two seriously high dollar appellations) in order to find the best flavors for Oberon’s blend.
Read more: Wine review: Oberon 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley
I applaud the cojones that California winemakers are growing. Instead of blending in obscure red varietals that grow so extraordinarily well in this state (see Tempting Tempranillo), they slap grape names like Aglianico and Sangiovese on labels now. In a society that generally wine shops by comfort zone, that’s pretty daring. You may have heard of Sangiovese, the grape found in all Italian Chiantis, but Aglianico [ah LEE ahn EE co] is one of those sleeper grapes even most wine writers have to look up or study for the CSW exam. Aglianico is one of the world’s oldest wine grapes (think Romans swilling), originating in southern Italy’s Campania wine region near Naples. Amador County, with its dry, arid climate, mimics the weather in Campania so the fruit’s success there makes sense. That, and a slew of Italian settled there during the Gold Rush so the vines have been thriving there a while now.
Read more: Wine reviews: Terra d’Oro 2009 Barbera and Terra d’Oro 2008 Sangiovese Amador County
The Fattori family has been farming their hillside vineyards since the turn of last century, when Antonio Fattori planted vines near a village called Terrossa. Currently, Antonio’s grandson, Antonio Fattori, is the winemaker at the winery, who, in addition to four Soaves, produces a sparkling wine, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio.
Read more: Wine review: Fattori Danieli 2010 Soave DOC
When Chappellet Winery opened its doors in 1967, 32 wineries operated in Napa. Robert Mondavi – now owned by corporate wine company Constellation – was number 31. Today, over 400 wineries share the same valley. Early on in this recession, Chappellet began combating the sales spiral by concentrating on the customer — they lowered their prices. “We wanted people to feel the love,” said Cyril Chappellet, 2nd generation winemaker. But they also stayed true to their history. This 2008 Cabernet effort tastes like it.
Read more: Wine review: Chappellet 2008 Signature Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley
A dear friend gave me a 1.5 liter magnum of this elegant sparkling wine for Christmas and I almost peed my pants. (Available to buy online only, by the way). There’s nothing quite like looking at a family-sized bottle of bubbly and savoring the ensuing drinking fantasies. I haven’t opened the behemoth yet but the little 750-milliliter brothers of the California sparkler are a staple in my house. A blend of 49% Chardonnay, 49% Pinot Noir and 2% Pinot Meunier grapes, Cuvee 20’s new, sleek packaging celebrates Judy Jordan’s 25 years of making sparkling wine in Sonoma’s Russian River Valley. They’ve had some time to get it right using the same production methods and grape varietals established in France. Sure, not that long in French Champagne terms but, hey, we’re a new country full of zeal, still finding our wine way.
Read more: Sparkling wine review: J Winery Cuvee 20 Brut
My history with Napa Valley’s Schramsberg Winery goes back a few years. Back in 2006, I spent a day during harvest in 2006 with their former winemaker, Craig Roemer, and a few days at their incredible sparkling winemaking immersion course, Camp Schramsberg, in 2010. So you might say I possess an affinity for their outstanding bubbly. It’s elegant like French Champagne, remains family-owned and their quality is consistent like the sun setting.
Read more: Sparkling wine review: Schramsberg Blanc de Noirs Brut 2007
Barbera is an unfortunately overlooked red grape/wine from the Piedmont region of Italy. But it’s SO tasty. Plenty of fruit but also high acidity, making it a quintessential food pairing experience. You’ll find Barberas from the Asti sub region, which often have often a more feminine style (due to the soil structure in that region) and the Alba sub region, producing the yin, masculine version. Barberas from Asti, as a general rule, appeal more to my taste. And this Asti from Vietti kinda rocked my world.
Read more: Wine review: Vietti 2007 Barbera d’Asti Tre Vigne
Most consumers have heard of Penfold’s, and unfortunately have mostly tasted their somewhat generic, everyday Cabernet and Shiraz blends. But their Bin Series bottlings, made from a more exclusive, higher tier of fruit, are simply breathtaking (and worth the extra $8 or so). Established in 1962, Penfold’s Bin 128 Coonawarra Shiraz series is made from grapes grown on Penfold’s-owned land and produces a consistently tasty wine vintage after vintage.
Read more: Wine review: Penfolds Bin 128 2008 Shiraz Coonawarra
Chianti is one of the classic food wines of Italy. In this wine-soaked country, regional foods are designed to pair with regional wines. [Read about my foodie trip to Italy). They’re crafty that way. Like Garanimals back in the day. In Tuscany, the locals sip Chianti, Chianti Classico and Chianti Classico Reserva (what’s the difference?) with red sauces, long-simmered bean dishes and slow-roasted meats. The higher acidity of the Sangiovese grape complements the high acidity of tomato sauces but also contrasts with the delicious fat of the meat dishes. Matches made in foodie heaven.
Read more: Wine review: Castello d’Albola 2007 Chianti Classico