Current reports say wine prices won’t reach the offensive heights we’ve seen in the past ten years for quite a while, if ever again. Value is the new norm. Bad for the wineries who have enjoyed mega profits and success but good thing for us, right? Now, we can enjoy $60, $80, $100 for (almost) half price. Some highlights of red, white and sparkling wines I’ve enjoyed over the past few months.
Schramsberg 2007 Blanc de Noirs
I’m a long-time, borderline stalker fan of this Napa sparkling winery. These web pages are filled with glowing reviews of their bubblies that have been served to practically every American President since Nixon (witness my obsession). This vintage of Blanc de Noirs is made with 74 percent pinot noir but also some chardonnay added in for good acidity and flavor balance. Refreshing citrus and unripe peach make way for the earthiness of fresh bread yeastiness and roasted almonds. Well balanced with a long tart finish. 12.8% alcohol. Sweetness=1. 5 stars. $40.
Jordan 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley
California Cabernets often get ripped on and I’m guilty as charged. Most have un-Cab-like sweetness and too much oak, catering to wine critics like Robert Parker and James Laube who love their wines made this way. It’s sad yet true that ratings sell wine so many wineries cave. Luckily, one family-owned Sonoma winery doesn’t… Jordan. Although full of fruit like blackberry, black cherry and blueberry, it has an austere, sophisticated quality, like a NYC socialite. It gives you what you need but doesn’t become too available or in your face. Silky tannins with well integrated, understated vanilla oak flavor and food friendly acidity. 13.5% alcohol. Sw=1. 5 stars. $55.
Taz 2007 Syrah Goat Rock Vineyard Santa Barbara
Taz Vineyards is a small producer in Santa Barbara County north of Los Angeles. You may have heard of the movie Sideways…? Filmed in Santa Barbara. They sourced these Syrah grapes from a relatively cool climate vineyard growing just beyond the famed Bien Nacido Vineyard where some of California’s best Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs are birthed. (Learn more about Santa Barbara). This fantastic wine has so much going on, I’m just going to roll it out: Full-bodied, elegantly tamed tannins, rich blackberry, bittersweet chocolate, figs, strong coffee, black cherry, smoky soy sauce (yes, odd but true) and leather with black pepper finish. Great food wine with braised short ribs. Sw=1. 5 stars. $28. Available for purchase online.
Beringer 2008 Private Reserve Chardonnay Napa
Again with Napa Valley… I know, but I have to give this behemoth winery some props when it churns out wine as good as this. Unlike many of its California brethren, this Chard features restrained oaky-butteriness with a smooth, creamy mouthfeel. Bursting with peaches, lemon rind, pineapple, butter-sauteed hazelnuts. Fairly low acidity, except on the finish, where it shines like a new penny. Refined and delicious. 14.9% alcohol. Sw=2. 5 stars. $35.
J Lohr 2007 Petite Sirah Tower Road Paso Robles
So you’re looking for something red, rich and a little outside the norm? This Petite Sirah just might be the ticket. (Learn more about Petite Sirah). Concentrated and port-like with gobs of black fruit and dark chocolate. Velvety tannins, high alcohol and full-bodied like Marilyn Monroe. But it’s not all fruit… entering into the picture is black tea, a hint of meatiness and cedar. Almost over the top rich but they manage to reel it in with a dry, lingering finish. 14.8% alcohol. Sw=3. 4 stars. $35.
Other expensive wines worth the cash I’ve had lately:
A few from Rioja
Sea Smoke 2007 Pinot Noir
Henry’s Drive Reserve Shiraz