This is a simple yet sultry zinfandel (produced by the Dry Creek Valley’s Geyser Peak), a slightly brambly expression of blueberry and blackberry notes, with a cassis finish. Some subtle notes of tea leaf and cola add to the charm of this otherwise food-friendly and wildly drinkable wine — perhaps even more so because it has just a touch of age on it?
A- / $30 / xyzinwines.com
Cosentino’s Cigar bottling (not new, but recently given an updated label) is a mighty soft zin, pretty with lots of fresh blueberry and baking spices, but also heavy with floral notes, particularly violets. It’s a nice start, and it’s an easy drinker on these early days of spring, but the body is muddied by overly jammy notes and a finish that focuses more on brown sugar than on anything I’ve ever tasted in a cigar.
B / $22 / cosentinowinery.com
You’ll have to check the back label for the details, but Illumination is a white wine made at Quintessa, which is best known as a cult producer of red wine. Here, however, is a white from the property, blended from 39% Sauvignon Blanc Musqué (a particularly aromatic clone of Sauvignon Blanc), 48% Sauvignon Blanc, and 13% Semillon. The fruit is sourced 58% from Napa County and 42% from Sonoma County. Aging is done in French oak barrels (8% new), Acacia barrels (5% new), egg-shaped concrete fermenters, and stainless steel barrels.
It’s altogether a fine expression of Sauvignon Blanc, loaded with intensely floral aromatics and notes of apricots underneath. Some light ammonia notes emerge as the wine opens up (and warms up), revealing a body that offers notes of dried fruit, dried flowers, and some nutmeg notes. The finish hints at green tea while concluding on honeysuckle. A very expressive and worthwhile wine.
A- / $55 / illuminationwine.com
Don’t let them tell you that merlot is dead. St. Francis’s 2014 Sonoma Valley bottling is loaded with character, starting with floral aromatics and, on the palate, gentle leather and tobacco notes. After a slug of modest tannin the wine bursts forth with blackberry and rhubarb character before revealing some lingering coffee notes on the finish.
A- / $40 / stfranciswinery.com
Italy has its share of cult wines, but it’s also loaded with bargains, like these three wines (all imported by Kobrand), which showcase a tour of different Italian wine regions, all coming in at less than $20 a bottle. Let’s take a look!
2013 Masi Campofiorin – A “Superveronese” blended from corvina, rondinella, and molinara grapes (the same used for Amarone). A beautiful and balanced wine. Lush berry fruit notes pave the way toward light hints of vinegar, fresh herbs, and a finish that nods at nutmeg and ginger. A beautiful wine that drinks with more complexity than its price tag would indicate, the 2013 expression is one of the best examples of this wine in recent years. A- / $16
2013 Agricola Punica Montessu Isola dei Nuraghi IGT – A Sardinian blend of mainly carignane plus other grapes. This wine is a bit flat, its berry fruit filtered through a bit of applesauce and, emerging on the nose with time, some tar and leather elements. The body is muted, heavy on cherry fruit and meatier notes, with a fairly short finish. Tastes like a lot like the “house wine” at your favorite Italian restaurant. B- / $15
2013 Tenuta di Salviano Turlo Lago di Corbara DOC – A blend of 50% sangiovese, 30% cabernet sauvignon, and 20% merlot. This Umbrian blend is one of the best values I’ve ever found out of Italy. Beautiful cherry and raspberry fruit is deftly balanced with notes of fresh herbs, a touch of tobacco, a hint of vanilla, and a few green notes around the edges. Even the greenery doesn’t detract from what is a surprisingly lush and balanced experienced, perfectly quaffable on its own but an excellent companion to pasta dishes, as well. A / $13
I’ve reviewed Warre’s 10 year old Tawny Port twice before, in 2009 and 2012. Now it’s 2017 and time to give this venerable bottling a fresh look.
I’ve commented on the relative simplicity of this bottling in the past, and little has changed here, except perhaps for my palate (and level of experience with these wines). Today, Otima 10 feels awfully thin compared to other tawnies on the market, lightly sweet and bursting with strawberries to the point where it really feels more like a ruby than a tawny port. There’s plenty of simple sugar sweetness, juiced strawberries, and a light backbone of raisins and spice, but the overall impression is one of jelly left to ferment. A good jelly, mind you.
B / $26 (500ml) / warre.com
Sparkling gruner from an Austrian winery called Szigeti — officially Sektkellerei Szigeti? What could be more fun to drink!?
This fruit-forward, nonvintage bottling offers lots of juiciness, but keeps things quite dry on the finish. There’s ample green apple, some light peach notes, and a bit of baking spice to mix things up, all filtered through a moderate to heavy level of fizz, approaching that of Champagne, but without so much yeastiness. (The wine does use traditional Champagne yeasts, however.) The tart finish makes the wine feel appropriately festive, and after a few glasses it makes saying “Szigeti” (ZIG-it-ee) all the more fun.
B+ / $22 / thewinebowgroup.com