This is a dry red wine produced by Symington’s Dow’s operation, best known for its Port wine production. The grapes (30% Tinta Barroca, 25% Touriga Nacional, 25% Touriga Franca, 15% Tinta Roriz, and 5% Tinto Cão) are grown in the same Douro Valley and is made from the same grapes as Port, only it is vinified to be totally dry. (Initially the wine was not for commercial sale but just used internally by the family.)
Notes of sweet licorice and a slight green pepper are surprisingly engaging on the nose. This leads to an engaging palate of roasted meats, peppery grilled vegetables, more of that licorice, and a sultry, charred wood character on the finish. There’s lots of complexity here, and it’s a wine that drinks well above expectations considering its extremely low price.
A- / $13 / vinsdandurand.com
The Don in question here is the famous Don Sebastiani, and this is his (and his family’s) first wine under this new label.
A classic Sonoma chardonnay, the Don & Sons Chardonnay offers a hefty nose of oak and brown butter, with plenty of vanilla. On the palate, the fruit becomes more evident, though the apple and lemon is filtered through notes of walnuts, baking spice, and ginger — the lattermost which lingers considerably on the finish. Bold in body, this wine pulls no punches en route to its huge finish, bold with fruit and vanilla, and classically California all the way.
B+ / $50 / donandsons.com
Two new bottlings from Napa’s Flora Springs!
2016 Flora Springs Chardonnay Family Select Napa Valley – This Napa chardonnay is surprisingly restrained, with oaky aromas present, but modest, allowing notes of vanilla, chestnuts, and florals to come to the fore. On the palate, lemon is more evident, as is a gently sweet nougat note. The finish runs to honeysuckle and some baking spice. Nice little wine. B+ / $35
2016 Flora Springs Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley – Initially a bit overwhelming with ammonia, this wine quickly settles into a routine of heavy-duty florals and minerals, with an apple-hued, acidic tang on the back end. Relatively unremarkable on the whole considering the price. B- / $26
Ribera del Duero is a well-known Spanish wine region, but Abadia Retuerta chooses not to use that regional name, instead selecting the more flexible “Vino de la Tierra de Castilla y Leon” geographical indication. Though it hails from the same part of the country, Abadia Retuerta’s Sardon de Duero designation lets the winery choose more liberally among grape varieties used in the blend — in this case the wine ends up as 75% tempranillo, 15% cabernet sauvignon, and 10% syrah (plus a minor percentage of other random grapes).
The finished product — a “Sardon de Duero” — is bold and opulent with aromas of cherries, wet fur, hazelnuts, and roasted meats. The palate is lightly herbal and bitter, the cherry core taking on more dried herbal notes and the finish edging toward a balsamic character. Complex and engaging, and an interesting spin on Spain.
A- / $25 / abadia-retuerta.com
A classically-styled New Zealand sauvignon blanc, this is a pineapple- and lemon-stuffed fruit bomb, with a fair amount of pepe du chat giving it a subtle ammonia-laced edge. The finish feels a bit on the flat side, but as an aperitif the wine is eminently drinkable, should something uber-tropical be on your mind.
B / $13 / whitehaven.co.nz
Another Vin de France offering — composed of grapes sourced from anywhere in the country — this chenin blanc offers pungent aromas of honeysuckle and grassy notes, leading into a palate of lightly tropical notes, apricots, and a slightly perfumed floral character. The finish is surprisingly acidic and mineral-heavy, slightly sour but otherwise clean and refreshing.
An amazing value.
A- / $10 / famille-bougrier.fr
For most drinkers, garnacha is a seldom thought-of grape, though it is grown seemingly all around the world (either as garnacha or grenache). This garnacha from Las Rocas hails from Spain’s Catalayud region in between Madrid and Barcelona, and it showcases some of the more inspirational notes of the grape.
It’s fruity for sure, loaded with notes of plum, cassis, and cherry, but it folds in layers of tea leaf, lightly roasted coffee bean, and some beef jerky character. The finish adds in some spices while returning to fruit — strawberries this time — which dulls some of the earlier nuance, but at least it never skimps on power.
B+ / $14 / lasrocaswine.com