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With all best wishes that it bring
many occasions for the happy
happy enjoyment of good wines -- and
good friends to share them!
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Reds worth cellaring...Cabs, Pinots, Other
B.E.'s Cellar Notes
Special Aged Wines: B.E.'s Discoveries
Virginia/North Carolina: B.E.'s Discoveries
Interesting Links: see Other Interests
Wine Books for Wine Lovers
see B.E.'s Wine Tips
Articles by B.E. see B.E. in print
Starting a Wine Cellar: B.E.'s Wine Tips
Wines for aging: see B.E. Cellar Notes
B.E. on organic and biodynamic wines see article
Wines for Winter Feasts
Zinfandel, the quintessential American red—rich in texture with ripe-berry flavors, is an excellent choice for the rich dishes of the season: roasts of beef and lamb, hearty meat stews, including venison. Also, I'm happy to report, Zinfandel has undergone a bit of sea-change. For a time there Zinfandel meant monster reds 15-16+ percent alcohol, heavy, overly extracted, syrupy reds more like Port than table wine.
There are still such wines for those who like them, but many producers have notched back a couple of degrees. Zinfandel, however, is always a bold assertive red. I've tasted a few samples recently, persuasive and appealing. Here are some recommendations, which will work with many hearty holiday feasts:
Old Vine Zins. Old vines yield the most succulent and concentrated fruit, deep and complex, but these vines can't last forever; many have already vanished, so "old vine" Zins are becoming rarer all the time. Get them while you can.
Dry Creek Old Vine Zinfandel 2016, Dry Creek Valley*** $35 Average age of the vines that produced this wine: 95 years. This is Dry Creek Vineyard's signature Zin—and their best, in my view, among several very good ones. Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma is noted for Zinfandel with distinctive wild berry flavors (often called "brambly") and accents of black pepper. Only 2,000 cases made, so harder to find. Even rarer is Dry Creek Four Clones Vineyard*** (2016, 600 cases, $42/bottle), but it is delicious and beautifully balanced.
Heritage Vines 2016 $15-18**+ Dry Creek's
most widely available Zin--meaty with spicy berry
flavors; an excellent buy.
Peachy Canyon 2016 Bailey Vyd Paso Robles $42*** Peachy Canyon is noted for juicy Zinfandels and produces several at various price levels. This is from the venerable Bailey Vyd, dry-farmed and organic; brimming with boysenberry and other black fruits. A very seductive Zin.
Alexander Valley Vyds Sin Zin 2014 Alexander Valley $16-20*** The original label (see B.E's Cellar Selections) is so delightful I can't think why they ever change it—but the wine is consistently good, with ripe blackberry and raspberry flavors. Outstanding value!
Big, Meaty Reds
|Wine Buy(s) of the
As temperatures chill, the warmth of solid reds is invigorating. Here are a few medium-to-full-bodied wines whose meaty flavors have great appeal.
La Merrigia Montepulciano d'Abruzzo 2015 Abruzzi, Italy $14**+ Montepulciano is a place (in Tuscany), but it's also a grape, planted widely in central and southern Italy. The Abruzzi region on high elevations overlooking the Adriatic Sea produces some of the best Montepulcianos. La Meriggia is an excellent example: richly colored, medium body, dark berry flavors--great choice for grilling. At CapriFlavors in Cary.
El Coto Rioja Crianza 2015 Rioja, Spain $13-15**+ A consistently great value in medium-bodied reds: juicy red-fruit flavors, well-balanced and very tasty. Crianza means aged a year in oak.
Chiarlo Barbera d'Asti 2015 Piemonte $12.99-15** Bright red fruit flavors give this refreshing red great appeal. Barberas from Asti tend to be lighter than sturdy, earthier versions from Alba, very good choices for grilled sausages and vegetables, roast chicken or pork. Also a good sipper.
Château de Campuget 2015 Costières de Nimes Rhône Valley $12-14**+ Smooth and round this well-balanced quaff is firm but juicy, and an excellent choice for grilled meats.
Chinon Les Terrasses 2015, Lambert Loire Valley $17-18**+ Juicy red fruits (cherry, red currant) in this cabernet franc make it a perfect transitional red, but actually quite nice on its own.
Dry Creek Vineyard 2017 Sauvignon Blanc Dry Creek Valley***
$17-20, and well worth it--one of the tastiest Sauvignons I've had recently, due perhaps to 13.5% musqué in the blend which lends spicy accents to the zest of tangerine and the creaminess of lemon curd. Very well-balanced, youthful and fresh, an excellent choice for seafood and shellfish (also beet and goat cheese salad). wbow
Foursight 2016 Semillon Mendocino $25*** Varietal Semillon is rare. An important white grape in Bordeaux, mainly Sauternes, semillon is best known elsewhere for blending with sauvignon blanc, so I was very interested in this version from Charles family vineyards. I like semillon's stony mineral character, but the Foursight 2016 is more intense: assertive citrus flavors, due to 20% sauvignon blanc, but a nice fig accent that lends complexity. Full-bodied, powerful white. Very small production, available mostly in California, but check website: www.foursightwines.com
Elicio Vermentino 2017 Rhône Valley $15**+ Vermentino, happy to report, is much more widely planted today--its bright, crisp fruit and tangy mineral accents make it an excellent match for seafood and shellfish. This "Méditerranée" wine from the southern Rhône is dry and most appealing, as well as excellent value.
Jordan 2015 Chardonnay Russian River $32*** Excellent! But don't be in a rush to drink this beautifully structured, deftly oaked Chardonnay—it will be even better in two or three years (2020-21), though its finesse is most enjoyable now. Recently I had the 2012, which was absolutely lovely!
Great Seasonal Match; Wild Mushrooms and Chardonnay
T'is the season for wild mushrooms--cèpes, white truffles, wild-gathered shitake, portobella; sauteed in butter or olive oil, they are a savory complement to shrimp, Dover sole, snapper or halibut, chicken breast. A deftly oaked chardonnay meshes nicely with the faint earthiness (think forest floor) of wild 'shrooms. Recently I made shrimp with cèpes very agreeably paired with Dry Creek Vyd's 2015 DCV Block 10 Chardonnay ($30); the wine's pear-oak-vanilla accents worked superbly.
Other great choices: Jordan 2015 (above), Olivier Leflaive 2016 Bourgogne Blanc Les Setilles ($20-24), or Marimar Torres La Masia 2017 ($35-39).