Thursday, November 20, 2014

A Word on Oak

Oak was probably originally used in winemaking for practical purposes.  They had to put the wine someplace and oak had some terrific advantages over holes in the ground and burlap sacks.  It was abundantly available (no doubt the tradition started in France), less breakable than amphoras, and, at least back then, was inexpensive.  It's also relatively easy to work with, very re-suable, and imparts some pretty desirable characteristics.

Oak's influence began to edge in to the center stage of wine styles in recent decades, sharing the limelight with fruit and terrior, with the trend hitting different regions at different times and with mixed results. The vogue, contagious as vogues inherently are, appears to persist in its most aggressive form in some winemaking corners like lingering colds.  One thing is for sure, with all the currently available and more cost-effective alternatives, the continued use of oak - especially new oak - is less about necessity than intention. And whatever the intention, the manifestation can be disastrous - and on a massive scale.

Like cologne, a little goes a long way.

Just as it is with people, oak's greatest strength in its extreme is also its greatest weakness.  And, so, its application - American and Slovenian just as much as French - has become for some a blunt instrument rather than a whisper, complement, or structural bolster. 

To wit, a string of recent tastings has left something of an astringent stripping agent on my teeth - sort of a semi-permanent paneled library in my mouth.  Tasting through a handful of expensive Napa Valley reds (Napa loves French oak), Riojas, and Ribera del Dueros (Spain loves American oak), the wines categorically suffered from such over-application, it's as though they were being punished for grave misdeeds.  Wines treated with this kind of clumsy heavy-handedness are bludgeoned into an unflattering version of themselves.  Worse still, obscured by this masking, it's hard for the drinker to sense what actually came off the vine - which is often beautiful.  And, besides, oak as a prominent flavor just doesn't taste good.

At the other end of the spectrum, traditionalists are rubbing elbows with contemporary stylistic winemaking hipsters who eschew the use of non-neutral anything in the vinification process.  For the old guard, this is just maintenance of the status quo.  Their old and long-neutral oak barrels don't leak, so why should they replace them?  And neutrality allows wine to channel its place and variety without noise or other complications.  The vast majority of the old world operates under this MO, as do a few US producers (Tablas Creek comes to mind).

For the new guard who embrace a minimalist, less-is-more philosophy, expensive oak barrels are as uncool as wearing a suit to work. All sorts of alternative vessels are being played with, from ceramic egg-shaped things to amphora to concrete.  And there's the now well-under-way and popular "naked" movement.

To bring this diatribe into balance, it's worth being plain about my own preferences: oak is not the enemy.  When used in appropriate doses it can springboard a good wine into something greater and longer-lived.  Its tannic properties can offer a structural framework for fruit that might otherwise be flabby or unfocused.  Its toast influence can induce a becoming creamy vanilla streak that offsets and flatters concentrated flavors and lend some exciting grip, too.  In those cases, I'm a huge fan.

But one is left scratching one's head at the hammer-happy carpentry approach to wines which would otherwise breathe and be themselves - for the better.  That is both a tragedy and a learning opportunity for winemaker and consumer alike.

Happy exploring - and keep that toothbrush close by!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Recycle Bin, Week of Nov. 17

A smattering of leftover (pre-$12 gauntlet) this week, including a trio of Ribera del Dueros.  Stay tuned as there are a couple of extra installments to come in the next few days.  Enjoy!



2012 Beringer Red Wine Paso Robles 'The Waymaker' $20
Dark, mysterious, and inviting. Given that this is from Paso (and labeled as a 'Red Wine'), one might expect an overly extracted or overblown or hot or all of the above. Instead, this full-bodied red has grip and tension - always a good forbearer of things to come. (And look at those bubbles!) So, how does it play and hour or two decanted? Pretty much the same as on opening. A big wine delivering on full-throttle doses of pretty much everything.  Lacks the finesse of Beringer's Knights Valley wines, but also lacks their now-lofty price tag.






2011 Ribon Ribera del Duero Crianza $32 (Sample)
More invigorating and energetic than a crisp fall morning. Taut and coiled, full of anticipation and ready to pounce with its abundant vigor. Dense and intense. Probably would benefit from another year in bottle to unwind a little, but that would require patience. And having had this now, my reserves are low.
2013 Altos de Tamaron Ribera del Duero $11 (Sample)
Straightforward and well made.  Medium-bodied with blunt edges characteristic of Riberas.  A lot of like here.

2011 Bodegas A Fernandez Tinto Pesquera Ribera del Duero $40
(Sample)
Powerful, massive, inky, and classy.  Its size is framed by spicy oak that leads into a mouth-coating, tannic-tinged finish that's a mile long .  Better put on your big boy britches before saddling this one.  Whoa!


2013 Ecco Domani Pinto Grigio Venezie $9 (Sample)
This might not win any awards, but I like it for its simplicity and fresh brightness. Akin to California Sauvignon Blancs from the 90s with a refreshing greeness that doesn't tip towards tart. An easy drinker that explains why this variety had so much mass appeal.



Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Recycle Bin, Week of Nov. 10

Values abound this week from Argentina, Italy and, of noteworthy mention is the Rhone Valley.  Cotes du Rhones (CDR's) in particular have been overdelivering this year and are derserving of your attention and exploration.  Historically, my chief complaint of CDR's has been their consonant genericness.  Typically blunt and obtuse, these wines have tended to channel a message of red wine - no more, no less.  You'd stick your nose in the glass, take a sip, and think to yourself, yup, that's red wine - a forgettable experience.  Not so today.  Perhaps due in part to a string of terrific vintages starting with 2009 and in part improved winemaking.  Whatever the reasons, almost categorically, the CDR's I've sampled at various price levels ($9-$29) this year have failed to disappoint.  What's even better news is that the $10-$12 price point seems to be the sweetest spot.  This bodes well for experimentation as the high win rate makes this a low risk region.

To test this, I recently grabbed a handful of $10 CDRs to see if any were winners.  Turns out they all have been.  Full of energy and grip and personality, these authentic wines are fancy enough to be suitable with a nice Saturday night dinner and affordable enough to enjoy on a Tuesday night with take out.  Keep an eye our for the recommended bottlingse, but don't be afraid to be adventuresome - especially if you can find a Cotes du Rhone Villages in your price range.  Cheers!


2011 Rutini Malbec Mendoza 'Encuentro' (Sample) $16
A very accessible Malbec with decidedly French influences.  Fresh, medium-full bodied, and in full command of a potpourri of herbal and earth high-toned, aromatic flavors. Enough guts here to stand up to charred meat with aplomb. As pleasant a Malbec as I've had in many months.

2012 Rutini Malbec Mendoza 'Trumpeter' (Sample) $11
Insence-like aromatics come off this approachable and affordable Malbec's nose. Medium-bodied and lacking in the hard edges typical of inexpensive Malbec. Fresh, juicy flavors make this a go to for autumnal roast poultry dishes. As French as it's elder sibling (above).
2013 Gran Passione Rosso Veneto $10
Made according to the same methodology as a Ripasso, but since it's not from Valpolicella, they can't label it as such (or charge as much).  If you like your reds dense and extracted with a good dose of Italian acidity, this head-turner is a screaming bargain, if a little clumsy in its structure.  A terrific crowd pleaser worth having on hand.

2012 Les Ameriniers Cotes du Rhone Villages 'Signargues' $10
Just as advertised above - this is a winner of a wine that provides unavoidable drinking pleasure, especially at this price point.  Hot damn!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Twelve Dollar Gauntlet

The ground beef package reads $7.29 per pound.  "All natural", not grass-fed.  Store brand.  $7.29 bloody dollars per pound.  Yeah, they have grass-fed, too: $12.99 a pound.  Ground beef!  Not prime rib or tenderloin or strip steaks; ground beef.  The pork section isn't much relief, either.  Nor the poultry case with its eight buck boneless breast and twenty dollar duck.  For crying out loud.

Food is expensive nowadays.  Know what else?  Wine.

Call it curmudgeonly frugality. Call it the onset of winter blues. Call it whatever you want, but this wine lover is throwing down the gauntlet. The $12 gauntlet.

Part experiment, part resolution, for the next month I will only be purchasing wines with a price point at or below $12. Inspired by some recently sampled (and exceptional) $10 Cotes du Rhones and disgusted by some recently sampled overpriced plonk, I look forward to the challenge (and the savings) this experience shall no doubt provide.

The reviews you will see here will all abide by this rule with the exception of press samples received for review. There's a pretty good chance that will translate to fewer reviews, but a higher percentage of terrific bang-for-the-buck finds. And with that as the gauntlet having been thrown down, I humbly solicit your help and advice on where to look for these hidden gems.

Cheers!



Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Recycle Bin, Week of Oct. 27

Sorry, no kitschy Halloween wines this week, just scary-good, blood red bargains.  The theme for this week's installment is screaming VALUE.  We've really been swimming in outstanding buys - all red for the changing weather, and all wines which you should run out and scoop up by the truck load.  This is as exciting a four pack as we've had in a while, so if you've been looking for an excuse to stock up for fall - get to it!


2010 Villadoria Nebiolo Langhe 'Bricco Magno' $15
A Nebbiolo that drinks like a Barolo-Barbaresco hybrid for $16?  Yup.  An unavoidable, attention-commanding experience. I can't figure out whether this is an expertly manipulated wine made to seem like an extraordinary example of Nebbiolo or if it is just incredibly well sourced and made at a the fifth of the price it ought to be. Regardless, this here is quite a joy to drink. And by joy, I mean terrific.

2013 Angeline Pinot Noir California $11
For $11 this capable  Pinot more than delivers. Typical of Californian Pinot Noir these days - full frontal fruit and a nice thrum of saliva duct-inducing acidity. And when was the last time you saw palatable Pinot for $11?  I'll belly up for more of this soon. 

2012 Chateau D'Aigueville Cotes du Rhone Villages $10
Yes, this is a repeat review, but worth the redundancy.  Whoa.  This wine exudes authenticity and quality.  Benefiting from an hour or two of air, it's a medium-full bodied CDR that hits on multiple pleasure points.  If you think Cotes du Rhones means rustic, hard-edged wine, you must try this.  Drinks more like a Hard to believe it's just $10!

2012 Le Trois Couronnes Cotes du Rhone $10
Bam!  Big and almost boozy with boisterous fruit and racy acids.  Bordering on clumsy, but appealing for its obviousness and easy-going demeanor.









Sunday, October 19, 2014

Recycle Bin, Week of Oct. 20

It's been a bonanza of reasonably priced wines lately.  Is it surprising that none are domestic?  Perhaps not.  Spain, Italy, and France are all well represented in this all red mix.  Values abound, ranging from a Trader Joe's Spanish red to a still-young (but 5 year old) Rioja Reserva - all of which deserve your attention as we head into cooler weather.  Enjoy!

2009 Cune Rioja Reserva $28 (Sample)
It took three days open for this wine to relax and shed its strong raw oak sheen, which is a tell of its longevity.  How wines like this - at once so young and yet already five years old - come on to the market at accessible prices is a gift to consumers.  Once this tightly wound beast had enough time to breathe, well, it delivered layers of medium-weight, full-throttle goodness in gently lapping waves.  The fruit, previously disguised by tension, emerges in lackadaisical ease across the tongue.  Ah, there are some benefits to growing older - and up.
2012 Tikal Malbec/Bonarda Mendoza 'Patriota' $20 Still as dependable a steak wine as ever, but now with an overt and proud herbal/vegetal streak. Happy to see that its price hasn't crept up the way most popular wines' have.
2012 Collazzi Toscana IGT 'Liberta' $20 (Sample)
Soft, accessible, and with round, pleasant flavors. And easy wine to drink without being challenged by intellectual or academic demands. 

2010 Monte Ducay CariƱena Riserva $9
Well. This is a stumper. A sub-ten dollar wine from Trader Joe's that tastes exactly as it should - except that it doesn't taste like it's an $8-9 wine. Classic gentle Spanish spice on soft, friendly fruit and a (thankfully) subdued oak frame. Nothing mind blowing, but very pleasant indeed. Which maybe is mind blowing all by itself. 

2012 Chateau D'Aigueville Cotes du Rhone Villages $10

An absolute pleasure to drink. It's a true CDR and it's got a purity of fruit that anyone can appreciate.  But it's its oozing authenticity that keeps you coming back for more - and smiling.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Cinsault: A Master Class

You've really got to hand it to the smarties at LoCa.  Earlier this year they put together what has to be the most compelling projection of an AVA's terroir ever to land on our doorstep.  The gist of it was this: one sub-appellation, one variety, specific winemaking standards/constraints, from six different vineyards.  It was a master class in Lodi Zin and just what a difference vineyard site makes.

In their most recent installation - an equally intriguing master class - they switched it up a bit: a single (obscure) variety from a single vineyard made by four different winemakers.  The grape?  Cinsault.  The vineyard?  The oldest contiguous Cinsault vineyard in the world: the Bechtold vineyard in Lodi.  Planted in 1885, these vines were producing viable wine grapes long before Edison demonstrated his first viable bulb.

Whoa.


So, before we get to the meat of these wines, what is Cinsault?  It's a vinifera primarily used in blending in french wines and is occasionally bottled on its own - also in France.  Weight-wise, it's pretty close to Pinot, but with less insanity-inducing fringe flavors and more grip and tenacity. It would stand up to a hearty chicken dish and wouldn't overwhelm salmon.  If you're familiar with better Beaujolais, you'd be on the right track. 

Despite the obscurity of the grape, here are four bottlings all from the same vineyard - not in France, but in Lodi, California.  Often times when winemakers produce small batches of any single variety, the wines end up being caricatures of themselves. It seems almost unavoidable that when bottling 100% of any grape, whether intended as a blending grape or not, the winemaker runs the risk of lopsided distortion. And, so, with these, I was prepared for exactly that.

There was no need for worry.

Each of these wines is a complete package. And even though they'll all came from the same vineyard, each has its own personality. Certainly I have my favorites from this lot, but collectively they bat 1000 - there is not a single loser in the mix - an impressive feat for any collection of spice rack bottlings and yet another reason to look to Lodi for both quality and value. I returned to these wines again and again over the course of a day and found them to be collectively compelling.

2011 Onesta $29
Beautiful clarity in the garnet color which shimmers in the glass. The nose has bright red fruit and a touch of graphite on it, Which lens in air of mystery and seriousness. Midweight and with ample tension, acidity plays a starring role in this energetic wine. 

2013 Michael David $25
Liquid rubies shimmering in the light. A soft, round, and inviting nose beckons you into the glass. The nose carries through faithfully to the palate where well integrated toasted oak makes for a broadly appealing and complete wine. Finishes minutes long. Popular, if ultimately simple.

2013 Turley $17
Fresh crushed flowers and berries on the aromatics give way to a decidedly continental style. Fresh and very stylistically French. If this were tasted blind, I wouldn't pick it as a Californian in a million years.

2012 Estate Crush $26
Leaner and sharper on the nose than any of the others, and that's not where the differences and. The broad frequency of flavors come fast and from all directions, creating an intriguing, if dizzying drinking experience. The serious, multifaceted wine made well.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Suditrol: Alto Adige Revisited

Last fall a batch of sample bottlings from this northern Italian region arrived for review.  They impressed well enough, but in retrospect were merely a warm up for this year's array. 

The diversity of wines coming from this foothill area is impressive.  Reds and whites alike are striking for their clarity and freshness, with al dente acidity a common thread across all varieties.  What's even more attractive about these wines is that they represent a categorical value.  As we head into autumn, the smart wine shopper will dispense with preconceptions and explore the vast drinking pleasures of Sudtirol.

Editorial preference leans toward the Schiava and Pinot Grigio.  Yes, really.




2013 Kellerei Kaltern Campaner Vernatsch Schiava $12
Gorgeous and luminous in the glass with a light red color that refracts like a precious stone.  Similarly fleet-footed in the mouth, but packing multiple (pleasurable) dimensions of flavor and acidity. An attention-getting experience made all the more repeatable with its modest (12.5%) alcohol.  Must. Find. More.  Soon. Outstanding value!


2009 Elena Walch Lagrein Riserva 'Castel Ringberg' $36
So, this is why people swoon when talking about this grape. Occupying a panoramic range of flavors and aromatics, this wine delivers a dizzying kaleidoscope in full-blown Technicolor. While light on its feet, it has the acidity and profundity of a much bolder wine.


2012 St Michael-Eppan Sauvignon Blanc 'Lahn' $18
Energetic and nearly vibrating with fresh grass cut flavors. Lean and with a strong acidic thread to keep it clean and sharp. Brilliant wine.

2012 Tiefenbrunner Turmhauf Pinot Blanc 'Anna' $15
More sharp and crisp. Focused, lean, and reflective of higher altitude provenance. That said, it is not without varietally correct fruit character. Definitely one to accompany a meal to offset its edges, rather than a front porch quaffer.  One would think this wine had even more vigor when slightly younger.  Another smoking value. 

2013 Castel Sallegg Pinot Grigio Pulvernal' $15
Want to know what Pinot Grigio is really capable of? You've got to go to mountainside vineyards lined with gravely stone.  Though the nose on this is initially off-putting, the palate more than makes up for it. Lacy acids lead the attack, then ease into the background while a welcoming, round fruit core takes center stage.  The lingering floral aromatic after taste makes this wine a complete package.  Equally at home as an aperitif or seafood pasta accompaniment.  Definitely not the Ladies' Book Club PG.  I really like drinking this wine.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Recycle Bin, Week of Oct. 6

This week we have a tale of three value Pinots.  As we hit the peak of wild salmon season - Coho, Sockeye, and Chinook swimming into grocery stores everywhere - having a solid Pinot or two in reserve is key to make the most of these pink-centric meals.  If you can save a few bucks in the process, then all the better.  So, this week we've got a triad of "affordable" Pinots, which these days means south of the $20 mark. 



2012 Cline Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast 'Cool Climate' $15
Not sure I buy how much of an influence cool climate had on this particular Pinot Noir, but it's still quite drinkable and enjoyable. Especially for the money. I'd buy this again, for sure.
2013 Underwood Pinot Noir Oregon $14
Leaner, cleaner, and generally lighter than its California counterparts - but no less endowed in the good stuff department. An easy drinking Pinot that scored high on the wallet factor and low on the hit-you-over-the-head scale. This will be coming home again soon.

2010 Mark West Pinot Noir Carneros $17
Not sure why there's any of this left on the shelves (I recommended the 2011 for Thanksgiving last year), but it's wearing its age more than quite nicely.  Thanks to another year in the bottle, this terrific value traded its bombastic, fruit grenade profile in for subtleties typically found in Pinots thrice the price: delicate smoke, hints of tar, and traces of burnt orange.  Yowza.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Ladies, This Port's For You


The first chilly nights of the season have fallen here in the Midwest and much of the rest of the country. When temperatures dip into the forties at night and don't outreach the sixties during the day, it's safe to put away the seersucker suit and white jeans.  The crisp morning air is the harbinger of the coming equinox and the solstice to follow.  For the time being, though, we give ourselves permission to enjoy the relief from summer's extremes without dusting off the shovels or trading sandals in for flannels.

We also see the changes reflected in the produce section.  Acorn, butternut, pumpkin...squashes everywhere you look.  Our palates begin to crave comfort food that doesn't depend on the grill: meatloaf, stewed poultry, and raviolis.  And with these changes come the attendant shifting of accompanying wines.  The jagged-edged Sauvignon Blancs that enticed during August no longer fit right, nor do the light-hearted red blends that did the trick with charred fare.  No, in this shoulder season we flirt with heavier whites and more serious, acid-threaded reds.  But even as we try not to get ahead of ourselves, every Port lover begins to squirm with the anticipation of the first frost.

All the signs are present: we are now entering Port season.  Let us rejoice.  

And with that as a lengthy preamble, a plea for the ladies...

The archetypal Port drinker persona clings to wine culture like dust on century-old bottles: fat, old white guy, brows arched and head tilted slightly so as to maximize nose-glass occupancy.  How this has survived the ages is beyond comprehension.  Forget about the sexual revolution, egalitarianism, and the softening of wine culture elitism - Port, perhaps more than any other wine, fits a feminine bias better than a pair of Jimmy Choos.  This is true both on its surface and at its core.

For starters, Port is sweet, evocative, profound, mercurial, intoxicating, and more complicated than a passionate Italian.  If that isn't a list of descriptors expensive perfume makers aspire to invoke in their target market, then, crap, it certainly is for lingerie designers.  Port is also delicate even in its most heavy-handed iterations, a juxtaposition not unlike Mars vs Venus and one which the fairer sex is born understanding.  Port also comes in so broad a range of colors and styles, Bobbi Brown's chief cosmetologist is probably envious of its infinite hues. The comparisons go on and on and as they do the mystery continues as to why Port hasn't caught on as a cool, hip, go-to beverage for sophisticated women ages 21-101.

This year's annual plea for readers to reinvigorate their curiosity of this nectar is directed more specifically to the ladies.  Do not let Senatorial types keep the corner on the market for enjoying this exceedingly underappreciated elixir.  It's just too good - and too perfectly suited to your unique perspectives - to go unloved.

Enjoy.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Recycle Bin, Week of Sept. 22

Another mixed bag this week with one exceptional wine worth seeking out: the Chilean Syrah, which overdelivers on multiple fronts.  A lesson drinking wine at the right time comes with the Orvieto, too.  Cheers.


2012 Bastide Miraflors Cotes Catalanes $15 
I'll say this about this one: it's well-made, has nice clean edges, and plenty of flavor. Reminds me of an exuberant Beaujolais, except it has some cool licorice undertones going on that emerge after plenty of air. When I get this again? Sure. 

2012 Falesco Est! Est!! Est!!! $10
From the producer of the venerable Vitiano comes this lighthearted, whimsical white. While this palate prefers a similar blend of grapes from Orvieto, this (Montefiascone) will do just fine particularly given the sawbuck price point.


2009 Santa Rita Syrah Maipo Valley $14
Who knew they made Syrah in Chile? Fully legit, this deep, dark, sinewy Syrah is boggling. On par with some of the more intriguing examples from up-and-down California's coast line. This blockbuster value is one to buy buy the six pack and store for future enjoyment. If you can get past the silly sticker broadcasting 92 points, this wine should grace many an autumn dinner table. Terrific.

2011 Salviano Orvieto Classico Superiore $15
Still holding up well enough to be enjoyable, but I'm guessing this isn't anywhere close to the vibrant wine it likely was on release. A lesson on paying attention to buying wines within the right drinking window. For a white blend like Orvieto, what makes it so appealing is the tension between round, supple fruit and taut acidity. By the time it's in bottle for a few years, chances are the acids begin to take over. I'll still look for this in younger vintages. And Salviano's reds are worth picking up, too. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Recycle Bin, Week of Sept. 15

Wow, some bombastic, memorable wines this week including a trip down memory lane with a certain Cabernet, some terrific Italian values, a stunning Chardonnay, and a complete (but lovable) oddball white.  Enjoy!

2007 Beringer Cabernet Knights Valley $15.49 (on release)
This bottle didn't stand a chance at lasting the evening. Though it's been in the cellar for five years since purchase, on opening it tasted exactly as I had remembered it: young, full of vigor, and framed by rough-hewn tannins.  (Original review here.) A couple of hours, though, and the bravado facade slipped away like an expensive negligee. What's left was a silken, impossibly irresistible, and composed wine. Strength and poise are in balance in this moment, which must be its peak. Cannot fathom having scored this for under $16 in a Jersey strip mall. (Or that the current release retails for $30!)
2012 Americano Chardonnay California $18
A caricature of itself. Lopsided toward a decidedly lush and generous malolactic component. Sitting somewhere between caramel and marzipan, what's interesting about the most prominent characteristic in this wine is that it manages to sit atop a pillowy, cloud-like texture. It's an irresistible combination despite its nearly freakish imbalance. 



2011 Cantina Zaccagnini Montepulciano d'Abruzzo $15
I've reviewed this before, but this is still one worth returning to. Especially as the barbecue season winds down, full, accessible, and round reds are easy go-to wines. Montepulciano makes for all of those in spades without breaking the bank. And this one does nicely. 

2012 Sampietrana Tacco Barocco Negroamaro $12
Abundant fruit, gripping acidity, and course tannins round out this versatile value. Pair with anything from pizza to pork to a bad day.

2012 Annabelle Chardonnay Napa Valley $12
Ridiculed in previous vintages for having been ridiculously overblown and flabby, this one leans back towards the more streamlined version of Chardonnay, but fails to inspire beyond Wednesday night gulp.

2009 Adelaida Pavanne Paso Robles White Blend $10 (On closeout)
Plenty of flaws and will present as odd to most. Still, this Rhone white blend from the Central Coast is a wine geek's infatuation. Funky and round, this ugly duckling is a walk on the wild side I'd like to take again soon.  Seriously, Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, and Viognier?  Awesomeness.


2010 Basilica Cafaggio Chianti Classico $17
Meh.