I live in San Francisco and January weather here means 50 degrees and rain. Constant bone-chilling rain, or so it seems. And before the rest of America emails to remind me how good I have it and how freaking cold it is in New York or Ohio or whatever other frozen tundra they call home, I'm just gonna say that when you are cold, you are cold, and comfort food -and comfort wine- goes a long way towards warming your heart when Old Man Winter starts to have his way with you. So with this in mind, I bring you two comfort wines you should go buy this week. Glenn Hawk Zinfandel - I typically don't gravitate to Zinfandel. I associate Zins with "cocktail wines", that is, wines that are delicious for a few sips of a single glass but can be a bit too fruity and overwhelming for those of us who tend towards enjoying multiple glasses. So I don't recommend many Zinfandels simply because I don't drink many of them. Every once in a while I stumble back down the Zinfandel path and am reminded of how good the varietal can be. I recently tried the 2009 Glenn Hawk Zinfandel from Livermore Valley (just south of Napa in the shadow of Mt. Diablo).
Wines to Go Buy This Week: A Carneros Pinot Noir by Truchard and a South African Bordeaux Style Red by the (barely pronounceable) MR Mvemve Raats. As frequent IntoWine readers know, in November we are launching our own wine club, The IntoWine Club , in partnership with the California Wine Club (more info on the club here if you are interested). While there are a lot of moving parts, how it works is that the folks at California Wine Club ship me wine samples that are being considered for future club shipments and then I provide feedback and such about the wines that will be included in those shipments. Recently I received my first batch of samples and, let me tell you, I am thrilled about the quality of the wines. I simply can not wait for our club to launch in November. With this in mind, I give you this week's installment of "Wines to Go Buy This Week": Truchard Pinot Noir 2006 - Was going to wait to recommend this until our IntoWine Club launch the first week of November but I'm gonna let the cat out of the bag early. This Truchard Pinot Noir is one of the wines being considered and I could not be more pleased to share the news that this wine is going to be in the inaugural IntoWine Club shipment. So what about the wine itself? For me a tell-tale sign of a good wine is that it is delicious and easy to drink from the first sip to the very last and always leaves you wanting more . The Truchard Pinot Noir passes that test with flying colors. From the Carneros region of Napa, Truchard Pinot Noir is an ideal wine for anyone curious about discovering Northern California Pinot Noir. It's also reasonably priced at approx $35 retail. "Reasonable" is relative of course as some might say $35 for a wine is outrageously expensive. For a quality Carneros Pinot though, this is priced more than fairly as you can certainly pay much more than this for a similar wine. As for the IntoWineClub, you can sign up here if you are interested.
Wines to Go Buy This Week: An "Italian-fusion" California Red by Bargetto and Tahbilk Marsanne, a deliciously rare single varietal white. This past weekend we filmed the latest round of IntoWineTV videos (the first video will be live in about a week, we're moving away from wine reviews to wine discussions. Sort of a wine version of The View if you will). As is typical when we film IntoWineTV, the cast and crew had the luxury of indulging in many fantastic wines. Heck these shoots have almost become an excuse for everyone involved to share their latest wine faves. Over the course of the weekend I discovered two wines that made me do a double take and which are the basis for this week's "Wines to Go Buy This Week": La Vita, Bargetto Family Estate, Santa Cruz Mountains, 2006 - This wine arrived in a recent California Wine Club Signature Series shipment (and kudos to CWC as yet again they delivered a hit. I love the Signature Series.). La Vita is an unusual California red blend in that it is made from the traditionally Italian varietals of Dolcetto, Refosco, and Nebbiolo. Traditionalists may scoff at the notion of a California producer making its version of an Italian red -I'm just waiting for someone to complain that this wine has "no sense of place" - but the end result is a delicious wine that reflects qualities of both California and Italy. If this were a restaurant this wine would be labeled "Italian fusion". No it's not authentic or traditional but it is delicious, unique, and well worth a try (though at $60 a bottle, it's hardly a value buy). Buy Bargetto La Vita
Wines to Go Buy This Week: A Crisp Summer White Blend by Chateau Bonnet and a Complex Napa Cabernet by Clark-Claudon Vineyards Labor Day weekend is here and people across the US are gathering to toast the end of summer. As Labor Day marks the tipping point between hot summer nights and cool autumn evenings, my wine recommendations this week will focus on both a cool, refreshing summer sauvignon blanc to savor on these last days of summer and a full bodied Napa cabernet for those upcoming autumn evenings by the fireplace. So as we say farewell to summer 2011, here are two wines to go buy this week: Chateau Bonnett Entre-Deux-Mers Sauvignon Blanc Semillon Muscadelle Andre Lurton, 2010 - Now say that 5 times fast! A quick lesson for those of you who are unfamiliar with French wine: The French label their wines slightly different than we do in the US as they emphasize the place more so than the grape varietal or the producer. In this case, the vineyards and winery are located at Chateau Bonnet, the region is the Entre-Deux-Mers appellation of Bordeaux, the grapes are a blend of sauvignon blanc, semillon, and muscadelle, and the producer is André Lurton, whose family has presided over the vineyards for over 100 years. White Bordeaux is almost always a blend of primarily semillon and sauvignon blanc, with a few other varietals permitted. So why do I like this wine? It's light, crisp, low in alcohol (12%) and at approx $15 a bottle, a fantastic way to introduce yourself to a white bordeaux without breaking the bank. This wine is ideal for a warm end-of-summer picnic that calls for a cool refreshing beverage.
Wines to Go Buy This Week: Crisp and Refreshing Summer White Wines by Broadbent, Dr. Loosen, and Spy Valley The dog days of August are upon us and we have but a few weeks remaining before hot summer nights give way to crisp autumn leaves. This summer has been brutally hot for most of the US -though not too bad here in San Francisco, though September tends to be our hot month, if "hot" and "San Francisco" can actually be used in the same sentence- and I've had the great pleasure of discovering some fantastic white wines that are both tasty and refreshing for those hot nights. So before summer ends, here are three white wines to go buy this week : Broadbent Vinho Verde - Vinho Verde is a staple of Portuguese culture. Translated it means "Green Wine" which refers to its youthful freshness. It's a low-alcohol, light, crisp, and slightly effervescent wine that is about as close to perfection as a summer wine can be. Broadbent makes a fantastic Vinho Verde and at about $9 a bottle, it's worth buying a case to serve at your Labor Day picnic. Your guests will love it. About $9. Buy Broadbent Vinho Verde
Since I wrote last week about how much I (used to) hate chardonnay , this week I am turning attention to the varietal I love: pinot noir. Friends and acquaintances frequently ask me for my favorite wine producers -and the list is long- so I am going to focus this week on my favorite Sonoma pinot noir producers. There are numerous producers of fantastic pinot in Sonoma so I'm sure I will get plenty of emails from people wondering how I could leave out so and so or who are incredulous that my recommendations exclude "less expensive" options. So let me respond in advance: The threshold for inclusion on this list is that the wine must be in regular rotation in my house and be the "go to" bottle of Sonoma Pinot Noir to serve to guests or to uncork to celebrate small victories (a concept I enthusiastically embrace..... life is too short not to celebrate good days with a fantastic bottle of wine. Who wants to die with a huge collection of great wine aging in the basement?). Must a good Sonoma pinot noir cost $40+? Of course not, though so often they do. With that said, the three wines to go buy this week are:
I hate chardonnay. Its reign as the #1 wine varietal among US consumers has always befuddled me given how many people -wine geeks and novices alike- deliberately avoid it. California chardonnay in particular - with its excess oak and buttery texture- was so off putting to me that I had virtually given up even trying chardonnay, so convinced I was that I hated it. Then I had an epiphany in the form of Greg La Follette, or I should say, his chardonnay. World renowned as an in-demand consulting winemaker, Greg La Follette recently took the plunge and launched his own eponymous label, focusing on pinot noir and chardonnay, his specialties. A long time fan of his pinot noir, I had the wonderful opportunity a few months back to attend a winemaker's dinner at a local restaurant where La Follette wines were poured liberally (and, trust me, I was not shy about partaking). That night, for the first time, I found a chardonnay that was not just drinkable - my previous threshold for chardonnay "success"- but which I absolutely loved and craved. I joined La Follette's Vigneron Club that night ensuring a quarterly supply of my new discovery (and don't think for a second that my shipment doesn't include his pinot noir, as good as any available and an absolute bargain at the current price).
It's Fourth of July weekend and, on what will likely be a boiling hot summer day for most of the US, picnics and barbecues with their typical summer holiday fare will rule. While I am tempted to suggest wines that pair well with picnic fare like burgers, ribs and chicken, I'm going to ignore the food and instead focus on the weather. An unusually warm San Francisco summer has put me on a rosé kick of late. -A quick aside: Rosé all too often gets a bad rap for not being a "serious" wine. Part of this is deserved as there is no shortage of crappy bulk rosé being pawned off on ignorant consumers. The reality though is that there are some fantastic rosés on the market and it's a shame that rosé is often bypassed and dismissed as some sort of inferior alternative to "real" wine (i.e red or white).- Anyway, rosé is arguably the ideal wine for a hot summer night (though Vinho Verde and Alvarinho make an incredibly strong case for the title "Best Wine for Hot Summer Night").
It's not often you get to witness the beginnings of greatness. In the wine world, most consumers don't discover the best small production wines until they are either priced out of reach or available at the end of a very long waiting list. Wine lovers: here is your chance. Greg La Follette, one of California's (and perhaps the world's) finest makers of pinot noir and chardonnay has launched his own label, the eponymous La Follette Wines , and for perhaps the first time in his career is able to focus purely on making great wine for his own label, without distraction. Buy now or forever hold your peace.