IntoWine asked our panel of experts to share their recommendations for the best Napa Valley red wine worth seeking out (for the price of course): Napa Valley has a reputation for a reason. A millennia of earth-moving eruptions and oceanic intrusion (which stripped the valley’s hillsides of deep soils) has helped to develop a particular level of well-deserved glory for the region’s red wine makers. One consistently bold red wine worth seeking out is the Tor Kenward Cimarossa Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon . The profile of the wine is ripe, firm, juicy, with soft tannins. Blueberry, florals, mint, cocoa, and anise, are signatures of this single-vineyard wine. Cimarossa vineyard is on Napa’s This wine can be enjoyed when young, but shows best if aged a minimum of three years. At $60-$80, this cult red soars to the top of many sommelier’s cellar lists for the same reason it comes to my mind. Cimarossa vineyard is one of the more elevated vineyards on Howell Mountain, at over 2,100 ft above sea level. The soils on the mountain are layered with volcanic ash, called ‘ tufa’ , and a high iron content which stresses the vines and produces deeply concentrated fruit, small berries, and intense flavors. In the winery, Tor Kenward uses an extended cold soaking and indigenous yeast fermentation. The wines are aged for almost two years in French oak and bottled un-fined and un-filtered. The resulting wine is heady and bold and wonderful. – Ben Spencer is a diploma student with the Wine & Spirit Education Trust and an IntoWine Featured Writer.
IntoWine asked our panel of experts to share their recommendations for the best wine to pair with crab: Crab is a succulent shellfish that has an almost sweet flavor profile and a versatility of cooking adaptations. The richness of the meat is what you want to focus on when enjoying crab. And, because crab is not the cheapest seafood around, you want every bite to count. This means the wine should be bright and complementary and crisp – with a palate cleansing acidity. One wine floats right to the top for me, Dry Hungarian Furmint. It’s not always an easy find, some vintages of this beautiful white wine are diverted into the house blend. But when this wine is available, it is worth stocking your cellar shelves. Shröck’s dry version of Furmint showcases a veritable basket of apple and chamomile while retaining a crisp honeydew finish. Like most good things in this world, the rarer it is the more unique the experience. Furmint is grown widely in Hungary for blending with Harselevlu in sweet Tokay. Now Shröck is winning fans over with her rediscovery and promotion of Furmint’s possibilities as a dry white wine. Heidi Shröck took over the family winery 20 years ago after working in wineries in South Africa and Germany. According to one of Shröck’s distributors, “The family motto states that tradition should be honored but also mixed with progress; for it means keeping alive the fire, not adoring the ashes.” When paired with Crab, I’m sure a few more logs will be thrown onto that fire. (About $20) – Ben Spencer is a diploma student with the Wine & Spirit Education Trust and an IntoWine Featured Writer.
IntoWine asked our panel of experts to share their recommendations for the best wine to pair with grouper: Grouper is a member of the sea bass family. It is a lean and firm fish that can be prepared in a host of ways – baked, poached, broiled, grilled, pan fried, steamed, etc. Grouper’s claim to fame really is its ability to absorb its environment – typically lightly spiced sauces. When served with wine, the best thing to do is to find something that will not try to compete with your preparation. Arneis is the perfect wine for just such a catch. Arneis is a Northern Italian white wine grape, characterized by a low acidity, subtle hints of citrus, herbs, and oils. The wine typically has a broad, appealing mid palate and is best enjoyed when young. Arneis is most popular in Piemonte. The City of Roero is home to Arneis, which is also called Barolo Bianco, or simply Roero. Because there are only a handful of Arneis producers in America, it can be tough to find – it usually sells out very quickly. That being said, a few really good examples of Arneis exist inside and outside U.S. borders. Some of the better producers are Ponzi, from Oregnon’s Willamette Valley and Ceretto, from Italy. (About $15 – $25) – Ben Spencer is a diploma student with the Wine & Spirit Education Trust and an IntoWine Featured Writer.
IntoWine asked our panel of experts to share their recommendations for the best Bordeaux white wines for the buck: We don’t typically think of Bordeaux and white wine. Bordeaux is known for red wines. But there is a small island of white that is in fact quite good and entirely worth its price. Bordeaux white wines typically sell for a fraction of what a red wine from the same chateau would cost. The traditional grapes included in the region’s white wines are Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Muscadelle, Ugni Blanc, Folle Blanc, and Colombard. Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc are the two grape varieties used for dry white wines. A good example of what Bordeaux does when it’s not making age-worthy and collectible red wines is the Grand Village Blanc, made by Chateau Lafleur. The rich tree fruit of the Semillon (apples and pears) carries the racy citrus of the Sauvignon Blanc to an invigorating finish. At about $15, it is worth seeing what the red wine kings have hidden in their treasure chest. – Ben Spencer is a diploma student with the Wine & Spirit Education Trust and an IntoWine Featured Writer.
IntoWine asked our panel of experts to share their recommendations for the best wine to pair with baked chicken: Baked chicken is a dish that can be both versatile and elusive . Honing in on just the right flavors, temperatures, glazes, marinades, and pairings can be a real task. To make things easy, I suggest any white wine that has a ‘New World’ style. Ripe melon, spices, and citrus fruit should be the hallmark flavors. A wine that has undergone malolactic fermentation (MLF) and was aged in new French oak would be ideal. Generally, Chardonnay would be my one go-to wine because ‘New World’ Chardonnay is typically fruity, buttery, and ‘toasty’. But more and more white wines are being made in a Chardonnay-like style. It is the flavor profile of well made Chardonnay that pairs so easily with chicken. If you are feeling adventurous, strike up a conversation with the wine buyer at your favorite local shop. Ask them which white wines that have that characteristic buttery style. If you have a specific recipe in mind, think of complementary flavors. Almost every wine label will have a description of the contents on back. You can get a pretty good wine (or two) within the $10 to $20 range. – Ben Spencer is a diploma student with the Wine & Spirit Education Trust and an IntoWine Featured Writer.
IntoWine asked our panel of experts to share their recommendations for the best Sonoma County white wine for the price: Sonoma’s reputation for making ultra premium wines does not come without merit. Sonoma has history of making focused, sumptuous wines from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Bordeaux varieties. Recently, I came across Leo Steen’s Chenin Blanc. The wine proved to an honest expression of the classic French variety, with hints of citrus and island fruit. The palate is rich, with a clear acidity that carries through to the finish. The grapes for this wine come from a small sustainable vineyard in the Dry Creek Valley. The sandy, stony soils contribute to the vitality of this unique white wine which would pair well with just about any seafood, salad, or chicken recipe. (About $20) – Ben Spencer is a diploma student with the Wine & Spirit Education Trust and an IntoWine Featured Writer.
IntoWine asked our panel of experts to share their recommendations for the best syrah for the money: Syrah seems to be ubiquitous these days but in fact it’s still an uphill battle for this grape to get the recognition it deserves. If syrah is new to you, the Liberty School Syrah ($14) is a great place to start. With plenty of blackberry, plum and boysenberry fruit and an appropriate oak and acid balance, this syrah avoids being a fat fruity wine with no finesse. Instead it’s surprisingly mature with soft tannins. I drank this with Cajun spiced quail and the beauty of this wine is that it can pair with so many foods. I wonderful go-to syrah and a terrific price point. - Michael Cervin , Wine Judge, Restaurant Critic, and IntoWine Featured Writer
IntoWine asked our panel of experts to share their recommendations for the best wine to pair with stilton blue cheese: Many people think Stilton is blue, but it’s not. A nuttier, more mature taste, Stilton needs a special wine. The Lucas and Lewellen Late Harvest Viognier ($24) perfectly matches the pungent Stilton’s texture and strong notes. Late harvests often beat up any food they’re around, too much. But the Lucas and Lewellen is soft, slightly floral nose, mild RS and soft acidity works in concert with the blue to allow it to express itself with the wine pulls back some of the potent flavors with a feminine acidity and honeysuckle flavors. A match made nearly in heaven, these two are like proverbial peas in a pod. - Michael Cervin , Wine Judge, Restaurant Critic, and IntoWine Featured Writer
IntoWine asked our panel of experts to share their recommendations for the best Sonoma County red wine for the price: Sonoma seems to always have an uphill battle as its sibling, Napa, constantly gets the spotlight. But there are exceptional wines coming from this region. The Clos Du Bois Reserve Tempranillo ($22) is ripe with blackberry, black plums, soft and spicy blackberry, blueberry and black cherry positioned correctly with oak and acid. One-fourth of this wine is cabernet sauvignon, which builds a dense, strong structure most tempranillo’s do not have. Layered with a juicy fresh crushed dark fruit mouth feel, this is a surprisingly commanding wine that at first blush seem like it might have come from Napa. But no, Sonoma wines stand on their own. - Michael Cervin , Wine Judge, Restaurant Critic, and IntoWine Featured Writer
IntoWine asked our panel of experts to share their recommendations for the best wine to pair with Mexican cuisine: Mexican food is a cornucopia of ingredient s on a plate and to find a wine to work with the diversity of flavors isn’t easy. But the Kalyra Cabernet Sauvignon Lot 6 ($22) from Santa Ynez is full of black cherry, dark raspberry, oak and pomegranate combining to create a surprisingly rich cab with an acidic backbone that can stand up to grilled meats like carne asada and the subtle nuances of rice and beans. It’s also dynamite with guacamole! Not a powerful cab, the growing condition in Santa Barbara County allow it to be mild and charming. - Michael Cervin , Wine Judge, Restaurant Critic, and IntoWine Featured Writer