While common in Italy, and a grape native to the island of Sicily, you don’t find much Grillo is other parts of the world. And that’s okay as Italy does an admirable job with the grape. It offers good minerality, nice acidity and flavors of subtle lemon-lime, white peach, kumquat, apricot, resin and honeysuckle, light mango and other tropical fruit notes. In terms of food pairing, this is the kind of wine that is ultimately versatile, and Stemmari offers a terrific value. ORIGIN: Sicily, Italy. ALCOHOL: 13%
Sonoma County is often overlooked in favor of Napa, but Alma de Cattleya wines, all from within Sonoma’s borders, is something of a love letter to what Sonoma can produce. Winemaker Bibiana Gonzales Rave has created wines that support and showcase Sonoma using various vineyard sites throughout the county. Her 2022 Chardonnay is a great example. Chardonnay pulled from cooler sites offers green apple, lemon-lime, resin, light, peach and pear, quince, apricot honeysuckle, and a whisper of honey. There is light acidity, but a beautiful balance and texture.
Made from Tinta del Pais, this offers a lovely combination of huckleberry, green tea, blueberry, plum, light vanilla and charred wood notes. It was aged for a year in both French and some American oak. There is a lovely integration with the oak (vanilla) and the black fruit compote. The tannins support the structure of the wine and the acidity, though mild, reinforces the overall harmony. This is a very lovely wine, nothing dominates, but is seamlessly balanced. ORIGIN: Ribera del Duero, Spain. ALCOHOL: 14.5%
Earthy tannins leads to blackberry, blueberry, plum, and violets. Made from mainly Carménère and Cabernet Sauvignon, there are small amounts of Syrah, Petite Verdot and Cabernet Franc in the mix. This has always been a solid wine for a very reasonable price. It deviates from much oak treatment and instead promotes the raw, earthy flavors of its organic vineyards. The aging consisted of 66% of the wine placed in French oak for 18 months, therefore the oak is supporting and not dominate. Nicely balanced this is a great go-to everyday drinking wine. ORIGIN: Apalta, Chile. ALCOHOL: 13.5%
Finding a value wine is not an easy task and a solid Cabernet in particular is even more risky. But this Cabernet offers light blueberry, huckleberry, Rainer cherry, plum, raspberry, pink peppercorn, a wisp of mocha and light vanilla touches. The tannins and acidity are mild, making this very drinkable from the start. Hardy is a name well known in Australia, having over 150 years of winemaking behind them, and their Tintara vineyard. This relatively new introduction to the U.S. offers an enjoyable Cabernet from a trusted producer at a reasonable price. ORIGIN: McLaren Vale, Australia.
Offering a lighter style of Cabernet, this 2019 Dough is definitely a solid value. Black cherry, blueberry, blackberry, light plum, pomegranate, rhubarb, green tea leaf and black cherry, announce themselves and it offers moderate acidity and decent tannins. The wine was aged 16 months in both American and French oak barrels.
Malbec has become Argentina’s signature grape, and this South American country does very well with it. This value wine shows off how good Malbec can be at various price points, proof you don’t need to break the bank for a good bottle of wine. It offers huckleberry and blackberry, and there’s an earthiness to this wine, with solid acidity and oak aging that supports the fruit. The finish is a little thin, but when paired with food, as all good wines should be, that becomes less of an issue. ORIGIN: Mendoza, Argentina. ALCOHOL: 14.5%
This estate Pinot is a lively compilation of black cherry, strawberry, plum, blackberry compote, with back notes of rhubarb, huckleberry and black tea. The acidity drives the fruit. This is not a shy Pinot, but an overt celebration of expressive fruit. The wine spent 10 months aging in French oak, 33% of which was new, therefore the fruit is more dominant. Using a variety of Pinot Noir clones, winemaker Steve Rogstad, has decades of experience working with his vineyards, and knowing how best to use the excellent fruit that grows on their property. ORIGIN: Napa Valley, Los Carneros.
MacRostie has long preferred high elevation vineyards where the vines are totally exposed. In this case, Nightwing vineyard sits at 1,200 feet, open to long sunny days and cool ocean breezes. This Chardonnay is in the vein of classic California Chardonnays - a wine that straddles all the elements of excellent fruit, malo-lactic, oak aging, stainless steel fermentation, and proper acidity. All these things come together seamlessly, which allows this to be an ideal expression of how good Chardonnay can be.
Though Zinfandel is California’s signature grape, much of what is made is simplistic, jammy and average. Good thing the folks at Quivera have always taken Zin seriously. Comprised of all Zin with 15% Petite Sirah, the Black Boar offers complex flavors of black cherry, blackberry, plum, bay leaf, current marmalade, with light green tea notes, rhubarb, smoked vanilla and subtle charred campfire. The overtness of the fruit is kept in check with moderate tannins and a smart oak program, which included French, American and Hungarian oak, for a total of just 18 months in barrel.