A bottle of wine is the final product of a long process. But it is always the result of a strong supporting cast – the region, the terroir, the variety and rootstock, the vineyardist, and especially the winemaker. They all compose the story behind the wine; a story that those of us who write about the topic are often called upon to tell.
I think about that when I write these reviews, but I usually restrict my comments to tasting notes – what the reader might expect when she twists the cap or pulls the cork and pours a glass of wine. But for this Dozen, I thought it might be interesting to single out a few “for instances” – stories told in a couple of sentences.
We’ve included brief backstories and added a star (✭) to six wines that may tempt you to say, “I’d like to try that,” plus six more whose stories you may want to discover on your own.
2020 Barton & Guestier “Bistro Rue Lafayette” French Sauvignon Blanc ($12). A signature shippers’ wine with lots of green-fruity and citrus notes – medium body, lightly pucker finish.
✭2020 Obsidian “Mástás” North Coast Piquette White Wine (500 ml/ $16). “Piquettes” are a blast from wine’s ancient barnyard past – somewhat rustic wines made from the leftover pomace and added water that was once given to slaves and field hands. A natural spin-off from the “natural” wine movement, they are lighter in alcohol and normally have a little spritz. Which is the case with this low-alcohol (7.7%) wine that has lots of fizz, like an aged cider, with dried peachy fruitiness and savory notes at the end.
✭NV Steenberg Western Cape Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc ($18). In spite of the fact that millions love to drink Sauvignon Blanc, South Africa’s Steenberg is one of the few wineries that makes sparkling wine from Sauvignon Blanc that isn’t a blend with other white grapes. This lovely bubbly has lots of fizz, crisp herbal flavors, and a long and very satisfying finish.
2020 Angels & Cowboys Sonoma County Rosé ($14). Candy-like strawberry fruitiness, good structure, crisp finish.
✭2020 Hampton Water Languedoc Rosé ($21). Very few winegrowers are celebrities unless they were celebrities before they were winegrowers. But if Brad Pitt can have his pink wine from the South of France, why can’t Jon Bon Jovi? He can – and it costs a lot less than Brad’s. The wine is quite nice – bright minerality and strawberry and citrus flavors with a hint of candy creaminess in the finish.
✭2017 Dow’s Vale do Bonfim Douro Red ($11). The Symington family which owns Dow’s was one of the first to make red table wine in very hot Port country – and do it from the same vineyards and with the same grape varieties used to produce the more powerful Ports. This wine has lots of fresh and tart red berry flavors – high notes to counter Port’s low ones.
2019 Cantine Ermes “Vento di Mare” Sicilia Nero d’Avola ($11). Lots of fresh backberries and raspberries with a crisp finish.
2018 Luke “The Companion” Columbia Valley Red Blend ($21). Toward the red fruit side with some chocolate earthiness.
2018 Luke Wahluke Slope Merlot ($21). From Washington state and very nice – good concentration of blueberry and raspberries fruit, great texture, lean, a touch of dark chocolate and with dusty tannins.
2018 Luke Wahluke Slope Cabernet Sauvignon ($22). Lean and a little tarter than most cabs with some green herbal notes.
✭2019 Le Volte dell’ Ornellaia Toscana IGT ($29). In Europe, many of the top producers make an iconic wine – “the estate wine” – and, rather than selling the juice that doesn’t make the final cut to another producer, they make a “second wine” and sometimes a “third wine” from the same estate. Compare this third wine with Ornellaia’s estate wine that goes for about $240. It has intense, concentrated yet lean blackberry and blueberry fruit, is a little smoky, and overall cries out for a cut of rare beef.
✭2018 Bouchaine Carneros Pinot Meunier ($68). Meunier is the third grape of Champagne, but it accounts for about the same segment – around a third – as do the more-noted varieties, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. But few people grow it in California, and fewer still make it as a varietal. Perhaps more should. The wine is very Burgundian in style with fresh but deep plum and raspberry flavors plus a little creaminess.
Prices listed are generally SRP or from wine-searcher.com. As more wineries are now shipping direct-to-consumer, check the winery website if you can’t find a bottle in your retail store.
Feature photo: Chris Kijani of Bouchaine