As Cognacs are brandies made from base wines made from grapes, I’ve always considered them wines that have died via distillation and gone to heaven. We’ve snuck one of those in here – check it out as our 12th wine. And while you may not be able to judge a book by its cover, you can often tell a Cognac’s pedigree by its bottle or, more accurately, its collector’s edition decanter. No screwtops or boxes here.
We’ve also got some great down-to-earth wines as well, including a couple of Albarinos from Rias Baixas, the one place where overhead pergola-trained vines reign. Of course, no one will have any back problems picking grapes in the Spanish region by the Atlantic, but they might get a sore neck.
Finally, check out some fabulous big reds made from Bordeaux-style varieties.
That’s enough to get you started. However, there are also a couple of surprises as well.
2021 Fillaboa Rías Baixas Albariño ($21). Lovely example of this grape’s green and yellow fragrances, with Sauvignon-like lime and kiwi fruit followed by a crisp, satisfying finish.
2019 Fillaboa “Monte Alta” Rías Baixas Albariño ($29). A good illustration of the ageability of Albariño coming from the right cellars – more-mature flavors, more gravitas with good savory notes to match the green ones, plus touches of tannin and good minerality.
2021 Château Coussin “Sainte-Victoire” Côtes de Provence Rosé ($17). Pastel flavors of strawberries and mint with lots of acidity and dusty tannins – light wine with a strong finish.
2021 Domaine Fredavelle Côteaux Aix-en-Provence Rosé ($17). Light, lean, and quite tart with lemon and other citrus flavors.
2021 Head High Sonoma County Zinfandel ($28). Very piquant, very fruity, a touch sweet with cranberry and cherry flavors.
2015 Meerlust “Rubicon” Stellenbosch Red Wine ($38). Herbal, tangy with purple fruits that are tightly wound with lots of tannins.
2019 L’Ecole No. 41 Walla Walla Valley Merlot ($39). Mellow cherry fruit with a tart, lean finish – a great recipe for a food wine.
2018 Taaibosch “Crescendo” Stellenbosch Red Wine ($51). A Bordeaux Right Bank blend dominated by Cabernet Franc and Merlot. It has dark, earthy raspberry flavors with some tea notes and nice, chewy tannins, though a tad tart.
2014 Glenelly “Lady May” Stellenbosch Red Wine ($51). More Cab Sauvignon in this one and very Left Bank Bordeaux style with nice integration of black raspberry fruitiness and mellow oak.
2019 Sullivan “Coeur de Vigne” Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon ($93). Lovely, rich, velvety cherry and dark berry flavors – lush but not sweet, with good wood notes and integrated tannins.
2018 Adamvs “Teres” Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon ($128). A superb wine with dark berries and sexy dark cherries (think Manhattans) with lovely notes of oak and a dollop of rounded fruit that stays and stays at the finish.
Frapin “Cuvée Rabelais” Ier Cru de Cognac ($13,000). Yes, that figure is correct, but it does include a fabulous decanter. Questions of prices aside, this is an extraordinary Cognac with a base combo of honeyed and forest aromas presented in a somewhat muted but elegant style. As would be expected at 40%, it is nevertheless powerful, but that power lengthens the hovering flavors that follow the finish. And those flavors are complex – honey and caramel, mounds of wet cracked corn and barley drying in the mid-day sun, a touch of camphor, and the usual salinity that comes with Cognac. I would have expected a little more rancio flavors, but why quibble with excellence?
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: Rias Baixas vineyard