September is one of those transitional months when the kids are back in school, the house is your own for a few hours, and you just can't quite decide whether to open a red or white tonight. Mulling over such inconsequential matters is a far cry better than, well, a far cry from the child who fell off the swing.
With the last gasp of summer embracing many of us, here are some unique wines to get you in the mood for the fall.
Tenuta Sassoregale Vermentino Maremma 2016 ($15). This fragrant vermentino from a rugged part of Tuscany is a perfect sipper. Refreshing acidity, herbal aromas, fresh citrus, and stone fruit flavors with a dash of mineral.
Frescobaldi Massovivo Ammiraglia Vermentino 2016 ($15). We enjoyed the fresh but balanced acidity of this Tuscan vermentino. It fills the nose with floral character and the mouth with soft and ripe white fruit flavors.
Alpha Estate Malagouzia Turtles Vineyard 2016 ($16). This Greek wine is made entirely of the indigenous malagouzia grapes and shows off round melon and spice notes.
Domaine Raymond Usseglio Cotes du Rhone "Les Claux" Blanc 2015 ($22). Made by respected Chateauneuf-du-Pape winemakers, this seldom seen white Cotes du Rhone is a delight. An equal blend of grenache blanc, clairette, and roussanne, this amazing wine offers great fruit with accents of white pepper and licorice notes. Very different and delicious.
Canava Chrissou Tselepos Assyrtico Vieilles Vignes Santorini 2016. ($30). Assyrtico is the flagship white grape from Santorini, the Mediterranean Island that is the remnant of an ancient volcano. Very clean and bright with apple and mineral notes, this refreshing wine is a great match for virtually any chicken or seafood dishes. Long, crisp finish. Delicious!
Le Contrade Puglia Malvasia/Chardonnay 2015 ($10). Very different profile with tropical fruit and citrus flavors, smooth texture, and medium body. It's more an appertif than a food wine.
Gascon Reserva Malbec 2015 ($25). This reserve version of the popular Gascon Malbec provides more richness and concentration for a few bucks more. Ripe blackberry and plum notes with a dash of cocoa powder and mint.
DeGrendel Op Die Berg Pinot Noir 2013 ($21). We were stunned by the quality of this South African pinot noir from Cape of Good Hope. It's not a place we think of for pinot noir, but it out-delivers its reasonable price. From one of the highest altitude vineyards in South Africa, it has forward cherry and blackberry flavors.
Domaine de Durban Beaumes-de-Venise 2015 ($22). One of the best values we have found in the southern Rhone Valley, this blend of grenache, syrah, and mourvedre is extraordinary for its effusive red fruit flavors. Forward in style and long in the finish, it has a beautiful lavender and floral aromas, hints of dried herbs and pepper. This region was just granted a cru status in 2005 and is often overshadowed by the region's famous fortified wine made from muscat grapes.
True Grit Reserve Red 2013 ($20). This Mendocino blend is a motley collection of carignane, zinfandel, grenache, syrah, petite sirah, souzao, tinto cao, and touriga nacional. With variety like this, it's hard to define. But we loved it nonetheless. Lots of ripe plum and dark fruit flavors with a hint of spice.
Ridja Bordan Rioja Gran Reserva 2005 ($25-30). A very impressive old style Rioja with ripe aged dried fruit and soft, woodsy nose and flavors. Pair with red meat dishes.
Plungerhead Petite Sirah 2015 ($14). A first for this portfolio of inexpensive wines, the petite sirah is a quaffable blend that includes tempranillo, merlot, and cabernet sauvignon. Lots of fruit forward flavors of blueberries and blackberries. Good for ribs and other barbecued food.
Leese-Fitch Firehouse Red Wine 2015 ($12). Lots of grape varieties here: petite sirah, syrah, zinfandel, merlot, mourvedre, and – whew – tempranillo. However odd the mix, it delivers the burst of fruit you expect from this popular portfolio of wines. Blackberry flavors with hints of espresso and chocolate.
PATZ & HALL
Patz & Hall, founded in 1988, and recently purchased by Ste Michelle Wine Estates is renowned for their focus on pinot noir and chardonnay from mostly small-lot and single vineyard sites. The winery owns no vineyards or winemaking facilities but maintains long-term grape growing contracts with some of California’s most prestigious vineyard owners.
We have tasted Patz & Hall wines frequently over the past 10 years and are always impressed with the different expressions of pinot noir and chardonnay from sites sometimes only miles apart. We recently tasted several 2015 releases and as usual found several that we highly recommend.
Patz & Hall Chardonnay Russian River Valley Dutton Ranch 2015 ($38). Made from the prestigious Dutton Ranch grapes, some of which were planted almost 50 years ago. The wine presents delicious ripe pear and citrus notes especially tangerine. Just a bare hint of oak perfectly frames this elegant chardonnay.
Patz & Hall Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast Jenkins Ranch 2015 ($60). Although we find most new releases from Patz & Hall ready to drink, this pinot noir could use a few years to fully blossom. Black cherry fruit, as well as some mocha and cola notes, are present as well as some elegant oak notes. Be patient.
Patz & Hall Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast Gap’s Crown Vineyard 2015 ($70). While some pinot noir is better suited to lighter style foods like salmon, tuna, or chicken, this bold spicy pinot noir can go toe to toe with pretty much any red meat. Ripe cherry and cola notes dominate this medium to full-bodied pinot noir.