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Wines to Try in 2018

Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and the barbera grapes from Piedmont are leaders in the reasonably priced, go-to wine for a casual weekday pizza or spaghetti with red sauce. Of the two, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo offers a medium body with more moderate acidity than the barbera, as well as ripe fruit that many consumers fine appealing.

Montepulciano -- the grape -- is not to be confused with Montepulciano -- the home town of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano or Montalcino, home of Brunello di Montalcino. Both of these Tuscan towns are making heralded wines from the sangiovese grape.

Recently, we met with Francesca PalmitestaPalmitestaMasciarelli from Masciarelli Tenuta Agricole, producers of Masciarelli wines from the Abruzzo region of Italy. Widely available, these wines use grapes from about 750 acres, according to Palmitesta. Half of Masciarelli’s production is used to produce their two flagship wines, the Masciarelli Trebbiano d’ Abruzzo 2016 ($12) and the Masciarelli Montepulciano d’ Abruzzo 2015 ($12). Both of these wines offer a simple, quaffable experience with the white trebbiano presenting bright apple and peach flavors with a streak of minerality.

The montepulciano red wine offers cherry fruit notes with a slightly rustic smoky note that adds nice complexity.

Although rosé wines are more commonly enjoyed in the warm months, some consumers are rightfully enjoying these wines year around. If you have “rosé flexibility” try the Masciarelli Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo Villa Gemma Rosé 2016 ($18). This delicious rosé, made from montepuliciano grapes, is one of our favorites from this year's rosé crop. It is fairly dark with richer and fuller cherry notes and a delightfully spicy element.

We also tasted a Masciarelli Trebbiano d’ Abruzzo Marina Cvetic 2015 ($50). Named after the founder’s wife, this well-crafted white wine is amazing and shows the potential of the trebbiano grape. New French oak aging results in a beautifully expressive, fruit-driven wine that could easily compete in a white Burgundy tasting.

The Masciarelli Marina Cvetic Montepulciano d’ Abruzzo Riserva 2014 ($30) is also aged in French barriques and produces a very elegant but expressive red wine that with ripe cherry fruit flavors. Both of these wines are outstanding and worth their price.


  • Tom Gore California Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 ($15). Sourcing grapes from the vast North Coast and Central Coast regions, this simple but delicious cabernet sauvignon blend has forward blackberry and plum flavors with a dash of spice and mocha. We can attest that the wine goes well with chocolate – in particular, chocolate-covered figs.

  • Line 39 Excursion Red Blend 2016 ($15). A motley collection of petit verdot, petite sirah, zinfandel and merlot make a rich and jammy quaff in this new wine. The variety of grapes offer a variety of flavors ranging from plums to chocolate.

  • Bootleg Prequel Red Blend 2014 ($35). Syrah and petite sirah combine to deliver a fist-load of blackberry and plum fruit flavors with good depth and hints of black pepper. Rich and long in the finish.

  • Henry's Drive "H" Chardonnay 2016 ($28). From the Padthaway region of Australia, this luscious chardonnay has a medium body with tropical fruit flavors and hints of nutmeg and sweet vanillin oak.

  • Bonterra "The Roost" Chardonnay Blue Heron Vineyard 2015 ($40). Bonterra is making some excellent wines in Mendocino County, but this single-vineyard chardonnay blew us away. Very burgundian in style, it has delicate lemon meringue and clove aromas, ripe melon and pear flavors, a dash of toasted oak and a long finish. It's a very balanced and seductive chardonnay.

  • Chateau des Cres Richards Stecia 2015 ($20). One of the wines in the fabulous Paul Mas profile, this blend of old-vine syrah, grenache and carignan is a great value. Expressive aromatics, forward dark berry flavors and a touch of mineral and licorice.

  • Cuvaison Adda Chardonnay 2015 ($50). Winemaker Steve Rogstad performs about 50 individual fermentations of chardonnay from seven different rootstocks. The result is a highly textured, layered and full-body chardonnay that stands out in the crowd. Balanced acidity, citrus aromas, apricot flavors with a dash of spice, toasted oak and vanilla. Excellent.

  • The Velvet Devil Merlot Washington State 2014 ($16). Know for the devilish pitchfork on the label Charles and Charles shows its mastery with this grape variety True to the label this merlot is bursting with cherry fruit flavors in a very soft and round package. Great by itself, or with beef dishes.

  • Raeburn Chardonnay Russian River Valley 2015 ($22). This delightful cool-climate Russian River chardonnay exhibits classic pear and apple notes complemented by spicy nutmeg and cinnamon on the palate. A great price for this very well-made chardonnay.

  • Stokes’ Ghost Petite Sirah Monterey 2104 ($34). Oddly this spectacular petite sirah is named after a ship-jumping British sailor who impersonated a doctor in Monterey California in the 1830s. Unfortunately, the ersatz doctor managed to kill a number of his patients including the governor of California, which then culminated with the good doctor's suicide by poison. In any event this is a great example of what petite sirah can produce in the right hands. Deep very ripe cherry and berry notes with accents of black pepper. Although powerful, this wine is balanced and delicious.

  • Cambria Pinot Noir Clone 4 Santa Maria Valley 2014 ($35). Another winner from the Jackson Family Wines group. A very well-balanced pinot noir with lovely ripe cherry notes and nicely accenting cinnamon spice notes. It manages to avoid the overblown fruit notes of some contemporary pinot noirs. Try this elegant wine with salmon or chicken dishes.

  • Jackson Estate Chardonnay Camelot Highlands Santa Maria Valley 2015 ($35). Although this chardonnay presents abundant ripe tropical fruit notes especially pineapple, it does so in a elegant presentation that won’t overpower food. Vanilla and spice notes complement the fruit and make this a very enticing wine.

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