by The Wine Guys, Tom Marquardt and Patrick Darr
Sometimes, you just need a kick start to get you out of a funk, whether it be a new COVID variant, a football loss, or just the weather. As we transition into fall, we like to use the time to discover new grape varieties before we settle back into a routine of winter wines. If something different is what you seek to break the mood, this column is for you.
Look to Europe to find your next daring wine if you want a unique dining experience, whether it be something to sip on the deck or pairing a home-cooked meal inside. These wines offer grape varieties unique to their country and are often value-priced. They are usually light and refreshing, a perfect aperitif or a wine to match with barbecued foods. If you can’t find these producers, just look for the region – the goal is to explore new areas.
Beronia Rueda 2019 ($12). One of the best values in white wine today, this delicious verdejo is perfect for sipping. Huge aromatics of freshly mowed grass and herbs are followed by white peach, orange and herbal flavors. You will be hard pressed to find a better deal on the market today.
Veiga Naum Rias Baixas Albarino 2019 ($18). The Rias Baixas region of northern Spain produces the best albarinos. This one has generous floral aromas and notes of apricot and apples. It is a perfect aperitif or a wine to pair with simply prepared fish.
Marco Felluga Molamatta Collio DOC 2015 ($26). The Collio Goriziano region in Friuli-Venezia borders Slovenia in Italy’s northeast corner. Four generations have been making wine for this estate since the 1800s. This interesting white wine is made up of friulano, pinot bianco, and ribolla gialla grapes. Good concentration and acidity.
La Maciarine Montecucco Rosso 2018 ($19). The sangiovese in this delicious Tuscan wine is tamed with cabernet sauvignon and petit verdot to create a broadly flavored wine of floral aromas and intense cherry plum flavors. You get a lot of wine for the price. It would pair well with hamburgers, ribs or pasta.
Tenuta l’Impostino Montecucco Rosso DOC 2015 ($19). The blend here is 80 percent sangiovese with the rest made up of merlot, syrah and petit verdot. Rich plum flavors with hints of mint and tobacco.
Casanova di Neri IrRosso Toscana IGT 2018 ($22). This is a tasty blend of sangiovese, cabernet sauvignon and petit verdot. “IrRosso” translates to “our wine” and it’s certainly a unique blend. Floral, violet aromas with blackberry and currant flavors. Easy tannins make it a quaffable wine for simple fare from the grill.
Tenuta Whitaker Mozia Grillo 2019 ($22). Aged three months on the lees in stainless steel, this unfiltered white wine is fresh and abundant in citrus and tropical fruit flavors with a touch of minerality. From the tiny island of Mozia on the western side of Siciily, grillo is grown on little, wind-swept bushes. Very unique. If you like pinot grigio, you’ll like grillo.
Capofaro Didyme 2019 ($26). Made entirely of Malvasia di Lapari grapes from the island of Salina north of mainland Sicily, it is aged four months on the lees in stainless steel. This white wine has unique flavors that may not appeal to all palates. Floral aromas with peach flavors and a hint of almonds.
Tascante Buornora Etna Bianco 2019 ($20). This is an amazing, vivacious white wine from Sicily. Made from carricante grapes, it has peach and citrus aromas with pear flavors and tantalizing hints of mineral and lemon. Great acidity and length.
Surrau Limizzani Vermentino di Gallura DOCG 2020 ($16). Made entirely of vermentino grown on Surrau’s estate vineyards on Sardinia, this wine has stone fruit notes with crisp acidity and a touch of spice.
We don’t think we’ve ever seen so many alternatives to a bottle of wine. There are boxes and cans of your favorite drink, but now the spirits industry is focused on providing a convenient package that can be ported to a boat or picnic.
We recently sampled an array of mixed drinks made BarBox. Brothers and cofounders Matthia and Jacob Kozuba grew up in a distilling family and came up with this party pack: 14 four-ounce cocktails in a bag-n-box. These ready-to-drink cocktails include the favorites: margaritas, negronis, gin lemonade, vodka sour and cosmopolitan. They range in alcohol levels from 20 to 24 percent or about 40-50 proof.
Having tried all of them – cosmo being our favorite – they serve a purpose. They may not have the quality level you find in a cocktail crafted by your favorite bartender, but they are convenient. If you use a mix for your margaritas, you won’t be disappointed.
The boxes are recyclable and biodegradable. At $25 a box, that is about $2 a drink.
Ron Rubin, like many in the wine business, offers wines under a variety of labels. Probably best known for his consumer-friendly River Road brand, he also offers wines under his own name and other brands.
Two of Mr. Rubin’s disparate labels are the Pam’s Un-Oaked Chardonnay California 2020 ($15), and the River Road Double Oaked Chardonnay Russian River Valley 2019 ($17). Both of these luscious chardonnays featured unctuous tropical fruit that clung to the taste buds. The main difference was that the River Road Double Oaked also displayed an oak-influenced honey spiciness that added complexity. Either one of these chardonnays will enhance your drinking experience, but choosing one depends on your preference for oak flavors.
We also tasted a Ron Rubin Pinot Noir Russian River Valley 2018 ($25). This larger-than-life pinot noir also created a mouth-filling experience that featured plums, cherries and a meatiness that will match any cuisine.
Argyle Reserve Chardonnay 2017 ($35). Using the best blocks of grapes from the estate’s three vineyards, this Willamette Valley producer has a solid, premium performance. White peach and lemon peel notes with spice and a dash of mineral. Long in the finish and balanced.
Cuvaison Kite Tail Chardonnay 2019 ($50). Talented winemaker Steve Rogstad crafts a unique chardonnay by harvesting the same blocks two weeks apart. Made exclusively from the Old Wente clone of grapes, the separate harvests offer bright acidity and green apple notes while the other grapes harvested with more ripeness give the wine weight and stone-fruit flavors. It is ridiculously delicious.