WASHINGTON, November 26, 2014 — When I first ventured to begin this write-up, its original premise was a “summer guide to wine,” as most of the wines sent in for submission were easily characterized as “summertime wines.” About half-way through the tasting process, however, the thought occurred to me, “If I call this a summertime guide, it’s doing nothing but supporting the notion that certain wines are seasonal.”
While the seasonal argument may hold up with regard to the kinds of wines that sell the most cases during the summer, it is also self-defeating for the wine industry as a whole. A major issue in the wine business is the perpetuation of wine clichés like “we only drink rosé during the summer” and “good zinfandel is only great with barbecue.” It’s easy to understand why ideas like these issue forth from many wine lovers. But now, I’d like to challenge that status-quo.
So we’ll now rename this article: “Recommended wines: Part 1.” The reason is simple. During the entire lifetime of a wine lover, he or she should always keep trying as many wines as possible and during all seasons of the year. While there’s little doubt a slightly-chilled rose is great on the back patio while eating picnic food, it’s also a wine that is stellar with most holiday foods; and frankly, kicks ass most any time of the year.
So with that introduction out of the way, I’m proud to present to you the following list of wines that absolutely do not suck. Every vinophile should try them.
2013 Tsillan Rosé of Syrah – Washington State
An off-dry Rosé that is going to cater to the crowd that prefers things a tad sweeter. A very full, round palate with notes of watermelon, strawberry, raspberry and sweet cherry. Lingering finish that beckons to be paired with fried chicken.
2013 Kennedy Shaw Rosé – Washington State
A rosé that screams summer time, boasting flavors of fresh watermelon, strawberries and white pepper with a good sense of minerality. Gorgeous color, fruit, mid palate and lingering finish make it a must-have for picnics and other summer fair.
2011 Corvus Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon – Washington State
Bing cherries, crushed tobacco leaf, dark chocolate, fresh red clay, star anise and a hint of Christmas spices as well. A lush, very Red Mountain cab that has the benefit of the cool 2011 vintage which brings about a bit more acidity to the table but still has all the fruit we love and expect in a good cab. The front attack is assertive but not overpowering and the mid-palate all the way to the finish are very enticing.
2011 Corvus Cellars Cuvée – Washington State
Blackberry marmalade, blueberry jam, fig, black licorice, tobacco leaf and lightly spiced dark chocolate bombard the nose and palate in an ultra-inviting way. That makes this an ultra-inviting wine that represents a clear example of the many values one can find from Washington State. An elegant wine that shows great cellar potential of 12-18 years and one that drinks superbly now after several hours of decanting.
2012 Canoe Ridge Cherry Street Red – Washington State
A splendid medley of cherries, currants, cigar smoke, blackberry pie filling, black plums, horse saddle, peppercorns and violets. A Syrah-dominate wine that begs for barbecue. Pay no attention to the back label that says this is a “Bordeaux style blend” as the blend consists of mostly Rhone varietals: 54% Syrah, 30% Malbec, and 16% Grenache. A wine that drinks very well now and goes extremely well with grilled foods.
2010 Porrera Vi De Vila – Spain
Beautiful notes of lightly toasted vanilla, raspberries, cigar, quince, allspice and baseball glove. A very easy-drinking wine even if it’s listed at 15% alcohol, as the wine is well balanced with acidity and tannin. An incredibly long finish and roundness of the palate beckons the wine drinker to hit it over and over again.
2010 Tahun Bonarda – Argentina
An easy wine to wrap your palate around as it offers up a very good combination of blueberry and black fruits such as black plum, blackberry compote and a hint of black cherry. Lush, full tannins wrap themselves around the tongue like a long-lost lover. A wine that not only lends itself well to grilled foods but one you should consider year ’round.
2011 Steven Kent Winery Cabernet Franc – California
A wine that captures the essence of Cabernet Franc that this reviewer adores, namely the vegetal action and beautiful fruit. The grilled asparagus notes are brilliantly integrated with that of huckleberry, Marion berry, leather laces, golden raisins, cocoa powder and pink peppercorns. A lightweight wine with a heavyweight character. Solid fruit, acidity and tannin structure with a beautifully long finish.
2012 Pedroncelli Sangiovese – California
Bright raspberries with notes of garden herbs, white pepper, clove and leather. An all-around easy-drinking Sangiovese that has a good finish on it and begs to be pair with a lamb ragu or pizza.
2012 Steven Kent Winery Pinot Meune – California
Cedar chest, loose leaf tobacco, tart cherry, cranberry, white pepper rhubarb and Nerds’ sour candies are among a number of the great aromas coming out of the glass with this wine. It starts off with lovely flavors of cedar plank and quickly builds some stellar tartness on the mid palate but keeps it smooth. The finish is clean and relatively long. A beautiful wine.
2013 MAAL Biutiful Malbec – Argentina
A wine that reminds me of why the USA should give up when it comes to competing with Argentina in the Malbec arena. At a retail price of $19 dollars, this is a wine that can easily go head to head with domestic Malbec at three to four times its price. The notes of blackberry, currant, marionberry, leather, fig, tobacco and dark chocolate love the tongue more earnestly than Casanova did the ladies back in the 1700s.
2013 Pedroncelli Rosé of Zinfandel – California
Delicious notes of cherry, watermelon, strawberry-rhubarb marmalade and raspberry. An extremely red-fruit driven rosé which has a very full-bodied mid-palate and a lingering, refreshing finish.
2011 Raffaldini Montepulciano Riserva – North Carolina
A wine that absolutely begs to be pounded repeatedly with artisan pizzas and grilled flat breads. A masterful mix of fruit acids and tannin combined in an old-world style which this reviewer adores. Lovely flavors of pencil lead, blueberry, tanned leather, pipe tobacco, mushroom, Marion berry and plum sauce. A lush mouth feel but still retains beautiful acidity to help pair very well with food. The inviting finish hangs out for hours and entices you to come back again and again.
Albinea Canali Ottocentonero – Italy
This Lambrsuco Salamino / Grasparossa blend is a very lively red wine which offers-up notes of bright red fruit, somewhat-muted black fruit, pencil lead in the form of a gorgeous bouquet that makes love to your nasal passages and then continues past the nose to make love to your palate. A super-easy drinking red that goes superb with rich meals that contain red meat or highly-herbed white meat.
2011 The Spur – California
Layers of lightly spiced fruits are coming through on the nose, including cherry fruit roll-up and raspberry jam. This is closely followed by notes of cigar smoke, my grandmother’s leather sofa, some fruit cake and pencil lead. An easy drinker for the money that’s definitely more new-world, fruit-forward focused but it’s far from being just a one-trick pony.
2011 Antolin Riesling – Washington State
A brilliantly dry Riesling that exhibits gorgeous flavors of golden delicious apples, Bosc pear, river rock, wet chalk and a hint of slate. Very Alsatian in its flavor profile with gorgeous amounts of stone fruit, green apples, pear and minerality. The mid palate and finish are simply sublime and make this a total no-brainer Riesling at its price.
2012 Cambria Chardonnay – Katherine’s Vineyard – California
A chardonnay which has a beautiful balance of fruit, acid and the tasty mid-palate mouth feel which is adored by many. An easy drinking summer wine because it’s not over-the-top as so many are which get aged on 100% new oak. The grilled pineapple, papaya, guava, lemon peel and blood orange notes on this wine are stunning. Solid fruit up front with a mid-palate transition and finish to yearn for.
2012 Canoe Ridge Chardonnay – Washington State
Orange blossom with hints of pineapple, green apple peel, slate, chalkboard and kiwi. An extremely refreshing chardonnay that doesn’t at all weigh heavy on the palate and yet does have a subtly smooth mount feel as well. A no-brainer for the money. It’d go great with Caesar salad or even pasta with shellfish mixed with a light cream sauce.
2012 Chateau St. Jean Cold – California
Light notes of cantaloupe, mango, Meyer lemon, ginger blossoms and elderberry. A nice acid and fruit balance that culminates into a well-integrated, lengthy finish.
2012 Freemark Abby Viognier – California
Jasmine tea, candied pears, golden apples, peaches, kiwi, mango and a hint of pineapple. A beautifully crafted Viognier that is one of the best I’ve had from California in recent memory. It has all the classic elements of why we love this grape, including a nice, round, mouth feel that leads into a very long, elegant finish.
2012 La Battistina Gavi – Italy
White blossom, ginger, lemon drop, blue stone, white pepper, dandelion root, celery, chalk board are just some of the notes this wine throws into your nose harder than the dirt flying off the hoof of a track horse. Sublime subtleties greet your tongue in an elegant fashion which scream out for your attention. An easy drinking wine any time of the year but especially in the summer.
2012 Royal Viura White – Spain
Pear, golden apple, white blossom, slate, ginger, grapefruit and blood orange abound. A very sensual wine that provides a solid overall mouth feel across the entire spectrum of the palate. Good fruit and acidity combine into an insanely gorgeous finish.
2012 Raffaldini Vermentino Riserva – North Carolina
Bosch pears, golden apples, flower blossom, river bottom and hints of citrus with kiwi great your palate like a long-lost lover. The palate is purely sublime with an incredible mix of fruit and acidity which lead into a ridiculously long finish that begs you to pound this wine as if it’s your first time with a long-lost lover.
2013 Mohua Sauvignon Blanc – New Zealand
True to the flavor profile of New Zealand, this wine has grapefruit, wheatgrass, lime zest and kiwi. A splendidly clean-finishing wine which leaves lingering overtones of citrus, fresh-cut hay with hints of kiwi papaya.
2013 Padrillos Torrontes – Argentina
Gorgeous notes of banana, jasmine, river rock, Myer lemon zest, spiced mandarin oranges, earl gray tea and a hint of kiwi. If you haven’t yet discovered the beauty that is Torrontes, this is a great “gateway drug” wine into that varietal. It has the fruit, acidity and body we adore in any white wine and is a no-brainer pick for summer.
2011 Cairdeas Nellie Mae – Washington State
Aromas of hazelnut, pineapple, golden delicious, river stone and crushed oyster shells abound. A nice roundness to the mid palate thanks to the sur lei process. It nearly comes across a bit chardonnay like here. Good acids, fruit and finish make it an easy summertime sipper.
2013 Steven Kent Winery Lola – California
Again, a lovely, balanced Sauvignon Blanc which exhibits the grapefruit and grassiness we adore about this grape and retains a very nice roundness across the entire spectrum of the palate. Its finish lingers on for days with gorgeous overtones of citrus, kiwi and lemon zest.
2013 Waitsburg Cellars Chefray – Washington State
Easily a wine that proves Washington State can compete in the Chenin Blanc category on a global scale. It has so many beautiful fruit notes of golden apple, pear, peach and mango yet retains amazingly beautiful acidity. The finish is sublime and beckons the drinker to pair it with a home-made chicken Caesar salad and home-baked bread.
2013 Waitsburg Chardonnay – Washington State
Gorgeous nose full of stone fruits like pear and peach along with homemade creamed corn, white flower blossoms and a hint of golden apples. A beautiful wine that thinks it’s a well-crafted chardonnay largely thanks to its splendid mid-palate transition, which is present thanks to the gentle use of neutral oak and the sur lie. Crisp, round and dry with a finish that lingers on nicely.