Our Mixed Case series serves up an eclectic mix of recent taste discoveries.
Let our guide lead to new taste destinations.
By Hope S. Philbrick
We’ve been parked at home for a year now, but haven’t stopped discovering new treats to sip and nibble. This is the 7th in our Mixed Case column’s ‘sheltering’ series, written during the coronavirus pandemic. We look forward to slamming our front door behind us and venturing out to wineries, distilleries, breweries, bars, restaurants, festivals, and other places again…but until it’s safe to do so, we’re making the most of the situation by continuing to explore global flavors at home.
This series typically features ‘adult beverages,’ but we’ve helped break up the monotony of our at-home routines by sampling several new products in other categories as well. This post includes a mix of our most recent favorite discoveries, including a baker’s dozen of wines and a range of other taste sensations.
2018 Dry Creek Valley Old Vine Zinfandel is crafted from grapes growing on vines that average more than 100 years old—some as old as 130 years! If that’s not a living testament to the fact that “we can get through this,” we don’t know what is. This complex red wine has a rich mouthfeel and spicy notes of nutmeg and cardamom lingering among its fruity cherry and berry flavors with soft tannins. Retails for approx. $38.
2018 Dry Creek Valley Meritage is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, and Petit Verdot grapes. Fun fact: The term “Meritage” was coined by Dry Creek Vineyard in 1985 to express the “merit” of the grapes and the “heritage” of the blending tradition. Full-bodied with soft tannins, this wine offers notes of black berries, cardamom, crème brûlée, and bouquet garni. Enjoy now or stash a few bottles in your wine cellar to enjoy later. Retails for approx. $35.
2019 Lifevine Wines Chardonnay is certified organic and part of its portfolio of America’s only certified pesticide-free wines. It’s also marketed as “a zero sugar, low carb, low calorie, keto and WW-friendly wine.” Made of California grapes, it offers crowd-pleasing notes of fresh-picked apple, lemon zest, light oak, honey, nutmeg, and vanilla. Sip it on its own or alongside grilled fish, vegetarian entrées, roast chicken, or pork. Retails for approx. $18.
Cameron Hughes Lot 738 Prosecco is an Italian sparkler that won a Gold Medal at the 2020 San Francisco International Wine Competition. Its petite bubbles lift aromas of tree fruit and lemon zest. Flavors of melon, apples, citrus blossoms, and honey dance across the tongue. Sip this well-balanced, food-friendly wine on its own or alongside crudités, Asian fare, seafood, or fruity desserts. Retails for $15.
2018 Cameron Hughes Lot 744 Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley leaps onto the nose and palate with notes of berry jam, fresh violets, dry potpourri, soft leather, anise, and a hint of pipe tobacco. Well-balanced with zingy acidity and dry tannins, this California wine is enjoyable on its own or poured alongside whatever you’ve got roasting on the grill. Retails for $17.
2019 Cameron Hughes Lot 752 Gavi White hails from Italy’s Piemonte region. It opens with a burst of floral aromas. On the palate it offers pleasing notes of citrus blossoms and zest, green apple and melon, peach, almond, and chalk. Its acidity is nicely balanced with minerality. Enjoy this wine immediately alongside pasta and salads or stash some bottles in the cellar a few years to age a bit longer. Retails for $15.
2019 Windsor Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, Platinum Series hails from Sonoma, California. Lush and supple, it is packed with alluring aromas and flavors of dark berries, plum, cocoa, fig jam, creamy vanilla, and soft tobacco. Sip this well-balanced red on its own or serve alongside a hearty meal. Retails for approx. $30.
2019 Moletto Prosecco DOC Rosé Millesimato Extra Dry is a new offering with a soft pink hue. This versatile sparkling Italian offers fruity and floral notes alongside flavors of dry bread. Enjoy as an aperitif or poured alongside appetizers, salads, seafood, or cheese. Retails for approx. $13.
2019 Moletto Prosecco DOC Treviso Extra Dry is a pale gold Italian sparkler with well-balanced fresh notes of citrus, stone fruits, bread, plum, almond, and wildflowers. Enjoy on its own or alongside seafood alfredo. Retails for approx. $13.
At New Zealand’s Waipapa Bay, “winemakers Brent and Shirley Rawstron strive to create wines with elegance,” according to press materials. “Named after a renowned whale-watching coastal site near the vineyards, the company is also on a mission to protect whales and dolphins in oceans around the world through a corporate sponsorship with Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC).” We sampled four bottles, all of which retail for $10-15:
2019 Waipapa Bay Pinot Gris, Marlborough is dry and balanced with crisp notes of stone fruit, honeysuckle, and summer meadow. Serve chilled alongside salads, seafood, chicken, or Asian fare.
2019 Waipapa Bay Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough is bright and crisp with notes of citrus, peach, apricot, and a hint of citrus blossom. Serve chilled alongside fish, creamy pasta dishes, and roast chicken.
2019 Waipapa Bay Chardonnay, Marlborough is a lively, balanced wine with notes of grapefruit, toasted coconut, vanilla, cream, and oak. Serve chilled with chicken, pork, or seafood.
2019 Waipapa Bay Rosé, Canterbury is a pleasant blend of berry, melon, rose, and marjoram notes. Serve chilled alongside seafood, poultry, or vegetarian dishes.
Pickers Unplugged Vodka Soda canned cocktails are made in Nashville, Tennessee. Pickers Vodka is blended with sparkling water and natural flavors to create cocktails billed as “zero carb, gluten-free, zero sugar, ready-to-drink cocktails with only 96 calories in four assorted flavors.” Raspberry, Cranberry, Tangerine, and Grapefruit equally impress, washing the palate with flavor that you don’t have to hunt down—with notes that are way more sophisticated than soda. An 8-pack of 12-oz. cans contains all four flavors and retails for approx. $19.
Miami Cocktail Company offers low-calorie, ready-to-drink organic cocktails in five flavors: Sangria Spritz (rosé wine with orange, lime, and pineapple juice) Paloma Spritz (agave wine with grapefruit, hibiscus, and ginger), Mimosa Spritz (rosé wine with orange and tangerine juice), Margarita Spritz (agave wine with lime, elderflower, and ginger), and Bellini Spritz (which, according to press materials, is Gwyneth Paltrow’s personal favorite; made with rosé wine, peach and mango juice). Convenient, sure, but these are also genuine yum: They’re made with organic fruit juice, which lends flavor plus adds a lush mouthfeel. Our personal favorite is the sangria, but crack open any of them and prepare to make your taste buds happy. Each 8.4-oz. can is 110 calories, low in sulfites, and non-GMO with zero additives, preservatives, artificial colors, flavors, or sweeteners. Retails for approx. $14 for a 4-pack.
Rosé Water is a new blend of dry rosé wine from France and sparkling water sourced from the Austrian Alps. Made by a company based in Wilmington NC, each 8.5-oz. can has 4.9% alcohol and 69 calories. The beverage is billed as “zero sugar, vegan, low sulfites, non-GMO, and gluten-free.” It’s light and refreshing with easy-to-quaff notes of mineral water, red berries, cantaloupe, and marzipan. When you’d like to lighten but not abandon your alcohol consumption, this option can be found at Trader Joe’s and other retailers in 15 states across the nation. A 6-pack retails for approx. $14; individual cans cost approx. $3.
Looking for wine with zero alcohol? H2❤/H2O soft seltzer is a new option from winemakers in Sonoma, California, billed as “the world’s first wine-infused non-alcoholic sparkling water.” It’s water infused with the juice of 100% grape varietals, premium dealcoholized wine, and natural flavor extracts. Among the flavor options (eight are planned), we sampled rosé and sauvignon blanc: both offered soft aromas and flavors of their namesake grape—delivering more “wine” sensation than anticipated. Bubbles lend the drink festivity and stop you from guzzling it down too fast. Retails for $15 for a 4-pack.
Free Spirits is another non-alcoholic option. According to press materials, “inspired by the world’s great spirits, including bourbon, gin, and tequila, each one of the Free Spirits is crafted to be a complex, nuanced, 1:1 non-alcoholic alternative to its boozy cousin. Not only are these spirit alternatives crafted to be bold, delicious and non-alcoholic, they are also each infused with B Vitamins and Amino Acids to help elevate the drinker’s mood, energy and experience.” Replace traditional liquor in any cocktail recipe with a Free Spirit and you can dial it down from a touch of booze all the way to zero. We sampled the gin and tequila. Both are best mixed into a cocktail—sipped on their own the mouthfeel is too watery to trick yourself. But in a cocktail, they shine. The Spirit of Gin is bright and floral with juniper spice and makes a delicious gin & tonic (use upscale tonic and at least 2 lime slices). The Spirit of Tequila has notes of agave, spice, and earth. It makes a scrumptious paloma (use quality grapefruit soda). Keep these around for those times when you’re on medication that prohibits alcohol, hosting a teetotaler, or simply want the taste of an adult beverage with zero bite. Each version retails for approx. $37.
Suga’s Pimento Cheeses lift the South’s favorite party snack to gourmet heights. Chef Stacey West has created a lineup of 12 mouthwatering, elevated concoctions of “The Caviar of the South,” produced in Atlanta, Georgia. “People who hate pimento cheese love her pimento cheese,” boast press materials. “It’s that good. The flavor combinations are wild but end up working. She also has four vegan cheeses.” We are already fans of pimento cheese and were impressed by these upscale versions. Gourmet jalapeño, roasted poblano with Monterey, and black truffle are personal favorites. (We did not test vegan options.) Online prices start at $7 for 8 oz.
3Bros Stroopwafels are produced in Georgia at a family-owned bakery launched in 2020. Using an original Dutch recipe, these cinnamon wafer cookies sandwich a filling of butter and sugar beet molasses. The best way to enjoy one is to rest it on top of your coffee cup or tea mug for a few moments to let it warm up, then bite into the yummy crunchy-gooey combo to wake up your taste buds. Sure, you can buy imports, but these babies are WAY fresher and it’s a difference you’ll appreciate with each bite. As if these weren’t already sweet enough treats, some versions are dipped in Belgian chocolate and adorned with additional dips and sprinkles. You can also buy broken pieces (aka snippers), perfect for sprinkling atop yogurt, fruit, or a baked dessert of your own creation. Available in singles, 8-packs, and snippers, 3Bros can be found at over 75 local coffee shops, grocery markets and retailers in the states of Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina; they are also available on Amazon and sold on the 3Bros website.
Unless otherwise noted, all suggested retail prices are for a 750ml bottle.
Be a responsible grownup: Never drink and drive.
Product samples afford the research opportunity but do not sway opinion.