Twelve 25 Tasty Sips
Our Mixed Case series serves up an eclectic mix of recent ‘adult beverage’ discoveries by the dozen…and sometimes more!
Whether you’re perusing a bar menu while traveling or stirring up a cocktail at home, let our guide lead to new taste destinations.
By Hope S. Philbrick
Predicting the future is a gamble, but when looking ahead to 2017 one thing seems certain: There will be reason to open some bottles.
To help you prepare for what we hope is more often celebration than consolation, we’ve rounded up this list of suggestions to stock up your stash. We’ve included more than our promised dozen in hopes the year ahead will deliver pleasant surprises as well.
Apothic 2014 Inferno – The newest specialty blend from Apothic wines is aged in charred white oak whiskey barrels for 60 days: “It’s wine with a whiskey soul!” exclaim press materials. Sounds gimmicky? Fear not: We enjoyed it more than we’d anticipated that we would. This red blend from California has fruit-forward black and red fruit jam flavors up front, gains strong-yet-pleasant tannins and oak notes mid-palate and finishes on bourbon spice and maple notes. Pair with steak. Small batch, limited release, retails nationwide for approx. $17.
Balletto 2014 Pinot Noir Russian River Valley – Balletto Vineyards is located in Russian River Valley, California. Owner and founder John Balletto started as a vegetable farmer and launched his own wine brand in 2001. He keeps only the top 10% of the grapes he grows for his Balletto label. This Pinot Noir is graceful and well-structured with silky notes of red fruit, a well-tilled herb garden, and spice. Subtle tannins, crisp acidity. Retails for approx. $22.
Balletto 2015 Chardonnay Teresa’s Unoaked Russian River Valley – This bottle had me at “unoaked” and did not disappoint. A crisp and tangy crowd pleaser, it offers notes of juicy lemon, caramel apple, ripe pear and subtle spice. Retails for approx. $18.
Castello del Poggio’s Moscato Provincia Di Pavia – This 100% Moscato sparkler would please Goldilocks: The sweetness level is just right, midway between yeast and sugar. Golden-hued with soft whiffs of honey, it bears peach, vanilla and toast notes across the palate. Retails for approx. $13.
Chateau Montelena Winery 2013 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon – This seductive blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Merlot and 1% Cabernet Franc was aged 14 months in French and Eastern European oak. Medium-bodied with moderate tannins balanced by fresh acidity, it’s ready to drink now. Ripe dark berry notes meet vanilla and allspice then linger into mocha, anise and smoke. Retails for approx. $58.
Chloe Wine Collection Prosecco – This refreshing Italian sparkler hails from the Prosecco DOC region in the foothills of the Venetian Alps. Made of 100% Glera grapes, it’s ready for any occasion with or without food. It opens with whiffs of lemon, nectarine and orchids. Crisp flavors of clementine, Asian pear, apricot and chalk bounce lightly across the tongue. Retails for approx. $17.
Concannon Vineyard 2014 San Francisco Bay Petite Sirah – From what’s billed as “America’s oldest, ongoing winery under the same family label and stewardship” (since 1883), this red wine is 90% Petite Sirah and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. Lush and velvety, it offers notes of dark berries, chewy caramel and dried thyme. A portion of the wine is aged in American oak barrels, a process that contributes subtle notes of wood and spice. Enjoy with food or on its own. Retails for approx. $20.
Crown Royal Vanilla – This new flavored whiskey is a blend of Crown Royal whiskies infused with the flavor of Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla. Most whiskey has a note of vanilla—picked up during oak barrel aging—but this pushes that flavor into the spotlight yet successfully avoids getting too sweet. The spirit has a creamy mouthfeel and warm heat, suggesting crème brûlée. There’s a manufactured quality to the straight spirit; we preferred it mixed into a cocktail. Try it with ginger ale, in an Old Fashioned or Manhattan. Retails for approx. $25.
2008 Ferrari Pearlé – Founded in 1902, Ferrari is Italy’s leading producer of traditional method sparkling wines. The Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes used are grown sustainably at high altitudes in the Trentino mountains. Pale gold with fine bubbles, this wine pours notes of green apples, crusty bread, almonds, clementine and edible flowers. High quality for the price. Retails for approx. $38.
Gloria Ferrer 2013 Carneros Pinot Noir – The winery’s 21st release of Pinot Noir (!), the 2013 vintage has a silky texture and surprising crispness. Notes of pomegranate, cranberry, currant and raspberry mingle with spice, mushroom and cooked sugar. Retails for approx. $25.
Gloria Ferrer 2014 Carneros Chardonnay – Whiffs of tropical fruit and orchard blossom give way to flavors of apple, lemon, butterscotch and oak. A great friend to seafood or cheese. Retails for approx. $12.
Graham’s Six Grapes Reserve Port – A full-bodied sweet wine, this port is made using grapes grown “on the craggy cliffs high above the Douro River where challenging growing conditions impart concentration and power,” according to press materials. Rich and satiny, this smooth sipper has notes of stewed fruits, leather, dark chocolate and spice box. Sip on its own or pair with blue cheese or chocolate desserts. Retails for approx. $23.
Lange Twins Family Winery & Vineyards 2013 Zinfandel – “A tradition of sustainable winegrowing,” according to press materials, is the foundation of this family winery in Lodi, California. This bottling, a blend of the “best performing Zinfandel vineyards,” is smooth and velvety with mouthwatering dark cherry, berry and plum notes mingling with oak and spice. Retails for approx. $15.
Madrone Estate Winery 2015 Chardonnay Russian River Valley – Kat Doescher is a new winemaker at three Sonoma wineries, including Madrone Estate. Made with Russian River Valley grapes, she is quoted in press materials as saying that this small-lot 100% Chardonnay balances “the weight and texture provided by sur lees aging in barrel with the bright fruit aromas and natural acidity preserved by stainless steel tank fermentation.” Lush and viscous, this medium-bodied wine offers notes of lemon zest, clementine, crème brûlée and buttered light toast. Just 294 cases were produced. Retails for approx. $27.
Mercer 2014 Yakima Valley Riesling – A Mercer brochure quotes Rob Mercer, president, as saying, “we are 5th Generation Agriculturalists, stewards of our land, caring for and enhancing its environmental and social value…to produce wines that demonstrate the distinct terroir of the Horse Heaven Hills with a sense of balance.” The 2014 Riesling offers flavors and aromas of peach, melon, tangerine, crème brûlée and chalk with balanced acidity. Retails for approx. $13.
Mercer 2015 Columbia Valley Pinot Gris – Notes of fresh peach, dried apricot, Bartlett pear, pineapple, lime and citronella make a positive impression. Bright acidity with a hint of minerality make this white wine refreshing and food-friendly. Retails for approx. $13.
Mercer 2015 Horse Heaven Hills Sauvignon Blanc – This white skews tropical with citrus, kiwi and papaya notes accented with lychee and gooseberry. Crisp and refreshing. Retails for approx. $15.
Nai e Señora Albariño Rías Baixas – This pale yellow wine follows a subtle opening with surprisingly flirty on the palate with fresh notes of apricot, mineral, gooseberry, lemon sherbet, peach and a hint of white pepper. Retails for approx. $16.
Particular 2015 Garnacha Joven – This crowd pleaser is clean and intense. Made of 100% Garnacha grapes from Cariñena is offers notes of ripe cherry, stewed berries and dried rose petals. A value. Retails for approx. $10.
Pazo de San Mauro Albariño Rías Baixas – Fresh and balanced, this dry white wine’s mouthfeel and structure are both richer than anticipated. Notes of grilled lemon, pear cobbler, fresh mango and wildflower honey mingle with sea foam and forest floor in this interesting character. Retails for approx. $17.
Kat Doescher is a new winemaker at three Sonoma wineries, including Valley of the Moon, which was established in 1941 on Madrone Estate in Sonoma Valley, California. We sampled several varietals in the portfolio and were consistently impressed; Valley of the Moon is a label we’ll buy frequently.
Valley of the Moon 2013 Blend ’41 Sonoma County – Named in honor of the year the winery was established (1941), this red blend plays nicely with pizza, spaghetti, barbecue or an entertaining film. Well-structured without pretense, it sniffs and sips of cherry, plum, cassis, thyme, chile and a hint of smoke. Retails for approx. $25.
Valley of the Moon 2013 Sonoma County Zinfandel – Fairly complex and intriguing with nice legs, blackberry jam and stewed cherry notes mingle pleasantly with vanilla, oak and nutmeg. Soft tannins and acidity are well-balanced, fading into hints of chocolate-covered orange and white pepper on the finish. Retails for approx. $20.
Valley of the Moon 2014 Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon – Full-bodied yet approachable, this wine offers juicy notes of cherry, berry, mocha, caramel and wood. Smooth and luscious on the palate, the lingering finish is long and pleasant. Valley of the Moon’s flagship wine retails for approx. $30.
Valley of the Moon 2014 Sonoma Valley Carneros Pinot Noir – Soft and light, this food-friendly wine has notes of strawberry, cherry, currant, thyme, mushroom and cinnamon. Retails for approx. $25.
Valley of the Moon 2014 Sonoma County Chardonnay – Official tasting notes describe “opulent flavors of guava and kiwi highlight…hints of caramelized oak and vanilla flavors for a well-rounded Chardonnay with great balance and lingering viscosity.” We agree. If you think you don’t like Chardonnay, give this a sip and prepare to be won over. Retails for approx. $21.
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.