2007 Sebastiani Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir ($18). This has the taste of a wine suffering from too much tinkering in the cellar. There is a nice touch of ripe Pinot Noir fruit in the beginning, but the finish has a rough, chalky minerality – it just doesn’t knit. On this one, take a Pass.
2008 Coltibuono Cancelli IGT ($11). This is a great little food wine, Italian-style, from a noteworthy Tuscan estate. Sangiovese (70%) gives a crisp cherry rasp at the front, while Syrah (30%) provides an earthy, gamy finish. Try.
2006 Montes Napa Angel “Aurelio’s Selection” ($90). The Montes brand appears to adapt seamlessly to terroir – first in Chile, then in Argentina and now in the U.S. It seems they do everything well. In this case, using all Cabernet grapes from the south valley, they have constructed a full but not too-powerful wine that features a rising cream of dark blackberries enveloped in a cocoon of somewhat assertive tannins that provide good drinking now but promise even better times a few years down the road. This is one of those “not” wines – modern and New World but not overly fruit forward, not too tannic and not too alcoholic, even at 14.8. If you have the cash, a definite Buy.
2007 Michel Tete “Domaine du Clos du Fief” Julienas ($20). In most cases, “serious” Beaujolais comes off like a precocious teenager trying to dress up in adult’s clothing. But that isn’t the case here. This is a lovely wine with considerable sophistication, the Gamay appealingly playing to its Pinot Noir side – ripe cherries and a good touch of balancing tannins. If you’re thinking about an everyday Bourgogne or a Macon rouge, try this one instead. Buy.
2008 Jackson Estate “Shelter Belt” Marlborough Chardonnay ($22). Don’t look at the label and you might mistakenly be talking about what a great "Chablis" this is – firm red apples, a minerally backbone and a pleasant chalky finish. Quite a bargain price, too. Buy.
2006 Z52 “Truchard Vineyard” Napa Valley Zinfandel ($24). People who teach creative writing often have problems explaining to students why their work didn’t get better marks – nothing wrong with it, but just not that “creative.” This wine is a little like that – it’s dark, olivey, rooty, medicinal flavors are fine, though a little heavy on the palate. It speaks to me, but I wish it would sing. Pass.
2007 Va La Vineyards “La Prima Donna” Pennsylvania white blend ($35). You could be forgiven for not being interested in trying an expensive blend of Malvasia Bianco, Pinot Grigio, Viognier, Petit Manseng and Tocai coming from Avondale, PA – but you would be missing something special. Proprietor Anthony Vietri keeps getting better with this blend – exotic spices and floral notes with a minerally, savory, tangy finish. It went perfectly with our Thanksgiving pheasant with an apple cider sauce and spicy couscous. Buy.
2007 Chateau Lafon Sauternes (375 ml/$19). We also had this little sweetie with the pheasant as a continuing exercise in testing Sauternes as a table wine. It’s a nice pour – though more sturdy than elegant – with the requisite cane sugar, beeswax, candied fruit flavors matched by good acidity. It also went quite well with the bird, though neither the pairing nor the wine were as impressive as the Prima Donna (op. cit.) A Possibility.
2003 Ceretto “Zonchera” Barolo ($47). This is the most accessible of Ceretto’s fine line of Nebbies, and its mix of dried and fresh dark cherries, smart tannins and savory/spicy notes provide good drinking now and promise for the future. I thought my notes might have been influenced by tasting this wine at the truffle festival this fall, but a re-tasting this week convinced me I just wasn't being a tuber. Buy.
Until next time...