In our Select Six from July we featured another white Rioja and spoke of the wine's parallel to white Bordeaux. That version featured a blend of Viura and Malvasia with some barrel aging that shows off the richer, fleshier, more 'serious' elements of the region. This bottling, an entry level wine from one of our favorite Spanish producers over the last year, captured everything that is fun and fresh about Rioja. Made from 100% tank aged Viura, the aromas are all about juiciness, loaded with pears and melons and just a hint of cooling minty spice and melon rind way in the background. The palate is also juicy in texture, but the flavors are much drier and zestier than the aromas, almost shockingly so. The melon rind and grapeskin tannin bring the flavors of the whole fruit into play, not just the sweeter juice and pulp the aromas promised. They also help this wine stand up much better to fleshier dishes where something with just fruit and nothing else would fall flat. Break this out with pork or poultry, and don't be afraid of matching it with something that has a bit of spice.
Regular Price $15.99, $13.59/case
2013 FOPPIANO PETITE SIRAH 'LOT 96' SONOMA COUNTY
As one of the oldest family run wineries in California, Foppiano Vineyards holds a place of great history. They were a founding member of the Russian River Valley AVA (and still among the best values from the area as well) and one of the first producers to feature the Petite Sirah variety in its own wine versus using it as a blending grape. While often duplicated over the last 50 years, their Lot 96 remains one of the best examples of Petite Sirah in its more approachable easy-to-drink form. Big and spiced on the nose with lots of dark cherry and cola-like aromas behind the briary berry fruit, the palate doesn't have the deep tannins the bolder more 'serious' versions have, but it isn't done so to the point of feeling fruity. There's texture here that is all too often lost in this price range to the crowd appeal of sweetness, which is a nod to the Foppiano's Italian heritage. A big value for grilling as the seasons start to cool off.
Regular Price $14.99, $12.74/case
2014 M.A.N. FAMILY CHENIN BLANC COASTAL REGION
In an era where it is harder and harder to find value wines in and around the $10 mark that aren't industrially made, South Africa continues to deliver surprise after surprise. The M.A.N. Family (an acronym made from the first name of the wives for the three founders) source fruit from many areas of South Africa to make quality area designated wines that most locals would struggle to make as well themselves, and at undeniably fair prices. Made from 'free run' juice (which makes a big difference at this price point as it doesn't allow any juice from the more bitter interior of the grape) this doesn't show any of the stern, steely side of the variety usually found in bargain bottles. Bright white flowers and cool citrus and tropical notes without any of the more honeyed notes the more expensive Chenin Blancs can get but isn't missed here at all. Vibrant on the palate as well with only a bit of juicy pineapple and pear fruit behind the citrus. A great midweek or party drinker that will make you happy you didn't overspend.
Regular Price $9.99, $8.49/case
2012 CENNATOIO 'INNOMINATO' ROSSO TOSCANA
A long time favorite of the store, Cennatoio has always been one of the most visually striking wineries in our Italian section, casting aside the flatter more traditional labels to feature bolder art work that present historical images with a more modern flare. Fortunately the quality of wine inside the bottle is more than equal to the visual presentation, and that is most evident in their entry level Rosso Toscana. The wine is always a tank aged blend of Sangiovese, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon with the proportions varying from vintage to vintage depending on how well they perform and the amount that graduates to their top barrel aged wines. Bright tart red fruit and dried Tuscan herbs on the nose have a fairly traditional feel, staying fresh and clean on the palate with subtle savory and pepper notes filling in the background. Even though there is Merlot and Cab used, the traditional Tuscan character shows through, making this an ideal dinner wine.
Regular Price $11.99, $10.19/case
2013 LEONE DE CASTRIS VERDECA SALENTO 'MESSAPIA'
Another emerging native grape variety from the seemingly endless source of ancient Italy. This grape called Verdeca finds its home in the 'heel' part of the Italian boot called Salento, and has the most varied cultural history in Italy. The grape itself is believed to have originated in Greece and have been a part of the winemaking scene here for the better part of 3,000 years. Surprisingly, for as warm as the region is, the variety shows remarkably lower alcohol levels and a natural vibrancy where most other grapes would become flabby and overly hot. Crisp pear and wildflower aromas show through at first, with slight hints of melon and pineapple as it opens up. The palate is fairly full bodied for an unoaked wine, but stays clean and refreshing with lots of citrus skin and grape tannin to reign in the fruit. This has a lot of similarity in style to the better whites from Friuli or Alto Adige, fleshy and complex as well as completely natural and dry in presentation, no extraneous bells and whistles. A great food match with citrus prepared fish or poultry dishes.
Regular Price $13.99, $11.89/case
2012 CORRALITOS SYRAH SANTA CRUZ MOUNTAINS
This is a 'secret second' project for one of the wineries we feature, which sounds a little bit 'cloak and dagger' we admit. Essentially this second label allows the winery to source fruit from independent growers and create a more flexible line of wines from vintage to vintage depending on what comes available without intruding on their core brands. The Syrah itself stands on its own as one of the best values we've had from California in a while, especially if you like a more earthy and reserved style of red wine. The heavy fog that rolls over the Santa Cruz Mountains almost daily keeps the vineyards quite cool, and that temperature is reflected in the cool, vibrant nature of this wine in spades. Dark cherry skin, pepper and cured meat aromas come out at first, and slowly evolve deeper raspberry tones as it opens. Wines from cooler sites generally need a little bit of time open to get more fragrant and really strut their stuff, so the second and third hours are really worth the wait. In the mouth the fruit is moderate and earthy with very fine and polished tannins, almost Pinot-like but with tart fruit throughout and a long racy finish. No obvious oak and definitely no extra density or sweetness, this is a domestic version of a Crozes-Hermitage, one of the last bastions of value left in the Northern Rhone. A beautiful food wine that plays nice with almost any savory meat dish, and a great find for those that prefer a more European style of red wine.
Regular Price $15.99, $13.59/case
These wines regularly cost $82.94
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