Bommarito Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2007
Let’s not save the best for last: My favorite wine in the world for the past six months has been the Bommarito Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2007. I can say that because, at $20 a bottle, it’s one I’ve been able to go back to again and again. And I’ve loved it again and again and could not make myself fall out of love, it seems, even though I’m desperate to branch out a bit. At this price point, its excellence is exceptional. Don’t let the fact that it’s in a screw top bottle scare you off. When you put this in your mouth the taste is rich (dare I say expensive) and lingering, almost a little thick. Even though the flavor is big, there is no overbearing tannin or acidity. Stands up beautifully to assertively flavored food. I’ve not seen it anywhere but the Napa Valley Winery Exchange, which is linked above. Buy it from them if you live in the Bay area (mention you’re local to get a 10% discount) or else order it online.
Educated Guess Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2009
It seems in moving to California, I’ve fallen hard for the Napa Valley cabs, because my second favorite wine now is also a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. In fact, it’s also at a similar price point and also recommended to me by the (always excellent) staff at the Napa Valley Winery Exchange. And I love Educated Guess too for the same kind of lingering, flavorsome richness that you get with the Bommarito. But it is different in ways I appreciate too…it’s lighter in body, livelier in its fruitiness. It’s the cherry to the bommarito’s raisin. Juicy rather than jammy. And this is a shallow point, but I also love the elegantly scienc-ey label design on this one.
My third recommendation is not a wine but a winery, Quivera Wines in Sonoma Valley. I discovered this during my camping/leonids gazing/winetasting trip to Healdsburg with the twins last year. We must have hit six or seven wineries in a day. Some had great wines. Others beautiful surroundings, or interesting food. Quivera was the only one in my opinion that had the whole package, head and shoulders above the rest. They follow biodynamic growing principles at Quivera, which is like organic but also tinged with witchy magic…fertilizing by the phase of the moon, that sort of thing. I’m not a believer in the mysticism, but I am a believer in what’s in the bottle. That day, I bought their Fig Leaf Sauvignon Blanc and one of the zinfandels (which I frankly don’t even remember anymore). But funnily enough the wine I really badly want to taste again was one I liked but judged to be too weird to buy in the tasting room…50% Sauvignon blanc, 50% Gewurztraminer. Gewurztraminer is a grape for dessert wine. Very sweet, with a bouquet of lychees. Cut with 50% Sauvignon Blanc, the sweetness was less intense and the wine becomes much more drinkable, but the intoxicating perfume was still there. After our tasting, we sat at one of the tables in their beautiful courtyard to eat a picnic of oozing cheeses, crisp armenian cucumbers, bread purchased at a local bakery and precious dry creek stone fruits (peaches and plums) at the peak of their perfection. An elegant, husky-voiced older lady who worked at Quivera saw us and, with incredible graciousness, gave us all each another pour of the Sauvignon blanc-Gewurztraminer as we ate because she said it would compliment what we had to eat perfectly. “Oops,” she winked, as she poured, generously nudging a little extra into the glass. And she was right. With the wine, the flavor from the fruit and cheese just bloomed. There was some sort of crazy magical synergy between the sun, the fruit and the wine that just made that little impromptu picnic a crystalized, indelible moment of pleasure in my mind.
The super-desserty white wines like the Sauvignon blanc-Gewurztraminer above are an exception, but in general my taste in white wine is for something minimalist and uncomplicated. In reds, I seek richness, balance, lingering flavor and delicious, bursting fruit over a sound, muted foundation of soft woodiness. In whites, I want refreshment. I love a little sharpness, a lot of green, herbaceousness. And I demand a very clean flavor profile with no overripe fruits and no off-putting acidity. The best are dryish with a hint of flintiness. I can’t think of one particular wine right now to recommend, but my favorite kind of white wine is Sancerre. Sancerre is a region in the Loire river valley in France that specializes in Sauvignon Blanc. You can find Sauvignon Blanc wines from all over the world, but the chalky marls of Sancerre does seem to produce an unique product. I don’t want my sauvignon blancs to be fruity, perfumed or oaked. I want it to be crisp. Vegetal. Just a little bit astringent on the tongue. I want Sancerre.
I want Sancerre. Preferably in Paris with some raw oysters, followed by a huge plate of choucroute garnie. But more often, what I have in my glass is Vinho Verde. This is because Sancerre doesn’t seem to be very well distributed in the US. When I find it, I don’t feel like it is value. Vinho Verde (literally, “green wine”) is an inexpensive, low-alcohol content wine made from slightly under-ripe grapes in Portugal. It is really completely different from Sancerre or indeed any other wine I can think of. But it kind of hits the spot, yeah. You can find Vinho Verde quite easily in the United States and it is a bargain, with most of the bottles priced $10 or well under. You drink it young, because it doesn’t age well. You drink it well-chilled, enjoying the slight effervescence prickling the inside of your mouth (not really enough CO2 to be described as a sparkling wine though.) You drink it liberally, because it’s just so easy.