October 27, 2022

Best Bottles: October Edition

A new month awaits, which means a new batch of wines for me to share with you for my Best Bottles: October Edition. If you missed the IG Live, don’t fret, all the wine details are below. You can also re-watch it on Instagram.

In my line of work, I taste A LOT of wine. And I found that tons of wines slipped through the cracks. I couldn’t possibly cover every single wine in a blog post or on social media, so I came up with the idea to highlight the ten “Best Bottles” that I drink every month.  Without further ado, I bring to you my best bottles for the month of October!

Banshee Ten-of-Cups Brut NV $24.99 (California)

I don’t read tarot cards, but I’m told that the “Ten of Cups” card symbolizes harmony, joy, and abundance. This wine from Banshee is made in the traditional Champagne method with grapes sourced from all over California. Like its namesake tarot card, you’ll always be happy to see this bottle land on your table:) It is a blend of the traditional Champagne grapes of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier and is aged on the lees (or dead yeast) for a minimum of two years. BUY WINE

 

 

Planeta La Segreta Il Bianco 2020 $12 (Sicily, Italy)

Before I delve into this wine, I’ve got to share one thing. If I had one piece of advice for people looking to up their wine game, it would be to step away from grocery store wines that hover around that $8-$12 price point. Almost all of them are domestic (usually California) wines that are commercially and industrially made. The grapes used for these wines are generally low quality and from the Central Valley of California. Pretty much you’re starting out with subpar grapes and you need to do a lot of manipulation on the backend in the winery in order to make the wine taste palatable. So, if you step away from these crappy grocery store wines, what do you drink? And remember I’m not against all grocery store wines at all, I just know the difference between industrial glug and honest, regional wine. So my advice to you is to find those honest, regional wines like this one. And look at the price point here! You can’t beat it. This Planeta wine is a blend of a few different white grapes (the local Grecanico plus some international varieties) and delivers a really refreshing, lively, and easy to drink white, due to it being all stainless steel fermented. BUY WINE

 

 

Mondillo Riesling 2021 $41.99 (Central Otago, New Zealand)

When I think of Riesling I don’t think of New Zealand. But I think now I need to start! Central Otago in the South Island of New Zealand is known for high-quality Pinot Noir. This Mondillo Riesling is a stunner. Serving up all of the markers for quality Riesling: bracing high acidity, minerality, and a faint petrol note. There are also some beautiful floral notes here, classic to Riesling. And know that this wine is totally dry. I mean a bone dry. Another thing to take away from this chat is that not all Riesling is sweet. Many people believe that. And we have Château St. Michelle to thank for that. They make a sweet Riesling that became VERY popular here in the US (especially on Thanksgiving tables). But if you’re not into sweet, just know that you can easily find dry Rieslings. Look for the word “troken” on the label, which means “dry” in German. The server at the restaurant or the person selling the wine at a wine shop can help you navigate and figure out if a bottle of Riesling is dry, sweet, or somewhere in between. I still get confused sometimes, so don’t feel any kind of way in asking for help! BUY WINE

 

 

Qupé Y Block Chardonnay 2019 $22 (Santa Barbara, CA)

I’ve got a handful of Cali wine brands that I love to recommend because they consistently deliver quality wines at the $20-ish price point. I think that’s a nice sweet spot for a lot of people. There’s plenty of people that easily spend $10-$15 on a bottle of wine and what you sometimes don’t realize, is that especially some of those big brands that you can find at every retailer, they’re not producing really well-made wine. The wine looks less like a food/agricultural product, and becomes more of this manipulated industrial product. Qupé is not that. Qupé is one of those brands that constantly churns out wines at that price point that are quite amazing. I receive a sample of their Y-Block Chardonnay from Santa Barbara every single year, and every year I’m quite happy with it. Most of the grapes are sourced from the Bien Nacido Vineyard in the cool Santa Maria Valley of northern Santa Barbara County. This is literally one of the most high-quality and well-respected vineyards in the area. How Qupé makes a $20 wine from that I’ll have no idea, but I’ll take it! This wine is barrel fermented and aged in oak, so if you have a phobia of oak, find another wine. If you love your oak and you like that warm, comforting hug from an old friend that oak gives, come on down and try this wine! BUY WINE

 

 

Rose Gold Rosé 2021 $19.99 (Provence, France)

Because there can never be too much rosé from Provence as far as I’m concerned! Also, let’s stop spreading the misinformation that rosé is only for summertime. For the record, I live in Los Angeles and it’s summertime approximately nine months out of the year. You bet your bottom dollar I am drinking rosé year-round. This Rose Gold Rosé is classic Provence in style and made from both Cinsault and Grenache grapes. From the tect sheet: the grapes are grown about 50 miles north west of St. Tropez and fermented in Provence. If that doesn’t sound delicious, I don’t know what does! BUY WINE

 

 

Prats & Symington Prazo de Roriz 2018 $17 (Douro, Portugal)

Prats & Symingnton is a partnership between the Prats family of Bordeaux and the Symington family, a traditional Port producer in Portugal. This dry red wine is a blend of traditional Portuguese grapes including Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, and Tinta Barroca. This wine is an example of a really light, easy Portuguese red blend. Personally, I can’t stand the whole “red blend” category that you find at places is like the grocery store and big box wine retailers. They’re usually way too ripe of fruit and way too high of alcohol. I also find that they lack structure and are a bit flabby (not enough acidity or tannin structure). Step out of the grocery store, step into a wine shop, and look for Portuguese red blends. You’ll thank me. BUY WINE

 

 

Prats & Symington Post Scriptum de Chryseia 2019 $27 (Douro, Portugal)

This wine is from the same producer, Prats & Symington, that I just mentioned, but this one has some oak aging. 15 months in new oak to be exact.  Some of the wine is also aged in used oak. The idea for this wine is that wood has a supporting role in the ensemble cast. In the words of Bruno Prats “The wood should be the frame, not the picture itself”. I love that quote, because sometimes oak is used to a gratuitous level that is just too much. Not everyone wants oaky oaky oaky ass wines. BUY WINE

 

 

Pippin Hill Vineyards Petit Verdot 2017 $60 (Monticello, Virginia)

They make wine in Virginia? Yup! Fun fact: wine is made in all 50 states. And let me tell you something: a lot of that wine is good. Virginia is an interesting place because one of their major pressures that they deal with is rain, there is a ton of rain (and also humidity) which can make it challenging to grow quality grapes. But I will say, the few Virginia wines I have tasted have been quite good. This was sent to me as part of the Maryland Governors Cup, as one of their top-rated wines. And I can see why! Petit Verdot, a grape very rarely bottled on its own, is one of the minor grapes in Bordeaux. So, if you like really dry, structured tannic reds, this Pippin Hill Petit Verdot is a good bet. Perhaps with a really nice grilled steak? BUY WINE

 

 

Tormaresca Bocca di Lupo 2016 $70 (Castel del Monte, Italy)

Aglianico is perhaps one of my most favorite semi-obscure grapes from Italy. If you know, you know. Taurasi is considered the “Barlo of the south” in Italy and is made from Aglianico. And if you are a fan of Antinori wines in Tuscany, know that Tormaresca is a brand from the same family. But with this wine, we are in Puglia in the south of Italy. The grapes for this wine are certified organic and if you’ve got a bottle of Aglianico in front of you, you’ve got a big boy wine. These wines are nothing to take lightly! Lots of deep, dark, brambly fruit plus beautiful balsamic notes. If you’ve ever been to Italy and toured a winery that has balsamic vinegar aging in barrels, you know exactly what I mean. It’s sort of this woody, earthy, yet sweet smell. Give me braised something with this wine! BUY WINE

 

 

Wente Vineyards Wetmore Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 $35 (Livermore, CA)

Wente is the classic legacy producer in the Livermore Valley of California. I know Napa and Sonoma get all of the play, but know that wine is pretty much made in every corner of California at this point. I will actually be visiting Livermore wine country early next year as I’ve never been and have never tasted the wines, aside from a few wines from Wente. I’m looking forward to that and will definitely share more! Wente is a very well-known name in the wine industry because they actually are responsible for bringing a specific clone of Chardonnay from Burgundy to California. This clone is now called the “Wente clone”. Most Chardonnay planted in the US is this clone. In terms of wine, what can you expect in Livermore? Single vineyard Cab for $35!?!? This wine is a beau and seriously overdelivers for the price point. Step out of Napa……find some deals like this! BUY WINE

 

 

Graham's Six Grapes Reserve Port $27 (Porto, Portugal)

I have been known to talk smack about Ruby Port. I don’t have much of a sweet tooth and I find Ruby Port to be a bit simplistic and too cloyingly sweet for my taste. There’s nothing inherently wrong with Ruby Port, that’s just how I feel about it. OK? Reserve Port is very similar to Ruby Port except for one key factor. Ruby Port does not require any sort of aging, which is why we get those really simple red fruit notes (cherries and plums) and maybe some black fruits and sweet spices. With Reserve we are looking at up to five years barrel aging, which is going to give you a more complex wine with more intensity. This particular Graham’s Reserve Port was aged for two years in seasoned casks before bottling. I got a little bit of red fruit notes, plus lots of black fruit notes, cassis, and licorice. Fun fact, I just tried cassis for the first time a few weeks ago and I was like “yup, this is exactly what I thought it was”. This wine would be lovely with chocolate desserts. I love really leaning into richness, so like I’m thinking a rich chocolate mousse maybe with some raspberries on top or a flourless chocolate cake. If that’s a little too much for you and you prefer to contrast with a savory flavor, I would say a mature cheese could do the pairing trick. BUY WINE

 

I hope you enjoyed this post. If you’re looking to Up Your Wine Game and Drink Better, consider booking a private in-person or virtual wine tasting experience.
Brianne Cohen Wine Educator
Brianne Cohen is a certified sommelier, wine educator, consultant, and writer based out of Los Angeles.

Since March 2020, Brianne has educated and entertained over 5,000 people through her “Virtual Vino” online wine tastings.

Brianne holds the WSET (Wine & Spirits Education Trust) Diploma certificate, one of the most coveted wine certifications in the world. When she’s not helping others Up Their Wine Game, she can be found judging at international wine competitions.

Brianne aims to make wine approachable and conversational, to surprise and delight with unexpected, distinctive wine finds, and to give people knowledge (and confidence) about wine in their everyday lives.

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Sample Policy

As a wine writer, I frequently accept samples for review on my  website and on my social media channels. Please contact me at brianne@briannecohen.com to discuss sending samples for review. I promise to always be honorable with the samples. I will evaluate all wines in good tasting settings and with no distractions.

All reviews are my opinions, and mine only. Because of the volume of samples I receive, I cannot promise that all samples received will be reviewed, but I will do my best.

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