A new month awaits, which means a new batch of wines for me to share with you for my Best Bottles: April Edition. This month we’re switching to a new format to present the video portion of this post. In the past I have done a Zoom webinar, and this month I am switching to IG Live. I’ll be there tonight at 6pm (Pacific), where in 30 minutes or less I share with you the 10 wines I am going to enjoy in the month of April (if I haven’t enjoyed them already!). If you missed the IG Live, don’t fret, all the wine details are below and you can re-watch the video on my Instagram.
Without further ado, I bring to you my Best Bottles for the month of April.
Yes, this month I am coming out of the gate with a non-alcoholic wine. If you’re new here, you’re probably like WTF? Don’t worry, I am ALWAYS your girl for top notch wine content on the web. BUT, this beverage made me rethink the non-alcoholic category, which I thought was worth mentioning. This is an alcohol-free organic vegan sparkling Chardonnay. First, you’ve gotta take off your wine hat. This isn’t a wine, and don’t compare it to a wine. One of the main criticisms I’ve heard for non-alcoholic wine is that it’s sweet. This Thomson & Scott Chardonnay is BONE DRY. No sweetness at all. And like I said, don’t think in terms of wine here. To me, this tastes like a dry, sparkling apple cider. It’s delicious.
Limoux in southern France is the birthplace of sparkling wine, and this Côte Mas traditional method sparkler does not disappoint. According to Jancis Robinson, locals claim that fermentation in bottle was developed in Limoux (1st records date from 1531) long before it was consciously practiced in Champagne. The climate here is a touch warmer than in Champagne, so the fruit is a bit riper. I get notes of candied lemon and other fresh citrus, plus honey and white flowers (acacia). Beautiful acid and a friendly 12% ABV.
We’re now in southern Portugal in the red wine dominant Alentejo region with Herdade do Esporão, one of the most reliable Portuguese wine producers. At $10 a bottle, this is a PERFECT example of what I mean by honest, regional wine. This wine is interesting and stands out in comparison to commercial grocery store $10 glug. This wine was made by the hands of a woman, Sandra Alves. Also, this wine naturally clocks in at 2g/L of residual sugar, meaning this wine is dry, fresh, and fruity. Made from all indigenous grapes: Antão Vaz (adds tropical fruit), Perrum (adds softness), and Roupeiro (adds citrus and acid). Get out of crappy Chardonnay land, and get in this glass!
Bonterra, a brand in the Fetzer portfolio is America's #1 organically farmed wine. They have over 1,000 acres of vines, of which 100% are farmed organically and 25% are farmed biodynamically. The land has been farmed organically for over 30 years and they are currently producing 500,000 cases annually. In my opinion, the role Bonterra plays in the marketplace is to provide accessibility of organic wines to the larger market. Even if you are not a fan of large production wines, Bonterra is doing amazing things and deserves our attention. Not all big is bad. This is a cheap, cheerful, and organic Sauvignon Blanc serving great acid and lots of tropical fruit, which I've come to expect in a Cali Sauv Blanc.
Jeff Nelson started Santa Barbara based winery, Liquid Farm in 2009. Jeff “grew up” on Champagne and has a special place in his heart for Burgundian style Chardonnay. This wine hails from the Sta Rita Hills, known for cool-climate Chardonnay. Jeff believes that wine is a product of the earth plus human touch. Essentially, liquid from farming, hence the name. A beautiful, nuanced high acid, earth driven Chardonnay. Some call this the best Chardonnay in America. And I don’t disagree.
With a wicked restaurant pedigree, André Hueston Mack was once the sommelier for the French Laundry and Wine Director for Per Se. He was also voted one of America’s best young sommeliers many years ago! In 2007, he added winemaker to the list of job titles and started Maison Noir Wines. This is a classic, approachable, and affordable Willamette Valley Pinot Noir. Serving earthy, spicy, floral, and herbaceous notes. And if supporting a black-owned winery is your thing, definitely check out André and his full line of Maison Noir Wines.
We’re back to Alentejo and back with the $10 red companion to the white Herdade do Esporão we spoke about earlier. This is another indigenous blend of Aragonez (aka Tempranillo, which adds roundness), Trincadeira (adds berry notes), Touriga Nacional (adds richness and depth), and Syrah. THIS, my friends, is a red blend. I dare you to compare this to grocery store “California Red Blends” laden with Mega Purple and tasting like the Central Valley threw up in your mouth. This dope ass blend can be found at many independent retailers, some Whole Foods stores, and the Pacific Northwest chain, Market of Choice.
In Lodi, they say, you can’t walk five steps without tripping over a Mettler. They are one of the oldest farming families in Lodi, having farmed wine grapes there since the late 1800’s. That’s about 6 generations! And with Lodi being Zin Country, that’s what I chose to highlight. These Mokelumne River District vines are over 50 years old. This area is known as the “epicenter” of Lodi’s old vine Zinfandel, hence the name. This is a big wine, but don’t be afraid. Instead, roll your sleeves up and dig in. It's juicy and exuberant, serving heaps of chocolate and mocha notes. Don’t forget the dark fruit (blackberries and plums), smokiness, black pepper, and vanilla notes. Generous ripe fruit makes this a great burger wine.
This wine is from Basilicata, the same region my paternal grandfather’s family came from. Against all odds, Elena Fucci took her family’s grape growing business and built a successful winery. You can read more at this article I just wrote for Monarch Wine. I’d describe this wine as Italy in a bottle. The tension/juxtaposition between finesse and rusticity is palpable. Classic Aglianico: aromatic notes of sour cherry, plums, and balsamic. Plus, a soft floral through-line of sweet violet petals. Smokiness abounds, presumably from the use of smaller 200L barrels for aging. On the palate, we have a wine that is as dry as can be, yet there is a dichotomy of the sweet floral and balsamic notes. Quite a stunner. To be enjoyed with lamb or other grilled meats or perhaps some aged cheeses.
Boxed wine. I know, another wild card. But stay with me! Sokol Blosser is one of the Willamette Valley’s pioneering quality wineries, founded nearly 50 years ago. Consumers love boxed wine for value and convenience, but quality was the one piece of the puzzle usually missing. Here we have a super-premium boxed wine from one of the most well-respected wine regions in the United States. This is a 1.5L box, equivalent to 2 bottles of wine. Once opened, the wine will stay fresh for up to 30 days. To understand the environmental impact of a box versus a bottle, according to a 2010 Life Cycle Assessment study, a 1.5L boxed wine product will generate about 1/3 of the overall environmental impact throughout its life cycle as compared to a 750mL glass bottle. This wine is rooty tooty, fresh and fruity. The PERFECT picnic or camping red wine. Serve it slightly chilled, perhaps?