Time marches on, and the only thing consistent in my life these days, seems to be wine! Tonight I’m hosting a Zoom webinar where I share with you my Best Bottles…the 10 wines I am going to enjoy in the month of March (if I haven’t enjoyed them already!). If you missed the Zoom, don’t fret, all the wine details are below and you can view the recording on my IGTV channel.
Without further ado, I bring to you my Best Bottles for the month of March.
I love playing the “if you drink this, you’ll like this” game. If you drink Champagne, you’ll love Franciacorta. And isn’t it just fun to say?! Franciacorta is a traditional method sparkling wine made in the Lombardy region of Italy. It’s actually made in the same style as Champagne. A cool fact about Franciacorta: about 60% of the vineyard area is organic (that’s good for you and good for the planet). This Vigna Dorata Franciacorta (made from Chardonnay and Pinot Nero) serves beautiful notes of citrus (lemon/lemon curd), apples and pears, and delicate floral notes. Also, spice notes on the palate. And that is actually my marker for Franciacorta. Whenever I smell prevalent spice in a traditional method sparkler, my mind immediately goes to Franciacorta.
We begin with a classic. With a woman at the helm, Trimbach is moving into modernity. Anne Trimbach is the 13th generation winemaker in her family, who have been making wine since 1626. We are in Alsace, France (right at the border of Germany) in a region known for superb Riesling. Many have a perception that Riesling is only sweet. Not the case……..there is a whole range of Riesling styles from bone dry to cloyingly sweet. In Alsace, the Rieslings tend to be bone dry, floral when young, and develops gunflint/minerality with age. You’re sure to find crisp acid and pure fruit character. Alsace Riesling tends to be drier, have riper fruit, and is higher in alcohol than German Riesling. German Riesling (which we’ll talk about in a minute) tends to be steely, and have high acid. This Riesling is bright, tart, plenty ‘o acid, and a nice minerality. A textbook Riesling. I enjoyed this wine with simple sushi (mostly nigiri and sashimi) and it was brilliant.
Welcome to Schloss Jonannisberg the first “Riesling only“ winery in the world. Wine has a long history at this estate, originally built by Benedictine monks in 1100. Even before it was built, wine has been cultivated on this property for over 1200 years. They’ve made exclusively Riesling since 1720, and the history at Schloss Johannisberg does not stop there. Their own forest lies to the north of the property, with wood from the oak trees used as the raw material to produce the barrels they use in wine production. Talk about “slow wine”. They also have a 25,000-bottle underground cellar with wines dating back to 1748. I’d kill a small child for a tour through that cellar. Lastly, they invented Spätlese style of Riesling (late harvest) and played an important role in the discovery of botrytized grapes. How’s that for a pedigree? This wine is a stunner (and a splurge) and quite possibly the most exquisite Riesling I have ever tried. A dry Riesling showing citrus, stone fruit (like peaches), and even some tropical fruit. Beautiful acid and minerality wrap this wine up with a bow. This wine feels quite versatile too. Would be a showpiece on the Thanksgiving table or could work well with a lobster or shrimp dish.
This was one of the most interesting wines I’ve tried in a while. Really kept me on my toes. We’re in Lodi at Markus Wine Co., with Swedish-born winemaker Markus Niggli at the helm. Markus sources unique grapes from the kaleidoscope of grapes that are planted in Lodi….it’s not all Zinfandel up there. In fact, over 100 different grape varieties are planted in Lodi. Which makes is a VERY fun place to go wine tasting. This is in contrast to other regions where 1 or 2 grapes dominate. Here we have a blend of Kerner, Bacchus, and Riesling. Kerner is a German aromatic grape related to Riesling, Bacchus is a low-acid German grape also related to Riesling. Jancis Robinson calls it “less elegant than Kerner”. <cue eye roll> And Riesling is well…Riesling. So we have a dry, aromatic white wine that is grippy, textured, almost chewy. In my tasting note I described it as a “Sauvignon Blanc that took ‘roids”. It’s got a lot going on. And if you’re an acid whore like me, you’ve come to the right place. I shared this with a friend recently and she immediately went to their website and ordered a mixed case of wine…..she loved it that much.
Longevity Wines started by Phil Long and his late wife Debra, the husband-and-wife team forged their path in the wine world, starting an online wine club under the Longevity brand in 2004 and opening their own Livermore winery and tasting room in 2008. Along the way, Long has increasingly embraced his role as a wine ambassador (he is one of the OG black winemakers in America), culminating when he was named president of the Association of African American Vintners. In that role, Long not only helps promote existing black-owned wineries but also fosters the next generation through education, mentorships, internships at wineries, and agricultural scholarships. Currently, Longevity makes 3,000 cases annually. His white label California Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay are available nationally. This wine has a cool helix cork (no corkscrew required!). As we look to the bottle, Debra actually created the Longevity logo of twisting grape vines in the shape of a heart, inspired by the Valentine’s Day presents Phil and Debra would give one another. “She’ll always be with me,” he says. “This journey is a love affair between Debra and myself.” This beautiful wine is aged in oak, and you DO get some oaky notes (toastiness and vanilla), so don’t be afraid. There is also a buttery/creamy feel, but the key here is that those elements are balanced. With a nice finish of acid.
Irvine & Roberts is a family-owned estate vineyard and winery at the southern end of the Rogue Valley AVA in southern Oregon wine country. Many are familiar with the Willamette Valley spanning from the Portland area in the north to the Eugene area in the south. Southern Oregon is also a growing wine region. In fact, there are about 40 wineries within 30 minutes of Irvine & Roberts. I have visited Irvine & Roberts and I can attest that this is one of the most beautiful tasting rooms I have been in. I highly recommend a visit. I had also tried the 2016 and was blown away. This one also did not disappoint. A focused and acid-driven Chardonnay with notes of stone fruit, white flowers, and wet stone/minerality. This is HANDS DOWN my favorite of the Irvine & Roberts portfolio.
The name, Chehalem, translates to Valley of Flowers in the Native American language, Calapooia. Chehalem has a strong focus on sustainability and maintaining their land in as natural a way as possible. The Stoller Wine Group (which they are a part of) is a HUGE landowner in the Willamette Valley, so this is a big deal. No herbicides are used, they dry farm when possible, use cover crops, and set up eco-zones across their properties to protect native species. The Ridgecrest Vineyard is known for both fresh fruit notes + earthy characteristics. I get big and juicy blueberry and blackberry bramble notes, wet leaves, and forest floor. Bold tannins….here for it. This is quite a big wine in its youth, but will age well.
Grenache (or Garnacha) from Spain is quite lovely, and this one from Anayon is no exception. A light color (as Grenache is generally pale in color), but quite a prominent nose. What I love about this wine is the tension between bright red fruit and deep/dark black fruit and bramble. Both of those things existed in the glass….quite exquisite. And oak is definitely a featured extra in this bottle. I get heaps of vanilla plus a roundness/texture that presumably comes from oak aging (10 months in both French and American oak). And dare I say some decent tannins? Grenache, as a thin-skinned grape generally has minimal tannins, but there was definitely a nice serving of them in this bottle.
When I talk about good values in wine, I generally find myself talking about international wines. Specifically, wines from Portugal, certain regions of Spain, and southern Italy. As of late, I have been wildly impressed with the quality and value coming out of Washington state wines. Especially for those of you who really love big, fruit forward wines. Let’s talk about this Be Human Red Blend. We’ve got a “Bordeaux Blend” of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, and Cabernet Franc. I really love this wine. Lots of deep dark berry fruits and dried herbs. You know that dried herb bundle that hung upside down in your grandmother’s kitchen? That’s the smell. Also, I’m digging the tannins on this wine. They’re a bit dusty and granular…..they’re not hiding (thank you Cab Sauv). They greet me immediately and then go and do their thing. So I’d still say medium tannins. And my favorite part of this wine is the tertiary chocolate note. I dig a quality big red (with no RS) that carries a chocolate note.
Charles Woodson, for those who don't know, is a Super Bowl champion and a retired NFL great. From football to Intercept Wines...talk about a nice trajectory. I recently showcased this wine for a comedy special I filmed with comedians: KevOnStage, Tahir Moore, Angel Moore, and Tony Baker. All the juiciness and boldness you’d expect from a Paso Cab. Big tannins. This wine is calling for a steak or maybe even ribs??
That’s all folks. Thank you for joining me for Bri’s Best Bottles: March Edition. See you next month!