A new month awaits, which means a new batch of wines for me to share with you for my Best Bottles: December Edition. If you miss 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 December!
Your bubbly hack, if you are a champagne lover like I am, and want to save a little bit of money: look for the word “cremant” on the label. Champagne can only be made in the Champagne region of France, which I’m sure you’ve heard a million times. Cremant is a sparkling wine made in France, and made in that same method as they make Champagne. So, it’s a nice trade, similar quality level, and you save a few bucks. You can easily find cremants starting at around $20, whereas Champagne rarely starts below $40 or $50. This wine very much over delivers for its price point. A beautiful brute rosé style made with Pinot Noir. It is clean, precise, and fresh. Highly recommend this bubbly especially if you’re looking for something wallet friendly for New Year’s Eve, or even a wallet friendly option for a Los Angeles wine tasting session. BUY HERE
We are in central Italy on the east coast in Abruzzo with the Masciarelli family. Gianni Masciarelli founded the winery in 1981 and since his passing in 2008 his wife and daughter have become the regions pioneering winemaking duo. This wine is everything I want in an Italian white: high acid and food friendliness, and that characteristic bitter almond note. The wine is made from a blend of Trebbiano, Pecorino, and Cococciola, which I’ve never heard of! This is a perfect example of an “Old World” wine beating out most New World wines at the same pricepoint. And I mean beating out in terms of QPR (the quality overdelivering for the pricepoint). BUY HERE
I bet you’ve never had a wine from Uruguay! I hadn’t either until I attended a virtual tasting a couple of weeks ago and tried a slew of wines from there. I was greatly impressed. This little Sauvy B stunner at $12 a bottle was fantastic. Traversa is one of the larger producers in the country, so you might have a chance at finding it online or at a wine shop. This wine was fresh but not really lean. The fruit is moving into tropical notes including passion fruit. I also got a lot of citrus and also really nice acidity, ideal for local Los Angeles wine tasting, fits perfectly with a tasting with a variety of wines. What’s not to love for $12?
All right everyone. This is a classic. A truly classic wine. If you have ever described a Chardonnay as “oaky and buttery”, you have Rombauer Vineyards Carneros Chardonnay to thank for that. And yes. I am aware that oaky buttery Chardonnay isn’t for everyone. But guess what, most wines aren’t for everyone. We all have our own subjective tastes and preferences, and that is perfectly fine! But I can tell you, sometimes I do want that warm familiar hug from a full-bodied rich white wine, and this gives me that. I found myself seeking wines in that category during the pandemic. Things were so difficult, and harsh, and scary. I didn’t want linear, angular wines with harsh sharp notes. I wanted soft and round and comforting. Comfort wine, like comfort food. Isn’t that funny? BUY HERE
Another beauty from the Masciarelli family, we have the Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo which is a beautiful, deeply colored rosé made from the Montepulciano grape. I already drank this wine or else I would pour a glass and show you how deep it deeply colored it is. There is some misinformation out there that I’ve heard people regurgitate about the darker a rosé, the sweeter it is. Spoiler alert: the color of a rosé has no indication of the sweetness level. The darker color of a rosé just means that the skins were left to macerate and marinate with the juice for a little bit longer during fermentation. Lighter colored rosés have less skin contact. And wine gets its color essentially from the skins so that’s really all it tells you. The only other thing you can deduce is that a dark colored rosé can be a more structured, fuller wine. Those very pale, light pink rosés tend to be quite light, sometimes vapid, and just almost a little too easy to drink for my taste. Perfect for wine tasting, Los Angeles has plenty of other similar wines that make for a perfect virtual wine tasting experience, or even DIY experience.Personally, I like a little bit more “there there” with my rosés. BUY HERE
Klinker Brick is one of my favorites up in Lodi, California which is near Sacramento. Lodi is historically an agriculture town that has a steep, strong history in grape growing. The Felten family at Klinker Brick has been around for quite some time. Farrah Felten, who has taken over the family business from her parents is a 6th generation farmer. Joseph Smith, from Belize is their winemaker. This wine is a blend of mostly Zinfandel, plus Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petite Sirah. Big, juicy, and delicious. BUY HERE
We are in Tuscany with this beauty, specifically in Montecucco, which is a small region nestled between Brunello di Montalcino and Morellino di Scansano in Maremma. That’s a mouthful! I absolutely love this wine. I hate generalizing, even though I do it all the time, and am about to do it again. Sorry not sorry. Generalizations help you get a quick and easy grasp (hot take if you will) on a complicated subject. This wine definitely has a little bit of rusticity to it and there’s generous oak use here, with the wine aging two years in barrel. You really have to dig earthy, Old World Italian reds to dig this wine. I’m also getting some nice savory herbaceous notes. I’ve said it before and I’ve said it again, these are everything that I want in an Italian red, especially when it comes to wine tasting, it offers a perfect balance in variety to help clean the pallet.
It is December and I wanted to give you a couple real high-end, big ‘ol reds. These wines are great for gifts or are great if you want a really stellar bottle of wine on the holiday table this year. Robert Hall is one of my favorite Paso wineries, definitely a classic. This is not one of those hip, cool, Instagrammable spots resting on its laurels and not making very good wine. This is a place that delivers solidly delicious wine and really top-notch hospitality and food experiences. They also have events with live music and other fun things which is just so Paso. You’ve probably heard of and seen Robert Hall before, as they have some more value priced wines that you can find at grocery stores and big box wine retailers. The “Cavern Select” line is only available to wine club members. But Robert Hall is such a great winery that becoming a member is never a bad idea! I want to also remind people that sometimes when you see brands widely distributed (i.e. in grocery stores), it’s easy to think “oh that’s what they do and that’s their jam”, when a lot of times they also have more high-end, premium lines.. It is nice to have those delicious daily drinkers around $20 bucks but if you really want something special, they’ve also got that too. BUY HERE
And a real stunner here. This is a Bordeaux blend but not with the usual suspects (Cab and Merlot) as your main grape. It’s 56% Cabernet Franc, 41% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 3% Merlot. Going along the same with the theme of not shying away from oak use, this wine sees 21 months in French oak barrels, 75% of them new. I get so many beautiful, rich cedar notes. I’m thinking of the line in the movie, Overboard with Goldie Hawn when she walks into her custom-made closet on the yacht and says “I asked for cedar” and she makes them remake the entire closet. I digress. This one is quite beautiful. Dark black fruit with a little bit of raspberry peeking through. The finish is long. So so long. Which is a marker for a quality wine. That is probably the number one thing that I’m looking for when I’m looking to review or rate a wine and think about where it sits quality wise. A long finish where the wine stays with you and those flavors really linger, that’s the thing. That’s the moment. A great gift for the Cabernet lover in your life, or wine tasting, Los Angeles offers a huge array of beautiful & similar wines. And not to mention, a gorgeous bottle! BUY HERE
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!
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
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
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
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
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 & 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
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
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
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 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
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
A new month awaits, which means a new batch of wines for me to share with you for my Best Bottles: January Edition. This month we’re returning to the IG Live format to present the video portion of this post. I’ll be there tonight at 6pm (Pacific), where in 30 minutes or less I share with you a grouping of wines I’m enjoying this month. If you miss the IG Live, don’t fret, all the wine details are below and you can re-watch it on my IGTV channel.
Without further ado, I bring to you my best bottles for the month of January!
Ferrari is THE Italian sparkling wine house. Fun fact, Ferrari is the bubbly of choice for wedding toasts in Italy. It’s that classic and iconic of a brand. And more recently they kicked Champagne off the podium and is now the official toast and spray of Formula 1. This is a limited edition bottle that I believe they will produce annually for the Formula 1 race. In the bottle is their traditional method brut sparkler, made of 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay. Ferrari sparkling wines are just so damn clean and are solid AF. Pretty much the most reliable sparkler out there IMHO.
Paula Kornell is one of the original wine industry pioneers in the Napa Valley, with her family’s historic “champagne” house. Yes, anyone used to be able to use the word “Champagne” which is not the case now, as it is a protected place name. Hanns Kornell Champagne Cellars was among one of the first Méthode Champenoise producers in California, while Paula Kornell Sparkling Wine is her own brand. This wine is a vintage sparkling, meaning all the grapes (Pinot Noir only) come from a single vintage, 2018. This wine is bone dry at 4g/L of residual sugar. The wine spends close to two years on the lees, which adds a delicate yeastiness, complexity, and depth to the wine. A gorgeous female-made wine.
Qupé means poppy in the language of the Chumach, the indigenous people of the Central Coast and Channel Islands. Poppy, as you may know, is the state flower of California. This Chardonnay is sourced primarily from the Bien Nacido Vineyard in the cool Santa Maria Valley of northern Santa Barbara County. A quick note on estate vineyards versus sourced fruit. One is not inherently better than the other. Yes, you can say that if grapes are grown on the same property as where the wine is made, there is a good chance that the vineyard and winemaking teams are working together to make the best wine possible. The came can be true with sourced grapes. For example with this wine, Bien Nacido has custom farmed these grapes to Qupe’s specifications. Collaborative long-term relationships can be made between growers and wineries, so this is not a “one is better than the other”.
BeauJo as the cool kids call it! Where are we? We are in southern Burgundy in France in the sub-region of Beaujolais. The grape here is Gamay. Louis Jadot was founded in 1859 and has been a Bourgogne staple since then. On the label you’ve got the Bacchus head, the Roman God of wine. This is a brand/label you will see regularly. They produce super value priced wines like this one and SUPER premium wines that are a fortune. This is a good ‘ol standard BeauJo. Not the cheapy BeauJo Nouveau that tastes like grape juice with alcohol, and not the higher quality BeauJo Village level. This wine serves up red fruit (strawberry, cherry, raspberry) and a healthy dose of pepper (not the stronger fresh cracked kind; the finer black pepper almost powder). And don’t forget notes of cinnamon, or red hots to be more specific.
What I love about the wine is the name – The House. This wine was crafted to be “the house” wine. A wine to be enjoyed at any time, on its own or with food. And that’s exactly what I got when I tried this wine. It’s so good, it’s almost too good. A wine to solve all your wine problems. A varietally correct Pinot that reminds me of why I love Pinot. Serves me crunchy red fruit with a touch of spice. A true crowd pleaser.
From everything I’ve heard, the 250-acre Saracina ranch sounds like a lovely place to visit. In addition to sustainably farmed wine, they also make olive oil and honey. They were founded by the Fetzer family in 2001. And it’s still family owned….just a different family ☺ with the Taub Family. This is a true red blend, comprised of 50% Grenache and 50% field blend (Grenache, Carignan, and French Colombard). A field blend is where grapes are planted together in the one vineyard, harvested together, and generally and co-fermented in the winery (co-fermented means they are literally fermented together). What I love about this wine is that it has a really good acid structure. Acidity in wine is what makes you salivate and gives you a palate cleansing sensation. All these things contribute to the wine being deemed “food friendly” and would make this Old World style wine a great addition to your dinner table.
If Clif with one “f” looks familiar, it’s because this is the same Clif Family who own the Clif Bars brand. The Climber is a Bordeaux style red wine blend made from grapes grown on the western side of the Oak Knoll AVA. 77% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Petite Verdot, 6% Merlot, 5% Malbec, 1% Cabernet Franc). As a wine person and someone who constantly strives to try the new, the exciting, and the different, admittedly I sometimes forget about good old Bordeaux blends. This is a fantastic, quality wine that I thoroughly enjoyed. Classic notes of black fruit (blk cherries), blueberries, and cedar closet. This wine does not shy away from its use of oak, though neutral (with 18 mos aging). And the dried herbs <chefs kiss>. It’s the bunches of herbs you buy with the intent of using them all, and they dry up on your kitchen counter. That’s what this wine smells like.
“Amancaya” is the name of an elusive flower found at high altitudes in the Andes. Legend has it that if you are able to locate this flower and use it to propose to your loved one, they will say yes. This wine comes from Bodegas CARO, which is a joint partnership with Domaine Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) in Bordeaux and the Catena family in Argentina. As an Argentine, I love my Malbec. As I say, in Argentina we drink so much Malbec, that it practically comes out of the faucet. If I had to describe it, I’d describe it as a Malbec “Plus”. So much Malbec out there is at the same quality level, and it’s all solidly good. This one is a step above with a deep core and darker aromas and flavors than your typical Malbec. This likely comes from the 30% Cabernet Sauvignon blended in.