A new month awaits, which means a new batch of wines for me to share with you for my Best Bottles: February 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 5pm (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 February!
This Laetitia Brut Rosé is a traditional method sparkling wine made in the Central Coast of California. The grapes (65% Chardonnay, 35% Pinot Noir) are grown 4 miles from the ocean in ideal conditions for grapes destined to be made into sparkling wine. The vineyard area gets a thin band of fog in the morning, intense daytime sunshine, and cool evenings. The holy trinity for grapes. This wine is called “RM” as a not to the Champagne classification of récollant manipulant, which signifies we have a grower Champagne in our hands. The grapes are grown at the same place the wine is made.
Here we have a Pinot Gris from New Zealand winemaker of the year, Jules Taylor. They are a certified sustainable, boutique, woman owned winery. Pinot Gris is an interesting grape that varies quite wildly in style, depending on where it’s grown: Willamette Valley, Alsace, and New Zealand for example. This wine is a bit more generous than our domestic Pinot Gris and gives notes of pear, ripe peaches, orange zest, and honey. I like wines that are a bit lively and have bracing acid. They keep me on my toes!
This Burgans wine is made by Martin Codax, the largest cooperative in Rías Baixas, Spain. Somewhere along the way, cooperatives developed a bad reputation. While it’s certainly true that coops can make mediocre wine, it is also true that estates can be guilty of the same! The Martin Codax coop is comprised of 600 families and 3000 parcels of land. As expected, this wine is fermented and aged in stainless streel tanks to preserve freshness and acidity. I don’t think I’ve met an Albariño that I didn’t like!
For the person who appreciates the past, history, and those who came before them Scattered Peaks winemaker Joel Aiken is a classic OG Napa producer who cut his teeth making wine for Beaulieu Vineyards starting in the 80s. His wines and his style became a blueprint for making world-class wines in Napa. What is Fumé Blanc? Well, Robert Mondavi is credited with commercializing Sauvignon Blanc in the 60s. The grape didn’t have a lot of respect and was used to make a lot of sweet wines. In order to sell it, it had to be called something else. Insert: Fumé Blanc, referring back to Pouilly-Fumé, a sub-region in the Loire Valley known for Sauvignon Blanc. The style refers to a Sauvy B that’s been grooving with a bit of oak. Back to Scattered Peaks! Two wildfires in 2020 (the Complex and Glass fires) made that year their most difficult harvest. BUT, their Sauvignon Blanc grapes were unaffected as they were harvested just in the nick of time before the first fires struck. This wine was cold fermented in stainless steel tanks and aged in lightly toasted French oak barrels for 4 months, indicative of the Fumé Blanc style. Beautiful balance, nice acid backbone, and refreshing fruit. A nice roundness from the light touch of oak. Solid.
Piazza is a small, family-owned winery in the Ballard Canyon area of Santa Barbara, near Solvang and Los Olivos. A visit to the property is a must, as it’s tucked away in a remote area that feels like you are a million miles from anyone. Carbonic…..what the heck does that mean? Carbonic maceration is a process meant to soften out the tannins on a red wine and make it fruitier and easier drinking. During carbonic, whole grapes are put in a sealed tank with CO2, which encourages intracellular fermentation. In a nutshell, instead of adding yeast to initiate alcoholic fermentation, the grapes actually ferment from the inside by using the CO2 to break down their sugars. Eventually the berries burst and a “normal” fermentation proceeds. Carbonic wines can be best served slightly chilled and have a crushable, fruity factor that makes them quite quaffable. This wine is unfined and unfiltered with layers of earthiness, meatiness, and spice. Also, great acid makes this wine a solid pairing with pizza! Bomb.com
In California, the Russian River Valley is the place for Pinot Noir. This Raeburn Pinot Noir is another one of those great finds, as finding good Pinot Noir around $20 is a tall order! I always say: never trust a Pinot Noir under $20! This wine gives me blueberries 4DAYZ. It’s a super fresh wine with great acid. I absolutely love this wine. This is your weeknight Pinot to satisfy everyone. Actually, this would be a great event wine. Getting married? Hosting a big bday bash? This Pinot Noir is crowd pleasing and of a solid quality that I would feel comfortable serving to anyone…..novice or enthusiast. I recently whipped up a homemade mushroom fettuccine dish paired with this wine and it was <chefs kiss>. A marker for Pinot Noir is the earthy/umami note, making mushrooms a classic and delectable pairing.
Paso Robles has a certain reputation when it comes to wine. Don’t shoot the messenger! Paso is hot hot hot, and the reputation is that the wines are BIG, high alcohol, and jammy. Yes, some are. Especially the more old school wineries in the area. This is not that. Thacher is part of a small group of wineries aiming to make balanced, fresher, and lighter wines that showcase all the complex aspects of the Paso Robles terroir, versus just showcasing the sun sun and more sun. This wine serves up red berries and beautiful spice, as every Grenache should. A very pretty wine, which is how I generally describe Grenache. Sometimes a wine cannot just be described based on a tasting grid. Sometimes a wine conjures up an emotion or a sense.
And we’re back with Scattered Peaks here and their Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon. Rutherford lies directly north of Oakville and is one of the most respected, quality driven Napa Valley sub-AVAs. Unlike the Thacher wine before this, this wine and winery is sinking their feet into the classic, traditional Napa style. They are not shying away from alcohol (15.3% ABV), oak, (22 months in French Oak 60% new), and prominent fruit, and quality markers, such as a heavy ass bottle. *We must move away from that and let that idea go. The planet is must more important than a quality marker of a heavy bottle. Time to move into the 21st century. * What I love about this wine is the beautiful tension and structure. On a Zoom call with Joel Aiken, he described the “well-behaved pyrazines” on this wine, and he is absolutely right. That herbaceous note is what makes this wine so beautiful. That and the bitter dark chocolate on the back palate. Superb.
Three generations of the Madrigal family have farmed in Napa Valley since the late 1930’s. Today, the company is run by Chris Madrigal, the founder’s grandson. Chris’ grandparents left Mexico and arrived in the Napa Valley where they began farming apples, pears, walnuts and grapes. They were one of the first, if not the first, Mexican families in the upper valley. Chris’ father, Jess, early on chose to focus on wine and started the family’s vineyard management business. Today, that company manages over 800 acres. Over the years, they have managed vineyards for Clos Pegase, Duckhorn, Cakebread, and Chateau Montelena. Chris established Madrigal Family Winery in 1995 and produced their first vintage of 500 cases of Petite Sirah. This Petite Sirah is deep, dark, and inky in color and serves all the dark fruit and tertiary notes. A real stunner.
And we’re in Chile with our last wine. The name TerraNoble recognizes the land (terra) and the ability of the “noble” soils to produce exceptional wines. Terra Noble was founded in 1993 and specialized in wine made from Merlot. But not too soon thereafter, DNA testing revealed Chilean Merlot to be Carménère. Oopsie! They still focus on Carménère and a few other grapes, such as Carignan. They are a Sustainable Wines of Chile certified winery, fitting right in with the plethora of sustainable focused wineries in Chile. This wine was aged in concrete egg and untoasted foudre. In the glass it gives intense deep color and rustic tannins. This is a big meaty wine to be enjoyed with stewed meats or perhaps roasted eggplant, if you’re a vegetarian.