Wine Musings, Week of 3/15/18

I promised value this week, so here you go. Let’s start with a couple of can’t-miss whites:

The 2016 Pratsch Gruner Veltliner ($15.99 for a Full Liter) is delightful as it is most every vintage, with citrus, pear and apple fruit. The zippy acidity balances nicely with the mild herbaceousness. This will certainly do the job often assigned to Gruner of accompanying asparagus, but it is by no means limited to that. It is a lively, super-fresh quaffer that will be perfect with lighter fare or all by itself.

D’Arenberg is one of my favorite wineries in the Southern Hemisphere, and not just because it’s pronounced like my name (say Darrin-berg). They do a crazy variety of cool wines in all price ranges, but for me the standout value is the 2016 “Hermit Crab” ($16.99), a blend of Viognier and Marsanne that possesses a richness more common to $40 bottles of wine. Peach and honey jump from the glass to the nose; on the palate, it shows more stone fruits and a touch of oak. The name is kind of a giveaway for the ideal food pairing, but it also goes really well with popcorn.

We have two vintages of one of my favorite whites from the Pacific Northwest; The 2015 Brooks Amycas, Willamette Valley, Oregon ($17.99, 90pts WA) is a blend of 44% Riesling, 21% Pinot Blanc, 15% Muscat, 10% Gewurztraminer and 10% Pinot Gris, but I shouldn’t talk too much about it ‘cuz there’s only 3 precious bottles left. The 2016 is made from the same grapes (can’t find the percentages as it is already sold out at the winery), and it is wonderfully fresh and crisp, with a core of citrus (lime) and green apple and slight hints of peach, apricot and petrol that will each develop in time. Floral and sandalwood notes develop as it airs; it’s complex enough that serving it with food seems almost a distraction, but it reminds me of some of the wines I had in Germany that went so well with their exquisite salami (a thinly sliced version of Saumagen, probably not available at Cub, but Kramarczuk’s probably has a decent substitute) over a bed of mixed greens.

The Sainte Eugenie Corbieres (2016, $10.99) continues to impress us with each successive vintage. This blend of 40% Old vine Carignan, 30% Grenache, 30% Syrah planted in clay and limestone soils is a lush, modern take on the wines of this region, with ample dark berries and a silky mouthfeel. No need to bust out the mutton chops and 4 bean stew (this is the land of Cassoulet, after all) for this one; it will go great with a roast beef sandwich or bar-b-qued ribs.

Our visit a few weeks ago by Gloria Zapatero of Cune Rioja was a reminder of how awesome these wines are, top-to-bottom. The Vina Real Crianza (2014, $16.99, 92pts JS) is the one that always stands out when considering the price. The combination of ripe, effusive fruit with notes of tobacco and oak seems like it shouldn’t work, but it does. Hints of lavender and baking spices add complexity and bright acidity give the wine excellent length and an overall sense of liveliness. Grilled white meats and veggies seem like the place to start here, but it should prove to be super-versatile up for much more challenging pairings as well.

O.K., so this one is just over $20, but I think it still represents tremendous value. The 2013 Foppiano Petite Sirah ($21.99) from California’s Russian River Valley is long and layered with waves of blue and black fruits, fine-grained tannins and brambly earth. As it opens in the glass, the senses can be overwhelmed by the diverse aromas of flowers, gun smoke, curing meats and forest floor. This wine is great now, especially with hearty foods, but what really impresses for the price is that it will easily age for another decade or more. Makes a great gift for someone looking to cellar it to commemorate an occasion without having to drop $60 to make sure it’s up to the journey.