In honor of the most American of holidays—our very own Independence Day, the Fourth of July—we’ve asked our staff to pick out some of their personal favorites from the motherland. Consider this an homage to the terroir of the United States and all it has to offer. Let’s pay our respects to the diverse wine region that is this fine country as the holiday rolls around by drinking a little of our own great juice. There’s no better excuse to be a patriot.
Montebruno Wine Co. “Crawford-Beck” Pinot Noir 2010
Here is, perhaps, the most electrifying example of Oregon Pinot Noir I’ve ever come across—and though, at this point, I have had it with the term “Burgundian,” this wine just might merit it enough to tease out the metaphor a little bit. A product both of the impeccably maintained Crawford Beck vineyard in the Eola-Amity Hills (surely one of the Premiers Crus of the Willamette?) and Joe Pedicini’s decidedly high-Medieval winemaking (native yeast fermentation in open-top vats, no temperature control, no additives, malolactic fermentation and aging in old barrels), this bottling’s deliciously savory-spicy strawberry fruit just might make it a good ringer in a lineup of Savigny-lès-Beaune or Volnay. USA! USA! – Max W.
Ghost Pines Cabernet Sauvignon 2011
This blend of Napa and Sonoma fruit delivers the ripe cherry, blackberry, dark chocolate, and vanilla notes that we’ve come to expect from California Cab, but a nice earthy minerality provides a bit of lift and keeps it from being too rich. After it was open a while, some of the sweetness gave way to some yummy mocha and mint notes. The relative complexity, concentration, and overall balance make the price tag a bit of a head-scratcher. – Ali L.
Foxglove Chardonnay 2012
This is another fantastic wine by Jim Varner. Jim’s eponymous label, Varner, is often cited as one of California’s most thoughtfully balanced Chardonnays. Foxglove represents his more accessible second label, although by no means does it play second fiddle to its big brother. With one sip, you quickly understand that this is a seriously made wine in a style that lays bare the impressive quality of the fruit. There is no oak and no malolactic fermentation, simply ripe, first-rate fruit that reminds one of a rich Mâconnais Burgundy. On the nose, there is a hint of unripe pineapple, leading to a rich, mineraled body with tangerine zest overtones and a lean and lightly grassy (long) finish. This wine has very few peers and deserves to be considered one of the world’s best Chardonnay values. – Robert G.
Marietta Old Vines Red “59” NV
I drank this wine at a Sunday afternoon BBQ with some friends and it went beyond our expectations. It’s an uncomplicated but well-balanced Zinfandel blend that’s warm and comforting. Make no mistake, this is a big wine, bursting with ripe fruit, and it performed beautifully with our sweet-and-sour barbecue sauce and buttered corn on the cob. Ignore the Zin naysayers and have some fun with your palate this summer. It’s delicious. – Erik G.
Robert Sinskey Pinot Noir 2010
Don`t you always want to support those who do the right thing and care for our planet? Isn`t it fabulous when that leads to a win-win situation and their product delights, too? Robert Sinskey Vineyards have farmed organically since 1982. They run their vehicles on bio-diesel, their sheep graze between the vines, and all their wines are estate-bottled. Now add to that this bright cherry- and deep crimson-colored stunner, offering aromas of crushed blackberries and Bosc pear, plus a medium to full and slightly tannic mouth feel and a lip-smacking, clean finish. Imagine your favorite glass, one-third full, resting beside a dish of slow-roasted carrots with coarse sea salt and fresh rosemary. Instead of drooling, just take a bottle home and see for yourself. Cheers. – Peter S.
Keuka Lake Vineyards Gently Dry Vignoles 2013
Some people consider New York to be an up-and-coming wine region. Well, I believe that New York has arrived. New York wineries have been producing wines at a world-class level for decades, but it seems that in the last few years they have really begun to push themselves to new heights. New York especially excels in the category of crisp, racy whites, and this “Gently Dry” Vignoles has definitely hit the mark. Vignoles is a hybrid grape made by J.F. Ravat by crossing the two grapes, Seibel and Pinot de Corton. Bright, citric, and focused, it tastes like a blend of Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc. – Omari W.
Heitz Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa 2009
Having just returned from a trip to Napa, Sonoma, and the Russian River Valley, and being in the fortunate position of having had a wonderfully informative personal tour of Heitz Cellars, I am eager to share my thoughts on their Napa Valley Cab. Heitz is situated in a beautiful location in the hills just off the Silverado Trail, and an 1898 gray stone building protects the French oak barrels used to age this wine for three years before it is released. They produce what I believe to be a wine of amazing structure that will age, but also one that is drinking very nicely right now and that is at a price point that makes it a superb value. The nose has elements of floral, rooty bramble, hints of orange, and soft vanilla. The palate has dense cherry fruit, spice tones, and a delicate drop of anise. Also check out the single-vineyard-site wines! Cheers. – Stephen W.
Bebame Red Blend, El Dorado 2012
It is hard to believe this wine is from California, but it is! Finely structured, with flavors of smoked tea, herbs, mushroom, and red fruits, this Loire Valley blend (Cabernet Franc and Gamay) is bright, yet elegant. This is a collaboration between Steve Edmunds and Don Heistuman, who seek to produce low-alcohol, flavorful, and approachable wines in the United States. Perfect for the season. Enjoy with some grilled eggplant or artichokes. – Misaki R.
Donkey and Goat, Grenache Blanc 2011
California wine continues to be reinvented as a result of a new wave of winemaking lead by a group of forward-thinking winemakers, including Tracey and Jared Brandt of the Berkeley-based winery, Donkey and Goat. To state that I’m thrilled to see a change is an understatement. My palate has been formed by wines of the Old World, as I simply preferred the more restrained, distinct styles. Now, I can quite readily find the wines in the same vein from California, Oregon, and even New York. This is a supple, dry white wine with a vibrant freshness that goes well with anything from the grill, be it vegetables or surf and turf. Drink this with a slight chill to enjoy the subtle aromas. Don’t keep the bottle on ice or you’ll hide everything the winemakers want you to taste. Get ready to learn something new about California. -Lorena A.