Plenty of new wines worth trying in the new year

January 2, 2017

Happy New Year! Saw a nice buy on Lunelli Ferrari Perlé Metodo Classico Brut 2009 sparkler @ $33. This Italian beauty is 100 percent Chardonnay that spent five years on yeast lees. Metodo classico is quite similar to Methode Champenoise, and the wine compares favorably to many French Champagnes in the $50 range. Pale yellow with lovely small perlage, chardonnay nose with a bit of toast tone, more varietal flavors on the creamy palate with a balancing acidity. The toast notes reverberate through a long, clean finish, 92 McD. The 2006-08 were well written up by Suckling in WS, but I think it was the 16.5 that Jancis Robinson awarded the 2005 that prompted other writers to pick it up.

If the Mongol hordes are in town, eventually the menu turns to pizza or burgers. A $15 90-point Montepulciano will fill the bill and save your pocketbook and cellar as well. A Villa Gemma Masciarelli Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo DOC 2014 fills the bill. Made of 100 percent Montepulciano, this is a top-notch, complex, cherry-pink colored, full-bodied Rosé with pomegranate and floral notes and hints of thyme. Stainless steel fermentation provides a crisp palate and a clean finish.

BR Cohn has been scoring big with its Carneros Sangiacomo Vineyard Sonoma Chardonnay, and the 2015 looks like it will continue the tradition. These are made with care in the more traditional style using barrel fermentation, lees stirring and 10 months French toasted barrel aging. They are complex and round in the mouth, and it is difficult to differentiate the broad array of aromas and flavors.

The bouquet is caramel, apricot, and pie spice with hints of toasted oak. It escalates on the palate to include ripe melon, Asian pear, lemon, hazelnut and chalky mineral flavors. This is the style of Cali Chardonnay I truly enjoy and sorely miss. Many modern writers decry them as not being austere like the Frenchies send us. Don’t get me wrong; I really enjoy the big French wines also. But it is darn cold in France compared to Sonoma, and they rarely get the super-ripe grapes we do. I also don’t like being ripped off. The Cohn is big, ripe, round, loaded with flavors and well balanced with plenty of acidity to clean up the long finish. I recently saw a price of $276/12. Bottles are being sold for $30. These will improve in your cellar, and if you enjoy this style, as I do, buy the case. I say 93 McD, add 1 price point.

For those who enjoy Pinot Grigio, I’d like to recommend you look into Peter Zemmer wines from the Alto Adige in the Southern Tyrol in Italy. This is the foothills region of the Italian Dolomites. Not quite as sweet as many Cali and Italian PGs.

A bit softer and buttery, Zemmer sends us a pale straw-colored wine that is mineral crisp to support a pretty bouquet of lemon, green apple and maybe some pear. The finish is crisp with some fennel and almond notes, 88 McD under $15. Zemmer also does a nice job with Pinot Bianco Punggl.

I liked the 2014 and 2015, 88 points McD around $17. To provide some idea of the scope of wine from Alto Adige, check out these: Cantina Terlano Kellerei Terlan 1 Grand Cuvee 2011, 96 points $166; 2012, 94 points, $140.

Finally, I was roundly and rightfully excoriated by Richard, who emailed me: Hey McD, no Port recommendations this season? Righto, Richard! For all those with veiny red cheeks and noses, who sit before crackling blazes in their smoking jackets and slippers, sipping port with a side of cakes, chocolates, nuts and fruit and/or big fat Gran Coronas, your best bet this year is the 95-point 2011 Cockburns Vintage Port; it got 95-98 from WS, Suckling and WE, but one of my gurus, Jancis, said 18. From her that’s a 99 and 44/100-point wine. It is ready now through at least 2030. Best of all, it can be had under $80, except in the states that voted for Hillary where it is over $90. I’m so looking forward to this year.

By the way, don’t embarrass yourselves when ordering; it’s pronounced Ko-burns. Happy New Year to one and all.