Closing out another year in the rapidly evolving wine scene

December 30, 2019

I hope your holidays went well. Unfortunately, early deadline caused me to send this out on Monday before Christmas. You must wait until next week for holiday news. I do have some interesting wines to share that go well with fruit, nuts and cookies. Some may remember my sherry exposé a while back. While waiting in the doctor’s office, I read an article that claimed Emilio Lustau Vermut Lustau Rojo was great with Christmas cookies. I never thought of Sweet Vermouth and food before so I looked it up, learning I could get my hands on some for less than $20. It was worth every penny, and the fruitcake, Barbara’s world-famous chocolate chips and snickerdoodles all enjoyed the support. The bouquet was quite complex: orange peel, roses, sage, coriander, ripe plums, and cinnamon, and after some glass time, some licorice notes. Surprisingly smooth and pleasingly sweet, more citrus, plums and grape juice flavors are balanced with delicate acidity. The finish is smooth with oaken hints and a tad of bitterness. Makes a great Negroni, 89 McD points around $18.

Sherry aficionados will also enjoy their Anada Rich Abocado Oloroso Sherry 2000, or the 1997 is better if you can find any, 90 McD around $50. Raisins, nuts, smoky. Comes in 500 ml bottles, most recent vintage is 2004, $31. Their Los Arcos Solera Reserve Dry Amontillado is killer with Serrano ham, $17 McD 89. Solera Gran Reserva Emperatriz Eugenia Rare Oloroso NV is nutty, smoky, tangy, goes well with sharp cheeses. Won several golds and silvers. The Peninsula Palo Cortado is excellent, 92 McD under $60. This is very dry and nutty, 19 percent alcohol. Goes great with lobster cream bisque. The sharp, dry wine cuts the unctuous cream mouthfeel.

There was a lot of email concerning my comments on wine clubs. Apparently, I struck a nerve. This Nov. 10 article from LA Times may help clarify why I am reluctant to recommend them: Contrary to what many emailed  me, not all of these are bad. The operative part was you can do better by reading here (a blatant ploy to maintain your interest). 

RRs know I am a fan of Fred and Nancy Cline. Fred is an original Rhone Ranger. These folks are akin to the Da Vinci  of the wine industry. One of Sonoma’s largest landholders, largest owner of 100-plus-year-old vines, their vineyard in Oakley, Calif., grows Mourvèdre, Carignane, Grenache, Palomino and Zinfandel. They are winery operators deluxe.  Fred is an originator of “Green String certified” completely solar-powered, natural cover crops to provide soil remediation, sheep to eliminate weeds in the vineyards, and use of compost teas for fertilizer instead of petroleum-based products. Most are aware these were the Little Red Truck people. They also run a large cattle ranch and orchards. They are hoteliers with a small worldwide chain, but most of all they are winners of the coveted Luther Burbank Award for ecologically friendly growing practices. In addition to Cline Cellars, they own Jacuzzi Winery, which is directly across the street. And yes, Granddaddy was one of the hot tub inventors.

Which leads me to 2018 Cline Pinot Gris Sonoma Coast Estate Grown. I followed their recommendation and had it with lobster poached in tarragon butter; please use fresh herb, that freeze-dried is nasty. Not your typical pinot grigio, folks, it is quite dry, very pale green, with a pretty pear, orange, wet-straw nose. On the palate, more orange, lemon, hints of gravelly minerality and ginger. Fresh on the creamy palate with a mouth-cleansing finish, no oak, 87 McD around $15. Their Estate Sonoma County Pinot Noir 2018 under $16 gets 89 McD points. For my money, Cline Cellars Zinfandels are usually top of the mark in QPR. There are 10 labels to provide a very wide look at Zinfandel. Try to buy a mixed case and toss in a Mourvèdre and a Carignane. Your friendly local wine shop can probably get you into a case well under $200.

I shall close out 2019 by thanking all who email fascinating questions, provide information, newsy items, friendly compliments and even the off-color rebukes that keep me grounded. Keep them cards and letters comin’! I’m looking forward to 2020. The wine biz is evolving rapidly. I’m not one of those “it’llnevawork” types but am fascinated with innovation and effort. I’m also (like great wine) well-aged and alert to the fact that much of the “nouvelle” stuff doesn’t work. And that’s OK. Happy New Year!

Subscribe to the Daily Newsletter