Look around for novel approaches to familiar wines

June 20, 2020

How about an upbeat open this week? Grant Long Jr. opted for a lighter look to help the paper over the angst C-19 has provoked. According to a W. Blake Gray article titled, “Napa winery rolls out perfect pandemic wine,” winemaker Grant Long Jr., a well-regarded consultant and owner of Aonair and Reverie ll, decided on a quixotic new brand named TP Reserve. Gray said this “placed the most precious commodity of 2020 right on the front label. Anybody can have wine. But only the well-prepared, the tenacious and the wealthy can feel secure about their supply of toilet paper.” I’ve not sampled this new release, but the article is worth reading to relieve your consternation: Long’s other products are limited releases and difficult to locate. He worked 20 years with former owner Norm Kiken to build Reverie’s reputation to the status of a purchase-by-members-only brand. His Diamond Mountain Cabs were usually rated around 91 points. In 2017, Long and wife Megan purchased the winery and changed its name to Reverie ll. TP is Long’s first solely owned volume production. I’m excited to see how Long does rolling out larger production from sourced grapes. From Napa grapes there are a Chard and a Bordeaux blend. El Dorado Grenache is the third. 

Somerston Estate in the Vaca Mountains, near St. Helena, is a 1,615-acre property with 215 acres in vines. A combination of the Priest Ranch and Lynch Ranch, it has been making limited-production Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, and Cabs Franc and Sauvignon from 100 distinct blocks. We were fortunate to receive a sample of the 2018 Priest Ranch Cab and 2019 SB. The SB was cool, stainless fermented, aged sur lie with batonnage for several months. It was bottled in April. I should have waited a bit, but curiosity got the better of me. I allowed the wine to stand in the glass about 20 minutes to 65°. At that point, a polite bouquet of trop fruit and grapefruit emerged. These aromas repeat on the palate with hints of lemon zest and vanilla adding on the palate. The fruit was supported with a balancing bright acidity, 90 McD points at $22. The cut sheet claimed it would accompany artichokes. I poached them à point then stuffed them with Progresso bread crumbs and Reggio Parm inserted between the leaves then added a butter, XVOO, garlic sauce, finishing by broiling beneath a pan of fresh rockfish. This method prevents burning the top leaves when cooking two in the same broiler. I decided to wait a bit on the Cab. For fans, Priest Ranch Coach Gun 2015, $75, may be their best effort since 2012, 93 McD. It is a Bordeaux blend, primarily cab. 

Grillo is a varietal grape, primarily grown in Sicily, which most associate with Marsala. However, when treated differently, a white wine with depth and decent aging potential can be produced. Tasca d’Almerita Tenuta Regal Grillo Cavallo delle Fate is one. The 2018 is perfect with fried calamari, Frito Misto, which we locals call the fried seafood platter, fresh tuna and veal piccata. I like to use the wine to deglaze the veal pan after the sauté so it incorporates the pan debris into the lemon sauce. The 2018 may be the best vintage since production began in 2012. It can be found under $190/case, 90 McD. Look for trop fruit, apricot, citrus and a balancing mineral acidity. 

Frank Family Lewis Vineyard Chardonnay Reserve Carneros 2016, 92 McD, has a floral bouquet; it is big, rich, and shows honey and crème brûlée on the palate supported with bright acidity through its long, clean finish. It was awarded second-best Napa Chardonnay this year. This buttery, complex Chard has rated 90 or better for the past eight consecutive years while maintaining its price around $65. I think the 2018 compares very favorably to Henri de Villamont Puligny-Montrachet 2018 at the same price. The Puligny is a bit leaner, but it does have a pleasing hazelnut finish, $65, 92 McD. 

Best wishes to all my fellow Papa Smurfs for a terrific Father’s Day!

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