Old reliable picks and some new trends in wine

December 2, 2019

Thanksgiving 2019 was very special at Chez McD. Why so special, you may ask? Well, on Nov. 27, Barbara and I celebrated 43 years of wedded bliss, and Nov. 28 was son Connor’s birthday. Our home was overflowing with family and friends, and I planned for a groaning board as I wrote.

One of the treats I brought in is a case of James Suckling-rated 95-point Sardinian wine, Cantina Argriolas IS Argiolas Vermentino di Sardegna 2018 for $223. This vintage is one of the best Vermentino I’ve sampled in a while. Vermentino is another of those “Say what?” varietal wines that gets short shrift from fake news winos. Props to Mr. Suckling for a fair review. He wrote, “Here’s a very serious white indeed, trading in pronounced but bright apricots, peaches, mangoes, cloves, nutmeg and white pepper. Wonderful density and vitality to the full-bodied palate, where vibrant acidity crafts out a fine shape through fleshy tropical fruit. Long on the finish. Excellent value. Drink now.” I couldn’t say it any better.

Those who wish to impress family and pals over Christmas, or a cellarer who is the big boss, should search out these deals. Moet et Chandon Cuvee Dom Perignon Rosé LTD Lenny Kravitz 2006, at $300, down from $450s, 95 points McD. GMs or directors should be satisfied with Dom Brut 2004, 95 points, $187. There are still some 1982, which rated RP 96 points, out there at $376. The best Dom deal I’ve seen recently, for big buck buddies, is the 95-point 2006 at $1,732/case of 12. This nominal expense will allow most to “quid pro quo” the entire management, possibly locking up that promotion for which we have been passed over.

Another terrific gift for those who can’t keep their hands off the wine key, and to paraphrase, “drink the wine before its time,” is Taylor Fladgate Vintage Port 1997, rated from 95 points by all the likely suspects and selling in the $80s to careful shoppers. Keep in mind, these cellar forever. The 1997 is right in the heart of its drinking window. The only problem with shopping now is how the wine was kept. Prudent buyers will discover the provenance (how well and by whom the wine was stored) or get assurance, in writing, the wine has been vetted and is guaranteed by the store. My Port guru Ms. Jancis loved this, according to her notes from 2004. I bought some and couldn’t wait. It was better than I had hoped.

Many enjoy Zinfandel with turkey or ham and the spicy fixin’s. Mazzocco Dry Creek Valley 2016 features blackberry, boysenberry and raspberry, and a mild peppery bouquet. On the palate Zin fruit, cherry cola and hints of black pepper flavors, a pleasing tannic grip with proper acidity balancing the nose, and toasted nuts and chocolate peek through on the clean finish, 89 McD around $23.

Have you noticed all the wine from Sonoma that now claims to be bourbon barrel aged? I’m curious if all that smoke has prompted this “new construct.” I sampled a few and am not a fan. I did, however, enjoy an inexpensive bourbon barrel-aged Cab, 1000 Stories Prospector’s Proof 2017, which should run you about $15. The puff piece I read claimed that it was reminiscent of the 19th century wines the prospectors drank. I sincerely doubt that.

Although some attribute the initial plantings to Father Sera, most claim Agoston Haraszthy as the father of California winemaking, His “Report on Grapes and Wine of California” was first published by the California Ag Society in 1858. Most agree that Zinfandel was the wine of choice for “prospectors” who enjoyed wine, due to its availability. Also, well-informed folk may recall that Phylloxera put a huge dent into Cab in the late 1800s. I’m guessing that beer and whiskey were far more in demand. Having lived on the American River, near Lotus and the Bacchi Ranch, just down the road a piece from Coloma where  Sutter’s Mill is located, I can tell you with certainty that it  takes several bottles of wine to begin to put a dent into the chilled bones one would incur from a 12-hour day working hydraulics or panning for gold.

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