A summer sampler of diverse wines

July 15, 2019

Riff Pinot Grigio sent me a puff piece with hints about global warming. Riff stands for reef. Some 220 million years ago, the area near the Alto Adige foothills of the Dolomite Mountains was a reef-filled ocean. Yes, friends, this seems to imply there was a dearth of flora back then. The previous era’s wealth of vegetation sucked too much CO2 from the atmosphere, provoking global cooling, thereby causing an ice age, which killed off all the flora and laid down the material for today’s carbon fuels. Huge ice sheets developed and sucked up all the water. That ridiculous posit was prompted by a recent article in Scientific American that claimed if we planted 1.25 trillion trees, the Earth’s atmosphere could be stabilized and global warming ameliorated. I normally read these type articles over a glass or two of wine, because the absolutism in them makes me apprehensive. Fortunately, so far, I’ve avoided death by mercury in swordfish, Alar, Mexican produce, chemical bug spray on food, and rare meat. What will likely kill me is losing the ability to open my childproof meds, or typhus or the black death picked up in San Fran or LA on my way to the wine regions.

Riff 2018 is a lovely dry PG which utilized the expertise of Alois Lageder, a well-known producer in Alto Adige. In addition, Riff can be shipped by Dalla Terra Winery Direct, thereby avoiding the pricing incurred due to the normal three-tier distribution system. Regulars are aware of my position on Delaware’s ridiculous “likker” laws, so I won’t riff on that. Talk about a bargain, Riff can be had under $10; it is a solid 87 McD points.

Pale straw-colored, Riff opens to varietal notes with apple and citrus. This is a light-bodied wine, in the good sense. Its mineral acidity, driven by the limestone growing area, supports the nose and provides a crisp, clean finish.

Staying with dry whites, Domaine Bousquet 2019 Sauvignon Blanc from Tupungato, Mendoza, Argentina, is a consistent 88-90-point, $13 bargain, formerly labeled Domaine Jean Bousquet. The 2019 is pale yellow with a green tint. It shows tropical fruit with no grass. On the palate, limey acidity supports the nose and delivers a bright, clean finish; 89 McD, 2 price points. 

Bodegas Virgen del Aguila Paniza Vinas de Paniza Chardonnay from Cariñena, in Aragon, Spain, may be a tough find but it is a darn good Chardonnay under $12. Don’t look for oak. This is fresh bouquet wine with chardonnay fruit, citrus and herbal notes. On the silky palate, a touch of honey and balsamic spice leads to a long finish. The producer claimed the finish reminds one of Werther’s Original candy. They were correct. Or maybe I’m just susceptible to suggestion. A lovely Chardonnay, 88 points under $12. Labeled Fabula de Paniza.

Cline Cellars Ancient Vine series are staples for me. If you ever visit Contra Costa County, please don’t miss seeing these old vines planted in the 1880s by Valeriano and Giuseppina Jacuzzi, Fred Cline’s grandparents. These should be a heritage site. Yes, the same family invented the eponymous Jacuzzi. Fred and Nancy Cline also invented Red Truck Wines. Their 2017 Zin came in at 88-89 points priced under $15. Dark ruby-colored, opens to strawberry, rhubarb, pie spice and oak-driven vanilla. Palate repeats strawberry with chocolate and coffee nuance. Medium-long, clean finish.

The Mourvèdre is also consistently 88-plus with prices under $16. In Spain, this is named Monastrell, and Mataro in Australia. Very dark-skinned grapes. After vinifiying dry, the wine spends 1 year in darkly toasted American oak. This provides a ruby color like 10-year-old Tawny Port. The 2017 is a bit alcoholic at 15.5 percent, but not offensive.

Opens to plums and dark chocolate. Huge body, and check out those legs! Reminds me of an oloroso sherry with chocolate cherries nuance. Will stand up to smoked barbecue, but I prefer it as a standalone. The Mourvedre Rosé was not labeled Ancient Vines until the 2017 vintage. 2018 - look for red currant, cherry and plum aromas, cherries and plums on the bright palate and a long, clean finish; 87 plus 2 price points under $14. Great porch sipper.