Thinking ahead for suitable Mother’s Day wines
Mother's Day is approaching. Here are some food-friendly Chardonnays that won’t break the bank and three levels of Prosecco that will help turn a festive gathering into a sparkling event. Valdo Marco Oro Prosecco Brut DOC and Prosecco Rosé both rate 88 McD points and are fine entry-level choices. I prefer Rosé sparklers because the pale-rose color seems more festive, and the use of Pinot Noir in the blend is more food friendly. Those who prefer extra dry may wish to try Valdo Cuvee Magredi NV, 90 McD points, a tough find, or Numero Uno Extra Dry; both are under $10. Keep in mind extra dry is the next grade sweeter than brut. Valdo Numero 10 Valdobbiadene Prosecco DOCG around $17 ($15 in PA Liquor Control but tax drives up cost and they do not ship), 90 McD, is a better buy than Santa Margherita Superiore Valdobbiadene DOCG, which sells well over $22., 87 McD. I already wrote up the Cuvee 1926 for 90 points at $15. Slightly off track, if you see any Zenato Spumante Metodo Classico Lugana Brut, pick up a bottle under $30. Consistent 91-92 McD for the 2017, ’18 and ‘19. I became acquainted when reviewing a thimble of their Sergio Amarone Della Valpolicella Riserva 2016, 95 McD, and a remarkable bottle of 2016 Ripasso, 90 McD selling for $28, which is just entering its window. 2018 Ripasso is also lovely but needs a few years on the shelf. Fortunately, these don’t increase much in price over the short haul, but as they come together the value increases dramatically. Anyhow, the Lugano Spumante is top shelf. Traditional straw-colored with prolific small bead, opens to brioche, yeast and a hint of nutmeg. On the palate, nectarine supported with bright acidity; it finishes long and clean.
Mention Jim Clendenen and Santa Barbara’s Au Bon Climate should immediately come to mind. He brought Burgundian-style Chardonnay and Pinot Noir to Coastal California in the early 1980s, long before Coastal Sonoma rose to prominence. Clendenen never claimed the title of winemaker; instead, he called himself The Mind Behind. He gathered a terrific coterie who could fulfill his winemaking genius, naming Jim Adelman as winemaker. With his untimely passing in 2021, this plan allowed his tradition to continue. Although the winery is still owned by his family, Adelman and staff have continued the excellent production. Rated 89-90 since 2016, even the difficult 2020 vintage managed an 89, while somehow keeping the $25 price. The new-release 2021, 90 McD, derives from four vineyards that average 25-year-old vines. Flint, mineral and citrus nose with barrel-driven clove and nutmeg. Aging 10 months sur lie provides body. Lemon and white peach flavors with a hint of vanilla. Flavors continue through a long finish. If you wish to see the top of the line, their Bien Nacido Vineyard Chard 2018, 94 McD, is great QPR. After it won nearly every award for over 20 years, the mainline critics had tended to ignore Au Bon Climat. They tired of superlatives, best-ofs, and $50 lovelies that rivaled Corton Charlemagne, and eschewed the opulent butterscotch gems in favor of puckery, lean, “single bunch from vine 12,” $200 bottles, claiming them better food wines. I challenge foodies and winos with well-developed buds to try the Bien Nacido with a steamed local lobster. Those who savor Chardonnay as a standalone should locate their label, Nuits-Blanches Aux Bouge 2019. There is still plenty to be found under $40. If you fall in love, there are cases available under $460. It can be consumed now but will improve and cellar at least until 2030. Since the winery is in transition, I can only say that nearly any of its many products, through 2020, are fair value or better. Looking back through my records, most are rated 90-plus with one 88 and a couple of 89-90 over seven years. Their Hildegard white is a “trust McD” buy. The 2020, a blend of 50% Pinot Gris, 45% Pinot Blanc and 5% Aligoté, is redolent with lemon, baked apricot, cream and toast aromas. The palate has hazelnut, lemon confit and oak back notes. Creamy palate is fully supported with zesty acidity, 94 McD, $36. Consistently rates 90-plus since 2013.