What’s new in the wine world and taking advantage of low prices

The wine world is alive and well, thank you. Sure, wines are retailing for a lot less than before the recession and wine shops and markets are pushing one-day and blowout sales like they’re just about to go out of business (and some have).
I view it all as a customer once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to buy great wines at low prices.
So let’s see what wines have touched my palate recently and made a lasting impression:
— Rodney Strong Cabernet, Sonoma, 2006 for $12. Rodney Strong is back with a solid lineup of value wines, topped by this rich Cab at an attractive price. The warmer regions of Sonoma reward with a distinctly classic vintage. Vibrant aromas of cherry and spicy flavors. Another remarkable wine from the popular winemaker Rick Sayre.
— Falkner Winery Meritage, Temecula, 2005 for $39.95. A Bordeaux-style of Cab, Merlot and Cab Franc. Low, meticulous production insures a long, round finish. Elegant flavors.
— Las Rocas Garnacha, San Alejandro, Spain, 2005 for $9. Spanish wines are big winners these days with unique notes of cola, coffee and grapes that are upfront. Sister to the French Rhone Valley’s Granache varietal.
— Chamisal Vineyards Chardonnay, Edna Valley, 2007, for $24. Holds the complexity of this traditionally favorite varietal, yet springs new life into the Chardonnay footprint.  More tropical than most. Estate bottled.
— Christian Moueix Bordeaux Superieur, Bordeaux France, 2005, for $23. A truly fine wine from the finest European harvest in this decade. A delicious marriage of 70 percent Merlot and 30 percent Cab Franc. Blackberry, plum and mocha with a spicy finish.  Bordeaux is the largest of the fine wine districts in the world and this wine is a significant entry point.
— SanTasti Classic, a palate cleansing beverage, 2008. A breakthrough new product that is water-based with light carbonation to “scrub the mouth.” Too often wines will conflict and the result is “palate burn.” SanTasti cleans the palate, allowing a more natural readiness for that next fine wine. The Wall Street Journal just recognized SanTasti as a new helpful approach to judging wine. Check it out at www.santasti.com.
— Barbera: Italy’s everyday wine secret. In that part of Italy that inspires poetic interpretations of the great wines Barolo and Barbaresco, there lies a humble grape that does its job day in and day out. Piedmont is a classic district, majestically rising from Italy’s southern Alps.
The most revered grape is Nebbiolo with its muscular tannins that built the world’s thirst for the two esteemed, expensive B’s. 
But wait, a third B cannot be ignored. It’s one of the few grapes in Italy that the wine takes its name from and that is Barbera.
Barbera is the wine most people in Piedmont drink with dinner and it’s the most widely planted. It’s an everyday easy-to-drink wine that doesn’t need to be aged to get peak flavor. The grape’s acidity makes it superb as the wine for rustic, Italian-style cuisine.  It ripens early and is less finicky than the Nebbiolo grape. You often see Barbera grown with Nebbiolo, providing the vineyard with a more stable cash crop to help smooth out income. Prices at the retail level tend to be similar to Chianti Classicos in the Tuscany region. The wine is ruby red and powerful to the taste. Most of the brands are Italian from villages like Alba, Monferrato and Nizzi to name a few. In  San Diego Country, try the 2007 Barbera from Witch Creek Winery in Carlsbad for $22.95 club price. Witch Creek also does a 2007 Tre Amici that is a blend of 50 percent Nebbiolo, 17 percent Petite Syrah and 33 percent Barbera that is delicious and is $21.25 club price. The 2008 Barbera should be released any day now. For more information, visit www.witchcreekwinery.com or call (760) 720-7499.
Wine Bytes — Valentines Day events
— The Grand Del Mar has a four-course dining experience at Amaya from 5:30 to 10 p.m. Feb. 14. Choices of top menu items from Executive Chef Camron Woods. Cost is $110 per person and $155 with wine pairings. RSVP at (858) 314-2727. A lavish menu awaits diners at the upscale Addison, also from 5:30 to 10pm. Price is $125; with wine pairings $185. Call (858) 314-1900 for more information.
— Callaway Winery Temecula has a romantic wine cellar dinner from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Feb. 13. Wine reception, appetizer and main menu paired with Callaway wines. Cost is $76.50 ea. Call (951) 676-4001 for your table.
— Pinnacle Restaurant at Falkner Winery Temecula celebrates with wine dinners starting at 7 p.m. Feb. 13 and beginning at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 14. A 30-minute champagne reception will be held for early arrivals. Choice of entrees. The cost is $79 per person. RSVP at (951) 676-8231, ext 1.
— Savory in Encinitas has a special Valentine’s weekend menu from 5 p.m. Feb. 13 and from 4 p.m. Feb. 14. The cost is $47 each and $66 with matching wine. Reservations can be made at (760) 634-5556.
— Thornton Winery Temecula presents a Romantic Rendevous at 7 p.m. Feb. 14. Three on-site locations to choose from: Champagne Caves, Vineyard View Room and Champagne Lounge. Perfectly paired wine and food. The cost is $85. Call (951) 699-0099 to reserve a spot.
— Orfila Winery in Escondido has a 1950s fun-style event at 6 p.m. Feb. 14. Diner-inspired eats and cool treats in the new Barrel Room. Not a sit-down dinner but a 1950’s fun food and wine juke box sock hop. The cost is $85 per person. Call (800) 868-9463 for details.
— Bernardo Winery in Rancho Bernardo is hosting a Valentines event starting at 6 p.m. Feb. 13. Champagne, wines, dinner menu, desserts and dance fun. Three different menus will be offered. The cost is $65 per person and $125 per pair. Slightly higher after Feb. 6.  Call (858) 487-1866 ASAP.


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