The road map to find my “Great Eight” wines for the first three months of the year took me to many road shows, wine bars, resorts and restaurants.
Wineries are teaming together to tell their story along with a taste of the latest releases. Impulse wine buying is still alive and well. When I find a candidate, no impulses for me. I give the wine a test drive with foods, cheeses and breads of many flavors, then compare to others from a similar varietal and year. Only then did it make the great eight for this year. Prices are the best I could find, on line and in retail stores.
So let’s hop on board, fill the cart and pop the corks.
Washington — Columbia Crest Merlot, 2011, Columbia Valley; $7. What, you say, $7! This is a rich, smooth, complex beauty that must be tasted to be believed. The key to a great Merlot like this — a velvety smooth texture. columbiacrest.com.
Temecula — Falkner Winery Amante Blend 2010; $39.95. A Super Tuscan-style with Sangiovese, Cabernet, Cab Franc and Merlot. Bring in the pizza and pasta for this soulmate matchup. falknerwinery.com
Carmel Valley Monterey — Holman Ranch Heather’s Hill Pinot Noir 2010; $37. High on a hill with this one has vines that get all day sun and good protection from breeze, fog in the morning. It’s a great prescription for healthy, vigorous Pinot Noir. Small production with high quality. holmanranch.com.
Russian River Valley Sonoma — J Vineyards PinotGris, 2013; $12. Lots of melon and ripe peach — yes, it’s a white wine, but at times it’s good to have a fruit salad instead of a steak. Jwine.com.
Guadalupe Mexico — Monte Xanic Gran Ricardo 2011; $49.99. Big Bordeaux style blend deep, dark and intensive with an old-style handsome wax seal. It’s time for Mexican wines to make their move. montexanic.com.mx.
Paso Robles — Opolo Vineyards Mountain Zinfandel 2012; $16. An alcohol level to match the price in this stud wine, this big bang wine has plenty of cherry, plum and spice, but balanced acidity to keep it drinkable. opolo.com.
Temecula — Robert Renzoni Old Vine Zinfandel, 2009; $34. Classy and brilliantly crafted from vines that are many decades old. I take my zin from old vines for a taste of blueberry, coffee and caramel with a rich finish. A leader on the Deportola Trail of wineries. robertrenzonivineyards.com.
Tuscany Italy — Villa Antinori Chianti Classico Reserva, 2010; $27. Twenty-six generations of winemaking in this family. Through Wine Spectator I personally studied under Piero Antinori, who provided me with inspiration and thirst for the wines of Tuscany, where the roots go deeper than any other in Italy. antinori.it.
Follow Up: Vin Diego Wine & Food Festival
Vin Diego, in its second year as a major San Diego wine festival, took off and was a huge success at its new Liberty Station location in the Pt. Loma area of San Diego. Encinitas Producer David Fraschetti doubled the number of wineries in attendance at the early April event, from local San Diego wineries to top tier Napa Valley names.
The Junior League of San Diego has a food and wine festival May 3 at La Jolla Cove on Coast Boulevard in La Jolla from 1 to 5 p.m. Enjoy wines, craft beers, spirits and food pairings. $85. Details at (858) 869-5771.
Great Wines from Baja is the theme at Wine Connection at Flower Hill Del Mar, May 3 from noon to 3 p.m. Cost is $5. Meet the owner and winemaker of Adobe Guadalupe. More at (858) 350-9292.
Wilson Creek Winery in Temecula has a wine class May 4 from 1 to 3 p.m. entitled Capturing Sunlight in a Bottle. $25; Wine Club members $10. RSVP at (951) 699-9463.
Europa Village Winery in Temecula has its Film Festival de Cannes May 8 at 6:30 p.m. Explore the cuisine, music and films of the south of France. Gourmet four-course dinner with Europa Village C’est la Vie French wines. Tickets $85, $75 for wine club members. Call (951) 216-3380.
Viticulture & Vinification are the themes of a winemaker’s panel and Tasting at 333 Pacific Restaurant in Oceanside May 8 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Sommelier Maurice DiMarino will lead the discussion. $35. Call (760) 433-3333.
Frank Mangio is a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator. His columns can be viewed at tasteofwinetv.com. He is one of the top wine commentators online. Reach him at email@example.com.