Area Experts’ Top Wine Picks for 2020
This beautiful Champagne is a blend of 65% pinot noir, 30% chardonnay, and 5% pinot meunier. Only first-press juices are used. Philipponnat ages the reserves in wooden barrels, blending in portions of older vintages using the solera system. Being a non-dosé Champagne sparkling wine (no added sugar), the wine is expectedly dry. Delicate spices and nutty tones complement the aroma profile providing deep and layered complexity. Citrus fruits add freshness.
The rosé at Gour de Chaulé is made from the direct press method. The juice is quickly drawn off the skins and fermented. A cold stabilization follows. The wine is bottled in the early spring following harvest. This rosé is composed of cinsault, grenache, and mourvèdre. Brilliantly colored with hues of pink and rose, this wine has a bouquet dominated by the impression of freshly crushed strawberries. A limited amount of this wine is produced annually – only enough for us to have about 200 cases per year in the U.S. market.
The De Stefani family is producing a line of naturally made wines under their second label, Redentore. It takes advantage of the incredible grape varietal indigenous to the area known as Refosco. These red grapes have structure and grip yet also complement with a soft and aromatic fruit character. The wine is fermented and then aged in both new and used oak barrels for one year before being bottled. Organic and bottled with no added sulfites, this delicious red wine offers flavors of blackberry, dark chocolate, and soft tannins with a spicy character.
Jean-Marc Gilet’s Vouvray Sec is a white wine produced in the Vallée de la Loire in France from the Vouvray region, giving it its name. Chenin blanc is one of my all-time favorite grapes. These wines can range in style from dry to sweet and still to sparkling, each with its own distinct character. Sec indicates a dry wine (wines with fewer than eight grams of residual sugar per liter). Aromas and flavors in this selection are moderately intense, delivering pear, honeysuckle, quince, apple, and citrus.
Champagne, oh how I love thee! The Boulard Estate is a biodynamic Champagne producer with a modest estate that is run using age-old methods. Les Rachais is a single plot, unlabeled vintage blanc de blancs cuvée consisting of 100% chardonnay. This Champagne has a rich nose with hints of dried fruits and honey. It has a long and persistent finish that is an absolute joy. Enjoy it by itself or with some fried chicken and French fries.
Some of my favorite rosé hails from France, but this wallet-friendly rosé is one that should not be overlooked. This rosado comes from an area in Spain called Campo de Borja that is well-known for their rich and intensely fruity reds and rosés. Made from 100% garnacha, this rosé is fresh, crisp, and lively on the palate – a perfect match for fish tacos or grilled chicken and veggies.
Bordeaux is one of the most well-known wine regions in France, and Chateau de Halie’s Bordeaux Rouge is a classic beauty comprised of 60% merlot, 25% cabernet franc, and 15% cabernet sauvignon. Chateau de Halie has been family owned for three generations. It’s easy and pleasant to drink while young. You can pair this with BBQ or a fatty steak.
Peter Zemmer winery has been producing top-quality juice since 1928 from vines located in Northern Italy’s Alto Adige wine region. This pinot grigio is complex but easy to enjoy with balanced minerality and bright acidity. This is a versatile wine that can go with your favorite seafood dish or Chinese noodles.
This vintage-dated cava, piercingly bone dry, positions Alta Alella in the forefront of Spain’s natural wine movement. It is made from 100% pansa blanca (xarel.lo) grapes, which are grown in the Serralada de Marina Natural Park and therefore must be grown with totally organic practices. This property overlooks the Mediterranean Sea and is the first Penedes winery one can visit when heading south from Barcelona. The winemaking process follows the classic Champagne method with the exception that no sulfites are added. The wine is named after one of the birds that lives in the park and helps naturally control the number of pests and weeds in the vineyard.
On my wine tasting tour of the Iberian Peninsula this past May, I tasted several hundred wines, dozens of which were pink. With the beautiful warm climate we experienced, all of the rosé wines hit the spot. But on the night before we boarded our flight back to the States, on a boat ride down the Douro River at sunset, I met one of the most memorable wines of the entire trip! The winemakers were brother (Antonio) and sister (Joana) Macanita. Their 100% touriga nacional dry rosé was a stunning finale! Look for beautifully rich, fruit-forward layers that hit close to the finish, and you will discover why these sibling winemakers are considered some of Portugal’s finest.
Pinot noir has historically been a minor actor on the Aussie red wine stage, typically being upstaged by shiraz, grenache, and mourvèdre. Joshua Cooper has written a blockbuster play with this pinot noir from an extremely cool climate vineyard site just north of Melbourne. With a high altitude (1,700 ft.) and low yield (a measly 1.4 tons per acre), this area’s windswept, almost glacial climate has allowed Josh to bedazzle us with world-class pinot noir. Exotic spice, sweet herbs, sour cherry, and raspberry fruit with a velvety earthiness are followed by firm tannins. Pinot noir this compelling is a welcome addition from down under.
Like the Alta Alella cava, this Basque mainstay white wine is produced from grapes grown in a natural park, meaning they also are produced under strict 100% organic guidelines. Exhibiting citrus and green apple aromas followed by lemon, lime, and honeysuckle flavors, this is a blend of 85% hondarrabi zuri and 15% riesling. When we tasted this 2017 vintage at the winery and experienced how bright and crisp it came across, the winemaker proceeded to open three different past vintages (1991, 1995, 1997). To everyone’s amazement, all three older vintages displayed remarkable youth and freshness. The sheer greatness of this Txakolina’s ability to age so effortlessly is legendary, and after experiencing it firsthand, I cannot recommend it highly enough.