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Saturday, August 11, 2012

"If only more wineries would make ____ like ___"

Some wineries specialize in a certain type of wine and some do really well in the marketplace with it and can build their whole brand around that one wine. I'm thinking of wineries like Sonoma-Cutrer and Rombauer with Chardonnay as examples.

For me there are certain wineries that get one varietal right. The wine is great year-after-year and is affordable.

Riesling
The first time I thought to myself, "If more wineries would make..." was for Navarro's Riesling (and Gewurztraminer). The full thought being, "If more wineries would make Riesling like Navarro then Riesling would be a lot more popular in the U.S." Navarro is one of the early folks in Anderson Valley in Mendocino County (north of Sonoma). It's definitely a cool growing area and is better known for Pinot now. Navarro is about the only place I will buy Riesling or Gewurztraminer.

Sauvignon Blanc
There are times when a refreshing glass of white wine tastes really good. Sauv Blanc fills the bill and Hanna's will show you what Sauv Blanc is all about. It's done the right way all in stainless steel with a bit of other whites, like Semillion, blended in. Okay, there are some good SBs that get some oak, Merry Edwards and Clos Pegase come to mind, but the best refreshing Sauvignon Blancs don't see oak.

Merlot
There are a few high-end Merlot producers that make a great Merlot like Shafer, Pride, and Twomey. These are also expensive Merlots although still not as expensive as the high-end Cabernets, making Merlot a relative bargain. But year-after-year since I've been drinking California wine Gundlach Bundschu has done it best for a reasonable price. They require a bit of aging on release, but can be outstanding after a few years. I wish more folks would make structured, ageable Merlot instead of the syrupy stuff.

Zinfandel
Zin has sat behind Cabernet in popularity forever. It actually was behind Merlot and now Pinot Noir as a popular wine. Zinfandel almost died out as a varietal in the 1980s. In the last 15 years many have turned Zin into a high alcohol monster. Getting the structure, complexities, and flavors right is almost a lost art. Luckily, Storybook Mountain still makes Zinfandel that actually tastes like Zin, ages like Zin, and pairs with foods like Zin is supposed to do. There are a number of top-notch Zinfandels from Dry Creek, Russian River, and even Alexander Valleys in Sonoma County, but nobody does it quite like Storybook Mountain.

Cabernet Sauvignon
There's no single producer that I zero in on, but actually a region. Alexander Valley produces some top-notch Cabs at reasonable prices almost every year. Sometimes it's from Clos du Bois, or Rodney Strong or Simi, but they're always excellent wines for under $25. But I've never asked myself, "Why can't Napa make a Cab like this for these prices" because I know they can't compete in that price range as the land and the grapes are just too expensive.

Pinot Noir
Top quality Pinot Noir is a fairly new thing to California as it's been the last decade or so that Pinot has really flourished. There are folks like Joseph Swan and Dehlinger that have made excellent Pinots for a long time, but there are so many new ones it's difficult to keep up! I can't say I've had Pinot year-after-year from a single producer where I've said, "If only more people would make Pinot like this." I'm still waiting to see that elegance and complexity as the goal rather than cherry fruit and 14%+ alcohol. So I'm deferring on this one for awhile.
Their most expensive wine at $25

Price
What's known as QPR or Quality Price Ratio or just bang for your buck. Whenever I visit Pedroncelli Winery in Dry Creek Valley I say to myself, "It's too bad more wineries can't make this quality of wine at these prices." I guess they're old-fashioned and just got stuck in 1990 prices as most of their wines sell for under twenty dollars.