Photos: Anna Monette Roberts
While my significant other has many redeeming qualities, there's a gaping hole in his heart (tongue?) where his love for rosé ought to lie. So naturally, I was delighted at the chance to sample a blushing bottle of the quintessential Summer wine this week. Luckily, the 2011 vintage from Rock Wall ($18) made a good case for its genre — it may have even made a convert out of the aforementioned naysayer.
Composed entirely of Grenache grapes grown in Davis, CA, and bottled across the bay in Alameda (practically in Sugar HQ's backyard), the bottle was tart and refreshing, balanced with a subtle sweetness (I'd describe it as teetering between dry and off-dry), and perfumed with the scent of strawberries and citrus. In other words, dangerously drinkable. Like many of its rosy brethren, it would be most at home in an alfresco setting: paired with cheese and crackers at a picnic or with salty appetizers prior to a hearty barbecue meal. Minor domestic squabbles put aside, I imagine I'll be seeing more of this varietal on my table for some time to come.
A quick foreword: while my Spotify playlist may be heavily peppered with tracks from Rick Ross, Drake, and Ab-Soul, I'm not always the biggest fan of the varietal of wine they often extol. A well-executed bottle of Moscato can be a revelation of sorts, but much of what's on the market these days is syrupy sweet at best. That being said, I'd argue there's a time and place for a glass of rosy-hued Moscato.
Pink and sweet, with a refreshingly dry finish, we imagine 2011 Be. Flirty Pink Moscato would be an appropriate tipple for your next Bachelor viewing or book club meeting. Judging from the bright and cheery label, lighthearted name, and their female-forward marketing campaign, Be. Winery clearly has a consumer in mind. Moderately inexpensive at $10 a bottle, this wine is perfect for those with a low alcohol tolerance, clocking in at 9.5 percent alcohol.
I'd pair a bottle of this Moscato with juicy gossip, good friends, and extra spicy Thai takeout, as the sweet berry notes are powerful enough to stay true even paired with hearty heat and laughter.Photo: Nicole Perry
2010 Sexual Chocolate is going for $22 a bottle, and if the name alone hasn't caught your interest, then the marketing sure will. The boys at SLO Down Wines are goofy, young entrepreneurs, new to the wine industry, and their business model reflects their silly spirit. The back of the wine label looks handwritten in no. 2 pencil and claims this wine is a "full-body red that pairs well with Wednesday nights and pizza." But we're more willing to reserve this wine for something a little more special than pizza with friends. It seems like just the thing to uncork on the beach, barefoot with a honey.
Take note of OneHope, a brand that aims to give back to different causes with the purchase of every wine bottle. I had the pleasure of meeting Jake Kloberdanz, the visionary behind the wine, who told me about his partnership with Robert Mondavi Jr., OneHope's various varietals, and the charitable efforts tied to each, from breast cancer to AIDS to a cause especially close to Jake's heart, autism.
My favorite? The light-bodied Merlot ($19), an almost fuchsia-hued treat that smelled of jalapeño peppers and evoked flavors of everything from jammy cherries to smoky cumin and green bell peppers. I was most shocked by its unlikely food pairing: a red gazpacho that brought out all the wine's fresh, light notes. It doesn't hurt that 50 percent of profits from each bottle go to AIDS/Lifecycle either. What do you think of OneHope and wines for charity in general?
Ever wonder what happens when a winemaker and a pair of graphic designers hit it off with one another? Well, in the case of Napa's Craig MacLean and San Francisco's Katie Jain and Joel Templin, the answer is JAQK Cellars. JAQK — which is pronounced "jack" but stands for the jack, ace, queen, and king of playing cards — has only just come out with its second release, ever.
But after tasting this line of cleverly-branded, poker-themed California wines, I knew Craig, Katie, and Joel weren't bluffing. And taste a group of us certainly did at a private food and wine pairing, in the company's airy, loftlike offices in San Francisco's Jackson Square. To learn more about the artfully designed vintages, which were as easy on the palate as they were on the eyes, keep reading.
Over lunch and wine, she shared her incredible life story — along with some thoughts on the ever-changing wine industry. Hear what she has to say when you read on.
This past week, I had the chance to chat with Georgetta Dane, the head winemaker behind the eclectic, prison-themed wine label. Over lunch, she poured me the — pardon the pun — entire lineup of offerings. She started with one of the company's bestselling wines, the Big House White ($8).
Big House White is a blend of about 10 varietals, including Viognier, Malvasia, Muscat, Gruner Veltliner, Pinot Grigio, and Gewürtztraminer. Many of those grapes are highly aromatic, which makes drinking this patio wine a bit like inhaling a nuanced bouquet of potpourri: It's very floral and perfumed, with a light stone fruit finish.
I thought this wine was so perfect for Summer that I picked it up a few days later when shopping at Whole Foods — and was reminded of the ridiculously reasonable price tag! Have you ever tried Big House White, or any of the label's wines?
Over the weekend, I jumped in a car with some friends and hightailed it to Napa Valley, where we enjoyed brunch at Thomas Keller's casual family restaurant, ad hoc. With full stomachs, we headed up Highway 29 to Rutherford to hit up some wineries. Visiting Napa wineries isn't unlike barhopping; the experience depends more on the tasting room staff and the crowd than it does the actual wine. After one underwhelming winery stop, we pulled into St. Supéry, which makes some of the best Sauvignon Blanc around.
That's when our fate changed. Ryan, the expert pouring our wines, took turns cracking jokes and recommending interesting wines — including a Petit Verdot, a varietal usually reserved for blending. When he asked if we'd want to try his favorite, how could we resist? The 2008 Chardonnay, sold only at the winery, lived up to his hype. It smelled exactly like bananas on the nose, with a creamy, lush mouth feel. I loved it so much, I took one home for the road. Have you had a similar experience while wine tasting? Share it with us below!
When I found out the price of this wine, which is made from grapes harvested in California's Central Coast, I was shocked. It tasted far more complex than its extremely affordable $10 price tag. Composed of 75 percent Syrah and 25 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, this lusty blend has room to age a few years, but is also ripe for enjoying now, with oak and lots of dark berry and cassis.
2007 Crimson's not easy to find, but it's one of those wine bargains that I'd go out of my way for. What are your favorite value wines?