My ideas for this column come about as a function of a winemaker interview, a holiday or season, a suggestion from a student or a reader or, often enough, a whim.
Writing them up, I'll of course recommend wines that I've researched and tasted. But my tasting notes also sport a fair number of orphans or strays, terrific wines that don't fit under any one rubric or motif. It would be a shame that they went wanting for recommendation due to that, so here are a passel of delicious wines tasted over the past few months; whites first, then reds, listed by price.
Whites to try
NV Adami Prosecco Brut "Bosco di Gica" Veneto Italy: Yep, there sure are a lot of prosecco wines all lined up at the bar or on those store shelves. Same grape, same region, close to same prices. How to choose? Trust the maker, is my advice. Adami is solid; its "Bosco di Gica" is a selected parcel of old vineyards. Fruity, fresh, fizzy, finely etched with citrusy acidity. $18
2011 Poet's Leap Riesling Columbia Valley Washington: Sometimes, the seams along the fabric of riesling's apple-y, white pear aromas and tastes are lined in the piping of a scent or taste of piquant green pepper. That's what happens here, along with a torrent of zesty acidity and a finger-snap finish. $20
2011 Bodega Beldui Txakolina Basque Country Spain: Please create memories of this spring's and summer's dining by sipping as much Txakoli white wine as you can muster. From an odd place and an odder grape (hondarribi zuri), but worth making as familiar as tap water. Little bests its refreshing, inspiring, lip-licking deliciousness with warm weather eats. $22
2011 Torbreck Roussanne Viognier Marsanne "Woodcutter's" Barossa Valley Australia: This three-grape blend (nearly half roussanne) is seductively delicious; you cannot put it down for want of a sip. Damp scents and savors of peach and pineapple and a texture that approaches the viscous are zinged into life by both stony minerality and bracing acidity. $22
2011 Isabel Mondavi Chardonnay Carneros California: This is from a new family of wines from the, well, family of Michael Mondavi. Isabel is his spouse and longtime conveyor of food to his and their children's table, the venue where she says that she "want(s) this wine most to belong." So, she has fashioned it to be crisp and fresh of character, zesty of acidity and unburdened by wood. Is there the prettiest suggestion of — I cannot not use the words here — mother's milk? $30
2010 Flowers Chardonnay Sonoma Coast California: This is a good example of how winemaking geegaws or tinkerings can add up to overall juicy flavors. Fermentation in steel and much neutral wood retains lemon curdy freshness; both drawn-out malolactic fermentation (a second go at transformation of the new wine) and judicious lees stirring augment creamy texture. This way, the bright fruit is always peering out from behind the enhancing makeup. $40
Reds to taste
2010 Estampa Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva Colchagua Chile: To my way of thinking and tasting, the best aspect of well-made cabernet sauvignon is its sheer elegance, the way it slowly sweeps across the palate like a theater curtain opening. Its color, scents and flavors can be weighty of dark fruit and wood and earth, but its impression is fine and blithe. That's what's here. $17
2009 Concannon Petite Sirah "Conservancy" Livermore California: Every year brings another vintage of this, one of California's best red wines for the money. The winery has not failed for decades to deliver nearly chewable flavors of dark red fruits hinting at cocoa and espresso and a surfeit of chalky, round-the-mouth tannin that cleans up after food so unobtrusively that it refreshes, rather than grates, the palate. $15
2009 Casa Sola Chianti Classico Tuscany Italy: You have to love sangiovese (90 percent of the blend here) for its gangly, all-limbs-akimbo character, the red fruit aromas and flavors fairly jumping out of the glass every which way and scampering through the mouth before finishing with the kind of soft tannins and tangy acidity that sets saliva to juicing. All that excitement and energy for $20.
2008 Neyen de Apalta Red Blend "Espiritu de Apalta" Colchagua Chile: It's always impressive to witness an enormous male athlete who is light on his feet, the way LeBron James, say, or Magic Johnson nimbly dance their bulks down the court as if neither did not in fact weigh well over 200 pounds. This blend of carmenere and cabernet sauvignon is a huge wine — in color, depth of fruit extract and flavor — but its carriage is soft tannin, bright acidity (especially for a red wine) and ethereal texture. $50
If your wine store does not carry these wines, ask for one similar in style and price.
Bill St John has been writing and teaching about wine for more than 40 years.