When acquaintances learn I have a wine writing side gig, I know what’s coming: So, what’s your favorite wine?
It’s like being asked which of your children is your favorite — and asking in front of the children.
Years ago, I was at a downtown Greensboro wine bar. Gathered around me were a half dozen journalists from this very newspaper. One colleague told our waitress: “The KJ Chardonnay, please.”
Now, there’s nothing wrong with Kendall-Jackson’s iconic everyday Chardonnay, but I was dismayed to hear my colleague add: “I always order KJ.” This really was his every time wine.
Had I tried a new wine grape variety, every day, over the past 42 years, I could have sampled through the world’s 10,000 plus varieties. But time, geography, finances and opportunity are stern task masters. My wine mood is informed by the season, the entrée, the occasion or my companion, but just as likely by the whole package.
Some wines I’ve recently opened. Maybe you will, too.
The 2018 Bodega Ateca Rueda Honoro Vera ($9) is from Spain’s Rueda region. It is crafted from the Verdejo grape and widely imported into the U.S. The pear and Fuji apple notes are undergirded by a mineral backbone. The poor man’s version is the 2019 Adalina Bodegas Verdejo ($5) found in Trader Joe’s. A citrus and grass profile with hints of macadamia nut.
Another easy-drinking Trader Joe’s white that has intriguing mineral and earthy notes: the 2015 Loma Negra Gran Reserva ($7). This blends 63% Roussanne and 37% Marsanne. What makes this mash-up of two classic French Rhone grapes equally intriguing is that it’s Chilean. Pear, honey, flinty, loamy with delicate acidity.
It wasn’t the weird label — a giant whale — but the grape that had me reaching for this at Costco: 2015 Monastrell ($14). This is what Spain calls the Mourvedre grape. I’ve been a fan ever since discovering it as Mataro from California’s Ridge collection in the late 1980s. In Spain’s Jumilla region, it’s a common red grape bursting with brambly blackberry, black cherry and allspice.
From Bestway, I shared two wines with the wife, who vows to return, repurchase both on the sly and not share with me. The first was the 2019 Yalumba Y Series Viognier ($10), which I have tasted in earlier vintages. Mango, apricot, honey, guava. What’s not to like in that Australian mash-up?
My wife is a super-freak for Gewurztraminer — a classic Alsatian grape swirling with seductive perfume and exotic fruit. She picked the 2018 Fritz-Ritter Gewurztraminer Spatlese ($25). From Germany’s Phalz region, it delivers the signature spicy backdrop with melon ball, roses and white peach at the front end. Spatlese denotes grapes with higher sugar concentrations but this has a subtle off-dry component.
If I’m hunting a Greek wine, I can count on Zeto in Greensboro to have some in stock. The 2018 Domaine Papagiannakos Old Vines Savatiano ($17) was a refreshing glass as temperatures hit 95. This is citrus and minerals in a glass, conjuring memories of sailing emerald Aegean waters.
On my last visit to California, I focused almost exclusively on pinot noir, spending nearly a week in the Russian River Valley, renowned for the grape. But at the lower end of Sonoma is the Carneros region, also famous for pinot noir.
The 2018 Frank Family Vineyards Carneros Pinot Noir ($38) is an excellent expression of that appellation. San Pablo Bay’s winds moderate growing conditions there, which this finicky grape needs. It conjures Bing cherry, raspberry, plum, dark chocolate — and the smell of my knock-out roses. Summer in the South requires a red with finesse and lighter tannins. I’ve found this at Fresh Market and Total Wine and The Wine Merchant in Winston-Salem.
I began this column mentioning Chardonnay. Again, no disrespect to the varietal or to my former newspaper colleague, but if Chardonnay is your go-to, then I recommend branching out.
The 2018 Jordan Vineyards Chardonnay ($35) is an elegant example of lemon-lime citrus, pear, granny apple, papaya and peach. It is neither overly oaky nor overly buttery; this is a clean, creamy, food-friendly Chardonnay consistent year to year. Jordan wines can be found at Fresh Market, Total Wine and Green Valley Grill.
Ed Williams is marketing director at Alamance Community College. This column appears the first Wednesday of each month. If you have wine news, email firstname.lastname@example.org.