Domaine Paul Autard 2013 Côtes du Rhône – Rhone, France

IMG_5237I love Rhône varietals, but I honestly don’t drink a lot of Côtes du Rhône wines. Inspired by a recent podcast of the 3 Wine Guys devoted to grenache/garnacha, I decided to start my get-to-know-better exploration of these coveted French beauties. This wine really set a high bar, even though it’s not a Châteauneuf-du-Pape. The nose explodes with fruit and flowers straight out of the bottle. I honestly could have just smelled this baby for 20 minutes without tasting it. But I was a little rushed, so I dove right in. Multiple layers on this. Dried cherries, tobacco, spiced plums, with a gorgeous finish that lingers for at least 10-15 seconds. Light oak – just enough and not too much. Picked it up at Chevy Chase Supermarket for $18. Extremely recommended. A-

  • Rating: Impressive
  • Name:  Côtes du Rhône 2013
  • Winery: Domaine Paul Autard
  • Region: Rhone
  • Country: French
  • Varietals: 85% Grenache, 15% Syrah
  • Price: $18
  • Where to Buy: Chevy Chase Supermarket, 8531 Connecticut Ave, Chevy Chase, MD 20815

Castellucci Miano Nero d’Avola 2010 – Sicily, Italy

Not crazy about this one. Tastes a bit oxidized, with black rubber, eucalyptus, and raisins all sewn up by a light tannin kick, with a hint of smoky chocolate. It isn’t poison, but I believe it’s past its prime and I won’t buy it again.

  • Rating: Meh
  • Name: Nero d’Avola 2010
  • Winery: Castellucci Miano
  • Region: Sicily
  • Country: Italy
  • Varietals: Nero d’Avola
  • Price: N/A
  • Where to Buy: N/A

Víuva Gomes Collares Branco 2010 – Colares, Portugal

IMG_2586100% Malvasia. An interesting little wine from the Colares wine region of Portugal. Squished between the hills of Sintra and the Atlantic ocean, the region is home to vines that – like the vines used for this wine – were never grafted because they grew too close to the sea for phylloxera to take hold. Like many Portuguese whites, a flinty, mineral character with some breezy ocean notes on it. I drank this with friends who also tend toward reds and it really caught everyone’s attention. I picked up a 375ml at Astor Wine and Spirits in the East Village, NYC for around $35.

  • Rating: Impressive
  • Name: Collares Branco 2010
  • Winery: Víuva Gomes
  • Region: Colares
  • Country: Portugal 
  • Varietals: Malvasia de Colares
  • Price: $35
  • Where to Buy: Astor Wine and Spirits, 399 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10003

Rapsodie du Soleil 2012 – Santa Ynez Valley, CA

IMG_258860% Syrah 35% Grenache 5% Viognier. Simply a gorgeous wine. I was a bit apprehensive that it may not have traveled well from the August 2014 trip through Santa Ynez, but was reminded why I bought it with the first sip. I opened this with friends over some P’tit Basque cheese and marinated steak and it actually went better than the Cab. Juicy and luscious, with a spacious quality that I’m guessing is caused by the white varietal being added to the two reds. Berries, pencil tip, black and white pepper, pomegranate, and seasoned wood (and I don’t mean from barrels, I mean like an old barn). Highly recommend. Available from Sunstone Winery on their website for $45.

  • Rating: Impressive
  • Name: Rapsodie du Soleil 2012
  • Winery: Sunstone Winery
  • Region: Santa Ynez Valley, California 
  • Country: USA
  • Varietals: 60% Syrah 35% Grenache 5% Viognier
  • Price: $45
  • Where to Buy: Sunstone Winery

Crasto 2013 Douro – Douro, Portugal

IMG_259835% Touriga Nacional, 30% Tina Roriz, 25% Touriga Franca, 10% Tinta Barroca. Nice red fruit up front, strawberries and cherries. Crushed violets into a peppery finish. Just enough tannin to hold it all together with a smack of leather. One of the more well-balanced and accessible Portuguese offerings. This wine doesn’t knock your socks off, but it’s well-rounded and can go well with a lot of things, from tomato pasta sauces to smoked or grilled meats. Ranges from $12-16 as carried by Whole Foods on P Street.

  • Rating: Everyday Reds
  • Name: Crasto 2013 Douro
  • Winery: Quinta do Crasto
  • Region: Douro
  • Country: Portugal
  • Varietals: 35% Touriga Nacional, 30% Tina Roriz, 25% Touriga Franca, 10% Tinta Barroca
  • Price: $12-$16
  • Where to Buy: Whole Foods, 1440 P St NW, Washington, DC 20005

Zerran Tinto 2011 – Montsant, Spain

IMG_259550% Garnacha 40% Mazuelo 10% Syrah.  The back of the bottle says that this will be, “definitively the best wine you have tasted from Montsant.” While I cannot agree with that, the 92 points rating on the front is some indication of what’s inside the bottle. A nice, tough Montsant with dark fruits like currant and blackberry, with some leather and rose petals on the nose. It’s a good drinking wine with enough tannin to stand up to hearty foods like roasted pork and beef. I picked this bottle up at (I think) the Whole Foods on P Street for about $16. It made an impression and I will drink it again, though it definitely is NOT the best Montsant I’ve had. If you take this one to a party or to a friend’s house for dinner, it will get compliments from anyone who enjoys big tough reds.

  • Rating: Impressive
  • Name: Zerran Tinto 2011
  • Winery: Zerran
  • Region: Montsant
  • Country: Spain
  • Varietals: 50% Garnacha, 40% Mazuelo, 10% Syrah
  • Price: $16
  • Where to Buy: Whole Foods, 1440 P St NW, Washington, DC 20005

Viña Zaco 2010 – Rioja, Spain

IMG_2592A quintessential Rioja with typical flavors, nice peppery finish and dark fruit. Very solid pick for taking to a friend’s dinner or any time you need a versatile red. A good wine that won’t cover the food, knock your socks completely off, or break the bank. Pairs well with red meats, grilled foods, and hearty fish or seafood dishes (such as paella). I don’t buy it by the case, but I usually keep a bottle lying around in my arsenal. Easily found for $15.

  • Rating: Everyday Reds
  • Name: Zerran Tinto 2011
  • Winery: Viña Zaco
  • Region: Rioja
  • Country: Spain
  • Varietals: 100% Tempranillo
  • Price: $15
  • Where to Buy: N/A

Epiphany Grenache Blanc 2012 – Santa Barbara, CA

IMG_2591Crisp nose of flint and minerals, faint rubber and grass. Hits the tongue with great acid and the mouth-feel of slippery honey. Does not overpower the palate with fruit; you know you’re drinking a wine (not eating a fruit basket) and one that’s lovely and rewarding. Flavors of stone, greens, citrus, and untanned leather.

This bottle was purchased during a driving trip through Santa Ynez wine country in August of 2014, where the reds caught most of our attention. Utterly perfect with white peaches, tomato, and arugula salad with olive oil. It didn’t play as perfectly with the St. Angel triple cream cheese. This wine is interesting and will turn heads, though probably not blow minds. Can be purchased directly from Epiphany Cellars for $25.

  • Rating: Impressive
  • Name: Epiphany Grenache Blanc 2012
  • Winery: Epiphany Cellars
  • Region: Camp Four Vineyard, Santa Barbara, CA
  • Country: USA
  • Varietals: Grenache Blanc
  • Price: $25
  • Where to Buy: Epiphany Cellars