Unexpected Pleasures

These are a few of my favorite wines (and others)



J.P. Chenet Sparkling Rosé. Surprisingly tasty for a $10 sparkler. Made from the robust Bobal grape (widely grown in Spain), this is from southwest France. It’s made in Landiras.

The wine has very distinctive strawberry and light plummy taste with a considerable herbal presence. Not bone dry, but on its way. Paired well with a bbq steak. Yes, red might pair better, but to me red wine does not pair well at all with a very hot day. A chilled sparkling rosé works beautifully. Purchased at the Nugget Market in Davis.



Stateland Cellars Reserve Chardonnay Santa Maria Valley 2012

A very well made Santa Barbara style of Chardonnay. This is a highly aromatic wine with honeysuckle aromas and tropical fruit flavors. It is gracefully oaked with sufficient minerality and perfect amount of acidity. Though it underwent malolactic fermentation it is not especially buttery but is a beautifully balanced wine with a long finish. It was made in a custom crush facility in Santa Maria and purchased at the Grocery Outlet. GO wines are hit or miss, but this is definitely a hit. $7.99.



Citrusy and gently aromatic. A truly delicious Chardonnay without oakiness (maybe even without oak). Lovely fresh finish. The French sure know how to do this. And for under $15 yet. Macon-Villages Cave de Lugny 2014. 12.5% ABV. Imported by Pasternak.




Who says size doesn’t matter? Sobon Estate’s 2011 Tannat. From Lodi. Big. And not just big. Huge. 15.2% ABV, but beyond that, intense. Plenty of rich blackberry fruit. Not really sweet, but probably a touch of RS. Exotic and slightly spicy, with a bit of an herbal streak. So unlike like the Tannats of yesteryear. Not tannic (which I was sure would be there) but very smooth and went perfectly with a glorious steak. Lasted forever. Can’t wait for another one of Sobon’s most intriguing wines.


Domain du Somail Vin de Plume Minervois (AOP). Mourvedre 80% and Syrah 20%. From the Languedoc. Stunningly gorgeous spicy red fruit. Herbal with asian spices aromas and tastes. Medium body, dark red (but not purple) color. Gentle tannins and a fairly long finish. $12.99 at Whole Foods (on sale, from $15.99). An amazing value for such a delicious wine.



Bixby Creek Bridge Napa Valley Chardonnay 2014. Made at Fior di Sole custom crush facility. Winemaker unknown to me, but could be Dario de Conti, owner of Ca’ Momi Enoteca in the Oxbow Market in Napa. A pleasant and fairly typical Chardonnay in the buttery and (not overly) oaky style. Floral and tropical fruit aromas with significant vanilla taste and a lingering finish. On the simpler side, rather than complex, but was quite tasty.




Tonight’s wine: Kirkland New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, 2015, Cat Pee Vineyard. From the back label: Bright grapefruit and cat pee notes, coupled with hint of mineral, ripe cat pee and apple flavors. This supports the classic cat pee character. There is plenty of cat pee acidity surrounded by sweet cat pee and lemon zest. Aged in neutral litter box. (Ok, this wasn’t really on the label, but you get the idea. Perhaps the wine was simply too young. Perhaps the earth is flat.)



The Cotes de Gascogne, in Gascony, is the same region in the southwest of France that also produces Armagnac, a superb brandy that frequently rivals (or even surpasses) Cognac.

The table wines here are fairly simple, mostly white, but also red and rosé wines are produced.

Domaine de Pellehaut, Harmonie de Gascogne Rouge, 2014 from the village of Montreal du Gers, is primarily Merlot, with about 10% Tannat and a slight amount of other grapes. It has very rich taste of strawberry, dark berries with some plum, yet feels much lighter. It is not aged in oak, but in a tank, which gives it a delicious fruitiness on the palate.

It is priced around $10-$12, and worth more with its easygoing nature.




Tonight’s dinner was a Santa Maria Tri-Tip. Not purchased in Santa Maria, but purchased at Santa Costco. And the wine that paired so beautifully with it was from Santa Barbara County. A Ken Brown Syrah, Watch Hill Vineyard, 2013. Rich and luxurious, blackberry and other dark berries, smoother than a fast-talking salesman at Verizon, with the longest finish known to man. Because I was told it could benefit from longer aging in the bottle, I waited an additional 5 minutes to open the wine. Worth the wait.