VinoWeek - Episode 44 - Winter Rains End California's Drought

The final week of February 2019 was a disaster for Sonoma County residents and for business owners in the recently developed Barlow center in Sebastopol, California. The Russian River Valley suffered some of its worst flooding in decades. Bill and I both live in Sebastopol and we have a lively discussion about the floods and what the future holds for the affected areas. Brent Young writes an article to explain how vineyards are impacted during winter flooding. The interstate battles between California and Oregon vintners continue as Solidarity of Oregon has prompted Eric Cohen, owner of Justice Grace Vineyards to bring his attorney into the fray. Australia is hot. What type of impact is climate change having on this wine growing region? Glyphosate a key ingredient in the weed killer Roundup has been detected (in low levels) in several leading beer and wine brands. Should we be concerned? Bill and I discuss these topics and many more in this weeks addition of VinoWeek. Thanks to everyone for listening. Cheers!

The wine of the week is the 2015 Grattamacco Bolgheri Superiore. The town of Bolgheri, in the province of Livorno, sits at the midpoint of the Tuscan coast. Bolgheri is a relatively new wine area having received its DOC in 1994. Grattamacco was the second winery to be established in this area. The original owner Meletti Cavallari was looking for a fishing retreat with his wife and ended up buying an abandoned farm house with a small vineyard on a hill in Bolgheri. He planted the hill with Cabernet Sauvignon and they released their first wine in 1982. The property was acquired by the Tipa Bertarelli family in 2002. There are 67 acres of vineyards located on a hill between Castagneto Carducci and Bolgheri at around 330 feet above sea level. It’s a maritime climate with frequent sea breezes. The soils are calcareous sandstone, marl and clay and the vines average around 24 years of age. All the grapes are hand harvested, with spontaneous fermentation taking place in open cone shaped vats. The wine spends 21 months in french oak and six additional months aging after bottling. it’s composed of 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot and 15% Sangiovese.

I must confess I have never been a big fan of “Super Tuscan” wines. No doubt living in Sonoma County and being only a 45 minute drive from Napa Valley has prejudiced my viewpoint. It’s not that I don’t understand Super Tuscan wines or I’m incapable of enjoying them, admittedly I’m a maniac for Tuscan Merlot. It’s primarily is about availability and price points. Good to high quality Super Tuscans are not made in large quantities and they can be very expensive. Although Super Tuscans can be composed predominantly of Sangiovese, Merlot, Cabernet Franc or other varietals, I’m referring specifically to Cabernet Sauvignon dominated blends. Having so many wonderful choices for Cabernet/ Cabernet Sauvignon blends in my own back yard at much more favorable pricing, puts Italy’s Super Tuscans a little lower on my buy and try list. I was afforded the opportunity to taste the 2015 Grattamacco at the James Suckling Great Wines of Italy event in San Francisco on March 2nd, 2019 and then again a few days later at the Gambero Rosso Tre Bicchieri San Francisco event. The wine displays black cherry, currant and cedar box aromas on the nose with garrigue lurking in the background. The attack on the palate is strong but the sensation is really one of elegance and silkiness. A slight earthiness, very intriguing, with a good kiss of oak. Full bodied with good concentration and savoriness, the finish is long and satisfying. The wine shows great balance with no rough edges and I suspect that it will age well, although it’s drinking incredibly well now. So if you’re looking for a great splurge candidate this is it. 4,166 cases produced $70 - $100


VinoWeek - Episode 43 - Merry Edwards Hands the Reigns to Roederer

After 45 years in the winemaking business Merry Edwards has decided to slow down. Merry and her husband Ken Coopersmith have sold all their wine holding to the Louis Roederer Champagne house. Roederer, a family owned business already owns three wineries in Mendocino County and plans to keep Merry around through the transition. Bushfires in Australia have been difficult this harvest season, especially at Topper’s Mountain Vineyard where a fire wiped out the entire crop just hours before the scheduled harvest. Lamberto Frescobaldi, owner of Frescobaldi Tuscan wine empire is doing his part to cut down on recidivism. He has established a wine growing culture on the prison island of Gorgona, not far from the Ligurian Riviera. The wines are said to be compelling and expensive. Bill and I discuss these topics and many more in this weeks addition of VinoWeek. Thanks to everyone for listening. Cheers!

The wine of the week is the 2016 Artezin Old Vine Zinfandel. This wine is made by Randle Johnson of Hess Collection fame. Hess collection is a huge operation and has wineries in California, Argentina and South Africa. The wine has a deep purple color and features a red fruit nose of raspberries, cherries and white pepper. You get all the classic Zinfandel notes on the palate without the over the top jaminess you often get with less refined efforts. Medium bodied and well balanced, a nice touch of baking spice accompanies a medium length finish. 14.5 abv $12 - $16

Two wines we enjoyed this week

Two wines we enjoyed this week

A Visit to Tenuta Di Nozzole

A Visit to Tenuta Di Nozzole

When you're out hunting for a bottle of Chianti Classico it can be confusing. There are so many labels and so many styles. You have to start somewhere and once you find a producer that makes a wine that suits your palate, you can branch out and make new discoveries. A quick short cut is to look for wines made by one of the "Fantastic Four". Fèlsina, Ambrogio e Giovanni Folonari, Castello di Fonterutoli and Frescobaldi are all icons of Tuscan winemaking and their wines standout for their consistency in style and clear expressions of the territory. From their entry level to their flagship offerings the Fantastic Four can be counted on to deliver reliable, well crafted wines.  

Tenuta di nozzole In Greve

Tenuta di nozzole In Greve

Our visit to Tenuta di Nozzole was an afterthought. Earlier we enjoyed a visit to Le Cinciole in Panzano having just finished having lunch at La Cantina Ristorante-Pizzeria in Greve. This was a family vacation and I had told myself before leaving on the trip that I would not drag my family around to various wineries the whole time we were in Italy. Still, it would have been uncivilized not to introduce our son to the treasures of Tuscany (This was his first time in Italy) while we were on the peninsula. Besides who spends a day in Tuscan wine country and visits only one winery?

It was the first rain on the first day of October and as we drove though the countryside of Greve, from our viewpoints the majority of the vineyards had already been picked. In fact Luca Orsini's cru was busy picking their last plots when we left Le Cinciole.


First a little history about the Folonari families. The Folonari's, Lombards from the region of Brescia in northern Italy have been in the wine business since the late 1700's. The Folonari's fortunes turned brighter with the purchase of the Ruffino wine brand in 1913. After World War II the Folonari and Ruffino brands grew explosively through solid marketing and mergers. In the early seventies the Folonari's sold their wines brands and the Folonari name to Gruppo Italiano Vini, arguably the largest wine company in Italy to focus on higher quality wines. Smartly, they kept the Ruffino brand, among them the gold label Riserva Ducale, unquestionably one of the most recognizable names in Chianti Classico wines. Fast forward to year 2000 and the Folonari family went through a split over philosophical differences. Some family members retired, others kept the Ruffino brand and Ambrogio and Giovanni (father and son) established Ambrogio e Giovanni Folonari Tenute. A & G Folonari Tenute (estates) consists of six estates and almost 620 acres of vineyards in Tuscany. They farm properties in  Bolgheri, Chianti Classico, Montalcino, Montecucco and Montepulciano. Coincidentally Constellation Brands the world's biggest wine maker, purchased 40% of the Ruffino brand just four years after the year 2000 split and by the end of 2011 the Folonari's were completely bought out for $142 million.  

Giovanni Folonari

Giovanni Folonari

The Folonari's purchased the Nozzole estate in 1971. At that time the estate was 950 acres, 250 planted to vineyards and 40 acres were devoted to olive trees. Six wines bear the name Tenuta di Nozzole,  an IGT red and white (Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay), three Chianti Classicos and a Vin Santo. All six spend time in small french oak barrels. We saw very little of the production areas, but the places we did see were packed wall to wall with small 59 gallon French oak barrels. The grounds and the facility itself is spartan and impeccably maintained. Modernity and attention to detail are the hallmarks here. These markers are immediately evident in the wines. All of the wines at Nozzole are very good. Made for the modern palate the wines are fresh, powerful and rich, displaying wonderful structures and are decidedly true to type.  

Giovanni Folonari & Export Manager Laura DassiÈ at tre bicchieri 2019 in San Francisco

Giovanni Folonari & Export Manager Laura DassiÈ at tre bicchieri 2019 in San Francisco

Reservations are required and we had not made an appointment so when we arrived I wasn't sure how we would be received. If it wasn't for the large touring bus parked outside the production area I would have thought we were not on the right property. Good for us my curious wife wandered into the business office, where she was greeted by Laura Dassiè the Export Manager. Amazingly Laura stopped her business activities and spent the next hour and a half showing us around and leading us through a private tasting. We discovered through our time together that Laura had spent some time in Northern California and her English I must say was spot on.  Affable and patient, I really appreciated how she shared the details of their business and handled our inquiries. She's indeed a pros pro and the give and take was really fun. Toward the end of the session she handed us off to Oliva Busignani who is the Hospitality Manager. Oliva helped us with our purchases. 

An immaculate Cellar

An immaculate Cellar

The 2015 Nozzole Chianti Classico Riserva wine comes with a newly fashioned label. A picture of the estate is still prominently displayed front and center. The label is less cluttered with the bottling information, the alcohol info and the family brand name and symbol having been relocated to the back label. Just the facts here, the estate picture and name, the vintage and type of wine. An atypical deep tinted, taller, heavier, glass tapered bottle, rounds out a quite stylish package. Once you've emptied it you can get a workout in by doing arm curls with the bottle. The nose shows black cherry, leather,earth and baking spice all wrapped in oak. On the palate black and red fruit, licorice and tobacco. Medium to full bodied, there is ample acidity, the tannins are polished and the finish is long. A thoroughly modern interpretation of Chianti Classico but there is no mistaking that it's Tuscan Sangiovese. 14 % alc. $17 - $20

After fermentation the 2013 Tenuta Di Nozzole Gran Selezione Chianti Classico spends up to two years in 1,585 to 1,849 gallon botti (large barrels). After bottling the wine spends a minimum of six months in the bottle before release. Gran Selezione is Chianti Classico's newest top tier wine and this is the first release from Nozzole. 100% Sangiovese, already it’s soft and approachable, showing incredible depth and complexity, with sweet tannins and a silky texture. Aromas of violets, ripe cherries and cocoa and a soft round mouth feel make for an immensely enjoyable drink. This was my son’s favorite wine of the lineup. Who say’s millenials don’t have good tastes? As good as the Gran Selezione is now, I suspect it will age gracefully. N/A

An impressive lineup

An impressive lineup

2013 Tenuta Di Nozzole La Forra is composed of 95% Sangiovese and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s fermented in stainless steel vats and the wine is pressed off the skins after 20 days. The wine spends 16 - 18 months in 132 gallon French oak barrels and six months in bottle before release. The black cherry, licorice and herb aromas are in harmony with the wines firm acidity and solid tannin structure. The La Forra nose is not as developed as the previous two, powerful and rich it is built for the long haul. $35 - $40

We also tasted the 2016 IGT Chardonnay La Pietra (the stone) from their Tenute Del Cabreo property. It’s fermented half in new barrels and the other half in one use barrels, then aged twelve months on the lees. It has a pale gold color, with a reticent tropical fruit and spice nose. On the palate it’s texturally dense with good structure and has a satisfyingly long finish. Admittedly I’m too much of a Sonoma County Chardonnay honk to go all in on this wine, but my wife loved it, so we purchased some. $30 - $35

Outside the production area. How cute is this car?

Outside the production area. How cute is this car?

We enjoyed our visit to Tenuta Di Nozzole and would like to thank Laura and the staff at the property for their hospitality. If you ever find yourself in Tuscany, phone ahead and make a reservation to visit the Nozzole estate. You won’t be disappointed. Cheers!



VinoWeek - Episode 42 - How To Fix Bad Wine

The effects of climate change are prompting farmers to look more closely at how much water they use and need to sustain their crops. Bill and I start the podcast by discussing dry farming; the pluses and minuses. Have you ever opened up a bottle of wine, poured a glass, tasted it and thought meh? It just seemed like something was off, or worse yet it was undrinkable. Maggie Rosenberg and Trevor Hagstrom, regional food researchers have come up with some hacks to make those wines go down a little easier. We’ve mentioned all of these hacks before at one time or another in past podcasts, but this is a great refresher. Let us know what you think about these ways to fix bad wine. TN Coopers, a company based in Santiago, Chile, has been using Labrador retrievers to track down the source of TCA and TBA in wineries. After working in South America for many years the company is now looking to bring its specialized service to Northern California. Many winemakers would say Mandy Heldt Donovan is flirting with disaster, but that’s not the way she sees it. The Napa winemaker is intentionally inoculating her wine with Brettanomyces, an extremely hard to control spoilage yeast. Is she searching for a niche wine market? Perhaps she’s leading the way to a new trend in winemaking? In any event she has a long way to go, as for now she only produces about fifty cases. Bill and I discuss these topics and many more in this weeks addition of VinoWeek. Thanks to everyone for listening. Cheers!

The wine of the week is the 2007 Flaco Tempranillo. Flaco is a slang term for a friend as in “Qué pasa flaco? - what’s up dude? It’s a fun and not so serious expression and the wine is fun and care free as well. Tempranillo depending on where it is grown can exhibit very different expressions; from lighter elegant wine styles to full throttle, palate punishers. Flaco is on the lighter Pinot Noir spectrum of wine styles. It’s 100% Tempranillo that is organically and dry farmed from vineyards around the city of Madrid. The color is a bright ruby red, translucent on the edge. The wine displays red fruit, cherries, lavender and garrigue aromas on nose. On the palate pretty lifted red fruit flavors are complemented by it’s soft, silky, elegant profile. Its juicy fruit, soft texture, coupled with ample acidity make it immediately likeable. Flaco is fermented and aged in stainless steel and concrete tanks so there are no wood flavors to get in the way of the lovely fruit. The current vintage retails for about $7 and they made about 40,000 cases, so it should be fairly easy to find.

A beautiful elegant expression of organic tempranillo from vines around madrid

A beautiful elegant expression of organic tempranillo from vines around madrid

VinoWeek Episode 41 - Cork Taint

After watching a video by Julien Miquel, Bill and I jump off onto the topic of cork taint. Julien’s insight on “What is cork taint? Why are so Many Wines Corked?” is a must see video. The iconic wine retailer Bottle Barn now has an online presence. If you already buy wines online, do yourself a huge favor and put them on your list of suppliers. There’s a six bottle minimum, but the shipping is free. Jessica Zimmer writes a post that gives a historical viewpoint of how White Zinfandel saved Napa Valley. Noteworthy wine blogger Tom Wark of Wark Communications, a wine P. R. firm, has moved his family from Napa Valley to a new home in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. He writes his own exit interview for the Napa Valley wine business community. The new Prisoner Winery tasting room in St. Helena is the bomb. Owned by Constellation Brands and perched directly off Highway 29, the tasting room could be described as Napa Valleys newest and coolest foodie and wine destination. So why have they been issued a code violation notice? Bill and I discuss these topics and many more in this weeks addition of VinoWeek. Thanks to everyone for listening. Cheers!

The wine of the week is the 2013 Castello Colle Massari Montecucco Rosso Riserva. The Colle Massari estate is located in the southern part of Tuscany, approximately forty miles south of Siena, roughly a hour and twenty minute drive. The vineyards, cerified organic, are located on the Montecucco hill which gives its name to the Montecucco DOC, awarded in 1998. By law a Montecucco Rosso (red) wine must contain a minimum of 60% Sangiovese. The first vintage of Colle Massari was in 2000 and in 2014 Colle Massari was awarded the Gambero Rosso 2014 Winery of the Year Award. The owners Maria Iris and Claudio Tipa, also own Tenuta San Giorgio and Poggio di Sotto both in Montalcino and Grattamacco in Bolgheri, so one could say they are firm believers in the terroir of Southern Tuscany. My wife and I first discovered Colle Massari at a local wine shop in a small village south of Siena called Serra di Rapolano. We stayed in that village for ten days and we wiped out that wine stores stock of Colle Massari. Every since then we have been big fans of the wines made at that estate. You can learn more about the Colle Massari estate here.

The 2013 Montecucco Riserva was aged in oak barrels for 18 months and then spent a year in the bottle before it was released. The wine is composed of 80% Sangiovese, 10% Ciliegiolo and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. A deep ruby color in the glass, the nose displays black plums, cherries and hints of licorice and leather. On the palate the frame is medium bodied, smooth tannic structure, and well balanced acidity. This wine won’t bowl you over with complexity but it’s a fine example of Sangiovese from Southern Tuscany. The current vintage 2015 retails for about $20. 14% abv

Located between Montalcino and Morellino di Scansano, the vineyards covering the Montecucco hills of Colle Massari produce a lovely expression of South Tuscan Sangiovese.

Located between Montalcino and Morellino di Scansano, the vineyards covering the Montecucco hills of Colle Massari produce a lovely expression of South Tuscan Sangiovese.

VinoWeek Episode 40 - Are You What You Drink?

Have you ever wondered when is the best time to drink a wine and will it get better with age? This week Bill and I discuss an article written by Courtney Schiessl titled, how to tell if your wine will age. The Cotes du Rhone region is on a four year streak of excellence. For that matter so is much of Europe. Dave McIntyre pens a thought provoking piece for the Washington Post. The premise of which is, what your wine choices say about you. Thanks to everyone for listening. Cheers!

The wine of the week is the 2016 Chionetti Briccolero Dogliani. This is a Dolcetto (dohl-Chet-toh) from the area around the town of Dogliani (dohl-Yan-nee). The Dolcetto of Dogliani are so well known, that the best wines from the area are simply labeled as Dogliani, as this wine is. Briccolero (bree-Koh-layro) denotes a single vineyard. Dolcetto is grown though out Piedmont and Liguria, which occupy the northwest region of Italy. In Piedmont it’s typically cultivated in areas where Nebbiolo cannot be counted on to ripen reliably. Here in the land of Barolo and Barbaresco, Dolcetto is the wine the locals drink, while they are waiting for their Nebbiolo based wines to mature. Dolcetto is a grape with low acidity but it can have substantial tannins.

Founded in 1912 by Giuseppe Chionetti, the current owner Quinto Chionetti organically farms 34.5 acres. He produces three single vineyard wines, San Luigi, La Costa and Briccolero. The Briccolero vineyard sits on a hill, with southeast exposure, above his home and is dominated by a large pine tree at the top. With lightly colored, calcareous soils, the vines are guyot trained and low to the ground. The grapes are hand harvested and the wines, 100% Dolcetto, are crafted using spontaneous fermentations and no filtering. The Briccolero ages for one year in cement tanks with 10 to 15% in large oak barrels.

In the glass it’s a deep purple color. Aromas of violets, black fruits and licorice jump out of the glass. On the palate, blackberries, black plums and mulberries. It’s medium bodied, the fruit deeply concentrated and intense, yet all the while silky smooth. Remarkable length and persistence on the finish, Chionetti wines are known for their ability to age gracefully, but it drinks so well now I can’t envision any of the bottles I purchased making it past their third birthday. 14% alc - $26 - $30

Chionetti photo.jpg

VinoWeek Episode 39 - Fighting Extradition

On this podcast Bill and I discuss the lawsuit involving Opus One Winery and one of their barrel suppliers. Joe Wagner of Copper Cane Wines keeps moving forward and is putting the finishing touches on a new bottling facility in Fairfield California. Will he continue to make and bottle his Oregon wines in California? As if you didn’t already know. San Francisco is ridiculously expensive to live in and own a business. Restaurants are changing the way they do business in order to survive. If you are a farmer in Nebraska, Costco is coming to your neighborhood. It just may be a lose, lose situation for the state though. Our favorite gangster is still on the lamb, valiantly fighting extradition to India. The SF Chronicle staff has come up with an excellent list of 12 Sonoma Wineries that offer free tastings. Thanks to everyone for listening. Cheers!

VinoWeek Episode 38 - 2018 A Banner Vintage for California

On this podcast Bill and I talk about the economic impact of the past few years of fires on the restaurant and wine business in Northern California. Our favorite billionaire, Liquor/ Indian gangster Vijay Mallya, who now resides in London, is vigorously fighting extradition back to India. So far so good for him and not so good for all the Indian bankers that bankrolled his alleged money laundering activities. Fashion mogul Antonio Moretti has been accused of money laundering and tax evasion by the Italian authorities and has been placed under house arrest with his son Andrea. Moretti owns several high end winery operations in Tuscany and Sicily and those assets among others have for the moment been seized by the government. Entrepreneur Joe Wagner of Copper Cane Wines has run afoul of the TTB and the Oregon Liquor Control Commission . It's a complicated case involving clever marketing , logistics and politics that Liza Zimmerman does a good job of covering for Wine Searcher. Year 2018 by most accounts has been a great vintage in Northern California with many vintners having enjoyed a low stress growing and harvest season. We discuss these topics and offer some beer and wine suggestions too. Thanks to everyone for listening. Cheers!

VinoWeek Episode 37 - California Wildfires Becoming More Violent

We recorded this podcast on Veteran's Day weekend so  a little politics weaved its way into the content. Bill and  I talk about the wildfires we have experienced in California this year and eventually we got around to some wine talk. And yes we've got some good wine recommendations for you as always.


Referenced in the show

For Veterans Day Watch: Fallen

Read the XIII Amendment

Watch: Kayne on the XIII and other stuff

Camp Fire 2018

20 Wines to Try Now

A few weeks ago we met up with some friends who invited us to a local jazz concert. The concert was great and it helped reinforce the idea that we should attend  more live music events. With the start of fall and the holidays rapidly approaching we find ourselves entertaining more and being invited to more engagements. When invited to someone's home we always ask what should we bring and the answer always seems to be, "bring some wine". I love that answer because I enjoy sharing new wine discoveries. As it turns out unbeknownst to me our friend that invited us to the concert is an avid wine lover. Needless to say when we met for breakfast the next morning we had an enjoyable conversation about our most recent wine finds. He asked me to put together a list of wine recommendations for him. Here's the crib sheet of the list I sent him. Really it's a list of some of my perennial  favorites, wines you can count on to deliver great experiences from vintage to vintage. The referenced retailers are all on the west coast as that's where our friends reside, but most of these wines should be widely available.

2015 Luigi Boveri "Derthona" Timorasso Colli Tortonesi:  This is a fairly rare white Piedmontese variety. It's not new, but it has good texture and intriguing flavors. Don't let the odd cork throw you off. $16 at K&L Wines

2016 Lewis Cellars Sonoma Russian River Chardonnay:  High standard are being set here by former Formula Three and Indy Car racer Randy Lewis and his family. Whole cluster pressing, barrel fermentation, sur lies ageing with battonage , all in French oak, with no filtering or fining, makes for a full throttle intensely rich wine. A special bottle to be shared with good friends. $50 K&L Wines

2015 Dehlinger unfiltered Chardonnay:  The Dehlingers have been growing grapes and making wine in Sebastopol for over 40 years. It's all old school here; old vines, Wente clones, whole cluster pressing, fermenting and aging in french oak barrels and no filtering. The epitome of Sonoma Coast Chardonnay. $42 Prima Vini

2016 Quivira Fig Tree Vineyard Dry Creek Valley Sauvignon Blanc:  Hugh Chappelle makes the wines here and they are all phenomenal. The grapes are farmed using biodynamics and the wines are Demeter Certified. Let's just say they care about the earth now and they're looking past their own time here on earth as well. This Sauvignon Blanc has more body and intensity of flavors than most. Aged in Acacia barrels its rich and sublime. Try it next to your favorite new world Sauvignon Blanc or a Sancerre. $20 K&L wines

2017 Pinot Grigio Lunaria "Romoro" (orange wine):  This is an orange wine but if you're pouring it for friends just tell them it's rosè,  unless of course you want to get into a discussion of what orange wine is. 30 days skin contact. It comes from a local cooperative in Chieti, Italy in the region of Abruzzo. One of the best Rosès I've tasted this year. $16 They are still looking for a distributor so it's currently only available through Organic Wine Exchange. A Biodynamic vineyard and organic wine.

2015 Montenidoli Vernaccia Di San Gimignano: This wine hails from Tuscany and is made by Signora Fagiuoli. A delightful woman who likens winemaking to cooking, just on a larger scale. A cornucopia of intense flavors to accompany the minerality and bright acidity this wine will change your viewpoint on Italian white wines. Hard to find but worth the hunt. $18 Liner & Elsen

2017 Brooks Pinot Gris:  Do try this if you like aromatic white wines that feature no winemaking hocus pocus.  Native yeast and no additives and minimal use of sulfites make this wine a pure expression of Pinot Gris. You can order this wine directly from Brooks Wine.

2016 Pey Marin "Shell Mound" Riesling: From the hills of West Marin County Jonathan and Susan Pey have found a niche spot for growing Rielsing. Minimal intervention is the key here. No oak barrels, no malolactic, native yeast and long cool fermentations with ageing on the lees for complexity. Green apples and white peaches with good balance. This one really opens up and blossoms with time in the glass. $25 Ludwigs Fine Wines

2016 Obsidian Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon: Northeast of Napa county the red hills of Lake County have for many years been supplementing the shortage of high quality grapes in Napa Valley. As grape prices have grown so has the price of a good bottle of Napa Cabernet. With Obsidian Ridge you get to enjoy high quality Cabernet grown on volcanic soils at an elevation of 2,640 feet in the Mayacamus Mountains. Aged in Hungarian oak this cab is all black fruit, earth and luxury. Family owned and a great story behind it, I discovered this gem 7 or 8 years ago and I always have some stored away in my wine stash. $27 at K&L Wines

2014 Emiliana Coyam: An organic blend from Chile's Colchagua Valley. Predominantly Syrah and Carmenere with Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Mouvedre, Malbec and Petit Verdot rounding out the blend. In a word elegant, the wine is full bodied with black and blue fruits, moderate tannins and acidity. No rough edges here, you can drink and now and be happy, but I'd stash a few bottles to enjoy in the coming years as well. $29 Fine Wine House

2016 Saint Cosme Cotes du Rhone: I was first introduced to the wines of Saint Cosme by a wine they called Little James' Basket Press, a non vintage Cotes du Rhone, that several years back was about $7 a bottle. The Saint Cosme CDR is a more serious wine, offering more complexity. Syrah leads the blend with Grenache not far behind. Hands down one of the best values out of the Rhone Valley. Black and blue fruit with hints of licorice and lavender. Jump on this one quick because it always sells out fast. $14 at KL Wines

2015 Domaine Lafage "Bastide Miraflors" Cotes du Roussillon: 70% Syrah 30% Grenache.  The Grenache is  fermented and aged in concrete tanks so nothing gets in the way of the delicious red fruit and the Syrah is aged in 600 liter French oak demi-muids. A fantastic value from the Roussillon region in south-western France. We bought a case of this recently. We have two bottles left and I'm re-upping. Enough said. $13 K&L Wines

2016 Trentadue Old Patch Red:  The Trentadues used to farm apricots and cherries in what is now Silicon Valley. They saw the writing on the wall and escaped the urban sprawl and settled in Healdsburg nearly sixty years ago. 68% Zinfandel, 25% Petite Sirah, 4% Carignane, 3% Syrah. Don't let the simple label and screw-top closure fool you. The deep purple color, bold black cherry, vanilla and oak flavors will win you over. I'm still not sure how they do it year in year out but it's consistently good and a no brainer at about $11.

2015 Klinker Brick Old Vine Lodi Zinfandel:  50+ year old vines, black berry jam, sappy black cherry, cocoa, toasty oak and  vanilla. Mild tannins but packed with flavor. There's nothing subtle here, this wine is a hammer. Put it up against your boldest barbecue fair and it will win you over. If you decide to have it without food decant it for a few hours beforehand. $15 K&L Wines

2015 Chateau Lanessan Haut-Médoc:  Those who enjoy good Bordeaux and good value know about this Chateau. And this wine from the praiseworthy 2015 vintage shows particularly well. Lanessans always seem to age well, but I suspect most of these will be consumed earlier than later. Dark red color, black currant, red fruit nose. Well balanced ,the fruit leads and the oak is well integrated. A sleeper from a great vintage. Classic Bordeaux without the sticker shock! $20 K&L Wines

2015 Chateau Fonplégade Saint-Emilion: Vineyard placement can be just like real estate. Fonplégade's next door neighbors are Chateau Canon and Canon La Gaffelière. Add world famous consulting enologists Michel Rolland and Stéphane Derenoncourt and you've got a recipe for exceptional wines. Their 2015 fits the bill. 95% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, deep purple in the glass it's powerful, showing cushy black fruit, with subtle hints of espresso and tobacco. Made with organic grapes. $38 - $50

2015 Tenuta di Nozzole Chianti Classico Riserva: The father and son duo, Ambrogio and Giovanni Folonari respectively, own six estates in the Tuscan region. This wine hails from Greve. I've been drinking  Nozzole Chianti Classico for decades and the improvements over the years have taken the wine in a decidedly modern direction. It's 100% Sangiovese,  and sports an updated new label. Medium garnet in the glass the nose shows red cherries, toasty oak, earth and hints of tobacco. Full rich red fruit flavors on the palate with well integrated acids and moderate tannins. The finish has a touch of spice and is long and savory. Very approachable right now. Pop the cork and it's ready to go. $20 K&L Wines

Nino Franco Rustico Prosecco Brut: Take this one and some fresh flowers to your next house party and you'll always be invited back. You can buy 6$ Prosecco at the supermarket or you can splurge and get the real thing here. Primo Franco only makes Prosecco and this is his base bottling. Ditch the champagne flutes and serve it in a white wine glass to fully enjoy the golden color and crisp green apple and pear notes on the nose. The bright acidity and creamy texture make it a great aperitif. Everyone will be asking you, where did you get this wine? $15

2016 Medici Ermete Concerto Reggiano Lambrusco: The Medici Ermete brand is headed by Alberto Medici. His family has been farming in Emilia-Romagna for over 120 years. They make a variety of Lambrusco wines most of them blends, but Concerto is 100% Salamino Lambrusco. Its blackish ruby red color and the bright magenta froth is immediately recognizable when poured in the glass. Aromas and mouth filling flavors of ripe black and red fruits, a vibrant palate and lingering finish with lip smacking acidity. This is serious, vintage dated, benchmark Lambrusco; a perennial Gambero Rosso Tre Bicchieri winner. $22

Happy holidays and happy shopping. Cheers!