The Grapevine Gazette

December 6 - February 2, 2016

What a year. We celebrate the peaceful bliss that the holidays invitingly brought us, while enveloped by yet more random, callous acts of insanity from around the world. Let's hope the New Year offers up random acts of kindness instead. The holiday decorations are back in their boxes - which seem to mysteriously grow with every passing year - and we can now turn our attention to wintery vacations with friends, festive occasions at home with family, or simply read a good book in front of the fireplace. This is a new beginning and hope does spring eternal; as will our selections that will hopefully stimulate your palates and offer great savings to boot. Here's to all of us and our families for better times to come and cheers to 2016. As always, enjoy and drink outside the box.

Fontodi Estate Chianti Classico

Reg $36.99 | Gazette Special $29.99

I use Fontodi as the benchmark when evaluating all Chianti Classicos, as it is year in and year out a superb barometer of what Chianti can achieve in terms of flavor, structure and balance. This traditional and evocative Sangiovese based red from Fontodi is all about elegance and strength. The opening sip offers succulent black cherry, ground pepper, clove and anise. The mid-palate to the finish explodes with baking spices, earth and crushed violets alongside ripe, velvety tannins. Fontodi practices organic agriculture and non-interventionist protocol, relying on the estate's exceptional southern position in a natural amphitheater composed of marl soil, which allows the grapes to ripen perfectly, while gaining great character and structure. A great wine! Avanti! 93 points Wine Enthusiast 2012 92 points Wine Spectator 2011

Michael Cristillo Corporate Wine & Spirits Buyer

Baron de Brane Cantenac Margaux 2010

Reg $39.99 | Gazette Special $33.99

A second wine of the historic Chateau Brane-Cantenac, a Second Growth classified Grand Cru, this "left bank" Bordeaux breaks the rules with its Merlot dominated blend (58% Merlot and 42% Cabernet Sauvignon). Made in the traditional style but using modern techniques, this wine has intense aromas and lush flavors of blackberry, cassis, black cherry and leather with notes of black licorice and baking spices. All these savory elements are packed tight in this generous, immediately drinkable, and affordable Bordeaux. Delicious on its own, it will pair well with braised meat dishes and chocolate desserts.

Nancie Hemminger CSW, Wine Specialist Manhattan Beach

Stack House Sonoma County Proprietary Red

Reg $19.99 | Gazette Special $13.99

Stack House is a pet project from husband and wife Anna and Mario Monticelli. Who are the Monticellis? Well, both are Davis grads with degrees in Enology and Viticulture respectively, Anna studied in Paris and cellared at the illustrious Cheval Blanc returning home to a role assistant winemaker at Bryant Family, now heading up Pina; and Mario whom worked at Antinori abroad, and subsequently studied under the renowned Phillipe Melka moving on to be winemaker at Quixote and Trinchero. With that pedigree it goes without saying, this family affair is destined for greatness. Their Stack House label has a more approachable and immediate gratification purpose than does their 91point Ilaria Cabernet and Sergio Red named for their children. Sourced from quality Sonoma County sources including Chalk Hill and Knights Valley, this is definitely one of the best California values in the shop. Grab a bunch before it's gone so you don't regret it!

Geoff Nicoll Director Beer, Wine & Spirits

BonAnno Carneros Chardonnay

Reg $17.99 | Gazette Special $14.99

BonAnno started in 2004 with the vision to create top quality wines at the best prices. This Chardonnay is sourced 100% from the Carneros region of Napa Valley. The two vineyards they source their fruit from are primarily planted with Dijon clones and vines that are 15+ years old. Winemaker Matt Bonanno works closely with several vineyard managers to ensure the quality of the grapes and maximize the potential of each vintage. This wonderful Chardonnay bursts with ripe green apple, pear and stone fruit. It has a great texture, well balanced with light acidity, minerality and some oak. It pairs well with seafood, turkey or just enjoy on its own.

Gabriella Tardos Wine Specialist Westwood

Force of Nature Paso Robles Zinfandel

Reg $20.99 | Gazette Special $17.99

Its winter and nothing goes better with cold climate fare than a great, unctuous Zinfandel. A gorgeous nose exudes sweet blackberry, cherry liqueur, and perfumed layers of violets, licorice, vanilla and red plum. This is actually atypical for a Paso Robles Zinfandel as the flavors are elegant and balanced on the palate, with fresh cherries, raspberries, rhubarb, brittle dark chocolate and subtle herbs and crushed peppercorn. This gem finishes with opulent layers of bright acidity and a lush tannin mouth feel. Pair with your favorite hearty stew, roast or preferred choice of steak. 91 points The Tasting Panel 2013

Michael Cristillo Corporate Wine & Spirits Buyer

Chateau Ste. Michelle Cold Creek Cabernet Sauvignon

Reg $33.99 | Gazette Special $29.99

Forty-five-year-old vines from the iconic Cold Creek Vineyard in Washington State are used to produce this 100% Cabernet Sauvignon wine. Packed with an abundance of blueberry and dark cherry notes, essences of herbs, and a bit of chocolate, it is rich yet approachable. A great wine for a cool January day, it will pair fabulously with roast beef, hearty stews, steak dinners, or barbecues.

Judi Woods Wine Specialist Rolling Hills

Justin Vineyards Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon

Reg $29.99 | Gazette Special $26.99

Justin and Deborah Baldwin acquired their land in 1981 and planted 72 acres in vineyards that same year. They started as wine growers and in 1987 they harvested their first grapes bottled under the Justin label. This classic Cabernet Sauvignon is full-bodied, has a mix of black current, black cherries, cedar, sweet tobacco flavors with vanilla and licorice accent. It is rich and strong with a touch of oak. Beautifully balanced tannins provide a structure that supports the wine through its perfectly balanced, clean finish. It is a perfect Cabernet Sauvignon for all seasons.

Gabriella Tardos Wine Specialist Westwood

Vina Cobos El Felino Mendoza Malbec

Reg $19.99 | Gazette Special $16.99

Famed wine maker, Paul Hobbs is the consultant for this Argentine wine. Very expressive on the nose, displaying gorgeous notes violet flower, dulce de leche and shortbread. On the palate, it carries vibrant flavors of blueberry, boysenberry, violet and a note of black cherry pie, with chewy, ripe tannins. The fresh finish introduces pleasant spice tones that harmonize with the fruit. Enjoy with grilled meats and aged cheeses.

Jose Cortes Wine Specialist South Pasadena

Vietti Barbera d'Asti Tre Vigne

Reg $18.99 | Gazette Special $15.99

Vietti wines come from the oldest vineyards of Agliano d'Asti in Italy. Sandy-calcareous soils in this area give great structure and complex aromas. Pour a little into your tasting glass and check out its ruby purple color. Swirl it a little and take note of ripe red cherry aromas with mineral and vanilla notes that jump out of the glass. This is a dry, medium bodied red wine with refreshing acidity and soft tannins. The Vietti Barbera d'Asti Tre Vigne is well balanced with good integration of oak, good complexity and a finish of more red cherries. Serve this versatile red wine with antipasti, rich salads, grilled seasoned vegetables, hearty soups, pastas or with breaded veal, pork, or chicken with light sauces.

Rob Hill Wine Specialist Westchester

Leon Perdigal Lirac

Reg $14.99 | Gazette Special $9.99

A little history on a lesser-known, underappreciated appellation. Lirac was the original Cotes-du-Rhone Village, dating back to the 16th century. It was widely coveted but marked as CDR in shipment to protect its origins. Later, Cotes-du-Rhone was expanded to include more common villages such as Vacqueyras, Gigondas and of course the regal Chateuneuf-du-Pape. In fact, Lirac, the southernmost Rhone appellation, shares much of the same geology of Chateauneuf, with limestone subsoils, large pebbles from the Alps, and the sandy base that provides the elegance. The vineyards of various soils are utilized as components, each for its own merit, and together marry to create a generous, juicy, hedonistic red of considerable substance. Leon Perdigal, a cooper of merit in the olden days, delivers a far superior appellation and product compared to its generic Rhone pricetag. Black fruits, mixed berry compote, spice, tapenade and wild sage grace this mouthful of wine creating a strong allure of a second glass. Great with roasted poultry, game meats, herbed and well-seasoned dishes.

Geoff Nicoll Director Beer, Wine & Spirits

Mercat Cava Brut Nature

Reg $16.99 | Gazette Special $13.99

Cava, Spain's answer to Champagne is a delicious and far more affordable alternative that brings a lot to the table. As in most wines, Cava comes in many levels, from simple basic to far more complex and interesting. Mercat's Brut Nature is aged for 18 months on the secondary lees, double the standard, which adds the depth that really makes this bubbly unique. Additionally, the dosage, or added sugar introduced at bottling, is kept at a minimum so the unique chalky soils are more evident. It is sleek and racy with a distinct minerality, at the same time possessing a creamy mousse and mouth-filling texture making it adaptable to a wide variety of foods. This terrific sparkler is very versatile lending well to seafood, shellfish, roasted poultry and cream based sauces. Rated 91 Points in The Wine Advocate.

Geoff Nicoll Director Beer, Wine & Spirits

Talley Arroyo Grande Estate Pinot Noir

Reg $32.99 | Gazette Special $27.99

Fitting into the ripe yet carefully balanced set of wines authored by Talley, this one combines a well-focused cherry fruit with an interesting burst of dried spices hinting of clove and cinnamon. It is supple and full on the palate and has a fine mix of fruit and oak. A true find at any price. This Pinot Noir is very food friendly and will work nicely with salmon, filet mignon, duck, veal and the list goes on. This winery is a central coast superstar - please enjoy.

Michael Pagh Wine Specialist Rolling Hills

Charles Smith Columbia Valley Velvet Devil Merlot

Reg $12.99 | Gazette Special $10.99

Now to usher in the New Year, I am passing around a simple gem during our California winter that hails from Washington State. The ever experimental yet clever Charles Smith has a collection of varietals that offer distinct niches of quaffable wines. For our winter wonderland, I am pouring the 'Velvet Devil' to enjoy with my dinners. It is a cool and velvety textured wine with mixed berries and like the name says, it has a tremendous velvet mouthful and can be paired very well with Camembert, Stilton and fresh Monterey jack cheeses. And for meat fans, this delicious red can be paired well with pulled pork sandwiches, sausage pizza, rib roasts, and stews. Happy New Year wine aficionados and foodies!

William Buford Wine Specialist Hollywood

Farnese Fantini Sangiovese

Reg $8.99 | Gazette Special $6.99

This Sangiovese from Fantini boasts a garnet red color. The wine is intense and persistent, fruity with dark berry notes and wood flavor. Medium body, good soft tannins, balanced and ready to drink. Excellent with all typical courses of Italian traditional cooking, with meat and baked fish.

Brian Moore Wine Specialist Newport Beach

Borsao Campo de Borja Garnacha

Reg $8.99 | Gazette Special $6.99

In the nearly 10 years I've worked here at Bristol Farms in La Jolla, this has been the easiest bottle to grab for any reason or occasion. A birthday for someone you don't really know, Borsao. A dinner party with a small crowd of friends, a few bottles of Borsao. First date night, rough day at work, or a recipe needs a cup of red wine...Borsao. This inexpensive Spanish Garnacha has the right balance of fruit and tannin to match nearly anything you toss its way. Kirsch and red berries are lush on the nose with both blueberry and indigo rounding out the flora and fauna notes. The flavors are rich and pronounced with a dense mouth feel that coats entirely while leading into a fruit-filled yet dry finish. It's one of those bottles that's the right choice to round out your selection of 6 and something that you'll enjoy when you're too frazzled to pick out one of the hundreds of bottles you see around you. Make the easy choice, Borsao.

Teo Santocono Wine Specialist La Jolla

MacRostie Sonoma Coast Chardonnay

Reg $22.99 | Gazette Special $18.99

Not always the easiest wine to find, this is one to seek out. Fresh green apple fruitiness is over-lain with carefully measured oak in its clean and composed aromas. Gala apple, ripe pear, and slight citrus flavors layer the palate. This is a very food-friendly offering from this small winery. Bright acidity will help cut through medium weight fare such as duck, pate, and smoked salmon.

Michael Pagh Wine Specialist Rolling Hills

Daou Paso Robles Chardonnay

Reg $22.99 | Gazette Special $18.99

Family owned and operated, Daou Vineyards is committed to producing collectible, world-class wines to rival the most respected appellations in the world. Situated on a 212-acre hilltop estate in the Adelaide District of Paso Robles, their remarkable geology, favorable microclimate, and high elevation were once described by renowned California winemaker Andre Tchelistcheff as a jewel of ecological elements. A vibrant and tantalizing nose offers aromas of citrus peel, white peach, nectarine, and lemon meringue pie. Floral and spicy with notes of honeysuckle, star jasmine, nutmeg, and ginger nuances. Lush and smooth on the palate, flavors of pineapple, Asian pear, and Crenshaw melon evolve delicately filling the mouth with tropical essences. A persistent finish leaves lingering spiced pear, melon, and papaya notes. Enjoy with poultry, shellfish, and lighter roasted meats.

Jose Cortes Wine Specialist South Pasadena

Montoya Monterey County Pinot Noir

Reg $11.99 | Gazette Special $9.99

An easy-drinking California red with a great price point, Montoya's Pinot Noir comes from grapes sourced in Monterey. This rich, yet light-bodied example of the Pinot style provides cherry and strawberry on the nose, raspberry throughout the body with hints of smoke, spice and just a touch of earthiness. Black cherry and light tannins finish out this exceedingly drinkable wine. Great to enjoy by itself, this wine would also do well alongside a fruit and cheese platter. Try light cheddars, a French chevre or Saint Andre. For dinner, pair it with roast chicken or grilled quail.

Clint Fultz Wine Specialist Westlake Village

Cambria Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir Julia’s Vineyard

Reg $22.99 | Gazette Special $19.99

Estate fruit grown in sustainable vineyards in Santa Maria Valley are the source of this 91 point wine (Wine Enthusiast). Bright flavors of cherry and strawberry lead to blueberry and blackberry then a vanilla and spicy cinnamon finish. Solid tannins with underlying earthy character make this a versatile wine to pair with most anything. Turkey, hearty roasts, beef tenderloin. Wonderful with grilled salmon or roasted chicken.

Bruce Davis Wine Specialist Palm Desert

Force of Nature Santa Maria Valley Pinot Gris

Reg $18.99 | Gazette Special $15.99

Late morning fog, continually cool days and chilling afternoon winds add to a delicate yet flavorful wine. This Pinot Gris has a light golden color and a complex, fruit-scented nose that reveals layers of mango, jasmine tea, cinnamon, and cantaloupe. Smooth, light toasted walnut and honey balance the fruits, and give way to a crisp, lingering finish full of freshly cut grass and peaches. 90 points The Tasting Panel 2013

Michael Contreras Wine Specialist Beverly Hills

Guy Allion Val de Loire Chardonnay

Reg $9.99 | Gazette Special $7.99

France's Loire Valley is known for its world class Sauvignon and Chenin Blanc, in the form of Sancerre and Vouvray respectively, but there are other grapes that flourish in the cooler climate running through the heart of the Touraine. Chardonnay also performs admirably in this chalk, clay, flint and limestone soil, and is often overshadowed by the dominance of Sauvignon Blanc. The flavors are redolent of lime zest, green apples, passion-fruit and mineral with an almost saline mineral underpinning that really accents the liveliness and its piquant fruit character. For those who are fatigued with the big butter and oak bombs, keep this one in mind as it is the antithesis of the new world California style. For that reason alone it is worth a try, and for the fans of the un-oaked, this is a great example of what Chardonnay fruit really tastes like.

Geoff Nicoll Director Beer, Wine & Spirits

Cht. Fontaine Fleury Bordeaux Blanc

Reg $8.99 | Gazette Special $6.99

Bordeaux is often equated with red wines, but it also comes in a tasty white as well. Sauvignon Blanc fans often seek the stylistic wines from New Zealand or Chile for value, but there are still plenty of solid wines at good prices coming from France where it has been produced for centuries. The harmonious citrus, green apple and stone fruit components in these wines are far more tame and subtle as compared to the grassy, vegetal almost bell peppery elements that the opponents of this grape despise. As an everyday sipper, Fontaine Fleury is almost unbeatable, and a fantastic foil to marinated chicken breasts, our veggie kabobs and of course with mild goat cheeses. Simply elegant and pure, it is refreshing and delicious.

Geoff Nicoll Director Beer, Wine & Spirits

St. Hallet Faith Barossa Valley Shiraz

Reg $16.99 | Gazette Special $13.99

Established by the Lindner Family in 1944, for many years St. Hallett's winemaking focus was, like many local wineries, on producing fortified wines. However, during the seventies and eighties, St. Hallett turned to explore the true potential of the Barossa through premium table wines. This has resulted in St. Hallett's status as one of Australia's best producers. This Down Under beauty offers a complex nose of cherry, raspberry and plum, with a second layer of licorice and black pepper. Bright red fruits and a subtle floral element open the wine, before a secondary layer of darker fruits and a hint of cracked pepper emerges. It's balanced nicely on the finish with notes of spice and a tease of oak. 92 Points James Halliday Australian Wine Companion

Michael Cristillo Corporate Wine & Spirits Buyer

Solanera Vinas Viejas Yecla Red Blend

Reg $16.99 | Gazette Special $13.99

94 points Wine Advocate - I don't usually place a score before the wine's attributes, but this is very impressive for a wine of this cost. As Mr. Parker states "Even more remarkable is the 2012 Solanera Vinas Viejas, a blend of 70% Mourvedre, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Grenache aged 10 months in a combination of French and American oak. A custom cuvee that is only available through importer Eric Solomon, this amazing red wine displays notes of lead pencil shavings, acacia flowers, black raspberries, blueberries and black currants. This full-bodied, intense red tastes like it should cost three to five times as much. Full-bodied, stunningly pure and textured, it should last for 4-5 years, possibly longer." Enjoy!

Michael Cristillo Corporate Wine & Spirits Buyer

J Vineyards Cuvee 20 Russian River Valley Brut

Reg $29.99 | Gazette Special $25.99

The holidays are behind us but there's no reason to give up on the bubbly! Especially this vivacious selection from J Vineyards of Healdsburg. A perfect blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grown sustainably in the rolling hills of Sonoma's Russian River Valley and made using the traditional Champagne method. One of my favorites, it's enjoyable anytime with its crisp, clean mouth feel and graceful aromas of toasted almonds and Meyer lemons. A welcome addition to brunch or a fun way to start Happy Hour, this domestic sparkler will not disappoint!

Nancie Hemminger CSW, Wine Specialist Manhattan Beach

Essay South African Chenin Blanc

Reg $9.99 | Gazette Special $7.99

South Africa is among the oldest of the New World vineyards. The Dutch settlers were producing wine since the 1650s and Chenin Blanc has been the most important grape of the area from the beginning. The variety does very well there and the Essay Chenin Blanc is no exception. Wine writer Robert Parker likes this one and calls it "...a fine Chenin at a killer price." I find it beautifully balanced and the flavors pure, if not complex. I get citrus blossom and zest aromas, along with some nuttiness in the nose. In the mouth tropical flavors emerge. The finish is spicy, lemony, and long. Enjoy this refreshing white alone or with sushi, oysters, Asian curries, sweet-and-sour dishes. 90 points Wine Advocate

Rob Hill Wine Specialist Westchester