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What I’ve Been Drinking of Late, Part 21

Summer was made for these easy-breezy piquettes.
Summer was made for these easy-breezy piquettes.

Piquette Pinot Noir and Piquette Chardonnay

Meet piquette — quite possibly your favorite new summer sip.

This traditional French drink, whose name means “little wine,” is actually made by adding water to grape pomace (the skins, seeds and stems of the grapes left over after pressing), and fermenting the residual sugars.

It makes for a light tasting, low alcohol beverage.

In June, Une Femme Wines launched two canned piquettes that I had a chance to sample.

The brand was founded by Jen Pelka, owner of the now shuttered the Riddler, a Champagne bar in New York City and San Francisco, and her brother Zach.

Its intent is to produce only Champagne and sparkling wine made by women. In fact, for every bottle sold, the company makes a donation to a charity benefiting women.

With 8 percent ABV, the piquettes come in 250ml pull-tab cans.

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What I’ve Been Drinking of Late, Part 20

L'Apero les Trois' line of aperitifs comes in six flavors, including Blenheim Apricot.
L’Apero les Trois’ line of aperitifs comes in six flavors, including Blenheim Apricot.

L’Apero les Trois

Three women of three different generations in Winters, CA have joined forces to create a delicious new product that celebrates not only the agrarian bounty of Sonoma County, but a time-honored French tradition.

The result is L’Apero les Trois, a line of fruit-based, lower alcohol spirits known as aperitifs, which the French have enjoyed for generations as a pre-lunch or pre-dinner libation.

They are the brainchild of Georgeanne Brennan, James Beard Award-winning cookbook author who taught cooking classes in France for years; Corinne Martinez, co-owner of Berryessa Gap Vineyards; and Nicole Salengo, Berryessa Gap’s winemaker.

As with all aperitifs, they are meant to be served chilled, sometimes with a few ice cubes in the glass, and topped off with sparkling wine or fizzy water, if you so choose.

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What I’ve Been Drinking of Late, Part 19

A rosé that delivers on much more than taste.
A rosé that delivers on much more than taste.

2021 Monarch Challenge North Coast Rosé

In 2016, Carlo Mondavi — yes, grandson of Robert Mondavi — created the Monarch Challenge to bring attention to the plight of the beautiful Monarch butterfly, whose population has been devastated since the advent of Roundup.

Every year since then, he and his brother Dante have produced a limited rosé through their RAEN Winery in Sebastopol to bring attention to this environmental calamity befalling this invaluable pollinator, and to inspire other like-minded vintners to do the same.

I had a chance to try a sample of this year’s 2021 Monarch Challenge North Coast Rosé ($30), sales of which will benefit the conservation organization, the Xerces Society, and Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue, dedicated to rescuing and rehabilitating sick or orphaned wildlife.

Produced from RAEN Pinot Noir grapes and old-vine Grenache, all farmed organically, this pale salmon wine is an exuberant expression of strawberries and raspberries, with a hint of guava. It is crisp, tangy, and laced with minerality. It’s pure deliciousness.

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What I’ve Been Drinking of Late, Part 18

A formidable wine to go with a formidable steak.
A formidable wine to go with a formidable steak.

2019 Shafer One Point Five

When it comes to wine, one of my most painful regrets happened decades ago at Napa’s Shafer Vineyards.

I was enrolled in a multi-day wine course at the Culinary Institute of America’s Greystone Campus in St. Helena. On the last day of class, we took a field trip to Shafer. Arranged in front of each of us was an array of nearly half a dozen glasses of some of the most impeccable Cabernet Sauvignons I’d ever had. I sipped, savored, enjoyed each mouthful blissfully, and then — I spit it all out.

Because right after class, I had to drive home in traffic, hours away. Ouch, the pitfalls of being your own designated driver.

All that glorious wine down the spittoon. It still haunts me. So, when a sample bottle of the 2019 Shafer One Point Five landed on my porch, I nearly leapt for joy.

The name “One Point Five” takes its name from “a generation and a half,” which is how John and Doug Shafer described their father-and-son wine-making partnership. This wine is 83 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 12 percent Merlot, 3 percent Malbec, and 2 percent Petit Verdot.

The grapes come predominantly from Shafer’s two Stags Leap District sites: the “Borderline” vineyard near the winery and Shafer’s hillside estate vineyard, which is the source of some of its most coveted wines.

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What I’ve Been Drinking of Late, Part 17

La Crema's Brut Rose is the perfect sip for a romantic dinner.
La Crema’s Brut Rose is the perfect sip for a romantic dinner.

La Crema Sparkling Brut Rose

A lovely pale pink-salmon in hue, the La Crema Sparkling Brut Rose Russian River Valley ($45) epitomizes Valentine’s Day in a glass.

Girly yet sophisticated, it fairly bursts with bright strawberries and raspberries with just a twinge of ginger on the finish. Crisp and zingy with plenty of acidity, it’s a blend of 65 percent Pinot Noir and 35 percent Chardonnay.

This nonvintage sparkling wine, of which I received a sample, is right at home, be it at a romantic holiday dinner or a casual backyard get-together. It’s sure to make any occasion feel that much more festive.

It’s available on the La Crema site, Safeway, and Marketview Liquor.

Cheers: Did you know that La Crema was founded in 1979 in Sonoma County, when most wineries in California were focusing on Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, and turning a blind eye to Pinot Noir? It took the late-great winemaker Jess Jackson and his wife Barbara Banke, founders of Kendall-Jackson Winery, to shine a spotlight on Burgundian-style Pinot Noir with a cool climate, single-vineyard focus with their La Crema wines.

Lagunitas Hoppy Refresher

What has hops, brewer’s yeast, but no alcohol? And isn’t beer or even non-alcoholic beer?

Meet Lagunitas Hoppy Refresher by the clever folks at that legendary Petaluma brewing company.

This uncanny, clear beverage pours with a thick foamy head just like beer, as I found when trying sample bottles. But it doesn’t try to mimic the taste of beer whatsoever.

It's made with hops, but isn't beer at all.
It’s made with hops, but isn’t beer at all.

Instead, it is its own thing — akin to sparkling water in texture and weight on the palate. It’s quenching and refreshingly dry, with a moderate hoppy bitterness on the finish and unexpected bursts of mango, orange and grapefruit on the palate.

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