Search Results for: What I've Been Drinking of Late

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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What I’ve Been Drinking of Late, Part 16

A Pinot Noir worth rolling the dice for.
A Pinot Noir worth rolling the dice for.

2019 Barra Pinot Noir Mendocino

Silky on the palate, and redolent of cassis, black cherries, lavender and a hint of graphite, the 2019 Barra Pinot Noir ($24) from Mendocino is food-friendly yet delightful enough to sip all on its own to unwind after a long day.

Aged 14 months in 20 percent new French oak, it has a subtle vanilla note and an elegant, smooth finish, as evidenced in the sample bottle I received.

The late Charlie Barra founded his namesake winery, planting his first vineyards in Mendocino in 1955. He is considered the godfather of Mendocino grape-growing for his leadership in pioneering more efficient and sustainable methods, and for promoting organic practices.

The legacy of his 350-acre estate continues under the management of his widow Martha Barra, who just celebrated her 80th birthday last year.

Pick up a bottle from the winery’s online store or

Cheers: Celebrating the Year of the Tiger with Peking duck with hoisin sauce? This wine will ensure it’s a harmonious one.

2020 Biltmore Estate Albarino

A visit to Asheville, NC isn’t complete without touring the historic Biltmore Estate, a sprawling 250-room French renaissance chateau built by the Vanderbilt family in 1889. Its 8,000-acre grounds and gardens were designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, considered the father of landscape architecture who designed New York City’s Central Park.

This storied estate is also home to a winery, built on the site of what was once a dairy. It’s where visitors can now enjoy tastings, as well as behind-the-scenes tours.

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What I’ve Been Drinking of Late, Part 15

Deep, dark ruby and slightly fizzy in the glass, this Lambrusco is made for celebrations.
Deep, dark ruby and slightly fizzy in the glass, this Lambrusco is made for celebrations.

Lot 841 Cameron Hughes Reggio Emilia Lambrusco

A red wine that you drink chilled? Yes, indeed, that’s the case with Lot 841 Cameron Hughes Reggio Emilia Lambrusco ($15).

Lambrusco is an ancient Northern Italian grape dating back to the time of the Etruscans. It can be cloying, but thankfully this sample bottle leans drier yet with still ripe jammy fruitiness. Deep, dark ruby in the glass with a touch of viscosity on the palate, the wine is mildly fizzy, too.

It sports notes of candied raspberries, cranberries, black tea, and almost grape lollipop. It is an easy-drinking red wine with mild tannins that would be ideal for folks who normally shy away from reds. It’s almost like a more rugged, heftier Beaujolais Nouveau.

Find it on the Cameron Hughes site.

Cheers: Serving Cornish game hens, pheasant or porchetta for the holidays? This would pair well and please many palates.

Steenberg Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc

For fun, delicious and affordable alternative to Champagne for New Year’s Eve, look to South Africa’s zippy Steenberg Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc ($16).

A lively tasting way to usher in a new year.
A lively tasting way to usher in a new year.

With the fragrance of melon and citrus, this is like summer in a bottle.

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