2007 Ramon Bilbao Tempranillo, Rioja, Spain. 14%. Aged in new French and American oak, 15 months. www.BodegasRamonBilbao.es. $16.99.
2008 Sterling Napa (silver label) Chardonnay. An old-California-style, big and chewy, oaky, velvety, buttery Chardonnary. Not as big as the 1980 Napa Valley monsters that caused me to fall in love with wines (along with the huge 1980 Napa Cabernet Sauvignons of the same vintage), but better than our go-to of Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay. (The K-J is still very good and utterly reliable, and we hope the family and winery will keep the tradition even though J. Jackson passed several months ago.) We’ve found that the Sterling silver-label Merlot is reliable and wonderful, so we weren’t surprised to find the silver-label Chardonnary to be excellent as well. $17.99.
2007 WTR (Wine That Rocks) “Dark Side” (Pink Floyd) Cabernet Sauvignon, Mendocino County, CA. 13.5%. $12.99. Not the best Cab we’ve ever had, but quite good, with a high gift-giving quotient. 🙂
Biltmore Est. Cabernet Sauvignon, 12.5%, NV, American Appellation. This surprised the heck out of us. EXCELLENT. $11.99.
2008 “The Stump Jump” Red, d’Arenberg, McLaren Vale, South Australia. A tasty blend of Grenache 42%, Shiraz 36%, Mouvedre 22%. $9.99.
2008 J. Lohr Merlot, CA. $11.99. Really yummy.
2008 Liberty School Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles, CA. 13.5%. $11.99. WOW!
2009 Jean-Luc Colombo Blanc, Côtes du Rhône, France. $10.99. This was a lovely blend. Cheerful, alive, and complex without being ponderous. The Wine Advocate: “Classy offering … A blend of Viognier, Clairette, and Grenache Blanc. It possesses delicious peach, honeysuckle, and citrusy fruit, light to medium body, excellent purity and a clean, dry finish.”
We didn’t try any wines we were already familiar with. We didn’t try any Sauvignon Blancs at all, as the Marlborough, NZ Whitehaven has topped anything we’ve tried before or since. (Another time, when we have fewer choices overall, we’ll try another S.B. or two. Ditto for the Pinot Grigio and Pinot Noir.) We tried some new-to-us samples of Riesling, Claret, Brut, a white Bourgogne, Zin, Shiraz, Pouilly Fusse, Toscana, Sangiovese, and the usual top varietals.
We will go into more depth about some of the recommended wines in the coming days, even though we can heartily recommend them without saying a whole lot more. We hope you enjoy them as much as we did.