Affordable Wines for Romantic Occasions

Woman on Wine--affordable wines for romance

Woman on Wine

with Amy Reiley

An inexpensive wine CAN be a perfect choice for a romantic celebration, here’s why:

A few weeks ago, the marketing team for Noble Vines approached me. They pitched me on the notion that affordable wines are a viable choice for a romantic evening, be it Valentine’s Day, an anniversary, or whatever day you’re celebrating. I thought about it for a while and realized they have a solid argument. I mean, we always point to “special occasion” wines for making romance. But it is absolutely true that inexpensive wines can fit the bill just as nicely, depending on the circumstance. Read more

Try a New Wine

amy reileyWoman on Wine

with Amy Reiley

Now is the perfect time to expand your gastronomic horizons and try a new wine

This month’s column is inspired, in part, by a shopping trip to K & L, one of the West Coast’s most interesting wine retailers. I wanted to try a new wine and this wine store had more interesting and unusual wines than familiar favorites. Read more

Summer & Sancerre–what to drink during the warm months

amy reiley

Woman on Wine

with Amy Reiley

I sincerely like Sancerre. A few years ago, lauded wine critic Lettie Teague called it the Tom Hanks of wine. In other words, it’s the wine everyone likes. It may not knock your socks off, (but every once in a while, it does). And it probably isn’t going to linger in your mind as a part of some great gastronomic experience. Though you never know when you might strike gold. But you always know you’re going to enjoy it. It will go well with your meal. And you’re going to have a nice night.

Sancerre is made from Sauvignon Blanc grapes, but that wasn’t always the case. Until the late nineteenth century, the region was primarily planted with Pinot Noir and Gamay. When the vines were destroyed by phylloxera, some genius replanted the region with Sauvignon Blanc—and then things took off.  (I should mention that there still are red Sancerre. A small quantity of vineyards were replanted with the Pinot Noir grape.) Quality in the region remained generally high—one secret to the success for sure. But that’s been changing a bit. A few producers with more of an eye on the bottom line than on French pride are diluting the market with some less than quality wines. But, there’s still plenty of good and even great Sancerre out there.

So, if you’re inclined to sip Sauvignon Blanc, why wouldn’t you want to drink Sancerre? It’s gentler than it’s New Zealand counterpart. The wines often have a mineral or flinty note and bright but bitter acidity. Here are just a few of the Sancerre I like to pair with summer.

Sancerre2014 Barton & Guestier
Made by a popular wine company well known for good value wines, it offers hints of oyster shells and a lemongrass and lime acidity. Ok, it’s kind of like starter Sancerre but what’s wrong with a wine you can always count on?!

2014 Alain Gueneau “Le Guiberte”
This wine offers a brilliant balance of sweetness and bitterness. The way the flavors of honey and sweet, cut grass play off one another on the tongue makes for a delightful tasting experience.

2014 Domaine des Brosses
This Sauvignon blanc offers a perfectly harmonized blend of citrus and hay. My favorite part is the finish, which shows classic minerality and a surprise of jalapeno pepper-like heat.

Shut Up and Drink

amy reiley

Woman on Wine

with Amy Reiley

I generally try to give my monthly column some sort of educational framework, featuring a region, a style or maybe a particular winemaker. But sometime you don’t want a lecture; you just want a drink. I feel that. So this month, I’m simply highlighting 5 wines I want to drink right now. They’re great for the season, reasonably priced and just, well, good.

2010 Domaine Vincent Careme Les Clos
This tangy Vouvray is a little bit of a splurge for a summer white, but well worth it. There’s a minerality that carries through from the aroma to the lingering finish. Its stone fruit flavors are faintly sweet. But what makes this wine stand out to me is an amazing, peaches and cream texture.

Shut Up and Drink a Great Bordeaux Blanc2014 Légende Bordeaux Blanc
If you’re looking for a wine that tastes like summer, look no further. This Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon blend stands out from the pack for its high percentage of Semillon (45%). That Semillon adds layers of richness to the fresh lychee and melon notes of the Sauvignon Blanc. It’s like fun in the sun days and sultry nights in one bottle.

2013 Le Vigne Di Zamo Ribolla Gialla
Ok, this one might be a little hard to find, but once you get it, you’re going to have fun. It offers something green and fresh, yet it’s a wine with complexity and depth. Its flavors of apple and citrus linger long.

2004 Montenidoli Sono Montenidoli
This 100% Sangiovese is just right for wild game BBQ night or a romantic evening for two. On the nose there are notes of damp earth that spark sensuality. It might be a little young, but its strawberry flavors are absolutely luscious right now.

2012 Joseph Jewell Grist Vineyard Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel
I’ve never made a secret about my passion for Dry Creek Zin. It’s one of my favorite summer red styles, for sure. This Dry Creek Zin is compelling with pretty cherry and blueberry fruit, nice balance and just a little bite of black pepper. My favorite characteristic is a saline note that makes the mouth water for the next sip.

Understanding New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc

amy reiley

Woman on Wine

with Amy Reiley

Sauvignon Blanc can be a confusing wine. You can walk into three restaurants in one night, order a Sauvignon Blanc by the glass at each one and, besides the fact that they’re all wet and white, find something completely different each time. Some Sauvignon Blancs are treated like Chardonnay (and usually taste like Chardonnay minus complexity and finesse). Others taste like a bowl of freshly picked weeds from a fertile valley. Some dance across the tongue like a tropical fiesta and others quietly slide down with elegance and minerality.

If you really want to get to know Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand is the place to start. (True, France did it first, but those Southern Hemisphere mavericks have truly conquered the grape. New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is seriously good stuff!) What’s known as the “New Zealand style” of Sauvignon Blanc is racy, grassy and somewhat aggressive. It’s a style of wine perfect for Cabernet drinkers forced to drink white wine. And white wine drinkers who love leather pants and Italian sports cars. And since neither leather pants nor Italian sports cars are particularly common in New Zealand, it’s no surprise that most enterprising winemakers have moved beyond this style. These days, it’s all about vineyard expression and winemaking talent.

I hadn’t really realized how much NZ Sauvignon Blanc had progressed until I was invited to a recent New Zealand Wine seminar. The four wines we tried were incredibly different yet all distinctly Sauvingon Blanc. If you wa2015 Wither Hills Rarangi Single Vineyard, Marlboroughnt to experience all that this grape can be, this lineup is sure to knock your socks off, assuming you wear socks.

Wither Hills New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc2015 Wither Hills Rarangi Single Vineyard, Marlborough

There’s a salty, mineral note on the nose of this wine that makes the mouth water. A positive platter of fruit flavors, it offers notes of guava, pineapple and lime along with a bit of green herbs. It’s fresh and racy with just a hint of grassiness.

2014 Palliser, Martinborough

This wine starts with restrained aromas of passion fruit and chamomile tea. Lovely with a medium body, it offers a light kiss of sweet, tropical fruit. This is Sauvignon Blanc at its most easy drinking.

2014 Staete Landt The Dutchess, Marlborough

If you’re looking for a white to serve with dinner—to royalty—this might be it. Oak influence gives it impressive body, yet it maintains racy acidity (i.e. not Chardonnay impersonation). There’s a lovely creaminess on the palate and minerality on the finish that make it the sort of wine to compliment, not distract from, a meal.

2012 Giesen The August, Marlborough

This Sauvignon Blanc is remarkably different from the other three with a slightly vegetal but delicious, cleansing appeal.  The sort of thing for a “grown up’s” palate, it offers notes of celery and herb. It also has racy grapefruit and lemon acidity with a beautifully soft texture and lengthy finish.