If readers live in the New York area or perhaps in New England generally, they should look for lenzthe Lenz Winery Cuvee 2012, from an estate founded in 1978 in the North Fork of Long Island. (That’s the AVA.) Made from 100 percent pinot noir grapes, hence technically a blanc de noirs, this well-made sparkling wine offers a pale gold hue shimmering with an energetic fountain of tiny glinting bubbles; notes of roasted lemons and spiced pears, quince and ginger are lent pertness by lively acidity and a scintillating seashell-limestone element; these contribute a bit of bracing salinity to the finish. Touched with slightly yeasty brioche, but clean, fresh and vivid, this sparkler is quite dry though tasty with hints of lemon balm and willow, smoke and steel, ultimately delicate and elegant. 12 percent alcohol. Winemaker was Eric Fry. Drink now through 2018 to ’20. Excellent. About $40.

A sample for review.

cc-rs
Wines under the “Coltibuono” label from the Badia a Coltibuono winery are not made from estate grapes but from vineyards throughout Tuscany with which the Stucchi Prinetti family has long-term relationships. That estate, by the way, has been owned by the family since 1846, though the monastery on which it is founded goes back more than a thousand years. So, the Coltibuono “RS” Chianti Classico 2014 — the initials stand for Roberto Stucchi — is composed of 100 percent sangiovese grapes and aged briefly in a combination of French oak casks and barriques. The wine brings its sangiovese character right to the front, with a lovely light transparent ruby hue and enticing aromas of red cherries and raspberries, black tea, orange rind and cloves, with undertones of leather, loam and graphite. These qualities segue seamlessly onto the palate, where the wine is quite dry, even a bit austere from mid-point back, and freighted with a texture that’s lithe and sinewy and animated by bright acidity. A few moments in the glass bring in hints of talc, lilac and violets. 13.5 percent alcohol. We drank this wine with spaghetti and meatballs — not exactly a Tuscan dish — to which it made a fine accompaniment. Now through 2018. Very Good+. About $15, representing Real Value.

Dalla Terra Winery Direct, Napa, Calif. A sample for review.

Beaujolais, like all of Gaul, is divided into three parts, or perhaps the better word would be categories. The basic level is just “Beaujolais,” widely available, the darling of the bistro carafe, and made from grapes grown on the flatter areas in the western part of the region. (This is south of Burgundy, abutting the Côte Mâconnais.) Straight Beaujolais should be simple, grapy and agreeable. Next higher on the scale and presumably better quality is the category of Beaujolais-Villages, made from vineyards in the hills to the north. Best are the Cru Beaujolais, derived from 10 communes that occupy privileged locations in these northern hills. The red grape here is the Gamay Noir à Jus Blanc; a minuscule amount of Beaujolais Blanc is made from chardonnay grapes. Also, of course, there is Beaujolais Nouveau, the fresh, just-after-harvest quaffer of which altogether too much is made every November. The Cru commune wines are Brouilly, Chénas, Chiroubles, Côte de Brouilly, Fleurie, Juliénas, Morgon, Moulin-à-Vent, Regnié and Saint-Amour. The name on the label will be the name of the commune; the term “Beaujolais” frequently is not mentioned. Today, we look at two examples from Côte de Brouilly and Juliénas, each representing Good Value.

Imported by Kermit Lynch Wine Merchants, Berkeley, Calif. Samples for review.
________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
The grapes for the Domaine Chignard “Beauvernay” Juliénas 2014 were grown in vineyards 60 years old and more. The estate was founded in julienas_12_web 1900 and produces only 3,000 cases annually. The wine aged 13 months in old foudres, that is to say, large barrels of various dimensions. The color is light transparent ruby; on the nose, a glorious melange of strawberries and mint, iodine and loam, smoke, briers and brambles weaves a spell, unfolding, as the moments pass, notes of red licorice and a distillation of rose petals. Yeah, it’s pretty damned heady stuff, but with undertones of darkness, the rasp of raspberry leaf, the tug of graphite on the palate and brisk acidity, yet, withal, a model of elegance and delicacy. 12.5 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2019 to ’21. Excellent. About $22.
________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Established in 1877, this domaine harvests grapes from vineyards that average 50 years in age and are situated on slopes of 48 degrees; thivin_cotedebrouilly_novintage10_12dot5alc_web
people, that’s steep. The Chateau Thivin Côte de Brouilly 2014 aged six months in old foudres. A medium ruby hue fades to a lighter, almost transparent rim; the wine features a fresh cherry-berry nose that deepens with aspects of iodine, loam and dried thyme, raspberries and black cherries. On the palate, the wine displays appealing silky heft and substance; it’s lively and dynamic, imbued with earthy, rooty notes of leather and oolong tea and bringing in shadings of woody spices, heather, forest flowers and blueberries. 13 percent alcohol. A lovely Cru Beaujolais that shyly offers a serious side. Drink now through 2020 to ’22. Excellent. About $22.
________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

As we head into the biggest sparkling wine season of the year, I’ll remind My Readers from time to time about Champagnes and other albrechtsparkling products worthy of consideration. An annual treat for us is the Cremant d’Alsace Brut Rose from the venerable estate of Lucien Albrecht, established in 1425, among the oldest family-owned wineries in Europe and still in the hands of the founding family. This non-vintage — i.e., multi-vintage — sparkling wine is made from 100 percent pinot noir grapes in the Champagne method of second fermentation in the bottle; this one spends 14 to 16 months in the bottle on the lees before being disgorged and resealed. The color is a lovely ruddy copper-salmon hue, highlighted by a surging fountain of tiny glittering bubbles; aromas of fresh raspberries and lime peel, blood orange and orange blossom are infused by notes of heather, spiced tea and limestone. Bright, brisk acidity lends this an almost tart character, though it flows on the palate with a full, round quality; the whole effect is delicate, elegant and steely, concluding in a slightly austere, saline, mineral-laced finish. Pure delight, with real style and a racy nature. 12 percent alcohol. Winemaker was Jerome Keller. Excellent. About $22, representing Good Value.

Pasternak Imports, Harrison, N.Y. A sample for review.

The Ridge Vineyards Three Valleys red wine blend is a perennial visitor to our Thanksgiving table, this year being no different. Whereas Ridge typically focuses on single-vineyard ridge-three-valleysbottlings, the Three Valleys derives from a variety of vineyards in Sonoma County. seeking to achieve a sort of overall Sonoma character, if such a thing is possible. The wine was first produced in 2001. The Ridge Three Valleys 2014, fermented by native yeast, is a blend of 65 percent zinfandel, 17 percent petite sirah, 14 carignane and 4 grenache. The wine aged 15 months in American oak, a scant six percent new barrels, 43 percent one-to-two-year-old barrels, 51 percent three-to-six-year-old barrels. In other words, the effect of new oak is negligible, while the general wood influence is subtle and supple in its shapeliness. The color is intense dark ruby with a vibrant cherry rim; aromas of sweet, smoky currants, blueberries and plums gradually open to notes of spiced and macerated red cherries, lavender and violets. This is dense and chewy in the mouth, permeated by graphite-infused tannins that provide plenty of grit and resistance on the palate; black fruit flavors are ripe and spicy but reticent, yielding place to bright acidity, briery and brambly forest floor elements, and a strain of granitic minerality that persists through the warm but sculptured finish. In other words, a wine that delivers equal measures of pleasure and structure. 14.5 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2019 or ’20 with big-hearted, two-fisted cuisine. Excellent. About $26.

A local purchase.

Let’s relax and think about the inevitable: Thanksgiving leftovers. We had eight people at our table last night but prepared enough food for at least 20. Not surprisingly, the refrigerator is crammed with plastic vessels containing an immense amount of leftover selections, though, curiously, not much pie. People tend to eat pie even when they’re aching with surfeit. All over the country, on Thanksgiving, Americans are saying, “Wow, I couldn’t eat another bite! Oh, well, sure, I guess I could manage some of that pecan pie.” Anyway, whether you’re making a hugelsandwich of turkey, dressing and cranberry sauce or just settling down to a plateful of food that bears a remarkable resemblance to what you ate yesterday, here’s a wine that makes a terrific accompaniment. The Famille Hugel Classic Riesling 2015, Alsace, from the winemaking family that goes back 13 generations in the region, was fashioned all in stainless steel to ensure its sense of freshness and immediate appeal. The color is pale gold with a faint green tone; enticing aromas of green apple and ripe peaches are wreathed with scents of lychee, jasmine and honeysuckle and a prominent element of petrol, or you could call it rubber eraser, in either case a typical note and always intriguing touch from the riesling grape. The wine is silky smooth but slightly chiseled on the palate, encompassing ripe and spicy and juicy stone-fruit flavors enlivened by fleet and lithe acidity and scintillating limestone minerality. The finish is clean, bright, spicy and floral and nicely faceted. A classic, all right, and a real crowd-pleaser. 12.5 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2018. Excellent. About $25.

Imported by Frederick Wildman & Sons, New York. A sample for review.

During the next six weeks or so, My Readers will doubtless be invited to an endless round of parties, dinners, open-house events and other fetes celebrating various holiday preoccupations. And many of you will doubtless carry along a bottle of wine as a gift for your hosts. What bottle to give, however, what price to pay, how to proceed are issues I will address for you today.

First, don’t blow your credit card limit on a bottle of great wine, even if it’s intended for a dear friend or family member and especially if they’re not particularly crazy about or don’t know anything about fine vintages. It doesn’t make sense to stand at the threshold of an 3-beautiful-handmade-wine-bottle-gift-wrap-ideas_642x640open-house and hand over to your host a bottle of, say, Chateau Lafite-Rothschild 2000 that cost you an arm and a leg and say, “Here, I think you’ll enjoy this.” Even someone who likes or knows something about wine will appreciate a more modest offering. I think a reasonable category would be $20 to $30; plenty of terrific wines are available in that range.

Second, if you know that your host has wine preferences — pinot noir or sauvignon blanc, for instance, or interesting wines from unusual grapes or places — definitely go in that direction. That way, you’ll be able to say, “I know you like Willamette Valley pinot noir. This is from a winery I just found out about” or “Here’s a grenache blend from a little appellation in the Pyrenees. I think you’ll like it.”

Remember that half of the impact of a gift lies in its thoughtfulness and appropriate nature. Following that sentiment, don’t just pick up a $10 bottle of malbec that anyone could buy at any retail shop or grocery store, as if you were in a rush and couldn’t be bothered, unless, of course, your hosts would be grateful for that $10 malbec. And don’t make ironic gifts, like taking that $10 malbec as a joke to someone who appreciates and collects the best wines, handing it over with an embarrassed smirk. Ho-ho, asshole.

If you don’t know your host’s preferences, choose something that you like and offer it by saying, “This is one of our favorite wines. We hope it will be one of your favorites, too.” Of course a sparkling wine is always welcome, and it doesn’t have to be Champagne. Plenty of excellent bubblies are available from France, Italy, Spain and California priced under $30.

If you happen to be a collector or own a cellar filled with wine, it makes a wonderful gift-wrap-wineimpression to give a bottle that reflects your personal taste or style, especially if the recipient is equally knowledgeable about wine. The point is not that you shouldn’t waste a bottle of fine wine on the undeserving but that you don’t want to create a sense of pressure or obligation. Don’t hand over a bottle that will make your hosts nervous and wonder what the hell they’re supposed to do with it.

Do put the wine in an attractive presentation sleeve or sock or carrying bag, even wrapped (neatly) in tissue and tied with a ribbon. It’s just nicer that way, as my late mother would have said. The simpler, the better, please; you don’t have to go all Martha Stewart.

And remind the recipients that the wine is intended for them, not for general consumption at the party or dinner. Always say something like, “The wine is for you. Let’s put it on the table over here so it doesn’t get opened at the bar.”

Remember, the idea is not to show off your wine acumen or fiduciary prowess, but to display your kindness and generosity with a bottle of wine that says “Thanks for inviting us to your party.”

Top image from coupons.com; lower image from publix.com.

As you make your celebratory imbibing plans for the holiday season that runs from Thanksgiving to Epiphany — and happens to include my birthday — don’t forget Schramberg Vineyards, a Napa Valley-based producer of sparkling wines that has been around for 50 years and might be in danger of flying under the radar of all the other sparkling wine makers in California that emerged after its pioneering efforts. I rated three of these recent releases Excellent and one Very Good+, a better than decent outcome. In fact, I enjoyed these wines immensely and heartily recommend them for your Yuletide revels. Samples for review.
____________________________________________________________________________________________
schram-b-de-b
The Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs 2013, North Coast, is 100 percent chardonnay, a blend of grapes from Napa County (63 percent), Sonoma (30 percent), Mendocino (4 percent) and Marin (3 percent), hence the North Coast designation. A blanc de blancs is the first sparkling wine that the producer made, in 1965, and the touch remains deft and fluent. The color is very pale gold, and the tiny, glinting bubbles are exuberantly effervescent; beautifully layered aromas of roasted lemon, lemon balm, spiced pear and toasted and lightly buttered brioche are twined with acacia blossom and almond skin. A few moments in the glass bring up a bright edge of flint and chalk bolstered by vivid acidity, both elements lending this sparkling wine tremendous verve and appeal, while notes of slightly candied quince and ginger round out the citrus-stone fruit flavor profile. 12.7 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2020 to ’23. Excellent. About $39.
__________________________________________________________________________________________
schram-b-de-n
The opposite of blanc de blancs — “white from white” — is blanc de noirs — “white from black” — through the Schramsberg Blanc de Noirs 2012, North Coast, blends 12 percent chardonnay with the balance of pinot noir. Counties of origin are Sonoma (44 percent), Mendocino (33 percent), Napa (19 percent) and Marin (4 percent). The color is very pale gold, enlivened by a surging flurry of tiny bubbles; this is pure lemon in all its aspects, married to fresh bread, cloves, ginger and quince, with a dry scent like dusty heather and a deep bell-note of currant. It’s a high-toned and elegant sparkling wine, vibrant with energy, full-bodied, almost lush except for the rigor of prominent limestone-flint minerality and a seam of resonant acidity. 12.7 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2020 to ’22. Excellent. About $41.
__________________________________________________________________________________________
schram-rose
The Schramsberg Brut Rosé 2013, North Coast, is composed of 61 percent pinot noir and 39 percent chardonnay. The county make-up is 41 percent Sonoma, 26 percent Mendocino, 25 percent Napa and 8 percent Marin. The ravishing color is pale copper salmon, with abundant bubbles swirling upward; aromas of macerated strawberries and raspberries open to notes of dried red currants, lime peel, melon and sour cherry, with follow-up hints of cloves and orange rind. You might think that this sparkling wine is all about sensual appeal, which it obviously does not lack, but there’s real structure, too, with elements of chiseled limestone and chalk minerality borne by chiming acidity; it flows across the palate with crisp vitality. 13 percent alcohol. Now through 2019 through ’23. Excellent. About $44.
___________________________________________________________________________________________
shrams-cremant
The Schramsberg Crémant Demi-Sec 2012, Napa Valley — a departure from the winery’s usual North Coast designation — is a blend of 74 percent flora grapes, 16 percent pinot noir and 10 percent chardonnay. Flora is a crossing of gewürztraminer and semillon, created in 1938 by Harold P. Olmo (1909-2006), a professor of viticulture at University of California, Davis, who pioneered the crossing of vinifera grapes for warm climate regions; among his other creations are ruby cabernet and symphony. To 85 percent Napa Valley grapes, this sparkling wines adds 10 percent from Sonoma and 5 percent from Mendocino; that 85 percent allows the Napa Valley designation. The color is pale straw-yellow; the bubbles are tiny but gentle, a stream but not a froth. Scents of green apple, peach and apricot are delicately floral and lead to a sweet entry — in fact sweeter than I thought it would be. This sparkling wine offers elegance in body and texture, a lively impression from clean acidity and flint-limestone minerality for background and a touch of dryness from mid-palate through the finish. 13.5 percent alcohol. Now through 2020 or ’22. At 2,387 cases, this product has the smallest production of this quartet. Very Good+. About $40.
__________________________________________________________________________________________

The wine aged ……… The color is pale straw-yellow

Here’s how I like my pinot grigio: lean and lithe, bright and vibrant, yet with a winsome, csm_pinot_grigio_2005_riserva_7895065a86pretty touch. The example in question is the Marco Felluga “Mongris” Pinot Grigio 2015, from Italy’s far northeastern Collio region, which shares a border with Slovenia. Collio is a version of the Italian word colli, which means “hills,” this rolling terrain being composed of layers of sandstone, limestone and clay once the ocean floor. Made all in stainless steel, the Marco Felluga “Mongris” Pinot Grigio 2015 offers a pale gold color and enticing aromas of acacia and heather, green apple and pear, seashell and salt marsh; a few moments in the glass bring in notes of roasted lemon and almond skin. It’s a spare and bracing pinot grigio, crystalline in its chiming acidity and scintillating flinty minerality and its finish of grapefruit pith and lime peel, though tasty with faceted citrus and stone-fruit flavors. 13 percent alcohol. Drink through 2018 with seafood risottos, grilled fish (preferably right on the beach) and fresh oysters. Excellent. About $18, representing Good Value.

Imported by Dalla Terra Winery Direct, Napa, Calif. A sample for review.

Looking for a true Rhone Valley experience in a California red wine? Well, then, you should be. bns12c_bottle_180x579pxIn any case, look for a bottle of the Bonny Doon Bien Nacido X-Block Syrah 2012, Santa Maria Valley. In all its wild and woolly and autumnal 100 percent syrah nature, the wine feels elemental, fundamental and inevitable. The color is an opaque black-ruby shading to a glowing violet rim; aromas of roasted meat and wet dog are foresty and loamy, opening to notes of macerated and slightly stewed blackberries, currants and plums; a few moments in the glass bring in hints of black pepper, tar, oolong tea and fruitcake, iodine, smoke and roasted fennel, with a bell-tone of blueberry. This syrah rests on deep foundations of briery and granitic tannic power and dynamic acidity, combined with very intense and concentrated black fruit flavors, polished oak and graphite minerality, these factors meshing across the palate and culminating in a brooding, darksome, feral finish. 13 percent alcohol. Tremendous character and personality. Production was 313 cases. The wine is a natural with braised short ribs or veal shanks and such cool-weather fare, though we drank it happily with black bean and sweet potato chili. Now through 2020 to ’22. Exceptional. About $50.

A sample for review.

Next Page »