Gruet Blanc de Noirs, American Sparkling Wine, $17
Want to sip a crisp, delicious, bubbly surprise? Find Gruet and buy, buy, buy. The French-bred Gruet family had been crafting Champagne in France, but on a trip to the States in the early 1980s, founder Gilbert Gruet fell in love with New Mexico. He took a leap of faith and planted vineyards. The family has now been creating sparkling and still wines for more than 25 years.
This wine is a classic blend of mostly Pinot Noir with Chardonnay. It’s an appealing lightly pink-hued sparkler with a dry finish. Priced well below what international bubblies charge, this American-born wine made in the labor-intensive traditional Champagne method of ageing in bottle. It’s has a tremendous value-to-quality ratio and is one of the best bargains you will find in the wine world today. Period.
2015 Barboursville Vineyards, Vermentino Reserve, Virginia $23 (current release is 2016)
One of the things I love most about being a wine professional is the process of discovery. Tasting wines that I may have heard about but have yet to embrace is one of those discoveries. This is surely the case for Virginia wines. I have known for years that Virginia is producing high-quality wines. I have sampled some and been impressed. I put a visit to Virginia on my “to do” list years ago. This year I finally checked it off. What a beautiful, historic, emerging region for unique world-class wines. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
Located a few hours from Washington D.C., Barboursville Vineyards encompasses not only a winery, restaurant and inn, but the property showcases one of Thomas Jefferson’s architectural masterpieces. The winery was founded by Gianni Zonin of the well-known Italian wine family, Zonin. Winemaker Luca Paschina is also from Italy, so many of the wines celebrate their Italian heritage. The Vermentino is one such wine. Vermentino is a white grape hailing from Italy’s coastal regions of Liguria and Sardinia so it takes well to Virginia’s warm climate. This white has a full-bodied flair but is more earthy than fruity and more mineral than citrusy, but it still maintains a signature freshness. This Virginia wine will take you on a journey of discovery.
2014 Magna Porcum Pinot Noir, Green Valley of Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, California $45
Sonoma wine country is made of up wineries large, small, and very small. Camlow Cellars is a two-person operation that’s truly a passion project. Photographer, Alan Campbell, and winegrower, Craig Strehlow, paired up to make Pinot Noir with stuffing and elegance. Their Big Pig Vineyard (hence the Magna Porcum name) is the source for their flagship bottling. It’s a wine that’s lush and dark-fruited, but also light on its feet with spicy complexity. These wines sell out quickly, so you might want to sign up for their newsletter and – as the duo says – “join us in the pig pen.”