My first assignment for “Uncorked” was to recommend a variety of wines for novices to have on hand for entertaining guests and for personal consumption based on local availability.
Looking back over these recommendations, and at the risk of sounding defensive, I can only plead I was working with limited availability. I even phonetically spelled out “merlot” and “cabernet sauvignon,” for heaven’s sake.
Gentle readers, let me attempt to redeem myself by updating my recommendations based on today’s local availability and my review of more than 1,750 wines in 564 columns to date.
The 2001 recommendations are listed below, followed by my updates.
Kendall-Jackson 1999 Johannisberg Riesling. I could not recommend this today even if I cared to do so. Johannisberg rieslings are no longer available in the states. The U. S. Alcohol, Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau phased out that terminology in 2006, since Johannisberg is the name of a wine region in Germany, not California.
K-J still makes Riesling, as do many American producers, but today I recommend the real thing from Germany. Try the 2009 Heinz Eifel Riesling Auslese (ows-lay-zuh) or 2009 Heinz Eifel Riesling Spätlese (spate-lay-zeh), in the $12 range at both Tyson Fine Wines and Things in Golden Springs and The Wine Cellar on Quintard.
Spätlese and auslese have to do with the style of wine. Auslese is usually a step sweeter and made from higher quality grapes than spätlese. Both are sweet, but have a nice balance of sweetness to acidity. German rieslings are good sipping wines and go well with Asian cuisine.
Beringer 1999 Chenin Blanc. I don’t quite know what possessed me here. Perhaps I had not been exposed to French chenin blancs from the Loire region of Vouvray.
Vouvray is different from New World chenin blanc in its crispness and minerality. Try La Craie 2009, $16.75 at Tyson. This off-dry version is a great sipping wine and is especially good with lobster.
Gallo Family’s Sonoma County 1999 Chardonnay. In 2001, Kendall-Jackson made the best-selling chardonnay in the country. Today, it’s still making it. Kendall Jackson would have been a better recommendation than Gallo in 2001. Today, for the novice I recommend 2010 Kendall Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay, $12.99 at Winn Dixie. This wine reflects the epitome of how California chardonnay should taste. Tropical fruit flavors with a hint of vanillin from aging and fermenting in new American and French oak barrels. Creamy texture leads to a long, delicious and pleasingly smooth finish.
1998 Firestone Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. Not a bad recommendation at the time. Firestone was a family-owned, small-production winery. The Firestone family sold to Foley Family Wines in 2007. I have not seen these wines locally in some time. Today’s recommendation is 2009 Joel Gott 815 Cabernet Sauvignon, $15 range at Tyson and The Wine Cellar. From 100 percent cabernet, sourced from five different California growing regions. Fruit from each region imparts a special trait to this blend. Dark berry fruit flavors. Elegant texture.
Bogle Vineyard’s 1999 Merlot. The only recommendation I would not change. This family-owned winery makes one of the most popular and approachable merlots in America. Today’s recommendation is the 2009 Bogle Vineyard’s Merlot, $12.99 at Winn Dixie.