Reception and Appetizer Wines
La Marca, Prosecco
Grown in Italy, the Glera grape is cherished for its expressiveness. La Marca Prosecco is a fresh sparkling wine with a vibrant bouquet of apple, white peach and honeysuckle. The soft, harmonious fruity notes highlighted by pleasant acidity make this wine ideal for any occasion. $13.99 at Pacific Wine Merchants Upland.
A delicious California sparkling wine with rich and toasty aromas up front, and a follow-up that features focused and complex. Lemon, grapefruit, herb, green apple and pear flavors. It's bright and clean on the finish. Quite refreshing. $21.99 at Pacific Wine Merchants Upland.
Segura Viudas Brut
Comparable to French Champagnes at 3 times the price. $8.99 at Liquorama Upland.
Brandt Family, 2009 Petite Sirah Santa Barbara County
Deep garnet violet in color. Mocha, black raspberry, chocolate nut flavors. Supple, dryish medium-to-full body. A very nice dry table wine, excellent with roasts of beef, lamb, and pork. Produced in San Antonio Heights (Upland) by local vintner Brian Brandt. $26.00 at Pacific Wine Merchants Upland.
De Sante, 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville
100 percent Cabernet Sauvignon shows the classic ruby/garnet hue of Oakville (Napa Valley). The aromas are inviting with the darker notes of spiced plum getting a pleasing lift of red currant. This lift is what one would expect from the western bench Cabernet that composes 20 percent of the blend. The western bench shows through with the bright cherry flavors and elegant expression of tannin in this seamless wine. However, it is the Cabernet from the eastern hills which brings forth the deeper notes of blackberry and cedar while providing the textural curves and softened edges that one would expect from an Oakville grown Cab Sauv. $39.99 at Pacific Wine Merchants Upland.
Pope Valley, 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley,
Bold Black Fruits with subtle tannins and a long finish. $19.99 at Liquorama Upland.
South Coast Winery, 2010 GVR Temecula
GVR (acronym) is a blend of white Rhone cultivars that are often found as stand alone varieties. This blend not only highlights the individual uniqueness of each variety, it also demonstrates the synergy between the fruit. Lemony, raspberry character of Grenache Blanc plays off of the sweet honeysuckle of the Viognier, while the delicate pear and citrus notes of the Roussanne give structure and a rich lusciousness to this one of a kind wine. A small portion of the Viognier was barrel fermented in French Oak. A very rich wine with a long finish that slips into velvet. $20.00 at South Coast Winery Temecula
Galleano, Three Friends Port Cucamonga Valley
A classic aged tawny-style port. Amber-caramel in color with warm brown sugar on the nose. Long lingering finish with hints of walnuts. More International gold medals than any tawny port in America. $27.50 at Galleano Winery Mira Loma.
Inniskillin, Vidal Ice Wine
Nectar of the grape, a must have for dessert at any Holiday dinner. $29.99 at Liquorama Upland.
Joseph Filippi, Angelica Elena Cucamonga Valley
Award-winning, limited production aged dessert wine produced and bottled in memory of Elena "Elaine" Filippi. Sweet, nutty and smooth, Angelica is the California "original" produced from Mission grapes by the Franciscan Fathers. The depth and complexity of this age old variety is only surpassed by the heritage of the Cucamonga Valley itself. Enjoy this sweet sipper with fruits, nuts, flavorful cheese, and rich desserts. $19 at J. Filippi Winery Rancho Cucamonga.
Reader Picks ...
Dana Chandler of Upland:
Meiomi, Pinot Noir
A delicious blend of three different California growing regions. Bright, deep garnet color. Aromas of cola, blackberries and a sweet cedar note. A Best Value Pinot Noir below $20. $18.99 at Liquorama Upland.
Faust, Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley
An amazing Cabernet from the Napa Valley. Blackberries and smooth tannins. $49.99 at Liquorama Upland.
Steve Amaon of Temecula:
Hawk Watch, 2009 Merlot
I like to serve this to guests without telling them it's Merlot, because of the Sideways movie thing. This wine is well balanced, nose of berries/cherries and some tea/tobacco on the finish. It's NOT a "wimp" wine but has mild tannin. A good wine to serve while visiting with friends & family. I purchased at the winery in Warner Springs (southeast of Temecula) for about $20.
Vina Robles, 2008 Sauvignon Blanc
I like it because it's a well balanced wine. Citrus notes on the nose. Ample alcohol at 14.2 but you never notice it. Evident fruit and mild acid and minerality make this another great wine to have while socializing. Available at BevMo approx. $15.
Bridlewood, 2006 Reserve Syrah
One of my favorite wines to have with turkey during the holidays is Syrah. Bridlewood is well balanced with the 14.5 alcohol never being evident. Plum and dusty cocoa on the nose. Plum and black cherry with hints of tobacco and leather on the finish. I like the multi layers of flavors and the fact that it pairs really well with my turkey. In fact, It's good without the turkey. I decant mine for about 30 minutes to really open it up. Available at BevMo approx. $20.
Gift suggestions Big Ranch Vineyard 2011 Sauvignon Blanc
$13.99 at Liquorama
-- Turley, "The Label" 2010 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon $37.99 at Liquorama
"A Tipsy Quest for the World's Best Bargain Wines" by Natalie MacLean
From the author of the bestselling "Red, White and Drunk All Over," comes, "Unquenchable: A Tipsy Quest for the World's Best Bargain Wines" that will amuse and enthrall with its character sketches of obsessive personalities, travel to gorgeous vineyards, mouth-watering descriptions of food and wine, "hidden" wine education and neurotic humor.
Packed with colorful stories about the passionate personalities who inhabit the world of wine, award-winning wine writer MacLean whisks you to the mountainside vineyards of Germany, the baked red earth of Australia, and the shady verandahs of Niagara - as well as to scenic, offbeat locations in southern Italy, the Mediterranean, Argentina, Chile and South Africa - all in search of the best value bottles the world has to offer.
Of her journey, MacLean says, "I've spent the past several years traipsing around the world, visiting wineries, tasting their offerings, and searching for the world's best inexpensive wines. The narrative is as familiar as Arthur's quest for the grail and as naïve as the little bird's plaintive search for the affirmative in Are You My Mother?"
Standing firmly against wine snobbery and using her signature conversational style, MacLean insists that good wine doesn't have to be expensive.
There's plenty to take away from her inspired recommendations from food pairings to lists of favorite value wines and wineries, plus plenty of pointers that will deepen your own drinking pleasure. Trade Paperback /384 pp/Penguin USA/$15.99/978-0399537806
Off the Vine "Thanks" to our readers and special guest contributors over the past year. Your wine words of wisdom have been most appreciated.
A safe and prosperous New Year ahead to all.