Produttori di Manduria AKA Rose ($14.99) Salento, Italy From the producer: 100% Primitivo "Bouquet: clear and attractive nose, full of fresh cherries, pomegranate, red apple, small wild strawberry and raspberry, enriched by pleasant mineral whiffs. Taste: juicy and fresh on the palate, well structured, with crunchy cherry fruits hints, salty. It shows a lot of juicy acidity in the background, long aftertaste. Suggested pairings: seafood risotto, dumplings with leek and prawn, grilled salmon with parsley sauce." From me: I encountered this wine at a trade tasting, where the representative of the company claimed that no one had much luck selling this rose because of its dark hue. I tasted it--lush, bright, strawberry-forward, with a hint of salinity to keep the fruit in check. I said, "I can sell this wine." It's a fine example of a more robust style, and it's lovely as is, but you could make a fabulous sangria with it, too. Brick & Mortar Anderson Valley Chardonnay ($22.99) California From the producer: "2021 Anderson Valley Chardonnay is aromatic in the glass, combining fresh citrus and floral elements. The palate is framed by racy acidity, with a richness of fruit and hints of oak toasted hazelnut and hard spice. Ripe melon, quince and yellow apple flavors are coupled with mandarin zest, juniper and thyme. The wine is textured and elegant exuding the warm sunny growing days and cool temperatures of Anderson Valley. Beautiful in its youth, this Chardonnay will age gracefully and improve over the next 5+ years." From me: This is a good example of a riper style of Chard from the Anderson Valley. The palate is very round, but there's just enough acidity to keep it from overtaking the other aspects of the wine. I would call this wine "medium-oaked," as you can clearly discern the presence of the wood, but it's well integrated. Thomas Labille Chablis ($25.99) Burgundy, France From the producer: "Vinification: Controlled alcoholic fermentation, aging on lees in temperature-controlled vats and in oak barrels for 15-18 months, fining and filtration. Tasting notes: Pale color with brilliant reflections, lively nose of fruity and mineral notes. Powerful, supple and full on the palate with nice acidity on the finish. Culinary accompaniment: This wine can accompany a whole meal. It is just as good with salad, fish, poultry or white meat as it is with goat cheese." From me: If you're of a certain age, "Chablis" evokes the image of a jug of cheap Californian wine. This is not that. Chablis is a region of Burgundy in France, within which some of the leanest, most elegant Chardonnay can be found. This particular wine is an excellent entry-level Chablis that gives you a good idea of the style, and that won't break the bank.
Orr Wines Columbia Gorge Chardonnay ($34.99) Washington From the producer: "Field blended in the cool Columbia Gorge vineyard where it was grown, this bright, minerally Chardonnay was naturally fermented in old French oak barrels and bottled unfiltered. 88 cases produced." From me: Erica Orr makes beautiful wine in Washington state. Of the three she produces, the Chardonnay is my favorite because it's stylistically French and unexpectedly savory. I think it's particularly interesting to taste with the Labille Chablis, which is actually Burgundian. If you are wary of Chardonnay, I ask that you try this one.
Zulal Areni ($19.99) Armenia From the producer: "Zulal wines was founded by Aimee Keushguerian in 2017, introducing Zulal Areni Reserve 2015 and Zulal Voskehat 2017. The main grape varieties Areni and Voskehat are sourced from approximately 40 grape-growers in the villages of Aghavnadzor and Rind as well as the Arpa Valley in the Vayots Dzor region. In addition to these, Zulal is also engaged in working with lesser known grape varieties, such as Koghbeni from Tavush, Nazeli and Movuz and Tozot and Karmir Kot from Vayots Dzor, Sireni from Artsakh, Jrjruk from Tavush and Kakhet from Artashat. These small lots of wine offer an exciting opportunity to explore rare indigenous grape varieties. Zulal currently produces approximately 10,000 cases of wine on an annual basis. Areni is Armenia’s leading red grape variety, capable of making energetic wines full of bright fruity flavors. Zulal, meaning ‘pure’ in Armenian, was created to express the purest characteristics of Armenia’s indigenous grape varieties grown in volcanic soils at high elevation. The 2018 Areni is a classic expression of the ancient Areni variety. The 2018 Areni is an aromatic wine with notes of red cherries, plums and notes of pepper. On the palate it’s medium-bodied, with refreshing acidity and concentrated flavors of berries and spices." From me: I'm a little obsessed with wines from Eastern Europe, and this was one of the first that I tasted. I often sell it to Pinot Noir drinkers, as it has a similar flavor profile and body. It's a great introduction to eastern wines, and I love that the company is focusing on using indigenous grapes.