June was a great month for wine and food! Sometimes it just happens that way. You look back on the places you've been, the people you've met, the food you've eaten, and the wines you've had the privilege of trying... and you realize what a great month it was. We're also now decidedly in white wine season, so while it would be very difficult for us to get through an entire month without one or two red wines on the Best of list, we're definitely recommending you cast an eye to light and chilled as we enter the long hot summer. We're listing them below in the order we'd drink them at a tasting, not necessarily in order of our preference. Go find some for yourself!
2008 Bérêche et Fils Champagne Côte Millésime Premier Cru (Champagne, France)
Why we chose it: We love sparkling wine! We also find it silly when we see folks get particular about when they drink their sparklers: is it a before, during, or after dinner beverage? Our vote goes to "all three". This excellent Champagne worked very well for us before dinner with friends, giving us a delectable palate of green apple, peach, and almond before we broke into bourbon glazed salmon (with which we drank the always-amazing Eisold Smith Pinot Noir) for our main course.
What to look for: We admit this to be more of a special occasion wine at $72.99 per bottle (we indeed drank it on a special occasion). In looking for an alternative, remember that not all sparkling wine is Champagne. Champagne comes from a very specific French region named, you guessed it, Champagne. Actual Champagne tends to run a bit pricier than some (also very good) non-Champagne alternatives from around the world, but we recommend you talk with your local wine merchant about bottles of true Champagne that are in your price range. For a bit of added uniqueness, avoid some of the big Champagne houses like Moët & Chandon or Veuve Clicquot; they make delicious wine, but we're going for sometime you haven't tried before!
Domaine de la Folie Rully Clos La Folie (Burgundy, France)
Why we chose it: Green apple and lemon zest jump from the bottle in this 100% Chardonnay from Rully in France, itself a subregion of Burgundy. This wine is a single vineyard named for the domaine, unique as a named vineyard (known as le dit) "La Folie". It finishes a bit earthier than what you'd expect from a white. Really enjoyable!
What to look for: First, a disclaimer, the goings on around us at the time we tasted this prevented us from getting the correct vintage for this wine. Mea culpa! Rully is known for Chardonnay, but also produces Pinot Noir (it's in Burgundy, after all). If you're in the market for a French Chardonnay, Rully can be a good value and something easy to spot among hard-to-decipher French wine labels. All the better if you can find this bottle specifically! It was delicious!
NV North Gate Vineyard Rkatsiteli (Virginia, USA)
Why we chose it: With a nose of banana and spring garden, your first sniff of this wine will remind you of walking into a garden in spring when it seems everything has bloomed overnight. Your first taste of spring, you might call it. It's pale gold and slightly viscous in the glass. Clean, fresh, and floral, the palate was lush with a little pineapple as the fruit offering. It goes down smoothly. We noticed a touch of pine at the end.
What to look for: Rkatsiteli originates in Georgia (the country), and is one of the oldest wine making grapes. It's interesting on this count alone. It's an uncommon white wine grape, so we very seldom see it on shelves and menus. We seize the moment when we do! We've had some splendid Rkats (as it is often shortened) grown in both Virginia and Massachusetts the last several years. Wherever it is grown, we recommend you try the next bottle you see. Also, Kathleen would want you to know how to pronounce this wine: "Are-cats-eh-telly" or "Are-cats".
2012 Alliance Captûre Red Blend (California, USA)
Why we chose it: This Bordeaux-style wine comes from California, and is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc (yay!). It's impenetrably dark and inky in the glass, with a nose of deep red fruit laced with cocoa powder and a little charcoaling. The Cab Franc adds its characteristic pepper notes. It's tart and tannic yet leaves the mouth smoothly and cleanly. We recommend drinking it with a simply prepared, sophisticated steak... like a high quality hangar steak.
What to look for: Like with our Champagne discussion above, "Bordeaux" wine comes from the Bordeaux region of France. That this wine comes from California makes it decidedly not Bordeaux, but rather blended in the Bordeaux-style, meaning some combination of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, and Petit Verdot grapes. A Bordeaux-style blend from California is generally a bit different than its French cousins, usually possessed of some of the big, bold, fruit Cabernet Sauvignon qualities that are famous in America's biggest wine-producing state. The good news for you is that such wines can be found in abundance! Ask your local wine merchant for a recommendation in your price range. You may also be able to find a bottle of this at the Vino Volo in the Jacksonville airport... that's where I was lucky enough to stumble into the glass I had!
2013 Venge Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Silencieux (California, USA)
Why we chose it: Seemed appropriate we'd follow this discussion up with a pick from amongst the delightful California Cabernet Sauvignon's we tried this month. The Venge is cream of the crop, a deep purple color in the glass with rich, dark fruit on the palate. It feels both deep and brambly, really exquisite, and is playful at the beginning while finishing more subdued. We actually did drink this with a high quality hangar steak from our favorite Argentine Steakhouse, Chimichurri Grill at 43rd and 9th in midtown Manhattan.
What to look for: Look for Venge, but be careful to pick the Cabernet Sauvignon "Silencieux", as this winery makes a lineup of popular -- but different -- wine. Their "Scouts Honor" blend, for example, jammy fruit bomb that will please many but is a decided departure from the Cab. Otherwise you're on the hunt for a single varietal Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa... a quest that will keep you busy with many options for years!