Casual wine drinkers, aficionados, and beginners alike: Each month we expose you to new things, educating and diversifying your palate with a lineup of our monthly wine picks. We're sharing some of the best we've tried in the last month so that you can seek them out and bring them to dinner this month. You must forgive us from being just returned from Spain, a trip whose experience shows in our picks this month. We're changing things a bit this month, going from our usual five recommendations down to three. We want to be a bit more choosy. Cheers!
2016 Bermejo Malvasía Volcánica Seco (Lanzarote, Spain)
Why we chose it: A wonderful white made from the Malvasía Volcánica variety, the grapes that produced this bottle are grown in a soil heavily comprised of volcanic ash on the island of Lanzarote, in Spain's Canary Islands. Located off the coast of southern Morocco, these islands are geographically part of Africa, making their wine truly unique in the pantheon of Spanish, European, and global winemaking. "Seco" wines, in Spanish wine parlance, are more dry. This offering from Bermejo carries qualities that find us thinking of both the Albariño and Verdejo grape varietals found elsewhere in Spain. The nose almost effervescent, with a little grass and orange melon wafting up from the glass. There's a little acidity on the front (hey effervescence!), but otherwise very smooth and round. The Malvasía grape is known for florality, and the flower notes popping out of this one are no exception.
What to look for: We've drank this bottle at restaurants both on Lanzarote and an Madrid, so we know it is very much available in the Spanish market. Try it at Triciclo on Calle de Moratin, in the Letras neighborhood, next time you visit Madrid. We've not seen it in the United States, but we've been assured that Canarian wineries do export both there and throughout the EU, so we're going on the hunt! Otherwise ask your local wine merchant to find you a quality Albariño with good acidity, or a quality Verdejo that isn't too grassy. Both are produced widely in Spain, and are widely exported abroad.
Further reading: Our current picks for great food, wine, atmosphere in Madrid, Spain
2014 Izadi Crianza (Rioja, Spain)
Why we chose it: Stick your nose in a glass of the Izadi Crianza and tell us that you're not transported in your mind to a quietly lit space where the wine's notes of classic cigar box, cedar, and leather shop seem just at home. The front of the palate also features some qualities of a Port wine -- not the sweetness, mind you, but the barrel. These sophisticated notes of a traditional Rioja found in the nose persist throughout the experience, meeting with only a little fruit and then going down warmly and smoothly. It's a great wine for autumn! Note that it turns ever so slightly sweeter as it airs in the glass.
What to look for: Rioja is perhaps the best known and most popular of Spain's winemaking regions, so you'll have no trouble finding a bottle from there. We've three bottles of the Izadi Reserva on our shelf, so though we have not personally seen the Crianza on retail shelves in the United States, we're reasonably sure this specific wine can be found pretty easily. Just ask!
2010 RdV Vineyards "Rendezvous" ( Virginia, USA)
Why we chose it: Set on a hillside in Virginia's Middleburg AVA wine making region, both of RdV Vineyard's flagship bottles -- the Merlot dominated Rendezvous and the Cabernet Sauvignon dominated Lost Mountain -- are unquestionably two of the top five bottles produced in the state each year. They are indisputably world class. Add that 2010 was a pretty splendid growing year in Virginia, and you've something quite special when you uncork this bottle. Inky dark raspberry, leather, and spice mingle in the nose to give way to substantively luxurious, velvety black fruits (currant) that linger warmly on the palate. Dark cocoa dust and a bit of licorice give the wine incredible depth. We drank it with venison, a winning combination, but any high quality red meat will do.
What to look for: You'll find RdV in the tiny town of Delaplane, about an hour's drive from Washington, DC. Anyone near enough to visit should seize the opportunity, though be mindful that reservations are required, and the tasting plus tour runs $50 per person. I believe, though, that they will allow walkup purchases of the wine if you're taste or budget doesn't call for the tour (seems that the 2014 vintage of this wine is currently on offer). Rendezvous is our priciest bottle this month, though, running $75 each. The best alternative is nearby Delaplane Cellars (whose wine joins RdV in the Virginia pantheon, but is far more open to visitors and priced a bit better). If you're not in the area, your best bet is to seek a high quality Merlot dominated red blend from Bordeaux. Virginia wine tends to have far more in common with that in France than with that in California.