Happy holiday weekend! I am here to assist in helping you get ready to toast with sparklers and sparkling, along with a few barbecue-ready favorites. Here is what we will be toasting with this weekend. We hope you have a safe, healthy, and wonderful 4th of July!
Sparkling is the obvious selection for a firework-filled holiday, and anything from ultra-premium to a highly affordable bubble can easily be enjoyed. The joy comes from the enjoyment you find sipping and savoring with those you love the most. On the premium end, Domaine Carneros Le Reve Blanc de Blancs ($120) 100% Chardonnay from the winery’s 100% sustainably farmed estate. Begun by the Taittinger family in the 1980s when the famed Champagne House finally found the perfect location to expand outside of France, finding the sunshine-filled rolling hills of Los Carneros to be ideal for creating what has become one of America’s leading sparkling wine producers. Aromatic and inviting, the traditional method sparkler leaps from the glass with aromas of toasted brioche, hazelnut, lemon blossom, and honeysuckle, leading to a complex, well-rounded palate of tropical lychee, golden apple, peach, lemon curd, and creme brulee. Textured and rich while maintaining racy acidity and freshness, pairing with oysters, caviar, crab claws, and lobster with ease.
Juicy, fruit-forward, and fresh, Zardetto DOC Prosecco ($20) is produced from the lush landscape of Prosecco in Italy’s northeastern corner. Since 1936 Zardetto has been crafting sparklers in the Italian method, intended to be enjoyed early, shortly after release, to highlight the fruit-forward nature of the Glera variety. Layers of green apple, apricot, citrus peel, and white flowers unfold on the palate as the wine is enjoyed. There is a small percentage of Pinot Blanco and Chardonnay added to the wine as well, adding a bit of additional richness and texture to the inviting wine.
When we think of white wine from New Zealand our mind may consider the country’s beloved citrus and gooseberry filled Sauvignon Blanc. And with good reason, zesty Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc is a thing of delicious beauty. But, so many additional varieties shine from the Kiwi country, including Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, and Gruner Veltliner. Though Jules Taylor hangs her hat on Sauvignon Blanc, like her neighbors, the respected winemaker reveals inviting elegance with her other white wines, including Jules Taylor Pinot Gris ($23). Complex and concentrated, while remaining vibrant, the wine opens with aromas of peach blossom, honeysuckle, and spice, followed by a palate filled with fresh melon, lemonade lemon, ripe apple, spicy ginger, and a focused note of minerality. A tasty example of Pinot Gris, revealing texture and complexity sometimes lost in wines from the variety.
From Silverado Vineyards Borreo Ranch Vineyard in Napa’s Soda Springs Canyon, Borreo Kerner ($38) is a gorgeous example of the uncommon variety, and one of my favorites. With what are thought to be Germany roots, Kerner is a crossing of Trollinger (also known as Schiava or Vernatsch) and Riesling. It is not widely planted anywhere, even in Germany, though I have had beautiful selections from Germany as well as the highly-Germany influenced Alto Adige in Italy, but this is a first from Napa Valley. Highly aromatic, energetic, and fresh, with layers of ripe melon, white peach, nectarine, and apple, with a spicy note of pepper and crushed stone. A special wine, ideal with grilled chicken or fish, light salads, or simply by itself.
Forty-eight years ago the Pellegrini family purchased a 70-acre apple and plum orchard in Sonoma’s Russian River Valley (before it was known as RRV) on West Olivet Road. Two years later the orchard was converted to vineyards, though the orchard fruit flavors would live on for decades in the wines produced from Olivet Lane Vineyards. From their estate, Olivet Lane Rose of Pinot Noir ($40) shines with these aromas in the lively pink pleaser. Fragrant aromas of apple blossom, nectarine, rose, and wildflower lead to a palate filled with red apple, strawberry, watermelon, and juicy grapefruit. Easy and inviting, pairing with grilled shrimp, fresh salmon, or turkey burgers.
If grilling steaks or slow roasting a brisket is in your plan for the weekend, a few bold red options are perfect pairings to accompany, including Sangiovese, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, or even something not as top of mind, like a Cannanou from Sardinia. The classic red variety of Sardinia, Cannonau, or Garnacha/Grenache thrives in the hot weather of the island, ideally suited for the warm, sundrenched days Sardinia enjoys. With a lighter take on the traditionally very robust, bold wine, Vigne Surrau Naracu Cannonau di Sardegna ($16) is a light and fresh wine thanks to a smart use of stainless steel instead of oak, creating a spicy, fruit-forward wine great with anything from salmon to steaks, showing ripe red berry, red cherry, red plum, with a nice note of minerality on the finish.
For over 60 years Rodney Strong has been showcasing the beauty and diversity of the wines of Sonoma County, particularly sun-loving Cabernet Sauvignon. Some of the finest expressions of Cabernet Sauvignon come from Sonoma, particularly those from Knights Valley and Alexander Valley, and often they deliver on tremendous flavor without hitting the pocketbook as heavily as some of their Napa neighbors. Rodney Strong Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($28) showcases Alexander Valley by blending fruit from four estate vineyards dotted throughout the hillsides and benches of the region, giving texture to the balanced wine. Concentrated and nicely structured, the wine opens with red plum, black cherry, and dried fig notes intermingling with toasted spice, dark chocolate, and pencil lead.