BY RICK RIOZZA

A few columns ago, we wrote on the impending heat wave wandering through our western vineyards on a regular basis.  In other words, things are indeed heating up in the wine game.  And unfortunately, California’s hallowed ground, Napa Valley, is warming at such a continual pace that around the year 2050, major changes will have taken place with new and different grape varietals and hybrids covering the landscape

There are so many Napa Valley wine enthusiasts in the wine world who hear the threat but don’t want to think about it yet.  And that’s because we California vino lovers were some of the first wooed and wowed by a Napa Cabernet Sauvignon.  A minor epiphany grabbed our minds and hit our souls when we took those first few sips.  How delicious was that Napa Cab!  Forget that cheap table wine we were buying; we started saving our dollars to afford the good stuff.

Now whether you’re a wine snob, enthusiast, vino nerd, or newbie, Napa Valley wineries still rule in our hearts and continue to produce world class wine.  This past week, our friend Costa Nichols alerted me to his weekly Saturday wine tasting at his revered and respected Desert Wine & Spirits shop in Palm Springs, and how fortuitous that the theme of the tasting was Napa Valley wineries.  Hopefully everyone in town knows of the Special wine tastings each Saturday from 4 to 5:30 p.m.; $10 per customer with $5 credited toward the purchase of the wines tasted.

We always wish to remind our wine community of the stellar wine, spirits and beer selection at the store as well as to the continual five-star tasting Costa has been providing for over the past ten years! The store has expanded to include the Go Deli Market that serves up fresh and delicious deli fare.  They are located at the Palm Springs’ Sun Center Plaza—close to where South Palm Canyon & Indian Canyon Drive converge.

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Desert Wine owns one of the best wine tasting rooms in our valley.  Situated therein are state of the art automatic wine dispensing machine that pours at your pleasure either a one, three, or five-ounce tasting of some of the wines you’ve only heard or read about.  What a great occasion to taste the wine before considering buying the bottle!

Although you’re reading this review after the tasting, the good news is that Costa stocked up on the showcased wines and still has some quantities available at the lowest prices in town.  Check out his featured selection below as you review his commentary on the wines. This particular tasting features Napa Wineries who “wisely utilize ‘négociant activity’, i.e., the ‘wheeling and dealing’ involved in sourcing varietals from out of the area when there is a benefit to do so.”

2016 Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc/Viognier Blend, $13.99

This is one of the most cherished white wine blends from a Napa Winery. Simply the perfect pairing to salads, appetizers, sea fare and white meats.  Costa writes, “The Chenin Blanc grapes were harvested in the Clarksburg appellation at low sugar levels to emphasize bright fruit characteristics in the finished wine. In contrast, the Viognier from Lodi was picked at higher sugar levels to capture the floral and spicy nature as well as viscosity.  To retain and highlight fruit freshness, the wine was fermented and aged in 100 percent stainless steel.”

2015 Bread & Butter Wines Chardonnay, $13.99
This Chardonnay is the result of négociants fashioning wine blends from various producers who may have more grapes or even finished wine that they cannot use. The wine opens with rich notes of vanilla bean and almond husk, reminiscent of a crème brûlée. The creamy notes are balanced by a soft minerality and a hint of tropical fruit.  Those creamy notes continue to your palate where they are joined with bright acidity and well-integrated oak that leads into a long, creamy finish.

2015 Bread & Butter Wines Pinot Noir $13.99

This is another négociant effort that gives us excellent value for our money. It boasts juicy red fruit; cherries and raspberries with a touch of cassis. Delicate hints of cedar and bay leaf balance the sweetness of the fruit, creating a lovely bouquet. That luscious fruit bouquet continues onto the palate, where it’s joined by soft flavors of oak and savory notes. The rich mouthfeel is complemented by a long and beautifully smooth finish.
It was the Bronze medal winner at the SF Chronicle Wine Competition.

2014 Trinitas Mysteriama Red Blend $21.99
Trinitas is a winery that frequently seeks out great vineyards in other counties such as Mendocino and Contra Costa to produce a fruit forward blend that is approachable and can be enjoyed with or without food. The aromas and palate showcase ripe raspberry, maraschino cherry, blackberry jam and vanilla tinged notes of oak. To end the Mystery, the blend is 46% Old Vine Zinfandel, 27% Carignane, 3% Old Vine Mataro, 17% Old Vine Petite Sirah, 4% Cabernet and 3% Merlot.

2014 William Hill Bench Blend $29.99
This rich, chocolaty blend from Napa’s Silverado Bench combines Cabernet Sauvignon and other Bordeaux varieties with 24% Petite Sirah. Deep red cherry and cassis flavors form its juicy core, a full-bodied expression accented by leather and espresso, and offset by a showy backbone of acidity. 90 points from Wine Enthusiast.

2015 Robert Mondavi Moscato d’Oro 375 ml $9.99

This is rather a rare wine in that there is precious little Muscat Canelli grown in Napa Valley. This wine’s intense aromas are perfumed with notes of jasmine flower, lychee, guava and ripe peach. The lush, sweet flavors are perfectly balanced with a crisp, citrusy finish. Serve chilled at the end of a meal.  Okay Costa!—thanks, that’s a rap!

Desert Wines & Spirits/Go-Deli Market, 611 S Palm Canyon Dr, Palm Springs, CA 92264.   Store hours: 10amto 6pm daily (Sun. 11am-5pm) 611 South Palm Canyon, Suite 22, Palm Springs. (760) 327-7701

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