By Rick Riozza

As I converse with my wine friends & networks across the nation, already they are gearing up for a full array of autumn reds to talk about—hey! Hold on there pardner! I just saw a rattlesnake come out of its burrow, which I think signifies six more weeks of hot summer air remaining.

In the midst of some slow hot wind swirling, recently I’ve had some very excellent and tasty wine that I’d like to alert upon:

I’ve used the line “Stoller is Stellar!” numerous times in this column, no doubt to the thrill and happiness of the winery and its marketing team. Now if it were a secret, consider this an eye-opener because I’m letting it out-of-the-bag. But it’s no secret, this wine producer, Stoller Family Estate, continues to make some tasty stuff and provides it for a reasonably good price for the quality.

For instance, I had a 2014 Stoller Dundee Hills Oregon Reserve Chardonnay, around $25, in the fridge just waiting for its time to take over to Roy’s Restaurant in Rancho Mirage during one of their dinner deals. They’ve a good wine list for matching their yummy Hawaiian fusion menu—but I’ve paired Stoller Chard previously with their fish entrée and it’s wonderful! So I don’t mind the small corkage fee.

But it didn’t happen. Last Friday my family prepared a delicious dinner tuna salad with fresh veggies, sliced root vegetables and all the usual trimmings. Here, I’d automatically go for a chilled Sauv blanc, but I didn’t have any—shame on me! However the Roy’s destined Stoller was staring me in the face. So what’s our wine mantra?—that’s right: Seize the moment! I threw the bottle in a bucket of some salty ice water for a quick fix.

Being politically correct, this wine-salad pairing was fit for a king and a queen, a prince and princess. Culinary correctness ruled the day as there was no influence of oak and that made for a fresh and crisp nose of Bartlett pear, ripe white peach, Mandarin orange and lemon. The bright acidity behind the nuanced tropical fruit flavors brought the salad meal to new heights.

A month prior, in the heat of the night, we fiercely fried up some delicious panko-crusted cod fish. I had just completed drinking through a slew of Sauv blanc for a wine review article, so we were out of the stuff that I would normally drink with fish. (This is sounding familiar.) Anyway—I had an Italian Montefalco white wine in the fridge, and, its time was to shine.

Many wine enthusiasts have heard of the Trebbiano grape but are unable to describe its flavor qualities. Actually, it’s grown throughout all of Italy—every area having a “Trebbiano d’this area or that”. And it’s the grape used to produce the real balsamic vinegar up in Modena.

But once an enthusiast tastes the Trebbiano from Montefalco in Umbria, they never forget its flavor profile: in other words, the trebb produced in this area may be the best around. I opened up the chilled 2015 Perticaia Spoleto DOC, and it immediately burst tropical fruit fragrances along with lemon blossom and citrus. As to flavor, the palate delivers layers of lemon cream, orange peel and that Italian almond bitter note, accompanied with enlivening acidity.

And that’s the wonder of the wine here. The Perticaia is a full-bodied wine with 12% alcohol. Most often that translates to a “heavy wine”, like a full-on Chardonnay. But this Trebbiano drinks like a clean Sauvignon Blanc—very refreshing and a great match for seaside cuisine.

If you haven’t yet, I’d recommend being the first on your block to showcase this wine. It’s such an impressive change from the more popular Pinot Grigio. And it’s a great buy at only $15 or so. Check out Total Wine & More, Palm Desert.

By the way—another tasty Chardonnay that always complements fish and seafood fantastically is the MacRostie Sonoma Coast, around $20. The winemakers consistently produce juice that owns aromas of lemon peel, green melon rind and young pineapple; with flavors of vibrant grapefruit, lemon-laced tangerine, white peach notes, and of course that zesty acidity that makes it a great grab for the meal.

We’ve written recently on Italian Prosecco and there are all levels of quality to prices. Fortunately lower-priced Prosecco is often a “better flavor” buy than comparably priced sparkling wine. However stepping up to a more posh Prosecco can be a wonderful lesson in wine appreciation. There’s an immediate realization that the slightly more expensive Prosecco is improved up on every level of acidity, minerality, fresh fruit nuances, and balance by the better producer.

The single-vineyard Bisol ‘Crede’ Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Brut is produced from the Glera grape varietal, together with touch of Pinot Bianco and Verdiso grapes grown on the steep south-facing hills of Bisol’s vineyards in Valdobbiadene. It’s a brilliant yellow-green color wine with a fruity bouquet that is reflected in its flavor of green apples and pears with balanced acidity. And at only 11.5% alcohol, it’s the wine that fills in perfectly on a hot day.

This Crede is the Prosecco to calmly sit in the warm air and enjoy. By itself or pretty much with any meal, this is the wine that makes one feel grateful: a sparkler that perhaps promotes a humble contemplation. A champagne of this quality would cost in the neighborhood of over $60. This Bisol at $25 is such a tasty value. Cheers!

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