BY RICK RIOZZA

Even though we’re still knee-deep in desert heat, the slow move to the autumn season is soon upon us, as already reflected in the change of light and breezes.  The mood can be a bit melancholy as we say goodbye to the summer wind—nothing that a nice glass of wine can’t assist with; but on our side—time, doth continue on.

So—as the vino world persists to provide us with better and better blue ribbon wine at more reasonable prices, we wine columnists writhe and strive to alert you readers to the best deals in town. Thank you guys for the empathy shown us as we taste through a talent of wine available—keeping you at the forefront of fabulous vino buys.

And as you loyal followers know, this is a very egalitarian wine column that not only shares the discounts available at the Palm Desert’s Total Wine & More store, at which I work as one of the wine stewards and seminar hosts, but I enjoy promoting the line-up at my wine purveyor buddies’ shops, such as Costa Nichols, owner of the venerable Desert Wine & Spirits/Go-Deli Market in Palm Springs; the “new” Desert Wine Shop on 111 (This was Dan Sullivan’s shop, who has since sold and is up to other things such as your local jazz DJ on KAJI 95.3 FM); and now, we have some new wine kids on the block at The Wine Emporium in Old Town La Quinta.  Establishments!!—give me a call, your full column of wine picks & info awaits!

By default—of sorts, let’s begin the fall season with the selection from Total Wine & More.  They’ve just come out with their Top Twenty Wines of 2017.  At first glance, I assumed the list consisted of the “best or most popular” seller—for I see these wines figuratively flying out the door.  I often apply my ironic humor (??) to our customers by forewarning, “Hey—Watch your head!!  The bottles are actually big promotion items—and, as well, some very tasty wines at great prices.

This set of wines are already standing on a platform when you arrive at the store and also situated near the wine tasting bar; some of the wines are indeed being poured at said wine bar on the weekends, beginning Fridays in the afternoon. Come by and sample. All prices quoted herein are firm until 10/1/17.

I’ll pick a few for review, discussion, and recommendation:  Listed as Numero Uno, a red wine blend from Argentina, 2013 Mascota Vineyards Unánime, $24.99.  Unánime, obviously a latin-rooted word meaning a united passion, this wine has the California palate written all over it!  A blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Malbec and 15% Cabernet Franc, it’s now unlocked but loaded with gobs of intense black fruits, such as blackberries, plums and cassis, intermixed with chocolate and tobacco. 

When I first tasted this wine, it figuratively knocked me off my chair with all of its up-front generous fruit!  It’s a wine Robert Parker and Michele Rolland would dance to—night and day.  My French and Italian vino friends are painting murals with this wine, i.e., it’s a bit thick for the Euro-types.  But I stayed with it: I found some hefty and desirable tannins to balance out the fruit as well as supple acidity for food pairings.  Fortuitously, the bottle had been opened well over five hours and it was coming along great.  If you’ve got the time, we’ve got the wine!

When it comes to considering sparklers or bubbly, Total Wine came to play with two wonderful Top Twenty pick selections, the French Champagne, Montaudon Brut, $29.99, and, the Italian Armani Prosecco DOC, $16.99.

As to the Montaudon—that’s not a misprint:  How often does one find a Wine Spectator 90 pointer Champagne under thirty bucks—you don’t!  For the weekends, parties, holiday meals, and romantic times this is the brut Champagne for life.

Enjoy its enticing aromas of peach and white flowers with fleshy fruity flavors from a 40% Pinot Noir, 35% Pinot Meunier, and 25% Chardonnay blend.  And due to the extra Pinot Noir involved, it’s one of the juiciest brut on the market, keeping both the Californian and the Frenchmen all happy together.

In case you missed it, the Armani brand is back in the news; in Palm Springs and its surrounds, Prosecco preference has exploded!  Albino Armani has been producing wine for the past four hundred years, so get on-board or get out-of-the-way!  This Prosecco possesses lively fruit up-front with a touch of sweetness in the background.  I’m always recommending this wine with my pat encouraging comment, “Ecco! Prosecco!!”

We’ve a slew of slick Sauv blanc from New Zealand that’s tasty, zingy, zangy, and all that!  The one to make the Top Twenty is the 2016 Grey Rock Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, $14.99. Balanced with both sprightly fruit and acidity, it sustains tropical flavors with zesty citrus notes.  It’s the one to pair with all sorts of seafood.

Another Sauv blanc that is one of my favorites at the shop is the Govenors Bay Marlborough at only around $12.50.  Certainly a kiwi wine in its zesty flavor profile, but made with a nod to the California rounder style.

The Italian brand, Tesoro della Regina made the list for its Pinot Grigio [Pee-noh Greejoh].  What’s missing in my opinion is their 2015 Chianti Classico, currently on special sale at $9.99.  For the price, it’s perhaps the best Chianti deal in town.  It’s got all the traditional Sangiovese flavor profile of sanguine notes and acidity along with ripe dark fruits.  Pronto! Cucina Italiano!

What wine shop will we cover next? Stay tuned—Cheers!  Contact Rick at winespectrum@aol.com

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