By Rick Riozza

It’s so hot here in the desert right now that all the effort we can muster is to run into the market and grab a nice bottle or two of wine and get back to taking it easy. At the moment, no one wants to get deep into a wine selection. We are told to simply recommend very good wines at very good prices that we can readily find on the shelves stat!

Well okay then—let’s keep it simple silly with a nice k-i-s-s to summer refreshment!

Let’s start off with probably the most expensive wine we’ll cover in this article. Remember, our task above, is to recommend ‘very good wines at very good prices’. Well considering quality to price, this California sparkler is more than very good, it is excellent. This bubbly tastes like a $75 bottle at any high-end winery or restaurant.


So that is why we can happily champion one of our favorite sparkling wines on the shelves today. J Vineyards NV Cuvée 20 Brut. ($40): This delicate sparkler is the perfect summer sip on any occasion, with aromas of toasted almond and notes of apple, dried cranberry and ginger snap. A delicate dance of bubbles leads to a soft palate with flavors of lemon meringue pie as the wine’s creaminess is whisked away by a lively finish.

Other wine reviews state: “This sparkling wine comes from the renowned Russian River Valley and displays notes of apple and cranberry with a soft palate of lemon meringue pie flavors. The J Vineyards winery itself comments on the quality of the Brut wine: “Acidity plays two roles central to food pairing: cleansing of the palate and providing balance. Achieving elegance and balance in the bottle drives all that we do in our vineyards and cellar, so that every bottle of J Cuvée 20 Brut enhances the meal, not overwhelms it.”

Now we move on to another quintessential refreshing wine for the summer: Rombauer Vineyards 2022 Sauvignon Blanc ($23): No has to over-sell any of the Rombauer brands—the name speaks for itself. Indeed, the winery itself chimes in on it’s Savvy Blanc. “Lifted and concentrated aromas of passion fruit, green melon, and hints of fresh-cut grass all dance on the nose. The palate is linear and intense, with similar flavors that are joined by notes of kiwi and Key lime. Each sip is framed with mouthwatering acidity and a burst of grapefruit that lifts the long finish.”

Charming Chardonnay continues to be the best selling white wine in California. Here are a couple of very reasonably priced wines:

William Hill Estate’s 2021 California Chardonnay ($16) The winery’s notes include: “It has layers of baked apple and pear characteristics that complement its tropical fruit notes, which result in a long, crisp finish. The extraordinary fruit that is so prominent in this wine showcases the distinct characteristics of the William Hill Estate. With concentrated flavors and balanced acidity, this wine produces a vibrant experience for your taste buds while you wait for the sun to come out again.

We found the wine to have buttery overtones in the aroma that lead to vanilla, butter and butterscotch flavors for an indulgent, creamy expression. A full body, viscous texture and dominating oak character gives the wine a sweet impression.”

The 2022 Franciscan Estate Chardonnay ($13) This is a very enjoyable wine for those folks who like their Chard on crisp side of things. A delightful wine that offers a beautifully expressive taste of Monterey County. It offers delicate aromas of white flower and lemon zest with flavors of ripe pear, Meyer lemon, light florals, honey, vanilla and nutmeg. There’s a clean finish that would pair flawlessly with a warm roasted chicken we see at every store in town.

Speaking of Monterey County, we are really impressed with the 2022 Hahn Family Wines’ 2022 California Cabernet Sauvignon ($15.99). Most Cab folks hold close to their cherished Napa Valley fruit which is so stately and elegant; other, are life-long Sonoma Valley Cabbers who simply adore the dark, dense, and fruity liquid of the northern California coast; and the new trends of Lodi County surely grab the desire of those who the warm fruity display of full-speed ahead reds. Now we see a new Cab player in mix.

So what we love about this Hahn Family Cab is the taste of the Monterey Coast fruit. An area most known for its exquisite Pinot Noir—whose qualitative scores are at a current high, surely there will be a trend to seek out what the Cabernet Sauvignon can do in this Pinot region!

We see the Cab here showing dark and bold flavors that exhibit grace and complexity, Aromas of dark cherry and blackberry are enhanced by hints of vanilla, leather, and toasted oak. Bursting with rich and robust tannins, each sip is framed with flavors of blackberry, blueberry, and ripe red fruit, all coming together to create a smooth and opulent finish. Great on its own or paired with a sauteed steak, or grilled ribs.

Another tasty Cab to be found at every market is the 2021 Franciscan Estate California Cabernet Sauvignon. ($15). For those who love a Sonoma bold red wine with a big presence—and, selling for an amazing, low price, this is the quaff. The reviews include, “It has aromas of black tea, clove, and anise radiate from the glass, revealing notes of blackberry and black plum. The rich layer of toasted caramel, shaved chocolate, and toasted coconut underscores the fruit characteristics, leading to a long, decadent finish. This Cabernet pairs beautifully with hearty meat, like filet mignon, herb-dusted standing rib roast, and gourmet burgers.” Easy peasy picks! Cheers!