By Rick Riozza

Back in the day, the term “fine wine” meant a wine that was not only delicious but world class stuff. Wine shops in America, beside the owner’s name or company name, always had space to place “fine wines” on their windows or store fronts; French wine shops, most of the time, simply had the term “Vins Fins” and nothing further. In Italy, where there are a lot of local names for a wine shop—always had room to write, “Vini Pregati”—fine wines sold here.

There was no need to pontificate on the quality of a wine—“Incredible! Unbelievable!” “Amazing! “95 points!” All the sommelier, wine agent, or wine shop owner would have to indicate was that this, was a fine wine; that you were in for a treat, indeed, you could expect all the aesthetics that a wine experience is about. In other words, it’s a fabulous wine—oops!

Often times in this column, we especially desire to make you aware of some wonderful wine available around the world. However sometimes it takes a special order from a vintner or winery to obtain these interesting wines. This time let’s recommend the very fine wines which are available at your wine markets right now. So for the spring holidays, such as Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, and Father’s Day, the wines below are easy to grab when you’re shopping about.


It’s to no one’s surprise that we’ll be recommending tried and true California quaffers that are definite wine friends to this column: Cakebread Cellars, Stags’ Leap Winery, and Hess Collection Winery.

Let’s begin with 2021 Cakebread Cellars Vin de Porche Anderson Valley Rosé ($25). It’s been written, “True to its name, this wine is meant to be enjoyed well-chilled, while seated in a rocker, on a porch swing, or deep within a wicker easy chair. A traditional dry rosé, the 2120 Vin de Porche reveals delicate aromas of fresh strawberry, raspberry and rose petals. On the palate, well-defined ripe raspberry, white peach, and melon are balanced and supported by bright acidity. This distinctive rosé finishes with a touch of minerality and rich, vibrant strawberry.”

This wine is a spring & summer holiday treat for certain. It’s festive and pairs particularly well with cold pasta salads, luncheon fare, and fresh seasonal fruit tarts. And of course, it’s simply great sipper on its own, whilst enjoying the sights and sounds of the desert’s surrounds.

A couple of other simply “fine wine” for the times that have crossed my tasting desk of late are the Stags’ Leap’s white sibling wines, Napa Valley Chardonnay & Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc. The new 2020 vintages are in and here are the comments:

Stags’ Leap Winery 2020 Napa Valley Chardonnay ($30). The winery notes: “Graceful and elegant, this bright and fragrant wine invites you in with lively aromas of delicate Meyer lemon, orange blossom, fresh white peach and delicate honeysuckle, supported by subtle notes of Tarte Tatin and brioche toast. Vibrant and mouthwatering on the palate are notes of Golden Delicious apple, guava and warm Asian pear, backed up by a luscious texture that is rich and balanced, with well-integrated spice notes and a lengthy finish.”

Throughout the years, the Stags’ Leap Chard continues to impress with its French-style deliciousness and brilliance; yet its California terroir-driven flavor profile keeps every Chardonnay lover happy. This is a bottle to share with your non-Chardonnay friends; it’s impressive and may change a few minds. Cheers!

Stags’ Leap Winery 2020 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc ($25). You won’t have to convince anyone—the snappy & zippy kiwi Sauv Blanc lovers, or your California savvy blanc collectors group—to simply adore this new vintage of Sauv-blanc. “This wine is crisp and bright, offering the variety’s classic citrus fruit characteristics with notes of Meyer lemon and white blossoms.

“On the palate, stone fruit notes of white peach, young plum, grapefruit and zesty lime peel are interwoven with hints of white jasmine and elderflower, as well as spicier ginger and white pepper notes, adding layers and depth to the round, soft texture, leading to a lengthy mouthwatering finish.” It’s like bringing the two hemispheres together in one enjoyable glass of Sauv- blanc.

We’ve recently written on the popular demand of Pinot Gris (Gree) wine. This Easter, we had the pleasure to enjoy one of California’s best select: 2021 Hess Select Pinot Gris ($12). This wine brought home to me the memories of quality California white wine. I recall my early trips up to wine country and tasting in the simple surroundings of rustic wineries; and the white wines there brought my mind alive.

I get these same feelings as I sampled the Hess Pinot Gris. “On the nose, ripe pear and nectarine aromas lead to a round entry of tropical flavors, particularly white peach and citrus. This wine is balanced on the palate and easy to enjoy with the perfect hint of acidity and lemon zest on its bright finish.” It’s one of the best values in the category.

This Pinot Gris tastes best served among great friends and good food. Pair this with your favorite grilled chicken or grilled vegetable dish, or simply enjoy it alongside fresh shellfish with a squeeze of lemon. More on Hess in an up-coming article.

Finally, let’s do a fine red wine around Memorial Day or on the table for Father’s Day. The 2019 Cakebread Cellars Cabernet Franc Napa Valley ($65). I’m particularly betting on Father’s Day. It’s definitely a treat and a great accompaniment to Dad’s grilled Rib-eye or New York steak.

Cab Franc is always on the radar of red wine enthusiasts and this Cakebread Cab Franc is one of California’s best. “Classic plum, blackberry, and savory herbal aromatics, the 2019 Cab Franc is perfumed and expressive with notes of violet, blending hints of spice ripe boysenberry and dark cherry. A full-bodied palate that combines firm tannins with complex notes of ripe black fruit, cocoa, roasted espresso, spices and balanced minerality. Cheers!

Previous articleFighting the IPA Stigma