By Rick Riozza

For any of you wine lovers who have somehow missed the behemoth of a liquor store, Total Wine & More in Palm Desert, you obviously need a pair of glasses or an atlas.  The place is huge, has its own airport and can serve as an army base if need be.

Just to quote myself from my previous coverage of this liquid venue: There is so much wine, beer, and spirits in that place that if the big earthquake hits, we’re in for torrents of libations flowing through our neighborhood streets. 

I always like to call on the sales team staff over at Total Wine because they are so knowledgeable and many have winery experience.  The always affable Jeff Yeager fits the bill perfectly. Previously, Jeff was an assistant winemaker for 6 years at the Martin Brothers Winery in Paso Robles handling everything literally from the ground up to the wine out the door and everything in between.

And while it’s still very much summer outside, Jeff has put together a wonderful, refreshing and tasty list of wines to chill up and enjoy for the season.

But before we get into any of the wines, let’s first cover what Jeff  has turned me on to for which I’m really indebted to him; it’s become my favorite Martini maker: G & J  Greenall Gin.  It is the Original London Dry Gin made in the oldest gin distillery in the UK dating back to1761.  Go by and ask Jeff to show you the bottle.

It’s the classic approach to London dry gin in both their botanicals and their low key marketing. Delightful botanicals with classic flavors such as juniper, coriander, lemon, almonds and cassia bark.  I just chill up the gin and add olives or cocktail onions for my complete Martini/Gibson; and, you gin n’ tonic fans, if you’re missing a lime, not to worry, the gin simply works great with the tonic and ice.

Inside Total Wine’s education & seminar room, which is used for many fun programs and tastings, Jeff had his wine picks comfortably chilled for us to taste and talk about.

We started with the 2012 La Pont Bandol Rosé from the south of France.  It’s a full-bodied rosé and brings fresh strawberry and raspberry flavors.  Great acidity—which means it’s perfect for most luncheons and light dinners you can think of.  A very stylish treat at $19.99 a bottle.

For the next quaff, we go to northeast Italy with the Albino Armani Pinot Grigio  Valdadige Vigneto Corvara.  Quite a mouthful for sure and it’s a full flavor mouthful—with a rich feel and plenty of fresh fruit of apricot, pear & lime along with minerality, that I would not have guessed to be a Pinot Grige right off. It’s got the best attributes of a Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc going for it in one bottle.  Just delicious! I’m a fan again of the wine when it tastes like this.  It’s the deal in town for $12.99.

As we would expect, Jeff provides one of the most famous wines of the world: a Sancerre.  Produced in the Upper Loire, this is the quintessential Sauvignon Blanc.  The 2013 Salmon Sancerre VieillesVignes (Old Vines)is true to its winery comments stating “refreshingly zesty with crisp notes of citrus and minerals, dry and complex.”  This wine is on every wine lovers bucket list for the classic pairing with French chèvre.  The wine’s a treat for $19.99.

So we figuratively return here to California to get a take on Sauvignon Blanc that is blended 50/50 with its own clone of Sauvignon Musque.  That’s a fun one, referring to the “musky or muscat-like quality of the grape.  And of course heading up this inventive ensemble is winemaker Joel Aiken at Amici who continues to make such good wine.

The 2012 Amici Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley is of course more complex than most Sauvignon Blancs with this “Musque” clone going on. The wine has fresh citrus, pineapple, honeysuckle and guava aromas with round tropical fruit, lemon flavors and a dash of wet stone on the finish.  I found a touch of kerosene note, reminiscent of an Alsatian wine that added to the complexity of this wine.  Also, the 2012 vintage in Napa Valley is considered stellar and no doubt contributed in the making of this a very elegant wine for only $23.99

The final wine of the tasting was the 2012 Rock View Reserve Chardonnay from Mendocino County.  This is the wine for you fans of a full-on-flavor Chard.  This wine tastes pineapple-sweet, with a rich, creamy mouthfeel to be served with similarly rich, creamy food.  Really chilled up, it’ll go great with Asian fusion cuisine as its mango, citrus and melon notes lead into a well-balanced, buttery finish. A great bottle for the summertime dinner at $21.99.

Just writing about these tasty wine picks makes me thirsty and hungry all over again.  Thanks to Jeff and the crew for the smacks. I’ll see that group again soon for their Autumn picks; but for now, why not get over to Total Wine & More to try the wines out.  72339 California 111, Palm Desert, CA 92260 (760) 346-2029

Rick is your somm-about-town entertaining and conducting at wine events & tastings.  Contact