By Rick Riozza

Okay!—alright then. So many of you vino readers have voiced your concern that with all of the award ceremonies and “Best of” winners going on in our valley, this particular column (the only weekly wine editorial in the desert) has been a bit shy and quiet as to “The Best…Red Wine, White Wine, Wine shop, Wine Label, Sexiest Wine Label, Wine Personality, etc…(well, you get the idea) in The Coachella Valley”.

With all of this torturous heat going on, we can no longer hold that information back and we’re ready to spill the beans. But in the spirit of equality, I’ve told the wine business community—who voted secretly last month on all of the wine categories, that we should open up the voting to all you resident wine lovers.

Now to help get those contemplating juices flowing, may I suggest a brut (dry—non sweet) Champagne or sparkling wine to imbibe while you fill out your wine ballot. A new study conducted at Reading University in England shows that three glasses of sparkling wine a day can improve your memory and theoretically hinder brain disorders such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Therefore in the category of “The Best Wine that makes me Smarter”, one may want to consider a snappy bubbly. For “The Best Wine that makes me Look Smarter”, I still think your dad’s Vintage Port is going to take it.

I just wrote about the opening of Total Wines & More here in Palm Desert. It’s the odds on favorite to take the award for “the Largest, Biggest, and Heaviest Wine Store on Earth.”

Another “new” wine category to be voted on this year is “The Best New Wine Guy on the Block”. Obviously dedicated to welcome and acknowledge a new wine salesman, agent, broker or whomever that is new to the business and making a splash all around town. It seems to have taken over last year’s category, “The Best Old Wine Guy on the Block”, which appears to have fallen out of favor—indeed! even the winners aren’t showing up to get their award.

Now as I am one of the deciding award judges, I intend to stay impartial with all the nominees, however, I really would like you to consider for “New Wine Guy”, a wine aficionado friend of mine who resides right down the street:

Bruce Jastremski has recently delved into the wine business, and is now representing the Canopy Wine Group. It’s a boutique wine brokerage specializing in small production artisan wineries in California and beyond. And he is delivering some tasty juice to our wine shops and restaurants. Check out Canopy’s stellar wine portfolio:

Their Macleod Family VineyardsSauvignon Blanc, Sonoma Valley, is one of summer’s favorite with clean & fresh robust flavors of green apples, pear & pineapple balanced with bright & zesty grapefruit tones. And Leojami’s 2010 Vionier, Monterey County, with hints of papaya, lemon, and orange flower, is a dry full-bodied wine that owns all of those Viognier complexities—great with seafood!

Bruce is one of those guys who have taken their walk-in closets and made it a controlled temperature wine cellar. And it looks like he removed some of his wall so from his living room, one can look into this wine cellar—fancy. And dare I say, he’s amassed a bunch of great wine that lie there ready to pluck and enjoy.

Now if I were Bruce and I wanted that coveted “Best New Guy” award, I surely would be inviting local weekly wine columnists over for wine dinners just to seal that deal. Wouldn’t you?

Actually these wine guys really do a great service in getting so much vino to all our food and wine establishments here in the valley. No doubt—if you enjoy any amount of wine, that bottle you’re uncorking has passed through their hands somewhere on the distribution chain. An admirable profession: getting wine to the masses. Here! Here! Vote for “The Best Admirable Profession”

Previous “Best Wine Wise Guy” winner, Tom Weinberg of Southern Wine & Spirits may well do it again, after showing me his line of great summer quaffers from Washington’s Pacific Rim. The 2011 Columbia Valley Gewurstraminer is a touch sweet but crisp with lychee, melon and tangerine flavors—perfect for summer. And look for Pacific Rim’s 2011 Yakima Valley Solstice Riesling. It’s the tastiest Riesling this season and Wine Spectator gave it 90 points!

The verdict is still out with the wine jury as to what’s “The Best Cheap Wine in Town”. I know there’s the Two-Buck Chuck over at Trader Joe’s Markets, the $1.97 bottle of Pacific Peak at Total Wine, and there’s the Oak Leaf at Walmart for the same price. Lots and lots of people are voting in this category—because it’s a secret ballot and no one will know their names.

The category of real interest however is “The Best Cheap-Tasting Wine in Town”. I absolutely loved this category because so many discount wine companies paid an extra non-participation fee to be excluded from this.

Only a couple of weeks left to voice your opinion, I urge both the remaining wine trade and interested consumers to vote for your favorite wine & wine pastimes in the summer!

Cheers! and Good Luck!

Rick is the desert’s only sommelier-about-town who is up for the award for the “Best Sommelier-About-Town”. So vote soon and vote often. Contact

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