By Rick Riozza

Well alright!  For the past couple of months or so over the holidays, New Year’s, birthdays, festivities, Valentines—you name it, we drank a boatload of wine.

And because of the pandemic, we actually spent a lot more money on wine because we felt we deserved it—getting through it all.  But now, as the wine bills are coming in, we’ll probably give ourselves a little time out—or at least, we’ll spend our time more judiciously at the stores on more reasonably priced wine.

As your friendly neighborhood wine steward over at the Ralph’s Market in Palm Springs, allow me to recommend some great wine deals that will help you sleep at night.


And it so happens that the recent issue of Wine Spectator, indeed, agrees with me!

Now we know that the best wine deal is one where a wonderful wine can be found for a wonderful price.  So here we go.  And to show you that the magazine story above is true, I’ll go ahead and quote their review & point score, but the side comments are mine.  Note the prices are the current ones available at Ralphs.  The prices are even less with their six-pack Mix’n Match program.

J Pinot Noir Monterey-Sonoma-Santa Barbara Counties, Winemaker’s Selection 2018, 91 points ($22).  “Having already made its name with sparkling wines… J has been on the march with Pinot.  Combining 40% fruit from Monterey in the prime Santa Lucia Highlands appellation; 37% mostly from the Russian River Valley; and 23% from Santa Barbara, tapping the Santa Maria Valley.  Winemaker Nicole Hitchcock deftly knits the characteristics of the three regions: dark fruits of Monterey; vibrant red from Sonoma, and the spiciness of Santa Barbara.”  It does taste like a Pinot twice the price.

Dry Creek Fume Blanc Sonoma County 2020, 92 points ($15).  I continually recommend this Sauv Blanc to the visitors from all over the world that wish to taste an excellent example of a California bottle.  “It is bone-dry, showing flavors of citrus along with herb and grass notes; it will always be fermented in stainless steel, without any oak infleuence.” This is the perfect wine for our desert community who pair their lunches and dinners around light fare.

Seghesio Zinfandel Sonoma County 2019, 92 points ($22).  “The history of Seghesio dates back more than a century… The bottling is not only a bargain, but also a tribute to old school Zin-based field blends, culling from vineyards in Sonoma, Russian River, Alexander Valley, and Dry Creek Valley.  About 12% Petite Sirah, Alicante Bouschet and other reds.  Plump and briary, this is a zesty update on old-school Zin, offering wild berry, underbrush and licorice flavors that build richness and structure on the lively finish. Drink now through 2028.”

Cambria Chardonnay Santa Maria Valley Katherine’s Vineyard 2019, 91 points ($18).  Whenever a customer asks for an excellent organic or “biodynamic” Chard, I always recommend Cambria’s Katherine bottle.  It is “Certified Sustainable”, which is as good as it gets when not deemed “organic” on the label.  All the return customers thank me mucho for the great tip.  “Made in a plush, creamy and well-spiced style, this bottling is sourced from a large single-vineyard site in northern Santa Barbara County that is rich with ancient marine sediments…it’s close proximity to the Pacific, whose summer fogs and breezes help provide a backbone of acidity to the area’s wines.

“Fresh fruit and oral aromas dominate the nose and palate; white peach, lemon zest, pear, Granny Smith apple and citrus blossoms. The oak influence creates a nice mid-palate, the wine shows a balanced acidity that carries through in the long finish.”  During the pre-pandemic days, when we had winemaker meets & greets, she really showed a passion and integrity in the winemaking process.  It’s a winner!

Frei Brothers Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley Sonoma Reserve 2018, 90 points ($18).  This Cabernet Sauvignon opens with aromas of cassis and crushed berries. On the palate, flavors of blackberry, raspberry, cedar and tobacco are framed by firm, velvety tannins and a long, elegant finish. The Frei name has long been associated with quality Sonoma wines.  The grapes for this bottling were destemmed but not fully crushed to leave whole berries for fermentation, with skin contact for 8 to 10 days to extract color and flavor.  A small amount of Petite Sirah and Merlot were added in for complexity.

And finally, we have the Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Chardonnay Napa Valley Karia 2019, 91 points ($30).  “This well-knit white is filled with a juicy basket of white peach, ruby grapefruit and lemon curd flavors. Pastry accents midpalate lead to the voluptuously spiced finish. Drink now through 2024… It’s been a goal over the past few years with Karia (the ancient Greek word for “graceful”) to align the winemaking more tightly to the vineyard.  With fruit from the cooler Coombsville and Carneros appellations, he doesn’t use malolactic fermentation, thus preserving the natural acidity that malo softens.  Winemaker Marcus Nataro also relies on more native yeast to add complexity.”

Think about these wines and try them out.  I’d love to hear your comments, Cheers!

Rick is your somm-about-town tasting as many wines to get you through the weeks. Contact him at ye olde email address: