I think we all have this problem. You walk through the aisles of the wine store and you spot a bottle that catches your attention. Maybe it's charming, petite or oblong. White, red or pink. Either way, it's great-looking and you approach it. But upon first impression you see little-to-no indication of substance. Is it elegant and understated or will it chat your ear off? Is it boring? If you've experienced this, this list is for you.
Broc Cellars Valdiguie 2015
Solano County Green Valley, CA
Valdiguie, while primarily grown in France, is affectionately called "Napa Gamay" in California. If you've ever had wine from Beaujolais, then you should be familiar with Gamay. If not, it is a typically light-to-medium bodied grape with fresh, lively acidity and a little bit of dark, graphite-like minerality and spice. It wouldn't be crazy to liken these qualities to Pinot Noir, either. Broc Cellars has a penchant for producing wines in a classically Old-World style, so this Valdiguie will be right at home for those who prefer the fresher fruit side of Burgundy or Beaujolais, although the 2015 vintage shows a hint of darker fruit and peppery spice for added complexity. This wine is available year-round, but is perfect right now as a Spring-y porch pounder.
The Fableist Merlot
Paso Robles, CA
Merlot catches a bad rap. Not all Merlot tastes like pure grape juice as prejudices might suggest. This particular Merlot, in fact, has a velvety body of blueberry, which quickly develops a layered, gravelly, black tea-like character with a respectable grip. The finish comes along with overripe plum and just enough of a punch of baking spice to tie it all together. These complexities make for something more intriguing than what most domestic Merlot haters are used to, but are presented with a casual ease that is expected of the grape.
Field Recordings Cab Franc
Paso Robles, CA
Paso's signature fruit component works well with this complex and rustic grape, making it accessible to those who may usually shy away from a wine that traditionally packs a spicy, pickled and peppery nose. That is not the case here. This lush Cabernet Franc is brimming with tingling, brambly acidity backed by a full body of fruit, making it a great introduction to the style. The gentle touch of thyme on the finish ensures a layered and interesting sip without compromising drinkability.
Brooks Ara Riesling
Willamette Valley, OR
Riesling is yet another grape that has prejudices stacked against it. It is a white, table/food wine originally grown in Germany, and as such there are sweeter expressions that work well with this grape. However, not all Riesling is sweet. In fact, some of the world's finest Riesling is dry, with a tart intensity unparalleled in other grapes. This Riesling from Oregon is among the finest domestic options available, a full-bodied, highly aromatic white wine with fleshy, textured notes of melon, cantloupe, pear and papaya with delicate honeysuckle florality, backended with a sheer, intense wet slate-like minerality and enough acidity to tackle the oiliest, fattiest foods. A Spring-time essential.
Grochau Cellars Pinot Blanc
Willamette Valley, OR
Pinot Blanc is exactly what it sounds like, a white counterpart to Pinot Noir. In fact, this grape was originally formed of a rare mutation in the Pinot Noir vine, which causes a cane of white fruit to grow amid the vines of red fruit. This doesn't mean that it drinks like Pinot Noir, though. This aromatic, full-bodied wine provides a mouthfeel that will be familiar to those who drink Chardonnay, but with a unique stone fruit and zesty minerality on the palate. A great wine with food, or without!
Gilbert Cellars Rose
Yakima Valley, WA
In the style of the traditional Roses of Bandol, this is a Mourvedre-heavy blend, which lends it a delicate, rose petal-like aroma and bright, fruity acidity. While this leads with hints that might suggest sweetness, the meat of this Rose is actually crisp, mineral and bone dry, like a cool, coastal breeze. If you're having a tough time finding Rose from Bandol, or just finding difficulty shelling out the premium you've got to pay for it, this is a tasty, affordable alternative.