This is Season 1, Chapter 2 of Dan The Wine Man, a feature written for The Napa Valley Register and other media outlets. My angle is that I include guidance on how to find the wines I recommend. It’s 4 wines each time. Hope you like it and buy my picks!
My frequent visits to Trader Joe’s include a stop in the wine section. Sure I’m checking out the wines but I’m just as interested in the customers. For every one who fills up a case lickety-split there seem to be twenty trying to figure out what in the world what bottles to buy.
What’s good? What is it like? Tough questions to answer even for “wine pros” like me unless you’ve had the wine before. (I know folks who make sport of buying a mixed Trader Joe’s case, popping the bottles in the parking lot to taste, then returning to stock up on their favorites.)
To add to this challenge, consider that a thriving store or shop’s ample wine selection covers 0.01% (maybe) of all the wines on the market. Let’s say you read a wine pick that fits your taste and budget. You still have a needle-in-a-haystack predicament. Ever bring a newspaper clipping with a wine recommendation into a wine shop and ask if it’s in stock? Good luck with that.
I’d like to help you out with this problem. Here’s how.
My Napa Valley Register picks are straight from the Dan Dawson’s Wine Advisor (DDWA) playbook: well-priced, outstanding values, intriguing selections. Descriptions are concise. From there I advise readers on how I’d go about buying the wine. Maybe I know it’s at a certain Bay Area wine shop. When it makes the most sense I suggest you order straight from the winery. Door Dash it is not. Effort is necessary, but I’m here to help you channel your efforts the right way, making your quest a joy, not a chore. It’s more than buying good wine. It’s also about connecting with another layer of the wine industry.
Yves Cuilleron Rosé of Syrah “Sybel” Vin de France 2018
at $13 a DDWA “Great Value”
Strawberries, oranges, black pepper. Very dry. This French Rosé is dry and tart enough to please my wife, who prefers who pinks crisp as can be, and fruity enough to make me happy. Grilled lemon-garlic chicken is my perfect pairing.
Closest merchant I’ve located for this Rosé is K&L Wine Merchants, a powerhouse retailer with one of its three stores located in San Francisco near the 5th Street exit on I-80. Order online and choose either pick up or have it shipped. For $18/case, just ship it so you can grill that chicken and open a bottle while the days are still warm. If a case of Cuilleron Rosé is too much, the next wine is also available at K&L. More about this wine.
Newfound Carignane “Colombini Vineyard” Redwood Valley, Mendocino 2017 — $30 and a DDWA “Awesome Value”
Say Carignane to your average wine geek and his/her ears will prick up like Scooby Doo hearing pizza. Old vine Carignane (these are 75 year old vines) makes a berry-ful, spicy pleasure. Drop blueberries, black licorice, black pepper and lavender into a Vitamix, turn it on for 10 seconds and you get the idea. A thick, juicy roast pork chop, slathered in herbs and roast onions, is my dream pairing.
I’m not certain if the winery has any more to sell. The Newfound website asks me to “sign up” to get an allocation. Too much work…I found it at K&L-order online for pick up or shipment. By the way, K&L will gladly hold your purchase for up to 90 days at no charge. More about this wine.
Crocker & Starr Sauvignon Blanc “AVA Napa Valley” 2018
at $24 it’s a DDWA “Great Value”
Dirty & Rowdy “Familiar” Mourvèdre, California 2018
$33 and a DDWA “Great Value”
A bottle of Dirty & Rowdy Mourvèdre is a look into the future of California winemaking. A champion of the grape, co-owner and winemaker Hardy Wallace has put the grape on his shoulders and introduced it to the next generation of wine lovers through his engaging use of social media. “Familiar” Mourvèdre tastes like ripe smoky raspberries and dry French herbs. Lightness a la Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir. Hardy says it’s “like yacht rock for space pirates.” Funny, I was thinking the exact same thing! I haven’t nailed down my perfect food pairing but it includes roasted eggplant and cremini mushrooms.
Buy directly from Dirty & Rowdy. When you do, you’ll probably hear from Hardy Wallace (even during harvest – because if you don’t take care of your customers…). Ground shipping is free with the purchase of 6 or more bottles and local pick up is not currently offered. The Dirty & Rowdy folks spin enough plates as it is so hand over distribution to their shipper. Buy at least six bottles so you don’t pay for shipping. More about this wine.
You need to check this out if you haven’t yet: Next to Oakville Grocery on Highway 29 is 1881 Napa. Walk inside and you’ll find “The Founder’s Gallery,” a museum of photos, artifacts and stories of Napa Valley’s winegrowing history. I stopped by to peruse the new and improved wine selection at Oakville Grocery then moved next door for a Napa Valley history lesson. The Founder’s Gallery is divided by Napa Valley AVAs and touches on all the important pioneers of Napa, from George Yount to Agoston Haraszthy to General Vallejo to Nathan Coombs to…very well done.
Reading and learning is worth at least an hour of your time. And it’s free! Tastings of 1881 wines are available by appointment but not required to visit the museum. I was welcomed warmly and felt comfortable to “just look around” and not taste.
Until next time, spend your wine dollars wisely and drink well.