This is Season 1, Chapter 8 of Dan The Wine Man, a feature written for The Napa Valley Register and other media outlets. My angles are 1) Anyone can drink unique, delicious wines and I’ll show you how, and 2) I include guidance on how to find the wines I recommend. It’s 4-6 wines each time. Hope you like it and buy my picks! Here’s the article on NapaValleyRegister.com.
My best reader feedback so far came from my “Six Picks from Raley’s” piece. Friends tell me they went in, Dan The Wine Man column in hand, and saw others carrying the same. Another friend pulled a crumpled copy out of her purse: “Not blowin’ smoke, Dan. Love the column. Heading to Raley’s today.” The premise of my column is that anyone can drink tasty, interesting and good value wines. I’ll take you by the hand and show you how. As cool it is to order online from a winery and have the owner hand-deliver, it’s a project. Going to the store is everyday life. I’ll still recommend ordering winery direct because making that connection is a story to share. Today is a retail store edition. I offer you six wine recommendations from Whole Foods Napa.
Three white and three red wines coming up. First, a little bit about wine shopping at Whole Foods Napa. It’s not easy. I arrived looking to keep my picks all under $20 but ended up with a $27 ceiling. There are enough under $20 wines to satisfy the budget-minded, but for various reasons they fell short of my solid endorsement. (For the record, I could not fill my list with wines I have tasted. I use tastings of previous vintages plus winery and current vintage knowledge to recommend.) There is very little information (shelf talkers, wine marketing) to help the customer. As for personal assistance, forget about it. Based on my couple dozen visits, seems to me we’re on our own. I understand grocery store wine departments don’t usually have wine stewards, but with fully-staffed and helpful meat, fish and cheese departments within eye-shot of the wine shelves stocked full of high-end wines, it’s odd to me the wine department isn’t served better. And with space invested to a tasting area, why not figure out how to run a dynamic wine service program? Shout-out to the beer section, by the way. I’ve been offered assistance there about half the time.
Try these six wines on for size. All were in good supply as of last Sunday. Whole Foods offers a 10% discount on a 6 bottle purchase, mixed or the same, so pick up one of each. Let me know what you think. I love feedback!
Inama Soave Classico 2018, $17.99 It took decades for this Italian wine region to shed its reputation for mediocrity. (Soave Bolla!) Thanks to Inama and like-minded winereis dedicated to quality, Soave has emerged as a source for dependably tasty and distinctive white wine. Think of the flavors of a fruity/not grassy Sauvignon Blanc and texture of Chardonnay. Makes for good sipping on its own, but I like it best with lemon-garlic shrimp.
J Pinot Gris, California 2018, $14.99 and a Dan Dawson Wine Advisor “Awesome Value.” My tasting notes list eight fruits. Top three: white peach, Meyer lemon, Golden Delicious apple. Pleasing snap of acidity in the mouth, no oak and a touch of sweetness that adds to the texture and congeniality. Yes, I just described a wine as congenial. MY FULL REVIEW
Dancing Crow Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, Lake County 2018, $14.99 The vineyard lies next to Clear Lake, near Mount Konocti. The winery – Napa Valley. At 12% alcohol and no oak it falls squarely in the light white zone. The natural intensity of Sauvignon Blanc comes through yet avoids the “grassy, cat pea thing.” My notes on the 2017 Dancing Crow are consistent with the winery’s 2018, which is overall a better vintage. Lemon zest, garden thyme, green apples. ALL MY DANCING CROW WINE REVIEWS
Buil & Giné Priorat “Giné Giné” 2016, $21.99. The Spanish wine region Priorat is roughly 15 miles from the Mediterranean Sea and 60 miles from Barcelona. Hillside, free-standing vines dominate. This wine is 50-50 Cariñena and Garnacha (Carignane & Grenache). Priorat wines run the gamut on price and “bigness.” The Giné-Giné stresses elegance and value. Dark raspberries, black pepper and dried violets. It is extremely versatile with food.
Green & Red Zinfandel “Chiles Canyon Vineyards” Napa Valley 2016, $26.99. Seeing Green & Red on a wine shelf always makes me feel good. The vineyards and winery are tucked away in the eastern hills of Napa Valley. Incredibly consistent from year to year. Brambly, spicy, soulful Zinfandel that, to me, expresses the singular style of Napa Valley wine as well as any Cabernet Sauvignon. MY GREEN & RED WINE REVIEWS
Birichino Grenache “Besson Vineyard, Old Vines-Vignes Centenaires” Central Coast 2018, $24.99. Santa Cruz winery (with a great little downtown tasting room). The 100+ year old “Besson Vineyard” lives near Gilroy. Expect wild strawberries, black licorice, chamomile and ten other smells and flavors that come with very old Grenache vines and skilled winemaking. I’m pleasantly surprised to see Birichino at Whole Foods and hope the relationship lasts. Want to keep dinner simple? Birichino Grenache, Whole Foods roast chicken and vegis, maybe a baguette and block of firm cheese as well, and enjoy it all.
Have you ever brought a bottle to a dinner party and left slightly disappointed that the bottle was not opened? It happens. To prevent it from happening to you, here are some tips. 1) Ask the host, “What’s on the menu? Can I contribute a bottle to the dinner table?” Or, 2) Consider how you present the bottle. Gift bag it with a note saying, “For you to enjoy another time” or hand it over, no gift bag, and say “I hope we can share this together tonight.” 3) Do what I do. Pack a corkscrew and play sommelier for the night. Open anything you want!
I’m Dan Dawson, a Napa Valley wine writer, wine consumer advocate and former wine merchant and fancy-pants sommelier. Check out my reviews and wine tasting events at DawsonWineAdvisor.com. When you visit, please check out my membership program. Contact me through my website with questions and comments.