For some of my personal favorites, let's start with:
- Rivetti La Spinetta "Ca' di Pian" Barbera d'Asti. This wine has been produced by Giorgio Rivetti since 2001 and has been my favorite Barbera ever since. His '03 vintage was outstanding, but any vintage will work from this excellently steady wine. You can expect a deep ruby color, alot of great fruit like cherry, blueberry, raspberry, and currant, along with full body, smooth tannins, and balanced acidity. Available around $24.
- Tamarack Cellars Firehouse Red. I love a great blend and this one has it all: Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Sangiovese, Carmenere and Petit Verdot. This comes from one of my favorite wineries in Washington state, operating out of a restored WWII fire station. Fresh red fruit, plum, tobacco, pepper, and cocoa are some of the sensory highlights. Available around $18.
- Bodega Colomé Estate Malbec. This wine is made from 90+ year old vines grown at the highest altitude (for grapes) in the world. A bit of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Tannat are thrown into the mix, and this deep, dark wine is full of flavors like fig, blackberry, plum, mocha and exotic spices. The long length leaves you wanting more. Available around $26.
- Argyle Willamette Valley Pinot Noir. A small Oregon producer specializing in Pinot Noir and dabbling in award winning sparkling wines, Argyle makes a fine example of this varietal. Gushing with red cherry, cranberry, cinnamon and fresh floral notes, you can't go wrong spending less than $23 on this wine.
- Niepoort Redoma Tinto Douro. This is the first dry wine made from renowned port producers made from port typical varietals like Tinta Amarela, Tinta Roriz and Touriga Franca. Dark fruit and chocolate are surrounded by creamy layers, ripe tannins and fresh herbs. Hard to believe how far Portuguese red wines have come and this great example is available for around $30.
- Villa Maria Cellar Selection Sauvignon Blanc. Coming from down below in New Zealand, this wine offers pink grapefruit, pineapple, lime, white pepper and fresh flowers. The acidity and minerality will blow you away. Perfect with goat cheese or oysters. Available around $20.
- Bodegas Viña Magaña Merlot. This amazing Merlot comes straight out of northern Spain, and is nothing short of amazing. Dark fruit, minerality, exotic spice, fresh flowers and grippy tannins are just a few notes you can expect out of it. You can expect it to cellar well, if you can keep your hands off it that long! Available around $45.
- Feudi di San Gregorio Fiano di Avellino. This little known wine is made 1 hour outside of Naples, and is packed with serious tropical flavor. Bananas, pineapple and mango mix with minerality and creaminess. I can't believe you can get this for around $23.
I could go on and on, but I will leave you with those favorites and a bit from my Birthday dinner. I was happy to go at my favorite activity, cooking, to make us a great dinner. I took Italian sausage and roasted it over sliced bell peppers, onions and garlic which were tossed with balsalmic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, sea salt and cracked pepper. I then sauteed mushrooms, garlic and spinach with olive oil and red wine, and combined it with tomato sauce. All this combined with al dente fettucine and grated parmesan made up one of my favorite dinners. Add a bottle of 1997 Tenuta dell'Ornellaia and I had all I needed. This SuperTuscan is made up of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot, and is considered one of the finest wines in Italy and the world. So much power, balance and length makes it hard to argue. It is the total package with loads of fruit, espresso, cocoa, licorice and cedar box. If it weren't priced at over $150 every release, I would be all over this wine on a daily basis! Needless to say I had an awesome birthday and will be looking for more wines and experiences to fill my time ahead- cent'anni!
(image 1 courtesy of flickr)