Three Wines for Your Holiday Table

Fast Facts:

  • 2013 Castelgreve Chianti Classico Riserva, Italy  ($12.99 @Costco, in California – Item #1061038)
  • 2015 Allegrini Palazzo della Torre, Vernona, Italy ($12.99 @Costco, in California – Item #38325)
  • 2018  Tempest Bay Chardonnay, Los Carneros,  Napa, California ($7.99 @Trader Joe’s in California)

 

Let’s start with a little vocabulary lesson.

Penultimate is one of those words that is often misused. What it means is the next to last in a list.  Sort of the exact opposite of what many people think it means.  I bring this up because it just so happens that this will be our penultimate post in 2019.  

In this next to the last missive, we are featuring two great Italian wine values from Costco, and a rock solid Chardonnay from Trader Joe’s.  All would look great on your holiday table, but especially the gold labeled Chianti and blue and gold labeled Chard. 

So without further adieu…our penultimate set of wine recommendations for the year:

Our featured wine picks from Costco:

Bottle and glass of Allegrini Palazzo Torre 2015 and Castelgreve Chianti Classico Riserva 2013
An Italian “power couple” from Costco. Both with high scores, and both just $12.99.

It’s little difficult to discern from its photo above, but the gold sticker on the Chianti Riserva above is showing off its 95 point score from Decanter magazine. And critic James Suckling awarded 94 points to its Allegrini sidekick. Scores are meaningless if they don’t lead you to wines with a really high QPR (quality to price ratio) but we think they do just that in this case. 

If you have been reading this blog for a while, you have probably come to understand how much we like finding wines that are different, unique or with interesting backstories. The process by which the Allegrini wine is made, is interesting indeed: 

From the label:

“This wine is the result of Allegrini’s expertise in the technique of drying grapes. The majority of the Corvina and Rondinella grapes are vinified at harvest time while the rest are sent to the drying room where the grapes slowly become “raisined” until they are pressed in January. The juice is blended with the fresh wine made in September to start a second fermentation aimed at providing extra concentration and complexity. Aged in oak barrels, this is a unique wine with a pleasant, fruity, raisin-like character. Palazzo della Torre, a beautiful Renaissance Villa and its vineyard, are the property of Allegrini in the town of Fumane, near Verona.”

This process is called appassimento or rasinate (to dry and shrivel) in Italian, and it is also how the country’s sought after (and costly) Amarone wines are made.

Tasting notes:  

In the glass, the wine is a nice medium red, just a tad darker than the Riserva. Its nose has wild cherry, anise and a faint dank basement scent, which made me initially think it may have been “corked.”  But it is not unpleasant and I attribute it to the dried grapes. It’s juicy and full bodied with loads of cherry/berry flavors. It finishes dry and long.

Online this bottle sells for as much as $25, and would be worth it.  At half that price, I have just two words for our readers: stock up.

About the Chianti Riserva:

Cooperatives (where growers pool their fruit) are especially common in Europe.  The growers do what they do best (grow wine grapes) and let the co-operative handle winemaking, sales and marketing.  

The Castelli del Grevepesa co-operative was established in 1965 by a group of 18 Chianti Classico growers. Today there are 150 members, who own a range of vineyards and estates in different areas including Panzano, Lamole and Greve di Chianti. A team of oenologists oversee the production of this Chianti Classico Riserva, which is a blend of 95% Sangiovese and 5% Merlot, hand-picked and matured in large oak barrels for two years.

You can learn more about the levels of Chianti in a prior post of ours.  Spoiler alert: Chianti Riserva is the good stuff.

Tasting Notes:

Attractive nose with herbal hints, wood smoke and menthol. It is complex on the palate, with generous layers of ripe dark cherries, spice and leather. Very smooth and silky with a lingering cherry finish.

Our featured wine pick from Trader Joe’s:

Glass and bottle of 2018 Tempest Bay Carneros Chardonnay from Trader Joe's
A Chardonnay for the ABC crowd…

I would like to say that I ferreted this wine out from the dark recesses of my local Trader Joe’s wine shelves, but it was actually featured in their recent Fearless Flyer.   When I saw the price and the Carneros appellation on the label, I just had to try it.  I was glad I did. This is my favorite style of Chardonnay.

Located on the windswept northern coast of the San Pablo Bay, covering an area of land that overlaps both Sonoma and Napa, you could hardly find a better place in the world to grow Chardonnay (ditto Pinot Noir) than in Carneros. With cool, foggy mornings, bright, sunny days, and cool, breezy nights, Carneros’ conditions are uncannily conducive to producing well-ripened Chardonnay grapes that yield crisp, light-bodied, pleasantly citric wines.  

Tasting Notes:

Here again we quote the Fearless Flyer:  “Take this newest Trader Joe’s Carneros acquisition, Tempest Bay Chardonnay…with notes of Anjou pear, Fuji apple and lemon verbena on the nose, leading to flavors of vanilla, baking spices, and a touch of toasted oak on the palate, it’s positively lovely when sipped on its own, but pairing it with a bit of Charcuterie or Fig Goat Cheese will let it truly sing. You normally wouldn’t find a Carneros Chardonnay of this quality for under $20, but at Trader Joe’s, you can find 750mL bottles of Tempest Bay Chardonnay for the remarkable value of $7.99 each.

That is a pretty spot on description of this wine. It’s medium weight (not a butter bomb) with lovely tropical and citrus flavors in the mix.

If you want to learn more about Carneros and their Burgundian heritage, check out this post from the Vinopointer way-back machine.

So if this is in fact our penultimate post, that means we have just one left in 2019.  Until next week, 

Cheers!

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