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Enjoying Wine and Beer in the Augusta GA area

McManis Chardonnay, Merlot Are Great Bargains


McManis Chardonnay 2017, Lodi
McManis Merlot 2017, Lodi

Cost: $10-12

Let’s face it. Summertime is white wine time. I drink red wine all year long, but when the temperature gets up to 90 and higher, reds just don’t seem as appealing.

There are many great white varietals and blends, but my wife Teri loves chardonnay and viognier, so that tends to be what we drink the most. I have to sneak away to sip my sauvignon blanc because Teri usually just pushes it away.

So it was during our our most recent heat wave that we pulled out a bottle of McManis Chardonnay ($10-12) and figured out an easy meal to go with it. Frozen chicken pot pie turned out to be just right.

We both loved the rich, creamy chardonnay. It is a light golden straw color in the glass with pleasant aromas of melon, peach and pear. It is loaded with bright fruit flavors, mostly stone fruit, with some banana and a hint of buttered popcorn.

It is a great wine for sipping on its own but it also pairs well with a meal. I would serve it well chilled.

After harvest the grapes are cold fermented in stainless steel tanks and filtered before four months of aging in French and American oak. About two thirds of the wine undergoes malolactic fermentation to add complexity and texture.

The blend is 94 percent chardonnay with a small amount of muscat canelli and chenin blanc added for aromatics. All of the grapes come from McManis’ own River Junction AVA, located at the confluence of the San Joaquin and Stanislaus rivers. The vineyards here sit below the waterline most of the year, resulting in temperatures 2-5 degrees cooler than the surrounding area and a more prominent day-night temperature swing.

The River Junction Appellation comprises 1,300 acres, the third smallest in California.

I’m not sure how they make such tasty and complex wine at this low price, but all of their wines that I have tried are just as good. They also produce cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir and merlot, which also sell for $10-12. They are widely available at wine shops and supermarkets.

I thought the merlot really stood out. Merlot is a grape that fell out of favor when everyone started planting it in the wrong places, and some winemakers didn’t know how to handle it properly. But it can be a wonderful wine, and the McManis version is a great example of that.

It is a bright ruby red in the glass with fruit-forward aromas. On that palate there is a lot of black fruit, such as blackberry and plum with notes of vanilla cream and baking spices. The finish is nice and crisp.

About 95 percent of the grapes come from McManis estate vineyards in Lodi. The rest came from sustainable vineyards. The grapes were fermented on the skins for six to nine days, pressed and placed into stainless steel tanks to finish fermentation. The wine then is aged for six months in a combination of new and used French and American oak.

A small amount of petit verdot and tannat were added for texture and color.

This is another wine that is great for sipping by itself and also pairs well with a variety of foods.

Other wines produced by McManis include petite sirah, zinfandel, barbera, petit verdot, viognier and pinot grigio.

Winery: McManis Family Vineyards has been around only since 1990, but the McManis family has had ties to northern California land for more than 80 years. Ron McManis is the fourth generation of his family to farm the land where he and his wife Jamie began the winery.

From the beginning, their mission was simple: every bottle of McManis Family Vineyards should consist of “quality wine at an honest price”. They now farm more than 3,600 acres of wine grapes from premier growing areas in California.

The home estate is on a 40-acre site near the town of Ripon, in northern California’s interior region. Their large-capacity winery was built in 1998, but it is designed to produce high-quality wines with small winery methods.

All the McManis grapes from their 10 estate vineyards come through the Ripon winery where they receive special handling. As grapes arrive, they are introduced to two state-of-the-art grape receiving stations outfitted with special crushers and presses.

The winery has extensive stainless steel fermentation and storage capacity but it is designed for small lot wine production.

Son Justin, daughter Tanya and son-in-law Dirk Heuvel are the fifth generation of the McManis family to help run the family business.

Goes with: We had the chardonnay with chicken pot pie and a tossed salad on one of those nights when it was too hot to cook. Teri and I both love chicken pot pie because the Marie Callender’s frozen pies taste like home made.

The rich fruit flavors in the wine nicely matched the creamy savory flavors in the pot pie.

The chardonnay also would pair well with roast chicken, fettuccine alfredo, fried or roasted fish and creamy soups. It has enough body to stand up to most full-bodied cheeses.

We had the merlot with bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches, one of my favorite light meals. We usually have BLTs for lunch, but they are also great on nights when I don’t want to think about cooking. I usually serve them with potato chips.

The merlot is so smooth and fruit-forward it doesn’t get overwhelmed by the bacon flavors. It turned an ordinary meal into something special.

This wine would pair well with lamb chops, pork chops, pork loin, hearty soups and stews, and just about any cheese. I would chill it slightly and let it warm up in the glass.

If you have questions about wine you can email Dennis Sodomka at dennis@bottlereport.com

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