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Dennis Sodomka

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Le Volte dell’Ornellaia IGT 2019, Tuscany Cost: $33-35 What: If you want to know why wine lovers make such a fuss over Super Tuscan wines, try the Le Volte dell’Ornellaia and you will understand. A Super Tuscan is simply a wine made from non-indigenous grapes grown in Tuscany. It doesn’t conform to the legal restriction that a wine must have a high percentage of Sangiovese grapes to get the DOC or DOCG designation. Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah are the most common grapes in Super Tuscan wines. Back in the 1980s some rebels discovered that Tuscan soils and weather were perfect for growing grapes usually grown in Bordeaux. So they made wine with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc and settled for the lower IGT rating. They knew their wines would be so great the lower ranking wouldn’t keep their prices down. Wine drinkers loved the Super Tuscans and drove…

Mouton Cadet Blanc 2020, France Mouton Cadet Rosé 2020, France Cost: $13-15 What: Most wine drinkers will say they want to drink the best wine. But we don’t always have the money to buy the very best wine. For instance, if you wanted to buy what experts consider the best Bordeaux wine you might pay hundreds or thousands of dollars. I have found great Bordeaux for $100, and I have found some I enjoy just as much in the $30-50 range. But for a good, everyday pour, it’s hard to beat the Mouton Cadet wines. The brand grew out of the famous Mouton Rothschild estate, known throughout the world for great first growth Bordeaux wines. Baron Philippe de Rothschild wanted to deliver a wine that brought the richness of a great Bordeaux to a mass audience so he created Mouton Cadet in 1930. Obviously the grapes for these wines don’t…

What: Alsace is one of those special regions where you find many producers creating great wine. The region is noted for its Rieslings, Gewurtztramminers and sparkling wine. Most are crisp and clean with a touch of minerality. If you aren’t familiar with the wines from Alsace, you should try one. They’re easy to find and reasonably priced. The Crémant d’Alsace always calls up great memories for me, from my first trip to Europe almost 40 years ago. I was in a bus full of wine tourists from Charlotte drinking our way through Germany and France. At one of the stops in Alsace we found a wonderful Crémant priced at the equivalent of three for $5. We stocked up and had plenty of Crémant to drink in the bus for the rest of the trip. Prices have gone up since then, but a good Crémant d’Alsace is still one of the…

Frank Family wine tastings are always fun, whether you are at the winery or joining one of their virtual tastings. Their latest online event was even better than usual, as the winery staff was joined by a North Carolina pit master. Now, I’ll admit I wasn’t expecting a pit master to offer much help on cooking steaks. I think of a pit master as being great with Boston butts or pork shoulders or even whole hogs, cooking low and slow. But Jack Arnold, the Davidson, N.C. pit master, was terrific. He cooked two kinds of steak, tomahawk and filet, and they both looked great. I even tried some of his techniques, and they made my steaks better. But that’s the way it is with the Frank Family tastings. I’m always learning something. This tasting was in honor of Independence Day and the founding of Frank Family Vineyards, which opened July…

Gotas de Mar Albariño 2020, Spain Cost: $21-23 What: You never know where you are going to find your next bottle of favorite wine. I was first attracted to the Gotas de Mar Albariño by the striking bottle, tall and thin, made of blue glass with bold white and blue stripes. But I was won over by what is inside the bottle. This is a classic Albariño, with powerful stone fruit aromas and flavors with some minerality and a touch of the sea. If you have never had an Albariño you owe it to yourself to try one. My wife Teri is a huge fan of Chardonnay, but she will never turn down an Albariño. They usually are crisp and clean, with a touch of minerality and loaded with flavor. While they usually are a touch on the lighter side, they have enough weight to handle most any seafood dish.…

Veramonte Chardonnay Cost: $11-13 What: When you find a wine you like it’s a good idea to write it down and keep a list of favorite wines. If you are like me that list gets long. The Veramonte Chardonnay is on my list, but I had not opened a bottle in a few years, so I was eager to try it again. If anything, the wine was even better than I remembered it. And at about $12 a bottle it is a great bargain. My wife Teri and I sometimes try to forget about the price of the wine and then try to guess it when we drink it. I think our lowest guess on this wine came in at $20. It’s a bright, smooth wine, with some good weight. It is a not a wimpy wine, and can hold it’s own with a great meal. The wine is made…

There is nothing better than a great pairing of food and wine, and the folks at the Jones Creek Clubhouse provided that with excellent food and wine from Ketcham Estate. It was great fun for me because it was the second time in a week I was able to participate in a Ketcham Estate wine dinner. Owner Allie Ketcham was in town for a few days, and it seemed like every stop was a roaring success. The 40 or so people at the Clubhouse had a great time, laughing and talking and raving about the food and wine. My wife Teri and I joined a table full of interesting people and thoroughly enjoyed the evening. That’s one of the fun things about these wine dinners: you get to meet new people with a shared interest in good food and wine. For some it was their first experience with Ketcham Estate,…

Calvert’s Restaurant jumped back into the wine dinner business with a splash this week, welcoming a full house to a great six-course dinner paired with Ketcham Estate wines. Thoughts of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown were far away as people laughed, talked and enjoyed the terrific meal. “I always feel like I’m home when I come to Augusta,” said Allie Ketcham, owner of the winery. “It’s a whole community of friends and family.” Allie said this was her first post-COVID wine dinner, and she was very excited. She has been to Augusta before and several people in the crowd had visited her at Ketcham Estates in Healdsburg, in the Sonoma Valley. It also was great to see restaurant owner Craig Calvert and his expert staff. It is hard to imagine better wine dinners than the ones offered by Calvert’s. They leave time for the winemaker to describe the wines, time for…

Domäne Wachau Grüner Veltliner 2020, Austria Cost: $17-19 What: After you have been drinking wine for a while you start to feel like you can figure out just about anything you come across. But one of the best things about drinking wine is you are guaranteed to be surprised at times. I have had several pleasant surprises lately, and I will be writing about them in the weeks ahead. Today’s surprise is the Grüner Veltliner from Domäne Wachau in Austria. I have had Grüner Veltliner (or gru-vee as it’s sometimes called) many times, and have always enjoyed it. But this one was really something special. It was loaded with fresh fruit and strong minerality, a combination I love. I have never had a bad gru-vee, but this one stood out. As I researched the wine I figured out why I liked this one so much. This wine had “federspiel terrassen”…

Line 39 Spritzers, Pinot Noir, Rosé, Sauvignon Blanc Cost: $13 What: Just in time for the hot days of summer we get a new refreshing wine drink called Line 39 Spritzers ($13/4 pack). Each of the three flavors features good wine, sparkling water and a hint of a natural flavor. They are delicious and with just 5% alcohol, each small aluminum bottle contains only 100 calories. So if you are watching your weight and still want to drink wine, this is the drink to try. I liked all three flavors, but I think my favorite was the Rosé, which has a hint of strawberry flavor added. It’s bright and refreshing. The strawberry flavor comes through clearly, but without any sweetness. It’s perfect for a light lunch, or an afternoon snack on the deck. I also tried the Pinot Noir and the Sauvignon Blanc. I loved the strong black cherry and…

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