Author

Dennis Sodomka

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Penfolds Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz 2017, Australia Cost: $82-86 My wife and I have been diligent about staying home as much as possible during the COVID-19 pandemic. We really miss going out to nice restaurants, and we miss seeing plays and concerts. But we also don’t want to get sick. So last weekend we had a special date at home with dinner theater in the den. Teri and I watched ‘“Death of a Salesman,” presented by the Goodman Theater in Chicago. It was staged several years ago, starring the late Brian Dennehy, and it was terrific. They streamed a filmed version of the Broadway cast, which won four Tony awards, including best revival, best actor, best featured actress and best director. We moved a table in front of the television so we had front row seats, added a tablecloth and candles, and had a wonderful meal. Of course, we needed…

La Jota Vineyard Co. Merlot 2017, Napa Valley Cost: $82-86 There is something special about mountain wines. Struggling at high elevations in rocky soils pushes vines to produce grapes with more depth and complexity. Wines from mountain vineyards usually have a little extra flavor. The grapes get a lot of sun, but because they are at a higher altitude with cooler temperatures, it takes the grapes longer to ripen. All of that gives them more intense, complex flavors. The mountain soils also usually impart a mineral flavor that I particularly like. The La Jota Merlot is a great example of a mountain Merlot. La Jota also gives the grapes a lot more attention than most wines, showing what a premium wine is all about. The wine is a gorgeous deep garnet in the glass, with dark fruit aromas. On the palate I picked up flavors of black cherry, ripe raspberries…

Domäne Wachau Grüner Veltliner Federspiel 2018, Austria Cost: $14-16 J ust because we are stuck at home during the coronavirus pandemic doesn’t mean we have to limit our wine horizons. Like most of my readers I drink a lot of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel and Pinot Noir. Those are all wonderful grapes, but I like to try a few other things once in a while. Grüner Veltliner is one of those wines I keep coming back to when I want to try something different. I have had it so much it’s likely to become one of my staples, because Teri and I enjoy it. Dick Benjamin from Wine World used to rave about Grüner Veltliner all the time. Before I tried it, I thought he might be exaggerating, but he wasn’t. It is one of the most under-appreciated and least known wines in the United States. And…

Decoy Merlot 2018, Sonoma County Cost: $24-26 I love October for many reasons, not the least of which is it’s Merlot month. I know, it’s a made-up celebration, but I applaud anything that draws attention to this versatile, delicious wine. I have been drinking Merlot for at least 45 years, when I first tried Sterling Merlot and loved it. Later I heard about this great Merlot made by Duckhorn, but I couldn’t find it anywhere until I found it in a boutique wine shop in Chapel Hill, N.C. It was every bit as good as I had hoped. It was a little more than I usually spent for wine, but then Duckhorn came out with the Decoy label, which the winery called the every day wine for the well informed. I could drink it every day, and at this price I could afford to. This lush Merlot is a deep,…

7 Deadly Zins 2017, Lodi 7 Deadly Cab 2018, Lodi Cost: $15-17 W hen 7 Deadly Zins was released in 2002 I thought it was a devilishly clever marketing campaign. A word play on the seven deadly sins, the grapes came from seven old vine zinfandel vineyards. The best part was how good the wine was. I have had 7 Deadly Zins many times since then, and it has continued to be a reliably excellent wine. Now there’s a new 7 Deadly in town, and while the name isn’t quite as catchy 7 Deadly Cab also is a terrific wine. The cab is full-bodied, full of ripe fruit flavors. In the glass it is a deep, dark garnet, almost opaque with vanilla and mocha aromas. The first sip brings flavors of ripe blackberry and dark fruit. It is a dry wine, with a big, smooth mouthfeel and a long finish.…

Lubanzi Chenin Blanc 2019, South Africa Cost: $6-8 per can Chenin Blanc is one of the great wines of the world, and South Africa makes it better than any place. There’s something about the soil and the climate that produces perfect Chenin Blanc grapes. I have had several great Chenin Blancs from South Africa, and now I’ve found another, made by Lubanzi. It is a fabulous wine at a great price. And you can buy it in cans. How great is that? You could spend years just tracking down great wines from South Africa, and now would be a good time to start doing that. The coronavirus pandemic has hurt food and wine companies all over the world, and those in South Africa have been particularly hard hit. The country banned the sale of alcohol in March, including exports. The ban on exports was lifted May 1, but the local…

Priest Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon 2018, Napa Valley Cost: $49-51 M any great wines are made from grapes that are purchased by the winemaker. But my senses always perk up when I am trying estate-grown wine. When a winemaker works with estate fruit it means he or she has total control over what goes into the wine and how the grapes are handled from bud break to fermentation and bottling. That’s the case at Priest Ranch and Somerston Estate, where all their wines are estate grown, and the wines are outstanding. The 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon is a lush, full-bodied wine. It opens in the glass with beautiful aromas of dark berries and licorice. The silky, rounded mouthfeel has notes of black cherry, plum and vanilla. The finish is long and lively. The complex flavors in the wine are helped by picking grapes from 24 unique vineyard blocks, planted at elevations from…

Markham The Altruist 2017, Napa Valley Cost: $28-30 H ow great is it when you can support a worthy cause by drinking wine? Markham Vineyards makes that possible by dedicating their newest wine, The Altruist, to veterans, first responders and their families. Beyond partnering with the Gary Sinese Foundation, Markham plans to honor everyday heroes with their Community Hero Awards in 2021. Even better, this Bordeaux-style red blend is a knockout. It combines the velvety flavors of Merlot with the structure of Cabernet Sauvignon in a balanced, smooth wine. Aromas of dark fruit, cola and vanilla lead to tastes of blackberry, cherry and plum jam. It is a lush, delicious wine full of ripe fruit and silky tannins. Made from mostly estate fruit, the mix is 68 percent Merlot, 16 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 6 percent Petit Verdot, 5 percent Malbec and 5 percent Cabernet Franc. The grapes are 80 percent…

Alma Rosa La Encantada Blanc 2018, Sta. Rita Hills Alma Rosa El Jabali Pinot Noir 2018, Sta. Rita Hills Cost: $35 $65 I tasted Alma Rosa’s Chardonnay about a month ago and loved it so much I had to go back and try two other wines the winery was offering as a special tribute to winery founder Richard Sanford. Both the 2018 Blanc from La Encantada Vineyard and the 2018 El Jabali Pinot Noir were outstanding wines. The Blanc is a gorgeous light gold in the glass with aromas of jasmine, wet stone and honey. It is well-balanced, with a light acidity matching the luscious flavors of lemon, lime and pear. It finishes with a fresh minerality. The El Jabali Pinot Noir is a deep red in the glass with powerful black fruit and plum aromas. On the palate are a complex array of flavors, from blueberry to blackberry to…

Ricasoli Brolio Riserva 2016, Chianti Classico Cost: $29-31 Sipping a beautiful Chianti usually transports me back to Tuscany, where my wife Teri and I visited with friends several years ago. The green rolling hills, the hilltop towns and wineries and the incredible food live on in my memories, and a sip of wine from the region bring them all rushing back. The Ricasoli Brolio Riserva 2016 from the Chianti Classico region had that effect on me when I drank it paired with a hearty vegetable soup. It’s a shimmering ruby red in the glass with lush aromas of wild red fruit and black cherry. There are some spice and balsamic notes, but the fruit aromas prevail. On the palate it is a soft, round wine, with mild tannins and a robust, pleasant finish. It is a harmonious wine that is just right for many occasions, from a quiet sip on…

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