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Dennis Sodomka

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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…

Conundrum Red, Conundrum White C onundrum is one of those wines that has been around for a long time that you don’t think about much until you want a fail-safe wine that is sure to please everyone. Actually, it’s two wines, Conundrum White ($16) and Conundrum Red ($25). Both are terrific, and I enjoyed a virtual tasting of them with the winemaker and two sommeliers last week. It was a tasting set up by Wine Spectator Magazine, where you buy the two bottles of wine and join an online tasting. These tastings are great fun, and a decent substitute for in-person tastings we have all been missing. There was no mystery or enigma about these wines: they were delicious and pretty good bargains. This tasting was hosted by Keith Goldston, master sommelier and wine director at The Post Oak Hotel in Houston, and his deputy, Travis Hinkle, also a sommelier.…

Oak Farm Zinfandel 2017, Lodi Cost: $23-25 I love Zinfandel, so every time I get a chance to try one, I do it. There are many different ways for winemakers to handle the grape, and each one seems to produce great wine. I loved the Oak Farm Zinfandel from the moment I poured it in my glass. It has a deep, bold red color with cedar and eucalyptus aromas. The mouthfeel is elegant with ripe fruit flavors balanced by crisp acidity. It has a long, smooth finish. Lodi is one of those places in California that produces outstanding Zinfandel. The grapes for this wine come from select vineyards, including two that are sustainably farmed and certified green under Lodi Rules. One is the Hohenrieder vineyard and the other is the Oak Farm estate vineyard. The grapes were hand picked in the morning, sorted and destemmed. The grapes then went into…

Chemistry Pinot Noir Rosé Bubbles NV, Willamette Valley Cost: $19-21 F inding just the right wine to go with your meal can be tricky. In fact, many great chefs pick the wine first and then build the meal around that. Some foods that I like are really tough to pair, such as Latin American food, Asian food and spicy dishes in general. But there is one go-to wine in all those situations: sparkling wine. I suppose there are some foods that are not good with sparkling wine–something with sauerkraut perhaps?–but there aren’t many. So when we had Japanese-style fried rice I reached for the Chemistry Rosé bubbles. It was a great choice. In the glass the wine is a beautiful deep pink, with lots of bubbles and inviting aromas of peach and watermelon. The taste is dry, but not bone-dry, with flavors of watermelon and strawberry and a creamy texture.…

Sequoia Grove Chardonnay 2011, Napa Valley Cost: $31-33 S ometimes lucky accidents happen. I had a bottle of Sequoia Grove Chardonnay I had been meaning to try, but I completely forgot about it. It was tucked in with some newer bottles until I recently found it. When I saw the vintage was 2011, I thought the wine would be vinegar. But when I tasted it all I could think was “Wow! What a beautiful wine.” I have had good luck with aging Rhone varietals such as Marsanne and Roussanne, but not so much with Chardonnay. I don’t recommend aging white wines for very long unless you find some particularly rich and powerful wines. But if you come across some don’t toss them out until you give them a try. This Chardonnay tasted so fresh and lively you would never guess its age. It was a little darker yellow in the…

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