Don’t be afraid to branch out

I know, I know – I’m always harping at you to try new wines. Unusual wines. Wines you might not even like. I feel it’s my duty, because I want to share the joy I get from wines I’ve never tasted before.

In part, I’m trying to counter the influence of those iPhone “killer apps” that keep track of the wines you drink, then try to steer you to more wines exactly like them. This is like traveling the country always staying in the same chain hotels, eating at the same chain restaurants. Safe, predictable but boring.

So here’s today’s list of suggested wines. They’re not super-unusual. Just some wines you might not have tried.

Let me know what you think.


▪  2015 Alpha Estate Malagouzia white wine, “Turtles Vineyard,” Florina, Greece (100 percent malagouzia): yellow/green hue, floral aromas, flavors of white grapefruit, green melons, minerals and herbs, dry, full-bodied, long finish; $12.

This ancient grape was nearly extinct in the 1980s, when winemaker Evangelos Gerovassiliou saved it by planting it in his vineyard. It’s growing in popularity now, said to go well with fried zucchini and tuna tartare.

▪ 2014 Paramus Verdejo white wine, D.O. Rueda, Spain (85 percent verdejo, 15 percent viura): yellow/green hue, floral aromas, flavors of Granny Smith apples, licorice and earth, creamy, long finish; $16.

▪  Native to Rueda in northwest Spain, once obscure, now argued by some to be Spain’s finest white grape variety. Viura, often called macabeo, is widely used in cava. Spain’s popular sparkling wine.

▪  2013 Quivira Vineyards Grenache, “Wine Creek Ranch Estate Vineyard,” Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County (100 percent grenache): bright red hue, intense aromas and flavors of strawberries, cherries and spice, firm tannins, medium body; $32.

Not well known in the U.S., grenache is one of the most widely planted grapes in the world. In France, it’s in some of the best Rhone wines, blended with sturdier syrah. In northeast Spain, it makes the intense, blueberry-scented wines of Priorato.

▪  2009 Palmina Wines Nebbiolo, “Sisquoc Vineyard,” Santa Barbara County: inky hue, aromas and flavors of black cherries, raspberries and balsamic vinegar, full-bodied, powerful tannins, long finish, capable of aging; $60.

In Italy’s northern Piedmont region, this is the grape of the famous muscular, tar and roses-scented wine called Barolo. Now planted in California, it’s growing riper, but still keeping its muscular tannins. Great red-meat wine.


▪  2015 Imagery Estate Winery Aleatico Rose, Sonoma Valley (100 percent aleatico): bright pink hue, crisp and lightly sweet, with aromas and flavors of ripe strawberries; $27.

The aleatico grape is better known in Italy, where it makes powerfully fruity sweet red wines. It could catch on in California as more wine fans get the courage to demand the off-dry red wines they heretofore secretly desired.

▪  2012 Tenute del Cerro Colpetrone Montefalco Rosso, Umbria, Italy (sagrantino, sangiovese, merlot, cabernet sauvignon): dark red hue, aromas and flavors of tart cherries, licorice and earth, firm tannins; $13.

Sangiovese, with its intensely fruity flavors, is the grape of Italy’s most popular wine, chianti. Sagrantino, grown only in Italy’s central Umbria region, adds firm tannins and sweet dark fruit flavors.

▪  2014 Bodega Garzon Albarino, Garzon, Uruguay (100 percent albarino): floral aromas, flavors of apricots, pink grapefruit and minerals, light and crisp; $17.

Albarino’s best-known growing region is in Galicia, in northwest Spain, where it is paired with seafood from octopus to baby eels. Uruguay’s up-and-coming wine industry is epitomized by the state-of-the-art winery called Bodega Garzon.

▪  2013 Domaine du Tariquet “Classic” white wine, Cotes de Gascogne, France (45 percent ugni blanc, 35 percent colombard, 10 percent sauvignon blanc, 10 percent gros manseng): light, lively and dry, intensely fruity, with aromas and flavors of lemons and mangos; $14.

Ugni blanc and colombard are two of the three grapes used in making Cognac. Italians call ugni blanc trebbiano, and blend it into several of their white wines. Gros manseng is dry and fresh. Together, they make a very nice white wine.