Category Archives: Past Articles

Wines Increasingly Find Their Place at the Summer Barbeque

This article originally appeared in the August/September, 2016 issue of Bellingham Alive magazine.

Remember the “good old days” of outdoor barbequing? Assemble a stack of charcoal briquettes in the grill, saturate them with lighter fluid, set it aflame, and, more often than not, burn the food to a crisp. Then serve with your favorite six-pack of domestic beer and Kool-Aid for the kids.

Today’s barbequing and outdoor grilling routine is often a major undertaking with glistening, stainless-steel, multi-burner propane and ceramic charcoal grills and menus loaded with racks of beef ribs, kabobs, and pork in every way, shape or form.

Fortunately, wines have also increasingly become a part of the grilling culture; and good wines not only complement practically anything cooked on the barbeque or grill, they add a measure of good taste to any meal that’s prepared or served outdoors.

FOR STARTERS

Have a glass of something sparkling ready for guests as they walk through the door; it’s a great way to begin a barbeque-themed event. These wines make an excellent aperitif, and often pair well with grilled prawns, salads or a variety of creamy dips and spreads on crostini.

nullThe “Dress Code” Collection by Zonin 1821 offers three Prosecco choices using the Glera grape in striking, colored bottles that make excellent event-starter wines at about $17 each.

The White Edition utilizes a bit of Pinot Bianco and features ample flavors of green pear and citrus, with super-fine bubbles that resemble a frizzante-style sparkler; the Grey Edition is blended with a touch of Pinot Grigio, giving the wine a nice minerality component to complement the Fuji apple flavors; and the Black Edition, with 10-percent Pinot Noir, is filled with more crisp apple flavors that lead to a slightly edgy, faintly sweet finish.

THE MAIN EVENT

Grilled salmon is a Pacific Northwest favorite, and there may be no better wine-pairing partner for this regional seafood specialty than Pinot Noir.

nullFor starters, consider the Willamette Valley Vineyards 2015 Rosé of Pinot Noir (about $24). This big, flavorful rosé is packed with vibrant melon and wild strawberry flavors and capped with a touch of spicy lychee on a crisp finish. Another noteworthy Oregon wine is the Durant Vineyards 2013 La Paloma Pinot Noir (about $35). Lovely aromatics of red cherry carry over to the palate before melting into cranberry and then darker black cherry flavors. There’s a touch of smoky chocolate accentuated by the grape’s signature acidity on the finish. Outstanding!

When burgers, brats, or steaks are on the barbeque menu, a hearty red wine is a must. Walla Walla wineries really shine in this area, offering plenty of flavorful, expressive options that should keep any red wine lover happy.

La Monarcha Winery not only provides affordable wines for your barbeque, it offers a newly-released portable option that allows you take your wines anywhere in a recyclable bag. Holding 1.5 liters of wine, the 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon (about $22) displays plenty of red berry fruit, good acidity and a touch of herbaceousness that will complement grilled meats. For white wine drinkers, a 2014 Chardonnay (about $19) is also available in the same handy container.

Walla Walla winemaker Marie-Eve Gilla has crafted another stunning red wine with her Forgeron Cellars 2012 Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (about $35). Beautiful field berry aromas start you off, with fruit-forward black plum and cassis flavors, a flourish of cinnamon-spice, and a soft finish with toasted oak accents. It’s an elegant and delicious addition to any outdoor meal.

nullAnother amazing Walla Walla wine is the Rulo Winery 2012 Syrah (about $30). Husband-and-wife winemakers Kurt and Vicki Schlicker continue their mastery of this grape by offering a drop-dead gorgeous Syrah that will leave you smiling. Blueberry and blackberry aromas and flavors fill the glass, and the fruit is seamlessly balanced by slightly textured, yet velvety tannins. Bring on some beef or enjoy this exceptional wine simply on its own.

If you’re planning on grilling something a little more gamey such as lamb, elk or venison, you’ll need an even bigger red wine to match the flavors of the food.

Try the C. Mondavi & Family 2013 Purple Heart (about $20), a powerful blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley. Dark fruits predominate, with ample tannins, crushed herbs and burnt caramel on the finish. The wine is named for the Purple Heart Foundation, an organization benefiting military personnel in need. Also look for the 2014 vintage, scheduled for release this fall.

At the top of the food chain is the Collepiano 2010 Sagrantino Di Montefalco (about $54). This intensely colored, intensely flavored Italian wine explodes with vanilla bean aromas, flavors of black currant, fig, and anise, and a splash of smoky green tea on the finish. Grippy tannins require plenty of aeration, but the payoff is a huge red wine that should stand up to anything on the grill.

nullAFTER THE FIRE

Fresh fruit such as apples, pears, pineapple or peaches make excellent, yet simple dessert choices when you pop them on the grill. Serve them with a slightly sweeter wine and you’ve got a tasty, sure-to-please food and wine combination.

A special dessert wine worth considering is the Boutari 2009 Vinsanto (about $48) from Greece.

Made primarily from the Assyrtiko grape, it displays a dark amber color, white raisin and toasted hazelnut flavors, and an ultra-long, honey-like finish. This “liquid baklava” for adults should pair with grilled fruit desserts and provide a fitting finalé to the meal.

Ready for a Picnic? Don’t Forget to Include These Pretty in Pink and White Wine Selections

This article originally appeared in the June/July, 2016 issue of Bellingham Alive magazine.

Late spring and early summer is the time of year when Northwesterners will use almost any excuse to pack up the picnic basket, grab a bottle of wine, and dine outdoors.

nullLeave those heavier, full-bodied reds for the barbeque. Picnicking practically demands you choose something lighter, brighter, and slightly chilled; and here’s where most white whites and rosés really shine.

You’ll find that they pair perfectly with a variety of standard picnic foods such as fried chicken, pasta and potato salads, or even a simple baguette with mild cheeses.

Be sure to put these wines at the top of your list and you’ll be near-certain to please anyone joining you on your next picnic. Here are a few recommendations:

WHITE-HOT CHOICES

Chill down the Ruffino Lumina 2014 Pinot Grigio (about $10) and you’ve got an excellent picnic-friendly/budget-friendly white wine. It’s clean and green with lovely aromatics of clover and white peach along with zesty lemon/lime flavors and great finishing acidity.

Greek wines have come a long way as of late and if you’ve been concerned about the quality, the Alpha Estate 2015 Malagouzia (about $18) should put those fears to rest. This full-bodied white wine strikes a nice balance between its herbaceous and citrus flavor profiles and a crisp, yet lingering finish is capped with a subtle but distinctive note of evergreen and rosemary.

nullNew Zealand’s Marlborough appellation is world-famous for its Sauvignon Blanc and Kim Crawford Wines serves up a pair of current releases that will make great picnic wines. Their 2015 Sauvignon Blanc (about $18) is loaded with lemongrass and key lime flavors and accentuated with racy acidity and a hint of strawberry rhubarb; and the 2015 Small Parcels, Spitfire Sauvignon Blanc (about $26) is a bit heavier in body and broader ranging with flavors of tropical fruit, pineapple, ruby-red grapefruit and a kiss of stone fruits on the trailing end.

If you prefer your Sauvignon Blancs a little less edgy, then Walla Walla’s Palencia Wine Company 2015 Sauvignon Blanc (about $18) should easily put a smile on your face. This absolute gem of a wine is virtually colorless, yet it explodes with brioche aromatics, luscious pear, peach and nectarine flavors and a brisk finish with a hint of herbaceousness.

Also purchase-worthy is the Palencia Wine Company 2015 Albariño (about $18), which took Best of Show honors at this year’s Cascadia Wine Competition in Hood River, Oregon. Granny Smith apple and kiwi fruits lead off, followed by touches of allspice, green herb, and citrus zest. Try it with a shrimp salad or smoked salmon and cream cheese on crostini.

This year’s release of the Conundrum 2014 California White Wine (about $25) marks the 25th anniversary of a diverse, proprietary blend that’s a perennial favorite of many wine enthusiasts. It explodes with big, juicy Bartlett pear and apricot flavors to start, followed by crisp apple on the mid-palate, and then a faintly sweet finish with a touch of ambrosia.

PRETTY IN PINK

The Tarantas Non-Vintage Sparkling Rosé (about $10) from Spain is packaged in a beautiful, elongated bottle and made from certified organic Bobal grapes. Generous red currant and red berry flavors fill the glass, followed by a soft, dry finish that’s lightly carbonated.

nullAnother sparkler worth considering is the Ruffino Non-Vintage Sparking Rosé (about $15). Flavors and aromas of wild strawberries highlight this newly released Prosecco that’s blended with a touch of Pinot Noir to provide a lovely shade of pink. The off-dry finish is both slightly crisp and slightly creamy, giving the wine a near-elegant quality that makes it a pleasure to taste.

Rich Funk of Walla Walla’s Saviah Cellars has produced yet another winner with his 2015 The Jack Rosé (about $12). This 50/50 blend of Tempranillo and Sangiovese offers plenty of bang for the buck, with ample red cherry and berry flavors, a splash of acidity and great food-pairing potential; perhaps with prosciutto-wrapped cantaloupe or honeydew melon.

Bold and tasteful, Oregon’s Stoller Family Estate 2015 Pinot Noir Rosé (about $25) displays a shimmering, pale pink color with pleasant aromas of field flowers and slate. It’s followed by an impressive array of flavors from citrus to green melon to Red Delicious apple. A picnic food pairing suggestion: crab-stuffed deviled eggs.

Finally, be sure to try the just-released Jones of Washington 2015 Rosé of Syrah (about $14). The wine’s striking ruby color is matched by mouthwatering flavors of raspberry, strawberry, and watermelon along with laser-sharp acidity and steely minerality on the finish. Incredibly well-priced, it’s an exceptional choice for any picnic basket.

Washington’s Family Wineries Prove That Hard Work Pays Off by Producing Excellent Wines

This article originally appeared, in part, in the April/May, 2016 issue of Bellingham Alive magazine.

If you think that most of Washington’s wineries are large, faceless, corporate-owned entities you might be in for a surprise. In fact, the vast majority of the 850-plus wineries in the state are small, family-owned enterprises that oversee every phase of the winemaking process…from crushing, fermenting and aging the grapes, to bottling, marketing, and distributing the finished product.

This hands-on, personal touch is the hallmark of many smaller wineries, and the “start-to-finish” process requires long hours and dedicated service. But most family-maintained wineries feel this approach results in a quality, attention-to-detail product…and they wouldn’t have it any other way.

Here’s a look at two successful Washington wineries and the people behind these 100-percent family-owned and operated businesses:

DYNASTY CELLARS

Peter and Olga Osvaldik immigrated to the United States from Czechoslovakia with their son, Peter Jr., in 1983. The Osvaldiks moved to Bellingham in 1990 and established Dynasty Cellars five years later, drawing on over 150 years of winemaking experience from Peter’s paternal family.

After progressing through the “hobby phase,” Dynasty had its first commercial release in 2006. “I remember our first commercial wine…seven tons of grapes (at about 100 pounds at a time) through a small ratchet press. It was crazy,” Peter says with a laugh. “I still have that press as a reminder of our beginnings.”

nullFrom its inception, every task associated with the winery has been a family affair. Peter and son Eric work together through the crushing and production phases while Olga and their daughter Monica primarily work in the tasting room and on special events. “We don’t have titles,” Peter says. “We are whatever we need to be that day!”

The winery currently sources all of its grapes from Les Collines Vineyards in Walla Walla, reflecting Peter’s desire to produce single vineyard/single varietal wines.

Current releases include the 2012 vintages of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, a gorgeous Merlot with silky-soft dark berry flavors, and a bold Zinfandel with blackberry fruit and spicy, peppery finishing notes.

Scheduled for release in April of this year are a 2015 White Wine blend of 90-percent Chardonnay and 10-percent Semillon, and a 2015 Off-Dry Riesling. The remainder of 2016 will include releases of a number of 2013-vintage red varietals including Tempranillo, Primitivo, Syrah and Merlot.

The winery’s sense of family is apparent from the minute one steps into the tasting room, where guests are warmly greeted and often asked, “What can I pour for you?” This, coupled with the care that goes into every bottle, has made Dynasty Cellars a favorite among local wine enthusiasts.

Downplaying credit for his winemaking efforts, Peter humbly notes, “The fate and quality of the wine is determined at the end of fermentation. You’re the guardian; (just) keep the barrels safe and sound until you’re ready to bottle.”

Dynasty Cellars is located at 2169 East Bakerview Road in Bellingham and open Thursday through Saturday from 1 pm to 6:30 pm and Sunday from 1 pm to 5 pm. More information: dynastycellars.com.

TUCANNON CELLARS

Tucannon Cellars is located about 15 minutes west of the Tri-Cities, just outside the Red Mountain Appellation. The winery is named for the Tucannon River near the Blue Mountains in southeastern Washington and owned by father-and-son duo Phil and Ethen Warren and Phil’s wife Danette.

nullPhil started producing wines in 2008, primarily, “to see if he could make a small batch of handcrafted wine for private consumption” notes Ethen. The elder Warren’s wines became popular among friends who, “got so tired of waiting for the next batch they helped and supported him in the winery licensing process,” Ethen recalls.

That took place in 2011, and Phil continued to produce wines in the garage at his Pasco home. Then, as a logical step in the growth of the winery, he purchased Oakwood Cellars on Red Mountain in February, 2014, where Ethen serves as tasting room manager and assistant winemaker while Danette handles the winery’s administrative work.

At that time, Tucannon was primarily focused on making red wines. “We started out just doing reds, but we’ve really gotten more serious about white wines,” Ethen says. That may be in part to a number of stainless steel tanks they acquired from Oakwood, which have been instrumental in the production of white wine varietals such as Chardonnay, Viognier, and Riesling.

In addition to sourcing grapes from the state’s renowned Burgess and Alder Ridge Vineyards, to name a few, the Warrens have also planted two acres of estate-grown red varietals: Carménère and Mourvèdre.

nullOther red wines that have just been released include a lovely 2012 Cabernet Franc, with dried red fruits, hints of milk chocolate, and sweet cedar on a lingering finish with a hint of earthiness; a 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, with intoxicating aromatics of vanilla wafer, beeswax and meadow grasses followed by red cherry flavors and a touch of hazelnut; and an outstanding 2012 Merlot with black cherry and licorice on the palate, toasted oak accents, and a nice, textured finish.

Production has expanded to about 1,800 cases annually, but that hasn’t had an effect on all the small details the Warrens address while operating their family-owned winery. “We still do everything by hand,” Ethen says, and, noting his increasing involvement in all phases of the winemaking process, “I wouldn’t be able to do it without my dad…and our friends are (also) still a tremendous help.”

Tucannon Cellars’ tasting room is located at 40504 North DeMoss Road in Benton City, just minutes north of Interstate 82, and open Thursday, Sunday, and Monday from 11 am to 5 pm and Friday and Saturday from 11 am to 6 pm. Wines can also be ordered on line at tucannoncellars.com.

Light to Medium to Full Body-Style Options are Enough to Keep Any Red Wine Drinker Happy

This article originally appeared in the February/March, 2016 issue of Bellingham Alive magazine.

“Body style” is one of those wine descriptors you hear frequently, but may ignore all together when sifting through the wine section in search of the perfect bottle to serve with tonight’s meal.

Body styles range from light to medium to full, and refer to the richness or weight of the wine on the palate. Confused? Think of the difference between thin, flavorless bottled water and the mouthfeel of sweet, acidic, and flavorful fresh-squeezed orange juice and you’ll get the idea.

Categorizing a wine with a certain body style depends on a number of factors including its fruitiness, acidity, sugar, alcohol, oak, and tannins – that astringent, chalky texture you sometimes find on the wine’s finish. Red wines are especially influenced by these latter two factors, because, unlike most white wines, they are fermented with their high-tannin skins and seeds and then aged in oak barrels.

In addition to making the wine darker in color and more fuller in body, this process also adds complexity to the flavor profile…just one reason why red wines are often both the source of spirited discussion and so much fun to drink.

ON THE LIGHTER SIDE

nullPinot Noir should be at or near the top of the list for those who prefer lighter to medium-bodied red wines. The grape’s natural acidity makes it an excellent food-pairing choice, especially with high fat-content foods such as salmon, duck or lamb.

Sourced from 15 acres of the winery’s original plantings, the Willamette Valley Vineyards 2012 Bernau Block Pinot Noir (about $55) is an exquisitely crafted, must-try Oregon Pinot. Slightly edgy, ripe pie cherry and pomegranate flavors lead off, while a velvety soft finish provides both balance and elegance.

The Stoller Family Estate 2013 Reserve Pinot Noir (about $45) is another representation of Oregon Pinot at its finest.

“Meticulous sorting and attentive winemaking were essential,” according to the winery website and this attention-to-detail approach is evident from the first sip. Fragrant raspberry and strawberry aromas carry over to the palate along with just a touch of earthiness. Seamless and silky, a flourish of dried cherry appears on the extreme finish.

MID-RANGE CHOICES

Bobal is one of Spain’s most widely grown red wine grapes and it offers wine drinkers plenty of fresh, deep-colored fruit flavors and good acidity that place it squarely in the medium-bodied wine category.

A couple of options: The Isaac Fernandez 2012 Bovale (about $14), a 100-percent Bobal sourced from vines at least 60 years old. Lovely dark berry and cherry aromas and flavors fill the glass, with spicy/peppery accents and a whisper of vanilla on a soft finish; and the Bodegas Mustiguillo 2013 Mestizaje Tinto (about $15) a Bobal-based red blended with touches of Garnacha, Merlot and Syrah. It’s a bit more dense and gritty with reserved blackberry and black currant fruits along with a spritz of white pepper on the finish. Serve it with practically anything beef.

nullA trio of selections from Walla Walla’s Vino La Monarcha also make solid, medium-bodied red wine choices and offer good value at about $20-a-bottle each. (Winemaker Victor Palencia, pictured at left.)

The 2012 Wahluke Slope Merlot features a soft entry of plummy fruit and a pleasant, darker layer near the finish with a touch of bittersweet chocolate; the 2013 Sangiovese opens with bright raspberry and boysenberry flavors that are perfectly balanced with toasted oak and supple tannins; and the 2013 Malbec is a delicious fruit-forward wine with a mouthful of brambly berries, hints of clove, cinnamon and pepper, and a slightly structured finish that make it an absolute pleasure to taste.

Also from Washington is the Thurston Wolfe 2012 Howling Wolfe Zinfandel (about $20) in Prosser. Red currant and berry flavors are capped with a bit of baking spice, toasted caramel, and a nicely textured finish. It’s a artfully crafted Zinfandel that offers a pleasant break from some of California’s heavy-handed alternatives.

HEAVIER HITTERS

Sagrantino is an Italian wine grape that produces extremely dark, inky, tannic red wines that fall into the full-bodied category. A prime example is the Scacciadiavoli 2008 Montefalco Sagrantino (about $39). It opens with a stunning fragrance of violets and ultra-dark plums followed by flavors of red plum, green tea, a trace of minerality, and chewy tannins. This wine can easily hold up to a medium-rare steak or gamey meats such as elk or venison.

And be sure to consider the current red wine releases from Walla Walla’s Dunham Cellars. These wines are truly the complete package by carrying a full-bodied, yet elegant quality in terms of their flavor profile and taste.

“‘The passion is in the bottle’ is our slogan,” notes Bellingham resident and Dunham Co-Owner/Chairman, David Blair. “We want to celebrate the relationship between fine food and wine (and) deliver a product we’re proud to put our name on.”

Start with the 2013 Three Legged Red (about $19), Dunham’s perennial red-blend favorite that makes for terrific everyday enjoyment. Then take a step up to the 2012 Trutina(about $29), a beautiful, five-varietal blend with a base of juicy blackberry and red cherry fruit, gentle notes of caramel and rose hips, and a slightly herbaceous finish.

nullSingle-varietal wine enthusiasts will love the Dunham 2012 Syrah (about $35), with vanilla bean aromatics, blueberry and spiced black plum flavors, and a finish with a touch more vanilla and a dusting of cocoa powder; and the 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon XVIII (about $45), with a wonderfully complex bouquet of meadow grasses and hazelnuts, reserved flavors of cassis and espresso, and nicely integrated tannins. It’s a superb pairing partner with osso buco.

Dunham’s crown jewel: the 2011 Lewis Vineyard Syrah (about $75). Wild blackberry and graphite on the nose, luscious dark fruit flavors on the palate, and underlying notes of slate and spice box highlight this incredible, faultless wine. It’s luxurious from start to finish and undeniably worth the price.

Compare and Contrast Old World and New World Wines for a Wide Range of Flavors and Tastes

This article originally appeared, in part, in the December, 2015/January, 2016 issue of Bellingham Alive magazine.

Everyone has their taste preferences when it comes to wines…red versus white, Chardonnay versus Merlot, sweet versus dry.

But there’s another potential division among wine drinkers that falls along nullgeographic lines: “Old World” versus “New World.”

Old World wines refer to those with European roots; most notably originating from France, Italy, and Spain, and to a lesser extent, Portugal and Germany.

The New World essentially refers to everywhere else outside this region, with big players coming from the United States and Canada, Australia and New Zealand, Argentine and Chile, and South Africa.

Wines from Old World countries are generally characterized as having understated, leaner fruit flavors, higher acidity, and lower alcohol levels; while New World wines are more likely to display full-bodied, robust fruit flavors and a slightly higher alcohol content.

Over the past few decades, the lines have blurred a bit between Old World and New World wines. For example, Super Tuscan wines from Italy have enhanced a lighter Sangiovese base with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot; once over-oaked Chardonnays from California and Washington are now fermented in stainless steel for a brighter, leaner finished product.

But overall, you’re still likely to find subtle, but noticeable differences between these wine regions. In a word, that means variety, with plenty of wines to suit everyone’s taste preference.

VIVA ITALIA!

Nothing kicks off a festive event better than a glass of sparkling wine from Italy. A couple of purchase-worthy selections: The Jeio Prosecco Spumante Brut (about $17), with lemon wafer and green pear flavors and a crisp, bone-dry finish with a trace of steely minerality; or the Bisol Crede Prosecco Superiore (about $25) with floral aromatics, a touch of citrus and green apple, and an elegant, slightly creamy finish. Both wines are perfect for a mid-morning brunch or holiday tastings.

If you’d rather go sans bubbles, Italy’s Soave growing region offers white wines that also make great event-starters. The Rocca Sveva 2013 Cantina di Soave (about $15) is vibrant, lively and certain to be a crowd-pleaser. It’s packed with white peach, Fuji apple, and green melon flavors that are capped with bracing acidity on a clean finish. Try it with lighter seafood dishes or oysters on the half-shell.

nullWinemaker David Volmut of Wind Rose Cellars is doing an excellent job with Italian varietals such as Sangiovese, Nebbiolo, and Dolcetto at his winery in Sequim on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. His wines are made in a very Eurocentric style with reserved fruit flavors and good acidity that make them great food-pairing choices.

To lead off, try the 2014 Pinot Grigio (about $16). This virtually colorless white wine is sourced from Yakima Valley grapes and features a hint of lemon citrus and green pear, meadow grasses, nice minerality, and a linen-crisp finish.

Red wine notables include the 2013 Primitivo (about $25), with understated red berry and cherry fruits, spicy accents, and just a bit of tannic lift on an otherwise silky-smooth finish; and the 2012 Barbera (about $27) with lovely raspberry aromatics, dark plum fruit on the mid-palate, and a bright finish with a dusting of cocoa powder. Outstanding!

Wind Rose Cellars produces roughly 1,800 cases a year and wines can be purchased in select retail outlets ( visit http://www.windrosecellars.com/retail/), at the tasting room, or on line at windrosecellars.com.

A VOTRE SANTÉ

France’s Bordeaux region exemplifies centuries of skillful winemaking within strict, regulated standards. Cru Bourgeois wines are traditional Bordeaux blends grown on a single château from the area’s Left Bank and comprised primarily of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

The Château Meyre 2012 Haut-Médoc (about $30) combines these two varietals along with a splash of Petit Verdot to produce an intriguing red Bordeaux with classic features. Green herb, slate and berry aromas, black currant flavors, and a well-structured finish naturally suggest a pairing with a beef entrée.

Owen Roe in Yakima also currently offers a stunningnull Bordeaux blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Malbec in its 2012 Red Wine (about $28). Nutty, caramel aromatics fill the glass while initial flavors of black plum give way to leaner red fruits and nuances of mocha on the finish. It’s an exquisitely balanced and beautifully crafted wine.

Although Pinot Noir originated in France’s Burgundy region, South Africa offers a worthy competitor with its only native grape, Pinotage. The Kanonkop 2013 Estate Pinotage (about $34) is an impressive effort, with seductive blackberry and rich plum fruit and underlying notes of licorice and espresso. The finish carries a whisper of smoke and trace of earthiness.

If French white varietals are your preference, check out Qupé Wine Cellars 2014 A Modern White (about $17) from California’s Central Coast region. Viognier, Chardonnay, and Marsanne grapes combine to bring you nicely complex, layered flavors of Golden Delicious apple, apricot, and citrus, followed by a slightly herbaceous finish.

VIÑO DE ESPANA

From the foothills of the Pyrenees in Northeast Spain, the Viñas del Vero La Miranda de Secastilla 2013 Garnacha Blanca and 2013 Tinto (about $15 each) offer Spanish wine lovers two overachieving options that deliver quality at an extremely reasonable price.

The Garnacha Blanca is a refreshing white wine with gentle stone fruit and green melon flavors, while the finish is crisp and dry with a flourish of lemon zest. The Tinto is primarily comprised of Garnacha grapes and offers a mouthful of spicy, brambly berry flavors and a warm, round finish of cola and licorice. It’s a perfect pairing partner with grilled meats, lamb, or a hearty beef stew.

Walla Walla’s Palencia Wine Company currently has a pair of Spanish-based varietals that are completely over-the-top in terms of complexity and taste. The 2014 Albariño (about $18) has lovely aromas of allspice and clove that carry over to the palate along with subtle flavors of peach, baked apple and Bartlett pear; and the ever-evolving 2013 Tempranillo (about $50) opens with velvety currant and black tea flavors that melt into ultra-dark cherry and bittersweet chocolate. An extended, textured finish is framed by toasted vanilla bean. Bold, yet refined, this exceptional red wine is worth every penny.

nullBLENDED COUNTRIES

Can’t decide on a favorite? Then choose a wine that includes varietals from across-the-border sources. New Zealand’s Trinity Hill “The Trinity” (about $17) combines Merlot, Tempranillo, Malbec, Touriga Nacional, and Cabernet Franc. The nose suggests cherry and black olive with intense, dark fruit flavors and a soft finish that carries an inky, velvety quality.

Finally, be sure to consider the Gifford-Hirlinger Winery 2013 Stateline Red (about $18) from Walla Walla. This blend of four French varietals and a touch of Tempranillo yield a full-bodied red with dense, compact berry flavors, a twist of black pepper, and sturdy tannins. Incredibly well priced, it can be served now or easily cellared another three to five years for future enjoyment.