2007 Owen Roe, Abbott’s Table — The Abbott’s Table never ceases to be a crowd pleaser. Surprising, given the wildly varying blend each year, but not so surprising, given the pedigree. Winemaker David O’Reilly crafts every year’s blend carefully (this is no mere “kitchen sink”), based on the characteristics of the vintage. 2008 was an excellent year, with optimum conditions for the fruit to develop beautiful aromatics and deep, rich flavors. The result is perhaps the best Abbott’s Table yet: smooth, layered, and velvety, with more dark fruit notes than recent vintages, but all in harmonious balance. Zinfandel and Sangiovese predominate, but Cab, Syrah, and Merlot make up about a third of the mix. Only $22 this year, and in good supply, it is ready to enjoy now, or it would develop nicely over the next few years. Perfect for a hearty fall meal, or with cheese and charcuterie by a warming fire.
2008 Cakebread Cellars, Napa Valley, Sauvignon Blanc — This lovely wine from Napa’s Cakebread Cellars is 90% Sauvignon Blanc, with a bit of Semillon and Sauvignon Musqué (an aromatic mutation of Sauvignon Blanc) added. They harvest the grapes at night, when the temperatures are cool, to preserve the fresh, vibrant flavors of the fruit. That effort, along with careful, limited neutral oak aging, results in a wonderfully fragrant wine with great varietal intensity and a soft, plush texture. The winery has a strong focus on food and maintains a renowned organic kitchen garden. They suggest pairing this wine with seafood, poultry, vegetarian entrées, or “Goat Cheese Stuffed Beggar’s Purses” (recipe on their website). Enjoy this wine over the next one to two years. It’s $29.75.
2008 Perazzeta, Sara Bianco — Someday we’ll have to bring winemaker Alessandro Bocci’s family to the shop so we can meet the people whose names grace all of his wines: Erio, his father (the super Tuscan blend); his wife, and mother, Rita (his Syrah); and of course, his daughter Sara, namesake of his red and white blends. The Sara Bianco combines two classic Tuscan varietals (Trebbiano and Malvasia) and two classic French grapes (Chardonnay and Sauvignon), in a fresh, lively wine with aromas of lemon zest and a dose of tropical notes. This estate is truly a family affair, with Alessandro working the fields on his own most of the year, helped by 15 friends and family members during harvest. Perhaps some day we can meet some of them! Sara Bianco is $11 and ready to drink now, on its own or with just about anything.
2006 Marchetti, Uve di Montepulciano — Famiglia Marchetti has been making wine in the Marche, on the eastern coast of central Italy, for over a century. The estate lies near the sunny Adriatic coast, on land purchased with income from winemaker Maurizio Marchetti’s great, great grandfather, an exotic spice trader over 250 years ago. (A little castle on the property shows murals of Chinese sailors loading their ships with the prized spices.) Here, Maurizio Marchetti makes some of the top Montepulcianos in Italy. Extremely selective with his grapes, he sometimes produces only half a bottle of wine per plant, requiring the use of a special light press to gently crush the fruit. Or, as he jokes, “Butterflies crush my grapes as they fly by with their wings.” Only $11, this wine has a smoky spiciness, with notes of ripe plums. It’s ready to drink now with pasta, pizza, or more serious Italian fare.
2005 Fattoria Selvanova, Vignantica Aglianico — This is a new name in the Small Vineyards portfolio. It is a younger winery, with no pedigree dating back to Roman times, or ancient family castle on site. But there is no lack of passion and dedication here. Owner Antonio Buono discovered the abandoned, overgrown site, not far from the city of Naples, about ten years ago. A geologist by training, he recognized the potential of the soil and the location, and decided to restore and develop the property. With an experienced and youthful team to help him, including one of Campania’s greatest enologists, Guido Busato, he set to work. He focused first on the indigenous southern Italian grape, Aglianico, with its characteristic deep color and rich flavor. The Vignantica Aglianco is their introductory cuvée: medium-bodied, with bold tannins yet soft on the palate. It is $18 and ready to drink now or within five years, with grilled meat, pasta, or clams with chili sauce.
2006 San Isidro, Cepas del Zorro, Dos Año — This 100% Monastrell (Mourvèdre) hails from Spain’s arid Bullas region, a zone usually eclipsed by its better known neighbor, Jumilla. The region has a harsh climate with minimal rain, forcing the vines to send their roots down as much as 90 feet. This is where Garcia Valera produces his wine, from old vines growing at an elevation of over 2000 feet. A fourth-generation winemaker, he still makes his wine at the local cooperative as his family always has. He aims for maximum expression of terroir in his wine, which he achieves in this powerful, Old World style Monastrell. Aged two years in the bottle (hence, “Dos Año”) it’s fresh and approachable now, to pair with olives, Manchego cheese, or grilled pork. It’s in good supply and is an easy-to-swallow $9.