Summer’s BEST Unexpected Wine Guests

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When does a casual guest list for a casual summer party turn into a night you can’t forget? When somebody shows up with a magnum of 1995 Bollinger RD. That’s what I’m talkin’ about. Another Saturday is another chance to plow through more Spanish and Portuguese white and red wines. We could do this all summer long. And then Brother Ken shows up with “some champagne” and the conversation stops. The heads turn. The glasses get extended. Champagne RUSH!!

Dining outside in July and August is a SoCal mandate. The temps stay in the cool mid 70s until 10:00 so it’s party on Garth until the teams move inside for dessert. My advice to you has been to kick off the evening with Vinho Verdes and Verdehlo wines. The light alcohol levels and barely there frizzante do so well with an icy time in the bucket. We have a few Spanish red wines that are nice follow-ups to the bright and acidic white wines. However, this evening, the kicker was champagne royalty…in mag.

1995 Bollinger R.D. $400 (in mag): This is legendary wine that walks the talk, fits the advertising, runs the table, finishes first by a long shot. Wine with 16 years on it is almost always going to be fresher in a magnum. This beauty was golden in color. Plenty of bead. Ginger nose, peachy flavors. I had to slap a couple hands just to maintain some semblance of civil control. Most of the sluggers did not know what they were drinking. They just knew they wanted more. And low alcohol to boot! Not exactly value but at least it was worth the price. A snob’s wine for locals only. 12%

2008 Paso a Paso Verdejo
$8: Imported by Henry Wine Group. Spanish wine from La Mancha. tBoW’s go-to copa blanco in Southern Spain. Now we buy it in Cost Plus for less than what we paid in Madrid! Not as lime driven as Portugal’s Vinho Verdes. Perhaps more sophistication than the VVs which is like saying Madonna is more sophisticated than Christina. Serve with Manchego or a sharp sheep’s cheese. This wine is very good and a real deal steal. 13%

2009 Tarima Monastrell $9: Monastrell is a grape that makes a big fruity red wine from Jumilla. Steel fermented. Big, fruity mouthful of beef smacking wine. Will probably get small part in Hangover 3 beating on Mike Tyson. Precisely the style we do not favor but loved by many. Another Henry Wine pick. So this is what happened to them! If you like the style this is another great buy at World Market/Cost Plus. 15%

2007 Altovinum Evodia $12: Much more sedate than the Monastrell even though the alcohol level is close to the same. Old vine Garnacha custom blended by the importer Eric Solomon from Calatayud in Northeast Spain. Dusty aged bittersweet choco flavors. Complemented the skirt steaks. 100 y.o. vines says Tanzer. Like it. Will buy again. Best Spanish red this summer. Serve with slight chill. 14.5%

Ramon De Ayala Lete e Hijos Viña Santurnia Crianza Rioja $15: Pretty fresh for a 5 y.o. wine. Retains much of the Crianza style fruitiness. Dark dense color in the glass. Powerful. Berries and some smoke. 13.5%

Broadbent Vinho Verde $8: We knew the VV spectrum was under-appreciated along with being delightfully inexpensive [ed. CHEAP!!!]. However, when we saw this bottle with the name of the wine review legend on it – you could say Michael Broadbent is the guy who started the whole swirl, sniff and bloviate routine – we had to give Michael Broadbent’s Vinho Verde a whirl. And how is it? Eminently quaffable! Chill it, pour it and slug it. We tried it in the spa trading swirl for whirl and sniff for spliff. Poifect! Picked it up at Bev Mo. 10%

2006 Chateau Guiraud Sauternes
$35: In a split which is good for opening a wine meant to go 20 years at only five. Peaches in regalia [ed. Zappa!]. Really lovely. Oily texture. Excellent wine from a desirable producer among “sticky” fans. 13.5%

A very nice lineup out of nowhere. Get thee to Cost Plus and buy Henry Wine Group imports! Great values; even the Bollinger. If I had $400 to spend on one bottle of wine I think I would buy this sparkler champion in the magnum. Over a mag of Napa Cab or some recent Bordeaux/Burgundy. We finished with a 1994 Martinez port which has been reviewed here before. Still young!

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