California’s Napa Valley is synonymous with cabernet sauvignon, which accounts for 40 per cent of the region’s total production each year, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty of excitement to be found with other grape varieties. There is rising interest in red wines made from older vineyards planted with charbono, petite sirah and zinfandel.
Many of these under-the-radar Napa red wines come from smaller vineyards, which means they’re harder to find. But there’s at least one shining example that has been consistently available to Canadian wine lovers: Stags’ Leap Petite Sirah.
Petite sirah has long been a signature grape variety for Stags’ Leap (not to be confused with Napa’s other Stag’s Leap, founded by Warren Winiarski, which won the Judgment of Paris blind tasting with its 1973 Napa Cabernet Sauvignon). French native Christophe Paubert, who spent the past 13 years at the helm of Stags’ Leap before retiring at the end of last year’s harvest, paid special attention to petite sirah as part of a portfolio that includes cabernet, merlot and chardonnay made from grapes grown on the winery’s 80-acre estate vineyard and from growers based throughout Napa.
For anyone interested in seeing a bold and succulent alternative to Napa’s stately cabernets, Stags’ Leap Petite Sirah 2018 has recently been released at LCBO Vintages outlets and is available at stores in Alberta, British Columbia and New Brunswick. It’s one of this week’s recommendations to enjoy with a meal now or to tuck away in the cellar for later.
Bottega 0 Rose (Italy), $11.95
Bottega 0 Rosé is a non-alcoholic drink produced from grape must, with appealing berry flavours, floral notes and freshness. Sweetness takes the place of alcohol to contribute weight and texture on the palate, which is the case with all non-alcohol wines. To my taste, it was most enjoyable as a spritzer with club soda or grapefruit juice. Drink now. Available in Ontario at the above price, $9.79 in British Columbia.
Bruno Paillard Première Cuvée Extra Brut Champagne (France), $73.95
The family-owned Champagne house Bruno Paillard works with grapes from its own vineyards and bought from growers under contract. This label is a blend of pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot meunier, which gains richness from a portion of barrel fermented wines and use of reserve wines dating back to 1985. After undergoing secondary fermentation in the bottle, the sparkling wine is aged for a minimum of three years to add complexity. Drink now-2028. Available in Ontario at the above price, various prices in Alberta, $73 in Quebec.
Casale del Giglio Satrico 2020 (Italy), $18.95
Lazio is a wine growing region located on central Italy’s west coast, roughly situated at the knee of the boot shaped country. Casale del Giglio is located 50 kilometres south of Rome and has been making a name for itself and the Lazio appellation, with an extensive portfolio of white, rosé and red wines from its estate. Satrico is an elegant and enjoyable blend of chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and trebbiano, with a mouth-watering character and appealing yellow apple, apricot and herbal flavours. Drink now-2025. Available in Ontario.
Gallo Signature Series Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 (United States), $68.95
The Gallo family’s close association with cheap and cheerful California wines means its flagship Signature Series releases struggle for respectability with collectors and connoisseurs. It’s worth nothing that there has been significant growth and rising ambitions since the family’s interests were focused squarely on Hearty Burgundy and White Zinfandel. The Gallos have amassed a treasure trove of prime vineyards and wineries in Napa, including Louis M. Martini and Pahlmeyer Winery, which means winemaker Gina Gallo has tremendous resources to craft this rich and rewarding cabernet. Bold and flavourful, with unmistakable Napa style, this showcases a ripe core of fruit with herbal and spicy complexity and serious structure. Drink now-2030. Available in Ontario at the above price, $60.25 in Quebec.
Gunderloch Fritz’s Riesling 2021 (Germany), $17.95
Named in hour of Gunderloch’s world-renowned winemaker, the late Fritz Hasselbach, this is a wonderfully fresh and fruity expression of riesling. The grapes come from vineyards located between the village of Nackenheim and the village of Nierstein, near Mainz in the Rheinhessen. The aroma and flavours suggest an appealing mix of zesty citrus and herbs with nice balance between ripe fruit and mouth-watering acidity. Drink now-2026. Available in Ontario at the above price, various prices in Alberta (2020 vintage).
Niro di Citra Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2018 (Italy), $17.95
Like gamay and barbera, the montepulciano grape typically makes juicy and affordable red wines with abundant fruit flavours suggesting cherry, plum and berries, often with floral or herbal accents. Simple and enjoyable styles (made without oak aging) like this are quintessential pizza or pasta reds. This is nicely balanced and a serious house wine candidate for the winter months. Drink now. Available in Ontario at the above price, $19.99 in British Columbia, $21.98 in Newfoundland.
Stags’ Leap Winery Petite Sirah 2018 (United States), $60.95
Old vine petite sirah from Napa Valley comprises the bulk of the blend, with grenache, syrah and other varieties added for complexity and balance. The result is a richly layered and concentrated red wine with dark fruit, cedar and tea-like flavours. It’s ready to drink, with tremendous potential to develop in the cellar. Drink now-2034. Available at the above price in Ontario, $48.99 in British Columbia, various prices in Alberta, $54.99 in New Brunswick.
Treana Chardonnay Central Coast 2021 (United States), $25.95
Made by Hope Family Wines, this is a rich and flavourful chardonnay with prominent yellow apple, peach and butterscotch aromas and flavours. It strikes me as off-dry on the palate, but with well-integrated acidity and some warmth on the finish from the 14.5 per cent ABV that adds freshness and length. This is a full-on, full-bodied California chardonnay with old school creamy character for fans of bold white wines. Drink now-2025. Available in Ontario at the above price, various prices in British Columbia and Alberta, $26 in Quebec.
Plan your weekend with our Good Taste newsletter, offering wine advice and reviews, recipes, restaurant news and more. Sign up today.